31 October 2007

Imagined Communities

(thnx for the picture, s. More community or more stealing? Cyberspace 'realizes' the virtual space of intellectual property).

Now that I'm getting the hang of floating out here in the blogosphere, I might as well look around. And this one is adorable (is this green or blue enough for you to tell it's a link?) - a bit of the one-note gag its title would indicate but executed with a care and precision that transcends juvenalia.

29 October 2007

The Magnificent Contraption or The Fallen Have Mighty

We've had this discussion before, and I told you that BASEBALL is The Magnificent Contraption. A 19th century mechanism. Gears and Levers. Wait - there's space in between. And time. And then parts set in motion like a Rube Goldberg machine. Patched by bubblegum and oiled by tobacco spit.

And those heady sportswriters wax about its waning with peanutshell nostalgia. And Fox dusts off McCarver and Buck's voice reminds us of his father, so the execs hope that will remind you of yours. The new World Series theme music is all brass and pageantry, swollen with old-timey reverance. And John Williams' rendition of the National Anthem with the Boston Pops.

But you and the rest of them were busy watching football with lite beer and chips. The NFL is a 21st century gizmo, a shiny gadget, a relentlessly marketed product. And of course, it's a war game, technologized and pointed at conquering space. Collision and pressing forward, whereas the ballsmen circle the bases (If you aren't familiar, see George Carlin's bit about how the respective sports come to terms - being "safe" at "home" versus "endzone" and "sudden death," etc.). Don't get me wrong, I was watching, too. But my point is that football is glitchridden - yellow flags on every third or so play. Do over. Should we do it over? Let's watch it over on video and decide if we should do it over. They haven't figured out how the game is to be played. They don't need to. In addition, though the NFL regular season is 16 games long (less than one-tenth of baseball's), its players can rarely manage to play in them all, as the game's violence is too much for its padding.

But I digress. I didn't come here to fight but to say cheers to the second Red Sox championship in four years. The cursed have become the blessed. Some may say this is evidence of the toxic corporatization of baseball and the former lovable losers have bought themselves an evil empire. Some of that, yes.
But the baseball historian knows the Robber Baron and the snakeoil salesman have shepherded the grand game from the beginning. In a different way, for sure, as the so-called "Curse of the Bambino" stems from the sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees by Sox owner Harry Frazee in order to finance another business venture of his, a Broadway play called "No, No, Nanette." For someone who grew up with bluecollar Boston-accented relatives, there's a mystique to the Red Sox that wouldn't stick to even the NFL's oldest teams. Lombardi smacks of history but his Packers were winning Super Bowls in the late sixties. My grandfather was in the same war as Ted Williams. And while Joe Namath is still spry enough to get soused and hit on lady sideline reporters, Williams head is cryogenically frozen. And the bitterness and disappointment of Red Sox fan is generations older than Williams. It's been percolating. You can taste it in Dunkin Donuts' coffee.

The fact that this Sox team prevailed over the Colorado Rockies to take the series took some of the teary haze from my soft focus. The black-and-purple (along with the easteregg turqoise and hospitalscrub teal) is all 1990s expansion. Denver's baseball history is as thin as the air. But today the team took their victory parade in "Duck Boats" - World War II amphibious vehicles converted to tourist carriers - and what's better than that?

(If you are not familiar with baseball, here is an instructional video. thanks c.)

25 October 2007

Postcards From the Trash Heap: The Disappearing Tracks of the Thought Thief

So the previous entry "Postcards From the Edge" was an old idea meant to be workshopped here with an eye on submission to McSweeneys Internet Tendency, which I thought suited the tenor of the piece, anchored as it is to easy wordplay and pop-obscure allusion. Turns out I was right, because McSweeneys published somebody else's version of the same concept last year:


This writer takes a different approach, tracing U2's career through the ages and ultimately it's a MUCH more polished piece than mine. And funny. The writer has published extensively on McSweeneys.net as well as on Nerve.com and a number of other lesser-known literary-type-places.

I could swear that I rehearsed a voiceover version of this in a bad Irish accent on a disgusting plaid couch in Boston before I ever even journeyed midwestward, so over FOUR years ago. I could swear. But maybe my mind plays tricks and I unwittingly plucked the idea out of the ether. It's possible the memory is fabricated or out of sequence. This, ultimately, is why we write things down. As a supplement to our cobwebbed memories. It's an idea at least as old as Plato's Phaedrus. So this is the marshy terrain of intellectual property. I thought of it, you thought of it ... but if you write it down (and publish it), you stick a flag in the idea and all else is relegated to the status of hearsay.

Coincidentally, just a week or so ago, I dealt with plagiarism in a student's paper for the first time. I was incensed, and then saddened, and then nervous and she was contrite and then tears... But then I was shaken from my righteousness by a conversation that roused a dormant memory. I cheated when I was an undergraduate too. I went out to do godknowswhat and roommate and energetic philosopher Mike wrote my paper on Rousseau. He may have even volunteered to do it (he would read Nietzsche WHILE doing pushups). It's not the same as pasting sentences from Sparknotes into your paper, but still cheating.

AND THEN (as if life spun out like the "threads" of the web) last night, I finally saw the documentary about Marla Olmstead, four year old painter. And though her story certainly does generate questions about modern art and its interpretations, Marla's paintings seem to be a HOAX of the first order, which resonated with the discussion of my dissertation writing group earlier that day, as a friend and colleague is writing about "fake" autobiographies (I just now realized she should call this chapter "Grand Theft Auto," a stolen self). She's looking at early 20th century examples like James Weldon Johnson's "Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man," which was a fiction presented as fact in 1912 to cash in on the cache of African-American true-life testimony that had currency since the slave narrative and then re-presented as a novel during the Harlem Renaissance, when it was ok for a black man to be outed as an avant-garde Modernist . But it made me think of Oprah-disgraced James Frye or doubts clouding the veracity of Dave Eggers pomo-memoir. In each case, it's a convoluted idea market.

To sum up: sometimes you get there and there's already a flag. Sometimes you plant your flag in someone else's rightful spot. Sometimes you willfully plant the wrong flag.

23 October 2007

Postcards From the Edge


Greetings from The Big Easy. I know it's kind of stupid that I'm here in New Orleans because my Wikipedia page says I'm "currently focusing [my] humanitarian efforts on Music Rising, a charity that provides musical instruments to those who lost instruments in Hurricane Katrina," but I'm really here. Doing that. One guy lost a tromboon (a combination of the trombone and the bassoon) ... where'm I gonna get one of those??? Lots of zydeco stuff too, rubboards and accordians.

So explain this to me. You want to write fake postcards from me from locations like The Joshua Tree and the site of Martin Luther King's assassination in Memphis and one in which I'm confused about which street I'm on, dated things like "January 1st" and "Sunday," and call it "Postcards From the Edge"? To tell the truth, I don't think I've even heard of that movie (Carrie Fisher wrote it? Princess Leia? That's you, man ... you're totally like this hologram projected from a robot's belly that's like "Help Me, Edge, You're My Only Hope"). In 1990 we were recording "Achtung Baby" and I was spending all my time messing with new pedals and stuff. I think that was the last summer that I saw Bono's eyes. I know it's kind of obvious to say he's hiding from something, but come on. Anyway, you can do it - knock yourself out - but are you sure it's funny? Like the whole thing rests on that pun with the movie or whatever and then the fact that we've written a bunch of songs about places. I've never read this "McSweeneys" magazine, but is that enough? I mean, don't let me stop you, but I don't really get it.


P.S. Thanks for the copy of "Lost in the Funhouse." I'll check it out on the plane tomorrow.


The weather is here. Wish you were beautiful. Just kidding. That's from a song by this group called The Mr. T Experience. You probably think it's weird that I'm into late 90s pop-punk bands. That would be way more likely to be the kind of stuff you're into, right? Did you know the guy Dr. Frank from that band writes "young adult" novels now? Maybe you should write fake postcards from him? No, I guess that ruins the whole "edge" thing.

I'm still thinking about your postcard thing. What about one from, like, the top of the Empire State Building and you could say something like "gotta go, I'm getting Vertigo." Or better yet, from on top of Mount Rushmore, like that Hitchcock movie, North by Northwest. Or that other one with Jimmy Stewart where he's up high in that church tower. What's that one called again?

Well, you can do what you want, but I don't think you should start wearing knit skullcaps year round like I do. I kind of have to at this point because people expect it, you know. And sometimes I just wanted to be like "look ... my hair is thin, whatever ... I'm married." I mean I just turned forty-six. Forty-freakin-six, man. Besides, if you start doing it, you'll end up having to explain to people why you're doing it and they know your hair is thinning, but I don't know if they know mine is. So maybe you should just cut it real short.


P.S. Have you ever seen a postcard that was quite this size? I mean, I was able to write THREE FULL PARAGRAPHS just now. That's not your garden variety postcard in terms of size.


Yeah, I don't really like "Vertigo" either. The "Catorce" thing. I KNOW. It was actually Larry's idea and he hadn't suggested anything since like 1986 so we had to sort of humor him.

Why don't you just use these? I mean, nobody knows that you really know me, right? (They'd never believe the story about how we met anyway). And these are "postcards from the Edge." It's like looking through a two-way mirror or something - they can't see you back there.

Infinite Guitar,

15 October 2007

Geats of Hell

Sorry this is about poetry again (I swear I hate poetry as much as the next red-blooded manimal), but it is my honor to bring you to this glistening bit of blasphemy if you haven't been. My favorite English professor, vested and snarling, left me two blessed nuggets regarding W.B. Yeats that have weathered the years. Teaching Yeats for the first time tomorrow, I thought I'd spit into the river of my students' boredom and try to pass them on. The first involves the poet's own two blessed nuggets and specifically "the Steinach Operation," which, in my memory, involved Yeats getting "monkey glands" implanted into his body in order to revitalize his sexual and creative energies. Now, this procedure was real ... but it was apparently performed by a wackier quack named Serge Vonoroff:

"Voronoff puts his patient and a healthy young monkey side by side on operating tables. A local anaesthetic is given the man, and a general one to the monkey. The incisions are made, and one of the monkey's gonads is sliced into six pieces thin enough for the interstitial cells of the patient quickly to interpenetrate them" (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,727231-2,00.html)

But Yeats' procedure, the brainchild of Eugen Steinach (Freud had one too) didn't involve transplanting any animal parts. It was just some kind of vasectomy. So no monkey nads for Bill Butler Yeats. Alas.

HOWEVER ... this short poem which the aforementioned prof read to us remains as wonderfully disgusting as ever. Enjoy.

A Stick Of Incense

Whence did all that fury come?
From empty tomb or Virgin womb?
Saint Joseph thought the world would melt
But liked the way his finger smelt.


Now you can scoff and titter and pretend this is not about the digital penetration of HolyMaryMotherofGod, who we are told art "blessed...among women" and whose "womb-fruit" (paraphrasing) is blessed among everyone. But it is about that. And that takes balls. Transplanted Monkey Balls.

Pray For Us Sinners,

06 October 2007

So Much Depends on What You Meant By That

I like to (try to) teach William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow" because it makes the kids hostile, skeptical, uncomfortable, or defensive. Here is the whole thing:

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

They want to know where the beef is ... where's the poem in that poem? And I stand there in blue jeans and tell them that sometimes art is "conceptual." And this one is a manifesto of sorts, or at least a meditation about what poetry is, what it does, and what it's for. But Williams can say as much. And, I'm fairly certain, he did. But even if he didn't we know he's a poet (a poet/doctor) and an esteemed one, we approach him through the actually flimsy but metaphorically sturdy pages of the Norton anthology. But, the students say (or maybe some brightly ideal, imagined one would) "what if I found this written on a napkin in the bathroom at Applebee's?" What is it without its canon armor and hermeneutical apparatus? And, praytell, "would it have been worth it, after all ... If one, settling a pillow by her head, Should say: “That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all.” Eliot was too nervous to leave his poems to "interpretation," so he made them labrynthine, footnoted, and obscure, with erudition by the barrowful.

Anyhow, this is just to say to say that 1) I ate the plums in the icebox 2) they were delicious, sweet, and cold and 3) I'm looking forward to seeing this new documentary called "My Kid Could Paint That," about an alleged four year old abstract expressionist named Marla Olmstead whose work has been compared to Kandinsky and Pollock and who has sold $300,000 worth of paintings. It's like those Rothkos that make you nervous when you go to the museum with your mom and you want to perpetuate the idea that you are the ambadassador of the arts to your family and can explain why it's art to paint a canvas half blue and half a different blue. Could your kid paint it? Does it matter? Either way, I have a feeling that this is why they don't pay us grad students in the humanities any money. They're not totally sure we're not just fucking with them.

Inspiratory System: Ceci n'est pas un "relapse"

Inspire, v.

1. trans. To breathe or blow upon or into. Obs. or arch


I. 1. a. The animating or vital principle in man (and animals); that which gives life to the physical organism, in contrast to its purely material elements; the breath of life.

[Oxford English Dictionary]

I can breathe a little easier now that I'm over one month quit. I am respirited. But I cheated. A lapse. At the party. Another. RE: Lapses - does a second lapse constitute a relapse?

Why, really, do we smoke? Why did you smoke? Why do they? Why don't you? Seriously.

I think, initially, i wanted to summon some minor demons. Sex up the image by cultivating some edges. Some mystique - the smoke-haze clouds vision - "is that a bona fide rocknroll rebel over there or just that kid from Honors English class? It's hard to tell." On his utilty belt, Batman had smoke capsules that, when, broken on the ground, would allow for an easy exit. They made him hard to locate. I wanted to be hard to locate. You know, like existentially.

And of course it's an accessory [to commit protracted suicide?]. Accoutrement. A weapon with which to lighten the piling weight of quotidiana. Gravity gets me down. Smoke is light. Levity. It goes into me, out, and up. And it's A light. If I'm mostly water, it makes me part fire.

"I'm not myself since I stopped smoking." -- Woody Allen, "Annie Hall"

"... the painful pleasure that arises from some intimation of eternity; the taste of infinity in a cigarette resides precisely in the 'bad' taste the smoker quickly learns to love. Being sublime, cigarettes, in principle, resist all arguments directed against them from the perspective of health and utility. " -- Richard Klein, from "Cigarettes are Sublime"

"The believing we do something when we do nothing is the first illusion of tobacco." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

"A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?" ~Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

"Sucks to your ass-mar!" Ralph to Piggy, "Lord of the Flies"


Post marks time. Nothing in your mailbox.

The beat drops out. Hold your breath.

Flatliners. Bacon at 0 degrees. "Some medical students take turns temporarily killing each other, then bringing each other back to life, with the intent of simply "visiting" the Afterlife. They keep increasing the length that they are dead for, and eventually some of their perceived sins start literally coming back with them until their need for atonement is realised" (wikipedia).

My blog is all cracks and no pavement. Your mother's back is in serious danger should you tread here. I'm all interstices.

Virtual spaces are easily abandoned.

Tick. [bracket]. Tick.