Saturday, November 17, 2007

A sampling of other people’s vacation photos in which you appear, at best, as a figure of minor significance

1. For weeks after they got back to Davenport,
Bob and Peggy showed you to their neighbors
and to the other scout moms. You scowledlike an informant in a surveillance photo.
Maybe it was the graininess of the gray April sky
and those cobblestones hazed by rain.
Maybe it was your camel raincoat
set against a field of bright ponchos.

2. You are a blur across the Piazza,
turning quickly and becoming a winged thing
where the shutter has caught you, between two awkward stations
within the continuum of your motion.
The perspective diminishes you, makes you a vague angel
perched just above this woman’s shoulder.

5. Someone actually wanted to get a picture of you.
He waited until you jogged up to the bridge
in order to contrast the austere towers
and the arch of the mile-long span
against the striving stick figure form
of you running at the day’s dawning. Don’t be flattered;
had there been just a bridge
and no runner
he would still have snapped a picture.
If there had been a runner
but no bridge,
he’d have just kept walking.

13. Has anyone ever pointed out
that there is a moment in your gait
when your head juts forward just so
and the flexion of your wrist
suggests a posture
that is remarkably simian?
No?
Here. Look.



A SAMPLING…, page 2, new stanza

23. Grand Canyon – Autumn, 1991. The light is marmalade,
the earth as impossibly tan as a rich man’s wife.
Far on the other side is a tiny bus,
robin’s egg blue, though it’s just small enough
to make its color debatable.
Someday, they’ll invent equipment
that will allow us to zoom in on the window
where you sleep, stunned with heat
and drooling on your own shoulder.

31. Is that a smudge?
No, it’s just you.


Mark Aiello

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Ode to Auden

Today is September 1:

Autumn, not Auden, is on its way. But one of Wystan's finest poems was "September 1, 1939." I'd like to commemorate the poem not by quoting some of what it contains after revision but what is left out. Auden struck the line "We must love one another or die" in later versions, citing it as too saccharine. Perhaps it is. But the sentiment sticks. Let's experiment and see if we can make that line a life. jc

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Herman's Humpback: A Miscellany

My Lord! The month finds itself scrieving by as if on steroids. I confess to being caught up in the nets of neglect and remorsefully re-appear here with best wishes and good cheer.

First off, Melville celebrated his 188 birthday anniversary on the first of August: hail, Herman! I share a birthday with the publication of MOBY DICK (November 14, 1851; date of book's publication, not my d.o.b.). On August 11, there is a celebration of the man and his work down at Hudson River Park in Manhattan. Look up the info and pick up your harpoon...

On other fronts, poet Burt Kimmelman just gave a wonderful reading a few weeks ago at Morningside Bookstore up near Columbia; the new work was radiant...Samuel Menashe is reading here and there over the next few months, details to follow....Michael Heller is out in Colorado as a poet-in-residence to the mountains and visitors like Norman Finkelstein...Zach Barocas is about to update the cultural society. Chris Leo is moving to Florence...

The new slew of big-time lit mags are mediocre to the say the best....and, as I read WITTGENSTEIN'S MISTRESS by David Markson (marvelous!) I realize that glibness need not be a trademark of experimental writing. A brilliant tome and greatly outshines the prolix palaver of David Foster Wallace and many of the other Polyanderthals...

Where are you, Reader? And what are you up to?

j. curley

Friday, August 03, 2007

The mission

You can expect a full report; it will be left
in code, in case it should fall into the hand of agents,
or of thieves, or witches. The glyphs will run thus –
two suns setting mean “Mission Accomplished”.
An archway followed by a pigeon, if drawn in my own blood
stands for “Progress Delayed; I’ve Met a Girl”.
If you find a pound sign anywhere, invert the meaning
of the next two signs. A feather is bad enough, a feather
and an eye mean “Cyanide Capsules All Around”.

Keep your fingers crossed, we all know
how this whole thing could go down.

I will get the message to you, in chalk
on the alley wall. I will, if they have
taken my fingers, I will just pay that homeless guy
to draw it. If I have no tongue,
it will not matter. If you have no eyes to read with
or ears, if they have gotten to you,
I will lend you new senses and transmit this to you.
I can hook right into your veins and sing you
the weeping, red song of all I’ve learned here.
I will do it. I’m that committed
to the mission.

Mark Aiello

Thursday, July 26, 2007

...A BIG BIRD IN A COOL THE NIGHT...

for Charlie BIRD
Parker:

as twilight slips in like some
esquisite fine chick in the thinnest
sleekest silk sheath
I bend an ear t' 1944 recordings
o' Bird
oozin' out o' the box
'n' all that frustration 'n' angst
seems jes s'lame
its like Bird's sweet sweetest Horn
be sayin' jes t' me alone:
"Man,why don' y'be Coolthe?
all that pent up violence
'n' nowhere shit
is s' from hunger, y' DIG?
like, be COOLTHE, BABY!
don' be lettin' that shit
drag y'down
there
t' that square
drugged scene..."
'n' man, I hear that MESSAGE
that BIRD be layin' down
from SOMEWHERE
OUT THERE
in spite o' all that
Cosmo Debris
that do be
tryin' t' obscure
'n' veil
what needs t' be
revealed
t' cats such as I
still scufflin' here
in these neonesque
streets o' Blues
s' I place m' lips
upon Lady Night
'n' let all that
negative shit slide
'n' disipate
'n' I COOLTHE
y'dig?
'n' Lady Moon
Lady Night
'n' that Bird
siloutted upon
Her orb o'
platinum
caresses me
m'eyes
m' hurtin' flesh
'n' somehow I am
finally
possessed
by that Ecstasy
that
Nirvana
that all them there
mystics
'n' Sufi Dervishes
'n'
Boddhisatvas
sought
in all them places
I jes could never
MAKE IT
nor fake IT
jes bendin' an ear
t' a Big Bird
in a Coolthe Night
m' lips pressed t'
in darkest tender Kiss
o' nocturnal bliss
yes!
o,man,yes!
can y' DIG?
why jazz do IT for
cats like
me
'n' probably
thee?

-Gypsy James/ApocoHipster Hashshashin

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

for Charlie BIRD Parker

...A BIG BIRD IN A COOLTHE NIGHT...

as twilight slips in like some
esquisite fine chick in the thinnest
sleekest silk sheath
I bend an ear t' 1944 recordings
o' Bird
oozin' out o' the box
'n' all that frustration 'n' angst
seems jes s'lame
its like Bird's sweet sweetest Horn
be sayin' jes t' me alone:
"Man,why don' y'be Coolthe?
all that pent up violence
'n' nowhere shit
is s' from hunger, y' DIG?
like, be COOLTHE, BABY!
don' be lettin' that shit
drag y'down
there
t' that square
drugged scene..."
'n' man, I hear that MESSAGE
that BIRD be layin' down
from SOMEWHERE
OUT THERE
in spite o' all that
Cosmo Debris
that do be
tryin' t' obscure
'n' veil
what needs t' be
revealed
t' cats such as I
still scufflin' here
in these neonesque
streets o' Blues
s' I place m' lips
upon Lady Night
'n' let all that
negative shit slide
'n' disipate
'n' I COOLTHE
y'dig?
'n' Lady Moon
Lady Night
'n' that Bird
siloutted upon
Her orb o'
platinum
caresses me
m'eyes
m' hurtin' flesh
'n' somehow I am
finally
possessed
by that Ecstasy
that Nirvana
that all them there
mystics
'n' Sufi Dervishes
'n'
Boddhisatvas
sought
in all them places
I jes could never
MAKE IT
nor fake IT
jes bendin' an ear
t' a Big Bird
in a Coolthe Night
m' lips pressed t'
in darkest tender Kiss
o' nocturnal bliss
yes!
o,man,yes!
can y' DIG?
why jazz do IT for
cats like
me
'n' probably
thee?
Gypsy James/ApocoHipster Hashshashin

Love 'n' Peace o' Mind 'n' Ecstasy even be on y',
Gypsy James

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

untitled

Luchy Edwards, 2007

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Seasonal Affective Orders (SAO)

I am curious if any of our readers are drawn to certain titles at certain times of the year. For example, every summer finds me reading and re-reading, rediscovering, Faulkner. The urge is never there until high summer and then I am hunting good Will and voraciously consuming his Southern (dis)comforts. Come to think of it, the Fall has me reading mostly biographies and literary and cultural criticism, the winter is especially concentrated on poetry, and spring? Anything goes. But since 2000 or so, Faulker mania comes a-knockin' in June or July and takes me on until just past Labor Day. Hey, readers! Any of you "suffer" from this condition?
CURLEY

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Literacy & Idiocy Part II

The idiocy in this culture is critically endemic; not sure about the literacy but today's holiday merits a response, a rebuttal, a kerosene-wetted, upside-down flag. Are American citizens truly reading the writing on the walls? There is very little to celebrate if you sit down and read the history books or scratch the topical air for the residual stains of empirical evidence. Empirical--empire...a sad, bloated beast is good ol' America, a clumsy moloch lacking stomach enzymes to sate itself, therefore eating as much of the world as it deems fit for its voracious regimen/regime. Americans, be proud, tho' pride is a sin, and maintain your one noble consistency, the triumvirate of piety, preciousness, and paranoia...and be done with you.

written & conceived by: j. curley/m. scriblerus/k. o'farrell/& newcomer Stan Johnson....

Monday, June 25, 2007

Literacy & Idiocy

Now that the final volume of Harry Potter is sluicing down its magical pike into the eager arms of the world, I want to focus on a few of those arms-- those of the adult readership. Listen, I could care less about precocious pubesscent English magicians and everyone is entitled to read what they wish. But I see so many adults reading this pap; if they are serious readers, they might apt for an Anita Desai or Dan Brown novel. John Grisham, Maeve Binchy...you know the kind of sub par to middling "literature" that caters to third grade reading levels and preschool emotional sensibilities. I would rather illiteracy spread through the populace like a rash then see the continued trend of adults reading trash. Not reading is preferable to reading shit, to my mind. And how about Oprah's Book Club? Is a readership that got its clues & cues about what to read from a TELEVISION PROGRAM going to really do the serious work of getting down and dirty with Ms. Winfrey's suggested reading list? Really grasp a book like A Light in August? Enough to say they stuck to this tv trend, become an apostle to Oprah's editorial staff's lit picks,
and throw house parties discussing the handful of pages they got through. Let's allow people to marinate in their ignorance, seek over-stimulation in television, video games, ipods, cell phones, text messages, and let devolution allow the martians to have an easier time of it once they decide to conquer. MARTIN SCRIBLERUS

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Deep in the Jungle

Am currently blitzing through the final volume (the third) of Norman Sherry's THE LIFE OF GRAHAM GREENE & reading vignettes about one of Greene's acquaintances who I met ten years ago. The Belgian Michel Lechat, long recognized as the leading specialist in leperosy and who contributed mightily to its eradication in the Third World, was working and living in the Congo when Greene came to do fieldwork for his novel, A BURNT-OUT CASE. Travelling home from China, I sat beside Monsieur Lechat on a flight out of Narita Airport, Tokyo. He was reading a French translation of a Keats biography and we got to talking. In only the space of a few hours, he showed himself to be a polymath and one of the most compassionate individuals I've ever met. I've thought about looking him up because his indelible presence, the way his person lent itself to changing the atmosphere around him, is so rare in this world of smoke, mirrors, sound bytes, snippets, high-speed dial-ups, and modern indifference.
j. CURLEY

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Suburban compline

These hours are palpable, they are velvet banners
parting in front of you like carwash ribbons,
sluicing in through your car’s open windows,
a languid tide of ink. These hours bear up to you
the somnolent scents of this drowsing town,
an ozone incense of air conditioners,
the breath of plants snoozing in peated gardens,
thick spice of lawns lovingly mowed and seeded
on Sundays before churchtime.
These are anchoritic hours, haunted only by the housecat
stepping from one cool puddle of lamplight
to another, when your headlights distort neighbors’ bushes
into zodiacs and savage topiaries, searching
each parked car you pass for anyone else awake.

In the driveway, with the car switched off,
the quiet rushes in, an orchestral fill of many parts.
From down the street comes the white noise
of sprinklers switching on in succession,
each sweeping a Poisson distribution of dots
etching a deeper, random darkness
into parabolae of sidewalk and street.
The electric sound of sprinkler heads
like battalions of marching feet,
approaching, building, until their carriage returns.

Your car wickers and ticks itself to sleep,
still divesting itself of its highway heat.

The sound of your door closing
sets a dog somewhere to barking, once.

In the mulchy night, rinsed with cricketsound
and manmade rain, you at last take off your shoes,
your socks. You will be the only one all day
to feel how fond this grass is of your naked skin.
You crush the clipped blades, feeling dew
ooze between your toes, as the lush scent of the jungle plants
on neighbor’s porch wells up around you,
winds you in its tender tendrils,
takes you in,
you a wild thing, too.

Mark Aiello

Monday, June 11, 2007

Next stop: Deacon Blue Cafe

Last Wednesday I participated in a literary reading with, among others, the marvelous poet Samuel Menashe. The venue was the Deacon Blue Cafe at 417 Prospect Place in Brooklyn, between Grand and Classon, just several blocks up Washington Avenue from the Brooklyn Art Museum. The joint was jumping with words setting themselves spinning in all different directions. Usually literary readings are as enticing as open casket funerals: there is either much monotony and uniformity in the material being read or egos supersede timekeeping and one is subject, no, held hostage, to 45 minutes of tedious palaver. The Deacon Blue reading series is winningly electic and electric: besides Samuel Menashe and myself, there was a fine short story reader, a free-style hip-hop ranter, and a raconteur with a hilarious tale about domestic mischief in an African-American family set in the rural South during the fifties. If any of you wish to spin some fables, verse, or whatnot, let me know: we'll organize a reading with the series organizer, Michael Dorr, and welcome summer with some quality artists: you! j. curley

Sunday, June 03, 2007

On Your Markson

Just finished reading THE LAST NOVEL by David Markson, described in one otherwise praising review as "geriatric postmodern fiction." Damning praise, that is; the book is actually another vital narrative assemblage of literary anecdotes, sketches, fragments, and feuilletons by David Markson, which echoes and helps form the subtle trajectory of the "Novelist." This character is at once the author's alter ego but also a general cipher for the universal questing creator. The various shards and mini-annals elucidate the anxieties of literary legacy, mortality, the unusual fates of artists, the under-illuminated tensions at heart in artistic creation. Markson is a master and I hope his career belies the title of this wonderful book. I look forward to THE NEXT TO LAST NOVEL, out of sequence, adjacent to the last but after it, and continuing Markson's stunning literary achievements. CURLEY

Sunday, May 27, 2007

No Laughter, Only Forgetting: Where's Kundera?

On this Memorial Day weekend, one wonders: how does a country that has/suffers from chronic historical (and ethical) amnesia celebrate the holiday? I've no answer and am worried. Memorize your past and present, dear country, and stop listening to music by Erasure...
KATY O'FARRELL

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Enough, You Realists & Pop Historians

Ian McEwan, Jonathan Safran Foer, Clair Messud, Don DeLillo, etc., on September 11, 2001,
John Updike on Terrorist(s)...the cottage industry about Islam and Muslims, East and West,
U.S. imperialism, reading Lolita in Nabokov....

...oh, how the modish can be menacing; not only does it show how lacking our cultural literacy and awareness had been, but just how susceptible we are to engrossing ourselves repeatedly in the au courant, the sensational, the most mightily media-disseminated stories and images...and the mediation is seldom deep. Why are the writers not diversifying their accounts and expanding their horizons AND getting such acclaim for being so narrow, so myopic?

Piously, they comb out psychological motives and means, engage the subjectivites of this and that subject regarding modern disaster, foregrounds and backgrounds gleaned from current events, but is it all viable? Are they necessary? MARTIN SCRIBLERUS (sorry for being out-of the-loop)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Collaboration Nation Station Day!

James Boswell, Dr. Johnson's biographer, died on this date in 1795 (Oscar Wilde was released from jail, too, in 1897, but that's another matter). That eccentric opus, that auto-, almost, auto-auto-biography, LIFE OF JOHNSON, reveals as much of Bos as it does the goodly Dr. One could say that their friendship, this tome, is not only a record of friendship's mutuality, but truly active artistic collaboration. In this spirit, I urge all of you artistically tendentious to go and converge with one of your fellow artists and commit great acts of collaboration (preferably in mixed media formats-- check out www.sidebar.net for some thoughts) or even collaboracide (even a dually destructive effort in which doubling leads to troubling is a redeemable practice).
Come on, text and image, paint brush and DVD, sculpture and FM radio frequencies, you know how to collide and connect....j. curley

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Again and again

I have watched her die so many times
since this afternoon. The mandala of blood.
The small ruination: her shopping scattered,
oranges rolling slowly towards the sewer grate,
a shoe that had somehow landed by the payphone.

I saw her, in that last instant when
shopping lists and street signs mattered to her.
I saw her become unjointed and undone.
I saw her body pressed flat to the street
as if she were afraid she’d slip and fall off the earth.

But tonight, the mill of my dreams will work at her.
She will wake for me in a field of blooming poppies,
and I will watch her kick off her shoes
and dance towards those far groves
overdone in sunshine.

Mark Aiello

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Shakespeare's Synthesizers

Why ferfuckssake do more and more writers start wielding guitars and think they can get
revving on musical instruments of their choice, and that the result will be worth their while or ours? Oh, it may be all so artful, blithely ironic, whimsical, tongue-in-cheek, or "cute" (argh!) for a best-selling novelist or crackerjack poet to plug into a Marshall stack and caterwaul in a musical alter-ego but is it necessary? Do people find that "supergoup" of Amy Tan, Stephen King, Dave Barry (and a few other media-ocres) interesting? Hmm...In any case, continuing this performative transvalutation, acclaimed Irish poet Paul Muldoon (whose new collection, HORSE LATITUDES, does not exactly rock) will be reading at The Bitter End (147 Bleecker St. betw. LaGuardia Pl. and Thompson St., NYC) and then...and then...playing with his band (!), Rackett.
I'm sure they'll go platinum soon...check them out, I certainly will. MARTIN SCRIBLERUS

P.S. Curley's day job is putting him out of commission for posts of late, but he wanted me to tell you that novelist Harry Matthews will be reading at St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery, 131 E. 10th St., NYC). If you recall, Mr. Curley had written here about Matthews's interview in The Paris Review and raved about his latest novel, MY LIFE IN CIA. Go, OULIPO!!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Stephen Shames & the Black Panthers

Last week I swung by Steven Kasher Gallery (521 West 23rd St., Chelsea, stevenkasher.com) and had the opportunity to marvel at rare black and white photo prints of the Black Panthers. Incredible images to match their inimitable voices. The militancy is on view but so are private moments, lighter moments, really giving a sense of dimension to these courageous men and women. A book of the photographs, published by Aperture, is on sale at the gallery for $35--and it's worth it. Stop by, take it in, get inspired.
Martin Scriblerus

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Cultural Society! Dos Madres! Spring Has Sprung Rhythm!

Springtime is time for idylls and the modern version for me in the urban demesne is poetry. The Cultural Society, of which I'm co-editor, has just released THAT ABRUPT HERE, a powerful collection by Joel Bettridge. Tender, callous, despising and despairing, Bettridge's lines aspire to metaphysical uplift but find their trajectories faltering, spirits diminished, and perplexed. Wonderful work-- you can order it at www.culturalsociety.org.

Dos Madres Press, a small press in a small town--with large ambitions and sundry splendid publications, have just released acclaimed poet Michael Heller's EARTH & CAVE, a memoir of
his time in Nerja, Spain during the sixties, under Franco, amid the grandeur of the natural landscape. The book fuses memoir with memoiristic poetry--a thoroughly delightful book that comes with a CD of Heller reading. Also from Dos Madres--Burt Kimmelman's THERE ARE WORDS, a poetry volume that also includes a CD. Kimmelman is to my mind the most gifted of the post-Objectivist lyricists for whom minimalism is not a fault but a miraculous control. These spare poems are grand gestures. You can track down both volumes at www.dosmadres.com. Enjoy this spring thing immersed in verse!~j curley

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hey there, Harry!

Whatever changes The Paris Review has undergone since George Plimpton passed away, the Interviews have sustained their depth, delights, and insights. The new issue has a giddy, engaging interview with Harry Matthews, the only American member of OULIPO, the Workshop for Potential Literature. What a life, what a man! His most recent novel (advertized as an "autobiographical novel" (!)), MY LIFE IN CIA, was published a little over a year ago and it's another bravura performance. If you live in NYC, there are a few copies of the "novel"
on the remainder table of St. Mark's Bookshop, 31 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10003....
Katy O'Farrell

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

PEN, Words, Swords, 'Zounds...

Can someone explain the virtues of international and, for that matter, internationally acclaimed, authors getting together to discuss literacy, computer culture, elitism, human rights violations, et cetera? Yes, there is the 'pure good' of this kind of discourse but the gab emitted from these writers' mouths often obscures the passivity of their buttocks (not to mention the hot air of some of their emanations and backsides). Where are the real activist women and men? True action-eers as well as auteurs? From the sidelines, it seems, the focus can be clarified. But can the issues under focus be fought for and fought against? Collective activism--whatever form it could take-- and not independent voices into thin air, might be one of many answers. I write this as the New School for Social Research in Manhattan hosts the PEN International Writing Conference. The white noise, yes, I can hear it cascading across the Village, across the East River, and into mine own ears...
Martin Scriblerus

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Roberto Bolano Redux

Wonderfully, the newly translated novel of Chilean demi-god, Roberto Bolano, The Savage Detectives, lists his dates as simply the following: "1953-" Yes, Bolano died four years ago but his work lives on and the designation of his life unended is an unintended symbol of his immortal presence. The pen lives, so too does the man. -curley

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Elision

This is what it means, I think – remember
that drunken cab ride and what you said about the fiction
implicit in the neatness of any border, any boundary?
The pretence that Belgravia ends at the traffic light
where the map says Pimlico begins, as if
one street corner was obviously different
from the one opposite, or the change in postal codes
was a tectonic rift, something you could trip over
at the halfway point of the crosswalk, when instead we know
that neighborhoods unfold themselves more slowly
than a taxi meter could ever measure.
And then we found ourselves suddenly at Paddington,
unable to recall the names of the sad hotels we’d passed,
or how many corner shops, or pubs, and the park itself
had been just a blur of black fence posts,
each an uncounted gradation of our progress.

So it’s more than any trick your tongue does
within the word “Wednesday”, more
than any shortcut through “Baltimore” or even
“Toronto”. It’s how your memory folds an ending
back into its beginning, and makes every minor transition
you’ve gone through along the way seem both additive
and inevitable.

Or maybe it’s more like that time in Nice,
how each day the sky bled lilac
long past dinnertime and we could never quite say
what moment marked the end of the afternoon
and which was the first gatepost of the night.
And after our walk back to our humid hotel room
we were all unions and junctures,
and even the skin of our bellies clung to each other;
maybe that’s the meaning that gets skipped over
inside that one odd word.

Mark Aiello

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Oh, Oprah! Killer Cormac & the Crazy Ladies

So, as everyone knows, Oprah has just endorsed Cormac MacCarthy's most recent novel, THE ROAD, an allegory of the apocalypse as I suppose it will occur in the modern world (funny how doomsayers are now religious evangelists or novelists lacking ideas). Well, altho' I'm a woman,
I'm neither middle-class nor middle-aged nor interested in the middling entertainment and advice of Oprah and her audience. But I'm intriqued by the prospect of Oprah's minions reading Cormac's backlog, titles like SON OF GOD and BLOOD MERIDIAN. These fine tomes contain visceral scenes of bodily mutilation, masturbation, necrophilia, and, well, lots of viscera. Guts and grimness abound, they do. Will some of these housewices adopt the fine art of scalping, have heart attacks, or lose their minds? I look forward to the results...KATY O'FARRELL

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

International Roberto Bolano Day

Today, April 3, 2007, Farrar Straus Giroux releases the late Chilean novelist Roberto Bolano's
The Savage Detectives, an English translation of his 1998 masterpiece. The publication of this volume is a milestone for literature. Read it and be astonished. curley

Monday, April 02, 2007

Thank You, Dr. Johnson

One can never find the mot juste for "le monde injuste," but perhaps phrases can encompass and not compress a historical age. I find the following quote to be an apt comment on this larval stage of the millennium. It is from Dr. Samuel Johnson's A JOURNEY TO THE WESTERN ISLANDS OF SCOTLAND: "To be ignorant is painful; but it is dangerous to quiet our uneasiness by the delusive opiate of hasty persuasion."

I think the good Doctor's musing is not only eloquent but precisely utilitarian: how many quotations do you know can be applied so generally in the current world without becoming a generalization?
Martin Scriblerus

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Zbigniew Herbert's Majesty

Ecco Press just published Zbigniew Herbert's The Collected Poems 1956-1998. I've been plowing through and marvelling at this body of work. While well acquainted with his fellow Pole and contemporary, Czeslaw Milosz, I had only read a small number of Herbert's translated lyrics-- access was limited as translation was only sporadic. This opus, 600 pages all together, illuminates the moral and historical landscape of Eastern Europe with a newness, a strangeness, an exuberant questing after poetry's legitimacy and its relationship to culture, on the one hand, and the authoritarian state, on the other. Herbert, who died in July 1998, wrote poetry under the auspices of what he called "justice and truth." The lyricism here flies into and beyond the gravity of those concerns and yields an atmosphere at once ominous and moving. The book is $35 but well worth the price for this hefty volume. If you choose to steal it, please do so only from chains and franchises, not the independent booksellers. --curley

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Living with the Living: Go Leo! Go Pharmacists!

Last Tuesday, Touch and Go released the new Ted Leo/the Pharmacists album, "Living with the Living." After only a week I am thoroughly enamored of its focused ferocity and lyrical content moreso than most dreck that percolates these days or rather froths forward in the bubbles of indie rock mediocrity (and mendacity). It is a protest album of the finest caliber; being such, it is a rarity, which should not be the case in these days. But, you know, these Americans...(well, I, like Bowie, am afraid of Americans). But Ted and the boys have invigorated the pivot and punch of political rock and the rhythms and rhymes coalesce majestically. One is reminded of thirties proletarian fiction and seventies Phil Lynott. Righteous, wonderful. --curley

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Value of Valery

Recently re-reading some work by the fine Frenchman, Paul Valery. Came across the following piece of prophetic knowledge and thought it merited reiteration. Perhaps it's already being quoted all over but I just came across it after too long. According to Valery:

"Europe visibly aspires to be governed by an American commission. Its entire policy is directed to that end.
Not knowing how to rid ourselves of our history, we will be relieved of it by a fortunate people who have almost none. They are a happy people and they will force their happiness on us."

Watch out, Brussels, the American Empire is on its way. And not only will the Euros succumb to the Happy People, they will also be in company with a mostly tactless people who prattle on about politics during presidential runs, become instant experts on world affairs, and then hibernate for four more years, cherishing their Democratic and Republican parties. Happy, stupid people. ---Jameson (Curley's kid brother/bother)

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Occupational Hazards of Proofreading

I’ve been at it so long that if you gave me
a blank sheet of paper, I might stare for an hour
without finding a single word to write.
Maybe I’d finally mark up the paper’s speckles,
the grain itself, for deletion.

I can’t even recall the morning headlines
any more, but I might chuckle all day
about a typo I found in the ‘City Styles’ section,
on page D-8.

So after years of watching me do what I do
to menus, to wedding invitations,
birthday cards from my nephew, even I don’t blame her
for the note she left on the kitchen table –
‘…our love is the strangest farce I have ever known…’
Even she’d have been surprised to see me change
the As to Os, and then pretend
her sweaters still hung in all the closets,
tubes of her lipstick were spilled on the dresser’s top.

And still, the epiphany didn’t come until an overtime shift,
the rumble of the presses just barely buzzing my chair.
when I finally saw that I had seared my own sight
leveling the indents on lease agreements
that would never leave the Misc. drawer
in a law firm’s filed cabinet, in Storage Area C.

That was the night I finally drafted
my suicide note, the first time in months
my pen filled the page with a torrent
of my own words. But when I read it through
I found some bad paragraph break
and so many run on sentences,
that all I could do was mark it up
and put it in the basket for corrections.

--Mark Aiello

Literary Sightings II

Last summer, I gave an impacted inventory of writers with whom I've converged. Not all exchanges were momentous or even friendly, but they all gave me a scenario to share. Here are more sightings for your, er, edu-tainment (pace KRS ONE)-- Curley

I caught ED SANDERS wandering around the east side of Providence with his electric piano tie, and LEGS McNEIL once told me to "fuck off. A groveling letter was sent to THOM GUNN and I have no idea what spurred to write literary fan mail. Never again. I used to write only one Christmas card a year, sending it to 44 Joy St., Boston, MA, where the hermit poet JOHN WIENERS lived. He died in 2004. I was too intimidated to knock on JOHN HAWKES'S door and he died before I had the courage to do so. DONALD HALL never invited me to his farm in New Hampshire but sent me funny postcards that were typed. I used to chat with JACQUES DERRIDA during his office hours because no one would show up, too intimidated by the pipe-smoking deconstructionist. Jacques failed to hold the door for me, and so it slammed on me, the week his book, The Politics of Friendship, was published. Philosopher MARTHA NUSSBAUM, who wrote The Fragility of Goodness, laughed hysterically when my backpack burst open, dispersing its contents. GYPSY JAMES O'TOOLE recited a poem for my birthday and then gave me a gypsy tattoo. When I first met SAMUEL MENASHE, he thought I was drunk. I was. MICHAEL HELLER, whose party it was, said I wasn't. I wasn't. I ran into EILEEN MYLES in a hotel lobby in New Orleans and she was surprised to be recognized. Hail, Eileen!...more to come...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Damn the Randians!

What is this wretched phenomenon, this malign situation, witnessed frequently, of business execs and functionaries, mostly female, fervently perusing the shit fiction, the pseudo-philosophical, anti-communist, collectivist utopia/dystopias of Ayn Rand? I just quit a bicycle messenger gig and my new temp job has me riding the rails. Seems like Harry Potter and DaVinci code and self-help manuals and chick lit have been supplanted by the Rand canon. Terrible in form, worse in content. THE FOUNTAINHEAD? What the fuck? Are these Greenspan jackoffs reading for knowledge's profit or some other insidious reason? My speculations scare me. Off to the subway....regards and adieus, Martin SCRIBLERUS

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

American Academy of Arts and Letters Invitational Exhibition of Contemporary Art

I highly recommend this show which is on view until April 1, 2007 at the American Academy of Arts and Letters. There are 86 paintings, photographs, sculptures, installations, and works on paper by 34 contemporary artists that were chosen from a pool of more than 150 contemporary artists nominated by the 250 members of the Academy, America’s most prestigious society of architects, artists, writers, and composers. Rather than showing one work by each artist, the Invitational allows for groupings of selected artists' work to be shown in its grand galleries located in two landmark buildings designed by McKim, Mead & White, and by Cass Gilbert.

Exhibition artists are as follows: Painters: Clytie Alexander, Robert Bordo, Sally Hazelet Drummond, Manny Farber, Mark Ferguson, Jackie Gendel, Juan Gomez, Julian Hatton, Frances Hynes,Warren Isensee, Christine Lafuente, Mel Leipzig, Stephen Mueller, Ann Pibal, David Salle, Dana Schutz, Susan Shatter, Cynthia Westwood, and Alexi Worth. Graphic artist: Emily Nelligan. Installation and mixed-media artists: Sarah Oppenheimer, IƱigo Manglano-Ovalle, Soo Sunny Park, Andy Yoder, and Emna Zghal. Photographers: Saul Leiter and Sally Mann. Sculptors: Charlotte Becket, Lawrence Fane, Joe Fig, Bryan Hunt, Grace Knowlton, Cordy Ryman, and William Ryman.

Organized by: American Academy of Arts and Letters
Location: Gallery Location: Audubon Terrace on Broadway between 155 and 156 Streets
Directions: Subway: #1 to 157 Street. Bus: M4, M5 to 155 Street and Broadway
Price: Free
Telephone: 212.368.5900
www.artsandletters.org

To read a review of the show by Artists Unite, please visit: http://artistsunite-ny.org/blog/?p=1014

- Luchy Edwards

The Return of the Repressed Unoppressed

I just read a review of two new books, the former attempting to rehabilitate Stalin, the latter to resuscitate Kruschev. In the past decade, several Spanish historians have lambasted liberal historiography for unfairly maligning fascist Spain, that the Spanish Republic was unjust too, and that the Loyalists tortured Francoists, so there. In Chile, much of the populace danced in the streets when Gen. Augusto Pinochet died in December (thirty-three years and three months too late), but other Chileans, including academics, enthused about how, despite the torture, killings, and abductions, he introduced an Americanized neo-liberalism which brought the Chilean economy into modernity. Historical revisionism is once again encroaching on truth and morals, supplanting fact for facile, dishonest interpretation. Now there are advocates for the tyrannical and the powerful among the intelligentsia, individuals wishing to supplant visions of fascist brutality with fascist bonhomie. Walter Benjamin, a victim of the Fascist Terror, noted how history was written by the victors and it seems, once again, that historians are not writing history but playing games in which they see themselves as victors, aide-de-camps to dead dictators. May their fates be unkind. --curley

Friday, March 09, 2007

A Political Poem for Presidential Candidates, All of Whom are Contemptible

Some Remarks on Healthcare

Let us now praise famous men
Who never resort to strength
To maintain their physiques

And have the cheek to suggest
That maybe the laurels of their labor
Are sufficient to set store against skin
Either inside or out. Policy regulates

Bodies, though immune to their needs,
Except as a function of the known
and isolate. Pain is mapped as a desultory blip

On an x-ray screen that omits the mind,
The secret wound, while saving itself
As insurance against itself.

j. curley

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Megachurch, Megabusiness: an Impossibly Wide Berth

"Maybe churches aren't so different from corporations."

Leftist, god-hating rant? Hardly. It is the opening line from an article in Forbes.com (linked via the title of this post) about certain enormously successful non-Catholic churches in the United States. Some, like Joel Osteen's Lakeland Church (Houston, TX) draw as many as 25,000 worshippers to a typical Sunday service. That's about average for a middling major league ballclub, and an awful lot for a preacher.

Big news! Americans like baseball, and some of them even like church. What's the issue? For me, it's taxes. Or lack of them. It goes back to a little thing we call "separation of church and state."

Many of these huge churches operate businesses: record labels, publishing companies, real estate. They make lots of money. They pay no income tax. According to the article, they do sometimes pay other kinds of taxes (sales, real estate). They also employ armies of volunteers.

So far, so what? Jealous? No (at least not much). Threatened, maybe. Here's why.

Watch the telecasts beaming out of any megachurch. You'll be hard pressed not to notice these preachers have a sharply-honed agenda. And if you're a so-called liberal, or gay, or woman, or non-believer, or Bush-questioner, you're going to notice that their agenda is aimed square at your midsection. They want you out--and not just out of power. Some of them can't wait until "the rapture", when you, o godless one, will be fried like batter-dipped halibut while they are bodily lifted up to a sweetly imagined place called "heaven".

Silly Preacher! But what isn't silly, and what makes their nontaxation pernicious, is that these same megachurches spend lots of time and effort trying to influence public policy. The kind that results in laws that affect all of us. Witness Roe v Wade (to be abolished); the war against gay marriage (fomented); our own Mess o' Potamia (crusaded); stem cell research (prevented); and rational thought (shouted down).

They use their nontaxation as a base for assaulting reason, fairness and peaceful co-existence--not just in peoples' hearts and minds, but in people's legislatures. Plus, many church leaders are getting plenty rich personally (and so might more of us, if only we didn't have to fork over tax dollars to keep the streets clean).

So, if churches are like corporations, why aren't they taxed like corporations?

--Renaissance

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Calvino Vita!

Tempest tippler Curley gave me a book by Italo Calvino called HERMIT IN PARIS, a rag bag of autobiographical writings. An essay included, "Political Autobiography of a Young Man," contains a little manifesto that is worth quoting:

"I would like to point out here at least two things which I have believed in throughout my career and continue to believe in. One is the passion for a global culture, and the rejection of the lack of contact caused through excessive specialization: I want to keep alive an image of culture as a unified whole, which is composed of every aspect of what we know and do, and in which the various discourses of every area of research and production become part of that general discourse which is the history of humanity, which we must manage to seize and develop ultimately in a human direction. (And literature should of course be in the middle of these different languages and keep alive the communication between them)."

Calvino wrote the above in 1962; I had no idea he was so ardently political-- as the next passage shows--

"My other passion is for a political struggle and a culture (and literature) which will be the education of a new ruling class (or new class tout court, if class means only that which has class-consciousness, as in Marx). I have always worked and continue to work with this in mind: seeing the new ruling class taking shape, and contributing to give it a shape and profile."

And from a Master often considered postmodern--tout court-- because of his stylistic brilliance.
I'm awed. --Katy O'Farrell

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Disappeared

Occasionally, these posts will be far too site-specific for their own good, geographically that is, being that all of our contributors are currently based in the NYC area. You, dear Reader, could change that if you were to flog a blog at your lesiure. In any event, for those Readers in the area--better yet, those who can get here--I recommend you visit El Museo del Barrio (1230 Fifth Avenue at 104th St.; open Wed.-Sun. 12-5) for the overwhelming exhibition "The Disappeared/Los Desaparecidos."

The exhibition showcases the work of more than a dozen artists of various Latin American countries and their efforts to come to terms with the horrific experiences of various citizens at the hands of their dictatorships. These efforts are extraordinary, refusing to become overt petitions for sympathy, relics of recognition, or readymade propagandistic versions of political art. No, these myriad works, from sculpture, to paintings, to drawings, to photographs, mirrors, and...bones, all commemorate the victims of Chile, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia, and Brazil, with art that shows a reckoning with the enormity of the events, the complicity of violence with evasion, and, so powerfully, how no representation or commemoration can be anything but a fitful trace of the people who were abducted, tortured, and murdered.

I feel compelled to share my thoughts on some of the more bracing pieces in this exhibition, but should rather urge you to witness these marvels. Those who have gone have not gone forgotten; but nor have they returned fully. Their absence informs these art works and their names and faces are with us even if they are still nameless and faceless. Organized by the North Dakota Museum of Art, the show runs in NY until June 17. Please see it. Let me know what you think.

-- curley

Thursday, March 01, 2007

No Things!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In all scrawling realms, from newspaper op-ed pieces to academic writing, student papers to published fiction, the word "thing" is now rearing its head more roubustly than the shadow-seeking groundhog who promises us (this year at least) an early spring--which is something, not nothing, and a prospect and not a "thing." The frequent use of this word is largely laziness or incoherence-- that is, the writer cannot fully articulate a thought and "thing" becomes a place-marker for that thought. So vague, so imprecise, so abominably a reflection of our current decade that cloaks itself in euphemism, crowds itself into muddled hallways of pseudo-logic, and shoots tear-gas at the windows of clear thought. The following lines of Lorine Niedecker should be tattooed on the inside of everyone's eye-lids:

O my floating life
Do not save love
for things
Throw things
to the flood

Yes, dear Reader, throw things to the flood. Make the no-thingification a quasi-biblical-apocalyptic event. And, oh yes, thanks for no thing. -jc

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Big Cities, Empty Spaces and the Whole Earth

In 1966, Stuart Brand was hanging around with Ken Kesey--together they helped create the countercultural revolution we pretty much take for granted.

He went on to create the Whole Earth Catalog. It was a fringe document then. Now it is widely regarded as foundational to a rather popular notion called "environmentalism."

He has a couple of other items on his resume: the concept for (not the invention of) the Internet is one. But let's stick to environmentalism.

Brand is not a romantic, live-off-the-land advocate. He claims to be in favor of big cities and empty hinterlands. He claims to be in favor of well-regulated nuclear power.

I have long been against what I call FreeSprawl: the destruction of native habitat for lawns and pools; and in favor a concentrated, mass-transit-oriented population. The bigger (considering our population pressures), the better.

I may take some convincing on nuclear power. But it sounds like a much more viable solution than trying to convince everyone to use paper bags instead of plastic, or to freeze up north in the winter.

Keep it coming, Stuart.

--Renaissance

Recyclopedias

An invention for the 21st century...

a book whose ink gradually vanishes at a calibrated pace, from
page one to the end. said book can than be re-printed over
and over. Reading for immediacy, not posterity, forcing
the Reader to aerobicize their memories. The Word becomes like
Flesh and dissolves...In these amnesiac days of 2007, anything
to aid in jogging minds and recycling matter might be worthwhile.
-Katy O'Farrell

Where the highway bleeds out and dies

Ride all the way out with me, my darling,
past those suburbs on the purple hills where
the angels laid down their swords, miles past
the sluggish red tide of the city, where the cold
sharpens each angry tail light in our tired eyes
the dark making each one a star of lances and burrs.

And then we will realize that it’s been an hour
since the names of the towns made any sense at all,
it’s been longer since we thought we wouldn’t get shot
if we even stopped for gas in one of those desolate stations
lit in the distance and silent as an aquarium.

The road will fall hush, in its senescence, as if it knew
it were about to end, and then it will be
a private highway, only three cars, each black,
and slower than ours. And it’s all just perfect,
the barns under the brittle moon, the grasping hands
of the trees, the shoals of sand at the side of the road,
perfect. The tractors were left in all the fields
just so their dark shapes could stand long on the fields.

Even the song on the radio is perfect,
once we turn the volume down a little,
and our car is clean, and bright, and you have always been perfect,
laughing with your hair that even the wind wants to touch,
and now that no one watches us pass,
even I belong in this landscape, too.

Mark Aiello

Sunday, February 25, 2007

"No man at all can be living for ever, and we must be satisfied."

Here's a dispatch that at least fellow Tempest correspondent Martin Scriblerus would appreciate:

This morning I woke into that hypnapompic half-sense, in which pigeons simpering at the window sounded like sea gulls. As my mind filled itself with fragmentary pictures of seascapes, I began thinking about John Millington Synge's RIDERS TO THE SEA, perhaps the finest one-act play of the twentieth century. The play takes place on the Aran Islands and represents the multiple tragedies of a family losing all of their fishermen-kin to the sea. Noticed as I re-read it this afternoon that the play first premiered on THIS date in 1904, at Moleworth Hall in Dublin. What an odd, eerie coincidence! curley

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Late Winter; Potential Projects

In society, the illicit taking of property is called theft.

In art, it is called appropriation.

Lately, Harper's Magazine has focused on art theft, "appropriation," imitation, the plague of plagiary, the communion of cooptation, pastiche, simulation, whatever term enflames the propertied or property-less soul. A few issues back discussed the use, re-use, and mis-use of a photograph of a Nicaraguan revolutionary; then Jonathan Lethem, glib but insightful, discussed the heritage and heresy of taking, turning, and re-making already existing art objects.

Not so much in league with this line of concept is a preferable one-- inspiration based on made work, seizing a dialectic between multiple parts, and synthesizing them but in one's own words. Selection could commence with random commonalities, such as words in a title. So you could take Kafka's The Castle, Celine's Castle to Castle, and Edmund Wilson's Axel's Castle and attempt to fuse them stylistically and thematically, despite their distinctions, the contradictions abounding among them, and the fact that their fusion would be a collision. Glorious un-accident!

If this seems too ambitious for late February 2007, one can save it for the swelter of summer. As a substitute, one might ensure that when books are being judged by their covers, they are in fact being judged by their contents. So...one writes a short novel (the form we deem it is unimportant) in which the text is on the cover and the cover art is found inside, as one opens the book. People, get ready...and get working. curley

Friday, February 23, 2007

Hail, Samson!

I, too, extend commemorative poesy praise for dear John Keats. Thanks, Martin S., for the notice. Keats's near contemporary, John Clare, died a death every day of his troubled life so I fete both Johns and--why not?--you, dear Reader.

As we are in the valley of vales (don't rhyme it with sails), I might as well give a shout out to Samson. No, not Delilah's lad, but a piece of museum art/demolition I remember hearing about more than a decade ago. Apparently, and this could be hearsay, a device rigged to the turnstiles of some American museum, called Samson, incrementally pressurized strategically placed steel girders that pushed the walls apart. So, everytime a patron passed through, s/he was inadvertently contributing to the eventual demise of the museum's space. What a concretized symbolic function, eh?

In the same spirit of shaking foundations, both foundations of perception and physicality, I have an idea (in the spirit of Perec-- hail, Georges!)for some benign spatial sabotage. By moving every single physical object in a city scape (Manhattan would be a fine testing ground)in varying measurements from their original locations--from trash bins, to sidewalks, mobile and seemingly immobile objects--we could wreak such disorientation that the body politic would be checking the sky (and ground) for signs of the Apocalypse. Eyes, minds, and legs would succumb to an architectonically-inspired vertigo or nausea. Just a Friday thought, "in situ, deus ex machina." Call Homeland Security! Call the French postmodernists! -curley

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hail, Hyperion!

Tomorrow is the anniversary of English poet John Keats's death. He would've been two hundred and eleven had he not succumbed to tuberculosis at age twenty-five. But, then again, he's immortal, so no talk about names being writ on water or death as anything but a virtual state for those deserving more. Whenever I'm in London I make a pilgrimage to his residence in Hampstead. Not sure if I believe in auras and emanations, but that space has an uncanny meditative quality. One gets dizzy with reverie and, no, that's not the British Romantic in me.
Since unheard melodies are sweeter, sing no elegy for this young man. Just read his poems and fall in love while at the cusp of extinction. cheerio! martin scriblerus

For Emptiness, for Sustainable Water Tables

Is it news that there's drought in Arizona?

Shockingly, it is.


After decades of untrammeled growth, Arizona (and places like it) may be in for a period of adjustment. Residents of its desert lands are increasingly forced to confront one uncomfortable fact: there's no water in an ocean of sand.

Trace the problem back to a pair of very American factors: the pursuit of cheap land; and the pursuit of hidden subsidies (some say they are the same). Unlike residents in densely populated, heavily taxed corridors, folks who live (often quite comfortably) in the far reaches of the Great American Sprawl rely on several species of freeloading.

The most important in the Southwest, and the least supportable, is that they rely on the nearly free (to them) importation of water. In order to enjoy both constant warm sun and a constant supply of wet stuff to bathe in, historically they have hornswaggled the federal government into building massive, expensive water works projects. The ecological ruin these systems bring is well documented--but if it lets you build a very profitable golf course in Dry Gulch USA, who cares? Right?

Now, perhaps, Nature calls in the bet--for it seems severe drought is really the geological norm in these climes. Consequently it will be even drier there than it is now. As a nation, we continue to fund expensive water so that FreeSprawlers can pretend in their golf carts that they're not on welfare. But we probably can't afford to support their fantasy for very much longer. Will the sprinklers soon run dry on the putting green?

Wake up, FreeSprawlers, and get ready to move someplace more sustainable. In the end, it will have been for the best, at least for those who pay for your subsidized water.

--Renaissance

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Radical Love, Indeed!

I just finished reading RADICAL LOVE, a newly published collection of five previous novels by Fanny Howe. Nightboat Books must be credited with one of the finest publications of the past several years. Fanny Howe is known mainly as a poet but, as she writes in the introduction, "I hope this collection will contribute to a literary tradition that resists distinctions between poetry and fiction as one way to save history from the doom of duality..." The five novels (all for just $20!) are NOD, THE DEEP NORTH, FAMOUS QUESTIONS, SAVING HISTORY, and INDIVISIBLE. Each is a modern classic, exploring the layers and landscapes of class, religion, and race. If these issues seem overdetermined or uninteresting, you've buried your faces in too much critical theory or are bracingly indifferent to their centrality, how fiction can imbue their natures into startingly new and truthful visions and versions. I'd recommnend that everyone use their last twenty-dollar bill to acquire this treasure. To relate too much of the content would be unethical. And if you need any other Fanny Howe recommendations, I would happily reply: "Read all of her work, read all of her." Her poetry, fictions, including short stories, and essays are all necessary reading. She is lauded as a great writer; such praise is damningly faint, indeed. She is one of the greatest. Although I can be charitable in my praise, rarely do I reach the pinnacles of hyperbole. But there I find myself now, waving you like an air-traffic controller towards the flight path of HoweLand. curley

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Subtraction

She apologizes for the meal
while bringing it to the table,
for the vegetables she would have bought
were they only in season.

She’s sorry for the train ride out,
the delays, the rudeness of conductors,
that you had to come so far
while the rain fell like plums off a cart.

She would love to retract some of your childhood.
Nothing major, you understand,
but some words shouldn’t have gotten out,
and some things of value were broken.

With each apology, she erases
a little more of herself
until you hardly see her
at all anymore.

Mark Aiello

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

In Thrall to a New Energy Master One Day

What if the balance of energy production shifted from the land of mullahs to the land of megachurches? That's what proponents of ethanol production are hoping. The New York Times (Week in Review, February 11th 2007) indicates that the Great Plains is waiting for a revival of economic life in what has long been America's Empty Quarter.

For fifty years the population on the prairie has been dropping. Long ago garrisoned against wandering Sioux, then thinly settled by government subsidized stakeholders, the prairie has never been viable economically. Some say it is better left to bison and antelope. Can there be any doubt that returning the American steppe to its natural state would be a boon to our warming globe?

Another plan is afoot. Latched to buzz-concepts such as "energy independence" and "renewable energy source", there's a grass-roots campaign to harvest fuel from corn; and later, fuel from straw. Right now there's enough of it going on to supplant maybe five percent of US oil consumption, but its just getting started.

Does the future look like Kansas and Nebraska, thick with single-species farms, studded with energy-enriched evangelicals, telling the rest of us what the price of heating fuel will be? Have we really thought through this Alternative Energy thing?

I read somewhere there's a 25 million dollar prize on offer for the person who figures it all out. Sure hope some real smart folks are working on it.

--Renaissance

Monday, February 12, 2007

Fight the Power!:A Panel Discussion at the Strand Tomorrow

On Tuesday, February 13th, the Strand Bookstore (Broadway & 12th Street) will host a panel discussion, "The Legacy of the Black Power Movement: a conversation between two generations," from 7 to 8:30. The talk features Herb Boyd, author most recently of WE SHALL OVERCOME: THE STORY OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT AS IT HAPPENED, and Dr. Peniel E. Joseph, whose WAITIN' TIL THE MIDNIGHT HOUR: A NARRATIVE HISTORY OF BLACK POWER IN AMERICA, was selected as one of the best books of 2006 by the Washington Post. The discussion will prove to be engaging, historically clarifying, and undoubtedly revise the force and character of black militancy in the popular imagination.

I haven't read Boyd's book (though familiar enough with articles here and there), but Joseph's book is an extraordinary survey of the black power movement, which is often villified when it is not stereotyped. Joseph's account furnishes a historical overview that is wide-ranging and the most in-depth study I've read about this subject ever. In fact, WAITIN' TIL THE MIDNIGHT HOUR is one of the most powerful historical studies I've come across in over a decade. And it is a joy to read history so well written: the eloquence and focus of the writing will astonish. Come on down to the Strand for a night of conversation, polemicists and pacifists welcome. -curley

Friday, February 09, 2007

Silence, please!

Winter afternoons and the heft of cathedral tunes...Emily Dickinson tolled the time and her chimes and charms persevere. However, silence predominates too, whether willed or arriving over the threshold of the evening. Silence, like our notions of death, can be approximated but never become a full essence, an embodied totality: we approach its condition but can never ever truly reach its sanctum. Even a sensory deprivation experiment will yield the noise of one's own blood pulsing through the temples (a sublime dual meaning that). In this raucous internet-friendly world, a world of telecommunication that only underwrites our loneliness, a culture of noise merely conceals the absym of silence. Silence is existential, pathological, necessary, and taken for granted. I've been silent on this blog for some time; to recover the pause between words, the caesura between breaths. But I reach for Beckett, my favorite advocate of silence, and shut my ears between his pages, pages configuring and prefiguring silence, passage to the final destination. -curley

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Woe is Us

Two troubling developments of late:
Ryszard Kapuscinski, who gets my vote as the greatest journalist of the 20th century, passed away yesterday at age 74. Among his books, The Emperor, Imperium, The Soccer War, and Imperium, are to my mind the finest representations of the Third World, life behind the Iron Curtain, and colonial and postcolonial societies. He wrote with detail and compassion, forging a moral conscience through his observations about life and politics in, among other places, Poland, Ethipia, various African countries, and Latin America. A true master is gone.

The other troubling development is a trend of reading observed in New York City and New Jersey: financiers, stock analysts, power brokers, all those for whom capitalism is a fetish and a weapon, reading Confessions of an Economic Hitman. The author describes how he regretfully exploited Third World countries, ripping off some and imposing austerity measures on others for loans. Are these people reading this tome to see the cruelty of capitalism, how globalization makes most of the world suffer at the hands of the West? I cannot imagine this to be the case. I suspect the money folks are getting ideas how to acquire, loan, demand, desire, and deliver cash cows for their privatizing pastures of greed.

-curley

Monday, January 22, 2007

Whither the Wither? The Goat in the Machine

As the New Year slouches on its frostbitten feet, worst case scenarios stalk its shadow-- or the shadows of one's thought on the subject. On the literary front, I wonder if we can expect a novel or memoir composed entirely of blogs or e-mail correspondence. Or has this already occurred? I long to see the day when prudish Oxford dictionary makers coin and then impose certain technical terms for computer-related matters and forbid shorthand (the lexical ordinance should be translated into legal justice too; for example, anyone using "lol" would have their forehead branded with that repugnant abbreviation). Oh, yes, speaking of faith and lack thereof, one can now download the entire King James Bible onto a cell phone from a firm in Australia, "translated" into cyber-speak. I hope the Divine concocts another Babelesque scenario for these ugly, errant human beings...Martin Scriblerus

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Common Sense: Mainstream?

Richard Dawkins is an atheist. That may not be remarkable. What's remarkable is that he's written a best seller ("The God Delusion") about atheism. Not just about atheism. About how religion is full of nonsense.

At Amazon UK, Dawkins' book is number one. At Amazon US, number two. And then there's Sam Harris who wrote another best seller, "The End of Faith". Read about it at Alternet:

http://www.alternet.org/stories/46566/

What's going on here?

Call it backlash. That's what happens when reasonable folks declare they've had enough. Not so much that they've had enough of religion, as that they've had enough of the notion that religion cannot be questioned. Enough of hearing that if you question religion, you're "intolerant".

Questioning religion is not the same as finding oneself aghast at the hipocrisy evident when, say, the anti-gay preacher turns out to be gay. That sort of thing is incidental to the enterprise of religion. The real meat of it seems to be: if you, as a religionist, ask that we accept as truth an obviously irrational fantasy (virgin birth, virgins in heaven for bombers); then why do you also expect to be included in rational discussions about how we run our society? You can't cite irrational fantasies as foundational, and at the same time intercede in rational policy for the rest of us.

If best seller lists indicate anything about public sentiment, it may be time to celebrate an awakening. One where common sense people feel free to let the world know they are not buying the hokum. Where they feel free to examine so-called "faith" in the light of day. Where, for instance, they don't have to be labeled intolerant for questioning intolerance.

--Renaissance

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Biblio-Dialogue: Courtesy of Martin Scriblerus with a Nod to Borges & Jabes

A: "Were it possible, books would be born in the mind and reproduce their volumes so that a library would take root there and infinite inner space would create for itself a master text from all constituent volumes."

B: "But doesn't that occur all the time?"

A: "How do you mean?"

B: "We write books with one part of our mind constantly; the other part conspires--and succeeds--in ensuring that each composed piece is erased."

A: "So there are books without paper, pages, bindings, and whatnot?"

B: "But of course. Within the Book of Life is the Book of Lives and within the Book of Lives are the Minds in whose Realms the activity of publishing and self-perishing occurs simultaneously."

A: "What are these books about?"

B: "If we only knew. The mystery grows like all of our miseries. There must be a connection. Were we only fortunate to save just one book from any one person's mind."

A: "If only..."
Martin Scriblerus

Saturday, January 06, 2007

why the business traveler reads bukowski

for starters, his poems are just the right size
for a short hop flight. much better than, say,
anna karenina. in a half hour wait (not including delays)
you still feel like you’ve gotten somewhere
moving with him through exotic zip codes
and several soul-crushing jobs.

i guess we’re lured by the romance
of such desultory days, maybe headed to the diner
or to santa anita (where I’ve never been,
and wouldn’t know how to go about even placing a bet
but I picture a parking lot of red dust, palms standing lonely
in the distance like desert prophets,
sun making a yoke of the horizon)
or to the corner store for an impromptu beer,
any of these preferable to waiting for the 7:35 to san jose,
another expensed cab-ride to an oatmeal conference room,
with its inoffensive art, those phones and flipcharts,
all those rehearsed handshakes you’ll face.

others find nobility in his demotic concerns;
making rent, or the six horse in the fourth race,
or the egyptian eyes of the night waitress
at a diner you would never really set foot in.

me, i just like the way all those lower case letters feel
so modest and cool on my eyes, after rummaging in my bag
for the right powerwords for my presentation.

Mark Aiello

Friday, January 05, 2007

Saddam's Grisly End: a Footnote to Disaster?

Saddam Hussein is executed in Iraq, a grisly affair with Shi'a taunts and the ex-President cursing Persians and Americans to the end. Was he brave (some said)? Were they hasty (some say)?

None of it matters. The real news is, the death of Iraq's ex-ruler is a footnote to the everyday horrors now gripping that shattered land. Bush, trailing misinformation and micalculation in his propwash, has turbo-driven us (and Iraqis) into a policy and military disaster the likes of which we've not seen--and are not likely to see the end of any time soon.

Many of us, (including this writer) regret having trusted Bush even briefly when he said they'd find WMDs. What were we thinking (smarting from 9-11)? Now, facing the worst foreign policy blunder in American history, can we find any good in it?

A cynic would say that if you keep the Islamists roiled, and fighting one another, then they have less time to hatch plots to nuke us here. But that cannot be an excuse for the wretched failures on the ground in Iraq.

Another cynic might say it isn't about fighting terrorism at all--or even trying to win on the ground. It's all about war contracts for Halliburton and oil profits for Bush cronies.

Is it too simple to say that? I've noted often that when someone's behavior becomes inexplicable, then selfishness can help explain it. And Bush's behavior has gone way beyond inexplicable.

With Iraq, we measure the depth of Bush's failure by the lack of real news in the capture, trial and execution of the enemy's leader: things are much too dire in Iraq for that to even matter. Observing that peculiar fact, we can hark back to the day in November of 2000 when we watched in sick horror as the Alito court appointed Bush Leader of the Free World. We may have felt then that someone had snatched our country from us in the night and left us with a changeling nation; one where even the pretense of competence and fair play were dismissed with a shrug. And now we find ourselves steeped in the awfulness we suspected Bush would bring.

Only Saddam is gone. The war, and Bush's absolute failure as a President, remain.

--Renaissance

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

But of Course! On the Concourse, the Goncourts!

Picked up PAGES FROM THE GONCOURT JOURNALS (nybr classics) recently and am delving into its dastardly abyss of gilded gossip and winnowing wit. The brothers Goncourt, who often make the barbituate-popping, gynecologist twin brothers in David Cronenberg's film DEAD RINGERS (and their real-life counterparts to twin the twain) seem a mere affinity group, write in both a singular and collective voice. They lampoon and lavish praise on their literary demi-monde, offering astute and often mean-spirited, schizophrenic-seeming critiques of their friends (Flaubert gets the most praise and damnation, almost simultaneously). Edmond and Jules write about dinner parties, venereal disease, boredom, boors, discontent with the writing trade, which become subjects in themselves or trajectories to launch into other subjects. They typically insert aphorisms about middle-class etiquette and their delicate, dark moods so filled with comic despair they come off at times like proto-Cioran tidbits. A skewed and terrifically entertaining glimpse into mid-19th century Parisian literary life, these journal entries go well with absinthe, opium, cheap wine, and syphilis.

Curley