Sunday, May 31, 2009

There is a set of numbers that equals You

Somewhere the series exists.
It’s just that no one’s discovered it yet,
though it may be only a matter of enough lab hours
or sufficient monkeys banging away at copious typewriters.
You are adequately described
by comma after cool comma
in a series maybe a mile long.
You might have heard it once
in the late night call of a numbers station
broadcasting from somewhere off the Labrador coast
and didn’t even know that it was the dit dot dash
of precisely your own heartbeat,
the periodic table that is yours alone,
the recipe for the boy that your mother has always thought
was beautiful, that spells out everything brewing
in the chemistry set you’ve carried all day,
every day. You, my friend, are knit of pulses
and vital stats, of ounces and mass
and instances - all numbers on a map
that looks just like you. Is it humbling
to think that even your deepest thoughts
during maudlin sunsets were pure output,
were just pennies fallen down the tubes
of some hyper-Fibonacci sequence?
All algorithm - your love of redheads, vanilla,
racket sports and mystery novels -
all predictable. Try to relax and listen
to the whispering song of those sigmas and deltas,
and be lulled even by the little subtractions
that happen to your equation every day.

Mark Aiello

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sonia from the Block

I don't know whether or not I agree with the way she ruled on the New Haven firefighter test. I don't know whether I believe a Latina woman will automatically come up with a better decision than some white dude (and I don't know if I much like the word "Latina", which for me has a whiff of condescension about it).

I don't know whether she got some kind of break somewhere because she's Hispanic, but I do know that lots of white kids got breaks because they had connections and she is where she is and unless you're Clarence Thomas, you don't get that far because you always managed to be the convenient racial choice--you probably had to be pretty much better than pretty much everybody else. They don't give away grades at Princeton, I know that, and they don't give you the Yale Law Review editorship because you batted your big brown eyes at somebody either.

I don't know whether her so-called brusque manner is going to impede her ability to adjudicate on the highest court in the land (I pretty much doubt it will); but I do know that I am not surprised she might come across as blunt or sharp, because if you grew up in the Bronx and you live in the West Village that makes you a New Yorker and chances are you don't take a lot of shit from people. Sometimes New Yorkers get accused of being rude but mostly it's that we're impatient with morons. Maybe she has a little of that in her--I don't really know.

I know one thing, though. I am supporting her. Not because she is Hispanic, or a woman, or because she is Obama's well-considered choice. No, I am supporting her because she is from the Bronx. I don't care what anybody says, the Supreme Court needs somebody from the Bronx. Somebody who knows where Jerome Avenue is and knows what it's like to stand on an elevated train platform on a winter afternoon. Somebody who knows how bad traffic can be on Fordham Road on Saturday. You get the picture: somebody who knows the sights, sounds and smells of the real world. Plus, she saved baseball, for heaven's sake!

Sonia from the block? Maybe she is. I don't know. But let's go for it.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009


A poem for the state of California, having legally overturned same-sex marriage:

Ecce Homo

you who confuse
sacrament & genital
righetousness & rite--
pull down your pants
& my duel-sexed piranha
will take a bite &
within its serrated teeth
your genitals will make a wreathe
of red righteousness & rite
as you sacrifice your life
for "your" sacrament
which bans banns
for queers undeserving
who murder babies & spread death
or so you would have it, you on the picket
without a crotch with which to stick it
much less a mind... J/C

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Now, About That Big "Terror Bust". . .

Either we are much, much safer than we might have hoped (because the would-be terrorists that just got arrested seem to be some of the most inept creatures on god's green earth), or we have an anti-terror constabulary focused on giving themselves big, neatly wrapped presents with bows and ribbons and bells even as real terrorists smirk and keep silent and continue to plot.

I am not qualified to know which is closer to the truth.

But I do know there is something of a "you've-got-to-be-kidding" air about the latest terror-ring bust. This is the one where a handfull of career petty thieves (one of them has been called by his older sister "the stupidest man in the world") were hanging around a Catholic drop-in center in a downtrodden Hudson Valley town, then apparently knocking back 40 ounce jars of malt liquor on their broken-down porch and talking about hating Jews and finally "located" at a local mosque by a shady police informant who plied them with money and radical jihad yammer until they believed they were actually going to shoot down planes with rockets and bomb the hell out of Riverdale.

Can anyone rationally believe this is a meaningful moment in the fight against terror? Or is it a case of police collaboration in the creation of a "plot" that never would have amounted to more than a few slugs of rotgut and a long nap had there not been ready cash, promises of grandeur, fake weapons procurement, free transportation, and logistical planning all courtesy of our collective anti-terror tax-dollar?

Not that the clowns who got hauled away having planted what they thought were deadly bombs outside synagogues deserve any quarter of sympathy--let them rot wherever they are tossed. But this was not, by any stretch of the imagination what one police official called "a textbook anti-terror operation". No, this was more like the fireman who went into the woods with matches and then rushed back to the firehouse yelling fire--soon to be crowned hero having doused the flames he sparked.

As I was saying--either all the would-be terrorists are idiotic to a degree that beggars belief, or the anti-terrorists are just not noticing what the smart ones are really up to.


Thursday, May 21, 2009


This APAT!!! post is coming in one day early as I'll be on the road most of Friday. No Memorial Day weekend for me (and how could I observe a holiday for a country that replenishes its amnesia all too often?): a celebration, in part, for the publication of my father's new book, SAMUEL JOHNSON, THE OSSIAN FRAUD, AND THE CELTIC REVIVAL IN GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND." In ULYSSES, Stephen Dedalus muses that "paternity is legal fiction," which for the creative endeavor is true enough; however, I am very proud to be the son of Thomas M. Curley, a saint, scholar, and superman. His new book is just out and his birthday anniversary is tomorrow: a sweet convergence. Cambridge University Press is publishing Curley's new tome and it's only $95. Buy yourself a copy or else patricide, parricide, uxoricide, or infanticide might be visited upon you or someone very close to you. J/C

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Yr. correspondent is no longer down for the count and has returned for the fight. Just back from Sarasota, Florida, where "NoBama" decals festoon S.U.V.s and churches open their doors to evangelical beach bums. Somehow, I prefer the novel sight of "Black Power Ices"-- yes, in Newark, NJ you can patronize a vendor whose summer treats have some affinities with Stokely Carmichael, the Black Panthers, Eldridge Cleaver, and the rest of the stalwart radicals of yesteryear. I will have to sample the goods and see what, in fact, a Black Power ice tastes like.

An event I encourage all Tempest-types to attend:

At the Strand Bookstore on Thursday 5/21 at 7pm is a cavalcade of writers and readers regaling you with the literary equivalent of swine flu. I will be in attendance both on and off the stage. From the official Strand website announcement:

"The troubador/flaneur Chris Leo responsible for giving us the novel WHITE PIGEONS as well as bands like The Van Pelt, celebrates the release of his most recent collection with readings by Eric Paul, Jon Curley, and Samuel Menashe."

Should be a toxic blast: come get exploded. J/C

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The not so fun house

I could have put up with all of it -
the toilets that clanked in the night,
the kitchen light that sparked
before anyone touched the switch, the windows
that rattled when even the ghost of my neighbor
walked his dog past my door, the voices
that muttered of blood and worry
from the washing machine in the basement.

I only worried when the mirrors stopped working,
so hard to shave staring into nothing at all,
or watching the reflection of some other self
staring back, doing nothing, bored as hell.
The worst was when the bedroom mirror
only showed me alone under a white sheet
in a silent room, and that little man would shiver
as if he felt me watching him for hours
and it even creeped him out.

That was when I decided to move,
but I thought it was a nice touch
when the thief in the hall mirror
dropped and shattered my television set
just so he could wave goodbye.

Mark Aiello

Friday, May 15, 2009

Car Dealership Closing? Boo Hoo!

Sorry to seem (and be) so unsympathetic to the plight of the poor, unwanted car dealerships that are losing their license to sell GM and Chrysler cars.

But I think I am not alone in estimating, based on experience, car-dealerships among the most dishonest storefronts on the American highway. How many times have we all had to deal with their "lowest I can go" chicanery and "your car's condition is killing you on the trade-in" and the transparent foolery of "going to talk to my boss" in trying to get a price for a new car? Can anyone say that the act of buying a car is almost always (foreign dealerships not excluded) deeply unpleasant and often at least moderately threatening in nature?

I remember going to buy a new car once not long ago and letting the sales guy know I didn't really want the fanciest version of the model I wanted, but a trimmer version at a lower price. He said "You're gonna hurt yourself!"

"What are you talking about?"

"At trade-in time!"


I went to a different dealership. They didn't treat me much better, but they didn't leak slime all over me, either.

Guys, sorry if your ride is over. I wish I could say I thought it was a pleasant one.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cheney's Reasons

Observers of the 24/7 news marathon Dick Cheney has decided to run, can be forgiven for wondering why a man who spent eight years in a brooding cone-of-silence has now become as chatty as a new intern trying to make an impression on his boss. And he's chatting about torture no less!

He has two reasons, really: one, he is trying to reach the potential jury pool that might eventually form when his minions and perhaps even he himself go on trial for un-American activities and lying to the American people about the purpose of the incredibly wasteful war in Iraq.

Second, he probably understands better than anyone that he has certain senior Democrats in a trap--because it will soon be revealed fairly clearly that they also knew what was going on in the detention centers. I am talking about Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Reid and several others who were senior enough, and acquiescent enough, at the height of the Bush/Cheney reign, to have heard the details and to have been able to make their objections known, but who did not.

Keeping these powerful Democrats from appearing to be collaborators will keep the torture prosecutions off the table.

Cheney will keep torturing us with torture until we stop talking about further investigations. Then he will go back to adding that extra room onto his house and leave us all alone.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Another in a Series of Ground Zero Observations

Because I get to see the mess every day, I get to talk about it more than would seem entirely called-for, and since I "was there that day" I am likely to say things that don't seem all that polite or correct.

First: give up the dream that goes something like "We shall rise again".

We're not that kind of crowd anymore. We dicker and bicker and let things get too sacred and in an effort to over-assuage and over-consult and let property-ownership play too big a role, we end up with what now is certainly going to be a big hole in Manhattan for many years, perhaps decades to come. I don't necessarily like to say "I told you so" but I won't pretend I didn't say it already: there's nothing much going on there, and all those derricks and cranes are a big show for tourists.

Second: except for the first couple of years of bedraggled piety that seemed to overcome everyone who got near the site, tourists now come to gawk and buy "disaster" booklets on their way to Wall Street or other nearby attractions. Which is fine.

But about a week ago I finally saw for the first time--the only time--what I thought was a suitable reaction. A Japanese tourist overlooked the mess, briefly bowed with hands clasped, and then proceeded to take pictures. It was a gesture of acknowledgment without the kind of sanctimony that has trammeled half of what might have been good about a rebuilt Ground Zero in time.

Third, and this will be ignored, but here goes: can someone please get rid of all the cranes that won't be used until 2020, sod that vast are over, re-instate Fulton Street so a person can walk across the taxpayer-owned region without having to traverse a tarp-covered bridge and a soggy boardwalk for the next forty years, and take down the damned Deutsche-Bank building quickly as if it were the disgraceful eyesore that everyone knows it to be and not some delicate instrument that needs to be disassembled in a vacuum-sealed laboratory?

Fourth: So far, Osama has gotten all he might have asked for and more with his strike: a great nation has been distracted, suckered, half-broken and turned inside-out with fear and foolishness and humiliating "airport security" rigmarole (when all they needed was to lock the pilot's cabin door); a great city sits with a miserable hole in it that the effete residents seem too afraid to just rebuild as if rebuilding were the point.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Those places between other places

Three hours out from the bridge
with the broken toll basket and just
one hour after every song on the radio
became wrong, there is nothing left
but to busy ourselves with the calculus of travel -
the speed that will get us there fastest
without a ticket, or how many miles
before we definitely, without question,
will need to stop for gas, or how
the mile markers steadily decrementing
still seem to never lessen.

The fringe of far woods, out there,
just over your left shoulder might be beautiful,
touched here and there by the pink and slanted sun
of a summer evening. It could all be lovely -
the broad lawns where rabbits stand tall
with their shadows running away from them
as far at the next highway exit,
the barns and silver ponds
where no one at all is fishing
from boat or shore. It might be perfect
if only we could afford the seconds
to turn and look as we blaze past.

This far out, the names of all the towns
seem to be either Finnish, or made
from Scrabble tiles, and the low stores
waiting at the end of each off-ramp
look like they carry only brands we never heard of
and we ask each other what it must be like
to come home here each night
from god knows where, pulling up
in front of one of those new houses
on a street with a blandly pretty name
to dinner with a pretty enough wife.

Look up from your magazine, now and again
and allow your eye to trick over all the work done
just so our passage would have a backdrop -
the distant aqueduct of the interstate
where the signs decree that East and West first divide
and 105, somehow, becomes 287,
the impossibly intricate refineries
all latticed walks and bristling stacks
raised so we have something to see
between exits 62 and 65.

Does it seem incredible
that all this was laid out
just so our bright car, our earnest faces
both fixed straight ahead
would seem even more beautiful
against such scenery? I’m sure
that someone in each car
that passed here all day long
thought the exact same thing.

Mark Aiello

What's the Big Deal with Bicycling, Anyway?

I have owned several bikes in my time--a homemade one crafted by a handy cousin was my first, and I enjoyed it. On the block it, and I, were known to be "fast". That was cool.

But since then the bicycle has become virtuous and one is supposed to wear a helmet while "getting one's exercise", and I no longer see the bicycle (as I did when I was ten) as a rapid-getaway machine in a mixed-housing suburb.

I own one now--living in an aparment building with an elevator and a promenade nearby--and have come to think of it more as an encumbrance, or to be more precise, a pain in the ass. It takes up a lot of room in the apartment and I keep trying to think of its clear virtues and am having a tough time coming up with any.

For instance, where can I go with the bike that I cannot walk to in not much more time and with much less hassle over locks, keys, and bringing stuff back home; or that I cannot get to by subway swiftly, effortlessly, and again without the annoyance of having to tote a helmet and secure the darn thing with a lock on some traffic pole; and what more exercise do I really get, unless I am bound to be ostentatiously strenous (sweating in pursuit of some virtuous condition known as "fitness"), that I could not get by walking a mile or two--again, unencumbered my anything more difficult to manage at journey's end than a jacket or small backpack (and even the backpack seems more than absolutely necessary to a person who recalls things called "pockets").

And then there is the urban bicycle journey itself. Far from relaxing or exhilerating, it is more a tortuous gauntlet of either "watching out" for what always appear to be clueless pedestrians walking expansively and very much too slowly in your path; or worse, "watching out" for vehicles thirty and forty times your size that pass you by at a distance of mere inches and which might, at a mere flick of the driver's wrist crush you like a sparrow. I watch bicyclers in Manhattan traffic and think of the madness of those who run with the bulls in Pamplona. How can a sane person subject one's self to the snorting, reeking, onrushing menace of internally combusted vehicles without realizing one is engaging in an activity not much less dangerous than dawn patrol in Sadr City? My conclusion is, one cannot.

My advice: unless you live in a bike-path-only environment and have no need to carry more than a few bananas and a stick of butter back from the market to your nearby home, or unless someone is paying you to ride in traffic--put down the bike. Get a pair of walking shoes. Take a walk. Relax. Take a nap in the park. Then walk home. You'll feel much better for it, and much more civilized.


Saturday, May 09, 2009


Apologies Readers & Comrades for being away from these computer-generated pages. The excuse and ruse have to do with my day-job working for a large financial institution, by which I mean an "university." The end-of-the-semester turmoil has passed, as have most of my students, so we can resume this silent dialogue.

In addition to making up for lost time and getting back to my backlog of books to be devoured, I am honoring the opus-organum of various authors in the next several months. So...I'll read or re-read Shakespeare's 37 plays, one after the other, and then maybe dash off to read G.B. Shaw in sequence, although I read all of his plays in disorder long ago. Then maybe I'll tend to all the Prefaces to his plays. Afterwards, the Bible, the Koran, and then...well, even if I get nowhere with this project, the spirit will remain, the spiritual protest against the magpie-like, attention-deficit-disordered reading habits of most contemporary denizens of our overwhelming media village. 'Tis time that we resurrect diligence, attentiveness, concentration, and critical scrutiny before those faculties are dissipated forever, becoming vestigial ornaments of a human mind no longer able to settle itself into deliberation and sensitivity. J/C

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Exit the King (sort of a review)

I am probably one of the least likely candidates for theater criticism, owing to my long-standing habit of falling asleep for at least a brief period during nearly every live performance I have ever attended--and that has included rock concerts, flamenco performances and comedy shows--but since I only fell asleep very, very briefly during a recent performance of Ionesco's "Exit the King" on Broadway, I figure I am, at least in this case, well-enough qualified to comment.

First, let me say that if you are prone to being depressed about things like the economy, death, and the possible presence of a nearby psychopomp, you should not see this show.

For those of you who do not read H.P.Lovecraft and do not have a preternaturally broad vocabulary, a psychopomp is a being or spirit that leads you from life into death as you are dying. Legend has it that whipoorwhills are psychopomps--they cry loudest around houses where someone is dying (it is told).

But back to the Ethel Barrymore Theater and the play:

Susan Sarandon plays the psychopomp, though you don't realize it unitl the end. In flat, unsympathetic tones, she, the older queen, informs the King he shall soon die. The King denies all--selfishly, moodily, and with a certain goofy grandiloquence. His younger "queen" denies it as well, but only as it serves her--she eventually accepts his imminent death.

There is a doctor who helps us understand that the very heavens are cracking, but he struck me as near-irrelevant. As did the armor-clad simpleton who made press-conference-like announcements. A servant-woman was more pithy and anchored the story some.

In the end, the king accepts that he is to die, as is his kingdom to perish entirely and clearly this is metaphor for all life and all death: postulating that what we perceive as us and ours ceases to be--literally--at the moment of dissolution.

Perhaps that's why the elder queen became a sympathetic character at the end, leading the king through the necessary portals to his doom.

Here's to the psychopomp! As necessary as a crossing guard, perhaps?

In the meantime, if you enjoy comedy of the blackest sort, do see the show--it is well acted and Geoffrey Rush is up for a Tony.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Not Voting for Bloomberg

Recently a caller to my home introduced themselves as an employee of the Michael Bloomberg mayoral campaign and asked for my vote.

I said, "I will not be voting for Bloomberg because he allowed the Republicans to have their disgraceful convention in this city in the year 2004, an act for which he can never be forgiven."

"Oh, I see. Do you have anything else to tell me?"

"Just that I will not be voting for Bloomberg because he allowed the Republicans to have their disgraceful convention in this city in the year 2004, an act for which he can never be forgiven."

"Thank you, I've made a note of that."

A minute later, the phone rang again. It was the same person, looking this time for my wife.

I said, "She won't be voting for Bloomberg either, because he allowed the Republicans to have their disgraceful convention in this city in the year 2004, an act for which he can never be forgiven."

"Is that her opinion too?"

"No one in this house will be voting for Bloomberg--because he allowed the Republicans to have their disgraceful convention in this city in the year 2004, an act for which he can never be forgiven."

Besides the above, there are two other reasons why I am not voting for Bloomberg:

1. Ground Zero is a hole in the ground--and no hopeful signs that it won't be any time soon.

2. He ought to have supported an aggressive plan to crack down on the Wall Street barons who robbed this country during its period of crackpot Republicanism, yet did not.

Mainly though, it's because of the 2004 convention--an act for which Mayor Bloomberg can never be forgiven.