Monday, November 19, 2007

from no distance at all

Today while stopping at a crosswalk uptown waiting for the light to change, I spent a while soaking up the poster for the new Will Smith movie I Am Legend, printed on the side of a city bus. Hilariously, the picture features Will Smith standing somewhere under the FDR downtown in Manhattan looking across a post-apocalyptic East River of broken bridges towards DUMBO with my apartment building framed gloriously in the near distance. It's wonderful in a way, seeing my building so stately and picturesque and sepia-toned, surviving armageddon--and seeing it approach me so randomly in my commute around the city. I remember once while I was on a vacation in Canada, driving as faraway as I could possibly drive from New York, turning on the television in the city of Prince Rupert (just south of the Alaska border in British Columbia) and watching a ridiculous cop movie starring Jim Belushi as a dirty cop making drug deals around the corner from my house. Perhaps it comes with the territory of living in a New York that has fully transitioned to internationally beloved simulacrum (with all the attendant traffic problems) but the Will Smith poster sent my thoughts in an alternative direction, thinking about futures of the past and pasts of the future.

In the poster (the movie's filming kept Farrah and me up nights during shooting with klieg lights under the Brooklyn Bridge blowing out refugee-flee-manhattan-extravaganza shots and inadvertantly scorching my bedroom with film noir shadows), a huge photoshopped sun frying Will Smith in a halo of light neatly blots out the new, inappropriate skyscrapers that have cropped up in DUMBO over the last few years--as I understand it the result of bait-and-switch tactics from developers taking advantage of architecture-buff neighborhood boards in 2002 but then stinting on the architecture. Perhaps this is merely the result of the I Am Legend being photographed some months in the past, before the buildings were completed. Or perhaps they did not fit the vision of the art director looking for the post-apocalyptic mood to befit a disaster-horror movie. But what occurs then appears to be a vision of a future New York that either demands a selective tearing down of recent changes (a conservative future as return to the past) or an understanding that the future is already defunct, that we're already there, and past. In a way, I prefer the second possibility, which certainly feels accurate to the wonder of watching old movies with young people captured and now no longer young. (In many ways all my poetry writing these days feels leveraged on this disjuncture, the writing moment receding into funnier and funnier miscues, distortions, changes.) It all reminds me of the historical epics of the sixties, say, in which everyone seems to have sixties hair. I wonder, did they know that they were creating a vision of Ancient Rome, or medieval England, or Renaissance Italy so utterly dated? And what will happen when shaggy sixties hair comes back into style unironically and without distance; will we watch these movies and think how utterly accurate they seem as pure history?

The Will Smith movies calls itself I am Legend and is its own bait-and-switch if it's anything like the pretty good novel, a post-apocalyptic disaster story that turns out to be a by-the-book vampire-vs-van helsing throwback, very doomed machismo. The legend is presumably Dracula, Transylvania, et al and the crux of the book is that if its protagonist is living in legend (vant to suck your blood etc.) and is A legend (a lone hero standing against the monsters) there's no one left to remember him. Will Smith (like Charlton "The Omega Man" Heston before him) is made of Legends lacking people to possess them. But isn't this the problem of the sci fi film which is always a historical drama, the future as it could have turned out but didn't, the story that didn't procreate, no one remembers what didn't happen, dogs not barking, etc.? Trees falling on each other in the woods. Or suspension bridges with the snapping cables magically missing my vulnerable windows... My sister has been studying for the GRE and, relating the fortune cookie essay question topics to me, she mentioned one that asserts that we can't learn from history because we're living in it. A lot of the questions have this weird parallax of essaying pessimism from a vantage point of freed up energy, such as decrying competition while competing for trails of a grad school bell curve or eschewing study in order to embark on the most intensive study of one's life. Here is the past of me, now how about some future?.What happens next.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

cardboard paper tigers

In one of the most lovely scenes in Jean-Luc Godard's La Chinoise, which I gratefully caught a rare screening of tonight at the Film Forum, Jean-Pierre Leaud and Anne Wiazemsky (I think it was her but my memory could be failing me; it could have been Juliet Berto in this scene) share a cup of tea. He comments, apropos nothing in particular, that he wishes they were blind so that they would pay more attention to words, listening and speaking. Somehow the fleeting idea sets off a chain of free word associations back and forth, Leaud and Wiazemsky throwing Maoist buzzwords and catchphrases at each other punctuated by Leaud's "tenderness" and--responding to her paper tiger--"rock..." (a dramatic sip of tea) "..and roll." The moment encapsulates Godard's wonderfully double-edged portrayal of his earnest student heroes: responding with great tenderness to their seriousness of purpose and youthful idealism and at the same time ironically aestheticizing their ideals, placing them in front of overwhelming color fields and confronting them with the deflating faces of older radical politics. It is a movie as much about age and time as it is about social change or group identity. Like so many of the French nouvelle vague movies of the time (like Jacques Rivette's Out 1 or, a latter day reenectment, Philippe Garrel's Les amants reguliers) is partly wonderful is the setting, always the most concerted regency chairs and ornamental wall moldings to appoint the revolution.

Filling the wall panels with chalkboards and painting old window shutters Chinese red, Godard gets this; his main argument is more with time than with culture as the serious worst imperialist. Or he would refuse to make the distinction. (Another key moment has Wiazemsky turning up the radio and staging a romantic breakup with Leaud to teach him the power of keeping multiple ideas in the air at the same time. Multiple fronts.) And yet the tenderness seeps through the ideas, the way in the middle of lexical association Leaud can't help himself from a little of the word. The tension of loving the culture one is sworn (somehow, anyhow) to abolish.

I am reminded of a time when, on a drive through quiet Massachusetts woods last summer, inspired by various online questionaires, Farrah and I played a word association game of our own, throwing random words at each other to see what would pop out of the other's mouth. One of us was supposed to be leading with the word prompts, the other with the telling stream of consciousness. In practice, though, we both thought the other was in the directing role and we were merely following. Then, for maybe twenty captive minutes, we went back and forth with words: response, response, response, swimming further and further along through the language. I learned an actor's exercise in summer camp in which, like Groucho and Harpo and Chico in Duck Soup, two people would mirror each other's gestures across an imaginary midpoint, slowly trading the phenomena of decision until like a ouija no one could tell who was in charge. Is that the real anarchy: no one in charge? Or is it, don't worry: someone is the director, maybe all of us this very minute?--but sorry, no one's saying.

Friday, October 19, 2007

dream songs

My central enthusiasm of the last few weeks has been Neil Gaiman's exceedingly rich series of graphic novels collectively called "The Sandman." It is a gift of a narrative, variously textured, with stories of horror, magic, wonder and myth as well as more practical concerns: love, mourning, gender, politics, religion. I haven't read much Gaiman before - only the nifty horror tale "Coraline" - but what is so striking here is his serious humanism, a willingness to accept various characters in their inadequacy and difficulty and by returning to them over and over again over the course of many years of work on the project, find a openhearted forgiveness for each. It is not moralistic in opting out of unhappy endings, but it is a moral universe he creates, in which there is serious goodness.

One of my favorite parts of the work is a scenario in the third volume which the hero, a punkish brooder who is the embodiment of dreaming, has commissioned Shakespeare to write A Midsummer Night's Dream as a tribute to the actual King Auberon and Queen Titania of fairyland. The play is then presented to an audience of fairies (Puck, in particular, objects to his defanged portrayal as a benign joker), presented in a pastoral stage en plein airas if it were the original summer Shakespeare-in-the-park performance. This radical notion re-envisions this fanciful comedy as something closer to one of Shakespeare's history plays, with all the associated baggage of politics and the patron who must be minded--as in the way Macbeth, for instance, implicitly lionizes the new King James. A Midsummer Night's Dream already has a certain self-reflecting quality; Gaiman doubles down the mirrorings and discovers new wellsprings of poignancy, beauty and depth in the play. Making it new, making it fresh.

I kept having to remind myself as I read The Sandman that it was a 'guilty pleasure,' mainly because it is easy to read, riding on the greased slope of visual storytelling and cultural association. I met with the poet Marjorie Welish this week to discuss my poetry manuscript in progress (depending on when you ask me it is coalescing, near finished, long completed, and/or scarcely begun) and her advice to me, regarding my own poetic output, was that if something comes easily, you're not making it hard enough.

In a way, I think this is the central problem for comic book experiences like the one I had with the Sandman--it is profound, challenging emotionally, complex narratively--and yet it necessarily flies by as all comic books do. Even as it engaged the question of pastiche and the introduction of soap opera superhero narrative elements, the Sandman seemed to use such a light hand and such a free associative delicacy that it is hard to see these as inorganic or shallow. And yet I'm chastened by Joshua Clover's peremptory criticism of Gaiman on his blog for what he sees as shallow, mealy spiritual mumbo jumbo Joseph Campbell mythwork, all pseudointellectual hero king quests. And there is something to that, though the meandering, mosaic approach of comic book narrative does much to disguise it as something more substantive. Clover dismisses Gaiman essentially as Napoleon among the dwarves and, when my girlfriend asks me why I'm reading so many graphic novels lately, I can't help but feel the sting.

Still, if I compare it with the equally redoubtable Y the Last Man, a very clever saga by Lost writer Brian K. Vaughn imagining the realistic aftermath from a worldwide plague of male hominids, the superiority (the pygmy giant indeed) of Sandman is obvious. Where most popular fictions derive their pleasure from the modulated spinning of the wheels of plot, Gaiman's dream stories excite through their nesting, their meandering, in a word their form. Gaiman is delivering form over content, which, for a story about dream and the wispy fabric of our lives, is just about perfect.

Monday, September 24, 2007

taking attendance

This appears to be my twentieth post since No No Yes Etc. was inaugurated nearly three months ago. I'm ambivalent about whether this is a sufficient pace of publication. On one hand, this has to be a secondary mode of output, creatively speaking, to my main writing, which I am getting my mind around as a book manuscript right now. But as a blog reader I know how important new blog material is, and how the old material has a way of going instantly out of date regardless of how topical or evergreen the subject may be. Even the format of the vertical blog text, which sends old entries into the internet netherzone of the archive, suggests the demand for fresh thought. I had a discussion with my mother's friend who is a librarian and who noted the problematic meshing of library science with the onslaught of online blog material overwhelming research tools and filters. In a way, it would appear, blog entries' format, with auto-archiving and permanent online niches, render the librarian almost nugatory or at least superfluous, except insofar as they might point you to the unlisted blog or the secret entry. But isn't that what Google is for? I feel like we're rearguing atonal music all over again, the science of science. But, then, who's arguing?

My own impulse in terms of inventing a blog writing style has been to think fast and try to make connections, paragraph to paragraph of the seemingly disconnected. Paul Rosenberg, a very smart blogger at, engaged in an interesting discussion of conspiracy theories, vis a vis Naomi Klein's new book, The Shock Doctrine, which Farrah has been talking about a lot this week. He debated whether it is conspiracy thinking to point out dormant structural connections or whether it requires a special cabal, public masks, cigars in a room where a lot of inexplicable down town occurs. Today I read Klein's related article in Harper's, which predictably raised my blood pressure but is basically a simple observation: the government has funded a disaster relief industry that now lobbies to maintain market dominance. No conspiracy, just politics.

I thought again about the fantastic Don Siegel movie I watched the other night, The Big Steal, in which one bad guy chases Robert Mitchum who chases Jane Greer who's chasing another bad guy. The movie starts out with lots of normal tough guy wit but halfway through suddenly goes wordless as Mitchum and Greer flirt by driving crazily over a series of switchbacks in the mountains of Oaxaca. Suddenly it's like a dream I keep having, taking these hairpin turns in a car that drifts through the curves as if its plummet over the precipice would be deliberate and gentle. It's not the speed that makes the characters fall in love, it's the skill with which they don't quite lose everything. Two details seem especially dreamlike: the pavement, which because of the minimal Mexican infrastructure (cf Klein) peters out almost indecisively at the edge of the road, like a passing fancy; and the background, which lurches from soundstage backdrop to reality with an antic abandon. While the projected backdrop skitters up and down, Mitchum and Greer barely jostle. They're just that good, or it doesn't matter one way or the other as long as they show up at all.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

theology at lunch

My hair still damp, I just walked in the door from an outdoor lunchtime reading in Bryant Park that proved to have the second most exciting weather of any poetry readings I've attended. The most exciting was a year ago, when I flew to Buffalo to attend a conference at U Buffalo on Robert Creeley and landed in the midst of a gathering early October blizzard. By the time I made it downtown where the reading was getting underway in a church on the main boulevard, it was flurrying heavily, and just as Robin Blaser got up to read, an overwhelming fusillade of thunder boomed through the gallery. I remember Blaser raising his arms in mock triumph before continuing. It was obviously uninterpretable (no more than the paranoid who holds the airplane or the world aloft through their compunction) and yet totally appreciated, simultaneously overstating and understating the Importance of Art in the face of Nature as an answer that could be tiny and also sufficient. Blaser, not large, was perhaps taking credit where credit was due.

And yet the weather did win after all; I never made it to the conference. Instead, braving the highways of Buffalo in snow so thick with lake effect as to make the road signs literally unreadable, where I holed up during a total electricity blackout in a Marriott in full-on emergency mode: the electric locks on the rooms requiring manual keys and the stocks of snack-size potato chips and irradiated apples running low as the generator's gas supply dwindled. For twenty-four hours it was the apocalypse and then the plows arrived with fresh supplies of early autumn.

This time the squall arose through midtown as Joshua Clover stood behind a microphone in Bryant Park's so-called Reading Room. It had already been drizzling around the tent but the rain grew in intensity as Clover read (he suggested at the outset that the scenery was appropriately apocalyptic, and given the oddity of his reading his elegy-for-modernity-through-pop-wizardry poems on September 11 -- compounded with a setting next door to the Fashion Week tent -- one was inclined to believe him) until, interrupting the second work of a line, a huge crash resounded overhead. I wondered across the park what the runway models in their air-conditioned pavillion took as their proximate cause, which seemed surely the appropriate thought to be having: not, what should we do, but, what was it we did.

The fact that the next time Clover repeated the same word - "Capital" - the same thunder replied in its gospel call-and-response only compounded the humor, the avowedly secular death's door conversion. It was money's fault, wasn't it. (Or not fault--laugher.)

And the thing about opulence is someone will always enjoy it. (The recent Paul Goldberger article in the New Yorker lauding the new Stern palace on CPW reads like an advertisement--pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, etc.) Clover reminded me of this through the title of one of his terrific poems, which referred to the first mall in the world ever constructed, in Brussels: the Galleries St-Hubert. As if by some force, Farrah and I were drawn through the central streets of Brussels to the glassed promenade when we visited Belgium last year. I would glibly call it an American thing, and yet only in imitation.

We had a free evening and returned in the mall to a movie theater sliced off the Rue de la Reine to see the excellent, conveniently wordless German documentary Our Daily Bread. Annals of late capitalism, the film presents completely compelling images of the efficient, heavily mechanized food production system that can vacuum every nut from a well-shaken tree, carefully cover acres of root vegetable furrows in gleaming mylar blankets, and, with only a resolute, industrial thud, truss pigs calmly onto an elegant stainless steel Catherine wheel and unzip them at the belly. It's an unsparing film to watch, but excellent and inspiring, offering stories from the slow motion apocalypse that has been going on, to judge by the two-century mall on Brussels' Grand-Place, basically forever. Cue the sound effects, turn down the iPods.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

time flies buzzing

I ran out of time on yesterday' afternoon's entry and had to run out the door to go to a reading for the new issue of Lit magazine (which includes two pieces by my friend Matthew Pennock). Running down the clock meant I didn't have time to say anything about the good book I was reading yesterday, Sandy Florian's Telescope. It's a daunting bit of work--long prose pieces unpacking an abecadarian of exotic everyday objects over many pages. I had a curious experience reading it of a rapid succession of shutter-speed associations as I read: first it made me think of Gertrude Stein in its chunky syntax that is developed into something like a moral philosophy. I remember having this thought originally when I was studying the masonry of dry stone wall building in France and struggling desperately to remember and wield French vocabulary at the same time. So Florian makes me think of this, first language as a second language, workmanlike, something to strive for.

Telescope is also like Stein's Tender Buttons in its "stony stones" Russian formalistish attempt to look at an object--say, an accordian for Florian like a carafe for Stein--minus its pragmatic usage but still drenched in its visual and tactile impact and its cultural context. Suddenly I'm thinking this is a totally structuralist idea but in both cases it's too personal to become a myth.

I'm also reminded in a similar way of Lawrence Weiner's '70s artwork in which he presents not a minimalist sculpture but a description of one painted on the wall as if the word could be what it means rather that meaning it. Here's an example which I hope I get right, squinting at a too small picture on the Dia:Beacon web site: "Two slabs lying against each other to form a form with another slab lying on the ground." It's like this in Telescope, the feeling that words just have to be vacuumed and swept enough to produce something actual. It's an idea so idealistic it makes me want to try it myself, like Pygmalion.

But then at the same time in Florian's consistent use of "And." "For." "Or." etc. to link sentences I find myself pondering Bertrand Russell's Principia Mathematica and logic, all those "intersection of" and union of" ideas built out of upside-down U's and transformative ='s. Reading it is a little like unraveling a proof, following sentences into algebraic chains. And strangely this is practically the opposite of words becoming things: it's words as numbers to juggle in a perfect flowchart, the pure purest ideas. I think this is the crux of the book and what it makes it impressive, that it can simultaneously feint (float like a butterfly, sting like a bee?) to both sides of some Platonic dichotomy. The distinctions won't hold but if old metaphysics needs work here's evidence to get us somewhere.

I found Florian's name perusing the schedule of a wonderful-sounding English language reading series in Paris. Now there's an idea that's transporting.

Friday, September 7, 2007

not it

(place your finger beside your nose while contemplating)

I woke up this morning with a strange anxiety that it was possible in my last post that I had misidentified the Dorothea Lasky from the interview video as the poet--no particular reason from the video, perhaps some residue from a dream of people wearing masks of their own faces or some such. In any case, some youtube sleuthing (the video comes from "weirddeermedia" which has a link from Dorothea Lasky's site) reassures me but I was momentarily fascinated by this problem. I have thus far been fairly generous with links but it is certainly possible I would it get it wrong. I was discussing this problem with friends last night in reference to my own name which, when googled, reveals a plethora of creative and productive people who are not me. There is even a musician or two and, apparently, a writer.

These are not my accomplishments or opinions and it strikes me as strange that just as the Internet has the problem of flattening text of affect (a recent article I read claimed that this is why exclamation points are more acceptable in text messages) but also personality and identity. Taken to the extreme are horrible cases of overzealous renderings from Macedonia or JFK to black sites for questioning we hear barely about. Of course I don't mean to imply there would be some actual person for whom extraordinary rendering might be appropriate--I try to ascribe to 'ordinary' theories of people relating.

In any case, to ward off confusion, this is me now. And besides those to the right here are a few other prior instances.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

dropping a frog into boiling water

Being back in New York has me grappling once again with the notion of the structure of the city, as enveloping a situation as an ideology. Obviously there are layers within layers of decision makers and when the subway is delayed it is because someone somewhere made it so. And yet the experience of obstructed and facilitated motion is so discombublatingly organic compared to a jog in the woods, where the pace and the mind are in sync on the surface as the muscles and the neurons fire off in teams. Here it's all momentum, commuting in traffic with the laws of thermodynamics. I saw on television an interview this summer with a journalist imagining the world quietly disintegrating and also persisting after the disappearance of humanity, leaving behind a detrits of bronze sculptures and feral housepets; today I read the John Seabrook article in the New Yorker about the Global Seedbank on Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago (where there is excellent terrain for cross-country skiing, incidentally) where they could collect noble heirloom plant seeds that could survive the apocalypse as a great big vegetable blight. (Spill some wine for that future passover.) So which is it anyway: screeching to a halt or skidding forever forward on the old tracks? How is it being involved, but not entirely accustomed?

I've been trying to give Farrah (yay!) good advice as she works on her novel in progress and find myself through lack of practice with fiction no longer acclimated to the basics, such as narration. It's amazing in a way that after a few hundred years of writing these things we just accept the feeling of this person writing with an "I" in which there is simply no context. I feel the same way when I turn on network television after a long time away, or right now as I wander by the propagandistic ad posters glued all over Manhattan: what a completely radical, noisy, totally artificial landscape to feel normal around. Astonishing what you don't even notice yourself getting used to. So I open a book and keep thinking, why are you telling me this. (Italics can be distributed as preferred.) Of course it's taken weblogs about ten minutes to normalize the converse relation of private/public journal. But obviously the mixture of voice and tense in fiction makes the problem all the more glaring--who are you and when did we get intimate, like waking into a marriage of amnesiacs, or at least one drunken one night stand...

I was reminded of this issue today browsing books in the Barnes and Nobles on Lexington at 86th st. (which boasts a surprisingly decent poetry section and should not be confused with the branch on 86th st east of Lexington, which doesn't) and getting sucked into Dorothea Lasky's Awe. It caught my eye because I had just been looking at H-NGM-N's web site yesterday and read about the flipbook-chapbook they made out of poems of hers and my Columbia mate Sam Amadon's. In any case, Awe was a fun discovery for the day and absolutely demonstrates the very unexplored weirdness of talk as a formal device. Lasky sometimes uses tiny emphatic Q and A intrusions into a smear of directed thoughts that suggest arrows shot off at funny angles and bouncing round to smack the archer. Let me answer my own questions, in other words, and with exclamation points. It might be a little slapstick but, you know, "poetic slapstick," as Pauline Kael said, and thus disarming and windowlike. I don't see tricks here so much as personality--there's a fair amount of the word God in the book (goes with Awe, perhaps) deployed I think as a placeholder for why anyone would tell anyone anything. Because, maybe, they already know? Funny, given my instant thought of Q and A in the bookstore that when I googled her name just now I came up with the above video of her literally being interviewed.

The other book I've been reading lately is Joanne Kyger's selected poems As Ever. I loved her poem "Carl Jung Greeted" in Stephanie Young's aforementioned Bay Poetics, which seriously ranges--psychology, politics, the cosmos--to capture a very accurate portrait it seemed to me of how it feels to feel these days. I found it fascinatingly hard to locate a copy of the book, despite its being published by Penguin--no copies for instance anywhere in Boston, so far as I could tell. Strange because it illustrates elegantly what can grow over decades in an Olsonian open field and it seems to me people that people would like that. I like this: "There was a long time in silence. For myself I can tell you that certain things give me limited pleasure for short stretches of time / but I do not know where to put them."

She can tell me, and I can tell you.

Friday, August 31, 2007

stitches, sunspots

During this last quiet week in Sudbury Mass I went to a whopping two movies in the theater: "The Invasion" and "Sunshine." Sunshine is probably the easier to talk about, and was quite instructive in gaining a better handle on the pros and cons of a certain strand of wonderment sci-fi--think of 2001. I never had much use for 2001, particularly its clammy psychedelic vista of eternity as played by Lullabies from the Womb, but now I see what happens when you replace hermetic Kubrickisms with a ecstatic drenched quality typical of Danny Boyle: still the snag of Plot. Like Boyle's previous movies with Alex Garland a stately aura in the first few acts degenerates into Mansonland for the climax where the secret chthonic truth of heroism as a death cult wraps up the thesis. It's a tight but fairly conservative attitude as hippie peace leads to an open field leads to violence: Antonioni (Vive le!) deposed by Charles Manson.

Still, the violence here falls under the shakiest category of the movie, a gambit of "alone-in-the-universe-I-am-the-mad-king" seen previously in most sci-fi thrillers like Walter Hill's disavowed "Supernova" or "Event Horizon" to justify bloodlust for no good reason besides 'is that what people want?' Hollywood executivism. In other words, we have another chapter in the endless story of not trusting the image. And what stays with me, days later, from "Sunshine" is images and only images: Mercury seen from a near orbit, or the sun through filters as a giant, broiling orb. To see is to scorch: shades of Phoebus wanting to see the true image, or Icarus. And of the essentially suicidal nature of this mission to save the solar system, flying purposively into the sun. It has not been lost on many reviewers that there are shades of "Armageddon" here--plucky humans save the world through outer space know-how--but patriotism has been replaced with a kind of existentialist aestheticism. It is and it deserves to be because it is beautiful, which is what's best about art I suppose always.

Of course, then, the movie is also an allegory for movies, which is always interesting to see in movies: sitting in the dark hoping to see something gorgeously beautiful and dangerous. In any case it far transcends whatever broken idyll structure we might impose upon it.

The other movie I saw, interesting for entirely other self-conscious reasons, was "The Invasion," famously the subject of intensive re-shoots and re-imaginings that transformed an early cut perhaps based on claustrophobia and distrust into a schizophrenic movie that has no patience even for cause and effect (the editors in an attempt to shave blood from the stone of the film's running time, jumble up even something so simple as saying goodbye and getting into a car so that we have the whole rest of the movie seemingly happening at once). The strangely central image of the movie is of the muffler of a car, leaching condensation and exhaust.

It wasn't, in any case, possibly to describe this as a good movie per se, but it was fascinating watching something so utterly hybridized as a narrative, the stitches so obvious, and scars of editing so raw. I was almost made to think of it as an objectivist experiment in the undermining of story. A few critics snarked that the movie itself was the pod person sucked clear of personality, but it brought more to my mind images from John Carpenter's "They Live," where the magical sunglasses show you the truth behind ideology, the stories of capital as an alien with no skin.

And still there is personality here, even if it is a clash of middlebrow ideas--fascism begins at home versus technology as the saving grace from technology. The movie stayed with me a little like a cento or a found poem project reminiscent of Ronald Johnson's "Radi Os" which I was looking again at excerpts of when I found his out-of-print selected poems TO DO AS ADAM DID in Grolier Bookshop in Cambridge this week, an extremely happy find. It's interesting how Johnson's technique, whiting out his way through Milton, oscillates between trick and miracle, whispering the secret ecstatically and then being spoken past. You can hear through it but also hear it in and of itself. That is of course the brilliant double-ness of the title swept away from Paradise Lost: we have both a radius around which we are orbiting, radios tuning into the frequency of the transmission, and the radiant light-giving image somewhere close by of whatever sun is shedding light on this. So little saying so much.

Farrah claimed that our cat (living indoors with no experience of other cats and quite indifferent to the minks, deer, hedgehogs, chipmunks, dragonflies and goldfinches trotting past the windows here in the Sudbury woods) sees only us as giant leonine cats. I imagined a machine to generate the experience of voices interpretable by the technology of his little feline ears. Big lionish sounds, their cadence and melodies, murmuring and tintinnabulations. We can understand emotions behind language even with the words blotted sonically out. In "Sunshine" the possessed keep demanding less filters, turn up the sun.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Coming of age in the monoculture

After reading the mostly completed screenplay that I worked on in June, my sister recommended I see "Superbad" for its very strong parallels, allegorizing a bildungsroman story through the search for prohibited substances that turn out to reveal and destabilize assumptions as they offer entry into "adult" dangers and involvement. It is "universal" insofar as the story of adolescence is the story of going from the anxious outsider to the anxious insider. Like "Knocked Up", which has paved the way in terms of marketing and theme (both films derive from similar impulses in like-minded --ie the same-- people), the comedy is essentially mitigated because growing up means dealing with other people. Both stories move from a pornographic mindset into a social one and both feature male protagonists fondly/bitterly parting from mono-gendered viewpoints into more complicated, sexual one. As Joshua Clover pointed out very accurately in his recent blog about adulthood and Adam Sandler, the films equivocate between taking the new adult world as an improvement or a necessary evil towards perpetuating the Way Things Are. In other words, you were right to be afraid because now the only reason you aren't afraid anymore is because you've lost. Which is not exactly satisfying.

Here I am, for instance, back in Massachusetts and passing along quite quietly not in the city. I've been continuing to explore Stephanie Young's excellent anthology Bay Poetics which makes me lonesome in a different way for the West Coast, if not old Brooklyn where I'll be within the week, I think. The anthology has a certain grab bag quality (the poets are presented in a mysterious, neither alphabetical nor thematic order) that accentuates a feeling of embarrassment of riches, which feels fairly accurate to the history and centrality of the area poetically, given that what we're talking about is somewhere between academic principality and willy-nilly subculture. I guess what it comes down to is that the people really, really matter. There is an energy in Oakland/Berkeley/San Francisco, or in Brooklyn for that matter, that is weirdly thinner up here in the Boston area, save for a few counterexamples holding down the fort. Or maybe I'm just insatiable.

Maybe that's why today I'm so excited about Laynie Browne's Daily Sonnets, one of which, a poem presenting itself literally in the context of vibrant literary community of readers and readings, appears in the Bay Area collection. I picked up Browne's book on the same visit and love what feels like a celebration of the capacious in this thickish series of poems. Browne uses elastic, punctuationless lines that flit between a sense of performed or lived experience and a more formal, visitation style. Its stutters are satisfying and continuous. The last two lines of the poem from the Bay anthology, "Sonnet while Listening to Kit Robinson Read," are

There is a surface you prepare
And a surface everyone sees

which kind of cuts to the heart of this question of public/private/preparation, doesn't it? Welcome to the world as seen through everyone else's eyes, except not.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

clarity, confusion, shock

I am writing this from out in Marin County, California where up on this mountain one can go days without seeing anyone. I've been reading CHARMED CIRCLE, an account of the agglomeration of artists and arties surrounding Gertrude Stein in Paris before WWI: hijinks and gossip and a lot of how-the-who's-who-knew-who's-who. The effect of this treatment of capital-c Celebrity and celebrity creation (the author James Mellow has one theory of how Gertrude Stein cultivated fame by maintaining links with successive generations of young literati) on me here in the gloriously empty meadows on the coast of the Pacific Rim is rather strange. What do you do with people? Coming out here I feel vaguely haunted by the San Francisco Renaissancers--Spicer, Duncan, etc--and then the Berkeley/Oakland circles that followed. As if it might be possible merely be being here as I write and transcribe work to be a San Francisco or Bay Area poet ipso facto.

And now similarly by Picasso, Matisse, Apollinaire et al floating diaphanously around the Stein residence in Paris circa 1909. What is lost amid the scholarship of who did what when in Mellow's rather impressively exhaustive account of Stein -- who it turns out did live in Oakland in her adolescence, thus in spirit and despite her proud Allegheny PA lineage, setting her among the Northern Californians -- is how the connections happen. Her brother Leo goes off to Europe in a vague spirit of becoming an art critic, or a historian, or an artist as is hobnobbing with Bernard Berenson and Bertrand Russell as if this is merely a matter of course. And then the salons seem merely to materialize. I hope this is not merely some kind of class mystification exercise, such as in Apted's 21 UP when the maligned noble preps protest that a film of them at seven predicting the rungs of their ascents to Oxbridge turn out to be mostly accurate fails to capture the sweat, toil and sheer uncertainty of climb. As lawyer Andrew in the documentaries says not entirely convincingly "it all could have gone wrong." But what is wrong and how would you know if it were happening? In retrospect there are perhaps foggy recollections but essentially a narrative and one that is thus in its linearity, easy. This happened, versus could. And so they went to the studio of Pablo Picasso, about which she remarked...

Right now I am surrounded by fog blowing in off the ocean that is impenetrable laterally but through which the sun beats down. Despite the cloud cover one can get a sunburn. Perhaps this has me meditating on the obscurities. But a little clarity to wrap up:

I learned about CHARMED CIRCLE first in an aside during a class at Columbia on the '50s martinis-and-madness circle of Lowell, Berryman etc. taught by Liam Rector. Liam was caustic and open-hearted, aphoristic in a slightly orotund but also endearing way. He insisted on the depth of shallowness, repeatedly attacking a culture unwilling to embrace "look-ism," taking joy of gossip and diaries and private photographs and such. A necessary corrective perhaps to too much serious seriousness. Not that Liam Rector wasn't serious, but he liked to play. I just learned from Ron Silliman's blog that Liam died yesterday, news that is shocking and sad. I remember Liam decrying the latest puritans and pondering the difficulty of locating the current indefensible intolerances that are not without but within. For him it was possible we were living in invisibly situations of inquity and bad relation that would only become obvious in retrospect, or through a bracing encounter with perspective. Liam was I think always in search of this breath of fresh air.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Me versus me

Last night, half inspired by somewhat recent reading from THE GRAND PIANO memoir, I started reading aloud bits of Zukofsky's A to Farrah. I haven't before spent much time on the poem overall and was drawn to section 22 (the source of a well-remembered group reading from the 1970s in the bay area) where the poem suddenly switches gears into quasi-Latin/Elizabethan drama, repelete with characters out of Plautus or somesuch--A dramatis personae leading the way. Farrah referred to the changeover as 'disconcerting,' a comment which I think unpacks a certain set of assumptions about poetry and the 'lyric' having to do with the voice being A voice or at least Assumed Voices, the line containing a certain set of materials existing in a certain plane vis a vis the rest. And by contrast this move - one might call it "experimental" though I suppose the experiment must have passed a while ago from the preliminary findings stage to peer review - seems to explode such readings and demand a constantly replenished reading, as if such useful things as genre had not yet come into existence. Still, what does it DO for the work to move like this? I think of the Circe chapter from Joyce's Ulysses for an analogue and I suppose the experience of reading a screenplay as novel (Farrah has shown me a YA novel doing just this) might cause similar parallax reactions, concretizing the language while at the same time destabilizing this character-colon effect. Just words? Just peoples?

I picked up a copy of Paul Killbrew's newish, pretty chapbook Inspector vs Evader at McNally Robinson a few days ago and was very struck by the similar principle of re-evaluation line by line, as Killebrew constructs the long poem out of interlocked but not necessarily contiguous voices in a series of end-stopped lines coinciding with but not necessarily equal to sentences. What is the difference between the line and sentence? Who is it now? I sometimes feel that tug when writing: you press the enter key and everything can be different now. Cliche: this is the first day of the rest of the sentence. And yet there's all this baggage. (I remember, after meeting Paul Killebrew at a reading last year I ran into him a few weeks later in the Jetblue terminal at JFK, though not specifically in the baggage claim...) His book is I think a bit about the question: what am I doing and what do I do now. Which is a good question to be asking yourself or having someone ask you. (But which is it? How would you tell?)

In the Simpsons movie which I just got home from seeing, there is a very funny scene when Homer slogs endlessly by himself through a wasteland, tireder by the step, monologing like a Beckett character: "I can't go on I must go on Shut up No you shut up I can't stand you" etc. My father, with whom I've been on exhausting bike and ski rides countless times, was practically hyperventilating with identification. And who was Homer talking to when Homer was talking to Homer? I imagine the screenplay, just as I read Paul Killebrew's also funny chapbook. Aloudness counts for something; printed pages are very, very flat.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Test of Test of

At Jacob Riis Beach on Rockaway Beach my reading was Louis Zukofsky's A Test of Poetry, demanding in its attempt to sever assocations from the process of reading by (in its first and third sections) omitting author and date data while demanding the reader judge the work: in other words, discovering or setting criteria. And at the same time as it appears to suggest that while this criteria might seem personal, there is also strongly, in the second part of the book where Zukofsky offers glosses and attributions, a right answer and a wrong one. To be lured by music to the elimination of sense is a bridge too far, and to be prosy and unimaginative equally wrongheaded. And so one founders on the shores of objectivity, though I found surprisingly that when I was struggling it turns out, qua Zukofsky, it is for a reason. It is not the poetry that is to test me, but, for Zukofsky, that I am to test the poetry. The outcome is moral, and to be shared.

Riis Park is like so much of New York the vision of Robert Moses hewn out of the private city and a robber's consensus. To celebrate it is to celebrate the vision of populist accessibility (the largest parking lot in the world at its time) but also the tyranny of vision. It is a matter of confidence (it must be done) but also conspiracy (we do it for them, il duce, etc). Which is, ironically, precisely what Zukofsky sets out to avoid in his criteria, which thematizes greed and power in its rendering of good poetry while setting a silent thumb on the scales. (Rachel Blau DuPlessis is very insightful on this in her essay on Zukofsky at Jacket.

On the beach I read for a while and then went out in the waves, which I could only body surf so far without getting sand in my ears. ("There is no Atlantic Ocean")

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Cut, print

I went to the Harry Potter movie the other night with Farrah and her niece -- her parents have been in town, hence the hiatus in posts -- and enjoyed it too much to join the general hoot. Afterwards, though, what stayed with me regarding the basically decent directing job from British TV guy David Yates was the weirdness of the it'll do edits, specifically in one scene with Robbie Coltrane talking about his giant half brother. It seemed almost glaringly obvious that the scene had been pared down, probably for time reasons though just as possibly to excise some gaffe or invisible issue. It made for a certain emotional hiccup, as I felt like the emotional beats seemed suddenly to speed up, or skip over the information needed to convey them. This is perhaps more generally the feeling that an adolescent Harry Potter reader might have as certain scene bits suddenly glide past wonderful or even crucial details too necessary to the shape of the experience to lose. And yet there is the obvious other argument for time's winged chariot, and the feeling of the well-oiled machine, even one missing a few aesthetic but not technically necessary parts, churning forward. Better a two hour movie where a few plot holes sag on the drive home from the theater than a three hour movie with a third hour ostensibly about the wish to drive home.

One of the weird things about deleted scenes in the DVDs from movies - an effect which is almost always unsettling and delirious in equal parts, as if there is this possibility that with more scenes one could eventually have a special, special DVD experience that would actually contain the entirety of the beloved character's life, perhaps lived in a equal or even longer span than the viewer's own (like Borges' map with a 1:1 scale to reality) - is that they are almost always bad. That is, the director was almost always right to take them out, to substitute the desire for completeness with the wish for speed. These scenes show the lines in some weird state of overstatement, or the actors' flu not quite makeup-ed over, or the camera not quite so. And then the cut says to the viewer: get on with your life, there is something more important than this and yet this is all you need to know. You don't need everything in order to have everything; you can split the difference after all between a Platonic realm of the imaginary deleted scene and the reality of the impeded view.

Still from the seat at the editing suite it is only about telling the most pared and efficient story, I assume, or at least the most believable and effective one, which usually comes to the same thing. And so movie after movie (especially in its Hollywood, test-screened incarnation) has this deliberate feeling of adulteration, of those moments when a corner has been cut because it should have been cut but one imagines the next, impossible take of the scene that could have incorporated this knowledge better, more fully, more truly. As if the producers are cheating the actors, or the actors the characters, or the characters the format they deliver themselves in. Is this to say the difference between good bad filmmaking and bad good filmmaking? The quality of invisibility? At the same time one must appreciate these moments for their window into the process even as the actual process remains cloaked. Like performances by certain actors whose stardom ups the ante on their "acting" to impossible degrees of sweat, the work is more important than what it produces. One has to appreciate, someone is trying.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Just finished reading Rebecca Solnit's brilliant piece in Harper's magazine while waiting for my shower to heat up after a morning pulling up invasive European buckthorn from the woods here in Massachusetts. It appears that the buckthorn (small, woody undergrowth) grows much faster than I could possibly uproot it, and my activity well rhymed with Solnit's evocation of "arcadian" Detroit returning to a quasi-wilderness, still inhabited but even post-post, after the rhetoric of Devils Night arson gangs seems to have passed from crisis into a permanent lore. My Sisyphian gardening seemed to foreground the weirdness of nature as a construct, all of these plants growing wildly amid the question of containment, beauty, utility, etc. And of course yesterday and the last few days I was running around feeding sheep, who need constant care it seems not to wander, scare, or eat themselves to death. Nature is half what survives and half what is let to survive, though obviously making someone let you (wool, milk, cuteness) is as much tactic as accident. Or tactic as accident, accident as tactic.

As if the Grand Canyon does need us after all, contra the very silly Imax movie I saw at the resplendant Boston Museum of Science last night. (To my great relief, Leonard Nimoy still gives a magisterial introduction over John Williams's out-coplanding copland New England hymn that was even better than I remembered from being ten years old.)

And meanwhile, Detriot is changing. Solnit describes the heroic atempts to turn the abandoned urban landscape into new farms, farm schools, sustainable eating infrastructure, etc. She rightly pauses to note the disturbing echo of sharecropping that so many people moved to Michigan to escape in the new "improved" Detroit tomorrowland. And yet-- and this is what I think makes Harpers magazine's naysaying easier to take than other paper political rags like the Atlantic Monthly's chicken little Neo-isms -- there's hope in that tomorrow, as if the apocalypse might already have happened, and no one has noticed yet, and it's going to be ok.

Should art do this, be the bitter pill as consolation for the bitter pill? Speaking of apocalypses, I saw the new Die Hard movie and was, as expected, fairly entertained by the incompletely averted apocalypses that the movie seemed to be admitting had already happened. I jibed against the predictable conservative government-as-good-once-we-weed-the-arrogant-bad-apples bit but was left with a weird feeling that somehow the scrim is thinner than it looks. At the Mugar Omni theater they shine lights behind the screen to reveal a network of speakers, pipes and braces and I always try to figure out whether I'm seeing the real back or a projection of it, and if it is a projection, whether it's accurate. Or if it's not accurate, is it ideal? Detroit for the alien as a complicated greenhouse or a neighborhood full of squatters...

Right now a hummingbird is humming in the flowers in the window watered by the rain.

Friday, July 13, 2007

How to rescue a reputation

I had dinner last night with a Boston musician who brought to my attention the strange case of French composer Germaine Tailleferre, who was a member of the French circle of composers known as Les Six. Somewhat unlike Milhaud or Poulenc, who seem to have some lasting visibility, Tailleferre has never even entered my consciousness, one of the most accomplished female composers practically ever. The fact is, I could probably name all the female composers I could think of on one hand-- which is not to say that many incredible composers do not exist, just that I haven't been informed of them or successfully sought them out, and not for lack of trying. But beyond say, Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelsohn, Ruth Crawford Seeger and Hildegard von Bingen my well runs near dry. I can think of the recent film composer Rachel Portman, or I don't know, Joanna Newsom? and I start to struggle. Wow. I know I shouldn't be surprised, but I am surprised.

I tried to do the same thing with visual artists recently and found that, excluding the last three-quarters of a century in which the contributions of artists like Frida Kahlo, Agnes Martin, Eva Hesse, Georgia O'Keefe, Louise Bourgeois (who I'm not as personally fond of), and abstract expressionst painters (Frankenthaler etc.) it's equally hard. It makes a discovery like Gego's artwork at the Drawing Center in NYC right now especially exciting for me because the depth of my awareness seems suddenly so depressingly minimal. And if I try to start before, say, 1920 it gets almost blindingly murky. A friend of my mother's responded with the British artist Jessie Marion King, who is certainly another excellent example of yet again a brilliant female artist whom I had not been aware of. So maybe the story if my own failure here, but I wonder how pervasive this problem is.

This very post seems to resort to a terrible tokenism, as if reducing these artists to their femaleness in a way that would be as epistemology un-useful for men. It becomes a shorthand for "outsider" in a way I'm not sure to be helpful. The story may be one of lack of access to resources; perhaps this is why there are plenty of well-known women writers going back a few centuries (let's see, from the top of my head - Frances Burney, Helen Hunt Jackson, George Eliot, Louisa May Alcott, Baroness Orczy, Lafayette, the Brontes, Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, etc.). Perhaps here there has been a stronger and more concerted job to refocus attention? Or is it easier for a woman to be accepted for her writing? I would postulate the need for prohibitive insidery art school or music school educations perhaps except then I would expect more well-known visionary 'outsider' artists like Grandma Moses or Charles Ives, which I'm not totally aware of. Certainly with the case of music so much depends on navigating the limited outlets for performance-- Tailleferre in fact even composed for Diaghilev, so she clearly was able to achieve enormously on this front, though might she be the token-ish exception?

How do you even rescue a reputation -- and do you want to? One of the great pleasures in life must be discovery, and then sharing. It's hard to share discoveries of the obvious; that's why they call it obvious. But then again, no one has any problem still taking pleasure from the good old pleasures.

So I guess the final question is what I want to have happen through increased visibility for women artists of the past, or what I want to happen to me. I don't much think that there is a women's way of seeing the world I want access to (eww) and even those French feminist ideas about "women's" writing I think have offered tools and new approaches that have become wonderfully available to everyone, myself included. (Feel free to accuse me here of being part of a force of gentrification; capitalism has its ways of using well-meaning creative people to clearcut the danger zones, then raise the rents...) Even some idea of eventual fairness reeks of something like retroactive religious conversions or victor's justice. Just a richer canon of choices? One life to live. One life... But then there's the idealist who lifts up a head (his or her, hmm) and says at varying volumes:

Here are some metaphors... Whack away.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A pack of

The pronunciation eludes me. It appears that west of the Mississippi they are two syllables but a third syllable is added as the animal has drifted eastward, like some parvenu pretension. Recent experience demonstrates not their innate tricksiness, as they are unable to recognize people who are aboard tractors or trailers behind tractors as such. In circumstances such as me this is intelligent as I have no desire to hurt one, though I'm sure there are those who would take advantage of this curiosity. For now the coyote (three syllables) lopes beside the machinery, hoping for a stray rodent, none the wiser.
Still I wouldn't sit down in the field and wait very long.

Observations from spent

I have been on a farm for the last three days herding sheep and hoisting haybales. (It turns out that sheep farming is basically a grass maintanance job. Pasture versus meadow versus field. Another issue where synonyms are not quite synonyms. When I was screenwriting last month it seemed everything always might be sorted out with a voluminous enough thesaurus. Because of the differences...) In any case, my chain gang education is a detriment to the brain part, hence my driving home exhausted and not much reading and not much writing. Inauspicious maybe to the theory of the Well rounded man.

But this will do for now.

I am still getting use to the public forum-ishness of this public forum. There are perforations and these are always interesting. After my last post on Anne Boyer's Good Apocalypse it appears she has re-out-shouted me. Which is odd, and good. Or is it strange and poignant? Synonyms for good are not much. Out here there may or may not be rules.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Apocalypse flavors

One of the challenges in life is to replace other people's prejudices with your own prejudices. I've been spending the last couple years deciding what I think of chapbooks, which some voice in my head told me a long time ago to be wary of. Or maybe it was someone else's voice, it's so hard to tell the difference anymore. But on one hand, they disappear into the bookshelf, wedged between books and on the other, they can be so handcrafty and pleasing to hold. And far better to travel with also.

Yesterday afternoon I spent reading Anne Boyer's Good Apocalypse, from Effing Press - which I made the unusual effort of ordering after reading her totally inspired hilarious trans-Marxist contempo piece "I Love LIterature" on a blog or somewhere.

And the chapbook is totally great and I know a lot of people know that already but why not reinforce the chorus. I first accidentally typed "Bad Apocalypse" when I was writing in the book's title in the last paragraph and my slip shows how much more unusual and great her perspective on this takes us. There's a creepy brilliance in her lightheartedness dealing with Problems, call it hate as glee maybe, or meant irony, or the ecstasy of smarting. She's posing this great question about culture throughout and how it's consituting us internationally, emotionally, etc. She brings up Omar Sharif in one poem, who is a great example of this, the arab/Russian/heartthrob/exotic/mustachioed man etc. The etcetera, say. That's what she's talking about.

Zizek says that the problem is we're living now in this obscene age where it appears that the revolution has been thoroughly discredited, that we're past choice, that the free market global economy capitalism is simply how it is and how it always will be. And if we're dreaming of the revolutionary, they are simply part of the order, either as outgrowable stage or hipster entertainment. And here's Boyer slyly quoting Guy Debord over the picture of a platypus "The grand style of an era can always be found in what is governed by the secret yet obvious necessity for revolution."

So it needs to be done... but that doesn't mean anybody wants to do it.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Clouds, picnics

Tonight the weather turns out to be not awful, though the outdoor movie night in Brooklyn Bridge Park is cancelled. Up in my building sometimes I have to check the Internet to find out what the weather is outside: a little fog looks like a little rain. Out in California on the coast, you stand in fog and ten miles inland it can blaze blue. Technology keeps giving us a sense of other people telling us what is happening right now. And of course jobs are about not right now but almost right now, believing in next week's check and tomorrow weather. The rain after the armistice. Blue sky over the gallows.

And of course nobody knows at the same time as it's better to assume. This won't be the moment when the cat starts telling secrets to the houseguests. This won't be when, as in Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock (seen last night) when we start getting murdered by some metaphors. A little fissure and the whole system floods. So the continuum slips.

Picnic at Hanging Rock was a brilliant movie because it held out all the pleasures of narrative without its conservative fulfillment. So silly to ask a bunch of why. I have to remember that. Belief in gravity (qua physics) is actually keeping the person down. As if there's a belief in maths, and a belief in Garibaldi.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Fireworks, Sigmund Freud

I just walked in the door from watching the July 4 fireworks, which this year included (as, hopefully, always) a new ingenious firework that floated slowly like a ghost not so far off the ground, letting off a spectral trail of shimmering light and then, touching ground, *bounced* off and headed back into the air for an encore flight. Amazing. There are so few universal vestiges in the modern of magic that really seems like magic. Who are our wizards? In the movies, the wizard profession seems so frequently to be the psychoanalyst, who has special knowledge and possibly dark, Svengali-ish powers. There's a whole cottage industry in simply locating the epistemology of psychiatrists in film who are either powerful wizards or hapless con men. (Or both.)

But the fireworks specialist remains something apart, kind of a mystical offshoot of the mad inventor/entrepeneur (Tucker, Hughes). I found myself flashing back to two fireworkers I remember, watching tonight's display from the hallway window: 1) the righteous fireworks terrorist in RAGTIME, unveiling the secret radicalism underneath the bonding display of American patriotism and 2) a childhood vacation in early July on Martha's Vineyard when we watched the - as I recall - award winning French brothers' display off Oak Bluffs, their daunting French-ness suggesting some other secret Euro-wizardry informing the celebration of independence.

And of course there is the fact that something is exploding up there.

a picture of me

This is me

first blog entry

Here is my new blog. I hope to soon have a more interesting (though fast loading) template up soon. For now, it is 'minimal' which I can justify as my nod to the last truly named ism of the arts. Has it been said enough how weird that contemporary art now seems to start in 1960 and go until the present day, and thus that contemporary art includes fairly long dead people? I still feel like there's some weird cut off between people who died before I was conscious - say, 1980ish - and those afterwards who have died in the Era of Now... Which is like not dying at all, or dying but remaining part of the Conversation. But perhaps, conveniently many call 1980 the last year when all the Moderns died, so that's very convenient. Coincidence? Or does someone like Andy Warhol mean something more and different than, say, Robert Smithson? Samuel Beckett, Joan Miro, etc. The Early Eighties....

Farrah was just complaining about all the older, established poets we compete with for poetry contests. And then the dead keep popping up with new, contemporary work. WCW's new poem in the Paris Review, say. Where do they find this stuff? The attic from the Goonies? Margins of the poet's library installed at the Research Library of Young Turk's University? My mother has been requesting that I try to write a book "based on research." Who needs glasses? and who will?