Friday, June 1, 2007

the limit

                           “I confess to find
          Myself astonished by the outskirts of things:”

               —Sarah Hannah, from Cassetta Frame (Italy, circa 1600)

At first there were these little strips of wood,
then larger pieces, connected pieces—
I dislocated my jaw a few times—
large stretches of painted chamfered poplar
and when that picture frame was done—no rest—
my distorted mouth would open wider
for a rococo niello frame.

I wondered if I had swallowed some strange
emetic. For hours each day I retched
increasingly complicated pieces
carved gilded painted molded all designed,
or so it would appear, for some canvas
or photograph or painted panel.
(I began to feel incomplete.)

What was the meaning of this, this vomit,
that drove me away from my family
with my strange gurgling sounds of agony
and interrupted my work with visits
to my doctor, who, despite this piece
of walnut extruding from my
mouth, could find nothing wrong with me?

Perhaps my mouth became an artisan—
a form of glandular psychosis—
with dreams and ambitions and emotions
all unto its own, separated.
What could I tell the rest of me?
“Let’s stick together boys. The mouth
will come around. He’ll come around.”

But without my mouth to echo my speech—
strange how resonance adds authority—
parts of my body deserted me.
My left leg became a dancer,
jumping about in odd rhythms
and at odd times of day. My ears,
annoyed with my mouth, stopped listening.

Lame, deaf, and muted—spewing brushed alum-
inum with gold inlay—and writhing,
I had long lost what dignity
I may have thought I might have had.
I scolded my mouth, little good
that it would do: “It’s all your fault.
Why not make art? Why only frames?”

But we are all caught by the edges—
the edges between life and death,
hatred and desire, reason
and insanity, between breaths,
longing, friendships, loss, and heartache.
The border is where my heart gasps
and I redefine who I am.

I dance more often now, listen
more acutely, and speak more freely,
no longer hindered by spewed wood
(however beautifully ornate).
The absurdity of it all
confounds me. I should learn to paint,
if only to show off these frames.

They Still Shoot Horses

They still shoot horses
          who break their legs
                    tangled twisted
               no more a race horse
          no longer desired.

They train you
     give you amphetamines
     and they tell you who to kill—
     the wife of a dissident in hiding
          the ten year old son
          of a minor official
          whose loyalty is suspect.
     You don’t know why you kill these people.—
          you sight the scope
          you calm your breathing
          you squeeze
a puff of smoke
     and it is done—
     but you imagine
you have to imagine
     a reason.
You tell yourself
     these people are terrorists
     these people are insurgents
but there are too many men who kiss their children goodbye
     too many wives
     too many children.
The reasons you imagine are lies
     and you realize this
     and it is the loneliest, most desolate night
               of your life.

You remember a racetrack in your youth
     a trampled jockey
     the horse neighing in pain
     silence both before and after
               the firing of the gun.

Anything But You

Anything But You from Way Out West.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

American Oratory

Kermit the Frog's commencement speech to Southampton Graduate Campus, 1996.

Stephen Colbert's 2006 commencement address to Knox College.

Fred McFeely Rogers 2002 Commencement Address at Dartmouth College.

Text of Mr. Roger's Congressional testimony, 1969.

I found the video through Oliver Willis.

worthy of crime

Sao Paolo graffiti artists decorate a Scottish Castle: The Graffiti Project.

Barista provides context

Filling in the gaps

Thomas Heffelfinger, the former U.S. Attorney for Minneapolis, was fired for protecting the voting rights of Native Americans.

When Anubis

When Anubis places my heart
in front of Ammit and Thoth unrecords
my name from the scroll of the blessed dead
I will plead, pleading first to Thoth,
for the god of writing writes and unwrites
with sacred ink that has known no mistake
a hierography of all things
worth reckoning in their truest measures.
I will plead not for release, but for pause,
and should his plumed quill arrest
I will lie prostrate in front of Ammit
mumbling the litany of the guilty—
do not devour everything,
just that which is lacking inside of me—
and this petition will amount to naught
for I will have been adjudged.
Ammit’s crocodile tears will bring no cheer
when I no longer cease to be.
Perhaps Thoth might make a note,
“of insufficient literary or historical value”,
a note that, too, will be unwritten
in the golden scroll of the blessed dead.

Jack Kerouac on the Road

A video excerpt from Kerouc's appearance on The Tonight Show with Steve Allen.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Nice work if you can get it.

Profiting from profiling: The nice life of a female dealer (via TalkLeft)
The Latino drug dealers on the sidewalk below "Jennifer's" apartment in the Mission keep getting arrested. Not once a year or even every few months, but constantly. (If the city wanted to be efficient, it would just have its mail carriers do the arresting, since they're there anyway.) Off to jail they go, and then others fill their place, and then the first ones get released, and all the while the dealing continues.

Jennifer, who is white, and who dresses tidily and arranges flowers for a popular art gallery, talks about the dealers with clear discomfort. Not because they're troublesome or violent. It's more that she feels guilty. The police never arrest her.

Jennifer enjoys the flower arranging, but mostly it functions as a legitimate income to show the IRS. Really, she's a marijuana dealer.

In many ways, Jennifer's a typical one for the Bay Area: She sells a relatively small amount, she sells almost exclusively to friends and she draws a line between pot and harder drugs. What's atypical is that she's a middle-class she.

Why do some people resist reality?

Paul Bloom and Deena Skolnick Weisberg look at why some adults refuse to accept science. (via Pharyngula)
It is no secret that many American adults reject some scientific ideas. In a 2005 Pew Trust poll, for instance, 42% of respondents said that they believed that humans and other animals have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. A substantial minority of Americans, then, deny that evolution has even taken place, making them more radical than "Intelligent Design" theorists, who deny only that natural selection can explain complex design. But evolution is not the only domain in which people reject science: Many believe in the efficacy of unproven medical interventions, the mystical nature of out-of-body experiences, the existence of supernatural entities such as ghosts and fairies, and the legitimacy of astrology, ESP, and divination.

Noting the obvious

Valerie Plame was a covert agent at the time of being 'outed' by Bob Novak. (via Atrios)
An unclassified summary of outed CIA officer Valerie Plame's employment history at the spy agency, disclosed for the first time today in a court filing by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, indicates that Plame was "covert" when her name became public in July 2003.

Well worth reading: An exposé of SAIC, one of the largest government contractors.
It is a simple fact of life these days that, owing to a deliberate decision to downsize government, Washington can operate only by paying private companies to perform a wide range of functions. To get some idea of the scale: contractors absorb the taxes paid by everyone in America with incomes under $100,000. In other words, more than 90 percent of all taxpayers might as well remit everything they owe directly to SAIC or some other contractor rather than to the IRS.

tiger, jungle, fog

It is approached
     as one would approach a tiger
     in the jungle
          in the fog—
what is this song you sing,
who is this lover you are leaving?

There is no need to explain
     the particulars—fogs, jungles, tigers—
     in describing the path,
     the particulars fade
               to shadows and dust.

I want you—
     who is this lover you are leaving?


Sexual by Amber (1999). Perhaps the video should be titled, how much flesh can you show without showing anything.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A grieving father becomes disillusioned

Colonel Bacevich writes: I Lost My Son to a War I Oppose. We Were Both Doing Our Duty.
Not for a second did I expect my own efforts to make a difference. But I did nurse the hope that my voice might combine with those of others -- teachers, writers, activists and ordinary folks -- to educate the public about the folly of the course on which the nation has embarked. I hoped that those efforts might produce a political climate conducive to change. I genuinely believed that if the people spoke, our leaders in Washington would listen and respond.

This, I can now see, was an illusion.

The people have spoken, and nothing of substance has changed. The November 2006 midterm elections signified an unambiguous repudiation of the policies that landed us in our present predicament. But half a year later, the war continues, with no end in sight. Indeed, by sending more troops to Iraq (and by extending the tours of those, like my son, who were already there), Bush has signaled his complete disregard for what was once quaintly referred to as "the will of the people."


To whom do Kennedy, Kerry and Lynch listen? We know the answer: to the same people who have the ear of George W. Bush and Karl Rove -- namely, wealthy individuals and institutions.

Money buys access and influence. Money greases the process that will yield us a new president in 2008. When it comes to Iraq, money ensures that the concerns of big business, big oil, bellicose evangelicals and Middle East allies gain a hearing. By comparison, the lives of U.S. soldiers figure as an afterthought.

Memorial Day orators will say that a G.I.'s life is priceless. Don't believe it. I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier's life: I've been handed the check. It's roughly what the Yankees will pay Roger Clemens per inning once he starts pitching next month.

Money maintains the Republican/Democratic duopoly of trivialized politics. It confines the debate over U.S. policy to well-hewn channels. It preserves intact the cliches of 1933-45 about isolationism, appeasement and the nation's call to "global leadership." It inhibits any serious accounting of exactly how much our misadventure in Iraq is costing. It ignores completely the question of who actually pays. It negates democracy, rendering free speech little more than a means of recording dissent.

This is not some great conspiracy. It's the way our system works.
Bacevich's editorial reminds me of Major General Smedley Butler, who after retirement became a vociferous speaker against the military industrial complex (long before it was called the military industrial complex by President Eisenhower).
I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.
General Butler's book, War is a Racket is available to read online.

Propaganda and history

Stefan Landsberger's Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages

a question

Not that I mind it too much, but why is celery a staple vegetable in soup? And if there is a secret law (#149, perhaps) stating that all soups must contain celery, why isn't it cut into smaller pieces?

Hubert Védrine on US and European views of the Middle East

Nur has finished translating an interview with Hubert Védrine. Well worth reading: part 1, part 2.

Nu Flow

Nu Flow by Big Brovaz.

the star

          a spot of light