Veronica Mars

In honor of CBS showing episode of Veronica Mars tonight and for the next few Fridays, I thought I'd offer this teaser:

Veronica Mars = (Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Hellmouth) + Nancy Drew + (Beverly Hills, 90210 - camp).


My Bologna Has a First Name: The Poetics of Advertising

For the past decade, my brother has worked as an ad copywriter (among other ad-related work). He writes ad text, television and radio commercials (fun fact: I was voice talent in one of his radio ads; he regularly appears in his TV commercials), even the text that goes on packaging. By all accounts he and I are both steeped in careers that require us to be on good terms with both the written and spoken word.

We were talking about writing one day, and he described an interaction he had with a client. To paraphrase, he said the client wanted to change a few of the words he had written in the ad without giving the changes much consideration—they wanted to toss in some "buzz words." My brother explained, "When this is read it's supposed to sound like a train running down its tracks—a-click a-clack, a-click a-clack—and when you change these words you totally derail that train." Although it didn't literally sound like a train, I knew absolutely what my brother meant: and although he is not a poet and I'm not a copywriter, it occurred to me that we are both familiar with the way people encounter language.

I've resisted the urge to work in advertising. All the men in my family somehow make their living from advertising and I wanted something different. Unfortunately, I grew up in a household where advertising wasn't just consumed or avoided, it was sort of cherished. I remember as a kid on a family vacation, we all sat at the dining room table playing a game called "Adverteasing," which required players to name products from taglines or to complete ad jingles. How crazy is that? A game that essentially rewards consumerism. Now it makes me shudder, but it was something that everyone around that table really enjoyed, respected.

I've heard advertising called a lot of harsh things; in fact, I've said a lot of them myself. That's it's empty language, soulless language. That advertising has brought about the death of communication. And it might be true.

I've heard people say that ad language is the opposite of poetic language. But I disagree. I think advertising as a tradition whole-heartedly owes a debt to poetic language and structure. Jingles and taglines are designed to be mnemonic devices, surviving in the memory over extended periods of time. Those little phrases are supposed to conjure up images of product names, product packages, and sensations—the way a Ballpark hotdog pumps when you cook it but also carries with it that sense of summer, of relaxation, of Americana. Or the way a cylindrical can of Quaker oats remind us that the oats are rolled.

Ads get into us with an indelible hook. If you looked in your refridgerator, you could probably recite five separate jingles for products you've purchased. (And that makes sense—why would you buy a product that wasn't already sitting in your head?) We can consider for a moment how all children un/intentionally now advertise for Mazda when playing with small cars: zoom zoom.

Ads are tiny, designed to be quickly and repetitively consumed. Little aphorisms. What makes a phrase memorable is either constant encounter or constant recall. Advertising is lucky because it involves both: our culture suffers from a pollution of ads and a pollution of products, each of which become symbols for the other. Poetry, on the other hand, is only a symbol of itself in a lot of ways, and much less readily available and consumable in our culture.

This is where I mention that Dana Gioia made a career out of hawking Jell-O, and now he runs the NEA.

That's all I'm saying. Ads and poetry. You do the math.


Submit to It

Where should I send some of my work? I'm putting submissions together and need advice.


Hear This

Two albums I am loving lately:

Good Charlotte's The Chronicles of Life and Death is a work of punkadelic pop rock genius.

Weezer's new album Make Believe is freaking phenomenal.

Also, I finally started writing poems again last night.

Watch This

I'm serious when I say that Veronica Mars is the best thing on TV since Buffy.

And, I might hate myself in the morning for saying this....but....it might even be better.


Happy birthday to Franceso Petrarch, who turns 701 today.


Evicted Edicts

Form follows function.
Swarm swallows suction.
Harm hollows hushing.
Porn pillows puncture.
Corn collars concussion.
Mormons mallow mutton.
Quorum quotis quantum.
Thorn thoroughs thrushes.
Groan gobbles gumption.
Ore ollies options.
Dorms dolor dalmations.
Score scarecrows scrumptious.
Alarm allows assumption.
Jizzum J-Lo’s junket.
Storm stewards seduction.

The Well Is Dry.


Like, on vacay?! Let's All Go!

We'll be dimming the lights here at Therapist with a Dream Inside for the next several days in observance of our (brief) summer vacation. Features and such will be updated the middle of next week.

Best to all of you!



This week's question is really a no-brainer for me. If I could have met/known/worked with any dead American poet, it would be Frank O'Hara—partly because I think he knew how to party, and partly because I find his work to be both brash and disarming in ways that more "constructed" poems aren't able. Of course, the real trouble with Frank was if you dated him. You immediately received an expiration date, unless you're a Bill Berkson or a Vincent Warren. I'm more of a Bill Berkson type myself (I'm not so Eastern European looking). If I could go back I would want to be a crossing guard on Fire Island. Maybe just for a day.

New Features Today


Revision As Vision

My manuscript has been making its way out the door now and then, but I'm still working on it. For the past two months, it has sat fairly quiet in my study, but today I went back to it to do some nuts-and-bolts tightening. A few readers got back to me with feedback that I've incorporated into it, and I have found that unlike life, absence does not make my heart fonder of my poems. I'm able to slash-and-burn with less reserve.

One thing I'm noticing about my process is that it is much easier for me to revise individual poems in manuscript than I can when they are still just discrete entities. Does anyone else experience this? Sort of like sanding down all the joints so you can't feel the seams, I guess. It just makes more sense. I have a better perspective on the work as a whole and can identify the work each piece needs to do.

Some poems changed radically upon entering the manuscript. And others, on second or third glance, have vanished or been swallowed by other poems.

This is a sort of departure for me, too, I guess. In school I did pore over individual poems and revise the bejeezus out of them. What I ended up with in a thesis was what I considered to be a somewhat connected series of poems and a whole bunch of stand-alones.

So, this manuscript is more fluid, cleaner. I like it more. I enjoy it more.


Final Artist's Book Project

Here's my final project for my book arts class.

It's called "Proof." The binding is made to look like a tiny interdepartmental mail envelope

Inside are: minature file folders! They're about 4.5 cm by 7.5 cm.

The first tab is labeled "NY." Inside are a map, photos, pieces of a poem, and a timeline.

The second tab is "SF." Same type of materials inside, but all different. The photos are actual photos—in miniature.

The last tab is "LA."

This is the Colophon. It says, "'Proof' was manufactured in an edition of one because the minimization of AIDS in America continues to this day."

If you put all the timeline pieces together, you get this. Three men kissing.

The number three is important to the book. Three cities. Three is the number required to make something increase exponentially. 3 x 3 x 3...

Star Wars VII: Men on Uranus

Hilarious explanation here.


American Cinema and the Compulsion to Breed

I've been noticing lately how rampantly contemporary American cinema reinforces the "norm" of heterosexuality. So many of the films I've watched recently have incorporated into their plots some kind of inane romance, affair, or love story involving heterosexual couples. This was never as unfortunate as it was in the recent Land of the Dead, where, among the walking corpses, two plucky heteros—one a freedom fighter, the other a virtuous whore—come together.

In a decade where homosexuality is becoming more and more visible—and criminal—it can't seem a coincidence that films are working harder to make breeders out of us all. Or maybe I'm just more sensitive to it these days. The pressure to heterosexualize seems most evident and most damaging in films with a PG-13 rating—those aimed at impressionable teens and tweens. I think most of us recognize that films aimed at this demographic tend to feature the kind of humor that idolizes the terms "boner" and "gazoombas" as fresh-faced kids learn about the wonders of heterosexual sex and their own bodies.

I might sound overly conspiracy theorist here, but is this a form of propaganda? Are films teaching us and our children to follow one path while dehumanizing another?

I nearly shit my pants right then and there when, in the middle of Freddy Vs Jason (a horror flick for teens), Destiny's Child's Kelly Rowland screams, "Freddy, you faggot!" I couldn't believe in this day and age a film would use that term as a slur against someone who was reputedly not gay, but a heterosexual child molester.

And any film that even suggests homosexual desire among teens is guaranteed an R rating, unless the teen straightens out or dies by the end of the film. Even The Man Without a Face, Mel Gibson's scarred teacher flick, created an uproar when conservatives suggested that Mel's disfigured hero seemed a little too interested in his young male pupil. I think now that Mel's put Jesus up on the silver screen, he's in the clear with those folks.

One thing that encourages me, though, is that television is taking up the slack where films fear to tread. The can't-ever-die teen soap Degrassi Junior High, still breathing on cable network The N!, prominently features gay story lines that don't kill or maim characters. In fact, the gay kids get to be kids, make stupid decisions, and don't seem better or worse off than their breeding counterparts.

Check It

New Blogoview Q of the Week.


Serving Size Me

In an effort to eat a healthier diet, lately I've been trying to pay more attention to the information crammed on the back of the food that I buy: the standardized "Nutrition Facts" labels that list calories, fat, carbs, etc. The thing that is really throwing me for a loop isn't the figures that are listed in most categories. Sure, a 20 oz bottle of Lemonade Gatorade contains 14 grams of carbohydrates—all from sugars, no less. My problem in nearly every case of every packaged food is simple: the serving size they list is not only unrealistic, it's misleading.

In the Gatorade example, the 14 g of carbohydrates account for only 5% of the recommended daily allowance of carbs (if you're on a 2,000 calorie diet). Unfortunately, in this 20 oz bottle of Gatorade, you've got 2.5 servings. That means if you drink the bottle in one sitting you're actually consuming 35 grams of carbs, or 12.5% of the recommended daily allowance of carbs.

I went to the movies last week (to see War of the Worlds) and while there, I opted for Reese's Pieces instead of my usual popcorn-no-butter. Of course the packages of candy at the movies are out of control and always have been. But my little 4 oz box of Reese's contained "about 3" 50-piece servings of the tasty treats. The serving size carries 7 grams of saturated fat, which is concerningly already marking 35% of my daily intake. If I eat the whole box (which is easy to do at the movies, right?), I'm taking in 105% of the saturated fat I should consume in a day. And of course, the saturated fat goal past isn't one we should be running toward anyway.

A 20 oz bottle of Diet Coke is also 2.5 servings. Does anyone drink 8 oz of Coke at one time? I mean, honestly. How often does this resealable bottle cap end up back on the bottle in the fridge? Not very often for me.

The other night, in the midst of a Reese's Pieces craving, I ran out to the Circle K, where the only package of Reese's I could find was a 7.4 oz bag. That's "about 5" servings to you and me. How many did it take me? Nearly three. My last serving wasn't a "full serving" by Reese's standards.

Almost nothing in America is sold in its serving size anymore. You can now buy very small cans of Coke at some stores, but the stock and selection is far limited in comparison to 12-packs and cases of 12 oz cans. Gatorade doesn't even come in a smaller size, and that product is marketed to "healthy people." Even "snack size" bags of chips are sold in "bulk"—multiple servings per bag—and a recent low-fat cookie commercial boasted "It's only 100 calories—and you can eat the whole bag!" We have been trained to eat everything on our plates, in our bags, and in our bottles without thinking about it. Because it's cost-effective.


Artist's Books

Here are two of my three book arts projects:

1. Altered Book

I took the book An Outline of Psychoanalysis and turned it into a book called Outline Analysis:

Here is the cover.

I'm skipping the first page because I'm unhappy with it. Here is page 2, in the chapter on dreams. The text says:
When the important dramatization brought me insight
the effect took the dream and then I said goodbye.
my legs given the the dream but when down he died.
fatalistic love
the deeper death spoken which movements and
exploring the long past the modern past.

In the chapter called "The Search for Glory": two plastic surgery diagrams. The text says:
There is no observable change
toward the ideal.

Last page, chapter called "Effects of Derogatory Attitude Towards Female Sexuality." I carved in a diagram of a cow with arrows pointing to the locations of its by-products. Text says:
We are people's minds and thus become some objectionable product.

2. Two Words

This is a copier book made in an edition of 18. The cover folds out to reveal the book; the book then folds out in a sort of folded-quilt pattern, juxtaposing these faces with couplets.

I have two copies left from this edition (numbers 17 and 18). The first two bloggers to ask for them will get them mailed to their home at no charge.