State of My Union

A man just walked in to my office to ask a question and said, "I came to this office because I heard Buffy." It comforts me.


This blog will be dark until Monday. I'm leaving town. I'm heading out. There are motions involved and I'm going through them. Until then, enjoy this:


The Death of Green Day

The Simpsons Movie is an extended episode of the series, with more nudity, swearing, and more pokes at Fox's lame programming and advertising practices. Although there were frequent moments of "How the heck is this going to be part of the plot?" things really did come together. You will be humming "Spider-Pig" when you leave the theater. You will be discussing naked skateboarding. And you will be reminded that presidents are "elected to lead, not to read."


The Writing's on the Wall

A few months ago, I reconnected with an old practice of mine: making lists on my bathroom mirror in dry erase marker. Why? Because that's the one room I'm guaranteed to visit every day, for one reason or another, and having to see the list keeps it fresh in my mind, making me more likely to remember what I put on it.

I'll tell you what's on the list right now, as I just saw it:

short screws
shaving cream

Frequently it's my list of things to get at Target, but sometimes it's a list of things I don't want to forget to do, like "Go to the gym five days a week," or "Eat more vegetables," whatever.

I'm experimenting with putting this same philosophy to work in writing. I haven't been writing poems lately (fiction instead), but I'm sensing some are coming, and I keep feeling connections to things I'm running into out in the world. I want to save these things, encourage myself to think more about them, and so I did this:

It's times like this when I most miss working in Residential Life, with its unlimited access to reams of butcher block paper. I'm just tossing ideas, phrases up on the list, things I think my next poems might be about or address in some way.

The last poem I wrote, incidentally, was called "Poison."



Gracious thanks to Matthew Thorburn for linking to this and restoring my ability to laugh out loud:

The Fives

Some favorites so far:

Five things, besides “your ride,” that you might wish to “pimp”
your sideboard
your clergyman
your thoughts on transubstantiation
your hypothalamus
your ranch dressing mix

Five terrible fake reality TV shows
Thoracic Surgery With the Stars
Track, Destroy, and Consume Your New Mom
Mormon Idol
Survivor: Leaky Hot Air Balloon
Gastroenterologist 911

Five things you might do with “all that ass”
open a modest home ass business
serve hot meals of ass to the less fortunate
hold a weekend “Ass Sale” on your lawn
make colorful ass gift bags for the holidays
give sympathetic testimony for recovering hump drunks



Cinema is fiction translated into poetry.

Monsoon Roadtrip

Stages of an Arizona monsoon, while driving in it:

Stage One: Threat Level Alpha
The skies darken ominously. High winds try to toss the car across the road.

Stage Two: Assault
Fat drops of rain begin to pelt the car.

Stage Three: Wading
The roads begin to puddle over. Traffic slows.

Stage Four: White Out
The black sky has changed but nothing is truly visible in this light.

Stage Five: Revelations
You turn the radio off because you can't hear it anyway. Jesus reaches for a life preserver.

Stage Six: Equilibrium
The clouds slink off to do their dirty work elsewhere.

Total elapsed time of monsoon: 15 minutes.

PS. Humidity level today = 55%!! *dies*



Kansas, 1935

Beau looked out the window and said, "Oh my God, the trees are doing this," and he took his hand, flat palmed, and moved it from a vertical position to a horizontal one in a quick gesture.

We looked out the window. The lights across the parking lot were subdued into a moon-like glow, as though someone placed a thin layer of Vaseline across the lenses of our eyes, or as if we were the kind of men who suffered cataracts or macular degeneration. There was no one in the parking lot, just lines of cars huddled shoulder to shoulder under the corrugated metal carports.

The cat danced onto the coffee table, and Arden shuffled around nervously, watching her.

"It's a dust storm," Beau said finally. The palm trees bent so far to the side it seemed they would snap, their thin trunks too lean to withstand the force of the wind.

I opened the patio door and stepped outside. The air was still warm, but the strong wind was doing its best to cool the night. The shaking leaves made a collective sound like rushing water, a preamble to the monsoon we knew was coming. Off in the distance I heard the first warnings of thunder.

I needed rain. I needed something uncontrollable to hit me, without apology, and then to leave. I wanted to have something I could remember.


Parable of the Game

In college, a friend tried teaching me a game of cards called "Mao." In this game, only one person knows the rules. That person is the dealer, who is also known as the Chairman. The Chairman deals each player a number of cards with no instruction. After some time passes, the Chairman, at his discretion, may instruct the players to pick up their cards. He will place one card face up. Some time may pass. The Chairman begins by placing one of his own cards on the discard pile and then engages in some kind of action. If the card is a King, he says, "It's good to be the king." If the card is a 4 of hearts, he says, "Paul." Players begin to catch on that for each card played, there is a corresponding action to be taken. If any player engages in the wrong action, the Chairman shouts, "NO!" for each incorrect action until the correct action is intuited and completed. The Chairman may also dole out punishment for incorrect action at his discretion. Play continues until the Chairman indicates the game has ended.

I am not the Chairman.


Distraction Game

Michelle Branch's "Desperately"

I love her and there's no shame in that.

EDIT: I fixed the link and ps, that's me, if you didn't know.


It's Not You, It's Me

Sorry for the long silence here; things have been NUTTY at work and at home this week. I'm working on a longer blog post about horror films, but until then, please enjoy the slide show:

A shot of the hanging pot rack I just bought for my new kitchen. I am IN LOVE with it. Seriously. We're going to move to Canada so we can be married, right after the guy marrying the two women and the farmer marrying his sow.

My new living room, as seen when you peer over the loft where my desk and office are. Lovely. It's all windows in there, folks.

What you've been waiting for: Arden's work station, where she engages in heavy bouts of napping and bone-chewing.



Let me begin by confessing that I write this review from the perspective of a grown man who has moved a medium-sized box of Transformers action figures from house to house 19 times over the course of his life.

That said, I was a little disappointed by Transformers.

What's great about the film is that it stays true to the original cartoon's mythos and symbology, where the Autobots supplant Sam's own parents in their roles as protector, guardian, advisor, and encouragers (rather than the "limiter" and "belittling" roles they end up carrying out, mostly accidentally, it seems). The Transformers' actual shifts from machine to robot are visually impressive, although I'm going to complain a bit about Michael Bay's grotesquely shaky camera work during the action scenes, which tends to blur these maneuvers into mere suggestions.

There are some gaping plot coincidences that occur in the film, most of which are "annoying" rather than "cosmic" because the entire film hinges on the plausibility of the coincidences (which are mostly implausible—aside from the fact that this is a film about giant robots from outer space—or laughable). There are also too many characters, and there was not enough Tom Lenk (Buffy alum who played both a henchman vamp for Harmony and Andrew of the Trio).

I also get annoyed by villains whose sheer desire is to destroy things for the sake of destruction. Although nihilism seems awfully villainous on the surface, it is also one of the great ideological paradoxes, much like the conventional notion of anarchy. This is the second time recently I've discussed the Iago figure in modern film, but here, the Iago of Megatron isn't developed enough for us to fear him. Plus, didn't Megatron originally transform into a handgun?

The film was also about 30 minutes too long, like every Michael Bay film ever made. With so many characters, he needs extra exposition to (barely) introduce them to us and to orchestrate some kind of mechanism that will make us care about them. But we never get to spend enough time with anyone except Sam, who is the only fully realized character in the film, to care if they live or die.

What I loved about the film was (shocking) Shia LeBoeuf. As an actor, I think he is always fully invested in his character and the story; he also captures the awkwardness of adolescence with aplomb. Most of the laughs he solicits are the best kind—we laugh because we've been there before. Plus, he's adorable. And who doesn't love adorable?

What was interesting to me about Transformers was how virulently anti-war it was, pointedly so, as evidenced by the mock-cameo by our Commander-in-Chief on AirForce One, who asks politely for some "Ding-Dongs." More than that, though, Transformers wants to be an overt warning against the horrors of war, reminding us that there are no winners, just degrees of losing.

All that said, there are much worse ways for you to blow $10 and two and a half hours of your life. The film is visually stunning, it moves pretty quickly, and the action sequences are, per the Bay brand, intense and operatic—almost orgiastic. I was actually reminded of the episode of Ultimate Cage Fighter I watched recently—a post for another time—in which two shirtless, tattooed men tried to beat the living shit out of each other—in the missionary position.


I'm not above a little self-googling...

...because it yields little gems like this:

“One of our pivotal poets,” writes Sarah Vap and Charles Jensen in their front-page interview of Lynn Emmanuel. (I will refrain from playing with Sarah’s last name, though it would be quite appropriate.) A PIVOTAL POET? Why not one of our TENURED POETS or SAFE POETS or POET FELLOWS, instead? It is quite amazing the different terms poets invent to inflate themselves and their activities, which are far too often diversionary, inoffensive (maybe it’s damn time poetry offended!), self-serving, and sociopolitically disengaged. How deft of Emmanuel in her attempt to make herself appear as a non- establishment poet by mentioning her having been a mere assistant to one. “When I was a fellow at the Breadloaf Writers Conference, like everyone else, I was an assistant to an established poet,” she notes. Why didn’t Vap and Jensen ask how many asses she had to kiss to get to Breadloaf? The interview is an example of base hagiography, as most such interviews tend to be in the world of poesy. No tough questions at all!

“Not long ago, somebody asked me about what is being called the proliferation of MFA programs at universities,” notes Emmanuel. “I think we should discuss the proliferation of ROTC programs at universities. Should there not be as many MFA programs as ROTC programs on university campuses? In fact, if the draft is re-instated, I think every young man who is drafted should also be required to get an MFA.” Her response, of course, is a non-answer to this pertinent question. Emmanuel could have at least added that every young woman should be required to demand equal opportunity regarding any future draft. That would have permitted complete deflection of the question, while at least propping up the non-answer with a statement of equality.

But why did the two interviewers, Vap and Jensen, fail to push her on that pertinent question? Why didn’t they ask if perhaps the real reason for such programs was to assure jobs and grant money for TENURED POETS, advertising revenues for magazines like Poetry Flash, indoctrination of students in the canon (i.e., the celebrity poet game), selling more books for the big publishers, and especially increased size for university corporations obsessed with growth? Do not MFA programs constitute a multimillion-dollar business in America? Why did the great poets of the past not need such programs to fill their heads with canon? What MFA programs tend not to do is question and challenge canon. Instead, they tend to reinforce it. “The majority of poems written in the 1950s have long been deemed inconsequential” (Edward Brunner), quotes Emmanuel. But the same can and will be said about poems written during any decade and regarding any MFA graduating class. But more importantly note how Emmanuel fails to ask the question: who did the deeming? This is what is being taught (or rather not taught) in MFA programs.

Nat Hentoff had once asked: “What caused the ivory tower to become such a snake pit?” Well, I dared answer that question: “snakes in black robes!” Thus, we have POET SNAKES too… in black robes. Yes, they do exist. I’m not saying that Emmanuel is one of them, but that’s certainly a possibility, at least when she was in charge of the Writing Program at the University of Pittsburg. In the interview, she evokes, unsurprisingly, the activist poetry of the 60s. Perhaps by mentioning it, she is able to avoid dealing with how she, child of the 60s, sold out like so many others to become a tenured poet of the 21st century. Well, she doesn’t use that term, preferring instead the vacuous term “outlaw” to describe other tenured poets, including Ginsberg and Creeley, who were quite canonic and establishment in the long run. Perhaps Emmanuel is also an outlaw poet or maybe even a “poet from hell” (the words are those of Tratford Press). Perhaps one day soon she’ll be featured next to the verse of Pirate Poet Johnny Depp. In any event, hopefully posterity will not fall prey to the outlaw charade.

On another note, why does a well-to-do academic poet write poetry about poverty (the central theme in her book, The Dig)? Write what you know, not what you don’t know, goes the adage. Emmanuel should be writing about the sell-out snakes in her immediate surroundings, the ivory tower, and how, in the long run, they really support the system, proponent of war and Big Business. Why do Vap and Jensen fail to ask that question? Wouldn’t it be a lot more effective if poets who dared be engaged wrote poetry critical of the hand that feeds them, as opposed to poetry critical of BUSH or what happened during 9/11? Poets need to write poems that RISK. Criticizing the war risks nothing at all. In fact, it probably constitutes a good publicity stunt, at least for the celebrity poets. Poets need to criticize the core of corruption found in every damn institution in the nation, including the University of Pittsburg. But for a TENURED POET, criticizing ones chairperson or university president or the NEA or Breadloaf IS RISKY, which is why most do not do so. Most poets cannot comprehend this fundamental principle. Have they been all too indoctrinated by MFA canon-pushing programs?


On Baking

Friends, it is hot here.

Yesterday, a thermometer in a car read: 120 degrees. I'm not kidding you. I think it's generally between 110 and 117 every day.

When I was in Santa Barbara, it was 40 degrees cooler there. It felt like winter and the breeze gave me a chill. I wore pants every day. Sometimes a light jacket.

I can barely remember what it's like to live somewhere with weather. It hasn't rained in months. I don't remember rain, can barely think of its smell. But rain is coming; monsoon rains and thick, black thunderheads and lightning storms.

I have windows 19 feet tall to watch this now, and they look out over the freeway to the peaks.

My new apartment is perfect.


spork you, then.

Several pieces from The Strange Case of Maribel Dixon are live at spork right now. Thanks to Drew and Richard for taking them.

I'm also very excited to now say this is the second time I've been right on top of Randall Mann. (Sorry, Eduardo.)

The wonderful and charming James Hall is also there, down at the bottom. I'll leave that alone.

Farewell, spork! We barely knew ye.