1.29.2008

NYCboy872 ISO bookz

It's time.

I've carefully selected my blazers and shirts, matched the ties, dusted off the Kenneth Coles, packed the cufflinks.

I've recharged the camera battery, loaded up the iPod with new albums.

I've woken up the boyfriend and told him to get his stuff together.

I picked a book for the flight (Persepolis) and packed my homework for the week, charged my laptop battery.

I've done the dishes, taken out the trash, turned off the heat, closed the blinds, made the bed in case my home is robbed and I need to show the thieves I have a modicum of self-respect while hoping they don't notice the dirty underwear on the floor that I am too lazy to pick up today.

I am going to New York.

See you there. Or not.

1.25.2008

Sealed with a Commission (SWAC)

Today I'll spend the day in Glendale attending the 31st Southwest Arts Conference (SWAC), a gathering of artists, arts leaders, and arts administrators from across the state.



SWAC always has an interesting agenda; last year, Cheech Marin provided the keynote and discussed pieces in his collection of Latino/Latina art, the largest collection in America.

This year the conference will feature a reading by Eva Valencia, ASU MFA Alum and wonderful person, and Frances Sjoberg, Literature Director for the University of Arizona Poetry Center and wonderful person. I'm eager to hear their work!

As conference season begins, this is a nice home-spun way to begin.

See you in NYC.

1.24.2008

Crimson and Cloverfield

I am posting in spite of my blog's messy look. Sorry for that; Adam helped a bit, but I can't get it tweaked quite right yet and I've been superbusy (it's that time of year for us), so I haven't been able to tinker.

Anyway, I want to tell you about this (danger: spoilers ahead):



Because I'm a fan of Lost and watched Felicity religiously (shut up), I was eager to see the J. J. Abrams-produced feature Cloverfield, the plot of which was shrouded mostly in secrecy lo these many months, although it was made obvious from the teaser trailer that something attacked New York City during an all-out hipster goodbye party, but that was about it.

The film is, at heart, a basic Orpheus/Eurydice retelling in a very contemporary version of Hades with one pissed off (and hungry) hellgod wandering around. Boy secretly loves girl, boy loses girl, boy treks through semi-destroyed metropolis to rescue girl from her burning apartment while large creature systematically kills everyone he knows.


(This is my "oh shit" face.)

What makes Cloverfield strong, in my opinion, is some of the conceit that made it noteworthy to begin with. The first-person camerawork is strong and well done here. The limited perspective does add a lot of tension and suspense, and the audience is encouraged to identify with the likeable and usually nervously humorous character holding it, whose only role is to film the entire thing. We like Hud because he reminds us of ourselves: well-meaning, kind, really into a girl who doesn't realize he exists, loyal, etc.


(Is it Cloverfield or Flashdance? Or both?)

Even though Cloverfield seems to be about an extraordinary event changing people's lives forever, it smartly keeps actual danger on the periphery, in the vein of Jaws. For much of the film the characters aren't in actual danger, but the threat--like the idea of terrorism in our America--is always present, always looming. And when people die, they aren't forgotten. Witness, for instance, one character's phone call to the mother of a character who died, having to explain it to her during a brief lull while they hide out in a subway station. The film remembers what it means to be a person, that even under supernatural circumstances, we don't lose our humanity; we retreat into it.

Much has been written already of the film's liberal use of shaky handheld camera; narratively, the entire film is shot in near-real time using a characters' digital video recorder; for the viewer, this means when he runs, you feel dizzy and disoriented. Only in a few scenes did this bother me. The true strength is the way the camera resists omniscience: you want it to move back, to look at the horror dead on, but it can't, it won't. It turns the film into what film theorists would call "pure spectacle." It reduces the viewer to a powerless victim of the film rather than participant in it. There is no power for the viewer here.



The cast of unknowns intensify the sense of reality television that exists here. As an audience, Americans are becoming too comfortable witnessing trauma second-hand through the cameralens, and Cloverfield knows this about us, wants us to both love it and hate it about ourselves. Anyone who watched on television as the second plane hit the World Trade Center understands the powerlessness of watching disaster strike; we understand it in a way real witnesses won't—-and vice versa.

I left the theater feeling both shaken and shaky--in fact, it took me a few minutes to relax after the film ended. I didn't feel scared, really. It was a stressful film to watch, but the emotion was legitimate, not constructed. I appreciated that.

And I'm even going to go see it again.

1.21.2008

Thanks, Blogger!

For eating all the flair on my blog today!





This blog will be under (re)construction for the next several days.

1.19.2008

All pigs are created equal, but some pigs are more equal, and other pigs work for nonprofits where they aren't paid the value of their labor.



I mentioned in class tonight that I get very concerned when I hear a nonprofit leader say something like, "I know we don't pay our staff what they would earn in the for-profit world, but then again, they get to work in a job doing something they really love."

And so it happened today that some such statement was made in a room full of conscientious, well-intentioned graduate students studying the world of public administration and nonprofit management, and my response, that it concerned me, sparked an enormous debate.

Well, debate might be exaggerating it. They were all on one side of the fence, and I the other. My position:

The entire nonprofit sector believes its own PR now, that making a lower salary than for-profit counterparts is not just how it is, it's how it should be. But that's not how it should be, because our employees are impassioned, loyal, talented, intelligent, committed to causes that others don't even take time to notice. They better our schools, revamp our neighborhoods, fight for adequate health care, build houses, fund the arts, and on and on. These are critical duties.

And yet, any number of those talented people have turned their backs on higher pay to do something they love. They frequently work longer hours, put in more effort, take on additional duties, work outside their job description, mentor their peers—all because they want to.

And it is the nonprofit that benefits. The nonprofit not only earns back the salary shortage (in a sense), they also capitalize on the labor savings of employees who overextend themselves.

The man sitting next to me asked, "Do you believe, then, that we should take money away from programs to fund staff salaries?"

I said, "Absolutely." He blanched. In the NPO world, there is supposed to be a delicate ratio of administrative costs/program fees/fundraising costs deemed "attractive" to donors. Pulling money from programs to fund staff upsets the "healthy ratio" and makes an organization appear top heavy.

But, I argue, if a staff member who is fully funded is also the most talented, most committed, most well-educated and experienced employee, aren't they worth fully funding? And, furthermore, doesn't the quality of their labor, the fact that the work they do to serve the mission also itself fulfill the mission?

And so, otherwise, why is it appropriate to serve one disadvantaged community all while putting another community at a disadvantage?

These are things I do not understand about my sector. But I'm going to work against this counterproductive philosophy whenever I can.

1.18.2008

Brr!

Yes, Virginia, you do wear wool winter coats in Arizona:



Current temperaturee at 9 am: 41 degrees.
When it was totally black outside, it was so early: 39

That's almost freezing! If we had water here, it would freeze.



It scares me.

1.17.2008

And now for a non-shoe crisis!

"The social quality of literature is still visible in the popularity of bestsellers. Publishers get away with making boring, baloney-mill novels into bestsellers via mere PR because people need bestsellers. It is not a literary need. It is a social need. We want books everybody is reading (and nobody finishes) so we can talk about them."

—Ursula K. LeGuin, "Staying Awake," in the January Harpers



What's comforting to me about this observation is that it really serves to liken the book industry to the film industry.

You might have noticed that there are an awful lot of crappy films in the world. I was recently stuck at my car dealer for two and a half hours with 1 television showing ESPN, which featured—on every break—a commercial for the film Dragon Wars, which tells the heartwrenching story of men trapped in the midst of a battle between warring dragon factions...oh, god, I'll just stop now.

People don't want to just talk about the books and movies they've seen. They want to compare themselves to other people. I liked ____ film, did you? It tells us a lot about the people around us. It reveals information about our age, class, religion, sexuality, with probing too deeply. It develops community and subcommunities within larger groups. It creates generational memory.

On Friday night, a friend of mine quoted a film, sort of out of nowhere, by saying, "And now for the sordid topic of coin." I laughed, knowing instantly what film it was. "I can't believe you got that," he said, not realizing I'd seen the film about 300 times myself. But now it's something we can share together. It brings us closer together in ways that ordinary conversation doesn't.

I think LeGuin's on the right track here.

1.16.2008

Best of the Net 2007

I'm overjoyed to tell you that two poems from LOCUSPOINT will appear in the 2007 Best of the Net anthology:

"Movements" by Renee Rossi
|TO GIVE A CHILD AN IDEA OF SCARLET OR ORANGE, OF SWEET OR BITTER, I PRESENT THE OBJECTS|" by Simone Muench


And, happily, a poem of mine that appeared in No Tell Motel was also selected: "Bargaining"


Thanks to Renee and Simone for sharing their work, to their editors, Shin Yu Pai and Francesco Levato (respectively), and to No Tell's editors, Molly Arden and Reb Livingston!

1.15.2008

Four Major Studios Cancel Writers' Contracts

LOS ANGELES - Four major studios have canceled dozens of writers' contracts in a possible concession that the current television season cannot be saved, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

The move means the 2-month old writers strike may also endanger next season's new shows, the Times said.

January is usually the beginning of pilot season, when networks order new scripted shows. But the strike leaves networks without a pool of comedy and drama scripts from which to choose.

20th Century Fox Television, CBS Paramount Network Television, NBC Universal and Warner Bros. Television told the Times they have terminated development and production agreements.

Studios typically pay $500,000 to $2 million a year per writer for them and their staffs to develop new show concepts.

"I didn't see it coming," Barbara Hall, a writer and producer whose credits include former CBS series "Joan of Arcadia" and "Judging Amy," told the Times, which said ABC executives gave her the news Friday. "I am not entirely sure what their strategy is, all I know was that I was a casualty of it."

The newspaper said more than 65 deals with writers have been eliminated since Friday.



It boggles the mind what little impact they think good writing has on the quality of television.

Oh, well.

Get ready for a year of reality shows like "Cheating Husband Island," "I'll Swap My Wife for Your RV," "SuperNanny Vixens," "Extreme Homo Makeovers for the Straight Girl's Guys," "Are You Smarter than a Petri Dish of Active Yogurt Cultures?" "Make My Fat Slob of a Husband Into Tyson Beckford, Tyra!" and, last but not least, "Hallmark Presents: Oprah's Littlest Sweatshop."

1.12.2008

Still, Shoes.

On Thursday while I having my car serviced, I received an email:

"Hi CHARLES,
Thank you for your recent order. Your order has been processed. At
this point, one of three things has happened:
1) If you item(s) have been shipped, there will be a tracking
number at the bottom of this email.
2) If your item(s) have been cancelled or are on hold, you will
receive notification indicating the reason.
3) If your items have been backordered, they will be shipped as
they arrive in our distribution center.
If you have any questions about your order, please call us at
1-866-316-xxxx. Thank you for shopping at [ONLINE RETAILER YOU NEVER HEARD OF]"

Below the message was a description of my Diesel Parapat shoes (white/red, yes), their cost, and the date they were shipped.

The invoice date for these shoes was 11 days after I made the initial order.

So, I guess they're still coming 2nd day air, which, happily, on a Thursday shipment, means I'll get them in four days on Monday!

1.11.2008

OMG (Oh Myra God!)



Last weekend I finally watched the much-reviled film version of one of my favorite novels, Myra Breckinridge, starring Raquel Welch as the titular "T" and film critic Rex Reed as her masculine alter-ego. Rounding out the wonderful—but odd!—cast are Farrah Fawcett as the bland and stupid Mary Ann, John Huston as former film star and "happy ending" enthusiast Buck Loner, and Mae West—yes—as the foul mouthed sexaholic talent agent Leticia Van Allen.

First, I thought Raquel was absolute genius as Myra. To wit:



Myra is a classic Hollywood-obsessed instructor at a hippy-dippy acting school in LA. She wears outlandish, drag queeny outfits (a pre-cursor to Ugly Betty's Alexis Meade, perhaps?) and seeks to "destroy the American male in all its forms," which she does in the butt:



The novel is brilliant, and while the film has its troubles, I think audience response to it—widespread panning—was due primarily to its frank confrontation of sexual mores and sexual liberation. A homosexual member of the school's faculty talks openly about being gay and at one point, even dismisses himself by saying he has to finish putting his make-up on. Was America ready for this then? Probably not. Nor were they ready to see a studly young man get ass-bumped by a beautiful woman who may or may not be anatomically correct.

But I'm ready. At least, I was ready.



"I am Myra Breckinridge, whom no man shall possess!"

1.10.2008

Take this job and...apply for it!

The Arizona State University Creative Writing Program is seeking a fiction writer of national/international reputation. 

The successful candidate must have an MFA or PhD in English, creative writing, or related field.  Applicants must have an established record of academic & professional achievement appropriate to the rank Associate or Full Professor, have a distinguished record of publication, a demonstrated history of effective teaching & mentorship. A track record of leadership in the field is desired. Salary commensurate with experience.

Deadline date is February 15, 2008; if not filled, completed applications will be reviewed weekly until search is closed. Send letter of application, c.v., dossier, & writing sample(s) of published work  & contact information of three professional references to:

T.R. Hummer
Director of Creative Writing
Department of English
Arizona State University
Box 870302
Tempe, AZ  85287-0302.

1.08.2008

Nerd Fabulous, Party of One (Your Table's Ready)



Someone should buy one of these for Srikanth Reddy, because I think of his poem about Esperanto every time I wear it.

Fun facts about Esperanto (via Wikipedia):

Esperanto was developed in the late 1870s and early 1880s by ophthalmologist Dr. Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof, an Ashkenazi Jew from Bialystok, now in Poland and previously in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but at the time part of the Russian Empire. After some ten years of development, which Zamenhof spent translating literature into the language as well as writing original prose and verse, the first Esperanto grammar was published in Warsaw in July 1887. The number of speakers grew rapidly over the next few decades, at first primarily in the Russian empire and Eastern Europe, then in Western Europe and the Americas, China, and Japan. In the early years speakers of Esperanto kept in contact primarily through correspondence and periodicals, but in 1905 the first world congress of Esperanto speakers was held in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France. Since then world congresses have been held in different countries every year, save for during the two World Wars. Since the Second World War, they have been attended by an average of over 2000 people, and by up to 6000.

Ethnologue estimates that there are 200 to 2000 native Esperanto speakers (denaskuloj), who have learned the language from birth from their Esperanto-speaking parents.[16] (This usually happens when Esperanto is the chief or only common language in an international family, but sometimes in a family of devoted Esperantists.)

The most famous native speaker of Esperanto is businessman George Soros[17]. Also notable is young Holocaust victim Petr Ginz, whose drawing of the planet Earth as viewed from the moon was carried aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Esperanto has never been an official language of any recognized country, though there were plans at the beginning of the 20th century to establish Neutral Moresnet as the world's first Esperanto state, and the self-proclaimed artificial island micronation of Rose Island used Esperanto as its official language in 1968. In China, there was talk in some circles after the 1911 Xinhai Revolution about officially replacing Chinese with Esperanto as a means to dramatically bring the country into the twentieth century, though this policy proved untenable.

People I Love: Becki Newton



I've been rewatching the first season of Ugly Betty with my boyfriend lately, since loves it but isn't "caught up" on the goings-on at Mode. And all this time, I've been rediscovering my deep, deep love for Becki Newton, who plays Mode's fiercely stupid yet cagily catty receptionist Amanda Tanen.

As Amanda, Becki is about 50% popular high school bitch and 50% drag queen, which is pretty much a formula for gay male worship (see also Mean Girls, etc). With her pleistocene facial expressions, campy line delivery, and smoking figure, it's clear she attended the Belle Spalsy School of Acting. But I love it. Amanda has some of the funniest story lines, and her odd character trait—she's a notorious stress-eater—has led her to some of her funniest scenes, like when she first meets Betty's family, insists it's pronounced "HO-la" because "it has an h in it," and then tastes flan for the first time during a particularly stressful period—and continuously demands more and more.



She's a great foil to Michael Urie's Marc, equally bitchy and drag queeny as Wilhelmina's "flying monkey" assistant, but beyond that, she's known heartbreak. She's known disappointment. And when these tender moments where a vulnerable Amanda show through are quickly paved over with her superficial persona, we understand why she is the way she is.

Becki Newton, I love you.

1.07.2008

Further Tales of the Shoe

It turns out I may not have ordered the Diesels online after all. After all that.

I checked my email, no receipt; my bank account didn't show any shoe-related activity, either. I don't know what happened, but apparently my purchase didn't go through. I was pissed because I asked for 2nd day air and they hadn't arrived by yesterday.

Then, when I googled the shoe, I couldn't find anymore in red! I was shut out. My shoe had sailed. It was over.

On a whim, I got in the car and drove down to my local sporting goods store, which I think was a Sports Authority. I walked in and found a nice pair of on-sale New Balance shoes for the gym (because Sketchers also ruined the gym for me, too), and then I tried on Pumas, Nikes, and Adidas, until I settled on these:



Except they have black stripes.

They're pretty comfortable! I like them. And they have a little Goodyear logo on them...maybe because I'm going to exceed the walking speed limit?

I still want another pair of shoes, but maybe I'll wait until I get to New York this month to buy another.

1.04.2008

Happy Birthday!

Today is Arden's birthday and she's turning two!

Here's a picture of her with her birthday presents:



She got a parka for cold nights when we go camping and a companion, Pablo, who she likes to bite and drag around the house. Also, she sleeps on him. It's a match made in heaven.

Arden asked if I would post some pictures of her from the holidays, so here they are:


Ho ho ho!


This is her little reindeer costume my mom got her for Christmas. She totally loved it!


And here she is in her Mizrahi party dress, which she wore to my mom's birthday and our Christmas Eve party.


Don't you just want to kiss her?

I love you, little princess!

1.03.2008

Guitar Hero III

My Christmas wish came true this year when I got the best gift ever:



Guitar Hero III.

You all know I play the guitar, the real one, so when I heard there was a video game that simulated guitar playing, I was all about it. Turns out I'm actually sort of a Guitar Hero idiot savant. I blew through the Easy and Medium settings already and have been trying to master that orange key under the pinky for a few days.

I've always been a master of sight reading rhythms, even back when I was a lowly trumpeter in the high school band. Once, my band teacher tried to stump me out of getting to first chair by giving me a complex sight reading assignment that I aced. But then he said, "Well, you still belong at second chair," and that's when I became a band class bad ass. I talked in class. Yeah.



In Guitar Hero, you get to play really fun songs like The Scorpion's "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and Poison's "Talk Dirty to Me." My favorites are "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" and Heart's "Barracuda," which is actually little challenging.

This is how I spend my time now, Guitar Hero.

1.02.2008

Shoes: The Final Saga

Friends, I spent most of my holiday vacation shoe shopping.

Faithful kinemapoetics readers understand: this never ends well.

I was looking for one of two pairs of shoes:

a white sneaker with red details
a white sneaker with light blue details

In my head, I was probably envisioning Nikes or Adidas as the mostly likely candidates, but when it comes to shoes, I like to think of myself as open to experimentation, like a college student.

Unfortunately, I was about as deluded as Kristy Swanson in Buffy the Vampire Slayer when she said, "All I want to do is go to Europe, marry Christian Slater, and die!" Although these days you probably could marry Christian Slater, and it might actually kill you.

So I visited the cheap mall, where the outlet stores lived, and I went into each of the 897654357 shoes stores. I've done this before, you might recall. Well, I found 1 store that had white shoes with red on them, Nikes even, and their largest size? Size 9.

I got in my car and left Liliput in search of a shoe store that might actually carry a grown-ass man's shoe size. Over the next few days, I visited no less than three malls, including their surrounding ephemeral sprawl, to find something, anything.

The closest I came was this:



Biggest size: 9.

Why the rush, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. For the past year or so, I've been wearing a pair of Sketchers sneakers which, while cute and stuff, have exacerbated my plantar fasciitis to the point where the pain is just awful, wretched. I'll never own another pair of Sketchers as long as I live, mark me there—buy-one-get-one-half-off be damned!

But in the end, I decided it was more important for me to get the right shoe that to get the shoe I could take home with me that day, so I went home and ordered the Diesel shoe from an online retailer and expedited the shipping.

They aren't here yet.