Sitting here waiting for my (late) movers to come pick up the small amount of stuff I'm moving is cruel and torturous.

Tomorrow: Phoenix to Oklahoma City.
Wednesday: Oklahoma City to Columbus.
Thursday: Columbus to DC.
Friday: All day trip to Six Flags (hooray!)
Saturday: Move into my apartment
Monday: Start work.



Things I Will Miss About the Desert


For two reasons: on the one hand, in days like these, sunset means a slight reprieve from the oppressive, scorching summer heat. Variously, it signals "time to swim," "time to venture outdoors finally," or even "a chance to take out the trash."

But Arizona does tend to make this worth one's while, as the sunsets are often arresting, shocking, stunning, and even a little scary for anyone who's ever lived near water. Routinely pulling in pinks, magentas, celery greens, pale blues, fiery oranges and reds, the sunsets complicate the skies like fractal drawings (if there are clouds) and like watercolor studies (in clear skies).

Last night's sunset, as I drove back into central Phoenix from the Ahwatukee area of town, was a dark, cotton candy pink, marred by an escaping thunderhead that seemed to be releasing itself from the ground in the West Valley. I was looking for fire at its base, but there was none.

It was the day of the first monsoon. Those I will not miss.


Things I Will Miss About the Desert

Relative Speed Limits

One strange result of living in the new "Old West" is that lawlessness is still relatively common, especially in terms of what the "law" considers, you know, important.

Add to this the influx of Evil Knievel-like California drivers and you've got the automobile equivalent of a cattle stampede.

The general (unofficial) rules look like this:

In the city: speed limit + 10 mph
In the city at night: speed limit + 15 mph is ok unless it is between 11 pm and 3 am

On the freeway: speed limit + 15 mph
On the freeway in the desert: speed limit + 20 mph
On the freeway in the desert at night: speed limit + Autobahn (see also "driving to Tucson")

I learned the hard way to never:
> Drive in the carpool lane without pooling (and seriously, I was in it for five seconds, people)
> Drive in the "gore zone" when exiting the freeway, something I learned not to do when I went to traffic school for the previous item.

Otherwise, I've never heard of anyone getting a speeding ticket (or any other kind of ticket) in Arizona except for these other non-speeding laws.

Of course, when it takes over an hour to drive from corner to corner of the city, 75 mph doesn't always cut it, right?

Goodbye, "suggested" speed limits!


Things I Will Miss About the Desert

Hands down, quail are my favorite desert inhabitant. First of all, they are adorable, and second of all, once you see a little family of quail scurrying across the street, you can't help but love the way they dash forward, their heads down, string of babies following behind the parents... It's a delight to find them in the city from time to time, although they do tend to be on the skittish side.

They inspired me to write this poem some time ago.


Perfect Albums of the 90s

Last week, my colleagues and I were discussing what we thought were the 1990s "perfect albums." Our lists had few similarities, but one of two consistent nods to the decade's most influential releases.

For the record, a "perfect album" is a cohesively original set (or successfully produced unified collection) of songs that, ultimately, tended to define the era, the band, the moment, the culture, etc.

Here's my ultimately irresponsible list, in no order:

Automatic for the People, R.E.M.
They were once my favorite band of all time and I owned just about everything they put out. But this was the album that, to me, really crystallized what they were capable of. Yeah, "Everybody Hurts" was polluted by too much airplay, but it got too much airplay because it captured something. Seemingly pedestrian at times, I think this album transcends both rock and folk music and becomes something different and unique.
Favorite cuts: "Drive," "Nightswimming"

OK Computer, Radiohead
The band's last decipherable output, in my opinion, but one that placed them squarely on the vanguard of what rock would mean in our next decade. Radiohead trailblazed the return of synths, computerization, and cultural disenfranchisement, floating among these elements the strangely mystical lyrics that warned of a future in which we pray aliens kidnap us from the planet.
Best cuts: "Karma Police," "Exit Music (for a Film)"

Little Earthquakes, Tori Amos
The original is still the best. Although Tori has traveled down many a road diverging in her musical wood, this first album—bold, unique, uncompromised, aggressive—reopened the door Kate Bush left ajar years before. Although she owes a debt to many who came before, including Led Zeppelin, Tori was a tiny woman who roared.
Best cuts: "Mother," "Little Earthquakes"

Tragic Kingdom, No Doubt
As much about breaking up as it is about the economic chasm in Anaheim, No Doubt's second album is definitely my favorite and showcases a band rising out of its own ashes (suicide, failed romances, band member departures) into greatness. Gwen Stefani's weirdly charismatic voice holds center stage with the boys here, a factor that almost destroyed the band when everyone tried to make her the centerpiece of the entire band.
Best cuts: "Sunday Morning," "Excuse Me, Mr.," "End It on This"


Arizona Derby Dames

Last night I went to the roller derby competition with a bunch of friends. It was my first time. I wasn't familiar with roller derby except for what I recently read about it in The Advocate but I was interested in witnessing what was sure to be a rock-n-roll spectacle like no other.

If you're not familiar with how the game is played, here's a little primer:

The group skate around the track, lap after lap. The "Jammers" (one player on each team with a starred helmet) tries to skate through/around the "pack" of "blockers" (skaters who get in their way) in order to pass them. Every time the Jammer passes the pack, they get a point.

Last night we were there rooting for the Brutal Beauties, a black and hot pink-clad group of skaters. Of them, Phyllis Killer was kind enough to hold us some rink-side seats so we were pretty much part of the action. And that's another important part of roller derby: names. Along with other team names like the Runaway Brides, the Grave Draggers, and the Bombshells, the team members all have "derby names." Among my favorites were "Ann Thrash" and "Dr. Mary Lu Botomy," along with the aforementioned Phyllis Killer.

I had no less than three ladies tumble and slide directly into my chair during the competition, which was awesome. I fared pretty well; another group of people had a skater land on top them, slicing through a series of sodas in styrofoam cups first. Phyllis Killer, in one particularly spectacular fall, got her skate wrapped around my friend Helena Handbasket's handbag. When she finally noticed, she immediately reached down, untangled the purse strap—and then took out my friend's wallet as if to skate away with it.

Roller derby is tough, like hockey, but with a decidedly tough-girl edge to it. Many of the team uniforms emphasize the player's bust and butts, often revealing one or the other as they skate by, bent over:

Beau and I were brainstorming derby names for ourselves. Although we arrived calling ourselves "Judy Gnarl-land" and "Lauren 'Ex-Con'-rad," we later decided to create full teams of players. My team is based on famous gymnasts of the past: Mary Lou Rotten, for example. Beau's team is all named after feminine hygiene products—and the only example I could post in this entry is "Summers Eve."

Roller derby is gaining popularity around the country. Google your hometown to find out if there's a match happening near you. At $8, you can't get more enjoyment out of each measly buck these days.


I'm a Sick Person

Pretty literally I think.


Sore throat
A few sneezes




Goodwill toward Moving

I started packing last night—books and clothes, my most valued possessions. I have about 10 boxes of books stacked up in my apartment, but clothing was a different story.

Moving within the city has always encouraged me to donate items to Goodwill, but I've always maintained a sort of large wardrobe. This time, though, it's very different. Looking at shirts, pants, sweaters, I think, Do I want to lug this 2,000 miles?

10 bags of shirts, shoes, socks, pants, dress pants, coats, sweaters, sweatshirts, and polos later...the answer was frequently no.

Picture it this way: my Scion xA, if loaded today, would be full of stuff for Goodwill. And I'm just getting started.

I'm taking a zen approach to this move. Almost no furniture, probably no dishes. All I need is a Mac, a Wii, and a TV.

It's the ease of living an IKEA lifestyle. Everything is cheap and endlessly replaceable.


Human Behaviour

I'm sitting in the Sky Harbor Airport right now, at the gate from which my flight will soon depart. I'm seated in front of a bank of pay phones. Twice now a U.S. Airways pilot has come by and systematically done the following:

1. Lifts the phone from the cradle and lays it lengthwise on the shelf below the phone.
2. Dials what appears to be a 1-800 number.
3. Moves to the next phone and repeats steps 1 and 2.
4. Once all phones have been initially dialed, he circles the bank again, pressing "1" on each phone.
5. Walks away.

I hung up one phone and someone walking by hung up another.

But before I did it, I wondered if this was, like, Candid Camera or something.

What's wrong with people?


Why The Hills Is the Most Important Television Show Ever (After Buffy and Veronica)

Last night, I came full circle.

I'd watched The Hills from the first season 1 episode all the way back through to the original three season 3 episodes I first watched last month. And now, looking back and looking forward, I can truly say that The Hills is one of the most important television shows of the decade. Here's why.

1. Reality TV might not be real, but it partly exists in reality.
One reason reality shows are easy to produce is because their stars are, for all intents and purposes, people in the world. People have lives, go to the grocery store, have dinner out, see movies, take vacations with their friends and families. They're endlessly different from characters on fictional shows because when, for example, Betty Suarez steps off the set of Ugly Betty, she turns into classy young actress America Ferrera, whose life and foibles are generally the complete opposite of her counterpart.

"Betty" can't be out in the world grabbing headlines from US Weekly and the like, and for the most part, even America Ferrera can't either. So the fact that the four very special ladies of The Hills have dominated that particular rag for weeks on end is something to note. Their lives keep happening when the show stops filming. And the "journalism" doesn't stop either.

2. Wait—is The Hills even real?
A common question, but it doesn't matter.

Scenario 1: The Hills really is a reality show.
If so, then it's the most slickly produced, most watchable, most post-written show in the history of reality television. It bests The Real World by leaps and bounds and takes the conventions of traditional narrative television (woman arrives in the big city with big dreams, then sets about achieving them) and does not veer from the show's primary arc.

Real lives don't have these arcs or, if they do, they require a master editor and several hours in the cutting room. But The Hills convinces us that Lauren's life really does surround Teen Vogue (and now People's Revolution), the Hollywood club scene, her apartment with Audrina, and that feud with Heidi & Spencer. Lauren doesn't pee, she doesn't shop for her own groceries, and she doesn't do laundry. But she is always comfortable, well-fed, and well-dressed.

The show really is worthwhile based on its production value alone, which gives LA a sort of gauzy, dreamy glow. It's gorgeously filmed and will make you want to move to the West Coast.

Scenario 2: The Hills is one of the most elaborate televised hoaxes in broadcast history.
There are two possibilities here: either the show is completely fictional, or it is highly manipulated by the producers and cast. It's hard to tell which.

On the one hand, because the events that occur on the show do so closely stick to the primary arc, it would be amazing if the producers were not completely orchestrating the surprise Lauren/Heidi run-ins, or encouraging Heidi to drop in on Audrina, or telling Lo to snub Audrina, or even telling Teen Vogue editor Lisa Love that Lauren has to go to Paris during season 2. Everything is so seamless, so clean, it feels like it must be structured that way.

But I often lead toward this being a fictional show in which the cast play characters named after themselves, who are given specific scene goals ("Heidi, in this scene you have to get Spencer to admit he cheated on you. Ready, action!") and then ad-lib their dialogue.

In any case, it's either brilliantly produced or brilliantly constructed. And now, I'm officially obsessed: last night I even watched an old airing of the live after show.

Narratively, I think the show is really good at keeping you sympathetic toward all the characters except Spencer, the Svengali to Heidi Montag and ultimate destroyer of everything nice about her life. Although the press (and Lauren) often villainize Heidi, in the show, she seems ultimately well-intentioned and misunderstood, genuinely confused why her friends won't speak to her, all while enabling Spencer's hostile take over of her life. It's actually a bit heartbreaking to witness, particularly in just a few sittings.


It's All Official Now.

The papers are signed....

The powers that be have been notified....

So now I can tell you...

I'm leaving ASU effective June 20! I've accepted the Director position at The Writer's Center, a literary nonprofit community center, in Bethesda, MD!

For those of you keeping score, this is my 18th move in 13 years. At roughly 2300 miles, it tops my previous record of carting sticks of furniture 1750 miles from MN to AZ. This time I'm pretty much taking books and clothes, and that's about it.

Never a dull moment here at kinemapoetics.


I'm Such a Tease!

I have something big to announce later this week.

It's BIG

You will all faint with surprise.


LOCUSPOINT: Madison is here to stay.

Brent Goodman's Madison is live and ready for your reading pleasure at LOCUSPOINT! Brent selected a group of unique and interesting poets from this "liberal island surrounded by a sea of reality," as we Wisconsinites used to call it.

The work shows the city fosters a wide range of poets and poetics, so don't miss out. You can also read my latest Managing Editor Letter.

Thanks to Brent for doing such fantastic work! And for getting all the materials to me in such an orderly fashion—made my life so much easier.

Stay tuned for:

Jim Elledge's ATLANTA


Louise Mathias's LOS ANGELES

Sean Singer's MANHATTAN

Suzanne Frischkorn's NEW HAVEN

Sandra Beasley's WASHINGTON, DC