10.31.2008

Arden says Happy Halloween, and LOCUSPOINT arrives

I'm pleased to announce the arrival of Sandra Beasley's Washington, DC at LOCUSPOINT, featuring poetry by

Derrick Weston Brown
Michael Gushue
Natalie Illum
E. Ethelbert Miller
Rod Smith
Maureen Thorson
Rosemary Winslow

This edition also features the most extensive list of poetry resources at LOCUSPOINT so far. Thanks to Sandra and the contributors for participating!

Arden asked me to post this:



And this, for all her adoring fans out there:

10.30.2008

Local Resident Creates Media Stir By Finishing Book

Silver Spring, MD—A local man has created a significant media buzz simply by—finally—finishing a book he'd been reading.

Charles Jensen of Silver Spring recently declared triumphantly, "Oh my god!" as he set down his slightly worn copy of National Book Award nominee Joshua Ferris's novel Then We Came to the End.



"I felt like I'd been reading it forever," Jensen recently told the Associated Press, who contacted him for an interview soon after the story broke in the region. In actuality, Jensen had been reading it for about seven weeks, started it, to the best of his recollection, on his first trip back to Phoenix in early September, for the Labor Day holiday. "It's not the longest it's ever taken me to read a book," Jensen went on, "but it's close."

Jensen assured reporters the quality of the prose was not an issue in his reading schedule. "Actually, I pretty much loved it," he countered. Jensen described the book as "satirical," but with "empathy" for the plight of the modern office worker. Then We Came to the End is set in an ad agency at the the start of this decade during a worrisome period of downsizing, layoffs, and office hysteria as seen through the eyes of a collective "we." The book's signature third-person-plural narration was unique to Jensen, and part of its compelling storytelling. "Having worked in office environments for most of my adult life, I can say the 'corporate we,' as Ferris calls it, is often at work in the cultures of organizations no matter their size, scope, or product."

Although the narration relies on this "we" voice describing the series of events, individual characters step out of the collective, generally when their behavior or ideas conflict with the other members of the group. Some characters, such as agency VP Lynn Mason, are pointedly not part of the "we" voice, while others, like Joe Pope, who also holds a kind of management position in the agency, floats in and out but generally prefers to remain an outsider.

Quirky characters abound in the novel, and Jensen claims this is likely because at work we are often distilled or miniaturized version of ourselves. "We don't bring our whole lives with us to work every day," he opined. "We're often forced by the culture and the people around us to simplify our personalities into easily digestible bites that don't disrupt the status quo of the group.

Jensen's only reservation about the book was the sudden jarring effect of a section narrated from Lynn Mason's solitary point of view (in third person), detailing the events of several days in her life outside the office. Although the author claimed this section "humanized" Lynn for the reader, Jensen actually felt, in a way, as if it caused him to lose respect for her. "Our supervisors are often faceless in some ways. We don't get to know them in quite the same way we know our peers, so for the reader to exist within the collective 'we' and then suddenly see life as a fly on Lynn's wall...well, it was disjunctive."

Jensen, who has never met Joshua Ferris, but wouldn't mind doing so, cites a sudden increase in air travel as an assistance to him finding the time to read the book. "I've been so busy lately and if it hadn't been for the good pilots at Southwest Airlines taking five hours to get to Arizona, I'd probably still be reading." When he did read the book, Jensen said he often felt "transfixed" or "hypnotized" by the inclusive nature of the story, and, at times, felt a longing for the collective at the ad agency. "I got to know them better than I've known some real coworkers," Jensen said. "They all had such complex lives—you just never knew who was going to blow up."

Jensen says he recommends this book to others regularly. "It's a little on the long side, but it does read fast." Jensen says you don't need to work at an ad agency to appreciate the book's satirical humor, but that office experience does help. "It's sort of like how you appreciate Dilbert so much more after you've spoken with someone who works in HR."

10.29.2008

Running in Heels

Last night was the 23rd Annual High Heel Race in DC. Thousands of people gathered on 17th Street between O Street and R Street to watch about 25 drag queens run two blocks in their high heels.

It looked like this:



The race is really more of an excuse for the pre-race bar specials, the pre-race drag queen parade, and the post-race revelry that erupts once the winning DQ hits the finish line.





It was really cold and windy yesterday! It's that bone-chilling cold that only comes with fall. I'll take winter over autumn any day. Fall makes me look like this:



You might be wondering how we got such a great shot of the actual race when there was already a huge crowd with their cameras raised over their heads. Well, that's when it helps to have your tall person on hand to do this:



You can also approximate the experience of being there by watching this handy YouTube video. Gosh, y'all, what did we do before the internets?

10.28.2008

My Cup of Ambition Runneth Over...

...at the Hayden's Ferry Review blog.

I meant to post this last week, but last week was crazy.

Teaser:

"Well, it might surprise you to know that behind my chipper, happy-go-lucky demeanor exists a risk-obsessed, suspicious inner voice, and this is absolutely critical to my job. I’ve discovered I have a particular knack for discerning the many ways in which someone (or several people in collusion) could commit fraud or embezzle money from the places where I work.... I spent several weeks sounding like an overprotective mother who won’t let her child play on the monkey bars. “You’ll fall! You’ll split your head open! You’ll sprain a wrist!” Although I frequently sounded like I could only see the worst in people, it’s not true. I want to ensure that all the good people in our community get the best experience possible from us. Frequently, that means battening down the hatches before setting sail. To mix some metaphors.

10.23.2008

I Wanna School You

As part of my service to The Writer's Center community, I've volunteered to teach two classes this winter:

Reading Emerging Poetries and Writing Longer Poems and Sequences. The courses will meet once weekly for six weeks. Hope you can stop by.

If not, all of our winter workshops just made it up onto the website. Stop by, read some descriptions, and sign up!

10.22.2008

We're in a Fight



I have a poem up over at Quarrel, the latest brainchild of the inimitable Dustin Brookshire.

For the blog, participating poets select five words from suggestions made by bloggers-at-large, compose poems using the words, and then publicly revise the poem toward completion.

Companion bloggers are the following favorite people of mine:

Christopher Hennessy
Dustin Brookshire
Genevieve Lyons
Kate Evans

10.21.2008

This Week in Modern Rock



I sort of reluctantly bought the new Keane album despite two overwhelmingly negative experiences:

1. Their last album was really disappointing, and
2. They got a poor review from Blender magazine, whose reviews I mostly trust.

But after sampling a few of the songs and knowing Keane were moving over toward the Killers-esque synth sounds of New Wave rock, I acquiesced.



Although the members of Keane are cuter than your average boy band, they're smarter too. Perfect Symmetry, the new album, while deeply influenced by the synthesized rock of the early to mid-80s, is much more intelligent, has a greater sense of craft, and has--even--interesting lyrics.

The album has a bit of a bell curve so far in terms of quality. High points are "Spiralling," "Perfect Symmetry," and the manically maudlin (but hopeful?) "Pretend That You're Alone," which alleges:

We are just the monkeys who fell out of the trees
We are blisters on the earth
We are not the flowers, we're the strangling weeds
In the meadow
And love is just our way of looking out for ourselves
When we don't want to live alone

The keyword here is probably "catchy." Keane's music has always been interesting, but the new album has a pop sensibility absent from their previous efforts. The surrender to danceable rhythms is obviously what sold me as I am now and forever a devotee of disco's exodus into rock music.

10.19.2008

OMG That's My Jam



I'm toying with a new sidebar feature here at kinemapoetics right now. "OMG That's My Jam" will chronicle my five favorite songs for the week (or however long, you see how often I change that weekly stuff).

But readers beware: the songs are likely finely crafted, endlessly singable, and may lead to conspicuous consumerism.

10.18.2008

Modern Life

Emily posted this a while back and I recently fell deep into like with it:



Hamlet
(Facebook News Feed Edition)
by Sarah Schmelling

- - - -

Horatio thinks he saw a ghost.

Hamlet thinks it's annoying when your uncle marries your mother right after your dad dies.

The king thinks Hamlet's annoying.

Laertes thinks Ophelia can do better.

Hamlet's father is now a zombie.

- - - -

The king poked the queen.

The queen poked the king back.

Hamlet and the queen are no longer friends.

Marcellus is pretty sure something's rotten around here.

Hamlet became a fan of daggers.

- - - -

Polonius says Hamlet's crazy ... crazy in love!

Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Hamlet are now friends.

Hamlet wonders if he should continue to exist. Or not.

Hamlet thinks Ophelia might be happier in a convent.

Ophelia removed "moody princes" from her interests.

Hamlet posted an event: A Play That's Totally Fictional and In No Way About My Family

The king commented on Hamlet's play: "What is wrong with you?"

Polonius thinks this curtain looks like a good thing to hide behind.

Polonius is no longer online.

- - - -

Hamlet added England to the Places I've Been application.

The queen is worried about Ophelia.

Ophelia loves flowers. Flowers flowers flowers flowers flowers. Oh, look, a river.

Ophelia joined the group Maidens Who Don't Float.

Laertes wonders what the hell happened while he was gone.

- - - -

The king sent Hamlet a goblet of wine.

The queen likes wine!

The king likes ... oh crap.

The queen, the king, Laertes, and Hamlet are now zombies.

Horatio says well that was tragic.

Fortinbras, Prince of Norway, says yes, tragic. We'll take it from here.

Denmark is now Norwegian.

10.17.2008

Having an 8-Ball with You



Having an 8-ball with You


Is even more fun that going to Saint Tropez, West Hollywood, the East Village, rehab
Or being frisked by the pigs outside my SUV down on the Sunset Strip
Partly because in your short-short hair you look hotter than Paris Hilton
Partly because of my hand holding your hand in public, partly because of jet tarmac kisses
Partly because of the bracelets tinkling on your rail-thin arms, like ribbons tied to small branches
Partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and paparrazi
It is hard to believe when I’m with you there can be anything as still
as solemn as my mother’s stern face, pale and hardened with Botox like city statuary
in the warm Malibu 4 o’clock we are stumbling back and forth
across the sidewalk, high on each other and pills, or booze, or having just kissed

and the beachscape beside us smiles with crashing waves and barking dogs fetching sticks
you suddenly wonder where you left your housekeys, your underpants

I look
At you and I would rather score another line of blow than chase sticks on a beach
Except the ones you throw for me, which are actually blown kisses not sticks, and I’ll catch them
Or we’ll sneak into the movies on Vine and make fun of Katie Holmes or Kate Bosworth
Like how grody her hair looked in Superman Returns because she can’t pull off brunette
The way we can, you tell me I can be any haircolor and it’s true, you say that it wows you
And what good does all the canned film in the world do if we can’t be together like this
When their lighting is all wrong because you are the light, the stars, the sunshine, the blue gels
Faking their way through nighttime in our love scene

It seems everyone else is cheated out of some marvelous experience
By not getting wasted like me which is why I’m handing you my mirror and loving you

10.15.2008

A Hazy Shade

I've been especially listless and tired lately, more so than I usually am, and it's been hard for me to 1) get anything done or 2) be an interesting person. It has resulted partly in one of my friends is now calling "poopy diaper face," which is apparently my expression when I don't look happy. I, with some offense taken, insist this is just my normal face.


I assume this might be "poopy diaper face," but that's unconfirmed at this time.

Last night, for example, I should have been laying out LOCUSPOINT....but lacking a sense of true urgency, I crawled into bed with Arden and watched an embarrassingly large number of Veronica Mars episodes before falling asleep.

I'm trying to resolve to write a little bit each day, for about an hour after work, but I've had a hard time pinning it down. I hope that in the meantime, my subconscious "creative" mind isn't being as lazy as the rest of me.

10.14.2008

Where am I going and where have I been?



I fell into a Gossip Girl whole and spent my entire Saturday eating waffles and watching all the season 2 episodes so far.

It made me feel like this:



Then, I spent subsequent days catching up on all the episodes of Privileged and 90210 too. They're not as good as GG--in fact, 90210 is as reeky as the original, unfortunately, but I like Privileged despite its moral-of-the-story-afterschool-special episode-ending summaries. The lead actress is really good.

Now I have to get caught up on Fringe and Ugly Betty.

And then, I can, you know, go back to being a writer and stuff.

10.09.2008

Dumb Betty



I wanted to tell you a funny story from a few weeks back when Beau was here.

We got some friends together and hopped in the Scion to visit Kings Dominion, just outside Richmond. I had initially looked up directions on Google and saw it would take, theoretically, two and a half hours (ugh). We pulled out of DC with about that much time to spare before the gates opened, but I had forgotten the actual physical address of the park, so I just searched for it in the GPS index, found it, and set our destination.

We set out feeling laughy, happy, excited. We named my GPS Betty because she has a sort of librarian-like tone in her voice when giving instruction, and she's awfully insistent. Betty estimated the trip would only take slightly longer than an hour--and we were so thrilled we didn't even think why.

When we were about five miles away, with an hour to spare before opening, we opted to pull into a rural Dunkin Donuts. Across the street were two individuals selling "BBQ and Fish" they were cooking inside what looked like big trash barrels. It was just after 9 am. Let me reiterate that. The line inside the middle-of-nowhere Dunkin was nearly out the door and stayed that way the entire time we were there. So we sat, enjoyed some scalding hot coffee, devoured donuts and such, and then drove off on Betty's recommended side streets to what I assumed was a back entrance to Kings Dominion, since we couldn't see it.

"Turn Right in point-two miles," Betty said suddenly, "and arrive at destination on right in point-two miles."

We looked around. We were in the midst of one of Virginia's famous McMansion developments. A man in a ratty t-shirt and boxers shuffled out from his front door to grab the Saturday paper, his eyes just half-slits. A kid rode by on a bike and looked at us like alien creatures, which I suppose we were.

"Nice driving, Betty," someone said. I pulled over, half in denial of not being at the park, and half because I wanted to ring Betty's little librarian neck.

Then, it began to rain. As if matters couldn't get worse. Rain on theme park day is like finding a pube in your french fries, but a little sadder, because more people are affected.

Everyone whipped out a Blackberry (it was a fully Blackberried or Motorola Q-d car load) and began browsing for the correct address. When I finally got it and plugged it in, Betty realized we still had about an hour left. Everyone groaned. We wove our way out McMansionhood and crossed Jefferson Davis Highway (for real, that's what it's called) back onto the interstate, where, an hour letter, Betty told us we had arrived at our destination--this time, we knew it was true, as we were centered in an enormous, nearly empty parking lot, but it was Kings Dominion's parking lot, and then we were there.

10.08.2008

iTunes YTD

The race is on to be a part of my annual "favorite albums of the year poll," so I thought I'd give you all a glimpse into the most-played tracks so far this year:

10."Piece of Your Heart," Natasha Bedingfield
9. "Skeleton Song," Kate Nash
8. "Out There On the Ice," Cut Copy
7. "Bad Sun," The Bravery
6. "Bottle It Up," Sara Bareilles
5. "Mouthwash," Kate Nash
4. "A-Punk," Vampire Weekend
3. "Foundations," Kate Nash
2. "Pumpkin Soup," Kate Nash
1. "Every Word Is a Knife In My Ear," The Bravery

And for the record, that makes the most-played albums:

10. Pretty. Odd., Panic at the Disco
9. Audio Day Dream, Blake Lewis
8. 19, ADELE
7. Under the Blacklight, Rilo Kiley
6. Pocketful of Sunshine, Natasha Bedingfield
5. In Ghost Colours, Cut Copy
4. Little Voice, Sara Bareilles
3. Vampire Weekend,, Vampire Weekend
2. Made of Bricks, Kate Nash
1. The Sun and the Moon, The Bravery

10.07.2008

An Open Letter to Giant Foods



Dear Giant,

When I first moved to Maryland, there you were, right across the street from my apartment building, hulking among the Caribou Coffee and 24-hour CVS. I thought, what luck to have found you there, and so close. I dreamed of walking to you, my arms empty, and returning home with an abundance of individually-wrapped snack foods, ice cream cakes, and other novelties. I imagined fresh celery at any time.

But the reality was different, Giant. You were cold, distant, unresponsive. When I first shopped you, your staff were reticent. When I once asked where the pepperoni was, I was asked to wait there for a moment. While the meat department man went to look, I glanced around, hoping to see a little pepperoni somewhere. A little pepperoni in a logical place isn't too much to ask, Giant. It really isn't. And then, looking back, I saw the man I'd asked talking and laughing with another employee and another customer. He was clearly not on the pepperoni case. And that was the tip of the iceberg.

You were under construction and things were messy. You asked me to pardon your dust while you got ready to serve me better, but my expectations were already low and still unmet. Your produce was sad, wilted. Your V-8 aisle was consistently bare. And where was the pepperoni? I still don't know, even after these three months.

So I broke up with you Giant. Maybe you didn't notice, so wrapped up were you in your makeover and facelift and new logo. I snuck behind your back and drove the ten extra blocks to the Safeway, which was dirtier and in a scarier neighborhood, but the people there were slightly kinder to me, which is saying very little, but in this case is saying something. And there I found the special items I was yearning for, like bottled minced garlic and V-8 and bread with extra protein and yes, they even had pepperoni there, Giant, right where I could see it.

But then I could see that you had changed, Giant. You had adopted new brand colors--yellow, purple, green. Bright, festive hues. I thought, this new wardrobe might be the start of something. So, tentatively, I went back to you. I went back to you and stayed to the shadows; I knocked on the melons ever so quietly. I even bought a ready-made quiche one night when I needed a quick meal, and you were there for me, Giant, just like I needed. You were stocked in V-8, you had fat free yogurt on special.

But tonight, Giant, things went south again. I went to you for cilantro--citrusy, tangy cilantro--and there was none. No fresh cilantro, no cilantro paste in the convenient tubes (my preference for the turkey chili with cilantro cream recipe). When I asked your produce man if you had cilantro, he was walking away from me. He didn't. He barely looked at me as he shook his head, No. I said, "NO CILANTRO?" And perhaps I sounded a bit like a crazy person then, Giant, but honestly! Who doesn't carry cilantro! It's an important ingredient in many kinds of cooking, not just Mexican and Tex-Mex but other kinds as well. He didn't respond and kept his back to me as he walked off. Fuming, I wanted to yell out to my fellow customers, "Who doesn't carry f---ing cilantro?!" but I stayed quiet, Giant. I held my tongue.

Continuing to shop, I tried to find pinto beans. They were not in the "American" bean aisle where we keep all of the "American" canned vegetables and "traditional" beans. There were canned carrots, canned peas, canned asparagus, god—even canned artichoke hearts and canned beets—but no pinto beans. Yet, you had plenty of collard greens and "southern style" pinto beans on hand, didn't you, Giant? Didn't you?

So I did the only thing I could think of. I went to the "Hispanic Foods" aisle, which shares shelf space with "Asian Foods" and "Rice dishes" that come in a box. Giant, I want you to know something. First, the Mexican diet consist of more than just tortillas, horchata, brightly-colored sodas in bottles, and seventy-five different varieties of bean. But you wouldn't know that. And there are more producers of Mexican food than Goya.



There are many other options. You have no Herdez salsa. I mean, really! But, it's a specialty item and I can get over it. I mean, it's actually Mexican and everything.

And then the true offense occurred. What did I see among the bottled spices, by the cardamom, the cinnamon, and the caraway seeds? Dried Cilantro Leaves. DRIED CILANTRO LEAVES. While it's an absolute travesty to cook with them, it proved something. It proved that you were lying to me, Giant!

I was ready to give up on you forever, Giant. I was thinking of even driving the six miles out to the Superfresh that's right by the Chipotle and the PetSmart and the Target Greatland, which is my preferred Target anyway, and I was ready to forget about you, even when I'm drunk and needing a frozen pizza, I wasn't even going to go back to you. That's how very serious I was.

But I want you to know something, Giant. I let you win. At the checkouts, I saw this woman working. I've seen her before. She always smiles, works quickly, chit chats. I wanted her to be the way I said good bye to you. I wanted to give you the chance to make it right.

And Christina--that's her name--Christina really did. She erased all of my bad experiences with you in under three minutes. She was pleasant, she was kind. She scanned a stray coupon she had on her counter that matched something I bought, saving me 50 cents. She asked me about Arizona. When I said I'd only lived here for three months, she said, "Welcome!" And she meant it.

I may not spend a lot of money each week, Giant—I'm only one man—but tonight, my $80 was for Christina. My Weight Watchers yogurt, my ground turkey, my frozen peas, my bread, my sugar-free dark chocolate Jell-O pudding snacks—all of it, all of that profit you made off of me, that belongs to Christina.

Hold on to her, Giant. She's just about the only good thing you've got going for you.

Love,
Charlie Jensen

10.06.2008

When In Doubt, Kill.

For the past year and a half I've been working on a novel. It started out as a short story and then I thought it was going to be a series of stories and then it turned into something else. I haven't completed a draft yet (thanks to 2007 "Year of Hell," then moving, new job, etc), partly because I got stuck. One of the characters gets immobilized sometimes, but I figured out what to do. All along, I was planning on getting her together with the other characters in the last third of the book, but I know now that's not going to happen because when it all comes together...she's going to be dead already!

It was sad to make the decision, but she really has few redeeming qualities anyway. And plus, I already eighty-sixed the only likable character in the book anyway.

This has been your "Poet Writing Prose Update" for October.

10.03.2008

Arrr, Matey!

The other day I was encouraged by a friend to change my Facebook default language to:

English (Pirate)

Which is an actual selection on the Facebook language list. So, I did. And I nearly died. It is so hilarious! Click on the image below to see a larger version:

10.02.2008

BookTour.com

A friend of mine met the guy who created BookTour.com, a foxy-looking website that lets authors list their upcoming reading events.

When you browse to the site, it automatically will tell you what events are occurring in the next three days in your area, which I think is pretty hot. Nice to have one clearinghouse for that kind of thing!

Go there, sign yourself up as an author, and start listing your events!

10.01.2008

When Kristen Bell Narrates, I Listen.



I wanted to comment on a few more aspects of Gossip Girl that I've really enjoyed.

1. Production Value
Shot on location in NYC, GG is honestly such a gorgeously filmed show, you can't help but want to move there--even me, who would rather have ebola than live in NYC. More than that, the show feels very cinematic in the quality of its film stock and lighting, set design, etc. There's a lot of care and thought put in to where the action happens, which is more than you can say for your standard 30-minute joke-in-a-box sitcom.

2. Anachronism
I mentioned before here that I love me some good anachronism in my art (see also Jesus Christ Superstar. GG reflects anachronism when its modern world of technology and teens collides with the historic aspects of NYC and its Uppper East Side denizens. "Old Money," cotillions, and formal brunches get a new-wave, txt msg makeover in the show.

I love its use of music, which rivals The Hills in maximizing my iTunes store purchases. GG's soundtrack features a lot of bands I already like, and a bunch more I want to get to know. The music, both orchestrated and curated, fits the show's aesthetic to a tee, seeming at once both ultra-modern and reminiscent of times past.

3. Fashion
Since you know I love Top Model, Ugly Betty, Project Runway, and just about any other show that incorporates fasion, it's no surprise that I appreciate GG's costume designer, who puts these kids in some of the hippest and outrageous outfits. Each character has a very specific aesthetic in terms of dress--contrast, for instance, social-climbing Jenny's aspirational costumes with Blair's austere, sexy-matron look complete with bows and fitted waists.

4. Someone went to film school
Aside from the sets, costumes, lighting, and hair design, the show incorporates a lot of interesting film techniques like jump cutting, cross-cutting, and rhythmic editing as the stories play out. It's not that these techniques are innovative at all, but they are done thoughtfully and with a knowledgeable hand. Whoever's behind the camera and in the editing room knows what they're doing as these considerations enhance the action in the scene.