Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Milk and Honey

The farmers market by my work has only a few weeks left to run. The woman from my favorite farm, Licking Creek, has been transfered to NIH. The handsome farmer who gives me discounts says he doesn't have greens--hardly anyone buys them, he says, so there's no point in even picking them. I buy a bunch of chard, which I'm cooking now, to have with pasta, in between typing and helping with homework. I never have chard. It seems like such a New England thing. Chaaahd. Like John Updike is saying it. The local honey guy has still has a big crowd around his stand. It makes me feel good to see a bunch of men standing around tasting honey from little spoons.

Hey, this just in: Nathaniel Mayweather's honey, Hyla, will be on Chelsea Lately again tonight, but with an ALL-REDHEAD panel. You know I'm not missing that.

Of course the sunshine isn't going to last: The Post ran this piece from a Chinese blogger about the melamine in milk horror. This blogger, a university teacher, visits the countryside, where her unsophisticated cousin tells her that the last crop of rice they grew was poisoned by pesticides, so the farmers took it to Shanghai and sold it. She doesn't know what to make of the story, or what to do:

"What could I do after I heard something like this? Where could I go to report the problem? I can't think of any official in this vast country who would patiently listen to me and try to address the problem. Most officials would probably regard me as insane if I went to talk to them....

"There are all kinds of things like this happening in the country. There's nothing I can do about it," I said to myself, trying to appease my conscience.

"How pitiful I am. I already know that my effort will be useless even before I take any action.... I am caught in the same situation as my imaginary, impassive official. Both of us are controlled by a curse and have lost the ability to take appropriate action . . .

"Trapped in this kind of silence and not able to do anything about it...I almost feel that I've become a pile of [dung], or a slave who only knows work but not how to speak. I chat and joke with people around me, but I am not able to talk about the biggest bewilderment on my mind."

This Kafka state is similar with the current cri$i$ (thanks to Professor of Osculation for the locution). It seems there's nothing you can say, nothing you can do. That's an illusion, as usual, created to make us give up our power. I hope it's not a dress rehearsal for the next big crisis, when there could be babies' lives at stake instead of just 401ks.

I just remembered we have some andouille left over. I'll put that in with the chard.

Photo: Daughter and I went to an arts festival and did Craft Projects. That one's mine. Blurry photo of collage. Moon, flames, trees, the usual preoccupations.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Series of Something

I haven't written a new poem in a month--the wheels in my head are on a completely different gear now that I'm stuck in a long fiction. Of course, some might argue that I've been stuck in a long fiction all along.

Here's a poem from last year's disaster series, in honor of Sen. Ted Stevens, whose trial began last week, or last month or sometime. If you have to know specifics, I'll have my people look it up and get back to you. Cause that's how they do it up north.


People laughed when that old fuck called it all
“A series of tubes.” I even had a t-shirt making fun of him.
It’s in rags now. There goes the last connection.

But when pieces started crashing, it really was like tubes,
Like we were miners trapped in tunnels, cut off from everyone,
And me trying everything to fix it, and everyone cursing me,
Then just staring up at me, quiet now, thinking
“What if he can’t get us out of here?”

Friday, September 26, 2008

Kool-Aid and Cocktails

Got daughter to bed, came up and turned on the debate to hear McCain arguing that his experience with Keating made him best-qualified to deal with the current mess. Bah-dum!

I think I'll just watch this Nick Cave video BA sent my way today. I could listen to this song go forever, and it practically does. Very purgatorial.

The other day the Post Style section asked "Where have all the protests gone?" and answered its question on the next page in the GOSSIP column, where it told of the PEN/Faulkner awards speakers:

"The annual PEN/Faulkner Award gala at the Folger Shakespeare Library -- typically a genteel literary affair -- turned into a mudfest Monday night when two authors launched into denunciations of John McCain and Sarah Palin.

"Like most cult leaders, they really think the public is stupid enough to drink this Kool-Aid," best-selling novelist Terry McMillan said. "I am not taking a sip."...

Poet Amiri Baraka railed that the choice is between Barack Obama or that "patient from the Vietnam War." But it was McMillan ("Waiting to Exhale," "How Stella Got Her Groove Back") who eviscerated the GOP ticket with deadpan sarcasm:

"Now a senior citizen dying to dress up as the new sheriff of this land of opportunity and opportunists, John McCain, alongside . . . his charming VP running mate (who has finally gotten a chance to wear that tiara, even though this is not a beauty nor personality contest), Sarah Tall-and-Pretty Palin, have -- as self-ordained mavericks and reformers -- been making empty . . . promises about how they want to clean up Washington." All McCain really wants, she went on, is to "find a new war to fight"; Palin and her "uneducated snowmobiling husband just want to fly first class."

The crowd laughed a bit; mostly people whispered, "Did she really say that?" Oh, yes, she did -- and more....

We asked local novelist Alan Cheuse, another reader at the gala, if politics had spoiled the party. "Stendhal said, 'Politics in a novel is like a pistol shot in the theater,' " he told us yesterday. "Terry's a very passionate woman and speaks her mind." He called Baraka "a poet and a bit of a propagandist -- his problem these days is that he doesn't know the difference."

Decorum returned for the post-performance dinner in the Folger's Reading Room, where the 250 guests and the authors effortlessly switched from campaigns to cocktails."

Thank heaven things got so quickly back to normal.

Yep, their comments were rough. But ruder than war profiteering? That's, um, debatable. I'd rather have a poet confused about propaganda than a president. Where is the "decorum" in a death toll?

But hell, they're just angry black people, and one of them a poet besides. Marginalize them on the gossip page.

This is where the protests are--everywhere.

I'm thinking about multiple PEN/Faulkner winner E.L. Doctorow and my favorite of his novels, The Waterworks. It's a love poem to the newspaper business and scary and readable as anything by Stephen King. But it's also a look at the riches of the last part of the last century, conspicuous consumption and moral hypocrisy, the North's role in slave trading and war profiteering, and the cynical, damaged, despairing generation that came after these profiteers.

It's about a cabal of old men who want to live and control everything forever.

I'm not one of those who wants to be my child's best friend. But I would like to live now in a manner that my daughter's generation won't despise me later.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Down in the River to Pray

Dearest Annwyn has completed an amazing, enormous work of magic: kayaking 444 miles of the Susquehanna River to the Bay. Here is one of her dispatches:

"I'd like not to present it as some huge pageant - but rather small intimate details...like petals and feathers which float upon the water and I gather as I move on the water - or like the flowers beginning to rise from ravaged waters - soft yellow blossoms moving toward the light - water so polluted no life may try...as I paddle with determination - and rain falls and
strokes the surface and the wind challenges or covers one's back....and all the while your fingers are freezing...your butt is wet...but there is a place to be...a place to find shelter ...paddling..paddling...crying over the devastation... pollution flowing into the already destroyed waters.... heavy with PH change from the acid...complete disregard but to profit...holes which breeched her depths ... and moving on you paddle... having known Her first as a Darling - a lovely charm born from gathering waters... so narrow but winding and taunting and visiting and embracing...then in to places where civilization
cornered Her and she simply took her place...not dissuaded by province...circling sometimes you think you've been here before...

"There were man-made challenges - the Goodyear Dam that was SO boldly challenging - causing not only incredible physical determination - but the weather -20' and raining ... yet so brilliantly part of the beauty...several hundred facing this 70 mi. part as a "regatta" folks from Canada come to face this winter's edge of river...

"I faced hypothermia and exhaustion - later in our travels the standing stone I sat with was worth every effort...

"As it all comes together - my heart is blessed; and each singular drop that ever fell upon my head, ran down the brim of my hat to my nose and I licked with my tongue....

"There is not piece of what is human for which I do not hold compassion; there is no "one" I would NOT look in the eye.

"But I still challenge - that the waters run free. We secure the health of our waters. And we secure the health and truth of our human rivers.... our blessed selves which hold this water holy.

"With love, from the free state of Avalon
In Peace, Annwyn
The Roving Fool"

Her intention is entirely and harmoniously made manifest. Blessed be.

Photo: Paul Nevin, from the Friends of the Susquehanna Rock Art site. Educational uses permitted--figure this counts?

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's Kind of Like the Chorus to 'Venus in Furs'

I am weary of people proclaiming, as if it's something to be praised, that they admire someone for "getting it done" or constantly trumpet that "she's just like me! She's gettin' it done!" without once asking what "it" is or whether "it" is worth gettin' done (the dropped 'g' being totemic in this campaign).

Bill Clinton would have asked what "it" is, dagit!

And I am weary of hearing people say they support Sarah Palin because "she's just like me!" Are 51 percent of America's white women solipsists? I want someone as little like me as possible running this country, and believe me, dear, so do you. How about an engineer, maybe, or someone who can at least read a balance sheet or fix a computer glitch?

It's family reading time in the Cougar household, which means the prescribed 30 minutes of Magic Treehouse for DD while mommy reads, works, blogs, does a horoscope chart, and cooks pasta. Tonight, it's the New Yorker, only been ripening about three days before I peeked inside. Observations:

Spike Lee looks old. But good.

He gets up at 5 a.m. I'm going to have to start setting my alarm another half-hour earlier.

Elsewhere, Anthony Lane attempts to redeem himself from his recent savaging by Jezebel and assorted gals with this review of The Women--and I'm ready to forgive. I head to the online version to copy this, here:

"According to Sylvie, “Nobody. Hates. Saks.” Such is the moral of this film, run a close second by “Don’t give a shit about anybody—be selfish,” as delivered by Leah (Bette Midler), a trumpet-voiced movie agent. In short, we are back in the land of “Sex and the City,” and thus with the lurking suggestion that greed—emotional greed, not just the material ravenings of the shopper—is the only alternative to the humiliation that comes from subservience to men. No middle way is permitted.

"Compare this with the split-and-try-again comedies of Hollywood’s heyday, like “The Awful Truth” or “The Lady Eve,” and you can’t help recalling the satisfaction of watching the heroine come out on top, not because she had mooched around reflecting on her self-worth, or invested that self in handbags, but because she had fought like blazes to get there. Real women like Barbara Stanwyck, Irene Dunne, and Katharine Hepburn scrapped for their power, against a society that had no wish to give it up, or against hapless, dithery males who had no clue what to do with it, whereas “The Women” of 2008 gives empowerment a bad name....

"Taken together, “Sex and the City,” “Mamma Mia!,” and “The Women” add up to a spectacular trilogy of the inane, and to point that out is not the prerogative of the misogynist or the killjoy. It’s the view of someone who thinks that women deserve better from the movies, and who sees no joys to kill."

Word. I am weary of being told that I love shoes and handbags and care what labels they once bore (bore being the operative word). I actually dislike shopping, quite a bit. I love sexy heels, lingerie, the art of fashion, most of all the art of perfume, but the day my goddamn life revolves around all that you can just go ahead and shoot me. With a crossbow, please.

Photo: Nola Darling from "She's Gotta Have It." Don't make em like that anymore. Didn't you love that bed? No, it's not at Saks. Used without any permission whatsoever. Just another in the long list of reasons why I don't want anyone like me in higher office.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lookin' Good, Cannonball Run

Trail running, distance running, in some ways all running come out of a human ability that evolved for a reason. Running for long distances over varying surfaces was necessary for food (to track game), for communicating (or spying on those strange people on the mountain next door), and for protection (to outrun predators).

Though I have spurred myself into some speed by imagining I'm being chased, it's frankly a tactic that's hard on the body (and I have this little device my weapons-loving cousin turned me on to, if that kind of protection is really necessary). For communications, we've got those Internets. But tracking game on foot is still an honorable pursuit. I think it's hardwired. That's why I like trying new trails. Even though I'm only looking to spot rectangles of paint on tree trunks and rocks, not spoor or nests, I imagine it's much the same feeling.

We're made to run, to swim, to climb trees, to use our brains and facility for planning in the pursuit of game. We're even made to use weapons to kill game when we're hungry, if we have to.

A bow hunter in a tree aiming for deer is an intelligent wildlife management device, especially when the meat and skin are donated. It's fairly even competition. In fact, I wish there were some way it could be done in the DC city limits, especially with Lyme disease so bad; it's making the deer and other animals suffer because the weak ones aren't being picked off by any kinds of predators anymore, so they live to spread it and breed all kinds of other parasites and viruses, and sooner or later, their weakened immune systems may brew up something that will get other animals, including the human ones, worse than anything we've seen so far. I don't hunt; I live in the city, for god's sake. But it's not evil to kill an animal to thin a herd and to eat. One of the best eco-witches I know of is a former champion bow hunter.

A fat fart hunting with an automatic weapon in a helicopter is just a fat fart with an automatic weapon in a helicopter. It throws off the balance. Too many predators gone, too much game gone, you're as bad off as when you started. No problems solved.

There are some who say that the human animal is entitled to use that big brain in whatever ways we want; who say that the automatic weapon and the helicopter are just natural extensions of the technology of the sling and the bow.

But there's another great facility of our big brains, one we don't use nearly often enough, and I ought to know: It's the ability to know when enough is enough and to make ourselves stop.

Why do I keep looking up David Foster Wallace eulogies in random moments? I never read but some magazine pieces; never was a big fan; I'm too old-fashioned, not smart enough. Because he was a suicide, which carries too many triggers; because he was just my age; because you're not supposed to do that if you're a genius, and fucking big and hot on top of that. But I will stop, because projecting your own crap onto the occasion of death is how ghosts are made. It burdens the spirits, who don't deserve it.

Photo: Marilyn Monroe at Black Rock, rehearsing for The Misfits. Photographer Eve Arnold; I doubt I have permission.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Freedom Is Scary

Happy Birthday, DH Lawrence. If we find any of your books on the shelves, the librarian gets taken out.

Because on a day like this, we all have to show how we support our free freedoms being free.

Photo: From the latest Lady Chatterley. Adults doing things adults do--ewww, scary.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Closer to Kurtz

Thanks for the headline, Backstretch. You can always tell a pro.

New Beck is really groovy, except for two tracks with this stupid shuffly beat, bleh. The rest is like what would have happened if Ian Curtis had just run off with that photographer and moved to LA and made it past 40.

Tomorrow: Back into the woods to find out how many trees have fallen.

UPDATE: An oak with a branch spread of about 15 feet was down barely a half-mile into my usual trail, taking out a holly and assorted other saplings. I stopped to pay respects and gather a couple of tiny fragments of wood for magic and heard the branches rustle. A tall, lovely young Nordic-looking woman was making a careful scramble over the whole mess from the other side. "That was fun," she said, dripping with sweat and sarcasm. "I'm not even gonna try," I said, turned around, and took the AU hill as pennance.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Say "Hi" to Your Knee

My trail half-marathon today was canceled due to Hurricane Hannah. Instead, I took a gig covering AARP events (but I don't get to go to the Chicago concert) and did the convention hotel 5K. There's got to be a limerick in there somewhere. Give me til the end of this entry to think of one.

So the other day, I see a teaser in the Post about Sarah Palin's health care policy work. So I'm thinking, well, let's not judge, maybe she has some good ideas. Turns out she has had but one idea, about a pretty obscure policy issue, and her take on that is kind of, well, mavericky. She pushed very hard for radiologists (imaging) to be able to open their own shops freely, separate from hospitals and as independent businesses. In Alaska, it's hard to open your own freestanding healthcare shop, probably because of legislation designed to protect hospitals. See, in the past 10 years or so, doctors, surgeons, all kinds of health care folks, have been opening up their own places where they can ply their trade--anything from the surgeon who did my daughter's adenoids (one of the best in DC--she wanted to go out and play two hours after it was done) to the guy who'll Botox your cock--and not have to give over the money to hospitals. But hospitals don't want the competition. In-and-out surgery and mammograms and the like are really good clean moneymakers for them, and help pick up the losses caused by uninsured homeless GSWs in the emergency room.

Seems pretty simple to solve that one--don't have any more uninsured homeless GSWs. At least address ONE of those problems, right?

Instead, the for-profit hospital lobby has worked to stifle competition, as probably happened in Alaska, where a doctor or similar has to obtain a "certificate of need" to open a business. Here's where it gets funny. The for-profit hospital lobby is majorly Republican, big McCain supporters, and a huge source of Republican K street revolving door lobbying "talent." It's loaded with lawyers who pop back and forth between advisor positions and lobbyist positions without even having to put down their steak knives.

So why has Palin been pushing to make things so hard on the poor widdle for-profit hospitals in Alaska (where there are probably more than their share of uninsured homeless GSWs, what with all that wild moose shooting going on out of helicopters and all)?

Her one idea on health care policy is obscure, parochial, and contrary to the party she says she stands behind. So OK, I gave her a chance, she fails, and now it's open season. Thanks for the link, BA.

Oh and, um, Dear Police of St. Paul: What part of "he's not resisting" do you not understand?

OK, so it's not up to the one in The American Wife. But here's a try:
There once was a lady named Hannah
Who choked on a great big banana
Her teeth couldn't stop it
Nor the epiglottis
But it stopped when it hit vox humana.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Just Like Evelyn "Champagne" King and Shirley and Company Sing

If politicians want journalists to stay out of their bedrooms, I guess they'd better learn to stay out of journalists' bedrooms. But nooooo. Instead, they've ordered the cops to camp out in front of vegan eco group houses just in CASE someone inside is THINKING of throwing a soy-whip pie at a state delegate sometime in the year 2525.

So, if preemptive arrests of journalists is OK, I guess journalists should have been allowed to preempt Miss Cristal or Bristol or Britneee or whatever the hell her name is's pregnancy.

My conspiracy theory: The hurricanes and the VP choice and the pregnancy alike are all out there to divert attention from the fact that journalists and activists are being targeted, harassed, arrested, beaten, jailed, silenced, prosecuted, persecuted, all without cause.

Time out for a little ray of light, as Madonna sings: The rock n roll poet is back to taking care of business, every day, in honor of National Poetry Month.

Now for my own shame--and this one's just the tip of the iceberg--last week I went ahead and did a job I know was damned dead wrong. My boss gives us the chance to bow out of doing marketing we disagree with morally, and I didn't take it. It was for a product that's environmentally damaging, without a doubt. They needed a damage control, image rebranding campaign. And here's why I did it--not for the money, not out of indifference, but because I saw the samples and the ideas they'd come up with, and I knew I could do it so very much better. So it was out of pride in my work.

This week I took myself off the account. I'm not patting myself on the back. I'm still whacking myself upside the head for doing it in the first place.

I feel like comparisons, even twice removed, to evils such as the Holocaust and American slavery are by nature invidious and at the very least grandiose; there's simply nothing that compares. But as long as I'm covered in sackcloth and ashes anyway, let's make it worse: There's this scene in Schindler's List where this woman prisoner tries to pull Rafe Fiennes aside and tell him the plans for the bunkhouses they're constructing at the concentration camp are all wrong; she's an architect, she explains, she knows these things. Sir. And he says "hmm," and he shoots her. It's a big ugly metaphor for the teeny tiny small-scale cockeyed compromises I'm stuck with too often. But if you aren't aware that the teeny ones can take you by the hand and lead you right into the bigger ones, well...

So, this time they came for the vegans with video cameras, and next time they'll be coming for Keith Olberman, unless you write a poem or grab a camera or donate.

Image: Cover of Shirley Goodman's comeback hit, "Shame Shame Shame," which contains the awesome lyric referencing the great William DeVaughn: "I've got my sunroof top, I've got my diamond in the back." She also sang backup on Exile. I bet she doesn't have anything to be ashamed of.