Saturday, January 31, 2004

the human rights case for invading

I was just reading a Whiskey Bar blog entry about the human rights case for invading Iraq.

After talking about and quoting from a report from the organization Human Rights Watch Billmon goes on to quote from a relief worker's account. Immediately appended to this account is an anonymous email from someone who claims to be a soldier under the command of a Colonel Sassaman (who says things like, "You need to understand that these people are Muslim, and their values are just different from Judeo-Christian values. They aren't for doing things for other people like we are; they're only out for themselves."). After assuring Billmon he is no Republican (thus the anonymity?) the correspondent goes on to cast aspersions on the account of the relief worker, toeing a line that seems not the slightest bit at variance from the approved govt line. Ah yes. Straight talk. From the horse's mouth an' all.

I posted this in Billmon's comments thread:
"The thing about Arkhangel: why the anonymity? It's not like he's saying anything with which his commander would find fault.

But, backhandedly, it does remind us the consequences of actually saying something with which the command could find fault.

Is pretending to say something critical (while in practice reinforcing the official position) also risky to one's career?"

Friday, January 30, 2004


As part of his job Kent checks the governor's website regularly. Today he emailed me a link to the proclamation declaring Feb 6 Ronald Reagan Day:
Ronald Wilson Reagan followed his dreams to California and harnessed the dreams of our nation in Washington, D.C.

Were the dreams' heads toward eternity?

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

clean kitchen?

A few excerpts from an article in the New York Times; how germy is your kitchen?:

"[P]eople who had the cleanest-looking kitchens were often the dirtiest. Because 'clean' people wipe up so much, they often end up spreading bacteria all over the place. The cleanest kitchens ... were in the homes of bachelors, who never wiped up and just put their dirty dishes in the sink."

"In one test ... raw chicken juices were spread on samples of used wood and plastic cutting boards. Both boards were washed in hot soapy water and dried, then knives were used to simulate cutting vegetables for a salad. No bacteria appeared on the knives cut on wood, but there were plenty on the knives used on a plastic board. ... Running plastic boards through the dishwasher only spread the bacteria around."

"Microwaving sponges ... wipes out harmful bacteria. 'We did soak sponges in some pretty bad things,' [Professor Cliver of UC Davis] said, 'and one minute in the nuke and that pretty much did it.'"


Josh Marshall, in an essay in the New Yorker, excerpts from David Frum & Richard Perle's misnamed new book An End of Evil: "We have to cast off once and for all the 1970s cynicism that sneered from the back of the classroom at the joiner and volunteer.”

The metaphor, the classroom, puts me in mind of Bush's State of the Union address in which he refers to a "permission slip" in international relations. Kent pointed the phrase out to me.

Did these people never grow up?

Sunday, January 25, 2004

survey results

1. What time did you go to bed last night, changing your paper or plastic magazine?
Halfway between now and the last time.

2. A TV show you can't stand to watch was playing at lunch, surprising the color from your toothbrush?

3. What brand of deodorant in your favorite shop brings winter, spring or summer to fall from your personal chef or maid upon the dessert you use?
Surely the ban.

4. Favorite candy bar, regularly decaffeinated, rests admirably upon person?
Previously, but not presently.

5. Favorite Holiday sleeps time into your ringing fruit?
Worn out.

6. How do you like your meat last carded to the radio where you least expect to back?

7. Onion rings or French car?

Other survey results here.

Saturday, January 24, 2004


I note that this fragment, "an order that does not rapidly and arbitrarily/randomly change," (see the entry I posted earlier today) is an attempt to define order and not relevant to the Silliman definition of line. Order is not a part of that definition.

catching up with line

A couple days ago I began talking about Silliman's idea of line, a definition I find rather ... mm ... elemental? He seems to be talking about a principle antecedent to line. He says, "The line is literally what enables positionality within a word & the positionality of words within any statement."

I'm one who defines poetry as "language as art" and art as "made thing" or even maybe "noticed thing" ... So it's not like I'm gonna get all hot about how I think what Mr Silliman is talking about doesn't have much to do with line. In the def of poetry to which I just referred where does rhyme or scansion come in? Line breaks? Concision? You don't even get to that stuff from "a thing made of language" or, even more distantly, "a language-specific object someone notices."

But let me say that I don't think the definitions of poetry and art that I offer are particularly useful, certainly not when applied to a particular poem or object of art. I mean, say you point at a thing and say, "Fits the def. It's a poem." What then?

Suppose you look at a piece of language and say, "It has line. After all, of what can you speak that has no 'positionality'? When encountering the object I see that the pieces of which it consists are in an order, an order that does not rapidly and arbitrarily/randomly change. Let's say the object is made of language. Thus we look at the thing, see that it has a position, an order, and is made of language. It has line." What then?

"In oral literature," Mr Silliman says, "the line is most audible through the evidence of devices such as rhyme, which demarcate units & break a long tale down into measurable (and memorable) segments." This idea of line seems to me to offer tools for dealing with the object. One could ask, "Does the line marshal devices, such as rhyme? Are the segments memorable?" At this point I have to ask, why aren't the segments lines? It seems to me more useful to reserve the term line for these segments and to use some other term to refer to "positionality within a word & the positionality of words within any statement." Syntax? That might do for "the positionality of words within any statement". For "positionality within a word"?

Thursday, January 22, 2004

more on the line

I posted the following in the comments to Ron Silliman's blog:
"My own thinking finds difficulty with the Silliman definition of line in that it is so elemental. Rather like talking about the parts of a mammal by starting with a single cell. This, by no means, is crazy. It does set me back a little. I was blithely going along looking at the line as that string of words that starts up on the left margin, forges forth toward the right, only to come up short somewhere shy. This simple little def works with so many of the poems you see that any other def seems needlessly stretching to capture outliers.

That my def's rather naive and disingenuous in a hopefully wry and faintly sarcastic fashion serves to highlight my sophistication, wouldn't you say?

Don't say no!"

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher, whose mark on this culture will always be Princess Leia, has a new novel, The Best Awful, a semi-autobiographical account of a broken heart and bipolar meltdown. There's an entertaining interview with her at the Advocate. Her husband, father of their daughter, left Ms Fisher for a man. She says, "I’m supposed to be smart. That was really what stung after I got over the personal pain of it. I just really felt stupid, and there’s no way to cover that. ... Most everyone gets abandoned for a younger woman and replaced. Any fool can do that. But this is another kind of fool. When you realize what you’ve overlooked, it’s astonishing." That's not funny, but she does know how to wisecrack: When asked how others reacted, Fisher says, "Everyone treats you like everything is perfectly fine, finer than fine, ├╝berfine. There was a lot of that hair-heavier-on-one-side kind of thing." The interviewer clarifies, "The look of concern." "Yes," Fisher replies, "and people saying, 'Well, I wanted to tell you.'"

state of union

When I got home last evening the radio was tuned to Bush's State of the Union address. I entered moments before the White House squatter announced he would be supporting the anti-marriage Constitutional amendment. "Activist judges ... have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people's voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage." Y'gotta parse this guy like the Torah, man. "If ... the only alternative ... would be ..." The Massachusetts Supreme Court has decided gay people get to marry ... a few months from now ... because it's really unjust that gay people can't marry ... except, since it's been unjust for so long, what's another six months? One might wonder why Bush didn't say, "Since ... the only alternative ... is ..." Matthew Yglesias guesses that Bush means he'll support a Constitutional amendment to ban marriage (for same-sex couples) only if a federal court tosses the Denial of Marriage Act. Really? The only suggestion that Bush doesn't mean he's for amending the Constitution right now is that weird subjunctive ... "would be" ...

I didn't listen any further. The creature's voice digs bloody furrows in my soul. So we turned him off.

Kent, having heard more of it, tells me Bush is now calling those phantom bogies, the WMD: "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities" ... This is one of those phrases that fascinates me like a sparkling light. I could chant it for hours. Chuckling dementedly all the time.

Kent also heard, "America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people." Kent asked, "Who gets a permission slip? The good boy. Who doesn't? The bad boy." Right. If the community of nations is a classroom of children each needs a permission slip from a proper adult authority to do anything normally not allowed. Because, you know, when we're talking a group of autonomous adults the idea of a "permission slip" just doesn't come up. Those who want good relations with the others keep the concerns of the others in mind, especially when what's doing is violent and dangerous. Of course, Bush baby was a bad baby so pissing on the permission slip was likely something he did and recalls proudly.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

a 360

The Alaska gay rights email group I belong to sent along a USA Today article by Paul Beaudet and David Wertheimer, two men who live in Washington, on one of the San Juan Islands. They say: "As we returned from Sooke [in Canada, where the two were legally wed] and passed through U.S. Customs, an agent questioned us about the nature of our business in Canada. When we told him that we'd gotten married, he broke into a smile and said, "Hey, congratulations, guys!" with surprising sincerity.

As we headed toward our San Juan Islands home, the ferry suddenly made a full circle in the middle of the channel that separates us from the mainland, then continued on its usual way. We were both confused. Moments later, the ferry crew knocked at our window, announcing: 'It's an island tradition to give every newlywed couple a 360. Congratulations!'"

How very sweet!

I like this story partly because Kent and I rode the San Juan Islands ferry in September 2001. We went to the Islands for a kayak expedition. We were in Seattle on Sept 11, planning to leave by float plane that morning for the islands. The flight was canceled but we were able to rent a van. Kent drove with the radio blasting news and speculation about the terrorist attacks. When we got to San Juan Island and called the expedition company there was some doubt whether enough of the people who'd booked the tour could show up to make it viable. Kent & I thought we could spend a few days van camping and ferrying about if the kayak thing didn't happen. Happy it did as it was wonderful spending the nights out under quiet stars, free of the relentless chatter about hijackings and smoke from the rubble. Strange to see such a quiet sky, no lights from planes passing overhead.

On the ferry ride back we saw a minke whale breaching. I saw it leap once, twice, then realized it might possibly repeat, called Kent. The ship's captain even made an announcement and the whale obliged with a couple more silvery leaps. Small as a minnow at that distance but easy to see it was a big animal.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

what they saw in Macedonia

Want to see what they saw in Macedonia? It seems our hate-the-gays faction learned the US State Dept gave some money to a Macedonian human rights group. What happens? The group rents a few billboards for a gays-are-human-too campaign. Naturally, allowing the dissemination of non-horrific images of homosexuals is anathema to our Christian hate mongers.

The images on the billboard were taken from the last in a series of photos called Ecce Homo by the artist Elisabeth Ohlson. Ohlson staged the photos as scenes from the life of Jesus surrounded gay folk (some in drag, some in leather, most in rather more casual attire). The photos are rather charming. Goofy and sincere.

Thanks to atrios and lady sisyphus for the links.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Bush's wife tickled by her fib

I remember when Laura Bush read the poem her husband had written her while she was off on some trip. It was a silly piece of doggerel:

The dogs and the cat they miss you too,
Barney's still mad you dropped him, he ate your shoe.

The distance my dear has been such a barrier,
next time you want an adventure, just land on a carrier.

Yet he didn't even write it.

As Timothy Noah says, "Whatever White House staffer prepared Mrs. Bush's remarks obviously strained to make the president's purported love poem sound sufficiently moronic that no one would doubt Bush had written it."

Thanks to Laurable for noticing this one.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

what I liked 2003

Poetry books I read in 2003:

The Ghost Trio (1994) Linda Bierds
Holt & Co., NY

Wild One (2000) Lucille Lang Day
Scarlet Tanager, Oakland CA

Infinities (2002) Lucille Lang Day
Cedar Hill Pub, Mena AR

The New American Poetry, 1945-1960 (1960, 1999)
edited by Donald Allen
University of California Press, Berkeley CA

The Best American Poetry 2002 (2002)
edited by Robert Creeley; series editor: David Lehman
Scribner, NY

American Poetry Since 1950: Innovators and Outsiders (1993)
edited by Eliot Weinberger
Marsilio Pub, NY

The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse (1964)
edited & translated by Geoffrey Bownas & Anthony Thwaite
Penguin Bks, Baltimore MD

An Anthology of Modern Japanese Poetry (1957)
edited & translated by Ichiro Kono & Rikutaro Fukuda
Kenkyusha Ltd, Tokyo

Anthology of Modern Japanese Poetry (1972)
translated & compiled by Edith Marcombe Shiffert & Yuki Sawa
Charles E. Tuttle Co., Rutland VT

Chieko's Sky (1978) Kotaro Takamura, translated by Suichi Furuta
Kodansha Intl, Tokyo

Like Underground Water: the poetry of mid-twentieth century Japan (1995)
translated by Naoshi Koriyama & Edward Lueders
Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend WA

Mountain Home: the wilderness poetry of ancient China (2002)
selected & translated by David Hinton
Counterpoint, NY

The Art of Drowning (1995) Billy Collins
University of Pittsburgh Pr, Pittsburgh PA

Picnic, Lightning (1998) Billy Collins
University of Pittsburgh Pr, Pittsburgh PA

Braided Creek: a conversation in poetry (2003) Jim Harrison & Ted Kooser
Copper Canyon Pr, Port Townsend WA

Diminutive Revolutions (2000) Daniel Bouchard
Subpress Collective, Honolulu HI

Pages (1969) Aram Saroyan
Random House, NY

Anthology of Contemporary French Poetry (1971)
edited & translated by Graham Dunstan Martin
University of Texas Press, Austin TX

Mid-century French Poets (1955)
edited by Wallace Fowlie
Twayne Pub, NY

Modern French Poetry (1975)
edited & translated by Patricia Terry & Serge Gavronsky
Columbia University Press, NY

Nine Horses (2002) Billy Collins
Random House, NY

Sailing Alone Around the Room: new & selected poems (2001) Billy Collins
Random House, NY

From the Country of Eight Islands: an anthology of Japanese poetry (1981)
edited & translated by Hiroaki Sato & Burton Watson
Anchor Bks, NY


I copied out a total of 57 poems; nothing from 13 of the above books; 36 from Eight Islands alone -- I think that's the most I've ever copied out from a single book (consider that this includes 7 haiku by Kobayashi Issa, 5 tanka by Saigyo, 3 haiku by Masaoka Shiki, etc.) ...

At the end of the year / beginning of the next I read aloud every poem I've saved. I try to do it at one sitting.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Friday, January 09, 2004

in seclusion

I think I'm past halfway. Through Emily Dickinson's Complete Poems. I haven't read any in months. I'll get back to it. There are Dickinson poems I really like. But mostly she's not a poet that makes poetry for me. I'm not sure why she's so popular, frankly. She's difficult. Isn't the reason nobody buys poetry that it's difficult?

There are discussions that fizz up ever new on poetry discussion boards. Great poets. Are there any today? Poetry workshops. Are they destroying poetry? Obscurity. The reason nobody buys poetry?

People seem to have violent opinions on this shit. Great poets. Are there such things? If so, so what? If you trust other people to decide for you what's great read the anthologies that claim to compile it. Or follow the reading lists of the big critics. Harold Bloom. Your English teacher. Some guy on the web. If you want to figure it out for yourself ... there's a lot of poetry out there. Poetry workshops? In college I liked taking a workshop because I liked to get credit for what I would be doing anyway; plus it was nice to be in a room full of people who cared about poetry. Obscurity. I've discovered I like to present myself before the poem and be with it. I get something or nothing and I move on. If I really like the poem, want it available for repeat visits, I often copy it out. I have four loose leaf binders full of poems I've copied out. I've copied out a few Dickinson. I've copied out poems by Clark Coolidge and Wang Ping and Russell Edson and Julia Vinograd and Paul Hoover and Tim Donnelly and Lawrence Raab and Ronald Koertge and blah blah blah. I like to read poetries in translation. Poets I know only from various English versions have become favorites -- Sappho, Issa. I pounce on any new Sappho or Issa translations.

I'm reading The Best of The Prose Poem: An International Journal, a selection by Peter Johnson from his magazine. Not impressed. What else to say? There's a lot of that if you read poetry. It tries harder. It tries so hard.

Monday, January 05, 2004


From Snowball Earth: the story of the great global catastrophe that spawned life as we know if by Gabrielle Walker:

[An image borrowed from John McPhee:] Stretch your arms out wide to encompass all the time on Earth. Let's say that time runs from left to right, so Earth was born at the tip of the middle finger on your left hand. Slime [our earliest ancestor] arose just before your left elbow and ruled for the remaining length of your left arm, across to the right, past your right shoulder, your right elbow, on down your forearm, and eventually ceded somewhere around your right wrist. ... The dinosaurs reigned for barely a finger's length. And a judicious swipe of a nail file on the middle finger of your right hand would wipe out the whole of human history.

From The Eye of the Elephant: an epic adventure in the African wilderness by Delia and Mark Owens:
By comparing our [1988] aerial wildlife censuses with one flown in 1973 by a team from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, we estimate that poachers have already killed more than twelve thousand of [the Zambian North Luangwa National Park]'s seventeen thousand elephants, about three of every four, and a thousand more are dying each year. Since 1973 between seventy-five thousand and one hundred thousand elephants have been poached in the Luangwa Valley as a whole; that's roughly one for every word of this book. [emphasis in original] ... At this rate [all the elephants] will have perished in four to five years.

Eye of the Elephant was a tough read. The Owenses did their damnedest to slow the killing. Elephant is not a fat book; when I came across the analogy, one word = one dead elephant ... it made the reading more painful.

Here's a hopeful update from the Owens Foundation website: "When Mark and Delia arrived in 1986, 1,000 elephants were being poached every year. From September of 1994 to May of 1997, not one was killed in the [North Luangwa Conservation Project] area. [The Project was started by the Owenses to help people living near the park thrive without having to kill the park animals.] For the first time in 20 years the elephant population of NLNP increased slightly, and villagers reported elephants, buffalo, hippos, and other large mammals in areas where they have not been seen for two, even three decades."

Sunday, January 04, 2004

this pesky writing thing

I'm working on further thoughts about the line, responding particularly to Ron Silliman's response to me. I'm not going to finish tonight, I figure.

We'll probably watch another episode from the 4th season of the Sopranos. Kent found the DVDs at the drugstore on the corner.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

living with Mom

Since we moved Mom up to live in Seattle with him David has written occasionally about her in his skook blog.

Today he writes: "So many things to do today (and tomorrow and the next and the next) and huge chunks of the day are spent directing AM [Aged Mother] in taking care of basic survival functions. Her sophisticated human brain, now that it no longer works smoothly, seems more to hinder the process than to help. She gets stuck in thought loops. She knows she's supposed to be doing something but can't remember what it was. And it's a rare thought seems able to go from point A to point B without taking a detour to X and then getting distracted by M. She's good natured about most of it. And when there is an upset it's usually easy to distract her. And then she seems to forget."

On Friday December 26 he wrote: "Morning. Been up for a couple of hours now, surfing the internet and tending to Aged Mother. My plan to kill her is going smoothly. She eats four eggs a day. That's twenty-eight eggs a week. With butter. "With butter" describes most of her meals. All vegetables go with butter. Sometimes butter and yogurt. All fruit goes with yogurt, occasionally with soy milk as well. She'd probably eat the fruit with butter as well if I only suggested it. I probably won't need to. She's asked for butter on every thing else without my prompting. One of these mornings I just know she's going to ask for butter to go with her pears. And then she's doomed. (Cue manical laughter.)"

And this was posted on Sunday December 14: "'Is your Dad still alive?'

'He died three years ago Mom.'

'Oh.' She thinks about that. 'I didn't think he was still alive. But I didn't think it was three years.'"

My sis-in-law Sarah has written me some emails about living with Mom. Some good writing, too. Just on that basis I've been tempted to ask her if I could excerpt from her letters, post them on LuvSet. But I kinda don't want to. At least not now. It's still a new thing that Mom is having these thought difficulties and I know I'm not OK with it. I do think if Sarah kept a journal it would make reading others would value.

I phoned late this morning and got Sarah but Mom was asleep. Sarah said she'd get Mom to call back. Indeed, when Kent & I got back from brunch (chilly air but warm on Chester's sunny deck -- I made sure to wear a black jacket to absorb as much sunlight as I could) there was a message from Mom. She got a little confused leaving the message, "Who is this?" I heard David's voice reminding her. But when I called a moment later she talked about the weather (cold there, too), the Chinese food they had for dinner last night, studying Yoga Journal for useful advice. She says she has to use a walker now, which disappoints her, but she's gotten used to it.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

the definition of liberal

Liberal: "Logically, to forbid something, one must demonstrate that the forbidden act will cause harm to others."

Conservative: To allow something one must demonstrate that the up-to-now forbidden act will be absolutely harmless once allowed ... especially to the sensibilities of those who think the act must be outlawed.

(Liberal quote lifted from a Charley Reese column. The Reese column talks about gay marriage (he sees no harm in it) and was copied to me as part of an email roundup of recent gay news compiled by one of the Alaskan gay activists who tried to head off the anti-marriage constitutional amendment in that state. The Conservative formulation has come up several times in my reading. Being as the Conservative's proscriptions are largely enforced on persons other than himself one might say it is inherently hypocritical. Might hypocrisy be a prerequisite to Conservatism?)

response poem

posted on the comments for Mark Young's poem:

after Young

The bland

displaying makes that
play you, home to the best thing
since sliced writs

no fucking works
in the know, wonder
after people come

Happy New Year

Happy 2004, everybody!


Oh, it seems blogspot has returned to life. Thus, one post about a problem. Followed by a post about the problem having evaporated.

blogspot problem?

Yesterday at work I couldn't get through to any blogspot sites. When I got home I didn't have a problem. Now I find every blogspot address directs the browzer to the blogger homepage. Even this one. So once I post this entry I won't be able to reread it (except in edit mode). Wonder what's up?