Thursday, January 22, 2009

Get to Know Us First

I like these. You can learn more at Get to Know Us First.

KABC-TV supports the elimination of civil rights

I read today that a So-Cal TV station refused to air a new ad. As Tips-Q has it: “The ABC affiliate reportedly said the ad – featuring two black men who are raising five children – was too controversial to air during the inauguration, when ‘many families will be watching’.”

I went to the KABC-TV website and filled in their comment form with the following:

Dears Sirs & Madams:

I read the news today that KABC refused to air an ad that featured an African-American family headed by a gay male couple. I am disgusted that your station is colluding with the enemies of civil rights to prevent the achievement of equality & justice in this state. The ad you refused to show is only controversial because you & your anti-gay agenda need to hide images of authentic gay people living boring, ordinary lives in order to prop up the fantasy image of us as weird, non-normal freaks. You will only succeed by lying and lying and lying. Prop 8 passed only because of a Yes campaign based on lies, a campaign, it seems evident now, that you materially assisted. It is pathetic and egregious that you, who squat on the public airwaves, are censoring the truth and backing up the lie.

Glenn Ingersoll

I first saw the ad (& a few others) in a diary at DailyKos. As Nazakhstan, the diarist, said, “I was very disappointed in the lack of actual gay people in the No on Prop 8 campaign ads. I have attended town hall meetings in the Sacramento area and the Bay Area and this theme keeps coming up over and over again... where were the gay families?”

The excuse the No on 8 campaign used for hiding gay families was that their focus groups told them they found gay families yucky and weird and actually looking at them made them less likely to vote in a friendly way. My DailyKos handle is LuvSet. I left this comment:

“These ads look good, they have a positive message, and they treat the participants & the viewers with respect. Wow. … If I'd seen this sort of ad proposed in spring of last year I would have been much more confident about the value being gotten from my contributions because, no matter the outcome of a particular election, these messages make progress.”

The ads were produced by Get to Know Us First, a group that formed “in the wake of California’s passage of Proposition 8.” Five ads/public service announcements are posted on the Get to Know Us First homepage.

Monday, January 19, 2009


In December I subscribed to Paste, a magazine of new music. I used one of the gift certificates sent me by my stepmother. I bought an issue at a local bookstore last year and liked a number of the songs on the sampler CD that came with. Then I found out the library has a subscription and -- delightful surprise -- most of the backissues they had on the shelf still had their CDs. (The library also has a subscription to Mojo but only one issue in five has managed to keep its CD.) I ripped a buncha songs from the copies owned by the library. The first issue of my own subscription is supposed to arrive next month.

When CMJ: new music monthly was in good health -- ten years ago? -- I liked being up on new music without having to listen to the radio. I got a lot of songs off their CDs. By the time I let my subscription lapse, however, CMJ's CDs were repeating songs (each month featured at least one song that had appeared previously), there were fewer songs, and what they offered too often didn't impress.

I read writing about music but it's hard to figure out what the music actually sounds like. The writer's personal enthusiasm or critical cred seldom seems to translate into my own enjoyment, when I've followed up. The internet has been very helpful when I've read somebody's effusing -- a MySpace page or a 30 second snippet on iTunes and I have some idea whether I share the opinion. But I do like giving a song the opportunity to play all the way out. A 30 second snippet can turn me off but it usually can't turn me on.

Kent pushes me to visit The Hype Machine, which is a music blog that consolidates a bunch of songs from other music blogs. I've spent a little time there. But it hasn't yet fit the way I listen; I like to only pay half my attention until the song hooks me. If I've got a CD playing then I can make note of which track is piquing my interest and revisit it later. That was the method I got going when I was working at the desk job at the library. While working I couldn't devote my full attention to the music even if I wanted to. For the first few months (working full time) I didn't have anything to distract me but the banging of my own thoughts; when I got my own cubicle I was given permission to bring in a portable CD player. The music perked my brain up. Then we got a new Mac and I could save songs and burn them to CDs.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

a political history of American poetry

I started to weigh in on one of the discussions about what "School of Quietude" versus "post-avant" mean aesthetically &/or politically, but as I wrote my comment I watched it wander away from the terms supposedly at issue. So I canceled out and came here.

Poetry is not one thing. Lots of different kinds of things are called Poetry. I've made that point before and it needs to made frequently, I guess. Still, I have to say I'm losing interest in the aesthetic arguments. I'm finding myself more interested in the politics of poetry. "School of Quietude" attempts to name a political as well as aesthetic group -- the people who win the prizes, the people who get tenure, the people who shack up at the swanky artist retreats, the people who cast their shadows onto the slick white pages of the prestige publications.

Are the most socially linked also the most frequently published? I know frequently-publishing poets like lyn lifshin and Sheila Murphy don't get the critical notice that much-less-frequently publishing poets like ... oh, who? ... Mark Strand? Robert Hass? ... seem to be able to take for granted. It's not quantity, it's quality! Yeah, well, I get ever more suspicious about the quality-wins-out argument. The tides of history will swirl away leaving the Best standing on their sea-weedy hillocks, eh? At present we really don't know which of us (them!) are giants?

The two giants-in-retrospect of 19th century American poetry seem to be: Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. Would either have boasted enough connection to be called a political force in the American poetry scene of their time? Though I've now read a biography of each, I can't say as I know. I'd hazard a no. Emily is easiest -- she hid out. She did have a handful of literary correspondents but she doled out her work in tantalizing dribs & drabs -- the mystery of Dickinson gave the publication of posthumous books an extra-literary excitement. Whitman, on the other hand, was a self-promoter. And he had in his corner (at least at times) the Colossus of American lit, Ralph Waldo Emerson. But one doesn't get the sense that he was part of the "in" crowd, politically speaking.

A political history of American poetry would be a different history of American poetry. Who influenced who -- not aesthetically but career-wise? Who got the most pages in the anthologies? Who racked up the most awards? Who sold the most books? Who got written about? Leaving aside the aesthetic programs, who got the goods?

The giants of a political history of American poetry -- who would they be?