Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Terrorism is Up, Bush is Down

Now that the time for this blog to be a more moderate, academically-oriented forum is drawing to a close, I can begin to let loose in a more free-form, overtly political way.

For instance, I can vent about my disgust with our current administration--although it's really not PC to be political these days. Only in America is discussing "politics," which in my opinion is really discussing our lives and humanity--how they are impacted by our elected officials and consumer compulsions--considered in bad taste. My European and Australian friends are comfortable voicing their varying viewpoints, it is considered part of their reality. This makes sense to me. Having a heated existential conversation is considered "upsetting" in America, or for some uninteresting. It's far more comfortable to talk about our latest purchases, what movies we've seen, or whether we have been working out lately. I've had friends ask me to agree not to do so in order to preserve the friendship. I comply.

But here in the Paper Garden I am free to point some things out, perhaps in a futile attempt to get out there what people are not discussing. Many of my points have been galvanized by the brilliant, hilarious, sarcastic, occasionally vulgar and always irreverent Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle. I'd love to meet this guy.

Morford has a
column that one can subscribe to, automatically ensuring an e-mailed treat right into your "in-box."

Here's a quote from a would-be-funny-if-it-weren't-so-pathetically-true article titled, "Bush Lies, America Cries":

"Here's something funny, in a rip-your-patriotic-heart-out-and-spit-on-it sort of way: Just last week, BushCo's State Department decided to kill the publication of an annual report on international terrorism. Why? Well, because the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were
more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985. Isn't that hilarious? Isn't that heartwarming? Your tax dollars at work, sweetheart .

Lest you forget, this is what they do. They trim. They edit. They censor. BushCo kills what they do not like and fudges negative data where they see fit and completely rewrites whatever the hell they want, and that includes bogus WMD reports and CIA investigations and dire environmental studies and scientific proofs about everything from evolution to
abortion and pollution and clean air, right along with miserable unemployment data and all manner of research pointing up the ill health of the nation, the spirit, the world.
In other words, if BushCo doesn't like what comes out of their own hobbled agencies and their own funded studies, they do what any good dictatorship does: They annihilate it. Now that's good gummint!"

As I daily dart in and out of behemouth Excursions and Suburbans and Escalades plastered with "W '04," or "Support Our Troops," or "United We Stand" (imagine how that might have sounded during the revolution which founded this country) bumperstickers, I wonder if they realize what a crappy job our heads of state are doing. How we are in more danger than ever, how the simplistic incantation of "they just hate our freedom" is beginning to sound as hollow as "it's not you, it's me."

If anyone has been reading this blog on a semi-regular basis, perhaps my vehemence here is surprising. I am very concerned about our myopia.

My husband called me to the television set the other day. England was having a Town Hall meeting featured on BBC America, which by our political standards was an out-and-out brawl. Young children were fiercely questioning their leaders, in fact shouting out accusations of lying with some effective back-up. I have never seen anything like it here. It wouldn't be allowed. George Bush bristles like an angry terrier whenever a reporter steps out of stroke-the-chief-of-state mode. In any American Town Hall meeting. some spin doctor or press agent would be sure the cameras cut to commercial, and the "hostile" interrogator would be promptly removed. Free speech is a commodity in this country--it is bought and paid for.

Bearing in mind that our frighteningly inarticulate president today arrogantly dismissed the findings of an Amnesty International report that decries our Guatanamo Bay policies as violations of basic human rights, I'll close with another quote from Morford (I'll mention that the article directly quoting Bush which was up on Comcast's homepage this morning was nowhere to be found this evening):

"They hate us, George, because of our policies. Anti-Muslim. Pro-Israel. Oil-uber-alles. Anti-U.N. Anti-Kyoto. Anti-planet. Pro-war. Pro-insularity. Pseudo-swagger. Bogus staged "town hall" meetings stocked with
prescreened monosyllabic Bush sycophants. Ego. Empire."

Saturday, May 28, 2005

For Emily

Emily asked me to link this quiz onto my blog--she's already done hers over at Strangechord. For the past three years music has taken a back seat to academic discipline ... I think I stopped being musically hip at the end of the 90s. But like Emily, I feel the connectivity of music and song, the way it functions to guide thoughts to particular places along the continuum of our lives.

So, for Emily, who graduates from PSU in two weeks--who was one of my first college-aged friends, who has a heart the size of Canada ... here are the answers to the music meme:

Top 5 Lyrics that Move You (with the exception of #1, the remaining songs are just the first ones that came to mind):
1. Just Like Heaven – The Cure (if I’d had a theme song, this would be it), the sound and heart of this song have always, I hope, defined my vibe.
Show me how you do that trick

The one that makes me scream" she said
"The one that makes me laugh" she said
And threw her arms around my neck
"Show me how you do it
And I promise you I promise that I'll run away with you I'll run away with you

" Spinning on that dizzy edge I kissed her face and kissed her head
And dreamed of all the different ways I had To make her glow
"Why are you so far away?" she said
"Why won't you ever know that I'm in love with you
That I'm in love with you"
You, Soft and only You, Lost and lonely
You, Strange as angels
Dancing in the deepest oceans
Twisting in the water
You're just like a dream

Daylight licked me into shape I must have been asleep for days
And moving lips to breathe her name I opened up my eyes
And found myself alone alone
Alone above a raging sea
That stole the only girl I loved
And drowned her deep inside of me

You, Soft and only You, Lost and lonely You, Just like heaven

2. The Logical Song – Supertramp (ironic, intelligent group)
" ... There are times when all the world’s asleep,

The questions run too deep
For such a simple man.
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who I am.

Now watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical,
Liberal, fanatical, criminal.
Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re
Acceptable, respectable, presentable, a vegetable! ..."

3. Simon – Lifehouse (somehow they make me feel the pain)
" ... Catch your breath hit the wall scream out loud as you start to crawl back in
Your cage the only place where they will leave you alone 'cause the weak will
Seek the weaker until they've broken them could you get it back again
Would it be the same fulfillment to their lack of strength
At your expense left you with no defense they tore it down and I have
Felt the same as you, ..."

4. Far Behind – Candlebox (can’t help it, I love this song)
" ... But then some day people look at you for what they call their own

They watch you suffer
Yeah they hear you calling home
But then some day we could take our time
To brush the leaves aside so you can reach us
But you left me far behind
Now maybe I didn’t mean to treat you oh so bad
But I did it anywayNow maybe some would say you’re left with what you had
But you couldn’t share the pain
No, no, no
Couldn’t share the pain they watch you suffer
Now maybe I could have made my own mistakes
But I live with what I’ve known ..."

5. Acrobat – U2 (had to have something by them)
"... Don't believe what you hear

Don't believe what you see
If you just close your eyes
You can feel the enemy
When I first met you girl
You had fire in your soul
What happened your face
Of melting in snow
Now it looks like this
And you can swallow
Or you can spit
You can throw it up
Or choke on it A
nd you can dream
So dream out loud
You know that your time is coming 'round
So don't let the bastards grind you down ..."

Top 5 Instrumentals:
1. Breathe on Me – Music from Project Runway (love the techno-piano, hip feel, this show honestly has great music)
2. Will Ackerman – Passage
3. Santana – Samba Pa Ti
4. John Klemmer – Touch
5. Tangerine Dream – Mars Polaris
*Like a lot of Jean-Luc Ponte as well

Top 5 Soundtracks:
1. O Brother Where Art Thou
2. Great Expectations
3. The Piano
4. The Falcon and The Snowman
5. Riverdance (go ahead, make fun of me, I love it!)

Top 5 Musical Experiences:
1. 1977: The Fabulous Forum, Queen, News of the World Tour (Freddie was unbelievable live)
2. 1998: Coliseum U2 (Pop Tour) with Rage Against the Machine (everything was right)
3. 1991, Coach House; 1999, Pechanga: Chris Isaak (perfect nights intimate setting)
4. 1989: Greek Theater, Santana
5. 1998: Fleetwood Mac, Reunion Tour (because of what they meant to me at one time)

Top 5 Artists you think people should listen to (I’m not invested in this question, people should listen to what they like, not what I like, but I’ll give it a shot)
1. Dishwalla (don’t think they get enough credit)
2. Laurie Anderson (she’s too smart and avante garde to ignore)
3. Kate Bush (an artist ahead of her time)
4. Sinead O’Connor (for the same reason as Kate)
5. Supertramp (original, ironic, sarcastic, relevant even today)

Top 5 Albums you must hear from start to finish
1. Kate Bush – Hounds of Love
2. U2 – Achtung Baby
3. Alanis Morisette – Jagged Little Pill
4. The Cure – Fascination Street
5. Bob Marley – Greatest Hits
(close #6 & 7, Pearl Jam – Ten, Supertramp – Breakfast in America)

Top 5 Musical Heroes
1. Kate Bush (because she beat Tori to it by a decade)
2. Lorena McKennit (it’s all about her voice-the one I wish I had)
3. Alanis Morisette (because of where she takes me in all her albums)
4. Laurie Anderson (because she’s a genius and no one else is like her)
5. Traci Chapman (because she’s got the voice, lyrics and instrumental prowess)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Our Circular Lives

A friend sent me this link to a project called Their Circular Life: An Exploration of Human Behavior. It consists of webcams set up in various Italian cites that chronicle moments in a day--included is sound, so one gets a brief sensation of being there. It's difficult to explain the lateral reach of this site, or how beautiful it is in a very simple way. If you have speakers, enter the site with the music option.

This is a postmodern/hypertext project to the umpteenth degree. I sit at my PC in Portland, OR, and watch the events of a day in an ordinary juncture (train stations, parks) in Italy. There is no grand statement made, just a visual, auditory connection on a very real level--in one shot a woman throws away some garbage, for a moment I got a hint of the smell.

Here's the link: Their Circular Life

I'd love to hear your reactions ... any tingles? Any thoughts?

Friday, May 13, 2005

Of Mere Being ...

Writing is a tricky business. You think you've found a way to hide out, an anonymity that allows you to whisper into the universe's ear, instead of shout into the tyrant's face. But it's an illusion. We shout even louder on paper, with much more intense reverberations than any amplified tirade.

I read a memoir in my Creative Non-fiction class today--a memoir about a particular summer of my life. It related to classic mythology because it was a journey--a random exploration of cultural abominations made right by the vagaries and temperaments of "the gods." It was an exciting adventure full of trials and tribulations, with the heroine making out more or less alright in the end. :)

It felt good to purge, and it was a piece that, for the moment anyway, I'm proud of. I felt it was the most sophisticated thing, structurally, I've ever attempted. Here's a small section:

"During the summer before our big day, my pending husband had just finished graduate school and moved to an area north of San Diego into the home that we were going to share. I stayed in Pasadena, moving into an eight-foot by ten-foot room in a condo owned by my friend Kelly’s former boyfriend. My clothes hung on a bar directly above my head, often floating in the hot, night breeze like restless ghosts. Sometimes I’d come home from work to hear the sounds of my friend and her ex attempting a reunion. Later he’d sit in his boxer shorts, stuck to the vinyl sofa eating directly out of a carton of ice cream I’d purchased, explaining to Kelly how he couldn’t commit because, “what if Demi Moore, or someone like her, suddenly showed some interest in me?” With ice cream smeared on the sides of his mouth, his belly folded over the elastic waistband of his boxers, he confessed he was pretty sure he would feel somehow short-changed. While I observed him in disbelief, he set the cold spoon down on his thigh and asked me how it was I knew Aaron was the best guy for me. "

I came across this poem and I'm contemplating it. I sort of love it, but I'm not entirely sure I understand it, do you? I think it's about how the most sublime things about us, our unconscious art, the part of our identity that lies beyond the mirror or signifiers, is our purest thing ... our essence?

Of Mere Being
The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze distance,

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

--Wallace Stevens

I spent a portion of the evening with some members of my writing class. Some were in another class with me, and I can feel our community growing. I enjoy the wit and sincerety of these women that are becoming my friends, and I enjoy the diversity and talent. It's wonderful to feel the energy of this. I think I avoided bonding too deeply in Portland for these past four years, because I wanted to be free to leave without pain. Guess I'm staying for a while! :-)

A photo from our recent afternoon at Portland's Japanese Garden. As beautiful as this picture is, there was something about the vibrancy of the day, the depth of the shades of green, and the small tangerine coy that languished in the pond, that just can't be captured here. Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Poems of Spring

Spring is especially glorious in Portland, OR. Blooming is rampant; tissuey azaleas, delicate, dangling wisteria, rose-toned Japanese maples with their precisely-sculpted leaves. At the Japanese garden last Tuesday, Aaron and I didn't know where to settle our eyes--finally we gazed at the coy fish for respite from the unconquerable beauty.

Growing up in Southern California, there is this middleness concerning seasons that is sometimes alluring, but often uninspiring. Spring/Summer is the dominant feel through most of the year in Los Angeles. I hear that's changing, what with global warming and melting polar caps and all, Portland might become the new L.A.! (my brother, Marco, tells me the United States as a whole is so yesterday!) There are times I yearn for California's mildness, and it's unbridled, orange sunsets, but at this time of year, it's Portland all the way.

So, I love e.e. cummings, and not only because we are born on the same day (how cool is that)--different year, just same day. I think he's an overlooked poet. I'm going to venture that his style is a poetic example of an early hypertextual event, as cummings bucks convention by engaging his reader by much more than just text. He uses form, sound, and unusual starts and stops to facilitate a message. He uses innuendo that seems to extend and link. His lack of clarity begs further consideration of a piece, begs a reader to hold his poem long past a reading. This is a departure from what preceded him in poetics.

Here's an e.e. cummings poem about spring:

In Just

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
dluscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and betteyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and


balloonMan whistles

Sunday, May 01, 2005

"Glory" in Epic Proportions

A beautiful photograph of Athena and Diomedes from the Greek Mythology Link .

Idealized representations of how Greek mythology impacted foundations of Western thought--the Agony and the Ecstasy!Posted by Hello

My Weariness of Epic Proportions ...

It is only this year that I have discovered Charles Simic, a professor at the University of New Hampshire, an excellent essayist, and an award-winning poet and writer. It was one of those rare moments during Winter term, when I quoted Simic to a professor and was called on it, only to find that this professor was not only one of Simic's students, but had forged a friendship with him as well. It was a cool "hyperlink"--as if I knew someone who'd befriended greatness. Of course that whole thing got me to thinking of the concept of six degrees of separation, but that's another post.

While looking for poems to memorize for my Creative Non-fiction class on Thursday, I ran across this poem of Simic's which links to my current mythology class, my political viewpoints, and the concept of "the garden" and what is available to us in times of peace:

My Weariness of Epic Proportions

I like it when
Gets killed
And even his buddy Patroclus--
And that hothead Hector--
And the whole Greek and Trojan
Jeunesse doree
Is more or less
Expertly slaughtered
So there's finally
Peace and quiet
(The gods having momentarily
Shut up)
One can hear a bird sing
And a duaghter ask her mother
Whether she can go to the well
And of course she can
By that lovely little path
That winds through
The olive orchard

So, here are the poems I'm considering for memorization (obviously I've looked for shorter poems that somehow resonate): e.e. cummings' In Just, Buffalo Bill's Defunct or Somewhere I Have Never Travelled, Carl Sandburg's Monotone or Grass, or Charles Simic's Fear. Any opinions? Favorites?