Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Quadrimesterly reflections: 2008/September-December

End of a year, end of a quadrimester. I reflected on the very first in the life of this blog (Quadrimesterly reflections: 2008/May-August); number two is due. (Bad choice of words, perhaps.)

  • In October, I "joined" the blogging poet community readwritepoem (see right-side panel), where every week there is a thoughtful prompt for a poem to turn in the following week. Like a homework assignment. After all, poets need some discipline.
  • In December, began a weekly Chaucer-esque serial The Geek Poet's Tale (in rhyming fourteener couplets — I hope).
  • More cogitations (bits of prose), some mixed with poetry. (As for prose-writing, Maureen Dowd is my poet cum columnist diva.)
  • Speaking of prose, at the end of this year, begot my "philosophical" wiki writing under deconstruction (side panel).
That's about it. (Oh yea. What happened outside this blog in the "real world"? Obama won — one of the few highlights.)

See you next year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Do Dogs Go To Heaven?

"The New York Times's visual Op-Ed columnist" Charles Blow cites a poll taken last summer (Heaven for the Godless?, December 26, 2008) that shows Americans have (in general) fairly loose restraints on who they believe will get a ticket to Heaven when they die. For Christian Bible-sticklers, this flies in the face of a traditional reading of New Testament canon. But that is just the way it is, hangwringing aside.

That does it for humans, but what about our furry friends? J.M.G. stated flatly, All Dogs Go To Heaven. That may be a bitch of a stretch, but one reader took issue: "okay, but as a side note, dogs don't actually go heaven since Jesus didn't die for their sins."

O ye of little doggie-faith ...

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly." Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs." "Yes it is, Lord," she said. "Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table." Then Jesus said to her, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
Matthew 15:21-28 Today's New International Version

(It is interesting to compare the above translation with a popular paraphrase:

From there Jesus took a trip to Tyre and Sidon. They had hardly arrived when a Canaanite woman came down from the hills and pleaded, "Mercy, Master, Son of David! My daughter is cruelly afflicted by an evil spirit." Jesus ignored her. The disciples came and complained, "Now she's bothering us. Would you please take care of her? She's driving us crazy." Jesus refused, telling them, "I've got my hands full dealing with the lost sheep of Israel." Then the woman came back to Jesus, went to her knees, and begged. "Master, help me." He said, "It's not right to take bread out of children's mouths and throw it to dogs." She was quick: "You're right, Master, but beggar dogs do get scraps from the master's table." Jesus gave in. "Oh, woman, your faith is something else. What you want is what you get!" Right then her daughter became well.
Matthew 15:21-28 The Message

Indeed, in Derrida's web of language, there is nothing outside the "text". (This is something for the literal/figurative deconstructionist to chew on, like the dogs in the story.)

Now this may "answer" the question for dogs, but cats have little to go on: There are no house cats in the Bible.

*      *      *      *

Speaking instead of a bad dog (leaving a big dump on the floor), Bill Krystol thought poet Maya Angelou's reading of "On the Pulse of Morning" at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993 demonstrated "American culture really was in a state of irreversible decline," but thinks that Elizabeth Alexander (Obama's selection for the inaugural poet) will "be a big improvement on Angelou." Like he's a poetry critic now, too.

Let's see, Kristol + poetry = ... Kristol-meth?

(Or imagine if Ann Coulter wrote poetry.)

But Obama has shown some tone-deafness on this one (not that the current selection is bad in any way), given the Rick Warren miscue. To mitigate the Warren pick he could have picked one of today's two prominent gay poets*:

Kay Ryan, current U.S. Poet Laureate

or (my pick):

Mark Doty, Winner of the 2008 National Book Award for Poetry

Now Barack "published" two poems in 1981 when he was at Occidental College. Not bad. But he is a bit gay-deaf and poem-deaf in missing this opportunity.

* not counting me, of course ha ha

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Geek Poet's Tale [the fifth fragment]

[continued from the fourth fragment]

   T'was that well-worn Ginsberg from his right stack setting the stage

   For Beat's first read to the Geek from his favorite beat sage.

He read t'me reminiscingly in a screenplay-like prose

Of another beat poet — or was it? — in anguished throes

Of an old love he met — by chance? — in supermarket ailes:

A "hook up" of two poets of like interests and styles.

(When he read, parenthetic'ly, of the persona's touch

 of the other's book, before me, there was one in his clutch!)

They strolled off together — I'm back to his reading — but the last

Bit about Lethe stumped me as he looked back at his hash ...

[this ends the fifth fragment*]

* More to come, as they are recovered. -pt

Sunday, December 28, 2008

That Old Black Magic

The current RNC chair being 'appalled' by the "Barack, the Magic Negro" track* on the CD being passed around within the LHaPHu (Limbaugh-Hannity-Palin-Huckabee) wing of the Republican Party is like police Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) being 'shocked' that gambling was going on in Rick's in Casablanca. That old black magic still has the "base" in its spell.

To show how "out-of-the-loop" I am, I only saw the title "Barack, the Magic Negro" in the news for the first time yesterday (via J.M.G.). But the song that popped into my mind was "Rudolf, the Red-nosed Reindeer" (which more accurately scans the title line than "Puff, the Magic Dragon"). So I was a bit disoriented when I heard the song for the first time.

(I'll leave any "Rudolf" parody as an exercise for the LHaPHus. Consider my entry the minimalist "empty" poem.)

Barack, the Magic Negro
(to the tune of Rudolf, the Red-nosed Reindeer)

Just one story: I was sitting and watching TV news a couple of days ago with a lifetime-military guy (now retired, in his late sixties, Vietnam-war veteran, watches Bill O'Reilly, retirement savings down big this year, voted for Obama last month). Turns to me and says: "Can you imagine if McCain had won? He wouldn't have a clue what to do."

Simple as that.

What does this story have to do with Negro Magic? Beats me.

* apparently motivated in some obscure way by a 2007 column by David_Ehrenstein

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The End of the Beginning

     1   In the beginning was Word,
             and Word was with God,
             and Word was God.
     2   It was with God in the beginning.
     3   Through it all things were made;
             without it nothing was made that has been made.
     4   In it was life, and that life was the light of all people.
     5   The light shines in Darkness,
             and Darkness has not overcome it.

     (The Gospel According to) Bill 1:1-5

*      *      *

In the Gospel of Bill, "Darkness" refers to Web 2.0. Word (not "the Word", just ... "Word") is still holy writ in the business and technical writing/publishing world, as if it were still BWE — Before the Web Era. In the context of Election '08: Word is John McCain, Web 2.0 is Barack Obama.

But then there are still the flat-earthers, the young-earth creationists, etc.

When WE (as opposed to BWE) people publish a journal or (product) documentation, it is first as a blog (typically, an individual effort) or a wiki (typically, a collaboration). (Blogs and wikis can be used for other narrative purposes, like novels and encyclopedias.)

But while electronic publications like these are going to grow, I have no doubt that print publications and the demand for them will remain. But does that mean Word will still be relevant? I do doubt that.

With the beginning of "blog to print" and "wiki to print" — Browse your "cake" and Print it too! — services*, which take a blog or wiki respectively and produce (typically, Adobe PDF) formats for print publication (as books), this is the beginning of the end of Word.

(But then, could be wrong: There are still the flat-earthers, the young-earth creationists, ...)

* Blog2Print:
   ComputerWorld: FLOSSManuals delivers PDF output from wiki

Friday, December 26, 2008

Some sad notes

A very sad note: the passing of the down-to-earth Eartha Kitt at 81. I'm one of those who had her image imprinted in their teen-age brain by TV's Batman as Catwoman (1967-68).

She was also one of the most outspoken champions of gay rights, as can be observed in this 2005 Windy City Times interview:
Kitt is outspoken on her stance regarding gay marriage. “I support it because we’re asking for the same thing,” she states confidently.

She goes on to say that the gay marriage issue is similar to what African-Americans experienced during the time of the Civil-Rights Movement. “We were not allowed to go through certain doors because of our race, our color,” she says intensely. “It was so stupid that we were not able to sit at the counter of a restaurant because it was only for Anglo-Saxons. It’s stupid when this country says it was born on “freedom for all,” but it’s “freedom for some”!

*      *      *

Also, a brutally sad note (and an outrage).

My first impulse on reading about the American Family Association's attack on a soup ad in The Advocate showing a lesbian couple feeding their youngster a Swanson Chicken Broth-based Butternut Squash Bisque (Advertising Age, December 22, 2008) was to make a "joke" of it: AFA says "Two (many) dykes spoil the broth", etc.

But then it dawned on me: The report of this attack from the AFA came on the same day as the report of the ("alleged") gang rape of a lesbian in Richmond, California (Associated Press, December 22, 2008).

The two attacks (AFA, gang rapists) are not legally the same. But don't the members of the AFA and these rapists derive their beliefs from the same moral cesspool?

Jesus himself provocatively (and hyperbolically) equated thoughts and deeds from a moral perspective. (His example was adultery.) And people are not arrested for thinking of committing a crime. (However, this idea is explored in 2002's Minority Report.)

Now members of the AFA were not thinking of physically raping the lesbian couple in the Swanson ad, so the analogy isn't perfect. Instead, it was a gang raping of their dignity. And of that, What Would Jesus Say?*


2009/1/9: A nice tribute to Eartha Kitt in Washington Blade.

* Right-wing Christians would try and draw a parallel with being a lesbian and being an adulteress (John 8:1-11). But then, they put themselves in the role of Pharisees, whom Jesus called vipers and snakes.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Limey Rich Frith

Limey Rich Frith went to London
Riding on a po-ny
Stowed aboard a westbound ship
And called it Disco-ver-y*

Limey Rich Frith went to Jamestown
Riding Disco-ver-y
Strutted down the starboard ramp
And called it "My Vir-gin-y!"

Jamestown Rich Frith, keep it up
Jamestown Rich Frith dan-dy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be han-dy!

Jamestown Rich Frith had a son
A-riding on a la-dy
Named him Nate Frith who left home
And moved to Caro-line-y

N-C Nate Frith, keep it up
N-C Nate Frith dan-dy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be han-dy!

N-C Nate Frith had a lisp
But he was quite the spoo-ner
When he had his only son
He named him Nate Thrift, Ju-nior

Junior Nate Thrift, keep it up
Junior Nate Thrift dan-dy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be han-dy!

Junior Nate Thrift spread his seed
Down South and Indi-an-y
Some came back to Caro-line
And that is my hi-stor-y

for read write poem prompt #58, go ancestral (other poems)
based on Yankee Doodle (Traditional Lyrics)

* Richard Frith, laborer is listed in Jamestown's Earliest Settlers. Discovery was the first of several ships with that name that brought settlers to Jamestown. The relationship of 'Thrift' to 'Frith' is assayed in Thrift: One Name Study. (Thrift as descendant of Frith, in Thrift/Frith/Firth Surname DNA Project.)

The story above is, to some degree of accuracy, a true account of my genealogy. (See From James Towne 1607 to NC 1997 by Michael Thrift. Michael is my second cousin, via our great-father, William Francis Thrift.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Is that a Ferlinghetti in your pocket?

City Lights bookstore, San Francisco

After years of ebook-reader technical and marketing disasters, the Amazon Kindle may actually be the first with some hope of success (The End of Parchment, NY Times, December 22, 2008). But even so, I still think that physical, paper-bound books will still have a sensual allure that will remain a part of human experience. Some commenting on the above NY Times article (the "paper fetishists") agreed.

Coincidentally, the dimensions of the Kindle's screen (approx. 3.6 x 4.8 inches) is just slightly smaller than the City Lights' Pocket Poets Series (approx. 4.8 x 5.9 inches). This series (originated by Lawrence Ferlinghetti) is a perfect form-factor for small collections of poems, and is an especially good match for the Beat poetry which populates many of its volumes. (I only have three in this series: two Ginsbergs and one Corso.)

Wonderful collection. On the Amazon page for Howl (one of my Ginsbergs), it says, "If you are a publisher or author and hold the digital rights to [this] book, you can sell a digital version of it in our Kindle Store." But even if I had a Kindle (indeed, one might be able to store many Pocket books there) and a digital Howl, it would not be the same. (Or is that attitude too fuddy-duddy?)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas, W.

I would like to find something sweet to put in W.'s stocking.

Here’s a prediction.

I’ve not been a big George W. Bush fan the past eight years (understatement), but it’s possible that the next wave of Republican president-wannabes will make W. look like a gold nugget (relatively speaking). Look at the possible lineup: the very creepy trio of Palin (witchcraft-exorcising bible church), Romney (devout, Osmond-esque Mormon1), Huckabee (raise your hand if you don’t believe in evolution). I find it hard to believe it myself, but here's my stocking stuffer: Bush gets more human-looking2 every day.

In the mix of this are his departuring swipes at science and medical practice, some glimmer of a silver-lining in Iraq but a dark cloud in Afghanistan, a legacy of torture, an almost 50% collapse of the stock-market — i.e., lots of coal lumps in the mix.

But I would like to put in some candy in the spirit of Christmas.


1. Apropos, today is Joseph Smith’s birthday.

“I will prove that the world is wrong, by showing what God is. God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea. You have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another. I know more than all the world.”
— Joseph Smith Jr., born December 23, 1805

2. Bush: Bible 'probably not' literally true, the raw story, 12/08/2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Geek Poet's Tale [the fourth fragment]

[continued from the third fragment]

   Some items had appeared from the Beat poets pack: a bag

   Of lemon-tree scented leaves, rice papers, a pre-smoked fag.

"Want to get high?" were the words I remember him saying.

And picturing those college dorm days and disco dazing,

"No thank you," I responded, recalling the old stories

Of mellowed-out dudes, blue smoke, and next-day lost memories.

He reconsidered himself, with a flash, stashed back his hash,

Leaving behind just the books and some tiny bits of ash.

Inside his bound treasures he showed me texts — some long, some terse;

Some looked more like paragraph than some standard poem's verse.

"Prose is poetry and poetry is prose," would all he

Would say. "As long as it has beat, man!" I began to see

The nature of his craft: direct as can be. He began

To read of a meeting at a supermarket fruit stand ...

[this ends the fourth fragment*]

* More blog backups on Blogosphere to scour. -pt

Sunday, December 21, 2008



      Medieval Latin scientificus producing knowledge (from Latin scient-, sciens + -i- + -ficus -fic)

Date: 1589


      Greek technikos of art, skillful (from technē art, craft, skill; akin to Greek tektōn builder, carpenter, Latin texere to weave, Sanskrit takṣati he fashions)

Date: 1617

We — modern humans, that is — strive for two epistemological goals, in most cases with unequal efforts: to know and to know how — knowledge vs. know-how.

The physicist may "know" the laws of thermodynamics and electromagnetism at work under the hood of a car, but it is the skill of the auto repair person that you rely on to keep your car running. (What's the difference between a quantum mechanic and an auto mechanic? A quantum mechanic can get his car into the garage without opening the door.)

Thus we have what seems to be two worlds: the scientificus (from Latin) and the technikos (from Greek) — the scientific and the technical — populated by scientists and technicians respectively. (There is another creature who supposedly lurks between scientists and technicians: the technologist. But enough confusion already. And a poet, as should be clear from the etymologies, is more akin to a technician than a scientist.)

But there is another world beyond these two, so it is said: the philosophical*, which is generally viewed as being populated by those seeking a systematic, stable foundation (epistemologically speaking) for the scientific. However, the two landmark books on deconstructionism from the 1970's**, Derrida's of Grammatology and Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (the second one is readable, unlike the first, which actually coined the term "deconstruction" in its previous French version), portrayed many cherished boundaries as being artificial — much like what Quine did with the analytic/synthetic "divide".*** Specifically, Rorty's book deconstructed the barrier between philosophy and science, or, in other words, set out to expose the search for a foundational basis for scientific knowledge that could be marketed by philosophers as being a fruitless one. (For Rorty, deconstructionism is really a species of pragmatism.)

Here's the point: If this philosophical/scientific deconstruction holds, then so must the scientific/technical, since if there is no foundation to knowledge, then how is knowing really any different from knowing how?

I.e., we are all "mere" technicians now.


The 2008 winter solstice (12:04UT) occurred as I was writing this post. I knew how to look that up. (OK, it's the summer solstice for Aussies, etc. Technically speaking, that is.)

* Now here is where the theologian chimes in: "The scientist may tell you the about the laws of the nature, but we tell you about the lawmaker, and why shit happens!" But to this the deconstructionist Nietzsche replies, "God is dead ... We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers ...!" (The Gay Science, 1882)

One can see the jokes coming: A technician, a scientist, a philosopher, and a theologian walk into a bar ...

** Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, English translation by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, The Johns Hopkins University Press (1976, revised 1998)

[Here, Derrida deconstructs the spoken/written distinction, or the "fallacy" in Western philosophy of phonocentrism (the primacy and priority of speech over writing, which Derrida also uses as his main example of logocentrism). Thus begins the examination of assumed hierarchies and distinctions — analytic/synthetic, spoken/written, theological/philosophical, mind/brain, philosophical/scientific, scientific/technical, ... — in a fresh light.]

   Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Princeton University Press (1979, paperback 1981)

*** Could all three (Derrida, Rorty, Quine) be standing in the shadow of Wittgenstein?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ted Haggard: The Musical


"In an HBO documentary set to air Jan. 29,
disgraced evangelical leader Ted Haggard
says he never claimed to be heterosexual,
as was once reported ..."

The Gazette (Colorado Springs), December 17, 2008

"[on Ted Haggard] Bottom, or power bottom?
Well, let me just say ... yes, bottom.
What turned Reverend Haggard on the most about you?
I think my body, for sure.
Also, it probably didn't hurt that I'm pretty well-endowed."

RADAR, November 2006 (interview of Mike Jones)

O, what low-hanging fruit could be more ripe
in a budding playwright-composer's sight
than the legend of Ted Haggard and Mike?

[Beauty, to the Beast:] "Please Don't Cry For Me,
but I have to pay Rent, My Fair Lady!"
[the once Jesus-Christ Superstar:] "O, we

"are as Wicked as can be, my Lion
King. My love, Ain't we just Misbehavin'!"
[stud, with Grease:] "Everything will be fi'n."

Updates: Politics BLOG (2009/01/09)
posted to Totally Optional Prompts (The Other Side, 2009/01/15)
J,M.G update (2009/01/23)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rick Warren, Rick Warren

"Warren told beliefnet* that he thinks allowing a gay couple
to marry is similar to allowing 'a brother and sister be together
and call that marriage.' He then helpfully added that he's also
'opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage.'
The reporter, who may have been a little surprised, asked,
'Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?'
'Oh, I do,' Warren immediately answered."

TIME, December 18, 2008

Rick Warren, Rick Warren, he's such a fat pig,
Saddleback, Saddleback, struts like a prig;
Rick Warren, Rick Warren, he's such a fat hog;
Saddleback, Saddleback, gays does he flog;
Rick Warren, Rick Warren, he's such a plum bum,
Saddleback, Saddleback, left in the scum.

Mihi ignoscas, Mother Goose.

*(starting about 2:15 into the video, until the end)

Watch and see what a slimy sleazebag this guy really is.

(Why doesn't the media play this in an endless loop like they did the Pastor Wright video? or is that a stupid question ...)

I still think that President-elect Obama — this pick exposes an Obama blindspot — should have picked the rather goofy Joel Osteen over the really sleazy Rick Warren, who is turning out to be the turd in the Inauguration '09 punchbowl, to give the inaugural invocation. Joel would not have gotten under conservative skins nor ruffled gay feathers, and his church is #1 while Warren's is #4. Also, as shown in this December 8, 2008 interview with Larry King, Joel was smart enough to keep his nose (and big teeth) out of the Proposition 8 fiasco, and would never say anything close to what Warren said, which makes him the perfect contrast.


2008/12/21 - from Informed Comment:

Warren said, "Let me just get this over very quickly. I love Muslims. And for the media's purpose, I happen to love gays and straights."

He explicitly mentioned meeting Etheridge, and explained that he has been a long time fan of hers, beginning with her self-titled first album of 1988. "I'm enough of a groupie," he said, "that I got her autograph on the Christmas album."

Rick Warren is obviously a very intelligent — and economically successful — man. But, really, can one imagine how someone like that (for someone who was not as intelligent or successful, one could have sympathy) can be so incredibly shallow?

(Melissa Etheridge didn't fall for this, did she?)

Thursday, December 18, 2008


        marea roja by ladyorlando

    fishies see*
                                        sea ahead
    lash their tails
                                        left and right
                                        turn their head
    keep their flanks
                                        in their sight

    fishies: shark!
                                        they must flee!
    they are the
                                        hunted one
                                        hunters be
    spear the fish?
                                        just for fun?

for read write poem image prompt #5, marea roja (other poems)
and (collaborative) prompt #57: 'tis the season ... (9. rob kistner - e.e. cummings)

* howstuffworks: Fish

Almost all fish focus their eyes by using their eye muscles to change the position of the lens rather than by changing the shape of the lens or cornea [as the higher vertebrates do.]

[F]ish swim by lashing their tails from side to side. When the tail is whipped in one direction, the front part of the body tends to turn the opposite way. Water pressure resists the turning movement and changes it into a forward motion.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The standoffish 'a' (a-part)

It's standing apart from a stand of fish:
The standoffish 'a' does not really wish
To be a part of a “Bitte zu Tisch!”

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Who Started the War on Christmas?
by Max Blumenthal - The Daily Beast

"'The War on Christmas' started in a white nationalist cabal and spread to conservative media." [more]

*      *      *

Christmas: literally, Christ's mass

Christ: from Indo-European root ghrei = 'rub' (as with an oil in an anointing)

mass: from Latin missa = 'a sending away' (as on a mission)

There. I said it. Happy now?
Me, a secular progressive (SP) pinup boy. (I wish.)

Some people around me tell me how awful it is that retailers this season are prevented by evil, run-amok SPs from greeting you with "Merry Christmas". But when I went shopping this weekend I listened to actual Christmas songs — I heard "manger", "Christ", "Virgin", "pa rum pum pum pum" — coming from the speakers of Wal-Mart. (Maybe as a "progressive" I shouldn't have been in that store in the first place.)

I went to Barnes&Noble. Likewise. O Holy Night. Ave Maria, for Christ's sake. (I didn't hear Ave Maria in Wal-Mart though, I have to say.) One marvels at the fantasy world these warriors in the 'War on Christmas' live in. Maybe if they just shut up and listen they would see how wrong they are. But that will never happen.

Following from the etymology of 'Christmas', the word brings to my mind a massage therapy session: "The rubbing is done. You are dismissed. Merry Christmas!"

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Geek Poet's Tale [the third fragment]

[continued from the second fragment]

   The Geek poet had set aside his silver box that would

   Show the Earth-bound Beat the blogs and wikis under its hood.

In the Beat poet's blue pack was a collection of books,

Bound sheets of browned paper, read multiple times by their looks.

(Books, I only read about on my native Blogosphere.)

He set a few out, leaving behind his other packed "gear":

A Kerouac, two Ginsbergs, plus a Corso stacked beside

A Walt Whitman and William Carlos Williams, like its bride.

Then flexing his metaphorical muscles beside my

Scrawny geek frame, he began by asking, "Want to get high? ..."

[this ends the third fragment*]

* Still scouring blog backups on Blogosphere for more fragments, I will post them as they become available. -pt

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Using the Noodle

I once had a friend I'd bamboozle:
"That's really using the ol' noodle!"
     He would say, not knowin'
     Implanted in my brā-in
I had a wireless link to Google!

prompted by Billy Mills' Poster poems: limericks

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Culture, Conservatism, and Christianity

"Our goal is to provide the most interesting perspectives on life
in America as our nation, and the culturally conservative in
, find themselves in a time of rapid change
and uncertainty." — Culture11 Editors

"I continue to hear — from politicians and their constituents — that
Republicans must start connecting with voters on a cultural level or
they are screwed." — C11 editor Ericka Andersen, "The Cultural Connection"

" ... And reality has a well-known liberal bias." — Stephen Colbert

Right — Left ...
Red State — Blue State ...
FOX News Channel — MSNBC ...
Conservatism — Progressivism ...

America's bipolar disorder.   [video*]

Culture11 (Beta) is web site that began a few months ago with a goal to connect conservatism, as it exists in 2008 onwards, with culture. With a collection of blogs, administered by the "C11" editors, such as The Confabulum and Postmodern Conservative, one might expect something interesting or novel. I have yet to see something that would go against the grain of what progressives (I include myself) think conservatives think about our modern culture of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

There are lots of references to Culture, Conservatism, and (of course) Christianity**, but reading the site one is left with the question:

    Is Conservatism the turd in the middle of that punch bowl?

Reading “The Cultural Connection” article, for example, it is baffling what conservatives could mean by the word “culture”. Typically when you think of culture, and Western culture in particular, you think of the artistic, literary, architectural, and (now) scientific and technological transformations (some radical) that come with each age of history. For this century, who knows what cultural inventions will be established as iconic for future generations. For the last century, one could point to movies (or, more stuffily, cinema) as one of its cultural gifts. (I only choose this one example from a huge list. For another example, today there are courses in universities covering the subject of Rap Music and the Poetics of Identity.)

Timothy Egan’s NYT op-ed The Party of Yesterday pretty much nails it (and this was written before the 2008 election) when he points out that the top “brainiest” cities listed by the Census Bureau in 2006 are moving to the Democratic Party. Look what happened, even, in red Nebraska, with Omaha (#22 on the list) giving the Democrats a Nebraska elector.

Now this is not to say that all cultural invention comes from people having Bachelors degrees or better — Of course many artists and inventors don’t have that! — but it is telling, and also asking the question:

When conservatives talk about connecting to modern “culture”, why are they really just talking about disconnecting from it?

How primarily evangelical-based Republicans use the word "cultural" interchangeably with "social" or "traditional" is another confusion, as evidenced by statements like Republicans must start connecting with voters on a cultural level. (What does that mean? Having neighborhood Bach parties?) Transparent code words, like when Anuzis (the Michigan Republican Party Chairman referred to in "The Cultural Connection") says on his web site, in the usual fear-mongering fashion, "President Obama [will appoint] judges who will turn their back on our constitution and substitute the values of Hollywood. "Hollywood", which has left us the art of cinema from the twentieth century and continues to do so in this one, trashed. (Ironically, most non-Hollywood "indie" films are even more progressive and radical than their well-monied "competitors"!)

It would seem, based on the articles at Culture11, that a conservative connecting to (modern) culture is like the Wicked Witch of Oz connecting to water.


Today: Even yesterday, editor James Poulos writes

"... in the spirit of being aghast at the stoopid and tasteless. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, one thing that transcends our political and cultural polarization, it’s that the nativity cannot be updated."

Yeah, everyone knows those artists from the Renaissance painted exactly how it looked in ~0 CE. (They were the Jackson Pollock — the Andy Warhol even — of their day.) It never stops!

2008/12/16: Someone commented [on The Confabulum] about conservative connections to modern culture including tractor pulls, and I suppose as corollaries, monster truck events and, of course, NASCAR. Certainly Christian cultural icons including megachurch moguls Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Ted Haggard (oops), Benny Hinn, etc. can be included.

I think this is a good point. These indeed are a part of today’s culture. But I wonder what an artist like Andy Warhol, if he were here today, would make of them.
"Geeze, could you BE any more condescending? If you’re going to brand every conservative a NASCAR & Monster Truck fan, I’ll just go ahead and assume you’re a cross-dressing, devil-worshipping, bi-sexual prostitute. Cause you’re a liberal, right?

"When I talk about preserving the great tradition of Western/Judeo-Christian culture, I’m thinking more along the lines of Chaucer, Dante, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Beethoven, etc… Monster trucks and NASCAR aren’t my thing, though I’m perfectly happy to let others indulge. Live and let live, right? As for Andy Warhol, I couldn’t care less what he would make of any of the above."

Perfect! (especially the last sentence)

It makes my point perfectly. Thanks!

BTW, of course I wasn't "putting down" Monster Trucks and NASCAR. (And remember too my comment on the other side about Rap music — not considered "high-brow" but a definite cultural contribution.)

Quite the opposite. If you had read what I wrote, I was just looking for something to hang my hat as being "conservative" contributions to 21st century culture. Just preserving past cultures doesn't do it — The Beatles did that giving their due to Bach and Beethoven, but they created new things.

also BTW: Michelangelo was gay. From his poem to Cecchino:

... and here my bones,
bereft of handsome eyes, and jaunty air,
Still loyal are to him I joyed in bed,
Whom I embraced, in whom my soul now lives.

I don't know if he was a "cross-dresser" though. How terrible that would have been.
... that art is no longer about glorifying the creator or seeking truth and beauty… it’s all about shock value, making a statement, and deconstructing all the forms and institutions that once undergirded our lives and gave them meaning.

I’m sorry about that.

(And what’s wrong with my undergirdles anyway?)

Culture11 is a work in progress. I am biased but I think it is a very good work in progress.

The thing about being “in progress,” however, is that it means there is still plenty of work to be done. [...] Culture11 wants to be a cultural catalyst pushing the ideas, concerns and creativity of Main Street Americans onto the world’s center stage. We believe that the role for conservatives in this culture isn’t just to critique, it is to proactively move culture. — David Kuo CEO,

As evidenced by the article itself and comments to Academia Abuses of 2008 as a typical example of many others, Culture11's goal really seems to be, not to how to connect with modern culture, but how to disconnect from it.

There is still no rational presentation for specifically how conservatism is actually contributing to 21st century culture rather than just bad-mouthing it. Someone there mentioned tractor pulling, maybe as joke, maybe not. But it is true: tractor pulling, monster truck events, and especially NASCAR are a part of today's culture, and one might think of them as conservative contributions. But I was looking for something else one could hang one's hat on — it is yet to be seen. So plenty of work to be done? You betcha.

* needs updating, post 2008

** No need to waste time here on the two "versions" of the New Testament's first four books: one as presented by conservatives, the other by progressives. Progressives, when they also throw in the Gospel of Thomas, seem to ruffle conservatives' feathers. Culture, you know.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Poem-maker, poem-maker    [it's a frivolous Friday]

Poem-maker, poem-maker, make me a poem,
Rhyme me a rhyme, tome me a tome;
Poem-maker, poem-maker, don't type some tripe,
And make me a perfect poem.

Poem-maker, poem-maker, make me a poem,
Rhyme me a rhyme, tome me a tome;
Night after night in the dark I'm alone.
So, find me a poem of my own.

Poem-maker, poem-maker scam me no scans,
I'm in no rush, maybe I've learned
Playing with a prose a girl can get burned;
So bring me no lines, verse me no verse,
Rhyme me no rhymes, tome me no tomes,
Unless it's a poem-y poem.

à la Matchmaker, matchmaker (Fiddler on the roof) [video, lyrics and chords]

Thursday, December 11, 2008

O Bárack! my Bárack!

"At night, before we'd go to sleep, Jack liked to play some records;
and the song he loved most came at the end of this record. The lines
he loved to hear were: Don't let it be forgot, that once there was
a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.

There'll be great Presidents again - but they'll never be another Camelot again."

from Theodore White's interview of Jacqueline Kennedy
in the December 6, 1963 issue of LIFE magazine

O Bárack! my Bárack! the battle-first is done,
A Camelot may never be again, but the White House race is won.
Rise up—you have the gift—to open this century's Frontier,
A millennial land still unexplored with hope instead of fear:
       Take heart, Bárack!
          The fear-ing nip at your heels,
             And try to rip the silver throat of yours,
                Above the presidential seal.

O Bárack! my Bárack! you've restored our future's zest
To value Human worth again over Neocons' failed quest,
And science, too, unfettered, will once again be treasured
Over medieval-agèd religion's fundamentalists' strict measure:
       Hear Bárack! Bárack!
             With your deft mind and hand
               Construct the edifice that withstands the storm
                  And not castle in the sand.

for read write poem prompt #56, panageric poems  (other poems)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Emily Dickinson, b. December 10, 1830

Emily (Elizabeth) Dickinson, b. December 10, 1830

"I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven."

"I dwell in possibility ..."

"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry."

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you — Nobody — too?
Then there 's a pair of us!
Dont tell! they 'd advertise — you know!

How dreary — to be — Somebody!
How public — like a Frog —
To tell one's name — the livelong June —
To an admiring Bog!

#260, R.W. Franklin Variorum Edition

The Myth of Amherst —
Bird — Bee — Flower — Frog —
What if Emily had a blog?

re This lonely poem

Withdrawing more and more from the outside world, Emily began in the summer of 1858 what would be her lasting legacy. Reviewing poems she had written previously, she began making clean copies of her work, assembling carefully pieced-together manuscript books. The forty fascicles she created from 1858 through 1865 eventually held nearly eight hundred poems. No one was aware of the existence of these books until after her death.Wikipedia

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I lament the US having a joke of a national railway system. Our Interstate Highway System (officially, the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways) is "the largest highway system in the world" and as well as "the largest public works project in history." (President-elect Obama promises "to create the largest public works construction program" since this Republican president's precedent of fifty years ago.)

But the train is the poet's transport of choice, at least in a UK way of thinking. (They can also "chunnel-train" to "the continent" and connect to the Euro railway system.) I wish the US had a respectable railway system. Maybe it's not practical, economically or otherwise. (People want to go from NYC to LA in half-a-day, not half-a-week.)

But I can still dream.

(The following was prompted by Billy Mills' Poster poems: railway lines.)

I take a trip with Hitchcock on
    the North By Northwest night express.
But Strangers, we are, on that Train,
    until The Lady Vanishes.
The train's the stage for cloistered chase,
    The metaphor for phallic preps.
Each time I pass from car to car
    It's precisely 39 Steps.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Geek Poet's Tale [the second fragment]

[continued from the first fragment]

   Together, two poets—one Geek, one Beat—walked down the street;

   Each had a backpack that carried their belongings complete.

My traveling companion curiously eyed my green pack.

"Geek poet, what is it that you carry, there on your back?"

We stopped for a bit on a bus-stop bench. I, Geek poet,

Took a strange case out of my sack. The Beat didn't know it.

"What's in that silvery shell you have sitting on your lap?"

"It's called a MacBook," I said to him, opening its flap.

"It connects me to my Blogosphere and poets like me.

Let me show you my land!" I said, with unusual glee.

"What is this? My AirPort cannot find Wi-Fi in this spot."

The Beat poet, puzzled, scratched his head; he didn't know squat

Of what I was doing and those, to him, alien words.

As far as he knew this gray cage was strictly for the birds.

Then I, disconnected, disconcerted, set it aside.

My interest, after all, was to let him be my guide.

There were more things in my pack I could show if I wanted.

Maybe later, I thought, and I proceeded undaunted.

"Perhaps you could show me what items you have in your store."

The Beat poet seemed eager to show the cool things he bore.

[this ends the second fragment*]

* Still scouring blog backups on Blogosphere for more fragments, I will post them as they become available. -pt

Sunday, December 7, 2008

O Auntie Em, there's no place like poem

Following up on my comment to a previous poem debunking the notion that "poem" appearing in haiku (or iambic pentameter for that matter) must be pronounced with two syllables, I wrote the lyric below. (Here, rhyme is in play.) I suppose if there is any "rule" it should be: if "poem" appears in multiple places in a particular poem, then a single pronunciation (whether it's one syllable \pōm\ or two \pō'-əm, pō'-im\) should be consistently applied within that poem.

And, as for Auntie Em, it's \an-tē\, not \än-tē\ ! :-)

O give me a poem where the word-rebel roam
Where the queer and the maverick play
There's seldom absurd or discord-i-ant word
And the lines are not void of cachet

Poem, poem on the page
Where the queer and the maverick play
There's seldom absurd or discord-i-ant word
And the lines are not void of cachet

for D.H.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Vaulted Cinemas

Vaulted cinemas, TCM's 2AM
     movies from the underground.*
Sin-enemas, Friday's post-midnight B film
     venue, from the lost-and-found.

Monster mavens, drawn like moths to the glowing
     TV screen, drifting between
wake and dreams. Cult freaks, laid up in bed watching.
     Would-be goths, vampires, drag queens.

* TCM Underground [videos]

Friday, December 5, 2008

Why 'gay marriage' should not (have to) be put to a popular vote

New York is just one of the latest "battlegrounds" advancing or retreating from gay marriage. (A "gang of three" NY Democratic Senators insist that they will not put the Senate in Democratic control unless there is a pledge not to bring the issue to the floor in 2009. [TV1 - 12/04/2008]) And this is in the aftermath of California's Proposition 8, where a referendum passed with a close majority vote (without the prior two-thirds Legislative referral required for a revision to the CA state constitution) to make same-sex marriage illegal.

But suppose Proposition 8 had been defeated on November 4th with the percentages reversed (thus letting the May 15th CA Supreme Court ruling stand). And suppose that the NY Legislature were to pass a law making same-sex marriage legal. There would be still something unsettling about this, leaving a feeling of tenuous victory. After all, a simple popular vote could reverse the "right" of marriage equality after it had been won in the public sphere (no matter how unlikely that might be).

The May 15th CA Supreme Court's majority opinion states that
[U]nder this state's Constitution, the constitutionally based right to marry properly must be understood to encompass the core set of basic substantive legal rights and attributes traditionally associated with marriage that are so integral to an individual's liberty and personal autonomy that they may not be eliminated or abrogated by the Legislature or by the electorate through the statutory initiative process.
re Marriage Cases, S147999, p. 6.

One only has to look at the US Supreme Court's decisions in Romer v. Evans (1996) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003), the two landmark 'gay rights' cases. In both of these, the Court ruled, homosexuals were denied fundamental* rights by state legislatures. On the other hand, forty-one years ago Loving v. Virginia (1967) established marriage equality for interracial couples as a fundamental right.

None of these decisions can be overturned by a legislature or a popular referendum. (It would take a constitutional amendment or a reversal by the Court to do that.) I would feel better — for the reasons I am arguing here — if the CA Supreme Court does not reverse itself, upholds its prior decision, and strikes down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional than if a mere 51% had voted instead to say "No" on November 4th. (Not that would have been a bad thing. But sometimes success is savored sweeter in the quiet of court than from the rabble of crowd.)

One might ask "What about the Civil Rights Act of 1964? That was a legislative action, no?" But note that this act dealt with commerce, a province of Congress, and not as a fundamental right as in the case of Loving v. Virginia. And remember, it took three years from the passage of that act before this fundamental marriage right was decided by the Court. Thus the current issue of marriage equality with respect to same-sex marriage is not at its core a civil rights issue — it is a fundamental, constitutional rights issue.

So while the activism catalyzed by the passage of Prop 8 is good, I hope that an understanding of constitutional, fundamental rights does not go missing. Those who think that they need to win in the public forum (Andrew Sullivan comes to mind as someone who is against the Court getting involved) forget about Loving v. Virginia, which would probably not have had a popular victory in 1967.

Most amusing (sadly) is the perennial rant from conservatives about "judicial activism", by which they primarily mean, in addition to today's state supreme court rulings in favor of gay marriage, rulings like Romer v. Evans and Lawrence v. Texas (as well as, of course, Roe v. Wade). Certainly Loving v. Virginia and Brown v. Board of Education (1954) were as "activist" as the others, but conservatives will not rant against these — it would not be politically correct to do that in 2008. Also, further exposing the conservatives' sham, suppose that a city or state were to pass a law restricting gun possession, supported by the majority of people in that locality; you don't think they would want a little judicial activism then? But wait, they got it in District of Columbia v. Heller!

Next case.

* I use fundamental and constitutional interchangeably here, for that is sometimes the way the Court writes, especially when referring to individual and minority rights protected from majority retraction.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ode on a Grecian Stern

In the museum
I turn
and see
the stern
a muscled torso
in stone:

Drawing of Torso Statue
by ~ggvic~
The gluteus of
a Greek gladiator,
I imagine —
the slave of
a Roman speculator
who inspired
the ancient sculptor?

Like two firm plump
melons ○○ placed
in a supermarket,
inviting hands to
grab them,
index fingers to
thump them,
and hear the sound: It's ripe.
(Did that Roman speculator,
in his day,
test his slave
for the coliseum fight
that way?)

But my musings
to the museum,
and the marble
Grecian stern,

for read write poem image prompt #4, Drawing of Torso Statue  (other poems)

Encyclopedia Britannica
"While traveling in Europe, Cuba, and China, [Pablo] Neruda embarked upon a period of incessant writing and feverish creation. One of his major works, Odas elementales (Elemental Odes), was published in 1954. Its verse was written in a new poetic style—simple, direct, precise, and humorous—and it contained descriptions of everyday objects."

the poetic dictionary (John Drury)
"Elemental ode (invented by Pablo Neruda, sometimes translated as 'elementary ode'): [a] short-lined free-verse poem about everyday things; passionate and rhapsodic about the ordinary, lavishing attention on and affection on subjects such as watermelons."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cyberia's Unsung Heroes

water & sewer systems
of Cyberia

SuQLe the interfaces
unobserved, hidden

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Twilight's crescent Moon

photo by David M. Kinchen, December 1, 2008
Port Lavaca, TX

Twilight's crescent Moon
Venus dances beneath her
Jupiter blushes

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Geek Poet's Tale  [the first fragment]

   The Geek poet, patiently sitting, awaited his turn

   To spin his own yarn. "My own tale, I hope, you will not spurn."

My tale begins when I left my native realm, Blogosphere,

And walked planet Earth: to speak my peace, and lend them my ear.

My first encounter was this jazzily dressed dude. "A Beat,"

He said, was what his people called him, "poet of the street.

Strange poet: What clothing is this? What roads do you traverse?

Are you a Beat poet from an alternate universe?"

"I, a Geek poet, find cosmologists' dark energy

More inspiration for verse than a person's dark psyche.

I weave verses of wonder 'round modern technology;

Some say I don't deal enough with human psychology.

Computers and math catch my poetic imagination;

But of poets of nature, I have great admiration.

And I am willing to learn more of this poetry of Beat,

And from others in your land." With that, we walked down the street.

[more fragments to come*]

* This fragment was found scouring a the backups of a lost blog on Blogosphere. More fragments are expected to be found. -pt