Saturday, September 27, 2008

Signal On + Memorials + Debate #1 + Brazilian Poets in Chicago

I'm back in the Chi, classes are underway. This fall's load looks to be a little lighter than the past few years, since I'm teaching only a graduate workshop and an undergraduate honors seminar, and I'm supervising just a few undergraduates and graduates, all of whom are sharp and talented as they come, so it should be an enjoyable quarter.


In the time since I last posted, nearly a month ago, so much has happened on many fronts out there in the wide world, but I do want to note a few things, starting with the passing of a few important people: the first is Reginald Shepherd, a poet I knew, though not well, but whose poetry and criticism I grew to appreciate a great deal. His early and untimely death still shocks me. On the CC list I wrote the following:

I remember his essay, "On Not Being White," in Joseph Beam's anthology In the Life, which annoyed me for a good while until I reread it and made an effort to understand where he was coming from.* I also remember when Reginald's first book came out and all the buzz around it, and how I excited I was to meet him for the first time back at one of the old OutWrite conferences in Boston, in the late 1990s.

He could be, to use Shakespeare's and everybody else's phrase, a piece of work, but he was certainly a brilliant poet and a lively critic. His passing is a real loss for Black, Black LGBTQ, and American poetry, but I hope he finds real peace.
His lyrical facility, the deep and relentless exploration of desire and yearning for love and acceptance that surged through his stanzas, his skill with metaphor and a particularly deft gift for the music of rhyme are all hallmarks I register when I think of his work. Without hesitation I can say that Reginald was easily one of the most important Black/gay poets to emerge over the last 25 years, and I'm very sorry that we have lost his voice. He was only 45, and leaves his partner, Robert Philen, and many family members.

Also, Edgardo Vega Yunqué, the Puerto Rican/Nuyorican author, also passed away earlier this month. I met him once, at a reading featuring some of New York's important Latino writers that I helped coordinate at one of my former jobs. I wasn't at all familiar with his work, but hearing Vega Yunqué read and talk about his life and work, he struck me as a real treasure. Original, funny, feisty, cantankerous, and like so many, deserving of greater honors and attention than he ever received. After the reading I went and found some of his work, which reminded me in many ways of Ishmael Reed, not least in its caustic humor and social criticism. Like Ishmael, Vega Yunqué was a social activist, and played a key role in building and nurturing Puerto Rican/Nuyorican/Latino letters and arts in New York; he was one of the founders of the vital arts center Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center on the Lower East Side. He was 72.

Then there was the news of the tragic death of one of the most celebrated writers of the contemporary era, David Foster Wallace. I've taught his work a few times over the years, and consider his story "The Girl With Curious Hair" to be a comic masterpiece. I'm less a fan of his novel, Infinite Jest, which I admit I advanced only about 300 pages into, but whatever my thoughts about that work, I must say that Wallace was blindingly talented and offered one of the most influential, ironic takes on our society to be found in recent literature. A huge loss.

And then yesterday I read about the passing of one of the consistently superb actors--and activists--of the last half of the 20th century, Paul Newman, at 83. Very sad.


I watched the debate between Senators Barack Obama and John McCain last night. My own thoughts about the contest aren't important, because it appears that Obama achieved what was most necessary: positive reviews by many in the influential establishment media, and very positive reviews by independent voters and in quick post-debate polls. While I will definitely be watching the Vice Presidential debate between Joe Biden and the walking disaster known as Sarah Palin, I'm not sure if I can bear another Obama-McCain talkfest, especially if Obama, however successful his tactics, refuses to challenge McCain more and if McCain's rage and contempt have him seething like an old and overheating radiator.


One highlight of this week was the series of readings in Chicago by four noteworthy contemporary Brazilian poets, Maria Esther Maciel, Virna Teixeira, Paulo Henriques Britto, and Sérgio Medeiros. The poets, from Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza by way of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Matto Grosso do Sul via Florianópolis respectively, all appeared in the Brooklyn-based literary journal Aufgabe's issue no. 7 (2007), which featured a special section on Brazilian writing, edited by poet and translator Ray Bianchi. Ray also organized the readings, with Aufgabe editor E. Tracy Grinnell, and they took place at three different venues across Chicagoland: the university, the University of Chicago, and at Chicago's main branch Harold Washington Library in the Loop. Colleagues at the university, along with Litmus Press, the Chicago Poetry Project, and the Consulate General of Brazil in Chicago, all sponsored the events.

I attended the first reading, at the university, which my colleague, prodigious author and translator Reg Gibbons, had helped to coordinate and which he introduced. All four of the poets read either excerpts from longer work or a few short poems in Portuguese, and either they or Ray followed with English translations. One of the things that intrigued me was that two of the poets, Henriques Britto and Teixeira, both wrote in English as well as Portuguese; for Henriques Britto it resulted from his having spent part of his youth in Washington, DC, and he later told me that his first poetic language was English. Teixeira told me that she wrote in English when she was living for several years in Scotland, though now she wrote almost always in Portuguese. In the case of both poets, the English was idiomatic and lyrical, with Henriques Britto's more discursive and assured in its handling of rhyme, and Teixeira's grounded in concise and evocative imagery.

With regard to their Portuguese texts, I noted and asked about the differences during the question and answer session. Medeiros, who told me about a new language melding Portuguese, Spanish and Guaraní that was developing in southern Brazil (where he lives), read from a long poem that was both fragmentary and composed along the lines of what I would identify as the Language poetry movement's "new sentence." Maciel's briefer poems drew upon the rich homophonic, rhyming polysemous possibilities of Portuguese, which she contrasted with a few visually grounded prose poems. Teixeira's short poems moved from image to image, and, as became clear soon enough, were often inspired by works of art. The fourth poet, Henriques Britto, read poems in fixed forms: sonnets, a half-sestina, and a full villanelle. They sounded as adroit and nimble in Portuguese as in English.

When the writers spoke about influences, they listed many of the best known names in 20th century Brazilian poetry: Carlos Drummond de Andrade, João Cabral de Melo Neto, the two de Campos brothers, Augusto and Haroldo, and Cecília Meireles. They also mentioned English-language authors such as Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, and the great modernists Wallace Stevens and, from a later generation, Elizabeth Bishop. In reading the poetry in the special section, I wondered about more recent national and international trends and influences, because a number of the writers are in conversation with them. Other questions during the Q&A touched upon the contemporary literary landscape in Brazil, national vs. regional trends there today, the presence and influence of literary journals (which Ray does touch upon in his introduction to the special section), and the problem of a readership for poetry. Three of the writers, I believe, are also university professors, though I didn't gather that any of them taught creative writing per se; that is, it seems, a peculiarity thus far of the English-speaking world (mainly the US, Britain, Canada, and Australia). Teixeira mentioned that she was a medical doctor, and the precision of her work, in retrospect, bore this out.

I attended a second round today at the Harold Washington Library, and got to hear all the writers read more of their work. Maciel read one of my favorite poems from the special section, a poem consisting only of a litany of single words separated by commas, which ends with "palavra" (word). It was titled "Palavras preferidas" in Portuguese, and "Favorite Words" in English. The translator managed to capture some of the richness of the original's sonorities and playfulness, but there is nothing like hearing "ferrugem" (iron) or "ruido" (noise) or "arara" (arara!) pronounced by a native Portuguese speaker, Brazilian or from Europe or Africa. It's almost as if paper's crinkling in the mouth as a song emerges. Lovely: amável!

The event was heartening on many levels, but I also hope it's a signal that more such events will be possible in the future.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Some Politics & Other Stuff

Ah, the socialism continues: late Friday, conveniently after the US stock markets had officially closed and two days after the Dow Jones Index plummeted more than 300 points, we learned that the federal government would, contrary to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's earlier assurances, surprise surprise, nationalize Fannie Mac and Freddie Mac! Today we learned more about the plan, which will can the two institution's leaders (but not require that they pay back their multimillion-dollar bonuses), wipe out most shareholder value, and saddle taxpayers with hundreds of billions of dollars of new debt. It appears to have been a necessary move given both companies', but especially Freddie Mac's, deteriorating financial situations, which had investors in the US and across the globe worrying about a possible global financial crisis if both failed.

Aren't you excited?

So this is what we get with reckless deregulation, no congressional oversight, and unshakeable conversative faith in the "market" and its powers to correct itself. "Conservative" governance, who'd have ever thought it would be the means by which we'd move as a nation ever closer to the old Soviet Union? Nationalized banks, domestic spying on citizens with legislative approval, an establishment press that has merged with a political party (the Republicans), show elections...perhaps the right-wing neocons have kicked Leo Strauss to the curb and are taking direct cues from the ghost of Joseph Stalin.

Concerning the banks, let's see what else we learn about this "deal" in the next few days. I can assure you, the reality is going to be far more costly than we're being told right now.


Speaking of socialism and nationalized banks, did you know that so far 11 US banks have failed so far this year, which is nearly four times the number that failed last year?

Let me say that again: nearly four times as many US banks have failed in 2008 as in 2007 (it was 3 last year). And it's only early September. (36 have gone under since W took office.)

The most recent bank to fail, Silver State Bank of Henderson, Nevada, had none other than John McCain's son Andrew on its Board of Directors until he resigned on July 29, 2008. He was, and I'm not making this up, on its audit committee. According to the above-linked article on Huffington Post,

prior to coming to Silver State, he was the director of the Choice Bank in Scottsdale, Arizona until its merger with Silver State Bancorp which has 13 branches in Southern Las Vegas, and 4 branches in Arizona, and California.

Has your establishment TV press and punditocracy made much of this? I know, I know, there's a shiny new liar media celebrity darling on the hustings these days, telling tales fanciful enough to make Aesop jealous. There's also that dreary news about the rising unemployment rate and cuts in jobs, rising inflation, record foreclosures and cascading home values. It's enough to make anyone forget about a commercial banking sector under serious distress, though the failing banks are another key sign of how troubled the current US economy is.

But I guess acknowledging this constitutes whining, right?


Hurricane Hanna's rains hammered us yesterday, but turned out to be manageable enough, which got me thinking about not only the physical and economic toll these storms create in the US, but the psychological frenzy, which makes me wonder how they're perceived elsewhere. Such as in Haiti, one of the countries that is often battered by the tropical storms that move through the Caribbean. Haiti suffered serious hits from Hurricane Gustav, then Hannah, and now Ike.

Here's Stephen Gibb's take in The Guardian Online: "Hurricanes like Gustav and Hanna seem only to matter if they hit America"


One thing that I've found breathtaking over the last few days is Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's relentless and shameless lying at her public appearances. But, I have to note, it's a brilliant strategy and proof that she is more in the mold of George W. Bush than just in ideological and theocratic terms. In fact she fits in perfectly with the Republican electoral strategic game plan that's been in place and mostly successful for decades.

Why do I think it's a brilliant strategy? Because the psychological and cognitive effects of the steady repetition of lies, weakly or half-heartedly challenged by the establishment media and, more importantly, Democrats, will, coupled with the McCain campaign's and the GOP's constant and insistent attacks on the "liberal" media and the Democratic Party, resist subsequent media or Democratic attempts to debunk, challenge or correct them. They are going to stick for a certain percentage of the population. She will be Mrs. I Stood Up to Congress on the Bridge to Nowhere despite the fact that this is a TOTAL LIE.

Since the McCain campaign has also decided, without much pushback except mealy-mouthed quibbling it appears, to keep her away from direct journalistic questioning or inquiry, there are few avenues for challenging her directly on her lies. When she finally does sit even for a friendly interview, as she supposedly will do with ABC's Charlie Gibson soon, it's unlikely he'll press her on the basic untruthfulness of her statements. (He has proved to be a notorious dope for the GOP this election season.) But regardless of which journalist is asking questions, Palin actually has two options: she can follow John McCain's lead and simply deny she ever said what she did, or Dick Cheney's, and admit that she was wrong, then simply go back out on the campaign trail and tell the exact same lies on the campaign trail! How much do you want to bet she'll get away with either strategy?

A good friend suggested the other day that the late Tim Russert would have held her to the truth, though I reminded him that Russert was on record in the Plame proceedings as a stooge for the current White House. Do you think he'd ask Sarah Palin the following series of simple questions?

Journalist: Mrs. Palin, you said at your unveiling last Friday, and then again in your speech at the Republican National Convention, and have repeated at each subsequent campaign stop, "I told the Congress 'thanks, but no thanks,' for that Bridge to Nowhere." But Congress, without your input, canceled the earmark for the Bridge to Nowhere in 2005, before you were elected to your governorship. Since Congress canceled the earmark before you were even elected, how could you possibly have said "Thanks, but no thanks" to Congress?

Palin: Blah blah blah.

Journalist: On top of not telling Congress anything at all, because you couldn't, because the earmark had already been canceled, you still pushed for it, and accepted the $223 million of unrestricted funds for your state.

Why do you keep claiming you did something you absolutely did not do? And despite there being a record of your actions, why do you keep claiming to have been against this particular earmark when you were for it and actively sought it, even though it had already been canceled?

Palin: Blah blah blah.

Journalist: So if you did not tell the truth about this basic issue, and keep failing to tell the truth about this basic issue, on campaign stop after stop, why should Americans trust anything you say?

After that the journalist could ask about current affairs and, looking into her on the record background, inquire about:

-her earmark binging,
-her hiring an Abramoff-affiliated lobbyist to gain the earmarks for Wasilla,
-her leaving the town of Wasilla in debt and an ongoing lawsuit,
-her support of corrupt US Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), which including running a 527 on his behalf and vocally supporting him just this past summer;
-her history of raising taxes, including sales taxes, which disparately impact working-class and poor people, and the sort of windfall profits tax the GOP has criticized Obama for suggesting,
-her attempts to ban books at the Wasilla Public Library when she first became mayor,
-her loyalty tests and repeated history of firing employees on flimsy pretexts,
-her failure to cooperate with the Troopergate investigate despite saying she would,
-whether she agrees with the secessionist Alaska Independence Party and whether she truly "loves America,"
-whether she believes the extremist statements, including anti-Semitic and anti-gay ones, that have been uttered in her presence at her church,
-whether she believes that her presiding over a state that is geographically near to a foreign country counts as foreign policy experience.

Oh, and whether she and the Republican Party not only support but celebrate premarital teenage sex. Given how they've demonized inner-city folks on this issue, I would be curious to hear her thoughts.

How much do you want to bet (the Grand Canyon, anyone?) that nothing of the sort will happen? Ever.

UPDATE: An enterprising American actually did ask Palin (and McCain) a few questions, which is more than all the establishment media combined. Let's see how long it takes for them to get off their behinds and do their jobs.


One way to deal with a racist idiot like Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA)....


Last night C and I watched Lanre Olabisi's August the First on PBS. Though it has flaws, I recommend it, and must add that not only haven't I seen this particular story ever told before on film. Novelty shouldn't be underestimated. I'll try to write a review soon.

I also hope to write a review of James Wood's How Fiction Works, which I read in part for my graduate fiction workshop this fall and because I've found Wood's probing, nontheoretical, aesthetically oriented and somewhat conservative readings nevertheless enlightening and useful in the past. In particular, his reading of what he calls "hysterical realism" in his previous study, The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel (FSG, 2004), provided me with a valuable means for talking about a great deal of contemporary American fiction, and for assessing some of the work of my graduate fiction writing students.

Before it ends, I hope we can catch Bill T. Jones's Fela!, which I've heard praised a great deal. A friend, the poet, playwright, musician and performer Karma Johnson, is in the cast. (Seun Kuti, I realized later on, performed at SummerStage the day after Tisa and I caught Rachid Taha!)

I'll also try to write something about J. M. Coetzee's most recent novel, the 2007 Diary of a Bad Year (Viking), which, like his utterly strange and formally inventive earlier post-Nobel Prize anti-novel novel, Elizabeth Costello, I cannot stop thinking about. Here is just one passage in the work, which makes use of a simple yet clever formal device to tell what ends up proving to be not only an intellectually provocative and ethically instructive, but by its end and despite its faults, emotionally probing story. The selection is from the 11th "Strong Opinion," "On the curse":

We thought they were powerless, he says, that was why we did what we did; now we see the were not powerless at all.

"Tragic guilt," writes Jean-Pierre Vernant, "takes shape in the constant clash between the ancient religious conception of the misdeed as a defilement attached to an entire race and inexorably transitted from one generation to the next . . . , and the new concept adopted in law according to which the guilty one is defined as a private individual who, acting under no constraint, has deliberately chosen to commit a crime."

The drama being played out before our eyes is of a ruler, George W. Bush (whether Bush turns out to have been a pawn in the hands of others is not relevant here), whose hubris lies in denying the force of the curse on him and of curses in general; who indeed goes further and asserts that the cannot commit a crime, since he is the one who makes the laws defining crimes.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Back Up & Running

And now, finally, I'm back to my previously scheduled program, many stones, three surgeries, two stents, and a month and a half later, just as the summer, unfortunately, is winding down and the academic year is about to barrel in. Neither C nor I thought in July that things would turn out to be so complicated, but such are the body's vagaries. If I say that neither of us would like to see the inside of a hospital anytime soon, or spot evidently crazed people who later turn out to be one's nurses, or overhear hospital staff regaling each other about homeless people's chicaneries to get food, or juggle any of the countless forms required every time you set foot near the patient intake center, or I don't think I'd be stretching. But throughout the medical professionals, like C, have been exemplary, so let me say thank you. The experience yet again highlighted for me the necessity of comprehensive, truly universal health insurance, and the urgency, for all of us, not only to elect people at every level of government who will support it, and then to hold them fast to its implementation as soon as possible.

As I posted before, I greatly appreciate all the get-well wishes, posted here or sent via email. They've truly been a balm.


Many J's Theater readers know that had I been feeling better, I was likely to post shots from a major athletic extravaganza like the Beijing Olympics. But I had vowed to myself before the events took place not to promote them in any fashion on this site, mainly because of host nation China's horrendous record, past and recent, in so many areas of human and political rights, and because of the ongoing bloody repression of the Tibetans and other social, political and religious dissidents and minorites there. (Let me be clear that in calling out China I am not absolving the United States or any other country). It just so worked out that I was in constant enough pain during the period of the Olympics that I was unable to post anything (I could barely type at certain points), but I was captive and lucid enough that I watched most of the televised events, especially towards the end. The Chinese really know how to stage mass events and win gold medals, no? Does anyone think they won't be atop the gold and total medal counts by the next summer Olympics in 2012, in London? And will the corporate press ever live down the shame of covering for the Chinese authorities and, as they've done during both major US party conventions last week and this week, failing to do their jobs by reporting on the serious issues in China and the attempted protests, the imprisonment and the suppression of dissent?

As I said, I was couchbound for weeks, and watched a slew of events, including ones I little enjoy like beach volleyball, team handball, and shooting (which turned out to be pretty interesting). My favorite athletic moments beyond the more obvious ones, such as the swimming races, which, despite the Michael Phelps hype (though he admittedly was unbelievable), or the US men's team's (the "Redeem" team) basketball games, provided great drama, or the gymnastic competitions, which naturally received a lot of press, not least because some of the Chinese female gymnasts were visibly underage, were numerous. They included the individual and team victories by various US fencing squads (women's foil, women's and men's sabre); the gold victory by the all-black French epee fencing team (above left), and the bronze by French baby giant judoka Teddy Riner (at right); the triumph by the lone out gay male athlete in Beijing, Australian Matthew Mitcham, in the mens' 20 m platform diving (though NBC saw fit to suppress his victory celebration with his partner); the medal victories by athletes from tiny countries, like the Dominican Republic's boxers or Togo's kayaker or Panama's long jumper; and the gold, replete with a compelling background story, won by men's under 55 kg freestyle by Henry Cejudo.

One of my favorite sports, track and field, did not disappoint. I believe I watched nearly all the running events that wer televised, including the marathons. Most exciting I thought were Usain Bolt's spectacular victories in the men's 100 and 200 m, the Jamaican women team's 100 m sweep, the American men's 4x400 race, and the last minute victory by American Sanya Richards (below, with her fellow relay team members) of the women's 4x400 race, which almost felt like it had been scripted in a Hollywood; Romanian Constantina Tomescu's breakaway victory in the women's marathon, which required a gutsy decision by the winner to push herself as much as possible and then not let up; the 1-2-3 victory by the Americans in the men's 400 m and 400 m hurdles; and the blazing triumph that bespectacled 110 m Cuban hurdler Dayron Robles turned in.

On a sports listserve I belong to, I commiserated with other fans about NBC's coverage, but I have to say in retrospect that things weren't so bad overall in part because some of the less popular sports (equestrian; weightlifting, etc.) were broadcast, just not on NBC. Between MSNBC, USA Networks, Oxygen, and Telemundo, and NBC's online site, it was possible to see a great deal of what was taking place in Beijing, often live. Thus I got to see the rowing events, wrestling, soccer, baseball, and quite a bit of other stuff that wasn't featured on the main channel. (I suspect, however, that some sports, like modern pentathlon, were just not broadcast at all. Oh well.) I hope this becomes standard policy for the future.


I have been following the political races too, and watched most of the Democratic convention and about as much of the Republican one as I could stomach, which is not much. Whatever my quarrels with Senator Barack Obama's positions, detailed on this very site over the last year or so, I was utterly moved and impressed by his acceptance speech last Thursday. The speech itself was prehaps less soaring that some of his other ones, but the performance overall, which includes the setting, the history-making quality of the event, its significance for our political culture, nearly brought me to tears. It has been interesting to note the contrast between the tones of the two conventions, the quality of speechmaking and political rhetoric at the one last week, a great deal of it inspiring, visionary and hopeful, and this week (so much of it acid, detached from the problems we face as a society and as a world, and in complete flight from the debacle of the last eight years. The political commentary by the punditocracy I've found almost uniformly abysmal, with the sole exception of MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. (Who thankfully will be getting her own show next week!)

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Most of the people on air appear less informed about basic aspects of the party's and candidates' platforms, their histories, their ideologies, and what they're saying and how they're saying, than my two cats. They are very good at regurgitating talking points issued by the McCain campaign and RNC, or reciting whatever they've read on Drudge Report. I expect Fox always to be at the bottom, and they do not disappoint ever, but the major broadcast channels, as well as CNN and even PBS, have proved to be quite bad. Watching Charlie Rose the other night, with "liberal" Al Hunt (Mr. Judy Woodruff?) downplaying or simply not broaching every valid criticism of the unqualified and constantly lying, self-described "barracuda" that John McCain has chosen as his Vice Presidential pick made me want to puke.

And can I just say this: it really says everything about John McCain that he picked someone who has lied, blatantly, in each of her first three public appearances since being named to his ticket. Think about that: on each of the first three times Sarah Palin spoke as the Republican VP pick to the American people, she blatantly lied, not just about one issue, but about multiple ones. Most obviously, she lied about that "Bridge to Nowhere" in Ketchikan. Congress canceled the earmark in 2005, taking the issue off the table. Let's state this again. Congress canceled the earmark IN 2005, TAKING THE ISSUE OFF THE TABLE. She was not elected UNTIL 2006. Yet she still advocated for the earmark in 2006 while running for office, and when Congress sent the money, without specific requirements for the bridge, she used it, in part to build a "Road to Nowhere"! Last Friday, she said before the paltry crowd in Dayton and the world that she had "told Congress" no thanks—I know her boss is clueless about Google, but is she? How dumb does this woman think we all are?

In addition to the cynicism it displays about the political stakes we face, the sexist assumptions that women would vote for any woman, and in particular this social and religious extremist, and sheer contempt for politics in general, McCain's selection of Alaska governor Sarah Palin undergirds one of Obama's fundamental critiques of McCain last Thursday: the Arizona senator, in addition to being out of touch, too far to the right, and lacking in any principles, has terrible judgement and a reckless temperament, both of which this choice embodies.

As people close to me will testify, I was very disappointed with Obama's selection of Senator Joe Biden, whom I think of as a Washington insider whose foreign policy instincts and pronouncements I've tended to find pretty suspect. He essentially agreed with Hillary Clinton and John McCain on invading Iraq, with poor excuses as to why, and on the Georgian crisis, he's been pushing almost the same line as the Bush administration. (Why on earth have none of the Democrats called more forcefully for bringing Russia to the table to discuss the situation? It's clear that McCain's campaign is hitched financially, via advisor-lobbyist Randy Scheunemann, to Georgia's leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, but the Democrats aren't also on Georgia's payroll, are they?) I was much more in favor of Obama picking someone like Montana's governor Brian Schweitzer, for example, who really brought a lot to the ticket, including ideological and geographical diversity. Schweitzer would have been a fresh face with substance behind it, unlike Palin, and as he showed at the convention last week, he possesses that coin that the establishment media seek like a jones: the man's a geiser of authenticity, real, unvarnished folksiness. From the perspective of several weeks, however, I'll give Obama the benefit of doubt. I think he and his team were right, and Biden looks like a very good choice as running mate, especially compared to Palin.

As of today Obama retains his national lead as well as leads in many states. But I was born and grew up in a state, Missouri, in which there are many people—perhaps not a majority, but close to it—who will find this woman's personality and the establishment media's bowdlerized version of her personal history, scrubbed almost completely of the pertinent and highly disturbing facts, quite appealing. There are more than a few places across the country, in Missouri and elsewhere, in which the politics of resentment and ressentiment, as well as cynicism, subterfuge, sub rosa racism, and host of other dangerous crap, which the GOP is playing to the hilt, very well may prove effective. So I worry. I really do.

But then I also keep in mind that the basic facts of today, the rising unemployment rate, the dodgy financial system and the collapsing real estate market, the rising costs of living, the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the steady tide of news about un-Constitutional activity that emanates from the White House—all of it may trump the exhausted and yet still caustic ploys the Republicans and their allies are turning to, it may trump the relentlessly flogged narrative of the POW-hero-"maverick" the press repeats like a mantra, and it may trump the presence of this dangerous, horribly unqualified woman whom the McCain campaign is itself so unsure of they will not let her near their very "base," the establishment media, they have quickly turned against like rattlesnakes in order to cow.

But as I've said it will not be easy—and not one of us who wants someone other than John McCain and Sarah Palin in the White House (and yes, there are options such as Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente, Ralph Nader's traveling roadshow, and various folks on the right, like Bob Barr, who'd be worse than McCain-Palin) should assume it will be.


On a completely different note, the one and only Jennifer Saunders (French and Saunders, Absolutely Fabulous) will have a new show on US TV, a sendup of daytime talk shows entitled The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle. It headlines Sunday's upcoming Sunday Comedy Block, starting at 9 pm EST. I can't wait!


In a few days I'll try to post some reviews and other things. I haven't gotten half as much reading as I'd hoped to, certainly far, far less than last summer, but I haven't been totally idle, or addled.

I did get out to the opening of CONTRANYM, a show curators Kelly Kivland, Alisoun Meehan and Chris Stackhouse mounted in the New Voices, New York series at chashama ABC gallery, in the East Village. The gallery itself was a toaster, but the art, by Robert Delford Brown, John Cage, Victoria Fu, Stephanie Loveless, and Brian Kim Stefans, was cooking in the best way.

In addition to chatting with the curators and Brian, I had the opportunity to meet fellow Cave Canem poet Myronn Hardy, whose book of poems The Headless Saints appeared earlier this summer. Here are some photos from that event. Enjoy!

The crowd at Contranym
The crowd at Contranym
Brian Kim Stefans's digital piece at Contranym
Brian Kim Stefan's digital film, "Scriptors"
A Robert Delford Brown Fluxus-style piece
Part of the collaborative Robert Delford Brown "Fluxus"-style piece, "Explosion of a Tile Factory"
At Contranym
Inside and outside