Religion

A strange moment in a New Age bookstore

Never mind religion. Know your customer, right?

Something … odd … happened today. As I have noted here before, I am not a Christian. I’m either atheist or pagan, depending on your perspective, and this afternoon I was in full-on pagan mode, for reasons that will be elaborated on in the next couple of days.

So I head to a local New Age bookstore to pick up some things I need for a ceremony. I quickly locate what I’m after and go to check out. The nice young woman behind the counter rings me up. I pay and as I turn to leave she says “Merry Christmas!”

I thank her and leave and wait, what? The woman at the counter at the New Age bookstore just wished me a Merry Christmas? Continue reading

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Facebook, the NFL and the GOP: #WTF

What a fucking day.

Item: Congress has tentatively agreed on a bill that will keep the government from shutting down. Now, there’s a lot wrong with it, starting with the fact that the Republicans are insisting on a huge payoff to Wall Street, basically holding the best interests of the people hostage to the best interests of the insanely rich. The smart money says the Democrats will:

a) raise holy hell, then
b) fold like the Vichy little bitches they are.

In other news, the sun is expected to rise in the east tomorrow.

None of this is the fun part, though. First, the GOP plan would … well, just read it. Continue reading

Music and Popular Culture

“Goodbye,” from The Well Wishers: Saturday Video Roundup

Greetings from the Pop Underground – here’s a track from one of my best CDs of the year…

Those who follow along know that I have a weakness for “Power Pop” – that retro, guitar-driven genre originally practiced by the likes of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Badfinger, Big Star, The Who, The Raspberries, and others of that ilk. You don’t hear it much on the radio, sadly (although Foo Fighters have been on a roll of late) – we’re talking about a largely underground movement here – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t as dynamic as ever.

One of my favorite practitioners of the craft, The Well Wishers, released a new CD this year. It’s called A Shattering Sky, and like everything else Jeff Shelton has done in his various incarnations (WW, The Spinning Jennies, Hot Nun), it’s packed to the rafters with ringing guitars and melodic hooks and positively viral earworms – if you’re like me this disc will be buzzing around in your head for days. Continue reading

Business

Bob Garfield takes Jane Seymour and Kay Jewelers to the woodshed

I rarely post recommendations encouraging you to go check out a business writer. And by rarely I mean never. Today I’m making an exception, though, because it turns out that one of my favorites, MediaPost’s Bob Garfield, hates those motherfucking Jane Seymour Kay Jewelers ads as bad as I do.

Awww. Every kitsch begins with Kay.

But wait. Open your heart? No, unless by “heart” they mean “wallet.” Ladies and gentlemen, I give you open-heart sorcery: the black art of combining celebrity, cheap sentimentality, self-delusion, greed and borderline consumer fraud.

The practice exploits consumers’ emotions and invites them to delude themselves into thinking a product purchase is an act of charity. But it is not charity. Continue reading

CATEGORY: ArtsLiterature2

Poet Laureate Mark Strand dead: reflecting on something he said

Former US Poet Laureate Mark Strand is dead at 80.

In a 1998 interview with the Paris Review, poet Strand said something I find fascinating:

Well, I think what happens at certain points in my poems is that language takes over, and I follow it. It just sounds right. And I trust the implication of what I’m saying, even though I’m not absolutely sure what it is that I’m saying. I’m just willing to let it be. Because if I were absolutely sure of whatever it was that I said in my poems, if I were sure, and could verify it and check it out and feel, yes, I’ve said what I intended, I don’t think the poem would be smarter than I am. I think the poem would be, finally, a reducible item. It’s this “beyondness,” that depth that you reach in a poem, that keeps you returning to it. And you wonder, The poem seemed so natural at the beginning, how did you get where you ended up? What happened? I mean, I like that, I like it in other people’s poems when it happens. I like to be mystified. Because it’s really that place which is unreachable, or mysterious, at which the poem becomes ours, finally, becomes the possession of the reader. I mean, in the act of figuring it out, of pursuing meaning, the reader is absorbing the poem, even though there’s an absence in the poem. But he just has to live with that. And eventually, it becomes essential that it exists in the poem, so that something beyond his understanding, or beyond his experience, or something that doesn’t quite match up with his experience, becomes more and more his. He comes into possession of a mystery, you know—which is something that we don’t allow ourselves in our lives.

Continue reading

Police Violence

Ferguson, Missouri: eight thoughts on a smoldering dumpster fire

Ferguson, MO is currently a dumpster full of flaming grease and it’s a long way from being extinguished.

As I have been watching the Michael Brown/Darren Wilson case unfold, a few things have occurred to me.

1: Let’s just get this out of the way first: there were two distinct groups in the streets the other night. Group A comprised people with legitimate grievances about this case and its place in a much longer running history of injustice for minorities in the US. Group B was made up of punks and hooligans looking for any excuse to cause trouble. There’s no defending this element’s behavior in the wake of the announcement that no indictment for officer Darren Wilson was forthcoming. I mean, you done me wrong, so to show you how pissed off I am I’m going to burn down my own house? Not a lot of rocket surgeons in that crowd, huh? I never ate at Red’s Barbecue, but I bet it was good and I hate to think what the owners are going through right now sifting through the ashes and trying to figure out what to do next.  Continue reading

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Barack Obama: talk loudly and carry a little stick (or, Mr. Obama sells a horse)

obama-circumstancesI’ve been thinking on Obama’s recent outbreak of backbone. Standing up to his FCC appointee on Net Neutrality was a fun start, and a lot of folks are welcoming the fact that finally, after six long years, he’s beginning to act with a little courage.

Maybe. Maybe he realizes that he has two years left and no more elections to deal with, and this is his chance to go out swinging.

Or maybe not. How many times since 2008 – go ahead and count them up, I’ll wait – have you heard somebody say that X was the best he could have hoped for with all that GOP opposition? If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this with respect to health care alone I could buy us all a nice steak dinner somewhere.

There are times when that has almost felt like his brand: Obama – the best that could have been done under the circumstances. See if we can get that on a bumper sticker. Continue reading

CATEGORY: PersonalNarrative

Dear Woody Paige: thank you for saving my life

Woody-PaigeHi Woody.

I’ve been posting the poems from my latest book to Ello lately – one per day – and this morning’s entry was “Old Ethan’s Quantum Diary.” It’s an especially difficult and painful piece of a larger work that is, in many ways, the most tortured effort of my 35-year creative writing journey.

As I explained in the preface to the post, there was a time a few years ago when I thought I had very little time left. Since I do not believe in any kind of afterlife, I found myself thinking a lot about what science has to say on the subject. It tormented me that it would all just be over. Fade to black. The void, and not even an awareness of the void. As hard, as painful, as frustrating and unfulfilling as the low spots have been, I love life and the thought of losing it terrified me. Continue reading

Democrats - Lesser of Two Evils

Dear progressives: #KillTheHostage

Democrats - Lesser of Two EvilsA political list I’m on has been having some interesting discussions running in parallel of late surrounding a variety of issues (Obamacare being the big one), and at the core of it all is a basic question: how do progressives aggregate and assert the power needed to effect the policies they support. (Which is ultimately the core question of all politics, I guess.)

So, if you’re a progressive, and you’re sick to death of being ignored, marginalized, gamed, played, punk’d, and told to eat your shit sandwich and like it because it’s prime rib, bitch, what can you do? How can you get from point A (shit sandwich) to point B (prime rib for all Americans, not just Art Pope, Sheldon Adelson and the Koch crime family)? Continue reading

“Evil Eye” from Snake Rattle Rattle Snake: Saturday Video Roundup

Snake Rattle Rattle Snake had the release show for their new CD, Totem, last night at the Gothic in Denver. Jeez, I wish I could have been there. I think the disc officially drops this week, and thanks to a free preview the other day, I can say without reservation that this is one of the top releases of the year – and it’s been a hellacious good year.

Here’s the first video.

Happy Saturday, yo.

Why Sam Smith is unelectable

Dr-Sammy-for-MericaS&R co-founder Mike Sheehan had a really funny comment on my “Dems need their own Tea Party” post. As in, I laughed until my sides hurt. Checkit:

Well, what’s stopping you from running for office?

If I’d had soda in my mouth I’d have spewed it all over your computer. He continues:

Er wait, never mind… intelligence is a liability in US politics… makes you look godless and America-hating.

He gets it. But seriously, I’ve been bitching for decades. Why don’t I run? I think I have solutions for everything, right? Continue reading

What the Democrats need is their own Tea Party. And fuck Mark Udall.

Democrats - Lesser of Two EvilsI’ve been sifting through the various analyses and post-mortems, and I don’t know that I have anything insightful to say that others haven’t said better. Also, I just don’t have the energy. I think it’s clear from what I have had to say in recent years – and I have said it in various forms more times than I can recall – that I am incredibly disenchanted with the Democratic Party in its current incarnation. Anytime the best thing I can muster to say about you is that you’re not quite as bad as the Republicans, you know the bar can’t be set a lot lower without bringing in a backhoe.

In Colorado, for instance, am I happy about Cory Gardner? Hardly. Do I understand how people like me might have been underwhelmed by Vichy Democrat Mark Udall? Continue reading