Graphic: Transparent Obama

For the first time in a while I decided to just play around with graphics. Initially I was looking to see what filters I could use to prep a photographic image for screen printing. I tinkered with a tractor and hands playing a piano with varying degrees of success, then wondered about portraiture. One thing led to another and this is what happened.

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The illiberalism of hypersensitivity

Cross-posted from elsewhere to further discussion

Having scratched my head and stared at my navel publicly elsewhere, I thought I should share what I found whilst scratching here as well. I would like to take a moment to share some observations about what is apparently a sensitive topic. The topic is so sensitive, however, that I feel I must preamble the [censored] [censored] out [censored] lest superior persons and others of highly refined sensibilities take this in the wrong spirit.

Point the first: I would like to express my appreciation for the people who conceived of, put into operation, and continue to maintain both with effort and money, this [well, that] website. Continue reading

CATEGORY: PersonalNarrative

A stretch of road in a city where the wind has blown prosperity away

I found myself walking along a thoroughfare in another Rust Belt city Friday while my truck was in the shop.

There’s nothing like walking with no particular place to go to get a feel for someplace. On the uncommon occasions when I visit large cities—Philadelphia, Charlotte, Portland—I check into my hotel, put my running shoes on, and walk for hours. At times I’ve found myself out past where the last buses run; other times, I’ve found myself looked at suspiciously by creatures clad in the trappings of haute couture.

Friday, I was not in a large city but rather in a small city whose better days are a memory and for whom better days are a dream. Continue reading

Earp grave

Tuesday morning with the Earps

Fanciful middle-aged musings in a garden of the dead

It was just another Tuesday…

Wyatt Earp is dead and gone but I have sometimes talked to him in the years since I became a Heart Disease Missionary. When I come to the cold shores of Colma, I come to stave off cancer by snacking on his western bones.

  …and I was out running an errand. And running that errand put me in a location in South San Francisco from where it would be easy to run other errands. You know how that goes. One twenty-minute task turned into five, and without prior planning I ended up in a Carl’s Jr. eating a chorizo breakfast burrito, wondering what it would do to my cholesterol levels and feeling bad about fast-food slumming.

I figured after I’d eaten I wasn’t yet ready to deal with the shuffling toddler-mom shopping carts or oblivious merchandise stock-monkeys at Target or Best Buy. Then I realized Josephine and Wyatt Earp were within my automobile errand sphere, so I decided to go see them.

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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

ArtSunday: LIterature

Karl Ove Knausgaard, Thomas Wolfe, Marcel Proust…Life is – How We Write It…?

While some authors have chosen to follow a literary path called transrealism, Knausgaard has chosen a path one might call hyperrealism. The question always rises rises again, however: is there nothing new under the sun…?

Karl Ove Knausgaard (image courtesy Wikimedia)

A little more than a week ago I examined yet another attempt to claim that a new literary movement has arisen. That new movement, called transrealism, has its promoters, but it also has its doubters (including this guy). In this essay we take a look at what may/may not be a new 21st century literary movement – one I’m denominating hyperrealism. The best way to look at such a movement is, of course, by examining the work of the author who is probably its leading proponent, Norwegian literary star Karl Ove Knausgaard.

Knausgaard’s massive six volume documentation of his own life in excruciating detail is called, in English My Struggle. In Norwegian that title reads Min Kamp – and yep, you’re right that his title echoes a book that gives most sensible people the creeps. Knausgaard’s book has pretty much nothing to do with Der Fuhrer’s opus magnum but a lot to do with some other, weightier, literary figures. Whether he chose the title simply to spark some controversy – well, why would any author want to do that in a culture that is so distracted it can’t pay attention to any damned thing for longer than the time it takes to scroll down a Facebook feed? Hmm? Continue reading

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

Health

Hysterectomy – who needs one anyway?

Warning, ladies – you probably don’t!

Wait, gentlemen, please don’t run away! Yes, I am about to start throwing around words like uterus, ovaries, vagina, clitoris, nipples, orgasm, and hysterectomy. Here under the shameful for-profit health care system we have, an astonishing one-third of American women are hysterectomized, leading to physical side-effects, emotional side-effects, loss of sex drive and sexual response, and total loss of overall vitality. Surely you have a wife, girlfriend, daughter, sister, mother, or aunt vulnerable to this outrage, so please do read on. I have read of so many men being devastated by the changes in women they love following hysterectomy – it is your issue too.

 

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Book-Review

Book Review: The Day the Mirror Cried by Saundra Kelley

An interesting olio of tales, vignettes, and short stories with poetry used as a gloss…Kelley’s collection offers nods to Faulkner, Capote, O’Connor, and other Southern legends….

The Day the Mirror Cried by Saundra Kelley (image courtesy Goodreads)

Saundra Kelley’s new book The Day the Mirror Cried reflects a couple of facets of her professional life. Kelley is a professional storyteller, a member of the Storytellers’ Guild, based in one of the capitals of that oral art form, Jonesborough, Tennessee. But Kelley also has a student of literature, and this work, a rambling collection of what she calls “reflections,” “odd memories,” and “ruminations,” shows that while she has a deep understanding of the folkloric character of storytelling, she also has a deep appreciation of great writing. The Day the Mirror Cried is laced with allusions to the work of great Southern writers even as it offers its own fascinating insights into the culture of native Floridians.

Unlike the typical story collection which often progresses towards a key centerpiece work that gives the collection its name, Kelley begins with  the piece that gives her work its title. “The Day the Mirror Cried” will remind readers of one of Faulkner’s most widely known stories, “A Rose for Emily,” and Kelley does a fine job of nodding to the great Mississippian while keeping true to her own tale. This story, which opens the first section of The Day the Mirror Cried, sets up some of the other nods to Southern Gothic tale telling that appear with it such as “The Ship’s Lantern” and “Laugh at the Moon No More.” One other story, “Emerald Forest,” is affecting in the same way as a Truman Capote tale: what begins as curiosity ends up in a sinister situation, changed in Kelley’s story by the intercession of a protective relative (and here the story echoes the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood with the main character’s brother acting the role of the woodsman). Continue reading

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson and the glacial pace of cultural evolution

Adrian-Peterson

Reach out and touch me now
Aphrodite said
You aren’t the only one
with armies in your head

I guess I take the Adrian Peterson story personally, for reasons I wrote about back in 2011. To this day I remember the pain that was inflicted on me by those I loved, and who loved me. Pain inflicted because they loved me, so much that they would have laid down their lives for me without question. But in their minds, if they spared the rod they were hurting me.

It warps you, in a way. It makes you associate pain with love and justice. And at 53, I have accepted that I will never quite be okay because of it.

Cultural evolution is a slow and sometimes painful thing. What is obvious to you and me today will be obvious to everyone eventually, but eventually might mean 20 years. Continue reading

CATEGORY: PersonalNarrative

The Ballad of Swamp Bunny

One morning last May, I stumbled into the kitchen, past the back door, stopped, backed up, and gazed through the glass. In the backyard staring at me, was a visitor. Then my son Joey, walking with his eyes closed, strolled into my back.

“What are you looking at?” He asked.

“We have a friend in the backyard,” I said.

Our visitor was a rabbit. He sat there staring at us, nibbling on grass, as patient as the dew.

“Hey Bunny,” said Joey. “Can I have pancakes for breakfast?”

Now, I know that the world can be dull and commonplace, so I have taken it upon myself to add some wonder and high adventure wherever possible, so that my son does not take for granted the thousand little miracles we see every day. I decided to provide our lupine guest with a more personal history.

“You know who that is?” I asked. “That may just be a rabbit, or it might be Swamp Bunny.”

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CATEGORY: RaceGender

Thinking about race – just one white woman’s journey

Recent events in Ferguson prompt me to write this now

by ceejay

Through most of elementary school, my best friend was Leslie. I loved her. We were a couple of nerds who didn’t really fit in with anyone but each other. She was very quiet and shy – that is, with everyone but me. We endlessly played jacks. We were the rulers of the game at our school – we mostly just played against each other because no one else could really challenge either one of us. Leslie was black.

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CATEGORY: ArtsLiterature2

John McPhee and Immersion Journalism: The Survival of the Bark Canoe

John McPhee’s greatness lies in his ability to make the real world and its inhabitants as interesting as if they were fictional…

The Survival of the Bark Canoe by John McPhee (image courtesy Goodreads)

Here’s one from the 2014 reading list that I’ve been looking forward to reading. I have been a John McPhee fan since I was an undergraduate. My composition class “reader” had an excerpt from Oranges about fighting a frost in Florida with smudge pots that hooked me on his approach to nonfiction.  (Some of the more hoary of you working through this piece may remember those books called readers. They were books of essays by great nonfiction writers assigned in 1st year composition classes to provide “writing models” to callow 18 years olds in the quaintly delusional hope that some of the greatness of an E.B. White, Lewis Thomas or John McPhee would enter our heads and come out through our pens back in those halcyon days when we rode dinosaurs to classes.)  The use of these has been widely discontinued – an act, I suspect, owing as much to the despair writing teachers feel of ever encountering a writer who could, to borrow a metaphor from Rogers Hornsby, at least “carry the bat” of a White or Thomas – or McPhee – as to changes in the pedagogical approach to teaching writing.

The Survival of the Bark Canoe is a brief book, only 114 pages. That is often the case with McPhee; he does not write long pieces because he actually writes pieces suitable for inclusion in magazines. The magazine he is most closely associated with is the same one that E. B. White and his contemporary James Thurber helped make famous: The New Yorker.  Given that magazine’s history for stellar writing – and occasionally writing that manages to be pompous and precious at once – one can easily jump to the conclusion that McPhee has that ironic, wittily condescending style many associate with the nation’s premier “high brow” mass market magazine (though these folks might disagree with that assessment). Nothing could be further from the truth – and therein lies McPhee’s greatness. His ability to immerse himself in the stories he explores and bring to life their characters draws readers along as if they were reading fiction. Continue reading

CATEGORY: PersonalNarrative

A bad case of Schrödinger’s Flu

Losing myself. Literally.

I haven’t posted in a while, because I had to take some time to lose myself. Literally, I’m not the man I used to be, because I didn’t like going upstairs.

On a good day I would make three trips upstairs. I didn’t like going upstairs. It was work, and all my toys were downstairs.

But one cold January day, when I got the top of the stairs on trip number 2, I shuffled over to the bed to take a nap. My wife was concerned.

“You know, you really shouldn’t get so out of breath from just walking up the steps,” she said.

“I was carrying something,” I gasped.

“You’re carrying a diet coke and a pencil,” she replied. “You just don’t sound right. When is the last time you went to the doctor for a physical?” Continue reading

WordsDay: Literature

Waiting for Nothing (More): Tom Kromer’s Singular (and Single) Masterpiece

Kromer’s novel of The Great Depression was his only fully achieved work…

Waiting for Nothing by Tom Kromer (image courtesy Goodreads)

I realize I have been remiss.

Despite two updates to my 2014 reading list (see here and here) I have still more books that I’ve added. So once I finish this essay on a rather singular work of literature from The Great Depression, I suppose it’s incumbent upon me to write a short piece to still further update my reading list.

But writing about the books themselves is ever so much more enjoyable, so let’s get to that first, shall we?

Waiting for Nothing by Tom Kromer is one of those books that rattles around in the halls of academe periodically as a “lost classic.” I first encountered it in my first full time college teaching job back in 1987 at Salem College. A now “lost and by the wind grieved” colleague, Pete Jordan, asked me if I were familiar with the work. When I told him no, he thrust a copy into my hands and told me in no uncertain terms that it was a book I should know.

I took it home and read it in an evening. (That’s not a prodigious feat – the book is more a novella than a novel and the edition I reread for this essay, a very nice remounting by the University of Georgia Press, logs in at only 130 pages). It’s an alternately engrossing and wrenching narrative based on Kromer’s time as a “stiff” (the term refers to the many hobos who spent their time drifting from town to city across the country looking for work during the depths of the economic crisis in the early 1930’s). Continue reading

Opening the asylum

Daffy Duck and Robin Williams will never die, not really…

Robin Williams died yesterday, and when I heard the news I immediately thought of this collection of Daffy Duck toys I keep in an old-fashioned hanging bird cage in my basement. I have kept these toys in this way for years, collecting dust in a dark room, locked away like the picture of Dorian Gray.

It’s like I have collected iconographic bits of my own particular madness and put them in a teeny jail, though I have always thought of it as a shrine to Daffy, my God of Insanity.

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40 years ago today: where were you when Tricky Dick Nixon resigned?

You know those events where people always remember where they were? Like Kennedy’s assassination. The Challenger disaster. 9/11.

Well, 40 years ago today was another big one: on August 9, 1974 Richard Nixon became the first American president to resign from office, finally bowing to pressure in the wake of the Watergate scandal. And yes, I remember where I was: Continue reading

CATEGORY: WarSecurity

Nature versus nurture – peacenik’s child is joining the military

by ceejay

I remember so vividly the very first hint I ever had of her yet-to-be existence. I was in a store with my youngest sister and was suddenly so overwhelmed by fatigue that I was leaning over the shopping cart, unable to stop yawning, too weak to stand up on my own, afraid I would be unable to even drive us home. My sister, who already had two children and who knew that my husband and I had recently deliberately stopped using any birth control, began to laugh merrily and then dance circles around me, chanting “You’re pregnant, you’re pregnant, ha-ha, you’re pregnant….” It took three home pregnancy tests to finally confirm her suspicion.

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CATEGORY: PersonalNarrative

The one that got away: half-life of a haunting

by Anonymous

The image of the first girl I fell in love with seared into my memory a minute after I met her. I was in a college-town bar, where a belly full of 7-and-7’s gave me gumption enough to ask her to dance. Under the ultraviolet lights, the contrast between her black hair and white sweater proved unforgettable.

Throughout high school and up until then, I had struck out with girls. I was shy and assumed girls didn’t like me, so I acted like a jerk. In college, I was still shy but didn’t know any girls well enough to be a jerk.

So here I was, an immature 19-year-old college sophomore, and a nice-looking girl was dancing with me. Dancing turned to dating that fall, and I fell in love. How could I not? Kathy was smart, funny, and an artist who was studying to become a schoolteacher. I was a smoker, drinker, pothead and slacker. She was none of those but went out with me anyway. Continue reading