Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Women and Words



Women and Words


I chose to write poems, although "choice"
is a bit strong. No one really takes poetry
seriously, especially those who pretend to,
but that's another poem.

Simply by virtue of writing poems, I became
a poet--that's the way it works, and so what?
I like that original choice as much as I like
the choices to befriend outcasts, say
the impolitic (as opposed to the fake
"politically incorrect"), remain unpolished,
hurl myself into this project and that, and
think too much with my cock and my tongue,

both desperately interested in women--
those magical creatures who are, yes I know,
just people (but are you sure?). So here I am
writing again in a notebook and online, in some
already forgotten pixel of the universe. This

writing works for no one.  Again: it works
for no one. It is unemployed. It is useless,
without economic value. It may also have
other virtues besides this. Who knows?

The thing is, when I realized words
and women were part of the universe, this
only world I know, I was, as they say, on board.
And now there's poetry. And one woman.


Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Wood-Cutting Days

Wood-Cutting Days

After the chainsaws stop snarling, roaring,
and smoking and get set down, hot, the woods
seem to reassert their muted sounds.
And after the splitting-mauls fall hundreds
of times, and you're sweating and smelling
of sawdust, chain-oil, and last night's whiskey,
and after the truck is loaded with freshly split wood
redolent of sap and pitch, then it's time to load
yourself into the stove of time, to let it consume you
and reproduce you decades later, when you're
in the midst of a task and stop and remember
one of those wood-cutting days, back when,
although knowing otherwise, you let yourself
indulge in the idea that there was an unlimited
number of such days. And there's such comfort
in knowing at least the woods are still there,
that all your sweating, time, and toil (how funny)
didn't make a dent in the forest, forest of wood.


Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Impertinence

Impertinence

If you are told you've been impertinent,
It doesn't mean your  comments don't pertain.
Indeed it means they have been relevant,
And to the listener, they've caused a strain.
There is a chance of course you have been rude.
More likely though you've irked authority
And sparked in it a harsh, parental mood,
And a desire to guard territory.
So: insubordinate is what you've been,
Presuming to be level with the boss.
The power wants you docile like some moss.
Let us suggest then that "impertinent"
Is rather, roundabout, a compliment.


Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

"Orchard in January," by Richard Wilbur

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Unit of Time

Unit of Time


There's only one legitimate unit of time.
We call it (in English) "time" or "Time."
We move through this infinite
unit, so we need to invent parts
where none exist.. If Time

had a point of view, it might look
at second, decade, billion years,
and yesterday, and think, "Huh?"

To Time, all attempted parsings
of it must appear to be nonsense,
a waste of our time, but not of
time, none of which ever elapses,
or can be wasted.


Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Yoga Poem #6



Yoga Poem #6


All right, it's pigeon's pose again.
My hips and knees confer briefly,
then issue a joint-statement to me:
Go to Hell. I look like a dinosaur-bird
brought down by a lightning bolt.

From distant corners of the Yoga
World, assistant rush to prop me up.
I am a Yoga Emergency.

Incidentally, I've never seen
a pigeon sit this way, but this
is a mere quibble, a coo.

The flexible women in class
seem to reach this pose with ease.
So I think of them, kindly, as doves.

I like these difficult poses because
they make life's absurdity plain. Here
I am, gnarled legs on red mat,
because I think it's good for me,
and it is good for me. Wow. Now

the women, the doves, lift off!
They fly around the room above
me, they roost on the air duct,
and they coo happily! Okay,
not really, but now we're in
forward-fold, and I'm so
relieved I hallucinate mildly.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Yoga Poem #5

Yoga Poem #5


I'm not sure what war
they were fighting with
the warrior poses, but
I deduce the stakes
weren't very high.
Back off, enemy mine,
or I shall bend my knee
slightly further!
If only we could evolve
to such a state--in which
warriors are able only
to pose, all occupying
higher ground.


Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Yoga Poem #4

Yoga Poem #4


I tried Bikram yoga--twice. "The second
visit means you're stupid," a close advisor
said. The instructor copped the attitude
of a fussy German bureaucrat, and her
male assistant acted like her pet. Hand-
lettered signs adorned the place
concerning what  and what not
to do. The room was too goddamned
hot: Ockham's Razor slices through
the Bikram. So as not to stroke out,
I finally just lay on my mat, opened
my mouth as I'd seen hot hounds do,
and rested like a tranquilized polar bear.
The instructor approached, loomed over
me with her microphone headset, said,
"You must close your mouth. Otherwise,

we'll think you're dead." I found her
concern touching. In the locker-room
afterward, three of us commiserated,
heads smoking. One guy made a business-
call on his cell-phone. The assistant appeared--
having been eavesdropping, it seemed. He
ordered, "No cell-phones in the building."

When somebody starts trying to control
your behavior beyond the mat, you have
the makings of a cult. And as they say
in Zen business school, "Don't forget
who the customer is, grasshopper."

But at the other yoga place now, I've
been encouraged to let such attachments
go before beginning the session's practice.
So I'm letting go of oven-yoga. Really.
I'm really letting go of it. After all, some
people seem to like it.


Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Poe Sonnet

Poe Sonnet

He was so utterly American,
Careening through his life deliberately,
Addicted to both impulse and ambition.
He wrote for art and also for the money.
New England and the South converged in him,
Dividing up his traits chaotically:
Roderick Usher and A. Gordon Pym.
He wielded gothic excess gleefully.
In Hollywood he'd find himself today,
Overindulged, in rehab, overpaid.
Over-the-top was Edgar Allan's way.
He always led imagination on a raid.
Gargantuan and childish, you know:
The disunited state of E.A. Poe.


Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

"hate blows a bubble," by e.e. cummings

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Yoga Poem #2

Yoga Poem #2


Downward dog indeed.
Make the arse the apex,
dig in your toes, and put
that nose near the ground.
Hey, sniff your way to namaste.

Don't look at your neighbor's
ass. You're not traveling
in a pack. In down-dog,
your body and the Earth
make a triangle pointing
toward the sky
and Orion's dog
eternally faithful.

Butt in the air,
you are undignified
and proud both
at once. Your shoulders
ache. They're holding
up your lower floors,
something they're
not used to.

You wish to lie
down like a tired
hound.


Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Yoga Poem #1

Yoga Poem #1


Before yoga, you
are overwrought.
During yoga you
are wrought--
like iron as it's
pounded on by
a blacksmith . . .
without a hammer.

After yoga, you
are overwrought:
there's a lovely
formlessness to your
to your thinking
as thoughts pass
through, pass by.
Even if it's a
gray day, even if
it's night, you notice
light.


Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

"On the Sea," by John Keats

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Being An American," by William Stafford

"Lonely People," by Langston Hughes

Samuel Johnson and Gertrude Stein in Heaven

Samuel Johnson and Gertrude Stein in Heaven


Lapidarian stylists, hard prose. Ugly people--at least
according to those who make the rules, which Sam
and Gert upheld devoutly or smashed like Vikings,
depending on the whims of their intelligence. Smarter
than the rest, they were, and than the best, around
whom they lived.  They were both puritanical
Epicureans. They had a powerful desire to be
chaste, which showed up in prayers and prose
but not so much in life, which is an exuberant affair.

Sam had Hetty and Boswell and a cobbled
entourage. Gert had Alice and Paris and lots
of names to drop.  Each was a bit of a hick,
a tourist, a clod--the chief effect of which
was to compress their anxieties and sharpen
mental blades  Gert was from Oakland, which
she tried to erase by saying  that it didn't have
a there. Sam was from Lichfield and had
bad shoes, nervous ticks, and a marred face.
Gert had the nose of a battleship. Lord Almighty,
no wonder they're glad to be paired in Heaven,
where they read each other's writings and get
all the uncanny connections.

Each of them devoured the Age. Each was
interested in writing lives in the process of
composing their own. Both could be cruel,
but not for long. Neither grasped Empire or
other larger structures. They operated in
small spaces, like boxers. They never got
over their crushes on London and Paris.

Hard prose easily understood. What's not
to understand? they ask each other in
Heaven, dining and drinking extravagantly.
Prose is there to preserve surges of intellect.
They get to missing Alice and Boswell, so
here they go, searching, walking together--
oh my, what a sight.  Peering around a
corner, very short Picasso sketches them
and yearns to cry out that he is a genius, too.
But God's put Pablo on probation.


Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

The Smoking Gun

The Smoking Gun


The .45 learned to smoke from an old .22.
Now it puffs on hand-rolled cigarettes
regularly--so great to get out of the holster
and relax for a few minutes. Sometimes
it's joined by a 12-gauge shotgun, which
prefers plump cigars. Surprisingly,
the snub-nose .38 smokes a pipe,
Meerschaum, puffs meditatively,
dreaming of hard-boiled, pulp-soft
crime novels, blowsy dames, and
paper bullets aimed at imaginary targets.


Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

A Poet Considers Probability

Probability: A Poet's View


Hey, if something happens, didn't it
have a 100% chance of happening--
apparently?  I mean, math's fun, but
most variables don't get
noticed until after occurrence: The
coin lay on the table heads-up.
Something someone said affected
the force of the flip. Witnesses

would later agree an impulse of
destiny passed through the place,
palpable, like a whiff of cordite.

Having factored in everything,
if we could have done so early,
we'd dispense with Pascal, Fermat,
and numbers, plus their accessories,
such as parentheses and arrowheads.

Our equation would read, "Of course--
oh, absolutely--it will happen."


Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Lost in Coupon World, Dude

Lost in Coupon World

I'm at market late at night.
Florescent tubes glow ghostly white.
In the cage-like cart--one tomato
And a box of pre-fab pie-dough.

It's lonely here along the aisles.
The products just go on for miles.
It's my duty to buy more things--
Maybe Tobasco and onion rings.

It's a midnight run to Coupon World.
This is tonight's version of my fate.
I'm cruising past antacids now,
On my way to fishing bait.

Copyright Hans Ostrom 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Two Things," by Langston Hughes

Microcosm of a Society in Decline

This morning's (12/16/10) Tacoma News Tribune tells of how Washington state's governor and legislature will respond to the economic crisis that demands budget-cuts. Proposals include shutting down the state's history museum, housed in the refurbished Union Station in Tacoma on what has become a museum row. They also include cuts to gifted-education and  medical and long-term care for impoverished persons and the elderly. The governor allows as how she especially doesn't like the latter cuts to social services, but she suggests that the community must step in to help.

Well, the state is "the community," and it's decline, as is the U.S. Both live in denial about the widening chasm between rich and poor, the consolidation of corporate power that overwhelms politics and small businesses, and the crazy ways we put money into treasuries: essentially by not taxing sufficiently those most capable of paying taxes.  The U.S. Congress just refused to let tax-cut for the very wealthy expire, thus adding to a deficit already surreally expanded by two wars and a military budget that exceeds all other nations' military budgets combined. Our military secures a nation rotting from the inside. Widespread poverty and low wages are low-grade, chronic terrorism.

Washington state has no income tax, so it has to fill its coffers with a sales tax, the impact of which is greater on the poor than on the rich, for obvious reasons.  And then there's the lottery.
 

Meanwhile, The News Tribune, other newspapers, and other media won't report on poverty, bad working conditions, and the impact of low wages.  The Tribune once ran a six-part report on a man who operated a driving-school that was a scam. But it won't report on the economically distressed parts of Tacoma or of the rest of the state.  Nor it will it report sufficiently on the conditions at the federal detention center in Tacoma, where non-citizens languish in bad conditions; this, too, is an economic issue because a lot the folks in there were supporting families and paying taxes.  The Tribune will report extensively on crime but not on how poverty has an impact on crime. To be fair, the TNT is no different from other papers, especially those owned by large chains. Quarterly profits drive editorial decisions. One result is that the TNT ran, on its front page, a story that had been in the Seattle newspaper the day before.  On its front page.  It wasn't news anymore, but someone must have thought it would sell papers. Why not send a reporter out to write about some aspect of poverty?

And where would I propose to cut (since I'm so smart!). I'd probably start with the salaries of the governor, the legislators, and the upper-level judges.  I'd cut the travel budgets for them, too. I'd put an additional sales tax (since an income tax will never happen) on expensive boats and cars--not boats, mind you, that working people are likely to buy for much needed recreation. I'd increase the taxes on hard liquor but not on beer and wine. I know I could find other cuts or additions if I had a look at the budget, but this is a start.

Also in the news is that Tacoma will close two of its library branches.  You guessed it: they are both in lower-income areas of the city.  What a good idea.  The News Tribune should "adopt" at least one of these branches and keep it open.  Think of it as an investment--in literacy, in future readers. Oh, and one of the branches is the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., branch--should we need further agonizing symbolism.

The broader picture is that state can't take care of those who most need care, and it can't even keep its main source of historical memory alive.  It can't keep gifted programs open, thus abandoning one great long-term investment.  At the national level, the president meets with CEOs but not with those who represent working stiffs and the poor. Congress blows another hole in the budget but won't confront war-spending and military spending, both gaping economic wounds.  Meanwhile, the U.S. is the only major industrial nation not to have a comprehensive health-care system for all. In that area, we're inept.  And even in Switzerland, where capitalism basks, insurance companies aren't allowed to make a profit on health-care.  (That's the case in most countries.).  Why? Because it's like shooting fish in a barrel after the water's gone. Everybody gets sick. Why exploit this universal condition for profit--especially when not everyone is insured?  Insane.

But that's where we are.

"The Sphinx," by W.H. Auden

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Deciding," by William Stafford

"Blue Monday," by Langston Hughes

"Ginkgo Biloba," by Johann Von Goethe

10 Tips for Successful Holiday Entertaining

1. Hide
2. Surprise your guests by dressing up as Santa Claws, the Beast from the South Pole.
3. Invite friends of many and no faiths and from across the political spectrum. Insist that they discuss only politics and religion. If the conversation lags, bring up the topic of sports teams.
4. Hold a seance and summon the spirits of dead-gifts-past: Soap on a Rope, the Gensu Slicer, 007 Perfume, Medieval Scholar Barbie.
5. Take any Martha Stewart recipe and add absinthe.
6. Spend an evening with your favorite nice-and-naughty person and insist that she or he be good, for goodness sake, if not excellent.
7. Host a small gathering of Philatelists, and have them display their holiday stamps from around the world.
8. Play "The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies" backwards and listen for secret messages.
9. Sponsor a cage-match between Frosty the Snowman and Jack Frost.
10. After the chestnuts have been roasted on an open fire in the street where you live, put on a bright red nose (and nothing else), dance ecstatically, listen for the festive sounds of sleigh bells, dradels, and police sirens.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Modest Proposal For A Third Political Force

One premise is that not everyone disgusted by almost all Democrats and Republicans will agree on a third direction in which to go.

Another premise is that third political parties or movements often achieve unintended consequences: Perot helped get Clinton elected; Gene McCarthy helped put Nixon in office; Kennedy's spat with Carter helped Reagan; Roger Ailes and Karl Rove have taken over the Tea Party, for all practical purposes; and so on.

A final premise is that although we will never agree on all points, we can agree on a few, and that it is in our interest to push these few points collectively even as we push others in other political areas of our lives.

So I propose a Third Force, not a Party. Parties have to reach more or less total consensus, they have to indulge in group-think, and they have to have formal structures.  A Force simply (or not so simply) has to push for a few points representing common ground, not consensus, and no one in the Force has to agree about everything with anyone else in the Force.

I suggest that a Third Force promote the following points:

1. Cut defense spending. The defense budget is surrealistically massive, more than the total of all defense budgets worldwide. It's the one large area of the budget we can afford to cut.

2. Achieve universal coverage for healthcare. What does this mean?  If you get sick, you get to see a doctor and get medicine, and the money will come from a common pool of all Americans. The bigger the insured group, the more money is available. So make the sum total of all adults in the U.S. (with their dependents covered, of course) the insured group.

By the way, what "universal healthcare" looks like doesn't matter to me as long as it really works and as long as insurance companies don't profit from illness.  If, for example, private insurers want to break even and remain in the game, cool; it would at least be free advertising for all their other insurance products, and it would cost them nothinig (hence the term break even). Doctors and hospitals may remain private concerns and not work for the government--as is the case in Sweden, that allegedly "socialist" country.  I know. I went to a doctor there. I paid him a reasonable fee, and he got some more money from a fund overseen by the government--from what is essentially a not-for-profit insurance fund.  You're telling me the Swedes can pull this off and the U.S. can't?  Have Americans really become such impractical losers as that?!

3. Make it illegal for insurance companies to make a profit on health insurance. They can make a profit on all other kinds of insurance.  One doesn't have to buy a car or a house, but everyone gets sick, and it's silly to have companies profit on that because then it is in their interest to charge too much and reject some people.  The motive for health insurance and health care should be to care for people's health well and efficiently.  The added motive of profit should not be there.

4. Pass a federal law which states that corporations are not persons--just as zoos are not animals. Can a corporation, as opposed to a person representing a corporation, sign its name, utter a word, or wiggle a bodily appendage?  If not, it is not a person.  Of course, any individual who works for a corporation retains all rights under the Constitution.  It's just that the obvious phantom, "corporate person-hood," is banished.

5. Never privatize Social Security.

6. Insist that all ballot machines leave a paper trail. Pass a federal law that requires same.

7. Retain Internet neutrality.


That's it for now. A genuinely modest list. It is practical and pragmatic in nature.  Although, arguably, it may reveal some kind of ideology, it is not ideological in spirit. There is no attempt to convince anyone of a theory of government. All the proposals are based on common sense and empirical experience.  For example, what if social security had been privatized before the 2008 crash?  Would you allow your bank not to provide a paper trail for transactions if you asked for a paper trail?  Does no one get sick?  Is a corporation a person--I mean, in reality, not in some kind of legal fantasy?

Even if one believes we need a strong military, one does not have to concur that the extraordinary size of our military budge is appropriate, especially given our deficits and inability to fund programs.  Try this experiment: Come up with a reasonable cost of universal healthcare--reasonable, not loaded according to a predisposition for or against universal healthcare.   Deduct that number from the current defense budget. Look at the remainder, compare it to the total of all military budgets worldwide, and ask yourself if that number is still enough to fund a military adequately.  Isn't universal healthcare the best kind of "national security"?

A final premise is that a modest list like this is more likely to establish common ground.  There will be a great temptation to add to the list.  I suggest resisting that temptation for now, especially as anyone may actively promote other ideas in other venues. Let us call these, with tongue in cheek, the Magnificent Seven, and cue the theme song.

To the extent we have any leverage, we all will simply ask anyone running for a pertinent office to pledge to support the magnificent seven but not simply give lip service. Cuts have to be significant, and no fudging on universal health-care.

Finally, to re-iterate: we are all free to disagree about any other point beyond the magnificent seven.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Reality Insight," by Gary Snyder

Collected Wisdom

*
*
*

Collected Wisdom


I bring you an empty thimble
containing my collected wisdom
gathered from my allotted years
of isdom.  Yes, I know what
what a thimble is, have worn
one on my finger, but let's not
linger in Arcania.  I don't have
any advice for you you haven't
already ignored. If you are
in general bored, however, I will
suggest that it's your fault. Get
interested. Or not. Your call.
That's it. That's all.


Copyright Hans Ostrom

Sports Article: A Poem

*
*
*

Sports Article: A Poem


The Babylon Ghosts defeated
the Atlantis Efforts yesterday
in a game of mythical angularities
that featured a record number
of dilemmas. The final score
was (and still is, being final)
122 to 14 divided by seven.
"I wish I had more time to
read novels," said Babylon
coach Velnar Phase after
the game. The victory allowed
the Ghosts to capture first
place in the Illusory Division
of the Rhomboid Conference.
Atlantis will face itself next
week, while Babylon travels
to the Steppes of Central Asia.


Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

In Defense (Gasp!) of Obama--Thesis: He Likes to Win

It's so fashionable among self-identified progressives to be anti-Obama that I assume that position to be wrong. Just kidding about the latter part. I'm as disappointed as the next person, although I don't know who the next person is. I have been "in dialogue" with friends who are highly miffed at the President. I now blog in defense of him chiefly to play devil's advocate--with myself!

But first, we should probably review the particulars, and I'll phrase them from the p.o.v. of his detractors (on the Left)--no particular order:

1. He "caved" on single-payer healthcare.
2. He not only hasn't withdrawn from Afghanistan, but he has also sent more troops.
3. His attorney general has not investigated potential war crimes and crimes of torture.
4. He gave too much money to Wall Street and not enough to jobs-stimulus.
5. He hasn't ended "Don't Ask/Don't Tell."
6. His stance on gay marriage is at least unhelpful.
7. He "caved" on the new Israeli settlements.
8. He "caved" on the tax-cuts for the rich.
9. He's done nothing to revive manufacturing.
10. He's corporatist.

I missed plenty, but these are some highlights.

My devil's-advocate is two-fold (and remember, I agree with most and close to all of the above):

1. Obama is the same Obama we saw in the campaign; he is the Obama who likes to win--strategically, not tactically.
2. Progressives often forget that to do anything in mainstream politics, you have to win. Okay, maybe they don't forget, but they're often quick to trade winning for anger-expressed or dissent.

One of my favorite radio hosts, Norman Goldman, pleasantly attacks the President and the Democrats for squandering a majority in both Houses. Let's grant that the Dems probably could have had more victories. However:

1. Truth to tell, they didn't have a majority in both Houses because of conservative democrats. Kent Conrad: "There never were enough votes for single-payer healthcare."  Conrad would know. He's essentially a Republican. Obama had no leverage with which to force the conservadems to change. He didn't have LBJ's long list of IOU's, etc.  Could he have used the bully pulpit more? Yes. Would it have worked? I doubt it: because the constituents in the conservadems districts/states opposed single-payer.  So Obama made a deal. It wasn't a total victory, but it got a big foot in the door of "universal" healthcare, and it essentially kept the game alive (read "Finite and Infinite Games") for another day, WHILE getting millions more insured eventually. Millions.
2. Could he have pressed Harry Reid to get rid of filibusters, etc.? Sure. But what about when the GOPers take over the Senate? Don't you want the Dems to have the filibuster option? I do. If you want to say Obama "caved" on healthcare, that's fine, but a truth is that the Senate Democrats controlled the game from the beginning--not the president.
3. Afghanistan. I think we should get out now, too. There are the obvious political points to make about Obama looking weak on "national defense" (whatever) in 2012, but I still think we should get out. Is this enough for me not to vote for him in 2012? No. I prefer any Democrat over any Republican. Why? Two words: "Supreme Court."  If you want to back Kucinich in 2012, fine. The most that will do is express anger and dissent, split the Dems, and possibly elect a Republican. Kucinich is less electable than Palin. Do you prefer Palin to Obama? I don't. (Remember, I'm mostly asking myself these questions.)  I think Obama has bought the argument about fighting Al Queda "over there," and I think he's afraid to look weak in 2012. That is, he wants to win.
4. He gave too much money to Wall Street and not enough to job stimulus. The Krugman thesis. Okay, agreed. But for the most part, he played the recession and Bush's catastrophe right down the middle of the fairway. He did "cash for clunkers" to flush the massive inventory of unsold cars; consequently, GM and Ford are doing well. He propped up GM: good move. Good jobs. Lots of them. He propped up banks. He had to. No choice. Basically, he had to walk into a barn full of horse-shit and shovel it out. Not glamorous and easy to criticize, but it's what Bush left him. A typical Bush II move: mess up any undertaking and let someone else clean it up.
5. I agree with Obama that Congress should end Don't Ask/Don't Tell, but if they don't by December 1, then he should end it as Commander in Chief. The parallel is to Roosevelt, who in fact chose NOT to desegregate the armed forces. 
6. Gay marriage is a states' issue--it just is. That's who gives out the licenses to marry. But I think Obama should drop the claim that marriage is only between a man and a woman, he should endorse gay marriage, and then he should say, "It's up to the states: get it done."  But he can't do it alone and never could.
7. He caved on tax-cuts to the rich. Believe it or not, I believe his explanation, and I almost never believe ANY politician's explanation.  He traded tax cuts for the rich for extended unemployment. But as Norman Goldman points out, these u. benefits still don't cover everybody.  But at least he bought a year for millions of unemployed. The alternative, at leas as I see it (and I probably see it badly) was a stalemate. I think he wanted to win something, so he won what he could.
8. His attorney general should investigate potential war crimes and torture crimes. Agreed. Still, I have to break out in a chorus of "Will a Republican president investigate same?" 
9. He's a corporatist. Absolutely. So was Lincoln. So was Roosevelt.
10. He caved on Israeli settlements. Well, he gave up, and I don't blame him. Unless the U.S. wants seriously to withdraw funds from Israel, there's no leverage. Zip.  And if any president suggests withdrawing funds, he or she commits political suicide.  Progressives themselves are horribly divided on the issue, and everybody knows that. Me, I find it refreshing that he essentially admitted the U.S. (not him, but he U.S.) has no leverage. He's not a magician. He can't invent leverage. Concerning Palestine/Israel, what president has? And this is even assuming you're a progressive who opposes the settlements. The chances are excellent that you support them.  So Obama's supposed to heal the progressive rift? Please.

So in this argument with myself, I say, "Self, would you rather have Obama or Hillary Clinton in the White House?"  On some days, I'd prefer Hillary. But guess what?  She couldn't even win a campaign. Her staff was horrific.  Obama beat her in a fair match. 

Self, would you rather have Obama in a second term or a Republican in a first term in 2012 (2013)?  Obama. Two words: "Supreme Court."  There are other  reasons, but these two words are enough.

What's a progressive to do, then, bucko?   First, do no harm. Don't work for Kucinich or anyone else in the primaries. I've seen enough of the McCarthy/Humphrey, Kennedy/Carter replays of progressive self-defeat, thanks very much.  I did not, in fact, prefer Nixon to Humphrey or Reagan to Carter. 

Second, DON'T WORK AGAINST OBAMA; WORK ON HIM. Pressure, pressure, pressure from below (as it were) and from within. Giant labor meetings. Well attended but smart anti-war rallies--not chaotic messes that the GOPers can use in the political spectacle (see Murray Edelman on the political spectacle, please).  African Americans, poverty-advocates, homeless advocates, etc. should meet with him and his cabinet. Progressive money-bags should horse-trade with him (mixed metaphors): I'll give your campaign this much cash if you do X for cause Y. Above all, workers and professionals need to organize.  Some workers need to stop taking the Republican bait(s) regarding race, taxes, "big government," and so on.  What have Republicans ever done for working people? Seriously.

 Take a page out of the "Tea Party's" plan. Look how they pushed their (Republican) Party. They thwarted McConnell in his own state and thwarted Rove in the Carolinas. But they did not say "off with McConnell's head" or "I'm working for Larry Craig!"  To the extent they were a legitimate grassroots group (they've been taken over), they worked from below and within.

Have I convinced myself?  Well, almost. 

"What's that smell in the kitchen?" by Marge Piercy

Analyzing a Viral Op-Ed: "I'm Tired of . . ."

I've seen different versions of the following essay, which is attribute to one Robert Hall, and which is sometimes referred to as a "viral op-ed"; it certainly seems to be popular in right-wing cyberspace. I thought I'd take the time to analyze it, and then maybe I'll fashion (a much shorter) response--later.  The piece, with my comments (in bold following each section):

I'm  tired of being told that I have to "spread the wealth" to people who don't have my work ethic.  I'm tired of being told the government will take the money I earned, by force if necessary, and give it to people too lazy to earn  it.   
The rhetorical model is established here: the person is not really "tired" but exasperated, and he asserts that he is being told things, but one wants to ask, "by whom, exactly?"  Yes, national and state governments take money and then spend it on things like inspecting food, building and maintaining interstate highways, funding a military that is more expensive than all other nations' militaries combined, enforcing labor-laws, gathering intelligence, providing emergency assistance after national disasters, and so on.  To assert that one is being told about this seems silly; the government has always worked this way.  "People too lazy to earn it"? Really? What percentage of the 10% out of work are "too lazy"?  Later the person identifies himself as a Christian. Isn't part of Christianity the willingness to help others in need, partly because of the spiritual gifts the helper gets from the helped?



I'm  tired
of being told that I have to pay more taxes to "keep people in their homes."  Sure, if they  lost their jobs or got sick, I'm willing to help.  But if they bought McMansions at three times the price of our paid-off, $250,000 condo, on one-third of my salary, then let the left-wing Congress-critters who passed Fannie and Freddie and the Community Reinvestment Act that created the bubble help them with their own money.   
Much too skewed. One may argue with the decision to keep banks afloat after the bubble burst, but the evidence seems to suggest that if they weren't kept afloat, a consequence would have been Depression, not recession.  Also, some people may have bought what they couldn't afford, but many were trapped in adjustable loans that weren't fully explained. One may go ahead and try to blame Congress, but why only "left-wing" Congress?  Fannie and Freddie weren't the main problem and were less of a problem than de-regulation, which is a right-wing obsession but not really a "conservative" one; if you are conservative, you are prudent, and prudence dictates that where there is a lot of money, there will be cheating, so it's best to have someone watching things.  Also, no one was told he or she had to pay more taxes to "keep people in their homes." We were told that some of our tax money had to be used to prop up large financial institutions--run by wealthy people who are "too lazy" or too craven not to cheat. Also, TARP was a Bush plan, not that of left-wing critters. Also, most of the TARP money has been paid back, and the GM strategy helped recover a major manufacturing unit that employs many people who are not, in fact, too lazy to work.
I'm  tired
of being told how bad America is by left-wing millionaires like Michael Moore, George Soros, and Hollywood entertainers who live in luxury because of the  opportunities America  offers. In thirty years, if they get their way, the United States will have the economy of Zimbabwe, the  freedom of the press of China, the crime and violence of Mexico, the tolerance for Christian people of  Iran, and the freedom of speech of Venezuela  . 
Ad hominem. Attack a symbolic man, Michael Moore, but not his ideas. I'd like to suggest that the deception of "trickle-down" economics and the refusal even to discuss cutting the military budget are as harmful to the economy as anything.  No organization attempts to protect free speech more than the ACLU (you could look it up, as Casey Stengel used to say), but the ACLU is of course much loathed by "conservatives" who aren't conservative. I'm sorry--I see almost no intolerance toward Christian people in the U.S. (I'm a Catholic.) I see lots of intolerance toward non-Christian beliefs, and I see a desire to make the U.S. government officially Christian: look at the influence of Focus on the Family, the Moral Majority, etc.  Let's flip the scenario: "I'm tired of being told how bad government is by rich people like the Bushes who spend their lives in government."

I'm  tired
 of being told that Islam is a "Religion of Peace," when every day I can read dozens of stories of Muslim men killing their sisters, wives, and  daughters for their family "honor"; of Muslims rioting over some slight offense; of Muslims murdering Christian and Jews because they aren't "believers"; of Muslims burning schools for girls; of Muslims stoning teenage rape victims to death for "adultery"; of Muslims mutilating the genitals of little girls; all in the name of Allah, because  the Qur'an and Shari'a law tells them to.
   
Christians murder their relatives and rape and intrude on the personal lives of women all the time, but I assume this man doesn't ascribe their misdeeds to Christianity.  And there are the glaring examples of slave-holding Christians (among them our founding fathers), of Christian members of the terrorist organization, the KKK, and of Tim McVeigh.  And do the math: what percentage of the total number of Muslims worldwide are terrorists?  Less than 1 per cent, no doubt. Any religion is only as peaceful as each of its followers. Bush, a Methodist, attacked Iraq without provocation, or with what has been documented as fabricated provocation.  Was this a Christian act? And don't confuse the question with "we're better off without Saddam Hussein": that is a separate question.  Is torture "Christian"?   I  think it's very cool that we have a black president and that a black child is doing her homework at the desk where Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation.  I just wish our black President was Condi Rice, or someone who believes more in freedom and the individual and less arrogantly of an all-knowing, all-intrusive federal government.   
The first part is condescending. "Condi" Rice supported an unprovoked war and illegal, immoral torture. Name one way in which Obama has been more intrusive than previous presidents. He didn't compose the intrusive Patriot Act. The FBI, CIA, and NSA were there before he was. His attorney general has done nothing--not one thing--to jeopardize "gun rights." Unlike several right-wing politicians, he didn't have thugs beat up dissenters at his campaign rallies. Identify one concrete example of how Obama has been more intrusive than Clinton, Bush I and II, Reagan, Nixon. "Arrogantly" is a tip-off.  It carries the whiff of "uppity."  Obama is more arrogant than Bush II?  Please.
I'm tired
 of a news media that thinks Bush's fundraising and inaugural expenses were obscene, but that think Obama's, at triple the cost, were wonderful; that thinks Bush exercising daily was a waste of presidential time, but Obama exercising is a great example for the public to control weight and stress; that picked over every line of  Bush's military records, but never demanded that Kerry release his; that slammed Palin, with two years as governor, for being too inexperienced for VP, but touted Obama with three years as senator as potentially the best president ever.  Wonder why people are dropping their subscriptions or switching to Fox News?  Get a clue.  I didn't vote for Bush in 2000, but the media and Kerry drove me to his camp in 2004.   Red herring. Most of the inaugural expenses for any president come from private sources. Well, at least Kerry had a 'war record.' Why didn't Bush II ever fly in Viet Nam?  This is not a rhetorical question. Palin wasn't slammed for being inexperienced. She was slammed for saying she could see Russia from Alaska and for not being able to cite one magazine she read (etc.) Also, she quit as governor.
I'm  tired
of being told that out of "tolerance for other cultures" we must let Saudi Arabia use our oil money to fund mosques and madrassa Islamic schools to preach hate in America, while no American group is allowed to fund a church, synagogue or religious school in Saudi Arabia to teach love and tolerance.   
I'm sorry, but if you pay somebody something for a product, that money then belongs to that someone. If you don't want to buy Saudi Arabian oil, then ban American oil companies from doing business there. And/or support the development of alternative energy sources.  It's not out of "tolerance" that we buy the oil; it's out of a need to fill our gas-tanks. Please.
I'm  tired
of being told I must lower my living standard to fight man-made global warming, which no one is allowed to discuss or debate. My wife and I live in a two-bedroom apartment and carpool together five miles to our jobs.  We also own a three-bedroom condo where our daughter and granddaughter live.  Our carbon footprint is about 5% of Albert Gore's, and if  you're greener than Gore, you're green enough.   People are allowed to discuss and debate the issue all the time, as in this op-ed. Also, the Republican House has decided to disband the committee on global warming, so precisely who is shutting down debate here? Gore = ad hominem. And ironically, the person has followed his complaint about Saudia Arabian oil with an attack on an issue that has spurred the U.S. at least to consider non-petrol energy sources.
I'm tired
 of being told that drug addicts have a disease, and I must help support and treat them, and pay for the damage they do.  Did a giant germ rush out of a dark alley, grab them, and stuff white powder up their noses while they tried to fight it off?  I  don't think gay people choose to  be gay, but I damn sure think druggies chose to take drugs.  And I'm tired of harassment from cool people treating me like a freak when I tell them I never tried marijuana.   
I don't know anyone who's been harrassed for not "tryinig" marijuana, but I'm willing to try to belief this man has. Precisely who has told this man that he must support drug-treatment? Most treatment places are not-for-profit (501-C-3) or private and for-profit. True, some state and municipal agencies dispense methadone, but that seems like money well spent, considering the heroin addiction costs states and cities even more money. I smell another red herring here.
I'm tired
of illegal aliens being called "undocumented  workers," especially the ones who aren't working, but are living on welfare or a life of crime. What's next?  Calling drug dealers, "Undocumented Pharmacists"?  And, no, I'm not against Hispanics. Most of  them are Catholic, and it's been a few hundred years since Catholics wanted to kill me for my religion.  I'm willing to fast track for citizenship any Hispanic person, who can speak English, doesn't have a criminal record, and who is  self-supporting without family on welfare, or who serves honorably for three years in our  military ... Those are the citizens we need.   
"Undocumented worker" is a more precise term than "illegal alien." They're not aliens. They're human beings. If you want to play the euphemism game, how about linking warrantless wire-taps to something called a "Patriot Act." What is un-Constitutional is, arguably, unpatriotic. Or how about Fox News and "fair and balanced"?  Or how about the famous "mission accomplished"? Nonetheless, I fully support the argument for "fast-tracking" some people from other countries. . . . And by the way, weren't Catholics among the original "illegal aliens" who invaded "the New World"? Did the Aztecs put the Spanish on a fast-track for citizenship?
I'm tired
 of latte liberals and self-absorbed journalists, who would never wear the uniform of the Republic themselves, or let their entitlement-handicapped kids near a recruiting station, trashing our military. They and their kids can sit at home, never having to make split-second decisions under life and death circumstances, and bad mouth better people than  themselves.  Do bad things happen in war? You bet.  Do our troops sometimes misbehave?  Sure.  Does this compare with the atrocities that were the policy of our enemies for the last fifty years and still are? Not even close. So here's the deal. I'll let myself be subjected to all the humiliation and abuse that was heaped on terrorists at Abu Ghraib or Gitmo, and the critics can let themselves be subject to captivity by the Muslims, who tortured and beheaded Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, or the Muslims who tortured and murdered Marine Lt. Col. William  Higgins in Lebanon, or the Muslims who ran the  blood-spattered Al Qaeda torture rooms our troops found in Iraq, or the Muslims who cut off the heads of schoolgirls in Indonesia, because the girls were Christian. Then we'll compare notes.  British and American soldiers are the only troops in history that civilians came to for help and  handouts, instead of hiding from in fear.   
This is a good place to assert the both/and vs. either/or argument. All torture is bad; both "American" and "Muslim" (so-called) torture are bad: so why pit them against each other? I don't know one journalist, liberal or otherwise, who wasn't appalled by what happened to Pearl, a journalist. All torture rooms are bad, so close all the ones you have control over. At some point, all troops in all wars commit atrocities.  Want to trade insults? I'll match your "latte liberal" with your liquored-up Vice President who never served in the armed forces and who shot his friend in the face with a shotgun.  Chicken-hawks? Try Bush II, Rumsfeld, Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, O'Reilly.
I'm  tired
of people telling me that their party has a corner on virtue and the other party  has a corner on corruption.  Read the papers; bums are bipartisan.  And I'm tired of people telling me that we need bipartisanship.  I live in Illinois, where the " Illinois  Combine" of Democrats has worked to loot the public for years.  Not to mention the tax cheats in Obama's cabinet.   I just don't believe he's been told that one party has a corner on virtue. Bums are not necessarily bipartisan, but they do come from both  (all) parties: on that we can agree. Well, if one is sick of one party dominating, why wouldn't one be in favor of bipartisanship? It's only logical. 
I'm  tired
 of hearing wealthy athletes, entertainers and  politicians of both parties talking about innocent mistakes, stupid mistakes or youthful mistakes, when we all know they think their only mistake was getting caught.  I'm tired of people with a sense  of entitlement, rich or middle-class or poor.   Well, I suspect we're all tired of hearing about such mistakes, except when we make such mistakes. It's that cast-the-first-stone thing. Also, the rhetoric of this piece springs from an entitled viewpoint that licenses the speaker to assert that he's "tired."  I'm tired of his being tired. And wasn't once purpose of the Constitution to set out rights and privileges to which some are entitled (but not African Americans, who were relegated to slavery and 3/5ths humanity in the original Article One of the Constitution. You could look it up.
Speaking  of poor, I'm tired
 of hearing people with air-conditioned homes,  plasma color TVs and two cars called poor.  The majority of Americans didn't have these things in 1970, but we didn't know we were "poor."  The poverty pimps have to keep changing the definition of poor to keep the tax dollars flowing to their causes.   Well, plasma TV wasn't available in 1970, so I have to grant that point. Personally, I miss the days when we could get just one channel in black-and-white in the Sierra Nevada. I will assert, however, that one may BOTH live in poverty AND have an air-conditioner. (And have a job, I might add: the working-poor.)  I don't know what he means by "poverty pimps." I do know what a lobbyist pimp, an insurance-corporation pimp, and a tobacco-company pimp are, however, and many have served in Congress (from both parties).
I'm  real tired
of people who don't take responsibility for their lives and actions. I'm tired of hearing them blame  the government, or discrimination, or big-whatever for their problems.   
Yes,  I'm damn tired.  But I'm also glad to be 63.  Because, mostly, I'm not going to have to see the world these people are making for the rest of us.  I'm just sorry for my young, beautiful granddaughter.   I'm tired of "conservatives" who claim to be against government but serve in it, who claim to want to reduce the deficit but then reduce in the influx of money from people who can afford to pay taxes (millionaires and billionaires), who don't allow themselves to be investigated for corruption (Cheney/Enron) or for shooting a friend in the face with a shotgun. And who are "these people"?  We have seen the enemy, and he or she is us. In a bipartisan way, let's agree to close the chasm between rich and poor, to make health-insurance not-for-profit, to make sure the government has to get a warrant before tapping a phone, to stop rendition and torture, and to stop the race-baiting rhetoric of TV and radio "talkers."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My Freind Carter Monroe Might Like This One: The Hot Seats perform "Blue In The Bottle" at WDVX

J.C. and the Dirty Smokers perform "Hammered and Nailed"

Blind Corn Liquor Pickers performing "Bad Tom Smith" at WDVX

Carolina Chocolate Drops performing "Hit' Em Up Style"

Memphis Shakedown - The Carolina Chocolate Drops

Carolina Chocolate Drops "Cornbread and Butterbeans"

The Carter Family - Wildwood Flower

Johnny Cash - Pick The Wildwood Flower

Johnny Cash - Ballad Of The Teenage Queen

Johnny Cash - Don't Take Your Guns To Town

Johnny Cash - Five Feet High And Rising

Johnny Cash - Big River

Johnny Cash - Tennessee Flat Top Box

Johnny Cash - Get Rhythm

Rawhide - TV - opening - ending

Ballad of Paladin Have Gun Will Travel

The Lone Ranger Opening Theme Song

The Wild Wild West TV intro (1965)

The Virginian Theme 1962 - 1971

BONANZA

The Magnificent Seven Theme (Elmer Bernstein)

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Theme 1966

The Pogues - Lorca's Novena

Anne Marie David - Federico García Lorca/ A mi Padre--About the Spanish Poet

Jimi Hendrix - Crosstown traffic

Jimi Hendrix - Voodoo Child

Day Tripper-Jimi Hendrix

The Last Poets - Poem to Jimi Hendrix, Live at Stockholms Kulturfestival...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Yes, Indeed

F Republicans

When A College May Be In Decline: Know the Warning Signs

A colleague at a far-flung university (well, far-flung from where I am, not flung at all from where s/he is) wrote to say that, for the first time since she's taught there, she thinks the place is in decline, and it made me wonder how many other colleagues at a various institutions (community college, state university, private college, private university) feel the same way--and what the warning-signs of "decline" might be.I'll use shorthand and simply refer to the institutions as "colleges."

Of course, two major factors have nothing to do with the internal workings of the colleges: 1) The wrecked American economy; and 2) Americans' deeply ambivalent (at best) attitude toward higher education and the public funding of it. I see these factors only getting worse, especially when one of the two major political parties seems gleefully, manically, and maniacally anti-intellectual.  The House of Rep[tile]s will disband its committee on global warming, for example.  As with trickle-down economics (and why did people ever think that metaphor portended anything good when, at best, people would get trickled on?), the GOPers are unamused by data.  Not that he Dems are any day at the trickle-factory's beach.  I'd rather watch a dog vomit than listen to almost any federal politician or politico-celeb at this point.  Seriously.

But I disgorge, I mean digress.. . .  Anyway, the two major factors above have immediate impact on the internal workings of colleges: more use of adjunct-faculty, salaries not even keeping pace with inflation, large class-sizes, evaporation of benefits, and overall a kind of dreary bottom-line approach to everything, where before some vision and hope might have been found. I mean, everybody knows there always is a bottom-line; it's when the bottom-line becomes excuse for every decision, the lead in every campus mandate, that things get Dickensian.

In such a climate, different offices, departments, and sectors of the university become like silos or bunkers, with everyone hunkering down, the not so subliminal message being "actually, we're not all in this together, and don't have a nice day."  Often this means that directives or plans set out by higher-level administrators are ignored or undermined--or are drawn and quartered, as every unit pulls in a different direction, if pulling at all.  Usually, then, the higher up the administrator, the more out of touch he or she gets with what's really going on.  People start to shine him or her on, withhold information, and, to borrow a term from a Karl Shapiro poem, "back-scuttle."

Once a college--or any institution--starts going after benefits or salaries, one temptation on the part of those who run the place (boards of trustees, regents, legislators, higher level administrators, and so on) is to get legalistic: "Well, we aren't legally bound to keep giving you that benefit," e.g.  That's to be expected. ("We are not all in this together.")  At a college, however, this quickly becomes dicey because so much of what faculty and staff do is off the books, not part of the contract.  Informally advising student groups, attending students' performances, helping to recruit students, contacting alumni, helping with fund-raising: faculty, especially, are more likely to take part in such things when a) they don't have tenure (this would be called self-interest), b) they feel the place is treating them not merely as contracted employees, c) and they sense the place is at least holding steady and maybe getting better.  Once they get a strong whiff of legalism, stagnation, and/or decline, however, they are more likely to take a punch-the-clock attitude, teach their classes, fulfill the other basic duties, and get off campus.


I wasn't surprised to hear that a lot of this stuff was taking place at my friend's college, which is different in kind from mine.


There may be other signs, depending upon one's institution.  Younger faculty may be less productive than those from older generations, and the standards for promotion and tenure may be so murky and/or inconsistently applied that most of them will skate to tenure anyway--or get denied tenure for reasons that seem fickle. The inconsistency cuts both ways.

A high percentage of departments may be dysfunctional, and the dean, provost, division-head, or vice president may be too overwhelmed, too implicated in the dysfunction, or too close to retirement to do anything about it.  Dysfunctional departments are like open sores on the body of the campus.

Private colleges face a particular challenge because most of them are so tuition dependent, so that while they may talk a lot about rigor and idealistic curricula, their main goal is to recruit and retain enough warm bodies. Moreover, the "liberal arts education" may be getting more and more arcane and frivolous, especially when so much information is so readily available.  It may be that a moderately motivated autodidact can get a perfectly sound liberal-arts education online, in libraries, and from used bookstores. However, the reader over my shoulder is now howling with counter-arguments about the need to be guided by good professors, the conducive atmosphere of liberal-arts seminars and "residential education," and so on. The larger question about whether liberal arts colleges are keeping pace with larger societal changes obtains, however--or sure seems to do so, from this p.o.v.  It's counter-intuitive, I know, but at liberal arts colleges, where high value is placed on critical thinking, one rarely sees critical thinking applied to assumptions, definitions, and bromides affiliated with "the liberal arts."

My friend and I did caution each other about what Randall Jarrell once called "Golden Age-ism"--a form of nostalgia.  He wrote that, "in the Golden Age, people probably went around complaining how yellow everything looked."  For my friend's sake, I wish s/he were merely nostalgic, but she isn't.  The evidence of financial, functional, administrative, and collegial decline is just too overwhelming there.   Still, one needs to look for things that may be better now than they were before.  And keep looking. 

While one must guard against nostalgia, one must also confront the fact that American educational institutions, their basic structures and assumptions, are now about a 100 years old (some are older, of course)..  In October I went to a conference at which an expert spoke about this.  He noted that the current high school system is one pretty much rooted in the 1920s and 1930s--when child-labor laws made it necessary to put kids somewhere during the day, and when there was a push for "universal literacy."  Most high-school curricula, schedules, and systems now are hopelessly unrelated to the society into which the students will go--in which they already are.  Higher ed is a fusion of 19th century aims: (the cultivation of gentlemen and gentle-ladies) and a mimicking of English education (William James is quite good on this subject)--plus a post-World War II model tailored to educate returning soldiers (and their wives) and get them ready to participate in the economy of what had become an empire. 

The expert at the conference noted that most managerial/administrative structures at colleges spring from these old days, keep repeating the same errors, cultivate dysfunction, and respond to change about as well as Archie Bunker.  He also noted that, fairly soon, many corporations won't care who has a college degree or where from.  Why?  He thinks many corporations won't have traditional employees but will work with independent contractors.  So that, say, if you can design a new widget and can prove you can design a new widget, no one will care if you have a B.S. or a B.A. or, in the event you might have earned one, no one will care where you went to college.  The expert also said that several "futurists" predict that, soon, a doctorate will be given to an illiterate person--in computer science, for example.  And if the person both has a doctorate and is good at what s/he does, no one who matters will care that s/he can't read--or that she hasn't read the Odyssey.

At my own institution, I'm not quite sure what to think.  Some signs seems good; others, not so much. The place has always spoken openly about a list of "aspire-to" colleges--colleges it would like to emulate, with regard to quality of students (as measured by SAT scores, at any rate), size of endowment, and ratings. I don't see us moving up that list any time soon.  Because of the economy and a lot of other factors (some of which I've mentioned above), my college and a lot of others may find themselves (at best) in that phase of musical chairs when the music goes off: "okay, everybody freeze where you are."  A lot of places are frozen where they are (at best) and hoping (to shift to Oz) that they won't be "melting, melting" any time soon.

"Do we live in interesting times?" I asked my colleague at the far-flung place. "Define 'interesting'," s/he said. (What a professorial response!).  "Car-wrecks are 'interesting'," she added.

"Lunar Paraphrase," by Wallace Stevens

"The Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"The Spider holds a Silver Ball," by Emily Dickinson

124 [To interrupt His Yellow Plan], by Emily Dickinson

"Hurt Hawks," by Robinson Jeffers

"Bitter Thoughts On Receiving A Slice of Cordelia's Wedding-Cake," by Ro...

"Notes on the 1860s," by Lars Gustafsson, trans. C. Middleton

"A Thanksgiving," by W.H. Auden

"After Auden," by Hans Ostrom

"The Day-Labourer," by Jay Macpherson

"The Fly" by Karl Shapiro (poetry reading)

"The Humanities Building," by Karl Shapiro

"Double-Consciousness," by W.E.B. DuBois

"The Rose That Grew From Concrete," by Tupac Shakur

"Blue Monday," by Langston Hughes

"Permission to Treat the Witness as Hostile," by Hans Ostrom

"Welcome," by John Davies

"The Want of Peace," by Wendell Berry

"The Hollow Men" by T.S. Eliot (poetry reading)

"Nut Tree," by Mother Goose

Blue in Green by. Miles Davis

Sunday, November 21, 2010

When You Are Naked

*
*
*
*
When You Are Naked

When you're naked, I feel like celebrating,
except when you are ill and I take care of you.
When you are naked, I feel like celebrating,
and I want to take my clothes off, too.

When you're naked, you sometimes
don't want to be bothered by adoration,
curiosity, or lust, as when you step out
of the shower before getting ready
to go to work.  I respect your wishes
then, but I celebrate in secret still.
Restraint is not negation.

When you are naked, sometimes
sirens go off in my head, and the red
lights of police cars whirl, and the cars
lead a motorcade of my desires to
a high-level meeting downtown, where
my libido and I will hold serious talks.

When you are naked and starting
to get dressed, I like to watch how
you assemble the ensemble on
your body. It is you and your body
dressing your body. I watch your
hands dress your body. I watch
your body.

When I am naked, and you look
at me, I feel like an old battleship
that's drifted into a harbor after
many an abrasive voyage, and
you're waiting there to get me
into dry-dock and make repairs.
You're wearing a red beret, and
I'm a battered thing with a cheerful
captain on the bridge.

When you are naked and lying
in bed, I sometimes like to sniff
you--slowly--like a cat, not
manically like a dog.  I like to
sample the odors and aromas.
Like then to stop and lick
your navel, to hear you giggle.
Of such small moments, the good
of a good life is largely composed.


Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

"Oh Lady Moon," by Christina Rossetti

Saturday, November 20, 2010

NSFW In San Francisco: Library Vixen

I've been intrigued lately by the several endeavors of a digital librarian in San Francisco who goes by the nom-de-blog, Library Vixen.  In addition to being a librarian and doing graduate work in information sciences, she is a photographer, writer, poet, blogger, and student of culture. 

Warning: Not Safe For Work.  I only recently ran across this term (I hear Obama's the President, too!) and immediately thought about people who work at nuclear power plants and missile silos, and in fireworks factories, or in mines--or on BP oil rigs.  They'll show you Not Safe For Work.

At any rate, one of LV's blogs--the one called Library Vixen, as it happens--is a sex blog, so read no further if you're likely to be put off for any reason.  The LV refers to the subject matter variously as sex, smut, porn.  What makes it different from other sites? I'm glad you asked. The LV deliberately blurs lines between autobiography and fiction, erotica and porn, art and reportage, private and public, love and desire, making art and living life.  And/or works with existing blurs. I like the project(s) she's undertaken, including this blog; she also photographs "fugitive art" in San Francisco, and she writes about cutting-edge library stuff.  She's smart.

One thing many feminists on the Left and many moralists (I didn't say moralizers) on the Right seem to agree on is that all porn is bad, although I guess first they agree that all porn is porn.  Yes, there's an exploitative, industrialized aspect to much if not most mass-produced porn, but that's not the LV's project.  Moreover, the boundaries of what's acceptable do shift even if they don't and shouldn't disappear altogether.  Remember that Joyce's Ulysses was once labeled "obscene."   I just happen to have gone to a Picasso exhibit today (they're renovating the museum in Paris, so they took the show on the road), and his art was once called junk, etc.

I do concede that it's easier for me to keep an open mind because I seem to have been born with one. For example, I liked "The Missouri Breaks," and when I told a chum that in graduate school, he looked at me as if I'd just thrown up on his lapel. (I hadn't, by the way.)  My tastes are so broad in music, I reckon they've ceased to be tastes.  If you suffer similarly you might like parts, some, or all of the LV's blog; or not. No worries.....

.....I like to write sonnets about the darnedest things--good for me, bad for the form (arguably).  So I wrote one for the LV but not about her, so do remember that the "LV" in the poem is not the real LV--heavens, don't blame my poem on her.   The poem is sadly far too tame for the LV, alas. Not to mention alack.

Sonnet For the Library Vixen


You always knew she kept more than the keys
To information. And you sensed the cool
And stern affect and skirts beyond the knees
Hid sexuality. Of course, only a fool
Would underestimate this vixen's power--
The holdings and the indices, the hair
Unpinned, a tryst after the aching hour
Of closing time, commingling truth and dare.
Imagine this: she keeps the glasses on
But nothing else. She shushes you, and then
Instructs you how to do the search--keyword:
Libido. Once--and then again--
Insatiable. Oh, no--it's not absurd.
Librarian-as-vixen: perfect sense.
Sheer force of smarts and lust: it is immense.


Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Monday, November 15, 2010

"dreaming," by Charles Bukowski

Re-Posting "Fresh Poem for Anyone"

I thought it might be a good time to re-post "Fresh Poem for Anyone." As my late mother used to say to me, "And don't ask me why."

Fresh Poem For Anyone

by Hans Ostrom

Here's a fresh poem for you. It snaps
crisply like a cold carrot just pulled
out of hard ground. It shocks like the time
the politician simply told the truth. It
loves like a woman sailing on a voyage
of her beauty. It's awkward and generous--
a large barn of a poem. It's a knock-kneed,
unsophisticated singer a crowd stayed
late to hear. It's a scar left by a dog's tooth,
the stench of a rattlesnake-den, a
satisfaction long denied, a time after
weeping, the thing you've known for sure
all along, and the words you were hoping
to hear. It explodes right here
into the poem you need to write, to read,
and to remember. Take it. It's fresh
and it's yours and it's free. It belongs to
you now. Start writing it, keep going, and hold on.

Copyright 2007 Hans Ostrom

Sunday, November 14, 2010

And So You Live Your Life

And So You Live Your Life

And so you live your life, fulfill some plans,
Are changed by accidents of whim or fate,
And wake one day, let's say, with toes in sands,
And--still hypothesis--it has grown late--
Late in the day, not early in your life.
In fact you tell yourself this day, "I'm old."
Should you stop striving, surrender strife?
That is the question that pops up as cold
Now comes into the picture of the day.
What more is there to do that can be done?
Are you a spectator who's in the way?
A body simply blocking light from sun?
Precisely how to live the rest of it
Is what you ask, unsettled where you sit.


Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"L'Art," by Frederick Feirstein

Stephen Fry Sonnet

In The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within and elsewhere, British actor, director, and writer Stephen Fry has argued for the enduring power of conventional poetic forms and has claimed that free-verse has led to laziness. It's hard to argue against either point, although I might just add that conventional forms can lead to laziness, too, perhaps of a different kind; for instance, there's something "automatic" about Wordsworth's later sonnets. Anyway, I thought I should write a sonnet with Stephen Fry's name all over it, and perhaps in so doing I'll even support my claim that conventional forms may elicit laziness, too, although I think frivolity is the more prominent quality.


Stephen Fry Sonnet


Hans Ostrom


I've heard it said that Mr. Stephen Fry
Would like more formal poems to be made.
I'm happy to oblige; moreover, I,
As you are witness to, have not delayed,
Have lept into this sonnet form with zest,
Alluding-to, as sonnets do, the glib,
Bright, talented tall man, the best
Portrayer of both Jeeves and Wilde. A squib?
Well, I suppose you could call this poem that.
But there's no rule that says one can't write fast
And pounce upon a formal poem: iambic cat.
Well, as you know, the couplet's what comes last.
Let cups be raised, then, to one Stephen Fry,
Who likes his poems in form and has said why.


I note that I cheated, in a way, by asking the reader to pronounce "poems" in two syllables in line 2 but only in one syllable ("pomes") in line 14. Sonneteers are such cheaters. And makers of terrible puns: note "Let cups" in line 13--couplets/Let cups--oh, the horror, made worse by my being pleased.