Sunday, September 28, 2008

What I do sometimes on Saturday night because I am not married with children

What is a man my age doing heading out solo on a Saturday night in Northampton with no particular destination? Having two Miller High Life's ($2.50) at Hugo's on Pleasant Street while reading The Economist (specifically the articles about Richard Nixon and his increasingly iconic stature as his crimes start looking comparatively like Scooby Doo caliber mysteries foiled by meddling kids, a review of a new Marc Chagall biography, and an obit for typewriter guru Martin Tytell and his drawer-load of umlauts), watching Dirty Harry on the bar's TV out of the corner of my eye and commenting to anyone within a barstool earshot that Clint Eastwood has slits, not eyes, and buying a beer, upgrading to Sam's Summer Ale, for my dear old Faces co-worker Moira (right) who's out bar hopping with five guys who keep repeating the phrase "chicken fucker," and telling her how I locked myself out of my apartment today and how I would have called the building manager but that's me, and how the ladder was 8 feet shy of my third floor window-sill and how I borrowed some tools from my downstairs neighbor Laura who I share internet with and has a cute new kitten and forced my way in as gently as possible (though there are some splinters and paint laying about) and my story is so gripping she decides to split with the chicken fuckers, and then I got into a conversation with Kai, of the local band The Neon Tits (below right), about the finer points of heavy metal history, specifically whether the title of The Scorpions album with the guy pulling the gum off the woman's boob is called Animal Attraction or Lovedrive, and whether Fast Eddie was a better guitarist than Thin Lizzy's Brian Robertson who replaced him in Motorhead (for one glorious album, Another Perfect Day, that's Brian and Lemmy jamming below, dude I saw this incarnation of the band at a monstrously satisfying show at the Agora Ballroom in West Hartford in the late '80s, where I also saw Lemmy all alone playing pinball pre-show) but Roberson chose to leave when Lemmy gave him a metal ultimatum: lose the spandex and wear leather or leave, and what album Judas Priest's song "Saints in Hell" is on; Sin after Sin or Stained Class (the latter), and learning about Joan Baez's Diamonds and Rust, and Fleetwood Mac's The Green Manalishi with the Three Pronged Crown, via Judas Priest's cover versions, one of 'em on the blistering live US breakthrough album Unleashed in the East, and MC5's Kick Out The Jams ("motherfuckers" or "brothers and sisters", depending on which version) from Blue Oyster Cult's live slab "Some Enchanted Evening," (a great live BOC album but it doesn't touch their double live On Your Feet Or On Your Knees, with it's locust invasion-esque take on "Born To Be Wild")
and impressing Neon Tit Kai with the fact that my friend Jay Hughen is in the cult movie Heavy Metal Parking Lot, then heading to The Elevens and talking about further musical arcanities with doorman-booker-fanboy deluxe Mark Sheehan, whose latest Beach Boy related book was close at hand, and missing Brian Marchese and Rabbit Rabbit but seeing Space Captain who were not bad but I left after three songs and was feeling peevish anyway because the bartender called me "sir" which I whined about to my new pop-geek acquaintance Jodi Orino,

and buying a copy of Rabbit Rabbit's CD for $5 from their singer Louise(below), each with a custom cover and its own number (front and back covers shown above) , and running into Don Rook, Elevens booker and manager, in the street on the way out and talking about colonoscopys and stress tests and other unimaginable middle-age rites of passage (hey kids, it comes up quick), and seeing two cops looking suspiciously at some legs sticking out of a parked car, and walking by Kathy's Diner where through the window I saw Kathy's son (whose sweat drips and sizzles on the grill as he cooks) was about to open up for the late night post bar-closing crowd (Jakes's used to open at 1AM in the '80s and after seeing the Pajama Slave Dancers at Sheehan's or dancing at the North Star, we'd end our nights there with breakfast and sleep til noon the next day), and coming home to blabber about it here and go to bed. I have to write some poems on Sunday because I don't think my old one's are going to cut it for the reading this Wednesday night at Forbes Library. Things are either very right or very wrong. I should have known it might go this way when my 12 year old brother Tom commented this morning that he preferred the Guitar Hero vocals on "Sweet Child O' Mine" to Axl Rose's.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What happens when the words explode your head?

So what's going on? I've been on an ice cream sandwich binge. I eat an apple for every one though in some feeble attempt to balance the indulgence. It's an ice cream confection ceremony. I peel most of the porous chocolate wafer off of each side, leaving enough so i can grip it from the bottom, and leave a rigid rectangle of exposed ice-cream standing defiant on its own with no sandwich to support it. The ice cream looks like it never even needed the sandwich to hold it. Like it's been freed to just be the sort of chemically tasting vanilla it had been since initially being assembled and wrapped and filed with eleven others in the box. Yes, I bought the box. It tastes just as good as it did in first grade when Mrs. Hammer, the ice cream lady took my dime on Fridays. Ice Cream day. I'd thrust it into her hand and try not to look at the dangling nearly detached mole hanging on her neck as she handed me the prize. Why couldn't she just flick it off? Godammed plagueing my life dangling light brown almost like a chocolate sprinke mole. I would shudder, my whole body would twitch and I would almost get the gag reflex but just pull back. Sometimes it would get stuck in my mind and the more I tried not to think about it, the more vivid it became and the more ominously it dangled . The ultimate horror was the notion of it somehow touching or God forbid getting on my ice cream.

I was thinking about David Foster Wallace today. Roughly my age and swimming in words, trying to keep his head above them all and finally not. I can see how it would happen and I envy his ability to focus and stick with it until whatever happened or didn't happen . To capture his brain on the page with all its tangents and spasms. Almost stream of consciousness but on a short leash. Messin' with the margins of language. Controlled chaos. I guess he finally just exploded. His head exploded. I totally get it. Maybe. When I write a lot I get myself into that elusive "zone" and these mazes of ideas, and then the ideas start to get words on them, like metal shavings on a magnet and then the maze is walls of words and I can't see the idea anymore. It's smothered by words but I'm stuck there in the maze I started and I try to find my way out with ideas...head toward the light but the ideas just get words all over them again and they start to dictate the ideas and that's backwards...isn't it? the words start talking about each other. A sentence looks back at itself before it's even done and comments on itself. That's just too soon man. Get at least a few sentences away before you do that shit.

Sometimes I escape to the next paragraph, knowing full well I left a viable idea back there to fend for itself, awaiting my return to see if I can get the words to talk to it, about it, sensibly. And sometimes the idea just peels away and the words stand there alone, standing free of the idea, birthed of it. Maybe that's a poem. Or a C+. The ideas and words need each other though and they take turns winning. I really like the words all by themselves sometimes, just like a newborn baby with the umbilical cut. But you can't just spray the words out there without an idea can you? Ahhh. You see, I discovered that you can. Just throw some words down and they'll sometimes find an idea where there was none, or spell out the way through the maze to an idea that could only have been reached with the words as the guide. The cart finds its horse. And no matter how many ways you pull the porous chocalatesque wafers enclosing the battery acid tinged vanilla ice cream apart, they all finally end up in the same place, united as one. Just like us.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to the problem...

I know this blog has taken a turn away from the local lore that's at the core of its mission recently, but this is ultimately very local news. Bear with me. I'll be back on the streets with my camera this week. Bernie, take it away...

For years, as a member of the House Banking Committee and now as a member of the Senate Budget Committee, I have heard the Bush Administration tell us how "robust" our economy was and how strong the "fundamentals" were. That was until a few days ago. Now, we are being told that if Congress does not act immediately and approve the $700 billion Wall Street bailout proposal these "free marketers" have just written up, there will be an unprecedented economic meltdown in the United States and an unraveling of the global economy.

This proposal as presented is an unacceptable attempt to force middle income families (and our children) to pick up the cost of fixing the horrendous economic mess that is the product of the Bush Administration's deregulatory fever and Wall Street's insatiable greed. If the potential danger to our economy was not so dire, this blatant effort to essentially transfer $700 billion up the income ladder to those at the top would be laughable.

Let us be clear. If the economy is on the edge of collapse we need to act. But rescuing the economy does not mean we have to just give away $700 billion of taxpayer money to the banks. (In truth, it could be much more than $700 billion. The bill only says the government is limited to having $700 billion outstanding at any time. By selling the mortgage backed assets it acquires -- even at staggering losses -- the government will be able to buy even more resulting is a virtually limitless financial exposure on the part of taxpayers.) Any proposal must protect middle income and working families from bearing the burden of this bailout.

I have proposed a three part plan to accomplish that goal which includes a five-year, 10% surtax on the income of individuals above $500,000 a year, and $1 million a year for couples; a requirement that the price the government pays for any mortgage assets are discounted appropriately so that government can recover the amount it paid for them; and, finally, the government should receive equity in the companies it bails out so that when the stock of these companies rises after the bailout, taxpayers also have the opportunity to share in the resulting windfall. Taken together, these measures would provide the best guarantee that at the end of five years, the government will have gotten back the money it put out.

Second, in addition to protecting the average American from being saddled with the cost, any serious proposal has to include reforms so that we end the type of behavior that led to this crisis in the first place. Much of this activity can be traced to specific legislation that broke down regulatory safety walls in the financial sector and allowed banks and others to engage in new types of risky transactions that are at the heart of this crisis. That deregulation needs to be repealed. Wall Street has shown it cannot be trusted to police itself. We need to reinstate a strong regulatory system that protects our economy.

Third, we need to address the needs of working families in this country who are today facing very difficult times. If we can bail out Wall Street, we need to respond with equal vigor to their plight. That means, for example, creating millions of jobs through major investments in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and creating a new renewable energy system. We must also make certain that the most vulnerable Americans don't freeze in the winter or die because they lack access to primary health care.

Finally, we need to protect ourselves from being at the mercy of giant companies that are "too big to fail," that is, companies who are so large that their failure would cause systemic harm to the economy. We need to assess which companies fall into this category and insist they are broken up. Otherwise, the American taxpayer will continue to be on the financial hook for the risky behavior, the mismanagement, and even the illegal conduct of these companies' executives.

These are the last days of the Bush Administration, the most dishonest and incompetent in modern American history. It is imperative that, at this important moment, Congress stand up for the middle class and for fiscal integrity. The future of our country is at stake.


Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California who leads the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said: “The taxpayer is being asked to risk billions to protect the bonuses of investment bankers.”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The largest transformation of America's Financial System since the Great Depression

Gambling Insurance, Not Health Insurance would be an accurate Republican campaign slogan. The editorial by Michael Hudson (at bottom) is the best I've read yet with respect to understanding what looks like another major public swindle. I've read plenty of articles in the WSJ and The Economist which illuminate the situation, but they come from a place of acceptance in the process in general. They analyze the path of the money like a general would assess and plan troop movements, never questioning whether the battle or the war itself might be corrupt to begin with.

Hank Paulson made the Sunday morning rounds on TV trying to "sell" and push through through an immediate bail-out with no intention of building in some elements accountability. He was using typical government scare tactics, which I hope will be seen as such. "The credit markets are still very fragile right now and frozen," Paulson said in an interview on NBC's Meet the Press. "We need to deal with this and deal with it quickly. It pains me tremendously to have the American taxpayer put in this position but it is better than the alternative." The Paulson bailout proposal is a historic swindle. It provides the most help to the financial institutions that made the worst investment decisions, ignores relief to homeowners, and fails to limit CEO compensation. BUSHCO needs to explain why this is supposed to work - not try to steamroll Congress into giving it a blank check.

Democrats said they understood the need for urgency but insisted that the measure needed to provide help for homeowners threatened with losing their homes, perhaps by changes in bankruptcy laws (which the Bush Admin. made far stricter a few years ago) to allow for mortgages to be modified, and by capping pay and benefit packages for executives at the huge Wall Street firms that will be selling their bad debt to the government. How about that, huh? Maybe the culprits should sacrifice some of their luxuries in exchange for a magic wand -load of the citizens tax money.

"I don't want the American taxpayer to get this bad debt and then the guy (whose company once held the bad loans) gets millions of dollars on his way out the door," said House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass.

"This would be the most serious financial crisis that the world has ever dealt with. It is not a time to be playing games," said House Republican Leader John Boehner.

What an asshole. These "games," John, would be to protect our livelihood. We need houses on Baltic Ave., not more hotels in Marvin Gardens. Personally, I'm suspicious of any far-reaching policy that gets rammed through because of an "emergency," preventing even a basic checks and balances vetting. We've seen how that goes.

Michael Hudson doesn't shy away from being candid about the emperor's new clothes.

America's Own Kleptocracy

By Michael Hudson

20/09/08 "Global Research" -- - Nobody expected industrial capitalism to end up like this. Nobody even saw it evolving in this direction. I'm afraid this failing is not unusual among futurists: The natural tendency is to think about how economies can best grow and evolve, not how it can be untracked. But an unforeseen road always seems to appear, and there goes society goes off on a tangent. What a two weeks! Continues here.

and here is the relevant New York Times story.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Name That Mission Statement!

Corporations sometimes hire a consultant to come in and sit with the principals in a conference room with a flip chart and colorful markers to devise a mission statement. When I worked at Rhino Records, we went through some big changes and decided to rewrite our mission statement, only to discover we didn't have one to begin with.

Harold swore he'd seen it in his desk drawer recently. It took us TWO WEEKS. We kept arguing about how to include some reference to making money, as if not including it specifically would lead us to forget that aspect. "Oh shit! We should be charging for this stuff!" I argued that it was implied by the mission and it just sounded tacky and low rent to say it. "Money is not the mission," I argued. "Money is the result of successful execution of the mission." But sure enough, at the end of a beautiful statement about integrating community service into our work and being teachers to each other and creating amazing CD re-issues it said, "and to make a little money." It was so falsely modest, as if the money was an afterthought..."yeah, well hey maybe we can make a little, no big woop."
Anyway, I subscribe to some unlikely blog updates from people who tend not to align with my values. I amuse myself with the other side's view. Sometimes NOT so amusing. I found the mission statement of a company whose name I will not reveal yet because I want you to guess who it is. This one has consultant stains all over it as do most, using the awkward obfuscation of management-speak, the sort George Carlin could reduce to smoldering ash in short order. I challenge you to find any clue as to who this is based on the statement:

Innovation Begins with Experience

___________efficiently and effectively integrates a wide range of resources and core competencies to provide unique and timely solutions that exceed our customers’ stated needs and expectations.

We are guided by integrity, innovation, and a desire for a safer world. __________ professionals leverage state-of-the-art training facilities, professional program management teams, and innovative manufacturing and production capabilities to deliver world-class, customer-driven solutions.

Our corporate leadership and dedicated family of exceptional employees adhere to essential core values- chief among these are integrity, innovation, excellence, respect, accountability, and teamwork.

Insurance? Accounting? Shipping? Okay, ready? It's Blackwater, I subscribe to their weekly email...just to confuse the Homeland Security spies. "Huffington and Blackwater? Do we terror-list this guy...or hire him?"

Monday, September 15, 2008

All poets confirmed for Drive-By Poets reading at the Forbes Library in Northampton set for Wednesday, October 1st at 7PM.

The first of six Wednesday night poetry readings at Northampton's Forbes Library will feature Alyssa Lovell (left), Allegra Mira (right), Jim Neill (bottom right), and Steve Shavel(below left.) The reading begins at 7PM on Wednesday night October 1st and shouldn't last for more than an hour or so. It's free and we have no idea what's going to happen. We're an odd bunch and none of us know each other except for me. We're having dinner this weekend to sketch it out and may have a Drive-by Poets chapbook printed for the evening in a limited edition of 50. But who knows?

Alyssa Lovell is an MFA Poetry student and Occupational Therapist. Her work includes poems in The Dog Pond Review (1991), The Berkshire Review (2006), and a chapter on Community Agriculture in Green Business, Hope or Hoax? (1991). Her poem "American Afterlight" was a finalist in the 2008 Split this Rock Poetry Festival contest for poetry of political provocation and witness.

Allegra Mira writes in Western Massachusetts. She is named after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem, The Children's Hour. She is threatening to move to New York on October 1st after this reading. Immediately.

Steve Shavel lives in Northampton, Massachusetts. His poem, "Unh." was selected by Heather McHugh for a Publishing Online anthology. How Small Brides Survive in Extreme Cold on Verse Press is his first book, although it's a few years old by now. Steve is also the lead vocalist and some other things in the band The Supreme Dicks...technically the east coast Dicks. There's a splinter of the band in Silverlake.

My Friends....

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Poetry of Scissors and Glue

Wasn't I just talking about how cool it is when two artists I admire get together? How about when a poet I love unexpectedly branches out into collage? This has been Jim Neill validation week. Poetry and collage are my two arts. What poet might this be? Well, today my mother tipped me to a story in the Sunday New York Times about poet John Ashberry. Ashberry read at UMass last week as you know if you read my blog. Sadly I didn't make it, but last night I was trying to write a poem for my reading on 10/1 at Forbes. I went someplace where I would be in a climate conducive to writing... a barstool at the Toasted Owl with dozens of drunk and screaming Sox fans. One of my approaches to writing is very collage-like. I capture snippets of people's conversation, of sportscasters comments, whatever sticks to me. I become a strip of flypaper, and sort out the flies later. I move the phrases and words around like images and when they start to talk to each other, I use them as the anchor for a poem and begin to write. This is how I do collages too. I gather images from books and magazines and after a week or so of accumulation, I lay them out and see what's up with them all. Imagine my excitement to find in this article that John Ashberry also does collage! My life and its often disjointed outlook and activities starts to make more and more sense. It's about assimilation of what's there into something of my own making, and I suspect the process of uniting seemingly disparate thoughts, images, words, is good mental activity in a crazy world that demands we try to fit it together in a way that enables us to survive, literally and psychologically. Thanks for the link Mom!! Here's the collage slideshow.

My mother's friend Marsha reports on Hurricane Ike from Houston.

Hi from Houston!

Thank you for your thoughts and caring! Today is the first day that we have been able to communicate via the computer.

There is a war zone in all of Houston and surrounding areas. Flooding and an inability to get around due to all of the debris continues. The whole city has closed down.

Galveston is devastated. It took a direct hit from Ike. I live on the west end of the island which does not have a seawall. The galveston Bay and the Gulf met each other and so the whole island was under water. There are parts that have drained now but not the west end. In fact it might take a week or more to clear the roads well enough to drive on that side of the island. I feel like I am in the twilight zone!! I don't think there is much left of the west end so I hold no illusions that our house is ok. The media can not send pictures because it is so bad. By the way, Dallas, Tx. received a Cat. 1 hurricane. That is 4 hours noth of Houston. This storm was ennormous.

I am staying with my son, David, who received power and water last night. He lives west of the worst conditions. My daughter, Beth's house and my apartment are without power and water. This is a heavily wooded area where poles and trees are down. Who knows when that area will receive the necessities. The bottom line is my family and Molly(my dog) are ok so I guess the other stuff is just stuff!

Another rain storm from the north just came in so the lower temperatures will be a blessing to those who don't have power etc. I probably won't be writing again jfor awhile. I do want you all to know how much it means to know that you care.

Needless to say, emotionally, this is almost unimagineable and overwhelming. Life will be very busy in a few days!

Take care now and thank you again !

Always and love-Marsha

Saturday, September 13, 2008

An E-Mail to Senator Stan Rosenberg and a reply, the same day, encouraging patronage of community savings banks.

Okay, you might think it's weird that I don't have a bank account, but as I educate myself anew about the systems within our society that are often taken for granted, I am conducting an experiment with getting myself as far off "the grid" as possible. More on that in the months ahead. Below is an exchange I had with Senator Stan Rosenberg (pictured below) about an issue I have with Bank Of America. Stan is a Senator who prioritizes accesability to his constituents. Try getting a response this quickly, or at all, from U.S. Representative John Olver. I've had horrendous experiences with BOA through little to no fault of my own and I think Stan is spot on in his comments.

August 4th 2008


I choose, as a citizen, not to participate in the banking industry. As I've hit my mid-40s and really analyzed the pros and cons of leaving a bank to tend to my money, it's become clear that it's more of a disadvantage for me to keep my savings in a bank. The systems in place within our society make it nearly impossible to live unless you have a bank account or a credit card, and I feel unfairly railroaded into participating by forces that stand to benefit from my earnings without providing anything in return. In fact, the ever more ruthless fees would chip away at my money rather than add interest if I was of more modest means.
My payroll check is drawn on the Bank of America. A new policy (as of 9/16) now dictates that I will be charged $6.00 for cashing each of these checks at a Bank of America branch if I do not have an account there. Is a bank not required by law to honor a check issued from its own accounts assuming ID is in order? Banks have gotten into dubious territory in the last 10 years or so since identifying fees and penalties as a profit center, feeding on the customers who can least afford it. This is the broader issue. My gripe is that a bank won't cash it's own checks without exacting a fee from me or coercing me to open an account. What's the law? Thanks Stan. I've been a resident on and off since '76. Amherst High School. UMass. You've always been a rare example of the good in government.

Jim Neill

Stan Rosenberg responds:

August 4th, 2008

Dear Jim

Thanks for your email and kind words.

I will have to check with the state's banking commissioner about this. I once chaired the Senate banking committee here and I'm pretty sure that they are a federally chartered bank and not a state chartered bank so they are only regulated by the federal government and therefore you would have to petition one of our congressional representatives to see if there is anything that can be done about this.

Because of their practices, I have all but drained my Bank of America account and now bank locally. I only keep it open because of travel and ATM. I do 95% of my banking with local banks. The community savings banks are so much better and fairer. I hope if you haven't yet done so that you will look into some of them. You might find that you will get what you need without all of the of the nonsense of the huge banks that could care less whether or not you are well served as long as they get to use your money!

I will try to get back to you soon.

Stan Rosenberg

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Whys and the Wherefores of Speaking in Semaphores, or, I Blog Therefore I Rot

I ran into a friend today and in addition to trying to be sincere, cool, and relaxed, I described to her the nature of this here blog and who it's "for." I was talking about "voice." When I write an email or a letter to someone, I am the author of course but the language and tone depend largely on who the recipient is. But writing to more than one person, in a newspaper column or a blog, the audience is a bit more amorphous and the voice is not as simple to establish. If anyone's reading this blog, I imagine it's a handful of culturally literate locals with a capacity for silliness. In other words, a whole bunch of Jim Neills, all applauding and laughing and thinking what a great guy Jim Neill is and how his observations and commentary are worth a bookmark and visit every few days. Actually, I’d be surprised if it included anyone outside my wider social circle. But truthfully, I don't have a target audience per se, and in fact, I have found my writing to flow better and dare I say improve when I'm writing to a single person (or pretending I am.) Especially someone who, while not being me, is no stranger to a certain point of view. Ironically, since I doubt she has actually read the blog, I told my friend she is sometimes one of these people I "write to" when I blog. Emails between the two of us were often very funny and chock full of vocabulary and made-up words so when I think of her or a handful of others who have a way with language as the recipients, it just comes out better.

I’ve noticed I tend to be more eloquent for an hour or so after I’ve put down a book or seen a movie with smart dialogue; funnier (and thinking in "humor") after listening to George Carlin or for some reason, Mitch Hedberg. Then I fade back to my base voice in an hour or so. It's like a buzz wearing off. In radio I was taught to talk to one person, like I was on the telephone, not the microphone. To say “hello" and not “hello everybody.”

It's definitely in the realm of navel gazing this whole talking about blogging on a blog, but what are these things anyway, these blogs? Who creates them and who consumes them? It sounds funny but I've always suspected there are more poets than people who read poetry. With blogging I bet the number of writers is ever closer to matching the number of readers. These days, the lines between the two are blurring in practically every medium.

I am far more motivated to write online than in a journal. I've started probably 100 journals and never picked them up again. They're in a drawer, 100 notebooks with two or three pages filled and the rest empty. Maybe they add up to a journal. But now with the internet, the population is available to be courted. It is so far beyond television and all the changes TV brought to communication. TV and the internet are barely analagous. The wall has come down. Can you imagine showing Marshall McLuhan the net? Or Hitler? Would the internet have prevented the Holocaust or aided it?

If I have an audience of even a few, that’s all I need to get going. I used to publish a humor magazine with my friend Jack in 6th grade. Hip Magazine. Some of it was plagiarized from Mad Magazine which was our inspiration, but we gave original humor a try. To print and staple up 20 copies and put then in the hands of our classmates was euphoric. When I did radio, if I got just one request, that was enough to get me in the right mindset to do the show. Am I someone who needs attention and needs to perform rather than simply be? Is this “shallow?” I don't know. I just need to know the world is interested and then I can be interesting. Writing almost every day now is one of the benefits of this blog. It keeps me tight and alert to the world. I love my solitude, perhaps too much, but I also love when the radar waves ping and I know someone is in range. I also need to get out more....

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Poet Steve Shavel added to Forbes Library Reading on Wednesday October 1st. John Ashberry gives free reading at UMass on Wed. 9/11

As posted previously, I'm putting together a poetry reading Wed. Oct. 1st at 7PM, at the Forbes Library in Northampton, loosely related to my public poetry postering project, Drive-By Poets. This is the first of six Wednesdays of poetry readings at the library, each curated by a different person. Alyssa Lovell, Allegra Mira, and now Steve Shavel will join me to read our original poems aloud. Steve lives in Northampton. His poem, "Unh." was selected by Heather McHugh for a Publishing Online anthology. How Small Brides Survive in Extreme Cold is his first book. I'll post a Steve poem here soon.

Amazon says: Clumsy acrobats tumbling through the circuses of philosophy, architecture, politics, religion and just about anything else you can think of, Steve Shavel's wild meditations drift and whirl with spastic brilliance among language's most earnest and playful coincidences.

Free, Wed. 9/11, 8PM at Memorial Hall (next to the chapel by the pond) on UMass Amherst campus. "John Ashbery is the author of twenty-seven books of poetry, including Some Trees (1956), which won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, and Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975), which won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and National Book Critics Circle Award. His recent books are Collected Poems 1956-1987 (2008), Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems (2007), and A Worldly Country (2007). His many honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, MacArthur Fellowship, and the Wallace Stevens Award. He has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1980."

I discovered Ashberry in a class I took at UCLA called "Reading Difficult Writing." Later, he befriended my favorite living poet James Tate, recently cited by Silver Jew David Berman as his favorite as well....turns out David and I both had Tate as a professor in our days at UMass and were equally ensnared. Tate and Ashberry started writing a lot more like each other, a positive development for both as they reeled in each other's excesses. It's validating to the coherence of my taste when aritists, writers, musicians, etc. whose work I love end up meeting and getting along and even working together. It's like the dreams where people from different times and contexts non-sensically appear together, except in cases like Tate and Ashberry it makes sense. Mark Kozelek and Rickie Lee Jones amazingly collaborated for a few shows at Cafe Largo in LA after Rickie Lee was handed a Kozelek mix for a road trip. Rickie fell in love with his music on the trip and contacted him. The shows were stunning.

When I was 10 or so, Marvel Comics launched a comic book called "What If...." where these sorts of unions happened, but outside of the carefully integrated Marvel Universe in which all characters existed in real time and space even between different titles. The Marvel and DC Comics worlds collided in an oversized comic book called The Battle Of The Century. Seeing Spiderman and Superman on the cover was as close to nirvana as I had ever come.

When I moved to Amherst from Chestertown MD in 1976, the first thing I did was figure out where in town to get new comic books as they came out. In Maryland it had been The P&E News Agency, which stood for Paul and Elizabeth; no relation to the restaurant in Northampton (though I have noticed names follow me around whenever I move.) P&E had a sign up "Nice to look at, easy to hold, pick it up we consider it sold." They were serious. I had to make my selections carefully. If I was going to take a chance on a new title, say Howard The Duck, I had to be ready to commit my 30 cents before I picked it up. I was immersed in the Marvel universe and paid close attention to continuity in and between comics. Marvel had a clever reward for busting them on errors called a "No Prize" which was really just the bragging rights of having the error acknowledged in print along with your name. I shook my head in disbelief and disgust when I saw Iron Man changing into costume incorrectly in an issue of Marvel Team-Up. The MTU writer was different than the Iron Man proper writer and had not done his homework. I wrote the letter, asking for a No-Prize, and couldn't believe it when the first comic I bought at Augie's Tobacco Shop in Amherst was the one pictured below, containing my letter! This was the first clue I had that the outside world was penetrable and that I was a part of it.

Fight fight fight fight fight!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Curry and a Crossword: Montague Book Mill Sunday Photo Essay

I've always found a few hours at the Montague Book Mill is enough to lower my blood pressure, break down writer's block, freeze time, and dissolve despair.

(above) Scale model of the old grist mill.

(above) Sandwiches, pastry, beer, wine, groovy staff.

The store's motto is "Books you don't need in a place you can't find," and it claims to have "40,000 books and one waterfall." Housed in a 19th-century former gristmill, The Boston Globe called it "a magnet for bibliophiles from the nearby Amherst-Northampton Five College area." In 2005, the Globe devoted an entire article to the bookstore, quoting the owner as saying, "We're not particularly convenient, we're not particularly efficient, but we're beautiful."

(below) More fun with the Duaflex

(below) My acquaintance Brian says he is immersed in grad school math, the level where trigonometry intersects with art, nature, and the magic numbers of the universe. His wife Jen is a skilled and very kind mid-wife to the valley's mommery.

(below) Books are organized by section and room based on carefully considered themes, subject matter, and where the movers dropped the boxes when they unloaded.

(below) The bathroom walls alleviate the need fo reading material when you go to alleviate the need.

(below) Turn It Up! plan to open a store here in the Paper Mill this Fall.

Hmmm. Beloved _ unt?