Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Quick Reviews

Blogging is like life, like does take attention, and I confess the ambition, insistence, habit, energy, attention does ebb and flow, but before the old year pours artificially into the new, here are a few very quick, crude and hopelessly superficial reviews of recent books read.

Dying to Fly Fish - David Leitz: Now that we are actively collecting every fly fishing mystery ever written here at Western's Library, I feel it my humble duty to read them all. This is one of the Max Addams/Whitefork Lodge mysteries, and a fun read. Leitz is a decent writer and knows the art of fishing with flies. Plenty of local color, situations and suspense (set in Vermont). Recommended.

Firehole River Murder - Raymond Kieft: Another recent FF mystery acquisition. Worst book I've read in decades.

The Quiet Girl - Peter Hoeg: Hoeg is an often unnerving and brilliant writer, but this newest attempt (the protagonist a clown/violinist/detective) seemed overly pretentious. At stake were children who could detect earthquakes, and real estate speculation in Denmark. I finished it however because it had moments.

The Right Mistake - Walter Mosley: I was pretty blown away by the first two Socco novels, but this one, an attempt on the part of Fortlow to build a center for discussion modeled loosely after the ancient Greek universities in a house he came to inhabit, fell a bit short. It lacked some of the earlier dramatic tension, was a bit over-insistent on Socco's bad-boy status (Mosley does not have to tell us he's a murderer and rapist every other time he mentions his name), and it seemed to come to a rather hasty resolution. However, Socrates Fortlow is one of the most interesting characters I've witnessed in contemporary fiction, and any text where he appears is worth reading.

The Maytrees - Annie Dillard: I love Annie Dillard. No, literally. I would marry her in a heartbeat, given many life changes. She is, as anyone who's read her knows, a stunning writer whose attention to detail is nearly unparalleled. This novel, her second, is a love story, a triangle actually, that wrestles with all the great themes. Set in Provincetown and Maine. Highly recommended.

Rock Crystal - Adalbert Stifter: A lovely little gem of a book, written in spare, under-stated style, about two towns, two children, and mountains. Subtle and almost fugal by design, the novel explores by penetration the forces of nature and community. Highly recommended.

Ulysses - Joyce: The beast that will not break me. Only 70 pages left. What a tome. It stands like Denali towering above anything around it.

Have a great New Years.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Frank O'Hara

I don't buy books much anymore (I work in a library, duh) but I am going to buy the new Frank O'Hara Selected Poems edited by Mark Ford. There should be a law that forbids people to read Ted Berrigan, or God forbid, Billy Collins, without having first read Frank O'Hara. In fact I will buy thousands of copies, placing one in every window of our little town, candles of life, affirmation & love.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dog Poem

I'm working on a series of Dog Poems. Here's one of about 10 I've done so far.

Dog Reads Issa

Dog has been reading Issa, The Year

of My Life. Soft tears clot the corners

of Dog’s eyes. Dog wants to lick Issa across

the years of his hand, his gentle eyebrows, chew

his sandals, sniff the warm salt of his crotch. Instead

he chews the book, wanders into the moon-flooded

yard and lifts his head, howls, and listens

to the echoes die away. Perhaps someone

in another time and place will hear him howl, and

wish to gently lick his eyebrows.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Odetta, in memorium

The first and only time I saw Odetta in concert was at a New Year's Eve party at the Earl of Old Town on Chicago's near-north side many years ago. It was a memorable occasion for two reasons: I had never heard a voice with that degree of power, majesty and control before. It was also my first call and response session. The crowd was the usual assortment of Chicago folkies (I went with my father who introduced me to folk music early in life) and it was a mixed crowd both in age and ethnicity. But we were unified by this amazing woman's presence. I have, over the years, purchased and listened to her music, but never without returning to that seminal experience. And I have never doubted the power of one person and a guitar. She will be missed, but she will live on, and perhaps in greater scale and fame as death often achieves for artists.

Friday, November 21, 2008


New Poems at Drumlummon

& here (equal, but different - to quote Martha & the Muffins)

For Issa Series #1

Yellow Big-Leaf Maple
leaves, flat hands
wave neither Hello or
Goodbye as I pass

For Issa Series, #2

The lake quicksilver
black in the shadow of mountains
The surface trembles
as if some great creature will explode
from the depths
but clouds drift like silver fish
too high above us to care

for those interested in learning more about Kobayahi Issa check out the amazingly courageous book The Year of My Life.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sky the Hue of Robin's Eggs

Well it's been awhile, but that's bloggin.
I've taken on a daunting but rather thrilling reading project lately, namely to read all the books in Modern Library's 100 best novels, the board's list, not the reader's list, which has apparently been infiltrated by thousands of Scientology quacks. So, I'm of course starting off with a novel I've moved around the globe with for the last 30 years and never read, Ulysses by James Joyce. Actually Joyce has two of the top three, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man reigning third. I'm only a scat of the way into Ulysses but finding it brilliant uphill trudging, Mr Bloom wandering the streets of Dublin, his mind buzzing about with three word sentences. And of course I'll have to detour and re-read The Odyssey. More anon.

Have also recently read two superb books: But Beautiful by Geoff Dyer and The Moon and Sixpence by Somerset Maugham. But Beautiful is simply the finest book on jazz I've ever read. This collection of non-static portraits: Lester Young, Bud Powell, Mingus, Monk, Ben Webster, Art Pepper, and Chet Baker, with Duke and his driver Harry Carney weaving their way through these mean and crazy night-stroked streets: takes off with a quote from Adorno about the often momentous flaws of artists (don't have the book with me so I'm paraphrasing). Dyer writes out of love, deep empathy and passion with his saxophone of words changing keys and phrasing to jam with his subjects. Brutal, haunting; presence/absence.

The Moon and Sixpence is a fictionalized account of the life of Paul Gauguin, certainly an artist who had little regard for the commodities of modern life. This is a great novel -- witty, observant and very tough. it is also an interesting form, a novel fictionalizing itself as a biography, complete with faux footnotes. Maugham, toward the end, even rues that this were a novel, and discusses changes he would adapt to structure and character to make the book more appealing. Genius takes no prisoners and makes no compromises.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Driving to Work

Listening to Ahmad Jamal live at the Pershing, watching the burning leaves in their death throes fall, watching rain splatter on the windshield, the end of autumn, the bares trees soon to be etched into the pewter sky. Warm interiors, reading Ulysses, But Beautiful, the poetry of wind.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Plucking Plums

I feel like Li Po traveling through a world where poetry, humor and inspiration are for the plucking. Two tidbits:

More Bad Music

"“Joe” — aka Samuel Wurzelbacher, a Holland, Ohio, pipe-and-toilet man — just signed with a Nashville public relations and management firm to handle interview requests and media appearances, as well as create new career opportunities, including a shift out of the plumbing trade into stage and studio performances.
On Tuesday, Wurzelbacher joined country music artist and producer Aaron Tippin to form a new partnership that includes booking-management firm Bobby Roberts and publicity-management concern The Press Office to field the multiple media offers he’s received over the past few weeks (courtesy of

and from the morning's e-mail

The Best and Smooth Way

Hello To You, here is Cheng &
Cheng Advocates in Hong
Kong. Our office sympathise with you
on the death of one of our
clients who
mentioned you
in his will
as his next of kin.

We have carefuly delibrated on the instruction
after enquiries have decided to consult

you via email
for security reasons.

We have also notified our offshore
agency and release office in France
about this information
and you will be required
to consult with the agent
in charge in France
Dr. Edward
by email :
or by phone: +44 703 594 2908,

he will guide you accordingly
on the best and smooth way

of receiving the inheritance, he
will also let you know what
inheritance you inherited.
You are required
to follow his instruction.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Can't Help Myself

One more Palin, then no more. I promise. Sort of.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lovely Cover

Tool's cover of No Quarter, the Zeppelin song is just so terrific I have to shout it, and this collaboration with Alex Grey's art is truly stunning and immensely moving. Watch it late at night in a dark room with or without additives.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ben Tanzer, a Chicago writer/novelist, has a new collection of stories called Repetition Patterns published online only by the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography. The book uses a pricing model (pay what you want, even nothing) similar to what Radiohead used for their recent web-released album In Rainbows. Support independent writers and independent marketing and sales strategies. Check out Ben's work.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Regarding Palin

$150,000 for clothing? How un-socialist of you.

And with regard to banning books: "There, where one burns books, one in the end burns men." Heinrich Heine

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Two wonderful writers have left this earth for the great beyond: James Crumley and Hayden Carruth.  Both men bore more than a superficial resemblence to each other.  Both loathed power and greed.  They came from opposite ends of the country, Carruth from Connecticut, Crumley from south Texas.  They both flirted with fame, words, demons and death.  Both spoke for the underpriviledged, the brutalized, the down-trodden.  Both gave voice to the voiceless, Crumley as a brawler, Hayden as a poet and clown.  Here most resemblances end.
Crumley was often called a cross between Raymond Chandler and Hunter Thompson.  His earlier novels, particluarly The Last Good Kiss (obliquely starring the poet Richard Hugo) were written with the genre in mind.  His later novels, particularly Bordersnakes, were peregrinations across landscapes controlled by brutal gods and fought by violent red necks on acid (and these were the good guys).  Crumley took the hard-drinking, hard-loving, indestructible and ultimately sentimental PI so far over the top that at times a hero like Sughrue became a caricature.  I was a student of Crumley's at the University of Montana, and remember him saying once that he never knew what was going to happen from one page to the next.  "If I've got it all charted out, I'm bored, and if I'm bored, the reader is certainly bored. There were times though in his later work where he'd seemed lost in a tangle of lose ends he was trying to tie together.  Still, Missoula will not be the same without Crumley holding court at Charlie B's or the Depot.  He was a minor god in my former small town.
Carruth's poetry was plain spoken, owing to the same impulses that power Ted Kooser or (perhaps) Billy Collins, to communicate with ordinary people.  He wanted to make poetry matter.  He often came across as a crumudgeon, a crank, an old hermit living up in the woods.  I've always favored his poem Economics.


Well, Mr. C, he's somewhat weird.

Worms are living in his beard.

He gives them to the fisher trade

Who bring him trout and pike and bass

With which his hunger is allayed

While he sits comfy on his ass.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Off the Shelf

I pulled a small yellow book off the shelf this morning, brought it to work, thumbed around in in.  A small book of poems by the poet John Brandi, known for his connections to the beats and his itinerant ways.  It's a lovely little book dedicated to "mortals & angels & the ghost of Ryokan" called That Crow that Visited Was Flying Backwards.  The poems and ink drawings that inhabit this book are simple and often elegant observations, insights, aphorisms into love, writing and living. 
My neighbor's house
moves a little closer
this cold
autumn night

or this one

My son's journal
my own journal

2 books, 2 pens
2 partners

by the wood

or this one (reminding me of Issa and Patchen)

The polywog
is the biggest animal
in the world
this first day
of spring

One might ask the use of being a poet of little use at all.  That's the beauty.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Chicago Cubs & Steve Goodman

Thanks to Frank Haulgren.

Triangular Sail

Triangular Sail

            for Yen Yu


Triangular sail the only light

in a dark sea of water and sky


Fifty-seven years on this earth

and still lost


Certainty also is transient.  The

sail has vanished.  At the edge


of the world, a traveler.

Monday, September 15, 2008

New Poem

I just had a new poem published in Raven Chronicle, a noted Seattle online publication.  You can check it out here:

Friday, September 12, 2008


Let's hope Sarah Palin wasn't thinking when she made her pitbull remark -- the only difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull is lipstick -- since pitbulls are the breed responsible for maiming and killing more children than any other breed of Canidae (even wolves).

Excellent letter in the B'ham Herald this morning wondering how she would be able to handle being a responsible mom with a special needs child and a pregnant teen as well as fulfill her governmental duties, especially if she should become president.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Slacker Uprising

The new Michael Moore film will be released on September 23rd, and is free for school and university libraries.

And today the world will formally begin to end, due to the tiny black holes formed by the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, which was turned on today.  These tiny black holes will eat whatever is in their way, starting with Switzerland and working their way west (or east or through -- hard to say).  Anyway, it's been nice while it lasted.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Service to One's Country

Forgive me for waxing (in a minimalist way) political.  Must be something in the air.
Lately the Republicans have done an excellent job defining service to one's country, and its off-shoot heroism, in a narrow and militarist way.  Soldiers, they claim, even those fighting in wars that are questionable, are the only true recipients of these badges of honor.  This is simply a lie.  While many soldiers are unquestionably serving their country to the best of their knowledge, and may commit acts that are easily pegged as heroism, there are many other citizens who are solidly committed to their country's service, and are involved in largely unchampioned heroic acts.  A very abbreviated list contains: doctors, police & fire(wo)men, teachers, writers and journalists, clergy, factory workers, miners, environmentalists, librarians, community organizers, social workers, and so forth.  The Democrats have again allowed the Repulbicans to define national service and heroism, and cast it in an exclusively military light, just as they had previously done to patriotism.
It's time to take back these words and redraw their definitions.

Palin and Libraries

From the 9/7 Detroit Free Press:

"Early in her tenure she asked the library director about censoring books in the library's collection. The town's Frontiersman newspaper said Palin didn't ask about specific books. "I told her clearly, I will fight anyone who tries to dictate what books can go on the library shelves," library director Mary Ellen Emmons told the paper in 1996.

Palin later described her inquiry as rhetorical and a way to get to know the city employees.

Emmons soon was among a group of employees Palin sought to fire but was allowed to keep her job. A letter circulated to newspapers, including the Free Press, by Wasilla resident Anne Kilkenny said Emmons kept her job because residents rallied to her support."

What an interesting way to get to know your employees.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Guns and God

It's hard to ignore the fact anymore that God likes guns. It doesn't really matter which God either. Allah seems just as taken as the big white guy in the sky. But since most of the God people in rural America (those in the soul of Sarah Palin, or Thomas Frank) call themselves Christians, I started thinking about what kind of guns Christ would use. I don't take him for a big caliber guy (thin wrists) which rules out a .357 or 44 magnum. And certainly not a Sharps .50 caliber buffalo rifle...too much like a cross. But he's not a whimpy .22 guy either. No, I peg Christ as a 9 mm Walther man. A stylish gun that packs the punch needed, but isn't over the top. A gun with grace, so to speak. I can see him in his robes, popping bad guys, a couple of clips tucked in his belt. I'm sure the action figure is not far behind.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Art Everyday


In the 2nd floor men's lavatory of the library there is an "project" to write in the grout between the wall tiles. This has become known as the "Grout Board."

I'll toss some of these out when I have nothing more relevant to say.

The Great Groutsby

When in Grout, don't doubt it

In and Grout

It's a Grout Day

Borneman's Blog

If you want to see a small city in Montana filtered through the eyes of a truly wonderful artist and human being, check out Borneman's blog (

It's a silver day in the old Ham, and the chlorophyll is beginning to fade away.
Onward into Autumn...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Out of Touch, Out of Mind

I've been in Alaska for the past two weeks, so apologize to my 2 readers (you know who you are!) that nothing's happened. Did repeat a trip to Denali with my dad that we had done in the 80's. Can't believe how much Alaska has changed, but it's still a wild and crazy place. Photos on (search: piper denali) if interested.

I'll try to get something book or art related going soon. Best book lately read however is the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. First writer from the Dominican Republic I've ever read.

More to follow...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sonny Sharrock

Sonny Sharrock came to mind yesterday while discussing Ben Monder. I first saw Sharrock at Ravinia Park north of Chicago in the late 60's, early 70's. He was playing with Herbie Mann, and adding a chaotic, thunderous dimension to Mann's flute. I remember several things distinctly -- I have never seen a guitar appear so dwarfed in anyone's hands (later in life when I saw Izzy Kamakawiwo'ole play ukulele this feat was topped), and it was the first time I'd heard anyone produce pure noise on an instrument. Looking around youtube, I found a couple of clips that characterize a couple of this fabulous guitarist's moods. Enjoy.

Thanks to Pedro Mendes for collecting and sharing these.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Walk Score

A new Web tool called Walk Score will tell you how "walkable" your home location is. Walk Score does this by "calculating the walkability of an address by locating nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc. Walk Score measures how easy it is to live a car-lite lifestyle—not how pretty the area is for walking."

Your Walk Score is a number between 0 and 100. Here are general guidelines for interpreting your score:

  • 90 - 100 = Walkers' Paradise: Most errands can be accomplished on foot and many people get by without owning a car.
  • 70 - 90 = Very Walkable: It's possible to get by without owning a car.
  • 50 - 70 = Some Walkable Locations: Some stores and amenities are within walking distance, but many everyday trips still require a bike, public transportation, or car.
  • 25 - 50 = Not Walkable: Only a few destinations are within easy walking range. For most errands, driving or public transportation is a must.
  • 0 - 25 = Driving Only: Virtually no neighborhood destinations within walking range. You can walk from your house to your car!
My walk score, out in the county, was 15, which essentially means I have to drive just about anywhere. Which is correct, unless I want to walk 1 1/2 miles to the store, or bike steep hills.

The Best Things in Life Are Free

I used to think of this in more idealistic terms, now I just think the best things in life are stolen, however as a librarian, I usually give credit. This language interpreting device is stolen from Rob Lopresti ( who failed to notice it under my green loden overcoat. It is called Wordle, and to show what it can do, I'm volunteering the very words of this bitty blog post as sacrificial lambs. If I were a real artist I could undoubtedly sell this for enough to retire, and if I were a real writer, I'd obviously be writing something more profound. This work is entitled "Rob Lopresti's Cat."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

They Used to Hang Outlaws

Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan: La Ballata di Trotsky, Museum of Modern Art in Castello di Rivoli, Turin, 1997.

One can guess the title within a reasonable degree of accuracy, even if one doesn't read Italian. Questions remain however: Is this art? Is this good art? And why would anyone hang a stuffed horse in a room in the first place, art or not? Cattelan has admitted to his desire to push the limits of tolerance, but a well-hung stuffed race horse hardly does it. In today's world its effects range from boring to stupid, hardly shocking. If you want to be shocked, visit Bodies - The Exhibition, watch TV news, or examine the effects of aging on the skin of a copiously tattooed biker.

Movements of the past -- surrealism, dadaism, were shocking because the images, forms, actions, texts, etc. were new. This is not new, it's tedious, regardless of how elaborate a theoretical underpinning Cattelan constructs.

And furthermore it lacks dignity -- the dignity of life (which Cia Guo Qiang was able to give to his wolves); the dignity of death; and the dignity of vengeance - unless it happens to fall on the artist.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Just So We Don't Forget

Malcom Lowry's Epitaph

Malcolm Lowry
Late of the Bowery
His prose was flowery
And often glowery
He lived, nightly, and drank, daily,
And died playing the ukulele.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I Started out on Terriers

"I lost my Scottish terrier," was the reason Tatum O'Neal gave for buying crack from a street dealer. The first dog is free.


The social networking software Twitter has spawned the term Twittering, which means in the blog-o-sphere to constantly record everything you are doing/thinking/ as it occurs. A Borgesian map of life so to speak. I would argue that the poet Robert Creeley was a pioneer of twittering, mapping his life and consciousness in his little poems; sending them on their way out into the poem-0-sphere to mingle, coagulate, coalesce (with) and evade the word-o-sphere.


To utter a succession of light chirping or
tremulous sound, to chirrup; to speak

rapidly and in a tremulous manner, to gig-
gle nervously, to titter.

To tremble with nervous agitation; the
light chirping of certain birds; light

tremulous speech or laughter; Agitation
or excitement; flutter. To flutter

in words on the pages of light.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


For the past 2 weeks I've been the lucky test subject for an Amazon Kindle (That's me in the photo on a sun-drenched Bellingham beach)

I chose to download and read David Gilmour's memoir The Film Club. It's a wonderful book about time the author spent with his wayward teenage son watching and discussing movies. Aside from great movie trivia, and great ideas of what to watch - Gilmour was a Canadian film critic for years - it's an an extremely moving story.

Here's my report on the Kindle:

  • The Kindle is cool, lightweight, compact (10.3 ounces, 7.5 x 5 inches)
  • Electronic paper/ink gives incredible contrast - no eye strain
  • Wireless - it downloaded The Film Club in less than a minute
  • Fully searchable
  • Incredible battery life - only needed to charge it once
  • Over 120,000 book choices that Amazon has digitized, along with blogs, newspapers, etc.
  • 3 gig storage holds up to 200 books
  • Book prices are only around $9-$10
  • Displays graphics
  • Can use it on the treadmill easily - no need to hold it and turn pages
  • Adjustable font size for tired old eyes
  • Has a dictionary and rudimentary web look-up features
  • There are already a number of support blogs, etc. online

  • Cost - pricey at $400
  • Can't "borrow" books - have to buy novels, etc., which I usually don't buy
  • Navigation can be a bit tricky (menu-driven, but wording can be confusing - no obvious Help choice)
  • Navigation buttons (previous page, next page) are too large and poorly placed - I hit these inadvertently many times which took me from the page I was reading

  • Can it display color?
  • Can one download from sites like Project Gutenberg?

Overall Recommendation

This is by far the best e-book reader I've seen (I've tested some of the early readers), and the best marketed. I would certainly buy one given a few major changes: lower the price; fix the navigation buttons; and allow library check out of books so everything doesn't need to be purchased. But then again, I might buy one anyway. It's pretty cool.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Spam Poetry Critiques

I, like all the rest of y'all, receive spam, much of it quite poetic. The latest entry to arrive, submitted by Evelyn Mosely, a direct disciple of Apollinaire, is:

"To abstraction. Are
the fend, flourish. Are
itself dispenser."

(I provided the line breaks, which were obviously lost in the mail)

I've decided that it would be a shame, not to mention a substantial loss to the field of contemporary poetics, to toss these all in the Delete file. Henceforth I will be publishing them on this site, with critical annotation provided by some of the finest toasted-modern critical theorists.

Criticism for this lovely, yet subtly complex little pome was provided by none other than the literary scholar and critic Jeff Purdue, founder of the "Newer Criticism," and currently Poésie de Littérature de Licker de Pied D'idiot at the Sorbonney. It was with extreme luck and good fortune that we were able to harness (literally) Professor Purdue for this task, as his time is all but consumed with his latest tome, Derrida: Diddled, Sparred, Ligatured, and Placed in a Big Boat. Enough however, on to the critique.

Professor Purdue writes:

"In this poem, Ms. Moseley artfully echoes that supreme moment of self-abasement and overweening pride in Milton's Satan, when Milton declared 'Myself am hell.' Moseley's encomium to nothingness recognizes it as the ground of being, where individual subjectivities contest ("fend") and proliferate ("flourish"). All this activity happens parthogenetically, as a folding out of itself."

I concur, although I'm a bit skeptical about this parthogenesis stuff, and I'm not sure, for the sake of accuracy and clarity, that folding shouldn't be "fondling." But other than that, I think you'll agree it's masterful stuff.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Paul, how to be a luckier author

as the e-mail I just received states. I used to get e-mails telling me how to be a better writer, but they've apparently given up. Still, luck can't be discounted.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Spring, and all

As the poet Basil Bunting once wrote, "The spuggies have (finally) fledged."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Art Speak

Having recently returned from New York City, and touring MOMA and the Guggenheim while there, I was innundated by art-speak, the language that is now used to discuss art that ceases to be composed of objects and is more and more composed of ideas. Now I'll be the last to admit that ideas are uninteresting or useless, but I think in the hands of many artists and critics they can lead to idiocy. My friend Jeff turned me on to a review in the Wall Street Journal (which is probably the most fitting place for art reviews these days considering their commodity fetish) by Eric Gibson. The review is entitled "The Lost Art of Writing about Art," and basically traces a lineage back to Duchamp when art became less dependent on the actual materials and construction, assemblage, or atisan nature of the work, and more involved with the ideas behind it. This lead to the wonderful piece I saw at MOMA where John Baldessari is on video moving his hands into various positions while stating "I am making art." What this boils down to is a definition of art that is nothing more than anything an "artist" does that he/she wants to call art. It reminds me of when the poet Ron Padgett was asked "What is poetry?" he answered that it was anything written by anyone crazy enough to want to be a poet (paraphrased). Add to this the new definition of the open museum conceptualized by Cai Guo-Qiang at the Guggenheim, and we have extended the metaphor into places to store these ideas called art, which are also ideas. It will not be long until some self-proclaimed Nietzsche comes along and pronounces "Art is dead," although my Google search for that phrase produced around 50,000 hits so it's already passe.
But art is not dead, and some of the works I witnessed where by their very nature and integrity magnificent, terrifying, awe-inspiring, idea-evoking, overwhelming, and down-right beautiful -- everything that great art should and can be. One of the most powerful series of works were by Sigalit Landau, "Barbed Hula" and "DeadSee," works of extraordinary visceral power. And the top floor Design and The Elastic Mind was a heady combination of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and art, some as practical as a Sigg design, others involving genetic and cellular manipulation of the body as art.
And I love the what are now almost ordinary works of artists like Klee and Marsden Hartley and Odilon Redon, and the explosions and almost gratuitous indulgence of color in the Machine for Living Color.
I always find myself intoxicated after visits like this, and inspired as well. Art is one of the things we do best as humans, it is where a spirit of play and childhood and imagination and theory and history and culture all co-exist. And without it we would be much paler folks.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

In Vitro Meat

Check out New Harvest, a company that is working to produce an in-vitro meat product. This product will theoretically use animal tissue, rather than whole live animals, to produce meat and meat products.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Postmodern Headlines

Bellingham Herald Sunday, regarding the Dalai Lama in Seattle - "Hello Dalai"

Monday, March 31, 2008

Book Carvings

Brian Dettmer carves into books revealing the artwork inside, creating complex layered three-dimensional sculptures. Interesting work, but please, don't use library books. Courtesy of Miguel.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Black Holes

OK, one more Murakami mention the other night in Paris, je T'aime of all things. It can only mean one thing -- the world is coming to a end. Which it might be if the Hawaii scientists are right. They are suing to block the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva Switzerland because it could create mini black holes that last long enough to suck in matter all around it. This may usurp climate change. The LHC will simulate conditions less than a billionth of a second after the big bang by smashing protons together at enormous force.

Friday, March 28, 2008

More Distortion of Space & Time

I often toy with the ideas that each personal life might have a pre-determined direction or shape, and other times discard this as nonsense, opting for the more scientific argument of randomness and accident. Perhaps it depends on my level of depression. Still...

The other day I picked up 2 books from the "New Books" shelf at our library. The first, The Blue Door by Andre Brink I chose because of it's size -- small -- and it's lovely blue cover. I had never heard of Andre Bink, a South Afican writer, before. The second book, ghost by Alan Lightman, i chose because I've been a fan of Lightman's ever since his elegant and engaging Einstein's Dreams. So, two very different books, however...
The Blue Door is about an artist, David, who returns to his studio house one day to find a family living there he doesn't recognize. However the woman claims to be his wife, the two children his, and there is mail on the table addressed to both he and his wife. Attempts to return to his original life, the apartment where he and his architect wife live are futile -- the elevators not working logically, and then the building vanishing entirely. David begins role playing his new life with his new family while searching for clues that will solve his delusion. One of the first clues he uncovers is a book his new wife, Sarah, is reading in bed their first night together: Sputnik Sweetheart by Murakami. Referring to a situation in the book, Sarah says "Can you imagine a thing like that happening? Shifting between dimensions?" David answers, "I think it happens every day."

While I have just cracked ghost, on page 6 Lightman's narrator states: "Somewhere in my apartment there's a novel I would finish if I could bring myself to read. It's a novel by a Japanese writer about an unemployed man who sits at home all day and gets pornographic phone calls from a strange woman." The novel, if my memory serves my correctly, is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by, you guessed it, Murakami.
And Lightman's next sentence is, "It rained friday." Today is friday, and it is raining.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Dolphin Hotel

The other night I watched a movie entitled 1408 starring John Cusack (we're on a Cusack - John and Joan - currently). Cusack plays a writer who explores haunted hotels and writes about his findings, largely exposing them as hoaxes. After discovering a haunted room, 1408, at the Dolphin Hotel in NYC he tries to make a reservation, but is initially refused, and later the hotel manager, Samuel L Jackson tries to talk him out of it. In fact the room in not only haunted, but is a link to another dimension or reality. The movie was based on a Stephen King story that was released in the collection Blood and Smoke in 1999.

Now, I also happen to be reading a book entitled Dance, Dance, Dance by one of my favorite writers Haruki Murakami. In this novel the protagonist stays in a run-down family hotel in Sapporo called the Dolphin Hotel with a call girl who mysteriously disappears. Later he is called back to that hotel only to find it rebuilt into a contemporary monstrosity. He finds however, that when the elevator stops on certain floors, initially the 15th, he enters another space or dimension, which is, needless to say, more sublime and mysterious than King's.
Coincidence that I watched this movie at the precise time I was reading this book? I think not. I await the universe's next move.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

WikiBaker &

There is a great article on Wikipedia in the March 20th New York Review of Books. It capitalizes on the community energy that went into creating one of the most highly used websites in the world. In Baker's words "It was constructed in less than eight years by strangers who disagreed about all kinds of things by who were drawn to a shared, not-for-profit purpose." This movement toward the Internet Commons carries on the energy to share information (vs. the proprietary demands on information) that fueled Usenet, Linux, and open source movements. I am proud to say I am a librarian and I love Wikipedia.

Another cool tool that I was just introduced to is The Encyclopedia of Life
This is another web product that is seeking community involvement. In their words -
"EOL is an unprecedented global effort and we want you to be a part of it. Natural history museums, botanical gardens, other research institutions, and dedicated individuals are working to create the most complete biodiversity database on the Web.
Check it out.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dairy Queen Poem


Friday, March 7, 2008

Back to My Roots

For anyone who wants to jump back into the late forties, early fifties, check out the Lake Forest House Museum, a two story brick townhouse that is a sealed time capsule of life and decor at that time.

I might
right outta my skin.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Speaking of eating, Napa chef Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking is a treasure. Tres simple and exceedingly tasty recipes. Reintroduced me to Fennel! Now I must plant fennel, and also, by Julene's prodding, Argula. An asparagus recipe (in the above book) forced me into the yard looking for dried lavender flowers. And lo and behold I found some. Pays not to clip back everything.

Sam Barsh is one of the most precise, melodic and stylish keyboardists in the game today. After 3 years with the Avashai Cohen Trio he's breaking into his own with a record on RazDaz. Check him out.

My friend Gary McKinney is looking for short fiction for his sequel to Tribute to Orpheus. If interested contact him at His press is Kearney Street Books.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

More d a levy

at BigBridge


Phil Whalen's Collected


Jaap Blonk Ursonate!!!!!!!!!


Google joins with Starbucks to form Googlebucks and take over the world!!!!!!

And what is it with Grey Salt???

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Fits and Starts, Bits and Bats

Fits & Starts - great Jacques Dupin book that Peter Stark turned me onto in the 70's - one of my first non-Rimbaudian, non-Baudelarian forays into French poetry and poetics. Interestingly, turning back to it the other night after many years, I find that it was translated by Paul Auster.

Today the democrats will settle the dust. Or will they?

And what about this Leap Year. 29 days in February. As if THAt month needed to be longer. Can't they add it to August?

Recently read -

RL's Dream by Walter Moseley: a solid book by the master, featuring Soupspoon, an 84 year old blues guitarist who once played with Robert Johnson, and wants to lay down his memories. Paired with a southern white girl married to Jack Daniels, the couple is one of the odder and more endearing pairings I've seen, but Mosely makes it work, as he does most things.

Finally started the Kite Runner, and have to admit I'm enjoying it.

All for now.....

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Jeff passed this great comic site to me -- Garfield minus Garfield -- It's absolutely one of the funniest comics I've seen in years.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Missed Wayne Horvitz at the Lucia Douglas Gallery/Jazz Project show yesterday. He's working with opera forms now, including a new show based on the late James Welch's Heartsong of Charging Elk. For 4 voices and 10 Chamber Instruments with Libretto by Rinde Eckert. Saturday, May 31st, 2008, Workshop performance
Chapel Performance Space at The Good Shepherd Center, Seattle

CU there.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More Collins

Death of a Writer deserves a far more detailed critique than I am willing to provide here, and it's already gotten plenty of rave reviews, so I'll save it that. This is probably a major book, or a failed attempt at one, but it is certainly a savage book - a scathing attack on the writer in academia, academia at large, & the publishing business. Collins must be dragging some baggage here,
In a nutshell this is the story of two writers, one, Pendleton, who has failed to achieve the fame he feels he deserved and became a prof (those who can, do; those who can't, teach) at a small, private midwestern college, and another writer Horowitz, who has achieved fame for all the wrong reasons (pseudo-intellectualism and coffee table books). The story focuses on a novel, Scream, written by Pendleton then hidden and never released. Found by a graduate assistant, Adi, Scream details with chilling accuracy the murder of a thirteen-year old girl, who is discovered dismembered and dead in a cornfield. Ryder, a cold-case cop, and totally scarred character (divorced, abusive, bad second marriage, kids he doesn't love) who loves running around in a long black coat becomes obsessed with solving the case. In addition to Pendleton, there are many other suspects: Vietnam vet photographer, the gothic farmer who owns the cornfield, a small town cop, and of course, Amber's "boyfriend," and Pendleton. There are more affairs and sexual liaisons than Peyton Place.
The novel Scream positions the murder as a violent cry for the existence of God -- if God exists He would surely stop the murder of this innocent. Never mind that He has failed at this game for thousands of years.

Collin's novel has frequent references to Nietzsche and Raskolnikov for philispohical and religious fuel, and Stephen King for supernatural and gothic fuel. Insane Calvinism and bad weather is prevalent.

Ryder pursues an array of suspects. The National Book Award board argues whether Scream is really fiction (if Pendleton simply detailed his own murder of the girl it would be ...autobiography) and thus worthy of an award for fiction. Clues are everywhere. Some, like the difference between microfilm and fiche are the victim of very bad editing. Darkness prevails. No one is saved in this self-manufactured mid-west hell (I'm glad I got out). The complexity and endless circling repetition of the novel reminds me of some dis-harmonic insistent post-metal symphony. It's a hell alright, but it's a living. Meanwhile, Collins will go on, treading between the suicide and death of productivity of the university teat, and the temptation of coffee table books, maybe one on murdered children?

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Tale of Two Books

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami is a lovely elegiac novel set in Japan during the civil unrest of the late '60s. This novel , his third I believe, catapulted Murakami into the international spotlight. It, along with South of the Border, East of the Sun, are relatively traditional narrative love stories, although they are not without Murakami's subtle surreal touches. The protagonist, Toru Watanabe, a college student who is searching for life's meager answers, is thrown into a relationship with his best friend's girlfriend, Naoko, after Kizuki, the friend, commits suicide. The novel details Naoko's slow decline into madness, and how this and other forces, including the incredibly wacky Midori, alter Toru's path. Particularly moving is the innocence (but hardly naiveté) of the characters, and Murakami's affection for them and their situations is omnisciently evident. This is a gem of a novel and I recommend it without qualification. Of course I recommend most of Murakami's novels without qualification.

A total contrast to Norwegian Wood in tone is Lost Souls by Michael Collins. Collins, although Irish, has an incredible sensitivity for midwestern gothic. Although this novel also involves coming-of-age students, it is thoroughly dark and twisted, full of drunkenness, despair, suicide, murder, adultery, madness, poverty, a hung dog with a slashed throat, and did I mention despair? Oh, and lots of deserted buildings. Of course it's set in Indiana, so that explains a lot. Collins writes sharply and intelligently, and not without touches of very dark humor. But this is brutal stuff. The actual plot of this mystery was irritatingly complex, compounded by the fact that Lawrence, the protagonist, tells the story from a distorted first person, missing clues, ommiting details, and entering into conspiracies with the town's mayor and police chief. Lawrence, a divorced cop (sorry, didn't mention divorce) finds a three year old girl dead in a leaf pile on Halloween night. Brutal as this is, it turns out the girl was actually run over twice by two different vehicles. Here I have to say "come on." The town's star quarterback, Kyle Johnson, on the eve of a historic run for the quarterfinals, is implicated. And the story spins out of control from there. Joanne Wilkinson in her Booklist review states the novel "is a comment on how the American way of life has failed to deliver on its promise." Or maybe he just picked the wrong town.
Collins is local, writes well enough, and I've heard enough praise, that I'm giving him another try, Death of a Writer. I'll have the Vodka handy for this one.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Cell Phone Novels

Five out of ten of Japan's most popular novels last year were composed and initially read on cell phones. I can barely finish novels on a word processor.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Dr. Bronner

Reading about this exhibit at MASSMoCa made me smell the showers I took in college. That steamy peppermint smell. If I were in the neighborhood I'd get right over.

Cooking by Numbers

While the yet-to-be-though-already-fought election is still months away, and we have memorized the names of all the pundits, even the obscure ones, and have our heads filled with cooked and predigested numbers, we have to turn to other occupations once in awhile than absorbing TV. Absorbing the web of course, and its range of wonderful fetishes. Cooking by Numbers is just such a fetish. Based on the college fridge and pantry, the offerings aren't opulent or risque, but they are "what it is." Simply click on key ingredients in the house, press the magic Go button, and be whisked into a world of recipes you can create without going to the store. Pineapple curry pizza anyone?

Monday, February 4, 2008


I stumbled upon stumbleupon the other night and am still stumbling. This website allows you to put in search parameters/profiles and then feeds you random websites in these areas. Before you groan "another one of those" check it out. It's giving me a mixture of really strange and interesting sites. (thanks to jordan)

Google Reader is an interesting addition to the rss feed world. It allows for maximum customization and organization. It incorporates visual feed as well as text. Still fiddling around with it.

Rhapsody is a music service similar to ITunes yet not. It has a huge catalog of music including some pretty bizarre stuff (fugs, praxis, albert ayler) and allows free listening of 25 tracks a month, with some pretty reasonable rates to cover it all, as well as devices. De vice is nice.

Pandora. Pandora is old school by now but I love this service. It's essentially a free (although they have fee-based plans and devices too - don't you wish you did?) service and has been a boon for many indie artists. Choose a station based on a particular artist, and they match up similar artists based on an algorithm that actually uses some elements of theory, as well as astrological data. Very cool product. I often run it for hours. Try the Paul Bley station, or Mathew Shipp.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Alex Itin

Video artist from Brooklyn who works with text in some of his pieces pretty fantastically at that. Orson Whale

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Stafford Reading

The tribute reading for William Stafford was a triumph, with around 15 people reading his word aloud, and Jim Bertolino, gracious host, playing several tracks of Stafford reading aloud. Around 50 people in attendance. According to Jim, these tribute events have been going on since Stafford's death in 1993, and this month there will be over 40 of them worldwide. Very cool. I couldn't help but notice however, the age of the crowd -- most over 40. And stopping by a "spoken word" event later, where the average age was around 20. Poetry has been re-marketed for the younger folks as "slam" or "spoken word." It's embarrassing to say that what Henry Rollins claimed some years ago might be true, that poetry is an old fashioned notion that has lost its punch, and slam and spoken word offer a recontextualized approach to, what to my mind, is the same thing.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Miguel mentioning T-shirts made me think of my favorite, given to me by my nephew:
"I Don't Think Much So I Might Not Be" Unfortunately I've gotten a number of "Huh? What's that mean?" and to be honest, that's all the Descartes I've read or cared to read. Bumper sticker Descartes. Sound byte Descartes.

William Stafford fest at Village Books tonight (Wednesday, at 7)

Books read:

Jean Rhys Quartet. A tragic but terrifically etched, and wryly funny novel about a woman adrift in Paris in the 20's. While the theme of this book is ultimately alienation, particularly of women, the prose avoids despair, largely due to her razor-sharp writing. She is one of the more remarkable stylists I've read lately. Her prose turns on wit, self-deprecation, reversals, pure descriptive narrative, and irony.

Djuna Barnes Smoke. Interesting to read Douglas Messerli's intro to this book, the fact that Barnes wrote copiously for several newspapers (which were a far different beast in the 19teens, collaging stories, essays, memoirs, rants, polemics, and news), and how stylistically this was a formative time for Barnes. As Messerli notes "Readers today may find it difficult to imagine how the mass audience of a newspaper (New York Morning Telegraph) that in its later years marketed itself as New York's "racing sheet," would or even could respond to fictions so peculiar as these." 'Paprika had a moribund mother under the counterpane, a chaperon who never spoke or moved, since she was paralyzed, but who was a pretty good one at that, being a white exclamation point this side of error.'

Movies seen:

The Jazz Singer -- Wildly funny, tragically sad, with incredibly disturbing elements (the blackface role in the Broadway play). Al Jolson is an absolute marveling maniac.

Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro) -- At times this film seems a backdrop for Carnival and surrounding activities, but there are some fine moments, and some of them are the Carnival and surrounding activities, which is rendered with immediacy and vitality. The myth is loosely but effectively interpreted. Orpheus isn't much of a guitar player (his synching is pretty off), but he convinces the two boys he raises the sun every morning, and one of the most touching scenes is the ending, and a little girl in a white dress dancing. Great music, by Jobim, and terrific acting, particularly Lourdes de Oliveira who plays Mira. She would chew you up and not even spit out the bones.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Never Break a New Year's Resolution

It's simple. Don't make any. A quick and easy way to reduce stress.

What I learned at the Reference Desk yesterday:

w00t - Webster's 2007 word of the year, an expression of joy and triumph. W00t supposedly evolved from "Whoomp, there it is" by 95 South, but I have my doubts... Woot, though not w00t, appears in Chaucer's The Wife of Bath's Tale. For wel I woot they patience is gon. And any married man will agree.

Backronym - A phrase constructed after the fact from a pre-existing word (such as Why Order Rich Desserts?)

Neologism - what w00t and backronym are, newly constructed words. The number of neologisms is growing exponentially. My favorite of late is Huckabounce. When I typed Huckabounce into Google it asked me if I didn't mean Huckabone, the 83572nd most popular surname in the United States. Many more neologisms appear instantly at Urban Dictionary.


DailyLit - read books in installments by e-mail or RSS feed. Over 400 public domain titles free, and many more for a cost. (via my main man miguel, frenzied scavenger of the web) (what eats Bob?)