January 31, 2006

Austin Powers The Imagination

I'm feeling particularly virtuous today. I've cleaned my office, filed taxes and FUTA and SUTA and God Know What Else the Fed requires of small business owners, shampooed the den carpet, run a mop full of Murphy's Oil Soap over the kitchen floors.  And in the intervals between hitting software contract milestones.  I sometimes wonder if I could work in a real company and run 60 engineers like I did in Belgium.  Junie and Ally & John are coming to visit this weekend, so I was particularly motivated to put things back in order after Emily and Rimbaud played rugby on the various piles stacked up on the dining room table, kitchen counters, and den surfaces.   Cook's Illustrated showed up today with recipes for Pepper-Crusted Filet Mignon, Glazed Pork Chops, Better Chicken Kiev and Best Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake (they made 130 of them before they weighed in with a decision).  I actually used to be decent at Chicken Kiev, pounding the chicken breasts, wrapping them in a ball of butter and herbs, breading them with herbed crumbs and deep frying, so we'll see if this recipe is an improvement, as usual.  Other articles and tips from CI include:  wrap iceberg lettuce in moist paper towels inside zippered plastic bags; heavy cream can be frozen up to 4 months and still comes back;  to clean knife blades, use a wine cork;  the best immersion blender is from KitchenAid for $49; for perfect potstickers, steam round gyoza or any wonton wraps and pack ingredients tightly;  the best pie plate is the $5 Pyrex 9";  the best beef broth is Pacific Beef Broth at $2.69 for 32 ounces, and the best nonstick saucepan is the Calphalon 2.5 quart at $29.95.  When buying a leg of lamb, ask for "a whole boneless leg of lamb, but without the sirloin attached", American, not New Zealand or Australia which tend to be gamier.

Received another terrific issue of Pleiades today, featuring Washington with his hair on fire.  More on that tomorrow.

I'm off tomorrow to Austin.  I wish I were going to AWP, but I'm actually going to a client's technology firm to solve a problem with a bunch of other engineers.  I've actually never been to Austin, so this should be interesting.  I have an Avis reservation (Hertz was inexplicably out of cars), a Frontier flight, a Holiday Inn reservation, and an appointment time.  The cheapest thing that Avis had was a Chevy pickup, presumably without a gunrack, this being Austin after all.  More when I get there.

Extremely cool: Olena K. Davis here.

Posted by jbahr at 08:10 PM | Comments (0)

January 30, 2006

Mad Monday

I seem to have received two BusinessWeeks, back to back.  This week's lead article is all about Steve Job's Magic Kingdom, referring to the recent purchase of Pixar by Disney, which catapults Jobs onto the board as well as largest single Disney shareholder.  I first met Jobs at the 1976 West Coast Computer Fair, which was a spawling uncoordinated collection of small booths and the occasional panel.  I was on a panel with 5 other software developers, including Bill Gates, who was "famous" for writing a BASIC interpreter for a Z80-based microcomputer.  Jobs and Woz had a small booth next to the much larger and well-known Smokesignal Computing, and didn't participate in any of the panels, as they were busy peddling their Apple I to all comers.  That same year, I had a meeting on behalf of National Semiconductor, with Larry Ellison, who at that time had a database called Oracle with which he had had passing success in the defense/spook markets.  In the past 30 years, these gentlemen have gone on to become some of the richest people on the planet.  In the case of Jobs, I've heard lots of gossip over the years from friends who worked for him, in some cases direct reports.  He is reputedly a complete pain in the ass to work for, opinionated and hardworking, a micromanager with enough energy to make a normal life impossible for anyone who wants to keep up with him.  Ellison is famous for his ferocious standards and questionable ethics.  The stories about Gates and the fast shuffles he engineered in the early days are legend.  To be fair, though, Gates and his wife may eclipse Carnegie, Ford and Pew in the sheer amount of intelligent charitable work they do.  But, I digress.  Other pieces of interest in BW include:  Coca Cola promised a probe into worker conditions in Colombia, where 8 bottling employees were killed by right-wing paramilitaries.  Walmart is looking for a "senior director of stakeholder engagement", which is bizspeak for someone to deal with sweatshop activists and environmentalists.  Gillette will be rolling out the 5-blade Fusion displays in 180,000 venues, as well as buying a large chunk of SuperBowl time (guys:  can anybody tell me they have actually noticed the difference between two-blades and three-blade shaving gear?).  A recent study of college cheating puts business students cheating the most, followed closely by journalism majors.  The modern mainstream mega-rock act appears to be a thing of the past — the big touring money accrues to recent (e.g., Green Day and Eminem) and oldie (e.g., The Stones) acts and there are few recent winners.  Large national builders are putting up houses in quantities that may exacerbate the housing bubble implosion.  Phil Knight, founder and Board Chairman of Nike, let his newest CEO go after 13 months, a phenomenon that is increasingly common with iconic leaders (neither Ellison nor Jobs have a succession plan that anybody believes in).  Chrysler was on a roll last year, but sales are slowing.  Gates is challenging Microsoft to build the X-Pod to challenge Apple.  In the last 5 years, affluent Chinese have rocketed to the number 3 buyers of luxury goods, and it's not going unnoticed — high-end stores for everything from automobiles to jewelry are opening at a record pace in major Chinese cities.  Finish Line is now the #2 athletic shoe retailer and I've never heard of them.  A shortage of ultrapure polysilicon is slowing the production of eco-friend solar panels.  A heartwarming story of a regular guy who traded a life of retirement in rural New York to become the head of creative and marketing operations at Land's End in Madison, WI (of course, he'd been editor of Esquire for 20 years, so he probably wasn't clipping coupons anyway).  The new thing is muscle cars from the 60's and 70's:  a low-mileage 1968 Ford Shelby went recently for over $400K.  The new 39-cent stamps will feature Curious George, Maisy the mouse, and the Very Hungry Caterpillar.

I'm struck by how Robert Creeley, featured in this month's American Poet, The Journal of the Academy of American Poets, resembles Hannibal Lecter as played by Anthony Hopkins the other night, only with more hair and a slightly less creepy visage.  This is counter-indicative, as there are few people, much less poets, about whom I've heard so many stories of his magnanimous spirit and kind nature.  There are poems by Creeley here, such as When I Think, that I approach with the same generosity as I imagine him as having.  Eula Bliss and Matthew Zapruder discuss Lyric and the Narrative, in which the authors discuss their embarrassed ignorance about what they really mean over dimsum.  Lots of poetry ensues including work by Zapruder, Gregerson, Forché, Trinidad (who introduces us to Soraya Shalforoosh:  "I just got to Newark when they announced my flight to Chicago was cancelled. // I said "Fuck You!" when I meant to say "excuse me, please"), Rose O'Reilley, Richard Eberhart, Lorenzo Thomas.  There's the usual section touting Poems from Recent Refreshing Books, which tends to review only the top-line small presses, and includes Kay Ryan, David Baker, Liz Waldner, Gillian Conoley, Dobby Gibson, Joanna Goodman, Barbara Guest, Ann Lauterbach, Maggie Robbins, Linda Bierds, and Arthur Sze.  I liked Kay, Goodman and Gibson among the offerings for their novelty and spunk among the "touching hands" and "tragic figures" that dominated the rest.

I also seem to have a recent APR sitting on my desk.  Oh, I know, you're thinking blah, blah, blah in sets of Seven Poems by Somebody.  For the record:  8 poems by Landis Everson, 4 poems by Susan McCabe, 2 poems by Teresa Leo, 4 poems by Jim Harrison, 13 (!) poems by Kallimachos (310 BCE to 240 BCE) translated by George Economou, 3 poems by Forrest Hamer (who was the largest single donor to the Katrina disaster when I posted the matching offer), 12 poems by Forough Farokhzad translated from Farsi by Meetra A. Sofia ("My heart aches for the garden / No one cares about the flowers / No one cares about the fish"), 4 poems by Clayton Eshleman (does this guy have a Red Phone to the APR editors?), 3 poems by Alessandra Lynch, 2 poems by James McMichael.  Back of the cover is Dean Young with Static City, and why not, I love this guy ("If you want real static you got to go way back, / to Memphis, like when Memphis was still / Egyptian, people still with both eyes / on one side of their nose like flounders").  I also liked Susan McCabe, truth be told.  Here's a riff from Code Orange:  "Plastic wrap covers a vat of men, suffocating; / hooded ones watched and I, / I took the wrapping and stuck it to their mouths. // No chip in my back.  My eye wears motes. / In German, necklace and chain mean the same thing."  Yeah.  More of that that kind of thing would bling up the APR.

Posted by jbahr at 09:37 PM | Comments (1)

January 29, 2006

Sunday Stuff

As I read The Lighthouse:  I always think I like P.D. James more than I do, so I always buy her books.  I suppose I'm drawn to her as a successor to the serious English mystery writers of the 20's and 30's, and it doesn't hurt that her protagonist, Detective Inspector Adam Dalgliesh, is a poet.  Ms. James is a very good writer, of course, and her characters' diction reflects her own skillful way with words.  Still, I'd rather re-read John Dickson Carr, Ngaio Marsh, or Dear Agatha most days.  Or Martha Grimes, RD Wingfield and Ruth Rendell, to cite some authors who are actually alive. 

I enjoyed reading this month's Poetry (pause for jeers and catcalls).  There's a bit more formal work than usual, including an essay called Formal Wear by George Szirtes.  Contributors of rhymed and/or metered verse include Peter Campion (also a Poetry reviewer, at times), Philip Gross, A.E. Stallings, and Wendy Cope.  Two nice rambling pieces by Dean Young, but then, you know how I feel about Mr. Young.  I really liked Robert Pinsky's Poem of Disconnected Parts, a collage composed of couplets which interleaves storylines from Guantanamo and Robben Island prisons, the latter a notorious South African penal colony.  Albert Goldbarth offers up his usual fascinating work, Stomackes, which reflects on modern times using quotations from 17th century Puritans as foils.  Other poets with work in this issue include Christina Pugh, Charles Hartman, David Barber, John Brehm, and Deborah Warren.  Mary Kinzie and William Logan (yes, that William Logan) contribute excellent essays on the history, pitfalls, nature and inadequacy of critique.  As usual, one letter to the editor loves what they're doing and one derides it as lacking any "real world" component.

And now a comment by Emily "=a ======23w34 wn96,0p"  And, not to be outdone, one by Rimbaud:  "0-[0    frplooooooooooopfv9"

BusinessWeek's
lead article is The Future of Outsourcing, in which dozens of CEO's reflect on how outsourcing creates American jobs by growth accomplished by sending "backoffice" processing responsibilities to India, China, Central Europe, and Latin America.  There is some article space confirming the ongoing loss of US jobs (including much high-paying work), but most of the article is glowing and non-specific about the benefits of outsourcing to anyone but companies and their shareholders.  Other news:  Absolut Vodka is gearing up a multimillion dollar ad campaign to get back the 60% market share it used to have (they're now at 36%).  Ex NFL stars (Joe Montana, John Elway, Terry Bradshaw) will be on the pre-SuperBowl lecture circuit in Detroit this week, getting high 5 figures for appearances at corporate events.  The Maryland legislature just passed a bill that requires Walmart to spend 8% of its payroll on health insurance for poorer workers.  United Airlines is ready to come out of bankruptcy (after laying off 25,000 employees) with a deal that deeds over $100 million in stock to top management for the great job they did putting the whole getting-out-of-bankruptcy thing together.  Stealth sponsorship and funding of op-ed columnists by special interest groups and corporations is way more common than we realize.  Close-up look at how a upper middle class cancer patient with health insurance is going broke (ten years ago, colon cancer drugs cost $500 a year, now $250,000).  Local search engine company, NHN, is thumping Google in the Korean market.  In light of weak FDA oversight, Private companies like ConsumerLab.com, are offering advice on over-the-counter drugs (think Ginkgo Biloba) that are sometimes mis-identified, often useless, and occasionally dangerous.  The Financial Accounting Standards Board may recommend that all companies put unfunded pension and health-care liabilities in their financial reports (now they only rate a comment), which might be a good idea as companies like GM have unfunded liabilities that are 5 times the value of their outstanding shares.  JibJab is an example of Online Hollywood companies that are doing deals with their shorter works.  GE started it, and now lots of companies are thinking about replacing their customer satisfaction surveys with one question:  Would you recommend our service to another?

Is anybody interested in some old literary journals, say from the last 4 years?  I have a lot more than I want to keep on my bookshelf, now that I spent all day running a river through the Augean Stables that I call my office.  I'd also throw in some duplicate poetry books, poetry primers, and Poet's Market 2004, which I seem to have 2 of.  Email me. Someone has emailed me, thanks.

Posted by jbahr at 05:57 PM | Comments (1)

January 27, 2006

Road Trip!

The first part of the drive wasn't too bad, if you discount the marginal breakfast in Ogallala, just as we entered Nebraska.  As we left the restaurant (which had one of those endearing Midwestern names, like Kountry Kitchen), light snow began to fall.  By the time we hit Omaha, it was snowing and foggy, and I was keeping the rented Ford Explorer in the left lane to let local pickups blow by, driving as if they could actually see more than 100 feet.  Derek's Stuff did a pretty good job of weighting down the rear of the SUV  —  a college-bound cache that included computers, amplifiers, studio monitors, 3 suitcases of clothes, and a half-dozen Rubbermaid totes with everything his mother thought a boy would need in a dorm room (such as ceramic tableware for four).  For Nebraska, we played BB King, Jimi Hendrix, The White Stripes, and Elvis Costello.  The weather was particularly ugly in Iowa, but I found that I could draft the slower 16-wheelers and avoid getting buffeted by crosswinds.  By the time we hit Davenport, I'd been driving for 13 hours, so we stopped for the night at Holiday Inn and ate dinner at one of those Bennigan's that feels every menu item must have an Irish lilt (e.g., the County Cork Club Sandwich).  The next morning, I poked the blanketed lump that was my son, climbed back into the Explorer and labored across Illinois, only once thinking to take a detour to confirm the oxymoron that is Gabe Gudding living in Normal.
I thought better of the idea, and we made it through countless toll stops and cruised into The Loop just as the Columbia College dorm opened for move-in.  I wasn't terribly surprised to see one of Derek's apartment-mates still asleep in the tornado-ravaged cubicle that was his dorm room.  I was surprised, however, at the quality of the graffiti that covered nearly every square inch of the 12-foot wall in the living room, particularly as Derek's mother and I had signed an agreement that we would maintain the pristine conditions of the lodgings.  The sliding glass doors that opened onto a sheer 11-story drop was another exciting amenity (I discovered later that the door could only be opened 6 inches, and didn't actually close properly, which accounted for the 28-degree breeze through the living room).  After lugging everything up the elevator and setting up the computer/music-studio under Der's bunk bed, we went foraging for provisions at Target and Jewel-Osco.  After putting everything away in the small kitchen, I discovered that, clearly, these kids had not emailed each other regarding duplication.  There were 3 George Foreman grills, a dozen pots and pans, 4 bottles of ketchup and mustard, place settings for 12, enough Top Ramen to feed a Soviet division, and a gross of various cleaning product bottles that would, no doubt, remain idle for the next 5 months.  Der and I celebrated the move-in at a good steakhouse on the Magnificent Mile, and I retired to the Hilton (Derek went back and immediately found a party on his dorm floor whose main feature was a steamer trunk filled with iced beer).  After breakfast and hugs, I took off again, pointing the Explorer north this time to Eau Claire, where Junie was patiently waiting for me.  Joni Mitchell and the complete set of The Cars albums accompanied the perfect weather.   I love The Cars, but it's impossible to get their songs out of your head in anything short of a week.  Sweet Junie picked me up at the Eau Claire Hertz, where I dropped off the trusty Explorer, and my job was done.

 

Posted by jbahr at 09:51 AM | Comments (2)

January 18, 2006

My 15 Minutes

Thanks to the folks at Poetry Daily for running my poem.

I'll be driving (Road Trip! Road Trip!) to Chicago on Friday with my sons, Kyle and Derek, with a Hertz one-way rental car full of first semester college dorm necessities.  The destination is Columbia College, in particular a dorm building situated with suites for 4 students — two shared bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen.  There is no meal plan available in this dorm building, so we're hauling pots & pan, cooking utensils, and other kitchen gear that will probably go unused as there is a microwave oven available.  The weather continues to be insanely great (a phrase trademarked by Steve Jobs), running from 50 to 70 for the last 4 weeks, except for a day or two.  That probably means we'll hit a blizzard on I-80. After we're finished setting up, I'm hoping to look up Arielle Greenberg, who is on the English Department faculty.   Actually, there are so many poets within 100 miles of Chicago, it would be great to meet up with all of them, as I expect to be making fatherly visits from time to time.

Claudia suggests that I get Rimbaud a little kitty beret, which might just be a great marketing idea (she also suggested putting absinthe in his watering dish).  Rimbaud is affectionate in a surly, French, alpha male sorta way, and performs a feline version of apache dancing with Emily (who is not always thrilled with getting jumped on and tossed around).  As they're getting on 5 months old, it's probably time to think about the S word, which should cut down on Rimbaud's testosterone production a bit.

You don't see this everyday:  BusinessWeek reports Why Math Will Rock Your World, which details how mathematics is used increasingly in web searches, securities analysis, biotech, marketing data mining, and (of course) national security.  Major creditors have agreed to accept new dollar-denominated government bonds worth 20% of the $14 billion owed by Iraq to foreign investors.  The South Korean government has begun text-messaging its citizens to notify them of progress on environmental violations, legal proceedings, and even traffic fines.  As evidence of a growing nationalism, Indian cities and states are slowly changing back to their pre-colonial names (Bombay to Mumbai, Madras to Chennai).  With the erosion of TV ad efficacy, marketers are turning to alternative sites for advertising, including subway turnstiles, water coolers and gas pumps.  On Feb 17, 2009 all TV broadcasting will be digital, by Federal law.  A "content consortium" composed of old media companies may try to package their own web-based material and prohibit Google from earning revenue on advertising.  The Chinese government spends billions of dollars and employs almost 40,000 people to control access and censor content on websites and blogs visible from the mainland.  The Korean scandal has been a "body blow" to venture funding of stem-cell research.  Sirius is paying Howard Stern $500 million for his shock-jock services, and has to acquire over a million new subscribers to pay for it.  Bulgaria is the new hot place for making movies (cheap).  "Homeshoring" is taking off as larger numbers of Americans become employed as home-based call-center operators. 

Posted by jbahr at 08:56 AM | Comments (12)

January 12, 2006

Cutting Down Clocks

I have a laptop in my kitchen connected via WiFi to my computer network.  This lets me check email while I'm fixing dinner or watching The World Series of Poker.  This morning, I notice that the web browser on a page I've never heard of and there's something added to the email I was writing last night:  {_JHG^TRdftfysd45yuhu890]\/;.  I think this means the kittens have learned to use Outlook.

Am I the only one whose jaw dropped when the Rose Bowl coin flip was performed by Sandra Day O’Connor?  I'm all for college athletics, but haven't priorities gotten out of whack when coin-flip impartiality is guaranteed by a freaking Supreme Court Justice?  Then, I found out she was the Grand Marshal or something.

I got some good news from Poetry Daily (details when I know more).  I know it is now de rigeur to avoid closing a poem with authority, but you have to admit that Bob Hicok's last stanzas here are killerbee:

dead, even the person telling you
gone and you
waving your metronome arm, and time

inside the trees making clocks we check
by cutting them down.

Now that it's 2006, I can get a fresh start maintaining a Jordanesque Best Poems list.    Thanks to Allen for pointing out where some of Jordan's photographic art is on Flickr.  Nice to see that Pack is back.  Didi discusses two myths of Rimbaud (the poet, not the kitten).  Shades of Homer ... Mike is writing "a murder mystery/ghost story/urban fantasy/satire, written in terza rima".

Seth expands on his "nobody writes for publication" discussion, a contention that I largely agree with — particularly as he has framed the assertion.  That being said, I do think reading publications and the work in them has led me to question both the selection of poems to submit and the minor edits that I may make to those poems before sending them out.  I have a couple of poems, for example, that would nudge the needle into the red on my pal Claudia's Precious Meter.  Depending upon which litmags I'm sending them to (come on, you know which ones I mean), I might not take the sentimental edge off them before sending them off.  Anyway, good thoughts by Seth.  He's such a good buddy, I hate to break it to him that he's not getting paying him by the word.

Jumping Jack Abramoff bites his lower lip on the cover of this week's Time, whose lead article is The Man Who Bought Washington.  There are a lot of very nervous legislators out there wondering if they will show up in Abramoff's gigantic email archive. There are a few Democrats with dirt on them, but lots of Republicans, including Grover Norquist (whose American for Tax Reform was a conduit for millions in tribal contributions) and Christian activitist Ralph Reed (who cynically mobilized Christian antigambling groups).  10 Questions for Dave Barry, who has retired from column writing, but still riffs on his blog.  Desperate Housewives show up with white mustaches in one of those STUPID milk ads that I can't believe they're are still running with — I mean it doesn't look anything like milk, more like alien jism.  U.S. Customs have intercepted thousands of packages containing fake avian bird flu virus that were ordered online.  Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz claims that the final cost of the Iraq War, with full accounting for externalities, may come to $2 trillionWonkette Ana Marie Cox has written a bawdy DC-centric political romp.  Nice long article on Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito that doesn't tell us much we don't already know (he's conservative, but not too conservative).  The Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has "rebooted his reputation" and is beginning to look more like a Democrat every day.  Two excellent retrospectives on the life of Ariel Sharon.  Snappy low-cost cars built in China for Honda, Dodge, Mazda and Nissan will hit our shores this year, including the Geely Beauty Leopard (bets are they change the name) which features a built-in karaoke player.  Multitasking leads to screen sucking and frazing which leaves you pizzled as that doomdart pops into your head.  Researchers are pretty certain now:  caffeine makes you more clever, alert and upbeat. 

Posted by jbahr at 11:06 AM | Comments (5)

January 10, 2006

Ange and Econ

I like Ron's invocation of Occam's Razor in his mini-review of Ange Mlinko's Starred Wire — but then, I am probably overly enamored of compression through imagery and metaphor as the simplest way to express the complex.

Those who doubt the negotiating power of large organizations should look more carefully at their health insurance Explanation of Benefit statements — assuming that you're fortunate enough to have health insurance, of course.  A typical example is my son's recent minor surgery, which cost over $5,000 for about an hour's work on the part of a surgeon, an anaesthesiologist, and a nurse.  After receiving a few large bills from the lab, hospital, and the two physicians, I called Blue Cross, whose agent said "oh, don't worry about those."  It turns out that health care providers can't keep track of the various allowable fees, so they just charge the "walked in the front door without insurance" rate for everyone.  Then, the health insurance company tells them what they are going to get paid — usually between 35% and 65% of what was originally charged. The original $5,000 bill ended up about half of that.  This is, of course, a demonstration of the pricing power of oligopolies, something that occurs anytime unions negotiate with the auto companies, or when you have to choose between a $50 cable bill or a $48 satellite dish network.  What continues to amaze me is the belief of some small government advocates (most famously, Grover Norquist, who would shrink government to a size where it could it could be "drowned in the bathtub") that we, the people, don't need a large organization (local, state and federal governments) to deal with oligopolies and monopolies.  In the case of health insurance, the cruel irony is that the millions of families that can't afford it and don't qualify for public assistance pay much more for health care than those who can.

While we're on the topic of wealth and lack thereof, Worth has an article admonishing families that burn through their millions in three generations (the trick is to keep your expenditures down to 3-4% of your asset base).  The newest thing is web-based investor angel groups, collections of well-healed investors who pool their resources and ask potential funding recipients to submit their business proposals online.  Survey Says:  families with at least $10 million in investable assets average $12,831 a year on luxury pet products.  Gerald Prolman created OrganicBouquet.com to accommodate those whose guilt drives them to buy flowers grown without pesticides or toxic fertilizers.  Keith Jones, an African-American wealth advisor, chides black families for devoting too much of their income to consumption.  Using a private divorce judge will keep yours out of the papers, just as it helped Jennifer and Brad recently.  Private investors have committing tens of millions of dollars to wind energy projects.  Before you fund that School of Economics Chair in your name, make sure you retain some control over who sits in it.  The Puzzling Problem of Same-Sex Estates details the challenges gay couples face in states whose laws treat them as basically as strangers.  This month's alternative investment is rare maps (the Library of Congress recently paid $10 million for a 1507 map featuring the first known reference to "America").  Advertising includes the usual fabulous vacation homes, time-shared jet memberships, a half-dozen very high-end stereo systems, and a 7-page advertising layout for Maserati:  the Quattroporte starts at $90,000, the Grandsport at $88,000, and the MC12 at $800,000 (hurry, they're only making 25 of them).

Posted by jbahr at 11:28 AM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2006

Not Just Another Monday

When I worked for Seikosha running a software company in California, I was expected to send a fax to Tokyo every day or two to my boss Mr. Furusho.  I got used to the Japanese custom of starting off each communication with a report on the weather and a polite question about the meteorological news from Japan.  After that, I was free to discuss business matters.  With that in mind:  for almost two weeks, the temperature in Boulder County has to be 15 to 20 degrees above normal for January, between 50 and almost 70 with blue skies.  We've had this kind of abnormal weather now for so many days that people are beginning to expect it — there was a long wait to get my car washed on Saturday, and we patrons shuffled around the outside waiting area in t-shirts.  A quick check of the cars coming out of the wash cycle showed no evidence of the usual jackets and gloves tossed into the back seat "just in case".  We'll probably get a wakeup call in the next couple of weeks, and have to go back to defensive outerwear.

Kelli Agodon, Richard Nixon and I have something in common.

I'm having my yearly sparring match with HP, an unreconstructed Objectivist, unlike Alan Greenspan who has since wandered off the reservation.   It's a refreshing diversion from the largely liberal consensus that permeates poetic blogland. 

I stayed up way too late watching the 2004 World Series of Poker, in which Greg Raymer (Fossilman) dominated for almost the entire last day of play (somebody should get me those glasses for my birthday).  I've seen some older tournaments on ESPN, and the contrast between then and now is striking:  many more online players in the final rounds, many more 20-somethings, lots of chiropractors, dentists, CPAs, and doctoral students.  Even Greg is a patent attorney.  The days of Amarillo Slim and his pals is over for good.

Martin Luther King is on the cover of Time, paired with the book excerpt At Canaan's Edge, which describes King's troubled last days as he despaired over the slow disintegration of the non-violence movement.  Has Bush Gone Too Far? outlines the case against King George, including the treatment of enemy combatants (and US citizens), domestic NSA surveillance, allegations of torture, renditions and secret prisons.  Four days of relatively quiet insurgent activity during the Iraqi national elections, followed by an abrupt return to bombings, shootings and kidnappings, point to a high level of control by top Sunni political leaders over insurgent field commanders.  Over 200,000 veterans now receive benefit payments for post-traumatic stress disorder.  Woo Suk Hwang, the Korean researcher recently lauded for cloning a human embryo, is now a pariah in the international scientific community, as doubts about the his claims (e.g., cloning Snuppy the Puppy) grow.  The "Chavez Effect" is giving rise to a left-wing populist resurgence in Mexico, Peru and Chile.

Posted by jbahr at 11:26 AM | Comments (8)

January 05, 2006

Calvin and Me

It's hard to keep up with that tricky Jimmy Behrle, who has switched Blogspots again.  Congratulations on calling the Texas mini-upset of USC.  When I was attending USC endlessly in my pursuit of 3.5 degrees, USC football was exciting as it has been lately.  I will never forget the day they came back from a 24-0 score to Notre Dame to win 55-24 in the last 17 minutes, and went on to win the 1974 national championship.

Richard over at QED posted a link to a recent Joan Houlihan article in Contemporary Poetry Review.  I've posted a challenge to any who would engage seriously in the attempt to -- if not reconcile, then at least identify the goals -- among the disparate views of what poetry is, should be, must do.  It's not like this doesn't get talked about, of course:  Henry, Kasey, Seth, Jonathan, Josh, and Ron (among others) have expressed a lot of opinions over the years.  Still, I'm always left with the impression that I've just heard the latest sermon among competing churches.

I was pretty much settled on Rimbaud for Boy Cat, when Dima suggest Pushkin, and now I'm thinking about it again.

The weather the past two weeks has been outrageously abnormal, tending to the 50's and 60's.  I keep thinking that we're going to pay by means of blizzards in May, but we'll see.

Joshua has penned an iconoclastic take on Pazz & Jop, the main section of which is a single sentence.  Reb reminds us that The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel is availableSeth continues his inter-blog dialogue with Joe on poetics and the pobiz.  Kelli links us to a website for facial recognition.  My picture ended up similar to (in order):  Calvin Coolidge, Kiefer Sutherland, John Updike, Billy Corgan, Oscar Wilde and (!) Golda Meir.

Posted by jbahr at 11:55 AM | Comments (5)

January 04, 2006

Graduation

I just knew my blogging sabbatical would cause me to miss some good stuff.  Jim got a letter from John Ashbery, and (had I known) I could have gotten somebody RonWare or AshbunnyWare for Christmas (I'm getting a black OBEY t-shirt for myself, though). 

My best Christmas present was Boy & Girl, a pair of kittens from the same litter that my sons and ex got for me.  Their prior life was spent in a barn, until the coyotes started thinning the litter, at which point they were brought into the farmhouse.  I've pretty much decided on Emily for Girl.  She's gray and lithe, with a coat like a tippet of tulle.  Naming Boy has been a lot more difficult.  He's black and weighs twice as much, and walks with a muscular sailor's gate.  I'm leaning toward either Rambo (Rimbaud) or Dylan.  Any thoughts?

I mentioned elsewhere how much the poetry world is beginning to strike me as a community not unlike dog breeders (or needlepoint enthusiasts or antique commode collectors), in the sense that it is increasingly for, by and of the participants.  There's a large component of therapy support group, as well, judging from the last thousand submissions I read.  Perhaps this is the "I" that Kasey suggests we might profitably leave behind with the old year.

I was discussing poetry the other day with Wem, with whom I've shared a friendship and numerous poetry boards over the years.  Things were quite a bit simpler then, unexposed as we were to much critical theory, largely unaware of the post avant.  Wem was suggesting that we reconsider the beliefs that we spent so much time and writing getting to:  that great poetry really should take the top of your head off, that it is a small wondrous machine made out of words, that there is a thingness about it that transcends the text. 

My son Derek graduated from New Vista High School this morning.  As he will be at Columbia College on the day of the main mid-year graduation ceremony, he was the only one on stage in the packed auditorium.  His advisor summarized four years of trials, the vice-principal of discipline told anecdotes, and the principal handed him a diploma with a handshake.  Then, everybody hugged and Derek climbed onto the stage to play an original composition for guitar at a sound and distortion level comparable to Hendrix doing the Star Spangled Banner.  The audience roared and Mom cried a little.

More tomorrow.  I have to ease back into this.

Posted by jbahr at 02:33 PM | Comments (3)