Friday, February 29, 2008

2 poems@ the jargon

there are two of my poems currently on display over at Thieves Jargon. One was born of a reminiscence of white yuppy caricatures that were used as foils in many 1980's comedies. The other came from the complicated relationship I entertain with door-to-door religion peddlers. Thanks to Matt for posting them.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Some things never change.
Other things change for awhile,
And then change right back.

When I was smaller--and had more hair on my head and less hair in other places--my dad would take me to work with him from time to time, so he could prepare the company newsletter. It was night-time, and no one was in the building but us. Sometimes the rest of my family would come along too. It was fun, because we got to eat fast food, and explore the dark hallways. Having already seen my fair share of slasher films, I usually never went too far.

Eventually we would get bored playing with my dad's art supplies and running around, and we'd settle down in a meeting room with long white tables and rows of flourescent lights and watch a little T.V. on a cart that my dad had pushed in from his boss's office.

I was in little league, and one of the things that I invariably ended up doing was creating the backside of my baseball card after years of turbulent service in the major leagues. I always liked it to be turbulent. I was about eight, and I would imagine (as I filled out all of my stats) that I had been traded somewhere mid-career after I had suffered some kind of career destroying injury, or drug dependance. My batting average would go down, and I would end up on a team I didn't really care about in real life, like the Expos. In the end, I would recover, and end up on the Cincinnati Reds again, or the San Francisco Giants.

I went through a big phase where I was always making lists. I track it back to this point, at my dad's office, after hours. From the backside of my baseball card to favorite movies, superheroes, books, and tracklists for mix tapes and CDs I would compile.

I stopped making so many lists once I started dating, although there were a few girls I did make mix CDs and tapes for (mostly my wife).

There is something fun about lists. Listing your most influential this and that. Reality can be difficult to control and define. So much is up in the air, and who's giving direction? There is so much we can never know.

We can know what we like.

new mix CD:

1. November, Dave Douglas
2. All This Ugly, Crash Test Dummies
3. Like Humans Do, David Byrne
4. To America We Go, Ashley Mac Isaac
5. Glosoli, Sigur Ros
6. So What, Miles Davis
7. Frog and Toad, The Bad Plus
8. We Will Still Need a Song, Hawksley Workman
9. Angels Come to Comfort You, Black Francis
10.Breathless, Nick Cave
11.Hellzapoppin', Louis Armstrong
12.Cool Water, Laura Veirs
13.Dead Man's Rope, Sting
14.Let the Devil In, TV on the Radio
15.Hey Jane, Low Millions
16.Don't Wait To Long, Madeleine Peyroux

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Glacial Parade

There is a fun piece of writing by Brian Foley posted over at eyeshot right now. It's called A Glacial Parade,and I wish I had written it.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Who Would You Throw Your Knife Away For?

My brother and I took my two sons to a Barack Obama rally today so they could get a chance to see our potential next president. We waited in line for two hours in a good-natured and talkative crowd; we bought the kids some souvenir buttons (it's never too early to begin indoctrinating the little ones); gradually we made our way to the doors. When we got to the metal detectors, my brother realized he had brought his pocket knife with him. When he reached the station, the guard made it clear that he either needed to discard the knife, or not enter the auditorium. In an important moment of decision, my brother decided attending the rally wasn't worth tossing his knife for*.

Later, after the rally was over and we had witnessed mini-speeches by Mayor Mark Mallory and Barack Obama, waved at ourselves on the jumbo-tron and clapped and hooted, we caught up with my brother, and I asked him why he didn't throw away the knife. It was only a ten dollar knife, which could be easily replaced. He said he would've felt bad for the knife if he threw it away. I can identify with that feeling. Knives are kind of like watches. They make interesting gifts,in that they have unique mythologies, prohibitions, rituals and guidelines attached to their being given and received**. Of all the things a man is likely to have on his person at most times, a knife rates right up there with car keys, wallet, watch and chewing gum. I threw a pocket knife away when we went to the capital building a few years back, and am still vaguely chafed that I didn't come up with a better solution.

So, after framing the situation, I asked him who he would throw a knife away for. Say we had a time machine, and could visit anyone in history, but those same metal detectors and guards and regulations stood between us and our target. Is there anyone you would throw your knife away for? Obviously, I'm easy. I threw a knife to see the inside of a building. My brother passed up seeing a speech from an potentially historical political figure in ascendance.

He pursed his lips and considered. Maybe Tesla. He said. How about David Bowie? I offered. I like Bowie, but I'm not sure. Maybe Einstein or Gandhi. More likely Tesla. But still doubtful.

I rattled off a list of people I'd ditch my knife for: Theodore Geisel.Teddy Roosevelt. Bowie. Tesla. William James. I felt somehow less in touch with whatever special ancestral (or whatever) vibe it is that links man and his knife. My brother feels inclined to honor that deep connection. I'd trade in my knife like it was a movie ticket.

Who would you ditch your knife for?

*I don't fault my brother at all for his choice. While it was neat to see Obama in person, and to be in that atmosphere, the speech wasn't long, and the material wasn't new or substantial. Much like a high school football rally, it was all pom-poms and platitudes.

**I'm thinking of the one that says you have to give someone coins when they give you a knife as a gift, otherwise the relationship will be cut.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Fruitfly Suites

I. Chasing Fruit flies Around the House in Your Underwear

No one knows how they get in, or where they come from.
When they show up, you better do the dishes.
Better not leave any food out.
If zombies invade our cities, we can eat the fruit flies.
It will be too hazardous to trek out to the farmer’s market
For fresh squash or strawberries.
We will ka-bob their little bodies (swollen on rotten bananas
And whatever else fruit flies eat) on toothpicks,
And we will roast them over the heat of your zippo.
In the face of adversity, there is little time to be squeamish.
They have suckers on the sides of their faces.
The fast ones are tricky to kill.
When the zombies come, we will see what we are made of.

II. And We Hunted Them For Sport

You were chasing fruit flies around the house
With a rolled up paper.
You were in a white wife-beater.
Pajama pants.
No bra.
Breasts jiggling with all of the celebration
Of David ecstatic before the lord.
You were laughing
As you climbed over table and couch.
Slipped on a magazine
And fell on your butt.
No one knows where the fruit flies came from,
But we’re not having another party
Until they’re all gone.

III. All Quiet On the Western Front

The little red spots here and there on the ceiling
Stare down with tiny black irises.
There was a greens scare a year or two back,
And we stopped buying lettuce from the supermarket.
Remember when they recalled the sushi
From the store, and every week we’d check the little freezer cart
To see if they’d restocked?
There was a time when fresh produce promised only a good time
And a clear conscience.
There was a time when I would catch a spider in my hand
And release it into the backyard instead of squishing it.
You can only get bitten so many times
Before you rethink your stance on corporal punishment.
We’ll be picking their tiny bodies out of our hair for weeks.

Friday, February 15, 2008


I just found this story by David Gregson over in the Pequin archives. It's called Caviar. It's very good writing, and I recommend it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

clean bedsheets

One of the best things about being alive is the ability to slide beneath freshly washed and scented bed sheets after a long day of doing things you probably wouldn't have done if you didn't have to.

Another one of the best things about being alive (and being able to hear and smell) is the ability to hear the sound two orange chambers make as they rip apart, and to smell resulting spray of citrus.

Also good: back massages (giving and receiving), and the gentle whir of fan blades.

All That is the Case

The other night I was watching some TV after my wife and kids had gone to bed, unwinding after a long day of work and classes. There was a show about Mormonism on PBS, so I decided to watch that. My interest in Mormonism has been growing over the years, not as a religion I would like to adhere to, but as another strange terrain to explore.

I began with Mormonism much in the way I imagine many people do. I’d heard some odd things, been met at my doorstep by a duo of eager, well groomed young men in suits, offering me a way to strengthen my family and bring peace to my life. In the beginning the story was ridiculous. I was barely buying into the religion I was a member of, there was no way I was going Mormon. But I noticed a funny thing as I watched the show. I laughed to myself when someone mentioned green Jello,which is an inside baseball Mormon reference. I felt disturbed by some of the early persecution of the church, in Missouri and Illinois. I was slightly moved by talk of Joseph Smith’s decision to go back to Carthage and face his accusers, even though he certainly knew the outcome wasn’t going to be good.

Of course I still thought it was all dotty. I didn’t for a second believe that there was any credence to any of Smith’s claims. I felt no need to provide cover for some of the silly, and occasionally terrible things that the early LDS church was responsible for. But it was more familiar. The weirdness that had first permeated my view of Mormonism was largely gone. For the first time I realized, this is something I could believe, were I inclined to believe in something that reason couldn’t lay a path towards. I found this realization sobering. Were I a child, and were my parents--whom I would not be at the age to question on anything too existential--to introduce me to Elder so-and-so and Elder so-and-so, and tell me that they had just learned from these two boys this great secret about life and everything…I would’ve been on board right away. No questions asked. Also, I could imagine myself as a grown man, not necessarily connected to any kind of church, feeling down-and-out, and maybe personally a little lonely. I could see myself taking the bait there too. We are social animals, susceptible to confirmation bias, along with a host of other formerly-adaptive cognitive shortcuts. Richard Dawkins is fond of noting in interviews that, while preferring something to be the case does not affect the reality of what is the case, people are pretty resourceful when it comes to believing in things that would be nice if they were the case. But of course, the world is all that is the case, insofar as our tiny little minds are concerned. We have to learn to be content with what little we do know, and to find awe and humility in what we do not.

I found myself feeling a little jealous at the way some of the Latter Day Saints talked about their religion,and what it seemed to mean to them. To believe in something so big and comfortable, to believe that there was a simple prescription to follow (tithe here, pray here, avoid this). It’s very appealing in a way. But that’s not going to be for me. Eve ate the apple off the tree of knowledge, and so have I. The more knowledge a person gains, the harder it becomes to hold onto such a faith as you find proscribed in the Mormon religion, or in most religion for that matter. When reason is the sea you swim in, the channel that takes you to faith is bound to be an elusive one.

Someone during the course of the show said something like, ‘If you’re going to be a rock-ribbed empiricist, you should stay away from all religions all together.’ That sounded true. Another person a little later on said something to the effect that, although she couldn’t embrace Mormonism, she still practiced faith, although it was a faith based on uncertainties. I identify with that.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Koala bears are so cute, why do they have to be so far away from me?-Mitch Hedberg

Mitch Hedberg's koala routine popped into my head this morning while I was working on a behavior modification project for this psych.class I'm taking. Being the type of person who prefers to be doing anything but what I should be doing, I decided to head over to wikipedia and do some research on Koala bears, because I didn't feel that I knew as much about them as I should. How much exactly should a person know about koala bears? I'm not sure I can answer that, but I'm definitely closer to the mark now than I was before.

Turns out Koalas are one of only a small number of mammals that have fingerprints, so they are not above the reach of the law. They also have incredibly small brains and bifurcated genitalia. The parts of their brains float around inside of their skulls in some kind of fluid, not attached to anything in particular. They are especially susceptible to chlamydia and pink eye (the pink eye is a result of being pooped on by birds while they are engaged in their up to seventy-two hour sleep sessions). So, when they're not passing STDs back and forth like a poorly rolled joint at a Dave Matthews Band concert, they are sleeping cozily in a torrential downpour of bird doo-doo. Koalas: easily the most unchristian animals on planet earth.