Monday, February 06, 2017

The irresistible inner emptiness of ABBA

Karl French sums ABBA up in a sentence:

What their songs were increasingly revealing was just a very pop, rather Scandinavian soul, where irresistible pop melodies and harmonies complemented or carried lyrics that explored romantic misery and despair, inner emptiness, artistic exploitation, sexual predation, as well as palm trees, tigers, and the queasy desire to be someone’s fiddle.

I was an ABBAphile as a tween. I bought all their albums. As I listened to them over & over I delved ABBA’s slightly off English and sometimes problematic themes, while, you know, singing along. ABBA wrote more than one divorce song, did you know?

source: ABBA Unplugged by Karl French

Monday, January 23, 2017

Titles Read in 2013

Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka & J. H. Williams III
Animal Farm by Sam Sax
Persephone’s November by Rebecca Radner
Flagrant Conduct: the story of Lawrence v. Texas by Dale Carpenter
Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture by Rob Salkowitz
To Hellholes and Back by Chuck Thompson
Bite a chapbook by Amy Dentata
That’s Disgusting: unraveling the mysteries of repulsion by Rachel Herz
Moomin: the complete comic strip. vol 3 by Tove Jansson
Something Good for a Change by Wavy Gravy
Persistent Voices Philip Clark & David Groff, editors
Oddly Normal by John Schwartz
Astonishing X-Men: Northstar by Marjorie Liu & Mike Perkins
Disclamor by G. C. Waldrep
A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami
Secret Lives of Ants by Jae Choe
Push Open the Window: contemporary poetry from China edited by Qingping Wang
Spook: science tackles the afterlife by Mary Roach
Moomin: the complete comic strip, vol 4 by Tove Jansson
At This Point by Joseph Massey
Cyndi Lauper: a memoir by Cyndi Lauper with Jancee Dunn
Out in the Open poems by Cathal O’ Searcaigh
The Killing of Chief Crazy Horse Robert A. Clark, editor
City of Rivers poems by Zubair Ahmed
For All My Walking by Taneda Santoka
March - June
Smokers Die Younger Stephanie Young, editor
Love Cake poems by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
24-Hour Comics edited by Scott McCloud
Fighting to Serve: behind the scenes in the war to repeal DADT by Alexander Nicholson
Of Woman Born: motherhood as experience and institution by Adrienne Rich
Lush Life chapbook of the song by Billy Strayhorn
Song of San Francisco chapbook by Ed Mycue
Santoka: grass and Tree Cairn translations of Santoka by Hiroaki Sato
Areas of Fog by Joseph Massey
The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara & Lenin Play Chess by Andrei Codrescu
I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual by Pierre Seel
Auto Bio poems by Dale Jensen
Straight by Boy George with Paul Gorman
Better Off Without ‘Em by Chuck Thompson
Moomin: complete comic strip, vol 5 by Tove Jansson
The Imaginary Lover by Alicia Ostriker
A Few Perfect Hours & other stories by Josh Neufeld
She’s Such a Geek! women write about science Annalee Newitz, editor
Another Kind of Nation: an anthology of contemporary Chinese poetry edited by Zhang Er and Chen Dongdong
While Eating Oysters a chapbook by Kit Kennedy
Green Age by Alicia Suskin Ostriker
Sleeps Like Water a chapbook by Ron Alexander
More Than Human by Tim Flach
Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms by Richard Fortey
Ogre, Ogre by Piers Anthony
Are You My Mother? a comic drama by Alison Bechdel
March Hares: Fine Madness, 1982 - 2002
Nothing the Sun Could Not Explain edited by Michael Palmer, et al
Once More Out of Darkness & other poems by Alicia Ostriker
Speedy in Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson
The Wishing Horse of Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson
An Unfortunate Woman by Richard Brautigan
A Medicine for Melancholy by Ray Bradbury
Miracles: poems by children edited by Richard Lewis
Top Shelf Asks the Big Questions
Urban Myths: 210 poems by John Tranter
Contemporary French Women Poets edited by Carl Hermey
The Other Voice: 20th century women’s poetry in translation edited by Joanna Bankier, et al
Captain Salt in Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson
Handy Mandy in Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson
The Silver Princess of Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson
Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson
I Killed Adolph Hitler by Jason
Stitches by David Small
Yankee in Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson
The Enchanted Island of Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson
Pink Thunder by Michael Zapruder
Moon Won’t Leave Me Alone California Poets in the Schools statewide anthology, 2004
A Day for a Lay: a century of gay poetry edited by Gavin Dillard
Two Lines: world writing in translation vol 14, 2007
After Life: poems by Judy Steadman edited by Geri Digiorno, et al
Letters to the Sky by Ann Erickson
The Complete Calvin & Hobbes, vol 1 by Bill Watterson
A Voyage Long and Strange: rediscovering the new world by Tony Horowitz
Fatale, book one: Death Chases Me by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Gay & Lesbian Poetry in Our Time: an anthology Edited by Carl Morse and Joan Larkin
The Voice of the Poet: William Carlos Williams CD and book
What the World Hears California Poets in the Schools statewide anthology, 2009
The Crack in Everything by Alicia Suskin Ostriker
Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies spring 2013
The New Yorker March 9, 2009
Three Vietnamese Poets translated by Linh Dinh
The Wild Kingdom by Kevin Huizenga
Supergods by Grant Morrison
Fatale, book two: The Devil’s Business by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips
Shazam: Monster Society of Evil by Jeff Smith
Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
The Worst Intentions by Alessandro Piperno
A Splendor of Letters by Nicholas Basbanes
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The Volcano Sequence by Alicia Suskin Ostriker
Autobiography of a Book as told to Glenn Ingersoll
Letting It Go by Miriam Katin
The Property by Rutu Modan
Nemo: Heart of Ice by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill
The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, translated by E. Harden; illustrations by Roberto Innocenti
The Next Day by J. Porcellino, P. Peterson, J. GIlmore
Alien vs. Predator by Michael Robbins
Voices from Wah-Kon-Tah edited by R. Dodge, J. McCullough
Too Much Coffee Man: Cutie Island by Shannon Wheeler
Flex Mentallo by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
Ransom by Jay McInerny
What We Believe But Cannot Prove J. Brockman, editor
Poetry Speaks: hear great poets edited by E. Paschen , R. P. Mosby
Optic Nerve #13 by Adrian Tomine
Being Frida Kahlo and Po Doomand Knock Knock / Not Not three chapbooks by Jim McCrary
September - October
Two Lines. no 15: Strange Harbors 2008
Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
Before the Big Bang by Brian Clegg
A Death in Brazil by Peter Robb
Garish Zow Comics #4 summer 2003
No Heaven by Alicia Suskin Ostriker
Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers by Lillian Faderman
The Ways of White Folks: stories by Langston Hughes
The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle
Podkayne of Mars by Robert Heinlein
How Music Works by David Byrne
Rungs a mini comic by Matt Harding
My Life in 26 Letters a chapbook by Justin Hall
Artifice by Alex Woolfson and Winona Nelson
Haiku in English edited by Jim Kacian, P. Rowland, A. Burns
Petaluma Poetry Walk 10-Year Anthology edited by G. Digiorno, B. Vartnaw
Invincible v. 15: Get Smart by Robert Kirkman
Feynman by Jim Ottaviarii, Leland Myrick
Black Sheep #2 by Fredo
Invincible v. 16: Family Ties by Robert Kirkman
Invincible Presents: Atom Eve and Rex Splode by Cereno
The Little Space: poems selected and new, 1968 - 1998 by Alicia Ostriker
Dear Julia by Brian Biggs
Smut Peddler edited by Spike, T. Sebastian, J. Carlson
America in Europe by German Arciniegas
Alternatives to Sex by Stephen McCauley
Dragon Child by Katie Shaw
2-Rabbit, 7-Wind: poems from ancient Mexico translations by Toni de  Gerez
Obscenely Yours by Angelo Nikolopoulos
Thus Spake the Corpse, v. 1: Poetry & Essays Codrescu & Rosenthal, editors
Helping Me Help Myself by Beth Lisick
Panic by Julia Vinograd
The Origin of Feces by David Waltner-Toews
Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
A Long Way Gone: memoirs of a boy soldier by Ishmael Beah
Transposes by Dylan Edwards
The Mind’s Eye by Oliver Sacks
Not My Bag by Sina Grace
Cyncialman: the paperback by Matt Feazell
Weird Life by David Toomey
No Straight Lines: four decades of queer comics edited by Justin Hall
Papercutter #4 a mini comics magazine
Hickee edited by Graham Annable
Moby-Duck by Donovan Hohn
The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony
Astounding Villain House by Shannon Wheeler
Fran by Jim Woodring
Stuck in the Middle edited by Ariel Schrag
Orange Sunshine: the brotherhood of eternal love & its quest to spread peace, love and acid by Nicholas Schou
Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue by John McWhorter
Locke & Key, vol. 1 by Joe Hill
Locke & Key, vol. 2: Head Games by Joe Hill & G. Rodriguez
The Poetry of Our World edited by Jeffery Paine
Locke & Key, vol. 3: Crown of Shadows by Joe Hill
Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me by Harvey Pekar
Runner Runner a mini comics anthology edited by Greg Means
Reason for Hope by Jane Goodall
Young Avengers: Style Substance by Gillen & McKelvie
The Horizontal Poet by Jan Steckel
Wolverine & the X-Men, vol. 1 by Jason Aaron, et al
Wolverine & the X-Men, vol. 2 by Jason Aaron, et al
King-Cat Comics and Stories #73 by John Porcellino
Papercutter #15, #16, and #17 a mini comics magazine
The Wonder City of Oz by John R. Neill
Wolverine & the X-Men, vol. 3: Avengers v. X-Men by Jason Aaron, et al
The Unsubscriber by Bill Knott

Saturday, January 21, 2017

pile of reading

The New Teen Titans #29, 1983
I’ve been rereading my collection of The New Teen Titans. I didn’t have all the issues back to #1, so I had to start with a reprint collection. Then a second reprint collection. I had most of what was reprinted in that. I bought some back issues back in the day, so I don’t remember precisely which the first new issue I bought was. But I think I was buying the new ones as they came out prior to #29. I like George Perez’s art. The boys are fit and lithe and can be sexy rather than super exaggerated. Robin is hot enough, but I had a crush on the hairy short green Changeling. The girls are a bit more anatomically … um … idealized? Busty, that is. The writing? Oh Marv Wolfman. You and your ultimate evil. I think The New Teen Titans was my introduction to the DC Universe. Beyond the casual, that is. I was a Marvel kid. I was no fan of DC’s big two, Superman and Batman. Superman is too godlike. Batman is just a rich guy with a grudge. I was told The New Teen Titans was DC’s answer to The X-Men, and I was an X-ophile, so I gave the NTT a go. I remember being impressed. Maybe my opinion has changed?

Mojo Magazine #276, Nov 2016
The cover star is Lou Reed and the free CD that comes with the magazine is all Reed. I get Mojo from the library so sometimes the CD is missing. A bummer when that happens. Among the articles is one on The Human League. The song “MIrror Man” is either about Adam Ant or Boy George. Huh. “You know I'll change / If change is what you require / Your every wish / Your every dream, hope, desire.” 

Poetry East #88/89, Autumn 2016
This is the issue that includes my poem, “When the animals leave.” The issue’s cover theme is “Kyoto,” and the first section consists of Japanese translations, Basho, Hitomaro, etc. 

This Man’s Army: a war in fifty-odd sonnets by John Allan Wyeth
new introduction by Dana Gioia
I recently read a book of essays on neglected poems, Dark Horses. I was intrigued by the John Allan Wyeth poem Dana Gioia chose to write about. World War I is known for producing some famous poets in Britain. Not much from the Americans. But then America didn’t get into the war until late. John Wyeth’s book was reviewed when it was published but did not gain lasting fame. Even anthologies dedicated to war poetry by Americans have neglected him. This Man’s Army is more a diary in verse than a grand narrative or statement and the individual poems haven’t jumped out at me. But as a personal chronicle it’s worth reading. Wyeth’s writing is both distinctive and unadorned. 

Great Balls of Fire by Ron Padgett
I’ve liked the pieces by Ron Padgett that I’ve read in anthologies like An Anthology of New York Poets and From the Other Side of the Century. I copied out a poem from the latter anthology in 2016. In Great Balls of Fire I’ve found “Mister Horse” charming (“I get up and am seized by the present / Whose presence is / As a roof on a house whose car in the garage / Backs out”), whereas “Some Bombs” (“I ray you stop me pour the garter outdoors / Aw fond eel you all a quill train which darts”) was a chore (I think it’s a homophonic translation of a Reverdy). Most are somewhere between. 

Fodor’s Belize 2014
Since Kent and I both enjoy snorkeling I started looking into Belize. Now that anti-gay laws have been thrown out by their supreme court, Belize has moved off my shit list. Belize has the second largest barrier reef in the world, they say. Lots of impressive stuff easily accessible. They even have Mayan ruins.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Titles Read in 2016

Don’t Tell Me to Wait by Kerry Eleveld

After Sixty-Five Years a haiku chapbook by Louis Cuneo
Roots & Wings: poetry from Spain, 1900-1975 edited by Hardie St Martin
Beyond Perspective poetry chapbook by John Rowe
Neither poetry chapbook by Julian Shendelman
Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky
In Other Lands Than Ours by Maud Gage Baum (as an ebook)
The Laziest Secretary by Jennifer Blowdryer
The Well-Wishers by Edward Eager
Selected Poems by Luis Cernuda, translated by Reginald Gibbons
Cannibal Cafe, 2006-2014 by Julia Vinograd
By Word of Mouth: poems from the Spanish, 1916-1959 translated by William Carlos Williams, edited by Jonathan Cohen
Down & Delirious in Mexico City by Daniel Hernandez
Moonshot: the Indigenous comics collection edited by Hope Nicholson
Bird Dream by Matt Higgins
A Longing for the Light: selected poems of Vicente Aleixandre edited by Lewis Hyde
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
You Are Here: around the world in 92 minutes by Chris Hadfield
Mike’s Place by Baxter, Faudem, Shadmi
Oakland Review #2 Corman-Roberts and de Salvo, editors
The Singular Pilgrim: travels on sacred ground by Rosemary Mahoney
The Threepenny Review #137 Spring 2014
The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon edited & translated by Ivan Morris
The Bridge: the life and rise of Barack Obama by David Remnick
The Year of My Life: a translation of Issa’s Oraga Haru by Nobuyuki Yuasa
Haiku Revisited, v. 2 by Louis Cuneo
Selected Poems by W. H. Auden, edited by Edward Mendelson
Bat City Review #4 20008
Rosine and the Laughing Dragon of Oz by Frank Joslyn Baum
Neither of Us Can Break the Other’s Hold by John Oliver Simon
Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
A Wind in the Door by Madelein L’Engle
A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire
Georgetown Review Spring 2007, v.8 iss 1
Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire
Gratitude by Oliver Sacks
Shrift poetry chapbook by Lynn Strongin
Dancing Bear poetry chapbook by John Oliver Simon
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Askew #18 2016, Marsha de la O & Phil Taggart, editors
Armadillo Heart chapbook by MK Chavez and Cassandra Dallett
After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back as Honored Guests: unembedded in Afghanistan by Ted Rall
A Young Man in Search of Love by Isaac Bashevis Singer
The Blue Emperor of Oz by Henry S. Blossom
Overland #154 Autumn 1999
A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America by Stacy Schiff
Rattlesnake Grass by John Oliver Simon
My Father, the Pornographer by Chris Offutt
The Medicine Man of Oz by Mark E. Haas
Into the Magic Shop: a neurosurgeon’s quest by James R. Doty
Ploughshares Spring 2007, v. 33 no. 1
A Little Help: essays and stories by Denis Clifford
Lady Killer by Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich
Daleko.2.Kyori a zine by Liz & Megan
Waterlily a mini comic by Tatiana Fiermonte
The Book of the People: how to read the Bible by A. N. Wilson
Index/Fist, Feb 2014: The Opposite of a literary zine
Another Moment a prose chapbook about her diseases by Alta
Lost in America by Isaac Bashevis Singer
Hard to Swallow Comics by Dave Davenport and Justin Hall
Haunted House a mini comic by Emeric L. Kennard
The Magicians by Lew Grossman
Bernie by Ted Rall
Nonbinary Review #3: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 2016, Allie Marini and Lise Quintana, editors
archyology: the long lost tales of archy and mehitabel by don marquis
By the Candelabra’s Glare poems by L. Frank Baum (as an ebook)
Mojo January - June 2016
The Trouble with Tycho by Clifford D. Simak
Mayfly #61 Summer 2016
Visions and Revisions by Dale Peck
Lost Discoveries: the ancient roots of modern science by Dick Teresi
You May Also Like: taste in an age of endless choice by Tom Vanderbilt
On Loving Woman by Diana Obomsawin
The Journal Summer 2014, vol. 38.3, Ohio State University
The New Teen Titans, vol. 1 by Marv Wolfman and George Perez
Death Obscura poems by Rick Bursky
Towerkind by Kat Verhoeven
Baby Bjornstrand by Renee French

Tracks Across Alaska: a dog sled journey by Alastair Scott
Dun4 May 2016, issue 2, a mini-zine, Decker Boone, editor

The Anatomist: a true story of Gray’s Anatomy by Bill Hayes
Costa Rica: a traveler’s literary companion Barbara Ras, editor
The African by J. M. G. Le Clezio, translated by C. Dickson
Something New: tales from a makeshift bride by Lucy Knisley
Porcelain: a memoir by Moby
Holy Titclamps #16 January 1998, edited by Larry-bob
Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnick
Madman, vol. 1 by Michael Allred
Rocannon’s World by Ursula K. LeGuin

Ghosts of Vesuvius by Charles Pellegrino
Tom Cat mini comic by ADC
Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Holy Titclamps #13 a zine by Larry-bob
Lost in Place by Mark Salzman
Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
Cut Stones and Crossroads: a journey in Peru by Ronald Wright
Zero Summer by Andrew Demcak
Epoch v.56 no.1, 2007
The New Teen Titans, vol. 2 by Marv Wolfman and George Perez
The Princess Marries the Page by Edna St Vincent Millay
Automata a mini comic by Garrett Sneen
The Teaching Chronicles mini comic by Matt MacFarland
Trump by Ted Rall
How Much Earth: the Fresno poets edited by Christopher Buckley, David Oliveira and M. L. Williams
Beeswax Magazine #5 December 2008
Molly and the Bear by Bob Scott
Grunt: the curious science of humans at war by Mary Roach
It’s Night in San Francisco but it’s Sunny in Oakland edited by Emji Spero and Otis Pig
Ordinary Things by Jean Valentine

The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan
Shopping for Buddhas by Jeff Greenwald
Something to Tell You by Hanif Kureishi
From the Other Side of the Century edited by Douglas Messerli
Large White House Speaking by Mark Irwin
As You Were: a punk comix anthology, v.4: Living Situations edited by MItch Clem and Ann Ehrlich

Boom Studios free comics sampler

Court Green #9 2012
The Royal Historian of Oz by Kovac and Hirsh
Inverse Sky by John Isles
The New Teen Titans original issues 17 - 25, plus annual #1
Tales of the New Teen Titans 1 -4
Missing You Metropolis by Gary Jackson
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford
On a Train, Sleeping by Adam Hammer / Starting Out Again by Joseph Newman
The Origin of AIDS by Jacques Pepin
American Poetry: the next generation edited by Gerald Costanzo and Jim Daniels
Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson
Sparkle & Blink issues 76 - 80, 2016y
Reckless: my life as a Pretender by Chrissie Hynde
Askew #19 Fall/Winter 2016, edited by de la O & Taggart
Sustenance by Aaron Anstett
Dark Horses: poets on overlooked poems edited by Joy Katz and Kevin Prufer
Someone Else’s Wedding Vows by Bianca Stone
Mountain Home: the wilderness poetry of ancient China translated by David Hinton
Failed Haiku #11 2016,

Monday, January 02, 2017

Best Poems of 2016

Aaron Anstett ….. Man Saves Own Life
Aaron Anstett ….. Open Beer Stores, Running Buses …
Aaron Anstett ….. Travel
Rick Bursky ….. Cloud Theory
A. V. Christie ….. In My Dream
Elizabeth Crocket ….. haiku: “thinking”
Louis Cuneo ….. haiku: “on door knob”
Aron Feingold ….. haiku: “yoga by the bay”
Gloria Fuentes ….. Love Turns You Into a Rosebush
Adam Hammer ….. Guide to Marine Mammals and Sentence Structure
Hsieh Ling-yun ….. #26 from Dwelling in the Mountains
Rick Hurst ….. haiku: “ashes to ashes”
Bill Kenney ….. haiku: “trick or treat”
Loretta Collins Klobah ….. El Dia de los Muertos
Myron Lysenko ….. haiku: “cemetery at midnight”
Clive Matson ….. Thank You
Robert Mezey ….. Night on Clinton
Ron Padgett ….. Lucky Strikes
E. Martin Pedersen ….. haiku: “I was so happy”
Rebecca Reynolds ….. Surplus
Luis Rosales ….. Locked with a Tear
Pedro Salinas ….. Deaths
Pedro Salinas ….. So Transparent Your Soul
Brenda Shaughnessy ….. Rise
Bianca Stone ….. Letter
Bianca Stone ….. Outpost
Bianca Stone ….. You Were Lost in the Delta Quadrant
Jose Angel Valente ….. An Empty Place at the Celebration
Robert Witmer ….. two haiku: “back home” & “fishmonger’s slab”
Yang Wan-li ….. Night Rain at Luster Gap

While I’m reading a book of poems I keep handy a stack of placemarks. If a poem so strikes me that I want to read it again I slide a placemark in next to that poem. When I go back and read the poem again I may decide that a mere second or third visit is not enough, I have to read it again. Then again. Should I decide I can’t leave it behind, I copy the poem out by hand onto loose leaf binder paper and add it to the latest fattening notebook. The above are the poems I decided over the course of the last year that I had to keep with me.

In the last days of the year I ran out of 8 1/2 by 11 binder paper, and there were still poems my hand would work over. I don’t know how it worked out that I committed to so few poems in the first eleven months of the year, but I copied out about 2/3 of the besties in December. For paper resupply I walked over to the nearby CVS. They had binder paper but the binder paper they had was 10 1/2 by 8. That size seems to go on sale a lot, especially in August, back to school time. I’ve been seduced by price into buying 10 1/2 by 8 in the past. But not for many years. It’s not that I purchase binder paper frequently. I stock up at a sale price and it takes me a few years to go through it. 

I tried Walgreens. Same story. I tried Office Depot on the other side of town. No 8 1/2 by 11 binder paper. Really! I didn’t want to order anything online because it seems a waste of resources unless you get a pallet. I did review the Staples website and it looked like they would have the right size and there is a Staples in Berkeley. 

On the way home from work last week I stopped by the big Staples store. They had 8 1/2 by 11 binder paper! 400 sheets in a package. Then to my delight my eye caught the sale sign. 120 sheets for a dollar! I took five packages, proud of myself for getting a bargain. 

When I stepped in the door at home Kent called out, “I got you binder paper!” That was sweet. During the day Kent also had walked down town and he knew what I needed and there it was. The 400 sheet package sat on the couch. 400, huh? I thought. Nice of him but why didn’t he notice the sale? When I stacked all the packages together the reality bonked me on the noggin. After all that trouble I had bought 10 1/2 by 8 paper. Nice price. But here I had held out! I had held out — and gotten a good deal! I was so proud of myself!

What to say. 

“I’m your hero, right?” Kent said. 

It’s not like 10 1/2 by 8 paper is unusable. You kinda don’t want to mix the two sizes because of wear and stacking issues, which makes 10 1/2 by 8 less useful. But if it’s basically going to be the only size available, without extra trouble, I guess I should adapt. I have 3 1/2 floppy disks that have been superceded. A zip drive. VHS tapes. I can handle this. 

Still, I don’t have to deal with 10 1/2 by 8 for a while. 400 sheets worth of while!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

word of the day: titivating


The Snork Maiden immediately took out her looking-glass to see if it was broken, but, thank goodness, the glass was whole and all the rubies were still on the back. But as she was titivating herself, [she spotted] something else. …Something that crept slowly nearer …

definition for titivate:

To make small alterations or additions to one's toilet, etc. so as to add to one's attractions; to make smart or spruce; to ‘touch up’ in the way of adornment, put the finishing touches to. [Oxford English Dictionary]

A friend of my mother gave us two or three of the Moomintroll books so I remember them sitting on the bookshelf at home. I don’t know if my brother ever read them, but I know I didn’t. I may have made an attempt or two but if I did, I didn’t get far.

The library has collected volumes of the Moomintroll comic strip and that proved an easy in. Recently I read Moominpapa’s Memoirs and found I enjoyed Jansson’s prose, too. Will I make it through the whole series? They’re awfully twee. Gentle, cozy, sweet, eccentric. A little precious. Likable. Meandering. I got Comet in Moominland off the Claremont Branch shelf a couple weeks ago and read it on lunches and breaks (alongside a book of essays by Salman Rushdie). 

“Titivate” is a surprising word for a children’s book. When was the last time you saw it? Have you ever? The translator made the choice, not Jansson, at least not that particular word, who knows maybe a similarly unusual choice was made in the original Swedish?

source: Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson
1946. (1959 English translation by Elizabeth Portch)

Farrar Straus Giroux, New York

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

word of the day: bension

The shadows lengthened across the deserted track, and the evening wind sighed down it to sweep a flurry of whispering leaves across the rut, their brown brittleness light as a bension as they drifted across the unheeding white form [of the exhausted old dog].

definition: The word “bension” does not appear in the Oxford English Dictionary. Curious! I have heard of a “benison,” however. A benison is a blessing; as the OED has it, “That blessing which God gives; a giving of blessedness.”

I had no luck with Google finding another instance of “bension” outside Sheila Burnford’s novel The Incredible Journey. A site called Quizlet offers “bension” among its “flashcards” for The Incredible Journey (see chapter three) and even provides an audio pronunciation beside the definition (“a blessing or benediction”). I didn’t see a source for Quizlet’s definition. 

It could be that “bension” is a typo, a transposing of the “s” and the “i” of “benison.” If so, is it a typo that’s persisted 55 years and multiple editions? A completely typo-free book is rare. Sometimes typos are found and when a new edition is issued they’ve been corrected. You can read critical editions of classics that discuss such mistakes and often try to figure out whose fault they are, the author’s? the publisher’s?

Perhaps Sheila Burnford was familiar with the word “bension,” as she spelled it, and used it consciously. Words certainly change spellings over time and in different places, so it could be her version of “benison” was not a typo but common to her community.

source: The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford
1961. Delacorte Press, New York 

Friday, December 02, 2016

shark attack!

Maybe you don’t want to sail out to sea because you’re afraid if the ship goes down and you find yourself bobbing about in the water a shark will sniff that bleeding cut on your finger and come scooting over for a toothier taste. Nobody likes the prospect of being eaten alive. We know it happens. We see it on the nature documentaries.

You’ve heard that shark attacks on humans are pretty rare, right? But, you know, maybe that’s because there aren’t many shipwreck victims to make a meal of.

In her book on science and war, Mary Roach investigates the military’s success in creating a sharp repellent. Soldiers at sea don’t like the idea of being eaten alive. Thinking about it causes stress. If you can supply a fella with a bottle of Shark Begone you’ll give him some peace of mind. This is war. Peace is relative. But any peace in a war!

Mary Roach says no. No such things as Shark Begone. Products that claim to be shark repellent  don’t have reliable research backing them up. There are even products that insist they repel sharks that actually attract sharks. So you want to be careful what you lather on your bobbing parts.

An article at the Smithsonian about the sharks attracted to the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in World War II builds in the fear:

Soon enough [the floating survivors] would be staving off … sharks. The animals were drawn by the sound of the explosions, the sinking of the ship and the thrashing and blood in the water. … Reports from the Indianapolis survivors indicate that the sharks tended to attack live victims close to the surface … The first night, the sharks focused on the floating dead. But the survivors’ struggles in the water only attracted more and more sharks … Of the Indianapolis’ original 1,196-man crew, only 317 remained. Estimates of the number who died from shark attacks range from a few dozen to almost 150.
Sharks!! They ate 800 sailors! 1,196 minus 317, that’s 800ish. Nobody actually knows how many living sailors managed to escape the sinking ship. How many subsequently died from exposure, dehydration, drowning? 

Mary Roach wasn’t having much luck finding stories about sharks eating sailors. 

A floating sailor [can] dispatch a curious shark by hitting it or churning the water with his legs. ([One researcher] observed that even a kick to a shark’s nose from the rear leg of a swimming rat was enough to cause ‘ … raid departure from the vicinity.’) ‘The sharks were going after dead mean,’ said a survivor quoted in a popular book about the 1945 sinking of the USS Indianapolis, an event that often comes up in discussions of military shark attacks. ‘Honestly, in the entire 110 hours I was in the water,’ recalls Navy Captain Lewis L. Haynes … ‘I did not see a man attacked by a shark.’ [emphasis in the original]

But aren’t rafts often followed by sharks? Pretty scary. Aren’t they just stalking the passengers, waiting to nab anybody who falls off? 

Mary Roach says fish like the shelter of the raft. There’s not much shade to be had out at sea so when some happens by there are those who take advantage. The sharks come to the raft to feed on the fish under the raft, not to hunt the people on it. 

Not even human blood has been shown to entice sharks. What does? What swims under rafts. Fish.  

So. Stop worrying. A shark is not going to get you. Mary Roach told me so.

source: Grunt: the curious science of humans at war by Mary Roach
2016. W.W. Norton & Co, NY

Thursday, December 01, 2016

the beaded curtain

When I first encountered a beaded curtain as a kid I found it mildly annoying. A fabric curtain would hide what was going on on the other side of the opening, but a row of beaded strings hanging in a doorway, what does that hide? Obscure slightly, maybe. That was a goal? I didn’t like going through the curtain, afraid a bead string would catch in my hair. Plus, it wouldn’t go away. Every time you went through that door you had to deal with it. 

A beaded curtain could be decorative, I conceded. I kind of liked the way it rattled as you went through. And I kind of didn’t. And I guess that’s where my engagement with beaded curtains ended. I’ve never considered hanging one. 

But then there’s this footnote in Mary Roach’s latest: 

[B]eaded strands that hang in doorways in Middle Eastern homes, allow[] breeezes, but not flies, to pass.


Who knew? Makes me thankful once again that flies were never much of an issue in my neighborhood.

Or, as Mary Roach puts it: 

Who among the thousands of youthful 1970s doofs who hung these in their bedrooms had any clue as to the beads’ provenance as fly control? Not this doof.

source: Grunt: the curious science of humans at war by Mary Roach

2016. W.W. Norton & Co, NY

Monday, September 19, 2016

find the world

… in prose you start with the world
and find the words to match; in poetry you start

with the words and find the world in them.

That’s Charles Bernstein from his poem “Dysraphism”.

source: From the Other Side of the Century: a new American poetry, 1960-1990 edited by Douglas Messerli

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Notes Toward an Autobiography by Others

”What’s your favorite color?”
The question came, one morning on the walk to school, from my five-year-old daughter, lately obsessed with “favorites” — declaring hers, knowing mine.
“Blue,” I said, feeling very much the Western male (the West loves blue, and men love it a bit more than women).
A pause. “Why isn’t our car blue, then?”
“Well, I like blue, but I don’t like it as much for cars.”
She processes this. “My favorite color is red.”

That’s the way Tom Vanderbilt begins, You May Also Like, his investigation of favorites, of taste, how we come to like one thing (music, food, color) over another.

I remember being obsessed with favorites as a kid. I’m a little embarrassed by it now. While I certainly have preferences these days, I have tried to cultivate a pleasure in variety, in not having one favorite but in appreciating many things, in finding things to like in places that seem unlikely (or unlikable). 

Yes, I remember insisting that people (my mother, my classmates) come down on a favorite color, as though announcing a favorite defined something essential about that person, something helpful. I think my favorite was red. But I also interrogated this preference. I would look at red in a shirt, red in an advertisement, red in a flower and ask myself if, really, this red was better than blue or purple or yellow anywhere. There were different shades of red, I could see. Maybe there was the shade of red that was the finest, that I could say was my favorite red, no, not just my favorite red but my favorite color, that other shades of red might not hold up to every blue the way my favorite red surely would. 

I remember one time quizzing people on their favorite television network. At the time for me it was CBS. Because they ran a Muppet special, I think. There must have been one or two other things. Maybe they hadn’t preempted a favorite program for a stupid play-off game like other dumb networks. Unlike with the favorite color I mainly got puzzlement over the idea of having a favorite television network. Not just, I like red sometimes, I like blue sometimes, I guess I don’t have a favorite, but what’s a network? If you don’t know which network airs your favorite TV shows how can you declare a favorite network? Not only was educating people on the premises of my question more work than I wanted, the people I had to educate weren’t interested in the lesson. C’mon the CBS eye logo is kinda cool even now, right?

source: You May Also Like: taste in an age of endless choice by Tom Vanderbilt. 2016. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Toast and coffee with your fried eggs?

When I came across “Ladle Rat Rotten Hut” (when I was a teen, I think) I was fascinated. The educator H. L. Chase had written the text to prove that you could switch out similar sounding words for the familiar ones and the listener would be able to discern the original sense as though interpreting an accent. “Ladle Rat Rotten Hut” equals “Little Red Riding Hood.” (The Exploratorium has Chase’s version of the classic fairy tale on its website.) I’ve seen something like this as well when writers attempt to reproduce the sounds of a particular accent. One less radical version you might have seen (or even accidentally used) is the switching out of the contraction for “have” with the soundalike “of” as in “He should of done that already!” (instead of “He should’ve done that already.”)

I have used this homonymesque technique in my writing, poetry particularly, adding slightly hidden meanings or puns. I like to stretch the soundalike across more than one word. Chase does this, too. Here’s Red Riding Hood to the Wolf in grandmother disguise:

"O Grammar, water bag noise! A nervous sore suture anomalous prognosis!”

Let’s see if I can translate: O Grandma, what a big nose! I never saw such an enormous proboscis. I think I got that right. “Anomalous prognosis” doesn’t sound much like “enormous proboscis” to me and I had to struggle a little figuring out what Chase meant us to read. In the category of soundalike covering more than one word: "suture" stands in for "such a", "water" for "what a". You can break words up, too. "Grandma" might be written "gray maw," for instance. (If there’s an authoritative translation of "Ladle Rat" I haven’t seen it.)

It’s tricky. Push this too much and the hidden meaning is so hidden as to be absent. I often have trouble parsing Chase’s “Ladle Rat Rotten Hut” and it’s not supposed to be a big challenge. 

In his memoir/essay about being young and fighting the good fight in ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) back in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, Dale Peck writes about a bit of goofiness amid the fierce seriousness:

Byron … taught me to yell “ACT UP! Fight back! Fried eggs!” (instead of “ACT UP! Fight back! Fight AIDS!”) to relieve the monotony of two- or three-hour chants at demos: you could shout it right in cops’ faces, in reporters’; they never knew the difference.

Given that I often can’t make out the words in chants if I don’t already know what the chanters are shouting, I’m not surprised Peck heard no one puzzle over the fried eggs part. Close enough, right?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Roxane Gay On Assholes

In a chapter of friendly advice in her book, Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay has a few things to say about assholes, the whole body variety:

Sometimes your friends will date people you cannot stand. You can either be honest about your feelings or you can lie. There are good reasons for both. Sometimes you will be the person dating someone your friends cannot stand. If your man or woman is a scrub, just own it so you and your friends can talk about more interesting things. My go-to explanation is ‘I am dating an asshole because I’m lazy.’ You are welcome to borrow it.

Don’t flirt, have sex, or engage in emotional affairs with your friends’ significant others. This shouldn’t need to be said, but it needs to be said. That significant other is an asshole, and you don’t want to be involved with an asshole who’s used goods. If you want to be with an asshole, get a fresh asshole of your very own. They are abundant.

source: Bad Feminist: essays by Roxane Gray
2014. HarperCollins, NY

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

pile of reading

The Singular Pilgrim: travels on sacred ground by Rosemary Mahoney
This is a library discard I grabbed before it got boxed up for donation. I’m reading it on my work breaks. And quite enjoying it. Mahoney is good at description and evoking place. I’m currently in the chapter on Varanasi, the holy city in India where human bodies are cremated and the ashes scattered in the sacred Ganges River. Mahoney is impressed by how polluted the river is. The last passage I read has her walking up to a man who is emptying garbage from plastic bags directly into the river. There are signs forbidding this activity but he’s hardly the first person Mahoney has seen flouting such rules. Anyway, Mahoney walks up to him and tells him to stop it. Stop throwing garbage in the river. He pauses, perplexed and a little intimidated by the foreign woman. “Not even the electric wires?” he says. 

The Bridge: the life and rise of Barack Obama by David Remnick
I’ve been eyeing this biography on the shelf at the library where I work. After David Maraniss’s Barack Obama: the story left us hanging as young Mr Obama heads off to law school, I’ve wanted a biography that brings me a little closer to the present. Remnick’s The Bridge was published a year into Obama’s presidency, so maybe this will serve. Like the earlier book this is a fatty, clocking in at 586 pages. So I haven’t been in a hurry to commit. Now that I have checked it out, I guess I’m still not in a hurry to commit. I’m a big 14 pages in. Am I in love with Barack Obama? He seems to me rather cold. But I’m curious about him, where he came from, how he got to the White House. He’s done some good things there, and yet … there seems to be so much more he could have done. He still has a little time. 

Moonshot: the indigenous comics collection edited by Hope Nicholson
This won an award and the theme piqued my interest so I ordered it from the library. Not far enough in to have many thoughts on it. 

From the Other Side of the Century: a new American poetry, 1960 - 1990 edited by Douglas Messerli
Douglas Messerli’s Sun & Moon / Green Integer Press has been home to much avant garde or innovative writing. I read his anthologies of non-U.S. poets and enjoyed them so brought home a nice used copy of From the Other Side of the Century when I had opportunity. At more than 1100 pages I figure I will be reading it for a while. I’m coming up on a fourth the way through and the reading has been pretty good. Yet I connected more frequently with Messerli’s non-U.S. poets anthologies than here. 

Selected Poems by W. H. Auden, edited by Edward Mendelson
This is one of those books I got well into then put aside for several months. I got hung up in a long take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. After finishing some other books I took on completing the Tempest section and both liked and struggled with the task. I’m now on to Auden’s 1946 “Phi Beta Kappa Poem.” 

A Longing for the Light: selected poems by Vicente Aleixandre, edited by Lewis Hyde
Having just read an anthology of 20th century poets of Spain and having been favorably impressed, I looked on the shelf at the Central branch to see what individual poets’ collections the library owned. I pulled this one. Aleixandre has appeared in my personal anthology so I ought to read more. “If you could only see what suffering / the moon displays without trying.”

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon edited by Ivan Morris
Sei Shonagon was a contemporary of Murasaki Shikibu, author of The Tale of Genji. Both women lived in Japan and were members of the imperial court about a thousand years ago. Shonagon recounts anecdotes and makes lists of personal likes and dislikes. The reader is immersed in an unfamiliar but not incomprehensible world of art and etiquette and mild intrigue. It’s a book I sometimes forget I’m reading.

Oakland Review #2, edited by Paul Corman-Roberts and J de Salvo
My friend Tim Donnelly has poems in this issue and I picked up a copy at a reading in Oakland last week. I also handed one of the editors an envelope full of my own poems in hopes that, you know …

Poems for the Millennium, volume 4: the University of California book of North African literature edited by Pierre Joris and Habib Tengour
Another fat anthology. I’ve enjoyed earlier volumes of the Poems for the Millennium series and there hasn’t been much North African or Arabic literature in my diet (partly because there isn’t a lot in translation and partly because I haven’t been much fond of it). This volume wasn't easy to find.

Bird Dream: adventures at the extremes of human flight by Matt Higgins
I watched a video on youtube of a man leaping from an airplane in one of those full body wingsuits and coming in for a water landing on a lake. All other wingsuit videos ended with the daredevil deploying a parachute for landing. The video looked pretty authentic. But I wasn’t certain. Then I came across Bird Dream in the library. The book seems to be about the very feat I watched the video of. Other books keep supplanting it in the gotta-read-now category but maybe I’m ready this time? It looks like something I want to read.