August 30, 2007

Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Zone, 1995). 154 pages.

"74. IT IS BECAUSE human beings have thus far been thrust into history, and into participation in the labor and the struggles which constitute history, that they find themselves obliged to view their relationships in a clear-eyed manner. The history in question has no goal aside from whatever effects it works upon itself, even though the last unconscious metaphysical vision of the historical era may view the productive progression through which history has unfolded as itself the object of that history. As for the subject of history, it can only be the self-production of the living: the living becoming master and possessor of its world--that is, of history--and coming to exist as consciousness of its own activity" (48).



August 28, 2007


August 26, 2007

Warner Robins, Ga 3
Japan 2

One of the better baseball games I've watched this year: extra innings, hustle, teamwork.


August 25, 2007

John Berryman, The Dream Songs (FSG, paperback 2007). 427 pages. $18.

I'm not quite sure what happened but I have actually recommended twice within the month that two of my non-poet friends read the Dream Songs. They were both looking for good reads, and this was the first thing that came to mind. It forced me to pick up the third copy I've owned--this is a book that I give away on moves and then rebuy shortly after--and man song #14 (Life, friends, is boring...), while making its way into all those anthologies and being a good stand alone poem and all, does little justice to the overall accruing strength of the whole. It may not be at the level of Leaves of Grass or the Cantos, but I need to reread the thing and consider why I think this might be the case.



August 23, 2007

Lu Xun, "On Expressing an Opinion."

I dreamed I was in the classroom of a primary school preparing to write an essay, and asked the teacher how to express an opinion.
"That's hard!" glancing sideways at me over his glasses, he said: "Let me tell you a story -
"When a son is born to a family, the whole household is delighted. When he is one month old they carry him out to display him to the guests -- usually expecting some compliments, of course.
"One says: 'This child will be rich. ' Then he is heartily thanked.
"One says: 'This child will be an official. ' Then some compliments are made him in return.
"One says: 'This child will die. ' Then he- is thoroughly beaten by the whole family.
"That the child will die is inevitable, while to say that he will be rich or a high official may be a lie. Yet the lie is rewarded, whereas the statement of the inevitable gains a beating. You. .."
"I don't want to tell lies, sir, neither do I want to be beaten. So what should I say!"
"In that case, say: 'Aha! Just look at this child! My word.... Oh, my! Oho! Hehe! He, hehehehehe!' "

August 23, 2007


August 22, 2007

Ah, the start of a fresh semester. Fear, trepidation, and yet somehow a sense that everything that went south last semester will be righted this one. I feel confident and audacious, even if only temporarily. I wish I had known back as an undergrad that most of my teachers were coming at me with their game faces on. They'd have seemed much more human and approachable.


August 19, 2007

Alexander R. Galloway, "24/7, 16.8: Is 24 a Political Show?" Afterimage 35.1 (2007): 18-22.

"The characters on 24 need to be understood not simply as a paramilitary force, what Louis Althusser calls the repressive state apparatus, but as a post-Fordist labor force as well. These are employees who quite literally cannot clock out. Like a sweatshop, they are chained to their jobs. This principle is demonstrated in the basic premise of the show, that the work day is no longer nine to five, but extends throughout all twenty-four hours. The show's 'day' is a work day. It is an economic state of exception, wherein the normal rules of fair labor practice (periodic work breaks, personal injury protection, overtime pay) are tossed out the window, and willingly so by the employees in question. Modernity brought the 'I'm just doing my job'--leave me alone in my penance, I'm just 'working for the weekend'--attitude. But the information age has an entirely different emphasis: 'Just let me do my job.' In this mode there is a heightened ownership of one's labor within an ethic of self-worth and spiritual achievement. Real life is an anti-labor blockade, an interruption. The goal is not to uncouple from the sphere of labor, but instead to enter it entirely and sincerely. Inefficient extra and inter-labor distractions must be cast off. 'Just let me do my job, OK?'--these words are vocalized in the show at least one time per espisode" (20-1).


August 19, 2007

Canadian poet George Bowering this morning on NPR.


from mIEKAL aND:

Solved: The mystery of the 'Poe toaster': Aging historian claims to have created legend of the shadowy grave visitor

WILEY HALL Associated Press
August 16, 2007 at 5:09 AM EDT

BALTIMORE — The legend was almost too good to be true. For decades, a mysterious figure dressed in black, his features cloaked by a wide-brimmed hat and scarf, crept into a Baltimore churchyard to lay three roses and a bottle of cognac at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe.

Now, a man in his 90s who led the fight to preserve the historic site says the visitor was his creation.

"We did it, myself and my tour guides," said Sam Porpora. "It was a promotional idea. We made it up, never dreaming it would go worldwide."

Mr. Porpora is an energetic, dapper fellow in a newsboy cap and a checked suit with a bolo tie. He's got a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous smile, and he tells his tale in the rhythms of a natural- born storyteller.

No one has ever claimed ownership of the legend. So why is he coming forward now?
"I really can't tell you," he said. "I'm doing it because of my love for the story."

Mr. Porpora's belief that he resurrected the international fame of Poe, that master of mystery and melancholia, is questioned by some Poe scholars. But they do credit Mr. Porpora, a former advertising executive, with rescuing the cemetery at the former Westminster Presbyterian Church, now called Westminster Hall, where the writer is buried.

"I don't know what to say," said Jeff Jerome, curator of the nearby Poe House, who has nurtured for years the legend of the so-called Poe Toaster. Confronted with Mr. Porpora's assertion that the whole thing is a hoax, Mr. Jerome reacted like a man who's been punched in the stomach by his beloved grandfather. He's sad. He feels betrayed. But he's reluctant to punch back. "To say the toaster is a promotional hoax, well, all I can say is that's just not so." Could it be, to quote Poe, that "all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream?"

Mr. Porpora's story begins in the late 1960s. He'd just been made historian of the church, built in 1852 at Fayette and Greene Streets. There were fewer than 60 congregants and Mr. Porpora, in his 60s, was one of the youngest. The overgrown cemetery was a favourite of drunken derelicts.

The site needed money and publicity, Mr. Porpora recalled. That, he said, is when the idea of the Poe toaster came to him. The story, as Mr. Porpora told it to a local reporter then, was that the tribute had been laid at the grave on Poe's Jan. 19 birthday every year since 1949. Three roses - one for Poe, one for his wife and one for his mother-in-law - and a bottle of cognac were placed there, because Poe loved the stuff even though he couldn't afford to drink it unless someone else was buying.

The romantic image of the mysterious man in black caught the fancy of Poe fans and a tradition grew. Poe wrote such horror classics as The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Masque of the Red Death and The Raven.

In about 1977, Mr. Jerome began inviting a handful of people each year to a vigil for the mysterious stranger. The media began chronicling the arrivals and departures of a "Poe-like figure." In 1990, Life magazine published a picture of the shrouded individual. In 1993, he left a note saying "the torch would be passed." Another note in 1998 announced that the originator of the tradition had died. Later vigil-keepers reported that at least two toasters appeared to have taken up the torch in different years.

Members of the E. A. Poe Society insist they recall members of the old congregation - all now dead - talking about the Poe toaster before Mr. Porpora says he made it up. Stories since the 1970s refer to older newspaper accounts about the visitor. Mr. Jerome found a 1950 newspaper clipping that mentions "an anonymous citizen who creeps in annually to place an empty bottle (of excellent label)" against the gravestone.

Mr. Porpora's account isn't consistent. He said in an interview with a reporter in 1967 that he invented the stranger, but the story to which he refers appeared in 1976. Shortly afterward, the vigils and the yearly chronicles of the stranger's visits began. During the same interview, Mr. Porpora said both that he made the story up and that one of his tour guides went through a pantomime of dressing up, sneaking into the cemetery and laying the tribute on the grave.

Mr. Porpora acknowledges that someone has since "become" the Poe toaster.

August 17, 2007

American Heritage Dictionary
po·et·as·ter (poh-it-as-ter) n. A writer of insignificant, meretricious, or shoddy poetry.

August 16, 2007

Michelangelo Buonarrota, Complete Poems and Selected Letters of Michelangelo, trans. Creighton Gilbert (Modern Library, 1965).
5. Sonnet to John of Pistoia on the Sistine Ceiling (1509-12)

I've got myself a goiter from this strain,
As water gives the cats of Lombardy
Or maybe it is in some other country;
My belly's pushed by force beneath my chin.
My beard toward Heaven, I feel the back of my brain
Upon my neck, I grow the breast of a Harpy;
My brush, above my face continually,
Makes it a splendid floor by dripping down.
My loins have penetrated to my paunch,
My rump's a crupper, as a counterweight,
And pointless the unseeing steps I go.
In front of me my skin is being stretched
While it folds up behind and forms a knot,
And I am bending like a Syrian bow.
And judgement, hence, must grow,
Borne in the mind, peculiar and untrue;
You cannot shoot well when the gun's askew.
John, come to the rescue
Of my dead painting now, and of my honor;
I'm not in a good place, and I'm no painter (5-6).
crupper=1. a leather strap fastened to the saddle of a harness and looping under the tail of a horse to prevent the harness from slipping forward. 2. the rump or buttocks of a horse. 3.armor for the rump of a horse.



August 15, 2007

Robert Bringhurst, The Solid Form of Language (Graspereau Press, 2004). 75 pages.

"Using one script for heads, another for text is common enough around the world. But mixing two such scripts like this, in the midst of a single-language sentence, is comparatively rare and was a late development even in Latin script. It began in sixteenth-century mathematical texts, to mark symbolic letters (as in: draw a line from a to b). The use of italic to isolate phrases, such as the names of ships and the titles of books, began in Latin script with the practice of changing type to mark a change in language. A Latin title cited in French text or vice versa was cause for a shift between roman and italic. In time, the change of font was taken to mark a logical shift instead of a linguistic one" (48).


August 15, 2007

Today's scale: E pentatonic (minor)


August 14, 2007

Minneapolis Weekend (food edition)

Lunch: Leftover cake and fresh strawberries in Sha's fridge

Dinner: Rudolph's
Dracula Wings
The Hollywood (a rack of ribs)

Notes: Rudolph's was twice named "Best Ribs in America" for a good reason. Good BBQ, huge portions (don't be shy taking more than half a plate home with you; Sha had 2 leftovers meals from Monday's $9 lunch special), the tribute to Rudolph Valentino and pre and early talkies with all the framed B&W photos of Old Hollywood plays a little cheesy but the effect ranks it higher than the average neighborhood rib joint, which in effect it what it is, albeit a good version of one.

Lunch: 20.21 at the Walker
Thai Seafood Red Curry w/Scallops, Prawns, Thai Basil Leaves, Kaffir Lime, Garlic, Fried Ginger
Dinner: Brit's Pub
Fish & Chips

Notes: Sha says that lunch at 20.21 is the better deal as the entrees on the dinner menu almost double in price. This curry was unlike any I have had before, with spices hitting damnear every part of my palate. Wondrous. If you can sit near the window (the weirdest part of the architecture of the new building) you also get a view of the Loring Park area.

Brit's Pub wants to be a pub, but is too big. It has lawn bowling on the roof!!! To its benefit, it serves a good fish & chips, has malted vinegar on the table, and some decent English ales on tap. Crowd when I was there was mostly post-worky wannabe-snobs. A good thing that I was in good company.

Lunch: A&W at the Mall of America
Chili Cheese Fries & a Coke

Dinner: Chambers Kitchen
Smoked Bacon Wrapped Shrimp appetizer
Rack of Lamb w/ Chili Crumbs

Notes: The A&W is next to the roller coasters in the Mall of America. What else needs to be said? We were killing time waiting for the Simpsons movie at the googleplex. I did learn, however, that Sha is horrified of rollercoasters, even though she's never been on one. She can just tell by looking they are no fun for her.

Chambers Kitchen was the swankiest place we ate. Attached to the Chambers Hotel and Burnet Gallery, the food served in the kitchen is an extension of the artistic vision of Ralph Burnet, owner of the hotel/gallery/kitchen complex. Everything about this place drips art and the food was certainly that. The most expensive and smallest portioned, and yet the most where the chef's subtle craft was the most obvious.

Lunch: Rudolph's
Salmon Lunch Special w/ Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Dinner: at home
chicken breast w/ herbs & lemon sauce, with onions, mushrooms, broccoli and cherry tomatoes

Notes: Grilled salmon was good, served over garlic potatoes. How do you grill salmon without it falling apart? Sha, as stated above, had three meals out of her lunch special.

The dinner I made was nothing special, used what I had in Sha's fridge.

August 14, 2007


August 8, 2007

Meg Hamill, Death Notices (Factory School, 2007).

In lieu of flowers, Meg Hamill offers us a complex essay on the consequences of the Iraq War—and by extension, of all other wars—in poetic form. Hamill recognizes early on that the task she has set before herself of recording a written monument for each of the war’s dead is overreaching: “I can’t write that many obituaries, though I’m beginning to understand why I must” (7).

In stark prose poems formatted to mirror newspaper obituaries, Hamill records loss on both sides of the conflict. Of a potential insurgent, she asks, “was he one of the good ones or the bad ones […] The missile that killed him now in pieces over there in lieu of flowers” (9). On the death of a coalition soldier from Jesup, GA, Hamill questions her own complicity in the conflict: “dominic you signed up for killing and yet you were killed you were guilty and yet holding on to your rabbit ear were you any more guilty than me dominic” (12).

Interspersed between these obituaries, Hamill deftly shifts our gaze to her personal responses to the war written in standard free verse format and italicized appropriated sound bytes culled from news sources. The shift in form reflects the movement of our gaze, forcing us to approach the war from multiple angles, creating a humanizing effect while at the same time bolstering her overall argument. It is hard to read “soldiers would mention some english names of stars of football players and request us to remember them or we would be beaten severely” and not think of prisoner torture (40). Likewise, lines like “what does it mean to lose courage/ if we are hurtling through space like this anyway/ where would the courage go if it was lost” encourage us to continue through this necessary reflection without fear (52).

Hamill urges the reader not to “kick the bodies underneath the table that are gathering between us without noticing without taking note of their limpness their inability to hold onto each other their inability to pray or to breathe” (55). Death Notices is at times an uncomfortable read filled with precise, accurate, disturbing details (the kind we aren’t seeing on television). She asks us to look, to take a good look, because “healing begins at the moment when we learn to sustain our gaze on all the bad and all the stunning things just keep our eyes looking past the time when we want to stop looking” (61).


August 8, 2007


I didn't send out the photocopies as promised, as I realized upon checking, that I have $1.36 [actual number] in my bank account. I have $9 and some in change [all change, no paper] to get me to the airport tomorrow to go Minnie.

Being 2/3rds unemployed for the summer almost paid off, as I get my first teaching check at the end of the month.


David Harrison Horton


August 7, 2007


August 7, 2007

Mr. Lusk:

As per your letter of the fifth, I avidly agree on the main points, but must differ on certain, certainly most unsubstantial, minutiae. I believe the Charlie Chan flicks of the 40s were in large part propaganda pieces meant to explain to an American audience that the US military involvement with the Chinese resistance was quite okay; and that the Chinese were in fact allies, differentiating the Chinese from the Japanese who were at the time in the States being rounded up into detainment camps. Mr. Chan, remember, was always between assignments for “the US government;” hence a good guy. I seem to recall that some of the Chan flicks ended with an appeal to buy US War Bonds, but I will have to look into that further. Perhaps we should concentrate on the issue of a white actor, Sidney Toler, playing Chan as a symptom of an American WWII pan-Asiatic phobia in a future correspondence.

My folks are here with me in Hainan. Why they couldn’t manage the feat of visitation in the four years I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area is going super-hush-hush. Me and my dad had a rather lengthy discussion on labor movements in general and the United Auto Workers specifically in relation to the shift of auto-production from North America to Asia. To sum his sentiments up succinctly, he said the US labor movement “didn’t have the collective brains of a flea,” which is to say he is doing fine and much the same as you remember him. He handed me Wang Hui’s China’s New Order (Harvard 2003); Wang among other arguments calls for a globalized labor movement to keep pace with the increasingly multi-national corporations. If production is multi-national, his argument goes, then the unions should also go multi-national: it’s worth the read, a little pie-in-the-sky and all, but solid analysis.

After a two-year delay, I finally made it to South Monkey Island. You remember me telling you about the typhoon my first year here back in 2002, and how I got stuck in BeiHai, and the later lung infection that kept me bedridden for a spell. I wrote that long poem that came out recently in the poetry journal 26 in issue c. Well, I was trying to get to South Monkey Island, which got a decent write-up in my guidebook. I’m not sure why. The place bills itself as a nature reserve, but is in fact a well-groomed park that has some monkeys wandering around in it. At regular intervals, they have “monkey circus” which is as bad as it sounds: at one point, a goat walks a tightrope while a monkey does a handstand on its horns. It’s something to do with the Chinese zodiac apparently. Yes. It’s all too reminiscent of the Sancha He Wildlife Reserve in Yunnan that puts on an hourly trained elephant show, complete with trainers and whips, for the tourists who don’t manage to see one of the seven wild Asian elephants there somewhere on the compound. I am sure there is a perfectly good Marxist-with-Chinese-characteristics explanation for this phenomenon, but as I lent my Little Red Book out before my trip, I can’t find a worthy quote: China’s man-is-master-over-nature position is well-rooted, as expressed by their questionable expenditure on their man-in-space program and the Three Gorges Dam project.

As with all tourist traps, the places around Sanya are a tad pricey and disappointing. The Wuzhi Zhou Island shore area that allowed swimming was cramped and overcrowded. Attempts to swim off the rest of the island’s beach brought on youngster security guards in ill-fitting baseball hats. Flashing my multiple Red Cross Lifeguard and CPR cards did nothing to soften them up: you swim where they tell you that you can swim: what a waste of a perfectly good tropical island.

That is my report.

Kareem was a teenage shoplifter.

Mr. Horton
[first published Life Nanjing 3/05]


August 2, 2007

Another important Black voice has been lost in Oakland: Chauncey Bailey (1949-2007) was editor of the Oakland Post.

My dad in Detroit told me about it as the story was unfolding, highlighting Mr. Bailey's national import and influence.

Even the NYTimes picked the story up.

This story however got much less airtime tonight on Bay Area local TV news than the Minnesota bridge; compare this to the recent Pete Wilson (1945-2007) lovefest on all local media (even competing news crews paid due respects). Pete deserved his propers, but so does Chauncey, who got mentioned only once during a broadcast and is now a non-story for the mainstream Oakland media.

August 2, 2007

Apparently, being a poet has never been easy. Just look what happened to poor, trusting Kvaser: "It took not only sweetness but life to make true poetry."


August 1, 2007

Sha just phoned to say that my Bay Area earthquake fear just happened in Minneapolis without the earthquake, and that she was nowhere near it at the time.


July 31, 2007

On My Knees: A Public Divorce Ceremony by Cathy Gordon