April 30, 2010

I've just been looking at joining Facebook, equally as difficult as posting a post here.

Facebook asks for too much info. I'm having a Philip K. Dick moment where I realize we voluntarily enter so much information into a system that we don't fully understand, that cant possibly be set up in our best interest, and that we cant be confident of completely deleting later.

I know in China, everything I do is run through 1 of 3 super-portals to the outside web. Everything I do is monitored. Even this post.

Cellphone texts get put through a similar wringer. Thank you China Mobile and China Telecom. Two state owned telecoms that together control 100% of the cellphone traffic.

I know I'm being mined (at the best)/ looked at (worst case). What's happening with all of the info you're giving freely?

Is under the radar even possible now?

How's rescinding that Patriot Act doing?


April 27, 2010

Joe Hill, Pigafetta is My Wife (Black Ocean, 2010). 76 pages.

A failed historic sea voyage, the Rape of Nanjing, a lover Cheryl, who is both distant by actual distance and illness, these weaved together are among the many things to recommend Pigafetta.

Without taking away from the writing that preceded it, I want to focus on the notes page.

Hill’s notes are few, but all of them seem unnecessary. His note for page 48 gives a brief sketch of John Rabe’s role in saving thousands of Chinese during the Rape of Nanjing, but all of this information is present in his own text.

His note for page 72 gives the museum and date for the artwork that the text derives from – important enough to endnote, so we know it’s an ekphrastic piece, but not important enough to be included in a subheading naming date and place, as happens with some of the other poems.

As an appropriator in nearly every facet of my creative life, I’ve never felt the compunction to or necessity for giving documentation for the sources I use. I can understand it if doing so is actually a part of the design and effect of the piece you are working on; for example, Google’s new tenet that to fight censorship, you have to document it.

I may be a little more Poundian here than some of the folks I’ve been reading, but if you have to source what you’re using you seem to fall into the following: 1) assume the reader won’t know what is yours and what is not (ego?); 2) you want the reader to know you’re well read (insecurity?); or worse 3) you assume you know more and have read more than your reader (hubris?).

If readers read a line and recognize the source material (like Wilde riffing on Sappho and Dawn’s slippers), then they can place it and what you’re trying to accomplish in your text within the history and tradition of the text you lifted. If they don’t, then the reader makes meaning from what is on the page, which is also valid.

Hill’s book isn’t the first to rile me in this fashion; in fact, Hill doesn’t rile me much – Ferlinghetti’s Tyrannus Nix? (New Directions, 1969) probably shocked me the most [when I read it in 2006 or 7], with its almost academic footnotes in what was basically a stapled bound, marker written leftist rant against Vietnam and the White House. Endnotes seemed to be the least radical thing the author of that pamphlet could have done, and yet, so thorough; as if to say, if you don’t believe me, then go see for yourself. But a work that is written in a wide marker in all caps and a rhetoric preaching to the choir doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) leave room for doubt in the reader. The notes, in hindsight, seem like a cop-out, as most source notes seem to me.

To repeat myself, as a confessional book that uses various trajectories of human failure, suffering, singular bravery in the face of adversity, and love, Joe Hill has accomplished something with Pigafetta is My Wife. And I don't like source notes.


April 19, 2010

1. Been watching a lot of the old Ali fights recently. On the block tonight is his '78 fight with Leon Spinks. I can't quite figure out what the appeal is, but there's more to these matches than the current round of Friday night fights they show on Sunday nights here in China.

2. Watching baseball games like there's a shortage of 'em or something. Because of the time difference, I can usually catch 2 games (3 if I'm lazy) before I need to physically get out of bed and get moving towards the work day. It has made the work day so much better; although, I work with a bunch of Brits, a Kiwi and two American chicks who don't understand and thus don't like the baseball. So talking about an awesome Sweeney catch in Right Field near the track, belly flopping in the dirt but holding on to the ball in the heel of his glove gets a sigh and an I-guess-that's-something-special-then look.

3. I remember an art exhibition in the mid-to-late 90s in New York where someone had tracked every ball pitched by a team (Yankees?) for an entire year and put each game onto a single sheet of graph paper, well before Fox had that auto-box thing they do now. Obsessive, detailed, and actually very informative. Wish I could remember who and which gallery.

4. The last week in Beijing has been accompanied by low level clouds, which means that all the pollution that usually blows freely into Tianjin has been pushed downwards. Think of LA in the 70s as far as air quality: you can't see the skyscraper you know is a block and a half away. I haven't used my asthma inhaler in years, but I've been using daily this past week. Hoping for a huge storm that'll clean up the air a bit, or a really big wind that'll blow all this shit to the ocean, but that'd most likely mean another sandstorm.

5. The point of "Blacula" (1972) seems to be that heroin, aka vampirism, in the ghetto is the consequence of THE evil white man (Dracula) and his obstinancy towards oppression (slavery). Vampires, like addicts, increase exponentially once a vampire moves into a neighborhood. But vampires/pushers need love too, and there's a sequence of acceptance to participation that their beloved goes through.


April 9, 2010

Am reading Hal Foster’s Recordings: Art, Spectacle, Cultural Politics (1985; repr. New Press, 1999), on Jeffrey Schrader’s recommendation from about two years ago. I’ve read other Foster criticism with appreciation, but this seems to cut to the quick, being relevant 25 years after it was first published.

From the opening essay “Against Pluralism”:

“When formalism prevailed, art tended to be self-critical. Though it was seldom regarded in historical or political context, it was at least analytical in context. When formalism fell, even this attitude was largely lost. [. . .] The present in art has a strange form, at once full and empty, and a strange tense, a sort of neo-now moment of ‘arriere-avant-gardism.’ Many artists borrow promiscuously from both historical and modern art. But these references rarely engage the source – let alone the present – deeply. And the typical artist is often ‘foot-loose in time, culture and metaphor’: a dilettante because he thinks that, as he entertains the past, he is beyond the exigency of the present; a dunce because he assumes a delusion; and a dangling man because historical moment – our present problematic –is lost” (16).

This is doubly apparent in a lot of the work of contemporary Chinese artists, who come straight out of the Academy wanting only to brand themselves and their output. They emulate the style over substance school of the likes of Liu Ye (who had a piece sell at auction this week for $2.45 mil) rather than artists engaged with the historical and current social tension like Ai Weiwei and Qiu Zhijie (


April 5, 2010

1. It's Tomb Sweeping Day in China, so I got the day off.

2. I have some work up in the current issue of Moria:

3. Got Jeffrey Schrader's Art Fraud (BlazeVox 2010) in the mail, and immediately read 2/3rds of it before I had to go to work. I'll write at more length about it soon. A good example of the poet as critic.

4. Caught opening day action via the internet. That made me very happy this morning. My fantasy team looks stronger than last year's.