Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Aging Process

First we lose the legs: the gout. Oh cursed scourge of the modern age!

Then, the elbows, and the ability to perform those feats of sexual acrobatics we once enjoyed so.

Next, the hundred and one activities enabled by the nostrils.

Finally, the ability to fly. You'll miss this less than you imagined. Why, it will be as if you had never known how to fly at all!

photo Robert ParkeHarrison

Friday, June 06, 2008

Hillary Clinton; Sex in the City

I'm not usually in the habit of posting chunks of whole articles, but today's Judith Warner piece in the New York Times expresses what a lot of us have been feeling: horror at the level of gut-level anti-woman vitriol that Clinton's candidacy has unleashed. More on Sex and the City (I disagree with Warner) after the block quote.

Woman in Charge, Women Who Charge
by Judith Warner
Published 5 June 2008

Is it a coincidence that the bubbling idiocy of “Sex and the City,” the movie, exploded upon the cultural scene at the exact same time that Hillary Clinton’s candidacy imploded?

Literally, of course, it is. Figuratively, I’m not so sure.

And before I set off an avalanche of e-mails explaining why Hillary deserved to lose, I want to make one point clear: I am talking here not about the outcome of her candidacy – mistakes were made, and she faced a formidable opponent in Barack Obama – but rather about the climate in which her campaign was conducted. The zeitgeist in which Hillary floundered and “Sex” is now flourishing.

It’s a cultural moment that Andrew Stephen, writing with an outsider’s eye for the British magazine the New Statesman last month, characterized as a time of “gloating, unshackled sexism of the ugliest kind.” A moment in which things like the formation of a Hillary-bashing political action group, “Citizens United Not Timid,” a “South Park” episode featuring a nuclear weapon hidden in Clinton’s vagina, and Internet sales of a Hillary Clinton nutcracker with shark-like teeth between her legs, passed largely without mainstream media notice, largely, perhaps, because some of the key gatekeepers of mainstream opinion were so busy coming up with various iterations of the nutcracker theme themselves. (Tucker Carlson on Hillary: “When she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs.” For a good cry, watch this incredible montage from the Women’s Media Center.)

Stephen is not the first commentator to note that if similarly hateful racial remarks had been made about Obama, our nation would have turned itself inside out in a paroxysm of soul-searching and shame. Had mainstream commentators in 2000 speculated, say, that Joe Lieberman had a nose for dough, or made funny Shylock references, heads would have rolled – and rightfully so.

But 16 months of sustained misogyny? Hey — she asked for it. With that voice, (“When Hillary Clinton speaks, men hear, ‘Take out the garbage’ ” Fox News regular Marc Rudov, author of “Under the Clitoral Hood: How to Crank Her Engine Without Cash, Booze, or Jumper Cables,” said in January). With that ambition, and that dogged determination (“like everyone’s first wife standing outside a probate court,” according to MSNBC commentator Mike Barnicle) and, of course, that husband (Chris Matthews: “The reason she’s a U.S. Senator, the reason she’s a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around.”). Clearly, in an age when the dangers and indignities of Driving While Black are well-acknowledged, and properly condemned, Striving While Female – if it goes too far and looks too real — is still held to be a crime.

In a culture that’s reached such a level of ostensible enlightenment as ours, calling a powerful woman “castrating” – however you choose to put it – ought to be seen as just as offensive as rubbing your fingers together to convey a love of gold coinage when you talk about a Jew. It’s nothing other than an expression of woman-hate — and the degree to which such expressions have flourished, in the mainstream media and in the loonier reaches of cyberspace this year, has added up to be a real national shame.
In lieu of Warner's comments on Sex in the City, I give you Jezebel's take on the nonplussed attitudes toward female sexuality expressed by many of Sex and the City's male film critics.

In other news, Hi! What have you been up to, my friends? Check out the comments on "Titles of Great American Novels," below. Clem and the Big Brunette have supplied some gems.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Titles of Great American Novels

1. The Seventh Sandwich
2. Her Name Was Sienna
3. A Very Old Woman with Lint in Her Hair
5. I See London, I See France

Any titles up your sleeves?


Sunday, April 13, 2008

White Glove

I'm a sucker for a sight gag.

And this is how it was done.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Adam and Eve and Steve

One more. Then I'll stop.

Adam & Eve & Steve from kschaal on Vimeo.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Stuff White People Like

3. Film Festivals
7. Diversity
16. Gifted Children
18. Awareness
23. Microbreweries
62 Knowing What's Best for Poor People

God, I hate white people.

What's that you say? I am white?


Catch the full list of Stuff White People Like.

Smoking Is Bad

For Flight of the Conchords fans.

Smoking is Bad from kschaal on Vimeo.

Angry Erotic Sheep in the Woods

Temptress at work.

Angry Erotic Sheep in the Woods from kschaal on Vimeo.

Dick Cavett on G.W. Bush

From Cavett's very charming New York Times blog:

His speechifying has a strong odor of remedial reading about it, combined with an apparent fear that there might be some hard words ahead.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Mean Lady Writer

Reading Nightwood for my exams. I think Djuna Barnes hates this character:
She defiled the very meaning of personality in her passion to be a person.
She wanted to be the reason for everything and so was the cause of nothing.
She was one of the most unimportantly wicked women of her time.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Herding Cats

I like the guy with the lint roller.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Mystery Solved

I've been putting off writing my Composition 102 syllabus for five days (120 hours). In those five days I've slept, cried, failed to return phone calls and emails, slept some more and cried some more.

It has not been a good five days.

Today I had an insight: I don't want to teach Composition 102.

Ergo, I don't want to write the syllabus for Composition 102.

Aha! Mystery solved. It only took me five days (120 hours) to figure that out.

I know. I need to suck it up and get over myself like the rest of the frigging English department.

But oh, this quarter! So much to dread, so little to look forward to. The studying for comprehensive exams. The writing of overdue papers long gone cold. The revising of stories I've revised so much I can't remember the originary joy that sparked them. Kristi M. asked me how my writing was going the other night, a perfectly kind question, and I responded like an insect facing the entomologist's pin.

And the grey, and the cold.

Readers, friends: help me have fun this quarter. Road trips, pirate movies, Target. Stupid shit like that. Help me remember that joy is why I write (or wrote).

Monday, December 03, 2007

Famous People I'm Sort of Related To

1. My cousin, a nice Jewish girl who married a baron. A fucking baron! Now her kids are barons and baronesses. I hate her.

2. When Joni Mitchell lived in Detroit during the sixties, guess who her doctor was? My Uncle Sid! I pumped him for stories a couple years back. He said, "She was in crappy shape."

3. I once worked at a restaurant in the Philadelphia theater district. This one time, Robert Goulet came in. I didn't wait on him, but this other girl did. I can't remember what she said about him.

4. My cousin-once-removed was in the Incredible String Band. He was a scientologist, I think.

5. This film producer is my brother's wife's uncle. When the concentration camps were liberated, he and Alfred Hitchcock filmed them for the British government. At Thanksgiving, I said, "Does Hitchcock do a little cameo, like of him slumped in the gas chambers or digging a mass grave?" My family stared at me in silence. God, I crack myself up.

Reader, I touch thee with my meme: what famous people are you sort of related to?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Collected Poems

Sophia over at Intagliod Up in Blue has a poem up by Kenneth Rexroth, "Runaway." One day in the nineteen eighties, my father took a used copy of Rexroth's Collected Shorter Poems from his briefcase and left it on the hall table. After he'd gone up to his study, I flipped through it, spied the words breast, thigh, erotic, and secreted it in my purse. My father never asked about his book. Same goes for his copies of Roethke, Hopkins, and a Penguin Poetry of the Forties.

My father and I didn't talk much. I was prickly, fragile, an ethereal machine of anger, and he wore his melancholy as a privacy. If you asked him, he would say he was tired from work, is all, and look away. Knowing him, I wouldn't be surprised if he failed to register the disappearance of his purchases.

But still, the exchange transpired: his briefcase, our hall table, my purse, my bedtable. And the books are still on my shelf. Twenty years later, I still read them. They succor me. They succor the ghost, the mouse, the thief I once was.

Is a gift that fails to recognize itself as such still a gift?


Died June, 1916

Under your illkempt yellow roses,
Delia, today you are younger
Than your son. Two and a half decades--
The family monument sagged askew,
And he overtook your half-a-life.
On the other side of the country,
Near the willows by the slow river,
Deep in the earth, the white ribs retain
The curve of your fervent, careful breast;
The fine skull, the ardor of your brain.
And in the fingers the memory
Of Chopin etudes, and in the feet
Slow waltzes and champagne twosteps sleep.
And the white full moon of midsummer,
That you watched awake all that last night,
Watches history fill the deserts
And oceans with corpses once again;
And looks in the east window at me,
As I move past you to middle age
And knowledge past your agony and waste.

- Kenneth Rexroth

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

I Am a Cultured Person and This Proves It

Monday, September 24, 2007

Oh, I Get It

It's a porn search. Never mind.

Give Me Pink Wanda

That's the latest Google search term to show up on my Statcounter. I salute you, Berlin, Germany! And I hope you find that Pink Wanda.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I Collect Titles

. . . and write them in a little notebook. Here are some.

1. Proportion Not the Cause of Beauty in Vegetables. Chapter title from Edmund Burke's A Philosophical Enquiry. Courtesy PG.

2. The Magic Pants of Doom and The Fucking Ice. Titles of stories written by real-life undergrads. Awesomeness.

3. Suddenly, Eggs! Courtesy AM Fine.

4. Debris. Poem title free to Jorie Graham knocker-offers.

5. The Corrections. The title of my next novel.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I Caught this Morning Morning's Minion, King-

This morning I noticed a morning glory vine twined around the No Parking sign on the corner. I walked over and stood by it a while. The bees nosed down the snouts of flowers, the leaves nodded in the breeze, and sunlight dappled over the spun green mess of the thing. I breathed. A sense of well-being permeated me like sugar melting in warm butter. I ran inside, got my camera, and shot some pictures.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Memoirize Yourself!

Bored? Mendacious? It's time to write your memoir! Simply fill out the handy-dandy survey, and the Memoirizer will compose a blurb. Here's mine:




In WHO I WAS, WHO I AM, AND WHO I WANT TO BE, Wanda Ball tells the almost too- remarkable-to-be-true story of her rise from villain to hero, including her struggle to overcome her sexual voraciousness, her troubled relationship with her partner and children, and her addiction to drugs, all of which lead her to a life of crime and to rehab, where she found redemption and the strength and wisdom to write this cautionary memoir about the power and resiliency of the human condition.

Inspiring, huh? Let the bidding war commence!

Courtesy of the website for Brock Clarke's An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Does anybody know

. . . how to get the time-date stamp off digital photos (like the ones below)? So ugly. Gah.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

First I visited my family at the shore in Massachusetts . . .

My mother snips herbs onto oven-baked chicken. Yum!

Action shot! L to R: my sister Elgene, nephew Sammy, and his buddies Jake and Jake (I know) decorate Sammy's birthday cake.

Birthday cake decorated with M & M's, pretzel logs,nonpareils, electric blue icing, gummi peach rings, the number one, yellow licorice, gummi bears, chocolate icing, and gummi worms. It's not too much, is it?

Enough with the food photos. Let's see some dog shit! Our "eccentric" neighbor placed a tiny homemade sign in each dog turd on the street in front of her house.

I drove to New York to interview Famous Writer Lady and do some sightseeing.

Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, NY.

Wing's Castle, Millbrook, NY. A fantastical dwelling built by Peter and Toni Wing using mostly discarded materials.

An alcove.

Handmade stained-glass windows. The colors!

Performing Arts Center designed by Frank Gehry, Bard College. The roof.

Back to food. Del's Dairy Creme, Rhinebeck, NY.

I finished my frozen custard and watched the place close.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hudson, New York

Aug. 7, 2007.

A dusty promenade overlooking the river. Hazy and hot. Below me, two bikini'd teenagers, hip-deep in water, pull a motorboat toward a boat ramp. A man backs a boat trailer down the ramp until the trailer is submerged, and the girls slide the boat on the trailer with surprising deftness. "We did it, we did it!" they squeal.

Another man sits at a picnic table ten yards away, reading. Occasionally he looks up at the girls and the boat. His heavy-bodied black lab noses around the grass, looks at the girls for his own reasons, and barks. The table stands under a tree by the water, next to a row of small anchored yachts. An oddly domestic scene here at river's edge: the dog, the book, the picnic table. I imagine the man will return to his boat and sleep after night falls.

Across the water is a leafy green island. White birds fly along its shoreline.

Quiescence. Voices, barks, train whistles. The breeze is tuckered out. The humid air exudes a heat that is as much pressure as warmth: hard to move through and inhale. Sound and birds cut through it, quick as blades. Seagulls wheel and keen; I think: effortful meaninglessness.

Monday, August 13, 2007

How to Be Fashionable

This from a profile of British fashion designers Marcus Wainwright and David Neville in Sunday's New York Times. The pair met in boarding school; their designs cost thousands.
"It's important that our clothes have a sense of history," said Mr. Wainwright. "I've been wearing these jeans every day since February, and they've never been washed. I'm breaking them in."
I wonder if crapping your pants will also help that oh-so-special sense of history come alive?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

I was on the phone with my sister Elgene, who was calling from her shore rental.
Elgene: I just saw a crab run across the sofa.

Wanda: Was it really, really tiny? Like, flea-sized? ARE YOU ALL ITCHY DOWN THERE?

Elgene: No. I could see its little pincers. It ran underneath one of the cushions.

Wanda: It might climb up your vagina while you're watching TV.

Elgene: That's exactly what I was thinking!

Wanda: Then it would impregnate you. And your husband would say, I'm sorry, Elgene. You say you've been faithful but THAT SIX-LEGGED CHILD IS NOT MINE.
The thing is, it could totally have happened (the crab part). Someone could've brought it in on their towel or bathing suit, and now it's scuttling around their living room. There might even be a school of minnows or giant squid along for the ride.

Thanks for the good vibes during my interview with her here in New York County. Some of you might have seen her talk in Funkytown last winter so you know she does not suffer fools gladly. Thankfully, the Xanax mickies I slipped her did the trick! And not only that, my Olympus recorder worked beautifully. If you ever need to buy a not-too-expensive voice recorder, ask me.

I know.

Today I visited the Vanderbilt Estate in upstate New York (pic above). I know it's all grand and opulent and shit, but on a certain level, it's hideous, just hideous. The place is crammed with antiques shlepped over from Europe and Asia, and the architecture apes a neoclassic chateau. So much excess and artifice, with the Louis XV bedroom suite (hers) and the embroidered crown over the bed (his). And yeah, they slept in separate bedrooms. All I kept thinking was, these people are deeply unhappy. Who needs to spend so much money to construct an erstaz ancestral past but the desperately insecure?

Sightseeing with a commie. We ruin everything.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hot off the Press!

Buy it now! Poems by a fine poet and dear friend. Lyrical, full of surprises, and fond if ironic, to use the poet's own words.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mr. Hilter

Click here.

Starts slow, worth the wait. Nice suburban couple runs into unexpected guest at mingy seaside boarding house. A plus: see Monty Python subtitled in Portuguese.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Lady Writer

Famous Lady Writer is in town. Tonight she gave a talk on the relationship between writers' fictions and their real lives. She began her talk by recounting a comment she received at a reading: "You write so convincingly about adultery! Have you ever had an affair?" (The answer was no).

Famous Lady Writer went on to discuss Lorrie Moore, whose "People Like That Are the Only People Here" was billed as fiction when it was published in the New Yorker, yet was accompanied by Moore's photo and a pull quote: "Are you taking notes?" "No." "You're not?" "No, I can't. Not this! I write fiction. This isn't fiction." Famous Lady Writer argued that the New Yorker gratuitously blurred the lines between Moore the writer and Moore the person.

Famous Lady Writer also cited Alice Munro as an example of a writer who couldn't possibly draw from her own life for her fiction, because her stories incorporate such a wide variety of plots and characters. Her comment piqued my interest; first, because I adore Munro, and second, because Munro strikes me as precisely the kind of writer who's always mined her biography heavily, from her early stories of clever, ambitious girls escaping the provinces at whatever moral cost, to her later stories of successful, creative women older women from the provinces reckoning with aging parents, troubled adult children, and past loves. The interesting question for me is how Munro is able to remain so compelling, despite a certain obsessive recycling of themes and characters.

So in the Q & A following her talk, I asked Famous Lady Writer what she thought. I prefaced my question with the comment, "I'm sure you've read much more Munro than I have."

Famous Lady Writer: Well, if you read more Munro, I think you'll see what a range she has. Especially now, she writes so much about mortality.

Me: Yes, I think her characters are aging with her.

Famous Lady Writer: If you read more Munro, you'll see that I'm right.

Honestly, what kind of rhetorical strategy is that? I don't know whether I'm more chagrined by her patronizing attitude or by my tactical error: my initial show of deference invited her condescension. She took my rhetorical humility at face value. Doesn't she know she's supposed to respond in kind, with her own show of modesty?

I change my mind: I heart Famous Lady Writer. She's been with us all week, and she's lovely: warm, down-to-earth, approachable. I don't know what was up the night of her reading, but please don't hold it against her.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

1 2 3 4

This video by Feist will put a smile on your face and a blue jumpsuit on your soul. And the best part is, she's Canadian.

I'm back in town, playing catchup, getting used to walls, and missing the antelope. I know you won't rest till you've seen this list:

Animals I Have Seen in Wyotana

Wild turkey, deer, antelope, sandhill crane, golden eagle, garter snake in grass, sheep, cattle, dead mouse, housecat, rabbit, rabbit mounting another rabbit, rabbit smoking cigarette, coyote, big fish leaping out of creek, prairie dog, weasel, red-tailed hawk, red-winged blackbird, magpie, skunk (smelled rather than seen), barred owl, pheasant, flicker, rough-legged hawk, horses, moonlight, cowboy, ghost.

Photo taken outside Devils Tower National Monument, WY.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ranch Tour

Read some Fine poems here.

On a ranch tour today, I learned that vetch is a good forb; a lek site is the intimacy room of the sage grouse; a golden eagle will kill a sheep, lug it thirty feet in the air to its nest, and eat it; the residency foundation is trying to get federal designation as an Important Bird Area (I.B.A.); and antelope run seventy miles an hour.

The picture above is of the creek (crik) behind my studio. Storm's a comin'.

I'll give you a buck if you write a poem or short short (Clem!) entitled "Important Bird Area."

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Monday, April 23, 2007

More Blogs!

Good Lord! New Funkytown blogs are popping up faster than Divine can lick poo off the sidewalk (that's for you, L-bo). Click on them over there in my Blogroll >>> and enjoy.

What's new at the Manly Rural Writing Residency:

1. Bunnies courting. I watch them from my studio window. They touch noses, hop straight into the air, disappear for a while, and return smoking cigarettes.

2. Taxidermy. People really go for that here.

3. N, a filmmaker and scrabble-playing genius, taught us this immortal line from the Patty Duke Show theme song: "A hotdog makes her lose control."

4. "Brokeback Mountain" (the story) was written here, in this very writing retreat. Or around here. Maybe. Anyway. I read the story in my studio and sobbed uncontrollably for an hour, as I did after seeing the movie. Oh, the thwarted lives. The thwarted loves.

5. Writing. Yup, doing that too.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pet Stop

Hello all,
My posting will be spotty for the next two weeks--another writing project. In the meantime, please enjoy this moment, courtesy of a rest stop on route 90 south of Billings, Montana.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

What's in Your Hair?

What's in your hair?

1. Lint.

2. Bluebirds in flight--nondescript little birds until the sun hits their back feathers just right and then it's like God has entered the room. The blue! The blue!

3. Three-pound dumbbell.

4. Stick of margarine.

5. Cloaca.

6. Red-haired girl who sucker-punches you, runs a couple yards away, red hair streaming behind her like a proud flag of pain, then bursts into tears, as if it is you who has injured her.

7. Smaller hair.

8. The Constitution of the United States of America.

This is a meme to all and sundry. What's in your hair?

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Pink for President

Okay, so check out this video of Pink singing "Dear Mr. President." Powerful populist statement or Michael Moore-ish manipulation? She performed this last night on Jimmy Kimmel and I was blown away. Goosebumps on arms, lump in throat, fire in belly. So yeah, it worked its liberal devilry on me. Does it work for you?

I think you should show this to your students and ask them to do a rhetorical analysis of it. Logos, pathos, ethos.

I should note that Pink is a Philly girl like me, and in her butch haircut and hippie sundress, she exemplified everything fine and good about that town. She was relaxed, unpretentious, sharp, and funny.

Although if we'd met in high school she'd probably have kicked my ass.

I just substituted a clip of her singing on Kimmel for the clip I'd originally linked to. This one's better, more restrained. Plus she *sniff* salutes during the line about the troops.

My God, am I a sucker.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007


Now that I've got your attention: just added some blogger friends to my blogroll, right--something I've been meaning to do for ages. Hope y'all enjoy reading them as much as I do.

Family Music. Sufjan Stevens. All Popular.

Before you had your own, what was your family music?

The soundtrack to the Band's "The Last Waltz" has been cued in my sister's station wagon for months. Funny to think that her two kids, born 1991 and 1994, now know all the songs by a band that made musical history forty years ago. The kids have their favorites. They sing along. This is the music that will be ground deep into their emotional DNA: the sound of family, claustrophobia, love, history.

My family music nobody's heard of anymore. Did anybody else out there listen to Jesse Colin Young and the Youngbloods? Loose-limbed, hippie-lyrical improvisations on guitar, keyboard, and drums. Or Judy Collins? Nothing like Judy Collins to place you as the child of liberal urban academics. Brecht's wrathful "Kill them now . . . or later?" is a great line for any little girl to spout at the dinner table.

Last night I saw Sufjan Stevens, who sings a lot about childhood, family car trips, and memory. Like the Beatles or Glenn Miller, he has a genius for harnessing orchestral power in service of a pop sensibility. The band last night included a French horn, bassoon, string quartet, fifth violin, electric guitar, piano, keyboard, pump organ, and female backing vocalist. Sans bass and drums, Sufjan relies on equal parts rigor and invention to supply that visceral rock rush. His methods include dramatic surges in volume and tempo, percussive passages played by the band en masse, and crackerjack timing by all parties. It sounds fucking great.

I confess, I'm not crazy about Sufjan's hushed, deadly earnest acoustic numbers. Did I mention I despise Bright Eyes? Also, some of his childhood reminiscences come off as a little fey or twee or something. Singing exclusively about childhood marks you as an artist not yet out of your adolescence. At the same time Stevens's idiosyncratic lyrics are a refreshing alternative to the usual pop fare, so I won't complain.

Ever since I "chose" to switch to Blogger Google Beta, or whatever the fuck they call it, my hitcount has ballooned obscenely. Like from thirteen to 168 visitors to Wanda Ball a day. All Google Image hits. Sweaty fourteen-year-olds furtively seeking out pictures of tanning bed himbos, Zach Hanson, Johnny Knoxville. This is not my audience, people. Should I limit the site feed? I don't want to cut off folks searching for stuff about AWP, New Stories from the South, or writing residencies. At the same time, I can't start soliciting ads and make money off the increased traffic, because these images, are, ahem, borrowed from other sources. What should I do, people? Vise me.

Check out Chickywang's Sufjan report. Dang she funny.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Annals of Sexism in the Literary World, Pt 20 Million

This just in from Reuters:

Impac Dublin Literary Award Finalists Announced
Salman Rushdie of Britain, Cormac McCarthy and Jonathan Safran Foer of the US, and J. M. Coetzee of South Africa made it to the shortlist of eight contenders yesterday for the $135,500 International Impac Dublin Literary Award, billed as the world’s richest prize for a single work of fiction. Other finalists are Per Petterson of Norway, Peter Hobbs and Julian Barnes of Britain and Sebastian Barry of Ireland.

Let me recap: the world's most valuable literary prize--more generous than the Nobel, the Pulitzer, or the Mann Booker Prize--will go to one of seven men, not a women in the lot and only one person of color.

Good thing, too. What would we spend the money on? Baubles? Midol? Tampons?

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

May the Bluebird of Happiness

Dear Readers: I'm taking a two-week break to WRITE STUFF and won't be posting much. This morning I saw one of these, above. Good sign, huh? The only better omen would be a nice, crisp hundred-dollar bill on the sidewalk. I was about to say, "on my pillow in the morning," but then I realized that might give you the wrong idea.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

I Like Having Poets for Friends

Sophia has come through with a wonderful Fun Gift Unit, I mean poem. Read it. It's delicious!

And now it's your turn.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Fun Gift Unit

That's all I have to say.

Actually, it's the title of an email in my bulk mail folder. I love this phrase and I want you to write a poem about it.

Yes, you.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Ann Coulter Is Vicious and Anorexic

The first is a character flaw, the second a disease. But really, what if the two are related? What if Ann just had a nice meal--a big bowl of pasta and a piece of pie, say. Then, maybe? She would quit with the homophobic slurs and the personal attacks on grieving women.

My diagnosis isn't based on her publicity photos alone. Oh no, I have evidence. My sister went to a swanky Brooklyn party where Coulter was a guest. Coulter's emaciated state was unmistakeable and disturbing. My sister and her friends had that queasy feeling you get when a bad person is very, very sick. Sort of like the feeling Roy Cohn, notorious gaybasher, Joe McCarthy hatchet man, and closet case, must have elicited from his enemies in the last stages of his AIDS-related dementia.

So Ann? Go on. Check yourself into rehab. And be nice.


Thursday, March 08, 2007


Here are A and K, co-directors of the best arts center/ writing residency in the world. Aren't they adorable?

I highly recommend their place, which they've literally built with their own hands. (And I don't mean literally like I literally had a cow). Google it--it's the only writing residency in Arizona.

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How to Save Money

. . . courtesy of VIZ magazine. I especially like the suggestion for "repurposing" old phone books.

1. Foil pick-pockets by placing a freshly toasted "pop tart" in each pocket. Would-be thieves will quickly rupture the fragile pastry and receive nasty finger burns from the steaming hot jam inside.

2. A length of plastic drainpipe with a roller skate at each end makes an ideal home-made "car" for snakes.

3. Stop bread from drying out by keeping it in a bucket of water.

4. Don't waste money buying expensive binoculars. Simply stand closer to the object you wish to view.

5. Avoid jet lag by simply taking an earlier flight, thus arriving fully refreshed and on time.

6. Put a stop to car thieves by siphoning off all your gas whenever you park your car, and carrying it round with you in one or two plastic buckets.

7. Always keep a stick of butter in your pocket so that if you get your head stuck in railings you'll be able to grease your ears and slide out.

8. Old telephone directories make ideal, free personal address books. Simply cross out the names and addresses of people you don't know.

Find the full list at

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Daddy, Daddy, I'm Through

According to the new issue of Blueprint magazine (Martha Stewart's new name-free print vehicle),

setting up a home bar doesn't have to be a headache.

In fact, after you follow Blueprint's insanely elaborate directions,

you can have a spread that will impress amateurs--and make professionals nod in quiet approval.

"Nod in quiet approval"? Whose fantasy is this? After the nod of quiet approval, does the "professional" whisper in your ear, "Now Daddy loves you, even though you're a dirty, dirty whore"?

Oh, wait. That's my fantasy.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Arizona. Now, with Photos!

Everybody else is blogging AWP-Atlanta, and I'm feeling left out. Mind you, I could have gone to Atlanta. I chose not to. God knows why. I had to do my laundry or something.

What'd I do instead of partying in Atlanta? I polished off the story revision I was working on in Tucson. I mailed out another story and met the new crew of Funkytown University grad student recruits. Howdy, suckers! What a rare experience it is to sell my experience here in Funkytown--telling the recruits how much I've learned and how much I admire the faculty, all of which is true--even as I refrain from telling these fresh-faced young folks that my two-and-a-half years here have been the unhappiest of my life. They don't need to know that, do they? Shh. It will be our little secret.

I think the best solution to Funkytown is getting the hell out of it. Two weeks after returning from Tucson, I'm still feeling focused, productive, and upbeat. (Of course, it helps to know that I'm leaving town again in another two weeks).

Let's look at some Tucson pictures, shall we?

I think I kind of fell in love with Tucson.

Something about the light. Arrowing down through the empty blue air, it lends an iconic presence to everything. The most banal objects--tree, house, car--are lit up like God's own, viz:


and even:

Here's what John P. Klum, an early settler of the region, had to say about Arizona:

I loved the west. The open spaces. The desert mountains; the illusions and disillusions.

The museum in Tombstone had a photograph of Klum: mounted on horseback, sporting a duster and shaggy beard, he looks like Warren Beatty in McCabe and Mrs. Miller. He was an easterner who never went back. Buried three wives here. Started a newspaper, more loyal to the Apaches than his government or peers. I see how these people, the people I met on my first night in Tucson and Klum back at the turn of the century, fell in love with this place. It's a place to come clean, to imagine yourself all over again, to believe that you'll never fall for an illusion or settle into disillusionment again.

Photo Stuff
Click to enlarge. They look way better.
1. Gates Pass, Tucson, sunset
2. Nopale fruit (I ate the flesh and got some hair-thin spines embedded in my lips)
3. Mission San Javier del Bac, Tucson
4. Dot's Diner, Bisbee
5. U of Arizona scoreboard viewed from university library, sunset

These photos are my own. More to come!

Lest you imagine I spent my writing residency sightseeing and eating bonbons, photos 2-4 were taken after my residency was over.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Arizona Journal, Day 6

Today I went to this really old church. That's a picture of it above--Mission San Xavier del Bac. It must have been older than my dad! It had statues of a bunch of gay-looking people and the paintings looked like the artist just dropped Ecstasy. I'd rather have gone to the mall, but at least it was free.

Not really. Inside, the ornamentation is multiform, profuse, exuberant. The walls and ceiling are larded with bright sculptures of saints. Outside, the church is immaculately white. A Native American family--the church is on the Tohono O'odham Res--sold me fry bread. It's like funnel cake--dough dropped in fat and deep-fried, then slathered in cinnamon sugar or refried beans. Some scruffy dogs circled and begged scraps.

A British couple stood in front of a statue of a saint clad in Native garb.

She: I have no idea who she is.
He: Local girl who made good?

In other news, Woodmere, New York found me through this Google search:

My own apartment, a car, and plenty of women. And still, goddamnit, I’m lonely.*

Very noir, Woodmere. Very noir. What are you, twelve?

*This sentence does not appear in my blog.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Arizona Journal, Day 5

Thank you, Round Rock, Texas, for my first Google hit after posting last night:

masturbation tanning beds male

Yes, my sweaty-palmed friend, with your weirdly colonized erotic imagination, you're what makes it all worthwhile. Copyediting, scouring the internet for images, laborious keying in of HTML code. Hope it was as good for you as it was for me.


Today I have nothing Arizona to blog about, so instead I will do this meme originated by Crazy Little Thing Called Blog: five songs that make you feel incredible.

I'm a lot older than Crazy so I get to pick more songs.

Also I'm a depressive, so nothing makes me feel "incredible," as you put it, short of crack cocaine. So here it is, folks . . . .


1. Marquee Moon by Television. An inordinate amount of great pop music is about heroin. Come to think of it, give me Lou Reed's whole back catalogue.

2. Sweet-Lovin' Man by Magnetic Fields.

3. Take Me to the River by Al Green. Also Pretty Woman. Less famous than Talking Heads' and Roy Orbison's covers, but maybe better. Green's got a way with syncopated, mid-tempo funk. The soul of slink!

4. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue by Van Morrison and Them. Also Mystic Eyes and TB Sheets. Van's early stuff kills me. Check out the organ intro.

5. Baby, You're a Big Girl Now by Bob Dylan. Can I just claim the whole album Blood on the Tracks? Please?

6. Jackson and If I Were a Carpenter by Johnny and June Carter Cash. Their harmonies slay me. Speaking of great husband-and wife-teams . .

7. In this House that I Call Home and The New World by X.

8. Break up the Family by Morrissey.

9. Anodyne by Uncle Tupelo. Ok, it makes me feel awful. But I love feeling awful.

10. Sweet Lil Thing by the Eels.

11. Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd. It's a Florida thang, y'all.

Too many songs by Aimee Mann, Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry, and Tom Verlaine to count.

12. I've Been Loving You Too Long by Otis Redding.

13. King Harvest Has Surely Come by the Band. Also please may I have Tears of Rage and Stage Fright.

14. Teardrop by Massive Attack.

15. I Believe When I Fall in Love with You It Will Be Forever by Stevie Wonder.

16. Chicago by Sufjan Stevens. Orchestral pop confection with abrupt tempo changes. What's not to love?

17. Sexy Motherfucker by Prince.

18. Astral Weeks by Van Morrison. The whole album. You want me to choose? Go ahead, make me. I dare you.

I meant to post this like three weeks ago but Blogger was all fucked up. Here it is: great new poems in Coconut.

Now I touch you with my dirty, dirty meme: Coral and Clem. Clem: you're the guy I went to Subtropic U with, in case you forgot your top-secret fake blogger name. And maybe Amfine and Kristi Maxwell, if you're reading this?


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Arizona Journal, Day 4

I'm eating a late lunch at Pancho Villa's, a Mexican dive here on 4th Avenue. Not bad--eggs with chorizo, refried beans, and fried potatoes. The salsa is good, even the mild stuff my gringa stomach likes. Best of all is the horchata, the creamy, cinnamon-spiced rice drink that soothes my burning throat and mouth. Guerro Canelo is next on my list, a lunch place on 12th Street suggested by the hippie dude at Cup Cafe. It's in the barrio, and as y'all know, I love restaurants where I'm the only whitey/anglo/gringa in the joint. I just point and grunt at the food on my neighbors' table and the waitstaff seems to understand.

I was up till 5:30 this morning writing. Of course, most of that time was spent chastising myself for my lack of emotional self-sufficiency (I'm lonely), discipline (I don't start writing till midnight), and worldly success (I'm living on tortillas and beans). Then I said, "Oh, fuck it," and got to work.

I did indeed write too much, as I warned myself against yesterday, succumbing because this full-fledged scene I cooked up solves lots of the problems of the first draft. But also because it's a doozy! A teenaged boy masturbating to a scientific article! It was so fun imagining myself into his consciousness. Although I'll have to vet the scene with a certified Man--I don't have, um, first-hand knowledge of all the mechanics. Insert poorly-executed wink here. Tonight I see if there's any way to integrate the scene more fully, without upsetting the balance of the story. Is this interesting to you? It's not interesting, is it. Just think about the masturbation part. That's exciting. Oh, I can just see the Google hits piling up.

Sign of the day: Old Pueblo Parking Lot. Just pitiful, people, in so many ways.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Arizona Journal, Day 3

Yesterday, I took a walking tour of El Presidio, a historic area downtown near the Convention Center. The architecture is beautiful and eclectic, influenced by Native, Victorian, Mission, and Frank Lloyd Wright styles. Many of the houses along Main Street have thick adobe walls dressed up with Victorian gingerbread and lace curtains. I loved seeing the Anglo styles mixed up with desert vegetation: dracaena, saguaro, prickly pear.

In the cool, tiled courtyard of the Pima County Courthouse (pictured), I came upon a young guy in gangsta threads with a lowrider bicycle. The wheels were maybe a foot tall, and it was outfitted with leather seat, twisted gold metal trim, and chrome name plates. He wouldn't let me take a picture because he does tours, taking ten of the bikes at a time out to Vegas. A teenaged couple walked up and admired the bike while I plied the guy with questions. He made the seat cover from an old purse; he fashioned a medallion for himself from a gold bicycle chain and scrap leather. When I told him he was a real artist, he said, "Naah, I just get bored."

As I was attempting to peek over the wall of El Presidio Inn Bed and Breakfast, a sixtyish couple emerged from their SUV and motioned me over to the back door of the compound. "Would you like to see the courtyard?" It was lush and beautiful, with fountains and lemon trees. It's amazing what a skirt, a camera, and a hopeful look will do for you in this town. I've met more people here in three days than in three years in Funkytown.

Late last night I had an insight into the revision process. I tend to write short and tight; seven-page stories are the norm for me. Not to boast or anything, but my first drafts tend to be highly polished, allusive, and concise. While I can't spin an action-packed yarn to save my life, economical I can do. People have said to me, Revision must be a breeze for you--your work is polished already. But in truth, revision is hell for me, hell! When your stories are only seven pages long, rewriting is like performing brain surgery on an infant: one tick of the knife, and you've murdered the baby.

Part of the reason I've sent so few stories out is because nothing feels done; half-revised stories lie around my desk like the toaster oven your big brother disassembled when he was ten and never quite put back together. But last night, it hit me: the reason I’ve had such a lack of success with revision is that I try to do too much. I insert a full-fledged scene when a single sentence is all that’s required, I cut a paragraph when a word will do. Part of the problem may be, dare I say it, inappropriate advice; most teachers are used to guiding students who write too much rather than too little. (In fact, most people write too much, rather than too little, a state of affairs I’d give my eyeteeth for). So the teachers advocate a slash-and-burn approach, when, in truth, for work on this scale, tiny adjustments are all that’s required to make a huge impact.

This is a shiny-new, twelve-hour-old theory. I hope I’m right here. It’s not just me who thinks my current revisions aren’t satisfactory; my professors send them back, too. And for the sake of my sanity and self-esteem, I need a publication bad. Any publication at all—at this point, some ten-year-old's Xeroxed zine will do. Know any?

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Arizona Journal, Day 2

Last night I went on a walk and ended up at the bar of the Cup Cafe, the nice little restaurant inside the famed Hotel Congress. A fiftyish hippie dude--"I'm not from here, I came here in the seventies"--told me he likes to compose haiku when he bicycles. The motion of his peddling sets the rhythm of his poems. When he gets off the bike, he runs to his desk and writes down the finished poem. On my other side sat a chic fortyish woman from Montreal, in town for the giant annual Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase. She told me she was a gemologist, which at first I thought was something like a cosmetologist, but apparently it requires rigorous schooling involving geology and math and other things.

After dinner I came home to a big party for A's birthday. Lots of interesting people there--A & K have great friends--and I got to see the big house where A & K live. Dang! It has sixteen-foot beamed ceilings, tile floors, and adobe walls. The high ceilings give everything a kind of drama and import, as if this is the party that will be written up in poetry biographies forty years later.

D, one of the other residents, asked me if I read when I'm in the middle of a writing project. Sometimes, I said. I can't, he said. It's like trying to remember one song when another is playing. Isn't that great?

The night before last, A. said to me, "As much as I hate people, I love them." Happy birthday, dude.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Arizona Journal, Day 1

In the north, the mountains.

Above the buses and sidewalks, above the shoppers and dogs, above the cacti and willows and cowboy drunks, the Santa Catalina mountains. They're there like a recurring dream or the idea of something: God, your mother, someone’s death. Irreducible, eventual.

I flew into Phoenix Thursday night around 9:30. The interstate down to Tucson was crowded with trucks. We sped past a landscape of degraded genericness: gas stations, strip malls, fast food joints, each highly lit and marked with aggressive particularity. I peered out the van window at the full moon and tried to imagine this land as it was fifty years ago, desert. Gorgeous austerity. Even when we reached an empty stretch of highway, lit towns and exurbs hovered at the fringes of the horizon. We were always on the edge of somewhere.

I’m doing a two-week stint at a writers’ residency in Tucson, Arizona. A and K, the women who run it, are lovely. Last night I went out with them to Grill, an all-night joint on Congress. A two-man band played rockabilly. The snaggle-toothed singer, his face framed by sweeping, pencil-thin sideburns, played the guitar and worked the drum with his foot. His face contorted with effort as he sang. Two women at my table got up and danced together beautifully, one smiling, the other solemn. When the band took a break I talked to a woman with a fedora perched on her messy blond hair. She told me that Tucson is a vortex, a center of energy. You’ll meet a person and realize, that was the person I was meant to meet. All the people I talked to had the same mystical feeling about Tucson, about its lively shambly quality and friendly creative folks. I guess the ones who don’t have that feeling, leave. I listened to them with a sense of longing and disbelief.

The colony is housed in a historic Mexican compound at the end of a busy, artsy strip. A and K have renovated the whole place themselves, lovingly outfitting each cottage with thrift-shop furniture and artwork by friends. Outside, cacti and palm trees edge winding paths strung with colored lights. It’s really wonderful. You’ve got to come here, people!

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Greedy versus Fair

In a profile in the January 22 New Yorker, environmentalist Amory Lovins has this to say about the failings of the free market:

Markets are meant to be greedy, not fair. Efficient, not sufficient. They're very good at short-term allocation of scarce resources, but that's all they're good at. They were never meant to tell you how much is enough or how to fulfill the higher purpose of a human being.

I like this approach--it's pragmatic, rather than ideological. Capitalism is good at some things, not so good at others. And his take allows for the existence of the soul.

The soul? What's that if not ideological, you say. But Lovins doesn't allow his stated interest in "the higher purpose of a human being" to cloud his appreciation of capitalism's benefits.

Read the article to get a fuller sense of Lovins's idealistic pragmatism. Can't find it online at the New Yorker? Try Lexis Nexis. Or on top of the toilet tank in your bathroom.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Here's to You, Mrs. Robinson

My handsome, funny teenaged nephew is a celebrity. Go to the Oscars website and click on the promo video. He's the one towards the end of the video with a question for Mrs. Robinson.

Here's the story: Ollie and his buddies were hanging out in Brooklyn, their home turf, when who should walk up to them but Spike Lee, the director of the video. Okay, so maybe not Spike Lee, but Spike Lee's representative. At any rate, his crew filmed them right there, with the kids throwing out lines and Lee, or his representative, running the camera. The spots are written up in today's New York Times (unstable URL) and will be broadcast on ABC starting today.

Woo-hoo! My baby's a STAR.

Alas, the promo video has been removed from the Oscars site, post-show. Too bad. *sigh* Ollie coulda been a contenda.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Touched by a Meme

I saw two red-bellied woodpeckers in the park today. They were high up in the trees, but their powerful bills and meaty little jackhammer bodies cut unmistakable profiles, even at thirty feet. Then the winter sun caught the brilliant red feathers along the back of their heads and necks--the woodpecker mullet--and I knew I was in red-bellied territory.

I've been touched by a meme. What are five little-known facts about you, asks Kristi at .oar. Funny you should ask.

1. I worked as a waitress for fifteen years before I went back to school for my BA. Amazing, because I am only twenty-nine.

2. I've also worked at a dairy farm, test marketing center, and whorehouse.

Okay, I never worked at a whorehouse. But I got you for a moment there, didn't I?

3. I suffer from the same eye ailment that caused James Joyce to go blind (iritis). Due to the miracle of topical steroids, my eyesight is clear as a bell. Or a whistle. Or something.

4. I know a lot about experimental feminist video. Go ahead, ask me. You'll see.

5. I am one lucky duck, but I need to keep reminding myself that.

Now, I touch you with my meme! Go forth and meme! Jezebel? CLT?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Better than Despair

Sophia at Intagliod up in Blue and Chicky Wang are sharing the first poems that knocked their socks off. Here's mine. I stumbled on it at fifteen, a lonely atheist harnessed in an advanced state of adolescent despair. When I read Hopkins's words, I felt my heartbeat quicken and the hairs on the back of my neck prick up. This was better. This was better than despair.

God's Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell; the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs -
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

- Gerard Manley Hopkins

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

How to Find Me

My top internet search referrer is this photo, which I, um, borrowed from another website,, to accompany my mother's recipe for latkes. Sorry for stealing your traffic, Laura!

Here are some other unusual search terms that threw traffic my way.

1. *kyle chandler urinate* This phrase does not appear in my blog. Honest.

2. *melancholy mood eating instead of solving your problems* Aw, sorry hun. I feel your pain.

3. *why do butter tarts go sugary on the bottom* I salute you, Belleville, Ontario! I don't know why they go sugary, but I'll eat them if you don't want them.

4. *give me pic of that one dude that was hanging on a tree while the boat slew up* This is just weird in about five different ways. First of all, "slew." I guess it's a regional thing? Well, I'm going to start using it. All the time. Secondly, who could possibly think that "that one dude" is an appropriate descriptor? I can just imagine Google going, "'That one dude'? I know just who you mean! Hold on a sec while I go get his picture!" And "the boat"? What boat? Oh, of course. That boat. What was I thinking.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

First Snow in Funkytown

I like this picture of a nighttime snowfall by Andrew Luetgers at*

. . . and this one of Broadway by Daniella Zalcman.*

*click to enlarge

Here in Funkytown, specks float downward half-heartededly, as if they are not really all that interested in any of this. They'd rather just look around. The sparse layer of snow atop the pavement and grass looks dirty. Does this count as snow? It doesn't feel like it counts.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I Score a Ten

Here it is: the long-awaited . . .


1. Do you have childhood memories of your brother playing floor hockey with his best friend John Boettgen in the attic above your bedroom, the sound of the puck as it slid over the linoleum flowing into your dreams like the glorious Saint Lawrence River?
a. Yes, all the time.
b. No.
c. Where is the Saint Lawrence River?

2. Could you not get enough of salt-n-vinegar potato chips when you were visiting Welland, Ontario for Passover, yet you promptly forgot about them as soon as you returned home to suburban Philadelphia?
a. My God, yes! How did you know?
b. No.
c. What are salt-n-vinegar potato chips?

3. The Toronto Maple Leafs: talk amongst yourselves.
a. Yes, how did you know?
b. No.
c. Is ice hockey that game with the sticks?

4. Did your father correct you for saying sah-rry like Some Goddamned Statesider, when everybody knows the correct pronunciation is soe-ree?
a. Yes. I'm sorry!
b. No.
c. That's why I've been in therapy for the last twenty years.

5. How do you feel about over-the-counter codeine?
a. It is our God-given right!
b. No.
c. Why. Do you have any?

6. How do you feel about Pierre Trudeau?
a. He was our Canadian JFK!
b. He was our Camelot!
c. He did Margot Kidder, and look at her now.

7. How do you feel about bilingual English/French education?
a. Incroyable.
b. Comme ci, comme ca.
c. C'est affreux!

8. What is a butter tart?
a. A delicious confection containing 10,000 calories per bite. Enjoy!
b. No.
c. Why. Can you get me some?

9. Even though it was sold long ago, will the memory of your late aunt's house in Welland, Ontario always be associated with that distinctive scent of roast beef, history, and home?
a. Yes.
b. No.
c. I do not know of this roast beef of which you speak.

10. How do you feel about statesiders?
a. Bunch of gun-toting morons.
b. Bunch of gun-toting morons.
c. Bunch of gun-toting morons.

All a's: Congratulations! You're ethnic Canadian!
All c's: Congratulations! You're deeply confused!
All b's: Goddamned statesider.

*See previous entry, below.

How Canadian Are You?

Not very. They need to have a test for us "ethnic Canadian" or "hyphenated Canadian" types. And why no questions about butter tarts? What the hell kind of Canadian wrote this thing, anyway?

You are 67% Canuck!

Good for you! You make me sorta proud. Yeah, sorta proud, not really proud, but sorta proud. You show potential and that is something to be sorta proud of. If you actually did well, then I could be really proud, but you didn't so I'm sorta proud.

How Canadian Are You?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Thursday, November 30, 2006

All Positive and Shit

I'm usually not all positive and shit. I'm a Jew, and I consider negative thinking my special inheritance and secret weapon. Hey, it got us through 3,000 years of plagues, exiles, blood libels, pogroms, more exiles, and Holocausts. If you expect the worst, then you're all prepared and shit!

Even so, I'm going to go all Holly Hobby on you today. Imagine my button eyes and stitched-on grin as I tell you


1. This morning I handed in the second of two long papers, both of which I've been working on off and on for a year. I tend to suffer from immobilizing imperfection, so I was trying very hard to follow poet William Stafford's advice and lower my standards. Here's the story: Stafford instructed his students to write a poem a day.

"We can't do that!" said his students.

"Oh yes, you can," said Stafford. "Just lower your standards."

For perfectionists like me who could conceivably produce nothing en route to pursuing perfection, the advice is about the best intervention possible. I wrote my papers! And they're fine! They're not perfect, but they're good enough.

2. At today's optional review session for my American Lit class, my two favorite students showed up. Basically, they asked me questions, and I furrowed my brow earnestly and responded, "Well, what do you think?" in my most professory voice. It's amazing to see them using their imaginations and making the connections. One student compared Young Goodman Brown's long night in the forest to the Indian captivity of Mary Rowlandson. Isn't that great? The other day, another student said about Whitman's
I too am not a bit tamed . . . I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world
that Whitman was referring to the untranslatability of all the new, urban Americans to one another. After a while you feel like, you don't even have to teach them. You just make them read the stuff and they make the connections on their own. It's a pleasure to feel so superfluous.

3. Zade is reading tomorrow! Her poetry is luscious, heartbreaking, and rich in surprise. Plus, she always looks fabulous. Can't wait to see and hear her.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I am in your base killing your dOOds

Ye olde medieval version.

Feeling undigital? Encylopedia Dramatica provides this handy explanation of "I am in your base killing your dOOds":
The phrase originated in on-line multiplayer games such as Command and Conquer. While player one was innocently building tesla coils and general infantry, player two is in player one's base, killing his dOOds. Player one doesn't even notice, so player two sends him a message:

I am in your base killing your dOOds.

This line can be used in many situations. You can use it to tell your friend that you are fucking his wife, to tell a convenience store clerk he is being robbed, or to your colon right before you shove your
Oops! For the first time ever, Wanda Ball edits for tastefulness. You can imagine what comes next. Here's a hint: it has to do with sexually violating one's person using one's own severed member. But I would never say that.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Up Is Up But So Is Down

In a review of Up Is Up But So Is Down: New York’s Downtown Literary Scene, 1974-1992 in Sunday's New York Times Book Review, Meghan O'Rourke laments the departure of downtown literary culture from New York City. In its place, she suggests, the internet links us to downtowns all over America:
In an era when real estate is costly but virtual space is cheap, the community that once could be found only on Astor Place exists online. Today, there are plenty of magazines and Web sites continuing the do-it-yourself tradition of Downtown. But they’re largely in the yonder regions of America, where outfits like Spork (out of Tucson) and Forklift, Ohio (out of Cincinnati), to name just two I like, are publishing irreverent work that swipes at the mainstream.
Tucson! Cincinnati! Have the cognoscenti gone mad?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Ruth Brown, 1928-2006

My friend Dahlia took me to see Ruth Brown sing at Dino's Lounge in West Philadelphia when I was a teenager. We were the only white people in the place. Brown sang "Mama, He Treat Your Daughter Mean" and a bunch of her other hits just as tough and sassy as you please. Her in-between song pattern was a stitch. At one point, she stopped singing, peered into the audience, and said, "Hey! You two!" The bar manager directed the spotlight on Dahlia and me, and Brown told the audience, "Give 'em a round of applause!"--meaning, give us a round of applause for coming to a "black" bar. Of course we were mortified, unsure how to read Brown's combination of warmth and aggression--just as she wanted, I think. Later, she gestured to her wig and false eyelashes and asked us all if we thought she was beautiful. We did.

Sass is an amazing thing. It builds the ground under you as you walk it. It creates the right to say something like snatching a quarter out of a child's ear. Ruth Brown's sass was bright and sharp as lemon, as copper, as sunlight. Sing on, sing on, sing on.
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