Wednesday, January 28, 2009

...and furthermore: Moo!

Yay for Oxen, including Cows(en)!

Every Chinese New Year I post a Happy one since most of the human population on the earth follow this lunar cycle. I've been chowing down on 'the people's food' after my foray down south and boy could my tummy use the break from the rich Louisiana food. Now I'm having rich Asian food. Not as sleep-inducing but very tasty!

Not that New Year is *all* about the food but folks do celebrate via the plate.

My lovely Korean bodega owner (and if that designation isn't an amalgam that's emblematic of NYC, what is?) said the Ox year is good: hard working, loyal, nice. Well we could all use a bit more of those qualities, no?

"You cannot plough a field by turning it over in your mind."

No need for a poem after that line! (h/t to, Image Credit:


So I got a minute away from my fifth of the apple and hung out in some sunnier climes in the Gulf State of LA. Still the best food on earth (and I don't concede Brooklyn's props -- on *anything*-- easily).

Everything is tasty and everyone is an enabler when it comes to eating, so I just gave up and 'went with the local culture'. I swear I gained about 15 pounds in 3 days. Not a bad way to go.

In addition to the culinary excess, it was great to visit the area again. I hadn't been to the area since FEMA messed up in 2005 (just to jog the memory hole, Katrina did not hit landfall, it was the levee breaking that flooded the area). People are amazingly resilient and the artist community as well as the culture in general is dealing with the inevitable post-traumatic stress of that event. The whole experience gave me food for thought about Americana in general: how we feel separated from 'different' folks near us and how close, and in some ways, unifying an extraordinary collective experience can be. Not trying to romanticize the situation at all, or mitigate the disproportionate number of poor/Black folks affected by the flooding, but just to note the non-visual but no-less substantive relationships between people. Folks seemed more connected somehow. But I'm just a hick from the Northeast and may not know what the deal is. I am a bit romantic though, and do hope this sense of connectedness between communities I felt is, in fact, the case.

Goes to show why, as Sandra Ruiz and I argued in an edition of the journal "women and performance" that policy matters. We focused on art but it is generally the case. I very much hope that the Federal Government will set a tone that trickles down to less divisiveness. Not to negate cultural distinctions -- unique contributions are often worth keeping -- but they don't have to be sources of antagonism to be sources of pride. (Okay, everyone hold hands and sing Kumbaya! I know, I know. Mushy much?)


by Mary Cornish

Everyone knew the water would rise,
but nobody knew how much.
The priest at Santa Croce said, God
will not flood the church.
When the Arno broke its banks,
God entered as a river, let His mark high
above the altar.
He left nothing untouched:
stones, plaster, wood.
You are all my children.
The hem of His garment, which was
the river’s bottom sludge,
swept through Florence, filling cars and cradles,
the eyes of marble statues,
even the Doors of Paradise. And the likeness
of His son’s hands, those pierced palms soaked
with water, began to peel like skin.
The Holy Ghost appeared
as clouds of salted crystals
on the faces of saints, until the intonaco
of their painted bodies stood out from the wall as if
they had been resurrected.

This is what I know of restoration:
in a small room near San Marco,
alone on a wooden stool
nearly every day for a year,
I painted squares of blue on gessoed boards—
cobalt blue with madder rose, viridian,
lamp black—pure pigments and the strained yolk
of an egg, then penciled notes about the powders,

the percentages of each. I never asked
to what end I was doing what I did, and now
I’ll never know. Perhaps there was one square
that matched the mantle of a penitent, the stiff
hair of a donkey’s tail, a river calm beneath a bridge.
I don’t even know what I learned,
except the possibilities of blue, and how God enters.

PS: if I can figure out how to add an audio clip to my own blog, I'll include one of my song "Katrina Blues" on Elliott Sharp's group Terraplane from the album "Secret Life".

Friday, January 16, 2009

up and running...

Hey Folks:

I am exhausted thinking about the inauguration. You? Even from the NYC it seems like lots of coordinatin'.

There's so much to get going though after the celebrating. I can't believe our pres.-elect is already campaigning for his "new deal". I'm tired just seeing pictures of him in the news online! I can't imagine what it must be like to be running around moving (from the hotel, to Blair House to the White House -- oh and that last move by Bush to delay the Blair House move: could dude be *more* tacky on his way out? John Howard? Please.) Anyway, I guess all that running is part of the job and Obama seems to be diving in feet first before the swearing in, even. These confirmations have been moving forward and the dinners? My goodness I'd take all sorts of preventative antidotes before breaking bread with some of those folks...(I know, right?: New Yorkers and their paranoia.)

After, after and after is everybody's doing though. I feel more pressure to do, be myself. Talk about raising that bar. Feeling kinda positive about it though! Hence the title of this entry.

And speaking of, yay pilot! (RIP, Canadian geese.) We got plenty of drama in the Tristate area. Last thing we need is a plane crash and folks hurt. That was so great that no one was permanently injured or killed. How scary was that?

Well the outgoing White House persona was hitting the trails and creating, as always, great literature to riff off of. De Hudson wuz deep but De Nile....(yeah, I trotted out that oldie. Sue me.) A person who speaks well representing the country. Yay. I may not always agree with Obama but at least my Elements of Style won't automatically freeze up with the collective sympathy pains of the world, when he's talking. (My books are very animated.)

Speaking of old school, here's some poems.

Feliz Enero,

PS: In case it isn't super obvious by now, the poems are an extension of this blog's commentary and, just as the prose isn't usually experimental (even though I'm an 'experimental' poet), most of the poems are fairly transparent as are my little ol' notes. -- t

I Hear America Singing.
Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe
and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deck-
hand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing
as he stands,
The woodcutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morn-
ing, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work,
or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young
fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

I, Too, Sing America
by Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Okay, it's really 2009, right?

Is it just me or is 2009 really here? Takes me about a week, don't know about you (or even a month or so depending on the Chinese New Year calendar. Ox/Cow year is coming up fast.) Feels like everyone is abuzz and seriously moving but cautious about the times...

Being one of the "hypersensitive" artsy-types one of the things I've been feeling is folks just not being into shopping. Even if 'broke-broke' hasn't really hit everyone yet, it's like the superconsumer is passe...Even Bill Cunningham (the NY Times fashion reporter, not the right-wing intolerant), said the new fashion is for the well-to-do to go into their closets and wear stuff they've had for several seasons. I confess: the spry octogenarian-on-a-bike's NYT slideshow is one of my weekly guilty pleasures. (Yeah, so? That's what living a fairly clean-cut life leaves you with -- perusing other's fashion statements).
(See the "Keepers" audio slideshow.)

On the political tip, seems like everyone is hemming in homeslice! *Now* the Democrats are standing up to executive authority...( -- or in Reid's case, kinda slumping? Dude!) And not to be too US of America-centric, but the situation jumping off in Gaza just had to be encouraged by the current, yet absent, administration. What have they been quietly up to since November 4th?

Sam Seder (actor/comedian/pundit) had a really interesting take on this situation, saying that the hard-liners in Israel are positioning a withdrawal just before the American inauguration to shift the focus of the MidEast discussion. There's also a national election coming up in Israel soon, which probably has a bit more than a little to do with the recent war. One thing I do know is Cheney has been seriously trying to get his war on (some more) and it didn't work out to his liking in Iran, though that dude was *pushing it* so here we all are. For other points of view (in the States) it's excellent to check out Cenk Uygur's Young Turks blog and Mark Levine (from the Inside Scoop, not to be confused with the rightwinger Mark Levin, yikes!) and the other progressive, Tikkun writer Mark LeVine. Very different and passionate perspectives. All good folks.

This isn't my area of expertise so I'm checking it like y'all, from afar, to be real about it. Not to be too sentimentally-based and non-analytical but it's just heartbreaking to see all this death and destruction between two historically oppressed and displaced groups of people. Seriously. Makes me wonder if this was all a set up -- grab your makeshift Reynolds Wrap hat! -- it's not like the folks who organized this situation in Europe back in the day weren't anxious to get *both* parties out of the way. How better than for them to fight each other? And then we've got the nuts here right now who want Israel around so Jesus can smite the country later. Same mindset, different century.

Either way, this is a rock and roll year for sure already. You can see my tone is changing a little blogwise: a bit more overt politics, sometimes. If I jump in more with both feet maybe I'll even post more! God forbid!

Below here's a poem to lick: mmm -- yum!


PS: I picked this poem (h/t to because, like all great poems, you can many things into it. Most of the notes on this post can be implicated in it in some way, even oppositional stances. Poems aren't to show what's there, they're to show more. -- t

To me that man seems like a god in heaven (51)
by Gaius Valerius Catullus
Translated by Charles Martin

To me that man seems like a god in heaven,
seems—may I say it?—greater than all gods are,
who sits by you & without interruption
watches you, listens

to your light laughter, which casts such confusion
onto my senses, Lesbia, that when I
gaze at you merely, all of my well-chosen
words are forgotten

as my tongue thickens & a subtle fire
runs through my body while my ears deafened
by their own ringing & at once my eyes are
covered in darkness!

Leisure, Catullus. More than just a nuisance,
leisure: you riot, overmuch enthusing.
Fabulous cities & their sometime kings have
died of such leisure.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Happy New Year!!!!

I am so happy to have made it through 2008! Lots and lots of changes. I don't forsee 2009 being exactly quiet but maybe more productive as folks get into "nose to the grindstone" mode.

The money thing is crazy, crazy and I hope our national leadership can help folks "keep their heads up". Perception is really important and if we think positively...things will *still* be difficult but at least we'll be looking ahead.

For those who didn't make it through to the end of last year, I hope those of us still here can gain comfort through the deep meaning your time on earth gave the rest of us. Lots of losses in the popular arts and more 'off the beaten path" folks. Icons and future icons gone too soon, for us.

Still problems and still possibilities, opportunities. Weirdly, I can't get into the 'bunker mentality' even though all signs indicate that I'm supposed to: Planet's messed up, no money, mo problems, etc. Seems like there hasn't been a moment to relax and rejoice since election day. Maybe I'm a bit on the wrong side here but I just can't buy into the 'nattering nabobs'. I feel that so much of the drama since November has been targeted to keep folks 'anti-optimistic'. Being a contrarian by nature, I just gotta go the other way on it. Hunker down, yes. Bunker, no. (Corny, probably!)

Another poem, as usual, to put the spirit on ya.

xo and hny,

(excerpt) Endymion, Book I, [A thing of beauty is a joy for ever]
by John Keats

Book I

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.