Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Poisoned Minds

I was very disturbed by a news item I read today: the father of a young soldier killed in Iraq won a lawsuit against a fundamentalist Christian group whose mission appears to be to picket funerals of soldiers who have died in action. Seems they are of the belief that we are embroiled in a war in Iraq because of our tolerance for homosexuality. (Huh?) These hatemongers go to the funerals with T-shirts and signs that say, "God hates fags" and "Thank God for dead soldiers". What possesses these people?? It certainly isn't God. They are beneath contempt. I'm no fan of the Iraq War, but how dare they disrupt a somber and personal event like this to advance their own twisted agenda? The father was awarded $11 million, but he'll probably never see most of that money. At least it was a personal victory and a message to these lunatics, one would hope.

Music: One of the most buzz-worthy downloads these days is Radiohead's new album In Rainbows, which is being offered for free (or for whatever you wish to pay for it). It's legitimate and being offered by the band. Here's the link:
Also, Paste Magazine, one of the best music and video review magazines out there, is offering almost-free one year subscriptions (for as little as $1.00, or whatever you wish to pay). Each issue also includes a CD sampler of new music, which is quite good, featuring mainly "adult alternative" stuff. Here is their link:
But hurry! These are available only for a limited time! (That sounds like a "special TV offer pitch, doesn't it?)
The Radiohead CD, by the way, is quite good - much less experimental than the previous few albums - more like a cross between OK Computer and Thom Yorke's recent solo album.

'Tis the season!

Top Ten List: Favorite Halloween Songs
1. Werewolves of London - Warren Zevon
2. Monster Mash - Bobby "Boris" Pickett
3. Thriller - Michael Jackson (worth it just to hear special guest Vincent Price say "yall's"!)
4. Bad Moon Rising - Creedence Clearwater Revival
5. Tam Lin - Fairport Convention
6. Ghostbusters - Ray Parker Jr.
7. Zombie Jamboree - Rockapella
8. Theme from Halloween - John Carpenter (yes, it's a ripoff of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells [theme from The Exorcist] but I find it even creepier)
9. This Is Halloween - Danny Elfman (from Nightmare Before Christmas)
10. Wolf Like Me - TV on the Radio

Poetry: I missed the annual "Harvest of Poetry" book party for the Edison Literary Review - always a nice little fete, with tasty noshes and good poetry from the new issue, hosted by editor Gina Larkin. (It was the day after I returned from Ireland, and between jet-lag and obligations that piled up while I was away, I just couldn't make it. I've missed a depressingly large number of poetry events this year.) Anyway, it's another fine issue, and my poem "Magnetism" (see below) is featured in it. Still no word from Poetry magazine, or Mad Poets Review, though I know I didn't win anything in their annual contest - there's still a chance they'll publish one of my poems, though. I've been writing some poems about Ireland, particularly the natural wonders I saw there, like Ladies View, The Gap of Dunloe, and the Torc Waterfall.


It must have been second grade,
my first encounter with hands-on science,
the day Mr. James stood in front of our class
with a large white cardboard card
littered with hundreds of slivered black bits.

What are they? we wondered.
Ants? Beard trimmings? Chocolate sprinkles?
Then, suddenly they sprang to life,
standing on end like cat hairs,
dancing in waves, circles and arcs, swooping
over the cardboard like a blackbird flock.

These are iron filings, he told the wide-eyed audience;
They make patterns in a magnetic field.
He lifted the card and revealed the conductor
of this miniature ballet: a horseshoe magnet,
red with yellow tips. And I thought,

wouldn’t it be amazing if I could attract
everything I loved in such a way?
Candies, army men, comic books,
puppies, baseball cards, a new bike.
They would arch across a magnetized earth,
dancing right up to my fingertips.
It was much later, though, that I learned
that I would be the sliver, standing on end,
doing other magnets’ bidding.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Back from the Emerald Isle!

Ireland is fantastic! What a beautiful place - you can't swing a camera without finding a perfect scenic shot. We arrived on Saturday Oct. 13 at Killarney Country Club, a timeshare resort near Killarney in County Kerry (southwest Ireland). Our accommodations were comfortable, but there were few amenities and virtually no activities onsite. That was okay, though, because the wife and I intended this as a relaxing holiday for the two of us. Our cottage had a view of the nearby mountains out front and the rolling green hills out back. We went into Killarney, which borders on a huge national park, and explored both the town and the historic and natural sites of the park: St. Mary's Cathedral, Muckross House, Muckross Abbey, Torc Waterfall, Ross Castle, and Innnisfallen Abbey, just to name a few. We also took a bus tour out to the peninsula and the "Ring of Kerry" - splendid sights of the mountains, the Dingle Bay and the ocean, as well as some quaint towns along the way. We also took a day trip to Blarney Castle (my wife kissed the Blarney Stone). But some mornings we'd just sleep in - it was wonderful. (if you'd like to see some of our photos, click here.

Music: Got a good collection in Ireland called A Woman's Heart: Trilogy - it's a box set of three CD's from a series of Irish-based music by women artists like Mary Black, Sharon Shannon, Sinead O'Connor, Maura O'Connell, etc. Some of it gets a bit "poppy", but generally it's a nice series of anthologies - the singing is fine across the board, as are Shannon's instrumentals. It was somewhat of a bargain at 20 Euros.
Also got (from Strangers Alamanac by Whiskeytown, a 1997 release from the band fronted by Ryan Adams and featuring Caitlin Cary (this album also has guest artist Alejandro Escovedo). Really fine alt-country, some of the best I've heard in the genre.

WXPN finished their "885 Most Memorable Musical Moments". No big surprises (especially since the top 100 were pre-packaged, so to speak).
#1 - Woodstock
#2 - Beatles on Ed Sullivan
#3 - John Lennon shot

Poetry: Despite the wondrous landscapes of Ireland, I haven't been inspired to write more than one poem, and that's still a work in progress. I finally relented and sent Poetry magazine a followup letter about status of my submission. No response yet - I don't know what to make of their silence any more.

Poem of the Week: Since Halloween is coming, how about something fun? Here's a Halloween limerick:

A pumpkin from Kalamazoo,
wished to be Jack-O-Lantern, too,
but he looked like a squash,
so he got the ki-bosh,
now he's part of a vegetable stew!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Wait Till Next Year

Yes, my beloved Phillies came up short again this year. They managed to clinch the NL Eastern Division on the last day of the season, which was great. But they looked over-matched when they went to play the Colorado Rockies, who won the wild card slot in the playoffs, and who have been red-hot. The Phils' offense just seemed to go south, and the Rockies' pitching staff befuddled them. They scored more runs than any team in the NL this year, yet they only managed 8 runs in the entire three games. They were swept 3-0 in the best-of-five series. Oh well, there's always next year.

Looks like our trip to Ireland, which was in jeopardy not long ago, is back on, and just my wife and I are going - no kids! I can't wait - we leave Friday evening.

Poetry: I hosted the first reading of the season for Quick and Dirty Poets Friday night. The featured poet was Aaren Perry, a dynamic performance-oriented poet from the Philly area. I took his workshop at this year's Philadelphia Writers Conference, so I invited him to read for us. He was a big hit, and the evening in general had a really good vibe. We Q&D's read our works, which were well received (Rachel was absent), and even the open reading was quite good. I was a little put off by a guy who had come with Paul L. - his poetry was a vitriolic, profanity-laced rant against someone who'd done him wrong. I guess it was okay for the type of piece it was, but I'm glad no kids were in the audience. It was good to see Anna again too, after her surgery - she was lovely as always, but said she still gets tired easily.

My friend Lorraine has been trying to keep a weekly poetry prompt going with me. I was rather satisfied with my last effort, based on a poem by William Stafford about finding a dead deer in the road. Mine was about performing euthanasia on a suffering gerbil. Uplifting, eh?

Music: Two big purchases this past week:
(1) The next Bruce Springsteen album, Magic - folks are really raving about it, especially those who don't care much for his side trips away from the E Street Band. They consider this a return to form. I think it's excellent too, but I also think his last three albums were on a par with this one - I liked the rootsy departures of Devils and Dust and We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. Favorite tracks: "Radio Nowhere", "Girls in Their Summer Clothes".
(2) Iron and Wine: The Shepherd's Dog - Sam Beam, who is essentially Iron and Wine, seems to be coming out of his hyper-mellow shell and actually doing some passionate singing here. And the rhythmic changes and surprises in this album are brilliant. One song even approaches "rock n' roll". It's really excellent, and one of the best albums of the year.

Poem of the Week: How about this one, which was published in Sunken Lines last year, and was recently featured as Poem of the Day on Pathetic. org. I had a lot of fun writing this one:

Mr. Cliché Reflects on His Love Life

It was love at first sight,
as I bellied up to the bar
and said, “You come here often?”
She was built like a brick pagoda,
and after a few rounds on me,
we were chewing the fat.
Before I knew what hit me,
it was “Your place or mine?”
The rest is history.

It was a whirlwind romance,
a match made in heaven.
We were over the moon,
with stars in our eyes.
But then, it was crunch time,
bottom of the ninth,
time to fish or cut bait.
So I popped the question.

It was wedding bells for us,
we tied the knot, for better or worse.
And after that, “home sweet home”.
I joined the rat race
and she had a bun in the oven.
Then came our bundle of joy,
the patter of little feet,
rug rats in our humble abode.

But then, I got the seven-year itch,
and I fell off the wagon.
The shit hit the fan,
and in a New York minute,
she wrote a “Dear John” letter,
saying, “Sayonara, sucker,”
and “Hasta la vista, baby!
See you in court!”

I was between a rock and a hard place,
left high and dry, without a pot to piss in.
Well, that’s the way the ball bounces.
That’s the way the cookie crumbles.
C’est la vie.