Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Secret Life of the Very-Late-Twentysomething

This morning I was flipping through a Pacifica catalog while I ate my breakfast--Pacifica is a company that makes like natural perfumes and soy candles and shit--and on the last page there was a photo of some little tins of "solid perfume" and a candle scattered on and around a hardcover copy of To An Idea. The fucking David Shapiro book! Isn't that weird? I wonder if he knows his book is being used as a prop in froofy organic soap catalogs? Do you need permission to use someone's book as a prop? Everyone go buy Pacifica products; they are lovers of pre-post-avant poetry.

More stuff from my writerly life:Other than that ... did you know there's a thing called Snickers Salad? It's a simple salad, in most incarnations but three ingredients: apples, Cool Whip and Snickers. Some variations add other white goo, like vanilla pudding, marshmallow creme or mayonnaise.

Pretty fucked up, huh? Now why would anyone think to put those foodstuffs together in a single dish and serve it to unsuspecting gentlefolk? Because they wouldn't be unsuspecting. Apparently it's a staple at Midwestern potlucks; it belongs there right alongside the tater tot hotdish.

Last night we were googling for references to/images of this unnerving phenomenon and found a small-town community blogger from Wisconsin whose bio begins, "I'm an Ultra-Conservative Alpha Male." Who self-identifies with adjectives like that?! The Internet is hilarious.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

We watched After Hours last night

And if After Hours is your favorite movie, you need to examine your life. This means you, Nathan Rabin.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bronson Pinchot's conversational agenda

From an interview with Bronson Pinchot in A.V. Club; this section is re his role in Risky Business (emphases mine):
We thought Tom [Cruise] was the biggest bore on the face of the Earth. He had spent some formative time with Sean Penn—we were all very young at the time, Tom was 20, I was 23. Tom had picked up this knack of calling everyone by their character names, because that would probably make your performance better, and I don’t agree with that. I think that acting is acting, and the rest of the time, you should be you, but he called us all by our character names. He was tense and made constant, constant unrelated homophobic comments, like, “You want some ice cream, in case there are no gay people there?” I mean, his lingo was larded with the most… There was no basis for it. It was like, “It’s a nice day, I’m glad there are no gay people standing here.” Very, very strange.

Years and years later when people started to torment him with that, I used to think “God, that’s really fitting, because he tormented a lot of people as a 20-year-old.” He made such a big deal about it. Same thing with Eddie Murphy—I remember somebody calling and saying, “You’ll never guess who was just caught with a transvestite!” [Laughs.] And I remember thinking that seemed fitting, because there are certain people in showbiz who make it an agenda, every third sentence has to have something knocking that life choice, and you think, “What are you doing?” Like, these women came up to me in a restaurant—I was wearing a bright red shirt, and I was with some friends, and they said, “Would you like to join our club? We wear red.” What kind of choice is that? If you spent many years in the theater, and then you show up in movies, and people have on their to-do list for the day that they’re going to make a comment every third sentence, it strikes you as very strange. I just thought it was very funny that years later, that became his bugaboo. Which is a nice 1930s term I thought you’d enjoy.

AVC: Do you think he was just insecure? Or that he was young?

BP: I really don’t know. It is what it is; there’s nothing I can add to it. If someone’s 20 years old and every third line out of their mouth is anti-something specific, then draw your own conclusion. I thought it was very weird. Similarly, there’s a certain type of middle-aged woman that will tell you within 20 seconds of meeting you that she can’t find anyone to take her to bed. And that really strikes me as strange, too, like, “Why are you telling me that?” I don’t like any kind of conversational agenda; it makes me uncomfortable. I just think it’s weird. Unless you’re with your very best friends and you’re being silly. Then you can do whatever you want.
Is it me, or does Bronson Pinchot have a conversational agenda? He seems very suspiciously anti-agenda. He can't stop talking about it. It makes me uncomfortable. Draw your own conclusions.

Update: Also he uses the word "weird" 19 times.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Don't ever stay the same; keep changing

My second chapbook with Kathy Rooney, Don't ever stay the same; keep changing, is now available from Spooky Girlfriend Press!

It's only $5, and it's very lovely. Carrie Scanga is responsible for the lovely cover art, and Nate Logan is responsible for the rest of the loveliness. (Well, not the poems. We wrote those.)

As the cover suggests, it's a bit more wistful than Something Really Wonderful. We hope you like it. We hope Chuck Klosterman likes it too. We're going to send him a copy.


I think it's good to have a couple of blog templates (a la "I like So & So a lot") lying around for those times when you feel like blogging but the muse took a powder. Today at the gym I was trying to figure out which would make a better template: X Is Hilarious (as in "Twitter is hilarious" or "My friends are hilarious") or My Friends Are X (as in "My friends are hilarious" or "My friends are idiots").

The gym is an idiot. I watch cooking shows and then I want to recoup whatever calories I just burned in the form of animal flesh. I haven't eaten beef, pork or chicken (or whatever lesser game meats, geez) in almost five years, not counting trace amounts. I wonder what would happen if I just ate a whole burger? Could it kill me? Pictures of food are evil. They are far more appetizing than actual food. Strange, considering that actual food has olfaction on its side.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Absent 4

Issue 4 of Absent is live. It's an all-poetry issue featuring work by:
Dan Boehl * Karen Carcia * Darcie Dennigan * Jessica Fjeld * Andrea Henchey * Lauren Ireland * Matthew Klane * Reb Livingston * Marc McKee * Daniela Olszewska * Matt Shears * Kim Gek Lin Short
Irwin Chen is responsible for the awesome design; we recommend that you read the issue in Safari or the latest version of Firefox to experience its full beauty.

Enjoy the issue, and consider submitting for Absent 5.

I am drawn to frustrating people

Conversation I had with a guy at a party this weekend:

Me: You look like Don Henley!

Guy: Who's Don Henley?

Me: You don't know who Don Henley is? How old are you?

Guy: I'm 28.

Me: He was in the Eagles.

Guy: There were a lot of people in the Eagles.

Me: There were five!

Guy: I'm into black metal.

Me: o_O

Among other recent frustrating encounters: One of my contributors for the next issue of Absent wanted me to make what I considered extensive revisions to the poems I had accepted. I sent him the proofs, he sent back different poems. Poets have on occasion asked me to make revisions before publication; if I like the poems as much or better, no harm no foul. (And usually the poets have said that I can publish whichever version I prefer.) In this case, I much preferred the original poems (most of my favorite lines had been revised out of the new versions), but the author was unwilling to have those published under his name. So I had to pull them from the issue. :( I miss my little poems. His little poems. Whose poems are they, now that I want them more than he does? Editors, have you been in this situation?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Twitter as news source

I don't read (or watch or listen to) the news, but sometimes the news is unavoidable. On 9/11, I got in my car to drive to campus and every station was a news station.

Having TweetDeck open at work is like having a radio on in the background. If something remotely newsworthy happens I tend to hear about it. If it's "big" it shows up as a trending topic. It's how I found out about Michael Jackson, for example (future "Where were you when...").

Here are some of the "news" stories that shocked and amused me this week, and which I might have missed if not for the magical world of Twitter:

#balloonboy: "Remember Balloon Boy?" ("Remember X-that-happened-10-minutes-ago" is such a layup of humor! What's with everyone using the figurative "layup" all the sudden? I heard it at work like five times this week.) I actually watched some of the live video of the aircraft floating around in the sky. With no frame of reference, it was impossible to tell if it was the size of an actual UFO or a remote control toy. Pretty lame video. Turns out, the kid everyone thought was inside was hiding in a box in the attic. Also, his name is Falcon. In short order, "Imma" and "Anne Frank" are also trending topics on Twitter. Please google to understand if you don't see it immediately.

#pepsifail: Pepsico's AMP energy drink released a promotional iPhone app targeting major douchebags. Called Amp Up Before You Score, the idea was to nail your female prey down as one of 24 stereotypes and use the suggested pickup lines on her, then "brag" via social media about your conquest to your friends. Women and non-douchebags expressed outrage. (Douchebags said "Lighten up.") In response, the Amp guys posted this twapology:
Our app tried 2 show the humorous lengths guys go 2 pick up women. We apologize if it’s in bad taste & appreciate your feedback. #pepsifail
(Shouldn't that be "the humorous lengths guys go 2 2 pick up women"?)

The result: Gleeful hand-clapping for the #fail hashtag; ultimately, forgiveness. I love this comment on the Gizmodo post about it:
they tried 2 sound with it, but failed. this is how it should have read:

R app trd 2 sho d lol of guys tryn 2 pick up chx. sry if its fail txt us if ur mad.
Twitter is hilarious.

Filippa Hamilton: In fashion "news"! Ralph Lauren model Filippa Hamilton was photoshopped into cocked hat; people complained; Ralph Lauren was forced to apologize. (Are you picking up a theme here?) Then Filippa was fired, supposedly for being too fat.

Basically, newswise, this whole week was a #women'sissuesfail. (I think #ballonboy qualifies too, for making light of Anne Frank.)

The End.

I like Chris Nealon a lot*

Reading Chris Nealon is like walking the city with an almost-friend whose passing comments are endlessly fascinating--a bit droll, a bit brilliant, a bit tragically hip. Each line is somewhere between a throwaway and a mini-essay that attempts to describe the state of affairs: the scene, the soundtrack, the feeling. It's very zeitgeisty. I don't know why he isn't more famous.

I was going to write a real review of Plummet, his recent book out from Edge, but then I decided I didn't want to analyze it too much. I just wanted to read it.

Some sample lines:
I seriously have a mind of winter

Classicism: build your buildings so that even conquering hordes will be like, No way

Writing may be lame for depicting faces, but photographs are really bad at conveying smell

I know prose is a mighty instrument but still I feel that plein-air lyric need to capture horses moving

The now grins creepily at you

Hi, this is the riot act? Hi.
*Title template stolen from HTMLGIANT.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

America's Next Top Model: You're Either In or You're Out

Ha ha. See what I did there?

Of all the crap on television, ANTM is the one show with no objective redeeming values that I enjoy watching. It's totally shallow and objectifying, cheaply produced and often downright stupid. And yet. There's always at least one contestant that I sort of fall in love with: someone who's interesting and intelligent and quirky as well as beautiful (usually in a genuinely "modelesque" way, as the judges are fond of saying, as opposed to looking like a random cosmetics spokesperson) and, insofar as it makes sense to say so, talented when it comes to modeling.

I get a perverse pleasure out of rooting for this underdog, because she never wins. The quirky girl won in the very first "cycle" (for some reason ANTM runs in cycles, not seasons; perhaps to call attention to the fact that it's always basically the same) and Tyra lived to regret it. She and Adrianne Curry had a falling out post-show, due to Adrianne's complaining publicly about the limited support she was receiving in the modeling industry, and her posing in Playboy, I guess.

Last season, there was Allison Harvard, AKA Creepy Chan (a former Internet meme); before that Heather Kuzmich, who had Asperger's and now designs video games; before that Jael Strauss, who got up in 50 Cent's grill at a party (to the extent that he pushed her into the pool).

This season (cycle 13) I'm in love with Nicole, an introverted, redheaded artist. Isn't she gorge?

Don't ask me why she's posing with a freaking horse. I told you this show is stupid.

Nicole seems to consistently have one of the best pictures if not the best, but she never gets picked first. Even if she were a favorite of the judges', she'd still be doomed to lose. She's too weird (she claims her childhood nickname was "Bloody Eyeball" ... I find that hard to believe) and not bubbly enough. She hasn't formed any strong alliances and the other girls didn't like when she defended (i.e., gave a chance to) the hardass woman they all decided to hate. Tyra loves on bubbly. Nicole is doomed. Why do I torture myself with this show? Why? My consolation is that "winning" ANTM is a fairly meaningless honor anyway, if not dubious, if not a downright stigma.

One of the front-runners, experts and analysts agree, is this girl Erin, who I despise. Not only is she not particularly attractive (sorry, kids, but you don't go on ANTM to not be judged on your appearance), but she's the worst kind of bitch: the kind that doesn't self-identify as one. She fights dirty then cries in the van when people call her on it. Nice girl schmice girl. I hope you choke on your lipgloss.

If you're a viewer, I highly recommend the post-show recaps on Fourfour, Rich Juzwiak's blog. They're at least as entertaining as the show, but without the guilt and self-loathing. Yayz.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Amber Tamblyn Writes Poetry

Yes, that Amber Tamblyn, the actress whose career includes roles in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and The Grudge 2, plus the lead in the TV show Joan of Arcadia. I discovered this (little-known?) fact because she's currently blogging at the Poetry Foundation.

My first thoughts, of course, were like, "Huh?" and then "Ew." But her first post is actually kind of good (also, we share a fondness for Noelle Kocot). But it's not really my style; I don't like the preemptive tactic of avoiding critique by exposing all your weaknesses upfront ("You're a Hollywood actress who can't spell," she writes in the faux second person, "None of the writers at the Poetry Foundation will take your writing seriously. Seriously. Stay in your safe zone where your publicist can help control your image."). The need to lower people's expectations is a sign of insecurity; I do it when I'm playing pool because my game is highly variable, but not when I'm playing ping pong, because my ping pong skills are tight. All this jive, well-written though it may be, tells me that she's not just worried about how she'll be received by the PoFo crowd; she's worried that she's actually not that great a poet.

Are her concerns founded? Well let's take a look shall we??? First I consulted Wikipedia. Simon & Schuster (the Children's Publishing division, ahem) published her first book of poetry, Free Stallion, in 2005. The title certainly sounds like a children's book (Elevator pitch: A cross between Black Beauty and Free Willy for the tender young animal activist). But is it poetry for children?

Semi-inconclusive. Amazon classifies the book as "Young Adult." But maybe she's just been pigeonholed because her acting roles are very YA? The School Library Review says "Free Stallion is a compilation [sic] of poetry that amounts to a portrait of the artist as a teenager.... Many of the selections are appropriately self-absorbed but move beyond journalistic catharsis to real insight and stunning language for one so young." Well, um, she's 26 ... not exactly a teenager. I really hate when young women are marketed as precocious little ingenues. When a 26-year-old man writes a book people don't treat him like the boy detective. (OK, so she was younger when the book came out, but I know a 29-year-old whose publisher just tried to give her the same treatment.)

Back to the poetry, and whether it's any good. (Of course the simple fact that she got a book published doesn't mean anything since everyone knows that's easy when you're already famous (see Billy Corgan*).) You can read a selection of poems from her book on a website called Rebel Asylum (red flag). I think I'll just annotate one of her poems. (Amber, consider this a review. I don't like the poem very much, but part of being taken seriously is getting negative reviews. And if some dipshit reviewer on Amazon made you cry, you need to toughen up a bit. Poets are mean.)

Moths © Amber Tamblyn from the book Free Stallion

I consider myself flexible in awkward positions. [a promising first line]
Not a home wrecker,
but I do knock.
And you and I are pals.
The kind that
open up to each other but keep mouths
at a safe distance. [meh, but withholding judgment]

But I cannot amend all tongues. [taking a turn for the worse]

I walk the dubious centerfold of your eye-line, friend. [kind of interesting, though reiterating that you're "just friends" (with benefits?) is unnecessary]
I carry my purse on the same side you walk next to me
to avoid hand. [speaking of awkward]
To avoid saying anything small.
We are the shredded fuse,
the rebound wires commencing,
badly rerouted and iniquitous. [not convinced Tamblyn is adept with vocab]
We are the failed test of the emergency buddy system. [UGH]
Chums. [WE GET IT]
I am a derelict without furniture or life signs,
painting your posture from distance that
can fit inside the palm of your land. [really, no]

Though we share ice cream instead of pipedreams,
I know
you'd never be lover to another poet
because you are one. [totally unnecessary line]
And the fear of being served a reflection
in the way that you have served some,
is a glass house you are not ready to escape from.
I'll keep liking mint, while you go for chocolate.
I can't seem to get away from. [from/drums/from. um...]

You are just another sheep
jumping the fence in my nightmares. [truly, Tamblyn, you're no "linguisticon"/"metaphor aficionado"]
Counting out numerical complacency,
a platonic answer with a nod-off.
Like a million hairs you've grown near your mouth
plowed down, rough and sore
my beard too wants to be a little fucked and worn, but [whoa, what? that's not very YA]

the time is not now, if not never. [I like this line; could see myself writing it]
Not before, during or after
her, your lover, another, or the next chapter. [just took it too far though]
So lets just say
lets just stay
friends, forever. [way, way too far]

There is no title for our book cover-up,
so I will keep reading like a brood kept laboring. [huh?]

Take a long walk off my short feet,
my stomach pleads hunger no matter
how much I eat
and its open mouth aches.
Where there should be butterflies there are moths. [This could be a good idea/image if it weren't coming after all the muddied ones before it. Like most famous people, Tamblyn needs an editor]
Eating through my loins like loincloth. [huh?]
If there's a map to things spoken, friend
we'll see we are way off.

Buddies. [FINE, have it your way, Tamblyn. You know where I stand.]
You're the worst kind because
you wont even reject me physically,
we can't even celebrate celibacy. [So you ARE friends with benefits!!]
I am your dirty washboard
and yet have never had you inside me.

There's no declaration in our country.

Pals. [ ... ]
You tug the one red string
that seems to run through everything.

I seek your flying patterns from behind,
the blue leading the blind.

Friends. No beneficiary.
So we stay.


Like I said, I'm not impressed. On the other hand, it's her first book, so she might have written the poem a long time ago. She might be a much better writer now, especially if she's reading poets like Kocot. (Though Kocot is kind of a visionary and not easy to imitate successfully.) "It'll be interesting to see" if Tamblyn turns out to be worthy of the PoFo (not that I think the PoFo is so great). But not that interesting.

*Kathy Rooney wrote a great essay on rockstar poets a few years back but the link is broken. Did Contemporary Poetry Review fold?

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Final Countdown

Just a quickie: Matt Bell interviewed Kathy and I for the Collagist blog; we talked about what are aubades and shit. (Search me.)

I'm writing this from our new office space, the views from which are kind of "the jam." We're on the 16th floor of an isolated tower in central Boston, which means I can pretty much see everything. I'm pretty much God.

Also: Irwin, our designer, is putting the finishing touches on the next issue of Absent, and it's looking gorgeous. Stay tuned.

Also: If you're local, I urge you go to the Topsfield Fair, which is running through the 12th, and ride the Gravitron to experience a super-cool installation piece by Chris Tonelli and Andi Sutton.

Also: I realized yesterday my birthday is less than a month away. Anything I must do before I'm 30? Like maybe 30 is the cutoff point for wearing baby barrettes? Let me know in the comments.