Thursday, April 29, 2010

They totally stole my idea

A coworker pointed this out to me: A site called The Most Awesomest Thing Ever pits two things against each other and asks users to pick one. The not-so-awesome thing is, the domain was registered on March 27, 2010, eight days after I posted this to the WordStream blog: Blank vs. Blank, or, I Have an Idea for a Website. My crappety-crap prototype doesn't look too far off from The Most Awesomest Thing Ever, does it?

If they get a goddamn book deal out of this, I'm going to be seriously pissed. Also, I need to stop giving my best ideas away over the damn Internet.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Review of That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness

I recently learned that Julia Bloch wrote a brief review of That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness (a book of collaborative poems I wrote with Kathy Rooney) a while back. It was meant to appear in Bitch, but we never got a copy, and in fact it's unclear if it ever ran. Julia was kind enough to send it to me, and with her permission I'm reprinting the review in full here. (Thanks, Julia!)
That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness Elisa Gabbert and Kathleen Rooney {otoliths}

Taking its title from a line by the German Realist poet Theodor Storm (who supposedly invoked it while sitting at his desk), this fine collection of poems is one of the better examples of what can often be a painfully precious approach to writing: the email collaboration. Gabbert and Rooney make many well-executed forays into received form (ghazals, sonnets), Oulipo experimental form (the systematic and crazy-making exclusion of letters), and their own formal inventions (from Rooney’s blog: “count ’em ups, limited freedoms, and out of orders”). They then bat them out of the park with winning titles like “Abercrombie Addresses Fitch,” “The Moving Walkway Is Ending” and “About Poetry”: “No one said I couldn’t use the word / Pobiz. A doe-eyed girl drinking sloe gin / fizzes is one way to begin; another / way may be stupid & completely false / but there’s no right & wrong in the world / of toasts & wedding poems.” The first few lines may sound pat, overly rhythmical even, but then Gabbert and Rooney mark that blurry line between formal closure and social triumphalism: “After all, getting in bed / w/ your enemy is delicate business / for delicate people like me & my friends.” In many places, language is rendered strange, even when it seems to be making sense on the surface of things, as in “The Facts of Life”: “The moan below the dial tone after you call— / under the FOIA, that should be a sing-along, / & we should be having more sex acts. / Shorter is better, but only with songs.” That Tiny is full of clipped witticisms like this, but never quite gets too ahead of itself. —Julia Bloch

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Yo Cuz


I'm reading in Providence on Sunday, at the Cousins Reading Series hosted by Darcie Dennigan and Bill Walsh. (Click the flyer to enlarge.) It's a good series. They are so hospitable, you'd think you were in an Olive Garden commercial. If you live in Providence, Boston, or anywhere on the Eastern Seaboard, you should probably go. I'll be reading from The French Exit (the book, not the blog). See you there.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Excuses, excuses

Every one of these common excuses for racism from the Double Standard applies to sexism as well. Some choice quotes:
6. Who cares? I don’t care if they’re purple, orange or blue. All I care about is whether they meet the criteria, are qualified and/or can do the job.

Artist-activist Damali Ayo calls this a “three year old’s understanding of race.” Yet another variation of the anti-Affirmative Action argument. People who make this argument obscure social construct with lived reality. They forget that much of our reality is constructed, particularly by a dominant culture paradigm that puts people of color at the bottom of the social ladder. ...

7. Well, probably there weren’t any qualified/talented/pretty/smart/up-and-coming people of color who they could have included. Should they not have featured/hired the qualified white people? I mean, I can’t think of any black/Hispanic/Asian people who fit the bill.

Two quick points. One: Most white people admit to having no or few friends of color, yet some are comfortable asserting that there are none qualified for various positions/awards/etc. This begs the question: How would they know? Two: This point is false. There are many qualified, talented, intelligent, and/or beautiful people of color. ...

2. It’s racist to point out it’s racist.

Even when it is the elephant in the room—anyone with eyes, except perhaps the “colorblind” (and I don’t mean that in the medical sense) can see what’s missing or happening—if you are a person of color and you point “it” out, expect to have the tables turned on you. You will inevitably be accused of trying to stir up controversy, playing the victim, dividing people, etc. You will then be called a reverse racist for even bringing the subject up.
I'd add an eleventh excuse to the list: "If we're going to worry about sexism then we have to worry about racism, ageism, gay rights, etc., too." I think they also left off blaming the oppressed for allowing themselves to be oppressed.

Thanks to Barrelhouse for the pointer to this piece.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Feminism isn't sexist

No one thinks that bike awareness discriminates against cars. No one thinks that gay rights awareness discriminates against heterosexuals. (Couples aren't fighting over a finite amount of marriage licenses.) There's no stigma associated with being a civil rights activist. Why do people think feminism discriminates against men? Why is there such a stigma on feminism? Even in junior high, everyone knew racism was really bad. If I told my coworkers I was a civil rights activist they'd think that was awesome. When I tell someone I'm a feminist they look nervous. They do the walk-away-whistling.

Feminism doesn't mean you choose women over men. It means you make room for both.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When satire fails

In a totally out of control thread at HTML Giant (of all places!), Kirsten Kaschock left the following satirical comment, frightening in its accuracy:
My take is this: when I see a magazine or many magazines who publish much more work from male-identified authors than female-identified authors, I assume that it is because it is the best work out there to be had. I assume the editors looked at everything they could get their hands on and chose what they thought was best. If that means more male-identified writers than the other, so be it.

And if that pattern occurs in aggregate and over years, than the only logical assumption I can make–giving everyone the benefit of the doubt–is that there is more good writing out there done by men, or–alternately–that women are not trying hard enough to put their work out there. And if that pattern continues over decades, then it becomes clear that women simply aren’t as ambitious, as talented, and/or as committed to writing as men are.

Now, of course, there may be specific breaks to this pattern. Exceptions that, as they say, prove the rule: Dickinson, Bishop perhaps. But, it’s actually very simple, isn’t it? Magazine editors are out there to put out the best product they can–and what does culture or content or modes of existing in the actual world have to do with good language?

Nothing.

And the minute we attempt to tie the judgment of literature to something like a body or to a political consideration like gender or race or any of the isms, is the minute we lose the possibility to transcend the body and produce truly great work… true reflections of what is best in humanity… the universal… the sublime. I for one do not wish to lower my standards.

I tell you, this whole discussion is making me fear for my sons… what kind of an uphill battle they may face if they should choose to excel as poets. It’s truly disturbing. The kind of wrath they may face if and when they choose simply to become great–the jealousy, the complaints of mediocre women writers who envy them.

I’m sick about it, I tell you. Sick.
What's even more frightening is that a couple of people immediately chimed in to agree.

Of course, this isn't a failure of Kirsten's rhetoric. It's a failure on the part of readers to see the fallacy in this conservative logic.

To whom it may concern: Sexism isn't okay. It's as bad as racism. It's as bad as gay bashing. It's discrimination and it's hateful. Go read some of the comments in that thread and imagine they were written in response to a gay man or a black man expressing fair and civil concerns. Would you be so flippant and dismissive then? Would you tell them to stop their vague bitching and build their own empires?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Things I'm into/not into lately

Things I am into lately:
  • Vinaigrette made with sherry vinegar, salt and pepper, a touch of honey and big glugs of this Olave olive oil I got on sale at Whole Foods. It is from Chile and ridiculicious.
  • Slumming-it chilaquiles (as if regular chilaquiles weren't already slumming it): Poach eggs in thinned out salsa, pour over crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheese. The hot liquid melts the cheese and softens the chips. This has become my go-to solo meal for any time of day. I eat it at least three or four times a week because it's fast, cheap, filling, vegetarian and gluten-free and I never seem to get sick of it. I should probably lay off the fried chips, but it wouldn't be as tasty on a bed of braised greens.
  • A perfume called Winter Woods from Sonoma Scent Studio, even though it's not winter and winter is the only season I have no fond feelings for. I think amber, not vanilla, is my comfort scent.
  • A black & white cardigan that lends a soupcon of Breton to any outfit.
  • Doing NaPoWriMo on the sly.
Things I am not into:
  • Whole Foods. The last time I went, they packed a container of yogurt in such a way that it exploded all over the inside of my reusable bag, rendering the yogurt inedible and the other groceries and the bag yogurty. The time before that, we were overcharged and double-charged for items, and when I got home I discovered the bag of shredded cheese I bought was a bit shredded itself. I ate the cheese anyway and haven't died, but surely that wasn't an aid to freshness. Why are there no reasonable one-stop grocery stores around here? Unless you buy strictly processed crap, the normal chains like Shaw's are even more expensive than Whole Foods.
  • Issues of journals with all-male contributor lists. It's not designated as a special all-dude issue. I just don't get how editors don't notice a discrepancy like that and feel weird and wonder how it came about. People always say that this happens because all the submissions are from men. But if you're a new magazine (this is Issue 2 of We Are Champion), how about doing some solicitation? I'd venture to guess the editors are already doing that. If you want more submissions from women, publishing all-male issues, without disclaimer, doesn't send the best message.
This post contains a hidden backwards smiley face. By which I mean a frowny face with the eyes oriented on the right.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The venerable Allen Lee on Apple

This is a guest post by French Exit regular Allen Lee. I do not necessarily agree with the opinions expressed by the author, etc., insofar as the author commits to an opinion. (Burn.) I definitely agree that Apple's marketing machine is annoying, and the popular idea of "design" as white + Helvetica is ridiculous.

Yeah I asked Elisa and Martin to blodge on macs. I was spurred on by the recent flurry of press on the iPad, which is pretty widespread (the press) even over here in NZ media, even though I believe it is not yet avail here (the iPad) and will not be for some time.

I think I was mainly fishing for two things:

1. Some hating. Let's face it, with ElisaG and MSeay I had reason to look forward to a fun smackdown.
2. To learn something/food for thought. After Martin's recent tour de force on Ke$ha I was like, hey, he really knocked that one down, how about Steve Jobs and Apple Computer Inc?

Neither on our two-person expert panel seems amped to blodge. What do I think? I am guessing I am of roughly the same mind as MS and EG on this one. Apple products seem to perform at least competently, maybe better. They are overpriced. They are reasonably stylish. They follow a very closed/proprietary philosophy. Their reliability and build quality are overstated. Their "fanboys" are annoying. Their marketing is really annoying, and pretentious. Steve Jobs seems annoying, and pretentious. I vastly prefer Gates to Jobs. [Side note: Gates is smarter, richer, probably has a cooler wife, definitely has a cooler house, appears to have cooler friends, and runs a charity funded with like 40B of his own money, and oh wait another 40B of WarrenB's too, who is cooler even than BillG and hence much much much cooler than SteveJ. It's a landslide.]

The marketing seems to be the main thing. It is designed to polarize and brainwash. PCs are nowhere near as crappy and unstylish as Mac marketing would have you believe. I suppose this is common knowledge. Martin commented that Apple wants us to feel strongly and hence he feels obligated not to. That's pretty much where I'm at, and maybe that is one of the few interesting points to be made here. On their merits I think I would actually buy Apple products. But because the marketing and culture is so obnoxious that pushes me towards indifference, the only reaction that is anti-polarization. It seems to illuminate a certain personality characteristic as much as Apple marketing.

Another observation is that at least personally the reaction against Apple is a reaction against technology generally speaking and the wanna-be design/information age. People sitting around with Titanium powerbooks sipping coffee and writing content management systems think that they are somehow design/knowledge/information gurus but really let's face it, the whole let's-sip-a-latte-and-build-a-website-with-really-good-fonts is just pretty lame from like every angle. Typically, in practical instances it doesn't seem noteworthy from a technology angle, from an intellectual angle, from an aesthetic angle, from a human angle, from a sexual angle, from a coffee angle, I mean whatever. Please. Just some basic pedestrian shit dressed up to be 21st century. Oh brother. Am I just knee-jerk hating here? At least a little, for sure. And probably not even in an interesting or unique way. I kind of don't even know what I'm talking about. That's me, that's what I do. The whole design/info age ("TED", ha ha -- oh wait is that logo like 50% Helvetica and 50% Helvetica bold? How original! Oh my god what great fonts! They prob did it on a powerbook.) suffers from as much insufferable marketing as Apple although it is more subtle and diffuse. Maybe the only interesting point here is how Apple has wormed its way so intimately (but not explicitly) into my image of technology/information/design. Hold on while I stick my finger down my throat

Oh that's better. Like Martin put it, Apple's obnoxiousness forces me to mentally reduce modern tech gadgetry to "appliances." Like, computers and MP3 players and book readers are just appliances, and in the day-to-day their value is easily overstated. That is true of course, but it is also true that these are in fact really cool appliances in a lot of ways and that there is definitely some element of progress at work here. But Apple ruins it, because the culture is just so fucking annoying. So now I despise technology, gadgets, coffeeshops, black turtlenecks and anything shiny. Thanks guys you are the best! For the win. Just kidding about the coffeeshops one, unless there are a bunch of people using laptops.

Oh well this is probably not particularly sophisticated or interesting. That's why I tried to recruit Elisa and Martin. I mean did you see that post on Ke$ha? Holy cannoli!

Next up: Malcolm Gladwell! Talk about a gimme.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

How come the only thing SNL is good at is fake raps?

I just watched part of last night's Saturday Night Live with John and I realized that the only times that show has made me laugh in the past, I don't know, 20 years is when they do a fake rap. Has skit comedy not progressed at all since 1989?



Also finally figured out who Ke$ha is. It was blatantly obvious that she was lip-syncing and didn't give a shit. It's like if SNL were a talent show, her act would have been pretty middle-of-the-road. SNL in general should ask themselves more often if their material is any better than the average talent show.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Return of the mack

* Got back from Denver last night. Natch, I'm too pooped for a post more substantial than bullet points, or the equivalent. I hemorrhaged so much money into travel expenses that I didn't buy many books this year, but our combined haul is pretty good. First up I'm reading Post Moxie by Julia Story, just out from Sarabande. I've been telling people my new poems are inspired by Bluets (Maggie Nelson) and City of Moths (Sam Starkweather) but I now realize Post Moxie, which I read in manuscript form a couple years ago, predated those texts as an inspiration. You can read three of my new poems, thusly inspired, here. (Thanks to Hannah Miet for the comment!) More are coming to a Denver Quarterly near you.

* I learned a new word: janky. This from the mouth of Katie Caron, a visual artist (ceramics and installation) we spent some time with in CO. Judging from context alone, "janky" seemed to mean a little rough around the edges, or slightly crappy in execution. Urban Dictionary provides a less nuanced or at least more emphatic definition, more like "crappy, period."

* I also learned the origin and actual meaning of the phrase "Oh, the humanity!" which, if you think about it, makes no sense. You probably know that it comes from the radio broadcast during the Hindenburg disaster. Here's the little-known fact, as reported by John: The zeppelin came crashing down into the ground crew, which was called the Humanity. A bit of transcript from the broadcast: "And oh, it's…burning, oh, four or five hundred feet into the sky. It's a terrific crash, ladies and gentlemen. The smoke and the flames now and the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring mast. Oh, the humanity and all the passengers screaming around here." (I assume he read this in a book, because I can't find a reliable reference online. I did find this slightly different account: "Herbert Morrison's famous words should be understood in the context of the broadcast, in which he had repeatedly referred to the large team of people on the field, engaged in landing the airship, as a 'mass of humanity.' He used the phrase when it became clear that the burning wreckage was going to settle onto the ground, and that the people underneath would probably not have time to escape it. It is not clear from the recording whether his actual words were 'Oh, the humanity' or 'all the humanity.'") Either way, I put this up there, in terms of stuff your teachers unwittingly lied about, with how your blood's not really blue. Also, how everyone thinks "Wherefore art thou, Romeo" means "Where are you, Romeo?"

* Allen has been requesting a post about Apple. But I don't think I have anything new to add. It's already been said that the high price point of Apple products, for "Mac people," is "a feature, not a bug." I've never understood the claims that what you're paying for is better design, since I find Macs frustratingly difficult to use, and pretty generic-looking from the outside, like "designer" toasters from Target. Also, I've used Dells for decades and never had a virus of any significant consequence. I don't like gadgets, I'm not a gamer, and I have better ways to waste my money (by which I mean, more fun for me). What else is there to say? Yo Big A: How about some FAQs or talking points?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Did I mention me?

My Book Notes are now up on Largehearted Boy. If you're not familiar with the series, it asks writers to "create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book." You'll recognize many of these songs from my list of mix-tape hits, but this time with commentary! Here's an excerpt:
"I've Got a Match" by They Might Be Giants

"I've got a match: your embrace and my collapse"—based on a crude joke and yet, improbably, heartbreaking. I aspire to this precarious balance between poignancy and absurdity.

"Brothers on a Hotel Bed" by Death Cab for Cutie

The saddest, most nostalgia-heavy poems in the book involve my brother; we're not as close now as we once were and I've got all kinds of complexes. At some point I had to admit to myself that this song is about an estranged couple and not siblings, which is too bad, because I find the central simile ("now we say good night from our own separate sides, like brothers on a hotel bed") so much more moving in reference to brothers, which I realize is not how similes work. Also, Death Cab for Cutie kind of sucks. I basically just love brother songs. See also: "Blue Ridge Mountains" by Fleet Foxes and "The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us" by Sufjan Stevens.
Another cool thing: The Rumpus, one of my favorite artsy/litsy blogs, is publishing a new poem every day in April. Here's the full line-up; an excerpt from the prose-poem project I'm working on now will go live on April 8 (smack-dab in the middle of AWP!).