Saturday, June 30, 2007

Saturday Night Main Event

Charles Bukowski reads "Dinosauria, We" from the film Born into This. Say what you will about his work, the man got me and a lot of other people into poetry.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story

I watched this last night, and I keep wanting to say I was "blown away" by it, although really I just thought it was very good. I don't know much about Todd Haynes. I think the only other film of his that I've ever seen was Velvet Goldmine, which I watched just after I got out of high school, probably six or seven years ago. I remember thinking it was very pretty, but I don't remember a whole lot else about it. After watching this, though, I feel like I need to track down some more of Haynes's stuff.

Part of the reason this film seems to call for hyperbolic language is that many of the devices it uses seem intentionally audacious. Its use of Barbies instead of actors to play the characters; the use of b+w "shocking" footage to represent Karen Carpenter's inner battle with body issues--especially the use a couple of times of archival footage of Holocaust victims; the hammy overacting of the voice actors; the overly dramatic brassy blasts of music when characters discover evidence of Carpenter's anorexia; the ultra-serious voice over narration: one would usually expect all of these things to point to some kind of parody of either the film's subject or of a certain type of film, but this film never becomes that. It's the tension between the expectation that at any moment the film will explode into a campy satire and the fact that it never does that I found most interesting while watching it.

And it really is very good. Apparently Richard Carpenter has some issues with the film, so it's possible it won't stay up at Google Video for too long. Be sure to catch it while it's still hot! (via)

From the Google Video description:
Openly gay, experimental filmmaker Todd Haynes burst upon the scene two years after his graduation from Brown University with his ... all » now-infamous 43-minute cult treasure "Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story" (1987). Seizing upon the inspired gimmick of using Barbie and Ken dolls to sympathetically recount the story of the pop star's death from anorexia, he spent months making miniature dishes, chairs, costumes, Kleenex and Ex-Lax boxes, and Carpenters' records to create the film's intricate, doll-size mise-en-scene. The result was both audacious and accomplished as the dolls seemingly ceased to be dolls leaving the audience weeping for the tragic singer.

Unfortunately, Richard Carpenter's enmity for the film (which made him look like a selfish jerk) led to the serving of a "cease and desist" order in 1989, and despite the director's offer "to only show the film in clinics and schools, with all money going to the Karen Carpenter memorial fund for anorexia research," "Superstar" remains buried, one of the few films in modern America that cannot be seen by the general public.

Now finally you have a chance to see this piece.

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Poetry is happening!

This Saturday is the second installment of the 2007 Bay Area Poetry Marathon, hosted by Joseph Lease and Donna DeLaPerriere, and featuring idiolexicon's own Patrick and Elliot working the book table.

This months readers Include:

Polly Conway
Diane DiPrima
Sara Lihz Dobel
Camille Dungy
Israel Haros
Paul Hoover

It kicks off at 7pm at The Lab (16th Street at Shotwell in San Francisco.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Before Enhanced CDs

In the 1970s and 80s, playable video games were hidden in the grooves of vinyl records.

Read that sentence again.

now playing: Amanda Chiado

First Game

Without Hyperbole -- How Conservatives Follow the Models of Communism and Fascism

When I say that the modern Republican and Conservative movements follow the legacy of Communism and Fascism, I don't mean it in the everyday college freshman/Burning Man/ U.S. Out Of Vermont sense. What I am speaking to are the practices that the Communist Party in the former Soviet Union, as well as the National Socialists in Germany, used to gain and maintain power. Two of modern Conservatism's intellectual founders, Leo Strauss and Irving Kristol, both formed their early opinions of shaping political discourse from Nationalism in Germany and Stalinism/Trotskyism in Russia.

An obscure German Jewish political philosopher, Leo Strauss came to the U.S. from a country devastated by the Holocaust. He taught at the University of Chicago in the 50s and 60s, where he said of liberalism: "Because mankind is intrinsically wicked, he has to be governed. Such governance can only be established, however, when men are united - and they can only be united against other people." Strauss advocated both The Big Lie and the perpetual war. Among his students were Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, both architects of the Iraq War.

The other founding father of modern Conservatism was Irving Kristol, who began his political life at the City University of New York in the 1930s as a follower of Leon Trotsky. Kristol drew lesson from Trotsky which he applied to politics: the idea of "permanent revolution" and "exporting Communism" without any concession to other political ideologies. In 1983, Kristol wrote, "Patriotism springs from love of the nation's past; nationalism arises out of the hope for the nation's future. Neoconservatives believe that the goals of American foreign policy must go beyond a narrow, too literal definition of `national security'. It is the national interest of a world power, as this is defined by a sense of national destiny, not a myopic national security." Kristol wanted to export American Democracy, but for him Democracy had nothing to do with social equality and populism. For Kristol, it meant exporting American economic hegemony and private corporate enterprise.

Neoconservative thought originated in the early middle of the century and fermented in the years following the Republican Great Depression and WWII, until the Reagan Revolution. The Reagan years became a testing ground of policy and practice with regards to ecomonic imperialism, oligarchy, and "the permanent campaign" that would later be implemented fully during George W. Bush's administration. Adolph Hitler used the term "Third Reich," which meant the 1,000 year German Nazi rule, which Karl Rove took a cue from when he voiced his grand goal of establishing a "one hundred year Republican rule." In addition to a Nazi/Stalinist belief in endless single party control, the GOP has also adapted Hitler's term "homeland" as a carefully calculated propaganda tool to, in Straussian form, unite the people of a nation against a common, abstract enemy. For Hitler is was "the Jewish menace," and for Bush it's the "threat of terrorism." Along with seizing power under the guise of constant danger to the country from an outside threat, the Neoconservatives also seized onto the Stalinist/Straussian idea of perpetual war (see Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, Iran this summer) to keep the populace afraid and patriotic. A form of social control over dissent that goes all the way back to Machiavelli.

By now you're wondering "Hey Patrick, what's with the history lesson?" Well, regular readers of Idiolexicon know that I love to hear myself talk, but that's not the real reason. Well, I mean, it sort of is, but we'll pretend it's not. This past weekend, three major news stories got me thinking about a nexus tying them all together with the thread of this Neoconservative philosophy based on the worst forms of 20th century propaganda tools.

I recently wrote about the Media Matters & Center for American Progress study detailing that Americans are by and large progressive in their social and political leanings. However, almost all progressive views are squashed in media, whether it be in newspapers, on television, and especially on radio. The latter was the subject of a new report this weekend citing the severe one-sidedness of talk radio. In fact, 90% of all voices on talk radio in America are Conservatives, and most of them far right. This study sent off a firestorm on talk radio by Conservatives hosts all saying that "if liberal talk radio worked the free market would have shown it." This is all bull.

Ed Shultz, the #1 rated talk show host in America is only on 100 stations nationwide. In almost every market in which he goes head to head with Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly he wins, but he can't get on a major network. Why? Oligarchy. Ownership. Most radio stations are owned by a handful of companies who don't want to broadcast progressive opinion, whether it's profitable or not. Massive corporate ownership is also the reason why newspapers and television are so roundly conservative and refuse in depth reporting. It's all about the bottom line and quelling dissenting voices. When Monica Goodling revealed to Congress that Karl Rove underling Tim Griffin had directed caging efforts for George Bush in Florida during the 2000 election, it didn't appear on any network news or national newspapers. She admitted before Congress that not only had the Republican party (which is under a restraining order against caging) violated the law, but they had suppressed the minority vote and subsequently stolen the election.

Every day the Republican National Committee sends out a list of talking points to all the conservative radio hosts, TV pundits, and newspaper editors in America for them to use and distribute via the media. Complete one party control of media has been a GOP project for more than thirty years, taking their cues, again, from the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany where one state sponsored media outlet spoke with one voice, and that voice was always the lockstep of the party.

Another practice of the Soviet Union, especially in their occupation of satellite states, was the altering of history. Photographs with people removed, names stricken from records, books burned, etc. The Bush administration has taken this to heart. We've all seen Jon Stewart play a clip of Tony Snow saying something one day, and then a clip denying whatever it was he said in the first clip was ever said. Heck, even over on they had Thomas Jefferson, founder of the Democratic party, listed as Republican (the Republican Party wasn't even founded until 1854) until recently when public outcry forced a change. We found out during the Alberto Gonzalez hearings that the Bush Whitehouse, instead of conducting government business on mandatory Whitehouse servers, have been using the RNC email service. This weekend we learned the RNC has deleted literally hundreds of thousands of emails from the Whitehouse, thus erasing the historical record and making it, for the purposes of history and Congressional inquiry, Bush's word against anyone else's. In addition this weekend we learned that Dick Cheney routinely destroys all records of his office's dealings, as well as his Secret Service visitor logs. History is the enemy of the propaganda machine, unless history can be altered. Remember Milan Kundera's famous quip, "the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting."

The third story from this past weekend is the one that ties all of this together, because it looks forward to the next presidential election. Senator Richard Luger (R-IN) called this weekend for a timely withdrawal from Iraq, saying the current policy isn't working. The media has jumped all over this story, and it's just what the GOP wants. Along with Senators John Warner and Chuck Hagel, we're beginning to see the media advancing a thread of Republican dissent to end the occupation in Iraq. Last month when the GOP in Congress forced the Democrats to pass a war funding bill without timelines, they effectively handed off responsibility for the occupation over to the Democratic Congress. We're going to see a Republican game plan play out this year that marries the media machine to our penchant for forgetting: the GOP wants us to believe that the Democrats could have ended the occupation but didn't, and now the noble Senate Republicans are stepping in to do what the Dems couldn't.

The vast majority of the Democratic platform heading into the 2008 election involves running against the occupation of Iraq. The GOP is planning to pull that rug out from under them, and left simply isn't prepared for it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Radio Silence

Today was the National Day of Silence in protest of the recent royalty hike for internet radio. If you're not familiar with the issues, the WFMU blog has a very good rundown of the issues.

Regardless of how you feel about music piracy, it's getting harder and harder to defend the RIAA. A group that advocates and lobbies for the record industry is a fine idea; it's just too bad the group is run by people who hate music.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

now playing: Amanda Chiado

Better Technoboosts

Sunday funnies

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Saturday Night Main Event

Robert Creeley reads After Lorca.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Poems from Guantanamo

I have to admit, for someone who spends most of his waking life writing about poetry and politics, when the two combine I'm sometimes left with very little to say. It wasn't until I saw the front page of the Wall Street Journal today that I became aware of a forthcoming volume from the University of Iowa press: The Detainees Speak a collection of poems written by detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

The poems, most of them carved into styrofoam cups with pebbles, were considered "classified" for many years, and have only recently been given the okay for release by the U.S. military. The collection was compiled by Marc Falkoff, a military defense lawyer with a Ph.D in English, and Iowa offered to publish it. Here, former Poet-Laureate Robert Pinsky (of Colbert Report and the Simpsons)discusses the upcoming collection with the BBC.

Poetry written not out of art, but out of desperation and defiance, I personally can't wait to read the collection, and at the same time, its front page exposure is bringing more and much needed light to the plight of hundreds of men and boys who our own military is holding indefinitely and without trial. Unfortunately, according to Mr. Falkoff, the military rejected many translations of the poems, for "security" reasons, and so laments the collection doesn't do justice to the original verse.

I was going to make a bad joke about the Pentagon brass demanding a strict Neo-Formalist translation to Falkoff's Post-Language Futurism, but, while I'm making jokes these detainees are still suffering in silence. I'm anticipating the release of this collection, I'm anticipating justice for what our own military is doing even more.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Recommended Reading

Homeless at Home -- Poems by Gloria Frym

This recommendation could easily start with, "In the Rabbinical tradition of John Cage...," but it won't. Frym's poems are letters by design and device but pure cutting verse in image and breath. Frym is creating and burning originality and emotion, tradition and defiance.

There's both politic and eulogy in every movement, joy and disgust in the layering and shifting of forms. Poets both young and old could learn the possibilities and power of verse from Gloria Frym. Each refrain becomes a philosophy of the body as history, and history as the cultural, racial, and feminine wound it is.

I know I'm piling on generalities, but the spectrum of language, intelligence, and fire going on within Homeless at Home is so humbling I could go on for weeks. Her rhetoric is smart and funny, her juxtaposition startling and insightful. Her poems are meditations on mortality and death, and the life often lost and muddy that leads to it. Really, an amazing volume of poetry from one of San Francisco's most kick-ass poets.


Friday, June 15, 2007

The Myth of Executive Privilege

Just so everyone's up to speed:

The unprecedented firing this year of eight U.S. Attorneys, Conservatives all, led to their coming to Congress to testify on Justice Department improprieties. Compounding these accusations of improper conduct was former interim Attorney General James Comey's tale of Gonzalez, then White House Counsel, trying to strong-arm an ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft, in the middle of the night in his sick bed, into signing onto Bush's domestic spying program.

This led to the questioning of Alberto Gonzalez, who threw his underlings Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling under the bus. Under questioning from the Senate Judiciary Committee, it came to light that Gonzalez had lied to the committee the first time around. This led to the memorable Gonzalez testimony in which he said he "couldn't recall" specific Justice Department meetings he'd been involved with or memos he'd written more than 60 times.

The Senate and House Judiciary committees, having gone as far up the chain as the evidence has taken them thus far, have both concluded that the list of U.S. Attorneys to be fired was based on purely political reasons, that the eight U.S. Attorneys refused to find and bring charges against Democrats before the '06 election. That same list, the Judiciary Committees concluded, was generated somewhere in the White House.

This week, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. John Conyers (D-NY) issued subpoenas for former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor. The White House has rejected the subpoenas, claiming the President has "Executive Privilege" to keep private any and all internal White House communications. Richard Nixon made the same shaky claims regarding the Watergate tapes, and we all know how that turned out.

However, this idea of "Executive Privilege," of the Executive branch being free from Congressional oversight and public sunshine, exists nowhere outside of the minds of hardcore Republicans. In fact, if you look at the Constitution, the Congress is defined at the first branch of government, considered by the founders as the first among equals because it was closest to the people. In fact, Article 1, Section 6, clearly states that Congressman are allowed "Congressional Privilege," but nowhere in the Constitution is there any mention of a similar privilege for the President.

The President's duty in our democratic government is to faithfully execute the laws as established by Congress. Basically, and I know Conservatives enjoy overlooking this little inconvenient truth, the President's Constitutional job is to do what the Congress says. I know that last statement is a little too broad, and I know that Presidents of both parties (Jefferson, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt) have assumed broad powers and policy control, but the fact remains that the Conservative belief in a unitary executive, and of overarching secretive privilege for the President, is a myth. It wasn't until Watergate and Nixon that the idea came before the Supreme Court, and in The United States v. Richard Nixon the Court ruled that each branch of government owns a small amount of privilege from the others, but only in so much as it pertains to National Security.

In the case of Alberto Gonzalez, Karl Rove, and Attorneygate, while the Republican Party may consider a Republican stranglehold on government akin to National Security, the Constitution, the law, and all common sense, does not. Call and email your Congressfolk, and let's hope they get to the bottom of this political mud hole.

Saturday Night Main Event

The late, great Ted Berrigan.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Fresh Voices festival

This weekend marks the beginning of Goat Hall Productions' Fresh Voices Festival of New Music, one of the most exciting events in Bay Area music. The festival features new and in-progress opera by local composers ranging from the traditional to the bizarre.

I talked about Goat Hall here a few weeks ago too. My fiancee has become a regular at their productions and cabarets. Again and again, I'm taken with these guys' willingness to put things in front of an audience that may not be squeaky-tight yet. In their willingness to fail, they achieve artistic successes far greater than you'd expect from a no-budget company.

This year's line-up is focusing on operatic adaptations of well-known literature. Source material includes Updike, Garcia Lorca, Beckett, the Bible, and more.

The first program takes place Friday 6/15 and Saturday 6/16 at 8 PM. The second program is next Friday 6/22 at 8 PM and Sunday 6/24 at 7 PM.

FLYER (.doc)

The Progressive Majority

Ever since Reagan, Conservatives have been only too happy to tell us that American is a Conservative country. On every major and almost every minor media outlet of any kind, Conservatives control the majority of the message, and that message usually involves relegating Liberals, Democrats, and Progressives to a small fringe group of flag-burning, gay-marrying, troop-hating, blame-America-first Communists. Heck, even I have my Conservative leanings (regular readers of Idiolexicon know I can't stomach deficit spending, and think goverment should provide and fully fund infrastructure first, followed by police/fire and rescue, education, and healthcare/social security, and whoever spends a cent of my tax dollars on anything other than that should be jailed for treason. Regular readers also know about my quasi-insane ship-the-homeless-to-Mexico plan, too, but that's a debate for another day.)

Having said all that, I consider myself to be 90% Progressive, and a new broad study of the American people jointly written and researched by The Campaign for America's Future and Media Matters for America, shows that in the United States, that puts my squarely in the main stream. The study, entitled America's Progressive Majority, shows that clear majorities of American citizens support an active government, universal health care, strong unions, stem cell research, a woman's right to choose, environmental protections, equal rights for gays and lesbians, and rolling back tax cuts and payouts to corporations.

This goes right to the heart of the Conservative media and the Republican noise machine. It reinforces the argument that Conservaties drive down voter turnout to win elections and buy media outlets to get their Oligarchist ideas across, because if Democracy ran its course fairly, they wouldn't be able to exert control over the branches of government like they do today. It's worth a read, and it's worth reasoning the results of this comprensive report out to its fullest conclusions.

Read the Report
Download the Report

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Don "Mr. Wizard" Herbert passed away today:

"It is with deep sadness that we regret to inform you of the passing of Don Herbert - the one and only “Mr. Wizard”. Don lost his battle with cancer today, June 12, 2007, at 9 AM - slightly more than one month shy of his 90th birthday. He was lovingly surrounded by his family, who are at once, saddened by his passing, and relieved that he is no longer suffering.

We all feel lucky to have known and worked with Don and we have been honored to carry on his legacy as an original and truly legendary figure in the worlds of both Television and Science Education. He has been inspirational and influential in so many ways and on so many lives and we are comforted in the fact that his ground breaking work and legacy will continue to inspire many more people for years to come.

Thank you so much to all of you for your support and sympathy. Sincerely, The Family"

I used to love Mr. Wizard when I was a friendless kid who circled rock tumblers in the JC Penny Christmas catalog and saved his allowance to buy the newest AD&D Monsters Compendiums. He, Danger Mouse, and the occasional Roller Derby rerun got me ready for grade school every morning. Good bye Mr. Wizard.

Monday, June 11, 2007

now playing: Glenn Bach

from Atlas Peripatetic

History Lesson

Watching Ron Paul (R-TX) during the GOP debates offering the other Republican candidates (who were practically stepping over one and other to offer the most pro-torture anti-science platform) in vain a foreign policy based on fact, reason, and the lessons of history, got me thinking about what the Republican party used to be (they love to say "the Party of Lincoln" but never "the Party of Hoover and the Great Depression") before the influence of corporate money and Christianist ground troops that comprise its base today.

Before it's all said and done, George W. Bush's occupation of Iraq will have cost us a trillion dollars, which he's paid for almost exclusively through borrowing. The industrial war machine is the sole glue holding together the economy he's destroyed, shipped over seas, and tax-cut back to the wealthiest one percent. My generation, for what it's worth, are the ones footing the bill.

What follows is a brief clip of former President Dwight Eisenhower, as well as an excerpt from a speech he gave on April 16th, 1953:

...Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

John Cage has got a secret

Check out this great clip of John Cage on the 60s gameshow I've Got a Secret:

Now, depress yourself by trying to imagine a display like this taking place on a popular network gameshow today. Were Cage invited to give a performance like this on a similar show today, I think he'd be treated much differently. The entire format of Deal or No Deal wouldn't be forgone to make room for the performance.

And yes, people were laughing, but it wasn't LOLARTISTS. It was laughter in the same spirit as the piece, the same laughter you hear at musical performances and poetry readings all of the time.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

now playing: Glenn Bach

from Atlas Peripatetic

Monday, June 04, 2007

Recommended Reading

The Guns and Flags Project -- Poems by Geoffrey O'Brien

Three times during my reading, and rereading, of this book, I realized the various cafe's I was sitting in were all playing Fine Young Cannibals' She Drives Me Crazy, and I really wanted to make some sort of elaborate symbolism out of it, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't do it.

So I'm sorry to say, this book recommendation will be tragically free of Fine Young Cannibals. O'Brien's poetry, however, is an exercise in pace and line. Imagine if Baudelaire had written Song of Myself and given it over to e.e. cummings to edit. Imagine -- go ahead -- that's where the joy of this book begins. In The Guns and Flags Project we find a new way of listening to and recording the world, the hum of all the deepest shadows around us.

His photographs are large print photographs of a discourse on death at the edge of winter when snow warms to fog, and the world, still asleep, threatens to live again. The beauty in O'Brien's poems are a compelling oxidation. A density of thought woven out as a quilt of a language game with politic in the periphery and at its core, a new mode of interpreting sign and symbol to replace the current, which deteriorates as we watch, unwilling and unable to become involved.

O'Brien's poems are a densely layered world of rich color, cartographers, skys, dichotomies, and the nervous movement of the world. His poems are both smart and clever. Not a syllable goes by that doesn't challenge the reader, all the while respecting the intelligence of his audience. O'Brien refuses to thin out that which does not need to be, a lyric in the vein of John Ashbury and C.D. Wright. He uses subtle refrain, core groups of word and image repeat within poems, and within the book as a whole to create an atmosphere, a climate, and a new landscape of choppy discourse like a failed ocean in autumn.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

ahem. USA! USA!

America has taken back the World Hot Dog Eating title!

Regular readers of Idiolexicon know that I've been pushing for years now to escalate the War on Hot Dogs. I think that 4.3 billion dollar supplemental Congress passed for our nation's brave gurgitators last month finally did the trick.

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