Monday, July 30, 2007

Water Bottles, How Safe Are They?

A few weeks ago, Karen, asked me about the safety of water bottles and bottled water. It's a question that is more complicated than it seems, and I won't try to answer it completely now. But the truth is I love those pretty sporty bottles and used to carry them everywhere. Just looking at them made me thirsty. And they went well with my pink yoga mat and sweat shirt. I mean, how cool is that? And those bottles are pretty in a plastic kind of way . . .

But there's some worrying research that suggests Nalgene bottles, at least the pretty colored ones (with a # 7 on the bottom), are a health risk. They are more suspect than those soft plastic ones (the safest ones have #2, #4, or #5 on the bottom) you don't reuse and that are causing a huge garbage problem in our country. Some Nalgene bottles and other sport water bottles are clear and are #2s or 4s as well, and are probably safer.

If you are confused as to why you don't know this, so am I. But it's seems that the plastic industry is fighting to minimize our awareness of the risks associated with plastics.

Mothers are particularly upset because tests on the most popular brands of plastic baby bottles demonstrate that the bottles leach chemicals after being put in the dishwasher regularly. California is moving towards a ban on such baby bottles.
Below are two quotes to start you wondering.

"Polycarbonate water bottles (labeled #7) contain bisphenol A (BPA), which leaches from the plastic even at room temperature and has been linked to chromosome damage and hormone disruption. These are the types of plastic Nalgene water bottles found in sports stores. Commonly, the bottled water you purchase is in #1 PET or PETE bottles (polyethylene terephthalate) , which may leach DEHA, a known carcinogen, if used more than once."

"The ubiquitous polycarbonate water bottle is the canteen of the 21st century. But these colorful plastic vessels, made by companies like Nalgene and GSI Outdoors, have been embroiled in a controversy for the past two years, ever since a researcher at Case Western Reserve University said they may pose health risks.

Dr. Patricia Hunt, a geneticist working with laboratory mice, noticed a spike in chromosomal abnormalities after a lab worker cleaned a set of polycarbonate mouse cages with a harsh detergent, leaching a chemical called bisphenol-A (BPA) into the animals' environment. Hunt's findings, which were published in the journal Current Biology, were used by Sierra magazine and other media to perpetuate - somewhat haphazardly - a scare that polycarbonate or Lexan water bottles potentially could leach similar nasty chemicals..."

So what are the safest water bottles? Sigg water bottles, I think they are called. And Greenfeet has some good alternatives as well. Click here and check them out.

The Hundredth Monkey Effect

This is a brief essay Jimmy wrote in high school on the 100th Monkey Effect.

Wow! Did you know that monkeys, placed far apart and separated by a sea, somehow communicate? According to the research, or the urban myth, (okay, this is something my Mom's New Age friends believe in for some reason) when enough monkeys on one shore perform a new trick, then monkeys on another shore will do the same trick! The trick, in this case, is washing sweet potatoes. Thus the monkey can communicate by washing sweet potatoes! A monkey on one island off the coast of Japan knows when a lot of monkeys on another island off the coast of Japan are washing sweet potatoes!

That is to say, the research explains conclusively that the monkeys are connected telepathically! At least when there are a hundred of them. Or is it the sweet potatoes?

In this way scientists have proved, once and for all, that men are not like monkeys and never were. Clearly a man in one country will never know when a man (or 100 men) in another country is washing his sweet potatoes.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

How Safe Is My Burger? My Fear of Mad Cow Disease

A few weeks ago I was at a barbecue, and one of my friends asked me why I don't eat burgers. Do I really think the meat in this country is unsafe? Or is it a religious issue? I didn't want to answer right then. I don't like spoiling people's appetites or barbecues or peace of mind. But I'm not eating burgers any time soon. I don't know if it's a real risk or not, but Mad Cow Disease gives me the creeps. Just the idea of it . . . And I'm not the only one. I've got a friend in McDonalds . . .

Yep, McDonald's is also unhappy with the Bush administration and its standards for beef inspections. McDonald's worries that the govt. isn't doing enough to protect its citizens
from Mad Cow Disease. The fact is that the US currently tests only 1%
of all slaughtered cows. And it doesn't want to allow farmers to test more.

Creekstone Farms Premium Beef is currently fighting the Bush administration for the right to test all its animals for Mad Cow Disease. While a judge ruled in favor of Creekstone, the Agriculture Department is appealing the case and thus delaying any testing.

Why? Well take a guess. The large meat packing industry wants to save money. The corporations gave a lot of money to George W. to insure they would not have to up their beef standards. Besides, Mad Cow Disease is a slow-wasting disease that takes six years or more to take effect. And then all that happens is that your brain turns to jello. This has already happened to George, and he hasn't been bothered by it a bit. So what's the problem?

And a lot of folks think we don't have Mad Cow Disease in this country, but I'm not so sure. Some doctors suspect a lot of Alzheimer's and dementia patients might well have the disease. And others fear that we have a sleeping epidemic on our hands.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Poetry News Flash

1.Karen Schubert was nominated for a best of the net award for her poem, "Wisconsin" in the online journal Apple Valley Review.

2. Neil Carphathios has 2 new award-winning books out, both of them stunning collections: Playground of Flesh and At the Axis of Imponderables

3. I discovered a wonderful online magazine, The Box Car Review: edited by Neil Aitken.

4. Another online magazine to check out is the new DMQ Review. I love Neil Aitken's poems in there. I guess he's a great editor and poet . . .

5. Peter Conners has a new book of prose poems out: Of Whiskey and Winter. I am loving it. How's this for an opening to the poem, "American Prose Poet:"
I love prose poetry but don't speak French. I don't speak anything really. Mispronounce the great minds. That's an order. Say Goethe like Go The. Say Ponge like Sponge with a P. Make Max Jacob an Amish farmer. Go ahead, they're dead. Only the academics can cut you know, and we all know about them; they eat canapes and call it art.

6. And now that I am talking about poets I love, check out Rick Bursky. Anything he writes. But especially his first book, The Soup of Something Missing. The guy is brilliant.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Some Things You Might Want to Know

1. Denise Duhamel has a wonderful book of 1001 Feelings.
Mille et un Sentiments. An excerpt:

I feel as though my ankle is an anthill
opening its roof when my foot falls asleep.
I feel elated when I am alone in my room.
I feel . . .

2. The Web Site, We Feel Fine, has been searching blogs
since 2005 for all human feelings. Programmed to search
every few minutes, the site seeks out the phrases,
I feel, and I am feeling . . .
and then determines the age, gender, location, weather
and time the feelings were felt. Then it posts
those feelings and counts them. How a country felt,
a year, a rainy day in Texas, or an endless night in Alaska . . .
The goal is to make us see beauty in everyday ups and downs.
I am not sure how I feel about my feelings being searched
even if they are just blog feelings.

Blog feelings? Do you see the beauty in my blog feelings?
Their ups and downs?

3. I feel open to outrage.
I feel politely pissed off.
I feel like Quasimodo at a quiz show.

Some Things You Might Not Want to Know about Lawn Chemicals

This afternoon this guy from one of the lawn chemical companies stopped by. He said he'd taken a good look at my yard, and he thought I might need his services. I looked out at my sun-baked yard. He said it just needed a good hosing of pesticides and herbicides. Nothing harmful. He assured me that his company only used safe chemicals. He gave me his card, and said if I changed my mind, just call and ask for Bob.

I didn't know whether to tell him what was on my mind. I wasn't sure if it would be polite to say that according to the EPA, 95% of the pesticides used on residential lawns contain possible carcinogens. In 1989 the National Cancer Institute reported that children develop leukemia 6 times more often when pesticides are used around their homes. In June of 2006, the Harvard School of Public Health published a study linking Parkinson’s with pesticide exposure. Several studies conducted at the Virginia Technical Institute link a weakened immune system to pesticides. And the University of Florida reported that the daughters of mothers who live in proximity to agricultural spraying might never be able to nurse their babies. Some of these girls fail to develop mammary tissue or develop only minimal amounts.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Judith Mansour-Thomas, the new director of the Poets and Writers League of Greater Cleveland, welcomes all to a post-rainstorm musical picnic.

"There's bird shit on this chair, but you can sit on it if you want to."

"No, I did not make it rain on your picnic!"

"Hey, will someone start the music?"

Srikanth and Michael:
"But I digress . . . "

Karen, Ron, and Sarah's chair engage in discussion.
"Did I know you in a past life?"

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New Poems!

The Delaware Review has some new poems of mine.

One begins:


Facts off CNN, February 14

84% of Americans say they're in love this morning. 16% say they're not. No undecideds, unlike every other poll. People are evenly divided over whether Valentine's Day matters, though one reporter said she felt sorry for all those who have nobody to be their valentine. Even if it's true that only 4% say the day is bad, and only 1% actually dread the date, making it more popular than Thanksgiving or Christmas. The reporter added that over 60% of women say they would give up sex for a year for a date with Brad Pitt. But men will never give up sex, period. No one dares ask them to.

But there was one man who said . . .



Fixing the Zeros

I have been thinking about obsessions lately.
How everyone has them, how some come and go.
I remember the year my dad became obsessed with his weight.
He would stand on the scale several times a day,
and if he didn’t like the reading,
he’d step off. Then, holding onto the towel bars,
he’d lower himself slowly, slowly down
again. If that didn’t work, he might stomp on it,
kick it, or bend down to readjust the settings.
Or buy a new scale.

These techniques he described as readjusting.
Readjusting what? I'd ask.
The zeros, he'd answer.
Every now and again, the zeros need a little fixing.
You need to set them just so


Oh I feel so sick! Nothing like a conference to do me in.
I'm reading Peter Conner's new book, Of Whiskey and Winter,
which, in one poem, compares watching a cat vomit to a poetry reading.
Yes, I think, maybe that's about right.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Green Slime and Bird Shit

I had a lousy day today. To top it off I went into Bath and Body Works, and this lady came up to me and started trying to sell me some kind of green slime. She said it would get rid of those fly away hairs. Now anyone who has ever seen me knows I don’t have fly-away hairs. My hairs don’t go anywhere, and they sure as hell don’t fly. My hairs stick close to the scalp. I’d pay good money for hair that flew some place. I don’t know how many hours of my life I’ve spent waving a hair dryer at my head, hoping something magic would happen. But before I could stop this woman, she was wiping this green stuff on my head. She handed me this little mirror. Isn’t that nice? It has such a shine to it. It looked like an oil slick. I tend to be polite, so I smiled, but I left before she could wipe anything else on me. Women like that make me nervous.

It reminded me of the first birthday party I ever went to. I was young, not even in school yet. I remember walking from the driveway to the backyard to join all these kids who were zooming around out there. All of a sudden this bird took a shit on my head. I remember thinking uho. What do I do next? I was this kid who always wore weird glasses and had a patch on one eye, and my dad used to say, however weird you think you look, just act normal. So I started racing around with the other kids. Pretty soon one of the mothers started worrying. Does that girl have bird shit all over her head? She took me inside and stuck my head under the kitchen faucet.

That bird shit was like super glue. It would not come out. I missed the entire party. No cake, no ice cream, just a head full of bird shit. I never would go back to that kid’s house. I knew better. That kid had birds in her yard that would shit all over your head.

A week away from my desk and Henri Michaux

I am going to teach at IMAGINATION this week. I always feel like puking before I teach or give a reading. I feel as if I'm not the person who stands up in front of a class or audience. Of course I'm not. And then I think about Henri Michaux. He wouldn't even accept the big literary award in France ( le prix national des lettres) because he didn't want to be interviewed, photographed, or seen in public.

He was such an anti-poet anyhow. He begins one poem, "It's a rare person I see whom I don't want to beat up." And my favorite, "Simplicity," begins like this:

What has been missing in my life until now is simplicity. I am beginning to change, little by little.

For example, now I always go out with my bed, and when a woman pleases me, I take her to bed immediately.

If her ears are ugly or large, or her nose, I take them off with her clothes and put them under the bed. I keep only what I like."

(from Someone Wants to Steal My Name, Cleveland State University Press)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

2 Things My Father Always Said

1. If you have something nice to say,
don't bore me.

2. Have one drink to loosen the tongue.
Have another to forget what you said.

Denise Duhamel is coming to Cleveland!

I’m so excited! Denise Duhamel is coming to Cleveland for IMAGINATION. And Suzanne is coming back from El Salvador next Sunday! Hurray! I asked Suzanne what she’s learned in the Peace Corps so far, and she said, well, a lot of things. But one thing she’s learned for certain is that the word, manana, could mean any day. Or maybe never. Which reminds me of this terrific poem by Denise Duhamal, “Yes.”

It begins like this:

According to Culture Shock:
A Guide to Customs and Etiquette
of Filipinos, when my husband says yes,
he could also mean one of the following:

a.) I don’t know
b.) If you say so
c.) If it will please you
d.) I hope I have said yes unenthusiastically enough
for you to realize I mean no.

(from The Star-Spangled Banner, Southern Illinois University Press, p. 3)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Essay question from my high school English final

How did Emily feel about being nobody?
Do you feel like a nobody too?
Do you like being nobody?
Or would you rather be somebody?
Write an essay about your feelings about being nobody
vs. your feelings about being somebody.

Suzanne at a Workshop with the Salvadoran Breakers

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Things I Am Thinking about

1. I had 5 eye operations when I was a girl. The eye doctor was a friend of my mother’s. He asked if he could use me as a medical guinea pig. She said yes. She never paid for the operations. But she did send him a ham every Christmas.

2. I saw Richard Nixon in 1970. I didn’t mean to. I was at the Bangor airport when Nixon flew in. I stood outside the fence with all his fans. I was carrying a puppy in a crate because it was too hot to leave a dog in the car. Suddenly a large hand grabbed my arm, and a lowered voice asked, What’s in the crate? I turned to see a man in a trench coat with shades, reaching for my dog crate. Just then, Nixon stepped out of the plane.

3. When I was applying to colleges, I thought I wanted to be a marine biologist. I wanted to operate one of those bathyspheres and watch fish. I applied to the Florida Institute of Technology and was accepted. But I was informed in my acceptance letter that I would not be allowed to participate in the program I had selected. Women, the letter pointed out, are not strong enough to operate such equipment. That was in 1977.

4. Shortly after 9/11 I took an airplane trip to Chicago. One of the security agents pulled me aside. He said he wanted to examine me further and asked me to unzip my pants. I said something smart, like: that’s where I always keep my nuclear weapons. This is no laughing matter, Miss, he answered as he patted me down.

5. I used to love salad bars. I’d eat at any restaurant with a salad bar. Then one day my sister sneezed on the blue cheese dressing at a Ruby Tuesdays.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Christopher Robin and George Bush

There's this great prose poem called "Christopher Robin" by Milosz in his book, Roadside Dog.

It begins with Pooh talking, and whenever I read the opening of the poem, I think of George Bush.

"I must think suddenly of matters too difficult for a bear of little brain. I have never asked myself what lies beyond the place where we live, I and Rabbit, Piglet and Eeyore, with our friend, Christopher Robin. That is, we continued to live here, and nothing changed, and I just ate my little something."

And a bit later:

"Owl says that immediately behind our garden Time begins, and that it is an awfully deep well. If you fall in it, you go down and down, very quickly, and no one knows what happens to you next."

Okay, I admit the poem is way too sweet and magical to link it to politics, and that's not the actual context of the piece. And George doesn't have any innocence to him. But he is of little brain, or no brain at all. And we are falling and falling . . .

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


I heard on the BBC the other night
that banana farmers are becoming sterile
from the pesticides used on the fruit.
Research is now proving this case.

The corporations already knew this
but they figured
it was a reasonable cost to pay
to keep the bananas bug-free.

Linda heard this news too.
She said Dmitri lives on a banana plantation.
All his sperm have been killed
as if they were fruit flies or aphids
or thrips. Thrips, for those who don't know
have "piercing (rasping)-sucking mouth parts
that damage flowers, fruit, leaves and stems.
Several different species feed on bananas."

I keep thinking about this story.
I wonder how they calculated the costs.
Healthy bananas vs. sterilized men.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Sarah, Sarah!

I was standing in line at Walgreens today.
This one woman was confiding to another.

"Last night I thought I heard my husband call out, Sarah! Sarah!
But then I realized he wasn't my husband."

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Another Bio Note

Nin Andrews is a hand model. Her hands have been seen in magazines and movies world wide, modeling the most sensual moments when lover’s fingers intertwine. She and her hands live a quiet life of beauty rest, manicures and exercise. On occasion she receives letters from admirers who wish just once to see her hands with their very own eyes. They wish to take her long tapered fingers and kiss them one by one. But Nin is a married woman, married to the Persian man who invented Magic Fingers, those electric hotel beds that appear only in select hotel rooms. Whenever Nin and her husband can’t turn each other on, they turn on their beds.

Or is this Sarah' bio note?

A Bio Note

I never like to write bio notes or profiles. I always feel as if I am talking about someone else. And maybe I am. I'm one of those people who looks like someone else. People I've never met often come up to me and talk to me as if they know me. Just the other night a woman came up and started talking to me as if we were long-lost friends. And how have you been? And it's been so long, she added. Then she said she'd only just seen my father the other night, and wasn't he looking fine for a man his age? He looked fine? I asked. I didn't want to tell her my dad has been dead for a few years now. Instead I asked what he was wearing. And if he had mentioned my name. Oh, she said, he always talks about you, Sarah. You know that. You will always be the apple of his eyes.

I always did want to be Sarah. Sarah or Sal. Sarahs are pretty and sexy and sweet. And the boys always gave them sweet tarts at recess in grade school.

I was never a Sarah. Alas.

Nin I was. Then and now.Whoever that was or is. But this is the standard Nin Andrews bio note. Maybe I'll write one for Sarah some day soon. Sarah who is the apple of my father's eyes.

Nin Andrews received her BA from Hamilton College, and her MFA from Vermont College. She is the author of several book including The Book of Orgasms, Any Kind of Excuse,Why They Grow Wings, Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane. She also edited a book of translations of the French poet, Henri Michaux, entitled Someone Want to Steal My Name. Her next book is called Sleeping with Houdini and is due out in October.