Sunday, October 30, 2011

Little Englishmen

Suzanne tells me that in Sudan, they've nicknamed these tiny bananas, Little Englishmen.

(Sudan was colonized by the British.)

from Kenya

A new photo from Suzanne--taken at a celebration in Taita Taveta near the Tanzania border . . .
I love the way they seem to be jumping straight up--as if from a standing position.


from "The Old Woman's Hide," which is in Italian Folktales, Selected and Retold by Italo Calvino

I love the openings of fairy tales. Often the stories are not nearly as inspiring, but the first paragraphs . . .

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Michael Jackson: This Is It

I used to suspect that Michael Jackson was really an alien.
I love his advice to artists . . . You gotta let it simmer.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Seven Billion!

Born just in time for trick or treat . . .

I hope some of them are ETs. We sure could use some extra-planetary help with this problem, which even environmental groups avoid discussing for fear of offending some religious people. (And some economists?)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Diet of Murderous Thoughts

My Last Duchess

I had to give the duchess a bit of an attitude. And a few more years . . . Somehow the desire for her to strike back overtakes me . . .

I have to read and teach at Lake Erie College today, and I am taking Tom Clark's wonderful new book, Canyonesque, with me. I plan to and use the poem, "Poetry Lesson" in class.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mighty Be Our Powers

This book is not as well-written as What is the What or Infidel, but it's still a fascinating history of Liberia, as well as a memoir. It was also inspiring to read about these women . . . empowering.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The fairest of them all

In the world of poets, I always feel like the terrier in a party of lovely cats.

Boston terriers, now they are real genetic anomalies. Genetic anomaly, or genetic sport, the words my mother used to apply to me, meaning I don't know where you came from, but it wasn't me.

The term, genetic anomaly, always reminds me of those stupid questions teachers used to give us in what they called New Math, back in first grade. There would be a set of 4 things: a cow, a pig, a dog, and a fork. And you were supposed to circle what doesn't belong in the set. I always wondered who thought up those questions? What is wrong with the adults in this world?

Of course, I always wanted to make up my own sets: a pea, an acorn, a thimble, a snow flake . . . A rain drop, a sofa, a tea cup, a tower . . . A fairy, a fink, a bite, a teaspoon . .

Friday, October 21, 2011

Saturday Oct. 22 with Chris Barzak and Karen Schubert

I will be visiting Chris Barzak's class tomorrow at 11:00
and then reading and teaching with Karen Schubert at the Boardman Y at 2:00.

I love list poems. A list of lies is such a great idea for a poem, and Karen's is a great one.
I am not sure if my little excerpt does it justice. You can read the whole thing here:

Chris's story is a magical sci-fi retelling of a rust-belt city in its smokiest days--a city that consumes the lives of its inhabitants. Painterly in style, "Smoke City" takes you into an unlit world, and at the end, you come out, like the main character, blinking at the light.

Beatrice and Virgil

I am amazed at how people can suffer the most horrific experiences in wars and say it strengthens their faith, as in the case of the women in Liberia.
The reaction of the father in Atwood's The Blind Assassin makes more sense to me:

"However, a much worse thing had happened: my father was now an atheist. Over the trenches God had burst like a balloon, and there was nothing left of him but grubby little scraps of hypocrisy. Religion was just a stick to beat the soldiers with, and anyone who declared otherwise was full of pious drivel. What had been served by the gallantry of Percy and Eddie, their bravery, their hideous deaths?"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Beatrice and Virgil

I have a habit of reading books without reading the reviews or summaries, and often I have no idea what I am getting into. As a result, I end up reading horrific tales of war and violence, themes I would normally attempt to avoid. For example, lately I recently read Murakami's Wind Up Bird Chronicles and Yan Martel's Beatrice and Virgil and Life of Pi.

In the Murakami novel a Japanese soldier is skinned alive by Mongolian and Russian soldiers. In the Martel novel, Life of Pi, Martel uses animal killings as a metaphor for human violence. A hyena eat a a zebra, slowly, ick, and, well, let's just say it's very reminiscent of the Murakami scene.

InBeatrice and Virgil I realized, only in the second half of the novel, that one of the main characters is a Nazi war criminal, seeking forgiveness. I also learned that this book was not nearly as well liked as Pi, but I really liked it. I think it has many of the appealing aspects of a Murakami novel-- it is deeply imagined and moves on many levels. In the end, the book reminded me (ever so slightly) of that movie, The Fog of War, in which Robert McNamara talks for hours about his role in World War II and Vietnam, as if he is needing to explain, to apologize, to redeem himself, even as he confesses.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

From Kenya

I have had so many questions about Suzanne, I thought I would post a link to her latest entry on the savings revolution blog, as well as a photo from her field work. She is in the field again this week, so I should have new pictures soon.

The Ear Model

I been reading a lot of Murakami, and I keep thinking about certain themes, ideas, characters and images that recur in his books. Ears, for example. In his book, A Wild Sheep Chase, he has the main character fall in love with an particular ear model. It begins with a photograph and progresses to a relationship with a call girl-ear model. First he sees photos of his ears . . .

"The real reason I didn't take the photos down was that these ears had me in their thrall. They were the dream image of an ear. The quintessence of ears. Never had any enlarged part of the human body (genitals included, of course) held such strong attraction for me. They were some great whirlpool of fate sucking me in."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

from Our Wonder World, copyright 1914

Wuthering Heights Comic

. . . "it would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how much I love him; and that, not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, . . . "

Oh, swoon. Oh throb. Oh, how many semicolons can one use in a single novel?

I read this book every summer btw fifth and eighth grade. Sigh.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stories from Homer

I remember listening to my mother read these stories aloud and looking at the illustrations, many of which are of naked men with blankets strategically and illogically hanging about them.

Others are of men dressed for battle. I always wondered about some of their outfits, esp. their head gear. Some have helmets, and others have this thing on their head that makes them look like an upside down broom.

Memoir Comic

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Alice Comic

This is what I think -- when watching the Republican debates.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Hear Four Symphonies

I keep thinking about this podcast of WNYC's Radio Lab called Shorts-a 4-Track Mind from July 26, 2011.
. . . about a man who can hear four symphonies at a time. Evidently, they tested him by giving him a few days to memorize 4 symphonies: a Brahms, Mendelson, Beethoven, and Schubert.
Then they put him a sound-proof room by himself and told him when each symphony was beginning--and to start listening to them in his mind. (The symphonies were actually playing in a control room.) At arbitrary times they asked him what was happening in each symphony.
He could say precisely what was happening in each symphony, down to the exact notes and instruments . . .
How does he do this? They don't know.
But he says he hears music as emotion. C major, for example, is like eating water soup. D minor makes him want to dance.

Monday, October 10, 2011

It Takes a Thief

I was reading this week's New Yorker and was struck by the bizarre connection between first the article called "Free Everything," by Miranda July, about a woman who was a compulsive thief, and
second, the creepy article, "State for Sale," by Jane Mayer, about Art Pope (who is affiliated with and much like the Koch brothers) and his ability to buy North Carolina's politicians.

Check out these quotes from "Free Everything." They sound a lot like Wall Street trader logic to me.

"But it wasn't just the supermarket--the whole world was one giant heist."p.58
"Everyone I knew did these things."p.58
"Because what is money anyway? It's just a concept some asshole made up." p. 58
"Still, for a long time I thought my biggest heist was fooling everyone into believing that I was an upstanding citizen, a sweet girl." p. 58

And here are a few quotes from the Pope article. It's a long article, worth reading, and I can't do it justice or quite show how it made me feel like a victim of some kind of heist. I suppose what really upsets me is that it seems that what is happening in North Carolina is also happening in Ohio, particularly the assault on unions, higher education, early voting. Even our local paper, here in a union town, is more and more like Fox News.

A few quotes:

1. . . ."3/4 of the spending by independent groups in North Carolina's 2010 state races came from accounts linked to Pope." p. 93
2. "Republican state legislators have also been devising new rules that, according to Democrats, are intended to suppress Democratic turnout in the state, such as limiting early voting and requiring voters to display government-issued photo I.D.s."p. 92
3. "Meanwhile, Bob Luebke, a researcher at the John W. Pope Civitas Institute in Raleigh, which the Pope family almost single-handedly funds, has written that the poor in America live better than the 'picture most liberals like to paint.'" . . . "a majority of the poor have refrigerators, cable television, microwaves, and shelter."p. 95
4. ". . . fellows at the Pope-funded think-tanks have repeatedly assailed minimum-wave laws."p.96
5."He also believes that the collapse of the traditional news business has provided an opening: 'Our goal is to fill in some of the gaps as the state press corps shrinks.'"p.99
6. "Another Pope-funded organization is the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, . . . It has pushed for deep budget cuts in the state's celebrated university system, and as been a harsh critic of its alleged liberal tilt." 100

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Anne Marie Slaughter: Occupied Wall Street, Seen from Abroad

"I am beginning to suspect that people abroad with long experience of disenfranchisement and trampling of their dignity may in fact understand the fissures in our society better than we do ourselves."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Less Government, More Freedom Comic

I thought of this comic when my daughter, who is in Nairobi, was telling me that this year is an election year in Kenya. She overheard Kenyans talking about how some of the Somali pirates have taken their loot and moved to Kenya and are now a potential political force there.

Somalia, now that's a country that knows about less government.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Denise Duhamel, Best American Poetry 2011

Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum?

In a few weeks, Dear Professor will be out again. The book is based on comments, notes, and emails students have written to physics professors. It's a tiny book, a no big deal book, but it has sold out a few times (small press runs). I am wondering if I should do an expanded version, maybe as a kind of comic book. It's hard to find a press for a book like this because it's not poetry, not physics, not . . . Markets, right? Who needs those?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dear Professor Do You Live in a Vacuum? $414.92

Okay, this is pretty funny. I guess my physics chapbook is currently sold out. But don't worry! You can still order it on Amazon
or get it used for a real bargain.
I cut and pasted this from Amazon . . .

Dear Professor: Do You Live in a Vacuum? by Nin Andrews (Jan 1, 2008)
Formats Buy new $414.92
Used from
Perfect Paperback $272.38

Facebook Comic

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

One More Comic

A last quote from Lauren Collins' article, A Reporter At Large, “House Perfect,” The New Yorker, October 3, 2011

In recent months, middle-aged singles have taken to congregating in a Shanghai IKEA in such numbers that management has been forced to cordon off a designated "match-making corner." p. 56

Comic: Generically pleasing?

I still have some of the lines from that IKEA article from The New Yorker stuck in my brain, like a pop song or something. I can't wait to see what article gets stuck in my head with the next issue . . .

2 more quotes:

Just as the goal of a real room is to look like a fake one, the goal of a fake room is to look like a real one. 63

IKEA attempts to make room sets generically pleasing . . . 64

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

IKEA Comic

Do you ever read The New Yorker and wonder, why am I reading this article? And you keep reading it, and the article seems to grow longer as you read?
Do you think they should offer a Cliff Notes version of the magazine?

Last week I read all about bullet-proof clothing. You just never know when a bullet-proof outfit might come in handy. Especially if Rick Perry is elected.
This week there was an entire treatise on IKEA. Why do I care about IKEA?

In case you missed the treatise on IKEA,
here are 3 quotes from Lauren Collins' article, A Reporter At Large, “House Perfect,” The New Yorker, October 3, 2011:

In “Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture,” Ellen Ruppel Shell argues that IKEA’s low prices and disposable furniture entail untold environmental, aesthetic, and social costs. p. 55

IKEA stores, like Chihuahuas and cilantro provoke extreme reactions. p. 56

You will see a friendly golden retriever curled up by the dining room table in the British catalogue, but not in the Emirate one. p. 64

Anne Marie Slaughter's blog, The Atlantic Monthly, Oct.3

In her blog entry for the Atlantic Monthly, Anne Marie Slaughter discussed last week's meetings at the UN. She writes of the shift of attention towards global issues related to poverty and the role of women:

"All of these shifts flow from a deeper vision of a global tree of life: a world in which personal mobile technology can connect every human being in every village in every country to the tap roots of knowledge, markets, services, and community. That vision is social, developmental, digital and global. It's a powerful motivator. And it's pushing out the foreign policy frontier."

This is particularly interesting to me because my daughter, whose primary interest is micro-savings (not to be mistaken for micro-credit) is at a conference in Tanzania this week, addressing many of the same issues. The photo above is from a micro-savings meeting she attended recently in rural Kenya. She will be live-bloggin at:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Comic: Snobs at Home

A Critic at Large, Browbeaten, Dwight Macdonald's War on Midcult by Louis Menand, The New Yorker, September 5, 2011 opens with this creepy statement:

" . . . there is often a discrepancy between public values and private tastes, but as long as these things are kept in separate compartments people have no obligation to justify their personal likes on political grounds. They can be democrats out in the time square and snobs at home."

But ends with this more interesting statement, which I have been thinking about even more:

"But it suggests the remorselessness of Macdonald's commitment to exposing the self-promotion, self-satisfaction, and self-delusion that are always wrapped up in the business of making and appreciating art. The exposure is one of the foundational tasks of criticism, and Macdonald is one of its great exemplars."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Thinking in Color

I have sisters who think in color. One had a weaving studio. She spun her own wool. Another batiks. Another is a nature photographer, forever catching light on paper. Another used to argue with me about the color of numbers, back when we were in grade school. We could only agree about the color of 3 which was definitely red, and 2, which was was navy blue.

My sister, Salley Knight, the batik artist, spends days dying silk. When I visit her home, she says, Look at this blue. Have you ever seen such a blue? She shows me around her living room, which is covered with rolls of fabric. There are piles of blues, greens, pinks, yellows . . . It isn’t just the colors . . . It’s the way she shapes the fabric. Some are swirls, some are waves, some are hanging from frames or lampposts or couches. Some are expansive, and some slender and wispy like dreams, afterthoughts or lost causes.