Monday, January 10, 2011

Congresswoman Gifford's Assassination (hopefully) attempt & axioms of our times

This will be off-the-cuff. I do not believe it necessary to compose in the usual manner to speak on the topic above and label below.

This blog actually began as an outgrowth of my activity on behalf of candidate Obama and the encouragement of a few co-workers at the campaign office. It was as much a chronicle of that growth in political awareness as it was a social medium, which is more or less what it has become. However, it remains part and parcel of its origins and so should not pass another day without a comment on another watershed in our era.

"Watershed"...that's a funny term. It also reminds me of another way of saying "crocodile tears". And "crocodile tears" also reminds me of another Aesop/Animal Farm/animal axiom: "The chickens have come home to roost."

One thing is for certain, I am thoroughly disgusted with the tagline EVERYONE uses: "...our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and the loved ones of [fill int the blank for victim status]" It reduces it to artifice, a coda, a diminuendo that allows for a safe segue into the next talking point/weather update/commercial. Which brings up another cliche: "Closing the barn door after all the horses are gone." (I think it is horses; must admit agrarian analogues are not my particular forte.)

Will such neologisms as "put 'em in the crosshairs" and "DON'T RETREAT! RELOAD!" come to replace them as the adages of our age?

Finally, to refer to a previous post, the Rally to Restore Sanity has been (unfortunately) validated in everything it stood for. Period. If you do not think this does not underscore the need for toning down rhetoric (see above) then you need to seek professional help on some level or other.

So, let the blame start elsewhere but, as well, let us hope that the debate is more reasoned than this outcome. Thusly, I can, in all honesty, offer a sincere interest that those who were damaged in any way by this heinous act may find strength and courage to transcend it and have the fullest possible lives of which they are capable.

{This includes America, too.)

Monday, January 3, 2011

...another year...another calendar...turn the page...

On NY1, the local cable channel with the singular distinction of being first on the dial (which is a misnomer as tv dials have ceased to exist) one of the little segments run in regular rotation over the past few days has been on a dish, now available at a Williamsburg eatery, called Potrine: a popular French Canandian hangover cure. (Read into that what you want.) This is timely as that is what most people are reputed to need the morning after the night before, espeically when the night before was New Year's Eve. The item in question appears to be a mess of gravy and cheese welted over some fries...and reminds one more of the reverse but, well, Vive le France and down the hatch, eh?

Mine has, for the last 20 years or so, been the St. Mark’s Poetry Project Marathon. And it has remained so long after I gave up excess (wretched and otherwise) as a means of celebrating another calendar. Sitting still for 10 hours (+/-) while wordsmiths of every stripe, and musicians, dancers, philosophers, comics-turned-activists, social critics and performers who just don’t fit into any category spend 2-7 minutes (+/-) trying to give you anything from an all-encompassing worldview to a harmless diversion to a harmless diversion that masks a zen koan…which hides an all-encompassing worldview.

Sure, I’m missing football games and parades--and did miss wearing funny hats and numeral-shaped goggles and trying to find a gender-appropriate stranger to kiss at midnight--but none of these things stimulates me as they did before (if ever). Whatever benefit or satisfaction I might have derived from these participatory activities, they pale by comparison of this passive one. I watch the year-end summations on the news and opinion programs and find little difference between them except in commentator’s views, which are predictable and certain as climate change, if not quite as specific as weather. Here, I may not get the news, or the olds, but the content is immeasurably richer.

And there’s one more thing, brought up by the ever-tuxedo’ed Brendan Lorber (013) in his preamble. “The great thing about this day is the built-in optimism…you get an automatic do-over…” For me, it is more like a reset button. You get to take stock, change horses, re-prioritize your jobstack, and compile lists.

Like this one.

This particular one, being dedicated to Tuli Kupferbeg and Jim Neu (two guys I have known and liked much over the years, and Jim’s plays which I never missed before and will miss even more now) and a third person Dave Nolan who became revealed to me later [see below], also should be noted for the impromptu dedications to a poet(ess) named Janine (who was never properly ID’ed to my liking) AND the totally non-St. Mark’s savant: Don Van Vliet, a/k/a Captain Beefheart.

So, upfront, the usual disclaimers:
I cannot attest to 100% accuracy of these observations. They are my notes, some of which I am only guessing at due to the level at which scribbling becomes a scrawl. Then there are other contributing factors. All props to master tech David Vogen, who manages set-ups on the fly with a speed equal to one, but the sound system could not compensate for the manner in which a lot of speakers addressed the mike. Words come out faint, vague, watery, whispered, slurred; often you are filling in what you hear with what seems to fit. Those who are not noted are no less of merit; they just didn’t register with a capsule summary, or, at worst, acted as the sherbet between courses.

Here we go…

001 Bob Holman – “EVERYTHING IS NEW!” and songs for Tuli and Jim and shout-out for Cabaret Voltaire’s 100th anniversary (probably misheard him: 1916 in Zurich is the actual year—Bob’s too sharp to not have Wiki’ed that)
002 Peter Gizzi
003 Ted Greenwald
004 Marcella Durand
005 Elizabeth Willis – “Blacklist” about how all these people are witches but really meaning the McCarthy-Era-type witch-hunt as she includes Mary Baker Eddy, Agnes Moorehead and Agnes Varda, Eugene V. Debs and Leadbelly as well as sympathizers and fellow travelers…
006 Merry Fortune
007 Michael Cirelli – author of “Jersey Shore Poems” (incl. ones on The Situation and Ol’ Dirty Bastard) offers a mediation on the tax on indoor tanning parlors in the Garden State: “…first then come for our tans/next our pecs/our abs of steel…”
008 David Kirschenbaum – with two helpers does a parody song with “Subterranean Homesick Blues”-video-type placards as visual aids called “Padme, Watch Me” (maybe, but, as well, didn’t recognize the tune)
009 Bill Zavatsky – “Choices” w/r/t final ones, like where you want your urn of your ashes placed; “What I want my epitaph to say is: AWAY FROM MY DESK”
010 Tracey McTague – her baby cries in arms of father in audience, “That’s my biggest critic…”
011 Michael Lydon – in standard white beard and jacket-&-tie combo, “The Handsomest Man in the Universe” whistles up and strums another merry ditty, this time with piano accompaniment by his sig.oth. on "Paris in the Rain"
012 Greg Fuchs – seems to be working the old aphorism/words-of-wisdom route, most of which are about sex, but others include: “Try to use your imagination more and pornography less”; “It’s not where you put it but how you put it”; “Make a killing in the market and murder your broker”; and my favorite: “Lowering your standards is a good thing; consider where you got them…”
013 Brendan Lorber – see above
014 Elinor Nauen – “A to Z” books/poems on various subjects (list poems, I guess)
015 Don Yorty – song written over 40 years ago in a tent (accompanied by his son, as usual)
016 Nicole Peyrafitte, Pierre Joris & Miles Joris-Peyrefitte – family affair w/her on frame drum and chant and son on acoustic guitar, who then brings up sister(?) after to do “I’ll be home when the orange blossoms bloom” in a very Richard & Mimi Farina style
017 Bob Rosenthal – “Kiss my Year’s End”… “…meaning, “the loss of music I could once fix…” and IT wisdom (maybe?) in three aphorisms: 1. WALK DON’T RUN, 2. GET OVER IT (and #3 I didn’t get)
018 Julianna Barwick – solo Gregorian chant via f/x boxes and totally ethereal
019 Tim Griffin – (something about Yves St. Laurent as a playwright?)
020 Akilah Oliver – “When is life breathable?” (might be reading from Judith Butler?)
021 Paolo Javier
022 Ken Chen – “Love poems about Logic” which is, apparently, taken from the Q&A found on an ESL test: “When I miss you, does that make the first sentence false?”
023 Joe Elliot – something about situations in the rain: “even the Ark starts to look like a good idea…”
024 Ariana Reines – “I’m broke, I must be a poet”, kinda like a waitress in a cocktail lounge in stretch pants and heels, constantly flexing her legs
025 Vito Acconci – “Second Skin” really hypnotic use of repurposing of words in parallel and serial developments from one of the most original artists of the latter half of the 20th century
026 Alex Abelson
027 Karen Weiser
028 Nathaniel Siegel – “Man to Manifesto” possible Queer Culture militant, incl. quotes from Jack Spicer and Gertrude Stein on Harte Crane
029 Peter Bushyeager – dedicated to Captain Beefheart
030 Evelyn Reilly – (author of a cyberpunk book?)
031 Maria Mirabal – in a odd sort of split bonnet and hair shrouding face, she sort of speaks out for the latent vampire within, “When I am nervous, I always bite the inside of my cheek” and going on to enjoy the taste of her own blood
032 Diana Rickard – “…burdened as I was with second-hand consciousness…”
033 Christopher Stackhouse
034 Eve Packer – a nicely detailed report of a last minute visit to the nail parlor on New Year’s eve and includes nice slice-o'-life comments like: "What I LOVE about NY!? The Rail And Road Report!"
035 Paul Mills a/k/a Poez – got a good intro and then proceeded to animate a very good impression of old-style John Giorno
036 Tom Savage – guy with a head like the bust of Beethoven, “Words die, Language follows” which may have been about the extinction of languages worldwide, like we lose something like 7 or ten every year (?)
037 Suzanne Vega – looking as sharp as ever, reading from work-in-progress play about Carson McCullers, which may be a musical as she had one passage she thought might be a song, or should be: and yes, the rhyme scheme sure points that way and good humor too, like her comments on Faulkner, Harper Lee, Capote and others for ripping her off
038 Philip Glass – you look at his hands on the piano and you say: those are two of the most intelligent crabs on the planet
039 Kim Rosenfield – another musical treat, but a comic one as well. This is going to take a preface. In 1957, Jo Stafford—acknowledged as a possessor of one of the finest set of pipes on the planet—recorded a joke album under the name of Darlene Edwards. The gag was that she would sing so off-key both people and dogs would howl. It worked. Here, Kim, and accompanists, do a parody of “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” (substitute “Rhyme” for “Dime”) and it really brings the house down.
039 Robert Fitterman
040 Wayne Koestenbaum – author of Jewish porn films (?) speaks on “the politics of drool” (?); in all honesty, can’t say when was the last time I heard a reference to “Taxi Zum Klo” since the ‘80s…
041 Mónica de la Torre – editor of “BOMB” magazine on “2011 Grid”
042 The Church of Betty – getting into the Sephardic bag this year with Chris on oud
043 Patricia Spears Jones – “I had to tech Comp this year! It should be taught; it should be beaten!”
044 India Radfar – a sure way to make an entrance: start at the announcer’s mike, walk across the stage, pass the poem at the lecturn, turn once on the far side, without much eye contact, and exit
045 Josef Kaplan – a testimony to the versatility of the actor James Franco…
046 Emily XYZ – just back from a residency in Brisbane, offers up a pre-recorded dance track called “A Little Revolution” (“…and for those of you not into it, now might be a good time to check out the merch tables and food in the back room…”)
047 Murat Nemet-Nejat – “The Spiritual Life of Replicants” is the work-in-progress, but this is some sort of recombinant haiku
048 Ed Friedman – former head of Poetry Project is always worth a listen, and when you get to the end of his dread of 2011 (fears for family, the country, the economy, etc.) you get the punchline too: “Is it really necessary to bash oneself in the head with a ball peen hammer?/Yes, for some people—BASH ON!”
049 Albert Mobilio
050 David Shapiro – “…and so the snow fell/and covered up…” w/piano
051 Steve Earle – reads from work-in-progress on doctor fallen on hard times and under dope addiction and scene of him sitting in a southern bar and ruminating on Hank Williams
052 Valery Oisteanu – “Beat the drums”; dedicated to another poet who died, not on the program cite, Janine (last name was garbled here)
053 Shonni Enelow – from chapbook, “Nietzsche is a girl”: “blood makes a pretty face prettier”
054 Kathleen Miller – “Juvenalia” w/heroine “Suckathumb”
055 John Yau – “They opened a gas station at the wrong end of the telescope/I know this because I am a hash slinger/at an abandoned noodle shop”
056 Todd Colby – mention of his dental problems makes him a man after my own teeth
057 Foamola – AH! This is what I live for! The poet’s band opens their 3-song set with one entitled “All the best dentists are Satanists”, and this is complete serendipity for me.
058 John S. Hall – all about his the ephemeral nature of “friending” and its utter futility and the total vacuity of life on Facebook.
059 Cliff Fyman – “Pepper” about first days as waiter and becoming a pariah with other staff
060 Thom Donovan – acknowledges the other dedicatee of the marathon as the other tech person who was here every year, then goes into an extended mediation on the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” remake from 1978 as template for our times
061 Judith Malina – “Coras” was 12 lines that became a Living Theater play, some of which may be: “the pure word that ungenders lonliness” and “…as long as there is a sacrifice in the butcher shop or the synagogue…” and “Beware the Law of the Land!”
062 Charles Bernstein – this one EVERYBODY LOVED! “Poem loading… [silence] [more silence] [even more silence] …please wait…”; and a second one called “Morality” which is more of the inarticulate speech of the day in stuttered repetitions of emphatic plosives that also echoes Giorno
063 Tony Towle
064 Secret Orchestra with special guest Joanna Penn Cooper
065 Linda Russo
066 Laura Elrick – “Beneath the beach, some tableture” (with Japanese words in there)
067 Edwin Torres – word stretching and bending while blues harpist wails at his side
068 Kristen Kosmas
069 Bill Kushner – on Robert Frost in his Great Grey Suit (and the time the boy William went to his reading and gave his autograph)
070 Jonas Mekas – has short one called “What’s Up” and, because he has two minutes, does it again! (Headline should be: “FILMMAKER LOOPS SELF!”)
071 Rodrigo Toscano – goes through a pile of index cards doing “Zero Friends” in a bunch of continual, repeated and repeated with slight variation and repeated without variation and repeated with seeming/purposeless variation in Facebook status updates
072 Alan Gilbert
073 E. Tracy Grinnell
074 Eleni Stecopoulos – “…to cut off the poor…” and “…downgraded to a tropical depression…”
075 Adeena Karasick
076 Julian T. Brolaski – extrapolations on clothes, and one poem for CA Conrad (see 081 below)
077 Reuben Butchart – (might be misspelling of Burtchart) songwriter on piano, very Rufus Wainwright
078 Lenny Kaye – longish piece on the subject of the experience of being in a band, any band and for any duration from years touring to a one-night stand, and truly about as succinct an explanation of the brotherhood I’ve heard since, oddly enough, Kim of Sonic Youth (and she’s a girl!)
079 Lewis Warsh
080 Erica Kaufman
081 CA Conrad – huge guy, like beachball rotund, with very soft voice, preambles about how he’d like to speak to that kid about to kill himself because of despair in high school and to just hang on for one more year and go anyplace else, etc., and then into “Book of Frank” and repeats of father’s despair “My daughter has no cunt!” and about “miscarriages kept in fruit jars” ending with “This fence keeps in your world!”
082 Erica Hunt – launches into a longish reverie on her past and its relationship to cars in her “Auto Biography”, which isn’t as coy as it sounds, going from the “Northern Taconic—the cash cow of three separate counties” to Robert Moses’ vivisectioning of the Bronx to the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows and her family’s favorite exhibit “Ford’s World of Tomorrow” with the magic skyway loving descriptions of the Mercury Futura and the new “Mustang, it’s headlights flirting…”
083 Janet Hamill – dreamier and spacier every year, looks like an acid casualty at a Dead concert but pours out the libation to the “Queen of Tara” (which is probably the Hill of the Irish Kings, not the plantation of the O’Hara’s) and dedicates set as well to Janine Fhaner-Vega (?)
084 John Giorno – long reverie on early college days at Columbia and the sort of rabid enthusiasm which comes with finding out that an actual dormitory room where Frederico Garcia Lorca slept when writing “A Poet in New York” is right across the Quad from yours…
085 Joel Lewis – remembrance of coming back to NYC just as 42nd Street is being malled over
086 Maggie Dubris – song: “Time and Memory” sort of blues lament
087 Joanna Fuhrman – “My Pet Brain” and “The Hippocratic Oath”
088 Marty Ehrlich – sax solo is the sort of thing that, in the acoustics of the nave, leave one breathless
089 Citizen Reno – no funny stuff here as our favorite activist goes on to tear the Left a new one for abandoning Obama. [Author’s note: opinions expressed here have already established similar views, so it is not necessary to make further arguments.]
090 Douglas Dunn – a solo dance w/two swordlike shafts of metal and a cut-out cardboard bird clipped onto one arm (possibly something piratical?)
091 Patti Smith – the Grand Dame preambles the year of the Iron Rabbit in which deeds and actions will speak for themselves, and then goes on to a tight discursion which could be from Revelations, the Apocalypse of John, or perhaps a treatment for a new 3D movie…
092 Elliott Sharp – dedicates his set to the passing of the two greatest influences on his life and art : Captain Beefheart and Benoit Mandelbrot, then shreds…
This is then followed with an ongoing experimental collab w/Tracie Morris keening and wailing a kind of glossolia and chant w/an almost operatic reach…
093 Eileen Myles – along with her new lover Leopoldine Core, they exchange their vows of mutual infatuation along with variations of the word “dirty” dressed almost the same (diff. shoes) and obviously the happiest persons in the room, bar none
094 Taylor Mead – getting frailer every year but determined to carry on despite the fact that his boombox is broken again and he can’t be accompanied by Charles Mingus who is really only good for himself and Emily Dickinson, whoever she is, etc. and into the poem that Allen Ginsburg plagiarized from him, but that’s Allen so who cares, etc.
095 Jibade-Khalil Huffman – poem as recording session
096 Alan Licht w/ Angela Jaeger – “Reno, Nevada” in REAL Richard & Mimi Farina emulation
097 Rachel Levitsky
098 Jo Ann Wasserman
100 Anselm Berrigan – because his mother asked him about NYC, and didn’t want to hear about the issues and the decay and the complaints, she just wanted to remember the place and asked him to tell her “What the streets look like…”
101 Anne Waldman & Marty Ehrlich – originally supposed to be with another musician, this one was a bit more wobbly than her usual set, dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Thailand Democracy advocate
102 Steven Taylor – a member of the Fugs last seen at Tuli’s benefit singing a song to him
103 Brenda Coultas – first time the term Hydrofracking brought up all night, despite it being a danger to all New York waters, asking the important question: “…who owns the water?”
104 Bruce Andrews & Sally Silvers – standard-issue superior sounds, non-sequitors and sudden lurches into encapsulated wisdom while Sally’s forth
105 Penny Arcade – laments and praises for the fading scene, typified by Tuli, and then onto a song that we seem to be ignoring the fact that “WE’RE ALL GOING TO FUCKING DIE!”
106 ARTHUR’S LANDING – looser and much shorter than usual with a female singer added [at this point, as well, a bunch of late arrivals or returning attendees basically invaded my space and talked through the set so whatever went on…]
107 Edmund Berrigan – w/a ukulele, does sweet little number he calls “plinka plinka plinka” but is probably “Way Down in Asphalt Town”
108 Katie Degentesh – “Reasons to Have Sex”…is not what you think; her premise is that children are the ultimate reason and so, to that end, compiled a bunch of their responses to how they viewed their futures and offers the remarkably naive and poignant and confident answers that make us adults feel so wretched for recognizing these once-noble ambitions and self-assurance we possessed in youth…
109 Nick Hallett – offers an acapella song from an opera to be performed at the New Museum very soon and gives one very good reasons to see it, whether or not he sings in it
110 Stephanie Gray – even with a slight speech impediment, her takes on verbs and conjugations in tight variations is something else
111 Drew Gardner – an ode to “Pop Rocks” and the weird idea of explosions in your mouth
112 David Freeman – who just flew in to JFK and came straight here, offers a bag of jingle bells to pass to every member of the audience to…well, jingle for 5 minutes; and it does sound nice—pure tintinabula
113 Mike Doughty – preambles and tunes guitar about recent gig in Kyoto where he was lost and nobody spoke any English and getting back to his hotel was trauma [sorry folks: with problems like that, you get no sympathy here] and sings “Day by Day by Day by Day”
114 Samita Sinha – sings the translation of a ghazal “Beyond English” and the weird thing is how Indian songs still sound Indian in English, and follows that w/a Rabindnath Tragore lyric
115 Filip Marinovich – w/a green plastic pocket folder on head like a shark fin does “Mother Courage Pushes Her SUV Up Capitol Hill” in repurposing news ok…
116 Eric Bogosian – replays one from a few years back with one of his surprise endings about what appears to be some hip-hop streetkid trying to get props off vaguely remembering his face, then giving him career advice…
117 Douglas Rothschild – SO, ALL DAY LONG THIS GUY has been walking in and out of the artist’s entrance wearing a black pea-coat with a pair of feathery wings attached over it on elastic bands, a plastic golden helmet like something out of a Ben-Hur charioteer’s gear, and a cardboard harp dangling under his coat. His intro says that he is going to revive “the spirit of Ezra Pound” but when he gets up there is just to talk about walking from Troy, NY to Ithaca, NY which he didn’t do but somebody wanted to make a movie of his feet but they used somebody else and…

And at this point, we check out.