Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Late Year Reflections

As we approach year’s end, I glean a tinge of contentment. Editors, perhaps in the spirit, treated me well this month. I had ten new poems accepted, plus a request for a reprint of four poems, for a total of fourteen.

This is indeed wonderful, a gift of depth that involves no money but much passion and time. Editors are hard-working folks, and though almost every day I write a new poem and edit many, I lack the diligence and modesty of those wade through the manuscripts of others. In general, poets should be much more respectful and grateful to editors, and I am no exception.

Although I have done well, a part of me chafes. There are many voices in my psyche but this one will never be satisfied. Indeed, pure satisfaction on all levels is not an option for the sensitive soul.

To illustrate, I want to share a bio I read today in the Chaffey Review (v.3). I just received my contributor copy in the mail. Usually the bios in journals are rather placid, but I have to hand it to the CR team. They picked out some subversively thought-provoking poets.

Anyway, here is the bio that impressed me. It belongs to William Doreski. I hope he doesn’t mind that I reprint it here:

“William Doreski befriends all cats and most dogs ... and rails against development, environmental degradation, and general idiocy from his bully pulpit at Keene State College. He teaches writing and literature, but doesn’t expect it to take in a post-literate world.”

This isn’t your typical pleasantry, and I have to admit the author and I share a common perspective. Let’s face it, within a couple hundred years the wilderness, even as defined from our degraded perspective, will be gone.

The latest National Geographic has an article on the Hadza people of Africa, some of the very last hunter-gatherers. Their culture is wilting fast. Hunter-gatherers have been around for at least two hundred thousand years, probably much longer, given recent evidence that Homo Erectus used fire and partitioned living space into a hearth and a slaughter area. Human species previous to ours used stone tools and made fires to cook. A way of life that endured for almost a million years.

Are you yawning yet? Shame on you. I find it amazing that no one really seems to care that hunter-gatherers are going to entirely disappear in our generation. This is incredible!

On top of that: Lions are going. Baboons are going. Giraffes are going. Rhinos are going. The rainforests are going. The world is becoming a human hive wired up to the Net.

Ho Hum. Pass me the latest video game.

My god, are we such a dull lot of spoiled dominant hominids? It’s repulsive. Somewhere in this universe of 11 billion galaxies dwells an advanced civilization, millions of years along, that puts our ignorance in perspective, exposes us for what we are: ethical clowns.

So, my hat goes off to William Doreski. I’ve read thousands of bios and only the meagerest few show any awareness of how rapidly and astoundingly this planet is changing.

Folks, WAKE UP! What a bizarre, cataclysmic, sad and exciting time this is. You can’t be bored. Not here, not now. You just can’t!


PS: Here’s my poem from The Chaffey Review. A tourist pitch for Los Angeles?

L.A. Impressions

highway sounds,
jejune as the hiss of waves.
the smog brutal.
abusive of its partner, dust.
the sun and moon
cute in eyeliner,

some kind of goth
leather-tar pain-fed life,
corset whose laces are wounded streets.
sex primped to sell.
money attracted
to the most competent seller,
the seller and the money
taking each other’s drug,
the divorce rate rich,
the homeless amassed
like scabs on the city’s
emotional wounds.

the beast hoarding its own purpose,
a beyond-human sin.
cars just blood cells,
legs follicles,
a child’s sob a cut.
only the beast can rise
with its muscles of spires,
hundreds of stories
of lower and lower lusts,
ribs of cement, femurs of steel,
the growling pug snouts
of arenas.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

New York Times Treads Meekly Around FX

Addendum to “FX Channel Trashes Xmas” (see Dec 12)

The New York Times just ran an article called “Some Raspberries For Christmas,” in which they softly jibe some of the worse movies of the decade, including “Glitter” and “The Singing Forest.”


Strangely absent was mention of “Deck The Halls,” which is definitely one of the hideous crew, and which is currently being shown over and over on the FX Channel, as if FX wanted to ruin the holiday season with an endless reel of nauseating gunk.

Why does the Times article let this horrible failure in media ethics slide? Why don't they at least mention "Deck The Halls?"

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Poem: Ghost Song

Solemn solstice approaches, offering us health through darkness and depth.

Of all the poems I’ve agonized over, edited for months or years, and submitted to dutiful and generous editors, who have waded through my poor excuses for verbal art to find a few gems, this is one of my favorite. It was published in a journal called Thick With Conviction, and it was the first poem I read on the air for my interview with Lois P. Jones, the host of Poets’ Café, a radio show of KPFK Los Angeles.

People have reacted to this poem with a range of emotions, from intense to tepid, or sometimes just a quizzical expression once removed from a shrug. I don’t know why these words mean so much to me. Poetry beckons that way, with hidden fingers that divide us out of our comfortable communities into a very small personal space.

Ghost Song

the dead fly past,
to them we are roots
slow to grasp.

they sup our thoughts
like hummingbirds taking syrup,
resplendent of flit,

we glimpse a quark of flash,
a dash of blush,
maybe some lucent eyes--
love’s aftereffect.

they laugh at us
like wind chiding honey
as we inch full-bodied,
riled by ebbs.

the dead laugh.
they race to our end
and return,
outflanking lazy hops of sun.

they rush past our questions
and back many times,

the dead laugh,
coveting our worries,
springing off our breaths.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Acceptance In Shalla Magazine


Yesterday I was contacted by the Acquisitions Editor at Shalla Magazine, Cleo Sharpe, who asked if they could reprint some of my work. After a research check, I quickly agreed.

What I found out is that Shalla Magazine gives a fabulous boost to both literary and genre writers. Shalla DeGuzman, the creator, is bursting with positive energy, and she is not shy about getting interviews with top-of-the-line professionals. For instance, Shalla interviews Patricia Maxwell (aka Jennifer Blake), who is maybe the greatest and most legendary romance novelist of all.

It’s a good interview, too. Here is one excerpt that I found particularly honest and gritty about the working side of the craft:

“Writing is a profession that requires intensive study and practice; talent isn’t enough. A musician doesn’t expect to play to a sold-out crowd at his first gig, nor does an artist think he’ll sell his first sketch; they know they must work to reach the highest level of their profession. So it is with writing. You have to learn the inner workings of story and practice the art of putting readable words on paper. There’s no other way.” (Patricia Maxwell)

I think it absolutely incredible that Shalla Magazine, a relatively new voice on the cyberscene, is pursuing interviews of this caliber. I mean, wow! There’s an assertive charm and sense of star quality about this journal.

I also want to mention that Shalla interviews Barbara Quinn, a talented novelist who publishes and manages The Rose & Thorn. If you don’t know R&T, you should check out their website. They provide all kinds of resources for all kinds of writers. One of the best supports on the web.

Which leads to another strength of Shalla Magazine: They don’t compete with other journals. They share. Part of their mission is to promote other editors and journals.

From the website (www.shallamagazine.com):

“What makes us a wee bit different from other literary magazines--besides the fact that we accept genre (if it's excellent, we will publish it)--is that we honor other literary magazines. We feature other magazines, other editors, other publishers and help them shine!”

In addition to interviews, Shalla Magazine also showcases great work. A recent issue, for example, offers the poetry of Changming Yuan, author of several books and hundreds of poems, who emigrated from China and now teaches and writes in Vancouver.

The practice of publishing reprints and previously published work means that the quality at SM is superb. The site shines with literary luster while making others shine.

That’s what’s what you get at Shalla Magazine: fairness, coolness, freshness and excellence. A passport to glimpse at the best.

A big thank you to Shalla DeGuzman and also Cleo Sharpe and the other editors for their hard work and marvelous accomplishments.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thick Skulled Meat Robots

In his latest New York Times Op-ed, Paul Krugman has highlighted one of the most important lessons one can learn in life.

It’s a sad lesson, but anyone who seeks wisdom must suck in their gut and take it, like a wound that leaves a scar.

So sad is this lesson that it validates the lines of Ecclesiastes: “For in much wisdom is much grief, and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow.”

What does Krugman say? Basically, that many people, even of high intelligence, cannot be reasoned with. They will not change their view, even if you have irrefutable evidence and the clearest most reasonable argument:

“When I first began writing for The Times, I was naïve about many things. But my biggest misconception was this: I actually believed that influential people could be moved by evidence, that they would change their views if events completely refuted their beliefs.”

(Disaster and Denial, December 19).

Let that sink in. You can explain something perfectly, in easy to understand language, supply undeniable evidence, and still be ignored. A corollary to this rule, perhaps even more shocking, is this: people will reject your excellent advice and clear knowledge even after they have suffered again and again from their own mistaken views.

They can be crippled, sick or dying, and you could have the cure, and they will balk, with no good excuse.

You can be a professor and they will ignore you. Or a doctor. Or a highly published writer. Sometimes they will discount you just because you are one of these. The quality of your argument is irrelevant. You could make it simple enough for a ten-year-old to grasp.


You can make your argument seven times over seven days. Or for months, or years. Assume that every time you make your case, you do it so well there is no chance of a logical rebuttal.


The world itself could be crumbling. Still, many sturdy citizens will not listen to lucid rational warnings, ones that explain the unfolding disaster and provide an escape.

The myth of Cassandra has ample application.

You might be thinking that only the most ardent religious fanatic could be stupidly stubborn in this egregious way.


Take Krugman’s example. He talks about two times in modern history. First, the Great Depression. Unregulated banks fed it. They created a buying frenzy and loan disaster that went pop.

After the Depression, regulations were put in place, which supported a much healthier financial system. Witness the 1950’s and 60’s.

Corporate taxes were as high as 90% in the 50’s. I kid you not. This was so good for the average worker that one parent could stay home while the other worked (gasp!).

Second, Krugman talks about the recent process, ramped up under Reagan in the 1980’s, of deregulation. Letting go of the reins led to all sorts of fiscal bubbles and pops, culminating in the Great Recession of the present day.

As Krugman does, I want to specifically mention the Savings & Loan Bailout of the 1980’s. Reagan deregulated the S&L’s and effectively destroyed them. The taxpayer picked up the hefty funeral bill. The people who bled the S&L’s dry were never brought to justice.

Why do Republicans consider public healthcare a heavy tax burden while the various bailouts and busts induced by unethical and headlong private sector selfishness don't count?

Krugman points out how obvious it is that deregulated banks are greedy and dysfunctional. Eager as slot machine addicts with shiny new credit cards. And guess what? That’s a pretty good description of AIG, Goldman-Sachs and others today.

We need bank regulation by competent Feds as badly as we need traffic lights. Those obsessed with accumulating more and more profit can't regulate themselves.

But, as Krugman points out, much of our leadership in Congress still doesn’t get it.

How could this be? There is so much damning evidence. Lots of financial crashes and panics since the 1980’s. Corporate greed is ordinary, inexcusable, and the costs are monstrous.

For instance, this comment on Krugman’s piece, by Christopher Keith is telling:

“I was a long time executive at the NYSE ... It seems to me the government has had to intervene at least 10 times in the financial markets since Ronnie's inauguration. Not just the savings and loan crisis. The peso crisis. The CitiCorp crisis. The long term capital crisis.., etc. etc. leading up the grandest of them all the credit default swap crisis which was a sham within a scam within a flimflam within a swindle requiring 4 separate layers of moral corruptness. It seems to me if any individual had a similar record they would be at least declared incompetent if not committed. Why don’t you list them [these crises]. Why doesn't someone make that a basis for an awareness campaign.”

Keith is pointing out how truly ugly the ravages of Mammon have been. All kinds of bailouts. All kinds of crises. Isn’t it obvious that the banks need to be policed?

Clear as clean water. But people today have neither clean water nor eyes to see the truth.

Heed the words of Thomas G. Donlan:

“The lesson of history is that we don’t learn the lessons of history.”

We live in a world of thick-skulled meat robots who believe in nonsense that is killing our society.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Acceptance in Monongahela Review

It’s been a fantastic month for me in terms of poetry acceptances. Monongahela Review just took two of my darker pieces, “Monster,” and “Don Giovanni In Hell."

I’ve spoken before about Monongahela, a cosmopolitan up-and-comer of a journal, which has some of the best prefaces I’ve ever read in the small press. They publish a wide range of moods and styles, honoring both new and established poets.

I’m glad they saw the power in my duet of eerie poems. The voice inside me that wrote them is grateful!


Saturday, December 12, 2009

FX Channel Trashes Xmas

For some reason the FX Channel has decided to run and rerun, ad nauseum, one of the worst movies ever made: Deck The Halls, staring Mathew Broderick and Danny DeVito (2006).

I wouldn’t bother to comment, except that in addition to being awful, the ethical undertones of the movie are despicable. FX is shoveling out moral trash. No wonder our society stinks.

Maybe FX is intentionally trying to ruin the minds of TV viewers. The Wikipedia commentary brings more of a chuckle than the movie, supposedly a comedy. Here is the entire critique:

“Critics across the board have widely panned the movie. It received a 6% rotten rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel named it "A leaden slice of fruitcake, with about as much nutritional value," and concluding that "it's not worth working up a good hate over". Stephen Hunter remarked "I literally didn't count a single laugh in the whole aimless schlep," and suggested that the movie should've been named Dreck the Halls instead. Michael Medved named it the "Worst Movie of 2006." Finally, Richard Roeper, co-host of the television show Ebert & Roeper, wrote:

"You cannot believe how excruciatingly awful this movie is. It is bad in a way that will cause unfortunate viewers to huddle in the lobby afterward, hugging in small groups, consoling one another with the knowledge that it's over, it's over -- thank God, it's over. [...] Compared to the honest hard labor performed by tens of millions of Americans every day, a film critic's job is like a winning lottery ticket. But there IS work involved, and it can be painful -- and the next time someone tells me I have the best job in the world, I'm going to grab them by the ear, fourth-grade-teacher-in-1966-style, and drag them to see Deck the Halls."


What is wrong with FX, vomiting out this bile over and over? In addition, Wiki points out that the film has been nominated for three Golden Raspberry Awards:

(1) Worst Excuse For Family Entertainment

(2) Worse Supporting Actor (Danny DeVito)

(3) Worst Supporting Actress (Kristin Chenoweth)

So, again I ask, WHY is FX pouring this mess all over the airwaves like diarrhea? It’s either a conspiracy to dumb people down, or a way for the network to save money by purchasing the rights to the lowest grade of celluloid possible.

In either case, respect for the public is entirely lacking. Someone needs to send the Ghosts of Christmas to FX headquarters and scare some warmth into the Scrooges working there.

Ethical Commentary

The Wiki entry doesn't deal with the ethical idiocy of the film, so here I go.

The basic plot is that Buddy (DeVito) and his family move into a new neighborhood where Buddy gets upset because the house of his neighbor, Steve (Broderick) is bigger. That’s the catalyst for a neurotic feud that reduces everyone around the two men to pawns in their astoundingly immature game.

Never mind that both domiciles are big enough to comfortably house the starving population of a village in Africa. No. DeVito, exposing vast insecurity over his ‘little’ house, (and, it is insinuated, his little body) decides he will light up the sky with so many Xmas lights that his petite castle will intrude into outer space.

Yes, it's that stereotype of the fragile male ego: Buddy is pathetic enough to want to shine as brightly as god, because he sees himself as inferior.

Throughout the movie, you wait for some criticism of this ridiculous toddler show to appear in the script: Isn’t it a waste of energy to turn your house into a glowing poster child for global warming? Isn’t it wrong to seek approval by heaping on shallow mindless glitz?

The criticism never comes. About thirty minutes into this monster, you realize that Deck The Halls itself is trying to seek approval through shallow mindless glitz.

In terms of virtues like green living, empathy, modesty and moderation, the movie is educational poison. It promotes, in contrast, a rather devilish code: materialism, narcissism, and egomaniacal competition. You know, all those things that the major religions say are wrong.

If only that were the extent of the folly--but no. The producers have to make sure they insult women by making Steve and Buddy's wives some of the most docile and dull helpmeets ever to grace the screen.

Buddy’s better half is a blatant cliche of the clueless blonde. Steve’s brunette is supposedly smart but stays at home, tends to bland children, and pampers her ridiculously self-absorbed husband. She's fixated on her cookbook and gets nary an intelligent line.

In addition to the sexism, Deck the Halls wins a tarnished trophy for racism, never once permitting a peep at a non-white face. This despite the fact that sizeable crowds gather in front of Buddy’s house to ooh at his garish light displays like enthralled zombies.

Caveat: I may have missed the token exotic physiognomy in the crowds; but it sure looked like pure Wonder Bread to me.

Although both Steve and Buddy are as self-focused as Homer Simpson (though even less caring toward their families), Buddy descends to a nadir of conduct worthy of psychopathy. He commits several horrible crimes, including chopping down the town Christmas tree, and committing felony fraud by forging Steve’s signature to buy a new car. This criminally obtained vehicle is presented to Steve as a “gift.”

Unsurprisingly, the stolen good is a gas-guzzling mammoth of an SUV. Buddy explains with obvious relish that it has all the extras. Deck the Halls doubles as a commercial for eco-unfriendly vehicles of the most obese sort, the only worse guzzler being Buddy’s house, which swills enough wattage to light up Miami.

Of course, Buddy is secretly tapping into Steve's electricity to pay for the eye-searing show. There's a good moral lesson for ya!

Buddy doesn't show any remorse for stealing, lying, vandalizing and cheating until his wife gets huffy after he pawns her cherished family heirloom and confesses he lost his job. Once he returns the heirloom, his spouse reverts to gushing approval.

What a gimmick. Steal your wife’s heirloom, lie about it, then give it back and become her hero. Maybe the subtitle of this flick should be Codependency City.

At the end, the viewer is just dying for some kind of redeeming feature. Maybe Santa will show up and lambaste Buddy and Steve’s horrendous worldview of consume, bicker, and sabotage.

But no Deus ex Machina arrives to mitigate this nightmare.

Buddy’s house succeeds, at the finale, in being visible from outer space while hundreds of anglo zombies party in celebration. With emotional depth worthy of guppies, Steve and Buddy shake hands and start over, as if nothing they had done affected anyone else or made an impression in their own insensitive minds.

It’s poor entertainment, for sure. Much worse, FX knew. AND FX decided to air this crap-heap anyway.

What a major failure in media leadership. Does FX care about what they broadcast? Or is it simply about pinching pennies at the expense of decency?


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Acceptance in The Medulla Review

My poems "Between" and "Death Vision" have been taken by a fairly new journal, The Medulla Review. Editor Jennifer Bowles has a good number of fine publications to her name, including work in the New York Quarterly. The site has a outlier feel of edgy excellence and a tinge of surreal mysterium. Good descriptive guidelines and info.

Bowles has also, in her first issue, published one of the finest young poets around, Susan Slaviero.

All this bodes very well for The Medulla Review. Make sure you send your very best work. You're dealing with a talented, well-published savvy editor.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Happy Birthday, Brave Soul

Happy Birthday to my brother Gudger. I miss you, sir. And I love you very much.

Christine Klocek-Lim Photographs The Heart

A wonderful poet and editor, Christine Klocek-Lim, has published her latest chapbook, How To Photograph the Heart. You can find out more here:


Klocek-Lim is an award winning and well-published writer. From her bio at the above link, it is clear that she has been intrigued and involved with the sensuous crafting of language for much of her life. Although young, she is a sage.

Not only that, she has mastered the art of poetic-aesthetic ambience. To understand what I mean, simply go to her website. You’ll understand immediately, or after a few clicks of the mouse: www.novembersky.com

If that link doesn't work (site under construction), try:


She’s very giving of her time and has run an excellent journal called Autumn Sky Poetry for years (accessible through her website). As this journal has evolved, it has become more and more a gift of wonders for the senses and soul, without in any way distracting from the power of the verse, both free and rhymed.

There’s a Zen-like touch to the beauty that manifests in Klocek-Lim’s multi-layered website. Photographic and color effects highlight everyday yet stunning aspects of nature. A mysterious doorway into a tranquil setting materializes--somehow. The reader sees that nature’s simplicity is actually exquisite and vast. Miracles are fresh.

By the time you reach the poems, you have passed many gateways, and are ready for the words, which were carefully chosen by passionate hearts to be ready for you.

Below is a poem of mine that Klocek-Lim generously allowed into Issue 9 of Autumn Sky. If you enjoy it at all, or even if you don’t, go to November Sky and you will see much greater and more absorbing works.



Joan of Arc

like a stung monk,
nurtured by solitude not ears,
she rose up among wattle,

not daring to respect
the eyes foaming around her,
white as death cups.

"a prophet! a prophet!" they cried,
lips like shiny scales
on a hamlet-wide snake
that squeezed her in its midst—

pressured her to sing
like a doomed thrush,
until the beast writhed with divinity,

crushing Saxons, salting fields—

and she,
discarded in the spattered coils,
spread her half-real wings,

(Published In Autumn Sky Poetry, Copyright of Owl Who Laughs)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Defending Abortion: Part III, Dealing With Potential

(See also Defending Abortion, Part IV in the March 2010 posts)

The argument from potential, I think, is the strongest card the anti-abortionists can play. Anyone considering an abortion should grapple with it both emotionally and rationally.

The basic idea is that by killing an embryo, or even conceptus, you are eliminating an entire potential lifetime of joys, feelings, thoughts and accomplishments. It is a common tactic of pro-lifers to present a woman, say Ms. Chavez, and her a grown child Marcos, and perhaps grandchildren, and have her give a heartfelt and deep testimony: if she had gone through with her plans for abortion, all these lovely people would never have come to pass.

You can take it a step further and point out that killing an embryo wipes out an entire genealogy of future people extending far into the future. In this way, the death of the preborn eliminates thousands of potential lives.

Anti-abortionists usually don’t take it this far. Placing so much weight on the inch-long back of an embryo shows the weakness of the argument. Potential is only reliable so far. After that, it becomes an unruly basis for behavior, even a ridiculous one.

Yes, the preborn might grow up to be a Beethoven; but that doesn’t mean we should treat it like Beethoven now. There’s also, of course, the possibility that the embryo will grow up to be a Nero, or just have a very tough life. Again, we don’t treat the preborn like a criminal just because someday the adult might go bad.

Potential can be used in all kinds of dubious ways. You might argue that children from women who wanted to abort them will grow up in difficult homes--either with the unhappy mother or foster parents. Such children are more likely to have tough lives and sow the seeds of even more misery, creating more unhappy mothers and children, and so on, forever.

Maybe. All this talk about future happiness or unhappiness gets very speculative, revealing flaws in the use of potential for an argument.

One thing, though, is certain: in most circumstances, the embryo will grow to become an infant. The potential to travel through developmental stages is high. Disease, faulty genetics, or accident could cut the young life short; but barring such calamity, embryos proceed toward fully complex brains and body states.

An abortion, then, has a high chance of preventing the existence of a sentient human sometime in the future.

This is the key case that pro-choicers must grapple with. And guess what? It is a tough decision. A choice to abort DOES eliminate a progressing human life. If you’re fully aware of what you’re doing, it should be emotionally painful to choose to terminate.

Just to emphasize: if you chose to abort, you are taking a human life, and you are annihilating that little being’s potential to develop and experience a full range of thoughts and sensations.

If you deny this, and claim you are dealing with a “lump of tissue” you might well regret it later. Furthermore, in a philosophical and political sense, you are playing right into the anti-abortionists’ hands. They want to make pro-choicers to look ignorant, callous and cruel.

That being said, abortion is still morally acceptable. A potential mature human is not a mature human. Pro-lifers know this and often use the potential argument only as a last resort. When you appeal to potential, you effectively admit that there is a relevant difference between the embryo and the developed child.

Pro-lifers want to say that the embryo has a soul, not that it has a potential soul. Potential to have a soul sounds fishy. It exposes a gap. It effectively puts the embryo on a lower level because it focuses on the embryo when it is no longer an embryo--but instead like us.

On the other hand, if you believe the embryo has a soul, there is no need to appeal to its potential to reach a later stage. It’s a no-win situation for the anti-abortionist.

The Supreme Court was well aware of the difference between embryos and later stages, and wisely recognized a legitimate gap. That is why the Court focused on the notion of a “person.” Persons get a right to life, but embryos, not yet elaborated into persons, do not.

A pro-lifer doesn't want to admit that the embryo is different than you or I--no way--but the appeal to potential forces it. They step on their own toes when they talk about future thoughts, future feelings, future loves. It highlights the embryo’s lack of thoughts and feelings, and its inability to love.

Next time a pro-lifer presents Ms. Chavez and her grown son, you can reply: Why do you need to show me matured humans to defend the rights of the embryo? Aren’t you implying that the embryo is lesser?

“But the potential is there,” a pro-lifer might insist, “and it is great.”

“Yes,” you could reply, “but the potential is not the actual. And the difference is great.”

Indeed, potentially having something and actually having something are VERY different.

A five-year-old will have a right to vote someday. That doesn’t mean the five-year-old gets a right to vote. The same goes with the right to own guns, drink, marry, receive welfare, or get a driver’s license.

In all these cases, potential to get a right someday does not mean you get it now. Complicating things further, we often, in ordinary everyday choices, deny human life.

You heard me right. Many potential humans--who might have been Beethovens or Solomons--are denied existence all the time, even by pro-lifers. For instance, if you have two children but choose not to have a third, you are denying a life.

If you use birth control, you are thwarting a potential being, denying it conception.

If you choose not to have wild inappropriate sex at a party, you might have avoided getting pregnant, which in turn means you may have denied life to a new preborn implanted in your womb.

Strange as it may seem, potentials for humans to live and thrive are being created and destroyed all the time. Usually we have no regrets over this, and don’t even think about it. It’s absurd to decide to have wild inappropriate sex at a party just because otherwise you might be preventing a life.

A practical truth, seldom mentioned in the abortion debate is this: deciding to have an unplanned unwanted child now, under pressure, might well lead to not having more children in the future, ones who could have been better cared for.

Ms. Chavez has her son Marcos, but because of the expense and bad timing, she decides not have any more children. These lost children, if they had been born, as originally planned, would have been called Xavier and Maria, and they would have had families of their own. But they will never get an opportunity.

Marcos suffers from behavior and physical problems due to bad timing and preparation, but of course Ms. Chavez loves him anyway. She would have loved Xavier and Maria too, and they would have had a better chance to be well and healthy.

The issues around potential are bewildering, even bizarre. Every time you have a child, it eliminates the possibility of other children coming into being. Countless Xaviers and Marias don’t make it.

When one sperm reaches an egg, millions of other sperm lose the race and the potential people they represent are denied.

You could say that entire worlds are denied every day, all the time, by ordinary decisions and just plain old happenstance.

Such is the astounding reality we live in. Miracles are everywhere, but they are necessarily destroyed as well as birthed as part of evolution and life. (See Defending Abortion: Part I).

When you’re deciding on abortion, you must grapple with a specific potential: you have a human life in the womb. The living embryo is farther ahead in its journey toward the third trimester (where partial rights take hold) than a human not yet conceived. The pregnant woman has a beautiful little being inside her.

But that is not enough to imbue the embryo with the rights we have. A potential person is not an actual person. This is a manifestation of common sense. We couldn’t function at all without the following general rule: potentials vary in strength and importance, they are often difficult to assess, and the potential state is very different from the actual state, once it is realized.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Disney Deals Drugs, Slays Miramax

A special HOOT Award ((Horrendous Outrageous O Terrible!) goes to Disney for its role in dumbing down American cinema. Miramax Films, with a decades-long legacy of intelligent drama from independent creative thinkers, has just released its very last movie ever, ironically titled “Everybody’s Fine.”

Why? Melena Ryzik, reporting on the story, doesn’t hold any punches:

“[Miramax], started by the Weinstein brothers and a key player in the history of independent film in this country, has been progressively disemboweled by its parent, the Walt Disney Company.”

(“A Bittersweet Night for a Not-So-Fine Miramax,” Dec 4, New York Times)

Finally some muckraking journalism that isn’t afraid to tell it like it is: “PROGRESSIVELY DISEMBOWELED.” Brava, Ryzik!

In the photograph accompanying the article, you can see the sorrow in Robert DeNiro’s face as he witnesses this gross tragedy.

Why has Disney done this? The same reason that other corporate overlords are killing off or strangling down their indie theater cells: profit. The flicks that make lurid amounts of money are not the ones that induce reflection on the nature of life.

Along with Disney, these IQ killing leviathans include Viacom, Time Warner and Paramount.

The Director of “Everybody’s Fine” comments:

“It seems to me that people at the top are saying we don’t want to do adult drama, there’s nobody that wants to be reminded of the real world, they want escapist cinema,” he said. “I love watching sci-fi movies and romantic comedies and teenage movies as much as anyone else, but I think it’s about balance, and you have to have adult drama because that’s often one of the few categories that makes people leave the cinema thinking about their own lives and reflecting on who they are and how they are in the world.”

(“A Bittersweet Night for a Not-So-Fine Miramax,” Dec 4, New York Times)

There you have it. People want “escapist cinema,” so Disney is willing to supply them with their mind-numbing drug: the movie equivalent of video games. Hey, why not. Let’s pander to a low urge to hide from reality. Let’s foster a nation of shallow thrill seekers, who goo-goo on the edge of their seats, waiting for the latest techno effect, and the largest flashiest amounts of catastrophe and blood.

The dumber people are, the easier to control. The more addicted. And the addicted can be financially pumped by the one who controls the desideratum.

What we witness, in the death of Miramax, is not just the end of a great production company, one that allowed us a window into our souls. We witness a critical and heartbreaking moment in the plummeting history of film.

The philosopher Socrates distilled his learning down to one all-important statement: Know Thyself. So vast in wisdom was this motto that it was inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.

What Disney has done, in the name of Mammon and to the detriment of Miramax, is chisel away this phrase. It has ripped “Know Thyself” out of the very essence of movie-making. To the extent that cinema could have been a source of moral and psychological leadership, Disney has disemboweled not only Miramax but hope itself.

A grim truth rears: the quest for knowledge lies dead in the boardrooms of movie moguls, they who bow down before Transformers, pyrotechnics, and toons. They would have celluloid become the equivalent of Soma, that happy pill of the populace in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

Hold onto your seats, and clutch your popcorn tight. We are embarking on a horror-movie trip, into the bowels of cineplex hedonism.

Welcome to the Dark Age of Virtual Titillation.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Acceptance In Lucid Rhythms


An honor it is to be included in this fine journal, which has a sense of dignity and classic beauty few venues ever attain. The cover art is aesthetic and sensuous. The poems read with the ease and harmony of a delicate rill. Editor David Landrum has given us all a magnificient gift of literary jewels, which are so much more valuable, in the end, than those made of stone.

Visit the haunting kingdom of Lucid Rhythms. You will be moved.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Acceptance In Offcourse

Two of my best poems, “Church Memory” and “Corroded Coin” were picked up by Offcourse, a journal run since 1998 by Ricardo Nirenberg, professor emeritus at SUNY Albany. The university has ties with Offcourse through Nirenberg, and also provides server support for the journal (http://www.albany.edu/offcourse/).

SUNY shows nobility and acumen in keeping an association with this journal, for Nirenberg is really really smart, a kind of renaissance genius. As a professor of mathematics, he taught a spectrum of courses, including advanced seminars at the graduate level, topics I can’t even begin to understand. For instance, the title of his thesis is: On Pseudo-Quasiconformality in Several Complex Variables.

He has published two literary novels (Cry Uncle and Wave Mechanics: A Love Story) and a raft of probingly brilliant essays. If you read his prose, you find that he has mastered concepts, theories, and worldviews in a broadly multidisciplinary way. He witnesses the universe through the apex lenses of both mathematics and literature, and it is quite evident in his writing.

It is also apparent in the devastating accuracy of his social critiques. Indeed, one of the truly great things about Nirenberg is his genuine appraisal of the world. The resolution of many beams of insight and knowledge into an ethos radiant with wisdom. Although I am not an aficionado of gurus, if you’re looking for highest learning of a philosophical and psychic nature, read the works of Nirenberg, and also take a look at Offcourse.

Finally, I want to give a special mention to Isabel Nirenberg, who does a good deal of work for the journal, serving as a diligent and patient manager. I have been accepted a few times now, and have not always been the most genteel contributor; but she has always shown consummate professionalism and courtesy. The editors Nirenberg make a great team.

It is a wonderful gift not only to the poetry community, but also the larger realm of learned thought and artistic passion, that they exist and strive.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Good Government Jobs! Except...

Paul Krugman is absolutely right in his latest Op-ed piece: Washington is exhibiting a “strange passivity” now that the recession, in a "technical sense," is over, one which favors wealthy elites--but not the common worker, who faces a grim unemployment rate, likely to go on for many years.

(“The Jobs Imperative,” New York Times, November 29)

The implication is as plain as a sneer: corporation captains are more important than you and me. We are grunts in the trenches of toil and travail. Economic canon fodder.

Maybe it’s impossible for the government to do anything else. Maybe our leaders have done their best?

No, says Krugman. In fact, he shouts it. Washington’s attitude is heinously wrong and earns serious moral condemnation:

“There’s a pervasive sense in Washington that nothing more can or should be done, that we should just wait for the economic recovery to trickle down to workers.

This is wrong and unacceptable.”

Notice how Krugman puts “This is wrong and unacceptable” in its own standout paragraph. Folks, this is the written equivalent of a scream.

It must be frustrating for Krugman, a genius professor of economics who won the Nobel Prize, to have his keen words fall upon wooden ears over and over. His intelligent thoughts share the stage with lame opinions by colleagues like David Brooks, aka Mr. Status Quo (see, for instance, my blog entry, “The Cruelty Question”).

Krugman lucidly lays out the financial logistics for a government-funded work program. It would create a million jobs, a la Roosevelt’s WPA.

Also, he asserts, more money should be given to the states, so that they can avoid an axe chop to their payrolls, especially the livelihoods of teachers.

And yet his advice will surely be ignored. The plutocrats pretend they obsess about the suffering of the many, honing their well-acted crocodile-tear speeches; but, in actual deed, they dote on their silk-tie masters.

I emphasize with all my literary lungs: our leaders COULD do something to help millions of people avoid years of lean misery--but they are not going to. Their actions express concern only for the wellbeing of the banking and corporate sector.

The tree is known by its fruit.