Friday, January 29, 2010

Nuclear Doom And The National Guard

I just saw the movie, The Road, based on Cormac McCarthy’s brilliant poetic novel. To sum up the emotional paroxysms enlivened in me is impossible, so let me just say that The Road makes me want to SCREAM at the stupidty of humanity, our mindless gutless soulless race toward demolition.

We live in an incredibly backward time, where our ‘great’ advisors think that free market capitalism--based on selfishness, accumulation,and the rapine of the Earth--is the ultimate form of social wisdom and that nothing better can ever be found,. And we have an equal number of great imbeciles cloaked as wise men who think that Might Makes Right is the best way to position our nation against others. In other words, the realpolitik of Machiavelli is not only alive and well but also the dominant form of philosophical thinking among our weapon-happy leaders, who somehow don’t get the fact that 2,000 ICBM’s in silos is already far beyond the pale.

I want to SCREAM at where this is taking us. It is taking us to the start of The Road, where nuclear winter annihilates everything green, down to the last leaf and petal, and slaughters off most every animal on the planet. No birds. No deer. No seals. Nothing.

Saddest of all, I don’t think anyone who watches this movie can intelligently claim it is not possible today as a result of a plausible nuclear war. A year from now, you and I and the rest of the population could be (a) dead, (b) dying from radiation sickness in a world without birds, flowers, or sunlight, (c ) starving to skeletons or subsisting as cannibals in an insane barbaric hell.

What makes me even angrier is the HORRIBLE COMMERCIALS that I had to endure in the theater before seeing this poignant soulful literary masterpiece of a trenchant evocative prophetic movie. Stupid commercials saying buy buy buy more more more shallow ridiculous trinkets. And worst of all--get this--a HORRIBLE glitzy pitch for the National Guard, geared obviously toward teenagers and young adults; a long cartoon world mindfuck of a commercial that made being in the National Guard look like being a star in a cliché action-adventure movie, complete with fancy filming, mythological music, and heroic voice over. It was amazingly sad. That callous. That dangerous. The entire commercial was vomit-worthy propaganda. To their credit, a large number of people in the audience booed when it was over.

In my five decades, I have never heard a movie audience boo an ad in a theater before.

If we don’t change this ugly and perverse focus on militarism and shallow consumerism; if we don’t wake up and nurture the hidden landscape of our souls, the lush inner emotions neglected while we suffer deadlines, chores, money envy, and the fear of evil, anthrax, bombs and a million other neurotic tertiary things that fire-eaters use to manipulate us; if we don’t stop raping Nature and building big boxes everywhere, crowding out everything but our own narcissistic urges and complaints--then we are going to blow ourselves up. We are going to turn this once beautiful planet into a global graveyard of corpses--the bones of every mammal, reptile, bird and fish will litter this world and not a single seed will bloom.

Howard Zinn died the other day, an irreplaceable activist and leader. The Los Angeles Times obituary quotes from his thoughts on the US reaction, led by George W. Bush, to the 9/11 attacks:

"They have learned nothing, absolutely nothing, from the history of the 20th century, from a hundred years of retaliation, vengeance, war, a hundred years of terrorism and counter-terrorism, of violence met with violence in an unending cycle of stupidity.",0,5610858.story

Watching an utterly stupid patriotic commercial for the National Guard, and then a movie that warns of the peril and lamentation of nuclear holocaust, affected me BEYOND DEEP. It dug Zinn’s words into the sanctum of my conscience forever.

I honestly think we are going to wipe out the ecosystems soon, forcing Mother Nature to start over. And I want to say, if there is a Goddess up there, or anyone listening to me from the great beyond--outside this fucked up selfish human-clogged world--I want to say I am SORRY, and YES I am complicit, and yet I am YELLING out and trying to stop it; but the momentum is WAY beyond me, and far beyond those around me who share my feelings. The ignorant train of mechanization and monstrous greed is set on a headlong pace.

I am so sorry. I SCREAM and yet the crushing hulk of war and fear moves on. They will have their way.

All I can do is enjoy every leaf, every ant, every precious moment of the miracle of existence. I am so thankful to have lived in a time before humanity wiped it all out.

I will keep speaking, futilely I’m afraid, and I will keep immersing in the miraculous beauty as long as fate allows me.

Thank you, Goddess, for my life and times.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mall Mind

A visit to the Beverly Center Mall to see the movie The Road (the last place it was playing) did not result in success. The traffic was so thick, neurotic and snarled that our arrival time was seriously detained.

However, a stroll through the eight stories of glitz, swarmiing with tweens, teens, and twenteens (that is, people in their twenties who act like teens, or even tweens) netted this classic shot (taken by my father) which summed up the whole materialistic experience.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Acceptance in The Centrifugal Eye

The Centrifugal Eye (TCE) recently took two of my poems, which will appear in the March issue. I must confess that I did not know much about this journal when I submitted, only that the editor, Eve Hanninen, had published one of my favorite Maine poets, P.J. Nights. Was I in for a surprise, one of the most wonderful of my literary life.

First of all, Hanninen wowed me with superb ways to improve the poems. Not only that, her thoughts were presented with immaculate professionalism. Color-coded and enumerated on working copies. I knew right away I was dealing with someone honed from the rigor of the business side of things, where the competition is tough, the customer demanding, and the standards for a good payday witheringly high.

It was a huge honor just to be working with this person. I credit myself with enough intelligence to realize this--eventually. First I had to get over my stupid ego, then being stunned and even awed. Editorial suggestions usually leave me disappointed. This was an extraordinary moment in my eight years of working with poetry editors. But would Hanninen’s Centrifugal Eye reflect the quality of her discerning eye?

I researched and ...

The answer is a resounding Yes. If you are looking for a small list of journals to read, this one should be near the top. Not only stellar poetry, but fantastic artwork interspersed among the hypnotic writings. Hanninen, it turns out, has a background in both the art and literary worlds. Few venues combine visuals and literature, and even fewer do it well, and only a small consummate subset get it absolutely right. TCE is meridian.

The Centrifugal Eye is the biggest shock of delight and one of the most memorable and special moments in my journey as an obsessed word-wanderer. This is a MUST SEE place, run by an outstanding team leader (another talent of Hanninen: she knows how to organize and work with a staff). If you want to volunteer in the literary scene, try here; but be prepared to meet the highest standards and express your honest love for the personality of this beautiful journal. Here dwell not only silver-tongued works, but those of every precious flavor.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fixing the US: Part III, Focus On the Rich

Note: Part III in an endless series!

There is an absurd consensus among financial 'experts' that the recession is over. Why do they say this? The big banks are bloated from profits again.

And yet at the same time, a massive number of US citizens have had their job chopped, cut back, or placed precariously on the butcher board in wait for the horrible blow. Behind these folks are many more of us, afraid that our livelihood is in the queue.

The unemployment rate in California, wealth basket of North America, is currently around 12.5%. That’s 1 in 8, and it doesn’t include part-timers and those who have given up. But, hey, who cares? The recession is over, right?

That’s how twisted things are. “Recession” is defined for plutocrats and has nothing to do with national health and happiness. And this is democracy?!

Focus on the rich. Not all the rich, really. That’s too broad. Your neighbor up the street with a new sedan doesn’t count. The important ones, the cynosures fawned over by pundits and papers, are the disgustingly obese whose financial fat cells call out for a good sweating.

These are not ethical paragons. AIG was saved repeatedly by Obama, and was caught buying expensive marble floors and other sybaritic trappings. Even worse, AIG gave out corpulent bonuses to high-level employees, despite their complicity in the Great Collapse in the first place.

That sure sounds virtuous. Maybe we should teach children to reward avarice in Sunday school.

Banks like AIG and Goldman-Sachs led the crazed gluttonous speculation fest, buying and selling bundled mortgages, betting against those bundles, betting on who’s betting on those bundles, and so forth. A parade of ridiculous antics. A debacle of Keystone Cops greed. And they have not reformed. They do not see the light of moderation or abjure their narcissism.

But no worries. Obama absolved them, bailed them out, as if these scions of Mammon were prodigal sons. He didn’t bail us out and we’re still sinking. And now the nasty Mammon pups are right back at the feed bowl, speculating again, rolling in lucre.

Focus on the rich. The ultra-irresponsible disgustingly privileged rich.

If the rich are sated, all is well. The situation is easy to summarize: Dow Jones up, good. Dow Jones down, bad. Why? The media says so.

Never mind that the Dow does not correlate with environmental health or the well-being of folks in the United States, not to mention those across the globe exploited by corporations in their quest to reap.

Progress, remember, has been associated for centuries with things like Isabella’s Spanish conquest, Manifest Destiny and the obliteration of indigenous ways and lush ecosystems, which are considered undeveloped resources for mercantile or capitalist exploitation.

When the Dow goes up, the true angels in the real heaven must surely tremble.

A few days ago, Obama boldly said he was going to rein in the big banks with new legislation. Down went the Dow. The éminence gris behind the stock market effectively extorted our President, giving a message that if you fuck with the pulse of the Rich, the Rich will squeeze this country and take you down.

When Scott Brown won in Massachusetts, killing healthcare reform, the Dow went up. Medical Kingpins rejoiced, knowing they could bully the infirm and uninsured with temerity. No better way to make profit than by abandoning the sick, or denying the needy based on “previous conditions" -- things like acne and being beaten by your spouse.

Dow Jones. Recession. These measure the pulse of the Rich. As long as that pulse is fine, the media croons and the pols get all mealy. Never mind the arrhytmias and fibrillations roiling the common sea.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Acceptance in Ophelia Street

Ophelia Street, a witty eccentric journal with a sassy dark edge, took one of my most hard-hitting poems, “The Cut,” which deals with suicide. The poem is somewhat like the venue. Sarcastic in a charming way that disarms. Only after you chuckle do you realize the irony: the content is not a chuckling matter.

Another way to look at it is this: Ophelia Street gets around your defenses with original creative language. Perhaps we, the readers, are even subconsciously eager to be led along by a arrestingly wry wit.

If a mandatory trip through hell is on the itinerary, best to have a guide who can get you to laugh a little and learn something, instead of closing your eyes.

Ophelia Street doesn’t just delve into the humorous dark. They have wonderful poems of all sorts and flavors. One thing I appreciate more and more as I read online, is the ability to comment on individual works.. The editors of OS not only allow this, they have also created (what looks to me) like a ranking system, where the contributors names jumble in a mosaic and the most popular bloom into bigger fonts.

(Alas, I am not even present on the list. An invisible no-hit mote)

I know there’s a name for this sort of visual trend map. I’ve seen it on other sites, notably those that monitor hot topics on the web, like

Incidentally, “The Cut” was workshopped at The Rooster Moans, a wonderful online community that is currently starved for active members . If you are a dedicated poet and looking for a cooperative environment to create in, check out Rooster Moans. They are super-intelligent and kind folks, who respond well to good listeners and team players.

And go visit Ophelia Street!

Here’s the acceptance letter, which I thought was charismatic and clever (but something sharp down below the blandishment, which seems the OS way):


Dear [Owl Who Laughs],

We at Ophelia Street appreciate your submissions. We appreciate them so much, in fact, "The Cut" has gone live, and millions upon trillions of people can read it at Well, millions upon trillions could read it if you help spread the word: Tell your friends, bribe your family and put up fliers near libraries and coffee shops.

Also, quick as we are to jump on the latest trends, Ophelia Street has a Facebook group you can join and spread the word through


Whatever you decide to do regarding your work is up to you. We're just proud to have you aboard the good ship Ophelia.


Seán, editor


Thank you, Ophelia Street!!


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Avatar and Audi

The Audi-acity of the Audi R8 5.2 and it's anti-green image!

I’ll get back to that. But first the basics.

When a sea-changer like the movie Avatar erupts through the fabric of conformity, awing global throngs while trembling the status quo of mechanization, exploitation and viral military, you have to expect the ticks to come out.

What do I mean? First, you’ve got to fully understand the essence of the tick, which is to say, the full extent of its raison d’être.

Intro To Ticks, 101

Ticks are single-minded. They serve their own goals. To them, people are just meat. There’s absolutely no chance a tick will decide not to feast, once it has snuck into a vulnerable spot, usually a place that seems awful for them to violate, like your crotch, armpit or navel. It doesn’t bother the tick at all. It has no ethics, doesn’t care about ethics, and never will.

Finally, ticks are numerous. If you wander into their region, there are thousands of them waiting for any opportunity to suck your blood, no matter how underhanded, mean or vile.

Intro To Advertisers, 101

Okay, now compare ticks to advertisers, marketers and their shills. They do whatever they can to get you interested in buying their product. Maybe not all admen are like ticks; but in the corporate world, where the bottom-line is cash, it stands to reason that a huge number of them are; and we all know they are out there. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. Caveat Emptor and all that.

So, without further ado, let me introduce the human version of the tick, the admen:

(1) They serve their own goals. To them the customer is just money (their version of blood). They exist to feed off of you.

(2) There’s no chance they won’t take your blood, once they’ve snuck into a vulnerable spot, the mental equivalent of your crotch, armpit or navel.

(3) It doesn’t bother them at all. Just business as usual. No ethics.

(4) They are numerous. Everywhere you go, the admen want to have a sign, jingle, promo or song that pushes their product. They will swarm you, and, yes, they are voracious. And unlike naturally occurring ticks in the wild, they never get full.

Avatar and Ticks, 101

All right, then! What does this have to do with Avatar. I guess I’m just excited, because the other day, I saw a really gross promo tick leeching off the success of Avatar. It is surely one of the biggest marketing ticks I’ve ever seen.

Business Section of the L.A. Times, January 15 2010, the front page headline reads:

“A magnificent, ‘Avatar’-style creature”

Okay, what is the writer, Dan Neil, talking about? Which creature from what lovely landscape on the planet Pandora? Those beautiful wild dragons? The sturdy horses? The breath-taking luminous tree seeds? The acrobatic and enticing four-armed monkeys?

No, Neil is talking about a car. That’s right. The whole article is about a machine with a big engine (gotta love that 13 mpg), just the sort of thing that the movie associates with the forces of evil.

You know, those steel monstrosities, fueled by oil, that rip apart the most magnificent planet in the galaxy. Those vehicles that the hero says, “Come from a world where they have destroyed their Mother Nature, where there is no green left.” (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it)

Does Neil care that he is twisting the message of the movie to pitch a product?

No evidence of it. You’ve got to expect that from a tick, I suppose, though I’m still pretty disgusted. Humans are supposed to have a conscience, after all. A lot of admen are sociopathic, but I bet the majority of them aren’t, and so they should show a drop of compunction.

Maybe Neil wears one face at work and another at home, like a lot of us. And maybe the face he wears at home is crying because he sold out the higher message of Avatar to hawk a degradable product only available to rich people in a world where the true price of wealth is billions of poor and the rape of the Earth.

What’s amazing is the size and boldness of this corporate tick. Neil’s bloodlust is gargantuan. He dares to suggest that the car he’s promoting (the Audi R8 5.2 FSI “supercar”) is your new body, like the Avatar body entered by the hero, Jake Reilly.

This flashy Audi, which will be old news in a year, is the “avatar of automobiles.”

Never mind the traffic jams, poisoned air, lack of forests or even a tree or two to climb in; never mind the absence of a lush ecosystem diverse with wildlife and replete with natural wonders; never mind the pervasive lattice of gray all around you; never mind the dead urban brickscape with no animals except leashed shitzus and hardly an ort of green--none of that is important because your Audi, available in “Na’vi Blue,” is such a thrill.

Neil gets a special Tick Award, for the audacity (or is that Audi-acity) to name the color of the car after the Na'vi, the people of Pandora. Hey, it’s no worse than calling a football team the Redskins, right?).

But wait a minute. Wasn’t Jake’s avatar made out of flesh and blood? Wasn’t it BIOLOGICAL and not a suped-up piece of heartless non-regenerating tin, the kind of thing bought by small-time princes who are so insecure and subconsciously guilty that they need glorified toys to prove to themselves they are worthwhile?

If I were an exec at Audi, I’d be upset by Neil’s review. He basically pitted Audi against Avatar. The worst nightmare of the ad industry can be summed up in three words: Unintentional negative advertising.

Anyone who buys an Audi R8 now will look like a real fool.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Acceptance in Rose & Thorn Journal

In December, The Rose & Thorn accepted three of my poems (now posted in their Winter 2010 issue). I didn’t write about it then, because I tend to procrastinate when time is needed to gather the full edge of my emotions. The problem is that, in this case, there is no way to encapsulate my gratitude to the editors and my praise for this journal. It is boundless.

The Rose & Thorn has done more for me as a poet than any other venue. They have repeatedly accepted my work, rejected it when unready, and even let me guest blog, an invaluable learning experience. These gifts remain in my heart. I must also mention the quality, which makes R&T an exemplary leader and literary standout. It is wonderful to be recognized by any good journal; but because R&T is original, sensuous, and expert, the honor is greater.

In addition to the aesthetic word-smithery, there is also a streetwise aspect to this zine. It doesn’t dominate, but it’s tangible enough to instill a scrim of shadow. If you met this side of R&T on the mean streets, you’d be dealing with a charismatic scamp, leather-clad and with dark allure, eager for revel yet steeled for trouble. A Neruda of graffiti, and a Sylvia Plath of thieves jargon. Not someone who faints at the sight of poetic blood.

You’ve got to take the title of this magazine seriously: rose AND thorn. It is not a tepid place to hang out. The writing ranges from pure beauty to raw pain (though never distasteful or obscene). If this shocks you, remember that part of R&T’s goal is help writers who want hard publications. An excellent story, novel or poem avoids humdrum and takes a bare-souled hog ride.

I could just say the journal is “gritty” as well as lovely; but the word is well-worn. To do justice, I have coined my own adjective: switchblade. R&T is switchblade: agile and honed with a sharp-edged intensity so good it seems both attractive and dangerous.

That is the Thorn. Sometimes, too, the poems evince a dream-like melody, the ensorcelling sensualism of Lorca and Rumi. That is the Rose. Of course, the energies of the Rose and the Thorn can appear together in one story, ineffably commingled to reflect the mazy Scales of life.

Reflecting its diverse nature, R&T has done an admirable job with its new improved web design. If you suffer from any allusion that a red rose implies a docile plant in a vase, one look disabuses you of that ghastly error.

What struck me first was the logo: an old typewriter keyboard narrowed down to a shot of two letters side by side: R T. To me, this indicates a truth to which all would-be writers must kneel down: writing is a painstaking and mindbreaking craft. It requires toil, anguish, and a super-tough hide.

Until the keyboard, in a mysterious sense, drinks of your blood, you will not be a true word artist.

R&T serves eager new writers, budding professionals, and literati who expect the very best sentences, and who want savvy insights from the contributors, blogs, podcasts, and forums generously offered. You won’t find greeting card sentiment here, but you will find a tremendous staff that loves the magic of language and plunges in with relish. They are phrase dancers. The team’s enthusiasm is palpable and contagious, and deserves full respect. Don’t dishonor them with wildcat submissions or impetuous prolix.

Although I’ve been loosely associated with the journal for over two years, through my poems, I do not know any of the staff personally. As befits true professionals, their main goal is the pulse of the craft, and I’m sure they are exceedingly busy.

I was just starting to get acquainted with Cesar Garza, now retired as editor. He was Senior Poetry Editor for years and did a splendid job. More importantly, he possesses one of the greatest passions I have seen, a true seeker and poet along the winding mystical paths of well-wrought sentences.

The new contact editor is Cynthia Toups, who is just as dedicated and unpretentious. I’ve emailed with her twice about the Winter 2010 issue and she seems friendly, astute and kind.

Many other people are vital to this journal, like dexterous vines of one of those roses that trellises out to become venerable, and hence earns the name of “rambler,” reserved for climbers especially beautiful and revered.

I know from reading the latest newsletter that founder Barbara Quinn has recently stepped down and now Angie Ledbetter and Kathryn Magendie are at the helm (Co-Editors and Publishers). You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce they are doing an outstanding job. The tree is known by its fruit.

In the Winter Issue, Ledbetter interviews Kristina Marie Darling, a former editor at R&T, who has gone on to become a world-class poet. Her multiple publications in meridian journals indicate that she is bursting onto the national scene. Very impressive!

Ms. Toups, in addition to being Senior Poetry Editor, is also Managing Editor of the journal.

The Poetry Editors are MFA and english instructor Yu-Han (Eugenia) Chao, who published a poetry book (We Grow Old) with Blackwaters Press in 2008; and William Hough, a dedicated presence in the realm of writing. He was one of the founders of R&T and before that spent a decade networking in the AOL Amazing Instant Writers Group.

There are many other staff members at R&T. All have interesting bios:

I want to end with a snippet from the email I hastily wrote back to Editor Toups when I learned that R&T had accepted me for Winter 2010. I was an effusive message, tangled and bumbling. I was very excited and spoke with childish candor:

“More than ever, I believe R&T is a singular presence in the literary world, spearheading the rush of awe, joy, anguish, and all other highest expressions of emotion, into the future. Thank you for the great amount of time you must put into this noble task ... Even the most ardent and driven poets, like me, ought to step back and thank you most profusely for doing work that is surely more important than our feverish toil, much of it vain and wasted. Much more.”

And so it is: Editors at great journals do more for the poetry world than even the most obsessed and meticulous poets. They are the true stars, who ferry talent and yet in that portage express a talent of their own, one just as wonderful, just as prodigious, just as needed and deep.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Thoughts on Avatar, Part II

Simply this paraphrase of the words of a poet:

The mind can people planets of its own
with beings brighter than have been,
and give breath to forms which can outlive all flesh

Byron, The Dream

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Avatar Thoughts, Part I

My initial reaction to Avatar is that I am grateful to see this moment occur in my lifetime: a worldwide blockbuster movie, which launches a new mode of cinema no less, condemning ill aspects of United States culture, including corporate greed, military brutishness, and macho male identity. It empowers females and cooperative ways of living that embrace equality among people and harmony throughout nature. It validates the splendor of the wilderness and stingingly indicts us for what we have done to it. It shows us there is a way to live far better than a castle mentality of fear bristling with bullets and swords.

It has all been said before by isolated voices, but never with such profound, far-reaching, and compelling impact. If the Great Judge of the Universe shows up tomorrow and asks us why we should not be heavily punished for blindly destroying our Mother Earth, we can claim that at least some of us were against it, and we can point to Avatar as proof.

Not only that, the movie evinces a true empathy for animals and also life forms that surely exist in other places in our universe. There’s an amazing sense of justice that goes beyond even the prejudice of species. A noble and ideal sense of how to live, beyond the ignorant selfishness of raw consumption and forest-killing development.

That’s all I have time to say for now. There are, of course, problems with messages in the movie. Much more will be said, by many voices.

THANK YOU, Fates, for letting me live to see this moment. It is as wonderful as seeing a black man become President.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fixing the US: Part II, Male Identity

Note: This is Part II in an endless series!

There’s a problem with the link between masculinity and violence, right? I’m not alone in seeing this? “In the Nuclear Age, the real enemy is war itself,” says Denzel Washington playing a submarine commander (the movie is Crimson Tide). If we don’t want to fry ourselves to smithereens and give Gaea third degree burns over 25% of her body, maybe it’s time to dismantle the phallic missiles, lose the priapic combat jargon and stop telling men they aren’t worthy of their weaponly shlongs unless they can defeat--aka kill, castrate, demean, bully, or punch out--other men in mortal combat, or maybe just after a few too many Coors at Lucky’s Bar on Friday night.

Heck, maybe we should change the standard of male identity simply because it is the psychological equivalent of a cripple. How many men can carry on a deep empathic conversation? With anyone? Did I read somewhere that six million males suffer from depression, but most of the sufferers don’t even know they’re depressed? Talk about clueless.

The write-up on male depression speaks softly but carries a big stick (Oops, sorry about that hidden reference to penis size, it's so embedded in our culture). It states casually that “Male Depression May Go Undiagnosed.” Four reasons are given, very gently, as if walking on ego-shells.

I’ll state the findings bluntly: (1) Men don’t have the skills to talk about feelings, (2) Men are emotionally straitjacketed by cultural norms of masculinity, (3) Men use drugs, alcohol or other immature means to hide from their deep feelings, (4) When diagnosed or confronted with depression men retreat into total denial.


In other words, men are cowards when it comes to looking inside. What’s so cool about being able to bench-press 200lbs if your EQ (emotional quotient) can’t manage a single tear?

Oh sorry, I forgot. Conans and Rambos aren’t supposed to feel. Aren’t feelings just so annoying? When you’re spraying bullets into a group of Arabs, or breaking the nose of some guy at Lucky’s bar, or just putting your know-it-all wife in her place, the last thing you need is some meddlesome intuition telling you that you’re acting like a rabid ape.

But hey, might makes right, doesn’t it? If you wife out-argues you, again; or if the guy you’re pummeling in Lucky’s didn’t say what you thought he said; or if those Arabs you’re shooting turn out to be unarmed, it really doesn’t matter, because you’re the one with the intimidating biceps and so you set the rules.

Isn’t patriarchy grand?

Might makes right. Let that phrase sink in. It’s the bedrock sacrosanct subconscious Code of the Cock. Political leaders hide it under feverish speeches that praise high ideals, but the bottom-line is that power determines who is a hero and who gets the unenviable slot of “evil enemy of the State.”

This kind of poor excuse for justification needs to change or we’re all doomed. Remember how WWI started with a single shooting in a minor country? How did one shooting become a bloody assembly line of trenches that turned millions of young men into canon fodder? Answer: males rule the world, and males practically worship violence (do I really have to argue for this? Look at all the Van Diesel movies, the hordes of combat video games, the endless gun sales), and males tend to engage in a dangerous little trap for insecure egos called brinksmanship.

Brinksmanship. Look that one up. It is the one-word in-a-nutshell reason why there is going to have a Nuclear War someday soon ...

Unless the norm of male identity changes.

How does this relate to "might makes right" in the male worldview? Competition is the essence of things, and the winner, who is the mightiest, is infinitely better than any loser, especially when it comes to that most important game of all: War.

During war, or in the bar, or at the office, or while playing couch potato, it’s all about hierarchy, competition, stiffening your jaw and the whoop of victory or the beer-drown of defeat. And most important of all: no crying. That’s for girls and when you’re called a girl, it’s an insult.

I think women should start calling each other a “man” as a form of condemnation.

“What are you, a man or something? Validate your feelings!”

We live in a time when low EQ leadership is not a luxury society can afford. If men don’t deal with their emotions, the result is boiling anger, which in turn leads to fights, which explode into war. Then there’s escalation and finally the big BOOM.

Can men change?

My stock line is this: If men can be made to accept women as equals, anything is possible.

And guess what? All of a historical sudden, in the last hundred years or so, women vote, go to college and get jobs that pay okay. They don’t even have to wear corsets!

Well, SOME women. So there’s a wee bit of hope.


Post Script: A good book on male identity is Blood Rites, by Barbara Ehrenreich. From the official synopsis:

In Blood Rites, Barbara Ehrenreich confronts the mystery of the human attraction to violence: What draws our species to war and even makes us see it as a kind of sacred undertaking? Blood Rites takes us on an original journey from the elaborate human sacrifices of the ancient world to the carnage and holocaust of twentieth-century "total war." ... Blood Rites is a monumental work that will transform our understanding of the greatest single threat to human life.


The happiest people in the world live in Costa Rica, a country that has abolished its military.

"I’m not antimilitary. But the evidence is strong that education is often a far better investment than artillery," says Nicolas D. Kristof, author of the article, "The Happiest People."

(New York Times, 1/6/10)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fixing the US: Part I, Puerile Love

Everywhere on TV and radio, and throughout the realms of cinema and WiFi, it blares forth: a preoccupation with young sex and fresh seduction. Pat characters, both the sitcom and serious sort, titillate each other with the possibility of a first-time fuck, dragging it out for as many seasons as possible. In the music world, from pop to croon to folk to rock, the standard lyric emblazons the joy of budding romance, the sort that gets teens dopey and even jumpstarts the juices of methuselahs and cougars.

Movies pair the virile hero and the supersexy heroine in a tightening spiral of erotic oomph. In other words, variations on Prince Charming meets Cinderella until it feels like you’ve swilled a melted goo of powdered sugar, and as you turn to vomit you have to ask: Is there anything worth saying about life after the honeymoon?

Want examples? Type “tension between TV couples” into a Google search. A horrendous subculture pops up. “Which Couple Has The Hottest Sexual Tension of 2009?” ( “Sexual Tension Makes And Breaks TV” ( “A Discussion Of The Sexual Tension Between Bruce Willis and Cybil Sheppard” (

Please! If that weren’t bad enough, turn on your radio and you’ll hear country twangs and rocker rasps praising some girl or guy’s chest or ass. He or she or it is just so hot. If you’re wondering about the “it” recall that pitiable classic, “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.”

Of course, there’s also the agony side of Cupid’s chemistry. Or the semi-sinister I’m-so-lonely-and-she-hates-me theme. And a thousand other twists and romps on anything and everything preceding a stable union.

Healthy partnerships between long-term lovers aren’t the focus or even the fallback. A happy person doesn’t buy things to salve their ego like a neurotic mess who has loneliness issues. Madison Avenue discovered this in the days of Vance Packard and has been going strong with it ever since.

After seventy years of slick advertisements, the US citizen has been molded into a whiny shallow creature, and desperately needs help to maintain and nurture relationships. You know, life AFTER the glitzy marriage and all the thrills and pitfalls that lead up to it?

I can’t help but insert some lyrics from that most excellent album by Green Day, American Idiot:

Don't want to be an American idiot.
Don't want a nation under the new media.
And can you hear the sound of hysteria?
The subliminal mind fuck America.

Welcome to a new kind of tension.
All across the alien nation.
Where everything isn't meant to be okay.

Beyond the stage of puerile love is a wonderful yet difficult bond of intimacy that requires communication, candor, and commitment. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were songs, TV shows and movies that provided guidance, or at least some recognition, of the majority of human togetherness?

But noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

What we get is a media obsessed with ramming another melodramatic farce into minds already convinced that there is no bliss comparable to that first tussle in the Ford. The not-so-hidden message is that relationships suck after the chapel, so badly that there’s no point in visiting that part of reality at all.

This is a huge problem with US culture. The fixation on first thrill. It demeans and shuns love in its more longstanding forms, which can be utterly satisfying, wonderful and deep.

I, for one, am tired of watching shows about fidgeting teenagers, or adults attempting to act like fidgeting teenagers. There is praiseworthy life after marriage. It takes work and skill and luck and daring and ... Hey, wouldn’t THAT make a good plot for a movie?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I'z tired, boss.

John Coffey, The Green Mile

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Blackwater Threatens the Foundation of the US

The dismissal, on a technicality, of charges against five Blackwater mercenaries indicted for the Nisour Square Massacre is yet another reason why the United States is seen as a brutish vicious Empire. Apparently the five effectively confessed to State Department representatives under the aegis of immunity, and when prosecutors used those testimonies the judge ruled it illegal and sunk the case. A sixth Blackwater defendant had already pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and was going to testify for the prosecution.

(“Judge Drops Charges From Blackwater Deaths in Iraq,” New York Times, 12/31/09)

The Nisour Square Massacre is sometimes referred to as Baghdad’s Bloody Sunday. Seventeen innocent civilians were gunned down, including a mother who was a doctor and her son, who was in medical school:

“Later, as I walked toward Nisour Square I noticed that each and every tree and electricity pole, and even the pavement, was riddled with bullets. At the square the first thing I saw was a charred white Kia that had been carrying Dr. Mahasin Muhsin Kadhum, 46, and her 20-year-old son, Ahmed Haythem Al-Rubaei, a medical student. He was giving her a ride home from the hospital where she worked. Smoke was still coming from the car, which had been hit by at least 30 shots. According to police officers at the site, the Blackwater guards opened fire on that car, then hit it with a grenade from a grenade launcher, which set it on fire while the two were inside it.”

(“Happy New Year, For Blackwater,” New York Times, 1/1/10)

Eyewitness accounts say that Blackwater mercs fired indiscriminately and massively. Helicopters over the turreted trucks took part in the wanton slaughter. Blackwater is not part of the US Military but rather a budding behemoth that thrived under the Bush Administration’s policy of privatization. It operates with immunity from Iraqi law and apparently US Law too, given the ruling by Federal Judge Ricardo M. Urbina absolving the five guards.

According to Common Dreams, Blackwater is an immoral monster that flouts the law and gathers special privileges from close ties to the US Government:

“On September 16, 2007, Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, Baghdad. Almost a year later, no one has been charged or prosecuted for the murders. Blackwater, a private army and mercenary headquartered in Moyock, NC with over $1 billion in federal contracts (primarily no-bid) since 2001, operates with impunity, not subject to either military or civilian law. Blackwater is associated with tax evasion, gun running, weapons stockpiling, recruiting death squad paramilitary personnel from Latin America and defrauding US taxpayers. Blackwater operates without oversight, transparency or accountability.”

Most recently, alarm has been sounded about the nepotistic links between Blackwater and the CIA:

“The secret missions illuminate a far deeper relationship between the spy agency and the private security company than government officials had acknowledged. Blackwater’s partnership with the C.I.A. has been enormously profitable for the North Carolina-based company, and became even closer after several top agency officials joined Blackwater.”

“Blackwater Guards Tied to Secret CIA Raids,” 12/10/09)

In a crucible of outrage and concern, an NGO has emerged to monitor Blackwater (which now calls itself Xe):

Long ago, Machiavelli warned against the use of mercenaries or “auxiliaries.” Their allegiance was not to the State that purchased their services, but to the captain of their own outfit, who pays their salary and commands their fraternity. This readily leads to all kinds of wrongdoing and treachery:

"Of all kinds of troops, auxiliaries are the most dangerous; for the prince or republic that calls them to their assistance has no control or authority whatever over them, as that remains entirely with him who sends them ... Such troops, when victorious, generally plunder as well him to whose assistance they were sent as the enemy against whom they have been employed; and this they do either from the perfidy of the [leader] who sends them, or from their own ambition ... A prince or republic, then, should adopt any other course rather than bring auxiliaries .... for any treaty or convention with the enemy, however hard the conditions, will be less hard to bear than the danger from the auxiliaries."

(The Discourses, Ch.XX)

Machiavelli does make a distinction between mercenaries and auxiliaries, both of which he considered Pyrrhic allies. The Blackwater guards fall into the latter category because: (i) the US government, as evidenced by Judge Urbina’s decision, “has no control or authority over them,” (ii) the Blackwater corporation is the equivalent of a separate state, given its vast income and power, and hence the monarchic status of its CEO, (iii) Blackwater and its individual members manifest the “danger” and “plunder” mentioned by Machiavelli and illustrated by Common Dreams.

In other words, if the US Government doesn’t wake up and stop using corporate mercs, the result could be an auxiliary army that threatens, if not the foundation of the United States, then any remaining claim it has to bear the torch of a higher purpose.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Arsenic Lobster: One of the Best Poetry Journals. Period.

I am most happy to spend part of my New Year’s holiday praising up one of my favorite journals, which has just released its December issue. My only trepidation is that my feeble words will fail to offer the swimming panegyric that Arsenic Lobster deserves.

Here you have the most fresh and cutting-edge omnium-gatherum of original wordplay on the Net. You have editors who are raw in their passion and quest, perhaps dangerously so. They soar or plumb, swoon or blanch, exhilarate or crumble into uncertain apathy. In short, these editors are REAL purveyors of the mercurial. They plunge into the unconscious, its Infernos, Elysiums and Phlegethons, to find ghosts with unheard tales, whom they coax or snare into a blunt creativity from urgent throats.

The lifeblood of these bold editors--or their absinthe or Medusa head or philosopher’s stone--is Federico Garcia Lorca’s duende. The elusive duende is the essence of that afflatus which troubles a near insane bard. It is what makes a moment of phrase--when the fractious quarks of ache come together into a stinging curve--“mercurial, sassy, hell-bent--farouche,” to quote Editor Susan Yount from the preface to Issue 17.

The duende is a succubus and savior to those that dare inject it through a needle of words into their eyes. The editors seem to know this more than anyone. They crave a fresh dose of poetry that succeeds in mapping, albeit ephemerally, a glance from the UnderMind’s goblins. The very name “Arsenic Lobster,” comes from a description by Lorca:

“Intelligence is often the enemy of poetry, because it limits too much, and it elevates the poet to a sharp-edged throne where he forgets that ants could eat him or that a great arsenic lobster could fall suddenly on his head..."

In the preface to #17, Editor Yount asks herself “Why am I still writing?” and answers: “To turn the burning blood-snarl into art is sometimes all I can do to keep the duende from strangling me.”

Then she goes on to say:

“I write poetry for the same reasons I read poetry; it changes me. It is the challenge of creation that drives me to write—the idea that the poem moves the heart—creates a new and living voice where there was nothing before—records life. Without the voice of poetry, the world would be a lonely place.”

More than any other editor I’ve encountered, these Muse-chasers worship a fraught purpose. And it is true, I worry they will be damaged. How long can a mind ride the tortuous gallop of the duende before being cast off into word salad or jabberwocky?

So far the beast has destroyed only to resurrect. This alone is a magnificent accomplishment. A great strength of the ArseLob team is that they do indeed work in concert. They speak uniquely yet walk together. This is a good moment to mention that Brenda Hammack, stepping in as guest editor, has done a laudable job with her “Prolegomenon” to #21, the current issue. She blends a mighty dose of eloquence, a dash of surrealism, and a pinch of erudite charm into a zestful philtre.

Deserving of special mention far beyond what my failing mind can generate is Poetry Editor Lissa Kiernan. In addition to wading through a shallows of submissions to find a few pearls, she pens a critique every issue of some lucky poet’s book. And when I say lucky, I don’t mean the thrill of being published, but rather the gift of having Kiernan’s uncanny empathic skill reach the flesh of the oeuvre, bare it in a way that can startle and please. Kiernan’s phrases are not kin of the short clipped synopsis. They lavish the reader and relish the review. You will not be mugged by the bogeys of grandiloquence or prolix here, but you will encounter well-wrought language aptly employed. You will see to your bitter delight a writhing sea beastie pulled from the waters of the author’s thoughts, waters that could have seemed fair or unbreachable--until Kiernan parted them with perspicacity.

In a later post, I will discuss the online poetry community, Rooster Moans, which Kiernan created as a literary affiliate of ArseLob.

Time and my mind are both going. Ugh! I hate to stop here, for much more praise is due. My final point is that this journal is well worth supporting and yet, sadly, remains underappreciated. Effectively ignored given its brilliance.

I am reminded of something in Robert Lowell’s preface to Sylvia Plath’s Ariel. Lowell writes that Plath used to “drop in on my poetry seminar at Boston University.” He goes on to say she shared poems that “later, more or less unchanged, went into her first book, The Colossus” and that these poems were perceived as most excellent in the seminar.

And yet, “Somehow none of it sank very deep into my awareness. I sensed her abashment and distinction, and never guessed her later appalling and triumphant fulfillment.”

What is my point? Simply that greatness can be missed even when fully present to a worthy eye. Plath’s genius never “sank very deep” into the mind of Lowell. Why? What if it had? Would he have gone down and pulled up some lurid yet awesome crustacean?

Other editors at ArseLob include Clarissa Jakobsons, Katherine Blackbird, and George Pinchowsky. As I've said, the synergy created by this team is most rare.

Go check out the journal!