Friday, February 26, 2010

 

You only have until February 28 to vote for GTECH’s proposal to build creative community activism through the simple (and very elegant) idea of remediating environmentally degraded land through planting sunflower gardens in Pittsburgh & New Orleans. The top ten vote-getters will each receive $50K for their projects. If you’ve ever volunteered for a community garden project, a food co-op or worked on the problem of getting investments to enable brownfield sites become assets to, rather than drains on, their neighborhoods, you’ll know how powerful this very simple project is. You can vote once each day, and you should.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

 

No, I do not know what is going wrong with my older posts. I haven’t changed the template at all, and have set it to post the past 35 days to no avail. I did just post my 2,500th note here (hard to imagine!), so maybe I’m running up against some Blogger limitation, a “hidden feature.” Maybe it’s time to think about Word Press….

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

 

In an attempt to arouse audience interest in the Oscars, the Academy expanded the number of nominees for best picture this year from its usual five to a new total of ten. But in keeping with the Academy’s long-honored tradition of doing everything in an incompetent manner, it failed to expand beyond five the number of nominations in other categories, including best direction. This leaves us with a two-tier nominating phenomenon: best picture candidates whose directors were likewise nominated for best director, and those that were not. It would be a major shocker if any of the films in that latter category – The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, A Serious Man or Up – walked off with the statue for best picture. They’re there really for show. As it is, Jim Sheridan’s Brothers isn’t up for anything, and it’s easily better than at least 8 of the 10 “best picture” nominees, and its lead actor Tobey Maguire is far better than any of the best actor nominees, even including Jeremy Renner, who should win the Oscar, or Jeff Bridges, who probably will.

Renner’s film, The Hurt Locker, is up for best picture & best director, Kathryn Bigelow being only the second female ever nominated in this category (the first was Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation). Bigelow has already won the Director’s Guild of America award & the BAFTA & deserves the Oscar strictly on the merits. Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds is the only other film that even warrants serious consideration here. It, The Hurt Locker & Brothers are on a completely different tier this year.

All three are also about war, a genre I’m not keen on, tho each treats it in a radically different manner. Tarantino’s film is the most ground-breaking, a comic imagining of what should have befallen the Nazis, as gleeful an orgy of revenge as one might imagine. Brothers is about the impact of the war on the warrior, especially once he returns home. The Hurt Locker covers that moment as well, but does so in about five of its 130 minutes as its chief character, Renner’s William James (!) runs back to Iraqi bomb squad duty as fast as he can, feeling far more at home amongst IEDs than he does at a big box grocery where the cereal aisle alone overwhelms him.

At the beginning of The Hurt Locker is an epigraph taken from Chris Hedges’ War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning:

The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug…

That is pretty much the premise of this film & Bigelow is none too subtle about it, reiterating that last phrase on the screen before we arrive at the first scene, a small robot slowly approaching a bundle of plastic bags on a Baghdad street. Quoting Hedges is an interesting choice, in that his views of war (and the American right) can be nearly as strong in kind as those of Sy Hersch, but his distance from the American left is just as great, his own perspective having been forged while in the seminary. Bigelow is careful throughout The Hurt Locker to underscore the uselessness of the misadventure in Iraq without making an anti-war film, and her capacity to do so really shows the intelligence she brings to the project. As does the film’s key emotional event, the discovery of a bomb-factory in a school, complete with the corpse of a 12-year-old boy whose body has been armed as a “body bomb.” Watching Sgt. William James, who is sure he knows this kid, have to fish around the dead boy’s innards looking for the explosives is an appalling touch that I doubt a male director would have imagined. It’s done in real time & quite graphically, realistically enough that my son wondered aloud “how did they pull off that stunt,” a question that I believe was as much about neutralizing the visual impact as it was about the cinematic process.

Likewise, Bigelow is careful to make this a film about “ordinary people.” None of the three main actors, Renner, Antony Mackie or Brian Gerharty, was at all well-known prior to this film, tho Renner starred in the title role of Dahmer. Name actors abound at the fringes of the story – Guy Pearce, David Morse, Ralph Finnes, Christian Camargo & Evangine Lilly among them – but not one is onscreen for more than five minutes & three of the aforementioned are very quickly dead.

Instead what we see, almost exclusively, is how these three young men do their jobs & process the results. When the team’s first leader is killed in the film’s opening scene, the two remaining members are appalled at the recklessness of his replacement, who throws away his headset when the base team talks too much or strips out of his protective wear when the amount of explosives are so great that the gear won’t make a difference. They think James is suicidal – in love with death would probably be more like it – but from his perspective (and my only serious criticism with this film is that it isn’t clear enough about this), it’s really about focus. Far from being the “wild man” David Morse proclaims him to be, James is a monk whose practice entails “disarming the det.” When he is confronting an IED, he is absolutely riveted on getting the job done. When he’s not, the flood of thoughts & emotions overwhelm him. Although Bigelow hints at this throughout, the scene in which this becomes most clear is the one instance in which James cannot disarm the bombs (plural) before the timer is set to go off. They are strapped to a man by means of a metal vest & there are more padlocks to break than the two-minutes James has in which to work can handle. James’ apology to the father of four that he cannot save him as he puts his helmet back & runs for his own life represents the absolute contradiction of his occupation. 40 seconds later, nothing remains of the victim but a crater in the street.

James’ teammates have very different perspectives toward him. Gerharty’s Owen Eldridge sees only the consistent need for risk & excess &, as he lifted onto a chopper out of combat, gives James a final fuck you. Mackie’s JT Sanborn, a sergeant who spent many years in military intelligence before volunteering for the bomb squad, sees the method in James’ madness & wonders instead if he is capable of the same. James, after all, has disarmed nearly 900 IEDs & other explosive devices. James’ only concern is the next one. He keeps souvenirs of his IEDs in a half-size milk-crate under his bed, the closest thing in the film to an actual hurt locker, but he keeps his wedding ring in there as well. Asked to describe his relationship to his wife, he can’t really do it. Actual life is too messy & too full of grey areas. The high of his job is that it is exactly not that.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

 

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Talking with John Tranter

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Alli Warren & Suzanne Stein:
“A Poetics”

On ON:Contemporary Practice 2,
the event

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Nicole Brossard: Essays on Her Works

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Margaret Atwood & the end of the world

§

Who are today’s innovative poets?

§

Christian Bök & ALICE
read Sunset Debris

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The “Feminaissance” is upon us

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Some new poems by Jennifer Bartlett

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Charles Bernstein in Chicago

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A profile of Albert Huffstickler

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Maxine Chernoff:
“Embedded in the Language”

§

Borges’ lost translations

§

Humphrey Davies in Cairo

§

The Best Translated Book Awards:
the poetry finalists

& for fiction

§

Charyn’s Dickinson

Lives Like Loaded Guns

§

Gerrymandering the canon

§

Penguin’s series
of “new African writers
is anything but new

§

Georgelle Hirliman,
the Writer in the Window,
has died

§

NY Times obit for Lucille Clifton

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The Fred Wah Digital Archive

§

Kenneth Rexroth’s columns
for the San Francisco Examiner
50 years to the day
of their original publication

§

Exiled Bangladesh author
gets “last” Indian visa

§

Quietude vs. quiet

§

Zadie Smith’s rules for writers

§

Just:
7 contributors, 100 words

§

Dolly Freed & Radiohead Journalism

§

Talking with Shauna Singh Baldwin

§

2 anthologies
with completely different
approaches to the world

§

Books, Inc.’s formula for success

§

A new indie bookshop
pops up in Toronto

§

How to invent a word

§

Russian book obsessives

§

Disintermediating writing

§

The most exciting time ever
to be a writer?

§

SF celebrates book- binding
(with a terrific gallery of images)

§

Great Philip K. Dick covers

§

The Windup Girl

§

Typewriter sculpture robot woman

§

iPad e-book prices
may be lower than expected

§

Who’s afraid of digital book piracy?

§

Print on demand instant bookstore

§

Post-it notes like leaves of grass

§

Criticism is not dying

§

The Philadelphia Poetry Map

The cartographer’s p.o.v.

Nowhere Mag,
please listen….

§

Real Poetry

§

Writers helping writers. Or not.

Lazlo Toth” did it better

§

The home of the Ancient Mariner

§

Literary classics that
ought to be video games

§

Self-revising textbooks?

§

James Joyce,
anticipating the cell phone,
1922

§

Great bookcases

Bibliophile porn
(I plead guilty!)

§

Aaron Kunin’s The Mandarin

§

Is Paul Guest invalid?

§

Wallace Stevens & the dharma

§

Laredo’s library to fill void
with no bookstores left
within 150 miles

§

Nation’s libraries:
more use, less funding

§

WSU Vancouver
takes on
Richard Brautigan’s
library of 400 unpublished books

§

Writing that ought to offend you

§

John Martone on squirrels

§

Wilfred Owen in hell

§

1984:
the Brazilian puppet show

§

The world’s hardest writers

§

Dr. Jeckyll & Ms. Highsmith

§

Top 10 unreliable narrators

§

Ellison’s editor

§

The literature of passing

§

Assassination fantasy poem
lands white supremacist in jail

§

Visiting Slaughterhouse Five

§

No museum
for Kipling’s Mumbai home

§

Boston branch libraries at risk

§

Shocking True Story

§

A linguistics masters in
Language & cultural diversity

frothy carnage

§

The poet as rest stop

§

$9M for the librarian’s memoir

§

Byron archive goes to Drew U.

§

At the Brontë Parsonage Museum

§

How the Irish (& Welsh) invented love

§

Twinkling clichés by Samuel Menashe

§

Newsonomics

§

Random reading

§

The big cringe:
Iris Murdoch’s teen diaries

§

Life with the Brownings
goes onstage

§

Socialist books in the Obama White House?

§

David Ignatius on Don DeLillo

§

The stories of von Kleist

§

A ghost story from Lafcadio Hearn

§

Poets & Writers awards
for 2010

§

Did Rowling plagiarize Potter?

No she did not

§

Thomas Lynch’s “heart of hearts”

§

Sylvia Plath + Gary Snyder = D.A. Powell?

§

Should Salinger have been allowed to retire?

§

Separated at birth?
Salinger & Kerouac

§

Jack Kerouac in polite society
& Lenny Bruce on Fox News
??

§

Mornings with Mailer

§

A found review of
Peter O’Leary’s Benedicite

§

5 questions for
Nona Willis Aronowitz

Laura Hinton
on the strangeness of GirlDrive

§

The Hong Kong Arts Festival

§

Antecedents
to Jeff Wall’s The Mantid

§

Talking with Jon Cotner & Andy Fitch

§

Scorsese’s Hitchcock

§

The Birth of a Nation at 95

§

Roger Ebert now

§

Responding to Mein Kampf

§

For its new wing,
the MFA rolls out a masterpiece
(check out the video)

§

Akimov’s posters

§

Behind the scenes at Classical Comics

§

The sculptures of Viola Frey

§

Thiebaud’s humor

§

David Levine:
an audio portrait

§

Before she was Patti Smith

§

Gordon Lightfoot is not dead

§

Doug Fieger has died

Sherman Alexie’s “Ode to My Sharona”

§

The Vatican’s Top 10 list

A conspicuous omission

§

Rats

§

Derrida’s post-deconstructive realism

§

Bernard-Henri Lévy
caught quoting fiction philosopher

§

The 7 Americas of Facebook

§

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Monday, February 22, 2010

 

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Recently Received

Books (Poetry)

Samuel Amadon, Like a Sea, Iowa University Press, Iowa City, 2010

Tahar Ben Jelloun, The Rising of the Ashes, translated by Cullen Goldblatt, City Lights, San Francisco, 2010

Molly Brodak, A Little Middle of the Night, Iowa University Press, Iowa City, 2010

Tom Clark, The New World, Libellum, New York, 2009

Tom Clark, Trans/Versions, Libellum, New York, 2009

Ken Edwards, Songbook, Shearsman Books, Exeter, 2009

Angela Gardner, Views of the Hudson, Shearsman Books, Exeter, 2009

Jim Kacian, Long After: Raccolta di Haiku, Alba Libri, Rosignano Maritimo, Italy 2008

Nick Lantz, We Don’t Know We Don’t Know, Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, 2010

John Martone, Kṣaṇa, Red Moon Press, Winchester, VA 2009

William M. Ramsey, More Wine, Red Moon Press, Winchester, VA, 2010

John Sakkis, Rave On!, Lew Gallery, San Francisco, 2010

John Sakkis, Rude Girl, BlazeVOX, Buffalo, 2009

Paul Siegell, Wild Life Rifle Fire, Otoliths, Rockhampton, Australia, 2010

Rachel Zolf, Neighbour Procedure, Coach House Books, Toronto, 2010

 

Books (Poetry Anthologies)

Jim Kacian & the Red Moon Editorial Staff, Where the Wind Turns: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku, Red Moon Press, Winchester, VA, 2010. Includes Mary Ahearn, an’ya, David Ash, Helen Baker, John Barlow, Jack Barry, Roberta Beary, Allan Burns, Yu Cha ng, Tom Clausen, Glenn G. Coats, Carlos Colón, Mike Dillon, Robert Epstein, Lorin Ford, Lin Geary, Ferris Gilli, Ann Golding, Scott Hall, Paul Hodder, M.J. Iuppa, Bill Kenney, Eve Luckring, Bob Lucky, Carole MacRury Mark Osterhaus, Matthew Paul, Dru Phillippou, John Quinnett, Ronald Rubin, Sandra Simpson, Barbara Snow, Hillary Tann, Jessica Tremblay, Amy van Rheeden, Harriot west, Nora Wood, Peter Yovu, many, many more.

David Kader & Michael Stanford, Poetry of the Law: From Chaucer to the Present, University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 2010. Includes W.H. Auden, Robert Burns, Lewis Carroll, John Ciardi, Daniel Defoe, Emily Dickinson, John Donne, Rita Dove, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Martín Espada, Thomas Hardy, Seamus Heaney, A.E. Housman, Langston Hughes, Ben Johnson, X.J. Kennedy, Yusef Komunyakaa, Ted Kooser, D.H. Lawrence, Edgar Less Masters, W.S. Merwin, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sir Walter Raleigh, Muriel Rukeyser, Carl Sandburg, William Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift, Mona Van Duyn, Oscar Wilde, William Carlos Williams & many more

 

Books (Other)

Ken Kalfus, Thirst, Milkweed, Minneapolis, MN, 2010

Richard Gilbert, Poems of Consciousness: Contemporary Japanese & English-Language Haiku in Cross-Cultural Perspective, Red Moon Press, Winchester, VA 2008 & 2009

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