Sunday, April 30, 2006

National Poetry Month: Final Installment...Rashomon Style...

upstream downstream
Originally uploaded by placeinsun.
Wow - the month flew by - as months do - and as i write this there are maybe one hundred and ten (or less) minutes remaining in the month of April. So not a lot of time remains to get people pumped up for National Poetry Month.

and besides, May, which is just around the corner, is Date Your Mate Month, National Hamburger Month, and Fungal Infection Awareness Month. (really. try google and see.)

But despite the plethora of upcoming reasons to celebrate, we should probably just concentrate on the here and now, and appreciate the few fleeting moments that remain with us as part of National Poetry Month 2006.

and so rather than rounding out the month with just one poem, i thought it would make more sense if we rounded out the month with just one poem.

Meng Hao-jan was something of an old-school (689-740 C.E.) chinese poet.

here is a William Carlos Williams translation of his poem Night on the Great River:

Steering my little boat towards a misty islet,

I watch the sun descend while my sorrows grow:

In the vast night the sky hangs lower than the treetops,

But in the blue lake the moon is coming close.

and here is the very same poem, in another translation by Kenneth Rexroth:

We anchor the boat alongside a hazy island.

As the sun sets I am overwhelmed with nostalgia.

The plain stretches away without limit.

The sky is just above the tree tops.

The river flows quietly by.

The moon comes down amongst men.

and finally here is a third translation by Gary Snyder:

The boat rocks at anchor by the misty island

Sunset, my loneliness comes again.

In these vast wilds the sky arches down to the trees.

In the clear river water, the moon draws near.

I love how each interpretation of the original poem is so wildly different (and similar), in the same way that the four versions of the same story in Rashomon reflect, well - who can say exactly what they reflect - other than our own way of seeing/saying what we perceive or need to preceive as "the truth".

And i love that we can all examine the same exact poem/incident/newspaper story, and the variety and randomness of our individual lives insures that as much as we are all, in some way, looking at the same page, we are simultaneously looking through a set of eyes that is never quite in focus for anyone but ourself.

Happy National Poetry Month !

(poems from The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Is that "You Tube" in your pocket or...

Went to a cook-out yesterday and at some point a few of us started taliking about all the cool/funny/strange stuff we'd been seeing over on You Tube lately. So today i poked around some more and was thrilled to find this clip of the band 999 singing "obsessed". I think i had seen this video all of twice after it came out in the early 1980s and some corner of my brain always wanted to see it again. So when I found it today i was really excited.

Then I watched it.

the song sounds Ennio Morricone-ish, and they were kind of going for a "spaghetti western" look. kind of. ( western looking clothes do not a sphaghetti western make. would british video makers make "fish and chips westerns"?)

Anyway - the "cinematography" was atrocious - though no worse than most of the other music videos shot in that really horrible early 1980s style. in fact the whole thing is just rediculous.

I love it.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

National Poetry Month, Part Three

found puzzle
Originally uploaded by 7-how-7.

Since we are still in the midst of National Poetry month, here is another, this time from Denise Levertov:

The Secret

Two girls discover

the secret of life

in a sudden line of


I who don't know the

secret wrote

the line. They

told me

(through a third person)

they had found it

but not what it was

not even

what line it was. No doubt

by now, more than a week

later, they have forgotten

the secret,

the line, the name of

the poem. I love them

for finding what

I can't find,

and for loving me

for the line I wrote,

and for forgetting it

so that

a thousand times, till death

finds them, they may

discover it again, in other


in other

happenings. And for

wanting to know it,


assuming there is

such a secret, yes,

for that

most of all.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

National Poetry Month: Part Two

The Launch
Originally uploaded by Cheezit Addict.
Robert Francis' Catch, a poem about poetry (and more), is one of the very first poems (maybe the first, if we leave out "Casey at the Bat") that I encountered before high school that I looked at as anything more than something I had to read for school.

It was (in retrospect) exciting to me that this guy Francis, instead of sitting down and cranking out some dry monograph like "Poetry: Form, Function and Comprehension of the Creative Tendency in the 20th Century", had instead written a poem about poems, about writing poems, about understanding poems.

And that opened a door for me, because before that I kind of remember thinking "Why don't all these poets just say what they mean? Haven't they ever heard of prose?" And then i went "ooohhh! just like i can play baseball, i can play with words as well. Ergo, there's more than one way through the woods on a skinned horse." (okay maybe that wasn't my exact reaction, but you get the picture.)

Nowadays a poem about poetry may not be such a big deal, given that there are now countless songs about music and movies about film and even a show about nothing. And while those self-referential types of expression have probably been around as long as people have been expressing themselves, this was the eye-opener for me.


Two boys uncoached are tossing a poem together,
Overhand, underhand, backhand, sleight of hand, everyhand,
Teasing with attitudes, latitudes, interludes, altitudes,
High, make him fly off the ground for it, low, make him stoop,
Make him scoop it up, make him as-almost-as possible miss it,
Fast, let him sting from it, now, now fool him slowly,
Anything, everything tricky, risky, nonchalant,
Anything under the sun to outwit the prosy,
Over the tree and the long sweet cadence down,
Over his head, make him scramble to pick up the meaning,
And now, like a posy, a pretty one plump in his hands.

Robert Francis

Monday, April 10, 2006

portrait of the bubbleblower as a young man

Who knew ?

Who ever imagined ?

An alley where the brick walls are plastered with the masticated then discarded remains of thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of wads of bubble gum ?

Over on flickr emdot posted this shot of a self-portrait that someone created using wads and wads of yicky sticky gum.

Which would have been plenty enough excitement for me for one day, but she also included a link that explained that this portrait is located in San Luis Obispo's Bubble Gum Alley, (more shots here) where people have been smushing their gum onto the alley walls since the early 1960s.

Wow. I love that this place exists. Why doesn't every town have one of these? It seems that after the smoking ban was implemented here in L.A., the city council would have at least set aside some space for "Nicotine Gum Alley" or the "NicoDerm CQ Patch Park", right?

And it seems like this might be a good solution for Singapore as well. If they would just de-outlawify bubble gum again and designate a specific area of the city for its disposal, they would simultaneously crush the seemingly uncrushable blackmarket in bubble gum AND create new revenue streams with the resulting rise in tourism/bubble gum tax receipts.

keep your fingers crossed...

Friday, April 07, 2006

National Poetry Month

Someone (thanks emdot) recently alerted me to the fact that April is National Poetry Month. Now I tend to be one of those people that appreciates poetry if someone takes the time to send me something or recommend something that they think i'd like, but these days i rarely (never say never) seek out a book of poetry on my own. Generally when looking for something stimulating to read i'll almost always choose some non-fiction/biography or highly-entertaining crappy science-fiction pulp-dripping drivel.

But don't get me wrong. i'm not a completely uncultured ignoramus. More like a half-wit. And even half-wits like poetry. Poetry is great! On the occasions when i do take the time to sit down with some good poetry and chew over the words - i'm always forced to remember that some of my favorite poets can express complex thoughts and create powerful images and subtle impressions with just a few carefully choosen words that would take me a completely awkward run-on-sentance about the power of pithyness to even begin to express and i think you can see why i won't even begin to try.

Over time I've gone through stages, read some of the beats, like me some Rumi, read me some Levertov now and then. And of course haiku, since it seems so simple when it really isn't.

So throughout National Poetry Month i'm going to be posting the occasional poem here, and will be choosing a photo from flickr (maybe mine, maybe someone else's) to go along with it. Today a short senryu from Elizabeth St Jacques:

the black hole
in her Colgate smile

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Plane Clash

Plane Clash
Originally uploaded by 7-how-7.
Okay – when I logged into my e-mail this a.m., I saw this headline on the bbc: Terror fear over Clash fan's song. (For some reason that link isn't working like that, so see the link at the end of this entry.

My first thought was that this story was going to be similar to those “Bible Belt Teen Suicides Possibly Probably Maybe Caused By Devilicious Heavy Metal Muzak”.

So I read the story expecting to learn that the house of some alleged terrorist had been searched and that his iTunes showed that he had listened to “The Guns of Brixton” 666 times before committing some horrific subway bombing and that the authorities were attempting to make a connection between the music of a rebellious/progressive youth culture and terrorism.

Instead what I read was that Harraj Mann, an English mobile-phone salesman of Indian descent, had been arrested and pulled off of an airplane because the taxi driver who had driven him to the airport had thought his behavior was somewhat suspicious. Among the allegedly suspicious behaviors exhibited by “Mr. Mann”, the red flag seems to been raised because he listened to and sang along with the Clash song “London Calling” on his way to the airport.

Okay – now I understand that terrorism is a real possibility and that the police, in order “to protect and to serve”, have to check things out when someone makes the allegation that someone suspicious has just boarded an airplane.

What gets to me is the climate of fear that has been created post-9/11. It’s gotten to the point where if a 23-year-old Englishman of Indian descent listens to and sings along with a 27-year-old Clash song on the way to the airport, he is reported to the police as suspicious. I wonder, what if an Englishman of Swedish descent had sung along to the same song? (The CNN version of the story mentions that he also listened to “Procol Harum, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles” en route to Durham Tees Valley Airport. I have to admit that if I were the driver I might have asked the authorities not to make an arrest but to at least delete the Procol Harum songs from Mr. Mann’s iPod.)

As to a climate of fear on this side of the pond, in the U.S. there have been numerous stories regarding unwarranted surveillance by the FBI and Homeland Security. Remember the case of Homeland Security monitoring Vegans who were protesting in front of a Honeybaked Ham store? Or the FBI photographing anti-war activists in Pittsburgh who were opposed to our invasion of Iraq and were guilty of advocating pacifism? or the outing of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame by the Bush Administration as political retribution for her husband publicly contradicting the administrations false claims about Saddam Hussein seeking uranium in Africa?

Okay so maybe all of this isn’t really connected. But in a way it is. In England people are being detained for singing ancient punk rock chestnuts. In the U.S. Homeland Security is watching people for picketing a store that sells hams. The “War on Terrorism” seems less focused on tracking down the likes of Osama Bin Laden and more focused about spying on citizens who don’t quite fit the popular perception of what is “mainstream”, including vegans, environmentalists, pacifists and those who oppose the Bush administration’s war in Iraq. Which tends to make some people, like me, a little bit nervous, as it evokes the days of the COINTELPRO.

But enough for now. Go out with friends tonight and bravely sing Clash songs at every karaoke bar in town. Just make sure that one of your friends sings only Dave Matthews Band tunes in case you need someone to bail you out of the big house.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

more art than i could possibly eat

detail: Lab 101 mural
Originally uploaded by 7-how-7.
This Saturday, April 1st, Lab 101 gallery down in Culver City plays host to the opening of "What's New", featuring some pretty great work by the likes of:

Mike Aho
Todd Bratrud
Rik Catlow
Mel Kadel
Travis Millard
Brett Millard
Josh Rios
Matthew Rodriguez
Dennis Hodges
Michael Sieben
Tim Brown

and some guest artists thrown in for good measure.

But the gravy on the cake is that also included is a huge site-specific mural, covering two walls, which was created in a collaborative effort between the artists. (see photo for detail of mural) The mural, which will be on display through April 28th, will be painted over and seen no more once the show comes down. So hurry.


Lab 101 Gallery
8530-B Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90932

April 1st 7-10 p.m.
Show runs April 1st - April 28th