The Actual Short List

1- Cheech Marin
2- Tiger Woods
3- Miss America

They all said no.

I think this is one of those moments of such tremendously awful political judgment that people will spend a lot of time assuaging their disbelief with "crazy like a fox" sort of commentary. At least for some short period. But then the fox will start burrowing a hole or some shit, and we'll all be like nope, just stupid like an actual, non-metaphorical small mammal.

I'm not sure how many Clinton voters are still 1) persuadable one way or the other 2) disgruntled, 3) live in a battleground, 4) inclined to not be bitter toward the younger, hotter token hire and 5) willing to vote for a pro-lifer.

If that's the move he wanted to make, he should have gone with oh, I don't know, Olympia Snowe. Then those 345 votes would have all been his. Which is why I don't actually think this is about those voters, at least not mostly. I think the idea is the base benefits of Pawlenty's politics with better optics. She eats mooseburgers, she's a MILF, etc- just the sort of thing to please the no-info voters out there.

Most of all, though, this just betrays a level of desperation that the media coverage does its best to obscure. However slapdashedly, McCain made a calculation that he would lose with a safer pick like Mitt Romney and that he had to take a big risk. I'd be shocked if it works. It undercuts his most compelling attack on Obama in "experience." More importantly, I think it opens up a whole host of attack points on judgment and age. Now we can talk about McCain's age-- a real liability, though more or less untouched to this point-- without actually talking about it.

"I'm old because I was a POW" probably isn't going to work.


El Gordo's Lost Sounds, Volume 2

In this second of the series, my trolling through the finer garage sales and garbage piles of New England has lead me to the discovery of this little '70s new wave band: Swansea, Massachusetts's The Sniffs. This tune, "Skylab (will kill us all (is going to fall))" is from their self-titled debut and was recorded as a protest to the U.S. space station, Skylab, which was starting to fall back to earth after six years of orbit (apparently, solar flares did it in).

I can remember actually worrying about Skylab hitting me on the head, so I can understand the band's apparent terror. All of us alive at that time felt it. The thing eventually came down near Perth, Australia, and we all went back to worrying about the Russians.

In the liner notes on the cassette tape, Bill Staskiewiczski, "Lead Insurgent and Instigator and Shaker of the Sleeping Masses," says this song "demanded to be written" and that America's "cosmic fascists needed to wake up and smell his boot in their ass." I'm not entirely sure what he meant by this.

The Sniffs released three more albums, The Fascists Can't Tell Me Where to Park, Hitler Wanted People to License Their Dogs, Too, You Nazi Jerks, and 12 Items or Less: I GOT THIRTEEN!.


A Journal Opportunity

Howdy folks! I've sort of slidden viper-like into running my school's literary journal (the blandly titled Prism Review). It's fallen a bit by the wayside, as things do near waysides, but I'm yanking it up by its bootstraps like nothing you've ever seen unless you've seen journals get stronger in cataclysmic-like-eruptions from issue to issue in your lifetime.

Here's the best part: email submissions accepted, prismreview(at)ulv(dot)edu. Please, poets and fictives, send me some loving. It takes lil' effort. Feel free to spread the word. Feel free not to spread the word and so keep submissions low and increase your already solid chances of acceptance.

We've also a poetry contest with a prize-winning judge and moolah as reward.
Info and a cool picture at http://prismreview.blogspot.com

Help a friendo out! YES WE CAN!


Minutes from the London Olympic Committee RE: Beijing Closing Ceremonies

LadyDuff-Jordan: Cheerio! I am ever so excited that our fair city of London will be hosting the 2012 Olympics. It should be absolutely smashing and ever so posh! Our first order of business will be the last order for the Red Chinese -- namely, how will we "pass the baton" to our fair country. Yes, Lord Monty-Snogg?

Lord Monty-Snogg: I have an idea -- we get a double-decker bus! Bright red! Has London 2012 on the arrival placard!

Lady Eviscerist-Porcina: Sounds smashing! Absolutely crumpets!

Lord Monty-Snogg: And we have typical Londoners waiting for the bus -- you know, punks, guys in futuristic Blade Runner suits, one of the members of The Specials --

Lady Duff-Jordan: The Specials?

Lord Snooty-Boute: Ethnic music.

Lady Duff-Jordan: Smashing! I thought you'd want that twit McCartney again -- we use him for everything. I'm still trying to forget that "Freedom" song. But what does the bus do?

Lord Monty-Snogg: Well, it stops, and all the Londoners throw their newspapers and other garbage in the street --

Lord Snooty-Boute: Take that, Communist bastards!

Lord Monty-Snogg: Then they try to get on the bus. But they all rush it at the same time in slow motion. Then they all get stuck on the door frame --

Lady Duff-Jordan: Like Benny Hill!

Lord Snooty-Boute: Can we get them to do it really, really fast? And then some busty bird's blouse falls off?

Lord Monty-Snogg: Capital idea!

Lord Snooty-Boute: The sight of some pale, white flesh should get those Reds in a right lather! What what!

Lady Muff-Kensington: But what happens with the doorframe? This is ever so exciting!

Lord Monty-Snogg: Well -- a little girl is standing there and they all fall over.

Lady Duff-Gordon: Great -- the Chinese want to hand off a flower or a torch to show the passing of the Olympic spirit.

Lord Snooty-Boute: A flower? What Red propaganda is that? How about a cricket bat?

Lady Duff-Gordon: We will see. We might have to settle for something a little more universal.

Lord Snooty-Boute: It should be something athletic --and not one of those damn pink bullwhips from Rhythmic Gymnastics.

Lady Muff-Kensington: Although maybe a whip would be good for the "Benny Hill" bit?

Lady Duff-Gordon: Noted!

Lord Monty-Snogg: So, the little girl does the handoff, and then we show her walking on the backs of the average Londoners back to the bus.

Lord Snooty-Boute: Good! Shows their tax burden and reinforces the social schema. Make sure she steps on that ethnic musician!

Lord Monty-Snogg: Then the bus starts folding itself out like one of those Transformers. It rolls out -- people are like "Is that a robot?" Then some bird singer rises out of it. Is Winehouse still alive?

Lady Duff-Gordon: We can't count on that.

Lady Muff-Kensington: Just keep out McCartney.

Lord Monty-Snogg: And the best bit? She's singing with Jimmy Page! From Led Zeppelin? And he's playing "Whole Lotta Love." Buh bum dum dum -- dum dada dum dada dum dada dum -- buh bum dum dum. For world peace -- showing our love for the world, innit?

Nigel Schmee, Recording Secretary: Wait -- I think that song is about Robert Plant's penis.

Lord Duff-Gordon: Seen but not heard, Nigel. Seen but not heard! The youth vote should love it!

Schmee: But it really is about his penis.

Lord Monty-Snogg: Buh bum dum dum -dum dada dum dada dum dada dum.

Lady Muff-Kensington: Dada dum, dada dum!

Lady Duff-Gordon: And then what, Clive? I am on pins and needles!

Lord Monty-Snogg: Well, after they play -- another platform rises out of the Transformer and there's David Beckham! And a bird in hotpants playing a cello! And David kicks a soccer ball out into the crowd!

Lord Snooty-Boute: Bend it into their yellow heads, I say!

Schmee: Honestly -- have you listened to "Whole Lotta Love"?

Lady Duff-Gordon: Enough out of you! Guards! Remove him at once!

Lord Snooty-Boute: To the African colonies for you!

Lady Muff-Kensington: Ba dada dum dada dum dada dum!

Marilyn's new novel out next week

Home offers more from Gilead's characters. The Des Moines Register talked with Marilyn a little bit about the book, which you can pre-order.


Hircine advice requested

Goats, I need your help.  As some of you know, I recently moved back to San Francisco.  I find myself with some time on my hands, and I've decided to get myself writing again.  Because I'm a lady who likes external pressure, I've elected to sign up for a course via Stanford's continuing ed program.  

Here's where you come in.  I'm signed up for two right now -- both novel-focused, but one is online and one's in person.  Which should I keep?

My goals are as follows:
- Work on in-process novel, which I plan to make major changes to, starting from the beginning.
- Have deadlines so as to make significant progress by the end of the semester.
- Waste as little time as possible.

I also signed up for this intensive revision workshop, which I will likely use for a longer short story I've been toiling over for years.  

Your thoughts?  Please vote soon so I can drop the appropriate class and free up a coveted spot for people on the waitlist.




Multimedia Properties

You know the story. . . .

Joe F.T. (First-time) Novelist sends seventy-five pages to an agent, and the agent says, Have you thought about how this might be adapted to film? Joe sheepishly says, A little. Meaning, he dreamed what he'd do with the money. The agent, suspicious, asks if the reunion scene is set at a NASCAR race because it would make a lucrative tie-in? Joe, offended (and embarrassed), says, No, the race instantiates the craziness of people driving around in circles, symbolizing for the reader that these reunions will repeat, perhaps endlessly, each a short-lived failure. Like "Groundhog Day"? says the agent. No . . . well, yes, says Joe, but via Nietzsche and Kundera. I look forward to seeing the whole thing, says the agent.

Joe takes out the NASCAR scene. Then puts it back in, wondering if there are meanings to it he hasn't yet seen.

The agent calls a few weeks later saying she's gotten a call from a "book packager" who's looking to do a series of books about a pair of pit-crew members who fall in love despite working for rival drivers.

Joe, despite himself, is excited. He spews: Like the Tony Earley story, "Charlotte," which channels some of Roland Barthes' thoughts on cultural mythologies? No, says the agent, like Pixar's "Cars." Oh, I liked "Cars," admits Joe. Good. Would you be interested in showing them some of your ideas, seeing where the conversation goes? After a pause, Joe says, No; I think I'd like to see where the book goes on its own. Fine, says the agent.

Joe is kicking himself. He could hear the lost money in the agent's voice. What's your problem, he asks himself. Didn't Hemingway and Faulkner write for the movies? Didn't Fante? Doesn't McEwan? Doesn't your own imagination act like a camera half the time? He drinks several beers. This is all perfectly natural, he decides. The agent isn't in the book business, she's in the agenting business--she needs commodities to change hands. It's not her fault. And the book packagers. . . . well, when she calls with a "literature packager," then sign me up.

Six months later, he is dropped by the agent. That's fine, he doesn't have a book, he doesn't really need an agent. A year later, in the book rack at the Salvation Army used clothing store, he notices Twist My Bolts, a volume in the "Love is the Pits" series. He leaves without buying it, then goes back two days later and buys it. But doesn't read it. It just sits in his bathroom, asking whether any of his ideas were stolen.

But we know this story ends happily. Sure, another year passes. Sure, two hundred pages of his novel seem to be less interesting to agents than seventy-five had been, and less interesting still to publishers. But eventually a small press is willing to put the book out there on its merits. (Or he gives up. Or he dies while rewriting it again.) In any event, a certain kind of ideal has been maintained--there are writers and there are publishers and there are readers, and on some level they're all concerned about the same thing, and it's not the movie adaptation. Sure, there are some commercial forces out there, trying to transmogrify the novel into a "multimedia property," but there is a channel of hope one can navigate: it goes from a literature-loving agent, to a kindly, sensitive editor, and (okay) through a publishing house that doesn't punt on the marketing.

It is while clutching this little fantasy that I approach, with disappointment, today's news about Simon & Schuster.


No title

Ha ha! It's summer, and nobody is reading blogs. And we're going on a holiday next week to that most Thanksgiving of countries, Turkey.

I freely admit I pick my nose and pee in the shower.

I stick out my tongue! Bleh!

(Yet I put my pants on two legs at a time.

Really. I sit on the bed, heft them up, and jam both feet into them. It's easy.)

I dreamed last night that my hometown was nuked.

I was an hour south in Indianapolis and people around me packed up a cooler (sandwiches to survive a holocaust!) and got on my brother's scooter.

We were on some part of a highway where you had to go north for a minute to head south

... when the nuke hit.

Too soon!

We could see the mushroom cloud on the horizon, and tanks and troops suddenly headed toward us over the plains.

All the people on the highway stopped and screamed and tried to turn around.

Chaos! Then I woke up.

I realize I'm totally unprepared for a serious emergency.

I keep thinking what we should do is buy something in a remote locale, in Peru or New Zealand or upper Canada, as a refuge -- a place to try to go if the shit goes down.

And then write about it for the aliens that would finally find the mess.

I could be big on Beta Gamelgeuse 3. But of course I keep my head down and just blunder through the days like everyone else.

I try to cultivate a solemn skepticism about world events, but is there ever going to be good news again about the future, ever?

Americans in particular are ill-equipped for anything actually threatening them, which is probably exactly why we feel okay about making it into such a sad, ignorant fetish.

The vast majority of species go extinct, but we seem to be hell-bent for it, full throttle. 80% of Americans say we're on "the wrong track."

I grew up in the Cold War, which supposedly involved, according to school, literally trying to kiss your ass goodbye under a doorframe to protect yourself from a nuclear weapon.

I'll bet schools don't even do that now. They don't even acknowledge the possibility. If we're going to be ruled by fear and hopelessness, what are our options for survival?

Are we missing a guiding myth? Or are we making one that is much worse than the ones we used to have?

Ha ha. I hope everyone is having a nice summer and isn't just barely not being eaten by a bear or anything.


The Seamstress

Our very own Frances de Pontes Peebles has published her first novel, The Seamstress, and word on the street is that it's knock-your-socks-off incredible. Go buy a copy! And congrats to Frances!


The seven year hitch: Paris edition

To celebrate our wool-and-copper wedding anniversary, traca da broon and I hopped a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris last Friday to see Tom Waits at Le Grand Rex. This is not the Grand Rex, because I couldn't be arsed to take a picture of it, but just some street corner:

Yes, yes, how romantic! The hitch? We both got nasty colds and were sick the whole time. The train was fantastic, though. The steward shoved a tray of desserts in my face and I gratefully accepted it -- before being told I was only supposed to take one. I had bought a French phrase book but we were too sick and tired to read it. We had to get along for three days on bon jour, café au lait, le menu, grande bière, vin blanc, toilette, voila, merci, and bon soir. And of course, Honh honh honh! and Sacre bleu! In non-English mode, we kept speaking Dutch to the tourist-weary French, a language not one person in Paris speaks.

Our pockets bulging with tissues in various degrees of damp, we ambled with snot-pressured heads vaguely toward the river. I inadvertently took a third Loratadine, meaning I was on three times the daily dose of that anti-sniffling drug, with its side effects of "insomnia, nervousness, and anxiety." We stopped for that meal between lunch and dinner, which turned out to be pigeon-harassed stiff pizza from a nearby street vendor because we'd chosen the one cafe whose kitchen wasn't open, and I could only sit at our tiny iron table drooling and watching pigeons strut around me trying to hypnotize me into giving them peanuts. At another cafe the waitresses couldn't understand me, and the Spanish woman at the next table knocked my beer over with her bag, soaking the only pants I had brought. Being sick in Paris is like being castrated at an orgy.

We fought the crowd and achieved our seats for the Glitter and Doom tour, which I had seen announced via the "press conference" on his site. Le Grad Rex is a glorious space made to seem like you are outside, with a ceiling like a starry dusk and props of exotic villa-ruins on either side of the hall. It was hot inside, the seats in front of us were millimeters from our knees, and the slope was so steep we felt that if we let go of our chairs we would tumble forward all the way down to the stage. The well-named Mr. Waits started 45 minutes late, and we remarked how if it wasn't Tom Waits we would be crawling back to bed. After 44 minutes and 58 seconds, I simply had to have some water, and as soon as I had lurched to my feet, causing my neighbors to stand and let me through, the lights fell and Tom Waits strode onto the stage. But I had to have water. When I came back I couldn't find our seats and watched the first number squatting in an aisle.

He was so fantastic he actually captured and held our disease-damaged attention. We weren't really expecting a sloppy, slurring piano-man-clown, but then again, we kind of were. He did have a kind of tramp-on-his-first-interview look, with an old hat he kept taking off and bowing very deeply with. His band sounded absolutely gorgeous. His son Casey was on the drums, and his other son Sullivan, a teenager, sat in on "assistant clarinet and saxophone." The man himself did play a solo piano set of tearjerkers, but mostly he was center stage at the mic, wheezing and howling and quivering like he needed an exorcist, and stamping his feet around on some old boards with chalk in them, so that dust flew up when he wanted, and there was an old bell by his foot which he kicked from time to time.

He stopped one song when the audience started clapping along. "Now, when you're all clapping, and you're a little bit off, it throws me off. No, no, it's okay, I understand. You've never worked together before. But that's why I wear the hat. I'm the conductor. We're gonna start this song again, and this time wait for me to give the signal." Later, when he gave the "karate chop" final note signal to the band at the end of a different song, he shot a scowl at the drummer, his own son, who had let two extra beats slip.

He also told a story: "The last time I was in Paris, I went swimming in a pond. There was a sign there. I don't read French, and it probably said whatever you do don't swim in this pond. I thought it said Welcome to Paris. So a few months later, I had some discomfort, and it turned out I had accidentally swallowed some tadpoles and now had three bullfrogs living in my stomach. The doctor said, 'Of course, it's up to you what to do about it ... it's your choice.' So I kept them. They live right here, over to one side, in their own little world." He played for 2 full hours, and then came back for an encore that included "Way Down in the Hole" (The Wire's opening music), and his dark version of Disney's "Heigh Ho" (scroll down to Disc 3), and my favorite of his songs, "Jockey Full of Bourbon."

Next day we bought Metro day passes and got off somewhere south and west on the map and ate lunch. Lunch is a great opportunity to play the Mock the Foreign Menu's English Game, and we found a winner -- maybe the all-time winner, anywhere: Eventail d'avocat et pamplemousse aux crevettes, which the restaurant had translated into "Range of lawyers and grapefruit to shrimps."

We'd done the tourist bit before and got the idea to try and find the famous "Left Bank," thinking we'd go hang out where all the artistic American ex-pats had hung out and perhaps absorb enough of that coolness to forget our colds, but we had no guidebook and couldn't read the French maps, and when I asked our waiter where it was he shook his head gravely and said, "Never heard of it." We wandered in the heat and finally at an Internet cafe discovered that the term just means the left (south) side of the river. In other words, we'd been walking around the Left Bank trying find it. So more walking. At a perfect people-watching cafe right in the thick of things, on the Seine, we commenced to pound beers to ward off the heat and drown our viruses, laughing at how sick we were, then coughing, then laughing some more, then sniffling and asking each other for tissues.

Finally we unstuck our asses from our seats and wobbled toward a little diagonal street.

"What's that?"
"Some fantastic historical thing we would go into if we weren't sick."

After walking till we had sweated out everything we'd drunk already, we stopped at an absolutely charming little art nouveau cafe tucked in a cobblestone alley next to the crumbling ruins of a church-like building and split a carafe of wine, which turned out to be a mistake. My system was already overloaded, and you can only fake being fine for so long. So we set out again north, vaguely toward our hotel, crossing the Seine at sunset over a wide bridge that was lined on both sides end to end with families and groups of friends who had spread out blankets and brought baskets of bread and cheese and wine and fruit, and we said Ah, so that's what you do, because you would certainly go broke after even a week of eating and drinking at the prices we were seeing. At one point I squinted an 11-euro beer on a bill -- around $18. And it was only a Heineken.

I was like the walking dead, and we finally got irritated with each other when we couldn't find a good path back to the hotel on the last night. There were no good streets, they all went the wrong way at useless angles. We used our Metro cards for the last time, getting off at a stop we knew, but unsure of which direction to go. And did we want to stop and eat one last time, and where, or keep walking? We even ran through the I-don't-care-myself-but-I-hate-it-when-you-don't-care routine. At the hotel, sweat-drenched and collapsing from fatigue, we each took a bath in the small tub. In bed clean, with the curtains blowing warm air on us, we were too tired to read. Determinedly, I managed the superhuman effort of turning my head in what I imagined was seductive fashion toward my bride -- and was greeted with a soft snore. Soon, quite, quite, soon, my own joined hers in chorus.

Waiting by the train station at yet another sidewalk cafe, we ordered beers. The waiter went away and came back and said, "I'm so sorry, but we only have the Brown Pelican." (When we turned the bottle around, we spied the not-while-pregnant warning shown below -- just look at that brazen tramp guzzle!)

On the train back, two little kids sat behind us. At first they were cute, but as I tried to sleep one of them began a 3-hour shrieking exercise. The other kept reaching through the seats grabbing at me. Then, seeing my silvering hair -- which makes me look distinguished and sophisticated -- he cried, "Opa! Opa!" ("Grandpa! Grandpa!"). Which is just what a 42-year-old wants to hear.

I kept trying to get good photos of both of us. Ah well, next time maybe. A typical one:


Arda Collins wins 2008 Yale Younger Poet Award

As Possum put it in her alert to me, "this is a damn big deal." The award from the Yale Series of Younger Poets is the oldest literary award in the United States. It crowns the best entry among poets under 40 who have not published a book of poetry. Past winners include James Agee, Adrienne Rich, James Wright, W. S. Merwin, John Ashbery, James Tate, John Hollander, Robert Hass, Carolyn Forche, and famously, not Sylvia Plath. Arda's book, to be published by Yale University press, is called It Is Daylight. Our classmate Arda is an editor at Gut Cult, and her poetry was selected for the prize this year by Louis Glück. Huge congratulations to Arda!