Flash

White morning, full of praise.
For Jaime A. Salazar White morning, full of praise. Before every thing wakes from sleep I wake first, thinking some Whatever thing. Clumsily I pull back the blinds: Blare of wondrous light! Anticipatory sky! It's all there in cashmere, Milky Way, Eastman Kodak white, Enveloping the brushes and stop signs. This blanket covers them all. Even my Interior lake is frosted in the blast of its Whiteness. In the accumulation of life, In things and places outside the window, In our little igloo, Chaos makes a metamorphosis into quietude. No miraculous sounds: geese, car mufflers, couples walking: None are heard. And I stop breathing so that nothing Sound while you're asleep, so that No thing dare break The oceanic mystery of the antemeridian.   Read More...

Mr. Kristof and His Hugs

At the Nicholas D. Kristof Center For Kids Who Can't Hug Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too, Nick Kristof wants you to hug the pain away.
Pontificating on solutions to poverty (best read in all-caps: SOLUTIONS TO POVERTY) is a familiar topic of the New York Times mélange of millionaire columnists. Perhaps none are as keen on seeing it alleviated through rigorous familial oversight than Nicholas Kristof. Kristof’s ideal unit is the nuclear, middle-to-upper class, two active-duty parental household. It is indirectly projected as a panacea, and families (specifically, poor mothers) that fall short of this utopian arrangement have to answer for it. If the Fed is endowed with the ambiguous power of enacting national monetary policy, the low-income, low-resources family is tasked with issuing hugs. Lots of them, and over many years of effusive columns. For all his prescriptions downplaying, or more accurately, ignoring the structural and historic legacy of American poverty, the blithe repetition of those prescriptions can still surprise. 'For Obama's New Term, Start… Read More...

Gills, Gills, Gills

Here's your giant decorative aquarium.
Their predatory skill fascinates and frightens humans, even though their survival is threatened by human-related activities. [shark]           A 33-ton shark tank in a Shanghai mall exploded, injuring up to 16 people and leaving three sharks and dozens of turtles and fish dead. It was a ghastly event that makes for an ecologically apocalyptic moving image. Going beyond the real-life scenario of such a thing happening—and 'such a thing' has actually happened—I've been grappling with its symbolic power, that is, some way to answer for the fact that I watched it on loop a dozen or more times. (That's more times than Open Water and Open Water 2: Adrift, but not much more.) The what of the image is clear: what is the how of what it's doing? It is a truthful moving image not only because it is real (in contrast to… Read More...

Gotta Have a Code

Donnie Andrews’ life—in print and onscreen fictionalization—reads like a composite of several different lives, enlarged and textured by seeming extremes.
Larry Donnell Andrews was in prison serving a murder sentence (for which he turned himself in) when The Wire, featuring the character Omar Little based on his life, first aired. Donnie died after an aortic dissection last week. Few who only knew about his life from its fictional depiction would have guessed that the 'real' Omar Little would live twice as long as the fictional one. Magazine and newspaper profiles flatten the life of their subject, speeding up certain parts and slowing down others in order to fit a manicured narrative. Despite that tendency, Donnie Andrews' life—in print and onscreen fictionalization—reads like a composite of several different lives, enlarged and textured by seeming extremes. Redemption and mercy play supporting roles. Donnie's childhood beginnings in North Carolina formed the background to the first dead body he saw at age four. It… Read More...

Mr. Kristof and His Others

Mr. Kristof's large brain-to-body ratio and his ability to grasp and maneuver objects such as a pen and notepad while he engages in bipedal locomotion is noteworthy.
Every purification ritual requires its own warning label. The most decidedly honest opening to an essay on Nick Kristof is already taken, so perhaps Kathryn Mathers won't mind if I borrow her totem: 'I do not want to write about Nicholas Kristof.' Mr. Kristof, to anyone not among his hundreds of thousands of Facebook fans, 1.3 million Twitter followers, Times subscribers, or back-of-the-bus vocal mockers, is a male Homo sapien (the only extant species of their genus, Homo sapiens originated in Africa). Mr. Kristof's large brain-to-body ratio and his ability to grasp and maneuver objects such as a pen and notepad while he engages in bipedal locomotion is noteworthy. Twice a week since 2001, he has used his neocortex, prefrontal cortex, and cerebral cortex to write columns for The New York Times. Human beings are particularly known for their social interactions, as well as their inclination… Read More...

Five Questions with Elaine Equi

She was wearing a low-cut tee shirt that showed off the word “Muse” tattooed across her collarbones like a necklace. Being a literalist, I took her at her word.
Five Questions with __________ is an experiment with flash interviews. The series continues with poet Elaine Equi. At the risk of bordering on superlatives, which this project has taken care to avoid, her renderings of material life are among the most exquisitely witty and awake in contemporary American poetry. She herself has characterized her writing as 'willfully direct in a minimalist sort of way,' though she could have said, without a trace of immodesty, that it is a kick in the gut followed by an equally unexpected, wry smile. Her decades-long work submerges itself in a capacious range of topical matter. What genuinely makes one its frequent visitor, however, is the will to adopt a decentered style as a style of its own. Many have discarded the unit of a stable or cohesive poetic 'self,' yet that stance has seldom been followed by a… Read More...

Killing the Angel in the House

Time is laughing at us in our pathetic little language worlds as it trundles ahead on wagon wheel and V6 engine.
To Evan Calder Williams Three speeds of life: animal, vegetable, mineral.¹ It is the last two that shape time in childhood. You stare at a photograph of yourself as a child and whistle that familiar whistle, When was anyone ever so young. Time ever slow. Slower than molasses, slower than raw honey: turbinated sugar-time. Devoid of speed, life moved at the pace of number of books devoured, Japanese cartoon series and American teen comedies allowed, maneuvers in sibling spats, apartment bombings dodged, carton boxes and crates filled up for the next move. Friends were everything. Tell me when this stratospheric dash began. I am caught without shelter in its advancing armies of minutes, tripping over the seconds hand on the clock face (one revolution per minute.) There's a relay race and time is wearing my team's uniform but it stretches the baton always… Read More...

Landscape of the Bleeding Crowd

The signs I saw around the necks of many young men yesterday said: 'WANTED, A Decent Job.'
A letter by Federico García Lorca to his friend Regino Sainz de la Maza, guitarist and compatriot in Spain's 'Generación del '27.' The United States, where Lorca enrolled at Columbia University in 1929-1930, was his first trip abroad before he traveled south to Cuba. Lorca was on Wall Street on the day of the stock market crash. Any resemblance to real people is purely intentional. October 30, 1929 Esteemed friend: When this letter reaches you I would not blame you if you found it part-bourgeois, part-Nietszche. It is Wednesday and I am sitting in a warm apartment in Harlem. Yesterday was Black Tuesday: an open gallery to the multitude of death. Other people's deaths, actual and real, happen in plural numbers, whereas one's own, abstract and invisible, is perceived to be utterly unique. Singularly special! This is our sickness. The… Read More...

Clamor and Roar

It is the most capable, among us, of disturbing the enemy’s mood and his comfort
Gaza is not the most beautiful city. Its shore is not bluer than the shores of Arab cities. Its oranges are not the most beautiful in the Mediterranean basin. Gaza is not the richest city. It is not the most elegant or the biggest, but it equals the history of an entire homeland Because it is more ugly, impoverished, miserable, and vicious in the eyes of enemies. Because it is the most capable, among us, of disturbing the enemy’s mood and his comfort, Because it is his nightmare, Because it is mined oranges, children without a childhood, old men without old age, And women without desires, Because of all this it is the most beautiful, the purest and richest among us And the one most worthy of love... — Mahmoud Darwish, excerpt from 'Silence for Gaza' Read More...

Technicolor Tehran

Every news feed item and broadcast want you to forget about the life and activity teeming there.
Beyond purely instinctual attraction, at least two things draw me to street art. The first is that despite international crossings of artists, motifs, and even movements since at least the early 1980s, graphic representations still retain cultural specificity. The all-purpose term visual culture can flatten the differences between what pixacão on buildings in São Paulo signifies versus the constant overlay of work on a single, ever-changing wall in Central Square. Street art inherently demands a comparative perspective. The second is the unfixed, non-predetermined, and non-universalist meanings attached to that activity. Your predispositions are unmoored in a serious way. To give an example of what I mean: when street art in Tehran was taken up as a topic here before, it was in a personal/familial (even anguished) way: graffiti deployed in opposition (and later, punishment) rather than beautification. My uncle's prison sentence after spraying anti-IRI graffiti as a teenager was an entryway… Read More...

The Vastness of the Self in Unpeopled Exile

Anyone staring at my face framed in the little window at that moment would have glimpsed a man filled with shadows of an absent presence. Amidst old Europe one is awash in the idea of America as a new fatherland.
A letter by Henry James to his mother, five months before ending his European travels and moving back to the United States. Any resemblance to real people is purely intentional. Siena, Villa Scacciapensieri November 23rd, 1869 My darling Mother, You last heard from me from Firenze and tho' I had not mentioned it at the time I was keen on submitting myself to another train, another town, ripe with Italian memories for the picking. Here I am. The scent of yellow roses wafting around to my small table, carefully ensconced behind a walled garden of ivy, is auspicious. The villa’s owners have hired a gardener to sculpt a large-sized topiary. They asked me—I should only guess they asked me because scarcely any other guests leave their rooms for breakfast—what animal shape it might take. It was a very good thing to be asked,… Read More...

Five Questions with Michael Davidson

When I was younger I took the body for granted; it was just “there” and would always supply the same predictable access to the world. Because it was eternal, it could be abused more generously.
Five Questions with __________ is an experiment with flash interviews. The series on poets continues with Michael Davidson, poet, critic, literature professor, and editor of George Oppen's collected works. I read a blurb written by Davidson on the back cover of a poetry volume recently, and it distracted me (in the best sense) from the book itself. He has argued, in lengthy essays and in the book Concerto for the Left Hand: Disability and the Defamiliar Body (University of Michigan Press, 2008), for a poetics and politics of disability that 'defamiliarizes not only language but the body normalized within language.' Such a move would go beyond an interest in depictions or themes of disability (Davidson is himself hearing impaired) and 'dependence on ableist models.' It might ask, as Davidson does, 'What would it mean to think of Charles Olson’s “breath” line as coming from… Read More...

Pronunciation as Death Sentence

It was called the Parsley Massacre because the Dominican border guards would conduct a linguistic test of all dark-skinned people to see who was Haitian, asking the people to pronounce the word perejil (Spanish for parsley).
shibboleth |? sh ib?li?; -?le ?| noun. a custom, principle, or belief distinguishing a particular class or group of people. ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Hebrew ????? šibb?let ‘ear of corn,’ used as a test of nationality by its difficult pronunciation. (From 'The Shibboleth Incident,' Judges 12:6, King James Bible: 'Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand.') ?   ?   ? 'Over a five-day period, as many 20,000 Haitians were horrifically massacred by Dominican soldiers and civilians wielding machetes, bayonets and rifles. It was called the Parsley Massacre because the Dominican border guards would conduct a linguistic test of all dark-skinned people to see who was Haitian—they would… Read More...

Hot or Not?

In the dominant U.S. political establishment prioritizing 'foreign' or global policy over domestic concerns is nearly sacrilegious, and that is a main reason why executive privilege on climate treaties gets buried or resurrected as political expediency allows.
1. It seems impossible to carry on as if a hybrid super-storm didn’t just shoot upward from the southern Caribbean across the eastern U.S. seaboard. Save for the damaged trees and blown-up transformers in my neighborhood, the mild weather today bequeaths an unsettled and uncomfortable sense of closure. Since 'only' half a million Massachusetts residents lost power and much of the state appears to have dodged the veritable bullet, most people around me have kept on carrying on. The common experience of going through a weather-related emergency with millions of other people heightens its exceptionalism. It’s an important and necessary pause button on social priorities. I’ve found it difficult to focus on much else, and not for lack of trying (in the immortally sung words of Dusty Springfield, 'I just don't know what to do with myself. Don't know just… Read More...

Infinite Jestice

He had a bad dad, or the Dr. Seuss economy of death.
The Disposition Matrix Yesterday witnessed arguably the most substantial journalistic investigation into the Obama administration's secret 'kill list' program since the May 2012 New York Times article that broke the story (written with the cooperation of the White House). The first of Greg Miller's three-part Washington Post inquiry into the 'kill list' program reveals that not only does President Obama's drone strategy ascribe to itself the interminable and indefinite frontier of George W. Bush's global 'War on Terror,' it does so by centralizing a 'single, continually evolving database' where the metrics of targets in multiple geographies are catalogued wholesale. Targeted killing operations that were once viewed as extraordinary or emergency measures by the government's own legal and political advocates have become so commonplace that their 'efficacy' depends merely on streamlining them. If the baseball-card calculus of kill/capture lists on 'Terror Tuesdays' seemed horrifying… Read More...

Biopolitical Exclusion Starts with a Hug

Where class itself becomes a scientifically-legitimated predictor for social pathologies, it can also become a variable to deny these underclass subjects opportunity to that world.
The following is a guest post by Elliott Prasse-Freeman. A group of people from poor backgrounds are found less likely to smoothly interface with the bourgeois world, a lack of interface which could be responsible both for their objective ailments (rise in heart attack) and social problems ("tangles with the law"). Instead of ascribing this to poverty, a lack of experience with symbolic repertories that would allow them to navigate the bourgeois world, and/or concomitant social alienation and suffering that attends both such poverty and social exclusion, Nicholas Kristof in two columns from this year (January and this weekend), presents a ‘scientific’ (read: more real) solution—something called "Toxic Shock Syndrome"—as the variable explaining lagging outcome indicators for children of this demographic. This research, extrapolated from work done on lab rats, presents the underclass body as pathologized due to improper nurturing contact… Read More...