Monday, August 25, 2003

Charles Bukowski and I share a birthday. So does Madonna. Frank & Kathie Lee Gifford. Yes, both of them. Elvis died on my birthday. The roller coaster was patented on my birthday.

Such seemingly random events occuring on August 16th explains a lot.

I'm having trouble grasping the idea of being 34 years old, though. Not in some mid-life crisis kind of way; more along philosophical lines, trying to understand what being 34 means. Or should mean, at least.

I'm married with two kids. I've achieved some modest success in my various pursuits. As I define it, anyway. I'm as happy with my life I've ever been. I have no real regrets - the trials of 2002 left me a better and wiser person overall - and I feel like I'm basically on the right track for keeping things that way.

I look around at other people my age, friends and associates, and for the most part, I think I'm as well off, if not better, than most of them.

But the question of whether or not all of that is enough, or even correct, intrigues me...

D'you call life a bad job? Never! We've had our ups and downs, we've had our struggles, we've always been poor, but it's been worth it, ay, worth it a hundred times I say when I look round at my children.
W. Somerset Maugham (1874 - 1965), 'Of Human Bondage', 1915

Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to 'jump at de sun.' We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.
Zora Neale Hurston (1901 - 1960), Dust Tracks on a Road, 1942

Last week's vacation did me some good. Getting away from it all is necessary sometimes. No internet, no cell phones, barely watched any TV. Did some reading, some shopping, got my ass kicked in Madden 2004 and rediscovered Dungeons & Dragons!

The first night out there was my birthday and I was pleasantly surprised that Frank & Andie made the trip for the weekend. One of our few married friends - I've stopped referring to them as Salomé's friends - I can't wait until they have their own kid(s). That's one of the things that's been severely missing from my current group of [mostly single] friends and something that kept me from fully reconnecting to that group when I came back from Virginia.

As Jay Ward put it when we spoke a couple of months back, "You done grown up!"

Having children is a dividing line, even more so than being married. Your priorities completely change, your life is no longer your own and it takes a while to fully make the adjustment. Not having any friends with kids made it particularly hard for me. In a way, it's been something of a weeding process as you find out who your real friends are when you've got less time to give them. Who has their head on straight, regardless of their familial status, and who's just an acquaintance passing through.

Anyway, a week in a house in the woods with four kids was both fun and exhausting. It also made me realize how subtle the nuances of parenting really are. Kids are sponges and the habits they develop at the youngest of ages play such a huge role in how they grow up. I think I take for granted how smart Isaac is, forgetting he's not even three yet, until I see him interact with kids older than him and realize how good a job we're doing with him. They're also a joy to watch do their thing. India, in particular, is extremely independent, something I'm very happy to see. the result of being the second child, I guess. I don't imagine Isaac will ever have to fight any of her battles for her. If anything, she may end up defending him! Having them grow up around their cousins will be a good thing, too.

Would like to make a point of taking a week-long vacation every year with as much family as possible. Maybe get the Harper side involved next year.

Speaking of next year, I'm making a To Do list for the run-up to 35. I've got 356 more days to get it all done:

1. Write 3 short stories/novellas; publish one;
2. Write & publish 2 articles, one non-poetry-related;
3. Produce 3 performance events;
4. Go back to school;
5. Reconnect with my not-so-inner nerd;
6. Lose 5 more pounds and tone up;
7. Unsubscribe from the poetry_slam listserve.

The last one is the easiest and will be taken care of in the next day or two, soon as I catch up here at work (came back to a new boss!) and numbers 3-5 are works in progress (Empire State College, Icewind Dale II & NYHRC). The first three, though, will be tough to get started on as I'm a terrible procrastinator.

The short stories will be a challenge because poetry has both shortened my attention span and narrowed my field of vision. The articles will be tough because of pure laziness in regards to the necessary research and legwork. The events should be relatively easy, especially if I can work out a few reasonable dates at the BPC.

All in all, if I took care of all seven of these things - on top of the everyday stuff like paying the rent and being a good husband and father - I'd feel like I accomplished a lot.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Did you notice the new name? Thanks to Phil West.

Oddly appropriate, no? :-)
So the great blackout of '03 is fading into history and, while an interesting experience (and assuming the worst is really over), I can't complain.

The lights went out at my job at 4:13pm, just as I was in the initial stages of wrapping up the loose ends on everything I'm juggling before I leave for vacation. The first 20 minutes or so was low-key confusion as the longer the lights stayed off, the more people started to worry that "something" had happened. With my office being walking distance to the former World Trade Center, and many of my co-workers having experienced 9/11 firsthand, there were a few more nervous than others. I was more annoyed than anything else, realizing I might end up having to go in to work today to finish wrapping things up. The writer in me was also doing that distanced observer thing that keeps me from emotionally connecting to a situation. I swear people must think I'm a sociopath sometimes.

I stayed in the building until 5:30pm, long enough to get in touch with Salomé out in Colorado to ease her mind. Cell phones weren't working but our office phones were. She was able to give me an update from MSNBC about what was going on and I realized I probably had a loooooong walk ahead of me, almost 17 miles according to MapQuest. Not relishing the thought, I decided to gamble on my usually reliable luck working out and took my time meandering north. Bumped into a couple of co-workers and we headed off to a bar near the job that was selling beer like it was water in a Mad Max movie. Not because they were gouging but the sheer desperation of the people. For the most part, though, people were relaxed and taking the whole thing in stride. When you live through something like 9/11, a blackout doesn't really phase you much.

Salomé and I were able to keep in touch and she finally got through to the kids' sitter who said she'd keep them for the night. Once I knew that, I was completely relaxed and ready to hoof it until I couldn't anymore and attempt to crash near whomever I knew lived close to that whereever I ended up.

From there, we headed north up the east side, through Chinatown and some of the worst gridlock I've ever seen. People determined to make it to Brooklyn were sandwiched in buses and cars that were going nowhere fast. The police were doing an excellent job moderating the traffic flow and we made decent time on foot, despite the density of the crowds heading in the opposite direction. Passed by the Bowery Poetry Club where Bob, Dawn, Taylor, Regie, Shappy and others were hanging out. Felt like Norm walking into the rebel compound, and the place was pretty full with candles lit everywhere and people milling about. With a free bottle of water in hand (thanks, Bob!), we continued north.

I'd reached 23rd street around 9:30pm when my cousin Joanne finally got through the me on the phone. She works a few blocks from me (and lives in my building) and had tried to head home as soon as the power went down. Fortunately, she never made it on to the train and ended up at her co-worker's apartment, exactly five blocks from where I was when she called! Like I've said in the past, I've always been a pretty lucky guy. We met up about 20 minutes later and headed towards Madison Avenue, hoping to find a cab or express bus as she was in no condition to walk all the way home.

As well as I know the subway, I know nothing about surface transit (I've probably been on an NYC bus less than five times in my life!) and if I hadn't met up with Joanne, I'd have been kicking myself today when I found out about the buses. We missed the one that would put us right on our street and instead caught one that took us to Pelham Parkway & White Plains Road, on the other side of the Bronx River Parkway, about 10 minutes from home. In less than 10 minutes, we caught a gypsy cab, stopped by the sitter's to pick up the kids and were home by 11pm.

The worst part of the night was getting into the apartment as the building was pitch-black, not even a glowstick had been put out! The stairwell was the darkest thing I've ever walked through, carrying both kids and two bags, tired as hell from the events of the day. Isaac was freaked out by the dark and, having only been in the stairwell a couple of times, it took nearly 10 minutes to make our way up the five flights, one painstakingly slow and humid step at a time. By myself, I'd have probably been spooked as hell as one of the downsides of an overactive imagination is that the dark holds many monsters, real and imgained. With the kids, and my cousin making her way right behind us, my imagination went into protective mode as I comforted Isaac that everything was okay and treated it more like a game. Once we made it into the apartment, it was all good as we're at the front of the building and the moonlight offered suffiicient illumination. Once Isaac fell asleep, I hopped in the shower and then passed out in bed.

Woke up this morning at 7:30am when the kids' monitor crackled to life and I realized we had power again. There's still areas without and the trains aren't up and running yet and there's no official word on what really happened - or what caused it to happen, at least. Some of the theories I've heard have been rather interesting but I'm pretty sure there's no truth to the rumor that Marc Smith did it for publicity but, who knows? ;-)

Salomé's flight home was cancelled and they had to book one into Philadelphia and drive in from there. Her plane just landed minutes ago so they should be getting in around 7pm and I'll drive in to the city to pick her up. We really needed this upcoming vacation before all of this. Now, it's like perfect timing!

Back in a week!

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Ever seen a shitstorm? Head on over to the poetry_slam listserve for a peek at one. Woah!

I didn't start it for once but damn if I didn't throw a few tough ones to the body! I really hate that list because it brings out the worst in me. I'm admittedly contentious and have rarely come across a fight I didn't think I could win but shit, this can't be good for my mental health! It's like a mutually abusive relationship. I really have to consider stepping away from it completely because I certainly don't know how to keep my mouth shut.

The most ridiculous thing to come out of the fracas was the assertion that Marc Smith's comments in the Chicago Reader article (which I've now read and found much more disparaging than the quotes I'd seen) were the result of a savvy muckraker that was looking for dirt on the slam. Some of the MarcSmith Fedayeen have jumped to his defense, saying that NPS needed the press and the story was exaggerated and Marc's a great guy and blah blah blah.

Here's some of the highlights from the article and my objections:

Steve Marsh, who agrees that the organization struggled while Smith was gone: "There were people who tried to provide leadership but didn't come to it with the same moral authority."

BULLSHIT! Lack of moral authority or the simple fact that they were not Marc and certain veterans would only answer to him? Why bother with the sabbatical if you're going to manipulate things from behind the scenes? Interesting that Mike Henry seems to have the "moral authority" to track down grant money from the NEA but not enough to be allowed to do his job as President.

[Smith] says some of the people who tried to step in while he was gone were looking to use the slam for personal gain. "This thing that I started and have put so much energy into [but] have never exploited for my own purposes. I was pissed off."

BULLSHIT! Really? And who exactly are these people, considering that the current EC and staff are almost all people that were in the mix while he was gone? As one of the few not still there, I guess I'm one of them, to which I say a big "Fuck you!"

Also, for someone who's sole claim to fame is creating the slam, talking about anyone "exploiting" it for their own purpose is hypocrisy to the highest degree. Checked out lately?

Simmons's HBO show Def Poetry Jam approached PSI looking for some "diverse people." Mike Henry, who served as president in Smith's absence, gave them some names, and slam poets began to appear on the show. "That gave a big boost to their program," says Smith.

BULLSHIT! As if Def Jam couldn't have connected to this community without PSI? As if they didn't rather quickly and easily when a short-sighted EC tried to flex with a trademark claim, an invalid one at that?

That's just the blatant stuff. The overall tone he takes, as if without him, slam would cease to exist, is both dismissive to the efforts of the local communities that keep PSI afloat as well as just being pathetic and silly.

I can't wait til Saturday and we're on the road to the Poconos. And, of course, my birthday! Calgon, take me away!

Which cheesy 80s movie are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
Say Anything
Say Anything - John Cusack is a God,
and you have good taste.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Totally forgot to put this out there: Word Street has launched!

That's the poetry/spoken word magazine I've been hinting at for awhile that I was writing the article on slam's relevance for. This issue is kind of a sampler, a web-only teaser, but the hope is for the first print edition to publish in October. Check it out at it's temporary address: Word Street

Also, drop me some ideas for articles or essays. And tell all your friends!
Crazy busy at work and home this week but, along with managing my GSL fantasy football draft, I've been surfing around for the scoop on Nationals. (LA won by the way; Nuyorican came in second and San Jose's Mike McGee won the indies.) Between Blogger and LiveJournal, I suspect the poetry_slam list will be rather light with the good stuff, but that's probably a good thing as people are being much more honest in their journals. Seems the biggest topic is Marc Smith's hosting of the Finals which is being roundly lambasted as an embarrasment to the community. Surprise! What did people expect from him, especially after the Chicago Reader interview?

My absolute favorite so far has been RAC's write-up, a typically blunt assessment of the whole affair, including an honest critique of people she considers friends. Imagine THAT as a concept! Most of the blogs I've got linked on the right have good commentary on Nationals, too. Be sure to read the respective comments as some interesting discussions are taking place.

Biggest thing I'm sensing about 2003 is that Nationals peaked in 1999 with 2,000 people at the Chicago Theater for the Finals and NY Times and 60 Minutes coverage. This year's Finals apparently didn't even fill the 1,500-seat theater at the Navy Pier, despite having 15 more teams competing this year, and has gotten zero national attention. SlamAmerica has been the only PSI thing to get any significant attention since then and Def Poetry has pretty much taken over from there. With the next two Nationals in St. Louis and Albuquerque (?!?!?!), things aren't likely to get any better as the National Poetry Slam becomes a quaint roadshow for new poets/performers and aging vets unable to take the next step.

Interestingly, Marc Smith apparently announced a $20,000 NEA grant that PSI got recently. Wonder where that money will end up and when the IRS will finally see fit to audit their books? I think they'd find some very interesting things. Wonder if they have a tip line...?

Friday, August 8, 2003

Omar just called: LA beats Union Square (2001 redux?) while Nuyorican beats Urbana, ensuring NYC's streak of Finals appearances since 1996 (at least) continues. They also landed someone named Jive Poet, ranked 7th overall, in the indie finals. (Celena Glenn was Urbana's top individual @ 21, Ta'i Freedom Ford for Union Square @ 45.)

Had the winners of both of those wrong (Urbana & Los Feliz) in my predicted. We'll see how the other two turn out. I picked Austin and Chicago-Wicker Park, though an Omaha upset would be a special kind of cool.

It's weird, being home this year. Last year I really missed it and it was the beginning of the end for the Virginia experiment. This year, I'm rather ambivalent about it. I would have liked to see some people I haven't seen in quite a while and taken part in the general festivities but at the same time, I have little interest in the competition itself beyond rooting for various friends to do well. That said, I'm a bit nonplussed about Union Square's results. To be honest, it's exactly what I expected based on their matchups in the first round. From what I've heard, they came out on fire the first night with Trent Lott, Homeland, Rakim and Other Thesis, surely not wanting to lose to the LA team that knocked us out in the 2001 NPS Semi-Finals. According to Ed, LA did it right this year in the semis, coming strong and winning with solid work. I wonder if not making the Finals means the veterans will slam yet again next season or finally step aside and give other people the opportunity to experience Nationals from the stage as opposed to the shadows. One can hope...

In an interesting twist, it's Salomé who's away for a week this year, in Colorado for her job, and me home with the kids. From 1998-2001, the week of Nationals found me away from home, using up the precious little vacation time I had. In 1998, it was only three weeks after we'd gotten married. In 1999, she came along to Chicago. 2000 was in Providence and she drove up for the Finals. 2001 was the first summer after Isaac was born, with me across the country in Seattle having the worst Nationals I'd ever experienced. Turned out it was likely my last.

These eight days will be the longest she's ever been away since we've had kids and the longest period of time I'm taking care of them alone. Coupled with what will likely be the worst week yet at my job (they still haven't replaced my boss and the girl they chose not to promote is quite bitter), I'm going to be so ready for our vacation when she gets back next Friday. We leave for the Poconos the next day ( my birthday, hint and hint, gift certificates are perfect!) and will have a week of no phones, no computers, no work!

She was already gone this morning when Isaac woke up, crawled out of bed and went looking for "mommy." Telling him she was gone was awkward as that usually just means the store or, on rare occasions, out for the night. I told him she was on a plane, hoping to connect to his memory of going to my mother's back in the Spring. He remembered it when I picked them up from the daycare but it'll be interesting to see how he handles it with each passing day. I've always been the one gone so this is new territory for both of us. India remains as happy-go-lucky as ever.

Probably take them to the zoo again tomorrow or Sunday for the Paws, Claws & Jaws events: face painting, animal feeding and Native American music & dance performances. Not sure if I'm ready to brave the children's zoo yet, unless my cousin and her kids come, too. Should be fun.

BTW, the Kucinich Meetup last night was interesting. More on that another time, though. Time for bed!

Thursday, August 7, 2003

Unpatriotic soldiers, Dr. Bushlove, Howard Lieberdean & The Reality of 2004

First, protestors were being unpatriotic and endangering our troops by speaking out against the war. Now, the troops themselves are being told to shut up!

Pentagon makes moves to contain complaints from US troops in Iraq

Written by Douglas Quenqua
Published on August 04 2003

WASHINGTON: After several troops made some highly publicized negative comments to the media about the war effort in Iraq, the Pentagon has taken steps to keep the frustrations of both soldiers and their families out of reports.

According to a story in the July 25 edition of Stars and Stripes, the military appears to be curtailing its much-touted embedded-journalist program, which has allowed reporters almost unfettered access to military units throughout the war and occupation.

The 3rd Infantry Division, from where many complaints have arisen, has expelled many of its embedded reporters, and its troops are no longer allowed to talk to the media outside of pre-approved news features.


What next? A soldier gets court-martialed for speaking out? Maybe executed?

For those still sleeping well, under the misguided illusion that Bush and his cronies aren't all that bad and that he is, at heart, a good guy with all Americans' best interests in mind:

'Dr Strangeloves' meet to plan new nuclear era

Julian Borger in Bellevue, Nebraska
Thursday August 7, 2003
The Guardian

US government scientists and Pentagon officials will gather today behind tight security at a Nebraska air force base to discuss the development of a modernised arsenal of small, specialised nuclear weapons which critics believe could mark the dawn of a new era in proliferation.

The Pentagon has not released a list of the 150 people at the secret meeting, but according to leaks, they will include scientists and administrators from the three main nuclear weapons laboratories, Los Alamos, Sandia and Livermore, senior officers from the air force and strategic command, weapons contractors and civilian defence officials.

Requests by Congress to send observers were rejected, and an oversight committee which included academic nuclear experts was disbanded only a few weeks earlier.



And for the well-intentioned but completely misguided progressives I know that are supporting Howard Dean, here's a little something to chew on:

Dean's No Wellstone

comment | Posted May 8, 2003
by Jim Farrell

Lately, presidential contender Howard Dean has been likening himself to the late Senator Paul Wellstone. Out on the stump, Dean has used a phrase that Wellstone long employed--that we need candidates who "represent the democratic wing of the Democratic Party." Before audiences of progressives and party activists, it is reportedly Governor Dean's best applause line. No wonder. The Democratic rank and file yearn for populist leadership based on a firm commitment to progressive policies.

Dean acknowledges that his own politics are considerably less "liberal" than Wellstone's but that he identifies with the senator's passion and commitment to beliefs. Certainly, Dean's campaign has many of the trappings of progressive politics. Dean himself is an upstart and outsider, and his call for a grassroots campaign to "take back America" sounds progressive.

But as Wellstone frequently said, it's not the thought that counts but the deed. So how do the records of the two men compare?


While Dean may share some measure of Wellstone's passion, his record and his agenda are very different. As governor of Vermont, Dean targeted for elimination the public-financing provision of the state's campaign finance law--a law similar to the one Wellstone pushed in the Senate. In February 2002, Dean said his big donors are given special access. While Wellstone fought for people on welfare, Dean said some welfare recipients "don't have any self-esteem. If they did, they'd be working" and scaled back Vermont's welfare program, reducing cash benefits and imposing strict time limits on single mothers receiving welfare assistance.

Dean advocated sending nuclear waste from his state to the poor, mostly Hispanic town of Sierra Blanca, Texas. Wellstone called the proposal "blatant environmental injustice" and fought to delay the measure in the Senate. It ultimately passed but was later determined unsafe. Just last year, Dean proposed deep cuts in Medicaid, which were blocked in his own legislature. Now he calls Representative Dick Gephardt's healthcare proposal, which would roll back the Bush tax cuts in order to provide a tax credit for employers mandated to deliver health coverage to workers, "a pie-in-the-sky radical revamping of our healthcare system." Dean has said that a constitutional amendment to balance the budget "wouldn't be a bad thing" and that the way to balance the federal budget is "for Congress to cut Social Security, move the retirement age to 70 and cut defense, Medicare and veterans' pensions." In the name of fiscal conservatism, Dean's final-year Vermont budget also cut portions of the state's public education funding. Dean supports the death penalty and as governor was embraced by the NRA. Although he opposed the war on Iraq, his policy on the Middle East is closer, he says, to AIPAC--the American Israel Public Affairs Committee--than to progressives calling for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories.


He's basically a softer Joe Lieberman. No thanks! (Farrell, by the way, was the spokesman for the late Senator Paul Wellstone.)

Finally, my response to someone who took objection to my saying "middle America is nowhere near ready to vote a black man, woman or Jew to the office of President" on a message board, offering Lieberman and Hilary Clinton's poll numbers and references to Jackie Robinson and John F. Kennedy:

While I applaud your optimism, I must respectfully disagree with it.

Lieberman is simply riding the wave of name recognition right now. When it comes down to the real deal, his relative similarity to Bush will again depress the democratic turnout (he did a nice job of dissing the union vote the other night) and the fact that he is Jewish will invigorate the far right to flood the voting booths. He was spared the overt anti-semitism as a VP candidate but he won't be if he's in the driver's seat.

Hilary is an exception, not the rule, and her being a woman is, at best, the second most important thing for her supporters. She's transcended such basic categorization.

As for a racial or ethnic minority getting the nod, I'll believe it when I see it. Playing baseball (or providing any other form of entertainment) is a completely different world from being President as your inability to name even a handful of nationally prominent politicians of color proves.

As for Kennedy, it should be noted that the 1960 elections had a 62.8% turnout, the highest on record, and he won the popular vote by only 118,574 votes - less than .025% of the total! It was the same electoral college that screwed Gore that made the big difference for him.

I'd like to think that Democrats are not really falling for the anyone but Bush line. Gore/Lieberman may have won the popular vote but the fact of the matter is it was with only 51% of those eligible voting. The G/L combo didn't do anything to energize the left. If anything, they polarized it, forcing many progressives to wrestle with the Gore vs. Nader decision. When Clinton beat Bush Sr. in '92, turnout was 55.1% and a large chunk of THAT vote went to Ross Perot (18.91%).

Remember, not many took Bush seriously throughout 2000, thinking him too dumb to win. Even Republicans didn't take him seriously at first. Americans have extremely short memories and all it will take is an upswing in the economy or improvements in the situation in Iraq for his approval numbers to jump back up and the Democrats to start believing Gore should run again.

The time is ripe for change. Bold change. Halfway measures won't be enough this time. If Democrats want to be the force behind that change, they're going to have to nominate someone that represents a significant, fundamental change.

Now I need to get some less important Thomson Media work done before heading off to my first Kucinich Meetup tonight.

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Must see:

While I don't buy the Kucinich-Dean parallel, it's a pretty powerful piece of propaganda.

I'm watching the AFL-CIO / Working Families Forum on C-SPAN right now, featuring all nine candidates and it's been a bit of an eye-opener so far. Interestingly, it's being held at the Navy Pier in Chicago where this year's National Poetry Slam Finals will take place on Saturday night and the forum has a bit of a slam feel to it.

Lieberman is one smug bastard that loves to reference Clinton as if some of his mojo might run off on him. He also just received the first round of boos on the night. Sharpton's been extremely well-spoken (no surprise) and extremely well-received (big surprise). He's gotten the loudest applause and the first laugh of the night. Graham and Kerry have been shaky and Kerry keeps going over time. Gephardt seems pretty confident that he's preaching to his choir. Mosley-Braun and Edwards have acquitted themselves nicely, if not spectacularly, though Edwards has the look.

For all of his outspokenness, Dean is suprisingly Dubyaish when thinking on his feet. Kucinich, on the other hand, is on the attack, calling out other candidates and challenging them to be truthful about their positions on things like NAFTA and Social Security. He's made Dean obviously uncomfortable and Edwards has even credited him on his exemplary congressional record. My one concern is that he may appear to be going too far this early in the campaign, something that would be a bit hypocritical in light of everyone's praise for Dean's battering of Bush.

Closing statements, in order: Graham focuses on Bush's record (the Pinocchio President and the Sammy Sosa trade), points out his opposition to the war in contrast to some of his fellow candidates; Edwards focuses on Bush and contrasts with his own humble, working-class upbringing, goes over time; Dean focuses on electability and how to beat Bush, references his own internet fundraising; Lieberman thanks AFL-CIO for support in 2000, asks for second chance, hits specific union issue he missed earlier, implies old Democrats are bad, references Clinton AGAIN!, goes WAY over time; Gephardt references working-class roots, recently deceased mother, his own congressional record, focuses on Bush's attacks on regular people; Sharpton references lifelong activism, little change since Martin Luther King, Jr., calls himself the conservative: "to conserve what we won 50 years ago;" Kerry (missed the beginning) looks forward to debates, connects 9/11 firefighters, etc. to unions, references military service and mocks Bush's aircraft carrier landing; Mosley-Braun praises hometown of Chicago, attacks Bush re: Haliburton and Enron, encourages all to vote, says a woman deserves a chance to lead, is reading her comments a bit clumsily.

Kucinich closes, references history of defeating Republicans with labor's help, proven record, feed goes dead due to electrical storm at C-SPAN's studios in DC!!!! What the hell is that about? First they mysteriously pre-empt his Hear it From the Heartland appearance a week ago and now this?!?! What the fuck is up at C-SPAN?

All in all, it's been a good show and I can't imagine any clear-thinking Americans walking away from it without some new perspectives on the candidates, positive and negative. Of course, that assumes there's enough "clear-thinking Americans" that give a damn and are watching.

Monday, August 4, 2003

"[Marc] announced a three-year sabbatical in '99; by the fall of 2001 he was back. Without him, he says, things had gotten so bad that this year's 14th annual National Poetry Slam... wouldn't be happening otherwise."

"He says that some of the people who tried to step in while he was gone were looking to use the slam for personal gain. 'This thing that I started and have put so much energy into [but] have never exploited for my own purposes. I was pissed off."

I wasn't going to address this until I had a chance to read the full article but, with Nationals a couple of days away, it's just been burning at the back of my brain since I came across the above excerpt on Morris Stegosaurus' journal. It's from an article in the Chicago Reader (a free alternative weekly that charges for their archives), supposedly about the National Poetry Slam but, apparently, the writer went for the dirt and Marc bit.

I'll say this: Marc Smith has some balls. He's also a completely hypocritical asshole.

As one of the people who "tried to step in while he was gone," I take offense at the assertion that I, or any of the others that dared to disagree with Camp Smith, tried to use the slam for personal gain.

Being on the executive council of Poetry Slam, Inc. was probably THE most thankless job I've ever had. The first meeting I was in - Slammaster's, April 2001 - a mere couple of hours after being ELECTED to the council, I watched in shocked silence as Deb Marsh and company attempted a coup, playing coy as she blindsided Mike Henry with an unexpected challenge for the position of President. The lines were drawn - Camp Smith (the old-timers loyal to Marc - not the slam, but Marc himself!- at any cost) vs. the relative newcomers like myself, and the stage was set.

The obstacles put in place by the Marsh duo and Henry Sampson (sweet guy, but he'll cut your throat in a minute if Marc asked him to), not to mention their outright refusal to provide important information like budget numbers made the next few months leading up to Nationals in Seattle (a generally agreed upon fiasco of an event) absolutely hellish, with never-ending battles over everything, large and small. During that time, my primary focus was getting the membership program (something Deb Marsh ran half-assed from the beginning) fleshed out for presentation and approval at the special Slammamster's meeting during Nationals. I did, and now PSI has a legitimate source of year-round revenue for the first time. How selfish of me, right?

[Note: Others - notably Mike Henry, Phil West and Paula Friedrich - were also focused on specific goals and were similarly blocked in their efforts by the uncooperative cabal, but I'm only speaking of my personal experience here.]

September 11th put the kibosh on most things PSI and, by the time the EC was ready to roll in the mud again, I was moving to Virginia and happily stepped down from my position. At the same time, Marc was quietly making his heralded return behind the scenes, no election held, no questions asked.

Now, go take a look at for someone "us[ing] the slam for personal gain." In the article above, Marc says he's "never exploited [the slam] for [his] own purposes." Hello? What is he WITHOUT the slam? Creating the slam is his sole claim to fame and his own web site shouts it to the mountaintops!

When he stepped down from PSI back in '99, one of his stated reasons was to move on and focus on his own art again. Think back to that period. Do you remember any non-slam activities of his? That book? As his own bio notes: "Smith’s first published book, Crowdpleaser, celebrates The Green Mill, particularly its audiences who remain at the core of the Slam’s success."

He tried to walk away from slam (not completely, though, as he continued to host the weekly slam at the Green Mill) and quickly realized he had nothing else going for him. So he came back, playing the role of the noble father rescuing his poor children from the evil clutches of...well, the people he left them with, and reinstalled himself as President for Life.

Say that out loud: President for Life.

Yeah. Exactly.

Marc Smith can kiss my ass. I hope he selflessly runs PSI into the fucking ground and becomes just another footnote (like in Aloud, his favorite anthology) in a movement he's yet to realize is both much bigger than he'll ever be and has grown way beyond his grasp to ever seize control of.

Enjoy this Nationals. My money says this will likely be the last one of any importance. I hope an all-black team of freestyling political poets wins the damn Finals and shoves the trophy up his ass.

Sunday, August 3, 2003

I've given in to several requests and - crossing my fingers - have added a "comments" function to my journal. It's actually a guestbook, a la Rich Villar's, but I like the running commentary setup over the post-specific format. All I ask is that you have the courtesy to not be anonymous if you post something there.

Flame on!

One of the most heartbreaking documentaries I've ever seen. The flip side of Buena Vista Social Club and a must-see for all you pseudo-revolutionaries out there that need a little dose of reality to flesh out your one-dimensional rants.

Director Carles Bosch makes no judgments on the lives of the Cuban rafters he follows over seven years. You won't be able to help but come to some of your own judgements about your own life and what you take for granted.

One of the things that stood out in my mind was the looming shadow of the fall of Russia. Most would say the world is a better place because of it, the end of the "evil empire." I think that's that's the biased viewpoint of those who benefit from the spread of capitalism, aka the "new world order." Places like Cuba (not to mention the inner-cities and rural areas of the US) are the wreckage of that continuing spread.

There are days I absolutely hate this country and that hatred leaves me feeling helpless and hopeless. I hate the facade of the American Dream that lulls people into complacency and drives others to risk their lives to get here, only to find the grass is just a different shade of brown. I despise the compromises we accept because the sacrifices are too steep, the sense that nothing will ever change and we're stuck making the best way we can.

I wish I could believe it was as simple as getting Bush out of the White House but I know that he is only a symptom of a much larger ill and somedays I fear there's no cure.

Friday, August 1, 2003

I survived. Oral surgery is barbaric. Dentists that reference Marathon Man while you're in the chair aren't funny. The actual extractions only took about 20 minutes. Slept with a mouthful of gauze last night. Curious about the vicodin but haven't had any pain to justify taking it. Stayed home today, caught up on sleep and comic books. Humberto Ramos has an intriguing style. Gonna dive into The Invisibles next. NFL Films makes the best hero-worship vignettes of any sport. Just ate half a pint of Dreamery Banana Split ice cream. Yum. I'm still hungry. Time to gargle with warm salt water.