Friday, April 30, 2004

Trust Omar to find the good stuff. Bloglines is the shiznit!

Not only can I monitor the blogs I read regularly from one place - a la LiveJournal's Friends list, without the creepy "Friend me" angle - but it lets me monitor other blog-like sites I check regularly, including Wizards' D&D pages, Craigslist-ings, and my new fave, XBox sites!

Speaking of, this just in:

Def Jam Redefined
Vendetta II gets a new name.

April 30, 2004 - Electronics Arts has announced that their hip-hop battle title Def Jam Vendetta II has been renamed Def Jam: Fight For NY. Featuring more than 40 personalities and artists from the hip-hop world, Def Jam: Fight For NY will include Busta Rhymes, Carmen Electra, Lil' Kim, Ludacris, Method Man, Redman, Sean Paul, Slick Rick, Snoop Dogg, and many more who are willing to beat the stuffing out of each other.
Great! Wonder if it will include an unlockable NYPD Rap Intelligence Unit to monitor the fighting? Maybe Benjamin Brafman or Murray Richman to defend them in court? Perhaps cut scenes of Tupac being shot up in a lobby, or Jam Master Jay in a recording studio?

I can't believe this is the same company that publishes my beloved Madden football! Looks like I'll be switching over to ESPN NFL 2005.

In related news, I came across this interesting article on video games and politics via, another Bloglines trackee.

Free Play
The politics of the video game
by Kevin Parker, Reason Online, April 2004

Political ideas are infiltrating not just the back-stories of games but their "play mechanics" -- the inner workings that shape game behavior. It may be the scripted parts of the games that explicitly state political notions, but what’s ultimately more significant is the way games can communicate doctrine by demonstration, the same way sports communicate physics. As Salon’s Wagner James Au once put it, "Socially minded films and television programs can only dramatize their politics, but we now have a medium where you can interact with them, as an engaged participant." If cinematic spectacle grabs eyeballs, then gameplay grabs minds.

The results may not be what the gamemakers intended. Designers are responding to the demand for compelling interaction by providing more logically consistent game worlds and relaxing linear story structure to allow for more player control. As a result, players are freer to explore and experiment without encountering as many contrived game rules. Indeed, discovering the rules becomes a much-discussed game within the game. Built-in political assumptions will be subject to the same distributed criticism.
It's a longish read but fascinating from a sociological perspective. And particularly relevant in the context of the Def Jam nonsense.

[NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Edit your settings to activate your site feed and save me the time I spend checking your blogs everyday to see if you've updated yet!]

Diane Keaton auditioning for the part of the Joker?

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Hip-hop. Or, more specifically, rap music. Like your ex-con cousin on the verge of his third strike, I have a love-hate relationship with it. He will always be family, and every now and then I like to spend time with him, but for the most part, I'm over it.

Was reading a preview the other day of Def Jam Vendetta II, a fighting game coming out for the XBox that features several prominent rappers and a hip-hop related theme, and went from geeked to disgusted by the end of the article. I love fighting games and the concept for this one sounded like a lot of fun if a bit heavy on the negative stereotypes that have plagued rap since the early days of the gangsta era. The more I read, though, the more offended I became. From the "battle for control of the underworld" setup; to the cheesy and sexist "girlfriend" mode featuring the likes of Lil' Kim, Carmen Electra and, surprisingly, Kimora Lee; to the ability to purchase officially licensed gear and, of course, bling-bling from none other than Jacob the Jeweler! WTF?!?!

Then, while taking my cousin to pick up his car from the dealership in Yonkers this morning, I'm listening to the radio and happened across Ed Lover's morning show on Power 105. He had Jam Master Jay's mother on and they were talking about the foundation that's been set up in his memory and how the family's been holding up since his still-unsolved murder. I was only half-paying attention so I missed how they got into it but at one point, Jay's mother starts talking about all of the rappers that showed up to the memorial pledging to make sure Jay's family didn't want for anything and how the vast majority hadn't lifted a finger for them since. The family's struggling, she explains, and pretty much getting by, barely, on their own. His wife works 6 days a week and their kids have had to switch to public school. Ed Lover went off - "Some of these people own 100-million-dollar businesses!" - and even called out Jay's old partner, "Reverend" Run, by name and challenged rappers to call in and explain why they haven't stepped up. I used to be an avid fan of the old Ed Lover & Doctor Dre morning show on Hot 97 and was glad to see Ed hadn't lost his edge. Rap on the other hand, totally has.

Some days, I wish it had been the fad so many expected it to be and simply faded back into the underground where it couldn't do quite so much harm.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Last night at Acentos was like an uninterrupted 24-hour stint in the recharger and I'm feeling good about poetry again and hopeful about the scene in general. I've always said being nervous before a performance is a good sign that you still care about what you're doing. Jessica, Nina and Maria obviously care about poetry, specifically the meticulous crafting and unadorned presentation of it. They let the poems speak for themselves and did they ever! Jessica, in particular, took an impressive leap forward with a commanding - almost, dare I say it...cocky? - stage presence and even kicked a memorized piece that set her body in motion and really opened the poem up. Nina and Maria shone as well, offering self-confident performances of tightly-written work. All in all, it was the kind of night I needed.

In related news, a couple of little birdies told me that an UPPERCASE was finally hitting the louderMonday schedule at 13 with Siegel, Jessica and Maria being chosen for the illustrious honor after an exhaustive six-month talent search and background check. [snark!] MAYÚSCULA might be more appropriate as those three are as much products of Acentos as 13, if not moreso. But hey, that's in the Bronx and we all know you're nobody until you've established yourself in Manhattan. Besides, there's a whole THREE relative newbies in their slam finals so that developing new voices thing is still alive. Right? Oh wait, I just noticed the mission is actually about "developing challenging SPACES." It's got nothing to do with new voices, or audiences for that matter. Duh! I completely missed that subtle change when I came back from Virginia. It all makes sense now!

Anyway, I'm finally starting to focus on the next louder than words show - Bowery Poetry Club: Friday, May 21st @ 8pm SHARP! - and am starting to get excited again. RAC and Keith Roach are a great combination of outspoken and opinionated poets and Cristin will bring her own unique electricity to the mix. Eric and I have come up with some interesting tweaks to the show and I'm even rethinking the showcase portion. Get in on the discussion now on the louder than words blog where I've posted some possible topics for the show.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

From August 25, 2003:

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.
112 days to go and I'm way behind on this.

5. Reconnect with my not-so-inner nerd;
7. Unsubscribe from the poetry_slam listserve.

In progress:
1. Write 3 short stories/novellas;
3. Produce 3 performance events;
6. Lose 5 more pounds and tone up.

In question:
1. Publish one short story/novella;
2. Write & publish 2 articles, one non-poetry-related.

Dead in the water:
4. Go back to school.

That last one is dead in the way I meant it when I originally wrote it, but may be revived in one form or another in the near future. This is one intriguing possibility. As is this. And this.

Moving to the top of the list, though, is an agenda for the next 5 years. The big 4-0 is looming and I'm not going to let it sneak up on me. Yikes!
Wole Soyinka has this quote, "The tiger does not sing his tigritude." But, I think that if the tiger entered a world of leopards, he probably would. -- Mara Jebsen
Apropos of nothing, I just love how Mara's mind works and her writing is second-to-none.

This weekend was...tiring and counterproductive. Short, aimless getaways just don't work with kids this young. India throwing up in the car Friday night just as we had pulled into the Pathmark parking lot to go grocery shopping was a sign to cancel the whole trip and stay home. We didn't, of course, and the three-day weekend peaked on Sunday morning when we all slept in until 10am.

Saturday night in Worcester was more fun than expected as the kids had a blast once they warmed up and so did we once we did the same. Sou and Bill are wonderful hosts and their son Liberty is an adorable ball of energy. Motherhood's treated Dawn very well and her son Henry is a charmer. Morris - bearing Magic Hat #9 - showed up near the end of the night and looked as healthy and happy as I've ever seen him. I daresay he's officially become an adult, though completely on his own terms! Morris aside, it was a little weird hanging out with people I know more via email and specifically via the slam scene I've more or less walked away from, but the common bond of parenthood is an amazing thing for breaking the ice. Until Morris arrived, there was little talk of slam at all and when there was, it was an interesting discussion of what's next as opposed to the usual rehashed gripes about what sucks. Bill's idea, while unlikely to appeal to the hardcore competitors, is an amazingly simple angle on using the slam to build community while still entertaining the audience. Established separate from PSI - using more of a network or association angle, a la the National Bed & Breakfast Association, perhaps? - it would be a tempting opportunity to start up a new reading.

Speaking of B&Bs, the State House Inn was undeniably the most beautiful accomodations we've stayed in yet. Stunning, really. Sadly, it was run more like a hotel than a B&B, feeling extremely sterile and leaving us unlikely to return. Not serving breakfast in the room was a definite negative, especially with two antsy kids. The Barnaby Inn has spoiled us, I guess.

Providence is a beautiful city, easily one of my favorites, and if it weren't quite so white - ethnically and meteorologically - it would be a tempting place to relocate. Did a lot of driving around on Sunday, looking at houses and exploring neighborhoods we hadn't seen before. Drove south on Route 1 through Cranston and Warwick down to Wyckford and back. Ridiculously big houses are the norm and serve as an indicator of the kind of neighborhood as some are single-family homes, others carved into two- and three-family apartments. Funny enough, the latter two usually house apartments larger than most here in the city, likely for half the price.

Came home yesterday exhausted and dispirited, looking forward to a relaxing day at work and anticipating my mother's arrival this weekend, her first long-term visit with us...ever! Much cleaning to be done. Sifted through tons of spam to find an interesting email re: my comments on Vernon Ketcher last week. He was the 82-year-old with the .17 blood alcohol level and two prior arrests for drunken driving that plowed into a minivan carrying a group of teenage soccer players, killing two of them and himself. An apparent friend of the family wrote me to express their displeasure at my comments, noting: "I hope that his grandchildren don't type his name in google one day and find your comments because they are as innocent as the children that died." I was a little torn at first, acknowledging their valid point but not convinced that it should temper what I wrote in that moment of anger and disgust. If anything, I would hope that those grandchildren would realize the enormity of their grandfather's actions and be equally angered and disgusted by them. While my comments may have been harsh, the offense they may cause doesn't hold a candle to the far-reaching ripples of Ketcher's selfish actions, both to the families of the teenagers he killed as well as to his own family.

Tonight: Acentos. If that doesn't improve my mood in relation to poetry and "the scene," I may go back underground for good!

Friday, April 23, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds: Weekend in Providence Edition

1. TGIF! Finally. Heading up to Providence, RI tomorrow for a long weekend of nothing more than relaxing. Saturday dinner with the MacMillan trio of Worcester will be fun. Might hit Roger Williams Park on Sunday. Definitely the crepe place off Thayer we found a couple of years ago. If it's even still there. Possibly up to Boston for Marché? Wish it was going to be a little warmer, though.

2. Pat Tillman. Hate the war, respect the soldier. Especially one that voluntarily signed up knowing he was going to be fighting in a war, walking away from millions of dollars and the celebrity lifestyle of a professional athelete in the process. If wannabe revolutionaries like myself had half the commitment to their cause, this would be a very different world. Rest in peace.

3. Returned to the gym today after a two-month hiatus to find my bag full of shampoo from an open bottle. Somehow missed my clothes so I worked out anyway. Ruined the bag, though. Now I have a nice Crunch gym bag and am $40 poorer. Exercise hurts.

4. Came back from the gym to find a bucket from KFC with one piece of chicken and an ear of corn in it sitting on my desk. HR issue?

5. Alicia got voted off of Survivor last night and never saw it coming. Wiped that cocky smirk off of her face but good. If Boston Rob makes the final two, I fully expect a Susan Hawk-type speech from her, after which she'll have to give him the nod for playing the game best. I Just hope she wasn't depending on the $1M to pay for those implants of hers.

6. Jennifer Garner? I just don't get the appeal. She's cute, in a boring white girl kind of way, but she seems kind of dumb. Playing a 13-year old won't help that impression any. She's also not the Elektra I remember.

7. Gmail. I got an account. Don't understand all the furor about the ads, though. It's a FREE email account. Just don't use it. As for the privacy issues, do you really believe no one's reading your Yahoo! email? Or AOL? Whatever!

8. No one over 70 should be able to renew their driver's license without letters from their doctor and optometrist declaring them physically and optically fit. Annually. DUI? One strike and you're out. I hope there's a hell and Vernon Ketcher is there with a nasty hangover, vomiting his guts up for eternity, MD 20/20 being mainlined straight to his liver.

9. Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition for the GameBoy Advance is giving me carpal tunnel syndrome.

10. Michael Jackson will commit suicide before this trial is over.

11. If I owe you an email, I'm not ignoring you, I'm just avoiding anything that takes thought for another couple of days. If it's an email from a while ago, it's buried and I'll probably get to it next week when I clean out my inbox.
Kerry Adrift
By Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post

...But his tortuous path to his current position has left him politically bereft on Iraq. Ralph Nader has now made himself the antiwar candidate by calling for a pullout in six months. With that, his candidacy found a rationale beyond mere vanity, and may indeed draw some serious Democratic support. Many liberals and left-wingers will find it hard to support a Democratic candidate who, like Hubert Humphrey in 1968, advocates staying the course on a war they hate.

Kerry's political problem is that he supports Bush's Iraq objective and differs only on the means. Unfortunately for Kerry, "I will go to Turtle Bay" is not the stuff of legend. Unless he comes up with something better, Kerry will lose the war issue that was his for the taking.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Need more evidence that George W. Bush has a pretty good shot at being [re-]elected? Last night's American Idol bottom three. Stupid people vote more than intelligent ones.

Today's horoscope:

Sometimes you don't realize how much you have touched people's lives, Guy. Just the little things that you do, like smiling, or telling someone a joke to cheer them up, go a long way towards creating peace on the planet. Today you could get some pleasant feedback from someone who has appreciated your generous heart. They could tell you what a difference you've made in their life. Soak up their appreciation, because you deserve it!
Call me George Bailey and show me some love dammit!

BTW, go here, then here, for a fascinating tête - à - tête on David Chappelle and racial politics. Somebody get these two some Hulk Hands! ;-)

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

A public apology to Helen Yum for not getting downtown to wish her farewell last night. :-(

I tried, really I did, but between Sunday's trip to the zoo and all the walking I did yesterday, by the time we'd gotten the kids ready for bed and I picked up the laundry, I was exhausted. She's one of a handful of poetry people - as in, the ones I like above and beyond the poetry scene - that I'd go out of my way for, but I just couldn't do it last night.

Another apology to everyone else I've stood up in one way or another over the past week or two. Every now and then the planets align and I hit this disconnected phase where I just don't feel very sociable. I'm deep in it right now, for a multitude of reasons, none particularly serious. It's almost like the two weeks leading up to the first louder than words show completely drained me. I need to snap out of it quick as I've never missed back-to-back Acentos shows and next Tuesday's is a must-see.

Couple of quick shots from the past week as I probably won't be blogging for the next couplafew days:

1. The Apprentice: I had no problem with Kwame losing as both guys were top-notch. He let Omarosa screw him over, though. Badly. Somebody needs to cut her 15 minutes short ASAP. Actually, somebody just needs to cut her, period.

2. American Idol: This is really more about Quentin Tarantino who, despite my loathing him, represented himself well as last week's guest judge. It was obvious he was a genuine fan of the show and not just there to shill for his new movie. That said, I still think he's a mysogynist hack with some serious identity issues. And I still want to punch him dead in his face.

3. Survivor: All-Stars: Thanks to Dubya's speech throwing off AI's schedule - and mine- I missed Kathy getting voted off last week. Wasn't surprised at all, though, as Rob is in control until the last of the other tribe is voted off.

4. XBox: Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes? Hot! Project Gotham Racing 2? Smoking. Madden 2003? Johnny boy still hates the Jets. Check out my XBox wishlist for the other games I'm looking forward to!

5. Dungeons & Dragons: Finally got to be a player this time as Steve took over as DM with a new campaign. Half-Drow Bard, female, with a serious chip on her shoulder. Got into a bar brawl in the middle of a Bard-Slam to get things started. Lots of fun. Inner-child is stirring.

Now get out of here and go read Bassey, Mara, Diane, Eliel and Tony.

Monday, April 19, 2004

In Triplicate
(inspired by revolutionaryscum and javabill)

Three things I am wearing right now
1) my grandfather's ring
2) a pocket watch
3) pair of silver hoop earrings

Three things on my desk
1) several pictures of my family
2) "I'm not bossy, I just have better ideas" sign
3) paperwork for eight in-progress projects

Three things I want to do before I die
1) write and publish three novels
2) live outside of the U.S.
3) inspire my children

Three bad things about my personality
1) stubborn
2) ruthless
3) impatient

Three good things about my personality
1) passionate
2) loyal
3) independent

Parts of my heritage
1) New York City
2) Puerto Rico
3) Louisiana

Three places I want to go to
1) Isla Mujeres
2) San Cristobal de las Casas
3) New Orleans

Three nicknames I had/have
1) Gonzo
2) Lil' Gonz
3) Geezer

Three screen names I had/have
1) loudpoet
2) glecharles
3) anomalous

Three people I miss
1) Isaac LeCharles Harper
2) Anthony
3) My inner child

Three web sites that people may not know about
3) Worldstock

Three visual artists I like
1) Edvard Munch
2) Bill Sienkiewicz
3) Will Rafuse

Three books I like
1) Fool on the Hill, Matt Ruff
2) When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, Lawrence Block
3) Children of the Shaman, Jessica Rydill

Three women that belong on Mount Rushmore
1) Sojourner Truth
2) Margaret Sanger
3) Eleanor Roosevelt

Three corporations that should be destroyed
1) Monsanto
2) Wal-Mart
3) The US Department of Defense

Three people (living or dead) to invite to my dream dinner party
1) Carl Jung
2) Mary Harris (aka Mother Jones)
3) George W. Bush

Three lines about me (haiku)
the taste in my mouth
is not nearly as bitter
as you'd like to think

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Donald Trump fires George W. Bush. I love it!!!!

Dial-up and low-bandwidth users, click here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

NOTE: This entry is for poetry slam geeks only.

This whole 5x3 idea that Taylor came up with for the National Poetry Slam - 5 teams, 3 POEMS per bout as opposed to 3x4, or the more recent 4x4 - isn't necessarily the death of Nationals as some have lamented. It is, however, a flawed band-aid that emphasizes the competition in a way that has the potential to divide local scenes more than the usual inanity inherent to the format. It is also indicative of PSI's failure to coalesce as a legitimate organization.

One of the bigger problems with this system is the fact that it was insitituted THIS year, completely untested beyond a last-second dry run between meetings a couple of weeks ago. Add to that the fact that now up to 80 teams can compete but it's still first-come, first-serve registration with minimal requirements* for certification. Instead of making room for new slam scenes for previously unrepresented areas, I bet many of those additional 16 slots will go to larger areas' B and C teams. Teams started by or made up of veteran carpetbagging poets that bounce around a particular region attempting to qualify for as many teams as possible.

As for the 3 POEMS distinction, it wouldn't be an issue if that translated to 3 POETS per team. Unfortunately, in their wishy-washy, John Kerry-like manner, they voted to amend Taylor's proposal to allow slammasters to decide locally whether to send 3, 4 or 5 poets. And there's nothing mandated that this be determined at the beginning of the season. In other words, if popular Joe Veteran comes in 4th or 5th place, that slam will likely send a 4- or 5-poet team. If unpopular Eddie Newbie takes that 4th or 5th spot, though, that slam has the option to claim broke and choose to send a minimal 3-poet team instead. Given PSI's spineless penchant for staying out of local issues, this is a senseless can of worms to have opened.

Also, in the 4- or 5-poet set up, while the focus has been on the ideal world of inclusion where teams kick 5-person group pieces, it's more likely that one or two poets never get a shot to read a single poem despite being an "official" member of the team. (As opposed to an alternate who knows only someone's death will get them on stage.) Again, this is left to the slammaster's discretion - or, in some scenes, the "coach" - and the potential for ugliness is high. Ironically, this came up in an...ahem!... heated discussion last week where a likely coach claimed he'd "probably" sub in the other two poets on the second night, presumably with whomever had a shot at indies from their first night's performance getting the encore slot. Once we started discussing situational variables, however, his position become predictably cloudier. Reminded of the 1998 Nuyorican's situation - when a team member was allowed to believe up to the last minute that he was going to Austin despite the majority of the team wanting to give him the boot for skipping all but one show and every rehearsal, not to mention the fact that he'd never been witnessed performing a poem anywhere near three minutes short! - the debate took an ugly and personal turn and devolved quickly from there. Not an isolated incident, I'd bet.

The final major issue I have with the 5x3 is, like most things PSI comes up with, it's all about the poets. Not the audience. Not the poetry. While it's been argued that structurally, the 5x3 offers a shorter show (by one poem), the convoluted format itself is not the least bit audience-friendly. Poet rotations are now an even bigger alphabet soup and arguably even less fair than before. More teams in a bout ensures an artificially-packed house, a huge concern considering the last few Nationals' issues with finding enough unaffiliated judges. (In Seattle, they had to transport people from one venue to another just to get 5 judges in each bout!) More teams in a bout emphasizes the scores and reinforces the tendency to play it safe in the choice of poems peformed as there's less of a margin for error than ever before. No significant parameters on registration to ensure regional diversity means even more of the same type of poetry that has come to stereotype...I mean, define poetry slams over the years.

All in all, I don't hate the idea as much as I think it's both short-sighted and incomplete. It's another half-step to making the Nationals more about the competition than the community. If that's the direction PSI wants to go, more power to them. They just need to work up the nerve to go full-steam ahead in that direction and stop pussy-footing their way around it.

Taylor's certainly got the willpower and self-confidence to pull it off. Can he actually DO it, though?

*One of the proposals I put forth last year was in lieu of an agreeable regional system - something they've been chewing on for 6 or 7 years now - PSI instead tighten up the certification process. Currently, it only takes 6 slams/year, an open to all format, and an average audience of 30 people/show. I proposed upping the audience to an average of 50/show - because, really, if you're only drawing 30-40 people, who are you reaching? - and requiring a minimum of 12 unique PSI members claiming the venue as their home. The unique members part was to force the B and C teams to justify their existence as more than backup plans for veterans. The proposal was eviscerated by the committee charged with coming up with a plan and the bland-aid that resulted was both disheartening and, in retrospect, the last straw.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I love The Onion.

After watching Bush's speech tonight, it's clear what his re-election gameplan is: you like him or you don't. Plain and simple.

He's going to let Kerry do the dancing for the swing vote and cross his fingers hoping JFK hangs himself with a misstep or two. Much as I hate the guy and everything he stands for, I can't say I'm willing to bet against him at this point.

Kerry better come up with a mind-blowing, paradigm-shifting choice for VP. :-(

PS: Apologies to the Acentos crew for not making it out tonight. The weather, my stomach and the untimely need for a short break all conspired against me.
Pumpkin Seeds

1. There's something about the concept of The Swan that really turns my stomach.

2. If George Huff isn't in the top three of American Idol, America deserves a daily primetime version of The Swan.

3. Despite his accent, which is getting inexplicably stronger each week, I'm rooting for Boston Rob on Survivor: All Stars.

4. Anyone blaming Russell Simmons for "lowering the bar" in the slam scene via Def Poetry needs to do some soul-searching and question whether or not there's a little latent racism to come to terms with.

5. Bad poetry sucks, regardless of its subject matter, approach or origin.

6. Anyone that chooses to take the stage and read a poem - whether on page or memorized, in a slam or open mic - has a bit of an ego.

7. I've never seen so many mullets in one place as I did yesterday at Shea Stadium.

8. I want to punch Quentin Tarantino dead in his face.

9. If Dubya is ever assassinated, I hope whomever does it is considerate enough to take out Cheney, too.

10. I throw stones because I don't believe in glass houses.

Monday, April 12, 2004

A long and tiring, but ultimately fun weekend got off to a shaky start as I blew off the American Candidate deadline after busting my ass (and Ed's, and Salomé's) putting the audition tape together on Tuesday night. The day off Thursday threw my schedule out of whack and Friday at work was too hectic to get the application completed. If only they'd extend the deadline... :-(

Saturday was such a beautiful day that it's almost a shame we ended up spending most of it in the mall. Of course, this picture was the primary reason so it's all good. The kids' solo pics came out great, too.

We went a little crazy shopping and among other things, picked up a new DVD player for the bedroom. In the form of an Xbox! I feel like such a sellout, especially with Pokemon Colusseum looking like an amazing game, but Nintendo really blew it by going with a proprietary format that doesn't play DVDs. Because really, that's what it's for! Though I did grab a used copy of Madden 2003, just in case some random free time pops up here and there!

With the mother-in-law still sick - aka no babysitter - I ended up hitting my cousin's 40th birthday party alone that night, after the kids were settled down and in bed. It was a lot of fun getting to see family I haven't seen in years, as well as some childhood friends from College Avenue. Made me want a big party this year for my 35th, too. I'd want to rent a place, though, as I always hate the thought of cleaning up the house after a big party. Also realized how completely out of touch I am with hip-hop as I recognized three whole songs that played all night!

Speaking of cleaning, we got the first half of our spring cleaning done on Sunday, rearranging the living room, going through the kids' old clothes and generally realizing that, in less than a year, we'd expanded to fill our space. Comfortably so, fortunately, as the love affair with the apartment continues. It's going to be hard justifying a "starter home" in the next year or two!

The weekend continues today with Opening Day at Shea Stadium. Hopefully the weather holds up.

Friday, April 9, 2004

It takes a lot to knock me off-center. Wednesday night did exactly that and I needed to lay low yesterday, relax and get my head back together.

Where 2002 was a rough year on the personal side of things, the past 12 months have been a serious roller coaster ride on the...hobby/passion (?) side. An extended spring cleaning in a lot of ways, sorting through six years of accumulated relationships and figuring out which were the real thing, which to save and which to throw away.

At times, it was like looking under the bed and finding an army of dust bunnies lying in wait for the ambush, with my favorite slippers being held hostage.

In the end, it's all good. It takes a clean break to heal right.



Thursday, April 8, 2004

There's one thing I value above most others: loyalty.

Not blind loyalty; not stroke my ego and never say anything bad loyalty; not pretend I'm always right and never question me loyalty.

Very simply, you know that when I'm in your corner, I'm IN your corner, so don't blindside me with some random bullshit and act like I haven't had your back from day one.

When she decided to go the weak, emotional route when called out on her shit, I understand you taking her side. I can even forgive the impulsive protective response that led you to push me. I completely respect the fact that you came back and apologized.

I'll never forget how it all went down, though.

Through everything, every self-inflicted up and down, I stood behind the two of you and your decision when everyone else wanted to rip you apart for your fantasyland self-indulgence. I looked you both in the eye then and said, "If this is real, tell me, and I will support you 100% and will do everything I can to smooth things over with those you hurt."

Today, I'm the one hurt. The one that realizes the last two pieces of this unnecessary puzzle don't need to fit, as much as they just need to be discarded.

I"m done with both of you. That was a betrayal on a level there's no return from.

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Stolen, or "gronked," from the dread pirate, Tony Brown.

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

From the two books I'm carrying around these days (yes, I'm STILL reading them!):

"'You haven't given me the money for this week's groceries.'" (When I Was Puerto Rican, Esmeralda Santiago)

"But those who know the interdependence of man to be his major strength in the struggle out of the muck have not been wise in their exhortations and moral pronouncements that man is his brother's keeper." (Rules for Radicals, Saul D. Alinsky)

Tuesday, April 6, 2004 Sales Rank: 3
(as of 3:15pm, 4/6/04)

Track list:

1. William Hung Words of Gratitude
2. She Bangs
3. Bailamos
4. William Hung's Inspirational Thoughts (Passion)
5. I Believe I Can Fly
6. Hotel California
7. Can You Feel The Love Tonight
8. Two Worlds
9. William Hung Inspirational Thoughts (Perseverance)
10. Rocket Man
11. Free
12. Circle of Life
13. William Hung Inspirational Thought (Be Yourself)
14. Y.M.C.A. - featuring the Gonnabees
15. Shake Your Bon-Bon
You know you want to.
Fuck Kurt Cobain.



Monday, April 5, 2004

I. Poetry Slam, Inc.

Two poetry slam-related things I never expected to see:

1. Taylor Mali is the new President of Poetry Slam. Inc.

2. This.

The Taylor thing is actually an interesting wrinkle that could mean PSI becoming relevant again. People may not agree with Taylor's positions on a lot of things but there's no question that he'll bring a different approach to the organization and a fresh new energy. Of course, it could also be the final nail in the coffin as he unapologetically turns it into a competition that eschews any sense of community for purely cutthroat strategy and "whatever it takes to win." The inane 5x3 format they approved this weekend, and the expansion to 80 teams, suggests it could easily go in that direction. Check out Phil for more details on that.

Marc Smith writing a Complete Idiot's Guide to Slam Poetry, however, falls without question, into the latter category. The unmitigated gall of this hypocrite who accused so many of trying to cash in on his baby - "this thing that I created" - to publish something like this is don't even know what to say about it, really. I'm speechless!

II. louder than words

Saturday's second edition of louder than words was...interesting. A lighter, later-arriving turnout of scenesters than the first show, but encouraging for the higher percentage of unfamiliar faces in the audience.

While the show flowed better this time - those of you who showed up late hoping to miss my monologue got suckered as I already cut that from the format! - it was a bit more Inside the Actor's Studio than Crossfire - pretty much what I expected going in. Lacking any real friction between them, Bassey and Patricia spoke eloquently, offering some enlightening insights that really dug beneath the surface and showed them to be more than simply talented writers. Eric and I interacted a lot better than in the first show and Diane had some strong input but, as someone pointed out, there was a bit too much reverence overall. Outside of a couple of good comments - one during the initial discussion between Eric, Diane and I - there wasn't nearly as much audience interaction this time, either. This despite having Diane in the audience to solicit feedback. I suspect that was as much a function of the lack of sparks than anything else. It's the difference between the funny poem and the serious one and the tangible response each one typically receives.

Between the two shows, we have a lot to dissect as we tweak the format a bit more. I've got ideas - and feedback! - up the wazoo! We also have nearly seven weeks to plan the next one and make it really tight. With Cristin stepping in for Diane on May 21st, it will interesting to see how the dynamic of the show shifts as she'll bring an extra shot of energy and humor to the proceedings. Another friend of mine, not a poet and only a casual fan of poetry, told me she enjoyed the show but preferred poetry slams. "The energy." Lacking a competitive framework to provide it, it has to be manufactured, preferably organically. The key, I realize, is our two guests. They have to come from opposite sides of whatever issues we're covering and be willing to be outspoken in their defense of those issues.

III. The National Guard, Iraq and My Presidential Campaign

An old friend of mine from my NJ National Guard days - Claudia, the aforementioned who preferred the energy of poetry slams - surprised me and came out to the show on Saturday. I hadn't seen her in a few years and she'd recently dropped me an email out of the blue. She's still in the Guard, finally made Sergeant, and recently found out that she's being shipped off to Iraq within a month or so, for an 18 month tour! This is the same unit I was in before I got out in 1999. The thought sickens me on a number of levels. First is the thought of leaving behind my wife and kids for 18 months and the possibility of never seeing them again. The second is the thought of seeing Claudia's name on the news one night as another casualty of this ridiculous war. The third is a feeling of helplessness. The idea that that the NATIONAL GUARD is being shipped overseas in such great numbers, completely handicapping "homeland security" efforts which are already sorely undermanned in many major cities. The fourth is how much I despise George W. Bush and his crooked administration.

I may have found the answer to redirecting some of this pent-up rage, though. An outlet for me to put my thoughts together and, if successful, a chance to possibly influence some people and change some minds. My friend Danny gave me the heads up about this.

I'll keep you posted if anything comes of it. ;-)

Friday, April 2, 2004

Hit Urbana last night after the pleasantly unexpected distraction of 50%-off sushi. FRESH sushi! Yum.

Got there in time for the slam which, to my surprise, I kind of enjoyed. Over the years, Cristin has become my favorite host on the scene, hands down. She knows her audience, has impeccable comedic skills and timing, and is cute as hell. Makes a night where someone like RAC loses to some Steve Colman-lite guy bearable.

Speaking of RAC, I think she's officially become one of my favorite poets on the scene. Watching her last night was a breath of fresh air. Her writing is crystal clear and full of stark metaphors that tingle your spine, and she packs an honest emotional punch like few others I've ever seen/heard/read. Anytime I've seen her perform more than two poems, she's brought me near to tears. Offstage, she's an outspoken, no-holds-barred kind of person. Like Helen Yum, she's another one I'd never want to get on their bad side!

Her journal is also one of the more interesting ones I read, and her most recent post was...well, it was posted as a private entry so if you're not on her friends list you can't read it. There's plenty of public entries there that give you a sense of the person behind the poetry, though; interestingly enough, two very similar people as she's about as real as you'll ever come across.

I talked to her last night about doing the next louder than words, on May 21st, and she was interested. Need to find someone interesting to pair her up with, though. Since it's a Friday, Diane is unavailable - and Helen will have already relocated to Hawaii - so I asked Cristin if she'd be interested in subbing as the third host and she was down. I'm also thinking about bringing Taylor back at some point and pairing him up with Keith Roach, as potentially volatile a mix as you could imagine.

I missed Patricia's feature last night but got to talk to her after the slam and she is amped for tomorrow! It's going to be a good one. See you there?

PS: There's an interesting debate brewing over on the louder than words blog. Check it out and get in on the discussion.

Thursday, April 1, 2004

The feedback from louder than words has been great. Much of it overwhelmingly positive, and where there was critique, it was generally offered honestly and clearly. Eric, Helen, Diane and I met Tuesday night to digest it all and tweak the format in a way that puts more emphasis on - and sets aside more time for - the debate.

One of the comments we received - or, more correctly, I received as it was all directed at me - took issue with some of the things I said in my introduction, challenging me on both facts and opinion. The factual side of things was especially entertaining as the person offered this little gem:

If you're going to accuse folks of addressing issues in their poems without real investigation, make sure yr shit is supah-tight... eg. you called John Kerry a 'silver-spooner'. he isn't really. he was largely regarded as one of the poorest senators in government. he MARRIED into money.
Anyone that knows me over the past six months or so - and this person does, though obviously not as well as he once did - knows how closely I've been following the Democratic primaries and the candidates. I even specified that fact at the beginning of the intro he's referring to! To come at me half-assed on that subject, and on a factual level at that, is just stupid.

So, of course, I ripped him for it:

FYI: When it comes to debating politics with me, please come prepared with facts. While Kerry's wife is unquestionably loaded, Mr. JFK was doing just fine before her. Five seconds on Google would have kept you from embarassing yourself on that point:

"Kerry's father, a diplomat in the Foreign Service, and his mother, Rosemary, was a member of the Boston Brahmin Forbes family, whose wealth is drawn primarily from its land holdings on Cape Cod, made certain that Kerry received the best education that their positions could afford him. Kerry was educated at Swiss boarding schools and attended an elite private school in New Hampshire, before enrolling in Yale University."

Sounds pretty "silver-spooner" to me.

As for his being one of the poorest senators, I don't know where the hell you got that one from! Again, five seconds on Google:

"The top three wealthiest senators are Democrats: John Kerry of Massachusetts, with a net worth of at least $164 million; Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, with a net worth of at least $111 million, and John "Jay" Rockefeller of West Virginia, with an estimated net worth of at least $82 million...

Not all senators are millionaires. At least 10 senators reported net worths of less than $100,000."

Let me know if you need an explanation of Net Worth, or a breakdown of Theresa's money from his own. Or just Google it yourself.
It's one thing to get something wrong in the heat of a face-to-face debate - I've certainly done it quite often - but when you're sitting at home writing an email, TAKE A MINUTE TO GET YOUR SHIT RIGHT!

I love Google, by the way. I'm not nearly as smart as some people think I am, I just know how to do research. And more importantly, I like to do research. It's called intellectual curiousity, something too many people lack; poets, in particular.

My boss is lacking in that department, too. As a result, she's now on probation and has been told the situation is basically "irreparable." In other words, she's got about 60 days to find herself a new job! Sad situation as she's not a bad person. Just out of her league when it comes to marketing.

"Transferable skills" is one of the most underrated of business-world cliches. Despite her 20 years of publishing experience, mostly in ad sales, she brought nothing to the table from a marketing perspective. Or from a leadership perspective.

It's not unlike an amazing writer that is a bore onstage. Or the talented performer with the dry offstage personality. It's why so few poets make good organizers. Or, I suspect, good candidates for louder than words.

You may write amazing poems but can you back them up? Can you defend your choices as an artist? Can you speak intelligently outside of your personal frame of reference? Can you do these things in the spotlight and willingly take the risk of offending someone or embarassing yourself?

If so, drop me a note. We should talk.