Friday, May 28, 2004

Finished Matt Ruff's Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls yesterday. Absolutely amazing! He's one of a handful of writers I want to BE.

A description of the plot would be inadequate because his work is so layered and full of texture that it wouldn't do it justice. Kind of like explaining procreation in clinical terms. Suffice to say that his ability to convey a multitude of distinctive characters has never been stronger than in this twist on a coming-of-age tale of two people with multiple personality disorders. Each personality, or "soul" as he calls them, is as sharply drawn as any of the major characters in Fool on the Hill or Sewer, Gas & Electric: THE PUBLIC WORKS TRILOGY, and the way he presents life inside their heads is nothing short of brilliant.

That the story takes place in the real world, as opposed to the hyper-realistic fantasy settings of his first two books, is a testament to his versatility and a body blow to the idea that "fantasy" and "literary" are two separate genres.

The lives of Andy Gage and Penny Driver, the protagonists of House, will stick with me for a long time.

Up next: Crawfish Dreams, by Nancy Rawles, another random-while-browsing discovery. One chapter in and I'm liking her style.

New York City bid Eric a fond farewell last night with a summons for "open container/public alcohol" and a July 14 court date. I got an identical one.

Talk about not thinking! Eric was still at the store when I got to his place last night, so I parked behind his truck - which was parked right in front of the house he was living in - and sat up in the bed to wait for him. Five minutes later, he comes around the corner with a six-pack of Corona, a bag of pretzel twists and some unsalted cashews in tow. 15 minutes later, sitting in the back of the truck, we each have an open bottle when a police car drives by and interrupts our reminiscing. 30 minutes later, we each have identical summonses for our "quality of life" violation! If you can make it here...

Safe travels, my friend, and best wishes. I'll miss having you around, but more than most, I fully understand where you're heading.

This just in:

Wednesday, August 4th @ the Blue Ox Bar
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

[the new bio]
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez is a Mets fan from the Bronx, and has a beautiful wife and two amazing kids. He won some poetry slams, founded a reading series, co-authored a book of poetry, and still writes when the mood hits him and he has the time. He prefers India Pale Ale and Pumpkin Stout, still reads comic books, and hasn't completely let go of his plans for world domination. Check out for even more things you didn't want to know about him.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Cause the whole, world, loves it when you don't get down
(bah da, bah bah bah-da da)
And the whole, world, loves it when you make that sound
(bah da, bah bah bah-da da)
And the whole, world, loves it when you're in the news
(bah da, bah bah bah-da da)
And the whole, world, loves it when you sing the blues
(bah da, bah bah bah-da da)

--Whole World, Outkast
An interesting talk with Omar last night left me with mixed emotions, like an addict who no longer really craves the high but still can't quite break the habit.

Having slept on it - and still not having heard back from Bob - I'm pretty sure I don't want to do another louder than words, and even more positive about not wanting to do some variation on it. If I'm being honest with myself, the format needs more work than I'm willing to give it, and more of a committment to promoting than I'm able to give it. If this were a few years back, when both my profile and concern for the community were much higher, it might be different.

Add in the fact that I lost the need to be onstage shortly after coming back last year - and the past three shows, while varying levels of fun, didn't really change anything there - other than habit, there's no good reason I can think of for me to continue the show.

Of course, that doesn't mean someone else shouldn't do it.

It also doesn't mean I can't monkey-rig my original idea for a different forum, either on its own or as part of Word Street or GotPoetry.

Either way, I need to make a decision by Tuesday. If I haven't heard back from Bob by then, it'll certainly make it a lot easier.

One good thing to come from all of this is that I can officially cross #3 off my To Do list for the run-up to 35. If only I could say the same about the first two things on the list.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

George Clooney's tattoos in From Dusk Til Dawn are among my all-time favorites.

I got my first tattoo well into my Twenties - a stylized bat, red and black, on my right upper arm - back in 1995 or 1996. Somewhere in Toms River after getting lost trying to find Seaside Heights where I'd never been but assumed was a good place to find a tattoo parlor. Myself and two friends had been talking about it for a couple of weeks and one of them finally decided she was ready so we headed south on the Parkway that following weekend. This was the same friend I'd moved to Miami Beach with years earlier who'd lasted two months shorter than I did. Not surprisingly, she ended up being the only one that left the parlor untouched that day, having lost her nerve after watching us get ours done.

The bat, a slightly modified version of one I picked out of the artist's portfolio, was actually my nod to Batman! Realizing I'd be seen as a total moron if I got the actual Bat symbol, I wanted something that would evoke the same idea for me when I looked at it but not be so obvious to others. Mission accomplished and, unlike many people and their first tattoos, I still like it to this day.

Salomé and I have been talking about getting new tattoos for a couple of years now, as well as fixing the ones we got on our honeymoon in Mexico. Mine, on my left upper arm, a tribalish band with her name bracketed in the middle, is smaller than I'd like it. The fact that I didn't have it go all the way around my arm seems especially lame now, too, but I wasn't up for that kind of pain. It was a purely spontaneous idea, too, and admittedly a little scary as we weren't sure how wise it was getting them done in tourist-ridden Cancun, in the midst of unsupervised teenagers getting roses and Tweety Birds scratched into their skin.

The pain wasn't really that bad - especially not compared to Salomé's who got her's at the base of her spine - and as I have a certain fascination with intense pain, it wasn't a big deal at all. But that part of your arm, underneath your bicep, is particularly sensitive and, from what I've heard, one of the more painful tattoos to get.

As a result, WHAT exactly I want to do with that one, I haven't really figured out yet. All that way around, for sure. Thicker, for sure. Repositioning Salomé's name, for sure. Perhaps a second, overlapping band in red?

Or, leave it alone for now and get a new one? What and where, though, is an even bigger quandry.

Since we've decided not to take a trip for this anniversary - our 6th! - we'll probably take care of our tattoos instead. That gives me seven weeks to figure it out.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The front page of today's Daily News proclaims: TEAR DOWN THAT PRISON, inferring a ridiculous comparison of Bush's speech last night and Reagan's infamous "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" speech at the Berlin Wall.

I wondered last night whether or not the US had continued to use any of the German concentration camps once they had been liberated to house German civilians? enemy combatants? insurgents prisoners of war at the end of World War II, but everything I've come across suggests that conditions were so horrible at most of them that they had to be burned to the ground.

Interestingly, Abu Ghraib during Saddam's reign was [still is] often referred to as a concentration camp, where numerous Iraqis were sent and never seen again. And yet, knowing its reputation, we thought it was a good idea for us to set up camp there and use it to detain Iraqis ourselves, many of whom were dragged from their homes in the middle of the night by their supposed liberators, the US military.

Families live in fear of midnight call by US patrols
by Daniel McGrory, The Times Online, 9 July 2003

NEVER again did families in Baghdad imagine that they need fear the midnight knock at the door. But in recent weeks there have been increasing reports of Iraqi men, women and even children being dragged from their homes at night by American patrols, or snatched off the streets and taken, hooded and manacled, to prison camps around the capital.

Children as young as 11 are claimed to be among those locked up for 24 hours a day in rooms with no light, or held in overcrowded tents in temperatures approaching 50C (122F).

On the edge of Baghdad International Airport, US military commanders have built a tent city that human rights groups are comparing to the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Remarkably, the Americans have also set up another detention camp in the grounds of the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad. Many thousands of Iraqis were taken there during the Saddam years and never seen again.

Every day, relatives scuff their way along the dirt track to reach the razor wire barricades surrounding Abu Ghraib, where they plead in vain for information about the whereabouts of the missing.

The response from impassive American sentries is to point to a sign, scrawled in red felt-tip pen on a piece of cardboard hanging on the barbed wire, which says: "No visits are allowed, no information will be given and you must leave."
Remarkably, this article is nearly a year old!

One of the things we talked about during the first part of the show on Friday was this sense of "right" and "wrong" in a time of war and how ultimately pointless they are to those actually dodging bullets on the ground. 18- and 21-year olds with minimal education or training, thousands of miles from home and the possibility of ever getting back lessening with each passing day. If they're not being served up as cannon fodder on the frontlines, they're being hung out to dry as scapegoats. All to pay for the sins of their leaders.

Our leaders.

POP QUIZ: Who's your Representative in Congress? Did you vote in the election that put him/her in office? Did he/she vote to authorize this war? Have you ever written him/her to express your feelings on the state of the union?

While wars are eventually defined by a handful of individual moments, those moments - good and bad - are simply highlighted details from a much bigger picture. Many times they're highlighted to distract from a larger flaw, like makeup on a blemish.

The abuse at Abu Ghraib is one particularly ugly detail from an even uglier bigger picture, one depicting incompetence at the highest levels of command, the ill-conceived plans of a group of fanatics, and, if one were to step back far enough to see, the beginning of the end of an era.

POP QUIZ: If, as Nancy Pelosi argued yesterday ("The emperor has no clothes. When are people going to face the reality?"), George W. Bush is the emperor, what does that make his fellow Skull & Bones'er, John F. Kerry, who's only difference on the war lies in procedural rhetoric?

--"Under conditions of tyranny it is far easer to act than to think."
Hannah Arendt

Monday, May 24, 2004

Five things I want for Father's Day:

1. Fool On the Hill 1ST Edition Signed, from

2. Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, and anything else on my wish list.

3. Gift Card from Midtown Comics.

4. A 2004 Mini Cooper S.

5. El Nopalito Boutique & Restaurant in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. (pictured)

Sunday, May 23, 2004

On Saturday, I lost my glasses on Nitro (the roller coaster at Great Adventure), a fitting epilogue to the tough lesson that was Friday's watershed louder than words show.

I had low expectations for the Friday slot to begin with, but twenty-one paid in the audience - the majority of whom were supportive friends/co-workers from outside of the poetry scene and much of the extended Acentos family - was even worse than I'd expected. Glaringly absent were many of the usual suspects from the scene, or as one person put it, those most likely to be on the receiving end of critique.

Imagine that?

The show itself went relatively well, especially once I swallowed my pride and we decided to push on and have fun with it despite the disappointing turnout. Eric, Cristin, RAC and Keith Roach were great, and there was quality audience interaction throughout the show. The end result, though, left a bad taste in my mouth and the future of the show in serious doubt.

Losing money on the show is part of it, but the bigger issue is the decreasing audience and whether or not the format can generate enough of one to make it viable. Interestingly, the number of non-poetry friends/co-workers and Acentos regulars has stayed pretty consistent over the three shows, it's the "scenesters" that have noticeably decreased each time.

From the beginning my worry has been whether it's a little too insider for a general audience, a point a non-poetry friend of mine confirmed after the second show, saying she preferred the energy of the slam. Where Politically Incorrect could draw a significant portion of its audience from the fame of its celebrity guests, poets are nowhere near as famous as they like to think they are, especially when you can catch most of them in a regular slam any given day of the week.

Factor in the rampant pettiness of the scene, where personal issues mean certain guests, or hosts, will guarantee a depressed turnout, and you have a recipe for, if not failure, definitely a tougher road than necessary.

Add in the final ingredient, my being on the fence about doing the show anyway, and you can hear the fat lady clearing her throat.

Keith Roach made a point that I wholeheartedly agree with: slam, having fulfilled its original goal of developing a new audience for poetry, has now lost its way.

Where Bob Holman sees louder than words as providing some much-needed critique for the slam/performance poetry scene, I'm starting to see it more like M.C. Siegel charactized it in his write-up of the show:

...a more formal version of what usually goes on at Acentos after everyone leaves and just a handful of us are left over. We all sit around Guy, and he'll just do his thing....running down the whole history of the scene and hashing [out] all its major debates.
Not a bad thing, neccesarily, but perhaps not something that belongs on stage. Not yet, at least.

This scene isn't ready for critique and, more importantly, it hasn't reached a point where such critique is of interest to anyone outside of the scene.

I'll admit, it's hard not to take it personally as I realize it being my show can be blamed for at least 10-15 people who might have otherwise come out for it not doing so. That's something I knew going in, though. It's a bed I've made over the years that I actually sleep quite comfortably in.

More disappointing, however, is that it leaves me unable to give something back to the format that gave me the opportunity to have a voice to begin with. Or, unable to give it back the way I'd like to, at least.

And that right there might be the answer.

If the community itself isn't ready for critique; and the audience that supports it sees it simply as a form of entertainment that doesn't really need it - kind of like summer movies full of explosions; then the answer lies in finding the missing link.

A bi-annual journal, maybe? Online, where production costs are less of a concern? With downloadable video and audio clips? In conjunction with an existing entity, like SlamChannel?

Honestly, I have no idea. I literally just thought of all that as I typed it.

The bottom line is, pending hearing something back from Bob that drastically changes my feelings about things, the likelihood of another show happening this summer in serious doubt.

Contrary to popular belief, I have no problem admitting to failure and right now, louder than words, as well-intentioned as it was, is starting to walk and quack like the proverbial duck.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Late-day Randomness...

What's your personality?

You are an ENTP!
As an ENTP, you are Extraverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, and Perceiving.
This makes your primary focus on Extraverted Intuition with Introverted Thinking.

This is defined as a NT personality, which is part of Carl Jung's Rational (Knowledge Seeking) type, and more specifically the Inventors or Visionary.

As a weblogger, your love for a discussion may cause you to debate things more often. You might also flit from idea to idea, not completing one before going to the next. Your largest sense is intution, which makes you a good at understanding what is going on around you - and this could act to your benefit when making blog-like posts over a journal.

Human for Sale

You are worth exactly: $2,120,594.00.

We hope you can find somebody who is wealthy enough to afford you.

Tony Brown has an interesting column this week "on political poetry and the sins committed in its name." Some good stuff, one point in particular that I think I'll bring up in tonight's show:

The problem as I see it is that a lot of poets seem to think that talking about the revolution is all it takes to make them revolutionaries.

It has more to do with the idea that the phrase has become, for much of our audience, a phrase that immediately evokes certain images. Each person who hears the word “revolution” in a poem goes somewhere – for some, it’s an immediate rush of recognition and approval; for others, it’s a turn off, maybe even a fear based thing; and for others, it may create a feeling of “been there, done that – here’s yet another ‘revolution’ poem”.

And there are those among all of these groups of listeners who may never really hear the poem, as a result. They go to the place the phrase takes them, and stay there, not hearing anything new and exciting in the poem. Use such a phrase too often and it’s almost as if the phrase becomes dead, in some way; barring poets who can take it and breathe life back into it, it eventually becomes a cliche, a slogan.
He classifies this type of work as "sloganeering, the use of phrases and abstractions that evoke immediate sympathy or emotion in the audience, but which really tell you very little about the situation at hand in the poem." I completely agree.

Years of running the slam at the Nuyorican should give Keith Roach, in particular, a lot to say about this subject!

Congratulations to Oscar Bermeo for taking food out of my kids' mouths winning the 2004 BRIO Award for Poetry! Seriously, though, if I couldn't win it, he's one of a small handful I can sincerely bow to for receiving the honor.

Of course, I'm fully expecting him to buy me a couple of celebratory beers once he gets the check!


Thursday, May 20, 2004

Yummy Sandwich. Yummy Sandwich. Yummy Sandwich. Yummy Sandwich. Yummy Sandwich.

[I want to make sure this gets picked up by any Google searches for these ignorant bastards.]

Yummy Sandwich is one of those "take-in" lunch services that corporations sign on with to keep you from wasting their time by leaving your desk and going outside for lunch. In their PowerPoint presentation, they break down the total time spent getting take-out (1 hour, 18 minutes) vs. ordering for delivery (1 hour, 38 minutes) vs. Yummy Sandwich (33 minutes).

They also annoyingly refer to the delivery "boy," a seemingly minor thing until you get to slide #17:

Why Yummy Sandwich?

Enhance tenant security and front desk management.
Yummy Sandwich means less outside food deliveries, fewer illegal immigrants in the building, a decrease in lobby traffic, and an overall decline in front desk disturbances.
Because all delivery "boys" are illegal immigrants, of course.

I so hate Corporate America today.
New York City at night is a beautiful thing. I love walking the streets, breathing in cool, crisp air and not having to deal with the obstacle course of confused and starry-eyed tourists that clog the sidewalks during the day.

As dive bars go, few can match Rudy's on Ninth Avenue up in Hell's Kitchen. (I refuse to call it by its gentrified name, Clinton.) $8 pitchers, free hot dogs and one of the coolest jukeboxes in the city. Back-to-back Hall & Oates songs made my night! The Boomtown Rats' I Don't Like Mondays was a pleasant discovery, too.

Once inside, you can forget that the Disneyfied, tourist-ridden streets of Times Square and the Theater District are only a couple of blocks away. The clientele has changed a bit over the years, getting younger and pseudo-hip, and I don't remember the backyard being open - but with the Mets game on the TV over the bar, it's still a perfect spot for drinking and jawboning with a best friend about to hit the road. (Yeah, I said "jawboning.")

In between random talk of everything from life in the military to the beauty of Colorado to the awkwardness of dealing with "divorced" friends, we decided to scrap much of the formality for tomorrow night's show and send him west with a healthy dose of irrereverance and a nod of recognition lacking from other quarters.

Personally, I plan to have a lot of fun with the whole thing. Judging by RAC's promo - "the five of us are gonna make out until someone gets pregnant or stabbed. then i get to read some poems." - she is, too.

louder than words
Friday, May 21 @ 8pm SHARP!
308 Bowery, NYC
Cover: $6

Special Guests:
RAC McKibbens & Keith Roach
w/Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
Eric Thomas Guerrieri
Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz
If for no other reason, come on out and wish Eric well. Maybe even thank him for his contributions to the scene, because there's never enough of that.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Formerly known as Pumpkin Seeds:

1. Esmeralda Santiago's When I Was Puerto Rican is without question the best autobiography I've ever read. Her writing is vibrant, fluid, and concise. Her evocation of life in PR as Americanization slowly seeps in is deadeye brilliant, and her transition to life in the margins in Brooklyn is heart-rending. She never uses a hammer to make her points, choosing the subtle, the offhand, the seemingly innocuous instead. Edwidge Danticat should take notes. Ernesto Quinones should be embarrased.

2. What ever happened to Junot Diaz?

3. Up next, Matt Ruff's Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls.

4. Salomé thinks I should write something about my mother's two-week visit that ended on Saturday but there's really nothing interesting to say as it was all pleasantly uneventful. (Except for that whole out late with the car thing last Tuesday!) She came, she saw, she left happy. Salomé and I got some us-time for a couple of nice dinners and a movie, while she got to spend quality time with her grandkids. All good.

5. Van Helsing was a lot fun. It's what Stephen Sommers does best: fun, loud action movies with a high wink-wink factor. Richard Roxburgh steals the movie with his over-the-top, inspired-by-Christopher Walken take on Dracula. I also love that Kevin J. O'Connor (Igor) remains Sommers' go-to comic relief guy.

6. I give in. Kate Beckinsale is hot!

7. Even better than Van Helsing, though, was the preview for Vin Diesel's Pitch Black sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick. Zoinks!

8. The Fifth Element is one of the most underrated movies ever. They need to release a legit DVD package for it.

9. Comic books. Dungeons & Dragons. XBox. Mid-life crisis? Or rebirth?

10. U.S. Army Says It Finds Shell with Sarin Agent in Iraq. Convenient timing, no? How long before Osama Bin Laden is released from holding captured?

Sunday, May 16, 2004

It was a year ago, almost to the day, that I went to St. Mark's Comics with Omar and got hooked on comic books again. "Hooked" in that crackhead sense, apparently, as after buying a legit box for them, I've realized the sense of control I thought I had over what, and how much, I was buying turned out to be a severe case of denial.

For some reason, I thought the long boxes held 100 comics and was surprised when my nascent collection didn't fill it completely. So I counted...and realized I've bought over 200 comics in the past year!


I'm still pretty selective about what I buy, mostly avoiding the speculator mentality, especially in regards to the variant cover schemes. What surprised me most was the number of different titles I'm really enjoying and happily buying on a regular basis. The Losers and Gotham Central are still tops on my list, but I've branched out quite a bit over the year and am buying upwards of 15-20 comics a month!

One of the things I've noticed over the past year are certain names I've come to recognize as regularly writing stories I really like. Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker are amazing on Gotham Central. Andy Diggle's The Losers makes me jealous, though his take on Swamp Thing is, so far, a bit too far out for my tastes, though well-written. Paul Jenkins' pitch-perfect Spectacular Spider-Man has kept me hooked even after born-to-draw-Spider-Man artist Humberto Ramos left the book.

It was Jenkins' spin on G.I. Joe in Cobra:Reborn that made me think the new G.I. Joe: Reloaded was going to be a good one, but it bombed badly in its first regular issue, which Jenkins didn't write.

That's one of the good and bad things about finding writers you like: you tend to follow them onto other books. Much moreso than artists, I think, as a strong story can save average art but even Jim Lee couldn't make some of the stuff that gets published worth buying. That might be the writer in me talking, though.

The good side is obvious, especially if they have some range and can pull off different genres, like Greg Rucka, who actually got me to buy my first ever Superman comic (Adventures of Superman #627) and as a result, I've now added it to my regular list. Which is, of course, the bad side and how I've now ended up buying twice as many comics each month as I'd ever intended.

Then there's the case of a writer you feel like you should like and give them every chance to win you over, but to no avail. Case in point: Neil Gaiman. After his less-than-satisfying novel, American Gods, I thought maybe comics were his strong suit and followed up his mini-series 1602. Unfortunately, the same problems that plagued American Gods popped up in 1602: interesting ideas and great moments ultimately hobbled by sloppy plotting, tedious exposition and an unsatisfying climax.

Some of the comics (and writers) currently on my regular list, in something close to an order of preference:

Gotham Central, Greg Rucka & Ed Brubaker
The Losers, Andy Diggle
Conan, Kurt Busiek adapting from Robert E. Howard
Bite Club*, Howard Chaykin
NYX, Joe Quesada
Teen Titans, Geoff Johns
Ultimate Fantastic Four, Brian Michael Bendia & Mark Millar
Spectacular Spider-Man, Paul Jenkins
Wolverine: The End*, Paul Jenkins
Batman: Death & The Maidens*, Greg Rucka
Batman: Gothic Knights, A.J. Lieberman
New Mutants (Reloading next month as New X-Men: Academy X), Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir
Batgirl, Dylan Horrocks
Daredevil: Father, Joe Quesada
Enginehead*, Joe Kelly
Micronauts, Dan Jolley

(* mini-series)
While I came across some of these while revisiting old favorites (Micronauts, New Mutants), several of them were unheralded discoveries that I stumbled upon while browsing. Gotham Central, in particular, stands out in that regard as it was an interview with its regular artist, Michael Lark, that got me curious. His passion for the book was so palpable, I went out and bought the first 7 issues that had already been published before reading a single one of them! It's now up to issue #19 and getting better and better each month.

For others, it was the artwork that caught my eye, but it's the writing that keeps me coming back, ie: NYX, Bite Club and Enginehead - the latter of which, after two issues, I'm still not sure what I think of it!

FYI: Free Comic Book Day is on July 3rd. Visit your local comic book store and pick up a few. There's something for almost everyone's tastes being published these days and I'd bet money that you'd be surprised to find something you liked.

Friday, May 14, 2004

I may be speaking a bit prematurely on this but I'm bored at work and excited about the potential of this new wrinkle that's come up.

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I wasn't feeling the idea of continuing louder than words after Eric heads west. One of the keys to the show was our tight relationship that allows us to smacktalk each other without offending.

After some solo thinking on it, I asked Omar - one of the few people I share a similar rapport with - if he'd be interested in stepping in. He was, but more importantly, he offered some great - if belated! - feedback on the format itself. Similar to what several others have said, he basically felt there were too many hosts and that it should have more of a Bill Maher-driven, Politically Incorrect format. From the beginning, that's pretty much what Bob was looking for, too - me in the driver's seat.

While I'm not a particularly modest person, I'm not an egomaniac either, and I've continually balked at the idea of centering the show around me. I realize, however, that the control freak in me will never allow anyone to be a full partner in anything I do. It was most apparent during the first night of the show which by all accounts - and the videotape - I completely dominated. The second show was a bit more balanced as I pulled back, but at the same time, it felt a lot less dynamic. At first I thought that was a result of the lack of friction between Bassey and Patricia as opposed to the inherent polarity of Taylor and Roger, but now I'm thinking otherwise.

That said, I still like the idea of regular co-hosts I can count on to participate and not clam up or go into rope-a-dope mode when things get interesting. A little bit more than an Andy Richter, a little bit less than a Kelly Ripa, I suppose?

To spice things up even more, this morning I got a surprise email from Bassey, saying she'd love to be a regular part of the show, too! I've gotten similar offers since the first show - Taylor Mali, in particular, who I think owuld steal the idea if I decided to can it! - but none have been as appealing as the prospect of working with Bassey on something.


Me and Bassey and Omar?

Makes me giddy thinking about it!

BUT - and this is a big one, the kind Sir Mix-a-Lot would appreciate - Omar posed an important question that I haven't yet been able to answer, and that is the question of WHY I'm doing the show to begin with.

Is it simply a response to my personal issues with louderARTS? Or the larger national poetry slam scene? Do I just want to dis the people and things that annoy me, like an onstage version of this journal?

Or, am I actually trying to accomplish the rather high-minded goal that Bob has put forth for the show, offering a "LIVE & in yr FACE" critique of poetry?

The latter option is the only legitimate one. It's also the most intimidating and, even on a monthly basis, requires the kind of committment I'm not sure I want to give it. There's also the question of how appealing that angle is to a general audience.

Of course, answering this question becomes a lot more palatable with the prospect of having Bassey and Omar in the mix.

Stay tuned.

And, you know, offer some feedback.

Because everything I do, I do it...for you.
Another valuable lesson for disaffected Americans that think voting is a waste of time:

'Queen Sonia' Is India PM-In-Waiting; Markets Crash
By Terry Friel, Fri May 14, 2004 09:57 AM ET

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Italian-born Sonia Gandhi stitched up broad political support on Friday to become India's next prime minister, but investors panicked at her pivotal alliance with left-wing parties.

Thousands of supporters partied in the street outside Gandhi's home, singing songs, beating drums and showering her with flower petals when she made a brief appearance, celebrating Thursday's shock election win over the ruling Hindu nationalists.

"Sonia, we are with you!" some shouted, as she waved and shook hands. All day, more supporters arrived crammed into tractor-trailers and by car.

Gandhi's Congress won the most seats in the 545-member parliament, but her coalition fell short of a majority and she has had to lobby for new partners, especially the country's left-wing groups.

She has been promised their support. But the country's markets, which at first welcomed Gandhi's big win as a sign of stability, plunged after a day of criticism by key communist leaders of economic reforms -- especially plans to sell India's inefficient and monolithic state firms...

The world's largest democracy has been stunned by the size of the Congress win over veteran Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who was rejected by disaffected poor angry at missing out on the benefits of India's economic boom.
Couple of interesting points made in the full article, and elsewhere, including the fact that Gandhi's Congress was considered dead in the water when the ruling party actually "called the election six months early to cash in on a boooming economy, bumper harvests and the prospects of peace with Pakistan."

Also interesting is the negative reaction by the stock market to the suprise victory. Not the least bit surprising that what's good for the people is perceived as bad for investors. The reality of capitalism and globalization.

Are you registered to vote yet? Even if you pull the lever for Ralph Nader, or write-in your own name (or Dennis Kucinich...hint, hint!), casting a vote is always preferable to staying home.

Silence isn't a protest, it's consent.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Should I stay or should I go now?
"Me entra frio por los ojos" (y es verdad)
If I go there will be trouble
Si me voy va a haber peligro
And if I stay it will be double
Si me quedo va a ser doble
So you gotta let me know
Me tienes que decir
Should I stay or should I go?
"Me entra frio por los ojos"

Should I Stay Or Should I Go, The Clash
I've often joked about variations on how much I'd love to find a deserted island and bring my closest friends and family there to live, away from the insanity of the rest of the world. Lately, the thought keeps popping into my head in a more serious manner as I question whether or not I want to live in this country anymore.

The idea of buying a house and settling down in some semi-suburban community has always terrified me. That irrational sense of dread has morphed recently into a sense of foreboding, a feeling akin to a time traveler stepping onto the maiden voyage of the Titanic. Or one poised to buy Enron stock at its peak.

I feel like this war in Iraq and everything surrounding it is merely a symptom of a much larger ill: the death knell of an era.

My mother, naturally, believes it's all a sign of the end of this system of things and Jesus is about to come down and settle some debts on his father's behalf.

When Spain elected a majority Socialist government a month or two ago, I jokingly suggested to Salomé that we move there.

I'm starting to think that it's less and less of a joke.

There's an interesting and passionate debate going on in Tony Brown's journal that you should all check out. [EDIT: The debate got a little too passionate and was deleted. Check the follow-up to see if it picks up again.]

I'm now going to try to pretend I still give a damn a get some work done today.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Lawmakers Say New Abuse Photos Even Worse
By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops went beyond the photos seen by most Americans, shaken lawmakers said Wednesday after viewing fresh pictures and video that they said depicted forced sex, brutality and dogs snarling at cowed prisoners.

"I don't know how the hell these people got into our army," said Colorado Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell after viewing what he called a fraction of the images.

Not everyone reacted the same way to the additional photos.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said he thought "some people are overreacting."

"The people who are against the war are using this to their political ends," he said.
The difference between us and them?

They videotape the brutal decapitation of an American civilian and deliver a defiant anti-American message, and we are appalled by their actions.

We photograph the deliberate humiliation and physical and sexual assault of several Iraqi civilians - possibly to illegally assist in interrogations, possibly out of boredom - and are appalled by their reaction.

We abhor the idea of their targetting American civilians.

We have no problem rousting their villages, arresting everyone in sight for interrogations that violate international standards.

We define them by the actions of a few.

We reject being defined by the actions of a few.


"America, America. Let us pray for our country. Let us love our country. Let us defend our country not only from the threats without but from the threats within. Crown thy good, America. Crown thy good with brotherhood, and sisterhood. And crown thy good with compassion and restraint and forbearance and a commitment to peace, to democracy, to economic justice here at home and throughout the world.

Crown thy good, America. Crown thy good America. Crown thy good."

--Dennis Kucinich, February 17, 2002
The stock market's been getting pummeled over the past week - with the Dow dropping below 10,000 again - despite three months of optimistic job growth and starry-eyed predictions of a full-on economic recovery. Much as the pundits want to, though, you can't force a rebound to happen with wishful thinking, and you can't play the smoke and mirrors game when the surface numbers don't play along. Three months of admittedly impressive job gains don't even come close to offsetting the previous three years of hemorrhaging, especially when many of these new jobs are lower-paying - with inferior or non-existent benefits - than the ones that have been lost.

Between the truth about the economy and the increasingly disastrous situation in Iraq, you'd think John Kerry would be a shoo-in in November, with people abandoning Dubya in double digit percentages by now.

Of course, you'd be wrong.

The problem with Kerry is he isn't a true alternative to Bush. He's just a new suit of clothes for the emperor. Same tailoring, same fabric, different color...assembled in the same sweatshop Bush came out of. Right now, it's a personality game and Bush is holding onto a slim lead despite it all.

Kerry's stance on Iraq is simply that Bush botched things, not that the war itself and his whole approach to fighting "terrorism" are fundamentally flawed. Not only would Kerry continue the war as President, he'd send more troops to fight it!

His stance on big business is basically the same as Bush's, with for-profit insurance companies continuing to decide who deserves quality health care with an eye at the bottom line. He also voted for the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that "paved the way for the current media consolidation and huge cable television fee increases."

The fact of the matter is Kerry is a store brand band-aid on a gaping neck wound.

In related news, I think it's time for a little Wal-Mart refresher.

About Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart has 1,494 stores, 1,386 Supercenters, 532 Sam's Clubs and 56 Neighborhood Markets in the United States. The company has 1.1 million employees in the U.S. - the second largest employer in the nation next to the Department of Defense! - and about 300,000 overseas.

In February of 2000, a dozen meat cutters in the Jacksonville, Texas, Wal-Mart voted for representation by UFCW Local 540. By July of that year, the company had abruptly replaced fresh meat with pre-packaged products in all of its stores, neatly eliminating the need for skilled meat cutters and rendering the election moot. The company was reportedly proud of its novel "union avoidance strategy."

Wal-Mart employees earn 20% less than those at unionized supermarkets.

Only 38% of Wal-Mart employees have company provided health insurance--compared to a national average that shows 60% of employees are covered by company plans.

Three existing community jobs are destroyed for every two new jobs at Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart is the number one retailer in Canada and Mexico as well as the US.

Wal-Mart owns ASDA, the UK’s largest supermarket chain.

From Wal-Mart Watch, Corporate Swine, Inc. and The Labor Research Association
How much is that slightly cheaper [insert item here] worth to you?

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

What do American Idol and poetry slam have in common?

A little bit of irony to set it up first.

As a kid, I was notorious for always being late. Not a few minutes late, either, but often an hour or more. Because my mother was pretty strict, I knew 5 minutes was as bad as 5 hours and so always pushed it past its limits. After I became too old for the belt, I spent a lot of time on punishment. One of the more extreme came two days before I was supposed to take my road test for my license and my punishment was waiting another year. At 16, living in the suburbs, the only thing worse than spending a year longer than your friends without a license was explaining that it was because you'd come home a couple of hours later than you were supposed to.

Tonight, my mother was supposed to be back by 6pm, in time for me to get over to Acentos. By 7pm, still not having heard from her, I left her a playfully annoyed message about a stolen car. By 8pm, I was getting worried and left her another message. When she finally called back, at 8:45pm, she was fine, hanging out in Westchester and expecting to be home by 10:30pm. Night, meet ruined.

As a result, I ended up catching most of American Idol and had a minor revelation on why the show has lost a lot of its appeal. In the first two seasons, there was a certain innocence to the singers. Many of them weren't very good, several pretty terrible, but some of them had real potential. More importantly, they were genuinely appreciative of the opportunity and took nothing for granted.

Fast forward to this season, where the instantly-rejected William Hung has had more success than season one runner-up Justin Guarini, and the nominal favorite, Latoya London goes through the motions, pointing out that at this point, "we're all winners. We all have careers ahead of us after this." Excepting Fantasia Barino and, in recent weeks, Diana DeGarmo, they've all delivered safe, uninspired performances, the hunger and energy dissipating with each passing week. The sense of entitlement and the ego that goes along with it, however, grows ever larger.

Totally reminds me of the evolution of the poetry slam over the past seven years as the stakes have been raised and "careers" can be made via a National Poetry Slam Finals appearance. What was once vibrant and edgy can now be easily classified; the once unpredictable, now painfully so.
Today's navel-gazing missive about the meaning of life and the fallacy of the American Dream will be pre-empted for in-the-moment coverage of some late-breaking news: my main man Eric Guerrieri is leaving town.


He just called me a little while ago with the news that he's moving to two weeks! It's a great, if bittersweet, opportunity for him and I'm simultaneously happy for him and selfishly pissed.

If Bassey is my little sister from the poetry scene, Eric is my twin brother. From those first days when I wasn't sure where he was coming from to the present where he's one of a few I'd take a bullet for, we've been through a lot together, poetically and beyond. Fiercely independent, unafraid to offend, funny as hell and smarter than most, I sometimes think he's a parrallel universe version of the me that Salomé decided not to save from himself. A kindred spirit in a haunted house full of vampires.

Beyond the personal side of things where I'll miss him most, his leaving throws louder than words into question. When I first came up with the idea, I knew I wanted a co-host and I knew I wanted him to be that co-host. We think on the same wavelength and, even when we don't agree with each other we have the ability to get into heated debates without it ever getting personal. It was that very aspect of our friendship that birthed the concept of the show.

Frankly, I'm not sure I'd be interested in continuing it without him.

It's kind of weird being in the position of the friend left behind since I've always been the one on the move - whether physically or psychologically. I remember when we had officially decided to move to Virginia, when everyone else was questioning it and calling us crazy, Eric wrote a poem that he read at my farewell show that explained how he didn't fully understand our decision until he watched us sitting together one night, unself-consciously folded into each other, obviously in love. In the darkest hours of 2002, I watched the tape of that night and it was those words that kicked me in the head and set me back in the right direction.

There is something in Eric that reminds me of S.T. George, the main character in my favorite book ever, Fool on the Hill. It is the fact that both of them not only believe in magic...they're capable of making it.

Monday, May 10, 2004

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
--Andy Warhol
Thanks to the new and improved Blogger, say goodbye to the angry pumpkin and welcome pragmatic idealism!

Kind of like the sad women on The Swan, the changes here are all cosmetic; the ugly "insides" remain. Unlike their nose jobs and breast implants - that The Swan's doctors should have their licenses pulled for performing - I'm liking my new look.

Blogger now has its own comments function so the tag board and guestbook are history. Since it went down over the weekend and is still out of commission, the site meter is gone, too. Probably a good thing since I checked it obsessively throughout the day! Assuming I'm able to handle the withdrawal, I'll leave it off.
Pumpkin Seeds: Survivor Edition

1. Call me a sap but last night's Survivor catapulted the show back to the top of my favorites list. Rob proposing to Amber, before the winner was declared, was one of the coolest TV moments ever. EVER!

2. There was more drama, humor and energy in last night's three-hour finale than in the last three seasons of Friends.

3. For all those complaining about reality shows being bad for TV and being of lesser-quality than its scripted counterparts, Survivor is the George McKibbens that shoots that theory down.

4. Speaking of George, the Urbana trio has appropriately dropped out of tonight's 13 slam finals, effectively voiding the semi-finals results and making way for the remaining three people that hadn't made a team yet to step in. (Jive Poetic and Carlos Gomez made the Providence team [?!?!?!] and Diane Roy stuck to her guns and passed on the second chance.) Hooray for Rich Villar, in particular, whose presence along with Fish & Jai almost makes me want to set aside my issues and go. Of course, I won't, but if there's a deity out there watching over slam, I hope he sees fit to have those three, Abena Koomson and Mahogany Brown make the team.

5. There's only two women in tonight's finals.

6. After an exuberant Mother's Day Weekend with a house full of family on Saturday and a quiet, relaxing Sunday, the last place I want to be today is at work. Last week's funk hasn't lifted and I'm getting dangerously close to the "fuck it" zone.

7. Days like today make me want to head for the hills, stockpile weapons and home school my kids.

8. I've now received two copies of an email with the subject "Pfc. Lynndie England," encouraging support of her and basically saying the world should stop whining that "some of our troops embarresed some Iraqi pisioners" because "these people hate us and do not think any American has the right to live, they do not deserve our sympathy." For anyone that wonders how our soldiers might be capable of committing such acts, the ignorance of this email is Exhibit A. The average high school population would be Exhibit B. Thankfully, neither was sent by anyone I know as it would be grounds for a verbal spanking and a reconsideration of our friendship.

9. At some point people need to remove their rose-colored glasses, rub their eyes and come to grips with reality. The US is in way over its head with this occupation of Iraq. The entire operation is overly-reliant on inadequately trained soldiers, and not just the reservists, either, as the majority of the regular Army receives less-than-stellar training on anything beyond their specific jobs. The military is like a big manufacturing corporation, driven by an assembly line operation full of minimum-wage, unskilled labor performing very specific jobs with little to no transferable knowledge. Most of the on-site management is made up of lifers who've simply outlasted those that realized they could do better elsewhere. Rumsfeld, Myers, et al are the CEOs that could care less as long as the profits keep rolling in and the unions don't push too hard. The Democrats are the unions. And the average American? They're the German citizens that did nothing to stop the Nazis.

10. What ever happened to Hasan Akbar?

Friday, May 7, 2004

Between my internet connection at work being screwy all day and seemingly on the blink, the post I started writing earlier was lost. It was about the difference between Batman and Superman and a comment director Wolfgang Petersen made about it. Petersen was apparently attached to a Batman vs. Superman movie that was scrapped in favor of separate movies. Can't say I'm disappointed. Petersen's also the director of the new movie, Troy, with Brad Pitt lamely delivering one of the corniest lines ever: "Immortality! It's yours. Take it!" No thanks, Brad. Between Gladiator and Return of the King, I have no interest.

Unlike Troy, I ignored my gut feeling about the Friends finale and watched it anyway. Predictable and uneven, it delivered the ending most fans seemed to have wanted with Ross and Rachel reuniting. All in all, it was a bit of a yawner, though not nearly as bad as the last over-hyped NBC finale, the lameass Seinfeld. It also didn't come close to the ratings they expected, just over 50 million viewers, less than half that of M*A*S*H. Good riddance, though. Maybe NBC will finally start showing Scrubs some respect.

Wednesday night found me hanging out with Eric and hitting Symphonics. A fun night ensued, full of spirited debate with Taylor Mali and Mike Henry and there's something I'm supposed to publicly acknowledge in relation to the slam but considering I got home at 4:30am, I can't remember exactly what it was. On a silly note, I do remember Taylor challenging me to a push-up contest at one point and I matched his 25. I forgot he gets in shape towards the end of the slam season so he can wear his tight black t-shirts on stage so it was a good thing I've recently returned to the gym. I guess he can slack off now as he ended up the alternate for Urbana, behind the McKibbens Duo, Celena Glenn and Anis. A truly remarkable team, perhaps the strongest ever sent from NYC. 79 other teams fighting for second place in St. Louis is gonna suck! (Anyone else not think Taylor will take advantage of the 5x3 format to get himself on stage if they make the Finals?)

Happy Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 5, 2004

This is for Bassey.

Dear you,

Since mid-1997, the New York City poetry slam scene has been more or less at the center of my life. Though more right-of-center these days, and considerably less significant in the bigger picture, there's two things I will always cherish about the experience: founding a little bit louder, and the Friends I've made. While the reason for the former should be pretty obvious, I make a specific distinction in referring to Friends.

When I got married in 1998, there was a healthy contingent of poets at the wedding, including my best man. A year on the scene, I was still in the initial glow of finding a community of similar-minded people bound by poetry and, transient that I was, they became the majority of my friendships, practically like family. If I picture that day now, picture the table where they all sat together, the fact that I can't quite remember who they all were suggests none of them remain friends, never mind Friends. [After checking with Salomé on who was there, I'd say I consider a couple of them acquaintances these days, as opposed to those I've simply cut off or lost contact with.]

I first heard of you in 1999 from Al Letson. He emailed me, saying you were cool people and were either visiting or had just moved to NYC. As I remember it, he'd told you about louder and encouraged you to come through. In my book, if someone I respect vouches for someone - personally and/or artistically - they're good with me until they prove otherwise. Al was right on both counts.

A year or two later, you told me we had actually met earlier than I knew, at the Nuyorican, back when I was still hosting the Open Room. I think it was your first slam and you were mortified by the idea of the scores and ready to walk out, when I stopped you and tried to talk you out of it. Back when I still believed in the democracy of the slam and its value as a forum for new voices.

You were always a reluctant slammer. My favorite kind. It's why I begged you at times to slam despite your distaste for it. The slam needed your voice, your perspective, and the couple of years you spent on the scene are marked by your presence.

Beyond your considerable talent, you're "good people." Genuine. Sincere. Funny. Not afraid to be silly when you want to be. Or painfully vulnerable when you need to be. Determined to do things on your own terms, even when you weren't always sure what those terms were. Less interested in what others think of you than in what you think of yourself when you look in the mirror.

I've always admired that and wanted to say so.

Your attitude; your approach to life and love and heartache; your bizarre sense of humor; all of the things that add up to make Bassey are an inspiration for me. Other than the bad taste in men and the obsession with shopping, if India grew up to be like you, I'd be happy.

At a time when all of my 'poetry relationships' have come into question, it's been nice to know ours exists above and beyond the scene and that I can call you a Friend.

Love you madly,

Tuesday, May 4, 2004

What's worse?

A) An asshole boss who is extremely good at his job.

B) A nice boss who doesn't know shit about her job.

It's a tough call but I'll have to take option C:

C) I work for one and my wife works for the other.

Headed to the gym to work out the frustration on the treadmill. I really need to get back into shape so I can take a boxing class again. I need to pound something bad.


Monday, May 3, 2004

You're a Dialogue/Character Writer!

What kind of writer are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
Fun with Merriam-Webster.

con-tra-vene : The feeling that life is moving too slow and your kids are growing up too fast.

sur-re-al-is-tic: Your mother telling your wife about finding the lingerie catalogs you used to hoard as a teenager, believing it's true but not really remembering it happening.

stul-ti-fy: Between louderARTS and Urbana's combined 17 finals slots for 2004, there's only 14 people filling them; 8 of those have been on at least one national team, including several championships.

ad-um-brate: "On the eve of the rollout of the new commercials, Mr. Kerry flew home to Massachusetts on Sunday for a few hours of down time in his Beacon Hill townhouse, but wound up taking a tumble during a 20-mile bike ride and suffered a minor scrape on his arm." (NYT, May 3, 2004)

en-nui: The intense boredom with work that results in one looking up words in the dictionary, finding interesting synonyms and using them to justify a pointless journal entry.

PS: Go to and check out my reviews of everything from The Rundown to Isaac's first stroller. Rate whichever ones you read as helpful - the review of Slam is one of my favorites! - and bump me up the Reviewer's rankings. I'm currently tied for 13979th!