Thursday, September 30, 2004

Bush vs. Kerry: 45 minutes into the debate...Bush is winning.

Kerry's trying to appeal to logic while Bush is focused on emotion.

If this were boxing, Kerry is the technically-proficient pugilist with a steady jab, who writes essays on the sweet science for the New Yorker. Bush is the street brawler who can barely spell his name but packs a powerful right hook and is always on the Sportscenter highlights.

Kerry is the dancer, jabbing and dodging, waiting for the optimal moment; Bush is the bruiser, pounding away at the body.

...and now it's done and my opinion is unchanged. Bush did what he needed to do, Kerry didn't.
Pumpkin Seeds: End of the World Edition

1. What the hell is going on? Multiple hurricanes and random tornadoes, an earthquake in California and now the threat of Mt. St. Helens erupting again? Plus, there's the whole mega-tidal wave in the works, just waiting for another volcano to go off in Africa! If I were a Republican, the obvious explanation would be that God doesn't want John Kerry to be President.

2. To be honest, I think it would be kind of cool to see this election overshadowed by massive global disasters. The God of the Bible certainly has that kind of sense of humor.

3. I'm looking forward to tonight's debate purely for entertainment purposes. I want to know first-hand what Saturday Night Live is mocking.

4. Vote Jackson Kirk Grimes of the United Fascist Union for President! I mean why the hell not? Look at him! At least you know what you're getting.

5. I don't want to believe it, but somehow, I can just picture Dubya and Kerry in a secret sub-basement somewhere in downtown Miami right this minute (3:08pm) going over tonight's debate and how it will play out, with Vince McMahon coaching them through Hal Warren's script, and Alan Smithee directing.

6. There is allegedly a Timoteo F. Gonzalez, class of 1974, that is a member of the Skull & Bones. Dude! If you're out there, hook a brother/cousin/nephew/namesake up!

7. Can it be that it was all so simple then? People talk about the good old days - certainly a subjective opinion depending on one's race and class - but times have changed. But has it just been a shell game, or actual progress? Or, worse yet, devolution?

8. What's the chances of a bloodless civil war, where we just divided the country in half - Bush gets the South and Midwest, Kerry both coasts and Hawaii - and set up a federal relocation program that lets everyone choose sides?

9. It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

I'm always discouraged to see friends suckered into things because of their good intentions so when one of them forwarded me the latest email "virus" going around, I was both annoyed and disappointed. The email in question is from Kerry-Edwards 2004, Inc. in the form of their latest plea for money: "To keep the Democratic Party's essential October activities on track, we have to raise $2 million in less than 36 hours."

Post-9/11, most non-profits saw their donations drop dramatically as people redirected their philanthropy towards the Red Cross and other relief organizations. That was understandable.

Today, the same thing is happening as many well-intentioned people - people who would normally donate $10, $20, $50 to their favorite charities and non-profit organizations - are instead redirecting that money to Kerry-Edwards 2004, Inc.'s ill-conceived campaign for President or, slightly less offensively, to related organizations like MoveOn.

The Kerry camp has gotten as good as the Repug's at using scare tactics and false bravado to convince people that "help is on the way." Maybe, maybe not - but I'm not arguing the merits of two cookie-cutter Skull-and-Bonesers today. All I'm saying is think twice about where you send your money.

Remember, as evidenced by his turning around and jumping on the bandwagon, Howard Dean's campaign showed that "the people" can only make a difference as far as the establishment will let them. If you're anti-Bush and want to give money towards real, fundamental change, as opposed to cosmetic, give it to the Progressive Democrats of America instead.
Paul Berman rips apart The Motorcycle Diaries, the cult of Che and so-called "American intellectuals" in a blistering article on Slate.

The Cult of Che
Don't applaud The Motorcycle Diaries.
By Paul Berman

The cult of Ernesto Che Guevara is an episode in the moral callousness of our time. Che was a totalitarian. He achieved nothing but disaster. Many of the early leaders of the Cuban Revolution favored a democratic or democratic-socialist direction for the new Cuba. But Che was a mainstay of the hardline pro-Soviet faction, and his faction won...

I wonder if people who stand up to cheer a hagiography of Che Guevara, as the Sundance audience did, will ever give a damn about the oppressed people of Cuba—will ever lift a finger on behalf of the Cuban liberals and dissidents. It's easy in the world of film to make a movie about Che, but who among that cheering audience is going to make a movie about Raúl Rivero?
I've always been intrigued by Che's mystique but know relatively little about him beyond Salomé's extreme, and understandable, disdain for him and even moreso for his cult following. For me, he's always been guilty by association w/r/t to the type of people I usually see wearing his face on t-shirts, ie: college-aged pseudo-activists living on trust funds and/or "slumming" in expensive, shared apartments on the lower east side. Stereotype, yes, but where there's smoke there's usually fire.

Read the article, do some more research, make up your own mind. (NOTE: The picture has nothing to do with the article.)
Me, on a panel, talking about blogs and other stuff? Sure, why not!

Digital Dissemination
Using the internet as a media-distribution channel
Moderator: Troy Johnson,

Can you make an impact in the arts or on the political landscape while skirting the traditional avenues of physical print publications? Many are doing just that with websites that complement physical print products; blogs; e-newsletters; and online radio and video.

The panel discussion will encompass the challenges faced with digital publishing and web design: computer hardware cost, revenue streams, marketing, artistic freedom and limitations, distribution, and editorial and blog content will be explored.
It's this Saturday, October 2, part of the Re:Verse Festival at The Bronx Museum of the Arts, "an annual celebration of independent thought, words, and media." There's also a screening of the PBS documentary I’ll Make Me A World, featuring Gwendolyn Brooks; readings by Samiya Bashir, R. Erica Doyle, and Cheryl Boyce Taylor; and an open mic closes things out.

It's from 4-8pm, with the panel discussion @ 5pm. Come check it out!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Days like this, I want to be at home, relaxing in bed with a good book.

I'm currently reading Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, one of the most subversively whacked-out books I've ever come across. In the midst of seemingly random observations he unexpectedly drops cynical nuggets of truth:

Viet Nam was a country where America was trying to make people stop being communists by dropping things on them from airplanes. The chemicals he mentioned were intended to kill all the foliage, so it would be harder for communists to hide from airplanes.

That was the main reason the people in Midland City were so slow to detect insanity in their associates. Their imaginations insisted that nobody changed much from day to day. Their imaginations were flywheels on the ramshackle machinery of the awful truth.
That last line is one of my favorites.

Prior to this, I read the similarly whacked-out Running with Scissors: A Memoir, by Augusten Burroughs. Some things are presumably too horrible for words and one would think Burroughs' childhood, as presented here, would be one of those things. If this were a fiction novel, I'm not sure it would have worked as anything other than pointless farce. As a memoir, though, it is extremely disturbing and only Burroughs' humourous, matter-of-fact recollections allowed me to get through it.

Several times I laughed out loud while reading it, immediately followed by a grimace of extreme discomfort. It is the proverbial train wreck come to life, and as much as you want to turn away, Burroughs maintains a steady grip throughout. Part of me still wants to believe he's exaggerated some things for dramatic effect but there's a melancholy sincerity to the tone of the book that suggests otherwise.

Speaking of books, I'm slowly making my way up's reviewer rankings, breaking into the Top 10,000 over the weekend! I've written 40 different reviews and received 171 helpful votes, and am currently sitting at #9814 on the list. Check them out and help boost me into the Top 5000 by the end of the year!

Monday, September 27, 2004

It makes sense that, unless you really know me, you'd assume I was born in the Bronx. It was one of many trick questions on my Friendtest and the one most people missed.

The correct answers were:

1. What borough was I born in?
Manhattan (10 points)

In fact, I was born in Manhattan, at the now defunct Flower Fifth Avenue Hospital, a couple of blocks away from Mount Sinai. Supposedly, I was born in the hallway at around 5am, which possibly explains a lot of things.

2. Which High School did I graduate from?
Lakeland HS (10 points)

I attended Mt. Vernon High School through the middle of 11th grade before moving north to Yorktown Heights. We lived approx. three blocks from the border that separated the districts for Yorktown and Lakeland High Schools.

3. My first legitimate, PAID publication was...
Poets & Writers Magazine (10 points)

While Purr Magazine was my first publication outside of school newspapers - as a fledgling e-zine back in the mid-90s, its legitimacy is certainly debatable - it was an article on the 1998 National Poetry Slam for Poets & Writers Magazine that got me my first paycheck. I'd go on to write two more articles for the magazine and one for the web site.

4. My favorite book EVER is:
Fool on the Hill (10 points)

Matt Ruff is the writer I wish I was. Plain and simple. Children of the Shaman was a good guess, though, as it is without question my favorite fantasy novel ever.

5. My best friend in Jr. High School was named:
John Peter Wilson (10 points)

This is straight out of my poem, Behind the Music - "John Peter and I agreed on almost everything..." Several people fell for Isaac who wasn't even a real person, presumably guessing I'd named my son after him - he's named for my grandfather, Isaac LeCharles Harper, who appears in a few of my poems. Vesna Babic was the only other real person on the list.

6. Which city have I NOT lived in?
Hoboken, NJ (10 points)

I hate Hoboken. NJ's equivalent of the Upper East Side, it's everything I hate about New York. Several people guessed Crompond, NY, the last place I lived with my mother before moving out a year after graduating High School.

7. If I won the lottery, the first thing I would do is:
Pay off all of our bills. (10 points)

Duh! People that guess "Hire a financial planner" must have forgotten that I despise the industry and considered my attempt at working in it a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to work it from the inside. Most of them are commission-driven used car salesman, and the ones that aren't wouldn't deign to talk to anyone with less than a $500,000 net worth and $100,000 to invest. No thanks!

8. If I could live anywhere, money no object, where would I choose?
A brownstone in the Bronx. (10 points)

The funniest thing about this one is that Salomé got it wrong, guessing of all things, the luxury condo in Manhattan! While everything else on the list would be tempting, there's no way in the world I'd ever live in Manhattan.

9. My favorite athlete EVER is:
Graig Nettles (10 points)

The one answer that would have been easy to figure out by searching this journal for one word: eBay. I've got an autographed bat and ball and, within the week, will add this to my collection. Remember, I was a Yankee fan up until 1981 or so, when they'd run out of big-name players to buy and their farm system dried up. You know, kind of like this year!

10. What is my ideal job?
Small Press Publisher. (10 points)

There wasn't a job on that list I wouldn't love - including marketing director of ESPN Magazine, the closest thing to what I actually do 9-5, yet no one guessed - but nothing would come close to publishing books that I'd love to read by writers I believe should be read by more people. While there's little chance of it ever being my primary job - short of winning the lottery - it's coming closer and closer to being a reality.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Hey, Dick! I've joined the new economy on eBay!

You Get So Alone Sometimes That it Just Makes Sense, by Charles Bukowski. (Black Sparrow Press, Santa Rosa. 1986.)

No. #321 of 400 limited edition. Signed with small illustration by author. A Very Fine hardcover copy in an acetate dust jacket. Minor dent in lower right edge of front cover, barely visibile in picture, this copy was never read and has been sitting on my bookshelf for the last five years.

Lesser copies sell for over $250 (search Get in on the auction!

Friday, September 24, 2004

While Batman, and I guess Moon Knight, would be the most obvious alter egos, neither was a Legionnaire...

You're...Timber Wolf!
You're Brin Londo, Timber Wolf!

Which Legionnaire are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

It's been years since I've read a Legion book so I'm not sure how on the mark this is, but the description works for me. Interestingly, the latest issue of Teen Titans, #16, sets the stage for a new Legion of Superheroes series that looks like it might be fun. They always struck me as a bit cheeseball, what with names like Lightning Lad and Karate Kid, but the creative duo of Mark Waid and Barry Kitson have a good reputation, particularly with futuristic stuff, so I'll check it out.

The magic continues in Ex Machina #4 as the new mayor deals with the not-so-random murder of snowplow drivers during a major blizzard and the furor over a controversial painting in a municipally-funded museum, a la BMA's Sensation exhibit and "The Holy Virgin Mary" painting a few years back. Instead of simply changing names, though, Brian K. Vaughn puts his own spin on the situation and the painting in question becomes a portrait of Abraham Lincoln with the word "N I G G E R" scrawled across it in red paint. And the artist is a young, dreadlocked white girl. Provocative, to say the least, and I love the way Vaughn deals with it. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite comics.

PS: Why on Smallville's season premiere did they feel the need to use a Pamela Anderson-ish body double for Kristin Kreuk/Lana Lang's shower scene? Kreuk is one of the most adorable actresses on TV with a lithe, slender build that looks nothing like the obviously-implanted stand in they used. Cheap thrill for the fanboys? I blame Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner for it. Bottom-feeding dumbasses.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

CITY LIMITS' September/October 2004 issue has a timely article, Adios, Nueva York, about the Puerto Rican exodus from New York City during the last decade. According to the 2000 census, NYC lost 10% of its Puerto Rican population between 1990-2000! While many left for the island, a significant number have headed to surprising destinations like Lawrence, MA and Reading and Allentown, PA, doubling the overall Latino population in each city -- 60%, 37% and 24% respectively.

The article itself focuses on Allentown - the metropolitan neighbor of my theoretical oasis, Bethlehem - and the troubles migrating Nuyoricans, primarily from the Bronx, have faced upon their arrival. A frying pan to the fryer scenario in many cases, particularly for those in the lowest income brackets.

One of those interviewed laid part of the blame on some newcomers' attitudes: "It's people coming lately from New York. They move here and don't change their lives. They play their loud music; they sell you-know-what on the corner. I see them coming and I cross the street." Sadly, this wasn't some PA native speaking wistfully of Allentown's long-gone status as an "All-American City." Instead, she's an older Latina from Brooklyn who moved there with her husband and three kids in the late '90s.

For many of the low-income migrants - those represented in the article, at least - it seems the biggest problems come from unrealistic expectations. Lacking a HS diploma or GED is going to make life tough no matter where you go, even more so in places like Allentown with restructuring economies.

Middle-income professionals have always been the best candidates for migrating to smaller cities, the equivalent of suburban flight, leaving the poor to fend for themselves in neighborhoods that quickly become ignored and effectively trapping them in a vicious cycle of poverty. At best, any hope for the future lies with the next generation but, of course, the odds are stacked against them, too.

The dirty side effect of the American Dream being an individual competition instead of a communal act?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Comic Book Wednesday is like an oasis in the middle of the drudgery that is Monday-Friday. Picked up more than I expected to this week, including bags, and am nearly halfway to another Midtown Comics rebate! As it is, I need to pick up another longbox as the collection is nearing 1,000 comics.

Damn Omar for rekindling this particular fire! Between what I spend on comics and D&D, it's a good thing I don't smoke anymore.

Recent additions to my ever-evolving pull list include Ezra, Powers, Secret Skull, Ex Machina and Sleeper - the latter two with new issues out today - as well as the brand new Black Widow series that debuted today with none other than Bill Sienkiewicz, one of my favorite artists ever. I picked up the first issue purely on his name alone! Apparently the writer, Richard K. Morgan, is a sci-fi novelist of some note so I'm curious to see how he makes the jump and whether or not Brad Meltzer is just an exception.

Ex Machina, in particular, has been a welcome surprise over its first three issues, as a former superhero/vigilante becomes the mayor of NYC, in a series written more like the West Wing than Nightwing. If Gotham Central aims for a realistic take on a superhero's world, Ex Machina aims to place a superhero in the real world. Pulling events from our recent past, writer Brian K. Vaughn transcends comic book stereotypes and delivers a great story that happens to be illustrated. Well-illustrated, I should add. The end of the first issue is particularly haunting. If only...

In other news, this is a picture of Jessica Alba as the Invisible Woman from the new Fantastic Four movie now filming up in perennial NY-substitute, Vancouver. While she unexpectedly works for me, visually at least, I'm still not sold on the movie itself, especially as it seems they're sticking with the original FF origin story of spaceships and cosmic rays as opposed to the far superior, more believable Ultimate version.

C'est la vie, my real interest is in Batman Begins, for which all signs appear good so far. The more I see Christian Bale, the more I like him for the part. Katie Holmes, I could do without, but my fingers remain crossed that the sum will be much greater than its parts.

Finally, I must admit that I'm rather ambivalent about this week's release of the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD. While the "enhancements" sound interesting, and I'm willing to buy Lucas' justifications for making them, I'm not all that moved to run out and buy it. Like a first love, and the original Star Wars was definitely my filmic equivalent, the magic can never be the same the second time around. There was a certain innocence surrounding the movie, not to mention my seven-year old self, that cannot be recreated. Perhaps if the upcoming Revenge of the Sith manages to salvage the lousy Phantom Menace and the mediocre Attack of the Clones, perhaps I'll be inspired to revisit the originals again. Until then, they're better off remaining untainted in my memory, as pure as that day I saw the first one for the ninth time that giddy summer of 1977.
Let's see how closely you actually read this journal, and how well you know me!

[EDIT - 11:58am: Who's cheating? Someone's spent the last hour on this journal going through 29 pages and counting, presumably trying to get a 100 on the quiz. Either that or it's my boss and I've been busted! Uh-oh...]

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Bad connection? Crossed signals? A sign from the trickster himself?

Hello Guy,
Here is your Free Daily Horoscope Service for Sept 21.

It is time for you to start using your voice for more than just speaking, Guy. You have a beautiful speaking and singing voice, yet you don't use it to its full capacity. No, singing in the shower does not count! Given the proper training, you could use your voice as a source of income. Have you ever given serious thought to becoming a performer? You should think about it.
Look out, Al B. Sure!

Monday, September 20, 2004

Could THIS be the promised land?

One of the major problems with the previous list of cities, as Omar alludes to in his comment, is how overwhelmingly white most of them are, and completely lacking any Latino flavor.

Diversity, yet another thing living in NY spoils you for!

It's particularly difficult in our situation as we both want to live in/around a Latino commmunity and 81% of the US' Hispanic population is from south of the border (67% Mexican, 14% Central/South American). No disrepect to Chicanos (I still love Salma and Shakira!)1 but there's a huge difference between us, culturally-speaking, which eliminates California and Texas as possibilities. Basically, we're limited to Hudson County, NJ, Miami and Chicago!

Bethlehem, PA looks like an interesting option, though; on paper, at least. Anyone out there familiar?

1[EDIT: Per Salomé, Shakira's Colombian. Whoops!]
"San Antonio makes sense for us, and has given us much that I'm grateful for ... but Austin still feels like home."

Phil pretty much nails my feelings about life these days with that statement, and I don't particularly like it. The feeling, I mean.

For me, where we are in the Bronx right now "makes sense for us." Financially, at least. In a really skewed sorta way.

On a genetic level, being born and raised in NY spoils you for anywhere else. Makes you predisposed to accepting the ridiculously high cost-of-living; the hyper-competitive job market; the ever-increasing gap between the haves and have-nots, and the reality that for many people, falling into that gap is as simple as a single financial setback.

Because, you know, NY is the greatest city in the world!


Dana posted an article last week, Big bucks or lofty lifestyle?, that had an interesting analysis on the correlation, or lack thereof, between salaries and cost-of-living.

Cost of living rankings for cities do not necessarily mirror their pay scales.

For example, on the Mercer 2004 Cost of Living survey, New York City was the most expensive city in the United States, but it ranked third in pay.

Miami is the sixth-most expensive city in the country, but it ranked twenty-sixth in pay. Other pricey cities include Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and White Plains, New York.
What was most interesting was the "quality of life" rankings, though, measuring things like school quality, climate and crime rate. NY ranked third on that list, behind Honolulu and San Francisco!

Statistics are malleable, and in many cases, subjective, so I take this with a grain of salt. Among other things, NY's "quality of life" rankings are generally skewed by the extreme amount of cultural activities available here and the sprawling, if frequently inefficient, public transportation system - neither of which ultimately matters if it lacks that feeling of home.

School quality, in particular, is something we're now having to deal with as Isaac will be entering Kindergarten next year. As a product of public schools, for better and worse, I abhor private schools the same way I despise people that abandon declining neighborhoods instead of contributing to their betterment1, and have zero interest in parochial schools.

Beyond meta-issues like what happens between 3pm, when he'd get out of school, and 6pm, when we currently get home, there's the sad fact that most NYC public schools are...troubled. While I believe many of Bloomberg's efforts will pay dividends in the near-future, and quite possibly get him re-elected, it seems like the best schools are either in the best neighborhoods, duh, or the worst ones.

As is typical in this country, the mid-range, like our neighborhood, gets the short end of the stick.

For all the feeling of home I get from living back in the Bronx, there's something missing. Something significant and growing with each passing month. Part of it is the realization that we can't live there forever. Especially if we decide to buy a house. It's just too damn expensive and the sacrifices would be too great. Moving back to Hudson County, NJ is a more likely option, for the school system more than financial reasons, but that would come with its own emotional baggage and feel even more like a "makes sense" choice.

The thought of leaving NY completely, again, is still tainted by our Virginia experience, despite all of its legitimate disclaimers.

So what to do?

When I put in preferences for each of their criteria, Sperling's Best Places suggests Long Island of all places, most likely benefitting from its proximity to NYC while lacking some of its baggage. When I narrowed things down to Economy, Housing, Education, Recreation, and Arts, LI dropped to 2nd place, behind Boston, and interestingly, NYC jumped from 25th to 15th. Dumping the Arts dropped LI to 6th place and lifted Seattle to the top of the list, while NYC, not surprisingly, fell out of the top 50. Forgoing Recreation finally shook things up completely, offering as unlikely a list of possible destinations as I could imagine:

1 Casper, WY
2 Cheyenne, WY
3 Jackson, TN
4 Bryan-College Station, TX
5 Knoxville, TN
6 Naples, FL
7 Columbia, MO
8 Nashville, TN
9 Baton Rouge, LA
10 Sioux Falls, SD
Besides Nashville and Baton Rouge, neither of which are legitimate options, I've never been to any of these places. Have you? Drop me a comment if so and let me know what you think. Keep in mind the wife and kids.

1This, of course, is not a blanket statement. Risking your child getting shot in broad daylight is not worth the possibility that your involvement on a community board might ultimately make a difference. It's a tough decision to make. My issue is with those in borderline neighborhoods who simply believe the grass is greener on the other side and focus all of their efforts on climbing over the fence.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Life is cyclical, a simple if debatable truism. Live long enough, you will begin to see the patterns. Stand still long enough and you might get trampled by your past.

I have no idea why but I felt the need to put that into words.

In other news, since I have nothing particularly interesting to offer, let's take a walk through blogland...

1) Bassey, Miss you much. I feel like I owe you an email about something but can't remember what. Let me know. Also, please set up an RSS feed so I can keep up with your journal via Bloglines.

2) Dana, Glad to see you're paying off the debt! Almost makes me forgive you for buying an iPod. Not because it's expensive, but because it's an iPod. Apple sucks! :-P

3) Diane, An interesting blog requires an interesting person with a passion for something, or several somethings. I don't necessarily have to know the person, and sometimes would rather not! I blog because I'm a bit of an exhibitionist and like the idea of strangers stumbling across things I've written. It's also easier than writing in a regular journal.

4) Dyanna, What's weird is your listing of blogs you read. "Ommie-Wommie?" "Ed-Cutie-Patootie-Garcia-wia?" I don't know how Steve does it!

5) Fish, Welcome back! Glad things are going well. Let me know when DWK's featuring at Acentos! ;-)

6) Mara, Where are you? Your blog has disappeared! I know you weren't updating often but it was nice to be able to go back and reread every now and then. I'm going into withdrawal!

7) Oscar, We must talk about your thinking behind Margot Kidder ruining Superman. And is "G vs E" that short-lived USA show with demons and a 70s vibe? If so, is it still on somewhere?

8) Phil, You mean to imply that MoveOn and the Kerry campaign are two separate entities? Because I'm convinced the only reason he's running such an inept campaign for the center is that he's counting on his friends at MoveOn to deliver the left.

9) Victor, Your ongoing dissection of Identity Crisis has served an as interesting annotation for me as I'm unfamiliar with much of the history of the DCU. I have no idea who the killer/s is/are but I'm immensely enjoying the tale Meltzer's laying out there.

That's all folks!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds: Random as Ever Edition

1. An innocent compliment gone awry, or people with too much time on their hands? Depends, I guess. Poyer was simply my shorthand for poet-lawyer, aka the multi-talented hyphenate Nina Parrilla. It was spurred partly by her recent post on realizing how much her lawyer-side "has become a huge part of [her] identity." I appreciate poets (or any creative types) that acknowledge being multi-dimensional, particularly those like Nina who pursue their other facets with equal vigor and success.

2. There's a ton of "poets" out there, including some of my favorites, who have no other significant identity to claim. If not for poetry, they say, they'd be nothing. While a tad melodramatic for my tastes, I understand their point. Some of them, at least. In the end, though, a poet with nothing but their poetry to sustain them dries up pretty quickly, which I guess explains the lameness of most poetry!

3. Speaking of, help a good poet (and father, and PR guy) out and pre-order his book here. If you don't know him, I'll vouch for his work. He can actually, you know, write.

4. I had pretty low expectations of Amish in the City when I first heard about it, so low that I had no intention of watching it, but Salomé sold me on the first episode and I've been happily hooked ever since. The timing of its bittersweet juxtaposition of city life against the "simpler" life of the reclusive Amish couldn't have been worse, though, as it's been feeding my sense of discontent that's risen up the past few months. It's very similar to how I felt throughout the summer of 2001, the only difference being having the skewed experience of Virginia to cloud the issue.

5. The Surreal Life is even more bizarre than I thought it would be. And Jordan Knight needs to get a grip on reality. Stuck-up has-been! [Dyanna, I believe it was his brother everyone thought was gay.]

6. I skipped three consecutive poetry readings I'd expected to go to this week and only plan to attend one the rest of the month. Have to take break every now and then and indulge my other identities. [Yes, Omar, that includes some time for D&D!]

7. Farewell, Art Howe. And good riddance! Time for the Mets to clean house completely - dump Piazza, Leiter, Franco, et al - and start from scratch. Gary Carter as manager would be a smart place to start.

8. For some reason, today's poll numbers (Bush: 311, Kerry: 223) aren't the least bit shocking. I'm now looking forward to 2008 and what I can get involved in locally between now and then to make a difference. I will watch the debates, though, purely for their entertainment value as Kerry imitates Gore and misunderestimates Dubya. Again.

9. I've spent most of the day hiding in someone else's office in order to get some work done. Writing four media kits, two virtually from scratch, doesn't go well with constant interruptions.

10. This too shall pass.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Motto for the year, courtesy of my favorite poyer Nina:

I've decided that since people hear what they want, I am going to say whatever I want without censorship... If I offend you, I am not sorry.
PS: Screw the e-silence, I just need to manage my time better!

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds: Opening Day Edition

1. Multiple entries starting @ 4:20pm; alcohol-fueled, heavily edited for typos.

2. F**k a stereotype! It's Sunday. Football's on. Wife and kids are out of the house. Fridge is full of cheap, leftover beer. The Jets just won an exciting season opener. All four of my fantasy teams are in the mix so far. I'm cheering the Eagles on against the Giants, mainly because I have several of them on one of my main fantasy teams. I'm successfully maintaining a nice buzz that shouldn't follow me into tomorrow. It may not be the American Dream but it's certainly a welcome and much-needed nap!

3. I hate Budweiser, and most mainstream beers for that matter, but their "Leon" commericals are simply brilliant.

4. The Forgotten is one freaky-looking flick! I can't wait.

5. For the record, Brad Meltzer's deconstruction of the icons of the DC Universe in Identity Crisis is A-OK with me. More than A-OK, it's successfully - so far - shifted my general opinion of DC's overall universe, long considered a tad milquetoast for my tastes.

6. I L.O.V.E. football movies. High school football movies, in particular, have a certain emotional resonance that only the most intense war movies achieve. Varsity Blues remains one of my favorites of the genre. Friday Night Lights looks like it's going to be another one. The trailer chokes me up!

7. Two TDs in the first quarter, is there any question that Terrell Owens is going to finally help Donovan McNabb live up to his undeserved-to-date hype? The real question is, will T.O. get full credit, or will the media, still jumpy over Rush Limbaugh's accurate if badly delivered assessment of its overrating McNabb, claim retribution and raise his pedestal even higher?

8. If you're on AIM right now - 5:21pm EST - drop me a note at glecharles69. I know, the "69" is cheesy, but it's in reference to 1969, the year I was born. When I dumped my AOL account, the bastards locked up my old screen name. I don't do cybersex; that's about as corny and lame as you can get!

9. When drinking, constructing a pyramid from your empty beer cans can become a dangerous proposition. Just saying...

10. Sundays are slow days on the internet, at least w/r/t this journal. Weekends, really, as traffic typically drops by 2/3rds from the weekly average. Since I started this entry two hours ago, six people have logged on, four via Blogger's "Next Blog" function on the toolbar up top.

11. Gummi bears and beer probably don't mix but I'm about to find out...

12. No. They don't. :-(

13. A Coronita, a hunk of Queso de Papa, and Salomé and the kids are home. Back to hibernation...

Friday, September 10, 2004

At the risk of being called a liar on two different counts, allow me to clarify:

in conjunction with Wanda Ortiz's installation of Mercury/Mercurio
a reading with be held at the Hostos Art Gallery,

featuring Guy LeCharles Gonzalez and Jessica Torres

Wednesday, November 3, 6pm
Hostos Community College E 149th St & Grand Concourse, Bronx
(Take the 2,4,5 Trains to E 149th St Station)
and afterwards
First Wednesdays @ The Blue Ox Bar
Regie Cabico + open mic

While this technically contradicts my "last featured reading" a mere five weeks ago, trust me when I say that it's an exception to the rule. I mean, how could I possibly say no to the Bronx Council on the Arts AND the opportunity to feature alongside Jessica? Even Ricky Williams would have come back!

In other news, while I'm here, congratulations to Fish for his feature article ON THE FRONT PAGE of the current Norwood News. BX represent! For some reason, they don't have the article on their web site but if you're in the north Bronx, pick up a copy and get him to autograph it at next week's Acentos.

[EDIT: The article has been posted here.]

And now I'm returning to my self-imposed e-silence. See you in a few weeks!

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds: Gone Fishin' Edition

1. The good thing about a five-day weekend is it gives you a chance to slow things down a little bit and get a better sense of where you are. The bad thing about it is it might confirm your discontent with where you are.

2. My volunteer stint at the UnConvention was a pleasant experience as I ended up doing the box office for two shifts and got a newfound appreciation for what a little bit louder was able to accomplish over its five year run. Theater's a tough business, political theater even more so, and the gutcheck it must have taken for the actors in one of the shows to go on despite only three people in the audience, myself included, was impressive.

3. Got to see two of the plays and was particularly blown away by Entrenched in the Oath. Think the best parts of Fahrenheit 9/11 crossed with The Exonerated. Powerful, heart-wrenching stuff; manipulation not required. Go see it before it's done.

4. While the exact numbers are always debatable, there's no question that Bush got a nice bounce in the polls coming out of the Republican convention. The same polls that barely registered any change for Kerry after the Democratic convention. In a masterful sequence of events, they managed to keep Kerry on the defensive, position Cheney as an asset, and completely nullify Edwards by simply ignoring him. They are the friggin' Yankees of politics! Circa mid-1990s, not current day. The Democrats, of course, are the Mets. Pick any year, it really doesn't matter.

5. Bill Clinton's heart scare has Salomé all antsy now and it looks like we'll be eating healthy for a while. Relatively speaking, at least. Good time for me to get back to the gym!

6. In related news, loudpoet press has determined its most likely launch publication. Don't want to jinx things so I'll leave it at that for now.

7. ESPN NFL 2K5's Franchise Mode is my new addiction. With all the bells and whistles, it takes approx. 1.5 hours to play each game (6 min quarters). Over the past week, I've played four pre-season games (3-1), 16 regular season games (15-0-1), and two playoff games (2-0), with only the Super Bowl remaining to complete the season. (Ironically, against the Eagles!) Do the math...

8. On the last week of the regular season, my fantasy baseball team, the Six Six Sixers, finally overtook Mike Henry's Earnest Borg Nine for first place! While that's been the kiss of death the past few years as no first-place team has ever won the Championship, I'm hopeful that we peaked at the right time.

9. Speaking of fantasy, I'd like a Laptop of Creative Writing +3. And a Non-profit Job with Corporate Salary +2 would be really nice.

10. The summer is officially over and the real world is threatening to overwhelm me, so I'll be taking a break from almost everything not directly related to my job and home life, including this journal, for the next few weeks. Need some time to reasess, reprioritize and recuperate. Among other things, this should mean answering long overdue emails. Really!

Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtaxed.
--Oliver Wendell Holmes

Friday, September 3, 2004

The Village, much-maligned for not living up to M. Night Shyamalan's media-manufactured reputation for shocking twists, was actually a pretty good movie when judged on its own merits.

An interesting, well-told story - not quite the allegory of a post-9/11 world some critics have suggested - it features what is arguably one of the most amazing debut performances by a young actress in Bryce Dallas Howard. There is no way in the world Kirsten Dunst, the original actress cast in the role, could have handled the part as the movie would have sunk on her frail, one-note shoulders.

The twists, Shyamalan's albatross, are many but are relatively subtle and more deeply woven into the fabric of his story this time. Where his previous three films centered on a major twist and lived or died on his successfully pulling them off, in The Village he succeeds in spite of the big surprise. And it's a clever little one, much more thought-provoking than scare-inducing, requiring more investment in seeing a good story play out than playing a guessing game. Not unlike Unbreakable, his least "successful" movie.

In other words, Shyamalan demands a bit more from the audience this time out, and rewards those who give it to him.

My one criticism is his change in pacing. One of my favorite aspects of a Shyamalan movie is his willingness to let scenes breathe longer than usual, often allowing intense moments of silence that ultimately say more than twice as much dialogue could. In The Village, especially in the first reel, there are way too many jump cuts and abrupt scene changes that cause the score to feel like the needle skipped. At only two hours long, it would have benefitted from another 10 minutes of breathing room.

All in all, Unbreakable remains my favorite, but anyone that suggests Shyamalan has lost a step with The Village probably ranks White Chicks and Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid among their Top 10 summer movies.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

"Freedom" in America is like living in a really nice zoo, where the walls are spread far enough apart to allow you to lie to yourself, but close enough to quell the desire to maul your inattentive captors, knowing a bullet with your name on it waits on the other side.

As much as I wish we could leave the country when if Bush wins the election in November, I know it's an unrealistic fantasy. For us, at least. Especially with two kids.

A drunk kid accosted Matt and I last Friday after the Jets game, asking us if we took life for granted and immediately answering for us that, in fact, we did. Everybody did. It was one of those entertaining, alcohol-induced philosophical moments and we played along until he got bored and moved on. At one point, he said he wished he was Amish because they didn't take life for granted, they worked hard and appreciated every thing they had. Amish in the City's dual-edged message finding fertile ground.

Unable to flee into exile, I understood where he was coming from even if he didn't. Part of me wants to get as far away from the materialistic, capitalistic, emptiness of this city, to dig deeper into the earthier parts of the country and live a completely different life.

I've always understood the appeal of organized religion, the sense of a connection to something larger it offers people, especially those in dire straits. I also recognize it for the potential crutch it can be, the power it has to control, to oppress.

The American Dream is a religion.

It is as open to interpretation as the Bible, and as maddeningly vague in its promise for a better life. Non-denominational, it is open to all who believe in it, who dedicate their lives to pursuing it, who blind themselves to certain truths that call its existence into question.

I've always been more of an agnostic than an outright atheist; always believed that whatever the larger truths might be, there's no singular ethereal force pulling the strings in the background.

Main Entry: free·dom
Pronunciation: 'frE-d&m
Function: noun
1 : the quality or state of being free: as a : the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action
We are all marionettes of some sort, capable of choosing our puppet-masters, and so often choosing badly. There is no fairy godmother waiting to grant our wishes, and cutting the strings outright isn't an option unless you're willing to completely live off the grid.