Friday, July 30, 2004

Just read the text of Kerry's prepared speech - not the transcript of the one actually delivered which varied slightly - and can't help but think in terms of the poetry slam: 4.8 for content, 3.0 for performance.

Which in this image-obsessed, media-driven world, one where George Bush is able to successfully present himself as a "regular guy," is a scary thing.

For those that worry about how my vote will ultimately be cast, understand that intellectually, I realize Kerry is exponentially better than Bush, hands down. Philosophically, though, it offends me that he is my only "viable" choice, as it should offend every American forced to contort their ideals to fit into one of two cramped boxes. It offends me that the media has successfully cast this 20-year political veteran as an underdog, a comeback kid; the same media that summarily dismissed him while swooning over Howard Dean, before dropping him like a music video hoochie not open to group sex. The same media that openly dissed the more progressive voices in the campaign and now cynically reports the many similarities between the two parties' nominees.

In the rush to support "Anybody but Bush," Democrats ended up with a nominee that was simply that. Not a principled individual they could believe in and rally behind, but a blank mannequin that could be dressed up as needed.

"Anybody but Bush" may be fine for rabid Democrats but I'm not convinced it's what people on the fence are necessarily looking for. At the least, it puts Bush's destiny in his own hands, a risky gamble I wouldn't bet on.

I have to wonder if Kerry's rallying cry of "Help is on the way." may end up being a reference to the Clinton/Obama ticket in 2008?
"I'm John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty."

That's the best intro they could come up with for this clown? The biggest speech of his life and he goes with not just a bad pun, but one that is basically a slap in the face to every anti-war Democrat that's being asked to hold their nose and pull the lever for him in November, as an icebreaker?

I really, really, REALLY despise this guy. So much so, he's even tainted my opinion of John Edwards. If he keeps doing that dorky little thumbs-up thing he does I'm going to reach through the TV and break one of them off.

I was particularly disheartened the night before to see so many of Kucinich's delegates bow to pressure and cast their votes for Kerry, attempting to prop up the offensive optical illusion of party unity. The story of the Minnesota delegates - all but one of whom ultimately gave their vote to Kerry - is both disappointing and telling:

Kucinich delegates feel voice wasn't heard

BOSTON -- Minnesota delegates for Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich suggested Thursday that they were misled into casting most of their nominating votes for John Kerry.

"I am feeling regretful," said Kucinich delegate Donna Cassutt, of Minneapolis. "We are committed to electing John Kerry ... but I was sent here to represent [Kucinich] people. It was not an easy decision."

Faith Kidder of Minneapolis, who helped coordinate the state Kucinich campaign, said she felt she was "strong-armed" into voting for Kerry.

"It's an example of the hierarchical, top-down administration of the Kerry campaign," she said. "I won't do anything on a campaign that treats people like this."

Nevertheless, Kidder and others said they would support the Kerry-Edwards ticket.

All but one of Minnesota's 86 delegates voted for Kerry when the roll call of states was taken Wednesday night.

The state contingent included nine delegates for Kucinich, representing the 17 percent of Minnesota caucusgoers who registered support for Kucinich on March 2.

The delegates originally planned to cast their votes for Kucinich, to express their reservations about Kerry and the party's platform regarding the Iraq war and other issues.

But Kucinich personally urged them to support Kerry, and they said they were told by other members of the delegation that because Kucinich's name was not going to be placed in nomination, a vote for him would be recorded merely as "present." They said that they assumed that the information had been passed to the Minnesota delegation by convention and Kerry campaign officials.

The Kucinich delegates decided to switch to Kerry, especially after party officials promised to mention peace when Minnesota's turn came to cast its votes.

But they were disappointed by the statement, read by delegation leader and former Vice President Walter Mondale, which said "peace can only be achieved through strength and wisdom."

And the lone Minnesota vote for Kucinich, cast by Charley Underwood of Minneapolis, went down as just that -- a vote for Kucinich -- contrary to what the delegates said they had been told.
If the election were today, I swear I'd be tempted to pull the lever for Bush out of spite! Better to have your enemy fully exposed than to risk being lulled to sleep by a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Personally, I'm a Jung kind of guy but this thing is oddly on point!

Freudian Inventory Results
Genital (40%) you appear to be stuck between a progressive and regressive outlook on life.
Latency (56%) you appear to have a good balance of knowledge seeking and practicality.
Phallic (50%) you appear to have a good balance of sexual awareness and sexual composure.
Anal (26%) you appear to be overly lacking in self control and organization, and have a compulsive need to defy authority.
Oral (33%) you appear to be stubbornly and irrationally against receiving help even when it might be the more intelligent option.
Take Free Freudian Inventory Test
personality tests by

Genital: This one sounds about right, what with my generally wanting to shatter the status quo while feeling bound to its maintenance on certain levels at the same time. Sucks, to be honest.

Latency: Again, pretty right on, and it seems to complement - perhaps exacerbate? - the Genital result.

Phallic: Well, that's really none of your business! Sounds right, though.

Anal: Ding! Ding! What is "nailed it"?

Oral: Back-to-back jacks!

It's always weird when tests like these confirm some of your less-desirable traits. Or at least potentially troublesome ones, as I don't necessarily see the Anal result as being absolutely negative. I'm sure others might see that differently, but screw those anal-retentive bastards, I say! ;-)

Interestingly, other than Phallic, Salomé and I had completely opposite results, in some cases, diametrically opposed! Does that mean opposites really do attract? That we're in a yin-yang kind of relationship? That we'll never agree on anything?

That whomever outlives the other will then drop dead within six months from depression?

Boondocks on TV? Everybody in the pool!

The Vine: Cartoon drawn to 'Boondocks'

"The Boondocks" is bound for Cartoon Network. Sources say Cartoon Network is finalizing a deal with Sony Pictures Television to pick up a half-hour series based on the newspaper comic strip "Boondocks," penned by Aaron McGruder. The TV adaptation was initially developed as a pilot for Fox Broadcasting Co., which passed after viewing a six-minute presentation reel during its pilot screening process earlier this year. Cartoon is believed to be eyeing "Boondocks" for its "Adult Swim" late-night block, given the racially and politically charged humor that has been the hallmark of the newspaper strip.
Gee, Fox passing on a hyper-political show like Boondocks? Surprise!

And thank goodness they didn't go the live-action route. Hopefully it translates more like the Simpsons and not Dilbert or Garfield.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds: Countdown to 35 Sedition

1. I turn 35 in 26 days! If you order my gift now, Amazon's free shipping offer will get it here in plenty of time. :-)

2. I know it's wrong to take pleasure in others' drama, even in an I told you so situation, but if this is true, I can't help but be tickled pink.

3. In related news, I found out yesterday that I'm the only feature at next week's First Wednesday reading at the Blue Ox, which may mean some flexibility on the 20-minute set. Considering a good chunk of my "audience" will be regretting the money they spent on airfare and hotel in St. Louis at the National Poetry Slam, it might also mean a relatively light crowd. I plan to treat those that do show up with a little something special. I'm just not sure what that will be exactly...

4. You know once something appears in the National Enquirer, it's not long before it's revealed to be true:

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, the hero of 9-11, is being secretly courted to become President George W. Bush's running mate in the November election, The ENQUIRER has learned.

Sources say Republican Party officials want Giuliani, who showed so much leadership and courage during the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, to replace current VP Dick Cheney on the ticket.

They are convinced Rudy is the secret weapon that could defeat Democratic hopefuls John Kerry and John Edwards.

"It's Rudy's if he wants it," a close source told The ENQUIRER.
5. And then there's this reassuring little piece of news:

Election officials in Florida's Miami-Dade County say electronic records from gubernatorial primary elections in 2002 have been lost after two computer crashes last year.

Officials said Tuesday the crashes were uncovered after the citizens group Miami-Dade Election Reform Commission had inquired about the records from the 2002 primary between Democratic candidates Janet Reno and Bill McBride.

Election authorities say the 2002 primary election was the first in which there was widespread use of electronic touch-screen voting machines. The reform commission said the loss of the records underscores problems with that new voting technology.

6. What's in your wallet?

January 20, 1997: Bill Clinton's second inauguration
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 6,843.87

December 19, 1998: Bill Clinton is impeached
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 8,988.85
(NOTE: Figure is from Dec. 21, as the impeachment happened on a Saturday!)

December 13, 2000: Al Gore concedes defeat in Presidential election
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 10,794.44

September 10, 2001: Pre-9/11
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 9,605.51

September 17, 2001: Post-9/11
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 8,920.70
(NOTE: Markets closed after 9/11 and re-opened on 9/17.)

March 20, 2003: War on Iraq begins
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 8,286.60

May 1, 2003: Bush declares "Mission Accomplished"
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 8,454.25

January 13, 2004: 500th American soldier killed in Iraq
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 10,427.18

July 20, 2004: 900th American solider killed in Iraq
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 10,149.07

Fun with form, thanks to Jeff Knight.

Sonnet for Salomé

I said to you then that “you complete me.”
Though cliché, and stolen from a movie
it nevertheless, remains true today.
In the beginning, I was skeptical
convinced there were hooks attached to strings and
barbed wire fences on the horizon.
As you sleep, I look for signs of regret
and find only lust and satisfaction.

Afterwards, your scent remains in my ear
reverberating through fingers and palms
a pulsing freestyle beat that curls my tongue.
I lick my lips as a genuflection –
you linger sweetly like ripe mango juice
and I savor every thick, sticky drop.
NOTE: A real sonnet is a fourteen-line poem, either eight lines (octave) and six lines (sextet) or three quatrains of four lines and an ending couplet. Often attributed to Petrarch, the form - keeping the basic fourteen lines - was modified by such poets as Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Truth or hyperbole?

I've learned to never say never but in all likelihood, Wednesday, August 4th will be the last time I appear on stage as a featured poet.

I fell into the slam scene on a lark back in the summer of 1997, competing in my first Friday night slam at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe on August 8, 1997. In the years since, I've attended four National Poetry Slams, written a lot, met a lot of people, visited places I wouldn't have otherwise, got married, had two kids, returned to the Bronx [twice!], and tapped into a side of myself that had been previously living under wraps.

I daresay I went from simply calling myself a writer to finally becoming one.

Coincidentally, that same week I took the stage on that fateful Friday night, the National Poetry Slam was taking place. Next week, the National Poetry Slam will be happening again, and this time I'll be featuring at a little bar in the South Bronx that's become my second home over the past 16 months.

A good friend of mine believes in circles and I've been feeling lately like this particular circle is past ready to be completed, and I believe the Blue Ox is the most appropriate place to do it.

No idea at this point what kind of set I'll do as 20 minutes isn't nearly enough time to pay homage to the past while acknowledging the sporadic bubblings of the recent present. If you're in town that night, though, I'd be incredibly honored if you'd come by.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Racists say the darndest things: "In the end it is an historical fact that if you mess with white people too much, they will destroy you."

Because this quote came from a "friends-only" post on LiveJournal - excerpted from the reposting of an email sent to the LiveJournaler in question - I won't name the offender other than to say that he's a published author of genre fiction and not known to me personally.

While his quote is ironically true - to a degree, as we know that, historically-speaking, white people haven't usually waited to be messed with before destroying someone - it's the context that was particularly disturbing as he was berating someone he apparently considered to be a guilty white liberal intellectual. His email opens with: "I read your journal sometimes to see what else you can blame on white people."

Just a friendly reminder for all those well-meaning poets I know that complain about poems about racism and slavery or have the nerve to take pride in one's identity. Check your privilege, it's an ugly world we live in and we don't all enjoy the luxury of simply being funny or contemplating the beauty of nature.

Friday, July 23, 2004

PUMPKIN SEEDS: Short Weeks Feel Longer Edition

1. Sixth anniversary weekend was a big hit as we caught a couple of movies, had a great dinner with friends, hit a street fair, bought stuff and slept until 12:30pm on Sunday. I even got some Xbox and GameBoy time in. (Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay rawks! Castlevania: Circle of the Moon is one of the hardest games I've ever played.) Cool gifts were exchanged, including a belated autographed copy of Matt Ruff's Fool on the Hill. My own, thrice-read, beat-up paperback that Salomé mailed to Ruff to sign, which he did, and threw in a fresh, autographed copy of Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls! Subtitle this entry: Awesome Wife Edition!

2. Graig Nettles autographed bat via Ebay arrived safely and now rests in its shipping tube until I can buy a display case for it. This kind of thing makes you think about owning a house. With a den. For your autographed bats and books and comic book boxes and Xbox games! Need to play Lotto.

3. This inexplicable collectibles spree I've been on continues as I'm putting an order in the mail today for some Michael Lark artwork. He's the artist who nails it every month in Gotham Central. I need cheaper hobbies!

4. Last night's Regional Slam at Urbana was a lot of fun. Mandated (though not enforced) new work piqued my interest, and I ended up being talked into sacrificial goat - considered neutral since everybody hates me! - and had about 20 minutes to write something. I remember when that used to be par for the course, as opposed to paralyzing! Cobbled together something that tried to say something and it met with deservedly mixed reviews. Scores ranged from a 4-point-something to a 9-point-something!

5. Sacrifical poem:

Poems are fickle things.

Like Democrats and slam judges
they rarely go where you'd like them to
choosing convenience over conviction.

It took me six years
to write a poem for my son
while I've dissed poets, the slam,
the judges, America, Americans,
white people, black people and Taylor Mali
more times than I'd like to remember.

But my son is the eighth Wonder of the World,
my daughter the ninth.

It's debatable whose eyes they have
but their attitudes are likely my fault.

Independent, stubborn,
and always right,
genetics are an amazing thing.

But poems are not.

Fickle and subjective
they are creatures of spontaneity
judged in the moment.

Tonight's ten
is tomorrow's seven
is next year's "What the fuck?
Are you still reading that?"

And the only thing more fickle than poems...
are poets.

We willingly dig into our hearts
until our wallets come into play

until our egos come into play.

Then some are willing to play
no matter the price they have to pay.

Like Democrats and slam judges
convenience beats conviction
every day.

Judges, listen closely tonight
and choose wisely.

6. Urbana has a group piece I like! Like, really like! R.A.C. thinks it's not harsh enough, others think it's too vague, I think it nails it. Though I agree with R.A.C. on extending the ending. Fuck nice packaging, make people squirm!

7. Dennis Kucinich has officially endorsed the Kerry/Edwards ticket. Color me disappointed but understanding. There's still a part of me that wants Kerry to lose so the Democrats can implode and something better rise in its place. But we all know Hilary's waiting in the wings, partially hoping for a Kerry loss so she can step up in 2008 and claim the throne. Which would pretty much kill any hopes for reforming the Party. Being in NY where it won't make a difference anyway, I'm pretty sure my vote in November is either going to Nader/Camejo or Brown/Herbert (SOCIALIST PARTY USA).

8. And I'll be keeping an eye on property in Isla Muejeres just in case it all goes terribly wrong!

9. Interesting week at work has seen a bit more light shed on "the plan" and I'm now thinking I'm in a much better position than I'd originally thought. The new boss is quite smart and seems to know what she's doing, a refreshing change in and of itself! And now that the intra-group tension has lightened up ever since the last member of my old group left two weeks ago, communication has really opened up. Meetings this week have gone well and gotten me excited about work again. I'm not fully at ease, and it's going to be hectic through the end of the summer, but I'm feeling much more positive about things. Still going to play Lotto, though.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

My issues with the Democratic Party Platform: Strong at Home, Respected in the World, aka Identity Crisis.
from the PREAMBLE
That is the America we believe in. That is the America we are fighting for. That is the America we will build together - one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Boilerplate, I know, but still annoying for it's pandering to the south.
Time and again, this Administration confuses leadership with going it alone and engagement with compromise of principle. They do not understand that real leadership means standing by your principles and rallying others to join you.
"Standing by your principles??!" How did that get in there when Prince Flip-Flop is at the top of the ticket?
Today, we face three great challenges above all others – first, to win the global war against terror; second, to stop the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; and third, to promote democracy and freedom around the world, starting with a peaceful and stable Iraq.
Did anybody proofread this thing?  How did George Bush's platform sneak in here?!?!
To meet these challenges, we need a new national security policy guided by four new imperatives:... Second, we must modernize the world's most powerful military to meet the new threats.
That's not a new imperative.  That's business as usual!
With John Kerry as Commander-in-Chief, we will never wait for a green light from abroad when our safety is at stake, but we must enlist those whose support we need for ultimate victory... Democracy will not blossom overnight, but America should speed its growth by sustaining the forces of democracy against repressive regimes and by rewarding governments that work toward this end.
And this is different from Bush's stance how?
We will attack the exploding opium trade ignored by the Bush Administration by doubling our counter-narcotics assistance to the Karzai Government and reinvigorating the regional drug control program.
Ah, the return of the war on drugs! What next? "Just say no!"
There is no greater threat to American security than the possibility of terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction. Preventing terrorists from gaining access to these weapons must be our number one security goal... We must build and lead an international consensus for early preventive action to lock up and secure existing weapons of mass destruction and the material to manufacture more.
And Michael Moore made it seem like only Dubya and friends pulled out the boogeyman.
...this Administration went into Iraq without a plan to win the peace. Now this Administration has been forced to change course in order to correct this fundamental mistake. They are now taking up the suggestions that many Democrats have been making for over a year.
Which Democrats? Not Kerry or Edwards, both of whom voted for allowing a war that included no plan to win the peace.
Troops come first. Our helicopter pilots have flown battlefield missions without the best antimissile systems. In a Democratic Administration, that will change. Too many of our nation's finest troops have died in attacks, because tens of thousands were deployed to Iraq without the best bulletproof vests, and there is a shortage of armored vehicles on the ground. In a Democratic Administration, that will change.
Wait a second.  Troops come first?  Seems more like this is about the weapons manufacturers who get to sell the taxpayers all of these goodies to fight unnecessary wars.  Wars where troops will still die, regardless of how up-to-date their equipment is.
The Iraqi people desperately need financial and technical assistance that is not swallowed up by bureaucracy and no-bid contracts, but instead goes directly into grassroots organizations. They need to see the tangible benefits of reconstruction: jobs, infrastructure, and services.
NEWS FLASH: so do the American people!  Let's clean our own house before we start trying to tell others how to live.
Our special relationship with Israel is based on the unshakable foundation of shared values and a mutual commitment to democracy, and we will ensure that under all circumstances, Israel retains the qualitative edge for its national security and its right to self-defense.
[rolls eyes] No comment.
Today's American military is the best in the world, but tomorrow's military must be even better. It must be stronger, faster, better armed, and never again stretched so thin... We will add 40,000 new soldiers – not to increase the number of soldiers in Iraq, but to sustain our overseas deployments and prevent and prepare for other possible conflicts.
Hmmm...where do you think these 40,000 are going to come from? Can you say increased recruiting budgets to target poor, inner-city minorities?
John Kerry, John Edwards and the Democratic Party believe in a better, stronger, more independent America. We are committed to achieving energy independence, and we know we can do it... It's this simple: When we see a problem, we roll up our sleeves and solve it. And that's what we pledge to do now.
It continues with some pie in the sky ideas, including "Moving beyond OPEC," but there's not a single reference to a timetable for any of it.  Blah blah blah.
Ending corporate welfare. Many American corporations today pay less than ever in taxes because of tax loopholes secured by powerful lobbyists. We will end corporate welfare as we know it. We will eliminate the indefensible loopholes in our tax code— from tax deals that have no purpose but avoiding taxes to the very shelters that Enron used to drive so many lives toward financial ruin. And we will eliminate the corporate subsidies that waste taxpayer dollars and undermine fair competition.
Sounds nice, but it completely contradicts an earlier statement in the platform regarding tax reform: "Under John Kerry and John Edwards, 99 percent of American businesses will pay lower taxes than today."
Frankly, I got bored at this point and tuned out.  41 pages of blather that ultimately say nothing more than business as usual in a slightly more-appealing wrapper.

Yawn! Wake me when they're done with the Florida recount and Bush is declared the winner again. Or better yet, don't bother. A four year nap might be the only way to survive.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds: Comic Book Roundup

1. These days, most comic books are written in story arcs of 3-6 issues; more for limited series. At best, this means fuller stories with more complex plotting and deeper characterization. At worst, it's filler and fluff. Typically, it's the worst that dominates the bookshelves and sales charts.

2. There are way too many X-Men-related titles coming out every month and the Reloaded stunt seems to have killed the only one - New Mutants - I was interested in.

3. Ultimate Fantastic Four: Like most things from the House of Ideas, I love the concept of their Ultimate line but have little interest in the execution. The Ultimate Six mini-series, my first foray, left me cold and feeling somewhat cheated, and as little as I liked the original X-Men or the Avengers when I was younger, I was never a fan of the Fantastic Four at all. I've always been a sucker for first issues, though, and decided to give this one a chance and am happy I did. The first arc reimagined the origin of the team, making them much younger while bringing them into current time. Taking advantage of the expanded story arc formula, Ultimate masterminds Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar effectively use the first six issues to firmly establish each character's identity, laying an emotional foundation that's often lacking in comics, especially in team books. By the time Doctor Doom is [re]introduced in the seventh issue, you can't help but be hooked, and the fact that Warren Ellis takes over the writing duties without missing a beat, ups the ante in fact, is a testament to the benefit of the expanded story arc done right. Jeph Loeb should take notes.
4. Superman/Batman: Early Batman stories aside, Jeph Loeb is an overrated slam poet of a comic book writer whose inexplicable popularity is only exceeded by the teenaged wet dream pencils of his sidekick du jour, Michael Turner. Turner's recent spate of cover work is notable solely for his facility with the ladies but once he gets inside a book for 22 pages, his weaknesses are glaring. Lazy pencils, stiff layouts, characters differing only by their costumes... I try to avoid buying comics for their potential collectibility but four disappointing issues into this combo and it's the only reason I'll complete this arc.

5. Atticus Kodiak: Not a comic book, but the protagonist in a series of novels from writer Greg Rucka, whose work I first came across in Gotham Central. Keeper and Finder, the first two novels in the series, introduce you to Kodiak, seemingly a little too young at 28 to be a professional bodyguard, but an engaging character with an interesting supporting cast. Rucka's prose is fluid and fine-edged, reminiscent of Lawrence Block's work in his own Matthew Scudder series of novels, minus the New York City grit that Block does so well. And that's a significant minus as Rucka's NYC feels a little too MapQuest for a native like me. The names and places are all correct but there's a certain something missing, the same absence you sense in films shot in Vancouver. That relatively minor point aside, Rucka tells a tight, engrossing story, the kind you read in a couple of breathless sittings. The kind he and Ed Brubaker have been delivering regularly in Gotham Central. Of these two, Keeper is actually the stronger book as Finder's plot teeters on a tightrope of implausibility and it's only Rucka's strong characterizations that save it from completely falling apart.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

I, Robot didn't just whomp Spider-Man 2 at the box office this weekend, it also beat it out in my overall opinion of the two.
Spider-Man 2 was a lot of fun, no doubt, but there were times I felt like Raimi was getting a little too wink-wink with the comic book fans, not to mention his own cult following. That Salomé, not particularly familiar with the details of Spidey's background, was bored at times when he over-indulged in some of these moments confirmed it for me.  The over-the-top nod to his Evil Dead movies in the scene where they try to saw off Doc Ock's arms was a bit much. The campy segment where Peter Parker focuses on being Peter Parker while some goofy, Come on Get Happy-ish song plays in the background, annoyed me, as did J. Jonah Jameson's obnoxious hamming it up as if he was on the old Batman TV series. And the big train fight scene that put an el in Manhattan was just lazy and uninspired.
All that said, as a comic book fan, there were several little moments that brought a smile to my face - POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT - like the introduction of Dr. Curt Connors (the Lizard) and John Jameson (Man-Wolf); Harry Osborne's discovery of his father's secret lair; MJ calling Peter "Tiger;" and New Yorkers promising not to reveal Spidey's secret identity.
Comparing this one to the first Spider-Man, which took most people by surprise, is an apples and oranges scenario but if forced, I'd put it on par, not above.
I, Robot, on the other hand, unexpectedly jumped onto my Top 10 all-time list of summer blockbusters and, I suspect with another viewing, has a chance of making my Top 10 overall. A superior action movie that tackles the done-to-death robots taking over the world plot, liberally borrows from everything from 2001 to Terminator to Spider-Man, and pumps new life into the whole shebang. I'm not a sci-fi junkie and I've never read the source material but I'm guessing, judging from its Isaac Asimov pedigree that in some ways, those movies actually borrowed from I, Robot. The credits explain the movie was "suggested by" Asimov, which makes sense for the amount of tweaking I'm sure they had to do to bring it up to date. And I highly doubt Asimov's leading man was black, a subtle but poignant reference point in the plot.
Will Smith is money in Hollywood for a reason, having become the black Bruce Willis circa Die Hard with his likeable, down-to-earth tough guy persona. Plus he's much easier on the eyes than Willis ever was. Call him non-threatening if you want to but 10 years ago there's no way this movie gets made with a black leading man - with this kind of budget Wesley Snipes could not have played Det. Spooner  - plus a black actor in a significant supporting role, with Chi McBride expertly reprising his Boston Public role. Bridget Moynahan is solid as the cold female scientist, and Bruce Greenwood plays slimy corporate scum better than most.
The special effects are top-notch and the main robot is a Gollum-like accomplishment, but the fact is there's a meaty mystery plot underneath it that holds the entire movie up and raises it a notch above the ordinary. Sitting through Spider-Man 2 a short few hours after watching I, Robot, I found myself frequently thinking back to Robot and how I would have preferred to end my movie night with it instead.
Spider-Man 2: B+; I, Robot: A-

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds: Random Edition

1. I don't particularly lke Jay Leno, but this was funny and on point:

I love that the Department of Homeland Security always tells Americans if you don't fly commercial airlines, "the terrorists have won." If you don't hold the Super Bowl or the World Series, "the terrorists have won." If you don't get out to the mall and do your Christmas shopping, "the terrorists have won." Comes time for the election, "Oh, let the terrorists have that one."
2. Taylor Mali offers the best explanation of the whole NPS/ClearChannel hubbub over in his journal and, if what he says is the complete truth, then it makes me a little less uncomfortable about the situation. Nevertheless, my general opinion of how the situation was handled and the underlying issues it brings to light stand. Here's how I explained it to Scott Woods, who had a refreshingly honest take on what's happened in his journal:

The main problem PSI has it that it stumbles from situation to situation, applying band-aids - or not even, in some cases - and never taking the time to step back and deal with the big picture. Back in 2001, when MN was undeservedly [at the time of the bid] given 2002 and it became clear that 2003 forward had no qualified bidders on deck, I proposed PSI take a year off from NPS and go back to the drawing board to redefine the organization, its mission, policies and procedures from the ground up. Too many people were afraid that out of sight meant out of mind, though and PSI couldn't survive the sabbatical. [Like its office space was going to be repossessed or something?] Not to mention that Marc Smith's absence meant certain people refused to support anything that might significantly restructure the organization and not leave room, or a need, for his return.

Looking back, between the generally agreed-upon fiasco of 2003 and what's shaping up to be an ugly 2004, I'm even more convinced that it was the right thing to do and STILL would make sense now.

SlamAmerica was the first instance of PSI letting someone act in its name with little to no input from the community, leading to questionable sponsorship, boneheaded omissions from the tour schedule, a hackjob of a video [did that thing ever actually get released?], and a solid amount of PR that was quickly wasted like Bush and post-9/11 goodwill. Like Tony, there were many who questioned it after the fact, but it's not like there was complete silence beforehand.

This ClearChannel thing is more than just an issue of some grey area in the host city/PSI contract, it's indicative of a fundamental flaw in the organization. While I agree with you on the idea that committees need to be accountable for the responsibilities they accept [though anyone in their right mind putting Brett Axel in charge of something not directly benefitting himself and expecting results astounds me], the EC cannot pass the buck and lay the blame at their feet.

For better or worse, sometimes undeservedly, the buck stops with [the Exectuive Committee]. St. Louis will have their party next month and move on, possibly going in the books alongside the Seattle and Connecticut fiascos, but it's PSI that will have to deal with the long-term fallout. Between this and last year's badly fumbled anti-war statement situation, you guys have your work cut out for you.
Personally, I would still boycott this year's NPS on general principle, as I'd been contemplating last year when I was still slammaster of NYC-Union Square. PSI is a ragtag bunch of poets with little to no real-world non-profit experience and they stumble around year-to-year, putting on their increasingly vain and meaningless "poetry" version of WB Superstars USA while frittering away loads of goodwill and great potential. It's a shame, really, because it could be so much more than it is with the right leadership and a clearer vision for itself. C'est la vie. They've alienated better people than me over the years and I certainly don't regret recapturing the time and energy I used to put in on its behalf.

3. I posed the following question on my LiveJournal and got some interesting feedback but am repeating here as I know there's not a lot of crossover:

I'm strongly considering shifting my desire to start my own press from the back burner to the front, and I'm curious about what things you'd be looking for in a potential publisher of your work. Skip the obvious stuff like no vanity presses and give me the meaty issues like royalties, design input, distribution, etc.

And give me details, not just a laundry list.
Feel free to hit me backchannel.

4. Salomé and I celebrate our 6th Anniversary this weekend! The kids are going to their Grandma's and we're taking a four-day weekend to lay low, catch up on some movies, and eat some good food with some good friends. Six years? Two kids? Makes me think of that job interview staple, "Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?" and where my head was in back in the summer of 1997. Who knew?

Monday, July 12, 2004

So Dubya and company are now looking into a way to postpone the Presidential election in case there's a terrorist attack the day before or day of that might sway those on the fence against him like he believes happened in Spain create the need for an unprecedented delay. And the comparison to the 9/11 delay of NYC's mayoral Democratic primary is way off base.

Most reports I've read on this don't bother to fully identify the guy putting forth the proposal, DeForest Soaries Jr., chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, or even point out the origin of his Commission:

The commission was set up after the disputed 2000 presidential vote to help states deal with logistical problems in their elections.

Soaries, who was appointed by President Bush, is a former New Jersey secretary of state and senior pastor of the 7,000-member First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset.
Interestingly, you have to go overseas to get this important little tidbit reported without any shading as part of the story:

No US presidential election has ever been postponed.

Abraham Lincoln once responded to calls to delay the 1864 election in the face of Civil War, by saying that if he did the rebellion "might fairly claim to have already conquered us".
Remembering 9/11 and Giuliani's shameless attempt at changing the laws on term limits to allow him to run for a third term, I suspect this is less about delaying the election to avoid a rush to Kerry - because really, on Iraq and the fighting terrorism front, there's little difference - and more about positioning Dubya to be able to declare a kind of martial law where he remains in charge, a steady hand to guide us through our darkest hour.

In other news, the Dump Cheney murmuring is getting louder and like I predicted, Giuliani's name is popping up as a replacement. Watch for it.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Franklin Delano Roosevelt State Park turned out to be a perfect place for an extended family picnic and Saturday's weather couldn't have been better for it.

Considering I haven't been to the gym in over a month now, I should have known better than to jump into a game of two-hand touch without stretching at all. Especially after an hour of rowing a boat had started blisters on my thumbs and tightened up my shoulders. But it was Saturday evening, we were leaving soon, and given the company, it felt too much like a Fresh Air Fund moment to skip.

Growing up in the Bronx, two-hand touch was full contact and played in the middle of street with constant interruptions from passing cars. Bodies bouncing off parked cars and each other and sometimes the pavement - one Mississippi, two Mississippi - go deep was almost always the play and interceptions were more likely than touchdowns. I was always small and skinny for my age so I made up for it by being tenacious and had the skinned knees to show for it.

Yesterday was no different as I joined the game about an hour after it started, fresh legs in a crowded mix of mid-late 30-somethings and teenagers. There were more short passes and run plays than deep routes and, still not the tallest or the biggest, I was the most tenacious, always following the ball and making several plays on defense. About ten minutes in, the skinned knees came as I dove for a kid half my age to keep him from scoring and made the play. Even managed to keep the grass stains to a minimum.

Today, I paid for my exuberance with every muscle in my legs the kind of sore that makes every step a determined one. But it was well worth it because for that 30 minutes of football, my mind was clear of all the bullshit in the world and I was having fun.

Tomorrow, the real world returns and I will cherish every painful step as a reminder that the life beyond 9-5 is what counts most and nothing should ever be allowed to get in the way of that.

Thursday, July 8, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds: Anti-Corporate America Edition

1. In a bizarre turn of events in the Yummy Sandwich saga, I bumped into its President/Owner, Avi, on Tuesday afternoon as I was heading out for lunch and a walk in the park. He was standing out in front of my office building, wearing a Yummy Sandwich t-shirt, and stopped me, asking my name with a gleam in his eye. It took a second for my brain to process everything as I answered, "Guy. Why? Are you kidnapping me?" He laughed and we talked and he apologized for the infamous Powerpoint presentation, "We’re a new company and we’re making a lot of mistakes but we didn’t mean to offend anyone." He explained the “illegal immigrants” line as trying to quell landlords’ fears of security and lamented the difficulty of trying to simultaneously appeal to CEOs, employees and landlords. Apparently, they’re still in our building but he says a combination of inconsistency and my complaint to HR about their presentation got them the boot from our offices. He was surprised when I told him no one from HR had ever addressed my complaint directly, not even so much as acknowledging receipt of the email. He says they’re updating the presentation based on the things I sent them last week and I suggested they either take it off the website or password-protect it. Jus from a business perspective, it’s crazy to have it out there for competitors to access and cherry-pick. He was a nice guy and seemed sincere. The fact that he was in uniform, actually working the cart was appealing, too. He gave me a free sandwich – which yes, was pretty yummy – and I told him I’d write something complimentary.

2. Dear Diana Taylor: If you happen to come across my journal while searching for info on Yummy Sandwich, let me assure you that I now believe that, despite their shaky start, they’re fundamentally a good group of people, Avi, in particular. Mistakes are to be learned from, not permanently marked for, and I applaud them for seeing the error of their ways.

3. "Synergy" is one of those corporate buzzwords that usually means someone is about to lose their job. In the interminable restructuring going on here at work, the domino effect has claimed another victim and found me barely dodging the axe. What was presented as a merge of two groups has become a hostile takeover and I'm the last Survivor from Tribe Fucked. Because I’m "highly-regarded," instead of cutting me loose because my position is conveniently being upgraded to a "senior-level" slot, I’m being offered "a great opportunity" - aka a shift to two of our lesser titles and what is effectively a lateral promotion in change of title from Marketing Coordinator to Assistant Promotions Manager. In other words, the new Director wants to assemble her own team and I'll get to handle titles she's already put her imprint on. (There's a pretty reliable rumor that I have that option only because the CEO stepped in on my behalf as a favor to a mutual friend! Thanks, D!) Crap is what it is as I’ve fallen victim to being really good at my job as it was defined in one structure, and not being given an opportunity to make my case as to what I'm capable of doing in the new structure. Actual details are pending, so there's still a possibility I may be looking for a job by the end of next week.

4. Poetry Slam, Inc. has officially sold out. Welcome Clear Channel, that bastion of free speech and individuality, the official sponsor of the 2004 National Poetry Slam. Good news for the entertainers, bad news for the poets. It was fun while it lasted but it's been time for something new for a while now. [UPDATE: Add R.J. Reynolds to the list of friendly corporate citizens sponsoring the event!]

5. It'll be interesting to see how many supposedly socially-conscious poets back out of NPS in protest of Clear Channel's involvement. My guess? ZERO. The lure of potential fame trumps loosely-held ideals every time.

Monday, July 5, 2004

eBay is evil!

Like the internet that shelters it, it is one of the roots of all evil and people with addictive or competitive personalities should stay far, far away from it.

People like me, for example.

It all started so innocently this morning, when I found myself searching the internet for my favorite Yankee ever, Graig Nettles. I'm not even sure why but perhaps it was destiny?

I came across an interesting site, Baseball Almanac, that had some great stats for him as well as links to other sites. One of the featured Google Ads linked over to the aforementioned eBay and that's where it all fell apart.

Several autographed pictures and balls were available, along with a single bat. Just one. A couple of more searches and several memorabilia sites confirmed that it was the only such bat currently for sale on the internet. And the high bid was only $25 with 13 hours remaining.


Salomé's recently discovered the joys evils of eBay and has been getting some great deals on clothes and convinced me to go ahead and bid on it. It could be my anniversary present.


So we bid, setting a maximum of $50, and were sitting on top. For all of 5 minutes! Someone new had swooped in and outbid us. Having watched Andie frantically monitor some of her auctions, I knew how the final minutes worked but I had no idea what do for the next 13 hours!

So we waited and went about our day, until there were 30 minutes left. Refresh. 29 minutes. Refresh. 27 minutes. And so on.

With 10 minutes left, I started probing, trying to figure out where the other person had set their maximum bid and how much of a Nettles fan they really were. $52. $54. $60. $75. All under their maximum bid. A real fan, apparently.

As I was getting cold feet, Salomé took over and I pledged $25 to the cause. She bid $100. Still not enough but the increments started to change, suggesting we might be getting close. There were only 3 minutes left at that point and it was now a competition.





And we'd found it! Their maximum was $136.99 and we'd outbid them, giving them less than two minutes to respond. Unless they were actively monitoring the auction, there was no way they could beat us.

And those last 90 seconds took forever.

Refresh. 47 seconds. Refresh. 32 seconds. Refresh. 20 seconds. Refresh. 11 seconds. Refresh. 7 seconds. Refresh. 2 seconds.

The winner!!!!

$139.49; only $89.49 more than I said I'd bid on it in the beginning!

It's all good, though, because that other Graig Nettles fan out there is probably still a Yankee fan. Probably thinks the '96 Yankees were better than the '78 squad. Probably doesn't mind seeing Pay-Rod out there patrolling Nettles' old base.

eBay is still evil, but these are different times and sometimes you need evil to fight evil. At least, that's how Dame Judi Dench rationalized turning to Riddick for help against the Necromongers.

You keep what you kill!

Or, at least you get to play with what your wife buys wins for you.

The bat is mine!

Sunday, July 4, 2004


FIRST. EVER. SWEEP. Yeeeeeah, baby!

And how fitting was it to have Pay-Rod make the last out?

Very fitting. Punk.

Richard Hidalgo is turning into the best Mets trade since Piazza and might single-handedly wipe away the bad taste still lingering from Vaughn, Burnitz, Alomar, et al. Now Duquette needs to get some solid middle relief and a legitimate 5th starter (Keep Jae Seo; give Stanton and Ginter the old heave-ho!) and we might be able to make a serious run for the division.

Much as I want to see Boston take the Yankees out, I'lll forgo that dream for Subway Series 2004: The Revenge!!!

M! E! T! S!

Saturday, July 3, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11. Pretty much everything that's been said about it is true.

It's heartbreaking; it's manipulative; it's old news; it's a powerful evidentiary hearing in the case against the Bush administration.

Ultimately, it's simply frustrating.

While it won't likely change the minds of the staunchest Bush supporters - who wouldn't see a Michael Moore documentary if their lives depended on it - anyone else sitting near the fence can't possibly walk away from it without having their eyes opened.

Wide open.

The problem is what happens when you walk out of the theater. We're still at war with no end in sight. We've been forcefed John Kerry as the only option to getting rid of Bush, which is like choosing between death by a thousand cuts or lethal're still dead in the end.

Kerry's not going to end the war. He's not going to pull our troops out of Iraq. He's not going to significantly change our foreign policy. He's not going to challenge big business' chokehold on the American people. Or the Iraqi people, or any people, for that matter.

John Kerry is not the answer.

Hell, even Moore thought Wesley Clark was a better option than Kerry during the primaries. If you're going to play at war, at least put some real experience behind it.

In the opening minutes of Fahrenheit 9/11, when 14 representatives led by the Congressional Black Caucus challenge the formal registration of the 2000 Electoral College vote (on the basis on thousands of disenfranchised voters) and Al Gore declares them out of order because they're missing a signature from a senator, ANY SENATOR, my blood started to boil.

Where was John Kerry that day? Or Lieberman even?

And the Green Party, which originally positioned itself as the progressive alternative to the center-drifitng Democrats and showed some guts in 2000 against the objections of many, myself included, have decided to spurn Nader and their own guy, Peter Camejo, in favor of a bullshit "safe-state" strategy with some no-name candidates that will probably lose them much of the ground they've gained over the past decade.

[Great new essay on the Greens and Kerry here.]

So what to do? Is this a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation? Is another four years of Bush really that much worse than four years of Kerry and a false sense of security? Might it be better for Kerry to go down in November, defeated by a healthy margin that reflects the Left's disenchantment with the Democrats, and opening the door for impeachment proceedings against Bush & friends?

Another four years of Bush, or another four years of compromising? Which is the bigger risk?

Friday, July 2, 2004

louder than words: reloaded differed from the Matrix sequel I jokingly subtitled it after in two significant ways:

1) It didn't completely and unnecessarily alter its tone from its original incarnation;

2) The turnout was much lower.

In fact, the paid turnout was exactly the same as the last show back in May: 21. One difference was that it didn't adversely affect my mood as I wasn't adding up how much money was coming out of my pocket this time, thanks to a renegotiated deal for the door to something more appropriate for a Tuesday night slot.

Another was that there was no disappointment over the lack of support for Eric to deal with, who was performing in NYC for the last time before heading west. It wasn't like the Borg were doing anything special for him the following Monday! Or the previous.

The most significant difference, though, was the energy in the room. The most and best audience participation of any of the shows so far, helped greatly by Taylor Mali playing 5th man from the floor. Bassey was on point, frequently going toe-to-toe with Taylor who seemed to be gunning for her for reasons still unclear. Her's was a textbook lesson in speaking one's mind intelligently and spontaneously, without equivocation. Answer the question first, then clarify further, if necessary. Imagine that for a concept!

She and I flowed well together, too, I think.

Rich and Dawn were solid, if frequently drowned out by the audience input. Not a bad thing, necessarily, and the moments they were able to speak up were good ones. The only glitch came at the end, with Dawn defending Taylor against a perceived slight, and delivering the winning line of the night: "Does that mean just because you go to strip clubs, that you understand the plight of women?" It was random and out of left field and afterwards I teased her about it. Being Taylor's girlfriend and being a part of the same scene where he is equally loved and hated has to be tough. He takes some cheap shots sometimes and I can understand her feeling punchy about it.

The audience, though, was really the star of the show, from Taylor and Eliel to Steve and Dyanna, to Abena and Oscar and the others who spoke up, it was as close to what I've envisioned for the show yet and certainly recharged my batteries.

Except for the turnout.

And that's a big deal. When I booked the first two shows on Saturdays, guaranteeing a minimum at the door, I said if I couldn't get 36 paid audience members in the house, I shouldn't do the show. We've gone from 60-something to 40-something to 21 to 21. That's enough to get a show canceled on UPN!

So for those looking for an answer about whether I'll do another one, the answer is...I don't know. It's more Bob's call than my own. And beyond that, it's up to the audience.

It's one thing to say an idea is a good one, but it's another thing to actually turn those words into action and actually support it. And this isn't really directed at the regular readers of this journal as the majority of you, those in the local area, have come out and supported the show.

So I don't know the answer, to be honest. Here's a suggestion, though: if you like the show and want to see it happen again, email Bob at the Bowery Poetry Club and let him know.

Like they say on MTV, choose or lose.