Posts from — October 2011
FOR THE ROSES
I think of her watching the
last rose petals on a
day like today, say deep
August, browning like
an old rubber doll
she might have left
in an attic in Canada.
I think of her pressing
skin against glass, a sense
of summertime falling,
that sense of fall
that that Sylvia Plath
wrote of. Or maybe some
freeze frame of what
is going, moving on.
I see her pale arms,
sea mist velvet jeans
hugging hips that
never will not be boyish.
In the wind, gone
voices move close
to her cheek bones. In
this frame she could be in
a fancy 30’s gown. Some
thing is raw, some thing
is broken. It has to be
a full moon
etching black water.
She has to know that
from what is torn
and scarred, some
thing almost too
is already stirring,
some thing dark
as coal becoming
dying to be born
About the poet:
Lyn Lifshin has written more than 125 books and edited 4 anthologies of women writers. Her poems have appeared in most poetry and literary magazines in the U.S.A, and her work has been included in virtually every major anthology of recent writing by women. You can read an interview with Lyn by Emily Vogel in Ragazine.CC archives by googling “lyn lifshin interview ragazine”.
October 28, 2011 Comments Off on Lyn Lifshin/Poetry
Mr. Hyde | Spray-paint and oil on canvas | 110 x 115cm
Painting the bad dream
Q: The theme of your new show, ‘Semi-Detached’, you have described as depicting ‘what goes on behind closed doors’. How much of the show will relate to personal experience?
A: My experiences as a child in a very difficult and potentially violent environment, has had a strong impact on all parts of my life. My father was a violent and cruel man, whose presence in the family home caused physical and emotional pain for us all. My mum was the focus of his violent behaviour and she really suffered at his hands. We were left homeless after fleeing the family home. We lived in so many places after that, including a caravan in a farmer’s field and also a gutted farm house that was home to chickens – the chickens still came in to visit after that! My oldest sister witnessed a lot more than me and sadly I believe it really brought the worst out in her in later years.
Being a child in that type of situation is a nightmare. All the things that should be there to support you and help you develop as an adult are undermined by the fear and unpredictability of the situation. My mother did her best to protect us, but she was lonely and vulnerable herself. Despite all that happened in the early days, my Mum’s love has shone through for me and I have held onto that as an adult, despite losing her tragically early when I was only nineteen. Without this love, I can’t imagine how I could have carried on and achieved anything as an adult.
I’m always intrigued yet horrified when I read in the paper about murderers or people that have sex slaves in their basements. Neighbours are quoted as saying things like “ooh he was such a quiet and polite man… who would have thought”.
Sociopaths can be the most worrying, as we like to think we can summarise and judge people quickly and accurately – but we can’t always. Who knows what some people are up to behind closed doors…
My work really started taking off when I realized that it was ok to express some of the darker emotions in my art. For a long time I kept a lid on all these feelings. My piece called ‘Exorcism’ is the first piece in which I found my creative voice and it’s still one of the most powerful images I have ever painted.
Q: Where do you call home, these days, and where is your studio?
A: I live in north London with my partner and two cats. I’ve lived in the Haringay area of London for twenty years now. I couldn’t really imagine living anywhere else other than London. London is such an amazing place with so much to do. A lot of people that inhabit the city take it all for granted I think. It can be a lonely place though; I found it hard when I first arrived here with £4.90 in my pocket.
It’s nice to feel safe and be finally settled now, although I still have a wooden club next to my bed though, just in case…
Our house has a nice garden and the house is big enough for me to have my own studio at home. This works for me at the moment, but in time I may need to expand into a bigger space. I love the idea of working much bigger than I currently do.
Q: When and how did you get involved with art?
A: I’ve been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. I was naturally talented I would say, but there wasn’t anyone in my family that was arty in the obvious sense, that encouraged me.
I always loved the military look of the feudal and medieval period, so I would draw Saxons or Knights. I was never really a confident drawer in front of people but when I started painting and using pastels at about 12, I really came into my own. I did still lifes and landscapes from my imagination. I also did drawings of Johnny Rotten, Adam Ant and other bands. Later I had a period of painting LP covers on people’s leather jackets. I was always obsessed with graffiti and I would write ‘Dale G’ from the age of about ten, then later I became ‘Grimmy’ and I would daub that at every given opportunity! My mum encouraged my art and bought me materials when she could, I also stole materials from shops when the occasion arose.
When I was at Assessment Centre in Blackburn as a teenager, I was helped to pursue creative routes – they must have been desperate to stop me glue sniffing and I was allowed to paint on the walls in the building, which was great.
The Fool | Oil and spray paint on canvas | 2009
Q: Who or what would you say has been your principal motivator to take art?
A: No one in particular motivated me to produce art – I naturally gravitated towards it myself. There’s no defining moment either.
I wanted to be really famous so I thought I should either be a famous archaeologist, a serial killer or an artist. Archaeology started to appear really boring as time went on. With being a serial killer I realized I would have to kill people horribly, so that was out of the question. Being a famous artist seemed really plausible. I was a strange child.
We had several prints by famous artists in our council house on Clarence Road whilst growing up, including Monet and Constable. Constable’s ‘The Cornfield’ was really painterly and had a farm boy drinking from a stream. His sheep dog and herd were near by and in the background was a cornfield. I loved the narrative of it.
Later on I was fascinated by the designs of punk record covers. The drawing on the front of Adam and the Ants ‘Young Parisians’ single springs to mind. If you look at the photography on Adam’s ‘Zerox’ cover, you can really see similarities with what I do now. Later I liked Jamie Reid’s approach to art – cut it out, throw some glue on it and stick it down ‘Blue Peter’ style.
Q: Do you have a formal education in art, design or photography that you bring to a session, or are you self-taught?
A: I guess you would say I had formal training, but tutors don’t really teach you, in the strict sense of the word, especially at degree level. At foundation level you are taught basic colour theory and life drawing (working from nude model), etc. I went to Blackburn College of Art and Middlesex University, based in north London.
In my very early teens I got those ‘how to paint’ books from the adult section of the library; I would study and copy from those. In time the snotty-faced librarians tried to stop me for a while, fuck knows why…
Q: What kind of medium do you favor, and why? Oil, acrylic, pastel, all?
A: I was mainly an oil painter in the early college days, I started seriously again with oils after my mum died. However, as time has gone on I have found that this medium doesn’t suit all my needs in the studio. It’s a shame because I really love the feel and finish of oils, but I work with a lot of splashes, smears and gestural brush marks. I found acrylic paint really suits this approach better, due to its accelerated drying time. I also use spray paint, especially when I’m painting on outside walls. Spray paint is good for blocking in big areas quickly and it also dries really fast so you can work over it with other types of paint.
I also produce big woodcut prints that I paste up out on the streets across the world. With his technique you first draw your image onto the flat piece of wood, then you cut out the areas that you don’t want to print – it’s like inverted drawing. Then you apply ink with a roller over your design, place the paper on top, apply pressure and then the inked image is left on the paper. Voila!
Q: Where do your images come from? imaginary or based on real events that you transform?
A: The ideas for paintings are often based on memories or experience, but usually the paintings are more of a loose interpretation rather than being a really literal depiction. I sometimes get photos off the internet to start an idea going, then I nearly always take my own photos, mainly of the body, to back this initial reference material up. I do a lot of digital sketches before I start painting. If I’m working on a full colour painting, as opposed to monochrome, then I like to have lots of detail of the skin areas. I love to capture the real visceral fleshiness of the human form – the veins and muscle underneath the skin, if I can.
Q: What artists working today do you admire, and who would you most like to work with (living or dead)?
A: I was a huge fan of Scottish painter Peter Howson when I was younger, along with Ken Currie. I loved the Herculean type physicality of Howson’s work. I also really admired Lucian Freud with his fleshy un-apologetic take on the human body in its many grisly forms and colours. I never really went through what seemed to be the obligatory Francis Bacon obsession that most art students go though — although I’ve come to really appreciate his stuff of late.
I really like Jenny Saville’s work too.
I’d probably work well with someone like Rubens – he could do his amazing translucent fleshy bodies and then I’d add to it and fuck it up with all my trademark smears and splashes. That would be great as I could nick some flesh-painting tips at the same time.
Dale Grimshaw / Artist
Q: Anything we haven’t touched that you’d like to comment on?
A: My solo show ‘Semi –Detached’ starts at Signal Gallery London on the 7th October. The private view is Thurs 6th October. (The show runs through October 29th.)
About the interviewer:
Patrick Palmer has the unusual combination of having both an artistic and a business background — over 20 years’ experience in media, marketing and publishing. He is a figurative artist, and his work can be seen at: www.patrickpalmer.co.uk
October 27, 2011 Comments Off on Dale Grimshaw, Art/Interview
Letter to the Editor
on the Morning After The Execution
I’m very sorry I won’t be meeting my deadline. I’ve been battling technology and all its little hiccups and disasters for a week now, attempting to make another deadline for a group show. And a podcast. And the new class I’m teaching. And the artwork for an album. And all of the little pieces I put out to the world hoping for some sort of human feedback wave to continuously wash over me and tell me I am still doing, still doing, still doing and not lost and not too sick or too tired or too brain-fogged.
It was in the background noise all this week, dropping in and out of the periphery… enough for me to shake my head at the country I left, that I find myself defending in spite of and despite of… because I miss it. That strange, warm, friendly and dangerous… failing, falling giant.
This morning, a break from battling yet another technology battle… I remembered it was set to happen last night. I started reading the news with all of the geographical and cultural and economical and situational distance between us. The sort of distance good reporting can provide. It all crashed when I read about his last meal.
He had refused the option of a last supper. He refused to accept that this thing looming closer could possibly happen. Whose nature could accept that? What nature could accept that? He had a cheeseburger and baked beans and grape soda. There was more, but that’s what I remember. The grape soda. There is something so vulnerable about a person eating. He had grape soda.
I have a tendency to position myself closer to animal rights than human rights issues. There is something personal in this I struggle to articulate, though I always manage to come up with something when I’m asked to defend this position… which happens more and more. It’s seen as a luxury that can’t be afforded. I believe in the interconnectivity of things… I believe these issues are connected. Today I find myself wondering, however, how we could possibly manage to take care of the flora and fauna of this world, when we could poison the life out of a human being and call it law.
Mornings like this I wonder if I should go on medication. I take a bath to attempt to thaw and lighten. I notice I forget to take a breath, so I inhale enough for three. The movement of my diaphragm pushing against the water causes a wave. The wave travels and returns just as I inhale again. For a little while, I am breathing with the water. I am thinking only of breath and feeling only the water.
Then I think of grape soda, and quickly switch to thinking of the class I have to teach tomorrow… and how will I get such a large file to England for a show… and did I finish everything for the podcast launch…and what will I write to Mike about not making the deadline…
All My Best,
About the contributor:
Maile Colbert is an intermedia artist with a concentration on sound and video, relocated from Los Angeles and living and working between New York and Lisbon, Portugal. She spent the last two years collaborating with Binaural/Nodar and is currently director of Cross the Pond, an organization based on arts and cultural exchange between the U.S. and Portugal.
She holds a BFA in The Studio for Interrelated Media from Massachusetts College of Art, and a MFA in Integrated Media/Film and Video from the California Institute of the Arts.
October 27, 2011 Comments Off on Maile Colbert/Letter to the Editor
“The last time my dad and I went out to breakfast together, just before he died, we got into a conversation with an old man from North Carolina who claimed he found a musket ball in a snapping turtle from the civil war.”
Fishing A Filthy River
By Joe Weil
This afternoon, after seeing what the recent deluge had done to my garden, and realizing once more how weeds have a much better sense of gratitude for rain and sun than flowers, I rigged up, and went down to the river to fish.
We are talking the Susquehanna here, one of the two great rivers of the North East (the Delaware is the other). It is also, at least from Philadelphia on up to Binghamton, one of the most contaminated rivers in the North East. The filth of industrial cities, and the run-off from fertilized farms and sawmills, have made certain areas of the river dirty since the 19th century. This is not a new filth. We seem to think all-out worst transgressions happened since the media caught wind of ecology and Gary Snyder started writing about ecosystems, but the fishing in the Susquehanna, at least in the urban areas, is probably better than it’s been in decades: all those closed down factories, the loss of farms to suburban development, and the outlawing of pesticides in the ’70s has helped bring back the bird population as well as the fish. The river which once ran heavy with America Shad, giant sturgeon, and even Atlantic salmon, and then ran heavy with chemicals, is now home to fish more adapted to its murky waters, “junk fish” such as forty to fifty pound carp. The shad still thrive in places, but not up this way. Up near Binghamton and further Northwest, the river has a good healthy population of small mouth bass (introduced to the river – not native) as well as Walleye (considered by some to be the best eating fresh water game fish), northern pike, and Muskelunge. Fish native to the river include White cat, various types of bullhead cat fish, the prehistoric bowfin, yellow perch, and pickerel.
Of these fish, I know my chances are better than even that, given the recent rains, and the muddy conditions, I am going to catch some nice-sized brown bullheads and, if I am lucky, a channel cat or walleye (walleyes have eyes adapted to turgid and dark waters, thus making them a night fish except on windy and rainy days – days when we have what the fishermen call a “Wally chop”).
I am not using the heavy sinkers and ten to 20 pound test most serious fishermen on the river use. I am using a single split shot – less than a sixteenth of an ounce, a hook just large enough to bait-hold a baby night crawler, and six pound test, more of a trout stream set up, than the kind of gear you use on a wide and slow-moving river. Given the strong current of a post-rain storm (the usual sand bar I fish from is two feet underwater), my rig promises to call for maximum skill on any fish bigger than a pound.
Why am I doing this? Most of my friends are poets, and radical blue-staters, and question my behavior along the lines of suspecting me of joining the league of Sarah Palin and men who sit in bad bars all winter, eating pickled eggs and telling dirty jokes (translation: those people, those white trash people). Yes I have read Proust, and more importantly, Annie Dillard, and, I have been known to attend a poetry reading or two – but I never liked dabbling in semiotic consistency. More importantly, when I was a child, and terrified, and my mother kept having minor heart attacks, my father took me to a filthy river – usually at night – and we would sit for hours, mostly catching very little, talking. This was the late ’60s, the pesticides still legal, the rivers and lakes so filthy the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire (and our own Elizabeth river often flowed a bright pink, compliments of some unknown industry). So we never saw an egret, a heron, or even a muskrat along the river. Once, a giant snapping turtle rose up and bit off my line, and my father and I talked about that turtle for years – its ferocity, the way it rose out of nowhere to show who was boss. One year the snapper was the size of a bicycle tire, but in a few years’ time, it had grown to 18-wheeler proportions. Somehow, I remembered it has having bit through one-hundred pound test line, and as having dozens of fishing lures dangling from its jaws and its carapace. The last time my dad and I went out to breakfast together, just before he died, we got into a conversation with an old man from North Carolina who claimed he found a musket ball in a snapping turtle from the civil war. He further asserted that a snapper contained every type of meat and sea food there was: pork, beef, game fish, lobster, depending on how you cooked him up. “Yep,” the old timer said, “seven kind of critter in that snapper, and I’ll tell you something: you can bathe a snake bite wound inside a snapper’s shell, splash the shell water on the wound, with some tea and baking soda, and it’ll heal the snake bite – least the water moccasins, and them moccasins… well, that’s another story.”
Stories moved in free flow, partly from what we have seen both with the optic and the imagination’s eye, and partly out of some inner necessity to set that story down in our lives and let it roost among our joys, and fears.
Yesterday, at 6:30 in the morning, I saw a wild turkey hen and her long-necked chicks moving over the flood wall. I saw a red fox, two herons, an egret, and then, yesterday afternoon, just before a major downpour on the river, I spied a bald eagle circling high up over the island just up-stream. There had been an enormous moth hatch along the river the night before (I was fishing then, too), millions upon millions of moths heading east, their white wings slightly glowing in the dusk, and this had led to the fish rising – nice sized fish, just big enough to attract an eagle. I didn’t believe my own eyes till my friend, Mark Elder, a carpenter, Onondaga Indian, and hunter/fisherman confirmed it. “Yep,” he said, “that’s an old baldy, and I’ll tell you what – they say they’re not along the river here, but we’ve seen it with our own eyes, and there’s cougar, too. Don’t care what the experts say. I know they’re up there in the mountains and come down into the deep woods. I’d bet my life on it. They’re coming back. Just wait. The wolves, too.”
I don’t tell Mark this may be wishful thinking, but I understand his yearning. If you can stand within spitting distance of a major highway and watch a bald eagle glide above a river that is considered one of the filthiest in the East, anything is possible. Mark talks of the wolves. He is only 25, a high school drop-out who has been making his own way through life since he was 12. He works 96 hour weeks, repairing houses, and running heavy equipment. He can fix or make anything. He knows how to hunt and fish and track, and I think he loves the animals far more than those who cluck their tongues at hunting and fishing ever do.
In his company I remember things I’d forgotten I know: how to skin a catfish, and leave no bones, how to know which rain is good for fishing, and which is not. There are different rains, different colors and flavors to the rains and winds. I am not a nature boy. I don’t understand why certain folks want to purposely suffer in the wilderness when they could be comfortable. Makes no sense to me. I worry they are using their knowledge of the eco-system as a status symbol, a form of station identification. This is why the hunters and fishing folk often take a dim view of the neo-hippies: Puritanism. Nothing is pure in the woods, and no animal, worth its salt, will purposely do things the hard way just for the sheer challenge of it. This is the folly of sports hunters, and also eco-hippies. Nature does not exist to please us or challenge us, or for that matter, to tire itself out. It exists to survive us and, perhaps, eat us. And we, being part of that world, try to do the same. I ask Mark: “Why don’t the regular people up here like the eco-kids?” He says: “Because them kids think they know everything, and the first rule of the woods is you never know nothing, even when you do.”
So Mark is waiting for the cougars and wolves to come back. He and his enemy have a lot more in common than he’d admit. I heard one of the food co-op kids on campus one day, a confirmed green lifer and vegan speaking about the return of the wolf and the cougar. The distances in education and money are narrowed by the organism’s need to wonder and await some imminent return. In the meantime, Mark works 96 hours a week to make ends meet. The frackers offer him a job driving heavy equipment at fracking sites in Pennsylvania where a worker can make 80 to 100 dollars an hour, money not too far removed from the eco-kid’s lawyer father. In the meantime, I know, fishing or not, my father is not coming back since he’s been dead these thirty something years, but he’s part of me as I wade out to where I stood two days ago. I cast my line only 20 feet, remembering the steep drop off. The water is the color of dark orange clay. I don’t flip the bail until the line stops playing out in the strong current, and my sinker is at or near bottom. In less than a minute I hook into a 3 pound catfish. He and the current fight me for fifteen minutes – loosening my drag, moving back toward the bank, slowly reeling him into the shallows where I can grab him rightly under his white-gold belly, avoiding the spiny fin that could give me a nasty gash on my thumb.
I remember night fishing with my father 35 years ago, two days after my mom went into the hospital, this time for the mouth cancer which would kill her. As usual, he warned me to watch for the bullhead’s thorny fin, then as I reeled in what was, for us, a big catfish (maybe ten inches), he forgot his own advice. The fish gashed him deep, inspiring a series of goddamns, and another cigarette. I remember shining the flashlight on his bloody hand. This catfish here and now is far bigger. My father would have been delighted. For a moment, the pain in me is so strong, and the anger, too. I think of Mark, who never knew his father. I want to tell him nothing comes back – certainly not the father, and, perhaps everything they make us love and yearn for is suspect. Even if things return, we are not the same person who receives them. The river relentlessly devours shore lines, and, in floods, whole towns, but every second of every hour, it devours itself, disappears into its own effacement.
On my third cast, I catch a third catfish, and then on my fourth, a turtle – a snapper as big as the one me and my father hooked into. It is big, but nowhere near the size of a tire. It grabs hold of my line. This time, it does not snap it. It merely lets go, and sinks back into the muddy water from where it rose. The need to share this with my father is so deep that I feel nothing but a dull but nagging sense of “so what?”, a sense of having lost my pack, those who would have admired my story because they shared in it. This grief is like a body caught in a swirl, a double current. Whenever I think my grief is gone, it resurfaces, if only for a moment. I sit on the gravel bar, and I speak to my father: I am sick of missing him. It has grown old and tired, redundant. I don’t want to miss him or anyone or anything else. It is like a song you dislike, but, every few months, it comes back to you unbidden as you drive down a highway and you don’t know how or why it is usurping your brain, forcing you to listen to what you would not choose to hear. I know this grief will sink under the weight of the present. I’ll go home and tell my wife about the snapper. But, as much as I love her and want her to enter the story with me, the groove of my telling will be mere information – not story. For a story needs its pack, its tribe. No story is alone when it howls at the moon. If it is, like all the millions of bits of information, it soon vanishes and dies. We wait our whole lives, not only to tell a story but to find the true scene, the full ground of our being in which the other may enter and truly be part of the story with us We have brief moments when this seems almost possible. Those moments will never be enough, but they will have to do.
Joe worked as a tool maker and labor activist for over twenty years, then became a university poetry instructor in 2006. He has played piano professionally, and read with such poets as Allen Ginsberg, Gerald Stern, Patricia Smith, Jan Beatty, and Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Dunn. Weil’s latest book, The Plumber’s Apprentice, recently was published by New York Quarterly press. Joe moderates a popular poetry show on Facebook, and is very active in promoting poetry and poetry events whenever and wherever he can.
October 27, 2011 Comments Off on Joe Weil/Creative Nonfiction
In considering “actionable intelligence”
By Jim Palombo
At first glance, I think you have to admit that this (actionable intelligence) is an intriguing term. After all, actionable – making something happen, and intelligence – having a substantial knowledge base, are words that aren’t commonly linked. However, when put together, there is a sense of obviousness – that they can complement one another in a way that translates into making something practical happen with knowledge.
I first heard this term when I was working in Mons, Belgium. It was some fifteen years ago, and I was a faculty member in the criminal justice and sociology disciplines with the University Maryland’s European Division, a program closely tied to our military and state department overseas processes. As was my custom, and because my teaching and traveling presented some rather unique opportunities, I found myself involved in a variety of projects and discussions. At that time, and because I was headquartered at a very important international military base (SHAPE), I became interested with how the U.S had transitioned from a U.N. focus to that of NATO. (This is indeed an interesting transition, involving a variety of political and military considerations, that some argue happened to better reinforce U.S. control over decisions affecting our military presence in the world.) In this context, I was able to consider ideas more closely tied to the military goings-on, one of which was the notion of “actionable intelligence.”
In brief, the term was applied to that amount of intelligence gathered that should be acted upon. This was compared to intelligence that might not be considered useful, or useful only in a future sense, but not actionable at the moment. Of course, as might be expected, some intelligence bordered somewhere in between, so the measurement was not an exact science. Nonetheless, qualifying “actionable intelligence” spoke to a most interesting decision making process, so the term itself stayed with me.
Although I liked what the term embodied, I really didn’t consider it much more until recently. I heard it mentioned in a spy-thriller movie, and as I was smiling at recognizing its use, I couldn’t help but think how it might apply to some of my current work/concerns. And as is evidenced by this piece, it seems it does.
Let me explain. I will shortly be traveling to Rhodes, Greece for the Rhodes Forum (www.RhodesForum.com). This is a gathering of political, economic and social thinkers who are concerned about global issues, and I was invited to participate through my association withRagazine. In considering what I was going to discuss, which includes issues tied to some of my previous articles here in Ragazine as well as concerns raised at the Campaign for an Informed Citizenry (CIC) website, www.cicorg.com, it occurred to me that what we are all after these days is intelligence (or knowledge) that can be acted upon. And although the scope of the Forum gathering will be different, it has become an unfortunate trait with many conferences for this not to be produced. In other words, I wanted to make sure that I underscored the “knowledge into action” point as a major part of my contribution to the Forum discussions.
In this sense, here is how this term-integration plays out. As clarified at the CIC website, it is evident that most of the U.S. public is not well versed in understanding ideology – the political and economic frames that related to how societies like ours and those throughout the world actually function. This means that our public is somewhat in the dark when it comes to understanding, among other things, the important relationship of democracy to capitalism. And this speaks to a number of inquiries: Isn’t America at least as much capitalist as it is democratic? In fact, aren’t the problems facing the U.S. more tied to our economic structure than anything else? And if so, what exactly is capitalism? And how do liberal and conservative views relate to that structure, as well as the notion of democracy? And equally as important, how might socialism and communism, frames that a majority of the world attach to, be compared?
Of course, this lack of understanding makes it difficult for us to sort through the national and international concerns of the day. And this lack almost certainly has to have an impact on our ability to gather and/or develop adequate intelligence that can then be responsibly acted upon. (This is especially so if the information/data/research out there is not predicated on the full nature of our ideological elements to begin with.) Now it is not the purpose here to push upon the reader some form of academic article, a piece that would stray from our more reader-friendly approach here at Ragazine. But for the sake of what has already been noted, let me present a brief review of how this lack of knowledge may actually be harmful.
For me, as a criminologist, there is no better way than in referencing crime, as it remains one of the social problems that seems always most troublesome. In studying crime it is fair to approach the concerns from micro, mid and macro levels. (This can be the case with other social problems as well.) In other words, we can look at the incidence of crime from: micro, individual, biological and psychological considerations (what motivated the behavior at that level); to mid, sociological considerations (what might be happening on structural-environmental levels with families, communities, social agencies, etc. that might relate to motivation); to macro- the political and economic frames under which societies live and labor (what variables at this level fuel behaviors at both individual and structural levels.) Of course, in the context of identifying these motivations, responses to the behavior will follow in conjunction with what is supported at the various levels. (This ‘motivation to response’ equation is evidenced in terms of the major objectives related to the development of any criminal justice system.)
Of course, at every level of analysis (and there are certainly some crossovers among the levels), it would seem very worrisome to leave out the essence of our economic motivations, which are linked closely to capitalism, in trying to understand and then respond to concerns like crime. Among other things, the cultural instincts prevalent in the United States (behavior, given particular cultural emphases, that becomes over time almost innate) should have a correlation to the pushes and pulls of the economic system. And in the U.S. is there a greater ‘”push or pull” than that embodied within our capitalist system? This is nothing more than simple logic, is it not? (I caution the reader that this is not to say that capitalism is “bad.” It is to say that its nature needs to be better understood.)
So, it is with this reasoning that “actionable intelligence” will be brought to the table. In doing so, guidelines referencing its application need to be considered, including: 1.Is the knowledge, both already gathered and about to be gathered, verifiable in both scientific/theoretical and practical ways? 2. Is this knowledge clearly transferable/relatable to people and the organizations they are part of? 3. Is it understandable in political, economic and social policy terms; in essence, does the scope of the knowledge allow for designing legitimate action plans and problem solving?
All said another way, if we are going to create reliable intelligence-gathering efforts and research projects, ones that can lead to legitimate policy initiatives that will in turn have a legitimate impact on the problems we face, then we have to include/reference all the variables at hand. And this would have to include the nature of capitalism, especially within the most advanced capitalist system in the world. Importantly, this approach is not party to any political, or any favor for that matter – again, it is just common sense. (There is a baseball analogy that fits very well here. If one is interested in understanding the game, could this happen by referencing all the aspects of the game except for the pitcher and catcher? As this is the primary mechanism by which the game is played, the answer has to be “of course not.” The same should be said in terms of examining what goes on in the United States and our reference or lack thereof to capitalism. In other words, to leave either essential mechanism inadequately noted/defined/explained will simply not lead to any legitimate understanding of what is happening on the field.)
So this will be my focus as I enter the discussions in Rhodes – to talk about the need, particularly in the U.S., to better understand ideological/civic considerations. (And hopefully to exchange ideas on an action plan that might assist us accordingly.)…. I expect the discussions there will be informative and provocative, so I hope my contribution is seen in this light. Stay tuned for the outcome upon my return – it will be contained in the next edition of Ragazine. For the moment though, we certainly welcome your input on the ideas already presented. As always, your thoughts on our thoughts are what make for a dialogue essential in addressing our vexing state of affairs.
During the presidential debates, we will continue to hear thoughts/ideas/sentiments relative to what is and what should be happening in our country. Keep in mind that for the most part whatever is being said is being said within the context of the limited analyses noted above. This means that in the freest, most powerful country in the world, people will be voting on their leader based on something other than clear, actionable knowledge. Among other things, this means that the relationship of faith, emotion and reasoning will be on less than stable ground, which certainly presents a troublesome portent of things to come.
About Rhodes Forum:
Every autumn since 2003 the ancient Greek island of Rhodes hosts a session of the World Public Forum, Dialogue of Civilizations, called the Rhodes Forum that brings together public figures and statesmen, academics, religious figures and representatives of the arts, mass media and business spheres from all over the world. The sessions of the WPF Dialogue of Civilizations proved the urgency and efficacy of the Forum by bringing the focus of world public opinion to the problems of intercultural dialogue and the need to work out instruments to make interaction among cultures and civilizations possible. The results achieved by the Forum give a hope for further harmonization of international relations and strengthening of stability in the world.
About the author:
Jim Palombo is a public policy advocate, social worker, and retired professor of criminology and sociology. He travels and writes primarily on social issues, and has authored two books, “From Heroin to Heresy” (Wm Neil Publishing) and “Criminal to Critic-Reflections Amid The American Experiment” (Rowman and Littlefield.) He is co-founder of the Campaign for an Informed Citizenry and serves as Ragazine’s Politics editor.
October 27, 2011 Comments Off on Rhodes Forum/Politics
Landslides in Slow Motion
storms better than anyone
she gets up at dawn with her legs and plush abdomens
when I wake
The BBC is a pocket of rubies
in whose knowledge I reflect
against a dozen lives
the autonomous mind of a lemur
it was the start of a natural
one that is still unfolding
at an excruciatingly slow pace
I feel like a tree letting go of an embankment
our love is cleaved by a small crack
our house is sliding into the next century
one limb at a time
the complete poems of John Donne
and a swarm of bees
in my pseudopodia
we were dissolving into the intelligence of a single bee
we were learning how to use machines
building a simulated city from scratch
look how the people are erecting a statue
how they move in
when we give them electricity
and blue skies
Waltzing With You
I want to open the mouth God gave to you,
beautiful mutant. Can you see me in this dusk,
asking nothing of it? I feel sentimental. Feel like
Captain Janeway watching a planet implode.
When you sit down at your desk playing
your live-feed video game, you’re really
doing a waltz. And me, at my desk, I follow
your lead and smoke a cigarette over your shoulder.
Eventually you teach me how to walk on our floor
without upsetting Dave the lawyer
in apartment 3R who had has to get up early
and go to work. You teach me how to stuff peppers
with whatever we have in the cupboards.
And when I call out in my sleep at night,
you always call back to me. You always, I think,
tell me I’m dreaming. Or I dream you tell me
I’m dreaming, and I feel a little better.
[how is it that there aren’t enough chemicals]
how is it that there aren’t enough chemicals in certain
glands sending good messages or that I have to light
a verbena candle to will a calm list of scenes in my mind
I eat a sardine on a slice of sourdough perhaps the last
of my kind to do such a thing to eat softened bones
and blue skin with a glass of wine candle-lit waiting
for you to come home and take off your pants
I am prepared (I think) to forgive myself yet it does not
enter into routine − how is it that a message can be
sent by blood by stem or by leaf? I lift my feelers
to sense your distance like a television
and what of forgiveness? it sits in the pit at the epicenter
of a peach let’s call it passion the way I ruin
and ruin like a silk blouse let’s call it sentience
or rough wings opening on the back of a cockroach
cleaning our kitchen at night and years from now
let’s call it the way I evolved the way I was put together
this mouth toppled onto my chin these breasts
thrown together over the heart let’s call it something
with a good name that a person with the right wiring
would fathom like the way your body makes me want
only that which is free and given the way I go to it
willingly one pheromone at a time without thought
About the poet:
Bianca Stone is the author of the chapbook “Someone Else’s Wedding Vows” from Argos Books, and has been published in Best American Poetry 2011, Conduit, and American Poetry Review. She is the co-founder and editor of Monk Books. Her next book, Antigonick, a new kind of comic book, and collaboration with Anne Carson, will be out in 2012 from New Directions. She lives in Brooklyn.
October 27, 2011 Comments Off on Bianca Stone/Poetry
Sean considers himself a storyteller, critic, dabbling haiku poet and a photographer. Shooting with the Diana F+, a medium format film camera with a plastic lens. The manual focus camera has “cult” following dating back to the 60’s.
drifting off the map,
sunset is your clock
The Poseur, the Poet
will try to caption beauty
blowing zen moments
The Places You’ll Go…
journey long enough
and your life fades to a dream
dreamt by ten-year-olds
A Good Freestyle…
living life as if
she were one breath from drowning
she learned to swim well
rocks: the poor man’s gold
it all depends on the light
and your perspective
Made in the USA
he’d seen all the ads
re: the good life and he knew
he’d come out all right
In White Noise
the hush now past, gone,
not defeatist, just accepting,
he drifts through the din
Unanswered Letters to God
weighting dreams with time–
withstanding their whittling,
wondering, why me?
Like human beings, the Diana F+ is an unreliable machine. It will let you down half the time, blurring an image or misusing light among its more egregious flaws. But when the elements do come together the effect is magical and the resulting image can be uniquely special. I have composed haiku and senryu poems to companion my favorite images wrought from the Diana F+. Photography is a challenge to the ephemeral inevitability of life, a frozen millisecond framed in a certain tableau by a certain machine. Similarly, haiku poetry celebrates the impermanence of things, designing a poem out of the transitory nature of being. It’s been an ongoing pleasure of mine to pair these art forms together so that an altogether novel experience is rendered and perhaps, out of the chaos of modern life, some basic truth about existence may be empathetically enjoyed by strangers.
Sean Lotman is a native of Los Angeles. He lived in Tokyo for eight years and has recently relocated to Kyoto, Japan. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in LPV Magazine and Grey Sparrow, among others.
October 27, 2011 Comments Off on Sean Lotman / I DO HAIKU YOU
So August rolls in, the summer’s half gone.
Grit firmly embedded between my toes,
In old t-shirt and ragged cargos,
My flip flops clip-clopping on the boardwalk,
I see a vision in the dunes:
My childhood self, an elf with pail and shovel
Digging to China, about halfway there,
And I realize my life is half over.
For a moment I think it must be the heat:
Too much time in the sun, too much sand from the beach,
Too much barbecued meat, too much salt in the air.
Too much living the life. Then I think: who cares?
Because August’s still summer, even half over,
The surf is still running, the babes are still sunning,
My tan is still glowing, my biceps still showing
My life will go on forever.
About the poet:
Esta Fischer’s poetry has been published in New York Quarterly, Caper Literary Journal, PANK, The Blotter, and other journals.
October 27, 2011 Comments Off on Esta Fischer/Poetry
Obasa min Dahlin’ used his head to stop a bullet. The people in the press room used their eyes. If they blinked with their eyes closed they sometimes saw a deeper red. Their wide-angled phones caught everything – they were so powerful.
They were so powerful they could tune rumour into fact. [One of those instances when the word ‘powerful’ and the word ‘sensitive’ are nearly synonymous.]
Dahlin’ was a free bird in a free world because he has wings. I have never had wings. I have never felt the air solidify around me because I never travel at such speeds.
What I have is roots. What he had is caves. What they have is fences. [You could call this a primer.]
I have seen fences that shed the clothes they were given so that they could keep their neutrality in plain sight. In a borderless world I like the reassurance of fences I can see through. I often wonder at what speeds a person would need to travel to make it through those gaps all fences have. If you travel really fast – at bullet-speed, say – is the fence still porous or is it solid?
So one day Osaba stood tall and carried a plaent in his right hand. Oops. I meant planet. He spun the planet & he chinked his spurs – which were, he said privately, and only into ears that drank his words in at one end and spit them out the other, the spurs of discontent. As soon as he said this, two words fell out the other ear of his listener.
‘Disco’ and ‘tent’.
Osaba was always an ambitious man and you should not judge the scale of his ambition by the size of these two words. Remember: he can carry a planet in one hand and only people who cannot spell think that what he holds is a plant.
Fortune cookies on the table. There, in a bowl, extras for the avid and the unexpected. You spent forty Lenten days writing out each one, making notes, discarding the less-than-true. Earlier today we printed them out thin as edges twisted them into strips.
Someone will bite off more than they can chew, you said.
I should have taken sides. Why did I choose this city? We went to the wrong doctor. Thanks for thinking of us but it’s too late now. He should have got off one stop earlier. So many years and nothing to show for it. There, but for the absence of grace. Squandered.
Have you thought how to carry the conversation forward? Stage-management should include exit strategies.
Nobody meets your eye.
I’ve picked up the discarded strips of fortune.
Who got which one, I wonder?
Here – the remainders are all yours now.
About the author:
Sridala Swami’s poetry has appeared in Wasafiri, Asian Cha, Desilit, Drunken Boat, Spiral Orb, The South Asian Review and Poetry Salzburg Review, as well as several anthologies including The HarperCollins Book of Modern English Poetry by Indians (ed. Sudeep Sen, India: Harper Collins, forthcoming). Swami’s first collection of poems, A Reluctant Survivor (India: Sahitya Akademi, 2007, rp 2008) was shortlisted for the Shakti Bhatt First Book Award in 2008. She has written three books for very young children, which were published by Pratham in 2009. Swami was the 2011 Charles Wallace Writer-in-Residence at The University of Stirling, Scotland.
October 27, 2011 Comments Off on Sridala Swami/Fiction
A World That Sits on Sawdust
by Beth Timmins
Writer in Residence, Gifford’s Circus
A world that sits on sawdust,
Songs and cries and cheer.
Joy revolving round the ring
Watch in wonder, it’s here!
Beneath the twinkling tent you see
Magic under starlit sky,
It works it’s spell on all who tell
Of Circus; so strong the tie.
A world that sits on sawdust
The Big Top hides it’s secret,
Treasure it, as in the end,
It’s the ring that keeps it.
The rhythms of a poem remind me of those of a Circus; one moment tears can flood from your eyes while watching white doves fly around the ring, while in another, you’ll be laughing uncontrollably at the Circus clown. These moments by design are interwoven perfectly to empower one another, thus creating this most mysterious of art forms.
Nell Gifford performing at Gifford’s Circus.
We’ve now had the last show of the 2011 season. Each act performed, the violins played their melodies, the actors spoke their words and the audience roared applause for the final time this summer as Gifford’s Circus closed it’s blue green velvet curtains on “War & Peace at the Circus”. Gifford’s Circus was created by Nell and Toti Gifford in 2000. They began it from scratch; tent, horses, wagons, acts and all the other things that make up a Circus had to be made. It’s amazing to see it now, bringing that Circus sparkle to everyone who sees the show.
Few places brim with as much inspiration as a Circus. Everywhere you look, whether at the majestic Russian Cossack riding a pitch black gelding, or at the balletic aerialist rolling from ribbons of silk, there is always something to indulge your imagination. But with the beauty and glamour of the costumes and thrill of performing, comes the hardship of a nomadic life on the road, with days spent moving everything from the heavy seating boards to the canvas tents themselves.
Juggling with fire.
And, it’s not as if the Circus acts themselves are without an element of danger. In fact, some Circus artists have the most dangerous jobs in the world. The Ethiopian juggler Bichu, for example, burnt his eye while juggling with fire, but never gave up his act. Circus artists risk their lives everyday for that feeling of being in the centre of the ring, stunning viewers with inimitable skills. But their reason for joining the Circus is not simply the enjoyment in performance. It is the affect, every Circus artist I’ve spoken with agrees, that their acts have on the audience.
Tweedy the clown.
For Tweedy the clown, his purpose is to be “a real life cartoon,” and he is elated seeing the audience laugh. Pat and Kate Bradford delight in showing the audience something they have never before seen − an original, amazing hand-balancing, tap-dancing routine. It’s the audience’s enjoyment that keeps the Circus performers going through flooding rains and summer heat. Olivier, a Parisian mime, began his peforming career teaching disabled children physial expression.
Claire, one of the Parisians in the Circus band, says “the stars are our Big Top.” It feels that way late at night sitting around a fire listening to the many accents from exotic lands mixing in the air, while tent lights twinkle with the stars. Even so, when the touring season ends, and the intensity of life and work on the road wind down, the Circus family breaks up and the performers return to homes that sometimes are half-way around the world.
Circus is an art that has to be seen to be believed. It’s a different animal, some say, where one artist risks life and limb doing flips through the air above the ring, throwing knives from his tongue, or dropping suddenly from great heights with just a length of silk separating her from a crushing fall. This is why eyes fix on the ring, the thrill of danger, the strangeness of something never before seen, the imagined brought to life in the exotic artistry of Circus.
About the author:
Beth Timmins is writer-in-residence with the Gifford Circus. Find out more about her time with the Gifford’s Circus at http://residentwritergiffordscircus.wordpress.com/
October 27, 2011 Comments Off on The Circus Life
by Kimberly Dark
“People who are eccentric start to attract people who want to be around those who are eccentric. And then they’re joined by people who want to be sure no one paints a chartreuse trim on a lavender house.”
He was the best neighbor I’ve ever had. He passed away last year and I still miss his sunrise wave as he rode past on a rusty old bicycle.
Our conversations were minimal, though sometimes he’d visit, sit on my lanai for a little while and chat. He never came to my yearly solstice party, though I’d always invite him.
“Will you come?” I’d say.
“No,” he’d mutter “but thanks.”
He was the first of my neighbors to tell me about the area when I moved to the Southeast side of Hawaii Island. And he didn’t refer to my house as “Samantha’s house” as nearly everyone in the neighborhood did for years longer than she’d actually lived there. “This place wasn’t for her.” Greybeard said. “So, she left.” Simple as that. He was glad I was in that house – it didn’t always have the nicest folks living there. I was glad too – happy to give the house a good home, so to speak.
Greybeard and I sometimes chatted over a good sunset too. And we said hello at sunrise – me on my lanai in pajamas, he riding slowly past on his bicycle. He offered a wave, or a “good to see you” if I’d just returned home from a work trip. During sunset, we sometimes had whole conversations. Sometimes we just stood quietly and looked at the sky. Often, the light called me out of the house and I’d find him, sitting on his bike in the middle of our block, appreciating the beauty of it all Sure, people all over the world perch themselves before impressive vistas in order to watch the colors of the sunset, but where I live, it’s not just about watching the colors. There’s something about the light. The sky may or may not turn impressive shades of pink and lavender and gold. That’s pretty – but not the main event. It’s the light itself that filters through the low-hanging clouds giving everything, not just the sky, a golden glow.
One time, I was sitting at the computer working when the light changed and suddenly, nothing seemed more important than walking outside to be rendered golden. And indeed, I met up with four other neighbors out there, each of us just standing in the road in front of our houses. This is not an intentional gathering and no polite neighbor-banter is required. When it happens to you, it’s personal: it’s just between you and the light.
Because we live on the east side of the island, kind of southeast, the sun doesn’t set over the sea. If I were looking at the sea, the sunset would be happening just over my right shoulder. On the island, everything is oriented in one of two directions, either makai – toward the sea, or mauka – toward the mountain. This directionality always works, in a basic way. At my house, the sunset is mauka, though the golden glow can encompass everything.
The view mauka from my house is of a forested hillside. It’s an Ohia forest near the bottom and thicker rainforest further up. The Ohia and kupu kupu grow sparsely because we live on a lava flow. One road is visible down the side of the mountain and into our subdivision. It’s not paved, but is clearly marked by the electrical poles that give it purpose. This utility road isn’t for public use. A yellow gate at the top of our subdivision marks the intention that no one uses the road without permission. In true Puna style, however, the fence was placed strangely, just to the right of the road itself, so that effectively, it blocks nothing.
I stood staring in the direction of the sunset, everything, including me, bathed in a golden light that doesn’t seem to emanate from the sun. It is ubiquitous. The light, and the strange purple-gold color of the clouds, often resemble a Maxfield Parrish painting – one where a griffin or Pegasus is just about to step out onto a cloud, wearing a watch on a gold chain, it’s orange beak poised to speak.
Greybeard rolled slowly toward me, as I walked toward the corner for a better view. He coasted on his bicycle – one almost never saw Greybeard walking – clad in a t-shirt and some shorts which pulled up around his legs, looked more like a diaper. When it was hot, he wore his long grey hair in a topknot on his head and his long grey beard in a knot, accentuating the Sadhu-look. He was mumbling as he approached. “Hrm, prhm, electrical, hrm, hrm, beautiful, prhm, hrm.” He often mumbled quietly as he rode past, or he’d say, “Hare Krishna.”
“Hi Greybeard.” I said “The light called me outside. Beautiful sunset tonight.” I added.
He nodded a vigorous agreement and re-articulated what I believe he had just mumbled. “It’d be a lot more beautiful is someone hadn’t put all of these electrical lines in my view!”
“Hmm, yes,” I sympathized. “I know you’re not a fan of the electricity.”
It’s unusual for someone not to be a fan of electricity, but I live in an unusual neighborhood. Greybeard lived in the area a while – I’m not sure how long, but long enough to have known every inhabitant of my house. He was definitely there before electricity came in the late 1990s. He and a handful of other neighbors were not pleased by the prospect of electricity coming to the Seaview community. They protested the arrival of the Hawaii Electric Light Company and they lost. To hear some tell it, the protest was not so peaceful. Electrical poles, installed one day, would be sawed down by the time the workers arrived the following day. Of course, some residents still don’t have electricity – no lines ran to Greybeard’s property, that’s for sure. Some people operate their homes on solar or wind power, or they simply don’t use things that light-up, heat-up or get cold.
Greybeard’s home was pretty minimal anyway. I never visited his place, past the driveway, but my son was there. He stopped by one day to deliver a can of WD40 that Greybeard requested after fixing Caleb’s bicycle. When I asked if I could pay him, Greybeard responded with a brusque shake of his head, “No.” And then he added “But if you can pick me up a can of WD40, that’d be great.” I tend to forget, until reminded, that money isn’t actually worth anything. It’s what you can get with the money that’s worthwhile. And if a person doesn’t drive, as Greybeard doesn’t, simply asking for what you need might be the better option.
“He’s got it hooked up.” Caleb nodded after returning from delivering the WD40. “Pretty comfortable and the bed’s kind of hidden.” He commented on Greybeard’s partially open-air living arrangement. His lot was nicely landscaped and his home wasn’t too visible from the street. Only the tidiness called attention to the lot not being vacant. I heard Greybeard call out one night to a car with its headlights fixed on his lot. “Turn off that light! You don’t see me shining lights into your house, do you?!”
Greybeard was a good neighbor – the best I’ve ever had. He was the kind of guy you want in a community – regardless of his mono-moniker and mumbling. Or perhaps because of it. Diligent, concerned difference is a gift. He offered a free bicycle tune-up clinic at the Saturday farmer’s market down the street, and he served on our community association board. I feel certain he heard me and my music and conversations far more often than I heard from him. He helped maintain our community park and the free book and clothing exchange too. He recycled and didn’t use what he didn’t need.
And he enjoyed a nice sunset – even with the presence of electrical lines. The changes in the light are so subtle – you can’t really see them. But with a little time, standing still, just looking around, things change. It gets darker and the miracle subsides. That’s how a neighborhood changes, too. Little by little. People who are eccentric start to attract people who want to be around those who are eccentric. And then they’re joined by people who want to be sure no one paints a chartreuse trim on a lavender house. I have redoubled my commitment to diligent difference since Greybeard’s passing. I hope to contribute even a fraction of what he did to our community.
I’m glad Greybeard died peacefully in his sleep in a home he loved. And I’m glad he was my neighbor, and that I knew him. I cherish every sunset where we stood silently watching, taking in the changes. There’s so much beauty in the quiet moments. We stood transfixed until the light released us back to our mortal tasks.
About the Author:
Kimberly Dark is a writer, mother, performer and professor. She is the author of five award-winning solo performance scripts and her poetry and prose appear in a number of publications. For more than ten years, Kimberly has inspired audiences in fancy theatres, esteemed universities and fabulous festivals She tours widely in North America and Europe anywhere an audience loves a well-told story. The Evening Echo in Cork, Ireland says “the balance between objectivity and intimate analysis certainly gives Dark an edge and has made her a force to be reckoned with on every level.” The Salt Lake Tribune says “Dark doesn’t shy away from provocative, incendiary statements, but don’t expect a rant. Her shows, leavened with humor, are more likely to explore how small everyday moments can inform the arc of our lives.” The High Plains Reader in Fargo, ND, says, “Dark’s skill as a storyteller gets to your heart by exposing hers.”
October 27, 2011 1 Comment
2011, THE YEAR OF THE METAL RABBIT
for Roger Frank (1944-1972) and the Valenzuela brothers
The forty-third anniversary of the TET Offensive
and we are still burying evidence
trip-wired by an enemy we cannot see.
Is it change that breaks its frozen toes
on morning’s door sill? I want to see
what a metal rabbit looks like, furred Humvee rattling
a Kabul street or the hare of hunger
uprooting rusty mortar casings
in a valley west of Da Nang, where my first
husband was ambushed by dragon fate, his stomach unstitched
by machine-guns, a quick bayonet stab.
Two days he dreamed between
steaming earth and death’s scabbed hands
swirling a bamboo stream he couldn’t reach
before Medevac found him.
He survived only three years, his Purple Heart
unable to airlift him out of terror
that strafed his constant fever to death.
In D.C. we meet two Viet Nam vets,
the Valenzuela brothers, Mexican Americans
about to be deported because they can’t prove
which side of the border they were born on.
One of them wears the Bronze Star
for valor on his decorated chest.
Spider-white scars from Agent Orange devour his hands.
He says he has no strength in them, cannot
hold up the flag much longer, asks the gunmetal sky,
Where is my Commander In Chief?
We leave the aging vets in dress uniform,
at attention in ice rain and begging justice
from the sparse audience on the Capitol steps
while Chinese exchange students snap souvenir photos.
What changeswill the Metal Rabbit bring
clanking in on its armored back legs—
such tough prey, invincible to hawk talon
its multi-colored back
snagged on the hooks of the inhumane, ears cocked
for a compassionate mate.
for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the eighteen victims of
the January 8, 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona
Dawn’s iced bullets crack to split
night’s beautiful skull, the morning after desert wings
turned to lead and blood stained the sky
warming the Safeway parking lot, where
we shop for cheap food and where time
was blown off its feet when the congresswoman
stopped to chat with people, her style to listen
to people not distanced by emails or texts. Desert was opening
her warm arms to the small crowd as
the shooter strode, pulled out the new handgun
and shot Gabrielle pointblank. There is no other way
to say this. The bullet tore its acetyline blue path
through her brain, then through more as he spun
clenching the terrible automatic trigger of his anger, gunfire
like steel hail popping on the tin roof of hate, ripping
into eighteen others who could not get away. Among the six dead,
a federal judge stopping by after Saturday mass
to see his friend instead of hurrying home to vacuum floors
and a nine year old girl just elected to student council
who’d wanted to see how government works. And she did,
at least, see how the opposition takes aim, crosshairs of rage
centered on their opponents vulnerable temples.
This is the USA, where the killer bees of intimidation
shatter the everyday compassion of even saints
like this congresswoman who wanted health care
for the poor, wanted an end to racism’s frigid fists, wanted
to talk to her constituents without rancor’s blades
slicing from a microphone’s indifferent bulb.
Now, Gabrielle’s chest rises
and falls to monitor beeps in the same ICU, where my sister recovered
from a massive head bleed, six weeks locked in a coma
five years ago. I know how it goes—the shunt
pumping fluid geranium pink from the brain
to relieve relentless pressure, the long weeks’
fight to keep swelling down, more surgeries and tubes, infected
dreams burning down dim alleys of pain and fear.
What do we hear? Internet threats and billboards paid for by
political campaigns turned to ice, calling for M16s
to take out the opposition, targeting this slim woman, a moderate
whose slogan is love straight from her bleeding
and compassionate heart.
About the poet:
Pamela Uschuk is the author of five books of poems, the award-winning FINDING PEACHES IN THE DESERT, ONE LEGGED DANCER, SCATTERED RISKS, WITHOUT THE COMFORT OF STARS: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS (2007 Sampark Press, New Delhi and London), and, her latest, CRAZY LOVE (Wings Press), winner of a 2010 American Book Award. In 2012, Wings will release her new collection, WILD IN THE PLAZA OF MEMORY. Uschuk is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Fort Lewis College, where she also directs the Southwest Writers Institute. Editor-In-Chief of the literary magazine, CUTTHROAT, A JOURNAL OF THE ARTS. In 2011, Uschuk is the Hodges Visiting Writer at University of Tennesse, Knoxville.
October 27, 2011 Comments Off on Pamela Uschuk/Poetry
The New Patent Law
By Mark Levy, Esq.
A new law, called the America Invents Act (AIA), was enacted on September 16, 2011. It is the most significant revision to the U.S. patent law in almost 60 years. Although the new law includes a number of changes, the most significant ones are discussed below.
Race to the Patent Office
Under the new law, no longer does it matter who invents a patentable idea first, but who files a patent application in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) first. This is a major change from the way inventions have been protected up to now, and it brings the United States patent law in alignment with most of the other 140 countries that have patent offices. This “first to file” part of the AIA goes into effect 18 months from the date of enactment (i.e., March 16, 2013).
Much of the rest of the patent statute remains substantially the same. For example, to be patentable, your invention must be new, useful, and not obvious over the prior art. Also, you, the patent applicant, must be the true inventor. That is, you cannot file a patent application on someone else’s invention and, if you include one or more others as inventors, each of them must have contributed to the invention, too. Likewise, you cannot exclude someone who did contribute to the invention.
You cannot publicly disclose the invention or put it on sale more than a year before you file your application. If you know of pertinent prior art, you must inform the PTO. This is called the duty of disclosure and the PTO takes it very seriously, since it does not have the resources to determine these types of facts independently.
What the new law means is that time is now of the essence. If you are going to file a patent application, do it sooner rather than later. Do not procrastinate.
Some commentators believe that this new provision in the patent law will benefit corporations at the expense of individual or independent inventors. Frankly, after working as in-house patent counsel for a number of Fortune 500 corporations, I am not convinced that the companies will always have an advantage. I believe that the new law may help independent inventors, as long as they and/or their patent counsel are responsive to their interests. It is not unusual for a large corporation to file a patent application many months or even years after receiving a disclosure from one of its engineers or scientists. This is due to the burdensome bureaucratic analyses and procedures that such corporations have developed. In a way, this new provision actually levels the playing field, at least in some respects, between independent inventors and major corporations.
Fees Have Increased
Here’s a surprise: as part of the new law, the PTO has increased a number of fees, effective immediately. For example, the fee for filing a utility patent application for a small entity is now $625 and the issue fee for a utility patent application is now $870. Stay tuned for further fee increases. For independent inventors, now called “micro entities,” however, the fees are half of the small entity fees. To qualify for micro entity status, you must state that you are not named as the inventor on more than four applications and you do not have a gross income exceeding three times the reported median household income. If an institution of higher education employs you and you signed an agreement to assign your rights to the college, you also qualify as a micro entity.
False Marking of Products
Until now, any person (e.g., you) could bring a lawsuit against a company that printed an incorrect or expired patent number on its products. The federal government would share damages with you, the plaintiff, up to $500 per product. But the new patent law has changed that. Only the federal government can now bring such a lawsuit. And if you wish to bring a civil suit now, you must be a competitor of that company and show that you suffered competitive injury due to the deceptively false marking. Also, you can take no legal action if the patent number printed on the product(s) has expired. The change in the law occurred because a person (a Washington patent attorney, as a matter of fact) sued Solo Cups for damages that might amount to trillions of dollars because the company marked some 21 billion paper cup lids with an expired patent number. The lawsuit sounded like such a good idea to many other clients and their lawyers, over 500 other federal lawsuits were brought last year against miscellaneous manufacturers under the same patent statute. Congress thought the potential penalty for Solo Cups was extreme and unfair, and things were getting out of hand, so it eliminated the opportunity to make such a windfall profit.
About the author:
Mark Levy is an attorney with the Binghamton-based law firm of Hinman Howard and Kattell. He is a contributing editor to ragazine.cc of a legal column (Feeding the Starving Artist), and is Ragazine’s “Casual Observer”. He is an occasional contributor to NPR, where his comments can be heard some Saturdays at noon. email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
October 27, 2011 Comments Off on Feeding the Starving Artist/Legal
The Car is Also a Time Machine
A lot comes my way. Some good, some not, but very little that makes me want to listen to an entire work and then write about it. So what happens if something I like comes from someone I know? Is it wrong to be enthusiastic about a group when I’m a friend of the family? Yet isn’t it also a mistake to deny that I’m hooked on a group and ignore them purposefully? What about the moral problem of writing about that? It’s not nepotism, they’re aren’t blood, and I do know that if I heard music from someone close to me and didn’t like it, I’d never jot down a word. Where does it all leave me? Oh, what the hell, read on!
The Clabbys of suburban Chicago are a combination Von Trapp/Cowsills with more variety and broader talents. They sing, act, write, dress up, and all with great humor. Father Mike (not a priest) and I stood shoulder to shoulder, quite literally, for seven years in the S & P options pit at the Chicago Board Options Exchange. In a world of Gosselins and Kardashians, the Clabby clan, two parents and five kids, deserve a TV show of their own. They’re the family you wish you had.
It was from Mike that I was tipped off to Friendship Enterprise, a band grounded in an adoration of ‘80’s synth-pop, with healthy bits of Oingo Boingo and Kraftwerk and, to me a little same era Suzanne Vega. To show they aren’t late teens stuck in a time warp, they love Lady Gaga, The Strokes and Dutch minimalists I Am Oak.
If the name Friendship Enterprise gives you visions of Kirk in a death struggle against The Gorn, you’re on the right track. The group is a fivesome of sci-fi geeks, with many songs emanating from their devotion to Star Trek, Star Wars, and Battlestar Galactica, to a future that now seems old and past. That inspiration runs from mild to saturated, from general space age themes to actual fan fiction.
Kids today. It takes so little to create a polished track on Garage Band. Full bands or solo multi-tracking, it all comes together in a jiffy. Friendship Enterprise’s first salvo, a six song EP titled The Car Is Also a Time Machine (nice nod to the 1984 cult classic film Repo Man), was done old school, in the studio, over a three day period. The songs are all co-written by singer and keyboardist Lucy Clabby and drummer Brandon Waldon. Actually, Brandon is more a multi-percussion talent and all around musician, beyond what “drummer” signifies. The two near twenty year olds, met in the summer of 2010, found common ground, started with the band name and went on from there. In a year’s time they were playing locally and recording.
“Facebook Official” begins with spare keyboard space effects that burst into the danceable. Lucy’s slightly vulnerable voice is the perfect counterpoint to the mechanical sound. To reemphasize where they’re coming from aesthetically, a photo of Spock and Uhura appears as the song plays on Sound Cloud. Harrison Waldon (yes relation) thrashes away with a nice piece of punk guitar. Noah Lande is solid on bass and B. Waldon is excellent. His drum work shines on “Friendship with Extraterrestrial Benefits.” The haunting “On Plots and Plans” will stay with you. It’s Clabby’s vocals that keep me listening. She’s a bit of a Midwestern Kate Nash, plaintive, at times with little inflection, but in a way that is completely spellbinding.
For now, you can only hear Friendship Enterprise on Facebook, but soon The Car is Also a Time Machine will be available at your local Skylab and other intergalactic outlets.
* * *
Nick Lowe and The Smiler Dilemma
Nick Lowe’s career as a sarcastic troubadour, whose quiver was filled with songs of pointed invective and sharp wit, took a turn circa 1994, when a calmer, more sober (in all senses of the word) Lowe released The Impossible Bird. The country infused collection of laid back tunes was a triumphant look inward, his barbs directed more personally. Had “Basher” become a sensitive singer-songwriter? Possibly. Without doubt his songwriting style had changed.
Bird was followed by three more albums mining the same vein: Dig My Mood, The Convincer and At My Age. His latest, The Old Magic, is more of the same and that is both pleasing and worrisome. There’s no call for concern that Lowe has lost any of his cleverness. The leadoff track, “Stoplight Roses,” lays out the reasons why cheap flowers purchased from anonymous fundraisers at a red light don’t quite cut it. In a recent interview Lowe confessed that he fights being too clever, too cute. The old Nick the Knife, who could write a couplet like this – “Do you remember Rick Astley?/ He had a big fat hit, it was ghastly” (from “All Men Are Liars”) – and make it flow, is long gone. Even in his weakest, silliest moments, Lowe made his snark work for him, but his admission makes sense.
Every song on The Old Magic is worth listening to and there’s a wide sampling of easy going styles (strings on “I Read a Lot,” Tex-Mex on “Somebody Cares for Me”). Lowe is nothing if not a master craftsman. In that sense, it is a fine album, but there’s more old than magic. Rod Stewart went through a similar problem in the early ‘70’s. His first four albums were monumental works, all following a similar format. By his fifth solo effort, Smiler, it got too damn predictable and tiresome.
The cover of The Old Magic presents a retro cutie, having a personal dance party. The photo is straight forward with a hint of mockery. Nick Lowe needs to bring back the rollicking pub-rocker, punk, New Wave performer that he used to be, even in small doses, if only to prove that that man does exist. The current recipe is starting to taste a little stale.
About the author:
Jeff Katz is the music editor of Ragazine. He lives in Cooperstown, New York, and blogs ferociously at http://maybebabyoryouknowthatitwouldbeuntrue.blogspot.com/, and http://missionofcomplex.wordpress.com.
October 27, 2011 Comments Off on Jeff Katz/Music
Green fields and pastures on the way to Abbottabad.
Naran: To Forget Or Not To Forget
By Zaira R. Sheikh
Off To Naran
We took a long day’s drive from Islamabad to Naran. This valley is in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which was formerly known as Northwest Frontier Province (N.W.F.P). Naran is one of Pakistan’s best tourist attractions. It has such amazing scenic beauty that I suggest you witness it with your own eyes. If you do, you’re bound to encounter Kunhar River wherever you go, because it runs all along the valley. I recommend visiting anytime between June and September. When winter arrives, all paths are covered with snow and communications are near impossible.
Huts and guest houses on the mountains in Naran Valley.
We saw some interesting places on our road trip from Islamabad to Naran. The farms, green pastures and animals only add to the picturesque landscape. I couldn’t stop clicking the shutter.
Leaving Islamabad to enter Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, we passed by Hasan Abdal: a small town in northern Punjab named after a saint. Hasan Abdal holds a lot of significance for Sikhs. Around 1520, the founder of Sikh religion Guru Nanak resided there. This is why Gurdwara Sri Panja (one of the most sacred Sikh sites) was built in Hasan Abdal. It’s visited by Sikhs from all over the world.
Like I mentioned earlier the routes in Islamabad and in the northern areas are quite well developed and it absolutely fascinates me how the workers are seen building the paths for a larger part of the year. Unlike many other countries of the world, in Pakistan such labor is quite cheap despite the dangers associated with the kind of work these poor people do.
View of a hut in Naran.
We also passed by Abbotabad District. Does the name Abbotabad ring a bell? It’s the infamous place where Osama Bin Laden was discovered and then killed with the world knowing little more of what happened. I find the entire Bin Laden murder episode quite strange and unbelievable. A man with such a terrifying persona, as portrayed by the western world, hiding in a compound right under the nose of Pakistani military headquarters for so long and yet no body in Pakistan knew. Next, you hear is that the US forces entered a foreign territory as if a grand party was going on there and Mr. Obama announced they have killed Osama on TV (the way Obama announced, it seemed as if he himself killed the man). And then the cherry on the top was the rather quick sea burial of Osama. All of this just looks like a fairy tale to me at least.
No, we never visited the sacred compound where Osama Bin Laden was killed. In fact, just for information purposes that area is sealed and is not really a tourist spot as yet. Anyway, coming back to Abbotabad, it is also the transit point to all major tourist regions in north Pakistan such as Naran, Shogran, Nathiagali and other awesome destinations.
We crossed the small town of Balakot, known as the gateway to the beautiful Kaghan Valley. Balakot was completely destroyed by an earthquake in October 2005 during Pervez Musharraf’s era. Although the town has redeveloped, none of the new constructions have cement roofs as per government order.
I recalled the devastation caused by the quake and the sadness that overshadowed the nation. It was a strange sight to see the nation becoming so united to help the earth quake victims. My question only remains, why do we have to wait for some catastrophe to take place to unite as nation.
As blunt as it may sound, Pakistanis should get used to natural calamities by now. A rare earthquake in 2005 is followed by heavy floods every year now. Most of these disasters are man-made (deforestation, industrialization etc) and no precautionary measures are ever taken. Pakistani authorities don’t consider planning way ahead of time. And once the disaster has hit the country, all the so called saints wake up and start asking for donations and charities to help the poor. The mis-management and lack of interest on all levels is only leading to more devastation in the country. The common people and poor in general are the ones who suffer.
If one would just look back and see how the locals themselves contributed to the deforestation in the northern areas, it speaks volumes of ignorant behavior as these basic acts are the root cause of natural calamities.
Arriving in Naran by 5 PM, we were still looking for a hotel by late night. The one we’d booked was sickeningly dirty. No hygienic person would stay there. We drove through a market flooded with motels, hotels and inns. They all sucked in all honesty. The locals seemed greedy and knew nothing about courtesy. Since it was peak tourism time, they doubled the rates without negotiation, no matter how shitty their accommodation. Furthermore, it’s not difficult or expensive to get to Naran, so it was choked with crowds especially on weekends. Thus, our first Naran impressions were simply BAD!
There are decent hotels, but they’re expensive, and one must book rooms a month in advance to be safe. However, we were in the middle of shit with no turning back. We had to find a room somewhere before our bladders exploded. We found The Trout Land Hotel. It was big with a nice view. Yet, their loo was gross to the core. They didn’t believe in changing bed sheets or pillow covers. Plus, how could I forget this one key detail: the toilet flusher was perpetually out of order. I don’t know how we spent two days there, but we did. There was no other choice.
A beautiful view of the clouds and mountains from Lalazar, top, and tourists trekking.
The next day, we took a 4×4 safari jeep with an expert local driver. That’s the best way to travel the bumpy regional mountains and see the major attractions. Our chauffeur was a young boy who knew the routes well. He had excellent control and was one of the finest drivers I’ve come across in my life.
Our first stop was a hill station called Lalazar, 20 kilometers from Naran at 10,200 feet above sea level. It’s breathtaking with flowers, green steppes and mountains everywhere. The best thing about Lalazar is that it’s still unknown to most tourists and is therefore quite clean. Trekking is an absolute must here. Photographers will especially love this divine work of nature.
River Rafting In Kunhar River
Rafting in Kunhar River is yet another adventure to try your hands at. Foreigners usually opt for the roughest sections, while most Pakistanis prefer smoother stretches of water. We chose a mid tier section for rafting and the charge was Rs. 500 per person. We were lucky to meet an expert guide who made us feel extremely comfortable and told us about the area in detail through his travel stories. I loved every bit of our river rafting experience. One more thing you should go for in the area is a manual trolley ride over Kunhar River. If you’re scared of heights, choose one at lower altitude. The ride costs only Rs. 25 (which is peanuts), and this is serious Pakistan fun.
Views of Lake Saif-ul-Muluk.
Breathtaking Saif-ul-Muluk Lake
Probably the most famous Pakistani tourist attraction is Saif-ul-Malook lake, 10,500 feet above sea level. The sad part is that visitors in general are trashing the place. There are garbage cans everywhere. Yet, people don’t use them. They throw empty wrappers and bottles into the lake, which is ignorant and absurd. However, observing both the literate/illiterate and the rich/poor in Pakistan it is not so difficult to realize that Pakistanis are a lost nation in more than one ways. More sadly, they don’t even know that something is wrong somewhere.
Apart from the weird crowd, I saw a lot of animal abuse going there. Ponies carry heavy tourists on their backs and as I looked at them closely the poor animals looked so sad. They were suffering for sure and yes since we have no animal right laws here in Pakistan, not much can be done about such animals. One more disappointment was the fact that the locals have polluted the natural beauty of the lake by having unimpressive wooden boat rides just to make some money, which is dangerous, stupid and ugly.
For now, the glacier adds enough clean water from above to flush the filth out naturally. However, unless measures are taken, crowds will succeed in polluting this wonder within a few years. In addition, men at the site surreptitiously make videos and snap pictures of women, which is a total turn-off for me.
So, this is how I spent two very hectic but exciting days in Naran. My take on Naran is simple. It has some amazing tourist attractions (but it is a bit over rated since I’ve seen similar places that were far too peaceful and relaxing with brilliant accommodation) – Lalazar was my personal favorite but the people are as greedy and selfish as the size of Godzilla. Pollution is part of the aura and deforestation is obvious, which is a dangerous sign. Having said all that, I still recommend all foreigners to take out some time and visit these places. Every year, people from all over the world come down to these amazing places. The smart way to go about it is to plan things well before time to avoid any glitches once you’re there.
Zaira R. Sheikh is the author of “Pakistani Media: The Way Things Are”, available through Amazon.com, and “If Mortals Had Been Immortals & Other Short Stories.” Sheikh is a writer, blogger, human & animal rights activist based in Karachi, Pakistan.
October 27, 2011 Comments Off on Road Trip Diaries/NARAN, Pakistan