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1000 Black Lines

:: digital coffee stains on the paper of the blogosphere ::

ADPULP: Will Blog For Tips

The Jason Kottke story continues to amaze me. I've been following it for almost a month now. Partly because I applaud any entrepreneur who embodies the pioneer spirit and blazes a new trail and partly because I'm researching Internet revenue programs I might be able to implement for my current employer. Ad Pulp began its February 27th post, "Will Blog For Tips," like this:

"Jason Kottke is an A-list blogger who recently quit his day job to pursue blogging full time. His revenue model of choice is the Pay Pal tip jar. Given the enormous traffic to his site, it may work."

I've considered using Google's AdSense on 1000 BLACK LINES as a means to earn internet income, but I don't like the idea of bombarding loyal readers (all 20 of you) with a lot of unwanted distraction. I know I don't like visiting a website where I have to navigate the browser window around a "The Ultimate Fitness Program" ad or multiple personals ad. So, why should I subject 1000 BLACK LINES readers to that insanity.

Jason Kottke said. "I don't want to be doing things on my site that are geared more to advertisers than to readers."

On his blog, there is a simple donation plan at the top of the web page reading "Become a micropatron. Give $30 or more and you could get a great thank you gift. Payment via PayPal, CC or check. More inside..." I like that idea for two reasons. One, his strategy utilizes the patronage system of financial support, which has all but disappeared with the rise of the middle-class. Two, he seems aware of basic branding skills. Kottke offers free content on his blog (the branding pyramid base) while offering the reader a souvenir (the middle portion of the branding pyramid) for patronizing his blog.

iPod, therefore iAM?

The author of A Word In Your Ear caught my attention with iME. It's basically a link to an article by Andrew Sullivan in The Times titled "Society is dead, we have retreated into the iWorld" about the iPod infection.

"I’m one of them. I witnessed the glazed New York looks through my own glazed pupils, my white wires peeping out of my ears. I joined the cult a few years ago: the sect of the little white box worshippers.

Every now and again I go to church -- those huge, luminous Apple stores, pews in the rear, the clerics in their monastic uniforms all bustling around or sitting behind the “Genius Bars”, like priests waiting to hear confessions.

Others began, as I did, with a Walkman -- and then a kind of clunkier MP3 player. But the sleekness of the iPod won me over. Unlike other models it gave me my entire music collection to rearrange as I saw fit -- on the fly, in my pocket.

What was once an occasional musical diversion became a compulsive obsession. Now I have my iTunes in my iMac for my iPod in my iWorld. It’s Narcissus heaven: we’ve finally put the “i” into Me."

I am not one of the 22 million “little white box worshippers.” Not that I’m opposed to the idea. In many ways it seems practical for those radio surfers that switch to the next FM station when they don’t like a certain song, commercial or idea.

Back in high school I used to dub my own cassette tapes with all my favorite music. I'd have one cassette with mixes of Motley Crue, Whitesnake and Def Leppard. Another cassette might have songs by Paul Simmon, U2 and Michael W. Smith. And yet another would have samplings of The Oak Ridge Boys, The Statler Brothers and Johnny Cash. I had a plastic grocery bag with a half dozen 90 minute dubbed cassettes representing my soundtrack. My music tastes have matured somewhat since those high school days.

As technology advances I can now listen to online radio stations like listener supported Radio Wazee: Modern Alternative Rock or my local favorite 88.7 WNCW where I can hear everything from Buddy Holly’s “That'll Be The Day” to REM’s “Final Straw” to Pete Yorn’s “Just Another” to Townes Van Zandt’s “Black Widow Spider.” The reason why I enjoy iTuning these internet radio stations is because I hear new artists that I normally wouldn’t hear outside my scope of friends and influences.

Andrew Sullivan goes on to write:
"Walk through any airport in the United States these days and you will see person after person gliding through the social ether as if on autopilot... You get your news from your favourite blogs, the ones that won’t challenge your view of the world. You tune into a satellite radio service that also aims directly at a small market -- for new age fanatics, liberal talk or Christian rock. Television is all cable. Culture is all subculture... Technology has given us a universe entirely for ourselves -- where the serendipity of meeting a new stranger, hearing a piece of music we would never choose for ourselves or an opinion that might force us to change our mind about something are all effectively banished."

The serendipitous meeting of strangers on the bus fills me with a greater awareness of others around me. I begin to understand the neighborhood. The fact that I am an Anglo, professional, with a young family makes some of my neighbors feel threatened. So, I take the bus and listen to conversations. I learn that I talk funny (according to one of the neighbor boys) and that Usher is not a person who helps you find your seat at theater but is actually a popular musician.

I guess this means I’m one of the uncool Americans who doesn’t have those white pods budding from my earlobes. I’m one of those unhip people who enjoy listening to the bark of the neighbor’s German Shepherd who warns a trespassing squirrel or knowing that it’s 4 P.M. because the bus just passed en route to the transit station. If missing out on iPod, iShuffle or iLife makes me uncool, then I’m okay with that. I’m content to listen and observe the world around me in all its grit and glory.

The Writing Life -- Lesson Eleven

Earlier this month I composed a short stream of conscious piece based on a writing prompt from the writers group I attend. I tried rewriting it into a short fiction piece and it was as if I was trying to breathe life into a corpse. So, I tried working it into a free verse poem and wrangled with it the way you might attempt to put a stray dog into a kennel to transport it to a animal shelter. Another writer describes it this way:

I do not so much write a book as sit up with it, as with a dying friend. During visiting hours, I enter its room with dread and sympathy for its many disorders. I hold its hand and hope it will get better.

This tender relationship can change in a twinkling. If you skip a visit or two, a work in progress will turn on you.

A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight. It is barely domesticated, a mustang on which you one day fastened a halter, but which now you cannot catch. It is a lion you cage in your study. As the work grows, it gets harder to control; it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room.
--Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Frustrated, tired and frightened at leaving it trapped in the dark depths of my hard drive, I release it from its captivity. Run if you have legs to run, read if you are brave enough to approach feral fiction.

* * *

Another Empty Glass: short fiction

story removed pending publication

Bearly Edible gig

Mark your calendars, The Traveling Bonfires arrive at a cafe or pub near you:

poster designed by JUSTIN GOSTONY

FRIDAY, March 4 2005. 8:30pm to 11pm.
<>Dashvara (music) -- 8:30 to 8:45
<>Matt Mulder (poetry) -- 8:50 to 9:05
<>Nina Collins (poetry) -- 9:10 to 9:25
<>Tim McGill (music) -- 9:30 to 9:45
<>Riley Schilling (music) -- 9:50 to 10:05
<>Pasckie Pascua (poetry) -- 10:10 to 10:25
<>Dashvara (music) -- 10:25 to 11pm

Home of Love updates from The Neanderthal

The Neanderthal, a good friend of mine is doing some good work for an orphanage in Bangladesh called Home of Love. He (along with some other good friends of mine) are currently over there working on a short promotional video for Home of Love. You can support them by following this link.

Hotmail Rage, Netzero Tranquility

I don't rant and rave too often on this site, but all week long I've been attempting to access my Hotmail account and receive the following window:
Server Too Busy
We are experiencing higher than normal volume and are therefore unable to service your request at this time. Try one of the following:

* In your browser, click Refresh
* In your browser, click Back, and try again
* Wait a few minutes and try again

We apologize for this inconvenience.

This makes my business dealings rather inconvenient.

On the other extreme, I've had no trouble accessing my Netzero account. In fact, I much prefer using Netzero because I receive zero spam emails compared to the 10 to 20 spam emails via Hotmail (not to mention the lewd True dating ads which proclaims "Our single biggest feature: everyone's single. We screen for felons and married people.")

So, if you have been trying to reach me via my Hotmail account please be patient because of the above error window message. I am updating my address book with Netzero in the spirit of accentuating the positive experience with that provider.

Green Day Prose Pome All Nirvana

Listening to Green Days' Boulevard Of Broken Dreams from their American Idiot album.

Designing colorful junk mail on a newly restored hard drive and wishing I could be reading a borrowed copy of Sentence: a Journal of Prose Poetics No. 2 instead.

Here's a question I've been wrestling for a few days: What's the difference between prose poems and essay-like blog posts?

If you're not familiar with prose poems, here's a simplified definition: on a spectrum where free verse is at one end and essay is at the opposite end, prose poem is somewhere in the middle. I know I've probably enraged MFA poetry students and faculty all across the nation with that dumber-than-dirt definition.

Listening to Nirvana's Heart - Shaped Box on Radio Wazee.

Three Year Old Cartoon Colorist

Over the past couple months I have been contacted to help color a comic book. No, I don't use crayons (they mess up the computer screen). I've also been working on a comic strip (or something along those lines) for two years called "Portrait of a Young Poet."

Many artists tell me that as a child they never colored inside the lines. So, I told my three year old son not to color in the lines in hopes that one day he'll be a fine auto mechanic.

To be honest, I think I like his approach to coloring cartoons. It seems very intense with a balance of serious fun.

Writers Group

Tonight's prompt (actually it was one of several) was to write something about the phrase: "I can love anything." I came up with about five handwritten pages of prose.

It seemed to be an off night for many of us. However, all the members of the group offered something that, at it's core, was extremely well crafted and (for most of us) a bit humorous. Maybe most writers enjoy writing humor and wit when the day has taxed our creativity. It seemed the case tonight.

Poetry Vibes Coming Soon

Just got an emailed press release:
FRI (3/4), 8-11pm. -- The Traveling Bonfires' "Vagrant Wind 2005 Road Journey" kicks off in Asheville, featuring the poetry of Nina Marie Collins, Matthew Mulder, Pasckie Pascua, Riley Schilling, and the music of Dashvara and Tim McGill. Bearly Edible Cafe, 15 Eagle St., downtown Asheville. FREE. Info: 255 8154

SAT (3/5), 9pm-1am. The Traveling Bonfires presents The Meridian Soundscape, with Michael Farr, Dawn Humphrey and Tim McGill. Hannah Flannagan's, 27 Biltmore Ave., downtown Asheville. Info: 252 1922

Positioning Poetry: part two

A few days ago, I mentioned that I had called the publisher of my first book. He reminded me that most poets seem to be elated that they have their words captured between covers and they don't market or sell their books. I am not naive in thinking I've arrived because I've published a book of poetry. I knew distributing a collection of poems would be a difficult activity and it has. So, after careful research, I released the book quietly with the intention of putting copies of Late Night Writing into the right hands.

I sent copies to a few editors I knew (and some I didn’t) and to a few magazines that review small press poetry. A very nice review was written out of that effort (see The Indie’s review). The next phase in promotions was to send copies of the book to writers and poets whom I respect. Another kind review was written by an author/editor.

Part of the reason for directly and indirectly soliciting reviews is because publishers think in genres. Publishers know (or think they know) where the audience is who will buy their books. So, the publisher reviews a manuscript and labels it "beat poet" or "slam poet" or "activist poet" and then packages it in a manner that attracts that specific audience. By including reviews or endorsements, a publisher is assisted in targeting the correct market (i.e. audience by association).

At times, I am almost embarrassed to show people Late Night Writing because its dated. Well, dated for me anyway. Many haven’t read it. So, it would be considered new material. A couple of those poems I've been crafting for over ten years. I’m done with it. I want to move on and have. Most of the poems included in Late Night Writing were completed before the fall of 2002. So, I’m itching to publish the next collection. Originally scheduled for this March, it has been delayed for various reasons.

Homage to A Mother

Thicket Dweller posted a great homage to her mother. It's always inspiring to read stories like hers.

Homeland Security?

Last night law enforcement agents apprehended a felon in the forest behind my home. Tonight the building where I work was closed due to a bomb threat. These are not normal circumstances, which is why I find them so interesting (and frightening). It also makes me thankful I am not living in Iraq or Lebanon.

Positioning Poetry

A few days ago I talked with my publisher about the state of affairs with my first book. Needless to say, sales are dismal for poetry books (especially for an unknown writer like myself). However, that first book was devised to be a quiet release.

The intent of the book was to collect some published and previously unpublished poems to give to gatekeepers and other influential people. It was dedicated to family and friends and tended to represent more of my personal verse poetry (i.e. autobiographical). But I also added a few free verse poems, which incorporated universal themes. This was to position my poetry the way a cover letter and resume position a prospective employee. More on that later.

Seth Godin on "The Selfish American"

Regarding his jury duty, Seth Godin had some interesting observations about America's civic duty.

This is one of the only times you get a look at your neighbors, unguarded, unadorned, completely random.

Here's what surprised me:
1. lots of people from two parent, single income homes
2. very little sense of civic pride
3. complete distaste for the legal system
4. widespread cynicism about insurance
5. most of all, selfishness.

To be honest, I have never lived a city long enough to be called in for jury duty. But his observations are a good wake up call to civic duty and personal responsibility.

Writers Group

Every Monday night there assembles a small group of writers at the UNCA library. Last night's meeting was exceptionally delightful and productive. The meeting begins with a "writing prompt," then we write for about 30 minutes and wrap it up by reading what was written. There were several gems read (and briefly discussed) last night. I might post what I wrote later because it's been a rough day at the office.

Books make you stupid

This weekend I met with a couple creatives to discuss a collaborative project. During the course of the meeting I was referred to as "well read" and proved it several times by making an absolute idiot of myself. The other individuals were very kind not to notice my foolishness, but I couldn't help thinking Voltaire was right: "The multitude of books is making us ignorant." Or in my case, books make me stupider.

Valentine's Day Sex & Cash Theory

WARNING:This post contains puns (i.e. play on words). Those without my sense of humor are advised to move on to the next posting.

A good friend of mine visited my family this weekend. Being a fellow graphic designer, we shared portfolio samples, discussed creativity and pondered workplace challenges. Several months back I had read Hugh Macleod writings on "How To Be Creative." Here's what he wrote in an essay titled, THE SEX & CASH THEORY:
"The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs: One is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the task in hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense duality will always play center stage. It will never be transcended."

Hugh uses several examples to make his point. I tend to agree with his theory. By day I design junk mail (CASH) and by night I design local rock concert posters (SEXY). It's a good thing my wife married me for the CASH and not for the SEXY. Otherwise we'd be living in a van down by the river.

The Writing Life -- Lesson Ten

If people don't get your music or poem, or they can't appreciate your painting or performance it might be that your work is too personal.

I asked myself where my life had gone wrong. I was too far removed from the world. My work was too obscure, too symbolic, too intellectual. It was not available to people.
One day, full of such thoughts, I tried to work and failed. After eight hours of watching helplessly while my own inane, manneristic doodles overstepped their margins and covered the pages I was supposed to be writing, I gave up. I decided to hate myself, to make popcorn and read.
--Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

I thought of this passage after a discussion last night with a friend. She related a story about art (specifically paintings) that she just "didn't get." As she conveyed her response to the art she which she didn't get (or didn't like) I began to discover two reasons why the art objects hadn’t resonated with her. One, they were too personal and too symbolic of inner struggles. And two, they were immature (untrained) in execution. Another subjective element to this is that the art objects weren't intended for that viewer. In other words, it's about personal taste.

What really jerks my chain is when art makers arrogantly cloak themselves in creative mysticism and insult the art audience by claiming, “You don’t understand my work!” The audience doesn’t understand because the art makers aren't speaking in an understandable language. They are not communicating with those who view/read/collect.

If a painting or literary work is created with inferior techniques then it is bad art/lit. If a painting or literary work is created with superior techniques (but it’s not your scene) then it is still good art/lit. For example, Allen Ginsberg was a great American poet—a craftsman of words and revolutionary of poetic form. But he doesn’t jive with me. Either I don’t get it, don’t agree with it, or simply it’s just not my scene. I forced myself to read HOWL and other poems and Kaddish and Other Poems, 1958-1960 to understand what kind of literature he represents. The imaginative elements he incorporates to create an emotional and intellectual response redefine poetic form. But Kahlil Gibran’s poetry or Annie Dillard’s prose resonates with me more than Ginsberg’s.

Every artist or author struggles with the communications hurdle. It’s part of maturing as a creative individual. It’s baby steps in finding your voice and then finding your audience (or patrons).


Another rediscovered item while cleaning the front room.

Awhile back, I worked as an art assistant to a calligrapher who taught me now to weave the endless in the same manner as the ancient Celts. It is so easy to learn and so difficult to forget. All my notebooks and sketchbooks have been decorated in this fashion. Unless you think this is idle doodling, I remember what was going on when I drew these black lines. These endless knots hold secrets only I know and can untangle. For example, on the front cover (your right) reminds me I had moved to a knew city and felt at home and out of place. The back cover, (your left) tells me of the confusion of being a new father and being an artist slowly abandoning paint and canvas. What do you see when you read these black lines?

The Darkness and The Light Vocabulary List

I finished reading The Darkness and The Light, by Anthony Hecht earlier this week. Truly one of the best poetry books I've read in recent memory. At the risk of exposing my lack of knowledge, I learned I didn't know a lot of words he used in his poetry. I had to grab the dictionary many times for various reasons. One being I didn't know the definition of a word. Two, I didn't know you could use a certain word in such a context. And three, I knew what the word's definition was but I had never seen it used in quite the way Hecht used it. The list below does not include the many non-English words in his poems (and there are a lot of foreign words and phrases). So, here's to extended self-education:

Racine Harbor

Some friends from out of town plan to visit this weekend. So, my wife and I have been cleaning out the front room. I discovered four old sketchbooks and this photo I had taken almost a decade ago.

I had learned a technique called polaroid transfer which produces a vintage style presentation of photos. During the summers of my university career I would drive to the Racine, Wisconsin harbor and take photos, draw sketches, write and enjoy the lake breeze.

As I examined this photo again, I remembered were I stood at the marina. Several static shots of the lakefront were shot before this couple entered my viewfinder. Their presence added a mysterious quality to the photo--"where are they going?" or "where did they come from?" or "are they enjoying a day at the lake" or "are they leaving after a quarrel?"

That harbor has inspired lines for a poem in progress:

The long grass, cat-tails and black dirt,
the rolling hills, a sea of wheat, corn and oats.

Where the prairie meets the lake with a terrific crash of sand and stone—
a wall that separates water from earth...

Part of me feels I belong there. But I know that returning to that part of the world wouldn't be the same. It's different than when I left it and I would be a different person returning. Maybe I'll frame that photo and put it in the front room. Each time I see it on the wall, I'll remember that lakeshore a decade ago and the anonymous couple that entered my camera's viewfinder.

School of Rock

WOOOAAAHHH!!!!!! I just discovered two very cool rock and roll bands!

You may want to turn your computer speakers down when you click Thornley's Web site... they'll blast you out of your cubicle. You can hear a good sampling of their music. Ian Thornley (vocals, guitar) has a muscular Gary Cherone-like quality. "So Far So Good" just rawks, baby!

Same warning with Silvertide's web site. Their site contains a good sample of audio narcotic like "Ain't Coming Home" which reminds me of the nitty gritty Aerosmith with a straight ahead Zeppelinesque rock and roll attitude. "California Rain" suggests Southern-fired influence from rockers Black Crowes. "Blue Jeans" will have you singing "She's the kind of girl you bring home to yer mother, she looks good in blue jeans..."

Anyway, you get the idea.

I Should be Arrested

Listening to Queensryche's "Open," designing junk mail and wishing I was at home completing my admissions essays for Warren Wilson MFA program.

I apologize for the previously posted horrific misspelling of "listening." I should be arrested for gross usage of the English language. Would it help if I said it was a keyboard malfunction?

Now listening to Rude Buddha's "Miss California," still designing junk mail and blogging about misspelling malfunctions.

Good News

listening to Over the Rhine's "Moth"

Good news... a national editor is close to accepting the final revision of a poem I submitted to his literary magazine.

Bad News

listening to Over the Rhine's "Last Night"

Bad news first... my creative nonfiction pieces have been ignored by the literary gods and goddesses.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Today's The Writer's Almanac reminded me that today is:
the birthday of the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, born in Breslau, Prussia (1906). He came from a family of Lutheran theologians and pastors and decided when he was 16 that he wanted to study for the ministry. He finished his first doctoral dissertation in theology by the time he was only 21 years old.

Back in November I wrote Peace - The Great Venture after listening to a NPR broadcast of Speaking of Faith featuring Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture, and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to mistrust, and this mistrust in turn brings forth war.
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer

With America's War on Terrorism, I am intrigued and challenged by Bonhoeffer's theology of social justice and his transformation from a pacifist to joining assassination attempts on Hitler. I heard a speaker during the Christmas holiday who said love is messy. If you love someone, then you will inevitably get hurt or taken advantage of or misunderstood. I might suggest that peace is also equally messy. Those who bring peace will be mocked, shot, hanged or crucified. Peace activists often mistake politics and pacifism with the true nature of peace. Bonhoeffer wrote that
Love is not something in its own right, it is what people are and have become.
Equally, peace is not a social movement nor a political party, it is who you are or will become.

RE: Open Letter to POETRY Magazine

Sunday evening I came across this Open Letter to POETRY magazine from Charles Ries.
A few years ago I felt it was my duty to subscribe to POETRY. I was curious. I wanted to see the top of the mountain. I wanted to see what the best writers wrote. And for two years I read most or all of the issues you sent me. I looked into their pages and asked, "What makes this poem great?" "What makes this writer unique--exquisite?"

That said; I struggle to feel engaged with most of the work you publish.

I have mixed thoughts and emotions about what he wrote in his open letter. My initial thought was kinship in regards to feeling engaged with some of the content POETRY publishes. However, after reading the October 2004 issue (which I purchased from a local retailer), I decided it was time to subscribe to one of the flaghips of academic poetry. Frank Bidart's poem "The Third Hour of the Night" captured my attention (and my few remaining dollars). I guess I agree with Mr. Ries in that POETRY is a journal for the academic writers and their readers. But isn't that the point? If you were looking for well written non-academic poetry there are plenty of small press poetry magazines you can find and enjoy.

I suspect the real issue is high art versus subculture. By no means is poetry considered part of the American mainstream. However, it's more likely the subculture of small press poetry will be less than a footnote in American literature. Whereas the subculture of POETRY magazine will provide notable poets like Hecht and Gluck. The reason the American consciousness remembers Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg is because they devoted most of their life to the high art of letters. Equally passionate are the small press poets who bleed their life into their noteable yet mostly unrecognized works.

For better or worse, I am part of the second category. Yet I struggle to be challenged by the work of most small press poets. That's why I decided to subscribe to POETRY. I consider it part of my ongoing education in crafting poetry. That's why I read the academic writings of American poets like the late Anthony Hecht. In his last published book The Darkness and The Light, he wrote:

Nothing designed by Italian artisans
Would match this evening's perfection.
The puddled oil was a miracle of colors.
"The Onslaught of Love," pg 4