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1000 Black Lines

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

Free Mary Oliver poetry download

In this week's issue of The New Yorker I discovered--on page 77, buried at the bottom of the page -- an advertisment for Mary Oliver's "first-ever recording" At Blackwater Pond. So, I surfed over the the publishers website and found this free sample MP3 download of Mary Oliver reading At Blackwater Pond. I've been a quiet fan of her work so this is very exciting news for me.

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What Is Your Primary Love Language?

I don't know how accurate this quiz is, but I discovered some interesting things about myself.

The Five Love Languages

My primary love language is probably
Words of Affirmation
with a secondary love language being
Receiving Gifts.

Complete set of results

Words of Affirmation:  9
Receiving Gifts:  8
Quality Time:  7
Acts of Service:  6
Physical Touch:  0

Take the quiz
I guess this means I'm very Platonic... maybe.

Hat tip to Thicket Dweller who also took the quiz.

All apologies

It appears that Blogger ate any and all comments made between March 16-18.

For new readers of 1000 Black Lines, I do not reply to comments directly on this weblog. However, I do read them all which is why I was dismayed by the disappearance of at least a half dozen comments.

All apologies.

Howl, Bush's War & the American Poetry Review

American Poetry Review
March/April 2006
I've been debating with myself whether or not I should approach this topic. Let me start this way.

About three weeks ago I received the latest issue of American Poetry Review which features several essays regarding Allen Ginsberg's "Howl"--sort of a 50th anniversary tribute to the poet and poem. It also featured seven facsimile pages of an original mimeographed version considered the first public printing of "Howl". Commentary by Jason Shinder, Vivian Gornick, Mark Doty and others fill the first ten pages of the magazine. I almost forgot there were other featured poets in the following 54 pages.

But when I looked at the back cover of the magazine I was aghast. American Poetry Review decided to publish Robert Haas's poem "Bush's War" apparently without any editing. What shocked me is the amateur quality of the opening lines. I've read much better written works by Haas than what was published by American Poetry Review. I guess when you've published several then editors think you don't need to be edited for clarity or at least for quality. The poem begins:
I typed the brief phrase, "Bush's War,"
At the top of a sheet of white paper,
Having some dim intuition of a poem
Made luminous by reason that would,
Though I did not have them at hand,
Set the facts out in an orderly way.

"Bush's War"
Um, that sounds like something I'd write in my journal or some sketch based on a writing prompt. It does not sound like something I'd leave in a finished poem. Besides, the rest of the poem articulates a set of facts "in an orderly way" without the need of that clumsy introduction.

Hello, APR editors Stephen Berg, David Bonanno and Arthur Vogelsang, did you miss this one? I can understand press deadlines and even a mad rush to publish a poem to make a point, but as a humble reader of the premier poetry journal in America, I expect better quality in this periodical.

It would be a dream job to be editor of such a fine publication. And, if I was in that position, I would whack the first six lines and begin the poem with line seven:
Berlin is a northerly city, In May
At the end of the twentieth century
In the leafy precincts of Dahlem Dorf,
South of the Grunewald, near Krumme Lanke,
Spring is northerly; it begins before dawn
In the racket of bird song. The amsels
Shiver the sun up as if they were shaking
A liquid tangle of golden wire. There are two kinds
Of flowering chestnuts, red and white,

In fact, I'd require Mr. Haas to submit another title. The poem title is evocative, but misleads from the body of the poem, which is a beautiful contrast between "leafy spring", and the "heaped bodies" of the war machine. Haas catalogs various wartime atrocities.
Flash forward: the fire bombing of Hamburg,
Fifty thousand dead in a single night

The alliteration is hauntingly sublime: flash, forward, fire and fifty. He continues.
Firebombing of Tokyo, a hundred thousand
In a night. Flash forward: forty-five
Thousand Polish officers slaughtered
By the Russian Army in the Katyn Woods.

Amazing overview of the carnage war has produced over the last fifty years. Honestly, I think the rest of the poem is a well crafted piece, which questions why nations wage war. The only loose reference to "Bush's War" is toward the end--almost a footnote about the Iraq war. And I tend to agree with him that the Iraq invasion was spoon fed to Americans by "well-paid news readers" reading "the reasons / On the air." The poem is not a political rant. The poem offers a set of facts "in an orderly way" beginning "in the leafy precincts of Dahlem Dorf" and ending "under the chestnuts, in the leafy spring."

I guess that's what irks me the most. The beginning and the title is something I'd expect from an amateur poet writing something for an open mic event, not something from an established, award-winning poet with more than four books to his credit. Maybe Haas was having a bad day and produced a sloppy introduction. And maybe the fine editors were rushing the proofs of the printers and just needed something to fit on the back page and thought no one would notice. Maybe I just destroyed any hope of being published in American Poetry Review.

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Nostalgia, reunion and selling satellite television

Over the weekend I attended the 10th year reunion of my university graduating class. I don't believe I'll attend another reunion. It's not that it was a horrible experience. Rather, the people I have maintained relationships with during the last 10 years were the only people I knew at the reunion. It dawned on me that I didn't spend a whole lot of time socializing during the university years. Mostly I studied and worked (on average I had at least three part time jobs and attending classes full time).

The reunion event was well organized and had wonderful atmosphere. But I felt like I was in a room full of stangers of which the only thing binding us together was the simple fact that we crossed a platform and received a diploma on the same day 10 years ago. Ruminating with one friend, I told him that my only thoughts during the graduation ceremony was wondering how many trips it would take me to deposit all the stuff in my dorm room to the rental house on the south side of the city. Further, how was I going to pay the rent working as a telemarketer. I had a freelance gig with the ad agency I interned with but they had no plans of hiring me full time.

What I remember of the actual ceremony was this: there was a spring rain, but it cleared before the graduates had to assemble outside before the procession; I remember loading up my old beater of a car with everything I owned and my parents took me out to eat at IHOP the day after graduation. The following afternoon I was trying to sell a guy in Maine satellite television. He kept threatening to call me during my supper and I apologized. I gave him my old dorm telephone number (partly out of spite, partly out of habit, partly because the new rental house didn't have a telephone connection yet). I did not follow the telemarketing firm's protocol that day.

The old house I first rented after graduation no longer exists. Some progressive city development plan razed it and there's nothing but memories left for me of that place.

So when do I get that book deal?

Wander, vol. 1, no. 3
It's been awhile since I posted about published essays and poems. Part of the reason for the delay is that in order for me to write and submit essays/poems I can't be blogging. So here's the skinny. Spills and Splatters, an essay was published sometime in February. My take on the Frey issue was published by The Indie: Was James Frey framed? The most recent issue of Wander features cover art ... or rather an ink drawing I did awhile ago and an essay titled In Pursuit of a Good Life. Also, a poem called "Postulates" was published by The Blotter. You'll want to get the March issue of The Blotter because it features a great Asheville painter, Lauren Gibbes. Of course, there's my poem too. I'm writing two more chapbook reviews. If you have chapbooks you'd like me to review, then e-mail me.

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What would you do for a Kit Kat bar?

For someone who would love a book deal, I find myself in a very interesting situation. Due to changes in my career, I am now in charge of developing and publishing someone's book. Long story, but I prefer not to state anything here on this blog. Reasons are obvious -- like this web log or this one [more here, here, here and here], it seems like an occupational hazard to openly discuss specifics about the company where I am employed.

All that to say, I've found it quite interesting to write promo copy, register copyrights and copyedit someone else's manuscript. It's been an education to say the least.

Weekly reading

Serendipitous reading is like Greek salad with raspberry vinaigrette -- the contrast of flavors is exciting and startling at the same time. Thus, reading through scores of articles this week was an interesting adventure.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the following links and excerpts are not necessarily those of 1000 Black Lines, but sure makes for some stimulating reading.

The Return of Patriarchy by Phillip Longman
"Patriarchy does not simply mean that men rule. Indeed, it is a particular value system that not only requires men to marry ... it is a cultural regime that serves to keep birthrates high among the affluent, while also maximizing parents’ investments in their children. No advanced civilization has yet learned how to endure without it.

"Through a process of cultural evolution, societies that adopted this particular social system ... maximized their population and therefore their power, whereas those that didn’t were either overrun or absorbed. This cycle in human history may be obnoxious to the enlightened, but it is set to make a comeback.

"Even with a fertility rate near replacement level, the United States lacks the amount of people necessary to sustain an imperial role in the world, just as Britain lost its ability to do so after its birthrates collapsed in the early 20th century.

"Falling fertility is also responsible for many financial and economic problems that dominate today’s headlines."

The Failure of Feminism by Phyllis Chesler for The Chronicle Review
"Today feminists are seen as marginal also because of their obsessive focus on "personal" body rights and sexual issues. This is no crime, but it is simply not good enough. It may shock some to hear me say this, but we have other important things on our agenda.

Women can no longer afford to navel gaze ... not if they want to continue to struggle for woman's and humanity's global freedom. And women in America can no longer allow themselves to be rendered inactive, anti-activist, by outdated left and European views of colonial-era racism that are meant to trump and silence concerns about gender.

"The eerie silence both from feminists and film makers about van Gogh's assassination is deafening and disheartening. The same Hollywood loudmouths so quick to condemn and shame President Bush for having invaded Afghanistan and Iraq have, as of this writing, remained silent about the chilling effect that such an assassination in broad daylight can have on academic and artistic freedom."

The Framers and the Faithful by Steven Waldman for Washington Monthly
"Modern Christian conservatives ... point out—accurately—that neither the Constitution nor the Bill of Rights includes the phrase “separation of church and state.” And they argue that what the First Amendment intended to do was exactly what it says—and no more: prevent the “establishment” of an official state church ... religious conservative David Barton argues that the Founders simply did not support separation of church and state. ... he maintains, this was a Christian nation founded by Christian men who very much wanted the government to support religion. The contemporary intellectual battle over the role of religion in the public square will be determined in part on who can own the history.

It is ironic, then, that evangelicals—so focused on the “true” history—have neglected their own."

Here's a couple excerpts regarding poet Naomi Shihab Nye -- again serendipitously discovered.

Without empathy, what are we?
Naomi Shihab Nye interviewed by John Mark Eberhart for The Kansas City Star
"I think, as human beings, we’re always hungry for some sort of balance. Poetry helps us make connections and find meaning amidst the blur of sorrow and ugliness in daily news. It is astonishing to me how much violence exists and gets reported in today’s world … I can’t believe people are still participating in so much violence with gusto. I can’t believe governments are so stupid that they think violence works … Poetry helps us regain some sort of composure. Poetry helps us look, think, see."

From today's The Writer's Almanac
"The Rider"
by Naomi Shihab Nye

A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn't catch up to him,

the best reason I ever heard
for trying to be a champion.

What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.

A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slowly they fell.

Um, just another ingredient to the salad -- like maybe a walnut or something.

From The Writer's Almanac for Wednesday, March 22, 2006
"It's the birthday of novelist Louis L'Amour ... One of the hardest working and best-selling novelists ever, he wrote a hundred and one books in his lifetime.

"L'Amour ... started writing for pulp fiction magazines because he needed money and the pulp magazines paid him the fastest ... L'Amour's first big success was Hondo (1953), about a love triangle between a cowboy, an Apache warrior and a young widow living on a remote Arizona ranch. It begins, 'He rolled the cigarette in his lips, liking the taste of the tobacco, squinting his eyes against the sun glare.'

"L'Amour said, 'I write about hard-shelled men who built with nerve and hand that which the soft-bellied latecomers call the western myth.'"

Two books that I have on my shelf that I have not finished reading, but at least they made a top ten list.

Top 10 Verse Novels by Michael Symmons Roberts for Guardian Unlimited
"Fredy Neptune by Les Murray -- Australian poet Murray also took on 20th-century history, but with longer, eight line stanzas. Central to this book is the extraordinary image of a character (Fredy) so shocked by his inability to prevent a massacre that he loses his sense of touch.

"The Sugar Mile by Glyn Maxwell -- Maxwell is a virtuosic writer regularly drawn to the borders of poetry and fiction. The Sugar Mile interweaves two stories - one set in New York the weekend before 9/11, and one in London during the second world war - and does it in poems that stand up by themselves. His skills as a dramatist allow him to write convincingly in many voices."

Ins and outs of literary and art scenes

Cliques are unavoidable. Most social groups have their in-crowd and their outcasts and there are multiple tiers between the two ends of the spectrum. The art scene is no different.

My wife and I were once invited to yuppie-art-crowd party. Women wearing Dolce & Gabbana brocade jackets with papaya-colored lace camisoles made in Italy and dark distressed wash button fly jeans (also imported) made us feel like we had arrived at a pretty ritzy party. We definitely felt out classed.

Upon arrival we were greeted by one of my co-workers, “How did you get invited?” Honestly, I didn’t know that the host who invited me knew any of my co-workers, but Asheville is a small city. I should not be surprised by six degrees of separation. It was somewhat of a relief to know someone else that felt equally out of place.

I was introduced to some local and national writers, but it was clear that they were there for other reasons. I watched, as people would attempt to ascend the social ladder. It was amusing and exciting and tiring. My wife and I enjoyed us at the party, met a few new people and left still feeling a bit like outsiders.

There’s another faction of the art scene, which claim a more bohemian crowd. It’s a group which isn’t quite hippie and not quite yuppie. Women wear buccaneer blouses and Carmen skirts and men wearing crewneck tee shirts underneath navy blazers and poplin cargo pants. Occasionally, I am invited to those gatherings, which often degenerate into political rants. Instead of progressive ideas, these cultural creatives recite boring credos that would have been interesting 50 years ago. But today, it’s like warm beer. If one is to discuss politics, then read history books. Even better, read some of the great speeches delivered by statesman. The effect of television on politicians is very evident by the nature of their boring rhetoric displayed during public addresses. Both parties offer tepid, emotionless speeches. Likewise, the emotive, organic merlot-drinking bohemians gather around paintings and sculptures and discuss all the failures of the art scene and government system, but don’t move artistic or politic theories forward. If one is to discuss art and move the art world forward, then read art history books and books concerning art theory. In other words, a glance in the rear view mirror adds perspective and purpose to the view of the front window. To be completely honest, I like organic wine and foods and I love good, stimulating conversation; in some regards I feel at home among the bohemian cultural creatives. But the intellectualizing of everything from politics to street signs... well, I often leave those gathering feeling like an utter failure.

There is another crowd populating the art scene on the fringes. The group of vagrant poets, artists and musicians seem to resonate with me. We gather and share diverse visions with respect and honor for each other’s work. Captain Tom, for that’s what he calls himself, was telling me one night, not to plan what to read at the open mic. “Just go with it, man,” he told me holding a folder of papers in one arm and a Styrofoam cup of beer in the other arm. He wore dark sunglasses at ten o’clock at night in a room with poor lighting; the kind of mirrored shades a state trooper wears. He smelled of too much liquor and cigarettes and was pacing back and forth trying to find a toilet he had already located once, but for some reason couldn’t find it on a much-needed second trip. “Maybe when we’re both famous, we’ll laugh and talk about this night in the hall in front of this painting El Toro and wonder if the crowd heard me take a shit," he said and cursed some more. "It was loud, I’m sure they heard it.”

These are the beautiful souls I gravitate toward. They don’t judge me as a yuppie artist or a bohemian radical. It’s like a church for lost souls. Some of the souls don’t want to be found. Others are searching for truth, and yet still others are just surviving by living out of a car and using someone’s front yard as their toilet. I wish I could harbor them at me humble abode. Some might come and find peace, others are too wild to tame. And I know by the world’s standards, if I desire to be a famous published poet and writer I should hang out with people of means and influence, but those crowds intimidate me.

There is case for elitism, which I understand, but have not entirely embraced. Maybe I will one day when I am wiser and older, but not now. Part of me doesn’t want to embrace the notion of artist and literary elite classes because I would not be among them. The literary trinity of Hemingway, Steinbeck and Fitzgerald are constellations in the cathedral of the American mythology, but lesser writers will never shine as brightly as those few. Yet, one may always strive for that goal and never give up.

That’s the visceral passion of the artist, poets and musicians who include me among their group. If you only know how to play one note on a didge, work it for all it’s worth. That’s your gift.

I know I am not part of the yuppie art crowd -- I don't have that kind of disposable income. Nor am I part of the bohemian radicals -- I love the boho fashion and the merlot and the intellectual conversations but the ideological rants weary my brain. I know I am more a part of this tribe of outsiders who have nothing to lose, but still are a very important part of a community. I've been wondering why I feel more comfortable with the vagrant poets, artists and musicians for many weeks and months. Is it the humanity of it? Is it the honesty of the struggle? I don't know. I'm still trying to figure it out.

Pride, prejudice and how to kill a conversation

Last night I had one of those moments of complete vulnerability. A question was posed regarding partiality, or favoritism. Several people I was with either avoided the topic or attempted to say they don’t show partiality toward people. In a moment of weakness, or stupidity, I said I struggle with partiality toward people.

“I think there’s a case for elitism,” I said and it was as if I had tossed a grenade into the center of the room. There was some quiet dissent and one individual proved my point by defending country folks’ wisdom by saying country folk may not have a college degree but they know a lot (i.e. country snobbery is romanticized where as academic snobbery is demonized). It was in that moment of lucidity that I realized that everyone is a little bit partial toward people groups; whether it is social, economic or academic. In essence, it’s the basis of the novel Pride and Prejudice. Admitting that I show partiality toward certain people provides awareness of the problem. Once aware of the problem, I can deal with it daily.

It seems Americans, in particular, avoid the idea of elitism because in our culture we have the possibility to ascend social-economic classifications. A sports hero rises from the streets of Chicago to become the most recognized face on the planet. Yet, what we deny intellectually we practice daily. Using sports as an example, Boston Red Sox fans are an unusual breed. They’re in a class all their own. Green Bay Packer fans, likewise, are a rare people as well—who in their right mind would attend an outdoor football game in the freezing cold! Frozen tundra elitists if you will.

Whether Americans admit it or not there are identifiable classes within our culture: the blue collar working class, the academics, the sportsmen/women, the professional class, the creative class, the medical class and the list goes on. We send our kids to school where they are assembled into classes based on age (first grade, second grade and so forth) rather than social, economic or academic achievements.

We want so desperately to be part of another group or class that we don’t find contentment and peace where we are. Using another example, Stephen King is a long time Boston Red Sox fan and when they finally won the world series he rejoiced. He’s been a Red Sox fan for a very long time and I’m sure there were years and years of disappointment. He’s also part of the writing class, and likewise went through years and years of rejection until his novel Carrie broke through and established him among the writing elite. Some writers never experience that kind of success. And some baseball teams may never win the World Series.

There are two sides to elitism. One side is that everyone knows his or her place and purpose much like players on a baseball team. The ugly side is condescending those of a different class (i.e. farmer league baseball players are often regarded talent-less by the baseball professionals).

I'm not convinced I agree with a case for elitism, but it has provoked much thought and introspection in regards to dealing with partiality toward people.

Why read newspapers? Duh, for the comics.

Over the last few months I've been working on a comic strip which is scheduled to be published in a local 'zine. During the course of this adventure I researched the whole comics in newspapers relationship. Here's some interesting discoveries:

From David Astor for Editor & Publisher, November 4, 1989
"Comics are still the second-best-read features in the newspaper next to the headlines," he declared. "[Readers and editors] love comics and need them. They're a very important part of the paper."

[Mort] Walker said this year's war between the two Dallas dailies over Universal features illustrates just how important papers think comics are.

"And one of the reasons for the continued interest in comics is that comics are continually interesting," observed Walker, citing "new blood" over the years such as Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau of Universal, The Far Side by Gary Larson of Universal, and Calvin and Hobbes.

From The City Review:
While the "comic strips" of many newspapers is always one of their best-read features, "editorial" cartoons" have focused on political and sociological topics.

This one is more about the business side of newspapers, but I thought it was interesting.

From business journalist Dana Blankenhorn:
Without classified ad revenue, most newspapers would cost subscribers $1/issue or more, dropping circulation through the floor. Newspapers don't make a profit from their Web operations, either. Yet they're expected to post their stories on this medium-with-no-return until, when exactly? It's the search engines that are making the big money, after all - whether they're true engines or just link aggregations - those are the news front pages for most Netizens.

The last bastion of a newspaper's strength is its authority as a "thought leader" for the community. The people it picks for its editorial board, the columnists it chooses to publish - they're all vetted through a careful, decades-long process for writing ability, reporting ability, and (most of all) fealty to the paper's hierarchies and financial interest.

Again, this doesn't have anything to do with comic strips, but is an interesting piece about Asheville's "unusual" newspaper market.

"Gannett growing in weekly market, ranks No. 1 among owners", by Chas J. Hartman, and Al Cross:
In western North Carolina, where Gannett owns the Asheville Citizen-Times and its two offshoot weeklies, the Haywood County News and Black Mountain News. The latter weekly, which predated Gannett ownership, is listed in E&P’s database. Gannett’s other Asheville non-dailies are the quarterly magazine Blue Mountain Living and the monthly magazines Mountain Maturity and WNC (Western North Carolina) Parent.

There are an unusually large number of independent niche publications in the relatively small Asheville metro area. Weeklies include the Asheville Daily Planet, Asheville Global Report, The Asheville Tribune and Mountain Xpress. The last paper is the only one in E&P’s database.

Gypsy Bandwagon Plays to capacity crowd at Jack of the Wood

That's right. Capacity crowds at Jack of the Wood tonight -- according to the guy at the door (he wouldn't let me in until a couple left the fine establishment). Tonight's crowd was dancing the night away to the music of Gypsy Bandwagon.

A lot of really positive energy and comments about the band tonight. The only complaint, from the manager of Jack of the Wood, was that Gypsy Bandwagon had a bit too many slow ballads for St. Patrick's Day. For crying out load -- the Bandwagon played Irish jigs and reels (with a few peppy gypsy tunes tossed in for spice) for almost an hour and a half and there was like maybe three or four "slow ones." What? The crowd wasn't drinking fast enough for the manager? And that was just the first half of the night.

Manager complaint aside, the Bandwagon had the crowd hootin' and hollerin' and stompin' their feet. I love it when you can feel the floor boards thumping to the beat of a lively tune. Much ale and porter consumed tonight. It's Lent for me. I left drunk on fine music.

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Celebrating the Patron Saint of Ireland

Happy St. Patrick's Day! March 17th is the feast day in honor of the Patron Saint of Ireland. I'm more than a quarter Irish.

I do find it odd that it falls in the middle of Lent. The first three or for days of Lent was rough (I gave up coffee and beer for Lent). Beer was fairly easy because I don't consume it as much as coffee. However, my morning routine includes rituals of coffee grinding and brewing and sipping and all the other activities, which make a coffeehouse junkie, a... junkie. For over two weeks I've been without my favorite bean beverage and it's not as bad as I thought.

Earlier this week I was talking with some people in class (I've been taking a financial class on how to live on a spending plan -- i.e. debt free living) and an older gentleman observed that coffee seems to be today what cigarettes were when he was young. This has given me pause for many thoughts.

First, anyone purchasing a tall Starbucks coffee is paying way too much. Especially when there is a display of Starbucks bags of coffee beans for $12 next to the purchase counter and a customer purchase a $4 tall coffee. Doesn't the practical math tell a consumer to buy a bag of coffee and save roughly $270 (a pound of coffee provides roughly 72 cups)? I understand that people, for the most part, buy tall coffees at Starbucks purely as a lifestyle choice.

Second, when I am frequenting a coffeehouse it is usually with family, friends, artists, poets and writers. So, it's a social setting -- a community event. I recall my great grandfather would congregate with fellow immigrants at the local seed and feed store in the same manner -- smoking dollar cigars. Maybe coffee has replaced cigarettes for the most part.

Lastly, it appears that like cigars or cigarettes a century ago, coffee has become a social adhesive. My morning ritual aside, a lot of the social events I frequent provide coffee as a preferred beverage.

So, how have I survived the last two weeks without coffee? Simple. "Ba mhaith liom cupan tae?" That's correct -- "tae" if your Irish (pronounced "tay"), "tea" if your English. No sugar. No milk. Just tea. Earl Grey and Genmaicha mostly.

But how am I going to survive St. Patrick's Day without a swill of the bitter? Gypsy Bandwagon is playing at Jack of the Wood tonight. I think the show starts around 9:30 PM and 10 PM. Here's a MP3 sample from Gypsy Bandwagon: Walking Back to Dublin. And another one: Moosetafa. Maybe I'll let the music be my drink and the fellowship be my supper.

Beannachtai na Feile Padraig! And Siochan leat.

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Old drawings and memories

The Puritan
Discovering a dozen old drawings brought a mix of memories and disappointment. Most of the 12 drawings were done in 10 to 20 minutes during an advanced drawing class at the university more than a decade ago.

I remember spending hours in the studio drawing models. I miss those days. Now I rely heavily on photo reference for drawings I'm currently developing. There's something about using live models that adds attitude or something to the final sketch or drawing; maybe its added depth of character or emotional resonance.

If I remember correctly, this model is from one of the Gulf Coast states and eventually married on of the art students in the advanced drawing class.

I'm wondering what to do with these drawings. I thought of selling them, but my wife and I can't decide how much to ask for old sketches. I think the measure 18"x24" and vary from graphite, charcoal and marker drawings. Got any advice?

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Kerouac listening to the radio

Kerouac listening to the radio
It's the birthday of Jean-Louise Kerouac -- Jack Kerouac. 55 years ago he sat down in a kitchen and wrote "a magnificent single paragraph" which later became the book On the Road.

I wonder if I had been born in a different time and place would I have been friends with Jack Kerouac? I imagine us listening to the radio and telling stories until the sun goes down and then rises in the east. He'd tell of his travels and people he met from all over America. I'd tell stories about the people who populate small Upper Midwestern farm towns. And he'd say, "I've been to Chicago. That's Upper Midwest. Great place." And I'd say, "Yeah, Jack. Chicago's a blast but you got to visit the Dakotas. Spend some time on the prairie, man."

So, I'm dreaming as I listen to Celtic Winds on the radio. It's one of those melancholy Sunday afternoons where the sky is so big thoughts float by like clouds.

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BBQ & Bluegrass at the Market

Bluegrass music gathers a crowd
My wife received a call from a friend who told her about a BBQ and bluegrass gathering down at the Farmers' Market west of the city on Saturday.

After a week of gloomy reality it was an invitation I couldn't pass up. We drove to the event (which is still in progress as I post this) and got there early so as to avoid the crowds. The musicians were warming up as we began to tour the BBQ stands.

I think one could go fill one's tummy on the number of free samples available at the various BBQ outfits. I overheard several vendors comment that they didn't expect such large crowds and worried that they might run out of pork before the lunch crowd arrives.

BBQ gathers a crowd
The Bluegrass band began playing around 11 AM and boasted members who have played with Alison Krauss and Ricky Skaggs.

As much as I would have liked to stay longer; two hours was enough for me and the family. So, we came home, turned on the radio to WNCW.

On the weekends WNCW features Goin' Around the Mountain which plays a lot of bluegrass. As we all found our comfortable napping areas we listened to Southern Junction play "Flying to Carolina" followed by "Gospel Medley" performed by Blueridge. As The Churchmen began "Lord It's A Hard Road Home" most of the family was asleep.

I watched the spruce boughs outside the window bend lightly in the early March breeze as the Lonesome River Band played "Tracks of My Tears." I've been thinking a lot about tears lately. I've been thinking a lot about misery as well. It seems mankind is more acquainted with misery than with happiness.

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Weekly reading

I recently completed an essay (soon to be published) where I challenged the idea of reading a broad range of subjects and literature and made a case for focused reading on a particular subject or topic. So, what do I find myself doing? Reading a variety of subjects and topics. Enjoy the links and excerpts!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the following links and excerpts are not necessarily those of 1000 Black Lines, but sure makes for some stimulating reading.

The Christian roots of capitalism: The Victory of Reason By Rodney Stark Reviewed by Jean E. Barker for the San Francisco Chronicle
"Stark defines his terms carefully and contends that hypotheses such as geography and technology 'are part of what needs to be explained: why did Europeans excel at metallurgy, shipbuilding, or farming? The most convincing answer to these questions attributes Western dominance to the rise of capitalism, which also took place only in Europe.' He traces the origins of capitalism to the belief in reason, which he in turn locates uniquely in Christian theology: 'While the other world religions emphasized mystery and intuition, Christianity alone embraced reason and logic as the primary guide to religious truth.'"

The artist as a young mandarin: David Barber for The Boston Globe
"Any diligent student of writerly posterity-and none was more diligent than Eliot himself-might have seen it coming. Giants must be cut down to size; icons must be toppled. In Eliot's case, the literary-industrial complex that sprang up in order to explain him now seems to exist largely to vivisect him, intent on exposing him as all too human."

The Betty I knew : Germaine Greer for the Guardian
"Betty was disconcerted by lesbianism, leery of abortion and ultimately concerned for the men whose ancient privileges she feared were being eroded. Betty was actually very feminine, very keen on pretty clothes and very responsive to male attention, of which she got rather more than you might think. The world will be a tamer place without her."

Robert Conquest's realities and delusions: The Dragons of Expectation by Robert Conquest reviewed by Christopher Hitchens for The Time Online
"The human desire to imagine a better world may be the root of much idiocy and crime, but it does seem to be innate and it might, like religion, be ineradicable. Having followed Conquest’s work over many decades, and having gathered that he is not himself a believer, I could wish that he had written explicitly rather than latently about 'faith', and about the relationship between secular and theological forms of the millennial. One of his favourite terms of disapprobation is 'righteous', which gives us a clue. But he also coins a useful term – 'the nonempirical clerisy' – to encompass that class of intellectuals who seem neither to know nor care what their fellow-countrymen think or feel."

From Surmise to Sunrise: By Jonathan Weiner for Scientific American
"One trivial factor has to do with mathematics. There's a publishing rule that every formula you use in a book cuts your potential readership in half. In Origin, Darwin was able to write profoundly about evolution without using a single formula. In Principia, on the other hand, Isaac Newton used so many formulas that if that publishing rule is correct, according to my rough calculations, the book shouldn't even have been read by Newton."

Time for the last post: By Trevor Butterworth for the Financial Times
"That such established journalists were blogging gave the revolution a dose of credibility that it might not have had if it were in the hands of true outsiders. And then, just before the presidential election in 2004, blogging had its Battleship Potemkin moment, when swarms of partisan bloggers rose up to sink CBS’s iron-jawed leviathan Dan Rather for peddling supposedly fake memos about Bush’s national guard service.

"This seemed to prove one of blogging’s biggest selling points - that the collective intelligence of the media’s audience was greater than the collective intelligence of any news programme or newspaper."

Blowing the Whistle on Forced Prostitution: AP/Reuters article from Der Spiegel
"Estimates as to the number of additional prostitutes that may travel to Germany for the month-long tournament go as high as 40,000. But while many doubt that Germany's 400,000 legal prostitutes will need that much backup, nobody doubts that human trafficking -- a problem in the EU -- will be magnified by the World Cup."

Plagiary, It's Crawling All Over Me: By Joseph Epstein for The Weekly Standard
"I have myself always been terrified of plagiarism--of being accused of it, that is. Every writer is a thief, though some of us are more clever than others at disguising our robberies. The reason writers are such slow readers is that we are ceaselessly searching for things we can steal and then pass off as our own: a natty bit of syntax, a seamless transition, a metaphor that jumps to its target like an arrow shot from an aluminum crossbow."

Free Markets and the End of History: Interview with New Perspectives Quarterly
"In the US, the problem now is primary and secondary education. We’ve had such an increase in inequality because a quarter of American kids don’t finish high school! In the current world, with the skills needed, those dropouts are condemned to being members of the underclass. In my view, this is a fault of the American school system, which is a government monopoly."

Pythagoras: By Robert P Crease for Physics World
"One may wonder what there is to gain by proving a theorem over and over again in different ways. The answer lies in our desire not merely to discover, but to view a discovery from as many angles as possible. But what is it that is so fascinating about Pythagoras's theorem in particular? First, the theorem is important. It helps to describe the space around us and is essential not only in construction but - suitably adapted - in equations of thermodynamics and general relativity. Second, it is simple. The Hindu mathematician Bhaskara was so enamoured of the visual simplicity of one proof that he redid it as a simple diagram - and instead of an explanation wrote a single word of instruction: 'See'.

"Third, it makes the visceral thrill of discovery easily accessible. In an autobiographical essay, Einstein wrote of the 'wonder' and 'indescribable impression' left by his first encounter with Euclidean plane geometry as a child, when he proved Pythagoras's theorem for himself based on the similarity of triangles. '[F]or anyone who experiences [these feelings] for the first time,' Einstein wrote, 'it is marvellous enough that man is capable at all to reach such a degree of certainty and purity in pure thinking.'"

Keep reading. It gets better.

In case you thought I gave up blogging for Lent, you would be incorrect. What I gave up for Lent... aw, never mind... it lasted all of nine hours.

The March issue of THE INDIE published an essay I wrote regarding the James Frey saga: "The Framing of James Frey?"

And in the fine tradition of James Frey, I also published a small work of fiction in THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY and NEW YORKER recently published a series of poems I wrote containing the words "b___ s___." Funny thing about James Frey, if you know him like I do, is that he never really wanted to be a writer. No. Seriously. He always wanted to work as a priest. Something he told me once after too much gin was how much he enjoyed listening to other people's crappy lives during confession. Now that would sell a million little books. Okay, so this entire last paragraph is completely exaggerated... okay... none of it's true. But you read this far so read my essay in the March issue of THE INDIE.

There's more... the March issue of THE BLOTTER will feature my poem "Postulates."