Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Warning: Poetry WILL Kill You!

I bring you sad tidings from an article in the Guardian by Marc Abrahams on the life expectancy of writers. Here are the depressing results:

"The Cost of the Muse: Poets Die Young, paints a mathematically ghoulish picture. Poets drop off earliest, Kaufman explains, but authors in general are not a long-lived bunch."

Heather, nnnnnnnnnnooooooooooooooo...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Do Not Wear a Top Hat to the Airport

My friend Melody Clayton has brought to my attention the case of Sebastian Horsley. The British author of the recently released and well-reviewed memoir Dandy in the Underworld, a work chronicling his debauchery. Crazy sells in memoir, but Horsley backs it up--the article Melody sent me ends with the line: "Horsley achieved his greatest notoriety in 2000 when he had himself crucified in the Philippines as part of an art project."

So Horsley arrives in Newark dressed in "top hat, long velvet coat, gloves" and is denied entrance to the U.S. because of "moral turpitude." Turpitude! Horsley said he was deported, but the U.S. authorities pointed out that he wasn't kicked out, he just wasn't let in. Take that semantics. Now a case could be made that he wasn't allowed in because of a past drug charge when he was in the U.S., but that was 25 years ago and he'd been to the U.S. a half dozen times since then. Reportedly, the agents told him, "We know you're a heroin addict, we know you're a crack addict, we know you're involved in prostitution." Apparently they knew because they'd read his memoir. But didn't know that he'd been clean for three years. They were also very interested in what he had in his stove top hat.

Melody points out that Horsley and the publishing company must be smiling over the publicity. And I was with Horsley when he said he was glad they'd read the book. Homeland security reads? So I thought about that and have to assume they must only read book jackets or reviews. Or better yet have some computer that flags works with inappropriate words.

Whatever the case, we can all agree that the U.S. is a safer place keeping authors like Sebastian Horsley out.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

CPCC Reading and I Am Not Deaf

Okay. So I was going to be all literary and blog about the poetry reading, but Heather has forced me to face my aging.

First, we blog the CPCC Literary Festival (oh wait! I mean, the CPCC Arts Festival because after Irene Blair Honeycutt left they gutted the literary bit and threw in some other arts). Since there are fewer lit events and I have the hell schedule this semester, I only got to A. Van Jordan's reading, which was well worth it and gives me a little hope for the festival--the sparse crowd cast doubts on that glimmer. Beyond the fact that I have a special place in my heart for people who use an initial for their first name--so many people drop it or think its pretentious to hold on to that initial and to them I say, screw you, that's my first name and it's not going away. Anyway. A. Van Jordan gave a great read with personas from Einstein to Richard Pryor.

Anyway, so that was all literate and whatnot. But then, Heather goes on and on (Heather resents this representation) about this noise kids (kids these days!) are using for cell phone ringtones because it is at a frequency too high for old ears to hear, so they could be sitting in class and get a call without the teacher knowing it. First, as a teacher--those bastards! Secondly, I was very afraid I would not be able to hear it and thus old and thus closer to death, etc. But I heard, thank God Almighty, I heard it. That's right I am not old. Or I am at the very least not deaf. You hear that Death! So here is the noise.

Just kidding, here's the real noise. If you can't hear my friend are old. My condolences.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Burgers and Porn

So tonight in reward for walking in the park and getting good news at work, I ate at Big Daddy's Burger Bar on my beloved East Blvd. Okay, so it's a horrible name. An awful name. But I am obsessed with this place. It has a simple plan, beautifully executed. I ate a burger--condiment-free, of course--and sweet potato fries. Ohhhh...sweet, sweet, sweet potato fries. They are so good--they're porn-like guilt-ridden (back to that damn silly name). I should stop.

Too Many Books

I have too many books. For example, here are some books that are cluttering my desk, and I wish desperately I could read but instead need to read others, and grade, and propose an honor class, and prep for the classes I'm teaching now, etc, etc:

Donald Barthelme's Forty Stories
Donald Barthelme's Sixty Stories
Martin Amis' London Fields
Toby Barlow's Sharp Teeth

And that's just the ones I can read the titles of through the clutter. That's a total of 100 Barthelme stories. I need to stop sleeping.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Place of Graffiti and Snake Handling Kids

So yesterday I gave a reading at a great coffee shop called Bohemia Coffee in West Jefferson, NC. There was a fun crowd, and I got to read with my friend Julie Townsend, who years ago hosted the first coffee shop reading I ever read at. I also sold a couple books and got to hang out in the mountains. Julie wants to live in the mountains. I tried to imagine it, but I judge a place based on its graffiti.

A comparison of graffiti:

Charlotte, Picasso's Sports Bar: "I'm like a Red M&M, I'm misunderstood."
Nashville, Fido coffee shop, over the automatic papertowel dispenser: "'Hal, please give me another towel.' 'I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave.'"
Greensboro, coffee shop: "Wait here. I'll be right back. --Godot"
West Jefferson, KFC: "Democrats=Blacks, Gays, Natsi Women"

Yeah, it's not exactly scientific, but I'll pass on the West Jefferson. It also reminded me of the snake handling lecture I went to last week at the University. Norris Frederick, with wit, delivered a thoughtful look at the question of whether we can consider snake handling a language of God, using as reference William James. Later one of Heather's friends stopped us outside the grocery store. As the friend's son spun around in a circle with a pizza box held above his head, all I could see was that lecture's video. The expression on the face of the faithful and this kid were the same. I always suspected kids are snake handlers.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Me on McSweeney’s

My short story “The Focus Group’s Transcript for My Prospective Garage Sale” is now on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Actually it was on yesterday, but yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day and apparently after spending some time in the local Irish pub RiRa’s my response was to slander the “holiday” instead of checking it out.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Little Known Facts About St. Patrick's Day Too Late for Anyone to Care

  1. St. Patrick was a huge drunk.
  2. No one in Ireland celebrates St. Patrick's Day.
  3. The color green was first associated with St. Patrick when he drove the snakes out of Ireland, except for the green garden variety which he took a shine to.
  4. Guinness is a diet drink.
  5. Shamrocks are poisonous to cats. It's true. Not so lucky now, are they?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Change Your Life

Some people diet, some people work out, some people travel. All to change their lives, but I say that's too much work, not to mention results may vary. I propose the true way to change your life is to read.

So read This Zine Will Change Your Life, from the makers of This Blog Will Change Your Life. A great new site where a creative piece of writing is matched with an original image and appropriate song. A veritable celebration of art and life.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


So I’m in Tennessee with Heather for Spring Break. It wasn’t quite spring because when we drove out here there was snow on the ground. But we made it, and after visiting three bookstores and the bicentennial park (view of the TN state capitol provided), I was given the quintessential Tennessean experience: a night of line dancing.

Fear not, I did not, in fact, dance in a line or otherwise because many people and things would have been injured, not least of which my pride. It was called Stampede (or the Pede by the regulars), a “Dance Hall and Saloon.” We got there early enough for the girls to get in free—$6 bought me entrance and all the two-stepping and domestic beers I could want. Though want is often relative. At first, the dance floor remained empty except for the occasional couple whirling in and out. The place picked up soon enough. Fueled by countro-pop songs or one-hit-wonders from the 80s, many, many white people repeated the same several steps over and over. And many lessons were learned.

For example, old guys are creepy. One middle-aged fellow dressed all in khaki with weighty gold rings and necklace danced nonchalant with one hand in his pocket while a gray-haired, wrinkled senior citizen wouldn’t sit one dance out in his “Your village called and their missing its idiot” shirt that he changed out of later in the night for one advertising the local college “MTSU.”

Lesson two, the business principles of strip clubs are applicable to other establishments pretending at more morality. Stampede gave change in two dollar bills, a strip club trick to double any tips. They also dispatched a number of scantily clad girls through the crowd with neon-colored shooters. Not to mention, the strip-club stares on the faces of the guys circling the dance floor where college country girls were going wild.

Perhaps the most important lesson (other than people the world over find strange ways to take up their time and attempt to touch one another) is that line dancing is not always in a line. Many of the dances have small lines of say two people dancing in a revolving circle.

Monday, March 10, 2008

My Six Sentences

My story "Eyeball Witness" is now on Six Sentences! Those not familiar: it's a cool site that asks the question, "What can you say in six sentences?" Turns out what I can say has people saying, "Eew."

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Unbearable Whiteness of Being

Oh muffins! I'm white?

This blog proves it: Stuff White People Like

How could they know I like bulldogs, Wes Anderson movies, Oscar parties, hating corporations, and coffee? Get these people out of my head!

P.S. a curse on Derek Nikitas for bringing this to my attention.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Your Etiquette Advice from Some Old Books I Found

So when I can't sleep--which is rare because I can sleep on the floor of subway stations, but sometimes it escapes me--I read really old etiquette books. What of it?

You know before today's tip, I heard a story on Weekend America about the pointlessness of etiquette specifically of not putting your elbows on the table. Pointless? How would we know how to interact with one another if someone didn't tell us? How about that, Bill Radke?

For instance, tipping? Not like the tip I am going to give you, but the one with money. According to Book of Etiquette: Volume II by Lillian Eichler 1921 (Nelson Doubleday, Inc.):

In a little tea shop in Fifth Avenue in New York, the following is printed on the back of each menu: "Tipping is an un-American custom." Help us abolish it by adding 10 cents to the amount of your bill. At the end of the week, the waiter will receive the entire amount added to his wages." Patrons have greeted this plan enthusiastically. They feel that it presages the ultimate abolition of a custom that has long been in disrepute because it is so distinctly un-American. The waiters in this progressive little tea room serve each patron with the same degree of courtesy and respect; there is no fawning servility, no unfair dividing of service between two patrons. Let us hope hat before long all restaurants and hotels will follow the lead of the little tea-shop that revolts against the undemocratic custom of tipping. But for the present, while it remains a national custom, we must know when to tip and how to tip, and the correct amounts. In certain states, as in South Carolina, tipping is illegal. In this case as in all others of a like nature, the rules of etiquette are set aside in favor of the statutes of the law.

That's right stop tipping, you un-American jerks. This has been your etiquette advice from some old books I found.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Kakalak Means Poetry

Okay, actually it’s a term for Carolina, but it’s also a poetry contest and anthology. And I’m excited to have my poem “While You Work” in Kakalak 2008: An Anthology of Carolina Poets, edited by Beth Cagle Burt, Lisa Zerkle, and Richard Allen Taylor (intriguing poets in their own right).