Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Headlines: This Week in Seattle

by Miles Strucker

  • After receiving B.A., Garfield grad uses the word 'subjectivity' at party.
  • Ballard man retires to write dystopian novel set in present day Ballard.
  • Authorities rescue black man from Bellevue.
  • Local 22 year-old to wear something sexy for Halloween.
  • Seattle Prep, University Prep, to merge.
  • Studying abroad in South America the new coming of age for local bourgeoisie.
  • Asterisk a sign of steroid use, doctors say.
  • Seahawks fans embarrassed to be 12th man.
  • NCAA to implement salary cap on bribes.
  • Study finds yoga a hoax.
  • 75% of Americans think socialism attacked us on 9/11, poll reveals.
  • "Everything is connected, just not that much," admits realistic guru.
  • Local pariah pushes questionable sense of humor on acquaintances.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Poem: Too Big

by Alex Gallo-Brown

Late, after poker--third place, thirty bucks
won in a game of drunk Asians--I stand outside
the bar among the peopleless picnic tables,
slowly smoking over a can full of butts.
A few minutes later, a man--really a large boy--
walking by asks me for a smoke.

I give him the paper, the clutch of tobacco.
I lend him my lighter.
He's a musician, he tells me as he gets it lit,
a Mozart of the streets.
He is, he says, too smart for this world.
Later, he says he wants to be a father
but doesn't like women.
Wants to work hard but doesn't want
to be exploited.
I have no answer
but my attention.
I listen to him speak his questions.

The next morning, I see him again,
walking on a different street.
Both of us are laid speechless by this coincidence.
Finally, I ask him how he's doing.
Okay, he tells me--he's got his jogging shorts on.
These days, what he really needs is a car:
he's getting too big for his feet.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Marx and Moore

I saw "Capitalism: A Love Story" a few days ago, and found myself having mixed feelings about it. On one hand, it was, as my brother said, "dumb," at least in the sense of being intellectually unsophisticated. (David Denby, writing in The New Yorker, was more charitable, calling it "a sad movie--funny in spots, but wounded and bewildered.") But on the other hand, I thought the essence of Moore's message--that in today's society the banks have far too much political influence; that our government, as it functions now, routinely fails to express the will of its people; that last year's bailout was criminal; that we should be pissed off; that we shouldn't take it anymore; and so on--is right, and therefore should not be dismissed as simply shoddy, far left propaganda. Moore may not be a prophet, as he claims to be at one point in the film, but his hindsight is more or less twenty twenty.

Then, today, reading an article by Curtis White in the new issue of Tin House, called "A Good Without Light," it dawned on me that part of the reason why the movie resonated was that for the first time in recent memory, a piece of pop culture was confronting capitalism (and its manifold failings) by calling it what it was. We just assume, "liberals" and "conservatives" both, that ours is the best system. The assumption is so deeply embedded into our collective psyche we can barely bring ourselves to speak the word.

"What no one is allowed to consider," White writes, "is the distressing possibility that no amount of tinkering and changing and greening and teaching the kindergartners to plant trees and recycle Dad's beer cans will ever really matter if our assumptions about what it means to be prosperous, what it means to be 'developed,' what it means to live in 'progress,' and what it means to be 'free' remain what they have been for the last four hundred years under the ever-growing weight of capitalist markets and capitalist social relations. As Marx put it, under capitalism we carry our relation to others in our pockets. Marx would now have to add, sadly, that those 'others' must now include the animals of the field and the birds of the sky as well as the fields and sky themselves. But such a line of thought is not tolerated because the very word 'capitalism' (not to mention 'Marx') is a fighting word. (Or worse it is a sort of faux pas to speak of 'capitalism' at all; you'd be better off saying 'the economy,' just as if you were a slave asked to refer to your master as your employment counselor.) Unfortunately, in banishing this word we eliminate from the conversation the very thing we came together to discuss. We can talk about our plans to save the world, but we can't talk about the economic system that put it in jeopardy in the first place. That's off the table."

If Moore's film has value, then, it is that it has put the word back on the table. That's my hope anyway.

Monday, October 12, 2009

American Sucker

Buzzine has also put up a review I wrote of American Sucker, the 2004 memoir by David Denby. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Poem: Like Moths

by Nick Gallo

like moths
my thoughts skirt & distract

i wait impatiently
                                   for immolation 

or rest

a new poem
climbs beneath my eyelids
scraping away sleep

and dancing keys
my words know no escape
my breath forms an imprint on the cloth

i dream of
dead languages
and dogs gnawing on bones

          -- November, 1973

Friday, October 9, 2009

Go, Grayson, Go!

If only all the Democrats talked like this...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cold Souls

Buzzine, a Los Angeles-based webzine, has picked up a review I wrote of Cold Souls. It's here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Poem: Reading Octavio Paz in Mexico Eighteen Months After Your Death

by Alex Gallo-Brown

Reading Paz in Mexico,
Paz writing on Mexicans and death,
eighteen months after, eighteen months
like a succession of dreams,
relentless, without respite from reality.
Some of those days spent
thinking about you,
turning the memories over in my mind,
letting them sift against my skin
and other days, just hurrying
through the fog.
"Nobody thinks about his own death," declares Paz,
"because nobody lives a personal life."
But I do, Paz, I do.
I wonder on the bus
if this is the last ride
I will ever take, this countryside
the last bit I will ever glimpse.
It wouldn't be so hard, would it?
An errant flick of the driver's wrist—
then formless, bodyless
among the stars.

Reading Paz in Mexico
eighteen months after,
Paz lecturing, hectoring on death,
implacable orator, ancient high priest.
You were always more
like a jester, singing lightness
from your corner of the court:
you brought people to you, you took them in.
"Tell me how you died," Paz demands,
"and I will tell you who you are."
All right, Paz, l will tell you
how my father died.
He died on assignment,
a magazine writer in a foreign land,
frightened, perhaps, but in love todavia--
devout in this faith until his end.