Thursday, February 28, 2013

Small Government

I've been thinking a lot about government recently; more precisely, about the role of government in my life and in the lives of my students. This whole sequester situation and the sweeping budget cuts coursing through congress are really making me reconsidering my stance on small vs. large government.

I've traditionally never been one of the fear-mongerers who tries to convince the population that our government is already too large, is bridging on socialism, and will soon become a totalitarian state ending in utter devastation and sole prosperity for only the richest.

I instead have always looked at government as a tool to level the playing field; as a source for funding for things like student loans, so that if one were to be inclined to work hard and study and only needed the starting funds to pay for school, one could achieve a semblance of the American Dream.

I've also always looked at government funding as something that should grow every year; not something that is full of waste. The more, however, that I observe the amount that the government requires to operate and the amount that it wastefully spurns out, I start to actually think that a smaller, much less-intrusive and much less consuming government is better.

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, this idea popped back into my head when I read Verse Daily the other day and say Kevin J. Craft's poem, "Small Government." (Pasted below) Much of its content resonated with my conscious, as well as my poet-soul.

Nature juxtaposed with the nuances of humanity (and blight of the earth as a result) is a perennial poem theme, but this poem in particular seemed to resonate with a lot of what I was thinking about, particularly the government illusions of prosperity and happiness juxtaposed with the reality of outsourcing, wars, stock markets, elections and factories.

The well-constructed poem showcases the negligent destruction of pine forests, oceans and the entire pastoral scene for the sake of human expansion and a kind of progressive worldwide manifest destiny. We are, as the poem asserts and our consciences echo, cheating our parents and ancestors while squandering resources, opportunities and certain futures for our children.

But is our government the root of this? And would government be less intrusive if it were smaller, or is the argument trifling and futile? Would humanity still roll through rainforest and less-developed countries for the sake of profit and ephemeral joy? Or would a smaller government rekindle a by-gone kinder era of smaller intrusion and effect/affect?

Either way, the government that wastes the most will only create more waste in its wake; much like a society that allows the waste will produce more as a by-product of its percolation. This percolation is brimming right now, with only hours remaining until the sequestering and cuts take effect; so the question resonates--will our government lead us to our downfall or will we produce our own downfall regardless of the impact and/or size of our government? Or do we have the power, or will, to change?

Small Government
For instance, the sheen of headlights on a wet freeway
or a skunk hunkered in its burrow as the pinelands
shrink around it. Things exhibit de facto suffering
whenever you turn away from them, like that hammer
from your father's hand or the glass factory
sure of repeated blows from within. Turn back the clock,
the cloak and stagger. By now it's late,
too late for plate tectonics to save us from our lesser
natures, erecting cornfields between warring factions
or swallowing the acid rhetoric of an ocean,
any ocean with its plastic sheen and sinkhole interior,
its flotsam of made-in-China ducks and water pistols
loosed from a storm-knocked ship to circumnavigate
the globe at bath-time, little friend. What we have here
is a conspiracy against suffering, what we have here is
a declarative sentence with an election to swing. It takes
only two or three furnaces to turn the pinelands into
coke and/or whiskey bottles and/if gazing by an open window,
fewer the foundries of original intent. Father, I lost
the hammer and the appetite, it was I stole your cigarettes
your Buffalo nickels, we got marathon bars for them
father, packs of Topps, mouths of smoke and gum ...

Through which time the freeway thrumming, through which
loophole blue whales in their burrows, the glistening fenders,
quick glances lengthening in the windshield of tinted glass
because looking is a form of longing, in the end.
For instance, a blowhole, a sand flea, that silly putty smirk
you wear in the checkout line while having a nice day.
If not the stench of having rolled through county
after county awakening once more to its factory consent.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Oscars

There seems to be a serious disconnect between the real world and the celebutized fallacy of the award show. Celebrities dress in clothing that rivals the GDP of third world countries, spend the evening congratulating one another and who portrayed the best false version of someone else, and then award one another in a celebration that does little more than reinforce our perceptions that they are untouchable, divine beings unlike our crude and poor human race. But still, somehow, the appeal and viewership is gravitational bordering upon obsessive.

And while I must admit that certain celebrities do sacrifice their time and much of their money, and many others try to raise awareness for particular charities or causes, the majority live in a sterilized personal Olympus, devoid of public (and most likely private) recognition of the atrocities and disparities that exist just beyond the shine of the lights. On the Oscars last night no celebrity mentioned the impending layoff disaster and deep budget cuts that our government is struggling through, including the first lady, Michelle Obama, who was given a cameo to name an award winner.

Is the reason because they don't care, or because they are promoting an illusory world? One of the major problems with our world is the perception versus the reality of everyday life. When children, potential activists and the general public view an award show they are transported into an utopian society which strips them of their cares, priorities and responsibilities. I, too, am at fault for this, as I have all too often fallen for the disguised world of celebutized thought-killing fodder. But I want to try to make a change.

Which brings me to the thesis of this post. Can the award shows next year mention at least some of the problems in our world, try to urge the public into some kind of activism to solve or at least address something pertinent to our or someone else's survival? Mention global warming, the many genocides, impending nuclear war, extinctions, conflicts, growing homeless/poor population, stray animal populations, hungry children, forgotten elderly, etc.? I think we, as a people who look to celebrities to portray the kind of romantic ideals which we want to possess, need to know that they care about issues and that these things still exist. When we ignore things we tend to continue to ignore them, but if our idols mention them and take a stance toward them, perhaps we as a greater population also will.

I feel like there can be no better award acceptance speech than to stand in front of the academy without speaking and instead hold up a piece of paper that reads "Because we do not speak of the ills of our world, I will not speak either."

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Kyle McCord's "I Write You This on a Train Named for an Endangered Bird"

I discovered a new poet, Kyle McCord, two days ago on, where else, VerseDaily. His poem "I Write You This on a Train Named for an Endangered Bird" is pasted below. The poem surely isn't simple or trite, but its full comprehension still eludes me--I grasp the premise, several of the metaphors, cherish the newness in some of the lines, but I feel as if there's something grander which is still just beyond my reach.

The premise for the poem is extraordinary--the perennial question: how to begin the poem/story/etc. And this one begins by not beginning in a way, an irony I fully appreciate. From a teaching perspective it seems it would be simple to include in a creative writing class since it's structured perfectly in the beginning and develops organically, that is until the poem namedrops Hamlet and then rushes past a perfect analogy that could have been developed much further. Why leave the idea of fighting for the dead as a way to not begin a poem, because isn't that how Shakespeare began? Why not discuss it or riff off of it? Fight for the dead to come back? Isn't that the premise of so many stories? What about the idea of dooming something/someone (mainly the protagonist) from the onset of the story? But, as consolation, he does riff off the idea of the living having enough problems--both humans, then animals, and especially those (on the extinction death row) noted for their dwindling numbers. Then he riffs on the idea of stories starting and never developing the way one hopes (paralleled so smartly in the party mishap). After this point I get what McCord intends, and I love the idea of refusing to admit that the symbolic and obligatory act of placing certain sacraments atop a grave is anything but impulsive and pre-planned and perhaps without emotion, and that it fits so well into the ideas presented earlier on; but still, I wait for another deeper, more moving objective correlative connection to blossom.
But before I end, I must make mention of the title. Something I have been striving to do in my work is to create titles that fit metaphorically in with one of the ideas of the poem but which do not necessarily make an ideal name for the poem. This poem does this. I admire the way it relates back to the metaphor of the extinct animals whose time is dwindling, much as the poem's time to connect with the reader is dwindling, and simultaneously how long/well the poem has to develop/can develop is also dwindling.
Overall, a solid and interesting poem which delves into the human psyche, the mechanisms by which writers write and readers read.

I Write You This on a Train Named for an Endangered Bird

There are ways a story can't begin. Like pitting your protagonist
against an all-knowing, all-seeing jaguar spirit.
Or, worse, against an abstraction—like immorality or human unhappiness.
It could be argued that Hamlet's vengeance was doomed from the outset
because you can't fight for the dead, only against the living
who have enough problems as it is. Your Canadian brother-in-law
unemployed, rubs his knuckles while he sleeps.
A whole range of unadorable animals are on the docket for extinction.
I've identified some plot problems here. Like on New Year's
when Jeremy A's sister blew you in the bathroom
and midway through they threw you out of the house
without your high-tops: was no way to begin a story, and it did.
And I refuse to put bread on anyone's tongue and pretend it's flesh
to put cigarettes and fruit on a grave and pretend I intended it
more than an hour before. Why should it mean less?
The Confederate dead who haunt your city. Jeremy A's sister
years later aboard the California Zephyr. The blood rushing
to your extremities, the makeshift fan, the Mahler left open.
Even now, you can't play it perfectly—notes too far, too fast.
What do you want from any of us, reader? Elegy? Epiphany?
I am hunted by an all-knowing spirit who grows a shade over my head one day
and withers it the next.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Following

My wife and I are always searching for new and better television to watch as the drain of reality television has become more affecting. Two weeks ago we found something rather surprising--a show starring a well-know yet past-his-prime actor, Kevin Bacon--and a surprisingly intelligent and literary plot, one in which a serial murderer/cult leader is inspired to create "games" through the works of Edgar Allen Poe.

The Following chronicles a down-and-out alcoholic (read: Poe) detective who earlier in his career tracked down and stopped a serial killer, and who now must once again solve the happenings of the serial killer's cult-like followers as they wreak destruction. I'm sure it will make it to a second season.

The imagery of Poe's visage, the allusions to his work and his famous macabre aura are ubiquitous enough to appease even the most hardened Poe fanatics and it's this kind of television-literature connection that hopefully will cause people, especially younger people, to become interested enough in Poe again to begin re-reading his works. Anything that can attract a student to a book is a win for our society.

Bottom line: The 5 degrees of separation between Kevin Bacon and literary nerd status has narrowed.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Old Man and The Sea

Today I handed the seniors their copies of The Old Man and the Sea, a book which I fondly remember but have no idea when I read it.

I lied to them, naturally, as they all claim I do anyway whenever I recall any of my stories, and told them that I read it my senior year and was enamored by it--the journey, the heroic realization, and the whole dream despite the futility idea. They were less-than-receptive.

"It's short," was the consensus, and based upon that sole fact, and possibly that they only have to answer 11 short answer questions and complete one essay, they seem to have accepted their fates of having to read two books simultaneously, Hamlet in class, and TOMATS outside of class.

But what I want to discuss in this post is Santiago's struggle. We all are faced with daunting challenges, with people who test our emotions and make us do seemingly crazy thing. And we all encounter difficult obstacles. But Santiago's struggle is one of failure and simultaneous success, and in a way is the quintessential metaphor for life. We aren't given a success without smaller failures, and we certainly don't fail completely without succeeding in the least bit. With respect to Santiago, maybe his fish is a fish that we're all destined to try to catch...

So I tried to parallel this idea for my students, and suggested that they discuss a difficult trial in their lives. What have they struggled with the most? The answers, however, were somewhat surprising. One student said that nothing really difficult has happened to him in his life, and until that moment had never really considered it. I thought to myself that he is completely skipping the quest for college, the constant struggle to sustain grades, relationships and still hold down a job; and he also completely skipped over his parents' divorce, which definitely affected him during the first two years I knew him. So why the humility? Why the ignorance of something that was so affecting and transformative? Is it because he actually doesn't realize it, and hasn't yet gained the maturity to process and comprehend the indelible impact this will have on his psyche? Or is it that he is truly mature enough and is worldly enough to recognize that his struggles with attempting to get into a great college really isn't that difficult in the scheme of world poverty, genocide, natural disasters and being born as a different gender/race/religion?

I'd like to think that my students learn something in my class--even if it's simply gleaning some miniscule lesson from my "boring" lectures and superfluous notes. And I'd like to think that they might, someday, realize a parallel between what I'm asking of them and what they're reading--that the fisherman is an everyman, just like they are an everyman, battling a literal or figurative juggernaut. But at the same time that they, as the fisherman out at sea, don't lose sight of the shore; that they maintain some semblance of reality and history and that they can carry something great with them wherever they go, and will attempt something seemingly wild, adventurous and life-changing because that's life. You can have the longest list of Facebook friends, but you have never tasted success if you first haven't tasted the salty sweet of failure on your lips as you sail back into port, bones still strapped to your boat.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Time Travel

I was discussing with a student the other day about the possibilities of time travel. They contended that it was possible to time travel since any time traveler would clearly hide their abilities in order to not affect/obscure/ruin the present. The argument is valid; it maintains the belief that changing the present from the future affects the past in the future and the future future; however, what's the harm in at least informing someone, anyone, about the possibilities of time travel?

Is it absolute that time travel does not exist because we, the collective public, don't know about it yet? Why can't it be possible that the knowledge has been bequeathed to someone, somewhere? Isn't it also possible that the future has been impacted from people coming from the future and affecting the past (our present or near-future)? Could there be some collection of laws that dictate time travel--the who, what, where, when and why? Is it something reserved and protected after some type of catastrophe or malfunction? Or it is reserved only for some cataclysmic event which must be reserved or prevented, e.g. asteroid, alien invasion, etc.?

As we continued our conversation, I began thinking more about Professor Stephen Hawking, famed physicist who has compacted his entire body of work on time travel into a single sentence which resonates with much more: "Where are all the time travelers?"

After a brief Google search I found this little ditty: an article about Hawking hosting a party for time travelers in which he only announced the party the evening after. Mind blown.

Spoiler: no one attended. At least, he claims no one attended.

Don't Call It a Comeback...

All right, you can call it a comeback if you want to...

I'm restarting this tremendous yet asinine blog, refocusing upon myself and literature, even though that may have been the original focus anyway, because I need 1) an outlet for me to express what I find to be awesome and noteworthy, and 2) to expand my knowledge and critical analysis of literature. I'll be reviewing  poems, books, stories, etc.; sharing adventures in the sport of teaching; and chronicling my dull life.

Let's begin with my current obsession, The Great Gatsby, starring Leo as the infamous protagonist.

I literally cannot wait for May.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

It's a Madhouse

Madhouse, a British apparel company has apparently been putting more than just "vintage wear" into their jeans (read: trousers). Emma Barnett, a British journalist and popular blogger, was outraged when she went to wash her boyfriends pants and noticed an incendiary and misogynistic label below the care instructions for washing and drying. The label reads verbatim: "Or give it to your woman it's her job."

The company hasn't responded to public outcry yet and strangely hasn't issued a statement regarding the matter which begs a few questions: did they know the label was there or was it a rogue or former employee who placed it there?; did they think that no one would see the label and that they would get away with it?; or did they actually think that the label was just a bad joke that people would gloss over, or even show their friends, and this would allow the company to use their sexist remarks as a marketing tool?

The gauge on the internet shows a lot of anger and resentment toward this once-popular company, but searches on the company and the company's clothing are now being snatched up in droves.

Clever marketing tool or deplorable sexist comments?

Revised to show that CNN has now picked up the story and a link to it has been posted below; no new pictures to add besides the one tweeted. Are there more out there?

Cubicle Modifications has come out with a list of 40 hilarious alternatives to the mundane cubicle; some are pranks, some are designs, and some, like Google's, are definitely inspirational to workers. So for your weekly antidote to office ennui here's the link to the article:

9 Unique Places to Visit in the World

Looking across the web today I've found that several blogs and sites of interest have begun posting in regards to the same story from The World Geography in regards to 9 of the world's most Unique and Unusual Travel Destinations. It was picked up by, among others, CNN and the Presurfer.

Some seem interesting, others breathtaking, but the one that is the most intriguing is definitely the Ice Hotels, which, though they are only open for certain times during the year for obvious reasons, offer the longest among of "awe" out of most of the options. Others are short-lived

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rush to get him off the air

Rush Limbaugh’s grotesque pandering to the under-educated, misogynistic and gullible must be stopped.

Recently Rush went on a rampage condemning Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (FLUK) for testifying on the need for government-sponsored birth control. While the request seems simple, and is, at times, a necessity for many women across the country, Rush went on the offensive, declaring that any female who needs birth control this badly and “cannot afford her own” must be having “so much sex” that she doesn’t have the time for anything else. And while this doesn’t equate in the minds of most Americans, in Mr. Limbaugh’s, it sure does.

Let’s begin with the facts: birth control pills don’t come in a per-use collection by which those who are most promiscuous or insatiable are running up a steep pill tab; they are instead preventative and, in most cases, beneficial to those women who need a regulatory system in place to alleviate the unpredictability and discomfort that greets them one per month. Furthermore, Ms. Fluke was the only female to testify as part of an all-male panel discussing the need for government sponsorship of birth control and other contraceptives in healthcare mandates; this makes her more credible than anyone else there to at least 50% of the population. Rush’ demographic (overweight, white, male, wealthy) was well-represented, so of course, this being America, there needed to be another voice to resoundingly echo the vitriol with which Ms. Fluke was encountered.

But wait, she wasn’t. In fact, most members of congress not only listened intently to her testimony, but nodded their heads in approval as she delivered her testimony. There was no vituperative language hurled from congressional members, nor were there outcries from conservatives who deem birth control a “sin.” There was, at worst, quiet disagreement. So what, this blogger asks, is Mr. Limbaugh trying to accomplish? Does he really believe that he is the voice of a marginalized population of angry anti-birth control advocates bent on destroying the reputations of any women who opposes them? Or is he simply an uber-misogynistic sociopath who has the ability to slander and libel to any extent he wishes and then can retract any portion of his statements at any later date with little to no repercussion? If it is the latter then I beg of you, he must be taken down.

Not since Don Imus’ notorious “nappy-headed ho’s” comment in reference to the Rutgers women’s basketball team, has there been such an outrage over a radio or television personalities opinions. Imus issued a litany of apologies, both general and personal to individual players, completed services as a self-imposed “rehabilitation” which includes public service announcements and appearances free of charge, and was also immediately “removed” from his position. Why doesn’t Rush receive the same treatment? Is he infallible or untouchable? He certainly is no saint or pope nor is he created in the image of God.

My opinion is that since the need to pay for contraceptives are already endorsed by Obamacare, Rush’ insinuations are twice as lethal and twice as unnecessary. When one considers that he is essentially labeling every female currently taking birth control pills, who is benefiting from Obamacare’s mandate, a “slut,” there is no question that his comments are so out of line that there is no logical place for them in either written or spoken form. He is a dictator howling from a shielded radio cubicle trying to incite an angry mob to go overthrow and “kill the monster,” i.e. liberal women on birth control.

I know many women, and even young women, who are not promiscuous and most likely aren’t involved or indulging in these kinds of behaviors. So, is it fair to label them all with a sweeping generalization? Or is it ever morally responsible to broadcast this radical opinion to the masses, many of whom are probably misinformed about birth control pills?

AND Rush went so far as to request that there should be “videos” of the acts created and that they should be “posted online,” so that the American people could, theoretically, see where there money is going. He continued on by insinuating that Ms. Fluke should reveal who “bought her condoms in junior high” and that she has so many gentlemen callers that they are “lining up around the block.”

There is no place for this type of speech, behavior or condemnation in a progressive nation which prides itself on equality and opportunity. He is a cancerous contagion that needs to be eradicated figuratively or literally.

Rush’s point is that the “feminazi’s” are trying to overtake healthcare reform and are clearly trying to be rewarded for having sex. Since there is no truth to this there is therefore no truth to his words, and a man without truth to his words is a liar, a sin declared in the bible and in the moral laws of this country; furthermore, his vitriolic language and sweeping generalizations which don’t ever deserve the negative label of “stereotypes,” have already infected the ears of every listener both to his program and to any news organization which rebroadcast any portion of his verbal pollution. His pejoratives are intended to inflict moral harm, and while he wields this “moral” saber around, he takes no care to look at who he hits, who he harms and notices not the bridges that he has just sliced down.

Rush should (and I again have no idea why it hasn’t happened yet) find himself alone atop his self-imposed pillar with the world surrounding him, chanting for him to be brought down, dethroned, like an idol of a past dictator, a relic of an evil time long ago, and he should find this noose draped over his swelled neck, pulling him down into the bowels of a world he is so quick to condemn and forget he is a part of.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cupcake Dispensing ATM?

Yes, please!

A new ATM in Beverly Hills, California, is offering patrons the opportunity to purchase a freshly baked cupcake at a walk-up ATM, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The idea came from the Sprinkles cupcake and ice cream company nestled in the heart of Beverly Hills.

Sounds both delicious than innovative; I'm just hoping that there's no way any rodents can find their way into that area during the wee hours of the morning when not many people will be interested in cupcakes...

Full article:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

You know this looks hilarious...

A Snow Day...WHAT?!

North Attleboro currently looks like a winter wonderland. And by winter wonderland I mean the picturesque ideal winter wonderland in which the trees look like they have been sprayed with a glistening white decorative fluff, the roads are clear and wet, and the yard has been covered by a pristine white carpet.

Not pictured in this imagery are the shovels, snowblowers, plows, salt, sand, etc. that routinely comprise the cliche first morning after a New England snowstorm.

So I'm left begging the question: Why was there a snowday today when not even 30 miles south we don't even even have a half inch of anything outside, including rain.

Don't mistake this rant for complaining about having a much-needed snowday (see previous post about students' personalities and abilities on days that should/could have been snowdays), but as a rant instead bashing this winter for being very wussy. We had a wallop of a winter last year and this is the best this year can muster? I'm afraid of what it means for this spring or this summer.

Are there going to be squalls and small storms continuing into May? Is summer going to be a record-breaking scorcher with frequent storms and deadly lightning, or perhaps even another hurricane this year to make it back-to-back?

Gotye_ Somebody I Used To Know

The fact that he sounds so much like Sting when he goes into his high resister is awesome, but the catchiness of this song and the subtle nuances of the plucked notes and synthesized vibratos, I think, deserves some sort of accolade alone, without the sugar-pop induced popularity the song has attained already.