Sunday, October 31, 2010

your oyster

Isn’t it funny how the words super and superb are so close to each other orthographically, and very close in meaning, and yet one is considered completely plebian while the other is a lofty, almost snobbish choice?

Super: 1) of a high grade or quality; 2) very large or powerful.
Superb: 1) marked to the highest degree by grandeur, excellence, brilliance or competence.

It’s almost as if back in 1842, someone who couldn’t handle consonant clusters just downgraded superb to super, stripping away the oomph.

Super, in fact, rings somewhat old-fashioned. I don’t know too many people who use it alone anymore, although it shows up in superpower, supersonic and superelastic bubbleplastic.

What if people upped the ante by replacing super with superb?

Imagine if “Puttin’ on the Ritz” were superb-duper, and Clark Kent turned into Superbman. It would take something finer than kryptonite to cripple him.

Friday, October 29, 2010

bewitching hour

Friday is here, but you were expecting that since Friday is inseparable from Thursday. They are like Siamese twins, Thursday being the workaholic and Friday the devil-may-care. In Europe we change the clocks this weekend, so I’m looking forward to recouping that hour. And on top of that it's Halloween, a kind-of-yes/kind-of-no holiday here. Some people are into it, and there are all kinds of Halloween-themed storefronts and events, but honestly about 68% of the population doesn't know what Halloween is. Not that they should, I just hate having to reckon how much candy to buy, if any, and having to correct the kids who come on the damned wrong day. Without a costume. Twice. Maybe I should turn off the lights and hide in the house, as my great-grandparents used to do.

Elsewhere in the world, I read a couple really good poetry books lately, which made up for some of the incomprehensible poetry I’ve read in the past months. I’ve had a couple buyer’s-remorse moments, something difficult to avoid since I don’t have access to an English language library. (That was one of the interesting things about visiting my mom this month: for the first time in a long time I went to a library and they had loads of interesting stuff you could borrow without having to buy it. Wow. Plus: DVDs!)

Anyway, the last two poetry books I read and loved are Salvinia Molesta by Victoria Chang and Stupid Hope by Jason Schinder.

I’d never heard of Schinder until earlier this year when I ran across his poem "How I Am" some place by chance. I loved this book. Schinder, with the help of his dying mom, managed to break my heart on pretty much every other page. In the book he writes about his mother’s death as well his own impending demise. He has a very endearing voice. I wouldn’t trade this book for anything. My favorite poems in the book were probably “The Good Son” and “How I Am.”

The second was Salvinia Molesta by Victoria Chang. Among the themes are power, love, greed, history, and corruption, and the topics include China’s Cultural Revolution, Enron, infidelity, and suicide, as well as salvinia molesta, the fastest-growing weed in the world.

My favorite section was the first, which confronts modern Chinese history, including Mao and his widow, Taiwan, and the Nanking massacre. These poems were fascinating. The section starts with the poem “Hanging Mao Posters,”and ends with “After Hanging Mao Posters,” which you can read here. In this section I espcially liked “Jiang Qing” (Mao’s widow), and “Proof -”

"...One day he knelt in the street,
sign around his neck

that said: Traitor. Little Red Book spread like wax
on his back..."

The second section was good, too, although I preferred the first (and third). It consists of love poems and love/power poems, dominated by one about a professor having an affair with a student. My favorite poem in this section was “Mulberry Tree,” which takes Van Gogh as its subject. At the poet’s website, click on Poems and you can read “Ars Poetica with Birdfeeder and Hummingbird,” which appears in this section.

The third section is about money and power, and includes a few very interesting poems about Clifford Baxter, an Enron executive who committed suicide. Sounds odd, huh? But it works.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

weary of this particular theory

16 Aug 2010 ... The crash landing of a Boeing 737 in the Caribbean is being called a "miracle" by the region's governor. The jetliner broke into three parts ...

4 Year Old Being Called ‘Miracle Baby’ After Surviving 7 Story Fall From Balcony Suffering Only A Few Scratches

Doctors had called it a miracle. A Southern Colorado woman was in a vegetative state for more than six years, but suddenly woke up. Now, 11 News has learned ...

23 Jan 2010 ... (CBS) He's being called miracle man. Twenty-one-year-old Emanuel Buteau survived 10 days under the wreckage of his collapsed apartment ...

It is being called the "Miracle on the Hudson." On Thursday, January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 crashed into the Hudson River minutes after takeoff ...

22 Nov 2005 ... Mysterious tears of blood that have appeared on a statue of the Virgin Mary at a church in California are being called a miracle by Catholic ...

14 Sep 2010 ... I still remember a woman I overheard at work one day who'd lost a lot of weight and called it a miracle from God. ...

Beck sees "miracle" in geese flying over mall during 8-28 rally ... 30 Aug 2010 ... Okay, if you're narcissistic enough to call it a sign, go ahead, .... Mainstream media are stunned that this so-called miracle worker can ...

12 Mar 2009 ... Now a paraplegic man is walking again, and his doctors call it a miracle. CBS13 went to Manteca to find out how a spider bite helped get him ...

Egyptian Famer Calls Two-Headed Calf 'a Miracle' - Egyptian farmers may call it a miracle but I call it a Brahmin.

15 Jun 2010 ... HE'S called the miracle boy. Less than two months after being shot in the head in a hunting accident, he has defied the odds ...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

jet lard

Hello, my name is S. and I’m a jet lagger. It’s been a couple weeks since I last fell off the wagon, but it wasn’t serious; I was right back on until a day ago. Due to the predictable issues, this is the first meeting I’ve been able to make. I was up in time to catch the one at 3.32 a.m. but after I’d showered and shaved, I noticed the moon going in slow motion, so I put my pants on backwards and hit my head on the bathtub. If you’ve tried to contact me and I didn’t respond, it’s because jet lag is a kind of brain damage, reversible only in small doses. I’m not yet all there. Some of me is still aloft, bobbing for my wristwatch deep in the temporal lobe. But I’m trying to get clockwise, and working on my commitment to Central European. I go back and forth. Excuse my slur - it’s been an ungodly hour since the moment I woke up.

song of the day: reptile

Friday, October 22, 2010

Border guards

Name your favorite alphabetic sequence.

Are you going or have you ever been to Scarborough Fair?

How much are you willing to eat for breakfast?

How many commas are there in a trillion?

What is the connection between vibrate and vibrant?

And what would your mother say?

buffalo skinners

Been away two weeks in America, three hours of which was devoted to a traffic jam in NJ sponsored by an eight-car accident. Luckily I was on a bus, so although I was frustrated and bored, I could read, and huff and puff, and curse Eisenhower and Mamie.

I finished Methland on the bus, a book about the scourge of meth in small midwestern towns. It’s easy to blame its spread on rural boredom, but actually it has more to do with economic hopelessness, corporate farming, big pharma, and wage dumping.

When I was in my late twenties, I took a job in a town smack in the middle of the US, in a county ranked #3 best place to live in America by Progressive Farmer Magazine. I thought it was going to be charming. I thought it was going to be good for me. I looked forward to the peace and quiet and solitude. Instead I was bored and very lonely. In addition to a home bartending course, I spent a lot of time running, cycling away from farm dogs, and taking clarinet lessons. Good thing there was no meth around! I grew one wild hair.

Between you and me and yonder grain silo, Methland was interesting and worthwhile, but far from a great read. I was lucky the jam afforded me a stretch of boredom. I might not have finished the book otherwise.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The only order the day had was chronological order

I don't pretend to know anything, including the French word for hell. I don't even know if the English word for hell is quite correct.

The future is coming with the sole purpose that I might regret it.

I once had a boyfriend who said, "when we're older and you write my biography...," and I thought "what a vain and presumptuous jerk," and the pathetic thing was how I adored him, and how I still love him in a small way with large reservations.

The hour of five falls like quintuplets from the clock.

I've always dressed modestly because I think of the body as a wound, and clothes as a bandage. They should cover me, and as comfortably as possible.

To live in the moment is a frightful thing. In all the past I never lived in the moment. I was saving those moments for now.

Friday, October 08, 2010

three nonoptions

Belt loops
Brake lights
Dental floss


song today: beautiful boyz

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

"waste book method highly recommended"

Two days and I’m off to the East Coast again for my usual autumn vacation, weirdened this year by the fact that I was just there. I do hope it’s cooled off. One of the few good things I can say about living in Germany is we don’t suffer the increasing heat as much as my part of America seems to (or that monstrous snow last winter).

I face the dumb likelihood that I’ll be carrying three books back to NJ that I just lugged over here last week. I’m reading all three. I’m in the middle of all three. I don’t want to leave one behind and pick it up again later. But I also don’t really want to keep lugging them over the Atlantic, and I like them too much to leave behind, and none would appeal enough to my mother to sway me to do so.

The first is Witold Gombrowicz’s Pornografia, an odd 1960 novel by the Polish writer who went off on an assignment to South America in the late 30’s and was stranded there because of WWII, not speaking a word of Spanish. The novel takes place, nevertheless, in wartime Poland, where two intellectuals from the city go to the countryside. The funniest thing about the book is the voice of the protagonist who, among other warped notions, imagines he knows the thoughts/motivations of his companion. This book makes me want to throw open the window and and laugh a huge laugh splash out onto the street.

The second is an anthology of Serbian poetry called The Horse Has Six Legs, edited by Charles Simic. This includes two of my favorite poets – Vasko Popa and Novica Tadic – along with more than 20 others. So far it’s excellent. Eastern European poetry in general relies more on image than language; it’s dark and peppered with totems.

The last is a book of aphorisms and observances by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, recommended by Tricia over at EICC. Called The Waste Books, it wasn’t meant to be published, but luckily was, and survives where his other forgettable writings have not. He lived in the 1700s. Here are some of my favorites:

The world offers us correction more often than consolation.

Ideas too are a life and a world.

Nothing can contribute more to the peace of soul than the lack of any opinion whatsoever.

Libraries will in the end become cities, said Leibniz.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

sap drip

The 100%-proven way to improve the taste (read ‘desirability’) of sweets or baked goods is to bring them to the office. It could be a cake that flopped or the candy canes from Christmas you still have at Easter. It doesn’t even matter if your co-workers can identify the food, which has often been the case when a colleague brought back “something” from Asia or the Middle East. Did anyone know what it was? Did anyone actually like the taste? No, but there it was (like the mountain) so they ate it.

I, for example, could never stand those maple syrup candies from Canada, the ones that look like brown sugar granules fused together with corn syrup into the shape of a maple leaf. But when a colleague brought some to the office, what did I have after lunch? In fact, I hoarded two extra in my drawer in case the world ended.

Last October I brought back those tri-color Halloween candy corn from America that everyone professed to hate but which quickly vanished. I hate them, too, but confined to the office, I eat them in a busy three-part nibbling process of tip, middle and bottom.

Even worse, my husband has a student who often gives him bars of dark chocolate with hazelnuts that everyone in my family, including me, would rather die than eat. One day I got the bright idea to bring them to the office, where they were magically transformed the moment I got through the door into my personal booty. I didn’t put them on the table to share; I just put them in my drawer where I began the gradual but successful project of devouring them with a horrible, twisted look of disgust on my face.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Mob is my Shepherd

After years of defending the American people abroad, it was strange on my trip to feel called upon to defend the Germans. On the other hand, maybe I wasn’t being asked to defend the Germans, I was only being asked not to say anything negative about America.

At one point, after visiting two restaurants, I mentioned that American restaurants serve large portions. Boy, did I say the wrong thing. An acquaintance literally bristled, and countered with the accusation that also Germans serve large portions. Has he ever been to Germany? No. Do Germans serve large portions? Actually, in comparison, no, but my observation had nothing to do with Germany. I didn’t intend to enter a competition. I brushed this off as “guy with a problem.”

At another point, I mentioned that, because of the media, some people have the impression that America is full of gun-toting fanatical Christians (the last mention of this came during media-sponsored Burn-the-Koran week). Believe me, I am always ready to stand up and say this is not true, that America, like any country, has plenty of normal, moderate people who use their reason and read decent books and care about the environment and have never held a gun, etc. Still, this acquaintance found it intolerable that this impression of America could exist, and immediately set in to criticizing the Germans, who, as everyone knows, murdered 6 million Jews in WWII, not to mention all the Poles, gypsies and handicapped people, etc.

What the Germans did in WWII is indefensible, so indefensible they cannot even ask forgiveness. Should I get up and start defending them? Did I compare right-wing nutty American culture to Nazism? Uh, not that I recall...

If you want to hate Germans for their history, I’d find it hard to blame you. But to damn them to hell as a race is akin to what the Germans themselves did, and involves a kind of willful ignorance that is itself offensive. Ironically, there is an association of German Jews and I’m not Jewish (or German) but I get their newsletter, and I see nothing in it but sanity, even-handedness and a ready desire to move on, even as they are against “forgetting.”

The last straw hit the camel at my college reunion, where I attended a talk on displaced persons in the Civil War. I was sitting with a friend before the talk started discussing German. She’d minored in German and wondered if I ever think in German. Mostly I don’t, but there some words that lack English equivalents that I want to use even when I’m speaking English. One of the best is “doch,” which indicates a kind of a refutation of a refutation.

A guy who was sitting nearby eavesdropping decided to add that the Germans have words that suit their culture, “doch” being an example of their brusque arrogance. We ignored him, but all I could think was ‘what a prick,’ and what irony that the lecture spent no small amount of time on racism and prejudice, with mr. know-it-all there nodding right along.

Song of the day: Just So

Friday, October 01, 2010

whore's porridge

The new issue of Softblow includes four poems of mine.

U5 Inbound: The U5 is Frankfurt’s subway line #5, whose key function is to take me back and forth to work everyday.

1286: This is a medieval poem that was written in the soggy weather of Germany’s Black Forest.

With All Due Respect: You know that crack sound the ice cube makes when it’s dropped into a glass of water, or coke, or whatever? Don’t you love that? This poem opposes clinging and hoarding.

Spacemanship: This involves a transpositional experience. As it should.
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