Wednesday, December 14, 2005


I feel like laughing out loud, jumping over my couch, grinning like a maniac, and just generally wigging out. Why? Because it's past the witching hour, and I am still awake thanks to RJ and her nascent teeth. So I've been converting audio files to use on my final radio project that's due tomorrow and I'm all strung out on music, balancing on that strange tipping point between crying and shouting that makes my whole body feel electric and volatile. I could implode at any moment. I think I will take this opportunity to expound on something I've been thinking about lately: the Jimmy Buffet phenomenon.

Jimmy Buffet, the king of boat music, needs no introduction. We've all heard Margaritaville. But here's the a multi-platinum mainstream artist, JB has never even been nominated for a grammy; he is not a talented singer, he's not even badgood like a Dylan or Neil Young, he sounds like my dad singing around the campfire; his songwriting is often predictable and his guitar work not particularly noteworthy. Yet he has enjoyed steady success for the last 30 years, and maintaints a loyal following of "parrotheads," including myself. I don't know, there seems to be something about his straitforward approach, not hiding the fact that, on paper, his music is somewhat mediocre. Yet when it all comes together it just kind of makes you smile and nod your head. He sings about the middle-class America that most of us grew up in, decent folk who just want to put in their 8 hours, who know they should probably do more, who change diapers, clean the toilet, save their money, who cry during soup commercials, and fantasize about getting away.

When I was young my dad had JB's "Coconut Telegraph" album, and listened to it constantly for about a year. I can't listen to it now without seeing myself in our brown Aerostar minivan, trying to imagine myself as a character in one of Jimmy's grapefruit ballads, flying to paradise. He also sings about John Wayne dying, about getting old and breaking his leg playing baseball, about street sweepers who do their job (that one always makes me tear up), and about his daughter in a song called "Little Miss Magic." There is no end to the cheese, and no end to my appreciation for it. Maybe big doses are better than small ones. Anyway, I don't think many people will agree with me....but here's to Jimmy Buffet, minstrel of the common man.

I think next time I'm going to write about Bruce Hornsby, whose music could heal the world.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Counting down los days

Hard to stop thinking about going to Mexico this Christmas. So I wrote a poetic tribute to our upcoming trip. I'm not sure how it is a tribute. It's kind of a leftover from our last visit. I'm not sure what it means, but I'm feeling it.

White dude in Mexico trading
his skin for sun, serving limes

to tourists wondering why
he’s turning brown, inside

out, living in cutoffs
forgetting Canada, damn

Canada and piss jobs,
ex-wives, no tequila, not even jellyfish.

If I remember correctly his
name was David, spoken softly

like palm fronds. He offered
to sell pretty much everything:

horses, ATVs, kayaks, parasailing
and of course, the banana ride.

In the end, we bought a shrimp
plate and sat rigidly among empty

tables—it was Wednesday.
We told him we loved

this place, this quiet beach
where locals dine Sundays

separated by hundreds of
swells from the hotel zone

and their jobs scrubbing,
starching, driving, haggling,

begging. So he showed us a room
in a gated yard with a nasty

dog, a mango tree, and lots
of rebar. His green eyes never

left my wife’s neck, and I felt
somewhat flattered I admit,

but certainly a little scared
of this white dude in Mexico.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Fall Finale?

For anyone who has been following the hit Fox television series Prisonbreak on Monday nights, all I have to say is: What the crap was that?

First The Brutzi gets slashed, and now this? More episodes in March? Do I dare withdraw my support in response to such a ridiculous stunt? I must say, my interest is fading somewhat, partly in lieu of the upcoming opening of 24 season, hollaback boys, FIVE!!!

The emotional ante was racheted up, only to tumble with a series of oh-come-on moments: nice-guy-Secret-Service-agent-turned-informant is shot in the head as if he didn't know what was coming; he was committed enough to meet in the dark with the ball-breaking evidence but not to defend himself against his proven psycho of a pal? Death row inmate left alone in the infirmary? Not to mention the dangling story lines that will be all but forgotten come spring--vanilla ice and his burger pact with Bellicek, budding romance between Mike and Doctor Feel Good. And what ever happened to the warden?

OK, so part of me is complaining because they didn't fulfill my conditioned expectations, but I think it's my right to expect such from a show like this. This isn't British comedy. It's artsy American bloodlust. I want to see people darting out of the shadows and tackling the guy with the gun. I want someone, after so many brilliant ideas, to have a little gumption and find one when it counts, when you're trapped in the supply room under a frickin' pipe. And please, for the love of all that is beautiful in this world, won't someone kick T-Bags around a bit? The guy weighs less than a wet towel.

See you in March? We'll see. We'll see.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

He kicked the hell out of death.

One of the coolest lines. It just came at the perfect time in a perfect poem by James Dewey.

Reading on Friday now in the past. What fun. I think my favorite part was the "panel discussion" at the end where we sat up there and answered questions--questions that made it seem like we had way more experience and expertise than any of us could claim. But it was great. Sarah and James were articulate and mesmerizing. I think I did OK. I rushed it at the end. In some ways I think poetry is better suited for public readings. It seems more rooted in sound, and the immovable details of language. Not that prose can't be either of those things, maybe just not mine. Even I felt myself getting bogged down in some of the scenes, and I was reading them. I need to work on my delivery. A little more drama eh! That's the spirit.

So, out of 40 students in the two classes I teach, only one showed up. Wah wah wah (in descending pitch). So, I know I'll be giving out at least one A this semester.

After dining last night with DT, BruceJ, and Johnny B, I've decided that I have no qualms about spending my life as a professorial-type person. These guys have it easy. It was fun. Although I don't want him on my comittee, I would like to have DT in a bottle. I would pop it open anytime I needed a laugh. The patriarch of the English department is one giant, walking wisecrack. But he's got a definite tender spot too, especially for little humans.

Saturday calls.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Untitled (Blog)

Well, the masses are seething with anticipation. What? Another blog? Yes, I know you hunger. Patience my babies. Patience.

I have been furiously assembling a rough cut of a radio documentary for my one and only class this semester. You would think that with one measly class, just one, I could avoid the night before syndrome. But it is, apparently, when I do my best work. So, after I pin that down, win an ultimate frisbee championship tonight, and put my ducks in line with the Scrivener, it will be happy time for a few days. And happy time is blog time. Sometimes. With time. Shut up Joe.

So, here's the calendar, as if anyone reading this isn't either directly involved or already in the know:

Tonight, Wednesday, 6:00 pm, Stadium fields, ultimate frisbee division III championship game, Sneaky Mormons vs. Counterfeit Foodstamps, round one. The air will be electric, you will be able to see your own breath, as well as steam coming off my head.

Friday, 12 noon, HBLL Auditorium (1st floor near Special Collections), I am part of the English Department weekly reading series, this week featuring graduate students, namely myself and two very talented poets, Sarah Jenkins and James Dewey. I can't say it will be stunning (my part that is), but I will be dressed nicely and you may even get to see me get nervous. A round of Cokes for everyone if I pass out.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Time for a list.

OK. This is going to sound stupid, but I've been trying to cut back on the treats lately. For me, "cookies-and-cakes" is somewhere around the middle of the food pyramid. As I was sitting in front of the TV tonight, thinking about how we have nothing with enough sugar to slake my gnarly sweet tooth, I started thinking about ice cream, and the place in Santa Cruz that has like 50 flavors of their own design including cantelope and marshmallow. Here are the five worst flavors of ice cream I can imagine:

1. Vegemite. This could kill a grown man in under 15 seconds.
2. Pepper and Squash. One of the worst things I ever had on my mission was a bowl of squash with hot milk and pepper, as in black pepper. I'm sure the frozen version isn't any better.
3. Basil. It might work for mint, but not for this leafy little herb. Maybe with a bowl of pasta.
4. Sausage. OK, this is getting too easy.
5. Apple. I'm not sure about this one, but I do think it's rather suspicious that no one's ever heard of it. Almost every other delicious fruit has been sorbeted (made into a sorbet). But not apple. hmmmm...I don't trust it.

On the other hand, it could be really good. Apples and cream. Cold, apple-y creamy custard-like spoonfuls.

Dammit, my appetite is coming back.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Oh crap, I'm not Jhumpa Lahiri.

Started reading Interpreter of Maladies and I am feeling somewhat depressed. Depressed that someone's mind can construct stories that are beautifully understated, then completely engrossing, and then, at the end, completely stunning--and that person isn't, may never be, me.

RJ wouldn't go to bed tonight, kept playing the cry-till-I-wheeze card on us. By the third time out of her crib we decided to forget about it and just party. It wasn't a typical party. She mostly chewed on my finger like a gremlin and headbutted us while we laughed hopelessly. One of my favorite evenings as a father. It felt like a sleepover and nobody had to go to bed...until we really had to go to bed. Well, JollyEm and RJ did. I'm obviously not in bed.

On a final note, the student housing bureacracy, in an amazing departure from character, showed up today and replaced our countertop and sink. And not just another stainless steel basin, but a brand new Kohler ceramic dreambowl! I am not lying when I say that I spent several minutes this evening just gazing at the sink. Admiring if you will. I have no business getting this happy over a sink. But I am. It's so shiny and...white....and clean. Nobody's grime but ours. The only drawback: no sprayer. They are coming to plug the sprayer-hole tomorrow because, as the plumber told us, "Sprayers and hot water spigots are the number one cause of problems with your plumbing, because they leak and you usually don't notice. Let that be a lesson to you." I'm not making this up, he actually said "Let that be a lesson to you." And it was.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

City of God

Just finished watching City of God, a Brazilian film. Every year there are a few movies that seem to rip a hole in me. This this was my second in one week, the first one being Crash with Don Cheadle. To anyone who wants to feel that inside-out feeling for a few hours, I recommend either (faults and all). Be forewarned that they won't be justifiable for some: both contain multiple naughty words (however with City of God you only have to read them, which seems less offensive, unless you speak Portugese), a few shocking scenes of violence (but not gore, my definition of gore being 'bloody to the point of grotesque parody of violence'; this is violence in the emotionally bewildering sense), and a few flashes (albeit graphic ones) of unglamorized, not-particularly-erotic sex.

City of God is a about a boy who wants to be a photographer, growing up in the slums outside of Rio. It is based on a real story, centering around youth gangs and drug dealing, but it is also about the human element in even the most despicable characters, and the real tragedy of poverty, the way it bullies people into debasing themselves. It is a picture that hurts as well as holds, and not cheaply--isn't that the point of good art?--and one that rings true. It makes me think of Honduras, and the people scratching out life on the dirty hills that ring Tegucigalpa. I know it is partly a selfish, vain impulse, but I want to live those lives, each one of them, thousands and millions of them across an earth sagging under the bittersweet chains of mortality, the broken dreams and scraps of joy.

In the end, I am left with longing. A longing to climb inside of suffering and eat it whole. A longing for God.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Doppelganger Friday

It's Friday. From the time I rise on Friday mornings my weekend brain is in complete control. One could even argue that the transfer of power starts sometime on Thursday evening. On Friday my mind wanders like a stray dog.

In between classes I googled the term 'doppelganger.' Doppelganger, German for "double walker," commonly referred to as a shadow-self. According to's paranormal pages, there is some crazy sheenus out there regarding these doubles. Shelly claims he saw himself when he was in Italy, silently pointing towards the Meditarranean Sea. He died in a sailing accident in 1822 on the Med. Maupassant, French novelist, said that one day his double came in a sat down across from him as he was writing and actually starting dictating his story to him. Now that would be cool. "Hello me. Sit down and tell me a story." What struck me as odd was that many of the stories about doppelgangers are coming from writers. Maybe it's because they tend to write things down, whereas many stories are lost. But still...weird.

My favorite story, though, is about Goethe, that crazy German. He encountered his double, riding towards him on a road to Drusenheim. The doppelganger was wearing a gray suit trimmed with gold. Eight years later Goethe found himself riding the exact same road, same direction, wearing a gray suit trimmed with gold. I like this story because it dovetails nicely with my ideas about the phenomenon of deja vu. They go something like this:

With God, we are told, time is different. It is "one eternal round." All is present with him. Whereas we are trapped in linear, chronological time, he can behold all things at once. How are the prophets given visions of the future? How did Moses behold every living soul that ever lived or would live on the whole earth? God can show them these things because he knows them. He's not making movies about what might happen. This brings up the old dilemma about destiny, which I'm not going to go into deeply here. But I will say I agree with James Talmage when he says that just because God knows the end from the beginning doesn't mean he is controlling outcomes or taking away agency. Surely his influence is felt through his work, but for us the opportunity to decide our own course is never in jeopardy. Maybe God can see down different space-time continuums, maybe there are an endless amount of outcomes. But whatever the case, there seems to be a place, another dimension maybe (for as typically sci-fi as that sounds), where time slips.

Maybe when we dream we can slip into that place where time is jumbled up. Maybe we encounter pieces of the future, or futures. Every once in awhile we find ourselves actually living one of those futures, and the experience is powerful deja vu. I know its wacky, and utterly undebatable on a scientific level. But I like to imagine that could be the case.

We've all heard about how we only use 10 percent of our brains. Hugh Nibley talks about how we mortal can really only concentrate on one thing at a time. Our minds are slow and move from one task to the next chronologically. But for God, he says, his mind is capable of multi-tasking on a supreme level, he can devote his complete attention to many people at the same time. Maybe our brains sometimes slip past their mortal bounds. Maybe the result is strange phenomenon like visions or supernatural experiences, or doppelgangers. Maybe I'm full of crap. But I like to think that we are wired for more than we can imagine, that we aren't ready for everything yet, but that are made in the image of a being who can comprehend all things...and that is our ultimate purpose.

And that's all I've got.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

This is a problem.

Newsletters to edit: 1
Papers to grade: 50
Law school admission statements to ghostwrite: 2
Boxes of submissions to reject: 3
Theses to write: 1
Doctoral programs to apply to: 6
Subject GRE tests to take: 1

Not to complain, just doing some math...

Baseball games watched: 1
Naps: 1.5
Bruce Hornsby songs cried to: 1
Guitars dug out of storage: 1
Bowls of chocolate cereal eaten: 4
Phillip Lopate essays read: 2
Hours staring at computer screen with no luck: 2

Something doesn't add up. If anyone saw Family Guy tonight, remember the part when Meg looks upwards and says "shoot me please"? You see a red dot on her forehead (from a gun's laser scope), then the "camera" follows the laser up to the clouds where God is standing with an assault rifle pointed at her. Just then the phone rings and God lowers the gun and answers, "Hello? Kaaaaaren..."

Sacrilegious? Probably...but there was something about the whole thing that seemed rather merciful, even tender, in a sick, twisted kind of way. Maybe not. Just forget it.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Good Bye Derrald!

Tonight we bid adieu to one Duke Stice, bachelor extraordinaire. May the raw ribeye in your gut remind you of the way you encouraged us to live life Derrald, wild and to the bone. Who will keep us mindful of our penchant for destruction? Who will we watch strip down and fall face first into a frozen pond? Who will be there to stir the pot when the rice begins to stick to the bottom? Who can decipher my cryptic metaphors? Only you Derrald. Only you. Now you're off choreographing new routines with your fancy sling, feeding your lover noni out of a conch shell. And we wait in the shadow of the mountains, watching the clouds for signs of your rebirth. The winter fowl have flown and a new bird is breaking the horizon, coming home to Mr. Nose for a roost and a five-penny shave. Hold your hands to the sky and repeat after me Derrald, "I will never forget who my real friends are. Never." Now, go my friend, go walk softly in love's tender field, and claim it for yourself. You are the prize.

Friday, September 09, 2005

My eyes are burning.

I have been searching the net, the world wide web as some people call it, for bikes. Not just regular bikes. Sweety-sweet, pelvis-grinding, low-riding, cry-my-eyes-out bikes. I wish someone had told me such things existed. Some are made by Giant, some by Electra, some by Nirve. Some are definitely too cool for someone such as myself. I'm just not qualified to ride a bike with flames or skull handlebar grips. I'll leave that to the pros. But I could get into something, you know, comfortable. In fact, that's what some people are calling cruisers these days: "comfort bikes." Hooo-doggies! Makes me warm all over and especially near my bike-riding muscles. Comfortable bikes, with their velvet, their gold chains, huge bells, and ice cream cone holders. Of course, I only need one to get to school. Maybe I'll scratch the velvet and order a book trailer. But, should I go for the 5-book or 10-book model? Crap. Maybe I'll just get a backpack. But its got to have ice cream cone holders. And something flashy, like a side view mirror with an afro, so whenever I look at someone behind me it looks like they're sporting a huge, orange afro. That would be sweety-sweet.