Friday, September 11, 2009

From Guernica: Tom Engelhardt: Rebecca Solnit, 9/11's Living Monuments

On September 11, 2001, a fellow New Yorker and friend of mine, a public health historian who knew instantly what the dangers were, bicycled directly into the smoke, ash, and chemicals that hung over lower Manhattan searching for his daughter whose school was only blocks away from the collapsed buildings. She was, it turned out, "safe" in that same pall of dangerous smoke. She had been evacuated to the street with her class in time to see people leaping or falling to their deaths from the upper floors of one of the crippled towers. You probably couldn't live in New York City that day and not be connected, however indirectly, to someone who died. In my case, it was the father of a classmate of my son's, a photographer, who also advanced into the chaos near one of the towers, leaving behind an eerie, moving trail of photographs.

As for myself, I was on my bedroom floor that morning most undramatically exercising when my wife called to tell me that something was happening. By then, TV cameras were already focused on the first punctured tower and, remembering tales of the B-25 that had hit the Empire State Building in 1945, I assumed I was watching a horrifying accident. Another friend, a rare North American who remembered the first 9/11 -- that day in 1973 when Salvador Allende, the Chilean president, was overthrown and murdered in a U.S.-backed military coup -- thought it might be Chilean payback.

Any half-plausible idea was, for a while, possible. History hadn't set. The Bush administration, in disarray, hadn't yet hijacked the day or the country. September 11th, still being lived, hadn't been renamed "Patriot Day." There was, as yet, no Department of Homeland Security, no Patriot Act. No one had been rounded up. No wars had been launched.

As for New Yorkers, those of us not making our way out of -- or into -- the danger zone were on the phone checking on loved ones, listening to rumors, or outside in the streets, talking to each other, wondering while the sirens wailed. It was a memorably terrible moment, but not, in fact, a nightmare of fear; nor would New York ever, as far as I could tell, find itself in the grip of blind revenge as, it seemed, so much of the country would soon be. Not so long after 9/11, for instance, two New Yorkers I know -- one had been close indeed to the collapsing towers -- headed for Afghanistan, not armed to kill but to help.

I remember my own now-embarrassing first reaction to 9/11 (once I grasped what was actually happening). It was unexpectedly dense and unprophetic, given the American reaction to come. I thought, then, that perhaps the horror of those acts of destruction and mass murder in my own city would open Americans to the sort of pain so many others in the world had felt -- sometimes, in fact, at our own hands. It might, I thought, change our politics. It did, of course, do that, but in no way I imagined. And that was the strange, unexplained thing for me: it seemed as if living at "ground zero" during the assaults of 9/11 somehow made you the worst predictor of what our nation would feel and do.

For me, even today, an especially unnerving aspect of 9/11 was the way so many Americans donned "I [heart] New York" T-shirts and hats -- New York having, until then, been Sodom to Los Angeles's Gomorrah for much of the country -- and under the Bush administration's fear-filled ministrations, began beating the drums of war, while panicking over prospective terrorists launching improbable attacks on their local amusement parks and landmarks. It seemed craven to me then and still does today.

Eight disastrous years later, I suddenly understand that day so much better, thanks to Rebecca Solnit, whom 9/11 indirectly sent my way offering hope in dark times. Now, she's returned with her latest book, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
, which capsizes our most basic sense of what disaster is all about, humanly speaking. As befits an author who has written a guidebook to getting lost, she is bold beyond belief and her originality matches that boldness. And here's the thing: if you take a journey into disaster with her (9/11 being but one of the many disasters she explores in the book), you won't get lost. You'll find yourself. You'll find ourselves, our better selves, even in catastrophe.

Think of Paradise as the perfect companion volume to Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine. Klein explained how governments try to take advantage of disasters to optimize their power and wealth (and that of their cronies); Solnit explains what ordinary people in disasters regularly do for themselves. They don't, as we have been taught, run screaming from danger. They head for the smoke, pedaling hard, and then, without the help of governments, they begin to organize. They become, briefly, their better selves. So here's a thought: Maybe it was the lack of the actual experience of 9/11 that left the rest of America so vulnerable when the Bush administration led them toward their lesser selves.

Read Rebecca Solnit's essay on Tomdispatch.com

Thursday, July 30, 2009

So, Glenn Beck, Obama is a "White Guy" Who "Has a Deep-Seated Hatred for White People"?

Crossposted at the Huffington Post

A friend of mine dug up a story from Media Matters that is from all the way back on February 12, 2007 that quotes radio and television host Glenn Beck as saying that Barack Obama is "colorless. You don't notice that he is black. So he might as well be white." Adding later the unbelievable (for multiple reasons) following lines: "But if somebody who is me -- I say, 'You don't even notice his color. He might as well be white. He's a white guy.' Doesn't matter. 'To white people.' Doesn't matter. That's racist," claiming that someone can say Obama is "not black" and be considered just stupid, but not a racist.

These comments, made so long ago, are interesting in light of Beck's recent comments on Fox and Friends, where he called Obama "a racist" and claimed that he (Obama) has shown himself "over and over again" to be "a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture. I don't know what it is..." While adding, interestingly enough, "I'm not saying he doesn't like white people, I'm saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist." It seems to me that if someone shows us over and over again "a deep-seated hatred for white people" he should be considered anything but "colorless."

So, Glenn, putting aside the non-racial issues I have with a sentence that begins, "But if someone who is me -- I say" (excuse me?), and the interesting juxtaposition of stating that someone has a "deep-seated hatred for white people," but then claiming that you're "not saying he doesn't like white people" (dislike in no way being a prerequisite for hatred), explain this to the rest of us, please. Is it possible for a "colorless man" or a "White guy" to have a "deep-seated hatred for white people"? Is this some sort of white self-racism...with a person who is actually black...except in the eyes of "Color Blind" Glenn Beck...where he is colorless? C'mon Glenn, explain this to the rest of us who just don't have our finger on the pulse of the racial dialogue in this country the way you do.

Here's the thing, if it wasn't so obvious that these people (see: Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, et al., hosts and commentators alike) simply say things to make people look at them, to make people watch and listen to their shows, if they actually had positions upon which they stood and didn't contradict themselves constantly, then it might be worth the time to entertain their views in the ongoing political discussion. But, as it is, as they are so willing to change course, not out of rational thinking, but instead in attempts to simply shine the spotlight more in their direction, to keep their shows in the public eye, there is no real reason to consider their views thoughtful or, indeed, well thought out.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ben Harper Nat Geo Video Courtesy of The Amazing Pudding

Once again The Amazing Pudding has some great music videos up, including this one from Ben Harper. (Check out all the slide guitar clips that Trevor put up here.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why the Hate Crimes Prevention Act Should be Attached to the Defense Bill

(Also published on the Huffington Post)

Let me state this up front: I'm not a fan of the political practice in Congress of attaching unrelated measures to bills that are considered must-pass legislation. I think it's a political tool that tarnishes our government and makes a mockery of what a legitimate government should be.

As the Senate votes today on broadening the definition of federal hate crimes to include people attacked based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disabilities, Democrats have attached the Hate Crimes Law to the Defense Bill, which, if you have been paying attention at all over the last eight years, is about as "must-pass" as legislation gets in today's political climate. But I don't see this as an unrelated matter the way many Republicans in the Senate do, including Senator John McCain:

"While we have young Americans fighting and dying in two wars we're going to take up the hate-crimes bill," McCain said, "because the majority leader thinks that's more important, more important than legislation concerning the defense of this nation." And later: "The Senate will pass a highly controversial, highly explosive piece of legislation to be attached to the authorization for the defense and the security of this nation. That's wrong."

What exactly defines the defense and security of a nation? I would argue that the defense and security of the nation implies the defense and security of its citizenry, of its people. Otherwise, just what exactly are we defending? Now, say what you will about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but those who have supported these wars have always defended them as our only means to fight for the right of every U.S. citizen to continue to live that life promised to us, one in pursuit of happiness. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act is commonly referred to as the Matthew Shepard Act, named after a young man who was kidnapped, robbed, pistol whipped, tortured, tied to a fence in a remote, rural area, and left to die. Defending the American people is not only a matter of fighting people far away who might one day come to this country to try once again to do us harm. It's a matter of defending our people against the small-minded, bigoted, hate-filled people already within our borders who would seek to do harm to fellow citizens.

Attaching the Hate Crimes Prevention Act to the Defense Bill in not in contradiction to what that bill should do (i.e. help those looking to defend our country and its people). Indeed, the Hate Crime Prevention Act looks to do exactly what the Defense Bill should be set up to do: defend the nation and allow its people to live freely.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid put it well when he said, "If their country doesn't stand up for them, if we don't stand up for them, who will?" It is important to fight against anyone who might look to bring terror (and a crime like the one perpetrated against Matthew Shepard is most certainly terror) into the lives of people only trying to live freely. Just because John McCain thinks it's more important to defend a uniformed soldier in Iraq than a young homosexual man in Wyoming doesn't mean the rest of us have to come to that same conclusion.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Radio Happy Hour All the Time



Radio Happy Hour will be extending its stay at LPR in October, November, and December.

RHH will wind up its summer performances with Andrew W.K. on August 8, take September off, and then return in all its glory to LPR on October 10.

If you've missed the first two episodes of Radio Happy Hour featuring Norah Jones and Michael Showalter, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or stream the show at RadioHappyHour.com. While you're at RHH's online home, watch out for your chance to submit suggestions as to who should be the special guests for the fall and winter shows.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Listen to Radio Happy Hour With Norah Jones



So, as I've mentioned here before, I've been lucky enough to do a little writing and editing work on my good friend Sam Osterhout's live show here in New York called Radio Happy Hour.

Well, now those of you who couldn't make it can listen online and see just what the heck this live radio broadcast that isn't really on the radio at all is all about.

We've got Michael Showalter as our guest in July and Andrew WK in August. And this first episode features the one and only, Ms. Norah Jones. She was a pro, by the way. Flew in from Spain that day (I think), read the script, and nailed it. She's hilarious. The whole thing is, in my opinion. And a couple of my jokes even got some small laughs.

Listen here, and check the Radio Happy Hour blog often for updates and hilarity in general from Sam Osterhout.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Robert Reich's Scathing Critique of the Obama Plan for Reforming Wall Street (from Guernica Mag)

I've been posting Robert Reich's essays (usually on matters having to do with the economy) to Guernica Magazine's blog since before Obama was president, and rarely has he had a negative thing to say about the President. Never has he torn the administration apart like he does in his post today at Guernica.

I tend to stand along with Mr. Reich on financial matters; I like what he has to say and usually agree with him. That being said, his post today worries me immensely. It seems that President Obama has lost sight of who is important in these matters (while some may argue that his sight was never on anyone but Wall Street).

Read Robert Reich's latest (and scathing) piece at Guernica, here.

The Lab Did Some Very Cool Things This Year

The Lab, a program in the St. Paul Public Schools founded by Mary Tinucci, is growing at a rate that is nearly exhausting just watching it from the outside. It's hard to imagine all the work that must have gone into it this past year.

Check out all of The Lab news from the past year here.

My favorite project of the year was the Shoe Design project. From The Lab's web site:

"[I]n the Visual Lab, students from many schools have been designing and creating their own shoes. Inspired by the collaborative project between Beautiful Losers & Nike, “Make Something!!! from Nothing,” where designer Jesse Leyva designs sneakers with youth. “Start thinking about storytelling in your art,” says Leyva to his students, encouraging them to think about their own clothing and ask, “What were they [the designers] thinking when they designed it?” and “Why did I buy this?”

Using some of these ideas, Lab students begin with an outline of a high-top shoe and plan out their color scheme, textures, and decorative accents for their shoe design. Next, they translate their design to a blank canvas shoe in the style of the “Chuck Taylor” using paints, paint markers, glitter, glue, beads and other materials. The group has used this activity to talk about individual identity, ideas of “cool” and fashion, and self-expression.

After our small groups and Enrichments are over, Lab staff will be heading out to the programs to conduct evaluations and distribute the next volume of The Lab’s Poetry Anthology. The book is at the press right now, to be printed and bound in a couple of weeks. Designed by a volunteer graphic designer and student in The Lab, it includes poems written by students through this semester. Get a sneak peak at the cover and few poems here!"


To get involved with the Lab, click here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Approaches of John McCain and Barack Obama

As we saw so often during the presidential race, the approaches to foreign policy by John McCain and Barack Obama couldn't be farther apart. On the elections in Iran and the subsequent protests we see the same old, same old from Senator McCain: American tough talk that has only served to turn more people in the world against us, than it has rallied them to our interests.

In a New York Times article today (as well as many other places reporting on this story) we see what will surely come of U.S. officials taking a hard line on this issue:

"The [Iranian] Foreign Ministry, meantime, summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents American interests in Tehran, in protest of what it called “meddling” by the United States into its affairs because of statements by American officials on Iran’s elections."


There's no sense in making it seem like we are attempting to plant a pro-Western politician, as we have been known to do so often. Let the Iranian people take up the fight. When will those of John McCain's ilk realize that tough talk isn't always the best way to go about things? As John Kerry put it in a recent Times op-ed:

"If we actually want to empower the Iranian people, we have to understand how our words can be manipulated and used against us to strengthen the clerical establishment, distract Iranians from a failing economy and rally a fiercely independent populace against outside interference. Iran’s hard-liners are already working hard to pin the election dispute, and the protests, as the result of American meddling. On Wednesday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry chastised American officials for “interventionist” statements. Government complaints of slanted coverage by the foreign press are rising in pitch...

[I]f the street protests of the last days have taught us anything, it is that this is an Iranian moment, not an American one...

What comes next in Iran is unclear. What is clear is that the tough talk that Senator McCain advocates got us nowhere for the last eight years. Our saber-rattling only empowered hard-liners and put reformers on the defensive. An Iranian president who advocated a “dialogue among civilizations” and societal reforms was replaced by one who denied the Holocaust and routinely called for the destruction of Israel."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Republicans in Congress Don't Want a Public Health Care Option, But Republican Voters Do

If the following numbers from a recent Huffinton Post article are correct, then it is very clear that Republicans in Congress are in bed with Big Insurance and Big Pharma:

In a poll taken earlier this year by Lake Research, 73% of respondents favored a health plan that gives them the choice between a private plan or a public health insurance plan. Only 15% preferred to have only the choice of a private plan. And the preference for a choice between public and private health insurance plans extends across all demographic and partisan groups, including Democrats (77%), Independents (79%) and Republicans (63%).


So, what else are we to take from this? How else can you spin it when the majority of Republican voters would prefer a choice, but more than likely, ZERO Republicans in Congress would vote for health care reform that included a public health option?

If a party is not voting for their constituency, but is instead voting a certain way due to pressure from heavy lobbyists in Washington then there is certainly no obligation to attempt to pass a bill with bi-partisan Congressional support. Absolutely none.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Radio Happy Hour Tomorrow



I've been working with my friend Sam Osterhout on this show he's created that should be a blast. It's called Radio Happy Hour, and tomorrow we premier at (le) Poisson Rouge in NYC with our very special guest, Norah Jones.

This is the first of three Radio Happy Hours that will happen this summer (we welcome Michael Showalter and Andrew W.K. in July and August, respectively).

Check back here to find out how you can listen to these shows after they take place.

Check out what the Onion's Decider had to say:

Host Sam Osterhout leads guests on a strange journey involving offbeat interview questions, audience participation, live performance, and plenty of drinks throughout—and he only charges five bucks for it, which makes this a fairly low-risk proposition.


And a couple other places have mentioned us.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Norman Solomon on Guernica Magazine

"And henceforth," Albert Camus wrote, "the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions."

Read Norman Solomon's article about war, and how words are used to further our military state and mask the human costs of war.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Profits For Some or Health Care For All?

People like Rick Scott, and physicians and surgeons who are in bed with Big Pharma and Big Insurance are trying to scare the public out of a public option for health care, for one reason and one reason only: profit. And while it's despicable and shameful, it's anything but new. Remember when somehow George W. came out looking like the patriotic soldier and John Kerry was painted a coward? The swiftboating is in full force again. Luckily (maybe) in today's interconnected world it's getting harder and harder for these people's true intentions to be masked, and easier and easier for people to spread the word.



So, who is Rick Scott?



From Bill Moyers Journal last night:

BILL MOYERS: CPRights.org is sponsored by Richard Scott, who had to leave his company. The largest health care chain in the world, Columbia/HCA. After the company was caught ripping off the feds and state governments for hundreds of millions dollars in bogus Medicare and Medicaid payments. He waltzed away with a $10 million severance deal. And $300 million worth of stock. And here he is telling us that his way of health reform is the way the public should go. Now, how does the public get the facts about an ad like that. And a guy like Rick Scott?

BROOKE GLADSTONE: How did you get the facts? The fact is that I've seen Scott being identified, more or less, as you did, in every single story about this campaign. You know, I think that there is now a willingness, as there wasn't even during the Kerry swiftboating earlier on, and certainly not during the sinking of the Clinton health care plan, to acknowledge the source of these ads. I think that all of us, as news consumers, as the American people, are becoming more and more aware that just because you see it on TV doesn't mean that it's true.

JAY ROSEN: I think that an ad like that is assuming that the receiver of it is an isolated person, who hearing these scary tales of government-run health care will therefore pick up the phone and pressure Congress. And the way the ad imagines the viewer is in social isolation. Where no other messages will get through. And I think that is what's changing. Is that people are not isolated anymore. They're not sitting on the end of their television sets and receiving messages from the center only.

And in a way you could see these kinds of campaigns where you raise money from rich people to scare less educated people. Or low information voters, as they call them in the political trade. As a sign of weakness. The rhetoric might be more furious, the ads might be more outrageous. But it's because this kind of communication is actually weaker and it's working less.



From Robert Reich on Guernica Magazine:

"I'ved poked around Washington [yesterday], talking with friends on the Hill who confirm the worst: Big Pharma and Big Insurance are gaining ground in their campaign to kill the public option in the emerging health care bill.

You know why, of course. They don't want a public option that would compete with private insurers and use its bargaining power to negotiate better rates with drug companies. They argue that would be unfair. Unfair? Unfair to give more people better health care at lower cost? To Pharma and Insurance, "unfair" is anything that undermines their profits."

More at Guernica Magazine...



From "The Cost Conundrum" by Atul Gawande (the New Yorker, June 1)

"Health-care costs ultimately arise from the accumulation of individual decisions doctors make about which services and treatments to write an order for. The most expensive piece of medical equipment, as the saying goes, is a doctor’s pen. And, as a rule, hospital executives don’t own the pen caps. Doctors do...

Other [physicians] think of the money as a means of improving what they do. They think about how to use the insurance money to maybe install electronic health records with colleagues, or provide easier phone and e-mail access, or offer expanded hours. They hire an extra nurse to monitor diabetic patients more closely, and to make sure that patients don’t miss their mammograms and pap smears and colonoscopies.

Then there are the physicians who see their practice primarily as a revenue stream. They instruct their secretary to have patients who call with follow-up questions schedule an appointment, because insurers don’t pay for phone calls, only office visits. They consider providing Botox injections for cash. They take a Doppler ultrasound course, buy a machine, and start doing their patients’ scans themselves, so that the insurance payments go to them rather than to the hospital. They figure out ways to increase their high-margin work and decrease their low-margin work. This is a business, after all."




Contact your Representative and Senators today and tell them we need a public health option. The days of such greed in our health care system must become a thing of the past now:

Write your Representative here.

Contact the Senate here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Minnesota-Based Magazine, NEED, is Making Headlines Across the Country

With it's "Screw the Man, Save the World" campaign NEED, the humanitarian magazine based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is making a splash across the country. NEED is looking to get rid of all of its ads in favor of a subscription-only revenue model. According to Reuters (via Market Wire), "If successful, the humanitarian magazine's nationwide "Screw the Man, Save the World" campaign could transform business models and mean the end of print advertising."

Strong words, and ones that NEED CEO Stephanie Kinnunen hopes are true: "Relying on advertising is no longer a viable business model, but readers will save the magazines they care about."



About NEED Magazine:

NEED magazine is an educational artistic hope-filled publication focusing on life changing humanitarian efforts at home and abroad.

NEED magazine's mission is to support humanitarian efforts.

NEED magazine's dynamic visual narrative is educational, drives awareness, involvement, personal connection and contributions.

Public Health Care

Sign MoveOn's petition showing Congress your support for President Obama's health care reform.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Amazing Pudding

My friend Trevor's blog is a great spot for fantastic links on music and politics. I don't go back to it often enough, but every time I do I find something that passes my time just fine.

Like this (wow! seriously, wow.) & this.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Like it or not we come to life in the middle of stories that are not ours. The way to knowledge and to self-knowledge is through pilgrimage. We imitate our way to the truth, finding our lives, saving them in the process.

-Paul Ely The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage


And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand
or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I
can wait.

-Whitman



"We get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless."
- Paul Bowles


I think I don’t regret a single ‘excess’ of my responsive youth—I only regret, in my chilled age, certain occasions and possibilities I didn’t embrace.
-Henry James

Monday, May 11, 2009

Language can never live up to life once and for all. Nor should it. Language can never "pin down" slavery, genocide, war. Nor should it yearn for the arrogance to be able to do so. Its force, its felicity is in its reach toward the ineffable.

-Toni Morrison Nobel Lecture December 7, 1993

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"Don't you care for human progress?"

"I don't know--I never saw any."

-from Henry James' The Bostonians

Friday, March 6, 2009

Exactly

Why is no one else saying this (from "Fears of a Clown," by Timothy Egan, New York Times, 3/04/09):

"Obama, [Limbaugh] has said since, is waging a 'war on capitalism.'

There is a war, all right. We are witnessing the worst debacle of unfettered capitalism in our lifetime brought on by — you got it, capitalism at its worst. It cannibalized itself. Government, sad to say, had nothing to do with it — except for criminal neglect of oversight.

Now that government has been forced to the rescue, just who is insisting on taxpayer bailouts? Who is in line for handouts? Who is saying that only government can save capitalism? The very leaders of unregulated markets who injected this poison into the economy, the very plutocrats that Limbaugh celebrates.

And, of course, let us never forget that the bailouts of banks and insurance companies were initiated by the Republican president Limbaugh defended for eight years."


And you want to know who said "Let 'em all fail; if they can't keep their houses in order, then let them shutter the doors" (The "they" referring to everyone from AIG to GM)? My pinko-commie self. Just about as far from Limbaugh as you can get.

I'm sick of these people who are so in love with capitalism and the free market insisting that it's such a terrible thing for government to step in and take over, that we're moving toward a socialist state. Well, how about those people who love the free market so damn much just stop asking the government for money? How about that? Let's see what happens when your free market continues to fun free.

Seriously, just stop taking the money then.

Am I Taking Crazy Pills?

This from The New York Times today:

"The ability of the diminished minority to delay the bill signaled growing unease in Congress, among Democrats and Republicans, over the levels of government spending in recent months and the staggering increase in the federal deficit."

Ahem, excuse me? "[I]n recent months"?!?! WTF?! Have these people even been paying attention to this country's spending over the last eight years? Under the Clinton Administration the gross debt in the U.S. went from the low-three trillions to the mid-five trillions. Under Bush II it jumped from there to over ten trillion.

But only in "recent months" has there been a growing unease among Democrats and Republicans. Give me a break.

(Some graphs and charts for those numbers, here and here.)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

New Graphic

The new art work accompanying the title of this blog is courtesy of my two-year-old nephew Harper...'cause that's how he loves me.



Damn, all three of my nephews are awesome.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Marlon James' New Book Reviewed in the New York Times




My friend Marlon James' new book The Book of Night Women got a great review in the New York Times today.

"Marlon James’s second novel is both beautifully written and devastating...Writing in the spirit of Toni Morrison and Alice Walker but in a style all his own, James has conducted an experiment in how to write the unspeakable — even the unthinkable. And the results of that experiment are an undeniable success."


Now go buy it. And if you're in Minnesota go see him read at Common Good Books on March 31.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sad News: Poet and Essayist Bill Holm Dies at 65




Very sad news out of Minnesota today. We have lost, in my opinion, one of our truly great American voices; the poet and essayist Bill Holm died at the too-young age of 65. He has been placed in the tradition laid down by Whitman and Twain by his Minnesota literary compatriots Emilie Buchwald and Garrison Keillor, among others, and held that place firm and strong.

I was lucky enough, as the events coordinator of Common Good Books in St. Paul, Minnesota to host Bill on a couple of different occasions. He truly was one of my literary heroes and to meet him in person was to see before you someone who understood what it meant to live life and to enjoy all that life had to offer, from pianos to politics to poetry (though, I suppose "enjoy" isn't exactly the right word for how he felt about most current politics. Maybe "engaged fully" would be a more apt phrase.)

I still have on my phone a message from Bill calling to get his "marching orders" for one of the readings we were doing at the bookstore; I just listened to it yesterday, in fact. And once again I saved it. Just as I will do the next time my phone gives me the option of either deleting or saving the voice calling me from Minneota, Minnesota, asking for his marching orders.


"This time, as so often
before, Death snatched a big one
when we could not stand to lose
his voice that spoke, not alone,
but for us millions who longed
for a world green, alive, about to bloom."

(from "Paul Wellstone - October 25, 2002," a poem by Bill Holm)

Read obituaries from The Minneapolis Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio, and a remembrance from Garrison Keillor.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I Love This Game

I love Steve Nash and Shaq.





"How'd you get so many 'q's?" "Don't worry about it."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A (Very) New Poem

Please handle with care. This poem is in its early stages. I'm pretty much putting this up here now just so my mom and sister can read it. Anyone else, feel free to skip it if you wish.

Praise Song for Everett


This is new for me: this distance.

This is what I know of you
so far: one picture.

This is what I do not know
yet: How you sleep on someone’s
lap; which one of your brother’s
you cry like, or if you’ve come up
with a whole new way to go
about it; how you grip a pinky
extended to you; the color of your
eyes; if you cry when I pick you up.

I have not picked you up.

I know one more thing: a name:
Everett. A cowboy name!
An outlaw name if ever there was one.
I see you on horseback,
Everett. I see you learning
the names of wild country flowers.

I can’t yet see myself there with you
because the buildings are huge
where I am. And, Everett, there
are so many of them.

Maybe I know one more thing:
When you finally decided to come
into the world, you did it fast.
I have always been more thought
than action; early on you appear
to be the other way around.
What do you think, though, Everett,

now that you are here?
Take your time with this one,
it might take some getting used to.

Or, fuck it, burn your way through it,
fast as you came; take it in one
bite. Don’t think, just ride.
You can tell me about it when
you finally fall asleep in my lap.

For now, let me tell you what I think:
I am shocked that the world keeps
offering things that make me believe in it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

MN Year in Review at mnartists.org

The folks over at mnartists.org have collected quite a comprehensive list of artistic endeavors taken on and/or accomplished by artists, musicians, and writers from Minnesota in 2008. And they were nice enough to include a couple of my scribbles on the matter (including a shameless plug for InDigest). First is my review of my good friend Chris Koza's latest disc, which I was lucky enough to hear in its making in a small apartment in Brooklyn a couple of summers ago:


Chris Koza's Dark, Delirious Morning: This album holds some highlights in the impressive canon of Koza albums. "Straight to Video" shows a talented artist refusing to be boxed into what we might expect. This album makes me excited to see what Koza will do next, while leaving me something to work through while I'm waiting.


And then some great books by Dave Schwartz and Geoff Herbach...and a nice little magazine:


Dave Schwartz's Superpowers is an amazing novel by a local author in 2008 that is all the more so because, in less careful hands, the book could have been awful. His handling of the events of 9/11 is heartbreaking and understated and beautiful. Also released last year was Geoff Herbach's The Miracle Letters of T. Rimberg (read a great review from Ashleigh Lambert at InDigest here), an unapologetically uplifting book and, as always with Herbach, hilarious. And, lastly, my shameless plug for InDigest Magazine. Although we technically launched in 2007, InDigest came into its own in 2008. From the beginning we've offered a unique home for Minnesota writers and artists to be showcased on a national and international stage, and in our anniversary issue we published many of our favorite Minnesota writers and artists again.



Check out all the lists here>>>

Lastly, if you are reading this today and you are in New York and you don't come to Chris Koza's show at Piano's tonight, then we are no longer friends.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Guernica Magazine Praised on Esquire's Blog

Guernica Magazine, where I am the Blog Editor, got a little praise from Esquire for our fiction section. The Fiction section editor, Meakin Armstrong, has been published twice in InDigest and will be reading at our second InDigest 1207 on Feb. 4, along with Guernica's Poetry Editor, Erica Wright, who we've also published a couple times in InDigest.

Well played, Meakin.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The 44th President of the United States



My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land -- a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the fainthearted -- for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again, these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions -- who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them -- that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -- whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account -- to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day -- because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control -- and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort -- even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West: Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment -- a moment that will define a generation -- it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence -- the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed -- why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back, nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

This is Rich

Or sickening, or maddening, or just completely ridiculous...I can't even tell anymore.

An article in today's New York Times entitled "Bailout Is a Windfall to Banks, if Not to Borrowers" begins with this precious little bit:

At the Palm Beach Ritz-Carlton last November, John C. Hope III, the chairman of Whitney National Bank in New Orleans, stood before a ballroom full of Wall Street analysts and explained how his bank intended to use its $300 million in federal bailout money.

“Make more loans?” Mr. Hope said. “We’re not going to change our business model or our credit policies to accommodate the needs of the public sector as they see it to have us make more loans.”


You have to love this. As though it wasn't the business models and credit policies of banks that got us into this whole mess. This guy acts like the banking system has been a model of prudence, and maybe his bank was. But I doubt it. I have a friend who works at a small bank, as a lender, who did act responsibly before this whole fallout and he and his bank have gotten fucked from the business models and credit policies of other banks. And his bank hasn't seen a dime of TARP I.

For this John C. Hope III (It's like a name from a movie about a Depression) to act shocked that people would expect him and his bank to do with the money it received from the government what it was supposed to do (i.e. lend) is enough to make someone sick. I can't stand the hypocrisy in all of this.

Now, to amend what I just said. I used the word "supposed," but that probably isn't quite right, is it? Because, just as it did leading up to the Iraq invasion, Congress completely panicked on this one and didn't set up any checks and balances for how the money was to be used. Check out this precious bit from this story:

"Individually, banks that received some of the first $350 billion from the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, have offered few public details about how they plan to spend the money, and they are not required to disclose what they do with it."

Why the hell aren't they required to do so! Why would you write a check to any institution whose business model and credit policies had sent a whole financial system into a free fall without putting in place the means to track how that check was being spent? I mean this is dumb getting dumber.

Because of Congress' lack of foresight we end up with this:

"A review of investor presentations and conference calls by executives of some two dozen banks around the country found that few cited lending as a priority. An overwhelming majority saw the bailout program as a no-strings-attached windfall that could be used to pay down debt, acquire other businesses or invest for the future."

I would be one to argue for a market-driven system, a survivor of the fittest kind of living, if the "fittest" weren't only that because of the support they are given. If banks and other financial institutions could actually keep their houses in order and everyone on Main Street were flailing about in their own financial crisis, then I'd say, we got ourselves into this, we have to get ourselves out. But, for the banks to be in such a bad way, receive loans (even though they themselves wouldn't have lent money to themselves, given that it would be such a bad investment), and then solely use it as though it is theirs to invest...and then to act as though they had some sort of inalienable right to it, as though it's a given that they should receive money while everyone else suffers, well, it's almost too much for one person to take.

For a more thorough analysis (and maybe less pissed off, or at least he doesn't swear in his analysis) of the financial crisis, follow Robert Reich's thoughts on Guernica, where three days before this story in the Times he already told us all of this when he wrote "But the easier and probably more correct argument is that American taxpayers wasted $350 billion. No one knows exactly where it went -- at least two recent reports reveal that the Treasury had no idea -- but we do know the money did not go to small businesses, struggling homeowners, students, or anyone else needing credit, which was the major public justification for the bailout."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Robert Reich on Guernica

If they're going to use the second $350 billion here are some suggestions how from Robert Reich.

And by the way is anyone else sick of hearing about how only a small percentage of the people in this country actually understand the inner workings of our financial systems and therefore those people have to stay in positions managing the money from these bailouts? They obviously don't understand it very well, otherwise wouldn't it follow that we wouldn't be in this mess? It's like if you took your car to a mechanic and he told you how everything in your car works, but then couldn't even change your battery. I don't care if you can tell me how it works. Make it work. Or change it completely and put people in charge who can actually make a new system work.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

On Dealing With the C.I.A.

Is anyone else concerned about the apparently necessary way the C.I.A. has to be dealt with? As though if the organization is offended in any way they will just take their ball and go home and leave the rest of the country to figure out “intelligence” on our own, or at least one of the other members of the Intelligence Community will have to figure it out without them.

This is from the New York Times yesterday in an article entitled “Obama Reluctant to Look Into Bush Programs”:

“At the Central Intelligence Agency, in particular, many officers flatly oppose any further review and may protest the prospect of a broad inquiry into their past conduct.”

Of course they do and of course they would. For the last eight years they’ve been taking directions from an administration that arrogantly changed the definition of torture, so that when its members said they did not torture, they would have a definition that made that statement true. Using the old definitions and agreements between nations simply would not do, so they made their own rules. It’s no wonder that those involved with this redefining would “oppose any further review.” But who cares?

Obama says that “at the C.I.A. you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got [to] spend all their time looking over their shoulders,” and the Times article says, “Mark Lowenthal, who was the assistant director for analysis and production at the C.I.A. from 2002 to 2005, said if agents were criminally investigated for doing something that top Bush administration officials asked them to do and that they were assured was legal, intelligence officers would be less willing to take risks to protect the country.”

I realize that clandestinity is inherent in an organization like the C.I.A., but the law is the law, or should be. The Bush administration didn’t necessarily think so, and the C.I.A. was presumably willing to go along with that administration and its new definitions.

If wrongdoing occurred, then we can get into the discussion of whether the C.I.A. was only acting on orders and therefore if its members should or should not be the ones held accountable. But that is a different discussion (See: Donald Rumsfeld, the Army, and Abu Ghraib). To simply not examine the C.I.A.’s past actions because “any effort to conduct a wider re-examination would almost certainly provoke a backlash at the country’s intelligence agencies” is not a good enough reason. To not move forward on a re-examination because it might offend some people and make them less willing to do their job in the future should not be the basis upon which we decide whether or not to take a look at the last eight years.

Crossposted at Guernica Magazine

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Are You Looking For a Place to Serve?

I got an email from Michelle Obama telling me that January 19th is National Day of Service. Well, for those of you in MN here's a place where you can do yours.






Stay Up to Date with news at The Lab!

Get Involved & Volunteer at The Lab!



Fall 2008 Summary Highlights

As The Lab settles in to a new year, we also reflect on the accomplishments of our pioneer semester at Homecroft School! All told, since October 1st, The Lab served 247 students and 31 staff, and 28 amazing volunteers logged 230 volunteer hours working with young people!

The scope of The Lab grew as we began offering Enrichments to students in three EBD programs of St. Paul Public Schools, while simultaneously offering staff development time for the teachers, social workers, and paraprofessionals of each team. The students worked with 5 different guest performers and 17 volunteers over the course of three months, and celebrated in December with a final showcase of their work. Staff made strides in team development and program planning. In addition to the Enrichment model, Lab volunteers and staff have lead 7 different small-group based creative art experiences for students from several schools and offered 11 different one-on-one mentorships in creative arts. These have included Shaolin Kenpo (a self-defense martial art), art cars, graffiti, baking, and poetry, and visits from Pet Haven of Minnesota, sharing stories of animal rescue and responsible pet ownership.

The 6th volume of The Lab’s Poetry Chapbook and CD was released at the end of December! The book features poetry, raps and photography by students at the Lab. The CD showcases the original recordings of student's poems, raps, & beats.
The Lab's On-Line School Store

Support The Lab by shopping at our on-line School Store! Here, you can purchase your own copy of The Lab's Poetry Chapbook & CD, as well as t-shirt, Lab journals, and coffee mugs!

All proceeds from books and gear go directly to empowering young people in The Lab.

In September, we posted our first project to DonorsChoose.org, a not-for-profit web site where teachers submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn. DonorsChoose.org writes, "These ideas become classroom reality when concerned individuals, whom we call Citizen Philanthropists, choose projects to fund."

Our first project, titled "Mic Check 1, 2 - Can You Hear Me?" was fully funded by 15 Citizen Philanthropists in just over three months. We now have two new microphones for our recording studio as well as blank CDs! Thank you!

Click here to read more about how DonorsChoose.org works!



Shop at Kowalski's & Support The Lab!

We are grateful for Kowalski's Market on Grand Avenue in St. Paul! For this quarter, January - March, drop your shopping receipt in The Lab charity box at the front of the store.

Through their "Groceries for Good Causes" program, Kowalski's will make a donation to The Lab based on the sheer number of receipts (not the ammount spent!) left in our box.

Kowalski's has donated over a quarter million dollars to local charities through this program. Shop at Kowalski's on Grand Avenue in St. Paul!

Kowalski's on Grand
1261 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, MN
open 5:00am to 1:00am

For more information about
THE LAB email Mallory Haar at mallory.haar@spps.org

Friday, January 9, 2009

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Book Review



I was going to send this book review into a site looking for reviews of novellas, but decided against it. So, rather than let it waste away on my computer, I'll post it here:

In the first chapter of Alejandro Zambra’s novella, Bonsai, the reader is given two pieces of information that are all he needs to know about the story, and the narrator frequently interrupts, reminding us what is important to the story, in order that we don’t stray from what really matters. We are told in the first paragraph that the protagonist, Julio, waits “stubbornly” for the “inevitable day when seriousness would arrive and settle into his life forever.” And we are told even before this the reason (though Julio does not know this yet; to him his inevitable seriousness is just an assumption): “In the end Emilia dies and Julio does not die. The rest is literature:”.
That colon at the end of the first paragraph is important. The rest of the novel is the literature of which the narrator speaks. This book is obsessed with literature, and through it’s characters’ reading of and telling about other literature, the book is written. Julio, before Emilia dies, almost accidentally, writes a novel called Bonsai when he is caught up in a lie about transcribing a novel for a famous writer. When he does not get that job, Julio begins writing his novel during his days and editing it at night, pretending it is the famous novelist’s. The only premise he is given from the novelist is that the protagonist “finds out that a girlfriend from his youth has died.” And then, “Everything goes to hell.”

That, in the end, is Bonsai’s story: The reader is told at the beginning that Emilia dies; that Julio waits for seriousness to arrive, and it does (though a sort of pointlessness has by this time already arrived in Julio’s life) when Emilia dies and he is finally, truly alone. The rest of Bonsai’s cyclical journey—and though it begins and ends at the same point, it is certainly a journey—is literature.

About Me

David Luke Doody is a freelance writer and editor. He is a founding editor of InDigest Magazine (www.indigestmag.com), an online literary magazine and the blog editor for Guernica Magazine (www.guernicamag.com). His writing and interviews have appeared in those magazines as well as in The Huffington Post, mnartists.org, The Minnesota Twins Yearbook, and Intentionally Urban Magazine, among others.

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