The telegraph isn't working.
The airplane tumbled off the tracks.
My steam-powered radio only picks up
a Portuguese-language station.
If it's not raining.
And the guards around the broadcast tower
haven't gotten drunk again
and pissed on the transmitter.
We need funding.
We need someone to dredge the abyss.
So many children ignored the razor wire
and chased that wayward ball to the edge.
The Mandarins have left the auditorium.
Tour the subterranean passageways and
the grotto where the Virgin appeared.
Don't stand near the opening.
Don't stand near the battery-operated generator.
Your cell phones won't work here.
We strapped duct tape on the x-ray machine
to prevent sparking.
We sent forms in triplicate
to the appropriate federal agency.
Sooner or later.
Keep taking the pills.
Hand me those pliers.
What's wrong with this frequency?
Why don't you love me like you used to do?
What happened to the monitors?
Are we there yet?
Try to avoid his spleen.
Did you wash your hands first?
It's all we could get.
Sooner or later.
That's fado, baby. Pure fado.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The telegraph isn't working.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
This early spring sunlight looks wet and underfed.
You've taken the Body of Christ and let it rest
upon your tongue.
I've taken the train from New York to Denver,
losing my coat along the way.
Everything gets lost in Chicago.
We took his radio up into the attic. You played
Harlequin, and I was a dog-faced Columbine.
When the fire broke out, all the animals
in the menagerie burned to death.
Elephants, whales, lions and crocodiles
roasting alive in lower Manhattan. 1865.
Only Ned, the learned seal, was saved.
By a Brooklyn fireman.
We took his radio up into the attic. We drank
wine and danced around in our underwear.
You've taken the Body of Christ on a train to
Chicago. You've lost the Body of Christ in Chicago.
You played Harlequin, and I was the giraffe
burning alive in Barnum's American Museum.
This early spring sunlight won't stay still.
Keeps crawling through the window. Keeps
fiddling with the dials on the radio.
I left all my camping gear in Denver.
My old LPs. A battered copy of Pensées.
We lost our coat in Chicago. We lost
the early spring sunlight and the radio
and Harlequin in Chicago.
We lost New York in Chicago.
We lost everything.
Only Ned, the learned musical seal, was saved.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The radio kept playing the same damn song,
so we tore out the wires and put in a sterno can.
I'm dancing. Look, I'm dancing.
The captain hobbled down to the hospital
on himself. He's a man's man.
A man strong engough to can-can
He ordered me to take a dive.
I took a dive.
We're all very respectable here.
But no one knows what we do.
We cleaned his chickens, we clobbered his couscous,
we calculated his calories.
I'm not at liberty. I'm not even sure.
Take out the sterno can and replace it
with the chicken.
See if you can get any reception with the chicken.
I'm dancing. Look, I'm dancing.
What's wrong with this music?
It's all flabby. This music smells greasy
and lowdown. The chicken's not working.
Monday, March 16, 2009
I was fighting werewolves.
People were frightened.
Werewolves were everywhere.
It was impossible to know who was a werewolf,
and who was not.
Until night came.
Then all hell broke loose.
But sitting in my parked car,
waiting for the moon,
wondering what was going to happen to you,
that was the worst part.
Friday, March 13, 2009
"How Long Has This Been Going On?" was originally written by the Gershwins as a duet in the 1927 Broadway musical Smarty, which had a book by Robert Benchley of the Algonquin Round Table and New Yorker fame (and grandfather of Jaws novelist Peter Benchley.) After unsuccessful previews in Philadelphia, the show was rewritten (Benchley departed), revised, and renamed, and "How Long Has This Been going On?" was dropped. The reconfigured show, now called Funny Face, wound up being another huge hit for the brothers Gershwin and for brother and sister stars Fred and Adele Astaire.
As it turns out, though, Florenz Zeigfeld liked "How Long Has This Been Going On?," and it reappeared a few months later in his production of Rosalie, which already had compositions by two other famous songwriters: composer Sigmund Romberg and lyricist P.G. Wodehouse. Under pressure to finish the show in time, Romberg suggested that the Gershwins write half of the show, which they did. To fit "How Long" into the new show, Ira changed the lyrics a bit, transforming it from a duet to a solo piece.
When MGM made a film version of Funny Face in 1957, they dropped all but four of the original songs from the Broadway production.* But they brought back "How Long Has This Been Going On?" after it had been dropped from the show 30 years earlier.
Audrey Hepburn sings the solo version in the film, and while she may not have a great or powerful voice, she was . . . Audrey Hepburn. It's one of the more poignant songs by the Gershwins and I think she captures the wonder, longing and sadness well.
And here's a beautiful instrumental version by the great tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, with Kenny Drew on Piano, the awesome (and awesomely named) Danish double bass player Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, and Alex Riel on Drums.
* It wasn't unusual for Hollywood to butcher Broadway musicals. When MGM turned Rosalie into a film in 1937, they weren't satisfied with music by hacks like George and Ira Gershwin or Romberg and Wodehouse. They dropped ALL of the songs and brought in Cole Porter to do entirely new ones.
[CORRECTION: In my original post, I said Robert Benchley was Peter Benchley's father. He was his grandfather.]
Monday, March 09, 2009
What the clowns are unable to articulate
we look for in the cry of distress from the harmonica,
the warning signal on the runway, a clanging
buoy in the ocean at night, the men
washed overboard in the storm vanishing
one by one into the dark water. I have saved
all my kisses, provided a detailed analysis
of our ecstatic mechanisms, and shuffled off
in shame when you asked my true name,
the one hidden underneath the glowing letters
on the surface. Man, listen to that pedal steel.
Ralph Mooney tearing holes in the sideboard of time.
From Hawaiian paniolos to this unreal honky tonk
in the back of my head. The Devil's in here.
Somewhere. Hiding in the smoke. I can smell
his sulphur breath. Hear the clicking of his teeth,
the squishing rat squeak of his viral heart. Whatever
I am, the fiddle knows. And the fiddle never lies.
My hand unsteady. My heart clocking backwards.
My DNA configured for slipping on the ice.
My lonesome wail growing fainter every day
as that freight train loaded down with drunken
sailors and broken dreams pulls out of the station
and disappears over the hill into the valley below.
Saturday, March 07, 2009
Q: What are the legal ramifications of U.S. Government personnel being involved in torture?
A: I think you have to qualify "torture." Or better, quantify "torture." How many genitals? How many anal penetrations? What were the decibel levels of the screams? How fast was the train traveling when we saw the sunset over the secret detention center?
Q: Can you tell us how long, exactly, U.S. forces will be in Iraq?
A: How long is anyone in Iraq? How long were the Persians in Iraq? The Brits? How long have the Sufis been in Iraq? Why do they do that weird dancing thing? Are they still doing it in Baghdad? In the Anbar Province? If so, how do we stop them? As long as there are Iraqis in Iraq, I think we have to ask ourselves some hard questions about staying the course, fighting the fight, and basting the chicken.
Q: How many American troops will make up the residual force and what will be their specific mission?
A: Have you noticed the layer of dust on this window sill? Why doesn't anyone clean this place? Don't worry about the residual force. The residual force will consist of four American troops: John, Paul, George and Ringo. Their mission will entail various security functions, training Iraqis in food handling, defusing that cute little redhead in CENTCOM, recording two new albums and, God willing and the creek don't spin, cleaning this damn room.
Q: What about Afghanistan? How many American troops will be stationed there and for what length of time?
A: As long as it takes to gut the pig, root out the poets, pickle the pretties, and negotiate poppy production and heroin distribution between the locals and Citigroup.
Q: How would you characterize our relationship with Pakistan at the moment?
A: It's not good. We sent roses and a box of chocolates, but she still hung up on us. Christ, anybody can drink too much and get a little out of control. Just because I shoot up a wedding party doesn't mean she's got the right to change the lock on the damn door, you know what I mean? It's not like those Pak kids could speak English anyhow. But we'll work something out. She like-y the money. And we've got syndication rights for Seinfeld to sweeten the pot.
Q: Does Iran have the capability to produce nuclear weapons? If so, what position will the administration take?
A: Whatever position makes us last longer and brings her more pleasure. Here, smell this. Does this smell like turpentine to you? I thought it was cologne, but I may have grabbed the wrong bottle. Something's not right.
Q: China is the largest overseas holder of U.S. Treasury bonds and has bought over $1 trillion dollars in American debt. How does this affect our country's policies towards China? Will the administration be able to pursue a human rights agenda for Tibet, for example?
A: Have you ever tried paddle-roasted barbecued baby pig? That's really something. But you've got it all bass-ackwards. We're the stray dogs to China's porcelain poodle. Whose piss do you think is gonna be harder to get out of the rug? Our output in needles alone could fill Beijing ten times over. And, don't forget, we have the Boy Scouts. Mr. Bubble. Bobble-heads. The administration will continue to bail out AIG and Citigroup, and I think those CEOs could teach China a thing or two, don't you? No matter how much we screw up and destroy our economy, no matter how bad our test scores, or how low our spinach quotient, Uncle Bam's gonna bail us out. You see where I'm going with this? Now I'm all juicy and craving that paddle-roasted pig.
Q: Can you talk about Palestine and Israel and the administration's road map in the Middle East?
A: It's all pretty high tech and, to be honest, a little above my pay grade. But we've got this super-duper Middle Eastern GPS system we're going to implement. Produced by an Israeli company that started with seed money from us back when we thought we had money. It can pinpoint a baby in Gaza from outer space and resolve the situation remotely if necessary. And then there's our major infrastructure stimulus package. We think a two-state solution is the most feasible option, but it's going to requite some heavy lifting. Building a new Palestinian state under the sand, or - the Atlantis scenario - moving them to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, ain't gonna be cheap. No sir. But think of all the new green jobs. Green money. Green cars. Green hair and lashes. Lots of exciting green technology to eliminate those babies. I shouldn't say "eliminate." Relocate those babies under the sand.
Q: The U.S. Joint Forces Command recently reported that Mexico and Pakistan were at risk of "rapid and sudden collapse." What is the United States doing about the escalating drug violence in Mexico and the security threat it poses on our very own doorstep?
A: We will be negotiating between the locals and Citigroup over production and distribution. Consumption levels are still good, despite our collapsing economy. But as long as there are Mexicans in Mexico, I think we have to ask ourselves some hard questions about staying the course, fighting the fight, and basting the pocho. We didn't invent the border, the border invented us. Maybe we can get some Mexicans to clean this damn room. I do like me a mole poblano, though. Look, I'm due at Langley for a debriefing and the office potluck, and I have to change out of these clothes first. Without splitting hairs or tweaking the turkey, let me just say that you worry too much.
Have some of these pills. We got plenty more where those came from.
[(thought dream 030409)]
Friday, March 06, 2009
James Gang - Rides Again
Sleep all day, out all night
I know where you're goin'
I don't think that's actin' right
You don't think it's showin'
Jumpin' up, fallin' down
Don't misunderstand me
You don't think that I know your plan
What you tryin' to hand me?
Out all night, sleep all day
I know what you're doin'
If you're gonna act that way
I think there's trouble brewin'
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
The injections aren't working.
Or they're working, but not in the way we planned.
I can see the future now - but only glimpses of night scenes in which nothing happens. A car waiting at a light. A drunk man trying to unlock his front door at four in the morning. My wife brushing her hair in the dark.
Except for the birds.
Those erupt in broad daylight: loud, flapping, squawking, cackling birds up in a blinding sky.
I always find myself in the middle of the flock, struggling to keep up.
Sometimes, I can understand their language.
This has been a severe disappointment.
They are stupid creatures, yapping constantly about food or hissing at each other in petty squabbles.
They shit frequently in the middle of conversations and become easily distracted by objects on the ground.
They have no literature, no art, no conception of history, religion or politics.
I mention Joyce and Kafka but am forever met with blank stares and "Food, food, food, food, food."
The future, thus far, has been disappointing. We will continue our experiments tomorrow.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
The Gallup Center for Muslim Studies has published results from "the first-ever nationally representative study of a randomly selected sample of Muslim Americans." The study covers numerous subject areas, including Religion, Politics, Ethnicity, Education, Economic Levels, Gender Equality, and Social Participation. Some of the more fascinating results:
Muslims are the most racially diverse religious group in the United States, with 35% African-Americans, 28% White, 18% Asian, another 18% "Other" and 1% Hispanic.
In comparison, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Mormons are all at least 76% White.
Muslim Americans have the highest levels of education after Jewish Americans, with 40% holding a college degree or higher. The other percentages are: Jews 61%, Protestants 35%, Mormons 32%, Catholics 29% and the U.S. General Population 29%.
Muslim American Women also have the second highest level of education, with 42% holding college degrees or higher. Jewish women were at 58%, Protestants 33%, U.S. General Population 29%, Mormons 28% and Catholics 28%.
"In addition, as a group, Muslim Americans have the highest degree of economic gender parity at the high and low ends of the income spectrum."
Politically, 49% of Muslim Americans identify themselves as Democrats, 37% as Independents and only 8% as Republicans. Looks like the Cheney-Bush efforts to woo Muslims over the last eight years really paid off.
Unfortunately, young Muslim Americans between 18 and 29 are the least likely to be registered to vote. Only 51% are registered. Compare that to young Protestants 78%, Jews 73%, Mormons 69%, Catholics 56% and the U.S. General Population 65%.
The Full Report of the survey has a lot more interesting information.