Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Commenting on the Pope Francis/Kim Davis meeting.

1.  In my lifetime, it's one of the  biggest letdowns since Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon in 1974.  The Nixon pardon was announced on a slow-news Sunday in that pre-internet era.

2.  One can't be surprised at the secrecy since the Francis visit was clothed in "people's pope" garments--and seemingly crafted to appeal to those who like their Catholicism centered on big-picture Social Justice (climate change, abolition of the death penalty, curbing rampant greed) instead of inflexible doctrine on gay marriage, contraception, abortion, etc.

UPDATED 10/2/15: Link to the Vatican's clarification of the encounter:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bill Maher okay with racial profiling of Muslim teen students.

Sometimes--especially in the age of Colbert, Oliver and Wilmore--it's difficult to like Bill Maher when he digs in, ignores opposing views and quadruples down on his racial/terrorism fears and rants on "political correctness."

I wonder if this is a continuing overcompensation to/apology for his post-9/11 comments on POLITICALLY INCORRECT--in effect saying the terrorists couldn't be described as cowards because they did not carry out their attack from a remote location.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

NATION article about police pushback post-Ferguson.

What those who declare a “Ferguson effect” want us to believe is that police need a “free hand” to control crime. Any attempts to end abusive, racist, or illegal police activity is problematic because it interferes with unfettered police power. This is a misunderstanding of the nature of effective policing. Decades of research shows that policing works best when communities support the police, feel respected by them, and accept their actions as legitimate. Second, it throws the Constitution under the bus. Practices like shooting fleeing suspects and stopping and frisking people without reasonable suspicion have been found unconstitutional. To defend these practices as not only necessary but appropriate flies in the face of our legal system and should call into question the loyalties of those who mimic them. Finally, the social costs of racist overpolicing are too high, regardless of effectiveness or legality. No society should be asked to accept the levels of arrest and incarceration being meted out against young people of color in the United States. It tears at the basic social fabric, and is one of the main drivers of increasing social and economic inequality.

The above passage is from the article "No, Protests Against Police Brutality Are Not Increasing Crime" in THE NATION:

It's worth reading in the wake of media coverage of the tragic killings of police in Houston and Chicago intended to "balance" the coverage of police killing suspects in Ferguson, Baltimore, NYC, etc.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Revisiting an old inside-baseball post on poetry.

Perhaps the one positive of the fallout over Kate Gale's unfortunate comments regarding the AWP and inclusivity (which is still being felt by Red Hen Press) is that some poets/authors are choosing to think for themselves and not merely take what they're given (if they feel what they receive from their publisher isn't sufficient) for fear of losing a Big Chance.

Here's part of a years-ago blog post I wrote, with minor changes plus updates in brackets:
1. The titans of SoCal poetry come in three flavors: a. obnoxious and egomaniacal b. seemingly friendly, but likely to say less than kind things about you behind your back as they advance socially c. genuinely friendly and helpful no matter where you are in the scheme of things.  Have known people in all three categories over the past years.

2. As I've said before, I came into a poetry scene that had a larger welcome mat than it does now.  Ironically, the first venue I read/attended workshop at (Midnight Special Bookstore) had a shakeup where certain then-elite poets stomped away--apparently because the venue was too small-d democratic for their tastes.  Today, venues either set out to pattern themselves as/change their booking preferences to the Rose Cafe's Hyperpoets reading series as it existed in the late 20th Century--making [chief ex-Hyperpoet] Richard Beban [now residing in Europe] sort of the highbrow Carl Karcher, Jr. of SoCal.

3.  A very large number of SoCal poets may claim to be fiercely liberal in the social/economic senses, but they are rather passive and pay little attention to the "poetry community" changing in ways which eventually
discourage their active participation.  They have day jobs and they have fun at the readings they attend--and they, sadly, aren't bothering to take a long-term viewpoint until it's too late.  Then, nostalgia---and silence. 

4. And, as a corollary, they tend not to want to stick their necks out for troublemakers (few Tom Joads in LA/OC poetry).  If one of their own gets in trouble with a popular poetic authority figure, that's not their problem--unless that authority figure says/does something to them personally.  And, then, they're likely to find few-if-any fellow poets willing to listen to their problems should they choose to seek counsel.  [And, if you want people in the community to listen, avoid gender-targeted remarks and "oh, you're a bad poet" retorts if you don't care for what you hear.]

5. Some veteran poets in the scene figure that, by embracing prevailing (and sometimes trendy) notions of "what's good", they can prolong their careers and eventually make some money.  The mania of getting an MFA degree to get the Right people to take one's poetry seriously still prevails.  However, I worry that, given the "we will anoint you as a Real Poet when we see fit--it may take years or decades" thinking here, an MFA may not change certain tastemakers' attitudes that easily [though, over time, some readings may drop a crumb or two resulting in momentary profile-raising].