Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Dirty South 2/3: A Return To Mushrooms

I've been working on my fear of mushrooms for a while now. I had some that I actually wanted to eat more of (yes, yes I did). My first time at Muss & Turner's, in July, is where I found them. Once I finally moved down here I went back.

It took me until October, I've been busy. They didn't have them on the seasonal menu (bravery went back in my pocket).That week I had taught found poetry in my classes. 

Don't teach what you don't do. So this is what I did: I made a found poem from my journal. I took one, random, word from each daily journal entry between when I was first there and when I went back. That's a sentence a day between July and now, more or less. I need to thank all of my students for putting this bug in my head.

(I had the cheese plate. They put together a goooood cheese plate. And kids, if you're reading, yes, that is a series of pictures of me drinking ONE cocktail. Do Not Drink and Drive and Do Not Dare think of drinking underage. Seriously.)

I had concerns about if I should tell my students what I had done to my journal. Still uncertain about that part. I hadn't done this before. My fears of mushrooms and public poetry--it's a two in one blog post! This poem is, obviously, called "Mushrooms." (full text at bottom)

Note: Muss and Turner's has not approved this poem. I, however, do approve them as my favorite restaurant here. Go eat all their foods. 


Me again, me nested here with rose-tea
Dad’s drier books still out here

Transplant great chickpeas
Tiny hot cupid coupons

Serious story packages unpacked 
pretend world class dogfood jealousy

Fun hair Fun Success Fun Sunday definitely Fun
Good work neato pj times

Sleep office account 
peaceful place
grant it

Thankful tired day, relaxed thing stares 
Bullshit claustrophobic 
Acetaminophen week

Happy Snake Salad Week 
Out heartbroken hurt place
Comfort me well ug army

Name things that storm place, ledbelly
It helps me place detox tonight

Yes, even love again
Peaceful place, right time, beautiful rush

come back


Me again, me nested here with rose-tea
Dad’s drier books still out here

Transplant great chickpeas
Tiny hot cupid coupons

Serious story packages unpacked
pretend world class dogfood jealousy

Fun hair Fun Success Fun Sunday definitely Fun
Good work neato pj times

Sleep office account
peaceful place
grant it

Thankful tired day, relaxed thing stares
Bullshit claustrophobic
Acetaminophen week

Happy Snake Salad Week
Out heartbroken hurt place
Comfort me well ug army

Name things that storm place, ledbelly
It helps me place detox tonight

Yes, even love again
Peaceful place, right time, beautiful rush

come back

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Daffodil and the Mud Puddle (Narcissus poeticus)

Came to be used as the name for “daffodil,” but we are unclear on which came first—the man in the myth, or Narcissus poeticus. The narcissistic chicken or the egg-like bulby flowers.

This is what they had said. The same one—Pliny The Elder—to turn the phrase, “home is where the heart is,” says the flower is named for it’s scent: “I grow numb.” But not for the young hunter.

Imagine Daffodil at a mud puddle. Water cloudy with muddling, maybe Bacchus had come through in a dance. Daffodil stares at that water ignoring any footprints that had come in or out. Wonders (like flowers do).

Narcissus, that hunter, is said to be what we know well. Self-absorbed with his own beauty, disdained those that loved him. Led to the pool that led him to his death.

Get this, the “lead em to the pool” character is literally named Nemesis. Seriously. “Nemesis.” It’s a bit heavy handed, no?

Maybe more than Nemesis was to blame. Maybe not.

The rest is vain, and deadly, history. “I grow numb.” I stay here until I can’t care enough to leave.

Things (creatures) in the forest tried to reason with Daffodil. Snake, Beaver, Tiger, Spider. She apologized in tears and flitted past them. “I’m sorry you had to look at me, I’m sorry I was even here.”

“you’re a Narcissist: get over yourself” : “you’re a daffodil: get over yourself”

“you’re my Nemesis: you’re trying to destroy me” : “you brought me here: I chose to look.”

“The things didn’t match the terms. Why don't you see that?” Daffodil didn’t have a good answer to that. She did what she does. She wintered. She worried about Nemesis. She still does. All the plants look different.

 “I am sludge, why leave this sludge.” : It is me” : “You are singular, why trust puddles.”

“I grow numb.”

And that’s it. No moral to the story. The “so what?” is this: There are a lot of puddles, and they have various levels of scry-ability.  Because everything isn’t a metaphor, yet this particular Lego of mythology is in so many death-stars of personal, and cruel, attacks.

Stepping on a Lego when barefooted is a specific pain. If you remember it from childhood it is likely unlike other things. You construct your adult life with particular contracts with Legos, and where they will or will not live in your adult life.

I don’t have any Legos. Pollen does enough damage to my eyes, ears, nose, throat. I’m not specifically allergic to daffodils more than I’m allergic to Legos, or ad hominem insults. I carry varying degrees of numbness to the three. Legos, maybe the least. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Lustmord Kunst/ Blut und Boden 2/2

If there is a genre for a found blog, this post belongs in that. 

In 2001, in college, while still studying art, I did a paper on Lustmord Kunst. This genre of art fell into the "Degenerate Art" that Hitler loathed. See the fictional account of this in the movie "Max" . My father had saved my paper. When he died it was still in his files. Yesterday, I dug it out.

Germany's art in this time period has historically been explained as a result of economic frustration with anger projected onto bodies of women. In 2001 I agreed with that line of thinking. Watching the rise of the Alt-Right, and nazis in America Right Now makes me revisit that line of reasoning.  

That was the argument that explained how America got its current president: he appealed to the economically disenfranchised. Those that felt like this glorious land had let them down. 

Looking at stats, the economically disenfranchised didn't make up his base. And it wasn't all male.

Take your pick: the epidemic of violence and murder against transwomen, death threats for women that dare to engage in tech culture, a man that has said grab them by the pussy/bleeding out of her you know what/ lock her up lock her up. We've heard all the things. 

I suggest there is a different argument to make about Lustmord Kunst. I don't see it as a unique genre critiquing a unique moment in time and economic structure, in a particular boden. Perhaps it gives us a window into transboden misogyny. 

As we continue doing the work of re-turning to history, and various archives try to figure out what exactly American nazis are capable of doing, I am curious about what Burkeain equipment for living the artistic archive that confronted and clashed with ideologies of Blut und Boden. 

Or maybe something at the tip of our tongues, like rhetorics of violence against women in video games, for example, is a rabbit-hole back to the lustmord kunst archive that is worth exploring. Other wormholes in the arts: the NEH, Shia LeBouf, Fifty Shades of Grey, "How I Met Your Mother," and the comments on discussions re: Joss Whedon & feminism.  

Yes, art as resistance. Yes, doing the work to stop what we can. Yes, this American land is painted with billions of buckets of blood from genocide. Appeals to logic (logos) haven't done shit. Neither have appeals to ethos. 

Pathos, is that where we are at? Is that all that's left?? If so, bring on the art, and turn us back to the archive not only of nazi tactics, but the arts of resistance, failure and projections .of masculinity onto  bodies and boden. Pay attention to the things that we allegedly said never again about.  


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Blood and Soil/ Blut und Boden ½*

Late last summer I did private language lessons with a student. He’s a legitimate genius. To add insult to injury, he’s kind additionally cursed with good looks, commanding stature, and an inhuman magnetism. This combination will continue to allow him to climb the ranks of his career at an astronomical speed.

When things started getting ugly on the campaign trail, I explained words and idioms that he heard at the water cooler. Dumpster Fire. Basket of Deplorables. MRA. Birther.

And here? Nothing! For the African Americans, you turn on the news and hear white people calling them that n word and it is okay. There is still the holiday for Chris Columbus? How is this possible? Growing up you hear that America is for equality and opportunity. Then I come, and I see it is

He looks down at his notes

              A big dumpster fire. Yes?

I nod.

              He cannot win to be president, can he? You think he can? No.

---------                                             (this was almost exactly a year ago.)

              But… I don’t understand this place.

He did a few loud breaths and shook his head. He told me that it was illegal in Germany to so much as mockingly do the nazi-salute. He explained the variety of laws against any public expression of (my words, not his) physical or visual rhetoric of nazism.

I tell him that I had no idea! I tell him that I wish we had laws like that here—in any way. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to live in a country that takes its past wrongs that seriously.

I can’t even do it here in this room to show you, Darcy. It feels so wrong. From when we are in kinder we get in bad trouble if we do. I simply don’t understand how there are all these people here in America that can and there is no shame, let alone it is legal. What the fuck?

He explained "Blud und Boden"—it was the first time I heard the phrase.

This was one of Nazi ideas. Kind of like a slogan to shout. Or idiom maybe? Blut und Boden. Blood and Soil. Soil is country, and Boden is the idea of the country, the.... homeland? 


              Yes. We call it that, Muterland. Or Vaterland. Like Star Wars.

We laugh.

             The Blood is like family history, and also what you have to do to keep it. It, this "blut und                    boden"—

In English!

Okay, it was blood and soil, okay?, that was the idea behind the guy, I don’t even want to say his name, invading Europe and trying to take the world. It goes to before him. They even had these terrible, terrible paintings with the name

Blood and Soil?

              Yes, “Blahd and Soyelle,” (winks). They were so bad, but they were the high kunst.

English! (I was required to always prompt in English).

Yes, yes, ahhrrrt. The art. But we know this history in Germany and that is why we have laws against it. Not the art in specifically, but you cannot do anything Nazi. It’s the worst, no one would do it because it is so wrong. It is so hard to explain because it is so simple. You know?

I know. I know….

Today the U.N. condems POTUS (but not really by name) for refusing to call it what it is. “Failure at the highest political level.”

I think about the day that guy taught me that phrase. Don’t tell me soil isn’t political.  It’s part of the semiotics central to foundational nazi ideation systems. Words matter. ITMFA. 

*This blog has no kundst, it usually does, but not today. More on that in 2/2. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Dirty South 1/3

Last night, a short-term blog reader interviewed me. Kinda. Ok, it wasn’t exactly an interview, but it has since become one after writing it into being. In rewriting this moment I omitted the more personal Q and A’s, and most of my own Q’s.

I’m still new to this place, this person, and this genre. There is time for more later. This is the transcript of how I remember parts of it. Memory makes liberties.

Q: What brought you to Atlanta, was it Tech?
A: Yup, I took a postdoc at GA Tech.

Q: Is it a teaching or research fellowship?
A: I think it’s a bit of both? My understanding is that it is as much of both as you put into it, and you are there because you want to put both in. But teaching is, first and foremost, a requirement.

Q: How long have you been in town then?
A: Today is my one week anniversary!

Q: Congratulations! What kinds of things have you done so far?
A: In a week? I’ve mostly been avoiding mosquitoes. [Trying to get Lil John songs to STOP playing on a constant loop in my head. Brain keeps calling it THE DIRTY SOUTH. I hate the music from College.] I went to the High on Friday—saw the Warhol exhibit. You know, soup cans.

Q: Is that related to your work on food studies?
A: Nah….
[thinks to self, it probably should be. Crap, why didn’t I see that when I was there! Must return! Was too busy focusing on the Desdemona drawing that related to the novel written during May.]
…. I’m also looking forward to the Botanical gardens again, I can’t get there enough!

Q: So why blog about soil? What does this have to do with your research?
A: Excellent question! [Looks around the coffee shop. Why are the answers rarely written on ceilings? Gaining new appreciation for the Sistine Chapel.]
….Everything starts with the soil. Stories can’t happen, literally, without it. The way we used to take gender constructions for granted, until we didn’t, that’s why soil matters to me as a lens. It’s a simple part of our world that penetrates every single thing.

[I start rambling now]

The more publishers I talk to about the first major book project, the more they emphasize the need for an online presence that includes blogging. They’ve said it’s important to give a personal window to your voice, and that the voice is coming from a professional with complex research plans.

Q: Do you want to write a book like your blog?
A: I'm not sure. I know that I do keep coming back to this for some reason. [A line from "Nip/Tuck" When something is recurrent it is begging for attention and further consideration.]

Q: Do you think your blog helped you get hired at GA Tech?
A: Absolutely not. I was too scared to add it to my application materials.
Q: The could have googled you. That’s how I found it. Not a lot of work to find materials.
A: I do not think so. I think they had too many applicants to google all of them.

Q: They should google the potential hires. I learned a lot. Like the story behind that [points at Calvino tattoo]. I liked the information I got.
A: I’m truly happy that it held your interest, and that you actually wanted to ask questions. Thank you.
              [I didn’t do a good job expressing my adequate thanks. Had to do a follow-up email later.]

Q: Are you going to be teaching things related to your blog?
A: Not really. This semester it’s a class on Nobel prize winners in literature. That’s why I’m reading this right now.
              [waves copy of Bob Dylan’s Tarantula]

Q: The prize is really political, isn’t it? I’m still trying to make sense of Malala’s win. Other people have been working their lives towards bettering the world—mother Teresa level stuff—and she’s so young.
A: [pause.]  Agreed, in that it’s a complicated decision-making process. I mostly focus the research on the literature prize. Some people, like Murakami and Rushdie—or maybe more so their fans—have similar frustrations with the awards.

Q: Recently you wrote about Rushdie’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet. You seem to be quite a fan. What is it that you love about his writing?
A: [Awkward pause]
              ….. I think he’s an incredibly intelligent man. I do have some difficulty enjoying the aesthetic of contemporary magical realism. It doesn’t always work for me.
Q: So you aren’t a fan of his work?
A: I’m not a fan of contemporary magical realism? [uncomfortable laughter] It’s inaccessible to me. I know that’s part of the point, but I don’t want it. I gravitate towards writing with, this will sound silly, shorter sentences.
Q: Shorter sentences? Why?
A: I like short, simple sentences. I like clarity as an aesthetic. Simple beauty moves me.
[Reduction, not what feels like humid writing.]

Q: Can you give me an example of a writer like that?
A: [I thrust my forearm forward, grinning.] Italio Calvino.

Q: Putting it that way—short sentences that try to emphasize clarity—thinking about it now I would say that’s a characteristic I can see in your writing. It makes sense, I liked that even if I didn’t know that’s what I was reading.
A: [Blush. Blush so hot my face burns off.]
              [EMTs are called to extinguish my face.]
[The interview continues despite the fact that my face is bandaged and I can hardly see the world through the cotton.]
Thank you. That is the biggest compliment I could possibly receive.

Q: You’re welcome. Do you ever blog about encounters like this?
A: Absolutely not!
Q: Why not? You could leave it anonymous, name someone “Mister XYZ”?
A. I’m really uncomfortable doing that. Words can hurt, more quickly and deeper than other things. They can construct expectations or interfaces that cannot be undone. Those structures can linger, and they can inadvertently do damage.

Q: But it’s your life, and your experiences, I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t want to write about them. Like that post about the man that wouldn’t give you a a kiss in Paris.
A: That was extraordinarily different. I had been in a pattern of seemingly having to tell that story over and over again—I wanted it somewhere so I didn’t have to keep making the words come out of my mouth. And I do provide a disclaimer about how I dislike that kind of writing.

Q: Fair enough. Do you think you’ll write about this?
A: Absolutely not.*

Q: It’s getting on in time. Are you hungry? Can you eat given your face bandages?
A: Sure, let’s.**

<end scene>

*This particular Q & A did not occur. It if had, I would have said no, and then still done exactly what I’m doing right now.

**I should have went for the food. I did not go for the food. Muss and Turners would have been really good just then. Thunderstorms and my poor souphound’s potential storm adjustment compelled me homeward. I got home and took him out. The residual rain dissolved my face bandages. They must have been made of sugar after all.
I check my face again, it’s gone back to regular temperature. I check the sentences I, allegedly, spoke. Not the beautiful ones I prefer to write. I prepare to post this, I break a pattern of what I usually write. Eggshells go everywhere. I prepare to rub egg on my face and walls. My kitchen barely has towels.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dirty Angels/ Angels in Tar

I came to LA to give a conference paper at Oxyfood17. My trojan-horse reason was to read a book in the place it was written. This is my travel thing to do, "Invisible Cities" in Venice, Watership Down on the beach where Lost’s Sawyer read it & so on.

LA is different: My first favorite book—the one that made me examine my own emotional landscape—is Francesca Lia Block's Dangerous Angels. In a brazen gesture of fandom, I reached out to her. Told her what I was doing. Like the kind and lovely person I believed her to be, she wrote back with a picture perfect itinerary from a blog with the places that had inspired the book.

I went back in time and stayed at the Culver Hotel . During the 1920’s style happy hour, in one sitting, I read all bits of the 479 page collection. With plenty of freely flowing champagne, of course. I definitely cried on that velvet chaise. Of course.

When I first read this, in 1996, I was 14. That’s 21 years ago. A whole person ago. At the time, I didn’t fully understand the role the book had in putting HIV/AIDS on the radar for white, straight, suburban America. It rewrote the narrative of ‘the gay disease,’ or ‘the junkie disease.’

She was also on the forefront of explaining (to the same demographic) the ridiculousness of immigration/deportation policies, and homophobic attitudes. She made young, white, America ask how could people be illegal? How do we live in a world where people are illegal and love can get you killed?

I plan my pre and post conference adventures around re-reading this book in certain places. I plan around food that features as prominently as any character in the book, like Canters pastrami and pink champagne.

Arguably, The Oki-Dog is the food most widely familiar to Block’s readers. It’s legendary! Yet… 2016 came around & a big old Trump sign went up, and stayed. I can’t give my money there. It isn’t 1996 when Dangerous Angels first came out.

STDs/STIs are much more complicated, and we’re bleeding money for education and treatment. ‘Refugee’ is in ‘the immigration conversation’ in more complex ways, too... increased rates of murder/violence against LGBTQ individuals. It’s not 1996. Many of us live in nightmare bubbles.

I walk by the Le Brea Tar Pits. I see tar (but it is not actually tar) bubbling up through the sidewalk. “They are trapped there forever, it breaks my heart!” (FLB). I walk through The Original Farmer’s Market. I am hot and sleepy because, in a fugue state, this city replaced all the trees with palm trees. Jacarandas are the only shade.

The soil looks like my grandmother’s hands. The layer of concrete on top of the “tar,” or “on the river,” or forever holding the hands of entertainment gods and goddesses… It’s a porcelain tectonic plate. In a town literally and figuratively built on artifice, it is easy to project magic onto this ground.

I ended up doing 9 of the things on FLB’s 50, or so, item list. Some, due to running out of time, and some were closed—pointing again to the ephemeral nature of this place. I didn’t get an Oki Dog. But I sat by this damn pool and reread the words that shaped me as a young thing, back in 1996.

“Believe in your own magic… look stuff right in the eye… All the ghosts and demons are just you…. Look stuff right in the eye” (D.A. 361-362)

“Find kisses about apple pie a la mode with vanilla” 
and have a lot more of those kisses after that. (D.A. 29)

Or, at least, pick up the phone and tell someone you love them. Life is short for us mere mortals. 

Many thanks to Francesca Lia Block for your kindness, your dedication to storytelling and love. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Ground Beneath Her Feet 2/2

In part 1 of The Ground Beneath Her Feet, I discussed the palimpsest of me with new tattoo plans. As the proverb goes, I made God laugh. My tattoo artist gently steered me away from what I wanted. Her exact words might have been "will look like unicorn poop," or "bad postcard." Cringe.

"Give me the book." She reached, flipped through it. "What exactly do you love about it so much?"  Reading this book in Venice across from someone I was falling out of love with while Venice was sinking into the sea and I was soaking into thin wine and the sun was falling into me. That.

No mortal can explain this, and that's why it needs a whole book. My exact words might have been "Very Good Really Special Love so much YES." She's looking at me like they let you teach college?

"Okay. Is there a passage you really like?" Is there? "Ok, I'm gonna go look up a couple things. Mark some of your favorite passages, and we'll work from there." She scooted out. I limited myself to a dozen passages. I ranked them. It took less than 3 minutes.

She read the first, talked to me about it. "We can just do these." A humanoid woman was just going to create the worlds Calvino created Marco Polo to create. This was just going to be a thing, like any human can just have it. I'm falling in love with the memory of you already, lady. Two months later, I came back, and it got real.

First and foremost, there is Fedora.  There is always Fedora. 

"In the center of Fedora... stands a metal building with a crystal globe in every room. Looking into each globe, you see a blue city, the model of a different Fedora. These are the forms the city could have taken if, for one reason or another, it had not become what we see today. In every age someone, looking at Fedora as it was, imagined a way of making it the ideal city, but while he constructed his miniature model, Fedora was already no longer the same as before, and what had been until yesterday a possible future became only a toy in a glass globe." (2: Cities & Desire 4)

Zemrude is the first city that is imagined in such a globe. Partially Zemrude, at least.

"It is the mood of the beholder which gives the city of Zemrude its form.... For everyone, sooner or later, the day comes when we bring our gaze down along the drainpipes and we can no longer detach it from the cobblestones. The reverse is not impossible, but it is more rare: and so we continue walking through Zemrude's streets with eyes now digging into the cellars, the foundations, the wells." (4: Cities & Eyes 2)

And memory melts Zemrude into Ersilia.

"In Ersilia, to establish the relationships that sustain the cities life, the inhabitants stretch strings from the corners of the houses, white or black or gray or black-and-white according to whether they mark a relationship of blood, of trade authority, agency." (5: Trading Cities 4)

And in the midst and middle of these sunsets and cities we have the thing that holds it all together. I have changed the noun to protect the innocents who have not yet read this novel. And changed the text, too, in general. It's necessary.

the Khan: "There is still one of which you never speak."
Marco Polo bowed his head.
Marco smiled. "What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?"
The emperor did not turn a hair. "And yet I have never heard you mention that name."
And Polo said: "Every time I describe a city I am saying something about it."
"Memory's images, once they are fixed in words, are erased," Polo said. "Perhaps I am afraid of losing It all at once, if I speak of it. Or perhaps, speaking of other cities I have already lost it, little by little." (pp.86-87)

The things of which palimpsests only dream. Forgive me, time. 
Onward and upward. 
We continue the climb to Zora. 

"Zora has the quality of remaining in your memory point by point, in its succession of streets, of houses along the streets, and of doors and windows in the houses, though nothing in them possesses a special beauty or rarity. Zora's secret lies in the way your gaze runs over patterns following one another as in a musical score where not a note can be altered...." (1: Cities & Memories 4)

At the top of the tower sits Tamara. 

"However the city may really be, beneath this thick coating of signs, whatever it may contain or conceal, you leave Tamara without having discovered it. Outside, the land stretches, empty, to the horizon; the sky opens, with speeding clouds. In the shape that chance and wind give the clouds, you are already intent on recognizing figures: a sailing ship, a hand, an elephant..." (1: Cities & Signs 1)

Other than the passage with Fedora, and a lengthy talk about elephants in Tamara, we didn't discuss much about the text. I didn't really want to know how she was interpreting what I had marked. Who knows if she was even working off what I read into now. I don't care. 

In the beginning, about Isadora, Calvino writes that "Desires are already memories" (pp. 8). That's a thing I find true. Seems applicable for tattoos, too. This wonderful woman gave me the most beautiful thing I could ever have. Look at that tiny chimney! Look what she did with that writing. Look

She also gave me the best reason to get students to do non-required reading. When they ask, because they inevitably will, I will give them the title and a refusal to discuss until they show proof of reading. Tattoos as pedagogical catalyst. Will research, and report back in one year.