Random musings on a writer's life & times, with occasional input from acquaintances


Saturday, March 01, 2003

I helped judge a children’s poetry contest today. I served on a seven-member committee that evaluated hundreds of poems submitted by third- through fifth-graders. To those misguided ladies among the judges who kept wanting to reward poems that “taught good life lessons” -- as if third-, fourth- and fifth-graders have mastered any life lessons to teach -- I offer these words from Oscar Wilde:

--"In art good intentions are not of the smallest value. All bad art is the result of good intentions."


Friday, February 28, 2003

Time for notes and comment on important recent events by your knowledgeable Writeright news analyst, Peoria Dave.


*Allison Adams, a veterinary technician for Wildlife Rescue in Austin, Texas, warms up traumatized baby animals -- squirrels, kittens, rabbits, etc. -- by putting them in her bra. While she's wearing it. Allison, 23, says squirrels are the hardest to deal with, possums the easiest. She's done it about 75 times. No, they don't itch. Her fiancé is OK with it, even though he was deprived of a hug once because of "hissing possums.” [Austin American-Statesman]

Hissing from her bra? Hey! I think I dated that girl! I thought she just didn’t want me to get to second base.


*People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wrote to Yasser Arafat deploring public bombings, at least when the bomb is delivered -- as one was Jan. 26 in Jerusalem -- on a donkey. [Washington Post]

I’ve heard of a “smart bomb,” but not a donkey bomb. A sad-ass innovation, if you ask me.


*There is a new “sport” called "dB Drag Racing," in which the winning car is not the fastest but the one with the loudest stereo system. In the "extreme" category, cars are completely rebuilt and powered with enough electricity to operate several private homes. Extra-thick glass and concrete poured into the floor and doors keep the sound inside, where the measurement takes place. Last year's winner, from Germany, registered 177.7 decibels. [Wall Street Journal Online]

I think that German car cruised up next to my Volvo yesterday as I waited out the stoplight at 39th & Woodstock. Of course, it may have been just your basic Cleveland High School student. My ears still throb.


*When Heinz ketchup leaves the bottle, it travels at a rate of 25 miles per year. [Flagstar Insight]

Or approximately the same speed as my 15-year-old son, Andy, when he is preparing for school in the morning.


*The Bronx Zoo says female cheetahs like to sniff Calvin Klein’s Obsession for Men, while pumas and lynx prefer skunk urine. [Boomington-Normal Daily Pantograph]

My son has a high school friend who must be trying to attract a good-looking kitten. He uses a “body spray,” sort of like old-fashioned cologne, that leaves our family room reeking for hours after his visits. If that spray ain’t skunk urine, it’s mighty close. Ah, for the days when the boys were small and preferred the aroma of their own sweat.


*Average fee per lawyer working on New York's portion of the 1998 multi-state tobacco settlement: $14,000 an hour. So says Justice Charles Ramos of the New York Supreme Court. [Albany Times-Union]

See, Joe? THAT is why people go to law school.


*Hemorrhoid-suffering pilgrims are trekking to the town of Murtosa, Portugal, to rub the affected body part against a statue of St. Goncalo, hoping for relief. St. Goncalo, a 13th-century priest, was known for curing acne. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation]

I pity the fool in charge of cleaning that statue each night.


*Police in Johannesburg, South Africa, reported 46 people were injured during New Year's festivities by celebrants throwing items from windows and balconies, a local tradition. Among objects doing the most damage this year were several television sets. [Reuters]

I’ve often thought of heaving my TV out the window, usually after watching 30 seconds of something like “Survivor,” but I didn’t know it was a New Year’s tradition.


*Latest restaurant to offer ostentatiously exotic food specialties: Pie Works, in Gwinnett County, Ga. It sells pizza with 163 toppings, including alligator, ostrich and rattlesnake. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

I wondered where my wife got that rattlesnake pizza she served last night! No wonder the delivery guy’s tip was so big. We live in Oregon.


*Goalkeeper Richard Siddall stayed on a soccer field in Sheffield, England, for 10 minutes after everyone else departed because the fog that caused cancellation of his game was so thick he didn't see the other players leave. [Irish Times]

This item is presented for the benefit of my son Joe, who is a soccer nut but keeps an eye out for reasons to claim British people are dumb (and smell bad).


*A new game “of skill, power, speed and endurance” is being sold by an English charity. It consists of a biodegradable ball, smaller than a golf ball, placed in a urinal to be disintegrated by a urinator, either alone or in competition. Great Britain’s Prostate Cancer Charity sells the novelty, called Peeball, for the equivalent of $1.70. The organization hopes Peeball will call attention to its cause, in that players with prostate problems typically play it poorly. Player strategies, basically, are (1) direct stream and (2) intermittent stream. [The Times (London), The Observer (London)]

I’m an intermittent man, myself. What about you, Joe?


*A cockfight handler, about to release a rooster outfitted with razor-sharp steel spikes on its legs into a ring to battle another bird, was killed when the rooster slashed his thigh and groin, causing him to bleed to death in Zamboanga, Philippines.[Associated Press]

Ranks right up there on the irony scale with deaths of the cell-phone talker who walked in front of a train in Missouri and the California logging protester who fell out of a tree.


With thanks to Chuck Shepherd’s News of the Weird on MSN, from which I stole many of these items.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Here's a piece of profound poetry fresh from the pen of Peoria Dave.

Coffee Snob

My wife has joined the coffee snobs.
Domestic coffee from Safeway
isn't good enough any more.
Coffee must be bought at Starbuck's
and it must originate in Guatemala
or Colombia, Sumatra (didn't Jimmy
Stewart kill Spencer Tracy there
in a 1940s movie about rubber
traders?) or Kenya, or another
of those A-end countries.

Whatever happened to good old joe?
Mud? Java? All that stuff Jimmy
and Spencer drank after they flew
the dangerous mission or before
they trucked over to the oil rig?
The brew they sucked down
to sober up after boozing away
the pain of Jane Russell, the hot
swill they clutched in cold tin
cups over cowboy campfires?

I didn't drink coffee till I was
twenty-four. I didn't like the taste,
and Grandma said it would stunt
my growth. I began by sipping
from little paper cups with poker hands
printed down the sides, dispensed
by a rust-flecked vending machine
in the basement of Minneapolis
City Hall. I worked nights
as a cop reporter, alone, manning
an ancient desk in a windowless room
we called The Rat Pit. I struggled
to stay awake, dozing over “For Whom
the Bell Tolls” or “The Sound and The Fury”
as I waited for the next dope bust,
car wreck or liquor store stick-up.
The thin liquid scalded my tongue
and burned my heart, but it served
a purpose -- it kept me awake.
That twenty-cent coffee probably trickled
down from Duluth, but buying it
made more sense than shelling out
eleven bucks for a bag of Bolivian beans
to grind up in plastic and chrome
so we can have lattes for Sunday brunch.

--by David Jordan

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

I found this message from my associate Raymond (Slice and Dice) Cutter under the windshield wiper of my car this morning:

Whaddup, dude?

Long time no see/hear/otherwise communicate. As you indubitably know, I’ve been keeping a low profile writingwise of late because my ex-wife, Sierra (the bitch), slapped a libel suit on me for referring to her in print as a spokesmodel for Sluts R Us. I bought her off by giving her my blender (it was an “out of court settlement,” aka “bribe”), so I’m back in biz.

Good deal, because I am seriously short of kale. Gotta cop some berries if I’m gonna keep those bronsons flowing. With that in mind, I’ll let you post the lit quiz below on Writeright for a paltry five bucks. It’s seriously deck and probably worth more if I shopped it to Street Roots or some other prestige rag, but I need quick kale. I’m tired of riding greyhound.

You’ll be glad to know I’ve made good use of the time since Sierra (that chipper!) silenced my pen in December. I signed up through the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado, to earn my MFA in creative writing. I did all the coursework by e-mail, sneaking onto the Reed College Library computers late at night when the jerries were off in their rooms getting ripped. My diploma came in the mail yesterday, so now I am fully certified to teach creative writing at a beauty college or truck-driver school near you. This quiz goodie is based on voluminous reading I had to do for my Disembodied Poetics classes.

Remember the Maine,
Ray C.

1. Who is Billy Pilgrim?
a) A man Marion Morrison had a secret crush on, according to his biography, “Duke: The Life and Times of John Wayne.”
b) The central figure in John Bunyan’s 17th Century allegory “Pilgrim’s Progress.”
c) A World War II veteran who is unstuck in time in Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s novel “Slaughterhouse Five.”
d) An English settler whose life was saved by a Native American princess in an episode recounted in the historical work “Pocahontas: The Life and The Legend.”

2. What is a veela?
a) A women’s tennis player from Rumania who had a one-night stand with Martina Navratilova described in the autobiography “Martina.”
b) A female creature with siren-like powers who appears in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”
c) A television home-repair guru who cranks out how-to manuals like “This Old House Guide to Building and Remodeling Materials.”
d) A real-life Mexican revolutionary/bandit written into the plot of David Morrell’s “Last Reveille: A Novel.”

3. A female character who is raped in a Richard Laymon novel is most likely to:
a) Call a Crisis Hotline and weep into the phone.
b) Sink into a catatonic trance.
c) Commit suicide.
d) Kill the assailant with an ax 20 pages later and, after dismembering and burning the body, walk away whistling.

4. What is Goldfinger?
a) A nickname bestowed by novelist George Eliot to Silas Marner because of the way his mitts looked every night after he counted the gold coins stashed under his floor.
b) The author of “Lord of the Flies.”
c) A spy novel about Bond, James Bond, by Ian Fleming.
d.) An image from the Wallace Stevens poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”:
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine goldfinger birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

5. Who is Phoebe Caulfield?
a) Holden Caulfield’s little sister in J.D. Salinger’s novel “The Catcher in the Rye.”
b) A family cat mentioned in the writings of David Jordan, proprietor of the Writeright weblog.
c) The spiritual antecedent to Joyce Maynard, according to her memoir “At Home in the World.”
d) All of the above.

6. What is a Paper Lion?
a) The beast hunted by Ernest Hemingway in “Green Hills of Africa.”
b) A fictional character created by C.S. Lewis.
c) A nonfiction book written by Paris Review editor George Plimpton about his attempt to quarterback a pro football team.
d) Norman Mailer.

7. What is Hamlet?
a) The fate awaiting Wilbur the Pig in “Charlotte’s Web,” a children’s novel by E. B. White.
b) Frenchman’s Bend, the little Mississippi town where Flem Snopes rises to prosperity.
c) A term applied to Jane Fonda, actress daughter of actor Henry Fonda, in “The Fondas: A Hollywood Dynasty.”
d) A Bill Shakespeare play about a really depressed dude who has trouble making decisions.

8) Who is Madison Smartt Bell?
a) A sociologist who got yelled at by liberals for writing “The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life”
b) A prolific novelist whose works include “All Souls’ Rising,” a story of Haiti.
c) An author of SAT study guides, including “College Admission Testing for Slack-Jawed Droolers.”
d) An illegitimate son of president-to-be James Madison who rang the Liberty Bell to summon Philadelphians to the first reading of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

9) What is “And Then There Were None”?
a) An Agatha Christie mystery in which ten guests at an island retreat are murdered one by one.
b) The subtitle to Bob Woodward’s and Carl Bernstein’s nonfiction Nixon book “All The President’s Men.”
c) A guidebook to losing extra pounds by the late singer Karen Carpenter.
d) The sequel to a popular dating advice book by Dennis W. Neder, “Being a Man in a Woman’s World.”

10) “Presumed Innocent” is the title of what book?
a) Britney Spears’s autobiography.
b) Scott Turow’s best novel.
c) O.J. Simpson’s memoir about his unrelenting search for the murderer of his estranged wife.
d) A biography of Pope Innocent VIII, leader of the Roman Catholic Church from 1484 until his death in 1492.

Answers: 1 c; 2 b; 3 d; 4 c; 5 d; 6 c; 7 d; 8 b; 9 a; 10 b

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

I took my youngest son to the batting cages on Stark Street a couple of days ago so he could practice hitting before his school baseball tryouts this week. We’d been there a few minutes when this college-age couple entered, a frat rat-type boy in jeans and a cute blonde girl in a shiny blue sweatsuit. They put their names on the waiting list to bat in one of the cages, then stood chatting while awaiting their turns. The boy went first. He wasn’t much of a hitter. Then came the girl. She peeled off her sweats and stepped into the cage wearing green and red plaid boxer shorts (plus a yellow t-shirt). She proceeded to whang the hell out of fast softball pitches with every swing. After her cuts, she stepped out of the cage and stood around with the other customers -- 25 or so people, mostly teen-aged boys and their fathers, but a few other softball girls, too -- waiting for another turn. In her plaid boxer shorts.

This struck me as interesting in a number of ways. I’ve hung around public batting cages, where you pay a buck and a half for a token that buys you 20 swings against a pitching machine, for a dozen years or more. They used to be strictly male haunts. Muy macho. I guess it’s a tribute to Title IX that you find cute blondes in the midst of the wannabe major leaguers these days. That’s good. This girl was SERIOUSLY cute, too. That’s good. But she was standing around an athletic facility in plaid boxer shorts. Is that good?

I mean, I enjoyed the view and all, but are boxer shorts appropriate attire for girls -- athletes or not -- in public these days? Struck me as sort of weird.

When I mentioned the episode to my wife, she assured me many young females wander about in public wearing boxer shorts. It’s a style thing, like wearing pajama pants to shop at the mall or stripping down to your bra to celebrate winning a soccer game.

I don’t know, though. I’m a guy, and boxer shorts were made as underwear for guys, but I’d hesitate to stand around the batting cages in them. I think I’d feel mighty peculiar. I like to be stylish, though, so I’m thinking next time my son asks me to hit the cages I may wear some of my wife’s panties. She has a lacy black pair that would look darling on me.

Monday, February 24, 2003

In the interest of convincing friends and neighbors that poetry is not an effete intellectual pursuit, I offer today this work from Jimbo Breen, which appeared a few years ago in a little Tennessee magazine called Penny Dreadful Review.


some sissy poat was whining about his
cancer surgery so i punched him hard
in the guts and told him not to say another
fuckin’ word until he could give me the
name of somebody who wasn’t dyin’

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Time once again for the sagacious Sunday Seven.

1) What are you wearing?

A beige t-shirt, souvenir of a trip to Cabo San Lucas, with a picture of Mexican revolutionary/bandit Pancho Villa. (It also has a message, printed in Spanish, I can’t read. I’m afraid to wear the shirt in public because, for all I know, it might get me beat up by a sensitive Hispanic. The message says: "Viva Villa Jijos del Maiz!”) Also my trusty fatboy blue jeans from Old Navy and sweatboots.

2) What are you reading?

Reading? Who’s reading? I still haven’t finished my stat league baseball draft!

3) What’s for dinner?

Crabfish (as my son Andy called it when he was a preschooler), avocado-tomato-artichoke heart salad, French bread.

4) What’s the best thing that happened this week?

I received a letter from a little New York literary magazine called Waterways saying it would publish six of my poems over the next year.

5) What’s bugging you?

The letter from Waterways arrived wrinkled and faded from being wet. I assume this is not a style choice meant to reflect the magazine’s name. The letter, dated Feb. 17 and received Feb. 21, said the magazine intends to publish two of my poems in its January edition. Huh? The editor admits to being “behind in publishing,” but asserts she is “catching up.” All in all, I hope this is not a case of someone pulling my leg.

6) Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?

Bald Knob, West Virginia.

7) What’s it all about, Dave?

Maximizing potential.

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