Poetry Break: April Inventory

As National Poetry Month slips away, it’s time once more for W. D. Snodgrass’ lovely  poem about aging,  self-knowledge, and the elusive promise of renewal.  A poem to ponder here.

Want more great poetry? Check out Two Years Ago on MUSE MACHINE


Music From “Worst Slide Story”

Readers here know that I’m a sucker for political satire set to pop music, as I proved with my classic rendition of John McCain’s “What Do You Get?(When You Work With Dems).” Blame it on a youth misspent in the pages of Mad magazine.

Anyway, a friend passed along some satirical songs about the economy, and if we can laugh about that, we can laugh at anything. Have a look and listen  here .

Media Buds Love Them Some Obama

 I like many things about  Obama,  and after a lengthy and  transparent decision process,  I found myself supporting him.  Though unconvinced of his divinity, I hope  that his economic plans succeed,  since to hope otherwise is to wish greater misery on my country.  Still, I think the press cheerleading for Obama has been embarrassingly  overt,* so I’m hardly surprised at this news flash from today’s  Washington Post.

The networks have given President Obama more coverage than George W. Bush and Bill Clinton combined in their first months — and more positive assessments to boot.
In a study to be released today, the Center for Media and Public Affairs and Chapman University found the nightly newscasts devoting nearly 28 hours to Obama’s presidency in the first 50 days. (Bush, by contrast, got nearly eight hours.) Fifty-eight percent of the Obama evaluations were positive on the ABC, CBS and NBC broadcasts, compared with 33 percent positive in the comparable period of Bush’s tenure and 44 percent positive for Clinton. (Evaluations by officials from the administration or political parties were not counted.)


 *This is particularly ironic in that some of the Obama cheerleaders have blasted their media bros for  alleged lapdogging during the run-up to the Iraq War. Guess they didn’t learn a lesson from that period.























How I Killed the Economy

As noted before, I like to work by microcosm. I often detect something going on in my own life, some slightly shifted perspective  or unsettling of a question I had taken as settled, and use that awareness to open a window on the larger world.

I’ve found this method valuable because it ensures that my thinking on the subject is grounded in at least one humble fact. My idea may not explain everything (ours is a world of fragments, and I lack a system), but it is based on something real and known.   Thoreau put it better:  

Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe… till we come to the hard bottom of rocks in place, which we can call reality.

It’s not easy to find those hard, reliable rocks  beneath the muck, but we need them to stand on  if what we say is to have any value.

That’s what I find worrisome about so many loud and rabid commentators on the scene today: They deal in theories, conjectures, rebuttals of rebuttals, categorical denunciations. They seem to cover so much territory, and they have five instant answers for every question, and yet, sometimes it all seems like. . .just  words. Attitude.  Air. How do you know what you know? I want to ask these hyper-confident yakkers.  

Anyway, having come across one of those “rocks” in my thinking about the economy, I put s0me thoughts into a  KERA/NPR commentary that aired today.

Read and/or listen here if you like.

Pigs, Cows Agree: “Humane” Farming Not Enough

I keep thinking of Gary Larson and his  old Far Side cartoons, updated for 2009.

So this man with a briefcase  is standing at the door of a cow’s house.  The cow, looking skeptical,  peers at the questionaire and asks:

 “Isn’t there a ‘Would rather not die at all’  option?”

I refer to the  increasingly popular movement, among people who can afford it, to opt for “farm-raised” or “grass-fed” or “pasture-raised” food animals, paying a few bucks more to eat creatures  who have at least had some semblance of a “normal” life under the sun rather than being confined in these horrible factory farms, standing in their own excrement and being pumped full of antibiotics to ward off the diseases their confinement brings. (Yummy!)

The “farm-raised” movement  is a humane step forward. I don’t want to belittle it. And, having had my own difficulties in completely dropping meat from my diet, I know how hard it is to deny oneself that pleasure.

It’s nice that people are thinking a bit about animal welfare. It’s commendable that McDonald’s, which has to be the biggest beef buyer in the world, has started these Responsible Purchasing programs and refuses to subsidize the most dismal factory farms.

 But let’s not kid ourselves or get to feeling overly noble here, folks. Given a voice, all these pasture-raised cows and real-mud pigs would say: “Uh, thanks, but if it’s all the same to you, we’d rather not be killed at all. How about a nice tofu sandwich?”

Adios, Borders, Esquire and–The New York Times?

Dispatches from the What’s Happening to this World Dept.:

1. According to a retail doomsday scenario  here  , the Borders Books chain is trembling on the edge of extinction, just a few missed payments away from bankruptcy. The Borders in our neighborhood closed two years ago, sorely missed by area bookophiles.

Funny. Twenty years ago lit-lovers used to bemoan the passing of cherished independent bookstores which were being outflanked and undersold by chains like Bookstop and Waldenbooks. Now, with so few bookstores of any kind left, I’m feeling a bit misty about losing the Borders chain.

And, yes, I’m part of the problem. I can’t  count how many books I’ve bought from Amazon at this point. With Amazon, I go from learning  about a book at 9 AM to reading about it at 9:04 and ordering it at 9:06.  In other words, I can order the book before I could grab my car keys and get out of the driveway. Amazon is  just so easy, so encyclopedically complete, and so fast. I used to love wandering through bookstores, letting my eye fall here and there on some unfamiliar tome, but. . .

But wait! I did buy a book from a brick-and-mortar Half-Price Books the other day, which is itself a chain but always feels like an indy. However, it was a book my errant daughter absolutely had to have that night. Not even Amazon can move that fast.

2. That same report brings even more bad news: The Hearst group may soon can Esquire. No wonder the mag  recently lured me back with an amazing $6 per year subscription offer–50 cents an issue, less than any pack of gum these days.

 How the mighty are fallen. There’s a real sociological-demographic shift story there, with Esquire–ancestral home of  Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Wolfe, Talese, Mailer, Southern, Wills, and more — falling behind the so-called “lads'” mags like Details, FHM and  Maxim. If the Big E  goes down, look for post-mortems in which staffers complain about dumbing down and relying way too much on celebrity cover cuties.

3. And in  yesterday’s mailbox, I found this offer from the  beleaguered New York Times

“6 Months at half price? Now that’s a great deal!”  the copy chirped.

It sure is–$6.70 a week for seven days,  or $3.40 a week if you just want the Sunday doorstopper.  But, alas, where’s the incentive to pay anything if you can get the entire NYT free and legal  right here? I don’t see how this schizoid strategy can succeed.