Thursday, April 14, 2011

The President of Muzak Himself Says That Humming Along Constitutes Time Theft

Oh my, for E.J. Dionne, it's love again!

There are at least four things to like about his approach. First, without mentioning Rep. Paul Ryan by name, he called out Ryan’s truly reactionary budget proposal for what it is: an effort to slash government programs, in large part to preserve and expand tax cuts for the wealthy. “That’s not right,” he said, “and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m president.”

Second, he was willing to speak plainly about raising taxes, and he insisted correctly on restoring the Clinton-era tax rates for the wealthy. Tax reform, which he also proposed, is a fine idea, though there is ample reason for skepticism as to how much revenue it can produce. It would be far better to return to all of the Clinton tax rates and then build tax reform on that base, in particular through higher taxes on investment income.

Third, he was right to focus on the need to cut security spending. Any serious effort to reduce the deficit cannot exempt defense. It’s laughable for Republicans to criticize defense cuts and then be utterly unwilling to increase taxes to pay for the defense they claim we need.

Finally, he was eloquent in defending Medicare and Medicaid, and he proposed saving money by building on last year’s health-reform law. There are two ways to reduce the government’s health-care expenses. One is Ryan’s path, which, Obama said, “lowers the government’s health-care bills by asking seniors and poor families to pay them instead.” The alternative, which the president rightly embraced, “lowers the government’s health-care bills by reducing the cost of health care itself.”

Oh my, for Joan Walsh, it's love again!

I'm glad I waited for President Obama's heralded budget speech Wednesday before criticizing it (such a novel idea); there was much to praise in it and little to challenge. The best news: Obama laid out the kind of sweeping "story" of American democracy, and the bold vision of how we grow together, that I thought was too much to ask for even yesterday. He even talked about the scariest fact of American inequality: The dangerous hold the top 1 percent of Americans has on wealth, income and (he didn't say this) politics. He pushed back on the cruel GOP deficit plan, made his toughest case yet for tax hikes on the richest, and stayed away from the worst ideas floated by his own deficit commission. The devil will be in the deficit-cutting details, and frankly, there weren't a whole lot of them in the speech. But the president came out fighting with firmness, and with a rhetoric of social justice and equality, that I haven't seen enough of these last two years.

Every kid I hung out with in Gaithersburg in the mid to late 70s bussed tables at Roy's Place for at least twenty minutes before quitting or passing out on quaaludes (who was that? Skinner?) or getting fired trying to sneak six packs out in the trash.

Bless Roy's Place, whose restaurant I first ate at when it was on Montgomery Street in Rockville (I remember twice, when Roddy started working for MCPS - it was lunches, he was in meetings, it was summer, it was once when we lived in that weirdly unnamed triangle of Connecticut, Randolph, Veirs Mill - it's not Twinbrook, not Aspen Hill, not Glenmont, not Wheaton - and once the year after we'd moved to Gaithersburg) before Rockville set out on it's endless quest to fuck-up downtown Rockville, and whose restaurant, relocated to Diamond Avenue, just down from the firehouse, hired and fired me at least three times.

See, this is why I'd rather autoblogography and bleggalgaze than reiterating the obvious. What should I say about Obama's (quintuple pint bets stand) cynical and well-executed pivot and the motherfucking professional rubes who cynically don't note Obama's cynicism while applauding Obama's well-executed pivot and pig-trap sprung? Only 512 days until the General Election, boyee! Still, I've been warned to stop bleggalgazing, and since that recent seizure is squeezed dry anyway, OK, though it can't possibly be as squeezed dry as reminding you what a fucker Obama still is and what roobish whores our professional progressives are.


Ron Silliman

The flower sermon:
critique is like a swoon
but with a step increase,
the awkward daughter who grows
to join the NBA.  All we want
(ever wanted) was to be on that
mailing list, parties at which slim caterers
offer red, yellow, black caviar
spilling off the triangular crackers
while off on the bay
rainbow-striped sails dip and bob and
twist.  The woman in the yellow raincoat sits
on a bench at the edge of the schoolyard
while two small children race
across the asphalt plaza.  Too many books
sail the moth.  A tooth that's lost
while flossing.  A short line
makes for anxious music.  Not breath
but civilization.  The president
of Muzak himself says
that humming along constitutes time theft.
First snow in the Sierras = cold showers here. 
The east is past.  Margin of terror.  The left
is where you feel it (dragging the eyes back
contra naturum).  We're just in it
for the honey.  Spackling paste
edits nails in wall when painted.  Elbows,
shoulders jammed together on the bus.
At each transfer point, glimpse how lives
weave past.  A woman with an interesting book
in her purse which I pretend not to see.  
Letters crowd into a thought.  Green paper
folded around long-stemmed roses
is stapled shut.  Rapid winter sunset
lacks twilight.  They take out the breast
and part of the lymph system.  I
stare through a lens at the near world.
Hot tea sits dark in its cup.
Seeing is deceiving.  Big tears
are eyes' response
to a dawn chill, first frost.
Clang of empty bottles in a paper sack.
The boulevard was a kind of free verse,
big noun skyscrapers, until the freeway
blew out the margin.  Baseball cap 
with the bill worn to the side or back.
Steam pours plume-like
from the roof of the new
senior tower.  Thus lawn-sprinklers
sweep the air.  This wool hat
itchy on your forehead, those
mysterious white sores
that dot the mouth.
New boots with Leather-Plus uppers
and waffler stomper soles.  The way
gas stations dwindled overnight,
now go the banks: people
huddle in the rain
as close as they can to the wall
lined up for the automated teller.
But I just want to snuggle.
Jumping the curb on my skateboard.  Even
before the war was over, vets
began to fill the J.C.s on the GI bill,
men playing rummy on the quad at lunch.
The way street folk make the sidewalk their bench.
Taking my glasses off, sensing
the muscles in the eye
flex as they refocus.  Cars
at a stop light, each with its own
lone rider.  Standing on the bus,
using both hands to hold on.
The sun in the trees still,
slowly rising.  Beeper on a belt.
The container inverted
shall never be repeated, fungus
in a hot tub.  A swamp entitled
Stanley Marsh.  Black spot
on the thumbnail is permanent.
Neo-social democrat sneaks back
into Lenin closet.  Not
democratic socialist.  Folding chair
triangulates space.  Shirt collar
as mock root for neck's trunk.
Small physical detail
enlarged (enraged)
refocuses the whole room
in the midst of the banquet.
Retrofit theory to text.
The idea of a doorstop
extends the wall.  Thin palms kept trim
along commercial strip.  Hollow is as
garbage truck sounds.  Ghetto barber:
shop behind bars.  Ask bus driver
to call out destination.
Chapped Lip Alert.
Man on a park bench
intent over crossword.
The sound of a piano
hung over the courtyard.  Bliss
approximates emotional state.
Gay nerds (complex style).  Drunk
on the streetcorner snaps to attention,
salutes the slow-cruising black-and-white.
Old manikin in used clothing store,
cheeks chipped, nose missing.  Bin
of loose sneakers in front of shoe shop.
Dreams prod you with their skewed
pertinence.  Like fingering around
in your pocket for a nickel, an
ambiguous coin, with your gloves on.
The pom-pom girl is sucking on a kiwi
as the sun rises, little startled bird.
Carved into nice pink slices, art
history is served
on seaweed-wrapped balls of rice.
At the checkout stand, the bagger
hooks the plastic sack into its wire
mould, dropping in the brown
spotted bananas before
the bottles of cider.
The close-out sale of
fiction at Dalton's
fails to attract 
afficionados from their new
improved "ring" frisbees.
Please don't call it xerox.
Just because it rhymes.  An absence
of form is pictured
on a milk carton.  The dumpsters
are ripe.  The present tense
calls up a terrific nostalgia
foreshadowing antacids.
Can you explain why Ezra Pound
and Ty Cobb were never,
not once, photographed
in the same room together?
The way cryotechnology
accounts for the Rolling Stones.
Heads of cauliflower
wrapped in plastic.  Half moon rising
in the red dusk sky, streetlamps on
illuminating nothing.  Twisting
the orange on
the glass juice squeezer.
Before dawn, alone
in the supermarket parkinglot,
hosing it down.  Van's awning
signals catering truck.  A leaf
had fallen onto the damp cement,
its image sharp years after.
Old green Norton anthology
perfect for doorstop.  Albino mulatto's
curiously blonde hair.  Linebreak muted
says I'm a normal guy.  To generalize
a detail (use of plurals)
entails violence.  Body language
at staff meeting very stiff.
Birds scatter high over
a schoolyard (asphalt
baseball diamond).  My own breath
instead of a lung.  Offhand,
by comments hidden in the brain,
we reiterate an old refrain.
My mind instead of an onion.
That these 20 year olds
call their shared housing
a commune seems quaint.
Old black woman with a cane
struggles to pull herself
onto the bus.  I strain
to see these words.  Chronicle
of Higher Medication.  Learning
that I can't pick my nose when
I read, because the gesture
bumps my glasses.  Our program is
compromise all positions
at all points, radical
at the cash bar.  The colon swells
while the dash is but a double
hyphen.  Thus paint freckles
an old ladder.  Hair, combed
from the part, over the large
bald dome, barely throws
strands of a shadow.  Men huddle
predawn in the vacant lot
for the grey trucks
that will carry them out
into the valley, hot day
harvesting crops.  Yuppie world
where everyone's successful, everyone's
white.  This guy's got great pecs,
strong deltoids, tight
abdominals, but through one nipple --
small gold safety pin.  This poem,
15 lines of free verse, defining
(and as if "as spoken to") a noun
naming a common household object
has been designed
to compete successfully for space
against cartoons in the New Yorker.
Man striding down the street,
whistling loudly.  Now that soft drinks
come in boxes.  The Gift of 
Security, the lock with 1,000
personal combinations: the only
lock in the world that let's you
set your own combination and change it
anytime, in seconds, without tools.
Because friends were coming over
for dinner, they began to think
about cooking in the early afternoon.
The honey in the 5 gal. can
had begun to crystallize, so she
put it in the oven to heat up.
Then a neighbor phoned (the details
here are less certain) and they
went over to smoke some dope
that had just been purchased.
This state expands one's sense
of time, of the moment.  To be
within the present can be
totally sensuous.  When they returned
later, the honey can had exploded,
tearing off the oven door.
Boiling honey (it was just like
napalm) clung to the ceiling,
floor and walls. 


  1. Nice to see the Hogeland bit exploring the origins of our plutocracy. I used to spend a lot of time telling people to examine the period 1776-1787 if they wanted to know why we say we're a democracy but have little of the stuff.

    Nobody listened when I said it. Maybe some will listen to Hogeland?

  2. Serendipity again: I see the Hogeland the day after thinking/writing about the history teacher at Montgomery College. I remember a student rhapsodizing about the Founding Fathers and Duane cut him to pieces re: the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence controlling upwards of 90% of the wealth of the colonies.

  3. I took a very interesting sociology class at Monkey College in 1980, from a lady named Marilyn Moors, if I recall correctly. She spent a fair amount of time contrasting our society to that of Cuba. The last few classes contained her slide show of Cuba, which she narrated by explaining the scenery, and then some class discussions on the difference between how Moors saw Cuba, and how the US "news" media and Govt portrayed Cuba to us citizen weevils.

    Great class, and probably responsible for the origins of my unAmerican perspective.

    Also had a good math teacher there, who helped me crack calculus better than my HS teacher or my Fall 1978 teacher at Testudoville.


    It's a tough sell, informing people of the plutocratic urges underlying the beginnings of Our Freedom-Loving Democracy.

  4. PS: for more serendipity:

    When I finally got around to watching Wim Wenders' documenting of Ry Cooder & the Buena Vista Social Club project maybe 2 or 3 years ago, and seeing the Cuban people and settings, I had a moment of flashback to when Moors was talking fondly about Cuba and Cubans.

    It's pretty hard to not see American Society as The Matrix if you're willing to step outside it and question how it "informs" and/or "educates" ...and how it reinforces such educating and informing through cultural mythology.

  5. Wow, it *is* 72-D chess! And nothing wrong with gazing. I figure that someone, somewhere with better knowledge of the details and who is s-m-r-t-er than I is going to throw down 256 paragraphs on that something. Why compete?

  6. Such power I wield; I have merely to scream primally (with mild snark to follow) to make Himself feel warned. I totally rock.

    Auteur Formerly Known as CFO: Marilyn Moors was the widow of my Unitarian minister, and yes, a Soc/Anthro prof at HotP. I usually attribute my anger to May 4, 1970; others note that I became noticeably and markedly angrier around the time of her husband Bill's death in 1976. Still others posit that it's organic, and I'm just a congenital asshole. All that self-gazing aside, yes, that sounds very much precisely like a course Marilyn Moors would've taught.

  7. Oh, and yes BFF, Quaaludes sounds a lot like Skinner, although Morganstern (the pseudonym, not the Jojo--and yecch to me for thinking of THAT) would also be a possibility if he had any ability to get a job. Which I'm not sure he ever did.

  8. May 4, 1970 is tough to ignore.

  9. True, but so's being a congenital asshole.

  10. Landru: Yeah 5/4/70 definitely is an understandable catalyst. The truest visceral origin for me would be that date, and a pair of related things from that era: (1) the Kim Phuc photo; and (2) my mother's cousin returning from In Country a psychologically destroyed human, though corporally intact.

    Sadly I expect we're going to relive 5/4/70 at some point in the next 5 years.

    Conscious thinking wise, though, I think the class at HotP (I forgot about that nickname!) with Marilyn Moors was the real start.

  11. Serendipity is the holyfuckingest.

  12. Grew up a mile from Roy's and I've never been inside.