Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Paranoid Police Helicopter Blues: a poem

Tonight, I lay in bed,
watching a French film from World War II,
listening to the incessant hum
of a police helicopter hovering
over my neighborhood.

This sound, the “whir-whir”
of police helicopter wings,
is pretty much a nightly thing
in my town.

My mom, who lives one town over,
told me that she calls the police
whenever she sees a police helicopter.
I never do.
For me, it seems like
an exercise in futility,
because they are always there,
every night,
hovering over my city,

I wonder what they are doing up there
in those helicopters.
Tonight, walking to my local bar,
I looked up and watched
a police helicopter hover,
without moving, for a long time.

It reminded me of a sentinel
from the X-Men, or of the 20-something
kid in “security” fatigues
who I saw standing, sentinel-like,
intimidating, in front of the administration
building of Fullerton College,
where I teach English.

I waved at him this morning
and he shot me a mysterious look,
which wordlessly said,
“Keep moving. Nothing to see here.”
Or the state police officer
I saw today at Cal State Fullerton,
where I also teach English,
wearing a bullet-proof,
kevlar vest.

Most of My Sins Are Indirect: a poem

Most of my sins are indirect.
For example, I buy a lot of plastic
because, let’s face it,
most of the stuff you can buy
is either made of plastic,
wrapped in plastic,
or bagged in plastic.

And then, I throw away this plastic
and it ends up in a landfill or the ocean,
which hurts the earth,
home to lots of living things.

And a lot of these plastic things
are manufactured in countries
with crushing poverty
and lax labor laws,
and the lion’s share of my money
goes to the American corporations,
and not the exploited workers.

So every day I sin, indirectly.

Another of my indirect sins
involves the taxes I pay,
which goes to fund things
like education (which is fine),
but it also funds US Navy ships which,
after they are decommissioned,
end up in Alang, India
to be torn apart by workers
at slave wages
and many of these workers die
from the poisonous metals,
or being crushed,
or other horrible-type deaths.
So, that is another indirect sin.

As an American,
it’s really hard, maybe impossible,
to avoid indirect sins such as these.
When you are a citizen
of the most powerful nation on earth,
every day becomes an exercise
in choosing this or that indirect sin,
like walking through a field of land mines,
except when you step on a landline,
you don’t die,
someone else does.

Alang, India

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Anti-Club Playlist 8/28/15

On Friday nights, I DJ at Mulberry St. Ristorante (aka The Anti-Club) in downtown Fullerton, California with my friend Phil.  Here's what we played this Friday, with album art...

“Bloodsucker” by Mozes and the Firstborn

“Friday I’m in Love” by Yo La Tengo

“Get a Job” by The Silhouettes

“Debbie Downer” by Courtney Barnett

“8 A.M. Blues” by Natural Child

“I need a Doctor” by The Drums

“Off the Hook” by Dead Ghosts

“How can you really” by Foxygen

“I Don’t Wanna Spend the Rest of My Time With You” by Traumahelikopter

“The Preakness” by Panda Bear

“The Digital Age” by Outrageous Cherry

“Hello Resolven” by Beulah

“Shine Your Love” by Gap Dream

“Bad Kids” by Apache

“Rough Gem” by Islands

“Bahdeni Nemi” by Omar Souleyman

“I Zimbra” by Talking Heads

“Red Tide” by The Growlers

“Darkest Eyes” by Colleen Green

“Birch Tree” by Foals

“The Prayer” by Bloc Party

“Gypsy Woman” by Brian Hyland

“Sweet City Woman” by The Stampeders

“All My Friends” by LCD Sound System

“California Dreamin” by Cosmonauts

“Fools and Sages” by Jonny Corndawg

“Back to You” by Twerps

“Mr. Lee” by The Bobbettes

“So Pitted” by Sandy Pussy

“The Chicken and the Hawk” by Big Joe Turner

“Electricity” by O.M.D.

“Nobody’s Empire” by Belle and Sebastian

“Society of Enoch” by Peach Kelli Pop

“Unpublished Critics” by Australian Crawl

“Lighthouse” by Future Islands

“Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Bob Dylan

“Bumper” by Cults

“Waltz #2 (xo)” by Elliott Smith

“Off My Mind” by Javelin

“Girl From the North Country” by Johnny Cash and Joni Mitchell

See you next Friday night at The Anti-Club!

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Qur'an Surah 58: The Dispute

The following is from a work-in-progress called The Qur'an: a Book Report, in which I read each surah of the Qur'an and write about what I learn.

This surah is interesting from a women's rights perspective because it actually asserts more rights and protections for women than previously existed in pre-Islamic times.  Thus, it goes against popular stereotypes that Islam and the Qur'an are totally misogynistic.  In some ways, as this surah shows, the Qur'an was extremely progressive for its time.

In pre-Islamic Arabia, men who wanted to divorce their wives could do something called Zihar, in which they said to their wife, "Thou art to me as the back of my mother."  This freed the husband from marital responsibilities, but it did NOT free the wife.  She still had to stay in the husband's home and could not re-marry.  This surah abolishes that practice.

The context for "The Dispute" is that a  Muslim man said to his wife the Zihar, thus divorcing her in the traditional way.  The woman then complained to Muhammad that this was totally unfair.  The prophet's response was to abolish the practice, in the name of fairness. 

Moby Dick Ch. 15: Chowder

The following is from a work-in-progress called "Moby Dick: a Book Report" in which I read each chapter of Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick, and write about what I read. 

Arriving upon the island of Nantucket, Ishmael and Queequeg search for the inn that was recommended to them by the owner of the Spouter-Inn: his cousin Hosea's place called the Try-Pots, which is famous for its chowder.  After much searching, the two come upon the inn.  The entrance is decorated with two giant black pots and what looks like a gallows.  Ishmael reflects upon the morbid signs that he keeps encountering: The owner of the Spounter-Inn was named Coffin, tombstones greeted him in the Whalemen's Chapel, and now a gallows at the Try-Pots!  Nevertheless, the two companions enter the Inn and are greeted by Mrs. Hosea Hussey, who serves them the most delicious clam chowder they have ever tasted.  Then they turn in for the night.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Women's Fashion 1894-1897

I spent some time this morning in the Local History Room of the Fullerton Public Library, looking at microfilm of the Fullerton Tribune newspaper from 1894-1897, as research for my history of Fullerton project.  I was struck by the advertisements for women's fashion, which has changed quite drastically over time.  Here are the "hottest fashions" from 1894-1897.


 There were far fewer examples of men's fashion, but here are a few images I found, which might give a sense of the kinds of fashions men were wearing at this time...