February 24th, 2006

ozarque figure

Linguistics; political language; more mystification....

Thanks to Andrew Tobias [http://www.andrewtobias.com ], I can point you this morning toward a long -- and mystifying -- article titled "Red State, Meet Police State," by Nicholas Collias, in the current issue of the Idaho Arts Quarterly. The blurb reads: "A federal employee gets hassled by Homeland Security for antiwar stickers on his car. Is it a mistake, a new rule, or part of a trend of the First Amendment being bullied out of existence? Read the transcript, read the rules and decide for yourself."

And the really interesting part is not the long description of the employee's finger-in-your-eye collection of antiwar stickers as displayed on his car. The really interesting part is the dialogue between the employee and the official. The link: http://www.boiseweekly.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid:158729 .

I was baffled by the Bush veto threat in the current flap over U.S. ports being run by the United Arab Emirates. Why would "the most powerful man in the free world" do anything so stupid?

And I'm baffled by the incident described in the Collias story, and all its clones around the country. How can the officials allegedly engaged in Protecting Us From Terrorism And Natural Disasters not be aware that the way you make something like a vehicle covered with antiwar stickers -- or a human being in an anti-anything teeshirt -- useless is by ignoring it to death?

Every academic learns in grad school that the way you get rid of the work of a colleague who refuses to toe the party line is by ignoring it to death. You don't put it in the bibliographies or footnotes of your articles and books. You don't call a press conference about it. You don't challenge the nonconforming colleague in public and write negative reviews of his or her books and articles. You don't invite the colleague to conferences. You rigorously behave as if the colleague doesn't exist, and pretty soon -- SHAZAM! -- nobody knows the colleague exists. This is Colleague Destruction 101. Bush and all his entourage went to good universities; they know the drill. Why do they keep doing things that are so stupid?

I suppose I do really know the answer, reluctant as I am to admit it. I suppose the answer has to be that when you want the public distracted you put on circuses, and that means lots of clowns. But that brings me to the question that really mystifies me: Why does it still work? After all these many thousands of years.... why does it still work? Why are we still so easily distracted?
ozarque figure

Coming up for air, gasping; writing science fiction poetry; a really bad poem....

Long long ago, in an early issue of Star*Line, Bruce Boston published a parody-poem titled "My Love Is An Octopus." I no longer have a copy of that parody (or permission to quote it here even if I still had it), but here's the ridiculous poem I published, also in Star*Line, in response to it:

And the Octopus Replies

My love is a mammal with a slimeless chest.
My love is a pink snowflake ... burgeoning.
When the gobbets purr we go into the closet.
The halftime show is slicing me in halftime.
The privet hedge is smeared, turgid, lovely.
Starfish flicker from our tentacles,
set the neighbors inking.
We eat anemones in bed and are stuck together.
Poets we leave lying on the seafloor.

Not quite as long ago, in this journal, some commenters suggested that there might be poetry so bad that it qualfies as good (which would mean that the Quality Continuum is not a line but a circle). The poem above might be one of those.

However, poems like this one are duck soup to write -- you can go on like that endlessly, with no effort whatsoever. I am dubious about the idea that quality can be achieved effortlessly.