Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Artist Mystique, I Has It

See this? This is a link. The link will take you to the Artist Mystique. Once there, you can read their issue online. Be on the lookout of my poem, "I take Scissors to Newspaper."

See this? This is another link. This link will take you to Pyrokinection. Once there you will not have to flip any pages physical or electronic. Instead, you can just read the poem right on the screen. The name of this poem is "Bloom a Song."

This is a free service. Enjoy the lines. Email me if you are not having fun. Sovegna vos al temps de mon dolor.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Online Empire of My Presence Is Expanding

Getting published in other people's websites is pretty much all I'm good for anyways.

Poem up at Dead Beats.

Poem in the last edition of Guerrilla Pamphlets.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Louis H. Berman of Annapolis, Maryland Is an Idiot

Sometimes I read a letter to the editor at the Washington Post and suffer a minor attack of apoplexy. Unfortunately since I cannot go to a doctor for a cure and the apothecaries are all closed, I must turn to the next best substitute for leeches: a blog post. Louis H. Berman's letter here, buried away in the paper like a hateful jewel, is today's culprit. In a few spare paragraphs, Mr. Berman asserts the following about what's wrong with the Millennial Generation and while he spouts nonsense, in the process he reveals what is most wrong with the United States: namely that we have become a country willing to believe the most absurd and malicious lies about our fellow Americans. In sum, this is Mr. Berman's "argument:" 

1) Millennials are spoiled and lazy 
2) This is the fault of the Baby Boomers 
3) However, the reason for high unemployment is still not their fault.  Even though they were not in charge of Wall Street when it wrecked the economy, blame falls on the Millennials instead.
4) There are plenty of jobs for Millennials but they are too spoiled to find one. 
5) Millennials are supposed to "learn something" from their parents (who spoiled them in the first place) about what being in a real workplace means. 

I think Mr. Berman needs to go back and actually read the classifieds and want-ads some time. Sure there are plenty of jobs, but many require several years of experience and a decent portion of what do not are unpaid. Try looking for entry-level work Mr. Berman as I have, for multiple companies, in several fields, in different cities. It might be better than just talking out of your ass to tell the damn kids to get off your lawn. Now, you may claim that the Millennials are just too spoiled to take minimum wage, which was supposedly good enough for the folks of your generation. Remember that minimum wage was good enough for all of you because it was higher. A minimum wage job today pays less now when adjusted for inflation. Also, you may not know this because higher education used to cost a lot less, but many Millennials have college debts and need to earn money so that they can pay them off, debts they incurred in the first place so that they might not have to work for minimum wage all their lives.

I'm going to be generous Mr. Berman and assume you are not being motivated by spite, but rather an adherence to the just-world fallacy. In your view, unemployment is high because people are lazy and spoiled, especially young people. I hate to break it to you (who am I kidding, I enjoying enlightening you), but there are not enough jobs to go around. Roughly speaking, there are 3.5 unemployed people per each of the much vaunted job postings you discussed. No matter how many skilled people apply for a position, they are not all going to get it in this economy. The same applies even if they all decide to take minimum wage jobs. Have you been following the news? 44% of minimum-wage workers have either attended or graduated from college. I think we can safely assume they are not waiting out for their dream job. Their dream job is having a job. Mr. Berman, these attacks on a generation are a red herring, especially when you consider long-term unemployment rates among the Baby Boomers. But I guess they must be lazy and spoiled too, because of how the GI Generation raised them. 

This economy sucks. Period. Blaming the unemployed does nothing except possibly make you feel like unemployment could never happen to you. You seem to view joblessness as something that only exists for other people who must have done something wrong. Mr. Berman, this is a fallacy and an insult to the millions of formerly hardworking Americans who have been laid off in the past few years, and all the Americans of all ages, races, creeds, and classes who want desperately to work. Many of us loved our jobs before we lost them. Many of us have taken what we could find in the interim, only to lose those jobs as well. Many of us are the victims of discriminatory hiring practices that make it difficult for the unemployment to get work. Many of us graduated in the middle of a terrible market and could never get a leg up. Many of us have put having families on hold. Many of us have put owning a house on hold. Many of us avoid seeing our friends and family out of poverty and shame. Many of us go to bed every night praying for either a miracle or to be allowed to die in our sleep. 

And here Mr. Berman, is where I am going to engage in the same kind of attacks that you have, employing (see what I did there?) both the ad hominem and the gross generalization. Now, I am not doing this because it helps my argument, but because it is fun. You sir, are a dumb asshole. Unfortunately, you are not alone. The audiences of the GOP debates were filled with your ilk. You do not have any facts to back your assertions up, relying instead on worn-out narratives that have been applied to every previous generation. Despite setting yourself up as some sort of expert, you offer no real solutions to the problems you decry either. You lack any long term vision and fail to grasp the structural issues we are mired in. On top of this, you are callous. You are mean. You are judgmental even though your previous ignorance shows you have no right to claim any sort of capacity for judgment. 

Now if you were smart and an asshole, you would at least have enough self-interest to be worried about the true causes behind the problem of persistent unemployment because it affects you. Instead of spouting off against the usual suspects guilty of the usual sins, you would have some intellectual curiosity about several real solutions. If you were dumb and kind you might not grasp the nuances of the situation, but you would at least have nice things to say to those who are suffering. Of course, it would be best if you were both smart and kind, but I am willing to settle for the other two options if it keeps you from writing another letter to the editor at the Washington Post ever again. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Parade of Hits Continues

Still looking for a job and a way to punch my ticket to get out of my childhood abode. Currently reading a terrible book and not sure if I want to bother reviewing it or not. Being a member of the lumpenproletariat is no fun. AND YET I still get poems published. One even has a reference to Proust. Got to keep the synapses I cultivated in college still firing. They die people, they really do. If you do not keep them activated, one day you will wake up and say "My God, what have I done!" and not get the reference!  Nevertheless, go to the Aperion Review and Misfits' Miscellany. They are waiting for you. Also, I am mentioned here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In Parentheses We Trust

I have poems, poems, poems,
For you all to read, read, read,
Poems in In Parentheses
Poems in Humber Pie

Monday, August 13, 2012

Wax: A Book Review

Wax (Blue Star Books, 324 pages), by Therese Ambrosi Smith, is a novel set in the 1940s that mixes a coming of age story with a mystery. It is a piece of historical fiction as well, taking its inspiration from the struggles that women faced as they went into and out of employment for the war effort during World War II. It centers on the stories of three Rosie the Riveters who bond while working together at the Kaiser Permanente shipyards in Richmond, California. During the day they help to build the Liberty ships that kept the Allied effort well-supplied, while at night they grow close together and bond like sisters.   

Each of the three major characters comes to Richmond, California to escape the limited options facing independently minded women in the 1940s. Matilda “Tilly” Bettencourt leaves her family in San Mateo County so that she can do more then be a waitress at their restaurant. Inspired by an advertisement starring Katherine Hepburn, she wants to do her part for the war effort and make her mark in a world previously reserved for men. Meanwhile, Doris Jura decides to give up her life selling cosmetics in Pittsburgh in order to try something more exciting on the West Coast. She quickly becomes something of a celebrity in the shipyards for scoring at the top of the aptitude tests the company gives. Finally, there is Sylvia Manning, who is the oldest of the group and from Kansas City. She comes to California seeking a new start after a failed romance with another woman. 

The first part of the novel deals with their daily life in the shipyards, showing the difficulties that women came to face during this period, as well as their personal sense of accomplishment at helping the country win the war. It focuses in particular on the development of Tilly as she emerges from her sheltered and secluded life to learn the tricks of the shipbuilding trade. Even though her home is the closet to Richmond of all the characters, in a psychological sense she travels the furthest to get there. It might be hard to imagine now, but the Bay Area was not as always developed as it is today. Of particular shock to her is seeing a colored person for the first time. However, this will not startle her as much as when she realizes she has romantic feelings for Sylvia. Times being what they were, Tilly has to keep this affection to herself.

During their time in the shipyards, the three women learn new skills, gain a greater sense of their self-worth, and deal with their new found freedom by going to bars, movies, and clubs. However, there are still limitations to what they are allowed to do because they are female. Despite the opportunities that the war has opened up for them, the characters face discrimination in pay and participating in unions. Just like all the other Rosies, they also understand that once the conflict is over, they will have to vacate their positions in favor of the men returning from overseas. So it is with mixed feelings that Tilly, Doris, and Sylvia greet the news of the Nazi surrender. On one hand they are happy for peace and victory, on the other, they know it means a return to the world they tried to leave behind. 

Just as they predicted, work in the shipyards slows down and the three women are laid off. Their services, though appreciated, are no longer needed. Tilly and Doris decide to go into business together making candles using the paraffin wax that they came across while building Liberty ships. They will build a factory near Tilly’s house on property Doris has inherited from a recently deceased uncle. Sylvia, however, has no long term plans. She is interested in buying one of the trailers they were housed in at the shipyards and taking it across America to tour the countryside. But this dream never materializes. After saying goodbye to Tilly and Doris, she moves to Reno and lives a largely uneventful and isolated life.

At this point the novel shifts into its second part, which tells the story of Tilly and Doris as they adjust to peacetime and try to build their new business. Here, Wax does a good job of showing how difficult it was for the former Rosies to go back into their old lives. They had worked outside the home and had enjoyed the fruits of freedoms previously denied to them. Now they are all expected to put these experiences behind them. Even though Tilly and Doris have a plan to preserve their independence, they face the normal challenges of starting a company, plus the rampant prejudice against females in the business world. Luckily, they are able to find an understanding ally in John Callen, a local carpenter who helps the two women build their candle factory.  

John takes a liking to Tilly and courts her despite Tilly’s lingering feelings for Sylvia and the opposition of Tilly’s mother, who harbors a secret about Tilly’s true relationship to John. They date and John asks her to marry him, which forces Tilly to make a decision about what she truly wants out of life. Complicating matters further, Doris begins investigating the silent partner who also owns the land she inherited from her late uncle. One night, after an arson attack on the candle factory, a series of events are set in motion which reveal the identity of the hidden partner, Tilly’s true parentage, and a web of corruption that dates back to the Roaring Twenties and involves John’s grandfather, a local judge.  In the end, Tilly learns the cost of keeping secrets and decides to live honestly with Sylvia without repressing her feelings.

Overall, Wax is an enjoyable novel that is a quick read. It is easy to follow, particularly when the main characters become involved in the intrigues of Bay Area politics and real estate. Smith is a skillful writer and brings a forgotten side of World War II to life. She eschews both broad stereotypes and the temptation to turn the main characters into broad symbolic representations of what women experienced working for the war effort. Tilly, Doris, and Sylvia have their own personal stories and struggles. For instance, even though Sylvia is a lesbian, her relationship to her nephew and his death in the war defines her character in the novel more than her sexual orientation.   

However, the book does undergo such an abrupt shift in subject matter and tone that one cannot help but wonder if it would be better as two novels instead of one. While Tilly’s journey of self-discovery is integrated with Doris’ investigations, separating the two stories would allow for more focus on each one. This way the experiences of the women in the shipyards can be expanded upon, just as the struggles of post-war adjustment can be explored in depth. In particular, this would have given Sylvia more exposition, a character that I found myself wanting to know more about as I read the novel. Her experience as a lesbian in pre-Stonewall America was something I thought could be discussed without detracting from the rest of the novel.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Locofoco Memories

The Death of Locofocoism
A new poem is up at Wordsmiths. I know the website spells it differently, but the journal is Wordsmiths. The poem itself is culled from various memories I have of a trip I once took from San Francisco.

Monday, August 6, 2012

New Listing in Poets & Writers

I am now listed as a poet in the directory over at Poets & Writers. Hopefully one day I will qualify for a listing as a (prose) writer. I guess when people ask me what I do (for a living) instead of looking down on the ground in shame I can say "I AM A POET!"