Thursday, June 26, 2014

Watch it or do not, choice

For me it happened on my seventh birthday - when you see something for the first time that is much bigger than you thought it was.

The World Cup is in full swing, there have been little tragedies and heroic acts of physical ability in the soccer stadiums of Brazil.

While this is going on, people of Brazil are being trafficked, exploited and displaced by their government in a corrupt embrace with FIFA, I'm well aware of this. I'm well aware of the tax folly that is Nationwide Arena and the hypocrisy of college athletics. I'm disgusted by the bloodsport that the National Football League is turning into, which is causing many lives to end prematurely. I'm aware of the bread and circuses that happen around me daily.

Trying to be authentic, to not support those who exploit others in any way is next to impossible in this consumer society. This computer I'm using to type this was probably made by wage slaves, on a good day. There's blood on this keyboard and I'm not sure if I still have to hate Ani DeFranco now that Gary Oldman is the latest celebrity target of I do not like him anymore.

When I went up that ramp on that June day in 1971 and saw a blue sky, that huge scoreboard I'd only seen on 19 inches of black and white television screen, the greenest and largest field of grass in the world, I thought.

Loved the game, the sport but when you're small, weak and have glasses that fly off your face at any impact, it was impossible to find a niche. I was horrible at bat, average at best in the field, could run a little. My last softball game was about twenty years ago, when a ball struck me square in the face, I think it cracked my sinus cavity.

So I watch. A lot of football, a good deal of hockey, and some baseball. It took me almost twenty years to attend a major league game in person after the strike of 1994. For a year after I did not read a single box score or watch a game. It's taken me a long time to get over that.

I watch a lot of soccer now. been to a few Columbus Crew matches, even went to a game in Glasgow, which was not the same as here and amazing all at once. The culture of the sport in Europe is completely different, which is why the World Cup is such an incredible event.

And it can be violent, there is no denying that. But it can also be sublime, jaw dropping and incredibly sweet.

At the end of a day, or in the middle of a bad one (or even a good one) sometimes you just need to sit, zone out, and watch the greatest athletes out there do their thing. Do not attempt to guilt trip me into a while this match is going on a few miles away from the coliseum something bad is happening. Because, where I'm typing this, a few hundred yards away, I'm sure something bad is happening too.

And that's why I type this. Because remembering the first time I stepped into Shea Stadium and wanting to keep doing that keeps me going.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A gripping history and a fine story told

Finding grave sites of American historical figures, prominent and obscure, are a part of what makes me tick. What happened to Admiral John Paul Jones after he died in Paris is a story that Scott Martelle reveals in his book, The Admiral and the Ambassador: One Man's Obsessive Search for the Body of John Paul Jones. The man who searched for the body is Horace Porter, an American businessman and confidant of many political figures of the day who eventually becomes the U.S Ambassador to France during the Mckinley administration.

Martelle weaves a fascinating mystery the involves the Revolutionary War, Paris during their revolution and advances to the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and the McKinley assassination. All of which had minor and major roles in the burial, disappearance and eventual recovery of the bones of John Paul Jones.

The research is top notch and the story breezes along, like a good mystery should. There's a lot of depth to the main characters involved. You get a real feel for the life Porter had as an Ambassador and the lives diplomats led during that era. The story does not bore, but pulls you in. You know the body is going to be found but how, and when?

Really enjoyed the Hell out of this book. A fine read for history buffs and lovers of a good political mystery.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

While the rest of the country catches on, a morning in Columbus tells another story

I was getting my car repaired this morning. ESPN was on in the waiting area. Some guy whose tire was being fixed said that he did not understand why ESPN was showing so much soccer. I told him the World Cup was going on. He said, "Who cares?" I said, "The World." He then half jokingly said soccer was a communist sport before holding forth on the American sports of baseball and the NBA along with the John Cooper era of Ohio State football. MLS still has this to contend with in Columbus.

Tires rotated and balanced, tested it out by blowing by a truck on I70. I was well over the speed limit and the steering wheel was not shaking like a poor Swiss guy was after his country got their asses beat by France yesterday.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A new day, a new demographic.

A couple of weeks ago I received an application to join the AARP. I threw the letter out.

Today I attended the retirement party for a colleague who was moving on after thirty years. On the elevator up we were asked by another retired colleague when we were retiring. My former supervisor and I both laughed nervously. Times have changed.

I've entered my fifth decade of life on this planet and am trying hard not to focus on the bad stuff that is happening to and around me. Would have liked my Mom to witness her youngest son his this number, but that's not to be.

I have no bucket list because, like relegation, which I understand all too well,  it would only lead to disappointment.

My colleague was honored with some very wonderful speeches. One of which moved me nearly to tears, to have a boss that would inspire such a meaningful speech! Another used pictures to hilarious and poignant effect.

I've only been in the system for fourteen years, I have a way to go before I sleep, if it even happens.

It was announced that Gerry Goffin, one of the finest lyricists ever, died today at the age of 75. Here's one of the great songs he wrote with Carole King. You can watch it HERE.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The sunny side of rejection

The past week has been a fever dream of writing. Three poems worked on, which is something that has not happened in some time. I'm not saying they're good poems, but the accomplishment is more important.

In addition, another poem I submitted for an online journal earlier this year was rejected. So yay, feeling like a writer for a moment.

Two things motivated me to write one yesterday. First, a story about some long forgotten about Buster Keaton photographs which have surfaced and will be available for viewing at this year's Damfino Convention in October.

Then this article about how the Library of Congress is trying to get silent film buffs to identify actors and other film details. Film restoration and preservation fascinates me. I know little about the process but that there are few, so few, dedicated people doing this gives me hope. The future of silent film interest, that worries me.

So I wrote this one.

Empty reels

Black and white flickers still,
more often than not in pixels
The eyes of the stars had power
Their medium delicate, flammable
thrown into dumpsters
stored in unforgiving dampness
or left to crumble by dust making furnaces
Most is lost
Seventy percent of what was silent
eight thousand nickelodeon
pleasure dome features
Even the magazines, posters, lobby cards
dedicated to them have long vanished
Three thousand survived
This history, this portrait of the entertainment
our grandparents
our great-grandparents
did to keep themselves whole
is a Murnau shadow on Netflix
A keystone cop of disorganization on youtube
Our first celluloid culture
is dying of thirst
through lack of quality streams
Through viewer indifference
Tight fisted studios greenlighting
another superhero reboot
while avoiding preservation of its investments
Maybe Marty will keep saving them
Maybe they’ll make a sequel to The Artist
But with no audience
the only interest will be the museum pieces
the eight reelers of major players
With no strength of a supporting cast
that is quickly irising out.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Yes, I've seen that Oatmeal cartoon

The World Cup began on Thursday. It's not the Stanley Cup, the Super Bowl, Game of Thrones, a movie about a graphic novel, a sequel about a movie about a graphic novel, a reboot of a movie and its sequels about a graphic novel.

People on social media write about all of these things. All of the time. Sometimes too much, and then they complain about it. There are bigger things in this world happening than a sporting event, or a television show. I know this. People are dying, being oppressed and killed all the time and to live tweet that would put anyone in the looney bin.

My social media friends and contacts may not be that diverse, maybe they are, but they're from all over the world, and some of them are going to talk about The World Cup.

So am I.

And if my friends were as tolerant as they profess to be on social media, they would understand.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A pair of twos comes to an end

Today was my last meeting of the Staff Advisory Council at my workplace. I'd been a member of the council for two years and my term was over. It's over.

Today I resigned my position as chair of the Word is Art Stage of the Columbus Arts Festival. The fun was gone and the legwork wore me out. It was a marvelous two year run and great success was achieved. I feel I helped set a standard for excellence in programming events for the stage and believe that it can get much better. I am leaving on an ascent.

I wandered the stacks after the meeting, looked up where the books by the new Poet Laureate were and went to their location on the 10th floor. Sat at a table looking west campus and Ohio Stadium, skimmed through the book. Found a title that inspired me to write about something I have not really written about.


Monday, June 9, 2014

To everyone, and those I forgot to mention

If you braved the sun, came out in the rain, enjoyed the weather, bought a Lemon Shake Up and watched poetry that stopped you in your tracks, or came to the Word is Art Stage for any reason this past weekend - THANK YOU!

This year was a great triumph. We had crowds, we had poets from all over the state, we had dedication.

None of this would have happened if not for the efforts of the Word is Art Stage Committee. Louise Robertson, Scott Woods, David Winter and Gina Blaurock were the backbone of the weekend.

The stage though, the beautiful stage was finally put in place thanks to the efforts of Festival Director Scott Huntley. It took a couple of years, and I let out a bit of a whoop when I saw it. Because I had no idea.

The sound was great, there were lights and the poets shone under them!

I also want to thank Vernell Bristow, J.G. the Jugganaut and Hannah Stevenson for stepping up and doing some fine emceeing over the weekend. Louise Robertson and David Winter did double duty, hosting their hours and emceeing!

There was some excellent work read all weekend. Amy Turn Sharp has a satchel full of poems and more in her pockets. Eoin O'Brien brought Cowboy Poetry to the stage for the first time in memory and absolutely rocked it! Searius Add (pictured above) won the slam on Saturday night, a hotly contested affair that brought the best out of the six poets who competed.

There is so much I can say. We brought so much good will for poetry to Columbus over the last three days. We had a poet named Douglas Gray read. He won the contest in 1992 when the poets read during band breaks. Now look where the stage is! Douglas told a story of how he challenged the then Mayor, Buck Rinehart to a fight, there was no fight. On Friday, Erik Slangerup noticed Mayor Coleman and his entourage walking by and loudly said, "I'd like to dedicate this next poem to the political leaders of this city." Mayor Coleman laughed, pointed at Erik and said, "You better be good!"

And he was, both nights he read.

Sunday was an early mess. The rain was coming down sideways and we had to pull a poet off the stage to be safe. After a delay we came back and every one who read on that stage wanted to be there, despite the lower crowds (but short lines at the concession stands!) and unsettled weather. The kids from Flip the Page were awesome. The highlight of the weekend for me was Steve Abbott and Connie Everett of the Poetry Forum telling stories and reading poems from influential Columbus poets. Without the pioneering work of the Poetry Forum and its readers past and present, there would be no Word is Art Stage.

The Word is Art Stage is growing in poise and popularity. For the first time, the poet who won the Poetry Audition Jury Contest, John Croake, read Friday night before a headlining act on the Bicentennial Stage.

An opportunity to build on. The stage manager was very happy with how it went and was excited about the potential of more poets there.

Took a bunch of pictures, which you can see here and here.

Finally, though. This.

A girl who watched poetry in the rain, I could not have helped make this happen without my wife Emma's constant support.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Last day

Feel like George Harrison after the band played their last show at Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966 when he remarked on the plane right home, "That's it I'm not a Beatle anymore."

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Second Amendment Kleenex. Each sheet is imprinted with the second amendment. To be handed out at the funerals of victims of mass shootings.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

12 reasons the Word is Art Stage will be the place to be this weekend

1) We’re kicking off the Columbus Arts Festival old school with Actor's Theater of Columbus street performers Repartee performing snippets of theater from some guy you may have heard of - William Shakespeare. 

2) The good people at Thurber House, another Columbus literary tradition, are once again bringing over their teen docents to read from their work not once, but twice. Friday night at 5 and again Sunday at 1. They’ll be reading from their latest publication Flip the Page.

3) Scott Woods has assembled a group of poets who, for whatever reasons, did not make the cut to appear on the Saturday schedule. The Best of the Rest will be a compelling and inspiring hour of poetry. 

4) While this is going on, a first for the Word is Art Stage will be happening. John Croake, the winner of the Poetry Contest, will be reading his work on the Bicentennial Park Stage at 7PM. That’s right, we’re gently invading the big stage!

5) This year we’re honoring the past and have found four past winners who will be reading their work from then and now. The Legacy Hour will features Louise Robertson, Rose Smith, Mikelle Hickman-Romine and Douglas Gray.

6) New to the festival this year is Stand Up Poetry. Poetry is not just about your dead grandparents, it can also be fun and Andy Anderson, Izetta Thomas and Erik Slangerup will be giving out the belly laughs.

7) It’s not all poetry, we have some first rate authors doing their fiction, non-fiction and other prose works at 11 on Saturday and 2 on Sunday. 

8) Starting at noon on Saturday will be eight hours of first rate poetry features from newcomers, proven poets and everyone in between. An incredible day of diverse poetry that is sure to compel and inspire all of us. 

9) Once again, Saturday night closes with a Poetry Slam. Once again, Scott Woods is the emcee and he’s bringing cats to the stage who are going to be working hard. In the past, the slam has gone the Rocky Horror route. This year though, it’s going to be deep.

10) Sunday at noon David Winter is bringing some of the best poets from The Journal of The Ohio State University. Last year a first time poet on stage read a sestina and nailed it. Cannot wait to see what these students will bring to the stage. 

11) The Poetry Forum has been doing readings for almost 30 years in Columbus. It is the longest established reading in Central Ohio. This year Steve Abbott, Connie Everett and Rose Smith have coordinated a tribute to the series and will be reading the works of David Citino and Elizabeth James, two Columbus poets who left us too soon, This is going to be the highlight of the weekend for me. 

12) Closing out the weekend will be the Storytellers of Central Ohio. This group always brings a sense of fun, wisdom and memory as they once again spread the seeds of oral tradition.

The festival starts on Friday June 6th and runs through Sunday June 8. The Word is Art Stage is located at the corner of Civic Center Drive and Town Street, right next to the Scioto River. The festival program can be viewed in its entirety here.