Monthly Archives: May 2007

daniel stern, rest in peace

on january 24th, daniel stern passed away. i missed this very sad event because i was in the middle of a very arduous airplane journey.

i recently opened up the latest issue of gulf coast literary magazine, and saw the journal dedicated to his memory.

that’s very sad, indeed.

i took a short story workshop from daniel stern as a sophomore at the university of houston. i quote things he said in this workshop nearly every day.

“the most important thing about your character is the guy standing next to him.” – d. stern

“get out of your character’s heads!” – d. stern

among many, many others. the list of authors who learned from this distinguished master craftsman could extend for pages and pages. also, he left us many, many great things to read.

i only just found out this morning that he has, alas passed away. i was actually looking for him to send him a copy of my first novel. now, i can only hope he is looking down over my shoulder and whispering in my ear, among the hundreds of authors whose prose was shaped by his guidance.

he was a good man. he was a wonderful author. he was one of the best teachers of authors.

daniel stern, rest in peace.


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i like to guess the flavor of a fruit by its name. especially ones i’ve never had.

the lumpy kumquat is a kiwi smashed into a puddle of rainwater and rolled into a wad on my tongue like chewing gum.

the winter melon i saw in chinese food, once. i think it tastes like snow white’s lips just before she woke up.

and the tamarind is a mystery to a suburban/urbanite like me. frankly, it might be a mammal in the jungle or the name of a mythical beast.

i think tamarind tastes like a burning orange. in my imagination, it sears my tongue.

i breathe golden fire.

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orange suede parable

i have orange shoes
a ruined orange suede
individual outlets for orange toes
all ten of them orange
my laces a mess, a big, orange ratmess

everybody stares at them
polite people ignore it, try to look me in the face
people i love (my mother) tell me
take them off
so you can be just like
all the other nice boys
with nice jobs

i can’t interview with my orange shoes
i live without black pinstripe respectability

(i’ll tell you a secret, lovers and friends:
these orange shoes are actually my feet)

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i, art-philosoph expounds a little

Think about art off a timeline for a minute. Instead of thinking about art originating in one location and in some order, think about art that never gets better or improves, merely discovers what is already present inside of the mindscape.

Any mention of Impressionism usually revolves around France, and around Paris, and around the late nineteenth century. Also, it usually involves a fellow by the name of Monet, Degas, or Manet. The paintings are clearly gorgeous explorations of the light of the world. Among the European bourgeois classes, sunlight seemed to be working differently than for the rest of us. Gone is the searing heat of Texas, and the distant eye of Siberia, and instead the light seems to splash all over the landscape in tiny photon droplets, luminous and bright.

The thing that’s happening in Impressionism is not just the light, though. This is an attempt at a daring realism that didn’t exist before this time. Gone are the neo-classical lines, and the paintings as allegories. Instead, Monet attempts to give us these slices of life painted in nature as simple as ships at sea or water-lilies blooming in a pond.

I’ll let more qualified individuals go into detail about the masterful brushstrokes used to create these visions of reality. However, I do think we should focus on what’s happening in the paintings due to these distinctive brush strokes. The strokes seem to suggest that the light is a glowing cornucopia from the people and landscapes present.

Think about art off a timeline for a minute, though. Instead of thinking about art originating in one location and in some order, think about art that never gets better or improves, merely discovers what is already present inside of the mindscape.

Now, how does this relate to the art off the timeline? Modernism strives to find the beginning of the beginning of the beginning of the beginning of the… You get the idea. In Impressionism, we have an artistic presentation of one potential beginning of all beginnings. In Impressionism, light reflects off of the objects of the world…

Of course, this beginning presupposes the light. So, I guess I must turn instead to Jakob Mattner’s brilliant explorations of light and sunlight. I guess I’ll call him the father of Impressionism. Okay, he’s still alive today, I know, and he’s certainly not in any way affiliated with an artistic movement that precedes the world wars, Foucault, Derrida, and modern photography, but Mattner studies the light that inspires the Impressionists.

Wait, Impressionism also presupposes an eye, too, right? Okay, than Newton is the first artist. He’s the one that stuck a needle into the lens of his eye and studied what happened. He’s the one who played with prisms and a scientific method to discover the composition of light.

Think about art off a timeline for a minute, though. Instead of thinking about art originating in one location and in some order, think about art that never gets better or improves, merely discovers what is already present inside of the mindscape.

Instead of viewing these artistic movements of history as dead and passé, approach them as the discovered landscape on a quest to all beginnings, all ends of all creation.

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no remix tonight

i’m at this conference, (i told you about it)

i went to this speaker talking about how science art is more art and not enough science. i began to guide him down the path, but he got a little impatient, and i could feel the room turning against me. this was a room of science-types, not art-philosophs.

so, i’ll put it here.

speaker talked about how science art is not reflective of science reality. how scientists and artists ought to work hand in hand to create accurate portrayals of the natural world.

but, he’s wrong. accuracy is not really accuracy.

he dismissed imagery of the cosmos that was captured by wide angle lenses and given weeks of exposure. thus, no person could view space this way with the naked eye.

ah, but the wide angle lens and long exposure is a more accurate presentation of the reality of the stars – even if our naked eyes can’t handle the reality that is larger than men.

he talked about how presenting the sciences with images that are so fanciful and unrealistic does harm to the scientific community by rendering the reality inaccessible and inaccurate and even impossible. he showed images of nanotech painted on covers of magazines with lighting effects and colors and shading – all impossible sub-molecular phenomena – and dismissed this style of art as a poor representation of the reality.

he showed his own piece (quickly, and quietly), and it was flat, unexciting, and a poor representation of the philosophical truth of nanotechnology.

you see, at the quantum level, the philosophy is the real. our eyes, our senses, they are the limited things, broken things, inaccurate things. our senses are not reality. they are interpretors of reality.

a common prejudice among engineers atheists and artists is this false notion that reality is limited by the senses. in fact, reality is unbounded far beyond the senses. to capture the philosophical reality is far more important than staying true to whatever foolish thing that speaker meant when he said “nature”.

in the sciences, the philosophy is more real than our own perceptions.

painting with a sense of wonder, and skewed nature, is more true.

i asked him, at the end of his presentation, how he felt his topic of science and space art compared to the explorer artists of the prior centuries. he looked at me quizzically, and gave his blustery stall until he came up with his answer, that these men were more photographers than painters.

i pointed out that in this case, of science and technology art, he is also more photogropher than painter.

he agreed, as if this was the primary point of his presentation.

and it’s not.

he and i mean different things when we say “photographer”. he says it like a scientist imagining the precision of the lens’ eye.

i say it like a journalist choosing how to display the wartorn countryside of foreign battles to make citizens care a thousand miles away. take photos of quantum philosophy, and pull them into our living rooms that we may wonder and wonder.

do not make them real. reality is gone. reality does not exist.

hyperreality exists. it is also an illusion, but it is an illusion that can change the future.

the room was not friendly to me. he was not as smart as he looked in his suit. he was limited by his own perceptions. he refused to think about the artists that painted the savage shores with the terrible giants and the sea monsters and the naked savages smoking pipes and the birds killed but posed in imitation of life and drawn again and the terrible, carnivorous teeth of the horrible hippopotamus, and all the hyperreality that fed the minds of men.

the mingled emotions of fear, joy, wonder, excitement, are all part of a photographer’s tool belt. choose the image that reflects the chosen reality. true Reality doesn’t care if we get such a thing correct.

if you paint like a scientist, you will inspire no one to be a scientist.

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remix, remix, and run

i’m running late to this conference i’m volunteering at

updates have been wonky, and i’ve been busy.

two days worth of things remixed into sonnets:

tin pan alley, remixed into a sonnet

boy, tin pan alley be the toughest: all
that whisky, wine, and gin. a woman screamed,
no hero, i just peeked around her door
poor annie beat down by a 2 by 4

then pistols shot – fat forty-fours – and no
one shot the pimp to save the girl, they shot
a gambling man whose dice forgot to count

“hey, everybody here be killin’! whisk-
y, wine, and gin!”
this cop all by his lone-
some strolled the lane. he stank like hussy per-
fume, hand upon his gun and he don’t stop
the shooters at the craps and he don’t stop
the bastard swinging boards. this cop dragged me
downtown like i was tin pan alley’s sin.

gambler’s blues, remixed into a sonnet

don’t claim to be no gambler, i don’t know
my dice from bones, but then my baby rolls.
know all of us how love goes? i’m down bad.
that blonde is my hard gamble driving me
to mad. was just a proposition first,
the good old give and take. then woman took
it all and i’m discovrin’ love’s no fake.

don’t claim to be no gambler, i don’t know
my dice from bones. but she knows who’ll be crap-
pin’ out while her sweet ass all come and go.
she left again this mornin’, didn’t both-
er with good-bye. some pretty girls, they love
you good, they never care ‘bout eyes. but i
still love my baby when she makes me cry.
my blonde be throwing sevens, and elev-
ens like a cheat. i’m feedin’ all these snakes.

right. i’ve gots to jet. see you at the international space development conference in twenty minutes!

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remix redux

poor lazarus, remixed into a sonnet

the sheriff told the deputy to go
find lazarus, poor lazarus, alive
or dead – oh lord! oh lord! – get lazarus

and when they found him, strung him up between
two mountains with his head held high, oh lord,
they shot him in the chest – oh lord! – with great
big great big forty-five that banged so loud

might scare him dead. they dragged poor lazarus
to town, they dragged his body to the prom-
issory gathrin’, people terrified
these lawmen draggin’ him with stallions, great
big men that left him on the porch, oh lord!

his mother sang “i’ve never seen a sign
like this one, lord! my son! my only son!”

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st james infirmry blues, re-mixed into a sonnet

i went on down to that saint james infirm’-
ry. quiet folk all watched with their numb yawns
hung black and wide like paper flowers ear-
ly in the morning mists, them fogs of dawn
and snowflakes drifting on the paper sills
their pains all icy fingers, sleeping pills

i saw my baby lying in the room
all sheets; my pretty baby taken to
the basement furnace fire where every low-
ing cow, and every screaming insect fold
their hand, and even lucky souls get tak-
en: chorus girls with roses, dukes unbreak-
ing. i thumbed down her carriage, climbed inside.

you’d best pour me some more of that hard rye.

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more things on the ground

walking from the southwestern edge of urban civilization to the starbucks just west of a mall, I encountered these things on the ground.

empty cans of soda pop and energy drinks, all caffeine and excitement drained from them and the carnival-colored husks smashed and sleeping where they all collapsed by the side of the road. plastic grocery bags, mostly white. the dead leaves of summer. lost rope. catsup packets, bled dry. cigarette butts, drained of smoke. ruined napkins. styrofoam cups in pieces. a day pass to benbrook lake park, presumed to be for a day that has already passed us by. empty box of condoms, all the lovemaking inside of them gone.

kyle shafer’s receipt from the dry cleaners (1 item, no starch) left on the ground as if his litter didn’t carry his name and location (“and someone else must have left it there, officer, not me”).

broken reflective partition from the center of the highway that’s been smashed away and thrown into the grass. there are no lanes anymore for at least a few yards on that lonely stretch of road.

two small pigeons danced on the ground like scared children below some decorative corporate shrubbery.

a wounded bee, struggling and staggering with only half her body able to move. who knows how long she suffered there before i found her clinging to life and incapable of screaming for help. i prayed for her a moment. then i stepped on her fast. poor thing didn’t deserve all that pain, all that fear.

two dead birds in parking lots smashed flat like feathered crucifixions.

a single worm flailing on the sidewalk, eyeless and ignorant of how come the soft, dark earth has suddenly become hard and dry and hot concrete. i gently nudged the worm with my shoe back to the edge of the sidewalk to help the creature slip into the grass, poor, frightened thing.

lost things. frightened things. dying things. used up things.

also, cars left in parking lots where the buildings are all quiet, all dark, all empty.

also, moonlight.

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the seven day banana waffle recipe

this recipe takes seven days to complete, otherwise the bananas will not be ripe enough to adequately waffle.

one must be careful in how one plans use of the bananas, otherwise no delicious banana will survive to the glorious seventh day.

ingredient list

10 slightly green bananas
2 large mangoes, one of them ripe, one of them green
a whole heckuva lot of oranges (any breed will do)
1 little carton of berry (blackberry, strawberry, blueberry, cranberry, etc.)
1 medium carton of cottage cheese
1 large carton of vanilla yogurt
½ pound of crushed walnuts
spray-on butter for your waffle iron
1 box of pancake mix.
at least two eggs
a waffle iron (I find it’s easier just to throw them away after one use. they are such a pain to clean.)
1 jar of peanut butter
1 loaf of wheat bread.
1 carton of vanilla soymilk (people who hate soymilk are allowed the use of whole milk, or some form of cream. if you use rice milk, however, your waffle iron will explode in a ball of fire that consumes your entire house.)
vanilla extract

day 1: since you purchased green bananas, you should be able to withstand the temptation, as we all know green bananas taste like their own peel.

day 2: combine a banana and an orange in cottage cheese for a delicious breakfast

day 3: put one banana in a smoothie with the mango and the berries

day 4: go ahead, eat a banana. you know you want to. but only eat one.

day 5: using one of your bananas cut in twain, prepare two lovely peanut butter and banana sandwiches on whole wheat bread. serve with a cool glass of vanilla soymilk.

day 6: aren’t you glad you don’t have to eat a banana today after all those bananas? chop up a couple oranges into some cottage cheese or vanilla yogurt. count how many bananas survived the week.

if you’re anything like me, you have exactly three bananas left, and boy are they looking ripe. congratulate yourself for carefully planning your banana consumption to ensure that you would have three delicious bananas left for your morning of banana waffle glory.

for the love of all things waffle don’t chop up those delicious bananas into vanilla bean ice cream with walnuts and maple syrup!

day 7: it’s waffle day! aren’t we all ever so excited!

take the 2 bananas that have survived the week. peel them, and mash them up into a gooey delicious mound of banana.

1/2 cup of vanilla soymilk,
a dash of cinnamon,
a dash of ginger,
a dash of nutmeg.
a teaspoon of vanilla extract
two eggs
two cups of pancake mix

stir vigorously.

depending on the size of your bananas and the weather, you will have to adjust the levels of milk and pancake mix to ensure the right consistency of waffle. as you develop your skill as a waffler, you will learn how to recognize the right “feel”.

spray your waffle iron with your spray on butter (also, and an important aside, never use this stuff as deodorant in a pinch. it feels really gross if you start to get a little sweaty, and butter doesn’t attract the ladies like you think it would. odd, I know, but the ladies don’t like the guys that smell like butter.)

plug your waffle iron in and make sure it’s getting hot.

use your waffle according to the instructions. don’t worry about how you can’t find those instructions right now. as you are digging for the instructions, the waffle iron will have plenty of time to heat up.

now that you have found the instructions, note how much waffle batter is supposed to go in each waffle spot, and how long that is supposed to take. after all, each waffle iron is a little different.

after each round of waffle, spray the waffle iron with the spray-on butter.

final steps: dice up the remaining, very ripe, mango, also if an orange survived 7 days (they never do) then use that as well. serve the banana waffles topped with diced mangos, crushed walnuts, and vanilla yogurt.

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