Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hmmm . . . Should I Participate?

Ever since Maureen Thorson came up with NaPoWriMo, I've wanted to participate. Now the Academy is in the mix.

If I do choose to participate, it won't be through the Academy or as a fund raiser. When I wrote my poem-a-days for the month of August, I felt the camaraderie between poets, but I also had time to savor the company.

Now, in the midst of a new quarter, I'm not sure I'll be able to do a NaPoWriMo justice.

We'll see.


First day of the quarter. Sunny. Bright. Horrible classroom. Looks like a holding cell.


Long Poem writing prompts for my graduate class forthcoming. Basically, students will be writing one long poem. Some of the prompts/assignments will be generative while others will be revisionary. We'll see what happens!

Current Spin:

Great Lake Swimmers. "Pulling On A Line."

Shout Out!

To my friend, Joseph Legaspi, whose poem was selected by Ted Kooser for the poem in his American Life in Poetry column.

Congratulations, Joseph!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I can't walk and chew gum

Meanwhile, there's Anne Rossi playing violin, percussion, and singing.

Amazing that she managed to stay on the box w/out falling off.


Heading home today and praying for good weather. So far it's sunny in Mankato.


I'll see y'all in B'ham!

Friday, March 27, 2009


IMG_0573, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

Kristin Naca had lunch with me at Bliss Cafe.

Popcorn Ball

IMG_0575, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

A student in the audience gave me a popcorn ball before my reading.

Splendid Dish

IMG_0590, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

One of the Rick Robbins masterpieces. He's one hell of a poet AND cook.

Shiny Head & Shiny Workshop

IMG_0592, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

Here's some of the workshop crew from my week-long stint at Minnesota Statue University at Mankato.

One thing you didn't know about me:

That I went to punk rock concerts in LA like this one:

7 Year Bitch.

I think I actually went to the concert where this was filmed. I'm in the back somewhere. I had hair then. . .

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Riot Grrls.

Apparently I'm on a tough-girl binge.

Here's P.J. Harvey:

P.J. Harvey. "Man-Size."

A Short Break from Visiting Writer Duties

After meeting with students for workshops and one-on-one manuscript meetings, I had a longish break today.

I took full advantage of the respite and met up with the bitchin' poet, Kristin Naca who's now teaching over at Macalester.

Much gossip and laughter.


I just now finished up my two syllabi for the Spring Quarter. I teach my usual ENG 353, introduction to poetry class, but I'm also teaching a 504 graduate class which will be focusing on the long poem.

The dilemma with the 504 class is that it'll be a workshop. Run. A long poem workshop.

The trick will be to 1) keep them engaged in each others' poems and 2) keep them engaged in their own poems for 10 weeks.


Did I mention that I loved my Macbook?


Current Spin:

She's back to her punkish ways! Holy kittens.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I miss Sleater-Kinney

Check out Carrie Brownstein rockin' the guitar and Janet Weiss pounding on the drums.

Man, they were so good.


I'm still in Mankato, MN. I've been having trouble sleeping. I don't sleep well in hotels--a combination of the dry air, the pillows, and either being too hot or too cold. So I woke up at five AM this morning. I'm still in bed, though, feeling a little lazy and wanting to blog a little and surf a little.

Not that you care.

Anyway, I have to do a wee bit of work today--respond to a few graduate student manuscripts as well as prep for the morning's workshop. I've also got a radio interview taping later in the afternoon. All in all a light day.


I love my laptop. The 13" Macbook I blogged about earlier is as dreamy as it looks. It's so fast and what's more, it's got everything from my desktop computer. All my poem files are here as are all my music. The battery seems to hold up pretty well, too.

Some things, however, are taking some getting used to. The trackpad, for one, is great, but I keep mis-clicking on the "right-click" corner (the trackpad itself is the button, in case that wasn't clear).

I'm glad I shelled out the money for extra RAM and extra hard drive space. Both are relatively cheap these days, so if you're planning on getting one of these laptops, I recommend upgrading.


Gray day here, very much like the spring Northwest days. The folks here keep apologizing for the weather, but honestly, I like the gray.

I was telling one of the graduate students I was meeting with that gray was good writing weather and he agreed. You really can't go outside and do a whole lot. Just the perfect type of weather to hang out by the window, drink a hot drink, and write.


Bobby Jindal drives me crazy.


I better unplug. Free waffles are calling.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


IMG_0557, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

Rick Robbins swooning on a swooning bench.

Crazy Chandelier

IMG_0563, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

Note to Self

IMG_0565, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

This was a note the artist left for himself--If you can't read it, it says, "Deal with This!! Purple Skull Chokes the animal."

Oil Painting Studio Part IV

IMG_0566, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

Oil Painting Studio Part III

IMG_0550, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

Oil Painting Studio Part II

IMG_0549, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

Oil Painting Studio Part I

IMG_0548, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

Poor House to Palace Part II

IMG_0546, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

And this is the finished side with my host, Rick Robbins, walking towards the entrance.

From Poor House to Palace

IMG_0545, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

A reception for a visiting art history guy was held at this house in Mankato. It used to be the county poor house, but it's since been converted into this amazing house filled with bright colors and art. This shot is of an unfinished side.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Where I'll be this week

I'll be heading over to Mankato, MN to conduct some workshops, give talks, and a reading. Here's why: I'm the Eddice B. Barber visiting writer at the University of Minnesota, Mankato.

If you're in the area, I hope you swing by. The schedule's on the link.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Geek Chic

Geek Chic, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

Voila, my new 13.3" Macbook. It's actually more powerful than my desktop which is a G5 Dual Processor. The keyboard glows. Hum

Should be useful when I hit the road in the next few weeks--Mankato, MN, and then Spokane, WA.

I applied for a GAP grant from WA state this year, but I can't wait to see if I was a winner. Luckily Meredith and I got kickbacks on our taxes.


I've got a stack of 47 Bluebook exams to grade. *cry* I did, however, manage to grade 10 poetry portfolios with 4 more to go. Oh Spring Break, you're so close . . .


I should've filled out my damn NCAA bracket this year, but it slipped my mind. Really, there are only a handful of teams who I think can win the whole thing. Whereas in past years, it seemed there were a few more. My Final Four picks: UNC, UConn, Louisville, and Pitt. Yeah, I know they're all #1 seeds. I just don't think the #2 seeds are that close. And I think all the upsets will happen between the lower seeded teams.


Current Spin:

Ryan Adams. "Come Pick Me Up." Feeling a little alt-honky-tonk today.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I'm going to miss BSG

(Geek Mode ON) I’m trusting that many of you who read this watch the BSG series, so I won’t even begin to try to explain the back story to you.


I’m going to miss Battlestar Galactica. The last episode of the updated 2004 series airs this Friday. I am, in actuality, not a big television watcher. Yes, there are shows that I watch other than BSG, but BSG is the only show that I will watch by myself from start to finish. I am, otherwise, a fidgety television viewer.

I’ve had to explain to a few people why I enjoy the show—many of you bloggers are dialed in, but there are a number of people who just don’t get my passion for the series. I try to explain to non-watchers that it’s basically like The West Wing, except in space. I’ve never watched an episode of The West Wing, but such a pronouncement by me seems to create the intended effect. They get it once I pair BSG with something in the “real” world. My own parents can’t stand fantasy or science fiction. “Your mom and I don’t like fictions” is something I’ve often heard from my father when I’ve suggested we go see a popcorn sc-fi flick at the movie theater.

I understand why my parents are apprehensive about engaging sci-fi/fantasy narratives. Science Fiction, at its worst, is pop-philosophy that’s conflated with exotic words and ridiculous problems that are solved by science-lite solutions. The goal of the writers of bad science fiction is, ultimately, to impress with the creation of new worlds without firmly maintaining feet on the ground in this world. Sci-fi, though, at its highest form is brilliant allegory. BSG, is pretty brilliant.

The engineered “villains” of BSG, the Cylons are complicated “antagonists.” I’m putting the terms in quotes because lately in the show, they’ve become more humane than the humans who have created them. Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which was adapted to become Blade Runner, had similar concerns with its Cylon-like antagonists, the Replicants. Both Cylons and Replicants lash out against their creators. Both Cylon and Replicants seek to master a very human narrative theme—they are questing for a way to cheat death.

Additionally, so often science fiction is about mastering one of two other narratives—the idea of a utopia or the aftermath of a dystopia. Human societies (in most cases, human) are always flawed—the narrative eventually reveals how the utopia is actually dystopia or how the dystopia is created by humanity in the first place. Such a narrative, post 9/11, is compelling, blunt, and necessary. There’s an excellent article about BSG in Rolling Stone citing season 2 as the high-water mark of the show. The New Caprica shows place the members of the colonial fleet as members of an insurgency. In a memorable season 2 scene, a human colonial suicide bomber takes out humans and Cylons alike. Admiral Adama, played quite excellently by Eduard James Olmos, asks whether humans “. . . are worth saving. . . .“ My response, of course, is yes, but the value of BSG as a cultural force is that it beckons complication.

Here’s where I speculate about the upcoming ending:

Gaius Baltar is one of the most intriguing characters in the series for me. He’s a wonderful reimagining of Count Baltar from the original 1978 series. At first, I saw him as pure villain, but now I’m seeing him as something further. Could he be the holder of the master narrative of humanity?

His career in the show is interesting. First, of course, as scientist, he creates the downfall of human civilization. Later, he becomes a politician. Then, he becomes a religious figure. His career changes are so profound to me that it’s hard for me to take him as anything other than a symbolic character. Further, Baltar’s subconscious apparition—Caprica 6. Could she be like the muses from old? Here, I invoke Homer: “Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus/and its devastation . . . “

Will Baltar become the poet/historian for what’s left of humanity? What I know from President Rosalin’s dreams is that Baltar and Caprica are last seen in the vision of the opera house, carrying Hera. Could Baltar, the destroyer of humanity, also be the instrument of its rebirth?


I've got more speculation about the final episode cooking in my brain, but I'm finding it hard to articulate. Overall, though, I'm just saying BSG is and was a damn good show. I reluctantly watched it at first, having been a fan of the previous incarnation, but this new version is in many ways superior.

I'm sad it's ending, but I'm also glad that there's going to be some sort of conclusion to the series . . . that the acting can and will remain superb and that the writing will not find itself, like so many shows that last too long, tired and out of spark.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The "Transition Team"

Apparently, I'm the transition team for my parents. For the past week and a half I've been running around doing errands for them and it's cut my writing and grading time to shreds.

Meredith and I have been busily arranging books, DVDs, VHS tapes, and CDs into their newly installed cabinets. What's clear is that they've collected a lot of crap in the 32 years of life in the sticks of Eastern Oregon.

I found all kinds of crap--for example, a Newsweek magazine from 1974 featuring the Patty Hearst story.

Why would you keep that?

Additional head-scratchers--five magnifying glasses, seven dictionaries, five bibles, a plastic bag full of wedding trinkets from other peoples' weddings.

Then there are the hundreds of pictures of me littered here and there, between book pages, in boxes, sprinkled loosely throughout the clutter.

I'm going mad.


Out of all this, however, I have some how managed to get a nice television.


Finals week this week. Thank goodness.


My mini Macbook came yesterday. I couldn't hop onto the internet because I transferred the entire contents of my older desktop to the laptop. That process took 6 hours.

All told, the 13" Macbook is more powerful than my G5 Tower, which is crazy. . .

Love this thing . . . I'm blogging with it right now. The key pad takes some getting used to. There's no click button--you press the keypad itself. Also, you can rotate objects, resize objects, and right click on the same pad, depending on how you move your hand or fingers on the pad. Wild.


(Geek mode off)


Haven't written a lick for a couple of months. The big push of the quarter coupled with the parental move has left me with very little time. Priority, of course, goes to L's care. The last official day of transition for my folks will be the 21st of this month. Thank goodness.


Current spin:

School of Seven Bells. "Half Asleep."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Waiting for . . .

our new 13" Macbook.

I've had my G4 17" laptop since 2002. Never had any problems, but now it's clearly old. Meredith gave me the blessing to go ahead and buy a new CPU with part of our tax refund.

It'll be here between the 13th and the 19th.



I'm not going to g-cycle the older laptop. Rather, I'm going to leave it at my parents' house so I don't have to use their PC's.


Finally got the baby to nap. This morning was exciting. He didn't like the yogurt I was feeding him. He kept spitting it out. Then he grabbed it from his mouth and put it in his hair and his clothes.



Last day of the quarter--tomorrow.

Current Spin:

Antony and the Johnsons. Cover of Leonard Cohen's "The Guests".

At first, I thought Antony was a woman with a deep voice. I've been trying to decide if I actually liked his stuff . . . then I heard him cover some Cohen songs. My my.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My old self

My old uniform, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

Yup. My old EMS uniform. Just above it, you can see a Grey's Anatomy book and a Medical dictionary.

Ah, my past life . . .

I was just asked an interview question about how much the past creeps into my poems. In the previous collections, not so much, but now I'm all about writing about the past.


I helped my parents move some stuff out of their new office. The cabinet makers are coming tomorrow, so I had to clear out an area in the room. My EMS uniform was draped over a box of my old cartoon books---you know, Peanuts excerpts and Garfield cartoon books. I had a ton of those as a kid and my parents kept 'em.

Anyway, about this EMS uniform. Of course I tried it on. It was . . . painful, to say the least. I've gained quite a bit of weight and bulk since those days.

If you must know, I was an EMT in LA Count for the better part of two years. Not my thing, but it certainly helped me discover my true path.


I taught my last lecture class of the quarter today. Technically it was a review for the final. Of course, the students didn't ask any questions. Rather, they tried to lawyer me into reducing the length of the exam. I sort of caved, for a portion. I realized, I really didn't want to grade two long essays, so I cut one of 'em. That only means that the one long essay they have to craft is worth a heck of a lot more. Their fault.


Current Spin:

Arthur & Yu. "Afterglow."

Thin Mint Cookies

IMG_0507, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

It was only one thin mint cookie. Little did we know that one cookie would make such a mess.

And no, we don't usually feed our child junk food. He saw us eating thin mints and greatly wanted one for himself.

We caved.

We're awful parents.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Aw crap--Taxes For Writers

Forgot to send my manuscript to this contest. Ah well. I suppose I've been a tad bit distracted these days.

Reminder, Oliver--send the manuscript out this week.


Big tax break coming our way which makes me glad that we have our accountant. I've been with the dude for the better part of five years and I always get a good return. He's smart and he knows what questions to ask me.

The baby, of course, helped with our returns tremendously.

Meredith and I do intend to spend some of the tax return on insulating the attic of the house (which, by the way, grants another tax credit).


Every year I blog about taxes because I do think many writers are generally bad about keeping records that will grant them tax returns.

Things that you can count if you file as a writer:

1. Internet--you do use it for internet submissions and now you can actually log and track things that you've submitted online just by printing e-mail correspondence.

2. Computers, Printers, Paper
3. Digital Camera--Depends on if you have a webpage or a blog. You can claim it as part of your publicity.
4. Web Site Host Fees
5. Books--Use your discretion. These generally have to be "writing-related," but YMMV.
6. Paper, Toner, Ink, Office Supplies--Again, use discretion
7. ENTRY FEES FOR BOOK CONTESTS--Yes, you can claim this.
8. Writers Conference fees
9. Membership Dues--e.g. your AWP Membership fee
10. Postage
11. Some Research Trips--You'll need direct and clear evidence that this trip is indeed going towards your next book project.
12. Promotional Expenses--Brochures, Flyers, Press Kits
13. Donations--These can be books given away for promotional purposes, swapped books, or books donated for fund raisers. You might even consider your membership to the Academy of American Poets as a Donation.
14. Dry Cleaning--I laughed when my friend Rigoberto told me he had been claiming his dry cleaning, but by gum, he was right. You can claim dry cleaning.
15. Finally, if you use an accountant like I do, you can write these "professional fees" off.


To get you in the mood:

I really should be getting back to sleep but . . .

I saw this and laughed.

What does this say about me?

Scary Beards

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy. If I saw Will Oldham strutting down my street, I'd be frightened.

His beard has grown quite scary.

Friday, March 06, 2009

I so wanted it to be good . . .

If I had that power, the 2 hours 40 minutes of Zack Snyder’s grim and grisly excursion into comic-book mythology might not have felt quite so interminable. (“It will never end,” says Dr. Manhattan. “Nothing ever ends.” No indeed.) Also, an enhanced temporal perspective would make it possible to watch “Watchmen” not in 2009 but back in 1985, when the story takes place, and when the movie might have made at least a little more sense.


I'll probably see it anyway.


We were going to switch off co-sleeping with the little guy last night. I was to be the second shift. Meredith never came in, but, in anticipation, I was awake from 1:30-3:30AM.

My left eye is twitching. Thank goodness my parents will be here on Saturday.


Gorgeous weather. Too bad I'm sleepwalking.


Current spin:

Yeah Yeah Yeahs: "Cheated Hearts." Watch for the Bellingham, WA clip. Shout out to B'ham.

The Soundtrack for a Manuscript

I listen to music.

I listen to a lot of music.

I listen to a lot of music when I write.

Surprising, yes. Lots of folks can't write to music. I've always had some kind of soundtrack going on in the background. I like competing rhythms. Somehow the rhythm and melody of external music sculpts the mess of images that's flashing through my brain.

Anyway, this group is who I primarily listened to when I composed a lot of the poems for Furious Lullaby:

The Rachel's.


Now, I'm listening to a lot of folk/alt-country stuff. Perhaps I'm mining for narratives. Lately, I've been listening to singer-songwriter types. You know, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and some of the more recent folks like Colin Meloy of The Decemberists and Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes.

Conor Oberst.


Leonard Cohen.


End of the quarter--I've got a class this Friday, then Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Whew. I'm beat.

What's also been stressful is that the little guy has been waking up almost every two hours. Meredith and I are sleep deprived.

Luckily my parents will be here on Saturday.


My real current spin is this: