Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Two poems from Felino Soriano

Painters’ Exhalations 90

                        —after Ella Guru’s Congregation

Staring into a body felt
by the unseen eyes. The listening

discerning pebbles placed atop lake
tongues, swallowed, —this is a talent

multitude hiding often in wrinkled fabric
the mind cannot mend until

light threads altered connotations. They a smiling

to the jazz inheritance full-swing method
riding the trumpet solo

away into imagination’s various homes
forming bodies with fingers

snapping echoes available for lengthy

musical interpretation. Wine glasses sipped dead.

Absence here means nothing

as in a crowd of anger, the sole smiling
forced to cower

within corners of malevolent confinement.

Painters’ Exhalations 92

                         —after Susan Constanse’s In the Aftermath

In the aftermath
absence curls its shadowless
monuments around the pupils
too aware of conscious perception.
             Chairs lined
criminal profiles with messenger
witnesses too afraid to sit
or compose facial feature
       Bodies reside here
only by name tiptoeing memory

   fa├žade panels
             the weakened room

for the dead to reborn selves

after dust dissipates
tabula rasa

to conception ensuing saddened death,
mother pounding questions.

Felino Soriano is a case manager working with developmentally and physically disabled adults in California. He is the editor of the online journal, Counterexample Poetics, which focuses on International interpretations of experimental poetry, art, and photography.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Are You There God? It’s Me, March Madness

By Brandon Christol

It’s March, and you know what that means: It’s Fire Prevention Month!

Oh, and it’s time for March Madness! Ah, March Madness—an annual tradition of buzzer-beaters, upsets, watching basketball at work while trying not to get caught, and—most exciting of all—lots of numbers accompanied by alliterative adjectives (e.g. Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight and Final Four). It’s an extended sports spectacle that grabs the attention of Americans young and old and fills the coffers of bookies everywhere. Sixty-four teams enter with one common goal: to apply the concept of Murphy’s Law to my bracket by losing if I pick them to win and winning if I pick them to lose.

March Madness is one of my favorite times of year, mainly because it features 126 hours of sweet hoops action spread out over 10 different days. But there are many other reasons to feel much gladness about March Madness:
  • You get to hear Gus Johnson call last-second shots. “Rises and FIRRRRRRES … GOT IT!!!!” Sometimes I spice up my day by pretending Gus Johnson is announcing my actions. As in: “He drives down the road, looks right as he goes to parallel park, squeezes in there, straightens it OUUUUUUUUUTTTTT … GOT IT!!!” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, or even if you do, click here, sit back and enjoy the beautiful rhetorical stylings of the third greatest announcer in the world.
  • The Chippens NCAA Tournament Challenge!
  • It means baseball’s Opening Day is just around the corner. In fact, the championship game often coincides with the Cubs’ first game (like it does this year), which is like having your birthday on Christmas or buying a house and discovering that it comes with a BMW.
  • It’s college basketball with no Dick Vitale. Why won’t he stop yelling at me? I don’t care what BMOC stands for. What did he say? The ACC is strong this year? I can’t understand him when he screams like that. He sounds like Kermit the Frog if he were afflicted by voice imodulation disorder and injected with some sort of serum limiting his speech to strange and ridiculous exaggerations.
  • Winning the Chippens NCAA Tournament Challenge!
  • One word: Drama. It’s Win or Go Home. There’s something natural and Darwinian about it. Teams play 25+ games, fighting and clawing to claim a spot in the tourney, and then all of a sudden—BAM!—a last-second heave from half court (hopefully called by Gus Johnson) can send them packing ‘til next year. There’s no best of five, no byes, no Bowl. It’s drama to the 64th power.
If you want to reminisce, or perhaps whet the palate in preparation for this year’s Big Dance, check out some of these clips:

Western Kentucky over Drake, 2008
Illinois vs. Arizona, 2005
Top ten March Madness buzzer beaters from ESPN

Enough already, just tell me what to do with my bracket!

OK, now that we’re all ready for the games, I’m going to share with you my unrivaled expertise and guaranteed predictions. That’s right—advice straight from the person who finished in a respectable 8th place last year, and quite presciently predicted that all four #1 seeds would make the Final Four. (Pay no attention to my 43rd place finish in 2007, in which I guessed only one of the Final Four teams correctly.)

While there’s no one team with a stranglehold on the title this year, I still think the sport is top heavy. I have two #1 seeds making the Final Four this year (Louisville and Pitt) along with a couple of #2 seeds. I think Pitt, with the talent and athleticism of DeJuan Blair, Sam Young & Co., will come out of the East and ultimately defeat Louisville for the title. I love the Cardinals out of the Midwest—they didn’t just survive the insane gauntlet that is the Big East, they won the regular season and conference tournament titles, and I don’t see them losing to a young Wake Forest team, a strong but rebuilt Kansas squad, or the solid but not-quite-at-that-level Michigan State. In the South, I think UNC will stumble in a shootout with Gonzaga, opening the door for Oklahoma. And out West, I have Memphis taking down UConn in what should be a great game.

Teams that could advance further than expected include West Virginia, Purdue, Clemson and Utah State, who travels to the neighboring state of Idaho to face a Marquette team that has dropped five of six after losing Dominic James. And though I’m a big Illini fan, I’ve got them bowing out as the victim of the classic 12/5 upset. While Bruce Weber is one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in the tournament and has had them overachieving all year, U of I lacks a go-to guard in the clutch. Plus, Chester Frazier, their best defender, is most likely out. Either way, I don’t think they’re getting through Gonzaga, though I’d love to be wrong.

But enough talking about basketball—bring on the games! Enjoy!

Brandon Christol is an assistant director of admissions at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill. To read more of his sports writing, visit his blog Wait ‘Til This Year.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two poems from Ray Succre

Fulgent Men

divide themselves young on a thermonuclear
regain of slussy or cwat or punt or tritch,
obscene term for female genitals,
with a crescent wrench hostility,
a gain of signatures from unfortified ponies.

Or as they think.

Deep retracted from this expansive show,
I've learned to hold hands, clean or vulgar,
hands, domestic or dizzying, rid of glary bits
and brimming with notice, and divide myself
to tandem memory, day by bang-up day,
as goes this less sleepy, stellar sort of me.

Dead On (Indirectly)

Contents_Hot thinks well of himself, per se,
and thinks you're the virtue circular
he met through an online dating mess.
You should know, Miss_Gourmet,
Contents_Hot spends Thursdays dunking
his costumes in Tide for the churner-paddle,
eating microwaved sandwich pockets
(the package warning from which he
designed his longstanding screen name),
and then gesticulating wildly with his genitals
while reloading downloadable content.

You will likely find in him a grand monologue
of dorkdom from feverish, ongoing isolation.
He needs you, you know, a poise of parole,
and would treat you to his restoration,
should you greet him more than the once,
tonight and blind, to the misjudge of pictures,
should you become happy with him and decide
to quell the chessboard of your seldom pleasing

You're no gourmet and you want to be in love.
He's an intuitive kisser-at-the-door, you know.

Ray Succre currently lives on the southern Oregon coast with his wife and son. He has been published in Aesthetica, BlazeVOX, and Pank, as well as in numerous others across as many countries. His novel Tatterdemalion (Cauliay) was recently released in print and is available most places. A second novel, Amphisbaena, is forthcoming in summer 2009. He tries hard.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Truth and Resurrection

By Megan Taylor

Newspapers everywhere are dying.

Mass extinction has threatened their medium for some time, and those that live on may only do so by way of evolution into something else entirely. What will someday be classified as a “newspaper” may, by journalistic standards, be a “publication” at best.

It is widely speculated that dinosaurs died off as the result of some cataclysmic meteorite crash into the earth. Just like scientists argued over the cause of mass extinction, analysts have their different theories about what ails the newspaper industry today.

Most often, we hear the Internet threatens to dissolve print media. News done a la Internet is instantaneous. Readers can follow a story as it develops, and, for the most part, it’s free. Advertisers may no longer think about things like circulation when considering their best resource, but rather about Web hits, which typically outrank the circulation of even the best of pubs.

Threat initiated by the latest technological advancement is nothing new. Imagine the fear newspaper publishers must have felt when television producers began providing viewers with live news coverage. But newspapers have proven that they can ride out change, and this should again be the case as papers contend with the Internet. When marketed properly, a Web edition of a newspaper can help bring in more revenue and garner more exposure world wide. Many pubs use the Internet to build readership and promote their print editions. Indeed, the World Wide Web is not what afflicts newspapers today.

If newspapers (increasingly viewed as archaic and dated) are the dinosaurs, then greedy corporate America’s mismanagement, and not the Internet, will be the meteor directly linked to their demise.

In corporate culture, making money is more important than serving the public. Pressed by a limping economy (which gains its crippled status through the greed of other corporate enterprises), newspapers have seen a significant drop in revenue generated through advertising. Couple that with increasing print costs, and newspapers executives everywhere feel the pressure to crunch numbers.

Thus, the newspapers let accountant types and advertising clods run the show instead of editors. Devoid of all passion for truth and journalistic integrity, these number crunchers make cuts in the most illogical places while spending more money trying to sell ads. They can hire more people to sell, but if the product is compromised, who will want to buy it? It’s true a newspaper also is a business, but it can’t be run like any other business, because it is not.

In these cases, upper management seems to forget that in order to maintain or increase revenue, a desirable product must first be established. When the product is no longer desirable, sales go down. A newspaper is like a garden and the editorial staff cultivates a marketable product. The fewer gardeners tending to it, the more weeds. Weeds are things like national news filler or national photos where interesting local stories used to flourish.

Back to the dinosaur analogy, let’s look at the evolved “newspaper” of tomorrow. Because of the pursuit of the almighty dollar, advertising executives now exert all influence over the editorial board. Truth is buried because it may offend one particular advertiser. “News” now becomes stories suggested by the ad execs about things like new products sold by a participating advertiser or a business’s 11th anniversary. The newspaper is no longer a force for accountability, but a white elephant advertising-for-editorial swap meet.

The new creature dragging itself out of the muck bears the semblance of its former self. But underneath its skin it harbors a fatal flaw. It will only be a matter of time before it is picked off by something stronger and better equipped to stand the test of time.

Let’s hope whatever survives has the pursuit of truth in mind. That and that alone will ensure the newspaper's survival.

Megan Taylor is the former staff writer for The Town Meeting, a weekly newspaper of Elk Rapids, Michigan, which closed its doors on January 23, 2009 after more than 30 years of business.