Sunday, November 30, 2008

Poetry Assignment: Gasoline

This one doesn't have a title yet (it might never). I approached the assignment of gasoline in a rather literal sense, using the car as a metaphor, in the traditional American fashion, of freedom. This one is a Road Poem of a sort.

Dusty road stretches to infinity
Route 66 blacktop, cracked and
Faded yellow lines vanish
In the distance, ahead and behind.
A blinding blue sky above
So sharp, like a straight razor,
It cuts eyes behind dark lenses.
Pavement below, rubber and road meet
Does the car move along the road,
Or the road beneath the car?
Does it matter? The rush is the same.
Wind whipped hair flying,
Laughter and freedom merge into
Ragtop dreams of speed.
Flying without fear,
Burning distilled dinosaur juice
Along a deserted trail, straight.
Last stop, gas and water,
Next stop? Beyond the edge of view
Somewhere in the distance, a place
Known but unseen, waiting for them
To arrive, below the horizon,
always just beyond the limit.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Poetry Assignment: Ice


He lay in deep contemplation of
The inky black dome overhead,
The pinprick stars, like holes
In a vast canopy devoid of warmth
He could feel his fingers and toes
For the last time as they froze
In the deep, Pleistocene cold.
His dog, black as the sky above
Crouched beside him on the snow
The gently tapping tail against him
As they lay together atop the vast
Frozen lake sprawling around him,
Receeding in the snowy, blue distance a
Treeline, so very, very far away.
He had surrendered some time before,
Indeterminate time, stolen by the cold
Any sense of progression and movement
Still as if the world itself had frozen.
He gazed to the infinitely receding sky
Contemplated the bitter distances
To the lake edge, the twinkling of cabin
Lights on the far shore he would not reach.
His only regret in this infinite
Struggle was that his dog would
Die here with him on this ice.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Picture Cleanup

Another picture I really like. Been working to clean it up.

Nikon School

Wow, what an experience! Nikon School is back in business, that's for sure. The course was taught by two professional photographers, Bill Durrence and Reed Hoffman.

Day 1
The first day was packed. There were 300+ people int he auditorium. But the screen was big and the audio system well setup so it really wasn't a problem. My biggest complaint was the chairs. The hotel chairs put my butt to sleep after about an hour. They were awful. But you gotta suck it up if you want to get the knowledge, right? So the first half of the day was mostly on photographic theory and the interrelationship between ISO, f-stop and shutter speed. They did a fantastic job explaining how "stops" work and what the relationship is between these three critical forces in determining how exposure is handled.

The afternoon session covered some basic aspects of the Nikon software and how it works together. They talked a bit about color management but it was pretty basic.

Day 2
The second day was the meat of the program. We started off talking about light and how light can be manipulated to enhance your photographs in a variety of ways. We learned how to use multiple flashes to turn an awful picture into an artistic one.

We learned about color management and how important it is to calibrate your screen when working with digital images. Then the rest of the day we worked with the Nikon Capture NX software (download a 60 day demo here). I learned a ton about how to do image manipulation to enhance and bring out the parts of the photography you want to enhance and how to tone down areas that need it. I learned about how to construct a good workflow for photo management and how to throw away pix you aren't going to use.

The class was totally worth the cost. It will definitely make me a better photographer. Anyone interested in learning Digital SLR technology or how to enhance and improve your digital photos will benefit from this class.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cleaning up old pix

I always liked this one.

Rescued Haiku

Here's a bunch of Haiku I originally posted on my sister site, Accidental Incidents. They deserve a home here.

My Autobiography

The arrogance of knowing
Beams from every pore -
A fool!

I am not wise enough
To write haiku,
The pen fails

Tender autumn journey
A child nestled close;
Footsteps crunching

Mud caked sandals snuggle
on clean wooden steps,
A rain shower!

Buds on a branch
Nestled possibility;
Snowflakes gently fall

Grieving husband bows
No more his wife wants him –
Tearful lotus blossom

I slept peacefully
Once again
Beneath old willow tree

Spring moonlight
Shines on frosted clover –
Morning gently breaks

Scratch, scratch, scratch
The poet’s pen on paper
Makes me poor!

A thousand lanterns float
Gentle breeze moves
Floating blossoms east

Forever is a long time
To feel one way
Without another

Noisy mountain brook
Cuts a rocky gap –
Carp make small circles

Cold moonlit field
Winter wheat sprouts –
A rabbit!

Nut-brown leaves tumble
into an icy stream,
My face distorted.

Alone in the moonlight
A small dove lands
Snow falls on pines

Along the snowy bank
Children's footprints;
Cold grey clouds

Stony path decends
To oaken door, barred
Warm fire within

Two boys sled
By the river bank
Mother turns away

Cherry blossoms fall
From the woody branch.
A child runs to hide

Fog hugs the pines
Gentle rain falls
A small boy walks alone

Cherry blossoms fall
To nestle in the soft grass -
Another year to wait.

[The next three were written in the Milwaukee Museum of Art. For 10 points, see if you can guess which artist is described in the 2nd one.]

The gallery beckons
Level upon level of art -
What's THAT supposed to be?

Green, Red, Blue
Panels of color -
A ripe answer to koan's Mu!

Karma is a force
That has no force
Beyond what we feel.

Snow softly blankets
Brown grass and weeds -
A jonquil!

As she drifts through my mind
My zazen concentration ends -
A delightful breakdown.

A gentle inspiration
In a shy, quiet smile -
Unexpected surprise!

Cloudy, snowy day
The cold grips my heart -
Then I remember her and warm up.

Without realizing it,
She has captured my spirit
In a little rabbit snare!

Threads of karma collide
And weave a new pattern -
Life is quieter now.

The wheel of karma spins
My life goes round and round -
Spin again!

A ragged cat sleeps
In slits of summer sun -
He looks bored.


Quick thought. Any book title that starts with the word "Toward" will never, ever reach the intended destination because the author is much more interested in the journey through his or her own mind than in the ultimate answer to the question. For example:
  • Toward a Meaningful Life
  • Toward an Architecture
  • Toward a Psychology of Awakening
  • Toward a New Psychology of Women
  • Toward a New Film Aesthetics
Need I go on? None of these books will ever end up arriving at the station. They'll get two-thirds of the way there and declare victory. So you'll have a mostly meaningful life, but not totally. Or a partial awakening, or maybe some rehashed old Film Aesthetics in a shiny new theoretical case. You get the point.

So beware. If you're looking for answers, try another book. But if you're looking to be taken for a ride through an author's thought processes with no hope of an answer, by all means, hop aboard the "Toward" express.

On Orgasms and Authors

You know when you haven't had sex in awhile and after a time, you stop thinking about it because it hurts too much to think about and even masturbation becomes a dull routine? And then when you finally get to have sex again, it's like rabbits on crystal meth? You know the drill (pun intended). It isn't so much a "quickie" as it is an "immediate-ie." But then you're able to brush back the cobwebs a bit and say, "OH YEAH!!! Now I remember why we do that!" And the next time isn't so urgent. There can be more care, more touching, more... foreplay.

I find writing is the same. My NaNoWriMo experience was definitely one of "immediate-ie" speed. I was through 53,000 words in just over two weeks. People asked me how I managed to do that. I honestly don't know. Once I was in the groove, the words just came. It was the fastest I've ever written anything which tells me I was "pent up."

All these words may turn out to be the wrong words, I'm editing now and there's a lot of red ink, but at least they're out there now and not rattling around in my skull like... skull rattling things (yeah, so sue me!). I won't carry the sex analogy too much further, but I have to say that NaNoWriMo was a literary and creative orgasm for me (a big one!). All that pent up creativity that I was recycling into snark at my office in the form of snide offhand remarks and disdainful irritation at my colleagues has transformed itself into something much more constructive. And now that the dam has burst (so to speak), I find myself seeking creative outlets like a writing nymphomaniac (Ok, now you've gone too far!).

The juices are flowing, the ideas are twiddling around in my head, mixing and churning and I think I can get some of them out, on "paper" and maybe produce something worth reading one day. Or maybe not. But I'm still going to do it if for nobody else but me.

Another year

A tear stained jacket drapes his shoulders
Dark blue on light blue, rivulets run down.
A pattern of sorrow etched in satin
Friends look away from each other
Their eyes will not meet for fear of weeping
In disbelief they wander lost
Joy to Disbelief
Disbelief to Desperation
Desperation to Despair
Despair to... Nothing. Hollow. Gutted.
Another year gone another year
With nothing. Another barren
Empty, pointless year gone.

Nothing to show for all the pain, the agony
The struggle. Only then to suffer the
Agonizing bitter taste of defeat beyond measure.

The ivy covered wall stands mute
The building is quiet again, asleep
For the long, cold winter.

Sun and Moon gaze down upon grass and dirt
A place of such epic tragedy, Ilium's sands
Were not so bloody as these fragile blades.
Ground trodden by warriors of passion equal to the
Heroes of old; Achilles, Hector, Paris, Odysseus
Smiling to themselves that a people of such
Lofty aspirations, a century old, such soaring ambition
Would fall so quickly into a black lustrous oblivion.

A people in shock, dimly alive stare ahead without sight
Gazes do not cross, lover's eyes estranged from passion
A flame extinguised.

The silent frozen street's muted colors mix with rancid odors
Wafting from iron grates like prison bars embedded in
The filthy asphalt holding at bay phantoms unseen.
City dwellers slouch through the day as if sleeping or dead
Another year gone with nothing to show. Another year.

"Fucking Cubs."
"Just wait 'till next year!"

Pulled this one together at breakfast in the hotel this morning. I had the basic framework in my head by the time I finished eating. I added the Ilium stuff later since it seemed a good analogy. Modern sports are our "war" and when I think war, I think Ancient Greece. What's wrong with me?

The inspiration came from a guy I saw at breakfast. He was decked out in Cubs regalia (hat, t-shirt, satin jacket, all with some Cubs logo) and he was the saddest looking guy I've seen in a long time. I don't know whether he's still pining for the lost Cubbies, but it put me back in the mind of watching the playoffs again and what Amy and I went through watching the Breweres. He was sitting there in his Cubs stuff, it made me wonder what it would have been like to be a Cubs fan and to have made it through the whole season with the best record in baseball, then to drop 4 straight to the Dodgers. Not even win a GAME!

Even my little Brewers managed to take a game from the World Champion Philies this year. That's enough to hang your hat on during the off season, something to keep the fires banked and the coals warm until spring training. But to have had such a season as the Cubbies had and then to fall apart when it mattered, that would, in a word, suck. But Chicago, for all it's "huskiness" and "big shoulders," is an optimistic place and the streets will warm up and the Cubs will return in the spring and will again do battle with Hector, Achilles and all the others vying for that World Series Championship Ring.

Here's a excerpt from Chicago by Carl Sandburg which sums up the city quite well. You can find the entire volume of Chicago Poems online.

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it
is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to
kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the
faces of women and children I have seen the marks
of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who
sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer
and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing
so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on
job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the
little soft cities;

A tall bold slugger indeed.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What to do with defective parts?

"When life hands you cogs, make robots!"

Man, this one just popped into my head yesterday from nowhere. I think it's kinda cute. I was listening to the song Machinehead by Bush at the time so you do the math... (I was told there would BE no math!)

Love on a Patch of Ice

A brief chuckle under his breath
As she slips on the ice he
So deftly avoided
With a move like Fred Astaire
In jeans and parka and gloves
Puffy arm plucks her
From assured catastrophe.

"Thank you!"
Soft down in clenched fists
"You saved my ass."
He looks her in the eyes
Without smiling
"It was an ass worth saving."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Price of Recession

He came home that night
Quiet, don't wake the family
Shoes off, sliding on socks
Like when he was young
When things were simpler
And a man could provide

Slide through the kitchen
And down the hall to the cellar door
Quiet as a wraith, silent shade
No sound as he descends
The old wooden stairs

Concrete floor, cold through socks
Sapping his energy with icy fingers pulling
Down into the cold earth, cold ground
Drawing him down to rest

To the workbench he moves
His father's tools arrayed before him
Surrounded by the past, what matters most
Invisible to the future, what should have been
He bows his head in shame.

In his pocket a handwritten note and
A crumpled form letter on letterhead
"Due to the economy we are forced
To release you effective immediately"
18 years a working man, never questioned
What he was supposed to do
Never asked for more than his due
Not yet 40

The stillness of the dark is broken
Quiet night cracked open by
A single shot. The dog barks in his pen
Tearing at the fence with ragged teeth
Desperate to be free, released from this snare.

A New Picture (2004)

Cleaning out one's home directory is a little like cleaning out an attic. You never know what you'll find. This piece, for example, from 2004.

I found a new picture
of you
In a place I didn’t know I could see,
Beyond the rim of eternity
Tumbled-down twisted
Embattled and scarred
Your grey eyes
Exactly as I remembered them

Startling electric remarkable
I thought
Of how much you’d changed
So little
And the spark of
and of
Swelled in my heart.

The ensnared wings of my desire
Frustrated and restrained
Unable to rise
to soar
to escape

Daedalus’ admonition ringing in my ears
Cruel and tender bonds of fear
Soft and sharp as new silk thread
Wrapped gently (with love)
To entwine my haggared wings
In a web
A cocoon
Of despair
The bottomless ache
That knows no respite
Or relief

Captivity eludes the veil of
Your soft smile

I feel your brittle heart
Straining for release
To give birth to an explosive passion
And the eruption of a terrible volcano
I sit encamped on Vesuvius
Awating your liquid fire.

I rise desperate to burn in your love
Awash in your heat
Awash in your unquenched desire
Desire matched only by my fear
And my weakness to resist the onrushing pain.
Entombed with a bittersweet longing
For you
With only a wish to be cast adrift
In the firestorm of your heart

I found a new picture
of you
In a place I didn’t know I could see
Beyond the rim of eternity
Tumbled-down twisted
Embattled and scarred
Your grey eyes
Exactly as I remembered them

Billie and Me

Husky and sad
She fills a room
Like the smoke
Of countless cigarettes
Wet, dark night outside
Hot bandstand shadows
In a Spotlight
Eyes closed
Haunting me now
Caressing the air
With your sultry ways
I heard you and fell
A long way down

Monday, November 17, 2008

Welcome to Accidental Literature

This is the companion site to my political blog, Accidental Incidents. I hope you enjoy it.