Exhibit 4.15

You should know this: You can download Rex Hobart & The Misery Boys albums for $5.99 on Amazon. And there's no copy protection. And it's an incredibly slick interface that automatically adds everything to iTunes (or WMP).

Amazon's Rex Hobart store is pretty damn nice. They might have other music too, maybe.

Exhibit 4.14

Countdown to GRE Literature Subject Test.

Days left until test: 3
Special Halloween Edition
Halloween Movies as GRE Literature Questions:

After they discover their Aunt Sophie has been imprisoned by their evil Aunt Agatha and that only a set of twins can break the spell, Mary Kate and Ashley set out to free their good aunt with the help of a magic wand.

This accurately describes:
A) "The World Is Too Much with Us"
B) The Wife of Bath's Tale
C) Double, Double, Toil and Trouble
D) Their Eyes Were Watching God
E) The Aeneid

The following are characters: Man Attendant, Dr. Sam Loomis, Power Worker, Sheriff Ben Meeker, Security Guard, Jamie Lloyd.

These are characters from:
A) Halloween II
B) Halloween III: Season of the Witch
C) Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers
D) Halloween H2O
E) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Patrick said to his sister, "We need a virgin who speaks German to read the incantation that will get rid of all of these monsters." His sister replied, "I'm failing German." Patrick tells her to read the incantation anyway. When nothing happens, he asks if she's a virgin. "Well," she says, "there's Steve, but he doesn't count."

Also, "Wolfman's got nards."

This excerpt is from:
A) The Way of the World
B) one of The Leatherstocking Tales
C) "In Memoriam A.H.H."
D) The Monster Squad
E) Vanity Fair


Exhibit 4.13

Countdown to GRE Literature Subject Test.

Days left until test: 4
Movies based on books watched starring Helena Bonham Carter: 2
Origin of Jeremy Northam's accent in The Golden Bowl: Indeterminate
Who would win in a fight between Tennyson and Ben Jonson: Tennyson by sleeper hold
Amount of willpower it is taking to not rush out and buy the complete Twin Peaks until after the test: A Lot
Best title found that won't be on the test: The Riddle of Man-Manly Love
Hits I hope to get from the phrase 'Man-Manly Love': 3
Moby Dick: Long
William Blake: Songs of Dead
Worrying racial/religious views: Everyone
Uranian: Most Everyone
Papist: Some
Vampire: Lord Byron
Zombie: Andrew Marvell


Exhibit 4.12

Countdown to GRE Literature Subject Test.

Days left until test: 5
Things I knew about Elizabeth Barrett Browning: 0
Things I know about Elizabeth Barrett Browning: 1 million
Number of authors who if I had been asked when they were alive I would have been off by more than 100 years: 5 (um, sorry, Thomas Gray and others)
William Blake: Dead
Time wasting blog posts: 1
The most shocking date of death: E.M. Forster 1970 (can you imagine him listening to Janis Joplin or watching the moon landing? It just seems wrong. But, if we know anything, it's that wikipedia is never wrong).


Exhibit 4.11

By popular demand:

That's your hand in the corner.


Exhibit 4.10

As if there wasn't already a fantastic poetry reading this week, The Clean Part Reading Series is back with another absurdly great lineup of poets.

Ana Bozicevic-Bowling
Julia Cohen
Ken Rumble

The triumvirate will not only read incredible verse to a packed house, they will also take on all comers in three-on-three basketball. They're that good.

Be there: Saturday, October 27 at the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, 7pm.

(P.S. In case you haven't been paying attention, poets that will have read in Lincoln, Nebraska in the year 2007: Bozicevic-Bowling, Cohen, Rumble, Tynes, Bredle, Arrieu-King, Lasky, Foust, Hawkey, Poteat, Titus, Sims, Bar-Nadav, Dumanis, Florian, Browning, Doxsee, Campbell, Nakayasu, Dunn, and that list is hardly complete nor does it take into account all of the fantastic poets who read at the No-Name Reading Series or the Nebraska Summer Writers' Conference or those brought in by UNL. Nice work, Poetry).


Exhibit 4.9

So there was a possum in the backyard tonight. It scared the dogs/me. The possum seemed pretty nonplussed by all their/my barking.

I didn't even know that a possum showing up in the yard was a possibility. Turns out it is. He seemed nice.

The last picture on the camera before all of the possum shots was this one:

I honestly don't know if this blog could get any worse.

Exhibit 4.8

Buck O'Neil

This week's long overdue correction of a national shame is that the Hall of Fame announced a Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award that will be given out a maximum of once out of every three years to "an individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball's positive impact on society, has broadened the game's appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O'Neil." Appropriately, the first winner is O'Neil who they will honor with a large statue outside the entrance to Cooperstown. This almost makes up for the tragic way they denied him a spot in the Hall during the last year of his life.

If you don't know anything about Buck, read his wikipedia entry or Joe Posnanski's book on him. Basically, he was a great Negro League player and manager, the first African-American manager in the MLB, a long-time scout who discovered and mentored some of the all-time greats, and the man who almost single-handily created the Negro League museum in KC and kept the legacy of the Negro League alive.

In my opinion, he's one of the 5 or 10 most important people in baseball history, an embodiment of everything that's great about the game. Yet somehow when the Hall of Fame got around to inducting a group of players, managers, owners, and coaches from the Negro Leagues in 2006--something Buck led the fight for--he didn't get enough votes (this would be the equivalent of creating a Hosts of Saturday Night Live Hall of Fame and not inducting Alec Baldwin). At the time he said, "God's been good to me. They didn't think Buck was good enough to be in the Hall of Fame. That's the way they thought about it and that's the way it is, so we're going to live with that. Now, if I'm a Hall of Famer for you, that's all right with me. Just keep loving old Buck. Don't weep for Buck. No, man, be happy, be thankful."

Always a man of class, Buck O'Neil gave the induction speech for the 17 people they did induct that year. He was dead 6 months later.

MLB was humiliated with what happened to Buck as there was no other way to elect him into the Hall (short of ignoring procedure and doing it by fiat) so I guess this award/statue is their solution. Honestly, it's a pretty good one. Buck deserved better while he was alive, but, as he would be the first to remind everyone, it was never about him.

Maybe it's just because Buck is Kansas City baseball--even more than, say, George Brett--but I feel a little better about things today. Let's end this by watching Buck sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," a Kauffman Stadium tradition.

If that didn't give you chills, you might be dead.

Check out the next edition of correcting a national shame where we discuss the return of habeus corpus some time around 2009.


Exhibit 4.7

Some actual lines from a book on Hypno Writing that found its way onto my desk:

  • "Here's my famous letter...it's considered Hypno Writing at its best. Later on you'll get to analyze this letter, but for now, just copy it in your own handwriting. Exercise: Copy this letter in your own handwriting."
  • "When you use similes, you can make your own words 'fall softly as rose petals,' 'gush out like toothpaste,' 'string and creep like insects!'" [Ed note: Thanks to the book Hypno Editing, I was able to spot the typo in 'string'. Or maybe he was referring to the Western String Beetle.]
  • "Also within you is a wiser part called Self Two, the Master."
  • "My biggest secret: I DON'T DO THE WRITING! Shocked? What I mean is, I command or request the writing from my unconscious."
  • "Studies show that the postscript is the most often read part of any letter."
  • "The truth is, I did not have a fight with my neighbor."
  • "Well, let me blow your mind. Is the image moving? Actually, it's not moving at all."
  • "These writers are 'vegetarians' because their writing lacks meat."
  • "There is a subtle link connecting your brain with your hand that enables you to convey what you see..."
  • "What? A case against perfection? Again, I'm not urging you to crank out crap."
  • "On the blog, I placed an actual picture of Lindsey Lohan, which helped people pay attention to my writing."
  • "I now own those automatons." [Ed note: Against all odds, this is referring to actual mechanical automatons.]
There is a sentence like these on every page.


Exhibit 4.6

So this is bizarre.

I apparently now have a page on Creighton University's Nebraska Center for Writers which is a little embarrassing as I don't really have anything to offer anyone--including the two of you reading this--and certainly shouldn't be mentioned as a representative (no matter how insignificant) of any municipality or state.

I've been to the page recently (it is, sadly, a good way to spend the last hour of work) and I certainly wasn't on there before. Ignoring for a second the question of who told them about me, I really want to rewrite my bio so it doesn't mention my tiny moments but instead mentions my sterling Nebraska credentials.

Things I might mention:

  • Really like Amigos.
  • Once had allergic reaction at Fort Robinson.
  • Know that Kanye West's song "The Good Life" is about Alma.
  • Have been to Alma.
  • As a boy, worried that Omaha would get blown up by the Soviets due to SAC.
  • Can say things like, "Is that by Alliance?" with credibility.
  • Have also been to Alliance. (It's by Alma).
  • Have seriously looked forward to going to the Sidney Cabelas then felt slightly out-of-place when given complementary rubber worm.
  • Told a joke about Scott Frost getting angry and throwing a Coke at a reporter but overthrowing him by 5 yards. (1995)
  • Once stood in line at a grocery store to get Scott Frost's autograph. (1998)
  • Know that Alliance isn't really by Alma.
  • I can pretend to like Runza.

I mean, those are pretty solid credentials. Can you beat that Mignon Eberhardt?

Exhibit 4.5

Congratulations to my brother and his new fiancé. Everyone go to their myspace pages where you can listen to Old Crow Medicine Show and Justin Timberlake, respectively. It's just crazy enough to work.

Oh, Jeff and Katie. You may have been the 42nd Jeff Pete and 12th Katie P to have registered on myspace, but you're both the first to register in our hearts.

There, I said it. We were all thinking it.

Exhibit 4.4


This week, you will continue to enjoy NE Wesleyan's great series of poetry readings with Christian Hawkey reading Wednesday at 7:00 in the Callen Conference Center. Also, you'll meet someone new. (It's probably Christian Hawkey).


Exhibit 4.3

This is what I've been working on while trying not to get sucked into a long project while ostensibly studying for the GRE-Lit. How watching Heroes fits into this plan I'm not sure.

The flasher makes French toast.

He makes it in his neighbor’s kitchen because the flasher doesn’t have bread or eggs or recipe or cinnamon or butter or confidence or skillet or honey or fork. His neighbor wakes at the smell and she makes coffee. It steams his sunglasses as they eat in the veranda.

The flasher thinks about Utah.

He can taste the dirt, hear the tall rocks, and punch the lake. Sometimes he thinks about New Mexico.

They're about a flasher. In case that wasn't clear.


Exhibit 4.2

I suppose now is as good a time as any to mention that I have a chapbook of short prose pieces titled My Untimely Death coming out this December from Subito Press. It's a pretty slick looking website they've recently put up, and I'm excited to see how the book turns out. I want to give you one. You and your parents.

I'll probably mention this again. I apologize in advance.


Exhibit 4.1

So for about two weeks now, a battle has been raging in the Lincoln Journal Star's letters to the editor page about an article that was published in Spanish (because it was of particular importance to the Spanish-speaking community). Most of the letters were the usual, "I don't pay for a Spanish paper!" followed up by those outraged at the racist and xenophobic nature of the earlier letters. And so on.

The best part of all of this is, of course, the comments section where the argument has continued unabated day after day. I guess there's not much value in pointing out the tragic hilarity of most of these comments, but these two in particular were pretty great yesterday:

  • "This is America. We speak ENGLISh here. If you don't like it, LEAVE!! Like the Australians said, "This is OUR country, and if you don't like they way we do things, LEAVE NOW!"

I don't know why this cracks me up so much, but I just love the idea that the Australians all got together and issued a statement like this, especially since it is unclear what they do that newcomers might find objectionable. Could this statement have resulted after a New Zealander put too many shrimp on the barbie? Someone wasn't up for a game of knifey-spooney? A steakhouse manager created rules, not right?

My new rhetorical strategy is to just back up every position with quotes from the Australians.

You: I think things are getting better.
Me: Like the Australians said, "Gonna be a long night."

You: I don't know if I want to go with you.
Me: Like the Australians said, "Least you can do is come see me get my head blown off."

You: All you ever say to me are quotes from Crocodile Dundee II.
Me: Like the Australians said, "This Dundee likes to play games."

You: I feel lonely.

There's also this one:

  • "No one has come up with an answer as to why I (personal myself) have to learn Spanish. I don't know how to play golf, speak Italian (although church services are in Italian), ballet dance etc....So unless you can come up with an important reason why I (personally) need to learn Spanish, then quit trying to tell me I do. I would rather learn cake decorating!"
There's a lot that's funny about that one--um, Italian?--but mostly I love how strongly it comes through that all this person really wants is to learn how to play golf, dance the ballet, and decorate cakes. Their objection isn't at all ethnically motivated, it's simply about how much time they have to devote to hobbies. They've made a personal (themselves) value judgment and decided that: Enjoyment from Spanish < Enjoyment from Ballet Dancing and Cake Decorating.

Sadly, no educational opportunities, social event, or responsiblities as a parent will ever be enough fun to choose it over ballet and cake decorating. This will all end with this person's delinquent children eating piece after piece of beautiful cake which they pluck from the spinning arms of their pirouetting parent.


Exhibit 3.27

Stock Photography Review

This all college edition of the stock photography review has culled its photos from some of America's finest online educational institutions, for-profit universities, and community colleges.

From the American Association of Community Colleges:

Ah, yes, the formal top-hat procession at the old community college. I took a class at community college one summer and though the educational experience was top notch, I felt cheated when I only got half of what I paid for my cape back at the end of the semester.

Another from the community college website:

Having ditched their cummerbunds, Ted and Derek talk strategy for that night's sneering contest/date rape.

From Nelnet:

The message here: That's a pretty big book. You'll need a pretty big loan to pay for it. Oh, and people in college wear ugly shirts. This hyper color shirt is actually reacting to this student's growing confusion over his gender identity. Why, oh, why did he have to buy that giant Judith Butler reader?

From ITT Tech:

On the website, this photo is actually a button for those who have questions. In this particular case, this woman has questions about the bill for her bachelorette party. Specifically, she requested a green sweater.

From ETS's GRE website:

This is what a GRE Test Taker looks like. He seems pretty happy.

From Hamilton College Iowa:

Sometimes these pictures make me sad. I miss nothing more than gathering on the hill with my multi-cultural group of friends, sitting in a square, stiffening my back, and preparing for a long day of very performative reading. It's all I can do not to call that representative right now.

My favorite part of this photo: In an apparent effort not to offend even the weather, each person seems dressed for a different season.


Exhibit 3.26

Back from Des Moines and the reading went well. Everyone at Drake was very nice, and it was great to read with Aaron and Shanley (who were both fantastic). Shanley's poems were like polished rocks, all pretty but scary underneath. Aaron's reading was wild and fun. There was a projector involved. Mostly, it projected excellence.

Guess which of the following was not asked after the reading?

  • "How does it feel to write in English?"
  • "Do you speak a foreign language or play an instrument? If not, how do you communicate with people who speak other languages?"
  • "Where do you get your ideas?"
  • "Have you ever travelled?"
  • "Who decides what's good?"
You're probably wrong. Anyway, the answers:
  • ¿Que?
  • (guitar solo)
  • Advertisements for consumer electronics
  • Does this count?
  • Probably John Updike. Or you. Probably definitely you in conjunction with John Updike.

I wish the man who asked most of these questions could follow me around and keep me on my toes by occassionally shouting out questions connected only by a vague interest in foreign policy. He had a beard and seemed very nice.

If he were writing this post, he'd end by asking, "What's our responsibility to people in Madrid?" Really, it's hard to beat that.

Exhibit 3.25

Graham Foust

Tonight at Nebraska Wesleyan's Callen Conference Center. 7pm. You have to go. You have to read his book, book, and book.

As a former student of Graham's, I can confirm that picture is accurate. He is, in fact, a one-handed cartoon. That won't be why you are in awe.


Exhibit 3.24

Good god! The diabolical Johnson girls (who, in case you are unfamiliar, have left a candy bar basket near the coffee machine in my office for the last two months in a supposed effort to raise money for some trip in 2009 [2009!]) are at it again!

As of today, they have now started stocking a second basket full of Pop Tarts next to our toaster. How long until it's Coke near the drinking fountain or whiskey near my desk?

This is all going to end with me begging them for heroin as they blind me with their solid gold Girl Scout uniforms. I can't even type there are so many Brown Sugar & Cinnamon crumbs.

Exhibit 3.23

Des Moines

Things you have to experience when you are in Des Moines:

  • The above-above-ground walkway system. (Anyone who tells you the only one is the one that connects the third floor of downtown buildings is lying. You should yell at people who tell you this and demand to be taken to the executive walkway system. It's higher).
  • Bill Richardson.
  • The corn maze which occupies three square-miles near the city hall. Don't go around drive time. I have long advocated re-spelling the name "The Corn Maize." Because, well, you probably get it.
  • The video store where they organize the movies by actor's name. I forget the name of it. I could spend all day in the Tek from Real World: Hawaii section.
  • Urbandale.
  • Heaven. Most people don't know this is in Iowa. If you ask Kevin Costner and he tells you differently, you should punch him right in his smug jaw.
  • When you go to the track horses, dogs, and stock cars can all be seen at various times and sometimes all at once.
  • Silas Hanrahan's house is a tour you have to see, but you should call to make sure he's home.
  • The Museum of Handshakes is the perfect way to end a night (or a formal business meeting).


Exhibit 3.22

The guys over at the spot where my brother posts are trying to raise some money for a pretty cool charity project. Check out the "challenge" here, and if you feel like throwing in a few bucks, please do. The one funding cameras for a middle school seems like a worthwhile cause for those of us living in Lincoln. You could also donate to one of many requests for funds to teach poetry (among other worthwhile causes).

Here's a New York Times article about the organization.

Exhibit 3.21

If you aren't paying attention to Russia much these days, you should probably read David Remnick's article about Garry Kasparov in the New Yorker.

Since that article was published, Putin essentially decided that he wanted to maintain his power by becoming prime minister. This is bad for a number of reasons, one of which is the brazen killing of journalists and re-rise of state owned media (not to mention oil and gas companies).

I'd like to make a joke about how this is all leading to a Red Dawn sequel, but that wouldn't really be funny. What will be funny are the rocking Kenny Loggins songs that will surely be recorded to fire up our fighter pilots. You know, just in case.


Exhibit 3.20

Royals Season Review

Record: 69-93 (5th place in AL Central, 2nd worst record in AL)
Team ERA: 4.48 (7th in AL [and a huge improvement])
Runs Scored: 706 (2nd to last in AL)
HR: 102 (last in major leagues)

The Awards

Buddy Bell's Best Managerial Decision: Quitting. And I'm not at all trying to be a jerk about this. Buddy Bell announced his retirement just as the Royals were peaking (about the time I thought they were going to win 75 games) so that nobody noticed when the team completely fell apart in September. Admit it, you didn't notice. Well, they were horrible through the last two months of the season, but since everyone was already dreaming about a post-Buddy Bell world, it was impossible to really work up any anger about him not playing young prospects or pointlessly letting Gil Meche throw out his arm to try and win their 64th game of the year.

Somehow, Buddy managed to go from guy who was undoubtedly going to get fired to a guy who gets flattering 3,000 word articles about him in the K.C. Star. Well played, Buddy, well played.

(For the record, Buddy's career record as a manager: 519-724. Ouch).

Buddy Bell's Worst Managerial Decision: Pinch Hitting. Ever. Seriously, Buddy, just don't do it until you prove you can handle it. Let's play a quick game of You Be the Manager(TM). Ninth inning, down one. 7,8,9 hitters coming up. Let's say the opposing team's closer is a lefty. Your best righty bat on the bench is a catcher hitting .230 with 14 HR.

7-hitter: Lefty, promising rookie, .250 (.360 OBP), 15 HR, 15 SB
8-hitter: Righty, not promising rookie, .250 (.270 OBP), 1 HR, 2 SB
9-hitter: Righty, awful catcher, .149 (.200 OBP - no those aren't typos), 3 HR, 0 SB

Who should you pinch hit for? If you said #7, you're an idiot. This I am going to be a jerk about.

Pitcher of the Year: Brian Bannister. Who would've thought that a guy who got sent down to the minors would bounce back to be the Royals' best pitcher. Gil Meche was amazing--and if he ever got any run support (lowest in the majors)--he'd look even better, but Bannister was incredible considering how awful he looked to start the season. Plus, he comes with a built in adjective: crafty. The crafty Brian Bannister was great this year.

God willing, he'll add 'always' next year and in two years 'yeoman-like.' Oh, and then when he starts Game 2 of the World Series in 2011, he can add 'artisanal.' That's right, Brian Bannister's development path is really the construction of a sentence. That sentence: The always crafty Brian Bannister had another yeoman-like performance in a truely artisanal Game 2 performance.Please read it again, this time with feeling.

(How strange is that he did better after getting sent down and called back up? If my company sent me to Omaha to work with a bunch of tobacco chewers and guys from Venezuela to work in front of no one, I'd be excited. That would really expand my horizons more than sitting next to Mike Sweeney and listening to him talk to Mark Grudzlianek about Christian day cares for 3 hours at a time).

Hitter of the Year: Um, I guess it's 37-year-old Mark Grudzielanek with a special mention going to Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. As I don't want to spell Grudz's name or dissect the Royals anemic offense, let me end by saying that I could not be more excited about the Alex Gordon-era. And the Billy Butler-era. These two need a nickname. If only The Bash Brothers hadn't been so thoroughly tarnished. Seriously, I'd rather name them The Manson Family than The Bash Brothers at this point.

Disappointment of the Year: Mark Teahen. Last year Mark Teahen got sent to the minors, came back up, and proceeded to hit like mad for the rest of the season. It seemed like a gimme that he would hit 25+ HR with good average for the Royals this season. Now, we can blame his disappointing season on the fact that he had off-season shoulder as long as no one mentions:

A) The contradiction that his best asset this season was that same shoulder gunning down runners with 17 OF assists.

B) That what happened to Teahen last year is exactly what happened with Brian Bannister this year and that means Bannister is sure to disappoint next year.

You hear that? No one mention either of those inconvenient facts.

Schizophrenic Performance of the Year: Joey Gathright who looked like a poor-man's Ichiro for 6 weeks before--and I'm not making this up--ceasing to hit once he started wearing glasses. Can this happen? What does this say about Ricky Vaughn in Major League. Now I feel like that whole movie is a lie.

Most Bewildering and Intriguing Stadium Enhancement: The 106ft by 45ft video board that will now fill the crown at Kauffman Stadium. This is going to be the largest video screen in the world, and it's a full 1,300 sq. feet bigger than the current record holder at the U. of Texas football stadium. That's right, the Royals decided to make something bigger than Texas. Did they even imagine the implications of this? Don't be surprised if Missouri gets taken over and Royals GM Dayton Moore gets executed live on Texas Public Television. Next year we might be watching the New Texas Oilmen playing at Don't Mess With Us Stadium with no video screen at all.

(Seriously though, why? Nebraska's Memorial Stadium held this record before Texas, and while it's cool and all, there's a big difference between an 80k-capacity football stadium and a 35k-capacity baseball park. On the plus side, as the largest screen, this is presumably where God will choose to speak when the time is right. Unless he's a White Sox fan. And, based on this year, he's not).

That said, Kauffman Stadium is incredible. If you life within 5 hours of it, like attending baseball games, and have always hoped to see a 100-foot-tall Derek Jeter scratching himself, you should be there at the Royals' home opener in 2008.

Least Likely to be Back Next Year: Jason LaRue who ended the season hitting .148 in 169 at bats. In other words, Jason LaRue got 25 hits the entire season despite playing in more than 1/3 of the team's games. This is actually much harder than being average.

Name of the Year: For the fourth year in a row, David DeJesus. Now scram.

Exhibit 3.19

Shanley Jacobs, Aaron Plasek, and Adam Peterson

Reading at Drake University on Thursday, October 11th. Cowles Reading Room at 7:30 p.m.

(That's actually as close as I can get to a camera. Any closer and the camera explodes. I've never thought to ask why).


Exhibit 3.18

Novelist, short story writer, and the generally amazing J. Robert Lennon also responded to Stephen King's essay in The New York Times. You can read it here.

Needless to say, his is better than mine and contains far more swears. That last sentence may have been redundant.


Exhibit 3.17

The Cupboard Volume No. 17, Early Autumn, is now out. There is a lot of good stuff in this one.

You should be reading it instead of this.

Exhibit 3.16

Alaskaphrenia by Christine Hume

So today, someone at work forwarded me an email from a client of ours in Alaska who had attached some photos we might use. In the first photo, a handsome man in camouflage is holding what I guess is a rainbow trout. This photo seems nice. In the second, third, and fourth photos, a bear is seen climbing into a boat, sitting in the boat, and destroying the boat, respectively. It's some kind of brown bear, possibly the Brown Bear (Ursus arctos), and it doesn't seem happy about this boat.

In the accompanying email, we learn that the man is the husband of the woman who sent the original emal, and that he and his buddies were fishing--went well, caught a lot--and that they saw this boat (not theirs) get destroyed by a bear who ate the seats of the boat before jumping off of it back into the water and swimming away. They left before whoever owned that boat came back to it (maybe it was the bear's cheating husband, who knows), but it's fun to imagine what their reaction might have been.

That this came the day that I was going to write about Alaskaphrenia couldn't be more perfect (and never mind when I said I was going to write about it).

Hume's poems here are full of the eccentricities of America's last near-frontier, and as a book, this collection is somehow even more inherently Alaskan than its straightforward title suggests, if that's possible. It's a lush book, and my favorite poems here were ones where nature, like the bear in the boat, seemed to be coming through the door. In "What'd You Come to Alaska for If You Don't Want? Hume writes:
  • The dark amplifies my hearing
  • You too hear animals at the wrong time of day
  • Some Sounds are known to be true
  • Moans beg themselves into handfuls of lit trees
  • Shed leaves mortify the silence
  • Stridulations use strong burrowing instincts to get in
The poems here are nothing if not full of confrontations. Alaska vs. speaker, speaker vs. nature, Alaska vs. nature, etc. and it's easy to read the book as building towards the poem "I Have Not Yet Told You What Alaska Means to Me" which ends:
  • I mistook myself
  • for the beloved
  • until I saw a way through the third eye
  • iron caribou came
  • attracted by flashbacks
  • from an ancient blood disease
  • I sucked their udders so hard
  • as if that would draw a word
Hume's Alaska is a dangerous, contradictory one, and the poems struck me as starting in the interstices where the wild has stopped and humanity has sprung up between the ice, trees, and bears. It's fascinating because the nature is the native and the poet is the frightened interloper (as opposed to nature being a delicate, under-siege thing which is how its often written). It's an interesting shift from Hawkey, who, no less concerned with the physical world, wrote nature as if to ground his work, to make the book abstract in its writing but real in its subject matter. Hume, on the other hand, writes nature as an exaggerated thing, like background in a Sendak book and by doing so writes a book that, though intimately about nature, is really about wilderness. I suppose the most reductive way to say it would be to break down and say stupidly that it's a book about wild, unknowable Alaska.

And while something about the looming figure of nature makes it a cold, dark book without room for politics or religion or romantic love, it still a heartbreaking book in the way sadness is loudest when alone. My favorite poems of the book feel like shivering in the dark. My number one, “Insert Your Eyes Here. Contemplate the Enchantments of Your View and Pleasurably Serve Your Mind," has this line in the last stanza:

  • Your mother's voice would unsnow you if you could hear it.


Exhibit 3.15

Some of my favorite lines from Christine Hume's Alaskaphrenia:

You’re trapped with snow for eyes. A glance gets through, errant and full of amnesias.

The headache you’ll grow into
Suggests all organisms are in the grips
of spiritual urges

Why should a zephyr so rarely intervene?

Our first heaven held under, that we may grow asunder

Some breath is meant to take you in
Some is meant to give you away

It is NOT TRUE: I did not dash my son’s brains out on the rocks for beauty. The beauty of this place is mad, a drug fro driving you blind and diplopic; its amplified contradictions played the music of his slip.

Everytime you drama
the sky you fall in two.


Exhibit 3.14

Fortnightly Football Recap.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-1)
The less said about the Ball State game the better. As that was the first game I attended this year, it was a particularly shocking experience to spend three hours baking in the sun and wondering if there was any way I could pickup Ball State's quarterback for my fantasy team two years before he's even in the NFL. I'm not sure if this guy is actually the greatest QB ever to play the game or if it's just that Nebraska's defense is really shaky, but that kid dominated. So much so that I can't even look up his name.

I do remember their wide receiver Dante Love's name, however. Although if Jerry Rice wanted to make it less obvious that he was using a pseudonym to play football at Ball State, he should have gone with a name like Bob Realman or something.

As for the Iowa State game, they won, though not without causing everyone from Chadron to Papillion to question whether or not they would have to drive to Ames just to pick a fight. And that's not an easily excitable demographic. Thankfully, the game wasn't on TV, so no one had to actually see our safeties looked confused. (This is one of the most intriguing subplots of the 2007 Husker season. Our safeties routinely point at each other, then at an opposing receiver, then at each other, then watch as the ball get snapped, and then keep pointing as the receiver runs downfield. If there was a stat kept for number of times our safeties pointed at an opposing receiver right before the snap, Larry Asante would be leading the country with 31. And I don't think it's his fault).

They play Missouri this weekend which will pretty much make or break the Big XII North for them, especially after Colorado and Kansas St. both won this past week. Get ready for a long conference season. I'm excited.

Miami Dolphins (0-4)

If Mandy Patinkin Was a Fantasy Football Team (3-1)
The one loss was the result of facing a team where everything just went right, but it happens. Still, in second place and with more points than any other team, I think this team is still the clear favorite (which can't be said for the real Mandy Patinkin. About anything).

Randy Moss is still playing as if every other team in the NFL wrote him off as a pot-smoking headcase who once ran over a traffic guard. Oddly, everyone was right in this equation. As not feeling good about Moss has been working so far, I plan on continuing to act like he's a disaster and I hate having him on my team.

You: Wow, you're really lucky to have Randy Moss.
Me: You know who that has never been said to? His coaches, girlfriends, and parents.

You: I wish I had Randy Moss.
Me: So does the state police.

You: I have cancer.
Me: Me too. Is yours also named Randy Moss?

You: It's going to kill me.
Me: That's what he does. Always.

There is no way this can ever backfire.

Speaking of backfiring, praising Eli Manning. Let's step it up, Eli. I wish there was some way I could get all of the asshole Giants fans at the Meadowlands to start chanting my fantasy backup QB's name rather than the Giants's actual backup. I bet everyone who has Eli feels this way.

The Lincoln Hawks (1-3)
So I have this gimmick with this team where every week for my "trash talk" comment (shown as a little speech bubble by my team name) I put in a different quote from Over the Top. This week's quote was, "I've got a family! And when this is over, I'm comin' to get him." I'm pretty sure no one finds this the least bit interesting or amusing yet I plan to continue doing it because I'm really starting to see the parallels between this team and Over the Top. It's not just that we're scrappy underdogs who through a series of bad decisions find ourselves looking up at where we want to be--nor is it about the way I put on a baseball cap and turn it backwards before adjusting my lineup--it's just that no one believes in us.

We're not a bad team. We're not a good team. If a couple of breaks had gone our way (or Steven Jackson's leg on the play where he hurt his groin), we could still be in this thing. I need this truck, etc.

I could keep going on here, but let me just finish by saying this will all end with me challenging everyone to an arm wrestling match at next year's draft. Frankly, I'm excited about it.

Miami Dolphins (0-4)
Oh, why not. Some thoughts on the Dolphins since we last spoke. I've decided to only be positive:

*Ronnie Brown is a very, very good football player. Not to be lost in all of the thorough awfulness of this team is the fact that Mr. Brown has been nothing short of incredible the last two weeks: 38 rushes, 246 yards, 6.5 ypc; 12 catches, 172 yards; 4 total touchdowns.

*Trent Green is an attractive man (making him one of approximately 32 million attractive men in this country who should not be a starting quarterback in the NFL).

*I really like the potential of Cam Cameron's offense. Even though the team shows all the defensive savy of a stranger eating in front of our dogs for the first time, I really like the way the offense is starting to move the ball. It's been a long time since Miami has had anything like a respectable offense.

*Too early for John "Adam Peterson" Beck to start playing.

*Ted Ginn made a tackle on special teams. So, for the record: Ted Ginn's catches this year: 1. Ted Ginn's special teams tackles: 1. Oh, and he was the 9th pick in the draft. (Ed note: for some reason I always want to write his name Tedd Ginn which isn't right. I just need to remember that he has as many 'd's in his name as he has catches).

*In all seriousness, I actually have hope for Ted Ginn. And Tedd Ginn. However he wants to spell it.

*I'm out of positive things to say, but let me say this: I really like watching the Miami Dolphins play. Sure, they're awful, but somehow it just makes me like them more. It's probably the same reason you like me, so you know what I'm talking about.


Exhibit 3.13

Not to interrupt my series of ill-conceived and poorly-edited 1,000+ word posts to make yet another reference to my quickly-fading health, but I have cold. These are the things I feel like we should be able to share with each other. Now you.

I also wanted to plan my week.

Today: Fortnightly football recap
Wednesday: Thoughts about and lines from Alaskaphrenia by Christine Hume
Thursday: Royals season review
Friday: Probably something about the new The Cupboard, probably something else

Also, in non-blog news, I think Heather and I are going to this reading tonight at NE Wesleyan. You should go too. But don't shake my hand no matter how many times I ask to shake yours. I will ask a lot.

Exhibit 3.12

So Stephen King has an essay in The New York Times about the short story. You can read it here (at least for the moment). I'd like to imagine someone writes an article like this every day. Some writer who is frustrated by the lack of the impact, other than that sweet C.V. credit, each of their published stories has. Some writer who feels conflicted about writing short stories when there are novels and screenplays and blog posts to be written. Some writer who then sits down and writes a short story.

Well, consider this as close as I'm going to get.

The short story isn't dead. It isn't being killed. It isn't, as King says, not "well." The short story gets about what it deserves, honestly, which is to be read by those that write them. It's hard to imagine what's wrong with that, but King seems to think that writers only read other writers in order to "get an idea of what sells." King laments this as "copping-a-feel" reading, but from my perspective it's a rare misstep by the usually self-effacing King which somehow ends up insulting both writers and readers.

Here's the thing: short stories don't sell. If The New Yorker were to accept one of my stories tomorrow, the transaction would be less like selling a car and more like winning a school raffle (incidentally, I would totally sell my car to The New Yorker if they're interested). The short story simply isn't a commodity anymore--nor was it probably ever--so it's naive of King to suggest that most (or any) writers spend their time working on short fiction in order to become famous or even get a little cash. Then, frustrated when they are unable to do so, give up or start pandering to what's popular. As no short fiction is popular, this seems particularly absurd.

I can tell you from the stacks of envelopes I opened while working at a journal and the stacks of envelopes I send out myself, the short story is certainly not hurting for writers and so should not be hurting for readers. That many of these writers don't read (and, more importantly, subscribe) to every journal they submit to is no doubt a cause of great concern for those journals' editors, but it hardly signals the end of the short story. Rather, it means writers (and journals) should reassess what kind of fiction they seek practice. Once we stop lamenting that short fiction isn't in the Saturday Evening Post, maybe we can finally stop seeking Saturday Evening Post short fiction.

(My favorite part about King mentioning the SEP is that it completely ignores the fact that the publication has ceased to exist at all. I'd like to think that this week the Washington Post or whoever will publish an article by a famous painter bemoaning the state of hyper-American, realist magazine cover art. Then, on some snooty art blog no one reads, someone else will write a post about how we should be happy that anyone still does hyper-American, realist magazine cover art. My guess is that this happens once a year for every single part of the Saturday Evening Post, including the recipes section).

King begins to make the point in the article that it's the stories that are bad, but by the end of the article he backs off this point in favor of a fairly broad critique of our short-fiction-ignoring culture. (Or, perhaps more accurately, King suggests it's the culture that leads to bad short stories. In any case, King doesn't seem willing to blame the writers). But again, this seems almost nonsensical to me as it is nearly impossible to imagine a writer being self-interested enough to care that their work will bring little financial benefit yet self-destructive enough to waste their time anyway.

It's interesting that some of the writers King chose for this year's Best American were writers who have had much more success with their short fiction than with their novels. If anyone should be bitter, it's probably a writer like Jim Shepard who everyone seems to know is great but can't get the recognition he deserves. Still, it's hard to argue that there was a time when short stories alone could make a writers' reputation. Sure, there's Flannery O'Connor and John Cheever and Raymond Carver. But we have Aimee Bender and George Saunders, not to mention dark horses like the previously mentioned Mr. Shepard. They may not ultimately get the respect of the former, but when it comes to dedicated short story writers, no generation has had more than one or two cross-over to the mainstream anyway.

None of this is meant to be an attack on Stephen King, who I can say without embarrassment showed me what it meant to be a writer in On Writing. But I do think there is a disconnect of status--not to even mention the generational disconnect--that leads him to his conclusions. Why get upset about what's at B&N? There are still hundreds of venues for short fiction in this country alone and that's without considering online journals (or anonymous pamphlets).

As with most things, poets have done a much better job of creating venues that cater to poet/readers. Breaking down the distinction between the reader and the writer for short stories is the first, and easiest, step for writers in a position of power (like King) to be making. Instead of acting like any writer who reads a short story is some grubby-handed molester, we should try to cultivate stories that do things writers admire. Not surprisingly, writers will admire many different things, which is how a dead, dying, "not well" form like the short story can be vital.