Culture Clash

Inaugurations and Occasional Poetry

January 23, 2013




. How shall we receive Richard Blanco’s poem for the occasion of President Obama’s second inauguration? Occasional poems – poems written in honor of an occasion – may be as old as poetry itself. They have a great tradition, but quite arguably that tradition has significantly diminished. Why? One easily distinguished difference in the origination […]





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Picture This: 6 – Herman Leonard

January 20, 2013




. We visited the Grammy Museum Friday evening, on Figueroa Sweet at LA Live in Downtown Los Angeles. I expected something glitzy and promotional, fit for Universal City Walk and while there are elements, it is a serious small museum, focused on listening experiences, where one can gain a beginning university education in the history and features of twentieth-century American popular music. […]





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Breaking Downton Abbey Bad

January 17, 2013




. Downton Abbey is remarkably instructive about story telling. The common wisdom is that while the audience grew during the show’s second season, the show actually went astray by descending into soap opera. ‘These observations raise the question of what exactly constitutes soap opera and why the audience nonetheless grew. Aside from the superficial, though genuine answer of […]





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The New Year: Drunk with Time

December 31, 2012




. I was reminded by a reader’s visit of what I posted here three years ago today: Charles Baudelaire’s “Be Drunk” (below). A good-humored dissenting comment reminded of Baudelaire that the man died at age 46 a syphilitic laudanum addict having spent fortunes of inherited money on prostitutes and wine. Ah, well, we are such foibles […]





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Zero Dark Art vs Journalism

December 26, 2012




. There is a quite extraordinary article on Huffington Post today by G. Roger Denson. It addresses the controversy over director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal‘s film Zero Dark Thirty and the matter of torture. It is somewhat extraordinary for its length, by HufPo standards, but truly for for the quality of its perceptions and the […]





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Season’s Jeer and Cheer

December 24, 2012




. No doubt many will be ritually watching It’s a Wonderful Life this holiday season. I recall with satisfaction when my brother, Jeff, and I discovered the film on late night television after a print was finally turned up in distributor mothballs, many years before the film became, for some, the tiresome phenomenon it has […]





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Eating Poetry (XLIII) – “oh antic God”

December 23, 2012




. This past Thursday was the ninth anniversary of my mother’s death. With my brother’s wife, I was at her graveside, beside my father. Anne and I laughed before we cried: a lot of familial channeling went on – voices and manners of speech, verbal expressions. This year, more than the pain of taking away, […]





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The NRA and the Irrational Right

December 21, 2012




. There is room elsewhere for indignation at the NRA’s response today to the Newtown mass murder of children and educators by a mentally ill young man whose gun-owning mother apparently did not keep her firearm’s beyond a disturbed son’s reach. The outrage should be universal. But the irrationality is that of the American right, […]





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You Think That’s Funny? That’s Not Funny

December 17, 2012




. We’re having an entertaining and enlightening discussion, me and the Snoop, over in the comments section (which is, after all, what it’s for) and the subject of Bill Maher keeps coming up. Actually, Snoop keeps bringing it up, but why split hairs? Maher enjoys not the highest estimation in the Snoop’s regard. I think […]





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Eating Poetry (XLII) – Sunder

December 15, 2012




. I just turned in my “Poetic License” column for the upcoming spring issue of West. It’s topic is poetic voice. An extraordinary poetic voice is that of Atsuro Riley, featured here once before, just a short while ago. One is instantly aware of the the uniqueness of his voice. It diminishes that uniqueness not at all […]





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A Last Thanksgiving Thought

November 26, 2012




All are home now if they traveled far to family. The meals are digested. The work week begins our cycles anew, with all the usual commitments, enthusiasms, and furors. We were in Nebraska, with Julia’s family. From my sister-in-law Anne, I received this by email. It was a sad day for me, thinking about all […]





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Eating Poetry (XLI) – After Thanksgiving

November 25, 2012




. by Sandra M. Gilbert Related articles Writing Paradise





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How We Lived On It (55) – La chanson d’hélène

November 10, 2012




. If you have missed it, my retrospective on the artistry of French filmmaker Claude Sautet appears in the current issue of Senses of Cinema. During Sautet’s 1970s peak, his female muse was Austrian actress Romy Schneider, who appeared memorably in five of his films, winning France’s Cesar Award for best actress for the 1978 […]





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Jazz Is: 43 – Treme: Funeral Scene & Second Line

October 21, 2012




. The audience and appreciation are starting to build, in its third season, for Treme, just as it did late for the brilliant David Simon‘s earlier The Wire. Whether it is the worlds of the inner city drug trade, policing, municipal government, unions, education, or journalism in Baltimore, or of high end chefs and dining in Treme, […]





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How We Lived On It (54) – “Scrabble with Matthews”

October 7, 2012




. The kind of poetic conceit etymologicon that delights in the service of deep feeling. Scrabble with Matthews BY DAVID WOJAHN (Poetry magazine October 2002) Jerboa on a triple: I was in for it, my zither on a double looking feeble as a “promising” first book. Oedipal & reckless, my scheme would fail: keep him a couple drinks ahead, […]





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Purity & Invention: a Claude Sautet Retrospective

September 27, 2012




. From August 1-9 this summer, The Film Society of Lincoln Center hosted a long overdue retrospective of the films of Claude Sautet (1924-2000). Probably best known to younger, more contemporary audiences for his late flowering of 1990s films Un Coeur en Hiver (A Heart in Winter) and Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud (Nelly and Mr. Arnaud), Sautet established […]





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The Poetry of Democracy

August 29, 2012




. In my Poetic License column for the fall issue of West, I return to last year’s New York Review of Books contretemps between Helen Vendler and Rita Dove over the latter’s The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry. When I first wrote about the dispute, I considered the the politics in poetry. In “Diction and […]





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Jazz Is: 42 – “The Cure”

August 24, 2012




. Feeling low, in despair, beset by the boorish and the brutish? There’s a cure for that. Back in May, Julia and I, along with jazz rabbi Charlie K, dropped in on Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Jack DeJohnette at the Catlalina Bar & Grill in Los Angeles. The new trio’s tour was billed as a […]





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The View from Guatemala: the Olympics

August 18, 2012




. Our intrepid corespondent in Guatemala, Dercum Over, wanted for insubordination by the bureaucratic and benighted in more parts than you have, offers this rebalancing of Olympic victory bragging rights. Tucked away out of the swirl of things in our mountainous farming village in Mayan Guatemala, my Japanese friend Yurino and I are suffering this week from […]





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How We Lived On It (53) – “We are the knife people…”

August 12, 2012




. Maybe none of it, finally, is like bone – not solid and lasting enough – or muscle – not as strong – but cartilage: something in between, partaking of both, lesser, but also greater, because it is all about connections and making them. Some semi-random connections. Robert Hughes died this past week. What we […]





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Eating Poetry (XL) – As from a Quiver of Arrows

August 4, 2012




. A poem about loss, or the end of things, if there is an end to things, or transformation, or it maybe being the nature in things to be lost, and remembered, so how remembered? Or maybe it is forgetting we want, and where is that, and if we do forget, what was it? To […]





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