28 June 2021

Two Poems by Joshua Martin

Against human resource


hot plate damage
fedora fa├žade crummy
a crunch stimulating
aviation treatment
voice of the people
shattering friendship
against human resource
SCABS notified at the
end of fly trap truck
crashing dummy
listless as unfortunate
definitive cubed at last
catheter until catharsis

 

Tropical fish misadventure 

 
So badly bandaged as to resemble goat headed notary
shady to the nth degree
seemed like a tropical fish misadventure
an inexperienced karate instructor soaping himself in the moonlight
a never less
than inadequate
representation
of no! no! no!
leave me alone
                        as lousy as all political beliefs
                        conventional nightmare
                                                nighttime spread
                                                like balls of yarn
                                    spools of wigs
                                    simplified rationalizations
                                                            all the rage
            on the page
                        &
                        in the print edition seesaws
lunged to
stray bullet
death
settling for a scorching day in March fucked up
                                                            up! Up!
                                                                        UP!
                                                Silence
                                                slipperier than lullaby
                                                slippers
                                    you better not
                                    shampoo your back hair
                        if you know what’s
                                                what
                                                            WHAT?????
Seemingly as to wild snuggling closely to drugs
leaping submarine flypaper index finger
pinkie
            thumb!
there’s no on/off button
available for purchase
                        eel pants
            summer           chants
leave me                                  out
                        of the
            while               rotting
                        thing
as desultory as a
beehive
            having been cheated out of
            processional floral
                                    ARRANGEMENT
                        far from the
            UNmotivated
CROWN
                        darkness falls over the
                        city of never sleeping
                        brotherly angel charm
                                    golden state
                                                punishable
                                                by hanging
                                                traffic cones
                                                from
                        Nip nip
            NIPPLES
the governor looks out of place
talking as if he knows anything
a police quest for bashing
I never met a cop I liked
I have no situation to explain
& never once felt influenced
tho you can burn my skid marks
anyway & I’ll still never work
harder than a shovel scrapes


Joshua Martin

23 June 2021

Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night Belongs to Michelob by Lard Alec

If not a land of contrasts, the 1980s Michelob-beer-commercial (MBC) extended universe* is at least rife with evocative frictions. It is workaday, with its emphasis on periodic earned catharsis (drinking at night (after work) while music plays), but fashionable, with its strutting Vogueified brunettes (who, in real life, would take out a restraining order on any slob who offered them a Michelob). It is American (set in the U.S.) but cosmopolitan (crooning Brits typically score the urban dramas with post-blues pop-rock numbers). It is sultry (Dutch angle zooms on sensuous pours and windblown women) but also clean cut (men with trim haircuts, wearing blazers with pushed up sleeves, cruise the bars and poolhalls on mild-mannered sex safaris).

The goal, if I had to guess, is not to unite disparate markets or ideas but to confer ordinary Reaganite middle-class beer runs and bar nights with a modest, unearned sense of glamor.  But how to do this convincingly with such a devoutly unglamorous demo? Sure, your average Michelob drinker in, say, 1987, was a hypertensive 39-year-old S&L huckster or an exurban dentist who had recently lost his license, but the MBC universe elevates the bargain-beer slurper to the status of a neo-noir urban swell with some charmingly stubborn homespun tastes (for example, he drinks Michelob, even when other beers are available for purchase and consumption).

There was scarcely a duller market and yet somehow the commercials still manifest a sense of smokey cool**. This should be impossible, since the audience, partially described above, is budget-conscious early-middle-aged divorcees, and their idea of exotic fun is playing pool and listening to Eric Clapton but somewhere nice for a change. The wish fulfillment is so measured that even the finger-snapping tunes never get carried away. There is nothing ecstatic in Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight,” Steve Winwood’s “What the Night Can Do,” or Wang Chung’s “To Live and Die in LA”; the jury is still out on Genesis’ “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight.” But in the main, the music (Michelob rock) serves to comment on the drama (things taking place at night) while elevating the banal to the working stiff’s attenuated idea of hipness.

It’s weird to think about now, but even your run-of-the-mill Contra Scandal apologist had an idea of what cool was in the 80s. Boomers weren’t that old yet; they were in their late 20s to early 40s, still trying to have fun until traffic court or the S&L Crisis caught up with them. Your weird emphatic uncle Steve who bites his lip and wears his tie around his head when dancing to BTO at your wedding reception was doing most of that shit 35 years ago, when he was just a youngish insurance-selling lush, because he thought it was cool. He liked Huey Lewis, jacuzzis, Firebirds, Foreigner, and Ronald Reagan for the same reason. It doesn’t matter that he was wrong.

So why not appeal to Uncle Steve’s wild side? Because his dating personality, which Michelob rock caters to, is much more restrained than his hanging-out-with-male-friends personality—this homosocial Steve might do things like drive a Chevy Caprice over a fire hydrant on the way home from a Kenny Loggins concert at an upstate amphitheater. But all that stuff takes place rather far upstream from the MBC metro-utopia.  These are soundtrack commercials featuring major recording stars*** who manage to sell sex while keeping a lid on the id. This isn’t the venue for the ghastly, sexual churning of “American Woman” or “Mississippi Queen”; Michelob rock is for flirting with coworkers at the New Year’s Eve party or having an intense awkward mid-tempo dance at the high school reunion with an old flame. Such cautious erotic forays are underwritten by best-self fantasies rather than outright bacchanals. For women, the MBC message seems to be, live a little, let loose in sculpted and strategic ways; for men, it is, be cooler than usual so you can get laid.

All but lost to time is Michelob’s real on-the-street reputation from this era. It can be summed up in two words comprising a maximally unappealing phrase, meant to describe and disparage someone’s beer gut: “Michelob tumor.” My father used this phrase more than occasionally and I got the sense that it was a sort of pre-Internet Rotarian meme. Googling both words in quotes, so that only search results capturing the full, original phrase are returned, yields precisely two entries****. One is from a motorcycle website chat-forum post about lower back pain; the other is from a paywalled Akron Beacon Journal article, apparently about health and fitness, published December 24th, 1991. Merry Christmas. Neither of these sources claim, as the MBC campaign does, that “The Night Belongs to Michelob.”

It’s hard, very, very hard to imagine the kind of self and sensibility that would have found a Michelob refreshing all those years ago. Maybe plucking one from a cooler in your 1980 Datsun hatchback after nine holes on the public course was a special, historically sensitive reward that doesn’t translate to the contemporary mind. Probably so. But we still have the delightful inflations of the MBCs to remind us of the silly licks and jingles that would have played in the person’s head, by force of conditioning and association, as he drank his Michelob down to the suds, then grabbed another, for the long, hot, and suddenly pleasant***** drive home.

_________

*I’m thinking here mostly, but not exclusively, of “The Night Belongs to Michelob” campaign.
**Such that, at their best, you sometimes forget what’s being advertised. Saxophones? NYC tourism? A Blind Faith comeback tour? Dark hair?
***Who were either past their prime but still working (Clapton, Winwood) or only partially conscious of the youth market (Genesis, Wang Chung).
****Try finding a coherent search term or phrase with just two Google search results.
*****If fantastically dangerous.

19 June 2021

Three Poems by Allison Hummel

Drawing

So lately I’ve been drawing,
because writing is a slog, plowing
through peat, never drifting
no rainbow
              just chemtrails
              (only kidding)

I draw amphorae and
can’t draw unguents, but
I like the idea of              all
those people, maybe recumbent
in the cella, inviting a
hyacinth rainbow, skirting
weedy yards of snag        and
                          tribulation

I try to draw a fountain and
settle on a bizarre and
clunky bot.
                            Then
I draw palm trees, mine
maybe the palm that
tumbled              dates for Inanna,
                           back in Sumer,
adjacent to a “caprid”
              (that’s a goat) and
              pubic triangle, per the text.

And no surprise, I draw
the psychic’s hut. In the window
a sign beads with bioluminescent
missive, says: card reader.

Did you know that even some
cockroaches can glow? They
appear as veiled beings
with laser eyes, like figures from
a story about waterless future

or whoever you talk to in the
cella,      incorporeal,
               just a shift in the air 


Anthuriums and Dates

Anthuriums have just been watered
tiny floats for                  slow river  
              of electrolyte zephyr     rain

Springtime is                   soft and pally
No more              depth>delving cold
in the finger bones, no more
days swiftly       detonated by sappers.

I lean into the long day               its
                          lack of implication

tears for fears songs
              roxy music silly stories
                           acrid acid florals
                                         nucleus of a hot car

moments of jelly              vulnerability
& hair dye that feels like tropical        
                                         pudding

wildly variable profusions of       growth !
                           like a spray of ergot in the gold.

Blood work cuneiform coming back          strange
found the salt shaker in the fridge
next to my           cauldron of yogurt
                            and robust intentions

wellness is a gnosis. It’s all
greasy hard to grab        it’s all
liquids                            unassailable

and as the                       heat descends,
every day is a                 date, chewy
heady lovely, literally sickening but
                                       also a pleasure
                                       to hold in my mouth.


Brenda

Brenda incandescent in her tube top
saying ‘hi, what’s your problem?’

she and her girlfriend are
in love, and also are
                           becoming tree

we could all    know that
winnowing      space-dust microbe
on          the     breeze!

Lean you back,         recast you a
shelf of chaga,          a touch

like agate distorting pleasantly
the paean of the gates    of paradise

it’s azure, synthy,          procreative
of a swooping thorax, and         I

can almost follow the ‘s’ of the
cognate              like a goaded snake

from warm place / to warm place
smearing unguents         getting
lit                       emitting low smolder


Allison Hummel

10 June 2021

I Think Also with Joy and Minor Sickness by Lard Alec

I am in the midst of a years-long and not entirely rigorous discussion with a good friend about what constitutes the funniest moments of popular music over the last 50 years of so.  I will more than occasionally call this friend and fill his voicemail with “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours),” a karaoke version of some lemon by Bob Seger or Crazy Town, or, very worst of all, Fallout Boy’s crowning underachievement “Uma Thurman.” He will return the favor with Billy Joel, Montel Jordan, Tone Loc, or whatever seems upliftingly ludicrous at the moment. Listening to tinny, distorted renderings of these flubby jingles and novelty songs on your phone, while taking a dump at work, is one of the only ways to convert mass-market pop schlock into real joy. It all suddenly sounds like the joke it really is*. 

Seen this way, as a farce and sideshow, pop music is (sometimes) delightful. Songs that once drove you to despair when, say, you bagged groceries for a bedraggled regional grocery chain in the mid-90s, seem altogether thrilling when retrieved from YouTube in the middle of the workday and then deployed as an act of sonic vandalism against a close friend. “Roll to Me”** by Del Amitri is my gold standard. It’s plucky and upbeat to the point of something like catastrophic friendliness, which is perfect for the strained, enforced courtesies of low-wage retail and customer-service work.

But drug-store pop***, like Martin Page’s “In the House of Stone and Light,” is, no matter how repurposed, ultimately something to endure. It’s funny but not hilarious because you have to live through it, to really deal with it as it plays, until, for example, you finally get your medication and can leave the pharmacy. The funniest moments in music are, for me, brief jarring departures from, or perfections of, the larger ruins that contain them.

Ambition and breadth can, I acknowledge, summon great and hilarious stakes. Kansas’s “Carry on My Wayward Son” is funny for at least a dozen reasons, almost all of them deriving from the song’s titanic aspirations. It is longish, has an elaborate intro and outro, soaring, trite faux-epic lyrics, at least three bad solos, and more. It was never for a second not a classic, and it was certainly written to be one, despite having not one shred of insight or duende.

But is anything in “Carry on Etc.” as funny as the famous saxophone peel out in Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page?” I don’t think so. Seger’s confessional road poem has no shortage of ambition, and the stakes and context certainly matter (he’s very serious, very soulful), but that sax riff would have been funny just about anywhere. And it’s stuff like that that keeps you going when you’re pouring kitty litter onto a detergent spill in aisle 8.

_______

*Hopefully, it sounds just as funny to your neighbor in the next stall.

**I thought, all these yours, the song was called “Roll with Me.” I only learned its real title 

in researching, if you want to call it that, this piece.

***Andy Kindler on Twitter: "The music at CVS is so bad I assume it’s a bit." / Twitter 

 

Consider the Harmonica

Consider Kid Rock, the Woodstock ‘99 standout who, when he gained broad mainstream success in the mid-90s, dressed and flopped around like a suburban drug dealer who was shoehorned into success by a rich relative. In reality, Rock earned his own success through self-initiated branding research, which culminated in his “raprock…redneck image” that is explained well enough here (Early Mornin' Stoned Pimp - Wikipedia). Rock’s music, even at the highpoint of his evolution, was probably secondary to the adventure of fame and fun that it bought for him.

In the late 90s he released “Cowboy,” which is thoroughly Kid Rock but barely a song. Neither the rap nor rock elements quite manage to impose their reality, and the track sounds, from the first, like a foul-mouthed commercial or a made-up song from a movie. It’s full of both generic affluenza swagger and gray-market entrepreneurialism (Rock wants to travel and “chill” but also start a successful escort business). All of that is funny but it hardly matters. “Cowboy” doesn’t make an impression, though it is capable of interrupting you into awareness because it has a kind of emotional alarm clock built into its opening: the blaring but weirdly powerless harmonica riff, which lets you know, right away, that you’re listening to music of some sort.

Despite the fact that nothing else has really happened yet and that the song is called “Cowboy,” the harmonica still sounds like a bleating, colorless non sequitur. It is the ultimate gag effect before a total gag of a song. Imagine discovering, with a hasty gulp, that a barista had not, in fact, filled your 20-ounce paper cup with coffee but had filled it instead with ice-cold Bud Lime. That is what the harmonica feels like to me. I am never adequately prepared for it. 

And while the studied exurban white idpol aesthetic fatuousness Rock had honed by this time certainly amplify and help explain the effect, the riff is just plain funny all by itself. You can quote it (“Mwaaaaaahem!” you say, leaning around your cubicle divider to distract a coworker who’s just taken an important call). You can imagine it elsewhere (in the middle of Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” for example) to great effect. It has a life of its own. 

I think also with joy and minor sickness of the guitar riff 02:57 into Creed’s “My Sacrifice” (Creed - My Sacrifice (Official Video) - YouTube); the dopey, loopy opening bassline to Sugarloaf’s “Green-eyed Lady”; the silly snarly guitar intro to “Enter Sandman”; the “ack, ack, ack, ack, ack” part of that one Billy Joel song; whenever Bryan Adams scream-sings oh and/or yeah. 

This anthology of sacred and sour notes grows year to year. There is always something new to treasure in the waste. And while I didn’t write any of this shit, the laughter it inspires is all mine—or better yet, something to share with a tolerant and like-minded friend.

09 June 2021

Gradient by Sheldon Lee Compton

The red flowers are multiplying. Somehow it’s happening. At the beginning of the funeral there had been about ten orange ones in this little white vase placed around the coffin with the other arrangements. There was no name attached, not from any family or any person. Just the ten yellow tulips in an ivory vase. And now there are twenty. Twenty white tulips in that large, orange vase. And then, where once there were twenty tulips, now the bright red vase half the size of the poor coffin holds what is easily forty or fifty white, shivering flowers.