Sometimes your heart lifts even as your head is telling you how stupid and cliched and ohmygod all that social baggage and co-optings of the gooey love beads so full of meanings they're now devoid of them, but you just can't help it. The marketers are tapping in to something real.

This evening on the walk from my house to my boss' I saw a rainbow. A real, live, because it was sprinkling but the sun was out on a pleasant spring evening, rainbow. It had been a long time, so long I'd forgotten how pretty and subtle they are. I couldn't take my eyes off of it. Even the boss' kids at 7, 6, and 3 weren't as impressed as I was.

Then we watched this really cool PBS Frontline documentary called the Persuaders about how marketers get inside your soul. And, beyond marketers, political consultants, which is what I'm masquerading as these days. The documentary painted us as even worse, but mostly talked about the conservative dude who ran the Contract with America campaign and conjured up the phrase "death tax."

So here's how I sleep at night. If up to now political manipulation has been just that - deception and confusion and noise - then there needs to be someone who finds the right words but gets at the truth. And if advertising wants to convince you their product can find you community, identity, spiritual enlightenment, but political issues, organizations, and involvement are our community, identity, and spirit, then I think we can take advantage of psycho devices to explain politics as it really is and as it should matter to everyone.

That sounds alright. As right as rain. Now I can sleep.


You were right.

If you're assembling a June salad of farmer's market greens, sweet flavorful strawberries, roquefort, and walnuts, and you're wondering whether you should actually dirty another dish to whip up some balsamic vinaigrette, or if you could get away with using that bottled olive oil and (cider) vinegar you bought at the store, make the vinaigrette. It's worth it.


Happy Bloomsday

Stephen has also attempted to impede the publication of dozens of scholarly works on James Joyce. He rejects nearly every request to quote from unpublished letters. Last year, he told a prominent Joyce scholar that he was no longer granting permissions to quote from any of Joyce’s writings. (The scholar, fearing retribution, declined to be named in this article.) Stephen’s primary motive has been to put a halt to work that, in his view, either violates his family’s privacy or exceeds the bounds of reputable scholarship. The two-decade-long effort has also been an exercise in power—an attempt to establish his own centrality in regard to anything involving his grandfather. If you want to write about James Joyce and plan to quote more than a few short passages, you need Stephen’s consent. He has said, “We have proven that we are willing to take any necessary action to back and enforce what we legitimately believe in.” Or, as he put it to me during two phone calls that he recently made to me from La Flotte, “What other literary estate stands up the way I do? It’s a whole way of looking at things and looking at life.”

James Joyce's grandson makes difficult any scholarship on the subject of his grandfather's writing. Seems a pretty petty and far too angry way to live one's life.


New poet laureate

I never know exactly what one is to think of these distinctions. Does it mean that this poet is the best? Representative of American poetry, somehow? What is American? What is poetry? (which brings me back to a half-written entry about Morrison and Beloved that maybe I'll get around to completing, but probably not.)

Anyhow. Guess where this dude was born. Despite that coincidence, this poem is not about me. I'm embarrassed to mention it, but I'm preempting the slim possibility that you, gentle reader, find it and stick it in the comments with a lewd joke.

I do like these words:
I see no reason to spend your life writing poems unless your goal is to write great poems. An ambitious project—but sensible, I think.


But I just called high ambition sensible. If our goal in life is to remain content, no ambition is sensible. ... If our goal is to write poetry, the only way we are likely to be any good is to try to be as great as the best


True ambition in a poet seeks fame in the old sense, to make words that live forever. If even to entertain such ambition reveals monstrous egotism, let me argue that the common alternative is petty egotism that spends itself in small competitiveness, that measures its success by quantity of publication, by blurbs on jackets, by small achievement: to be the best poet in the workshop, to be published by Knopf, to win the Pulitzer or the Nobel. . . . The grander goal is to be as good as Dante.

I often wonder how it is that we all get so sidetracked from our seventeen-year-old visions and think it's in our interest. Dammit, no! Want to be the best. It's the only thing worth trying to be.