‘Is not the death of youth the Iliad’s
Overarching theme?’ Vachel Lindsay
Once inquired -- and the answer is
Yes, of course, as when the arrow
Aimed at Hector instead pierced
Young Gorgythion’s unarmored
Neck and his head slowly bent
As a poppy weighed down by rain
Might so incline, or when aged Nestor
Talked too much with his advice
To Patroclus of dubious efficacy.
Alas, the young warrior, the old king,
Body, or mind -- the death of youth:
But Vachel Lindsay? His death?
You may hear it said as I once heard
That he drank a bottle of Drano but
Lysol it was -- death by Lysol, age 52,
Springfield, Illinois, 12-5-1931.
A poem is like a golf ball because
A poem’s meaning derives from
The multifarious denotations
And connotations of words
Compressed within the poem
As in a golf ball tightly packed
Rubber bands are compressed.
A poem’s meaning is revealed
By unraveling the poem’s figurative
Rubber bands but let us be aware
Of how this can discombobulate
The poem’s energy compression
mechanism. The good news is
Not all poems work that way.
Money is like a golf ball because
Although one golf ball may cost
More than another they are all
The same size just as money can
Come in various denominations
But all American paper bills are
Uniform in length and width.
Also, people may have a golf ball
In a pocket or a purse without
Anyone knowing it or they may
Actually not have a golf ball while
Others believe they do have one.
It’s the same way with money
Because you just never know.
Sex combines golf ball qualities
Of both poems and money because
Sex can be a compressed version
Of an entire relationship just as
Rubber bands are compressed
In a golf ball or a poem’s meaning
Is compressed in its words.
Also, you can’t tell about people’s
Sex lives by looking at people
Just as without actually looking
In someone’s pocket or purse
You can’t tell whether they have
A golf ball, or some money,
Or much money, or no money.
Death is like a golf ball because
Just as a golf ball goes into a hole
In the grass so most people go
Into graves in cemeteries which
Are like golf courses in their verdure
And in the silence we are asked
To maintain and also in the way
Some golf balls smoothly and
Easily descend into a hole while
Others do not. Yet though death
Is like a golf ball let us neither
Weep nor grieve but take heart
And look on the bright side
Because life is like a golf ball too!
Man had a big house outside
Iron Mountain, his wife hot at
The swimming pool, laughing
As Nasko Hooten introduced
Himself: 'What kind of a name
'Is that?' But not in the slightest
Was he pissed off. Light shone
In her eyes, he saw the woman
She would have been were she
Duncan Oklahoma born and bred.
Man had a truck they looked at
For a while – Nasko Hooten said,
‘I’d put a winch on the front
‘Of it were that truck mine.’
Perhaps Lydia Davis is best known as a prose writer,
most recently of very short stories. But her work has
also appeared in BAP anthologies,
Lydia's new book of stories
is called Can't and Won't.
There's also a profile of Lydia
in this week's New Yorker magazine.
The link is below.
One little problem (maybe.)
To read the New Yorker online
you have to be a subscriber.
So if you're not a subscriber,
you can subscribe. Or if you're
not a subscriber, and you don't want
to subscribe, there's a link to another
article about Lydia.
Maybe a better one. Or maybe not.
But about Lydia. And free.
I am a young girl trying to fly
A plane but I don’t really know
How to fly one. So let’s see, um,
Let’s try this button…or that one…
This one looks good… um…um…
I am a girl who finds a panda
That is black and white as I too
Have my good and bad sides
And this girl goes through a time
Of actually liking to get in trouble.
We read about Stonewall Jackson
And about his last words which were
‘Let us cross over the river and rest
‘Under the shade of the trees.’
Then he died. That is so sad.
Big stars of today like [insert name]
And [insert name] will be dead
Someday so I like to invent names
Like Essence Gladstone of imaginary
Stars who are not even born yet.
As my life goes from day to day
I do wonder about the end of it
Or maybe it will not ever end
Or it will end for everyone else
But me. But am I so special? Ha.
Adderall pills George Henry obtained
From Russian doctor in a strip mall
Thirty milligrams swallowing one of
Those babies and the baby goosing him
On Third Street Promenade entering
Sur le Table store of all kitchen stuff,
Blenders, knives, pots and pans, aprons,
Toques, merciless espresso machines.
His brain pleasantly accelerating: memories,
Conversations of fifty years ago, old movies,
Song lyrics, literary references, neologisms,
Witticisms, a tingling in neck, legs, arms,
Awe at the universe in its vastness but
Sudden pitbull-like aggressive inclination
Toward espresso machine monsters.
“You’re all a bunch of phonies!” he cried.
Outside again he bet ten million dollars
On the Super Bowl, he got the Nobel Prize,
In a peculiar gait he ran to the street corner
And back, he peed in a Starbucks toilet,
At high volume he recited misquoted
Line from the old Carl Sandburg poem --
Chicago is the world’s greatest hog butcher.
“I’m originally from Chicago!” he screamed.
At repose in his favorite chair and
Sipping tea Whitehead remarked,
‘If I’ve made some small contribution
‘It has been to observe the absence
‘Of distance or depth in past time
‘So that nothing past is further past
‘Than anything else. The Pharaohs,
‘An unforgotten little grassy spot
‘Beneath a tree, or for that matter
‘Moments of happiness or heartbreak
‘Are equidistant in past-ness from where
‘We now sit notwithstanding our
‘Ill-considered sense for example
‘That Alexander exists or existed
‘At greater temporal remove from us
‘Than a telephone call moments ago.’
Then he fell silent.
After a light lunch the talk turned
To the Hebrew Bible and he said,
‘Waiting is its great theme and the
‘Consequences of not knowing how
‘Properly to wait even through
‘Many generations. Patience?
‘It’s true we might expect scripture
‘To counsel it but mere patient
‘Imperturbability or even fortitude
‘Fail to convey the energy of mind
‘That Jacob in Genesis deployed in
‘His several predicaments. Certainty --
‘Hebrew, emunah – a fierce conviction
‘That Yahweh’s covenants will be kept
‘May be the word to denote the correct
‘Biblical consciousness of waiting.’
He said no more about this.
Nineteen forty-eight: could anything
Be emptier than his chair by the radiator
On a winter afternoon in Cambridge?
Some foolish girls making pancakes
In the apartment next door ignorant
Of his chats with Wittgenstein as to
Whether only tautologies can be true,
Incognizant of his son’s early death
In the Royal Flying Corps or of Russell’s
Infatuation with his wife as they wrote
The Principia – the obliviousness of
Those girls so irks me that I want to
Scream at them how they have never
Read a book of metaphysics in their lives
Amid their pancakes their hours long
Birthday parties ersatz fashion shows
And endless jitterbugging!
The arena: observing combats the Romans fought
Against their own sympathies aroused by scenes
Of mayhem but sympathies quite unbecoming
Citizens of a warfare state. By its cruelty therefore
The howling mob determinedly pledged allegiance
To the authorities’ values and symbols or perhaps
They just enjoyed having people tortured to death.
That would be another way of looking at it.
The movies: here also a syrupy rich mix of sadism
And sentimentality offers and often delivers
Have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too experiences of a type
Nowhere else to be found. We observe the lashing
Of a kind and beautiful young black woman at which
The Romans would have laughed but as we watch
The lashing in outrage we feel as good about ourselves
As the ancient Romans felt. Or almost that good.
The Best Western Motel: in 1980 a woman asked
Would I mind if she fell asleep while I made love
To her and I did take offense but now in 2014
The same question from a different woman brings
Nothing untoward and even some little drollery:
‘I’ll be surprised if you don’t.’ Yet she stays awake
And later I do help her to sleep by reciting names
Of college football teams. This is paradise.
Yes, rated X! But stay with it because John Milton comes up at the end!
(ed note: warning, this is a frank discussion. You may not want to watch/listen if you are in a public place.-- sdh)
That day in 1932 when Hart Crane went overboard
Off the steamship he cried ‘Goodbye, everybody!’
With a stark economy of expression unlike The Bridge
And his other poems’ intricately wrought phrasings.
Whoever is unmoved by such poignant juxtaposition
In extremis of plain style and poetic eloquence
Never studied at Columbia University -- as did I
With David Lehman, Paul Spike, Leslie Gottesman,
David Shapiro, Hilton Obenzinger, Paul Auster,
Aaron Fogel, Bruce Kawin, David Anderson,
Alan Senauke, Arnold Eggers, Laurence Wieder,
Michael Steinlauf and others of that same ilk --
Nor should we forget the poet’s promise in1916,
Albeit unfulfilled, to attend Columbia University.
Do not be a gentleman when you say goodnight,
Nor let silence prevail at the closing of the door;
Hit him with your left, then hit him with your right.
Myron Fox played pinochle though had lost his sight,
With hand and heart discerning cards’ worth;
Do not be a gentleman when you say goodnight.
Jess Rabin cheekily liked to say go fly a kite,
A turn of phrase we don’t hear any more;
Hit him with your left, then hit him with your right.
Al Arenberg got rich with a non-glare ceiling light,
He died in a room of the old Webster Hotel;
Do not be a gentleman when you say goodnight.
Dark as the nights were, so the windows were bright,
The boys and their girlfriends on the dance floor;
Hit him with your left, then hit him with your right.
Lou Belmont! I see him now with my own second sight,
The black Oldsmobile – and the stern ukase:
‘Do not be a gentleman when you say goodnight,
‘Hit him with your left, then hit him with your right.’
Office holders and political people,
Bush, Obama, Cheney, Old Man Bush,
Michelle, Hilary, Bill, Condoleezza Rice,
The living and dead, Nixon, Kennedy,
Dwight Eisenhower, all had bedbugs
But they neither saw nor suspected
That bedbugs were biting them.
At the Stanhope Hotel, at the Pierre,
At the Mirage Hotel of Beverly Hills
In the early morning silence bedbugs
Awaken as heedless we slumber,
As we bathe, as we have intercourse
Bedbugs peer from their hiding places
And we are oblivious of the bedbugs.
A stunning woman of fashion
On Fifth Avenue – for the bedbugs
In her iPhone it is a simple matter
Amid her chat and gab to ear-enter
Her like some harebrained marketing
Jingle and then deep within her
The bedbugs pitch their palaces.
Likewise the poor have bedbugs.
Egalitarians, equal opportunity
Enjoyers, true democrats are
The bedbugs for whom not
Solomon in all his glory enticed
Like a homeless man asleep in
A doorway or on a subway grate.
What can be done about bedbugs?
Go Google bedbug poisons or
How to kill bedbugs or natural enemies
Of bedbugs and you will find sprays,
Ointments, and simple inexpensive
Home remedies like dish soap that
Annoy bedbugs but not to death.
Much then can be done about bedbugs
But (really) nothing can be done about
Them. We slather ourselves with soap,
We fumigate, we fuss and fulminate,
We literally get down on our knees and
Pray to God and in that same hour we
Get bitten, we get dozens of bites.
Still by all means let us spray and
Slather, let us turn up the thermostats
In our apartments because bedbugs
Hate heat, let us leave no stone unturned
And the end of all our slathering and
Thermostating will be to know the
Futility of slathering and of thermostats.
Then let that knowing inspire all
Humankind to a frenzied piling up
Of mattresses in the world’s cities,
Towns, and fields – pillows, bedclothes
Piled high and burned by huge mobs
Fed up with bedbugs, joyful at mattresses
Burning if the bedbugs are also burning.
Let a crazed energy as in the poet’s
Vision of how Pandemonium was built
Grip all humanity and from that energy
Let bitter knowledge emerge that burning
Mattresses, pillows, and bedclothes is not
Enough for complete and total bedbug
Extermination because everything must burn!
Then onto the flaming mattresses let gold
Jewelry be flung, MacBooks, Big Bird t-shirts,
Watches and handbags, ATM cards, bras,
You name it, let even hundred dollar
Bills eagerly be flung lest bedbug eggs
Adhere to the hundred dollar bills
To say nothing of the twenties or tens.
Shrieking women tearing off their blouses,
Men – husbands, sons, lovers – flinging
Accoutrements of masculinity such as
Barn coats, beer cans, cowboy boots,
Baseball mitts and football jerseys
Into the flames to deny a refuge
To even one goddamned bedbug!
Yet as hand in hand the mobs dance
Naked around the fires in a hurly-burly
Unprecedented historically by pyramids
Or potlatches another grim awareness
Must dawn: no need have bedbugs for
The things of men when men themselves
Are so safe, succulent, and stupid.
At this a silence descends, befuddlement,
Despair, and mere surrender to the notion
Of bedbugs in the crevices of one’s own
Corpus finding room and blood until
Suddenly with a war whoop someone
Whose name will never be known
Flings himself or herself into the flames!
Then without hesitation and even with relief
Here a Hottentot, there a hedge fund manager,
Here a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet
Immolate themselves and their differences go
Up in smoke. What a spectacle but what irony
That the grander it becomes, the fewer are left
To admire it and I will be the last of all.
For like Captain Snuffy Shemengenopolous --
What was his name, the guy who crashed
His plane in the river? -- I will usher others
Out and then as Nixon did when last he
Ascended into his helicopter, waving my arms
I will address the barren landscape, I will cry,
“Bedbugs! You can have it! It’s all yours!”
Some say your name
Is your destiny as with
Green Bay’s Bart Starr
Who became the star qb
Of the Lombardi teams
Or Dick Butkus who cussed
And butted his way
To football immortality.
Joe Montana was another
Great qb whose name conjured
Images of Old West gunslingers
Or 19th century riverboat gamblers
And that day in the park when
I first came across his name
In the Tribune I knew Joe Montana
Would be in the Hall of Fame.
But what about Jim Brown?
Possibly the top ball carrier
Of all time who (oddly?)
Played for the Cleveland Browns
Yet it’s hard to come up
With a blander, less dashing,
More forgettable or invisible
Name than Jim Brown.
Earl Scheib too bore the burden
Of a genuinely zhlubby name
Yet he built a multi-million dollar
Automobile painting and collision
Repair company with locations
Around the world for which Scheib
Even made the paint though it
All did go to hell eventually.
My own name was Donald G. Bruce
But only for one day until my black
Market adoption took place and
This present appellation was conferred
On me but now as shadows lengthen
On the greensward and evening
Draws nigh I shall henceforth and
Forever be known as Duke Rhino!
Rachel and I are creating a series of videos exploring varieties of human sexual experience. Following Dante's example, we will begin with hell and wind up with paradise. We start with the problems and conclude with the big payoff!
And make no mistake: anyone can get there! Sexuality is a labyrinth, not a maze.You just have to keep going. And as you'll see, while Henry David Thoreau is a poor sexual role model, Ralph Waldo Emerson is an inspiring intellectual aphrodisiac!
We apologize for the annoying background noise in these videos. Sounds like chickens or mice yet it was completely quiet in the room. We will try to do better!
(Ed note: We are in L.A. where it is a near certainty that conversations will eventually turn to traffic, just as in NYC they turn to real estate. I was reminded of this poem by Chicago-born L.A. transplant, poet Mitch Sisskind. sdh)
In days of yore when the men played pinochle
At Julius Jaffe’s apartment a tradition grew up,
A rhetorical set piece evolved whereby
Al Farber in manly tones would describe
The route he’d driven in his Oldsmobile
From Skokie to the Jaffe residence on
Wellington Avenue. As a rule he took
Dempster Street to Ridge Road,
To Peterson, then south on the Outer Drive
Exiting at Belmont. But oh there were occasions
When the rain fell or the snow fell or in summer’s
Blaze the asphalt on Peterson Avenue buckled,
Or the Outer Drive itself was closed for some
Cockamamie reason. Then drawing himself
To his full height and waving his arms about,
Al Farber would declare, “I stayed on Dempster
All the way to Sheridan Road! I had no choice!”
Railing on and on until -- falling silent as
Julius Jaffe shuffled the cards -- he had the air
Of a man staring into the void. But this lasted
Only a moment, and once again he exploded
And the window panes rattled and the
Ashtrays lurched around on the card table.
“What else could I do?” he pleaded, existentially.
“Ridge Road was closed off. Traffic was a mess.”
Forty years he's gone! Christ, here was a man
Who owned dozens of businesses: dump
Trucks, a line of hair care products, a bowling
Paraphernalia store, carpet cleaning equipment,
Children’s furniture, sick room supplies --
All under the aegis of Al Farber Enterprises.
Yet he never ate his heart out over money matters
Nor in all those years we met at the Belden
Corned Beef Center did he show any interest
In financial vicissitudes. We spoke instead
Of getting from one place to another, of alternate
Routes when Lincoln Avenue was congested
Or Pratt Avenue was impassable, as it often was.
In fact, the ever-worsening congestion on Pratt
And in Rogers Park as a whole caused Al Farber
To make a solemn vow. “I will no longer eat at
Ashkenaz,” he told me, referring to the delicatessen
located at Pratt and Greenview. “It’s not worth my
Time to sit behind the wheel for forty-five minutes
For a corned beef sandwich, especially when
A better sandwich with more meat on it can be had
At the Corned Beef Center. It isn’t called
The Corned Beef Center for nothing! Aw haw
Haw haw! Ah ha ha! Aw haw haw haw haw!”
But then came the day -- this too in the
Belden Corned Beef Center– when
Al Farber suddenly inclined himself
Across the Formica and spoke sotto voce:
“There was a time,” he said, “when the
Four of us – myself, Julius Jaffe, Gus Golding,
And Charlie Shapiro – would jump in the
Car after the pinochle game and drive
To Wilmette for an ice cream cone!
There was no traffic to speak of, Mitchell.
At the most, twenty-five minutes straight up
Sheridan Road where there was a place
Called the Dairy Bar on the border of
Wilmette and Kenilworth in that unincorporated
Area referred to as No Man’s Land.”
Pausing abruptly, he was overcome by a
Coughing fit and turned a bright blue, but
Somehow managed to say, “In Wilmette
Jews could live, but there was not one Jew
In Kenilworth. Not one!” And he died.
Now in Los Angeles, lo, I am master of
Little-known routes and side streets bypassing
The cement mixers and FedEx trucks parked
On LaBrea Avenue or Highland. What others
Take forty minutes to drive, I can drive in twenty.
But this too is vanity because – and I make this
Public for the first time – I always feel not lost
Exactly, but not really there. Turning left
From Wilshire onto Rimpau, inwardly I head
North on Crawford Avenue in Lincolnwood,
Passing the Bryn Mawr Country Club, skirting
The sewage treatment plant at Howard Street,
On and on, all the way to Wilmette Avenue
Where Crawford becomes Hunter Road.
Picking up the children at Franklin and Western,
What in my mind’s eye do I see but the electric
blue roof light of a Chicago police car weaving
In and out of traffic on Milwaukee Avenue near
Where the Como Inn was. But the worst or best
Is this: alone in the Passat, I’m with Al Farber
In the Oldsmobile the day he said the hell with it
And stayed on Foster Avenue all the way
To Nagle. “I’m staying on Foster!” he cried,
And struck the steering wheel to challenge God.
But bear with my muse. It is not as it was.
Old age, Tolstoy wrote, is the biggest surprise
In a man's life. So true! Childhood hours
In the ancient car I now recall, the hot months,
Sox game on the radio, soporific Bob Elson
Mumbling in the microphone, "Um, strike one,"
And at bat Sherman Lollar, sloth-like catcher,
Elson droning, "Ball four. It's a base on balls,"
Henri Bergson called this perceived duration,
The sense of time as elastic phenomenon
Stretched or compressed by stoic's fortitude
Or child's impatience: "Are we there yet?"
And this is where the surprise comes in.
Yes, my good man, you have arrived there.
Yes, you are there all right, ya big dummy.
In fact, you've already been there for a whie
Except "there" is not "where" or even "what"
You would have imagined. "There" is "here,"
Wherever you happen to be at the time.
As the snail everywhere bears its shell,
You and the destination are one now,
Not where you're going but what you are.
But we will grieve not, as Wordsworth wrote.
Or perhaps we will grieve. Shall we? No matter,
It doesn't really amount to a hill of beans.
That's just how the cookie crumbles,
That was the funeral of Hector.
-- Mitch Sisskind
Veteran sportscaster Mitch Sisskind, prize-winning author of "Monsters of the Midway," who has covered the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers in a career spanning four decades, has now branched out in verse and written his "Iliad." My source is Pierre Menard, who under a pseudonym acted as the first United States citizen with a French first name ever to be a president's press secretary. To call Menard an informed source is to obfuscate the understatement. For those not in the know, a brief synopsis is in order.
Back in the day, Menard flexed his chutzpah chops by dropping his last name in favor of that of the notoriously reclusive author of "The Catcher in the Rye." His project: to write, with word-for-word fidelity to the original, "The Catcher in the Rye" with the difference that the book became an allegory of the life of Roy Campanella, catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers in their heyday, who befriended pitcher Don Newcombe in his losing battle with rye, bourbon, scotch, and Canadian whiskey.
It was at this point that the soi-disant Pierre Salinger adopted the pseudonym of Mitch Sisskind.
On a dare from Deejay Shap and Larry Weed, Sisskind agreed to hole himself up in a Hilton hotel -- the one in Pisa known to the natives as the "tiltin' Hilton" -- for twenty-four hours with no books or reading material handy except the Gideon Bible and the San Francisco Chronicle. At two hour intervals a hotel staffer would knock on the door saying "My name is Alan, and if it isn't Alan, it's Donald" and offering snacks: "Coffee's a dime." But Sisskind vowed to disregard any such temptation and to limit his responses to the names of wrestling holds.
By the end of twenty-four hours Sisskind had written his Iliad after escaping from handcuffs and leg-chains. He then took a bath, watched porn on demand, had a Coke, read three war novels by Herman Wouk, James Jones, and Norman Mailer, and became a gemologist. We post the written results above and invite readers to compare the lines with the Homeric original (chapter 22: pages 397-411 in Rieu's prose translation; or see Lattimore, lines 265-261). "There is no question in my mind that Achilleus was the greatest athlete of all time," Sisskind told Janet Benderman in their Partizansky Review interview of 2008. "Achilleus was god's man, less mortal than divine."
About his accomplishment Sisskind said, "I did not write The Iliad. I wrote my Iliad, and I called it 'Iliad,' for each of us must have his own Iliad, alas, do we not?"
"Iliad" is posted together with other compelling works -- by Angela Ball, Terence Winch, Sharon Mesmer, Jim Cummins, Ron Padgett, Led Upton, Bill Zavatsky, and worthy others including Denise Duhamel, guest editor of the 2013 edition of Best American Poetry -- in the one-shot, hot-shot, big-hit lit mag that Martin Stannard put together for the world to see on August 1, 2013. -- DL
First, I salute David for this beautiful essay. There is no doubt that he could have been a great sportswriter, and as this piece shows, it's not too late either. I have been inspired to offer a few thoughts.
First, as the editors of the NY Times have themselves acknowledged, a weakness of the paper has always been the failure to develop a really good sports section. Red Smith was certainly the best columnist they ever had, but as I think John Stuart Mill once said in another connection (or perhaps it was said about John Stuart Mill) "his eminence reveals the flatness of the surrounding terrain." Apparently there is some basic contradiction between the unique identity of the NY Times and the sports section of a newspaper. It's hard to imagine writers like Jim Murray, Jimmy Cannon, or David Condon publishing in the New York Times. That's life.
A.J. Liebling was one of those writers I wanted to like and the topics he wrote about seemed interesting, but I was completely disappointed in him. Whether he was writing about boxing, eating, or (especially) the city of Chicago, I sensed that in those days New Yorker writers must have been paid by the word. Just terrible. But he's still vastly better than Joseph Mitchell, another New Yorker writer whom I wanted to like. Joseph Mitchell is really the worst.
Onward. I am not free to disclose my sources, but the legendary collapse of the Chicago Cubs in 1969, which allowed the Mets to win the pennant, was caused in large part by a feud between Cubs manager Leo Durocher and Cubs third baseman Ron Santo -- both of them megalomaniacs. There were eleven games left in the season and I believe the Cubs only had to win one of them in order to get the pennant, but the Cubs lost them all. Something like that. Durocher's stepson was in my class when I was a seventh grade gym teacher that Fall, and he was really a great kid. It was certainly a difficult situation for him. We never spoke about what was happening during "the collapse."
Marciano, LaMotta, Graziano, Basilio, Joey Giardello, those guys were like Roman legionaries. Basilio and Giardello were boxers to some extent but the others were brawlers like gladiators with short swords. Marciano had wanted to be a baseball player more than a boxer. His advantage was that he loved to train. Heavyweights in that era weighed about 185 pounds, which was Marciano's weight. This continued up through Floyd Patterson's reign. Against Sonny Liston and the 220 pound men who followed him, Marciano would have definitely lost. A big heart can take you only so far.
Lots of matches from the postwar era and before can be seen on YouTube. Viewing them can only increase one's admiration for men like Mickey Walker, Archie Moore, Harry Greb, Benny Leonard, and many more. And no one knows more about the history of boxing than Mike Tyson. What a pleasure it would be to hear Mike speak about that! I know he has great admiration for Battling Nelson, although (or maybe because) Battling Nelson did lose 30 fights.
Ali became a great fighter and destroyed himself in the process. But I find it hard to listen to people rhapsodize about Ali when they don't really know anything else about the sport. The same thing happens regarding Secretariat. Citizen Joe is aware of Secretariat's dominant victory in the Belmont race. But Joe doesn't lament the fact that Secretariat was never tested beyond his third year. I think Secretariat only ran against older horses twice, and lost once. Not sure about that. Citation, in contrast, ran through age five. But the greatest horses were the geldings who had to keep running until they could hardly walk: Kelso, John Henry, Forego.
Blah, blah. It's impossible to make a "safe" football helmet. Baseball is the best invention America has produced. The baseball rule book is a stunningly great piece of writing. If a foul ball lodges in the catcher's mask, is it considered a catch? Jimmy Breslin's bio of Damon Runyon is a masterpiece. Blah, blah. Hank Stram is a badly underrated pro football coach. Bobby Fischer is in a category by himself but I more admire Michael Tal. Ultra-distance runner Pam Reed is the toughest athlete on Earth. The late Alex Karras went to Emerson High School in Gary IN. Blah blah. Football players with unique names include Cosmo Iacavazzi (Princeton), Elvis Peacock (Oklahoma), and Joe Don Looney (Oklahoma). Blah, blah, blah.
Here's a funny video of Hank Stram coaching the KC Chiefs. The coach knew he was wearing a microphone but the players did not. They couldn't understand why he was acting like he had ants in his pants.
Matthew Johnson the founder of Fat Possum records brought a group of North Mississippi blues musicians to the world's attention in the early 1990s. Almost all dead now. One most powerful was Junior Kimbrough, whose work Matthew Johnson described as "the beginning and the end of music."
Yes, "the beginning and the end" and it's interesting to see very accomplished musicians -- or, for that matter, plumbers, athletes, bartenders, rabbis, airplane pilots, shoe salesmen -- return to the most basic elements of their craft. Doing it with joy and no affectation is surely a mark of greatness.
Hillary Hahn is heap big young violinist. Can play just about anything
And here she does "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"...
Yardbird Parker is supposed to have been drawn to this kind of performance, sometimes playing Three Blind Mice on a toy saxophone. But Yardbird Parker might have been mocking his audience a little bit there too fuckin' with 'em a little bit gettin' over on 'em a little bit as members of the fishy tribe deserve.
Maybe I'm the only person who's unfamiliar with Mitoslav Tichy (1926-2011) and his beautifully subversive photographs, but I just discovered him last week. Tichy was trained as a painter of Socialist Realism in communist Czechoslovakia. He dropped out of the academy, however, and began his work as a photograper. He built his own camera out of wood and cardboard, in line with his belief that he should have the "worst possible camera."
Tichy developed his own pictures -- only one print of each -- and mounted many of them on children's construction paper. The women and girls in his town of Kyjov were his unknowing subjects. Especially under the Communists, this was considered threatening and at first Tichy was often arrested. And the Commies were right. He was a threat to those gray aparatchiks, to the extent that any artist can threaten such beings. Miroslav Tichy's website is here: http://www.tichyfotograf.cz/en/miroslavtichy-home.html.
Tichy's photographs eloquently speak for themselves. They've been correctly described as expressions of "poetic imperfection." I've spent hours looking at them, and the time has been well-wasted. Here are some examples. You can find many more. As you might expect, in recent years his work has been presented in galleries around the world.
Half-a-whores have no set fee
But simply accept such gifts as
Are forthcoming whether clothes,
Shoes, purses, spa days, Land Rovers,
Island getaways, pieds-a-terre,
Wine tastings, red carpet events,
Or, yes, breast enhancement surgery.
But listen up, you half-a-whores,
Breast enhancement surgery is never
An urgent need of yours but is only
Your wish to be eye-candy in public
For your sugar daddy or daddies and
In the bedroom to be youthfully and
Totally sexual for him or them.
The cheapest motel in Barstow,
There I received my education,
Groaning air conditioner
No match for faked orgasms
Unavoidable through walls
Nor could even the TV set prevail
Over whores’ continual bogus
Jollifications day and night.
So never fake an orgasm, girls,
That was the lesson I took away.
Do I look older than twenty-four?
It's because my soul is old.
What I've learned from fucking
Needs more than one lifetime
But I hate any God bullshit,
I hate any whore with the heart
Of gold bullshit, I love how laptops
And cell phones have made pimps
Obsolete, I like the word cunt better
Than pussy and I love the word slut.
Giving pleasure to women is what
Men want but most don't know
They want it, the dumb fucks,
How lame is that? Dorks! Hello?
Well, here is the key to the mint:
Class with a touch of wicked sleaze.
A hundred and nine men I've fucked
This year and the biggest prick was
Ten inches long, seven around,
And the smallest was zero point five.
I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman
THE RULE OF THUMB
Ringfinger was nervous
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.