I’m not dead

I’m not blogging because my DSL is totally DOA.  Won’t be fixed until tomorrow evening at the earliest.

And here I uncovered evidence that aliens stole all of the WMD. Guess I’ll have to blog about that some other day.

The flag truck

flag truckI don’t think enough people read this post back when I wrote it. I expected Ken Layne to praise it as a damn fine piece of writing, but I don’t think he read it. Later, I learned he was down in South America some where doing some dirty deed for the CIA or something at the time I posted the story originally.

Of course, I have more regular readers now, when I’m past 1180 posts, then I was at 271 posts. So why not repost something.

Especially when I finally get a picture of the truck that proves it’s all true.

David Kipen, damn fine writer

At that LA bloggy thingy last Saturday, I met many interesting people and saw many blogging buddies, but there is one person I met that I haven’t written about yet: David Kipen, book editor for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Kipen struck me immediately as a man of devilish charm and understated intelligence, meaning he struck me as humble, but possibly only because he let me dominate the conversation. I tend to get overly excited when I meet book people who share my passion for words about California. I opened up immediately when Kipen told me that he what he reviews mostly are books about California.

This evening I’ve spent a little time reading some of Kipen’s work. He’s a damn fine writer, and I’m adding him to my permalinks so I can keep tabs on what he has to say.

The man can flat out write. Consider these first three graphs from his review of Marc Reisner’s final book:

What if the pioneers had settled America from west to east — from California toward the Atlantic — instead of the other way around? Just for starters, we’d probably see way more statistics calculating the economic destructiveness of nature’s most underestimated act of God: winter.

Most Californians have had a bellyful of hearing how unnatural it is to live here, coming as it usually does from people who spend half the year putting on six layers of clothing just to fetch the morning paper. But a sobering new book has just arrived that should scare every living Californian silly — and it was written by one of our own.

“A Dangerous Place” is the last public testament of the late Marc Reisner, whose landmark book “Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water” should continue to shape debate about the West’s future for as long as people are fool enough to live here. Reisner died of cancer 2 1/2 years ago, but he left behind “A Dangerous Place,” a cruelly truncated stump of a book that nevertheless helps explain the seismic haymaker slowly gathering strength enough to floor us all.

Reisner’s Cadillac Desert is one of the best books ever written about California, and I didn’t even know he was dead. David has me thinking I need to go out and pick up his new book.

Kipen’s California tends to skew northward, but what should we expect from a reviewer writing for a Bay Area paper? One thing about him, at least he’s honest. He isn’t afraid point out what’s shabby about a particular book … in fact, one refreshing aspect of Kipen’s reviews is that he actually writes about the book, instead of trying to impress the reader with his erudition, which is what you find in most LAT reviews.

If you love California, go read Kipen — you’ll find some new treasures.

Political poetry

Joseph Duemer has actually posted something I can largely agree with, and it’s about poetry and politics, even.

Politics and war are valid topics of poetry. If poets of the past were somehow prevented from covering such topics, we wouldn’t have Homer to read today. Of course, there’s probably been more bad poetry penned in the an effort to advance some political cause than any other subject, but that doesn’t mean that a true poet can’t touch the sublime nature of the human condition through mere words on paper. War, after all, is not that far removed from love. The depth of human emotion it engenders is as profound, soul stirring and revealing as any other subject a poet might touch.

I tried to find Laura Bush’s exact words about the subject, and can’t. But if she said politics has no place in American literature, she’s wrong. She’s obviously never read Twain, or Hemingway or Irving. In poetry, as has been noted, Whitman and Dickinson both touched on the political, especially so Whitman. Whitman was a man of profound political passion. So much so that he wrote one of the most famous poems about any president, a Republican president, ever written (though I’m not sure it really qualifies as an example of  great American literature).

Where I disagree with Duemer — and I can’t do a whole post agreeing with him, can I — is in this phrase: ” … their alienation is my alienation.”

I invite Mr. Duemer to counter me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think so. Their alienation (I’m speaking primarily of Whitman and Dickinson, as I’m too unfamiliar with Hughes to comment) was not an alienation against political America as they knew it. Whitman would love America today as much as he loved it 150 years ago — because we remain a vibrant land full of possibilities that gives each individual soul room to expand and celebrate itself — Whitman’s alienation had more to do with his own struggles with his homosexuality, and his general sense of not fitting in with proper society. For Dickinson, she just wasn’t comfortable around people. She had no quarrel with her government, nor with the social structure of her day. What I read of Mr. Duemer to date is an alienation against the government, against our values, and with our ambitions. Those are concepts, I would argue, that Mr. Whitman and Ms. Dickerson would find strange and hard to fathom. I’m not trying to speak for the dead, merely offer a counter viewpoint.


Author Garrett Soden send along the following note:

I just discovered a new blog which I think you might want to check out, if you’re not familiar with it. It’s BookLinker at http://booklinker.blogspot.com, run by Dean Hamilton. This isn’t a free-ranging blog; Dean focuses only on books, posting his own book reviews that are not only well-written but are also filled with links to material that enriches whatever the book is about. Check it out.

I did. The site is exactly what Garrett says it is. I just want to know how Dean gets time to read all of those books???

Cabrillo Hall

madame tingleyThe office of The Point, the student newspaper of Point Loma Nazarene Colege, was in an old building on campus called Cabrillo Hall. The building was once the home of Madame Kathrine Tingley, who built a campus for the theosophical society on a beautiful stretch of the Point Loma peninsula in 1900. Eventually this property was acquired by the Nazarenes and turned into a Christian liberal arts college. I attended college there from 1985 to 1987. During my second year there, I became editor of the paper.

I spent many late nights in Cabrillo Hall that year. Usually, I was with fellow staffers, but quite often I was alone.

Cabrillo Hall was a beautiful old building and I cherished it. It hadn’t been treated well by administrators or students, but it was still a building of sturdy character and elagant design. With age, it seemed to take on its own personality. And, reportedly, it was haunted by Madame Tingley herself.

My year as editor wasn’t always easy. I certainly had some good times, but there are also many emotional lows. I had also had a few run-ins with the school administration. By the end of the year, I was a bit disallusioned with my PLNC experience.

One night in Cabrillo Hall, I decided to pay poetic tribute to a building I felt certain would some day be torn down to make way for the school’s progress. The poem is called “Cabrillo Hall.”

Cabrillo Hall still stands, but in a different location on campus. Also, the wing that contained the newspaper’s office has been stripped away, so future historians will not be able to place a sign there that reads “Howard Owens slept here,” and many a night I did.

Henry Gould

When you read:

O to be lifted forever
in the resonant ark,
your salt-stung aria!

you know you are not reading a po-mo poet. Thank you to Joseph Duemer for first turning me on to Henry Gould. It’s been a long time since I found a living poet I could admire.

I’ve just added his book Way Stations: Poems 1985-1997 to my recommended reading list, even though I do not own it yet myself. But I want it very badly. Next pay check, maybe.