Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cause of Death: Seuss-icide

Okay, I tried really hard to do the 31 Days in Seuss, but I lost steam on the whole thing about mid-month and never recovered. I know when I'm beat, so I'm throwing in the towel.

Turns out it's actually hard to write poetry-- even bad poetry-- every day. Let me go ahead and extend a heartfelt apology for all the merciless fun I've made of the poets I know. (If you're a poet, you probably didn't know about the ridicule, since I usually do it behind your back.) Poetry is no joke hard work.

I really do like the month-long "theme" challenges, but I need to find one that is a little harder to do than the 30 Day Song Challenge but a lot easier to do than the 31 Days in Seuss. I'm opening the comments section up to suggestions from you, readers. Right now I'm leaning heavily towards an idea (borrowed from Kate Drabinski's blog What I Saw Riding My Bike Around Today) where I would take a picture from my daily life each day. I've been noticing recently that there are a LOT of times in my mundane Memphis experience when I see things that I should photograph. Just a couple of days ago, when the heat index was hovering around 110 degrees, I saw a man in a full Santa costume sitting on the curb in Midtown and cutting out paper snowflakes. That's some positive thinking that should be documented.

Bring on the suggestions!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

31 Days in Seuss, Day 12: My Scariest Moment

Still trying to catch up on the 31 Days in Seuss Challenge, but I'm determined to get them all done before the end of the month! I posted the whole (non-rhymed) account of today's story on my blog before. It's here if you're interested, but here it is in verse:

MY SCARIEST MOMENT
Here's a true story from 2 years ago
The scariest of all the moments I know
When I woke up one morning and went into work
And everything, suddenly, went completely berserk.

I was feeling quite strange when I rolled out of bed
Nauseous and dizzy, with a pain in my head,
But nothing too serious, or so I thought,
No reason it seemed to get too overwrought.

I made it to work, but things just got worse
The stairs to my office seemed hard to traverse
I couldn't quite get my bearings about me
My hand was shaking as I turned the door-key.
I took some deep breaths, drank some water and tried
To ignore the symptoms that wouldn't subside,
But I wasn't okay and I knew pretty fast
That whatever this was could not be surpassed.

I went down to my classroom. I couldn't teach.
But when I tried to announce that-- Oh no!-- NO SPEECH!
I stood there bewildered, a stammering mute
I must've appeared to have wits subacute.
My students just stared, waiting for direction
While I was lost in a fog of confused introspection.

Where were my words? Why wouldn't they come?
I knew what I wanted to say, but was dumb.
I could think in full sentences and intend with full will
But the sound all around remained stubbornly still.
Something was definitely wrong, I knew that.
It was my turn, but I stood there, at-bat.

To the ER I went in dystopic fantasia
Where the doctors informed me that I had aphasia.
The result of a stroke, my speech had been taken
A little spasm in my brain was the cause for my achin'.

After a whole lot of tests and a hospital stay,
They finally said it would all be okay.
Just like that, a second chance was transplanted
For me to never take my own words for granted.

31 Days in Seuss, Day 11: My Excellent Adventure

MY EXCELLENT ADVENTURE
It's hard to think of an adventure I've had
That might count as "excellent," like, totally rad
I mean, I once skydived (or is it "skydove"?).
On a dare I once at a whole garlic clove.
I ran away once. Out the window I flew!
(But I was back in two hours, and nobody knew.)
I drove from Memphis to Boston once, straight
Without taking a rest, to meet up with a date.



But "adventure" is a hard word to define
And I'm not sure it applies to ventures of mine.
The best I can think of is one night last summer
In NOLA, with Kermit, a keyboardist and drummer,
And four of my friends at a late night jazz show
When I took a turn as la chanteur nouveau.

I'm punting on this one, as will become clear
When I direct you to read the whole story here.

31 Days in Seuss, Day 10: My Hometown

My apologies for dropping the ball on the 31 Days in Seuss Challenge over the last week or so. I got busy and then had some internet issues at home. Anyway, I'm going to try to catch back up, starting where I left off. Here's Day 10:

MY HOMETOWN
My hometown sits on the Big Muddy bluff
It's rough and its tough and it hides lots of stuff
Some of it bad, like poverty and crime
But most of it good, and all of it mine.

It's the birthplaces of soul, home of the blues
Where The King first flashed us those sweet blue suede shoes

Where Johnny and Roy recorded at Sun

Where the lights stay on till the drinkin' is done
Where there's always been tension between whites and blacks
But where all that's just noise when the DJ plays Stax.
This city's a legend, and there ain't no mistaking
That Soulsville has always been slowly remaking
Itself into something more strange, more eclectic
Like some bourbon-soaked, barbecued, Southern-culture dialectic.

We've got the Arcade, the Lorraine, the Peabody
We learned from our neighbors how to make hotty-toddy's.
(And speaking of hot, we sure bring the heat
From March to November, sweat-glands will secrete
That sweet film of humid and oppressive heat
About which our speech can be quite indiscreet.)
We've also got Graceland and Gibson and Beale
And Bellevue mega-church's surreal mega-zeal.
In fact, we've got more churches than gas stations.
The only thing MORE numerous: temptation locations!
Like Wild Bill's, my personal favorite in town
Where the renowned getting-down is the best all around.

We're a city full of hustlers, no place for a wimp
(Every Memphian knows it's hard out there for a pimp!)
The Grizz, the Redbirds, the Tigers keep us cheering
And all of those tourists make room for profiteering.
We've got our fair share of loonies and quacks
(Hell, we even ELECT some of those hacks!)
But at the end of the day, there's no denying the facts
This is still a helluva place to relax
To kick back, to unpack, to talk a little smack
To locate that one thing that your soul somehow lacks
To relish in the unrefined and unclean,
To feel the sweet release of your spirit's dopamine
To know you're in a place where History was made
Forbade, surveyed, underpaid, disobeyed,
Weighed in the measure of a sweet serenade
Pervading the air where music is played
Night after night and day after day
In a city where no one's stay is overstayed.

I tried to leave Memphis, it wouldn't let me go.
It brought me back home to the home that I know
Where the good and the bad, in fact, do interwine.
But most of it's good, and all of it's mine.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

31 Days in Seuss, Day 9: My Family

MY FAMILY
This will be brief, for the story's quite plain.
We're a common family with a common name.
We were five in count for a whole lot of years
Then my brother got married, and new kids appeared.
So now we count nine, to each one's delight.
And nine, for the time, feels just about right.

My dad was a Preacher, and he's led the brood
Though thick and through thin, with passions subdued.
My mother's the firm (sometimes strict) regulator,
The translator of what counts as upright behavior.

My sister, the youngest, "quiet" as a rookie
Grew up to be quite a tough little cookie.
My brother, the handsome and lovable clown,
Has a knack for picking you up when you're down.
His wife, my new sister, is her own kind of force
She's an addition I can fully endorse!

And the kids! Oh, the kids! I do love them so!
For being an aunt is the best job, you know.
I don't ever scold them, I don't tell them "no"
They can come to me whenever they're granted furlough.

The little one, she likes sweet sweets topped with sprinkles,
Her eyes always harbor mischievous twinkles.
The older one's smart, and so talented, too.
(But she's nearing her teens and might soon come unglued!)
The middle, our boy, has the best little swagger
He's sweet and eccentric, never a bragger.

It just so happens that our hometown coincides
With much more extended family besides,
Which makes for impressive holiday gatherings
With stories a-plenty and continuous blathering
On and on about this and that and the other
All of it code for "we love one another."

We poke fun at each other, ride each one hard,
Watch movies together, grill out in the yard,
Tell jokes until everyone's faces contort,
And exhort the reporting of feats of all sorts.
We sometimes unfortunately hold our own grudges,
Treat one another like each other's judges,
But at the end of the day, with skill and aplomb
We find our way back to the place we call home.
Family is family, and family's permanent.
It's the one unchosen, unbidden determinant
We have in our lives. So I will take mine
Without amendment or redesign,
Without substituting any other
Sister or brother, father or mother,
Or anyone else we adopt for the day.
You could join, too. You can't overstay
Your welcome in a family like mine.
(Believe me, I've tested it many a time!)

Friday, July 08, 2011

31 Days in Seuss, Day 7: My Best Idea

There's a Facebook page for 31 Days in Seuss now. Click here to like it. And without further ado, here's Day 7:

MY BEST IDEA
I've had a good idea or two in my day
(And many more bad ones I won't redisplay)
Grad school was a good one, confronting my fears,
And bachelorette-ing for these past few years,
And one time jumping right out of a plane,
Choosing a life and a home that's urbane,
Spending my twenties in a rock-n-roll band,
Embarking on many adventures unplanned,
Saying I'm sorry for an error or two,
(And not apologizing for more than a few!),
Moving back home when I was given the chance
And keeping my sweet spot for sweethearts' romance.

But my BEST idea, I think, when I think on it hard,
Is the one that I'll never, no never, discard.
My research underwent a major upheaval.
A few years ago, I turned my attention to evils
Like torture, the denial of key recognition,
And not so very "extraordinary" rendition,
The things that are done causing moral distaste,
Exploitation resulting in persons debased
Racism, sexism, the logic of Empire
The harsh regulation of basic desire--
In short, all our missteps that would go unchecked
Without human rights and a will to protect.

But laws just declare rights, they can't ever ground them
(MLK said that, the disenfranchised gathered around him)
It's philosophy's job to try and illumine
Whatever it is that binds us as "human."
So I made it my aim, my research obsession
To contribute my best idea to that question.

Here it is: we are, all of us, weak.
What's "human" about us is that, no mystique.
We're mortal, mutable, sometimes petty and mean.
We're defined by our futures, which remain unforeseen.
We can be a capricious, unpredictable lot.
But defined by some essence? Well, we're just not.
Despite all our difference, there's one thing we share:
None of us, not one, lives a life solitaire.
We may be rational, free, many other great strengths,
We may build great machines and go to great lengths
To distinguish ourselves from nature, the beast,
The stranger, the alien, the unknown, unreleased,
But at the end of the day, we need one another,
Sister and sister, brother and brother
To step in and defend and declare a loud "No!"
To insist that not anything, not everything goes.

For whatever else we may know of ourselves
From the volumes of thinking we keep on our shelves,
We're the only animal that can settle our quarrels
Without force or fight, by discharging our morals.
So my best idea, above all else, is just this:
We ought not, cannot, ever be remiss
In protecting human rights. We need to pursue
The "them" that's a "we", the "I" that's a "you"
For someday, you should know, they'll come for you, too
And you'll need the ones who won't misconstrue
The difference between you and them as innate
And who won't, in reflex, underestimate
The humanity that you share with the rest of us folk
For that's a humanity that can't be revoked.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

31 Days in Seuss, Day 6: My Biggest Hope

I'm not exactly sure that "hopes" are things that can be quantified in categories like "biggest" or "smallest," but here's my go at it anyway for Day 6 of the 31 Days in Seuss challenge:

MY BIGGEST HOPE
Pageant contestants with their big empty smiles
And big empty eyes and feminine wiles--
All say the same when asked of their hopes.
"World peace!" they exclaim, like big empty dopes.


We ALL think, of course, that world peace would be nice,
But REAL hopes are typically much more precise.
They usually have something more specific to do
With you, your purview, and the things you pursue.

So, although I've lots of big hopes to convey
The biggest of all, I can't help but say
Is a very clear-cut and crystal clear pining
For a "yes" that would be in great measure defining
Of all of the work, and the stress, sleepless nights I've endured
To procure the allure of a job well-secured.

It may seem quite selfish to be so in thrall
With the hope that I'm calling my "biggest" of all,
But what I long for most is the official extension
Of that sweet golden "yes" at my tenure contention.

If my tenure bid fails, there will be no excuse.
I shouldn't have spent all this time writing Seuss!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

31 Days in Seuss, Day 5: My Hate

Here's the next installment for 31 Days in Seuss. I'll just say that I sure would appreciate some commentary, if only to let me know whether or not I should keep soldiering through this very difficult challenge. Is anyone reading this? Hello?

Also, again, if you're participating in this Challenge with me and Ideas Man, PhD, please let me know so I can be sure to read (and link to) your entries!





MY HATE
Hate is a word I don't use too often
Preferring instead those words that can soften
The things and people that make us perspire
With vitriol, disgust, venom and ire.

But since I've chosen to poetically rehearse
Those things that prompt me to feel love's inverse
I'll make an exception, just in this case
And tell of the hates I usually efface

Bigotry, prejudice, and postures sardonic
(I know, hating "hate" is profoundly ironic!)
But I simply cannot underestimate
My hatred of those who don't tolerate
The difference that makes this world so enriched.
When I hear them, I become slightly unhitched
And can't help but despise the haters that hate
And longingly plead that they NOT procreate.

Really, who needs more of that kind?
Their wills undisciplined, their minds unrefined,
They whine and they bind and they decline to sign
That precious social contract keeping us all intertwined.

I hate ignorance, too, thinking that is hazy
Principles based on a relativism lazy
And those who simply will not condescend
To defend their positions, who can't comprehend
That a concept, or any ethical schematic,
Can never be totally idiosyncratic,
Theocratic, static, or stupidly automatic
And who can't see why that's so problematic.
If there's one thing that stymies the spirit democratic
It's a demos that's thoroughly, blindly fanatic.

In smaller hates, I'll note that I also dislike
The poetry of Beats, and Cognitive Psych,
Celtic music, tomatoes, capitalist elites,
Meetings where all that they serve is sweet sweets,
Scary movies, standstill traffic, and all things suburban,
People who look down their noses at bourbon,
Commitments for which I did not volunteer,
And bars that want to put fruit in my beer,
The people who never get up and dance,
Anything resembling those dumb capri pants,
Undercooked chicken and overcooked steaks,
Those who remind me of all my mistakes,
The smell of vanilla, the taste of champagne,
And any and every crime inhumane.

On reflection, I've more hates than I imagined at first
But at least they seem nicer when all rhymed and versed
Seuss-like, as was the call of this test.
Still, the list can't help but make me a little depressed.

Monday, July 04, 2011

31 Days in Seuss, Day 4: My Books

My entry for Day 4 in the 31 Days in Seuss challenge is a little late, but I'm posting yesterday's and today's now. This one was the hardest to rhyme so far.

MY BOOKS
If you wanted an accurate glimpse of myself
Stop by and survey the books on my shelf
They're tattered and worn and filled with scribbles
The many unsettled scholarly quibbles
I've had with those writers over the years
And which fashioned the borders of my thinking's frontiers

There's the mundane, the mighty, the deep and the smart
Derrida, Foucault, Fanon and Sartre
Lots of philosophers from the region of France
And Americans, too, who wear French Thinking Pants

Alongside the Frenchies, and worth equal mention
Are the great works of many illustrious menschen
Nietzsche and Kant, Marx and Hegel
Philosopher-poets, like Goethe and Schlegel
They have their own space, as is their wont
(Their Gegend is still la arrondissement)

On separate shelves you'll find all my fiction
Full of addiction, constriction, affliction, contradiction
Dosteovsky, Kundera, Franzen and Roth,
Foer and Faulkner (most are in cloth)
Junot Diaz and his sad Oscar Wao
And all of the tragedy that space will allow

You won't find any sci-fi or Beat Generation
But there's plenty besides for smart conversation
The subjects that keep me ever transfixed
With the ins and the outs of Realpolitiks

No vampires, no volumes of young Harry Potters
I much prefer Steinbeck-- his downtrodden squatters
Stand in for the rest of us weak human beings
Petty and proud, in search of some meaning
To make our small lives seem less ordinary
When recorded by artists of arts literary.

My books, my friends, my confidantes too
I cannot imagine my space without you
There's just this one thing, which I cannot approve:
You're such a pain in the ass when I move!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

31 Days in Seuss, Day 2: My Love

This 31 Days in Seuss Challenge is already harder than I thought it would be. But the good news is that there's at least one other person who I know is doing it, so be sure to check out Ideas Man, PhD's blog. He's got mad Seuss skills.

I'm hoping that the more one tries to write in Seuss, the easier it gets. We will see. Anyway, here is today's attempt:


MY LOVE
The Prompter said today, "I know what we'll do!
I'll ask you your love, and you'll tell me your Who!"
Poor Prompter, he could not have known what I knew
That my love is a What and not really a Who.

"Nonsense!" he said, with an incredulous glance
The look that he gave me profoundly askance
"Love is for Whos, real people and such
No one loves Whats in that way, not as much."

He handed me a tablet, a big shiny pen
Demanded the names of my Who-loves, and then
With a growl and a huff he slammed the door shut
Shouting: "You must write of Whos and nary a What!"

I stared at the page, whatever to do?
There are too many Whos whom I love (and too few)
And my love for each is so different, too.
And what of the ones I already outgrew?
People could so easily err, misconstrue
Why THEY weren't the Who for My Love pas-de-deux.

So I decided I'd make a list of the Whats
That I knew that I loved with no ifs, ands or buts
Love isn't as simple as that mean Prompter said
I would make My Love list how I wanted instead.

Music and books were on the top of my list
And the big ideas with which all Whos and Whats coexist
There were warm summer nights and parties and sports
And the laughter that sounds like a hundred loud snorts
And classrooms where arguments are welcome and sound
The sweet smell of honeysuckle right out of the ground
The rush of a roller coaster's exhilaration
And the feel of a juke joint's dancing gyrations
Sad songs and high-fives and pool tables too
And the heavenly taste of pork barbecue.

Those were my loves. That was my list.
I knew that the Prompter would certainly be pissed.
He took it, surprised, and said "How apropos!
List the Whats that one loves. The Whos already know."

Friday, July 01, 2011

31 Days in Seuss: The Rules

Some of you have already written me to ask "what in the world is 31 Days in Seuss?!" Well, it's like the 30 Day Song Challenge that I did last month (in June), only it's done in verse, like Dr. Seuss. Each day, I will have to answer the Seuss prompt with as much cleverness, wit and rhyme as I can muster, and with a healthy dose of neologisms.

I'll just say at the outset that I'm no poet. I didn't even know what anapestic tetrameter or amphibrach tetrameter or trochaic tetrameter was until I looked up Dr. Suess on Wikipedia. But, then again, not many people of Theodor Geisel as a "great poet" either, so I'll just try to slip in like he did. I'm not as confident about making it all the way through this challenge as I was about the music challenge, but I'm certainly going to give it a shot.

Oh the places we will go!

Here's how the Seuss Challenge will proceed for July. Please let me know if you're playing along on your own blog. And extra points for comments in Seuss-ese!

THE RULES:

Day 1- My job
Day 2- My love
Day 3- My music
Day 4- My books
Day 5- My hate
Day 6- My biggest hope
Day 7- My best idea
Day 8- My best friend
Day 9- My family
Day 10- My hometown
Day 11- My excellent adventure
Day 12- My scariest moment
Day 13- My saddest day
Day 14- My country
Day 15- My politics
Day 16- My religion
Day 17- My lost cause
Day 18- My embarrassment
Day 19- My parents
Day 20- My death
Day 21- My baggage
Day 22- My pet
Day 23- My most random moment
Day 24- My style
Day 25- My home
Day 26- My delusion
Day 27- My talent
Day 28- My principles
Day 29- My philosophy
Day 30- My worst moment
Day 31- Why you should know me

31 Days in Seuss, Day 1: My Job

I'm beginning a new Challenge today, called 31 Days in Seuss. I'll be taking some element of my life each day and describing it in verse like the children's author Dr. Seuss. I have to admit that I'm not entirely confident I'm going to be able to do this for the whole month of July, but we'll give it a shot and see how it goes.

For the first day, I'm supposed to describe "My Job." As readers of this blog already know, I'm a professor of Philosophy at a small liberal arts college in Memphis. I always find it difficult to explain what I do to other people, so perhaps trying it in Suess will be a bit of an advantage. I mean, as far as I can tell, when I talk about Philosophy to other people it sounds a lot like Seuss-ese anyway.

So here it is, in Seuss:

MY JOB
One Who, two Who, three Who, four
A Little Who for each year, every year, sometimes more
The Big Whos leave them here, just an unprepared corps
To meet Great Whos of Whomanity and settle the score

I work at the Who-House. I meet Whos in great number
Eager and restless, imaginations unencumbered
I teach them Who thoughts and Who history and Who news
And how to read, write and talk like smart Little Whos

We struggle through annals of Who Life and such
And I hear their Who drama a little too much

In time, they are able to manage Who tussles
They begin to develop impressive Who muscles
They stumble, they falter, they beg and they plead
But they pick themselves up, brush off their Who knees
They learn the Who-House is a temporary stay
For Whomanity awaits! They musn't delay!
The Who-Doctors, like me, who have watered and fed them
Must some day, regrettably, cut loose and shed them

Eventually, the day comes when Little Whos have grown
And we Who-Doctors confirm what was already known
They had untapped Whomanity in them all along
And they now know the difference between Who Right and Who Wrong
So we send them off to the world of Whos great and small
To find and to answer their special Who-call

We return to the Who-House, more Little Whos in waiting
For the training of Whos is a task unabating
But each Little Who is a Future Who needed
To tend the lawn of Whomanity, which must be constantly weeded.
So the Who-Skills are taught and tested and graded
Quite often with love (those Little Whos get jaded!)
All the Big Whos in Who-Land depend on us dearly
To make Little Whos who can think and speak clearly
Of philosophy and life and the goods of Whomanity
To save us all from the nonsense of Fox-Whos insanity.

As a Who-Doctor, I confess, I love what I do
Even when charged with corralling bad Little Whos
So it takes no Who-effort to make this confession:
Mine is the best of the best of the best Who-Professions.