Posted by: rationalpsychic | Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I have applied to the MFA program in Creative Writing

The Fool from the Rider-White deck

The Fool from the Rider-Waite deck

I have been putting together an application for the MFA program in Creative Writing at MSU-M (the state university in Mankato, MN). It requires me to put together 10 pages of poetry along with a short “artist’s statement.” I’m trying to put together all-new material and presently have about six which are near completion. Here’s one which has gone through only about two edits. Rather raw, but I’ll have to send some things in that are not as complete as I’d like in order to at least let them know what I’m driving at. The first time I’ve felt I’m writing a group of poems together which have a relationship among them.

The Fool

This man is not the man

he claims he is and you are

instructed not to listen to him.

He will say he’s seen creation,

that he’s a time traveler and more.

This man has traveled through time

at the expense of his compos mentis.

He has climbed the south shoulder

of this valley because he believes in a better self.

He will try to convince you that he dreamed

he was a crow, flying above the prairie,

above tall grass and oaks, looking for green foothills.

The bird he says he was in a dream:

in that creation his strongest claim

is he broke a consensus amid

a conference of birds. He used his voice

to raise the golden eagle in kingship,

proclaiming heights he would never find.

The crow says his piece, and sets himself

against owls to the last generation.

What measures disappointment

in a man who says he is a bird

that can teach through squawked stories?

The purple of the mountains is not

within sight and this man-bird

cannot fly high enough

to bring back fire.

And this black-winged subject of the king

will wake and find he is walking downhill.

Or worse, driving a black car

to his home at the bottom of the valley.

Posted by: rationalpsychic | Sunday, November 16, 2008

NaNoWriMo: Cheaper than a psychologist

I haven’t been posting here for a while. I usually apologize for that. This is one time when it would be wrong for me to apologize.

Sometimes when I skip posting here, it’s because I’m utterly devoid of anything to say. Then there are times when it’s based on an intuition, a feeling that I need to do something other than blogging. This has been my feeling lately: there’s something else I need to be doing.

It’s not earth-shattering, it’s been National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. And as I’ve written away and found myself incapable of meeting the 1667 word per day average I’ve learned that I could produce about 800 words a day easily. That’s averaging out the days when my kids have been over for the weekend. And on those days neither I or the computer get more than ten minutes to do any noveling.

I think that it’s taught me the difference between writing for others as opposed to writing for myself. The blog is definitely a format that I not only want to share with others it’s a format in which I am writing for others.

When I’m writing the novel on NaNoWriMo I’m writing for myself. It’s obvious that I’d like to come up with something publishable by starting this process. At the end of November I know I will not have something ready to typeset and go to print. But, I have already written 10,000 words that I didn’t know I had in me.

Every time I sit down to write on my novel I have a basic idea of a scene or a piece of dialog that I want to write down or begin with. What is amazing about engaging in this process is that a whole lot of other stuff tumbles onto the screen after I get the initial sentence or two written.

I’m not used to trusting myself. That’s why I so often write with the idea, first and foremost, that I am trying to write for publication or to please others or to show others that I am…what? The mask of potential author is what I think I’m trying to put on. Maybe I’ll get published. Maybe you’ll write me nice comments which become the equivalent of publication for my ego.

The longer writing I’m doing with NaNoWriMo is about me taking the time and effort to define my edges. It’s a process in which I need to discover not just who I am but what I am. Dishonest is the feeling I have right now. I’ve been asking all you to love me when I didn’t care much for what I see in myself.

And that’s where I still am today. I will write on here again from time to time. I’m going to make an effort to write selfishly from now on. I’ll screw up I’m sure and write some things that are merely showboats to make me feel better. But I imagine that there will be more consistent effort on my part to find out where I end and my projected audience begins.

When I don’t take care of myself I beg you to do it for me. I hate that about myself and it will be a while before I root it out. I’m starting, though, and it’s scary but promises a different ending than the one I was writing for myself earlier.

Posted by: rationalpsychic | Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Why aren’t we in the streets yelling, “Give us what we need, not what we want!”

This blog was inspired by something sent to me by a friend, Bill, who has a great ear for the horrible, metal-rending noise created in the collision of political rhetoric and the recylable aluminum can which is American pop culture.

Bill wrote “This snippet from an essay by Rolling Stone contributor Matt Taibbi describes the Palin phenomenon better than anything else I’ve read. The description of America as a ‘grasping consumer paradise we call a nation’ is particularly chilling.

‘Sarah Palin is a symbol of everything that is wrong with the modern United States. As a representative of our political system, she’s a new low in reptilian villainy, the ultimate cynical masterwork of puppeteers like Karl Rove. But more than that, she is a horrifying symbol of how little we ask for in return for the total surrender of our political power.

‘Not only is Sarah Palin a fraud, she’s the tawdriest, most half-assed fraud imaginable, 20 floors below the lowest common denominator, a character too dumb even for daytime TV–and this country is going to eat her up, cheering her every step of the way. All because most Americans no longer have the energy to do anything but lie back and allow ourselves to be jacked off by the calculating thieves who run this grasping consumer paradise we call a nation.

‘(…) The great insight of the Palin VP choice is that huge chunks of American voters no longer even demand that their candidates actually have policy positions; they simply consume them as media entertainment, rooting for or against them according to the reflexive prejudices of their demographic, as they would for reality-show contestants or sitcom characters.'”

The Sara Palin phenomena, the result of most of us distrusting those we suspect know more than ourselves, is distressing to me, but a distraction from larger problems. I’m angry because I think the reason we are not out in the streets protesting Palin as a VP candidate and other pressing matters is because we can’t separate need from want in this country. We won’t go to the trouble of providing all of our citizens with health care and don’t mind that African-American infants have a mortality rate more than twice that of European-American infants.

We have real trouble talking about poverty in this country. No one wants to admit that they are poor and few of us want to look at the fact that so many Americans (most figures quoted hover around 20%) have such low incomes when most of us have our attention turned to the executives making millions per year. The millions who make only a few tens of thousands attract little attention in a rich nation which is only rich for a minority.

There is even a serious flaw in the way in which we measure poverty and set a figure for the “poverty line” in this country. The calculation is based on a formula proposed by Mollie Orshansky in the Social Security Administration in 1963 and based on data gathered in 1955. Rebecca M. Blank a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute states that all other major economic statistics, from GDP to unemployment have been regularly updated in light of current conditions.

In my paltry attempts at research for this post, I ran across the Heritage Foundation’s attempt to explain poverty in America. This slap in the face of common sense and the attempt to bury legitimate concern for the poor has little more merit than its attempt to say that Americans’ impoverished conditions are partially ameliorated by their access to air conditioning. The following quote, by Robert E. Rector, Senior Research Fellow, gives you some idea of how the Heritage Foundation does its best to diminish poverty’s impact by assessing today’s poverty as yesterday’s affluence:

Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family’s essential needs. While this individual’s life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians.

The threshold the US Census Bureau used in 2007 to determine the level of poverty for a household of two adults and two children was $21,027. How would your budget have to change to fit within this annual figure. Keep in mind that the US Census is using pre-tax dollars here (though, mercifully, it “excludes capital gains or losses”). By present measures, then, 12.5 percent of Americans, 1 in 8 of us, live in poverty. That’s over 37 million people. Look at the rate of poverty for African-Americans, however, and the statistic is a disaster: 24.5%, a rate almost three times that of non-Hispanic whites.

In this Presidential race we are being told that race shouldn’t matter—most of us have moved past even the memory of the laws of Jim Crow. And yet, how do we explain away our lack of concern for such a shameful divide in this country? Though you may not believe color matters anymore, having money and resources to better your life does matter. And money and resources are not distributed evenly among ethnic groups in this country. For the children in this nation and for justice in America, money is one measure we can all see and understand how poorly it shows us as an unjust nation.

Posted by: rationalpsychic | Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Thank you, Hillary!

I am floored right now. I am impressed and humbled by the graciousness of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as she, tonight, helps to heal the rifts in the Democratic Party.

I am listening to her right now as she is hitting just the right tone. She is not kowtowing, not bowing, not appearing as one whose back is bent by a dark and ominous weight placed upon her by a shadowy DNC.

No, Hillary is bringing us together with a reaffirmation of her own values and beliefs. She is showing that she need give up nothing that is hers in order to support what is all of ours: the belief in equality, universal health care and a balanced goal of new energy sources while protecting our environment.

Hers is a stance of pride, respect and the belief that all of this is done by working with your like-minded sisters and brothers.

“If you want a taste of freedom, ‘Keep going!'”

If this is the best speech she’s ever given, it’s because so much was riding on it and because she restated why she has worked for her causes and values. And why she continues to remain a strong presence in the Democratic Party.

Posted by: rationalpsychic | Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Presidential Race is Heating Up

I have not really been too focused on the Presidential race right now. I figured that the interesting rhetoric that we would all howl at, take pot shots at or drink in like a smooth, oaky bourbon would not appear until the two conventions get going. However…

As a Democratic supporter, socialist leaner, I have to admit that I got my bib wet with drool when the following tidbits surfaced. They’re all the better because, even without much spin, they have a chewy texture that could keep us going for quite a while.

I love quoted material, this from a Washington Post website: “SEDONA, Ariz.– Sen. John McCain said in an interview that he did not know how many houses he and his wife own, a comment that Democrats immediately seized on as evidence that the Republican nominee is out of touch with the economic plight of most Americans.

‘I think — I’ll have my staff get to you,’ McCain told reporters for the Politico (click here for audio of the interview). ‘It’s condominiums where — I’ll have them get to you.’

The Democratic National Committee quickly send out a list noting that McCain owns at least seven different residences. That catalogue includes two homes in Phoenix — one of which is a $4.66 million condominium — and a $1.94 million vacation complex in Sedona, where he is spending this weekend before the Democratic convention.” More disastrous to contemplate: what if he can’t remember?

On the lighter side–at least in McCain’s mind–how about his definition of wealthy, rich, or top income bracket…how many ways can he spin this one in order to make himself sound in touch? Keep in mind that the top income tax bracket as defined by the IRS in 2007 listed $349,700 as the bottom of the highest bracket–to be taxed at a rate of 35%.

McCain’s answer to Rick Warren, the pastor of the Saddleback Church and moderator of the forum, wanted to

I earned $405,409 last year and Cindy brought home another $6M. But I know how you feel, working men and women!

"I earned $405,409 last year and Cindy brought home another $6M. But I know how you feel, working men and women!"

know what Obama and McCain each thought of as rich. McCain: “‘I think if you’re just talking about income, how about $5 million?'” Admittedly, shooting from the hip. But damn, John, how high do those hips go?

Since I know there will be those who were brought up on the Horatio Alger and his Ragged Dick stories, here are a few more bits of info from the LA Times article I’m drawing from.

How about a few bits of information from some folks paid to consider the question of economic wealth? “‘To be fair to both of them, “rich” is an adjective,’ said James P. Smith, a senior economist at the Rand Corp., a nonpartisan think thank in Santa Monica. ‘Economic science is not going to tell you that “this” is the cutoff point.’

Yet the $5-million level, Smith said, includes ‘almost nobody.’ Experts said that of all the households in the nation, fewer than one-tenth of 1% had an annual income of $5 million or more.

Ken Goldstein, an economist for the Conference Board, a business-research group based in New York, said he would define rich as income about $500,000 or more. ‘If you set the bar at half a million, you’re talking about the top 1% of taxpayers. If you think about the last eight years, those are the folks who have benefited the most.'”

So there you have it. My impression is: so what if McCain left his tables at home? Any fool knows that there aren’t many people making $5 million per year. Unless you’re a fool whose whole life revolves around NBA and NFL contracts. Even then, we Americans are front runners” (read Ball Four if I’m not getting through to you here). We see the tops in a given field and don’t realize that the minimum salary in the NBA is $442,114 rather than the multi-millions a few make. Not bad, if you can keep your knees from punking out on you.

How many of you out there have that realistic plan in place to put yourself in the top 1/10 of 1%, according to income, within the next 5 years?

If so, will you please share your plan? I’m broke and I’m not getting any younger.

Posted by: rationalpsychic | Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Poem at Sunset. Sunday, August 10

My teacher would say

“This is the quiet mind

you hardly ever experience.”

I prefer to think the Spirit

isn’t in the setting sun, or masked

by the cloud between the sun and I.

It’s closer and it’s farther and tells me

I already know the news it brings.

News worth knowing even an hour

after the valley has gone dark.

Posted by: rationalpsychic | Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where is the modern folk tale?

Hi. I’ve been stinging over my self-imposed thralldom to my parents. They love me, they care enough to share their home while I am only able to get temporary work. In short, I currently don’t have the full-time work which would give me the velocity to escape their gravity well of food and shelter. (Soon…my beloved minions, soon.)

I’m working at developing some modern folk tales and would appreciate input. I’m curious about two matters: 1) Have you seen something you might call a modern folk tale? This should be more a more self-aware piece of writing than that of the urban legend variety. I realize that signs and signifiers are flying all over the place in such accounts. But I’m looking also for 2) a sense of what you think is missing in this area or places in popular culture, literature, movies, etc., where you think this subject is being addressed.

To give you some more thought-provoking material on the subject the following is quoted from a really good site I found, Modern Folktales. Their site, currently a shell, appears to have ambitious goals.

The following is quoted from their mission statement.

“…Over the course of the last 100 years, the common man has become the invisible man. His customs and traditions, as well as the stories he tells about himself, have been gradually stripped away. For the most part, today’s media leave him two options:

1. To sit passively and watch stories about characters who are richer than he is, more beautiful, and usually more educated. It is for these people that the American dream exists and the common man fulfills his social mission by watching them act out lives that are completely out of reach and which he has no realistic hope of ever obtaining.

2. The other option is to let himself be categorized as a Jerry Springer-like sub-human whose only hope in life is to not get caught cheating on his wife. Or, if he happens to be a little more money-driven, watch himself on so-called “reality shows” groveling in the most humiliating circumstances for some monetary prize.

There are many reasons why this state of affairs exists. But all of them can probably be traced back to the fact that a man who is strong in his identity and belief-systems, and is proud of them, is much harder to enslave than one who is not so fortunate. …”

I think that they point out some valuable observations. They may fall under the category of what is called alienation. But I think that an inability to tell stories about ourselves may point to a specific type of alienation. Here we are, surrounded by several varieties of media unavailable even forty years ago. Where has our story-telling ability gone? Or, has it only changed? Are YouTube sex videos and footage of guys having crotch-centered accidents while skateboarding the sum total of our ability to comment on ourselves? Or, more hopefully, is it just the shallow end of the folk tale pool?

I’m eager to hear your reactions and any ideas you might have for me. Thanks.

Posted by: rationalpsychic | Monday, June 23, 2008

A quick PSA regarding my blogs on Senator Hillary Clinton’s primary campaign

On Monday, June 23, 2008, I will begin archiving all of my blogs regarding Senator Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination. I have left comments on a number of blogs asking and cajoling those who supported Clinton’s race to change their negative views, get on the bandwagon for Senator Obama’s presidential run, etc.

It has been at best negligent and at worst, hypocritical, of me to leave my blogs up for referral, review and to act as salt in the wound for those who supported Clinton during her primary run and continue to support her as she continues to be an important force in American political life. I apologize if you’ve run across these blogs since her withdrawal from the race and been offended. I know I would feel angry if the race had gone the other way and people continued to post items critical of Senator Barack Obama.

Thank you.

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