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Coevolutionary Fitness

I just started reading Not By Genes Alone, a book about gene–culture coevolution, the idea that human behavior is based on the interaction of biology and culture, that culture affects the evolution of our biological states, of our genes, and not just the other way around. It’s a way of thinking around the nature/nurture debate, which has always seemed a silly debate to me. So, the very first chapter is about how the Southern US is more violent than the North, how men are more likely to kill one another there, and how it relates to the concept of honor. The authors cite studies that show Southerners more likely to be both polite, because of honor, and likely to quickly become violent when they feel their own honor is challenged, accompanied by surges in cortisone and testosterone. It got me thinking about folks who are gun ownership radicals–a group far more prevalent in the South–and how they build these dramatic narratives in which they are protecting something heroically, something they deem a matter of honor, of citizenship: the right to own guns as a means to protect themselves. What they might be protecting themselves from is not so important (the…
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After the Fall

If No Moon is a book of poems by Moira Linehan, published as part of the Crab Orchard Review series in 2006. I read one of her poems online, I can’t remember where, and liked it enough to seek out more, and then to buy the book. I’ve read it through a few times now, and each time I find myself alternately moved and annoyed: moved by the way she treats the subject of caring for her husband as he dies, and annoyed by the way the rest of the poems in the collection make the same kinds of stylistic maneuvers but fail to move me. I feel a bit morbid, and not at all like blaming the poet for failing to push the poems about Ireland or poetics into the same melding of form and function that the dieing spouse poems do, but that’s what happens with this book. Perhaps having the more emotionally immediate poems at the start creates an appetite in the reader the rest of the work cannot satisfy. All the poems are very carefully crafted; some, in the manner of far too much modern poetry, is crafted to the point of sedation, all vigor machined…
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New Book

Oh such a lax blogger I’ve been. And shall continue to be for a few days, stopping now only to advertise a new book I’ve done with an artist friend. Instead of doing the usual reading tour, I’m going to try and upload some videos of images from the book and myself reading them (unless I can get someone with a better voice to do it), we’ll see how the virtual book launch goes… Announcing the publication of Conflagrations: Poems and Images an emblem book by Mary Leary and Marc Pietrzykowski Print: $17. 74 pages. ISBN: 1478159340 / 978-1478159346 Official Book Launch November/December 2012, by Pski’s Porch Publishing. Available soon now from Amazon.com and other retailers. Emblem books were all the rage during the 16th and 17th centuries. Pski’s Porch Publishing sees no good reason why they shouldn’t be all the rage in this young century as well. In an emblem book, image and poem are paired, producing a composite art where each element somehow amplifies or complements the other. This relationship might be comical, didactic, obscure, ambient, or all of these at once–the way each pairing constitutes a single work is left largely up to the reader. That said, there are…
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Fall and What to do With It

The strange, broiling summer has given way to a strange, schizoid fall season, my nose is a-flutter with ragweed, and the blankets on the bed have multiplied. I have no idea how much of the erratic weather of the last few years is due to global climate change, and how much of that is due to human activity, but scientific consensus seems indicate the answer to both questions is, “a lot, maybe less, likely more,” and so another fuzzy layer of anxiety is woven into the zeitgeist, a future of refugees and food shortages, a JG Ballard eventuality seems more and more likely. Or, I’m getting older, and was already cynical to begin with, and all the wonderful potentiality embedded in the future will flower in ways I cannot imagine, let alone anticipate. Perhaps a human life is just long enough to think the whole species is going to shit, and that’s somehow an evolutionary advantage… ah well, doesn’t stop me from wanting to make a spectacle of myself in various ways: I read recently at a local bookstore to launch my first novel and nascent publishing company; I’m having a pub crawl and reading on Saturday, just because; I’ll…
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Another Next Step: Publishing

After publishing three books of poetry with fine, generous small publishers, I’ve decided to start an imprint (Pski’s Porch Publishing–website coming soon) and publish my own writing. Why would I decide to destroy my literary career this way? Well, because “the publishing world is changing,” as they say. And they’re right, but what kinds of changes does this godawful cliché refer to? The rapid spread and corresponding low cost of on-demand printing? The proliferation of eBooks and eReaders? The explosion of internet-based distribution networks? Or the acquisition of big publishing houses by even bigger international conglomerates? The right answer—yes, all of these—begs a further question: are these changes good for us? If “us” means authors who prefer to maintain control of their work, and of everything involved in getting that work to readers, then again, the answer is clearly “yes,” as long as their eyes are clear and their ambitions aligned with what self-publishing can offer. Even the bit about the traditional high cotton publishers getting eaten by media conglomerates affords an opportunity, since they will likely, in pursuit of profit rather than quality, continue alienating readers who want something more, thereby helping increase the audience for more challenging work….
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Publishing Conundrum, Help Requested

A friend and I have been bantering about the state of publishing in general (and literary and young adult publishing in particular), thereby crystallizing, for me, a bundle of questions I need to think through. First among them is, why do I want the books I write to be published? Other questions branch off that one: what do I want a publisher to provide? Who do I want to reach with my writing? Do I care about prestige and awards and recognition? My production and distribution ethos, as distinct from my artistic ethos, is based on the punk/DIY, mimeographed and stapled world of the 1970’s and 80’s. If you wanted to have a concert, you found a room and put on a concert, if you wanted to make a record, you made a record, and so too with magazines, books, and so forth. Quickly enough, sympathetic people began distribution networks, then other people smelled money and co-opted the same, but the premise was always that art was local and anyone could do it. This meant lots of people made bad art, but so what, people always make lots of bad art, some of it just has more slick packaging. So,…
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Describing Utopia

I posted this a while back on Facebook, but I want to have it up here too, so: W. H. Auden included the following questionnaire in his book of essays, The Dyer’s Hand. It’s meant to make potential critics think about what sort of Eden (his term) they envision; I prefer “Utopia,” but the point is the same. So: describe the following characteristics of your Utopia: >>>Landscape A very steep mountainous region sloping downward through a wide plain, leading to the ocean. Marshes on one side of the plain, forest of Redwoods on the other. Plenty of streams and rocky bits throughout. The ocean region should have one pristine beach and one very deep harbor, otherwise cliffs and crags. >>>Climate 2 Months of winter (Dec/Jan), including at least 1 heavy snowstorm that makes everyone have to stay home and drink cocoa. 3 months of summer, including at least 1 blazingly hot day that makes everyone have to snooze and drink lemonade. Spring and Fall should be pleasant, something like the Mid-Atlantic US or southern Europe. The occasional roaring thunderstorm. >>>Ethnic Origin of Inhabitants As varied as possible, including the search for new genetic material in outer space. >>>Language All local…
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Stuffs and Things

I’m exhausted with coverage of the Republican party flaming out in the US, and I don’t even watch TV. It does seem clear we are witnessing the death rattle of the GOP, hence all the coverage of conservative heads discussing what bulbous phoenix will rise from the ashes… and like I said, I don’t even watch TV, or listen to the radio much, but I get enough out of the corner of my ear to put it all together. Then again, I don’t care: not about Republicanism, whether or not there need be such a counterweight to what Democrats and progressives propose is a topic for another day. It’s the coverage I’m sick of, it’s tawdry at best, and downright depressing in a worry-about-the-fate-of-the-species manner. But, it’s in the air, so to speak, and that’s my excuse for thinking about media coverage of the Republican primaries, circa 2012, when reading this tidbit: the motion performed by us in consequence of irritation, are owing to the original constitution of our frame, whence the soul or sentient principle, immediately, and without any previous ratiocination, endeavors by all means, and in the most effectual manner, to avoid and get rid of every disagreeable…
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Oh Lordy…

I’ve been naughty, Santa, I have gotten so very behind listing all the CDs I’ve listened to, there are piles of them beside the computer… to recap, I am trying to listen to every CD I own, which is many, so here’s the latest batch. Sorry, Santa, don’t bring me that bottle of Scotch I asked for. No, actually, bring that, just keep the pipe cutter: 501) Dirty Three: Horse Stories; 502) Big Jack Johnson: Daddy, When is Mommie Comin Home?; 503) Funkadelic: Standing On the Verge of Getting it On; 504) Squirrel Nut Zippers: Hot; 505) A Camp: A Camp (has grown on me); 506) The Pretenders: The Singles; 507) Peter Tosh: Legalize It; 508) The Kinks: Arthur (or, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire); 509) The Stranglers: Black and White (lovely, thanks); 510) Mercury Rev: See You On The Other Side; 511) Emmylou Harris: Red Dirt Girl; 512) Brooklyn Funk Essantials: In the Buzzbag; 513) Darren Hanlon: Little Chills; 514) The Amazing Royal Crowns: The Amazing Royal Crowns; 515) Tom Waits: Heartattack and Vine (old Waits or new Waits? Cold pizza or hot pizza?); 516) Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables; 517) Cowboy Junkies: One…
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Unmutual

…I was watching The Prisoner, cool as kitsch SciFi paranoia show from the 1960’s, and one that I remember was on my local PBS station when I was a kid, when I was struck by the idea that totalitarian nightmares are not a popular trope in Science Fiction these days. In the episode we watched, #6 had his aggressiveness “removed” by some kind of medical/brainwashing process–ok, he didn’t really, he was just faking, as is #6’s wont, but of course that’s also the premise of Clockwork Orange, that medical removal of aggressiveness is a crime against humanity. It also brought to mind Stanislaw Lem’s Memoir Found in a Bathtub, which, aside from the apocalyptic agent (a virus that eats paper, well, eats all the paper, and the world collapses into anarchy), is fabulously scary and paranoid.  But Bathub is unlikely to get made into a movie anytime soon, because totalitarianism no longer threatens people the way it did when the Cold War was a primary existential frame, and corporate power is too non-ideological. All of which is not remotely enough to make me yearn for the Cold War, but it does make me think about ways a more insidious, creeping…
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