Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Moon

There is a halo, a completed rainbow, around the moon tonight.  The cold is languid; the clouds stretch like endless ice floes.  Some are leathered, others smooth as snow ice.  One can almost hear them groan in the currents' push.

If tonight were not recycling night, I would not have seen this sky. While I often wish for a life spent completely present, my attention is usually scattered.  What is happening on Facebook?  Any news about Europe's imminent meltdown?  Is Mitt Romney going to bet $10,000 on Monday Night Football?

In this rare moment of repose, my mind basked, let me share an update.  I have kept quiet about my main project because, once revealed, my works tend to sit incomplete.  However, I want to explain why posts have been few and far between, and, with luck, the piece is far enough along to allow me a small reveal without jinxing myself.

I am writing a novel tentatively titled "The Marionettist".  Three hundred pages or about half the book is written, and the rest is mapped out.  It is a work of adult fiction that deals with power relationships in society, between family members, and between lovers; it talks about responsibility, desire, and paralysis.  It tells the story of a young man, Henry, who wakes to find that he has crafted two life-sized marionettes, one male and one female, in his sleep; he has no idea why he has made them or what they are supposed to do.  But he knows that they are supposed to do something, if only he could remember his dream that night.

Updates to Hummus and Kimchi will most likely continue to be scarce so I apologize in advance.  However, as the book nears completion, I will release excerpts.

With luck, tonight's quietude will last until this journey's end.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Break

I have many thanks to give this Thanksgiving: a fulfilling job, a supportive family, a brilliant cadre of friends.  Holidays are wonderful because they give us a pause to savor what has happened and to dream about what is to come.  Four months ago, I did not think that my father would be alive to share these days with us.  As we sit in the living room, he is happily munching on popcorn out of a metal bowl painted with leaves.  How wonderful it is to live!

Yesterday, my father and I talked over breakfast about my future.  It was different than the conversations we had in the past.  He no longer harps about my inability to engage with reality; I no longer respond to his well-meaning criticism with childish hostility.  It took many years of bickering, of misread intentions and badly expressed love, to arrive at our current peace.  I often regret my past self's inability and unwillingness to listen, but these current days are worth every old moment spent in anger.

Between bites of French fries (my mother was in St. Louis visiting Grandma and so he had free reign to eat as he pleased), my father emphasized the need for credentials.  You have things to say, he told me, so you need a platform to say them.  His insight is staggering; even though we live hundreds of miles apart, he knew the foremost thought in my mind.  He accepted that I don't have an answer to this question.  If I did, well, then I'd be doing it.  Think about it, he said.  Keep thinking, keep doing, and eventually the answer will come.

Although that sentiment may seem hackneyed, it is true.  Last night, I met my high school friends for dinner.  It similar to the conversation between the Fox and the Badger: "They reminisced as old friends do about old times that, in hindsight, always seem better than they actually were."  It was heartening to see us all in good spirits.  We were bright, hard-working kids who dreamed of bigger things.  Now, we're bright, hard-working adults who still dream of bigger things.  We have all had setbacks and heartbreaks but are making good on the promise we showed as children.  I am proud of us in a way I could not have understood until recently.

So, this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for many things.  I am thankful for my wonderful, supporting family that believed in me even when I did nothing to earn that trust.  I am thankful for my inspirational friends who have done and are doing and will do spectacular things to make the world better.  I am thankful for so much that this post could go on forever.  Since this Thanksgiving break only lasts a few days more, I will instead set aside my computer and enjoy them in good humor and good company.

May all your Thanksgivings be as joyous!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Occupy Wall Street and Margin Call

Writing about Occupy Wall Street is difficult because the protest is, in many ways, a Rorschach test. Michael Moore sees it as a response to the "kleptomaniacs" on Wall Street who have taken our democracy and turned it into a "kleptocracy." L. Gordon Krovitz at the Wall Street Journal derides the "crony capitalism" that has supposedly allowed the Occupy Wall Street protesters to stay at Zuccotti Park. Loren Heal at Red State calls OWS a "cargo cult" and "an Obama campaign stunt".

I'm not going to speculate on the specific policy claims of OWS because, as of now, the protesters haven't reached a consensus. They probably never will. For some, this is a negative. David Brooks dismissed the protesters as "Milquetoast Radicals" and "small thinkers"; the big thinkers are, in his formulation, people matching his own self-conception of "moderates in suits." I, however, see the lack of policy proposals as a positive.

OWS is a motley crew. Every truly grass-roots movement is, because our nation is motley. Some protesters are anti-corporate. Others are pacifist (and possibly aging hippies). Still others are proudly blue-collar. There are the young, the old, the middle-aged, the college-educated, the not college-educated, the male, the female, the...well...you get the point. They're not all going to agree on specific policy proposals because this protest is not fundamentally about policy.

Occupy Wall Street is about process. It is about the feeling that our political system currently consists of the rich striking deals with the powerful to increase the prosperity and power of both, to the detriment of those who are neither rich nor powerful. That's why the motto "We are the 99%" fits. This isn't purely about economics. It is about representation. It is about process.

More about that in a minute. First, let's take a quick digression into current cinema (it will make sense later but I am too tired and hyper to create a seamless transition).

"Margin Call" is an incredible movie made even more salient by the exquisite timing of its release. If you haven't seen it, go and watch it right now...well, after you finish reading this post. But watch it. It is a scathing indictment of the global financial system made effective by its refusal to demonize the bankers themselves. They are generally good people caught in tides of their own making that grew out of control. All of the characters have fallen prey to the seductive power of money. However, none of them are personally responsible for the disaster looming outside the glass walls of their high tower because the storm is far larger than any single person or financial institution.

Many felt, including many of the OWS protesters, that bankers and others in the financial industry got off too easy (this protester has a particularly Swiftian sense of justice). "Margin Call" reminds us that few of them broke the law. All of the damage was done through legal means. We, as a society, had created a system that incentivized bad behavior, a system that could coerce good people into actions with horrific ramifications. The bankers aren't in jail because they didn't break any laws.

That means the system itself is broken. It created shining cities on sand (Ozymandias comes to mind), cities that, as they vanished, bequeathed only fallout. It is a system that can convince decent people to do indecent things because they see no other choice. And it is a system that still exists today.

That's why Occupy Wall Street is about process. In a working political system, the practices that created a catastrophe like the financial crisis would be fixed and the institutions involved would be held responsible, even if only for cleaning up the mess they made. The government would help the hardest hit and focus on preventing future disasters. Instead, today we see banks like Citigroup posting huge profits and compensation on Wall Street rising. Meanwhile, unemployment is stagnating at 9.1% and median income keeps falling.

The OWS protesters are not economists or politicians; it is not their responsibility to design and pass policies that will get our country back on its feet. They are doing what citizens are supposed to do when the system breaks; they point out the malfunction and focus attention on it until it is fixed.

Right now, our system works for a select few; for most everyone else, it sucks. That's not how it is supposed to be, not in America. After all, the American Revolution was about representation, about having a system responsive to the needs of the citizenry. Occupy Wall Street fits proudly in this tradition.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Both Parokhet and Compass desperately needed editing.  I edited them, although their current versions are possibly transitional (depending on whether or not I like the changes after a few days).

In any case, you can find the new versions in the Poetry section.  Another, more thorough update tomorrow.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


There is a new entry, “Compass,” in the poetry section of the site. It is in the Parokhet series and, I hope, adds to the themes in the eponymous entry.

The idea behind Parokhet, which may become a collection (four poems and counting), draws heavily from Galway Kinnell's “The Book of Nightmares.” While Kinnell used the births of his son and daughter to examine love and death (or what it is to love a new, dying thing while dying oneself), I chose a romantic relationship as my lens. This may be a function of age and situation since I am not a father, but it explores a different aspect of love.

Pay close attention to the dog. He wanders from poem to poem, sometimes symbolizing fidelity, sometimes faith, and in the final entry, the threshold we must all cross alone. He only makes a cameo in “Compass” but you'll see him again soon.