25 July 2009

Celebrity Death

To the story of a creature,
of the skulking un-dead variety.

How horrid!
His heinous countenance,
Crumbling and decaying,
At once drying out and oozing.

But to peace not
will this pitiful post-person go.
Sweet death is distant.

And not some heavenly death, mind you.
No wings, no halos.
No non-sense, only non-ness.
A black void, lacking shade and space.

Such simple nothingness,
Will not greet this creature.
No, our heinous friend,
Maggot ridden,
Is paraded about, as a puppet on strings.
By some unholy master
tweaking and pulling,
And proding.
Poke, poke.
Still dead.

Irreverent and profitable spectacle,
Is this distraction from death, sweet and simple.
Our deceasing dummy dances,
Effortlessly through the air.
Crumblings streaking through the sky.
Bits and pieces.

What would chicken little cry?
For this is not sky!
As chunks of those ceasing to be,
Spiral through the sky,
From that towering death pedestal.

Here below, as our once-was flails,
Effortlessly through the skies,
His pieces enter our lives.

A heaping hunk of rump,
Rends the morning newspaper.
Oodles of nervous noodles,
Bespeckle our tee vees.
Muscular matter stratifies,
As mud,
Atop our magazines.

The news, now befouled,
Buried and unrecognized,
'Neath flesh and sinews.

No peace, until the last piece
Of dismal, dank, decaying death,
Has descended to our delight,
And is devoured.

Some capitalist cannibalism,
Eating what once was our own.

Once in pain, they passed into death,
But they perpetuate un-dead,
Their rotting remains, ransacked,
And ever remaining,
As stains on the age of information.

Peace-less as piece-less.
At the foot of the pedestal standing strong,
Ever nourished by rich soil,
Fed by fecund futureless fanaticism,
And the crumbling of civility,
All round.

12 July 2009

Untitled, 11 July 2009

the Desolate in suburbia.
The Desolate in Suburbia
our bear Welcomes you.

11 July 2009

The Wealth Human

The Consumer

Take the grocery store. Ultra Foods. Chicago Heights IL on a nameless, hot and sunny July afternoon.

A bustling place with all sorts wandering through for any number of reasons. One item or hundreds. Myself, I can only be overwhelmed and philosophically sickened by the preponderance of shelves, those stuffed with stuffs.

But checkout. The exit is where the magic happens. The culmination driven by impatience. An impatience bred by line-making and standing. O the queue! Bitterness from inactivity and monetary transaction. Or the screaming children. This perhaps explains the bitterness and stoicism and frowns I witness. A testimony I make while sitting idly with my beloved grandmother near the exit.

I think. Cart after cart, followed by face after frowning face. All downtrodden as if immune to that odd contortion we call a smile.

I feel like they are all simply bodies moving.

People watching in the international terminal at an airport, for example, is simply bodies moving. But with seeming purpose. Destination and origin envelop their movement. Baggage trails. I see context, if liminal.

But watching these bleak bodies pass at the grocery store is somewhat disturbing. These bodies, unwitting Proles perhaps, pass through liminality only within their economical purpose. Their baggage, only product. Consumption in the raw.

A capitalist nightmare, a perversion of the human in motion.

Distraught, weary and detesting faces which epitomize robotic forms being led by their vessels of consumption. Pulled along through an incomprehensible plethora of things to have. Unable to find what they need or want. Only to buy what was come across.

Choice, thus, becomes an illusion. For choice is beside the point in this case. So long as a body takes and transacts.

Then, passing through to another side, the out-side, a body is led onto the black asphalt lot. Treeless, void and bleak. Naught but intense sun and rows of reflection. Shiny machines which transport and consume only further. From the black of pavement to that black non-solid torn from the depths.

No wonder they seem bitter. No wonder I see bitterness?

But is it wrong to consider them a "them?" What makes me so different? Having passed myself through the same bulk hell. Was it, perhaps the quaint moment? Sitting beside my cherished mother's mother? Waiting silently on a bench, as through at a bus stop of yore? A moment of pause in a matrix of motion? There I was, something apart, no cart. Existing, if briefly, idly in a place of rapid transition.

And sure, these passing bodies are soon to gain some purposeful, non-economic purpose. Home, family, work or wherever their place has belonging and is needed. To once again live and not simply give and take. Live thriving in the moments, pauses and ease of less hectic places.

But why, as the organism demands sustenance, leave that for such a state? When once, subsisting was full of pride. Full of value and need.

Not of supply and demand.

Shame. That the other way, the quaint way, is poverty these days. That those who make and take only what they need, that they are foolish for taking and making so little. Silly poor!

Yet, poor in wealth material is not to be poor in the wealth human. A wealth in which the contorting lips become smiles, beaming and reassuring in their simplicity.

The wealth human. Seen through its absence, trailing wire vessels, in the sagging faces of the passing persons in the exit hallways, at a giant grocery store. On the southside of Chicago. Illinois, USA. Earth, solar system, Milky Way.

09 July 2009

Corruption, Journalism and Academic Dismay

Stay the Course

In late May of this year, the Chicago Tribune published an investigative report (Clout Goes to College) which exposed a trend of under-qualified, but politically connected, students being admitted into the University of Illinois (Champagne-Urbana).

The story revealed, through documents acquired via a freedom of information act request, that some 800 students had landed on a so-called 'clout list.' These students, also known as 'Category I,' by the university, experienced higher acceptance rates despite their overall lower ACT and class-rank .

Essentially, students with connections to top political officials in Illinois (including members of the state congress and members of former Governor Blagojevich's administration) were magically being admitted into the university, despite poor qualifications and rejections by the university's admissions officials.

To anyone familiar with the politics of Illinois, the only response was a weary shake of the head and a, "...Should have seen it coming," response.

Since May, the Tribune has continued extensive reporting on the case, including filing a lawsuit against the University to release more records. (View the subsequent reports here.) Indeed, the matter stirred a great deal of outrage and the new Illinois governor launched a commission to investigate the practices.

And it gets better, listen to a few of the developments revealed since the initial report.

The U. of Illinois Law School was specifically cited for its use of clout in admissions. To make things worse, it seems that deliberate trades were organized and made. In exchange for admitting a student backed by Blagojevich, the Dean of Law was offered job opportunities for graduates of the program. Which graduates you ask? How about the Category I students who were under-qualified in the first place?

But exchanging favors for jobs is nothing new in Illinois. And neither are bribes in the form of money and incentives. The U. of I. Chancellor (top administrator) claimed that exchanging jobs was a way of undoing some of the damage done by the admitting Category I students. And finally, in order to make sure this cover-my-ass technique worked, the Chancellor offered the School a tasty sum of $300,000 in the form of scholarships (to entice well qualified students).

So, now we can put a price on guaranteed admission to the University of Illinois School of Law. 300 grand. Yes, this sum was offered in exchange of admission for one, well-connected, student.

The response of U. of I. officials has been one of desperation and regret. They paint a picture of big, evil Illinois politics swirling around their meager academic forms. And then, professors of Law at Illinois wrote a letter to the Tribune calling into the question the attention the publication paid towards this issue. Apparently, the fact that patronage and clout systems like the one so deeply exposed in Illinois are not rare in these professor's experience. But this fact is not an excuse for the university, though it is cause enough to criticize the paper. It seems that widespread, but unspoken-of corruption should come as no surprise to Tribune editors and should not land on the front page.

This last bit, the professors' letter, pissed me off the most. I have two responses. The first is that academics like those professors and the administrators of U. of I. have no excuse to crumble under political pressure. The mission of institution of higher education is to mentor brilliant minds and contribute to scholarly debate and current research. Political standing and pressure should be of little concern to academic institutions. Perhaps I am simply disturbed that this so-called bubble that academics work in was proven mythical in this case. That one might escape from political corruption and find a legitimate pursuit (if not enlightenment) in Illinois' foremost public institution of higher education seems like a reasonable expectation. For these administrators and intellectuals to simply shrug their shoulders and claim that there was nothing they could do is nonsense. Or perhaps I have too much faith in professionals, that they might retain a shred of respect for themselves and education in the face of filthy politics. That they might value reputation and quality higher learning more than a job, however politically cushy and media friendly. The failure of those expectations leads me to read their letter as more of an attempt to remain in good standing with Illinois politicians, than of reputable academic "dismay."

I must apologize for the length of this entry. But, it is largely due to the Chicago Tribune's thorough investigation and reporting. Their initial story was backed up with almost 2,000 pages of documents. And they sued the university for more. My second, and final, response is to the absurdity that any self-respecting academic would criticize a wonderful example of investigative reporting. Is it not the job of news publications to inform the public of such outrageous practices that have, heretofore, gone unarticulated? Sadly, the death of Michael Jackson has actually kept some of these developments off the front the page and out of people's minds. Nevertheless, in an age in which large centralized corporate media organizations are taking over the "news" with advertising and gimimcks, and in an age in which print media is becoming extinct, this series has renewed, to an extent, my faith in the Chicago media. Not only have they gone to great lengths to expose every nook and cranny of this academic corruption, they have stuck with it such depressing and familiar material for months. What's more, the stories I've cited here appear to do so without mounting campaigns against specific individuals. Editorializing has remained in the editorial section (cited so many times in the professor's letter). Continued, inscrutable coverage of such events, even if an attempt to reach journalistic heights of the Watergate era, even if an attempt to be successful at one's career, is respectable and professional.

As an aspiring intellectual, I cannot understand how any person of thought, any doctor of philosophy, could possibly object to a publication that provokes thought, incites outrage and presents their understanding of what has happened.

The governor's investigation is to conclude in early August, and as if I was captivated by a serial story of yore, I keep tuning in for every twist and turn.

In the end, the developments I've seen here have been the cherry on top of my disenchantment sunday of late. And in that recipe for cynicism has been a fed-uppedness (try that word on for size!) with Illinois and it's politics. Though, as my work on The Butler Underground indicate, private institutions are far from perfect, I can be glad that I avoided another clout-shrouded institution in Illinois.

07 July 2009

Ode to Short Pants

My shorts,
Mottled brown and well-worn,
Attempt escape.

Quite often indeed,
They flee,
My curvaceous rear.

But, they sag not due to a withering waistline.
Hoo ha!

Seems to me,
They rebut my butt.
Creating distance,
Each comfort laden day.

Flexing, forming and flawing,
As none foresaw for fabric.

Yet every stain and rend,
Each befoulment,
Bring them closer to me.

O cut-off garment!
The scourge of denim,
Racing hastily to a hem.
O short pants!

For me,
To declare to thee,
That I am endebtted,
To thee.
Might be,
A lofty decree.
And as that may be,
I nevertheless submit
My heartfelt and sincere gratitude,
For being all that you may be.

02 July 2009

Untitled, 2 July 2009

Light and Nostalgia

I have visions of my past, my childhood. Underneath the porch where our things were. I see colors and shapes and textures, bright and brilliant but impossible to commit to sober memory. I see shapes like clovers and flowers. Pedals of colored plastic. Rough and shiny smooth. I've seen patterns. Strings of these colored plastic visions.

I see the brown of the house across the street. The black and browns of the decaying siding. Its old, something so familiar which barely exists any longer, unleashed only in stupor.

I see green, a sick, pale, fluffy green of Henrietta's carpet. The mottled browns of cheap furniture. I feel home, young, innocent curious and safe.

I see orange and yellow. Weathered plastic punctuated by cold rusted steel.

These are toys. Memories of childhood. They are remembrances of feelings of home and warmth. Nostalgia. Nostalgia of a time long since forgotten. Memories of memories I never had. Memories that remain but wisps afloat in my head. Smokey and intangible but nonetheless haunting. Not haunting but enduring.

Thing, place and feel.

My eyes blank, the world slips away for an instant. Then, flash. Light and nostalgia swirling. At once diffuse and intense. Any sudden movement of mind sends it running. Sends it diminishing into the black. Where the world appears again. The now. My world of short memory occasionally accosted by visions of that un-remembered.

Now form begins again. My mind from darkness to fleshy form. From memory, from nostalgia to thing. Now it is pink and wrapped and moist and any other manner of physical, medical description which is recognized by all.

A short trip. It ends but it doesn't. Just a cover for reality. Or a peek behind the veil of "reality."

Indecipherable. I can agree on that. An un-understood understanding.

A literal blow of the mind. Nevertheless, I live in reconstitution.