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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Setting a down-rigger for salmon in the Straight of Juan De Fuca off Port Angeles

Setting a down-rigger...

I spent the afternoon on the Geoffrey Joseph with Joe Hutchens

Pulling Dungeness crab

What are the odds there's someone behind the cosmic curtain who reads our thoughts—

Christopher Buckley

Christopher  Buckley

Christopher Buckley received the Tampa Review Prize for Poetry for his most recent collection, Rolling the Bones (University of Tampa Press, 2010). He was raised in Santa Barbara, California, and currently teaches in the Creative Writing Department at the University of California Riverside. He is author of seventeen books of poetry, including Modern History: Prose Poems 1987-2007 and Flying Backbone: The Georgia O'Keeffe Poems. He is recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry, two NEA grants, a Fulbright Award to Yugoslavia, four Pushcart Prizes, the James Dickey Prize fromFive Points magazine, and two Gertrude B. Claytor Memorial Awards from the Poetry Society of America. (Author photo by Matt Valentine)

A Little about Not Knowing Very Much

When I was 5 and first in school,
I refused, after lunch each day, 
to take a nap, fearing 
there was nothing 
on the other side 
of sleep. 
              It was something 
I arrived with on the planet, 
worrying that my mother—
in her one red cloth coat and 
father in his camel hair blazer 
and green knit tie—would be beyond 
any cry I'd raise there below 
the courtyard and classrooms 
and the monkey puzzle trees 
twisting dark as seaweed 
far into the air. 
I climbed the avocado trees, 
hung by my knees from a bough, 
pennies falling from the pockets 
of my jeans, confirming that 
my place was on earth. 
Coastal clouds strung out 
like a Sumerian alphabet 
and a crow was a riddle 
of pitch and feathers against 
the blue—I made no sense 
of his clattering sound-bytes, 
about how he saw it 
all from there. 
                      I came up 
with no translation for the grey, 
sky wide open for interpretation, 
a polished page of longing 
for which, I had faith, 
there was resolution and 
           Despite the blanks 
I drew for the next 20 years, 
I think nothing out of the ordinary 
transpired—Assyrians continued 
to descend upon the plain, 
one fundamentalist after the next 
ascended an orange crate 
in the street to tell us 
his God was God and what 
all of us should do. 
                             Oxcarts, barges, 
horses, the refined blood of reptiles 
from the Mesozoic era—we circle back 
on ourselves with improved apparatus, 
thinking we are going somewhere 
this time alright, the fine print 
about flesh and bones, barely 
legible in the old provisos 
the stars have always held 
over our heads .... 
                            What are the odds 
there's someone behind the cosmic curtain 
who reads our thoughts—a face peering out 
bald and burnished as Ghiberti's 
from his golden Gates of Paradise? 
And I ask myself, Do I have time 
to read about the Renaissance 
again—what perspective is there 
beyond the vanishing point 
of the earth, the matchstick anarchy 
of light? 
             Is anyone home 
on Alpha Centauri, our nearest neighbor, 
as our early TV waves arrive 
with Howdy Doody and Flash Gordon 
in his galvanized ship sparking away 
in empty space as our first representatives, 
with Groucho and his eyebrows, 
the duck dropping from the ceiling 
with the secret word? 
                                 How long 
can we hold our breath as they check 
100 million starry channels 
at a time on the SETI dial? 
Lucky, I guess, the NBC Nightly News 
will be another 60 years 
getting there, though our stealth 
black-winged bombers are not all 
that different from those in the '40s, 
and the boys on all sides are always 
blown to bits, their bones scattered 
along the side of the road while 
men in Savile Row suits step 
into the bank. 
                    Diogenes made his 
homeless home in the streets of Athens, 
ate his onions with contempt 
for human achievement, and may have been 
onto something, making a virtue 
of extreme poverty. His only "challenge" 
as administrators like to say, 
was looking for an honest man, 
holding that lantern for years in vain—
no grants, no pension fund— 
you'd think he'd have caught on 
at some point? 
                       The blood-faced buzzards 
spin up and glide beneath the strings 
of evening without a mission statement, 
but know what they are looking for, 
feel it's fine to float there for nothing 
more than the bequest of air. 
                                          Down here, 
our hummers are used to us 
sitting beneath the extended arm 
of our pine, the feeder suspended there, 
as they lace their wire-like feet 
confidently around the little perches 
outside the flowery ports to glug 
the red sweet water, but pause 
to eye us up, still cautious 
about creatures as statuesque 
as we. 
          Our cats learned long ago 
not to bother about these birds 
who burst through the air like particle waves 
with feathers, and so they stretch out 
for their siestas on the chaise lounge 
awaiting their can of salmon 
in fancy sauce served up promptly 
at 5:00. 
             What's coming next 
is anybody's guess, outside, of course, 
the reliable collapse of our cells, 
and how dispirited even the best 
among us are about this one piece 
of evidence we have, absolutely, 
in hand. Nevertheless, I wouldn't 
want to know right now, what 
will become of me. Knowing that 
you don't know is the best choice, 
if, that is, you think you have a choice, 
given whatever it is we are granted 
a country mile short of illumination—
the limited-time gift of our ignorance 
rising like spindrift, a savor of light 
above the waves.... 
                             At the end 
of August, I'd be happy to know 
we're finally going to get 
some rain, happy with even 
a small glass of local pinot 
in the shade with which to salute 
the incredible furnaces of the stars 
that burn almost forever before 
collapsing, exploding, and 
gathering together again—atoms 
whirling with their undisclosed 
purpose toward the dark.


White Shirt 
University of Tampa Press

Friday, October 28, 2011

Grabbing a few quiet moments after lunch...

After a delay for some ambient, setting-up noise, “Make It Rhyme” hits upon an insistent, minor-key groove and boom, it’s got me.

TW Walsh


After a delay for some ambient, setting-up noise, “Make It Rhyme” hits upon an insistent, minor-key groove and boom, it’s got me. Maybe it’s the jangly tone of the electric guitar, maybe it’s the snare-free drum beat, or maybe it’s that spooky organ sustain that anchors the song’s rhythm section in something both humorous and unsettling, but this one has that great combination of being both instantly likable and deeply appealing. Speaking of humorous and unsettling, take a listen to the lyrics, which chronicle a dysfunctional relationship in a series of sardonic couplets, one of which is the titular “You sing the song/But I make it rhyme.” The extra joke here is that there are a couple of lines in the song—listen carefully and you’ll catch them—in which the rhyme is actually missing.
And the extra extra joke here is that the song is very specifically about Walsh’s long-standing friendship/musical relationship with David Bazan, erstwhile leader of the band Pedro the Lion. Walsh was the only other official member of that band; he calls this song “the worst version of myself complaining about the worst version of Dave,” with the benefit of some bemused hindsight.
Born Timothy William, Walsh recorded some solo material 10 years ago or so, and also headed a project called The Soft Drugs in the mid-’00s. He has spent more time and energy in recent years on his work as an audio engineer; his specialty is mastering, which he has done for the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Gabriel Kahane, and the Mynabirds, among many dozens of others. He has at long last put himself back in front of the microphone; “Make It Rhyme” is from the album Songs of Pain and Leisure, which was released this month on Graveface Records. MP3 via Magnet Magazine.
New God


“Motorcar” is brief, slightly undeveloped, and rough-edged—but convincing where it counts, with its luminous, 16-measure melody and those Beach Boys-go-to-(lo-fi-)heaven harmonies. Those of you with an aversion to electronic percussion may want to sit this one out, but me, I can overlook some sonic crudeness in service of melodic grandeur. The chords are the classic I-IV-V chords but something majestic is achieved through how they are manipulated. In the first eight measures, we alternate between the I and the V chords, no IV chord to be heard, with the melody beginning on the third note of the I chord; we do not in fact hear the root note of a chord until the last note in the melody’s first half (first example at 0:38). This creates a particularly satisfying pivot point and is what allows the melody to double in length. In the second half the elusive IV chord makes its necessary appearance (your ear required it, whether you realized it or not), and at last, as the melody closes out, we get the chords in the “right” order: I-IV-V.
As usual, the theory stuff sounds stilted and dull in written description but for whatever reason I find that knowing how songs work like this adds to my pleasure in listening. Your mileage, as they used to say, may vary. And all that said, “Motorcar” may still sound somewhat more like a demo than a song, and yeah it could maybe stand to offer us more than two chorus-free, bridge-free verses. But every time I go back to this to listen with any kind of “Wait, maybe I don’t like this after all” skepticism, it wins me over anew with its insistent lovableness, rough edges and all.
New God is a brand new band, with zero internet presence. There’s a guy named Kenny Tompkins, from “the foggy mountains of Western Maryland,” there’s a debut album to be released next month on his own label (RARC), and that’s about all there is to report. The band hasn’t played any live dates yet, so Tompkins hasn’t had to decide who’s officially in it at this point. The guy in the picture with him is his brother, Curt, who is either part of the band or who was hanging out with him when the photo was shot (by Lindsey S. Wilson, while we’re naming names). MP3, obviously, via Tompkins. And no worries about the “dropbox” URL, this one’s fully legal.
Caged Animals


Okay, so after that, perhaps you’d like to balance things out with a superbly constructed song and a highly disciplined production? No problem. “Teflon Heart” is slinky and deliberate, written with care and performed with controlled New York City cool. I love the way front man Vincent Cacchione manages to blend a knowing, 21st-century approach to beats and lyrics with a grander vision of popular music, evoking ’50s doo-wop groups as surely as he does anything current. His words have hip-hop flair, but the mood is more reflective, the rhythm leisurely, the beat dominated by actual bass playing, the singing hinting at inner ache more than outer bravado:
I know you know I’m not bourgeois
You act like I’m a replica
A ghost inside your retina
That only you can see

Another highlight is Cacchione’s prickly guitar work, offering up almost-but-not-quite dissonant solos in between verses, deconstructing both melody and rhythm as the beat, literally, goes on. And do not overlook the effectiveness of the central metaphor, which might seem too slick for its own good but for the subtext conveyed by the singer’s plaintive conclusion “I want one too,” regarding the teflon heart in question.
Caged Animals began as a solo project for the Brooklyn-based Cacchione but has blossomed into a foursome. “Teflon Heart” is from the album Eat Their Own, released in late September onLucky Number Music. MP3 via Lucky Number. Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the head’s up.

It was also only 11 years since Penguin Books had faced an obscenity charge for publishing DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover

How the Joy of Sex was illustrated

Illustrator Chris Foss explains how he become involved in the book
Forty years ago, a London publisher was working on a groundbreaking sex manual - a "gourmet guide" to sexual pleasure, with copious and detailed illustrations. But how could this be done tastefully and legally?
Think of The Joy of Sex and chances are your mind will drift to an image of a man with a bushy beard and a woman with hairy armpits.
It's not a photograph, but the nearest thing to it in pen and ink.
In early 1970s Britain, photographs would have been too risque. But hand-drawn illustrations based on photographs? Maybe society was ready for that.
"We were a bit nervous when we took this on," remembers one of the book's illustrators, Chris Foss.
"The publisher had to write a contract which confirmed that they would pay our defence if some old fart decided to make an issue out of it."

Start Quote

Peter Kindersley
Perhaps we were in a bubble, we were all completely bonkers!”
Peter KindersleyArt director, Joy of Sex
In the summer of 1971, Britain had been gripped by the Oz trial, in which the editors of a satirical magazine were found guilty of obscenity for publishing a sexualised parody of the children's comic character Rupert Bear. (The judge was famously called a "boring old fart" in court by a defence witness, the comedian Marty Feldman.)
It was also only 11 years since Penguin Books had faced an obscenity charge for publishing DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover - the full text, complete with four-letter words and descriptions of sex between the lady and the gamekeeper.
But Penguin had been found not guilty thanks to the literary merit of the work, so Joy of Sex art director Peter Kindersley calculated that the quality of the art work would shield the publishers, Mitchell Beazley, from prosecution.
The images were graphic - they showed genitals and countless sex positions - but they were also artistic, and tasteful.
For good measure, he also added a number of historical images from India and Japan.
"There was concern about the explicitness of the pictures and therefore we thought as a foil we would put in some of these ancient pictures," says Mr Kindersley.
"In a way we were relating ourselves to the past… We wanted to make the book feel as though it was related to a great tradition of explicit pictures."
But before the artists could start work the team had to find models to pose for them.

Plan A, explains Mr Kindersley, was to use models from London's Soho district - the hotbed of the capital's sex industry.
"We found all these people who started posing, but halfway through the pose they would ask for an extra £100 ($160) - it was just complete chaos," he says.
There was some difficulty finding a workable Plan B. As the project approached a dead-end, it was the book's other illustrator, Charles Raymond - responsible for the colour artwork - who came to the rescue. He volunteered to do the modelling himself, with his German wife, Edeltraud.
Chris Foss, who was responsible for the book's black-and-white illustrations, took the photos. The book's author, Dr Alex Comfort, had given them dozens of positions to get though, and all were done for real over two hectic days in early 1972.

Dr Alex Comfort & Joy of Sex

Dr Alex Comfort and his second wife Jane
  • Alex Comfort (1920-2000) was an academic, novelist, poet and peace activist, who studied the biology of ageing
  • He lived in California with his second wife Jane (shown above) from 1972 to 1985
  • Joy of Sex was translated into more than 20 languages, and sold more than 10m copies
  • It was on the New York Times best-seller list for a decade
  • Per capita, the book has sold more widely in Australia than any other country
  • It was banned in Ireland from 1974 to 1989
The miners were on strike and they had only limited light to work with before the power cuts would plunge them into darkness.
"We'd say: 'Charlie, we've only got another 20 minutes,'" recalls Mr Foss. "And he'd say: 'Oh I'm terribly sorry' and he'd go off to prepare himself to perform again, and Edeltraud would go: 'Charles, Charles, please, please come on, we only have 10 minutes, please two more positions.'
"So it was all quite fraught shooting the positions - but it worked."
The same kind of matter-of-fact approach applied in the post-production.
"I remember Chris and Charles coming into the office with all these absolutely explicit photographs," says Mr Kindersley.
"And we all stood round saying: 'That's a good one, yeah that's very good.'
"Perhaps we were in a bubble, we were all completely bonkers!" he laughs.
"We just all took it literally. We said: 'Yes, that's a great picture of bondage' or whatever it was.
"There was never the conversation: 'Oh we couldn't put that in the book.'"
The pictures delighted author Alex Comfort, partly because Charles and Edeltraud looked so natural and unposed, absorbed in their private sexual relationship.
"The great thing about Charles and his wife was that they were completely authentic - you couldn't get more authentic," says Mr Kindersley.
"It was a real happening - it wasn't a cooked-up thing - and Alex really liked that."

Some ancient sex manuals

The private pleasure of Prince Muhammad Shah, late 17th Century India © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
  • China: Emperor Huang-Ti is credited with writing the first sex manual, about 4,500 years ago
  • Ancient Rome: The poet Ovid wrote The Art of Love about 2,000 years ago - though it is more of a guide on how to find lovers and keep them than a sex manual
  • India: The Kama Sutra, believed to be written by the philosopher Vatsyayana in about the 3rd Century, includes a detailed section on sex
  • Arab world: The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Desire by Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Nafzawi was written in Tunisia in the 15th Century, and is sometimes referred to as the "Arab Kama Sutra"
Dr Comfort had been spending a considerable amount of time in California, whose permissive sexual mores, including "foursomes" and "moresomes", he believed would become the norm everywhere.
He was a frequent visitor to the Sandstone Ranch - a kind of retreat for sexual adventure, where clothes were more often off than on, and sex with multiple partners was the norm.
His message in the book - which marked a big departure from earlier writings on the subject - was that sex, and sexual experimentation, were fun. The different positions reproduced by Charles and Edeltraud were compared to the courses of a meal.
He too, however, was anxious about possible repercussions, such as being struck off the medical register. So he presented himself in the original edition as the editor, claiming that an anonymous couple had handed him the text, which he had merely tweaked and contextualised.
But there were no repercussions. The timing of the book was perfect and the marriage of a sexually liberal message and daring but inoffensive pictures was an instant hit.
As Mr Kindersley toured book fairs around the world, the response was "electric" and many big publishers took it on.
There were of course some rejections. The one he remembers best was the US men's magazine Playboy - the models were just a little too hairy for their liking.
The Joy of Sex ended up selling more than 10 million copies around the world - more than five million in the United States alone, where it stayed in the New York Times best-seller list for a decade.
Photos take over

Start Quote

The illustrations are fantastic - they are legendary in the history of sex manuals”
James McConnachieAuthor of The Book of Love
There had been sex manuals before of course, but they had not been illustrated in anything like such a comprehensive way.
Contrary to popular belief, the Kama Sutra was not originally illustrated, according to James McConnachie, author of The Book of Love: In Search of the Kamasutra, and The Rough Guide to Sex.
The image we have of "a world of exotic, moustachioed aristocrats doing exaggerated acrobatic sex, with women on swings, or with their ankles round their ears" has nothing to do with the original Kama Sutra, says Mr McConnachie.
Miniatures from 16-18th Century India - well over a 1,000 years after the book was written in India - were only tagged on when the text was translated into French and English at the end of the 19th Century, he says.
The Joy of Sex was therefore jumping into untested water, but carried off the illustrations with such aplomb that few have dared even try to emulate it, according to Mr McConnachie.
"The illustrations are fantastic - they are legendary in the history of sex manuals," he says.

Extracts from The Joy of Sex

Image by Charles Raymond from The Joy of Sex showing a couple kissing
  • "Sex is the most important sort of adult play. If you can't relax here you never will"
  • "Chef-grade cooking doesn't happen naturally... It's hard to make mayonnaise by trial and error... Cordon Bleu sex, as we define it, is exactly the same situation"
  • "Plan your menus. Nobody wants a seven-course meal every time"
  • "Deodorant: Banned absolutely, the only permitted deodorant is soap and water"
  • "Personal taste apart, we see no earthly reason why pairs of friends shouldn't make love together: plenty now do"
Source: The Joy of Sex, 1972 edition
Anne Hooper, a British sex therapist and author of numerous bestselling books, agrees.
Like many other sex books in the 1980s, the first ones she wrote were not illustrated at all.
In the years since then there has been "a general easing" in what can be published, she says.
From the 1990s onwards it became common practice - and remains so to this day - to use photography in sex manuals, and once photos were used illustrations suddenly looked dated, says Ms Hooper.
In order to mark a clear distinction with pornography though, genitals are never shown, nor do the models have real sex.
The Joy of Sex is still on sale, but is now a very different book from the original.
Its free-love message sat uneasily with the arrival of HIV/Aids, and Alex Comfort himself revised the text in light of this.
Then, in 2008, the book was significantly updated and re-worked by relationship psychologist Susan Quilliam, who added more of a female perspective on sexuality.
The illustrations were also changed in an attempt to bring it up to date.
"The bearded man was an icon - but he was a '70s icon," says Ms Quilliam.
Chris Foss has not looked at the original black and white illustrations he did for the book for almost 30 years. Snapping open a sturdy little grey suitcase, he starts to root through.
Charles Raymond and Edeltraud lying on a rugThe BBC was unable to contact Charles Raymond to interview him for this story
He used to do up to three book covers a week, and so - back then - considered this just another job.
"With the benefit of hindsight, it was a seminal work, but of course at the time, you just didn't realise this."
What does he attribute the book's success to?
He stops and lingers on an image of Charles and Edeltraud, stretched out post-coitally on a rug.
"That's very tender isn't it? They are obviously having a relationship. You can just tell by the way her body lies."
He pauses for a moment. "I think the fact that they were in love had something to do with it."
Witness will be broadcast on BBC World Service on Wednesday 26 October. You can download a podcast of the programme or browse thearchive.

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