Monthly Archives: December 2008

[Draft] “The Hang Man” I (Son of the Widow James)

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I am publicy drafting a five-part short called “The Hang Man,” in which a practiced executioner – called “the dangler” or “the stringer” – loses his grip. He’s too old for his high office. He has been pragmatic, but his mind has largely become abstract. I am being a little liberal with grammar, and I’ve got a good feeling it won’t be to anyone’s tastes. Ah well. I like my little existential Western.

The Hang Man

Well, the rampaging sons of the widow James—
Jack the Cutter and the Pock-Marked Kid—
had to stand naked at the bottom of the cross
and tell the Good Lord what they did. – Tom Waits

Son of the Widow James

              The Dangler scritches, which is neither a brume nor color.
              A ceremony in the deep of him, none see. A deep old in his fingers     And slow     A bone pencil aches   and Hangman eyes sting as do yours and mine    but he will not sleep until it’s through. And, anyway, he has been thinking. Thinking how there lacks … something –, there lacks—he thinks (grumbling “ahshit,” and then, – resigning).
              Lost it again, he thinks.
              He eyes his lemon drink.
              “—again,” he thinks aloud again. And his murmur is like glutted thunder, and he is all too aware of his margins, waxing poetic. They do that sometimes.
              Miss Amber graced him it—the lemon-water, not the poetry; she is the sheriff’s daughter, named for her eyes, and …and … —his rime is both cataract and the color of milk—and then his pencil breaks.

                Until the wayWord wound-up in the gloss of his work, the dangler’s lines were straight. Etched-in, descending from the wet-bough sketch by-six-by-four-feet-by-four to drop a man of thirteen stone into an ampersand. Now the cracked pencil tip mars like stray punctuation, like grit or eraser-shaves come between his conscious stream, signs of intimate error that stain the back of his hand.  Outside, the weathervane is creaking to the west.
               And through the large glass facade of his office, everything out-there is wartercolored and in-nighttime. His vision is poor. Wind kicks up the dust where the ghosts of the town scuffle, and there – he grumbles – “in’t a soul but mine to see them.” Their faces paper the walls of his workshop, ancient posters as brittle as straw; many of them the only pictures for which some have ever posed. A sedimentary memorial. The new layers plaster the old, the oldest faces forgotten. Over time, even the dangler forgets. So many look the same. Dirty faces, gaunt, dark-haired, scraggled. Faces made mean by fault of being born wrong. They are might-have-been mayors and priests staring out.   
                And that one in the foremost is of this boy—not as of his portrait, of course, but once-on-a-time – distantly, years since—who dared stare back, who had never looked on a dead thing yet.

                                                                                       They stared him cold. A dozen eyes from behind the wall. Little windows of paper fluttering.
                The doorlight washed in wet and bright and spread like inksplatter, as if God Almighty were shuffling papers and accidentally tipped over the sun. The boy is silhouetted in it, sharp planes and the brim of his father’s hat—maybe twelve-stone, the dangler remembers; hardpanner, he thinks, by the lank of him, his stance —    “Hey!-I said. You come out of your revelry old man!”—     how the making of demands was such foreign verbiage, which is bred from desertspeak (which come out of grit and a desertheart, so it’s said).
               Alright, says the younger stringer to the boy. “You got my attention, if you’ll have it,” and the hangman lay low the some-braided rope with which he wiled away the hour, then spits on the floor at the threshold. It marked the line between civility and threat. But the boy knew where he stood and where he didn’t. A good custom.
                “This one, on the wall – Jack Darby” the boy says, but names lack that spectrum of color and shape of a picture, the deep-rooted corporeal math his mama bestowed, translating to fourteen-some stone and eight-feet of rope. “Mr. John Darby, I mean     (“Ay?, – what of him?”)      is – well, he is to be throttled in the next week. And – well I – … I     (“You’ll what?”) —             —(“My hospitality is wearing thin, son …”)      I thought I , maybe, if – if you’ve any soul, that I could encourage you to do him right.”
                Plenty of souls, the Dangler rustles. (Raw collar still a stain beneath even the Miss Becky’s fine scarf.) And the boy says, “I – I can pay you,” rummaging for coin, “but I han’t much incentive, maybe enough for a glass …;” the hangman fumbles with the noose. 
               Rope’s fibers are razor-sharp and can scratch subtle like a papercut. Calluses that form are different from you workmen; not unlike a musician’s. Discomfort in fine detail. A dull years-long ache becomes arthritic with old age. So, “you’re a little young, son,” the hangman sighed, and

his sandpaper bones
knotted and groaned

               “—for Jack, that is. And only enough to burn the scare out—” 

and the memory flutters a little on the wall.

[Skinnies] real:imagine Plums bandy angry candy

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Bored on the job, you see; the tail-end is vacuous, and I get a little wayward sometimes. Mind’s starting to go where the mishelved go – and socks. Lots of socks there.

“somewhere itis Spring and sometimes
people are in real:imagine
somewhere real flowers, but
I can’t imagine real flowers for if I

could, they would somehow
not Be real”
(so he smiles
smiling)”but I will not

everywhere be real to
you in a moment” – EE Cummings [XXIX (“in a middle of a room”)]

There are three others here and I – and one patron; it is as quiet as a library should be, which is irregular for ours.

This Is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox – William Carlos Williams

The old man across the floor is amorphous and white-haired and county.

the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls
are unbeautiful and have comfortable minds
(also, with the church’s protestant blessings
daughters, unscented shapeless spirited)
they believe in Christ and Longfellow, both dead,
are invariably interested in so many things–
at the present writing one still finds
delighted fingers knitting for the is it Poles?
perhaps. While permanent faces coyly bandy
scandal of Mrs. N and Professor D
. . . . the Cambridge ladies do not care, above
Cambridge if sometimes in its box of
sky lavender and cornerless, the
moon rattles like a fragment of angry candy. – EE Cummings [again]

ELFs – Dante, Dali, Dore & Austen

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For one reason or another, I am feeling mortal.

112 Therefore I think and judge it for thy best
113 Thou follow me, and I will be thy guide,
114 And lead thee hence through the eternal place,

115 Where thou shalt hear the desperate lamentations,
116 Shalt see the ancient spirits disconsolate,
117 Who cry out each one for the second death;

118 And thou shalt see those who contented are
119 Within the fire, because they hope to come,
120 Whene’er it may be, to the blessed people;

121 To whom, then, if thou wishest to ascend,
122 A soul shall be for that than I more worthy;
123 With her at my departure I will leave thee.

I suppose I most recommend Longfellow’s translation of The Divine Comedy, which you can read – if you feel so inclined – in multiple versions online thanks to the Electronic Literature Foundation (ELF). That said, check out their project on Jane Austen. Longfellow has a better knack for the poetry of it, I think; moreso than the literal translations you must digest in school. Just like Heaney’s Beowulf. Solid.

There is also one hell of a digital gallery at ELF, checkout Salvador Dali’s “Cerberus” (I didn’t know this stuff even existed! – horrifying):

Salvador Dalis Cerberus

Salvador Dali's Cerberus

or Gustave Dore’s “Souls of Paolo and Francesca”

Gustave Dores Souls of Paolo and Francesca

Gustave Dore's "Souls of Paolo and Francesca"

I just Amazoned me a copy.

In other news, Happy Birthday Mrs. P.

“D” for Dignitas

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Heartbreak Hotel

Heartbreak Hotel

Alfonso Cuarón was dead on. I haven’t more an intellectual reaction to this article in USA Today than my non-verbal wow.

Drawn by Switzerland’s reputation as a trouble-free place for foreigners to end their lives, more than 100 Germans, Britons, French, Americans and others come to this small commuter town each year to lie down on a bed in an industrial park building and drink a lethal dose of barbiturates. 

But only Switzerland, in a law dating back to 1942, permits foreigners to come and kill themselves, placing few restrictions on the how, when and why. Doctors have relative freedom to prescribe a veterinary drug for that very purpose

Like Ewert, most foreigners turn to Dignitas, one of several Swiss organizations dedicated to the cause. Dignitas’ founder, Ludwig A. Minelli, has built the group into a thriving nonprofit operation.

Dignitas says its members’ right to self-determination is paramount. The only criteria for assisting a suicide are that the person “suffers from an illness that inevitably leads to death, or from an unacceptable disability, and wants to end their life and suffering voluntarily.”

Other such organizations in Switzerland say they are cheaper and do not charge the patient directly, relying instead on membership fees and donations.

So below, their political fallout:

Officials in the canton of Zurich threatened to restrict their activities by making doctors see each patient more than once, and by limiting the supply of sodium pentobarbital. So some groups hoarded the drug, while Dignitas turned to plastic bags and helium.

The bag is placed over the head of a person who then opens a flow of helium, falls into a coma and dies “in 99.9% of cases,” according to Derek Humphry, a British author whose suicide manual “Final Exit” has sold at least a million copies.

But the use of helium smacked to many Swiss of Nazi gas chambers, and made Minelli a tabloid hate figure — a sentiment widely shared in Schwerzenbach.

Like most Swiss, the townspeople support the principle of assisted suicide, but “the helium was the last straw,” says Manfred Milz, who is evicting Dignitas from his building.

It has to leave by June — its third move in two years. Dignitas previously used a private home, hotel rooms, even mobile homes.

But demand continues to grow, Dignitas says.

“We can’t solve all the problems of Germany, England, France and Italy,” he said.

See You in the Bronx (GIE Conf. at FordhamU) and Other Stuff

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At the tail end of January, I am meeting up with my editor Chris Wilson somewhere in the Bronx at Fordham University. Our proposal (“Making a Case for Comics in the Classroom”) was just accepted as a 70-odd-minute workshop – yow. Here is what Diamond Bookshelf has to say about the GIE Conference:

On January 31st, FordhamUniversity’s Graduate School of Education (GSE) will host Graphica in Education: Graphic Novels come out from under the Desk, a conference to discuss a pedagogical approach to the use of graphic novels and graphica in K-12 classrooms.

The event will feature presentations and workshops on different aspects of graphica and strategies for how to incorporate it into the classroom. Confirmed speakers include James Bucky Carter, Ph.D., assistant professor of English Education at the University of Texas at El Paso and editor ofBuilding Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels: Page by Page, Panel by Panel (NCTE); Dr. Michael Bitz, Ed.D, founder of The Comic Book Project and author of forthcoming books Manga High (Harvard Education Press) and When Commas Meet Kryptonite (Teachers College Press); and John Shableski, sales manager for Diamond Book Distributors with a focus on the independent bookstore market, public and school libraries.

Evidently, there is nothing yet on the Official Agenda, but I’d rather present in the late morning. After-lunch presentations get crowded-out with drowsy and stuffed-up pinatas of people, whereas, after dark, one becomes more and more aware of the better things he or she could be doing. There is a science to it, I swear.

Yesterday, I attended an afternoon session of the FLYP (Florida Library Youth Prgoram) conference in Gainesville and subsequently gouged out my eyes after several hours of boredom. I hate to say this of my peers and betters, but Honestly, don’t read your presentations straight off of a PowerPoint. I was inclined to strangle someone with my sweatervest, just to liven things up. 

I did get to sit through a preview of a Graphic Novel Core Collection program, which was pretty fun. I whoooped at a bunch of the titles (the other Librarians were all Ooh, Aah – but I’d gotten to read the most of them years ago. I hope they’ll like them as much as I did). 

I met a new author there, but I’m sorry that I can’t remember her name. I asked the Reference at the Alachua HQ and hope to say more in a little.

I read Batman RIP. I won’t spoil it (yet), and I am working through Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, which is greatsofar. 

I am not feeling too particularly social outside of work, which I suspect is some biological rebalancing against my inner debutante to keep me productive. So to my gang: I hope it’s not coming off as a slight! For the meantime, unless it’s real low-key, it’s going to be hard to get me excited to mingle. I am in crowds all day. But I appreciate the invites, anyway :-).

[December] YAs & Graphic Novels

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The latest batch of YAs & Graphic Novels arrived last week. Check it out:

Absolute Bofriend 1, 2, 3, 4, 6
Age of Bronze 1, 2, 3
Angel Diary 1, 2, 3, 6
Bleaches 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22
Boys Over Flowers 13, 26, 27, 30, 32
Castlevania 1
Code Geass 2
Fushigi Yogi 1, 2, 3, 4
Hellsing 9
Here, Bullet
Knights of the Country
Little Brother
Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft
Mr. Punch
Narutos 11, 12, 13, 14
Planetary: Crossing Worlds
Purity of Blood
Ral Grad 1, 2
Rosario + Vampire 1, 2, 3
Screenwriting for Teens
Serenity: Infidel
Soulless
Sweep Series 6, 7
Tarot Café #6
The Dark Tower: The Long Road Home
The Graveyard Book
The Great Outdoor Fight
The Ring of the Nibelung 2
The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes, the Doll’s House, Dream Country, Brief lives
Ultimate Fantastic Four 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10
Ultimate X-Men 10