Are we still writing poems
about players kneeling down?


Are we still writing poems about players kneeling down?

Of course we are.
It’s now immoral not to write a poem or ten
about the brave souls kneeling as crowds boo them then cheer on cue
at free,
at brave.

Bruce Maxwell kneeled at a baseball game last week,
and for his first at-bat two days later
the hometown crowd cheered him.
Leeet's go, Oaaakland—

he was getting booed in Texas.

Next door, this Sunday, the lastweekkneeling Cowboys
will play a home game.

I wonder how that’ll go.

Are we still writing poems about players kneeling down?
Of course we are, of course we are.

As long the middle class is definitely probably maybe I don’t know
not getting no tax increase
and our glorious leader is flying his too-expensive airplane to his
              beautiful tremendous golf course
and our Big Water-surrounded brothers and sisters scramble for internet and food
and the occasional brutal policeman gets a nice severance

I suppose we’ll be digging through our metaphors
to write one more stupid poem about players kneeling down.

At least football’s on tv.

2017: Tʜᴇ Mᴏᴠɪᴇs
part three


In theaters:

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017): This doesn't rise to the heights of its most obvious forebear (1977's Star Wars---perhaps you've heard of it?), but it has a pleasing humanity that's clear from the opening sequence explaining how the titular city came to be. It has some flaws, many of which would have been easily fixed (establish that the leads had been working together for some time; tweak the bad guy's exposure; show Rihanna taking an injury), but overall I thought this movie gave me something I haven't seen before and did so with panache. I also appreciated its ability to be original while allowing subtle nods to its ancestry (including at least two to that 1977 film). I don't think it's a masterpiece but I hope it succeeds---if for no other reason than to show that a new way of funding blockbusters has validity. (And hey---it's at least as good as Tomorrowland.)

Dunkirk (2017): I read on Facebook, someone complaining that this film was too simple with not enough subplots. Perhaps on some level this is true, in terms of sheer numbers, but I see this complaint as high praise for a film that attempted something rather complex in terms of how it interweaves its three stories (I'm sure you've heard, but the three differ in time covered: a week, a day, an hour [ish]) I'm not a big one for war movies, but it was that innovative angle that got me into the theater. And Nolan pulls it off with aplomb. I don't know whether this is a "great" movie (only time can answer that question), but no question it succeeded as a suspenseful sequence of tiny character studies splashed over a large canvas of human suffering. Although all does not end perfectly, the heroism and survival that does come to the front is pretty awesome.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017): This. Was a great movie. Sure, I laughed, I cried---but I do that a lot. Let me give you a couple examples that lifts this above other well made, heartfelt popular film. One. The bad guy. Although they may have been more evocative comic book villains, there ain't many. And probably none of them has been as human as this Vulture. Somehow, in very few scenes, they managed to tell a tragedy. And, post-credits-spoiler alert, then they managed to drop in an earned redemption. That is no mean feat. Two. Partway through the movie, I thought to myself, Hey, self. I'm disappointed there hasn't been more of Aunt May and Peter's relationship here. Well, I may have thought that, but clearly I was wrong. Because that I-cried, I mentioned later? Two May scenes did that. And I haven't even talked about Peter as a true high-school student or the use of action or the layering of father figures or the trust of audience or anything else. I know I say Marvel movies often don't hold up to rewatching, but I'm confident this one will. It's the best Marvel movie yet.*

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): I've finally seen it. And on the big screen, on scratched film, preceded by the mighty Wurlitzer and a cartoon. And I recognized the DNA that's appeared in future films: sometimes just as I expected (WALL-E), sometimes quite differently than I expected (Star Wars), sometimes much more than I expected (Interstellar), and sometimes where I hadn't expected to see it at all (The Meaning of Life). I also was surprised that some of its own DNA came out of the sort of experiments I'd just seen at the Berkeley Art Museum. Look: I knew this wasn't going to be a typical commercial project. I did not expect how exquisitely straight-up weird it was going to be. Even knowing what I knew (which was a lot), I was not prepared. It blows my mind that, in 1968, this movie could be produced, released, and successful. As for me, it will have to lay in my mind for a while before I have real opinions. Next time it's on a big screen, I'll take those opinions with me and try them out.

Dunkirk (2017): My thirteen-year-old's been begging so I took him. Definitely worth seeing again. I found it more emotionally moving this time. And I'm just as impressed with the composition. Something I meant to mention last time is how excellent Tom Hardy must be to act so well with only his eyes visible (again), but this time I was even more impressed by Mark Rylance. There's something about an actor who can choke you up with what he does not say.

At home:

Napoleon Dynamite (2004): Still as wonderful and marvelous as ever. All I can say is that Jared Hess is the American Edgar Wright but we're too blind to see it. WHEN WILL HE GET FIRED FROM A MARVEL MOVIE???

Moana (2016): For a movie whose making was almost entirely led by men, I sure feel like a feminist now! I enjoyed this movie. Would watch again.

Swiss Army Man (2016): I'm not sure what to say about this movie. I certainly liked it. I certainly appreciated how it took apart some tropes and reassembled them into something bizarre yet familiar. Without the omnidirectional penis and masturbation talk, I might well pair this movie with teaching Frankenstein. It's definitely the sort of thing I use in my classroom. I just usually stick with shorts. Anyway---it's exactly what was advertised and yet still not what I "expected"---largely because how can one expect ANYTHING? I mean really. (One last note: Has there been any other movie ever to provide farting with such breadth and depth of symbolism? Everything from self-actualization to catharsis to friendship to shame to existential loneliness. Not at all in that order.)

De Palma (2015): I love movie documentaries and this was a good one, but no one was shocked more than me that the only De Palma movie I've ever seen is the one I knew I'd seen (Mission: Impossible). Now I'm even more interested in his oeuvre, but even less sure where to start.

Grosse Pointe Blank (1997): Lady Steed graduated high school the year this reunion movie came out, and her reunion is this weekend. So! Time to finally watch it! It's not one of Film's Great Comedies, but it was certainly a fun flick. A couple questions (where are Grosse Pointe's police??), but overall a tight and coherent script.

Doctor Strange (2016): I was in and out some as the kids watched it, but guess what? I think we've found another Marvel movie that holds up to a second viewing!

The Eagle Huntress (2016): If you watch this, I recommend pairing it with its making-of because it answered some questions for me regarding the honesty of the editing (questions one should ask of every documentary). As the director points out, although, sure, this is a female-empowerment film, it is first and foremost the story of a dad and a daughter. Or---more correctly---the girl's entire family. The small shots of her mother reveal how much each person is giving here, even if it isn't a big, showy gift. My boys enjoyed this movie. And it's beautifully shot. Shocking to watch the making-of and realize how few people and how little money made this happen. (One caveat the film should have mentioned. Fuller version.)

Arrival (2016): This is a smart and complicated movie. It's still unspooling in my head. I can't remember the last time a movie's content and form were so well intertwined. The movie I think it most closely ties to is The Tree of Life---I think thinking of it as a more popcorn-friendly version of that film might be more useful than thinking of it as an improved Interstellar or an intelligent genre film generic. I hope to watch it again, to watch it with my kids, maybe even show it to students to promote another kind of heroism. Who knows.

Magnolia (1999): Wow. I think the mark of greatness is putting something together that really should not work and yet totally does. A movie that relies on coincidence? That's unrelentingly sad? That wants to be realistic but has frogs fall from the sky? That has meta intro and outro? That's over three hours long? Dude. None of that sounds like a good idea. And yet----what a movie. This is powerful, moving stuff. And it comes down to craft. Good writing. Excellent acting. Smart direction and cinematography. It's daring. And being daring is the only thing that can really, really pay off. Of course, being daring can result in absolute crap too. But that's why greatness dares. Greatness is willing to fail. Let that be a lesson to us all.

Trolls (2016): When I first saw a trailer for this I immediately determined that American culture had reached its nadir. Then Trump was elected and I decided to see just how wrong I had been. (Joke.) This is clearly a movie for people willing to set aside their cynicism. It's not easy. It's the plot of a feelgood animated TV movie from the '80s and an overblown toy commercial to boot, but all that said, if you can set your cynicism aside, it will reward you. The thing I liked best about the film was the creature and set designs in the world between the trolls and the enemies. Those were creative and willing to leave behind the tired sameness we expect of most large-studio, big-budget animated flicks. And now it's time to let my cynicism return lest I start scrapbooking.

Napoleon Dynamite (2004): I don't know how YOU define "favorite movie" but I suppose if I tried to think of a movie I've seen many many times and never tired of; a movie that brings me joy each time I see it; a movie that makes me tear up during a final montage; a movie that makes me laugh out loud every single time; a movie that took a song I've never heard before, played it over the closing credits, and made it one I love; a movie I will always say yes to; a movie I can quote all the way through---then Napoleon Dynamite might be my favorite movie.


What We Do in the Shadows (2014): In many ways, it was funnier this time around. Less concerned with what I know and with what I don't, I could just enjoy it. And so I certainly did.

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966): I'm not going to pretend the plot is airtight or anything like that, but this is truly a great comedy. First, it's one of the best showcases of Don Knotts's comedic abilities. Second, it's generously directed with shots that last a bit longer than a more nervous director would allow. Third, it's generously written---a movie like this doesn't require added gags like ATTABOY, LUTHOR! It also has one of my all-time favorite movie kisses (but not a favorite kiss for the normal reasons), even if the age difference between leads is among the most ridiculous ever.

Ladyhawke (1985): This was our pre-eclipse movie and it was an awesome choice. Now sure, the music is ... hilarious, and the love story is so-so, and there are plenty of ways to dismiss this as a Cheesy Eighties Movie, but you should watch it anyway because Matthew Broderick's character is brilliantly written and brilliantly executed. I will take anyone up on watching this movie just to see him again. But I reserve the right to mock the astronomy.

Logan (2017): the first X-Men movie wasn't much of a movie, but it showed the promise serial film could have. X2 was one of the worst in-theater experiences I've ever had so I really have no idea if the movie's any good or not. I may have seen X3? I'm really not sure. And I haven't bothered with any of the in-between films before this chapter. And I wouldn't have watched this either except that it garnered such high praise from the critics. And well deserved, may I say. This is what I want out of my superhero movies: human stories. Superheroes are only useful when they allow us to see ourselves, heightened, not fantasy versions of ourselves. Special shoutouts to Hugh Jackman who was excellent, and Stephen Merchant in his First Dramatic Role who is standout as Caliban. One final note, the little girl is rather a lot like Wonder Woman---growing up outside the normal world and fascinated when placed into this real world. Everything else just goes to show how widely the flesh can differ on a story skeleton. (Oh: one more: the intertextual use of Shane was pretty bully as well. That's how they got me to cry.)

Unfaithfully Yours (1948): So I knew contemporary audiences were thrown by this movie, confused by its shifts in tone. But you know what? I was still thrown by this movie, confused by its shifts in tone. I laughed a lot in this movie. I covered my face in horror. I was perplexed. I was whiplashed by a sudden turn, then, when it looked like I would have to live through it again, I cried aloud, "No, Preston! No!" (Read a longer version of this review here.)

Tyrus (2015): This is a lovely documentary with a perfect closing thirty seconds about a wonderful man and an incredible artist. If you're like me (or the yahoos who run IMDb), you pretty much only know about Tyus Wong because of his exquisite work on Bambi. Which I love. But he worked inbetweening some Mickey shorts, and worked for Warner Brothers and Republic's art departments on many, many films for years. Besides that, before his movie work he was already a lauded fine artist and he never stopped creating. He died at 106. He lived long enough to be part of the ugly backstory of California's racial history, but he seems to have come out the other end only more beautiful. I'm very sad to have missed his show at the Walt Disney Family Museum. Their Mary Blair and Eyvind Earle shows were incredible.

Elevator to the Gallows (1958): I love how the elevator takes him to the gallows by not going anywhere. If he hadn't been stuck in the elevator, he would not have been accused of a murder he didn't commit. If he hadn't been stuck in the elevator, that murder, in fact would not have been committed. And it was the investigation of that murder that uncovered his guilt in the murder he did commit! Egad! This film is allegedly pre-New Wave, but it feels very New Wave to me (I disclaim expertise).

Fences (2016): This movie wrecks me, even when I'm watching it three times at once, spread over three noncontiguous days.

Previous films watched

qu1 qu2 qu3





Mostly good comics, but also Fences


0108) Gast by Carol Swain, finished September 19

This book is wonderful. It reminds me of Duncan the Wonder Dog---and not just because this is a world as normal as ours exept the animals talk, although that's an obvious point.

Largely, what makes this book great is its quiet. It doesn't rush. It's not anxious to prove anything. It just presents the days of this eleven-year-old girl and allows her to live them.

Here's the basics: she moves to Wales with her parents. Shortly thereafter she learns that her neighbor recently killed himself and she undertakes learning all she can about him. She learns plenty, but what she comes to understand hasn't much to do with the facts uncovered.

My favorite characters are the dogs. The way they look at each other. The way they talk does, I think, better catch the way dogs would talk, could they talk,
than, say, Up. My favorite dog bit is when they're leading the girl somewhere and one of them keeps biting her ankle and she keeps complaining and the dog says, "Sorry, I keep thinking you're a sheep." and I love that.
two days


107) Paper Girls Volume One by Brian K Vaughan et al, finished September 16

Brilliant! I don't know what the what's going on, but every new layer to the mystery makes me more excited for the eventual conclusions (which there had better be). I can't remember the last first-collection I was this exited about.

The art, with its line style, dynamism, faces, religious allusions, and colors, looks like Mike and Laura Allred's work much of the time---which is just the right homage to make with this madness.

So we have time travelers and ancient reptiles and the '80s and more, and I've already put the next two volumes on hold.



104, 105, 106) Fences by August Wilson, finished September 15

I'm not sure there's any play I more enjoy reading in class with my students.
a week


103) Drama by Raina Telgemeier, finished September 11

This is my first full book of Telgemeier's and I have to say I like her long. I get why the kids like her. And if this is typical, it's probably a very good thing for America that the kids like her. This is just straight up middleschoolers being decent human being as they try to figure themselves and each other out. And although these kids are putting on a grotesquely more complex show than anything I did in middle school, it still felt real. And I love that kids taking on big tasks could feel real.

I suppose, maybe, this book is aspirational. But what, pray tell, is wrong with that?

an evening

Previously in 2017


Dialogue: Vol. 50, Num. 2 – Summer 2017


I've had an electronic subscription to Dialogue a few times, but reading pdfs on my laptop sucks. So I almost never read anything. I would love to subscribe to the paper, but it ain't cheap and my subscriptions budget is, shall we say, already rather full. And so most of the Dialogue I've read over the last ten years has been the gratis copies received when they've published my writing. I'm a bit ashamed to admit this.

But every time a new issue comes out, I always look over the table of contents and sigh and moan over the fiction I want to read and the poems I want to read and probably another thing or three I wish to read. But I never actually buy the issue.


And, weirdly, although it was the poetry and fiction that first caught my eye, it was a pair of book reviews that got me to plunk down five bucks for the Kindle edition. Specifically, reviews of The Garden of Enid (or, rather, the new collected volumes) by two of my favorite people, Brittany Long Olsen and Stephen L. Peck. Since I'm supposed to be an expert on such things, I had to read these. And I did. And while I'm tempted to review the reviews, I'm not sure that sort of metarecursion is really what America needs right now.

Instead, here are some brief looks at some of the issue's artsy writin.

Personal essays:
Lon Young, "That’s Where the Light Enters" — I learned a lot about leprosy from this essay. And about living abroad, far from certain internet and casual cultural assumptions. The alchemy that turns these things into spiritual metaphors is rather lovely and moving.

Gail Turley Houston, "Dreaming After Trump" — It's crazy to me how close the September Six brouhaha is to my own BYU experience and how little I was aware of its aftermath at the time. Laying that chaos under the chaos of Trump's election certainly makes for something to talk about.

C. Dylan Bassett, "True Ideas" — Couple fun bits of wordplay.

R. A. Christmas, "Not the Truman Show" — Always glad to see Christmas still publishing. I'm hot and cold on his work, but I like how this one is filtered through its title. Completely different work without that title.

Joanna Ellsworth, "Averted Vision" — This poem's placement next to Christmas's makes for a fun juxtaposition. They both are interested in the cosmic and in overlaying science with art.

Ronald Wilcox, "The Grammar of Quench" — This poem has a thrusting rhythm that adds a vital sense to its destructive suggestions.

Darlene Young, "Echo of Boy" — This story of a deacon becoming an adult during his freezing fast-offering route is the only thing in this issue I quoted on Twitter. It also ends with the very nice "contrail of boy."

Erika Munson, "What Happened Sunday Morning" — I suspect this tiny piece started life intended for Everyday Mormon Writer's Lit Blitz. There is so much excellent Mormon flash fiction these days. Anyway, this is short and ambiguous. Don't expect utter clarity on just what epiphany the p-o-v was supposed to've experienced.

Heidi Naylor, "The Home Teacher — This does a nice job weaving together the story of a missionary's success with a ruined human being and his later, less successful, experiences with another. For me, it had a lot to say about the heights missionary work provides for missionaries and the sometimes ambiguous effects memories of that single-minded devotion can have later in life.


Unfaithfully Yours is ... wow


Unfaithfully Yours (1948) is a Preston Sturges film. And so I had a Preston Sturges experience.

I knew coming in that contemporary audiences were thrown by this movie, confused by its shifts in tone. But you know what? I was still thrown by this movie, confused by its shifts in tone. I laughed a lot, especially in the final act.* Perhaps because I spent the middle of the film ... engaged in all other human emotions.

At one point I covered my face in horror, aghast at what I was seeing. I now realize the Dali painting should have warned me that what I was seeing was only real for a certain value of real. Instead, when I realized this routine was about to recur, I cried aloud, "No, Preston! No!" But this time, instead of anger and vengeance, I was treated to delicious self-pity. Which was ... funny, I guess. And then the third time---

So yeah. It's ... a comedy. It almost becomes a tragedy along the lines of Othello or a weeper along the lines of [tip of my tongue] or a freaking farce of particularly vicious vintage.

This is a whole lotta movies crammed into one perplexing space.

So it's funny kind of like, say, Burn After Reading is funny. I mean, that's funny, right? I remember laughing.

It's a funny movie. Is it?

I don't know. Burn After Reading is funny, but is it a funny movie? Great scott, the blood in that film!

Yeah. Once again, the only movies I can find to compare Sturges to are those of the Coens. At least this one obeys the rules of comedy in its final moments. But every moment up to then is steadfastly engaged in breaking rules galore.

Hoooolee, what a movie. I'm dizzy. I need to lie down.

Lost Songs: Break My Stride


I don't have anything, really, to say about this, but I'm glad it turned up on the radio this morning. What a great song!


Clean Room


102) Clean Room Vol. 3: Waiting for the Stars to Fal by Gail Simone et al, finished September 9
101) Clean Room, Vol. 2: Exile by Gail Simone et al, finished September 7
100) Clean Room, Vol. 1: Immaculate Conception by Gail Simone et al, finished September 7

Gail Simone is such a big deal whom I hear about so often that I was surprised to look through my records and see that I've never read any of her stuff (other than a single story here). I suppose a completely original work is a worthy entrypoint.

In short, this is the story of people who are saved from being dead by medical science and then can see the demons (if you will) all around us. One of them starts a Scientology-like organization. Although it's arguable that she is the series' protagonist (ultimately, I would say yes, though it takes a while for it to resolve around her story), the culty leader is certainly the key visual used on the covers:

At first, she seems to be the villain. Slowly she moves to being a villain who is the hero of her own story. By the second volume, she appears to be not evil in nature, but forced to be evil in order to stop the evil around her. By the end, she is a tragic figure who has sacrificed herself and her humanity in order to save the world.

One interesting aspect of this story is that she is but one of at least three Christ-figures, each of which competes, shall we say, for the true Christ-like role within this cosmology and within this moment of time. Which is an ugly and evil moment in time. Some people are good, but many are bad---and it doesn't help that the world is filled with things that are not, after all, hallucinations of the mad, but real evil come from elsewhere and looking to ... play with us, shall we say.

Here I enter true end-of-the-story spoilers territory.

The three volumes tell one coherent story, but the end bothered me. First, there were a couple sloppy bits that didn't make sense but were projected beyond the crisis (the Suddenly bisexual! storyline is the best example), but the primary issue, to me, was the great resolution itself. Our redhaired cult leader, having succeeded at destroying the enemy's invisible city in the sky AND their leader, arranged to have herself completely discredited---her entire organization dismantled and disgraced---all so people will not be forced to believe in this evil she successfully destroyed.

EXCEPT. Sure she destroyed the city and the leader, but untold numbers of these monsters are already living elsewhere on the earth and the alien pipeline that brought the demons here in the first place has not been destroyed. So, although the ending makes a certain emotional sense, it's utterly absurd in terms of good common sense.
And that means I was not, in the end, satisfied.

All that creative violence for nothing.
two days and one day and two days respectively

Previously in 2017


I have 99 books and A Bitch ain't one
(I don't even own that book)

gee whiz
I wrote that title before
I knew what the top book
would be and now
I feel terrible

I am definitely going to hell


099) Mother's Milk by Rachel Hunt Steenblik, finished September 7

Read my full review here.

And shoot. I just remembered that I said I was going to buy another BCC Press book after I read this one. Hmm. Maybe Mel's should be next....


098) “L” Is for Lawless by Sue Grafton, finished September 6

I saw that “Y” advertised in the new Costco mag and I realized I have fallen behind pace to be ready to buy “Z” when it comes out.
Egad! The problem is: Kinsey isn't all I want to read.

That said, “L” was a lark. Crosscountry treasure hunt with cons charming and evil. In some respects, I worry though. Either this book was a bit more straightforward than some of the others, or I'm just getting better at cracking the code. I don't read mysteries much, but when I do, it's not because I want to outsmart the novelist---I want to be surprised! I solved this book a few steps ahead the whole way.
And sometimes I noticed dangers that didn't come to pass. I'm not sure if those were intentional on Grafton's part (and thus unintentional on the part of her otherwise quite competent detective) or errors. I don't like wondering this. Mysteries are not my genre. I should never worry that I'm smarter than my guide.

But: as I said. A lark. I shall continue onward.
a couple weeks


097) How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff, finished September 2

I try to pay attention to how numbers are used, but I'm often not careful and can get distracted by something that's more exciting than certain. Reading this brief and fun 63yrold book makes it much easier (still!) to sort through the garbage. As I was reading this I wanted to believe the world changed. Then I sat down and read this and saw all the same tricks employed. (And that's journalism! Not advertising or politics!)

Props to my Economics Professor Friend for the free copy, and I might as well pass along the warning he gives his student: This book was published a long time ago. It might not be as PC as you're used to. But it makes its points ever so well.
about ten days


096) Flight, Volume 4, finished August 30

Remember when Flight changed the world? Each one singlehandedly demonstrated to an amazed public the breadth and depth of comics possibility.

This, of course, is also why my kids were largely mystified by this book when I brought it home from the library. They wanted story,
in the way they were used to, from every single entry. But that's not what Flight offers.

For that, maybe check out Flight Explorer?
two or three days

Previously in 2017