Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Plague Mask

Consequences of the Black Death

Considered an early form of hazmat suit, a plague doctor's clothing consisted of:

A wide-brimmed black hat worn close to the head. At the time, a wide-brimmed black hat would have been identified a person as a doctor, much the same as how nowadays a hat may identify chefs, soldiers, and workers. The wide-brimmed hat may have also been used as partial shielding from infection.
A primitive gas mask in the shape of a bird's beak. A common belief at the time was that the plague was spread by birds. There may have been a belief that by dressing in a bird-like mask, the wearer could draw the plague away from the patient and onto the garment the plague doctor wore. The mask also included red glass eyepieces, which were thought to make the wearer impervious to evil. The beak of the mask was often filled with strongly aromatic herbs and spices to overpower the miasmas or "bad air" which was also thought to carry the plague. At the very least, it may have served a dual purpose of dulling the smell of unburied corpses, sputum, and ruptured bouboules in plague victims.
A long, black overcoat. The overcoat worn by the plague doctor was tucked in behind the beak mask at the neckline to minimize skin exposure. It extended to the feet, and was often coated head to toe in suet or wax. A coating of suet may have been used with the thought that the plague could be drawn away from the flesh of the infected victim and either trapped by the suet, or repelled by the wax. The coating of wax likely served as protection against respiratory droplet contamination, but it was not known at the time if coughing carried the plague. It was likely that the overcoat was waxed to simply prevent sputum or other bodily fluids from clinging to it.
A wooden cane. The cane was used to both direct family members to move the patient, other individuals nearby, and possibly to examine the patient with directly.
Leather breeches. Similar to waders worn by fishermen, leather breeches were worn beneath the cloak to protect the legs and groin from infection. Since the plague often tended to manifest itself first in the lymph nodes, particular attention was paid to protecting the armpits, neck, and groin. It is not known how often or widespread plague doctors were, or how effective they were in treatment of the disease. It's likely that while offering some protection to the wearer, they may have actually contributed more to the spreading of the disease than its treatment, in that the plague doctor unknowingly served as a vector for infected fleas to move from host to host.
All I can say is: Wow.

Sen. Arlen Specter has just announced that he will switch from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party. His move gives Democrats 59 votes in the Senate....

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Joel Brouwer reviews four books in today's NY Times:


Afghanistan has more varieties of the fruit tree than any other part of the world, leading botanists to suggest this is the birthplace of pomegranate cultivation.

The export business has been badly hit by 30 years of invasion and civil war, and most of the country's harvest is sold to India and Pakistan.

But now western donors and Afghan farmers hope they can cash in on the fruit's popularity further afield.

Demand for the fruit, said to be beneficial for anything from heart disease to prostate cancer, has soared in the West in the past five years. The seedless bedana variety has been singled out as a potential "billion-dollar product" because western consumers prefer seedless fruit.


The war of words between a celebrity blogger and a beauty-pageant contestant started Sunday at the Miss USA competition, when Perez Hilton asked Miss California Carrie Prejean if more states should legalize same-sex marriage. Prejean stated her opinion that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

On Tuesday (April 21), the feud continued as both Hilton and Prejean took to the TV networks to defend their positions — and criticize each other.

"When I first heard her answer, I was shocked, because I thought having been from California, a state that recently passed Proposition 8 outlawing same-sex marriage, she should have been better prepared to answer that question," Hilton said on CBS' "The Early Show." "There are various other ways she could have answered that question and still stayed true to herself without alienating millions of people."

Friday, April 24, 2009

This is too funny.
Now I am *really* gonna hafta write that Twitter Sonnet I've been talking about.

Thanks to Jared who sent me the link from McSweeney's.

- - - -

ENG 371WR:
Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era
M-W-F: 11:00 a.m.–12:15 p.m.
Instructor: Robert Lanham

Course Description

As print takes its place alongside smoke signals, cuneiform, and hollering, there has emerged a new literary age, one in which writers no longer need to feel encumbered by the paper cuts, reading, and excessive use of words traditionally associated with the writing trade. Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era focuses on the creation of short-form prose that is not intended to be reproduced on pulp fibers.

Instant messaging. Twittering. Facebook updates. These 21st-century literary genres are defining a new "Lost Generation" of minimalists who would much rather watch Lost on their iPhones than toil over long-winded articles and short stories. Students will acquire the tools needed to make their tweets glimmer with a complete lack of forethought, their Facebook updates ring with self-importance, and their blog entries shimmer with literary pithiness. All without the restraints of writing in complete sentences. w00t! w00t! Throughout the course, a further paring down of the Hemingway/Stein school of minimalism will be emphasized, limiting the superfluous use of nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions, gerunds, and other literary pitfalls.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Received this in an Email today from Lambda Lit:

An Open Letter to Amazon.com
To: Patricia Smith
Director of Coporate Communication, Amazon.com

From: Christopher Rice
Board President, Lambda Literary Foundation

Lambda Literary Foundation applauds Amazon.com for their quick and decisive response to an apparent computer glitch that had the effect of marginalizing large numbers of LGBT-focused books. Within forty-eight hours of the problem coming to national attention, most of the writers whose books were affected by this issue reported to us that their sales rankings had been restored and their books could once again be found through general searches. There is no arguing with the speed and scope of Amazon's technical response to this issue. We are impressed and we are encouraged. But more importantly, we would like to thank you for restoring the visibility of LGBT writers.

It is our conclusion that Amazon is committed to offering the customer the most complete selection of titles available. This is good news to us. Inherent in this business decision is a commitment to inclusion and diversity, and this commitment can be used to serve LGBT writers who are often marginalized or rendered invisible by homophobia and cruel market forces. Prior to the events of Easter Weekend, Amazon had demonstrated business policies that were inclusive of LGBT writers and their work. You remain a loyal and generous customer to most of our LGBT small presses, and Book Surge, your self-publishing instrument, has been a welcoming home to LGBT writers who have yet to gain access to mainstream publishers.

That said, the Lambda Literary Foundation is excited about this opportunity to open a dialogue with you about the numerous ways in which LGBT visibility is compatible with your highly successful business model. We were very pleased to hear that you are taking steps to prevent a repeat of this problem, and we look forward to being a knowledgeable participant in this process.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

When does "Harsh Tactic" become "Torture?"

I sure hope Bush-Cheney and their cronies get busted over this. I can just picture Cheney, for instance, pale and pathetic in a wheelchair, rolling into the Hague for his trial as a War Criminal.

This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved — not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees — investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.

According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.

Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.

The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.

They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective.


And in brighter news: we had our new solar panels installed yesterday! And I think it was a good omen that it was warm and sunny and 70-plus degrees all day. We should be all hooked up and feeding into the grid within a week.



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I'm reading Thursday at Hugo House for the Cheap Wine and Poetry series, from new poems written with the generous support of a King County 4 Culture Individual Artist Grant. If you are in town, come on down and "Drink Up."

"Cheap Wine and Poetry" celebrates National Poetry Month on Thursday, April 23, 7 p.m. at Richard Hugo House with poets Christa Bell, Matt Gano, Peter Pereira and Judith Roche.

About the Readers

Christa Bell is an award-winning feminist folk poet, performance artist and cultural activist. She is the author of three collections of poetry, two spoken word CDs and the creatrix of the one-woman phenomenon, “CoochieMagik: A SpokenWord Musical Comedy” directed by Baraka de Soleil.

Matt Gano is a nationally known poet, writer, and performance artist residing in Seattle, Washington. He is a member of the 2008 National Poetry Slam team for Seattle and finished in top position to earn the title, “Seattle Poetry Slam Grand Slam Champion”. He was a member of the National Poetry Slam team for Seattle in 2004, and again in 2005 and remains one of the top performing artists in Seattle’s poetry circuit. His published work includes: chapbooks,"Music Maker",“Welcome Home”,“I Eight the Infinite”, and “Art Barker”, a self-titled poetry LP, and a live recording entitled “A Giant’s Pulse.” More to come soon……

Peter Pereira is a family physician in Seattle, and was a founding editor of Floating Bridge Press. He plans to read tonight from new work supported by a King County 4Culture grant -- a poem series entitled “The Expedition of the Vaccine” exploring world health, imperialism, women's and children’s rights, and the fate of 22 Spanish orphan boys used as smallpox vaccine carriers in the early 1800’s.

Judith Roche is the author of three collections of poetry, the most recent of which, Wisdom of the Body, won an American Book Award, She has edited a number of poetry anthologies and has worked in collaboration with visual artists on several public art projects which are installed in the Northwest area, including an installation about salmon at the Chittenden Locks. She is Literary Arts Director Emeritus for One Reel, and teaches poetry workshops throughout the country. She was Distinguished Northwest Writer in Residence at Seattle University in 2007 and is a Fellow in the Black Earth Institute.
2009 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry announced. Great for Copper Canyon to have two of the three finalists. Kudos!

POETRY: "The Shadow of Sirius," by W. S. Merwin.

This is the second Pulitzer for Merwin, whose writing career can be traced to the hymns he wrote as a child and who won in 1971 for "The Carrier of Ladders." The Princeton-educated son of a Presbyterian minister, Merwin has published more than 20 books of poetry and nearly as many works in translation from Latin, Spanish and French.

In 1976 he moved to Hawaii to study with a Zen Buddhist master. Since then, his work has been marked by his passionate commitment to Buddhism and environmentalism. The judges described the book as "a collection of luminous, often tender poems that focus on the profound power of memory."

"Also nominated as finalists in this category were: “Watching the Spring Festival,” by Frank Bidart (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a book of lyric poems that evinces compassion for the human condition as it explores the constraints that limit the possibility of people changing the course of their lives; and “What Love Comes To: New & Selected Poems,” by Ruth Stone (Copper Canyon Press), a collection of poems that give rich drama to ordinary experience, deepening our sense of what it means to be human.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

From the Atlantic Monthly. This was too funny! Imagine if World Leaders were on Facebook. (Click to enlarge)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Had a great time reading with Timothy last night at UW Bookstore. A good turnout. And a Q & A period after the reading, where the audience actually asked a lot of questions. Really fun.

Tim's poems from his physical therapy work are just amazing (he trained at Harborview, and works with people who have stroked out or had major trauma in car accidents, etc). He has such wonderful insights into the body. And I loved his last poem, with the line about how his work has taught him to truly believe "that the damaged heal." Check out his latest book The Extremities here:

A large group of us went out after to Deca off the Ave, for a drink and fellowship. Laughed and laughed and carried on. A jazz duo was playing in the bar, good stuff, with a slight Afro-Cuban flavor on some of the songs. My only regret: I wished I had ordered some food! I was starving by the time Dean and I got home.


Looks like the Amazon kerfuffle is cleared up (for now). I'm still not sure exactly what happened, or what to make of their vague explanation.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

From The Stranger:

Timothy Kelly and Peter Pereira
When: 7 pm - Wednesday, April 15th 2009
Price: Free

Two poets who are also medical professionals read from new work. They will not take a quick look at your weird rash, so don't even think about asking.

University Book Store
4326 University Way NE (206) 634-3400

If you are in town, please come on down!

( . . . and I may still look at your rash . . . if you ask very nicely).


Monday, April 13, 2009

Thanks to Kelli over at First Draft for this:

I just learned today that Gay and Lesbian books on Amazon lost their sales rank today (happy stinkin' easter, I guess).

Don't believe me?

Go to Amazon and search for Peter Pereira's book. I did. NO sales rank, but then I saw Kathleen Flenniken's book under "Customers who bought this book also bought..." and I clicked on that and there was a sales rank for my heterosexual friend.

Mark Doty's Memoir? NO sales rank.
My book? Sales rank.
Ilya Kaminsky's book? Sales rank.
C. Dale Young's book? NO sales rank.

Are you seeing a pattern? Amazon responded with this lame excuse, that it was a "glitch." Maybe glitch stands for gay/lesbian/interest/the/conservatives/hate.


In Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass", the Red Queen tells Alice, "Speak in French when you can't remember the English for a thing." That's perhaps not bad advice considering that beaucoup words in the English language have arrived via French.


A fun bowling poem from today's ALP:

Occurrence on Washburn Avenue

Alice's first strike gets a pat on the back,
her second a cheer from Betty Woszinski
who's just back from knee surgery. Her third--
"A turkey!" Molly calls out--raises everyone's eyes.
They clap. Teresa looks up from the bar.
At the fourth the girls stop seeing their own pins wobble.
They watch the little X's fill the row on Alice's screen--
That's five. That's six. There's a holy space
around her like a saint come down to bowl
with the Tuesday Ladies in Thorp, Wisconsin.
Teresa runs to get Al, and Fran calls Billy
at the Exxon. The bar crowds with silent men.
No one's cheering. No one's bowling now
except Alice's team, rolling their balls
to advance the screen around to Alice, who's stopped
even her nervous laugh, her face blank and smooth
with concentration. It can't go on
and then it does go on, the white bar
reading "Silver Dollar Chicken" lowering and clearing
nothing, then lowering and clearing nothing again.

--Regan Huff

Thursday, April 09, 2009

This made me laugh. From the Seattle Weekly's "Uptight Seattleite:"

Dear Uptight,

Was that you power-walking in front of me in the sweatshirt that said "The divine in me blesses and honors the divine in you"? If so, the divine in me wants the divine in you to mind its own business.

Green Lake Walk-Arounder


Dear Walk-Arounder,

The divine in me is taken aback and wonders if the divine in you needs a hug. . . . continue reading here.


And in other news:
Poetry Month Showdown, Herrera vs. Kleinzahler " . . . two contemporary poets who made news last month by becoming the first-ever joint winners of a National Book Critics Circle award: the thick-mustachioed activist Juan Felipe Herrera (for Half the World in Light: New and Selected Poems) and the grumpy contrarian August Kleinzahler (for Sleeping It Off in Rapid City: Poems, New and Selected)."


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I loved this from the National Poetry Month Poem-A-Day post:

How to Read a Poem: Beginner's Manual

First, forget everything you have learned,
that poetry is difficult,
that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you,
with your high school equivalency diploma,
your steel-tipped boots,
or your white-collar misunderstandings.

Do not assume meanings hidden from you:
the best poems mean what they say and say it.

To read poetry requires only courage
enough to leap from the edge
and trust.

Treat a poem like dirt,
humus rich and heavy from the garden.
Later it will become the fat tomatoes
and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table.

Poetry demands surrender,
language saying what is true,
doing holy things to the ordinary.

Read just one poem a day.
Someday a book of poems may open in your hands
like a daffodil offering its cup
to the sun.

When you can name five poets
without including Bob Dylan,
when you exceed your quota
and don't even notice,
close this manual.

-- Pamela Spiro Wagner


Sunday, April 05, 2009

Wow. Spring has FINALLY arrived! Gorgeous weekend. We were able to get out in the yard, sit in the sun and rock on the new glider. Went out to dinner last night a Enoitria in the U District. Great food. Followed by the Brazilian dance troupe Grupo Corpo show at Meany.


Today in the Sunday times, Michael Upchruch's interview with Timothy Kelly and me. I've never done an email interview before. I hope we said some interesting things.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Check out the announcement of Rebecca Brown's new book AMERICAN ROMANCES due out with City Lights in June.

"It's about America and high and low culture and Puritanism and Stein and John Wayne and my dad and Necco wafers and the Invisible Man and God."

I am seriously looking forward to digging in to some great essays here.


And up at Ron Slate's On the Seawall is his yearly recommendations list: Twenty-Four Poets Name Some Favorites to Celebrate National Poetry Month. I've already found several new (to me) titles to read.


After filling her house with trash, woman has to sleep outside. My Mother’s Garden is the story of Eugenia Lester, whose hoarding disorder has entered a dangerous and life threatening stage. Sound like anybody you know? Check out this fascinating and loving documentary here.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

All this drama
about Michelle Obama
putting her arm
around the Queen

Give me a break. It is just too funny. And if you watch the video, it looks as if the Queen begins to flinch a bit, and swings her purse away, as if she were afraid Michelle was going to steal it. HAHAHAHA.
Now *here's* a Rae Armantrout poem I can sink my teeth into.


The ghosts swarm.
They speak as one
person. Each
loves you. Each
has left something

Did the palo verde
blush yellow
all at once?

Today's edges
are so sharp

they might cut
anything that moved.

The way a lost

will come back

You're not interested
in it now,

in knowing
where it's been.

-- Rae Armantrout
from Versed, new this month from Wesleyan.