Posts tagged with "capitalism" - Faerye Net 2009-05-01T10:20:54+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Buy Indie Day 2009-05-01T10:20:54+00:00 2009-05-01T10:22:22+00:00 <p>So I <a href="" target="links">hear</a> that today is <a href="" target="links">Buy Indie Day</a>, a day you celebrate by buying a book at your local independent bookstore. You know this is more relevant to my interests than <a href="" target="links">Beltane</a>, so I thought I&#8217;d talk it up here.</p> <p>There are as many reasons to shop at indie bookstores as there are stores. One of the important ones, though, even if you aren&#8217;t kneejerk anti-corporate like the average Portlander (seriously, I once met a raving anti-corporate hipster <em>getting trained to work for Starbucks</em> here), is that books are one of the most crucial forms of &#8216;speech&#8217;. An independent bookstore can provide a more diverse perspective than a big store may be interested in doing; many of them sell used books, making sure ideas are cheap and stay in circulation. Whether they have a specific focus &#8212; mystery books, feminism, local authors, poetry, et c. &#8212; or not, each store provides its own set of books and possibilities, not one mandated from further up or dictated purely by market forces.</p> <p>To be honest, I have a hard time even formulating cogent arguments for why you should go to your local independent bookseller. It feels like arguing that you should try drinking water, or breathing air. I grew up piling in the car every other weekend for a family junket to <a href="" target="links">Powell&#8217;s</a> downtown. We didn&#8217;t usually have a specific book on our minds, or a particular birthday to buy for. We just liked going there, walking our little instinctive circuit &#8212; in my case and my dad&#8217;s, an in-depth look at the Paleontology/Dinosaurs shelves, then a quick search of Photography, followed by a cruise of sci-fi &#8212; seeing what we could see.</p> <p>That&#8217;s one of the beauties of the indie bookstore, I think. You never know what you&#8217;re going to find. You venture into a little storefront in a strange town because that bookstore could hold anything from a treasure trove of old pulp paperbacks to an extensive collection of Civil War history and memoir, from a labyrinth of bursting shelves to a fabulous place to drink coffee and read. You could find bargains or forgotten childhood joys, or just a way to soak away an hour in the shelves and booksmells of a new place. Even a bookstore you know surprises you every time.</p> <p>So hit the <a href="" target="links">IndieBound Store Finder</a> and buy a book near you today. Who knows what you&#8217;ll find?</p> Why amazonfail matters 2009-04-13T12:16:22+00:00 2009-04-13T13:00:48+00:00 <p>By this point we&#8217;ve reached the existential phase of the <a href="" target="links">amazonfail debacle</a>, where everyone has acknowledged something happened, has vented their anger, and is now asking underlying questions &#8212; how and why did this happen? Who did it? And of course, should we still be concerned?</p> <p>While Amazon&#8217;s <a href="" target="links">&#8220;glitch&#8221; response</a> is inadequate, it does seem to indicate that they&#8217;re planning on fixing it, which seems to me to have caused a certain wave of relaxation in those angered by the removal of <span class="caps">GLBT</span> literature, feminism and <a href="" target="links">disability texts</a>, and more. Yes, it&#8217;s very unlikely that Amazon did this deliberately. Yes, internet outrage at this point does little good (except possibly to <a href="" target="powells">Powell&#8217;s</a> sale numbers). I&#8217;m just not sure people should be standing down yet. Even when it&#8217;s fixed, there are causes for concern. As explored in <a href="" target="links">this Making Light post and comment thread</a>, there are definitely plausible scenarios this occurring because of inadequacies in the meta-data provided by publishers and Amazon. (<a href="" target="links">This post at Dear Author</a> gives great specific meta-data breakdowns that may show why <em>Playboy</em> escaped the purge and <em>Heather has Two Mommies</em> did not.) However, as writer <a href="" target="links">Lawrence Schimel</a> said <a href="" target="links">over at Making Light</a>, somewhere, someone had to decide that &#8220;gay=morally objectionable&#8221; (&#8216;adult&#8217;) in order for this to unfold. And as other commenters, such as albatross, mention there, Amazon didn&#8217;t give consumers a choice of filtered versus non-filtered searches.</p> <p>And that&#8217;s what&#8217;s really troubling to me. Amazon has made an empire on selling everything all the time: KitchenAid mixers to people in pyjamas at 2 am, esoteric camera repair manuals to some dude on his lunch break, three books and a racquetball racket at the same time. They&#8217;re so huge that sales rank on Amazon is a crucial metric for a book&#8217;s performance. They chose to protect consumers from &#8216;potentially offensive content&#8217; in a lazy, slipshod, and reductive way that stigmatized the mention of homosexuality and transgenderedness as much or more than explicit heterosexual acts, not to mention violence. They chose to remove their sales rank, important to publishers and authors, in order to change what consumers see. But before they did it stupidly, they chose to do it at all. They decided that an Amazon consumer didn&#8217;t get any say in whether they saw the plain search results or the Bowdlerized search results. They decided to abridge the full functionality of their website without notifying customers or letting them have a choice. They decided we are all children, and they know what&#8217;s best for us.</p> <p>For a company that made its fortune on selling anything and everything, that&#8217;s a stupid decision. For a company that sells books, it&#8217;s wrong.</p> Elsewhere 2008-09-22T09:45:32+00:00 2008-09-26T22:18:01+00:00 <p>I&#8217;m on the last day of a long weekend in Portland. I had an excuse for coming here, a high school reunion, but the truth is I missed the place. Missed Powell&#8217;s, rain, Schmizza, my friends&#8230;I even missed things I didn&#8217;t realize were different, like there being squirrels everywhere.</p> <p>So that&#8217;s why I&#8217;ve been less communicative than is my wont: I&#8217;ve bought half a dozen books at <a href="" target="links">Powell&#8217;s</a> (and one at Powell&#8217;s Beaverton), eaten lunch at <a href="" target="links">Pizza Schmizza</a>, browsed the stock and watched the letterpress at <a href="" target="links">Oblation Papers</a>, had a pot of tea at <a href="" target="links">the TeaZone</a>, bought necessities at <a href="" target="links">Fred Meyer</a>, had a Porter or two off the nitro at <a href="" target="links">McMenamin&#8217;s</a> and another pint at the <a href="" target="links">Bridgeport Brewpub</a>. I have gone for many walks, listened while a rainstorm built from shower to deluge, sat about reading companionably with my friends, taken the bus and the Portland Streetcar.</p> <p>All this and the promise of a baby oliphaunt&#8230;huzzah for home!</p> Zyrtec-D: worst packaging ever 2008-08-06T11:43:02+00:00 2008-08-06T11:43:02+00:00 <p>I&#8217;m a very allergic person. I&#8217;ve been on one antihistamine plus decongestant or another for years, which is often inconvenient. For one thing, the insurance companies don&#8217;t like paying for all those meds, so they get the fast-track to over-the-counter. For another, the decongestant in my pills, <a href="" target="links">pseudoephedrine</a>, can be misused as a <a href="" target="links">meth</a> precursor. So the law restricts how much I can buy, requires me to submit my name to a Federal database, requires the store to keep them behind the counter, yada yada. Oh, also (thanks, Wikipedia!) the feds require &#8220;Non-liquid dose form of regulated product may only be sold in unit dose blister packs.&#8221;</p> <p>I go back and forth between on-brand and store-brand, between Zyrtec-D and Claritin-D &#8211; varying antihistamine is better for your allergies, and sometimes there are coupons! Claritin-D comes in standard blister sheets: 6 or 8 pills, perforated divisions, exactly the sort of packaging we&#8217;ve all been opening since our parents couldn&#8217;t get child-proof stuff open and we volunteered to help. You rip the blister, out pops the pill.</p> <p>Zyrtec, on the other hand, has this:<br /> <center><a href="" title="Zyrtec-D's packaging sucks by Eilonwy Anne, on Flickr"><img src="" width="180" height="240" border="0" alt="Zyrtec-D's packaging sucks" /></a></p> </center> <p>First of all, this is a waste of resources. The box is bigger and more complex (internal divider) to hold piles of individual blister packs, the blister packs use more plastic and foil than a traditional blister sheet. Secondly, they are absolutely positively without any doubt <strong>not</strong> &#8220;Easy Open&#8221; (who thought of the phrase &#8220;Easy Open Blister&#8221; anyway? The word &#8216;blister&#8217; not associated with leisure and ease, folks.). You have to fold the tear to get it started, the loooong tear sometimes goes awry and doesn&#8217;t hit the blister, and even when it does follow the curving perforation perfectly, it only removes a shred of the blister around the pill, leaving the patient to dig at the heavy foil for a while before she can get the damn thing out. That&#8217;s without getting into picayune stuff, like it being easier to estimate how many pills you have left from a sheet than from a jumble of blister sarcophagi.</p> <p>I know, I know, free market, free country, why do I keep buying them? Because I still have some $5 off coupons, and when you need medication to breathe, $5 off three weeks&#8217; supply is not bad. And I can&#8217;t believe that the company won&#8217;t wise up eventually. After all, I am <a href="" target="links">not the only person</a> to post a picture of this package to Flickr with a grumpy caption. They can&#8217;t kid themselves they&#8217;re saving the world from meth by adopting such ridiculous packaging when the other brands aren&#8217;t encasing <em>their</em> pseudoephedrine in hyperbranded pucks that look like mini-golf greens. Give over, guys. I just want to take my allergy pill and go to sleep without sneezing. You just want me to buy it. Why can&#8217;t we get along?</p> Overquotage 2008-06-03T12:13:14+00:00 2008-06-03T12:16:48+00:00 <p>It&#8217;s been said to me (to my shame, I forget where or by whom) that great works of art &mdash; say, Hokusai&#8217;s wave painting, or &#8220;Starry Night&#8221; &mdash; have been diminished by their popularity. They are pictured over and over, often in trivial form: tote bag, mousepad, dorm room posters. Through this repetition and even the contemptible familiarity of adorning mugs, placemats and magnets, they lose their original impact. They become symbols rather than art objects: in some cases, their meaning is as simple as &#8220;Mona Lisa = culture.&#8221;</p> <p>I think the same thing can occur with literature. There is a passage I love in T.S. Eliot&#8217;s <em>Four Quartets</em> which is quoted often. I&#8217;ve almost not written this blog post because I don&#8217;t want to be part of the over-repetition problem. But let&#8217;s just say that the quote is about returning home and recognition. I&#8217;m sure you&#8217;ve heard it. It&#8217;s printed on posters of pretty landscapes, and on artsy greeting cards. It has probably appeared on quote-of-the-day calendars. If you need any more clues, it is usually quoted from &#8220;We shall not cease from exploration&#8221;.</p> <p>This quote begin the first stanza of &#8220;Little Gidding&#8221; V, on the very last page of the long, beautiful, interwoven <em>Quartets</em>. Reading these poems is rigorous but rewarding intellectual and, for me, emotional work, and that quote is and was an arrival, a culmination. It isn&#8217;t merely &#8216;true&#8217; or &#8216;inspiring&#8217;, in context it is a revelation, itself the recognition and the return it describes. I think I may have cried when I reached it in my first perusal.</p> <p>But even then, enjoying the passage in context and as it was meant, I knew it was coming. The blow of realization was softened by the recognition of that quote, the memories of all the glurgy confections in which I&#8217;ve seen those words quoted. A host of associations alien to the poetry at hand crowded in, and while the thought of that reading, that moment, still gives me a shiver, it also carries a hint of annoyance at the companies and people that overused that quote and tarnished a little of its brilliance. It&#8217;s like playing two bars of the Moonlight Sonata in a music box. It&#8217;s bite-sizing and mass-marketing our cultural treasures. It&#8217;s tawdry and sad.</p> Trade paperback original 2008-04-04T14:45:50+00:00 2008-05-25T19:57:44+00:00 <p>Being the slothful sort of person I am, I&#8217;m still working through a copy of <em><a href="" target="links">Poets &#38; Writers</a> Magazine</em> that my fairy godsister <a href="" target="links">Jeannine</a> gave me way back in December. It&#8217;s the January/February 2008 issue, for the record. I initially began reading it front-to-back (for the thoroughness), but set it aside after finding it to read a little doomy. <span class="caps">USPS</span> rate hikes doom small litmags to early graves! Historical fiction loved only for being nonfiction&#8217;s stepsister! Novel crushed under the wheel of Memoirmobile! At any rate, I closed its pages and planned a less thorough perusal centered on the main article, which promised to unlock the secrets of Literary Agents.</P> <p>Over the last few days, I have read all about Literary Agents, and, as is my wont, continued to turn pages. Soon I found myself reading, with great interest, an article called &#8220;Paperback Writer: Do I want to be one?&#8221; by Steve Almond. It was about the <span class="caps">TPO</span> trend &mdash; the Trade Paperback Original. </p> <p>Those of us who read a lot of comic books tend to think of TPBs as big convenient bindings of delicious CB continuity, unburdened of ads and flimsiness. However, this is only a niche truth. In the greater publishing world, a trade paperback is a fancy paperback, printed on good paper with a larger (and these days, often more texturally intriguing) cover than its &#8220;Mass Market Paperback&#8221; brethren. </p> <p><center><a href="" target="links"> <img src="" alt="A hardback, a mass-market paperback, and two tradepaper titles" title="Figure 1. What we're talking about" border="0"> </a><br /><em>Figure 1. spokesmodel Qubit poses with examples. Left to right: old-school mass market paperback by Roger Zelazny; my first tradepaper novel purchase (memorable by dint of sticker shock); a comic book industry <span class="caps">TPB</span> by the almighty Whedon; and a hardback for comparison. Hardback selected for textural richness.</em> </center></p><p>Thank you, Qubit. For some time it&#8217;s been obvious that tradepaper is getting better play in publishing than it used to. Only the most popular literary titles ever make it to mass-market editions these days, which I thought was a calculated effort to make more money: why put out a $7 edition when you can put out a $12 one? However, I may have been a bit naive.</P> <p>In Almond&#8217;s article, he discusses publishers&#8217; new habit of putting out books in tradepaper <em>first</em>, without recourse to hardcover. Apparently, many authors worry about this, since it does cut costs for the publisher and thus is seen as a vote of no-confidence in the title. However, advantages emerge: many more people buy copies at readings when the book is affordable (some even buy multiple copies; ) bookstores hang onto a paperback &#8220;six months, versus maybe three months for a hardback&#8221; says author Rishi Reddi.</p> <p>And then we got to the line that really prompted this blog post: &#8220;The author of six novels and three story collections, [Jim] Shepard was told by Random House&#8230;his 2004 story collection <em>Love and Hydrogen</em> would be published by Vintage as a <span class="caps">TPO</span> to woo younger readers.&#8221; We then pass onto more negatives, more authors feeling slighted and a probably legendary tendency for big reviewers not to review TPOs. But to me, this line was important. I remember, though I didn&#8217;t understand the larger industry context at the time, arguing with fellow readers over whether hardbacks or TPBs were a more pleasant reading experience. I like TPBs; the increased cover size means a thinner volume, more convenient for my omnipresent messenger bag than a mass-market paperback. They are lighter than hardbacks, and less likely to have embossed letters which show wear. I even like the way they sit on my shelf, the sleek way the Harvest Book editions of Virginia Woolf cozy up to each other in matching harmony. That elegant look may even tempt me to buy a <span class="caps">TPB</span> of a P.K. Dick or a Woolf book when a cheaper edition is available, so that it will match my other volumes.</p> <p>TPBs <em>are</em> cheaper than hardbacks. As a student-author-barista, I&#8217;m not a particularly hardy hybrid; I seldom plunk down hardcover price for a book I need for school, let alone one I want on a whim or at a reading. Mom says she saw a new hardcover for $36 the other day, which is a whole lot of bubble gum any way you chew. There is a possibility that the insertion of TPBs into the cycle is driving or enabling the rise in HB prices, but that doesn&#8217;t change the practicalities on the ground. Even at the more reasonable price point of <a href="" target="links">$22.95 for Murakami&#8217;s <em>After Dark</eM></a> in hardback, I&#8217;m waiting for the $13.95 paperback release in late April. After all, to a struggling grad student with access to the Powell&#8217;s used books inventory, $9 is another book; maybe more than one.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t think I&#8217;m the only one for whom this is true, and I think that young people &mdash; more likely to be carrying books around every day, to be students with long reading lists or generally cash-strapped &mdash; deserve more than a line of consideration in this discussion. The author descends at the end of the article into depressing doomsay: &#8220;As Americans become increasingly frantic, impatient and screen-addicted, the printed word becomes that much tougher to sell.&#8221; Auditors who tell him after readings that they really want to buy a book but can&#8217;t afford hardcover &#8220;do have enough money, of course. But they simply don&#8217;t view a book &mdash; even a book by an author they happen to like &mdash; as being worth more than fifteen bucks.&#8221;</p> <p> Young people, college students, artsy Portland hipsters with bad day jobs&#8230;they have many decades of book-buying ahead of them. You want them to buy books. You want them to read more. You want them to read <em>you</em>. TPBs tend to be beautiful; in my experience, as beautiful and sensuously pleasing as hardbacks, if not more. If you want people to keep buying the printed word, this is a good thing to do: make the physical object pleasing. Price it reasonably. We don&#8217;t just want to buy books cheap; we want cheap books so we can buy more books.</p> <p><font color="#333333"><em>I would love to hear others&#8217; feelings as readers (or as writers) about TPBs versus other formats of book. As I&#8217;ve indicated, I have a real fondness for them. How about you?</font></em></p> Greeting Cards 2008-02-08T09:07:10+00:00 2008-05-25T20:09:22+00:00 <p>I&#8217;m hardly the first to note the many failures of the greeting card market. If I were, we wouldn&#8217;t have <a href="" target="links">someecards</a> to amuse us. However, I think it&#8217;s worth noting my frustrations.</p> <p>I am a person who writes a fair number of letters. Fewer than was the case when I rode the bus to work, or was regularly 5-10 minutes early to classes. However, I still write a few. To me, the physical artefact of a letter still means something. So I like noting events with cards. However, I like, you know, writing in them. Which means, of course, that my first problem with cards is not uncommon:<br /><b>1. Dear cardmakers, shut the heck up (and cool it with the lace.)</b> Since the mid-90s or so, the market has opened up such that cards which are simple in wording (&#8220;Happy Birthday!&#8221; &#8220;Congrats!&#8221;) do exist, and cards with more attractive aesthetics than &#8220;a doily on every square inch&#8221; also exist. However, they don&#8217;t prevail, and they&#8217;re not the default. If you&#8217;re browsing a small collection, or in a hurry, good luck<sup><a href="#fn1">1</a></sup>.</p> <p><b>2. Check your social assumptions if you want to make money</b>. Now, I&#8217;ve heard rumors that Hallmark has started making same-sex marriage congrats cards, but I haven&#8217;t seen them. And the assumptions go deeper than that. To put it coarsely, 80% of the marriage cards in the market cause unbearable cognitive dissonance in the mind of a <em>divorced</em> prospective purchaser. Even those who do heed #1 and keep themselves to a sentence tend to drip with Patriarchal and romance-cultic assumptions I find toxic. And let&#8217;s not even get into gendered birthday cards. You don&#8217;t have to make actively pinko feminist cards to please me. You just need to have options. They&#8217;ll sell.</p> <p>Related to both previous points, <b>3. Stock a greater variety of card messages</b>. I was recently at a gift shop, trying to pick up a Congrats card for a friend who won an amazingly huge poetry prize Of Awesomeness. 65% Birthday cards (of which 50% specify the relationship on the cover, for Extra Glurge and Extra Not Actually Requiring Effort), 10% Wedding, 10% Wedding Anniversary, 10% Baby, 3% Sympathy (all ugly as sin, and glurgey), and 2% Get Well Soon. I could have used a birthday card for a specific, non-pooky friend (that, I found.) <span class="caps">I WANTED</span> a congrats card. I could have used sympathy and get-well cards to replenish my supplies at home. But I bought none, because they had such a paucity that overwordiness and aesthetic horror were almost a given. Look, I know birthdays are the most common card occasion. But would it kill you to have one fewer rack of them? Maybe knock out the fourth &#8216;grandson&#8217; title, and put a freakin&#8217; congrats card?</p><p> The reason I think this relates to #2 is simple: demographics. A lot of my friends are writers. Most of those, and a huge segment of those remaining, are grad students. They are in a part of their life where they&#8217;re accomplishing great things. Many of them already have families, or aren&#8217;t going to have families for a while&#8212;baby cards need not apply. Many of them are already married, or aren&#8217;t getting married until they&#8217;re <span class="caps">NEVER</span>. Things I want to send cards about include graduating from grad school, getting nursing licenses, winning poetry prizes, having books published. Yeah, I can just write a letter, but having my friend open the envelope and see a big pretty &#8220;Congratulations!&#8221; rendered far more artistically than I can manage is <em>fun</em>. I&#8217;m sure the card industry, like every damn industry based on paper and post, is worried about the future. Well, I&#8217;m the future. I don&#8217;t look like June Cleaver and I don&#8217;t want to send the cards she did. Figure it out.</p> <p id="fn1"><sup>1</sup> One great brand seems to be <a href="" target="links">Recycled Paper Greetings</a> which sadly has no working &#8220;where to get &#8216;em&#8221; software on their website. They offer, however, artists like <a href="" target="links">Masha D&#8217;yans</a>, who watercolors vibrant, whimsical cards that don&#8217;t have a lot of palaver. And whose site links to two online shops that carry her line. If only she had more congrats cards, this whole rant would disappear in a puff of logic.</p> Threadless's 'Girly' t-shirts -- the tragic flaw 2007-08-02T13:05:26+00:00 2008-06-03T12:39:14+00:00 <p>I&#8217;m the first to admit that I <code>&lt;3</code> <a href="" target="links">Threadless</a>. A quick estimate would indicate I have at least ten T-shirts from them, and I always want more. However, I recently bought a new one, and have discovered a problem. </p><p>I always knew that there were problems with buying the &#8216;girly&#8217; version of a Threadless tee. For one, they&#8217;re made by sickening progressive-poseur brand <a href="" target="links">American Apparel</a>. (link is to an article touching on AA&#8217;s union-busting, exploitative advertising, sexually harassing work-environment, et cetera&#8212;<span class="caps">PDF</span>) For another thing, because AA is so devoted to their skinny nymphette images, the largest size of &#8216;girly&#8217; tee Threadless can offer is extra-large, and that extra-large is smaller than a Gap large. I&#8217;m seriously considering ripping the sleeves off some of these suckers so I can expand the arm hole. Anyway, all that was known. But such is my <code>&lt;3</code> of Threadless that, when the populace has consumed all the medium &#8216;Guy&#8217; shirts on offer, I occasionally pop for the XL &#8216;Girly&#8217;.</p><p> <p>Well, I may have to recalculate. I bought this shirt recently:<br /> <a href="" title="A Dark Night - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever"><img src="" width="350" height="200" border="0" alt="A Dark Night - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever"/></a><br /> Perhaps the picture is a bit small, but take a look. Click through if you like. Now, imagine the helpful model picture isn&#8217;t there. How long would it take you to understand the conceit of the design? </p><p></p> <p>And how long would you be comfortable staring at that design to figure it out when it&#8217;s stretched over my non-nymphette frame on a protesting background of nymphette-friendly American Apparel cotton? </p><p></p> <p>Exactly. No one gets the shirt because they don&#8217;t want to stare at my bosom that long. This constitutes a huge flaw in the Threadless girly tee system.</p></p> Poets buy poetry 2007-07-24T12:11:11+00:00 2008-07-24T22:08:43+00:00 <p>So as I stir my morning oatmeal, the local hour of <a href="" target="links"><span class="caps">KQED</span></a>&#8217;s Forum plays. It&#8217;s about the upcoming <a href="" target="links">San Francisco International Poetry Festival</a>. The host starts taking listener calls, asking that they share poets, especially little-known ones, whose work they love, or talk about poetry and its significance in general.</p> <p>The <em>second</em> caller wants to know how to get his sonnets published.</p> <p>For Muse&#8217;s sake here, people. I&#8217;m well aware of the Magic Cover Letter Effect&#8212;the irrational belief among unpublished writers that there is one thing they could do that would get them published, and the resulting tendency to ask embarrassing questions at panels and readings. However, for poetry it&#8217;s worse.</p> <p>I&#8217;ve written some poetry in my day. And I never, ever try to get it published. Why? Some of it isn&#8217;t awful, but over the years, I haven&#8217;t been a consumer of poetry. Until I entered the <span class="caps">MFA</span> program, I had never bought a literary journal or a book of poetry that wasn&#8217;t an anthology for class. I reasoned that I had no right to ask anyone to publish my poetry if I wasn&#8217;t consuming other people&#8217;s.</p> <p>And this is one of those times when I break my own rules and say, &#8220;My way is Right.&#8221; If you are a poet, if you feel in your heart that you&#8217;re a poet, that someday people will be reading your poems in journals and chapbooks&#8212;walk down to Powell&#8217;s, or your local independent bookstore, or, if all else fails, Borders (they have a decent number of litmags). Buy some poetry journals. Mark the poems in the journals you really love, and look up the authors. Buy a book of poetry. I love <a href="" target="links">Jeannine Hall Gailey&#8217;s first book, <em>Becoming the Villainess</em></a>. You could also pick up <a href="" target="links">Dorianne Laux&#8217;s <em>Facts About the Moon</em></a>, or <a href="" target="links">Joe Millar&#8217;s latest, <em>Fortune</em></a>, or a book by someone I&#8217;ve never heard of, someone you&#8217;ll discover for yourself in the musty rows at Powell&#8217;s, someone whose poetry you will hide on the way to the register, unsure they&#8217;ll really let you buy this for only X dollars, feeling like a thief.</p> <p>&#8220;Everyone&#8217;s a poet,&#8221; Jack Hirschman, San Francisco&#8217;s Poet Laureate said on Forum today. But it takes more than that, I think. In order to really be a poet, you have to realize you&#8217;re taking part in an ancient art that has fallen on hard times, that is sustained by love, and by the generosity of those who have little. Who is going to spend ten, fifteen, twenty dollars on a book of poems? On a thin book with much blank space, on a genre even public radio callers distance with a &#8220;I don&#8217;t read poetry, really, but&#8230;&#8221;? Who is going to do that? Maybe you. And maybe then you&#8217;ll see which markets your work would be good in, maybe you&#8217;ll see opportunities for your own work to improve, maybe you&#8217;ll find inspiration and strength. Maybe you will become a part of a community of writers. Maybe you&#8217;re a poet. Go and see.</p> The decline and fall of the movie trailer 2007-02-05T21:58:08+00:00 2008-06-08T12:19:32+00:00 <p>I am so sick of bad movie trailers that I could scream. Forget screaming, I&#8217;m almost to the point of sneaking into movie theaters and editing the trailer reels with shears and Scotch tape.</p> <p>Recently, it seems that almost all movie trailers follow one of two truly horrible patterns:</p><p> <b>Pattern the first:</b> Actors and producers sitting around talking about why the movie is so &#8216;neat&#8217; for three minutes, intercut with small pieces of actual movie. Directors, who can be assumed to have some ability to tell stories, albeit in pictures, occasionally appear; screenwriters, whom one might expect to be proficient in the use of words, never. The hodge-podge of inarticulate, faint praise leaves you eager to never see the movie in question and, further, to never again go to a movie theater, where these expanded trailers usually appear.</p> <p><b>Pattern the second:</b> The trailer begins by giving the setup, which for many plot-driven movies is a reasonable thing to do. It then proceeds to show you the first and second twists, along with the romantic subplot and pieces of truly inane dialogue that only exist to drive along the plot. Yes, it&#8217;s actually the 30-second version of the movie, a crappy and unflattering 30 seconds at that, and this type of trailer is the one I see most often. Why would anyone think this is a good way to sell a film? Movies that one wants to see for reasons entirely unrelated to plot and suspense do exist but by no means predominate, and this sort of stultifying exposition-ridden tension-drainer of a trailer is used for all genres.</p> <p>Stop it, Hollywood. Whatever sleep-deprived, drug-addled cretins you have putting together these trailers, fire them. Hire a few 16-year-olds with average IQs. If this is the way you try to motivate the movie-going populace to go to movies, it&#8217;s a wonder that you are <a href="" target="links">lying about the box office &#8216;slump&#8217;</a>.