Friday, October 8, 2010

music site

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dispatches from the public library

I spent the past summer working as a book clerk at the public library, which -either by destiny or circumstance- is how I've spent almost every summer since high school graduation.

The other day a friend sent me a link to Scott Douglas's Dispatches from a Public Librarian. Reading through the entries gave me flashbacks.

"It's common in the library for me to approach a person doing something that most human beings would consider inappropriate library behavior (such as spitting sunflower seeds on the floor) and ask them to stop. The response is frequently not "Okay, sorry," but rather, "Where does it say that?" It is for this reason that the rules of conduct at most public libraries around the country are some of the strangest rules you'll ever see. Below, I have posted some of the stranger rules from libraries around the country."

Imagine my surprise and, dare I say, delight when I saw that the library I worked at made the list:

West Florida Public Library


Any well adjusted person would read this and think "do you really need to have specifically stating that this sort of thing is not allowed?" The answer is a resounding YES.

Now that I'm officially retired from the biz, I think it's safe to relay my testimony of the seedy underbelly of the West Florida Public Library System…here some observations, experiences, and life lessons I've learned over the course of four summers spent abiding by the dewey decimal system and whatever kind of higher moral code that kept me from hitting someone over the head with an encyclopedia.

Life lesson #1: be prepared

And more specifically, do not forget to pack a lunch. You will be embarrassed when someone catches you eating the stale fortune cookies the have accumulated in the break room over several months (Saturday is Chinese takeout day). If you do get caught, do not try to hide the evidence, you will only make a mess.

Life lesson #2: people are pretty much all alike.

There was a drive-thru at the library I worked at this summer- it sounds weird, I know- and a lot of people thought that this was pretty hilarious, or something. Anyway, it was inevitable that everyday at least 4 or 5 different people would make the same joke about it: "can I get fries with that?" they would say or variantly, "supersize it." I would have to laugh and pretend like I was hearing it for the first time.

Life lesson #3: people are stupid. And I mean really stupid, even more stupid than you think they are.

here are some questions I've been asked on the job:

"how long can you take out the '7 day loan' books?'

"one week"


"how much do the books cost?"

"unless you don't return them on time, borrowing books doesn't cost anything"

"I mean, how much to BUY?"

"this is a library."


"my grandbaby said that you got movies here"

"yes, we do. Are you looking for something on DVD or VHS?

""y'all don't have the round ones?"

"Where was the hotdog invented?"

"I don't know. Sorry."

"google it."

"um… okay."

"while you're at it, look up where french fries were invented."

(line begins to form)

"hamburgers too."

"how do you send an email?" (this question X 10 everyday)

"do y'all have cake pans?"


"could we borrow a cake pan?"

"we don't have any pans."

"oh""we do have books, though"

Tales of disorderly conduct and debauchery: Sex, Drugs, and Violence

There are no doors on the stalls in the men's bathroom at the downtown branch of the library. The reason for this, I was told, is because people would lock the doors while they were shooting up heroin and then overdose and die, only to be discovered by someone who whose bowels were in such desperate need of emptying that they finally grew impatient and forced the door open after waiting for 20 minutes or so. This is perhaps the most inopportune time to encounter a corpse.

On one memorable occasion, I was physically assaulted by a woman after I told her that it wasn't really appropriate to have a conversation (with her drug dealer) on speakerphone in the children's department.

Watching porn on the computers at the library is a pretty popular activity. Once a man actually printed out a photograph of a woman with the tailpipe of a rusty pick-up truck wedged into her nether-region and propped it up at his computer station.

I've been solicited for sex by patrons on numerous occasions. Here is an example of the subtlety and finess usually involved in these propositions: A man called to ask if the library was hiring "no" I said, "sorry""oh, that's too bad" he said, and after a pause "wanna meet up some time? you sound hot""I'm not… I have warts on my face…have a nice day,sir" I hung up the phone.

some of the strange (and also tax-deductible) donations people have made to the library:

-a pamphlet published in the 1960s entitled "the Civil Rights Movement: Is it Civil? is it Right?"

- an unopened pocket Kama Sutra kit complete with flavored massage oil and mini feather wand

-"Tai Chi for the Elderly" complete 3 volume instructional guide on VHS

- Make Your Own Gag Gifts: Party Favors, Voodoo Dolls, Fake Poo and More!

a few bizarre items that have been discovered in the book drop box

-kittens (this has happened on several occasions, actually)

-large masses fake hair

-underwear and bras

-a home video-recording of a middle aged man with a pot-belly wearing nothing but white briefs and dancing to Justin Timberlake's "Sexy Back"

-a package of hotdogs

- a bouquet of flowers

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

for the ghost of fannie dade



July came one whole month early
to the south
to our city
I broke my mouth down
on her sweet-tasting shoulder
over & over
in the sick sweat of sidewalks
and buildings
amidst the smolder of tinder
I tried to be tender
but her cheeks were timid
they bruised to the bone
because I wanted her
I wanted her
& told her so

settled down with her there
on the stone stoops
of old Victorian homes
just the same as it was
when I was living alone
so I slept through her sadness
& she solemnly stayed
while I remained somnolent
'til the day she got wise
she got real wise & wasted
left me to nestle her empty bottles
like bodies
like brothers
like lovers
held tight to my bosom
beating me down
hunched over double
with knees up to nose
It's a noose
Oh god, don't I know
that it's never enough to say sorry
so sorry
after your own regrets have roughed you up

Thought I was a battle ship
I asked you
to batter me baby
my body
my body
my bartering chip
was laid out bare
still barely could go
for a price as cheap
as skin & bones
all flesh costs more than money
and still is worth a little less
soon as it's been spent
when it's gone
you're a gonner
it gets gone for good
leaves you gaunter than ghosts

Like an apparition
I was bending for my baby
with breath so softly bated
this was my condition
she could not hear me haunting
a space my presence left unoccupied
as vacant as her eyes
no final resting place
for this emptied weight of mine
I was oh so tired of waiting
but I tried
at least I tried
though these years have only passed me by
and it's not ever worth the wait
when all that you've got
is only time
only time
only time

Friday, July 2, 2010

& some newer stuff

often occasional trite terminological taxidermic metatextualizing cryptozoologist blues


We painted us some planets
sent them spinning towards the sun
then we basked out in the burning
oh we did it just for fun

we cooked ourselves on soggy dreams
god knows they've got no meat
so we ate only bare bones
when we knew the times were lean

I've got those often occasional trite terminological taxidermic metatextualizing cryptozoologist blues

you may call us causeless cannibals
when we draw upon our kin
peeling off as paper pages
all things written on their skin

we ate them alphabetically
swallowed words washed
belly down from ship to sea
with such silence as an anchor
they mean nothin' much to me

I've got those often occasional trite terminological taxidermic metatextualizing cryptozoologist blues

And you may use this body, dear
as the pages of your book
you read my face much faster
didn't tend the time is takes to look
-You stared me down

just my dumb voice and the sound of rain on my parent's back porch

Wrote on my flesh for you, my dear
wasted like paper just to keep you near
tremble before every new intrusion
forget the past, I'm not the right one

Don't apologize
don't apologize
don't apologize

Tell me what happened to the springtime?
I was left to leather this brittle skin of mine
out in the summer, sweat and sunshine
I did my worst with words for a while

Don't apologize
don't apologize
don't apologize

I'll be the book you borrow memories to bind
my body has betrayed the mess I left behind
history and heartstrings had our hands tied
so we did our worst with words for a while

Don't apologize
don't apologize
don't apologize

some older recordings

sorry for the really crappy sound quality... especially on the first one... and the second one...ugh.

pink lemonade


lucky penny


Pink Lemonade

well you say I'm just as pretty as pink lemonade
wanna take me to the front porch, sit in the shade
I may be sour and pucker up
better put somethin' stronger into my cup
'cause I may just be a sucker enough

Is it just a pun in your pocket when you're talkin to me
here I thought I was the one you were happy to see
well it could of been anyone, any- one! two! three!

I told you once in middle school
we were gonna be so much cooler than cool
with a brain freeze, cold tongue, icees
now I see you, do you see- something in me?

I may be certain, but I'm not even close to shore
by now I'm 20 miles out to sea, or more
sleeping next to you on the ocean floor
don't believe you when you say that I didn't snore
I think I like you... it's gettin' hard to ignore

oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no


Gravity got me out of bed, feelin' rough
think I'm on the wrong side of sunny-side-up
I wish you were homely enough
to make me feel at home with you
wanna wear ya in, wear ya out, until it's true

After all it could hardly matter
in the world everything is just matter
should I get mad or just get sadder?
glow in the dark stars are out of place
when it's mostly empty space

Tonight I'm on the run from the moon
taking aim, I'll be shot down soon
it's just a rock, but a rock will do
dust was the only thing that hung around
sticking to the universe and holdin' it down

Lucky Penny (small changes)

I found a lucky penny
under my rainy day shoes
all I get is small change

I don't wanna find a change in you

You're so estranged
you're just as strange
as you ever were
feeling short changed
I guess it's my lucky day

are you any different now?
are you just indifferent now?
I have to change somehow

I'm not day-dreaming,
I'm just sleeping all day

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Burger King’s Whopper Virgins Campaign: A Cultural Kind of Force-Feeding

A recent Burger King advertising campaign, “Whopper Virgins,” makes an effort to establish, once and for all, the winner of the ongoing Whopper vs. BigMac battle by taking both hamburgers to “remote” locations around the world and conducting taste tests with people who “don’t even have a word for burger.” Although the ads espouse reciprocal cultural exchange, this exchange is far from balanced. The ads target an explicitly American audience and the message is clear: sampling another culture may be entertaining but Western culture, as evidenced by the infinite pleasures of fast food, is a universally desirable commodity.

The full version of the Whopper Virgins advertisement takes the form of a seven minute long documentary style film and is available for viewing online. 1 The fast food chain, Burger King, sought out farmers in rural Romania, Thai villagers and residents of Greenland's icy tundra to compare its signature burger with arch rival McDonalds'. "What happens if you take Transylvanian farmers who have never eaten a burger and ask them to compare Whopper versus Big Mac in the world's purest taste test?" one of the adverts asks. "Will they prefer the Whopper? These are the Whopper Virgins."

Taglines of the campaign include captions such as: "Unbiased. Unbelievable. Undeniable."; “Real locations. Real burgers. Real virgins." ; and “No nostalgia. No preconceived notions. No kings or clowns.”3 Although, according to the company, the tests were carried out by independent third party testers, this assertion, whether true or false seems to be of little consequence. While some of the taste testers represented in the ads had “no preference” for either the Whopper or the BigMac and a few fancied the BigMac, luckily enough, the vast majority of participants seemed to favor the Whopper. One has to wonder just how representative the edited version of the taste test that appears on the advertisement actually is. Although none of the ads explicitly state that the Whopper achieved a higher approval rating than the BigMac, they leave little room for doubt of who the winner is.

The taste tests were conducted among people living close enough to the two hamburger purveyors that the food could be consumed within 15 minutes of its purchase. These are people, who according to one American contributor to the project, “really live outside of things.” But how far outside of “things” could these people really be if these they live within a 15 minute range of the two fast food giants? It seems like a more than a slight exaggeration to assert that these people would have absolutely no awareness of the standard fast food fare.

In the Whopper Virgins documentary, the reasoning given for seeking out these “Whopper Virgins” is two-part. The most apparent motive that the advertisements espouse is to conduct an “entirely unbiased” taste test, which is assumed to be impossible to achieve in the United States because the average American consumer has “been exposed to so much advertising.” However, the other justification given for introducing these people, who the filmmakers admit are “very difficult to find,” to the burger is slightly more unnerving. The documentary heralds the hamburger as a means of initiating a certain kind of cultural exchange. "They told us they want to experience other things in the world. They want to taste other foods see other people..." says one burger purveyor in the film, who later goes on to say “they are very gracious to us."

The campaign is presented as a documentary of the meeting of different cultures. "The hamburger is a culinary culture and it's actually an American phenomenon," says one of the filmmakers in the campaign video. And indeed the different reactions to the Whopper are somewhat entertaining. Many of the taste testers are depicted staring at the burgers with a look of absolute bewilderment. In the ads some of the research subjects are shown attempting to dissect the hamburgers, as if probing them for clues. They pick off vegetables, fold the hamburger buns, or otherwise devise strategies for managing the burger’s staggering girth.

Introducing the hamburger to a supposedly innocent palate qualifies a force-feeding in more than one sense. One critic likened the campaign to colonialism and declared it “embarrassing and emblematic of how ignorant Americans still seem to the rest of the world.”4 It is also notable that all of the “Whopper Virgins” depicted in the ads wear “traditional” garb, at least in so far as it might appear to the average American seated in front of the television set. The Americans who appear in the documentary are filmed enjoying local cuisine and culture. In a particular scene, one of the filmmakers wears a strange fluffy white coat, which he states takes a month to make and was “just handed” to him in apparent gratitude for his introduction of the hamburger. However, the participation in the local cultures is seemingly undertaken only as a novelty. Many, perhaps most, of these “Whopper Virgins” live in some state of poverty and have suffered greatly from colonialism and whatever came after it.

The Whopper Virgins campaign implies that the burger stands for something more than just food. It is offered as a sign of hope. The hamburger is presented as a means of changing people’s lives - apparently for the better - by exposing them to Western culture. The kind of cultural exchange that these advertisements depict indicates an obviously unequal relationship and also alludes to the separation between “us,” the modern and savvy American consumer and “them,” the exotic, primitive other. The labeling of these people as “Whopper Virgins” is a metaphor for the relationship. If "native" people are assigned the role of submissive acceptors of the culinary deflowering that takes place in the advertisements, what does that make us?