by Luca Foggini
Think of the most ridiculous town.
It has a salon with swing open doors and streets where duels were started on the last chime of a
The F-15 fighter jets fly over out there, practicing bomb runs meant for some Middle Eastern
It has a Super 8 and a Best Western. It has a pancake place, three gas stations, one grocery store.
Just a town with two long roads, so flat and long you can see places where snow is. Where you
are it is baking hot. The asphalt melts the soles of your shoes and tires pop in the sun.
Later we drive out to the sand dunes. The Joshua Trees stand sentinel, as if they move when you’re
There’s tumbleweed, snakes, scorpions, and salt. The sand dunes vibrate, a deep sound like a
whale. You are above it all, washboard roads for mile, rusted over a personal shooting gallery of
cans and old televisions. Cathode tubes smashed around a “Pavement Ends” sign.
But you can see the place you stopped last where it was 30 degrees.
Warming hands on a hot chocolate, we waited in the car so that the heat would boot up and the
window would defrost. There is hard-packed dirty snow under the wheels.
And now the icicles are melting in the desert sun and there’s a pool of water flowing into the
gutter, evaporating on the pavement.
Doug Beube: Breaking the Codex
Intriguing. If I was asked to use one adjective to describe Doug Beube: Breaking the Codex, or Mr. Beube’s art, it would be intriguing. As an avid book lover and someone who truly believes that printed books are still necessary even in this electronic age, my first reaction to Mr. Beube’s art work was shock. Here was someone who was manipulating and destroying printed books and atlases as a form of art. This went against years of being taught to protect and safeguard books. Getting past this initial thought and remembering that art is always an expression of the artist, I began really examining the artwork in this book, the wonderful essays on the work, and the composition of the book itself, and I was intrigued.
Mr. Beube uses books as others use canvas, paint, clay, etc., and he does it beautifully. The piece “Feast” (1993-ongoing) is a wonderful example. In this piece, Mr. Beube has placed a Bible open to the Ecclesiastes scripture that states, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die…a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…” in a bedside table. He then poured honey over the bible, filling up the entire drawer and covering the bible completely. This is an ongoing piece that is still on display. Over the years, dust, bugs, hair, and all other manner of things floating in the air came to settle in the honey, and the honey began to crystallize and harden. The close photos are unfortunately only from the beginning of the project, but it is noted that now the the book is obscured and unreadable. Essayist Betty Bright speaks to this piece, saying, ” In Beube’s treatment, the message is literally hardened, even corrupted, suggesting how easily comforting words of scripture can become rigid beliefs in the minds of religious extremists, who then invoke these same words to denounce others.” The ability of Mr. Beube to create something so complex with such powerful underlying meanings while using such simple and common items in his art is inspirational.
Maps, atlases–you use them to plan a trip, teach your child geography, and not a whole lot more. Where we see something for a basic purpose, Mr. Beube sees a way to create a political statement using art. In “Amendment” (2005), he cut the pages of an atlas into equal size strips and then added zippers to the end. The result is that now the viewer can change the entire political climate by moving country borders around attaching them in other places (such as moving a middle eastern country to be on a border with the United States…). With such an extensive ability to play with borders, this can spark conversation and debate for hours or days; not to mention the thoughts of peace that this promotes by trying to show that borders can just be things listed on a map.
My personal favorite is “Vest for the New World” (2008). Can you imagine a book becoming a weapon? Mr. Beube did. Using volumes of the New World Atlas, he created a new kind of vest style bomb, one that can explode knowledge instead of destruction. The pages of the New World Atlas are rolled and stuffed into tubes that are attached to a plastic vest with wires attached at the end. With sixteen tubes in all, eight attached to the front and eight to the back, this vest very much resembles a vest bomb. As with a large number of his pieces, there are so many implications that can be drawn from this piece that you almost have to go back and consider it multiple times, over a period of time, just to cover a few of them.
Books inspire thought, new ideas, the sharing of those ideas, and so much more; by using this medium, Mr. Beube manages to accomplish the same things with his artwork. All of the photographs are of such amazing quality that some of them can show you the small granular detail of the very fibers in the books. There are so many views of most of the art that you get a full appreciation of the piece; not quite as good as being there, but about as close as a book can get. The artwork is enhanced even more by the essayists that Mr. Beube chose to include. These individuals have such a wonderful insightfulness into his work and great use of written word, that the combination of the words and images create a book that is easy for anyone to read and enjoy, but one that challenges your every day thinking. This book will be on my coffee table, starting conversations for years, I am certain.
Breaking the Codex is more than just a book about artwork; it is an expression on how books are viewed today and how they could be viewed. We are slowly phasing out the written word; in doing that are we going to lose all that our books have to offer? Will we lose our physical connection to books? Who knows for sure; but, this I can tell you with certainty, if you read Mr. Beube’s book (which I highly recommend you do) you will find yourself with a whole new perspective on books. Maybe the next time you pick up your favorite book you will see it in a different light.
You can contact the reviewer, Kelly Munoz, at email@example.com.
by Hazel Mankin
Her face glistened in the red sundown-light that angled through the kitchen window. Not as a cut-glass tumbler might, but more like a half-melted candle, the way the rays curved across her cheekbones in hazy highlights. She raised the mug to her lips, closing her eyes to drink. When she lowered her tea, condensation had formed a drop of water on the end of her nose. The sun seeped into its edges, dyeing it the same red as the candles that cluttered the tables and the mantle. Even unlit, they still breathed their thick, saccharine scent through the room. She curled a curious smile in my direction, eyes narrowed.
“What are you thinking about?” she asked, swiping the droplet from her nose.
I turned to stare out the window. “I was just thinking,” I mumbled, “that it must take the entire ocean to extinguish the sunset.” I turned quickly to see if she thought my words were foolish. She smiled at me before rising from her chair.
“Well, that’s a shame,” she laughed quietly, plucking a small cardboard box from the edge of the mantle. “Because, unless I’m mistaken, we’re a good hundred miles inland.” And she struck a match.
“For you I’d rope the stars.
I’d throw my lasso into the air,
and make their twinkle ours.
I’d keep them in a jar for you;
So their light could shine—
I’d keep them in that jar for you;
So they are yours and mine.”
Nor are ropes long enough to fly—
But that did not detour the cowboy
From getting those stars in the sky.
Years passed by and with the years,
Came gray hair and grandkids.
And with each year he tried to reach,
The stars that from him hid—
Until the day he could no longer wait;
And the stars he went to rope—
But he left behind his ladylove,
And she wondered how she’d cope.
But a promise he had made to her–
A twinkle in a jar,
And he went to grab that twinkle,
Then watch her from afar.
Though Ladylove, please do not cry,
But know your cowboy’s love was true,
He had to go to heaven,
To rope that star for you.
Having just moved to Oakland, when I was informed that I would be covering a couple of poetry slams for Synchronized Chaos, I couldn’t have been more excited. The last poetry slam I went to in Miami (my hometown), masqueraded as a house party, with two happy pit bulls pacing back and forth on the patio. When I walked in, a guy who looked like Cheech Marin but sang monotonously like Carlos Santana was at a microphone, surrounded by a couple dozen people, all with bongos and guitars, as Cheech Santana would adlib while the house band played anything and everything (which included Bob Marley’s “Jump Nyabinghi”). Slams in Miami were a bilingual musical affair, half Def Jam, half Sandra Cisneros.
In New Orleans, my adopted home, slams were musical as well. There was a rhythm to it, just like everything else in the city. The last slam I went to in that town featured poets from Team SNO, an awarded poetry team, as well as a poet who was featured in the HBO Series Treme, and the main event of the night was a poet who finished his set dressed up as an alligator.
So I was curious what this slam by the bay would feel like, with every city I’ve lived in being completely different than the next. And the West felt very different than the Caribbean/Southern mescla that I had experienced in New Orleans and Miami.
The slam I went to was the Berkeley Slam at the Starry Plough, right off Shattuck by the Ashby BART stop. It was a cold night for this Cuban, and it definitely had me practicing the concept of layers, for the bar, which had a good population to it, was not cold at all.
The host of the Berkeley Slam was a poet who went by the name of Toaster. Toaster is a high-energy host, which fit the setting well considering the buzz that was coming pre-show from the lively audience. He was funny, got people’s attention, and whipped out a book of Alicia Keys’ poetry, which he painfully read from, when the crowd wasn’t responding fast or loud enough, as a form of torture (which, I might add, worked quite well). The audience participates often in this slam, with the judges being volunteers, as well as coming up with the word of the day (which in this case, was “hamartia”).
I was impressed with the diversity of the poets who performed; with everything from letters to Rihanna to poems about admitting to your parents you smoke pot to the troubles that fifth graders in California have with a system that is stacked against them. Many of the poets incorporated the word of the day without anything too cheap being invoked. While half the poets were regulars, their names being called out and the energy in the building rocking with them, the other half seemed to be from out of town, or trying their luck out, with respect being paid to them as if they were an intimate friend.
The featured poet performs between the first and second round in this Slam, as well as at the end of the slam. On this night, the featured poet was Carrie Rudzinski, who was wrapping up her tour on her way home. Carrie’s poems are phenomenal, and the emotional intensity of them smacks you from the very beginning. Carrie is a master at establishing the rhythm of her poems early, whether she is repeating lines such as “My God, My God,” or counting failed lovers, you can feel yourself bobbing your head to her beat, as you inch closer and closer to her and farther and farther from the back of your seat. Whether it is stories of her road trips, running into security for the Governator, or stories about her grandfather and grandmother, Carrie transports you into her world. And you won’t be leaving it anytime soon, with lines such as “I’ve eaten my reflection enough times, and I am still hungry” sticking with you long after you’ve taken the BART home and planned to go to sleep.
The Berkeley Slam is a fun experience, where you will see great featured poets, along with some regulars and some newbies. The poetry will always be good, with cash incentives and good crowds fueling the machine that is this slam. With thematic slams being prevalent, this slam never gets old. Come to the Starry Plough on Wednesdays for a good time.
On October 25, 2012, I attended the Oakland Poetry Slam at Studio 1924. Despite the fact that this Slam just so happened to occur during the Game 2 of the World Series, and on the one-year anniversary of Occupy Oakland being raided, I’m glad I went to this event. The crowd was still really into it, with the poets who performed not being short on talent, intellect or emotion.
The host of the slam was Nazelah, a poet who had just gotten back with her team from Boise, Idaho, where they performed in a poetry slam competition. After a quick dialogue with the audience, she started the night off with a poem of her own, introducing it as a “Poem for myself and for all of us.”
The moment she got into her rhythm, it was clear why she was the host of this event. Nazelah’s poetry would set the table for the rest of the performers, as her spoken word had a good rhythm and would have themes that would intersect with the feature’s poetry. With lines such as “I think of how expensive a shrink would be if I couldn’t write poetry”, the line being punctuated by her shrug, I knew I was in for a night of good spoken word.
After that, we would have everything from a young freestyling poet (“my mind speaks freely, which is why they call it freestyle”), to Patrick, who help runs the poetry slam at the Starry Plough in Berkeley, whose poem talked about “LSD mixers” that his mom and dad would meet at, to a young poet who plowed through her first performance to much applause (“Life is like a roller coaster, I just need someone to hold onto me during the scary parts”) and then couldn’t help but do two more, to a poem that was half sung about “Dancing naked in the rain.”
Then Dahled Jeffries, who runs the Oakland Poetry Slam, came out and performed two poems of his own, including one that he did at the slam competition in Boise last week. His poems were poignant, with strong imagery and concepts that lead us to the featured poet for the night, such as when he preached a “colorblind state is white privilege defined.”
The featured poet was Marc Marcel, who is a native of Baltimore, Maryland. Marcel has been touring for quite some time now; he is a published novelist, as well as a spoken word poet who has two CDs out. Marcel’s poems revolve around a spirituality found in the self. His slow and precise delivery emphasizes the importance he finds in the words he is speaking. Lines such as “It’s rather simple, you don’t have to do this in a temple,” cannot be given its rightful justice by just having it put on the page. You have to hear him perform it, with that perfect delivery, as he stares into the audience, to truly experience it. When in the poem titled “Now”, he repeats the line “Just tell me you remember, no matter how long it’s been,” it resonated with me in such a way that the line kept humming in my head for the rest of the night.
The Oakland Poetry Slam I went to was full of talented poets who performed fantastically. Just by staying and talking to them afterwards, I feel like I learned more about Oakland, the spoken word scene here, and what it means to be a writer, than anything else I’ve done in town. A good group that is filled with substance, there was quite a few people in the audience who were inspired to do their own thing after seeing other poets come up. A moving event that happens on the second and fourth Thursday of every month, the next one will be on November 8th, at the Spice Monkey. Come out and see some good poetry; you’ll definitely find me there.
By: J.B. Elliott
I would begin this short tale with the phrase once upon a time; however, this is no fairy tale, nor is it a story for entertainment. This tale is a warning; a warning for anyone who is under the misguided conception that ghosts are only present on the silver screen, and the chill on your neck is only a cool breeze from the fan.
I was crashing at my brother and his wife’s house one night while I was traveling for work; I am naturally a frugal person so a hotel was out of the question—also this is the only time I get to see my little nephew. That evening had been uneventful; I had been playing with Tucker with his fire trucks and Tonka toys after super. When it was time for everyone to turn in I assumed my position on the couch like I always do. Tucker is terribly afraid of the dark—a fear that is bordering on pathological, so the house is dim–never dark. With a night light in each room and a fish tank glowing behind my head in the den it was easy to see my surroundings; but this house was a second home to me, I know every nook and cranny with my eyes shut. This was the first evening, however, when the filter on the fish tank was turned off, ridding the den of the perpetual babbling brook that I was accustomed to rocking me to sleep.
As I lie there listening to my brother snore down the hallway a strange noise found my ear. It was not a noise as much as it was a conversation; a conversation I could hear, but not hear. It was as though they were in the room with me but their volume had been turned down. I strained to listen to their conversation but to no avail; I was staring in the direction of the voices—in the corner beside the front door. I know it sounds strange, but I was not frightened by the events taking place around me; perhaps I was not completely aware of what was taking place in the room with me—I do not know. However what I do know is what happened next during the course of this night changed me forever…
After a few minutes the voices I had been listening to silenced while my sixteen-hour workday caught up with me and sleep made me its willing companion. My dreams swam with the images of my wife, from a time before we traded rings and she changed her last name. We were in this ethereal world that was full of autumn colors and a cool nip in the air; her jacket was only half buttoned, revealing the sensual curve of her collarbone and the paleness of her skin—I was truly content. As we ran and reveled in the freedom that is youth we tumbled down, falling into each other’s arms, “I love you” I told her. She leaned in and kissed me deep—a kiss of a dream where momentarily two souls feel like one; in real life these kisses are rare; just a few times is a person granted this magnitude of passion. I pulled her close closing my eyes tightly to capture every sensation, relishing every moment, but then something was wrong—she felt different. She became cold as the grave and her skin turned damp; I pulled away opening my eyes, “Hold me, I’m so cold…” I was horrified; this was not my wife! I jerked back, her hair was wet and long, it clung to her face and her arms like sea weed stuck to a pear; her skin was ashen gray with black under tones as though her blood ran tar black through her veins. She smelt of mold and mud; she wore only a tattered nightshirt. She reached for me, “I’m so cold…” as she touched my arm I bolted awake.
Relief washed over me as I woke in my familiar surroundings; that was until I touched my shirt–my shirt was damp. Had I sweated through my shirt? I wondered; I could not have—I was not sweating. I removed my shirt and tossed it towards the laundry room and lay back down; I was too exhausted to even think in any clear manner. I closed my eyes, hoping to recapture the image of my wife again—no such luck. I was aware of the fact that I was dreaming, but the world around me felt like nothing the dream world should. I was still on the couch, but now I was sitting up and this mystery woman was seated beside me—her eyes were silent pleas of complete and utter desperation. “I’m so cold and scared—hold me…” A single tear ran down her cheek. I put my arm around her shoulder—I was not scared by her, but for her. She moved close to me and my body shivered with the cold that radiated off of her like that of a frozen pond; her dampness touching my bare side. She slowly and softly began to weep into my chest—I cannot describe how this hurt every fiber of my being; her cries were so tormented it was torture to my dreaming ears simply to hear them. The conversation in the empty corner began again, this time with just enough volume for me to make out a few words—the girl, trouble and fix it. “Leave me alone!” she screamed into the empty conversation-filled corner. Her sobs now came in deep ragged gasps; I forced myself to hold her as tightly as I could, trying to calm her, to soothe whatever it was that was tormenting her so. Her coldness had traveled to the very core of my body. I was drained of energy and was fighting the urge to lean to the side and lay down. Time had no meaning in this world of dreams and tears. I finally lay to the side, lying behind her with my arms wrapped around her, “Don’t let me go—I’m so cold…” Her weeping had slowed but not stopped. “Shut up!” she yelled at the low conversation—I bolted awake.
The part I am about to relay to you turned my skin to goose flesh and my stomach to acid—I was turned the opposite direction on the couch than I had been when I fell asleep. The sheet was beneath me rather than over me and I could still feel her lying on my right arm. Shivers traveled down my neck making my teeth chatter in my skull; I touched my arm—water—on my arm, my chest, even my pajama pants were wet; not only wet but muddy too—the conversation in the corner continued. I decided to go into work extra early that day and forgo any more sleep—I had slept with the dead once that night; I was not going to do it again.
DECEMBER 23, 1936
POLICE BELIEVE THEY HAVE IDENTIFIED THE BODY OF LAST WEEK’S MURDERED FEMALE.
It is believed by authorities that Iris Parker, age 26, a woman of unfortunate reputation, is the identity of the female that was found last Wednesday in Suttler’s Pond. It is not known if Miss Parker was the victim of a violent crime or the victim of an illegal medical procedure. As Miss Parker’s chosen profession brought her into contact with shady characters, it is not hopeful that the investigation will provide any leads. Miss Parker’s family is unknown–her body will be interred by the county within the week.
J’Rie Elliott is a mother, wife, daughter, and accomplished horseback rider from Alabama, USA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org