Tuesday, December 30, 2008

fare thee well, 2008

key words: carnage, hope, opportunity found, opportunity lost, reunion, severance, death, making. it got too heavy for me to document here towards the end of this year, but i'll try harder in the next.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


So, let's just take a moment here to acknowledge that if we wake up tomorrow with Barack Obama as our nation's next president, Oprah Winfrey will have played no small part in making that so. I have no small amount of issues with Oprah, but goddamn that woman can move mountains!

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Stats Aren't Just Cooked, They're Burnt to a Crisp

I've written here extensively about the president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, Bush-kisser, right-winger, and fascist. Uribe has been haled as somewhat of an anti-corruption icon by the ruling American Republicans for consistently delivering numbers: narco-trafficking arrests, FARC arrests, famous people rescue efforts (in other words putting all those sweet sweet War on Drugs dollars to use). So some people have been puzzled at why all the anomie towards this man who was seems to be cleaning up the situation. Well, it seems like rumors of death squads have finally been substantiated. For the past few months, the Colombian military has been embroiled in a scandal involving hundreds, possibly thousands of murdered and disappeared peasants. The Colombian military, under tremendous pressure to produce the aformentioned numbers, has been slaughtering civilian peasants, dressing them up as FARC guerillas, and delivering the bodies to their superiors as proof of the efficacy of their skill in capturing and killing members of the left-wing guerilla group. In response to the scandal, the Uribe regime is publicly firing a few mid-level generals and denouncing these abuses, a common tactic in these situations. Word is that the pressure to up the numbers of captured and killed FARC soldiers was coming directly from the top, as in Uribe was calling people on the weekend on their cellphones at all hours, saying by any means necessary.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Errol Morris is a better documentarian than anyone should be allowed to be (and furthermore, Herzog was right to eat a shoe), Or uncovering lies

Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure, his latest documentary on the subject of the Abu Graib scandal, is like a shock onion, just as one layer is peeled back another is exposed. Morris interviews the Military Police Officers that were put in charge of guarding the inmates at Abu Ghraib, officers like Lynndie England, who would become the face of American military abuses and brutality in Iraq. England and her colleagues tell the story of how they were given the green light by their superiors to humiliate and terrorize their Iraqi captors: taxi drivers, bakers, civilians of all stripes captured and taken back to the prison in night time raids of local villages, and how eventually they started taking pictures of these acts, pictures which were leaked to the media. I remember, when Abu Ghraid broke in 2003, seeing pictures of Lyndie England apparently dragging a man out of his cell on a leash and wondering at the callous monstrosity that war breeds and I watched S.O.A., in a way, to try to understand how and why such acts happen during war time. Yes, there is an aspect of Stanford prison experiment brutality to the pictures of the detainees in various stress positions wearing hoods and women's underwear on their heads(many of the officers interviewed still seem curiously insensitive to the fact that they actually caused prisoners great physical and psychological pain) but I came away with a quite different picture of what happened at the prison, that these abuses, as the officers claim, were the least of what was happening at Abu Ghraib, namely the secret murder of a detainee who died during a torture interrogation.

Morris highlights in S.O.A. how large of a role photography played in the scandal: how the pictures don't show who exactly was responsible for orchestrating these denigrating acts against the prisoners, how these acts were (and are!) legally sanctioned by U.S. military policy at the time, and how the pictures actually obscured the real Abu Ghraib story. What is so insurmountably weird about the case is that the officers who were in the pictures like Ivan Frederick II, Charles Graner, Sabrina Harman, Megan Ambuhl, Jeremy Sivits, Lynndie England, Megan Ambuhl are the ones who served time in jail while no mid to high level military officials who encouraged and promoted an environment of terror in the prisons even went to trial. What was legal was the humiliation and torture. What was illegal was taking pictures of it! Thanks John Yoo.

I really encourage people to see this movie, if you're reading this. Yes, you will feel moral revulsion, but maybe what we should be feeling as Americans right now is moral revulsion. It's kind of surreal to be standing at this point in time and be able to see the Nixon years, Watergate, Vietnam, as almost quaint compared to 2000-2008. It's weird to think these were the years that me and most of my friends became adults and even though we were opposed to the war, opposed to torture, opposed to almost everything Bush did in office, we couldn't do anything about it. No one could. The whole country, including the Democrats, the media, academia, think tanks, the center, the left, couldn't do shit. And most people, aka Americans didn't care or didn't know what was going on. And as we see the end in sight, of Barack Obama poised to win the election (my finger are tightly crossed), I just hope our triumph or triumphalism doesn't let us forget what happened in these past eight years. We're only beginning to uncover the lies we were told, the stories that were suppressed, the memos that made so many of these abuses legal, and hopefully these things won't fade too quickly out of our memories before the next conservative backlash sweeps the country with Jesus-fervor and Arab hate (or you know, the Other du jour).

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Reactionary Poems Has Arrived!


My new chapbook, The Reactionary Poems, has been released on olywapress. The book features 25 poems by me and is contained in a handsome letter-pressed cover by book artist Jennifer Manzano. For eight dollars, all this can be yours. E-mail olywapress@gmail.com.

an excerpt:


The morass, aging super-
models, mid-90’s danceable
soft rap and wading
through this–
Who’ll be the dirty
agonist in the future face
an oval Buddha to escape
the rain in a corporate

and there's a reading....

Saturday, October 25

at 8 pm

at Unnameable Books
456 Bergen St.
Brooklyn, NY

Please join us for a reading by Laura Jaramillo and CAConrad in celebration of Laura's chapbook The Reactionary Poems, just published by olywa press. Chapbooks will be available for purchase at a discount.


Laura Jaramillo is a poet from the borough of limitless opportunity, Queens. She holds a BA from Bard College and a MA in Creative Writing from Temple University. Her poems have appeared in Pocket Myths: The Odyssey, P-QUEUE, Cross-Connect, Tribilingual, the Bard Papers, and For Godot.

CAConrad is the son of white trash asphyxiation whose childhood included selling cut flowers along the highway for his mother and helping her shoplift. He escaped to Philadelphia where he lives and writes with the PhillySound poets http://www.PhillySound.blogspot.com. He is the author of Deviant Propulsion (Soft Skull Press, 2006), (Soma)tic Midge (FAUX Press, 2008), The Book of Frank (Chax Press, 2008), advanced ELVIS course (Soft Skull Press, 2009), and a collaboration with poet Frank Sherlock titled THE CITY REAL & IMAGINED: Philadelphia Poems (Factory School Press, 2009). He invites you to visit him online at http://www.CAConrad.blogspot.com

How to get there:

2, 3 to Bergen St

2, 3, 4, 5, M, N, Q, W, R, B, D to Atlantic Ave-Pacific St

C to Lafayette Ave

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The (Other) Axis of Evil

The announcement last Friday of Sarah Palin's nomination as McCain's VP was shocking. For one, it came out of left field–Palin being relatively young and definitely inexperienced. It was mostly shocking to me for being a really brilliant political move by the McCain campaign at a time when the Republican party is looking like a bunch of sad sacks shouldering some of the biggest international and domestic political failures of the 20th century (and the 21st!). And then comes the Palin nomination: what a way to capitalize on the American public's recent embrace of non-traditional (i.e. non-white men) candidates into presidential politics. Brilliant and tremendously cynical, since one Sarah Palin does not equal one Hillary Clinton, but to the average American voter who is not terribly informed about politics or candidates, this equation of the two women might just work. Although HRC is pro-choice, had an actual substantive policy platform, including extensive health care expertise, and Sarah Palin is anti-choice and has no policy platform, what a lot of people see is two women who are mothers and were tough enough to have careers in politics too. This may seem absurdly reductionist, but we are now at the stage of the presidential campaign where discourse plummets to just that level.

What Palin also does, besides standing as a really interesting and random trump card for the McCain campaign, is exemplify a certain strain of Idealized Republican Womanhood (henceforth known as IRW): the conventionally attractive, family-minded, hard-working, deeply conservative, wealthy woman who dedicates much of her energy working against what have traditionally been the claims of feminism: namely that women have the right to reproductive control over their own bodies. The Republican party has long had an antagonistic relationship to feminism, but there have been many anti-feminist and pseudo-feminist female iconic Republican ideologues: Peggy Noonan, Phyllis Schafly, Condoleezza Rice––smart women with terrifying ideas. These female Republican ideologues are, after all, incredibly complex in the roles they've played in the party , not just as public figureheads but actually as the party's producers of ideas (Condi is just an enigma wrapped in a riddle as far as I'm concerned). These women have not traditionally embodied IRW.

Sarah Palin is decidedly not an ideologue in this vein (her biography serving as the bulk of her credentials), as there is a dearth of ideas in her rhetoric. Yet there is more than a little of Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, and Laura Bush (in all their shellacked, non-threatening femininity) in the way that Palin's being promoted. Palin fits very well into the Republican first-lady archetype of ladies who are strong but at the end of the day know their place (behind the main man). Indeed, there's something very wife-ly about her role in the McCain campaign: she gets to be the tough mother for the public, the protector of the family through her vow to work hard to ban sex education and abortion.

Monday, August 18, 2008

'The Wackness' Will Be Vindicated by History

But seriously. I went to see The Wackness because my own dirty cynicism said, Go see Mary Kate's terrible movie in which you're sure she'll be terrible. Go see the way in which your generation is having its favorite music re-packaged and sold back to it by shameless panderers

What I actually saw surprised me quite pleasantly and upon further review could be some of the best screen writing I've seen in a looong time. The script captures adolescent longing, the awfulness of summer, middle-class downward mobility, gentrification, cocaine parents and a certain era of New York (before the hipster industrial complex took over) with great nuance and sensitivity. Contrary to the last decade's slew of 80's nostalgia mongering movies, The Wackness doesn't indulge in frenetic MTV editing–it's slow, mellow, and intermittently melancholy in pace and while the soundtrack is an important part of the movie, the score doesn't make the movie into a music video. Josh Peck, playing Luke Schapiro, is so many boys I went to high school with, except Peck humanizes that stoic shyness. Olivia Thirlby, the love interest, Stephanie, is complexly written for a teenage girl in a movie. She's pretty, self-involved, at the brink of perhaps becoming a more compassionate, nicer adult but still stuck in selfish kid ways. She's not the untouchable popular girl of so many teen movies.

Most interestingly for me, the movie's setting, New York in the early to mid 90's, is as much a part of the dramatic action as any other plot in the movie. The refrain "This city's changing," is heard over and over. It's a great contrast to 2008's "This city's changed." Does anyone remember the Giuliani with devil horns stickers plastered everywhere in those years, before the clean-up of the city was accepted and total?