Thursday, July 24, 2008

Free Book!

I know that may not be the most appealing headline to some, but Indiana Review is offering up a free copy of the Funk issue if you can do a little name that tune on their blog. Better get yourn!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Post No Ills Interview

Misstra Knowitall got interviewed by poet Kyle Dargan for Post No Ills Magazine. Check it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

What the Funk?: Hannah Faith Notess

Hannah Faith Notess served as poetry editor of Indiana Review from 2007-08 and helped assemble the poetry in the awesome Funk issue. For Misstra Knowitall, one of the true pleasures of being the editor of Indiana Review was having the opportunity to work with such a brilliant team of creative people who are about their business and Hannah was no different. She was so committed that one of my fondest IR memories is coming into the office to find her curled up on the couch sleep. And if you've seen how small our couch is, you know that's saying a lot.

How was the process (reading, selecting, soliciting work, etc.) unique from the other stuff in the issue?

It's hard to get a group of people together in a room and decide if a poem is good or not. If you have seven different editors, you're going to have seven slightly different views of what makes a good poem. And then deciding if something is funky or not, on top of being good--that's even harder.

But all that aside, once we sorted out what was good, we just let the funk take over. Basically, a poem had to hit us over the head with its funkiness; otherwise we had to let it slide--or put it in a different part of the magazine. Fortunately, several poems hit us over the head with their it all worked out.

Funkier: Batman or the Incredible Hulk?

Well, the Hulk is green. That helps. Batman can be pretty cool at times, and he has had some nice cars, but he is honestly not that funky. Then again, as the rejection slip said, I don't consider myself the arbiter of funk. I appreciate your candor and honesty. I consulted my answer sheet and the correct response is Hulk. For more information, please consult this previous post.

Was there something you learned, about funk or poetry or whatever, from working on this issue?

I received a funk education. I knew almost nothing about funk prior to working on this issue. I still don't know a whole lot, but the music's been a great discovery for me.

Funkier: apple butter or grape jelly?

Apple butter's got more substance. Though I'm not sure either one is really funky. What do you think?I get the feeling that if they had a dance contest, grape jelly would be styling on apple butter, so I'ma have to go with the jelly.

What's your favorite funky IR memory?

It's hard to choose, because there were so many standout moments, but the Variations on Funk reading with Tyehimba Jess, Aracelis Girmay, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and Patrick Rosal that we had in the Waldron Arts Center stands out. I felt so privileged to be able to have a hand in bringing them to Bloomington; they are all such amazing poets! And the atmosphere in the room was electric.
Most definitely. If you go to the Indiana Review Bluelight blog you can hear what we're talking about. Just click on the "posts" icon on the top right and pick the Variations on Funk reading. Check it.

Funkier: Indiana University patriarchs Elisha Ballantine or Herman B Wells?

I've definitely smelled something funky in the halls of Ballantine. And check out his hair!

No doubt. I haven't seen a process that clean since Goldie in The Mack. Elisha is funktastic!

Funk jam you keep on heavy rotation?

"If You Want Me to Stay" by Sly and the Family Stone.


Funk: Animal, vegetable, or mineral?

I would have to go with vegetable because of the way it grows on you.

What the funk is HFN up to, Post-IR?

I'm moving to Seattle next month! So right now I'm packing. Or pretending to pack.

Thanks, Hannah!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

President Pryor

"As long as I can keep it up." Indeed.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Rockit

That's how my Mondays feel.

Parade of the Undead

Jackson Brown was my roommate in grad school, but I wasn't fully aware of exactly how big dude's brain was until I took a lit class with him and watched in awe as he ran the daggone thing himself. You'll find more of his brilliance below. --Misstra Knowitall
We disowned Michael Jackson too early.
For all his menacing aloofness.
For his unsavory fascination with minors.
And the nose, Mike. What was up with the nose?
In reality, we as a society are in the very state that I and almost every other pop-culturally-engrained child of the 80s was in during their adolescence: absolute worship of the legacy of Michael Jackson. Justin Timberlake has adopted his sound, Usher has picked up his dance moves, and we, ourselves, might not unnaturally whiten our skin, but we certainly do a number on our teeth.
Moreover, we find something eerily fascinating about the types of discomfiting cultural idiosyncrasies that Michael Jackson has come to embody for us. “Oh, that’s horrible,” we say, shuddering at the utter depravity of a Miley Cyrus pin-up or at the prospect of Heath Ledger’s death hauling in more money for the upcoming opening of The Dark Knight, all the while wondering silently just how many copies of the magazine will actually sell or just how big the box office take will actually be. MJ, it seems, was simply ahead of his time; had he invited thirteen-year-olds into his bedroom five years after the fact, perhaps we wouldn’t have sent him to trial, but would’ve thrown a camera into the room with them and caught everything on the latest episode of “Neverland Ranch.”
I know some of you, like me, grew up as the oldest child, bearing the brunt of the growing pains because you were leading the way for the younger siblings and didn’t have an example to follow. Taking into consideration that Michael Jackson is our collective big brother, so to speak, the progenitor who sacrificed to set cultural transformation into motion, did he really turn out all that bad?
OK, don’t answer that.
But Mike’s attempt (however short it falls) at a bright-eyed, elven-nosed visage mirrors pop-cultural conceptions of immortality,
which, by Mike’s own admission, is his ultimate aspiration (Isn’t it everyone’s?).
And this societal desire for eternal life is no less eerily fascinating than our sidelong gazes at Hannah Montana, even—perhaps especially—for Mike, whose desire for longevity is rooted in the most ostensibly hygienic of fantasy tales: Walt Disney’s Peter Pan.
Coaxing kids from their bedroom windows, giving them “angel du-,” I mean “pixie dust”—nothing objectionable about that. Mike’s attachment to the popular children’s tale is well publicized, as well as intense. In his 20/20 interview with Martin Bashir, Mike says it outright: "I am Peter Pan.”
So what’s the big difference between Peter Pan and, say, Arwen the Elf, Liv Tyler’s immortal character in Peter Jackson’s film version of Lord of the Rings? The undead factor. For all intents and purposes, Pan isn’t just a “Lost Boy,” he’s a boy who has been lost—to life, soaring to and from Earth with his angelic fairy friend to never age another day in his home amongst the clouds. Dress it up in green tights and throw a feather in its cap, and zombiehood doesn’t look half bad.
A corresponding preoccupation with the living dead is readily evident in MJ’s videos: As the man who doesn’t show up in photographs and evaporates between bed sheets in “Billie Jean”; as the mysterious entertainer that spins into a mound of dust at the end of “Remember the Time”; and the movie-length video Moonwalker is a veritable series of reincarnations, Mike transforming from one creature/machine/human to another. And of course, there’s “Thriller,” where even back in Mike’s coffee-complexioned days, we get to catch a glimpse of him with his current unsettling ashen pallor.

The “thrill” for us, the ostensibly astounded yet inwardly reveling audience, was to see how far the ride would go—just how pale his complexion could get, how cryptic and disturbing his lifestyle could become, and, ultimately, how undead Mike could be. And though we’ve washed our hands of with MJ now, our perverse curiosity certainly hasn’t been sated. The parade of the undead still marches on, far behind Michael Jackson’s lead, but still very much in tempo with his cadence.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Super Jungle Fever

About Hancock, I'll say this:

It's been a while since I saw a movie with such an overt comment on interracial love/romance.


Basically, the plot revolves around a homeless superhero named Hancock, who has a drinking problem and a huge patch in his memory. He doesn't know where he came from, where he's going, or why he's so angry, and even though he tries to do the right thing, it seems like things always end up going wrong (sounds like a lot of brothers I know).

Hancock thinks he's the only super person in the world (a la Superman), but it turns out he's got a partner/wife, Mary Embery (played by Charlize Theron), that he doesn't know about. The idea is that they are gods, angels, whatever, and that they've been together intermittently since the dawn of time, but when they get together, sparks literally fly and they lose their immortality.

I hate to be that guy who always finds a way to put race in the mix, but I couldn't read this dynamic as anything else but some kind of comment on Black masculinity/White femininity. As Mary explains it, although the superlovers are immortal apart, together it seems like they are always the victims of harassment and persecution. Apparently, 80 years ago the two were living in Florida (not the most friendly state to interracial couples) and Hancock got attacked by what sounds like a lynch mob. He escaped, but Mary left him in the hospital so he could become immortal again.

Sure, there are some major holes in the story, but when Mary tells Hancock that "every time we're together, they come after you through me," it makes you wonder exactly who is the "they" and why do "they" have such a big problem with these two getting together? I'm not sure exactly what the movie is trying to say, although it's worth noting that Mary scoffs when Hancock asks her whose more powerful, but something is being suggested. I'm still trying to figure out the implications of the ending, which leaves Hancock a lonely immortal servant/superhero and Mary a happy housewife to a mortal White husband.

Well, I guess it could be worse...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Du Bois in the Hood

Welcome to Watts!

If you haven't noticed, Misstra Knowitall has been struggling to keep up with his blog posts lately. I'm doing my training for Teach For America in Los Angeles (Watts) right now and I can't remember ever being this busy. Grad school was a breeze compared to this schedule (literally 6 to 6). I'm teaching 10th grade English in summer school.

Fired teacher, Karen Salazar

The school's been in the news lately because a teacher got fired for having a curriculum that was too "afrocentric". Apparently it was big news and it's kind of interesting to read the Los Angeles Times account and compare it to the ones in the neo-conservative Washington Times and Democracy Now!. (Hmmm...maybe that would make a good class assignment!)

Also, I found an article about a local gang interventionist that gives a little background on the area. I've lived in Oakland and Baltimore, but I have to say that the projects next to my school are some of the gnarliest I've ever seen. Not a nice place to grow up. But today the kids were nice and everything went well. One day down, nineteen to go. I'll keep you posted (so to speak).

Jordan High School, circa 1965

Friday, July 4, 2008

Funk Pioneers: Cephus and Reesie

Straight out of Lil' Foot, NJ...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Indiana Review is giving away free copies of the Funk issue every Wednesday in July. Y'all better get yours!

PS: I know I'm always talking about the funk issue. So what, that's my baby. She's my Beyonce and I'm her Matt Knowles.