A Story to Lift Your Spirits

With Donald Trump soaring in the polls and the Democrats self-destructing in Philly, I needed something to pick up my spirits, and found it in this heartwarming story taken straight, so to speak, from the nightmares of Rick Santorum. I could wish for a more surprising ending, but that’s a quibble.
Oh, and the author is apparently a fellow Minnesotan.
A. Merc Rustad, “How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps”

Episode #1 – How to Become A Robot in 12 Easy Steps by A. Merc Rustad

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Who is Sabrina Orah Mark?

“I, too, dislike it.” I’ve probably quoted that line before—it’s the opening of Marianne Moore’s “Poetry”—but it comes back to me whenever I hit one of those stretches where every poem I read bores me, where bad poems are still bad but accomplished poems seem no more than workmanlike exercises. There are the ostentatious line-breaks, the daring punctuation, the careful surrealistic images, or maybe the familiar lefty politics. Not that I’m asking for right-wing poetry, it’s just that sometimes the sense of fun and adventure and pathos seems a million miles away.

And then I run across something like this:


“The Oldest Animal Writes a Letter Home” by Sabrina Orah Mark


I had never heard of Sabrina Orah Mark; I’ve certainly never read anything like this. Perhaps there is some cultural background I’m missing, maybe some readers know what the “oldest animal” is or who Abigail and WB are, but I don’t really care. The dialect, if that is the word, doesn’t resemble any version of English that I know, and this is surely intentional, since using a real dialect would likely get the writer in trouble and deprive the weirdness of its purity.

To be sure, some of the grammar is rather childlike, e.g., the use of overgeneralized verb forms and reduplications that are reminiscent of familiar words like “drownded” and “hurted.”

Perhaps my favorite bit is this segment, with its fugal repetition (I am incongruously reminded of Celan’s “Todesfuge”), its crazily literal interpretation of the idiom “What I wouldn’t give…” and its sneaky pathos:

Once I looks up and That Mutter and That Fodder is floating bye in the green baskyt, and That Fodder is feedling That Mutter the most beautiful pancake the whirld has ever seeped.  Why does That Mutter and That Fodder not look done where I exists and giveth me a bite?  Once I looks up and That Mutter and That Fodder is floating bye in the green baskyt helded ups by the Strings of the Allmightiest Heavens, and what I would not giveth to be alpso in that baskyt isn’t even my hopes to be in that baskyt.  Here.  Taketh my hopes.  Except for the byrds, and the pancake.


I salute this poem with one hoofs in the airs and one hoofs on my hearpt.


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Two Poems in Wordgathering

My poems “The Sweet and Bitter Fool” and “Reefer Madness” are in the new issue of Wordgathering:


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Election Geekery

I was talking to someone the other day about choices for Vice President; the fact is, they don’t seem to matter much, but the VP nominee does have a small home-state advantage, giving their ticket a 2- or 3-point bump in most cases. So mostly it’s a good idea to pick a VP who won’t make you want to stick your arm in a garbage disposal, but occasionally it would come in handy to have one from a swing state.

Harry Enten at 538.com opined recently that we don’t know yet what the swing states will be, but they have in fact been extremely stable over recent elections. A swing state or battleground state is one that is close in a close election, i.e. where the vote resembles the national average. I took a look at the 2004 and 2012 elections (I didn’t want to overweight Obama), noting where each state fell in comparison with the national popular vote: for example, Obama won nationally by 4 points and lost North Carolina by 2 points, so NC gets a rating of R +6.

The overall landscape was so little changed in the eight years between ’04 and ’12 that if you shifted every state by 6.4 points (Kerry’s losing margin plus Obama’s winning margin), Kerry wins and loses exactly the same states that Obama won and lost. Virginia, to be sure, would be very close, and it has been on a long-term shift from a reliable Republican state to deep purple, but still, that’s a lot of stability.

The most striking change between 2004 and 2012 isn’t among the battleground states, it’s the move of the border South from ‘lean Republican’ to ‘wouldn’t vote for Jesus Christ if he was a Democrat.’ West Virginia went from R +10 to R +31, Arkansas from R +7 to R +28, and Missouri, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky all shifted by at least 8 points to longer wavelengths. Bill Clinton won all these states twice, and no Democrat has won any of them since, IIRC. There was a fierce debate in the ‘90s and up to 2008 about whether the Democratic Party needed to shift to more conservative positions, especially on social issues like gay rights and reproductive rights, in order to compete in the border South. That ship appears to have sailed, at least in Presidential elections. Kentucky is not coming back—instead, the Democrats have become competitive in the Southern states with more prosperous, better-educated populations, Virginia and North Carolina.

Another change that is smaller in scale but does involve swing states is the Democratic edge in parts of the Mountain West: Colorado has moved from slightly red to a pure tossup, and Nevada and New Mexico now appear to be leaning Dem, rather like Wisconsin or Minnesota.

Here is a list of what probably will be battleground states, ranged from those that lean so far Republican that they are barely battleground states to those that lean so far Democratic that they are barely in play in a close election.

Safe Republican States 191 EV

North Carolina (a marginal swing state, if it’s in play then Clinton is winning)

Florida (R +3) in both ’04 and ’12)


Virginia (Traditionally Republican, has been trending D and possibly should be flipped with PA)

Colorado (Tossup)

Pennsylvania (Has been slightly D-leaning, but apears to be drifting towards the Republicans)

Iowa (D +2) in both ’04 and ’12)

New Hampshire

Nevada (Used to be a true tossup, trending D as more people of color move in)

Wisconsin (D +3 in both ’04 and ’12)


New Mexico (another former tossup)

Michigan ((D +6 in both ’04 and ’12)

Safe Dem States 186 EV


From an electoral college point of view, the ideal VP would be from FL or VA or OH, but things are complicated by the fact that a sitting Senator would be replaced by the current governor,, and a VP nominee probably isn’t worth losing a Senate seat over. We have a Democratic governor here in Minnesota, and I think either of our Senators would be a reasonable choice, especially Amy Klobuchar.

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Touching Tongues: Who Does Number Two Work For?

Work For?”



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Touching Tongues column: Me Tok Pisin One Day

My latest Touching Tongues column, “Me Tok Pisin One Day,” is up on Neutrons/Protons. Enjoy!



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Poem: The World Unseen

My poem “The World Unseen” is up at Leveler Poetry Journal:



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