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PSA day

Occasionally people send me notices of this or that, asking me to announce events or competitions or things on this humble blog.  And ordinarily, I reply, “no way!  my blog is devoted exclusively to educational purposes like . . . uh . . . for example . . . no way!” But today I thought I’d make an exception, while I’m gradin’ those papers.

So if you’re in the Los Angeles area this weekend, stop by the CalArts Downtown Center for Innovative Visual, Performing, and Media Arts and check out this experimental writing conference that features Chris Abani, Sesshu Foster, Renee Gladman, Johnny Golding, Shelley Jackson, Joni Jones, Bhanu Kapil, Lewis MacAdams, K. Silem Mohammad, Ishmael Reed, Emily Roysdon, Sarah Schulman, Mady Schutzman, Edwin Torres, and Anne Waldman.

And if you’re nowhere near Los Angeles, you can do something else for someone you love:  you can nominate him or her for the PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award!  Anna Kushner, the coordinator of PEN’s Freedom to Write Program, writes to say:

The PEN American Center is the largest of the 141 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. Our work here at PEN consists of advancing literature, defending free expression, and fostering international literary fellowship through defending writers in prison or in danger of imprisonment for their work, sponsoring public literary programs and forums on current issues, offering grants and loans to writers facing financial or medical emergencies, and through administering literary and free speech prizes. You may be aware that every year we award the PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award, a $25,000 prize that honors an individual who has fought to protect freedom of expression as it applies to the written word.

We at PEN are writing to ask you if you would be willing to help us in our efforts to find the next recipient of the PEN/Newman’s Own Award. Our ability to recognize the amazing individuals who fight important First Amendment battles is entirely dependent on the nominations we receive. 

So sure, I’ll help!  Readers, if you know of someone worthy of the PEN/Newman’s Own Award, please nominate him or her today.  (The nomination deadline is December 31, 2006.) The PEN website is right here, and when you visit you can check out all their programs and publications.

Of course, I know some of you are desperate to find out what happened to me during my two-week retreat at the headquarters of the Focus on the Family Ministry.  I’ll be back tomorrow with the surprising re-post! 

Posted by on 10/17 at 10:50 AM
  1. I nominate 14 year old, Julia Wilson of Sacramento, CA, who last week learned that the First Amendment is not binding on the Secret Service nor the President of the USA. 

    Two super-sized adult male U.S. Secret Service ("S.S.") agents banged on the front door at 14 year-old Julia Wilson’s home last Thursday during school hours, but Julia wasn’t home. Predictably (except to the S.S. agents), the straight-A student was in her microbiology class at school.

    But Julia’s mother, Kirstie, was home. When she opened her front door, she was a little taken aback, not only by the sizes of the agents and the official nature of the visit, but also by their questions and demeanor after she welcomed them inside.

    The S.S. agents told Kirstie that they were investigating her daughter’s role in setting up a MySpace Web page. In particular, they were troubled because the Web page included the creation of art (pictured above) that the agents felt was extremely threatening to the life of the President of the United States.

    The agents told Kirstie that since the art included the words, “Kill Bush,” and since it was accessible to anyone on the Internet, there was a very strong likelihood that someone-possibly a terrorist from a foreign country- might see the image and be inspired to act upon it. Thus, they reasoned, even if Julia only meant to be funny, the art put the President in grave danger. Many people are saying, “Nonsense!” The agents seemed anxious to speak with Julia, but after peering around the upscale Land Park house a bit (for Julia?) and receiving assurance from Kirstie that Julia would be home from school in an hour, the agents agreed to return later-at least that’s what they led Kirstie to believe.

    The S.S. agents left and made a beeline directly to Julia’s school, C.K. McClatchy High School, the alma mater of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy (’54).

    In the school’s office, the S.S. agents interrogated Julia, reducing her to tears at many points. They demanded to know whether she or her parents belonged to any subversive organizations, and they often raised their voices, especially when they detected that Julia was either scared or didn’t understand their ambiguous questions.

    To the extent that the agents’ actions were calculated to deter Julia’s lawful political expression, their investigative conduct infringed upon Julia’s 1st Amendment right to free speech. It is one thing to investigate a matter, but it is quite another to use the investigative process to deter lawful political expression. In this case, there is a legitimate cause for concern about the latter.

    Jim and Kirstie’s immediate concern related to their rights as parents to be present at the school-facilitated discussion, especially since it had the potential for significant consequences for Julia. Their broader concern, however, was about the direction this country has been headed under a Republican leadership. They plan to be more politically active now.

    Similarly, Julia is now more determined than ever to organize a student anti-war group, and she is convinced that George W. Bush is the worst president ever.

    Posted by  on  10/17  at  01:39 PM
  2. I’m not a big fan of the Beats, nor always of Anne Waldman, but I like the title poem of her book Marriage: A Sentence, which starts something like this (best I recall):

    When you are married married you will hear everything in stereo stereo

    and goes on delightfully delightfully from there. Terrific poem to hear performed, as I did once, at Virginia Military Institute, where the poet stood in front of a large lurid mural depicting a Civil War battle, accompanied in her reading by a crewcutted and uniformed plebe with a saxophone. “Only connect,” shouted the scene.

    Posted by  on  10/17  at  06:42 PM
  3. Ah, I’m wrong: the poem is titled “Stereo.” Here’s a longer excerpt I found online—I don’t know where the line breaks should go, though:

    When you are married married sex sex will happen happen without delay delay. You will have a mailbox mailbox & a doorbell doorbell. Bell bell ring ring it rings rings again a double time. You do not have to answer. That’s sure for when you are married people people understand understand you do not have to answer answer a doorbell doorbell because sex sex may happen happen without delay delay.

    A little off-topic, I know—sorry. I just like the poem. I’m a sucker for cheap technical tricks.

    Posted by  on  10/17  at  06:47 PM
  4. "That’s sure for when you are married people people understand understand you do not have to answer answer a doorbell doorbell because sex sex may happen happen without delay delay.”

    I wish someone would explain this to the exterminator who comes to my place on the first Saturday morning of every god-forsaken month.

    And while they’re passing the message along him, might they also share the news with the Jehovah’s Witnesses who like to slip through the building’s security system on weekends?

    Posted by  on  10/17  at  07:05 PM
  5. Thanks thanks, Amanda!

    Posted by Michael  on  10/17  at  10:27 PM
  6. From the following (gagging cough how did i go there to read this? what is wrong with me? aaaaaaaarrrggg) post one could start nominating all of the individuals and groups that will show up as the targets of this “horo-rific” new feature----

    I have put up a new archive called Replies to Leftwing Critics for sheer self-preservation so that readers can have ready access to my responses to the relentless web-wide attacks on me by the political left, whose purpose is not to engage an intellectual argument but to eliminate me from any debate all together. These attacks are not unique to me but are the way the left normally deals with its opponents.

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  02:03 PM
  7. I just heard Anne Waldman read that poem at a friend’s wedding a little while ago. I can’t remember how it ends (hadn’t even been drinking yet either), but she pulled off the ending and made the trick pay off.

    Posted by  on  10/18  at  02:18 PM

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