Publications
Life in Calipatria Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20220831(San Diego Reader August 8, 2022)

In the infinite flatness of southern California’s Imperial Valley, an irrigated desert of cropland and skin-frying heat, lies Calipatria State Prison, a mostly maximum-security Level IV warren of cellblocks, surrounded for miles by massive ag plots: white plastic-coated storage barns of alfalfa hay; acres of livestock to which the bales are fed; fields of greenly ripe, ruler-straight commodities like sweet corn and leaf lettuce; flocks of snowy egrets that feast in those fields on lizards, snakes, and mice; and, powering some of the valley’s energy, large pitches of solar arrays on barren parcels. More widely diffused are the sun-withered towns, mottled and cracked by dust storms, where cadres of prison guards live. Not much moves in the desert other than the birds and the wind, breezing over Colorado River water rushing down the concrete ditches. And, arriving every hour, females driving families in battered Corollas who come to visit their lost loved ones.

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Pro-Life? Not Exactly. More Like Pro-Birth. Life's Something Else. Print E-mail
Articles

D6xPCS3W4AAKXgf(Times of San Diego July 5, 2022)

Those who call themselves pro-life are, to say the least, a self-deceiving lot; they’ve been convinced — from without and from within — that all fetuses should go to term and be born, no matter the consequences to the safety of the woman, the child, the family, or the planet.

I wouldn’t call these people pro-life. They’re pro-birth. Better put, they’re pawns of politicians and so-called religious leaders, dominated by white Christian men, who use the pro-birth status to enforce outdated sexual mores and to handmaid women.

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The Self, As Ensemble, The Prose, Like Jazz: On Albert Murray's "South to a Very Old Place" Print E-mail
Criticism

Amazon South AM(Metapsychosis: A Journal of Consciousness, Literature, and Art June 1, 2022)

Thanks to Greg Thomas. Warning: Explicit Content

1 /

Albert Murray’s South to a Very Old Place appeared in 1971. The book’s inventive mix of memoir, journalism, and criticism by a largely unknown Black American intellectual prompted many appraisals in major newspapers—among the most compelling, one by the Times' book critic Anatole Broyard and another by Toni Morrison. Broyard, a brilliantly incisive reviewer, was a “one-drop” Black man who passed for White; Morrison would become, her “race” aside, the finest American novelist of the twentieth century’s second half. (Yes, I know: Oates, Roth, Bellow, Updike, Baldwin, Cormac McCarthy are all in the run for the roses. But, in my Derby, Toni wins.)

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The Blues Aesthetic of Albert Murray (AWP 2022) Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

AM(Panel on Writing & Music, AWP, March 25, 2022)

The Blues Aesthetic of Albert Murray

To say that Americans in the 2020s are suffering from our tribal divisions is nothing new. But what of the divisions based in our hyphenation: African, Asian, Hispanic, Native, and the dwindling majority, white? These identities range from economic to ethnic to racial and extend further to gender and sexuality. But for each assembly there’s another category: the Other, the caste of that which your group is not. Such as Black is not White; Asian is not Native. And so on. Then there’s a third identity, which we might label trans: those who prefer an amalgam, a yesteryear phenomenon, the American. This singular cohort makes the most sense to me as a critic when I talk about the art of music and the art of writing about music

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Jackie Bryant Builds a Platform: The News Will Never Be the Same Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20220126(San Diego Reader January 26, 2022)

It’s been a couple years since City Beat, a Reader-like junior of local news, irreverent columns, and cultural coverage went silent. The rag disappeared after a cascade of events: Times Media Group in Arizona purchased the publication, fired the editor, reset the weekly to a monthly, cut an Uber-load of writers, shrunk the pages and the ad space, and eventually “paused” the enterprise as Covid roared to life. A death by many front-office cuts. Their erstwhile marijuana columnist, Jackie Bryant, known in weed world as the Cannabitch, told me that the suits who took over struck her as a lot of “visionless losers who couldn’t put out a good paper to save their lives.”

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Film Review: Procession (Netflix 2021) Print E-mail
Criticism

Procession film(The Truth Seeker January-April 2022)

Director Robert Greene took three years to make the Netflix documentary Procession, which premiered in late 2021. However, the lives of the six grown men the film charts, raped as adolescents by priests in the Kansas City Catholic diocese, have been shattered for decades. The violence and disregard done to them includes the agony of the abuse itself and the humiliation they endured after the scandal broke in 2011. By my count, the six were attacked and injured three times: by a priest known to their families, by the church and its coverup, and by the lack of prosecution, which, as a third crime, aids and abets the first two. Indeed, either by death or a financial settlement, a couple dozen pedophiles dodged justice; that also goes for their Catholic overlords who declined to be interviewed for the film. With epic ambition, Procession documents the psychological toll on six middle-aged men as well as adopts an experimental form to render the abuse’s stark effects. It dares to present their stories in conflictual terms: an artistic primal scream of a feature film amid the therapeutic reenactments of the men’s irreversible shame.

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Review: Seeing MAD: Essays on Mad Magazine's Humor and Legacy Print E-mail
Criticism

713ov6iagDL(Another Chicago Magazine October 26, 2021)

In 1966, I was a junior at St. Louis’s Kirkwood High. After the teachers let us monkeys out at 2:50, I lazed about, often trekking to a friend’s home to talk antiwar politics or Salinger stories. I was a serious kid, some days lying on one of the twin beds in Ken Klotz’s room (his unlucky brother off in Vietnam) where we were hypnotized by Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde and the literary dazzle of “Visions of Johanna”: “The ghost of electricity howls from the bones of her face.” But then some days I needed a break.

I got one hanging out with Clay Benton. Clay, a wunderkind with a reel-to-reel tape machine, recorded parodies of Superman—the Caped Crusader of comic book, radio drama, TV show. His sendup was Space-O-Ace Man, a half-doofus, half-hippie hero who also flew in to fight crime but whose dorky moves ruined everything. After he and I roughed up a script, we’d record a show with daffy voices and sound effects. We mimicked a big-bosomed girl Clay and I salivated over in class, who needed rescuing. We shielded her from Ming the Merciless with our own bodies in response to her cries of Help!

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