Posted in Almost Dorothy, Culture Clash

Ma & I Raised $957 for Florida AIDS Walk

It’s true. Ma and I raised $957 for Florida AIDS Walk 2012. We didn’t win a certificate of authenticity though, but we don’t mind, because we are already as authentic as Barbie & Ken. When we were at the walk, the guy on stage said that for every $1,000 raised 10 people could be tested for HIV for free. Ma clapped her hands and jumped up and down like that crazy puppet in that Sia song: “Clap Your Hands”.

Ma clapped her hands until the woman next to us wearing a propeller hat told her to calm down.

Photo by Neil de la Flor
Photo by Neil de la Flor

That’s not a woman, I told ma. But she didn’t care. I don’t discriminate, ma said, so she took the propeller hat then propelled the woman about 7 feet before the police came and told ma to settle down. Ma did settle down and apologized for her instability. It’s a charity, the policeman said. No need to kick ass today.

Photo by Neil de la Flor
Photo by Neil de la Flor

After the incident with the cops, ma decided to join the South Florida Boys of Leather. Even though ma wore spandex to the walk, the Boys of Leather welcomed her with open arms. She got bored then decided to hang out with the rabbi from Temple Beth El of Hollywood. She kept asking the rabbi for Beth, but he didn’t understand what she was talking about so he suggested she seek psychotherapy and stay out of the sun. Beth must be popular, ma said. She is, I told her. She is.

Photo by Neil de la Flor
Photo by Neil de la Flor

I told ma to chill because we already kicked some ass by raising so much money in just a few days. Let’s go to Paris now, ma said. I had to explain to ma that the money we raised wasn’t for us. It was for the foundations that provide healthcare services, educational support, love and peace of mind for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS regardless of their ability to pay. Ma looked disappointed, but that’s just her funny face all screwed up and sideways.

Photo by Neil de la Flor
Photo by Neil de la Flor

Anyway, we walked 5 kilometers and ma couldn’t help but think of Johnnie Walker. I’m so thirsty, she said over and over again until someone gave her a Sprite.We ran into some friends, but no one got hurt. I thought ma’s makeup was a bit too much, however the bullhorn blended well with her big mouth and ruby red forehead gem. You look fantastic, ma, I told her just so she wouldn’t feel too self-unconscious.

Photo by Neil de la Flor
Photo by Neil de la Flor

After the walk, we got some beers and celebrated our victory over indifference. It’s been a long time since we’ve been fighting this battle with HIV/AIDS and it seems like a never ending battle, but just like the Never Ending Story everything comes to an end. In real life, that end is just something we have to work hard for because the solution to the problems that inhabit our lives won’t fix themselves. Ma and I helped a little toward that final fix. When it happens, who knows? But it will. So, we celebrated life and the love that each person at the walk represented. We celebrated Jesus and the way he inspires us to be more like him instead of the pope. We celebrated the weather and the meatball food truck. We even celebrated the Port-a-Potties which saved ma from wetting herself. Again.Just as we were about the cross the finish line.

You can still make a difference here.

Posted in Almost Dorothy

Mostly A Super Plastic Model Barbie Girl/Boy

Image

This is what I look like when I’m mostly beautiful and stunning. Mostly human and humming. Mostly blue-eyed and eyelashed out to there. Mostly smooth skin with just a few chin scuffs. Mostly in my blue head thing with dangling beads that I whiplash. Mostly human and plastic. Mostly aware of the world around me which is me mostly aware of everything but me. Mostly interested in little red cars from the 1960s and fingernail polish. Mostly not Polish. Mostly ready for the pink ass hot air balloon to sweep me away from the laws of nature or New Hampshire. Mostly afraid of shires full of newness and meadows. Mostly I’m tired of most things, especially eggs, and the way the human race treats the animal race. Mostly afraid of the Easter egg hunt and the resurrection of Christ. Mostly afraid of mass and communion. Mostly afraid of mass communication and munchkins. Mostly I’m a replica of Annie Lennox and I’m mostly just a head, a bust, missing a body. Mostly missing my body. The body of my memory of language. This memory mostly holds my head up. Mostly high. Most days. It’s in my most memorable blue feather headdress.

Posted in Almost Dorothy

Aperture or Heaven

Almost Dorothy? | Photo by Neil de la Flor

Ma found this photograph in the oven. She never cooks so she thought it would be a safe place to place her treasured memories like the photograph she took of us with her time lapse camera.

Ma found us to be separate, yet distinct, misshapen and disheveled devil-dogs.  I had to pee, and Ma had to do #2, but we stuck it out till the camera snapped then we raced to the bathroom. You can tell by my height that I let ma win. She always wants to be the winner. I always want her to wind or win.

Ma found this quote on the Internet:

“The world—whatever we might think when terrified by its vastness and our own impotence, or embittered by its indifference to individual suffering, of people, animals, and perhaps even plants, for why are we so sure that plants feel no pain; whatever we might think of its expanses pierced by the rays of stars surrounded by planets we’ve just begun to discover, planets already dead? still dead?…whatever we might think of this measureless theater to which we’ve got reserved tickets, but tickets whose lifespan is laughably short, bounded as it is by two arbitrary dates; whatever else we might think of this world–it is astonishing.” -Wislawa Zymborska

Ma found Wise-lawa to be an extraterrestrial.

Ma found herself without tickets to the theater.

Ma found a way to climb into the theater without detection or tickets.

Ma found my shoulders to be made of steel and just the right height to leap from and break into unmentionable places like palaces and other astonishing worlds like Whole Foods and AMC.

Ma found a small world inside her bra and offered it to me like it was a real world with real plants and animals.

Humans, ma finds, are an astonishing mess of a race.

Ma found a vast expanse of tundra painted purple and pink and orange peel orange by the loyal sun on this world.

Ma found a cute house in my bedroom to put into this world. She found Barbie a suitable replacement.

Ma found an arbitrary date to move us into this world thinking that this world would save us from the incessant blah blah blah of crickets.

Ma found a camera with an aperture that reveals the origin of poetry.

Ma found my face in front of that aperture, the opening aimed at a world she could not understand or fathom. I am too tall.

Ma found release releasing the trigger and now we have a photograph of the kitchen trash hanging above the trash.

Whatever you think of my world, ma said, I always aimed for heaven.

Posted in Glit Lit

On Mandelbrot, Metaphor, and Measuring: Poets Do Math

Wing Tip Vortex in Colored Smoke

When those well-meaning but control-freakish Sisters of St. Joseph forced me to take college math in high school instead of the Spanish they’d (finally) introduced into the curriculum (if not for me, then who?), I copped a resentment that made me choose a college without any math requirement at all and shut down my left brain in solidarity with Teen Talk Barbie (“Math class is tough!”)—a monster resentment that lasted until 1992.

That’s when I discovered pi.

Anything radical, irrational, transcendental, or infinite grabbed me, and I joined the nerdy millions intrigued by pi and set off on a new math quest, a tangled path of paradoxes, dimensions, synchronicities, and fairies (I made up that last one, but, really, who knows for sure?). Math got entwined with physics—fun!—then circled back to Golden Ratios and Fibonacci, and, finally, to Benoît Mandelbrot (1924-2010). That’s when I completely lost it.

The most famous fractal of them all, the Mandelbrot set, in 2D

Fractals, in whatever world—natural or virtual–look nothing like the shapes I studied in school (Euclid’s). They’re coastlines, snowflakes, the inside of a nautilus shell, the human pulmonary system

and the city of Santa Fe, where I get lost every time I go because it’s not on a grid:

Fractals grow spirally bigger (trees) and smaller (cauliflowerets), they look like themselves as they divide, and they’re everywhere. (Your finger is a little duplicate of your arm!) A poet could go crazy around fractals because, one, they’re gorgeous; two, they’re fragmented and irregular (just like some of my favorite poets, I mean poems); and, three, the mind games! (You can actually zoom into and out of a computer image of a fractal for as long as the mathematician and/or artist who computed it has had the time and stamina.)

Thus I gave over to the psychosis of mathematics because it teased my brain to metaphor. Equations are metaphors, after all. Pretty too.

I don’t actually do math. Mostly, I apply ideas in that way that makes practicing mathematicians cringe. I did manage to impress a couple of calculus guys in Minneapolis once who told me my lyric rendition of “The Seven Undefined Mathematical Expressions” was elegant if apocryphal. Then they patted me on the head.

It’s the way poetry humanizes the questions that intrigues me: all the infinitesimals of history, science, mathematics, sex, even love.

The task today, in both poetry and science, is the measure of measure. (Stephanie Strickland)

There’s a multitude of poets who have succumbed to the power and project of measuring. In addition to Strickland (Zone : Zero), we’ve got Alice Fulton (Sensual Math), Josie Kearns (New Numbers), and Timothy Green (American Fractal), just to name a few contemporaries and their mathematical predilections. Plus the brilliant hybridists Italo Calvino and Jorges Luis Borges, who were always playing with space and time. And Whitman and Neruda and Amichai. So many busy measuring.

Counting What the Cactus Contains

by Pattiann Rogers

Elf owl, cactus wren, fruit flies incubating
In the only womb they’ll ever recognize.
Shadow for the sand rat, spines
And barbary ribs clenched with green wax.
Seven thousand thorns, each a water slide,
A wooden tongue licking the air dry.

Inside, early morning mist captured intact,
The taste of drizzle sucked
And sunsplit. Whistle
Of the red-tailed hawk at midnight, rush
Of the leaf-nosed bat, the soft slip
Of fog easing through sand held in tandem.

Counting, the vertigo of its attitudes
Across the evening; in the wood of its latticed bones—
The eye sockets of every saint of thirst;
In the gullet of each night-blooming flower–the crucifix
Of the arid.

In its core, a monastery of cells, a brotherhood
Of electrons, a column of expanding darkness
Where matter migrates and sparks whorl,
And travel has no direction, where distance
Bends backward over itself and the ascension
Of Venus, the stability of Polaris, are crucial.

The cactus, containing
Whatever can be said to be there,
Plus the measurable tremble of its association
With all those who have been counting.

                   (From Firekeeper: New and Selected Poems, Milkweed Editions, 1994)

Truth be told, poets do math happily, imperfectly, elegantly, profoundly—

each stone      I carve…      (I) convolve
with mathematical ideas…      the form

                                              that no one
                         has ever felt

                   (From Stephanie Strickland’s digital poem, “slippingglimpse” http://slippingglimpse.org)–

and often with great wit:

Math for Dummies

by Nancy Carol Moody

1. Calculating your way to good health

A bag of ridge-cut, salt & pepper potato chips contains 16 servings. One serving contains 4% of your body’s daily iron needs. If you eat 25 servings (approximately = to 1 & 1/2 bags + 7 medium-sized chips), you will have consumed your RDA of iron.

2. How to obtain a free television

Let’s say you’ve had your eye on a certain pair of shoes in the department store. The shoes cost $100. One day you decide to treat yourself to the shoes, but when you go to the store to purchase them, you find they’ve gone on sale for half price. As you had already decided to purchase the shoes before you even entered the store, you had effectively already spent the $100. Instead you pay $50. The fifty dollars that remain is free money. If you can make the commitment to purchase everything you have been contemplating, you will soon have saved enough money for a free television.

3. Supersizing The Last Supper

As rendered in paintings from the past 1,000 years, the size of the main course of that famous meal has increased 69% when viewed in proportion to the size of the human head in the same paintings. If the median weight of Jesus and each of the disciples is 162 pounds, then the total poundage of those holy men today would approximately equal the weight of one Honda Element, gas tank on empty.

X. Now try one yourself for extra credit points:

A killer whale weighing x pounds is performing tricks in a tank which contains one blonde, wet-suited trainer and y gallons of artificially-churned, chemically-managed sea water. If the whale earns z fish for each activity he performs correctly, how many mindless circuits must the whale make around the tank before he yanks the trainer by the ponytail and hauls her into the water, holding her beneath the surface until the bubbles stop?

                   By Nancy Carol Moody. http://nancycarolmoody.com/default.aspx
(First published in Pank, May, 2011. http://www.pankmagazine.com/math-for-dummies/)

It is impossible to be a mathematician without being a poet in soul.—Sofia Kovalevskaya

_________________________
Further Math Questing:

0. Teen Talk Barbie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NO0cvqT1tAE
1. “Pi Pages” (9999 digits of Pi recited in seventeen languages, and in morse code, Dr.
Seuss, and harpsichord): http://oldweb.cecm.sfu.ca/pi/pi.html
1. Scene from Pi, 1998 film by Darren Aronofsky: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFmWhwyA0NU&feature=related
2. Another Mandelbrot zoom by Jonathan Wolfe at the Fractal Foundation, New Mexico:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpOzXD3KF78&feature=related
3. Sacred Geometry with Charles Gilchrist: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZvGbjeUymo&feature=related
5. Stephanie Strickland on hypertext (Electronic Book Review, 1998):
http://www.altx.com/ebr/ebr7/7strick/2talk.html
8. Everything is a Number (Wszystko jest liczbą), 1967 short film by Stefan Schabenbeck: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qrWnS3ULPk
13. Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics by Sarah Glaz and JoAnne Growney (AK Peters, Ltd, 2008): http://downloads.akpeters.com/product.asp?ProdCode=3417

–Maureen Seaton, 6/8/11