Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Packingtown Review: Official Call for Submissions

Dear Writers and Scholars:

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) journal Packingtown Review invites submissions for its inaugural print issue to be released in November 2008. We welcome submissions of scholarly articles, poetry, prose, drama, and literary translation, as well as genre-bending pieces. We also publish reviews, interviews, and cultural commentary dealing with literature, performance, art, music, pop culture, etc. Submissions guidelines are available at http://www.packingtownreview.com/submit.

We are open to all approaches to writing, from the highly experimental to the traditional, by both emerging and established international and U.S. authors. With our inclusive editorial policy, we aim to not only reach a broad audience, but also provide an ever-evolving environment where exceptional texts of all kinds will challenge and bolster one another. Packingtown Review is edited by literature and creative writing Ph.D. candidates at UIC. It will be issued biannually.

If you are interested in collaborating with us now or at a later date, please bookmark packingtownreview.com. We will be rigorously updating our online content.

Snezana Zabic, editor-in-chief
Tasha Fouts, editor-in-chief

Packingtown Review
English Department
UH 2027 MC 162
University of Illinois at Chicago
601 S Morgan
Chicago, IL 60607

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Stuff Bob Rock (Nick) and I Say...

...while playing online Scrabble.


Nick: imagine if they played board games in all those Bond movies instead of poker....

me: what would happen?

Nick: Bond-- Looks like you've landed on my bordwalk after I just put hotels on it. Maxamillion Largo-- Damn you Bond! I should have never let you be the banker!

* * *
me: the current shape on the board looks like a swastika melting. we're defeating the nazis as we're playing.

* * *
me: i just tried the word “moxine”. they say: invalid. i say: it's a buzz word i just coined.

Nick: so it acknowledges that it’s a real word but won't accept it.
I demand to speak to the manager!

* * *
Nick: they are talking about the fad paul started. paul McCartney put some song out and in it he nods and now everyone is nodding.

me: so now every time i nod, it's cause i'm copying sir paul?

Nick: see! see what a douche bag he is! trying to coin nodding!

me: fantastic. it's cause bob (dylan) has already claimed the 60s, so what's left for sir paul?

Nick: and so BOB (rock) will claim this decade or possibly a large chunk of the next with the last three years of this one

me: i'll claim foot-tapping. cause shakira snatched the hip-shaking.

* * *
me: ugly betty--not good at all. moralistic.

Nick: ugly betty?? I like spinach.

me: i figured, salma produced it, she produced frida, maybe it's good. did dumping edward and marrying an old dude mess up her standards?

Nick: I like it in soups and salads and inside of food. he’s actually only 4 years her senior.

me: oh.

Nick: didn't realize I like spinach so much. sometimes I shut my eyes and wish it was in more food.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


I am now editing a journal. So far we have a website, but it will be a print journal come November 2008: Packingtown Review.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Went to Suzanne Vega's Show Yesterday

Twenty or more years ago, I felt that a twelve-year-old girl could choose only one of the two biggest female pop stars of that moment to look up to: either Madonna or Suzanne Vega. In my mind, one canceled the other out. I wonder what kind of a 33-year-old I would have become had I chosen Madonna at that particular junction. I'm sure I would have been fine, but I probably wouldn't have become exactly as I am now, and I like what I'm like.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Protest Poetry

I'm sensing that, as both the brutality of the endless war and people's sense of powerlessness increase, the dissent that falls on deaf ears in the political arena finds its way into art. Case in point: two excellent recent poems in two different periodicals. "Pan" by Stuart Dybek and "Driving Home" by Charles Simic. If you read the poems, let me know what you think.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lewis Black on Emmys

I didn't watch the whole award show, but I did catch Lewis Black's routine. He cleverly couched his most radical statements in some less subversive comments, and censors obviously didn't realize that, they let him do his thing. I hear that they did bleep Sally Field (on Fox?) for her anti-war comments during her acceptance speech. Anybody has more details and perhaps a clip of Lewis' performance?

Saturday, September 15, 2007


I recently watched Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke" on DVD, and then, masochistically, I went to the theater to see another post-Katrina documentary, called "Kamp Katrina." The first one is four hours of "what, when, who" and especially relentlessly "how and why" with numerous oral histories of ordinary people, experts, officials, celebrities. "Kamp Katrina" features none of the fore-mentioned categories of people. Instead, it's all about extraordinaries, starting from Ms. Pearl, a woman of many costumes, who sets up a camp for the homeless Katrina survivors in her backyard, fourteen of them at one point. The survivors are what Jon Dee Graham would describe as strugglers: seriously down-on-their-luck (even pre-Katrina) sufferers of addictions, mental illnesses, abusers and the abused... Later on, on the bus back to my place, the catalog of strugglers continued, this time up close: the beyond-tired proletariat in dirty work clothes filled up the seats, and the bus ride ended up with a monologue of a very troubled young guy straight out of Cook county jail, not wearing a shirt really, putting the laces back into his shoes while complaining about not having a girlfriend and being depressed.

Macedonian Splendor

While in Cleveland last month, I read "Macedonia: What does it take to stop a war," a recent comic book by Cleveland's own Harvey Pekar. He co-wrote it with Heather Roberson, and Ed Piskor drew it. Unlike "American Splendor," it's not about Harvey. It's about this Berkeley peace studies student who goes to Macedonia to study peace. More precisely, Heather goes to Macedonia to collect evidence to support her thesis that war is not only not unpreventable, but that conflicted parties avoid wars all the time around the world. It's just that peace is not photogenic, while wars and genocides make the headlines. Which reminds me of an old Top Lista Nadealista (Bosnian Monty Python) fake-news skit in which breaking news is: "this just in: peace keeps breaking out all over Yugoslavia!" And the skit was funny and sad because it was filmed as armed conflicts were breaking out and Yugoslavia was sinking into horror. But, at the same time, the southernmost part of Yugoslavia, known as Macedonia, stayed peaceful, though rife with ethnically-based conflicts, which did escalate in 2001, but nevertheless the country has always managed to keep all-out war at bay.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Pilsen, Chicago

Last night, after surviving a hot day, I took a nice and paced bike ride around the neighborhood. It was past midnight and still very warm, but there was a comforting breeze. Almost no one was outside anymore. I passed by several landmarks built by the Czechs, when they were the majority in the 'hood, and that inspired me to blog again. Since there are many such landmarks, and I'm aware of five, this won't be an extremely brief entry.

Thalia Hall on 18th and Allport used to be a theater with apartments upstairs. Now the downstairs is empty, no one is using it, but there are apartments or condos above. The building really stands out, I believe it's Neo-Classicist, but it doesn't look like the severe American Neo-Classicism (like in DC) to me, it's more flowery than that. Architecturally illiterate as I am, I'll refrain from any other remarks.

Dvorak park (roughly Cullerton and May) was named after the Czech classical hit-maker Antonin Dvorak. It's a beautiful little park, it even has two swimming pools, one for adults, one for kids, but no lifeguard, so the pools are not open to the public. So, basically, both of these landmarks--Dvorak Park and Thalia Hall--are half-languishing. Couldn't the well-to-do people moving into the 'hood, along with the local community leaders etc., do something to finance the full revival of these public facilities? I'll keep dreaming.

St. Procopuis church, Allport and 18th, now has service in Spanish and English, while their web site says: "Welcome! - ¡Bienvenidos! - Dobro došli!" I'm guessing they believe that the latter greeting is in Czech (they talk about the Czechs building and initially congregating in the church), but of course it should be vitame vas! Dobro dosli is in Bosnian/Croatia/Montengrin/Serbian. Anyway, St. Procopius also runs a nearby elementary school on Allport, another old building that has a stone plaque in Czech: Nechte maličkých přijít ke mně, or Let the little ones come to me. Google says it's a quote from Jesus.

Another elementary school, only public, Perez School (19th and Allport) used to be Komensky School, which is what the stone plaque still says. Jan Komensky was a Czech and European renaissance education reformer. If I remember correctly from my undergrad studies, the guy wrote the first ever illustrated Latin textbook, aimed at teaching Latin not through endless memorization, dictation, and physical punishment, but through gradual acquisition of vocabulary, comprehension, grammar, etc. He did for education what Gelilei did for science, or Descartes for philosophy.

All of those landmarks can be found in a rectangle of four by three blocks. Czechs have never been a numerous population anywhere, but from the late 18th century all the way to the end of WWI, when they finally got their nation-state (together with the Slovaks, of course) they went through a huge national revival that obviously had strong ripple effects in the diaspora. And the Midwest was a favorite destination. Voila Pilsen.

Monday, July 30, 2007

John Doe Live

On 7/15, I saw John Doe at a place called Abbey's Pub. Often times you tolerate the voice of a singer-songwriter if the songs are good. Other times, I suppose, you tolerate a so-so song if the singer is really good. But John Doe just delivers and delivers. He is a kind of a crooner, but without any slickness of course. His voice is not _meant_ to be seductive or sexy, it's simply his natural, unaffected voice, and in fact it's a very convincing vehicle for the sad and/or angry songs that he writes (often with a sense of humor), but that's why it's seductive all the more. In his lyrics, he handles the subtleties, sounds, and ambiguities of language in a way that pushes the limits of a rock/country/blues/whatever song format without ever exploding it. His whole approach seems to me like a perfect combo of respect for and irreverence of (music) tradition.

Sonic Youth Daydream Nation

On Friday the 13th of this July, I saw Sonic Youth perform their 1987 album Daydream Nation in its entirety at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago's Union Park. I know the album by heart, which came in handy when it turned out that the sound was bad (muted, low), so I was able to fill in, from memory, the stuff that didn't reach me from the stage. I soon forgot that the sound was bad: they performed with much nerve, muscle, tendon, cardiovascular system, etc. I danced and sang, and afterward, as I rode my bicycle back home, propelled by the music-induced adrenalin, I still sang the songs along the emptied streets on my route--Ashland, Jackson, Halsted, 18th.

Monday, July 9, 2007

For Those Who Understand Nashki



Autor bloga: moj cale.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

My other blog

Please check out my other blog: http://rengawriting.blogspot.com/, where I just completed a collaboration on the second renga (Japanese linked verse).

Friday, March 30, 2007

Jon Dee Graham...

...is a veteran singer songwriter (but new to me) from Austin, TX, whom I saw live for the first time last night in Cleveland, OH. He sang many of his songs with a self-deprecating attitude, nothing-is-sacred-to-me attitude in fact, which is how I like it. His voice has grown very gravelly over the past thirty years he's been whoring around, but it suits the combination of cynicism and melancholy in his songs. One of the new songs he played is about a guy who is sent to a rehab or prison, where he meets "junkies and strugglers," and remembers how Neil Young got it all wrong in "Needle and the Damage Done," and concludes he's/they're "not beautifully broken, just broken, that's all." The song resembles the 1996 "Something Broken in the Promised Land" by Wayne Kramer so much--not just music, but the key word "broken" and the reference to the same N.Y. song--that it cannot be a coincidence. Kramer's song is about how fucked up things were/are in the U.S., and Graham complains specifically about our tendency to romanticize "junkies and strugglers" (all the while marginalizing, incarcerating them, etc.) On the other hand, Graham didn't indicate where his inspiration for the song came from. Should I care? I love both the songs.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


I've been hearing on NPR that one of those shows I really dislike on that radio, This American Life, will become a TV show. Now I'm seeing in my entertainment gossip online news that the show has begun airing on one of the TV stations. The TAL episodes that I've heard on the radio all are formulaic, a bit quirky, always a bit or plenty sad, always leading to some little epiphany. They never ever manage to do anything for me, perhaps because they're so emotionally manipulative. Yet it seems I am one of the few people with a distaste for Ira Glass, TAL, and pretty much all the people on it. If anyone is reading this post, what are your thoughts?

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Protest against something

I took these two pictures (stitched together in PhotoStudio) from the bus I was riding to school today. I don't know what the protest was about. The red sign is saying "all religions believe in justice." The protest took place at Blue Island and 14th, next to Testa Produce (wholesale produce I guess), in this area between new developments and old projects, the area full of empty lots, wire fences, dilapidated buildings, old warehouses being turned into condos, etc. A strange place for a protest of any kind. One thing is for sure, it was not related to the International Day of Women, which is today.

My digital camera, by the way, cost 10 bucks, it's the size of a matchbox, and it doesn't have that thing through which you look in order to frame whatever you're trying to photograph. That's next to trying to take a pic blindfolded. So the pics, taken from a moving bus (it was moving slowly, granted) are fucking great.

Carl Andre, the political poet

Most people know Carl Andre as a "minimalist" sculptor. Just type his name in Google Images, and you'll see many pics of his sculptures. At Gallery 400, cultural historian Liz Kotz talked today about Andre's poetry collected in four unpublished manuscripts: "The Theory of Poetry," "One Hundred Sonnets," "Shape and Structure," "Lyrics and Odes," and "American Drill." Kotz's argument aims to: "show how Andre used strategies of removal, isolation and fragmentation to reveal what he saw as the “textual unconscious” of American genocide. (...)Andre’s most substantial series of poems of the 1960s concerned “King Philips War” – a series of battles that took place in 1675-1676 in Massachusetts, whose outcome was devastating to the traditional way of life of the native peoples of New England." He used a standard typewriter to type up his poems, and so the size and shape of the paper, of the letters, the inconsistent typewriter ribbon (so the letters are sometimes sharp and sometimes faint) all play into what the poem will look like on the page. He worked pretty much exclusively with found text (whether he found words in the dictionary, or in sentences in books). The result is that the poems look like his sculptures, but the best ones also make statements about war, genocide, racism, historical amnesia, what have you.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Juliana Spahr at UIC

Juliana Spahr has three poetry books out: Response, Fuck You Aloha I Love You, and This Connection of Everyone with Lungs. Some memorable off-the-cuff comments she made during her conversation with UIC grad students and faculty (English Dept): "I actually kind of like writing." "Some people call what I write poetry. I call it sentences." Her upcoming book is mixed- genre, and it's called the Transformation. She said the book is "two hundred pages of anxiety." Here's a link to an excerpt from it: http://www.trout.auckland.ac.nz/journal/13/13_49.html.

Hej rup!

Back in 1934, Jiri Voskovec and Jan Werich starred in "Hej rup!", which they co-wrote with Vaclav Wasserman and Martin Fric; the latter directed it. It's a comedy with lots of music, slapstick, and working class empowerment. Facets.org sum it up, "the plot concerns an industrialist and labor organizer working together to create their own socialist nirvana," but really what the duo does is organize a milk-and-dairy-manufacturing co-op, and they successfully compete with the large corporations on the capitalist market. Moreover, there is a whole scene where they mock the Soviets, or state socialism by implication, just as they mock corrupt capitalism. Czech satire at its best!