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Monday, July 09, 2007

If it's not one SNAFU, it's another

Or, why I love San Francisco #697

So tonight, after work, I went to my favorite cafe to work on the novel. I'm behind on my schedule, so I really needed to kick some butt. But it wasn't to be -- tonight was open mic poetry.

Confession: Though I can't write it, I love good poetry. No, not the traditional stuff -- the controlled imagery and rhythmic turn of phase -- but Slam and avante garde poetry, which, when does right, is as elegant with the language as the rest of them. Except, it has an edge, and a sense of immediacy, and packs an emotional wallop all its own. Of course, like all poetry, when slam is bad, it's very, very bad...

Which brings us back to It's a Grind! (My current favorite cafe -- on Polk Street). So I got my soy latte (one out of every four or five are milk lattes, this one wasn't ), and found a seat. A little more crowded than usual, especially for a Monday night, but I eventually parked my butt. The show was part open mic and part invited guests (who were treated with reverence while the sign-ups were shuffled on and off the stage -- oops!).

So how was it? In a word: awful! Oh sure, there were flashes of goodnness throughout the evening, but they were pummeled into submission by layers of cliches and lots of hubris on the part of some of the poets. Go ahead, call me a sour puss, but as much as I LOVE the energy and creative spirit of the participants, bad poetry is like bad comedy: unredeemable. Which doesn't mean the next one they hold won't be freaking special -- that's how these things go, creative feast or famine. So I won't write them off. Not yet, anyway.

After it was all over, there was still an hour before the cafe closed, so I tried to get some work done. But no such luck. They had effectively stomped my muse into submission, spit in her face, and called her out for the freak that she is. Sigh. She may never be the same.

So now for the point of this meander. After leaving the cafe I stopped at Bill's Donuts to drown my sorrows in a greasy (though freshly baked -- it's a 24-hour joint) donut and a half-assed cup of coffee (like I needed more). While there, I picked up a copy of The Examiner and read the cover story on our long overdue Citywide Wi-Fi!

When Mayor Newson won the mayoral race, one of his earliest proclamation was that he wanted to implement a democratizing wi-fi network across the city. In fairly short order (well, as politics go), a deal was hashed out with Google (free for all, advertising support, but slow) and Earthlink ($20, no ads, and fast). Trouble was, 2 years later, they're still trying to make it happen. It's been mired in politics because, you know, it's San Francisco. Anyway, there's a new vote coming up that may clear a hurdle or two...but there's a group that still wants a further study to be done before we make the plunge: SNAFU.

Okay, despite the military sounding connection, this is more like a group of flat-earthers, trying their damndest to keep that monkey out of space. See, this SNAFU stands for "San Francisco Neighborhood Antenna-Free Union".

I am so not making that up!

It turns out that they want a study done on the ecological impact of adding over 2,000 antennas to San Franciso. Okay, I'm with 'em on that. It probably 'should' be done. But how can you take them seriously when they've chosen such a silly name?

Ah well, what can I say, there's no place like home...


Charles Gramlich said...

Lol on the SNAFU. yeah, that name reeks just a bit.

Clifford said...

Yeah, I was reading the article pretty closely until they mentioned that group -- I laughed out loud. Makes it hard to continue the "discussion" seriously. That said, we probably do have enough radio waves buzzing through us to, oh I don't know, power a pacemaker? Wouldn't that be cool if we could harness all these waves and repurpose them!

Carlos Ferrão said...

So you go to the coffee shop to write a novel on your funky tablet pc while listening to poetry? All this in SF? You're like the epitome of cool, Sir!

Clifford said...


If you knew me better, you'd know how preposterous your statement is (: There's not a cool bone in my body...but, my tablet PC is pretty damn cool!

Thomas M. Sipos said...

I know I'm a Luddite in many ways. Here's another of my Luddite views: If it doesn't rhyme, it's not poetry. It's just talking.

Edgar Allan Poe. Now that's poetry.

Clifford said...


I wont begrude you your rhymes! And bringing up Poe -- no fair!

But rhythm and cadence, for me, create just as powerful a hook, and in the end, arent as slavishly bound, rarely, if ever, feeling forced.

Also, there's plenty of rhyming stuff in slam and other alternative styles...

Thomas M. Sipos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thomas M. Sipos said...

There's some poetry that just sounds like rambling. No rhyme, rhythm, nothing.

I'll never forget one by the much-celebrated Richard Braughtigan (spelling?), who eventually committed suicide. I bought one of his books, remaindered, many years ago, simply as an example of really bad poetry.

Here's one poem I'll never forget, entitled "Betty Makes Wonderful Waffles."


Betty Makes Wonderful Waffles

Everyone agrees to that.


That's it. That's a poem?

It's like abstract art. I'm both envious and outraged that people make money doing something that I can just as easily do. But if I was to write a comparable poem:


Cliff Has A Nice Cat

It has stripes.


Could I get paid for that?

Yet some poets do. Just as some painters get paid for a few splashes of color.

I don't get it.

Clifford said...

My cat's stripes are really faint -- not the first thing you notice. So I'm pondering the larger significance of that poem...

As for getting paid for stuff like that, um, not so much. Unless you consider 23.5 cents payment!

Okay, I get where you're coming from. But the stuff I like, is never rambly...it's purposeful and direct and hard-hitting. Often, much more concrete in it's imagery. I think imagery that's clear is often so much more satisfying than the more abstract stuff.

Next time you're in the city, we'll have to scout out some slam so you can see what I'm talking about!


I'll have to check.

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This is me and one of my two cats. His name is Cougar, and he’s an F1 Chausie. A chausie is a new breed of cat under development. Chausies are the result of a cross between a domestic cat (in Cougar’s case, a Bengal) and a jungle cat (Felis Chaus). Cougar’s mom is 8 pounds and his father is a 30-pound jungle cat. He’s about 16 pounds, super intelligent, spirited, and toilet trained. A writer without a cat (or two) is not to be trusted.