Fill That Page

New song, 3/8/2011:

Fill That Page

Got my hermit permit
got my keyboard stance
got my pen and paper
got my great big chance

got my rhythm method
got to fight stage fright
got my big deadline
got my show to write

So suck it, everything else
Just me and words in the world
Just pen to the paper now
and filling the page
the great blank page

fill that page
write that show
fill that great blank page
fill that great blank page

got my courier new
got my size twelve font
got my capslock lyrics
got my own “I want”

got my lonely days
got more sleepless nights
got my carpal tunnel
got my name in lights

So suck it, everything else
Only music and me in the world
Just fingers on keyboard now
and filling the stage
the great blank stage

fill that stage
make that show
fill that great blank stage
fill that great blank stage

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On an installation in the Milwaukee Art Museum

The room a little ventricle on the second floor, tucked away. Cut
with a surgeon’s precision, a sudden dark
corner of a museum of lapping light and mute waves.

There, the open heart
beats on film. A red bed is
parked like a gurney.

The sound is of scalpels escaping
their antiseptic sheathes, and a doctor
asking garble garble as the tape
is played back and forth and forth
and back, and back, and always, the heart

beating
faster, slower, slower, faster,
slower, slower, slow,
slow,
so slow
now it will surely stop.

Then:
Faster, faster,
faster and frantic, faster, steady, faster
and a firebird, rising up from the bed into the dark canopied ceilings
to scream: “I
am.”

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aunt marion

i saw her in a play
she was the best one
she answered the telephone
in a funny way
and i laughed

marion

red hair vibrant aunt
she danced to walk
and ever laughed and talked
and she listened
and i loved her

rest well, dear friend

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Turtle, Chapter One

Totes Animal Besties!

First day I saw a Conch was the first day I fell in love.

I was working at the water tower. It was my job to catch water. A ship does not last long at sea without it.

It was raining, just a little.

Jeni’s head popped over the lip of the ladder. She was wearing her red and black bandana.

I was directing a few minor elemental spirits as they stole water from the clouds and filled the tower with it. You know, standard stuff.

I looked up at her and I was stunned.

Thankfully I recovered before she looked at me.

“Look what I got out of the loot,” she said.

Two brand new Conches. Wow.

“One is for me and one is for you,” she said.

“There are like a thousand of these in the world right now,” I said.

“I know,” she said, “Enjoy.”

“So there was another raid?” I asked.

“Of course,” she said, “The ship can’t sustain itself. Until we get a full food and water system running we need to suplement.”

“Is that what your mom said,” I asked.

She rolled her eyes at me.

“Something like that, yeah,” she said.

“Let’s open them,” I said.

I chained the spirits ethereally and stepped out of the pentagram. Jeni put the Conches on the table. We sat down on those little wooden lab stools I used to have.

They were strange devices: flat, no visible markings, no buttons.

“What are these worth, like one million in magical components alone,” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said, “And no one else on this ship does either, so keep your damn mouth shut about that, and some pirate won’t take it from you.”

Then she turned it on.

Up leapt dragons and unicorns, aswirl around us in pink and blue.

And that was just the opening animation.

We were hooked.

I had a picture of dragons and unicorns, but I like this one of a pig and a dog better.

You could call anyone. Anyone at all in the world. And since only wizards and rich people had them, everyone would answer.

I called the head of Wizardry at Montsalon. Montsalon!

He talked to me for an hour about a spell I was working on. Just because he wanted to try out the Conch. That’s how I learned to summon storm demons.

Jeni called the head of the Ytl Navy and told them where our ship was. That wasn’t wise. It made me a bit nervous. There are warrants out for my arrest in Ytl. Hers too.

And, then, the topper.

We called the King of Belandia.

And he answered.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hello, is this Adonard the 3rd?” asked Jeni.

“It is we,” he said, “To whom are we speaking?”

“I am the great pirate Jeni! And I have kidnapped the wizard Tuco!” she shouted.

She put her right arm around my neck and with her left hand drew her sword. It was a little intimidating. She was always bigger than me.

She shouted even louder, “I am the great pirate Jeni! And I have kidnapped Tuco the royal wizard!”

A couple of gulls squawked and flew off the tower.

Adonard looked fazed, for a second. Then he turned to look away from the Conch.

He said, “General Darington, do we have a royal wizard by the strange name of Tuco?”

The King nodded, and then he said, “You have nothing of mine. Now be off, or I will have you flogged!”

Its not every day you prank a King.

He couldn’t figure out how to turn off the Conch. He kept fumbling with it. We kept getting glimpses of satin furniture and bejeweled mirrors.

He even dropped the Conch down the sleeve of his robe. We went with it, sliding down auburn silk in the glow of the Conch’s crystal light.

A long arm reached in and pulled us out.

He put us up to his face and spit on us.

He was a mean looking man in a uniform and a mustache. General Darington.

He turned off the Conch.

We rolled around on the floor in laughter.

From that day on she was the great pirate Jeni and I was royal wizard Tuco.

And while we lived on the Turtle, we were never apart.

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Berny’s Saga

Here’s a song I wrote awhile ago about Bernard Madoff.

These dudes are in it too.

BERNY’S SAGA
Lyrics Jason Hart
Music Ok Kyun Kang

CHARACTERS

LAWYER The prosecuting attorney
J. EZRA MERKIN, People who had their money stolen by Madoff in his scams
KEVIN BACON,
KYRA SEDGEWICK

SETTING

A court room. Bernard Madoff is being tried for fraud. A painting of Charles Ponzi hangs on one wall.

LAWYER
Young berny had a lemonade stand
Sold it by the pint and made a grand
People all said berny’s was the best bargain brand
What they didn’t know was that the sugar was sand

CHORUS
Oh Berny Berny
Earny Earny Earny’d way too much
Oh madoff
Made off with our money, pride and such
Oh Ponzi
We built a pyramid here for you
Oh Suckers

LAWYER
You say jump and they’re a kangaroo

CHORUS

We trust the rich too much

LAWYER
In college Berny had perfect A’s
Got his professors’ respect and praise
Sometimes though his papers were signed with Jose’s
Seems he’d hired immigrants to write his essays

CHORUS
Oh Berny Berny
Learny learny learn’d to make us fools
Oh Madoff
Mailed off all his cash gold and jewels
Oh Ponzi
We dug ourselves such a big money pit
Oh Suckers

KYRA SEDGEWICK & KEVIN BACON
Tell ‘us we’ll be rich and we’ll eat shit

CHORUS
We trust the rich too much

LAWYER
When Berny formed his first company
He invested cash for the bourgeoisie
Profits dropped like ripe fruit from a papaya tree
But funds came secretly from a bank robbery

CHORUS
Oh Berny Berny
Burndy Burndy Burned to be fat rich
Oh Madoff
Marked off next to our names: “Bitch”
Oh Scammers,
You’ll get our money any way you can
Oh Suckers,

J. EZRA MERKIN
They say you can’t scam an honest man

CHORUS
We trust the rich too much

LAWYER
Berny was the bearer of great trust
Juggled his bubbles with upward thrust
But the stock market crashed and all his balls went bust
That’s when the gold was revealed to be pyrite dust

CHORUS
We trust the richy richy richy way too too much

Original model for the Millenium Falcon

LAWYER
If a well-heeled savior
Says he can make you some dough
Do yourself a favor
And just say no!

CHORUS
Oh oh, just say no
Oh oh, just say no
If you savor the flavor of your dough
Do yourself a favor and just say no

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Gospel in the Pool Hall

She wandered in a golden turban, wobbling. Behind her, three other women swayed.

She stepped, sixty-four or older, to the audience. A young man took her hand and thanked her and she looked into his eyes and never stopped singing.

I danced. They played. I started to love New York.

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3D

Gil Scott-Heron’s hat
the line
the human
face is drawn on

left side
is our show
side: red

right side
the real side
and blue

televised
the image flips
and the real side
shows

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The Squid – Chapter Two: Janet

Our anti-heroine.

Chapter One: Rex
Chapter Two: Janet
Chapter Three: Albion

Rex Banion, idiot.

Not that I don’t appreciate him solving our dilemma with Daddy’s
little secret society games, but a man should know when someone’s
plotting his death. Its probably the booze. Coming in here with
whiskey on his breath. There is a constable stationed in the security
office, and if Rex hadn’t ducked him he could have been arrested.

I took a sip of my martini.

I picked up the phone and dialed zero.

“Miriam,” I said.

“Yes, Ms. Hemingway,” she said.

“Rex is leaving, have Henson and Jacobson follow him,” I said.

“Yes, Ma’am,” she said.

“If they can get the journals back without killing him, that’s better,” I said.

“Absolutely, Ma’am,” she said

“And Miriam, he’s slippery,” I said.

“I know Rex, Ma’am,” she said.

I was sure she did.

I hung up.

I’d been spending my whole life cleaning up Daddy’s indiscretions, waiting, waiting for the fortune that was rightly mine, and I wasn’t going to give it up now to Dunny or anyone else.

Since I turned eighteen Daddy’d held the will over my head like a paper sword. The old will, penned before I was born. All the money to Dunny except a little pittance to me to starve on. Why, I’d have to move out of the suite and get an apartment, like a barbarian.

And finally, finally, in those last and dying days, after I’d pushed all of his victims into the harbor and fobbed it off on the rum runners, he signed it. Signed the new will and sealed the old one inside the leather cover of one of his journals, just to let me know it wasn’t gone.

The day after Daddy’s death, Dunny called me up to say that he had a copy of the old will naming him as the sole heir, and also three letters that made Daddy look as mad as King George.

Of course I had to do something. I wasn’t about to stop now, with so much blood on my hands already.

Rex came from a family friend, with a reputation for secrecy, ruthlessness and a weakness for women. Even if he did talk, our friend had plenty of dirt on him from his days in the Boston P.D.

I’d sent Henson and Jacobson with Rex, but he’d slipped them somehow. They were supposed to watch him find the journals, and then we were supposed to find him floating face down in Pelham Bay.

Then he shows up here. The nerve. If he wasn’t so pretty, I’d have shot him myself.

Don’t want to get blood on the rug, either.

I took another sip of my martini.

I dialed zero again.

“Miriam,” I said, “Get me Senator Crane.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” she said.

It was time to cash in a favor.

Chapter Three: Albion

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The Squid – Chapter One: Rex

The Squid

Chapter One: Rex
Chapter Two: Janet
Chapter Three: Albion

Don't Bogart my Bergman.

I awoke one morning to find that I had been transformed into a man who gave a damn what a dame thought of him.

There she was on the blue silk sheets, her golden hair fanned out around her, her slip hanging on her like a ballet partner: Janet Hemingway, the princess of sixth avenue.

I’d just worked a job for her. A little job, as it turned out, but no job is too little for Rex Banion, as it turns out.

Her highness rolled over. Her eyes opened: pale, viper green.

“Rex. I’m worried about Mommy. Now that Daddy’s gone, who will protect her honor? She would be devastated if all this nonsense about death cults reached the papers. All the blood and dismemberment. I think it’s best it we kept it between us, don’t you,” she said.

“You’re quick to corruption,” I said.

“Been doing it my whole life,” she said, “500 dollars, what do you say?”

“500 dollars might do,” I said, “But I’m not taking it out in time served.”

“Oh no, Mr. Banion, I wouldn’t dream of paying you for that.”

“Good,” I said.

“And,” she said, ”We can just destroy Daddy’s journals.”

“Of course,” I said.

I had the only copy of those journals, in a safety deposit box in Chicago.

“Good Rex,” she said,”Bring those journals here, and we can burn them together.”

“Your uncle asked me for those,” I said.

“Oh,” she said, ”My Uncle Dunwoody?”

“Yeah, Dimwitty, called me up and offered me a grand for each one,” I said.

“Oh,” she said, as she drew her finger around her lip, “You didn’t give them to him, did you, Rex?”

“No,” I said, “Should I?”

“No,” she said, “I’ll offer two grand each.”

“You want to give me six thousand dollars to destroy three books,” I asked.

“Is that so surprising? Didn’t you read those books, Rex,” she asked.

“No,” I lied.

“I think you might have, because your eyes, Rex, are fishy.”

“Yeah, I did read them,” I said.

“Don’t lie to me Rex, I know your eyes,” she said, “Rex, if word, ever got out, that my father was unstable, Rex, the family simply couldn’t stand the shock. We’d rend, Rex. Uncle Dunny and the European cousins would back away, and our finances would, well, I just don’t know, Rex, We’d have to sell Rockhaven. Its important for the family.”

“Six thousand dollars”, I said, “Don’t insult me. I read them. Your father was unstable. Those journals contain his confessions, Janet, to fifteen murders. I should take them to the police.”

“No, don’t do that, Rex,” she said. With a sharp breath, she stood up off the bed and walked away into the suite. She pulled her hair up and clasped it with her delicate hands, pulling it through her necklace.

I stood up and walked towards her. She smelled like strawberry, when it first comes off the vine.

I put my arm around her waist and leaned in behind her. She pushed her neck back on my shoulder. I wrapped my arms around her hips and kissed her neck.

“Don’t do that, Rex,” she said, “Don’t embarrass my family. Dunny is a bad man, Rex, he spreads lies about my father. Now that the New York dynasty is ending, they are trying to seize the family fortune. My father is the one that made all the money, and now those dancing little baronets in their summer cottages who suddenly aren’t too dirty to take automobile money are trying to steal it.”

“And yet you only offered me six thousand dollars,” I said.

“That’s a lot of money, Rex,” she said.

“Not as much as you might think I might think,” I said, “This would sell for twenty grand,” I said, as I wrapped my right hand around her necklace, “Maybe I should just take it.”

“Don’t do that, Rex,” she said, “I can pay you twenty grand. Don’t take the necklace.”

“Twenty grand it is,” I said, and let go of the necklace.

“Thank you, Rex,” she said. She walked a few steps ahead of me across the pink shag. Her room, here, at the Waldorf. All pink. Couple of white drapes, couple of white pillows, couple of white poodles. Yip and yap all the time.

“So its settled,” I said, “I’ll bring you the journals tomorrow.”

“You’re so kind, Rex,” she said.

She turned to face me, fastening her bra behind her.

“I may require your services again in the future,” she said.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said, “At three o’clock.”

“Here, Rex,” she asked.

“No, meet me down in the lobby of the Hotel Amsterdam.”

“Fine,” she said, “Bring me the books, not ashes.”

“I will, kitten,” I said.

“Got claws, you know,” she said.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said.

I turned to walk away to the door. I took my Stetson from the stand and put it on my head. Buttoning my jacket, I opened the door to the lobby: its tan carpets so bland against her pink. I turned around.

She was already there. We kissed. That’s when I fell for her.

Chapter Two: Janet

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I Review Thanksgiving, Part 2

Hey, someone did a drawing about this already. And it's all scientific-like.

Thanksgiving is the day you default to family. At least it was when I was growing up. People just show up out of the blue and when you’re only eight years old and you only just met these people its really hard to keep track of them. I have no idea what half of my relatives’ names are now and I’m 33.

So you just default to assuming everyone you meet on Thanksgiving is family. Everyone I see on the train is in my family.

But you don’t need to know your relatives’ names or your friends names because you can get all that information from the internet. Just keep browsing your friends list until you find their face, then you have their name.

I know you’ve all done that.

People used to have to memorize that stuff. Think of how much brain space is freed up now to have imaginary relationships with movie stars and politicians.

Because that’s what we’re doing. The anthropologist Robin Dunbar theorized that people can only keep track of around 150 people. That is, you know how 150 different people will interact with you and with each other. Later studies upped this number to 231, but that’s not as sexy and round a number, so 150 is still the common wisdom.

That’s the level of community we evolved at. We were once only tribes, numbering a maximum of 150 or 231. When we got bigger than that, some of us split off and formed a new tribe.

150 doesn’t sound all that big, but you are constantly keeping track of how those people would all interact with each other. Think of it: you can probably easily imagine how your aunt and your college roommate, who have never met each other, would interact if they met. The number of relationships you are tracking is actually 150 to the 150th, which is a VERY large number of interpersonal combinations.

But, you say, “I have more than 150 friends on Facebook right now.” Right. What you’re doing is sharing out friend slots. Four people can share a slot as long as you only think about them one-quarter of the usual time.

That’s what my distant relatives were like for me: one-fourth of a person each. They were obviously important, my parents acted as if they were, but I never, ever saw them. It was hard to reserve space in my brain for them, especially when I had to memorize every comic book hero and villain and imagine how they would all interact with each other and with me, when I got my superpowers.

Now its the real world. We all have personal relationships with Obama and Bush, for example. We probably all hate one and like the other, but they take up slots. You can imagine how each person you know would interact with both Obama and Bush. I sure as hell know what all of my friends and family think of each of them, because now, they are part of our tribe.

We’re all one tribe on Thanksgiving.


And yet, and yet, we can’t quite get our tiny ape heads around accepting everyone in the world as part of the tribe. I’m telling you now that they are. That’s the inevitable destination we’ve been wading towards since we left the trees.

The secret to world peace is to realize that we’re all in the same tribe. We just need to share out our friend slots on a greater scale.

Take 6 of your 150 friend slots and sub-divide them out around the world. You can still reserve 144 for your friends and family.

There are roughly 6 billion people you don’t know. Give each of those people one one-billionth of a friend slot. They can share.

The dying people in Somalia and Afghanistan and Detroit are all in the tribe. The rich people in New York and London and New Delhi are all in the tribe.

We’re all in the tribe. Stop killing us, everyone. Everyone, stop killing us.

Each of us is now responsible for the life of everyone. Be a responsible adult. No more war for us, us eager murderers of aliens with different skin colors or ideas.

End it all now. I’m talking to everyone. We are directly responsible for all the people your government kills. I’m a murderer. So are you. End it. Stop killing with war and pollution and greed.

It’s Thanksgiving. Default to family.

Part three will be cheerier.

Sorry, I have no jokes to put in picture captions right now. Come up with your own, if you're laughing.


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