Saturday, July 10, 2010

Charles Bernstein :: Leslie Scalapino

As noted earlier, there are some wonderful éloges floating around for Leslie Scalapino, who died May 28, 2010.

Charles Bernstein has pointed many of them out, as well as providing gentle suggestions about what really matters by virtue of his blog gleanings.

Here is his own memory of her, published in SIBILA, poesia e cultura. He addresses something that most gloss over, or address pedantically, in an of-course kind of way: the pesky business of Scalapino and poetic intention, inseparable from "the integrity of the work itself." A huge part of my appreciation for her work springs from the fact that it is work.

Leslie Scalapino’s Rhythmic Intensities

Scalapino Memorial
Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church
New York, June 21, 2010

The poet dies, the poet’s work is borne by her readers.

When I first encountered Leslie Scalapino’s work I was hard hit by its psychic intensity, formal ingeniousness, and rhythmic imagination. I felt I came to the work late; the first book I read was
The Woman who Could Read the Minds of Dogs, which while published in 1976, I didn’t read till around 1981. The psychosexual dynamics of the work and its ability to make dislocation a visceral experience immediately became, once I had taken in the magnitude of Scalapino’s project, a capital point on the mapping of poetry associated with L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine, one that deepened and enriched that survey. When North Point published Considering How Exaggerated Music Is in 1982, Scalapino’s work became an indelible part of my poetic firmament, that imaginary company each of us chooses but that also chooses us. That is, I feel as much chosen by Scalapino’s work as that I was doing the choosing; her work entered into and changed my consciousness about what was possible for poetry, changed the terms for all of us working along similar lines.

Every once in a while I would say something to Leslie about
Considering How Exaggerated the Music Is. She would shake her head, slightly laughing, “Oh Charles not the music: considering how exaggerated music is.” As in her music, the music of her poems. Not exaggerated in the sense of hyperbolic or overstated, but as in extravagant, wild and wandering.

Starting in my earliest conversations with Leslie, when I would try to describe qualities I found in her work, she was adamant in resisting interpretations she felt countermanded her intentions. When I would say, but you know, Leslie, readers will respond in many different ways to a poem, she would give no ground; for her, how a work is to be interpreted was part of the poem: not just her intention, but part of the integrity of the work itself. I felt her rebuke to my more porous view of interpretation to be magnificent and improbable, for as much as Leslie set the bar for interpretation a bit higher than actual reading practices will ordinarily sustain, she demonstrated her fierce commitment to poetic meaning and also the truth in the form and materials, sincerity in Zukofsky’s sense: that reading was a social bond that necessitated the reader’s recognition of the formal terms of the work. So there was a right way to read, not in the moral sense but in a very practical one, as in a right way to operate software so it works, does the job for which is was made.

And you could say that Scalapino created a new and thrilling poetic software, allowing for a phenomenological unique experience, something like a 3- or 4-D poem. Her overlays, repetitions, and torques enable proactive readers to enter the space of the poem as something akin to a holographic environment. The present time of the work is intensified by her echoes (overlapping waves of phrases) of what just happened and what is about to happen, so the present is expanded into a temporally multi-dimensional space. Her undulating phrasal rhythms are in turn psychedelic, analytic, notational, pointillistic, and narrational. Think of it as deep-space syncretic cubism. And Scalapino’s performances of her work, many collected at
PennSound, are crucial guides to entering this hyperspace.

Scalapino’s poetry was central to my poem/essay
Artifice of Absorption, which I wrote starting in 1985. In Artifice of Absorption, I noted that Scalapino’s rhetorical repetitions create a disabsorptive/affective charm: the slight, accented, shifts in similar statements operate as modular scans of the field of perception, building thick linguistic waves of overlay and undertow, the warp of a thematic motif countered with the woof of its torqued rearticulation.

When I visited Leslie and Tom in Oakland a few weeks before Leslie died, her luminous and effervescent stoicism, the nobility in which she acknowledged death lurking in her garden, was fused with her refusal to give up on life and her urgent, tragic recognition of the work she still had it in her to do that she would not be able to do. She spoke of how much she wanted to come to New York to read her new work, and so together with Stacy and Tracy we made plans for her to read here tonight. In Oakland in May, we laughed together at the moment’s literary gossip and we talked about her just finished book,
The Dihedrons Gazelle-Dihedrals Zoom, written in the late style of Floats Horse-Floats or Horse Floats; she knew it would be her last.

I sent her my response to this work just days before she died, trying to do justice to the work and hoping that she would accept my description as apt, which Tom tells me she did:

The Dihedrons is an ekphrastic implosion inside our severed human-body/animal-mind. “Memory isn’t the origin of events,” Scalapino writes early in this magisterial work, which restores the synthesis of events to its place as meanings' origin. The Dihedrons Gazelle-Dihedrals Zoom -- as much a work of grotesque science fiction as a poem --cracks open the imaginary reality astride reality. In the stadium of its visionary composition, the everyday floats vivid strange: in time, as time, with time, beside time.

Scalapino’s poems, from her first book to this last, probe politics, memory, perception, and desire, creating hypnotically shifting coherences that take us beyond any dislocating devices into a realm of newly emerging consciousness. Like a sumo wrestler doing contact improvisations with a ballerina, Scalapino balances the unbalanceable poetic accounts of social justice and aesthetic insistence.

Every once in a while, I’d say something to Leslie about her book series, calling it O Press; she would shake her head, slightly laughing, “Oh Charles not oppress, O Books”! “Oppression is our social space.” Leslie, with the support of Tom White, created one of the great small presses of our time.

I keep thinking about her titles, which are among the most amazing, fantastic, and unexpected of anybody ever … And her essays, which are models of a non-expository, exploratory style remains foundational for any activist poetics.

Like a ballerina doing contact improvisations with a sumo wrestler.

The poet dies, the poet’s work is borne … by us, in us, through us, as us.

It’s the longest day.

Considering how exaggerated music is.

It's thanks to Bernstein's use of it as a citation that I came to love this bit from one of Giraut de Bornelh's songs:

And they say
If I would just sing lighter songs
Better for me would it be,
But not is this truthful;
For sense remote
Adduces worth and gives it
Even if ignorant reading impairs it;
But it's my creed
That these songs yield
No value at the commencing
Only later, when one earns it.

image is of a troubadour casket

Thursday, July 8, 2010

CRPS: IASP Diagnostic Criteria Taken to Task

The latest news from my MedWorm CRPS-related feeds addresses the diagnostic criteria established by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). The longheld general opinion is that these criteria have "high sensitivity," but "poor specificity," with the resultant complaint of overdiagnosis of CRPS.

It's a good dialogue to have at this time, and one that needs to be renewed periodically, as the hard science attempts to catch up with the clinical expressions of the disease. The summary conclusion of this round of talks is a clear preference for the Budapest CRPS Criteria over the IASP recommendations most widely in force. For an excellent summary (and yes, it will seem repetitive to some of you) see Dr. Bruehl's power point presentation here, on CRPS taxonomy. The IASP criteria are sometimes shorthanded as "the Bruehl criteria," remember!

All three of the following studies were published in the online version of PAIN: The journal of the IASP.*

Development of comprehensive diagnostic criteria for complex regional pain syndrome in the Japanese population

Masahiko Sumitani, Masahiko Shibat, Gaku Sakaue, Takashi Mashimo, Japanese CRPS Research Group

Received 31 July 2009; received in revised form 21 January 2010; accepted 23 March 2010. published online 07 May 2010

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a syndrome that describes a broad spectrum of sensory, motor and autonomic-like features with unproven etiology. The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) diagnostic criteria of CRPS shows high sensitivity but poor specificity. Using statistical-pattern-recognition methods, American researchers have suggested a new set of criteria offering acceptable sensitivity and high specificity. However, non-American CRPS patients present distinct subsets of CRPS-related signs/symptoms from those of American patients. Here, we followed a series of American studies to develop a set of CRPS diagnostic criteria that would be most suitable for the Japanese population. A standardized sign/symptom checklist was used in patient evaluations to obtain data on CRPS-related signs/symptoms in 195 participants meeting the IASP criteria. Using factor analysis, we grouped CRPS-related signs/symptoms into five distinct subgroups (trophic change, motor dysfunction, abnormal pain processing, asymmetric sudomotor activity and asymmetric edema). Discriminant function analysis of these subgroups, regarding their ability to discriminate between CRPS and non-CRPS etiology, indicated that modifying the IASP criteria could increase clinical diagnostic accuracy in the Japanese population. Our diagnostic criteria are not exactly the same as the American criteria, indicating a need for more regionally based CRPS diagnostic criteria. Different sets of CRPS diagnostic criteria could lead to dissimilar patients being diagnosed as CRPS, however, presenting problems for translation of therapeutic effects found in various studies. Therefore, we further recognize a need for a global set of common CRPS diagnostic criteria.

I have to say that the words "unproven etiology" fairly jump off the page, even though I understand that determining the larger cause-and-effect relationships -- generally noxious events and nerve injuries -- is not equivalent to establishing useful, science-supported proven etiologies, being more in the nature of events. (Leave my sentence alone!) What is especially important is to reiterate that hanging everything from the nail of sympathetically-maintained pain [SMP], and diagnosis by sympathetic block, is definitively outmoded, and usually just plain wrong.

The necessity for regionally-based (or nation-based) diagnostic criteria makes enormous sense, particularly given the rigarmarole above of unproven etiologies. It is gratifying, though, that the five (or the Budapest 4!) basic subgroupings for CRPS symptoms hold "true." The practicing medical world dearly loves a checklist.

Modifying diagnostic criteria for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome by Stephen Bruehl, Ph.D. appears in the same issue (Volume 150, Issue 2, August 2010). Dr. Bruehl, of Vanderbilt, is a clinical psychologist, specializing in "Endogenous Pain Regulatory Systems and the Psychobiology of Emotions":

The general focus of Dr. Bruehl’s work is on understanding the functioning of endogenous pain regulatory systems in healthy individuals, and possible dysfunction in these systems associated with chronic pain. Endogenous pain regulatory systems are complex, involving descending pain inhibitory pathways mediated in part by both endogenous opioid and alpha-2 adrenergic mechanisms. Moreover, there appear to be adaptive functional interactions between the cardiovascular and pain regulatory systems that serve to maintain homeostasis in the presence of painful stimuli. Dr. Bruehl’s work focuses on the interface between these areas, and how chronically painful conditions alter the normal functioning of these interacting systems.

Dr. Bruehl figures in the [Budapest] group publishing the third article in this PAIN "series" on CRPS, as well:

Validation of proposed diagnostic criteria (the “Budapest Criteria”) for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

R. Norman Harden, Stephen Bruehl, Roberto S.G.M. Perez, Frank Birklein, Johan Marinus, Christian Maihofner, Timothy Lubenow, Asokumar Buvanendran, Sean Mackey, Joseph Graciosa, Mila Mogilevski, Christopher Ramsden, Melissa Chont, Jean-Jacques Vatin

Received 18 November 2009; Received in revised form 19 March 2010; Accepted 20 April 2010. Published online 21 May 2010.

Current IASP diagnostic criteria for CRPS have low specificity, potentially leading to overdiagnosis. This validation study compared current IASP diagnostic criteria for CRPS to proposed new diagnostic criteria (the “Budapest Criteria”) regarding diagnostic accuracy. Structured evaluations of CRPS-related signs and symptoms were conducted in 113 CRPS-I and 47 non-CRPS neuropathic pain patients. Discriminating between diagnostic groups based on presence of signs or symptoms meeting IASP criteria showed high diagnostic sensitivity (1.00), but poor specificity (0.41), replicating prior work. In comparison, the Budapest clinical criteria retained the exceptional sensitivity of the IASP criteria (0.99), but greatly improved upon the specificity (0.68). As designed, the Budapest research criteria resulted in the highest specificity (0.79), again replicating prior work. Analyses indicated that inclusion of four distinct CRPS components in the Budapest Criteria contributed to enhanced specificity. Overall, results corroborate the validity of the Budapest Criteria and suggest they improve upon existing IASP diagnostic criteria for CRPS.

* PAIN® is the official journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain® (IASP).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lindsey Baum :: Update

There are a few new items of note regarding the case of missing 11-year-old Lindsey Baum. June 26, 2010, marked the one year anniversary of her disappearance while walking home one evening from a friend's house in her hometown of McCleary, Washington.

The reward for information has grown to $30,000.

More surveillance video has been released in the hope that the men (one in a black plaid shirt, the other in a red tank top) who figure in them may have seen something important on that evening last summer.

If you have any information regarding Lindsey Baum, please call the Grays Harbor County Sheriff's Office at 866-915-8299 [Tip Hotline].

1-800-843-5678 (1-800-THE-LOST)
McCleary Police Department (Washington) 1-360-533-8765
Family Website: Lindsey Baum

To read all entries about Lindsey on this blog, click here.

Man wearing a black plaid shirt:

Man wearing a red tank top:

The black truck:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The one where reality lives up to expectations...

A short post, and an odd one, but I need to do it.

(Is it terrible to be terrible?)


Following Sammy's death, an internet troll decided to separate me from the herd, decided to be lioness to my nervous, flighty, incompetent gazelle.

We both visit a certain website dedicated to... well, a fetish. Not a fetish that would cause you to gasp or make milk go up your nose, no... more of a common fixation turned art project, if you will.

A minor, not major, fetish.

And that's minor as in "inferior in importance," not "underage child."

Why, look! I am sweating bullets.

As always happens on sites dedicated to x, y, or a minor fetish, an actual community has evolved midst the serious virtual business of reviewing videos and talking shop. It's not a warm and fuzzy nuclear family; No, it's more of a dysfunctional and fuzzy one.

Holiday gatherings are just a scream.

The gentleman who runs the site established the usual area in the back (behind the stacks of cardboard boxes and piles of mostly empty paint cans and ancient twined-together newspapers), where regulars and irregulars, alike, can vent about almost anything. And so we do.

And so I did. I began a thread about Sam-I-Am and as time passed and he became so ill, I revived the thread to share the sad news of his final illness. It helped, in a small way, because as diverse a crowd as it is over there, people are dependable. Folks love their pets, and such simple commonalities transcend politics and all our other contrived differences.

(Are you still with me?)

The pointy-nosed skank of a troll just couldn't stand it.

She suggested that I donate Sam-I-Am's body to a vet school, ridiculed my grief for a pet, and asserted her image of me as a dried up old lady prune presiding over dreary afternoon salons.

To her friendly comments, she attached, for my viewing pleasure, a video of a feline necropsy.

Truth be told, my only response was a fairly clean-burning anger and a clarified vision of what she must be like. I have managed to hold that anger in check while "in public." In private, I have longed for a few minutes alone with her, a meeting that she would not leave unscathed. (Okay, so maybe she could beat me to a pulp with just the tip of her long, forked, wicked tongue... On the other hand, I have no compunction about running over her flabby ass with my wheelchair.)

In high school, I dissected a cat, and while I wish there had been a fetal pig option, at least I cannot be shocked by the sight.

I said something terminally witty, something along the lines of how she needed psychiatric help. So original! So scathing! (And yet, so true...)

Then I decided the SheTroll could serve as helpful antidote to the poison of our loss. When my sorrow reaches the Point of Emotional Silliness, I only have to imagine her fetid breath, her previously-referenced flabby ass, and her sociopathy to bring me back to Sufficiently Grounded Reality.

Then, too, I thought to employ some of the maturity and smarts people keep insisting I have on hand, and try to let it go. (No, not "let go and let God..." -- just "let it the hell go...")

It turns out, of course, that people, especially fetishists, are just lovely. Yes, you are right -- I've been tackled by that punchline before and doubtless will again.

When I checked my box at the hoodoo voodoo site yesterday, I was heartened and touched by the expressions of juju sympathy over Sammy's death from the gathered brethren and sistren.

There was universal disdain for the necropsy-nattering troll, and I felt much better about things.
Not about Sammy, about *things*. Fred and I both burst into unexpected tears, mostly as we witness the grief of the remaining cats -- and no, it is not our anthropomorphism in play. All three are greatly altered in their behavior and are clearly bringing forth their curiosity, sadness, and confusion.

Anyway, as to the reason I am writing, and you are reading... THIS? I just opened another bit of mail over at this site, from a member I don't know well, but who has always been very nice, and often funny. She enclosed a link to a 2008 news article published in the UK's Independent, saying that she just wanted to share in the great gulping laughter she experienced when she initially discovered the article -- which features none other than our own beloved troll.

Troll extols herself as an academic, perhaps a researcher, touts having "worked with" Margaret Mead and other tossable names -- most recently, while analyzing moi-même, she pronounced herself a therapist. She's a swirling dervish of an expert in everything.

(Funny, in what proved to be a not-far-off impulse, it went through my mind that she was more likely a Dominatrix for Droopy-Diapered Adult Babies... that seemed both more her speed, and definitely more her crowd.)

It turns out she's a Phone-Sex Operator*, recasting herself as Scheherazade.

Oh, my heart is light, my laugh is gay, and Sammy, somewhere, is chirping himself into a good, long purr.

I'm 60 years old, have a BA in cultural anthropology from Columbia University, and I've been married for 25 years. I have a son in his last year of college who lives at home. He's a double major in English Literature and Religion. Men call me for an infinity of reasons – but mostly for what I call 'Executive Stress Relief'. It's not sex; it's a cocktail of testosterone, fuelled by addiction to pornography, loneliness, and the need to hear a woman's voice. I make twice the money I made in the corporate world. I work from home, the money transfers into my bank account daily. I'm Scheherazade: if I don't tell stories that fascinate the Pasha, he will kill me in the morning.

From the news article's introduction by Catherine Townsend:
When I see the late-night ads for premium-rate phone sex lines featuring nubile, tanned young women, I get curious about who is actually on the other end of the phone. Like many people, I sometimes imagine that she's a bored housewife, moaning and calling herself a "naughty girl" while smoking a fag and doing the ironing.

But whether they are working in a packed call centre wearing headsets or from home wearing lingerie, phone-sex operators (or PSOs) are as diverse as the callers. I can definitely see the appeal of wanting to make money from talking dirty, like the Americans pictured here in Phillip Toledano's compelling portraits. But these women (and men, some very successful PSOs have been boys with high-pitched voices!) have to do so much more: they have to morph into a role that is part therapist, part sexual surrogate. They also have to improvise and create multiple personae in order to play the submissive secretary, the naughty nurse, the adult baby, the porn star or the barely legal teen girl.

Our Vaunted Troll was also noticed by some of her fellow Columbia alums, over at the Columbia Bwog (the 24/7 blog incarnation of The Blue and White, Columbia University’s monthly undergraduate magazine). In the comment section after the blog entry entitled, "You, too, could be a phone sex operator," a few salient points were raised, as in: Is there even a major available at Columbia in cultural anthropology? Given the Vaunted Troll's age, might not her Columbia have been GS or Barnard? (I'm sure Barnard collegians everywhere are delighted by the suggestion.)

The most repeated comment, though, was a request for "eye bleach, stat!"

* Some of my best friends are Phone Sex Operators.
** Unfortunately, just a few weeks after this post was written, I had to leave PTZ for good... driven off, not by a skanky PSO, but by something even worse, a skanky moralist -- a woman prone to fits of pique and fixated on "hating" me (her verb choice -- and we honor her verbal decisions because she is a... writer. Mwa ha ha! Snort!). 

The photography that accompanies the article is exceptional, and was published in book form by the artist, Phillip Toledano, in 2009.