Aged aged man, old old school

The season turned like the page of a glossy fashion magazine.
In the park the daffodils came up
and in the parking lot, the new car models were on parade.

Sometimes I think that nothing really changes -

The young girls show the latest crop of tummies,
and the new president proves that he's a dummy.
from "The Change" by Tony Hoagland

Came upon this poem like a doctor's dropsy poster.
In the streets the hot pants glittered
and on the corner pimps color-flagged that ass parade.

Sometimes I dress inane in the outrageous.

Those young girls call in robbers on their dummies
and when I need a rhyme I turn to mummy.
from "Shitstrum" by Uche Ogbuji

I'll mention that my "Quotīdiē" quotes generally derive from admiration, but now and then I pick them for more negative reasons, such as: "How does such a god-awful poem even draw enough attention to be controversial?  I'm never quite au fait on the poetry scene, but even I heard of the commotion Hoagland's poem made at a recent AWP conference.  A "shitstorm" my friend Wendy termed it.  I read the poem and wondered whether it was a prank by an idle sophomore.  I understand the trend towards plainspoken poetry, though I disagree with it.  I think the language of poetry should be special, almost by definition (the language of Williams and Sandburg is much more special than many of their would-be imitators seem to think.)  But there is plain speaking and there is random collage of the inane.  Hoagland's poem sounds like a found poem from scraps overheard at a grocery store.  I myself am not much for plain speaking, whether in poetry or in everyday conversation.  I revel in words perhaps too much for my own good, so I couldn't do much justice to that aspect of "The Change" in my parody.

After the extraordinary productivity I enjoyed participating in Heather Fowler's poem-a-day project last June, I decided to pay attention to National Poetry Month this year, to the extent of joining the National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) tradition.  I considered following prompts, but I couldn't find a prompter of Heather's quality, so I decided to just keep it old school.  Read a lot of poems every day and thus shore up inspiration to write.  The kick-off, of course, is April Fool's Day, so I re-read a few favorite comic poems and parodies, including Lewis Carroll's "The White Knight's Song" (or "Haddock's Eyes" or "The Aged Aged Man" or "Ways and Means" or "A-Sitting On A Gate").

He said "I look for butterflies 
That sleep among the wheat; 
I make them into mutton-pies, 
And sell them in the street. 
I sell them unto men," he said, 
"Who sail on stormy seas; 
And that's the way I get my bread -- 
A trifle, if you please." 

But I was thinking of a plan 
To dye one's whiskers green, 
And always use so large a fan 
That it could not be seen. 
So, having no reply to give 
To what the old man said, 
I cried, "Come, tell me how you live!" 
And thumped him on the head. 

This delight is a spoof of a Wordsworth poem, and decided me to write my own spoof; "The Change" came to my mind as a poem ripe for the treatment.

and because that cracker
had a fucking Les Paul and a bottle of Jack,
not giving a damn

strumming those wires like he was Andrew Jackson
putting the Sioux crew on the trail of tears
all like "this land is MY land, bitch!"

Now and then manifest destiny
asks you to lean in and check whether
it's got something on its teeth
and you could just stretch a bit
and box its epiglottis

and I know squat about chess
but that day felt like "Uno, pardners!"
from "Shitstrum"
Really Hoagland's poem is more of an offense to my literary sense than for its supposed race-baiting.  I think it's entirely fair game for a white person to express some ambivalence at how Serena and Venus Williams, the all-but-certain players to whom Hoagland alludes, a pair of girls straight outta Compton like N.W.A., come on to the country club scene of tennis to ruthlessly batter their competition.  I find Serena's "to-hell-with-everybody stare" a wonder of sport, but I can see how some would take it as a blunt challenge to their cherished idols.  And why should a poet not frankly express such ambivalence?  That's why my spoof does not only parody the Hoagland poem, but it also jabs at the responses to the poem.  The very first comment on the Weblog where I found the poem posted is as follows:

This is the most offensive poem I have ever read. With respect, TS Eliot's anti-semitism has nothing on the bigotry expressed in this poem.

You would think he'd laced his work with racist terms and judgments, but I think that would be overstating the case.  I'd say the closest he came was the contemptuous generalization of "Zulu bangles on her arms" but again why should a poet not be free to express the sorts of deep, tortured thoughts that real people do?  If anything, I think he held back.  I decided to do somewhat less of that.  If folks want something to shock their publicly good-mannered faces, why not do it with some gusto?  At first I made the underdog banjo player a black guy, but I figured maybe it was a bit too easy for me as a black guy to take chances with that sort of taboo language.  I thought there was more bite to making him Native American, especially as it plays with contrasts of which "tribes" are the underdogs, and what changes when one such tribe finds a champion, looking back not just to the end of the 20th century, but also the end of the 19th, and the pain and injustice that attended that change in the fortunes of the original population.
Writing "Shitstrum" was a ton of fun, and gave me my first NaPoWriMo entry rather painlessly, for which I'm grateful, but I expect that for the rest of the month I'll address my pen towards the glories of poetry, rather than its silly asides.  I'd consider myself blessed beyond belief if I can write as Serena plays.

Never mind back then, never mind that next, enjoy the Arsenal now

On Monday, Valentines, my true love gave to me an Arsenal beer mug.  Here's what it looked like yesterday:

I know! I know!  A bit much, innit?  And why not?  A few hours prior I had just about lost my voice, struggling from effects of fighting winter crud, and my mind, when Arshavin netted the winner for Arsenal over the mighty Barcelona.

A week and a half earlier was that horror show against Newcastle.  I was already feeling better by that evening when Wolves (of all teams) ended United's unbeaten run (if you're addicted to crack, still nothing will do but the Invincibles).  But regardless, all the talk were that Arsenal's "brittle", "perennial underachievers" had crumbled yet again.  I was glad to see their no nonsense attitude against Wolves the next week and I remember thinking to myself "if they work this hard on Wednesday, even Barça will have trouble coping with them).  My words turned prophetic last night.  Yes Barça was Barça, absolute masters on the ball, but despite long periods of domination (people tend to forget we had spells of our own), they succumbed to our combination of slick passing and directness.  Now Newcastle is forgotten in the euphoria, and rightly so.

The players are the first to admit that it's far from over.  Even a 1 goal lead can feel like a slim margin at the Camp Nou.  Just ask Real Madrid.  Barça are still favorites to go through and all I can hope for is an upset (though such a hope is far from unreasonable).  But that is a matter for three week's time.  For now, it's just time to bask in one of the most enjoyable illustrations ever of "Wenger knows".  How do I mean?

Jack Wilshere.  How often has the English media derided Wenger's attitude towards English players?  How often has Wenger replied that if he were to find a local player with the quality he'd be happy to work with him.  Now you can't open your eyes without seeing headlines of how Wilshere is the future of England.  And yes.  This came from training in the English system.  Wenger doesn't care about nationality.  He knows how he wants his players to play, and he's not looking to pay over the odds to compromise on that.  He'd rather produce a Wilshere his own damn self.  And soon after making his full England debut to great praise, young Jack, impossibly young Jack, completely PWNed a Barcelona midfield including 3 of the best players in the world.  He was just astonishing last night.  Immaculate.  What a future in store for that young lad.  England, what's that you mean to say to Wenger? I think it's "Thank you".  And with Walcott around, and J.E.T., Benik Afobe, Chuks Aneke, Sanchez Watt and more to come, I think you'd just better get used to saying that again and again.
(Image credit: Gunnerblog)

CF4.  The media seems to trip over themselves to consign Fabregas to a move to the Camp Nou any minute now.  Yes even Cesc expressed such desires over the summer, and some of my fellow fans got rather silly in that response.  Wenger said that Cesc is committed to winning with Arsenal, and many scoffed.  It might have been a blessing to draw to his supposed home club, even if it means doom for us in this Champion's League campaign, because everyone needed to see how badly Cesc wanted Arsenal to win.  After the game he warmly embraced his many Catalan friends, but during the 90 minutes, he was an intense leader from the front of the Red and White cause.

Le philosophy.  Part of the drama over Cesc to Barcelona has been that the Catalan giant is hoping to get him on the cheap. They can't afford the sorts of enormous splurges they're used to.  Financial realities have caught up to them, as so many other clubs.  Arsenal's squad was assembled for a fraction of the cost fo their opponents, with our own big spending on Arshavin and Nasri looking like a joke against the fees for players such as David Villa and Alves.  We're full of the young fruit of our academy, while many of Barça's best are nearer the end than the start of their careers.  Barça are still the juggernaut of Europe, but they represent a fading regime, and Arsenal shows the way forward for football within global realities.  Wenger has known this for years, and his fiscally prudent, philosophically coherent master plan is over a decade in the making.  He's received a lot of criticism from the impatient, and he deserves the vindication of last night.

Koscielny.  This poor bloke has received a lot of criticism this year, and people forget that he has dealt admirably with a meteoric rise.  Just 2 seasons ago he was playing in Ligue Deux!  And last night he played the most successful recent team in Europe, chock full of World Cup winners.  And he took the best player in the world, Lionel Messi, and put him firmly in his pocket.  I've heard some people say Messi had an off day.  Bollocks!  Watch very carefully what happened 95% of the time when Messi encountered Koscielny.  It was a great day for the latter more than a poor day for the former.  And yes, credit Wenger's vision for spotting that potential and snagging him for almost nothing, as he did with Vermaelen a year earlier.

I could go on and on and on (believing in the young Polish goalkeepers, playing the recently much-maligned Arshavin, gambling on Nasri's hamstring, leaving Song on for a while to learn how to simmer down when on a yellow...), but screw that.  I just want to keep basking in what might have been the most thrilling single victory I've enjoyed as an Arsenal fan. What was I listening to last night as I drank that Arsenal flavored beer?  Oh yeah, you proper Gunners won't need too many guesses.  Enjoy the afterglow!

Siasia, finally!

It didn't take me long after arriving in Nigeria as a schoolboy to learn the legend of Samson Siasia.  One of the best footballers among my classmates was immediately given "Siasia" as a nickname, and when I asked why, I would be regaled of the eponymous player's energetic style in the colors of Nigerian clubs Julius Berger and Flash Flamingoes, bombing forward to goal with pace and power.  I watched him in the Nigerian 1994 African Nations Cup winning side, and playing in the USA '94 World Cup, that exciting, raw team that entertained everybody, and only lost in that extra time heart-breaker against Italy.

I've also watched his stewardship of Nigerian youth national teams, and his great exploits managing some of the promising talent that's become the backbone of our current side.  For me, it should have been a no-brainer for Siasia to be promoted to national team coach, and I've said so again and again.


Well hallelujah! Finally it's come to pass.  SIasia was appointed head coach of the Super Eagles last month.  The heartwarming stuff started straightaway, with his celebrating with genune emotion, and singing Yoruba praise songs.  This is an institution that means to almost 200 million people so much more than just a bunch of footballers ("41. They aren't kidding when they talk about football as a unifying force.")  It's only proper for someone granted its custodianship to demonstrate what it really means to him, especially when that demonstration includes a bit of native Yoruba to reinforce the fact that we're keeping this business properly in the family.  Yes, yes Shaibu Amodu (National team coach in several stints between foreign coaches) before him was also Nigerian, but he always seemed as much bureaucrat as trainer, and rarely showed the passion and fire I think our boys need to show what they're capable of doing in that green strip.  In the past we've had great leaders in the field such as Yekini, Okocha, Olise, Amokachi and even Siasia.  Unfortunately we don't really have that any more, so we need a spark from the sidelines.  If Siasia can't provide that, no one can.

And now that the seemingly irredeemable NFF have astonished us by making the obvious move, I hope they have the good sense to be patient with Siasia.  He is already making the noises that the national side needs a complete change in mindset.  He is right, but it will not happen overnight.  The once exciting John Mikel Obi, for example, has been turned into a lumbering apparatchik of the ruthlessly efficient Chelsea juggernaut.  He has lost his soul.  We'll need to figure out how to deal with Obi and other players who've undergone reprogramming by their clubs, who do after all pay their wages, fair enough.  When they put on the green and white strip they need to rediscover the soul of Nigerian football, and there will be some trial and error while Siasia sets about leading them to that rediscovery.  Let's not go running back to some European coach the first time the Eagles make a tournament misstep.

Much is made of the need for an Englishman in the England manager job.  The same logic applies to African nations.  It's not that African coaches would necessarily be better right away, but how can we eventually groom a cadre of African coaches if we don't put our faith in our present, brightest prospects?  European coaches don't make it their business to build the local academies of coaches and players.  They don't care.  They just want their multi-million wages and matchday bonuses.  We need someone who will shed a few tears and show that his connection to the job runs deeper than the paycheck.  Enter Samson Siasia.  And It's about time.  "Oṣe oṣe ooh! Oṣe oooh! Oṣe baba!" Up Super Eagles!

Urlacher! Urlacher! Urlacher!

I usually talk the real football on Copia, because it's my favorite sport, but I also like the other football, and I just finished watching one of the most amazing NFL games I've ever seen. The much-hyped Chicago Bears versus the much-maligned Arizona Cardinals. I really like the Bears, even though I have more ties to Green Bay Packer country (I did spend a year working in Chicago and a couple in Peoria). I like them because of the character they show on defense even though they haven't had a useful offense since their SuperBowl glory days in the mid-80s. No one embodies that character like Brian Urlacher. I remember a few years ago seeing an interview with Ray Lewis, another great defender, preparing to play Chicago. Lewis probably knew his Baltimore Ravens would cream the Bears, who were really struggling then, but he still pointed at Urlacher on the scouting video and said "There goes a future hall-of-famer. Stay strong, baby".

That's the sort of respect Urlacher earns with plays such as his stripping, out of nowhere, of Edgerrin James, a pro-bowl running back, when it seemed his team had no hope of beating the Cardinals, up by two scores. His teammate picked up the fumble and ran it in for one score, and after the Chicago defense went right back on the field to force a three-and-out, their special teams made up the other score with an electrifying punt return by Devin Hester. I was jumping up and down as if Arsenal had scored on Man U. Arizona had gone into half-time ahead of the Bears 20-0, and their defense and offense both looked rampant. The Bears' defense seemed to wait until almost the fourth quarter before showing up for the game, and it's just astonishing that one quarter is all they needed to completely reverse the field on the Cardinals for the win. It's hard to say a team that's capable of doing that is not a SuperBowl favorite this year. It's a well-dusted analysts saying in World Football: the greatest teams are those who find ways to win when they're playing poorly. That applies to any sport, as the Bears proved again today.

I will say that one thing Dick Butkus has over his prodigious successors us that his name is a lot easier to chant than "Singletary" or "Urlacher".

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Cannavaro, punked

Good grief! The man everyone hailed as the true best player of the World Cup certainly looked like a scrub in Lyon's domination of Real Madrid this week. It's something close to criminal that Lyon didn't cash in their complete domination of the game for 6-0 or suchlike score rather than the 2-0 the board showed at the final whistle. Cannavaro especially stank up the pitch. He looked worse than Carragher did during his own embarrassing turn handing out gifts on the blue end of Merseyside. Cannavaro completely lost Juninho's looping ball to lay a red carpet for Fred's goal, and he committed no end of other shocking blunders that were less severely punished. Speaking of Juninho, I think I'm more in awe of his dead ball prowess than I am of Roberto Carlos's (BTW RC was definitely the goat on the other Lyon goal, by Tiago). He dealt Casillas some bitter punishment, and it's amazing none of his blasts ripped the net open. Six fois champions? Quel autre avis? Champions de Europe? Peut être, vieux, peut être.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Go go transfer glitter

What a week it's been! It's been a laden week for me at work, so it's only now, as I settle in to watch this week's EPL fixtures (update: and realise there are none) that I learn of all the madness that's been going on in the transfer market. And what an eyeful! Tevez and Mascherano to the Hammers? Are you kidding me? The man (Pardew) is a complete genius. His team was already a joy to watch. As a motivator he seems to get the sort of commitment from his team that only the greatest coaches manage. And now he's pulled of the off-pitch masterstroke. Tevez will be able to take an all four of most Premiership back lines on his own. Combined with the power of Zamora and Harewood, West Ham should produce even more goals than they did last season. And what better bodyguard for West Ham's own back line could they find than Mascherano?

The Beast But what am I talking about West Ham for? It's all about The Gunners. I've been wanting them to get rid of pouty Reyes and Cole for ages. This is The Arsenal. If you're so keen to play somewhere else, then off with you. Truth be told, though, the departure of Vieira and general absence (and now full departure) of Campbell has really left Arsenal without much of a backbone lately. So what do we have this week? Reyes gets his eager wish to be a Galactico, and we get "The Beast". Julio Baptista. Not quite as skillful as Vieira, but much more imposing. . Oh, you want more? Gallas and 5 million quid come Arsenal's way in exchange for Cole. Wow. I would have thought Cole/Gallas was fair as a straight swap, so I think Arsenal got the sweet end here. Gallas won't provide as clever a supporting attack as Cole did, but we have an excess of attack right now, and Gallas is just that defensive rock we're lacking. Oh, you want more? Wenger negotiated a very modest transfer fee to secure the dazzling Denilson. Denilson has almost never in his career played up to his amazing potential (neither for country nor any club outside Brazil), but I think he's never played with a club that makes such good use of skilled midfielders.

It's been an uninspiring August for The Gunners (to put it politely), but it looks as if, as always, Wenger is finding spectacular ways to bring new life to the team.

In former Gunner news, what a week for Kanu at Pompeii. Check out the way he way he literally (yes, literally, literally) held back the Middlesborough defence like a one man levee to score his second goal at Teeside. It's great to see him doing so well; I figured after watching his strong performance for Nigeria in the African Cup of Nations he still had it in him. And Anelka to Bolton? Wow. £8M seems steep, but if anyone can get the best of Anelka, who's been dissapointing since leaving London, it's Big Sam, the master at marshalling maligned players.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Coup de Boule (or summer 2006: pwned by Zizou)

Work's bee a bit heavy this week, but I've had instant stress relief every evening thanks to the new summer craze. F'real, Janet was just dreaming of a response like this when she told Justin Timbo to pop her bra. The Zizou is everywhere. First of all (coz you know j'aime d'la musique tout de temps, ooh), there's the song "Coup de Boule" that's become an overnight phenom in France. Then there are the anis. I swear many of the gems I've seen make the ones I posted seem positively pedestrian. Thank goddess for under-employed people. My French/American friend Noah tipped me to this Register article with a few choice selections. That article led me to this "Zidane's headbutt photoshop-thread" forum, which has pages of good stuff, including:

There's even more madness on YTMND. My fave is The Death Star.

Question: Does the Zizou count as the best header in World Cup history that was not saved by Gordon Banks? Think about it.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

The Okayplayer take: Zidane...Materazzi...Fight!!!...Fatality...Sucka!

Here's why I love Okayplayer. Fuck the pundits. The best commentary on the Zidane/Materazzi incident is on those OKP boards. I don't know what M said to Z, and I'll be real: M got the class punk laugh as Z went to the principal's office to collect his whupping. But before that, M got served something proper. And the OKPs were into the Adobe Premiere with the quickness. My favorite new avatars come from the fellow demented.

And I said What? What does the Hexagon Honcho say to Zizou? He says "forget that shit, brah. You a gee." I guess what should I expect? The French were like "How many baby mamas you got, Mitterand? Never mind that shit. You a gee". Might not be the most upright attitude, but for my part, I'm a hell of a lot more concerned about hard core fascism dogging the game in places like Italy than I am bad-tempered blows from individual Figos and Zidanes. 'Nuff respect to the Azzuri on the field yesterday. They deserved their win, having slogged through three overtime elimination matches. If Materazzi did say something foul to Zizou, he got his looking like a crash test dummy. It's all even. Zizou wraps up his career with his street cred intact. Aw, man, I shouldn't say that. I'm a father of three...Naw, whatever. My kids better learn how to handle their own business. Zizou y va marquer...avec le tête aussi...

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Allez les bleus

I expected it to be Germany versus France, and since I'm an ardent ABI fan (anyone but Italy), I'm a bit annoyed at one half of the semi-final results. I do have to admit some awe at the Azzuri's ability to put out of their minds all the madness that has recently surrounded the game in their country. It's really hard not to be melted by Grosso's explosion of joy and relief after he scored his magnificent goal. It's also hard not to admire Cannavaro, who is several times over the most complete defender in this tournament (as Thuram was in 1998--no one was so spectacularly distinguished in 2002). I also have no sympathy for teams who bunker down to sit on a draw or one goal lead, so I concede the Germans deserved their fate for playing for penalty kicks. They did redeem themselves against Portugal with an effervescent offensive display.

France did their part, and after their slow start, they've been marvelous to watch. I do wish Henry showed more of his usual club side spark, and a dominant performance today would be not a moment too soon. Everyone else has already thrown every superlative in every dictionary at Zidane, and i have none to offer except to hope he takes the crown he deserves into retirement.

Italy are heavy favorites in almost every camp, but I see no such lopsided odds. For a start, let's not forget that no one gave France a chance against Brazil, either. I like the wise old men of France under the immense pressure of the biggest sporting final in the world. The country of Italy has three titles to France's one, but they are tied in the post-war era, and more importantly, this very France squad has experience of going all the way, while no one remains from Italy's victorious 1982 team. Experience counts as much as fitness in such a game. Also, Italy has faced plenty of off-field adversity, but France has had more to deal with on the pitch, and I wonder how Italy will respond if they do stumble and let in a goal. Buffon has been solid, but we've all seen his wilder moments at club level. Then again every other moment for Barthez is a wild one, and I still think Les Bleus could end up regretting picking him over the rock solid (though less experienced) Coupet.

We'll see, I guess. Here's hoping for bis mille neuf cent quatre-vingt dix-huit, including the drama, and the result.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

One more miserable commentator nugget

Who the frick is Nuno Gohmz? How did he sneak onto the field against Germany in the place of Nuno Gomes? Seriously, when Nuno Gomes scored the lovely diving header yesterday off a gorgeously shaped cross from Figo, the commentators went on and on about the goal by "Gohmz", pronounced to rhyme with English "homes". (For some reason it made me keep thinking "who is this Gormless Gohmz--remember Gormless Gordon from that old game "Mermaid Madness"?). JP Dellacamera started the "Gohmz" business, and I figured John Harkes just had to correct him. No. John Harkes went on with the same pronunciation in his comments. And through the rest of the game they mentioned the goal, and the mispronounced name over and over, making me wince each time. It was almost as if they were doing it on purpose to goad their detractors. Well, I'm well bloody goaded.

Never mind that it takes only a little familiarity with Portuguese names (and nicknames: Gomes is not actually his surname) to understand some general patterns of their pronunciation, and that there were three teams in this World Cup offering plenty of examples that would suggest anything bu an elision of that second "e". I suppose it's too much to expect for JP and John to have watched the Champions League, where Nuno Gomes played for Benfica, and had his name pronounced reasonably well by superior commentators. Or simpler yet, did they not have a pronunciation sheet provided by the mighty ABC? Surely ABC Sports/ESPN has a research department. Oh, I know: they're otherwise occupied hunting down all those useless stats posted up in a black box to obscure the actual game we tuned in to watch.

OK, so mispronouncing a name is a minor sin, and to be fair, UK commentators mispronounce non-Brit names all the time (and I think they often do so out of perversity rather than ignorance), but something about the mangling of "Gomes" really underscored for me the slovenliness of the commentators we've had to endure. With 83 comments, and counting, on my first complaint about those imbeciles, I know I'm far from alone in my frustration.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia