These two guys look an awful lot alike to me. Are we sure that Obama isn’t Toscano with some bronzer and a new ‘do?

It’s not just their physical appearances, but their manner and way of talking, too. Am I the only person to have remarked on this?

Spine chills

Reeling from Cho Seung-hui’s bizarre video manifesto, his comparison of himself to Christ, his lashing rage and twisted blame. To think that he positioned himself as a martyr — my spine chills, I get a strange feeling under my fingernails, my whole being tightens up…

What of my students, those few who are exceptionally alienated, hostile, lonely, strange, those who scowl from under baseball caps, those who decree “I hate Americans,” those who start mean rumors or stop coming to class because they’re too depressed to get up in the morning? What of Sun who took her life or another student who once referred to himself as “a cutter” (of his own arms).

When Sun died, I wrote here wondering what the responsibility of a teacher is to our disturbed charges. What is my responsibility right now to my students — especially my many Korean students (most of them not, I hasten to add, unusually disturbed)? I don’t know. I’m puzzled. And if there is someone among us, a peer even, who shows traits like Cho’s? What can I/we do? What should I/we do? Why are people so weird? So miserable? So vengeful?

This is not, I know, the time to say that I recently read (for it is my habit to read handouts that professors leave lying around the halls and copy room) an excerpt from Sade’s Juliette — a beautifully written, rhetorically looping argument in defense of murder — but it’s an odd coincidence. People are so easily seduced by their own power to destroy. At least Sade was able to shape his destructive urges by putting them inside characters and exquisite sentences — there is such a huge difference between a viciously imaginative libertine amoralist and the tangled-up angry kid who convinced himself his insanity was a kind of retributive justice.

It doesn’t sound, though, like there was anything anyone was able to do for him, even though he said, “You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today.” He doesn’t go into details, but one wonders if he had thought to direct the same criticism at himself. “I didn’t have to do this,” he said, “you forced me.” If “you” here is really, I suspect, his own derangement, and he was unable to manage that derangement himself, what could possibly have helped him? Meds? Love? Restraint? Sedation? Clearly not religion. Clearly not education. Honestly, I don’t presume to know ~ I only wish I knew how to take preventive measures in the spheres I inhabit. Your ideas and suggestions are welcome.

Oh Moses, Moses

It’s true. I did make Nick, Toni, and Gary watch The Ten Commandments on Easter Sunday. I later found out that the networks aired it the same day. How eerie is that? Must be a voice-of-god thing.

It has been one of my favorite movies since I was a kid, and along with Busby Berkeley soundtracks I heard on the oldies station (before 50s meant oldies), it was one of the major factors in developing my aesthetics, which resemble nothing so much as those of an older gay man (e.g. Kenward Elmslie, the poet with whose sensibility I believe I feel the most sympatico). I remember how excited my mom got when it came to the scene of the parting of the Red Sea — “Look, look!” she said. I still love in particular the scene where the sheik’s daughters are throwing their hair around to entertain the traders in the caravan, and everything about the golden calf party scene.

In my third chapbook, Lip (1988, voces puerulae press), I included three poems that addressed the film — or more properly, Exodus and Mosaic law via the film. I really love these poems, and kindly quote them for you here:

god, huh

only the father of a

only the wander of a seer

only the brisk bangi ng harm

of open ing your ear


who is blame?

The children
of Israel
went astray in
the desert and
the golden calf.

They were threatened
with severe
and Moses
on their be-



I want to say I love you but the words get in the way

Helmets and billy clubs.
Dot matrix tongue.

Fixed monoliths constantly erasing
the attempted carved thought.
Brilliantly accessed chemical
reactions stopped
at a road block, let’s see your id.

The theory behind it pushes against the rocks, press-
ing the old woman whose job it is to grease them in
between. Moses saves her just in time. It turns out
she’s his mother.

Would you stop to save the life of every slave. I want
to say I love you, but first you must make bricks with
no straw (Pharaoh, how can he make bricks with no
straw?) I want to say I love you, but I’ve seen the
burning bush and sprayed white paint in my fake
beard. I want to say I love you, but my breath is
garlic and my skin is not white like the Egyptian
women. Oh Moses Moses, you poor sweet adorable
fool Moses.

Look: fascinating Ten Commandments trivia!

And guess who Moses’ wife became in a later incarnation?