Newly Available: Free, Digitized Collection of Gabo’s Writings

Two years ago the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center acquired  Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s works.

A grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR)  contributed to the searchable, online archive which consists of nearly 27,500 items from Garcia Marquez’s papers.

This digitalized collection, is available to the public for free.

The digital archive includes manuscript drafts of the legendary writer’s published and unpublished works, research material, photographs, scrapbooks, correspondence, clippings, notebooks, screenplays, printed material, ephemera, including an audio recording of Marquez’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982.


Lectures on Hegel’s Science of Logic

When I was studying Hegel and Freud with Slavoj Žižek and Avital Ronell at New York University, we were given a vast bibliography with which to .

Science of Logic was easily one of the most difficult books that I’ve ever read, and were it not for Picturing Hegel: An Illustrated Guide to Hegel’s Logic I imagine it would have taken me much longer to grasp .

The Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) presented a one day Lecture on Hegel’s Science of Logic along with questions from the audience.

Speakers include Peter Osbourne, Catherine Malabou and Howard Caygill.

I’ve yet to listen to the lectures and questions, I’m kind of posting this here as a reminder for me to come back to this later, but suffice it to say I am very excited to listen to this as Catherine Malabou’s  The Future of Hegel: Plasticity, Temporality and Dialiectic was one of my favorite books while at NYU.

DISCOVERED: Evidence That Lil Peep Was Murdered?!

Lil Peep: Like many a revolutionary, died young.

21 year old up and coming rapper Lil Peep was recently found dead of a suspected drug overdose in his tour van. While the police have yet to release their report, Little Peep’s death may not have been an accidental overdose but part of a carefully orchestrated plot by the Alt-Right.

Since the public displays of violence in Charlottesville and Portland that brought widespread condemnation; failed attempts at false-flag operations; failed attempts at disinformation campaigns; failed attempts at re-branding themselves and failed attempts at recruiting, the Alt-Right is now adjusting their tactics to targeted assassination of current (or potential) political activists!

While I haven’t read any of the police reports, autopsy reports, spoken with anyone that knows him or have made any effort to, what’s below will clearly show that Lil Peep was murdered as part of an Alt-Right conspiracy.

Lil Peep: Experimenting with Cocaine & Karl Marx

Little Peep’s drug use was widely publicized by himself and others. Less often discussed in articles and interviews was his views on his family life, his Russian background, and his burgeoning crypto-Radicalism. While the music world has long been associated with drug use such that it is viewed as natural, experimenting with Marxism and radical theory is another story.

The following three Instagram posts were captured before they were archived and show evidence of Lil Peep’s flirtation with Communist literature as well as a photo of the plug for his radical thoughts – his grandfather, who he names as a Communist and a “bad ass”.

Historically suspicion of Communist Party membership was considered just cause for being denied employment; ability to enter into the United States; ability to join a union or a professional organization who membership is required for work; being forced to answer questions about personal political beliefs in public; inability to purchase housing; firing from one’s place of employment and blacklisting artists/workers. This was especially evident in creative careers.

Why would the owners of businesses that rely on creative work do this? Because artists  visibility makes them influencers whose individualistic habits and (sometimes) anti-bourgeoisie values can conflict with conventional social mores and by limiting the realm of the politically possible by spreading fear throughout the society – this group can better project hegemony.

Local, state and Federal governments – instruments of social control by capitalists within bourgeoisie democracy – were in on the game too. They prevented Communist artists/activists from traveling; from running for elections; from working in all forms of government service; etc. in addition to funding those artists that they saw as “more aligned with American values.”

However with the 1992 collapse of the USSR and challenges in courts as to it’s legality, this has  come to be seen as anachronistic and has not enforced anytime recently.

The Alt-Right’s desires a return to an atmosphere of Anti-Communism, since Communists reject the prejudice against the various religious, racial and ethnic groups the Alt-Right defines themselves against.  From this lens Lil Peep’s burgeoning interest in Marx and Lenin (“Vlad in the back”) is a subversive act. With no valid pre-text for state repression, halting Lil Peep’s potential Marxist influence on American became a private matter for the Alt- Right.

Lil Peep Killed for Being A Future Russel Brand

If it seems unlikely that Lil Peep was on his way to becoming the number one Marxist threat in America, consider Russel Brand’s evolution from drug addict to revolutionary and it’s relationship to the rise of Communist-sympathizer Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom. 

Brand’s personal story  from heavy drug user to left-wing spiritually-oriented revolutionary is one that it’s not hard to see that Lil Peep could have followed. Hypothetically, for example, instead of promoting Xanax use he would say this his desire for it actually stemmed from the suppressed alienation that he was feeling and that the real way to deal with this feeling was not continued self-medication but worldwide communist revolution? Given the size of his followers, even a small fragment of them becoming radicalized could have a significant political impact.

Secondly, consider who some of the major supporters of the Alt-Right are: Silicon Valley Wiz Kids. The people that are most likely to have created technology that would allow themselves to combine someones digitized personal life and a number of world scenarios together in order to determine who potential radicals will be. This would allow them to then target people that work against their interests of white ethno-state.

Lil Peep Murdered Before Turning Radical

The symbolism of an anarchy sign on Lil Peep’s face tattoo provides further proof why the alt-right would view him as an existential threat beyond the Instagram photos that he archived (maybe because he was threatened?!). He could literally be the new face of American radicalism.

If this seems like a bit of a leap, consider that there’s a large number Anarchist perspectives. Though they may not use the term themselves Lil Peep, like Brand practiced lifestyle, or individualist anarchism.

Notice that anarcho-capitalism is not represented here, because that’s not anarchism.

Often associated with Benjamin Tucker or Max Stirner, who Marx and Engles criticized extensively in The German Ideology, individualist anarchism grants neigh little validity to dictates of the state or society. Legal prohibitions against drug use and the concomitant effects that the Drug War has had on other countries, like Colombia, are seen as as particularly egregious and criminal.

Individual Anarchist social critique’s are wary of group activity, seeing near total social atomism as the ideal. Within a number of circles, this not genuinely considered to be “anarchism” as people drawn to such views can be drawn into racist politics if they come to see class as emerging from race or ethnicity as well as anarcho-capitalism if they reject class. There’s serious merit to such a position placing it outside the tent. A third option is to gain historical consciousness and move left instead of right.

Coming to recognize that it is because capitalists control the major functions of the state that the state is why the state is the way it is – rather than the state qua state it is as such – leads to a very different conclusion. By recognizing the importance of empirical, material history and class struggle for obtaining those liberties, people turn to syndicalism, collectivism, socialism and communism. This is the path that Russel Brand has gone.

Little Peep Assassinated by the Alt-Right?

DADDY by @adamdegross

A post shared by @lilpeep on

The evidence for a potential assassination goes beyond mere heresay. There are rumors of chat logs – similar to the Breitbart email leaks and the Charlottesville chat leaks – that were intercepted as part of an ongoing AntiFa right-wing monitoring campaign. In these logs it’s suspected that there are comments specifically made by Milo Yiannopolous in a manner that’s derogatory to Lil Peep.

Milo Yiannopolous’ affection for public affection of Donald Trump as Daddy is well known, and apparently he was very upset by the fact that Lil Peep had a tattoo of the word Daddy on his chest.

It is pure conjecture that Milo Yiannopolous was the actual person within the alt-right that directed the assassination of Lil Peep, but given his connections to the pharmaceutical industries and Silicon Valley it certainly makes sense.

When will we see justice for Lil Peep’s murder?


Please be aware that it was the author’s intent to be read as humor/satire meant to mock the various alt-right outles that said there was going to be civil war in America on November 4th. At least that’s what the !? in the title and eclectic intellect categorization was intended to indicate to the reader. I’ve never listened to any of Lil Peep’s music before not did I hear of him before he died.

On the Weakness of Trump Jr.’s Halloween Candy as Socialism Analogy

As income inequality worsens within countries around the world and more people grow disillusioned with the neo-liberal verities that justified their immiseration as well as the politicians which has been spouting them, more people have been rethinking whether or not policies based on socialist principles might be a better option. In fact with the recent election of Lee Carter, a marine veteran that identifies as a Democratic Socialist, along with a number of other left of center populists and socialists we might even be seeing the pivot begin to become a trend. This is making a lot of people nervous.

The Washington Post recently published an editorial  decrying changes in language and politics as neo-bolshevism. The American Culture and Faith Institute recently published findings from a survey which outlets like the National Review are up in arms about. Why? Because younger people are becoming more sympathetic to socialism! Also in on the furor is the Victims Of Communism Foundation, they also published the results of a different survey that much to their and others dismay, also found that younger people view socialism favorably! Lest this seem like the new American generation simply is ignorant to the realities of socialism, it’s worth noting that this trend wherein socialism is seen as desirable is not just in the U.S. but a sentiment found in the former Soviet Union as well.


It’s in this context of   growing demand for systemic political and economic change, that the son of the current American president, Donald Trump Jr., decided that he would use his following on Twitter to try to educate his followers on just how unfair, unjust and undesirable socialism is by posting the photo and text that I’ve screenshot on the right. The post, rightfully so, was mocked by a number of outlets, including Vice and Twitter.

A few days later Liberal (not leftist) Chris Hayes posted the following on his Twitter account. I can’t say for sure whether or not this was in response to Trump Jr’s tweet, but it does touch upon the (1) the correctness of Socialist analysis, (2) just how slow in coming to understand want Trump means for America and (3) that the received truths from most outlets (i.e. non-Marxist) are no longer valid.

Why Trump Jr is Wrong: Selective Redistribution is not Socialism

As many on Twitter pointed out, as far as analogies go Socialism = Halloween is a pretty bad one. But this isn’t something that is unique to Trump Jr. There’s a long history of purposeful misrepresentation of socialist thought and ideas by the media outlets of the wealthy going back over a hundred years. Puck Magazine was one such outlet that previously paid artists to publish cartoons of dirty, foreign socialists to discredit them. The sensibilities have changed, but the essence hasn’t.

Now people like Dinesh D’Souza, a man convicted of violating campaign finance law, not only seek to discredit socialism, but to transform it’s meeting so that the whole of the philosophy comes down to is “redistribution” and to claim that the the Democrats are in fact descended from Nazis. Thus, according to the new logic of the presumptive ruling class, World War II was really just leftist infighting between socialists in Germany and Russia and the US. By the by, this means that the Nazis actually won WW2 because, remember, FDR was a National Socialist…

The problem with all of this is, the logic turns to dust when you look to the seminal author on capitalism, Adam Smith. Here is from one of his maxims on taxes:

The Wealth Of Nations, Book V Chapter II Part II, Appendix to Articles I & II, p. 861, para. 12.

The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities…

Smith also includes four additional maxims that ought to inform how it is that taxation should transpire. That said, while tax percentages, sources and allocation is certainly a contentious dynamic, but there’s nothing inherently “socialistic” about it. Social, yes, interaction between people. Socialist? No. That refers to principles of social and economic governance. While there are a variety of views on public ownerships of good and services – such as public schools, roads, national parks, etc. – but to claim that they are “socialist” is to mistake what socialism really is – the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Marx’s Major Theoretical Writings Are About Capitalism, Not Socialism

If that last phrase of that last sentence needs some unpacking, that’s understandable. Unlike the language and theories that Freud and the circles of readers and practitioners of the artistic science of psychoanalysis developed, Marxism hasn’t entered into the popular lexicon. This shouldn’t be that surprising given the indoctrination in our schools and churches that Communism/Marx is unAmerican, the fact that America has a long tradition of anti-intellectualism; state and para-state actors that seek to dissuade those that have made their way to Marx from acting on it and an entire cultural apparatus that is owned by a numerically small but politically powerful class that does not want to see or hear of their property being threatened.

Dictatorship is a heavily loaded term and it’s worth noting that as is conceived in Marxian though, the term does not necessarily refer to a personalistic style of political rule, but to control over political institutions. Marxists say that currently, living in the class society that we do, we live under the dictatorship of capital. It’s purely descriptive.

The proletariat is the group of workers that know they live in a class society and want to halt class rule through organized political struggle. The proletariat is categorically not the working class as a whole, who may not be active in the political economic struggle.

Class struggle, however, is just one component of Marxism socialism. There’s a large body of primary literature (and for free, thanks!) as well as secondary literature that can explain the varieties of socialism, be it How to Read Karl Marx, Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx: A Revolutionary Interpretation or David Harvey‘s website.

Class Struggle! But What Else?

From my conversations around college campuses and at political events, validated by Jon Stewart, I think it’s fair to say that as a whole Socialism/Marxism as ideologies tends to be conflated with economic leveling and giving greater political power to the people. Because of this unfortunate desire to appear “in the know” thousands of pages of theory and decades of history are obfuscated and I think that this focus distracts from the fact that there are a number of his non-revolutionary concepts and intellectual innovations within Socialist and Marxist literature.

I say non-revolutionary as there are a large number of writers on every possible locations on a political map that agree with a some of his concepts and interpretations of historical developments. I’m not going to cite them all, instead an excerpt of this article from Harvard Business Review shows that class struggle isn’t specifically socialist or Marxist:

“Have these people never heard about Teddy Roosevelt excoriating the “malefactors of great wealth,” or his cousin Franklin getting Congress to raise the tax rate on top incomes past 90%? Americans have been pillorying the rich on and off for more than 200 years, and our economic system has survived and mostly thrived. In fact, the political and labor-relations compromises occasioned by what you might call class warfare have on balance surely made the country stronger.

What’s been unique, or at least highly unusual, has been the environment in which entrepreneurs and business executives were able to operate from the late 1970s through the early 2000s. Taxes dropped, high-end incomes exploded, and hardly anybody complained at all. Far from complaining, in fact, the news media for the most part celebrated the recipients of those exploding incomes for their boldness, creativity, and economic importance. It was a pretty stinking awesome time to be a plutocrat: You got to make billions of dollars, pay far less in taxes than you would have a quarter-century before, and get your face on the cover of Forbes or Fortune (or maybe even the top of your head on the cover of HBR).”

After you’ve read that entire article, which is worth your time, I’m sure you’ll agree. However, unless you were familiar with socialist/Marxist thought, you wouldn’t know this and just think it’s just some “foreign” ideology.

Marx and the Many Schools of Economics

Understanding how societies operate is difficult and requires a specialized vocabulary to talk about various components. In the process of gaining deeper knowledge within an academic discipline, ones’ lexicon and scholarship grows such that one can come to understand a variety of schools in relationship to one another and how the effects of their policies are. It’s because of this – lack of study on the subject – that Trump Jr. makes such a poor analogy for socialism. One might consider that as a capitalist he might “have ideas”, but all this means is that he’s able to extract surplus value from people not that his position as such a historical agent makes his version of theory superior. It’s not.

But Trump Jr. is not alone in his ignorance. If polled via mTurk, I think that less than 5% of people could give me an accurate definition of any number of terms used by Marx, be it alienation, commodification, division of labor, fetishism, solidarity, mode of production, etc. I believe the same would be true for concepts introduced by Marx’s later interlocutors like Gramsci with hegemony, Rosa Luxembourg’s analysis of reformism or Trotsky with permanent revolution. What great potential for a poll! Those the believe that schools have indoctrinated children with collectivist thought could finally have proof of it as knowledge of those words and other ideas related to it would quantitatively demonstrate public school led to collectivist thought!

Despite such claims, I would propound that with Trump there is a rise of people with a racial and nationalistic language for thinking through their politics, and I’m not alone in this assessment.

Socialism, or Barbarism

The middle class does not exist in the US anymore and as nationalism becomes the new watchword for determining US policy, American workers need to come to realize that they have more in common with a worker in China than they do with their own employer. Not history, language or culture, of course, but their economic precariousness and the fact that they compete with each other in the labor market due to a world connected by cargo shipping containers, transportation networks and a variety of shops.

The Right has been using racial and nationalistic language as well taking a few pages from Joe McCarthy’s anti-communism playbook – as evidenced by the header image at the top of the page. However in the end it is less about fears of “others” than the precariousness of American’s status to which they are appealing.

“You will not replace us” is anxiety about globalism and it’s ability to decimate regions once industries leave for greener pastures (and less labor laws). It’s taken a while for enough people to come to this perspective, but people are slowly recognizing that the economic game has been so changed in the past 30 years that they want the rules to change too. Neoliberalism is increasingly becoming a dead letter and in it’s place will either go Socialism or Barbarism…

What is the Global State of Socialism? What Does that Mean in America?

While I’ve focused on the American case as we zoom out of our focus and head onto the world stage we see that Socialism, that cause for much American intervention in countries that elected such politicians, is not seen as such a bug bear.

In China, Xi Jinping is announced as a contributor to Communist thought and practice in the vein of Marx and Mao. Vietnam remains radicalized by their experiences with European colonialism and like China are a single Communist party state.

In Europe, Spain‘s PODEMOS party rules the country and while their leader Pablo Iglesias is not a Marxist, they are socialist in orientation. Same goes for Greece, where the current leader of the Syriza party, Alex Tsipras, continues to battle against Germany and the international credit market. While no longer a part of the EU, in the United Kingdom, Jeremy Corbyn, an avowed Trotskyist, is revivifying anti-austerity politics and helping to turn the Labour party in a working class party rather than a neoliberal party.

In Venezuela, Maduro’s PSUV won heavily in the regional elections. In Colombia Rodrigo “Timonchenko” Londoño, the former leader of the FARC, a Marxist guerrilla organization, has announced he will be running for president. In Bolivia, Evo Morales has presided over a decade of socialist-inspired reforms. In Brazil, the Temer government cannot gain legitimacy and it looks like in 2018 Lula will return at the head of the Workers Party.

In Kerala, India the Washington Post positively describes the large socialist movement on the opposite end of the “Red Corridor” wherein a Maoist-inspired insurgency fights the government.

In Rojava, anarcho-communist Murray Bookchin has found a new audience amongst Kurds fighting for a socialist nation and those that are inspired to help them.

Many other developed nations, such as Denmark, Finland, NorwaySwedenCanada, Australia and New Zealand are not socialist, but have such a robust social safety net that it’s nothing like the American notion of capitalism.

What does all this going on mean in America?

At the most general level, I think it means that Americans ought to familiarize themselves with socialist literature. There’s a whole lot of false misconceptions as to what socialism is out there. There’s a whole lot of people that think American socialists want to bring North Korea, Cuba or U.S.S.R. to America and despite s#!tposting that hints others, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

That said, Socialism is a huge topic with a lot of debates within – take it all in slowly and with a grain of salt for as is to be expected in politics, there are underlying motives both professionally and ideologically operating here.

Lastly, I think it’s worth pointing out that people should also meet with other people in their community to talk about their experiences in relation to what they are reading in order to make sure that they understand things correctly and to help form bonds. It’s a whole lot more engaging and enjoyable than hearing an analogy that literally makes you stupider from the son of a reality T.V. star that would love to have more of your money because they tricked you into thinking that the modern American iteration of Socialism wouldn’t be a treat…


Review of “Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing”

Reading Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing by Les Edgerton reminded me how to be attentive to the variety of creative decisions that determine the voice of a work. How they can be interpreted, improved and evolved from different experiential exercises. The book contains focus on various voices – pulpy, sardonic, confessional, etc. – along with “before and after”  changes. Theres illustrate how a few different decisions can radically alter the ease and enjoyment level of the reading. Some of the various traps to watch out for that Edgerton cites are the “beige voice” as well as talking up or down to the reader. As all of the fictive dream – the neurological firings in your brain that are activated during the process of readings words on page or screen- occur as the results of words, best get them right. Right?!

There are, additionally, exercises contained within for identifying the ways in which honing in on voice in specific passages can radically improve the experience of the reader and how some choices can lead to it “going wrong” in one’s writing. For instance, say one wanted to get the reader to slow down. Not to scan the text; as so many are apt now to do. Well, the solution is simple. Place a number of shorter sentences back to back. This is a particularly effective practice following longer expository passages. Explaining difficult things, after all, requires the combination of lots of pieces. Much as in the same way that sentence variation forces the reader out of the simplistic subject verb object constructions.

The book is for both writers of fiction and non-fiction and addresses something that is very important as it relates to today’s media landscape – talking up, down and beigley to the reader. Explaining every and all thing can cause passages to drag on and o n. If they are known by the reader, it’s a bore, and leads to mental lagging. A good writer, Hemingway and others have stated, leaves something for the reader to want to discover. Writing in too high of a voice is the struggle that I’ve had, having an advanced academic background I can sometimes lapse into uncommon terms that are, nevertheless, quite useful for understanding today’s world. But this isn’t all about me. This is not purple prose, either, which I’ve only found in contemporary Latin American literature, is not gone in to but that’s just because it’s so rare in American fictional and non-fictional works that get published.

Edgerton’s colloquialisms, and the linguistic playfulness of the text was, I thought, a little corny at first. However it did grow on me. Plus, I recognized what he was doing with it. Not only was he describing insights into what makes a well crafted writers voice; but he was also demonstrating it! By sharing this, as well as the hat of instructor, he’s helping to show one of the Walt Whitman quotes about – I’m stacatato-cattically summarizing her : “there being multitudes that exist within each of us”. It’s true. There are!

Les’ lessons are follower by exercises to either read, write or re-write. The book is an attempt at a comprehensive attempt to teach the craft of good writing, plot, etc. but just focus on narrative voice and the voice of characters. He lists a large number of books that go into these other areas, and it’s clear with his familiar with them that a lot of experience and time went into the formation of this book.

I finished the book not only informed but also interested in seeing the dynamic that exists in his writing workshops. Having attended several writing workshops as an undergraduate at Florida Atlantic University and in Prauge, Czech republic as part of a University of Michigan program – not to mention other informal gatherings – I’ve always found workshops a productive place where people provide new eyes to help you see things you may not be aware of because you’re too close to the work, or wasn’t aware of some insight or whatever other reason that shows up when people gather with strategic and creative intentions.

I like how following this book one can apply like dissection tools onto the writings of your favorite writers in order to better place their style in history rather than a burden. Stealing can always be great art, but only if it’s great art does it get called great art – not just because it’s just an iteration of the same efforts. That last quote, ya, that’s me. Put that on a goddamn site so i can get me da stats higher.

Master of Science in Analytics – Analytical Tools Track

Here are the two courses tracks that I could be taking:

CSE 6040 – Computing for Data Analytics
ISYE 6501 – Introduction to Analytics Modeling
MGT 8803 – Introduction to Business for Analytics
CSE 6242 – Data and Visual Analytics
MGT 6203 – Data Analytics in Business
ISYE 7406 – Data Mining and Statistical Learning
ISYE 6413 – Design of Experiments
ISYE 6669 – Deterministic Optimization
ISYE 6644 – Simulation
ISYE 6650 – Probabilistic Models

** or **

CSE 6040 – Computing for Data Analytics
ISYE 6501 – Introduction to Analytics Modeling
MGT 8803 – Introduction to Business for Analytics
CSE 6242 – Data and Visual Analytics
MGT 6203 – Data Analytics in Business
CS 7641 or CSE/ISYE 6740 – Machine Learning/Computational Data Analytics
ISYE 6413 – Design of Experiments
ISYE 6669 – Deterministic Optimization
CS 6400 – Database Systems Concepts and Design
CS 7450 – Information Visualization

Interview with Niina Pollari

Niina Pollari

Ariel: So, tell me about Dead Horse.

Niina: Well, the form or the function or some other aspect of it?

Ariel: Surprise me.

Niina: Well, do you know Dead Horse Bay, the place?

Ariel: No.

Niina: Okay, so there is this weird place in Brooklyn called Dead Horse Bay, which is down in South Brooklyn kind of near the Verrazano Bridge. The reason for its name was that it used to be surrounded by glue factories, where the carriage horses would go get processed.

Ariel: Oh, wow.

Niina: Yeah, it is kinda grim. Especially after the automobile took over New York City, the carriage horse thing was no longer lucrative, so they made it a dump. Even better, right? And, so, it went from a glue factory to a dump. But then they were like, oh crap, we shouldn’t have a dump this close to the city. So they capped it and sealed it, and then the cap at some point later burst. So, now when you go to Dead Horse Bay, you find horse bone shards and fifties-era garbage, like weird bottles and shoes and things. And so it’s a very weird experience to go there. Like, you can actually take the bus and disembark and go through some hedges and then you’re on the beach filled with garbage. It smells weird, like chemicals. At low tide you find horseshoe crab corpses and it feels very much like, not a part of New York City. While, definitely very much being a part of New York City.

Ariel: Still goth and somewhat obsessed with death after all these years! [laughter] I love it!

Niina: Yeah, I know. I almost like to talk about it, because once I find a place that talks to me, I kind of think of it as mine. You know?

Ariel: Yeah.

Niina: But of course, thousands of people go there all the time. It’s not a beautiful beach, but if you’re into the decay of cities, it’s a really cool place to visit. And so, and then there’s of course, like the idea of beating a dead horse and how much that kind of sounds like it’s about the body. As you know there’s a lot about the body in the collection, so that title seemed fitting. Plus my editor pointed out that I use a lot of single-syllable, elemental words, and the title is just like that. You know, the thing down to its essence, basically.

Ariel: So, Carl Phillips has said that poetry is more of a transformation of experience, rather than a transcription of it. What do you think about that?

Niina: I think all good literature is a transformation of experience. Poetry can perhaps be more obviously that because people expect poetry to take certain cognitive leaps. It’s not as specifically straightforward as an art form. As the sort of the weird cousin of prose, it doesn’t always make sense. So, in that way it allows you to be very transformative. You can hop from one thing to another, subject matter-wise, a lot faster and with greater ease that you could in prose. With prose you’re almost forced to explain your thought process and connections more. I think readers of poetry allow themselves to make connections more intuitively. In poetry, readers don’t necessarily expect you to do that, so that’s the great part.

At the same time, though, I’ve gotten a lot of comments about being very clear and straightforward in my own poetics, in terms of like what I write. People are always coming up to me and saying “Oh I’m not usually a poetry person, but…” and then they go on to say that they enjoyed it, or got something out of it, or bought my book. I think that is really cool too. But although I try to keep my language clear and essential, I still expect my readers to get weird with me.

Ariel: Speaking of clarity, I wanted to ask you how important accessibility of meaning is to poetry? Put another way, should one have to work hard to solve a poem?

Niina: Of course it’s wonderful if a poem talks to a lot of people. And when I edit, I really want things to be clear. But a poem takes its own life once it’s out in the world. It gathers its own momentum and it doesn’t always do what you meant for it to do. I think if your poem’s meaning is accessible to people, that’s amazing. But if you’re trying to intentionally obscure or hide your meaning, or make yourself seem smarter by being needlessly complicated, I think that’s where poetry really gets a bad rep. I can’t stand overly academic writing, period. That goes for poetry and prose and everything in between. I just think that you should know what you’re saying. Have enough control over your language to guide the reader, but leave some room for them to be surprised.

Ariel: Oh, I agree wholeheartedly. I can’t stand obtuse poetry. When I took poetry workshops with Susan Mitchell at FAU she had us read a lot of language poets, because that’s what she was into and I just couldn’t stand it. And then there’s what’s published in, say, the New Yorker, which for me is sometimes hit, mostly miss.

Niina: Yeah, language poetry is not necessarily for me either. I need to have something tangible in the world. I need to be grounded in reality, at least part of the way. Even when some of your content is impossible or implausible or surreal, there needs to be something that keeps you oriented or grounded within the framework of the poem. In that book, for me, the tangible thing was often a sense of place.

Ariel: Oh, yeah, I agree and I think Dead Horse does exactly that. I even said in my review there was only one part that I found myself, like unsure of, and the rest I was like, yeah I get this. This is, this is comprehensible and that was great.

Niina: When you’re reading something and you understand the location or the premise or you understand something fundamental about it, it allows you to get at the subtleties of it and that that allows the complicated stuff to sneak up on you. Then you’re not flailing to understand the mechanics of it.

Ariel: Yeah, once you get the, have the general focus, you can start looking at the little pieces and maybe like, play around with them.

Niina: Exactly.

Ariel: Okay, tell me a little bit about Kiss Me in the Boring Rain project as I too am somewhat obsessed with Lana Del Rey.

Niina: Oh yeah. So, I found myself listening to Born To Die and thinking a lot about it and not quite being able to grasp why I liked it so much. Some of the lyrics are kind of basic and it’s not that’s it’s musically that complicated. The album wasn’t even that well produced in some parts. But something about the persona that she adopted – the absolute certainty with which she talks about her devotion to the darkness of love, made it rattle around in my brain. And so, I slowly wrote the poems while listening to particular songs, like on repeat, until I got some lines down. There is something about her that I can’t get over, but that project helped me a lot with my obsession around that album. It helped me put the album away a little bit.

Ariel: I know how you feel. She’s easily one of my most listened to artists in the past five years. When I saw her play live a few months ago I didn’t even care about the lackluster stage show just because I was so caught up in the lyrics music. Anyway. Shift of topic. I know you attend a lot of poetry readings and even host your own, Popsickle. I’m curious how has the Internet informed and contributed to the well-being of poetry in your mind?

Niina: Quite a lot. It makes sense to poets. I think poetry benefits from the immediacy of Internet because it reduces the turnaround time on publishing in journals, or in any form of print really, and I feel that poetry works best when it’s reactive to the zeitgeist. When there’s a faster cycle between writing and publishing it, it’s good for the medium. It’s also easier to reach more people than a print subscription to a journal would. Not that print is not valuable, of course it is, but it’s just like more, it’s got a wider reach and more tentacles, you know.

Niina at a poetry reading accompanied by violin.

Ariel: Cool. What books in print are you reading right now?

Niina: Right now I’m reading Cannibal by Safiya Sinclair, and Green Girl by Kate Zambreno.

Ariel: I’m reading a history of Miami’s segregationist housing policy. It’s academic history, but written in an accessible way and I find the subject fascinating.

Niina: Actually that sounds extremely interesting. I’m working on a little bit of prose which takes place in Florida. So I was just reading about Everglades draining, which is another smart idea Florida had.

Ariel: Yeah, Florida’s land developers haven’t always been bright, but they’ve always known how to sell the idea of a potential that on closer observation is detrimental to everything that made it in the first place. I took a Florida History class at FAU and the professor had said about how it’s this underserved niche in the field.

Niina: I think Florida’s a really interesting state because of it’s heterogeneity in population and it’s proximity to different areas of the Americas and of the world. And because, it’s the place sketchy people go to disappear for many reasons.

Ariel: Yeah.

Niina: There’s also its various environmental issues. There’s just so much to say about it, and it should be taken seriously, but like, Florida’s sort of the crazy bitch of America, right? Everyone’s like, “Oh Florida, there it goes again!”

Ariel: “Florida man does something unusual and awful again.”

Niina: Exactly. I wanted to start a Twitter account for like heroic Florida Man stories that were like “Good job Florida man!”, or something. That stuff happens too it just doesn’t get as much circulation.

Ariel: Yeah. We’re not all dying from eating too many roaches.

Niina: Yeah, we’re not all like throwing an alligator into a Wendy’s.

Ariel: Haha! And of course that happens in my hometown of Jupiter, way to go Florida Man!

Niina: I know! That made me laugh so much when I read it.

Ariel: Yeah, all my friends were sharing that too. Almost as a counterweight to that kind of notion I’ve been reading a lot of works by Florida authors lately. I just finished a collection of short stories by Jennine Capó Crucet about like Cuban life in Hialeah. Then there’s Paul Kwiatkowski, who wrote Every Day Was Overcast. Weird coincidence, but after I interviewed him a couple of months ago, I’ve since found out that I have three mutual friends with him.

Niina: That’s awesome. Karen Russell and Kent Russell both write about Florida too.  And Sarah Gerard is publishing a collection of essays about Florida next year with Harper Perennial.

Ariel: Karen Russell wrote Swamplandia!, right? My eleventh grade students are reading that in their English class right now.

Niina: That’s awesome. Yeah, I love her. Her short story collection is really good.

Ariel: Yeah I want to read Swamplandia! too, but, like, I need to stop buying books for a little bit and finish reading all of what I have, so I don’t.

So now that we’re talking about all these books, I wonder how did your MFA influence your creative process?

Niina: If I could go back in time I would do a lot more research about MFA programs. The program I attended maybe wasn’t the one for me, because it was super narrative, and about as literal as poetry can be. But, the main way it influenced me was getting me to New York and, so you know, hooking me up with an initial community of people who were my first readers and all that stuff. And I still stay in touch with like a couple of the people and they’re critical in my process. So, that part, that part mostly, community I guess.

Ariel: I read this article in Jezebel that touches on some of the subject we’ve been talking about – the internet, reactivity and poetry communities – and was wondering if there was any overlaps with your experience.

Niina:  I attended one of the schools where this particular “inappropriate literary man” taught, and although my personal experiences were different than the ones this article touches upon, I felt that the program’s atmosphere was very male somehow. Maybe it has to do with some old-school notion of the MFA program, but in retrospect it’s especially confusing to me at that school because the program was mostly non-men. That was ten years ago; it does feel like there’s a change in the air now. Voices that might have stayed silent even as recently as then aren’t staying silent anymore, and that’s a good thing.



Make sure to read my review of Dead Horse and then buy it of course! You can follow Niina’s website by going here. Also, as a special Halloween treat, dear reader, feast your eyes on this collaborative poem that Niina and I wrote when babies for duo-poetry performance: I present to you Degothalizer 2000!


The historical revisionism and false dilemma of Matt Kibbe's views on Cuban Socialism

An acquaintance recently posted the above video and I was a taken aback. I’m no specialist on Cuban history, but what was presented didn’t seem right to me as I knew many of claims he was making to be half-truths, not correctly contextualized or were outright lies.


Let just consider some of the claims made.

1) Matt Kibbe quotes Castro as saying that Rock and Roll was the “Music of the Enemy”. Well, if you are a nationalist that didn’t like the fact that United States capital was controlling the political situation in the country than it was. Following the Spanish-American war Cuba was no longer a Spanish colony but an American Protectorate. From 1898 to 1935

4812412_origWhat was the Platt Amedment?

  • Cuba could not make any treaty with another nation that the U.S. did not agree to.
  • Cuba must allow the US to buy or lease a naval base.
  • S. had the right to intervene in Cuban conflict to protect it.
  • Cuba had to keep it’s debts low to prevent foreign countries from landing troops to enforce payment.

This amendment was used multiple times in order to bolster different factions of the Cuban political elite that were protecting American investments in the sugar and railroad industries. At this time the Cuban elite – predominantly peninsulares and lighter skinned mulattoes – were exceptionally racist and prized American culture. In the period after the Platt Amendment’s repeal, despite the Good Neighbor policy much of the American extensions of power at times when U.S. capital was threatened remained the same. Consider the U.S. history in the Caribbean – even before the Cuban Revolution the U.S. had established a habit of propping up military dictators throughout Latin America for financial gain and 1961 Cuba’s neighbor, Dominican Republic, had over 20,000 US troops on the island that were fighting a Communist-inspired insurgency against American-backed rule!


2) Kibbe claims that Fidel Castro “banned rock music” in his country? A little research shows that while The Beatles were banned for two years, from 1964-1966, by 1974 the MNT (Nueva Tropa Movimiento) helped to end this often unenforced “ban” on certain musical acts playing in public.

(‪… ; ‪ ; ‪…/cuba-maps-its-rock-music-history/)

3) Following the banned music claim, Matt Kibbe alleges that “you could be beaten, jailed or send to a work camp for having long hair.” The manner in which transitions to a 2008 example of this gives the impression that this has gone on continuously since that point. As the above has already shown, this is not true.

The example that Kibbe gives, is also more complex than he informs us. The names of the band (which Kibbe doesn’t cite) is Porno Para Ricardo. Readings this article for context, it becomes apparent that Matt is grossly misrepresenting both what happened to the band as well as the overall context. I recommend reading the whole article, but here’s an except from the close that does a good job summarizing the complexities of this.

“the band’s oppositional stance is complicated by the fact that Gorki’s pronouncements dovetail—at least in some aspects—with the rhetoric of the Miami right. For example, in interviews with the foreign media, Gorki has suggested that the Cuban government has purposefully caused food shortages and described the leadership as motivated by a desire to “humiliate” the people. Such statements are rarely heard on the island, despite the proliferation of other types of complaints and allegations, yet they are daily fare in Miami.

Although the band has no formal political affiliation and states that it has never accepted funds from abroad, the possibility of such a relationship is latent, as suggested by the Cuban American National Foundation’s immediate offer to provide legal assistance to Gorki.”

4) Haymarket. The Palmer Raids. Pinkertons. American Legion. Red Squads and Special Investigations Bureau’s committed to undermining radicals throughout every major city in the United States. The KKK’s mass entry into policing. Florida’s Johns Committee. Detroit’s Black Legion. New York’s Bureau of Special Services. Los Angeles’ Public Disorder Intelligence Division. Philadelphia’s Civil Defense Squad. Memphis’ Defense Intelligence Unit. McCarthyism. The FBI’s COINTELPRO. House Un-American Activities Committee. House Internal Security Committee. Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Internal Security. The corporate, extra-legal origins of the Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit.The Tenney Committee. The assassination of the Black Panthers. The fracturing of the Students for a Democratic Society. The attempt to blackmail Martin Luther King, Jr. The monitoring of anti-war groups.

These are important instances of American history to know when considering the binary the Kibbe is setting up with Socialism as Evil and Capitalism as Good. They are important as it they are all examples of times when the U.S. government spied on citizens, beat up activists, prevented mail that’s considered politically unsavory to those in power from being sent, assassinating activists, and all around having their lives interfered with by the U.S. state. This list isn’t even a comprehensive one of all of the examples of the massive state intervention in the political lives of Americans. So let’s not buy into this dichotomy of Socialism bad cause you can’t express yourself, cause it ain’t true.

5) If you are going to define any sort of large social operations, be it Capitalism or Socialism, any encapsulation of it to two words is a grave distortion of it. The two words that Kibbe uses is “plan” and “conformity”, which could equally be used to describe capitalism – owners create a “plan” for production based upon their market knowledge and capital and require workers to “conform” to their wishes through wage labor in order to produce. Socialism could be better stated as a system of political economy wherein workers own and direct the means of production through the state. This sort of faulty generalization allows him to replace what he is calling socialism with what is more properly called authoritarianism. What’s the difference? Check this video out for a brief primer: (‪

6) Kibbe claims that with Socialism you can’t get no satisfaction, however there are many counterfactuals to prove this wrong – from the quasi-socialist Nordic countries having the highest rates of happiness to the nostalgia of people in the former Soviet Bloc for the stability offered by the government without it’s repressive aspects.

(‪…/norway-denmark-finland-business…; ‪…/are-socialists-happier-than…/)


Matt Kibbe’s video presents the viewer with a false dilemma, it is either Capitalism and Freedom or Socialism and Repression. It furthermore distorts Cuban history prior to the revolution both as an official protectorate and as an unofficial one. Arthur Schelsinger, Jr reported about the country under Batista that: “The corruption of the Government, the brutality of the police, the government’s indifference to the needs of the people for education, medical care, housing, for social justice and economic justice … is an open invitation to revolution.” As this short article shows this is not the case and the claims he made are off for a number of reasons. I hope you found this article interesting and that you can gain greater media savvy as a result of it.