March 2011


Just discovered this amazing review on Sustainable Aircraft of my polemic, Bank of America Online Banking: A Critical Assessment. It manages to say some poignant, provocative things about the state of “avant-garde” literature in the US and Canada.

I did actually put it back up on Lulu (free download), but took down the WordPress site since it seemed redundant. Bank of America changed their fee policies soon after I posted this, but certainly not because of me. I’m pretty sure that my assessment of their website still stands, though, but I’ve moved my account to Wells Fargo, which has a much more helpful, unadorned site.

Thanks, Marie, this very thoughtful and, in many ways, encouraging.

Bank of America Online Banking: A Critical Evaluation
Brian Kim Stefans
Citoyen Press: Los Angeles, 2010
Review by Marie Buck

Last January, the poet Brian Kim Stefans released a pamphlet entitled “Bank of America Online Banking: A Critical Evaluation” as a series of posts on his blog Free Space Comix, on a WordPress site, and as a downloadable file or purchaseable print copy on Lulu. (The WordPress site and Lulu page seem to have been removed, but the pamphlet is currently available as blog posts here. As Stefans writes in the press release, the pamphlet “argues that the great portion of the bank’s revenue accrued through overdraft fees is often the result of the deceptive and confusing nature of the online banking site.” Over the course of an introduction and ten brief chapters, Stefans demonstrates that several specific aspects of the website—which Stefans notes is in fact a software program which ought to be compared to other handier and better-designed software programs—are arranged to give misleading information, to advertise the ease of the site to customers (who are, in fact, already using the site) rather than warn them of potential hazards, and to obfuscate information that might help customers avoid overdraft fees. Stefans also crunches some numbers and suggests that the average person making less than $100,000 a year incurs $145 in overdraft fees each year.

Over the course of the pamphlet, Stefans implies that in continually insisting upon its own ease, the Bank of America website not only likely garners millions in overdraft fees, but also suppresses customer conversation and outrage about the fees. The site—containing such cutsey and condescending phrases as “[w]e’re all guilty of overspending from time to time, even though we know we shouldn’t”—is designed to make customers feel guilt, even shame, about overdrafts incurred when the site itself actively obscures information that anyone with a small balance needs in order to ensure s/he does not overdraft. The only ways to have all the information you need to make sure you don’t overdraft are to keep an old-school checkbook (when one function of the site seems to be precisely to replace such a checkbook) or to make sure you never let your balance get low—basically, to have a decent chunk of money in there at all times, to compensate for holds on your account and the like. In other words, to be wealthier.

Clear and well-researched, the pamphlet is recommendable for the information it provides about online banking and about the rhetoric of software and web design. However, it is also recommendable to read the pamphlet as an intervention into the contemporary poetry community of which Stefans is a part. The pamphlet begins with a Frank O’Hara quotation—“I go on to the bank / and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard) / doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life…,” suggesting that Stefans might have poets in mind. And given the pamphlet’s avenues of distribution, it’s safe to assume many of the people who have read it are poets. (I, for one, started reading it thinking I was beginning some sort of conceptual poem.)

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Forthcoming in Spring 2011

April 5th, Jeremy Schmidt (UCLA, English), “Imaging Labor: Ezra Pound’s Contemporania

April 19th, Alice Henton (UCLA, English), “Playing with Archive: Game and Narrative in Bioware’s Dragon Age: Origins”

May 3rd, Evan Kindley (Princeton, English), “Empson’s Forms of Talk”

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If you are interested in the emerging edge of language-informed arts practice, whether as a poet, writer, artist, media innovator, scholar, teacher, performer, or in any other disciplines, E-Poetry offers a context for practice and analysis that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. For its tenth anniversary, E-Poetry has been brought back to Buffalo, a central and accessible location for its activities. It will provide a mix of practices, with the emphasis on emerging practices in multiple disciplines that find themselves embedded or even just on the edge of the digital. It will convene a celebratory (in the triumphant spirit of preceding historic poetry festivals) and thought-filled gathering of 150 artists, writers, and scholars from 40 countries — a diversity and culturally rich offering that won’t be found elsewhere. Please attend:

E-POETRY 2011 International Digital Language | Arts Festival
TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY FESTIVALMay 18-21, 2011
University at Buffalo
Specially-priced advance registration offered during March 2011 only!

E-Poetry is the definitive innovative digital language arts festival in the world. With its emphasis on poetics, performance, engaged arts, experimentation, and scholarly and artistic conversation, and with previous events in West Virginia, London, Paris, and Barcelona, it has defined international digital literature poetics today.

The tenth anniversary festival of E-Poetry 2011 is set to launch a new epoch in digital literature. E-Poetry, at its inception, was the first to map this field. E-Poetry has been here since the beginning and continues even stronger today. It has set out to organize the 2011 festival as a culmination of the first ten years as well as a model for future years – advancing the conversation of the digital into the engaged scene of creative and scholarly activity that the field promises.

With its sponsoring organization, the Electronic Poetry Center, often recognized as the world’s first and preeminent Web-based poetry resource, E-Poetry will define the arts as emerging practice in an interdisciplinary, aesthetically complex, and materially delightful manner never before seen. We invite you to be there.

The Festival will take place from Weds. May, 18th to Saturday May 21st, 2011, with special conference events on Tues, May 17 and its Wednesday “Scientific Committee” panels. Please come for as long as you can. The cost of visiting Buffalo is quite reasonable. We will be glad to help with suggestions for your travel and accommodation. E-Poetry offers the chance for a prolonged immersion into considerations of the workings and practices of digital poets, scholars, and artists. Buffalo is a location, fervent with the great powers of the Niagara rushing through the tranquil, flat, maple forested countryside of Western New York, where we can come together, apart from the hustle of a devouring city, to meet as artists and thinkers. It is a location that offers celebration and contemplation. It is a quiet place but a location within New York State’s largest university, its programs direct descendants of Black Mountain College, Language Poetry, various iterations of the Poetics Program, Media Study at Buffalo, and the Electronic Poetry Center. Buffalo is a prime leader in the U.S. in the innovative digital, visual, sound, and language arts.

Information is available via the EPC, where you will always find the latest information on E-Poetry 2011. (#epf11)

We look forward to seeing you at E-Poetry 2011!

Dr. Loss Pequeño Glazier
E-Poetry President & Artistic Director

Dr. Sandy Baldwin
E-Poetry 2011 Festival Curator & Co-Director

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I wrote a short email to my seminar class called “Game, Chance and Narrative” about how to create a nice blog for their final presentations. They still have to write final papers, but I have them create blogs as well. My hope is that they can use the act of writing for the blog as a way to look again at their prose.

Here are the notes I sent out. Nothing earth shattering here, but I think the points are very basic, good ones.

Here are some points I thought of about your blogs:

Chunkify — even if the paragraphs in your paper are long, break them up into shorter paragraphs for the blog. It just makes the visual impact better — nobody likes to read long paragraphs on the screen.

Make sections — even if your paper just works as one long section, break your blog up into separate points. You can even number them. Make them separate posts.

Use multimedia — even if you don’t need a video or image to make your point clearer, you can still include a few extra things just to keep it lively. Don’t put in totally irrelevant stuff, but you have space so use it.

Link key phrases and words — blogs and other websites just seem livelier if you link phrases and words to relevant articles. You can even be witty this way — link to strange things that help you make your point.

Use your blog writing to help you revise your paper — often I find that something I wrote in a Word doc seems unnecessarily wordy when I put it on a blog. Use the blog as a new way to look at your prose for your paper.

Use the blog formatting features — especially for long quotes from essays, use the block quote tags in the blog. Generally, if a quote from a text is longer than 4 lines (on paper) it should be offset as a block quote — otherwise, just use regular quotes and leave them in the paragaph.

You can have much more text on your blog than in your paper, but I want you to stick to the paper length for what you hand in on the page. Your paper shouldn’t read like a bunch of blog posts, but like a sophisticaed research paper. Don’t include screencaps or anything like that in your paper, just refer to your blog.

Your presentations should be about 7-10 minutes. We have to race through all of them in 3 hours, so time it well. If you have time, practice! During your presentation, feel free to ask the class if they have additional ideas about a section or two, or other examples — this can be a workshop for your final paper.

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A READING OF SORTS

Sunday, March 13, 2011,
3pm – 5pm at Lounge at REDCAT

with:
Amanda Ackerman
Anthony Seidman
Brian Kim Stefans
Jared Woodland
Sophie Sills

Lounge at REDCAT
631 W. 2nd Street
(Downtown) Los Angeles, CA 90012

Free

AMANDA ACKERMAN lives in Los Angeles where she writes and teaches. She is co-editor of the press eohippus labs. She is also a member of UNFO (The Unauthorized Narrative Freedom Organization) and writes as part of SAM OR SAMANTHA YAMS. Her publications include three chapbooks: Sin is to Celebration (co-author, House Press), the recently-released The Seasons Cemented (Hex Presse), and the forthcoming I Fell in Love with a Monster Truck (Insert Press). Her work can also be found in the current edition of Little Red Leaves and The Encyclopedia Project: Volume F-K.

ANTHONY SEIDMAN is the author of the On Carbon-Dating Hunger (2000) and Where Thirsts Intersect (2006), both published by The Bitter Oleander Press. A selection of his work was included in the second volume of Corresponding Voices in 2005, by Syracuse University Press and Point of Contact, as well as in the anthology Barco A Vapor Transatlántico, published by Fondo de Cultura Económica and the Unversidad Nacional Autónoma de México. He has published translations of American poetry in La Jornada, Mexico City’s major newspaper, Castálida, Reverso, Luvina and Revista Solar, among others. His poetry has been published in such journals and newspapers as The Bloomsbury Review, Hunger, Ur-Vox, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Beyond Baroque, Skidrow Penthouse, Milk, Nimrod, Parteaguas (Aguascalientes, Mexico), La Prensa (Managua, Nicaragua), La Reforma (Mexico) and Steau (Romania).

BRIAN KIM STEFANS‘ recent books include Kluge: A Meditation, and other works (Roof, 2007), What is Said to the Poet Concerning Flowers (Factory School, 2006), and Before Starting Over: Essays and Interviews (Salt Publishing, 2007). His digital works such as “The Dreamlife of Letters” and “Star Wars, One Letter at a Time” have been shown in gallery settings worldwide; many of these can be found at his website, www.arras.net. He is an Assistant Professor of English at UCLA, specializing in poetry and electronic writing.

A graduate of the CalArts MFA Writing program, JARED WOODLAND lives and punctuates calamities in Los Angeles.

SOPHIE SILLS‘ book of poetry Elemental Perceptions: A Panorama was recently released by BlazeVOX books. Her poetry has appeared in the Cricket Online Review, BlazeVOX, and Elimae. She works for a Jewish non-profit and at National University. She lives in Los Angeles and she is happy.

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