This is the official blog of Northern Arizona slam poet Christopher Fox Graham. Begun in 2002, and transferred to blogspot in 2006, FoxTheBlog has recorded more than 423,000 hits since 2009. This blog cover's Graham's poetry, the Arizona poetry slam community and offers tips for slam poets from sources around the Internet. Read CFG's full biography here. Looking for just that one poem? You know the one ... click here to find it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Campaign trails: Not for stars or VIPs

Christopher Fox Graham
Deciphering Sedona
Scarlett Johansson has endorsed Sen. Barack Obama [D-Ill.] for president.
That endorsement may be key to winning the Democratic nomination before the national convention in August and may entice swing voters away from the presumptive Republican contender, Arizona Sen. John McCain, and could push Obama into the White House.
Those who stood in long lines at Sedona City Hall only wish they had heard her endorsement before Super Tuesday, otherwise they would have given the state’s delgates to Obama instead of Sen. Hillary Clinton [D-N.Y.] and McCain.
Even though Johansson has never been elected to office, she holds the crux of the pop culture swing vote.
Scarlett Johansson … yes, the actress. From “Lost in Translation” and “Girl With a Pearl Earring.” She was in “A Love Song for Bobby Long,” too, I think.
Johansson recently appeared in a music video alongside footage of Obama’s concession speech after the New Hampshire primary in January.
Even though he lost the state, the speech is an example of Obama’s linguistic prowess and inspires in a way only the man who dared to author a book called “The Audacity of Hope” could.
Johansson is accompanied by almost 40 other actors and musicians, including that guy from that thing, I think, and that girl I saw on a magazine, I think, or maybe her bandmate … maybe.
Quite honestly, aside from Johansson, I couldn’t name anyone in the video with certainty, hence the reason she’s receiving the brunt of my angst.
Anyone who can name more than 10 of the artists in the video probably spends more time watching music videos than deciding who to vote for anyway.
The video is an example of viral marketing — a sinister tactic that uses word of mouth and existing social networks to promote a concept or product.
The video snaked its way on to YouTube and Think MTV — make your own joke about that one — and into the collective consciousness pitting the “have you seen it yet?” faction against the “I’ve got to find it because I’m not cool” faction.
Thus, if you have seen it, you’re cool for being in the know. If you haven’t, you’re not. Sneaky marketers evolve just as fast as consumers.
The song was “written” by Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am, who can call stolen lyrics a “song” the same way he can call his pretentious spelling of “William” a “name.”
Will.you.are, in music, it’s called sampling. In journalism and everywhere else, it’s called plagiarism.
Don’t get me wrong, Obama’s speeches are moving.
While my daily Bruce Wayne facade is a newspaper copy editor and columnist, my Batman is a slam poet, so I can say with some authority that Obama is a poet running for president.
He commands the English language like President Abraham Lincoln, imparting hope and patriotism without sounding cliché, and does so with enough humility that makes us believe we are merely angels trapped in skin suits.
I sometimes get chills from his cadence and inflection, which seems to blend the the inspirational concepts of President John F. Kennedy, the conviction of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the lyrical rhythm and simplicity of poet Maya Angelou.
However, watching a group of self-righteous celebrities ride on the coattails to promote a political candidate smacks of an impeding American Idol coup d’état, which threatens our fragile democracy.
It’s nice that celebrities have gotten out of rehab long enough to tell us that Obama’s words are moving, but, honestly, we don’t care.
We know the words are moving already.
What’s worse is that Obama’s campaign neither commissioned nor endorsed the video.
Actors should stay in movies, musicians should stay on CDs and only occasionally make the foray into other mediums to sell cologne or laundry detergent.
Leave the speeches to politicians and the poetry to the poets. If they happen to be same person, let the Obama be.
Deciphering Sedona is published every Wednesday in the Sedona Red Rock News. To comment, e-mail to cgraham@larsonnewspapers.com.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Underdogs get Sedona's sympathy

Christopher Fox Graham
Deciphering Sedona
In restaurants and bars across the city on Sunday, Feb. 3, Sedona residents joined the more than 97.5 million Americans to watch Super Bowl XLII.
While both teams garnered local support, in many Sedona venues, the crowds leaned toward supporting the New York Giants in its inevitable defeat at the hands of the as-yet undefeated New England Patriots.
Why?
Perhaps our support is a translation of the American way blended with Southwestern flavor.
We are a nation, after all, that earned independence by defeating the largest empire the world had ever seen with a army of Kentucky farmboys and Boston tea-tossers — then defied the greatest navy on Earth for good measure 30 years later.
There is a strong tradition of supporting people who have little chance of victory, yet we still secretly root for Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, the Washington Generals and the Rebel Alliance to overcome overwhelming odds.
Perhaps there’s some vicarious joy in watching Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, the provebial flawless homecoming king replete with cleft chin and five o’clock shadow, get showed up by Eli Manning, a Louisiana hick who often has the stunned expression like he’s just been hit in the face with a shovel.
Even in Hollywood, the doofus gets the girl.
However, Sedona’s support of the underdog was not unexpected, but an incarnation of our city’s character.
Sedona is a city of small-business owners and working artists who often defied convention to eke out a living and inevitable success among like-minded people struggling against larger forces, be it big box stores, economic instability, environmental doom or the vices of selling out to capitalist corporate music.
For Sedona residents, the Giants was our team.
Granted, New York was also destined to lose brutally.
The Patriots were 13.5-point favorites with an unblemished 18-0 record.
The team planned to walk home with the Lombardi Trophy and a perfect 19-0 record after a short Sunday afternoon of playing a quaint little scrimmage against a wildcard team with a 10-6 record.
Sports commentators nationwide debated whether the Patriots would abuse the Giants like Joe Pesci in “Goodfellas” with the largest blowout in history or merely rough up the team by a mere two touchdowns.
Yet, the unthinkable happened. The Giants not only put up a fight, they won.
Casino owners in Las Vegas made money like mad.
The “greatest team in football history” was run out of Phoenix by a scrappy team whose quarterback often throws footballs wildly, often into the arms of the opposition, and can be counted on to blow any advantage his defense can earn.
Manning looks like someone who fell out of the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down, then climbed back up because he thought he missed one.
Before Sunday, Manning was not anyone’s pick for most valuable player, certainly not by fans in New York [actually New Jersey, to be geographically accurate], who booed him during games earlier this year.
Yet, Manning led his team over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers with plays that caused diehard fans to go white-knuckled at the sheer inane recklessness of his behavior on the field.
But perhaps we cheered for the New York Giants because the New Agey metaphysical gooeyness that is Sedona has rubbed off onto even football fans and we saw the future before it happened — and the cause of the Patriots inescapable fall from glory.
“Spygate” — the illegal videotaping of opposing teams’ sidelines during games by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick — was conspicuously absent from any reference during the telecast. Many felt the NFL’s punishment for the sin was far too light.
However, the universe smacked revenge by pressing the “smite” key giving the Giants a 17-14 upset of the Patriots
Sedona residents have a word for cosmic justice: Karma.
Deciphering Sedona is published every Wednesday in the Sedona Red Rock News. To comment, e-mail to cgraham@larsonnewspapers.com.