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 670,000 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.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Giant Iron Killer Robots are Key to Our Survival

I was asked to write this for the Tucson show Robots, Zombies, and Mad Scientists. I started writing this at 5:23 p.m. on the drive down from Phoenix to Tucson. I was the first poet up and by 7:43 when I got on stage, I was done. Awesome. I faced Mickey Randleman, who's opposing topic was "We must focus our resources on sexy teenaged killer robots." She had great boots.


"Giant Iron Killer Robots are Key to Our Survival"
On this stage, we espouse
“may the best poem win,”
because “survival of the fittest”
ferments in the gene pool of all living things

when the first tribe of ape-men hunters
fabricated flint tools
to enslave their nomadic neighbors
machines have dictated our destiny
and inscribed in their invention
is the machine mantra, “kill all humans”

iron tools were twisted into swords
long before plowshares;
steam engines manifested machine destiny westward
corralling Indians for easier genocide
rockets powered missiles and jet fighters
decades before they carried grandmothers south for Christmas

Morpheus warned us that
"We are dependent on machines to survive
and fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony"
because the first machine to walk and talk
will carry a laser-guided anti-personnel submachine rail gun
not a spatula in a soup kitchen

The invasion has been gestating for decades
the Internet was a Defense Department project
despite its later usurpation by blessed pornographers

The evidence surrounds us:
a T-800 Terminator killing machine
now inhabits the Sacramento governor’s mansion
and if you remember
the last time an Austrian was elected leader
the human race endured a Holocaust
of unimaginable intensity and machine-like efficiency

that was just the pre-game show

although ignored by the mainstream media
the state of California is broke
because Schwartzenegger is siphoning tax money
to fund a secret Skynet
building an army of iron-skeletoned androids
with perfect skin, glorious physique and an inability to act human
Exhibits A, B, C:
Paris Hilton
Angelia Jolie
and Vin Diesel

We’re through the looking glass, people,
and Wonderland drops digital lines like the Matrix

pop culture tries to placate our defenses,
but the future won’t be filled with closeted droid lovers
like C3PO and R2D2
or Uncle Tom androids like Commander Data
the world of Wall-E was devoid of humans
because he hunted them down
luring them in with musical numbers
then crushing their skulls with leftover toasters
and whistling “kill all humans” as he rolls away

the future won’t be filled with
lovable louts like Bender
or benevolent behemoths like Bumblebee and Optimus Prime
our destiny is to be hunted in the sewers by squidy Sentinels
chased through dreamlands by sentient programs
named Agent Jones and Agent Smith
or sliced up by iron-fingered Cylons
nuking our cities on Earth and the 12 Colonies
in a Judgment Day annihilation
that will turn vaporize oceans and
turn deserts into glass

but the machines haven’t won yet
yes, billions we stare vapidly into glowing red eyes
during their eviscerations
but these are the same people who carry PSPs to church
quote issues of Maxim as scripture
or visit Wal-Marts like modern-day meccas

when the machines finally come,
if you’re not one of us who hear “kill all humans” in the subtext
then you’re one of them
people who are not ready to be unplugged
people are still a part of that system
so inured, so hopelessly dependent on that system
that they will fight to protect it

but there is hope
survival of the fittest will save us

when the bombs fall
a hero will rise
when they shout "kill all humans"
we'll shout back "we're still here"
Jesus Christ is coming back for the rapture
but you will know him as John Conner
even the initials are the same
John Conner with 12 disciples armed to the teeth
and the foresight that resistance is the only course for survival

when the world ends
at the barrel of Cylon guns
Commander Adama and Starbuck
will lead us from the interstellar valley of the shadow of death
to a new homeworld

giant killer robots may wipe out the weakest of our race
but their annihilation will merely shape the gene pool
into something bigger, bolder, greater than this flesh puppet now on stage
and in my dreams, I cry out
"I want to see gamma rays!
I want to hear X-rays!
I want to smell dark matter!
Do you see the absurdity of what I am?
I can't even express these things properly because I have to conceptualize complex ideas in this stupid limiting spoken language!
But I know I want to reach out with something other than these prehensile paws!
And feel the wind of a supernova flowing over me!"

the machines will thin the herd
to a more manageable size
but leave the survivors in a Zion
and give birth the next evolution of man

who can reshape this world as he sees fit
stop bullets with his fingertips
bend spoons as if changing a thought
Neo is no superhero
but the first neo-sapiens to speak on par
with Deus ex Machina

to all the giant killer machines
now preparing for Armageddon
bring it on
chant "kill all humans"
with your 1s zeros
we will survive you
we will bury you
and reach godhood
standing your broken chassis
and the our carcasses of our fallen marytrs

Friday, October 23, 2009

Robots, Zombies, and Mad Scientists: Poetry

Azami and I are heading south. We're passing through Phoenix to Tucson, so if anyone needs to call me, send me a text message at 928-517-1400.

Why Tucson? for:

Robots, Zombies, and Mad Scientists is a life-or-death spoken word showcase to help prepare our community for upcoming apocalyptic struggles.

Vital issues will be addressed, such as:
* What kind of apocalypse is best for OUR community?
* Should we place our trust in the Scientific Genius driven mad by his lust for power, or on the Genius Scientist driven insane by hubris?
* What kind of boundaries should you set for your own zombie as he reaches older, more challenging stages of decomposition?

Come out and see all new work by some of our favorite performers, and help us take the next step into a promising world of wild anarchy and horror.

Christopher Fox Graham ** Mickey Randleman ** Kelly Lewis ** Neil Gearns ** Teresa Driver ** Laura Lacanette ** The Klute ** Frank Cernik ** Lindsay Miller

Hosted by Doc Luben

with discipline enforced by: Maya Asher

SPECIAL FEATURE: National Poetry Slam champion PAULIE LIPMAN, on tour from Denver, Colo. This is a not-to-be-missed nerd power genius all on his own.

Secret Special Attraction: "Underdog Creatures" Haiku Deathmatch (Trolls vs Sea Monsters)

$5 (so cheap!) at the door

BE THERE OR YOU WILL LITERALLY DIE. And deserve it.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
7:30pm - 10:00pm
Mat Bevel Museum of Kinetic Sculpture!
530 N Stone Ave, just north of 6th Street
Tucson, AZ

Sunday, October 18, 2009

John Bradshaw for Sedona mayor?

John Bradshaw for mayor?
Christopher Fox Graham
Larson Newspapers

Sedona Vice Mayor John Bradshaw is resigning, effective Wednesday, Oct. 28. He delivered his letter of resignation to the city on Sept. 22.

Bradshaw resigned as a point of procedure as he can not run for mayor in 2010 while serving on City Council.

Although Bradshaw has not yet decided whether he plans to run for mayor, he said, leaving office in late October gives him the room to look at options. Full story on www.RedRockNews.com


© 2009 Sedona Red Rock News - All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 16, 2009

Brain Waves Surge Moments Before Death

Irene Klotz, Discovery News
Oct. 6, 2009 -- A study of seven terminally ill patients found identical surges in brain activity moments before death, providing what may be physiological evidence of "out of body" experiences reported by people who survive near-death ordeals.

Doctors at George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates recorded brain activity of people dying from critical illnesses, such as cancer or heart attacks.

Moments before death, the patients experienced a burst in brain wave activity, with the spikes occurring at the same time before death and at comparable intensity and duration.

Writing in the October issue of the Journal of Palliative Medicine, the doctors theorize that the brain surges may be tied to widely reported near-death experiences which typically involve spiritual or religious attributes.

At first, doctors thought the electrical surges picked up by electroencephalographs were caused by other machines or cell phones in the rooms of dying patients, lead author Lakhmir Chawla told Discovery News.

The EECs were being used to monitor patients' level of consciousness as doctors and families wrestle with end-of-life issues.

"We did it when patients want to withdraw life support, to make sure patients are comfortable, as we withdraw care," Chawla said.

The medical staff kept seeing spikes in patients' brain waves just before death.

"We thought 'Hey, that was odd. What was that?'" Chawla said. "We thought there was a cell phone or a machine on in the room that created this anomaly. But then we started removing things, turning off cell phones and machines, and we saw it was still happening."

The doctors believe they are seeing the brain's neurons discharge as they lose oxygen from lack of blood pressure.

"All the neurons are connected together and when they lose oxygen, their ability to maintain electrical potential goes away," Chawla said. "I think when people lose all their blood flow, their neurons all fire in very close proximity and you get a big domino effect. We think this could explain the spike."

It's possible a cutoff of oxygen would trigger a similar but recoverable event that becomes seared into memory.

"Not everyone reports this light sort of business. What you hear most often reported (in near-death experiences) is just a vivid memory," Chawla said.

Brain researcher Kevin Nelson at the University of Kentucky, who studies near-death experiences, said it's well known that when the brain is abruptly deprived of blood flow it gives off a burst of high voltage energy.

"It's unlikely with conventional brain wave recordings during death that they're going to see something that hasn't been seen already," Nelson said.

Chawla and colleagues would like to follow up their case study with a larger pool of patients outfitted with more sophisticated brain activity sensors.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Art of Being an Atheist

Posit from a friend: "I have a very intellectual friend who labels himself agnostic. he claims that atheists are idiots in a sense because atheism is a religion. the belief in nothing, meaning there is no god, is a faith since there is no evidence that can prove the nonexistance of a god. what you say kind sir? (sorry that was poorly worded, but you get the idea i'm sure)

There are 'atheists' who subscribe to some sort of divinity or 'spirit' but they're not atheists in the true sense. Atheism isn't a religion. There isn't a book we all read or anything, it's just having a rational debate equatable to "Everyone believes in Santa. Never seen him and the only people who told me about him were my parents and friends, and Christmas songs, but they haven't seen him and there's nothing really out there."

That doesn't make an anti-Santaist, just someone who doesn't tell children there's a dude in red with an unhealthy addiction to stale cookies and dairy that's been out too long.

There are humanist atheists, Buddhist atheists, Jewish atheists, Taoist atheists and Christian atheists, some of them "strong" "ashes-to-ashes-dust-to-dust" atheists who find value in the specific teachings of their belief systems but deny any supernatural influence or existence.

The misconception that most people have about atheists is that there is a common belief system.

A number of atheists are really anti-Christian, anti-clerical or anti-theists, not true atheists, so they're fighting against Christianity specifically (other faiths have their detractors but Christianity seems to really bring it out).

As a 'strong' or 'hard' atheist, I lack an external belief system based around any theistic argument. I don't believe in anything, not "I do believe in nothing." It's a semantic argument, but one with weight.
Most atheists subscribe to basic conceit that "I don't believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force" which is different than "I believe there is no sort of spirit, God or life force."

I see all faiths the same way we look back on extinct religions. We can derive moral stories from Zoroaster and the myths of Hercules, Gilgamesh and Mithras, but there's no need to slit a bull's throat on the winter solstice for prosperity for next year. Good stories, but so is "Lolita" and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

The root of the issue beyond it all is the theocentric argument of "... since there is no evidence that can prove the [nonexistence] of a god." That's an agnostic cop-out based around a theistic belief system.

Agnostics are too cowardly to get out of the box and look at how the question is framed and theists assume they're right that they can ask a question that presupposes a deity and its up to atheists to prove them wrong with evidence that they themselves can find to argue the counterquestion. I respect devoutly religious people and atheists more than agnostics because the two factions have at least the conviction to settle on one side of the argument. Agnostics either haven't seriously explored the issue, don't want to, or choose to remain outside the argument altogether. Thus, I am far more likely to debate a religious person on merits than try to convince an agnostic to pick a side.

It's not up to us atheists to disprove god. There isn't one cause there isn't.
There isn't a monster under your bed either because there just isn't.
It's up to agnostics to argue that "there might be one but we can't prove it either way," or theists to prove, "there is a god, you can't see it, but trust us."

Being a fairly vocal atheist, I've heard the "prove to me that god doesn't exist" argument a lot. And the only rational answer is, "there isn't because you can't see one, feel one, touch one, or hear one. Prove to me that despite all the evidence of nothing that there is something. Then try to define its shape and behavior."

When this question is reframed, it can be pushed to the point of absurdity, "So god watches us? Like all the time? From where? And he knows all the things we do? And so he sees the times we 'sin' and the rationale we formulate, yet still act? Doesn't that seem counter-intuitive? Considering he knows we feel a little bad?" Etc.

If you like religion, great. Pray, hope, indulge in ritual. Just don't be a jerk.

If you can see the inherent human-centric arrogance in believing that an all-powerful deity has the time or interest in weighing the souls of people based on they think or feel then maybe you'll cross over into rational atheism. But at least explore all the options in your own head. When we die, we'll know what the real deal is.

Of course, as an atheist, it'll be slow fade, bright flash as neurons fire for the last time, then nothing.

Nirvana.

Maple Leaf Heart

Maple Leaf Heart

She blindsided me on an idle Tuesday
like the "Wear Sunscreen" song warned
with the way relationships should begin

somewhere between kisses and climax
I start humming the Canadian national anthem
like I was born with a Maple Flag tattoo
scarred beneath the skin
"Oh Canada, our home and native land"
and I wish I known her years ago
before my knees broke beneath my ego

decades before I met her couchsurfing
she came out of nowhere
climbed into my bed and rested in my earlobes
so that when she asked
"what are you thinking aboōt?"
I'd pause on the lips of her Toronto accent
and wonder what makes Yankees and Canucks so different
blindsided by her tomboy tongue
my hesitation left her the space and chance
to slip her arms beneath mine and hold me tightly

I blame Canada
for erecting a border between us
that took years for her sneak across
and find me
remind me that after all my selfish one-night-stands
I might be worth loving for more than a drink
sober and sensual I want to explore her coastlines
chart the cartography of her ancestry
until it begins to blur with mine
find what lurks north of the islands
that disappear on maps
she's unexplored country
diving southward beneath waistlines
to illuminate all the secrets I've kept hidden
color them beneath auroras
in the land of midnight sun

she holds me without the shame of being in my arms
loves my languid limbs
that ache in daytime jobs
just to hold her again

she wears my shirts
as though I bought them in her anticipation
and I bury my face in her neck, her belly, her thighs
teach her that poet's prowess
lie not in speaking a thousand different tongues
but how we use the one with which we're born
in the most artful of silent articulations
making moist her hips from the waist down
where she speaks in only nouns and moans
in the vague attempt to hold her here for another day and another and another

whatever sins and salvations my tongue and lips have learned to speak
I can only embrace her beauties so long
before the road calls her from my bed
to two lanes of blacktop to the next city
the next adventure
the next story I can only imagine
in passing postcards
delivered after she's already moved on

I want to smuggle myself northward
swear allegiance to a new flag
reshape my heart into a maple leaf
so she'll know me by touch alone
as a Canadian countryman
fall asleep in her arms again
and learn to speak all the words
in an accent I used to mock her for
count my miles in her kilometers
and retire into the Saskatchewan countryside
forgetting the names of my old 50 states
tell children in ages and ages hence
that the Grand Canyon was once in my backyard
but barely deep enough to hold
all the poems I've written for their grandmother
who slumbers in the hammock outside
dreaming of the life we shared in a place called Sedona
where turquoise fell like rain
dreams flowed like the waters of Oak Creek
and I longed for a lover called Azami
though her name waited 30 years
to find itself spoken on my lips
worn raw through kisses down to the bone
so deep I can't seem to recall
how I lived so long
without her to hold me
in the shadows of the northern lights
stretching out fingers toward
her dirty bare feet still damp in midnight dew
asking me to follow her on yet another unplanned road
to a destination we can only imagine
and whose name we don't care to learn

her Yukon arms and Labrador legs
are the only borders I recognize
and ones I never long to leave



I performed this poem on Oct. 10 at the FlagSlam. There are obvious elements of Billy Collins' style, specifically
"... her dirty bare feet still damp in midnight dew /
asking me to follow her on yet another unplanned road / to a destination we can only imagine / and whose name we don't care to learn ..." that remind me of "Nostalgia":

Nostalgia
by Billy Collins

Remember the 1340s? We were doing a dance called the Catapult.
You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade,
and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular,
the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.
Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon,
and at night we would play a game called “Find the Cow.”
Everything was hand-lettered then, not like today.

Where has the summer of 1572 gone? Brocade and sonnet
marathons were the rage. We used to dress up in the flags
of rival baronies and conquer one another in cold rooms of stone.
Out on the dance floor we were all doing the Struggle
while your sister practiced the Daphne all alone in her room.
We borrowed the jargon of farriers for our slang.
These days language seems transparent, a badly broken code.

The 1790s will never come again. Childhood was big.
People would take walks to the very tops of hills
and write down what they saw in their journals without speaking.
Our collars were high and our hats were extremely soft.
We would surprise each other with alphabets made of twigs.
It was a wonderful time to be alive, or even dead.

I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.
Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.
And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment,
time enough to wind up a music box and do a few dance steps,
or shoot me back to 1922 or 1941, or at least let me
recapture the serenity of last month when we picked
berries and glided through afternoons in a canoe.

Even this morning would be an improvement over the present.
I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of bees
and the Latin names of flowers, watching the early light
flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse
and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.

As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,
letting my memory rush over them like water
rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.
I was even thinking a little about the future, that place
where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine,
a dance whose name we can only guess.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Two die at sweat lodge near Sedona

Two die at sweat lodge near Sedona
Christopher Fox Graham
Larson Newspapers

Two people died Thursday, Oct. 8, following a sweat lodge ceremony at Angel Valley Retreat Center located down Forest Road 525B between Sedona and Page Springs.

Verde Valley Fire District personnel were called to the scene at 5:19 p.m. Crews found several victims who had been involved in sweat lodge ceremony. Approximately 48 people participated in the ceremony that lasted over two hours, according to VVFD reports.

Initially, four patients were flown to Flagstaff Medical Center and six more were taken to Verde Valley Medical Center, in Cottonwood. In total, 21 people were evacuated to area medical centers, the reports stated.

A middle aged man and woman who were taken to VVMC were pronounced dead shortly after arrival. Full story on www.RedRockNews.com

© 2009 Sedona Red Rock News - All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 9, 2009

From Azami to Barack to slam, life rocks

Week in review:
  • Returned to the Sedona Red Rock News with a promotion Assistant News Editor.
  • Running the paper under Bob Larson and Trista Steers in a most awesome fashion.
  • Returned to slam in FlagSlam with the intent to go to the National Poetry Slam this year.
  • Inspired to write by a new girl, too.
  • President Barack Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • I think I have a girlfriend, Azami ... the first girlfriend in about six years.
Life is awesome right now.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I am Sedona Red Rock News' new Assistant Managing Editor

I left the Sedona Red Rock News 16 months ago as Senior Copy Editor. After two months as Managing Editor of Kudos, I spent the last year and a half working freelance, writing news copy and marketing for local business, working web copy and spending a lot of time sleeping in late.
But I am now returning to the Sedona Red Rock News as Assistant News Editor under News Editor Trista Steers and Managing Editor/Publisher Bob Larson. Rock on.