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.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Every human that has ever lived except one

Astronaut Michael Collins, behind the camera, is the only human not in this photo, shot from Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969. Except for Collins, it contains astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in the Eagle lander, as well as every man, woman and child alive and the resting place of all our dead ancestors.

On the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing


Photojournalist Tom Hood and I were invited by Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff to cover a speech by astronaut Neil Armstrong related to the unveiling of the first images recorded by the Discovery Channel Telescope on July 20, 2012, on the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon.

The recording of Neil Armstrong's speech has some funny lines and beautiful imagery:
“Almost a half-century ago, some astronomers designed an experiment. The idea was deceptively simple: Compute the distance between the Earth and the moon based on the time it would take for a beam of light to travel up to a mirror located on the surface of the moon and to reflect it back to Earth.”
“I wasn’t one of the scientists on this project — I was sort of technician. My job in the experiment was to install the mirror."

“It may not be obvious why anyone would want to measure the distance to the Sea of Tranquility within 11 inches, but we had to have some way of confirming our mileage for our expense account.”
“The mirrors are expected to be busy for many years to come, which gives me enormous satisfaction as a technician on the project.” 

“From the Sea of Tranquility, the Earth hung above me 23 degrees west of the zenith, a turquoise pendant against a black velvet sky.”
“The home of the human species is not inherently restricted to Earth alone. The universe around us is our challenge and our destiny.”

“Thanks to everyone here for being a part in this civilization.”



Neil Armstrong on the moon
It turned out to be Armstrong's last public speech [and second-to-last interview; his last being with an Italian radio station] gave before his death on Aug. 25, 2012.

The video to which he referred at another speech in Australia in 2011:

Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong also left behind an American Flag, a plaque, an olive branch-shaped gold pin, messages from 73 world leaders, a patch from the Apollo 1 mission that, during a training exercise, combusted and killed three American astronauts, and medals in honor of two of the first Soviet astronauts who had died in flight.

Digitally remastered footage of the 1969 Apollo 11 moonwalk:


The video highlights of the three-hour moonwalk include a clearer picture of Neil Armstrong's descent down the stairs of the lunar module, which was taken from the Parkes Radio Observatory and the Honeysuckle Creek tracking station outside Canberra on 21 July 1969 (Australian time).
The long-forgotten video footage was uncovered during a decade-long search for the original recordings of the moonwalk, and involved lengthy detective work and clandestine meetings, says astronomer and telescope operator John Sarkissian from the CSIRO at Parkes, who headed up the search.
At the time of the Moon landing, three stations - Goldstone in California, Honeysuckle Creek in Canberra, and Parkes in New South Wales - simultaneously recorded the events onto magnetic data tape. The direct recordings were not of broadcast quality, says John, so they had to set up a regular TV camera pointed at a small black-and-white TV screen in the observatory to obtain higher-quality images that could be relayed to television stations around the world.
"Original signals weren't HD quality TV. They weren't even broadcast quality, even by 1969 standards," he says. "They were better than what was broadcast to the world; that's why we went looking for them ...".
Buzz Aldrin on the moon
The Goldstone camera settings to convert Neil's descent down the stairs were not correct and showed an image too dark to see. So the decision was made to switch to the Honeysuckle Creek footage, and after eight minutes, to the Parkes footage, which was used for the rest of the moonwalk.
It was this clearer footage, which had not been seen since 1969, that John and his search team were hoping to recover from the NASA archives, where the tapes had been sent.
Unfortunately, they hit a roadblock. "We discovered, to our horror, that in the 1970s and 80s NASA had taken the tapes in the national archive and erased them all to record other missions."
About 250,000 tapes from the Apollo era, likely including the 45 tapes of the moonwalk, are likely lost forever.
The Apollo 11 Plaque left on the lander on the moon
After some digging, they found that in the 1980s someone made a VHS tape of the Honeysuckle Creek magnetic tape, "a bootleg copy if you like, that was severely degraded," John says. A copy of that copy was given to an Apollo enthusiast who was tracked down to Sydney by the search team. This footage included a brighter and clearer version of Apollo 11 mission commander Neil Armstrong's descent to the lunar surface and was used to replace the darker Goldstone images at the start of the broadcast.
At the awards ceremony, select scenes from the entire restored video will show Neil's first step on the Moon's surface, Buzz Aldrin's decent of the lunar module ladder, the plaque reading and the raising of the U.S. flag.

Had the Apollo 11 mission failed, the White House had planned for President Richard Nixon to give this speech, which remained quietly in government archieves. The speech is heart-wrenching, even if it was never needed:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Did Tomas Stanton plagiarize Rudy Francisco? Obviously. Here's the evidence

Below is beautiful poem by Rudy Francisco, the 2009 National Underground Poetry Slam Champion, the 2010 San Diego Grand Slam Champion, the 2010 San Francisco Grand Slam Champion and the 2010 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion.
 

"Scars/To the New Boyfriend"
By Rudy Francisco


Scars
1. If I could, I would nail these hands to the edges of stars. I would sacrifice this body to the sky hoping to resurrect as someone spiteful enough to not care about you anymore.
2. Staple me to a cross. Pierce my side with a broken promise and I will bleed all the crippled reasons why you deserve one more chance.
3. Loving you was the last thing that I felt really good at.
4.You wanna know how I got these scars? See, I ripped every last piece of you out of my smile.
5. I whispered you stardust.
6. I spoke you into sunflowers.
7. I dipped my hands in forever. I touched you infinity. Treated you as if you were the last molecule of oxygen inside of a gas chamber. I was good to you.
8. You wanna know how I got these scars? See, I swallowed my pride. And then it clawed its way out of my mouth.
9. I realized that I was never really your boyfriend. I was just your fuckin' hype man.
10. I hope your next boyfriend gets smallpox.
10. Yes I said smallpox!
10. I hate you!
10. But I still miss you!
10. And a part of me still loves you!
10. It’s hard for me to count when I get emotional!
10. I heard that over 90% of human interaction is nonverbal so...
10. If I could, I would tie your arms to a daydream and then auction you off to my fondest memories.

To the New Boyfriend
1. The first time I saw you and her on a picture, I wanted to take my entire arm, shove it inside of the computer and snatch the happiness right off of your face.
2. If I ever see you in the street, I'm probably gonna punch you in the throat.
3. I apologize in advanced. And I know, I know that it makes no sense, to have this much anger toward a man that I never actually met face to face. But my definition of love is being robbed in an alley 8 times in a row, and hoping there's something about today that makes all of this different. There is nothing logical about cutting off the most important parts of your yourself and then putting them inside of hands that shake, that tremble, that crack like an ancient sidewalk.
4. There is nothing rational about love. Your love stutters when it gets nervous. Your love trips over its own shoelaces. Love is clumsy and my heart refuses to wear a helmet.
5. Cupid is fucking irresponsible. And I'm tired of him using me for target practice.
6. I was told that time would heal all wounds. But what exactly do you do on days when it feels like the hands on your clock have arthritis?
7. She always wore her heart on her sleeves. So tell me why the hell do you look so familiar?
8. I think I've seen you somewhere in her smile. Like I've heard your voice in her laughter. Like I've smelled your cologne on her thighs. I bet if we dusted her heart for fingerprints we would only find yours.
9. I have this envelope. It's, it's full of all  the butterflies that I felt the first time she relaxed the velcro on her lips and smiled in my direction. I think most of them are still alive. I guess these belong to you too.

Copyright © Rudy Francisco




Rudy Francisco's poem was recorded at his feature at The Bowery Poetry Club, Manhattan, N.Y., in 2011, and published to YouTube on March 18, 2012, four months before the Copper State Poetry Slam on Friday, July 27, 2012.

The version below of Tomas Stanton, of Phoenix, was published to YouTube on Jan. 19, 2013. The original version we heard at Copper State included the line "I was just your hype man" and a line about miscounting in positions 9 and 10, both lines have since been omitted in the performance below, after Northern Arizona poets brought the plagiarism to the attention of his then-team captain.

 

A transcription:
1. So I finally figured it out that when you said forever, what you actually meant was 414 days, 13 hours and 25 seconds
2. You wasted my time
3. Would somebody please tell Facebook. I don't care how many neutral friends we shared, no, I do not want to be her friend, not now, not later, not ever
4. My bedroom still smells like the love we used to share, so last night I tried to replace that scent, but in the morning, my bedroom now reeked of two mistakes instead of one
5. I apologize to all of those who have been caught of a crossfire of our misery
6. if I could, I would burn every last image of you [sic] face from the inside of my eyelids, you beautiful nightmare
7. They say time heals all wounds
8. The batteries in all my watches seem to be dead
10. yeah I know I skipped 9, because 9 is your lucky number and there ain't nothin' lucky about you
10. I never thought I would hate you
10. yo, I hate you
10. I wish I never met you
10. why can't I forget you
10. I wish I never met you
10 I'm having a hard time moving on, so I just go backwards
9. in a conversation with my grandmother I was reminded that god is love and love doesn't make mistakes but sometimes people do
8. holding onto anger is like picking up a hot coal and throwing it at the one you despise but missing them, you were the only one that's burning
7. all got all new batteries for my watches
6. I feel the endless days of summer becoming shorter, these leaves of anger becoming harder preparing for fall
5. I finally figured out how to block you from my Facebook, it's nothing personal though, it's just still kinda hard though to see you smiling without me but I'm glad you've found somebody to make you smile
4. My bedroom is now a very lonely place, which means I have a lot of extra time on my hands
3. So I watched this fascinating video the other night of a caterpillar being born and spinning itself into a cocoon [sic] only to be reborn again as a butterfly
2. maybe in another lifetime we'll be butterflies
1. it's been about 414 days, 13 hours and 25 seconds since we last saw eye-to-eye and I heard that it takes twice the time you're with someone to move on so I guess I got 414 days, 13 hours and 25 seconds to go but I no longer feel like it's a waste of my time because the scars that we made will forever make me a better man


What is most obvious is the themes are the same: a rise in anger over a breakup, the climax in the repetition of the number 10 and a recount, the difference being Francisco goes 1 to 10, Stanton goes 10 to 1.

Evidence of Plagiarism:
Francisco: I was told that time would heal all wounds.
Stanton: They say time heals all wounds
 Immediately after that line:

Francisco: But what exactly do you do on days when it feels like the hands on your clock have arthritis?
Stanton: The batteries in all my watches seem to be dead

Francisco: I think I've seen you somewhere in her smile.
Stanton: it's just still kinda hard though to see you smiling without me but I'm glad you've found somebody to make you smile

Thematic similarities:
Reflection on love
Francisco: There is nothing rational about love. Your love stutters when it gets nervous. Your love trips over its own shoelaces. Love is clumsy and my heart refuses to wear a helmet.
Stanton: in a conversation with my grandmother I was reminded that god is love and love doesn't make mistakes but sometimes people do

Metaphor for what holding onto anger is like
Francisco: I know that it makes no sense, to have this much anger toward a man that I never actually met face to face. But my definition of love is being robbed in an alley 8 times in a row, and hoping there's something about today that makes all of this different. There is nothing logical about cutting off the most important parts of your yourself and then putting them inside of hands that shake, that tremble, that crack like an ancient sidewalk.
Stanton: holding onto anger is like picking up a hot coal and throwing it at the one you despise but missing them, you were the only one that's burning

A butterfly at the conclusion
Francisco: I have this envelope. It's full of all  the butterflies that I felt the first time she relaxed the velcro on her lips and smiled in my direction. I think most of them are still alive. I guess these belong to you too.
Stanton: 3. So I watched this fascinating video the other night of a caterpillar being born and spinning itself into a cocoon [sic] only to be reborn again as a butterfly.
2. maybe in another lifetime we'll be butterflies

There are also references to seeing the ex on Facebook, the performance style that rushes the 10, 10, 10 section, and the aforementioned omitted lines about being a hype-man and getting so passionate you can't count. But cutting the obvious plagiarism after you get caught doesn't change the fact the rest of the poem is plagiarized.

From the Poetry Slam Inc. Handbook:
Each poet must present his or her own original work.
 

Sampling.
It is acceptable for a poet to incorporate, imitate, or otherwise “signify on” the words, lyrics, or tune of someone else (commonly called “sampling”) in his own work. If he is only riffing off another’s words, he should expect only healthy controversy; if on the other hand, he is ripping off their words, he should expect scornful contumely.
After comparing reactions with other poets from Sedona and Flagstaff at the 2012 Copper State Poetry Slam, we concurred that the poem as plagiarized. I spoke with the team's captain about plagiarism and told him then that this was unacceptable.

However, I recently raised objections to Stanton hosting the Copper State Poetry Slam. He has not earned the right to host a statewide tournament if he has no qualms about stealing another poet's work and passing it off as his own in a slam.

The reply from the Copper State organizer: "I took your concern of plagiarism very seriously in the past, considering it myself and speaking with a variety of other people about it. Respectfully, I disagree with your assessment of the piece."

The evidence above clearly shows Stanton plagiarized Francisco. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Plagiarizing someone as well-known, well-respected as Francisco, dishonors our state's poetry community, (as well as being just plain stupid; Francisco's work is also all over the Internet and thus easy to find and compare). The Copper State Poetry Slam is supposed to showcase the best of Arizona's poetry community. Having a proven plagiarize host the event undermines the event's integrity.

Stanton should be removed as the host of the Copper State Poetry Slam finals and replaced with someone with honor and integrity. There are dozens of other poets, performers and organizers who could host this event.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"The Envy of the Moon" by Christopher Fox Graham

"The Envy of the Moon"
By Christopher Fox Graham

The Arizona desert is so silent
that on a night like this
you can hear the Moon

because of the distance between here and there
it takes time for messages to pass between us
but tonight I ask,
"Moon, do you envy the Earth?"
on most nights,
the Moon remains silent in the night sky
unwilling or unable to reply
but tonight,
tonight on the breath of the wind
deep and slow like it had centuries of time to contemplate an answer
I heard the Moon whisper, "Yes."

when speaking with heavenly bodies
you must slow your mind
understand that they do not enunciate impatiently
every syllable takes time to shake free of its surface
so they only speak when gravity is worth the weight

"Yes, I envy the Earth," the Moon said
"we were lovers
born in the same fire
spinning like dancers drunk on each other
shattered by craters which made us old before our time
but across her
oceans hide her secrets
I pull at them hoping to see her again

I lost sight of her beneath all the green
across her, moving things became too many to count
the noise of it is deafening

your people covered across her plains
cut geometric squares that now change with the seasons
cities spread from sea coast up her rivers to the mountains
and places in between
threads of lines connect them all
you people shake loose so much of my old lover
I barely recognize her
and I wondered what is so important
that you were so busy for so long

and then a few of you came to visit
planted your feet and your flags on my skin
said things close to me
there was no time to wait for the echo like before
it was overwhelming
the Earth feels like this every day
and i'm certain some days it's more than she can take
but I would give anything to feel it again

you had stared at me for so many generations
your desire to reach me was burned into your bones
so happy to be the first
you left your names engraved in stone for those afterward

and then I knew what she felt
why she held you so tightly
why she changed herself after every eruption or impact
it was to give a few of you a chance to survive
it was the only way we could touch again

you came to visit
but none of you stayed
you left me here
and I did not know I was lonely until you were gone

but I will tell you a secret:

deep in your American South
in the bayou of a delta
there is a man who sits nightly on his porch
as the sun dips below the horizon
he plays his guitar for hours
I can narrow my vision to see his face like he was sitting here
he plays and stares at me
like we are old friends

the lunar desert is so silent
that on a night like this
you can hear single note

because of the distance between here and there
it takes time for messages to pass between us

but I strain to listen
and I know I must compensate for the delay
deafen all the other songs and stories
so I can hear what he has to sing
but on a night like tonight
on the breath of the wind
he sings of being alone

I count you daily
there are 7 billion of you around him
some within miles
be he, he is alone
profoundly nakedly alone
as though he, like me, had been alone in the dark for centuries
but remembers what it was like to be loved and touched once
and when stares at me, he knows that only I know what he feels
he sings to me
he sings for me
he sings because I
do not know how

so, yes, I envy the Earth
I want you to be here
I want your cities to spread across these ancient craters
I want to be so deep beneath your feet that I am forgotten
because you are staring out at other worlds to touch
I want you to no longer call me the Moon like I am a stranger
but 'home' because this is where you spent your lives
this is where you want to be buried
this is where you want to leave from
and never look back

I envy the Earth
because she has this," the Moon said
"she has you"

A colonized moon




Christopher Fox Graham © 2014