James Franco Is a Poet Now, Wrote Something About Obama

I don’t dislike James Franco, but I also don’t particularly like him. Basically, I think he needs to cool it, generally, on everything he is doing. Slow down, you’re moving too fast, James Franco. I can’t keep up. I get the dude’s a renaissance man or whatever, but if there were ever a woeful lack of poets out there, I probably wouldn’t turn to the guy who was in Pineapple Express. Alas, Franco is celebrating Innauguration Day with a very long poem about President Obama, Asheville, North Carolina, and casual mentions of celebrities like Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, and Claire Danes.

It seems like Franco gave an exclusive to Yahoo News, the go-to site for poetry on the internet, and, well, just listen / read for yourself. 

Obama in Asheville

Asheville, North Carolina, is the birthplace of Thomas

Wolfe and the sometime residence of F. Scott Fitzgerald

When he visited Zelda at her institution;

He stayed at the Grove Park Inn, a grand stone edifice.

On the phone once, Cormac McCarthy lamented

The two added wings and the spa, and marveled

At the original structure, They pulled the stones
From the mountains and brought them down on mules.

Soon after his fortieth birthday, Fitzgerald attempted suicide

Here, but couldn’t shoot his own head, drunk, I guess.

Later, after he was actually dead, from alcohol,

Zelda perished in a fire at her institution, one of nine.

*

Asheville is the place where the Black Mountain College once stood
And helped birth Rauschenberg, Twombly and Johns,
Cage and Cunningham; now I think it’s a Young Men’s Christian Association.
On the wall of the Grove Park, they have pictures of the famous guests;

I’m not up there, but Obama is. I was asked to write something
For the inauguration of his second term, but what could I write?
I was in Asheville, studying writing, but not the political sort;
I write confessions and characters, and that sort of thing.

I wrote my friend Frank about what I could do, but he was unresponsive.
I went to class and then the little burrito place where they know me,
And finally at night I got Frank’s email on my phone and pulled over
On the side of Warren Wilson Road, past the school barn with the WWC —

That I couldn’t see in the dark — right before the school entrance;
A little spot where there’s a path that leads to a lake called Snake Lake.
First I called my class at UCLA, and told them to watch Apocalypse Now,
And that it used Heart of Darkness as a model, and that we’d watch

Eleanor Coppola’s Hearts of Darkness, the making-of, the following week.
Then I read Frank’s note. He said he was sleeping twenty hours a day,
With no symptoms except that he desired sleep
And just a little more sleep. He’s in his seventies.

Then he said that my poem was a difficult task.
How to write about a man written about endlessly;
A man whom everyone has some sort of experience of;
How to write so that it’s not just for the converted.

*

I met Obama once, in D.C., the Correspondents’ Dinner.
I was the guest of Vanity Fair, guided through D.C. by the wife
Of Christopher Hitchens, when he was alive. We went to Hitch’s place,
He had books from floor to ceiling, and said he had read

To Borges, when he was blind, Old Icelandic Eddas—
Then we waited in a private room with the likes of Tom Cruise,
And Katie Holmes, and Claire Danes. When Obama entered
The crowd converged. Finally, I got to shake his hand,

He knew me from Spider-Man. I asked him for advice,
I was scheduled to give the commencement speech at UCLA
And there were some undergraduate knockers against me;
He had been denied the usual honorary degree by Arizona State

Because he hadn’t accomplished enough, so I wondered
How he dealt with detractors. He smiled his smile and said,
“Humor.” Well he’s damn right, and I wonder how much
That stand-up comedian is laughing in the face

Of this big country. Because he is one man and we are many,
And a great servant of the people—he’s a president, not a king—
And doesn’t need to face what King Charles once faced.
(Frank suggested I examine Marvell’s semi-inauguration poem for Cromwell:)

That thence the Royal actor borne
The tragic scaffold might adorn:
     While round the armèd bands
     Did clap their bloody hands.

That most famous stanza, and then:

But bow’d his comely head
Down, as upon a bed.

And he was beheaded, good-bye Charles.

*

If I were to act in the film about Obama,
All I would need to get down, aside from the outer stuff—
And I know that’s important—is his essential kindness,
I’d let the writer put in all the political crap,

And the specific things that he was up against,
All that stuff on CNN and the Huffington Post,
And I’d say the lines that were written, just like Obama
Reads his lines, but what would really put the role over

Would be the goodness at its core.
That’s what will be remembered.
Yes, his race, no one will forget. But the soul too.
I’d win the Academy Award if I just captured that.

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter

Your DC Inauguration Weekend Guide

Feels like just yesterday, huh? Well now we’re gonna do it all again. But better. Regardless of your stance on the election, the inauguration of Obama on Monday, January 21st is a good opportunity to head to DC, drink like you just got out of prison, and conquer the city’s top brunch and dinner places like a viking. Yeah, I want you to live it up. Not just because you only live once yadda yadda, but also because you paid good money for that train/bus/flight to be in the nation’s civic hub, so your weekend better be great. And with this Inauguration guide, it certainly will be.

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here

See America Right: Mountain Goats Fans Petition White House For John Darnielle As U.S. Poet Laureate

So we’re pretty sure everyone just figured out that petitioning the government is part of the First Amendment, thanks to the White House petition site and that whole Texas wanting to secede thing, because now there’s a petition for just about everything, from calling for the deportation of Piers Morgan for his comments about gun laws (88,000+ signatures, but we’re betting at least a third of those are from people who just want Piers Morgan deported in general) to one advocating the construction of a Death Star. But for all the trollish requests and bizarro displays of democracy, every once in a while, there’s a much simpler request America can get behind.

Today, some fans launched a petition at the White House site calling for John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats to be named the next Poet Laureate of the United States, succeeding the newly-announced Natasha Trethewey. The government may have some more important things to talk about right now, like this whole fiscal cliff fiasco thing that’s happening, but when they eventually have some time to go through the petitions, I’m sure a compelling case will be made. 
 
"John Darnielle is an American institution. An inspiration to poets, artists and sundry other human beings both in America and world-wide, Mr. Darnielle is a unique voice in modern word and music. For over twenty years, Mr. Darnielle has struggled on our behalf to come to terms with the base instincts of the human psyche. In literature, there is no man more worthy of recognition through the award of U.S. Poet Laureate than John Darnielle.
 
So do it, Mr. President. Do it!"
Darnielle is not responsible for the petition, but was quick to respond to it on Twitter, saying: "I did not do this, but if I didn’t point it out, they’d fail me in Social Media 201: Petitioning Governments for Lols." He goes on: "Do I get powers of clemency if I get this poet laureate gig or are those only for third-level clerics."
 
At time of writing, the petition has 1,255 signatures and needs 23,745 more before January 25th to ensure some sort of response from the White House. So get on it, because think about it—the U.S. Poet Laureate creates some kind of initiative over that year to bring poetry to the masses, and if anyone can come up with some crazy brilliant idea to get everyone into poetry, it’s Darnielle. Maybe a Twitter poetry Exquisite Corpse, given Darnielle’s social media presence? Nah, he’ll probably come up with something way more clever than that. Anyway.
 
And, because the greater works of the U.S. Poet Laureate often become part of high school poetry analysis curricula, think of all the high school English classes that will have way more fun dissecting homages to black metal and relationshisp gone explosively awry than some tired-ass dreck about lanyards and waterskiing across the top of poems (sorry I’m not sorry, Billy Collins). This is the way of the future. Get on it, America. 
 
Now, to pick the perfect song for the induction ceremony:
 

The So-Called “Golden Tweets” Of The Year

I can’t have been the only person to get multiple emails from the folks at Twitter about which of this year’s Tweets were the most popular. And whatever I expected to find upon finally clicking through (out of morbid curiosity, you could say), it was not what I found: ample proof that Twitter is categorically useless.

In first place, with 810,000+ Retweets and 300,000+ favorites, is “Four more years,” from Barack Obama’s official feed as the election was called for the incumbent president. After that, in order, were: Justin Bieber mourning a dead six-year-old fan, TJ Lang of the Green Bay Packers bitching about NFL replacement refs, Great Britain counting their Olympic medals, and two anime voiceover stars from Japan announcing their marriage. All in all, stuff that everyone knew already, or was nobody else’s business.

But can social media really be this blandly informative and emotionally direct? Where were the terrible stand-up comedians trying too hard? Or the thousands of messages that began “I’m not racist, but …” Where were the nude pictures posted publicly by mistake? The flagrant errors of grammar and spelling? Those dudes who write jokes about Taco Bell and Foucault simultaneously, in all caps? WHERE WAS REAL TWITTER, I MEAN? This was like giving the Pulitzer Prize to amNewYork just because they print several billion copies every morning. What is this, Web 1.5? For shame.

Easy, If Breezy, Chicago: A Brief Guide For New Yorkers

Say the words "Windy City" and by free association, we all think: Oprah, Obama, deep-dish pizza, Da’ Bears, and "brrrrr."  But there’s so much more!Dazzling architecture, outstanding city views, cordial Chicagoans, quirky neighborhoods and sunny, 60-degree mid-November weather––those are just some of the highlights of my recent 48-hour family trip into town. By "family," I mean me, a thirtysomething free spirit, and my parents (just imagine the crazy side of The Fockers). Could Chi-town handle us?

Upon arrival into O’Hare, we jumped on the easy-to-navigate, not to mention uber-clean CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) and transformed quickly from savvy New Yorkers to dopey tourists, as we tried to understand the no-change metro machine policy. Luckily a CTA employee was helpful and midwesternly, and got us through the turnstyle gracefully.

We landed at our hotel, the JW Marriott––the baller of all Marriott’s––in the bustling, business-oriented Financial District. Located in a renovated historic national bank building, the shiny, marble hotel lobby and lounge was a nice, warm welcome.At nearly 500 square feet, our airy room offered everything we needed: two beds draped with fluffy duvets, a spa bathroom clad in Italian marble with a stand-alone tub, and supersized terry cloth robes.

Service was top-notch. For example, after some slight confusion over our room temperature (I’ll take full credit for that one), the front desk immediately had an engineer at our door. We called down a few other times for more bathroom products and additional pillows; everything was "no problem." The concierge helped us with maps and routes constantly––we wouldn’t have made it far without him.

At night, we’d sit with our laptops or novels in front of a cozy gas fireplace in a quiet corner of the lobby. How charming for a hotel we assumed was strictly a corporate hang. Good people watching too––wedding parties, football fans, first dates. Refreshing (and free!) orange cleansing water in the lobby kept us hydrated and happy.

But let’s discuss beyond the hotel. 

The first place we went was Magnificent Mile; about a 15-minute walk away, which initially, alarmingly, sort of felt like Times Square. Streets were crowded, tourists were crammed together. I worried we’d entered a bit of a migraine. That is, until we stumbled upon the iconic Wrigley Building. Powerful, stop-in-your-tracks, absolutely stunning!

Lunch was at the famous Giordano’s Pizza. While we wanted to try Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza, they only offered deep-dish crusts stuffed to the nines. This concept, us pizza purists found unappetizing, so we chose a basic thin crust pie. It was decent, but we’ve had better, like Grimaldi’s in Dumbo. Just a small strike, Chicago. (By the way, what’s a New Yorker doing in Chicago if not to say our pizza is better?!)

We were then off to Wicker Park, an edgy neighborhood dotted with vintage stores, cute coffee houses and loads of shopping options. The locals were a mix of real-deal artists, grungy hipsters and Lululemonized stroller moms. One trendy term that could be applied? Très Brooklyn. We felt right at home.

We hopped the subway after a few hours, and then took a bus to Hyde Park to see the Obama’s house. This was really exciting, especially to be there right after the election! We tried to bribe the secret service at the edge of his street for more personal scoop, but no luck. Alas, we were perfectly content just checking out the nice-but-modest digs.

Meanwhile, Chicago and the Chicagoans were really growing on us! Locals kept helping with directions and advice, and everyone was just so nice and patient. Every so often, we’d catch a glimmer of glamour on the regal streets. My mother alluded to Champs-Elysées more than once.  

We stopped at the Willis Tower SkyDeck—in the former Sears building—and rode up to the 103rd floor. I pushed my fear of heights aside as much as I could, and I’m glad I did. The view was breath-taking as we could see about 40 miles of city landscape, plus Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Don’t think my dad didn’t try to also re-enact the scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that was filmed here.

For dinner, we shared plates at the celebrated Sable Kitchen & Bar, a gastro-lounge in the center of the River North neighborhood adjacent to Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar. Spearheaded by Top Chef alum Heather Terhune, her seasonal dishes were out of this world. The menu was well balanced, as there was something for all of us, which, with a vegetarian mother and a meat-n-potatoes father, doesn’t happen often.

We started with the Butter Lettuce & Apple Salad with radicchio, grapes, smoked cashews & almonds and sherry-apple cider vinaigrette. Easily, the best salad of our lives. Our other favorite dishes were the brick oven flatbread with rosemary, brie, and house-made ricotta, butternut-squash apple soup, mini wild mushroom veggie burgers with red onion jam, and short rib sliders. This would definitely, no question, be our new family go-to spot if it were in New York. The food was fresh, flavorful and mouth-watering. Service was exceptional as the food came out perfectly timed to give our stomachs a brief rest. The dining room felt both calming and luminous. The staff was professional, warm and had serious culinary swagger. If you go to Chicago, you’d be crazy not to run here!  

We also had a lovely breakfast at Hoyt’s Chicago, inside Hotel 71, near Millennium Park. A sweet spot, with a nice street view. I very much appreciated that Hoyt’s is also part of my illy coffee cult.

At the end of our stay, we didn’t want to leave. Chicago embraced us New Yorkers in a way we never expected. I’m happy to say, it’s a city I’m now totally in-sync with and can’t wait to touch down here again.

Gaming Today’s Obama-Romney Lunch

You’re likely aware that this afternoon—perhaps even as you’re read this—President Obama and the vanquished fragment of corporate software that calls itself Mitt Romney are sitting down to lunch in the White House together. With the Tea Party’s plans to obstruct the Electoral College falling apart on, ahem, their divergence from what the Constitution actually says, this is Romney’s last, best chance to make a play for the Oval Office. What’s his strategy?

Of course he and his strategists will have come up with an ideal lunch order. The White House menu is very flexible: he could probably get just about anything on his plate by asking. The chef, Cristeta Comerford, hails from the Philippines, so this may be the time to meet Obama head-on with a spicy order that evokes his native Pacific Rim. Comerford has also spent time in Vienna, meaning Romney could catch Obama wrong-footed with a request for Topfenstrudel.

Then there’s the conversation. It’s no secret that Obama detests Romney personally and has better things to do than engage in wanton etiquette; he’ll keep his comments terse and practical. This gives Romney an opening to spin a few longer yarns, tell a shaggy-dog joke or three, really dominate the room’s airwaves. That’s the sort of tactic that might not play well with whoever’s waiting to clear the table, however. What’s certain is that both candidates will seek total control of the condiments, which most observers would agree is crucial. If either man comes out of it with mustard on his tie, well, there’s always 2016.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

Fox News Anchors Collectively Lose Their Minds During Romney Defeat

I’m sleepy today, as I stayed up way too late watching Republicans freak the hell out over the idea of having a black guy in charge of things for another four years (and, you know, the concept that rape victims shouldn’t be forced to keep their unwanted children because even unwanted babies need the love of Our Heavenly Father and should carry the stigma of their conception forever). But it was worth it, because last night’s Fox News coverage was art. Art. With a capital A! 

Luckily, The Daily Beast has a good collection of the best moments, including the one in which Karl Rove was like, "No. No. No. Unpossible. This can’t be happening. NOT TO THE WHITE GUYS!" and Bill O’Reilly lamenting the fact that people with accents and limp wrists and vaginas might actually have some sway over how this country moves forward. But for my money, there’s nothing better than watching hottie anchor Megyn Kelly wander around the Fox News HQ in an effort to prolong the admission that her beloved Mitt Romney lost the race. 

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.

Follow The ‘Republican Tears’ Twitter Account Tonight

Obama’s got this election in the bag, baby, and now the 24-hour cable news drones have got to spend the entire day pretending that it’s going to be remotely close. Pretty boring and deliberately uninformative stuff! It’d be more fun to keep tabs on the hyperventilating conservatives who don’t believe in math but do have baffling, anecdote-based faith in a Romney landslide. That’s where @GOP_Tears comes in.

A beautifully curated list of all the most craven and swinish commentators, pundits and bloggers, from Michelle Malkin to Karl Rove, Donald Trump and Dana Loesch, ‘Republican Tears’ funnels all possible right-wing idiocy into a resplendent cascade without you having to follow any such undesirable personalities for real. Each will be faced with the flimsiness of their smug yet pie-eyed predictions this evening.

The feed promises to ‘follow the GOP meltdown in real time!’ And as the results start rolling in, that is exactly what we’ll be seeing. One especially looks forward to hysterical accusations of voter fraud and intimidation, seething racism, demands for a recount, and Karl Rove calling Ohio—and by extension the whole fight—for the incumbent president. Oh, it’ll be a glorious collision of reality and fantasy. Won’t you join us?

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.