Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Last weekend, I did a reading at Notre Dame with Sandy Florian. Poets extraordinaire (and proffs of earnest Catholics) Joyelle Mcsweeney and Johannes Gorannson invited the both of us. The venue was remarkable because it was a strange simulacra of a café in the newly built Regis Philbin performance center. The “cafe” had mood lighting and even fake smoke--it had an MTV unplugged kind of feel, which was what Joyelle said the architects were going for. Anyway, I was excited about the Regis Philbin peformance center because I once had an (albeit very brief) obsession with Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

I found one episode to be particularly poignant which I then used in a poem (I was at that point in poetry where I thought anything can serve as subject, nothing was sacred). Contestants usually zipped through the first five questions in two minutes since the questions were child's play. No one, absolutely no one, stumped on the first five questions.

The contestant was Stan Wu, a well-groomed Chinese American 20-something year old man, the kind of man who probably graduated from a potted Ivy like Williams or Amherst College, who probably received a perfect 800 on not only his math score in his SATS, but his verbal score as well. On the second question, Regis asked Stan Wu what a nectarine was most similar to: a. orange b. apple c. peach or d. pineapple. Stan Wu, with aplomb or with confident bravado, replied in dinner party parlance, “Well, Regis, I grew up in California so I think I should know this one. It’s a. orange.”

And in less than a minute, he was out.

One can attribute Stan Wu's painful gaffe to carelessness or extreme nervousness. But I think that there are all kinds of cultural ramifications . No matter how much of a native "Californian" Stan Wu was, how much he knew the Chicago Manual of Style backwards and forwards, how much effort he put into studying Latin proverbs, he was just not fluent enough. English still took a modicum of effort. Taken off-guard, Stan Wu slipped on a semantic banana peel.

Anyway, Sandy Florian and Tao Lin are the latest poets to come out of Action Books. As usual with all of Action’s choices, the collections of both authors are intriguing, fresh and bold. Tao Lin’s book doesn’t even have page numbers.


*Stan Wu could have also been the result of WWTBM’s aggressive efforts to diversify. Like most trivia shows, WWTBM churned out asperger syndromy white male champions--a fact that didn't escape Regis's attention. On the show, he once implored, "Everyone out there who thought about being on the show, and who isn't a white male, dial that 800 number!"

1 Comments:

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