Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Flare: Unexpected Pressures in an Old Oklahoma Oil Field

Podcast : Downloadable mp3 file...

Background: We drilled into an overpressured zone, totally unexpected in a mature oil and gas field. We were trying to recover the oil left behind, between the old wells. In order to avoid a blowout, we vented the gas through drilling pipe, ignited it to avoid an explosion. The resulting flare was visible miles across the Oklahoma prairie.

Ignited, I am burning;
the flow of gas from deep below is natural
but overpressured; my heart pounds,
a jet engine trapped 5,000 feet under the ground;

adrenaline has its own sweetness
on a crisp spring day like today

our new pickup truck, a collie named Zeus in the back;
crunch of gravel, rattle of cattle guards
the lease roads are as rutted as this old field
first drilled when they stored the oil in earthen lagoons

flared gas has its own freshness
in an old field everyone said was worn out, depleted, old

time loops back on itself; the roar of the past heating up the present
now, like then, investors came down from "back East"
drilled into the dark, red earth
archival photos: towns with board sidewalks
laws prohibiting dancing and spitting on those fresh boards;
a toolpusher smiling at a woman selling towels, sheets, and pliers

from boomtown to ghost town to boomtown
the story of you & me a lot like that
we thought our hearts were depleted
but then some wildcatting impulse told us to take the risk

we drilled, we hit, and it’s still such a surprise
encountering such fresh, recoverable reserves



I know we’ve met sometime and someplace before

sometimes memory needs the burn
sometimes my heart needs the heat

stave off the sadness:
an anonymous driller naming his first well the Ganymede #1;
an abandoned wife
watching oil rainbow her freshwater pond.

We can put the past behind us now;
Zeus is asleep in the bed of the truck.

The well is safely under control
hands calm with something to hold onto

Saturday, April 12, 2008

meditations on the bakken shale, lost loves, and cutting it close....

podcast: click here

(responding to a phone conversation with an old geology lab partner, the purchase of a set of 4-blade razors at the United Supermarket in the High Plains town of Dumas, TX, and the U.S. Geological Survey’s announcement that the Williston Basin’s Bakken Shale may contain 3 billion barrels of oil)

The razor touches you, so you say –
infinite reversals & I’m in the play;
we’ve leased the trend and beyond
where I breathed the prairie, laid the sondes;
lips, nose, eyes scraping the infinite
laid bare, my dear, the anatomy of this planet.

Warm, pure, boom-time aura
to be not yet 21 yet in the laboratory of our futures:
future “lost love” concept spilled across the desk
plagioclase, orthoclase, staurolite twins
specimens of perfection
the heart throbbing in a wrist

the past pounding in my mind’s eye
your razor cutting close, me
you, talking into the deepest night
drilling into the deepest formations
of light, dark “I need you”
like Hamlet: a splintered objective correlative

razor the place I need to be
cut out what grows rough, shambling, ill-hued
& you, reduced to running with a blown-out knee
& me, chipping the samples, the outcrop
we’re still shaving reality like hope
so close it bleeds

Sunday, April 06, 2008

On Hauntings

Podcast. When I was five years old, we moved to an eerie, shadowy, haunted corner of a town located in the very sun-drenched and wind-whipped center of flat plains and short-grass prairie.

Our house was on the edge of Imhoff Creek, a snaky tributary of the South Canadian River, notable for its shifting sands which regularly swallowed Jeeps whole. The first summer in the house, I would see twinkling flashing lights and a thin, green glow hovering around the old farmhouse across the creek. Later that summer, the farmhouse burned to the ground.

Clowser, the original farmer, was said to have a son who disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle while flying a plane with weather instruments.

At night, our house was alive with the sound of light switches turning off and on, doorknobs turning, and curtains fluttering as though there were a strong wind, even though the windows were closed and there was no breeze. I started sleepwalking. I can't tell you how many times I awakened to find I was outside, standing in the dew-drenched grass of the front yard, or feeling my bare feet against the dark concrete of the driveway.

My mother had purchased the antique furniture that the previous owners had wanted to sell. One of the items was an amazing upright piano with ornately carved mahogany legs and lid. It was a magnet to a 5-year-old, which was not easy on my mother, whose nerves were already shattered with the noisy house, two small children, and a lingering case of postpartum depression. In desperation to put some semblance of order on the aleatory scatter of my own compositions, my mom signed me up for daily piano lessons.

It was a great idea. Learning to play the piano gave me something to focus on. Oddly, it even cured me of sleepwalking.

I started to forget we lived in a strange, little haunted corner of Norman, Oklahoma.

You'd think that as the neighborhood expanded, the farms were razed and additions with names like "Whispering Pines" and "College Park Estates" were erected, the ghostly sounds, lights, and cold breezes in the dead of summer would stop occurring. They seemed to for awhile, but it just was not meant to be. The creepy apparitions, lights, sounds, shadows reached fever pitch the summers I stayed at home and house-sat while my family traveled to Vermont to stay at "camp" -- a cabin my parents had built on 300 acres or so of land that once belonged to my ancestors who settled the land in the 1770s. As I listened to recordings by Julio Iglesias and Milton Nascimento in an attempt to drown out the creepy sounds, I wondered what had happened in that particular edge of central Oklahoma.

We were only 2 miles from the South Canadian, the site of the 1889 Land Rush. Perhaps this was a place of conflict. At the same time, it seemed quite likely that this was an ideal location for an odd little microclimate to emerge. We were, after all, between the prairie and the "crosstimbers", and the subdivision was built on a river terrace. Plains Indians lived here. I believe that perhaps they were Kiowas. They were subsequently displaced by the Shawnees and Potawatomis who were forced to live just 10 miles east of here.

A strange uneasiness grips me every time I return to my parents' house.

Neighbors' houses have come up for sale, and my parents look at me with hopeful eyes, thinking that perhaps I will purchase one and live next door. I never rule out the possibility until I go through the houses, and the creepiness hits me again. I look at my arms and see the hair stand up .... feel chills.

What do these things mean?

I realize, perhaps more than I should, that the notion of "hauntedness" is a construction, a linguistic as well as phenomenological condition. It is that state of extreme vulnerability that one should try, if possible to avoid, but of course, those who are so vulnerable are the least able to erect barriers against psychic and physical invasion. It starts when you wake up alone and you realize that there is nothing you can do. Eventually, as one grows up, one starts to learn to control the thoughts with other thoughts, and to substitute manufactured feelings for those horrifiying sensations that accompany the awareness that existence is a vast, gaping hole, with shining lights, whispers, and razor-sharp teeth at the edges of perception.

The hauntedness is something I take with me everywhere. I recognize now that everyone has his or her own measure of it. Thankfully, a frisky puppy, a brisk walk, a great round of one's favorite video game, surfing the web, or picking a fight with a relative will put some distance between one and that hauntedness.

Questions emerge. I can save them for later.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Viral Antimarketing: Talk, Lies, and Ratings Plays

You've seen it: A YouTube video that goes viral, not only because of the content of the video itself, but because of all the reaction videos and vociferous comments in the discussion area. If the video is a clip from an upcoming movie or television show, part of you wonders how many of the comments and video reactions are real, and how many are staged in order to provoke more comments and engender some healthy "buzz."

Listen to the Podcast: mp3 file

If you're not a fan of online video, perhaps you've seen how a provocative news article or blog entry comes alive in the discussion board, where people leave virulently positive or negative posts. Viral antimarketing is a technique aggressively employed by the marketers of movies, music, cosmetics, computers, fashion labels, cell phones, and other items used by people who form opinions about a product based on information found on the Internet.

The technique is called "antimarketing" when there is deliberate misinformation, or when the buzz is negative. It is considered viral when it spreads like wildfire in the Internet. Ironically, antimarketing can often be more effective than squeaky-clean positive marketing in garnering consumer votes (purchases / hits / comments) and interest. For example, the Britney Spears "haters" who regularly posted fairly vile character-assassination commentary in discussion boards caused the fans no end of consternation. They would rise to her defense. The curious onlookers, the virtual gawkers spurred on by their prurient interest, hung on her every move.

Many say that the quintessential viral antimarketing campaign occured with the release of the movie, Cloverfield, ( Clips were leaked. Disinformation flooded cyberspace. Blogs and posts touted the film as something either special, frightening, shocking. The boundary between fantasy and reality was blurred. Identity as an essence was effaced. That is fun. Just ask the readers. The frisson of danger and immersion into a world of monsters was something new, fresh, and weirdly vampyric. Yum.

After several months of conducting an informal review of politically conservative talk radio, I have detected points of convergence between the viral antimarketing used to promote a celebrity or a celebrity-driven product (movie, television, music), and the ways in which talk show hosts drum up interest in their political topics.

What do I mean? Well, let's break it down. When I'm in the car, I love to tune in and listen to AM talk radio. I listen to snippets as I drive across town. I listen to entire slabs of programming as I drive across the short-grass prairie on 6-hour treks. I tune in on streaming audio from my laptop where I have a fast wifi connection. It's sweet. I find myself caught up in the energy. Sometimes I even call in. Let me make it clear, though, that I'm no plant. I'm not a part of the buzz-marketing machine. I'm neutral, except that I have a true love for political discourse. Even if I completely disagree with the politics, I find myself morphing myself to catch the wave and surf it, protected from virtual burn with my virtual neoprene. Yes, it helps to be anonymous in the blogosphere, or at least a name like monkeyhappygirl so that no one knows who I am.

Do I post to a blog? Do I do the radio equivalent by calling in and posting audio-wise? It's a concept.

Here's a typical moment. I'm driving through central Oklahoma, lost for the moment, having taken the wrong turn in quest of a shortcut. I love the talk show I'm listening to. It's Mark Shannon, a fascinating blend of politics, folksy humor, quirky campy pop music (love the trash disco), and Thanatos-inflected abandon (you have permission to disclose the eternal verities when you're a Armyy veteran of the Vietnam era, and you're fighting leukemia).

Seattle Sonics Sold to Oklahoma City

"Hey, MonkeyHappyGirl, how are you doing today?"

"I'm happy."

"What would you like to say?"

"I am happy & I want to name the new OKC NBA team."

"What name would you like to propose?"

"The Oklahoma City Happiness."

"Uhhh-Okay. Nice. Thanks, MonkeyHappyGirl, for your suggestion"


Am I part of the Viral Antimarketing Underground? Not officially. But -- my absurd suggestion triggers calls. The NBA team has not even come to OKC yet. Yet, the call for names ignites real virulance ... viral energy ... so, when the team does arrive, the ground will have been broken. People will be familiar with the team. They will identify with it. They will be enthusiastic. And -- guess what? It did not cost the new team a cent!

Viral Antimarketing Moments to Remember....

Rush Limbaugh
Hillary Clinton's Laugh (first a hit in October 2007, has been repeated ever since). You can't even imagine how many people were driven to call in, motivated by the sound of her laugh... Rush's "Rush the Vote" and "Operation Chaos" combine Grassroots Activism with Viral Antimarketing. Rush is brilliant. His strategy for maintaining a listenership is a call for active participation. "Ditto-heads" and other Rush devotees are rewarded with on-air time. Flaw? Too much fawning adulation. I'd like more "chispa" (spark) from people who think he's not hot.

Sean Hannity "Hanni-tize the Vote"
Moment to remember? Interview with "Dog" about his racist comments. I will never forget this. I was just pulling out of the Dairy Queen in Shamrock, Texas, while Mark Hannity was talking to "Dog," the Bounty Hunter, as Dog begged for forgiveness for his racist rants. Hannity's going-against-the-flow approach was perfect for provoking controversy and calls. A few months later, Hannity's opening monologue called for people to release their tight hold on conservative values. It was such an about-face that shocked listeners called in for reality checks. They had been punked. Punking was a variation of viral antimarketing.

Mark Shannon vs. Perez Hilton
Oklahoma legislator's anti-gay remarks stir outrage
Perez Hilton embedded the rant by Oklahoma legislator Sally Kirk that sparked tens of thousands of hits on YouTube. Readers of the blog wrote in to protest her words and her attitude. Oklahoma City talk show host Mark Shannon did not join the bandwagon on criticizing her for her hateful words. Instead, he questioned those who would multiply the harm by making the hateful words available to millions, not just to the ten or so in attendance when her rant was recorded.

Mark Shannon: Wrestling with Thanatos
Shannon reminds the listeners of their own mortality - memento mori as he talks about taking bags of medicine in an aggressive chemotherapy treatment; discusses life with cancer and health cost issues. Shannon is keeping it real in a way that far outstrips Michael Savage's reflections on life, childhood in Brooklyn, early life as scientist. The authenticity of "carpe diem" is real -- it's life and death.

Neil Boortz: Attacks Hurricane Katrina Victims
Trying so hard to provoke, annoy, stir you up (engage the affect -- but, can backfire?) Another memorable moment occurred when a child with a speech impediment called in to complain about government policies. Boortz went on an extended diatribe against Southern accents and parents who allow their children to speak with regional accents. One could not help but wonder if this was completely orchestrated. After all, who would not want to defend the poor child with a speech impediment against the vitriol spewed by a large, successful adult male?

Michael Savage: Multiply the Viral
Claims he's about to be thrown off the air because people want to abrogate his freedom of speech privileges. Based on the angry speeches against various groups (gays, Muslims, Democrats, women, etc.), it is easy to see how and why people might consider him to be offensive. However, there is no doubt that controversy boosts ratings. It is sad to see how homophobic rants help ratings. I can't help but think of Da Ali G show (Borat is too obvious).

Glenn Beck: The Viral Underground - conspiracies, panics, outrages
I love the adrenaline surge I get when I listen to tales of global conspiracy, weird rituals by world leaders (in the Bohemian Grove), UFOs, economic apocalypse, and cases of public school policy gone awry. The viral antimarketing elements? Naysayer calls, giving voice to lunatic fringe elements.

Mark Levin: Tug on the Heartstrings - rescue dogs and the jeremiad
While Mark Levin's claim to fame is his insight into government corruption, the viral antimarketing comes in the form of dogs, dog adoptions, dog rescue, and every possible angle to tug on the pet-lover's heartstrings. Levin has claimed that Michael Savage is a liberal masquerading as a conservative, and Savage goal is to spawn disinformation. It is great fun when the talk show hosts attack each other, impugn each other's credibility.

Laura Ingraham: Power to the people - populist buzz?
It's hard to put a finger on why Laura Ingraham is so popular, except that she seems to be a master at grassroots activism. She makes one aware that viral antimarketing is, at essence, a kind of grassroots activism.

Laura Ingraham is not well-served when she looks like an echo of Anne Coulter (without the Adam's apple). I think that Laura could put the grassroots influence in overdrive if she started taking on the persona of a 21st century Mother Jones. In this picture, we see that Mother Jones was such a success -- such a "source meme" and a "buzz source" that she was able be very effective in grassroots campaigns. She even made it to the point the she hobnobbed with presidents. Here she is with U.S. President Calvin Coolidge.

first published at elearning queen: