Sunday, May 31, 2009


Some statements are not holographs.


The onion, who is other than it, says, "I am the onion," and finds himself lost.

Isa Harper: a brief introduction

The attentive and/or long-time reader of Parrhesia will notice the name Isa Harper here and there, as author, character, scapegoat. Harper is a figment of my imagination, his name an anagram for Parrhesia.

The blog is a very strange discursive space; at once personal and absolutely de-personalized, it allows for an entirely new set of statements and figurings - artistic, political, satirical, etc. However, the line between narrator and author are non-existent in the grammar of the traditional blog. Unless something is attributed to someone else explicitly, the audience assumes the confessional nature of the blog is to be taken at face value. To overcome this entirely would take the deceptive act of adopting a blog persona and writing from that mental space. However, the self-deception that would need to take place to do so is herculean in scope and defeats the very premise of my blog, Parrhesia (translated as "fearless speech" via Foucault). One cannot speak fearlessly and speak pseudonymonously. The two are incompatible.

So, instead, I opt for this third option. Of course, not everyone will read this post who reads a poem by Isa Harper on my page, but if there is ever a question I can point them to this post as an apologia and an explanation of sorts. It is necessary, lest I be confused with my narrator (for all those who know me and read me) and so that I can write whatever it is that I am wont to write in this space, in my voice or in the voice of another.

In a novel, it is much easier perhaps. Twain writes, "You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter." Melville writes, "Call me Ishmael." Immediately we know we are dealing with a narrator. (Please note: no comparison between my writing and these greats is meant. These are just famous examples that came to mind straightaway and did not require a lot of effort to find - I'm a lazy author at heart, one of the reasons I make no comparison to these greats.)

Where was I? Oh yes, immediately we know we're dealing with a narrator. However, I write, "Life's a bitch and then you marry one" and it's a little bit less clear that between myself and my marriage and those words there is a third party - a narrator who is speaking colloquially of his own marriage, not mine. So, I attribute it to someone else and make clear that I am doing so and that that someone else is my character to do with as I please. (Sounds dirty.)

And unlike authors, narrators can be made unreliable, can twist and turn in ways that a fearlessly speaking author cannot. When I write outside Harper's voice, I am writing for myself and attempting to be held accountable for the words in some parrhesiastic sense, whether I am speaking artistically, politically, ethically, etc. When I write in Harper's voice, I am still attempting to write fearlessly but with a clear remove from myself and those that I love so that no one is confused as to what's what and who is who.

One final note. This is a new update to my blog and so I will gradually be making sure that archives reflect the name of Isa Harper as their "author." But this will take time. If you see something and you think, that doesn't sound like the Frank Hill I know... write a comment (I love getting them!) and tell me. You might find out that I simply misattributed the thing. Or you might learn something new about the Frank Hill you know. :)

The biolographical details of Harper's existence will emerge over time. They are, to say the least, sketchy at this time.

But then again, what would we expect from him - he's a sketchy guy. ;)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Go Empathy!!! Hip Hip Hooray!!

There has been some concern expressed that Obama has chosen Sotomayor for her demonstrated "empathy." Need we remind the learned representatives that empathy is one of the fundamentals of representative democracy, without which one cannot ever presume to "speak" for another?


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

updated lyrics to "This Train is Bound For Glory"

Instead of gamblers and hustlers, I've changed it around a little bit.

Open to suggestions:

This train don’t carry no racists
this train
This train don’t carry no racists
this train
This train don’t carry no racists
no noose hangers, no two-bit stasists,
This train don’t carry no racists
this train.

This train don’t carry no homophobes
this train
This train don’t carry no homophobes
this train
This train don’t carry no homophobes,
no truck draggers, no right wing queens,
this train don’t carry no double talk,
this train.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

more poems from college

Concrete Poem

Anglo-Saxon Prosody

Poetic License

Our professor in college, Lew Turco, gave these out upon successful completion of his class. I'll have to hang it up in my office sometime.

Portrait of the Poet as a young man

A poem from college that I just found:

ashtray breath
brown briefcase
no hello
how are you?
good morning
can't afford it
time is money
file these
no please
baggy pants
polo shirt
itchy ass
scratch it
team needs you
business meetings
team needs you
itchy ass
scratch it
heart attack at fifty two
file these
no please
no thank you

Friday, May 15, 2009

self portrait 2

Bad Joke Telling Skills

I performed "The Banks of the Ohio" (link is to my album on Last.FM and is a recording of a rehearsal) with my old time ensemble at our Old Town School of Folk Music graduation. Me on vocals and guitar. My friends Alex, Aron, and Claire on mandolin, banjo/vocals, and fiddle/whistle, respectively. The link is a recording of one of our rehearsals. Feel free to take a listen. Hopefully it doesn't make you register for anything to do so. My first post to

The lyrics, which may be hard to make out from the recording, are as follows:

I asked my love to take a walk
Just a little ways with me
And as we walked and we would talk
All about our weddingday

Darling say that you'll be mine
In our home we'll happy be
Down beside where the waters flow
On the banks of the Ohio

I took her by her pretty white hand
I let her down that bank of sand
I pushed her in where she would drown
Lord, I saw her as she floated down

Returning home about twelve or one
Thinking "Lord, what a deed I've done?"
I killed the girl I love, you see
Because she would not marry me


Now, one of the rules of the graduation was that you had to prepare jokes to tell while the banjo tuned, cause they have to tune for different keys (I just learned this). I, of course, vetted all my jokes with my fellow bandmates, but I don't think they're a good judge of audience anymore. No offense, guys.

My first joke was this:
Q: What's the difference between a professional musician and a 15" pizza?
A: The pizza can feed a family.

Mild. Funny. Mildly funny. EVERYONE LAUGHED. Guffaw!!

The second joke was more in the vein of the song (sweet ballad that turns into pscyho fantasy) but I literally got booed. If the audience had had fruit, they would have thrown it. Here goes...

Q: How many male chauvinists does it take to screw in a light bulb?


A: None. The bitch can cook in the dark!


I got one laugh from my friend Kristin. And then the fiddle player (woman) defended me saying, "but you all laughed when he killed the love of his life in the last song...?"

Lesson: context clues are important.

Other hit joke of the night besides my first one:

Q: What did one muffin say to the other?
A: Oh my gawd, a talking muffin!


the other one that received only groans:

Q: Why did Raggedy Ann keep getting kicked out of the toybox?

A: She kept sitting on Pinocchio's face and screaming, "Lie to me! Lie to me!"

Now THAT's funny!!


Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Q: What do you call Cheney wearing an Obama Biden nosering?
A: A good start. :)

Saturday, May 02, 2009


when sexual selection goes right
How Steve Martin's Early Work saved my marriage

by Isa Harper

Life's a bitch, and then
you marry one, and then you
realize, "I'm a Jerk!"