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SF, Ep. 2

August 21, 2007—Opium’s Literary Death Match SF, Episode 2, was an absolutely inspired success. Breaking the LDM attendance record, the latest event pulled in 170 rowdy, rally-crying supporters (“And all of them good-looking,” said one attendee). It was also the first-ever LDM episode to feature product placement, as co-host Todd Zuniga sported a eye-catching necktie created by the minds of Medium Reality.

The night ended with Kirk Read (Instant City) toppling Andy Raskin (Big Ugly Review) in a brilliant “back to school” themed haiku-off. Each reader had three minutes to spin their best 5-7-5 concoction, and the raucous crowd decided the champion. After a Ramen-focused poem by Andy Raskin, Read made Instant City history with his haiku (shown, in full, below).

While those words won him the sash and crown combo, the verbal pyrotechnics had started an hour earlier with the inspired first-round battle between Matt Herlihy (Sweet Fancy Moses) and Raskin. Herlihy read an oration about beards with, possibly, the highest degree of difficulty ever at an LDM, but Raskin shined brightly mixing in fluent Japanese and inciting a sing-along during his 10-minute tirade. A tough decision for the judges--SF Chronicle’s Oscar Villalon judging literary merit, Kasper Hauser’s Rob Baedeker on performance, and Levine Greenburg literary agent Danielle Svetcov on intangibles--but they narrowly selected Raskin as the night’s first finalist.

“Despite the attractive crowd and talented lineup, my own defeat sadly confirmed the nation's shameful bias against 19th century facial hair-related oratory,” said Herlihy.

Andy Dugas reads.After a boozy intermission, round two featured Kirk Read versus Andy Dugas (edifice WRECKED). Read shadow-boxed and half-stepped his way around the microphone, in a beautifully twisted tale that had the audience absolutely captivated. Dugas followed with a gorgeously written SF-based tale that had the audience in a state of calm ecstasy. The judges held court, and selected Read the second finalist.

An undaunted Dugas spoke out after the event. "You know you've arrived when you're invited to read at LDM. You can't ask for a livelier or smarter audience or a wittier trio of judges. If only I hadn't left my Ace Frehley facepaint on BART...

Then the finale begun. After a tense three minutes of scribbling in Moleskin notebooks, Raskin and Read read their work. The crowd was beside themselves with joy to the point that the judges--who decided who was cheering louder--anointed Read the winner. The championship poem in question?

Ritalin OD
First day (Help, Mommy), whatev...
Naptime jerk off, YES.

“I really wanted to win. I mean, why not?” said LDMSF2 champ, Kirk Read. “I love the pageantry of a crown and a sash and a medal. It was lush and opulent. I felt like I was in a small town gay bar drag show getting crowned Miss Eastern Tennessee. Or JonBenet Ramsey.”

As for the judges, each had thoughts on their favorite part of sitting in the judge seat:

Oscar Villalon: My favorite part was sharing a cow-hide couch with two other people. It was both a cozy and stylish experience.

Danielle Svetcov: “My favorite part was speaking into a real microphone. When I play judge at home, I just speak into my hairbrush.”

Rob Baedeker: “The power!”

And when asked about his favorite part about the Literary Death Match, Read spouted off this undeniably cool string of sentences:

“I think we should do whatever it takes to invigorate the live transmission of literature. Writing was meant to be performed. It goes back to the discovery of fire. We've told stories around the fire for millennia. I think the Literary Death Match is an invitation to step it up, whether you're in the audience or onstage. Paint your face. Come in costume. Read something you wrote earlier that day. Memorize your piece. Sing an unexpected song. Arrive tripping on mushrooms. Practice your piece several times and edit it down to fit the time limit. Weave a current event reference into your piece. Ask someone more experienced for microphone technique advice. Mingle with the crowd and say hello to strangers. Pass out flyers for upcoming events. Meet someone new and book them into your reading series on the spot. Dance to whatever music is playing in the venue, or, if there is no music, dance anyway. Use props. Take off your shirt. Play an instrument. Have a friend play music while you do your piece. The audience always appreciates the effort.”

See all the photos from this event here!

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