[Most Recent Entries]
Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in
[ << Previous 20 ]
[ << Previous 20 ]
|Tuesday, March 27th, 2012|
It's been an unreasonably long time. If you're interested in seeing what I'm up to lately, let me know, and I'll either start making updates again (I rather miss this format) or point you to where I'm sharing crappy little local updates.
Suffice it to say--I'm well enough. Probably tenured soon. I'm working--about to deliver a conference paper on a Bierce short story, and I'm wasting time, having learned badly two kinds of concertina and the fiddle in recent years.
Let me know if anyone's out there. I feel like keeping my head down and trying to get my permajob has made me lose some folks I'd much rather have kept.
|Saturday, August 7th, 2010|
|Tuesday, January 26th, 2010|
Re-reading Emerson's Nature
for the thirtieth or fortieth time at least. Transferring my old insights into a new book: re-marking down the underlines and asterisks that flag my usual pauses, dawdles, explications down. This will be the second time I've taught the essay more or less unhurriedly and at least nominally completely (having 2 1/2 hours to cover it). Last time to undergraduates in the summer, this time to a smaller group of graduate students. It'll be interesting to see the difference.
When re-reading books I've taught extensively, quite a lot of what I'm doing is remembering a routine, a discussion parallel to the book. The first time you teach, there's a precariousness that there isn't in later teachings: in later teaching, the model of the first discussion gets in the way, intrudes itself, attempts to replicate itself, force the same insights onto another day and another crowd of students. You won't lose the trail, but you may well twist an ankle in the ruts of previous passages.
Lots of usages of the language of preaching in reference to natural objects -- the fields and woods "minister" a delight. The natural objects preach.
Image of exfoliation--man casts off his years as a snake his slough. The ideas of exfoliation and sedimentation--growing from outside, despositing in layers--seem to be fundamentally Transcendental metaphors. E, Th, Edward Carpenter, all use these a lot: our personality, our customs and habits, are all skins that protect but need to be shed to grow. Likewise the bug of the soul, in Walden, needs to tunnel its way out of the rings of tree that have grown up around it and encysted it.
In parallel, the images of fashion and clothing fads as metonymy of novelty and the tyranny of social opinion, as well as the necessessity for change. Emerson asks early on in Nature
whether we would "put the living generation into masquerade out of [the past's] faded wardrobe." Whereas Thoreau (in one of the more comic sections of Walden) is put out that his seamstress won't find or make him clothes of the cut he wants, saying "they" don't make them anymore like that. And Whitman always proposes being "undisguised and naked."
E says that nature can repair any calamity that leaves him his eyes. The Blind Transcendentalists. Rock band name?
The appearance of nature is like a conspiracy in E between the structure of the eye and the laws of light.
"There is no object so foul that intense light will not make beautiful." (Clearly E never stood in flourescents). -- I think T makes a dead horse his example.
Classics mirror nature mirrors classics--ex 1 ""Was there no meaning in the live repose of the valley behind the mill, and which Homer or Shakespeare could not re-form for me in words?" (131)
Word of the day "calices". pl of "calix" The OED has it:
:A cup; a cup-like cavity or organ; e.g. the truncated termination of the branches of the ureter in the kidney; the wall of the Graafian follicle, from which an ovum has escaped; the cup-like body of a crinoid or coral which is placed on the top of the stem; the body of a Vorticella; a cup-shaped depression in the upper part of the theca of a coralligenous zoophyte, which contains the stomach-sac (sometimes in French form calice). Also, Gr. Antiq. = cylix.
"Go out of your house to see the moon, and 't is mere tinsel; it will not please as when its light shines upon your necessary journey" (131). Cf "Each and All"
|Thursday, January 21st, 2010|
|Wherein I note a few things
I nearly lost a publication opportunity due to a spam filter. Our technology punishes us for not jumping through periodic hoops. Mild paranoia seems like a requirement. I am chastened, and will be digging through more diligently in the future, I'm sure.
I never feel quite right unless I'm procrastinating something serious but relatively minor. The worry and dread seems like the steam to my engine. The trick is getting something to steaming in there that won't explode on me.
Daily Link: UlyssesSeen
-- a webcomic based on Joyce's Ulysses
. I have a lot of respect for that guy for taking on such a crazily ambitious project. I would think it should be years in the illustrating. I'm very wary of committing to endless projects myself.
|Wednesday, January 20th, 2010|
|The Wide World 1
I'm teaching a graduate course in transcendentalism. As a part of it, I'm requiring students give 19thC introspective journaling a go: requiring that they put up or write down a commonplace book and record their sights and insights. So.
I figure I'll do it, too. When I'm regularly writing a commonplace book, I wind up bringing more ideas and phrases usefully into my self. I also think more, knock more against my limits and sometimes make progress or regress. I start plotting my motions on a map, and sometimes can trace a figure in the pushpins. I can sneak up on myself and get a glimpse.
At the same time, I'm reading H. D. Thoreau's journals--which are endlessly readable to me.
From a comment elsewhere:
I think sometimes that most of my experience, and human history is a series of wonderful but faintly desperate-feeling distractions from a few unthinkable truths.
But I only get around to thinking this once in a while. Oooh! What's that over there? Shiny!
From Thoreau's journals April 15th 1838--
Thomas Fuller relates that "In Merionethshire, in Wales, there are high mountains, whose hanging tops come so close together that shepherds on the tops of several hills may audibly talk together, yet it will be a day's journey for their bodies to meet, so vast is the hollowness of the bodies betwixt them." As much may be said in a moral sense of our intercourse in the plains, for though we may audibly converse together, yet is there so vast a gulf of hollowness between, that we are actually many days' journey from a veritable communication.
The Transc. start with an idea that is as basic as it is revolutionary: why not lead the life your imagination shows you is best?
|Tuesday, May 26th, 2009|
Teaching may-mester, which is killing me, but relatively quickly and painfully, so there's that. Once it's over, I'll take a day or two to recover (I'll need it, and then launch into Operation Do Real Research, Get Publications and Keep My Job.
But in more exciting news, I'm instrument geeking as always. Been playing the Anglo Concertina, and got motivated by it and frustrated with it enough that as soon as it takes to ship a box from England, I should be getting a 1905 Lachenal English Concertina.
Yep, my new toy will be 104 years old, and relatively young for a concertina at that.
The concertina is a variety of squeezebox, and the English concertina a particularly interesting sort. It was invented by general all-round Victorian mad scientist Charles Wheatstone (who also invented the electric telegraph, more or less) as a classical instrument of equal range as the violin. It's made to be a completely logical instrument for playing melodies fast. (As opposed to the Anglo concertina, which is like a pair of harmonicas stuck together made for confusing me.
In the meantime, I've become a much less-terrible clawhammer banjoist, and my guitar has even improved marginally. Clearly, I should be spending more time in the library.
Pictures to come when my Edwardian (and expensive, for me) baby arrives.
|Saturday, March 14th, 2009|
|Watching the Watchmen
Just finished watching the film adaptation of Watchmen.
It's definitely about as good as I could have expected.
I'm not sure yet whether I will seriously assert that I find the adaptation despicable and inhumane. I'll need to think more about it.
|Saturday, December 20th, 2008|
|Purging the Semester (from every orifice)
So, one day after turning in grades for the semester, we went out to have a meal in a nearby town, and have come down with The Food Poisoning.
On the bad side, our newfound free time has now been spent for the past 48 ours or so alternating unnatural bodily fluxes. Even the humor is wearing a little thin. In fact, all of my humors are, I think, dribbling out my ear.
On the other hand--I suppose I've kicked off my holiday diet with a 48 hour gatorade-and-crackers-fest. And as the last semester was full of mild depressive features (though otherwise quite uneventful), I suppose a purge might be good for me.
By the way, Red Jello, under certain circumstances, can be the food of the gods.
|Tuesday, October 28th, 2008|
|Tuesday, September 16th, 2008|
Fourth day without power. Chainsaws everywhere. Living life by rechargeable battery.
Meanwhile, I have a fabulous cute little laptoplet. And am reading a fun biography of Thomas Paine, my favorite international terrorist.
Fun fact of the day: around the era of the American revolution, the average life expectancy was 36.6 years.
|Thursday, June 26th, 2008|
So, yesterday I wrote a despair shanty. It's like a sea shanty, but with no sea in. Imagine this one with a sort of Tom Waits delivery. Heck, I think it'd sound good as a tango!
There’s a knot inside
That no one tied
And the ends are dipped in pitch
You may pick it til your fingers bleed
But you can never fill that need
And no one else can scratch that itch
Though others tried
Their twistings hide
That there is no simple resolution
A carpet knife drawn from the palm
A whiskey or a homemade bomb
It will only stretch out your confusion
Alexander isn’t coming,
So let us wipe our bitter mouths and sing
There’ll be no one to smooth your twisted turnings
No one to loosen your strings
No one to straighten out your problems
As your calloused fingers just get numb
When your tongue is too twisted for talking
Sing something twisted, or be dumb
In our dreams
The sword edge gleams
But it won’t end in sturm und drang
Though in our tangled guts we hope
That we’re nearing the ending of our ropes
Together or separately we hang.
So now, and forever: go hang.
What can I say? I couldn't find a good rhyme for "cat's cradle."
|Wednesday, June 18th, 2008|
|I have a problem
I've realized that I have an addiction.
I'm really really fond of buying musical instruments, and half-assed learning how to play them. I've known this since I was a teenager. But recently, stumbling over the cases in my living room, I realize that I have enough instruments, good, bad, and ugly, valuable, workhorse, and unusable pile of parts, that I could make my own novelty orchestra.
Lots of them are worth a lot more than I paid for them, and I've considered selling some off or trading them in, but it'd be like selling my kids (though, you know, for the right price, kids and instruments alike). I'm still on ebay almost every day.
A partial list:
- Martin LX1E
- Martin LXM (Black) --These are great little guitars. I recommend them to everyone.
- 1966 Fender Mustang in Dakota red (my first electric guitar--a great student model surf guitar, which thankfully Kurt Cobain used to play)
- Ibanez Roadstar (80’s)
- Gibson ES-125 TC (1957) hollow-body electric
- Jupiter Beach Music concert-uke-scale 6-string electric guitar (neat neat instrument, though the guy was obviously just learning to make 'em when this one was done)
- Alvarez acoustic (well beaten)
- FCWE Gypsy Kings model thin-bodied acoustic-electric classical guitar (a hand-me-down I can't do justice to)
- Fender Coronado II Electric Bass
- Cheap Yamaha ¾ scale classical guitar
Banjo family critters
- Fretless gourd 5-string Banjo (unknown maker)
- Slingerland banjo ukulele (mid-late 20’s)
- Slingerland 8-string banjo ukulele (not, as I thought, a banjo mandolin—mid-late 20’s)
- Melody banjo (early 1900s, in parts, needs a new head)
- Tenor banjo (in parts, needs a new head)
Ukuleles and uke-like things
- Yasuma Tiple (a clone of the 20’s Martin tiple—a 10-string rhythm instrument)
- Favilla soprano ukulele (mid-late 40’s)
- Koaloha concert ukulele (all koa, 2004 or so--a wonderful sweet thing)
- Beltona “blue” fiberglass concert resonator ukulele (made in New Zealand)
- Ovation soprano ukulele
- Cheap wooden uke (out on loan)
- Garcia Charango (10 string fabulous Andean instrument--you see 'em in those pan-flute playing street groups now and again)
- Oscar Schmidt chromatic autoharp (all black crappy student model, no soundhole--recently reconditioned by yours truly)
- Cheap octave mandolin (needs a setup)
- Cracked cheap mandolin (unfortunately unsable)
- Strange cheap wooden banjo-thing from the far east ebay (AntonioTsai or somesuch
- Rochelle Anglo C/G Concertina (my latest obsession)
- Harmonicas, tin whistles, and kazoos (which I can't play)
- Cheap powder-blue Chinese xylophone, which gives me headaches to play
- A Cretan lyra, obviously homemade (a bowed instrument where the notes are formed with the fingernails). Can't made a decent note on this one--almost all the others I can play songs on.
- A thumb piano thingie I bought at the ren faire. Beautiful sounding, very hard to tune.
- An electronic keyboard, which I can't play at all--though if I could sell my soul to play swinging New Orleans piano, I might
- Bodhran (cheap) -- I'm hopeless with the rhythm
- 70’s Fender blueface Twin Reverb
- 60’s Fender blackface Princeton Reverb
I considered taking pictures. But I couldn't quite fit it in one or seventeen pictures.
So confess, dear readers: what are your obsessions?
|Monday, March 24th, 2008|
|Late night blahpost!
Up too late because of bad scheduling, bad work habits, and bad luck. So now I will post!
I'm working on a conference paper, and have about ten good pages out eleven needful on a topic that really deserves fifty. Unfortunately, I only have seven pages worth of time. And must have it done by Wednesday night. At such times I wonder what it is in me that makes me take on impossible tasks, make them harder than they need to be, and put them off to the last minute. I suspect deeply some sort of throbbing inbuilt urge to fail and die.
Tomorrow, I teach some Sei Shonagon and Kenko: some extracts from The Pillow Book
and Essays in Idleness
. I'll be teaching them 3/4-assed, which is a pity, because I love Essays in Idleness
above all candy. The Taoist/Nostalgic/Fatalist/Romantic/Wistf
ul thing was built into me by 13. An example:
If man were never to fade away like the dews of Adashino, never to vanish like the smoke over Toribeyama, but lingered on forever in the world, how things would lose their power to move us! The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty. Consider living creatures--none lives so long as man. The May fly waits not for the evening, the summer cicada knows neither spring nor Autumn. What a wonderful unhurried feeling it is to live even a single year in perfect serenity! If that is not enough for you, you might live a thousand years and still feel it was but a single night's dream.
It's like reading a little Montaigne, plus a little Wallace Stevens, plus a whole bloody lot of Lao Tzu.
Sei Shonagon, on the other hand, is a perfect prize of a different sort, as if we could get from the twentieth century only a very very clever, very aesthetic, moderately shallow rich girl's blog, which gives us to understand the full emotional scope of mall culture in someone who finds nothing more depressing in the world than someone wearing white Payless shoes to work at Orange Julius after Labor Day. Expressed in what you have to imagine might be heartbreakingly beautiful prose, if only you spoke the language. From her, "Hateful Things," a list of you know what:
A gentleman has visited one secretly. Though he is wearing a tall, lacquered hat, he nevertheless wants no one to see him. He is so flurried, in fact, that upon leaving he bangs into something with his hat. Most hateful! It is annoying too when he lifts up the Iyo blind that hangs at the entrance of the room, then lets it fall with a great rattle.
Indeed, one's attachment to a man depends largely on the elegance of his leave-taking. When he jumps out of bed, scurries about the room, tightly fastens his trouser-sash, rolls up the sleeves of his Court cloak, over-robe, or hunting costume, stuffs his belongings into the breast of his robe and then briskly secures the outer sash--one begins really to hate him.
|Wednesday, January 30th, 2008|
|Another lame update post
Since last I posted, I have:
- Gotten kickass Christmas presents, including but not limited to: a skull (ersatz), a nice green laser to put a dot one half mile away atop a tower, some strange water purifying UV wand thing, and a top hat. Note: I look damn fine in a top hat. And so tall. I'm waiting for it to come back.
- Finished one semester, applied for new courses, and wound up with completely different courses than I asked for, thanks to unpredictable enrollment.
- Began teaching World Literature 1. Enlil is my copilot. Sing it Sappho. Yay Iliad War Porn with crappy Gamer Gods!
- Developed an unwise admiration of the Dresden Dolls. If I'd heard them 10 years ago, I'd have bought a bowler hat and face paint. Wait--I have a bowler hat.
- Watched good movies. Best in the last two weeks: El Orfanato/ The Orphanage (A fine fine film) and 3:10 to Yuma (ditto, despite my usual Western antipathies). I recommend both to my friends who enjoy anguish and / or westerns.
- Found myself swearing like a sailor. Friday, I will have a hard time not going into class and saying, "Oedipus. That motherfucker."
|Saturday, October 20th, 2007|
|For Halloween, I was a southern stereotype.|
|Saturday, September 29th, 2007|
|Prescription of Painful Ends
Lucretius felt the change of the world in his time, the great republic riding to the height
Whence every road leads downward; Plato in his time watched Athens
Dance down the path. The future is a misted landscape, no man sees clearly, but at cyclic turns
There is a change felt in the rhythm of events, as when an exhausted horse
Falters and recovers, then the rhythm of the running hoofbeats is changed: he will run miles yet,
But he must fall: we have felt it again in our own life time, slip, shift and speed-up
In the gallop of the world; and now perceive that, come peace or war, the progress of Europe and America
Becomes a long process of deterioration - starred with famous Byzantiums and Alexandrias,
Surely - but downward. One desires at such times
To gather the insights of the age summit against future loss, against the narrowing of mind and the tyrants,
The pedants, the mystagogues, the barbarians: one builds poems for treasuries, time-conscious poems: Lucretius
Sings his great theory of natural origins and of wise conduct; Plato smiling carves dreams, bright cells
Of incorruptible wax to hive the Greek honey.
Our own time, much greater and far less fortunate,
Has acids for honey, and for fine dreams
The immense vulgarities of misapplied science and decaying Christianity: therefore one christens each poem in dutiful
Hope of burning off at least the top layer of the time's uncleaness, from the acid-bottles.
By Robinson Jeffers
|Sunday, September 23rd, 2007|
|Consciousness and Revolution
Was writing up notes for my Whitman class, and thinking a bit about failed revolutions.
For real revolutionaries, every revolution is failed. I read old Tom Paine giving both barrels to George Washington for selling out the revolution, then some of the other founding fathers saying that after putting down Shay's Rebellion, that the real spirit of the Revolution was dead.
A show on the hippie movement--another failed revolutionary movement. The documentary puts heavy emphasis on LSD.
It all got me to thinking: does a revolution require a new state of consciousness? How much of a political revolution has to do with the enthusiasm of a new way of thinking?
Whether the American Revolution's heady reimagining of how religion and government should be under the freeing influence of reason, or the Transcendentalists (an only slightly political revolutionary movement) use of inner searching to justify action against the status quo, it seems like many revolutions have been fueled not just new ideas, but by new (or at least contrasting) ways of thinking.
I've heard lots of people asking why we're not seeing strong reactions to the current war the way there were reactions to Vietnam. People have blamed the lack of a draft, the continued prosperity of the nation, et cetera. I kind of wonder--is it because there's no new system of ideas, no new drug, no energy from cracking open some long-standing form of repression?
|Wednesday, September 19th, 2007|
|An Expurgated Whitman poem
Sometime before the Spring of 1859, Walt Whitman wrote a series of 12 manuscript poems that have been gathered by Fredson Bowers under the title "Live Oak With Moss." They seem to tell the story of a disappointing romantic relationship.
In 1860, Whitman took those poems out of their original order, and placed them in a new section of his Leaves of Grass
entitled "Calamus," where in their new context they took on a less autobiographical, more programmatic meaning.
After the 1860 edition, he dropped three poems, never to reprint them again. They are not included in most modern editions of Whitman's poems. This was one:
HOURS continuing long, sore and heavy-hearted,
Hours of the dusk, when I withdraw to a lonesome
and unfrequented spot, seating myself, leaning
my face in my hands;
Hours sleepless, deep in the night, when I go forth,
speeding swiftly the country roads, or through
the city streets, or pacing miles and miles, sti-
fling plaintive cries;
Hours discouraged, distracted—for the one I cannot
content myself without, soon I saw him content
himself without me;
Hours when I am forgotten, (O weeks and months are
passing, but I believe I am never to forget!)
Sullen and suffering hours! (I am ashamed—but it
is useless—I am what I am;)
Hours of my torment—I wonder if other men ever
have the like, out of the like feelings?
Is there even one other like me—distracted—his
friend, his lover, lost to him?
Is he too as I am now? Does he still rise in the morn-
ing, dejected, thinking who is lost to him? and
at night, awaking, think who is lost?
Does he too harbor his friendship silent and endless?
harbor his anguish and passion?
Does some stray reminder, or the casual mention of a
name, bring the fit back upon him, taciturn and
Does he see himself reflected in me? In these hours,
does he see the face of his hours reflected?
Why did he drop this one? In its brief life, it was quite important for several of Whitman's early readers. Is he expurgating himself to avoid some imagined anti-homosexual backlash (leaving more explicit poems?) Is he trying to edit out his own pain? Is he trying to make the sequence less personal, and fit his audience better? All of the above?
|Tuesday, September 4th, 2007|
|Notes for a poem to Walt Whitman
I've been reading deeply in Whitman again (teaching a graduate course). I use MS Word to annotate, which makes neat little comment boxes on the side. I'm thinking of a very strange book you may or may not know, The Blue Cliff Record
. The Blue Cliff Record is a series of zen koan, or "public cases" with several layers of commentary. It's different from other books in that the commentary is almost always less penetrable and more wacky than the stories themselves--they aren't explanatory at all, but rather like a stick upside the head, or a restatement in radically different terms: it's one of the odder books I've ever tried to read.
I'm wondering whether the right way to teach Whitman might not be a series of crazy marginal comments odder than the poem they comment on. Preferably these might be written by Wallace Stevens. Having recently taught a course on Emerson and Thoreau, Whitman is showing unusually brightly for me this time--I see what he's taken and what's new, and I'm getting an appreciation for how clever his method really is.
A Blue Cliff Whitman: Part I
The mirror of the book : The mirror of the stream.
The sky flickers among the riffling current. The water-bug looks through his own reflection.
A snippet and two commentaries:
Who goes there? hankering, gross, mystical, nude;
How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat?
What is a man anyhow? what am I? what are you?
All I mark as my own you shall offset it with your own,
Else it were time lost listening to me.
He asks who he is. But the one who can answer is no longer or not yet himself.
He reads with his stomach! How will we answer his questions? He crooks a finger of scent from a meal, like a bad cartoon. Follow your hunger to where he is.
|Tuesday, June 26th, 2007|
|Vacation: emptying out
So, down to the last couple of weeks before I go back to work, so have to recivilize and get working at a minimal level to prep for my courses. Emerson / Thoreau, which I've been reading for in a desultory fashion, and American Lit post 1865, which I've taught before, and will have to cut to local standards for summer courses.
So, here's what I've done over my minimonth of break.
Wrote and presented an iffy but entertaining (to me) and well-received semi-academic paper.
Attended Whitman's birthday party in Conroe, Texas (with lots of Texas poets and a few other cool academics of my acquaintance)
Saw a deer suddenly startled out of a marsh in a park near my house. First ever. Walked endlessly.
Read a fair amount of transcendentalism, and nothing much else.
Played obsessively the following instruments
- Martin LXM all-high-tech-countertop-and-stratabond guitar (I unconditionally recommend this instrument--ask if you want further info)
- Yasuma tiple (a 10 string glorious rare monstrosity)
- Nastily-finished octave mandolin (wow, tuning in 5ths sort of makes sense)
- Gut-strung fretless gourd banjo (my primitive cred probably went up)
- Etc., etc., et f*n c.--had an instrument in my hand most of the time
Got my thumb in order for ragtime playing, sort of, and listened to a /lot/ of odd and wonderful music (ask if you want reccs).
Bought a fabulous chair, a nice used rug, mostly re-covered an ottoman, and otherwise had halfassed adventures in decorating.
Watched dozens of bad horror movies. I need to write a ghost novel, but may not until I am old, gray, and insane.
Made a character on a MU* and played him once or twice
Drank a fair amount, had practically no social contact
Continued half-assedly with my sledgehammer-centric workout. Got better muscles in my shoulders. Lost about 5 pounds (lost 8, gained 3 back due to tasty soup recipes).