Thursday, December 22, 2005
I was thinking how cool it would be if a bunch of people got together and swept off the rivers downtown so that people could skate on them. Think how fast you could get going and how cool it would be to zip through town. They've got to be frozen, right? I mean, they're maybe six inches deep this time of year, right? And they move in geological time, they're so slow. That could work, I think.
That reminds me of the news story a couple weeks ago about the guy who flew a plane under the Columbia Street bridge. I wonder what happened with that, if anything. Skating on the rivers sounds safer than that.
I keep thinking of watching tv in Belgium in this crackpot little hotel where a little dog, a terrier, sat right on top of our table, watching us as Brian and I ate from a plate of cold cuts. The owner saw the dog, or rather I think thought that we were annoyed by him though we weren't, and yelled at him: "Sammy!!" in this odd accent and the dog jumped down. Anyway, on tv there they had race coverage from this little town where there were speed skaters flying along, yes, rivers that ran through the town. Hundreds of people lined the banks cheering them on. That could happen here.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
I think another reason this skating thing is fun is that, for someone who doesn't have a lot of grace, I actually feel almost graceful out there. Fortunately, I don't get to see what I look like stiff-leggin it around the ice, slowly carving large squares in it--what's important is that I feel graceful and natural and even fast. Erin claimed that I could have walked faster, but it still felt fast to me.
What helped me rise to the occasion was the way Catherine kept making me feel like an invalid, repeating encouraging things like "just hold onto the railing" and "those skates are too serious for you--ask for a beginner pair." Nice reverse-encouragement, honey; it worked.
For real, though, it was pretty cool to skate with C. I mean, we've been together for, I dunno, sixteen years or so, and we'd never skated before. Turns out she's good at it and fun to watch and everything.
JK, you all! Thanks for coming and filling our house with cheer. We'll do it again.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami: Two intertwined stories, one involving a runaway boy and the other an aging mentally handicapped man who makes a living by finding lost cats because he can talk to them. Murakami is the most messed up writer I know.
Winning Chess Openings, Yasser Sairawan: I'm bad at chess and this book is way over my head but I still learned a thing or two from it. It's fun to read stuff that makes you realize how little you know about things. Chess, for example.
Hole in My Life, Jose Gantos: Autobiography of a guy who goes to jail. It's better than that . . hard to describe. Actually, it's not hard to describe; I just can't remember it that well. I remember enjoying it is all. It's a short young adult book, so it's a great quick read.
The Outskirts of Troy, Carl Dennis, poems: I love this guy's poems because they are written in common speech about little things. Some people criticize him for not being intellectual enough, but I think it's, I dunno, refreshing or something.
The Crossing, Cormac McCarthy: McCarthy has to be one of my favorite authors. I don't even care what he's writing about as long as he's the one doing it. I will probably always prefer his southern books like Suttree and The Orchard Keeper to the westerns, but these are growing on me. I also read No Country for Old Men this year, but didn't enjoy it as much.
The Cheese Monkeys, Chipp Kidd: This not a well written book at all, but I enjoyed it because I have always wanted to be an artist and this book let me see what it's like to be an art student at an art school. Funny novel about that scene.
Box of Matches, Nicholson Baker: A guy wakes up each morning at, I think, 5AM and lights a fire from a box of matches and writes about whatever comes into his head while the match is burning. When he runs out of matches, the book is over. It makes you want to wake up each morning, at, I think, 5AM and light a match in the darkness and write about whatever comes into your head. It makes you want to be more aware of the thoughts that wander through your head on their way to some other place.
The Sound on the Page, Ben Yagoda: Great survey of style and writing and how to read and boring crap like that.
The Age of Wire and String, Ben Marcus: Claims to be a book of stories, but is much closer to prose poetry. Each story is maybe a paragraph in length and I can read each one ten times and get something different out of it every time. Marcus just had a muddled Harper's piece attacking Jonathan Franzen that doesn't even seem to have generated much controversy. I think people were wondering "who is this guy to think we care what he thinnks about the state of contemporary fiction?"
The End of the Affair, Graham Greene: Not my favorite by him, but there is something about the clarity of his prose that knocks me out every time. It's a middle style, but it's better than that, too.
Breakfast at Tiffany's, Truman Capote: The last book I read for my book club before it exploded under the pressure of, well, all I know is it had something to do with toilet paper, but I'm not too clear on that. Anyway, this book feels a little dated probably because the Holly Golightly character has been ripped off so often since this was published. I enjoyed his feel for how to show us people, even if he takes a condescending view of those people at the same time.
Late Additions: I hope to finish these two books during winter break, which starts today. I can already tell they both deserve to be on my list of favorites.
The Ongoing Moment, Geoff Dyer: This guy cracks me up, the idea of someone who doesn't own a camera writing a book about his theory and history of photography. It's pretty smart, though.
On Beauty, Zadie Smith: She is just too much. Her books are so funny and smart and, I guess, raw, in a way. This is the first book to be read by my new, secret, splinter-group book club.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
But I did manage to get out for a few this past year, and rented a few, too, though not a lot. Of everything I saw, these were my favorites:
Shaun of the Dead. I haven't seen many of the horror movie spoofs we make here, but this British zombie spoof is hilarious. Two losers so drunk or out of it that they don't even notice when all of their neighbors have turned into zombies and are walking the streets.
The Aquatic Life with Steve Zissou. Not Wes Anderson's best, but it has its little charms, like all of his do. Not charming was sitting in the theater near a couple of people who wanted everyone to know that they were the biggest Wes Anderson fans in the world and they tried to show it to us by laughing loudly almost every line of dialogue. They wanted us to know that their senses of humor were so refined that they saw jokes where the rest of us mortals only saw people talking. We should be ashamed to call ourselves fans of Wes, their laughs said. How annoying.
Mary Poppins. June got into this movie so I ended up watching it no fewer than 3,000 times this year, and I love it more every time I see it. The dad sings in just my register, so I can sing along pretty well, too.
Me and You and Everyone We Know. Just one of those odd movies about strange people that makes you laugh at the odd funny things they do in their little, odd lives. Actually kind of moving or whatever, though. I really enjoyed this.
Dig! Disgusting documentary about the disgusting, drug-addled lives of a band known as "The Brian Jonestown Massacre." You finish the movie feeling like you went on tour with them for a year.
The Edukators. Nice, warm movie about three liberal activists in Germany who break into the homes of wealthy industrialists and rearrange their furniture. They kidnap one almost by accident and have to look hard at how much they want to sacrifice in the name of the values they profess.
Capote. I saw this and was convinced that what's his name would be a shoe-in for best actor, but then he wasn't even nominated for a Golden Globe. Maybe I don't know squat about what makes a good acting performance.
Bad Education. Almodovar just gets so much more intense and beautiful with every movie, I think. I enjoyed this as much as I did Talk to Her, I think.
Singin' in the Rain. What an amazing movie. I still don't know who's better, Gene Kelley or Fred, but there are few musicals that approach this one.
My Fair Lady. Surprisingly few great songs in this one, and what little choreography there is is lame, but this is one of the funniest musicals I've ever seen. Richard Harris is hysterical.
Gosh, that's not a lot of movies for an entire year, or is it? I probably saw twice that many, so half of what I saw made it to this list. I'm good enough at knowing what I like that I am good at not going to movies that I'll end up hating.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Anyway, I got it and decided that I had to figure out how to like it. I played it in my car constantly, just hating it, just telling myself what awful sounds they were making, but also telling myself that if I tried hard enough, I would learn to like it.
The funny thing is, is that it worked. It's probably my second favorite record by them now. I've decided that maybe it's an ego trip for me or something--that if I can figure out how to like a band that nobody else I know likes, then it's almost like they're my own personal band--they're makin' music for me alone. That bothers me a little to think of it that way because I don't like the thought that vanity affects my aesthetic taste. Or maybe that's the most natural thing in the world. People define themselves by the music they like all the time, and it's common for people to feel like we "own" a certain band; why else would we get upset when one "sells out" and becomes popular?
Maybe that's part of why I like Animal Collective, anyway. The other part is that I like music that surprises you every time you listen to it. Most records that I get into the first time I hear them end up boring me after another 5-10 listens. The "difficult" music tends to be stuff that is imaginative and new and that's where you can find surprise, when it's something you have to use your imagination to dig into it.
Speaking of songs, June is now asking me to sing Christmas songs to her when I rock her before bed, and it's amazing how few of them I know all the way through. Jingle Bells I think was the only one I could recall tonight. I had to go from that to "Doe a Deer" to "Down in the Valley." Quite a mix that makes.
June was at school today being observed by the child devo classes. I spied on her a little--it was all I could do not to go scoop her up, but I knew that that would mess up their observations. It was pretty nice to be able to walk down the hall and see your kid. Too bad there isn't a day care there. I guess we'd need more pregnant students before that happens, and I shouldnt' wish for that.
Monday, December 12, 2005
10. Royksopp: Melody AM
9. LCD Soundsystem
8. Sufjan Stevens: Illinoise!
7. Stephen Malkmus: Face the Truth
6. Silver Jews: Tanglewood Numbers
5. Ryan Adams: Jacksonville City Nights
4. Animal Collective: Here Comes the Indian
3. Ryan Adams: Cold Roses
2. Will Oldham and Matt Sweeney: Superwolf
1. Animal Collective: Feels
In the long run, Superwolf might outpace Feels for me, but I can only go by what I like the most at this time, and that's my list.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
It used to be that I liked to keep track of how many pages I wrote each year in my journal, but that's not really possible any more unless I cut and past all my blog stuff into my home journal. What a pain that would be.
Anyways, this begins the last week before winter break. It's going to go quickly, I know, and break should be pretty nice. I wish my xc skis weren't up in Michigan, b/c I'd take them out to Fox Island or Metea. I'll be up there soon enough.
I've got a nice new writing assignment for the sophomores I'm going to give them tomorrow. It should be a nice grade boost if they put some effort into it. I'll cross my fingers for them.
I read a pretty cool article on video blogging in the Sunday New York Times today and checked out a few. I was jealous of their skills w/ the cam corder and the internet, but overall, most of them seemed a little too amateurish to maintain my interest for very long. I can read a blog faster than I can watch a vlog, skipping through the boring bits. That's probably why I prefer them.
One of the ok ones is by a guy named Michael Verdi.
Friday, December 09, 2005
Because I like talking to strangers, I almost tried to make a joke with him: "Hey, if you lose that I.D. while you're in prison, do they kick you out?" But I didn't.
I was rooting for a snow day, myself. I could tell the kids in my classes were ready for one, too--some of them were so low on energy that it felt like less like a Thursday and more like Saturday school at times. That was partly my fault, too, maybe. It's difficult to find a balance in your lesson plan that can keep peoples' attention for 45 minutes or so. I think about that a lot. It's impossible, really, but that's why teaching is fun--it's fun to think of new ways to approach books and writin'.
I got home yesterday and it was already snowing pretty hard and my weird neighbors were of course out shoveling. Never mind that the snow was forecasted to keep falling for another eight hours--one of them, either Victoria or Veronica, I can never remember which--kept shoveling the same 20 square feet of driveway for over an hour. She'd shovel it, the snow would cover it, and she'd start over. I wonder if she wondered why she couldn't ever get it clear. I wonder if she was cold in her omnipresent house dress.
Sure, I know that in reality no kid would learn anything they don't already know by following links from my page, but it's more about the appearance of things that parents care about, and that's what I to concern myself with, unfortunately.
Fortunately, I still have this blog.
Monday, December 05, 2005
It would be nice if he'd stay around. Chicago, though, and a girl there. I guess that's why it's important to marry your best friend: they can't move away on you that way.
S'funny, but I always knew he was going; I just thought it would be to the peace corps. It feels like more of a loss this way for some reason.
On Friday, I told June we'd go to the library to get movies and she said "let's get FOUR movies!!" and so that's what we did, all musicals. Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Annie, and 42nd Street, a b&w choice that she picked on her own. Funny.
So far, she's loving Maria the most, in SoM. My Fair Lady knocked me out, mainly Rex Harrison's performance and the one scene at Ascot where Eliza keeps saying "How do you do?" I kept repeating that line all weekend. Overall, the movie feels a little too long to me, though. The story drags some, and not all the musical numbers are that hummable, except for "I could have danced all night." Plus, some of the storylines feel a little bit underdeveloped. Isn't that strange? That a 2hr 40m movie would have underdeveloped story lines? I think Eliza is a little underdeveloped, too, for that matter. We see her moxy or whatever at the beginning, but after that, for much of the film, she's simply Professor Higgins's automoton.
I love that June loves musicals. They're so wholesome, I guess. They have no villains like the Disney movies do, so I don't have to fast forward through the scary parts.
I picked up J and B today and told J we were going to the newly opened library branch near our house and she starts asking if I brought "books I don't want anymore" to give to the library so that we can get some more out. I didn't know she knew about that. She's always amazing me these days. She's also spending more time with books alone, which is nice to see. She turns the pages and, well, I don't know what. It's her inner life developing.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
We picked up four at the library last night: TSOM, 42nd Street, My Fair Lady, and Annie. I hadn't seen Annie for ages, but the first 30 seconds of it told me that it was unwatchable and I walked away. I don't think June dug that one either. She picked 42nd Street out herself and actually seemed to like it though it's in black and white.
My Fair Lady is a pleasant surprise. Quite funny. "How do you do?"
Saturday, November 26, 2005
C and I headed to Wildwood for a ski first thing and we were the first tracks out there. I speculated that we were the first people to ski the trail this season, and that's probably correct. The snow was a little sticky, and the going was tough having no groomed slots to slide in, but it was about the prettiest I've ever seen it out there. I loved blazing our own way through trees that were just heavy with the prior 24 hours of snow resting on their every needle. The snow stuck to our skis and made us stop once or twice to clean them and with about 2 miles to go, C broke one of her ski poles whacking it on her ski. The bamboo thing broke right in half. Who ever heard of a bamboo pole in 2005, anyway? That thing must have been 25 years old. She picked up a stick and broke it to the right length and used that the rest of the way.
June has been up and down up here. She loves her Papaw so much that she can get tunnel vision and be a little nasty to everyone else in the house. She can turn her tone of voice so quickly, I'm beginning to sense she's a manipulator. A sweet one, but she knows how to get what she wants.
Second year in a row we drove up in a snowstorm. Last year, we left late and got snowed off in Angola or wherever that was; this year I took a half day off and we left by 2:00. The snow was kind of bad, sometimes getting us down to 40 mph, but in other places there was just wet pavement where they salt trucks had dropped their loads. Saw several cars off the road.
The worst factor was that Birk has entered the age where he hates being in the car seat for that long. We stopped probably four times all told, and at the end of the day it was an 8 hour trip. My ass was killing me by the end.
At one stop, I carried Birk into the play place at a BK and this one father almost immediately starts talking to me about . . I forget what, but he was just incredibly friendly and I almost immediately deduced that he was at least from the UP and maybe from
All night long the wind blew hard against the side of the lake house. C and I are on my folks’ side and it’s pretty with huge waves pushing up against the shore. It was windy most of the day today, in fact. It seems like the winter thinks of a different way to make the lake freeze over every year. This year, there are a lot of ice-globe like things floating in the water where the waves are pushing them into a slushy shore. Maybe they’re solid ice, I can’t tell, but they’re round as can be. You want to go collect them.
A pair of loons fished the shore right outside our house for most of the day, too. Most of the time they were no more than 5-10 feet from our shoreline, in fact. Beautiful to see. I want to pet them.
June is so into Papaw that it gets annoying at times. I can’t blame Dad, of course. June gets so into him, though, that she gets rude to Birk and won’t let anyone else around them. It must get tiring for Dad, too. It’s extremely cute to see them play together, though. I should just be happy she loves him so much. I got her to play with me for a little while today so that Dad could nap some. I lucked out and got her to play a game of “snuggle tent” in which we hid under the covers on her bed and couldn’t leave because a bear would get us. She would look out of the covers and say “there’s no bear” and I would have to say urgently “here he comes!” and she’d get back under. Eventually, she went downstairs to see mommy and stayed there in her bed to nap for over two hours, according to C. It felt like about that long, so I believe her.
Dinner was great and traditional. Mom had a new interesting gravy that had some zing. I had a glass or two of a $4.99 piesporter. It wasn’t that bad, I don’t think. I helped clean up, even. We talked about . . . I can’t remember what we talked about, to be honest. We’ve all just kind of been in the moment up here.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
A recent custom has been for June to climb in our bed on Saturday and Sunday mornings and watch a little tv while C and I sleep in. On Saturday, the only channel we have that shows kid friendly stuff is CBS. Now she understands how commercials work. Every break she saw this last weekend, she would watch the ad, and then say "I wish I had a talking pony" if the ad was about a talking pony, or "I wish I had a talking kitchen" if the ad was about a talking kitchen. It was uncanny. The ad people know their audience. "But you do have a talking kitchen," we said. "It even talks in French, Spanish and English." I can't remember her response to that, but I remember that we hadn't changed her position.
Friday, November 11, 2005
She did have one good joke I just saw her deliver in an online segment: When God gives you AIDS, make lemonAIDS. It made me laugh, though it's very, very wrong, of course.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Monday, October 31, 2005
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Friday, October 21, 2005
In h-speed dating, you only need to look at the participants for a few moments each before deciding whether to continue with the "date." Who are the participants? Anyone you look at. In a bar, on a bus, you could rip through dozens of people in a matter of minutes. It sounds rather efficient to me. Maybe I should try to trademark that name.