Tuesday, January 30, 2007

How I spent my snow day.

So I didn't know school was canceled until I walked into the main office and asked whether or not today's faculty meeting was called off. The school secretary looked at me with this "Hill is such an idiot look" and said "there's no school."

Of course, I had noticed that the halls looked rather empty, but I guess I thought I was just an early riser and beat most folks to school or something. Oh well. It's fun to be at school when it's empty. I got some work done, left, and now I'm at the new library, which is practically like totally my new favorite place in the entire world.

Looking at the drawing above, I am sitting in a comfy chair outside the windows on the second floor, and have my laptop putting all the power of the interwebs at my disposal.. There are fewer people in real life than you see in the picture, though. I dunno. This place just kills me. The power of architecture to help define a city should not be underestimated.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Opening Day!

Main Atrium, ACPL
I'm going to go ahead and declare myself the first person to blog about the new library that opened here today. I also plan to have the first overdue library book there, too.

I should have grabbed a better picture than this, but it was tough with an armful of coats and the occasional kid. But anyway, it's a great place. I can't wait to get to know it. It has scale, coziness, and lets the light in, too. I really like what I've heard about something called the "silent reading room," because I'm all about silence, but I wasn't able to find it today.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Do you have favorite people?

Jim and Terry, Carmel (2002)
I can't believe Jim Merithew called me last night. When Jim calls, you don't even care that you were sleeping; you're just glad to know that he still thinks about you some times--I mean, seriously: he lives in California, with a job people want, in a flat that overlooks Lake Merritt and off to the Marin headlands. He has an M6, and the pictures he takes with it always make you laugh, and he smiles when he talks and you have a crush on his wife. In other words, this is a guy who has plenty of reasons to not remember his Midwestern friends, the ones who let him win all the stop-sign sprints during road rides, the ones he could talk about Traverse City with.

I just feel all lucky.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Our garden Buddha looks pretty content with the snow that fell last night, and I am, too. I can't tell you what a nice thing it has been today just to have snow outside the windows and in the sole of my boots. And just when I'd started to think that this could be a snow free winter.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

J Dilla changed my life.

Not really, but that's what it says on the shirt I want to get. And I'm almost feeling that way this morning after downloading some dude's J Dilla "tribute" that he put together and posted to the Animal Collective forum. It's 70 or so minutes of his work producing and a few tracks from his own albums and it's pretty awesome. I knew I liked the album Donuts he released just before he died, or right around there, but this just takes it to another level.

Maybe I like more hip hop than I realize. Could be. Some music, like opera or free form jazz you always kind of assume that you might grow to like when you're older, that you'll get it some day. It never occurred to me that this would happen for me with beats and rhymes.

This tribute has some pretty low language, but not a whole lot that I haven't been heard to say on the golf course. A little more disturbing is the way some of the lyrics treat women, but I deleted most of those songs from my playlist because that stuff truly takes away from the music. I'm such a champion for women everywhere.

But I'd love to be a dj producer like dilla. I mean look at that picture. Your life would be to hang in rooms full of lp's and instruments and electronica and you would get to fiddle around all day with your art. I think it's also the attitude you'd get to project--dj's never smile in their pictures, but they're not frowning, either--they just look deep, like their beats have connected to something sublime. But being an English teacher is really cool too. I too am connected to the sublime.

I just have to get this shirt now, though.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

David Skalicky at the Kachmann

Here's David watching Mee Kyung Shim emote about his photography at the Kachmann opening on Saturday. Mee did a good job expressing what most of us were feeling. I think I'd seen most of David's images online, but it was nice to be around them in person for once. Individually, they all look like pieces of stories, and when they are assembled on a gallery wall, your mind tries to fit them into some kind of narrative arc, and the places this exercise takes you can be jarring. But in an invigorating way. There is some tenderness in these, too. Together, they could be scenes from some slightly ominous Midwestern bildungsroman, innocence and experience.
Many of his images remind me of the "untitled film still" series from Cindy Sherman, a good thing:Untitled #96, Cindy Sherman

I love knowing that these stories happened around here. It makes your local landscape feel a little more fertile knowing that people like David can use a life in Indiana to come up with things that surprise you.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Early album of the year prediction.

I know that I let some of my enthusiasms get the better of me sometimes, but I'm going to go ahead and predict that Panda Bear's album coming out in March, Person Pitch, will be my #1 for 2007. How do I know? From hearing the first track, streamed at the Paw Tracks site. It's got this high choral chant in the background that reminds me of the soundtrack of Akira in the climactic scenes, when Akira is breaking lots of stuff, and in the foreground is Panda singing this kind of Beach Boys melody. Plus, the song has clapping in it, like many of my favorite songs.* I just keep hitting play over and over. Panda Bear, if you don't already know, is one of the main fellers from Animal Collective. [link]

* That reminds me of this great bit by the old radio team Bob & Ray where they ask this kid what kind of music he likes and he says "Oh, whip songs mainly. Songs with whips in them." You kind of have to hear it, probably.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A funny You Tube

Stop motion will never die. It starts off fun, and gets better as it goes. Music is kind of cool, too [link]

2006 Favorite Book Learnin'

I don't know if I can rank these, but these were the most enjoyable reads for me in 2006, in alphabetical order by author or title or maybe not in any order.

The Road, Cormac McCarthy
I finished this a couple of months ago now but I can't stop thinking about it. C read it over the holidays and had dreams about it in which she was hiding by the side of the road from cannibals and running through trees, starving. The clarity of his prose (that phrase is such a book review cliche, but it's all I can think of) continues to be just to the bone. His next novel, if it continues this pattern, will have to be written entirely in sentence fragments .

Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
Finally, I read Jane Austen. I had no problem reading chick books when I was 11--girls were always telling me that I couldn't read Are you there God? It's me, Margaret and similar stuff--but this backward part of me always assumed I wouldn't relate to Austen. I outgrew that sentiment a long time ago, but never got around to her. At last, I got the prodding I needed when this novel was on the list for a course I am teaching this year, and thank goodness; this is just one of the wittiest books I've ever read. It's got me tempted to go on a year of Brit Lit, re-reading Anthony Powell, Kingsley Amis and Henry Green, especially. But where will I get the time? I will sleep less. Yes. That is my new year's resolution: to sleep less.

The Sounds of Poetry, Robert Pinsky
Sometimes I think I read as many books about reading poetry as I read poetry. It's just hard to escape the feeling, when you're reading poetry, that you'd be catching onto something if you only knew a little bit more about conventions, traditions, contexts. This is the most helpful book I've ever seen on how to understand, yes, the "sounds" of a poem. It's so clear, so to the point. Can be read in an afternoon.

The Heart of the Matter, Graham Greene
I think it's a rule that I have to one book of his on this list every year.

The Road from Coorain, Jill Ker Conway
Another book that I read for a class this year, a memoir that writes beautifully about some uglier parts of Australia, something that always attracts me because I too live in a place where you have to look hard to see beauty (but it's there, I think).

Saturday, Ian McCewan
Man, lots of Brits on this list, it seems. Boot said it best.

Up in Michigan, there was no snow.

But there was also no television, and no internet, and that made it pretty great too. The wife is swearing off television for the new year and there's something about new year's that fills me with optimism and the thought that I can do the same. I just spent ten days without it, at least, and it was a positive thing. I might miss The Office a little, and I like 30 Rock some too, but not that much.

I love this picture. C took it while driving back to the lake place late one night. It reminds me of the poster for David Lynch's Lost Highway. Man, I hope I get to see Inland Empire this year.