Monday, April 30, 2007

Now this here is a sandbox.

They kept trying to escape, and I kept pushing them back in.
Okay, maybe I didn't dig down quite two feet deep like I have been telling folks, but that has to one of the deepest hand-dug home-made sandboxes in the county. And the picture doesn't even do it justice. It started out with me just trying to dig enough to make the box level on a slight slope, but then you start thinking, as I was explaining to some people today, about how there are few things sadder than digging to the bottom of your sandbox. I realized if I could do something to lessen the possibility that my kids would experience that disappointment, I would, and I started digging a little deeper. I am thinking that the sand will be to my kids like the sea is to Ahab, this dark mystery of life that they know they can never fathom, but which compels them to keep trying. Maybe I'll dig one section down to like four feet and put some treasure down there, though that wouldn't parallel the Moby Dick metaphor.

Again, as I was saying today, there is one thing worse than digging to the bottom of your sandbox, and that is striking a gas line and blowing yourself up. In the photo there is J, standing and jumping on the possible gas line that I encountered during the dig. Notice that I didn't let it put the project behind one bit. When you are 8" into the earth and going strong, you don't let things like that bother you. If it does actually turn out to be a gas line, we'll shut off the gas and go solar or something.
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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Great photo stuff at the MoA

Portrait of HUYNH THANH MY
Mekong Delta, Vietnam, 1965
The museum downtown is pretty much all photography right now. Last night they had an opening for a show called Requiem, consisting entirely of photos of the Vietnam war taken by correspondents who were killed there. I'd forgotten that Capa stepped on a mine there. They had prints of the last two frames he ever shot, one each from the B&W and color cameras he was carrying at the time. One of them shows the dike where that he was about to climb and find the mine that killed him. It's an amazing show and you realize that if it weren't for the insane journalists who shot nothing but photographs, the war simply wouldn't even exist for most people.

Capa's last B&W frame
The opening included an hour talk and slide show by a veteran who had no real connection to the images in the exhibition, but provided you with one more thread of tragedy to the narrative of Vietnam that I have pieced together in my head. It kills me to realize that all 3,000,000 (not sure about that number) of the men who served there could give a similar but unique show.

It got political, of course, but with a twist. Usually, when people invoke Vietnam in reference to Iraq, it's to argue that Iraq is a mess, unwinnable, a bad idea to start with. The speaker we heard did the opposite: to him, and he's not alone in this, Vietnam was a loss because we left "before the job was done." So, when he said that Iraq was just like Vietnam, he was trying to argue that we should not make the mistake of leaving before we have "won." That was a little hard for me to take, but you can't raise your hand and argue with a veteran. I'm a veteran of the Boy Scouts, but that doesn't carry the same weight. But when he pointed out how politicians back then used "Communism" the same way today's say "Terrorism" to justify foreign interventions, I was thinking "wow, he's going to point out the emptiness of the rhetoric in front of this conservative crowd," but I was wrong; to him, these were legitimate, imminent threats that could only be resolved with force and the parallel, to him, suggested that we stick with things. I dunno.

Holga by Jarrid Spicer
This picture is from the other show going on there, devoted to the Holga, Diana, etc. Jarrid's were probably my favorite there, and made me want to glue my old Arrow back together. I found some old prints I made with it, including some from up in Michigan during a winter about ten years ago and they still look cool to me. I wonder if Jarrid sells prints.

It's beautiful out. I love living in a place that has seasons. We're going to get C a new mountain bike today so I might wait until next year to get a new road bike. I like my Lemond a lot still. Thinking this summer I'll plant, in addition to bamboo, a row of Hydrangea next to the neighbor's.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Trees

The Wild Back 40
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Philip Larkin, "The Trees"

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Spring Music

Finally, it makes sixty degrees, and I am starting to warm toward of this year's new music. It is Charlotte Gainsbourg for one. The music by Air, no less. That probably has something to do with it. On it's first 6-7 spins, I'm preferring it to the new Air, actually.
And then, really, after Charlotte, it's all Bill Callahan for me lately. Sick this week, my voice could even growl out the country number, "A Man Needs a Woman or a Man to be a Man" that closes his new record. What a cool voice he has. I always had trouble with some of the real early (Smog) stuff he released, but the last 4-5 records by him have been great, I think. I keep singing the line "Fireworks are wasted in the day/ I set 'em off anyway/ to pass the time/ 'til you return/ with fireworks, more fireworks."

Teacher New Year

A.C. Filling Curtain Like a Dress, South Bend

It's getting close now. I always get a few new year's resolutions in my head around January, but the more serious ones happen in mid April to late May, when I know that summer is coming and I will actually have time to devote to doing more stuff. So I'm trying to think about what to do this summer. Assignments are what I'm looking for, things to assign myself, because that's how it works for me.

My friend Mike is doing a photo project called "Four States." I'm thinking of making this the summer of shooting my Holga more. But of what? I need something tangible. Another project I am working on is "plant bamboo in the yard" and another is "change my guitar strings." Those could take some time, but I might have some left over. Hmm. The summer is my oyster: what to do?
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Thursday, April 12, 2007

First Cliches

In the car today, 4 year old J says to me "Daddy, the wind is blowing the grass and it looks like waves!" Of course I was about to lecture her on the inability of people to "hear" dead language like the too-obvious "waves of grass," but before I could make my point clear she burst in with "Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be a rock star!"

Her first two cliches within a single minute. I was almost proud. But more concerned. I want her to be an oil-painting, fiddle-playing, clogging, documentary filmmaker.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Compromises of Marriage

Used to be, there would be two bikes on this car. Here is C on her way to the great single-track at Lake Winona, snow or no, and I am left taking pictures in my socks from the porch, chilluns yelling for cinnamon toast behind me. It's enough. No complaints.
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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Library Review

Well, it's nice and cold for Spring Break '07, so it's a good time for me to develop my opinions about the new library space. The main judgment, and it's one that I seem to share with lots of folks, is that it's pretty great. I've overheard other people say, and I've thought it myself, that it will "be my new hangout." It is space this town can be proud of--it feels ambitious and progressive and democratic and you can sense these feelings in the people, patrons, you pass in the great hall, above.

It's definitely attracting more business. I'd be curious to hear numbers on that. I know that the checkout desk now has anywhere from 3-4 people working it now where it used to have only two, and the lines always seem longer. When I'm there, it always seems like at least two checkout clerks are busy with patrons helping them something complicated like appealing their immigration status or changing the name on their passport. Probably just seems that way.

But what do I think of the details of this new space is the question I've been asking myself lately. I think I do like the big hall. The light is great, and the feeling that you're someplace important is nice. One major disappointment is the wall of quotes you see on the left side above. They put up a canvas 50 yards long or so and I'm all excited about the possibilities and all we get is this sort of pedantic, officious mess of words. The quotations are nice, but it feels like a lecture. A huge opportunity for public art that could have challenged and identified us wasted. An Eric Tarr or e4 collective work would have been a knockout. Fortunately, the new library gallery space and theater are helping to make up fo that letdown. But still. Grade: B This small reading room is one of my favorite places to hunker down. I can sit along the windows at the far end there and read and it's a great place to see people you know as they walk by. My only real problem with this space is that it serves as an echo chamber for all of the noise generated in the "great hall." Somehow, it feels louder than when you're in the hall itself. Every kid that gets smacked by its teenage parent and then cries gets magnified in there. It's also a little cold by those windows in the winter. Still, it's one of the first places I go to read. It feels secluded except when the latch key kids come there to hang out and flirt after school. They're pretty obnoxious. Grade: B-

The other decent place to read is the "silent reading room," which is glassed off from the rest of the library and contains about thirty leather wingback (is that the word?) chairs scattered randomly. It is quiet in there, but it's too quiet for me, almost. I want to feel like I'm in something public when I go out to read, and this does not give me that. All the chairs are a little absurd, too; they look like a chess board full of kings, and their random organization makes it look they are sadly roaming the small room in search of a fireplace to settle in front of. I feel bad for them, and avoid them, rarely using this room. Grade: B-
And here, Business & Technology, is the best place to set up the laptop. It's a corner that almost always has an open table, lots of outlets built into the tables, and the wi-fi is always fast. What I love most is the light here--great corner windows that let you feel like you're sitting at the bow of a great ship or something. Not too many kids running around here, either, which is nice. I think the name of the department scares them off or something. Grade: A.

Children's Services is a pretty sweet set up. The kids all love it, and this room feels like it got the most attention during the planning stage. I think it feels a little cramped in the stacks, though. A kids' room should feel more open. There are actually places in there that feel like the dead end of a maze. Grade: A-

Okay, so my overall grade is still an A. I'm a holistic grader. I've yet to see the Genealogy dept. because I'm afraid that it will mean I'm old if I go in there. I am curious, though. I also didn't say anything about the bizarre wall separating the Audio Visual dept. from the Art books room. It makes no sense to me. And I've left out the new coffee shop/book shop and the periodicals area. The jury is still out on that, I guess.

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