Sunday, January 30, 2011

Grant money fun.

So the parents' club was kind enough to grant me some money to buy a few clever little portable audio recorders. The classroom now boasts three Tascam DR-07 recorders that we can use to make podcasts, record interviews, spy on people, whatever. I spent some of this weekend practicing with one, making my daughter read poems into it and making disappointing home recordings of me singing Bill Callahan songs.

But here's one of June reading a poem that is something like 1300 years old, assuming I'm doing the math right.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

POL Winners

Congratulations to today's winners of the HHS Poetry Out Loud competition:

1st: Sahand
2nd: Priya
3rd: Greg

It was great fun to see, and I'm glad I wasn't the one making the decisions. It took the judges awhile simply to narrow things down to their top 5-6.

In the event that Sahand cannot represent HHS at state finals, we will look to Priya and then Greg to carry that honor. Again, thanks for coming out today, everyone.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Sometimes I kind of wish I had cable, but not enough to have cable.
June, while watching the most recent PBS version of Sense & Sensibility: "This is a good movie. Does it ever end?"

Sunday, January 23, 2011

the risks we take for our art

Look at all this Tilapia! I had a bad feeling when I took this yesterday morning, in an empty Hispanic grocery while picking up some chorizo and limes--I just knew that someone would not be happy about me snapping away in there, but I thought I could get away with it, what with all my experience shooting "street."

It went all wrong, though. I rushed the shot, so it's not even that interesting, and I still got in "trouble" with the owner, who approached about five minutes later and asked me who gave me permission to take pictures in the store. "No one," I said. "I just liked the fish." Neither of us knew what to say after that heated exchange, so I bought my small sack of Mexican groceries from him and took my daughter back out into the nieve that was filling the Saturday morning streets.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ariel on Fallon

Song of the year from the album of the year. My eight-year old walks up and sings the opening "Na Na Na Naaah" when she wants me to sing it with her. This version doesn't kick it like the album track, but it's fun to watch his glammed-up group.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, Melted clock, Cass Technical High School, from The Ruins of Detroit

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This is not my road, but it reminds me of some roads I've been on. Oh, roads.

Monday, January 17, 2011

This is not me, but it reminds me of some trips to Canada. Oh, Canada.

This looks beautiful.

I still haven't finished Triplets of Bellville, even though it is about biking and is funny, but this new one by the same director, Sylvain Chomet, The Illusionist, is even more attractive. Pixar and whatever other studios we have here that do animation don't care enough about being pretty. Though How to Train Your Dragon really has some nice chiaroscuro moodiness to its settings.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Marner v. Bede

Have you ever gone into your local independent bookseller looking for a copy of George Eliot's Adam Bede but had to compromise by buying the only Eliot they had in stock: a flimsy, already-yellowing, $4.95 copy of Silas Marner? I know, right?

Silas Marner is kind of a wrench in my works for Eliot, I think. For one thing, it's short. For another, there are fewer than twenty characters to keep track of. You want Eliot to be long, you want it to dominate your waking thoughts, you want to have to make or scour the internet for maps that will help you remember who is who. Marner's book doesn't do any of this.

To make matters worse, every time you are seen reading it, someone is bound to quote the stern and motherly teacher in A Christmas Story ("When we last left Silas Marner . . ."). It's a great movie, and that scene will make me laugh more knowingly next time I see it, but still, Catherine could have noticed that I had stopped smiling after the fourth or fifth time (I exaggerate).

What bothers me the most about Marner's story is how moralizing it is. It has a happy ending uncomplicated by regret or loss. Not only is money unable to by happiness, but it turns out that crime cannot pay. sigh. Was Eliot cashing in here? Trying to write a slim, triumph of the spirit pamphlet to make a quick shilling? I have to wonder.

There are moments, though, that give me what I came for, usually isolated vignettes showing off Eliot's ear for language and eye for how our language comes between us as much as it helps. I love this scene, for example. It is set in the local drinking establishment, and describes the initiation of a reticent and grudging debate among the customers by the ale-house owner, who is anxious to break the silence and get something started.
At last Mr. Snell, the landlord, a man of a neutral disposition, accustomed to stand aloof from human differences as those of beings who were all alike in need of liquor, broke silence, by saying in a doubtful tone to his cousin the butcher--

"Some folks 'ud say that was a fine beast you druv in yesterday, Bob?"

The butcher, a jolly, smiling, red-haired man, was not disposedto answer rashly. He gave a few puffs before he spat and replied,"And they wouldn't be fur wrong, John."

After this feeble delusive thaw, the silence set in as severely as before.

This kind of exchange and dry narrator's commentary is the kind of thing that makes me laugh out loud and look around the room for people to read it to. The debate that follows is hilarious in its understatement. At least it is to me.

And so here I go into Adam Bede now. I don't know if it's a rut or a lack of imagination on my part, but I can't imaging reading anyone else right now. It's a long one, and sad, and will take me a long, long time to read, but that's exactly what I'm looking for.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The image is fuzzy because I took this in low light, but I just got this new drawing of Marie and David's back from the frame shop. I'm so glad they let me have this one. Such a brave little fawn. Sometimes, if I'm wasting time daydreaming or watching some poorly-chosen Netflix, I'll think to myself, guiltily, "I bet Marie and David are at home making something cool right now."

Charlie at Northside Gallery did another great framing job for us. It is nice to know that I "have a framer." I would like to have a tailor some day, too, but I don't think I can say that that has happened until Mr. Gogos learns my name. Going by that rule, I have the following:

a framer
a mechanic
a librarian
an exterminator

Not the most impressive list, maybe. At least I don't have a lawyer.

Friday, January 14, 2011

I'm so sad that Trish Keenan, the voice behind Broadcast, has died. I listened to this band so much this year . . . her voice feels kind of passive and removed but somehow is still bright and comforting.

If, in the Truffaut version of Fahrenheit 451, Montag's wife were watching a version of MTV on the wall screens, it might sound something like this.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Going out to shovel my neighbors' driveways.

Easy way to pick up some quick cash.

Monday, January 10, 2011

On the way to Dance Collective for the beginning of the new semester.

At the library, after discovering we were a week early for dance class.

In the stacks.

Today a student asked, jokingly, how I can "live" without a cell phone. I think if I had a cell phone this Saturday, I would have called home and said "there is no dance class," like I needed guidance or something, and Catherine would have helped me out. She would have said "well, you could get some bread flour on your way home," and we would have gone home. Instead, we were on our own. We didn't know we needed bread flour. We went to the library.
The possibility of snow.

Good-bye, Christmas tree

You were pretty good, for a tree. I remember when we went to the farm to pick you out and you were standing there in that field playing it cool like you didn't really want us to cut you down. But it was so cold I could tell you really did want us to bring you inside our house, where it is just a tiny bit less cold, but just as drafty.

And now I miss looking out that window you always are looking out, so goodbye to you. Don't shed too many needles on your way out the door.

Rly, tho, great tree this year. I would have kept her going until April except that our old-timey bulbs get like super-hot and I'm pretty sure she almost caught on fire once or twice. I am not going down in a Christmas tree fire, I know that much.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Here's a picture of the moment I decided to start following The Sartorialist again. Somehow, I had drifted away from it. Maybe I lost the link, or maybe I consciously stopped following it this summer when I decided to spend less time online and more time onlife. But then today, one of my other favorite sites, The Online Photographer, run by my good friend Mike Johnston, had a video of the guy behind T.S., and it reminded me of how fun that site is to browse. The guy walking toward the camera in the image here is the photographer behind it all, and he has made a cool job for himself, walking around, taking pictures of the beautiful people.

It's odd that I follow that site at all, I guess, because I don't think of myself as highly fashion conscious, but at the same time I do tend to read about stuff that I don't actually "do," like video games and chess and surfing. Oh, I wish I could surf, though--surfers seem like they've got life all figured out.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

I'm so glad that I live only a few hundred yards down the street from Caliente. When I've had a bad day getting lost in a shopping mall parking lot, I can go there and eat more Cuban sandwiches than any non-Cuban needs for a little over $7 with drink. And the lady who owns it, she's so friendly and has this perfect rolling accent I can barely understand . . she's like a mother figure who helps make the day seem right again.
I got so lost in Coventry today. It just makes no sense back there. I need someone to draw me a map so that, if I go to the Aboite library, I can find my way back to something that looks like an actual road.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Who knew? I had no idea. I bet Maffey knew. Makes me want to go dig around some of our statues downtown this weekend.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Birk just asked me to draw this bunny that he saw in a new book I got, and I did, and it ended up kind of cute.
I don't know why I watch IU Basketball these days.

I'm just that kind of fan.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Burt Lake during winter break.


A great line from Dorothea Lange: "A camera is an instrument to help people see without a camera."

And then I thought hey, you could insert the word "poem" for the word "camera" and it works just as well.

The Lange quote is from this Dyer book. Great photo book by a non-shooter.

Songs of 2010

Tame Impala, "Lucidity." This album is kind of poppy for me, but I played it a ton this year, especially when I was driving around in our bug convertible. It was just a summer lease, and that made it sweeter. The kids seemed to understand that it wouldn't be long before the family would be back to normal, trucking around in old Subarus, so they made the most of their time in their car seats, rarely fighting, hands shielding their eyes, listening to this album or Animal Collective's Fall Be Kind on our way to Wing Haven Nature Preserve or, more likely, Target.

Sunday, January 02, 2011


I can't remember what I resolved to do last year, but I'm pretty sure I did it. Building on that success, then, I'm moving forward with something bigger and more life changing: a multiple year resolution. Even though my friend Mike, who builds things for a living, says that this project could be hammered out in a weekend, I think it's worth at least three years worth of planning and saving and mistakes and deferring.

Basically, the plan is to build a house like the one you see in the picture up there. This one is Michael Pollan's, and he wrote a book about the process of building it, an 8' x 13' place behind his house that he uses for writing and daydreaming, as he puts it. I had the idea before I knew that he did, but after I knew that Mark Twain and Roald Dahl did. So it's kind of original to me, a little.

My story started with the idea of a small wood stove. I wanted a place where I could go just to light a small fire. I wanted to tend it, to walk into the room and say "stove's running hot today" or "stove's not drawing too well today." After thinking about the little house that would hold this little fire, I realized that I have almost an acre of land here in the city that for years has been used mainly to hold the branches that fall from my trees after wind storms. And then the word "reading shed" came to me.

So that's where I am now. Mike told me about Pollan's place, and it's front runner for inspiration right now. I don't know what the plan is, though. I guess my resolution is just to talk about it all year long, basically. And then who knows what 2012 will hold in store.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

First poem I read in 2011:

Seeing the Year Out

Want to know what the passing year is like?
A snake slithering down a hole.
Half his scales already hidden,
How to stop him from getting away?
Grab his tail and pull, you say?
Pull all you like--it does no good.
The children try hard not to doze,
Chatter back and forth to stay awake,
But I say let dawn cocks keep still!
I fear the noise of watch drums pounding.
We've sat so long the lamp's burned out.
I get up and look at the slanting Dipper.
How could I hope next year won't come?
My mind shrinks from the failures it may bring.
I work to hold on to the night
While I can still brag I'm young.

Su Tung-Po