Monday, May 31, 2010

What a beautiful day off this has been.


I got up a little after 5am and got my morning Internet jolt. I found a new band to like. (The) Dimes. On their last album, they had the The, but it seems to be dropped on their latest effort. Anyway, I was looking at NPR's music pages and found that they had the song of the day today, "Save Me, Clara," a song to the founder of the Red Cross. I was intrigued, and I went looking on emusic and saw that their album has a Boston theme. It's called The King Can Drink the Harbour Dry. So I wondered if they were a Boston band, but no, they are from Portland. I listened a little and decided to download it. A little later, I was back reading and found that their previous album, the one in which they are The Dimes, also has an interesting concept - one of the band members found a box of old 1930s newspapers in the attic, and they read them and wrote songs about what they found. There is even a song about the riots after the Sacco and Vanzetti trials.

But here's the deal. This band is perfect background music. When you listen to it, you can think, "Hey! That's clever! They're singing about Thoreau and Alexander Graham Bell!" and then it fades back into the background, and you can keep on with whatever else you are doing. Sometimes it reminds me very much of Michael Penn's album in the 80's, which I loved dearly. Just a very basic acoustic guitar, unobtrusive yet pleasant voice, very level intensity throughout. Background music.

Which left me free to do much today. I made some marinade and got some chicken ready that I will cook in a little while. I cooked some breakfast and cleaned things up in the kitchen. And I read.

I ran into some very interesting things today. New York Times has a new op-ed column called The Stone that is about philosophy. Today's article was about stoicism, where it comes from, and how it is basically the attitude that soldiers are expected to carry into their work. The problem, though, is that when they come home, remaining stoic isn't a good option, nor is dropping the stoicism and seeing their wartime acts in an at-home moral/ethical lens. Even if they played perfectly by the rules.

I have also been reading some literary theory. Amilynne convinced me to buy a new anthology. I was flipping through it yesterday and started reading some gender theory by Judith Halberstam, from Female Masculinity. She presents a lot of really interesting ideas about the effect of a third (or a fourth, or a hundredth) option in a binary system. I also went online and found an interview with her where one of the things they talk about is how the relationship of power to intellect or stupidity isn't necessarily intuitive - about the power of stupidity.

And then I have been reading Nineteen Eighty-Four. And all of these ideas crashed together and started to synthesize and I am having so much fun! Stories of dystopia are so fantastic for chasing the ends of ideas. And I am loving Nineteen Eighty-Four anyway. When I was about ten pages in, I could tell that if it continued as it was going, it would become one of my very favorite books. I am almost 2/3 of the way through and I still love it.

The best part of the day, topping even the brain-popping joy of new ideas, was talking with Amilynne on the phone. While we were talking, she was looking at an assignment she had given her students for The Old Man and the Sea. She was so funny - confessing that before she handed the books out, she went ahead and highlighted her favorite quote in ALL of the copies of the book. So her students wouldn't miss it. And somehow that idea showed up in all of the projects! Incredible! But really, from what she was describing, her students really connected with the book. I wish I could take English from Amilynne. I definitely had some excellent English teachers growing up, but a class with Amilynne would be a treat. Maybe when she is a fancy ivory tower college professor I'll go take a summer class from her. That would be a superb treat.

Anyway. I would love a week like today has been. But it is time to cook the chicken and then make sure I am ready for school in the morning.

Song of the day (put it on in the background, then go do something else):

The Dimes - Susan Be

Ok. And would you like a treat? Blitzen Trapper's new album, Destroyer of the Void, which will come out June 8 can be streamed in its entirety on NPR until its release. Yippee!!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

I could tell you about lots of things.

Maybe I'll tell you about some of them.

Hooray, the 3-day weekend has begun!

How did I celebrate its onset? I watched Vertigo on streaming Netflix. Vertigo has been on my to-watch list for years and years and years. Frank has had a framed movie poster of it since college. When I first saw the poster, I asked him something along the lines of whether it was really such a good movie. His response reflected his disbelief that I had not seen the film. That, as I mentioned, was years and years and years ago. So tonight I was on Netflix and realized that it would no longer be available for streaming after the end of the month. So I figured I would inaugurate the weekend by watching it.

And while, yes, some of the plot twists were really fun, I couldn't get over two things:

1. Kim Novak. Ugh! She has one of those faces where the cheekbones are way full and they sink in to a pointed chin at some mighty crazy angles. And the painted-on crazy fat eyebrows only made it worse. I couldn't stop looking at her eyebrows! and then it occurred to me: she looks like Linda Evangelista in those horrible horrible L'Oreal Visible Lift commercials. Same facial structure. I actually had to check Wikipedia to make sure they weren't related.

Don't they kind of look like they're trying to get peanut butter off the roofs of their mouths?

Kim Novak

Linda Evangelista

2. As though the eyebrows weren't bad enough, I could have lived with them if she had just had some spine. What an awful character she played! And yes, I realize that this is an old movie, but wow - talk about unable to do anything without a man pulling the strings.

So although the animated opening and dream sequences were very cool, Vertigo didn't do it for me. I'll stick with The Birds and Psycho. And I still have Rear Window and North by Northwest on the list to see.


There are some activities that are very calming to me and yesterday I enjoyed one of them: running my car through the car wash. Why, you might ask, would such an activity be calming? Well, when I worked at the rental car company after college, sometimes the best part of the day was sitting isolated in a car with a buffer of water all around - no one could possibly pop in with a problem that needed attention there.

I should indulge in a car wash more often, even though of course the fact that I washed my car yesterday unleashed a weekend of thunderstorms. We have been on a crazy schedule at school to accommodate all of the state testing going on, and that has meant three-hour-long classes in the morning. Which means spending lots and lots of time with my hardest class. It has been awful. Yesterday was one of the days that that class met. Which meant the onset of an all-day migraine. I swear it melted away as soon as I got into the car wash. Really.

One day when I was in the carwash I had the greatest idea for a story. Someday when I write it, I'll share.


I think I'm done buying books for a while. It's going to take a little while to get through the ones I have bought. This week the Borromini book came. Genius, genius, genius. I want a trip to Rome.


Shall we have a song of the day? I downloaded this album last night. It was just the suggested album on the front page of emusic when I logged on, and I liked it, so I got it. This morning while getting ready for work, I had it playing and this song caught me. Then I was on the npr website later today and found a video.

Listen to it on the embedded video below. Then, if you like the song, see the more literal video on npr. But really, just listen to it first.

Josh Ritter - The Curse

Sunday, May 16, 2010


It is the end of the semester at the university. While I very very very much love teaching there, this semester I taught two sections and having double the correcting to do while spending twice as much time in class was difficult. (Spending the time in class was not the difficult part. I love the part of teaching that is the teaching! Finding time to do the persuant paperwork was the hard part. It feels like the end of four months of chasing my tail.) Anyway, now I just need to get caught up at the high school, and it will be time to start thinking about packing things up there. Only five more weeks there, and it will be back to the university.

The other thing to try to fix now is the disaster that is my house. Maybe I have mentioned that I am not the best housekeeper in the world. There are enough interesting things to do in life that housekeeping just fails to make the cut. Some progress on this front had been made as recently as February or so. But we all know that if I can make progress, I am just as capable of double regression. This time it came in the form of books. (!!!) I came into a LOT of Italian books - Italian textbooks, Italian readers, books on Italian study, etc. etc. etc. They have been sitting in the living room for about a month, and with the end of the semester, I finally felt that maybe I could figure out what to do with them. So yesterday I went to Staples and bought six filing crates. Because I figure this way I can stack the books in a corner or something. Really I don't know what I'm doing, but it seemed to make sense at the moment. And I really didn't think I would need all six, but my motto (and the root of all my troubles) is buy too much so you don't have to go back for more.

Between the Italian books and the Theory of Knowledge books I am starting to accumulate, I have seven crates of books in my living room right now. And I think I will probably need at least one more by the time I finish accumulating the first wave of Theory of Knowledge books. The end of which I ordered this afternoon - it should be arriving over the next couple of weeks.

It's overwhelming and crazy exciting all at once to think of how much reading I have to do. I need to go on sabbatical. Which is long overdue. I mean, wouldn't that mean take the seventh year off? And I'm finishing my eighth - not to mention the three pre-teaching years. How glorious would it be to have a year off to study and prepare and think uninterruptedly?

Ha ha. Yes, we know I would spend most of my time surfing the Internet and rotting my brain. Maybe I had better stick with the panic tide of ever-crashing deadlines. Sure, the heart attack will come a few years earlier, but in the end I will have gotten something accomplished.

Would you like a song? note: for this one, be sure you hang on for the instrumental finish.

Beirut - St. Apollonia.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It is early.

I totally got up super early this morning - the new album by The National, High Violet, dropped today, and I couldn't wait to download it. I love this band. Here is the first track.

The National - Terrible Love

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Yes, I know I just mentioned this one yesterday...

but here it is. I have been in a very melancholy mood today, and this is the song.

(I've been on ebay looking at accordions. Chording, though, was never my strong suit playing the piano, so I wonder if I would conceptually be able to get the accordion.)

Gogol Bordello - Sun Is On My Side

Saturday, May 08, 2010

So you remember what I wrote a few days ago...

about happy music? And how I really can't stomach it? I lied. Today I downloaded the latest album from Gogol Bordello and I admit defeat. I just want to dance. Exuberantly. Not that the whole album is a happyfest - some of it is not happy. But it's an emotion-wrenching ride throughout - and honest, and authentic in a way a lot of music isn't. Like you remember in the 80's when Bono's voice was so hungry? and U2 played with such urgency? Gogol Bordello's got that now, but the traditionality of its sound base takes it beyond rock in its urgency and tenacity. Maybe? Or maybe I should leave the describing to the music critics and just dance.

Here's a link to listen from GB's website. I recommend the whole album, but if you're picking and choosing a sampling, Pala Tute, My Companjera, When Universes Collide, In the Meantime in Pernambuco, and for something a bit more melancholy, Sun is On My Side. Enjoy.

Gogol Bordello - Pala Tute

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Lucked out today...

...and when one of my 1st period freshmen, one who is usually sullen and complainy, asked me to print out for her a Langston Hughes poem this morning I actually didn't screw up the task in her eyes for once. I told her that she should probably pick out the one she wanted in the library, but she really didn't want to go. I asked her point blank if I was doing an assignment for her and she said it would be something she would be working with in class, but it wasn't an assignment yet. So I did it. In exchange for her making and posting a sign on the door saying we were going to another classroom for the day. Anyway, I didn't dare just blindly print out one poem for her, or it wouldn't have been one she would have accepted (did I mention sullen and complainy?) So I printed out four. One hopeful, one celebrating jazz life, one recounting the experiences inherent in his roots, and one miscellaneous, slightly melancholy one. I figured that about covered Langston Hughes.

Not until the end of the class when I was handing over the sheet of poems did she say, "So did you print out my favorite one?" And I'm thinking 'ooooOOOOOOoooooh. So now you let me know you have a preference.' I just gave her the paper. A minute later, she was back at my side, pointing one of the poems out. It turned out that by blind luck I had hit the one that is her favorite. And for just a moment the look in her eyes was not one of sullen complainy hatred or distain...she actually smiled. Ya gotta love it. (Here's the poem: Mother to Son.)

So yes, in the year 2010 it's a little trite, but today's song HAS to be:

Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit

Ha! And once upon a time, I was in high school listening to that, all sullen and complainy, and now I have to go finish writing the final for the class at the university. Fun for all.

And p.s. - I did take time out this afternoon to watch Lost. Tears.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

I am so tired...

...and I just became extremely pissed off. I have been so careful for six years not to let anyone even speculate to me about what might be happening on Lost. And this semester my night class makes it so I don't get to see Lost until the next day when I can catch it on the Internet.

So tonight I got home from said night class extremely exhausted from five hours of reviewing for final exams and I was innocently Facebooking when a "friend" posted a major spoiler about tonight's show. It has taken all my willpower not to unfriend him on the spot.

What the hey???? I mean, that is just soooooooo uncool. I realize I should know better than to be on Facebook, but there is serious wrath inside me nonetheless.

So I am going to choose a lull-myself-to-sleep song for tonight and I will go to bed and try not to think about it.

Merz - Verily

Monday, May 03, 2010

It was a good day.

Today was a good day.

1. I didn't write any referrals.

2. I saw that there will be Shakespeare in Maymont Park in a couple of weeks.

3. I saw on the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts website that in the atrium they have a Sol Lewitt sculpture. :)

4. I saw #3 while I was looking on their site about the show they have coming up in conjunction with their grand re-opening after much remodeling--a Tiffany show. Can you hear the glory singing in the background? What better way to re-open a museum than with light and glass?


So since it is a good day, a good song is needed. Mind you, I'm not saying a "happy" song - I don't listen to "happy" music. In fact, my Pandora station has evolved into an endless procession of songs in minor keys. So keep in mind, it's a good song, not a "happy" one, because I really can't stomach much of that.

And you might as well know: I'm having an Eastern European/southwest Asian steppes moment. I'm starting to wonder about travel in Bulgaria and Ukraine and the western -istan nations. Which means gypsy music, but violin and accordion Balkan/Slavic gypsy music, not flamenco gypsy music, which is the gypsy music I have enjoyed for a long time. And DeVotchKa plays with this eastern style very well.

DeVotchKa - Such a Lovely Thing