Thursday, October 20, 2011

An Introduction

Tonight I met a new poet and I am reduced to runny-nosed tears reading her beautiful, beautiful work. If you haven't already, please meet Wislawa Szymborska. I won't clog up this meeting chatting away - here she is:

Under a Certain Little Star

I apologize to coincidence for calling it necessity.
I apologize to necessity just in case I'm mistaken.
Let happiness be not angry that I take it as my own.
Let the dead not remember they scarcely smolder in my memory.
I apologize to time for the muchness of the world overlooked per second.
I apologize to old love for regarding the new as the first.
Forgive me, far-off wars, for bringing flowers home.
Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.
I apologize to those who cry out of the depths for the minuet-record.
I apologize to people at railway stations for sleeping in at five in the morning.
Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing now and again.
Pardon me, deserts, for not rushing up with a spoonful of water.
And you, O falcon, the same these many years, in that same cage,
forever staring motionless at that selfsame spot,
absolve me, even though you are but a stuffed bird.
I apologize to the cut-down tree for the table's four legs.
I apologize to big questions for small answers.
O Truth, do not pay me too much heed.
O Solemnity, be magnanimous unto me.
Endure, mystery of existence, that I pluck out the threads of your train.
Accuse me not, O soul, of possessing you but seldom.
I apologize to everything that I cannot be everywhere.
I apologize to everyone that I cannot be every man and woman.
I know that as long as I live nothing can justify me,
because I myself am an obstacle to myself.
Take it not amiss, O speech, that I borrow weighty words,
and later try hard to make them seem light.

Translated from the Polish by Magnus Jan Krynski and Robert A. Maguire

Monday, October 17, 2011

Not Johnny Cash

Before I even get started, let me just say that I am running in a perpetual state of sleep deprivation these days. I don't know what that has to do with anything, it's just that I figure it must have a lot to do with everything. Go figure. So maybe I overreacted, but I don't think I did.

Well. Here we go then. So anyone who sort of keeps up with this blog has figured out that I really like music and that I try to keep up with some small fraction of music coming out of Italy. Usually this is an enjoyable endeavor - one that sends me hunting for downloads and gets me trying to sing along. And I have found so much wonderful music this way. Usually it is wonderful. Every once in a while it's disastrous.

Like today. Early this morning, I turned on Italian radio and one or two songs later, I heard a very familiar guitar riff - the opening to Solitary Man. Which is one of the great songs in the whole universe. Except then, it was being sung in an Italian translation that just completely failed at doing it justice. It was more a song of "please don't leave me" and "what would I do if you left me too" than a song of resignation to the singer's own solitude. I couldn't believe the gross distance by which this one missed the mark. A shame.

You know, I don't think that sleep deprivation is forcing me to over-exaggerate at all. It really was horrible. So let's just make a rule that when Johnny Cash does a song, no one really needs to come behind him and do it again. He was just too spare and poignant to need a redux.

Ok, and yes, I do know it was originally a Neil Diamond song. But let's be real. It's a Johnny Cash song down deep through and through. Sorry, Neil.

Johnny Cash - Solitary Man

Thursday, October 06, 2011

What has been playing in my head for days

At work, I've been streaming a lot of Italian radio. This because I'm teaching fewer classes but experiencing a much higher workload, and music has always helped keep me concentrating when at the computer. Finally, though, I'm finding that locating and downloading Italian music is becoming much easier and much less expensive than it has been. So when I heard this song, I zoomed right over to Amazon and downloaded it. And now a couple of songs on this album are on a continual loop in my head. They're quite catchy.

A note, though: I was promoting listening to Italian radio with my college class the other night and during the break I turned it on, and of course some old 70's - early 80's song that sounded not-so-great was playing. I tried to pass it off saying that with the time differential, it was the middle of the night there---but let's be real. Quite off-putting.

Modà - Sono già solo

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Medieval Weapon of Choice

I love catapults. This morning's Cul de Sac cartoon got me wishing (again) for a great big full-size catapult of my very own.


Why do I love catapults? Because I seriously rolled off the couch laughing the first time I saw this:

SNL - Yard-A-Pult

It's the dog that gets me. I talked about that one for years - I think it's the funniest thing SNL has ever done.

When I was in Torino years and years ago we visited a beautiful park (Parco del Valentino) by the Po that has a replica of a medieval village. There we found a weaponry shop and they had the most fantastic catapult - just big enough to have some torque, maybe a 15-inch arm - for sale. It wasn't just that it was a catapult - it was beautifully styled with rope and wooden wheels, etc, so it was captivating in a way your balsa catapult-from-a-kit could never be. (They also had a little guillotine, which to me is much more scary but almost as cool.) Sadly, I was in no position to buy it, but the last time I was in Italy I did get an itty-bitty working catapult pencil sharpener at the Colosseum. Yes, I realize that catapults have nothing to do with the Colosseum, but that is the souvenir I bought there. It's about big enough to launch an M&M. Mostly it has been used to launch wads of paper at my webcam when Skyping with my nephew and niece.

Wow. I've got to get back to Torino.

Hooray for the catapult and its family of flinging weapons. I can't embed it, but here is a great video for the road - a British medieval weapons enthusiast with a great big trebuchet. Enjoy. Really.

And how about a song?

Elizabeth & the Catapult - Taller Children