Friday, January 19, 2007

Acronyms and Home Repair

The long-awaited renovations to the Student Union are now taking place, right, um, in the middle of the school year. Why this couldn't happen during the summer is anyone's guess, but now the options for campus food are pretty slim. The WPE [worst pizza ever] as offered by Villa Pizza, complete with SSSS [Surly Soviet-Style Service]; I once asked for a specific slice of pizza rather than the obviously worse for wear piece that they were ready to offer me. "This is the piece that's on the spatula," was the response I got. I was starving and late for class, so I took it after having wasted too much time in their line. The time before that, I wanted to know how much a stromboli was. I'd looked and couldn't see the price. The undergrad serf behind the counter was in the process of looking up the price for me when one of the higher-ups interrupted him and said to me curtly, "The price is on the board," and walked off with a thumb gesturing at the lit menu board I was just looking at. They're awfully smug for being folks that can't do pizza right. And it's pretty hard to not get pizza right. Regarding the other possible options, there's the Sweet Shop in its newer remodeled state as a sterile homage to the 50's diner, with endlessly looping Beach Boys and Supremes, and Starbucks. A makeshift convenience store-type thing has been set up in one of the study rooms in the basement, but I've kinda outgrown the "candybar-coffee-doughnut-and-chewing-gum" diet. To give them credit, they do have a salad bar, but pickins are mighty slim. The downstairs hallway is cut off, and the age-old railroad station theme, which was age-old when I was an undergrad 35 million years ago back in the Cretaceous period, appears to be on its way out. I got this shot before they walled everything off. If the trend continues, this will probably house other healthy restaurants such as Burger King, KFC, and MacDeaths. Mass-produced meat, anyone?

Gravitas and Literature

The wind was cold, the air was cold, the windburn is evident, and the stress of a new semester is making itself apparent. Protective and defensive mechanisms are resorted to.

And I don't see a book anywhere in the shot.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Yay! Another trope!

This from Kristen at her lovely blog.

Grab the nearest book. Turn to page 123. Go to 5th sentence. Copy the next three sentences in your blog and post.

As with my previous blog, it didn't go quite as planned, as I'm finding tends to be the case with aleatoric methods. Here we go.

The book was "Shostakovich, A Life Remembered" And the sentences are as follows:

However, he regarded him as his Teacher with a capital T, and received constant encouragement from him. Shostakovich will have appreciated Basner's warm and generous personality as well as his affectionate devotion. The two men went on to develop a close and lasting friendship.

There it is. Not much to add to that. It turns out to be all but the first sentence of a block quote from some other source. Seeing that this was somewhat of a bust, I thought I'd push the aleatoricism a bit and do the same thing from each room where I find myself spending time. Considering that my house is filled with books, for each place, as with the first example, the most difficult thing to do was to determine which book was in fact the closest. Anyway, the above example was in the Office. Now to the Library...

From my habitual spot in the ugly Pumpkin orange swivel chair I inherited from a friend, the closest book was "Everybody's Book of Epitaphs." This one should be good. On page 123 the appointed sentences were, again, a block quote--the epitaph of William Webbe in Caius College Chapel, AD. 1613:

A richer Webb then any art can weave.
The Soule the Faith to Christ makes firmly cleave.
This Webbe can Death, nor Devils sunder, nor untwist,
For Christ and Grace doth both ground work are, and List.

The Living Room was a touch more difficult, as I still have all the books Brian sent me stacked up on the floor. I decided to plop down where I usually do and pick up the closest thing in arm's reach. I had to go through 4 books before coming up with one that had either 123 pages or 5 sentences on that page. A literary journal has a poem titled "When He Says You Never Write any Good Poems About ME" by Lyn Lifshin, we get a bit steamy...

Years my/ arms ached for more than the tiger cats and/ the buff kitten.If a man wrote me from some/ / coast I opened on paper to him, came on to/ strangers and convicts on the page. Those sheets/ always felt safe enough to let them know their words got me wet, even my hair was horny.

Well, well. In the Dining Room we have Volume 5 of the Masterworks of Children's literature, the Victorian age. Odd how sex and the Victorian Age get juxtaposed.

"The cottage gate was now opened and Major Graham himself appeared under the porch; but instead of hurrying forward, as he always formerly did, to welcome them after the very shortest separation, he stood gravely and silently at the door, without so much as raising his eyes from the ground; and the paleness of his countenance filled both Harry and Laura with astonishment. They flew to meet him, making an exclamation of joy; but after embracing him affectionately, he did not utter a word, and led the way with hurried and agitated steps into a sitting-room. 'Where is Frank?' exclaimed Henry, looking eagerly round."

Ah, the Victorians and their love of the semicolon. The book says this is literature for children, and perhaps this would work, if the child happened to be Henry James. Maybe James' syntax is due to having to read to much of this stuff.

In the kitchen, the closest book to the refrigerator was The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston, believe it or not. The sentences are as follows:

"The knee hole had boxes of toys that the married children's children played with now. Brave Orchid's husband had padlocked one large bottom cabinet and one drawer. 'Why do they keep it locked' Moon Orchid asked."

The hallway had "Straw for the Fire" the notebooks of Theodore Roethke:

As for you, assassin of air,/ Noise in the topmost tree,/ Articulated despair,/ The inhuman ecstasy:/ My lament to the last; unloved.../ / I, in exile, forever/ For that which I would aquire no longer is, never existed./ / I belong to my solitude. I shall die for myself.

Lovely. Happy, and perfectly in keeping with the weather outside. I shall move on to my hideously blue bathroom. There, the reading is Swinburne. Rather than answer questions as to why Swinburne is in the bathroom, I'll just put down the quote:

And grief is a grievous thing, and a man hath enough of his tears;/ Why should he labour, and bring fresh grief to blacken his years?/ Thou hast conquered, o pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath;/ We have drunken of things Lethean, and fed on the fulness of death./ Laurel is green for a season, and love is sweet for a day;/ But love grows bitter with treason, and laurel outlives not May.

Nothing like pessimism for a productive poo.

The bedrooms were rather problematic. I just got in bed and picked up the closest thing to my head. This is from volume 4 of Jules Romains' monumental (and not particularly good) novel Men of Good Will:

Now, put down on paper figures to represent the ambitions of Napoleon and Hugo and write beside them two or three astronomical quantities. That's the only argument needed. But from the moment one ceases to believe in the importance of 'ends', one is left with only one reason for action: the necessity of forgetting one's own nothingness, as Pascal puts it, or, if you prefer it, a despairing dilettantism?

The final room I'll bother you with is the second bedroom, where the closest book was "The Life of a Useless Man" by Maxim Gorky:

On his first visit to the servants' quarters, he would try to bribe them by the cheapness of his goods and by little presents. Then he would carefully question them about those particular details his bosses were interested in. When he felt that the information gathered was insufficient, he was inclined to make up the deficiency from his own head, inventing it according to the plan drafted for him by the old, fat, and very sensitive Solovyov.

This all seems to hark back to my experience in the lovely world of Corporate America, especially under the thumb of a particular supervisor. I'll not name names. I never thought that bribes would be specifically attractive by the "cheapness of the goods," however. But then again handing out candy is far from handing out Louis Vuitton bags.
Oh, um, Kristen, were we supposed to apply this to our lives, our biographical history, or our possible future? I'm dying to know how this will turn out...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Laundry in the New Year

Nope, not at all still wanting to travel. Oh No. I'd much rather stay here in sunless Indiana and sink slowly into the mud. Yes, that's what I'd rather do. A new semester is upon me, which means a new batch of freshmen, a new stack of books waiting on my table for toting up to Lafayette, and a new land speed record in writing. The great plans I'd had for winter break (the list was short: Reading Proust, stripping and refinishing the backporch wainscoting, writing 20 new poems, writing 40 record reviews, revising my portfolio, and sending stuff out to the literary journals for possible publication) didn't come to fruition. At least I got the dishes done and caught up on my sleep. Oh, and I did laundry. Discovered that there are clotheslines strung all over the basement, which goes with the 1940's Top-of-Dress-on-Hanger Clothespin Holder (I'll take a picture of it if I have to), so, to save on the gas bill, I hung up my epic heap of wet clothes. Come Spring, I'll need to get an outdoor clothesline installed...I'm sure the laundry will be more pleasant without that "cellar fresh smell."

Happy New Year, everybody! I hope you managed to struggle on past Christina Aguilera's rap-inflected squallfest and see the ball drop. Here's hoping 2007 will be a better year!