Sunday, February 18, 2007

Progress slouches on

After sleeping for most of Saturday (rather than working on my rather desperately long list of tasks), I have awakened from dreams of my fellow grad students giving me advice on my classes to find that at long last the snow has stopped falling. Of course this happened quite a while after I shoveled the walks, so everything is back under a blanket of snow. At least things are cleared enough that I can use the regular snow shovel and won't have to worry about putting the Mickey Mouse shovel back into action.

This past week, I had prided myself on my hard-won ability to drive in snow. Those formative years in Northern Indiana's vast countryside on the last road to get plowed out and the first one to drift shut allowed for far more experience in driving in bad compact cars through inclement conditions than most people have been able to get in a lifetime. After driving through the teeth of the blizzard last Tuesday to get groceries, after blithely handling uphill situations, after using my manual transmission to keep traction, etc., I managed to get stuck coming out of my next-door driveway on my way to the symphony. My previous methods were of no use. To complicate matters, a rather stupid UPS delivery man turned onto my street in his enormous truck. I motion for him to back up and continue around the block, as I am completely blocking all plowed roadspace. He refuses to budge, making a somewhat impatient gesture that his delivery spot is on the street I am barricading with my snowbound Honda.
I head off to my garage to get the Mickey Mouse shovel, muttering not too quietly as to how bovine this delivery man is. If he wants to forgo driving around the block to make a delivery and simply watch me shovel my car out, then his time is obviously less valuable than my own. In my dress shoes I clop and stumble like a shetland pony on snot trying to get to my garage, then hear, as I grab my shovel, the UPS truck gunning its engine. As I look around the house, I see that he has become impatient, has tried to wedge himself behind my car, and in attempting to power himself through the deep snow, has managed to get stuck. Directly behind my car. More not particularly quiet commentary on the mental faculties of the driver. One of my neighbors comes out with a shovel to watch the proceedings. A quick question from her about how stupid the driver is, then one about my rather small shovel. The neighbor asks why he is stuck behind me. I explain the situation. The driver, surly and perhaps somewhat embarrassed at being such an ass, says nothing, crawling under his truck to attach tire chains. He is still stuck. Wheels spin, pitching snow over my trunk. The neighbor makes some hand motion toward the delivery man, with most of her words obliterated by the howling engine, save for the ending phrase: box of rocks. Enough progress has been made for me to throw my shovel in the passenger seat and drive off to the symphony. I wave a friendly wave to my neighbor as the driver makes a delivery one house from the far corner of our block, certainly less conveniently situated than if he had he followed my advice. Perhaps he just enjoys a challenge.

Today I actually have been getting some schoolwork done. Ideas for memoir class. Readings for memoir done. Two student papers graded. Pop quizzes graded. Ideas for things to write about for workshop. It's a rather small list in comparison with my Things to Do list, but at least we have things in the debit column this weekend.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Mickey Mouse and the Great Snow Job

Hello all--
I came home from the ggreat wwhite ttundra of Lafayette, and I'm still chattering. My car gradually gained better aerodynamic qualities once I got to highway speed, which I felt rather disinclined to do, not only because of the possibility of ice chunks flying off my car, but because it was so cold...when I woke up Friday morning, the radio announcer blandly mentioned that it was 9 below zero.

Upon arrival here in Indianapolis, I noticed that, although not as much snow fell here, about halfway through all the snowfall, a good thick glazing of ice came down too. I staggered to my front door through the almost foot and a half of snow, punching awkwardly through the ice layer and trying to maintain my grip on all my stuff. This morning, to shovel the walks, I found that my snow shovel was all but useless on this mess, so I had no choice but to use the Mickey Mouse beach shovel that I bought way back when Kristen came to Indianapolis to visit, which was also the last time we had a snowstorm like this. The shovel, though small, is metal and won't leave you trying to wrench your back lugging 50 pounds of snow. So there I was, shoveling away with this little beach shovel, as the neighbors looked on.

Now, some men might feel rather inadequate or uncomfortable when people find out that they're using a shovel that is small. I, however, am quite proud of my small shovel and don't care who knows it. One can work just as much magic with a small shovel as others can with a larger one. But heaven knows having a smaller shovel is better than one that's too big that no one can do anything with.

As you can see, the snow is still drifting down. I've shoveled my walks and that's all I'm shoveling. I'll be heading to the store shortly so I can eat something other than frozen vegetables, which are, mind you, quite healthy, but rather unfulfilling.

In other news, I thought it might be interesting to put my student ID (and the subsequent substantial student discount for tickets) to good use, so I got up the nerve to see if I could start doing interviews for Musicweb International regarding performances at the Indianapolis Symphony, since we do occasionally get performers that show up there in Europe. I thought I'd try to get a few interviews or concert reviews written up first before submitting them to the website. I put my name in with the house manager and was told that I wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone until at least next week. Fine, I thought. Well, after the performance, I was walking to the Coat Check, when the coat check person pointed at me and said “Stay right there”—from there I was introduced curtly to some woman with PR and then dragged through a secret door I’d never seen in all my time there to the backstage area (which was quite posh in places), where, with dry mouth, I was suddenly deposited into the dressing room of the pianist, whose name, aside from Kirill, I had by then completely forgotten. I rifled through my scribbled notes and managed to ask him about 5 questions before he had his coat on. Not an auspicious beginning to my concert reporting career, but certainly an interesting end to the concert. Aside from the concertmaster and the conductor (to whom I nodded at as I slunk out), I believe I was the only one to shake the man’s hand.

Both Joe and Royce didn't like his performance at all--Royce saying that Kirill Gerstein played the Mendelssohn "like it was Liszt." and I made a note of "prosaic" which certainly wasn't positive. The house, perhaps due to the extreme cold and the snow piled up everywhere, was only half full, if that. Oh well, at any rate, I have the PR person's card, as well as that of the quite-young House Manager. I'll see if I can make more formal arrangements for next week.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Absurdism and Aleatoric Methods

Oh what fun. Crazy playing with words. Lately I've been working on projects while using the mechanical methods of the OuLiPo group. The methods used aren't all that far different from that trope that Kristen suggested I and others use for our blogs not too long ago. I've run poems through shredders and woven them back together with another shredded poem, kindergarten-placemat style, and transcribed what words came out as another poem. much is rather nonsensical, but some actually can be disturbingly clear. One experiement I did was with two random stanzas from the rather stinky verse of Will Carleton (copyright 1884) and what came out was, instead of the verses' original subject (which was that of country bumpkins visiting a beach resort), was a rather creepy stanza that suggested a father sneaking into a nursery with intent to kill his infant child. I certainly didn't see that coming. As luck would have it, the latest issue of McSweeney's has a section devoted to OuLiPo writers and how certain texts come out of such methods. For example, "33 Variations on a Theme by Shakespeare" where the famous "To be or not to be, that is the question" line gets put through the wringer using various Oulipian strategies, such as removing a letter "To be or not to be, hat is the question" to removing two "To be or not to be at is the question" to adding a letter "To bed or not to be, that is the question." Other nifty things are antonymic translation, where you go word for word and replace the original with a word that could be considered its opposite.

I used a pair of scissors on one of my compadre's poems and then wove them together, superimposing them like photographic negatives and ended up with this:

It had heavy boots,
tore the tender floor.
We saw them kick over in search of firemen,
A home caught in bare lamps,
the ruins of a burnt down job,
the rubble of a life, papers,
a black cord in flame.

Ok, I'll stop typing now. Must get back to classwork. Hopefully the snow that is supposedly coming will be of short duration and little accumulation.

Monday, February 05, 2007

spirits and escaliers

I've been rather preoccupied lately. Much of what has taken up my time reently has been reading Modernist poetry and writing record reviews, while at the same time working on notes toward more poetry for workshop. That last item has been a bit more difficult to keep up on. The blog has therefore suffered.

I am beginning to feel the burn regarding writing new stuff as I have readings...public readings coming up and I don't really like the stuff I've done this past semester. That statement isn't entirely true, but I do want to have more that I feel halfway proud of.

One idea has to do with the picture to the left. This is a photograph of the Tulip Staircase, and a famous ghost photograph. I've been toying with using this as a theme or the famous peacock clock of the Hermitage. Not sure what to make of these or what they will turn into, but I'll work on it by Wednesday.

I've been rather solitary of late, perhaps especially because of the recent social gatherings that have been taking place during the week, which tend to mean that I need quality time on the weekends. Much to read, much to write. Busy Busy Busy. And Ezra Pound may well make me nuts:

For three years. diabolus in the scale,
He drank ambrosia,
All passes, ANANGKE prevails,
Came end, at last, to that Arcadia.

He had moved amid her phantasmagoria,
Amid her galaxies,
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Drifted . . . drifted precipitate,
Asking time to be rid of . . .
Of his bewilderment; to designate
His new found orchid.

--from Mauberley, part II