Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I'm being told it's an illness. I'm being told I should make it stop. That something shoudl be done. But what am I to do when the Humanities library holds its annual book sale, with all hardcovers for $2? What am I to do? Going there to find what there is on offer is a mandatory thing. Unfortunately, all the big area book dealers were also there, well ahead of us poor students, being absolute pigs about it, sweeping stuff off the tables and hoarding them in boxes they stacked in the corners. Aggressively snatching books right in front of you, pushing and hassling--it was like the Cabbage Patch Doll Riots of '82. In spite of all, though, I managed to come out with some great stuff: The hardcover U. of California edition of Charles Olson's poems, four volumes of the Gerhart Hauptmann set I've been looking for over the past 10 years, a lovely edition of one of Haydn's operas in full score, and a good deal of poetry. Pretty soon, I'll have two residences completely full of books, which will put me in a bad way once my MFA time comes to an end...

Joyce Carol Oates, to me, was far less enjoyable at her reading than she was at the more informal Q & A. Her entire reading consisted of reading two poems (one of which was shaped like a kite for godsakes) and a short story. Unfortunately, she felt the need to tell us what the poems were about for approximately 10 minutes before reading each 45-seconds-to-read poem. 119 books published and she decides she's gonna read a poem shaped like a kite. She was quite generous with her answers during the Q & A, which was quite nice. With so many books out, it is unsurprising to hear from her that her "writer self" is introspective, isolative, compulsive and obsessive, but there were times I certainly doubted her sincerity, especially when she mentioned that she writes "very slowly." 119 books out, three of which were put out this year? I don't believe she's a slow writer for a second. More on some of the deeper issues on what she said (along with pictures of me with Greatness) in future posts...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Joyce Carol Oates Day

This evening, I get to sip champagne with Joyce Carol Oates, by which time I will have spent so much time in her company that we'll likely be singing Carpenters tunes at the piano once the salmon canapes have been served. At 4, we MFA folks will have the wonderful honor of chatting with her in person, then I'll be one of the ushers/book table attendees, where she will be signing books before and after the reading. I'll be right there as the waves of adulation crash over the folding table stacked high with the fruit of her endeavors. The checks roll in, which I collect, and I sit there close to the center of the vortex of all that positive energy. Well, as positive as a vortex based on books filled with domestic violence and coercion can be.

I was trying to figure out who she reminds me of, and that person is Shelley Duvall. As in, of The Shining Shelley Duvall. More later. Pix at eleven.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Get Happy--Gouda, Emmenthaler, or Gov't Surplus?

In true manic fashion, I don't type any blog posts for over a week, and then in two days post three. I'm not aiming for consistency folks. Neither qualitative or quantitative. I should sensibly go for both, but I've got Virginia Woolf to read, ya know. I'm finding that one tends to be most profound when one least aims for profundity. Not that those that don't aim for profundity end up being profound.

While spending an exceedingly enjoyable evening with Holly (found I needed a nap to work my way up to it, being the rapidly foxing flyleaf that I am), she called my attention to a few things on YouTube I hadn't seen before, so in closing I bring you three performances of the famed MGM musical tune made a household name by Judy Garland before she curled her toe over the sharp edge of fame, then by Rufus Wainwright, who managed to not embarrass himself by replicating Judy's playlist for her famous Carnegie Hall concert (the recorded evidence being released sometime this month, evidently). I find it interesting that in the current day and age that the only things that really ends up making this a drag performance are the heels and hose--the lipstick dispatched by Robert Smith of the Cure, and the earrings dispatched by just about every heavy metal group since 1985--oh, and by the way, as Holly has mentioned, the Rufus is lip-synched because the dancers are actually his band. Finally, to keep things serious, I include a replay of the immortal Peggy Guy, whose performance ends up being curtailed somewhat due to secretly forseen circumstances.

Dentrifice and the Knight of the Red Crosse

Dream: of being at the dentist, having just rolled out of bed with morning zaggly-mouth. As I am exchanging pleasantries with the hygienist, I duck into the next room and find a gumball machine, into which I insert a dime, twist the ratchet. Another is beside it, one filled with those strange-tasting "hot-dog" gumballs I remember in the Nebraska Hinky Dinky as a kid. My slight regret that I didn't opt for those--they were mintier and would have done the job better. The gumballs rattle down into the hopper. I lift the flap, pop several gumballs in my mouth and chew, hoping to clear my breath a bit before I have to sit down in the chair. I turn to acknowledge what the hygenist is saying. Behind me, the gumballs continue to fall into the chute--I am a winner evidently and the gumballs currency in some feeble slot machine. I wonder why a dentist office would have sugar-based gum in their machines. I chew and chew. Evidently I'm grinding my teeth more than usual in my sleep lately.

Under three blankets was cold all night and so now, on this starkly bleak day, I am sitting in the warmest room in the house with the furnace on, with tea steeping, and wearing flannel. Spenserian stanzaic scansion be on the docket for today, along with the penning of a stanza in some manner of pale imitation, which I will discuss and display in class for Monday, a lovely excuse to pull my Penguin edition of Faerie Queene from the bookshelf--the credit card slip is still inside--evidently I purchased the book on January 6th of 1991 from Von's. I would have been a sophomore then, With a Discover card, the application for which was no doubt filled out in the Memorial Mall so I could have a free 2-liter bottle of Coke or a free highlighter. The acidic newsprint pages have been yellowing like ivory on my shelf ever since. For some reason I have my transcript right here--I'm assuming I bought the book for my English 240 class: English Lit through the 18th Century. I never read the excerpts no doubt assigned for class, which would explain my lackluster grade of C.

Photo of Jewish Holocaust Museum, Berlin

Friday, October 26, 2007

Lame-o Lamenheimer

Yep, I've been pretty damned lame on this blog. I won't make excuses. I've been having what could be categorized as a fairly light semester, but have hed little time for blog entries lately. Perhaps I need a life-coach. Or at least a personal assistant. I've been told to include pix of my three new trees ( story on that event forthcoming) that I now have in my yard, and, if my laptop will agree to talk to my digital camera, you can see the breathtaking arborial documentation in upcoming posts.

Considering my quite-busy upcoming semester, I'm trying to get some reading done ahead of time, and have therefore been limping through Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man which, far be it from me to be presumptuous, really could do without 30 pages of verbatim fireandbrimstone sermons in the middle. I mean, I get the point. At least the last 25 pages of the book have turned out to be interesting. Next on the list--To the Lighthouse and The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf.

From what I've read so far in the latest issue of McSweeney's, Bowl of Cherries, the new book (actually the debut novel) from Millard Kaufman (the man who brought you Mister McGoo) is quite good. It tries a bit too hard in certain spots, but I'd rather something try hard than not try.

Speaking of trying, I should make the attempt to finish the last ten pages of Portrait. It's just about the easiest book to put down that I've run across...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Descending Chromatics

--Why I'm a sucker for this device, I don't know, but if a piece has this as the motif, I'll play it to death. I still remember the first time I heard Dido's Lament When I Am Laid in Earth--it was in the auditorium of Matthews Hall during Music Appreciation class back in 1992 or so. In fact, it's the only thing I remember about that class. The performance was a bit more industriously-paced than this (the aria proper starts around 1:10)--in fact, it could've been a polka--but there it was...that descending scale that fits in so perfectly with the last thing before Dido descends to the Underworld. And then a song I'm sure I never would have heard had I not been in Russia, the amazing Seven Seconds by Youssou N'Dour, which was one of the reasons I made sure I caught Euro MTV every evening in the hopes this video would be on.

It fell under my radar for a few months once I got back to the States, until I listened to Radiohead and Bossa Nova in the same day--it's good to have things on shuffle occasionally. In the Joao Gilberto performance of Samba de Una Nota So (an amateur performance is here), I noticed a distinct similarity to the main motif of Radiohead's Nice Dream. I was once again down one of those rabbit holes I mentioned earlier--The Cure has their 10-minute epic Watching Me Fall from Bloodflowers (here live, with modified bass line), and then on that new Annie Lennox album I mentioned earlier this week, her song Big Sky, the latter couple of minutes of which are among the most impressive vocals she's laid down in years. There isn't any link to the actual song, but snippets of it can be heard on Itunes. I'd swear I've got about 10 other songs that have this, but can't think of them right off-hand.

There are only two other things that seem to immediately get my attention in pop music--the reasons for which I'm still unsure of: 6/8 time (Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears and, yes, I'll admit, I even temporarily fell for Whitney Houston's Be Your Baby Tonight for the same reason), and then there's one other thing I can't describe and will need to clear through someone with plenty of music theory so I know the term for it.

--pic from

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sex, Politics, and Overcast Skies

This morning came early, with me feeling feverish, and with sore throat, and generally feeling crappy, at 2:30 am. Couldn't get to bed until 4:30, over which time I spent writing general notes on a prospective piece concerning an imagined photograph of a hand grenade along with a pomegranate. It made sense at the time, and, not having my notes, I'm hoping it will make sense later. After my class, during which various freshmen succeeded to varying degrees to stay awake whilst talking about Dostoevsky. Once class was finished I spoke to some about their sleepiness and that I will be counting students absent if they sleep whilst in class. I didn't use "whilst" in conversing with them, but they got the point. At least one high point was someone coming up to me afterwards asking whether all of Dostoevsky was like Notes from Underground--his stuff seemed relevant well past the time in which it was written. Hearing that from just one student is making the teaching of this book worthwhile. Next semester I hope to do a better job at setting this book up and discussing it to better effect in class.

Once I was settled down after getting back to my office, I headed to the Lafayette side to get some breakfast at a local diner, where the post-Matins crowd had gathered for eggs and hashbrowns. One of the off-duty priests came in, and asked, in passing, just who they thought was going to be president; whether there was any hope of someone other than Hillary. Conversation was rather reserved, but, as I perked my ears up to get the dirt on local politics, I heard "Evan Bayh--I'd vote for him...He's a heartthrob."

Really. After all this mess, is that still how people are voting--off the ballot and based on looks and personality? I was hoping after all this, with thousands of lives lost and billions and billions of dollars down the pike that the age of voting for someone that seems like a good person to have a beer with was long past. I'll admit I entertained similar thoughts when Perot was running--he was wacky and seemed he'd be someone to add an element of fun to politics. I've grown older and wiser since.
When the "gals" turned the tables and asked the priest what he thought about the upcoming election, he said that he thought hillary would be the next president, but didn't like her. "She strikes me as a very emotional, angry person." Not quite sure where that's coming from. Having listened to her, I'm still trying to figure that out. Angry? I'm trying to figure out how that sizes up with threatening war with Iran and discussions on doubling the size of Guantanamo. I guess it's all a matter of perception.

I found out yesterday that Annie Lennox had a new CD out, and it turns out to have the world's worst title: Songs of Mass Destruction. The title wasn't at all promising, indicating a full-out awful political album, and, much as I like Annie Lennox, I don't want George W. to be the basis for a Lennox album. Thankfully only two songs are preachy, but that is two songs too many unless one is willing to go out and do Baez-style protesting. and even that, inthis day and age, is unlikely to do much. and flagwaving former hippies in this bar playing the Doors on the jukebox aren't helping my view on this much.
I'd be in a better mood, but it's Jane Eyre weather outside. Cloudy, dark, bleak drizzle-piss coldness, with a really shitty waitress to top things off. Honestly. If I'm going so far as to typing most of this blog entry on a laptop at an 8-top table (which is where the outlet is), after waving hello to her and most of the townies sitting at the bar, we've got a problem.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Debt, Thy Name Remains Davo

Well, it's October and I'm hemorrhaging money. After the first brake issue ($600), I had to finally bend to necessity and get a laptop ($650), then there was the second brake issue ($250), then the dental issue ($250) today, and then the other bills. It's a good thing I'm easy on clothes and am not too proud to wear things that occasionally look ridiculous (my sweaters would be a good case in point). This October break was not particularly productive, but I did at least manage to get a few books that I know I'll be needing for next semester's classes. I was hoping to actually get a review or two done, but perhaps that can wait for the coming weekend. I have many reviews to write. Perhaps I'll just work on those in the evenings...get about 5 done and then send them off.

I've been reading through one of the latest issues from McSweeney's Press--the box set of flash fiction, which is generally ok, with some really rather interesting pieces. I'm about halfway through the last volume. In other news, Half Price Books was selling blank books and sketch books for $2 each--woo Hoo!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Unusual talents, Plus, The International Tranvestite Revue

Oh Dear. I could be working on my lesson plans. I could be writing the Great American Novel. But, I started with the recommendation of one of the Chinese Grad students at Purdue, who was completely amazed and mesmerized by someone named Vitas, who has very impressive falsetto. The song is very much what I remember to be typical Russian Pop Music from my time with Kristen in Moscow, but this guy has something special. I looked around for a vid that had the best sound quality and resolution, and this what I was able to find that didn't involve exploding fish. If I could do this, I'd be a professional singer too. By the way, the shrouded musicians are reminiscent of the faceless characters in Man Ray's early film Les Mysteres du Chateau de De.

In unrelated news, I have found various unusual and completely hysterical video clips from around the world that involve people wearing clothes that some would not consider work-appropriate for their gender. I remember at my previous job that some supervisors interviewed someone who showed up to work in drag and all went quite well save for the fact that he had forgotten to shave, leaving quite a bit of stubble showing through the foundation, however thickly it was applied. Earlier yet was a person who was (and perhaps still is, on the City Council for Ft. Wayne Indiana, who on various occasions, showed up at the Southtown Mall branch of Home Loan Savings Bank in full drag, ranging from a Minnie Pearl-type getup (he stepped down from a Monster Truck parked in the lot) to a Klinger-style Nurse's outfit in a shiny red Miata in the drive-thru.

At any rate, we have, of all things, transvestite Russian/Ukranian Ska (wrap your head around that one, folks); he happened to be also the Ukranian entry in the Eurovision Song Contest, whose persona is a disturbing combination of a Christmas tree and my dearly-departed Grandma Irene, his song "Dancing" was quite the hit. At least he got rid of the big star headdress in later days.

But oh, that ain't all. In addition to that, we have Dame Edna, much adored in Britain, whose show is a bit of a twist on the typical talk show. I'll be sure to keep you abreast (ahem) of further developments in this area.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I Hate Vista. I Hate Vista. I Hate Vista.

Okey folks, I know just enough about my laptop to know that I sincerely, truly, honestly, unabashedly hate Microsoft Vista. It's truly the biggest, most bogged-down load of flaming goatshit on toast I've had to deal with. It is running right up there with 1993-era Russian bureaucracy. And that ain't good, folks. Earlier today, Vista decided that it wanted to shut down my computer and restart it. no matter that I was doing research. no matter that I was answering student emails. The overall feel, for those that have been there, is AOL back just before everyone revolted against AOL. Remember? Do not shut down your computer. AOL is installing important updates to your computer. And there you sit, for a half hour, watching Yellow Man Running. It's like that. Infuriating. You don't like settings as they have them? Well, the path to the areas that allow you to adjust said settings is a quest of Hobbit-like scale. Muting the sound also makes it so that you can't close the Volume window. Evidently Vista believes that if you want things muted, you plan on changing your mind soon. I think a strongly-worded letter is in order. Especially since I can't get XP anymore...this is the only operating system I'm able to get from Micro-suckin-soft.
In happier news, the latest book from Alice Notley is out, the one who brought you The Descent of Alette and the one who was weirded out by Dave's starstruck-ness at AWP in Atlanta this year. From what I've seen, it isn't quite as difficult to access as The Mysteries of Small Houses. I've also seen that the latest issue of McSweeney's is out now, with a tribute to Barthelme, and in addition there is a box set of flash fiction out there from the same folks that proves to be interesting.
After spending untold hundreds of dollars on my car, the parking brake refuses to disengage, which left one wheel smoking profusely after a low-speed roll of 5 blocks. I was obscenely and verbosely cussing my fate when I found that the intersection I just passed through had two badly-damaged cars just involved in an accident--I suppose things could be worse. Here's hoping the damned brakes disengage for my drive home tomorrow. I promise never to use the parking brake ever again.