Sunday, November 25, 2007

YouTube's Tubes

Ok, people, seriously. This YouTube thing has gots ta stop. I'm sure I would be amazingly, blindingly productive if it weren't for the fact that YouTube has taked up all of my mental energy. They've got everything on that thing. Care for a techno song based on clueless politicos? Check:

A video entirely composed of Wonder Woman spinning? Check:

For real acting ability and sets stolen from The Price is Right's Halloween Special circa 1976, we have Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, which I barely remember watching on TV as a kid. Villains modeled after Sunset Boulevard that are out to steal the Golden Spider of Baklava? Check:

I'm sure I'd have a book by now if it weren't for this infernal invention.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Work Harder, Harder, or, The End is Nigh

I've assumed that 38 is too early for a mid-life crisis, but in thinking about it, That's just about mid life after all. For the past couple of years, the main dreams I remember have all been of warning. Or of limited resources. These were most insistent before I quit my job at the office; perhaps my psyche's way of saying that working for retirement isn't really any sort of life at all. By the time my next door neighbor died unexpectedly of blood clots at 31 at the height of a tornadic storm that hit downtown Indy, I finally got the message and had made decisive moves to get the hell out and get on with life. We only have a limited time in order to produce. The clock is ticking and there's much work to do.

Quitting Corporate Hell hasn't stopped these dreams entirely, and, based on my grad-office-mates' conversations, I'm not the only one with these worries and insistent omens. The dreams are different now for me after quitting, but cover similar thematic territory, only without as much urgency--the dream in yesterday's post, for example, or the dream of last night, where I duck into a hospital in order to hit the restroom and find myself in a room that adjoins a bunch of birthing rooms. The toilet is right out in full view, so I look at it, then around, then back at the toilet, and then a troupe of people bust in with a wheeled bed from one of the adjoining rooms. A woman's given birth, but there's been a bad tear and she's bleeding badly. A doctor is trying to cinch the tear, stop the bleeding. A tube is attached to a large squarish bag, filling with blood. To keep her alive, the blood in the bag is being somehow pumped back into her. The bag is the size of a piece of luggage and is almost full, wobbles like a jello-mold. This woman is in trouble. The direness of the situation means that no one has even taken notice of me. I look at the woman's face--it is still ruddy, but it may be due to freckles, as she has reddish hair, or due to blood on her face, but the bag shows she has little blood left. The doctors confer as they work.

I wake to another alarm I'd forgotten to shut off, the phrase "This isn't going to be easy" in my ears.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Things be dead here, folks.

The cold weather has killed pretty much everything. All, save the mouse which crapped all over my dish towels last weekend. I'd thought it had left, as no foodstuffs were mangled, no other issues noted, until I woke up in the wee hours to distinct rustlings. Next to the bed. I turn on the bedside lamp to find it was in one of the glue traps I set in the early Fall when spiders have a tendency to come indoors. After last year's little encounter, I thought I might prepare a bit more for their arrival. I hadn't noticed that the things also can be set for mice. 3am, and I have a completely gummed-up mouse, hanging half out of the trap, trying to drag itself and its new attachment along the floor. The worst part of it was its screams as I reached for it, picked it up, dispatched it. Glue traps. Good for bugs, gruesome for vertebrates. Sleep was pretty much shot at that point.

After driving home from Thanksgiving at the Farm, went to bed and in tryptophan-induced coma, dreamt that I was on an outer-space expedition. I am hovering, lunar-lander-style, over a pockmarked surface, perhaps the moon, perhaps Mars, perhaps something else, but I lower myself to float horizontally right over the surface. Below me, less than six feet, is a pool of water; actual liquid water, set like an irregular rectangle of deep blue glass in the ash grey of the surface. "Water! I've found water!" I say into my headset. This is a big deal. But as I say this, I realize how far I am from home, how far I've got to go yet after this great discovery, and how the cold is coming through the pressure suit.

The alarm clock on my cell phone goes off at this point. I stumble to the kitchen to kill the alarm. It won't turn off. Perhaps this is a peculiarity for all RAZR phones, or mine alone, but if the alarm clock goes off and the display is showing that I've either missed a call and/or have a recent voicemail, there is no way to shut off the alarm. I futzed with the damned thing at 6:30 this morning for well over 10 minutes, trying to get the phone to shut up. [If others know how to get around this very irritating characteristic of RAZR phones, please let me know.] Due to the length of time I had to spend cussing at my phone, this was just about as disturbing a wake-up as the doomed mouse at bedside the night before.

In between episodes of grading term paper drafts, I walked to the grocery store, during which time I've noticed that Central Indiana is now in the Ugly phase of Autumn, with no leaves, no green at all, little daylight, and incessantly overcast skies. It's time for a week of snow and then on to Spring. Shall we have a vote?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Aging and Rock Demographics

Due to a bewildering number of things to do, combined with a collective Dark Night of the Soul shared by almost all of us in Grad Office 210 that lasted a week, I'd completely forgotten that I'd spoken to my friend Tina about going to a gathering at the Murat in downtown Indy. At the time I'd originally spoken to her I didn't hear her properly and thought that it had something to do with the Colts. Hmm, a concert for the Colts. Inconcisely, I'm very much not at all even slightly connected to football, but I thought, hey, free tickets, it'll be good for people watching, expanding horizons, writing material, a gin and tonic, and so forth.
But by the time I'd finished my class yesterday, piled all of my crap in the back of the car, and hightailed it home, any memory of my conversation with Tina had completely evaporated. I Lugged my box of books, papers, notebooks, CD-Rs, dumped the mess on the sofa and did what I now often do after getting home on an early Friday afternoon--I went directly to bed. Sure, I go there with the excuse that I'll stay warm under the covers and read until the house heats up, but I know that I'll be out like a light within ten minutes. After a dream in which I was at the Symphony with my Aunt Paula, I hear my phone. Tina. Wanting to know about the concert.
"The Colts? Really? A concert for them?" I was inclined not to go. After various repronunciations at varying volume, I finally was able to understand that they were free tickets for The Cult, whom many of my older readers might remember as an 80s rock group. Tina had five free tickets, her husband couldn't go. I squinted at the clock and determined that I could get to Tina's house and then downtown in time to find a decent spot. I told Tina I'd be over after a quick clean-up.
The poor Cult folks--as soon as I got in to the Egyptian Room with Tina and company, I was failry certain that this would be a bust of a concert. At the same time the "Kids Bop" even t was being held in the Main Hall--pre-teens could be heard screaming to imitation Britney. Tickets hadn't sold well so the promoters, looking at the general age group of folks who listened to The Cult, comped a bunch of tickets to banks, downtown office buildings, and my former employer, the Big Mutual Fund Company, which is how Tina got ours. The room looked like a slightly goth-tinged Annuities Convention. The whole event was officially titled The Jaegermeister Music Tour--five bands culminating with The Cult. The Jaeger bus, bright orange, was parked outside. The busty Jaeger girls were there, smiling in carefully-prepared poses, took orders and pulled back their shoulders for pictures. Jaeger ads were projected onto the ceiling--the buck with the radiant cross between its antlers twitched to different spots on the ceiling at timed intervals.
I wasn't really in the mood for a rock concert. Evidently, neither were the 50-somethings that were there. The opening bands exhorted the attendees (I won't call it a crowd) to buy independent, to support new bands, and to "ditch all this Corporate bullshit that's killed music." I blinked. Looked up. The Jaeger logo spun slowly--a deer in a dryer. "Coors Light" sailed slowly over the ceiling tiles.
The sedentarily-boozing Managerial faction at the tables weren't impressed. "Fuck you." Their jowls quivered. Most sat in accustomed Barcalounger poses. I ordered a drink. Sipped the Jaeger. It tasted like Vicks Formula 44D. I decided to have it changed to a Jaeger Bomb, which added Red Bull. I sipped. The addition magically transformed the flavor to that of Robitussin.
The Cult came on. One of Tina's kids was face-forward on the table, sleeping in spite of the volume. The lead singer, after three songs, mentioned Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. "Fuck you" said the Barcaloungers. "You do read books, don't you?" said the lead singer. Contempt from the Barcaloungers, who went to get more crap domestic beer. After a few more songs, the lead singer spits. "Kids Bop is next door, people." "Fuck you" said the Barcaloungers. The Jaeger gorls were gone. The tenders broke down the bar, shut off the Jaeger machines. Carts of the awful stuff went by. From my vantage point, I could count no fewer than four Barcaloungers, heads thrown back, mouths open, sleeping. It was less a rock concert than a lounge in a retirement village, shortly after dinnertime.
"Good night, right-wing Christian fuckers," said the singer. Which missed the point, I think.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

waaaay too much to do...

I've not posted much recently, and am not sure when that trend will end, as this weekend is a bit out of control---book reviews, record reviews, term papers to grade, revisions to make, and new stuff to produce, not to mention all those other more mundane things I've been putting off that need to be attended to, such as bills and groceries and laundry and such. I'd had an idea for a thought-provoking post based on something Robert Hass said in an interview, but that thought went away. I hope to regain it at some point but it's not likely to be this weekend.
As a diversion, I went to the Indianapolis Library book sale at ten this morning, after not having been there for several years. The same people run it, the same hoards with their bags, stale tobacco-and-cat smell comb the shelves. I found a volume of Yevtushenko--whose poetry was used by Shostakovich for his 13th symphony--and though he's supposedly an egotistical ass in person, picked it up, along with Oppen's collected poems and another anthology of English Renaissance poetry. CD's were going for 50 cents, but with my main focus on classical stuff that wasn't scratched all to hell, ended up with not particularly much--Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night some Continental Renaissance music for two violas, and a collection of stuff by Taverner. Oh, and Erasure's latest album, which has cover art that it so glittery it makes Barbie's dream album art look like the Stone Temple Pilots. I mean, it's like My Pretty Pony had an acid trip with the Care Bears in Neverland. I remember them from that year before I started at Purdue in Lafayette. They're still going strong, but they should fire their graphic design team.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Brushes with Greatness

Well, here's the gang, there with JCO in the lobby of Loeb, after her grueling book-signing stint. I I thought it a nice touch that we were arranged with the most brightly-colored folks on the outside, with the rest of us somberly-clad writers in the middle. It was not only an aesthetic choice, but perhaps one for public safety. Putting Brian and Tess side by side might have caused the paneling behind us to burst into flame. I was among those who was keeping the line in order. I had my own pad of bright orange Post-its, on which I was writing the name of the person JCO ws to dedicate the book to. Shortly after doing this, word came down the line that there were too many people and that she would only be signing her name. No dedications. Ok. She reads a poem shaped like a kite and now she won't personalize books. I still dutifully place an orange Post-it on the title page, so as to make it easy for JCO to sign the proper page. Here she is with local politician Sheila Klinker. She looks thrilled to be wielding a pen.

The party afterwards was quite nice--Deb and I arrived just in time to say hello to the guest of honor. By the time I put down my bookbag and took off my jacket, we turned around just in time to day goodbye to the guest of honor. Which of course left more onion tarts and cold boiled shrimpies for us poor grad students. And the champers was delightful.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Can I Help You?

The pad switch embedded in the asphalt isn't working. The switch that makes a beep and activates the connection between the microphone in the lit sign and the headset of the woman inside has ceased working correctly. It believes a car is on it when there isn't one. In my walking to the grocery store, the woman's voice could be heard, offering assistance. But there isn't anyone wanting her assistance, as there isn't any car, though the switch insistently tells her this. Inside the grocery store, many people are standing in line. Some are holding bags. Some are carrying babies or pushing carts filled with things. They polish the oil off the displays of their cellphones. It looks as if they are waiting to board a plane, or a bus. They hold their identification ready. Credit cards. Newspaper clippings. The scanners call out their single short note to each other, bat it back and forth under the mercury vapor lights. Someone's plastic pumpkin won't scan. She holds it over the smudged square of glass with both hands, swaying it diligently. A movement filled with uncertainty, ceremony. The scanner will not respond, will not call out to the other scanners that a connection was made, that the pumpkin should be placed on the metal table that knows how much the item weighs before she sets it down. A series of people come, touch the screen with one finger, carry the pumpkin away. I pick up my own items, the weight of which the metal table has successfully predicted. Crossing the dark parking lot, there are people pumping gasoline into their cars. There are patches of oil. Flattened cans. Can I help you? Can I help you? The drive-through sign softly illuminates the empty area of asphalt under which the faulty switch is buried. The woman inside asks again: Can I help you? Makes another offer. Her intonation growing more urgent, more as one would ask it after rushing to someone found lying down on the ground in an unusual spot, like a street, or a sidewalk. She asks again as I climb the steps to my front door. No cars in the lot; the sign shining softly.