Sunday, October 23, 2005

a western breeze

since writing last time, i've given a presentation on my research (that i thought went pretty well), went to a concert that was as good as concerts can be, made $120 playing poker, did homework, and hung out with friends and roommates. it's been busy, but it's been good. i don't know what's wrong with me lately, but i feel like in the last couple months i've become somewhat uninteresting, like i don't have anything to tell the world, like i used to, like i want to. perhaps this is the problem with writers at some point in their lives no matter what. or perhaps i've gotten to the point that i can't remember what i've said and what i haven't, leaving me to wonder again whether i need to say it again. i'm guessing that's more true than the other because my normal view of saying interesting things is pretty open.

i've gotten to the point where i haven't just forgotten what i've said here on this blog, i've started to forget experiences to some extent. that's really the main reason for this writing space - to help me remember things. if nothing else, that's what much writing is good for. writing in a place like this is to bring something into collective memory.

i say this because i've now seen enough concerts that i can't remember all of them, when i went, what was important about them, that sort of thing - at least without special stimulus. i remember certain parts, but i don't remember much of the mogwai concert i went to, except that i loved their music when they weren't experimenting with distortion. i remember phish, except the main things i remember were how strange it was how many drugs were being use, how people all danced the same even though they all wanted to be different (they wanted to be different together), and how the bassist was so out of it that when they were jamming once and the guitarist wanted to get the bassist's attention to move on to the next section, the bassist didn't get the message for over 10 (extra) minutes. maybe these distillations are important somehow, but often they are so inconsequential (maybe irrelevant is a better word here) that i don't know why it is that's what i took away.

really, i think that experiences are one of the most important things that someone can be collecting as they are younger (and can keep collecting as they get older). as my mom told me, many young people can't be as good of writers as older people (in terms of being interesting and captivating) because they haven't had as many experiences to write about, things that people want to share. i'm not entirely sure this is a fair characterization, and if it is, it should certainly say what people should be doing when they are young, and what teachers of writing should be doing (help people have experiences rather than work on their writing style).

one of the memories of my younger days that i'm most remembering right now involves construction projects. now that my brother builds houses, i have a different perspective on why kids shouldn't mess around with work sites (in terms of what we did there), but i also think it was one of the closest things we had to wild experiences in our small town area (no big woods or mountains nearby to explore): we had work sites - we played tag there - we threw rocks, we climbed on rafters, and jumped from the exterior wall over the excavated "moat" to ground on the other side, we broke boards while imagining them to be something more spectacular (i'm pretty sure we never broke anything that was still large enough to be useful - hope that's true). but we had time away from the house, exploring a more wild place than our back yard, and without that, we only had these places and experiences while on my grandparents' farms. i think it might be important - who knows. i wonder now whether we would have found some place like this wherever we had grown up, a place to be somewhat wild.

i think my brother found a lot of profundity in this song a year ago. i have listened to it and liked it many times before, but only tonight did i ever get the feeling that this was the right song for this time. for right now. and then bright eyes - some of the older songs actually. i think it has something to do with my mourning for warmth. i like autumn very much, but i mourn when it gets cold. i don't know what i'm looking for, but i've found a lot of longing - sometimes.

untied by the one am radio

there's nothing to hold us down
we'll cut the strings
we'll kiss the ground goodbye
we'll catch up a western breeze
that eddies us up past the trees to sky

let the line slip free
the ballast is your memory
let it drop to the ground
we'll always be around

mother to her baby said
we're never lost
we're never dead
we fly

our thoughts get spun like silken threads
cast down below from our hands like sighs

let the line slip free
the ballast is your memory
let it drop to the ground
we'll always be around

i told you baby
once i said
we never die
we simply get untied

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

left without leaving

i definitely felt like i made progress (was productive) today. i like days like that, even when i'm feeling somewhat sick (cold). and the best part is i still found time to throw a frisbee and read more of my ishmael (loving that book).

i've never really been car sick before (maybe a little queasy when riding with my dad on winding gravel roads). but i have been sick on a boat one time. most of the time i really love being on boats and moving with the shifting floor of the boat. once we are out fishing - my dad, oldest brother, uncle, and i - on lake thompson. it was one of those days that our fishing endeavor was quite successful, and we didn't feel like putting in to shore as the wind was picking up, making waves that started at about one foot (top to trough). they steadily grew as we were catching northern pike of decent sizes and having a decent time. then as the wind continued picking up, our 16 foot long boat started rocking and crashing on the three feet high waves, with some four feet high sweels.

we started to head toward shore then, but being a ten year old that generally liked fishing hadn't really prepared me for dealing with this experience (especially since one of the mainstays in my playlist of nightmares involves dying while boating). i remember laying down on the bottom of the boat and huddling up as we moved in to shore, not knowing what else to do, but not liking it out there. for a young person that loved the water and fishing, this didn't change those loves, but they are certainly one of the moments when i've become more closely attuned to the weather - the wind, the cold, the snow mostly.

i am of course excited because i get to see the decemberists this friday (after giving a presentation on my research). this will be the second time (first being last spring), and i feel much more confident, knowing their music (even willing to say they are one of my favorite groups). so i hope that it's a great concert with good music and lots of fun. i can't wait.

on the bus mall by the decemberists

In matching blue raincoats,
our shoes were our show boats
we kicked around.
From stairway to station
we made a sensation
with the gadabout crowd.
And oh, what a bargain,
we’re two easy targets
for the old men at the off-tracks,
who’ve paid in palaver
and crumpled old dollars,
which we squirreled away
in our rat trap hotel by the freeway.
And we slept in Sundays.

Your parents were anxious,
your cool was contagious
at the old school.
You left without leaving
a note for your grieving
sweet mother, while
your brother was so cruel.
And here in the alleys
your spirits were rallied
as you learned quick to make a fast buck.
In bathrooms and barrooms,
on dumpsters and heirlooms,
we bit our tongues.
Sucked our lips into our lungs
'til we were falling.
Such was our calling.

And here in our hollow we fuse like a family,
but I will not mourn for you.
So take up your makeup
and pocket your pills away.
We’re kings among runaways
on the bus mall.
We’re down
on the bus mall.

Among all the urchins and old Chinese merchants
of the old town,
we reigned at the pool hall
with one iron cue ball
and we never let the bastards get us down.
And we laughed off the quick tricks--
the old men with limp dicks--
on the colonnades of the waterfront park.
As four in the morning came on, cold and boring,
we huddled close
in the bus stop enclosure enfolding.
Our hands tightly holding.

But here in our hollow we fuse like a family,
but I will not mourn for you.
So take up your makeup
and pocket your pills away.
We’re kings among runaways
on the bus mall.
We’re down
on the bus mall.
We’re down
on the bus mall.
Down on the bus mall.

Monday, October 17, 2005

para-success of a heavy-handed metaphor

much has happened in recent days - so much that i haven't written here very much. and i guess that's all right. but i often miss it also. i have developed a cold, bruised my body very much playing ultimate, enjoyed reading some books (of various types), and found myself in a very busy part of the semester. but it's times like these that i'm reminded how much i really do love life and the wonders of warm fall days outside, however it happens.

i miss road trips somehow. with friends scattered across the country, one might think i'd be taking more road trips than before, but that has unfortunately not been the case - i would take these long distance trips with a couple friends and relax and enjoy life. traveling home and back (on my most traveled road - highway 19) isn't the same, nor is going on trips for sporting events (to soccer tournaments or ultimate tournaments), even though they are great and good. one particular road trip, we went and stayed at my house, then at a friend's house in deadwood in south dakota, then down to castle rock in colorado to stay at the other friend's cousin's house. we had been having a good time one of the nights late in the trip - had just finished playing risk and eating totino's pizzas (bought for 75 cents each) - we were all tired from a long day and were thinking of going to sleep - i called home to get a weather report for the next few days - my parents told me there was a storm coming (we had arrived in colorado two days after the sky gave them 2 feet of snow - this one sounded similar. so at 11pm we left and drove through the night in order to not get snowed in. that sort of freedom and sense of something - i miss it right now. one among many feelings, but i miss it all the same.

below is perhaps one of the most insightful medium length quotes i've read in a while, from the book my ishmael by daniel quinn (reading this guy's writing is one of the main things that makes me want to be a writer - had the same feeling a few years ago when i first read ishmael).

Thinkers aren’t limited by what they know, because they can always increase what they know. Rather they’re limited by what puzzles them, because there’s no way to become curious about something that doesn’t puzzle you. If a thing falls outside the range of people’s curiosity, then they simply cannot make inquiries about it. It constitutes a blind spot—a spot of blindness that you can’t even know is there until someone draws your attention to it.

at any rate, this fed into my current thoughts on pedagogy (how to teach) and philosophy of education, particularly with regard to the idea that i decided was my current short statement of my teaching philosophy: develop literacy and imagination regarding texts, the environment, and ethics. maybe sometime soon i'll post what i mean by that, but i'm still working it out in my head and writing it up. the quote above is also relevant to what a then-retiring professor of 40+ years told me just minutes before my first class period as an intructor. he said, "you have to make them curious, and then satisfy their curiosity because if you don't do that, you're just fucking up." thanks bill, i think you're totally right.

i don't know what the word sovay means - here or elsewhere - the computer doesn't know either so i don't feel so bad. but the word is well used in this song, and i love the music very much. the lyrics go interesting places and somehow fit the music, which i think is perhaps the biggest strength of bird's music - he just seems to understand how things connect together.

sovay by andrew bird

I was getting ready to be a threat
I was getting set for my
accidental suicide
the kind where no one dies
no one looks too surprised
then you realize
that you're riding on a para-success
of a heavy-handed metaphor
and a feeling like you've been here before
because you've been here before
and you've been here before
then a word washed ashore
a word washed ashore
then a word washed ashore

sovay, sovay, sovay
all along the day

I was getting ready to consider my next plan of attack
I think I'm gonna sack
the whole board of trustees
all those Don Quixotes on their B-17s
and I swear this time
yeah this time
they'll blow us back to the 70's
and this time
they're playin Ride of the Valkyries
with no semblance of grace or ease
and they're acting on vagaries
with their violent proclivities
and they're playing ride
Ride of the Valkyries
sovay, sovay, sovay
all along the day

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

fall leaves

it's a long day. tuesdays are like that for me this semester - i've had my share of long days lately - i probably need a rest. but life seems good at the same time. sometimes it feels a little full, but in an empty sort of way - full of stuff, not meaning. busy but not with the right stuff all the time. this last weekend i played ultimate frisbee in a tournament - learned a lot - had a lot of fun - was able to go on a couple walks through the woods, where i picked up some of the most amazingly colored leaves - maple leaves that still had some green, but also had red and yellow - some that had dried into a golden brown. it was similar to the description at the start of wendell berry's poem grace:

The woods is shining this morning.
Red, gold and green, the leaves
lie on the ground, or fall,
or hang full of light in the air still.

fall can be like that - it is amazing, for the short moments when we feel like we really are experiencing autumn-ness - the cool sweatshirt weather - this weekend was quite hot and windy, and it'll be winter soon enough (perhaps jumping back and forth between the two), but it is exciting, and those days when fall crispness is in the air, i cherish them in much the same way i cherish the days of spring melt.

i'm enjoying teaching and my classes - i learn from both. i'm excited about finishing my thesis again - i just need to do it.

actually, i know what's missing from my life. but i don't feel empowered to do anything about it. i'd like to have more time around my family, friends, and places i know best - i'd like to see my grandparents, my niece, my scattered friends. i'd like to go for walks in the woods and valleys i know best. i know that i would be rejuvenated by spending time in those places, by myself and with my close ones. but then i realize that the whole idea of becoming drained and then rejuvenated with some sort of vacation seems foolish in the grand scheme of things. why can't normal life be rejuvenating, ever-replenishing of energy and life?

a colleague of mine is turning 30 sometime soon and was saying she'd been told that people should have made their mistakes in their 20s and shouldn't make many mistakes after that, that people should be grown up by then. i told her the following:

the only reason people grow old is because they grow up.

i kind of think this is true - i try not to grow up or get old - the things that make one need to do that sort of thing are the kind of roles one must play - as a citizen, as a parent, as an employee - but as a person, i think that making mistakes and trying new things (those go hand in hand, don't they?) - these two seem not something that should be done by age 30. i've been trying to figure out what new things i'm picking up and learning in this part of my life - i've started to become comfortable in my life of academic work (though i'm constantly challenging myself in new areas). i'm trying to learn how to play a new competitive sport. and i'm trying to become a better writer. not bad - are these mistakes? doubtful, but i'll certainly make any number of mistakes in them. and i'll make mistakes in the little practical parts of life, but only if i put myself in new situations.

i don't fear growing old. i don't fear growing up. not in the common sense at least. but i do fear losing excitement and exploration, adventure and novelty in my life. i don't want to grow up in that way.

and i fear the growing old of my body. one of the problems with putting too much stock into athletics is that one loses big chunks as one grows older. my body isn't as able to stay healthy as it was when i was younger (and i'm not that old yet - not at all) - my body aches more than it should after last weekend. but i'm not giving up - i'm convinced that if i give myself time to get in shape, that i'll be able to handle weekend tournaments and weekday practices - like i used to do.

this song is again by one of my best friends for the majority of my life - we met when he moved to town in third grade - he used to draw my drum sets during class - or design security systems lighting systems. he's quite an amazing musician (especially on drums and in the recording studio), and he's an awesome guy also - we've had any number of good memories, and he's fixed my computers and given me new music to listen to countless times. i thought this song was fitting for this time of year.

fall leaves by tor johnson

floating away then back again
the feeling reigns when i see you again
life comes too fast when
things don't last

day is the pain i will regain
i've come undone in what i've done wrong
retracing what has been undone

random pieces in the air
but they won't care
when i go home

the things i love
they come back to haunt
i do the things that make it feel again
i don't want to lose your memories
but these days are flying by like weeks
please try to work this out with me

i can't help but think of you again
i'm gonna try to make it right
not gonna stray away from fright
i'll be with you
i'll be with you
i wanted to
to be with you