Wednesday, December 21, 2005

R2-D2 again? Bleek, splort, whizzle

I'm not the only one to make a connection between Ligeti's Artikulation and R2-D2.

Check out this site. Drew Daniel, its author, offers up a top-ten fave of cool musique concrete. His opening paragraphs give a good layman's idea of the form and some cool examples of it in pop music.


5. György Ligeti "Artikulation"[Wergo]
Clocking in at a pop-single-svelte three minutes and forty-five seconds, this piece makes the most out of the dramatic jumpcuts and juxtapositions which tape editing makes possible-- the sudden upswoops, dropouts and hard-panned bursts of sound call to mind Lee Perry, Wassily Kandinsky and R2D2 with equal aplomb. Ligeti's compositional nous means that even when he's chopping up purely electronic source material (sine waves and snerts and blips and blops), he comes up with something strong and at times almost melodic, like an extended run of backwards reverbed birdsong. The bright and twinkly quasi-riff at the two minute, twenty-three second mark just lights me up every time I hear it. A small jewel.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The true origin of R2-D2's voice?

I recently checked out 10 records from the music library at NIU, conveniently located a stone's throw from home. The selection is a strange mix of mountain music (Ozark and Virginia Blue Ridge), Bob Dylan (Self-portrait), Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Chinese music and a Mercury records compilation: "Electronic Music. Musique Concrete: A Panorama of Experimental Music, Volume One."

The second track on side three, Artikulation (3:49), by Gyorgy Ligeti, has many sounds that remind me of the pops, whirs and crackles of R2-D2 of Star Wars fame. Here's what the liner notes say about that piece:

"The composer's aim in Artikulation (1958) was to explore the ground which separates music and speech: to create a sort of language without meaning by purely musical means. For this reason, "articulation" -- prominent rhythmic divisions -- plays an essential part in the piece. The musical structures are composed of simple elements -- sinusoidal sounds, and filtered sounds and impulses, but the composition is extremely complex, especially in the microstructures where the succession of briefly polarized elements gradually lose importance, and the rhythmic factors tend to take on the nature of sound color.

Ligeti biography at

Of note: Ligeti's music appears in two Stanley Kubrick films, 2001 and Eyes Wide Shut. "Atmosphères... was used, along with excerpts from Lux Aeterna and Requiem, in the soundtrack to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey; in fact, the music was used without Ligeti's permission." None of those Ligeti pieces are electronic music/ musique concrete. Ligeti only composed three electronic music works.


2001: A Space Odyssey *** Hugo Director: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke
Producer: Stanley Kubrick
Music: Richard Strauss, Johann Strauss, Gyorgy Ligeti, Aram Khachaturyan
Visual Effects: Wally Veevers, Douglas Trumbull, Con Pederson, Tom Howard
Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, Douglas Rain
Released by: MGM/Polaris/United Artists
Date: 1968, 160 minutes. Color.
Based on: The Sentinel, by Arthur C. Clarke (1951).


"Ben Burtt created R2-D2's distinctive voice, and has long considered R2-D2 to be "the toughest challenge" of all his sound design work on the classic Star Wars Trilogy. "The trick was in finding a voice that sounded truly electronic, yet which had character and personality. The breakthrough came when I realized that Artoo should communicate with recognizable but inarticulate emotional sounds, kind of like a baby. When I added modified human-generated squeaks and sounds into the electronic mix, Artoo's voice came to life. I always thought that all the extensive design worked well and created a distinct vocal identity, but you know I still get people asking me if I just used telephone touch tones.""

Two questions: Did Burtt sample tones from Artikulation to create the voice of R2-D2? If not, was Burtt influenced by Ligeti's music when creating R2-D2's voice sounds?

My Internet search came up with nothing. Ligeti's work in 2001 had to have been noticed by Burtt. To my ear, some of the sounds in Artikulation are (or were) unique to R2-D2. This composition came out almost 20 years before the release of Star Wars.

For more about musique concrete:

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Zappa and Sir Walter Raleigh?!

My mom didn't like the Robert Service poem I recently posted. She said it was too dreary. I agree, what with all that spitting out teeth and scurvy and robbing graves. So here's a travel poem I hope will be more to her liking. It's got, to use a Frank Zappa inspired spelling, "re-lij-urmus" overtones to it, so should please my holy rollin' kith and kin.

By the way, the "re-lijurmus (and prestigimus) referencerino is from "Brown Moses" on Zappa's Thingfish album. Not for the faint of heart or sensitive souls.

But ol' dead and gone Sir Walter Raleigh's no blasphemin' foo.

So wid' out furdah ado.

Sir Walter Raleigh. 1552–1618

"His Pilgrimage"

GIVE me my scallop-shell of quiet,

My staff of faith to walk upon,

My scrip of joy, immortal diet,

My bottle of salvation,

My gown of glory, hope's true gage; 5

And thus I'll take my pilgrimage.

Blood must be my body's balmer;

No other balm will there be given:

Whilst my soul, like quiet palmer,

Travelleth towards the land of heaven; 10

Over the silver mountains,

Where spring the nectar fountains;

There will I kiss

The bowl of bliss;

And drink mine everlasting fill 15

Upon every milken hill.

My soul will be a-dry before;

But, after, it will thirst no more.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Good grades!! Whoo hoo ha ha ha (and a further explanation of academic goals)

I got my grades yesterday and my best case scenario came true. Read 'em and whoop!

ENGL 407 Shakespeare - A
ENGL 504 Teaching Literature to Middle and Secondary students - A
ENGL 522 Teaching English as a Second Language - B
ENGL 562 19th Century British Prose - A

These grades mean I'm practically a shoo-in for admission into graduate school. This whole year I've attended as a "student-at-large," which allows me to take graduate level courses even though I'm not formally admitted into any program.

I wrote an e-mail to my parents explaining my short and long-term academic goals and what was needed to achieve them. I include it here so if anybody asks me what I'm doing in school I can refer them to this blog.

My immediate goals are to get a full-time job for 2006, get a good enough score on the GRE (graduate requisite exam) to gain admission into graduate school, pass the Basic Skills Test (another exam) to gain admission into the teacher certification program, submit a portfolio of writing samples to the English department (another requirement to gain admission to the teacher certification program).

Academically, I have two completely separate objectives. One is to gain admission into GRADUATE SCHOOL. This is important only because admission into grad school allows me to qualify for an assistantship, which means a tuition waiver, monthly stipend, and the chance to actually teach college courses. THIS IS SEPARATE FROM TEACHER CERTIFICATION. IT IS A DIFFERENT DEPARTMENT ON CAMPUS.

The second objective is TEACHER CERTIFICATION. This is a program track that gives me the training and credentials to teach as a middle or high school English teacher. Pending admission to this program, I am on track to earn my master's degree AND teacher certification in December 2007.

Pending a passing score on the GRE, I should be admitted into grad school by the end of January 2006. Pending a passing score on the Basic Skills Test (which everyone tells me is easy), portfolio submission and my three courses this spring, I will be admitted to the teacher certification program in May 2006.

Welcome to my academic life. There are a lot of hoops to jump through. The biggest was overcoming my stupidity as an undergraduate. I really messed up my last three semesters as an undergrad, flunked a bunch of courses, and dropped my grade point average below a 3.0. Admission into graduate school is dependent on having an undergrad GPA of 3.0 or higher OR a GPA of 3.25 or higher in at least 12 hours of graduate course work. I currently have a 3.5 GPA in 18 hours of grad work.


I need to get into graduate school AND teacher certification. Both will be achieved by May. I am on schedule to graduate in December 2007 with a master's degree in English education.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Lone Trail

Ahh, Good ol' Robert Service, master of the obvious couplet and all-around bad populist poet. I found this poem on the PCT-L. At first I read this wrong and I thought, "Gee, the Long Trail (in Vermont) isn't that bad..."

The Lone Trail

Robert Service

Ye who know the Lone Trail fain would follow it,
Though it lead to glory or the darkness of the pit.
Ye who take the Lone Trail, bid your love good-by;
The Lone Trail, the Lone Trail follow till you die.

The trails of the world be countless, and most of the trails be tried;
You tread on the heels of the many, till you come where the ways divide;
And one lies safe in the sunlight, and the other is dreary and wan,
Yet you look aslant at the Lone Trail, and the Lone Trail lures you on.
And somehow you're sick of the highway, with its noise and its easy needs,
And you seek the risk of the by-way, and you reck not where it leads.
And sometimes it leads to the desert, and the togue swells out of the mouth,
And you stagger blind to the mirage, to die in the mocking drouth.
And sometimes it leads to the mountain, to the light of the lone camp-fire,
And you gnaw your belt in the anguish of hunger-goded desire.
And sometimes it leads to the Southland, to the swamp where the orchid glows,
And you rave to your grave with the fever, and they rob the corpse for its clothes.
And sometimes it leads to the Northland, and the scurvy softens your bones,
And your flesh dints in like putty, and you spit out your teeth like stones.
And sometimes it leads to a coral reef in the wash of a weedy sea,
And you sit and stare at the empty glare where the gulls wait greedily.
And sometimes it leads to an Arctic trail, and the snows where your torn feet freeze,
And you whittle away the useless clay, and crawl on your hands and knees.
Often it leads to the dead-pit; always it leads to pain;
By the bones of your brothers ye know it, but oh, to follow you're fain.
By your bones they will follow behind you, till the ways of the world are made plain.

Bid good-by to sweetheart, bid good-by to friend;
The Lone Trail, the Lone Trail follow to the end.
Tarry not, and fear not, chosen of the true;
Lover of the Lone Trail, the Lone Trail waits for you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

cool Latin quotes, etc.

"Solvitur Ambulando" (walking solves all things) -- St. Augustine.

I read this today on a Pacific Crest Trail Internet mailing list.

"Supere aude! Dare to use your own understanding! is thus the motto of the Enlightenment."

Immanuel Kant (1724–1804)

I've written "Supere Aude" many times in Sharpie marker on bathroom stalls and in hiker registries (though not with a Sharpie, too heavy!) on the Appalachian Trail. When I first read it I thought it had something to do with hearing (aude). It is my life motto.

My friend Todd's favorite Latin quote, one that he smudged on the garage door window of my Sycamore (IL) home back in undergrad daze: "Sic Semper Tyrannus" (Long live the tyrant). I wonder if that's his life motto, or our esteemed President Bush's.

Friday, December 09, 2005

something fishy?

I heard on an NPR piece earlier this week that over 70 percent of the protein consumed by Cambodians comes from fish.

Here is a link to that story:

I heard this after finishing T.C. Boyle's book, A Friend of the Earth, (follow the link for a review of the book and discussion guide) a futuristic novel in which America has so depleted its environmental resources that the meat of choice most readily available in restaurants is catfish. There's even a funny scene during a never-ceasing monsoon rain where a walking catfish crawls up the leg of Ty Tierwater, the main character in the novel.

Also, a few months ago I heard about this Modadugu Gupta, who won a prize for establishing fish farms in roadside ditches and flood ponds in developing countries like Bangladesh. The people dump their organic waste into the ditches. The fish eat. The people eat the fish. Simple, efficient and effective.

Here's a quote from a USA Today article:

"Modadugu Gupta has spent 30 years creating a cheap and ecologically sustainable system of small-scale fish-farming using abandoned ditches and seasonally flooded fields and water holes smaller than the average swimming pool."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Locascio connection?

I did a little Internet research, a Google search of "Piana Degli Albanese Locascio." The village name is where my great-grandparents immigrated to the United States in the first decade of the 20th century. I read a great deal about the various Albanian migrations in the 15th and 16th centuries, popularly called the Albanian diaspora. I also learned that many of the Albanians who migrated hailed from the Pindus Mountains in Albania. The ones who migrated to Italy are collectively called the Arbëreshë. Here is a link to a great article about them, including a picture of their flag.

Here is a description of the village at:

Piana degli Albanesi is a town founded by Albanians in the 15th century where Albanian culture lives together with the Italian one. It is very famous because of the production of the "cannolo", a Sicilian sweet made of ricotta (a sheep cheese). In Piana degli Albanesi (12 km from Rossella) definitely you'll find the best "cannolo" of the world!

I found my last name at Here is the text from that site where Locascio appears.

Village of: Mezzojuso "Munxifsi" (in T'Arbëresh) (Arabic: "Mensel Jusuph" = English: "Houses or 'hamlet' of Joseph")

Location: Physical Features: History: A small Saracen settlement from about A.D. 10th Century. Passed into Norman hands in 1091 and then granted, by the Norman king Roger II, to Monastery of Saint John the Hermit, of Palermo in 1132. The village was nearly depopulated in the early 15th century. The Monastery of Saint John granted settlement to 48 families of Albanian soldiers under command of the Reres family in 1490.




More interesting links and tidbits to come as I do more Net research. I'm not surprised, considering my affinity, nay, addiction to mountains, that my ancestors come from mountainous terrain.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sunday morning musings

Sunny Sunday cold and white.

Know what I hate about long hair? Getting salsa in it when its down. Know what else? Putting conditioner in it and coming out with a clump of hair that could choke a horse. Guess I should be thankful at 33 to have such thick hair and lovable locks. I'd have cut it long ago, but for all the compliments. Come April I'll shave my beard and cut my hair. When I finally cut it, I'll donate it to Locks of Love. This is the longest my hair's ever been. My last haircut was early August 2003.

Usually, I grow my hair long and keep a beard through the winter, but in the next couple weeks I'm looking for full-time work and must put my best foot forward and all that. And while I look professional with the long hair, it would improve my prospects to mold myself into the cookie cutter corporate flunky image. I'm very good at that. It's been a while since my hair parted on the side. Hmmm... Also, I tend to mark important passages/changes in my life by shaving/clipping my nails/ getting a haircut. But... but... I love my hair too!

Yes. This past week I turned 33. Mom called. My siblings e-mailed. I got a cake. But I spent the entire day in a computer lab preparing a 20-minute speech and powerpoint presentation for my Teaching English as a Second Language practicum. The report, along with attached lessons, clocked in at over 9 pages, single-spaced, 12 point Tahoma font type. Yeowtch! Better get an A, dagnabbit. The presentation went well. I even found an ethnographic map of the language groups for Wendy's home, the Fujian Province in China. I discovered from that map that she comes from the most linguistically diverse area of the Chinese mainland. You've got Hong Kong to the south and Taiwan across the water.

After class was over I walked home in the cold and crashed hard. My salad days are indeed over. I suffered from a cold and fever all week and was in no mood or shape to partay.

33 is my favorite number. Mom was 33 when she had me. I'll become a father at 33. Wasn't Christ 33 during his Sermon on the Mount, Billboard Top 40 heyday? But that's not the reason it's my favorite number. When I was a little kid my Dad got me a huge poster of Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett, number 33. He was my favorite player and the Cowboys my favorite team until age 9 when I read about Vince Lombardi and the Packers supplanted Dorsett and "America's Team." But the favorite number remained. So, here's to the year of my favorite number.

Can't wait for finals to end and I can, for a month at least, go back to reading what I want to read. I've got a few young adult books, like "Speak," "Habibi" and "Monster" to tear through and contemplate for future inclusion in a teaching curriculum. I'd also like to tackle a long classic novel, maybe something by Dostoevsky, either "Brothers Karamazov" or "Anna Karenina," or George Eliot's "Silas Marner" since I liked "Middlemarch" so much. Hmmm.. maybe not Eliot. I've had my share of Victorianism for a while. Not that restraint and repression are necessarily bad. I just need a big, bad ass long book to get lost in a for a few days. Right now I'm on my way to finishing T.C. Boyle's "A Friend of the Earth," a futuristic eco-dystopia novel. Hey, I saw a mention of the Appalachian Trail, and much of the action takes place in California's High Sierras. If I can't see the mountains, at least I can read about them.

I haven't been running lately as school/work/illness pervade, but want to get back into that routine. New Year's resolution: Never let more than a day go between runs.

Well, hey now. Packers-Bears coming up. Pack's season is over. This one's for bragging rights, baby.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Tangled Up in Blue

Talked to Arbo on the phone last night, and he begged off getting together because he said he was "tangled up." That reminded me of that Bob Dylan song. So here's the lyrics to it:

"Tangled up in Blue"
Early one mornin'
the sun was shinin',
I was layin' in bed
Wond'rin' if she'd changed at all
If her hair was still red.
Her folks they said our lives together
Sure was gonna be rough
They never did like Mama's homemade dress
Papa's bankbook wasn't big enough.
And I was standin' on the side of the road
Rain fallin' on my shoes
Heading out for the East Coast
Lord knows I've paid some dues gettin' through,
Tangled up in blue.

She was married when we first met
Soon to be divorced
I helped her out of a jam, I guess,
But I used a little too much force.
We drove that car as far as we could
Abandoned it out West
Split up on a dark sad night
Both agreeing it was best.
She turned around to look at me
As I was walkin' away
I heard her say over my shoulder,
"We'll meet again someday on the avenue,"
Tangled up in blue.

I had a job in the great north woods
Working as a cook for a spell
But I never did like it all that much
And one day the ax just fell.
So I drifted down to New Orleans
Where I happened to be employed
Workin' for a while on a fishin' boat
Right outside of Delacroix.
But all the while I was alone
The past was close behind,
I seen a lot of women
But she never escaped my mind, and I just grew
Tangled up in blue.

She was workin' in a topless place
And I stopped in for a beer,
I just kept lookin' at the side of her face
In the spotlight so clear.
And later on as the crowd thinned out
I's just about to do the same,
She was standing there in back of my chair
Said to me, "Don't I know your name?"
I muttered somethin' underneath my breath,
She studied the lines on my face.
I must admit I felt a little uneasy
When she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe,
Tangled up in blue.

She lit a burner on the stove
and offered me a pipe
"I thought you'd never say hello,"
she said"You look like the silent type."
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century.
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin' coal
Pourin' off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you,
Tangled up in blue.

I lived with them on Montague Street
In a basement down the stairs,
There was music in the cafes at night
And revolution in the air.
Then he started into dealing with slaves
And something inside of him died.
She had to sell everything she owned
And froze up inside.
And when finally the bottom fell outI became withdrawn,
The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keepin' on like a bird that flew,
Tangled up in blue.

So now I'm goin' back again,
I got to get to her somehow.
All the people we used to know
They're an illusion to me now.
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenter's wives.
Don't know how it all got started,
I don't know what they're doin' with their lives.
But me, I'm still on the road
Headin' for another joint
We always did feel the same,
We just saw it from a different point of view,
Tangled up in blue.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The birth of Impressionism

Walter Horatio Pater (1839-94), a quiet Oxford don, gained fame and notoriety upon the publication of his Studies in the History of the Renaissance in 1873. The most famous section of this work is his description of La Gioconda, or The Mona Lisa, by Leonardo Da Vinci (of Da Vinci Code fame -- shudder) . I have not chosen to include that description here, even though it marks the beginning of the age of Impressionism, but have instead included a couple paragraphs that, in my mind, give a greater definition of what it means to be an Impressionist. And for those who think, hey, this Impressionist stuff is way over my head, have you ever heard of the phrase "Art for Art's sake?" That's Impressionism. It is an accessible approach that even a Loves Park hill billy like myself could appreciate.

"The service of philosophy, of speculative culture, towards the human spirit, is to rouse, to startle it to a life of constant and eager observation. Every moment some form grows perfect in hand or face; some tone on the hills or the sea is choicer than the rest; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual excitement is irresistibly real and attractive to us,--for that moment only. Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end. Acounted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life. How may we see in them all that is to seen in them by the finest senses? How shall we pass most swiftly from point to point, and be present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy?To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life. In a sense it might even be said that our failure is to form habits: for, after all, habit is relative to a stereotyped world, and meantime it is only the roughness of the eye that makes any two persons, things, situations, seem alike. While all melts under our feet, we may well grasp at any exquisite passion, or any contribution to knowledge that seems by a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a moment, or any stirring of the senses, strange dyes, strange colours, and curious odours,or work of the artist's hands, or the face of one's friend. Not to discriminate every moment some passionate attitude in those about us, and in the very brilliancy of their gifts some tragicdividing of forces on their ways, is, on this short day of frost andsun, to sleep before evening. With this sense of the splendour ofour experience and of its awful brevity, gathering all we are into one desperate effort to see and touch, we shall hardly have time to make theories about the things we see and touch."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

sick, sick, sick!!

You know what's great?

Being set free from the gravitas of self-importance.

Know what else is great?

Dissolution of ego in the slipstream of time.

" " " " "?

I want to lose myself
sink into the cracks in the pavement
and forget my name.
notice the Japanese beetle that bumps against the ceiling light.
the frost creeping tendrils into the earth.
frogs sleeping in the mud beneath the river.
god Non-god bliss and Mexican polka
a funky-colored hat to ooh over and toss to the sky
la la la la la la
musical introspection
always the beat
the sternum rattling bass thunder

Dillard's disintegrating frog
to eat and be eaten and repeat the vicious cycle anew

my blood knows me not
reads not these words
is a hidden blue stranger
with an agenda foreign to my soul

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Actual musings...

Life's been crazy lately. Fatherhood looms. And, honestly, I'm excited and scared and confused and questioning my abilities -- like leaving on a life-changing journey where the anticipation of leaving is just as life-changing.

Cool events lately:

-- watching the sun rise -- low scuttling clouds, colored from blood red closest to the low-rising sun to purple to faded pink on the western horizon -- Monday morning en route to Kirkland for substitute teaching.

-- I worked as an aide two days last week in Kirkland and helped Dustin ace his geography exam. He even identified correctly where Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia are. We used mnemonics to memorize the location of Lichtenstein and Luxembourg ("Remember: L is for the little countries, also Latvia and Lithuania"). Monday I subbed for the agriculture teacher and had Dustin again. He came up to me at one point and whispered, "I wish you were my aide all the time."

-- Going to Pecatonica forest preserve and checking out a dried ox-bow lake. The lake bed is dried, cracked mud, spongy underfoot, like astroturf, cracked into blocks, dank and fetid like the original gene pool from which we formed spines and rose out of the muck. Saw fish bones and huge clam shells, and on the way out sank up to my knees in mud and spent ten minutes extricating myself (take one step, sink, remove foot, reach in quickly-closing-over hole and retrieve shoe, put shoe back on, mid-air, place foot down again, repeat as necessary to dry land.

-- Running in the early morning and watching the squirrels jump about and play. The native Fox Squirrels, some of the biggest squirrels in the world, are even bigger as they store up winter fat. A lot of swaying bellies sighted on my runs.

-- Practicing idioms with Wendy Tsai, a woman from southern China who has volunteered to let me tutor her for my Teaching English as a Second Language class. Wendy's got enough facility with English that I can teach her without translation and she's ready to take on idioms. The first one I taught her was "schmooze." We're now in the food idioms, like "piece of cake," "mushroom," "pie in the sky," "tough nut to crack" and "in a jam/pickle." Wendy is so enthusiastic about learning. She makes this practicum project easy and fun.

-- Reading Shakespeare. Although I am not Shakespearian (not cut out for high drama), I really love reading the Bard's works. And I admit I haven't read much since high school, so exposing myself to his works now, in my more finely-honed adulthood, has re-introduced me to his genius. I could go on and on, fie, fie, fie. This semester I've read "The Twelfth Night," "Henry V," "Hamlet," and "Measure for Measure." Still have to read "The Tempest," though it's no longer required. I just want to do it for extra credit.

-- Spent all day last Saturday -- it was rainy, wet and cold -- reading the last 300 pages of George Eliot's "Middlemarch." I haven't given myself over to a book that completely since August, when I tore through "The Ice Master : The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk" by Jennifer Niven. "Middlemarch" was quoted in both papers due for my 19th C. British prose class.

I am going to apply for an aide position in the DeKalb School District. I'll start the paper trail as soon as finals are done. My class schedule next semester is three classes, all after 3 p.m. With baby on the way, full-time work looms. I'll probably work full-time all of 2006, which is part of my grand master plan, which is why I'm earning 27 credit hours (18 graduate) this year. Next year I'm slated to take nine hours in the spring, then clinicals and a methods course in the fall, more clinicals and methods course spring '07, student teaching in the fall. Spring '08, seemingly far off in the distance, I will have a master's degree and be certified to teach English, with a history endorsement (yes, I earned enough history credits as an undergrad to qualify for an endorsement, which means I can teach history classes too) in the State of Illinois.

Short-term my goal is to work a first or third-shift job this spring and summer and a second or third shift position in the fall. But, overall, work full-time all of '06 with a few side projects thrown in, like finishing up my Rock River adventure and going on a few long weekend hikes.

Substitute teaching is nice. The experiences help prepare me to be a regular teacher. But the work is too sporadic. I'm only working a couple days a week right now, which is fine, considering my schedule, but I definitely need more and regular work. Imagine that! A regular paycheck. Financial planning. Whodathunk?

Many other events happening right now that I don't feel like sharing, yet.... maybe later. Maybe not. Who knows? The Shadow knows.

Song: Bowling for Soup -- "1985"
Book: Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure"
Food: baclava
Emotion: Perpetual confusion and amazement over life's little miracles

Monday, November 14, 2005

More Esther pregnancy photos

Esther at 33 weeks

Esther's done the rounds with the baby showers. I think she's had three, not including the Mobile Skills Crew surprise party in October. These pictures were taken Saturday, Nov. 12, at Forest Hills Free Church in Rockford. Thanks to her sister, Dorothy, for the photos. Ever since I dunked our Canon Elph in the Rock River I've been without a camera.
Misty and Esther

Esther and the "Lil' Louie" cake

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

John Ruskin, pre-Raphaelite art

(John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1852)

So I'm working on this paper about materialism in the Victorian age and, coincidental to that, I keep finding all this information about one of the leading poets and architectural/art critics of the age, John Ruskin.

A few weeks ago a friend showed me some prints by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, a Pre-Raphaelite artist. I had heard of Pre-Raphaelite art, but did not know much about it. So, I went to my favorite web sources, Wikipedia and, and, well, here's a paste from Wikipedia:

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (also known as the Pre-Raphaelites) was a group of English painters, poets and critics, founded in 1848 by John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt.
The group's intention was to reform art by rejecting what they considered to be the mechanistic approach adopted by the Mannerist artists who followed Raphael and Michelangelo. They believed that the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on academic teaching of art. Hence the name "Pre-Raphaelite". In particular they objected to the influence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the founder of the English Royal Academy of Arts. They called him 'Sir Sloshua', believing that his sloppy technique was a formulaic and clichéd form of academic Mannerism. In contrast they wanted to return to the abundant detail, intense colours, and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art.

In 1850 the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood became controversial after the exhibition of Millais's painting "Christ in the House of His Parents", considered to be blasphemous by many reviewers, notably Charles Dickens. Their medievalism was attacked as backward-looking and their extreme devotion to detail was condemned as ugly and jarring to the eye. According to Dickens, Millais made the Holy Family look like alcoholics and slum-dwellers, adopting contorted and absurd 'medieval' poses. A rival group of older artists, The Clique, also used their influence against the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Their principles were publicly attacked by the President of the Academy, Sir Charles Lock Eastlake.
However, the Brotherhood found support from the critic John Ruskin, who praised their devotion to nature and rejection of conventional methods of composition. He continued to support their work both financially and in his writings.

Monday, October 31, 2005

From "In Memoriam"

We talked about the debate over Darwinism in my 19th C. British Prose class tonight, and this poem by Tennyson speaks to that, but it also spoke to me personally, thus I share it with the vastly uninterested blogosphere.

O, yet we trust that somehow good
will be the final goal of ill,
To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;

That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroyed,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete;

That not a worm is cloven in vain;
That not a moth with vain desire
Is shrivelled by a fruitless fire
Or but subserves another's gain.

Behold, we know not anything,
I can but trust that good shall fall,
At last -- far off -- at last, to all,
And every winter turn to spring.

So runs my dream, but what am I?
An infant crying in the night,
An infant crying for the light,
And with no language but a cry.

The true story

The true story lies
among other stories,

a mess of colours, like jumbled clothing
thrown off or away...

The true story is vicious
and multiple and untrue

after all. Why do you
need it? Don't ever

ask for the true story."

Margaret Atwood, from "True Stories"

All Hollow's Eve

Late night... Can't sleep... Watched the movie version of "Wuthering Heights." I read the book on the Appalachian Trail in 2000. Remember finishing it after a day of hiking in the rain. The next day I heard about "Crash" dying. So much death, pain, suffering, darkness. Life teems beneath it all, happy and exultant, bursting through snow crust to break free from a long winter of discontent.

We invent this costumed holiday, an excuse for masquerade, revelry, a celebration of the macabre, an acknowledgment of our brief time on this mortal coil. Everything dies. The harvest store is soon consumed. The next year's harvest lays dormant in the ground, patient. Everything that lives feeds on the living and the dead. We are all grinning skulls, bones to be bleached.

Epidermal Macabre
by Theodore Roethke

Indelicate is he who loathes
The aspect of his fleshy clothes, --
The flying fabric stitched on bone,
The vesture of the skeleton,
The garment neither fur nor hair,
The cloak of evil and despair,
The veil long violated by
Caresses of the hand and eye.
Yet such is my unseemliness:
I hate my epidermal dress,
The savage blood's obscenity,
The rags of my anatomy,
And willingly would I dispense
With false accoutrements of sense,
To sleep immodestly, a most
Incarnadine and carnal ghost.

"With a great effort the Don opened his eyes to see his son once more. The massive heart attack had turned his face almost blue. He was in extremis. He smelled the garden, the yellow shield of light smote his eyes, and he whispered, "Life is so beautiful."He was spared the sight of his women's tears, dying before they came back from church, dying before the ambulance arrived, or the doctor. He died surrounded by men, holding the hand of the son he had most loved....Michael observed [the funeral] with a tight, polite smile. He was not impressed. Yet, he thought, if I can die saying, "Life is so beautiful," then nothing else is important. If I can believe in myself that much, nothing else matters."

Mario Puzo, "The Godfather"

"Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves."

"Is Mr. Heathcliff a man? If so, is he mad? And if not, is he a devil?"

"You said I killed you - haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always - take any form - drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!" Emily Bronte, "Wuthering Heights"

"I stand in awe of my body, this matter to which I am bound has become so strange to me. I fear not spirits, ghosts, of which I am one, that my body might, but I fear bodies, I tremble to meet them. What is this Titan that has possession of me? Talk of mysteries! Think of our life in nature, daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it, rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! The solid earth! the actual world! the common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? where are we?" -- Henry David Thoreau "Ktaadn"

Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word,Lenore?,
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word,"Lenore!" Merely this, and nothing more. --Edgar Allan Poe "The Raven"

Friday, October 28, 2005

Return to Forever

Chick Corea -- Return to Forever

(ECM 1022 78118-21022-2)USA 1972
Chick Corea, electric piano; Joe Farrell, flutes, soprano sax; Flora Purim, vocal, percussion; Stanley Clarke, electric bass, double bass; Airto Moreira, drums, percussion

1. Return to Forever — 12:06
2. Crystal Silence — 6:55
3. What Game Shall We Play Today — 4:26
4. Sometime Ago - La Fiesta — 23:18
total time 46:51

Return to Forever holds a very special place in my musical pantheon because it was released the year I was born has been a part of my life since childhood.

I first listened to this album when I checked it out from North Suburban Library in Loves Park, IL, when I was a kid. I liked the cover, which features a seagull flying across the ocean, and then fell in love with the electric piano stylings of Corea. The sound on these tracks tread that thin nether region between festive and contemplative. I put this album on when I'm in a good mood, and after a difficult day when I want to escape to another world.

In 1989 I played "La Fiesta," or at least the bass part, as a member of the Phantom Regiment Cadets. It is one of the toughest bass parts I've ever played, and to this day, especially when exercising, I'll play my part over and over again in my head. York F. and I were the only two contra basses in the corps, and we worked our asses off in sectionals to get it right. It's an awesome Latin groove.

This album kicked off my interest in jazz fusion, that marriage of jazz and rock in the early 1970s oft-vilified by jazz purists. Return to Forever led me to Weather Report, Bitches Brew era Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Billy Cobham, Carlos Santana and Herbie Hancock.

The title track, Crystal Silence, begins with two notes spaced a fifth apart, on that delicious, almost vibraphonic electric piano. The song has two movements that begin slow and contemplative, then kick out the jams. My only complaint is Flora Purim's vocals, which can be distracting and lyrically hoaky (Sometime ago/I had a dream/ It was laughing/ It was happy/ It was free).

This album should be played after dinner on Friday nights, after a night out on the town, Sunday mornings and anytime when studying. Below are some other reviews more erudite than my own.

From Ground and Sky reviews

Regardless, this ECM release is amazing, and with its extended, structured compositions presents another blurring of the line between fusion and progressive rock. It is more "organic" sounding than later RTF efforts, with a sparse but intimate electric piano/winds/vocals/drums set-up. This album could be a rare instance where we might actually catch Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira behind a traditional drum kit, and whether that is indeed the case or not, boy does he deliver, informing with powerful, celebratory samba rhythms. The title track that opens the album is a sort of mini-Pictures at an Exhibition, with two highly melodic, intense jams bordered by an uneasy, ghostly "Promenade"-type theme. As you would guess, "Crystal Silence" is delicately executed, and even "What Game Shall We Play Today," with its cliched lyrics and obvious attempt at accessibility, still manages some neat interplay and chord progressions that one wouldn't expect in the typical pop songs of the day. The final track, "Sometime Ago - La Fiesta" drives the entire thing home, with a captivating vocal performance from Flora Purim and a frenzied Latino closing. Superb musicianship on all parts (especially Corea) makes this one deserve to be in every fusion fans collection without a doubt.

Unlike the rock-oriented subsequent lineups of Return to Forever, the original group played a fusion of jazz and Latin music that doesn't sound as dated. Corea's electric piano is the dominant sound on the album, but apart from some occasional plugged-in bass the record is otherwise acoustic. Pairing the acoustic instrumentation with Corea's electric piano and Stanley Clarke's lightning-fast bass gives the music a character that is both organic and futuristic; with material that sometimes exhibits a strong Latin influence, the effect can be a thoroughly engrossing contrast. The exuberant, "La Fiesta," for example, could be arranged for a more traditional ensemble of horns and a nylon guitar and those south of the border would be none the wiser. The chilly sustain of the electric piano, however, adds an opaque modern monochromaticity and the keyboard's inherent potential as the ultimate improvisational tool enables Corea to give the music a superior level of melodic and harmonic sophistication. The influences are thus transcended and the result is something new entirely.
The other tunes — and these are tunes, not just jams — are more atmospheric, though no lesser of achievements. "La Fiesta" may be one of the most irresistibly melodic fusion songs ever recorded, but the title track is my favorite piece by this configuration of Return to Forever. Corea lays comparatively low on much of the track, playing repetitive clusters that, complemented by the steady force of Stanley Clark's wicked, trebly bass pattern, Joe Farrell's flute and Flora Purim's ghostly vocals, creates a simultaneously creepy and pretty sound that is almost Krautrock-like. "Crystal Silence" is a drifting meditation between Corea and Farrell (now on soprano sax) that equals the best of similar efforts from Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter in Weather Report. "What Game Shall We Play Today" is a melodic, breezy vocal tune made all the more appealing by the context of the rest of the album, as it demonstrates how easily the band's approach translated to the format of a more conventional pop-song. The medley "Sometime Ago/La Fiesta" is a great 23-minute excursion that brings the album to its conclusion. "Sometime Ago" begins slowly, with Corea's sparse keyboard phrases providing the backdrop for some excellent acoustic basswork by Stanley Clarke. Clarke's plucking becomes faster and more intricate, building tension before switching to a frenzied bowing. Then there's a lull and Corea introduces the song's melody — a total change of pace, but a turn that follows logically from the construction of the previous portion. This part of the song is a samba-inflected vocal tune, though more in character overall with "Return to Forever" than "What Game Shall We Play Today." Corea improvises lightly over the melody and eventually segues into the thrilling "La Fiesta," which piles melody and improvisation on top of each other to build an impressive crescendo.

From an NPR transcript from Aug. 1, 2000, from the Basic Jazz Record Library

A.B. SPELLMAN, National Endowment for the Arts: Murray Horwitz, this is Chick Corea in 1972 -- a transitional period for jazz, is it not?
MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: "Transitional" may be a kind way to say it, A.B. It's not what you'd call the golden age of jazz in America. But it might have been the beginning of a golden era for the influences of world music on jazz, and jazz becoming much more of an international art form.
SPELLMAN: Yes, and we also had electronic instruments coming into it. Every age makes its own instrument and the previous age puts them down, I've found, but here we have Chick Corea on a very great electric piano record.
HORWITZ: It's true and it's electric piano is not used in any way as a gimmick but really fits the musical mood of this CD.
HORWITZ: In the early '70s, there was a lot going on in music. There was rock and roll, there was the sort of long solos you got in avant garde jazz, and there were weird things happening in classical music. There was a lot of electronic music and new production techniques in pop music. And there were all these attempts to synthesize all this, and this CD is one of the most successful -- I'd argue fully successful. The CD is Return to Forever.
SPELLMAN: Chick Corea seems to have chosen some musicians of disparate backgrounds, but who were all masters in their medium or in their styles, is that not so?
HORWITZ: And some of them were very young masters. There was Stanley Clarke, the bassist, who had played at the age of -- I'm not certain of this -- eighteen or something with Stan Getz. There's the incredible virtuosic Latin-American percussionist Aerto Morera, and the Brazilian singer, Flora Purim. And from the United States, the saxophonist and flutist Joe Farell.
SPELLMAN: Now, this record has what as its quality? What do people listen for here?
HORWITZ: A.B., I think that it has to do with what we talked about briefly: the synthesis. The fact that in Chick Corea, there was a compositional sensibility that could pull all these things together, but always with a terrific rhythmic pulse. I mean, people can argue. Does this swing? Does it rock? Does it do neither? Something is going on rhythmically that keeps the whole thing together at all times. And it works all the way through in a variety of grooves, including the terrific--I guess I'll call it a "Latin number" -- "Fiesta."
SPELLMAN: The selection that we are recommending for your Basic Jazz Record Library today is Chick Corea's Return to Forever. It's available on ECM Records.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

An "Ode to Healing"

A scab
is a beautiful thing - a coin
the body has minted, with an invisible motto:
In God We Trust.
Our body loves us,
and, even while the spirit drifts dreaming,
works at mending the damage that we do.

Close your eyes, knowing
that healing is a work of darkness,
that darkness is a gown of healing,
that the vessel of our tremulous venture is lifted
by tides we do not control.
Faith is health's requisite:
we have this fact in lieu of better proof of le bon Dieu.

-from "Ode to Healing" by John Updike

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Trail song

The first track on Genesis' "A Trick of the Tail," "Dance On A Volcano," is one of my favorite "trail" songs, one that went through my head often, especially in dicey situations like brutal, roaring creek crossings or above treeline in gale force winds after dark.

I like the back story to this song. "Trick..." was the first album Genesis released in 1976 after the departure of lead singer Peter Gabriel. Everyone thought the band was through when Gabriel left, because his theatrical flamboyance and unique lyrical and vocal stylings really gave the band a signature sound. So, "Dance on a Volcano" was the listening public's introduction to Phil Collins as lead singer. The song is a bold statement, a reminder to Phil and the rest of the group that, hey, they "better start doing it right." And they did. The band's popularity soared, reaching its apex with "Invisible Touch" in 1986.

Collins has since sold out and now does soundtracks for Disney cartoons. He was once a great drummer and, as the public discovered with "Trick of the Tail," a pretty good lead singer too.

Holy mother of god
You’ve got to go faster than that to get to the top.
Dirty old mountain
All covered in smoke, she can turn you to stone
So you better start doing it right
Better start doing it right.

You’re halfway up and you’re halfway down
And the pack on your back is turning you around.
Throw it away, you won’t need it up there, and remember
You don’t look back whatever you do.
Better start doing it right.

On your left and on your right
Crosses are green and crosses are blue
Your friends didn’t make it through.
Out of the night and out of the dark
Into the fire and into the fight
Well that’s the way the heroes go, ho! ho! ho!

Through a crack in mother earth,
Blazing hot, the molten rock
Spills out over the land.
And the lava’s the lover who licks your boots away. hey! hey! hey!
If you don’t want to boil as well.
B-b-better start the dance
D-d-do you want to dance with me.
You better start doing it right.

The music’s playing, the notes are right
Put your left foot first and move into the light.
The edge of the stage is the edge of the world
And if you’re going to cross you better start doing it right
Better start doing it right.
You better start doing it right.

Let the dance begin.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The story of Atalanta

This is the favorite Greek myth of a friend of mine:

Atalanta is the female athlete in Greek myth. It is unclear exactly where Atalanta comes from, some sources say that she came from Arcadia and was the daughter of Iasus and Clymene, but Hesiod and other sources attributes Atalanta's origin to Boeotia where her father is Schoeneus. The contradiction over Atalanta's birth contributes to the assumption that there were two mythic women that were merged into one person.

Whoever Atalanta's father was, he wanted a boy so bad that when Atalanta was born, he exposed her on a hill were she was suckled by a she bear, sent by Artemis, until a group of hunters found her and raised her to womanhood. Atalanta, like Artemis, loved to hunt.
Atalanta is best known for participation in male activities while at the same time having an aura of sexuality surrounding her. For example, some sources say that Atalanta was one of the crewmembers of the Argonaut. Atalanta was even wounded in a battle with the Colchians and was healed by Medea, who was also on the voyage. But at the same time, other sources say that Jason refused to let Atalanta go on the voyage because she was a woman.
One male activity Atalanta definitely participated in was the Calydonian Boar Hunt. Other male members of the hunt objected to her presence, but consumed with lust, Meleager insisted that Atalanta be allowed to join. During the hunt, centaurs Hylaeus and Rhaecus tried to rape Atalanta. Atalanta killed both of them, thus the first bloodshed of the Calydonian Boar Hunt was human.
Atalanta shot the first arrow to pierce the boar. Because of this, Meleager gave Atalanta the boar's pelt. This resulted in even more human bloodshed, Meleager's two uncles protested to Atalanta receiving the pelt, so Meleager killed them. When Meleager's mother heard that Meleager had killed her brothers, she threw an enchanted log on the fire, once the log finished burning Meleager would die.
After Atalanta's success at the boar hunt, Atalanta's father, Iasus or Schoeneus, was proud and claimed her as his daughter. Atalanta was reconciled with her father. Since Atalanta was now a princess, Iasus wanted Atalanta to marry. Atalanta had been warned not to marry by the Oracle. Atalanta came up with a witty plan that would stop her from having to marry. She would race the suitors, the one who beat her in the foot race would be the lucky man to marry her, but if she won, she could kill the man. Atalanta made the bargain knowing that no one could beat her. One day a racer, Melanion or to some sources Hippomenes, fell in love with Atalanta and wanted to marry her, but he knew he could not beat her so he called on Aphrodite, the love goddess, for assistance. Aphrodite provided Melanion with three golden apples to entice Atalanta. During the race, whenever Atalanta would get ahead of Melanion, he would roll one of the golden apples forward, forcing a curious Atalanta to stop and pick the apple up. Atalanta's frequent stops gave Melanion the advantage he needed and he won the race and Atalanta's hand in marriage.
Once married, it seems that Atalanta could not contain her inhibitions any longer, for one day she allowed Melanion to seduce her in the temple of Zeus. Zeus was so angered that he turned them into lions. This was a fitting punishment because lions can not mate with each other.
Atalanta has a son named Parthenopaeus (son of a pierced maidenhead). Once again, there is a dispute as to who the father is. Some sources say that Atalanta had an affair with Meleagar, other sources attribute Parthenopaues to Ares or Melanion. Parthenpaoues was active in the war known as the Seven Against Thebes.

Bad Day

"Bad Day" by Daniel Powter

Where is the moment we need at the most
You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost
They tell me your blue skies fade to grey
They tell me your passion's gone away
And I don't need no carryin' on
You stand in the line just to hit a new low
You're faking a smile with the coffee to go
You tell me your life's been way off line
You're falling to pieces everytime
And I don't need no carryin' on
Cause you had a bad day
You're taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don't know
You tell me don't lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
The camera don't lie
You're coming back down and you really don't mind
You had a bad day
You had a bad day
Well you need a blue sky holiday
The point is they laugh at what you say
And I don't need no carryin' on
You had a bad day
You're taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don't know
You tell me don't lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
The camera don't lie
You're coming back down and you really don't mind
You had a bad day
(Oh.. Holiday..)
Sometimes the system goes on the blink
And the whole thing turns out wrong
You might not make it back and you know
That you could be well oh that strong
And I'm not wrong
So where is the passion when you need it the most
Oh you and I
You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost
Cause you had a bad day
You're taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don't know
You tell me don't lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
You've seen what you like
And how does it feel for one more time
You had a bad day
You had a bad day

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Arbole! Trees! Colors! Showy death!

Fall colors have arrived in DeKalb. The sugar maples display a bright red. I love that scientists can explain how leaves change color, but not why? The ostentatious dying show serves no detectable natural purpose. Until some scientist ruins all the fun, fall colors still reside in realm of the aesthetic, the poetic. I wouldn't want it any other way.

Fall is my favorite season, despite or maybe because of the decay. My allergies are gone, the bugs are all but dead. Fall is a time for rolling in raked leaves, apple cider, pumpkin carving, cool nights, cool days. Rubbing hands by the fire. Steaming coffee. Back to the hearth with winter's store put up. Yeah, no pastoral scenes for apartment-dwelling me, but I know not far away, out in the country, in some country, maybe not DeKalb county, but, shoot, somewhere, third world, first world, second, there's someone actually subsisting on an honest season's bounty.

I found a cool tree the other day and identified it as an American Elm. It's a rare find because the once-abundant giants are decimated by Dutch Elm Disease.

I once wrote a story about a Boy Scout project in Antigo, WI, to re-establish a new disease-resistant elm, The American Liberty Elm. The article consisted of driving out to the wastewater treatment plant on a cloudy day to talk to a troop of kids wearing garden gloves, dirty kneed as they planted neat rows of saplings on adjacent land. The kids were tough interviews. Sons of potato farmers. A stoic, self-effacing lot. Teenagers. Tough quotes.

But the American Elm holds a special place in my heart. The remnant survivors are reminders of a shadier, verdant past of shaded tree columns along brick-paved streets. Sorry, I'm a bit of an anachronism, pining (ha!) for a past I never knew.

A world with more trees is a better place. Call me a tree hugger. It's an apt description. I've got the sap to prove it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Andrew Wyeth, Christina's World, and my grandparent's house

My grandpa Bob Smith built a house on a hill in Loves Park, IL. In the living room of that house was a print of this painting by Andrew Wyeth. When we finished the Appalachian Trail in 2000, our friend Trainwreck took us to Rockland, ME, to the Andrew Wyeth Gallery, where I saw the actual print. It was then I learned Christina is disabled. I didn't pay enough attention as a child to notice how thin her ankles were, and probably would not have noticed as an adult without the help of an explanatory placard. Later that day, after seeing this print, we drove by the actual hill, not far from Trainwreck's family's seaside cabin. It looks a lot like the hill my grandpa built a house on.

Here's an article about the painting, its location and Wyeth.

From good ol' Wikipedia:

Christina's World

"Christina's World"
Christina's World is the most famous work by American painter Andrew Wyeth, and one of the best-known American paintings of the 20th century. Painted in 1948, this tempera work is displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
It shows a woman named Christina, who had an undiagnosed muscular deterioration that paralyzed her lower body, dragging herself across the ground to pick flowers from her garden.
The house, in Cushing, Maine still stands, although Wyeth took artistic license in its depiction, separating the barn from the house and changing the lay of the land. Wyeth used his wife, Betsy, as a model. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Weather lesson and more?

Good friend Chris Arbizzani is on an epic journey out west, car camping and exploring. He sends really great e-mails that go into detail describing the people and places he's seen. And, because he's something of a geology buff and weather nut, he tends to go into greater detail about those subjects. Here is an interesting tidbit I gleaned from his latest post, culled, of course, because it has something remotely to do with mountains:

Meteorology Lesson: How can a snowstorm happen in Colorado in October? I am going to try to explain the phenomenon the best I can, it can get kind of technical, but is interesting.
A large snowstorm is happening all across the high country of Colorado. It may seem odd, because there are no other major winter storms in the country, and in fact, temperatures all around here are much warmer. There are a number of specific weather phenomenon that have to occur together to form a storm like this one. The escence of all weather phenomenon is Air Pressure. High Pressure generaly means fair weather, and Low Pressure often means storms. The contrast between pressure systems produces wind, and often precipitation. In North America, most Low Pressure System come down from the north, with the notable exception of hurricanes. In this case, a Low pressure system has stalled over Colorado, called by Meteorologists a "Cut off Low", as there is higher pressure all around it, and no significant colder or warmer air mass behind it. The Low is stalled over the mountains, creating the specific conditions needed for large amounts of precipitation. Storms in the Northern Hemisphere rotate counter-clockwise (you may remember this from the satelite photos of hurricanes), and suck air into them because of the pressure difference. Moist air is being drawn into the storm from the southeast, and east. Cold air is being drawn in primarily from higher in the atmosphere, a normal, and common occurence with storms. In the flatlands, the colder air is kept 5 or 10 thouseand feet or greater, up in the air, making the storm a rain event. Due to elevation, the mountains interact with parts of the storm that would otherwise never touch the ground, thus producing snow. Another factor related to elevation is the difference between warm and cool air. The air out on the great plains of Kansas and South Dakota is comparatively warmer than the air on the mountains. The rotation of the storm forces the warmer air from the plains, via a strong northeast wind, to be forced up the front range mountains. As the air rises, it cools, and condences water out of it, forming clouds. The already cold upper air causes the clouds to almost immediately create precipitation. So we esentialy have large range of conditions present in this storm, it is really something for the textbooks.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Raru runs the Chicago Marathon

Yes. I ran the Chicago Marathon, my first, on Sunday. I didn't plan to run it because I hadn't followed the training regimen I laid out for myself, and in fact finished almost an hour slower than my desired time of four hours. But I finished it, and that's enough of an accomplishment for now. Next year I know I will do better. I still may not be able to beat my brother Ken, who has more of a runner's physique than me, but I'd like to come a little closer.

Pace: 11:22

Overall: 25279
Gender: 15473
Division: 2640

I really enjoyed seeing downtown Chicago and the surrounding neighborhoods from the middle of the street. My favorite ethnic neighborhood was Chinatown because the streets were closely-packed with people and all the restaurants have cool banners and colorful signs in Chinese symbols. The gays of Boystown put on a great drag revue, and numerous blues bands entertained the runners. Towards the end of the race my fatigue and pain kept me from appreciating the scenery, but the crowd cheered me onward and kept me from giving up.

I went into the race with the plan to pull out around mile 10, close to Ken's apartment. But I felt so good at that point that I decided to keep going. And when I reached mile 15 I figured, why not tough it out and finish this thing. Though I was sore and aching at that point, I had no reason to stop going. My trail-hardened legs carried me all the way to the finish line.

I found a spot under a tree off Buckingham Fountain and rested while I watched a small bird go about its business of feeding and chirping with its neighbors. Ken said running a marathon is like hitting yourself in the face repeatedly with a red rubber ball, like in that great movie, "I (heart) Huckabees." In the movie, the characters report not being able to think for about 30 seconds. After the marathon, I entered this non-state of restive bliss for a good half an hour before hobbling to my feet and making my way to the State Street L for the Red Line back out to Ken's.

It's not every day I get to check off an accomplishment from my Life List of things-to-do.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Sartor Resartus’s influence on Transcendentalism

Below is the first paper for my English 562 class. I like it enough to include here, but unless you're a religious history, Victorian prose or back-to-nature freak like me, you may not find much interest in it, so be warned.

American Transcendentalism became a mainstream cultural phenomenon with the publication of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature in 1836. But the unique, almost reactionary tone of American Transcendentalism is strongly influenced by German Transcendentalism, particularly the works of Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814), a German philosopher who developed a transcendental philosophy called Wissenschaftslehre, which, loosely translated, means “doctrine of science,” a strange word to inspire an American philosophical belief system that rejected pure reason, a requisite of scientific thought. The conduit of this German philosophy was through none other than a Scotsman, Thomas Carlyle, and his first major work, Sartor Resartus (1831).
This paper will examine quotes from Sartor Resartus and juxtapose them with the tenets of Transcendentalism as outlined by Emerson in his paper, “The Transcendentalist.” Of course, the relationship between Carlyle and Emerson must be taken into consideration, and quotes from their 38-year correspondence (1834-72) will interpose into this context. This paper does not argue that Carlyle was a Transcendentalist, or that he even allied himself with the movement. In many instances, the views of the Transcendentalist movement, especially regarding work, contradict Carlyle’s views. Sartor Resartus had a long-lasting influence on the American Transcendentalist movement and many key phrases proved particularly influential.
Carlyle writes that Herr Teufelsdrockh was above society and looked at men with a “strange impartiality” and “at all Matter and Material things as Spirit; whereby truly his were the more hopeless, the more lamentable” (Carlyle 23). This quote corresponds with Emerson’s tenet that a Transcendentalist must “shun general society” and “accept spiritual doctrine” (Emerson). Teufelsdrockh’s philosophy of clothes is based on the idea that society is a false construct based solely on outside dress. “The world, with its loud trafficking, retires into the distance… and you are alone with the Universe, and silently commune with it, as one mysterious Presence with another” (Carlyle 40). Carlyle believes that once clothes are removed, society, and particularly its class system, falls away.
Emerson’s Transcendentalism shunned general society and placed greater emphasis on the idea that reality “originates from an ‘unknown center’ inside” oneself (Emerson). Contrast this with Teufelsdrockh, who says that “Matter exists only spiritually, and to represent some Idea, and body it forth… what is Man himself, and his whole terrestrial Life, but an Emblem; a clothing or visible Garment for that divine Me of his, cast hither, like a light-particle, down from Heaven?” What does Emerson mean by “unknown center?” Is it the same as Teufelsdrockh’s “divine Me?” Both phrases contend that the external reality is merely a manifestation of divine will, though the nature of that divinity is unclear.
Carlyle’s Teufelsdrockh shares an affinity with Transcendentalism regarding the concept of wonder. Emerson says that Transcendentalism is “childlike, joyous, affectionate, susceptible” (Emerson). Carlyle writes: “The man who cannot wonder… is but a Pair of Spectacles behind which there is no Eye” (52). Carlyle criticizes pure reason as a dead analytical tool, and that under Logic “man’s mind becomes an Arithmetical Mill, whereof Memory is the Hopper… Thought without Reverence is barren, perhaps poisonous…” One must be mindful, though, that while Emerson seemed to reject pure reason for an almost pure intuition, Carlyle doesn’t seem to step so far to one polar extreme or another. Reason has its place, but it must be reason with heart. Both seem alarmed at the mechanistic bent of a growing industrial revolution and cling to their own semblances of divinity in favor of humanity over machinery. But while Emerson, and, more famously, Thoreau, rejected society for a retreat in nature’s solitude, Carlyle’s Teufelsdrockh returns to civilization after his mountaintop retreat, where he gazed “over those stupendous masses with wonder, almost with longing desire…” (117).
In a letter to Emerson, dated May 13, 1835, Carlyle wrote that “Transcendentalism evolve itself (if I construe aright) as the Euthanasia of Metaphysic altogether. May it be sure, may it be Speedy.” Carlyle calls Emerson’s Boston Transcendentalism “an interesting symptom” and “I shall cordially wish well to this thing.” But despite numerous entreaties by Emerson, Carlyle never ventured overseas and never gave open consent to a movement he never saw firsthand. He begged off overseas travel, citing the health of his wife, Jane Welsh Carlyle, and that she did not even fare well crossing the English Channel.
Later, in a letter dated August 30, 1840, Emerson comments on the first issue of the “Dial,” which is being attacked by numerous newspapers and magazines. Emerson asks for Carlyle’s endorsement: “But they would hardly be able to fasten on so huge a man as you are any party badge. We must hear you for ourselves.” Carlyle responds, in a letter dated September 26, 1840, that the “Dial” is too “ethereal, speculative, theoretic: all theory becomes more and more confessedly inadequate, untrue, unsatisfactory, almost a kind of mockery to me!” But he later writes that the voices in the “Dial” are “worth listening to among the rest.” Surely, not a ringing endorsement of the primary publication of Transcendentalism, but neither a stinging rejection. The fit between Carlyle and Emerson’s Transcendentalism is never as tight as Emerson would like.
Though Carlyle was only seven years older than Emerson, he was a spiritual mentor to the American philosopher. Did Emerson fawn over Carlyle to get his endorsement and add continental legitimacy to his movement? The quote from Sartor Resartus that most allies itself with Transcendentalism and also delineates Carlyle’s cling to some semblance of scientific reason is: “It is a mathematical fact that the casting of this pebble from my hand alters the centre of the Universe” (Carlyle 186). Everything about this quote falls into Emerson’s philosophy, but that one stinging word, “mathematical.” This is emblematic. Sartor Resartus is so close to being a Transcendental text. Its idea that man has the will the reject evil has also labeled it an existential text. But Sartor Resartus, like its enigmatic, shape-shifting protagonist, Teufelsdrockh, refuses such easy classification.

Works cited

Carlyle, Thomas. Sartor Resartus. Boston: Dana Estes & Company. 1901. (1831).
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “The Transcendentalist.” From
Correspondence between Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thomas Carlyle at under “Old Friends: The Correspondence of Thomas Carlyle and Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1834-1872: Volune I and Volume II.”

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Some original poems

I finished one of my journals about a month ago and, since I have it my bag and want to get some of its contents out of my system, here is some poetry it contains.

"Verbatum transcriptum"

vocal scat nonsense
phonics rattle
echo off the drywall
words fly
uttered into shape
violent form
whose hidden meanings
soar on thermal jets
and glisten in the sun

"mosquito buzz"

There's no surface place
they've not touched
But there may be hidden depths
beneath the surface
under the mantle crust
inaccessible thicknesses
and pressures
pure and shielded
from intrusion, presence

But... then...
an electromagnetic probe
the first debasement
the first measure, scrutiny. quantity
plumbed, a mark on a chart
in wait to be conquered
as frontier

"Basement dreams on a hundred degree day"

Curly hair, the rattle of the dehumidifier
a stack of comics, wood panelling, a recliner
Weird War Stories
the skull of death smiles
has no choice
as tiny soldiers cling to its teeth
sling ropes and pitons
scale into the abyss
of its laughing maw


Rows of arid, withered corn
flash by
as off across the fields
a modern tower
blazes orange
but no smoke
just sunset on steel
over faded green

"Power of One"

Harness the sun with one bite.
Shake loose the fetters of energy.
Improbably normal
what years ago we never knew existed.
Powerful chains of reason
know what is the true
know the desire of our hearts before we do.
We may deny its existence
This passive, tendriled creature
shows us the way in spite of ourselves.

"Lanesboro, MN"

Saturday night
acoustics in the park
bikers, campers, picnic tables
gazebo, bottles of wine
young spirit on guitar
sings energetic, bittersweet
songs to elderly too poor
for anything but free
Babies in strollers
soccer balls, frisbee motion, polite claps
Dreams of stardom


Choctaw revo- revolution
sing song
There is no world peace solution
ding dong
Synthetic at the core
Frenetic to the bone
permabound confusion
sing song

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Tropicalia e saudade

Very quickly, because I am running out of time at the library. During my last two semesters as an undergraduate, I took Portuguese as my foreign language because it was considered an "exotic" language and was offered in two 5-credit hour semesters, thus allowing me to fulfill my foreign language requirement and graduate.

Years later, at the Rockford Public Library I came across a collection of Brazilian music compiled by David Byrne, Brazil Classics Vol. 1, Beleza Tropical. I loved that album so much that I burned it for myself and went on to get solo CDs by many of the artists featured on it, including Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Tom Ze. The more I look into this highly politicized genre of music, the more I realize how rich it is, primarily because it is a chronicle of a poor, polyglot culture that historically is beat down by a reigning power elite. Can any of modern America's pop divas match tropicalia for desperate, heartfelt feeling. Gotta go. More later. enjoy

Brazilian Tropicalia

In 1967, singer/composers Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso introduce a new sound in Brazilian music, inspired as much by Jimi Hendrix and Chuck Berry as by mellow bossa nova. Along with rock musicians Os Mutantes and Tom Ze, they produce a startling collective record, Tropícalía ou Panís et Círcensís (Tropicalia or Bread and Circuses), that mingles traditional Brazilian rhythms with electric guitars and psychedelic flourishes. Their often humorous lyrics poke fun at Brazil's consumer society and other aspects of the contemporary culture.

Many Brazilians see the music as an adulteration of Brazil's musical birthright by an American aesthetic. On occasion, Veloso performs to so many boos, he stops midsong. Nevertheless, over the next year, the Tropicalistas develop a cult following that begins to spread to an entire generation inspired by their music and spirit.

Brazil's military government distrusts the Tropicalistas, who dress in the feathers and velvets of the hippie movement. Veloso's 1968 tune, "E Proíbído Proíbír" ("It is Forbidden to Forbid"), which takes its title from a slogan of the May student protests in Paris, provokes officials further, and they label the musicians a political threat and a decadent influence who will corrupt Brazilian youth.

In December of 1968, the military government consolidates power. They then arrest Veloso and Gil, jailing them without charge for several months, and then recommending they leave the country. The artists remain in exile for four years, spiriting compositions with veiled lyrics from London to Brazil for others to record and perform. Others in the Tropicalismo movement are less fortunate; several undergo torture or forced "psychiatric care." One Tropicalisto, the lyricist and poet Torquato Neto, commits suicide after such treatment.

Gil and Veloso are able to return to Brazil in 1974 and rebuild their careers. Military rule in Brazil ends in 1985 with the election of a civilian president. By then, tropicalia musicians gain worldwide attention, influencing such North American performers as David Byrne and Paul Simon.


Saudade is a Portuguese word generally considered one of the hardest words to translate. It originated from the Latin word solitate (loneliness), but with a different meaning. Loneliness in Portuguese is solidão, also with the same word origin. Few other languages in the world have a word with such meaning, making Saudade a distinct mark of Portuguese culture.

In Portuguese, this word serves to describe the feeling of missing someone (or something) you're fond of. For instance, the sentence "Eu sinto muitas saudades tuas" (I feel too much "saudade" of you) directly translates into "I miss you too much". "Eu sinto muito a tua falta" also has the same meaning in English ("falta" and "saudades" both are translated for missing), but it is different in Portuguese. It also relates to feelings of melancholy and fond memories of gone-by days, lost love and a general feeling of unhappiness.

In his book In Portugal of 1912, A.F.G Bell writes: "The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness."

Saudade is also the title of the Cape Verde Fado singer Cesária Évora's most famous song; French singer Etienne Daho also produced a song by the same name. Fado, and Saudade are two key and intertwined ideas in Portuguese culture, "Fado" meaning "Fate" or "Destiny". It is, in part, the recognition of this unassailable determinism which compels the resigned yearning of Saudade, a bittersweet, existential yearning and hopefulness towards something over which one has no control.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Cheap eats and entertainment

Esther and I went to The House Tuesday after I got home from class and whipped together a fantastic quick dinner of fried pork and vegetables over ramen noodles. Check out this easy recipe: On medium heat, in a tablespoon of sesame seed oil, add one diced pork chop, a cup of chopped broccoli, one onion diced to any size you like, and one green pepper. After about five minutes of heating with the lid on the pan, uncover, add many dashes of curry spice, lemon pepper, onion salt, hot sauce, a dollop of peanut butter, and one diced portobello mushroom. Stir it all together, replace lid and cook for another 5-10 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your veggies. Throw this bodacious concoction over a bed of ramen noodles and top with cashews. Time from prep to cook to eat: 25 minutes. Call this dish "Raru's porknut delight."

So, afterwards, we went The House and lucked in on a jam session with Fareed Haque on guitar, George Brooks on sax and piano, Alejandro Fernandez on bass, Shira Zette on drums and NIU instructor Robert Chappell on piano and percussion. This session was tight. They moved fast and fluently through the changes, improvising an Indian-inspired raga from the beat of Chappell's hand drum. This was the kind of jazz that transports you off to another state of consciousness. The kind of momentary magic which inspires my love of the form. And all this happened not a stone's throw from home, My House to The House. No cover. I feel fortunate to have such a cool, inexpensive venue to frequent. And apparently this goes on just about every Tuesday, under the guise of the NIU Jazz Jam. Though this is the fifth or sixth time I've come out and the first I've seen Haque perform. I remember Haque from Sting's "Nothing Like The Sun" album (1987). Haque was one of many guitarists, including Eric Clapton, on the track "They Dance Alone."

Check out George Brooks' site. Little did I know how big a player he is in jazz circuits. His signature way to end a tune is to breath a vibrato non-note through his sax. DeKalb is lucky to have Haque, who sometimes brings his A-list friends to his "home" stage for some memorable jams.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Esther photos

Here are some pictures of a pregnant Esther. The top one is from Sept. 5 and the bottom is from a week earlier, Aug. 28. Thanks to Esther's sister Dorothy, for taking the pictures with her digital camera. Our digital camera got dunked in the Rock River and my old Pentax SLR didn't work the last time I tried to use it. Ah, the perils of technology. It's time to get a new camera.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Quotes from Sartor Resartus

I've recently finished reading, for a class, of course, English 562, 19th Century English Prose, Thomas Carlyle's "Sartor Resartus," which means, in Latin, The Tailor Re-Tailored. The subheading of the book is "The Life and Opinions of Herr Teufelsdrockh in Three Books."

Carlyle wrote in a very convoluted style, a mark of Victorian prose. But amongst the veritable onslaught of verbage are some choice nuggets.

"While I -- good Heaven! -- have thatched myself over with the dead fleeces of sheep, the bark of vegetables, the entrails of worms, the hides of oxen or seals, the felt of furred beasts; and walk abroad a moving Rag-screen, overheaped with shreds and tatters raked from the Charnel-house of Nature, where they would have rotted, to rot on me, more slowly!"

"Society... is founded upon cloth."

"Nay, if you consider it, what is Man himself, and his whole terrestrial Life, but an Emblem; a Clothing or visible Garment for that divine ME of his, cast hither, like a light-particle, down from Heaven?"

"I say, there is not a red Indian, hunting by Lake Winnipeg, can quarrel with his squaw, but the whole world must smart for it: will not the price of beaver rise? It is a mathematical fact that the casting of this pebble from my hand alters the centre of gravity of the Universe."

"Yes, truly, if Nature is one, and a living indivisible whole, much more is Mankind, the Image that reflects and creates Nature, without which Nature were not."

"Innumerable are the illusions and legerdemain-tricks of Custom: but of all these, perhaps the cleverest is her knack of persuading us that the Miraculous, by simple repetition, ceases to be Miraculous."

I learned a new word from reading this book that I want to cast, like a pebble, onto the blogosphere.

sans-cu·lotte n.
  1. An extreme radical republican during the French Revolution.
  2. A revolutionary extremist.

[French : sans, without + culotte, breeches.]

The main character in Sartor Resartus, Herr Diogenes Teufelsdrockh (Trans: Mr. God-formed devil's dung), refers to himself as a sansculotte. In researching this word, I discovered that the French aristocracy called the revolutionaries, derisively, by this name, which, of course, they adopted as their rallying cry. Just think if the aristocracy called them a bunch of stupidheads. "Vive Le Stupide tetes!"