Friday, July 30, 2010

Who Rocks the Party That Rocks the Body Electric?

More poetic creativity in Miami (this one being an evening conceived and organized by yours truly, with the usual help from my friends)!

Poetry is, like, the relevant-ist thing there is.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I Sleep in a Racing Car, Do You?

Also, I'm moonlighting on another friend's blog as well (check it out).

I Sleep in a Big Bed With My Wife

Having been well-trained, academically, to predict counterarguments and prepare rebuttals to them, I would like, for the record, to note that tropical storms are not hurricanes, and despite Betty's coming ashore a mere 40 miles south of Miami, my three-years-and-running record as a one-man hurricane repellent stands (so sure am I of my record/ability, that I'm even comfortable blogging about it (despite incidences in the past of blog-jinxes flattening tires and breaking spokes)). This is actually the second Tropical Storm I've encountered in my time in South Florida, though I slept through most of the first. But, the point is, while I'm on such brazenly personal matters, it was raining really hard this morning when I left for work.

At first, when the morning started, I decided that the rain outside must be an effect of the aforementioned tropical storm, so I slept in for an hour. Then, when I finally did decide to go to work, it was raining even harder (I was hoping to sleep through the worst of it). So, like any good former resident of Portland, Oregon, I donned my rain suit and headed for the bus. Right before leaving the house (right after finding a rather large number of what I presume were fruit fly larvae have a gay old time amidst the dates with which I was planning to supplement my lunch of spinach-and-sprouts--it's interesting the kind of instinctive revulsion one can get from seeing even little maggots hanging out on your food. I more or less got over it, and managed to watch them crawling about a bit before putting the container in the garbage, without feeling totally repulsed anymore (and it's also interesting to note that even if humans had always been vegetarians, we still would have, at some point, decided on the notion of spontaneous generation, even without raw meat sitting about for flies to appear from).), I looked at my pair of flip-flops and ever-so-fleetingly considered the notion of bring a second pair of shoes with me to the office. Which I didn't do.

But should have done. This is perhaps the second time that I've blogged about how much I like to go out in public in my truly ugly rain suit? Just the looks you get when you step onto a bus in sopping wet goldenrod duds: awesome. But my feet, my feet, soaked seven times through. So here I was at the office, having removed my shoes and socks and dried of my feet with a paper towel, wanting to go get a mug of coffee from the kitchen (we humble poets rent a very small office in a perversely air-conditioned large floor-large office of other people doing much more normal things than typing poems about posters of elks and trying to talk entirely in iambic pentameter whilst teleconferencing with a poet in Massachusetts (who, initially impressed, finally accused me of doing "that Bob Dylan thing," to which I acquiesced)), and unsure exactly how uncouth it would be to walk to the kitchen and back while barefoot.

I decided that walking barefoot, though preferable to me, might in fact cross some line for some of these office-normals, so instead I wrapped my feet in paper towels, and then tied plastic bags over my towel-wrapped feet. To which, the one other person in the kitchen responded, "Quite the fashion statement, there, huh?" And I explained my situation, mostly focusing on the cold-and-wet aspects, and the not-wanting-to-offend-any-one pleasantness, and had a fine mutually sympathetic conversation about wet feet. And had my coffee. Then, later, returning from the men's room in my bag-wrapped feet, another nice office person gave me a space heater with which to dry my shoes and socks! Super nice! with the added bonus of demonstrating that it actually is perversely cold in this office, and it's not just me trying to be at least vaguely counter-cultural-whilst-mostly-selling-out! She had not one, but two space heaters! So it's totally normal for me to be in a hooded sweatshirt and knit cap here in this office!

And my socks, now, are nearly dry, though the shoes have a long way to go (another day in the life).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Face Case

I'll say this much, briefly for now, about Bell's palsy (a well-perused Wikipedia entry here): it's a lot more fun watching it clear up than watching it set in. Since Tuesday morning it's been a very slow but steady return of facial strength. Delightfully, I can shut my right eye now, though not very tightly. And I'm back to a lopsided smile instead of a toothy, half-numb grimace. I still can't raise my right eyebrow, which it turns out is very heavy. (I really should enjoy it, since I've always kind of wanted to be able to quizzically raise one eyebrow, but under normal circumstances I can't. Now it's all I can do! I can quizzically raise one eyebrow like I'm a motherf*****g Michael Chabon character.)

But the fact that things are improving now (i.e. two weeks after onset) is a very strong sign that things will go back to completely normal. So I finally have the chance to muse on the condition, which I do think is an intriguing one, without the peripheral worry about having to cope with it long-term, even if that scenario was always unlikely by the numbers.

More to the point, for now, I think my beleaguered sense of taste is more or less back to normal. Which is excellent timing: I'm about to head off to the Adirondacks to hang out with the parents for a long weekend, and I'd hate to have to do that with my beer appreciation capability compromised. Plus, I get to introduce them to Madeleine, making this the first time I've brought a new girl home (or, in this case, "home" to vacation) since the early '00s. And Mike will be there, instead of in Shanghai. So hurrah, hurrah for everything.

And after that, it'll be time to undo the habit-forming inertia of my preferred method of convalescing, which has involved eating a lot of ice cream while watching episodes of 30 Rock on internet-streaming Netflix. On the minus side, you don't get anything accomplished in your life this way; but on the plus side, the one where Carrie Fisher guest-stars is hilarious.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

This Month in Creativity

This is the sort of thing that I devote some time to pretty much everyday, at the office:

I present... the "Elkphrasis." A still-in-progress devotional ekphrastic mega-poem substrated by the very image that it takes as its inspiration.

("Why the elk poster?" you might ask. Well, I don't know if I can answer that question, precisely, but, I can tell you this: at some point, back when I was in the Boy Scouts (sigh), we had some kind of it-must-have-been-fund-raising shindig where stuff was auctioned off. Most of said stuff was camping related, but also amidst everything was this poster of an illustration of a bugling elk in front of some mountains. At the end of the auction, I had the elk poster. It lived on my wall for a couple years, once I got my own bedroom. I don't actually remember if I brought it to college with me or not, and I'm fairly certain that I didn't take it to Boston, but somehow, I wound up bringing it with me to Miami, where I never, in three years, displayed it. But, upon reconsidering the elk earlier this summer, I decided that it was, at least for me, utterly free of irony, going so far as to believe that it is, in fact, ironic-enjoyment-proof. Which is pretty special.)

The ur-elk

The Elkphrasis, as of 7/20/2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Prelude to a Fugue

I want to conclude a solid week of not-blogging by shouting out Google Alerts: Being a fairly late adopter for a professionally technical person (earlier this week at work, the VP of my department got to call me out during a brown-bag session on iPhone app development for being the only computer programmer in the room without a smart phone) I hadn't paid any heed to this service before a couple of weeks ago, but I've successfully used it to set up a still-too-voluminous stream of recent web content on some work-related topics, plus a couple of personal interest. One of the latter was a test-drive sort of alert on "Shostakovich", since I like the man's music, and among a plurality of notices about mp3 downloads I learned about a recital in Portland of commingled Bach and Shostakovich preludes and fugues by the pianist Jenny Lin, which I hadn't heard about through my other (older, intermittent, decidedly Web 1.0) tracking of local cultural events. Kyle earned some girlfriend points by driving up to PDX early on a weeknight, we took the light rail out to the World Forestry Center next to the zoo, bought a couple of tickets at the door, and passed the time before the show started by eating tuna sandwiches on a bench outside the venue on what shaped up as a lovely, temperate summer evening. Thanks, Google Alerts!

I'm glad we caught it; Lin put together a thoughtful program, with modules of two Shostakovich prelude-fugue pairs bookending one of Bach's from the first Well-Tempered Clavier book. She has recently put out a recording of the full Shostakovich set (twenty-four of them, opus 87, from 1951) and stated up front that she primarily wanted to showcase the more modern works; Bach's music has a way of asserting its primacy in places, though. Most noticeably, she opened her set with Shostakovich's 1st prelude and fugue in C major, which sounded like the essence of purity and light until she followed it with Bach's gently arpeggiating C major prelude, in comparison to which Shostakovich's suddenly seemed like Brand X in a bleach commercial. Bach's moody C-sharp minor fugue -- whose subject is the composer's short and enigmatic-sounding B-A-C-H monogram motiv, the model for Shostakovich's own D-S-C-H motto theme -- was another highlight: Lin drew out of it a psychological murkiness that wasn't equaled in any of her Shostakovich selections, which drew more from the brighter and Bachier entries in his cycle. That's not to say that the Shostakoviches didn't hold their own within the concert, or lead to some gnarly places; Lin subtly backloaded her set with some of the less straightforward entries, including by closing the first half with a deliberate and suitably unsettling read on the brambly D-flat major fugue, augmented just a little by Miller Hall's air-conditioning system quietly rumbling on about ten bars in. She also ended her recital, maybe inevitably, with Shostakovich's epically scaled 24th prelude and fugue, which after an hour-plus of Bach and obviously Bach-influenced music sounds just enormous. In a way Lin would have more effectively ended with a weighty but smaller selection but the contrast was remarkable too. Shostakovich composed number 24 very much in his symphonic style -- in its scope and in a couple of specific gestures it's a sibling piece to the monumental, more than usually contrapuntal first movement of his tenth symphony, which he started on shortly after the preludes and fugues -- and I found myself hearing it in part as a final synthesis, and a declaration of intent to apply these fugal techniques to his established style.

Anyway, I should resolve to go to more piano recitals. Not only am I woefully unaware of a lot of the standard keyboard repertoire, but also, as with chamber music concerts, the smaller scale is a nice contrast to the professional symphony and orchestra performances I go to more often: the artists are closer, the halls are generally more intimate, the crowd is smaller and usually more dialed in to the music. (You lose the chorus effect of a big audience, too, so the guy who applauds loudly all by himself after the most moving Bach fugues or the woman who lets out an overripe, ladies-who-lunch sort of "ooooh!" at the mention of an encore by, I think, Federico Mompou become fairly prominent characters.)

One thing I'll resolve not to do is unthinkingly spring for seats directly in front of the open piano lid, at a distance of about 20 feet. The piano is a big and loud instrument, I should recall, and after the thunderous double fugue that ended the concert my ears were humming a little bit.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Actual Blogging-type Behavior

In websites-about-writing news (since it's been a while since we checked out whether we are men or women), there's a site out there now that has some "algorithms" that will tell you what famous writer you write like. Obviously, algorithms designed for some instant flattery.

Based on posting here on the ol' mild interester, I write like, and, gah, isn't this predictable:

David Foster Wallace.

If he hadn't killed himself a couple years ago (which actually did make me sad), he'd still be my imaginary literary nemesis (since I'm one of those dudes that people say things like "You must really like David Foster Wallace." to. My response being "Yeah, I like him, and yes, I think he's a great writer, but do you have to mention this?" or sometimes, more like Cartman in that South Park episode making fun of Family Guy, where he says "Don't you ever compare me to Family Guy!" and goes on a funny rant about people always telling him how much he must love Family Guy.

So, reeling from the D.F.W. comparison, I tried my writing from my Culturology blog postings, where I tend to be peppier and more general-audience in intent with my sentences. It came up with:

Douglas Adams.

Not bad!

But then I checked some representative posts from Nate and Jack, and they both also come out as David Foster Wallace. And they didn't even read Infinite Jest! They only watched me do it!

Obviously, this website, which I now still feel obligated to blog about, isn't as awesome as it might be. Or we'll all just nerds-with-writing-chops here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Another of Those Things That I May Only Ever Do Once in This Life

Yesterday evening, I gave away my TV, Digital Antenna Receiver, and DVD Player. To a racist.

Since I'm heading off-continent for a few months starting in August, I've been pretty thoroughly downsizing my holdings (retiring many t-shirts, selling things like half stacks, guitar pedals, and French horn music and mutes, giving away many books, donating even more books to the library, selling and giving away much of my furniture). This is generally a fun thing to do, at least for someone like me that doesn't really care much about material possessions, so enjoys the opportunity to practice what he/she preaches. Also, a lot of what I have was given to me, so it's nice to re-gift the stuff. That's the case with the table and chairs I gave away to an incoming MFA student, and the other tables that I'm giving away to another just-moved MFA--all given to me at some point whilst moving/living here in Miami. And with the TV and receiver that I just gave away last night; the TV was given to me by a former MFA, and the receiver was purchased with a receiver-purchasing gov't card given to me by another friend. I bought the DVD player, but like eight years ago, so giving it away doesn't really feel like a loss of money.

So this is how to give away a TV, Receiver, and DVD Player:

--Have a friend come over and take a picture of them with his digital camera
--Post the picture on craigslist, saying "buy this stuff, $20 for all of it"
--Sit back as zero responses roll in for your stuff (perhaps here it deserves mention that the TV is not a flat screen, but an old-fangled CRT thing)
--Delete your "for sale" post, and switch the picture over to the free stuff category on craigslist
--Sit back as dozens of responses roll in for your now-free stuff
--Weed through the responses, many of which are spam, for the earliest, most realistic response
--Take note of the email from craigslist saying your post has been flagged and removed, presuming that this has to do with the amount of spam you generated for yourself with it
--Respond to that real-seeming response, telling them to come on by for the stuff

I'd add additional directions for how to specifically find a racist to give your stuff to, but I don't really know how it happened. Except that, once the guy showed up, on the way up the two flights of stairs to my apartment, the guy was talking like a regular Mel Gibson (I was gonna say Mark Fuhrman there, but being at a computer-on-the-internet five days a week gives me ability to update my topical references). Basically dropped an n-bomb or two every other step. Which is, to the say the least, awkward, especially when one lives in an ethnically and racially diverse neighborhood and building like I do. Luckily we didn't pass anyone.

I did have the thought, for a moment, to say something, like "You, sir, are a racist!" or "Okay, racist, no TV for you." or "I'm sure your interactions with these other humans has very little to do with their being of a non-white complexion." But I didn't. I just went ahead and gave him the things. Which seems fine, in the end, really. He seemed like a nice guy otherwise. Sounds like he was planning on giving the TV away to someone else himself, so it'll keep on giving, until the tubes finally burn out.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


It's the hottest evening of the year, and the water in my apartment started coming out of the taps brown. So that's no good. I'm hoping things are back to normal soon, and resorting to premodern technology in the meantime, which is to say running a bunch of water through a Brita filter and then boiling it on a gas range. Just like medieval times!

It's not so much the inconvenience that bothers me, it's not being able to disregard the looming specter of eventual civilizational disaster due to extreme summer temperatures and loss of access to fresh water. Sure, this is going to be the story of the twenty-first century in general, but in particular I wish it wouldn't hit my apartment so early.

* * * * *
[Weds. AM] Aha, it's the mains, overtaxed and thus sediment-laced.

I figure this'll all be fine with a filter. Water seems clear this morning, but today's weather is supposed to be like yesterday's, up around 90.

* * * * *
[Weds. PM] The New Haven Independent (same link above) relates some reassurance from the Regional Water Authority's spokeswoman:
Despite its “unappealing” appearance, the water is OK to drink, according to Powell.

“It is not harmful,” she said. “It is no different from the clear water, except that it has stuff floating around in it.”

That would appear to accurately sum up the difference, yes.

Anyway, end of story. Probably just manganese and zinc. We all like zinc, right?

This Week in Creativity

For those of you wondering how my doodling abilities are these days, you can go check out my drawing of Captain America over at

In case you don't want to go check that out, here's an MS Paint drawing I just made of Roger Federer: