Monday, January 31, 2011

Late December / Early January in Creativity

The Super Bowl is coming up this weekend, and the Steelers are playing in it, so that's exciting. I've gotten my Lamar Woodley jersey and Terrible Towel out of storage just in time. Of course, I'm more distracted by the impending labor negotiations that will be going on presumably right after the big game ends (I like Kyle's reading of Nate's interpretation of the big game). Since, it seems inevitable to me that the masses of fans will want the players to shut up and play, since they make so much money already, whilst ignoring the sheer oodles of money that the owners make (and also the kind of let's call it "tax-payer" money they bilk out of municipalities to build their greed-temples (okay, well, Dallas's stadium, that's a greed temple, I guess I like Heinz Field okay (only been there once...)).

Meanwhile, I finally took the time to plug my new digital camera into my computer, so that means more creative retrospectives! Of Mild Interest is now the refrigerator door about which I will cry if my art and crafts are not clung with magnets there-upon!

Two paintings from my friend Dan's apartment, and a drawing from my friend Parker's apartment:

Everyone's gotta have a blue period, right?

"A line, a sky, nothing..."

Marker on kitchen table.

In context.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

RIP Milton Babbitt

Milton Babbitt died yesterday, further reducing the already dwindling number of old guard modernist composers on the planet.

I'm probably leaving a couple American composers out if I refer to Elliot Carter as the "last man standing" at this point (with Kurtag and Boulez, young scamps, chilling on the other side of the pond), and it's probably not quite respectful (especially if I go on to note that Carter is also the best of the Academic Modernists, so it makes sense that he's immortal). But Babbitt's music was only ever a curiosity to me; having given him at least mild due course at the turntables in my music schools' libraries.

The main thing I wonder about (drum roll... counterfactual coming...) is what Babbitt would have done, compositionally, had that synthesizer not dropped into his lap at Princeton once upon a time. Comparing his music to Boulez's for instance, we see that Boulez was extremely interested in pushing human virtuosity to its limits (Jack and I heard him talk about this a bit, a couple years, ago, when he was conducting a student group playing his "Masterless Hammer")--in line with Ligeti as well--and the kind of expression that becomes available at the limits of capability (and how capability evolves, and how this evolution alone can be the engine for newness/novelty that modernism needs). But for Babbitt, at least so far as the narrative goes, the synthesizer "freed" him from human performance capability. And I think that's an alienation that he never recovered from--there's still his one virtuosity, as a music-composing intellect and synth-manager, but that lacks the necessary spectacle (compare him here to, say, Richard Feynman, who was a super-genius, but is more famous, respected, etc. in his field (SCIENCE!), since he happened to also have a strong sense of showmanship).

Invective ≠ spectacle.

Death is an empty set.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Last Late Summer/Early Autumn in Creativity

New scanner at the office = image of the poem that I left in place of my presence at the University of Wynwood/O, Miami office, back in August-October:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Prole Bowl!

It has gone unmentioned on this humble blog, I think because I, like Jack, have been avoiding pumping all of my Steelers-related hopes and fears into it, but: Pittsburgh's going to the Super Bowl. Everybody do the Super Broker Shuffle! This provides excellent television-watching opportunities, as well as a chance to emotionally invest in dramatic events completely outside one's control.

One thing that's gotten plenty of mention already is that Super Bowl XLV's bill -- the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Green Bay Packers -- matches two of the NFL's oldest and most storied franchises. But I would also like to highlight, per my earlier breakdown of team name categories, that the game will feature both of the league's clubs that are named after industrial workers. Gritty, blue-collar football indeed! Will the Steelers play with the strength and resilience of the metal whose name they bear? Or will the Packers butcher them and load their carcasses into refrigerated box cars, to be shipped to larger population centers? Or, as Kyle just suggested to me, will the proletarians of each squad rise up together against the bourgeois decadence of the owners?

I expect that the latter impulse will be channeled instead into the negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement later this year; the onfield action will be rabotnik against rabotnik. Perhaps one day soon the Jacksonville Jaguars or whoever will be relocated to the L.A. market and renamed the Beverly Hills Fat Cats, providing a more natural rivalry. But the present matchup still offers a pretty good theme.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

This Week in Shameless Self-Promotion

You'll Never Beat the Irish

In an interesting development, a poetry gang in Ireland, having heard about the awesome power of the Poem Depot of the Miami Poetry Collective (co-founded, with maybe ten other brilliant Miamian poets, by yours truly), through the awesome power of public radio, has taken up the site-specific poetry sales banner on the other side of the atlantipond. Further, they also, in their language there-about, propose a "a one day census of the state of the nation in poetry," which, of course, we're also already doing in Miami.

Typically, one would anticipate American writers to be influenced by the Irish, but we've reversed the flow!

Now let's all sing our songs, sing our songs...

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I've said plenty of times, that I've never successfully convinced anyone to become a vegetarian (nor have I ever really tried). Folks mostly have to decide for themselves to cultivate some awareness of what they consume (whether that means going meatless, drinking Fair Trade (or better, Direct Trade) coffee, riding a bicycle to get around, etc.). But this is an article with a healthy angle for people-that-want-to-eat-animals. It's the usual good points that eating local, responsibly-raised animals is really way better than eating the usual industrially produced paingarbage that most meat is.

To me, the main lesson is: it's grotesque to try and save so much money on what you eat. Humans have to eat pretty much every day, so it should be where you spend a lot of your earnings, and you might as well eat what not only is better for you, the animals, and the planet, but also tastes better.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mostly Avoiding Steelers Commentary

. . . but you should read this article in the Wall Street Journal about a guy meeting Steelers fans in Beijing in the middle of the night to watch the January '06 AFC championship game. (via Behind the Steel Curtain)

I'm going to be watching the January '10 one at home home, like Pittsburgh home, since Maddie has a Pittsburgh flight and I'm going out for the weekend with her. Fortunately the girl's down with mandatory football viewing.

Next Week in Creativity

I've got a poetry-reading series re-launching in Miami next week (after an initial event all the way back in July). The flier for which I am somewhat proud of, so I thought I would share it:
And now that I have a camera, maybe there will even be some photographic documentation of the event itself. I don't think anyone that reads this blog lives in Miami, but if you happen to be here next Wednesday, come on by...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Ice" to See You

I like being a pedestrian commuter, but there are always a few days a year where it's massively inconvenient. Usually those days are in the rain-and-wind genre, where the only thing to do is to dress like you're Nate going to the opera. Today was a day in a different genre, freezing-rain-plus-sidewalk-slush, which created ice sheets in the morning and huge melted puddles on every street corner in the evening.

Survivable, but it gave the ol' Johnston and Murphys a workout. Actually I only got those in December. Hooray commuter shoes. (Even if shoe shopping at the Queens Center Mall during Christmas season is an activity that I'd not care to repeat.) I like to think of the left and right shoes being individually named "Johnston" and "Murphy," along the lines of an Irishman naming his fists.

I'd be more happily ensconced at home for the evening if there wasn't this thing in the news about how being sedentary is irreparably bad for you. You had to tell us this in the middle of January? Really? On the plus side, we'll be rid of Joe Lieberman before too too long.

I'm listening to my copy of the finally-released Steven Mackey/Dreamhouse recording, which sounds gorgeous and, predictably, way better than reality as far as sonic clarity goes.

Friday, January 14, 2011

(Get on up) Like a Bread Machine

Pursuant to Jack's thing below, I'll note that he generally outdid himself on the tags for his gifts under the tree this Christmas. The one attached to the book about ants that he got me is reproduced here. As you can see Jack's work in the genre continues to exhibit both novelty and a keen understanding of exactly what his various siblings are going to find funny. (Nate: "Awesome, it's an 8-bit Nintendo Santa." Mike: "I thought that was a Lego Santa." Dad: "If Nate thinks it's an 8-bit Nintendo Santa, it's definitely an 8-bit Nintendo Santa.")

My 2011 feels like it's off to a slow-rolling start, though a good one. Thanks to the steady build-up of yoga classes and daily stair climbs at work, I can say with confidence for the first time since December that I no longer feel like someone who ate pie for breakfast every day between Christmas and New Year's. Also like Jack, I'm enjoying the production of a bread machine at home, in fact the very same model; this was a thoughtful gift from my parents and so far it's providing an excellent vector for whole wheat bread flour, letting me carbo-load for a marathon I will never run. I'm also putting a ton of miles on Janelle Monáe's rangy, genre-straddling album The ArchAndroid, a present from Pete, who's been keeping me in sci-fi concept albums ever since Deltron 3030. The Steelers' playoff run is all up in my head these days, too, though that's mostly letting out into long-running email threads with Jack.

Contrary to 2010, 2011 really doesn't feel like a milestone; it has this second-order interest in that it's this advanced-seeming year that's otherwise uninteresting. So far it just feels like the future. I just want to yell at the people around me -- who, granted, are mostly software developers and are more put out as a body that there aren't transporters and such yet -- "It's the future! Your phone is a tricorder! You are carrying around a computer screen like a book! You're in the future!"

(Further riffing on the James Brown reference of this post's title, a while ago an office-themed magnetic poetry kit was put onto the fridge in my workplace's break room, and one of the things I spelled out of the available words was "get on up like a fax machine". Due to extremely slow magnetic poetry turnaround it's still there on the freezer door. And -- although this blog is testament enough to the fact that I find a great many things I do unjustifiably funny -- this is maybe the only thing recently that I've just thought those around me have not found suitably hilarious. It's clever, people! Like Brian Wilson -- the Beach Boy, not the spooky-eyed Giants relief pitcher -- I guess I just wasn't made for these times.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Workin' in a Winter Wonderland

It snowed overnight, and when I padded into work around 9:10 -- mostly having picked my way through the snowy streets, since the sidewalks were maybe a quarter shoveled -- I was one of two people in the office, me and the managing editor. I think there were about 5 people at the office in total. I feel so hardcore! Yeah, not depending on a car.

I heard there were 18 inches accumulated, but that seems high. Close to a foot looks about right.

The workplace bonus here is that it's easier to review page proofs when it's really quiet. At home, well, I've got a bottle of wine and the bread machine's on, so I'm pretty much set.

While I'm bragging about myself: I really nailed Time Log's visual style! See, if you told me 20 years ago that someone would one day write that about me on the Internet, I would have been all like, "What? . . . on the what?"

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Nongrapefruit Department

I very much enjoyed this interview with John McPhee in the Paris Review. More than a few striking observations about writing.

I haven't read any of McPhee's geology books yet, which he talks about at some length there; onto the Metro North reading list they go.


It's been kind of quiet here recently, so I thought I'd add something. I realized today that when I mash my forehead wrinkles together it sort of looks like the Decepticon logo.