"The Teaching Company brings engaging professors into your home or car through courses on DVD, audio CD, and other formats," their Web site says. "Since 1990, great teachers from the Ivy League, Stanford, Georgetown, and other leading colleges and universities have crafted over 200 courses for lifelong learners. We provide the adventure of learning, without the homework or exams."
After reading about them in a recent issue of American Way, and learning that libraries carry the series, I marched right down to a branch library and procured a library card.
Once you reach Memorial Day, the holidays start to come on faster and faster. July 4th, Labor Day, Halloween, etc. All of this is good (in my opinion). The more days off work, the better. The more time to sit around and read, the better.
To help kick off this holiday waterfall, Kim paid a visit to Dallas. She met many wonderful people from her past. She drove a rented pillbox car. She learned to drink mixed drinks without a straw.
While I was on my trip, I rarely read any U.S. news. It was refreshing; besides, I didn't have time for it, because I had to keep up with the Paul and Heather separation that consumed the British papers.
I caught up on the news once I got back, and it was the usual: Iraq, Bush, immigration, and American Idol. However, one news item caught my attention--the passing away of poet Stanley Kunitz at age 100.
Kunitz's quiet, passionate poems are of the type out of vogue these days in the poetry world, practiced by only a handful of poets who know how to create several layers of depth and understanding in only one line. He didn't deal with smoke and mirrors; his poems were narrative accounts of the great subjects of literature: love, death, pain, purpose, etc.
Here is one of my favorite Kunitz poems.
Miss Murphy in first grade wrote its name in chalk across the board and told us it was roaring down the stormtracks of the Milky Way at frightful speed and if it wandered off its course and smashed into the earth there'd be no school tomorrow. A red-bearded preacher from the hills with a wild look in his eyes stood in the public square at the playground's edge proclaiming he was sent by God to save every one of us, even the little children. "Repent, ye sinners!" he shouted, waving his hand-lettered sign. At supper I felt sad to think that it was probably the last meal I'd share with my mother and my sisters; but I felt excited too and scarcely touched my plate. So mother scolded me and sent me early to my room. The whole family's asleep except for me. They never heard me steal into the stairwell hall and climb the ladder to the fresh night air. Look for me, Father, on the roof of the red brick building at the foot of Green Street— that's where we live, you know, on the top floor. I'm the boy in the white flannel gown sprawled on this coarse gravel bed searching the starry sky, waiting for the world to end.
Lately, I've been getting into a lot bands that incorporate instruments into their sound that are normally reserved for "world" acts and who use rhythms found mainly in Eastern European countries, Africa or South America. Bands and artists of this sort that have been on the Pimplomat playlist of late have been Man Man, DeVotchKa and Beirut (I know, I know...a blog hyped artist).
And when these bands aren't around-the-world-known artists, then you have to classify them as indie bands, right? So, because everyone loves to pigeonhole (e.g., emo, dance-punk, butt-rock, etc.), I'm declaring this new, exciting brand of music World-Indie. Catchy, ain't it? I've always been good at naming things. (Some of you might need this for that last sentence.)
I'm going to make a bold statement, too. The ukulele is the next hipster instrument. Trust me, it's going to happen. Goodbye violin. Goodbye accordion. Goodbye cello. Goodbye flute. Hello ukulele. Hello sweet four-string dwarf guitar. Hello Tiny Tim comeback.
Song of the Day "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
My recent trip to Wales was one of my most enjoyable excursions. The hosts were friendly, and the itinerary wasn't over packed. Mainly, we drove all over south and west Wales, staying in four cities in as many days. Castles were everywhere, the local beer is named Brains, and country pride overflows in many people in Wales.
At Druidstone, we were served a large amount of delicious food.
Instead of the Gideon Bible, you get The Teachings of Buddha at one hotel we stayed in.
This is John Wake, our driver, guide and Mr. Wales. He's one of the most fascinating individuals I've so far met in my life. He's been a police detective, an open-bus tour operator, a kilt shop owner, an actor and a playwright. He truly made the trip an experience. I don't know if I'd want to go back to Wales without him by my side. He knew the history of all the castles, the facts about King Arthur, and the places to catch a good band in Cardiff during any day of the week. From a musical point, I was in awe that he got to see so many artists in the 1960s in small clubs in Wales that I love today, such as Jimi Hendrix, the Kinks (who he arrested after a show), the Who, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles (He rode with them in a car from their hotel to the venue, and John Lennon said to him, "Fuck off, pig." He didn't care; John had spoke to him!).
I know that London and Scotland are sexy, but do yourself a favor the next time you're in Great Britain. Go to Wales. And hire John Wake for a guide. You won't regret it.
This may appeal to you only if you're interested in writing or if you're a writer. I'm just letting you know before you invest your time reading the entry. See how nice I am?
Another interesting article was featured on Poetry Foundation. This time, Jeffrey McDaniel wrote about a program at Columbia University in New York City that featured Camille Paglia.
Here are parts of the story that grabbed my attention.
"'Poets want to be revered by professors: Jorie Graham, for example. Maybe she had some talent early on,' Paglia continues. This elicits a big laugh from the audience. 'She is like a mirror to the professors; they look into her and see themselves.' More wild laughter. This audience loves to see Paglia rip into someone and draw blood: the meaner the jab, the louder the applause.
Jorie-bashing is a little too en vogue these days, but I'm interested in this crisis of an audience. Who exactly are poets writing for? Why shouldn't they write for other poets who are professors? What is the incentive not to do that? Isn't that the main audience today? Aren't other poets and professors the ones giving out the prizes? If poets don't write for professors, then who should they write for? An audience they aren't even sure exists? If a poem falls over in a forest, and there's no one there to . . ."
Now, I could go into my own Jorie bashing since I witnessed her atrocious behavior once at a reading, but what I'm really interested in is McDaniel's question: "Who exactly are poets writing for?" Let's replace the word "poets" with "writers" and ask the same question.
Long Division and I have had an ongoing conversation about experimental writers. I think she believes she won't ever convince me that experimental writing is important. That's untrue, though. I believe it's important, and her reasons have convinced me to delve more into some writers that I feel are "too out there." Much like my previous music question, I wanted some in-depth reasons as to why certain things are considered genius. Long Division delivered, and I am complying.
I take issue with McDaniel's questions, "Aren't other poets and professors the ones giving out the prizes? If poets don't write for professors, then who should they write for?" Is he suggesting that if there is no audience outside a pure academic circle that writers should not even publish their works? What is the purpose of publishing? Self gratitude? If you know beforehand that no one will read or understand your work, would you still publish it?
Another part of the story that I'd like to comment on:
"Paglia continues to rip into the present: 'Nothing is going to last from this generation of major poets. Most of the poetry written today is in dead English.' She argues that there's a need for poems written in working-class American vernacular..."
I only half agree with Paglia about this. Her generalization that nothing will last is, of course, short-sighted and was probably only spoken to make her sound cool with the audience she won over with her Jorie-bashing. She says poems should be written in working-class American vernacular. I can agree with that to a certain extent; however, there are already several poets of this generation of major poets working in American vernacular such as Billy Collins and Ted Kooser. By saying nothing of this generation of poets will last, and by stating her American venacular opinion, I'm not exactly sure what she considers good, American poetry or writing.
I'm currently reading her book Break, Blow, Burn, and I'm really enjoying it. I'm noticing, though, that a majority of the poems she writes about (and you can tell she truly loves them) are poems that were considered "experimental" when they were first published. Still, they weren't so experimental to lose touch with the intended auidence: the common reader. The writers practically had one foot in pushing the envelope and one foot in what the period readers would understand.
An interesting article ran last week in Der Spiegel. In "Living Without Numbers or Time," reporter Rafaela von Bredow writes about the PirahÃ, a Brazilian tribe whose language is void of numbers, descriptions and subordinate clauses.
A couple parts of the story really intrigued me.
"Under [Benjamin] Whorf's theory, people are only capable of constructing thoughts for which they possess actual words. In other words: Because they have no words for numbers, they can't even begin to understand the concept of numbers and arithmetic."
The idea that our lives are limited by language fascinates me for some reason. If this limitation is true, then what does that say about people who know more than one language? In other parts of the world, several languages are spoken and used even in one city without anyone batting an eye. However, here in the United States, some people get upset if they see any sign in or hear any language other than English. If we adhere to the belief that only English should be spoken in the United States, are we shooting ourselves in the feet in the longrun? Are we limiting our capabilities to create?
The other part that intrigued me was this:
"He [Everett] explains the core of PirahÃ culture with a simple formula: 'Live here and now.' The only thing of importance that is worth communicating to others is what is being experienced at that very moment. 'All experience is anchored in the presence,' says Everett, who believes this carpe-diem culture doesn't allow for abstract thought or complicated connections to the past -- limiting the language accordingly."
Living in the here and now is something that I strive for, and I seem to be coming in contact lately with all sorts of stories and books that talk about "now." If by limiting their language, the tribe has created a sort of "ignorance is bliss" society. I wonder if the tribe is truly happy.
Maybe as an experiment, we should do away with the past tense for a month and see what happens.
Ok, so I keep hearing praises about bands such as Band of Horses, Sound Team, the Black Angels, Sufjan Stevens, the Secret Machines, etc., and about how these artists are the second coming of Christ or other such hyperboles.
But I don't get it. I listen to them, and while I agree that these artists do have some okay to good songs, I don't understand the hype.
Maybe if someone could point out what I should be listening for in a Sufjan Stevens song that makes him artist of the year, then I'd understand. But all I hear is "he writes good songs." Yes, he does have SOME good songs, even some great ones, but what about these songs make them special? I'm not saying every song or artist has to be special, but if you're heaping on piles of hype on an artist, I'd like to hear some justification for that.
For example, I really appreciate this profile of local band Teenage Symphony. The writer took the time to explain why this band deserves listening to and any hype they may receive.
Are these artists--such as the aforementioned--truly doing something different, pushing the envelope, expanding music, and I'm just not hearing it? I want to know why so many people jump on the hype wagon.
If you read my blog, and you've heard these bands and you think they're the greatest thing since shoe insoles, please comment and guide to me to what I should be listening for in their songs. I'll take your silence, though, as vote that they're nothing but hype and nothing else.
How prevalent is wet butt? If you work at a desk job (or sit long periods), do you suffer from it? If so, what do you do to alleviate it?
Thanks to the wonderful wide Internet super world highway, I now know about wet butt. I don't suffer from it at work. It only really happens when I work out. Maybe that's too much information for you. Maybe I should hold back and not be so open about my wet butt fascination.
In case you suffer from this embarrassing situation, here are some helpful hints, all compiled from an online forum that addressed the topic.
"If I have to wear dress slacks or more tight pants, I grab a couple Swiffer pads, hang them from inside my underpants. Works well, but takes a while getting used to it."
"I get round it is by sitting on my coat as to not leave any wet marks when I sit down. Can't always do it though. Another is by tucking my leg under my butt so I got one leg dancling down and one leg under me. Can't sit like this for long but still it buys some time."
"The best solution I've discovered it to use the Mitchum (unperfumed) roll-on on my butt every morning. It is a bit sticky but it really helps."
"I always wear lycra shorts under my skirts and sometimes trousers when I know a wet mark would show through."
"I have discovered that wearing a tracksuit bottom works quite well, surprisingly."
"My 'band aid' approach is to fold a few layers of toilet paper into a square and tuck it between the cheeks and replace as necessary [a poor man's diaper]. It works pretty well, for the moment."
We met months ago, and it was an on again, off again romance for awhile. We met at the movies. Her brunette hair dangled across the sides of her angelic face, framing her pale cheeks and ruby lips. She smoked a cigarette, which as some of you know, is kind of a turn-on for me. She asked if I knew Jack.
"Oh yes, I know Jack. Jack Coleman, my gay friend that has social anxiety disorder," I said. "I know him well."
"No, Jack who comes to the movies," she replied.
"I don't know him yet."
"Come with me," she said, grabbing my arm.
I followed her to a small cafe where we proceeded to talk about movies and music and politics. I immediately fell in love with her. We set a date for the following week to drink wine and act out film scenes from our favorite movies.
I saw her again last night, and it was confirmed. She is the love of my life. She is French/Swedish. She says things like, "I don't understand why Americans can't see naked people on screen but they can see a baby being killed. It's quite strange. They're too puritan, too uptight."
Sorry girls, I'm off the market, and this may be for real. We may even live in Paris together.
Most of my friends are shocked when I tell them this, and it's true: Pittsburgh is one of the cleanest cities I've visited. Steel mills no longer line the rivers (there are only two today, and they're outside the city), and the rivers are safe enough to swim, play and fish in.
The streets are immaculately clean, and most of the citizens had fresh faces and thin bodies. It truly is a beautiful city that is trying hard to overcome its past image of a dirty and industrial township.
While there, I also learned that I've been pronouncing Carnegie's name incorrectly all my life. Damn you television!
Some facts about Pittsburgh:
Mister Rogers' real neighborhood is Oakland, home to WQED, the first public television in the country and the "Neighborhood of Make Believe."
Pittsburgh has 723 bridges, more than any other city in the world except Venice, Italy.
Carnegie Mellon University established First Robotics Institute, and Pittsburgh is sometimes referred to as Robotburgh.
Hugh J. Ward first came up with the concept of bingo in Pittsburgh and began running the game at carnivals in the early 1920s, taking it nationwide in 1924. He secured a copyright on the game and wrote a book of Bingo rules in 1933.
And now your favorite part: pictures!
A Primanti sandwich. I didn't eat one.
Cool public art.
Unfortunately, these were not part of our gift packs.