The Week That Was, or Summertime Roles

It’s early, but the kids are awake and packing. They get to spend part of today with their Nana. Amy and I will be celebrating our anniversary. We usually stroll through the rose garden we were married in and go out to dinner. We might attempt to make homemade ramen. I’m not sure.

I’m behind on most of my writing. I spent part of my week reading current research on teaching grammar, vocabulary, and style. I’m trying to have a lot of my planning worked out for next year since I’ll likely be taking on a second teaching job online because of some medical bills and other debt exacerbated by our flood. This was also supposed to be a kind of “vacation” week, but I didn’t do well with that.

While I’m catching up on some writing, John King and I discussed Deep Purple’s Machine Head for my latest Lost Chords. The discussion started in a previous post here. We have at least one more planned.

I try to spend some time each day at the park with the kids. We’re in full sunscreen and water mode. I should know better and need to remember to wear a hat. I got a bad headache after a few hours outside.

The kids seem to be enjoying summer.

4YO: How do unicorns say ciao?
Me: I don’t know.
4YO: Do they touch their horns to say ciao?
Me: That sounds right to me.
[…]
4YO: Hulk Smash always rips his pants.
Me. Uhhh…yeah. He sure does.

(She refers to the Marvel characters as “Hulk Smash” and “Thorn.”)


4YO: When Moana’s a big girl, she doesn’t wear underwear, but she does wear a diaper as a baby.

(I’ve asked how she knows Moana doesn’t wear underwear. She will not reveal her source.)


4YO: Momma got me in trouble.
Me: How did she do that?
4YO: I was bein’ bad.
Me: *laughs*
4YO: Why are you laughing at me? Momma got me in trouble!


I just found my 6YO’s “Writing Journal,” a school project that she is continuing this summer. Her first entry, from this school year, is “ISZBARIBPULY.” Last night, she wrote, “It is a rabbit” and was illustrating her sentence.

Some of my favorites:

For Christmas I got to sy mi grremo and grepo

The penguin is and the hot chocolate and

My favorite food is cake

I wut $100

There was a Pressess. She had a pone.

I smell air.

 

UPDATE: It has been discovered that the 4YO packed the cat in her suitcase.

UPDATE II: 4YO’s version of emergency phone numbers: “Relax. Relax. Relax.”

The Week That Was, or At the Movies! (At Home!)

Around the house has been uneventful and quiet. It’s been enjoyable, though we’ve had our usual summer errands and engagements: doctor appointments, daycare water days, meetings at work, etc.

The goslings are longer and taller and gray, and a few have only wisps of green halos left of their original color and fuzz.

While I’ve done some reading and writing, part of the summer that I enjoy is a chance to watch more movies than during the school year. From this week:

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 6.06.02 AMPeter Greenaway rarely elicits indifference, though I bet some have slumbered off during one of those long tracking shots. His work produces a love or hate in the viewer, at least that’s been my experience.

I don’t think I’ve seen this in about 20 years, where I was introduced to it in a film class. Thank you, Dr. Hotchkiss! Part of the reason I hadn’t watched this again is that I can’t recreate the  first time seeing it with a good friend in a film class. I believe this was the first Greenaway film we watched, and we both found it hilarious. Greenaway’s movies are generally gorgeous, but also full of the darkest, driest British wit. Part of our fun in watching The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982) was due to my physical reactions to Michael Nyman’s score, which I detested at the time. I love his work now, but back then I was repulsed by minimalism like Philip Glass–it was tortuous. I would cringe every time the music started and my friend would laugh.

I like Greenaway’s films even more these days and even listen to Nyman on purpose.

Draughtsman’s is an art film, a period piece, a satire, and a murder mystery. And by art film I mean, yes, it eschews Hollywood traditions, but I also mean it is a film about art, and like other Greenaway films, it is full of allusions to the European tradition of painting and sculpture. As a trained painter, he also did all of the contracted drawings.

Another period piece by a divisive director I watched was A Field in England (2013) and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I want to watch it again and see how I feel abouta-field-in-england-poster the ending. The use of rope as a device and image in the film was really interesting to me, but I can’t quite put it into words. Something about the soul tethered to the body, the mind tethered to the brain. I don’t know. The rope and mushroom imagery, both related to the images of circles and rings, were fantastically used. The music, sometimes folksy, sometimes noisy, and the sound design were darkly enveloping. I really hope to see this in a theater some day.

Jane Campion, one of my favorite directors, has several short films on FilmStruck. I didn’t know these existed Campionand all of them, so far, are funny, sometimes sad, and often both. “Passionless Moments” (1983) is a catalogue of small moments in the lives of very ordinary people. The situations are silly, but believable. A boy pretends the vegetables he’s carrying are a bomb that he has to get to his mom’s kitchen in order to defuse it. A man does yoga and has an epiphany–I think–of something fairly obvious. Speaking of Greenaway, this reminds me of some of his early work that uses lists and voiceover as organizing principles.

Also on FilmStruck is Francis Thompson’s short “N.Y., N.Y.” 112340-n-y-n-y--0-230-0-345-crop(1957). He didn’t make many films, but this is one of the best short films I’ve ever seen–and it has a great score. I’ve read that it took 13 years to make. I’ve read that it took 20. Either way, it was a long time in the making. Thompson directed very few films, mostly (if not all) shorts. This one uses kaleidoscopic lenses to an amazing effect. Again, one that I hope to see in a theater. There is an ok transfer on YouTube.

 

 

The Week That Was, or Emptiness, Eagles, and Snow

While finishing the last week of the 2018 academic year, the family got some form of stomach virus that started last week. Since that cleared up, we’ve been able to do some much needed cleaning and organizing. We’re also planning our next academic year.

The youngest got her cast cut off and she is healing. The worst part of the ordeal (besides the smell–she dutifully peed into her cast the first night she had it) was the sore she gave herself by packing mulch into her cast. She hasn’t explained why she put the mulch in the cast, and sometimes there is no real answer. Maybe because it was there.

Tonight we were discussing different astrological systems at dinner and finding out which of us are dogs, snakes, sharks, dragons, etc. When told we were water bearers, the kids began chanting:

Water Bear! Water Bear!
Polar Bear! Polar Bear!
Woo-oop! Woo-oop!
Poolar Bear! Poolar Bear!

*repeat*

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 3.45.09 PMThe Phantom (1931) is a giant, wonderful mess of an attempt at a horror-comedy/action film. I tend to adore this kind of z-grade schlock and I want to like this one less than I do. I can’t say anything is done well here, but I still had fun. The plot revolves around a character called “The Phantom” who escapes from jail and promises more dastardly deeds. Sure. The plot is more confusing than the poster, which I think has a lovely balance to it–unlike the film.

The movie could partially be saved with a good edit. Scenes start early or end too late rendering the performances–not stellar to begin with–almost surreal. Every emotion becomes awkward humor or just awkward.

Still, I found it oddly charming.

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 4.25.00 PMLilli Carré is one of my favorite comics writers and artists. Her stories, sometimes dark, sometimes absurd, sometimes neither, may remind one of O. Henry, Aimee Bender, Flannery O’Connor, Mark Beyer, or Edward Gorey.  And whether or not these folks were actual influences, Carré is a unique and inspiring voice. I’m often terrible about keeping up with comics and the comics creators I like–I just discovered that she’s done some animated films that I’m excited to track down.

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 4.38.28 PM
Paolo Bacilieri’s FUN: Spies, Puzzle Solvers, and a Century of Crosswords is a graphic novel that tells the history of the crossword. But it’s not that simple or straightforward. The crossword history is told as a work in progress by a writer named Pippo Quester, who I think is an homage to Umberto Ecco.

The art is fantastic, and the way the art and story inform and extend each other gives the story immediate and multiple pleasures. The book holds up on multiple reads. I was shocked at how many negative reviews this one got on Goodreads. Many of the complaints were that it should be at least two different books. I totally disagree. Quester is the vertical plane of the crossword. He is known for his intelligence. This book is also partially about his fall. Zeno Porno (a Disney cartoonist!) is the horizontal. He’s down-to-earth, moving through life, trying to figure out his life. I keep thinking of Mafalda as the face staring out of the first crossword in The Settimana Enigmistica. She is an enigma in the book. There’s also a way where I read the three characters as representations of three different generations.

I loved this book.

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 5.00.43 PMMy workouts tend to be scored by either Public Enemy and older Ice Cube records or Slayer, Entombed, or other metal variations. I was scrolling through music the other day before cardio and I saw this and figured I’d give it a shot. The only thing I knew (or thought I knew) about the record was that it must not be that good because we always had 10 to 20 copies in the used bin of the record store I worked at for several years. The album art, well, just kinda sucks and I figured the rest of the thing must suck, too.

We all have our blindspots.

I didn’t recognize the opener, “Highway Star,” at first because I don’t think I’ve ever heard the actual song. I’ve heard covers, clips, and a radio edit. It’s a fantastic rock song. I found it funny that it’s a hyperbolic “girls and cars” song like a lot of the early material by the Beach Boys. I found a German TV appearance that has some great solos and a hilariously drunk or forgetful Ian Gillan. Maybe he’s improvising, but if so, it’s not very inspired.

This record also has “Smoke on the Water,” a tune off limits when I was growing up and playing music. It immediately signaled you were uncool and a beginner. I’ve never heard this song played or phrased correctly. I realized this when I finally listened to the actual song and not someone trying to play the riff. Also, the song namechecks, of all things, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. What?! I had to stop and rewind the song and  then realized it was about the Montreux fire. It was the last thing I expected in such a ubiquitous song.

Much of the record is a kind of blues rock that’s fine for what it is. I love the organ riffs and solos. There are some fun lyrics like “Maybe I’m a Leo, but I ain’t a lion.” I really like “Pictures of Home,” which is a type of ubi sunt, or “Where are they?” poem.

Back to that cover: I will say that I thought the album was contemporary in the ’90s, so maybe that’s saying something. I assumed it was a compilation or best-of thing. But still, that cover’s so bad. Did it look trippy in ’72 or something? I don’t get it. I just imagine the doors closing on the worst elevator ride ever.

 

The Week That Was, or Diplomas and Diapers

The girls have really been into The Who Was? Show, a kids’ history show on Netflix. I overheard this:

4YO: You don’t know what happened to Amillion Airheart?
6YO: Nobody at all in the whole world knows. She may have crashed or she may have  been captured.
4YO: No one knows?
6YO: Nope.
4YO: Not even you?
6YO: She drove a plane. I think she got captured.
4YO: Me, too.

The rest of the week has been a brain drain getting ready for the end of the school year. I usually feel a lot of stress from the school year at this time, partially because of AP tests, and partially because of having alternate schedules almost every day.

I like staying regular.

I guess there’s a sort of milestone with hitting ten posts of Lost Chords & Serenades Divine –a music blog I write over at The Drunken Odyssey.

We attended a kindergarten graduation that was well-organized and somehow painless. I took the grad out to lunch. She requested pancakes.

Speaking of staying regular, the younger one got a stomach virus instead of a diploma. Several blankets and sheets were demolished in the process. Once the vomiting stopped, diapers were necessary. Always keep a small amount of large diapers for the little ones once they stop wearing them regularly. Emergency nappies. You never know when a bug’s going to make ’em go.

 

 

The Week That Was, or This Is He Who Smells

An overheard conversation between bath and bedtime:

6YO: “Ciao”…”Ciao” means…uh…”Ciao” means “hello” and “goodbye” in…in…
Amy: Italian.
6YO: In Italian.
4YO: (clomps in on cast) ¡Hola, Big Dogs!

Despite a nice plate of shrimp, peas, orzo, and fresh parmesan, our children decided to skip that and eat the lemons off the cutting board. One of them danced like a robot while basically using her nose as a juicer. “Lemons are so sweet!” she yelled, and kept dancing.

Then she told me about watching a bird eat a poisonous snake during her zoo field trip. The little one decided to eat some cherry tomatoes and raw spinach leaves to go with her lemon slices. Maybe the zoo talk inspired her to eat like the turtles we saw there eat lunch once.

Later that night:
6YO: What are you doing?
Me: Fixing lunches. What are you doing?
6YO: The cat puked in our room.
Me: Can you tell mom?
6YO: She knows.
Me: Ok.
6YO: She stepped in it.
Me: Why are you telling me this?
6YO: Can I please may I have some ice water?
Me: Sure. Then bedtime.
6YO: With ice.
Me: Ice water with ice. Got it.

matheson
Richard Matheson wrote the story that became the Twilight Zone episode everyone knows (or should know!) with William Shatner. He wrote “Duel” which became Spielberg’s first feature-length film (or at least the first one most people count). When playground discussion went to horror movies, kids would talk about Trilogy of Terror‘s sequence with a Zuni doll, based on Matheson’s “Prey.” It was the only part of that film I ever heard anyone talk about. Stephen King has said that Matheson is the writer that most influenced his own work. “Prey” seems to directly influence King’s short story “Battleground” and the “General” sequence in Cat’s Eye (1985). Matheson also sets his stories predominantly within the “normal” US households and neighborhoods. For example, King took Dracula and brought the idea to a Maine town in ‘Salem’s Lot, but this homeyness has often been a strength of King’s work.

He also wrote I Am Legend, a great apocalypse novel that became The Last Man on Earth (1964), Omega Man (1971), and finally I am Legend (2007). While I haven’t seen the latest adaptation, Last Man on Earth is my favorite. Omega Man is a laugh riot even as an apocalypse film.

Ray Bradbury called him “one of the most important writers of the twentieth century.”

If that isn’t enough to make you go read his work then I don’t know what is.

I don’t know if this is truly the best of Matheson, but it is an amazing introduction to his short fiction. If I would have discovered him in high school, I don’t think anything could have kept me from writing horror fiction. What really clicks reading these stories is how writers take ideas from each other and re-work them. He’s a link between someone like Poe or Lovecraft to King.

 

 

Way back in February, I wanted to watch some more Buñuel. That didn’t happen until recently. Robinson Crusoe (1954) and Simon of the Desert (1965) make an interesting double feature. Crusoe is a favorite book of mine (the first book I remember re-reading), but this movie version isn’t great. It does, however, create a bizarre claustrophobia that helps achieve the mood of forced solitude. Evidently the film was made in some thick and dangerous jungles, while interiors were done on soundstages. This packed frame is the opposite of the visual imagery often seen with island narratives where we get broad expanses of sky and beach. Thematically this makes sense in something like Lord of the Flies (1963) and the chaotic freedom the boys feel without having grown-ups. I found the claustrophobic effect in Crusoe surprising and interesting, but not worth watching the film again.

Simon of the Desert also features a character dealing with solitude, but one which is self-inflicted. Also, the visuals of the man atop a pillar surrounded by desert and sky are the opposite of the cramped images from Crusoe. A short essay by David Heslin, “The Impotence of Asceticism: Luis Buñuel’s Simón del Desierto,” digs into the history of St. Simon and what Buñuel does with it. The film is short–I’ve heard a variety of reasons why–but it is an interesting mix of plot and Buñuel’s surrealistic images and sequences. It’s also perverse and funny, like his films often are.

That ending! Glorious for those who want to engage with the ideas and likely maddening for those who want everything neatly worked out.

oxford_library_8oz_soy_candle_front_1024x1024

Candles aren’t a usual topic here, but I do enjoy them. I decided to be a part of our department’s Secret Pal this year. I generally don’t like this kind of stuff and I wanted to push a little outside my comfort zone. Anyway, I received a Frostbeard Studio Oxford Library candle and it was fantastic. Thanks, Secret Pal! When I used that one, I tried The Shire, and while it’s a lighter fragrance, it’s nice, too. These are perfect sensory accompaniments to night reading or listening.

I really wanted to get the Old Books candle, but it is the only one I’ve seen with bad reviews. People who like book smells are persnickety–maybe. The major complaint is that it just smells like vanilla.

Once I leave The Shire, I’m journeying forth nosewise and elsewhere Frostbeardian.

 

The Week That Was, or Them Geeses

Geese and ducks have returned with their young. We’ve been walking around the pond looking at greeny goslings, all fuzzy like they got stuck under a hair dryer. We’ve also seen ducklings swim behind their parents in those cute little lines that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in person–only on cartoons or in storybooks.

My own little one holds hands and walks around cast-n-boot. She gets tired faster than usual, but that’s to be expected. She told me, “Someone needs to tell them geeses not to poop where humans can see it.” After we passed the family of geese, we passed two more standing at the edge of the water. She said, “That must be grandma and grandpa.”

The older one runs ahead of us on the trail and back again, only to run way out ahead of us again.

Despite broken bones, boxes, and the bustling beginning of the end of another school year, these are good days.

I was really feeling that and then I read about new research on the spread of ticks and their pathogens.

Anyway, I wrote about Stump’s Quirk Out for my latest Lost Chords & Serenades Divine.

 

I’ve been meaning to re-read Black Hole for a while, but I came across his trilogy at the library recently and decided to read that instead. I devoured all three in a matter of hours. There are Tintin and Burroughs references, and an InterZone-like setting that sometimes feels like Moebius interpreting Cronenberg. I just swallowed the thing whole and really haven’t digested it. Burns is doing some cool stuff at the level of image (these grids that represent each part of the story among, obviously, a ton of others) and color.

There is a way that by the time I got to the end I felt like I was reading Burns’s blasted sci-fi version of something like the autobio comics that cover grief and loss. I guess that’s similar to how he explored the coming-of-age story in Black Hole.

I don’t really watch TV shows, much less binge-watch, but I inhaled these comics.

clarke
My ears totally rejected this the first time I heard it in high school. Too bright. Too clean. Too happy. Hearing it now, it reminds me of a lot of TV and film music I heard growing up. In college, I saw a concert video of Clarke on upright and he showed an amazing command of an instrument I was struggling with at the time. I listened to School Days again. Still didn’t like it.

There’s fantastic talent on this record. Plenty of fusion royalty. McLaughlin. Cobham. Gadd. George Duke! I don’t dislike it the way I did in high school, but it’s not something that excites me too much either. Gadd’s drum track on “Quiet Afternoon” is nice. I like hearing Clarke’s approach to upright on “Desert Song.” “Hot Fun” is well-titled.

The cover is pretty great. So is this video of George Duke jamming on “School Days” with a keytar. I first heard Duke on Zappa records. Music just pours out of him. He makes everything he does look effortless. There’s such a beauty and joy in that–even when I’m not particularly excited about the music itself.