Stolen Moments

I’ve wanted to write something for Chuck Wendig’s Friday prompts for a long time. During the school year, it’s difficult to eek out something in a week and during the summer I usually have a variety of other work going on. Last Friday, in honor of Anthony Bourdain, Wendig asked us to write about food with the idea that food is almost always more than that. I also wanted to experiment with second person. Hope you enjoy!

Stolen Moments
You sit and say water’s fine. You move the fork, knife, and napkin to the other side. A habit. You hear your palm sliding on the table. It reminds you of pans scraping across the counters in the bakery. You worked there with your mother. She always wore her hair long, but at the bakery she wound it into a top knot that reminded you of samurai or fantasy characters, the smaller ones like elves. You remember seeing her make pigs-in-a-blanket. She stood over the pan wrapping little red sausages in white dough. Plastic gloves. Apron. She looked fragile to you for the first time. You get your water. It’s cold and the glass is sweating. You order. You had moved back home and felt that failure in your core, eels twisting in your intestines.You worked at the bakery to save money, while it was the last time you spent regularly with your parents. You started learning alto saxophone. You learned bebop melodies. “Salt Peanuts.” “Body and Soul.” “Tempus Fugit.” “A Night in Tunisia.” You never played them at bebop tempos. You couldn’t. You would even slow the metronome to forty, thirty, even twenty beats per minute, and listen to how the notes connected. Or how you hoped they would connect. The spaces became larger. Grave, the tempo is called. Slow and solemn. The waitress pours more water with your order. She asks how everything is. You fork your yolk and watch its perfect weep. Everything’s fine, you tell her. Fine, like the end of a song.

 

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.

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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 Brokefoot Poutin’

Remember last week and all that great weather and trips to the park? This week began in rain (and ended in rain) and a broken foot for our youngest who was just getting the hang of sliding down the “fire pole” by herself. She’s in a cast and a Franken-boot since it’s more dangerous for little ones to have crutches. I assume more dangerous to herself, but I have a feeling if she had crutches, we would be treating her older sister for a concussion or worse. We know she’s been in pain and sometimes it catches up to her, but overall she’s been so good about everything, despite what I titled this entry.

jericho
It’s quite difficult to work with and respond to canonical texts without having the older work overtake the new one. Brown shows masterful control here. Where there are resonances with the Bible, the language never takes control of Brown’s own. He’s writing contemporary poetry rich in its own melody, yet rich in historical overtones.

I’m taking a break from the grind of the submission process, and to some degree a break from poetry writing itself. I’ve naturally fallen into nonfiction–it’s what I started writing back in sixth grade. And music is now taking up some of that time I used for writing and submitting. One of the benefits of this break is taking the time to read many of the contemporary poets I’ve been wanting to read. Brown’s name has come up a lot recently.

 

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I think this may have been the first time I watched Man with a Movie Camera (1929) as a whole. Anyone with an interest in film or film theory has likely seen images from it (like the Odessa steps sequence of Eisenstein). This is a fantastic film built on a montage of daily life and the creation of film itself. The “man” of the title is often filmed by another man with a camera. I watched this in relation to Peeping Tom (1960), another self-reflexive film that I’m writing about for my next Test Prep essay.

 

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One of my favorite movies is Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), so it’s strange that I somehow missed Escape from New York (1981). Overall, it’s a well-done popcorn movie. I liked the images of the city, blacked-out, skyscrapers green and hulking and empty. I also liked the palette for many of the night scenes: high contrast red and greens or cool blues (and grays and tans? if I remember correctly) played against the darkness (and Carpenter’s score).

Anyway, I’ve never noticed Carpenter use so many focus pulls.

Frank Doubleday’s creepy, oddball performance as “Romero” just about steals the whole movie, which is saying a lot for a film rife with scene stealers.

This week I’ve been listening to Alban Berg’s Piano Sonata, Op. 1. It was his first published composition, but his only sonata. Berg wrote this as a student of Schoenberg, who developed the most lasting version of twelve-tone composition we have. I love the coloring of these chords and how within this context dissonance and consonance–or rather a traditional notion of these ideas–gets altered. I’m going to listen and pick through the score some, just to gain some understanding of what’s going on, though for the moment, staring at something like this:

berg

seems way beyond my comprehension at the moment.

Anyway, I’ve mostly listened to Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s recording of it, but I plan on listening through some other performances to hear how different players approach a work like this. Glenn Gould has also recorded it, so I’m interested to see how his compares to others. I really hated his Bach recordings for years, but they’ve grown on me.

aimard

I’ve been working on the first Bach cello suite and had an insight that I’m almost embarrassed to admit. Maybe I will when I have the piece under my fingers again.

For sightreading practice I’m playing some of Haydn’s E Flat string quartet (No. 31) and playing the cello part on electric bass.

And for workouts this week I’ve been revisiting:
mega
Metallica’s music never made me interested in playing guitar, but Megadeth, especially Rust in Peaceinspired me to try more guitar playing. Great riffs and solos. A friend’s dad once described Mustaine’s vocals as like “a little, green head yellin’ at me.” Sure, some of that’s cringy–but Mustaine takes on characters at times, which was kind of a risk in thrash. I forgot how funny some of the lyrics were (“Immense in my girth, erect I stand tall” –C-mon, it’s about a missile!–“Launch the Polaris! The end doesn’t scare us!”). I remember enjoying the references to Roswell and general dystopian theme of this record.

I’m also trying to redevelop the walking bass chops I once had. I’ve also discovered some Paul Chambers isolated bass tracks, which I’m excited to learn from as well.

If I can ever get these essays graded.

The Week That Was, or Red Planet Aligned

We’ve had great weather here, so when the kids get home we’ve been going to the park. I miss when the geese would waddle around us. Now there’s just screeching trees, but at least the insects and the heat haven’t taken over…yet. Mostly it’s just Spider-Man jumps and running around the playground. My oldest likes to run at least two laps before playtime and two after. She is the only runner in the family, even her competitive younger sister watches and says, “Let me hold the clock!”

I wrote a whole page on bassist Bakithi Kumalo that I ended up editing out of my latest post on Lost Chords & Serenades Divine. I’ve been researching a variety of African rock and pop styles, partially out of general interest and partially for bass playing inspiration. The one personal positive outcome from our flood has been my rediscovery of bass playing.

In true reanimated fashion, I published an essay I wrote on zombies over a decade ago for Test Prep to go with their episode on Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Mother! (2017). George Romero remains an inspiration.

 

smith
I’m always reading a book of poetry, but that may mean reading only a poem or two a day. I had enjoyed a few of Smith’s poems in various publications, and I admired not only the individual lines and poems, but also the organization of Life on Mars. Smith weaves several topics together, grief, the death of a father, David Bowie, etc. What struck me was how Modernist the book was, while being contemporary. I don’t know much about Smith, but there was this echo of style and device of Eliot and Pound and Yeats, but not mimicry. The multiple dimensional use of Bowie as a reference reminded me of Pound’s use of references. After Silverstein, Hughes, Poe, and Dickinson, the Modern poets, for better or worse, were my first real poetry obsessions. I knew poetry would be a part of my life after reading them.

 

banner
So this came with my Audible account I started two years ago. I enjoyed Krakauer’s Into the Wild, but I thought this was the Mt. Everest book, which only sort of interests me. I didn’t have any credits left and didn’t want to spend any more money on books, so I decided to listen to it since it was free. Wow. This isn’t the Everest book. This is the Mormon murder book. If you’ve listened to the podcast, you know that I’ve been studying religion and religious texts informally for over a decade. I hadn’t done much work on Mormonism, fundamental or otherwise, though I’ve had pleasant conversations with Mormon missionaries.

It’s a mix of Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. Seriously.

 

mast
Moby Dick is one of my favorite novels, and when I heard that there was a metal record based on it (to some degree), it cracked me up. Someone tried to get me to listen to it once, but I just wasn’t interested in hearing metal at the time. Time’s change. Mastodon’s Leviathan (2004) has been cued up several times this week and I think it’s a blast. I’ve previewed a few of their other albums and none of them have caught my ear yet.

 

I generally don’t write about stuff I don’t like. It just doesn’t seem useful. Sometimes work is just not for me at a specific time (see above paragraph) or simply not for me. That’s ok. I may personally analyze something that I don’t think works in order to learn from it. Anyway, this particular week brought me two unexpected cases.

clowes
I’ve been reading Clowes since he was in Cracked. I’m wondering if I missed something with this one. It felt like a chore getting though it sometimes and I’ve never had that experience with his work (though I recently attempted a viewing of the Ghost World adaptation–a movie I liked when it was released–and found it unwatchable). There were interesting nods to other cartoonists’ styles, like the time dimensions would be characters visiting different strips or universes drawn by a different author. Any other Clowes fans have the same reaction?

 

diner
I had only heard good things about Diner (1982). While there are some sparkling performances here, I felt like Kevin Bacon’s character most of the time: I either wanted to drink or punch windows or both. I don’t think that was what I was supposed to get from it. I much prefer the Baltimore of John Waters.

The Week That Was, or Jackasserie

The post below is originally from Friday, February 23. As we were settling down for the night, we heard running, then rushing water. Within minutes water was pouring out of the ceiling and flooding over my shoes. Parts of the ceiling fell in. No one was physically hurt, but we had to move to a new apartment and the kids will be waiting for another month before we have all of their clothes and toys in order to know if they are too damaged from the water. We were in a hotel for about two weeks. We’re slowly getting life back together. 

I’ve had to abandon several writing projects that I hope to resume as soon as I can. Until then, this may be the last update for a while.

I have to give thanks to family, friends, students, and colleagues who have been patient and helped support us through this. Thank you! 

Also, a big thanks to Elton Ripley, who has been incredibly helpful. We couldn’t have gotten through this process without him.

Here’s what I was writing a few Fridays ago: 

Shorter work weeks feel more difficult than a normal week. It’s like everyone still crams in the same amount of work and expectations over fewer days.

And that’s been most of the week, really. Lots of work and essay grading, which will likely continue for at least a month before reviews start kicking in.

My AP students did an exercise writing descriptive paragraphs that used polysyndeton in one version and asyndeton in another. Then they analyzed how the devices altered the tone and tempo of their writing. Though descriptive writing can be blended into any writing mode, it sure felt like a break reading these in between the various analytical papers we generally write. It’s nice to see a different side of their personality come out in their writing.

I did a random line doodle that turned into a portrait of a donkey. Balthazar? I was once told I was like the Eeyore of faculty meetings. I’m trying!

Balthazar

 

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Bluebeard (1936)

I love stop-motion animation and I had never heard of this one before it turned up on FilmStruck. It’s short, but fun–and extremely violent. I mean it’s like California Raisin gore, but still. It retells the Bluebeard folktale of a powerful, ugly nobleman whose wives have a habit of disappearing. He warns a new wife that she can go anywhere and enjoy any treasure, but to stay away from a chamber in the bottom of the castle.

While not the smoothest animation, Bluebeard has some interesting design concepts and sometimes an interesting use of materials, for example, the cottony fabric used for dust coming off of the roads.

And the quality in some spots is breathtaking, though you can tell that the film stock or stocks that the restoration was done from were damaged. It’s part of a Criterion Collection of Jean Painlevé’s, Science Is Fiction, which features some outstanding short films on underwater subjects like the octopus and sea horse.