Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Director's Cut
Jonathon Baker

Mathematics & Corpses

I’m stuffing
all these
into a wooden
box under
the desk.
If words
are corpses
I must,
in code,
name what
this longing
is like
& what
this longing
is not.

- Joshua Marie Wilkinson, from his collection S.O.A.S.I.A.R.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

A Mauritanian Dance

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

“Every bad sentence you write trails behind you like a monster.”
- Paul Valéry

My bedroom looks like a fallout zone today. Amongst the wreckage you might find a stack of ungraded papers literally two-feet tall, billions of bite-sized Snicker wrappers, clean clothes in piles next to dirty clothes, books stacked haphazardly everywhere, but somehow, amidst this cluttery confusion, I have completed my MA thesis.

Yes. It is done.

The first 77 pages of my novel is ready to be given to my committee, ready, for the first time since the project began three years ago, to be shown to an audience. I feel good about it. The work is complete and I’m satisfied. Hopefully readers will enjoy it.

Of course, this is only the preliminary hurdle. It satisfies the requirements for my degree, but the other 230 pages have yet to be revised. The complete text is due to the Summer Writer’s Conference by the end of March. So I have about four weeks to fix up the rest of it before I can fully begin to celebrate.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Diego In My Thoughts

Frida Kahlo

"I guess when your heart gets broken, you sort of start to see the cracks in everything."

- JJ Abrams, Felicity:Season One, Episode Three

Went to a reading tonight at the tango bar. My friend, fiction writer Steve Edwards, filling in for someone at the last minute, shared a knockdown hilarious, but yet strangely sad short piece that was written in the negative, i.e. I didn’t get a speeding ticket on my way to school today. I didn’t wake up late. I didn’t bust my ankle in the shower. etc. Also, OSU alumni Carrie Shipers gave us a taste of her poetry about dead people. She read one from the point of view of the ghost in the old hitchhiker-as-ghost ghost story. All in all, it was one of the better No Name readings I’ve attended.

Speaking of OSU, or The Ohio State University, I have yet to accept their tempting offer for next year, partly because I’m still waiting to hear back from Alabama and Indiana, as well as the school currently employing me. Without all the results, I can’t officially say one way or the other. Everything is still up in the air. I could get a letter from Alabama tomorrow that makes me rethink everything. I could get an email from our department here at UNL offering me funding for a PhD, but with each passing day, minus offers from elsewhere, I’ve been mentally moving more and more of my things to Columbus, Ohio. The folks in the MFA program there, faculty and students, are so warm and inviting. They’ve gone out of their way to make me feel welcome with phone calls and loads of encouraging emails. I’ve never been to Ohio, but I like it already.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Here's a list of happy things:

Tomorrow it's supposed to be 60 degrees here in Lincoln.

C.S.P. sent me this great NPR story about evolving linguistics, which I plan to use tomorrow in my ENG 101 class - since it's "fun friday." I think my students will enjoy exploring the idea of slang.

My friend Classi B wrote me a much needed pick-me-up email.

My lovely Imaginary Friend in Vegas also wrote to cheer me up, a beautiful letter wherein she wrote, "You are a painitng of children and weddings and cats and love."

Phil and Kobe led the Lakers to a recent win over Portland.

My novel is shaping up nicely. (Thesis due next week!)

The American Book Review listed their picks for The 100 Best First Lines From Novels, and many of my favorites are represented:

#4 - Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. — Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)

#5 - Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. — Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

#8 - It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. — George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

#94 - In the town, there were two mutes and they were always together. — Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940)

Plus, here's more Fall 2006 artistry from the runways:

Cynthia Rowley

Karl Lagerfeld

Marc Jacobs

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Monday, February 20, 2006

Here are three paintings by contemporary German artist Michael Sowa, the man behind the visual effects for Jean-Pierre Jeunet's cinematic masterpiece Amélie.

I think organizing these three paintings in this way (Steeet Rabbit, Rabbit on Train, Father and Son) works to tell quite a melancholy story...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

This evening I went to a poetry reading downtown...partly to support the guys who run the series, partly to get out of the house and away from reading Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Devil on the Cross for my African Lit. class, and partly because I've been interested in Noah Eli Gordon for a while.

But it ended up that Joshua Marie Wilkinson made the greatest impression on me, so much so that I purchased his book Suspension of a Secret in Abandoned Rooms, which is based on an imagined correspondence between the painter Egon Schiele and the philosopher/linguist Ludwig Wittgenstein.

I also picked up Gordon's The Area of Sound Called the Subtone, for good measure. Boy, he reads like an uzi submachine gun set on automatic, so quick he kept running out of saliva, his face plum purple and gasping.

The last fella to read, Jake Adam York, began by saying, "This is dedicated to someone who couldn't make it, whoever that may be."

Friday, February 17, 2006

Hish, Lord of Silence
Sidney Sime (1905)

“You can’t be happy and pout; you have to be moody.”
- Keira Knightley, being interviewed on Ellen

The temperature in Lincoln today is 1 degree with a wind chill of 20 below zero. This weather is not particularly conducive to healing, so I eat a peppermint candy to warm the wound.

Last night I went to hear ZZ Packer read at Wesleyan, where their English department finds a way to bring interesting, influential, provocative writers to Lincoln. Our department, on the other hand, does little by way of recruiting visiting scribes - but that’s beside the point; the point, if one could call it a point, is that I felt the empty seat beside me, could hear it aching. Silence, but for ZZ reading, and the squealing empty hiss of longing next to me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

............ It's C.S.P
......with a briefcase on his head !!!

Which is a cool, happy photo, and I did promise more uplifting things today, so hopefully this fun shot will foot that bill.

For what it’s worth, I’m sprucing up the links on the sidebar.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Monday, February 13, 2006

Here are four small reasons why today I bought Yusef Komunyakaa’s book of poems Neon Vernacular:

I'm the warm-up act.
I punch myself in the face
across a makeshift stage.
Fall through imaginary trapdoors.

- from his poem "The Dog Act"

Encased in glass, a woman
opens her eyes. The room floods
with a century of bells.
Magnetic balls & sound of metal
seem enough to build a locomotive
moving through the room’s wooden bones.

- from his poem “Passions”

How can love heal
the mouth shut this way?
Say something worth breath.

- from his poem “Safe Subjects”

First, worms begin with a man’s mind.
Then they eat away his left shoe
to answer his final question.
His heart turns into a golden thimble of ashes,
his bones remind bees of honeycomb,
he falls back into himself like dirt into a hole,
his soul fits into a matchbox
in the shirt pocket
of his brother’s well-tailored uniform.

-from his poem “In the Background of Silence”

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Fall 2006 Fashion Week in New York City ends tomorrow. Perhaps I’ll do a second update over the weekend, once all the photos are in from all the runway shows. As of now, it seems that black is the new black and creativity is out. Many of the designers I’ve come to admire presented, in my opinion, lackluster collections. I’m not too super thrilled about anyone’s whole line, maybe a few pieces here and there, but nothing like how I felt about Oscar de la Renta last year or Chloé the year before. And for the most part, I’ve found more interesting work from designers whom I’ve not been previously acquainted. So I’ve chosen to highlight three designers who used color other than black, that I’d either never paid attention to or never heard of:

Badgley Mischka

Anna Sui

Alexandre Herchcovitch

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Dana Schutz Gravity Fanatic (2005)

I’m fascinated by this artist’s uniquely grotesque and surreal work. I chose to feature this particular painting because I love the way she presents an idea I’d never thought of before in a way that strikes me as both new and reminiscent. Like Sir Isaac Newton meets Jonathan Swift meets Salvador Dali meets Judy Blume. When I saw it for the first time, I nodded feverishly and smiled really big and did that high-pitched laugh I tend to do when I’m genuinely startled by something. It was a moment when I felt a connection to someone else’s ideas and a certain commiseration with my interpretation of her intentions. There are certainly more colorful and provocative pieces amongst her collections, so many good ones that I considered posting three or four, including a decapitated boy, little girls performing a surgery, a man eating his own chest, wooden teeth, blindfolded white men, a living headless dog, bourgeoisie partying, and the autopsy of Michael Jackson. If you’re interested in seeing more of her stuff you can go here.

Currently, I’m listening to a band called Dungen. They sound like an experimental rollercoaster operated by a bashful, psychedelic, melodious conductor who whistles and stomps his feet. There’s strings and pianos and guitars and drums and flutes and fiddles; one track even has a saxophone. Plus, all the lyrics are in Swedish. They are here.

ps - first blog milestone: 1,000 hits

Friday, February 03, 2006

I cleared a spot off one of my bookshelves for my brother’s kitty, Miike. She seems to enjoy the perch. In this shot she’s checking out that box set of Henry Miller there by her feet. If she’s anything like me, she liked Black Spring more than either of those two famous Tropics. Usually she doesn’t talk much about literature, but this afternoon while I flipped through Ander Monson’s Vacationland, she curled up on my lap and encouraged me to read aloud.

The cats trail like wedding bands
behind the boys who sell what they call
spare blood in jars and their compelling
stories of salt and postage.
We spend recent evenings in complacence
and ambivalence, not worrying the season out
but enduring its remainder.

-from Monson’s poem “Things Are Not As Bad As They Seem”

Thursday, February 02, 2006

If I were to affect my best Kanye West-like cockiness, I think my own novel is shaping up to be a pretty handsome little statue. I’m thrilled about the way it’s playing out. I think the fact that my brother and K. and I have been obsessively watching episode after episode of Lost has helped. I’ve been paying close attention to the structure: how J.J. Abrams and company juggle the separate storylines, how they weave back and forth and interconnect, how they build suspense and create compassion for the characters. Then I go and try to reshape my novel in similar ways. Believe me, aside from the seemingly leisurely aspect of watching countless episodes of a television show, it’s an excellent learning tool. In honesty, it beats a lot of writing workshops I’ve had in my life. Once, someone asked me if I got an awful lot out of film school. I told him, “No, I learned more from watching director commentaries on laserdisks and dvds than I ever learned in film school.” I must confess, I get more out of grad school now than I ever did as an undergrad, but I still get a lot out of deconstructing visuals.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I rarely splurge, but in the last few days I’ve gone nutty. Here are the books of poetry I’ve just purchased:

Dean Young - Elegy On Toy Piano
Ander Monson - Vacationland
Joyelle McSweeney - The Red Bird
Lawrence Ferlinghetti - A Coney Island of the Mind
James Tate - Worshipful Company of Fletchers
Joseph Campana - The Book of Faces
John Berryman - The Dream Songs

These should keep me occupied for a while.