Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Random 10: It wasn't a rock, it was a rock lobster! Edition

Recent thinking about rock reminds me of this, which always seems a good way to end the week, especially one that has left me as exhausted as this one has.

But I believe that Timothy's question, "Is a definition of 'rock' that sticks us with bands like Bad Company as the exemplars of the form worth having?" points to a limitation in my musical tastes. I suppose that my definition of rock is outdated because after a certain point I started listening to far less rock than other things, hence leaving me unaware of the real developments there.

But today is not for contemplation, but simply for enumeration:

1. "Claire's Theme," Graeme Revell (Until the End of the World)
2. "Untitled," Kinky (Atlas)
3. "Air Giant," Transglobal Underground (Punjabi Lounge, disc 1)
4. "Maybe You'll Be There," Diana Krall (The Look of Love)
5. "Come, Gone" (alternate take), Sonny Rollins (Way Out West)
6. "Slippin' and Slidin'," Billy Preston (Billy's Bag)
7. "Japanese Folk Song [Kojo No Tsuki]," Thelonious Monk (Straight, No Chaser)
8. "Rock Lobster," The B-52s (The B-52s)
9. "Don Loope," Nortec Collective (Nacional Records Sampler 2006)
10. "Dru Me Negrita," Ry Cooder & Manuel Galban (Mambo Sinuendo)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Horton hears The Who.

So last night the PP and I decided to play cards, and whenever we play cards, we also play music, and so I asked him, "What would you like to hear?" And he said, "Bachman Turner Overdrive," and I said, "Hmmm, I am not sure that we have any Bachman Turner Overdrive," so he said, "Oh," so I said, "Does this mean you want Rock?" And he said, "Yes!"

I hustled to the computer and threw together what I thought might be a good Rock playlist and we started playing.

It was not too long, though, before we hit a song where PP said, "You know, this is not really rock. America is not rock." So I made a note about that and we played some more and then we hit some quiet Dire Straits and decided that was not really rock either. And then there was a Santana song that started out really quietly, and although it was getting ready to rock, it was not really rock. Neither was some of the Springsteen stuff from Nebraska (despite the fact that Bruce may be one of the PP's absolute favs.)

We started to think that rock--or at least the rock we wanted last night--was harder to define than we initially thought.

Here are our priliminary observations:

1. We could begin to define rock by using its touchstones: "Sharp Dressed Man," "Barracuda," "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," "Aqualung," "Heartbreaker," "Helter Skelter," "Dancing Days," "Won't Get Fooled Again."

2. Rock does tend to have strong guitars, it is true, but the PP insists that the beat is just as important.

3. A rock song frequently includes some kind of non-verbal or loosely verbal scream in it. (Example: the "YAH!" early in "Hungry Heart")

4. The title of the song might include the word "rock," as in "Rock and Roll All Night" or "We Will Rock You" but this does not include "Rock Around the Clock" as that is apparently a different kind of rock. The jury is still out on "Rock Lobster." Furthermore, although Falco claims that he would like for Amadeus to rock him, he does not really do so in a rock way. Ditto Michael Jackson's claims about rocking, with or without you. Simon and Garfunkel may be a rock, but they do not rock. Rocking the casbah does not equal rocking the boat. Conversely, Joe Walsh may be claiming to make Funk #49, but that is rock, my friends.

5. Mick makes rock. Not all rock must have rock, but you cannot have Mick without rock. Same thing with Link Wray (and his Raymen).

6. Rock does not usually have a heavily produced sound.

7. The PP's definition of Rock may be broader than mine. He puts the B-52's in there, and I think he wants Devo too, though I tend to think they are not rock.

What do you think? And how long can a band take to get ready to rock? (Think here about the beginning of "Detroit Rock City," because it takes about one minute and thirty seconds before the rocking starts, but then it really does rock.)

Monday, August 20, 2007

"See you on the other side."

One time I wrote that as a signature to an e-mail to a colleague who knows I have been editing this. He pointed out that given my present work, it was a rather ambiguous thing to say, and was I implying that he and/or I were heading to the spirit realms? No, I was just trying to think of something other than "Best" or "Ciao" or "Cheers" or "Bite me" to say at the end of a message.

But now I can never write it without thinking about what he said.

I am heading off today for a two-day retreat in the mountains, to get my head realligned before I return to the workaday world on Thursday. Not that I am not looking forward to seeing the shining faces in my classes, it's just all the other crap that I need to figure out how to think about in a more productive way.

So nothing from me for a few days. Enjoy your own selves.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Don't give up on your trees, boy.

So I was just listening to the CD that came with the June/July issue of The Believer and working on the fourth piece of the PP's Christmas sweater, and something occurred to me.

(But first a digression: the fifth track on the CD is "The Painter" by I'm From Barcelona. The liner notes note: "There are twenty-nine people in I'm From Barcelona. They're from Sweden, not Spain. In Sweden, twenty-nine people may sometimes be considered a small town." Anyway, the song starts, "I'm just a painter, I do my crappy art, but I see what's in your eyes and I know what's in your heart." I thought it went "I'm just a painter, I do my crappy yard," and I thought, well, yeah, if you're a painter you don't pay for someone to mow your grass and it probably does look like hell. So then when the refrain came around, I thought it was "Don't give up on your trees, boy" [actual lyrics = replace "trees" with "dreams": I like my version better], and I ultimately think this was a subliminal message to me from I'm From Barcelona, because we have a beautiful old tree in our front yard that is slowly dying, and we are trying to decide whether to spend circa $800 to try to save it or just give up now and spend the $2000 to have it taken down. I think we're leaning toward keeping it around for a few more years, thanks to the "message" from the boys actually from Sweden.)

Anyway, as I was knitting and listening to "Everybody's Down" by No Age, described by the Believer folks as "one of three loud duos on this compilation," I thought to myself, "This is not the music I would have chosen for knitting, and yet I am enjoying myself immensely.

So this brings me (finally) to my point, which is actually a question for you, both of my readers: do you have particular tunes that you think go particularly well with particular activities? And what happens when you diverge from your preferred tendencies?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Who are you calling short?

Take the book quiz! (via blogora)

You're Prufrock and Other Observations!

by T.S. Eliot

Though you are very short and often overshadowed, your voice is poetic
and lyrical. Dark and brooding, you see the world as a hopeless effort of people trying
to impress other people. Though you make reference to almost everything, you've really
heard enough about Michelangelo. You measure out your life with coffee spoons.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I piu' forti semo noi.

Niobe wants to know, "what city would you most like to spend a reasonably extended amount of time in?"

Roma, hands down. No question. Undoubtedly. There is not a close second.

In fact, I have tried my best to spend as much time there as possible, and I keep trying to find ways to spend even more.

And no, Tony, this is not all about Francesco Totti!

Have you ever walked around the Gianicolo park in the evening in the summer time? At the end of a hot day, when there are people milling around, puppet shows going on, ice cream for sale, and some of the most amazing views in the world? There is something about that evening light from that spot that makes that haze of the city go away, and even if you are exhausted from sightseeing or reading or writing or drinking wine, you just want to stand and stare.

How can you resist a city where almost every church you pass has something amazing in it--a pantokrater mosaic or a Caravaggio or a Bernini or spooky relics or a Michelangelo statue or frescoes by Filippino Lippi Raphael or just the overpowering Baroque architecture of the counter-reformation. Everywhere there are little bees or Monte di Paschi or keys or any number of other carved symbols associated with significant families that birthed numerous popes. There are little details like a trompe-l'oeil dome, or a dome made entirely of white carving or tiny swirled columns in cloisters, or Cosmati flooring. Fountains are filled with river gods or smiling suns or turtles or saints or mermen. In almost every piazza is an Egyptian obelisk stolen by the Caesars and then commandeered by some pope or another. Everything gets made, used, used again for something else.

I love riding the Roman busses, too, where you have to get your bus legs under you, in order not to be dumped into someone's lap, or crash into a signora and risk being chastised by all the other people on the bus. Attenzione alla signora! I am hungry to hear permesso spoken on a crowded bus in that wonderful romano accent.

I remember one time during a bus strike on a hot day in Rome. The strike ended at 6 p.m. sharp, so the busses running at that time were packed with people. I was sitting with a friend on a wall near the Fori Imperiali and one of those hilarious little mini-busses pulled up to a stop in front of us--packed, needless to say, which was even more hilarious because the bus was so tiny. "Permesso, permesso, permesso," my friend started saying, and we could not stop from laughing even though I expect if the people on the bus could have heard us, they would have pointed out how unfunny that was.

I love quirky Italianness, and the further south you get, the quirkier and stranger Italy gets, I think. Things in Torino or Milano or Verona or even Venezia just seem so much more logical than in Rome, where the price of stamps depends on which tabacchi you go to, traffic flows and halts according to invisible rhythms, frequently churches are closed for no reason, elevators are always guasto, bus routes frequently change, and no one blinks an eye. My favorite is an excellent restaurant near the Campo dei Fiori where (and I expect this only happens when you ask for the specials in Italian) the owner explained that there were gnocchi on the menu, "because today is Thursday." I suppose there are actual explanations for these things, but when you are there, and just trying to figure things out, it is mysterious.

(Mystery has lessened somewhat with the arrival of the Euro, if only because prices have so many fewer zeroes.)

The summer is insanely hot, and there are so few places that are air conditioned, that sweating, and being hot, and just moving a little slower become an inevitable part of life. Oh, and frequent showers. The library where I spent a lot of time had enormous windows that opened out on a garden. They were angled such that strong breezes would blow through, and they were scented of rosemary and lavendar.

When I worked in my own little studio room, I would almost always spend the morning writing in the dark, with my metal window shade pulled down against the sun, trying to move as little as possible, and wondering whether the industrial-strength hurricane-force ceiling fan was well installed.

And then, after a morning's work, when it is getting too hot to think clearly, I could wander around that city forever, finding remarkable ancient things, strange modern things, surprising advertisements, startling catcalls, not to mention millions of actual cats. Or sit for a while in a cafe and sweat while drinking a dense espresso, or go try another couple of flavors of gelato--or why not all of these, over time?

This is Radio Isis.

Not the most productive writing day today, so how about another mix instead? Unlike the last one, this one came together rather quickly.

What, is it Monday?

The usual place, the usual bunch.

After months of construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction, I have put a new mix up at Art of the Mix. If you would like a copy, let me know in the comments.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Nutritious + delicious.

The PP and I decided we need to be more thoughtful about what we eat. We have these discussions every couple of years or so: mostly we tend to have fairly healthy meals, especially when we eat in, but since we have moved, we have eaten out more, and more frequently at places that can be a bit rich, and sadly we are both getting waistlines to prove it.

The challenge, of course, since neither of us is crazy about cooking all the time, is finding ways to get nutritious meals made quickly--particularly on nights when we have had swim practice, and are ravenous and exhausted. Also, I am constantly searching for better meals to have at lunchtime, because Hot Pockets depress me.

So, half a bag of onions, a head of garlic, 1.33 pounds of ground turkey, a boatload of garam masala, numerous teaspoons of cumin seeds, a head of cabbage, 2 cans of chickpeas, half a bag of frozen peas, 1 cup of Darjeeling tea, 4 cardamom pods, a motherlode of okra, 3 cans of tunafish, 2 bay leaves, one bunch of cilantro and one of green onions, a cinnamon stick, 3 cups of rice, 6 jalapeno peppers, a fair bit of curry powder and turmeric and ground cumin and mustard seeds and sesame seeds and fennel seeds, and the juice of one lemon later, we had a damn fine Indian dinner composed of five dishes: turkey with peas, curried tuna, chickpeas cooked in tea, cabbage with fennel, okra masala + rice.

The best part? Several meals' worth of left-overs!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Be careful what you say.

Remember yesterday, when I said taht 3700 LCM was the longest practice I had done since surgery?


Last night I stepped into the new coach's office before practice, just to tell him that I might modify the practice a little bit, because I was trying to be careful not to overdo things, but also to tell him how much I had enjoyed last night's workout.

"I don't think you need to worry about your shoulder tonight," he said, "because tonight we are doing a monster kick set."

Cool, I thought. I am used to a lot of kick.

But did I realize then that he meant (count them) 2300 meters of kick???!!!! No friends, I did not.

But that is what he meant, and that is what we did.

Here is the practice:
500 warm up (choice)
2300 kick with long fins (alternating easy/fast: 50/50, 100/50, 150/50, 200/50, 250/50, 300/50, 350/100, 400/100; the 400 was for time: I clocked 5:49)
1000 swim (2 rounds of 300 free swim @ 3:00 and then 4x50 stroke @1:10, 25 fast/25 easy)
300 cool-down
Total of 4100 LCM

Today I can hardly walk.

Friday Random 10: I understand that time is running out Edition

I am sorry to say that I finally finished the last Harry Potter book. Granted, I got a late start because I insist on ordering them from the UK to get all the "blimeys" and to avoid the problem of title mangling. And then since everyone else had already read it by the time I got my copy, and this is (after all) the last book, I felt no rush to finish. So I have been stringing it out, reading a few chapters there then just one chapter here and a few pages before bed--as if it were a normal book.

But now it is over. Or as Tim says, all over but the movies. Or as Magpie pointed out, we could all get a copy of Harry Potter and the Big Funnel or (my personal fav) Harry Potter and the Chinese Overseas Students.

Can you tell it is Friday afternoon, that the brain has shut down, perhaps an hour or so in advance of the end of the work day?

So instead, because Tim reminded me of this too (yes, I do read other blogs...), Friday Random 10 for your sexy bod:
1. "Jump (for my love)," The Pointer Sisters
2. "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night," Prince, Sign O' the Times
3. "Universal Love," Trüby Trio, Elevator Music
4. "Aldeia de Okarimbé," Neguinho da Beija-Flor, Brazil Classics 2: O Samba
5. "En Geng Ska Han Greta" [One day he'll cry], Garmarna, Nordic Roots: A Northside Compilation
6. "Roger the Miller," Karan Casey, Songlines
7. "James Brownian Motion," The Evolution Control Committee
8. "Mexican Radio, Wall of Voodoo
9. "Cafe de Flore," Doctor Rockit, The Unnecessary History of Doctor Rockit
10. "Bush Killa," Paris, Sleeping with the Enemy

Thursday, August 09, 2007


We have a new coach added to our team's staff. During the regular season, he will only coach one practice a week, but for now, while other coaches are away on summer vacations, he is our everyday coach. A few of us had said to him that we would love to get some interval practices in--something that neither of our other coaches tend to do.

I do not know about you, but if I do not have intervals, I tend to be a big slacker--take too much rest, get too much time between sets. This does not make me faster. Plus, it gives me too much time to think--too much time to psych myself out, convince myself I am tired and cannot do the next set.

But not last night!

The new coach was still getting a few kinks out--like everyone's speed (and we have a pretty big range)--but it was a good practice, and I found the intervals to be about right for me. The only problem was that it was a LOT of freestyle, and my shoulder did not like that. So on a few of the swims, I modified by alternating 50 FR with 50 BR, which felt better but made it harder to make the intervals (and wore me out!) .

This was also an interesting practice for me because I realized that I had no idea of my pace in long-course meters--since all the interval work I had done in the past had been in a short-course yards pool.

Anyway, here is the damage:
1200 warm-up (4x200 free @ 4:00 and then 4x100 kick @ 3:30)
700 swim (this was a 15 minute swim, where you take about 10 seconds rest after each 100, and try to get a sense of your pace. I was swimming 100 free at anywhere from 1:42 to 1:50, but for 5 of the 7 swims, I was at 1:44)
1000 swim ( 1x400 free @ 8:00, then 50 easy @ 1:10, then 2x250 free @ 5:00, then another 50 easy @1:10. I modified the 400 and the first 250 by swimming 50FR/50BR, and this left me hardly any rest, so I did the last 250 free, which helped a lot)
600 IM swim (3x200 IM @4:30: I had to do the FL drill here, because my shoulder was screaming, but I managed to hold about 4:00 swim time through the set, descending slightly)
200 cool-down
That's 3700 LCM total.

I was pretty proud of myself for finishing that practice. It was by far the most intensity I have done since my surgery, and one of the most consistently strong practices I have had this season. Besides, that is more meterage than I have swum in a long time with no fins.

So now let's see whether I make it through practice tonight....

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not.

I do not tend to put the things I have knitted on this blog. That is because to do so requires a big photographic expedition, followed by a description of what I have made, and the descriptions never do encompass the things, because the things are not really about the things in their thingness, but about the memory of their making, somehow wrapped into all the stitches.

I can look at this scarf and say, I remember what people were talking about while I knitted this gray section, and that it started raining outside during that purple, and before I knew it, as the daylight was fading into the evening time, there was pink. When I added the second ball of yarn, I could almost not contain myself from keeping knitting, and all around me were people who were expecting to eat dinner sometime, and, it turns out, I was supposed to make that dinner. I was thinking about Jasper Johns when I looked at those little flecks of contrasting green, and watching my cat want to devour the thing back at that point where blue turned back into rose.

And how can a picture, or a picture and details about needle size and pattern, contain that?

I have decided to call it the Heraclitus scarf, because the unbearable, unavoidable pleasure of making it is the intensity of the colors and their changes. Just when you think you could never leave the multi-flaked world of that green, you are thrust into a teal blue, with the knowledge that it is about to change into a rich blue like saturated skies, and then, before you know it, pale raspberry pink. How does a person handle that much flux? Does the pleasure of this yarn come from how many things it lets you see all at the same time, or from the knowledge that if you do not surrender yourself to it every single moment that you are knitting, you will miss something gorgeous? And how is it exactly that fibers find a way to contain that richness of color that I thought was reserved for mosaic tiles and the way they combine to make an overwhelming space of light and color?

[for the curious: made with Noro Iro yarn, 2 balls, on US size 11 needles]

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

le Zattere

Ian Williams, over at xtcian, asked this morning, "what place do you miss terribly right now, and can you link to a picture of it?"

Here is my picture:

For those of you unfamiliar with Venice, that's a shot from the Zattere, along Dorsoduro, looking at the Giudecca at the left and out towards the shipyards off in the distance.

I was there with a group of other people interested in some of what I am interested in, and we had gone out to Dorsoduro that afternoon because it was important to us and to what we were interested in.

Witness this, from Canto LXXXIII:

San Gregorio, San Trovaso
Old Ziovan raced at seventy after his glories
and came in long last
And the family eyes stayed the same Adriatic
for three generations (San Vio)
and was, I suppose, last month the Redentore as usual

Will I ever see the Giudecca again?
or the lights
against it, Ca' Foscari, Ca' Giustinian
or the Ca', as they say, of Desdemona
or the two towers where are the cypress no more
or the boats moored off le Zattere
or the north quai of the Sensaria DAKRUON DAKRUON*

[DAKRUON in Greek (and the second time it should be in Greek letters--don't know how to do that with blogger) means "weeping."]

Ezra Pound wrote that while he was penned up in a cage at Pisa, having been arrested for treason. The poems he wrote there catalogue his losses, and his feared losses, as if they are fending off the loss of his mind or the ultimate loss. Of that same cage he wrote in the same poem:

Nor man who has passed a month in the death cells
believes in cages for beasts

The afternoon we walked around Dorsoduro, looking at San Gregorio, San Trovaso, San Vio, it was raining. In fact, as we had taken the vaporetto from San Servolo back to San Zaccharia, we had watched the storm roll in from the Lido.

While we were waiting for another vap to go over to Dorsoduro, the god of waters had opened a can of rain on our heads, and we had huddled together at the vap station, on the boat, in a walkway, waiting for it to stop. We bought umbrellas from the guys who show up with bags of them when it rains--never was 2 euros better spent (though the umbrella will soon disintegrate). Finally we gave up, and wandered together through Dorsoduro in the rain, looking for traces of the man who had lived there, had made the place into poetry.

At the end of our tour, we came to le Zattere, and the rain stopped, and that famous evening Dorsoduro light gave us an illuminated glimpse of what we came for, the Redentore as usual:

Isn't it funny how one person's nostalgia, one person's loss, can so quickly become another's?

All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.

Monday, August 06, 2007

I gather the needs of Osiris.

I have been reading through dead baby jokes, and amidst many wise words and thought-provoking posts, I came across this little whimsy that, granted, dates from several months back, so I am confident that the cool kids are all done with this game already. But not me! I have just discovered it!

Goes like this: You google "[your name] needs" and see what the first ten results are. Niobe notes that "If your name is very common, you'll want to skip over those results that are just other blogs playing the same game. If your name is very unusual, you may just be out of luck."

Not me!

Here are my results, edited (like google does) to eliminate repetition:

Perhaps Isis needs individuals who are strong and comfortable in both modes, not just one, and this is Her way of making them.

Isis needs your help.

Isis needs many prayers.

Isis needs to adjust.

Isis needs a good major Pharma partner ASAP.

Isis needs to be moar metal.

Isis needs to come off the telescope for the interchange.

Isis needs theses to maintain the sessions.

Isis needs to be revamped -- and soon.

Isis needs to wear the amulet--without it she's grounded.

(and finally, because this blog goes up to 11...)

The last thing Isis needs is for more trouble to come her way.

Amen, google!

Friday, August 03, 2007

I've still had it with the motherf*$%ing snakes!

You're Ireland!

Mystical and rain-soaked, you remain mysterious to many people, and this
makes you intriguing.  You also like a good night at the pub, though many are just as
worried that you will blow up the pub as drink your beverage of choice.  You're good
with words, remarkably lucky, and know and enjoy at least fifteen ways of eating a potato.
 You really don't like snakes.

Take the Country Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

All the new thinking is about loss.

In this it resembles all the old thinking.

What is it precisely that signals us that we are in a moment that is winding to a close? Something about the light, and the way it quietly fades in the afternoon, signalling you that finally, if you are going to keep reading, you should turn on a lamp? Or that slightly elevated spinning sound that happens before you eject a CD or a DVD? The soundtrack and credits rolling? People starting to pack up their things? Hurry up please, it's time?

And whatever that thing is, is it the thing that makes us want to hold on to some possession, forgetting that, as Crazy Aunt Purl so eloquently said today, "it's just a blanket, it's not a soul"? Do we grasp, then, at a familiar idea? Or spin a new world view to accommodate a change of heart? Or do we instead hammer away as if nothing has changed, as if this present state of things will endure always?

Even as we are aware that we are in this moment, we are already imagining its passing, desiring it, fearing it. Do we panic then because we see ourselves out there, in some unimaginable later moment, doing something we think we might do but that we cannot yet envision? Or is it because we know what we did last time, and please God let us not do that again?

What is it we want when we imagine this future us? What should we hope for? (Wait without hope, Eliot says, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing.)

In these present moments, then, too often we scurry around, collecting, preserving, filing, trying to remember--staving off loss, because we imagine that this future us--wherever we are--will appreciate that, will remember us kindly, will forgive us. Or we decide that this is time we have been waiting for, to clean things out, chuck out the old xeroxes, cull our bookshelves, take a box to the used CD store, defragment all our drives (hard or otherwise). In this way, we tell ourselves, we will be unencumbered--our past will be more visible without these encrustations, and our future freer. We will have room to spread out, we say, with a slight laugh and a glance over our shoulder.

All this prevention, all this remorse--it is all a denial of desire. Or, "Longing, we say, because desire is full of endless distances."

What if instead I lay down the anxiety, and instead surrender? Put away the calendar, let a few things slip, cease taking pleasure at being called a model--instead just think about what each armstroke feels like, whether each hand is taking a handfull of water, whether there is rotation in the hips?

Stop planning: this is a time for relishing the feeling of today.