Sunday, February 8, 2009

Have You Heard? Winter '09

Nyra gave me this Starbucks CD that she picked up cheap somehow. It convinced me that I should get the new Byrne/Eno album, anyway!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Little Known Facts About Well Known Places: Disneyland

Normally I don't seek out Disney trivia. But the form and layout of this book was so pleasant, and appealing, I decided to pick it up. Normally I get bored reading this kind of thing, but it was arranged so beautifully, it was a delight to read. And I picked up some new info I never knew: The Matterhorn was the first steel coaster, for instance... and the reason that Walt got involved in the 1964 World's Fair (which gave us Small World, Abe Lincoln, Pirates, and other attractions) was because he was out of cash, and needed some paying gigs. Oh -- and maybe, just maybe, Club 33 got it's name for 1933, when prohibition was repealed -- it is the only place on park to get alcohol.


I heard this on WYEP, and decided to buy it because it had a special sound, and hey, they're a Pittsburgh band! My favorite song is definitely "Shhh". They sound a little like Bjork's poppy little sister, in a way.

This is the Sea

I heard the single "The Whole of the Moon", and decided to buy the album. The single definitely stands out from the rest of the album, I think -- but the whole thing has a nice new wave kind of sound.

The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker (book)

I got this for Christmas. The book itself does not hold the complete cartoons of the New Yorker -- that would be something like 75 volumes. Instead, it has a nice selection of maybe 1000 of the best, but comes with a dvd-rom that holds every single cartoon in the magazine's history. I read the book, but the dvd is daunting. I'm not sure I'll ever finish going through it -- but I might, you never know!


This was a new kind of puzzle game I hadn't seen before. I would never have thought of making a puzzle like this -- using the numbers that are there, you fill in the rest (going from 1-81), with the constraint that the numbers are in an unbroken path. It is cute and fun -- but I can't imagine doing this all the time -- I would think it would get kind of repetitive.

Hotel for Dogs

My daughter really wanted to see this, so we went. It was typical Disney fare -- a direct assault on the heartstrings. I mean, really -- how can an eight-year-old not cry at a story about brother and sister orphans being separated from each other at the same time their dog is going to be put to sleep? For good measure they throw in a three-legged dog while they play violins. Anyway, it wasn't a bad story, and she got it from beginning to end, laughing and crying at just the right spots. I don't think she had ever cried at a movie before, and she seemed quite surprised to be doing so.

Harvard Classics: Week Three

Well, a business trip broke my rhythm with this, and also, having to do it every single day was becoming a bit of a grind, anyway. So, I've decided I will proceed with reading them all in order, but I have no aspirations to finish it within a year.

Jan 15: Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, pp. 943-953. I'd oft heard of this, but never read any of it. It certainly has it's own eerie beauty! Though I wonder whether this rhyming translation really keeps the original spirit of it...

Jan 16: Aesop's Fables, pp. 31-43. I'd read many of these before, but this one I think was new to me:
The Old Man and Death
An old labourer, bent double with age and toil, was gathering sticks in a forest.  At last he grew so tired and hopeless that he threw down the bundle of sticks, and cried out: "I cannot bear this life any longer.  Ah, I wish Death would only come and take me!"  As he spoke, Death, a grisly skeleton, appeared and said to him: "What wouldst thou, Mortal?  I heard thee call me."  "Please, sir," replied the woodcutter, "would you kindly help me to lift this faggot of sticks on to my shoulder?"
Jan. 17: Franklin's Autobiography, pp. 5-15. Personal stories from Franklin. The tone of the book is very personal, since he was writing it to his son.

Jan 18: The Frogs, pp. 439-449. I read Aristophanes' The Clouds in 9th grade, and thought it was great fun. This is fun, too -- a lot of farce involving greek gods. I'd like to find a more modern translation, so I might understand it better.

Jan 19: The Poetic Principle, pp. 371-380. This is an essay by Edgar Allen Poe about what makes for good poetry. He has surprising views on the length that poems should be -- he talks a bit about interest curve, and points out that short poems are often forgotten, and long poems become tiresome.

Jan 20: Eve of St. Agnes, pp. 883-893. This was a poem by Keats that was hard for me to grasp at times, but it has moments of imagery that are incredibly real and powerful.

Jan 21: Andersen's Tales, pp. 301-310. I had never read this story, entitled The Emperor and the Nightingale. It's incredible! It's about robots, and what it means to be alive -- it has an unearthly quality that takes it out of time -- the nightingale represents everything that I desire to be.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster

This is the first time I'd read Richard Brautigan, and it made a big impression on me. His poems are simple and non-rhyming, and often are trying to do nothing more than convey a memory, or a moment, like this:
November 3

I'm sitting in a cafe,
drinking a Coke.

A fly is sleeping
on a paper napkin.

I have to wake him up,
so I can wipe my glasses.

There's a pretty girl I want to look at.
This approach woke something up inside me, and made me realize that I have hundreds and hundreds of memories like that, which I want to write down in this kind of simple, elegant manner. I think it is partly spurred by my recent conversion to the church of Getting Things Done, which has me in the habit of writing down any important thing I am supposed to do. Once I got all those "to dos" out of my head, it is like my subconscious said, "Hey, you wrote down that other important stuff -- why not write down these important memories, too? Aren't they even more important, really?" And it seemed obvious to me that I should do this. I've always been awkward at writing poetry -- but this feels different. A phrase appeared in my mind: "Poetry is like the newspaper: It's only useful if it's true." So, bit by bit, I've been writing down little poems like this about magical moments that stand out in my life. It feels so natural -- it makes me wonder why everyone doesn't do this? Why not bring out the weird, glistening, important moments in your life, and arrange them like pearls on a string? Why doesn't everyone do this? Is there a more efficient way to create a record of your life?

On a different note, here is perhaps my favorite poem in the collection:

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

I like to think
(right now please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.