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Me and Sylvia, on the Potomac (September 2010)


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The bastards that destroy our lives are sometimes just ourselves.

Robyn Hitchcock

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Friday, February 27th, 2004

Once I reached the scene where Lester breaks into Moussad's house, I was unable to put down House of Sand and Fog until I finished it -- it was electrifying. Hoping against hope that somehow the Behrani's would not be destroyed, darkly disappointed with Kathy for bringing this all to pass, stupefied at Lester's transformation into such an evil character, right inside Moussad's vengeful, violent head at the end.

Monday Ellen and I are going to the movies, I will lobby for "House of Sand and Fog" although her goal is to see "Lost in Translation". I wonder though how I will respond to the appearances of the actors -- I have come up with pretty fixed understandings of how each character should look.

posted evening of February 27th, 2004: Respond
➳ More posts about The House of Sand and Fog

I am just ploughing through House of Sand and Fog now, loving the world of the book -- Dubus has got me totally roped in to his reality. He is leaping around amongst various time frames and points of view and it seems totally fluid to me. This is IMO the key to a really good modern novel. I would like to develop this at more length sometime. Also it was occurring to me this morning, how does that tie in with my experience of Don Quixote? The movement between various narrative lines which I was admiring a few posts back is in the same direction as this quality I am talking about; but it is not precisely the same.

posted morning of February 27th, 2004: Respond
➳ More posts about Don Quixote

Wednesday, February 25th, 2004

Don Quixote, Chapter XLV: Ah, we're back to the main subject matter of the book, the madness of Señor Quexana. The other stories are good too but this is the real meat of it.

posted evening of February 25th, 2004: Respond
➳ More posts about Miguel de Cervantes

I started reading House of Sand and Fog, by Andre Dubus III, yesterday evening. It is nice, at least two very strongly drawn characters (Massoud and Kathy) -- the blurb description of it as "tragic" (I see this term in two of the quoted reviews) seems accurate. I am identifying very much with Massoud and a bit with Kathy as well, and feel a sense of dread hanging over the book at the thought that their dreams will be thwarted...

This is the second-and-a-half Oprah's Book Club selection that I have read; the other two were The Poisonwood Bible, which I enjoyed not at all but made a good gift for my mom, and The Corrections, which I enjoyed a great deal but which only counts as half an Oprah's Book Club selection.

I bought House of Sand and Fog at Clovis Press bookshop, a fine used and new shop at 229 Bedford Ave. in Brooklyn. I have poked my head in there several times before -- nearly every time I'm in Williamsburg I stop in for a few minutes -- but had never bought anything there. I saw a sign on the front door announcing a memorial evening for Clovis the Dog, after whom the bookshop was apparently named.

posted morning of February 25th, 2004: Respond
➳ More posts about Readings

Monday, February 23rd, 2004

Don Quixote, Chapter XLIV: The web of coincidences in the last section of Part I was really threatening to lose my interest... But somehow it has pulled me back in over the last two chapters.

posted evening of February 23rd, 2004: Respond

Ellen and Sylvia are playing Cinderella -- Ellen is Cinderella, Sylvia is the Fairy Godmother.

CINDERELLA: Before I leave, do you have any advice for me?
FAIRY GODMOTHER: Be sure to come home before midnight.
CINDERELLA: And why do I need to do that?
FAIRY GODMOTHER: (thinks about it for a minute) ...I'd appreciate it.

posted afternoon of February 23rd, 2004: Respond
➳ More posts about Sylvia

Saturday, February 21st, 2004

🦋 Drop-D Tuning

I've been meaning for a while to post a note about drop-D guitar tuning. If you aspire to play finger-style blues guitar, I think this tuning is one of the first things you should find out about. (The other first thing you should find out about, is to get some recordings of Mississippi John Hurt, a master of the genre and IMO the most accessible of the Delta blues guitarists.) By finger-style blues I mean basically, picking alternating bass notes with your thumb or a thumb pick and a melody line with your first, first and second, or first through third fingers.

Drop-D is the simplest of the alternate tunings, all you do is tune the top string down a whole step. All the other strings have their standard pitch. You don't need to learn much in the way of new fingerings, but you suddenly have a lot more freedom. Here are the first-position chords (I play in first position just about all the time):


No difference.


No difference, except that the top string is your root. In standard tuning I am usually fingering an F# on the top string with my thumb, now I can just leave it open and pick an alternating bass between the top string and the third string.


Hold down G# on the fourth string with your first finger and E on the third string with your second finger. Leave the second string open (and never play it) and hold down E on the top string with your thumb. Now you can pick an alternating bass between the top string and third string, and two fingers are available for melody stuff.


Barre the bottom two strings on the first fret with your first finger. Hold down A on the fourth string with your second finger and F on the third string with your third finger. Leave the second string open (and never play it) and hold down F on the top string with your thumb. Now you can pick an alternating bass between the top string and third string, and one finger is available for melody stuff. (Note that you can move this barre chord up and down the fingerboard as you desire.)


G is where things get wild -- All you need to do for G is hold down the fifth fret of the top string with your thumb, all four fingers are available for melody stuff. You're pretty free to roam between the third and sixth frets of the treble strings, and throw in open strings (except for the bottom string) as desired.


No difference.


No difference. (Actually I usually finger B7 in first position, you can do either one.)

I discovered this tuning while working on "Stagger Lee", since then I have used it on a lot of other songs in the key of D -- lately I noticed it would work well for songs in G too, and yesterday I worked out "Lay me a Pallet on your Floor", which is in C and sounds very nice indeed in this tuning. And the other day I tried playing "Prodigal Son" (in E) in drop-D and though it took a little while to get the hang of it (partly because I've been playing that song for such a long time in standard tuning), it ended up sounding really nice too.

posted afternoon of February 21st, 2004: Respond
➳ More posts about Guitar

🦋 Career opportunities

Sylvia, this morning:

When I grow up, I want to be a teacher, and study dinosaurs, and a vet, and a people doctor, a-and, that's all.

Context is that Ellen was reading to her from Jamal's Busy Day, in which Jamal describes his parents' jobs.

posted morning of February 21st, 2004: Respond

Wednesday, February 18th, 2004

Don Quixote, Chapter XXXVI: A weird change of gears -- I expect to continue on with the story of "The Queen of Micomicona" but instead I find myself suddenly returned to the story of Cardenio and Don Fernando... it is testament to Cervantes' skill as a story teller that I was able to get back up to speed on this lapsed story very quickly. The way the stories are interleaved together is what I am finding most memorable about this book -- Cervantes can jump with little effort from one to another, and there are always little reminders planted of the stories that are currently in the background.

posted evening of February 18th, 2004: Respond

Monday, February 16th, 2004

Don Quixote, Chapter XXXVI: I just finished the Tale of Reckless Curiosity and found myself won over to its presence in the book. Although it distracted me from the main story of Don Quixote, it was itself a good story and I got interested in the characters almost despite myself. I was glad Cervantes interrupted the action of the enclosed story midway through to talk about the main story -- that kept it in my mind.

posted evening of February 16th, 2004: Respond

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