Sunday, September 30th, 2007
Tonight for bedtime stories, I read the end of De Jong's Along Came a Dog to Sylvia. She noticed there were several blank pages after the last page of text and wanted to know why. Well... I'm not sure, that's just how it always is with chapter books... Sylvia's suggestion: "That way if you don't think the story's over, you can write some more."
Playing that viola feels like having an organ on your shoulder! (No, not like that, get your mind out of the gutter.) -- Tonight I played all of Farewell to Peter, which I have played bits and pieces of but never the whole thing. My music reading is getting better -- playing "the whole thing" meant being able to distinguish the slight differences in the repetitions of the theme, based on their representation on paper. I was transposing from F down to B♭, because I was reading the music as if I were playing a violin -- i.e. where I read notation for "A", I was playing D. This is way easier than it sounds. I should probably figure out how to read viola music straight at some point.
Update: Hmm... apparently learning to read viola music straight is going to involve accustoming myself to a new clef. May possibly never happen.
...and Later: Well, I bought a book of music in alto clef today -- 6 Suites for solo viola, by J.S. Bach. Wonder if this will go anywhere.
Well, I have received my new computer (after a long wait), christened it "Readin", got sshd and apache running. (You're still looking at the old computer.) I also ordered a book about Apache, because I want to find out more about how to configure it. I think for dev, I will be running Apache on the new machine on a non-80 port, so my router does not get mixed up. I will let you know when that gets going, and you can point your browsers there if you want to see the sausage getting made. Also: I found an old backup disk with all or most of the site files that I inadvertently deleted last month! I knew I had that disk somewhere. So READIN is back on-line, even if it doesn't get updated much.
Saturday, September 29th, 2007
Last week I bought a viola on an impulse. I was at the violin store for supplies and decided whimsically to look at the violas; and it turned out they had a very cheap student model which sounded pretty nice when I played it. And, well, I've been wanting to play viola for a long time now, and it turns out that was a good thing to want -- playing it is absolutely addictive. It seems to have taken me outside the habits I had fallen into on my violin and is allowing me to come up with a lot of interesting improvisational stuff. Bob and Janis came over to practice this afternoon.
(How exactly is the viola jarring me out of my melodic habits? Well there is the change in tone obviously; also the finger positions are very slightly wider-spaced, enough so that I need to pay attention to where my fingers are falling. And, I didn't buy a shoulder rest for it; so my head position is a lot different and it rests differently on my shoulder and my wrist. All this together is enough to make it difficult to play just like I'm used to playing.)
(What is it that makes it feel so rewarding to produce sound on the viola, makes it so difficult to put the instrument down once I'm playing? Well the instrument is just so damn resonant, notes will ring a long time from a light application of the bow. Of course there is the simple novelty of it, and the feeling of having waited a long time for it. And somehow the feeling of playing in that lower register just makes me want to keep on playing.)
I have read nearly to the end of the first section of Other Colors, titled "Living and Worrying". A couple of interrelated things: I think this section title is very apt; the essays seem to me to show Orhan in the world but not part of it, worrying about what is going on around him. I referred to some of the essays below as "impressionistic gems"; and while I don't understand everything that is communicated by calling something "impressionistic", I am going to tentatively say that it describes this book well. Where I am going with this is, roughly, that I'm not getting a good sense of Pamuk as a character, though I am certainly getting a wealth of insights about his surroundings. (Note: the prose is so fluid and comfortable, it is frequently impossible to distinguish my own insights from Pamuk's.) At first I found this a little surprising, since characterization is such a core strength of his story-telling; but thinking about it further, probably not such a strange thing, that such a wonderful story-teller would be shy about opening up his own psyche.
The "Earthquake" essay (and I'm presuming the next one, which is called "Earthquake Angst in Istanbul") is amazing in its evocation of the chaotic scene following the earthquake. Pamuk is a master of description and in these few pages gives me a sense of being there, being able to see the fallen buildings and debris. Something that really struck me (after a lifetime of reading opinion pieces about how poor planning contributes to damage and loss of life in eartchquakes, hurricanes etc.) is how Pamuk mentions in passing or just alludes to the substandard construction of apartment buildings on the islands south of Istanbul, the corruption that allowed contractors to evade construction codes, and lets the reader fill in the blanks.
Update: I noticed the Times review came out today. A very positive review although it seemed to focus a little more on Pamuk's life and work than on this book itself. Like maybe the reviewer did not know just what to make of the book? I was surprised they waited this long to review it.
Friday, September 28th, 2007
Last night I was playing the open mic at Here's to the Arts, in Maplewood, and I met this musician I really hit it off with, a guitarist named Steve. We (and his friend Rob on bass, an amazing blues guitarist named Hugh, and a drummer whose name I did not catch) played four songs; two were really fantastically good. (I should say: the other musicians were fantastically good on all four songs; I really made a worthwhile contribution to two of the songs.) Those were "I Know You Rider", slower and bluesier than I've heard it done before, and "Johnny's Garden" by Steven Stills*, which I had never heard before but fell in love with -- Michael said he thought we sounded like The Band on that, which seems like pretty high praise. Steven is going to be playing a show in Millburn in October and though I was not 100% clear on this, it seemed like he was asking me to come play in it. So we'll see about that, I would be overjoyed to play a show with him or them, but I have been known to misinterpret invitations like that in the past.
*Both songs are in D; the two that I did not do as well on were in E.
Ellen and I have been watching a lot of Almodóvar's movies -- first we saw Talk to Her, then Volver, and tonight All About My Mother -- fantastic stuff. I did not like All About My Mother on first viewing as much as I liked the other two on first viewing; but it was also the first of them to make me feel like I need to watch it again. I felt like I missed a lot of the complexity in the characters' relationships and the quickness of the dialog. I definitely want to watch it again this weekend, and then to rewatch both All About Eve and A Streetcar Named Desire in the near future before watching All About My Mother again. So I've got my movie-viewing mapped out a little ways forward.
Googling around just now I found this lovely page of Unicode characters.
Wednesday, September 26th, 2007
I want to write about how I'm finding the essays in Other Colors about Pamuk's relationship with his daughter. Not sure what to say though, beyond that I'm loving them. They don't offer the special insight into character that I've thought is the best thing about his novels -- in such short pieces the characters are necessarily ciphers, indeed he plays that up a bit, especially in "When Rüya is Sad". I just love the quick beauty of these pieces, and the mood they convey -- little impressionistic gems.
Sunday, September 23rd, 2007
I picked up Other Colors again and started reading from the beginning, which turns out to be a very good order in which to read this collection. I am not quite getting the narrative sequencing Pamuk alludes to in the preface, but still I like it.
The third essay, "Notes on April 29, 1994", which the author notes was written as part of a project in which "Le Nouvel Observateur asked hundreds of authors to describe their activities on April 29 in whatever corner of the world they happened to be that day."* (sort of like Jarmusch' Night on Earth?) -- this piece is utterly fabulous -- at every sentence my mind is running ahead with new worlds of possibility. Here is an incomplete sampling of the stuff I was thinking about while reading these few pages:
TELEPHONE: His first sentence is "I disconnected the phone and ... a moment arrived when I imagined that someone was trying to reach me at that very moment to speak to me about ... a matter of huge consequence, but could not get through." Yeah, totally -- I would immediately start worrying about that. And I wonder, by "disconnect the phone" does he mean actually yank the cord? turn off the ringer? Weren't answering machines available in Istanbul in the '90's? -- And I don't actually know if they were but I assume.
LETTERS, LOGOS, AND BRANDS: the mention of Islamist Refah Party at the end of the previous paragraph leads very nicely into the conversation about a proposed boycott of their supporters, mingling with an allusion to consumerism in Turkey. The teaser about "a simple calculation" makes me wonder.
STREETS AND AVENUES: The statement at the beginning of this paragraph that Turkey has been plunged into an economic crisis within the past few months anchors the essay in time again. The disjointed scenes of people on the streets make me start imagining the city more clearly -- particularly striking is "men ... clutching sandwiches or cigarettes or plastic bags stuffed with money as they watched the rise of the dollar on the electronic notice board." The "madman who had recently arrived in the neighborhood" is awesome, and seems like he might be more anchored than anybody else on the street. "We had a few laughs."
JOKES, LAUGHTER, AND HAPPINESS: The drinking protests seem very nice to me (remind me a little bit, in a different context, of "Drinking Liberally"), I like Pamuk's humorous approach to the conflict between Turkish intellectuals and Islamic Refah Party (which we see again in Snow): but I don't really know anything in particular about this conflict except via Pamuk. Here is the first mention of Rüya that includes her age. I guess she is about 18 now, wonder what sort of an adulthood she is embarking upon.
ISTANBUL'S NOISE: More of the city. And now I am flashing on Almodovar's Madrid in Volver, which Ellen and I watched yesterday (and loved!), and thinking Oh my god, Almodovar could make such great movies with Pamuk's material. I don't know anything about the movie industry in Turkey, I wonder how much of a one there is. It doesn't look from IMDB like Pamuk has done any screenplays or had any of his books adapted; I would very much like this to happen but only if the right person were to do it.
TELEVISION: Again, Almodovar -- he could so totally capture this sentence:
After supper, I could tell from the synthetic colors flashing in their windows that quite a few people kept changing channels just as I did: a bleached-blond chanteuse singing old Turkish songs, a child eating chocolate, a woman prime minister saying everything was going to turn out fine, a football match on an emerald field, a Turkish pop group, journalists arguing about the Kurdish question, American police cars, a child reading the Koran, a helicopter exploding into flames in midair, a gentleman walking onto the stage and doffing his hat as the audience applauds, the same woman prime minister, a housewife telling an inquiring microphone a thing or two as she hangs up her laundry, an audience applauding the woman who has given the right answer in a general knowledge quiz...
And movie or no, the pacing of the text in that sentence is just perfect. There is no possible way to improve on it.
NIGHT: The noise of the city and the appearance of its streets -- very different now.
FEAR, PARANOIA, AND DREAMS: Again with the disconnecting the phone. The dread he describes here is pretty easy for me to identify with.
TOTAL: Such a sweet, and optimistic, ending for this essay. So terse. I find it hard to believe I have only been reading for about 3 pages.
*Some of the essays have a note at the top describing their origin and date of creation. I wish more of them did.
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