At first I didn't quite know what I would do with the book, other than read it over and over again. My distrust of history then was still strong, and I wanted to concentrate on the story for its own sake, rather than on the manuscript's scientific, cultural, anthropological, or 'historical' value. I was drawn to the author himself.
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READIN started out as a place for me
to keep track of what I am reading, and to learn (slowly, slowly)
how to design a web site.
There has been some mission drift
here and there, but in general that's still what it is. Some of
the main things I write about here are
listening to (and playing) music, and
watching the movies. Also I write about the
work I do with my hands and with my head; and of course about bringing up Sylvia.
The site is a bit of a work in progress. New features will come on-line now and then; and you will occasionally get error messages in place of the blog, for the forseeable future. Cut me some slack, I'm just doing it for fun! And if you see an error message you think I should know about, please drop me a line. READIN source code is PHP and CSS, and available on request, in case you want to see how it works.
I was at the song swap this afternoon -- for the first time -- I am certainly going to be going back there, and to hope that Deena and Rebecca ask us to perform there sometime. What a great pool of talent! I played "Devil's Dream", and I still can't quite believe how fast I played it -- for weeks now I have been thinking, "well, I'm playing it much slower than the standard tempo; but on the other hand I'm getting a really sweet, romantic sound in that slow pace"; but it turns out one can also get a really sweet, romantic sound in a fast tempo, too! I think I was still not playing just as fast as the bluegrass fiddlers I've heard playing this song... But just being in front of the audience really pushed me, drove me into the song. I also played (a bit slower, but again faster than I have been practicing the song) a new composition called (bet you never did) "The Modesto Kid". -- I also recorded that tune and am loving listening to it. Probably will upload to Soundcloud soon.
Edward O. Wilson's article for Harvard Magazine on the biological origins of the arts includes the startling insight that metaphor can be seen as a way of compensating for the limited range of human senses. (Thanks for the link, Joe!)
I read about half of The Planets last week before realizing I wasn't getting it... restarted it yesterday and over the last two days, I must have read the opening pages twenty times. It is just not clicking for me. Very happy then, to come home and find a new book in the mail from Amazon, Ondaatje's The Cat's Table -- which Juan Gabriel Vásquez said is one of the finest English-language novels of 2011. Here I go!
Sex, as an apt pretext for breaking the monotony; motor-sex; anxiety-sex; the habit of sex, as any glut that can well become a burden; colossal, headlong, frenzied, ambiguous sex, as a game that baffles then enlightens then baffles again; pretense-sex, see-through sex.
I found the last fifty or so pages of Almost Never -- and especially the last couple of pages! -- gorgeous, brilliant writing; and at the same time a bit disappointing. All this beautiful prose, you think as you're reading it, and all just in the service of how horny Demetrio is. The final scene -- and it feels very much like what the whole book has been building towards -- is the deflowering of his blushing bride. Which, great -- Sada's descriptions of sex and of horniness are excellent descriptions, his language moving; but where is it moving you to? It just didn't seem to go anywhere in particular, for me. There was plenty that I would have liked to know more about, plot-wise; but the loss of Renata's virginity just doesn't strike me as a plausible destination for the book. Nice writing though.
Hm, looks like me and John should start coming up with a set list... On my 42nd birthday, Friday the 18th, we'll be featured artists at Michael's Songwriter's Circle, at Tapastry in Montclair. Today's practice session had a couple of great new and old tunes in it...
Get up high, and come down easy
The Sailor's Hornpipe
Suicide is painless ("Here's the tune M*A*S*H stole from Johnny Mandel, we're stealing it back!" shouts the guitarist)
The Swallowtail Jig
The Galway Girl
Long Black Veil
(an abortive) See Emily Play
East Tennessee Blues
The L&N don't stop here anymore
Let's listen to the Drive-By Truckers singing "Danko/Manuel".
Tapes of some of our rehearsal tunes will be forthcoming... Some of these came out really nicely!
Everybody needs to go look at Martha's splendid images -- they're on display over at Artists Wanted -- you can click a button to collect the Appalachian murder ballads and lakes of fire she paints, and help the images win a trip to Times Square, to the big screens!
There is a huge body of fiddle tunes that I think of as "standards". Diverse sources, Appalachia, Ireland, Manitoba, Cape Breton, Scandinavia, the Old West... I've historically felt pretty diffident about my performances of the standards, like I don't play them fast enough or sincerely enough. But that is changing! In the past couple of weeks -- really starting in February when I recorded my take on The Sailor's Hornpipe -- I feel like I'm really enjoying playing these old tunes, and coming up with some pretty decent, enjoyable tunes for listening to. They're pretty off-beat, new and different -- my own sound at last! Here is the list so far of the recordings that I have liked well enough to upload for you to listen to:
James McTeigue's movie Raven will be opening in a week; it will be the 241st adaptation to the screen of Poe's work. Terrence Rafferty takes a look at a century of adaptations. (Thanks for the link, Jeffrey!)
Daniel Pinkwater makes an appearance on NY State's 8th grade reading comprehension test... Kudos to educator Deborah Meier for the observation that these questions are “an outrageous example of what’s true of most of the items on any test, it’s just blown up larger.” (via cleek)