Monday, July 28, 2008

pop story of some visiting students, who took good pictures:

a weekend's adventure, and definitely a victory, was the story of the kittens: orange, marmelade, blue-eyed, seven weeks old; their owner at the end of his ability to find someone, ready to give them to the humane society, or let them go in the woods. he could easily be labeled as irresponsible, but that wasn't the point; we were involved because the choice of two of the kittens doomed the others, and that kind of choice is difficult. if one stays non-involved, one does nothing about their fate whatsoever, but if one actually chooses to save one or more, one actually dooms or kills others.

when i got over there there were actually three that needed saved; in this town one does that by standing at the farmer's market, off to the side a ways, with a sign. in my case a banjo was also involved. right away a woman and a young boy came and took one. she was was clueless in some ways, but did mention that her husband would only allow an orange cat, no other kind. this was lucky, for this kitten in particular, as he had at least agreed in principle.

i then waited a while, but finally a young woman came by who really knew how to handle them; she was instantly able to tell me the two remaining ones were female. the one she tried to handle had already decided that my shirt was the place to be, and wouldn't let go. so she took the other out of the crate and walked away with it. minutes later she, with friends, came back; by now that little one, the shy one, was happily ensconsed in a wrap-around shawl she'd made and was peeking out, its big blue eyes bigger now. its sister was still clinging to my shirt. but she now decided she wanted them both; her friend was graduating tonight and could surely use one. the fact that they were sisters, the kittens, i think was important. they were going to be fine.

a lingering feeling that i was doing an important thing stayed with me; i had to set down the banjo for a while, and just feel the cat on my shirt. nobody seemed to object; some liked the banjo more than the kittens. if you don't take this kitty, i'm gonna play this banjo all over your city- that was going to be my song. but i never got quite that far. came home and made pop-art, but only after grading and making an exercise; took my banjo uptown to perform in a class tomorrow, "i'd rather be a hammer than a nail"...i'll give a report. my pop art covers my computer screens; my soul clings to it, like a kitty on a shirt.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

so no sooner did i write, bitterly complaining about the searing heat, and in comes the rain, a gentle one, cooling off the streets and bringing in a wave of clear sky, dry and pleasant weather. not that i could enjoy it; late at night, i tuck the kids in quickly so i can top off an eight hour class day with a couple of hours of grading, until i can't take it anymore and do pop-art. but in between, i saw a pretty town. dry, clear, pretty.

at one point we were all at the dairy queen together- me, noey, elias and corey; we had ice cream and sat on the curb; this is what you do in carbondale. down the street, the police were pulling someone over; on our side, it was the liquor store and its constant supply of drama, of some sort or another. directly in front of us, a "clearence" sign of a saluki store, out of business for several years now, the spelling wrong that whole time, on this sign. beyond that, the train, which comes occasionally, and sometimes doesn't. the owner of the dairy queen was a coach of the baseball league, and i remind him of that, ask him how the red team is doing; he's wearing red even now, and his boys, now huge, are in the parking lot hanging on a car's doors with friends; all of them know noah. all is well; we play in a grass strip where i yell at the boys occasionally for going where they don't belong. the sugar of the ice cream will, eventually, work its way out...the hot, clear day will help; we head home, where we climb trees and gather chiggers to drown in the bath. they are invisible, those chiggers- but then, so is that dellicate balance, that keeps kids in a parking lot, hanging on a door or tearing around, shoeless, stepping over roots in the grass strip. when i walk out the door in the morning, slightly bleary from no sleep, or dreaming of bad grammar, whatever, but the bite is gone from the heat now; you can breathe; get outside quick, while you can. my bike ride is the time i am actually out there, now, that and when i'm shuttling boys around, windows open, bouncing across train tracks. hello to the trainman, the boxcars, the pavilion. my team was the gray team; the c is for carbondale. they're stenciing in the big paws on the streets again, in anticipation of returning fresh-people, some of whom we've already seen; we call those dawg paws "clues" on account of having watched too many kid-movies. illinois avenue goes only north, there at the dairy queen; people drive by as if they have serious business to do in, say, desoto. who am i to say, though? i'm here only for a moment, and that moment is fleeting, though, fortunately for me, shared, and sweet.

Monday, July 21, 2008

the oppressive local summer has set in- dry, searing heat, over a hundred, grass crackling under your feet, and car too hot almost no matter where you park it, or how much you crack the window. walking or riding almost out of the question, except early in the morning- i've been doing that, but now, even by eight, it's pretty hot out there. weekends we stay in- it's too hot even to go to the lake- and that makes little ones a little edgy, bouncing off walls in our small house that has about half unusable due to construction, and searing heat slowly but surely leaking into it from duct-taped plastic tarps meant to seal off the construction zone. i can feel the work the air-con has to do to keep it reasonable, and it's not restful; let alone what happens to the earth when all the people like me crank it all day long. it's not natural; it's not right. yet there's no way i could live without it.

on the pop front i've found the posterizer, the pencil sketcher, and the neon, and the fact that all of them exist in gradations; some of my work is below. this i do in the minutes before class; i grade until late at night, but sometimes do pop after that. saturday made some pop quakers, but my son wanted his little brother in pop so i did that also. it's definitely time to learn more about andy warhol, and what he meant with his marilyn silkscreen, and whether others felt the same way; he was definitely in the right place at the right time. today in the copy room i was also; another class had seen and been tested on a movie on a.w. himself. i will try to get that movie. i make variations on the four-cornered icon, but based on my own feeling of how to play off of it. i'm what you might call rustic, untutored, or primitive graphic artist- i have yet to be really educated in the genre. but i have a number of questions, besides what a.w. thought of marilyn, and what others did. what was up with che, and mao? does this other stuff- posterize, grainy, soft-colored, still qualify as pop?

today, went through my 240 minute slog of teaching, plus grading, bad grammar, marking in books, preparing exercises for tomorrow's class, etc. late tonight i'm still grading; having given away a pile of 15 midterms, received the beginnings of a new pile, at least ten hours long, that will take evenings of much of this week; no way i can do it at the office. in exhaustion, at my desk, i do pop art, after i've entered a stack in my book, for example. and there's still: enter them into a grading program; make mid-term reports; make eot schedule...there's got to be an easier life. i basically like what i do, but when there's so much of it, one loses the sense of fun; it's all just piled way over the head. students, also, are nodding off, no matter how much i dance; they have what, 29 hours? on one level, it's almost absurd, except that i myself take it seriously; i'm almost unable to just relax, smile and stop giving homework, as the others do.

pop is my passion, now, pop & link haiku; a long, huge project where i can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, as i've practically organized, and got one for most states; almost one for each season, each state. it's possible, anyway, and so is organizing the links so they're stable, mine, all working. haiku is like pop- brief, it can be put into a five-minute break, an escape, one can put everything into seventeen syllables, capture a moment, give a picture, and, a little vagueness won't hurt, a little blurring of the edges, fade! sharpen! posterize! these are my new mottos.

had a little trouble, i'll admit, doing pop on the little guy. it wasn't as if he had a choice. i showed it to him, but he had just woken up; he didn't know what to think. the pink hair; the blue face, the grainy, etc.- it sat a little uneasily at the bottom of my soul; he is, after all, not marilyn monroe, though i guess we all are icons, at some point or another. maybe i don't need to be that point for him; i'm not sure. had more fun making pop on the older boy, who had actually sat at the camera, made a few faces, and gave me something to work with, participated to some degree. similarly the rank theivery of various pictures; i've lost track, to some degree, where some are even from, and though i've been told that it's ok- i am, after all, putting my own artistic bent into them- still, i'd be happier if i'd carried my own camera out and took the angle myself. and, i will, i'm sure- at least for the next calendar, which may be more professionally done, than the previous ones.

and that's all there is- grading; bad grammar; kind, patient students, somewhat confused, and more burnt out than even i; workers in the kamakura, weeding out the bamboo, understanding perhaps less than i, what it means; workers here at home, sweltering in the heat; surviving. they call aug. aug, i told my son, because aug is the best word for the kind of weather we have around here. the pool- definitely the coolest place, but leaves a kind of insidious skin problem on my feet. the threshold adjustment syndrome- thirty to forty degree difference between every airconditioned space or car, and the outdoors, that the adjustment of body temperature is like fainting. good weather for pop- what else would one do, go for a stroll? take care, god bless, and stay out of ebay...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

so what's with all the pop art...i grade at night, until i keel over. i grade in the morning before i ride the bike to work. i walk down the stairs and over to the swimming pool; this allows me to meditate a bit on the beauty of the japanese garden (which they are cleaning up) and the wild weeds in the construction area right near it. i can't write; i grow impatient with reading. i do pop art when i'm near a's soothing, it works.

the images of my daily life come out and i can squeeze various colors out of them, or intensify them. see the poor outline of the figure below? this outline has been at the bottom of the stairs of my own building for the entire fourteen years i've been here. usually i don't think about it much, but i have to say that the various shapes, lines, etc. of my daily life have made a kind of imprint in me, and i'm working with this a lot, especially in the fanerpop series, which is now up to about 13, though not all are up in the gallery. to most people, faner is a bleak, grayish, concrete behemoth which is confusing on top of everything, and terrible when the airconditioner pipes drip or the condensation works its way in and molds up the ancient carpets. to me, it's got new life, now that i can work with the shapes and change the colors of its bushes.

the outline at the bottom of the stairs is small, the size of a kid, and that's tragic, except that, if it were real, they would have found a way to get rid of it long ago. faner is such that vandalism is hard to get rid of; sometimes people scrawl on the concrete, and it lasts for years. someone once put a paul simon bumper sticker about 15 feet up on a concrete pillar and it stayed for about ten years (that i know of), until somone else put an "Indiana Univ." bumper sticker up there, and then finally the maintenance workers were shamed into taking them both down.

the point is, this poor outline could of course have been that of a real kid, in which case he/she may have fallen two stories, from creative writing (this would not have caused death) or, more seriously, from cesl/linguistics, where kids and pretty much all innocence and light-hearted gaiety is doomed. or, more seriously still, from economics, way up on the fourth floor, where, if one takes a good hard economic look at life, one jumps from four stories just on general principle. or, one takes a good hard look at life, could anyone think like this? perhaps it is just one's innocence, a childish enthusiasm, that has fallen over the railing, landed below, and become some police outline, put into the rubber mat, where maintenance workers are unable, or too busy, to remove it. who knows what happened... all i can say is, it makes an interesting outline for pop art- for the contrast button- and it happened long before the oil crisis, it's been around so long, i'd almost forgot it was there.

at the bottom of the stairs a long glass window looks out on the woods, which are gentle, and easy on the eyes, but home of a famished population of deer; overpopulated, these deer occasionally have their babies too close to the action, or come out looking for the mulberries that drop right there at the entrance. this was the home of the violent deer episode that my students wrote about a few years back; as we speak, i'm making them write a midterm about the very same dilemma, namely that there are too many deer these days, and as the university cuts down more woods in its relentless colonization of its wilderness, what many are left, are forced into increasingly smaller areas. this would cause more car accidents, but nobody can afford to drive anymore (my students are writng about this also)- and i myself ride a bicycle almost every day, oppressive heat or not. but as i was saying, i have now begun to look at these images- sculptures, statues, bushes, old photos, as possible topics of pop art, and have been grabbing them, in my free minutes, as i catch my breath from one bike ride, and get ready for a class- i use picnik, which simply allows me to rotate a photo, sharpen it, more or less contrast, exposure, saturation of color, or make it redder or bluer. ingenious. it's all flash; it's all on the desktop. it's great to do the symbols, the images, the lines of modern life. andy warhol is my new hero.

the world continues around me. cesl gets forty five, fifty hours out of me; pays me a paltry dime; we spend ten times as much putting a second story on our house; take kids to dentist, float around in the oppressive heat, listening, these days, to spanish music, on request. learning the pinata song (will learn how to make an enye, one of these days)...dale dale dale...don't lose your aim, or you'll lose the way, it says. don't want gold, don't want silver, just want to romper the fact, the weather hasn't been so bad, and, construction forced me to walk today, around the usual steps, around some new statues, down by the mulberry tree at the edge of the kamakura japanese garden- where, sure enough, scores of ripe mulberries hung over a parking lot at the coal research place, in the back there, where nobody goes or looks. i was in a hurry- i only get half a swim as it is, what with a midterm and so many hours of teaching, but, if big ripe mulberries hang in front of you, i'm as greedy as any deer, eager for the purple hand, willing to experience and bleed the rich color out of life. life is good, life is short, and, i'm not going to let the long, drawn out summer hours of grinding over bad grammar, difficult listening, poorly constructed sentences (life sentences) get me down. sharpen, is what i say. put it into a a single haiku, a single moment, in a single spot, a single berry, rich in color, quick, before the deer get it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Friday, July 11, 2008

Sunday, July 06, 2008

when the going gets tough, accidents happen, and that's my only explanation for lots of things, including last night's fireworks' absence of a grand finale, and all kind of other freaks of nature, including a sudden rainstorm in el paso that cost me dinner the other night. but a number of other examples include: a sudden gusher of a rainstorm in pittsburgh pennsylvania one july fourth way back in about 1967, i don't remember exactly but anyone who was there in that era certainly remembers the rainstorm i'm talking about; a huge telephone pole came down, wires and all, and caused my father to jump out of our car into the blinding rain to save the life of someone who didn't even see it. of course we as children (i was 13 or 14) would remember this because why else would one's father jump out of a car into a blinding storm? it seemed like the world was coming apart at its seams.

yet other times, like tonight, the world comes back together, on a small hillside outside of town, above a tiny pond-like lake, with a clear moon and a clear sky, where i played music in a kind of gig that was actually someone's anniversary. we had a stand-in for the guitar, but things worked out very well, especially on my end, where i played all kinds of new songs and just seemed to do well on most of them. the moon over the water reminded me of a time i saw a full moon on the enterprise reservoir out on the border of utah and nevada, and later a guy there at that party mentioned that very same place, as he apparently has owned a few acres out there and has for about forty years. pays all of about $40/yr. in taxes for it, he says, but has water rights, which are quite valuable out there. we talked about the colorado; the hoover dam; route 666 in northern new mexico, which i don't actually know well, and various other topics, covering also england and wales, after the gig.

another fourth of july i was in the city park of iowa city, this was the bicentennial year, 1976, all kinds of charged energy in the air around the fact that the usa was 200 years old and all. but the fireworks were held in a low flat field out by that park, and i think of this now because it's clearly all under a dozen feet of water. but even then, travel there was tough; the field was full of people, and one poor guy got hit by a firecracker and they had to call an ambulance. but the ambulance had trouble getting to him, because there were too many people out there on the field, and they didn't all have the quick wits to just get out of the ambulance's way. when you are in a car, and you hear the siren, it's pretty easy to just move over. but this was in a park, and people were sprawled out on blankets and all, and didn't even fully understand what was going on. nobody was running interference for this ambulance driver.

then, when i got home to black's gaslight village, i'm not sure how it happened, but lots of people were milling around; as i say, there was a lot of energy in the air that night. this one guy threw a firecracker in my direction, which i took as a hostile move, and it hit me in the temple, landed on the ground, and went off; caused ringing in my ear which lasted for maybe ten minutes. on later reflection i decided it may not have been hostile, or maybe hostile on a subconscious level, so, though i felt like i'd gotten a wake-up call in a sense, i eventually let go of it and didn't stay mad at the guy. who knows what happened? when the going gets tough, accidents happen.

had a discussion with my band mate about the oil crisis. not everyone agrees that the world, or even the usa, is really out of oil, or that this is anything but a conspiracy to drive us down; very few people feel it's all just the free market playing havoc with our ordinary routines. i myself have started seeing a bicycle wagon (so that we can stop using the car altogether), hydrogen cars, a vegetable garden, all this stuff we should have been doing anyway, as far as i know. so i see it as an opportunity, even though obviously it will cost everyone a lot of money and agony in the short term, especially poor people and airline travelers. the high prices of gas and food put a lot of pressure on everyone, and, that means accidents will happen., things being what they are. who knows? we're just here at the moment. bicycle lanes are filling up. the drivers that arou out there seem to be angry, as if they know their days are limited.

now, as for enterprise state park, where a sunset and sundown occurred at the lake at the same time, it being a full moon and all, and the simple existence of rock caves took heat stroke from over 100 days and gave me some rest. it was a rainbow gathering, perhaps the third ever, but my first and only, really, aside from some kinds of things that happen around here. i scarcely remember the people; in fact i slept for about a day when i found a cool dark place to get out of the sun. tonight, when the guy was amazed that anyone in southern illinois had even heard of the place, i assured him that i had, and had even been there, and not only that, was reminded of it a little, when the moon rose over the small pond.

now i'm aware that my flashbacks are all very confusing; the rainbow gathering was maybe 1974 or 5, but was clearly on a fourth of july, though there wasn't a firecracker for miles. tonight, the fifth of july actually, after a contentious and somewhat turbulent fourth, in which we all, in carbondale, were deprived of our grand finale, i seemed to get it back, tonight, by that pond, where the anniversary couple just had their own private display, pop pop pop, all over the lake, and i, loading a truck with sound equipment, took a minute and just took it all in. so much rain around here, that there wasn't much chance of it burning down the field or the house or anything else; all the crackers went off just as planned. and, rather than play a hendrix-version star spangled banner as i was tempted to do, this time, for some reason, i set the fiddle down, and just watched. i was tired. i'd played hard; people liked the music; some were talking oil crisis/politics/war or whatever within their own family, none of my business really, on this warm, clear, starry summer night. the children ran down into the field to collect the parachute firecrackers, which i'd never even heard of; i thought it was a little dangerous, but it worked out ok, no one was hurt; the evening passed into a set of holidays, going back many years, that featured parties and gatherings, way out in the country, where folks get together and celebrate. and if they are going to blow gunpowder with colors and all sizzle, i'll watch, if only because it's dangerous, and i want to see it this time, if something is heading my way. not that it would; i've just become superstitious. the price of freedom is eternal vigilance; this is my favorite motto, besides don't tread on me- and, our liberties we will cherish, our rights we will maintain, or something like it, which is the iowa motto. have a good holiday, what's left of it. happy fourth to those of you who are in exile, way out across the ocean maybe, having forgotten, perhaps, that we here blow stuff off in colorful and dangerous display, leaving small clouds of burnt gunpowder hovering over country valleys and small ponds, perhaps offering mosquito protection, if only temporarily. the smell of power spent, used, blazing a kind of memory into us, in its own way, one that the kids who are there will certainly never forget.

Friday, July 04, 2008

i've taken this holiday seriously, ever since the bicentennial year when i was hit by a firecracker and was deaf for about ten seconds, my ears ringing for about ten minutes, that's why, when they try to mess with it, i raise a fuss, a little. it was a steamy, rainy day here, like a tropical jungle, the buses came from chester (home of popeye) to take our students to the city for a long day of mall, arch, fireworks, the whole nine yards. lots of people wanted to go; they filled the buses; that's why, in the end, i didn't have to- and walked home, through the neighborhoods, west carbondale, where people were out walking, riding, taking in some of the steamy weather. later on it dried out enough to have fireworks so the kids could run around on the grass, and the firemen or whoever tried to mess with the various firecrackers so that nobody got hurt and everyone had fun. it was high drama, this being a small town, and nobody knowing exactly what was going on, because something was burning up way down there on the grass; we could see it, but didn't know what it was, or if our grand finale was down there just burning up. we suspect that's what it was; some stage that was connected to the grand finale just caught on fire, and they let it go, 'cause it was out in the middle of a field.

st louis is not a bad town, i've come to like it, read about it, and of course the cubs with their jim full-count ed were in town if one could sneak over to the busch and get a sense of what that was like. but i didn't really want to be there; flying way over the swollen mississippi was enough for me, and i wanted to be home, in this small town, getting out the trains and sprawling around with the kids, sick or not. fortunately, in the end, i did, but not before i'd gone down there, got ready to get on the bus, resigned myself to my fate, etc. etc. reminded me of the story of abraham and isaac, which i'd heard in the chapel in las cruces, where abraham has to serve up his son to the altar, have faith, surrender entirely to fate and to god, etc. where was sarah, the pastor asked as she told the story...but actually, that wasn't what struck me about the story. sure, he took his son to the altar to serve him up; sarah wasn't around. but my question was, why did he have to lie to his son, about who exactly was the offering going to be, today? god will take care of it, he told his son. god will take care of it, i was thinking, as i walked home; eventually to do some patriotic link haiku and get my garden in order. i'm considering finishing this, so i made the links work, added a few, arranged them a little, mostly just considered putting pop art in them. pop art is, after all, a kind of haiku. instead of "season" and "syllable" it has "temperature" and "exposure" and my favorite, "sharpen," which i suppose haiku has also, but the main point is: simplicity, image, edge. the kids were out there, better, full of it, needing every ounce i could give; i kept the pop art off the link haiku, but it might not stay that way forever; can't seem to keep it off the blog, or out of the massive webpage caverns that run under the surface. i'm all surface, andy warhol would say, everything i got, it's right there on the table, there's nothing beneath it at all. that's actually a paraphrase of something he said, but i took it more as a boast; with these simple but bright and dazzling colors, i can put it all in there, if i do it right, i won't be hiding a thing. i know pop art has been compared to the usa a lot: optimistic, generous, naive, all that stuff. i'm not sure about that. it's just a little waywardness with color, a little sharpen on the surface. it's a way to survive, life being full of papers to grade, grammar, a bus, flooded out on the river road, a baseball game, red, blue, and visitor-uniform gray. happy birthday, are one heckuva firecracker. with a stage, left to burn, out on the cool, wet grass, and the brake lights, ahead, in the line to go home. god will take care of it, i suppose, and if god has a part in it, i suppose i'll be out there helping god take care of it. me, and the summer breeze, that gently takes that smell of burnt gunpowder, and drifts it over the fields and the reservoir, make you want to roll up your windows.

Thursday, July 03, 2008