Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008

a weekend when the weather came back to normal, i.e. 99% humidity, 99 degrees in the shade, and, recovering from feeling a thousand pounds of grading lifted from my back, and a sense of weariness has set in. i do pop (see below), i hang around the kids' birthday parties; i ride the bicycle with its new carriage, one or two boys behind, to the farmers' market or elsewhere. wishing, though, that summer would just be over; that the nice weather would come back; that the garage would just clean itself out. i leave you with that, and the promise to produce more later: how could i do more now? i'm just too tired...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

thought i was in for another term of writing; got worked up over the prospect of another term of twelve-hour days, and finally wrote out my objection and determination to survive, one way or another. meanwhile a hurricane brushed key west, giving me a bit of a memory, of a journey, of a 23-foot sailboat, sunny days baking me like a clam, a storm coming in, a sailing partner struggling to take down the sails, so as to ride out the storm, down in the hull; me not quite knowing how to stabilize the boat while he, out on its surface, almost fell in the gulf; him being quite mad at me for ineptitude at sailing, but, hey, he was inept at figuring out location, setting up communication systems, and teaching people how to sail, and on top of that was willing to take an innocent rube like myself on a 23-ft. boat from mexico to florida, in spite of all his faults. so to this day i don't feel so guilty about my own part in it, but keep the memory of the choppy gulf, the steel-gray waves, the shaking hull, which, in hindsight, was probably full of something besides sand and two unhappy guys. the sailboat owner stopped eating, which was also bad judgment in my opinion, but he was a little upset about slowly running out of food and not knowing where we were; i myself blamed both on him, and kept eating. as for the storm, it blew over, replaced by calm skies and nothing, still gray water, day after day of blazing sun, miami radio and very little wind. probably the stillness was worse than the storm, in the sense that it left us there, rather than threatening us, and some songs to this day remind me of that feeling.

here of course the metaphor for my life falls apart, for if there's one thing i'm not in danger of, it's floundering around, waiting for some wind, idly listening to whatever is on the radio. with my main teaching duties, including grading and preparing, down to about forty, i am now free to do some of the rest of what i've been supposed to do- things i like, in any case, like fix up the static web, make it useful, play with other technology, etc., or, live my life, write my blogs & other stuff, and use some of the stuff i learn about talking to webheads, or reading. i'm not asea or adrift; caught and stretched among different medias, yes, maybe, but rudderless, no.

turned out we were flailing around the dry tortugas, actually a key west of key west, so to speak, so far west, that it was actually under water and didn't quite count as a key. but it was a place where there were lots of shrimp boats, and we were able to contact one of them, get a tow into land, into key west itself, where, once off the boat, i kissed a dock where the hippies were hanging around watching the sunset. relieved to be on earth, even on rotted dock-wood, where i could walk away, move on out, even if my pesos were no good. the atmosphere was interesting, kind of sultry, permanent, slow-moving, as if the weather rarely changed, except for an occasional storm. someone checked the guy's boat, but at this point, i left him and began walking to california. and, could have walked a long way, before i'd get tired of feeling the earth beneath my feet.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A lot going on, what with an unexpected mild spell, weather reasonable and even pleasant for the first august in my fourteen-year memory of life in carbondale. someone pointed out that it had been nice since the huge storm we had back at the end of july, or was it the beginning of august, that shut down the university and the server and caused one of my classes to be cancelled and another to be let out early, with no internet to do the lesson on. but with the beautiful weather it seemed like everyone, myself included, wanted to get out and enjoy what we could: off to the lake i went, and took the boys, then did it again when my sister was here, then did it yet again before my oldest son went back to college. the lake, quiet, calm, regal cliffs watching over it, the perfect place for a nice day, the water clear and cool and refreshing, and the boys happily learning skills of jumping in, diving around, playing, learning to swim.

when my sister was here, we went to the quilt museum, by far the best cultural attraction of the area, a fantastic place, though difficult to contain a very young child in. next time, he'll be older, i promise, i told them as i left, exasperated, and embarassed that at one point he had actually turned off all the lights of the entire museum, wanting attention increasingly more desperately, as i became increasingly more interested by what i saw; i love the place, couldn't help looking. my sister, i think, enjoyed it, enjoyed the quilts, the nephews, and graciously provided a beautiful clarinet to a peace coalition performance...a stunning surprise performance for a small town that doesn't hear clarinet like that very often. our luck with the weather continued, even up to and including today; unseasonably reasonable, a breath of unusually livable summer. played some more music tonight; filled a backyard with fiddle and banjo, with friends who had a birthday.

a moment of silence, now, for lee baber, a fellow webhead, fellow banjo-picker, taught folks, and clearly made a difference, both to her students, and to the online community where i met her.

just in a couple of ways, i've noticed, the banjo has been coming back in style. i may be wrong about this, who knows? maybe it's on its way down, or going nowhere, but i've detected a subtle up-jump in its general popularity, this time not guided by a certain song like beverly hillbillies or deliverance. just maybe because of its general good sound, its quirkiness, its unique american characteristics, and, by the fact that you don't hear it all that much: these are good enough reasons to bring it back. if i could only learn more than one song or two, i'd be set. give up my day-job, and go to nashville.
Lion's Tale, a new story. Comments welcome, of course.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

things to be grumpy about: was hosing down the grasses in the yard, and hosed down the phone while i was at it, thus cutting us off from the world, at least temporarily; exhausted from a long term, handed in grades with other exhausted teachers; tried to manage database, and didn't get away until too late to buy a new phone; incontinent dog has control issues; cat has thyroid issues and is wasting away; wife is away, leaving wild children to their own devices and to my limited ones; steamy weather makes it virtually impossible to do anything but swim in the front yard.

things to be grateful for: addition is done, at least as far as we did it (see below); looks good on the outside, seems to keep the rain out, large enough for a barn dance up above, and gives us room to move back into; 4 boys are home, and healthy, and even happy (see below); sister coming to visit from afar; the swimming and hosing down is really fun, hot as it is, and, i'm free, mentally, for about a week, until school starts and we all come 'round again, may do some writing, or something besides the endless pop.

much as i feel bad about the cat, which is my own, an iowan, and may have to go to the vet, on balance i can see that there really is no comparison, above, between the two. the pop and poster art allows me to distort and twist the very things that do the same within me...yet i'm sure a.w. would agree, it would be easier to do it to someone who is already an icon, a symbol, a distorted image in the minds of the masses. my boys, i hope, will at least forgive me, which may be more than history does for a.w....more about that later.

in town, the stenciled painted saluki paws are coming back on the roads, as the town and college gear up for onslaught of 20000 students coming back, everyone fresh, ceremony all over the place, everyone ready for a new year. we bleary-eyed teachers, hardly catching a breath from 11-hour grading marathons, run over the stenciled paws in the road- my boys call them "clues" from a well-known kids movie. get a clue, i say, & it's time to spray the saluki pop around the web, a little, maybe, cover up the fact that, really, it's a little stale up there. nobody needs to know that, though.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Sunday, August 03, 2008

seoul was a huge, bustling city, but it would pour down rain every once in a while, and when it did, these people would come out from the shadows and sell disposable umbrellas made of bamboo and plastic sheeting. i was fascinated by these things as they were very durable, the bamboo being bendable but strong, yet they were disposable anyway and very cheap. when i asked someone about them he said that these umbrella people were people who were caught by the political system: unable to get normal jobs because they had been marked by the government, or the system, as troublemakers. a kind of tear gas burn hung in the air in shin chon when i'd go to have my korean lesson and pick up my paycheck at the university; shin chon is a university district and had frequent demonstrations in the late 80's. kids demonstrate to see who can make the biggest ones, someone told me, but after college, they go immediately to the army, where they are instantly on the other side of the line. thus the college years seemed to be full of this tension: you demonstrated; you got away with it; you entered the army and faced those demonstrators. my memories of the spicy, delicious bibimbap, egg mixing in and rice sizzling on the hot bowl, now famous in the west, but better by far in shin chon than any place i've been, is mixed slightly with that singe of tear gas that i'd occasionally get in the air.

and, with seoul less than 100 miles from the dmz, the whole place had that feeling of snuggled up against conflict. you'd see american tanks and soldiers all over the place; it was part of the scenery. when people looked at my beard, it seemed as if they were saying, how could you be in the army and get away with that, perhaps you're french. the radical wing of korean politics maintained that the large powers- usa being only one of them- conspired and were conspiring to keep the korean people separate, and only constant pressure and demonstrations from the people themselves would undo the damage. nowadays, south korea is so wired to the new technology, and north korea so chained to its quest for meager rations, that it's hard to imagine the countries uniting under any circumstance, but that's another problem; at the time, people who promoted unification too strongly were in danger of becoming umbrella people, and being consigned to the shadows during the sudden rainstorms, gluing plastic to bamboo when the sun was out.

i sought out the quakers while i was there; found them on a hill in shin chon, facing a huge mountain that had a tunnel and a major highway right through it, so one could hear the roar of cars coming out of the tunnel, just below, yet the neighborhood had a well-kept, tidy feeling to it. the quakers, they told me at work, were dangerous, too well associated with unification forces- watch out. ham sokh hohn, a famous korean quaker, very old guy who i'd met in iowa, may have actually died at that point, i'm not sure; it was about 1987. not too many of them spoke english, and they seemed busy, but were friendly enough, and welcoming. another time i fell in with some american soldiers, who were friendly enough in their social time, and easily shared the provisions that only they as soldiers could buy, such as maxwell house coffee and blue ribbon beer. one once told me, seoul here is a big social scene, golf course, easy life, but up there at the dmz, they have a mission. care to tell me what that is? i asked. to have a presence, he said. the irony of the statement stuck me like a hammer, even at the time. your mission is to be there? i knew it was more than that, yes, i knew the history, and i kept silent.

years later, i've come to realize that the dmz itself, which i had never actually visited, had become a huge wildlife preserve, a strip across the peninsula virtually untouched by humans for over fifty years. the military standoff that has occurred steadily over that strip- they never declared the war over, after all- has meant that no person dared step in that area at all, and no one has. from the point of view of the various species on the peninsula, i'm sure it's been a godsend, for each, both north and south, of the koreas has devastated its resources and ravaged the peninsula in their own ways. and maybe that was the whole point- why would it be in anyone's interest to divide the koreas for any other reason? it's beyond being about ideology- though i'm sure that, if the ideology has anything to do with national autonomy, as it does for the north, that would be enough to sustain a conflict for at least twenty years beyond the point where "communism" would be no longer worth fighting to preserve. to the south, northerners appear, when they sneak through to the south, as if they were underground for years, hidden away from the world, totally unable to understand things such as a subway, a skyscraper, a personal internet connection. i don't know if it's still like that; i imagine that, as in taiwan and china, there is more and more actual contact between the two peoples. and that is surely good, even if it's tinged with conflict or misunderstanding; what else can one do? live forever in denial?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

a lot going on, a lot to say, but the work weblog has gone totally mute- in protest i might add- more about that later- and this one filling up a little with pop art. other pop art is going on the quaker blog, the pop gallery, or the siu pop art collection; why spread it out? no reason, but things being as they are, it's about all i can do late at night.

but before i bore you to tears with my rant about how i grade at night 'til i fall asleep, bring mountains of grading home over the weekend, and angrily admit that i have to devalue the writing curriculum to, in essence, do what everyone else does, i.e. smile and stop giving homework, i'll tell you what i'd rather be doing, at least if i could read in my free time.

brother, can you spare a billion? -ethan zuckerman's scary story about inflation in zimbabwe

joi ito's freesouls project- which i don't totally understand...

principle wanted- mine- this is truly the writing project i'd like to be working on, and in fact think about it, sometimes, when i'm not thoroughly occupied with other things. i'd like to tell you about it, and, in fact, that would be on the work weblog, but i've been so tied up, i've become unable to post anything there- so i've just decided to let it go. let them come here, if they really want, or, better, just read it, as it slowly pulls together, and, as i should get some time off in about a week- maybe it'll see some organization.

more on all of this stuff a.s.a.p....back to grading for now (sat. night!!!) as, you have to do this stuff, some of it anyway, while the kids are asleep. here's more student-pop. maybe i'll organize this someday also. it is, after all, about them- why i stay up; why i get mad; why i'm beat, at the moment.

happy birthday, btw- to jen; to peggy; to an old friend, p.v., from crystal drive in mt. lebanon. didn't think i'd remember, maybe, but i did. yes, it's hot here, but the earth is turning, and that's good....take care all.