Friday, October 31, 2008





the halloween/all saints day holiday fell on a weekend this year, which is good because the workaday world doesn't slow down just because it's the high holy days for the spirit is, to the spirits, as homecoming day is to the alumni office. and i'll be the first to admit i have no idea whether such things as ghosts, goblins, angels, spirits, etc. are real and i think it's probably better that way (that we know so little)...but, rather than going from there to assume they don't, i've decided to take this weekend holiday, this stunning weather, late october & all, to assume they do, assume they're both good & bad, assume they appreciate what little respect we offer them; assume that this stunning color, this beautiful blue sky, excited children, tons of candies, people in attempts at costumes, etc., is all in its own pitiful way a kind of homecoming parade. this town has always had a thing for halloween anyway, and now that the bars are closed, and the police are all over, the students have tried to drink it up and get rowdy the entire month; at the same time the pure sobriety of it, once it finally rolls around, comes when the stunning weather breaks through; the holiday itself, with bars closed and all, really should be saints day. nobody knows much about saints day, nor dia de los muertos, nor sadie hawkins day, guy fawkes day, or any of the rest. this year election day is thrown in there just for the good/bad contrast, the accusations flying about "socialist redistribution of the wealth" not two weeks after a $300 billion bailout to the world's greediest ceo's...this is all comic relief to the spirits, i'm sure, as they don't have to live with the results of thrown elections, twisted appeals to fear, etc., yet presumably glide in and out of the barbed-wire fence that separates the kamakura walkway and the construction area where they're preparing the new library grand opening. took my camera again; finally documenting what i consider amazing and subtle color and shape relationships of my favorite territory, this no-man's land back behind kamakura, where the construction kind of moved out the center-of-campus feeling and made it more of a haiku feeling. seventeen syllables and yer outta here. the pulliam carillon might gong down atcha anytime. so i snapped some pictures, and made them into pop art; i've been grading too much, and haven't had much time to think about anything else really useful.

have ongoing problems, though, with blogger online storage hazing up digital camera photos- maybe the world is not ready for stark clarity, on the free photo-storage market; but, if i keep moving, i'll find a system, and get the photos on track & up where they can be seen. i'm into sculptures like the iron dragon and the kamak behind it these days, as you can see, but i also like the 'here' sculpture, which i used to call salukihenge, over on the other side of library construction, where i saw a guy today, in a stark black and white mime-type costume, just resting in the fall colors. he'd a made a great photo, with his black & white mimeness, and beautiful fall leaves & sun & blue sky all over, mo-libe construction in the background, but i wasn't shooting people, only wanted the sculpture itself. still life pop art. he of course was still too, but was relieved, i think, that i didn't take pictures of him; in fact neither of us really wanted to talk at all. maybe he really was a mime. next time for the mime, i guess. a happy saints day cusp to all; stay sober, and watch the clear crisp afternoon blue-sky fresh air crinkle up the fallen leaf. it is, after all, a holiday.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

i always tell people i grew up in ohio & pennsylvania, and it's true, though i graduated from high school in upstate new york, and by 'ohio' i mean i was born in cleveland, and really spent much more time, over ten years, in toledo; by 'pennsylvania' i mean 'pittsburgh' as that was where i was in junior high. but recently i heard the city of philadelphia being compared to cleveland, in that the entire city hasn't won a championship of any kind since the 80's, whereas cleveland goes all the way back to the 60's easy, but philly is of course getting a complex. when i was in pittsburgh, one didn't wear black converse tennis shoes because that meant you were from philly, but even then i wasn't quite clear on whether that was supposed to be bad or good. today i have a slightly better view of philly, actually a kind of nostalgia, and am happy to notice that my good friend lowercase dave is back there on a visit, sending twitter updates every time he gets back on the bus, allowing me to live vicariously, him getting a free bus ticket, i presume, in return for his tireless work here for the big grey-dawg bus company.

so he manages to put just enough in these tiny twitter messages to give me a good picture, of him busing around the great state of p-a, northern half or southern half, whatever, with obama more or less tailing him, and bad weather all over the place; the game, the world serious game in which the phillies were all set to become world champions for the first time since the eighties, was suspended, due to crummy weather that was due to last two days; it won't be finished 'til tomorrow, which could throw the whole world serious into the great halloween weekend holiday, which includes dia de los muertos, shut the bars in carbondale weekend, saints' day, guy fawkes day, maybe even sadie hawkins and election day, all wrapped up in one long cold weekend, the whole ball-a-wax. and what is baseball doing trying to finish a season in november? i got no idea, but i myself am beginning to smell turkey and getting ready to vote hard, but try not to break the machine, try to play fair and not let any dead people get involved as we are wont to do out in illinois. this will happen roughly a week from tonight, the election i mean, by then a great end to a great holiday season, i hope.

so my view of p-a is basically this, that the cold rainy stuff always catches up to you right around halloween, excuse my rambling, but we kids going out, we'd try to get a lot of candy, etc., and half the time you had to figure out how to have a decent costume over a huge bundle of warming-type winter sweaters & stuff that you weren't used to wearing. and this made everyone a little slower, colder, & hungrier for candy, much of which was gone before the night was out. now fast-forward to adulthood, and i'm trying to get ready for halloween back here in the land-o-obama, but there are complications. one, i work too much. two, i always put off costumes until the last minute. three, i'd rather this world serious would just end.

so this game last night was tied 2-2, and was suspended, kind of like just held up, indefinitely, until the weather got better, which surely wasn't going to be tonight. now if this had happened to the twins, say, they might have to wait until may. but philly, maybe they'll have one more good day, or at least one more precipitation-free day, before may. and maybe philly will win, maybe they won't. i do actually like them, those phillies. my heart is with lower-case dave, at least when i open twitter. i can feel it much like i would if it were the indians in there. but i like tampa bay too-last time i was in tampa bay, i lost my wallet, and my wallet saw more of the place than i did, and came back to me anyway. last time i was in philly, i was going home for thanksgiving, wondering how the p-a turnpike could be so long, and me just starting it.

the mountains of northern pennsylvania are vast, beautiful, foggy, cold, lots of grasses and woods and deer antlers on roofs of old trucks, also it snows a lot, especially starting now, and even so you always take the mountains rather than veer south, go through philly and hit all those tunnels on the turnpike through the mountains in the south part of the state. it's a big state, and real pretty, and cold, but i think obama will win. hang in there obama- only one week to go.

as for the phillies, they could be suspended there, one minute away from a big win, for who knows how long. that's the way life is, you never know what's going to delay you next, when the next boxcars are gonna come down the tracks. it reminds me of driving around carbondale. generally you take the routes with stop signs, because even if someone's around, and you have to make a full stop, you don't actually have to sit still. on the other hand, if you take the main roads, you go faster of course, but then you actually get lights, and a red light will actually make you stop, no choice, just sit there for a minute maybe. then there's the train, cuts right through the center of town; that's real suspension, you have to sit there 'til all the boxcars are gone, look at the graffiti, which we don't see to much of around here, count the boxcars maybe, and notice that everyone around you, some of whom i would know of course, are all, at that moment, suspended in carbondale, cars idling at the bricks near the tracks. but such is life. you can be in a hurry if you want, but, the real test is, how you behave while you wait, whether you blow your top from the pure boxed-in, tunnelish nature of it all, or whether you sleep on the bus once in a while. 'i spent a weekend one day in philadelphia,' said w.c. fields, and that was before the days of twitter. one time i drove back there, with a friend, and had to leave the car, an old opel station wagon, in a small town in p-a, in the mountains, clearfield i believe it was, and take the bus home. they say you always get offered drugs for sale in the cleveland bus station, and that was certainly true for me, going through the northern part; that one time at least, and the weather was bitter cold that time too. but hey, cleveland has been suspended for more like what, 45 years, no baseball championship in sight, so, with that kind of bitter weather, lack of good train graffiti, what do you expect, i passed 'em up, of course, but i remember thinking, this is where i'm from, i just want to look around a little, and i did look around, said no to the guy, and breathed in a little of that cold wet late-fall eastern-time-zone kind of air. but then, got right back on the first bus west, back out here to the high plains, the river valley, where everyone knows, when it's the high holidays, the big season, you give up your baseball, go out & get some candy, 'cause winter's coming, and it's time to hibernate. a snickers bar, i'll settle for a snickers bar, and maybe a memory or two; good luck to dave, and here's to memorable trips out in the old stomping grounds. turn up yer collar- it's going to be a long one.

Friday, October 24, 2008

a cool steady rain here all day; winter is coming, and it is hard, mornings, to load a 3-yr-old in a carriage & wheel on down the road. today we just took the car. it's ok; i've been swimming regularly, getting lots of exercise, feeling healthy, doing everything but sleep, and skipping that mostly because of the joys of the world serious and advancing my professional interests just 'cause i want to. i've become very interested in chat, especially the cultural aspects that the young carry around with them when they do it; how they engage in it with a passion, and almost fear it for its pull into its own cultural realm that they all share but know works against their more conservative goals. and, linguistically, the way it's a language of its own, with language behavior & change built right into it. so i'm working on getting some of my arabic-speaking students to tell me more about what i call 3-5 chat, a language that is arabic but written in mostly english letters with some numbers (3 & 5, most commonly) sprinkled in to represent certain arabic letters that wouldn't otherwise be accessible. and they're incredibly fast at this- so fast that, after seeing them once a while back, even almost a year back, i'm still amazed. my own son now types at over 80w/m, and he doesn't even try to improve- it's just from practice, and keeping up with the general flow of conversation. it's a culture. it's a happening event, just about wherever they are.

so why do i put this here, on this weblog? don't know; it's late at night; i don't really have my thoughts collected. i have a whole weblog for just this topic; yet sometimes i have trouble separating it from just a personal ramble going off into creative space & pop art. i've learned to go with the flow of my general a-d-d self- short story one day, pop art the next, professional writing when i can or have to, grading papers as a grind, day in, day out, yet even that's interesting, because if i focus on getting students to really talk about their lives, i really want to hear it, and, if they're studying nature and natural responses to global warming, i want to hear that too. counted my haiku tonight, have over 260, but what's missing is scrupulous attention to nature & the natural turns of season; one of which, of course, we are experiencing now. all this exercise basically puts oxygen in my brain and opens my eyes wider; i've begun to study the wild colors of the kamakura (sorry no link) japanese garden, without even knowing what all the various grasses are, without a clue, really. studying it, kind of, from a distance, spiritually, as it changes color, and sits still in its inanimate beauty. it's kind of the zen of walking to the pool; the passion of taking a few minutes of walking, to really see. and on the other side of the fence, the wild grasses of the uncut construction area; i've got to take that camera back, & get more of it. sometimes the wildness of nature itself, the snake under a rock, is enough to set you back. even in illinois, the plain(s) state.

then there's the play...gotta get going on it. make a poster & all. tomorrow; tonight, it's cold, & i'm going to bed. winter'll be upon us, any day now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Freedom of Speech, a new story. check it out. comments welcome as usual.

Monday, October 20, 2008

it's cool and clear here, beautiful blue sky, peak of leaf season passing through, and the colors are fantastic as i ride the bike-and-carriage through the peaceful west side, 3-yr-old in tow. one day i was getting ready, unlocking, putting bags in it, when a young student on a cell phone unlocked her bike and rode off, but forgot she was using the cell phone, and fell, bike and all. i felt like, well, with so many ways to stay in touch constantly, hardly able to cross campus without checking phones & mails and twittering in from the mobile, how do any of us stay afloat? at the daycare they communicate by biting, but they're strongly encouraged not to. the political campaigns use every possible strategy to reach us, but even if i had a tv, i'd only watch baseball, and i've made up my mind about the election anyway.

matter of fact, illinois used to be a "toss-up" state, about half chicago & the other half places like this & the farmland, but these days it's so clearly blue that they're staying away in droves. this i like. also, though i ordered a free obama button months ago & haven't received it yet, i've concluded that that's either because 1) the postman himself is republican, or, 2) the obama campaign is organized in terms of "in the bag" vs. "could vote either way" and thus always sends buttons to other people before they get around to me. i am, after all, totally partisan, so much so that it wouldn't even be much point, me wearing a button, since everyone already knows how i'll vote. but, one shouldn't take these things for granted, and, after all, it is "show your colors" month- time to get out there, and be yourself.

for halloween my wife says she'll be a corn cob, so i've said i'll be a stick of butter, though she calls these cubes of butter- anyway that way i might be able to make jokes as appropriate, but it might also be possible that i end up stuck on the ceiling, as butter was in my high school cafeteria. as we speak i have a hard time conceiving of this costume, but i guess there are still a few days yet before i have to. the 3-yr-old has no problem with this; he wears costumes every day, usually batman but sometimes spiderman or a variation, and has his mind on "transformer" also.

went out to giant city, not once but twice, in the gorgeous weather, and did the trail that goes back by the rocks that stand and surround you, obviously a place of great ancient importance, in the heart of the mississippi valley, surrounded by oaks & hardwood, just a stunning place of ancient caves. one spot known locally as "fat man squeeze" is often occupied by drunk college kids who no longer fit up through the rocks; this could be because they drink too much and grow too fast, or it could be because, as the waitress at the lodge says, the rocks have gotten tighter over the years. the 3-yr.-old heard this as "batman squeeze" but he gets lots of squeezes anyway, and there's no way i'm chasing him up those rocks.

the main point here is, we both ride through the same universe; we both see the same set of stunning sights; yet, we sometimes have totally different interpretations. amazing how life is; by the time he's in college, people will stay in touch with each other by a steady stream of wireless signals in the fillings in their teeth; why should one have to use a hand to respond to people? i can hardly imagine a status to update my facebook account; if someone tweets, out in the middle of the forest, does it still matter, if one hand claps in response? chou.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

my cat dido died today; she was a loyal friend and regular customer for many years. she was called "bad kitty" for a while before the boys settled on her name "dido", which was not named for the rock star, but rather the greek goddess, the spurned one. dido was a vocal cat; she was white with gray and brown coloring; she liked to talk, and to complain, and even to play the piano, and she also liked to knock over glasses of water, sometimes right in front of you, if she wanted. she was born in west branch iowa, and lost part of an ear in a blizzard, but she survived the raccoons that ran off with most of her siblings, and actually lived a pretty good life until recently, when she got both a thyroid condition, and diabetes, and began to go downhill pretty quickly. we were busy giving her shots and taking her to the vet, and holding her a lot at the end, but there wasn't much we could do; she was small, and whatever was bugging her was big, and it overtook her.

it's a harvest moon here, and it's warm and misty-rainy, with colors changing and the days actually hot out. I was sick for a couple of days also, so all the weather changes and dido's going downhill just kind of snuck up on me, and i wasn't totally prepared. turned over into a new term also, so i wanted to get a little professional work done before i started another gruelling term. this involved picking different articles out of my e-mail and putting them where i could find them, namely in bibliographies like ones i've made for facebook, chat, and second life and esl. want to know about how these have changed esl teaching? you could find some stuff to read, maybe. but, amongst my e-mail, i have lots of stuff, stuff piling up over terms when i'm too busy literally to deal with it. i get mail from the cardinals, from the gardening people, and from just about anybody that ever accidentally got my e-mail address. one group that is always in there is the haiku people, who i actually enjoy, because you can read a haiku before you delete it, and it often brings a smile to your face, or a single image that can stick with you for a while. this is what happened today. it so happens that one of haiku's giants died today also. he was a giant both on the list and in the field in general, and anyone who knew him loved him, including me, and i hardly knew him at all. so people were writing in with their tributes, but also sending in haiku, one after another, in my inbox. one of the best ones had the harvest moon, and a boatman crossing a lake in the moonlight. another was of a bright yellow leaf, suddenly falling, yet falling gently, as leaves do.

it helped me put it in perspective, that, and a bizarre lunchtime experience with a brand-new student, just arrived in the usa, with virtually no english whatsoever, who managed to communicate nonetheless that he had lost two sons recently, somehow, perhaps something was lost in translation here, but it was a pretty powerful experience anyway, and made me feel a little sheepish feeling sorry for myself over a cat. dido nevertheless was important around our house; we'll miss her; when my 16-year old was a young boy he used to get mad at her and say, "you NOT, dido!" and this kind of stuck until i'm sure, to some degree, she thought it was her name. she was our kitty, she still is, a harvest moon boat-kitty, maybe, crossing to the other side. where, i would hope, a kitty could be held indefinitely, and the water, still in the moonlight, could be lapped up at her heart's content.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

2nd Avenue Square Dance
here's a great cd by my sister; in this one she plays with big stars along with her usual band. i wanted to call it "grass fed & meshugginah (sp?) but it didn't sell with her producers. next cd, maybe. try it out, if you can; her site allows you to hear some of it. Nice work, Margot!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

some o' mine- siuc pop & poster art

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

i've forgotten how to grow vegetables; i used to do it in iowa but up there the soil was so good you'd plant seeds and have to get out of the way before the plants would come up and hit you. down here you have to hang around your garden and fight off the bugs; if you walk away for a couple of days, the weeds take over and you can't even find your bug-eaten vegetable. also there are the deer; they're overpopulated, and bad drivers aren't taking care of the situation, because of the high gas prices. so they go all over, especially eating the tomatoes, but also the roses, and just about anything else you could put in a salad.

the reason i mention this is that the financial markets are crashing, so it makes us all wonder if we'll be hanging around figuring out how to shoot squirrels, and i never did know how to do that. about the only depression-type thing i can do is play a song, and that might have to do, since i'm in a fix over this vegetable deal. fortunately we don't have any money in the stock market. on the contrary, if credit is short, we're better off, 'cause we don't have to go get more of it just to keep the system running. we have a huge cavernous addition on the house, but it's not finished, so we can just go up there and run around in the open room for the whole depression, maybe, until we figure out how to finish it without money, or, maybe we don't.

i mention this because really, our whole picture depends on the world financial outlook, at least mine does, maybe they still need sociologists in a deep depression. but i, an esl teacher, could conceivably lose my job if, for example, money dries up in asia, or saudi, or, say bush invades taiwan. this is why i don't watch the debates too carefully. i hate evidence that any candidate is not up to the job, and i've had a little too much of that for the last eight years.

got this report while buzzing around my favorite places, and it scared me a little, so i'll probably go stick my head back in the sand and do my haiku, or maybe pop art in the upcoming mini-break. these are ostrichish pursuits, i admit, but they are working for me in that 1) life is pretty crazy around here, with my wife writing a book, the boys growing quickly, and an overload at work; also, they're giving me writing classes again, lots of papers to grade, maybe i'll figure out how to put the whole class on chat, so as to improve their grammar, or at least watch it carefully, without having to always keep grading and correcting it. i'll light up the blogs again and make sure there's lots of good commentary on american life...maybe we need it. i'm beginning to think partly in terms of woody guthrie...well, they kilt the soil back where i'm from, so i picked up & headed out to see the big old world & this is what i wrote. or ralph stanley, who never could sing all that well, but dredged up all the cool appalachian songs, sang right from the mountains, got all the women with good singing voices to accompany him, and now he's endorsed obama, which shows he's basically sensible on top of it all.

the thing is, after studying andy warhol for a while, i decided that though i also had a longstanding bout with boredom & with what one critic called, deliberate moral blankness, that i didn't really want to go down that road, didn't want to just take advantage of, or even make pop-art calendars out of, other folks' work. as part of a class where we studied freud and dreams a bit, i encountered freud's nephew, who brought freud's ideas to the usa, then decided, why help people discern their subconscious, when one can simply help business take advantage of their subconscious, and make big bucks in the process? he started out convincing america that it needed bacon for breakfast; then, he convinced women that they should all start smoking. finally he moved on to united fruit where he convinced america that it needed to invade guatemala; this was the year i was born. aha, i thought, i'd been looking for the root of that for years, and there it was. "the father of spin," he's called as he got people like rove inspired to be truly slimy & manipulative, and change the course of history. we are truly living in a freudian age (just do it) though most people wouldn't even want to admit it...but then, how do i fit into this picture? i make quaker pop-art (scroll down) but i cover it up sometimes with plays for youth- this one is about our building...and, who knows. what i'm saying is it's hard knowing how one fits into the world, but, i don't want to look back at a life and say, father of spin, overthrown governments & dead smokers in my wake. or, t-shirt factory in new york city, lots of drugs, millions-a-bucks, i'm a deeply superficial person with purple hair, but dead. i like pop art, i think it's the actualist poetry of the computer-visuals world, but, i'm a' make my own, not gonna make a career out of poor m. monroe, and to that end, i've started dragging a digital camera around, taking photos of stuff i love, like faner, sculptures, signs, japanese garden, etc. which i'll soon show. this can only get deeper, as i'm in for more writing classes, and can't write for beans, anything except haiku, in this kind of mode. stay tuned. chou!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

pictures from FB (Ji Young)

and an old fall picture (last one)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

i have a busy life, but i still occasionally find stuff that i'd like to do, given time, or maybe a weekend. there are things i'd like to know, for example, but don't really have time to find out. now that i feel like i can write, there's a few stories to tell, but i don't even know half of them, not having time to do much but remember them occasionally, or make them up.

but one of the real ones is a great unsolved mystery here in this town, called the pyramid fire; it happened in 1992, apparently, two years before i got here, but they were definitely still talking about it when i got here, as there was a fire on that day also, in august 1994. in 1992 a fire broke out in the pyramid apartment complex and killed six students, most malaysian, not all. it happened in december (the 6th), but the fire was so hot that apparently the fire department was unwilling or unable to go in, and was criticized later, though i was not in their shoes, and couldn't say one way or the other. someone was suspected of setting the fire; they say it was arson, or they have evidence it was, but don't know who did it. rumors point a finger at one person, but rumors are just rumors.

so the other day i was at campus lake, and students were supposed to arrive there for a boat outing onto the lake. it was a hot day; the last of summer hung in the air although it was already september. three students who did take advantage of the trip went out on the lake, came back sweaty but happy, and left; i was alone with the boat rental people who were doing homework. i strolled along the bank of the lake and came to the monument to the students. it hoped that their lives would mean something, and their tragic and pointless deaths would be remembered. a simple monument, it listed their names and ages; from this information i've assumed their nationalities, without even knowing. the odd thing, from the point of view of an internationalist in this small town, was that by the time i got here, two years later, malaysians were virtually gone; had the government pulled them out? was there actually a reaction to the fire? these things tend to get big press in the home countries, where people don't die so pointlessly or where they watch a lot of american movies and assume that the whole country is like the streets of the city as it's shown in some thriller. actually life is often somewhat boring; still as a september breeze on a tepid lake. with some seaweedy kind of slimy thing just under the surface, catching the sun, murking up the water, and making it possible for fish to hide until a better day.