Thursday, January 10, 2013

last day before i go back to work, and as usual i've put off thinking about work for as long as possible. i have not, however, accomplished everything i could during break, and in fact found myself incredibly distracted with what free time i did have. i did get a fair start on my linguistics book, but got caught up when i really got to what a self-organized system is, because like most people i'm not exactly sure. ah then, that's what research is for; it's back to the drawing board.

i ignored my novel altogether, and virtually ignored my texting site, although i have a presentation soon about the effects of technology on the modern language learner. i love love love studying the intersection of technology and grammar, but unfortunately my daily life has moved me a bit further from where i can really study what happens to young people who have such access to such technology all the time. what happens, i believe, is that they are ultimately unable to string sentences together well, because they are so connected that they can't get through a sentence without going back to their language a few times. and the computer is constantly redlining, greenlining them so that their confidence is totally undermined.

but how do i present this to an audience of esl/efl teachers from around the world? many of them are hoping for technology to just solve their grammar problems. in fact they often have grammar problems themselves, and just want to know more about how some machine can just fix it. but machines don't fix it. and they certainly can't explain it, though they make a good college try.

so in the end i got into poetry, and not only got a slightly better presentation of my book (see below), but also wrote a few more; in the end, i kind of got into this, and now have over 670. i cleaned up the site a little too, took out the dead links, got more righteous maps in there, etc. with 670 you'd think i'd have plenty of everything, but in fact i have as few as eight for some states, and they're poorly distributed, so some states even now have ten summer, but no fall. many states have none of any given season, and i'd like to address this, although with fall, for example, i'm kind of stuck on football and leaves, which are to me among the only dead-out clues in most of america. i have to apply myself to this situation; it must not stand. people react to the book by opening their own state. one lady said, "i want to see what you have on florida"...i was embarrassed, because i don't have enough on florida. this break i wrote about four or five on florida; it's looking a little better. hawaii and south carolina are still somewhat weak. then there's alabama. people read that first; it is first. yet it has more than anything my prejudice against dixie and against football. it needs to lean a little more to the subtle, and let that prejudice go in states like mississippi or virginia, that are later in the alphabet where you're a little more used to it.

the interesting thing is that, of the things i do, this is the one that kind of stirs people, i'm not sure why. the stories, ho hum, my brother tried his best to tell me, come on. i tried to compile them over break but i'd only written about twelve of them and it wasn't enough to make a book. music? i've practically stopped playing, but that's a temporary condition and if i could find a country band, i'd start that up again, i think. it also caught my fancy, the idea of starting a texas bookstore, only it wouldn't sell books so much as tex-arcana, and have good coffee, and poetry performances, etc. so i went to this place called the "last bookstore" and the guy had actually set aside a room for girls girls girls stuff in order to stay in business. such is life in lubbock; i'd obviously have to be clever to make a bookstore work here. i'd love to be surrounded by books though, especially texas books. texas history. old picture books and westerns.

speaking of which, got a movie from a friend, made by and about kinky friedman, now there's a texan for ya. more or less independent of mainstream media, he made a band that made fun of everyone (insulted everyone), wrote a number of books using the people he knew, got to know lots of politicians and musicians, started a no-kill shelter to raise money to keep his ranch going, smoked a cuban cigar on every part of the film, and virtually guaranteed that he'd have an image of his own making, forever. he helped define texas, in the sense that when somebody asked me if there were any jews in texas, immediately i could say, well there's kinky friedman, at least i think he's jewish. a lot of people have never heard of him. but i say, you hear the name of his band, you may never forget, though i guess some people probably did. it was an inspiration. a person can make a living being a texan, and having a grand personality.

so, my dreams are slowly but surely moving into the texas movie-set where i feel like i could get involved in something that would certainly be all-consuming. country band. texian bookstore. cowboy poet. whatev.

but there's one more that kind of pushed itself on me. an old friend, dave morice, had a heart attack, and i realized that time is running out on the actualists. they were a band of wild poets in iowa city in the 1970's who responded to the snobbery of the writers' workshop in a very 70's kind of way, by making a lot of noise, printing a lot of mimeograph poetry magazines, and having these conventions that were wild partying affairs. the workshop by and large hated them, but that was temporary, lots of workshop people are not snobs, so one has to be careful i think, what one says about the workshop. the actualists, however, were energized by a common enemy. and their poetry, by and large, was defined by being opposite of elite/effete; it was actual, and lively, oh how to explain it. the question is, is it my job to explain it? i arrived in iowa city right then, mid-seventies, and wasn't really a poet or writer, was only vaguely aware of the movement. but somebody should document it; it's by and large undocumented, hard to find on the web and elsewhere. i'm somewhat inclined to write a novel about it, because then i'd have the freedom to really explore and bend the characters a bit. but i'd have trouble, even then, with the ones i know. how do you bend them? kinky could do it. i'd have a little more trouble, i think.

but i got in touch with my old friend from those days, and he sent me a few copies of the actualist anthology, a fine collection of the best of actualism...said he only had a few left; they certainly aren't selling like hotcakes. to me, though, this is the classic book of all time, and he was delighted that i took an interest, and even signed a few copies for my kids. he shared with me what he could about actualism and the ball is in my court, so to speak. i can either write about it (as i've done a little here), or not. but the heart attack gives me pause. it's like, the main sources, they're getting old. the time is now.

over the holidays we took a major trip; flew to st. louis, rented a car and drove through snow down to carbondale, where the snowmen were bowing when we arrived, due to the snow having stuck around maybe a week more than usual. saw a number of friends, and that was good, and then went up to st. louis, where we saw four grandchildren and got them all in one room though they weren't much up for all four being on one couch for a photo shoot. i talked a lot with two of the older kids; one said, you know, we in our generation look up to you from the sixties and seventies as being kind of special, as doing all this wild stuff, look at the hitchhiking for example, we could never do that these days. and the actualism is kind of like that, it's a wild picture of that era and all the things one could do when a small town let you do it, because, well, it was a place that celebrated poetry.

one other thing, i compiled a smaller poetry book, based on carbondale haiku most of which is also online here...it's called boxcars on walnut and hopefully will expand. for now, though, it's what i've got; it's carbondale, and i, having moved out, may have less to say rather than more.

i'm back in lubbock, and it's rained a bit, but i'm basically back to work tomorrow. all that stuff i put off, i need to get on the stick and work on it. like syllabi, for example, that kind of stuff. i am still a teacher, after all, in spite of these dreams, these visions, these things i'm supposedly writing...lubbock, in fact, is a kind of actualist place. they have their cowboys, sure, and their agriculture, and their prosperity, to some degree, but its duststorms, its dryness, its flat unpretentious high-plains kind of way, it celebrates cowboy poetry, and buddy holly, but it doesn't pretend to be austin. it's home, anyway, and it's back to the grind for me.

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