August 22, 2006

Closed for Repairs

The usual things have been happening around here and I just don’t feel like blogging about them. Last week was the first week of school for Agents 95 and 97. Then my wife and I took a weekend trip to a beautiful wedding in another part of the country. A few months ago I would have enthusiastically mined at least one poignant/funny/perceptive post about each of those events. Now I’m wondering what it would add to my life, to my appreciation of those events, or even to my art, to do so. (I’ve always hated the phrase “my art” when people use it about their own work. It seems so pretentious. But I’m feeling less pretentious about my work than ever, so why not be sloppy and use it?)

My regular readers are probably aware that I’ve been progressively slowing down my output throughout the year. It’s reached the point where I’d have to force myself to try to think of a story. What used to be a joy has become an obligation.

I’m going to stop blogging for a good long while, at least a month or two. Then I’ll see what happens. I’d like to start again, but I don’t know if I will or not. For a very long time it’s been important to me to see myself as “creative,” so much so that the freshest experience I could have might be to go without a creative outlet for a while. I’ve been saddled onto my creativity for a long time and maybe it’s time to get off that lame horse and walk. And admire the riders as they pass me by.

I expect that this decision will make me feel both sad and free. Blogging is a wonderful invention and I’ve loved participating in its development. I hope to keep reading your blogs and see how you’re doing and comment from time to time. (Some good blogs have disappeared or dwindled recently, but the ones that remain seem to me to be putting out stronger, deeper, livelier posts than ever.) I’m often startled and stirred by how much first-rate thought and writing comes out of this medium by people doing it in their spare time for nonmaterial rewards.

Maybe you’ll see me back here in the fall…maybe not. If I do come back, I’ll try to spread the word through this wonderful little circle of online friends. Hugs to all of you.

August 13, 2006

New Paths in Book Reviewing

We've all read our share of book reviews, and perhaps we've felt sympathy for the poor (sometimes in all senses of the word) reviewers who've had to read all the way (or at least some of the way)through books in which every page weighs like lead on the finger forced to turn it. For some time, I've thought it's more interesting to discuss why we don't want to read a given book in the first place. That's often my approach in casual conversation, since there aren't that many new books I decide to read.

Well, none other than Ann Althouse seems to be pioneering this new subgenre. She's given several posts in the past about why she didn't want to see this or that movie; now she's topping herself with a post about why she doesn't want to read a hyped historical novel about Sigmund Freud written by a fellow law professor. As always, she's funny and incisive.

For those wondering why Ann and I ever got together in the first place (which may include the parties themselves), here's one reason.

But do I have to even waste a breath on why I don't care to watch American Idol?

August 08, 2006

Find Me a Song

An earworm is a song that lodges in your head annoyingly and can't be removed. Often it's some old hit that you haven't thought of in years and that seems to have chosen you as a kind of walking hospice before it sinks into oblivion. I've been having earworm problems lately -- waking up every morning with at least one song clinging to the inside of my skull all day -- sometimes two songs alternating maddeningly.

This morning I found an anti-earworm, issuing surprisingly from my computer: a lovely, beautifully sung and played song that drove all generation-old commercial annoyances away. It's called "Will You Ever Know" and it's by a folk group called The Heard, based in Idaho. I'd never heard it before, and now I'm hearing it again and again in my mind, smilingly. And it's written and sung by none other than MB Whitaker, the poet of Find Me a Bluebird and a regular commenter here. Check it out, people. This is pure clean Idaho spring water.


It’s a late night, no school the next day, and you’re sitting on the edge of the bed in the dark, staying and talking with them the way they like, and for some reason tonight they don’t talk about superheroes and combat games.

“Dad, when you were in school, were you popular?”

Well, you tell them, you weren’t one of the most popular kids, you always felt like an outsider, but you had a little group of kids who all thought they were outsiders too, and you hung around with them.

“Are they still your friends?”

No, you haven’t seen any of them since you became a grownup. Lots of times friends drift away as they get older. People go to different colleges, people move, people just develop different --

“When I grow up I’m still going to be friends with ________.”

That’s good, you hope so. “And even if you don’t see each other when you’re grownups, you’ll always remember that you were best friends your whole childhood. That’s a precious thing.”

You’re sticking to the facts and yet keeping all your answers optimistic. You admit that there are discomforts in life, but you portray the universe as essentially a friendly place, a place of happy endings -- for no one knows what happens when we die, and some people believe in heaven and others believe in reincarnation and many scientists think that all time is always present, which means we’re always here alive, or maybe trillions of years will pass in the blink of an eye and you’ll wake up in an entirely new universe, remembering nothing, but safe and alive.

“Think I’ll be popular when I’m in high school?” the older one asks, and says of his brother. “I’ll bet he’s going to have every girl in the school following after him, just like he has now. I probably won’t have that many.“

“But you’ll have real interesting ones,” you say.

“I think I’ll have maybe seven who have crushes on me, that’s all. And I decided for college I want to go to Harvard, or maybe Yale.”

The younger brother asks, “Why?”

“Because they’re the two best colleges, that’s why.”

“Then I’ll go there too. Then we can live together in the same apartment.”

“That’s be so awesome! Dad, think we have a good plan for college?”

Yes, you tell them, a fine plan. And the conversation ebbs a little, ebbs more -- it’s really getting late now, kids, it’s time to get to sleep -- the sound of torsos turning subsides, the sound of legs shifting subsides, in the silence you stand up slow-kneed, and as you’re cautiously straightening your legs from a crouch you whisper, “Good night, kids,” and you’ll share this conversation with your wife and smile dreamily and touch hands in bed, thinking of your plans, all your plans.


August 02, 2006

Dream Journal: Finding the Museum

I’m visiting Manhattan, and my host asks me to guide four preteen boys to a fancy new art museum I’ve never heard of. I can’t figure out how to get to the museum even though it’s only about a mile south of the apartment, in the Seventies on the Upper East Side. I start walking with the boys, and they’re singing a song they made up, with one of them on guitar, and I’m worried that onlookers will stare at them and think they’re provincial; but fortunately it turns out we’re accompanied by a camera crew which is filming them for a reality show, so the onlookers view them with admiring curiosity.

I repeatedly ask people how to get to the museum, but I don’t understand their directions. Finally, in the vestibule of an apartment building, I meet a friendly, plump but attractive woman who’s taking mail out of an overstuffed box. There’s not only mail in it, there’s a loaf of bread and a bunch of bananas. I laugh in recognition: I’m a parent too and I have experience taking food out of my mailbox after kids have put it in there. She considerately takes time to give me directions to the museum, but I still have trouble reading the subway map at the station: the names of the subway lines have been changed since I was there last, and the map is an interactive touch-screen rather than a simple readable sheet of paper. At dream’s end, it’s still not clear whether I’ll get to the museum or not.

Interpretation: This is all so transparent it hardly needs any. It’s a window into my life.


August 01, 2006

Germany vs. Greece

Watch this video over at Flares into Darkness to see a most unusual soccer game -- courtesy of Monty Python.

A most refreshing change of pace amid all that's going on in the world.