as large as alone

28 02 2008

I have been really excited about the new Jack Johnson album: Sleep Through The Static. It contains his signature truth-telling lyrics with that whimsical, plucky guitar. It’s a gorgeous composition of soft and loud, and it reminds me of spring time in college. It’s the kind of music that makes it almost glamorous to be alone––the music itself is intimate, deeply personal, yet universally true. Or so I thought.This week, we’ve been writing for our portfolios, so I’ve been playing a lot of music during class. Usually I play it safe with wordless jazz and I stick to the basics: Miles and Coltrain. But the other day I decided to introduce some of my own music. Class, meet Jack Johnson. I was thinking, How could anyone not love this? I mean, I know it’s not Fergie or Van Halen or Lil Wayne, but c’mon. This is real. good. stuff. (But not as real or as good as Miles and Coltrain obviously.)Before the first song was 15 seconds in, I was greeted with the following critique from my astute musical connoisseurs. “Ugggh. This is lover’s music.” or “Awww man. What is this?” Some of the students tried to build my ego back up by offering comments like “If I were sitting in a restaurant, and this played, I would be like, hmmm. What’s that?” Of course, this kind soul’s final words were cut off by another commentator’s insistence that such music would make her “Get up and leave that joint!” Then yet another sympathetic student said, “Naw… It sounds like elevator music to me.”And so it is decided. I am lame. According to 8th graders anyway. I have to admit, Jack Johnson sounds different post 8th grade bashing, but they can’t take away my history with Jack. And so I will continue to listen and enjoy that melancholy “lover’s music.”

Thoughts on Writing (and other products of my procrastination)

8 12 2007

In the past three days, I have spent a total of 20 hours in the library with my nose in some fascinating and not-so-fascinating 19th century material. First off, I think we need to give at least the second half of the 19th century some serious props for doing some serious work in terms of education, philosophy, writing, lecturing (lots of lecturing), having riots about who was more awesome: Catholics or Calvinists. I’ve been focusing on the educational movement that took place under the leadership of Horace Mann (the man to whom we owe much thanks for the beginnings of No Child Left Behind). Bronson Alcott (Louisa May’s father) was a tasty piece of Transcendental ass–he was in the philosophical bed with the big boys like Emerson (who called him a “world builder”) and Thoreau (whom Louisa supposedly had the hots for). If you’re interested in the Alcotts, check out Eden’s Outcasts. It’s really interesting, it’s like looking through the Marches in Little Women–add a Transcendental commune, a few (brilliant) failed schools, lots of lectures, a few more deaths and you’ve got the Alcotts.

So when I haven’t been reading or writing, I’ve been finding ways to procrastinate. Here’s what happens every two hours or so: Check email, make playlists, get on facebook (send a few hatching presents, chuck a book or two), check email, read my friends’ blogs, check my phone (no messages), ask someone to watch my stuff so I can go pee (and possibly smoke a cigarette, depending on how late it is and how desperate I am), get some water, settle in and check email/facebook one last time. Sometimes the sequence of events varies, but it stays more or less the same. I have found that the more I write, the more painful it gets–writing never gets “easy” because it’s never done. In every paper I write, there is a point at which I feel as though I simply cannot, will not pull it off. Grad school is the marines of academic writing. Right now, I feel as though I am living the scene in G.I. Jane where they’ve been doing whatever kind of hellish training they do all day and they’re made to sit and write all night long with sleepytime classical music playing. Oh, and they’re cold and wet. At least I’m not cold and wet.

I have found that music is key because it’s the only thing that keeps your brain alive during the long haul to a paper’s due date. Playing on my ipod right now: George Winston (December and Summer), Enya (Shepherd Moons), Miles Davis and Coltrain (I don’t know what the albums are–it’s a collection I put together in college), some French music, and a few soundtracks (Finding Neverland, Meet Joe Black, Braveheart, Upside of Anger, Piano).


20 11 2007

“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” ~Thomas Wolfe

My love affair with New York began, I think, with Sex and the City–the show of my coming into my own. I wanted to be Carrie Bradshaw–I wanted her curly hair and her studio apartment. I wanted to smoke cigarettes, wear vintage couture clothes and write, write, write in a very glamorous way. I wanted to be alone in the way that she is alone in that show, which is much more than a show, really. Let’s be serious–it’s a revolution.

I spent the last 5 days in New York City. While I was there, I found myself writing and reading more than usual. Part of the reason for this was that I was alone. Usually, the only time I’m alone is after everyone in my house goes to bed– problem is, I generally want to go to bed then, too. So having longer periods of alone time during my most productive parts of the day (morning and early afternoon) had a dramatic effect on the amount of writing I did, but also on the kind of writing I did– it was much, much more thoughtful. I also had material to write about. The sheer volume of people in the city creates a kind of energy that I believe is what draws people to there. And everyone looks different. Granted, people look different on 5th Avenue than they do in SoHo, but overall, everyone is wrapped up in their own style.

I felt like I was more *me in the city that I have been in a long time. But, the good news is, I think I brought her back to Alabama with me. I listened to music more, I wrote some observational pieces, I read Chomsky on Democracy and Education and I read Rumi’s Bird Song. I rode the subway and composed narratives in my mind about the people who were packed up against me. I walked to the top of Saks, I ate tira misu at nearly every restaurant I visited, I caught a taxi all by myself, I was questioned on whether or not I was “famous,” I attended a drag bar (Lucky Cheng’s, I highly recommend it) I heard my own thoughts, I walked in the rain (though I did not sing). Indeed, I believe I belong to New York. Perhaps someday, I will live where I belong.

My playlist for the trip: “More Than This,” Charlie Hunter Quartet; “The Golden Dream,” Erin McKeown; “I Feel It All,” Fiest; “Past in Present,” Feist; “Remember the Sun,” Pieta Brown; “Casimir Polanski Day,” Sufjan Stevens; “Firecracker,” Ryan Adams; “Sonic Boom,” Pieta Brown; “My Moon My Man,” Feist