Category Archives: Modernism

Eight Beautiful Things in Life: A List

I’ve been sitting here trying to think about what to write, and though my ideas are pouring out of me, they aren’t really cooperating and being coherent. I’ve been having the same problem for a while now. I can think of all sorts of ideas and concepts I want to discuss, but I can’t get them to come out in a logical fashion. My thoughts have been coming out in images: So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens, right? Short snippets of songs: mystic crystal revelations, Aquarius. Short bursts of my favorite artistic visions:

Paris Street Rainy Day

As much as I try to gather my thoughts and put them in some sort of order, they just shoot out of me like children throw those little pop-its on the Fourth of July. Random. Loud. And extra-annoying. So, I’ve decided to make a list of eight beautiful things that have happened in my life within the last two weeks.

Eight Beautiful Things in No Particular Order

  1. I cut my 5K time by 6 minutes. I went from a PR of 41 minutes to a PR of 35:17. This was beautiful to me, because after five or more years of running, I started to actually feel like a runner. I ran 11-minute miles. Three of them. Consecutively. Not only that, but I got up the next morning and ran a mile, and got up the next morning (this morning) and ran four more. My body felt like it was singing at mile four, and I felt as if I could have kept going for another four miles. Suddenly, running doesn’t feel like a job; running feels like a joy. My new goal for the half marathon is 2:45.00 or less.
  2. My students read and discussed “The Wasteland,” and I think they liked the poem. They were engaged, they were thoughtful, and they seemed to finally get Modernism. Maybe when I teach Modernism next time, I will start with “The Wasteland” to set up the unit. I feel like I have new eyes for this poem, because it was never one I really enjoyed, but my students were really able to relate to the fragmentation of it, and they had so many ideas about why “April is the cruelest month.” The lines that seemed to resonate the most with them were these: “What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow out of this stony rubbish? Son of man, you cannot say, or guess, for you know only a heap of broken images, where the sun beats, and the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief, and the dry stone no sound of water.” I wonder if they can relate to this feeling of despair in a way that I can’t, because I swear to you, this poem has never had the meaning for me that it does now.
  3. I can actually recognize the melodies of some songs that I have been playing on the piano. I know sharps and flats, slurs and ties, eighth through whole notes and rests, and how to start on the upbeat. I can play a weird version of “Mary Jane,” “Clementine,” “In the Valley,” “Jolly Good Fellow,” and “When the Saints Go Marching.” I can also play an F, G7, and C chords. Basically, I feel good about this piano thing, and what feels really good about it is that I feel so relaxed when I am muddling through the few songs I know. Having something that doesn’t involve reading or exercise to help relieve my stress is perfect, especially this year.
  4. Fall is the most beautiful season when it’s fall. Spring is the most beautiful . . . Summer is the most beautiful . . . Winter is the beautiful . . . But it’s fall now, and fall is the most beautiful when the trees are fully dressed in their brightest colors and the limbs are shifting and dancing in the wind. Fall is beautiful when the rain falls lightly down creating a haze of the lights reflecting on the river and when the days are shirt-sleeve warm, but the nights need a fireplace warming. When the leaves crunch and the birds take flight, fall is the most beautiful.
  5. After I helped my dad butcher some chickens, I learned that I could sustain myself through farming. We raised quite a bit of produce through three minuscule gardens in our city front and back yards, and we made at least five weeks of food-base (broth and meat) from two chickens. I am pretty sure that given a larger farm and a part-time job, I could grow, process, and store up plenty for our family for the year. We might even be able to cut out the grocery for a good portion of the late summer and early fall. I’d even make sure to grow things we’ve never had to keep our mouths interested in home-grown foods.
  6. My brother and I started our first batch of hard cider yesterday. We are brewing five gallons of honey-cider to try an initial test run. Adding honey theoretically makes the cider more alcoholic because the yeast has more sugar to feed off of. I am hoping it will give it a nice clover-y taste so there will be a uniqueness to our cider. We have to let this sit for two weeks or until it stops bubbling, then one more week to let the yeast sift down. Then we have to add in a bit more sugar, so it will carbonate, before we siphon the cider off into another bucket. Once it’s in the other bucket, we stir it up and bottle it. This cider thing, if it works, will be one of our greatest sibling cooperative efforts.
  7. Through a rigorous paleo diet and running at least a mile every day, I am within 5 pounds of weighing 200 pounds. When I get down to 196.4, I will have lost 60 pounds, and as it is right now, I’ve lost 50-55 pounds, depending on the day. I’m well within range of my goal of 170—I don’t want to lose Athena status for running—and I am so excited. Bec asked me if I wanted to buy some clothes when I reached my goal weight. Yes, I do, but first, I want some new body art! Always with the tattoos!
  8. I got to spend the evening with my friend Lyn, who is an artist. We sat at the Yart Sale here in Muncie while people looked at her art, asked for lots of business cards, and then didn’t really buy much.I’m not so sure that people just buy art right out anymore. I mean, we do, but I think we’re atypical. Most people look, mull it over, look some more, mull it over some more, look again, mull it over again, and then maybe buy it. It’s a little disheartening if you’re an artist, I would think. What the Yart Sale did for me, though, is two things: (1) I got to spend time with one of my dearest friends, and (2) I got to soak up all that artiness, all that beauty, all that truth, and all that grace. That evening made me fall in love again with art, and I would argue that’s what’s making my thoughts come out all discombobulated. Art poisoned my logical mind: “I feel certain that I’m going mad again. [. . .] And I shan’t recover this time” (Virginia Woolf).

Untitled, Skull

Bike Rides. Pumpkin Curry. Period. Cultural Studies.

Bike Ride

When we left school today to walk the quarter mile to our cars, I almost had Lisa, my friend and colleague, pinch me, because it’s January 30 and the temperature was hovering nicely around 50 degrees. The sun was shining, the breeze was blowing, and the air just smelled joyful and springlike. I felt like running and playing, but since I had just run on Saturday night, I thought I’d play it safe by taking my dogs for a walk. We walked down to the dam, where I like to watch the water spill over, and where the dogs like to sniff things and pee on the concrete wall that separates the road from the water.We lingered there for a bit enjoying the weather and the majesty of the water before heading home.

When we got home, I brought the dogs inside to play for a bit, but I was feeling antsy, like I didn’t quite want to settle in for the night, so I decided to go for a bike ride. I rode down the White River Greenway to Jackson Street, staying on the pavement the entire time. As I turned off of Jackson back onto the Cardinal Greenway, I got a little adventurous notion—probably a side effect of the paleo lifestyle, I mean who doesn’t like to play?—and I cut off the path to ride cyclo-cross style (on my mountain bike) back along the river bank, stopping only to carry my bike across two railroad tracks. While I realize this little side trip off the asphalt isn’t that adventurous, riding on private property along the river is not my usual bike trip.

I always see this group of guys—and, yes, they are all guys—riding along the river bank at night, wearing headlamps. They always look like they are having such fun. I think they are the same guys who practice their cyclo-cross skills by riding in circles around the trees in the field at Minnetrista. The riding in circles is a little odd, but I can see how liberating it is to ride near the river in the grass. I may even give the circle riding a whirl! Even that little bit of transgression against the societal norm here in Muncie makes the world seem like a little bit better of a place. A little less restrictive and a bit more free. Maybe once I get in better shape, I can join them sometime. They have to be some kind of Ball State club. Maybe I’ll check into it.

Pumpkin Curry

During the fall and winter, I can’t resist a good, hearty soup, stew, or chowder. Tonight for dinner, Bec and I had Creamy Pumpkin Curry. The soup/curry was amazing just like the recipe is written, but when I make it again, I plan to halve the amount of shrimp to one pound and add in some fish chunks for a bit of variety. I may also add in some kale for a little bitterness to offset the sweetness of the pumpkin. I found that since I eat very little sugar these days, things like pumpkin taste really sweet to me, particularly when paired with coconut and spices like coriander. Don’t get me wrong: the soup was amazing like it was. I just like to experiment, and I needed one more layer of flavor to dilute the pumpkin-sweetness.

Period: Yes, That Period.

I was beginning to feel sorry for myself because I hadn’t lost any weight this week and because I was having all these cravings for sweet things the past couple of days. Then I realized that I am supposed to start my period soon, and that means all bets for normalcy are off. I must say, though, that being paleo has really cut down on the PMS and mood swings I typically experience during this week. In fact, had it not been for the constant craving for ice cream this week (coupled with not losing weight) and my new-found obsession with writing everything down including the days of my menstrual cycles, I wouldn’t have even realized that this was the week before my period.

I wonder if other people have the same experience with paleo living and their menstrual cycles or if it’s just me. I can only assume this is yet another excellent bonus of living this lifestyle, though I am unsure if my non-angst-riddled pre-menstrual mental health can be contributed to diet or to my general physical well-being and differentiated exercise routine. Either way, I’ll take it.

Cultural Studies

I’ve decided to take a new approach to teaching my high school literature class, particularly the modernism section that we are heading into right now. For some reason, Modernist literature seems like the most difficult genre/time period for my students to understand. This could be because of my own apprehension at defining Modernism, or it might be because of their own inability to understand that historical period. They seem to get tripped up on what that time period really entails historically. They know the wars and some of the industrial situations, but as far the rest of the cultural milieu of the early 1900s, they are at a loss.

I decided to fix this difficulty this year by having them do some historical/cultural situation of events in the time period. For tomorrow, each student will come to class with a newspaper article from 1890-1935, one that was written then, not about then. They will use these articles as background knowledge for the texts we’ll read. To choose from, I gave them topics, such as fashion, industry, war, science, psychology, agriculture, music, art, and politics. I hope they come in with a broad range of “current” events to discuss, and I hope they have lots to say about their articles and what those articles tell us about the Modernist time period and the few years leading up to it. We’ll see how this works out, and I’ll keep you apprised.

Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me

What do “The Second Choice” by Theodor Dreiser, “Hands” by Sherwood Anderson, and “The Wagner Matinee” by Willa Cather all have in common? The fact is that I have to teach them all for my ENG 605 Literature Pedagogy class. Also, they are all written during the early part of the 20th century. They are dirty and gritty and explore all of those ideas that make us cringe: industry, relationships, sexuality, public and private domains, music, and modernization in all of its forms.

I think I could spend the entire class period talking about Dreiser. Well, now that I think a little more about it, I could spend a whole class period talking about each story. Each story is thick and voluminous, not easily explored in one pass. Short stories remind me of the Grand Canyon: on first glance you think you’ve seen it all (yeah, it’s a big hole), but then you realize that there are layers of color, trenches and rises, shrubbery, animals, and a river way down there at the bottom that you can barely see from the rim.

Teaching is about gleaning. It’s about looking around for the scraps that no one will notice and that no one cares about until you point them out, or until your students point them out to you. I think teaching resembles standing next to a dumpster of knowledge, poking around in it with a stick. You find something new and suddenly everyone wants it. In teaching that is good.

If everyone is interested enough to talk, then you know you’ve hit some sort of truth or importance in text. Your resonance strikes with someone else’s resonance and before you know it you’ve blown a speaker!

This Weekend

collier: Poetry, Cole, Howarth
nowatzki: rice, coles, Brown
stockton: presentation, cavendish

write PCM paper and let it rest till next weekend, send to Sarah

teaching: make grade sheets for each student, so I can grade as we go, and then reflect

call Ico and Elizabeth and tell them I can’t come cook
Saturday: Indy with Adam and Bec
Sunday: Church

WRITE LIZARD’S LETTER

Eliot and Joyce

Joyce: The Sisters

What is the significance of the two candles by the head of the deceased?
gnomon: part of the sundial that casts the shadow
simony: paying for offices in the church

He had told me stories about the catacombs and about Napoleon Bonaparte, and he had explained to me the meaning of the different ceremonies of the Mass and of the different vestments worn by the priest.Sometimes he had amused himself by putting difficult questions to me, asking me what one should do in certain circumstances or whether such and such sins were mortal or venial or only imperfections.

Mon Jan 7 16:40:03 2008
The Sisters by James Joyce
http://www.online-literature.com/james_joyce/965/

Eliot: Prufrock

yellow fog, yellow smoke
catlike personification
significance of Michaelangelo?

“In the room women come and go
Talking of Michaelangelo.”

move from fog and outdoors to description of a woman?
details: hair on arms, etc.
arms: women, workmen, claws?
Lazarus
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant at all.”

Move back to nature: waves described a bit like the woman’s arms?