Sunday, January 24, 2010


It's seven. I want to crawl in bed with the dogs. For no particular reason. Tomorrow I start teaching one class in the afternoon, once a week. Soon, I have to make a decision about truly retiring. I've been limping along for five years, one class one semester, two classes the next semester and it's starting for the spring.

This weekend I got as far as I could with one project -- this long poemish thing about the racetrack, pages and pages and pages. Now it needs some images, but my old computer (without pentium intell or whatever it's called) will only accept Quark and it's very tedious to upload photographs into that program. My next problem. 

I looked at the video again, worked on the notes about the first rough cut (having made a vague cut myself, looked at the second rough cut many times, all of which has taken days, made notes on both), sent this latest level of decision off to the editor, a very smart young woman who lives in California and has a new baby. That was this afternoon after Orfeo, from LaScala, shown in a cold movie theatre this morning at 10. Staged by Robert Wilson, this most static, formal, elegant performance depended on the slightest gestures of gloved hands, as if the singers were initiating the slowest of mime performances, except an opera was laid on top of these subtly choreographed patterns. (I came dangerously close to falling asleep and the only sound I remember was the white face of Orfeo, his straight, black mouth, the heavily drawn brows right above his eyes, and the neat half moons drawn lightly in black above the brows. I also remember the beautiful black shading on the sides of most noses.)

For whatever reason, I don't 'hear' music. (My daughter's learning disabilities include a lack of auditory discrimination that not only effects her ability to sing, but also to distinguish sounds so she hears Dick Dan Dyke.) I see opera which is why I prefer the films in which there are many close-up shots, tight images of the singers, the heavy makeup, the shapes their mouths make. 

(I vaguely remember arias that I've heard twenty or thirty times, the beginning of Barber of Seville, for instance. I listen to Mozart and Bach because they are mathematical in form, though I don't remember one piece from another. Loud, fierce music is gets my attention, Afro-pop or Reggae, though I won't recognize the same piece in two seconds.)

"Police, Adjective," a Romanian film, was almost as slow as "Orfeo," with very little dialogue, a remarkable work about the slow corruption of official life, clever. And then there's Russell Banks, "My Book y Wook," which I thought was a fast-paced, dense, revealing autobiography by a fame-obsessed, former heroin-cocaine-alcohol-and-sex-addict-vegetarian, who is clear, but not particular accusatory, about the childhood that led him to this level of self-abuse and self-destructiveness and the luck he had in finding a manager who forced him into two forms of rehab. Since I don't know his work (as he said to an American audience, "I am famous in England, but I suppose it doesn't count if I have to tell you that."), I only appreciate the manic dialogue that he races across the page, tossing off quips.  

None of any of this, though I worked hard and tried to stay observant, ironed clothes, washed dishes, vacuumed, baked bread, none of it distracted from the fact that my friend, Joe, died. His ex called to tell me on Friday. It's not as if this is a surprise. He was unimaginably sick, as can happen with a diabetic who never really knew how to manage this disease and also ran into cancer along the way. But, I liked him. I'll miss him, this talkative Cuban Thoroughbred trainer who told stories starting with arriving in Tampa when he was fourteen, his father sending him to work right away at the track.

I've probably repeated the word remarkable fifteen times in this blog...remarkable "Skin,"(a film from South Africa about an Afrikaner couple whose second child appeared to be black, from a true story. It only received one and a half stars, but it was an impressive film,) remarkable "Orfeo," remarkable "Police, Adjective," but Joe really was pretty remarkable.



  1. i'm sorry that Joe died. i know ALL about diabetics who won't manage that disease.

  2. thank you, Maggie May. Joe used to say that he wouldn't wish the curse of drug addiction on his worst enemy, but I think being diabetic is a terrible curse.

  3. You may write "remarkable" as often as you like! It's a shame about Joe. I'm sorry you lost your friend.

  4. I'm sorry about your loss and grateful for your comments on my blog. That guy was not the only lecturer who inspired me, but he did stand out. And he did have something of the thespian in him. Your'e absolutely spot-on, teachers need dramatic skills as much as they need pedagogical ones.

    On Russell Brand, it is an issue very close to home. On the one hand, he is a very talented person (no, I have not read his book, but used to read his columns in the Sports section in The Guardian, and believe me, they were very, very funny), but at some point he began to believe his own BS and his life turned for the worse. More than a year ago he and another presenter, Jonathan Ross, left a very disrespectful message on the voicemail of a famous British actor (Manuel, from Fawlty Towers, a 70s sitcom, you mgith have seen it). The whole episode mushroomed overnight and it became an embarrassment for the BBC, who almost kicked both of them out. In the event, Brand resigned, Ross stayed and he is now quitting because his shows have been sanitised to the point of boredom. Russell is clearly is a guy with a fine sense of humour. I've often heard it say that he reminds people of an oscar Wilde or PG Wodehouse. On the evidence of what he used to write for The Guardian and a couple of the programmes he presented (not Big Brother, though, I can't stand that show!), he is a very talented person.

    Glad you're enjoying his book. And just to tot up your account, you're remarkable.

    Greetings from London.