Friday, February 28, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/27/14: Photography Project, Time to Reflect, More Documentary Shorts and BONUS: Yakking with Elliot

1.  Honestly.  I wish the entire WR 115 course could be one series of photography projects, of me taking portraits of my students, being out and about on campus, talking a bit with them, figuring out what kind of picture they might like, and then, with printed pictures in hand, they write about those portraits.  I loved trying to help my students to see how pictures have a surface life and then have a life that's beyond the surface, how they tell stories, how each of their pictures is telling a story that only each of them knows about.  That's what they'll write.  Actually, this is my approach to taking pictures, I think.  I am lousy at thinking about technical things when I look at a picture either I or someone else has taken, but I love the way pictures make me feel and that's what I experience when I look at pictures and those feelings are always wrapped up in a story the picture is telling, whether I know the story is true or not.

2.  Another thing about teaching WR 115.  I want my students to have more time to reflect, time not to be in class, but time to think.  Not talk.  Not listen.  Not necessarily write.  But think.  Reflect.  I can't make my students do this, but I give them time to do it.  Using class time (or as administrators inelegantly call it, "seat time") to do stuff is not always crucial to me.  Using class time to appear to do nothing is, to me, crucial.  Have some time that's quiet: no job, no kids, no errands, no drama, no phone, nothing to do, but reflect.  I hope today some of my students reflected upon the pictures I took of them and thought about their hopes and dreams or thought about what their story might be, what brought them to this point in time where one student is pictured in front of the Performing Arts Building or another wants a picture of taken of her hands with rings on them she values or another wears a sleeveless shirt to show his many tattoos while having his picture taken between shelves of books in the library.  It's the meaning of their lives and a person needs some time, not to talk, not to have me talk, not to "be on task", but time to reflect.  I make such time available to my students with no idea how my students use it.  I'll probably never know.

3.  The Bijou Metro showed the five short documentaries nominated for Oscars in two programs.  I went to Program A on Sunday and to Program B today.  Two movies comprised Program B:  The CaveDigger and Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall.  The first told the story of Ra Paulette who uses hand tools to dig and carve remarkable cathedrals in the sandstone cliffs of New Mexico.   This was my least favorite of the short documentaries, even though it was amazing to see Ra Paulette's creations.  I found Ra Paulette tedious and didn't enjoy listening to him talking about his art, nor did I enjoy listening to others talk about him. (Just for the record, I think many of my friends would have the opposite experience and I can think of several to whom I would recommend the movie.)  For me, he was unlikeable.  I didn't want that to be true. I wanted to like him.  On the other hand, my insides were cut up and I wept watching Prison Terminal, as it showed us Jack Hall's last months of being alive and explored the Hospice care he received from other prisoners, Hospice volunteers, who, like Jack Hall, were serving life sentences for committing murder.  The movie took place in the Iowa State Penitentiary.  

After the movies ended, outside the auditorium, I met the two women I had been seated next to.  One of them asked me which of the documentaries I would vote for as the Best Short Documentary Film.

I answered, "I wouldn't vote."  I could not set any of the four of these short documentaries that moved me above or below the others.

BONUS:  On Thursdays at 3, Don and Cliff and Dick and others meet at 16 Tons to drink beer and shoot the breeze and I like to join in.  I didn't arrive at 16 Tons today until after 4:30 after seeing the movies, but Cliff and Don and Elliot stuck around after I arrived, and we gabbed, and then it was just Elliot and me and we had a grand time talking about all sorts of things and I enjoyed getting to know him better. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/26/14: Pictures Ordered and Printed, Stir Fry Tear, I'm Not a Total Moron

1.  I put in my order for the pictures I took of my students and picked them up late in the afternoon at Costco.  Many of them turned out very good, but I struggle with taking good pictures in certain lighting conditions indoors on campus.  I have a lot to learn.

2.  I went on a stir fry tear and fixed enough food for the next couple of days, at least.

3.  I listened to some more Babes with Axes on the cd player in the car and asked the Deke a question or two about instrumental arrangements on "Every Time I Close My Eyes" and I didn't sound like a total moron.  I was relieved.   As a band member, the Deke knows the Babes with Axes' music inside out and, even after all these years, I'm still hearing and learning new things. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/26/14: WR 115 Photography Project, Babes with Axes Memories, Goose Island's Lolita

1.  Today, the delayed-by-infection photography project got underway.  I walked from one end of the LCC campus to the other, from the Longhouse to the Art buildings, from the woodlands behind the south parking lot to the Performing Arts Building and the LCC track, taking portraits of my WR 115 students.  I loved taking the pictures.  I am happy with many, maybe even most, of them.  I experienced no pain in my left foot or big toe.  It might not be 100% healed, but it's not causing me pain and I did a ton of really pleasant walking today.

2.  Once the Deke and I got together and married, I went to almost every show the Babes with Axes performed.  Today I had the car and the album W.O.W!  Live Babes! is in the cd player.  I played it and the music moved me to tears and laughter and stirred my deep admiration for the band and many  fantastic memories.  I'm eager to hear them again when they reunite on March 8 at the W.O.W. Hall. It'll be really fun.

3.  I picked up the Deke at Charlemagne and we decided to drop into 16 Tons South for a beer and I was delighted to see that Goose Island's Lolita was on tap.  It's a Belgian style raspberry wild/sour ale, aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels and I loved it, absolutely loved it. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/24/14: Selfie, Walkin', Bourbon County Stout

1.  If I can figure out a way to take an unusual self-portrait, I'll go for it.

2.  With my foot and toe healed and now that the weather is moderate, I can walk and walk and walk and today I walked and walked and walked:  to SELCO, back home, to Red Apple, back home, to Bijou Metro, then 16 Tons, but not back home.  I met the Deke at 16 Tons and she took me home.

3.  Some imperial stout obsessed guys at 16 Tons took bottles of Bourbon County Imperial Stout off the shelf to buy and I came civilly unglued with glee and they pointed to where I'd find it.  Management limited each person to a one bottle purchase, so I bought one and the Deke bought one and now we just have to figure out upon what occasion we will drink this finest of Imperial Stouts.  Yahoo!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/23/14: Oscar Nominated Short Documentaries, Terry Reports on 'Bazz, Thames Television's *King Lear*

1.  I saw three remarkable documentary short movies today.  The Bijou Metro is showing the documentary short movies that were nominated for Oscars in two programs, A and B.  I went to program A.  The first was the stirring story of one-time concert pianist Alice Herz-Sommer.  In the movie, she is 109 years old, the oldest survivor of the Holocaust.  I came home and learned she died today in London at the age of 110.  The movie is entitled, "The Lady in Number 6:  Music Saved My Life".    The second movie was raw, intense, and nearly unbearable to watch.  I took it in and it shook me, rattled me, unsettled me.  It graphically detailed the Yemenese government's March, 2011 violent crack down on the unarmed protest encampment in Change Square in Sana'a.  It's entitled, "Karama Has No Walls".  The third documentary of Program A is "Facing Fear" which tells the story of how, as a young gay teenager, Matthew Boger was beaten, and left for dead, by a gang of teen-age neo-Nazis.  Matthew, by coincidence, meets a member of that gang, Tim Zaal, twenty-five years later.  A story of forgiveness unfolds.  When I went to the Bijou, I thought I'd watch both Program A and B.  I decided I needed to live with Program A for a while before I go see Program B later this week.

2.  It was fun getting text message updates from Terry who was watching the Blazers and Timberwolves at the Moda Center in Portland.  He was keeping a close eye on 'Bazz, who, surprisingly, played twenty-two minutes and scored two points!  (He hoisted eight shots, hit one, and, as always, had no assists, keeping his season total at 2.)

3.  It's kind of a creaky production, and I am having fun watching the 1974 Thames Television presentation of King Lear, with Patrick Magee playing the title role.  As always, here's what I enjoy:  I do not carry in my mind an image of what King Lear, the character, should be or how he should be played, so every performance I see gives me a fresh look, gives me another King Lear.  It's fun to see how this particular King Lear is unfolding and developing.  As it should be, it's unlike any King Lear I've ever seen before.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/22/14: 21st Century Cookie Purchase, Buddha Daisy, National Margarita Day!

1.  A girl scout in front of Albertson's asked me if I wanted to buy Girl Scout Cookies.  I did.  But, I told her I didn't have any cash.  I forgot I live in the 21st century.  I could buy cookies with my debit card.  I got a box of Samoa and Do-Si-Dos.  Later, the Deke informed the world of Facebook that these cookies paired well with XYZinfandel.  She's right.

2.  I'm lousy when it comes to technical things, even with my cameras.  I forget my cameras have fun capabilities.  Russell helped me take this picture of a Buddha.  I had forgotten I could take a black and white with a color accent using my Canon S95.

 3.  I read somewhere on the World Wide Web today that it was National Margarita Day.  So, the Deke and I went to Cornucopia and Billy Mac's and I enjoyed some margaritas and at Billy Mac's we had this blissful appetizer:  ahi tuna slices with some kind of wasabi sauce and won tons on the side and some cucumber slices and a little lettuce.  We split this little plate, but I could have eaten about twenty plates.  The tuna was that good.  (Keep in mind always when I write about food:  I'm very easily pleased and I never make recommendations because I'm a happy eater, not a food critic!) 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/21/14: Breakfast Biscuits, White Chickens at Sixteen Tons, Willamette Crushes Sheldon at Pegasus

1.  Tomorrow morning, St. Mary's  Episcopal Church will serve a free breakfast to anyone who comes.  The church does this twice a month.  I help out by joining forces with Kathryn to make dough for buttery biscuits and we had a great time. I cut up butter, Kathryn mixed up the dough, and we both made large rectangles of dough to be cut into biscuits tomorrow morning. Kathryn baked one batch of biscuits and we took them around to people working and volunteering in the church.  They loved our biscuits.

2.  The Deke asked me to meet with her at Sixteen Tons after I was done at church and I went to the cooler and enjoyed a couple of bottles of  Weihenstephan Hefe-Weissbier beer from Germany.  After our tot feast last night, we had both written tater tot parody poems in the style of William Carlos Williams on Facebook and this bit of high jinx got us talking with some passion about William Carol Williams and white chickens and abstract art and T. S. Eliot, all in no particular order, and it was fun, like talking about shopping for groceries, only it was poetry and art and what we enjoy, discussed intelligently in plain language.  That's what I like, talking about art and music and Shakespeare and poetry and so-called "high brow" stuff in plain language, like we were talking about working at the Zinc Plant. 

3.   The Deke and I looked all over town for a quiet place to have a bite to eat: we went to   Cornucopia, High Street, the Pour House, and Billy Mac's.  Every place was loud and crowded.  Then we ducked into the bar at the back of Pegasus Pizza where things were not really quiet, but where we found a place to sit we liked and we could enjoy a Greek pizza, gab, and glance up from time to time at the big screen television at the girls high school basketball game and see Willamette crushing Sheldon.  I'd never seen girls high school basketball on a big screen (or a small one) before.  It was fun.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/20/14: Write During Class, Bier Stein Thursday, Men in Their Sixties and Talking with the Deke

1.  In my WR 115 class, I reserve a lot of time for students to write, during class.  I do this because I figure my students find it difficult to have time to write elsewhere that is uninterrupted whether by their spouses, children, roommates, or the irresistible sources of procrastination all around them:  phones, laptops, phones, phones, and other stuff, like phones. It also means I can see writing they've done in the middle of the day, rather than the middle of the night.  Today was one of those days.  I described a problem I saw the students having pretty much across the board in a paper I had just handed back. The students then had over an hour of class time to work on this problem, that is, to work on a section of their next essay that requires concrete description.

2.  I enjoy my Thursday routine of getting off the #82, 2:03 bus at Safeway and taking a short stroll to the Bier Stein and having some lunch.  It's a quiet time in the Bier Stein and easy to relax with a German lager and a book and to enjoy some good food.  Today I enjoyed a Klosterbrauerei Andechs Vollbier, a Helles Lager and a couple of sliders with fries. I read passages from John F. Danby's 1949 book, Shakespeare's Doctrince of Nature: A Study of King Lear.  I'll say it again:  I really enjoy reading this kind of stuff when I don't have to turn it in to anything like a paper or as part of a lecture.  Free of institutional demands, it's like reading the newspaper and I don't have to quarrel with what I read.  I can just take it in and be interested in all the different ways Shakespeare can be and has been understood.

3.  After my bite of Danby and lunch, I strode down to Sixteen Tons where Don and Dick and Cliff and Jeff were downing a pint or two and I joined them for some raucous discussion of a wide variety of subjects:  music, Olympic competition, movies, jokes, bureaucratic jargon, NYC, and a host of other things.  The Deke came in and we washed down tots with a beer or two and continued our ongoing quest to figure out just where our life together is was a great talk...

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Three Beautiful Things, 02/19/14: Greenblatt Read, Stir Fry Augmentation, Neighbors' Garbage Can and Recyling Barrel

1.  I finished Stephen Greenblatt's book, Will in the World, and it gave me more to think about Shakespeare, in the same way that reading a good article at gives me more to think about baseball or the NFL or the NBA.  I am experiencing my long love for Shakespeare and reading about him in much the same way I experience my long love of sports when I read about them.

2.  We had a nice container of stir fry in the fridge and I augmented it by stir frying a load of tofu, broccoli, eggplant, onion, and ginger.

3.  I had the oddest feeling of satisfaction today when our next door neighbors moved their garbage can and recycling barrel in front of their own house after it had been in front of the edge of our property, right by their driveway, for the last couple of weeks. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/18/14: Types of Intelligence, Sixteen Tons Shelter, "Sometimes a Waltz"

1.  So in WR 115 we looked more closely at Uncle Joe's years working at General Motors, as described in Mike Rose's "Blue-Collar Brilliance" and worked to determine the different kinds of intelligence Uncle Joe's work demanded of him.  As a blue collar factor worker with a ninth grade educated who was promoted to supervisor, Uncle Joe observed, evaluated, analyzed, imagined, anticipated, envisioned, learned to see the workplace through others' eyes, calculated, and computed, for starters, and became a stellar example of the wide range of intelligence countless workers employ without formal education, intelligence that is often unappreciated and unrewarded. 

2.  I got off the bus near St. Mary's Episcopal Church to retrieve the camera I left in the pew on Sunday morning.  Rain drenched me.  I left the church and sought shelter a block away at Sixteen Tons and drank slow half pints of New Belgium/Elysian Trip XIV Oyster Stout and read more of Greenblatt's Will in the World until the Deke joined me.  Then we talked. 

3.  Tonight's mini-Babes with Axes show on the drive home featured Katie Henry's "Sometimes a Waltz".  The song's sound gave me the feeling of one of those epic movies over fifty years ago filmed in CinemaScope.  It's a song that sweeps me away, especially with the gorgeous harmonies the Babes with Axes built and I can't get enough of T. R. Kelley's lyrical bass guitar work.   Next, I'll listen to the lyrics, but I was too swept up by all the sounds to focus on what the song said.  (This is typical of how I experience music.) 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/17/14: Cooking Ahead, More Greenblatt, Theory Gabbing

1.  I made a huge stir fry late this morning/early this afternoon that should last a few days.

2.  I continue to absorb more and more of Shakespeare's biography as I continue reading Greenblatt.

3.  Free of institutional pressures, I'm enjoying some email discussion of literary theory with MM and MB because nothing's at stake. It's like talking about baseball with my friends who are sports fans.  It's interesting, fun, and, in the big picture, inconsequential.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/16/14: Maiden Voyage to Brewers Union, Sara Smile, Nate at Sixteen Tons

1.  After many years of wishing and not doing anything about it, I finally sat down at the Brewers Union Local 180 Anglo-American pub in Oakridge and enjoyed some cask-conditioned Real Ale:  a tasty ESB. . .I can't remember the exact name of it, but it had a bunch of Xs in the title.  The company was good, too.  After the 11:00 service, four of us intrepid Episcopalians, Shane, the Troxstar, Loren and I hit the road for the drive to Oakridge and had a great time sitting in a comfortable room with couches, enjoying the Real Ale, and yakking away.  As I ate my BLT, I was reminded that this is a lousy time of the year for tomatoes, so the sandwich was just a little below par, but that one's on me.  I knew better, but in the excitement of having made my maiden voyage to the Brewers Union Local 180, I just didn't think about the quality of February tomatoes. 

2.  Back in January of 2001, I taught a WR 122 class at Churchill High School where something that had never happened before, nor has happened since occurred:  every student earned an "A".  It was a high point in my years as an instructor.  One of the most energizing students in that class was about my age.  Her name is Sara.  She came into the Brewers Union Local 180 and I strolled out on the deck in front of the pub and we embraced and had a little chat.  It was great to see her.

3.  After having some dinner, the Deke and I went over to Sixteen Tons to shoot the breeze.  I didn't really want much more beer.  The beer had been so good earlier in the day that I mostly wanted to leave it at that.  But, I nursed a half a pint of oyster stout and, to our delight, Nate, another former student, and a great one, was at Sixteen Tons and the three of us sat down and gabbed and had a good ole time.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/15/14: Lunch at Pure, IPA and Beauty, Mini-Babes Show

1.  Russell and I had a lot of fun at Pure talking about sports and other stuff and my plate of chicken yakisoba was especially good.

2. The Deke and I visited both Sixteen Tons branches.  The Deke was in search of just the right beer.  I veered off my usual beer path and enjoyed an IPA from Claim 15 and then at Sixteen Tons South, the Deke and I both enjoyed Bonyard's RPM IPA.  I don't know if was just the right beer for the Deke, but I'm telling you, our conversation about music, acting, the Babes with Axes, and beauty was just right. 

3.  As a follow up to our discussion of beauty and the Babes with Axes, the Deke and I treated ourselves to a mini-Babes show in the Subaru on our way home and got fired up listening to "Steal My Key" and "Pay the Price" and raved about the lyrics, tight harmonies, Laura's driving guitar playing, T.R.'s out of sight bass lines, Katie Henry's lovely banjo, and the Deke's creative work on the keyboards.  We could have raved about more, and maybe we did.  What's important?  Beauty.  We immersed ourselves in the beauty of the Babes with Axes' sound.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/14/14: Cynthia's Update on George, Return to Naivete, Mini-Belgian Blow-Out and a Pizza

1.  George Kokis suffered a major heart attack on February 1st and I hadn't seen Cynthia since.  This morning I hoofed the little more than a mile from Stadium Automotive to Barry's on Alder and 12th and Cynthia was at a table, alone, her eyes red from weeping.  I sat with her for a while and she told me how George was resuscitated, about his days in ICU, and how he was doing at the rehab facility.  George can talk with her.  He's able to get up and around a bit.  He's improving.  It was great news.  Cynthia had been weeping because of the food George has to eat; it's all pureed and gravyish.  She hopes he'll be eating better food soon.  Please keep George and Cynthia and family in your thoughts and prayers.

2.  Jeff, Michael, MB, Louise and I got together for coffee and talked about a million things and I enjoyed telling my friends how I am back to diving into Shakespeare without any academic reason to do so:  no papers to write, no questions about how to "use" the plays in class, no concerns about "coverage", no need to defend a "position" or justify a "reading".  It's like I'm nineteen years old again, in a good way; it's like a return to naivete, to reading and thinking and watching and imagining just for the joy of it, not to produce something, not to "fashion a reading",  and not to "use" it in class. This is what I hoped for in retirement.  It's happening.

3.  The Deke and I met at the Sixteen Tons Cafe (a.k.a. [to us] Sixteen Tons South) and I hoped to continue the Belgian Blow Out/Beat Down from the night before and, to my delight, the joint had chilled bottles of Unibroue's La Fin du Monde for sale.  It's a splendid triple-style golden ale, a little high on the alcohol by volume, so I'm careful with it.  While the Deke enjoyed a Boneyard RPM IPA, I sipped on two 12 oz bottles of La Fin du Monde and, indeed, enjoyed a mini-Belgian Blow Out.  We ended our evening out a couple of doors down at Pegasus with a Canadian Bacon/Pineapple pizza, which I loved with a glass of pinot noir, and we headed home, relaxed and happy to be at the end of the week. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/13/14: GabAleFest at Sixteen Tons, Mirth Abides, Back to Sixteen Tons

1.  After a simple lunch of chicken mole, rice, and tortillas at the Bier Stein, I wandered down to Sixteen Tons to join Don and Cliff and Dick and others for their regular Thursday at three get together and enjoyed listening to stories and some good old gabbing.  Lots of lively minds in this group of beer lovers.  I'm happy not to get a word in!

2.  Was it a Belgian Blow Out?  Or a Belgian Beat Down?  Take your pick.  Shane, the Troxstar, and I pulled some fine Belgian Ales out of the Bier Stein cooler and enjoyed our samples and some fine yakking about music, bands, beer, and a host of other subjects.  Mirth abides.

3.  Turns out that when I left Sixteen Tons with the Troxstar to hike up to the Belgian Blow Out/Beat Down with Shane, the Deke strolled into Sixteen Tons a bit later and so I hoofed my way back to Sixteen Tons, enjoyed a half a pint of Snapshot Ale with her and brought a really fun afternoon and early evening of food, gabbing, and beer tasting to an end. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/12/14: Waiting for Car Repair, Doubleness in the Home, Some More Snapshot Ale

1.  Reading Steven Greenblatt's biography of Shakespeare made the over two hour wait for some work to be done on the Subaru go by fast.  His chapter on the violence practiced by Protestants upon Catholics and Catholics upon Protestants during the Reformation in England was sickening and no different from religious sectarian violence in the 20th and 21st centuries, no matter who is responsible, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc.  Just the weapons and some of the torture and maiming practices are different.

2.  For years, I did my best to help my Shakespeare students see that Shakespeare was obsessed with doubleness.  By doubleness, I meant opposite things being simultaneously true.  Greenblatt points out that Shakespeare's father was probably living a double life as a Protestant and a Catholic (I've read this sort of thing before) and that William Shakespeare's imagination and ways of seeing the world were enlivened by this doubleness in his home.

3.  The Deke had a beer with a friend at the Bier Stein and I picked her up and we had a sandwich from Bill and Tim's and a beer at Sixteen Tons where it is much quieter than at the Bier Stein and where we could talk much more easily.  I enjoyed another pint and a half of New Belgium's Snapshot Wheat Ale.  I'll be disappointed when this keg runs dry at Sixteen Tons.  It's a nearly perfect beer for my taste. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 12/11/14: What Workers Are Intelligent?, Exploring the Soul in English, New Beer! Snapshot Wheat Ale

1.  In WR 115, we started reading Mike Rose's article, "Blue-Collar Brilliance", and I think some of my students started to see that too often blue (and pink) collar workers are looked down upon and paid low wages because they often don't have a college education, despite the variety of types of intelligence their work requires.

2.  I'm reading Greenblatt's biography of Shakespeare and at one point he makes a thrilling point:  with the Bible being translated into English and with the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer written in English, the deepest things, the fate of the soul, were being explored in familiar, everyday English, opening the way for Shakespeare to do the same.  We, in the 21st century, take it for granted that our vernacular language is suitable for the words of worship, Bible translation, writing poems and plays, and so on, but for Shakespeare, using the vernacular in this way was a fairly new idea.  (It's part of what makes the explosion of sonnets, poems, plays, and other works in the mid to late 16th century so exciting.  The poets, playwrights, sermon writers, essayists and others are in the midst of discovering the beauty they can create with their own language -- and it's a relatively new thing.)

3.  Not long ago Sixteen Tons tapped a keg of a new ale brewed by New Belgium:  Snapshot Wheat Ale.  I love it.  It's light, easy to drink, and each the beer rewards each sip with a pleasant tart finish.  The Deke and I went over to Sixteen Tons around 7:00 and had a fun talk and I enjoyed a pint and a half of this excellent San

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/10/14: Done, Intelligence and Everyday Language, We Love Language

1.  Groceries.  Appointment for the car.  Other household jobs.  Done.

2.  I listened to Stephen Greenblatt, Harvard professor, open a lecture at the Harvard Bookstore by giving a ten minute explanation why he wrote the book he was reading from, as well as his previous book, in language anyone could understand.  That's right.  He felt compelled to explain himself, to say that a book written in understandable language is still an intelligent book. As far as his academic career is concerned,  I think I know he could not have published such books, readable ones, until he had advanced to full professor.  Having no other academic position to rise to has left him free to write books in everyday language.  This is exactly why I never had a stomach for academic publishing.  I've never been at home with the specialized language of academic writing.  I really can't do it.  Luckily, to keep my LCC job, I never had to. 

3.  The Deke and I met at 16 Tons for some conversation about family matters, and, having taken care of that, talked about the beauty of and our love of language, about its power. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/09/14: Pictures of the Thaw, Young Will Shakespeare at Whirled Pies, John Barton in Denver

1.  I stayed home.  Eugene is shagged with ice.  Around 11 or so the thaw began and I took some pictures around the house of the thaw getting underway:

2.  The Deke and I decided a pizza from Whirled Pies was in order and we made the right decision.  While waiting for our pie, I read more of Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare.  Greenblatt speculates that the young Shakespeare might have seen Morality Plays performed, plays where characters embody abstract virtues and sins.  He goes on to say that the playwright Shakespeare internalized these abstraction in the characters of his plays.  I flashed back to the first Shakespeare class I taught at Whitworth in fall, 1982.  I didn't tell the students that I thought the boy Shakespeare might have seen the Morality Plays, but I made the same point that what Shakespeare did was make the abstractions of the Morality Plays come alive internally in his characters.  I enjoyed remembering that first class and it satisfied me that this aspect of Shakespeare's playmaking was on my mind thirty-two years ago.

3.  I took a break from the Playing Shakespeare series and watched an hour long film entitled The Shakespeare Sessions, of an older John Barton giving an acting workshop in Denver. It shows many actors such as Kevin Kline and Cynthia Nixon and Harriet Walter working under John Barton's tutelage and direction.  Charles S. Dutton observed that actors often go right for the visceral in a role:  they go for the physical and the emotional and fit the language to that.  Barton teaches the opposite in acting Shakespeare.  He takes the actor to the language and in the language's words, rhythms, structures, images and other aspects arise the emotions and feelings and out of the language arises the physical action. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/08/14: Ice Storm, Lunch at the Cornbread Cafe, Shakespeare Heaven

1.  Going out to take pictures at 1:00 was miserable.  Slush.  Tree branches falling.  Ice rain.  But, some pretty good pictures to be taken, even though I could hardly see through the raindrops on my glasses.  (An umbrella would have been smart, if I owned one.)  Here are some pictures I took:

2.  Russell and I ducked out of the rain and ice and slush and snow into the Cornbread Cafe, a vegan joint, and I had a hearty bowl of chili and a cornbread muffin.  Eric, a great tapper at 16 Tons was working there and I enjoyed gabbing a bit with him and Russell and I had a great lunch.

3.  I discovered John Barton's Playing Shakespeare is on YouTube and I watched episode 1.  Watching Ian McKellen work over Antonio's opening line of The Merchant of Venice ("In sooth, I know not why I am so sad") many times, each with a different tone, each with a different intention was thrilling enough, but then when David Suchet responded with the exaggerated images of Salarino's attempt to cheer Antonio ("Your mind is tossing on the ocean . . ."), and they worked that over several times, I was in that pleasure palace I refer to as Shakespeare heaven!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Retiring with Shakespeare

I think, but I'm not sure, that in the spring of 2002 I taught the Shakespeare course at LCC for the last time as the faculty member assigned the course. I'd been teaching the course on Wednesday evenings for about ten or eleven years.  I took over a section while the quarter was in progress one quarter because the course's instructor was terribly injured in an accident in the home and, for reasons I don't remember, I picked up sections here and there -- just a few. I was probably replacing an instructor on sabbatical or something like that.  I last taught a Shakespeare course in spring, 2007. 

When I was a full time member of the LCC English department, we rotated literature assignments on a three year basis and when other faculty, with no resistance from me, wanted to teach the Shakespeare course, I went on to teach (and enjoy) other literature courses and never put my hat in the ring for Shakespeare again.

This might seem odd.  I love Shakespeare's plays more than any other writing of any kind that's ever been done.

You'd think I'd want to do all I could, within the agreement we faculty had about course assignments, to get back to teaching that course again. 

But, I didn't want to any more.

The reason is simple:  I was tired of working with the plays as subject matter in a classroom.  I loved talking about the plays and discussing them with my students, but, in the end, the plays were a means to an end:  grades and credits.

As I grew older as a literature instructor, I became more and more dissatisfied with the idea that I was teaching poems, plays, and novels in exchange for college credits and that the reason for the student writing papers about these poems, plays, and novels was to earn grades and earn credits.

I had had the same experience as a graduate student.

I was lousy at writing papers about Shakespeare and other literature.  I didn't really enjoy reading scholarship and I didn't enjoy writing interpretations of plays, poems, and fictions.  I loved the literature.  The literature excited me, especially its beauty.  I fell in love with stories and poems for their own sake, not for what I could write about them.  The literature inspired me to examine my life and life around me more deeply.  The literature has always deepened my moral and ethical probings.  Plays, poems, and stories would keep me awake at night, the questions they raised racing in my mind.

I wasn't much for establishing a reading or writing about it.  I mostly enjoyed and was enriched by the experience of literature.

In graduate school, the experience didn't matter much:  writing papers and performing well on field exams, and working something out in a dissertation mattered.

Had I written what really mattered to me, I would have gushed about my love for what I read and for the ways the living of my life, or my hopes for living a well-lived life, were being shaped by the literature.

I enjoyed my teaching career and I loved doing all I could to bring plays, poems, essays, and stories alive for my students.  Honestly, what I really wanted to do was sit around with small groups of them and talk about these characters and stories and ideas and poems and leave it at that.

I've always enjoyed conversation more than writing or reading papers.

It's why, in my retirement, when it comes to Shakespeare, I've been seeking experiences that have nothing to do with papers, credits, class preparation, school quarters, or elaborate readings of the plays.

The past few days, I've watched Ian McKellen's Acting Shakespeare.  I wish I had the DVDs of Playing Shakespeare, of John Barton working with actors like Judi Dench and Ben Kingsley and many others where they work out specific scenes of plays, discussing what goes into bringing the scenes alive, and where they experiment with different approaches to the same character or scene.

It's all so immediate, in the moment, of the body.  It's not working out readings for an academic career.  It's working with Shakespeare in the most alive way possible.

I've been watching Uncovering Shakespeare and Looking for Richard.  I've read early works by some of the scholars who appear in Uncovering Shakespeare, namely Stephen Greenblatt and Marjorie Garber.  When I read their works from the 1980s, they were writing articles and books for their scholarly careers.  Greenblatt wrote New Historicism.  Garber wrote cultural criticism.  But, here, in Uncovering Shakespeare, they talked about the plays and characters without the trappings of academia.  They talked straight forwardly, without jargon, and beautifully illuminated the interior aspects of different characters and illuminated the complexities of the stories.

Even better, both Uncovering Shakespeare and Looking for Richard took us into discussions between directors and actors, into their deep investigations of what the characters are about and what is happening in the stories' plots.

Character analysis.  Plot summary.  Getting the story straight. Working to tell the story.  In the moment.  They puzzled over ambiguities, sorted out complexities, and brought the plays to life.  They weren't developing a thesis or aligning with a theoretical movement.

They were speaking the language and working the problems the plays confront a director and cast with.

In retiring with Shakespeare, this is what I want.  I want to dive directly into the darkness of Macbeth and other plays.

I don't want the academic apparatus.

I want to know the characters, revel in the language, feel fear, indulge my love, think about my life and the larger questions of life itself.  I'd like to dive with others, the way a cast does, even if with just one other person, around a table, talking about the story and the characters, figuring things out, being guided by bringing the play to life.  Do the stuff that would earn a "C" or worse in a graduate seminar paper in the English department.

I'm not much of an actor.  I know that.  But in watching these programs over the last couple of days, and having acted in a few plays, I know that my love of Shakespeare is much more deeply satisfied by doing what mature, seasoned directors and actors do:  read the play closely; probe and experiment with possibilities;  consult outside sources to help understand the characters and the story; bring the play into physical life; bring the spiritual to life out of the physical.

Oh, yes, I have a few "big ideas" about the plays, I guess -- mostly related to genre (tragedy, comedy, romance) and the rhythms of life, death, rebirth, and love.  I have big ideas, I suppose, about Shakespeare's love of doubleness, of opposites being true at the same time. I am always thinking about Shakespeare's portrayals of goodness.  And of evil.   The plays take me to these ideas.  The language.  The images.  The action.  The characters.  The stories.

I want to listen to others talk about Shakespeare.  If it's a lecture for all listeners, I'm into it.  If it's academic, less likely.  I don't think I want to take classes, unless I know the class is centered on looking closely at a play.  The classes I taught frustrated me because we had to "cover" a certain number of plays.  I wanted to spend all quarter on one play, immerse my students in it the way a cast gets to immerse itself in a single play over the weeks of rehearsing and performing it.

I think I have almost succeeded in being able to experience Shakespeare free of thoughts about what I would do in a class with this or that.  I think I have freed myself of thinking about the possibilities for writing a paper.  The plays move me more than ever.  I'm able, more and and more, to experience them in the moment, free of other concerns, and, when I see a play, free of standards I've read about or been taught that determine whether the production is good or not.

It means that in retiring with Shakespeare, I am setting what I find superfluous aside and opening myself up to countless possibilities and bottomless enjoyment.  

Three Beautiful Things 02/07/14: *The Tempest*, *Looking for Richard*, BBQ Beef Brisket

1.  Trevor Dunn sure knows The Tempest. His presentation was the last of the PBS series Shakespeare Uncovered. His guided tour included interviews with scholars and actors (including Helen Mirren) and dove deeply into what he saw Shakespeare getting at in his grand, experimental farewell to the theater, in his grand, experimental plunge into Prospero's struggle with magic and control and his inner conflict between vengeance and forgiveness.  It's a short play.  Dunn didn't bring this up, but with all of its experimentation, Shakespeare stays true to the most traditional of dramatic structures, the three Aristotelian unities of time, place, and action (I suppose he is the loosest with unity of action).  Watching this was a splendid way to pass a part of a snowy Friday morning.
2.  After a Klondike stroll to the Kiva and the liquor store for some groceries and a bottle of warming brandy, I continued immersing myself in listening to people of the theater wrestle with Shakespeare and bring a play alive by watching Al Pacino's documentary movie, Looking for Richard, a feature film length treatment of putting Richard III together.  As often happens when I watch Shakespeare performed by superb actors, it was the women who moved me to tears.  First, Penelope Allen moved me, first in her fierceness at the table during the cast's read through as she fought for what she saw as true about her character, Elizabeth, and then in her fierce performance playing Elizabeth.  Secondly, the tears flowed freely when the movie featured Estelle Parsons playing Margaret, the cursing, prophetic, haunted, and haunting widow of King Henry VI (murdered by Richard III).  The men in Richard III are all politics, all cunning, all plotting, always maneuvering to retain power or seize it.  Not these two women.  They express their outrage with and their disgust with the bloody events of Richard III's cold, calculating, murderous ascent to the throne.  The men coldly create the horror.  Elizabeth and Margaret make us feel it.

3.  The Deke and I split one the best tasting sandwiches I've ever enjoyed.  It was on the specials board at the Pour House:  BBQ Beef Brisket. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/06/14: Snow Day Instruction, Ian McKellan in CEN 009 and Apprenticeship, Uncovering Shakespeare

1.  So, because of the snow, about half a dozen of my 10 o'clock students made it to class and were in and out of the classroom and not one of my 12 o'clock students made it -- the campus closed at 1:00.  So I got some time with these few students to give them some solid help and to shoot the breeze with B. who stuck around to let me know about writing he does on his own.  It was a nearly perfect time for me as an instructor, relaxed, giving students direction and encouragement, and being with them as they worked on their paper that is due on Tuesday.  I think some of my students are getting it:  I'm on their side.

2.  Back when I started teaching the Shakespeare night class at LCC back in the fall of 1991, I discovered, in our department video library, that we had a tape of Ian McKellan performing a one man program called "Acting Shakespeare".  I loved it.  I loved sharing it with my students.  I especially wanted any acting students who took my course to see it and to watch McKellan studiously break down and analyze MacBeth's last soliloquy so they could see all the intellectual as well physical work that he invested in playing the role.  Several months ago, I bought the DVD of "Acting Shakespeare" and today I watched parts of McKellan's show and not only loved his generous performance and how funny he is in much of it, but I loved going back in time to the basement of the Center building and then the Apprenticeship building and all those years, over ten of them, of teaching Shakespeare on Wednesday nights.

3.  The plays of William Shakespeare, reading them, studying them, teaching them, and being asked to act in a handful of them has had a indescribably profound impact on my life.  I sometimes go for months without Shakespeare just to let his works sink into me more.  Late this afternoon and on into the night, after my time with Ian McKellan, I watched five episodes of the PBS series "Uncovering Shakespeare".  Ethan Hawke (Macbeth), Joley Richardson (Twelfth Night, As You Like It), Derek Jacobi (Richard II), Jeremy Irons (Henry IV, Henry V), and David Tennant (Hamlet) each guided an hour long excursion into the background, performance, and possible interpretations of the play s/he focused on, bringing each play exhiliratingly alive with interviews of scholars, interviews with actors and directors, line readings, by visiting rehearsals, and by articulating their own thoughts and questions about the plays. I have one more episode to go.  Trevor Nunn will take charge of The Tempest

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/05/14: House Business, Troxstar and Keith Richards, Birthday Beers with the Troxstar

1.  Some house business stuff needed attention and I took care of it as well as I could and then I did what I do whenever I take care of house business stuff:  I took a deep sleep coma nap.

2.  The Troxstar's birthday is today and now he's the same age as Keith Richards turned in 1987.

3.  It was good to share some birthday beers with the Troxstar at the Pour House and then over at the Tap and Growler.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/04/14: Remembering Student Conferences, Paul Tillich on the Bus, Watching *Hoosiers*

1.  Teaching in my retirement means I'm at LCC a limited number of hours and so I don't hold one to one scheduled conferences with my students any longer.  I've had very few students come by my office to talk or for help.  Today, however, a struggling student came by and our conversation brought back a flood of over thirty years worth of memories of working on an individual basis with students and their writing, which often turned into working with students and their need for encouragement, for things explained in a way suited to each individual's way of learning and understanding, and their need to trust an instructor.  Here's what I think:  over the course of a ten week course, we as instructors rarely see the results of this work.  The good things that happen emerge later, long after our work together is done. I've taught college writing since 1977 with this faith:  unless the student enrolls in another course of mine on down the road, or unless we keep in touch, I don't see the fruits of my instruction.  I love the cases where I have seen the fruit of our work together.  I developed faith, however, that good things happened, that my students would read and write and think better on down the line as the work we did together took hold, and, over the years, believing this has brought me deep satisfaction.

2.  The light on the bus at 7:40 a.m. is dim, but it's worth it to strain my eyes a bit to read sermons by Paul Tillich on my way to LCC.  Today, I read the early paragraphs of his sermon on Isaiah 40.  I didn't get too far because it was so stirring to read the rousing poetry of Isaiah 40 itself.

3.  Am I alone in missing video rental stores? I'd love to be able to walk four blocks or so over to Hollywood Video and rent Gene Hackman movies.  Tonight, however, I could watch Gene Hackman because I own Hoosiers.  I love this movie, especially the way Hackman plays Coach Norman Dale and the ways he wins his players' trust and I love the chance Coach Dale takes on Shooter, the Dennis Hopper character.  I also love the movie's cinematography, the pictures of Indiana in the autumn and the interior shots of gymnasiums.  At times, I thought I was looking at a photography portfolio as much as watching a movie.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/03/14: Walking the Q, Food Prep, Gene Hackman Rattles Me

1.  I did some more walking today and took the Pentax Q for a long awaited spin.  I didn't take many pictures, but I sure enjoyed being back out walking.  I also enjoyed taking a little break at Sweet Life to warm myself up with a cup of coffee and I took this still life, a picture of my Monday morning:

2.  I sent the afternoon boiling beans, fixing rice, and chopping food so that the Deke and I can have rice bowls or tacos in an instant or so I have everything ready to stir fry in the electric frying pan. 

3.  I deeply admire the work of Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Oddly, his death moved me to want to watch the actor I consider among the greatest of a former generation:  Gene Hackman.  So, I watched The Conversation and marveled at how Hackman brought to life Harry Caul, a repressed, guilt-ridden surveillance expert who becomes unmoored when he can no longer numb his conscience once he believes surveillance audio tapes he made for a nameless director of a nameless corporation could lead to the deaths of the man and woman he spied on.  It's a tight, existential story that is both painstakingly realistic and vividly surreal.  Gene Hackman brings Harry Caul's expertise, loneliness, spiritual warfare, obsessiveness, paranoia, and hunger for human contact unforgettably alive.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/02/14: Living Profoundly Concludes, The Super Bowl Quiet of 16 Tons, The Super Bowl Quiet of the High Street Pub

1.  The "Living Profoundly" course that LeeAnn and I gave at St. Mary's ended today, bringing an end to our examination of different theologians' responses to the understanding of human life found in existentialism.  Our emphasis today was on the existentialists' insistence that we are born into the burden of freedom and bear heavy responsibility for making meaning in our lives, for living authentically.  We read a short piece by Richard Niebuhr who sees this responsibility as social, especially in the church. Then, much of our class time was devoted to listening to Rev. Tom English, a deacon at St. Mary's.  Today was Criminal Justice Sunday in the Diocese of Oregon and Tom's ministry is focused on the jails.  He talked about what the Church's response to the criminal justice system ought to be and urged us to take our responsibility seriously.  He was joined by Tucker Mollers, a veteran of two tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and an ex-convict who spent four years in prison and is now a graduate of LCC and the University of Oregon.  Tucker was representing Sponsors, Inc., a non-profit here in Eugene providing transitional housing and employment opportunities to people who are released from Oregon prisons and jail in Lane County. 

2.   After the 11:00 service at St. Mary's, I dropped into 16 Tons for a few minutes to make sure the Super Bowl would not be shown there.  Sometimes, for sporting events, they bring a television into the 16 Tons Taproom, but, I found out, not today.  Perfect.  I knew the Deke and I wanted to go out when I was done with "Living Profoundly" and have a beer and be somewhere quiet.  For most of the time we were at 16 Tons this afternoon, we were the only customers.  We thanked them for keeping the joint open for us!  We had a great time, talking over stuff, enjoying some beer, and being where things were quiet.  As we paid our tab, a guy who'd been sitting alone in a corner by the window told us the Super Bowl had ended and told us the score.  That's just the way I wanted it.  I got to spend a quiet late afternoon and early evening out with the Deke and I got to find out the score of the Super Bowl without having to endure the dizzying onslaught of noise, TV voices, the National Anthem, commentary on the National Anthem, endless commercials, commentary on the commercials,  half-time entertainment, commentary on the half-time entertainment and all the other Super Bowl stuff that distracts from the actual contest itself. 

3.  Turns out, things were quiet at the High Street Pub as well.  I went over to order the Deke and me a cheeseburger and to enjoy a glass of Hammerhead and I was about the only person in there.  It gave me some time to read stuff in the Sunday paper while our food cooked and the burgers and tots made the Deke and me very happy as we ate our dinner in the stillness of the 16 Tons Taproom.  It was a Super Day indeed!

By the way, the Deke posted a picture of me in an otherwise empty 16 Tons during the Super Bowl  and then Don Macnaughtan posted to us that he was across the road at Falling Sky and that it was empty, too.  It's the perfect day to tip a quiet pint or two, if you pick the right spots!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/01/14: Back to the Photo Stroll, Kabuki Birthday for Herb, Nightcap

1.  It's been quite a while since Russell and I went on a photo stroll, thanks to my trip to Idaho in December and my stupid foot infection in January.  Today, however, we had a delicious lunch at Pure and then hung around the 5th Street Market area and I took pictures for the first time in nearly two months with my Nikon.  I enjoyed getting back into it and enjoyed having some sunlight and shadows to play around with.  You know, this kind of thing:

2.  Every year at this time, Herb enjoys celebrating his birthday at Kabuki's and a bunch of his friends get together and we sit around a grill and watch a chef come out and put on a show while preparing our food.  The Deke and I both left Kabuki's very happy:  we had a great time seeing Herb and Francoise and we both enjoyed our food more than we ever had at Kabuki's.  Herb looks about 51 years old, but we celebrated his 74th birthday.  It was a lot of fun.

3.  The Deke and I decided we'd have a nightcap at Cornucopia and we sat at the bar, not in the middle of the din of a lively night at Cornucopia and we enjoyed some good conversation and some fun back and forth with Cameron and Justine.  They were good enough to take a minute or two out of their very busy night to have some quick laughs and to wise crack with us.  It made for a good end of a fun evening. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 01/31/14: Strolling Again, Loved *The Apartment*, The Jeff Bridges Experience

1.  A small area of swelling stubbornly remains on my big toe, but when the Deke called to see if I wanted to meet at Cornucopia, I not only said I would like to, I walked there.  It's the longest walk I've taken in about four weeks and nothing bad happened.  My toe didn't protest.  I didn't make it mad.  Minimal pain still lingers, but I'm getting close to being back to my old strolling self again.

2.  The movie The Apartment played at the Bijou Metro over a week ago and I didn't make it over to see it, to my disappointment.  I watched it tonight, though.  I loved it.  It made me want to watch every movie Jack Lemmon made for starters.  I marveled at his physical talent, his movements, whether dancing, taking a TV dinner out of the oven, straining spaghetti with a tennis racket -- everything he did in this movie with his body was perfect, and made the inner life of the schmuck become mensch C. C. Baxter come alive.  Even more, I loved Shirley MacLaine's world weary, distrustful, longing for love portrayal of Fran Kubilek.  Shirley MacLaine hit every note of disillusionment and yearning perfectly.  I'm at a loss to describe how beautifully she brought to life Fran's naivete, her false hope, her despair and suffering, and, at the same time, her unsentimental strength, her unsentimental desire to believe in goodness, her unsentimental acceptance that she had to continue, and maybe complete, that game of gin rummy.

3.  Back in 1981/82, the movie Cutter's Way came to Cinema 7 and the Bijou at two different times and I saw it two or three times.  For a long time, it was one of my very favorite movies and it was the movie that woke me up to the genius of Jeff Bridges and I've enjoyed his genius now for over thirty years.  So after watching The Apartment, I found and watched PBS's American Masters' biography of Jeff Bridges (disappointingly entitled "The Dude Abides") and enjoyed experiencing the span of his acting career and his many artistic interests in addition to acting.