Archive for December, 2013|Monthly archive page

Ponderous voice : “Seventy million years ago…”

In Current reading, Drafts, Film, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music on December 31, 2013 at 9:33 am

Thus far, the best part of the new computer: access to movies. Despite the joys this provides, I may step out this afternoon and take in a film at the three o’clock showing. The movie poster doesn’t inspire great hopes in terms of script quality. But watching the thing with children provides the special draw. The synopsis, in quick and dirty translation from the French: seventy million years ago, when dinosaurs ruled the earth, Patchi is born, the youngest member of his family. On the long road to (dinosaur) adulthood, he must survive in a savage and unpredictable world, and face the most fearsome of predators. 

Juice and cookies to follow the showing. I’ve a mind to make that my New Year Celebration event. Invites to parties, of course. But so few days of quiet left before work lands like an avalanche again. Time to read, write, mull things over, and re-arrange stuff? Grab it while I can.

Leafing through a catalogue of titles, I stop on two:  one called Life: An Unauthorised Biography by Richard Fortey (this one going back a full four billion years, so there, take that you Patchi-threatening dinosaurs, you). The other: Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman. The blurb says the man “approached scientific experiments and practical jokes with equal gusto”. Sounds like a plan.

After which I’ll rein in my acquisitive appetites until further monies flow through from the work projects.

Draft? But of course. What else do you think I’m doing besides reading, mulling things over, watching movies and cleaning out old files?



In Animals, Drafts, Music on December 30, 2013 at 8:15 am

I still don’t know why this small wedge of the town goes by the name of Sebastopol – at least, to some of the old-timers such as my next-door neighbor who calls himself the Mayor of. The man is well into his nineties. Lives in the house in which he was born. Looks befuddled, at first glance. If you engage him in conversation – at the bakery, for example – he shows something close to total recall about the shops and the tradesmen that peopled this section of the territory over his lifespan.

But why Sebastopol? We were interrupted, the last time I asked.

The power cord to this new computer comes equipped with a small magnet. You feel the pull before the connection happens. Some research shows that migrating birds have biological adaptations sensitive to the earth’s magnetic lines. The old nesting grounds above Magnitogorsk may have been taken over by a steel complex though. What then? Good question.

Meanwhile, moving data from a six-year old computer platform to a recent one reveals unexpected gaps, as well as useless redundancies. Nothing so serious as to keep the fingers from moving across the keys, and words appearing as if by magic.

How ideas connect. Meaning, the ones with no obvious links. Why a place exerts a magnetic pull on one person and leaves another indifferent or annoyed. Why these characters assembled at the inn, or the local watering hole? What happens during their stay? How are they different when they leave?

Inspiration, right now?*

In Current reading, Drafts on December 29, 2013 at 9:09 am

If nothing else, the whole ungodly process of data transfer will lead to my cleanest living quarters in a long, long time.

The boring, annoying saga moves into day three. I houseclean, work on the draft off a temporary storage unit, try not to think of how much or how little of the old data I’ll salvage.

The characters sop up as much of the frustration as I can divert away from “real life”.

* Joyce Carey, The Horse’s Mouth, Chapter 44.

Compass? Wet your finger and hold it to the wind

In Current reading, Drafts on December 28, 2013 at 7:45 am

Reading for writing purposes, these days. Nothing systematic about the way the combinations work, or don’t. The bad fits, as useful as the good ones. Why does this not work? Why does this flow? Why do these characters bring out the best (or the worst) in each other? Why are people so different, depending on the interactions?

The book that mattered that year? Marjorie Kinnan Rawling’s The Yearling. I was nine. I don’t remember how the book came to me. Still an active, subterranean force, almost sixty years later.

The scene I’m revisiting in the draft involves two people who aren’t at their most likable. I wouldn’t care to befriend either one in real life – at lest, not as a couple. I like them both anyway, in their annoying ways. How they take their lumps. He plays roly-poly, she calls the banshees to her rescue. What becomes of them later?

Reading other writers. Taking in their talent, their foibles, their obsessions. Then, stepping back to listen to the tiny music as it plays in my own head. Yesterday’s reading iterations away from the draft ranged from Faulkner to bits from Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn, to attempts at breaking into Murdoch’s The Sea, the Sea in the only available copy – a French translation. This last connection didn’t work. If the main character’s self-absorption carries through all six hundred and eighty-three pages, I doubt the connection will happen. So the book gets set aside (a sure sign I’ll try to crack it later). For the time being, I’ll set my sails somewhere between Faulkner’s The Bear and Thurber’s Walter Mitty, and navigate from there to points  unknown.

What the beholder said

In Animals, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir on December 27, 2013 at 5:03 am

A brief news item, yesterday. An eighty-three-year old pensioner came across an envelope lying on the sidewalk. Fifty-euro bank notes peeking up at him. He brings home the envelope, counts the notes: two hundred and three, in all. No name, no address. The gentleman walks over to his neighborhood police station. The ten thousand euro now in safekeeping for six months with astonished boys in blue. If no one claims the money, they return it to the pensioner.

In the comment section below the news item, my favorite response: scam, scam, scam, claims Mr or Mrs You-Can’t-Fool-Me. As any fool can see, the man is a drug dealer who’s found a quick and easy way to launder money.

Therefore, law enforcers everywhere, be on the lookout. An eighty-three-year old drug dealer, passing himself off as a pensioner, may show up in your station, claiming he’s found two hundred and three fifty-euro bills in an unmarked envelope. Other distinguishing features: he refuses to identify himself to the media, and claims to have saved a small boy from drowning, some forty years ago. Arrest him. These scammers and dope dealers must be stopped.

Yes, I’ll go back to bed, now that I’ve cleared this concern from my mind. (I’m looking forward to completing the file transfer on to this computer. Who knows; may even clear up the phone and email account mix-ups before the day is done.)

To the current activities, apart from paper sorting and file transfers, add brief visits to James Joyce’s Dubliners (Two Gallants, to be precise), and the Arrest of Toad episode in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. Plus news snippets, of course.

More on Miséry

In Drafts, Film, Food on December 26, 2013 at 7:13 am

The computer technician called in the evening. Confirming the appointment at my apartment this morning. He is orderly and organized – qualities I admire in others and fail to replicate. Something to do with bone structure or the way brain synapses work, or don’t. His confirmation came with a rider: a lot depends on how his back heals overnight after a nasty incident with a thing too heavy for his lifting capacity. I recommended the local equivalent to the brand-name used by athletes for sore muscles, and wished him a good night’s sleep.

Miséry, as in Puech? Yes and no. As in a movie I’ve never seen. I’ll check out the details online in a few minutes. According to my hosts at the meal on Christmas Eve, the film tells of a famous writer. Waylaid by a crazed and admiring fan of the female persuasion, the hapless one suffers countless torments at her hands. This information, provided after the brief silence that followed a comment by my host’s brother. There I was, improvising on a general theme or other, when the brother said: “you remind me of the character in Misery. The woman. Something in your eyes.”

After checking out the actress online, I’ll take a close look at photos done of me during the evening. With special attention to my eyes, of course. On first appraisal, they bear one of the deadpan expressions I favor when weaving a tall tale. Come to think of it now, I’ll  have to take a closer look at the photos of my brother’s host. Who knows what lurks behind his friendly mien?

Back to the village I left yesterday, and a breakfast involving jams made from local fruit. The fruit gathered from a small orchard planted by a local on a piece of communal land. Almond trees, figs, cherries, plums. Any villager so inclined goes down the hill, and gathers some of the bounty. One man does the pruning every year.

The rain: thin, cold and penetrating, this morning. More sorting of  papers, more careful reading of the draft, more unexpected finds to discover, hiding in plain view.


In Animals, Dance, Drafts, Food, Games, Music, Wine on December 25, 2013 at 4:23 pm

The village is on a hillock above the river Tarn. On an early winter morning, the sun shines through a thick fog, wisps of which glide through the narrow streets. Because of the type of rock? For other reasons? Water percolates from the valley. Even in the driest of summers, the wells don’t run dry in the village, but the soil dries out in the plain below.

She works replacements in the region’s schools. He gives guitar lessons to beginners and professionals alike. They bought the house for a song, so to speak.  With good reason : Termites had come visiting before them; the roof was gone, the floors rested on beams as flaky as puff pastry. The walls – daub and wattle – tended to draw ground water like wicks. No toilet, except for the loo out in the yard.

We didn’t see much of them at rehearsals last year. Save for the floors downstairs and some of the inner walls, not much of the original structure remains. Beams, roof, upper floor, plumbing, plastering, painting and woodwork: they did everything.

We’ll give a concert in January in a restaurant owned by one of their old friends. A woman with whom they sang in another choral group. A fantastic person, they said. Someone with energy levels they admire. The thought of meeting her? Daunting and funny.

One of his brothers called in from Dublin after closing down his restaurant. Other chefs were gathering at his place. They were drinking red, we were on a local bubbly made from grapes grown on the hillock. Another brother was visiting from Switzerland. His four-year old daughter received a princess costume, a tiara and a wand. She transformed me into a toad. I begged and pleaded for a raise in status to that of frog, to no avail.

She relented this morning. “Would you like to leap over the breakfast table,” she asked. Nothing could make me happier, I said. She flicked her wand. I stood there, visualizing the graceful bound and leap. “You are a fabulous magician, Léonore,” I said. She smiled with glee brimming out of her eyes.

Culling, Sorting, Throwing things away

In Drafts on December 24, 2013 at 7:40 am

Clearing out space for whatever wants to show up next.


In Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music on December 23, 2013 at 7:55 am

“With hope in your heart” – what does that mean? You’re drunk? Delusional? You don’t read the news, you don’t register the FACTS. The FACTS, you know. The pain, the losses, the broken promises (yours and other people’s – except other people’s count double or triple, yours come equipped with valid reasons).

With hope in your heart. I don’t know what hope means. I’ll look up the etymology, of course, in every languague I know. At face value, the word bothers me, the same way the words faith and charity do. Something prissy and Sunday-schoolish about those words. As if these were notions created, patented and marketed by religious communities with a vested interest in serving them up as ready-made substitutes to despair and the various steps down into never-ending loss.

Some people get a kick out of never-ending loss – other people’s, that is. They go to movies and weep when the violins get tremulous. They read the book, and clutch it to their heart. Doesn’t stop them from putting down any tremulous expression that doesn’t meet their esthetic code. (Don’t worry: so do I.)

Hope. Bottom line: feels better than despair. You know:  health is more fun than illness? Basic stuff. You don’t need a college degree or a Reverend’s blessing to figure it out.

Sorting out papers. Clearing out old files on the computer. Figuring out better ways to tell the current story in draft form. Doing things feels better than moping – add a p and you get some mopping of the floors thrown into the mix. (Again: something on my to-do list).

Doing. There’s another interesting etymology search. (Music? They do the walk – bombombombom bom – the walk of life).*

*Dire Straits

If the answers were obvious, news would get around

In Drafts, Film, Hautvoir, Music, photography on December 22, 2013 at 8:43 am

Crash-landed into sleep at about eight thirty last night. Brief wake-up around two-ish to reacquaint myself with genus and species of birth, not to mention  general geo-location. Re-emerged after seven am. The marathon resumes at eleven thirty and no one takes a serious interest in agreed-upon hours. If they did,  photos with Santa wouldn’t happen at the same time as the Free Christmas Carols at the Auditorium.*

Long bouts of savoring peace and quiet. As in: looking at the screen, or the wall, or the ceiling, and feeling blessed I don’t need to move a single limb right this minute. What people on vacation experience during those briefs seconds on the beach when they’re not harried by booking concerns, reservation snarl-ups, sand flies, gastrointestinal distress, fundamental misunderstandings with their one and only love?  Something like that, minus the expense.

Street scenes. Snappish grandmothers ordering small children to SIT on Santa’s knee and SMILE (the exception in yesterday’s crowd but even one would have been too many). A tiny shrimp of a man with his broad and commanding girl friend. “No, listen,” he says, “I need to know what’s happening with us.” She’s large enough to crush him between her breasts, and looks annoyed. Teen-aged girls flaunting their brand new bodies with only the vaguest notion of the commotions they set off in their wake. Men with the hard palms of manual workers. Others with the limp fish hand of the never-employed. A small boy racing to Santa as if to  his place of refuge.

Faces. Expressions.

Given the crowd and the general condition of the town, I couldn’t help thinking of a film I haven’t seen  yet. We’ll be showing it in Gaillac at the end of January. Title: You’ll Never Walk Alone, a documentary done by Jerome de Missolz and Eveline Ragot about the music scene in Liverpool. If my new computer gets set up and running this week, I may get to watch movies on my screen without computer crash-landings.

How any of this ties in with my writing? Through this basic question: what can a poor boy or girl do besides play rugby, make babies, loiter on street corners or  join a rock-n-roll band?

Allez. Walk on, and so on.

* No photos during Christmas Carols. Photos resume on Tuesday.