Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bouts-Rimés project poem the third: Christopher

My friend Christopher sent me several eclectic lists of rhymes for my Bouts-Rimés project.  I decided to do something a little different.  Rather than choose one list, I cobbled together a few of the lists to create three sets of four rhymes and a final set of two, which as far as I know is not an established form, but rather feels like one.

What emerged was a set of words which, to me, seemed to paint a span of time and space.  A few languages and one specific dead city suggested themselves.  Initially I thought of a person who had been alive far longer than a human ought to be, but when it came time to put pen to paper (which, believe it or not, I always actually do in the poem writing process.  I don't know why.  It just feels more written to me when I do that.) I found a rare love poem coming out of me, in some repressive, ragamuffin world.

I feel that the end result is one of my stranger efforts, but I found the creative process to be highly satisfying with this one. 

The Reach
by Paul Mathers

She and I were a digraph.
Leaving 'twas my life's great gaffe.
All action since, not much chaff.
Like Tantalus or a giraffe,
I reach back to those days in Edo.
We kept our love so incognito.
Her grandson called me 'abuelito.'
Oh, those scornful looks from Padrecito.
He caused all hospitableness to pickle.
Goaded the gossip's ears to tickle.
This sailor's dollars weren't worth a nickle.
We lived off tossed out pumpernickle.
I fled by night on my tricycle.
Was ever love so farcical?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Podcast Roundup!

Here is yet another look at some of the exciting podcasts I have recently discovered. As usual, all of the podcasts mentioned are available on iTunes:

APM's Dinner Party Download- The Dinner Party Download is the pinnacle of slick, hip, and urban American Public Media.  I, myself, am about as urban as they come.  I recall a recent dinner party where three of the other gentlemen were remarking on the trend of survivalism, which is to say people going into the wilderness with nothing but a mustache cup and a compass, and remarking that I think I would shrivel up and die after two days without my French Press coffee maker.

But I digress.  The Dinner Party Download claims to be a guide for people to "win" their next dinner party.  The format starts with an "icebreaker" (in other words, a joke), small talk (an offbeat or interesting news story from the preceding week which probably did not get the attention of most), cocktails (which takes a "This Date In History" event and applies a drink recipe to it), and a short interview with a famous person or something like that.  It ends with an eclectic song to listen to on the way to or on the way back from the party. 

My only issue with the podcast previously (I understand that it's très gauche to complain about free entertainment, so don't take this too seriously) was the length.  Having a long commute, there is a slight annoyance in listening to a podcast less than 20 minutes.  However, I am given to understand that they intend to expand the podcast to closer to an hour starting with the next installment.  So, this is a great time to jump onboard.

In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg- My recent discovery of this program was like tapping into an ocean.  It has years of backlog and it is an intense experience.  One way I've described it is that it is to Stuff You Should Know what a steak dinner with mashed potatoes and asparagus is to a Payday candy bar (both will give you protein, but one is far more nourishing.)

In essence, Melvyn has assembled a panel of some of the smartest humans on the planet to talk about a subject.  They will talk about anything in the human experience.  They will talk about things like Abelard and Heloise or Sparta or rhetoric or happiness and what function it serves and so forth.  It really is like an autodidact graduate degree.  Along with that, you have to pay VERY close attention to what they are talking about because they do not slow down and the labyrinthine lines of conversation often lead away from the topic.  Bragg has a sort of genius for being able to discern when this has happened and shepherd the talk back to the question at hand. 

I cannot recommend this podcast highly enough.  I will spend a very long time catching up on it, but those who know me probably realize that I like the sensation of being hit by a tidal wave, not knowing where it shall take me. 

The White House audio-  Some may consider this sort of a cheat, but it has recently come to my attention that one of the most prolific podcasters on iTunes is President Obama.  The White House podcasts not only every speech given by the president (which is a daily occurance) but also every cultural event held at the White House (I recently downloaded a whole Blind Boys of Alabama concert from this source.) 

While having mixed feelings about our current president (as I've had for all previous presidents), so often I have found in life that one gets a fuller and more accurate picture of information by going to the source.  We get so much of our news from highly edited, often highly opinionated sources.  I like to hear the man speak for himself.

Also, I find the daily download painting a very different picture of my nation than the one so often presented me.  First of all, a ridiculous amount of the president's job is public speaking.  Second, in the midst of the soundbites about "passing this jobs bill," we miss the president decorating a soldier who showed tremendous courage in the course of duty.  I feel that this skewed focus robs me of some of my awareness of the beauty of America. 

Time simply does not permit me to listen to every speech that Mr. Obama makes, especially with Melvyn Bragg turning my head.  But I find this to be a valuable and informative resource, a glimpse into the inner workings of our government, and, I would add, yet another service of our government available for our use.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Tour of My Office

Subvestment Investments

We are embarking on yet another project which has been a long time coming.  I am of the school of thought that clothes, largely, make the man in so much as that people believe what they see (including the person wearing the clothes.)  I also feel that a male dressing nicely is a counter-cultural act in this day.  We live in the age of the t-shirt.  I should like to be one vote for a more beautiful world.  I think I reflect that in my interests.  I feel it is high time I attempt to reflect that in my appearance as well.

I've lived for some time now with a scattershot wardrobe.  A good deal of it remains from my college years in which I too was a jeans and t-shirt man.  I have a few articles for more formal occasions as the need has arisen over the past decade.  I have a few articles from my intense working out period in which I needed to buy smaller clothes.  They remain in my closet as a testimony that I do retain some capacity for optimism.

So, a lot of the time I find myself dressed like this:

Which shows a light spirit and isn't quite so Death In Venice as continuing to wear band t-shirts into my mid-30s.  But, as I've said before, Jeeves is my spirit animal and I know what my inner Jeeves thinks when I dress in this manner. 

Ideally, I would like to wear a suit at any time in which I am not in pajamas with possibly a few articles for gardening or hiking.  I would like to unleash my inner dandy.  But how does one get from Comic Con to the Literary Establishment?  How does one get from dress of the students in the ivy covered lecture hall to the dress of they who stand at the lecturn?

I know that throwing piles of cash around is one answer, but I am hardly in a position to effect that outcome.  However, just because one is of limited means is not an excuse for allowing one's surroundings to go to pot.  One can brighten any corner of the world that they are given with a bit of care and attention to loveliness.  My marriage to Laurie has largely broadened me in this way.  Before we were married, I understood this concept, but lived like "the crazy used bookseller" which is to say amidst stacks of books with paths to the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.  Laurie and I both value the house beautiful.  Laurie just happens to be the one in our pair with the tools to bring that value into realization. 

I am learning though.

My road to this shift started very young.  There was a high school chum of mine who always wore a suit and tie and I've always thought that there was a wisdom in that.  He had a seriousness without sacrificing the natural rebellion of the adolescent (although he came at it in a very fresh way.)  One can wear a suit anywhere and the idea of being dressed appropriately for any situation appeals to me.  This has been in the back of my mind for decades.

Right on the heels of my discovery of the musical genre known as chap-hop (see example below),

Laurie discovered an online television show which has rather turned my head.  It's called Put This On, with the subheading "A Web Series About Dressing Like A Grownup."  It was not so subtle of a hint, but certainly one which I was completely primed to run with.  I think Laurie's words were "it's time for you to start geeking out on all the right things."

Of course, there has also been the influence of our fashion blog.  I wasn't wired to watch nine hours of Austin Scarlett without coming away with a desire to dress better.  I think our field trip to the designer end of South Coast Plaza this past July also got my sartorial salivary glands watering.

Inspired by the webseries, I went out and got the book Dressing The Man by Alan Flusser, which deals with what he refers to as "permanent fashion."  Mr. Flusser teaches on gaining the look of "seasoned simplicity," the emergence of the peacock in the previous century (beginning with the ubiquitous suits up to the second World War, to the rigid conformity demanded by the era of the grey flannel suit, through the 1960s gift of personal expression in dress, to the modern man of style), by mainly giving instruction on the foundation of understanding proper color and proportion.

Hopefully arming myself with these lessons, I am about to embark on a journey.  I was recently telling Laurie about my spiritual path and the shattered remains thereof.  I told her that it was as if I knew what I was supposed to do, but I wasn't doing it.  Likewise, or perhaps as a reflection of same, I intend to now become the man that I intend to be inside and out.  More on this soon.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bouts-Rimés project: Poem the Second: Poem Girl

Poem Girl left a charming list of rhyme in response to my call for help with this Bouts-Rimés project and I hoped to do it justice with a retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.  If you're not familiar with the myth, here's the dumbshow, a lovely little shadow puppet student project adaptation I found on Youtube:

Or you can read the story for yourself here. You'll notice that the original ends rather more brutally than this shadow play.  Or, better yet, seek out one of the hundred or so operas based on this myth. 

Mythology is a rich source of material for the arts and the Greeks contributions have abided for good reasons.  They strike at universals.  Here we have love, loss, death, art, and in one act a major lesson in faith.  So here now is my modest contribution to the grand tradition of retelling the Orpheus myth:

Sight Regained
by Paul Mathers

I remember my song of her grace
and her anguished connubial face
when the Underworld stretched out its lace,
drew her to the Erinyes' mace.
So I forfeir my rights in this race
to the banks of the dead gave my chase.
At Persephone's feet made my case,
Calliope's inheritance my ace,
I was called upon my steps back to trace,
return from existence's base.
As I turned, Hades claimed my embrace
and my flower returned to his vase.
Now through savage woodlands I pace.
In severance, returned to my place.