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Friday, January 18, 2013

The gaseous state of steel wool

Friday. Fog. Freezing fog, frozen streets alternated with wet roads, and grey stubby vistas. Shapes resolving out of cotton as I drive cautiously forward. Not cotton, more like the phase-changed gaseous state of steel wool, if steel wool had a gaseous state. Certainly more that color.

But phase-change requires pressure and Friday isn't about pressure, is it? For the traditional work-week crowd Friday is the wrap up of the week and the portal to the weekend. Friday, after all, is the Popular Dude of the week.

Yet somehow this morning feels more like a visitation from the ghost of the popular dude. Still popular for all the same reasons, but rather than bounding cockily into the room he's slipping in around the corner of our vision like so much smoke.

Reminds me of a Bruce Cockburn lyric (I know, doesn't everything?) from The Coming Rains:
In the town neon flickers in the ruins
Seven crows swoop past the luscious moon
If I had wings like those there'd be no waiting
I'd come panting to your door and slide like smoke into your room
Speaking of crows, have you ever read the poem Two Old Crows, by Vachel Lindsay? It starts:
Two old crows sat on a fence rail.
Two old crows sat on a fence rail,
Thinking of effect and cause,
Of weeds and flowers,
And nature's laws.
One of them muttered, one of them stuttered,
One of them stuttered, one of them muttered.
Each of them thought far more than he uttered.
I won't give the rest of this short story away, but will say its worth the journey.

And finally, speaking of the journey, my commute soundtrack was again (by design this time) totally Sigur Rós:
- Fljótavík (Live)
- Ekkí Múkk
- Svefn-G-Englar
- Von

- Posted via Hermes.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Frost's white face

Monday morning follows the weekend as reliably as fever follows viral infection, and there is a lot of both rolling about this winter. We're in our winter clearing now, one of those strings of days featuring cold blue skies, bright sun that doesn't warm, and no clouds or moisture. For the Pacific Northwest, this is cold weather, dropping into the low 20’s at night, highs in the mid to upper 30’s, or maybe cresting 40° F (4° C) at the peak of the day.

I know, to many that's not cold at all. Some of you are living with minus signs in front of your high temperature for the day. But for here, for us, this is our cold snap, all nose stinging, icy roads, and frosted surfaces.

The roof of our shed needs cleaning, with tufts of moss and lichen outlining most of the shingles like little English hedgerows separating so many little fields. Up close, bristling with crystalline hoarfrost, it could be a winter country scene.

"Meanwhile the sun squints at this starched poverty—
The squint itself consoled, at ease . . .
The ten-fold forest almost the same . . .
And snow crunches in the eyes, innocent, like clean bread."
- Osip Mandelstam, Alone, I Stare Into the Frost's White Face

So much beauty out of such spare ingredients. Almost monochromatic, yet with a sparkle that would make many diamonds envious, light and shadow playing the roles usually filled by color and contrast.

My commute soundtrack was also simultaneously spare and rich, and one of those coincidentally random combinations that give me pause: two renditions of a single tune by the (appropriately?) Icelandic band Sigur Rós, from two different albums. The first version, from their album Von, is an atmospheric twelve-minute soundscape. The second version (from Hvarf - Heim)) is a mere nine minutes and much more to the point melodically. They really don't even sound like the same piece of music, and maybe the fact that one version has a second "s" in the title suggests they are, in fact, different words and different tunes? Maybe I need to learn Icelandic.

Regardless, they formed a beautiful soundtrack to my extra-early (had to be in by 6:30 AM) morning drive through this dark frosty world toward campus.

Today's Playlist:
- Hafssól
- Hafsól

- Posted via Hermes.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Monday, music, and playful biographies

Monday morning and it is a dark and wet one at that. Not pouring, but just enough misting rain to keep the wipers on at some less-than-full interval. Here's a funny thing about interval wipers: they are never quite the right pace for whatever conditions you are experiencing. Change the setting all you want, and it will remain slightly faster or slower than you really need for the amount of wet across the windshield. Maybe that's just a PNW thing, caused more by the vagaries and variety of rain here than by any fault of engineering.

Our campus enters the second week (first full week) of classes for winter quarter, so things are already starting to buzz as I pull onto campus. Car lights move across the dark mostly-empty parking lots, a small number of students are walking here and there, and the parking closest to the buildings is already starting to fill. Proximity always seems to win when selecting parking.

Speaking of proximity, I did a little housecleaning on my ebook library shelves the other day, with the result that only three currently-in-progress books are sitting in the biographies section of said library. Is it just me, or does it seem these three characters are maybe interacting with each other, just a bit playfully?

The drive in was slower than usual, augmented with a stop for coffee this morning, so the playlist was longer than usual as well. I had to use the skip function twice to pass over a holiday tune (always a risk when I allow the iPhone to pick randomly from my entire music collection), but I let one holiday album tune slip through: Pink Martini's Congratulations from their Joy To The World album. It's a Japanese (and is sung in Japanese) New Year's tune, which still seems fitting enough this early in January. It's mostly rare for holiday tunes to pop up in such a mix, so getting three of them this morning runs against normal odds. I'm guessing the random-play algorithm has some element of 'recently-played' factored in.

A good playlist, overall. Nilsson was the highlight—how could anyone not love that tune?

Today's full playlist:
- Midlake: In This Camp
- Chick Corea & Bela Fleck: Mountain
- Pink Martini Congratulation (Happy New Year)
- Travis: Under the Moonlight
- Harry Nilsson: Everybody's Talkin'
- El Perro del Mar: Walk On By
- Norah Jones: Don't Miss You At All

- Posted via Hermes.