Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rivet That

This is how I approach my art/work. If it was good enough for Tamla/Motown, it's damn good enough for me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Back to Basics?

In Belgrade, in the early-to-mid nineties, I wrote my first book of poetry by hand (most poems in multiple drafts first on scraps of paper and later in special notebooks), and then typed it up on a manual typewriter I borrowed from a coworker of my mom's. After that, it's always been a combo of by hand and computer. I believe that my first submission to a journal was also a bunch of handwritten poems and they got published.

One thing I realized, I've never stopped writing song lyrics by hand, in fact most of my lyrics have yet to be typed into a computer. I have them all memorized anyway, so I feel no pressing need to actually type them up.

A possible experiment: I could write my next poetry book by hand, and then type it up on a typewriter. I could then make PDFs out of the handwritten drafts and the typewritten pages and publish the book electronically. It would be like clothing with all the hand-stitching proudly displayed. Like I told my students the other day: "I'm from the twentieth century. Paper is not dead, and neither is punk rock."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

La Dulce Vida

Mexican bakeries in Pilsen and my sweet tooth are matched to perfection. Today I walked in the rain two blocks to the bakery called Nuevo Leon. (Not to be confused with the nearby restaurant of the same name.) I was tired in a good way, from staying up too late partying with Nick and the siblings. The rain was soft and lazy too. I knew what I would get: a couple of bolillos filled with cream cheese and jalapenos, a choco doughnut, a couple of pineapple upside-downs, and the sweet cheese pastry. I don't know what the latter is actually called, but it's a soft (not flaky) little pocket with a smooth cheesy-vanilla filling. It used to be my favorite, then the pineapple upside-down muffins became the biggest hit, but now it's a tie between the two, and it will likely remain a tie. At home, I had a morsel of each thing a bought, beginning with the only savory treat, the cheese-jalapeno bolillo. Fresh coffee that Nick had just brewed was waiting for me. Sweet baked goods might be the perfect food: a meal and a dessert rolled (filled, folded, baked) into one.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

On the One!

Fell asleep and woke up to James Brown via Thomas Sayers Ellis (poetry/photography in the evening) and via Bootsy Collins (radio in the morning). Who cares that I slept for 11 hours!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wartime Letters

I've been reading old letters, dated 1991 to 1997. They're from my best high school friend, who was in the western parts of our native Croatia while I was a refugee east of the border, in Belgrade. In the first letters, she's a senior in high school, in the last ones she's an English teacher. I don't have copies of the letters I was sending her, but her responses remind me of certain details I'd forgotten. Here's an excerpt (in my hasty translation) from her letter from the fall of 1995, commenting on my letter from the summer of that year, when my brother was hiding in order not to get drafted and sent to the battlefields:

"Kudos to him for enduring and resisting all this time, I respect him so much because of that, and I admire his stance, but I know how much it cost. People like him give me strength to hope that things can improve. The shitty thing is that people like him have to hide, just like the little black creature sneaking around your building. Imagine that scenario: a man eligible for the draft wears a black mouse disguise and hides in the shelter of the night from Arkan's forces of darkness. A real Twilight Zone all around us."

Reading these letters after all these years bolsters my memory: I'd forgotten about the mouse that I saw scurrying past me one night when my grandma was visiting and I was sleeping on the floor. At times, when I read the letters, I feel transported to that time. My friend's handwriting helps. Even as I'm reading off the screen (the real letters are in my parents' apartment, I'm here reading the scans my dad made and sent me via the Internet), the lines of her pen capture the movements of her hand and I can picture us both as young chicks chronicling our lives in letters to each other, as a private act of civil disobedience against the nationalism and war.

Her last letter, from March 1997, ends with an announcement that she's about to sign up for an e-mail account at her university, and an optimistic thought about "a new media, a new era in our communication." Since 1997, I've had at least five e-mail accounts, and I have absolutely no access to any e-mails from the first three or more of those accounts (expired, nothing saved, hacked). Lately, no one has been writing any long e-mails. There's no need. Even if people live too far away from each other to call, Skyping or IM-ing is the medium of choice. And even if those "chats" don't disappear, they have no substance. When we gave up writing letters with pen and paper, we gave up more than we realized.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fun With Idioms

I overheard an old and colorful idiom today: "When you met me, you didn't know me from the man in the moon." Here's a cool thing I like to do: go to Google Books and type in any idiom and then see how far back it goes. This particular one appears in a book from 1866, Hugh Bryan: The Autobiography of an Irish Rebel, by Hugh Bryan. A slight variation, with "you" instead of "me" takes us to 1851 and a periodical named The United States Magazine and Democratic Review. And the idiom still appears on the streets of Chicago in 2011. At the same time, the reason it caught my attention is because I don't hear it often and I feel like the phrase is on its way out. Who knows, I may have witnessed the last time this idiom was spoken colloquially. I mean, there is always that final, unrecorded time an idiom is uttered.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Snack of the Month

Nutella spread on whole-grain sliced Turano bread which has sunflower seeds in it (genius), washed down with organic ultra-pasteurized whole milk (chilled). The brands are not important, in fact there are healthier and more fairly traded choco-hazelnut spreads out there. As far as milk goes, I go for ultra-pasteurized so it doesn't go bad too quickly, organic and whole because I think it tastes better.

"Falling" by Mission of Burma

I don't think this song is supposed to be about the WTO Towers attack victims, but that's what I always think of when I hear it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Feeling Kaufmanesque

I sing music that is quite American and I don't have a very noticeable accent when I sing. It's not on purpose and it's not that unusual. But when I speak, the accent comes back in a split second. I wonder if Andy Kaufman as Foreign Man/Latka doing Elvis comes to anyone else's mind.

Fun With Etymology

I never say PJs, primarily because I really like the word pajamas. Always have. It's the same word in both of my languages: pidzama/pajamas.

Oxford English Dictionary:
pyjamas | pajamas, n.
Etymology: < Urdu pāy-jāma, pā-jāma and its etymon Persian pāy-jāma, pā-jāma, singular noun < Persian pāy, pā foot, leg + jāma clothing, garment (see jama n.1)
Originally: loose trousers, usually of silk or cotton, tied round the waist, and worn by both sexes in some Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Subsequently also: nightclothes consisting of loose trousers or shorts and a jacket or other top (now the principal use). The loose trousers were adopted by Europeans living in Eastern countries, esp. for night wear, and the word came to be applied outside Asia (originally in trade use) to a sleeping suit of loose trousers and jacket.

So, to be technical, I usually sleep in pajama bottoms and a t-shirt.

My dream job would be to test pajamas, bed linen, and mattresses/bed for the manufacturers. I excel at sleeping.

Mexican Independence Parade

I couldn't see it, because I live in a building hidden behind a building and I had just woken up (really late), was in my pajamas. But I heard the sounds, like a ribbon of brass, bass, voices fluttering by.