Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Year Wishes, Justine by Lawrence Durrell & Snow

Surprise! Snow on the ground this morning and it's actually snowing as I write this, which is nice. The building guards are out sweeping the walks with bundles of this branches. Today also happens to be the last day of school (we're working on Saturday this week) before the New Year's holiday, which will last through Wednesday.

Justine - Lawrence DurrellFinished Justine by Lawrence Durrell about a week ago. Can't say I enjoyed the story, but I rarely read for that. As to what the story is about, I'm not quite certain. I read the opening section three times as I felt misdirected and scattered while reading the book. It was a difficult novel to follow (and there are the next three parts in the quartet to get through), but here's a nice look at the juicy good writing you'll encounter should you decide to accept this mission:
Streets that run back from the docks with their tattered rotten supercargo of houses, breathing into each others' mouths, keeling over. Shuttered balconies swarming with rats, and ol women whose hair is full of the blood of ticks. Peeling walls leaning drunkenly to east and west of their true centre of gravity. The black ribbon of flies attaching itself to the lips and eyes of the children—the moist beads of summer flies everywhere; the very weight of their bodies snapping off ancient flypapers hanging in the violet doors of booths and cafés. The smell of the seat-lathered Berberinis, like that of some decomposing stair carpet. And then the street noises: shriek and clang of the water-bearing Saidi, dashing his metal cups together as an advertisement, the unheeded shrieks which pierce the hubbub from time to time, as of some small delicately-organized animal being disemboweled. The sores like ponds--the incubation of a human misery of such proportions that one was aghast, and all one's human feelings overflowed into disgust and terror.
This is probably my last post of the year as Angela and me are boarding a train tomorrow and plan to be away until Wednesday. I'll tell you about it when we return but, in the meanwhile, have a great new year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

I Dream of You in Winter

Finally, in the serious no-joke throes and floes of winter. It's too cold to be in the elements without a scarf under my coat around my sensitive neck. I'm delicate despite your suspicions to the contrary. Still no snow, though, and, in the mornings, only the wonderful clear brightness of icy air and sunshine illuminating the otherwise colorless city. Tonight, after night upon night of crescent crescendo, a perfect lemon-wedge moon stinging the dagger air. In these, the shortest days of the year, the desire to sleep comes earlier and more often now claims Angela, but I'm fighting...

Never an end to internet woes as we continue to be foes rather than the other. I had been clicking along quietly for the past few weeks, but over the last three days our connection has been poor, sluggish or unresponsive. Noting it for posterity. Enough kvetching and on to more curious mundanities...

I look at my site statistics almost daily. Do they change so much in a day? Occasionally. There's some perverse obsession with bar graphs and search terms which keeps pulling me back, aside from the number of hits I'm culling from the wild blue web yonder. There are so many intrigues to follow. I find myself guessing who you are. You, my readers. Who is clicking in from Chile? How come my only friend in (city) hasn't visited? I'm looking for you!

Since Blogger has been unerringly available in China for the past few weeks, China has become my top country from which hits are received. Living in China, the most populous place on the planet, probably helps that somewhat, but my audience must be from more deeply-ingrained English-speaking places. Right? Mightn't (now there's a contraction I don't think I've ever tossed about) my few readers in China, and I know my coworkers aren't peeking in so it must be my fan base, be more dedicated than those of you back in the states? One can only guess. And, coincidentally, that's what I'm good at doing...

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone is having a pleasant holiday season. We foreign teachers enjoy a day off for Christmas today, but it's business as usual tomorrow. Unfortunately, we have to work this coming Saturday to make up for the off days we'll receive next week for the New Year. It seems like this time of year is busy in any part of the world, but I haven't forgotten you. I haven't kept you as informed as I should have this week but, even with my negligence, the site received many visitors yesterday. My lapses are only superficial, and I'll make it up to you somehow...

Beijing - Wangfujing - Department Store w/ Pink Christmas TreesAngela and me went window shopping in Wangfujing a few days ago. Wangfujing is the central shopping area for tourists and such with many fashionable name-brand shops and department stores. Here you can see pink Christmas trees hanging upside down above a department store entrance. There are usually plenty of interesting things upon which to look. More pictures of that adventure in the usual place...

To celebrate Christmas Eve, we went out for a nice dinner at Morel's (Santa visited us while we were eating!) yesterday evening after stopping in at a coworker's Christmas gathering and gift-exchange. We came away with a pair of Christmas toe-socks and a bag of potato chips! Angela's snoozing now while I write this and watch the grey haze materialize and brighten outside as morning continues to build to a cold Chinese omnipresent whiteness. We're planning on taking a walk later today in Beihai Park, but I don't think we'll be too upset if we never leave the apartment...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I've been wanting to add a post for a few days now. Logged in yesterday or the day before, I forget which, to cook up something, but ran out of steam. Ended up just staring at my list of old posts. Finally, enough time, energy and impetus...

Beijing - Pacific Century PlaceOut and about after work today. Wind picked up a little and we enjoyed a crystal evening walk after a pizza in starbright Beijing. Still rooting about for Christmas gifts for Angela. Hope to meet those unexpressed demands on Saturday. Took care of a few things tonight at Pacific Century Place, which has a little Christmas town in front of it, pictured here. Not an inexpensive place to shop...

Otherwise, more of the snowless cold same, standing on the balcony and looking out into night's black horizon at all the little square lights and pinpoints. New buildings everywhere smiling like super-toothed and wide-grinning wards of this sprawling megatropolis, one in which its inmates commingle and sing bastard versions of the birthday song and jingle bells when necessary. All's well that ends, well.... Only one more half-day of elementary Santa mishap and Christmas pageantry to overcome tomorrow and then it's three days away from...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Weekend Redux

I'm one of the featured poets this week on Poetry Super Highway. Take a look and let me know what you think!

Spent the day on the couch yesterday before rousing ourselves for a 7:30PM appointment. Went to a dance performance last night given by the Beijing Modern Dance Company. We know almost nothing about dance, modern or otherwise, but felt the show was impressive and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I'll do my best to tell you a little about it. Journey · In, the title of the show, consisted of two performances. The first was a multi-part performance by two dancers who seemed to be imitating each other or dancing about the idea of a shadow, each dancer's movements reflecting the other's. One of the more memorable parts was watching the dancers follow each other around the stage to the sound of whispering voices.

After a brief intermission, the second act featured a larger group of dancers and began with something like techno tai chi, followed by a solo dance accompanied by flute and piano music. There were four parts to this act, all of them connected with the sound of water dripping. The fourth and most memorable part included all of the dancers. They were dressed in thin white silk and holding fans, and danced across the stage in a long continuous, seemingly never-ending flow. It brought a nice end to the show and was almost hypnotic.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Santa MaoNothing out of the ordinary here as the lights on the Christmas tree twinkle and pulsate in their little programmed and periodic patterns, running the gamut from flickeringly manic to steady sighing, marking time as the season comes to a head. Both of us are suffering a bit of holiday blues missing our families and pondering our futures here in the three-dot capital. Our apartment has sufficient cheer, aside from the leaning tree which is seeing its third Christmas, with various additional interior Christmas components. In particular, a wreath wired to the door to greet our neighbors in the frightening (to those unfamiliar) and darkened hallway made darker by spit-circles and smudges on the walls. Exciting Christmas activities have yet to present themselves beyond possibly enjoying a nice meal together.

Just want to bring your attention to a few things on the web:

Observable Readings asks you to donate to their holiday fund drive. I support this kind of thing (free poetry events) and you can do the same here if you're in the giving mood.

podcastListen to Amy King on WKCR as she talks about MiPoRadio. It may give you a better idea about what we're putting together (I really have a very small role) with The Countdown and the many other projects our fearless leader Didi Menendez manages. Amy talks about the effect of listening to audio of my poetry, which is quite nice...

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Countdown #18


powered by ODEO
You can listen to The Countdown #18, the MiPoRadio podcast which focuses on poetry and poesy from the blogsphere. This week's show highlights the poetry of Gertrude Stein, and stars these poets from around the world:
David Caddy, Bloody Shard Gate
Lorna Dee Cervantes, Nothing Lasts
Juliet Cook, Rara Avis
Guyana-Gyal, Shaddock and Sitar
Derek Motion, untitled alright good
Michael Parker, Eating My Garden Pumpkins
Burning-Moon, To Oaro M
Greg Perry, The Sandman Cometh
TT, still here after all these years
Josh Walleart, Animal n.
Take a listen and let me know what you think! If you're interested in participating, and I'm always looking for something good and bloggy to get my eyes on and my ears around, send me a message...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Beijing - Thanksgiving LeftoversI had something to say earlier, but have completely forgotten now that I have time to do it. It only bothers me because I generally have such nice things to say if I do say so myself. I'm sure I'll be able to do something with this. Nonetheless, the screen stares blankly back at me and Angela drifts off into dreamspace behind me. An enviable position. I'll be joining her soon...

Trying to keep my chin up as there seems to be an abundance of negativity around me recently. When it's Winter, this behavior feels even colder. Some well-timed negativity thrown into a busy day-to-day can really carve a hole. Especially during the holidays when folks like us are away from our families. Can't dwell on it.

On the Beijing tip, it has been nearly impossible to find real Marlboro cigarettes here for about the past month, maybe longer. You can find the fakey smokes, but those are awful, aside from something else unsettling about them. In the meanwhile, I've switched to something else. I know I should be quitting altogether and I am...

One thing I won't be quitting is DVD acquisition, although they have dried up in recent months, as well. Since we returned from our Summer wedding extravaganza, DVDs have been scarce. I know there was a big crackdown on knockoff DVDs a few months back, but I would have thought that things would have returned to normal by now. Beijing is a city in which it is difficult to quell the materialistic fancies.

Ah, well. Misery loves company...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Heartbeat

podcastUnborn Marcacci Baby's HeadClick the little pod doohickey on the left and listen to our unborn baby's heartbeat! You better believe it. Angela went to see the doctor today and this is what she came away with. Her first audio poem.

We still don't know which version we'll receive (the doctor said the ultrasounds were inconclusive), but we'll be happy with either pink or blue. The latest breath of fresh life in our lives right now as Christmas approaches.

Otherwise, everything's well and good as it gets colder outside and we do our best to stay warm together inside.

Monday, December 04, 2006

It was too cold to talk on the cell and walk outside tonight without wearing gloves. Safely inside now watching the blurry reflection of Christmas tree lights in our balcony window...

Periodically, a series of beeps emits from the kitchen. Not incredibly loud, but the source has been unidentifiable. It happens every few four hours or so. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. I suggested some malfunction in the surveillance equipment in our apartment, my general reason for unexplainable occurrences here, but Angela thinks it's poppycock.

Our apartment was getting cold. I felt the floor, which doubles as our heater, and it was cool. We had forgotten to turn on the floor after returning home tonight. The apartment usually stays fairly warm, but it takes more than a few hours to heat up, which is not good. We won't die. We're lucky, actually, that we can control when we need heat or not. Most of our friends are at the mercy of the great heater-in-the-sky which operates on a set schedule moderated by an unknown entity.

Angela has been sick for a few days, too, unhappily stuffing tissues in her face and blowing. I'm worried but she assures me our third party is well-protected. Things seem to be improving and enlargening.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

It snowed briefly last Friday before sunrise, but it had melted by late morning and I only saw it because I woke up before the sun rose and noticed the strange winterblue hue on the rooftops. I forgot to mention it then, and wanted to let you know we had had a taste of the stuff. The only other moisture in the air is from restaurant waste on the sidewalks. Weather in Beijing has chilled icily, but the sun has been a nice warming constant when it's not blocked by giant high-rises. Not much left of the trees which, from a sixteenth floor distance, resemble scribbles. A brown dinginess is beginning to set in heavily and the river is nearly iced over.

I performed on Friday night at the Xinjiang Music Bar with Federico Moro and a few other Driftwords poets. It was one of the Beijing Actor's Workshop's Improv Nights and there were many performances, mostly acting related. I read one of my own poems and another by Michael McClure while being attired in balloons. I'm looking for pictures from that night to add and hope to do that soon.

Spent too much money, around 1,500 RMB, at the post office today sending Christmas gifts back to the states. I don't think we'll do that again as the postage fees kind of negated our ability to purchase Christmas gifts here.

I have miles of papers to grade before I sleep tonight, and there's just nothing pleasant about that.