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Les Semaines

02.01.27

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout

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Quibbles and Bits

We had a little snow yesterday, or sneaux as some of my friends spell it. There are even a couple of patches here and there that have survived today's rain. Sneaux is rare here. Felt pretty cozy last night as the snow came down and we were warm and comfortable inside.

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Jim just rescued me from the evil Sophia, who was sitting on my computer chair when I came back to it after lunch. I tried to share it with her, but it's a smallish typing chair and there really isn't enough room for both of us, no matter how small she is. My derrière was starting to go to sleep.

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I'm having bad machine karma this week. The cd player that lives next to my computer died--at least it suddenly started refusing to play 9 out of 10 discs I put in it. It was a cheap one to begin with, but I miss it. The speakers for my computer aren't up to much, so I got a patch cord and plugged in our old but wonderful huge boombox. We got this thing in 1988 when we were moving to Ontario for Jim to go to library school and we didn't want to move our entire stereo there. It has quite good sound, but of course because the cd player is old there are a lot of cds it won't play. Feeding my computer sound through it is a small improvement over no music in my study, but it does make odd noises when my hard drive is actively doing something and pulling power.

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The other machine that died this week is my CDRW burner. I thought I'd figured out a way that it would burn sound discs without a problem, but the same nasty stuff kept happening whenever I burned a disc--or at least most times, no matter what way I went about burning them. So I just broke down and ordered a Firewire CDRW. I hope that makes the difference. Of course the new one is much, much faster than our old SCSI 6x4x16. I think it's a 24x10x40, so maybe I can start burning sound discs faster than at 2x (which was the only way my old one wouldn't reliably make coasters).

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I have got to stop obsessively playing Spiderette solitaire on my computer. I spend so much time here between work and home that my arms are starting to get tendonitis, and playing solitaire is something I don't need to do but I'm sure accounts for a lot of it. The thing is that every other kind of solitaire I've ever played I've managed to get sick of playing, but this one, the one that comes with Solitaire Till Dawn (it's not what other solitaire programs call Spiderette), I somehow can't get tired of. I wish I would! I don't know what it is about it. Why do I like it? 'Cause I do. Even if it hurts. I can feel how bad it is for me and still I keep playing. Thank heaven I win often enough that I don't play for days on end. And actually, now winning doesn't seem to stop me playing for any great length of time. It used to. The only good thing I can say about it is that it does help me relax so it's good for switching gears when I want to start writing and it's also a good way to listen to music. Otherwise I start going something and don't listen. Solitaire is enough to occupy me without distracting me.

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My favourite place these days is on the ancient pink shell chair that a friend of a friend gave me because she'd inherited it and it was sitting in her garage and she didn't know what to do with it. I love it, even if I've never been able to get the upholstery clean. But anyway, it's in the corner of my living room by the big front picture window and the fire place and I sit there with my heating pad behind my back and the down throw Jim gave me for Christmas last year and a good book and it's heaven. Of course, I do tend to fall asleep there, frequently with cat upon lap.

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I've been having trouble recently sleeping when I should. I can't get to sleep at night and so read into the wee hours, then am so tired that when I get home from work, despite all my resolutions not to I take a nap for a couple of hours, which perpetuates the cycle. I blame the pink shell chair. Or the lap cats.

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Which of course I need to mention--Sophia has suddenly decided she likes laps. I guess this means she's getting older. Either that or the fact that we've been keeping the thermostat low to save money on heating has worked a little feline temperament miracle. She's also taken to sometimes sleeping under the covers with us. Which is fine until Zach, on the outside, walks over her on his way up to his favourite position between the two of us.

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Jim now has received the award money check and the book contract, which makes him winning the book award seem that much more real.

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Jim's brother is still recovering. He still can't try to walk because his legs are healing and his right wrist is still healing but it's going well and shows all signs that it will continue to do so.

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Christina is trying to figure out how we can see each other this summer when the timing is so restricted because of Clarion West. Because of its timing this year I only have three weeks before I have to go back to my job, when usually I have at least one more week. And before I started working for Clarion I used to have all of July and August. But who knows, maybe sometime soon we'll be off to Scotland or to Turkey.

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The sneaux dripping off the roof outside my study sounds almost like a clock ticking.

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last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing

Listening

This has been the lamest part of this journal for a long time. I just haven't been writing much about the music I've been listening to, mostly because my listening has been so scattered recently. It's easier to write about it when I'm focused on a particular artist or disc. This week is no exception: listening to Splashdown, Sully, Baxter, Björk and more.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Forgot to mention that last week I was looking for something light and entertaining and fun, and so I re-read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and it was all three of those.

I really liked Patrick O'Leary's The Impossible Bird. It's a fascinatingly tangled story about two brothers forced to search for each other and aliens and hummingbirds and life and death--a really captivating tale and well-told, and I loved it. But I got really annoyed by him (and/or his copyeditor) not knowing that the past tense of the verb "to lie" as in "to lie down" is "lay" and not "laid". He used it a lot and it kept being a little bump in the text. And then, to top it off, there was a big chronological mistake (which i won't describe in detail because it entails spoilers, but it is clearly stated that something ended before a particular character was born and then it is shown starting after he was born). Annoying annoying annoying. I'm a little surprised how these dumb little things spoiled how much I trusted the book. I still liked it, but somehow I felt I couldn't rely on the writer,and so when there were things I liked I wasn't always sure they were intentional. Interesting how that works. A good book was tarnished for me due to sloppy editing.

I heard of Kate Berheimer's The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold on Terri Windling's Endicott studio website, which frequently comments on books that have fairy tale connections. This is an episodic novel, based on a long list of fairy tales that she acknowledges before the novel beings, but the story doesn't feel as though it leans that heavily on them; instead she leans heavily on the voice of the narrator and on the way she tells her stories. Episodic novels feel like they require a lot of energy to move from short chapter to short chapter, so it took me a while to care about finishing it, but I did generally enjoy it. It's a story about a woman's life, as she grows up the middle of three sisters, marries her high school sweetheart, breaks up with him (while going a little crazy) and builds a new life for herself.

Despite being more than weary of retellings of Arthurian stories, I borrowed Nancy Springer's I am Morgan le Fay from the library because I read such good reviews of it, and I did like it. It was set in a late medieval world and so later than most Arthurian tales and it took me a little while to adjust to the existence of books, for example, but I found this version of Morgan (and of the Fay, as well) a compelling read. I was a little saddened by how compressed the ending was; though while that really wasn't the focus of this book--her youth was--scanning over her adult life didn't seem quite the answer, either.

As usual, Patricia McKillip's Ombria in Shadow was a delight: beautifully written and magical. If I could pin down exactly how she does it, I would copy it. My only complaint is that there's something just a little bit fuzzy about these--I'm always not quite clear on the logic behind the plot's denouement or quite sure about the characters--though this isn't always a bad thing. It does allow space for the magic to be mysterious and charming and beautiful, which is a fine thing. This is about a city that has a shadow, an undercity. The prince's mistress encounters this when the king is on his deathbed and she is escorted to the gates of the palace, where, unbeknownst to her, she encounters Mag, the "waxling" belonging to a sorceress of the underground shadow world, who is beginning to get interested in interfering in the world. Then there's the Black Pearl who has engineered the prince's death, and there's the prince's bastard cousin, an of course the prince's young son who will inherit if the Black Pearl will let him live that long.... A magical story to read and re-read.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

I'm so much happier when I've been writing, even if it is just a little. I'm surprised that Jim doesn't sometimes just lock me in my room and not let me out until I've put worked on something, anything, poetry or fiction, because the world feels different to me when I have. As though the world is somehow right again, or I've fit into my place in it. This is true even if the writing isn't going so well.

So my point is that I've been in a much better mood this week, as I've been working on the novel again. Slowly, which seems to be all I'm capable of these days, but working nonetheless. Making some forward motion. It feels like a miracle.

And now I'm having to do research on close contact gun shot (rifle in this case) wounds. Sheesh. There are way too many pictures on the web--I'm getting squicked.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

June 1981

1235. Generations                            June 16, 1981

An electric cord leads into my mother's room, to which is attached, presumably, the vacuum. Downstairs, in the same position leading through the doorway of my own room is a long electric cord connected to a heater. This says something about us: my mother needs things cleaned out, while I need warmth.

1236. Notime                            July 15, 1981

Here I am in the middle of notime, waiting. Waiting for nothing but the void to shake, rise, and move away. I guess because I don't believe in love. I'm waiting for someone to rescue me. From restlessness brought from travel. I am a woman. Who (to steal). Burning from restlessness; present from travel, from being elsewhere. Where there is mountain time [1].
     Can you wonder we're nowhere when you think who we listen to? We've lost the innocence that would help us think we could move the void, find our way out. We are losing our names, finding definition.
     I am disturbed by all the distance between what I think and am, what I am and what I lack. Knowledge leads only to knowledge of lack of knowledge, confusion of "truth". Nothing can be understood. Confusion, yes, that is known. We take black, opposing sides. Mine. Yours.

1237. The story is this                            July 15, 1981

That conceived in an obscure rite
of January involving travel
and the killing of fowl, I was
to be champion. However,
in prelude to a lifetime of
equivocation, hastily I
decided to be a woman,
no knowing women were not to be
champions, but graceful. Falling
to an outside will, into grace.
Then knowing this and changing
that. Becoming champion grace.
Both, in wonder. Ying. Yang.
Whole and lonely [2].

1238. Everything and Nothing                            July 16, 1981

Borges "no one in him; behind his face...". This is suffer from as well. And in my yearning to be some one person, I play multiple parts, an actor. Read to become other, to get the sense of being one person (in wonder; in awe). Dreaming to have a sense of self, history is not enough. I'm not much of an actor, but I have chosen poetry, for which I assume personae, like roles, write the poems that are plays for my characters. Like God from the whirlwind: "Neither am I one self...and among the shapes of my dreams are you, who, like me, are many persons--and none."

1239. Dear who I was                            July 17, 1981

Dear who I was forgive me
for leaving it was
sheer desperation, I
assure you. And I know I
left not much to sustain
you: one watchful eye
one baleful Judas kiss.


NOTES

1. I had already gone to Missoula to find an apartment. My job on top of the mountain was over, I was about to go to graduate school, and yet, not yet. Missoula is on mountain time.

2. This meditation is about, first, the story of my conception. My mother tells me it involves my father coming home, very drunk, after a turkey shoot to celebrate him passing his exams. Then is it about me changing my name. I was going to be Neil if I had been a boy. Neil means "champion". BUt I was a girl and named Nancy Eileen, both of which come from the root Hannah, which means "grace". Then I added the champion (Neile) in front myself. So I am Champion Grace Grace Graham.

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