I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
February 29, 2012 - 11:00 a.m.
I've been putting off writing today but not for the usual reasons. Today I'm having doubts if I'm up to putting into words what I want to say. I still don't have a handle on it but the only way to write is to actually write.
How can I never adjust to the idea that my students aren't good students? It happens every semester. At least this class is better than last semester's calculus 2 class. But I still get frustrated. I'm trying something new, I haven't been saying anything when students leave in the middle of class and disappear for a while. I think I should but not in response to someone leaving. I'll say it at the start of my next class. There's a test coming up. I gave them a list of topics that are going to be on the test. All I did was go over the homework I assigned to find the list. They could have done exactly the same thing. They should have done exactly the same thing. I heard one student said, "The best I can hope for is a 65." He's one of the students that I see has not been making an effort. His mind is always someplace else. Does he not see the connection?
They aren't all bad, there are some good students that I love having around. I don't talk about them but I should. They ask good questions. They pay attention. They make eye contact. They seem to actually want to learn. There aren't many but there are a few.
I've been doing lots of things in the City after school recently which means staying in my office for a few hours after class. Too bad I don't have an office. I'm just in the math office/tutoring lab. There's no privacy. I would love to take a nap some days but that is not an option any more. What I do is put in my earphones and listen to something on my computer to shut out everyone else. When I can I play on turntable.fm with Carey. That's what I did yesterday for an hour or so. She rescued me from talking to someone I didn't want to talk to.
When Carey had to go I got some real work done. I made up most of a practice test I'm going to hand out tomorrow. Yes I don't like doing that but I need to do something to win over this class and students love it when you give them review sheets. If I base the test on it then it isn't too much extra work. The question is do I include all possible topics or do I make it a realistic length for a test. I think I'll do the latter. That makes them happy to see what a test is like and it makes me happy because I can make it clear that studying from the sheet is not enough, that they have to go through their notes and homework.
I ran to Trader Joe's after class to pick up a few things. One was the cheese of the month, chocolate cheddar that Carey said was the best thing ever. They didn't have it. I asked and was told they only had it in February. I pointed out that it was February. This was my first bad neuro experience at Trader Joe's. Why not have the cheese of the month go with the actual month? What's the point of switching a few days early? I decided that it wasn't worth standing in line to buy the other things as I also wanted to get some perishables and that was not an option last night so I'll make the trek to the Queens Trader Joe's today. That is not nearly as convenient. I especially want to get the andouille sausage so I can make the plantain and sausage soup/stew, whatever I should be calling it.
And now to my real point; I went to see Anaïs Mitchell at Joe's Pub. It was the release party for her new CD, Young Man in America. This is what I'm not sure if I'm up to writing about. I'm not going to do my usual discussion of my seats and where I sat. There isn't much socializing to discuss. Amazingly I didn't know one person at the show. Where were you? This was the show to see. I did have a great conversation with the lovely woman that shared my table. I have to love someone that goes to Kerrville every year and knows Anaïs from there.
That's just putting off talking about the music. I'm taking the plunge.
Anaïs takes us places nobody else can. She is no longer classic folk singer girl, Hadestown has transformed her. Her music is Orphean a gift from the gods. She performed with a great band. The band did not just enhance the songs; it was an integral part of it. She expresses herself not just through lyrics and melody but orchestration. She is writing art songs. The subject is not grand like Hadestown. She is writing about our common experiences and making them mythic. There is so much going on, the lyrics, harmonies, and instrumental lines. They all come together creating something that is more than the sum of the parts. It involves more than your ears. The listener is taken to a different world. It isn't an opera but opera is what I kept coming back to. There are echoes of Porgy and Bess and Le Nozze di Figaro. She finds the divine in the human experience while never forgetting the humanity. She does all this without pretense. On stage she's still the Anaïs that I can talk about Muppets with.
She might never be a breakthrough star. She's Mozart not Salieri. You have to give her music your full attention to get all you can from it. It doesn't have a good beat, you can't dance to it. She isn't saying simple things that everyone already feels. The masses might never love her but those that live and breathe music find her transcendent.
I've heard people complain about her voice. Now I don't get that at all as I love her voice. But even if I didn't it wouldn't stop me from loving her music. People who can't get past her voice are not experiencing music the same way I am. It is so much more than a sound in your ear. The ear is just the portal to your mind and soul. She reaches deep inside and transforms you.
The biggest problem with Joe's pub is that the shows are far too short, half the length of one at City Winery. Rachel Ries was part of her band, playing keyboard and harmonizing. Rachel is a great musician in her own right. At other stops on the tour she opens for Anaïs. At Joe's Pub there is no time for an opener. That's a shame.
After the show I bought the new CD and talked to Anaïs. I love that I can hear a great artist and then see a smile come on her face when she sees me and get a big hug. That's living large.
I'm not going to reread what I just wrote. I afraid that I'm missing the mark. I'm afraid that I'll try and moderate what I wrote and I don't want to moderate it. I don't care if it sounds like hyperbole. It isn't. It's just an inadequate expression of how I feel.
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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