Thursday, October 30, 2008

Spare Parts Poem

Some of R. Brautigan's work feels to me like it's made of bits and pieces that he had lying around the shop.

Here is one of my own made of mostly spare parts. I say 'mostly' because I think it does have some structure and adhesion to it.

How to make autumn

Where are all these people going? Isn’t
it wonderful and amazing that there
are so many different styles of automobile?

Freedom of choice!
Choose your poison.
Put the top down.
Turn the radio up.

Do all these people really need or want
to be someplace else?
As soon as we arrive, we start planning to leave.

I'm pleased the Phillies won the World Series, though watching it on the Fox network was painful, and not just because of the nasty weather. Tim McCarver continues to make odd statements and just plain stupid observations.

For example: One of the pitchers threw two changeups in a row. Timmy described this as unusual, saying that it's OK to throw two fastballs in a row or two curveballs, but a pitcher would have to have lots of confidence to think he can throw two changeups in a row. Timmy did not explain why this is so. He simply said it, as if the truth of it were obvious to everyone. His broadcast partner did not respond in any fashion at all, which usually means his broadcast partner has realized that Timmy just laid another one. But I really do want to know why. I thirst for more baseball knowledge, and Timmy did not even try to quench my thirst!

Do any readers of this blog (this means you, Rob) have any idea why a pitcher should never throw two changeups in a row?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Save the buckthorn! (Part III)

According to the Minnesota Historical Society, the first official pheasant hunting season in Minnesota began on October 16, 1924. The ring-necked pheasant was introduced to Minnesota in about 1905. It isn’t native to these parts. In fact, the Historical Society says it was brought here from China. China!

Why aren’t environmentalists and historic preservationists falling all over themselves trying to rid the state of pheasant? Like the zebra mussel, purple loosestrife, and buckthorn, pheasant don’t belong here!

Pheasant probably pushed the native prairie chicken population from Minnesota into the Dakotas, so pheasant could be considered invasive. The species has only been here for a century or so, which is pretty recent considering that most animals began to populate this region ten thousand years ago, as the ice receded.

If you aren’t willing to eradicate pheasant, then I’m not willing to join the fight against buckthorn.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Smoke and Mirrors

There was surprisingly little smoke (and no mirror).

Helped a friend do the inaugural firing of her wood kiln last Sunday. It was fun. She had spent three hours stacking and restacking the ware before I showed up. We spent another hour assembling the lid and putting the chimney extension up through the roof of the shed. The firing itself took about 7.5 hours. I stoked and kept the logbook for about half that time. In exchange for my help, she made room for a couple of my pots.

She is a meticulous potter, and that characteristic extends to her kiln building and firing. She had planned every detail and the firing went off almost exactly as she had laid it out. The only problem was that the damper mechanism jammed up about halfway through. The mechanism involved two small rectangular pieces of kiln shelf (silicone carbide, I think) sliding through vertical openings on either side of the chimney as it came out of the back of the kiln. She had made the shelf pieces fit too well into the slots – they swelled in the heat and got stuck, so we couldn’t adjust them. Because the kiln is made of soft refractory brick, we used a length of thin metal, like a putty knife, to make the slots just a little wider. Worked fine from then on. She was very disappointed at this design problem that she felt she should have anticipated. But the whole thing – from the clever way the removable top section of the chimney stack was designed, to the simple but effective method for keeping that stack from wobbling in the stiff wind, to the extremely precise use of a secondary atmospheric damper – was so well executed, the temporary damper problem seemed to me a minor (and easily fixed) setback.

I have long wanted to build a small gas-fired kiln for my own work and this experience helped me see how challenging that will be!

My pieces turned out poorly, but that had nothing to do with the kiln or the firing. I had grabbed them off a shelf of pots that were in the not-very-good-but-worth-using-in-a-test-someday category. If there is a next time, I'll be prepared with better stock.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

New short poem


“Just get in the damn car,” he said
with a resigned sigh.
He spread his hands out slowly
and put them on top of the car.
He hung his head between his outstretched arms
and closed his eyes for a moment,
as if willing himself to be somewhere
I expected anger, so his calm unnerved me.
I hesitated.
He looked up at me and nodded once.
as if to say “OK.”
He drew in a long deep breath,
got in the car,
put on his hat,
and drove slowly away.

--- Jim Haas

Friday, October 10, 2008

Capsule Review

Saw "The View from the Bridge" last night at the Guthrie. First visit since the new building opened on the riverfront.

The building: Not good, except for the cantilevered walkway with a terrific view of the Mississippi river and downtown. The thrust stage is very nice, too, but that's because it is faithful to Rapson's design of the original Guthrie. The rest of the building is dark, stark, confusing, uninviting.

The play: Excellent. Outstanding. The acting was superb, especially Marco, whose pride was subtle and fierce. An understudy played the part of the lawyer/narrator. He was marvelous. His grief and his sense of responsibility were utterly convincing. And the script, of course, is just amazing, pulling the audience in. The plot is simple but the characters complex. You have to think.

Recommendation: Go! Enjoy! Overlook the stupid pop architecture but savor the powerful theatrical experience.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Let's Cook!

My lovely wife made a hearty beef stew earlier this week. I was going to bring some of the leftovers to work for lunch today (it tastes even better after a day or two) but forgot.

Ah, well. Just thinking about it makes me smile.

Here's a poem by Richard Brautigan from "The Pill Versus the Spring Hill Mine Disaster." For some reason, I believe it was written in the Fall.

The Garlic Meat Lady from

We're cooking dinner tonight.
I'm making a kind of Stonehenge
Marcia is helping me. You
already know the legend
of her beauty.
I've asked her to rub garlic
on the meat. She takes
each piece of meat like a lover
and rubs it gently with garlic.
I've never seen anything like this
before. Every orifice
of the meat is explored, caressed
relentlessly with garlic.
There is a passion here that would
drive a deaf saint to learn
the violin and play Beethoven at

Note to purists: I am aware that in the original, a number of these lines are indented, which gives the poem a better rhythm. For the life of me, I cannot figure out how to make Blogger recognize the indentation. I'm sorry.