<= 2003.03

2003.06 =>

[APRIL 2003.]

guitarra contra mundo

Okay, I admit that I have not been giving the website my all this week. The twelve-track arrived yesterday and I've been in a sort of compositional daze, drinking coffee and eating peanut butter sandwiches and playing enough guitar to leave semipermanent indentations on the fingertips of my left hand.

On Friday I am going to Reno to enter the fascinating and treacherous world of mining law. I'll be up there the entire month of May working forty-hour weeks, something I've managed to avoid for the past four or five years. At the end of the month I will fly to Portland and impose on Chelsey's hospitality while I search for an apartment; on June 4th I will return here and spend a month in the heat, doing God knows what, before I pack up the U-Haul and head out.

I'll start posting again when I'm back in town. I hope to have a record for you, and God willing, some good news on the publishing front. We'll see.


rabbit rabbit

The constellation Lepus doesn't look like anything.

Night of the Lepus (1972): giant mutant rabbits terrorize Tucson. Includes DeForest Kelley (Star Trek's Dr. McCoy).


heart of the lotus

Marlowe found the Dalai Lama's op-ed.


a very bad accident for pooh bear

Stupid me, assembling drum sequences and then accidentally deleting them. Concentrate, Kerschen.


sator resatus

I've gotten far enough into the Webern set to discover Konzert, opus 24, which is supposedly based off that multidimensional Latin palindrome he had inscribed on his tombstone. I'm not sure. My ear isn't good enough to catch many of the serialist head games, and it isn't as immediately pretty as many of the earlier pieces. Here's what the liner notes say:

Concerto for nine instruments, Op. 24 (1934)

This Concerto is a supreme example of Webern's strict(-ly musical) application of disciplined procedures and of his continual striving for the perfection of "comprehensibility... the ultimate principle in the presentation of musical thought." This clarity of presentation as achieved by an absolute 'rightness' of internal balance... "by relating everything to what is already present in the principle [did they mean principal? I think Germans wrote this -Ed.] part: by repeating it in various combinations, by introducing the course of thematic events not only horizontally but vertically; by aspiring toward an all-embracing unity, deriving as much as possible from one principal idea."

This is music of small dimensions, shorn of all expansive gestures and of any desire to create musical 'vistas.' In the first movement, tiny, three-note motifs (all of which are interrelated in melodic structure) are rhythmically defined in notes of varying lengths, and articulated with every conceivable differentiation of attack by the single-line instruments—as well as being formed into chords on the piano. A continual ebbing and flowing of the tempo punctuates the phrase-endings—characterizing the movement with a restless energy.

In the subdued Adagio of the second movement, the same melodic material is so organized that the slow-moving piano chords (which are often grouped in threes, across the two-beats-to-the-bar rhythm of the governing pulse) form a background entirely built from intervals of thirds and sevenths. These chords provide the central thread around which the other instruments trace a widely-spaced melody of contrasting colours. As in the first movement, shapes, pitches and melodic configurations return in a quasi recapitulatory manner—but only with the purpose of placing themselves in yet other contexts.

The third movement is an abrupt reversal of mood: its springing staccato attacks and syncopated rhythms approach a brash abandon—especially in the insistently misplaced accents of the fortissimo coda—which is unique in Webern's output. The three-note motifs and chords are as evident here as in the previous movements, so that the work as a whole has the unity of a set of variations—being three different characterizations of the same threefold idea.

Note that they're adhering to the typographic rules of British English: no serial comma in an essay about serialism! Oh, the irony! Okay, I've been spending too much time alone if I find that funny. I will repeat that the palindrome is still better than the big block of tofu they buried Schoenberg under.

My digital drummer showed up. So long as he doesn't pull a Spinal Tap on me, we're good to go.


l'homme musical

Yesterday we reached the inevitable point where my credit card company called to make sure my card hadn't been stolen, given how much musical equipment I've bought in the last couple of days. I am now the proud owner of a big red Fender Precision bass (which, at my sister's suggestion, I am calling "Ulysses"), while the digital 12-track recorder and the software library of drum samples are on their way via UPS. Along with the Telecaster, my father's acoustic guitars, my great-grandmother's upright piano, a couple of keyboards, and a borrowed microphone, these should get the job done. Last night I wiped my hard drive clean and reinstalled a minimal amount of software in hopes of turning this creaky laptop into a big bad audio workstation. Unfortunately I'll be spending the entire month of May earning money in Nevada, so the project will have to go on hiatus just as it's getting into gear. Nonetheless, it's better than sitting around fretting about which desks in New York my manuscript has crossed.


the unable man

I'm not entirely sure why I find this so funny, but I maintain that nothing improves existentialism like Google's translator.

The existence of the man is useless. It does not have any direction. And it is besides the same thing for all the alive species that we know today. However, we are most unhappy of all the species because the destiny gave us this poisoned gift which is the reason and that is what distinguishes us from the others (trumpets and brass bands...) since the paddle of humanity. We are thus the only ones with knowing that we know. We are the only ones with being able to realize that our existence is meaningless. The roof of the irony is that the reason precisely allowed us to learn that it itself was subjected to our passions. A little with the manner of Hobbes which posed the inequation passion reason as being a form of brutal hedonism, thus explaining the need for the man to have the capacity on the things, even nature, and to adapt them. It results from it then another need, corollary that one, that to obtain a state to protect these assets without what, anarchy would end up reigning.


ways and means

After tea we went into the garden, where he [Thomas Hardy] asked to see some of my new poems. I fetched him one, and he wondered whether he might offer a suggestion: the phrase 'the scent of thyme', which occurred in it, was, he said, one of the clichés which poets of his generation had studied to avoid. Could I perhaps alter it? When I replied that his contemporaries had avoided it so well that I could now use it without offence, he withdrew the objection.

'Do you write easily?' he enquired.

'This poem is in its sixth draft and will probably be finished in two more.'

'Why!' he said, 'I have never in my life taken more than three, or perhaps four, drafts for a poem. I am afraid it might lose its freshness.'

He said that he could once sit down and write novels to a time-table, but that poetry always came by accident, which perhaps was why he prized it more highly.

—Robert Graves, Good-Bye to All That


caustic primavera

Had an awful dream last night, in which Emma Marlowe had been born with the same type of eye cancer as the little girl in my novel; of course I felt responsible. On the plus side, she was already speaking in complete sentences at seven days old.

Our family always used to celebrate Easter by eating a lot of ham. I don't know what's on the table this year; my dad's in charge. Probably some kind of vegetarian Trader Joe's meal out of the freezer, which is all right—nothing was sadder than the Christmas where my dinner was a pizza I made myself, in the toaster oven, from string cheese and a bagel.

Happened to find the complete works of Anton Webern used at PDQ; it's easier going than I expected. Everything the man wrote in his lifetime, or at least everything he graced with an opus number, fits on three CDs. The pieces are minimalist in the sense of actually being minimal, as opposed to the four-hour Philip Glass organscapes. The individual notes mean a lot more; texture rises to the forefront, and the phrases are compact, symmetrical, and enigmatic, like I Ching hexagrams. It's music to contemplate.



A visitor writes:

Early one mornin while makin the rounds

And it's true; we can't get enough of "Cocaine Blues" around here. I may have to cover that a lot, once I become a fixture on the Portland acoustic-rock scene. (That's tongue-in-cheek, kids.) In any case, with the book effectively done, I now have to fight the impulse to fret about the future. For the moment the wheels are turning without any involvement on my part, and I would be well advised to pretend that I am, say, an executive sales manager from Wisconsin on vacation at this Arizona country club. Read. Pick up the paintbrush again. Work on my serve.


good friday

San Xavier del Bac: originally we thought it was the oldest white man's structure in the U.S., then perhaps the oldest church in the U.S., then perhaps the oldest mission. We eventually decided that it's probably the oldest church west of the Mississippi. In the parking lot someone was buying a dog from the Tohono O'Odham, who are the tribe living in the local village of Wa:k. We never figured out how you're supposed to pronounce the colon, as they kicked us out of the room where you view the video (narrated by Linda Ronstadt) early because of some "holy" week.


st vincent de paul's feast day

Alas, the thrift stores were not as kind as we hoped in the furniture department; but the fifty-cent LP bins yielded such unlikely treasures as Television's Marquee Moon, Pixies' Trompe le Monde, Johnny Cash live at San Quentin, and Poem for strings, organ, 4 trumpets, 2 pianos and percussion: To the memory of those who died during the blockade of Leningrad by the avant-garde Soviet composer Andrei Petrov—this last being a sufficiently obscure work that this was the only info I could find.

We've been too busy eating pizza and having our collective ass kicked by the chess computer to say much else, but I did receive quite the hypothesis from Gaw:

Eureka! I think I've figured out why more people in Hong Kong are dying than in the US. It's the pollution! This article talks about how a much higher fraction of smokers require mechanical ventilation when they get SARS.Well living in Taipei for 3 months is like smoking a pack a day (according to anecdotal evidence I collected from US kids who were here for a summer and then went home and got their regular physical). So you in Arizona are very likely much better off...



Lauren and Joe came rolling in for a visit late last night. Today we are visiting thrift stores, on the theory that thrift stores in Arizona actually are stocked with cheap crap no one wants, as opposed to thrift stores in California, which suffer from proletariat chic and hence are not actually so thrifty.

I'm glad that the preliminary Iraq government talks are happening in Ur. I had no idea that was still a viable city.


lord lazarus

Okay, kids, sorry about that. After spending Saturday and half of Sunday cleaning away the 8-10 inches of detritus (clothes, books, manuscripts, kitchenware, empty bottles of Canada Dry™ tonic water) that had accumulated on every available surface in the apartment during the last burst of composition, I have had time to open the Device Manager and fuck around with network settings I know nothing about (half? full? duplex?) until I found something that made the little ICQ flower go green.

The test is behind me. I keep realizing things I probably missed, like the Chekhov question that I flubbed because I forgot that Tolstoy wasn't the only Russian with a heroine named Anna, or my inability to remember which brilliant but questionable post-structuralist wrote Desire in Language or which Romantic wrote about "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings," but I suspect it will turn out all right in the end. It's a stupid hoop, I jumped through it, give me my Ding Dong.

The book still needs some triage, but it's complete enough for overtures to have gone into the mail, viz.:

[Y] Agency
[Z] Street
New York, NY 100[XX]

12 April 2003

Dear Mr./Ms. [X],

Enclosed is a synopsis and first chapter for Song of Roland, a literary novel that I began writing while a student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In May 2002 I received my MFA and, on the strength of an early draft of this book, a Glenn Schaeffer postgraduate fellowship, which has allowed me to write full-time this year. The manuscript is now complete and I am seeking representation. Your name was recommended to me by several friends from Iowa, including [A] and [B], as well as [C].

Roland Vandenberg, the protagonist, is a student cancer researcher in Tucson whose family suffers from a rare, genetically linked form of eye cancer. His sister died of it as a child, and his mother is now dying as well, a thousand miles away at the family home in Seattle. Roland’s research concerns an herb used in Chinese medicine that might be developed into a cancer cure, but his results are far from conclusive. Much of the novel tracks his ambivalence toward his laboratory work and toward his mother, a celebrated composer whose domineering personality had much to do with his choice of career. Matters are further complicated when he meets Anna Greco, a waitress at a local coffee shop whose father is dying of leukemia and who convinces Roland to pose as her fiancé. Eventually, after a fire forces Roland to leave his laboratory, he and Anna return to Seattle for a final confrontation with his mother before her death.

I have some experience with laboratory work in molecular biology, and that specialized knowledge plays a substantial role in the story, though its presentation is not so arcane as to cause the general reader any difficulty. My familiarity with the theory of music composition and with the landscape of Tucson, where I grew up, have served as secondary resources.

I have included an envelope for reply; return of the enclosed chapter is not necessary. I will be happy to send a complete manuscript if this novel strikes you as something you might wish to represent. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


Paul Kerschen



Bodies found by British forces near Basra in southern Iraq were Iranian soldiers killed during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, state-run Tehran radio reported Sunday.

British forces said Saturday they found hundreds of boxes containing human remains in a warehouse near Zubayr. They appeared to be the remains of people who had died some time ago - not in the current fighting.

What now, Brothers, is Death? The parting, the disappearance, of beings out of this or that Order of beings; the rending asunder, the ruin, the death, the dissolution, the end of the life-period, the disappearance of the Aggregates of Existence, the putrefaction of the corpse: this, Brothers, is called Death.

What now, Brothers, is Sorrow? Whatsoever, Brothers, through this or the other loss which one undergoes, through this or the other misfortune which one encounters, is sorrow, trouble, affliction, inward distress, inward woe: this, Brothers, is called Sorrow.

What now, Brothers, is Lamentation? Whatsoever, Brothers, through this or the other loss which one undergoes, through this or the other misfortune which one encounters, is plaint and lamentation, wailing and bemoaning, mourning and unalloyed lamentation: this, Brothers, is called Lamentation.


fit the fifth

Spybot - Search & Destroy can detect and remove spyware of different kinds from your computer. Spyware is a relatively new kind of threat that common anti-virus applications do not yet cover. If you see new toolbars in your Internet Explorer that you didn't intentionally install, if your browser crashes, or if you browser start page has changed without your knowing, you most probably have spyware. But even if you don't see anything, you may be infected, because more and more spyware is emerging that is silently tracking your surfing behaviour to create a marketing profile of you that will be sold to advertisement companies. Spybot-S&D is free, so there's no harm in trying to see if something snooped into your computer, too.

I had dozens of them—and if you spend any significant time on the web, you probably do too. Happily, this nice free German program will remove them for you.


axis of dixie

Chapter 11 is done, at least in rough form. At any rate I've written the part that, should the book ever be published, the back cover will refer to as the SHOCKING AND UNEXPECTED CONCLUSION. One chapter remains, In Which We Will Engage In What Our Military Government Calls "Mopping Up."

Did I ever think I would see sentences like these in my lifetime?

Among other obvious results of this imbalance, we have an unelected President, and we are in an unnecessary war promoted by the right's web of organizations and media. People who object are called "unpatriotic," and even face severe economic consequences, like the Dixie Chicks and France.


scribbled last month in portland

when each new day
puts a new burden in play, you get stronger
carry the stones a bit longer
building your missile launcher

mithridates poisoned himself day by day
with a small dose
just strong enough to slow his pulse
he lived to be old, then flew back to the fold


t minus

Paul Burkhardt sends helpful writing advice:

When I visited Hemingway's writing studio in Key West, I learned that he often wrote ("in agony," the tour guide said) while sitting on a cigar rolling stool. From what I remember, it looked like a crude version of those late-'80s backless computer chairs. You might be able to find one at a rummage sale and convert it.

April 12th is the day I take the lit GRE, and I have decided it is also the day that, come hell or high water, I will drop query letters in the mail, accompanied by the first two chapters of the book. This doesn't necessarily mean that the manuscript will be done by that date; but it will have to be done 10 or so days later, by which time some of the agents might conceivably want to see more. I am running out of patience with this thing. I am thinking of the pursuits I'll be able to enjoy once the Scylla and Charybdis of the book and the exam are past me: piano, chess, tennis, German, home recording, painting, and a fuckload of reading—I'm far behind. It's either self-improvement disguised as fun, or fun disguised as self-improvement; I'm not sure.

Victims of circumstance: the war's first conscientious objector and Norway's Saddam Hussein, who is getting his name changed.


burro creek

The hot half of the year is here, and I have a cold. There's nothing more disorienting than walking around stuffed up when it's 90 degrees out. There's nothing to do but sit at the computer with no shirt on and feel like I'm fulfilling some kind of manly Hemingway ethos as I try to expel these last chapters. I'm not certain it's working.

Mining is still the backbone of Bagdad. Visitors will find small town charm. The town sits at an elevation of 4,101 feet. The warm desert climate has a winter low temperature of 40 degrees and summer high temperature of 100 degrees. If you are in search of a relaxed place to live or visit, then Bagdad is for you.


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