Friday, March 31, 2006

White on white over grey


White on white over grey
Originally uploaded by chacal la chaise.
Wednesday proved to be rather strange. First, I arrived at school early to finish my Latin translation. Currently, we are on Chapter 37 of the Oxford Latin course, which is Volume III of the series. All seemed to be going well, although a few too many ran into class late. It seems their cigarettes took a little longer to smoke than usual. As our professor called on us, one by one, no one seemed to be prepared. Most were trying to translate on the fly. One after one he called on them, and this was making his mood even worse. I could see this was going nowhere fast. Then, he called on one last girl and alas, she too was not prepared.

Like an ancient Greek philosophy master, he threw up his hands in disgust, said he didn't need to take this, that we weren't working hard enough, and that those who needed to do the work obviously didn't care. He said what the assignment was for Monday, walked out, and left us sitting there. Actually, it better that he did; I'm sure we can all use a break from each other. Thank goodness for Caesar Chavez's birthday because we have the day off. Now, we are past the point of dropping, and as many of us are cleared to graduate; in essence, we have no choice but to tough it out with him.

Of course, almost everyone left immediately, cheering as they went. A few of us stayed in the class to chat and look over our work. Actually, we looked over the work for about 2 minutes and talked for about 40. Afterwards, I went to the Academic Services Center and submitted my paperwork for the graduate program I'll be starting in the fall. Then I thought I would take a walk to MJ's office. Along the way, I was able to capture some interesting architectural details in this old neighborhood near El Paso High School.

Plaza Theatre :: Celebration

On March 16, we went to the grand re-opening of the Plaza Theatre. After the initial hoopla by the officials, they lit the marquee, launched small fireworks, and opened the doors to the public. Although, we stood outside for about 20 minutes past the time and even had to wait because too many people had entered before us once the doors were opened. But in the end, it was worth the wait.

Interestingly enough, I discovered that you can photograph on spec, although many professional photographers would tell you not to do it. I was able to help the Community Foundation by supplying several photographs for a couple of projects for the theatre.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Plaza Theatre-beginning of Renovation

About four years ago, I took this photo; while I later saw the Plaza Theatre several times before the renovation began, one visit stood out above the rest.

Cynthia Farah-Haines was giving a presentation to the Historical Society about El Paso's theatres, which I had arranged. The last possible date was May because any time after that was much too hot—the Plaza had no functioning air conditioners. A reproduction Wurlitzer was delivered the day before and someone was going to play it for us.

Now, the society’s average member age must be around 70, and I was a bit worried they might have difficulties entering the building. However, any fears vanished as soon as I saw their reaction to the organ music. It was as if they were the children of Hamlin and the organist was the Pied Piper.

These children of The Great Depression slowly walked inside through a plywood door, which covered the original entrance. With canes, or arm-in-arm with their partners they cautiously walked along the long, open foyer with its red Spanish tile floor. They climbed a few stairs, and continued to an old concession stand. There, popcorn and red berry punch was set out for them. They chatted a bit about their youth and then they began walking into bowels of that ratty and dusty old theatre. Down the dimly lit aisle, and up to the front near the stage, they went. Looking around the near empty and cavernous palace, they saw their memories were safely stored away for them to retrieve that day.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Disappearing Ink


Disappearing Ink
Originally uploaded by chacal la chaise.
Finally, I uploaded my most recent photos to flickr, which allowed me time to think about what Mr. Gioia (head of the NEA) said about the downward turn in reading levels for all Americans.

At first, I disagreed, but of course, it's because I'm in school where it write and read for course, write this blog, read the blogs Curtie writes, and read Capote, Didion, and Zola. Well, doesn't everyone? Now that's all just bougie, self-serving rubbish.

Recalling various snippets of words between classes with student peers, I realized many pride themselves on how little they read. They smile, saying they "get away" with reading as little as possible.

One friend boasted she passed her Humanities and Literature courses by only using online synopsis she found. Or, she bought $5 blue or yellow-striped books when necessary; she also lamented she had to really read for a genre (Detective Fiction) class we took together. This was because the reading list was so specific and rather obscure that she had to read the books for the class.

Another friend told me he would start reading once he entered graduate school. Of course, he'd said that also thought the exact same thing when he was in high school: "I'll read when I get to college."

Well, ungraduate work is now over for him, though there is no doubt he'll attempt to do the same for his graduate courses; he'll scrape the internets or buy those yellow-striped or bright blue synopsis cheater books. Don't even ask me about conversations with current schoolteachers, taking graduate classes at night, who beam that they've found the holy grail of laminated literature, more plastic cheats at the UTEP bookstore. You know the rest.

Yes, Mr. Gioia, this is a nation of readers-by-proxy. We confine our reading to flat laminated sheets in order to pass our classes. For all our sakes, I hope this city runs with open arms to embrace your program, The Big Read.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Judge & Typewriter


The Judge & Typewriter
Originally uploaded by chacal la chaise.
...Poet Dana Gioia, on the other hand, uses his typewriter continuously, pecking out poems and correspondence. (The poems he writes out first in longhand.) "I've proven to people that I can write a letter quicker on a typewriter than they can on a computer," said Gioia, who is chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. "I also like the physical feel of a typewriter. I like the noise it makes, I like to be able to physically put paper in it. It's as quick and efficient as a computer and much more sensuous, in a way."

Read the entire article here.*

Today, I missed Aesthetics (although I told my professor I would be absent) so I could sit and listen to a talk given by Dana Gioia, current head of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of Mr. Gioia because my camera went dead. But he did sign my copy of his book Disappearing Ink.

I soon left afterwards and returned to MJ's office, where I dug around on the internet for more information about this man of letters and public service. That's when I found the above quote from an Atlanta Journal Constitution article about the demise of typewriters. I don't know why, but I kind of thought it a counterpoint to Mr. Gioia's 1991 book-length essay, "Can Poetry Matter?" Back then, the book raised this art's ghostly specter as if it no longer seemed to have any raison d'etre in today's world. At the time, poetry seemed to be at death's door, retreating into either the world of street, cowboy, or the academian towers--where coded reams of creative writing programs and peer-reviewed journals dwelt.

Of course he had to write that essay, he was then living the life as undercover artist--seller of jello by day and poet by night. But I digress, because I'm happy to say that poetry has kind of recovered, brought back to the hands of everyman/woman. It is this very recovery which he writes about in his book, which he signed for me saying Best wishes, signed in permanent ink.

Aside from being asked to come speak, I believe he was also here on a promotional road trip for a new community NEA reading program called, "The Big Read," which is being rolled out in May. As he signed my book, I asked if he had contacted Dave Eggers about his 826 Valencia Street writing project for children. He said he would be meeting with him in conjunction with the Big Read program. I think there can be great synergy created by these two ideas coming together and hope all the bilingual kinks get worked out so that it is a success.

It is funny that this should even be needed. On XM's BBC Radio, we've been listening to readings of the short list for the BBC's World Service Short Story Competition. These are wonderful, exotic stories that are read by excellent actors/readers. I hope they publish the stories with a CD because there are a few I would like to listen to again, especially "One Night in Bangkok" by Tracey Martin (Phnom Penh, Cambodia), which was a runner-up in the competition.

*get a bugmenot login here if you can't read the entire article:

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