Archive for May 2011

Drawing On Memory (“Moonwalking With Einstein” On the Way “To His Coy Mistress”) )

May 25, 2011

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I just finished this morning Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. This wonderful book details Foer’s journey from journalist covering a U.S. memory championship competition to competitor and actual winner of the same U.S. memory championship one year later.

Foer, both “mental athelete” and terrific writer, not only describes his training for the memory championship and the crazed and blinkered world of competitive mnemonists, but also explores the historical place of memory as archiving and creative tool, and also (to the extent known) its scientific place in our personalities and brains.

This post is not intended as a review, but to mention that the book has set me off on a project of memorizing poetry.

Unfortunately, memorizing poetry is slightly less amenable to the memory tricks detailed by Foer. This, it seems to me, is because a lot of these tricks involve the use of a “memory palace” or locus, and odd visual cues and puns placed about this memory palace. These tricks are frankly not that easy for a newcomer (who is also becoming an oldtimer), but they can be especially difficult to use for poems because the memorable visual cues sometimes run directly counter to the sense of the poem.

The tricks do work though, and are especially useful for lines or segues that are hard to keep in mind.

I started this morning with two poems I already know well – To his Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell, and The Love Song of J. Alfred Profrock by T.S. Eliot. The tricks worked much better with the Marvell, maybe because coming up with images for things like “vegetable love” and (as seen above) “youthful Hue” seemed much less irreverant than mucking about with Eliot.

The picture above includes some of the images I used to keep the last stanza of the poem in mind. My memory place was my backyard, my youthful Hugh a guy I once knew (who sat in a pear tree in my yard ), the torn “Lucky Strikes” were my visual attempt to keep torn”rough strife” in mind. Treasure substituted for pleasure. (Yes, I know it sounds crazy–but it worked!)

To His Coy Mistress
by Andrew Marvell
Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love's day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast;
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart;
For, Lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

   But at my back I always hear
Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song: then worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.

   Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapt power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Tornado (Impression) All Swept Up, and Down.

May 24, 2011

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End of Vacation Comes Too Fast (In Video)

May 23, 2011

Last Day In Buenos Aires

May 22, 2011

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Last day in Buenos Aires, and it feels, for the first time, like some form of winter could actually be coming. (Maybe because this is also our first day of rain.) The city, by the way, is lovely in the rain.

Wait! Sun has come out! (Forget about some form of winter! And loveliness in the rain! Actually its still raining, but brightly sunny too, and lovely.)

Correction – More Tango In B.A. — Elephants in Boca (Dancing AND Using Brushes App)

May 21, 2011

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Last Tango In Buenos Aires? (With Elephants)

May 21, 2011

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Tango of Cars in B.A. (Not Immediately Bumping into Others, Unlike Me)

May 20, 2011

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I am sitting here at a sidewalk cafe in a shopping-residential, not particularly distinguished, section of Buenos Aires. Although not a touristy area, it is a place with a bunch of leather stores, and I’m trying to gather up the strength and resolve to go into some of them. (I hate shopping. Much caffeine and concentration is required to even get me to make the attempt.)

What’s really taking up my concentration though–aside from the need for even more caffeine–is the question of how it is possible that so many cars are passing through the intersection next to this cafe–and buses and trucks and pedestrians and bicycles, with no one bumping into each other. Each of the crossroads–Mallabia and Murillo–allows, more or less, two lanes of moving traffic; each has a pretty continual stream; there is no traffic light, or even stop sign.

Here’s how it basically works. If a car/bus/truck/ is part of a current flood of traffic dominating the intersection, they whizz by. If they are not part of the current dominating flow, they nudge nudge nudge, until they can brazen their way across. Then, when there is a break in one side of the flow, the other (brazening) side begins its flood.

I am sure that there are many accidents overall. But in the time that I’ve sat here, there has not been so much as a tap.

Which, I am forced to remember, is completely different from certain parts of my experience in last night at the wonderful La Viruta Tango (housed in an Armenia community hall), where during an informal beginner’s tango session, I could not go a whole set of steps (as in eight beats) without bumping into another set of dancers.

Maybe this is because the drivers are not looking only at their feet.

More on wonderful tango, and better milonga (a faster, simpler form of tango), later.

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