Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Springtime in the 'vine.

As much as I love to complain about the county of Orange, the Orange County city of Irvine, and the weirdly orange apartment complex I call home, living here has its benefits. We're close to the beach, not that far from L.A. (which for me also means that I'm close to family), and of course I'm within walking distance of campus.

My favorite thing about Irvine, however, is how the hills look in the spring. After January, February, and some March rains, April around here is gorgeous. Uninhabited parts are covered in tall grasses, yellow and purple flowers, blooming trees. Cottontail rabbits and squirrels abound, stalked by ever-present hawks. The sun is warm but--for now at least--the air is cool.

So every morning for the past few weeks I've started my day by just sitting on the steps of my building and looking out at the little ravine that runs parallel to Anteater Drive. The tranquility of the scene has been compromised this week by repairs to the roofs of neighboring buildings, but I don't care. The smell of tar, the pneumatic pops of nail guns, the guys in bright orange and neon yellow vests sitting down for lunch in the parking lot all just blend into the scene if you're in the right mood. After all, it's not like this is rural North Dakota--we're in Irvine. Strip mall developers won the war a long time ago. You can't take in the bunnies without the roofers, so lamenting encroachment on nature is futile.

It's best to just see it all as one and enjoy the panorama.

Over the past few days a couple of finches have settled into a gap between the steps above my door. They appear to still be building the nest, and I don't hear any baby chirps yet, so I think for now it's just the two of them. Just another starry-eyed, nervous young couple moving into a new home in Orange County. This morning when I came out for my daily sit-down-and-stare session, the finches were apparently in the middle of renovations--as soon as I stepped outside they chirped frantically and perched on a bit of railing just above my head. The female sat still, eying me warily, while the red-chested male hopped back and forth in a furious panic. They both held feathers and twigs in their beaks, as evidence that I'd interrupted them in the midst of moving in. I tried sitting low on the steps and tight against a wall so they'd realize I wasn't a threat, but they weren't having it. Their panic just increased, the female's head shifting from side to side while the male continued his angry dance. Their chirping reached a fever pitch that weirdly blended with the rhythm of the roofers' nail guns.

In the parking lot below, and directly under the panicked birds in my line of vision, one of the roofers argued with his foreman. He held a hammer in one hand and a spatula in the other, the brim of his hard hat exaggerated his nods or head shakes in response to the foreman's scolding. The foreman held a pencil and a clipboard, which he waved around while gesticulating for emphasis, or pointed at a spot on the roof of a distant building to make his case. They didn't appear to be angry at one another, but the disagreement was serious, as evinced by the mounting volume of their protests and the shiftiness of the foreman. As the roofer signaled uncomfortable resistance by crossing his arms tightly and planting his feet, the foreman spoke loudly and with gravity, pointing upward in all directions with both hands, pacing, walking in semi-circles in front of his employee while laying down the law.

Directly above them, the female bird planted herself on the railing and chirped nervously while her mate chattered in anger and repeatedly hopped over her, making it clear that he was not happy about being interrupted during the construction process.

Monday, April 11, 2011

happy thoughts with chemical assistance.

"Maybe the collapse of academia will be good for us in the long run. No, seriously! Right now we're generally acknowledged to be pretty smart. Think of how smart we'll look thirty years from now. We'll be, like, geniuses--prophets!"

- Friend, whose glass is half full

Sexy shit.

The "opposite" of the ossature is the intestines, which gets us close to Swift's disgust with the excretions of the body--a disgust, as a significant quotation from Swift in Empson's Some Versions of Pastoral makes clear, that was also linked with sex, because of the way in which the body has economized in localizing the channels of these two functions. This sense of a union between love and filth was the essence of his working credo, that "everything spiritual and valuable has a gross and revolting parody, very similar to it, with the same name." If the "life within" equals intestines, and the "life without" equals a deceptive projection of the skeleton, and the man's love of woman is secretly tied to both, maybe there is no way of making peace with the state of things. One is on the run, like Whitman, but without the "salute."
 Kenneth Burke, Attitudes Toward History

image: A Scene from 'Description of a City Shower' by Jonathan Swift.  
Edward Penny, 1764.