September 14, 2007

Miserable day here in Seoul today, pouring and windy and even kind of chilly. With the neon, the rain, all the umbrellas, the chaotic movement in the crowded streets, it really does take on a Blade Runner feel at times.

Being in a foreign country with nobody to talk to and no friends for thousands of miles does wonders for one's other pursuits besides sightseeing: much time to play the fiddle and to read, for example.

The two things are not unrelated, and they do make me feel not quite so far from things (or no further than I usually am).

The is the first year since 2000 that I am not spending this weekend at the Rockbridge old time music festival. That is one of my favorites-small, in a beautiful spot, with good dances each night and much end of the festival year music making, always a great time. I miss it, but what are you going to do.

Going to that festival in 2001, just a few days after 9-11 really did much to restore my sense of balance, I will never forget that.

I brought a fiddle mute with me here, so my neighbors won't hate me. Since I've been here I've mostly been into the tunes of Gene Goforth and of course the great Ernie Carpenter. With the mute on I can play at one or two in the morning and it is quiet, only sounds like kittens mewing instead of cats being skinned.

I sent out a few boxes of books. Under the terms of my deal I was allowed to send them out APO, which works like domestic mail, but not back the same way. So, they were cheap to send and I took advantage of that, figuring I would jettison many once read and bring back only the ones that need bringing back. Many of them are for my class prep, but a lot of them are other books I have been wanting to read.

I have a soft spot for country music stars' biographies, and the Ernest Tubb bio by Ronnie Pugh was good, though Tubb was such an honorable man there were only a few salacious details in there (drinking of course, gambling, shooting up the lobby of a building once, that is about it). It was amazing how many other country singers he got started, encouraged, and supported throughout his half century career.

I'm in the middle of Hugh Thomas' history of the conquest of Mexico called Conquest: Montezuma, Cortes, and the Fall of Mexico. What a great book. Like all of Thomas' books, it is insanely huge, well written, detail packed, and very interesting. "Magisterial" is the obligatory book review word.

I can highly recommend a couple of novels I just finished : John Williams' Butchers Crossing is a fine book-- very well written, compelling story, and a very interesting take on the western. That was suggested to me by a well read friend of mine and he was right, it is a great book.

I am closing in on finishing all of Cormac McCarthy's stuff wishing there were more to read. I have written about him earlier in the summer on Undismayed as I have been reading everything of his over the past few months. working backward. I had read Blood Meridian when it came out and stopped there for any number of reasons that I forget, having I am sure to do with being a moron, but then read everything since the Border trilogy and now reading everything earlier has just been a revelation. Apparently the revelation was postponed since it didn't take 20 years ago. (how has it been 20 years, really?) Today avoiding the rain and not having to teach I finished the Orchard Keeper which is superbly, beautifully written. The narrative, characterization, and so on is ok but the writing is simply flat out great.

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