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2006-09-21 - 11:32 a.m.

...musings in the rain....

I am having difficulty keeping up with d-land these days, because my schedule is filling up with demands, and my sense of humor is a little depleted on account of the weather. Vancouver jumped precipitously from summer to full-on winter. I have realized that Mountain U. is, indeed, situated full-time in a huge RAINCLOUD when the weather turns bad. So I quite literally spend my days with my head in the clouds.

The first day of rain was still a bit shocking, and I wandered home in the cold, pouring rain without a raincoat or umbrella, in my sandals...Another factor is the lapse rate - that is, the temperature gradient. Rain is alot colder on the mountain than it is down on The Drive in East Vancouver.

I have spent a lot of time sitting on buses in the rain, watching and listening the windshield wipers scrunching along with their v-b-b-brrrrrrrgch sounds. Have you ever noticed that the bus wipers are out of phase? One thing that I find myself doing when I am carsick from reading is to watch the blades, and count how many wipes it takes for the two of them to get back into phase again. And then I start to ask myself, are they timed this way on purpose? Does it always take the same amount of time for them to wipe back into phase, and is it consistent with all buses (the answer, incidentally, is NO - because yesterday evening I saw a bus where they were in phase the whole time).

But anyway, this inevitably reminds me of my college friend named Jean, who got a degree in film in San Francisco. One of her projects dealt with antiphasing, and was inspired by bus windshield wipers, at least this is what she told one afternoon when we were taking the bus to Manhattan to see the Jasper John exhibit at the MoMA in the middle of a Nor'Easter...(the museum was closed when we got there so we walked to the village in our raincoats until we were soaked from our feet upwards, but that is a different story).

Anyway, Jean had family members who lived through the cultural revolution in China - an aunt in particular, who had lived on a work farm / camp for two years. Jean had asked her aunt about her time in the camp, about the beatings, about the hunger, and the hard work, about sleeping on mats on the floor - her aunt's reply was, "I never slept so soundly in all my life." I think that I would have been amazed by Jean's aunt.

Jean took this idea of her aunt's existence and formed it into a poem (I don't remember the exact poem but it used many of the words from the previous paragraph). And she combined this poem with the idea of phasing, where she had four film clips of Mao, of Chinese soldiers, of farmers, and of modern Beijing, and 2-3 recordings of the same poem that were cut so that they would come perfectly into phase every five minutes. In the interim, the words overlapped to give different textures of words, such as "beating soundly" "hunger poetry." I never saw this performance piece that she made, but I think about it everytime I sit on a bus and watch the windshield wipers go out of phase. I must remember to tell her that sometime.

So today I am out at Penninsula U., having listened to a small informal talk given by an emeritus prof who is clearly one of the greats of our field, and congenial to boot. His was an interesting talk; there was a wonderful discussion produced; and I feel very much a part of this group out here. Sadly, a little more so that at Mountain U. at this point..but I am working on this.

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