Classes started here on Tuesday. Courses at Brown this year...not as potentially interesting as last semester (though last semester pretty much sucked anyway), and it promises to be a lot more work-intensive. Chinese 10, the first level of the language. Meets every day, instead of the typical 2 or 3 times per week. It's going to be a lot of work, but hopefully it will be useful. I already can say "Hello" and "My name is..." and "What's your name?" and I can even count to ten. This must be where that $30,000 per year is going. Hypertext Theory. Interesting, but intimidating, since lots of my high-level Computer Science friends are in it. One of them made the comment as we went into the room that this professor is "frighteningly on the ball", i.e. well organized. Must be, because he didn't show up to class, and some sort of TA-type person told us that the professor had expected classes to be a different day. Art History 1: Intro to Western Art from 1300-present. Nothing much there, just an intro and part of the Visual Arts degree requirement. I get the feeling that the professor is Asian-centric, because at the start of this Western Art class he compared a slide of a 13th-century Chinese painting and a 17th-century Dutch painting and gave a detailed analysis of how much more delicate and refined the Chinese was...that the European paint seemed to be "smeared on with a shovel." Last, but not least, Visual Art 131: Painting 1. Long waitlist to get in, but supposed to be a great class and I basically NEED to take this class if I want my Art major to go smoothly. Plus I haven't picked up a paintbrush in a fucking year and I'm feeling jumpy. We shall see if I get in. I'm fairly high up on the wait-list and the professor is my academic advisor, but she can only bend so far for me.
Still, there seems to be a cool alternative: Cognitive Science 46: Perception, Illusion, and the Visual Arts. Course description makes it sound endlessly intriguing. Only concerns are that it may be a little advanced for those with no experience in Cognitive Science and I've been told by several sources that that department sucks.
My new room, though quite large (twice the size of my room last year) is unfortunately in the middle of a frat building. There are three joined segments of the building, and the "independent" house is in the middle. Joy. This means that the bathroom is continually trashed and nasty and drunk fratboys play wiffle ball in the halls at night. Plus, of course, they have shitty music that they insist on blasting. No one with decent musical taste ever plays it loud. Only the fucking Top-40 fans and rap fans.
Nevertheless, a sense of optimism or at least gaping possibility pervades my spirit as only the start of a new year away from home can inspire. I have cast off another debilitating holdover from high school and I am exploring opportunities here. Providence, small though it is, is a clean and pure place, shimmering with potential. It took a summer in Los Angeles to make me appreciate that quality, the undefinedness of my life here.
I think the reason the Chinese are seen to be so industrious by the rest of the world is because you have to be absolutely bat-shit on the ball to get the fucking language right. Still, it seems worth the hassle because I am jumping the trend on all you West-Coasters by a couple of years at least. Trust me, Hanyu is the language of the future. China is a sleeping giant and if I can't make it here, then with a bit of language skill I can sure as hell make it there. A friend of my corporate rat brother just went to China and he told me that any Westerner with $500 and some ability to speak the language will make a killing. It's heady times in the Middle Kingdom, which I have found out is a bad translation but sounds good nonetheless.
Literary witticisms aside, I do have a favor to ask you. We are expected to do some sort of project with all this Hypertext stuff, incorporating whatever the hell we want to put in it. I thought a good thing to do would be a shitload of linked poems and prose bits from my favorite works with a common theme. Some of your poetry sprang to mind. First, I'd need your permission to put this in. If it's good, it might end up in my professor's Hypertext textbook. He and several others here are the Old Men on the Mountain of the genre. There's some mural in France of an artsy French guy reading my professor's book on Hypertext. It's a flashy yellow book called, appropriately enough, "Hypertext" by George Landow. Second, I'd need the poetry. I have a hard copy of "Everything's Backwards," but all other things got lost in the Great Hard Drive Crash of May. I have no idea what the fuck I did with that packet of poems you sent me by mail (14 cent postage due, by the way). Could you please e-mail me the stuff again? Items of special interest are the cummings-like stuff, as well as "Water of the Undone" and "Feel Through the Mess." Time is not too big a concern, since the project is due in December, but it would be nice to have the poems around anyway.
I'd hoped to be able to write more, but my Art History paper is due in 15 minutes and I should own up to responsibility.
P.S. Is Richman living with you? How is the lad? I hope he hasn't been beaten up by yahoos as you feared.
We will have to see how far I go with this Hypertext business. There is a class here devoted solely to the creation of Hypertext fiction, and the teacher, I believe his name is Robert Coover, is supposed to be Hypertext God. I'll take things one step at a time. Landow said he liked my first project, but then again all he wanted was a demonstration that we knew how to create Hypertext documents. My mid-term in which I am demonstrate my grasp of the critical theory behind it all will be more challenging.
Striving for complete non-linearity? Sounds difficult. Perhaps impossible for one so tradition-oriented as myself. I'm painfully aware of my own limitations as an artist and writer, I know how far my paradigms stretch. Remember, I'm the guy who likes older shit...Pre-Raphaelite painters as opposed to modern art, and I like Coleridge and Tennyson better than Ginsberg.
It would be nice to end up being founders of some great intellectual movement. Start thinking about what it would be. Get Richman and some others in on this.
Grad school seems more likely as the idea of getting a job with a Visual Arts/English degree seems more unlikely. Then again, what would I do in grad school? I'd become more specialized (in my chosen fields this means more useless) and bitter. Most of the grad students I've seen here are poor, balding, and pissed off. Which actually might be a good start for an intellectual movement.
Thanks for the advanced permission on the poetry. Send it to me when you've got the time.
Remember when you started reading Existentialists so you could shoot down dumb people claiming to be such? Amusing anecdote, related to me by Steve Fammatre: a friend of his was sitting in a barber shop, hair salon, whaterver, waiting to get a trim. Some girl walks in and says, "I want a haircut that will make me look Existentialist." Indeed. Such a target, such an opportunity. You can't ask for a better set-up than that.
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