She caused a stir in 1954 when she sang "Lookin' for Trouble" while wearing a bodysuit with three strategic cutouts in The French Line. Producer Howard Hughes reportedly designed the film's outrageous costumes himself.
The river never threatens to dry itself up, or cast itself into itself. The river holds the plank but never walks it. River, you must be my summer friend. I will explore every blade of your manmade banks until I know you properly, and I will write you these stories about myself, not as an act of ego but an effort to expose myself to you, so you might know me and call me friend, too
After more research on Olga Holtz, the beautiful math professor, I've come to an unfortunate conclusion. While she is clearly beautiful and brilliant, perhaps she is not a great teacher or lecturer. This is what I gather from her reviews on ratemyprofessor.com -- and also from the clip below. What do you think?
But there is good news too. Over at the University of Massachusetts we have Professor Carlin Barton. I first learned of her when I read her book entitled The Sorrows of the Ancient Romans; The Gladiator and the Monster. I was fascinated by this book, and becamse fascinated also by the author when I met someone who had been her student at Berkeley. He described her passionate lectures about gladiators, Stoicism, and related topics. I've also read portions of Prof. Barton's subsequent book, Roman Honor, which is great too.
In contrast to Prof. Holtz, Carlin Barton gets rave reviews on ratemyprofessor. And I myself have found her to be quite wonderful. When the HBO miniseries "Rome" was showing, I wrote to Prof. Barton asking whether she'd seen any of it. I also inquired whether she'd seen any old movies like Demetrius and the Gladiators, The Robe, or maybe Land of the Pharaohs (written by William Faulkner.),
I got an email reply from Carlin Barton that gave no hint of her standing as a world class authority on ancient Rome. She said that unfortunately she had not seen Demetriius and the Gladiators or the HBO series. She also remarked that it was possible that her work had nothing to do with what the anicent world was really like. Maybe it was all just something she'd made up, she said. There's no way to tell. But in my opinion she's a great writer on this topic. Again, read her for yourself and see what you think.
Here's Carlin Barton with a rabbi or at least a man in a kepah after they gave a lecture on martyrdom in the ancient world.
That is, the topic of the lecture was martyrdom. They were not actually in the ancient world when they gave the lecture.
Yesterday I taught The Rite of Spring and Jonah Lehrer’s excellent essay on Stravinsky from his first book Proust Was a Neuroscientist. It’s about how difficult it is for the brain to accept new sounds even when those new sounds are the only sounds that make us feel. Every time I teach it I can’t help thinking of the great poetry that goes neglected by publishers year after year perhaps for the same reason. We are pattern-loving, meaning-making creatures. That stuff makes us happy. Not least because we depend on it for survival. When we can’t recognize a familiar pattern of sounds, our brains and bodies revolt. Our pupils dilate, our blood pressure rises…we freak and we feel, and for the most part, we don’t want to do that.
My favorite book of poetry from the last several years isn’t a book. It’s a manuscript—a book length poem called The Palisades by Gillian Kiley, a spacious, dynamic meditation that mines every register of grief, occupying it all with a tremendous wingspan and exploring its terrible incommunicability. In that regard, the poem becomes about the inability to communicate the most private, vulnerable parts of ourselves, especially in this speedy culture that seems intent not to give us the time and space to feel, let alone articulate those strange feelings:
People will be afraid to talk to you
if you insist on remaining humid
and alert to detail.
It’s through elliptical, unflinching, and sustained discussion of our inability to convey these deeper hidden feelings that Kiley manages to do so.
between any two sovereign nations
is also the point of contact.
The poem responds to her father’s death, and part of that response is a mid-life reckoning. The speaker asks how has she been of use? Did a tragic sense of decorum keeping her from loving deep and far enough?
I remember feeling so lucky
to hear the old stories.
To me it seems the speaker goes as far into death with the loved one as it can go and because it is death and things become impersonal in that territory, that speaker feels like all of us.
In some zones, the rain that came
was an almost unnoticeable quiet,
words that never broke
on the tongue.
I am guessing this book hasn’t been published because it’s a book-length poem and about grief. Grief isn’t cool, and Kiley’s unsentimental treatment of it doesn’t fit neatly into any camp or category of poetry we’ve seen before. Besides, who wants to feel sad? Well, I do. Really and truly. It makes me feel human by making me feel close to other humans. First Kiley and then the rest of you.
Throughout the book, there is not only sadness but rage, a rage for separateness and a desperate yearning for distance from the event--the relief of perspective. And then there is all the intelligence that was used to overcome that rage and sadness.
To give someone advice
is to show a complete lack of respect
for that person’s God-given ability
to make mistakes.
In addition, you sound like an asshole.
The person I want to speak to is dead.
You are in comparison, a smudge.
He is history.
My half-crazed sister
put the ashes of her dog in a tea tin
and buried it under the grass by the headstone.
I am a dog belly up and writhing.
I hate dogs
And the notion that the grieving
need anything but protection.
A higher storey would enlarge my vista.
but for now I spread the city before me
The materials of my pleasure
include take-out Chinese
and new ways to drape myself.
Vanity burnishes the lack like sun on dung.
I feel like throwing up my arms
and shouting out things of unheard-of savagery,
exchanging words with the higher mysteries,
proclaiming to the vast spaces of empty matter
the existence of a new expansive personality.
What else could be wanted?
Oh dead highway. The thought turning out until—oh—
Oh, borrowing, borrowing neighbor,
burrowing in, forgetting that all they own
is the space next to you.
When did my palm become the place to inscribe so many names?
Toward the end of the book the voice softens. The speaker finds a book “so much like [herself]—[she] felt that [she] had been happy / and that [she] could be happy again.” The Palisades is that book for me—not that I need to be lifted out of grief at the moment, only in that the book is so much like me. It will be so much like you too, probably, if it ever gets published. Earlier in the book, the speaker remarks on how healthy the animals are “that emerge from the dark barn.” At the end of the book, the speaker becomes one of those animals emerging and we get to feel what the sun feels like after all that darkness.
Reading Catherine Woodard's post last week about NBA coach Phil Jackson reminded me that way back in the mid-1980s Jackson coached the Continental Basketball Association Albany (NY) Patroons. The Patroons' home arena was the 3,500-seat Washington Avenue Armory, a former New York National Guard center with a forbidding castle-like exterior. Jackson won his first championship ring when he guided the Albany Patroons to the 1984 CBA championship. Walter (Walt The Stalt) Williams was named MVP of the series and went on to become a key assistant coach to Jackson.
I lived a short block away from the Armory and with my girlfriends regularly attended Patroons home games. The mid-week games rarely sold out and we were able to get great seats near the floor. Phil Jackson no longer had the unruly hair and beard of his Knicks days but he was easily recognizable by the way he paced along the sidelines, hands on hips, shoulders back. It was sometimes more fun to watch him than the action on the court.
Those were the days!
Phil Jackson coached the Albany Patroons for four and half years in the mid-1980s, leading the team to the 1984 CBA title. This undated photo was taken at the Washington Avenue Armory. (ALBANY TIMES UNION)