safe and sound in Beijing


We had a much less eventful trip to China than we did to Dublin earlier this year. We are safe and sound in China. It is so good to see Elizabeth, Jeremy, and Alex in person after mostly seeing them online for the last year or so.

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I am jet lagged. Eileen wasn’t sleeping great the last two nights before we left. She managed to get a good night’s sleep last night. I skipped exercising on Monday morning before we left. This was good because I wouldn’t have had time since I spent the morning attending to last minute packing details.

But this morning I got up and did some exercising despite the fatigue.

With the help of Elizabeth and Jeremy, I have good access to the internet with all my devices. I was prepared to do without, but that’s not the deal.

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Before leaving I managed to finish two novels, Who Put This Song On? by Morgan Parker and Flieschman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodessor-Akner.

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The Parker book which seems to be directed at teens initially interested me because the teenage character mentions a lot of music she and her friends are listening to. I made lists of music and then made playlists of it on Spotify. Many of the groups and songs she mentioned I recognized. This made more sense to me when I discovered that Parker loosely based the book on her own life. She is about thirty years old, so when she was seventeen many of the groups kids were listening to seem to be groups I know like Weezer, and Radiohead. But there were many groups and songs I didn’t recognize, so it was fun to check them out on Spotify.

Both books were informative to me about how people are using tech. In the Flieschman book, one of the main characters in the divorce (Flieschman) explodes onto the single scene via hook up apps that let participants know who is within a reasonable distance and is ready to have sex.

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This is outside of my experience of course so it’s interesting to read about.

I found myself having a bit of a prudish reaction to the Parker book because the main character, Morgan, who is quite likable in the midst of her ongoing clinical depression and troubles, is also quite flippant about high school sex. Specifically, blowjobs.

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Eileen and I were talking about this. Both of us were not hip to blow jobs in high school However, it occurs to me that my grand daughters would probably know what blow jobs are. I think it’s a bit different now and this novel informed me about this sort of thing. However, I would be very hesitant to pass this teen novel to my grand daughters.

This is a bit new for me. I prefer openness about sex and recall Lenny Bruce’s comment that typifying gay people as cocksuckers was a misnomer since in his opinion it would describe any woman he would want “know.”

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Bruce was (is) a huge influence on me. After my father saw the ficitonalized bio pic starring Dustin Hoffmann he remarked that I made a little more sense to him after that.

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I miss my Dad.

It was fun to give Jeremy and Elizabeth a bunch of books. They read a lot of ebooks since they are easier to obtain than real copies, especially stuff from the states I would imagine.  So I like to think that real books are good gifts for them.

Well, the old guy (me) is tired so I’m going to stop here and work on staying awake all day today (this is the recommended operating procedure for dealing with the drastic time difference).

In a Beethoven mood

I see it’s almost been a week since I’ve posted here. I have been spending my time reading, studying and playing music. Yesterday and today, I was a in a Beethoven mood.

I have been finishing books. I won’t bore you with all the books I have finished this week. I will say I finished a biography of T. S. Eliot and am almost done with a second biography of him I was reading at the same time.

I mention Eliot because the biographer said that he was fond of listening to Beethoven’s String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132. And that it was this music he had in mind when he was writing Four Quartets. So I began listening to that wonderful string quartet (and some other ones). It wasn’t too long before I wanted my hands on some Beethoven, so yesterday I read through two complete sonatas. Today I have played a couple movements of another sonata.

Eileen and I are thinking a lot about our upcoming trip to China. I have been thinking about what books I want to read on the flight. I have found that it is a very good time to read. It’s fun to think about this and peruse my library for books that might be possibilities. I am thinking of some light reading like P.G. Wodehouse and Arthur C. Clarke and some heavier stuff like a new translation of Kafka’s The Trial that has been sitting on my shelves. Also Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie.

Politics & Prose Bookstore has released a video of an appearance by Rushdie. In it, he looks to me like he is getting a bit tired of talking about Quichotte. But it did remind me how much I enjoy his books and that Shalimar is one of many sitting on my shelves waiting for the mood to hit me to read them.

I have been doing a lot of thinking and reading about Dante. In the video of Rushdie, he comments that when he starts enjoy a book he slows down. I have found myself doing that with Dante. I am beginning to savor his work. And though I look forward to re-reading the entire Divine Comedy in a more user friendly translation and edition, I continue to enjoy the beautiful little books I bought through the mail. I’m on canto XI of Paradiso.

I got the biggest kick out of reading Juan Luis Borges’ article on Dante in The Poets’ Dante. Borges talks about the first time he read Dante and then describes purchasing exactly the edition I am now reading. He talks about the long slow bus trips from the north side of Buenos Aires to the library in town where he was working. It was during these trips that he read the entire work in the version I now have.

In another essay in this collection, James Merrill blew my mind by pointing out how the terza rima construction (ABA BCB and so on) was a miniature mirror of the larger 3 volume structure of the work. Wow.

My daughter Elizabeth suggested that we install a VPN while we are still in the USA. I worked on that a bit today. I have it functioning on this laptop and Eileen got it working on her phone. But it’s not working right on my tablet or my phone. I have a message into the support team of my VPN.

I’m getting antsy to get back to my reading and playing music. Time to go.