Two Things

It is a rainy, cool morning in Buffalo.  We had a big storm last night ahead of the cold front from Canada that tore through the Great Lakes.  The weather is a welcome respite from yesterday’s wet, lethargic ninety degrees.  More brown leaves steeped in rain stain the sidewalks.  Time passes, etc.  August, the worst month, is mercifully ended.  Something about August drives me insane.  Watching everyone prepare to go back to school, either to work or to learn, and knowing that I would not be joining them made this year especially difficult.

I fell asleep last night listening to Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, From the New World.  It is an all-time favorite of mine.  Friends, especially friends from college, tended to think the New World Symphony was overplayed, which is certainly true.  I have a predilection for immensely popular classical music like this, though.  There is a reason everyone enjoys listening to it.  It is a perfect realization of Dvořák’s harmonics and aesthetics.  The prominence of the pentatonic scale, which Dvořák noted was common to the “the music of the negroes and of the Indians,” produces strong, memorable melodies that give the entire symphony a satisfying, comforting, lyrical character.  This is the main strength that I appreciate in his music: the melodic line.  The melody is similarly prominent in most Romantic music, but there is something ineffable and different about Dvořák’s work.  “Heart-rending” comes to mind.

I have had sitting in a tab in my web browser the following photograph for a couple of months now.  The minute I saw it I was completely taken aback.

Armor of the Dauphin Henri, the future King Henry II, Musee de l'Armee, Paris

Armor of the Dauphin Henri, the future King Henry II, Musee de l’Armee, Paris

The detail is extraordinary, especially when you consider the age of the suit of armor.  Something also about the biohazard symbol on the right shoulder.  It is actually a triquetra, a Norse/Celtic religious symbol that was later used in Christianity to represent the trinity.  But it gives the suit a sort of ancient/modern character that makes it seem anachronistic in any time period.  Something also about a helmet with no eyes visible behind the visor.  More soon.


The Relatively Affordable Watch: Part the First

I wanted share a watch I came across today that is relatively cheap, well-made, and attractive.  These are the basic qualities I look for in watches.  I have never bought a watch for myself that cost more than $100, which if you are at all familiar with watch pricing you know is a difficult feat.  Nice watches are luxury items whose prices are, after a certain point, inordinately high.  I have written on the complex status of the value of watches in an article titled, “The Veblen Good and the Veblen Bad,” in CASE Magazine.

If you look hard enough, though, and you know what to look for, wonderful watches can be found and purchased quite cheaply.  This is what I like to do on the weekends: I troll flea markets and estate sales for “broken” watches, most of which either need a battery (if they have quartz [battery powered] movements) or a cleaning, buy them for, say, $5, and then make them work again.  If they are truly irreparable, I take them apart and save the parts for other watches that may need fixing in the future.  What I’m trying to say is that my room is filled with garbage.

I recently bought, for $70, a vintage Swiss watch made by Favre-Leuba, a relatively unknown watchmaker that was founded in 1737.  The watch is called a Sea Chief and it has a bright red dial.  It is mechanical, which means it must be wound, and it has a combination of Roman and Arabic numerals on its face.  The seller also threw in three NATO straps and a leather band.


My Favre-Leuba Sea Chief

The watch I wanted to show you is called a Timex T2P381 Flyback Chronograph.  A chronograph is a timepiece that can measure time elapsed– that is, you press a button and it starts timing; press another button and it stops; press that second button again and it resets to zero.  A flyback chronograph allows the user to reset the timer with the single press of a button: press the button to start timing, press the second button to reset the timer to zero and start counting again.  Here is a video showing how it works.  (Videos made by watch companies are always really melodramatic like that for some reason.)

Timex T2P381 Flyback Chronograph

Timex T2P381 Flyback Chronograph $120

IWC Big Pilot's Watch TOP GUN Miramar $12,700

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch TOP GUN Miramar








The Timex T2P381 looks more expensive than it is.  It shares some design elements with the IWC Big Pilot Miramar, a massively expensive watch with an automatic mechanical movement, date complication, sapphire crystal, and chronograph.  Both watches have flat dials with numerals that are painted on.  Both have gunmetal grey stainless steel cases.  The Timex also has a tachymeter on the inner bezel, which is used in conjunction with the chronograph to measure rate of speed.

Discussing the differences in quality between a cheap Timex and an IWC Big Pilot would be pointless– the former is one of the cheapest brands of watches in the world and the latter one of the most expensive, famous, and well-made.  But they kind of look similar, and that is good enough for me.  I would never, not in a million years, spend $12,700 on a wristwatch.  I would, however, spend $120 on a watch as a birthday present or something for someone, and the Timex T2P381 is a great option at the price point.  More soon.

Water, Water, Everywhere

It is I think impressive how stressful unemployment can be.  In an effort to make up for the lack of on-paper job-related responsibilities, or maybe simply to punish myself for getting laid off, the voice in my head that tells me I am not writing enough, or reading enough, or doing anything enough, has been yelling more loudly than it has in years.  That’s not true– it has basically been this way since I graduated from college in 2011.  I think that is probably what happens to most college graduates who do not immediately enroll in graduate school.  Something about reinforcing a structure that the receipt of a diploma abolishes.

I have started this blog (it amazes me that “blog” is widely used) to keep anyone who reads it informed about my published work and to have a space in which I can explore the ideas and subjects that inspire my writing.  I have gotten mostly my book reviews published, though in the next couple of months several new pieces in different formats will be released.  I still consider myself primarily a fiction writer, though I have to date gotten only a single story out in a magazine.  “Sillyhead” was a finalist for the DIAGRAM 2012 Innovative Fiction Award and was published in issue 12.3.  That story was also the reason I was interviewed on The Eggshell Parade, a student-run literary radio program on WHRW in Binghamton.  If you haven’t listened to the interview, you should.  Skip to 21:42 (everything before that is a recording of me reading the story) to hear a pained, sometimes awkward conversation.  Also, right at the end the interviewer makes a joke about my name, which made me want to kill him.

I have been trying to get my novel, Jump Ship!, published for three years now.  I wrote the first draft of it as my undergraduate thesis and since then, I have made major edits and written let’s say maybe 30 query letters to agents and editors and publishers.  After the most recent rejection, I decided to stop working on it and start something new, sections of which I will be posting on this blog.

You may also see some posts about watches.  I take apart and fix wristwatches in my spare time, which, as you might have guessed, I have a lot of.  It is a meditative, challenging activity that keeps me from going insane when I find myself staring down feelings of inadequacy, etc.

For now, I’d like to point you to my most recent review.  I wrote about Haruki Murakami’s deeply flawed Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage for The Millions.  It only occurred to me after the review was published that the “years of pilgrimage” in the title are from Franz Liszt’s Années de pèlerinage, a set of three suites, the first of which comes up occasionally in the novel.  Here, listen to the aloof, quiet dissonance for yourself.

This Monday, 9/8, my review of David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks will be in The Rumpus.  A couple of weeks after that, a big feature I wrote about Southwestern Ontario and the Canada-U.S. border will be published in Block Club, a local magazine.  Around that time, a massive article that I spent months researching will be serialized in The Massachusetts Review.  The piece is a thorough investigation of massive open online courses [MOOCs].  I discuss the history of online education and my own experience with a MOOC that I took last year.  I wanted to see if I could still pass the course if I 1. did none of the reading and 2. wrote an error into every sentence in every essay I wrote for the class.  I passed the course and the reasons why were illuminating to say the least.

For now, here is a beautiful music video for a beautiful song.  More soon, and thanks for reading.