Saturday, May 22, 2010

the upright man

I'm off to the American Literature Association conference in San Francisco next week. I don't think this is a conference I've ever been to, at least as a participant (I seem to vaguely recall dropping by one of their meetings in Baltimore a million years ago, for what reason I can't imagine). Am I remembering rightly, or is this the association set up in explicit opposition to the MLA's rampant theory-binge of the 1980s (still ongoing, happily)? At any rate, I'm on a tightly organized panel about biographical approaches to 20th-century poets, along with biographers of Kenneth Rexroth & Denise Levertov. It should be fun; not an awful lot of alt-poetry types there, but I'm sure I'll run down a fair number of people I know (feel free to drop a line – let's do lunch, or coffee). And after all, it's San Francisco, for heaven's sake. How can one not have a good time?

My biggest regret is that our panel seems to be scheduled opposite a panel of homages to the late Burt Hatlen, which I'd dearly love to attend, if only to show my gratitude to the big man.
Another symptom of middle-aged drain-circling: back pain, not debilitating, not even really chronic, but occasional & irritating. I suspect it has something to do with sitting reading & writing 8 or 10 hours a day in ergonomically disastrous chairs. But I've always been fascinated by the phenomenon of the "stand-up" desk, used – as manufacturers will tell you endlessly, by Thomas Jefferson, Goethe, Virginia Woolf, Winston Churchill, all the way down to those contemporary luminaries Philip Roth & Donald Rumsfeld. You can google all the purported health benefits (posture, energy levels, etc); the one that struck me – aside from the overwhelming reports of decreased back stress – was a base metabolic benefit of 60 extra calories burned per hour – just by standing. Which doesn't sound like much, but that's 240 calories every 4 hours – extrapolate it out.

I wasn't about to pay the outrageous prices the whole desk-thingies are fetching online these days, nor did I want to shell out $70 or more for a plain old tabletop lectern. (I did consider stealing one from a classroom in Our Fair University, but when I reflected how difficult it's been to get one to teach at lately...) So I cleaned the cobwebs off my hunter-gatherer-manly-arts-of-tinkering-with-power-tools skills, and you can see the results above: yes, my very own homemade (from nothing more than scraps of lumber hanging about the house & environs) tabletop lectern, complete with broad working surface & that little "lip" do-jobber at the bottom to keep your pen from rolling off. Once the spar varnish dries – I was gonna jump right in to using it, but reflected that if I wanted to paint up there, it'd be impossible to get the splatters off untreated wood – I expect to be well on the road to a slimmer, better-postured, dashing poet-scholar me. I'll keep you posted.


Brian S said...

My standing desk consists of a lap desk set atop the pass through between kitchen and living room, used mostly for grading. Computer use is still at the desk, tho I may have to change that.

I have discovered that the standing helps me motor through papers more quickly, which is another point in its favor.

undine said...

Nice job on the standing desk. They're really expensive otherwise (at least in Levenger). I don't have a standing desk, but I often put the laptop at that height (on top of a copier) to get some work done.

Steven Fama said...

Hi Mark --

Sorry for the off-topic communication, but is the Eric Baus chapbook you published still available for $4.00, via a check to the Boca Raton address on the website?

Thanks much and safe travels to/from the cool grey city (yes, of love).

Archambeau said...

It was the ALSC (Association of Literary Scholars and Critics) that was "set up in explicit opposition to the MLA's rampant theory-binge of the 1980s" -- John Ellis was the anti-theory firebrand, and I think it was Christopher Ricks who represented the more mild-mannered wing of the outfit, which seemed to have triumphed when I went to one of the meetings in Chicago a few years back to have drinks with Don Share and Steve Burt.

I miss Burt Hatlen too.


Mark Scroggins said...

Alas, Steven, I have zero copies of that one left (except of course the one in my own collection): but the poem therein is included in Baus's collection The To Sound, which is I believe still in print.

Bob--you're right in re/ ALSC; what I was thinking of was the ALA as implicitly countering the American *Studies* Association, with all their wild 'n' crazy interdisciplinarity.

Archambeau said...

I stand in awe of your understanding of the micropolitics of scholarly organizations. Also, that's one butch-ass lectern. I think you've inspired me to hammer some poor replica together. I'll send the bill for my future prosthetic thumb.


Ed Baker said...

I just Sunday bought a new ergo-nomic-ly designed chair from Staples...

14 straight hours at the
computer and my back feels GREAT
..the poems still suck, but the back feels great..

the chair was on sale

my old chair was pre-WW2!

Ed Baker said...

pee est

let me know when y'all are back

from that conference-clubbie gathering

we'll "do lunch" ...

enough about you
,let's talk about me
and this freely-given

ISSUU "stuff"