Archive for the '1' Category

Catch and Release

February 5, 2019

Just as fish hang in scales, their weight to be
Determined by the pull of gravity,
Their sales reflect what fishmongers must see
Belongs to a season’s inclemency.
And you propose to reason so…to fish!
To me, it’s a calamity, served cold,
Like a revenge plot that becalms a wish
instead of a smile winsome, wise and bold.
But wait, a tug. The line is running out!
Saint Walton preserve us, I may be hooked
on my own petard. By god, it’s a trout
just in season, declaimed, weighed, booked.

     The poem makes catch-and-release seem pale
next to my trout, so much more like a whale.

For John Looker

June 10, 2018

An empty space left
to occupy a meadow:
Hey, bouquet, let’s play.

Cathedrals in Spain

November 21, 2008

Pancake people?

The image is arresting: Pancake people. Yum. Melting butter, syrup dripping off the edge of the plate, coffee, sausages, the Sunday paper cracked open, Dick and Jane playing with Spot on the front lawn… Such an attractive metaphor—W e are pancake people. Doodle a little face with chocolate sauce and dig in.

mount-mike3aOkay, this is not what Richard Foreman has in mind when he writes about his new play The Gods are Pounding My Head in Edge. (New in 2005; and new to me; ideas are eternal, right?) Rather, he has something perplexing to tell us. ‘Pancake people’ is being contrasted with ‘cathedral people’ and it is the thinness of the pancake that he is emphasizing, not the sweetness of the experience. We as a people, he suggests, are being spread too thin by the very wealth of our resources, spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button. Does this make sense? Pour water into an 8 ounce glass and the water will amount to a cool refreshing drink. Pour it into the ocean…

I come from a tradition of Western culture in which the ideal (my ideal) was the complex, dense and “cathedral-like” structure of the highly educated and articulate personality—a man or woman who carried inside themselves a personally constructed and unique version of the entire heritage of the West.

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Out of Sight

November 10, 2008

Okay class, there’s a surprise quiz today. Click here and no talking.

Time’s up. How did you do?

Now, I don’t know about you, but I ran out of common words rather quickly. Come, but, can, the, and, how, have…  I did okay for a while concentrating on the modal verbs, but my mind kept going to zebra and tilly—and ‘tilly’ isn’t much of word at all, is it? It can be a slang word for utility and it can refer to one Johann Tserclaes von Tilly, who was the general who commanded the Holy Roman Empire’s forces during the Thirty Years’ War. The Wikipedia has a nice article on the man, but I’m going to have a hard time working ‘tilly’ into my conversation. It ought to be a verb in any case.

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Black President

November 5, 2008

You know about Fela Kuti? In 1979 he ran for president—of Nigeria. He didn’t win, but in 1981 released one of the great albums, Black President. Itunes has it listened at The Best of the Black President. It might make a nice download today. Listen to Sorrow, Blood and Tears, and I.T.T. (International Thief Thief).

And congratulations to our first Hawaiian President…

The World as Meditation

October 25, 2008

The Sun, on the Horizon…

Wallace Stevens was fond of writing and speculating—and (if I may) poetizing and philosophizing—about ‘the poem’. Inscribing a copy of his Collected Poems to one of Holly Stevens’ English professors, he wrote:

When I speak of the poem, in this book, I mean not merely a literary form, but the brightest and most harmonious concept, or order, of life; and the references should be read with that in mind.

Stevens also wrote about ‘the poem’ in Reply to Papini, that it was:

 The growth of the mind .

Of the world, the heroic effort to live expressed

As victory.


And from Notes towards a Supreme Fiction, a statement of origins:

From this the poem springs: that we live in a place

That is not our own and, much more, not ourselves

And hard it is in spite of blazoned days.


The brightest concept of life, the most harmonious concept of life. The growth of the mind of the world…

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Expanding the Classroom

October 7, 2008

Fast Eyes

Talk about amazing. The other day I turned on my computer. I got on the Internet, went to a webpage, sat there, put on my glasses…there was a lot of text swimming before my eyes…but I sat there and I read the whole thing! I read it slowly; I read it carefully; I highlighted portions of the text using Diigo; I made some notes (Diigo again). I read it through a second time: an article that was first published in the Chronicle of Higher Education and now is in residence on the Web.

Of course, I was also IMing, and twittering, and blogging and wikiing, and I had some music in the background—Moby—and I was playing solitaire, and answering questions on Yahoo, and working on a vocabulary game called Free Rice—but my primary focus was on this article by Mark Bauerlein, a professor at Emory University, called Online literacy is a Lesser Kind. Might be interesting, I thought.  Oh, and I had Photoshop going, just to fool around with when I was bored. I’m thinking of creating an avatar.

The article did not start off auspiciously. Referencing Jacob Nielsen, the guru of web usability, usually puts me off. He can be a little pompous. And as I glanced down the page his name jumped up at me. I was tempted just to scan and move on, but I am interested in literacy and Professor Bauerlein should have some interesting points to make.  

So, Jacob Nielsen. I read on.  It seems he’s done this study on the way people ‘read’ material on the Internet, testing some 200 plus people, and it turns out the vast majority of them don’t read at all. Not line by line, word for word anyway. Rather, they scan the page looking at the text in an F pattern: read across the top, move your eyes halfway down the page, go across again, and then zip to the bottom.

‘F’ Mr. Nielsen opines, ‘for fast.’

One is tempted to use another ‘f’ word here, but this is a family oriented blog.

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Free Association

September 28, 2008


Want to take a guess?

 Okay, here’s a quiz. Can you tell me the name of the earliest example we have of a printed and dated literary work?

Right, it has nothing to do with Guttenberg; we have to go to China, and it is something philosophical—but what? Something from Confucius? Nope. Maybe something Christian missionaries put together to spread the faith? No, sir. It’s the Diamond Sutra, a Buddhist work that played a seminal role in the movement of Buddhism from India into China—‘transmission’ is the word that’s used, a spiritual transmission.  Housed right now in the British Library, this particular copy bears the inscription, reverently made for universal free distribution by Wang Jie on behalf of his parents on the fifteenth of the fourth moon of the ninth year of Xian Long—so it appears to have been intended for mass consumption, sort of the Gideon Bible of ancient China. In terms of the European calendar, this is in May 868, roughly 600 years before Guttenberg printed his Bible in Mainz. The edition in question was discovered by a Taoist monk, Wang Yuanlu, in a cave in western China and then re-discovered (some say, stolen) by the explorer Sir Aurel Stein, who shipped it off to the British Museum. The Chinese take on this turn of events is summed up by this catalog entry written in 1961 in Beijing, then known in the English speaking world as Peking: “The Diamond Sutra, printed in the year 868….is the world’s earliest printed book, made of seven strips of paper joined together with an illustration on the first sheet which is cut with great skill.” The writer adds: “This famous scroll was stolen over fifty years ago by the Englishman Ssu-t’an-yin [Stein] which causes people to gnash their teeth in bitter hatred.”  If this is true, they are not listening to the message of the Diamond Sutra.

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September 19, 2008

Robert Darnton

Do me a favor and read my summary of Robert Darnton’s opening paragraphs in The New York Review of Books on The Library in the New Age, and then follow the link below to read Mr. Darnton’s essay. We’re going to learn about the instability of information. You know: compare and contrast.

Here goes: Some 6000 years ago people began to write; it was a big step and it created and defined the civilized world until the third century when the book—as opposed to the scroll—was invented. The advance the book made tends to be under-appreciated. It lead to the emergence of the page as the unit of perception: paragraphs and chapters, and tables-of-contents followed. Think about how important an index is. When people say they don’t read on the Internet, it is the book they hold up. Guttenberg’s development of the printing press and movable type circa 1450 is the third and obvious advance—and no one doubts its importance. The world’s written information became available to the mass of mankind. The forth development ‘took place yesterday’: electronic communication. Electronic communication is the printing press on steroids—and while we know these steroids will produce great muscles, we are less sure about the long term effects.

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