October 2001 Archives

John Keats's Birthday

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I sense a birthday theme coming on, in the last hours of Halloween

Beauty bends over

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Get beauty from Nell, then bend over.

Maori Moons

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I ran across a funny bit in An Introduction to Discourse Analysis by Malcolm Coulthard:
On one famous occasion a Maori group from a part of the country where women were allowed to speak was visiting another where women were not. The hosts opened the oratory but when it came to the guests’ turn there was a problem, for the most senior in rank was an old chieftainess. After a moment’s hesitation she began to speak. Immediately there was a protest from the hosts but the chieftainess calmly ignored them, continued her speech to the end and then said “You Arawa men, you tell me to sit down because I am a woman, yet none of you would be in the world if it wasn’t for your mothers. This is where your learning and grey hairs come from!”; then turning her back on them she bent over and flipped up her skirts ‘in the supreme gesture of contempt’.

This was used as an example of conversational rule breaking. Hmm, I never thought of that approach. If they don’t respect you, moon them. You go girl!

Ego and confidence

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A little filthy lucre . . .

I always enjoy writers writing about writing. John Keegan, a military historian reflects on The Writing Life in a new bit from the Washington Post. It seems that paying his children's school fees was his primary motivator, but in the discussion of his foolish confidence regarding success he teases out an important distinction:

So what sustained my wildly unrealistic optimism that I could make up the difference between what an academic salary paid and what private schools cost? Most of all, I think, blind self-confidence. Not self-esteem; I constantly wonder why the difference between the two is not more widely recognized. I had no opinion of myself, indeed rather the opposite. I did, on the other hand, think I could do certain things rather better than other people, and one was to manipulate the English language. I thought that because I had noticed that my essays were better, as pieces of writing, than other people's had been, at school and university. I also noticed that such small things as I had written were, occasionally, not inferior to the sort of writing I admired in books and literary magazines. If they can do it, I can do it, I thought. So I set off.

This further supports my notion that the first step toward competence in any field of expression is becoming a critic. You first size-up the field you're contemplating, before you enter it. Making distinctions between yourself and other people is a gesture of confidence in your critical ability, not an egotistical assertion of self-esteem. I do think he's right that this is a commonly confused attribute of the creative personality. It's possible to be confident, without any real connection to the ego.

West Nile Virus

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This is scarier to me than anthrax. The mosquito is the Arkansas state bird.

Ultimate Warrior

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County fair, again. Circa '86 I think, but my brain is fuzzy.

The Critic

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I should be a critic

Dealing with meaning

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I share Jon Carroll of the SF Chronicle's thoughts on Dealing with the Flag Thing. Thanks Jefferson!

This morning brought a really good essay: What does it All Mean? by Mark Kingwell [via ALD]. In case you don't want to read the whole thing, here's his answer:

What does it all mean? That life is full of meaning, too much meaning to make sense of in any simple fashion. That wonder in the face of meaning's richness is appropriate and necessary—is, in truth, indispensable. That only open-mindedness, and the humility that comes with it, will allow us, finally, to sort good meanings from bad, the worthwhile from the mere distraction. That in the fullness of our allotted time and after our fashion, we may perhaps put together enough meanings-that-matter to judge of ourselves that we have told a good story, lived a life that was worth living.


Dragons among us

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county fair, Bakersfield, CA, a long time ago-- demons are everywhere.
My journey strange, with clamorous uproar
Protesting Fate supreme; thence how I found
The new-created World, which fame in Heaven
Long had foretold, a fabric wonderful,
Of absolute perfection; therin Man
Placed in paradise by our exile
Made happy. Him by fraud I have seduced
From his Creator, and, the more to increase
Your wonder, with an apple! He, thereat
Offended—worth your laughter!—hath given up
Both his beloved Man and all his World
To Sin and Death a prey, and so to us,
Without our hazard, labour, or alarm,
To range in, and to dwell, and over Man
To rule, as all he should have ruled.

John Milton, Paradise Lost X  

With halloween approaching, I thought I should place a quote from Satan up. An interesting fact came out in the seminar. Everyone always identifies the fruit from the tree of knowledge as an apple. It's not from the bible, it's from Milton. I found out why he picked that particular fruit.

It's a pun in Latin. Malum means apple in Latin, as well as meaning bad, evil, and all that stuff. No wonder it wasn't a kiwi or a banana!

Same shit, different scoop

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People love binary divisions.


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I don't normally talk about the logs, but it's very disturbing to get a visit from christianity.com. Somehow, satan.org would seem more understandable, given my site anyhow. Why am I awake? And why am I drunk again?

As the sun went down

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When I got back, I tucked my portable webcam in my pocket.

when I looked out through my windshield, this is what I saw

Transcendental Blues

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Back roads never carry you where you want 'em to.


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One of my favorite Bellocq photographs, from the out of print monograph.

Wood s lot always seems to find the good stuff. There's a very good article about Ernest J. Bellocq by Rex Rose at Exquisite Corpse. It overturns some of the stereotyped information about the odd New Orleans photographer. It seems that he didn't have an enlarged head, and his brother didn't deface his negatives— Bellocq did.

Photographic books go out of print so quickly. I'm glad I found a copy of the second printing of the monograph. The scratched-out faces on his negatives seem to be something common to photographers of the early twentieth century; I wish I could remember the name of the Bakersfield photographer from the thirties that I saw that did the same thing. While it wasn't a conscious "artistic" gesture, as far as I can see, the side effect is somewhat disturbing. In this century, we seem to want to be disturbed, so the resurfacing of these artifacts is not surprising.

However, I think that some of the distressed negatives might well be appreciated by the photographers who created them. I am reminded in my favorite Bellocq photograph, displayed above, of Kertéz's broken plate, which for him symbolized his entry into America. In a lot of ways, embracing the accident is also a mark of modernist photography. But to read the violence, so much a part of Pop art, into these acts is too big of a stretch.


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copies, 6 cents.

Lionel Johnson

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I had no real reason to get lost in Victoriana today, but I did.

A short day of frost and sun

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How much sharpening does it take to become a pinhead?

I woke up with this feeling of thankfulness for having met such great people in Arkansas. It isn’t the sort of simplistic feeling of being embraced into a community, as is popular in media depictions of life in the Midwestern US, but more the idea that it was a big step on the way to making sense of the feelings that have been gnawing at me since I was an adolescent. It forced me to break my habits.

To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life. In a sense it might even be said that our failure is to form habits: for, after all, habit is relative to a stereotyped world, and meantime it is only the roughness of the eye that makes any two persons, things, situations, seem alike. While all melts under our feet, we may well grasp at any exquisite passion, or any contribution to knowledge that seems by a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a moment, or any stirring of the senses, strange dyes, strange colours, and curious odours, or the work of the artist’s hands, or the face of one’s friend.

Walter Pater, The Renaissance

I need to read more Pater. Dr. Jim Parins specialized in Victorian lit before moved into Native American stuff; I found out today that Dowson (the guy who wrote the poem that the phrase “days of wine and roses” is lifted from) was in the same circle as Pater, and they were seminal influences on Yeats, according to Bloom anyhow. Dr. Parins would know where to point me, I must look him up again soon. I haven’t talked to Dr. Murphy in a long time either; his specialty is Yeats, and he was really the first to make me feel like I had something genuine to contribute, speaking to me as if I were an equal. At least I still see Dr. Yoder each week; he looms like a monument to me in terms of his grasp of literary history. I always feel so small and ignorant around him. But he’s always encouraging and a powerful teacher. If there is one man’s teaching style I feel I can embrace, it’s his. But all these men share the most important quality of all for me: passion.

Not to discriminate every moment some passionate attitude in those about us, and in the very brilliancy of their gifts some tragic dividing of forces on their ways, is, on this short day of frost and sun, to sleep before evening. With all this sense of the splendour of our experience and of its awful brevity, gathering all we are into one desperate effort to see and touch, we shall hardly have the time to make theories about the things we see and touch. What we have to do is to be for ever curiously testing new opinions and courting new impressions, never acquiescing in a facile orthodoxy of Comte, or Hegel, or of our own. Philosophical theories or ideas, as points of view, instruments of criticism, may help us to gather up what might otherwise pass unregarded by us.

Pater, ibid.

I feel like big vistas opened up by meeting the men who introduced me to the span of literary history, as a way of thinking of human history and the task of recording some fragment of that experience. I often moan about the fact that I have made no real friends in Arkansas. But the truth is that I found something more important: colleagues that share a passion for getting to the heart of the matter, for feeling that heartbeat, and embracing the "short pulsation of an artery" that is life itself.

A short day of frost and sun. I could kill Pater for saying it so damn well. But then again, I suspect that he stole the core of the matter from Coleridge's "Frost at Midnight" who stole it from . . . It's all a long chain, that stretches back to a cave somewhere, by a river. People huddle around the fire and warm themselves through the light of shared ideas. Perhaps its just the sharing, not the ideas themselves, that provides the fuel to light our way.

At 3am

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Tequilla and roast-garlic salsa and chips. What more could a man want at 3am?


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Why don't we talk about the weather?

Last year fall happened in a day. This year is different. There’s been a gradual buildup of brown around the edges, but for the most part everything is staying intact. The weather has been in the mid-eighties, and from what I’ve told it takes a cold snap to make the leaves turn. Moving to Arkansas from California, I’ve become pretty fascinated by the process of change. There are really only two seasons in California— hot, then cool and foggy.

I never knew why my father (from Oklahoma, originally) watched the weather report constantly. In California, you can predict the weather in month-long blocks, and in two regions, north and south. In Arkansas, you measure it in minutes, and often, you can hardly predict it over the space of a few blocks let alone a whole town. I think my father's consciousness about the weather was not due to his aspirations of being a farmer, but a deeper subtext of geographic outlook. In the midwest, the weather can kill you.

Fall started to blow in today, in the form of a cold front. It was cloudy this afternoon and a bit muggy when I drove to school. I was only there for about a half-hour, and then it started to sprinkle. As I walked to my car, it started to pick up in intensity. I had just made it when the sky ripped open and started to pour. The tall gutters filled up, and the streets looked like rivers. For about three blocks that is. As I got to the freeway, less than a couple miles away, the streets were barely wet. When I exited the freeway two miles later, the ground was completely dry and there wasn’t a trace of moisture. This lasted for a bit, but the ground near my apartment was wet too, but not soaked. Microclimates in action. When I went back for my night class, the temperature had dropped by twenty degrees, there was a strong wind blowing and I thought about how much I love wind, and change. I’ve got to drive somewhere this weekend, because I’m sure that the hillsides will be a brilliant amber and orange and red. It doesn’t last long, but it’s such a ferocious reminder of this process of renewal.

Driving home, I was thinking about the fairly elegant model I constructed for myself to explain Coleridge’s theory of primary and secondary imagination. I wish I could do this with the theories I’m reading now, but they are far too complex. But then, I sort of revised the model in a way I hadn’t before.

Simply put, we create a sphere around ourselves as our perception reaches out. However, for a body to find “rest” there must be another force which is equal to it pressing back. That force according to Coleridge is God; you can substitute whatever concept of “ultimate reality” you want. The interface, or boundary of that sphere is primary imagination— what we call “reality.” The secondary imagination, or poetic power, operates at this boundary acting to sort of tear off bits of that ultimate reality and synthetically combine them with our own internal reality to create something both of us, and beyond us.

The weather made me think: if we are reaching beyond that primary border (or interface) with things outside ourselves when we create, then perhaps we aren’t at rest at all inside our sphere. The “artistic” temperament must be restless and churning, pushing against that big freaking bubble of “reality” that we are all trapped within, otherwise, how can we ever reach beyond? An artistic consciousness can never be at rest.

Flamingo Flowers

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Professor Plum is dead. And no, it wasn't Col. Mustard with the candlestick.

Totally unrelated, mind you. I won't be sending flowers, I didn't know the guy.

Book a minute

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Luke's notice of Book-A-Minute gave me a laugh.

It's too bad I've read most of these things already, and can easily argue with the highlights as presented. For example, the conclusion noted for Beowulf is just plain wrong: "Wiglaf, I'm dying. See that my funeral pyre fits my greatness." When I read it, I was immediately reminded of the movie Easy Rider. You see, Beowulf goes for the big score and wins. But that's not enough. He has to try to go after Grendel's mom too. In doing so, he dooms his line, and must pass the torch to Wiglaf:

"You are the last      man of our tribe,
the race of Waegmundlings;      fate has swept
all my kinsman      to their final doom,
undaunted nobles.      I must follow them."
Okay, so the setup before the final battle scene is an exploration of the relationship between greed and glory. So, I read the final death speech thing as closer to the final scene in Easy Rider where Peter Fonda says: "We blew it." Going out in a blaze of glory is bullshit, the critique of that sort of thinking is subtle, but quite present in Beowulf. Before you decide that "I just don't get it" regarding the humor of the site, rest assured I do— It's just that I think it would be even funnier if the people who created the site had actually read the books a little more carefully. Most great works of literature can be fairly easily summarized; a person reads them for the force of language at work, not for the basic plots.

The summary of Rime of the Ancient Mariner suffers particularly in the middle observation: "I'm late, but I'll listen." There are two versions of this poem, an early and later one. In the early version, that isn't what happens at all. The wedding guest threatens to go upside the old man's head with his stick. Okay, so it's light in textual history, I can forgive that. What I can't forgive is missing the most interesting part of the poem. After everybody dies, the guy gambles with death and wins. He wins the distinct privilege of hassling grooms on their wedding day. Some prize, eh?

They also missed a great punch line for Paradise Lost. Instead of "alas, we have lost our paradise" I would have said "Hey! We're naked!" The way that it happens in Book IX is pretty cool. They eat the fruit, fuck like crazy, and then wake up and realize that they're naked. It sort of sounds like a bad one night stand, if you ask me. But then, nobody did.

Back to the books

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Enough is left besides to search and know;
But Knowledge is food, and needs no less
Her temperance over appetite, to know
In measure what the mind might well contain;
Oppresses else with surfeit, and soon turns
Wisdom to folly, as nourishment to wind.

John Milton Paradise Lost, Book VII

My brain is feeling a bit oppressed lately. I hate it when everything sticks together like some sort of awful carmel popcorn ball. Met with a novelist whose name I don't recall today, and the topic was maintaining tension in your writing. How to bait the hook, so to speak, through word choice to keep a reader on the line. Discussing a Hemmingway short story, he expressed a distaste for symbolic readings of things, prefering instead to point out the way that Hemmingway used a sort of thematic coherance to tease his readers into wanting to know more. The funny thing was, what he pointed at were mostly symbols, at least according to W.B. Yeats's definition: Yeats called symbols hints.

Where I get enthralled by the whole process (I confess, I'm a symbol-hater too) is that symbols are perhaps the ultimate in tools of displacement for readers. They put a distance between a reader and the idea, forcing you them try to be some sort of magic decoder ring to discern the meaning of the text. There's the rub. In order to try to transmit an idea, a writer's first impulse is to impose distance between the utterance (action) and the idea of the action by coding it in a symbol. Paul deMan argued that the Modernists misread the Romantics, giving priority to this higher level level of symbolic displacement over the more "base" form of allegory. In actuality, their writing was very much connected with storytelling rather than abstraction. Hence, I think the same thing happens when we read people like Hemingway who were storytellers first, and ideologues second. Yeah, there are symbols in there— but they aren't the main point. It's the story that matters more: what happens and the relationships that evolve. Symbols do however make great hints; they provide a sort of glue to hold something together where those relationships are initially unclear. Perhaps writers sometimes abuse that privilege, turning writing into a mucky ball which attracts the lint of false interpretations across the huge abyss between symbol and action. But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Bait Shop

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Used bait? The mind reels...

Lyrics and contexts

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Strange confluences

I downloaded a boot of one of the Jimmy Page/ Black Crowes performances. The set list included a large number of Led Zeppelin songs, and I was impressed by the amount of sheer “crunch-value” these things have over me all these years later. It really was far more impressive than most of the lame Led Zeppelin reunion things. But just the same, past the first few of records, I have a limited Led Zeppelin threshold. Why is that?

I suppose it’s because the songwriting never seemed to have the sort of depth of most of the other bands I liked. Zeppelin is all about context; they build a sort of crushing wind of sound, but there aren’t many profound thoughts blowing through. Compared to the Who or Pink Floyd, they seemed too heavy on the testosterone. But it’s an impressive swagger nonetheless. When Page beat the violin bow against the guitar, it was a beautiful sort of violence, but it didn’t seem to have the massive resonance of Townsend’s guitar bashing, or Hendrix’s sacrificial violence. Funny how after just listening to Page again, after many years of ignoring him, I turned on the TV to see another band using a bow in a different way.

Sigur Ros was on HBO’s Reverb. There was an interview where the guitarist made a big point about the fact that their lyrics don’t mean anything. They want the audience to make up their own meanings to go along with the songs. This would be easier for me, if all their songs didn’t sound the same. It’s a nice sound, but . . . I’m looking for more from music than nice sounds. It brought me back to all the thinking I’ve been doing about making meaning.

Tonight, when I turned on the TV Godsmack was on. I think I really would have liked them twenty years ago. But now, it seems too much like Led Zeppelin at its worst: all texture, simplistic content. The message of most “heavy metal” seems to be clearly identified in one basic message: “I’m Alive.” In literature, there’s an interesting test: the so what? test. Some bands just fail miserably in that regard for me. Zeppelin did have a few challenging and enigmatic songs, but they never really passed that test with me. I could do without them, unless I was looking for a particular type of wallpaper: a type of wallpaper that they provided quite nicely.

I like to think when I listen. None of the bands I’ve just mentioned make me think that much. However, what I find most annoying is the implication that it’s up to me to supply meaning to empty frames of sound that have no real content on their own. That’s why I never really got the Eno atmospheric experience either. People raved about Music for Airports. If I wanted that sort of music, I’d go to an airport. I like to be challenged, and that just isn’t very challenging for me. But enigma for it’s own sake is also pretty hollow.

Another student in my comp theory class decided to do a case study “process analysis” of a local songwriter. I found it interesting that the guy in question had little in the way of aim in constructing a song past the idea that it should be a novel construction. Oh, yeah, and he also wanted to use the word “spit” somewhere in the lyrics. The end product sounded like a cut-up method of writing, but the guy didn’t use it. Lyrics weren’t important, except for their value as something to generate a sort of “huh?” response. So why use lyrics at all? Why not just make sounds, and allow people to generate their own responses based on the sound field?

Some music writer I read a while back posited that music was only an excuse for a lifestyle. This seems so clear as to almost be a truism. So what can we imply from music that pushes a simple affirmative lifestyle, or an endless quagmire of meanings that has no center or organizing principle? I’m not sure. That’s why I fall back to being a folkie at heart I suppose. I like words that mean things: words that I can nuance, not words (or lack thereof) that insist that I reinvent the wheel. There are lots of wheels out there. I like words that make them spin.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that lyrics must make “sense.” It just means that they should at least be suggestive of something. There should be relationships involved beyond “squeeze my lemon.” Though “a mosquito, my libido” takes it up a notch, that shouldn’t have signaled to songwriters around the world that the more obtuse the relationship, the better. It is possible to invest words with too much though; this breakdown seems inevitable when there aren’t any real issues underneath the context of the song. It just turns into wallpaper at the extreme though.

A person could get as much of an affirmation of life by wagging their foot back and forth.

Pain Free

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It is important to keep the exercise pain free

Given an atmosphere of sympathy, the intonation could freely undergo deployment and differentiation within the major tonality. But if there were no such firmly dependable "choral support," the intonation would have gone in a different direction and taken on different tones— perhaps those of provocation or annoyance with the listener, or perhaps the intonation would simply have contracted and been reduced to the minimum. When a person anticipates the disagreement of his interlocutor or, at any rate, is uncertain or doubtful of his agreement, he intones his words differently. . . . A creatively productive, assured, and rich intonation is possible only on the basis of presupposed "choral support." Where such support is lacking, the voice falters and its intonational richness is reduced, as happens, for instance, when a person laughing suddenly realizes that he is laughing alone — his laughter either ceases or degenerates, becomes forced, loses its assurance and clarity and its ability to generate amusing or joking talk.

Mikhail Bakhtin, Discourse in Life and Discourse in Art (Concerning Sociological Poetics)


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A blender was clearly a dangerous investment.

Sitting up in the wee wee hours. I started thinking about how things have changed in the last few years. I'm now strangely fascinated by the world weather map. I see rain moving across England, and I think of the description I was given regarding this territory in the History of the English Language class: it's the same size as Arkansas, excepting Scotland and Wales. This blows my mind. To be honest, Arkansas seems positively tiny. Given the historical importance of the real estate, it seems weird that England would be such a small piece of ground. I can get in my car and drive out of Arkansas, in any direction, without refueling. This was not the case in California. It's just weird, I tell you.

It's snowing in Moscow and there is a typhoon approaching Guam. People surf into this patch of ground from Poland, Hong Kong, and a million other pieces of real estate across the globe. And I've been trying to say something interesting each day. It seems like an insurmountable challenge. Then I think, two years ago I didn't even know how to type. I just pecked at the keyboard with two fingers, finding the letters in a laborious process. Now I don't even hardly look at the screen or keyboard, even when I'm drunk. Why do I put that sort of pressure on myself? It's silly really. Who am I trying to kid? I don't know shit, and even when I do it seems impossible to communicate it. A fool's errand, if ever there was one. But then, fool is a label that I have worn on many occasions.

I feel a little better when traffic goes down, for some reason. I look at what I generated in the past few weeks, and realize that there has been very little that would interest anyone. Phew, calm down Jeff. What makes you think that people would surf here even to be amused. You aren't funny. You aren't smart. You aren't any of those things people sometimes give you credit for being, when you rarely strike a nerve. If that effect is achieved, it is purely perlocutionary.

I try to keep it straight in my mind. What I say is locution. What I mean to achieve by say it is illocution. What I actually achieve, which often has nothing to do with what I actually say is perlocution. The intent is telelogical, that is, to achieve an effect. But just what is the effect that I want to achieve? I really don't fucking know. There's the rub. Perhaps it's just time to make another trip back to the blender and make another margarita. And quit padding my web space with such useless musings about how silly the whole enterprise of communicating with the world really is.

Downtown again

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I feel like I'm drowning in a very deep ocean.

I tried to go out, but I was sleepy and not feeling well. There was a CD release party I wanted to go to for Mulehead, but when I drove up the parking lot at Vino's was packed, and I would have had to walk a fucking mile to get in. Hey, they're nice guys but . . . I just didn't feel up to it.

So I came back to theory-land. It's amazing how pervasive but problematic this whole linguistic enterprise is. I picked up Jurgen Habermas's Theory of Communicative Action and part 3 of volume one repeats much of my discourse analysis textbook. Maybe if I read the same stuff over and over again it will make more sense? I should be so lucky.

Trying to find something on a different trail, I made a mental note a while ago to find out more about a name that kept coming up as a primary text for cognitive theory, Lev Vygotsky. No relief. It's the same stuff, really, just a different spin:

Thought is not merely expressed in words; it comes into existence through them.
Of course, the thrust of Vygotsky's work was trying to discover how we make the shift into thinking in words at an early stage of childhood development rather than trying to analyze language scientifically. But it runs into the same problem: how do we accurately describe how language works? I'm amazed at how new this whole science of linguistics is, and how up in the air and in debate it is. Geez, these people writing about it admit their models are filled with problems, so how am I supposed to figure it out?

It's really magic that we can talk at all!


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downtown Bakersfield, circa 1977

A not so great day. Reading lots of theory. Speech-act, discourse analysis, etc. Revisited Thomas Pavel's Fictional Worlds. It's all very confusing and hair-splitting, but at the same time it's fascinating. Everytime you say something, it's an act. We make things by saying things. Let there be . . .

Renewed the tags on my car. Sometimes I feel like I must really look weird. I stood in one line. They told me to go to another person. When I got there, I realized that they didn't mean me, but someone else. I stood there and patiently waited. A woman in the other line just kept staring at me, as if she expected me to say something. I didn't. She just wouldn't stop staring. I stared back. Then, a guy opened up just for me. I told him I really wasn't in a hurry. He said he was tired of looking at me standing there. What's up with that? Is my third eye in my forehead showing?

The man chastised me severely for making out my check wrong. Then, when we were finished he said:

Thank you doctor.
Huh? My driver's license or my checks don't say doctor. What was funny about it was that it came on the heels of my exchange with Dr. Kleine on Wednesday, where he insisted that I needed to be in a doctoral program somewhere. Just before I left, there was a program on TV about anxiety disorders which named the doctor that treated Kim Bassinger for the problem: His name was Dr. Doctor.

Doctors, Doctors everywhere. But not me. No, I don't deserve that promotion. Even if I had a doctorate I wouldn't want to be called doctor.

Cow tipping

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I had odd pets as a child. We had several of these in the back yard.

I strongly recommend a visit to the new online galleries at Photo Eye Books.

I forgot

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Uh, I forgot.

There has been another interesting thread on C-18L. Nepenthe pops up a lot in romantic period poetry. It's also the name of an online journal. The transition of meaning for this particular word is fairly interesting. I'd always read it as a sort of "forgetfulness" drug, which seemed like an interesting idea. However, now I know the real scoop. In Greece, Napenthes was used to mean sex, or having sex: Paris made Helen forget her woes by taking her to bed and having sex with her. Ah ha! The connection with sex and drugs is firmly established. It's a distortion of a Homeric passage, thinking of it as a quantifiable substance rather than an act causing. . . something. I don't remember.

Wit and Influence

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I'm wondering if my site is soporific.

Gina's essay yesterday was written around an extended moment of sleeplessness. She used the word in the essay, and an argument ensued over pronunciation. I was transported to a movie I saw a while back, Wit. That word was one of the key jokes of the film, and while I was searching for something more descriptive than the imdb page to forward to Gina, I found a a nice write up, linked to a lot of background for the film that I wasn't aware of. It came out of a Pulitzer prize winning play, for example.

Since it was a nice piece of writing, I backed out to explore the parent site, RK Puma. It's a treasure, really. I may be behind the curve because I wasn't aware of it, but it isn't the first time. There are fun interviews with Hunter S Thompson, and Woody Allen. My favorite bit was Woody Allen on money:

It buys you a lot. There's one or two barriers it can't get past. But everything else, it's very good. Obviously, you can have all the money in the world, and as my father said, if you don't have your health, you've got nothing. And there's one or two other things that it can't buy, but 80 percent of what you need, you can get with money.
Hopefully, when I climb out of this abyss of education the money situation will be better for me. But I still worry about the other 20 percent. Woody Allen also claims that he doesn't feel that he is an influence on other filmmakers. Maybe not filmmakers, but he certainly helped me become more comfortable with the neurotic that I am.

Perhaps I should stop trying to say something when I write, and return to the early funny ones?

Propositions in mid-air

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I’m so glad that the last class of the week is Language Theory.

It’s actually incredibly fun stuff. For example, there is an assertion by a theorist named Labov that in any discourse, there are always these “propositions” hanging in mid-air. When there is something ambiguous in a conversation, we somehow magically pluck an idea from the ether to fill in the blank, based on a sort of “best-fit” methodology. I think discourse analysis is going to be a really fascinating field of study. Think of it as you walk around: there is stuff out there that only becomes important when you open your mouth. Little language particles, sort of hanging in mid-air waiting to be activated by speech. But you can’t see them. They're just there. No one teaches you they are there, or explains how to use them. They just somehow they know that they're needed, and the right kind of language will activate them so that they'll sweep in to rescue conversation from being incoherent.

I read a revision of Panorama to the expository class this afternoon. I almost skated out of it, but I ended up doing it. I was nervous, after the response in a small group to the draft that was posted here (the online version has been revised, so if you're a curious person as to what was changed, you're out of luck if you missed the draft version) I was worried that I'd be greeted by blank stares again. I was amazed. I actually managed to get more than a few laughs. I thought parts of it were pretty funny myself, but I have an odd sense of humor. It wasn't an essential part of the story, but it was not nearly so serious as the guys in the group thought. What bothered me most was the perception, based on one sentence (now deleted) that the essay was "really" about being kept out of literature classes. They thought I was complaining about people holding me back in college, and it skewed the perception of the entire piece. Mostly, it's remembering Fred Jacobs and how he tried to teach me. He did, though it might not have been the message he was trying to get across.

Since mine was the last essay read, I felt good about the laughter. Most essays created in this sort of class are "warm and fuzzy feel-good" pieces about what a great childhood people had. I just don't have that many stories of that type to give. Hey, my childhood was fine, but it's not what I remember most vividly. I try to avoid Wordsworthian longing for simpler times. Life has always been complicated for me, even when I was a kid. Refreshingly though, one of the essays today was told by an ex-nurse who helped deliver a child in a ghetto in Chicago in 1965. It was a gripping and heart-wrenching story, with no happy endings and lots of reflection about what it really means to be poor. Everyone was really bummed when it was over, and I'm glad I could lighten the mood a bit with my silly story about a teacher. Ok, so it's not that silly. But compared to the Chicago story, mine was really sweetness and light.


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side of a bar, somewhere in Bakersfield, CA, circa 1977

Offered with either belated or timely congratulations to Badger and Louise! I hope they have many years of happiness together.

Write Write Write

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I was right.

I did eight pages of the ten page essay in about an hour this morning. I'm letting it cool until tomorrow before I polish it. Long things are so easy! All you have to do is think of a few main points, write around them, and if it's too short add stuff where it fits. Writing short is hard. Every single word must be scrutinized to make sure it's doing the right amount of work for the space it takes up.

Too much cognitive theory tonight. I don't like the social ramifications of it at all. More complex does not translate to "better" or "mature." Sorry, I just don't buy it. I think complexity is just the inevitable result of any repeated activity. You've got to keep things varied, or it gets boring. That's why I could never be a newspaper writer. The sound of jaws dropping, saying huh? would just be deafening.

To try to be at least a little entertaining today, I'll offer up this bit:
More serious rivals to the tavern as a social centre were the coffee and chocolate houses. Coffee rooms spread rapidly after the Restoration. The first, Pasqua Rosee's Head, was established in 1652 in St Michael's Alley, off Cornhill, where the Jamaica Wine House now stands. By 1663, when licensing was introduced, there were eighty-two in the City, and by 1739, according to Maitland, there were 551 in the whole of London. The success of coffee and chocolate houses reflected the popularity of the products they offered - Turkish coffee, West Indian sugar and cocoa, Chinese tea, Virginian tobacco, and newspapers - and also their ability to satisfy a wide range of interests, from the salacious to the scholastic. Their variety impressed Cesar de Saussure in 1726: `Some coffee-houses are a resort for learned scholars and for wits; others are the resort of dandies or of politicians, or again of professional newsmongers; and many others are temples of Venus. . . . they pass for being chocolate houses, and you are waited on by beautiful, neat, well-dressed, and amiable, but very dangerous nymphs.'

Roy Porter, History of London

I could use an eighteenth century "chocolate house" right now, or at the very least, an "amiable but very dangerous nymph" It's too late in the evening for coffee.

Panorama Paranoia

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The wind is positively raging outside.

Every once in a while, I hear a crash and wonder what fell down. No rain yet. We had plenty of that last week. I’ve been reviewing a bunch of stuff for a ten page essay I have to write for language theory. Ten page essays are easy. The four page essay discussed below nearly killed me. I was so paranoid about the whole deal that I gave a copy to a good writer from the class (ex-nurse, no literature background) to review. Gina understood it better than the guys I read it to, and had some good suggestions. I’ll fix it in the next few days. When I gave it to her, she asked me:

"Who do you write for in terms of a target audience?"
I’m really not sure. The only real answer I had was to try to describe the few readers I know I have here, in terms of their oddness. I’ve reached a point where I want to write things that are fairly complex, and that’s impossible to do if you consider your audience to be simpletons. That thought never enters my mind while chatting along here. I often include some fairly sly stuff, but I want a person to be able to enjoy it even if they don’t get all the jokes.

For example, the line “screw my courage to the sticking-place” would be recognizable to some as a quote from Macbeth, but I think it’s funny even if you don’t know where it's from. The added utility comes from its placement in the play, spoken by Lady Macbeth to bolster Macbeth’s failing resolve before the murders. I used it to lead to the demise of my college career. Gail didn’t know where it was from. She just wrote and said— “I don’t know why I like it but I do.” Now that’s the kind of response I like. And to think I thought it was perhaps a bit too obvious a foreshadowing. Daniel picked up an interesting sort of meme from I, Asshole regarding constructing blog entries in which each and every word is linked. Writing is like that for me already. Where I come from, they call it poetry— or at the very least, literature. Yes, I think it’s a meme worth picking up; but if I get the chance to do it, I suspect that I’ll be linking phrases rather than meaningless indefinite articles and pronouns. Many times, while composing my last essay I wished for the ability to include hyperlinks so that people could see the real appropriateness of my remarks. For another example, if you don’t know the meaning of Raconteur you miss another joke in Panorama. But that’s the problem. If you have to explain the joke, it isn’t funny, now is it?

Okay, so now at least one of the loud crashes is explained. I walked out on the patio to find a sofa sitting in the middle of the grass outside. I think someone pushed it from an upstairs window.


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Downtown Bakersfield, circa 1977

Writing short pieces is hard. I spent the whole weekend on Panorama. My target was 750-1000 words, but it ended up around 1,300. I feel like I'm writing to an audience with short attention spans, so it becomes essential to be concise. It's quite a challenge. I can't tell you how many times I deleted whole sections of this damn thing.

Things get more complicated when you find out that the person you are writing about is dead. I don't know why that is. I left out one of the reasons why I remember Fred so much. He gave me one of the lowest grades I ever got in college the first time around. I just wasn't there (spiritually, chemically, and otherwise) and it was my fault really. But I remember he tried to reach me. That's all a teacher can really do.

Another really hard part was trying to compress the allusions, without becoming obtuse. Most people haven't heard of the references I needed to use. I hope it reads clearly enough. I'll find out. I'm reading it this afternoon to the class I suspect, though I plan on keeping quiet and not volunteering. But people always seem to pick me out of the crowd for some reason, and put me on the spot.

Of course, I want to beg for comments here. If anyone takes the time to read it, please say something. Even one word comments are fine, bullshit, yawn and huh? included.

Now the paranoia deepens. I read the piece in a small group, and no one got it. I wasn't trying to be that obscure; there are famous people that the average Arkansan (or Californian for that matter) haven't heard of, and it's hard to write about them without getting derailed. I'm worried about this one.

The lively light

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from Strobe-- the Lively Light [1963]


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I was never all that crazy about the Red Hot Chili Peppers either.

Pictures of Matchstick Men

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Matchstick Men get caught in my head.

Not so popular

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Did Meg read my hover text for my sidebar link?


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Opening lines

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I'm taking a survey.

I haven't started to write my next essay because every opening sentence wants to start with an indeterminate pronoun. This bugs me for some reason. I decided to do a survey of the opening sentences in The Best American Essays to see if there is a proper way to begin. Here's a short list of words used to open; the most popular is of course "When I," locating the speaker and positioning the words in the past.a big black I?

  • I've been
  • We have
  • We always
  • I'll even
  • There was
  • I was
  • When your
  • I write
  • At just
  • I am
  • We have
  • As kids
  • If I
  • A friend
  • I've always
  • The first spring
  • The deserts of
  • I must have
  • It is a
  • I am not sure
Notice that "I" is almost always involved? Very few essays begin with objects, or with any perspective outside the writer. I find this quite interesting, but I'm easily amused. I have the strong urge to open with a verb; it's hard to make that work, but I've noticed that I pull it off from time to time.

Mr. Photo

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the camera is a Koni-Rapid Omega, a bizzare beast that not many have heard of. It worked pretty nicely though.I just can't seem to write today.

There's a piece in my head about my first attempt at college that I can't get off the ground. Researching some specifics, I dug out an old annual. I was surprised to find that I had a fairly nice two-page photo essay. It won't scan well, but I may pull out a few images. It's hard to remember being as inept as I was then. Things haven't changed much, I'm still a non-winner. Just another geek with a camera.

There was a distinct division between the art department and the photojournalism department. I took classes in both, and worked as an assitant to the "professional" photographer who was a paid member of the administrative staff. There were three darkrooms on campus, and while I was welcome in all three, there was no reason to step outside my work area. Working for the staff publicity photographer, I photographed instructional materials (including pornographic magazines for the psychology department) and did darkroom work in a pretty much state of the art, all stainless steel, lab. The other photo labs had fifty year old equipment that was trash. They had no cameras to loan at all, while I had access to a variety of Hasselblads, Pentax system, and view cameras up to 8x10. Lucky me. Too bad I wasn't better at things back then, I was in equipment heaven.

The ads in the annual are the most interesting thing about this trip down memory lane, though

Rainy Day, Dream Away

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A rainy day.

Took my car in to get serviced; it looks like its going to be another hot summer next year. They want $1,100 to fix my air-conditioning. Not this time, sorry. I made it through this summer without it, so I suppose I'll do the same 4-60 air-conditioning next year. Rented a brand new Toyota Camry to get around while it's in the shop getting the brakes fixed and the timing-belt changed. It feels like driving a space-ship. I suppose I've just become accustomed to the rattles of a Ford.

I have a lot of writing to do, but I haven't had much sleep. I keep getting increasingly frustrated with language.

                                        Pity philosophies of
daily exits and entrances, with books
propping up one end of a shaky table—
The vague accuracies of events dancing two
and two with language which they
forever surpass—and dawns
tangled in darkness—

William Carlos Williams, Paterson 1:ii


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Hockney and Criswell

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Just a couple of short notes:

It's great fun to play with the search engine at MPTV. Type in a star, any star, and watch the photos show up. They have a great marketing idea with this one. I'm not ready to start collecting photographs as jpeg's, but the offer of a 16x20 fiber-base print of John Lennon for $750 is actually fairly reasonable, given the apparent quality of the piece. I like it. I wish I had the cash!

I'm not familiar with Luke's favorite, Tintin, but while I'm putting up links I should note a new companion. Also, it looks like a nice show with David Hockney is coming up on BBC2. [via ALD] I'll never forget seeing some of Hockney's photo collages on the beach in Venice, California, years ago. One of my favorite painters, Warren Criswell uses his own bastard version of Old Masters technique in his paintings, and it's perhaps the last thing I would suspect Hockney of getting involved with; his works always seemed remarkable in their flatness to me. But what do I know.

Silly tests

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Silly stuff:

I was a bit shocked to find that my robot equivalent was The Terminator. I've never been accused of that sort of aggressive behavior. I always thought I was more like the robot on Lost in Space: snide and fairly ineffectual.

Now I find out that my inner monster is nothing less than the Devil himself. Makes sense, that Satan guy is the best character in Paradise Lost anyway.

I suppose I just have trouble thinking of myself as an evil figure though; I just don't have that much energy. Those evil guys are just so active! I'm far more lethargic, actually.

Portraits of Pleasure

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from the series window shop for love

Compositional Epiphany

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I read a lot.

I sat frozen until it became far too late to say much of consequence. Too many thoughts today: Paradise Lost— How do angels think? Adam’s farts don’t stink, and it is questionable if there were any latrines in the garden of Eden. etc . . . Ted Hughes perverted revision of the fall: Adam ate the fruit, Eve ate Adam, the serpent ate them both, turning them into a brown mass in his intestines. The opening of book 3 of Paterson will show up here soon as well.

For now, I want to save an odd moment in Composition Theory class.

Kid Friendly Cities

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Another demographic rating thing.

Zero Population Growth has a web site which rates how kid friendly cities in the US are. Is it just me, or does this strike anyone else as odd? If zero population growth is the desired effect, most of the west would have to stop having kids all together. But I digress.

It was interesting to compare the stats in different areas that I've recently lived in: Bakersfield and Little Rock. In education, Bakersfield gets a C- while Little Rock gets an A. Makes sense. Most of my education was done in Bakersfield, and I'm definitely below average. Of course, in public safety Bakersfield gets an A and Little Rock a C. Hmm, I was robbed at least three times in Bakersfield, and constantly had to lock my car and house. In Little Rock, I seldom lock my car and have accidently left my apartment unlocked on numerous occasions. . . no incidents. But the economic data seems reasonable, Bakersfield gets a C- and Little Rock a B+. I love statistics. There is no arguing that most people in Little Rock are pretty smart though, unlike the "dumb hick" stereotype.

Oh Well

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picturesque, eh?

This is the view out the window of my bedroom, when I was growing up. The car is my old 66 fairlaine, inherited from my Dad. The big pipe is part of our water-well. We were far enough out in the sticks that there was no city water for us.

Sort of desolate, huh? It wasn't quite as bland as this distressed polaroid implies, but it was pretty, uh, dull.

I was having fun with the depth of field on an old trash polaroid. Even the screen of the window was in focus. I guess you could say I was easily amused as a child.

The bushes at the bottom right were actually beautiful roses, but I had this big urge to make things ugly. The well wasn't automatic, there was a big switch to turn it on at the base of the power-pole. I used to love to play with it when my parents weren't home. The sound of the water splashing in the pipe, and the massive electric motor at the surface were great fun. Yup, easily amused, I tell you.


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Note to self: Don’t listen to a blistering live version of “Leper” by Dinosaur Jr. before shopping for groceries.

Ted Hughes is a fuck

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It's always something. I've been pondering a story that I need to write this week, which involves (in an odd and tangential manner) Ted Hughes. In a weird way, Ted Hughes became the last straw which caused me to drop out of school twenty years ago. I didn't know that much about him then, but I know more now.

Perhaps it's too much information. A story in the Guardian brings out something I didn't know. Besides the death of Sylvia Plath, Hughes may have also been a contributing factor in another suicide. I suppose it was the reverence that Fred Jacobs (my instructor in library science, of all things!) felt for Hughes that made me feel totally excluded from the pretentious world of snobby poetry. Tales of visiting Hughes estate, and small press books that mere mortals couldn't hope to own really galled me. I'm afraid to learn what a really reprehensible human being he might have been.

Pete Townshend turned one of his children's books into an album (Iron Man), but I just can't bring myself to read Hughes again. I just plain hated it the first time; I've had no use for ivory tower artists.

Just looking at his pictures in the Guardian article gives me the creeps. I can only hope that his fate as dead poet laureate will be closer to Southey's rather than Tennyson's.

County Fair, 1977

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county fair, circa 1977

Comp Theory Week 3 pt. 3

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More boring schoolwork. Notes on:

“Is There Life after Process? The Role of Social Scientism in a Changing Dicipline” by Joseph Petraglia. Post-Process Theory: Beyond the Writing Process Paradigm. Ed. Thomas Kent. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1999.

“Early Work on Composing: Lessons and Illuminations” by Sondra Perl. History, Reflection, and Narrative: The Professionalization of Compositon 1963-1983 1999.

Stuffed in a Box

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Pam urged me to submit Stuffed in a Box to the school publication, so I thought I'd put it up here.

Thoughts, anyone? It's a short read, just over 1,000 words.

Comp Theory Week 3 pt. 2

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Horribly, Horribly, boring schoolwork. Notes on:

“Introduction” by Thomas Kent
“Research in Professional Communication: A Post-Process Perspective” by Nancy Blyler.

From: Post-Process Theory: Beyond the Writing Process Paradigm. Ed. Thomas Kent. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1999.

Vegas arts

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Russ noted the opening of a new Guggenheim museum in Las Vegas. The Guardian article also notes that the museum will be open until at least 11pm. This sounds great to me, and it's not unexpected. It's the only city I've ever lived in that kept what I consider to be decent hours. Nothing really closes, you can buy housepaint and furniture at 3am. I often wake up at night with art-cravings, it's too bad that Vegas is off my list of prospective residences.

This is oddly coincidental. I just started scanning some of my Vegas photographs a few days ago, thinking of a new gallery for this site. My photographs aren't what you'd call a typical view of Vegas: no neon. It's a very ugly place in the daytime, and I hadn't started photographing at night when I lived there. I did the neon thing later in my career. But perhaps the prime reason why I think this museum will be successful is that sex sells. The Guggenheim's experience in Italy, as relayed by the Art News article, makes me think that a museum in this city could become a new hot spot:

A lead article in the Italian daily Il Gazzettino exclaimed: "Who would ever have said that the corridors of the Accademia Museum in Florence were more erotically charged than the atmosphere in a discotheque? That Botticelli’s Primavera instigates hard-core thoughts and actions, and that the rooms of the Guggenheim Museum in Venice are more stimulating than Viagra?"
Vegas is nothing if not "erotically charged," at night anyway.


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Bakersfield, circa 1992

For William Carlos Williams

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Took a poetry break.

Just opening the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry at random, I stumbled upon a poem by Galway Kinnell. I like it. I like it a lot. I've been reading bits of Paterson by William Carlos Williams lately, and given the current climate when I've read prose lately, this one really struck a nerve
Note to self: Read more Joyce Carol Oates.

Response to Joyce Carol Oates' "They All Just Went Away" The Best American Essays, 3rd ed., 2001.

They All Just Went Away is an essay about the relationship between house and home, and the relationship between people of different social status. But it is much more than that. It depicts a slice of life as if it were a bit of bruised fruit, with all its seeds, and complexities, left intact.

Boring School Work

Response to Scott Russell Sanders' "The Inheritance of Tools" The Best American Essays, 3rd ed., 2001.

The Inheritance of Tools uses carpentry as the centerpiece of a reflection on the transmission of knowledge from generation to generation. It violates conventional chronology, relying on memory as its central organizational theme. The tools provide only the point of departure to discuss deep emotional issues of family.

My back yard

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My father, sawing firewood.

I suppose there is a childhood root for my feelings of isolation. This was the view from my backyard, in my teen years. It looked pretty much the same in all directions. The nearest house was about 1/3 of a mile away. It was farmland, all the way around. This made it hard to sneak out, except after dark. I had to walk for at least a mile until I was out of sight. The trees that are visible in the distance are where I used to meet my drug connections. Lou Reed's "Waiting for My Man" had great resonance with me.


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Much Madness is divinest sense—
To a discerning eye—
Much sense—the starkest Madness—
‘Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail—
Assent—and you are sane—
Demur—you’re straightaway dangerous—
And handled with a Chain—

Emily Dickinson, #435

Bought The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry tonight. I'm not familiar with much past W.B.Yeats, so I figured it was time to catch up. William Carlos Williams wiped the taste of T.S. Eliot out of my mouth. I still don't know why I hated him so much.

It’s amazing how the right poem always seems to pop up at the right time. Watched Hannibal earlier. I can empathize with the poor cop with the screw-top head at the end. It feels like I’m doing that sort of surgery, self-inflicted, trying to figure out which piece to carve off and fry up next.


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Read a bunch of stuff yesterday ranting about "good" and "bad" blog design. To be honest, I really didn't see much difference among the examples. No taste. That's me. The reason why I don't survive long in groups. I can never really see what so many people are on about.

Woke up in the middle of the night trying to write a sentence. It wasn't a good one, and nothing I could do could save it. It went something like this: "If a tree falls in the forest and smashes your brains out, do you hear the sound?"

The teacher is urging me to submit a revision of Talk Talk to the school's journal. This happens from time to time, but I seldom do. I tend to think of these things that I "make" as gifts of a sort, and I'm careful who I give them to. Most people don't get me. I'm quite harmless actually; I'm not a writer or an artist really, I just play one on monitors across the globe. I hate the pretensions, the lies, the complacent nods as if people could figure out who I am, when I have difficulty with that most of the time myself. Firm convictions and curiosity, I suppose that sums it up.

And an irrepressible need to blather on.

Signs of the times

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strange things happen when you listen to Gang of Four before shooting pictures. (from around 1982)

Roy Harper- Gadfly interview

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Shilling for Harper once again


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I'm blown away. I finally got the chance to hear The Urinals.


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More media twittage: Ozzy speaks out against anti-war protests:

So many books, so little time

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There are just too many books out there I'd like to read. I remain largely ignorant about contemporary writers because I keep finding new stones to look under from the past.

Yesterday, I noted a citation from the C-18L list from The Spirit of the Public Journals. There was a deeper explanation of this source today: it was an anthology of writings from newspapers and magazines published annually in London from about 1798 for the next 20 years or so. Something tells me it would take a while to weed through. But, the author on that mailing list keeps posting gems:

On the subject of ‘starveling’ poets, The Spirit of the Public Journals for 1801 (1802), p.362, has this:

On a Library, where the Books were in Curious Bindings

With eyes of wonder the gay shelves behold!
Poets—all rags alive—now clad in gold;
In life and death one common fate they share, And on their backs still their riches wear.

On the same subject.

POLLIO, who values nothing that’s within, Rates books, like beavers—only for their skin.
These musings make me wonder. How often do we value fruits, strictly for the quality of their skins?

The Mind's Eye

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The Mind's Eye is a great read.

Even if you're not a photographer, it's filled with all sorts of good stuff. There are a few small, poorly reproduced photographs; this book primarily compiles a variety of writings by Henri Cartier Bresson from across his career.

My passion has never been for photography "in itself," but for the possibility— through forgetting yourself— of recording in a fraction of a second the emotion of the subject, and the beauty of the form; that is, a geometry awakened by what's offered.

The photographic shot is one of my sketchpads.

Bresson is a master, in the truest sense of the word. His powers of observation are second to none; his ability to express complex issues through simple means is nothing short of astounding. It took me a long while to unpack what he said about Kertéz. It was more like poetry than prose.

Another great example are his observations about Cuba.
Note to self: I must locate Francis Burney’s Evelina

It was described as a “case history of public humiliation” on the C-18L list. I’ve not read anything by her, and she was described in the same sentence with Jane Austen so she might appeal to me. I like Jane, particularly for her sense of comedy, and Burney’s novel was mentioned in the context of rude comedy. Drat. It’s out of print, and abebooks is offline . . . oh well, another day. Another one that sounds interesting is Smollett’s Roderick Random.

Watching a weird program on PBS, I found out that Reuters was founded in the Victorian age, as a carrier-pigeon company that transmitted information between European stock exchanges. Learn something new every day. Ever hear of the Bonzo Dog Band? For something more contemporary, Ginger Geezer sounds like a rather funny biography.

Back to the 18th century, I found this snip funny as well:

On the late marriage of Mr. Cook to Miss Mutton.

Miss’s prudence in marrying should not be o’erlook’d, Since the Mutton was useless until it was Cook’d

The Spirit of the Public Journals for 1805 (London, 1806), p.67.

I love academic lists that aren't stuffy!

Even more Aptronyms

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The aptronyms just don’t stop on C18-L


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wow, I found another photo of Kris that she didn't destroy. This one was a slide, she only confiscated my negatives.


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Things fit together in the strangest ways. It’s hard to describe this thought-chain, so bear with me please. I think it’s good, but what do I know.
Finished up book four of Paradise Lost.

It’s quite relaxing to get back to the really important questions, like “did Adam and Eve have sex before the fall?” Milton’s answer is eloquent and to the point:

Which God likes best, into thir inmost bower
Handed, they went; and eas’d the putting off
These troublesome disguises which wee wear,
Strait side by side were laid, nor turnd I weene
Adam from his fair Spouse, nor Eve the Rites
Mysterious of connubial Love refus’d:
Whatever Hypocrites austerely talk
Of puratie and place and innocence,
Defaming as impure what God declares
Pure, and commands to som, leaves free to all.
Our Maker bids increase, who bids abstain
But our destroyer, foe to God and Man?
Adam and Eve retire side by side, and Milton assumes [I weene] that only a hypocrite would think that they don’t have sex. Who would prohibit sex, except someone who wanted humanity to fail, like Satan? That’s a no-brainer. Puritans like Milton get a bad rap sometimes; Milton at least argued for less restraint of sensuality. I really like the idea of clothes as "troublesome disguises" and of sex in the garden of Eden. OF COURSE Adam and Eve had sex before the fall!

I really love this stuff! I’d go insane if I didn’t have at least one literature class to look forward to.

Back Seat

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I used to spend a lot of time in the back seat.

My father, behind the wheel of the old 66 Ford. Can you tell it's Southern California?

Fucked day

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A very difficult day as a whole.

I read Talk Talk to the class. I tried to explain that I was really uncertain about how it could be revised. I was told to shut up, cut the preamble, etc. The atmosphere in that classroom was one of the reasons why I wrote the essay. I then told the teacher that I didn’t want to read it. After a long rant by the teacher about not writing anything you wouldn’t want to read in public, I relented and read it. The resulting discussion really did little more than raise my blood pressure. I’m so fucking tired of being told to shut up these days. People ask what you think, but they really don’t want to know. Keep it brief. Small sentences. Don’t be too complicated now.

I don’t have any choice but to write what I feel. I believe that the teacher thinks that I’m a flaming egotist; when I said I said I didn’t know how to revise it, she interpreted that as meaning I thought the essay was perfect. Fuck that. It’s just another piece of trash. I write lots of trash. I’m not all that attached to it; it just seemed like something I needed to write at the time. After I read it, the teacher tried to imply that I’m a victim of child-abuse. Fuck that. My father is a great guy. I just used a small aspect of our relationship, rhetorically, to make a point about what happened to me later in life. It’s nobody’s fault. It just is. Don’t cry for me, you sanctimonious . . .

The main suggestion that came out of the discussion was that I should remove, or minimize, one of the piece's many themes. Uh, it’s fairly intricately constructed, that’s far easier to say than do. Mr. Wordsworth, could you cut that bit with your sister at the end of Tintern Abbey, it just doesn’t fit the entire theme of the piece . . . again, I find myself faced with the idea of trying to write down to people. Complicated writing can’t be good.

Just finished book three of Paradise Lost. Yoder offered his usually brilliant synopsis of God’s lines in the poem: “God only says two things in Paradise Lost: ‘I knew that’ and ‘It’s not my fault’” I feel that way most of the time when students in the rhetoric department comment on my work. It's not my fault that my references are sometimes a little obscure; it's a generational thing I guess. Mechanically, most people don't tell me much that I don't know. But the worst part is when teachers think they are doing me a favor by suggesting that I write down in order to reduce the complexity of the pieces. Sorry if I’m complicated. Deal with it. I’ve got lots of complicated stories knocking around in my head, especially the last few days. Trying to simplify them down to the level of class work (I can’t believe this is happening in grad school) is no easy task; simplification often means that misreading is inevitable.

Readers here, I don’t have to “dumb down” for. Thank you, all you silent folks. It’s okay if you don’t get it all; I don’t myself. I just write the stuff. I want to write richer stuff; rich stuff is sometimes hard to digest. It’s a really big picture, but it’s getting clearer. One project at a time. It isn’t an ego thing; people are complicated. I’m just another guy, not god. I don’t "know it all" like god. But I do know how to write; I wish people would at least give me a little credit for that. I want to write better; learning how to talk seems like a lost cause at this stage of the game.

Shut up, Jeff


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Took the GRE [Graduate Record Exam] this morning.

It really sucked. Three and a half hours of meaningless logic problems. At the end, I just started clicking on bubbles without even reading the questions. It pissed me off. Just what does this crap show?

Got my scores right away: 640 (or 650, I can't remember) on the verbal part, 630 on the quantitative, 550 on the analytical. I don't really know what those numbers mean. I did some searching, and found out (if I would have actually studied or something, it might have come in handy-- nah, screw that) that the last part of the test gets discarded anyway; it's "the experimental portion." So, I failed the lab rat phase, but the other scores are the ones that count anyway. If I would have read the material, I would have realized that I could have just blown that whole section off instead of trying during the first half.

None of this really matters now. I just had to take it, it didn't matter what I scored. Looking at the grad schools that require scores, the minimum is usually about 1200 combined; since half asleep and with no prep I scored 1800+, I guess I'm pretty safe. I may have to take it again for a Phd program, but if I do I'll have a better idea of what to expect.

Little Trailer I used to Live In

Found this unprinted negative from around 1976. Also found the first "It's not you, it's me" letter from around the same time. A fucked-up evening as a whole. Shut up, Jeff. Press that camera a little tighter to your face.

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