Speaks at Home

by Brian Crane

A Few Garden Thoughts, July

Permalink Posted July 24, 2020

Araki on Heterosexuality

“Heterosexuality sucks, even as a board game.”

—Gregg Araki, *Totally F***ed Up*

Permalink Posted July 24, 2020

Butler—Themes Post-Exogenesis

Reading the Exogenesis series (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, Imago) I made a non-exhaustive list of themes running through Octavia Butler’s novels.



When I made this list, I’d read (but not necessarily logged) the Exogenesis series, Fledgling, and the Seed to Harvest series.

But no at this point, I’ve read everything she’s published except a bit of the short fiction. But I’m not sure what to write about what I’ve read.

Butler’s fiction is alarmingly topical and the clarity of her prose is simply overwhelming: it’s difficult to imagine how someone writes her sentences and then uses them to muster the narrative energy she brings to bear novel after novel. What I see clearly is that she is able to do so because of structural choices vis-à-vis narrative and point-of-view that enable a fluency and diction that is spare and beautiful.

My take-away is that Butler was an extraordinary novelist.

Permalink Posted July 24, 2020

What Opening Looks Like

I’ve realized too late that it would have been cool to keep the Government’s various info sheets as they were released as a reminder of how restrictions changed over time for when the slow stages have congealed into a simpler memory of the “the Troubles.” Alas, I didn’t think of it in time.

In the spirit of “better late than never,” here’s a link to OHL showing what a late-stage guidelines info sheet looks like.

Permalink Posted July 9, 2020

Cocteau on Individuality

Rien n’est plus tenace que la déformation professionnelle.

— Jean Cocteau, Orphée

Permalink Posted July 8, 2020

The Time of Crisis

The troubles move at their own times. There are waves of infection. There are also waves of reaction. They don’t however move together the way I’d expected. The virus continues its steady march but what we feel is mostly about what we’ve been feeling. The facts seem to have little to do with it.

Here things are opening up bit-by-slow-bit and seem to be under control. Yet my own reactions, while rooted here in Quebec, are also tied up in my worries about the situation in Florida and Georgia which (as I feared) is spiraling out of control.

Emotionally, this is a bit like standing with one foot on a dock and the other on a loose boat. It’s not the bit of stable ground that matters.

Permalink Posted July 6, 2020

Cunningham on Fate

“Few fates are wholly disagreeable. If they were, we might do a better job of evading them.”

— Michael Cunningham, A Home at the End of the World (Alice)

Permalink Posted July 5, 2020

Required Viewing

Today’s thought: Ink Master and RuPaul’s Drag Race are, despite surface differences, the same show about the same subject. They should be watched together, side-by-side, one episode of one, then one episode of the other.

Permalink Posted July 3, 2020

Montaigne on Judgment

We readily acknowledge in others an advantage in courage, in bodily strength, in experience, in agility, in beauty; but an advantage in judgment we yield to no one.

— Michel de Montaigne, "Of Presumption"

Permalink Posted June 22, 2020

Montaigne on Deciding Things

I can easily maintain an opinion but not choose one.

— Michel de Montaigne, "Of Presumption"

Permalink Posted June 15, 2020

Incremental Change

WordPress is the equivalent of the vegan’s morning egg taken from the nest of the chickens roaming freely in the backyard. A small step toward change.

Permalink Posted June 12, 2020

Butler on Throwing People Away

“The problem, of course, with throwing people away is that they don’t go away. They stay in the society that turned its back on them. And whether that society likes it or not, they find all sorts of things to do.”

— Octavia Bultler

Permalink Posted June 9, 2020


Walking today it occurred to me that I interact with the internet the way vegans interact with food: intensely but through difficult commitments and principles that easily isolate and limit possibilities.

It’s hard to hang out with a vegan because everything becomes an issue. In this, I speak from experience: I was vegan for a large swath of my university years and know how much of a pain I was.

And now, like a vegan, I hold to my internet principles deeply enough that even when I say “fuck it, I’m just going to give in and get an instagram account so I can keep up with friends,” I don’t make it past the create account page.

In this, I’m not unlike the vegan who decides that, dammit, they’re going to have a burger at their friend’s BBQ but can’t manage to take a first bite.

Permalink Posted June 9, 2020

Distraction as Metaphor

We talk a lot about distraction these days, and recently a few thoughts popped into my head about what our use of the term implies. I’m jotting them down for later without any sense of how true they are.

It seems to me that “distraction” implies that:

In other words, “distraction” implies the failure of the good to attract attention and the failure of my nature to recognize or to desire that good unaided. “Distraction” suggests my feelings betray me and cannot be trusted.

This feels wrong and living by it feels self-hating.

Permalink Posted June 8, 2020

Criterion's Pride Schedule

Criterion has published their June schedule, which includes a series of queer films for Pride Month that actually has me pretty excited. It’s a great list of things with plenty I haven’t seen.

There’s a lot there, but the ones that interest me are:

Still, despite all that goodness, the entry on the schedule that has me counting days is the “Three by Araki” series, which includes Totally F***ed Up, a film I’ve seen multiple times but only on crap VHS or on YouTube. I LOVE this film and the idea of seeing a clean Criterion-quality version of it’s camcorder scrappiness has me losing my shit.

And also, obviously,

(yes, yes, yes,)

My Own Private Idaho.

Permalink Posted May 28, 2020

Abbott on Humane Scholarship

You should aspire to something better than the mere political use of the past or of the Other. Human scholarship aims to understand another world on its own terms and by that understanding to improve its own world. …We should see the subject of our research as a particular example of its own way of being human — good or bad, sightly or unsightly, politically correct or devastatingly evil.

— Andrew Abbott, Digital Paper: A Manual for Research and Writing with Library and Internet Materials

Permalink Posted May 28, 2020

Errands Under Lockdown

My last post, once I saw it online, startled me with how little it captured the experience of running the errands I spoke about during the COVID pandemic rather than normal times.

Quebec was still under lockdown when I went out, even if the plan for reopening is now under way. The Beav and I have been strict about following the orders: we’ve gone out for groceries, bought as much as we could when we did, and stayed home otherwise. And this since March 13th. It turns out though that bike shops and hardware stores are, along with grocery stores, “essential services.”

So my day started with me standing outside the bike shops wearing a mask, my bike in a rack and my explaining to a worker who was two metres away, what I thought needed to be done on the bike and him telling me he’d call if something else came up as they worked. They’d call in a week to let me know when to pick it up. I never set foot in the store.

At the grocery store, I stood in line, spaced two metres apart waiting for one of the fifty people inside to leave so the next person in line could go into the foyer, wash their hands at the sink, take a cleaned cart and go inside to shop. Arrows on the floor tell you which direction you can walk up the aisles in order to minimize the chance of getting too close to someone. When it was time to check out, there was another line: I stood on my circle waiting for the circle in front of me to clear off, then moved up. When I was at the front of the line, I waited until an employee sent me to a cashier who was empty and had finished cleaning their station from the last customer.

At the hardware store, it was just like at the grocery store, only harder to manage because how do you follow the arrows when you can’t know which plants you’re going to get until you’ve seen all that they have on offer?

These three errands took me nearly four hours.

Permalink Posted May 28, 2020

This Year's Garden

Early Wednesday, May 20, I got up and dropped off my bike at the shop to be serviced for the summer. Afterwards, I made our grocery run and then stopped by Rona to buy the basics for the garden. I hadn’t planned on planting everything that day and certainly didn’t plan on putting everything in all in one go. But once I had the seedlings, I didn’t see any reason to wait.

Five hours later, I was done, exhausted and watering. (And the next day, I could barely move I was so sore from all the squatting and standing and squatting and standing.)

So that I have some notes for later, this is this year’s garden.


The same variety I’ve planted the past few summers. Thirty plants are arranged in four rows in the space behind the potatoes. I over planted in case I lost plants again this year but also because I’m thinking about canning rather than freezing the tomatoes we don’t eat.

We ate the last of the the frozen tomatoes from last year around the same time that I planted the garden.


Planted in four short rows arranged in an L-shape behind the rhubarb.


Planted in two rows along the long south side of the garden. The early season are planted in both rows close to the road. The mid-season are planted in the middle. The late season are planted at the west end of the rows.


Planted in two short rows along the west side of the garden running from the rhubarb to the front.

A Solitary Eggplant

It’s not hot enough long enough to really grow eggplant here, but we love eggplant and managed to get eight off of one plant last year. I lost the ticket identifying the variety but this plant — if it bears anything — will bear a long skinny fruit with some write mottling on the skin when ripe. I planted it in the corner where the potatoes meet the garlic.

Permalink Posted May 27, 2020


Yesterday I was going through some old posts on my blog for the first time in ages and what I realized reading was how clearly nervous I was about what I was writing. Posting to the open web was new to me, and once what I was doing had sunk in (it took awhile), I became very very self-conscious about what I was watching, about what I was reading, and about what I revealed by sharing my thoughts about these things honestly.

Reading now and knowing what I actually think and feel about what I logged, I can see how often I hedged or struck a knowing or ironic pose, how often I took cheap shots at disreputable works I enjoyed, and in dozens of other ways struck just to the side of truthfulness.

Years ago in a class, Eric Savoy, drawing on remarks by Henry James, defined “embarrassment” as the position of having said too much yet without having managed to say what you meant. My nervous logs — and not all of them are — are embarrassed in exactly this sense. They reveal passions without sharing love.

Permalink Posted May 24, 2020

Fall 2020

The announcement has been made: classes at my college will be online in the Fall. Figuring out how to make that work is now officially a summer project.

Permalink Posted May 22, 2020

New Normal

Talking about a “new normal” a few weeks ago felt like hysteria, but it seems pretty clear that many of the changes in daily life brought on by the COVID pandemic will be with us for the rest of the year.

The most obvious example is the rumblings about online courses in the Fall. Nothing’s been announced officially yet, but a few days ago I accepted that I should begin thinking about what classes given entirely online would look like. The difference between a course that finishes online and one offered there exclusively is like the difference between a whale and a fish: many of their similarities are only apparent and fall away when you pay closer attention. I’ve only just started and already I’m reconsidering things I took to be fundamental.

So with the promise of months of social distancing to come and plenty of work to do along the way, I’m grateful to be out of the city far enough to be able to sit outside watching the river or to take walks around the fields. I’m locked down but not confined, and I’m close enough to the natural world to see the muskrat swimming along the banks of the river or the mourning doves nesting under a corner of the roof or the squirrel braving the road to get at the stand of trees beyond the pavement.

It helps to see these creatures moving along at a familiar rhythm in a world that they take to be largely unchanged.

Permalink Posted May 14, 2020

Brown on Not Copping-Out

…don’t make a ritual out of getting your head together…

— Rita Mae Brown, Rubyfruit Jungle

Permalink Posted May 11, 2020


Have a good one bro…

Permalink Posted May 7, 2020

Rousseau on Walking

The free hours of my daily walks have often been filled with delightful contemplations which I am sorry to have forgotten. Such reflections as I have in future I shall preserve in writing; every time I read them they will recall my original pleasure.

— Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Reveries of a Solitary Walker

Permalink Posted April 27, 2020


It was sunny and warm, so I spent the morning walking the dirt and gravel roads between the farmers’ fields.

The snow is gone and the world is a soft golden brown. Wild grasses throw shadows in the wind and grey-green waters run snake-wise, cutting streams through the clay.

Permalink Posted April 26, 2020

And Yet...

Our lives are upside down, and yet:

The world beyond us moves to its familiar rhythms. It’s a scary time, but things will be okay.

Permalink Posted April 24, 2020

Some Final Meta-Blogging

Now that I’ve sorted out how to style a personal theme, there are really only two things that annoy me about this WordPress blog, neither of which I can do much about: speed and security.

Speed: the flat HTML site spit out by TBX was stupid fast. Clicking the homepage link meant seeing the page before I was ready to take it in. There was absolutely no noticeable delay. WordPress is not like this at all. Sitting on the same server, it loads slowly enough that I regularly have to check the progress bar to convince myself the page is on its way. And this is with the default theme, a homepage with no images and only three basic plug-ins. It’s excruciating.

Security: Those plug-ins? They enable features like ssl and failed-login locks because security is a problem with WordPress. This morning alone a steady stream of automated, regularly paced (but failed) login attempts were logged at the site. This was basically a non-issue with the flat HTML site I worked up because there were no log-ins, no databases, no php. It was just HTML text, elegant, beautiful and solid. I miss that. Maybe (probably) I don’t understand what these log-in attempts are and maybe they’re benign, but it feels like keeping things locked down here is a pain.

Permalink Posted April 24, 2020

Worn In

I have a pair of leather shoes that I bought in 1997. I was a student, had no money, and they were high-quality enough to cost more than I could afford. But I bought them, and now, twenty-two years later I still have them, still wear them and they are the most comfortable shoes I own.

This blog is a lot like those shoes: I’ve broken it in enough for it to be hard to give up. Even if it’s rough and worn, it fits.

Or to use a different analogy: Jack might tell Innes “I wish I could quit you,” but he doesn’t. And I guess it’s the same with me and this damned WordPress blog.

Permalink Posted April 23, 2020

A Theme of One's Own

This morning I finally sat down and figured out the odd element tags in WordPress and wrote up the additional css I needed to make the default theme match the solarized theme I’d built for my MOPI notes. The basics were easy, but filing off the rough edges took some digging around in the main stylesheet.

I like the results and feel like I’ve got a space I can post in again.

(Aesthetics shouldn’t matter this much but they do. They just do.)

Permalink Posted April 23, 2020

on foolishness

It’s a fault of character to mistake kindness for foolishness.

Permalink Posted April 23, 2020

TBX on the Go?

Tinderbox only runs on macOS. There’s no iOS version. Generally, this is fine because if I’m going to work, I’m usually going to be working at my computer. The one major exception to this is when I’m drafting. This is tough work and I need to be able to move from computer to paper and back again, and I need to be able to decide that “this isn’t working” and to pick everything up and go to a cafe.

How’s this supposed to work if the research materials I need to reference while I’m writing are bound to my desktop? It occurred to me today that the obvious answer is HTML export.

When I’m writing, I never really need to change my TBX file. In fact, in a perfect world I would probably be prevented from making changes to it because it’s way too easy to sit down to write only to discover, an hour later, that I’ve produced a beautiful new map rather than 500 words. But here’s the thing: if all I want to do is to be able to read my notes, then it should be easy enough to just export and post them onto my server. I don’t even have to worry about whether the pages look good, right? They just need to work.

So to try this idea out, I copied the CSS and the main page template used in this blog into my research file. I wanted a template for each prototype (I’m using them to ID different kinds of materials) so that I could make sure that the appropriate information for each note would appear on the web pages that exported. To avoid making stupid HTML errors (I’m not a computer tech), I just kept duplicating and editing the main template I’d copied over from this blog. As I edited, I expected to be pulling info from attributes with value() statements, but I soon realized that, because I’ve been relying on links and link actions to organize my research ever since the new link pane was introduced, I could get most of the work done (and much faster) by using outboundBasicLink or inboundBasicLink to pull together lists of links by type. (e.g. Inbound links of type “directed” always originate with the director of the film.)

After a quick two hours of work, I had a set of sensible HTML “notecards” that interlink like a wiki. I uploaded them to a folder on the server and voilà. A set of notes on the web.

Export is daunting at first, but once you figure out the basics (or at least, the basics that you need), it’s incredibly powerful and insanely fast. And so I walk away feeling like, with a bit of creativity and some careful thinking, I could make it do anything…

Permalink Posted April 5, 2020

The Day Fear Hit

Yesterday was the day where I feel as if I felt something of the amplitude of the coming crisis in real terms and was stricken once I did by genuine fear. Some of the people I love live in the parts of the US that have been doing the absolute least to contain the outbreak. A few are working in hospital ERs with little protective gear. Others are in grocery stores with none at all. Their health and safety depends upon the behaviour of their neighbours, and I don’t trust that people are being told what they must do or that they are doing it if they are. And so American individualism has now become a non-metaphorical disease agent.

Yet, at least emotionally and is often the case with me, the way out is through, and after a day of real worry, I’ve woken up today clearheaded and ready to work on projects. The situation hasn’t changed, but I at least feel up to doing more than cycling through texting then staring at the ceiling then texting then etc.

Permalink Posted April 2, 2020

Moving a Course Online

Courses are cancelled for the rest of the semester, and colleges and universities are expected to provide students with a distance completion option online. Watching how that rolls out and seeing what it entails in my own classes has been revealing.

On a more global level, crisis has shown various powers-that-be for what they are. I’m thinking specifically of the contrast between the many teachers unions that have stepped forward to exert power by offering to help make things work better (without sacrificing teachers) and the very different approach of the few that have grubbed for power by trying to provoke the failure of administrators who are as overwhelmed by the pandemic as the rest of us. The details of how that’s played out on the ground is insider baseball and not interesting to outsiders. But my point is simply that crisis reveals character, and these are insights to be held onto for later.

On a more personal level, transforming a face-to-face course into something that can be given online in a compressed timeframe has been more involved and more complex that I would have imagined possible. I fully expected it to be difficult — just setting up and explaining how to use communication channels that are manageable with 120+ students reaching out every few days is daunting — but today as I was working, I started flipping through one of the legal pads I use for my realtime note taking looking for an idea I remembered jotting down. I flipped and flipped and flipped through iteration after iteration of inadequate idea after undeveloped idea until finally, suddenly, I found myself at the front page of the pad: I’d forgotten work had begun in a different pad. As I stood up to fetch the pad I needed from my other table I felt as if my labor was being gauged by page count: I hadn’t expected creating online materials to be a two-pad problem!

Now, after a few days of work, I feel like I’m nearly ready to send out documents, thankfully, and just in time: courses start back tomorrow. (Are my colleagues? I hope so. Whether they are or not, I’m confident they’ll manage.)

In my case — and this feels like yet another Tinderbox plug — the fact that I’d been playing in my course file early in term and had decided to track how each activity either taught, practiced or evaluated a ministerial objective proved to be a godsend. As I entered this information, it really could not have seemed more pointless: these basic governmental requirements are so basic that they take care of themselves in most courses. But in the current situation, being able to see plainly what had already been taught and evaluated allowed me to very quickly identify what remained to be done. If this information hadn’t already been readily visible in the links of my course map, the rabbit holes I would have fallen into and the herrings (red) I would have chased as I tried to figure out how to plan the abbreviated final weeks of the semester are quite literally innumerable.

Permalink Posted March 29, 2020

Earthquakes. Frogs. What next?

The Beav and I were shaken awake this morning by an earthquake. No damage and not that strong — only 3.6 — but it was enough to make me begin to think apocalyptically when my brother sent me a photo, taken on his walk around the neighbourhood, of five desiccated frogs caught seemingly mid-leap on the sidewalk outside his house.

Permalink Posted March 29, 2020

The Unwanted Intimacy of the Video Conference

People all seem excited about video meetings, but I loath the idea. I don’t want to see the people from work’s houses, and I don’t want to invite them into mine.

I only video chat with family and friends, the very same people whom I would invite over to my place for dinner or a BBQ.

Permalink Posted March 25, 2020

Busy-work During the Pandemic

One week into Québec’s various lock-down measures, people have gotten past the dull smothering shock of the first days and have used the days that followed to hone their anxiety to a fine edge. Some are now eager and ready to swing it around in the world. Of the ways I see this happening, those I find the most fascinating (read: distressing) are the frantic efforts to force work colleagues who seldom meet face-to-face to video conference or have long interactive Google doc style discussions about how we are going to proceed with our work while in isolation.

It all feels like a deeply anxious effort by people to insist to themselves (knowingly or not) that there’s no need to be anxious because their work lives are proceeding normally thanks to an exciting, vaguely macho, taking-charge-of-events move toward using “modern” tools. (“Never waste a crisis!”) It also feels like an effort to enlist others into participating in and thus becoming complicit with a performance of “move along, nothing to see here.”

I sound unsympathetic toward these people, but I’m not. I understand that they are just stressed and looking for a productive way to put their attention elsewhere. But the simple truth is that things aren’t normal and pretending they are — to yourself or for others — is unhealthy. We don’t know how things will develop and pretending we do in order to be busy will probably waste effort and nurse anxiety. In a worst case, it could even create new problems that we’ll have to work around or fix later.

When I think of the people I love who are spread across Québec, the States and even Europe and who are either physically vulnerable or have very little capacity to survive long financial hardship, I’m afraid and feel genuine dread. It takes effort on my part to set those feelings in their place, to text or call to check in, and then to accept all the other things I can’t do to change or fix their situations. But I don’t really have another choice: pretending I’m not feeling what I feel doesn’t help and neither does making believe I’m helping more than I am.

I recognize that most people aren’t introverted and don’t, therefore, have “social distancing” as part of their standard coping-with-stress toolkit. They rely on “fighting at meetings,” “running around,” or “bossing people” for that, and in normal circumstances, the world’s stacked in their favour, rewarding them for behaviour that is essentially self-care. But for now the tables are turned. For now, accepting things as they are, finding quiet ways to deal with stress and loneliness, and waiting for the right moment to act are the best ways to cope. They also seem like better ways of getting through all of this un- (or at least minimally) harmed.

And if you still need some “action” in order to be okay? Volunteer.

Permalink Posted March 25, 2020

Vuong on Loneliness

... & remember,

loneliness is still time spent

with the world.

—Ocean Vuong, "Someday I'll Love Ocean Vuong," Night Sky with Exit Wounds

Permalink Posted March 25, 2020

Process Is Part of the Project

Québec’s response to the pandemic seems to be working. This is great news, but it’s also a sign that over the next few weeks there will likely be more of the quarantines and shutdowns that are keeping the pace of new infection so low. With this in mind, yesterday I decided to try to get some work done.

The dull anxiety of the past week — low-grade and barely noticeable, but there like a spare battery (remember those?) weighing down your backpack — had deadened my mind too much for serious reading. So I opened up the TBX file I’ve started for my new book project and decided to piddle.

First off, I knew I wanted some notes that will serve as the starting point for some mini-analysis on early materials. I created them — simple titles with no text— and slipped them into my “To Be Filed” container. I’ll get back to them when my mind’s working better.

From there, working in outline view:

Suddenly, my phone dings. My brother’s texting. I look at the clock and have been at this for an hour and a half. I scroll through the outline I’m working on. There’s still lots to do and I’m not sure how to go about it. However, things are better than when I opened the file in the sense that I’ve made some headway on clarifying my initial research questions and plans.

So I call it a day.

Permalink Posted March 21, 2020

Outlines and the Terrible Beauty of Maps

After years of relying on map view in my TBX files, I’ve gotten to the point where I generally use outline as my default. The problem I have with maps is that they cue an aesthetic response that overrides other concerns, and I have trouble setting that response aside. A map is either beautiful and this creates a barrier to revision, or it is ugly and making it attractive becomes my priority. If I leave it ugly, then I find it hard to work in the file unless I stop using the map. Outlines short circuits this enormous weak spot in my mental make-up.

So when do I use maps now? Usually only when a file or project has developed to the point where I know what it is and how it’s working. I then create maps that operate either like a publication of key aspects or like an interface for interacting with attributes that change over time. In both cases, attention to aesthetics becomes an asset rather than a distraction because a beautiful map will likely be legible while being dense with information. Colors, shapes, borders, badges, even shadows can be used to communicate content at a glance, and in this context, attention to aesthetics makes them communicate clearly.

What this means in practice is that generally maps are for “reading” my materials, while outline and attribute browser are my work views. And hyperbolic view? I’m intrigued by it and flipping to it more and more, but I haven’t quite wrapped my head around what it does for me yet.

Permalink Posted March 21, 2020

Quarantine Chains

As of today the Beav is officially quarantined because one of his work colleagues has tested positive for COVID. In practical terms, this means he’s to be isolated at home for fourteen days. Me as well? So now we’re both adjusting to the subtle but real distinctions between “social distancing” and “confinement for the greater good.”

I’m such a novice at all this that it never occurred to me that as I came to the end of one quarantine I could find myself immediately in another. Turns out this is absolutely possible and feels a lot like an annoying Boss mechanic in a video game: as soon as you’re free, it chains and you’re pinned again.

Permalink Posted March 19, 2020

Getting News in the Plague

On Anne-Marie Dussault's 24/60 the other night, a panelist gave advice for getting through the next few weeks. It boiled down giving yourself one hour of (screen) news per day and getting that news from one or two reliable sources that you pick in advance.

I've tried it and think it's a good idea. I get necessary info in a timely manner without turning quarantine into a rolling trauma.

Permalink Posted March 18, 2020

Movies about Forstalling the End

It occurs to me that one thing that's strange about the staying in is precisely that the story of staying in doesn't match my movie narratives. We aren’t all staying home in order to survive an apocalypse. We're staying home to try to keep that apocalypse in check and maybe even keep it from actually happening. In a sense, we’re asked to save the world by staying home and doing nothing, and the better this strategy of doing nothing works, the less it should look like we needed to do nothing at all.

I don’t think we’re going to hit that particular best-case scenario — things look like they are going to be bad — but still, off the top of my head, I can't think of movies where this is how hiding away with relatives works.

Permalink Posted March 18, 2020

Jemisin on Trusting Your Instincts

(This is not a digression.)

— N. K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Permalink Posted March 17, 2020

Plague Diaries: "Vacation" Begins

Over spring break, I travelled to the States to visit family I hadn’t seen in a long time, some of them quite elderly. COVID-19 was still just “the coronavirus” and didn’t really affect much as I left other than having to say whether I’d traveled to China or not during check-in. Yes, two planes of Canadians had been flown in from a Chinese hot zone and quarantined on a military base in the days before I’d started my trip, but the crisis was still largely confined to Asia: Quebec hadn’t had a single case. But then, soon after I left, COVID-19 broke loose in Europe, then Seattle and after that, the deluge. Florida’s first cases were identified the final days of my trip.

My selfish fear those last days was that I’d catch a cold or the flu, have fever when I travelled and be forcibly quarantined upon arrival in Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Thankfully that didn’t happen. I stayed healthy, got home and enjoyed a few days of normal.

Normal didn’t last though. Infections in Canada are cropping up everywhere, and Quebec is racing to “flatten the infection curve.” All the daycares, schools, colleges, and universities are closed for at least the next two weeks. Bars and cinemas were just closed as well, and restaurants were ordered to reduce their seating capacity by 50%. People are being told to work from home and to keep their distance from each other when in public. In a complete reversal of public policy, everyone has been asked not to visit elderly friends and family in residence and assisted living homes. And anyone back from abroad — that’s me — is also asked to self-quarantine for fourteen days.

Thankfully, the language of the reporting and of these announcements has focused on community, civic responsibility and protecting others, not on war or on invasion. This has been a relief and is part of why I have the sense that we’re better prepared here to deal with the crisis than the States are: at least we have a politically viable language for speaking about working cooperatively.

Yet despite everything, there’s still a palpable anxiety in the air, and I saw it in the nervous “is outside wrong?” smiles of the people who, like me, took a short walk in the sun yesterday afternoon. Everyone’s geared up by the endless announcements and the frantic preparations of the past few days, days that have felt like the first ten minutes of a zombie movie even if there are no helicopters, no cars rushing to get across the bridge before it closes, no soldiers being overrun by infected hordes. The streets are quiet, the first geese are starting to land on the river as they head north, and all we are being asked to do is to sit home and wait things out for two weeks, maybe more.

The disconnect between these simple, pleasant demands and the misery promised by the worst case scenarios has made spending the next two weeks doing one of my favourite things — staying home, doing my own stuff — feel odd and unnatural.

Permalink Posted March 16, 2020

And then There Were Permalinks...

I thought I’d wait to deal with permalinks, but I had an idea while taking a walk and decided to give it a try. Five minutes later they’re done. I always forget how crazy simple HTML export is. The key is to start with nothing and only build the things you understand. Then go from there.

I’m also not messing with an external CSS stylesheet. I just have a CSS note in my TBX file and a line in the page-head element of the templates that pulls that note’s text in as internal CSS for each page on the site. So I have all the advantages of external CSS when I’m working locally, but I don’t have to keep track of a stylesheet on the server. It’s the best of both worlds.

Permalink Posted March 15, 2020

An Earlier Blog Experiment

I tried to run a blog from Tinderbox once before, but in that case, I tried to duplicate the look and functionality of my fairly complicated Wordpress set-up. This meant building a TBX file that was a big hairy monster of a machine. I’m proud that I got the thing working, but running it took too much energy, and I wisely retreated to the CMS version of the blog after only a few days, lesson learned.

Permalink Posted March 15, 2020

New HTML Blog

Started up a new blog this morning. It’s not a replacement for this site. OHL will stay around and I might even post to it if I get over the lull of the past half year. Until then, find me at Speaks at Home.

Permalink Posted March 15, 2020

A New Blog

This is the first post of a new blog experiment that I imagine as a space for micro (and perhaps not so micro) blogging. It is also an experiment in building a simple HTML blog without Wordpress or some other CMS operating as middleman. I’m doing all the writing and HTML generation in a Tinderbox file that’s simple but that should be able to grow (or not) as I need it to, unlike the last time I tried something similar.

Ordinary Human Language still exists and I may continue to write there. I haven’t decided yet. That blog began as a place where I posted book and movie logs, built a commonplace book, and eventually, began sharing thoughts about how I use Tinderbox. There’s a lot there. However, the blog is moribund, has been for awhile, and my attempts to bring it back to life haven’t been very successful. In part, the problem appears to be that, for the moment, I’m not very invested in posting the kinds of things that blog grew to focus on. Beyond that, I’m also just tired of having to keep up with Wordpress to maintain such a simple site.

So this blog is a new start built up from an empty TBX file composed of:

Things couldn’t be more barebones than this. Yet if you’re reading, it works. And all of it came together in a couple hours this morning.

What’s posted now is very close to the look I have in mind for the blog.The color scheme I’m using is based on Ethan Schoonover’s excellent Solarized. Currently, the blog appears as a single page of posts, which will be fine for a long while because I imagine this as a text-only space. That said I am also exporting posts as individual pages, and eventually, I intend to link to these from the post titles on this page in order to create permalinks. I might also set a cap on the post count for this page and create an archive for the overflow. I’ll see though. Any changes will happen slowly and in response to whims or bursts of inspiration.

Permalink Posted March 15, 2020

Hello World

Permalink Posted March 15, 2020

Melville on Laughter

A good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too scarce a good thing; the more’s the pity. So, if any one man, in his own proper person, afford stuff for a good joke to anybody, let him not be backward, but let him cheerfully allow himself to spend and be spent in that way.

— Herman Melville, Moby Dick, “Breakfast”

Permalink Posted February 28, 2020

Lanier on the Self

You have to be somebody before you can share yourself.

— Jaron Lanier, You Are Not a Gadget

Permalink Posted February 26, 2020

A New Project

Earlier this week, I received word that my book proposal to McGill-Queens UP has been accepted. I’d already been chipping away at initial work for awhile, but now that I know for certain the form the project will take, I can start picking up speed in earnest.

As I do, I think I’m going to post here about what I’m working on and how I’m working. The technical side of the “how” will be familiar ground: Tinderbox and Scrivener with Bookends and some DevonThink thrown into the mix. This time around though Tinderbox is being bent into strange new shapes based on what I learned the hard way from doing research during my dissertation and its aftermath. Already, the work is a lot more fun and a lot less chaotic than it was in that earlier project.

I’ll write more about the specific topic later. For now, it’s enough to say I’m reading a lot about queer cinema in the 90s and am watching a lot of movies.

Permalink Posted February 22, 2020

Vuong on Being Lost

Remember: the rules, like streets, can only take you to known places. Underneath the grid is a field — it was always there — where to be lost is never to be wrong, but simply more.

— Ocean Vuong, On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous

Permalink Posted February 22, 2020

Back. Maybe.

So it's been awhile and I'm still not entirely sure where I am with this blog (what it's for, what it's about, etc. etc.).

But I also feel like maybe I'm tired of the whole "Powder Break" thing of the last couple months.

So. Movement. Maybe posting.

I'll see.

Permalink Posted October 29, 2019

Powder Break

I started this blog in August 2011. So it's about to turn 8 years old. That's exciting and I'm proud of what's happened here in all that time. But I'm also a bit lost with it. I've learned most of what I wanted to by starting it and now what started out as a bright clear day full of potential and choices feels cramped and dark and I'm not sure what it's even for anymore. This uncertainty and confusion manifests in the thinness and performative quality of the posts from the past while. Maybe I'm the only one who sees this. Maybe because (!) I'm the only one seeing the posts (!!!!). Whatever the case, the fire has burned dim, the night grown long, and I need to dream up the dawn.

So I'm putting everything in hibernation, wrapping it in carbonite and heading out to do other things for a bit.

It's been fun.

Permalink Posted June 26, 2019

Pullman on Liars

Being a practiced liar doesn't mean you have a powerful imagination. Many good liars have no imagination at all; it's that which gives their lies such wide-eyed conviction.

—Philip Pullman, Northern Lights

Permalink Posted May 17, 2019

Storm’s Mohawk

When I was a young kid saving change to buy comics from the rickety wire rack at the 7-eleven, one of my favorite superheros was Storm. I thought her long white hair and the cloak attached to her wrists were regal and cool, and I thought controlling weather was just about the best power you could have.

Reading comics in those days wasn't like it is today. What I read was what was on the rack when I had 35 cents in my pocket. So I didn't follow storylines. I dropped in and watched episode of action, without much sense of how it came together with other episodes across groups of issues. So my history of Storm's character is fragmented and partial, and there are only three specific moments that my brain has stored for easy, casual retrieval.

Moment One: Storm freezing a Sentinel with cold rain and then telling Banshee to scream at it and Cyclops to hit it with pulsed lasers. Inflexible and vibrating at two frequencies, the robot tears itself to pieces. This is a trivial moment really, only a few frames of the story, but I remember it for Storm's dramatic posture as she's flying in the wind.

Moment Two: Storm going out to "commune with the earth" after her months in space fighting the Brood. Unfortunately, Earth feels abandoned and is mad at her. Storm calls up the elements and for the first time in her life feels the cold of the rain. Rejected, she retreats back to the mansion. I remember this moment mostly for how I felt when I read it: the earth wasn't being fair. Storm had been through a lot and needed its support. It didn't seem right that after all she'd been through, this was happening now too.

Moment Three: Storm, not long after, showing up in black leather and a mohawk. She looked great and seemed really cool to me. Why do I remember it? This is tougher to figure out than with the other images, but I think that, in part, it was one of the first moments when I realized that people change, and so as crazy as it sounds, it's a moment where I started to figure out something important about the world. I think too that I must have picked up on the barely-crypto queerness of the transformation ( cf. image and dialogue above). And finally, however silly it sounds, I also think that I remember it because it established what I take to be a nearly inviolable rule of life: sometimes, and especially after major events, and definitely after traumatic experiences, you need to change your hair.

Which brings me to the reason I'm writing: this blog. After the stress of the past two weeks, I think I need to fiddle with what things look like around here. It may not be pretty. It may get ugly. But in the same way hair grows back, theme options can be restored. So I'm going to play around, experiment and trust that things will find their way to the good.

So buckle up, hang on, and stay tuned.

Permalink Posted May 4, 2019

First Crocus of the Year

My favorite moment of spring.

Permalink Posted May 4, 2019

Hackers Suck

Sixteen days ago, my site went down. I called my host to see if something was wrong with the server. They said "no," then checked some logs and then asked to shut down access to my site, saying it'd been hacked.

Things were a mess and trying to get them cleaned up was a long exercise in frustration. A few days ago, I more or less gave up hope and tried to resign myself to the fact that I was going to lose what I'd posted and that if I kept blogging, I'd be starting over from scratch. I'd been telling myself for the few days before that that I was at peace with the possibility and that if I lost everything, I lost everything. But once this possibility was no longer simply a hypothetical that I could be philosophical about, once it was about to become a reality that I was going to have to come to grips with, I discovered I wasn't okay with it at all.

Then that same day, as I was writing off the site and trying to convince myself it was okay that I was writing it off, I was talking with a few friends, and they asked some questions, made some suggestions—good questions and good suggestions—and something clicked in my head and I saw what to do.

And now today, the site is fixed, cleaned up, and running on a new server with a new host. The story of how that happened is too much to tell this evening. (Maybe I'll fill in the details later.) For now, I just wanted to post and say "this happened" and also that hackers—and all other people who enjoy breaking things just to break them—suck.

Permalink Posted May 3, 2019

Nostalgic Reads

When I moved to Montreal at the end of the nineties, I left my books (boxes and boxes of them) in a storage space. Because of some bad planning and incompetence on my part, they stayed there too long, and when I finally went back to get them they'd been given away.

Up until that moment I still had every book I'd ever owned: the first Tarzan book I'd ever read (Tarzan and the City of Gold), my second copy of Moby Dick (I'd lost the first in study hall in ninth grade and had to replace it), all the fantasy series I'd plowed through, my university textbooks, everything. Because these copies matched my visual page-memories, I could find things in them in a flash. They also had my notes and drawing. So losing them felt like losing part of myself and was devastating.

Well early last year I was on Abebooks and wound up searching the titles of a few of the books I'd remembered and had been thinking about. (It seems like me wondering about Steven Brust's later Vlad books was maybe the starting point.) Anyway, as I searched, I realized that if I put some effort into it, I could probably reconstruct segments of that lost library. Anyone who's seen me and the Beav in used book stores knows that setting either of us loose in the stacks with a project rather than simply to browse is asking for trouble. Browsing happens slowly shelf by shelf and takes time, but a project is going to be pursued monomaniacally and with the kind of detail only people operating outside the ordinary limits of time and hygiene can muster.

Aware of the danger—and of both the realities of my budget and the possible foolishness of the project (I mean, do I really want all these books again after all this time?)—I've kept things in check so far, buying in bursts to make sure I'm still interested in going further and starting with a lot of the inexpensive Bantam paperback fantasy series I'd collected and that haven't maintained a strong following, which makes them easier to find with the exact cover I owned.

The good (or is it bad?) news is that project has been a great success. I cannot really explain why it's so exciting to see all these books find a place on my shelves again, but it absolutely is. Looking at them sitting there for the first time in twenty years, I feel like I've found old friends. I remember where I was when I read them, who was nearby as I did, what was going on in my life, and how I felt. And I also think I remember the books themselves: the plots, the characters, the worlds and the relationships.

Obviously though this raises questions because memory is fallible. So are the books I have in my head—and some of them are fundamental and character-shaping documents of my childhood—are these books the same books printed on the pages I can now pull off my shelves and flip through? Or over time have these stories shifted in memory? Or, going further, have I remade them by using them as part of the process of making myself?

I truly don't know and I'm curious to find out. So, having run across the phrase "a year of nostalgic reading" recently in a passing comment on a web page and finding it inspiring, I'm thinking about dipping into these books now and again as a break from other things. When I do and when I log them, I'm going to tag them so that I can pull them together in a series. My starting point and first tagged book is_Split Infinity_ by Piers Anthony, which I've already started. This first foray into the past makes me think memory's glass is in fact warped and rose-colored and in very interesting ways.

À suivre…

Permalink Posted April 13, 2019

Rousseau on Money

Money in one's possession is the instrument of liberty; money one pursues is the symbol of servitude. That is why I hold fast to what I have, but covet no more.

— Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Les Confessions

Permalink Posted April 13, 2019

Woodpecker at Work

We have a silver maple that's been battered a bit the past few winters and has some dead branches that need to be removed. Until we get around to taking care of them, it looks like the local woodpeckers—and there're a lot of them these days because of the Emerald Ash Borers that are marching through the village's trees—the woodpeckers are going to have a go at them.

The woodpecker was big as a cat and he went on for a few days. He's clearly digging into the wood rather than looking for bugs under the bark, and so, I thought maybe he was gauging out a nest. But when he finally decided he was done, he took off and started hacking away at the stump of an ash tree we cut down last spring, a stump he soon abandoned in turn. So in the end, I'm not sure what he was up to. Until I learn better, I'm going to call it "play."

Whatever the case, the maple branch is torn to pieces.

Permalink Posted March 13, 2019

Klee on the Visible

Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.

— Paul Klee

Permalink Posted March 3, 2019

The Dimness of Hufflepuff

So I was chatting with my eleven year-old niece about the Harry Potter books that I'm starting and she's close to finishing, and right away she asked the inevitable and impossible question: "So what house are you?" I hesitated, unsure.

To help me out, she let me know that without question she is absolutely, certainly a Slytherin. To which, I replied "oh no!" Well, she was having none of it and explained that the books gave the house a bad rep, which wasn't fair, because there were clearly many, many good Slytherin. Slytherin, for example, like her. How could I resist such logic? Answer: I could not. (My niece, a young woman of great talent, is also probably a parslemouth.)

This settled, she turned back to the original question: "So what house are you?"

"Well," I confessed. "I don't know. I think I'm either a Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw." To which my eleven year-old niece responded, without hesitation: "Hufflepuffs are dim, and you aren't dim."

This was the best moment of my day. Maybe my week.

Permalink Posted March 2, 2019

Oscars 2019

I got behind with the nominees this year. They all came out at once and it was just too much. So no opinions this year. I saw things I liked, Roma, The Wife, especially The Favorite. I'll root for them but have no idea whether they should win.

Permalink Posted February 24, 2019

Me, Gaming

I've gamed since I was a kid. Early on I'd played everything I could get my hands on, which wasn't much, and always for consoles. The Atari 2600, a couple Nintendo boxes. The big turning point though was when my dad brought home our first PC. Freed from the console, my choices exploded. My games of choice? Early RPGs like Pools of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds.

When I went to university a few years later, my tastes stayed the same. Only now I was playing Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, and a Myst-style puzzle game whose name I wish I could remember.

When Blizzard's Diablo invented the action RPG, I was fully onboard and played it and its sequel alongside Bioware's Neverwinter Nights.

What came next was Bethesda's Oblivion, the first truly open-world RPG I'd ever played and easily the most immersive and absorbing. It had an invisible leveling scheme: you didn't select skills and traits, you earned them based on what you actually did while you were playing. So no calling yourself a mage while sneaking around and shooting things with a bow. I lost hours working through the detailed character creation screens, generating various characters with different pasts, personalities and backstories. I spent a month wandering collecting herbs. When I discovered and captured a wizard's tower, I wandered some more collecting materials to build features and to decorate it.

It was only after half a year or more that I remembered that there was a story and that I could (should?) figure out how to help the king's heir and drive off the demon invasion. Soon I discovered the thieves guild, then the assassin's guild. I rose up and became the Grey Fox. I allowed myself to become a vampire. It seemed there was nothing I couldn't do in this world and that no matter how much I wandered or what I did, the map would never be exhausted.

I played _Oblivion_right up until I switched for the first time from a PC to a Mac. That switch shut down all non-Blizzard gaming but at the time that was fine: I was busy writing and the time I had to game I was eager to spend in World of Warcraft. The first expansion, Burning Crusade, had been a hit and my brother and sister were both playing. Wrath of the Lich King was about to launch, and we used it and the subsequent expansions to hang out for years.

Eventually though, around the end of Warlords of Draenor and after years and years of game play, I was getting tired of Warcraft. It was still great and I loved it, but I was bored. Garrisons and the dailies it took to sustain them were starting to feel like a second job. I wasn't really having fun anymore. Looking back now, I can see that I'd just gotten tired of playing the same game —and importantly, the same stories—over and over again. But at the time, I thought I was getting too old for video games, that I'd moved on.

I was wrong.

Pushed by frustrations with my Mac hardware, in late 2017, early 2018 I made the rash decision to sell my MacBook Pro and build a gaming PC. The switch didn't last, and I'm back to Mac for basically everything, but that leap back into and embrace of the word of Windows ranks as one of the happiest decisions I've made in years. It pushed open the gates as surely as that first PC sitting in my family's den had done. I could play what I wanted which meant I could game again (rather than "play Warcraft"). And it has been glorious.

One of the first games I bought was Bethesda's Fallout 4, this post is an unexpectedly long preamble to my ravings about my experience playing it. That will have to wait for the next post though.

Permalink Posted February 24, 2019

Winter Creek

Last weekend we had the first sunny days in weeks (but it felt like months). So the Beav suggested we go walking on the river. Now, I know the ice is solid at this point. The snowmobiles are running up and down daily. But I lived in the heat too long as a child to be comfortable on frozen rivers and lakes and wasn't keen on the idea.

Then he suggested we walk up a side creek he'd been wanting to canoe with his sister in the summer. This sounded less ominous: slower shallower water awaited if we broke through (which we wouldn't and didn't). This became our day.

Permalink Posted February 18, 2019

Peanuts, Shades of Magic

My mother never could watch the Peanuts holiday specials on TV when I was a kid. She said the voices were all wrong and she couldn't bear to have them clashing with the ones she'd heard in her head when she read the comics.

This morning, writing about the ShadesofMagic trilogy, I went looking for V. E. Schwab's blog. On its front page I found an image of a cartoon cut-out of Alucard Emery.

Here's the thing: this is so completely not my Alucard and the resulting dissonance what my eyes see and what my mind saw is not pleasant. And yet, oddly enough, it isn't entirely unpleasant either. In weird way, I kind of love knowing this cut-out exists. (The boot bandana!) But wow, this is so very much not_my_ gay wizard pirate.

So maybe I finally understand why Mom couldn't bear Lucy's voice.

Permalink Posted February 17, 2019

Rowling on Social Media

What have I always told you? Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain.

— Mrs. Weasley, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Permalink Posted February 17, 2019

Leach on Aggression

Belligerence knows no tempo.

— Amy Leach, "Please Do Not Yell at the Sea Cucumber,” Things that Are

Permalink Posted January 31, 2019

A Bit of Blog Love

Blogging was a thing once. Then it wasn't and then it seemed like it was again. And now…who knows. I'm pretty sure I don't much care whether it is or it isn't. After all, sweater vests aren't a thing (even if they ought to be) and I wear those, which is just like blogging. See?

All of this preamble is warm-up to me trying to show some love to MyNewPlaidPants a blog about beautiful men in great movies and TV that I've read daily for at least the past eight or nine years. If blogging isn't a thing, I don't care as long as this blog continues to exist.

I don't know the author, Jason Adams, in person, but I think he's great just the same and wish we lived in the same city and were best friends. His blog is funny yet totally unapologetically sincere. It is also somehow—and seemingly impossibly given the number of posts going up every day—1) not his day job and 2) not all he has going on. It boggles the mind.

So why sing the praises of Jason's Pants today after all these years? Let me explain.

First, for reasons I'll leave unspoken, I thought of and went searching for this post containing a picture of Alexander Skarsgard caught unaware on a beach. Importantly, what I wanted was not the photo—(sorry Alex)—but instead the exact wording of the suggestion that we might, to our dismay, think of this picture the next time we try on a bathing suit, a comment that to this day makes me laugh out loud.

Second, finding the specific post took some time and effort because there are A LOT OF POSTS ON THIS BLOG. Skarsgard's tag alone had 242! So as I undertook the "onerous" task of flipping through all of those pictures one by one, I stumbled across this post which screencaps the hell out of a scene from True Blood so wonderful that — to keep my life from seeming a drab worthless wasteland of day after day after day and then tomorrow too — my mind let it slip from my memory. But now I have remembered and am overwhelmed and may have to watch the whole series again. Damn your Pants, Jason Adams!

Third, the next day I went back to the blog only to discover that the final post before the weekend was Adams letting everyone know that he was going to rewatch Shcrader's film about Yukio Mishima’s life, death and fiction: Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. The photo that ends the post — I think it's a still from the film that is mimicking images from a famous late-in-life photo shoot — is a showstopper: the male artist objectified and beautiful.

So today, all my love to MyNewPlaidPants. May you strut your stuff for years to come.

Permalink Posted January 13, 2019

In Traffic. The 20.

I'm moving slow enough to see

A robin standing on the shoulder

Beside the cars, head twisted so,

One eye staring up to the sun,

Another staring down to salt,

grey dust and asphalt. Hit,

It stands, caught for a moment

On two legs — for one last moment —

Then it falls to its side

Never to move again.

Permalink Posted December 28, 2018

Pullman on “Know Thyself”

There's plenty of folk as'd like a lion as a daemon and they end up with a poodle. And till they learn to be satisfied with what they are, they're going to be fretful about it. Waste of feeling, that is.

— Philip Pullman, Northern Lights

Permalink Posted December 28, 2018

Deadwood on the World that Speaks

Don't you know? The world says it's fucking name to us.

–Charlier Udder, Deadwood

Permalink Posted December 24, 2018

Deadwood on the Closet

I don't wanna open my eyes but you can go ahead and kiss me if that's what you fucking do.

–Jane, Deadwood

Permalink Posted December 23, 2018

Deadwood on Acting Out

I am distressed and angry and seem for the moment to be taking this out on your ear.

– Hearst, Deadwood

Permalink Posted December 22, 2018

Deadwood on Body Language

Bullock just stared. And then turned and walked away.


Permalink Posted December 21, 2018

Deadwood on Bloodshed

Always superfluous bloodshed…. The deeper damage is best.

– Jack, Deadwood

Permalink Posted December 20, 2018

Deadwood on the Golden Rule

Do not come and try to murder me in my sleep. And I will not come and try to murder you.

–Steve the Drunk, Deadwood

Permalink Posted December 19, 2018

Deadwood on Learning Things

Kid yourself about your behaviour and you'll never learn a fucking thing.

–Swearengen, Deadwood

Permalink Posted December 18, 2018

Deadwood on Learning to Live

Every fucking day takes figuring out again how to live.

–Jane, Deadwood

Permalink Posted December 17, 2018

Deadwood on The New

Fuck the fucking new.

–E. B., Deadwood

Permalink Posted December 16, 2018

Deadwood on Gratitude

Let us give thanks.

– Mrs. Bullock, Deadwood

Permalink Posted December 15, 2018

Deadwood on Things Going Wrong

Going wrong is not the end of fucking things, Johnny.

–Dan, Deadwood

Permalink Posted December 15, 2018

Deadwood on Change

Change ain't looking for friends. Change calls the tune we dance to.

– Swearengen, Deadwood

Permalink Posted December 14, 2018

The 12 Days of Deadwood

November and December years ago, I was watching Deadwood and trying to find ways to express how incredible the script was to people who were put off by the profanity. I decided to post a series of quotes from the show in the days leading up to Christmas and to pattern them after the carol: "on the first day of Deadwood, Bullock said to me…" The series was a hit.

It was the early days of Facebook though and I posted the quotations there. Later when I'd moved off that platform, I copied the series as a single post on this blog. I never really liked the results, but I wanted to save the series somewhere.

Well this year, I've decided to unpack that post and run the series again. So starting tomorrow the quotations—with a couple updates to lines I didn't love the first time around—will pop up, one per day, until Christmas morning.


Permalink Posted December 13, 2018

Missed Opportunities

This post should have been called "Back to Mac." I'm out of practice and making religious metaphors when I should be making them about System Preferences.


Permalink Posted November 27, 2018

Macdonald on Wild Animals

I think of wild animals in our imaginations. And how they are disappearing—not just from the wild, but from people's everyday lives, replaced by images of themselves in print and on screen. The rarer they get, the fewer meanings animals can have. Eventually, rarity is all they are made of. The condor is an icon of extinction. There is little else to it now but being the last of its kind. And in this lies the diminution of the world. How can you love something, how can you fight to protect it, if all it means is loss?

— Helen MacDonald, H Is for Hawk

Permalink Posted November 26, 2018

Returning to the Fold

A year ago, I made the leap from Mac to PC by buying the pieces and building myself a gaming desktop. It was an impulsive move, motivated by too many years of frustration with the limits Mac hardware created for gaming. And I don't regret it because no matter how often I play off gaming in conversation with casual acquaintances, it's a big deal for me.

The stress point though was work: gaming's fun but I use my computer daily for the grind and could I manage with a PC? Over the past year I discovered that I could, largely because Windows 10, unlike its recent predecessors, is a solid OS. And because my school is full-on PC land and the Mac-based fiction I'd dealt with for years disappeared, the jump to Windows was actually near painless.

The key word here is "near."

The main problems? First: junkware. There are a lot of sketchy apps in Windows world and I'm just not interested enough to sort out what's what. Macs feel secure and I believe Apple is interested in keeping them that way. Windows and Microsoft? Not so much. That may be out-dated prejudice given the changes in security features in Windows 10, but suspicions kept me close to the base system for much of the past year.

Second: buying Windows equivalents for Apple software is expensive. People gripe when a Mac app costs more than 10$, but spend some time in PC world and you'll realize that the apps offered by Mac developers are a bargain. Even the "expensive" ones.

Third:Eastgate's Tinderbox. I'd had periods in the past when I was confined to an iPad and have written about how difficult it was to do my work without Tinderbox's various tools, most of which I'd come to take for granted. Those earlier moments had been temporary disruptions. But now, working on a PC, they became my new normal, and after a year of genuine, wide-ranging and eventually desperate experimentation, I realized I missed the software badly. I'd become something like a mental-cyborg used to lifting cars, who now suddenly, alarmingly, finds himself fully organic and stuck lifting groceries. Or maybe some over-filled garbage sacks. I'd grown used to thinking in a way that assumed that my info could be organized into forms I could think about. It was a constant annoyance (and also a real impediment) not to have the tools at hand to make that happen.

But I just sprang for a new MacBook Air—!!!!—and so I am now happily on macOS once again. My first thought: thank god. Yes, my Tinderbox query and action syntax is rusty (very!) and I'm having to find my way back into the forums and the TbRef, both of which feel for the moment like navigating a train station in a language I don't quite speak. But I don't care. As I've said elsewhere: TBX is powerful enough to be game-changing even with only it's simplest tools in play. So it's worth it already and I know the pay-offs will just get bigger as I fall back into the groove.

So for the record my current set-up, which seems close to my ideal, is a PC desktop for gaming and a MacBook for work. (iOS, as tempted as I am to be tempted, is a distraction and a dead-end for me. It's just not part of the equation outside of my phone.)

And since it's Thanksgiving in the States, let me say: I'm lucky to have the means to buy and maintain both systems.

Permalink Posted November 22, 2018

My Day

Is there a call for the vote?

Permalink Posted November 21, 2018

Douglass on Reading

These were choice documents to me. I read them over and over again with unabated interest. They gave tongue to interesting thoughts of my own soul, which had frequently flashed through my mind, and died away for want of utterance.

– Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of…

Permalink Posted November 17, 2018

Cyborg. Thinking.

When I think of cyborgs, I think of metal men, bodies run through with hardware and silicon. Sometimes, if I'm feeling expansive, I think of it in terms of "the web + search" or of "the cloud." These make the hardware metaphorical: the silicon is elsewhere, I access it from a distance, and so my body – my cyborg me – is now the biological-technical information system as a whole.

In both versions of the cyborg, the interface between self and hardware is embodied rather than mental. This is more overt in the image of the metal man but is just as real in the information system cyborg. There the mind remains intact, biological, while memory–envisioned as storage distinct from and accessed by the mind–becomes technological.

After nearly a year away from macOS, I've now returned, and in doing so, I realize that I've never imagined the cyborg that I've become because it is precisely my mind, my manner of thought that has been run through and transformed and by software rather than hardware.

I'm talking about Tinderbox. It is a tool, but after habituating myself to the slog and resistance of other tools these past 10 months, I'm especially sensitive to how my mind works differently when that resistance isn't there. I now see that I know and understand more – and as a result am able to think better and to greater effect – when I arrange my projects in Tinderbox's hypertextual world. I struggle and hit roadblocks, yes, and these arise from hitting both the limits of my control of the tool and the limits of my thought's development, but these roadblocks sit further out then I can easily go without Tinderbox.

This last is what I find most striking after a few days back on macOS: my mind, my thought, my very act of thinking has been run though, enhanced and even transformed by software. This is cyborg-ism that matters and suggests that my early analogy between Tinderbox and a pencil is too timid. Tinderbox is writing.

Permalink Posted November 12, 2018

Found Poetry- Essay Exam

Their Is discord

In this play.

Between all

The characters.

Permalink Posted November 11, 2018

Sounds of Martian Sunrise

A few years ago, I had my first-year research writing students work on the Martian rover missions for their end-of-semester projects. The assignment was a hit and listening to their presentations cemented my nostalgic, Johnny-5 style affection for Spirit and Opportunity.

This video is perfect.

Permalink Posted November 11, 2018

Ibsen on Trolls

To live is to war with trolls.

— Henrik Ibsen

Permalink Posted November 5, 2018

Fallows on Governmental Monsters

Every society contains its monsters: people damaged or disturbed enough, or misdirected enough, to inflict cruelty on others. A central purpose of society — its families, its schools, its civic and faith organizations, its official and unofficial political leadership — is precisely to encourage the good, and buffer and limit the bad, in what is always the wide range of human possibility.

Thus the harshest condemnation of leaders and organizations is for those who do the reverse: revving up and cheering on the worst in human instincts, which often come out as abuse of the weak and the other.

— James Fallows

Permalink Posted October 28, 2018

So Weed Is Legal

The news hasn't been talking about anything else for days and yesterday there were lines hundreds of people long as the government shops opened. The same lines (but different people) were still there at the end of the day.

The professional worriers chewed the skin off their own fingers weeks ago and were on the news again last night trying to chew on everybody else's. I think things will be fine though.

Two different references kept bouncing through my head through it all. Neither is surprising or insightful as a reference, in the sense that me making them isn't insightful or surprising. The two couldn't be more different, but they're both great and on topic, so voilà.

The first, Lana Del Ray's "High by the Beach.”

The second, Kat Williams's masterpiece of a comedy bit on weed.

Permalink Posted October 18, 2018

Pumpkin Harvest

This spring my garden asked to become a pumpkin patch and I said "sure" because why not? Now months later, the skies are greying, the nights come earlier and earlier each day. It's colder, frost has fallen more than once and the harvest is finally in.

Permalink Posted October 12, 2018

Autumn in the Woods

The bugs are gone in the woods and there's work to be done. So the Beav, me, his sister and her partner all went out to help his father saw two larch and one spruce into 16 foot 8×8 beams.

Trees are heavy and it took all of us working levers longer than I'm tall to roll the trunks onto the mill one-by-one. It was good work though and, when we were done and the square beams were loaded onto the trailer, we were happy and felt we'd earned our dinner.

After the first cut on a larch trunk, I saw swirls in the wood that looked like a lively face with hair. I felt then as if the forest spirits were real and we owed them a debt for the wood.

Permalink Posted October 12, 2018

Regarding Kavanaugh

A Quebec Government poster hung on bulletin boards around school since the beginning of term shows a young man in a toilet clearly forcing himself on a woman who, standing next to a beer bottle, is trying to push him away. The slogan reads, “Alcohol is no excuse. Ever!” Of of this text is in all-caps.

It seems a good found-reminder that, yes, we expect 17 and 18 year-olds to know that assault isn't acceptable.

Permalink Posted September 27, 2018

My Wild Guess

And as a follow-up to my last post, my wild guess is that this op-ed was written by a Pence proxy and announces to the few republicans needed to support impeachment that there is a safety-net in place, that the back-up team is ready, and that they can act to save the party.

Et tu, Mike?

If this were a cheap novel, that's how I'd write it.

Permalink Posted September 5, 2018

Thoughts on an Anonymous Insider

The New York Times has just posted an anonymous editorial by an "senior official" inside the White House claiming to be part of a "resistance" that is working to save the country from Trump.

Some thoughts.

This "insider"—who could be anyone from Mike Pence on down—tells us nothing new really. Yes Trump is incompetent. Yes the White House is toxic and chaotic. But that really isn't news to anyone who's been paying attention. Neither is this whistle-blowing. Trump is surrounded by people as unprincipled as he is. Some are making moves to save themselves where the rest of us can see. But this isn't rats jumping ship. At best, it's one rat checking to see if they can make some space for themselves and some friends somewhere under the seat of a life-raft. Not for now. For later. And just in case they need it.

To which I say: it takes quite a trick to come off as a cheaper and more cynical than Trump and his still-loyal toadies, but this writer manages it.

Whoever wrote this is a coward in the service of a full-on criminal-become-president and they are attempting to rewrite that service as something principled and heroic. I don't actually know how to respond to something so base. I mostly feel contempt because if what this writer states is true—and we've more or less known that it is for awhile now— and if they do care about the country then the only ethical, moral, reasonable or honorable thing to do would be to go to Congress, to testify on the record under oath and to try to help fix the problem.

That's not what this person does though. Instead, they continue to work for Trump's administration, they speak out but only anonymously in order to protect their job, and they do this for the most craven reason imaginable.

As they write:

Don't get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.

But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president's leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.

"I Am a Part of the Resistance"

Which means, once unpacked and translated:

Even though this entire piece is written to say that Trump is a danger to the U.S., to the world, and to the very ideals of enlightened democracy and even though we (i.e. "the resistance"…but not the leftist resistance, eww) must thwart Trump's impulses and instincts at every turn, and even though we want you to admire us for doing so, we are staying on as tools, and we are hiding behind anonymity because Trump's ongoing shit-show has given us cover to effectively implement our own extremist partisan agenda. We've largely dismantled the EPA and clean energy initiatives. We've hobbled health care. We've stolen and transformed the Supreme Court. We've served up huge tax cuts to our donors and future employers, and we've done all of this while acting tough and pretending to be super patriotic as we used the money for grandma's social security checks to buy more guns. In other words, despite what you've heard in all the negative coverage—which 50% of the time we are totally okay with, because "fake news"—this administration is a huge success, HUGE, and we're standing behind it everywhere except in this op-ed. And yes, we're continuing to cross things off our backers' bucket lists as fast as we can. So "Go Team!"

But back to my point, obviously Trump is very mean and very bad, and like you we're all focused ONLY ON THAT even to the point of stealing a paper from his desk once. You're welcome. And we want you to know that when we're not using Trump as cover for doing everything we've dreamed of doing for years but couldn't, we are also definitely resisting him, reigning him in and saving you—and the world—from him. (Because he's such an idiot, right? I know. Tell me about it! And we have to live with him EVERY DAY! Can you imagine?)

And that is why we're writing: to let you know the good work we're doing so that when he's gone and there's no more cover and we all have to stand up and be counted either as cronies or as part of the resistance, we can be counted as part of the resistance. And then we want to shuffle off into Crony Valhalla as members of Pence's campaign team or maybe as consultants for Big Oil or Big Coal or Big Pharma or maybe even as a commentator on a cable news show where we will provide "balance" by offering hack partisan "insight" in order to make the media "fair." When we do one or all of these things, we hope that you will remember our heroic struggle on your behalf and be grateful.

My takeaway:

Trump is to the current crisis like HIV is to AIDS. He's the disease, but not what kills you. It's the cancers and the parasites — like whoever wrote this op-ed, and like the people who will glory in it as proof that the White House is rotten and stop there, and like those who will take comfort that there are "good people" inside the administration fighting the good fight (praise be Jesus for using even the wicked!) — it's these cancers and parasites that are killing a country made weak and vulnerable by Trump's presidency.

I'm angry.

Permalink Posted September 5, 2018

Improbable Fruit

Last year when my Mom visited for Thanksgiving—Canadian Thanksgiving, in October, not the American holiday in November—we decorated my newly rebuilt porch with strange pumpkins and squash. I fetched a birch log from the wood pile, and we had a holiday arrangement that looked good enough to keep around for weeks rather than days.

After the first freeze though, everything sagged. So I went out, collected the soft fruit and tossed everything in the garden. Winter came. Then this spring, I went out to turn the soil and everything had broken apart and come to pieces. I saw seeds, but ignored them. They sprouted though, and I've kept them all, pushing them back off the peppers, tomatoes, broccoli and rhubarb, but otherwise giving them free rein to do what they'd like.

So now I have acorn squash, regular pumpkins, white pumpkins, very strangely shaped and bright red pumpkins. I have acorn squash, some kind of yellow squash I don't recognize. Maybe more even. And they are growing everywhere, even on the fences, producing improbable fruit and it's exciting and encouraging.

There's wisdom in leaving things alone, letting them be.

Permalink Posted August 12, 2018

Daft Punk on Love

A little time with you is all that I get.

— Daft Punk

Permalink Posted August 12, 2018

San Felipe Neri on Study

Vita sine litteris mors es. (Life without study is death.)

–San Felipe Neri, San Miguel de Allende

Permalink Posted July 18, 2018

Election Day in Mexico

The last time I was in Mexico was in 2013. Presidential elections were underway, but I didn't really pay attention, reducing them to a funny story about being refused a beer with dinner because of the dry election laws. Now five years later, I'm back, and Mexicans are again voting for their president. This time though it's hard not to think about the people heading off to the polls and impossible to see it as funny.

The Beav and I are in Guanajuato this Election Day. The late morning sun is bright, the sky clear, and the houses stacked in twisting rows across the mountainside shine with color. The streets are busy with buses, taxis, cars and people heading to work or mass or the market. The smell of roasting meat and charcoal fill the air. So little of what I see of the life here seems to depend upon the American Dystopia to the North. Yet back home, we generally take it for granted that Mexico will face north.

I don't know anything about the politics here, don't know what's possible or best. The fact that the peach I bought at the public market came from the States makes me think I'm ignorant even of the extent of my ignorance.

Yet sitting here I wonder if (and blindly hope that) the people voting around town might say "enough" and look south, leaving their northern neighbor to play the racist fool by itself.

Permalink Posted July 12, 2018

Cucurrucucu to my Paloma

A memory from Mexico.

Permalink Posted July 11, 2018

The World Tree

The Templo de la Concepción in San Miguel de Allende is a dirty and battered little church nudged up against an old convent that's been converted to an art school. The convent's courtyard has comfortable chairs and avocado trees heavy with fruit. We read there most of a morning.The church though isa dreary spot.

Or would be if not for the shade tree that stands just beyond the thick wooden doors. People gather beneath it when the sun beats down, and that tree, reaching up around them, rings with the divine.

Permalink Posted July 8, 2018

Matthiessen on Shey (on Mexico)

I stare about me, trying to etch into this journal the sense of Shey that is so precious, aware that all such effort is in vain; the beauty of this place must be cheerfully abandoned, like the wild rocks in the bright water of its streams. Frustration at the paltriness of words drives me to write, but there is more of Shey in a single sheep hair, in one withered sprig of everlasting, than in all these notes; to strive for permanence in what I think I have perceived is to miss the point.

— Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard

Permalink Posted July 8, 2018


The Buddhist notion of Karma isn't about payback. It's about the awful reality of being tied up in contingency. We choose. We act. There are consequences for us and for others and these have consequences in turn. So bit by bit moving through our days we build a life and as it takes shape we have to live it out. This is karma. The cage of good and bad consequences from our past that becomes our horizons.

The tragedy — the awful terrifying tragedy of it all — becomes clear when someone builds an unlivable life for themselves over the course of years and then are stuck with it and have to live it and there's nothing anyone can do to get them out of it.

Permalink Posted July 3, 2018


How much of how I feel about what's going on in the US a product of feeling powerless in a way that tens of millions of people live with in the states all their lives. The country that is supposed to align with me, empowering me, has constricted the access to power to such an extent that there's no reasonable way to assume I have any. I'm not a billionaire, not part of the American Caliphate.

People have lived like this for lifetimes. Just not me.

Permalink Posted July 1, 2018

Emerging Technologies

Scientists have discovered a new method for chatting live and in 3D. It's called drinking coffee with someone! It involves voice and 3D: get a coffee with someone!

(A memory from Mexico.)

Permalink Posted June 28, 2018

Memories of 2016

The news from South of the Border (yes, that's you, US of A) now operates exclusively in a rhetorical mode I'd call "the premature superlative." Each day, an "-est" blares out from the news — the cruelest, the dumbest, the meanest, the rudest, something — and each day's tomorrow reveals that in fact that day's news wasn't the cruelest, the dumbest, the meanest or the rudest, that the new day's news is in fact worse, that the bottom (if there is a bottom) is deeper than anyone had suspected and that people are worse than anyone feared.

Sitting here north of the border, the horror show is unbearable to watch (but who can look away) and terrifying to think about. When Doug Ford swept the Ontario elections, I felt doomed, felt that the madness was infectious. Where the States goes, so goes the world. Or so it seemed.

It's tough now to read the bleakness and resignation of my summer 2016 post on Trump's prospects without wondering if, despite my careful hesitations and hedges, something in me understood my own family enough to know what was going to happen in that Fall's election. Reading now with hindsight, I sound like a drowning man looking up at the small circle of sky visible through the water's surface hoping to see a hand reaching down to pull him to safety.

Which brings me to Pride Month and the campaign image Hillary posted in celebration two years ago: her logo colored as a rainbow flag. I first posted it that same summer. I’m posting it again now because the idea that a presidential candidate—any candidate—actually circulated it seems like something pulled from a utopian fiction. After all, in the time since I first posted it, we've learned that I don't even have the right to order cake anymore. I mean I can order and maybe get one if I'm lucky, but it's not me who decides.

That's where the States are today, and it's sick-making to think about it.

Permalink Posted June 23, 2018

Rilke on Courage & the Inexplicable

This is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter. That mankind has in this sense been cowardly has done life endless harm; the experiences that are called "visions," the whole so-called "spirit-world," death, all those things that are so closely akin to us, have by daily parrying been so crowded out of life that the senses with which we could have grasped them are atrophied.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, quoted by Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard

Permalink Posted June 23, 2018


Crawling under

Electric fence

Isn't easy, but he's too short

To step over.

Barbed wire's better:

He can push it

Down, hold it.


It can tear clothes.

Permalink Posted June 19, 2018

Thoreau on Bread and True Nourishment

Bread may not always nourish us; but it always does us good, it even takes stiffness out of our joints, and makes us supple and buoyant, when we knew not what ailed us, to recognize any generosity in man or Nature, to share any unmixed and heroic joy.

— Henry David Thoreau, "The Bean-field,” Walden

Permalink Posted June 17, 2018

The Live Oak

The worn trail leading past the cow fence to the pond

Lay between the live oak and the old woman's door.

To go to the fields or to the pond was to go to her.

To come back from either was to come back to her.

She sat on a lawn chair in the shade on bare dirt.

She talked as she looked out at the blinding light

That seared the grass in the open field beyond

The leaves and the shadow.

She watched as cars beyond the grass slowed at the break where

Paved road yielded to grated clay and sand.

The boy sat in a chair she kept ready by her own

As she told stories. Once he asked about the oak,

Was it alive? "Yes!" she said, "And always talking,

Always swapping tales and gossip with the wind."

Eyes dancing wildly over a smile, she wondered.

"I wonder what that old tree knows on you?"

Another time she told him the name of god.

The boy and the old woman talked in the long heat,

Listening to the chorus of bugs and frogs calling

For the night as the afternoon stretched the shadows.

Then the live oak took a breath, small and sighing. Another.

Then it reached out and up and swept down the breeze

from the retreating sky. The oak swayed

As it sang softly whispered lullabies of cool nights,

Songs of bright stars. It psalmed dew-soaked grass.

It promised the morning. And then morning again.

Permalink Posted June 16, 2018

One Small Tree

The old woman talks her way around the pond slowly, speaking as Her eyes and hands jump about. The boy walks along and listens.

As she walks round the far side, The old woman spots a young tree Bound to the glossy black water By a thin cord. It cuts the bark pulling Green out from beneath the soft gray.

"That line'll kill that tree," she says. Then she says they ought to save it And the boy leans out to catch the line. "Don't fall in!" she says. "There might be gators."

The knot is small and tight. She pulls at it, then the boy pulls. They take turns. Between them, working, They get it loose, coil it up, leave the line In a pile in the grass beside the tree.

"Is the tree okay now?" he asks. "That tree will be fine," she says.

And so the two set out again round the pond. She says still all that she sees, while he listens To the sky whispering to the trees and the grass.

Permalink Posted June 12, 2018

Digging a Hole

The small boy asked to dig a hole. So they gave him a shovel, Showed him a place under The far branches of the live oak, And let him be.

The dirt was sandy, not clay, Grey-black and cool to the touch. When the level ground was to his knees, He felt he was getting somewhere. He dug that afternoon, fast and deep.

Minutes or hours later, He stopped digging, done.

Hot and tired but proud too, He asked for a camera, took a picture.

Years later pasted in a book the print showed Brown and broken leaves scattered beneath sun Falling through the branches of the tree above, The tall shadow of a boy stretched beyond the frame, And the dirt that wasn't there.

Permalink Posted June 11, 2018

He Remembers

He remembers everything, Even the good stuff. The gray veined wood of the porch. The bright sun on the summer leaves.

He remembers the pine straw and the stone BBQ And the old woman in the chair outside her trailer Sitting under the shadow of the oak saying, "Slap the skeeters quick if you don't want the sleepin' sickness." He remembers the sweet bellies, and the ghosts Dropping into his body, and the dogs in cages Hosed down before night came.

He remembers less the present, The years that flow like the clothes pulled From his father's back with the bees. The honeysuckle on the playground fence. The teachers striking. The slide, the moon, And his grandfather's stories, How he counted the planes leaving in the morning, Counted the planes coming back at night.

He remembers the moving line described over peanuts. The feel of the carpet pile, slick against his feet, And the cruel bite of the loose screw in the floor vent.

He remembers.

Permalink Posted June 9, 2018

Renaissance Slash

In the final months and weeks of the 90s—a gentler time when the Internet was still the Web—I stumbled across a slash site. Slash felt like guerilla appropriation. It was fun and exciting on it's own terms. But what surprised and fascinated me was that these stories of dwarves and hobbits and vulcans and Hogwarts students sneaking off during the breaks between scenes in familiar stories to cuddle, kiss and fuck were mostly written by women. Knowing this, these brief, earnest stories became mysterious and camp.

All of which is the context for my reaction to seeing Plautilla Nelli's The Last Supper pop up in the Daily Art app on my phone as the painting for the day. The fresco is a familiar scene and familiar composition, but there's something special about the central figures—Jesus and John—sitting together in a small circle of negative space, alone and mutually adoring in the busy group of men. It's a beautiful scene and seeing it, my mind thought unbidden, "It's slash."

So this post.

Permalink Posted June 8, 2018

A Lawn of Flowers

It's spring at last, and walking through Saint-Lambert last week, I saw a lawn that was all flower and no grass. This seemed perfect.

Permalink Posted May 20, 2018

James on Attention to Art

The enjoyment of a work of art, the acceptance of an irresistible illusion, constituting, to my sense, our highest experience of 'luxury,' the luxury is not greatest, by my consequent measure, when the work asks for as little attention as possible. It is greatest, it is delightfully, divinely great, when we feel the surface, like the thick ice of the skater's pond, bear without cracking the strongest pressure we throw on it. The sound of the crack one may recognize, but never to call it luxury.

— Henry James, “Preface” to The Wings of the Dove

Permalink Posted May 13, 2018

Moore on Fixing People

The passion for setting people right is in itself an afflictive disease.

— Marianne Moore

Permalink Posted May 4, 2018

Crocuses Mean Spring. Finally.

The best moment of Spring.

Permalink Posted April 27, 2018

Aciman on Feeling Feelings, Living Life

…if there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don't snuff it out, don't be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we'd want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything—what a waste! …

But remember, our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once. Most of us can't help but live as though we've got two lives to live, one is the mockup, the other the finished version, and then there are all those versions in between. But there's only one, and before you know it, your heart is worn out, and, as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, must less wants to come near it. Right now there's sorrow. I don't envy the pain. But I envy you the pain.

— André Aciman, Call My by Your Name

Permalink Posted April 22, 2018

Atwood on “As Usual”

The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others. How awful, we would say, and they were, but they were awful without being believable. They were too melodramatic, they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives.

— Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale

Permalink Posted April 17, 2018

Watching TV (Follow-up)

Yesterday I wrote about my TV watching in my log for Transparent. Rereading today I realize I may have given the impression I have something against TV shows and have lived without watching them until recently. This isn't true.

It is true that I didn't have a TV for for most of my 20s and once I did have one in my 30s I didn't pay for cable beyond the basic broadcast channels. The TV was almost exclusively a screen for my VCR and DVD players.

I didn't have anything against TV shows though. It's just that I couldn't be bothered to figure out when shows people were talking about were on, generally forgot to be home or to turn on the set when I did figure it out, and when I did remember, was never able to muster the patience necessary to endure (or tune out) the commercials. (And they drove me batty.)

Because I was guaranteed to miss episodes for any show I tried to watch, I couldn't follow story arcs and hated episodes that ended with "To Be Continued." So what I watched were either short episodic comedies such as_Seinfeld_ or_The Simpsons_ or series that were iconic enough to be a group activity. Star Trek: The Next Generation night was a quasi-standing appointment for my college friends.

So my point yesterday wasn't that I was living in a cave for most of my life. I was simply pointing out that that my current experience of TV is not a symptom of my movement from one mode of viewing (broadcast) to another (streaming). Instead, I've shifted from watching TV only rarely or incidentally to viewing enthusiastically and with genuine interest because of the arrival of streaming.

There are problems with streaming obviously. I especially dislike the way it encourages viewing as a race, which makes the experience about quantities (time, speed) and the fact of consumption rather than qualities related to the experience of story, character and form. But overall, streaming has made TV series a part of my imaginative life in a way they never have been. And I'm pretty excited by that.

One final note: inspired by streaming, The Beav and I recently subscribed to cable, thinking we'd maybe enjoy it now that we were more TV savvy. We couldn't have been more wrong. Cable TV is like The Machine from The Princess Bride, sucking life directly from your body, leaving you dull and listless. After one month we've already decided to cancel it all.

Permalink Posted April 8, 2018

Mooallem on Looking at Clouds

Frankly, a person too dull to look up at the sky and see a parade of tortoises or a huge pair of mittens or a ghost holding a samurai sword is not a person worth lying in a meadow with.

— Jon Mooallem, "The Amateur Cloud Society…"

Permalink Posted April 3, 2018

Mac to PC

I'd used Macs throughout high school school but, for reasons of cost, had always had PCs through university. I didn't switch to Mac until I started my PhD. At that point, I bought a mini so I could use Scrivener while writing my dissertation. I loved that machine more than just about any computer I've ever had, but eventually I upgraded to a MacBook Pro, which at the time had two video cards and lots of ports. Eventually, opting for a bigger screen, I sold it and moved to an iMac.

In the years since, I've had other Macs, plenty of iPhones and a couple iPads. And yet, over the past few years, I've been less and less satisfied with my computers. The early problems were all about gaming. I'm not a hardcore gamer, but I play games as a way to hang out with family. Increasingly though, playing games with them was not an option because so many games just wouldn't play on my Macs. There might be a port, and I might be able to load it and "play" but having a game operate on the Mac at minimum specs is not the same thing as being able to "play with" other people. The reality of this distinction became glaring when I bought a retina iMac. It was beautiful, but could barely run any game I played even at 1080p.

So I sold it and bought a new MacBook Pro. This machine turned out to be a disaster. Even without the touchbar, it was extremely expensive and my experience of the machine was not good. I hated the keyboard, which seems petty, but on a laptop is a big deal. More importantly, I was getting beachballs all over the place as I worked. And this happened even on text-based documents.

There was nothing physically wrong with the machine, but it was not at all enjoyable to use. Thinking it might help, I wiped the drive and reinstalled the OS, but the machine continued to gasp as it did basic work. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think it had to do with the fact that so much of its resources were being spent to run the display at native resolution. Yes, that screen was gorgeous, but it wasn't worth the hassles it seemed to be causing.

After months of this I was fed up and called my brother. He's got good sense and we talked through options. On the one hand, I liked MacOS and didn't really want to give it up. I also did most of my work in DevonThink Pro and Tinderbox, neither of which worked on Windows. (Scrivener did.) On the other hand, with a PC, I'd eliminate the substantial friction caused by using a Mac in a workplace that's purely PC. Becoming familiar with Windows again would also help me with the classroom and student tech. And yes, I'd be able to play whatever games I wanted to.

After talking through all this, I made the (in retrospect) extremely impulsive decision to sell my MBP and to order the parts I needed to build myself a PC. That was a little more than a month ago, and I'm typing this post on that new machine.

And what do I think?

The change proved to be more disruptive than I'd imagined. I miss Apple's core programs: Mail, Safari, and Notes. Microsoft's equivalents aren't. And yes, things are generally tackier and I'm less confident about security. But that said, Windows 10 is a decent OS, and so far I don't have any regrets on that score. The change's certainly made it easier to deal with IT at work .

As far as software goes, I miss being able to move files or to create replicants using DevonThink's contextual menu. But other than that I realize, I prefer having my files sit in the OS file system rather than inside an app. Tinderbox is a different story. I've struggled to find tools for doing what I used it for. A lot of times I just wind up doing the work with pencil and paper. This is a loss, but not enough on its own to swing my decision.

So for now my life is bifurcated between an Apple iOS mobile experience for photos, notes and a lot of web browsing, and a Windows PC desktop for work and gaming. For now, that division is working well and I feel good about it.

To be continued…

Update: The irony of all of this is that as I post here, Apple has begun to support external video cards. Would this have solved my problem? Who knows. For the moment though I still feel good about watching from the outside as Apple finds a way to get its Mac hardware back up to speed. The computers they've sold these past couple years haven't been.

Permalink Posted March 30, 2018

Oscars 2018

I meant to do this earlier in the week, but never had a chance. So in a rush, here’s my Oscar ballot (not predictions). In other words, these are what I’d vote for.




SAM ROCKWELL, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri


FRANCES MCDORMAND, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri




—No Vote—


BLADE RUNNER 2049, Roger A. Deakins




PHANTOM THREAD, Paul Thomas Anderson


—No Vote—


—No Vote—


BABY DRIVER, Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos




—No Vote—


PHANTOM THREAD, Jonny Greenwood


MYSTERY OF LOVE, from Call Me by Your Name; Music and Lyric by Sufjan Stevens


CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, Peter Spears, Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges and Marco Morabito, Producers


THE SHAPE OF WATER, Production Design: Paul Denham Austerberry; Set Decoration: Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin


—No Vote—


—No Vote—


—No Vote—


—No Vote—


BLADE RUNNER 2049, John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert and Richard R. Hoover


CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, Screenplay by James Ivory


LADY BIRD, Written by Greta Gerwig

Permalink Posted March 4, 2018

Boy in a Red Waistcoat

On “Boy in a Red Waistcoat” by Cézanne.


Blue lines and mottled yellow planes,

A horned block of red capped in brown,

Framing the pale face and rouged cheeks

Of a boy. He stands still and blank,

Eyes unfocused, hand perched on hip, posed

Yet not posturing, neither there nor still

By choice. He waits for sitting’s end,

Running already, free and laughing

With friends across plains of yellow grass.

Permalink Posted February 22, 2018

Overheard in a Bar

“It's amazing what thoughts you have at the hairdresser.”

Permalink Posted February 21, 2018

Return to Posting

It's been quiet around here the past six months but I intend to start rambling about books and movies again.

Ideally, I'd chip away at the pile of notes I kept but never wrote about from the second half of last year's lists. I've got high hopes, but we'll see how it goes.

Worst case scenario: I pick up with the new stuff, go with it, and just let the past be past.

We'll see.

Permalink Posted February 19, 2018

Merry Christmas from Santo Domingo

Snowmen made of plastic cups.

Permalink Posted December 26, 2017

Barry on Guns

Everything bad gets shot at in America, says John Cole, and everything good too.

– Sebastien Barry, Days Without End

Permalink Posted December 8, 2017

Barry on Forgetful Drunkards

A man's memory might have only a hundred clear days in it and he has lived thousands. Can't do much about that. We have our store of days and we spend them like forgetful drunkards. I ain't got no argument with it, just saying it is so.

– Sebastian Barry, Days Without End

Permalink Posted November 27, 2017

Baldwin on Love

It's a miracle to realize that somebody loves you.

— James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk

Permalink Posted November 13, 2017


Scrub fields, blue sky, and the last of the autumn leaves. Winter’s not here, but he’s looking out from these grey-soon woods and testing the air.

Permalink Posted November 7, 2017

O’Connor on Evil

Evil is not simply a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be endured.

– Flannery O'Connor

Permalink Posted October 24, 2017

The Beav on Happiness

Upon seeing a usually sullen journalist, reporting with uncharacteristic energy:

Est-ce qu'il a bu? Il a l'air content.

— The Beav

Permalink Posted October 19, 2017

Greenwell on Stones and Water

I felt the pressure of the water striking the stones and the steadfastness of their resistance, of what seems like their resistance and is simply a slower giving way.

– Garth Greenwall, What Belongs to You

Permalink Posted September 15, 2017

Lafayette (RIP) Was a Cosmopolitan

Godspeed Nelsan Ellis.

Permalink Posted July 17, 2017

Whitman on Satisfaction and Life – Ordinary Human Language.rtf

I cannot define my satisfaction…yet it is so, I cannot define my life…yet it is so.

— Walt Whitman, "To Think of Time,” Leaves of Grass

Permalink Posted July 17, 2017

Whitman on Truth in Things

All truths wait in all things, They neither hasten their delivery nor resist it

— Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself,” Leaves of Grass

Permalink Posted July 12, 2017

“I Have No Professional Training”

So I made the leap to my fancy new flat HTML blog site…and now I'm back on WordPress. The experience made me think of William Hung singing "She Bangs". (I hadn't thought of that in what? fifteen year?)

Tinderbox gave me the tools to punch way above my weight class: I have a site that works like a dream on my computer but making it work from a server…is not something I can do reliably.

I've retreated to WordPress, laughing (because the fact I'm back here is funny) but also with tail very much between my legs.

More soon… 🙂

Permalink Posted July 9, 2017

The New Site- un bilan

The last few months I've been working on moving this site off WordPress. That meant transferring all the posts to Tinderbox, setting up all the links, and creating the templates that would produce the HTML output I wanted to have. Everything except the templates was donkey work and took days and days. The templates took time as well, but I was learning about export and HTML and that was useful and exciting.

And when I was done, the file worked like magic. All my posts were suddenly arranged in a sensible way based on content rather than chronology. I could build up links (both href and visual) and could write outside the framework of a timeline. I began to imagine ways of writing that involved something I thought of as "portal posts": single posts that would appear on a blog timeline but which opened into a system of pages—a kind of mini-, discrete hypertext—accessible only by way of that initial post. I wrote the first of these to explain some of what I learned about export. (It looked like this.)

Then I uploaded the site with a welcome message and the first of what I hoped would eventually be many of these portal posts, and almost immediately, I realized I was in trouble.

The trouble is that I'm a tweaker. (No, not that kind of tweaker.)I like to fiddle and change things and I do this continually, everywhere on this site. There are posts on this blog that I wrote in 2011 that, when I looked at them while preparing my TBX file, were revised to fix problems I found. The movie log of La Mort de Louis XIV that posted less than 12 hours ago? WordPress currently lists 28 revisions to that post.

Once I posted my site, I immediately saw places to fiddle and since that's half the fun of the site (maybe more), I fiddled and then re-exported and re-posted the site. And then I did this again and again and again. Then I started trying to just replace individual files. This quickly became complicated: I was doing it wrong and breaking things.I didn't know enough about what I was doing on the server to be sure how to use the output TBX was providing. I'd fix things and then mess something else up.

This was fine: I was learning and I was sure that eventually things would become stable. I'd figure out what to do and become practiced at it. But at the same time, I also realized that I didn't know enough to predict when I'd reach that moment of stability. I suspected though that I knew little enough to guarantee I'd be learning by crisis-management for a long while.

Clearly I was in over my headand was going to be spending tons of time figuring out basics on my own. I knew too that my patience for floundering with mechanics when what I really wanted was to be working on content would be very limited.So I gave up on the whole "manage a site manually" plan and went back to letting WordPress do the heavy lifting.*

Yes, that means dealing with the limitations of my chronological timeline, but I've got an idea about how to make my portal post concept work. What I'm leaning toward is to use my TBX file—which I now know works—to create and to export these tangles of notes with this change: I'd write their intro page with the starting links as a post on my timeline and all the rest sitting as flat HTML files in a subdirectory. I'm still thinking that through though, and so we'll see. For now, the export posts I wrote for the now-defunct "new" site will appear here as a series. Not great and not what I'd intended, but better than nothing. This series—posted here as I'd imagined it working on the new site—starts with this post.

And so that's what happened and where things stand.

Onward and upward.


Permalink Posted July 9, 2017

Ondaatje on Middle Age

Let me tell you about people my age. The worst thing is others assume you have developed your character by now. The trouble with middle age is they think you are fully formed.

— Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

Permalink Posted July 2, 2017

Big Changes in the Works

For awhile now, I've been working to migrate this site off of WordPress. This has happened behind the scenes and has been slow going. The new site isn't complete—most of the images still need to be placed for example—but all of the text is there and everything is functional.

What that means is that now I'm sorting out when to make the jump from here to there and how I'll cope with the inevitable change in permalinks that I lack the skills to deal with invisibly (if that's even possible).

The rough and still evolving plan as it stands now is:

  1. to place the new version of the site in a subdirectory for a while and to publish a link to it here. This will give me a chance to see if things work for real and for people to see the change is coming. Once the link to the new site is published, all new posts will be published there and this site will go dormant.
  2. to set up the new site to serve the root address and to displace this WordPress blog to its subdirectory. I'd publish a link to the old blog's location on my new site. The date for the move will be announced here before it happens but will probably be in the week following step one.
  3. to write up a series of posts explaining how and why I'm going to use Eastgate's Tinderbox to manage the new site.

So major changes and exciting times.

Stay tuned…

Permalink Posted June 25, 2017

Gordon on Assholes

Oh, there are a lot of lousy people in the world. Also, a lot of terrific people. You've gotta remember that, and you've got to move in the right circles. I have days where I just want everyone to go fuck themselves or walk off a cliff, but I only say that to myself, and I smile and I walk home and I have some tea, I talk to Garson [Kanin, her husband], I might take a nap. Then I wake up and I write, and in writing, I wipe away all the unpleasantness of the day, of the people, of the city, whatever. We have it in our power to overcome assholes, and I think we have them thrown into our path to see if we have the chops to handle them.

Handle them.

— Ruth Gordon

Permalink Posted June 21, 2017

Baldwin on Home

…each was, for the other, the dwelling place that each had despaired of finding.

— James Baldwin, Another Country

Permalink Posted June 2, 2017

Experimenting. More Soon.

Posting has been slow here. Partly it's because of standard end of term business. Mostly it'sbecause I'm experimenting with the possibility of moving this blog off of its database and translating it into a set of static pages.

This is a mad enterprise but an interesting one. I'm learning a lot and at this point have a working prototype hidden away. Much tinkering is happening.

More soon…

Permalink Posted May 26, 2017

Overheard in a Student Paper

This. Exactly this:

“Let's hope that human can learn to an infinite extent.”

[sic] btw

Permalink Posted May 17, 2017

Montaigne on a Bird's Nest

All our efforts cannot even succeed in reproducing the nest of the tiniest little bird, its contexture, its beauty and convenience; or even the web of the puny spider.

— Michel de Montaigne

Permalink Posted May 7, 2017

Campion on the will

I am afraid of my will. It is so strange and so strong.

— Jane Camion, The Piano

Permalink Posted April 23, 2017

Donne on Bad Writing

None writes so ill, that he gives not some thing exemplary, to follow, or fly.

— John Donne

Permalink Posted April 23, 2017

Robinson on Real Questions

…every real question is fruitful…

— Marilynne Robinson, Absence of Mind

Permalink Posted April 17, 2017

New Neighbours

There are few things in nature that astonish me more or that I find more beautiful than the simple impossibility of a bird's nest. (Robins have built one on the shutter by the front entrance.)

Permalink Posted April 15, 2017

Montaigne on listening

I have often noticed this flaw, that instead of gaining knowledge of others we strive only to give knowledge of ourselves, and take more pains to peddle our wares than to get new ones. Silence and modesty are very good qualities for social intercourse.

— Michel de Montaigne, “On the Education of Children”

Permalink Posted April 7, 2017

Chabon on Stories and Luck

Every story is the story of somebody’s bad luck.

— Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys

Permalink Posted April 5, 2017

Dillard on Good Days and Good Lives

There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading—that is a good life.

— Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Permalink Posted March 31, 2017

Larkin on Kindness in a Difficult World

The Mower

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found

A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,

Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.

Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world

Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.

The first day after a death, the new absence

Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind

While there is still time.

Permalink Posted March 28, 2017

Stoplight Scene

The neighbouring village had a temporary stoplight for a few weeks as road crews did some work on the bank of the river. Seeing as how the village is a sleepy, stop-signs-only kind of place, the change—I could get caught by a red light! Grrrr!—felt big time and sophisticated, especially since the light wasn't around long enough to actually become annoying.

Stopped one day last week on my way home, I stared out over the fields rather than at the river. My mind was wandering around elsewhere, and so I only realized how beautiful the scene was as the signal flipped to green. There were cars behind me, but I grabbed my phone and snapped a quick pic before taking off.

And no one honked.

Permalink Posted March 24, 2017

Purdy on Dancing

I was sick unto death, but there is nothing like dancing to keep one holding to some thread with this world.

— James Purdy, In a Shallow Grave

Permalink Posted March 9, 2017

Photo Apocalypse

In December 2016, I was breaking up my much-too-large iPhoto library and creating archives for the pieces when my iMac died in a dramatic multi-day tantrum. It started with random shutdowns and crazy screen behavior that was bad enough to send me updating backups right away. Things got worse fast though and soon I was struggling to transfer large files in the time between restarts.

It was chaos, I was panicked, and when the dust settled, I'd lost every photo I'd taken from 1999-to 2015. My iCloud backups had already been pared down as part of the archiving and weren't any help in restoring what I'd lost.

It's hard to say how traumatic this was: I'd been using my iPhone's camera as a journaling tool since my 3G. Now all of that history was gone.

Machines break, but wow, do I ever have my hate on for that iMac.

Permalink Posted March 1, 2017

Genet on Elegance

To achieve harmony in bad taste is the height of elegance.

— Jean Genet, A Thief's Journal

Permalink Posted February 27, 2017

James on Irony

Don’t undervalue irony, it is often of great use.

— Henry James, Washington Square

Permalink Posted January 24, 2017

Highsmith on January


It was all things. And it was one thing, like a solid door. It’s cold sealed the city in a gray capsule. January was moments, and January was a year. January rained the moments down, and froze them in her memory: the woman she saw peering anxiously by the light of a match at the names in a dark doorway, the man who scribbled a message and handed it to his friend before they parted on the sidewalk, the man who ran a block for a bus and caught it. Every human action seemed to yield a magic. January was a two-faced month, jangling like jester’s bells, crackling like snow crust, pure as any beginning, grim as an old man, mysteriously familiar yet unknown, like a word one can almost but not quite define.

— Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt

Permalink Posted January 10, 2017

I’m Tired of 2016

George Michael has died.

He is the first man I ever saw wearing earrings, which mattered to me enormously as a young boy going to school in the Deep South.

I could link to any number of songs that I know by heart and that were important to me for all kinds of reasons that would seem odd or incidental to others.

The song I have in my head today is "Praying for Time."

Permalink Posted December 26, 2016

New Theme

I've used Suffusion as the theme for this blog fromthe beginning. It was always a bit overkill—you can tweak anything and everything—but it let me make my blogpersonal and I stuck with it.

For the past few months, I've been forced to live in iOS. Suffusion can handle that no problem, but the mental shift has been a bit of a challenge for me. Drastic change that throws everything up in the air will help.

So I've installed a new theme. It's simple and clean, but nothing worth tweaking is tweakable. That's odd—I like to tinker—but it also feels a bit like clearing the pipes. Which is always a good thing, even if, in the end, the change turns out to betemporary.

Permalink Posted December 23, 2016

Physicality in a Virtual World

Earlier this Fall, I hurt my shoulder and elbow. Right shoulder, right elbow, and yes, I'm right handed. In the worst weeks, I couldn't find a comfortable way to sit for more than a half hour or so and could barely hold a book to read. Writing by hand for more than 20 minutes was basically signing up for night-long pain, sitting at a computer for more a five or ten minutes was worse. Healing has been painfully slow.

So what do you do when your work and a great deal of your leisure involves reading, writing or sitting still to watch something and suddenly all of those things become competitors for pain-free time in a zero-sum game?

That's the unexpected experiment I've been running chez moi since September. Here's what I've learned.

Work plays trump cards. When I have a stack of papers, all available handwriting time is spent there. Same goes for keyboard time: when assignment sheets or grade entry or email has to be done, nothing else is done atmy computer.

My iPad has served as a lifeline to my non-work, digital worlds because I could use it without aggravating my injury. So in the past few months,I've had to discover how to make an iPad do real work for me in a way I'd never had to make it do before. Living on an iPad (as opposed to just using one casually on the couch) is not just a device switch though. It demands a different state of mind. I love the physical realities of interacting with iOS, but the virtual realities on the other side of the glass slab are like trying to talk to someone who likes Bill Compton or polka. You can understand the words but not the spirit behind the thing. I want a file system(DevonThink to Go helps with that) and RTF (Devon again, sort of), but I miss Nisus Pro and Tinderbox, both staples of my virtual life. (So many of TBX's map, outline, text and link functions seem perfect for the iPad's direct interaction that its absence is a bit haunting.)

And blogging? It turns out that I love the wordpress web interface. I open it on my desktop and I start writing. Open the mobile version and the various iOS stand-insI've tried and, nothing. Maybe it's the loosey-goosey feel of things without a keyboard, or perhaps the absent file system. Whatever the reason I'm still trying to adjust to the dashboard on iOS.

So what is the point of all this rambling?

As virtual as I am day-to-day, as digital as my work has become, I'm a bodied creature. Physical states matter.

I don't think I'd taken that into account before quite the way I have done recently.

Permalink Posted December 13, 2016

Proust on Reading Change

The heart changes, and it is our worst sorrow; but we know it only through reading, through our imagination: in reality its alteration, like that of certain natural phenomena, is so gradual that, even if we are able to distinguish, successively, each of its different states, we are still spared the actual sensation of change.

— Marcel Proust, Swann's Way

Permalink Posted December 8, 2016

Autocorrecting Life

Mac OSX autocorrect is invisibly great when it's switching "teh" to "the." It's infuriating when you are fighting it over the spelling of a word it doesn't think you actually mean to use.

And then, rarely, like that stopped clock briefly showing the correct time, it is wise. Like this morning, when it insisted that my "freefall" (it just did it again) is actually "freewill."

Thank you autocorrect for reminding me that I have a choice.

Permalink Posted November 23, 2016


Things are silent here. It's the silence of grief.

I'm not sure how to explain what I mean, but, here's an attempt:

When the Beav first came to the States with me in 2002, I was struck by and realized, in a way that I'd never come close to realizing before, that our relationship was illegal, that caught in an odd moment or an odd place, we could be subject to _law_and that the law would consider our relationship to be unnatural and punishable. So when theSupreme Court later decided in_Lawrence v. Texas_that homosexuality could not be criminalized that decision mattered to me profoundly. From that point forward, the Beav and I could travel to the states with less fear and uncertainty.Yes, we would still endure the scrutiny of border guards and have to decide whether to present ourselves together as a couple or apart as "just friends." But however unpleasant these individual moments of exposure, we had the confidence that comes from knowing finally we were__legal.Now, years later, same-sex marriage has also be declared legal, and I'd begun to assume that things were getting (and would continue to get)better for everyone.

Which is why Trump's election comes as a punch in the gut. It feels like the deck has been shuffled and the rules changed. Suddenly an ugly politics of racism and sexism openly bellows its support for an abhorrent white nationalism that I had naively—oh so very very naively—hoped was being steadily shuffled off into the dustbin of history. We're not debating options for how to improve things anymore. We're watching whole swaths of people be scapegoated, demonized and spoken about as if they were less that fully human. That's how bad things are.

And I was a white male fool to have thought we were past that point and couldn't go back.

It's a terrible, discouraging moment.

Permalink Posted November 20, 2016

I’m with Her

Clinton 2016 Pride

Permalink Posted November 8, 2016

Unquiet on the Ranch

It's been quiet around here, but alot's been going on.

My brother got married. Work is crazy. There's stuff with the house. I've barely read or watched anything I wasn't teaching. Haven't had time to.

This too shall pass, right?

…and when it does, more. Soon.


Permalink Posted November 3, 2016

Montaigne on the Aptness of Love

Si on me presse de dire pourquoi je l’aimais, je sens que cela ne se peut exprimer qu’en répondant : parce que c’était lui, parce que c’était moi.

— Michel de Montaigne, “De l’amitié”

Permalink Posted October 24, 2016

Life is People

There's been a lot of trouble around here this weekend. Thankfully though, things seem like they are going to be okay. All ofit has me thinking though, and realizing too that a lot of the unfortunate events we imagine keep us from our lives are actuallydoing just the opposite. Because those event pull us to each other and make up the stuff of life.

Which isn't me trying to make trouble sound like a good thing. It's not. It's just me seeing how much of life is really our time with the people we love and realizing that the time and the effort and the worry we pour out for them when there's trouble isn't a distraction. It is the thing called living itself.

I feel that very strongly this weekend.

Permalink Posted October 2, 2016

Twitter Break

Dear Timeline,

First off, I just want to make it clear that this isn't about you. We've had some rough times in the past, I know, but that was all about me and my bad judgement and we worked through it. I unfollowed those that needed it, followed those that did, even figured out your lists and used them to get my shit together. After that, we had a good run and good times. Real good times.

But ever since the conventions things have gotten pretty fucking intense and it's to the point that I can't take it anymore. You're obsessed with the minute-by-minute back-and-forth of the most horrifying election in recent memory, and it doesn't seem to shake you or wear you out, and crazy as it sounds, I love that about you. I do. It's just that it never fucking lets up ever, and if I stay in the thick of it like this I'm going to wind up on blood pressure pills nursing an ulcer or worse.

And I'm not blaming you. I know I said I was interested in all this crap, that I encouraged you with likes and retweets, and more and more follows. Fuck, I even live-tweeted Republican debates in the primaries knowing I had maybe two active followers. It doesn't get more "fuck yeah!" than that. You believed that passion was real, and I did too for awhile.

But now, months later and with the shit storm approaching category 5, minute by minute attention to the campaign is more than I can handle. I'm not cut out for it, and I need to step away, need a breather, need a break.

But please please please don't get the wrong idea. This isn't about something you've done and you know I can't quit you. I'm just deleting you from my phone because I can't say no when I'm looking at you there, and I need to say no for at least a bit.

While I'm gone, I'll be checking the morning headlines and the magazines. Please don't get the wrong idea. It's not a statement and not a competition.

It's just bye for now, BC

Permalink Posted September 16, 2016

Goethe on passions

A man is a man, and the modicum of reason he might have counts for little or nothing when passion rages and the limits of human being press against him!

— Goethe, The Sufferings of Young Werther

Permalink Posted September 10, 2016

Baldwin on What’s Inside You

Folks can change their ways much as they want to. But I don’t care how many times you change your ways, what’s in you is in you, and it’s got to come out.

— James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain

Permalink Posted September 9, 2016

September Morning

The woods on Mont St. Hillaire have darkened and dulled to the hard green of late summer. They are ready now to crack apart into the bright yellow and brilliant orange of Fall. And so it is in the fields below.

The hay has been cut, the scrub tilled under, the manure thrown down. Dry corn rustles in the breeze, and here and there, lime has been spread across freshly turned soil, dusty and white, an early echo of late autumn snow.

In my neighbor's garden, tomatoes dangle from the leafless stalks of wilted plants, gloriously fat and gloriously red. A pumpkin vine, clutching a trellis, propsimprobable fruit high into the air.

And the ducks fly overhead. And the river runs cool and clear.

Permalink Posted September 7, 2016

Goethe on Annoying Others

Now there is nothing that irritates me more than when people torment one another, especially when young people in the prime of life, who could be most open to life’s joys, ruin the few good days for each other with antics and realize only too late that they have squandered something irreplaceable.

— Goethe, The Sufferings of Young Werther

Permalink Posted September 7, 2016

Baldwin on the White City

She looked out into the quiet, sunny streets, and for the first time in her life, she hated it all—the white city, the white world. She could not, that day, think of one decent white person in the whole world. She sat there, and she hoped that one day God, with tortures inconceivable, would grind them utterly into humility, and make them know that black boys and black girls, whom they treated with such condescension, such disdain, and such good humor, had hearts like human beings, too, more human hearts than theirs.

— James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain

Permalink Posted September 4, 2016

Balzac on students

Indeed, a student can’t have too much time on his hands, if he wants to understand every theater’s individual repertoire, study the Parisian labyrinth’s intricate convolutions, learn how things are done, master the capital’s peculiar language, and grow accustomed to its special pleasures; he needs to explore both good and wicked neighbourhoods, take all the interesting courses at the university, catalogue the treasures in all the museums. And the student needs to throw himself into endless idiocies, which seem to him important and noble. …And so, step by step, he strips off his baby bark, raises his horizons, and in the end comes to understand the human layers of which society is composed.

— Honore de Balzac, Père Goriot

Permalink Posted September 3, 2016

Five Years

I first posted to this blog five years ago today.

When it began, I was only just back from a long summer in southern India. I was waiting to hear word about the date for defending my dissertation and had some time on my hands. So I decided I wanted to figure out what was possible to do on the web knowing nothing and figuring things out as I went along. Theonly technical condition I set for myself was that whatever I did would sit on my own domain and not on some company's social platform. I got things started by writing up logs from the book notes I'd kept as I travelled and soon after that started my commonplace book.

Back then I knew less than nothing about what I was doing and so those early weeks and months were a bit of rock-n-roll, by which I mean exciting, veering out of control, and generally one wrong move away from burning to the ground.

The most obvious example I can think of involved my treatment of date stamps, something that in blogs should be assigned more or less automatically. But not on my blog. No way, no how. I decided—and this is so typical of my mind that if friends or family had been watching as I worked they would have shaken their heads and said "of course, naturally, we could have guessed, let him be, there's no stopping him"—no, I decided (because "reasons") that date and hour stamps would not indicate dates and hours. Instead dates would key to a sorting schemeI invented to organize posts into looping sequences of topics. This system was odd, indecipherable to outsiders and worked exactly as intended, but it was also cumbersome and clearly madness. After a few weeks, I scrapped it and transferred all the date and time info (which I had been entering into the body of post texts) into the date/time field where they belonged and let them determine the sorting of posts as they should have done from the outset.

The biggest questions I've wrestled with as I've posted have not however been technical. They've been about my uncertainty over how personal the material here should be. Initially, the site sat behind an elaborate password system. When that was removed, my name was nowhere to be seen and I shared the url with no one. Eventually, I added my initials and began to share links with close friends. After awhile, I started sharing them on twitter. Now my name sits on the front page and I've accepted that what's here sits in full public view.

These changes were milestones but have left no direct trace unless the early versions of pages are sitting in system logs somewhere on the server. However, I can follow, I think, this slow process of change in the posts that I've written. The nervous writer plucking out a tune on only slightly non-academic language-strings in the early posts or miming the various "hey I saw this and this is what I think" posts I saw frequently on other blogs has over time become—haltingly and slowly and without much confidence—the writer who nervously and unexpectedly (most of all to himself) responded in very personal terms to the Orlando shooting.

In their own way, but perhaps less obviously, my Tinderbox posts were also intensely personal and were an important step in the evolution of my blog. They marked the point where I first considered the possibility that my blog, which I treated primarily as a conversation with myself, might also offer something useful to people I didn't know. I was familiar with writing like this: I read it all the time on other people's sites and it helped me figure out how to do my own work when I was having problems. But assuming that voice as my own, saying "This is what I'm doing and how I'm doing it, maybe it will help," was very new to me online and working on those posts forced me to think about how to speak knowledgeably without the defenses involved in academic posturing. In the process, I experimented with making hypertexts and even translated a piece of my dissertation online.

How to be here, how to speak, what to speak about and in what voice. These remain vital questions for me when I sit down in front of my blog. And they make it a worthwhile project (for me at least) even when I'm posting infrequently or writing posts that sit at arms length from my daily life. How to speak myself into the world is a question I still don't really have any stable answers to, and that means that, even with five years under my belt, I'm still happily looking forward to the next five.

And to anyone who's reading, thanks for being here.

Permalink Posted August 20, 2016

Bright to Blue

From fiercely clear sun of Spain to the moody blue clouds of the Netherlands in a few hours. The difference is between one world and another and manifests in the sounds and smells and thoughtless rhythms of the day.

The Netherlands after Spain.

Permalink Posted August 10, 2016

Sunset (Granada, Spain)

The walking and the seeing done.


Listening to a moment.

Permalink Posted August 8, 2016

An Allegorical Turtle (Cordoba, Spain)

In a reconstruction of a 12th century Moorish home, a couple of turtles wandered freely in a central courtyard. There was shade, a fountain. Plants grew thickly in the corners.

But one of the turtles had set her eyes on the horizon, and she was going to get there, geometry be damned.

I could watch this video over and over and over.

Permalink Posted August 7, 2016

White on Virtuoso Change

We were so dazed by the speed with which we were changing that we mistook this virtuosity for insincerity.

— Edmund White, The Beautiful Room Is Empty

Permalink Posted August 7, 2016

Swifts and the Evening Sky (Granada, Spain)

During our time in Spain, the swifts were always there, calling out from above in chorus.

High up, the flocks loop broadly in a deep sea of air. But nearer the ground they swirl and dive, surging here, dashing there, quick and agile.

Late in the evenings, bats screech and flutter beneath them.

Permalink Posted August 6, 2016

Looking Back

The five year anniversary of this blog is coming up in a couple weeks.

Seems like a good time to go back, look throughwhat I've got here and pull some things together.

Stay tuned.

Permalink Posted August 6, 2016

A Bird in a Fountain (Seville, Spain)

The afternoon heat in Andalusia crushes rather than burns. There's no air, not enough shade, and if you go out, it's easy to wander around stunned and dazed and bad off.

Water, as this bird knows, offers relief, and fountains have never looked so beautiful.

Permalink Posted August 5, 2016

Clinton’s the Candidate

What a difference a week makes.

I'm as proud now as I was embarrassed and confused last Friday.

Permalink Posted July 29, 2016

Reading - Screening Lists

I'm back from Spain as of last night and have stuff I want to write about in the coming days and weeks. To start things off though, I'm going to introduce a change to how things are done here.

When I started this blog, I used it mainly to write brief responses to the books I was reading and to the movies I was watching. These served as lists of what I'd read and seen and provided a reason to pay attention and reflect. They also gave me a steady stream of subjects for posts and got me blogging.

The logs were a success. I enjoyed writing them and over time kept adding to the list of things I logged: first TV shows, then theatre, then exhibitions.But as a result, and perhaps inevitably, the logs have become a chore. I have lists and lists of logs I'm supposed to write, often on things about whichI have nothing really to say.So taking a cue from my catch-up posts of the past few years, I'm going to stop trying to log everything. Because, sanity.

Instead, I'm going to keep a few simple lists of what I read and watch. (You'll find them in the right-hand column.) When I have something more to say about a book or a movie, I'll posta log and link to it from the list.

This change should keep me from living under a perpetual (and demoralizing) backlog of "posts that must be written!" and will hopefully create some space for me to write about other things.

Permalink Posted July 17, 2016

Accounting for the Unspeakable

As I travelled these past few weeks and now again asI'm back home and am getting some work done on the house, the fact that I'm from the States has come up a few times with strangers, and each and every time, the conversation has turned quickly to the US elections. Each time I've been asked the same questions, each time by someone trying to cover worried eyes with a wavering smile.

People looking on from the outside want to know:

  1. Who's going to win in November?
  2. How is it that all of this is happening?

On the one hand, these people were asking me this in order to make conversation: the current spectacle is an easy topic. But on the other hand, they were also at some level asking in the hope that I will tell them that even though things look scary ridiculous, there's nothing to worry about.

I think my answer to the first question sounds reassuring—Hillary Clinton will win—butI don't actually know if this is the case. And in fact, listening to myself talk, I've even begun to suspect that, as I tell these people that everything is going to be fine, I have the same smile and the same eyes that they have when they ask me what's going on.

I'm at a loss over how to respond to the second question. So I claim ignorance, shake my head, maybe shrug.

I mean what's to say? One of the two governing parties has spent decades marching toward the abyss and has finally inched close enough to jump in. The abyss has been a project, and those cheering it on seem driven by an urge to break things. The dailies and the nightly news don't seem to know what to say or how to respond and aren't much help. Those writing long-form journalism in major magazine shave done better at offering explanations, but I still feel as if in the States the unspeakable is happening live and that the rest of us are forced to sit on our hands bewildered as we watch it from next door or from across an ocean.

Ultimately, these questions have reminded me that the US casts a long shadow and the stakes for its elections extend beyond its borders. I hope that people realize that, vote, and vote for something other than running riot.

Permalink Posted July 16, 2016


I'm away on vacation for a few more weeks. More posts when I'm back.

Until then, here's a portion of a mural in a monastery in Santiponce, Spain.

Permalink Posted July 5, 2016

A Watered Garden

The weeds in the garden have been growing, and after several days of hot sun, the tomatoes, cabbages and all the rest need a drink. So after mowing the grass, I pull out the young thistles and the worst of the clover and then hose everything down.

The shower spilling from the nozzle cools the air and coaxes a rainbow from hiding. A river feeds the spigot. Bright beads of water skip and race across waxy cauliflower leaves. I dip my hand in the pattering spray, wipe the back of my neck. Beneath it all, the cracked ground laps up its muddy brew.

The sensible beauty of this moment is astonishing.

Permalink Posted June 17, 2016

Hayes on Dancing in a Gay Bar

I wanted to post “At Pegasus” by Terrance Hayes, another poem about dancing in gay bars, but I can’t make the formatting work. So I’m going to just link to it at Poetry Magazine’s site.

If I figure out how to post the full text here, I will. Until then:

These men know something

I used to know.

How could I not find them

beautiful, the way they dive & spill

into each other,

the way the dance floor

takes them,

wet & holy in its mouth.

Permalink Posted June 15, 2016

O'Hara on Dancing at a Gay Bar


Joe is restless and so am I, so restless.

Button’s buddy lips frame “L G T TH O P?”

across the bar. “Yes!” I cry, for dancing’s

my soul delight. (Feet! feet!) “Come on!”

Through the streets we skip like swallows.

Howard malingers. (Come on, Howard.) Ashes

malingers. (Come on, J.A.) Dick malingers.

(Come on, Dick.) Alvin darts ahead. (Wait up,

Alvin.) Jack, Earl and Someone don’t come.

Down the dark stairs drifts the steaming cha-

cha-cha. Through the urine and smoke we charge

to the floor. Wrapped in Ashes’ arms I glide.

(It’s heaven!) Button lindys with me. (It’s

heaven!) Joe’s two-steps, too, are incredible,

and then a fast rhumba with Alvin, like skipping

on toothpicks. And the interminable intermissions,

we have them. Jack, Earl and Someone drift

guiltily in. “I knew they were gay

the minute I laid eyes on them!” screams John.

How ashamed they are of us! we hope.

Permalink Posted June 14, 2016

Remembering My Gay Bars

My first gay bar was the Palace Saloon in Fairbanks, Alaska. Like me, the Palace lived something of a double life. By day it was a simple old-timey bar and theatre nestled inside Alaskaland, a sad sad tourist attraction that recreated the state's gold mining past. But Friday nights, at closing time, the Palace would slough off its dead skin and bristle with new life as the various and sundry drinkers and chatterers from the early evening would take off, leaving behind the rest of us, the queer people, all there for the drag show and a late night of dancing.

I was young, confused, and very much not out when friends first suggested I go to the Palace. They didn't tell me much about what I'd see, but I remember the show like it was yesterday. One of the queens was a colleague from school, done up with sparkly lips, tall hair and towel holders stuck to the tips of her bust in a parody of nipple rings. She sang and strutted from one end of the stage to the other, magnificent and glorious, and I thought she was too wonderful for words. The other queen was pure realness. Rising up out of a flower in a sequined dress in nude fabric, she danced like a serpent as Fiona Apple's "First Taste" slowly burned up the speakers. She was named Michelle Star.

My second gay bar was The Castle and it was set off a busy boulevard in a grimy section of Greenville, South Carolina. Friday and Saturday nights were packed. There was music and dancing and often shows. The man who cut my hair was the Grand Dame of the queens, but we had an understanding and never talked about the one world when we were in the other. The vibe of the place was good, my friends made it better, and I met some great peoplethere.

Still, it was the South in the 90s and sex between men was a felony. So there were problems. By municipal regulation, the bar was a membership club: anyone could join, but once you did,yourname was on file. Two police cars were parked outside the entrance, and officers stood on either side of the doors watching as you came and went. For all the community feeling and excitement inside, the bar sat there like a bunker in the darkness. Yes, it offered a place for men to dance and touch and kiss and whatever, but it also provided a focus for surveillance and a potential target for violence. This was the stage on which, newly and only barely out, I practiced being a gay man, and each night before I stepped outside to walk quickly to my car, I pulled out my keys and got them ready in my hand.

Not everyone was like that though. I remember one beautiful young boy who was there every weekend. He danced in the center of the dance floor, and more nights than not, took someone from the bar out to his car, and after a bit, they'd come back. At first I thought this was about drugs, but then one week as I was leaving I saw him down the row of cars in his backseat with a guy and realized that it was not. After this, each time he walked past the cops with someone to his car, I wondered if this would be the time he was set upon and beaten by passerbys and wondered too why (or how) he didn't think about this.

This threat of violence was even more pronounced at the other gay bar in town, the 621. Or "The Nine," as a friend (and my self-styled fairy godmother) called it. The Nine was a small, cramped and wretched place set beside the municipal airstrip and notable only for the line of cars and trucks pulled into parking spaces under the shadows of the trees at the back of the lot. Men would come to walk beneath the street lamps in front of the lined up cars. If someone was interested, they'd flash their lights and the guy would get in. I remember seeing this happening the night I got my friends to bring me there and it terrified me. There were no police, and everything happened in darkness. The scene captured my sense of the dangers gay life in the South entailed and I recoiled and hid.

My third gay bar was Unity in Montreal. It was there that I met the Beav and there that I discovered what big city gay life looked like. Standing in the catwalks looking down on the dancers or watching the city from the rooftop, I understood why generations of men had left home and gone to places like New York. I also understood why it would be easy to forget what life was like elsewhere and easy to take the privileges of city life for granted. I fought with friends about this last bit. Sometimes bitterly. But with these fights, I slowly crafted from my sexuality and my memories of life elsewhere, a political sense (and sensibility) that grounded me and made me a better person.

Eventually, I learned too that I had been wrong about the extent of the city's tolerance: in just my first years in the city, a club was raided by the police and the patrons all brought to jail, books and movies ordered from the States were confiscated at the border, and incredibly, straight people's bachelor parties still involved dressing the groom up as a woman and parading him before "les tapettes" in the village.

Gay bars in Montreal seem to have struggled these past few years. I suppose Grindr and the internet hook-up are part of the problem. The sense in the city that "everywhere is queer and safe and so why go to a gay bar with all those old guys" probably has an effect as well. And yes, my friends and I don't help at all: when we go to the bars today (and we go barely at all), we spend too much time complaining about how things used to be better. Seen from the other side of the bar, that conversation surely looks like exactly what it is and it is impossible it isn't a buzz-kill. We should give it a rest, not least because I think we're wrong.

Recently, I spoke with a young gay man who was on his way out of the closet and had just discovered the bars in the village. His excitement was palpable and as he talked about all of the places he'd checked out and loved, I remembered my own excitement when I found these same places years before. Recognizing myself in him, myprefabricated and ready-at-hand complaints about how things used to be better all dried up and died. The bars mattered to me then. They mattered to him now. So we swapped a few stories about what we'd seen and done at the various places he was exploring. It was a short conversation but a great one.

Gay bars made me who I am. Not completely (obviously) but in important ways. I think they do the same thing for other gay men. They are wonderfully odd and vibrant places that at their best open us up to ourselves, our possibilities and make us into a community. They are easy to judge and nobody can be more vicious about a scene than an older gay man. But like I said earlier, we should give it a rest.

Straight people judge the bars too. Whatever they say aloud, too many peopleare put off by (and some are even disgusted by) the sex and the sexiness and the drink and the drugs and the queerness of it all, all of it offered in excess and none of it really about them or for them. Which is to say that gay bars are extremely important for queer people but that they are also precarious. Even though more and more people are getting past thesereactions and judgments, too many still don't even try, expecting and requiring instead that queer people shape up and inhabit the few newly available, socially sanctioned spaces they've graciouslyset aside for them. (Monogamous marriage is anexample. Michael Warner discusses itandothers.)

Obviously, this is on my mind because of the awfulness of what's happened in Orlando. I'mupsetand when I think about the peoplewho died in that club, it reminds me ofmy own fear when I wasyoung, living in the South, and, after a joyous night with people like me, havingtostep across the threshold and back into the dangerous world waiting outside. The shooting makes me angry because this Orlando club was like all gay bars everywhere in the States: it was always already a target.

That's wrong.

Permalink Posted June 13, 2016

Another Meeting Doodle

It was a doozy.

Permalink Posted May 12, 2016

Eluard on not seeing

J’ai fermé les yeux pour ne plus rien voir

J’ai fermé les yeux pour pleurer

De ne plus te voir.

— Paul Éluard,

Permalink Posted May 12, 2016

Lucretius on Cranes

Better the swan’s brief note than that loud call

of the crane, wind driven through the clouds of heaven

— Lucretius, On the Nature of Things

Permalink Posted May 7, 2016

Geese and the River

See the video here.

Permalink Posted April 26, 2016

Lucretius on Fiery Words

Now words divide themselves in all directions,

since one begets another; a lone word starts,

then bursts apart into many, as a spark

of fire often sows fires just like itself.

— Lucretius, On the Nature of Things

Permalink Posted April 25, 2016

Family Fun in Ashran

After (could it have been?) nearly five months, the stars aligned, tech cooperated, and I signed into Azeroth to goof around with the fam for the evening.

It was very “woots!”

Permalink Posted April 24, 2016

Climbing Out from Under the Backlog

I went on a movie spree a month or so ago, watching or rewatching pretty much anything that struck my fancy without thinking too much about it. It was fun and pretty refreshing, but in the process, I racked up a long list of movies that I didn't log and that I don't have much (or even anything) to say about.

I've been carrying that list forward since mid-March and when I sit down to write here, I see it and feel thesame awful stomach feeling I feel when I look at a stack of ungraded essays and know I need to get to them but know too that I'm not going to get started yet. Needless to say this is not a good thing.

So to get out from under the list, I'm going to dump the titles here. I'llhave them for later when I want to see what I was watching. And if I'm ever inspired and I write some of them up, I'll link forward from here.

The list:

I also watched the second season of_Daredevil, the fourth season of _Justified, the second of_Survivor_'s "Blood vs. Water" themes, and finished the third season of_The House of Cards._ Which is a lot.

I think I was desperate for image and sound and just needed to get lost for a bit. And so went whole hog.

[Reading my links I realize that I continued or finished two series that in previous posts I didn't seem to like. At all. Clearly I was curious enough to get over it or they weren't as bad as they seemed when I was writing then.]

Permalink Posted April 8, 2016

Spring. Posting. Geese.

It's spring. The snow is melting away. The sky is clear. The air is warmer. Posting is slow, but last weekend, I started turning my garden and cleaned out the lilac hedge. The wild roses need to be moved soon or I'll have to wait until next year.

The snow geese have started flying over too, wave after wave of them, picking their way together to wherever it is they are going. Some of them spent Sunday night in the corn fields out back.

Permalink Posted April 6, 2016

Geese in Spring

See the video here.

Permalink Posted March 23, 2016

White on Rhetorical Bananas

I felt we were on the level of rhetoric where anything at all could be said. Perhaps the inmost you is a banana. Or tolerance. Or hatred. Or a banana.

— Edmund White, States of Desire

Permalink Posted March 19, 2016

Wilde on Love Again

…to love all things are easy.

— Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

Permalink Posted February 21, 2016

Sun Falling on Snow

See the video here.

Permalink Posted February 17, 2016

New Hampshire from Montreal

A few weeks ago, Stephane Dion, Canada's new Foreign Affairs Minister, met with hisAmerican and Mexican counterparts in Quebec City. The annual Carnivale was underway, and unsurprisingly it was chosen as the backdrop for some of the grip-and-grins played out in front of journalists. And the Quebec journalists ate it up. The images were everywhere.

Here's the thing:that night, watching Dion encourage Kerry to shake hands with the Bonhomme de neige — the mascot for the Carnivale and easily the creepiest non-clown "face of happiness" I have ever seen — I felt embarrassment — maybe even shame —as my immediate and first reaction. "We're better than this" I thought and, once I realized that it was true, I said it to the Beav as well. "On est meiux que ça."

Claudia Ruiz Massieu, John Kerry, Stephane Dion, Bonhomme Carnaval

Later talking with friends, the Beav presented my reaction as a sign that after 15 years in Quebec, with more than half of those as a permanent resident and then citizen, I was finally becoming a Canadian rather than an American in exile.

Anyway, I'm thinking about that this morning as I read the papers and I am trying to convince myself that the American primaries don't matter for me anymore. But my roiling stomach isn't buying it.

So far I've been fairly detached from the campaign and I know I won't vote in November: voting is controlled at the state level and I played hopscotch for a bit before moving to Montreal; so actually casting a ballot in a US election involves an inexplicably Byzantine process.I navigated it successfully in 2008 but failed at in 2012. After that I resigned myself to just voting in Canada. Then this past week I decided to watch the last of the Republican and Democratic debates. It was a horror show and now I think I won't be able to look away.

The Republican primary is a multiple choice test written by a lazy teacher. Most of the options are obviously, ludicrously wrong and can be immediately eliminated. Yet, in response to the question"Who should be the President of the United States of America?" the most popular answers are"more sprinkles" and "all of the above." I mean did they circle responses at random?

The Democrats are at least dealing with a short answer question. It demands some sophistication and nuance. There's room for some difference of opinion.But even there, I can't help thinking that they don't know much and their judgment is very very bad.

So I'm left with the sense that the States have lost their mind. I mean that literally: where is the public intellect? And despite living and voting elsewhere and despite knowing that this is just New Hampshire, the apparent chaos and derangement of American politics matters to me and is upsetting.

Permalink Posted February 10, 2016

Wilde on Love and Hate

Love is fed by the imagination, by which we become wiser than we know, better than we feel, nobler than we are: by which we can see life as a whole: by which and by which alone we can understand others in their real as in their ideal relation. Only what is fine, and finely conceived, can feed love. But anything will feed hate.

— Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

Permalink Posted February 4, 2016


For reasons I'll leave obscure, this entry in my commonplace book is on my mind this evening.

Our culture tends to reward men who are jerks, and when they get together and work in concert, there's often little you can do to stop them.

Permalink Posted January 27, 2016

Rambling about Reading

Late last year, I was flipping through some passages in some of Edmund White's books (A Boy’s Own Story, Hotel de Dream, Proust). I was also reading a bit about him, and I realized that I hadn't read many of the novels he claimed as antecedents. I'd dealt with queer theory and criticism at the margins of my own research but for a variety of reasons had never systematically read through the major works or the corpus that served as its rough working canon. Curious, I sat down and put together an initial bibliography and began reading. Now, a couple months onI'm still reading, I'm revising and building that bibliography and, most importantly, I'm excited.

The past couple years have not been easy ones intellectually. WhenI settled into a job at a non-research institution with a non-liberal arts focus, I initially felt a sense of freedom: without the burden of teaching my research, I began to read with fewer constraints than I had in years. The very specific pleasures of picking a novel for its cover and reading it blind or picking based on a friend of a friend's recommendations became more and more my norm. I could and did read anything. Unfortunately, I think this blog shows — without me meaning it to — that this got old quickly and that I've read with a fair amount of boredom for awhile now.

In part,I was reading a lot of books that weren't very good. When I read ones that that were, I often lacked a context (or even a reason) for engaging with them in a meaningful way. So I was reduced to observing, noticing, and, when something was noteworthy, calling it out. But nothing stuck or built up. I was simultaneously struggling with my seemingly ever expanding and increasingly administrative responsibilities at work. Forced to choose between unsatisfying reading (and so nothing to write about) and complicated, "important," problems at work, I slowly and without noticing devoted more and more of my mental life to helping to run a school.

I didn't consciously turn to White's novels for guidance but that's what they offered by reminding me about the manner in which I've always read. For good or for ill, I've never been satisfied with random observation. Even as a kid, I always had what I called "my research projects." I'd be curious about something and would go to the library and check out everything I could about it and would read until I felt I knew what I wanted to know. Then I'd move on to the next project. And there was always a next project because I was always bouncing from one thing to the next as my interests led me.

Sometimes my questions were simple and easily answered; at other times, complicated and involved. Once a very young me figured out what lips were. That was pretty easy. LearningGreek mythology — a childhood passion— took time. Curiosity was my guide not seriousness, and my curiosity always provided its own context and purpose even when I couldn't put my finger on it at first: I once spent the better part of a year in my early twenties reading crap book after crap book about astrology and the tarot, wondering why on earth I was doing it, but keeping it up until I felt done. When I finally did and looked back, I realized that I'd just explored ah ighly developed and convoluted instance of archetypal interpretation that was distinct fromBiblical exegesis. I found that interesting.

I've also always been an encyclopedic reader. I stumble upon a writer, become interested, and then read in a burst, often in chronological order, everything they've written up to that point. The first time I remember doing this was with Lloyd Alexander when I was twelve; the next was with Stephen King the summer turnedI fourteen. Sometimes this led to great things:I discovered Faulkner and spotted the patterns I wrote a dissertation about by reading in the this way. Sometimes it didn't: my summer of Stephen King turned me off him irremediably. The thing is though, that however random these bursts were — I often discovered these writers by chance — the bodies of works provided their own context. Operating as an_oeuvre_, they directed my thinking about my reading in the same way that my curiosity — expressed as a question — pointed my way in the library.

All of this may sound like ridiculous nostalgia but it's not: I'm not yearning to return to some imaginary, childlike ideal. (Blech!) Rather, I've realized in the past few days that flipping through White's novels last December was the beginning of anew curiosity-based project. My bibliography is me once again working through a corpus that provides individual works with a context and that the booksI've read are already building upon each other. Seeing this I recognize that there's something in this arrangement of things that fits with my disposition and supports the better angels of my nature. It's a happy recognition because, looking back over the past year and a half of this blog, I realize how very boring it is to be bored. So good riddance.

Permalink Posted January 26, 2016

Genet on Poetry

Poetry is a vision of the world obtained by an effort, sometimes exhausting, of the taut, buttressed will. Poetry is willful. It is not an abandonment, a free and gratuitous entry by the senses; it is not to be confused with sensuality, but rather, opposing it, was born, for example, on Saturdays, when, to clean the rooms, housewives put the red velvet chairs, gilded mirrors, and mahogany tables outside, in the nearby meadow.

— Jean Genet, Our Lady of the Flowers

Permalink Posted January 21, 2016

Yourcenar on Leisure

I sought at first the simple liberty of leisure moments; each life well regulated has some such intervals and he who cannot make way for them does not know how to live.

— Marguerite Yourcenar, The Memoirs of Hadrian

Permalink Posted January 9, 2016

Emerson on the Breviety of Genius

So much of our time is preparation, so much is routine, and so much retrospect, that the pith of each man’s genius contracts itself to a very few hours.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Permalink Posted January 3, 2016

Emerson on Journaling

Our life looks trivial, and we shun to record it.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Permalink Posted December 23, 2015

Montaigne on Natural Speech

The speech I love is a simple, natural speech, the same on paper as in the mouth; a speech succulent and sinewy, brief and compressed, not so much daily and well-combed as vehement and brusque.

— Michel de Montaigne

Permalink Posted December 17, 2015

Wilde on Ruin

The gods are strange. It is not our vices only they make instruments to scourge us. They bring us to ruin through what in us is good, gentle, humane, loving.

— Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

Permalink Posted December 12, 2015

Ford on Multitasking

I am a pretty good writer and a pretty good editor and a pretty good businessman but I find it very difficult to be all three at once.

— Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

Permalink Posted December 5, 2015

Stein on Honesty and Gossip

Oh hell, she said, listen I am fairly well known for saying things about anyone and anything, I say them about people, I say them to people, I say them when I please and how I please but as I mostly say what I think, the least that you or anybody else can do is to rest content with what I say to you.

— Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

Permalink Posted December 4, 2015

Hawthorne on Bookkeeping

No Man can be a Poet & a Book-Keeper at the same time.

– Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Permalink Posted October 9, 2015

Montaigne on Reading Well

An able reader often discovers in other men’s writings perfections beyond those that the author put in or perceived, and lends them richer meanings and aspects.

— Michel de Montaigne

Permalink Posted October 3, 2015

Reading Montaigne. Finally.

I've wanted to read Montaigne's essays for awhile but the sheer size of the volume has been an obstacle to getting started. My edition, which is trade size and has very small type, runs to 1,336 pages. So leaping in is a commitment, and one I've put off for a couple years now.

A friend who knew I was balking gave me Bakewell's biography of Montaigne a few years back as a kind of stand-in for the real thing I think. He also suggested I just read a few of the essays. This wasn't what I wanted. I couldn't explain it, but if I was going to read one or two, I wanted to read them all and in the order Montaigne had arranged them.

Well these past few weeks, I've finally taken the plunge and am shocked how much I like them.

The first few essays are rough going. They are impersonal and analyse political hypotheticals that feel disconnected from my world. But slowly things shifted, and by the time Montaignewas talking about lying or speaking slowly or quickly, I'd become caught up in his digressions, his comparisons and his odd leaps from one subject to another.

Several hundred pages in—which barely makes a dint in the book—I've realized that I really like the person on display in these essays. If he was like this in real life and alive today, I'd want to be his friend.

I suspect my commonplace book may be univocal for a bit.

Permalink Posted September 19, 2015

Cicero on a Teacher's Authority

The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle for those who want to learn.

— Cicero, Montaigne: The Complete Works

Permalink Posted September 19, 2015

Montaigne on Keeping Pace with Students

It is good that he should have his pupil trot before him, to judge the child’s pace and how much he must stoop to match his strength. For lack of this proportion we spoil everything; and to be able to hit it right and to go along in it evenly is one of the hardest tasks that I know; it is the achievement of a lofty and very strong soul to know how to come down to a childish gait and guide it. I walk more firmly and surely uphill than down.

— Michel de Montaigne, “On the Education of Children”

Permalink Posted September 19, 2015

Late Summer Ducklings

It sounds like a Chinese dish but is actually a video.

Permalink Posted September 6, 2015

Tinderbox and Good Intentions

Tinderbox is a great place for good intentions.

Permalink Posted September 6, 2015

Home Sweet Home

Some friends who live in the heart of downtown Montreal went away on vacation and asked the Beav and me to take care of their cats. So we spent the time in their condo having a vacation in Montreal.

It was a nice break and their condo couldn't be nicer or better situated. We watched and listened to the festival shows from the front room. Museums, cinemas and restaurants were a short walk away. It was the best.

But after two weeks, it's good to be home.

Permalink Posted July 28, 2015

Goodbye HenriCat

For nine years, HenriCat shared our home. When I arrived in the evening, he met me at the door. When I worked at my computer, he slept beside me on the desk. When I read, he was snuggled into my lap. When I graded, he left me alone until he decided I'd been at it too long, then he'd sit on the pile of unmarked essays as if to say "enough already." Sometimes, he decided I was done before I'd even really begun.

At dinner, he'd sit patiently by my chair, as elegant and still as an Egyptian relic, waiting for me to put my plate on the floor so he could lick it clean. Sometimes, if we were eating fish and I was eating too slowly, he would stand up on his hind legs and put one paw on the edge of the table, asking "Fish please? Soon?" When he did, I called him Henri-Quêteur.

HenriCat was friendly, curious, and a patient playmate of our friends' children. When I adopted Cornelius, a five-week old kitten abandoned at a vet's office, HenriCat raised him and taught him how to be. Together he and Cornelius were mascots for this site.

The last six months were not easy for him. He fell ill in winter, nothing the vet tried helped, eventually it become clear he had tumours, and now he's gone. So I'm writing this post, unlike many of the others on the site, without him curled up against my arm or on my lap.

He was a good cat and a friend. I'm going to miss him.

Permalink Posted July 14, 2015

Catton on Angry Men

There’s nothing more brutal than a gang of angry men.

— Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries

Permalink Posted July 5, 2015

Thoreau on Why He Went to the Woods

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and  Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

— Thoreau, Henry David, Walden

Permalink Posted July 3, 2015

Love Is Love


A Rainbow Flag.

Permalink Posted June 27, 2015

Textual Deconstruction

Lots of great political news coming out of the US Supreme Court this week, but the decision on health care had me thinking about literary theory. Specifically, this post by Nicholas Baglay and this one by Einer Elhaug, together make a nice point about meaning as a goal in interpretation and the purposeful destructiveness of stubborn textualism.Reading it, I was reminded of the distance I felt unpacking boxes after my recent move and flipping through so much of the critical work I was assigned in the mid-90s in graduate school.

What struck me reading about the dissenting arguments in the health care case was the way Scalia's approach feels out of time but not in the way he believes: he seems like a product of the the heyday of academic deconstruction.De Mann and Scalia (and Thomas to an extent) seem to me of a kind insofar as their textual processes create obstructive rather than enabling insights, and these obstructions bring whole enterprises to a halt, prevent movement, and enforce the status quo. The result too often is a link across fields between deconstruction and the ugliest of conservatisms.

This is all very simplistic and hunch-based but it makes me wonder a bit about academic queer theory, much of which has been, sometimes explicitly, sometime simplicitly, opposed to the normalizing political project that led to the Court's recognition of a right to gay marriage. The value and importance of queer theory is difficult to exaggerate, and yet, I worry when it finds itself on the wrong side of so important an argument and worry too when it's foundational critical approach seems to align it with the methods of Scalia's side of the court.

ps–obviously there's a lot of nuance needed here, but in broad strokes, this is the shape of my first thoughts.

Permalink Posted June 27, 2015

Maclean on Just Getting Started Already

Many of us probably would be better fishermen if we did not spend so much time watching and waiting for the world to become perfect.

— Maclean, Norman, A River Runs Through It

Permalink Posted May 31, 2015

iCloud Catastrophe

When the new photo app dropped, I decided to try out the iCloud photo library. This meant upgrading my iCloud storage so it could hold my photos. I had just enough photos to blow the cap on the 99¢ tier and had to go up a step, which left me with plenty of extra space to use as a synch store.

I've used Dropbox for years happily but have recently been bumping up against my storage limit. Since photos required iCloud but my dropbox files could sit in either service (and I have good backups both Time Machine and manual), I decided to give iCloud drive a try.


Dropbox syncs quickly and reliably, and I went about my work as if this would be the case with iCloud(after a couple hesitant hyper-vigilant days of checking the Finder to make sure everything was working as it should). Unfortunately–and I'm not sure what's going on exactly–iCloud doesn't sync immediately after a file saves or closes, or at least it doesn't do so consistently.

So over the course of about four days, I worked on what I thought was a synced version of a single file on my iMac and my MBAir. What was in fact happening was that I was working on two different files that were only occasionally syncing. And because I was entering notes into a very large Tinderbox file I was doing nothing that would clue me in to the problem: no revision, no review, just entering data in one note, then entering data in the next.

Once I realized there was a problem, I began to poke around and realized that, even after my computer had been on for 10-15 minutes, there was no guarantee that any particular file had synced to the latest version. (Although opening a finder window to a folder seemed to push the files in that folder to sync immediately. Usually.)

Conflicts? What Conflicts?

It gets worse: iCloud never asked me to resolve conflicts between the versions of the file I was working on. Instead, it simply replaced all copies of the file with the latest version. In practical terms, this means I could enter 50 notes on my desktop, close the file and do other things, then later that day open the file on my laptop (it would appear to be synced but would not be), add a note or two and close the file, and then the next morning when my desktop synced, the laptop file that added two notes would replace the desktop file that added 50. And all of this with no warning or prompt.

Yet, I know that iCloud was registering conflicts because when I went to delete the ruined file, the system blocked me with an alert window that said the file had unresolved conflicts and could not be deleted.I went through every option I could find to figure out how to resolve (or even see!) these conflicts, but no luck.

Not that it would have mattered: the haphazard syncing over several days had riddled my Tinderbox File with holes and populated my backups with conflicting files that I couldn't easily sort through or draw from to fix things. In the end, I had to print out the outline of my Tinderbox and painstakingly go through it line by line to figure out what I had and what was gone in order to know what to reenter. It was frustrating beyond description.


So I'm now very leery of iCloud. The integration is really appealing but I can't account for the sync behaviour I'm seeing and so can't adapt to it. This is a problem.

My files are important, and I hate hate hate having to do work twice because something messed them up. This has to happen to me only once and suddenly I have real trust issues.

So for now, my files are back in Dropbox, where they've been for years, and I've pulled my photos off the cloud (because the photo sync alone isn't worth the storage cost).

That said, I like the idea of iCloud…so here's hoping things improve.

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Permalink Posted May 22, 2015

Stars in the Country

Stars live by the river.

They gather at night to watch cities burn

orange beyond the horizon.

Permalink Posted May 10, 2015

Lines, Circles, Homes

A line is not a circle.

The difference between my old apartment and my new home.

Permalink Posted May 9, 2015

Stevens on Poetry that Bites

Poetry is a Destructive Force

That’s what misery is,

Nothing to have at heart.

It is to have or nothing.

It is a thing to have,

A lion, an ox in his breast,

To feel it breathing there.

Corazon, stout dog,

Young ox, bow-legged bear,

He tastes its blood, not spit.

He is like a man

In the body of a violent beast.

Its muscles are his own . . .

The lion sleeps in the sun.

Its nose is on its paws.

It can kill a man.

— Wallace Stevens

Permalink Posted May 8, 2015


So I've been reading (more on that later) and I have a dilemma: eBook or paper?

The options are pretty straightforward. I like how paper books make each book seem different from the other. I like reading EBooks in bed with the light off.

How to choose?

I feel like the potential for dealing with quotation and annotation in EBooks is greater but I feel too that, at least personally, that potential is not realized. So it doesn't count much in the decision.

Permalink Posted April 21, 2015

King on Plot

Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice.

— Stephen King, On Writing

Permalink Posted April 16, 2015


So, every piece of paper in the world has been signed (in triplicate), and the Beavand I are now homeowners. There's some work to do (!) but the new place sits on the river and we're super excited…

Permalink Posted March 28, 2015

Hardy on that Dress

In making even horizontal and clear inspections we colour and mould according to the wants within us whatever our eyes bring in.

— Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd

Permalink Posted March 6, 2015

Fair Copy Blogging

When you're stuck, how do you tidily copy out a draft of a blog?

For me right now, it means transferring my blog posts into a Tinderbox file, somethingI've been wanting to do for awhile. It might seem like busy work, but it's been pretty rewarding so far. I have too many posts for me to have any sense of what I've done. So seeing the pieces of what I've written build in up in a project file has been a bit of a morale boost.

And I expect that file will be a great place to start writing new posts.

Permalink Posted March 4, 2015

Benjamin on Copying Draft

Never stop writing because you have run out of ideas. Fill the lacunae of inspiration by tidily copying out what is already written.

— Walter Benjamin

Permalink Posted March 4, 2015

What’s up?

Blogging has been scarce these past weeks. Initially the hiatus was about travel: a vacation followed by holidays with family followed by an unexpected week away. But the time away let me work on other projects and think about what this space is for, and that whole process isn't done yet.

The news I have:

1. I'm done for now with the Faulkner hypertext project. I had no real appreciation for how radically different hypertext writing was. Neither did I realize how much I need, personally, to let go of an old project that feels done for me. Faulkner needs to be set aside. That said, the questions about linearity that trying to make the project readable brought up for me are very much alive…and very troubling. I hope there will be more to say about that here soon.

2. A series of work projects have taken on a life of their own. None of them are appropriate to discuss here. (An interesting insight: not everything is internet-ready.) This means that life and blog are competing a bit for the time being. This too shall pass, right?

3. More abstractly, this blog feels adolescent. I've spent a lot of time these past weeks wondering what this blog is for and what I want it to be. Because I am old the idea of blogging about blogging makes me shiver. Because I am not that old, the questions sting. What started as an experiment has become important, but how? And that "how" is public. /sigh.

4. I have planned for months to blog about the way I've been experimenting with wikis in my classroom. In the coming weeks, I may spend some time catching up on what I've been doing there. It's a matter of finding the time to pull out my notes and making posts that I feel ok with.

Finally, I'm sure that anyone who's read this far will already have read Mark Bernstein'srecent series of postsabout Wikipedia and the ongoing GamerGate fiasco. I've found them inspiring enough that:

5. This semester I've decided to throw GamerGate at the students in a first-year research writing class I'm teaching. It's the sort of topic that teachers dream of: it touches an intensely personal aspect of students' lives and challenges them to think about what their casual pleasure mean. But to make sense of the conflicting materials (and their reactions)will require classroom skills they prefer to cordon off in a box labelled simply "school." Bernstein's posts set alongside Anita Sarkeesian'sFeminist Frequencyvideos,Zoe Quinn'sblog and supplemented with the resources Bernstein links to inposts like this oneand thevarious articlesin news sites and in magazines likeThe New Yorker,will present my students with a real problem. I can't wait to talk about it with them and to see what they write. Depending, I may keep tabs on it here.

So that's where things are and why posting is slow.

Permalink Posted January 30, 2015

Back (Again)

I can't think of the last time I've travelled so much is so short a time. It's been really great to see everybody (shout out to the clan!) and I'd do it again in a heartbeat if I could, but I'm also happy to be home and ready to get back to my very ordinary life.

Permalink Posted January 15, 2015

Snow Evaded, Briefly

…now home and feeling tan.

Permalink Posted December 21, 2014

New Curiosities from the Curiosity Rover

A marvellous photo of the Mount Sharp in the Gale Crater on Mars has changed the tenor of my day.

The world is big. Bigger than we know. Bigger even than we imagine.

So should we be.

Permalink Posted December 9, 2014

Mishima on Romance and Politics

The exaggerated color of secrecy clinging to politics confirmed its resemblance to the business of romance; politics and love affairs were in fact as alike as peas in a pod.

— Yukio Mishima, After the Banquet

Permalink Posted December 7, 2014

Blessed Insomnia

I woke up insanely early this morning, mind racing. Couldn't get back to sleep. I hate it when that happens. Because, now what?

Recently I'd read"Note-taking Jujitsu, Or How I Make Sense of What I Read"& had wonderedif the instructions there for getting highlights and notes off a Kindle could work for me. Could I get mine into Tinderbox in a usable form?

Why not try that now? It's dark outside. That might help.

One prototype and forty-five minutes later, 1400 notes are organized into 35 containers, one per book.


I stopped using my kindle more than a year ago because I couldn't really use any of the notes that I made on it. Now it looks like I can. And that it's easy…

Alas it is still dark outside. Now what?

Permalink Posted December 4, 2014

Stephen Crane on Despair

When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, and that she feels she would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples.

— Stephen Crane

Permalink Posted December 2, 2014

Christie on "Queer Tensions" at Dinner

… they all passed the butter to each other too politely.

— Agatha Christie, Murder in Mesopotamia

Permalink Posted November 30, 2014

First Night in Draenor

Blizzard advertised and pushed their new expansion for nearly a year. Blog posts, videos series about backstory, a major pre-launch patch that phased in partial changes to ease the transition. Then, launch day arrives, servers bit the dust, and those that remained standing had entrance queues six thousand people (and several hours) long.

A day and a half after launch, my brother still hadn’t been able to sign on to play his mains. So he, Pink and I decided to play toons from years ago that were sitting on near empty servers.

It was a fun night, but also weird to play the new content for the first time on old, forgotten toons.

So what was up with Blizzard? Well for now looks like a denial of service attack pushed Blizzard’s woefully insufficient hardware set-up over the edge. And when things held together long enough for people to actually get in the game, the introductory storyline piled them all in only a few zones, which caused the servers to crash.

Tech’s easy to get wrong I guess…

Permalink Posted November 15, 2014

Chopin on Beginnings

The beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing.

— Kate Chopin, The Awakening

Permalink Posted November 10, 2014

The Voice of Vlad Taltos

Years and years ago, I read all of Steven Brust’s Vlad novels (or at least those that were available at that point), and I loved them. That in itself isn't, unfortunately, the ringing endorsement I wish it was. I was a voracious reader and tended to have tastes of the same sort as Browning's Last Duchess (who"liked whate'er/She looked on").

StillBrust's books werestand-outs. They were told by a protagonist/narrator withan amazingly distinctive voice thatlodged in my mind's ear and stuck with me. Years later, I could still "hear" it if I sat back and let myself remember.

Not long after starting this blog, I reread the first book in the series, Jhereg,. Happily, it was as good then as I remembered it being in high school. In fact, it was betterbecause, with more experienced eyes, I could see how cleverly writtenitwas. Sothis summer, I decidedto read the whole series in itsorder of publication, revisiting the books I knew and discovering the ones that had come along sinceI'd stopped keeping track.

It's been fun,but my initial plan of reading right through the books one after the otherhas changed. The series is just too good rush through. (…really. It is that good.) So now I'm pacing myself and reading slowly to draw things out.

Permalink Posted November 9, 2014

Laclos on Success

The merit of a work derives from its usefulness or from the pleasure it gives, or even from both when it has both to offer. But success, which is not always a proof of merit, depends more often on the choice of a subject than on its execution, on a certain combination of subjects rather than on the way in which they have been treated.

— Choderlos de Laclos, Les Liaisons dangereuses

Permalink Posted November 7, 2014

Hallow's End

Sometimes at the end of a long hard day, you just need time in Azeroth with the fraternal unit. Sometimes, if it’s Hallow’s End for example, you can also get a new pet: a cat on a broom named Boo!

Permalink Posted October 30, 2014

More Meeting Doodles

A pumpkin headed scarecrow.

Permalink Posted October 25, 2014

My New Home!

So after weeks, the move to my new web host is complete, and I'm glad I did it. Because mynew host is much friendlier, yes, but also because I had to do the work to move files and databases from the old server to the new. I was worried about being able to do this at first, but people have made tools like phpadmin so easy to use that, with a bit of reading, even I could figure them out. (We live in a pretty great world people…)

(Back) Logs

The past few months I've fallen far, far behind on my logs. I have eight novels sitting on my desk with notes jotted down. That's not counting the lists of movies and all the rest that I want to get posted. These are going to be dumped pretty quickly in the coming weeks. I actually use my logs and need to have these done. So fair warning.


In the past few months a lot of people have started keeping tabs on things here becauseof interest in my Tinderbox posts. Although this isn't a how-to blog and I'm no power-user, when I havethoughts or ideas, I will continue to post them. I have several possibilities percolating right now. They should pop up slowly in the coming weeks.


This blog has worn the excellent Suffusion theme from the start. It's clean, well-made and incredibly flexible. I've never used much of that flexibilityasthings have stayed more or less the same from day one. But now I'm considering some changes to the layout that will put materialI use and currentlyfind hard to access, front and centre. We'll see how that goes. Also, mascots.

And that's that. It feels great to have everything stable and working again. I'm really looking forward to writing posts rather than just moving them around.

Permalink Posted October 25, 2014

Well that didn’t go as planned…

Computing isn't digestion. You got to know things to make it work.

I know nothing about server stuff. (I say "stuff" because I lack the words to pretend knowledge.)I rent space for my blog froma web host because I have no idea what's going on behind the web interfaces and ftp client I work with.

Do I nurse fantasies of discovering that server "stuff" is easier than I imagined, of buying a mac mini server and paying the fee for a stable ISP and then doing this part of my site for myself? Yes. Am I even close to being dumb enough to think that's a near-possibility? No. For now and for the foreseeable future, I am completely dependent upon my web host.

And now I'm switching hosts after three years. How has that gone?

Well, nothing's gone wrong and people at the new host have been really nice (which is a huge improvement). But what I thought would be a near immediate turnaround for the set-up for the new hosting space turned out to require a quasi-long-ish Thursday that was interrupted by some paperwork problems that restarted the process, and well, eventually, the high wall separating Friday five o'clock from alongweekend brought everything to a halt. So the move hasn't yet begun.

New ETA is sometime early next week. Fingers remained crossed.

Permalink Posted October 13, 2014

Fire in the sky


Fire in the sky – Ordinary Human Language

October 13, 2014March 4, 2015 BC

A birch tree in the Parc des Voltigers in St-Charles-de-Drummond. It seems some trees throw fire and not nets into the sky.

Permalink Posted October 13, 2014

Mishima on Tree Branches, Blue Sky

The elms stretched delicate branches high into the blue, and the clustered twigs had the sharp clarity of countless cast nets simultaneously thrown into the sky.

— Yukio Mishima, After the Banquet

Permalink Posted October 13, 2014

Server Transfer

Finally switching web hosts. It's gonna take a couple days. Silence until it's done probably.

Fingers crossed that all goes well.

Permalink Posted October 8, 2014

Saint-Exupéry on love

Ma vie est monotone. Je chasse les poules, les hommes me chassent. Toutes les poules se ressemblent, et tous les hommes se ressemblent. Je m’ennuie donc un peu. Mais, si tu m’apprivoises, ma vie sera comme ensoleillée. Je connaîtrai un bruit de pas qui sera différent de tous les autres. Les autres pas me font rentrer sous terre. Le tien m’appellera hors du terrier, comme une musique. Et puis regarde ! Tu vois, là-bas, les champs de blé ? Je ne mange pas de pain. Le blé pour moi est inutile. Les champs de blé ne me rappellent rien. Et ça, c’est triste ! Mais tu as des cheveux couleur d’or. Alors ce sera merveilleux quand tu m’auras apprivoisé ! Le blé, qui est doré, me fera souvenir de toi. Et j’aimerai le bruit du vent dans le blé…

— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince

Permalink Posted October 6, 2014

Family Tech

The announcement of the new iPhone has sent me wandering down memory lane and has me thinking about how my not-so-long-ago, pre-iPhone mobile life was transformed by the 3G into a family project.

First Laptop

I made the leap to mobile computing in grad school when I bought my first laptop, a Toshiba PC that won me over because, at 10 or 11 pounds, it seemed light enough to carry back and forth to the library when I needed it. I was fooling myself. I live in a city. I walk, I bike, I take the metro. Bringing the machine to the library meant bringing it with me all day, every day, and it was too heavy for that and never left my desk.

Palm Pilot

When the Toshiba died enough that I felt I could replace it without guilt, I got another desktop PC and a Palm TX. The Palm was a great machine. I bought a small IR keyboard that folded in half and both it and TX together could fit inside my coat pocket. I boughtDocuments to Go, figured out how to transfer files back and forth to my computer manually. And this changed how I worked.

Weekdays, I'd wake up at five o'clock, take a shower, grab my backpack and walk down to my favourite cafe whereI'd sit at my table (I had a table) and write for a few hours before heading off to get started with the rest of my day. I wrote first drafts of my dissertation proposal, my comprehensive exams, and most of the early parts of my dissertation in that cafe on that TX.

(Gratuitous aside: A friend put together the specs for the desktop machine over the course of a long evening in which we drank a bottle of absinthe I'd brought back from Marseille. The evening ended when in the wee hours of the morning, he began calling family and friends and I had the pleasure of listening to him say things like "No, I'm fine….No really, everything's great. …What do you mean?What time is it there?" Time zones are fun.)

Mac Mini

It was myPalm TX that caused me to stretch my budget and buy my first mac. Writing on the Palm I tended to write in short segments rather than in a single file: a single article might be broken into a dozen or more files that I would organize in directories on my PC and later combine into a Word document. This made sense when I was drafting on the TX but was complicated to manage back on my PC.

Then one day I stumbled across a reference to Scrivener, a then Mac-only program that let you write in non-sequential fragments easily and productively. After a week or so of hesitation, I bought a Mac mini and installed the Scrivener free trial, thinking all the time: I have a few weeks to change my mind and return this computer fora refund. But after the first day, I was sold.

Ironically, the Mac made me stop using the Palm. Scrivener was so good and the process of transferring files from the TX so clumsy that I started drafting at my computer again and the Palm found its way into a box.

Meanwhile the first iPhone came out in the States (but not in Canada) and I got a pancake sized Blackberry with a sidewheel. Using it I got a crash course on the differences between POP, IMAP and Exchange email, but otherwise it was a brief, failed experiment.

First iPhone

The first iPhone to come to Canada was the 3G. I'd imagined it would be a way to replace my Palm, that I'd be able to use it to draft on the run, but it turned out that this wasn't possible. The 3G wasn't much more than a tool for jotting down notes and observations. (I used the excellent Write Room from Hog Bay Software for this.) [note]Incidentally, Write Room was one of the programs that, along with Scrivener, made me realize how much of what I loved about the Mac was produced by small developers.[/note] Ultimately though, my 3G was less about work than it was about how my family and I kept in touch.

When the 3G came out international calling was expensive. Texting was something no one I knew did. I'd convinced my brother and my sisters to buy Minis by this time, and so to talk, my family would use iChat to access our old AIM accounts. [note]AIM is apparently still around! Who knew?[/note] As we one-by-one got computer cameras we also began to do group video chats as well.

The 3G added a twist:here were text messages strung together like our AIM chats but we could talk throughout the day without being chained to our computers. It was amazing and revolutionary.

Family Twitter

Unfortunately for me, texting was expensive: text messages to the states cost .75$ each. So "k" and "?" added up quickly to a steep price tag.

Twitter provided a solution. It was new and I wasn't sure what it was for, but once I got online, I realized that, regardless of it's intended purpose, my family could turn it into a means of getting around the international text problem.

Family members who had an iPhone grabbed Twitterific and signed up for private Twitter accounts. Those who had feature phones signed up and registered their numbers to receive tweets as texts. We all approved each other as followers. And suddenly we could "iChat" all day by tweeting and our timelines would track the conversation.

The one snag was notifications: they didn't exist on the 3G. So while everyone without an iPhone got an alert when a new tweet came in (because it arrived as a text message), everyone else had to remember to open the Twitter app. This was a pain, so I dug around and foundBoxcar, a notification app that solved that problem for us and that I still keep download in iTunes as a souvenir even though I don't use it for anything.


Subsequent iPhones made our various work-arounds obsolete. Now we iMessage and FaceTime. It's all built in and automatic. Once the iPads came out, my grandmother (codename: TechnoGranny) also joined the party, which by then included aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. It's great and I certainly wouldn't want to go back to our old system. [note]In my mind, the old system has a definitive end. Soon after ourTwitter Circle had gone dormant, I decided to make my Twitter account public. This meant I needed to delete all my previous tweets or they would become public. So I went through them one by one reading my family's couple-year-long conversation, and as I did, I deleted my part of it tweet by tweet. Even though I had no way at that time to save those tweets or that conversation.

I'd never liked lock-in, but when I was done with these deletions I decided definitively that if I can't get my stuff out of a service in a usable form, I won't use the service. (All the family iChats I have going are backed up and stored in an archive I keep.) [/note]

But still, that old system did have the advantage of being ours. My brother, my sisters, my mother and I had built it up together, slowly over time, based on our own experiences. It was complicated but effective, and it suited our needs. I was proud of it, even bragged about it to other people (like I'm doing now) because we were making this new technology work for us and not the other way around. We weren't trying to be "social"; we were just trying to stay close from far away. And it turns out that that difference was enough to make a gadget into a tool.

Permalink Posted September 13, 2014

I Tried to Be One of the Cool Kids…

But it didn't work out and I went to bed: iPhone 6 fail

This morning I learned that I actually showed up to the party three hours early. Because, time zones. Duh.

Permalink Posted September 12, 2014

Werther on Knowledge and Feeling

Oh, anyone can know what I know–my heart belongs to me.

— Goethe, The Sufferings of Young Werther

Permalink Posted September 5, 2014

Cool. Confessions.

So. A chain of links and at the end, Scott Rosenberg explaining that blogging is becoming a thing again. He's excited enough to write about it and hesitant enough to be snarky. But I think I'm rooting for the same team he is.

Rosenberg concludes(in a follow up post)that:

as waves of smart people hit the limits of their frustration with Twitter and Facebook, many will look around and realize, hey, this blogging thing still makes a great deal of sense

What will be the appeal? What will attract the people currently living their online lives exclusively in Twitter or Facebook? In a blog, they can do whatever they want in whatever way they want. That's not really true elsewhere.

Does that mean that there will be a "blogging revival?" Rosenberg doesn't seem to think so. Blogging is not going to suddenly become the best new (read: coolest) thing on the web.

But that's not a bad thing. After all, who cares if blogging is"cool"? What matters is that the people you want to read are writing blogs. In my circle, that's starting to happen. Here's hoping that circle keeps growing.

UPDATE: Same thing (with links to more) here.

My Problem

The one Google service I used and depended on was Google Reader, and I haven't really decided how to replace it even months and months (and months) after it's gone. By discontinuing it, Google made following the blogs I like harder than it should be.

If I want ads in my email though, they got that covered.

Permalink Posted September 5, 2014

Raiders of the Lost Galaxy (a variation)

As the movie opens, the Hero watches his mother die. Overcome, he runs away from his extended family.

The Hero, an adult now, walks across the crest of a dune. On the horizon, a pyramid can be seen through the blowing sand. Sliding down a slope, he reaches a stone doorway with statues standing guard. He consults a map, enters, and finds a golden amulet in a room behindthe stone wall at the end of an underground corridor. Nazi soldiers burst in and attempt to claim the amulet for someone they call Schmidt.The Hero flees down a tunnel that brings himout of the tombnear his airplane, and he escapes.

Arriving in Cairo, he meets with the Love Interest to find out about the amulet. She hates him but hates her former professor, Herr Schmidt, even more and offers to help. In the market, they meeta Wild Card and his sidekick ("My name Sahib"), two orphanswho ride aroundin a motorcycle and sidecar causing trouble and stealing. He also hires a very serious man to organize all the actual work. He takes the job but says"I care only that Schmidt killed my wife and children as he plundered the upper Nile. He must be stopped."

Business happens and the Hero and the others discover the amuletisvaluable. Let's say it's adecoder. For a map leading to Hadrion's canon, a fabled Roman weapon buried when the emporer's army retreated across the Mediterranean after some battle. The five set out to find it but don't work well together, and Schmidt's men take the amulet from them. During the fight,the Hero chooses to save the Love Interest's life rather than to chase the Nazis, and the five end up lost in the desert.They realize they will have to trust each otherand they band together to stop Schmidt from finding thecanon.

More business happens that sets up the Nazi's defeatduring a final confrontation in somes caves hidden inthe rocky cliffs along the northern coast of Egypt.Each of the five characters plays an important role. Let's imagine that:

  1. The Love Interest winks and raises her eyebrows at some guards then knocks them out. Insde the room they guarded, she finds her sister, a Nazi sympathizer who is packing up various maps and charts. The two fight, but the Love interest wins. She grabs a leather sack of maps and, before dashing off to catch up with the Hero shuts off the generators. All but the emergency lights go out in the cave. She then rushes off to save the Hero if she can.
  2. The Wild Card stays above the cliffs. Sneaking between the vehicles, he releases their parking brakes one by one. When he gets to the last vehicle, he pushes it down the slight incline, sending it rolling into the others, which sets them all moving. One by one they fall off the cliff.
  3. In the chaos, one of the large trucks risks hitting the Wild Card. The sidekick pushes him out of the way but is hit in the head by the truck's mirror.The Wild Card shakes him to see if he's alive, and theSidekick mutters, "Our name Sahib."
  4. The Very Serious Man runs ahead in the cave and confronts Schmidt as he reaches the doorway leading tothe canon.He is nearlykilled by the Nazi guardsbut ducks behind some crates, dragging two Egyptian women with him.He does not know they are the Egyptian police chief's wife and daughter. From his hiding place he fires at the Nazis togive the Hero time.
  5. The Hero arrives late to the scene. He has been bound in a tentby his former university professor, the manwhotaught him everything he knows butwho now wants the claim the canon forfor himself. The Hero outwits/overpowers the man and rushes into the caves toconfront Schmidt. As Schmidt is about open the stone door leading to the canon room, the roof above himcaves in and a truckfalls into the room. It isdriven by the Wild Card.

Action ensues, but together the Hero and his teamsubdueSchmidt. They then open the door and enter the room wheretheydiscover that Hadrian's "canon" is the emporer'spersonal copies ofgreat works from the fabled library at Alexandria. The Hero picks up a scroll and reads the label aloud: Aristotle's Comedy. The police enter, the chief thanks the Very Serious Man for saving his family, and the Hero and Love Interest put their hand on the same dusty book as they look around the room and into each others' eyes.

As the movie closes, the five sit side-by-side on cushions drinking mint tea. The Wild Card and Sidekick smoke a hooka with the Very Serious Man. The Love Interest pulls a map out of the sac she took from her sister and unfolds it on the table. Across the top is written "Excaliber."

(Or if you prefer, replace the amulet with a spear, the desert with a jungle, the trucks with machetes and porters. If your jungle has orangutansor rubber trees, the German soldiers can be Japanese.)

the end


This is part of a series.

Permalink Posted September 1, 2014

And so it begins…

The first two weeks of the semester are nearly done, and yet again, I'm caught surprised by the raw change of intensity the new year brings.

Summer days working on personal projects and seeing only close friends may be busy and exciting, but they differ by orders of magnitude from days spent at school. There you walk from one room full of dozens of excitable restless people to another room full of the same, and the crowds in the hallway actually rumble and shake.

Going back to school is nothing less than a move from one to another way of life. And the two are so completely distinct and so completely different it's hard to imagine or prepare for the one while living in the other. Even when the transition goes smoothly, I feel like I'm fumbling along like a dopey-eyed klutz.

Is there any other job like this?

— ps—blog posts I've left hanging will resume soon.

Permalink Posted August 27, 2014

Gould on the Purpose of Art

The purpose of art is not to release a momentary ejection of adrenaline but is rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.

— Glenn Gould

Permalink Posted August 22, 2014

Galaxy Impossible (a variation)

As the movie opens, the Hero watches his mother die. Overcome, he runs away from his extended family.

The Hero, an adult now, jogs alongside a white plastered building in a dark hoodie. He turns a corner enters a street full of loud vendors, scooters, white-gloved cops, and hot, sooty air. Near a high-walled compounded he ducks into an alley, scales the wall and makes his way to an opulent and spacious office where he retrieves a small device with a blue light. Guards arrive, led by a black man with a British accent wearinga white linen suit. "I believe you have something that belongs to Mr. Li." There are some fisticuffs and some shooting but the Hero is wearing an earbud and explosions and sprinklers go off as planned.The Hero makes it out onto the street where he blends in by wearing glasses and a straw hat.

Back in Europe, the Hero discovers his rendezvous point in Prague is compromised and communications withHQ shutdown. He assembles a group oflocal mercenaries that includes the love interest, a wild card, the wild card's sidekick, and a very serious man. They're at odds but we find out who they are.

Business happens and the Hero and the others discover the device is dangerous/valuable. Let's say it's a code key. For a global military-industrial network. The five don't work well together, and Li's men take the device from them. During the chase scene, the Hero chooses to save the Love Interest's life rather than fleeing, and the five end up trapped somewhere. In a Russian prison, say. Or in Munich with no gear, no money and INTERPOL agents watching the train stations and airports. The five realize they will have to trust each other to escape, and they band together to stop Li from using the key to take control of the military network.

More business happens that sets up the plan bywhichLiwill bedefeated ina final confrontation inside a Chinese skyscraper. Each of the five characters plays an important role. Let's imagine that:

Action ensues, but together the Hero and his teamcapture Li and subdue his men. They hand him and the code key over to the agents from HQ who have finally arrived. The IT chief thanks them for saving his wife and daughter. As the movie closes, the five sit side-by-side in an airport lounge, the Sidekick with his arm in a sling. As they chat a gate agent comes up and hands the Hero a brown envelope. Insideisa sheet of paper stamped "Top Secret."

(Or if you prefer, imagine Li isabeardedIndian industrialist who dresses in black shirts and suits. In thiscase the device holds schedulesandsecurity details, the threat is an assassination attempt and/or terroristattack, and the final confrontation involves a car chaseon the streets of London.)

the end


This is part of a series.

Permalink Posted August 13, 2014

A Fistful of Galaxies (a variation)

As the movie opens, the Hero watches his mother die. Overcome, he runs away from his extended family.

The Hero, an adult now, rides through scrub brush and cactus in a dry, orange country and comes upon a group of broken and burnt wagons. As he collects a locked box from out of the wreckage, outlaw types arrive. "That box you got there ain't your'n.""Shur looks like it is," says the hero. "McGuinty won't like strangers takin what's his." There's some shooting but the Hero holds his own and the group rides off.

In town, the Hero meets the love interest, a wild card, the wild card's sidekick, and a very serious man. They're at odds but we find out who they are.

Business happens and the Hero and the others discover the box is dangerous/valuable. Let's say it's a box of ammo. For a Gatling gun. They lose it to McGuinty's men and, because the Hero chooses to save the Love Interest rather than running away, they all end upt rapped together. In a mine, say. Or a mountain camp without horses. They realize they have to trust each other to escape or to get back to town. They also band together to stop McGuinty from using the box of ammo.

More business happens leading to McGuinty's defeat on the streets of the town in a shoot out where each of the five characters plays a key role. Let's imagine:

Action ensues. The real shootout begins, but together the Hero and his friends subdue McGuinty and his gang, turning them over to the sheriff. They also give him the Gatling gun and the ammo for safe-keeping. The sheriff thanks them for saving his wife and daughter. As the movie closes, the five mount up on horses, the Sidekick with his arm in a sling, and they ride out of town side-by-side.

Or if you prefer, McGuinty can bean Apache not an outlaw, in which case the box holds rifles, the town is a wagon train, and the final shootout is in a canyon.

the end


This is part of a series.

Permalink Posted August 9, 2014

The Guardians of the Galaxy- Variations

Over the next few days I'll be posting a series of variations on The Guardians of the Galaxy. There's a point, but I'll get to that at the end of the series.

The Variations: A List

  1. A Fistful of Galaxies
  2. Galaxy Impossible
  3. Raiders of the Lost Galaxy

Permalink Posted August 9, 2014

Laclos on Necessity

Le nécessaire avait produit le grand, le véritable effet.

— Choderlos de Laclos, Les Liaisons dangereuses

Permalink Posted August 9, 2014

Introvert Words

Word list made while reading Quiet.

Three calls to action:

  1. stop madness of constant group work
  2. unplug
  3. get in your own head more often

Permalink Posted August 5, 2014

Thoreau on Work

I made no haste in my work, but rather made the most of it.

–Henry David Thoreau

Permalink Posted July 22, 2014

Thoreau on Aiming High

In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.

–Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Permalink Posted July 18, 2014

Overheard on the street

A kid talking to his friend:

“My mom said we could do whatever we want…. As long as we're good.”

Permalink Posted July 13, 2014

Rilke on Changing Your Life

Archaic Torso of Apollo

We cannot know his legendary head

with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso

is still suffused with brilliance from inside,

like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise

the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could

a smile run through the placid hips and thighs

to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced

beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders

and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,

burst like a star: for here there is no place

that does not see you. You must change your life.

Permalink Posted July 8, 2014

The Great Lakes Museum Tour

The Beav and I are heading out for a couple weeks of vacation.

We're making a road trip and the plan is to circle down through the northern US hitting museums we want to see in cities like Cleveland, Toledo, Ann Arbor and Detroit. We'll get home by looping back overLake George and down through northern Ontario.

Until I'm back, there won't be many new posts, but once I am, expect a fair amount of museum talk. Fair warning.

Permalink Posted June 20, 2014

Wordsworth on the End of Term

…I breath again;

Trances of thought and mountings of the mind

Come fast upon me: it is shaken off,

As by miraculous gift ’tis shaken off,

That burthen of my own unnatural self,

The heavy weight of many a weary day

Not mine, and such as were not made for me.

Long months of peace (if such bold word accord

With any promises of human life)

Long months of ease and undisturbed delight

are mine in prospect…

— William Wordsworth, The Prelude

Permalink Posted June 14, 2014

Faulkner on Being Right

…in the being right there was nothing of consolation nor of peace.

— William Faulkner, If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem

Permalink Posted June 10, 2014

Mishima on Beauty and Skill

It was skill alone that made it possible. Beauty was skill.

— Yukio Mishima, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Permalink Posted June 7, 2014

Kawabata on Love from Snow Country

The labour into which a heart has poured it’s whole love–where will it have its say, to excite and inspire, and when?

— Yasunari Kawabata, Snow Country

Permalink Posted May 9, 2014

Comments Closed. Email Open.

Five or six months ago I turned comments on for posts on this site. I was curious what would come of them and expected mostly silence. So I was surprised when a few comments trickled in and I was flattered beyond flattery when one eventually arrived from the blogger at Fat Free Milk, a low-key siteI'd stumbled upon long, long ago and still read and had linked to in an earlier post. Comments, I decided, were awesome!

Except then they weren't.

Spam started arriving. First just a few comments, then dozens, and I responded by closing comments on the targeted posts. That helped for a bit, but then other posts were picked up, and before I knew it comments targeting dozens and dozens of posts were pouring in, all of them selling and phishing and basically crapping on the blog I'd built.

And I was unprepared for how that felt.

I'd worked for a few years building up my little corner of the internet. Nobody visited, it wasn't important, but it was mine. I enjoyed it and was proud. But now, subject to this deluge, my blog quickly became a demoralizing chore. Every visit to site admin meant clicking through and deleting pages and pages of pending "comments." On good days when I was done, I'd be able to shake off the frustration and disappointment and post what I'd come to write. But in too many dark January mornings and grey March afternoons, the spam made my blog feel like a trash can in a public park and just no fun. So I started logging into my site less and less often. Because /sadmonkey.

But then today, clarity.

IfWeb 2.0's promise of awesome-through-commenting doesn't work for me, then I can take the train back to good ol' Web 1.x. I just need to close the comments on my posts. No need to come up with spam-management strategies or deal with add-ons. I just close comments. So that's what I'm doing. And writing that feels like sitting down at a campfire replacing wet socks with dry when you know that the rain is finally, finally gone for good.

That said,I'm not walling myself off: my email is still linked in the sidebar. If you want to comment or say hi, please send me a message. I'd love to hear from you.

But I only want to hear from you. Not from that machine that "like your writing very good but notice some spelling. will certainly read more! also having good price on guarantee seo [or hacking the Facebook, gucci bags, etc.]"

Permalink Posted May 3, 2014

Games, Genre Films and Books

Why is there so much genre film logged here? I've asked this question before and thrown out a tentative answer. But I'm wondering again because the movie logs keep posting while my book logs pile up as drafts backstage.

Well, the thought I had recently was that the genre movies I've been watching are like games. There are rules in genre films, even if only roughly defined. So when I watch one, I'm less interested in the overall quality of the thing than I am in the "moves" it makes–usually narrative but sometimes visual. It doesn't make sense to describe these moves as "good" or "bad"; they have a purpose, aim for an effect and so, are simply "better" or "worse" than the other available options. Seen in this way, I really do think that some of the pleasure of watching a generic blockbuster, especially one that is guaranteed to be terrible, is the pleasure of rooting for an underdog. It's about noticing good moves in a losing game. (cf. Keanu Reeves)

I suppose I'd like to think that it's also good practice for a criticism of craft as distinct from a review of a work.

Book logs are different. I rarely read genre fiction anymore, and when I do, my choices are quite specific. If I'm going to read 300-400 pages of something, I'm going to read to fill blanks in the literary history I carry in my head. Or I'm going to follow certain lines of that history into the present. That's what I'm interested in and what I like.

But there are no easy responses to this kind of reading. Often, I don't know what to make of a book until weeks or months after I've read it. Which makes "logging" it difficult if I want to say anything other than "I read this."Same for gallery shows and theatre.

So the blog conundrum continues…

Permalink Posted April 8, 2014

Hanging Out with the Fraternal Unit

Things began allegorically: Carpets. The only way to fly.

Then settled down: A secret spot in the mountains.

A good night.

Permalink Posted April 3, 2014

Spring Woods- St-Cyrille-de-Wendover

See the video here.

Permalink Posted March 23, 2014

Mishima on the Beauty of the Shadow

The Golden Temple cast a perfect shadow on the surface of the pond, where the duckweed and the leaves from water plants were floating. The shadow was more beautiful than the building itself.

— Yukio Mishima, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Permalink Posted March 18, 2014

Mishima on Childhood Demons

It is a common failing of childhood to think that if one makes a hero out of a demon the demon will be satisfied.

— Yukio Mishima, Confessions of a Mask

Permalink Posted March 15, 2014

Ricoeur on Understanding Texts

We can understand a work only if we have understood that to which it responds.

— Paul Ricoeur, Temps et Récit

Permalink Posted March 15, 2014

Gulls. The Lake. Then Ducks

See the video here.

Permalink Posted March 13, 2014

Overheard- On the Street

Two women walking. One says to the other:

“You never remember the good things.”

Permalink Posted March 11, 2014

Sci-fi Suspense?

Ender's Game and Aeon Flux are surprisingly similar films and stumble over nearly identical narrative problems: both want to be sci-fi epics with surprise endings. I'd never recognized this as a potential problem, but after seeing these films, I realize that sci-fi world-building and the generation of surprises or twists actually depend upon two very different approaches to providing narrative information.

World building is judged by how completely (and suggestively) an imagined world is explained. Exposition necessarily comes early and is extensive. In this, successful world-building seems to me a bit like a rocket trying to hit escape velocity: it roars full force early on, and if everything goes right, it can power-down and sail to its destination.The long and detailed voice-over narrations that open Ender's Game and Aeon Flux but then disappear are examples of what I mean.

Surprise endings work in just the opposite direction. Viewers supply a probable ending that the narration cultivates (or at least permits) by providing only incomplete information in the early portions of the film. When at the film's end the missing information is provided or the overlooked information is brought to the foreground, the surprise reshapes the details of the story into a different plot. In Ender's Game, for example, Ender (and in the book, the readers) discovers that the game he has been playing in preparation for a war is in fact the war itself. In Aeon Flux, Aeon discovers that she and everyone she know is a clone and that the villain she's been sent to kill is a hero attempting to save everyone's life.

The problem these films run into is that no reader can supply an unsurprising ending against which the "true" ending appears a surprise because the initial world and any story outcomes have to be built by the narration. Stated differently, there are no viewers competent to provide an adequate starting point from which a twist can register as surprise. If you tell me Ender plays a game, he's playing a game. If you tell me he's fighting a war, he's fighting a war. I have no basis to assume anything about what is normal or likely in this imaginary world. And if you tell me one thing is going on and then later reveal that that's not the case, it feels like a cheat. (I think sci-fi novels have a few more easy tricks up their sleevesthan films do to work around this problem.)

There are, of course, examples of how to get around this problem. The Matrix and Terminator both have it both ways by beginning in an imagined world that appears to be exactly like our own. As a result, this world needs little explaining and a set of audience expectations are built in. The surprise–which in both cases boils down to different versions of "things are not what they seem"–is also revealed early, roughly at the end of their first acts. In both cases, the familiarity of the initial world and the early presentation of the unexpected "ending" reduces the conflict between surprise and world building. In a sense, in both cases surprise is used as a tool for the world building.

(I also wonder–although I can't come up with a good example right now–whether, generic expectations can offer a substitute for an initially familiar world as a way of getting around the problem…)

Whatever the case, judging by Ender's Game and Aeon Flux, pulling off the late surprise in sci-fi is clearly tough to do. And when it fails to come off, the consequences seem pretty dire. It's easy to wind up not caring. And then everything fizzles.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Permalink Posted March 11, 2014

Mishima on Viewing Cherry Blossoms

Meanwhile, the cherry trees had blossomed. But no one seemed to have time for flower-viewing.

— Yukio Mishima, Confessions of a Mask

Permalink Posted March 10, 2014

Oscar Wrap-up – Ordinary Human Language.rtf

Again this year, me and my friend Caitlin tried to watch all of the best picture nominees prior to the Oscars. We did it last year and it wasn't much of a hassle. I just needed to catch up on a few.

But this year, when I looked at the list of nominees, I realized I'd seen almost none of them. I didn't get to everything in the few weeks I had, but still, by the night of the show, I'd more-or-less seen everything except Wolf of Wall Street and_American Hustle_.

Over the next few days, I'll slowly post my logs. Once they are all up, this link will bring you to a list of all my notes on everything I saw that was nominated in 2014.

Permalink Posted March 8, 2014

James on the Artist's Challenge

Really, universally, relations stop nowhere, and the exquisite problem of the artist is eternally but to draw, by a geometry of his own, the circle within which they shall happily appear to do so. He is in the perpetual predicament that the continuity of things is the whole matter, for him, of comedy and tragedy; that this continuity is never, by the space of an instant or an inch, broken, and that, to do anything at all, he has at once intensely to consult and intensely to ignore it.

— Henry James, Roderick Hudson

Permalink Posted February 24, 2014

Banning My Memories of India – Ordinary Human Language.rtfd

For most of us, most of the time, banning books or burning them isn't real. Not really. These acts exist for us primarily as stock melodramatic symbols in movies or on TV. In movies, calling for a book or a poem to be banned marks a villain as ignorant, tyrannical and without taste. Actually burning a book marks the villains, usually in this case a mob, as beyond hope and the situation as lost. In these stories, a banned book launches the plot; a burned one launches the third act: escape not resistance is the task at hand.

Outside of movies and TV, banned books are usually news stories and not events in our own lives. These stories are also symbols, tales of "down there" or "over there" where people who should know better but don't, try to get away with attacking "freedom" or "free speech" or "knowledge." In these stories, it's the threatened abstraction–"open access to information" or whatever–that's obvious and concrete to us. The book-banners are vague and imaginary, simple Clarence Darrow-types stepping off the stage à la _Purple Rose of Cairo_to twirl their moustaches and argue badly for blatantly mistaken ideas. My frustration with their villainy reassures me that these are exceptional instances and that things are ok where I live.

The closest I've ever been to book banning was in high school, where I discovered at thirteen that Stephen King's novels were kept behind the front counter and that I needed a note from my parents to check them out. More recently my sister discovered that she had to write to give permission for her son to check out books on American history from his school library, apparently because history is scary and therefore inappropriate for children beneath a certain age. When my sister told me that the school understood interest in such books as a sign that a student might be troubled or depressed, my blood boiled. This book banning was still a symbol–it told me volumes about this place–but the symbol was close now and real enough to cut.

Doniger's book with a cheap statue of Ganeesh I picked up as a souvenir of how much I learned about art in India.

Now I read in the news that Wendy Doniger's book The Hindus: An Alternative History has been discontinued in India and existing copies pulped by Penguin, and I've felt it like a punch to the chest. I read this book as I travelled through Indiaseveral years ago. It was clear, exciting, and it laid out the web of stories I needed to make sense of what I saw. Our trip was long, most of the summer, and archaeological: the Beav and I visited the major political and religious sites of four of the five major empires of southern India.

We were travelling on our own and without guides, so without consciously planning to do so, we divided the monumental task of understanding this distinct cultural past between us. The Beav read about the political and architectural history, and as we walked the sites, he explained to me what we were seeing. I read about literature and mythology and especially Doniger's book, and I explained the stories the elaborate carvings found everywhere told. As we travelled, I also read Indian novels–The God of Small Things,The Bachelor of Arts, The Man-Eater of Malgudi–and was able to make sense of them largely because of what I'd learned in_The Hindu_s. (I have no idea what I'd make of the final chapter of Arundhati Roy's book without Doniger's discussion of tantra.)

And now _The Hindu_sis being banned in India by people trying to protect a religion I'd understand not at all if I hadn't read the book they wish didn't exist. And so this news story about "over there" is oddly and unexpectedly personal. Because without this book, I wouldn't have learned as much in India as I did or have loved it as much, and I certainly wouldn't now care as much as I do that fundamentalists have won their battle with a publisher.

The New York Times story about the ban is here and the story about Doniger's response is here. Arundhati Roy's letter in the_Times of India_ is copied below the break.

A letter to Penguin India (my publishers)

Everybody is shocked at what you have gone and done—at your out-of-court settlement with an unknown Hindu fanatic outfit—in which you seem to have agreed to take Wendy Donniger's The Hindus: An Alternative History off the bookshelves of 'Bharat' and pulp it. There will soon no doubt be protestors gathered outside your office, expressing their dismay.

Tell us, please, what is it that scared you so? Have you forgotten who you are? You are part of one of the oldest, grandest publishing houses in the world. You existed long before publishing became just another business, and long before books became products like any other perishable product in the market—mosquito repellent or scented soap. You have published some of the greatest writers in history. You have stood by them as publishers should, you have fought for free speech against the most violent and terrifying odds. And now, even though there was no fatwa, no ban, not even a court order, you have not only caved in, you have humiliated yourself abjectly before a fly-by-night outfit by signing settlement. Why? You have all the resources anybody could possibly need to fight a legal battle. Had you stood your ground, you would have had the weight of enlightened public opinion behind you, and the support of most—if not all—of your writers. You must tell us what happened. What was it that terrified you? You owe us, your writers an explanation at the very least.

The elections are still a few months away. The fascists are, thus far, only campaigning. Yes, it's looking bad, but they are not in power. Not yet. And you've already succumbed?

What are we to make of this? Must we now write only pro-Hindutva books? Or risk being pulled off the bookshelves in 'Bharat' (as your 'settlement' puts it) and pulped? Will there be some editorial guide-lines perhaps, for writers who publish with Penguin? Is there a policy statement?

Frankly I don't believe this has happened. Tell us it's just propaganda from a rival publishing house. Or an April Fool's day prank that got leaked early. Please say something. Tell us it's not true.

So far I have had been more than happy to be published by Penguin. But now?

What you have done affects us all.

Arundhati Roy

Permalink Posted February 17, 2014

Overheard in a Café

Maternal wisdom:

“Sit there and eat. No, eat. We have to learn to like different things in a different country now don't we? No more nonsense.”

Permalink Posted February 14, 2014

The Responsive Web- A Friend Adds Info

In response to my posts about my annoyance with the move toward responsive web design and my layman's sense that it was driven by a misunderstanding of how people access the web, a friend who makes his living designing web sites and building content writes me to fill in some additional info:

One thing I can add: while traffic numbers for mobile are way lower, ad clickthrough rates on mobile are WAY higher than any other platform. I think a lot of the new spatial mutability in design, and the expansion of white space, is to diminish the visible distinction between text and ads/social share tools. In the new paradigm, the movement between content, social media, and product websites must be fluid—one homogenous uber web constructed from calls to action, not "sites."

The other factor at play here, one you mention, is the importance of social media in a social strategy: the majority of FB sharing happens before the user has scrolled more than 50% the way down an article. We don't move through websites anymore as an act of exploration, but as an act of mirroring and mimicry (played out on the FB wall as a linear chronology of statements and callbacks, not a map of thought).

If this is true, and I have no reason to doubt it, then I have things backwards a bit in my earlier posts: responsive web design is for businesses not people.And the design shift works because, rather than exploring the web or making it (which I imagine to be the goals of going online),people are increasingly using the web simply to perform and participate in identities through sharing.

Food for thought…

Permalink Posted January 28, 2014

Maclean on a Beautiful World

What a beautiful world it was once.

— Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

Permalink Posted January 27, 2014

Maclean on Making Something Beautiful

One of life’s quite excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful, even if it is only a floating ash.

— Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

Permalink Posted January 27, 2014

Maclean on Thinking

All there is to thinking…is seeing something noticeable which makes you see something you weren’t noticing which makes you see something that isn’t even visible.

— Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

Permalink Posted January 27, 2014

Meeting Doodle

Looming purple spider.

Permalink Posted January 25, 2014

Wine Log: Update

Turns out I have nothing to say about wine and writing these posts isn’t helping me learn what I’m drinking. They’re also not helpful at the SAQ.

So the wine log is history!

Permalink Posted January 17, 2014

Overheard at a café

“My mom sat down with me and had a very serious conversation and explained things to me. She wants to get back together with my Dad. So we talked with him and explained everything and he's thinking about it. What makes it hard is his wife. And I feel bad for my mom's boyfriend. But my dad and his wife don't have kids so it's manageable…”

Permalink Posted January 13, 2014

Engaging Students, or What Is a Computer?

The following is a quotation fromFor PC Makers, the Good News on 2013 Is That It Is Over on The New York Times's site:

“People everywhere are buying tablets and smartphones instead of PCs. …the market is still capturing a lot of people who just need to get on the Internet and do simple tasks," Mr. Chou said. "From a strictly consumer, couch potato view, the Internet takes care of an awful lot.”

This description of people accessing the internet without needing or wanting a computer got me thinking: "Using a computer" to me means using an open-ended tool to do a variety tasks in ways that imply some consciousness of the machine-medium. But the alternative described in the Times is a less about using a tool than riding a vehicle. And this oddly enough, got me thinking about students.

We don't say of someone who takes a car to go to the mall, "They are interested in cars"; or of someone who takes a bus to go to the movies, "they are interested in public transportation." We certainly don't assume that, if we build a road to the dentist, these people (because they can take their car or the bus to the dentist's office) will like getting their teeth drilled.

And yet, we see teenagers using their phone to look at their friend's photos on Facebook or to tweet about their best friend's latest epic fail, and we say "If we teach using phones or computers students will engage with education and learn more." But aren't they really just interested in their friends? Aren't they, like the people described in the quotation, just looking to get onto the internet in order to be social?

This is about metaphors: computer as tool, as vehicle, as window, as terminal. Which applies? Because each imply meaningfully different interpretations of students' fascination with their cellphones.

Permalink Posted January 12, 2014

Krugman on Orcs and Fourteen-year Olds

Paul Krugman finally drops the source for the line he often cites about J.R.R. Tolkien and Ayn Rand:

“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

Permalink Posted December 31, 2013

A Sad Day in Azeroth

(Or, a naked gnome is a sad gnome. Especially when hacked.)

Selling gold is a scheme and this is how works, best I can figure:

  1. Someone buys gold rather than earning it.
  2. The seller signs onto a hacked account, vendors all items on all toons, mailing the resulting gold to the hacked toon chosen to be the “wallet.”
  3. The wallet toon is then transferred to the server where the person who bought gold plays. This transfer is paid for using a stolen credit card.
  4. When the transfer completes, the wallet toon hands the gold over to a courier, a level one toon created expressly to complete the transaction. (My question: is the courier created on the hacked account? I bet so.)
  5. The courier carries the money to the toon identified by the person who bought the gold and hands it over.

The gold seller makes money by giving the buyer stolen good and finances the whole process with the contents of a stolen account and with a stolen credit card. It’s theft upon theft.

Permalink Posted December 26, 2013

Wine Log- Cornaro Voldobbiadene Prosecco D.O.C.G.

I helped a friend out duringtheir trip to Venice(I helped very little actually) but this wine was the thank you gift they gave me when they came back. I know so little that I can say: we discovered that prosecco is like champagne, but from Italy. (The Beav insists that we knew this, or at least, that he did and that I would have too if I had paid attention in Rome.)

This bottle was a treat and I'll leave the commentary to the Beav: "Wow, it's like apples, but…" Then he sips again and says, "It's very good. But we're going to have a headache."

Whatever. Sometimes il faut souffrir pour être saoul.

Permalink Posted November 29, 2013


It's Thanksgiving in the States, and even though I'm living on the wrong side of the border for it to be official, it's still my favourite holiday. One moment in a busy year to step back, take account and to recognize that I have a pretty good life and a lot to be thankful for.

I've been lucky and that's a good reason to remember to be generous. Because not everyone has been.

Permalink Posted November 28, 2013

Writing and Revision on the Interwebs

I've been disappointed in my posts these past two months. (Not all the time, but often enough.) When I am, it's because they seem generic, even review-like. I don't see my memories in them. And worse, I don't hear my voice.

Two things seem to be at play:

  1. I haven't had much free time, so I've written posts long after finishing a book or watching a movie. Which means the posts are memories of memories, and given how rushed I've been the initial experiences remembered were probably dim and bland to begin with. So not great raw material.
  2. While the delay between experience and post certainly matters, the bigger source of change seems to be that so many of these posts are written immediately as posts. In the past, I've always worked through my thoughts in my notebooks before writing. Without that working through with pen and paper, my posts and my memories and my thoughts feel thin and tentative, like the beginning of thoughts rather than their realization. Worse, I've seen myself yielding to the temptation to cover for the lack by talking big. Which I hate.


Until my hellishly busy semester comes to an end in a few weeks, I'll be writing short, nearly summary posts until I'm caught up. Then when I can think again: back in business.

…I've always joked that I was a reviser rather than a writer. These last few months feel like a kind of natural experiment establishing this as true.

Permalink Posted November 25, 2013

Wine Log: Taja Bodega Serie Reserva 2009

A Spanish wine we drank with some ordinary dinner midweek because we assumed it couldn't be bad. It wasn't. But I don't remember it all.

Permalink Posted November 21, 2013

Hallowed on Hallow's Eve

Gnomes in gnome masks in funny.

Permalink Posted November 17, 2013

Wine Log- Villa La Reserva Malbec 2010

This wine feels like the shrunk-down version of an typical French red from the south-west, but spunky and charming and worth showing off to friends.

It was easy and great and I suspect it would be a bit of a chameleon, able to pair up with almost any fish or shellfish as long as it were prepared with a non-cream sauce. It wouldn't be great pairing, but it would work…and just might be a surprise.

Permalink Posted November 16, 2013

The Responsive Web, Take Two

I shared my thoughts about the responsive web with some friends and they responded with variations of "people follow the business, the customer is always right, the future is mobile not the PC." As you might imagine, I was unconvinced.

The argument that the move toward a mobile web is driven by consumer demand depends upon the majority of web traffic going through small screens, and I'm not sure we're anywhere near that being the case. Or ever will be. I have a smartphone and do a lot of things on it, but I don't do general web-surfing and don't think most other people do either.I think there are a very small number of sites that people visit on phones and that most of these are large commercial ventures like Facebook, Google Maps or The New York Times. I think many of these wind up having apps that replace the web interface entirely.

What I think I'm seeing is a designer-driven trend saying "you need to be mobile ready." And in response, a lot of small traffic sites, most of which have most of their visitors coming through on their desktops and laptops, theme things for mobile. The end result is that, suddenly, interesting sites are sacrificing a hard-won complexity of real value in order to service hypothetical phone browsers that will never show up.

(I read a very long post on this by a design firm that I can't find now. The writer claimed that clients would want to create a responsive site. The firm goes through traffic numbers and over-and-over sees that the percentage of mobile traffic is in the single digits. And yet, the client wants to spend tons of money to create a responsive site "because it's the future.")

To my eye the move to mobile is something like getting LP owners to buy their music a second time on 8-track tape. Or maybe a better analogy would be the push to get ordinary, word-processor-as-typewriter users to buy the new versions of Microsoft Office. The power of the web is its mutability. It changes and becomes bigger and better all the time. An internet that "upgrades" (MSWord, now with a ribbon!) or changes formats (Internet, now available on in 3″ format!) is different insofar as mutability and continuous variation is replaced with incremental differences that can be packaged, named and monetized.

Permalink Posted November 14, 2013

Hughes on the Beauty of Rain

April Rain Song

Let the rain kiss you

Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops

Let the rain sing you a lullaby

The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk

The rain makes running pools in the gutter

The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night

And I love the rain.

Permalink Posted November 13, 2013

Hughes on Being God

To Artina

I will take your heart.

I will take your soul out of your body

As though I were God.

I will not be satisfied

With the little words you say to me.

I will not be satisfied

With the touch of your hand

Nor the sweet of your lips alone.

I will take your heart for mine.

I will take your soul.

I will be God when it comes to you.

Permalink Posted November 11, 2013

Williams on the Dawn


Ecstatic bird songs pound

the hollow vastness of the sky

with metallic clinkings–

beating color up into it

at a far edge,–beating it, beating it

with rising, triumphant ardor,–

stirring it into warmth,

quickening in it a spreading change,–

bursting wildly against it as

dividing the horizon, a heavy sun

lifts himself–is lifted–

bit by bit above the edge

of things,–runs free at last

out into the open–! lumbering

glorified in full release upward–

songs cease.

Permalink Posted October 28, 2013

Williams on Acceptance


I have had my dream–like others–

and it has come to nothing, so that

I remain now carelessly

with feet planted on the ground

and look up at the sky–

feeling my clothes about me,

the weight of my body in my shoes

the rim of my hat, air passing in and out

at my nose–and decide to dream no more.

Permalink Posted October 26, 2013

Wine Log: Chateau Moncontour Vouvray

An intensely yellow wine, tasty but clear finish. Not "fat" like a Grave or a Bourgogne. Very good and definitely a region to explore some more. (How is it we've never drunk whites from the Loire really?)

We drank this with oysters and lobster as part of Thanksgiving dinner. It was good with the oysters, but didn't play nicely with the lemon and definitely not with the Tabasco sauce. It was great with the lobster and the butter though. Would be good with fruit, salad, creams or chicken.

Permalink Posted October 22, 2013

Defoe on Journaling

I now began to consider seriously my condition, and the circumstances I was reduced to; and I drew up the state of my affairs in writing, not so much to leave them to any that were to come after me — for I was likely to have but few heirs — as to deliver my thoughts from daily poring over them, and afflicting my mind; and as my reason began now to master my despondency, I began to comfort myself as well as I could, and to set the good against the evil, that I might have something to distinguish my case from worse; and I stated very impartially, like debtor and creditor, the comforts I enjoyed against the miseries I suffered,…

–Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

Permalink Posted October 19, 2013

Williams on the Desolate Sky

Vast and grey, the sky

is a simulacrum

to all but him whose days

are vast and grey

— William Carlos Williams,

Permalink Posted October 18, 2013

Defoe on Shame

I have since often observed, how incongruous and irrational the common temper of mankind is, especially of youth, to that reason which ought to guide them in such cases—viz. that they are not ashamed to sin, and yet are ashamed to repent; not ashamed of the action for which they ought justly to be esteemed fools, but are ashamed of the returning, which only can make them be esteemed wise men.

–Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

Permalink Posted October 17, 2013

Wine Log: Orestiadi Grillo, Sicily

At the end of the afternoon, Thanksgiving weekend, the Beav and I wanted to have a drink somewhere outside on a terrace to take advantage of one of the most beautiful Indian summers in years. But no had tables out anywhere, and so we went home, pulled this bottle off the rack and popped it in the freezer to chill.

It was one of the cheapest whites we'd bought on our last trip to Ottawa, so expectations were low. We also left it in the freezer too long so the first glasses were too cold. But once it warmed up, this was a completely nice wine to have on its own or before a meal. Tasty without being crazy–no litchior passion fruit here–and easy to enjoy.

Permalink Posted October 16, 2013

Defoe on Reason

as reason is the substance and origin of the mathematics, so by stating and squaring everything by reason, and by making the most rational judgment of things, every man may be, in time, master of every mechanic art.

–Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

Permalink Posted October 15, 2013

Introducing the Wine Log

In the next few days, the first entries in my wine log are going to appear. Like my other logs, these posts are ways for me to take note of and remember things that interest me.

The wine log is different from the others though. With books, films, TV, even theatre, I have training and can speak, when I want to, with a fair amount of precision and sophistication. I also have enough experience with the materials to make judgments with a fair amount of confidence. What I say may seem silly or offhand, you might disagree, but I know my reactions are informed. However, odd or off-kilter, they are the raw materials of my developing thoughts about literature and film. The logs are a way to notice and keep track of them

With wine, I know nothing and even lack a vocabulary for speaking. But I have tried to pay attention over the years and have begun to develop some raw, unexamined experience. The log is the place where I'm going to try to begin capturing this experience in broad strokes and discover how to talk about what I'm figuring out.

(A few years ago, I'd considered doing this in a notebook. My plan was to avoid all the typical metaphors used to discuss wines (flowers, foods, etc.) and to talk about each bottle as if it were a man. I still like this idea.)

The main goal initially is just be to keep keep track of bottles I could buy again so that I'm less often caught making random purchases or trusting random clerks' suggestions blindly.

It will be what it will be.

Permalink Posted October 15, 2013

The Responsive Web

The face of the web is changing. All kinds of blogs are updating their themes with some variation of wordpress's new default. The point seems to be to make everything play nice with your phone but these "responsive" designs mostly just make full sites feel like mobile sites writ large. Everything looks pretty–big pictures, plenty of white space and the font is a wide round san serif that looks good the first time you see it–but everything also looks padded and puffed up. Rich sites are suddenly empty. Info is strung out across chains of links with little spatial density or complexity. It's like reading through a straw.

I'm sure this kind of wide-spread coordinated change has happened before, but I've never noticed it so clearly or disliked it so much. I'm ready for the web designers to cash in already and move on so useful complexity can come back into style.

I’ve been thinking about this issue some more.

Permalink Posted October 13, 2013

Alice Munro: Nobel Laureate

Oh Canada!

Permalink Posted October 10, 2013

A Happy Coincidence

Today's commonplace book entry from Neils Bohr was written up and scheduled a couple weeks ago. And yet, it pops up today, just after the Nobel Prize in Physics in awarded.

Permalink Posted October 9, 2013

Bohr on Truth

There are trivial truths and great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true.

— Niels Bohr,

Permalink Posted October 8, 2013


Five birds on two wires.

Ten wings reaching out to air,

Silent, yet as one.

Permalink Posted October 8, 2013

Trees in the Wind. A Man. Leaves.

See the video here.

Permalink Posted October 5, 2013

Kafka on the Soul

I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn’t shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you read it? Good God, we’d be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, also write ourselves. What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves,… A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us…

— Franz Kafka

Permalink Posted October 4, 2013

Weil on Psychology in Literature

In a general way, the literature of the twentieth century is essentially psychological; and psychology consists in describing states of the soul by displaying them all on the same plane without any discrimination of value, as though good and evil were external to them, as though the effort toward the good could be absent at any moment from the thought of any man.

— Simone Weil

Permalink Posted September 28, 2013

Vidal on the New Woman

I am the New Woman whose astonishing history is a poignant amalgam of vulgar dreams and knife-sharp realities.

— Gore Vidal, Myra Breckinridge

Permalink Posted September 27, 2013

Carpentier on Destiny and Fear

…the greatest challenge a man can meet is that of forging his own destiny. Because here, amidst the multitudes that surrounded me and rushed madly and submissively, I saw many faces and few destinies. And this was because, behind these faces, every deep desire, every act of revolt, every impulse was hobbled by fear.

— Alejo Carpentier, The Lost Steps

Permalink Posted September 26, 2013

Fuentes on Imagining

We think we know the world. Now we must imagine it.

— Carlos Fuentes

Permalink Posted September 25, 2013

Emerson on Real People

Let us treat men and women well; treat them as if they were real; perhaps they are.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Permalink Posted September 24, 2013

Baldwin on Presence

The great question that faced him this morning was whether or not he had ever, really, been present at his life. For if he had ever been present, then he was present still, and his world would open up before him.

— James Baldwin, Another Country

Permalink Posted September 23, 2013

Llosa on Happiness

All happiness is fleeting. An exception, a contrast. But we have to rekindle it from time to time, not allow it to go out. Blowing, blowing on the little flame.

— Mario Vargas Llosa, The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto

Permalink Posted September 22, 2013

Dostoevsky on Decent Men

After all, I have the habits of a decent man.

— Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons

Permalink Posted September 21, 2013

Dostoevsky on Beauty Achieved

I proclaim that Shakespeare and Raphael are higher than the emancipation of the serfs…than nationality…than socialism…than the younger generation…than chemistry, higher than almost all mankind, for they are already the fruit, the real fruit of all mankind, and maybe the highest fruit there ever may be! A form of beauty already achieved, without the achievement of which I might not even consent to live…

— Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons

Permalink Posted September 20, 2013

Melville on Mortal Greatness

For all men tragically great are made so through a certain morbidness. Be sure of this, O young ambition, all mortal greatness is but disease.

— Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Permalink Posted September 19, 2013

Carpentier on Losing Manhood

It frightened me to realize, as I listened to myself, how hard it is to become a man again when one has ceased to be a man.

— Alejo Carpentier, The Lost Steps

Permalink Posted September 19, 2013

Ecclesiastes on Covering Bases

He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap….In the morning sow they seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.”

Ecclesiastes 9:16

Permalink Posted September 18, 2013

Spinoza on Words

Many things we affirm and deny, because the nature of words allows us to do so, though the nature of things does not. While we remain unaware of this fact, we may easily mistake falsehood for truth.

— Spinoza

Permalink Posted September 17, 2013

Proverbs on Tongue Fruit

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: And they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

Proverbs 18:21

Permalink Posted September 16, 2013

Cavell on Entertainments

For in the meanness of the beliefs we hold and in our disgust with the work we do, how can we imagine that our capacities during after-hours have remained intact, that we needn’t question what pleases and amuses and entertains us? Or ask why it is that nothing really does?

— Stanley Cavell, The World Viewed

Permalink Posted September 16, 2013

Genet on Genius

La genie, c’est la rigueur dans le désespoir.

— Jean Genet

Permalink Posted September 15, 2013

Thoreau on Ignorance

How can he remember well his ignorance–which his growth requires–who has so often to use his knowledge?

–Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Permalink Posted September 15, 2013

James on the Novel

A novel is a living thing, all one and continuous…

— Henry James,

Permalink Posted September 14, 2013

Montaigne on Style

My style and my mind alike go roaming.

— Michel de Montaigne, “Of Presumption”

Permalink Posted September 13, 2013

Emerson on Apprenticeships

The world is full of [?] and apprenticeships, and this is thine: thou must pass for a fool and a churl for a long season.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Poet”

Permalink Posted September 12, 2013

Emerson on Poetic Vision

This insight, which expresses itself by what is called Imagination, is a very high sort of seeing, which does not come by study, but by the intellect being where and what it sees, by sharing the path, or [?] of things through forms, and so making them [?] to other. The path of things is silent. Will they suffer a speaker to go with them? A spy they will not suffer; a lover, a poet, is the transcendency of their own nature,–him they will suffer. The condition of true naming, on the poet’s part, is his resigning himself to the divine ”aura” which breathes through forms, and accompanying that.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Poet”

Permalink Posted September 12, 2013

Wells on James

A magnificent but painful hippopotamus resolved at any cost…upon picking up a pea…

— H. G. Wells

Permalink Posted September 12, 2013

Baldwin on Where We Are

We’ve all been up the same streets. There aren’t a hell of a lot of streets. Only, we’ve been taught to lie so much, about so many things, that we hardly ever know where we are.

–James Baldwin, Another Country

Permalink Posted September 11, 2013

Emerson on Time's Disappearance

When a thought of Plato becomes a thought to me,–when a truth that fired the soul of Pindar fires mine, time is no more. When I feel that we two meet in a perception, that our two souls are tinged with the same hue, and do, as it were, run into one, why should I measure degrees of latitude, why should I count Egyptian years?

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “History”

Permalink Posted September 11, 2013

Emerson on Prophetic Men

Men walk as prophecies of the next age.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”

Permalink Posted September 10, 2013

Nietzsche on Readers

Good writers have two things in common: they prefer to be understood than admired; and they do not write for knowing or over-acute readers.

— Frederich Nietzsche,

Permalink Posted September 10, 2013

Emerson on Enthusiasm

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. The way of life is wonderful: it is by abandonment.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”

Permalink Posted September 10, 2013

Emerson on Fine Causes

behind the coarse effect is a fine cause, which, being narrowly seen, is itself the effect of a finer cause.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”

Permalink Posted September 10, 2013

Emerson on Old and New

The new position of the advancing man has all the powers of the old, yet has them all new.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Cirlces”

Permalink Posted September 10, 2013

Emerson on Creating

man hopes, genius creates….whatever talents may be, if the man create not, the pure efflux of the Deity is not his; –cinders and smoke there may be, but not yet flame.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

Permalink Posted September 8, 2013

Emerson on Microcosms

This drop is a small ocean.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

Permalink Posted September 8, 2013

Emerson on Private Lives

Every roof is agreeable to the eye, until it is lifted; then we find tragedy and moaning women, and hard-eyed husbands, and deluges of [?], and the men ask ‘What’s the news?’ as if the older so bad.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

Permalink Posted September 8, 2013

Emerson on Reading Shakespear & Plato

The discerning will read, in his Plato or Shakespeare, only that least part, – only the authentic utterances of the oracle; – all the rest he rejects, were it never so many times Plato’s and Shakespeare’s.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

Permalink Posted September 8, 2013

Emerson on Seeing People from the Right Angle

A man is like a Labrador spar, which has no lustre as you turn it in your hand, until come to a particular angle; then it shows deep and beautiful colors.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

Permalink Posted September 8, 2013

Overheard in a cafe…

“There's this girl in my school who's bisexual and bulimic and she's dating a guy who doesn't know either.”

Permalink Posted September 7, 2013


In Azeroth of course.

Permalink Posted September 6, 2013

New Server. New Name. New Look.

White winged priest set makes its appearance.

Permalink Posted September 6, 2013

Together again

Me and Brother hanging in the Outlands.

Permalink Posted August 30, 2013

Chabon on Quests

A quest is often, among other things, an extended bout of inspired madness.

— Michael Chabon, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

Permalink Posted August 20, 2013

Krugman on Writing for Readers

Keynes's General Theory is a famously difficult book — but it opens with three sparkling chapters, a sort of book within the book, that gives readers a very good sense of where he's going and why it matters.

What every economist, and for that matter every writer on any subject, needs to realize is that unless you are a powerful person and people are looking for clues about what you'll do next,nobody has to read what you write — and lecturing them about what they're missing doesn't help. You have to provide the hook, the pitch, whatever you want to call it, that pulls them in. It's part of the job.

— Paul Krugman

Permalink Posted August 19, 2013

Fog on the Ocean

Waves slap and tap while

The call call call of sea birds

Echos through the fog

Permalink Posted August 17, 2013

Maple and Spring

Buds then flowers then leaves

A spider dropping then climbing then swinging

Then dropping then rising,

Making a web.

A wasp in flight through silk.

The spider falls,


Maple flowers fall

In a wide circle under new leaves

A green noonday shadow.

The sky comes down and wrings out her hair on the grass,

Laughing at the men running for shelter,

Splashing their trousers with her windy feet.

A wasp

Between a curtain and the sun,

Confounded by the blunt reality of glass.

Permalink Posted August 9, 2013


"The Essayification of Everything"

Some References relating to the essay:

The Clippings File

Essayism is predicated on at least three things: personal stability, technocratic stability and societal instability.

Below the author equates established print culture to todays emerging electronic media. I think he confuses ubiquity with stability. He writes:

“Regarding technocracy, the maturation of print culture during the Renaissance meant that the great texts of Antiquity and newer philosophical, literary and scientific materials could reach a wider audience, albeit mainly composed of people of privilege. The experts of science and technology at that time siphoned some of the power that had been monopolized by the church and the crown. We could draw a similar analogy today: Silicon Valley and the technocratic business class still force the church and the state to share much of their cultural power. The essay thrives under these conditions.”

I'm not sure that "essayistic" foundations are established on the interwebs. There are texts, yes. Blogs, tweets, status updates. But on the internet, the essay resides in the links, not the words.

Finally, essay and meditation:

“I would argue that the weakest component in today's nontextual essayism is its meditative deficiency. Without the meditative aspect, essayism tends toward empty egotism and an unwillingness or incapacity to commit, a timid deferral of the moment of choice. Our often unreflective quickness means that little time is spent interrogating things we've touched upon. The experiences are simply had and then abandoned. The true essayist prefers a more cumulative approach; nothing is ever really left behind, only put aside temporarily until her digressive mind summons it up again, turning it this way and that in a different light, seeing what sense it makes. She offers a model of humanism that isn't about profit or progress and does not propose a solution to life but rather puts endless questions to it.”

Permalink Posted August 9, 2013

Genre as Director

Last winter as I was watching a lot of crap superhero movies, I wondered what could possibly interest me about them. This spring I had an idea related to genre and my dissertation of all things.

My thinking, sketched out, is that in generic films, everyone knows what to do. The props guy, the editor, the sound people. Everyone already knows what the film should be. So a director, Joss Whedon for example, can just say "I need X" and person A will know what X is without much direction. Whedon–a fan of the genre–can simply enjoy and cheerlead and brainstorm as the people around him make the film. And so, genre manages the production. In a sense, genre is the direction.

So what's Whedon's contribution? Writing. He creates the situations that offer and legitimate generic pleasures as enjoyable and again-new.

Thinking about superhero films generally, I think that, for me at least, they foreground this specific writing task and, thus, focus my critical attention. I don't really care very much about the effects or the situations or whatever. I watch and I am thinking about:

1. the choices made in adapting the source

2. the system of motivation and stakes devised to move the action

3. how effective 1 & 2 are in normalizing the rest of the film's work

In other words, I think the superhero movie–which I am more or less sick of now–served as a kind of controlled experiment about the topic of my dissertation while I was writing it.

I suspect that these films may offer a similar focus to other viewers interested in other things.

Permalink Posted August 5, 2013

Follow Up on Carr

Thinking a bit more about Carr's point regarding unnecessary communication.

Carr notes that realtime communication makes courtesy distracting and annoying insofar as we think of communication in machine terms, i.e. in terms of efficiency. Citing T. Adorno he writes that:

To dispense with courtesy, to treat each other with "familiar indifference," to send messages "without address or signature": these are all, Adorno wrote, "random symptoms of a sickness of contact." Lacking all patience for circuitous conversation, for talk that flows without practical purpose, we assume the view that "the straight line [is] the shortest distance between two people, as if they were points."

When I first wrote about Carr's idea, I responded in terms of Yuri Lotman's notion of an implied audience. Thinking about my family's chat groups, I suggested that a lack of courtesy can at time imply and, thus, create intimacy rather than distance or efficiency.

Since then I've been thinking about other contexts and the way a lack of courtesy can reflect something other than an economic approach to sociality. Specifically, I wonder if part of the issue isn't that with texts and social networks and even email and various chat protocols, we are writing and we lack the skills and conventions to do so.

In the world before the telephone, correspondence was written to a person but was often understood to be at least potentially public. Letters were shared. They were sometimes saved for later publication in memorial or historical volumes. Writers made letters within these expectations and had forms and language suited to a double-address as simultaneously intimate and formal (and thus acceptable if public). Likewise, they had the language and forms necessary to speak in letters formally to strangers.

We do not have the forms available to use today. Few of us are practiced in writing publicly. We speak, we aim for authenticity and we thus find ourselves standing in the public-square-become-the-internet embarrassing ourselves and annoying others by writing "authentically" and "intimately" before strangers. Or conversely, writing "economically" to intimates.

To rework Carr's example: the annoying text that says "thanks!" will be annoying to a stranger or mere acquaintances—perhaps as Carr suggests because its is inefficient—but perhaps because it is too intimate. Formality is demanded. But what is the formal expression of "Thank you" in a text message? I don't have the answer but that is my point: this question of written form is the problem, not the tech.And if "Thanks!" is annoying between friends–and it can be annoying–how much of it is simply chatterboxes will be chatterboxes? Another problem with undeveloped language forms rather than tech.

My point: I think we are unpracticed with writing. We have lost the skill. A generation that didn't write letters because they could telephone, now have to write and to teach the young how to write and we are lost.

Permalink Posted August 5, 2013

Pound on Facebook

This thing, that hath a code and not a core,

Hath set acquaintance, where might be affections,

And nothing now

Disturbeth his reflections.

— Ezra Pound

Permalink Posted August 4, 2013

Keynes on Self Knowledge

…We need by an effort of the mind to elucidate our own feelings. At present our sympathy and our judgement are liable to be on different sides, which is a painful and paralysing state of mind. … We need a new set of convictions which spring naturally from a candid examination of our own inner feelings in relation to the outside facts.

— John Maynard Keynes

Permalink Posted August 1, 2013

The St. Laurence in LaChine

See the video here.

Permalink Posted July 12, 2013

Keynes on Wild Language

Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking.

— John Maynard Keynes

Permalink Posted July 12, 2013

Hume on Reason and Emotion

‘Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. ‘Tis not contrary to reason for me to choose my total ruin to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian, or person totally unknown to me … Reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.’

— David Hume,

Permalink Posted June 12, 2013

Emoji, Limitations

The other day I was texting on my iPhone. At the end of the last one I put the purple-smiling-devil emoji. But it's tone was wrong: not a mistake but false. I was suggesting my message had a snarky lightness it didn't have.

So why did I send it? Partly because without it my message was "serious" and "serious" is definitely outside of the emotional range of most of texts. The emoji brought things back inside the margins.

So why didn't I use this moment of seriousness to expanded the emotional range of my texts?

Permalink Posted May 23, 2013

I Don’t Like the Mall

But many people clearly see it as a place to go hang out. Tourists, teenagers, older people with their newspapers or their complicated notebooks of whatever it is they're writing or calculating in the food courts.

I just don't have that in me. Shopping is not fun or leisurely for me.

Permalink Posted May 16, 2013


A solitary tree sifting the wind,

Wormy toes wiggling down to stone;

an apple core, gnawed clean, now caramel brown;

Singing bugs, distant call of a bird,

The sun low in the warm dusty air;

Boot marks and bent grass leading across an open field.

This is a poem.

Permalink Posted May 16, 2013

Metaphysical Reflection Underway…

I started the blog with fairly defined purposes. Over time these have expanded, and at least twice, this has entailed rethinking how things work and adjusting my conception of the site.

Now, after nearly two years, I'm ready to take what I think will be a major leap forward that will make the creative projects I've been nursing in the background possible. But it is a leap and will take some effort. It will also involve letting things evolve and simmer quietly behind the scenes. So little visible action. Maybe not even logs.

Fair warning.

Permalink Posted May 10, 2013

Trees in the Wind

See the video here.

Permalink Posted May 4, 2013

Banks on Language and Minds

Marain, the Culture’s quintessentially wonderful language…has…one personal pronoun to cover females, males, in-betweens, neuters, children, drones, Minds, other sentient machines, and every life-form capable of scraping together anything remotely resembling a nervous system and the rudiments of language (or a good excuse for not having either). Naturally there are ways of specifying a person’s sex in Marain, but they’re not used in everyday conversation; in the archetypal language-as-moral-weapon-and-proud-of-it, the message is that it’s brains that matter, kids; gonads are hardly worth making a distinction over.

— Iain M. Banks, The Player of Games

Permalink Posted April 30, 2013

Lesson Learned- The Dangers of Web Publishing

From late 2003 to early 2005, I wrote for and help publish the web-based film journal called_Synoptique_. The journal was the brainchild and labor of love of a few of my friends. We were all in the Masters program in film studies at Concordia, and the journal was the most exciting thing I was a part of at the school. By the time things shut down in 2005, there were twelve or thirteen issues online, some of them quite spectacular. And I was proud of the work we'd done, especially with the "Style Gallery" that tried to capture in a variety of forms the most interesting, large-scale conversation from my time in the film program._ _

And now it's gone.

The new grad students have updated the site, moved to a new software platform, clearly aiming to pitch the journal as a legitimate academic publication. Fine. (The purpose and audience for the journal was a long-running debate in my time on staff. An academic audience or an educated general public? Good arguments could be made on both sides, but I was a firm proponent of option B.)

What is not fine however is that the archive of older issues is now empty. None of the work that went into a actually creating and establishing the journal as something worth revising exists anymore. Who would throw away that history? (And don't tell me it's a technical issue. I'm sure it is because the design of the journal was innovative and exciting. I doubt a generic "open journal" platform could handle it. This is beside the point and only begs the question: why migrate to a platform that makes your site_less_ interesting?)

Anyway, having had no warning that the site was disappearing, I have now lost anything that is not stashed somewhere on my hard drive. I have combed through archive folders and disks and found what I have could. In some cases, what I've found is probably (close to) a final draft. Often it obviously is not. Worse, what I have is now completely cut off from its context. Much of what I wrote was marginal material. "Splinters," for example, were designed to be blurb review of only a few words capturing a mood or a particular point and working as a group or as transitional materials. I have a few of these, but only some of my worst. Some that I remember are gone. The major three-part discussion of style written in collaboration with two close friends is nowhere to be found. My brief essay discussing the institutional positioning of graduate students, gone as well, along with the final versions of my two columns, both improved immensely by the editing of a good friend. So my frustration levels are high.

But in the interest of not losing anymore ground or material, I'll be posting what I have on my wiki.

Permalink Posted April 22, 2013

Melville on Disorder

There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.

— Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Permalink Posted April 12, 2013

A Friendly Stranger

I have been reading Roger Ebert's blog for awhile now. Which meant I read what he wrote as he wrote it, most of it (all of it?) addressed to me (and others) in the informally formal language of polite friendship. I had little or no attachment to his film criticism (although that first brought me to his blog), but I liked reading him talking about living (not life) and admired his view of the world as ripe with possibilities and beauty. It was evident right up to his last blog post, "A Leave of Presence."And now he has died. A sad day.

Permalink Posted April 5, 2013

Nicolas Carr on “Unnecessary Communication”

Carr has an interesting post on his blog about subtle ways we adopt the standards of computer communication as the standards of human communication. As some one who is often taken aback by the too-muchness of email, text, etc., the point he makes below made me take a step back and reflect:

What does it mean to be intolerant of "unnecessary communication," even when it involves those closest to you? In a response to Bilton, Evan Selinger pointed out that it's a mistake to judge "etiquette norms" by standards of efficiency: "They're actually about building thoughtful and pro-social character." Demanding efficient communication on the part of others reflects, Selinger went on, a "selfish desire to dictate the terms of a relationship." There is a kind of sociopathology at work when we begin to judge conversations by the degree to which they intrude on our personal efficiency. We turn socializing into an extension of economics.

What I realized is that the line between protecting my mental or emotional space and communicating to people like a computer isn't bright and is easily ignored. Carr thinks about this shift through Adorno's_Minima Moralia_, which is very interesting.

That said, his closing discussion of text messaging reveals the difficulty. He points out that texts never mention the receiver's or sender's names and suggests these are instances of lost intimacy and signal a drift toward treating people like machines. Thinking of my family text groups, I wonder whether it doesn't signal extreme intimacy in these cases, my always availability to these closest of friends. The reference here would be Yuri Lotman's "The Text and the Structure of It's Audience" and suggests that the problem is with formal and semi-formal communication with non-intimates and with strangers rather than simply communication in all its forms. In other words, does the cashier exist and deserve a "hello" rather than does anyone exist?

Permalink Posted April 3, 2013

Warren on Adventures in Selfhood

…the “made thing” that the poet produces represents a different kind of form from all the others we know.  Its characteristic quality springs from the special fullness of the relation of a self to the world.  The form of a work represents, not only a manipulation of the world, but an adventure in selfhood.  It embodies the experience of a self vis-à-vis the world, not merely as a subject matter, but as translated into the experience of form.  The form represents uniqueness made available to others, but the strange fact is that the uniqueness is not to be exhausted…. The “made thing,” the “formed thing,” stands as a perennial possibility of experience, available whenever we turn to it…

It is not only the objective characters that serve as “models” of selfhood; the work itself represents the author’s adventure in selfhood…

— Robert Penn Warren, Democracy and Poetry

Permalink Posted April 2, 2013

Another Hunter Going Nowhere

And this time with a crane.

Permalink Posted March 23, 2013

Making the Internet a Better Place

Mark Bernstein has an interesting post about cyberbullying. His solutions are interesting because, although he doesn't say this, they imply that the current problems with bullying are connected to problems with established norms on the Internet.

The first is:

Anonymous posting is a bad idea.Sure, it's got a theoretical place in the Democratic Nature Of The Web. And we could give up everything that's good about the Web in defense of anonymity, in which case we're going to have AOL and HBO and no Web. Lack of anonymity won't stop bullying, but it will let observers get the context and help them find the kids in the ditch.

Maybe the nastiness on the web won't go away (read: "disappear" or "go to a corner") if names are attached to what people do, but the internet plays a huge roll in how kids are socialized today. How adults are as well. Humanizing that space will improve the quality of the socialization it offers. The effects will be felt far outside the virtual worlds of the web.

The second suggestion may seem as if it has little or nothing to do with the Internet, but it does. It's reach is much wider though. Bernstein writes:

Discount childhood achievements and errors.Since bullies_will_punish missteps, we have to find a way to blunt the bully's impact. Mistakes are embarrassing, but we can defuse their consequences.As a society, we're going to have to agree to simply ignore the achievements and blunders of kids.Did you publish a book of poetry at 17? We don't care anymore. Did you get naked and dance on the table of The Four Seasons at your coming out party? Old news. We don't want to hear about your football triumphs or your high school grades any more than we want to see your refrigerator drawings. (This means the end of high school sports beyond recreation and exercise, which would also be a very good thing.)

If you want to be on the Internet–visibly as something other than a user–you must offer content. Because most of us are not artists, that means we offer up ourselves, most obviously by Facebooking the details of our daily lives. Two things result: we create a detailed record of our past that is perpetually present (i.e. always here, never past), and this record–created in realtime without reflection–becomes who we are. It maps a past and charts our future. Who or what we might someday become is weighted down and interpreted by this record which says: this is who we were, are and will be. If we were (are, will be) bullied (or a bully), what hope is there for us? The way we use the Internet is turning problems into trauma by making incidental actions into identity.

Bernstein's third suggestion addresses this problem obliquely by responding to a question many of my students have: how do I become–and know that I have become–an adult? I tell my students they are adults–they are after all 18–but they don't feel as if they are and are not expected to act as if they are. At most, their adulthood is a state, arrived at passively, demanding nothing of them, that confersnew privileges (few of which seem very new or even worth exercising).Unsurprisingly, most of the teachers and administrators in my college talk about "the kids" not "the students." Bernstein hits the problem square on its head:

A right of passage makes a lot of sense here. The fundies have that spooky silver ring thing, but we really need some dramatic way to say, "All the things you did before, that was growing up. Yesterday you were a kid. Tomorrow, you are no longer a kid: life is not a rehearsal, and it's time to put childish things on the shelf."

Adulthood is not (or at least should not be) a state we arrive at. It is a role we shoulder we cannot cannot initially (ever?) fulfill or live up to. A rite goes a ways toward showing this, and yes, it might address bullying. Why not? More broadly, I think it would also address the malaise (and, yes, despair) shackling so many of my students. What rite? Well, to let go of childish things today means letting go of our online selves, especially for recent generations who have come of age_in virtuo_. We could draw a curtain of shame between now and between someone's childhood–not talking about it anymore than we talk about the stink they left in your bathroom before dinner–seems like a good (but alas unlikely) possibility. Imagine being embarrassed by someone so clueless they talk openly about their childhood or the smell of their poo.

Find Bernstein's piece here. I think he may be responding to "Defining Bully Down" by Emily Bazelon. This op-ed in_The New York Times_has had people talking across the blogosphere these past few days.Find the op-ed here.

Permalink Posted March 15, 2013

Faulkner on Culture

We want culture but don’t want to go to any trouble to get it.

— William Faulkner

Permalink Posted March 12, 2013

Tapping Maples. First One Rhythm.

See the video here.

Permalink Posted March 10, 2013

Then Another Rhythm.

See the video here.

Permalink Posted March 10, 2013

Nostalgia for Culture Jamming

I don't post video very often, but the past few weeks, several things have come up that I want to keep track of. This is a great example of found-footage video. A bit of culture jamming that is great.

Seeing it right after watching How to Survive a Plague, I'm struck by how much was lost with the late nineties boom-crash and the 9/11 security state that followed. We are scared and bullied everywhere. I just don't see anything this interesting being done today. Who is sticking their finger in the eye of banks, the drone assassins, the Republican suicide-budgeters? This video assumes life is the artists' business and that the powers-that-be should be running scared.

The Internet (note the capital letter) was supposed to amplify the scope of stuff like this, or so people hoped. But somewhere around 2.0, the whole project was overrun by the mosh-pit slash porn shop called the interwebs. The relevant text is You are Not a Gadget.

Permalink Posted March 5, 2013

Yes, I Participated in a Harlem Shake Video

The madness was organized by Aicha and Géneviève at their reception for their wedding. Much fun.

Permalink Posted March 4, 2013

Night Snow in Hochelaga

See the video here.

Permalink Posted February 24, 2013

My Oscar Ballot (not predictions)

So I sat down with the Oscar ballot this morning to sort out what I would have voted for (which is not at all the same thing as who I think will win). What follows are my choices, hopeless cases and all.


I liked this film very much when I saw it. But the further I am from it the less I remember its strengths and the more I remember its weaknesses. This is a subtle story and well-acted. It has my vote forActor in a Leading Role to Daniel Day-Lewis.Spielberg's direction clouds the story, but Tony Kushner gets my vote for**Adapted****Screenplay**, mostly for the set pieces where he opens up Lincoln's mind.By default, it's also my choice for the two period-piece categories:Production DesignandCostume Design. My one "please don't win" of the evening is Spielberg in the directing category.


A difficult film to assess. People whose opinion I respect have dismissed it as a competent but ordinary thriller. The problem I think is the power of its plot. Story, when well constructed, tends to recede, becoming a background and support for the more ostentatious work we take as signs of artistry. Plot like plumbing tends to be invisible unless there is a problem. And there are no problems here.

In my opinion the clarity of Argo's story is no easy trick to pull off, not within the constraints of historical material and not without becoming ponderous and dull. That Argo can seem simple and even at times lighthearted is a huge accomplishment. So I am rooting for this film and won't begrudge it anything it wins.

But for my ballot, despite how much I like it, it keeps losing out when a final choice has to be made. In fact, it only comes up as a clear choice for my vote forFilm Editing. I'm also giving itBest Actor in a Supporting Role, because all the nominees in this category have won before, and none are doing anything especially new or interesting here. I'm voting Alan Arkin to give Argo a second vote. If the film had been nominated inCostume Design, I'd have voted for it rather than Lincoln.


I am not a Bond fanatic, and talking to my brother, who is, I realized I'm no judge of how this film fits in the mini-canon he and others keep in their heads. I did love it though. And midway through, as night falls and Bond arrives by boat at an Asian casino, I knew that one of the principal reasons was the film's music. It was vibrant, traditional and without irony or self-consciousness. It was simply gorgeous, and my thought as Bond's boat arrived and he stepped onto the dock was, "I've not heard a score this wonderful since Todd Hayne's Far From Heaven." That is very high praise. So my vote is for Skyfall to sweep the sound categories:Original ScoreandOriginal Song because it is clearly heads above the rest in both categories, andSound Editing andSound Mixing because an action film that gives explosions, tire squeals and gunshots their full berth while leaving plenty of room for the music to move and work its magic is riding on mad technical skills.Skyfall's final act makes itmy number two choice forCinematography for what it's worth.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

I loved this film. Front to back, top to bottom. I've gone through my ballot and the one place I can vote for it and feel like I'm not robbing anyone else is forDirector. Quevenzhané Wallis is too young to win an acting prize and the screenwriting award is already a fight between two strong contenders. The director's field is, however, oddly bleak ground. I won't vote for Haneke anywhere because I see no reason to support misanthropy, even when it hides behind a story about aging. (Is this film anything other than Haneke regarding his own situation as an aging man with more compassion than he has granted to any character in any of his other films?) David Russell is a joke. Spielberg is the worst thing about Lincoln. That leaves the category open for Ang Lee or Benh Zeitlin. I liked_Life of Pi_, but preferred_Beasts_. And I like casting my vote for him here for all kinds of reasons.

Django Unchained

I predict that this is the only movie nominated for Best Picturethat will be worth talking about _as a film_in ten years. It is a major work and gets my vote in the category unreservedly. It also gets my vote for Cinematographyand of course, forOriginal Screenplay. I'm not sure Tarantino will walk away with anything at the award show, but he doesn't need the Oscars now that he's grown up and is only a pretend bad boy. History is on his side.

Life of Pi

I loved this film, but I'm not voting for it anywhere else. It's a legitimate choice inVisual Effects though, so it gets my vote.

The Left Overs

For**Best****Actress in a Leading Role** my pick isJennifer Lawrence even though I hated the film and thought she was not great in it. But she did good work inWinter's Bones and is a major talent (and star) of a new generation of actors. The title "Oscar Winner" will maybe keep her from wasting her career doingHunger Games sequels and endless romantic comedies.

For BestActress in a Supporting Role, I am torn betweenAmy Adams andSally Fields. I think Sally Fields was the best actor inLincoln after Day-Lewis. But that said, Amy Adams was just great inThe Master, and I like the idea of giving at least one vote to that film. So Amy Adams it is.

Because I won't vote for Haneke, my vote forForeign Language Film goes to_War Witch_. I'll call it Québec patriotism.

After watching the internet shorts about the making of The Hobbit in 48 fps, I'm going to give my vote for Makeup to its crew. They were breaking new ground coping with a new technology that was changing all the rules. I wasn't a huge fan of the film, but they earned the award. Hope they get it.

For the rest–Animated Feature,Documentary Feature,Short Film (Animated),Short Film, Live Action, and****Documentary Short Subject–I have no opinion and no votes to cast because I didn't see any of the nominees.

Permalink Posted February 24, 2013

James on Creation

Things struggle into life, even the very best of them, by slow steps and stages and rages and convulsions of experience, and utterly refuse to be taken over ready-made or en bloc.

— Henry James

Permalink Posted February 12, 2013

Smith on Life

Don’t live in a way that makes you feel dead.

— Zadie Smith, On Beauty

Permalink Posted January 12, 2013

Raid Group v1.0

Raiding in Pandaria. It’s my first genuine raid group.

Permalink Posted January 3, 2013

Family Christmas

Riding on reindeer in Christmas suits.

Permalink Posted December 24, 2012

Picard on Being Yourself

If we are going to be damned let us be damned for what we really are.

— Jean-Luc Picard, "Far Point"

Permalink Posted December 1, 2012

James, Clive: Windows is Shutting Down

Windows is shutting down, and grammar are

On their last leg. So what am we to do?

A letter of complaint go just so far,

Proving the only one in step are you.

Better, perhaps, to simply let it goes.

A sentence have to be screwed pretty bad

Before they gets to where you doesnt knows

The meaning what it must of meant to had.

The meteor have hit. Extinction spread,

But evolution do not stop for that.

A mutant languages rise from the dead

And all them rules is suddenly old hat.

Too bad for we, us what has had so long

The best seat from the only game in town.

But there it am, and whom can say its wrong?

Those are the break. Windows is shutting down.

Permalink Posted November 22, 2012

Waiting for Dogs Not to Die

Post wipe, sitting with Neith waiting for respawn so we can wipe again.

Damned dogs…

Permalink Posted November 14, 2012


Panda-manium! (On a camel!)

Permalink Posted October 20, 2012

Cavell on Anti-Anti-intellectualism

It is no failure in a human being not to be an intellectual.

— Stanley Cavell

Permalink Posted September 12, 2012

Words of Wisdom from the Beav

On n'est plus au XIXieme siècle. Tu ne peux pas écrire les romans de 650 pages qui parlent de lovely this and lovely that.

— The Beav

Permalink Posted September 8, 2012

Old School in a New World

Back to Stormwind for a relaxing night of brother time.

Permalink Posted September 6, 2012

Why Superhero Movies- – Ordinary Human Language.rtf

I was flipping through my movie log for the last four or five months and was shocked to see how many action-fantasy movies–especially superhero movies–I've watched recently. What's going on?

Surely the summer movie schedule has something to do with it ('tis the season), but I've also sought out older films to watch or to watch again. Clearly I'm interested, but given what I have written I'm also pretty consistently disappointed. What am I looking for that I'm not finding?

(An obvious answer that feels wrong is that I'm overthinking this, that I'm just watching for quick-fix boy-man power-fantasies of the sort that surely drew me to see these films when I was younger. Or if not that, then nostalgia for those fantasies? Or if not that either, then just laziness, that I'm going back to a familiar genre out of habit. But none of these seem right or, at least, completely right.)

There is something in the constraints of the form of these movies that's eliciting my active, demanding interest. And when I see something that does not disappoint–stay tuned for my thoughts on :::shudder::: Immortals–my response is not satisfaction but excitement. I think it's time to think a bit about what precisely is going on here.

So, note to self

Permalink Posted August 24, 2012

Big Medicine Goes to the Outlands

Taking Big Medicine to the Outlands, the Dwarven Throne Room, then some Diablo.

Permalink Posted May 27, 2012

James on Novels and the Artistic Mind

…the only classification of the novel that I can understand is into that which has life that which has it not.

Catching the very nite and trick, the strange irregular rhythm of life, that is the attempt whose strenuous force keeps Fiction upon her feet.

It appears to me that no one can ever have made a seriously artistic attempt without becoming conscious of an immense artistic increase–a kind of revelation–of freedom.

No good novel will ever proceed from a superficial mind…

— Henry James, “The Art of Fiction”

Permalink Posted April 26, 2012

Family Dungeon

Title says it all.

Permalink Posted April 23, 2012

Meet Speaks & Glitterstars

Me and Brother out and about with new toons, doing recruit a friend after an account catastrophe.

Permalink Posted April 21, 2012

A New Hope, the Old Is New

After the catastrophe, a new toon: Speaks!

Permalink Posted March 12, 2012

The Dream Team

Also rolled a druid.

Permalink Posted March 12, 2012

Post #100: A Family Album

So Big Medicine has joined the crew. God save his soul…Kickin’ back and chillin’ at the inn.

Permalink Posted February 18, 2012

Montaigne on Blogging

Thou hast here an honest book; it doth at the outset forewarn thee that, in contriving the same, I have proposed to myself no other than a domestic and private end: I have had no consideration at all either to thy service or to my glory. My powers are not capable of any such design. I have dedicated it to the particular commodity of my kinsfolk and friends, so that, having lost me (which they must do shortly), they may therein recover some traits of my conditions and humours, and by that means preserve more whole, and more life-like, the knowledge they had of me. Had my intention been to seek the world’s favour, I should surely have adorned myself with borrowed beauties: I desire therein to be viewed as I appear in mine own genuine, simple, and ordinary manner, without study and artifice: for it is myself I paint. My defects are therein to be read to the life, and any imperfections and my natural form, so far as public reverence hath permitted me. If I had lived among those nations, which (they say) yet dwell under the sweet liberty of nature’s primitive laws, I assure thee I would most willingly have painted myself quite fully and quite naked. Thus, reader, myself am the matter of my book: there’s no reason thou shouldst employ thy leisure about so frivolous and vain a subject. Therefore farewell.

— Michel de Montaigne, Montaigne: The Complete Works

Permalink Posted February 14, 2012

Catching Up on the Family Album

So a few weeks ago, in a 100% family run, we all became Kingslayers.

More recently, I hung out with one of Alexstrasa’s most dedicated pet hunters. Alas, we earned no pets.

When not with the fam, I was either striking dramatic, unconvincing poses or playing “little black rain cloud”…just like in real life.

Permalink Posted February 14, 2012

Faulkner on Kilroy

Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artist’s way of scribbling “Kilroy was here” on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.

— William Faulkner

Permalink Posted February 12, 2012

Cummings on bodies and pleasure


i like my body when it is with your

body. It is so quite new a thing.

Muscles better and nerves more.

i like your body. i like what it does,

i like its hows. i like to feel the spine

of your body and its bones, and the trembling

-firm-smooth ness and which i will

again and again and again

kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,

i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz

of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes

over parting flesh . . . . And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you so quite new

Permalink Posted January 15, 2012

Vacation Fun

Eastern Plaguelands Boogie. Me and Knowmai are grinding content for fun.

Permalink Posted December 31, 2011

Christmas Eve with Family

Neith, Atmos and Speaks all rolled as undead alts for some Christmas fun in the starting zone.

Permalink Posted December 25, 2011

Icepick Saves the Day!

The day began quietly with reindeer and a new hat. But it ended with a bang when Icepick achieved the impossible by tanking the boss when our pug tank dropped. This was back in the days when pets weren’t made to tank, but Michael was that good as a hunter.

Permalink Posted December 16, 2011

ECHIDNE of the Snakes on Government

The government is supposed to be for the benefit of the people who live in it. It is not supposed to be a tool to increase the productivity of the labor input for the firms.

—ECHIDNE of the snakes: Government for People not Firms December 14, 2011

Permalink Posted December 14, 2011

Doctor of Thinkology

Oh Joy! Rapture! I’ve got a brain!

Permalink Posted December 6, 2011

Variations on a Black Mock Turtleneck: III

It happened when he was on vacation. In a bar naturally. The big one. No power anywhere. City dark for miles. Everything quiet. Except here.

Here generators buzz like insults, keyboards clack. Phones flicker green against drawn faces.

The stage lights come up, then silence, then someone counting from the shadows, first a voice, then fingers: "Live in five, four, three," two, one.Then questions through an earpiece.

He makes answers out of words, one by one. Head buzzing, tongue rank from the coffee. Serious. Reliable. Not drunk.

How the hell'd they find him? And why hadn't they brought him his black mock turtleneck?

Permalink Posted November 20, 2011

Saturday Morning Questing

Lazy weekend morning hanging out for fun.

Permalink Posted November 20, 2011

Variations on a Black Mock Turtleneck: II

The cameraman fiddled with his equipment. The wind and the sand kept jamming everything up.

"This going to be long?"

"Just another second. Sorry."

A new kid. Nervous as hell. "Don't worry about it. I'm going to take a leak. Be back in a minute."

He walked off behind the van and stood on the edge of the ravine. The sun hung in a cold sky over bright rocky hills. A slow circling bird–a hawk maybe, or buzzard–called out from the horizon.

He undid his fly, cocked one hand on his hip and sent a thick stream of urine spattering over the Persian soil below. It steamed in the late afternoon air.

He wore a black mock turtleneck.

Permalink Posted November 19, 2011

Variations on a Black Mock Turtleneck: I

He stepped into the elevator, dug the key out of his pocket, turned it in the slot, pressed "P." The floors ticked by one by one as he rubbed his head and breathed a slow deep sigh. It was late, he was tired.

The door slid open on the soft green glow of the Toronto skyline shining through the bare windows of his living room. It was quiet.

He slipped off his coat, dropped his keys in the bowl by the door, stepped out of his shoes.

Then he saw them. On a table near the window, a glass of wine, a rose and a note. "Wake me up." On the back of the chair, she had draped his black mock turtleneck.

Permalink Posted November 18, 2011

Waiting for the Train

Knowmai and Dahlram in Stormwind waiting to catch a ride north.

Permalink Posted November 12, 2011

Jobs on Heart and Intuition and Jobs

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

— Steve Jobs at Stanford

Permalink Posted October 6, 2011

Dead Writers: A Squeeze of the Hand

For my first appearance at a Dead Writer's party, I went as Herman Melville and read an introductory remark and a poem. I took both from the chapter "A Squeeze of the Hand" in_Moby Dick_ and changed the text only slightly. I added line breaks, invented a reference to "the present poem," and cut a few bits for length. That said, what you read here is, for all intents and purposes, what Melville wrote.

Some of you may have had occasion to note that the sperm's liquid part concretes into lumps not very long after being taken from the body. On a whaling boat, the men of the crew return this rich liquor to its pristine state by breaking these soft globules of infiltrated tissue with a gentle squeeze of the hand. The present poem was conceived while under the sway of the uncontaminated aroma–not unlike that of a musky meadow–which invariably awaits those who take up this sweet and unctuous duty.

A Squeeze of the Hand; a poem in free verse

Squeeze! Squeeze! Squeeze! all the morning long;

I squeezed that sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of


came over me;

and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-labourer's hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules.

Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was continually squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes


as much as to say, —come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.

Would that I could keep squeezing that sperm forever! For now since by many prolonged, repeated experiences, I have perceived that in all cases

man must eventually lower,

or at least shift his conceit of attainable felicity; not placing it anywhere in the intellect or the fancy; but in the wife, the heart, the bed, the table, the saddle, the fire-side, the country;

now that I have perceived all this, I am ready to squeeze case eternally.

In visions of the night, I saw rows of angels in paradise, each with his hands in a jar of spermaceti.

Permalink Posted October 1, 2011

Stops and Starts

Finding time to read on my own is not easy especially when so much of my time is spent rereading books I've assigned or reading and grading student writing. So it's especially frustrating to start books that I don't like enough to finish. That's been the case a lot in the weeks since I finished Blood Meridian. In rapid sequence, I started Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad and finished neither.Siddhartha was just boring claptrap. I'd read it before years ago and had the same impression then. But I thought, "I was young and stupid and missed the point of the thing," and so, decided to give it another go. I still don't like it.Was this a problem with the translation or was the German also written in this bland, child's language?Lord Jim I liked well enough I guess, but like every Conrad I have ever picked up, once I put it down, no matter how far in it I am by then, I'm never really interested in picking it up again. There's nothing wrong with the book and in fact there are things I like about it, but overall I'm left untouched. In different circumstances I like to think that I would have come back to it, but in the current rush, it's fallen to the wayside.

So what are the current circumstances? For a variety of reasons, I'm stretched across three widely different teaching areas this term: Ancient/Classical Literature, contemporary short fiction (international), and American Literature. The preps for each are, again for a variety of reasons related to this specific term, pretty intensive. So far I've read, Gilgamesh, Oedipus, The Jungle Books, selections from Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman, My Antonia and the bits of critical material I needed to review relating to some of these. I've also written completely new in-class material and graded at least one assignment for each class. For five weeks, that's not nothing.

Circumstances aside, I think what's bothering me is two-fold. First, there is fatigue. When I sit down to read I'm tired enough to not feel like dealing with a difficult book. (Another way of saying what I mean is that my tolerance for books that seem to be pushing the reader away, presumably as part of a larger effect, is at an ebb.) Books that pass that bar are not cluttering my shelves (that's an interesting discovery), and so I'm a bit adrift. My own pickiness and my inability to specify what exactly I might be interested in from moment to moment certainly don't help.

Second, there is malaise. On the one hand, the generality of the reading I'm doing for classes is exciting and has opened up all kinds of thought-spaces where odd connections and insights can gestate and grow. But on the other, all of this varied reading is deadly boring to the extent that it all always leads to the same prosaic, skill-driven work and discussion I have to initiate in each of my classes. I feel as if I were a passionate gourmand in a wonderful market, walking up and down the aisles as I please, looking at this and that and dreaming about what I could make, but then having to go home to cook for five-year olds that won't eat anything but cheese and nuggets. Sitting at that table before those five-year olds, the passions excited in the aisles and even the idea of good food are going to feel like irratants. Worse, the one night a week the kids are eating with friends and I'm all alone, there's a good chance the market is the last place I'm likely to go.

Permalink Posted September 30, 2011

McCarthy on Civilization

“The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night. His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day. He loves games? Let him play for stakes. This you see here, these ruins wondered at by tribes of savages, do you not think that this will be again? Aye. And again. With other people, other sons.”

— Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

Permalink Posted August 25, 2011

Chant d’Amour

I showed Jean Genet's_Chant d'Amour_ to Big D and The Beav. Twenty-five minutes of experimental queer cinema, and they watched without being bored for a second.And when the film was over they had questions: When was this made? Who are these actors? Listening, I wondered how many films are ever that successful?

I hadn't seen the film in over five years. So watching it on the spur-of-the-moment, I was caught off guard by how beautiful and how shocking it is.Big D kept saying that the film was ahead of its time and couldn't be shown today. My sense is that he's right, and it's because it's erotic rather than pornographic. Which makes it much more difficult to dismiss.

A happy rediscovery.

Permalink Posted August 21, 2011

Leopold on Hypochondriac Society

Our bigger-and-better society is now like a hypochondriac, so obsessed with its own economic health as to have lost the capacity to remain healthy.

— Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Permalink Posted August 21, 2011


A new blog. A new mission.

Permalink Posted August 20, 2011

Blogging as Time Capsule

Right now as you read, some idealistic computer nerd may be running an algorithm, trying to save a copy of what was on the web right here, right now so that someday if somebody wants to see what we were up to back in the day they can.

Well what if by some mistake in the algorithm my posts look like something interesting and get swept up? If they do, then someday, if there are in fact curious far-off souls digging through that archive trying to figure out who or what there was to see in the distant past of the twenty-first century, well then, those curious souls will know that Kilroy was here, reading and watching and doing.

It's kind of exciting.

Permalink Posted August 20, 2011