surface tautologies: landscapes in the imagination

Eugene Benson in the introduction to Elaine Nardocchio's Theatre and Politics in Modern Quebec quotes from a poem by Miriam Waddington:

we look
like a geography but
just scratch us
and we bleed

I wonder if it works in reverse i.e. if we look like history and we bleed geography. We carry with us a space and a time; even migrations of long ago leave in their wake what might have been.

I like to juxtapose these musings against a statement by Stephen Kuusisto in Planet of the Blind "I believe that in every blind person's imagination there are landscapes."

And so for day 414

Prescriptions and Atmospherics

Brent Ledger, a columnist for Xtra! in the January 31, 2008, edition tackles the topic of "musical monotony" and the setting of tone.

Music in a bar is not exactly the same as music at home or in the concert hall. It's more of a psychic suggestion than an aesthetic experience. It's the fourth wall of the bar, providing emotional hints on how you're supposed to behave.

He goes on to conclude the article on a consideration the times where you don't want to simply have fun and indulge in upbeat music.

But some days you want to slouch and some days you want to grouch and sometimes you want to slink, slowly, through the nighttime streets. the music ought to reflect that.

And some days ...

And so for day 413

Bridge Walking

Stephen Kuusisto in Planet of the Blind has a stimulating description of the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Brooklyn Bridge has a civilized, old-fashioned promenade deck, with teak benches and intricate wrought iron lamps posts. This walkway is sensational, crossing the bridge at its highest altitude. Cars and trains are far below, half heard through the wind. Out here, trembling like a compass needle, I tilt my face in the glorious light. I'm wearing the darkest glasses because my eyes ache where there is brilliance, but the light is perfection, the naked sun coming now as if Corky [the guide dog] and I are prayerful gnostics who have silently identified the proper secret names for air and sunlight.

In Toronto a similar experience can be achieved by walking over the Bloor Viaduct with its Veil.

And so for day 412

Sounds Like "Writer"

A fictional Duke of Wellington in Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell has this to say about the handling of certain experts

Keep him to his task, but shew no surprize at any thing he does. That, my lords, is the way to manage a magician.

And many other folk too.

And so for day 411

Telling Typo

In a previous post quoting from Inventing Kindergarten by Norman Brosterman, "act" appears for "art".

A chair might become numbers, numbers act, and art either or both.

And so it appeared on day 122 (15.04.2007) under the rubric "More on Diversity and Moral Character".

Action and the play of the mind available at will! Insight into movement ...

And so for day 410


Inventing Kindergarten by Norman Brosterman is a beautiful book. Design complements content. Which is fitting in a book devoted to Froebel's system.

[...] the ultimate lesson of kindergarten was straightforward: the world (nature), mathematics (knowledge), and art (beauty) were interchangeable, and their perceived border was misleading, artificial constructs.

I am always impressed that the gifts, the material support for the learning activities, come in sets. From the get go there is play with combinations and more combinations. This to my mind strikes closely to the story telling core of human activity.

Take for instance Brosterman's description of what can be done with the first gift, a set of six coloured balls.

In play, it [a single ball] might become a bird as it flew, a cat as it sprang, a dog jumping over a hedge, or indeed any one of a million other everyday events in the life of a child. Mathematically, it was a point and the number one. Together, the six balls represented the realm of knowledge in the form of a line for counting and a set for learning addition and subtraction and the beginning of multiplication and division. In the realm of beauty, the balls together encompassed the primary colors — red, blue, and yellow — and the synthesis of their unions — violet, green, and orange.


And so for day 409

Sounds like Simian

Eugene Fiume "Going Digital is Going Human" IDE&AS Volume 4, Number 2

Simulation comes easily to us. We are wired to simulate. Recent discoveries in neuroscience suggest that we have "mirror neurons" that, among other things, help us to understand the feelings of others through imitation and simulation.

A predisposition to mimetic behaviour and story telling? Sounds like a good story.

And so for day 408

Chambers and Antechambers

I have of late been thinking about public/private spheres and intermediary zones and was very pleased to come across these lines from "The Grand Dance", a poem by Gwendolyn MacEwen:

I am simply trying to track you down
In preworlds and afterworlds
And the present myriad inner worlds
Which whirl around in the carousel of space

Pre, after and inner — an interesting cartography emerges

And so for day 407

A favourite passage on what matters in what happens

Stein, Gertrude. Narration. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1935.

Narrative concerns itself with what is happening all the time, history concerns itself with what happens from time to time. And that is perhaps what is the matter with history and that is what is perhaps the matter with narrative.

That subtle distinction between "of" and "with" is here the matter of the unsaid but hinted element of the discourse.

And so for day 406

Another hand mapping

I have developed a mnemonic device to capture the important elements of time management for myself. On to the image of hand, I place "decision" at the opposable thumb and on each of the four fingers, the four traditional Ds for dealing with a task:


The thumb reminds one of the many little moments of "going meta" to direct the flow of attention. The four Ds are useless without the practised grace of pausing.

And so for day 405

The nature of sleep

I have developed a mnemonic device to capture the important elements of sleep for myself. On to the image of hand, I place "sleep" at the opposable thumb and on each of the four fingers I imagine its components:

"Deep Cogitation"

It is like programming a journey to the deep deep beyond and back.

And so for day 404

Rest is not Rusting

James H. Austin in Zen-Brain Reflections gives pause to ponder.

We consolidate memories mostly when we are either at rest or asleep, because these are quieter times when we are not processing any new external events. What evidence suggests that such consolidation does occur at rest? Electrodes implanted widely throughout cortex have monitored monkeys' brain functions for many hours. The firing patterns are distinctive. They confirm that those same nerve cells which had perviously fired together cooperatively during tasks, later reenacted their responsivities. When? During the next rest period. Yet at this time, no such task was being overtly performed. Without moving, the resting monkeys appeared to be "replaying" their previous task activity spontaneously.

Hardwired for rehearsal. Austin goes on to ask "Are such replaying data relevant to a period of open, relaxed meditation, an interval of quiet that seems reasonably close to an actual state of rest?" I think there should be a distinction between rest and relaxation. The racing mind can exist in a body at rest. A relaxed body is less likely, if at all, to be connected to a racing mind. Note, I am here introducing the notion of the speed of the rehearsal or replay in order to raise the spectre of mania. It may be a good thing that social animals find their rest periods interrupted.

And so for day 403


Sheldon Zitner contemplates a suitable memorial to poet P.K. Page in one of the poems collected in The Asparagus Feast. He hits upon a confection. The final lines say it all:

so Melba is remembered and Pavlova
in the flourishes of a lesser art,
appeasing a simpler hunger.

It is what the poet calls a "renewable elegance".

And so for day 402

Of Sounds and Languages

Torill Mortensen in a Wednesday, January 25, 2006 entry "Returning Home" on the blog thinking with my fingers writes

I feel homesick for a language that touches me in a different manner, a longing towards harsh consonants, clear vowels and words that bring to mind a wiser range of meanings.

I am reminded how differently animal sounds are represented across languages and I am led to wonder about the Basho haiku devoted to the sound of the encounter between frog and pond.

Basho's frog

I find it amusing that the syntactic resources of some languages permit a sort of reversal:

Basho's frog

An interesting discovery I would not have found without a detour nostalgia. Keen, now, to discover the sounds of other versions rendered in other languages.

And so for day 401

Of Time and Space and Art

Robert Wilson's CIVIL warS : Drawings, Models, and Documentation
"Selected Storyboard Drawings and Descriptive Texts for the CIVIL warS"
Act IIC Knee Play 6

Doors open very slowly to reveal two large cliffs.
Between cliffs, a small boat carrying a giraffe to China (14th C.) and Admiral Perry to Japan (19th C.)

So very much like Stein's plays and operas. And yet so different because of the drawings. They supply orientation. For example the giraffe is rendered in profile. There is a crescent moon in the drawing. The descriptive text is partial. The drawing is partial.

And so for day 400

Finger Pieces

There is a recent entry in Berneval that slyly substitutes the word "finders" for "fingers".

finders lightly running down a spine

It can appear to be a simple error or the work of the unconscious on the resources of language. Whatever, decontextualized, the phrase enters into a field of connotations wonderful to find.

And so for day 399

Relocated Poem

It has been found written on a small piece of notepaper filling the page. There is seems anchored to the space of the paper; here it floats away

boy back

down feather-dust down
an articulate cascade
cat-archly column

It's dated 19/7/98. It evokes finders lightly running down a spine. Handwriting like vertebrae.

Ten years on, I notice it needs a syllable or two. Delicately placed to turn nouns into adjectives.

boy back

down feather-dusted down
an articulate cascade
cat-archly columnar

And so for day 398

Hi Pro

Kim Williams in the eponymous cookbook and commentary has a recipe for "Hi Pro Chili" which, notwithstanding the claim of it being an April Fool's recipe, gives a convincing method for preparing earthworms for a high protein addition. Purged with a two day cornmeal diet, the worms are boiled then dried, then added to the chilli.

I believe the result would resemble granules of texturized vegetable protein.

And so for day 397

Sensing, Recording, Imagining

David Wojnarowicz in Close to the Knives invites a rethinking of the situation of the imagination:

There is really no difference between memory and sight, fantasy and actual vision. Vision is made of subtle fragmented movements of the eye. These fragmented pieces of the world are turned and pressed into memory before they can register in the brain. Fantasized images are actually made up of millions of disjointed observations collected and collated into the forms and textures of thought.

And of the other senses? They too snip and paste from the continuum.

And so for day 396

Where Laboratory meets Library

Jennifer Bennett in Our gardens, ourselves : reflections on an ancient art quotes Elizabeth Lawrence to the effect that

I cannot help it if I have to use my own well-designed garden as a laboratory, thereby ruining it as a garden.

The quotation is plucked somewhere from Gardening for Love: The Market Bulletins. It reverberates for me with a notion that I have held for a long time that a garden is a library (a kind of DNA bank). Whether the library comes equipped with scanners or limits users to note taking in pencil, the old work of quotation and annotation has a familiar gardening feel.

And so for day 395

a Skip and a Beat

In a piece collected in Close to the Knives David Wojnarowicz writes:

Hell is a place on earth. Heaven is a place in your head.

In case any readers might want to take this aphoristic slice of quotation as a license to mind trip, here is the fuller context:

[...] I play games with the road to shake myself up, at times squeezing my eyelids closed so that I drive quarter-mile stretches without sight and it becomes a fight to open my eyes before the side of the road overtakes me. The body that holds the wheel understands the danger that mounts by the moment and the second body smiles in the dark interior of the first. When the eyes finally open, they reveal nothing new about the world except a slight shift in landscape proving that increased mortality teaches me nothing. There's no enlarged or glittering new view of the nature of things or existence. No god or angels brushing my eyelids with their wings. Hell is a place on earth. Heaven is a place in your head.

Nothing new is revealed. But something is revealed. A touch of vertigo helps rebalance bodies.

And so for day 394

From Blackboard to Book and Beyond

D.F. McKenzie. in text first published in 1984 and collected in Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts proposes:

Only as its memory systems have grown has the computer changed its nature from blackboard to book. It has at long last become literate and qualified to join other textual systems. In time, I suppose, as it now learns to speak, it will constitute an oral archive as well.

Note how this evolution is not expressed in the idiom of reversal fondly cultivated by McLuhanesque formulations.

And so for day 393

Key as poem

From The Observer's Book of Furniture by John Woodforde, a bit of found poetry. It's the key to the wood grains illustrated on the endpapers.

woodgrain legend

And so for day 392

Chain ditty

Frank Zappa "Packard Goose" has a segment sung by the character, Mary from the bus.

Information is not knowledge.
Knowledge is not wisdom.
Wisdom is not truth.
Truth is not beauty.
Beauty is not love.
Love is not music.
Music is the best.

Hits the right note!

And so for day 391

Counting and recounting

In A Beautiful Mind, the biography of John Forbes Nash Jr. by Sylvia Nasar, one finds the following passage

Margaret Wertheim, author of Pythagoras' Trousers, a history of numerology, has pointed out that "people look to the order of numbers when the world falls apart, suggesting once again that delusions — like "mystical, cultic religious efflorescence" — aren't merely the ravings of madmen but conscious, painstaking, and often desperate attempts to make sense out of chaos.


And a little further on we read

To stay in one place and not to run away, to labor at articulating his delusions in a way that attracted an audience that valued them must be seen as evidence of some progression back to consensual forms of reality and behavior. And, at the same time, to have his delusions seen not just as bizarre and unintelligble, but as having an intrinsic value, was surely one aspect of these "lost years" that paved the way for an eventual remission.

Numerology as a ground for dialogue? It makes sense given its function in this case of constraining of behaviour to make communication possible.

And so for day 390

Increments of incrimination

Martin Buber Tales of the Hasidim: The Early Masters translated by Olga Marx

Zusya's account of the "incomplete" angel-accuser that emerges from acts of sin

The Accuser

This is Rabbi Zusya's comment on the pasage in the Sayings of the Fathers: 'He who commits one transgression has gotten himself one accuser.' "Every sin begets an accusing angel. But I have never seen a complete angel spring from the sin of a devout man of Israel. Sometimes he lacks a head; sometimes his body is crippled. For when a man of Israel believes in God, believes in him even while he is sinning, his heart aches, and what he does, he does not do with all his will, and so the angel never emerges complete."

Reminds one of the Buddhist teaching about how the seeds of hate shrivel up while tending with loving kindness to one's affairs in the world, especially as related by Thich Nhat Hanh.

And so for day 389

Kline on future values

Peter Kline The Everyday Genius (1988)

Relieved of the burden of drill, repetition and boredom, teachers will then be able to help us enter a new age of excitement about learning [...] For when machines handle the presentation of information, providing students with rapid evaluation and feedback, teachers will be free to engage in activities and discussions which help their students humanize what they have learned. [...] Because the interactive video-computer will bring rich new possibilities to the classroom, most people will desire to continue being students, at least on a part time basis, all through life. This will create new job opportunities for teachers, who will also be better paid than they are now. Indeed, education may become the biggest growth industry of the next half century. For there's nothing that can benefit people more, provided it actually works.

I like the ambiguity of "it works". It could be the education system or it could be the course of events predicted. Either way is pleasing to see the utopian bent reined in by a wry comment on contingency.

And so for day 388

White on ornamentation

Edmund White The Burning Library "The Wanderer: Juan Goytisolo's Border Crossings"

Artistically he has taken the post-modernist technique of intertextuality but given it an Arabic flavor not only through quotations from Arabic and Persian writers but also through the imitation of of esthetic rules behind Muslim music and architecture — repetition, abstraction, fluid variations on fixed themes, improvisation. Whereas Western art subordinates the parts to the whole, demotes decoration and promotes functional or structural clarity, Muslim art dissolves or rejects these hierarchies and prizes ornamentation and spontaneity.

how odd that ornamentation would be associated with spontaneity

And so for day 387

Time again for more space

From Elements of Japanese Design by Boyé Lafayette De Mente on "MA Mixing Space and Time"

Ma means space as well as time and refers to the space of time between events. It is space that is sensually as well as intellectually perceived. In the Japanese concept of things, ma gets your attention and directs your mind or thoughts along specific paths that lead to some kind of conclusion or some pleasant event. In art circles, ma also refers to the aesthetic and creative sense of the artist -- in the artist knowing how structure the flow of time.

It is worth spending a while again meditating on the modifications of our perceptions of time.

And so for day 386

White on time in the novel

Edmund White The Burning Library "Southern Belles Lettres: Cormac McCarthy" Time as a resource...

Since fiction, like music, is primarily a temporal art, any device that inflects the reader's perception of time becomes crucial, not just as a hook for grabbing the reader's attention but as a strategy for modifying the very material out of which this art is composed: time. Plots generate suspense and characters promote a sense of identification, both elements that engender a taut awareness of duration that has little to do with clock time.

It is worth spending a while meditating on the modifications of our perceptions of time.

And so for day 385

And the moral of the story is

Finished reading His Dark Materials. It's moving in a kind quiet way. It celebrates the everyday goodness of living a humble but engaged life. Its final emphasis is on building the Republic of Heaven in the here and now:

But then we wouldn't have been able to build it. No one could if they put themselves first. We have to be all those difficult things like cheerful and kind and curious and patient, and we've got to study and think and work hard, all of us, in all our different worlds, and then we'll build ... [ellipsis in the original]

And so for day 384

Ghost Days Spectral Hours

Jill Walker Rettberg.

To really understand blogs, you need to read them over time. Following a blog is like getting to know someone, or like watching a television series. [...] A blog consists of more than words and images. It cannot be read simply for its writing, but is the sum of writing, layout, connections and links and the pace of publication.
Time Stamp Fiction

In short, it helps to consider timestamps as cueing devices. Timestamps begin to make sense in a series. [...]

The book Kari recommends has some very suggestive divisions. _Revolution in Time_ is divided into three parts : Finding Time, Keeping Time, Making Time. This threesome might also provide an analogy for the psychosocial aspects of those timestamps you are studying in relation to the practice of blogging. Initially they assist the blog writer (and readers) in marking the phases of an intentional practice of recurring composition. Blogging once a day in the morning or in the evening etc. The ritual becomes incorported hence finding time — the hour of the timestamp is key. Keeping Time — the timestamp helps organize the archive and retrieve entries. The day and month of the timestamp are key. Making Time — timestamps become labels for a number of traversals through a blog [...]
Blog entries are often time stamped and dated. It is assumed by many readers that the displayed time stamp corresponds to event of composition. However the resourceful author could be publishing from a store of pre-written texts. As well, time stamps can be fudged for a variety of purposes. [...] If accounting is to telling, could collecting be to accessing? In a sense blogging is a redistributive activity. By playing with the partitions, the user, be they writer, reader or viewer, affect the nature of redistributive activity. [...] Gives new expression to the phrase "blogging on borrowed time."

Blog as TARDIS

Any room can become a time machine. A lesson taught to us by reading Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams.

First series of never ending looks future-wards 1, 2, 3, ...
Then as I child I learnt of integers and the doubleness of lines ... -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, ...
And then the numbers between 3.2, 3.3, ... 4.0

Each day then has many more than 24 hours.
It has mine, yours and theirs.
There are days within days.
Series. Work. Series.

And so for day 383
31.12.07 23:59
01.01.08 00:01