Routes to Expression

Educational consultant, Carmel A. Crévola has brought attention to the oral aspects of mastering language arts.

What you think, you can say.
What you say, you can write.
What you've written, you can read.
I like how in this approach the beginning can be triggered by a drawing (asking students to speak about what they have drawn) and how at the other end reading aloud returns the creator to orality.

And so for day 718


Diane Gossen in "Restitution: a way back to learning and understanding through self-respect" in Aboriginal Times (May June 2004) remarks

If you ask elders to comment on a community the worst thing they would say is that the people are having a hard time helping each other.
As a way of describing dynamics, it emphasizes collectively responsibility.

And so for day 717

The House by Robin Skelton

Quoting in full and risking copyright infringement of this poem by Robin Skelton. It opens In This Poem I Am: Selected Poetry of Robin Skelton edited by Harold Rhenisch. Very fitting for the beginning. It is entitled "The House"

This is the house
in which the words

are walls, are furniture,
are doors and cushions,

and in which the paintings,
chairs and rugs

are words, and all the words
stand in a circle

round the changing moment.
But when you enter,

opening the rhetoric
of the door,

seeing round you
vocabularies of sculpture,

libraries of sound,
do not assume

this is exclusively
a house of language;

think rather that it is
a place where love

has struggled to discover
what it means

and made these words
to hold you till it knows.
I was particularly taken by the "vocabularies of sculpture" and the "libraries of sound" and of course the final gesture of holding some one assumes beloved "you" in the matrix of the expressed.

And so for day 716

Serving to Evoke

The spirit of Rabelais lives close by ... I once signalled this passage to a colleague hinting at some parallels with Monique Wittig Les Guéllières.

The multinational Catholic army was in first-class shape. Those holy week preachers had the vigour of athletes. They wooed us little lesbians with their fatal frenzy: with snips of their scissors, tightenings of their nooses, hooks to the left eye, they made mincemeat of us. I was hamburger, tripes on the prie-dieu; there were only scraps of me left -- bits of ears, nose, and mouth. With a final stroke of a plane over my skull, they scalped me of my imagination, just to hold it up to the redskins. The preachers leaked their homicidal gases. Was there any chance at all that one day the light would shine over this enormous ratatouille, this human meatball stew, this tender nursery of epileptic babies? One after another, we submitted to the outrage, the goosings, the aggression, the rape, the promise of resurrection.
Jovette Marchessault "A Lesbian Chronicle from Medieval Quebec" from Lesbian Triptych translated by Yvonne M. Klein (Toronto, Women's Press, 1985)

And so for day 715

Public Wisdom

The 2004 Nonesuch CD notes of the 2002 recording of John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls reproduces a 2003 Atlantic Monthly essay by David Schiff which concludes thus:

In the months that followed the catastrophe, 9/11 became a source more of civic pride than of nationalism. The heroes were policemen and firemen, not soldiers; a mayor, not a president. The names read on television and the short biographies in the Times reminded New Yorkers of their diversity and their commonality. In Transmigration, Adams breaks down the divide between the high-bourgeois culture that created orchestras like the New York Philharmonic (and the repertory they play) in the nineteenth century and the mass culture that took its place in the twentieth. He has created a music that mirrors and exalts the public wisdom.
To learn more about the composition and the composer, visit

And so for day 714

What Reading Does

This set of lines is from a course description "Economies and Ecstasies: Routes Through Recent Critical Theory"

Reading takes you places.
Reading is a means of transformation.
Reading is a means of preservation.
Reading brings places to you.
Reading places you.
The last of these seems unidiomatic. There is a hint of French. "Placer quelqu'un" which is to recognize someone. Of course here there is a suggestion of wresting with a text that puts you in your place. In a less agonistic frame, reading offers you a place. It is an invitation to take up or resist.

And so for day 713

Generated Degenerating

In reading the mass of notes and musings that make up The Anti-Oedipus Papers by Félix Guattari, I come to a clearing where it begins to make sense (which is of course in Guattari's world a way station and not a final destination). I think it is the comparative framework that gives this paragraph its coherence and cogency. He is contrasting two great linguists.

For Hjelmslev, there is no interpreted system, only interpretable systems. So there is always a possible opening, a passage from non-sense to meaning [sens]. There is never any closure back onto semantic or grammatical "normality." And then there is Chomsky: the inherency, the realism of the state of a given language, the mechanism of engenderment, etc. What counts for Chomsky is for deep structures to rejoin real performances. And not for deep machines to produce non-sense, breaks and history.
In this translation by Kélina Gotman, I am particular taken by the implied syntagm: non-sense, breaks, history. It becomes almost possible to introduce a program: generate noise, cause disruption, alter history.

And so for day 712

Squiggle Jiggle

Jean Rennie Every Other Sunday: The Autobiography of a Kitchenmaid (1955). An excerpt is found in Food: An Oxford Anthology (1995) edited by Brigid Allen.

[The Chef] used to come in with the game or rabbits in his hands, throw them on the floor, and say, casually, 'To-morrow' or 'Dinner,' or 'Now.'


This Sunday morning, early in the year, he had brought the two pheasants in and thrown them on the floor and said, 'To-night.'

I'd noticed they looked rather bloated about the necks, and they had certainly hung quite a few days.

I put them on my table, and went to get some old newspapers to take the feathers, taking a few feathers off the breast first

When I got back, those pheasants had moved!

Gingerly, I pulled at those feathers on the neck, and the skin came away in my hands ...

Certainly I had seen maggots before, had even enjoyed throwing them on the hot stove and watching them wriggle before they were swept into the flames.

But this teeming, crawly heap of obscene life was something I'd never seen before, or since.
Gives new meaning to the expression "well hung."

And so for day 711

Egocentric Speech

Michael Cole. "Alexander Romanovich Luira: Cultural Psychologist" (pp. 11-28) in Contemporary Neuropsychology and the Legacy of Luria

Piaget had earlier stimulated interest in the way small children seem to talk to themselves when playing alongside other children, suggesting that this egocentric speech is a halfway house between an early autistic stage when children fail totally to consider others in the way they behave and a later time when speech becomes properly "for another" and therefore, socialized. Such speech, because it is egocentric, was thought to be functionless, a mere indicator of underlying cognitive immaturity. Luria and Vygotsky had quite the opposite view. In their opinion, egocentric speech is rather the middle stage in a transition from speech that controls another to speech that controls oneself; it is social in its origins and functional in the role it plays in helping the child to master the problem at hand.

The experimental procedure they invented in reaction to Piaget's interpretation of egocentric speech is a good example of their general methodological strategy: Children were put in problem-solving situations that were somewhat too difficult for them, and as their theory suggested it should, egocentric speech (speech not directed specifically to another), increased.
This was an immensely influtential synopsis for me. I was able to posit that people in situations of distress reach for the mechanism of egocentric speech as a coping mechanism mainly to rehearse scenarios. I was willing to wager that "Pedagogical situations are sensory. They are also interpersonal. Because they are sensory this makes even learning by oneself interpersonal. Egocentric speech is like a dialogue between the senses"

And so for day 710

World of Wonders, Sexy World

Alberto Manguel in his introduction (dateline of Toronto, 1992) to the anthology The Gates of Paradise is magnanimous in his praise for what has survived and almost mystical in his vision.

Confronted with the task of making art out of a bewildering variety of objects and subjects, acts and variations, feelings and fears; limited by a vocabulary designed for other purposes; walking the perilous edge between pornography and sentimentality, biology and purple prose, the coy and the over-explicit; threatened by societies intent on preserving the aristocracies of established power through the censoring forces of politics, education and religion, it is a miracle that erotic literature has not only survived this long but become braver, brighter, more confident, pursuing a multi-coloured infinity of objects of desire.

For the mystic, the whole universe is one erotic object and the whole body the subject of erotic pleasure. The same can be said of every human being who discovers that not only penis and clitoris are places of pleasure but also the hands, the anus, the mouth, the hair, the soles of the feet, every inch of our astounding bodies. That which physically and mentally excites the senses and opens for us what William Blake called the Gates of Paradise, is always something mysterious and, as we all eventually find out, its shape dictated by laws of which we know nothing. We admit to loving a woman, a man, a child. Why not a gazelle, a shoe, the sky at night?
Quite a domain to explore.

And so for day 709

Sacks on Luria and Freud

I am taken by the generosity of spirit that inhabits this account.

Here, it seems to me, is the key to Luria's early enthusiasm for psychoanalysis, for Freud; here, too, the permanent heuristic effect of Freud on his thought, whatever reservations and differences were later to appear. Freud offered a principle — the general principle Luria needed, the only tenable principle for a scientific, human psychology. And this principle was, in essence, an orientation which faced two ways: one which looked down into the biological depths of human nature, but equally and simultaneously up into the events and interactions of social life, a science that looked equally into nature and culture.
Goldberg, Elkhonon, ed. Contemporary Neuropsychology and the Legacy of Luria. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1990. Contains: Sacks, Oliver. Luria and “Romantic Science”, pp. 181-194.

And so for day 708

Vigour and Visions of Youth

Paul Goodman concludes "Counter-Forces for a Decent Society" the second of his 1966 Massey lectures (collected under the title the Moral Ambiguity of America) with a description of the radical youth of the time. It is a description extended to all youth of the time. And perhaps of all time since then.

So, describing American radical youth, and to a degree many other American youth, we have noticed their solidarity based on community rather than ideology, their style of direct and frank confrontation and personal contact, their democratic inclusiveness and aristocratic confidence careless of status, caste, or getting ahead, their selectivity and somewhat defiance of the affluent standard of living, their striving to be authentic and committed to their causes rather than merely belonging, their determination to have a say and their refusal to be pushed around or processed as standard items, their extreme distrust of top-down direction, their disposition to anarchist organization and direct action, their disillusion with the system of institutions and their belief that they can carry on major social functions in improvised parallel enterprises. Some of these traits, in my opinion, are natural to all unspoiled young people, but all of them are certainly in contradiction to the dominant organization of American society.
And I reflect on how old I was when that was broadcast on CBC radio. And how many young people have come of age since then.

And so for day 707

Solitary Recollections via Preserves

The poem acts in a way as food put by. It acts as a container for memory whose fragrances unroll at the touch of sensitive mind. Or so I believe after reading, Minnie Bruce Pratt's poem which gives the title to the collection The Sound of One Fork. With obvious echoes of the Buddhist koan, the poetic voice contemplates the woman next door who eats alone but "She does not hurry, she does not linger." And it is this balance that is carried over into the next stanza and its theme of aloneness and community. See:

Her younger neighbors think that she is lonely,
that only death keeps her company at meals.
But I know what sufficiency she may possess.
I know what can be gathered from year to year,
gathered from what is near to hand, as I do
elderberries that bend in damp thickets by the road,
gathered and preserved, jars and jars shining
in rows of claret red, made at times with help,
a friend or a lover, but consumed long after,
long after they are gone and I sit
alone at the kitchen table.
What I found remarkable in these lines is the subtle repetition of "I know" and "gathered" and how the knowing is followed by the gathering — in the ordered way of the poem towards the voicing of greater physicality — and then the proof of the "jars and jars shining". The poem doesn't end here with the figure of the sitter alone at the kitchen table. It could but it doesn't. Just as death could be the only companion but isn't.

And so for day 706

History and Complicity

I adore Neil Bartlett's resourcefulness in postulating three types of history of interest to gay men.

The first telling of the story ends with the "I" assuming a coherent contemporary identity; the second with "we" arriving at a coherent contemporary culture; the third with "him" truly deciphered, and enshrined as a major or minor character in the second story and patron saint or role model for the first. All three of these stories are biographies.
Further along I admire how he narrows the appeal of such a model patron saint. He provides an ironic, I believe ironic, twist on the notion of an elite readership that falls out as a consequence of the third method of telling the story.
The third method of reading obliterates even the possibility that I might find ugly, as well as beautiful, meanings in my past, my culture. Indeed, it elegantly does away with any complex or changeable "meaning" at all. It does not require the studied interpretation of signs; it does not need to be learnt or purchased. It is without difficulty. It presupposes that gay men recognize and enjoy the signs of wealth. Other meanings (gay signals operate in a straight world; wealth lives alongside poverty) are forgotten, just as we forget the hours in the gym and see only the natural beauty and health radiating from a well-muscled body. The works of Oscar Wilde, for instance, were written for us and for us alone, and only we can truly understand them. We belong together, don't you think?
It is a highly accessible elite that is addressed in the pages of Who was that man? a present for Mr. Oscar Wilde. It does not take much to slip into what the French call conivence. And it is this complicity that informs later on the meditation on how to interpret evidence and brings us, reader and author, to a species of resistance.
This "evidence" raises important questions about our own attitude to our own history. Do we view it with dismay, since it is a record of sorrow, of powerlessness, a record of lives wrecked? Or is it possible to read even these texts, written as they were by journalists, policemen and court clerks, with delight, as precious traces of dangerous, pleasurable, complicated gay lives?

And so for day 705

Apocalyptic Discourse and Underclasses

October 24, 1996. Special Section to The Toronto Star entitled "Fast Foward" contains article by Wade Rowland. It is called "Class and the Net". One of the call outs:

We tend to think of any breakthrough technology in apocalyptic terms, and those who don't see in it the "end of civilization as we know it" are apt to lend to it magical power to solve all manner of difficult problems.
And then there is this turn on the digital divide:
To avoid creating a new underclass in the information age, we have to concentrate on traditional social goals like education and income redistribution. We have a political job to do ... Technology creates opprotunities; opportunities turn into problems when we fail to manage them properly.
The sentiment of these call outs is perenial ***** all the more poignant when we in this wireless epoch read in the body of the text that "[i]n the era of the Internet, access to information is a function of access to telephone jacks." The technology has evolved. Income redistribution not so much.

And so for day 704

Resurrecting Coincidences of Layout

Michael Balzer describes in the 05.05.05 edition of Eye Weekly the art of Wim Delvoye then on show at the Olga Korper Gallery as part of the photography exhibition CONTACT 2005.

intriguing gimmick: the mosaics are not made of marble or ceramic as they appear to be, but of cold cuts like salami, ham, mortadella and chorizo
In the print edition of the paper, there is alongside the Eye Candy column a poem by Mark Truscott from Said Like Reeds or Things (Coach House Press, 2004) which is tile-like in its repetitions.
Knowing he's dead, Glenn Gould plays Schoenberg.
Knowing he's dead, Glenn Gould plays Schoenberg
Of course there is that ghostly ambiguity — not knowing just who the referent of the pronoun "he" might be ... similar reference ambiguity -- tile or cold cut?

And so for day 703

Reading the Feeling for Stein

Passionate engagement is always wonderful to witness. It borders on obsession.

[...] as I painstakingly made my way through the manuscripts of her early notes and writings, I saw something else. A picture of Stein's writing as a record of where her body was and had been emerged; every day that she wrote etched itself, not by date, but by shifts in grip and posture and concern and ink, upon the page
Karin Cope. Passionate Collaboration: Learning to Live with Gertrude Stein

I like the way she continues the story with a description of the experience of reading Stein aloud:
For to say the words aloud is to have made, already, a set of interpretive decisions about accent, intonation, scansion; in short, to have engaged the words — or Stein — in sort of animation.
I take the animation to be less spectoral and more cinematic.

And so for day 702

History, Culture and Sexism

I was taken by the phrase "securities in dimorphism". And then led to ponder the synchronicity of such securities.

Among the markers that distinguish interpretations of women and literature, and the presentation of women in literature, from the interpretations of class and literature, and the presentation of class in literature, is the frequency of the assumption that differences of sex and gender are immutable, ascocial, atemporal — a human embodiment of natural law. Ironically, both sexual conservatives and certain radical cultural feminists share an attraction to such assumptions. The former tends to prize the male; the latter certainly celebrates the female, but both seek synchronic securities in dimorphism.
Catharine R. Stimpson. "Ad/d Feminam: Women, Literature and Society (1980)" in Where the Meanings Are: Feminism and Cultural Spaces

I like the way she continues the argument:
A powerful conceit magically lifts the artist from society and stabilizes the assignment of creativity to an ahistorical realm. [...] to compel some women to find substitutes, signs of female creativity that draw on female biology, on blood, ova, genitalia. Such efforts repeat the pattern of using organic language of the body to transform a social role into a transcendent calling.
Implicitly here in this commentary on metaphors of writing, we are invited to consider just what sort of calling might be the act of reading.

And so for day 701

Living Artfully

Svevo Brooks has produced a charming and simple book, The Art of Good Living. It is no easy task to accomplish the simple. This book subtitled "Simple Steps to Regaining Health and the Joy of Life" does that. Brooks covers five areas:

It is a listing that can tumble. That is, the elements can be shuffled in any order of priority. You don't have to start at the beginning. It is important to realize that my short list doesn't correspond verbatim to the table of contents in The Art of Good Living. Take for example, the chapter on elimination, it is called "Good Housekeeping". In other words, there is a lot of charm at work.

And so for day 700

Mixed Luddites

I wonder if they exist and what they may call themselves. People who are early adapters of new technology in only some aspect of their lives and traditional about their technological choices in others. They might compose multimedia mashups and still send thank you notes written by hand. They may listen to radio and avoid television. They might have the latest espresso maker and still use cast iron (instead of nonstick) frying pans. I would venture to call them "mixed luddites" and suspect that many of them ride bicycles.

And so for day 699

McLuhan And

In clearing out some old boxes of papers, I came across the very beginnings of an outline of a course built in a comparative mode. Unfortunately all that exists of the proposed course is the listing of books by McLuhan and the names of authors to read alongside.

Mechanical Bride: Barthes Mythologies

Gutenberg Galaxy: Ong Ramus, Method & the Decay of Dialogue

Medium is the Massage: Baudrillard Simulations

From Cliché to Archetype: Frye Anatomy of Criticism
And the posthumous Laws of Media was paired with the far earlier Vico.

And so for day 698

Ghosts of Liberties Past

William Gibson. Spook Country. Chapter 29 "Insulation". The character Milgrim is speaking.

"Are you so scared of terrorists that you'll dismantle the structures that made America what it is?


"If you are, you let the terrorist win. Because that is exactly, specifically, his goal, his only goal: to frighten you into surrendering the rule of law. That's why they call him 'terrorist.' He uses terrifying threats to induce you to degrade your own society."


"It's based on the same glitch in human psychology that allows people to believe they can win the lottery. Statistically, almost nobody ever wins the lottery. Statistically, terrorist attacks almost never happen."
I like how the theme of gambling is woven into the theme of the degradation of the rule of law. It makes it as concrete as holding onto a lottery ticket. And as equally deflating.

And so for day 697

Image Culture Burnout

Scrawl retrieved.

Got a name: Thomas Scoville

Got a phrase: "image culture burnout"

Conducted a search.

Found the article: The Elements Of Style: UNIX As Literature

His is hyphenated "image-culture burnout". Mine is not. Displacing the emphasis. Thinking about the "image of culture burnout". Somewhat justified by the locus of Scoville's use:

I will admit NT made my life easier in some respects. I found myself doing less remembering (names of utilities, command arguments, syntax) and more recognizing (solution components associated with check boxes, radio buttons, and pull-downs). I spent much less time typing. Certainly my right hand spent much more time herding the mouse around the desktop. But after a few months I started to get a tired, desolate feeling, akin to the fatigue I feel after too much channel surfing or videogaming: too much time spent reacting, not enough spent in active analysis and expression. In short, image-culture burnout.
The physicality of it all is noteworthy. Scoville has much more to say about the freedom that the mastery of UNIX brings. Me, for now, I will stick to wondering about the proliferation of image culture burnout.

And so for day 696

Signification and Purposelessness

There are never enough explanations of the difference between communication and signification for the latter is a particularly challenging concept for students. The following seems to do well.

[S]ign activity takes place irrespective of specific functions and purposes, and therefore it is sometimes necessary to consider sign activity as a sort of idle, non-functional and unproductive semiotic mechanism.
From Susan Petrilli and Augusto Ponzio Thomas Sebeok and the Signs of Life in the series Postmodern Encounters edited by Richard Appignanesi.

And so for day 695

Particular Settings in the Built Environment

I am carried away into a world cherishing the ways of the mind by the following list of neat places:

UNIVERSEUM (European Academic Heritage Network) is concerned with academic heritage in its broadest sense, tangible and intangible, namely the preservation, study, access and promotion of university collections, museums, archives, libraries, botanical gardens, astronomical observatories, and university buildings of historical, artistic and scientific significance.
The listing reminds me of the setting of the Philip Pullman novels, the Oxford of His Dark Materials.

And so for day 694

Turing on States and Instructions

Andrew Hodges. Alan Turing: The Enigma of Intelligence "The Spirit of Truth" p. 107 note

The arguments also implied two rather different interpretations of the machine 'configuration'. From the first point of view, it was natural to think of the configuration as the machine's internal state — something to be inferred from its different responses to different stimuli, rather as in behaviourist psychology. From the second point of view, however, it was natural to think of the configuration as a written instruction, and the table as a list of instructions, telling the machine what to do. The machine could be thought of as obeying one instruction, and then moving to another instruction. The universal machine could then be pictured as reading and decoding the instructions placed upon the tape. Alan Turing himself did not stick to his original abstract term 'configuration', but later described machines quite freely in terms of 'states' and 'instructions', according to the interpretation he had in mind. This free usage will accordingly be employed in what follows
In Turing's model the moves are simple. A symbol being scanned can be changed, erased or remain unchanged; the machine can move to observe another segment (square); the machine can remain in the same configuration or change to some specified configuration. Past moves determine future moves; a state may also be treated as an instruction.

In some ways this is like reading a text.

And so for day 693

So Said Wang Wei

The reduplication in this poem by Wang Wei for me provides a mimetic commentary on the actions of the birds.

Vast vast the water falls

              where the white egrets fly

Dark dark the summer trees

              where the yellow orioles sing

from "Written at my house near the Wang River at a time of incessant rain" collected in Poems of Wang Wei translated by G.W. Robinson. And indeed the repetition reminds one of the persistent rain.

I love Robinson's note on these lines:

Though literary allusion, involving mild plagiarism, is an essential feature of Chinese literature, some critics feel that here Wang Wei, always particularly inclined to plagarise, has gone too far. He has taken two successive five-syllable lines from the T'ang poet, Li Chia-yu, and tacked on a pair of reduplicated expressions at the beginning (vast vast, dark dark). But it is also argued that he has greatly enhanced the feeling of two otherwise banal descriptive lines.

And so for day 692


Scat in the Eye

Phyllis Gottlieb, in a poem full of the sensibility of children at play and the social reflections found in childhood rhymes, presents the reader with a thoughtful aside:

(as I was sitting beneath a tree
a birdie sent his love to me
and as I wiped it from my eye
I thought: thank goodness cows can't fly)
Size matters. From "Ordinary Moving" in the collection of the same title.

And so for day 691

Intellectual Alternative

Catharine R. Stimpson is for me one of the unrivalled masters of peroration. The endings of her essays are designed to carry your thought forward in an amiable meditation on what has been presented. Take for example the lines just preceding the conclusion to "Tillie Olsen: Witness as Servant (1977)" from Where the Meanings Are: Feminism and Cultural Spaces. It is so easy to lift and retain in memory. It is meant to.

[T]he artist must continually invent extraordinary classrooms and curricula. He or she must in life, become an intellectual alternative.
One reads here the shadow of Gramsci's organic intellectual. And something more — intellectual with Stimpson is an adjective as well as a noun. The life of the mind is celebrated as is difference. This sets the stage for the approaching the act of witnessing as a way of seeing a way out.
The act of witnessing, when it returns to the shadows of the past and becomes elegiac, sees possibilities of wretchedness that, somehow, the witness evaded; the final losses that the ego did not, after all, have to endure. The act of witnessing, when it records the dreams that animated the past and were a source of its dignity, sees possible alternatives to wretchedness. In both cases, the witness is, in effect saying, "I wish my work to so alter circumstances that if I were to be born again, I would not have to fear death, and the death of my dream, as I once did."
This is a life lived well beyond survivour guilt.

And so for day 690

Cell is to Nature as Point is to Art

Wassily Kandinsky towards the end of the "line" chapter of Point and Line to Plane (translated by Howard Dearstyne and Hilla Rebay) contrasts nature and art.

One must not, however, draw false conclusions from similar cases: the difference between art and nature lies not in the basic laws, but, rather, in the material which is subject to these laws. Furthermore, the basic characteristics of the material, which in each case are different, must not be left out of consideration: the proto-element of nature — cell — which is well known today, is in constant, actual movement, whereas the proto-element of painting — point — knows no movement and is rest.
Geology seems half-way between nature and art.

And so for day 689