Impressed Modalities Compressed

Published in 1995 in The Cyborg Handbook edited by Chris Hables Gray, "Split Subjects, Not Atoms; or How I Fell in Love with My Prosthesis" by Sandy Stone has intrigued me for its particular insight into the possibilities of transcoding, in particular the evocation of other sensory modalities through the transmissions emanating from one restricted modality.

[T]he more I observed phone sex the more I realized I was observing very practical applications of data compression. Usually sex involves as many of the senses as possible: taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing — and, for all I know, short-range psychic interactions — all work together to heighten the erotic sense. Consciously or unconsciously, phone sex workers translate all the modalities of experience into audible form. In doing so they have reinvented the art of radio drama, complete down to its sound effects, including the fact that some sounds were best represented by other improbable sounds, which they resembled only in certain iconic ways. On the radio, for example, the sound men (they were always literally men) represented fire by crumpling cellophane, because to the audience it sounded more like fire than holding a microphone to a real fire did.
I slow down my reading and parse that "involves" not as a simultaneous plenitude but a telling sequence. Note that "hearing" is the last in the sequence and it is pivotal in the account of mimetic rendering that follows. I am sure that the "working together" doesn't necessarily translate to a working in unison. Attention can rotate. And often does.

It is interesting how consideration of mimesis and representation can lead one to reflect on consciousness in its everyday and its heightened forms. Through the recreated signals that harken to a sensory experience (without duplicating that experience in its particulars), one comes to appreciate that the experience outside the recreation is also dependent upon (cultural) codes.

And so for day 869

Tripping Out

Since you are all readers, you might enjoy a chuckle at this self-reflexive moment from a novel by William Gibson (Zero History). The narrator is describing Milgrim a character who is a recovering addict.

Reading, his therapist had suggested, had likely been his first drug.
Of course there is a link, a thematic link, to Avital Ronell's Crack Wars: Literature Addiction Mania which proposes its own set of links to the addiction to literature through the example of Emma Bovary in Flaubert's eponymous novel. I have in mind particularly the particles on page 131 where from I have constructed the following table:
religion pharmacy
music literature
non-mimetic [ ? ]
This is drawn from the passage on p. 131 where Ronell is describing the pharmacists offer to Emma.
He [M. Homais, the pharmacist] has offered Emma the unlimited use of his library, inviting the addicted neighbor to mix pharmaceuticals and literature. [...] Literature comes down on the side of pharmacy, if somewhat negatively cast. Religion, which also deals in transcendental experience, appears to opt for the non-mimetic trance, which is why music is viewed as safe text.
And in my index card inserted at this point in the book I ask, "I wonder if this is related to how Ronell deploys non-address p. 93" but the question is besides the point for the reference at page 93 is about suicide as the violence of non-address. What I am after here is the term to complete the table and somehow I don't believe that a simple reversal of non-mimetic into mimetic will do the trick. And it is with a cheery countenance that I read many pages later (page 162) in a dialogue of the dead staged by Ronell that "Michaux speaks to Freud about psychomimetic substances and the miraculated subject." And voilà the term: psychomimetic. It's set up almost as a whispered aside as it is encased in parentheses and set in italic type &mdash just like a capsule that needs to be ingested to take effect. Note that the address is not to the reader directly it passes from one character to another — some residue of that non-address that is suicide — the text would not necessarily fall apart from an awowal of psychomimetic inclinations (but we would not have the wonderful effect of Ronell's reticence in the matter of Flaubert): tripping over the non-capusule high.

And so for day 868

Again After Basho

My earlier glonk noise on Basho's famous frog-pond poem has some twins composed in 2001 and here reproduced for your aural pleasure:

pond, old old pond
frog leaping in
in ripple sound

rippling sounds
from frog splash
a pond wrinkle

I find that this moves from a study of the qualities of "o" and "i" vowels and their reduplication to a tiny note of short vowel "a" that tinkles.

And so for day 867

Landscape and Portrait

Remus and Romulus

This was torn out of a larger sequence and as I mused in Portrait and Landscape the orientation of the lay out sometimes affects the texture of the reception. Here in blocks along the vertical:


woolf cries
over and over
above and over
over and over
under and ever
over and over
And an image of the horizontal layout: the howl pulsating at the same time as the woolf cries repeat over and over.
If you know a little about the story of Remus and Romulus, you know that rival hills play an important aspect — not too much of a stretch from hills to separate stanzas.

And so for day 866

Fiction and Contracts

The measure of metaphor... and the madness of theatre.

The centre of the phenomenon of act A counting as act B is not the existence of rules and conventions, also not the existence of intentions, but rather the acquisition of rights and responsibilities.
Nicholas Wolterstorff. Works and Worlds of Art. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980). p. 205.

How often do readers feel they owe authors something? How often does the viewer, the listener, feel some duty?

And so for day 865

Beauty Said Sublime Rehearsed

This stanza from a poem in Alicia Ostriker's The Book of Seventy is shaped like what it is about: it is a thing of beauty.

we have almost escaped the rule of reason
we have almost returned
to the rule of beauty
I like the balance that is achieved and the subtle hint at referencing the "sublime" which is aligned with reason. And from my reading of Burke and Kant (refreshed by entries at Wikipedia, especially the one on the sublime) I remember that the pleasure of beauty derives from the passion of love and that the sublime's frisson is met in the taming of fear. Such taming proceeds by way of repetition and detachment. In a way the sublime depends upon rehearsal and the carting away of death.

And so for day 864

Manual Landscapes

Some time in October 2003 I copied out an excerpt from the poem "Rust" by one Michael Cumming turns out that thanks to modern search engines I am able to correctly identify the poet as Newfoundlander Michael Crummey and the volume in which the poem appears as Hard Light. This is what captivated me:

The boy watches his father's hands. The faint blue line of veins rivered across the backs, the knuckles like tiny furrowed hills on a plain. A moon rising at the tip of each finger.
This is exquisite. It makes you want to further meditate upon the countries carried in the history of hands. In such small compass, a great expanse.

And so for day 863

The Eucharist of Reading

I suggest to a friend exploring questions of time and identity that they might find this brief summary of Ricoeur by Caroline Bassett useful

Ricoeur's narrative dialectics, in which narrative is at once read as an active and ongoing emplotment (narrative as a dynamic becoming), and as a form that offers resolution (narrative as interpretation), develops out of these meditations. The narrative model emerging out of this dialectic is extensive, and is organised into three moments, or horizons: mimesis1, 2, and 3. The first moment of mimesis reaches backwards towards the horizon of event and experience. The second is the moment of poesis relating to that referent and breaking with it. The third moment of mimesis occurs when the configured text is reconstituted within the horizon of the reader. This is the arc of narrative. It extends across these horizons and is traversed by the reader, who takes from the work its sense of reference and who opens this same work into her or her own horizons.
Bassett goes on in The Arc and the Machine: narrative and new media to supplement the limitations of Ricoeur's model with some consideration of Fredric Jameson's work on narrative and ideology. Before she moves on to Jameson she does expose the heart of Ricoeur:
His conception of narrative, as an interpretation of events in the world, locates narrative within the frame of history, memory and futurity. On the other hand, the formal structures of narrative are understood within a wider framework, a metaphysics of temporality that treats the subjective human experience of time within a broader conception of time as infinity or eternity. It is in this way that this is perhaps a theological framework. For Ricoeur [...] narrative is more than socially symbolic — and the exceeding of this limit marks the limitations of Ricoeur's analysis as a historical analysis.
And so I am led to believe that the moves from prefiguration to configuration and refiguration are the steps of a eucharist (ingesting) model of text handling. But how else are we to figure that intuition that stories become parts of ourselves? By remembering that they are not all part of others. For these we are grateful.

And so for day 862

Sodomy and Myth

Back in the days when I still engaged with the archetypes of Christian thought, I was having a rather inspired day when I typed out the following

Yet it was
the serpent's spectrum
that led Adam to Sodomize Eve
and introduce pleasure into procreation.
I even had a technical explication off to the side about that capitalized "Sodomy"
Sodomize to create cities inimical to angels
agents, messangers of the myth of immortality
Yup that's mess-angers for messengers.

At this late remove it is the hand written annotation above it all that pits "egotism vs grace" that strikes me as the real stake at hand. Still that is a mighty interesting definition of sodomy — at once appealing in its cleansing of illusion and yet those poor damned angels... Yet even more stunning perhaps is the little arrow from "cities" pointing to "growth --> organic superstructures". Neither cities nor angels seem what they might appear to be. In a post-Biblical context it's so very odd that they cannot occupy the same space (heavenly host and heavenly city) But in a universe where there is no heaven at all, the key is in that attitude to immortality — city is perpetually crumbling and requires work all the while... it carries on despite being the site of transience: a special sweet spot.

And so for day 861


Ours and not ours. This is how I summarize the take on Columbus found in a smart little volume by Stefano Milioni about the foodstuffs that were adopted by Italians post contact. The volume is entitled Columbus Menu: Italian Cuisine after the First Voyage of Christopher Columbus and was published by the Italian Trade Commission out of New York. The figure of Columbus is the object of a complex gesture of appropriation and disavowal. Take the concluding paragraph from the section "To The Reader"

With the commemoration this year of the 500th anniversary of the first voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World, a contest has erupted among European countries to claim credit for that enterprise, even if it means shouldering responsibility for some of the grave consequences of the historic undertaking.
There is further elaboration on the next page in the opening lines of the "Introduction"
It is not a question, here, of defending at all costs the Italian character of the explorer or his accomplishments, simply because Columbus was a native of Genoa. In addition, history also tells us that Italy, which was then divided into a multitude of small states, most of which were under the influence or domination of the major European powers of that time, played no role in the organization of the early voyages or the subsequent penetration and exploitation of the America continents by Europeans. Whether because of historical factors, incapacity, indolence or good will or bad, no Italian ship crossed the Atlantic in those years and certainly not with a cargo of armed soldiers ready to defy the unknown primarily in response to the mirage of wealth and power.
And the introduction rolls on to discuss the arrival and adoption of new foodstuffs. And various sections are given over to tomatoes, potatoes and chocolate among others with examples of first Italian recipes and modern recipes. And lots more interesting historical bits about food production since 1492.

And so for day 860

Jug Jug

I am puzzled by one of the stories Martin Buber collects in Tales of the Hasidim: The Early Masters trans. Olga Marx (New York: Schocken Books, 1947)

Once the Baal Shem said to his disciples: "Just as the strength of the root is in the leaf, so the strength of man is in every utensil he makes, and his character and behavior can be gauged from what he has made." Just then his glance fell on a fine beer jug standing in front of him. He pointed to it and continued: "Can't you see from this jug that the man who made it had no feet?"

When the Baal Shem had finished speaking, one of his disciples happened to pick up the jug to set it on the bench. But the moment it stood there it crumbled to bits.
This seems like a piece of techno-determinism. Although it is difficult to see fault with a jug made by a man with no feet. Many a jug, after all, is footless.

On rereading the story it seems that it may be more about the bench than the jug :) Never trust a disciple's hand and a bench. You however gotta love the lame potter for providing such a good story.

And by some cultural interference, I am reminded of the lines in T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land in which are rendered the cry of the nightengale: "Jug jug jug jug jug jug / so rudely forc'd. / Tereu". And what use is there in a universe in constant metamorphosis for the need to be reading character and behaviour from objects? Is not the tale equally about attitudes towards objects &mdash and the goodness of whether I preserve or destroy depends not only upon the object in question but to what purpose...

And so for day 859

Solitude Transcriptions

A little journal entry from a end of March or beginning of April 2003.

Now the question of solitude
becomes apparent in its urgency.
To be alone is to break away
from being on. from being in a
situation of

        being listened by for.

From providing a reflective service for
the other. From being aligned with
the other. A wanting to be offside,
not at the other's side. Not to be
outside or inside. But A-side.
To rupture the hermeneutical circle
and the constant series of positionings
and re-interpretations.

        To whisper to one's self.
        An aside.
It reminds me of Anthony Storr's study on solitude. It also echoes for me a need to retreat from the theatrics of the everyday that can be very acute at moments.

And so for day 858

Circle of Chairs

The 2004 edition (A Marian Wood Book published by G.P. Putnam's Sons) has on the cover a sketch of six different chairs in arranged in a semicircle. The same drawing is reproduced on the title page and each of the chapters has one of the set of chairs as an emblem. This piece of design work has of course a corresponding moment in the The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler: the host of one of the sessions of the book club has an insufficient number of matching chairs. It also happens (and the pictures cannot convey this) that the host of that particular session is the male member of the group and is a fan of science fiction. Here then is the picture that admirably shows the diversity of the group and their intent common purpose.

A little spoiler: by the end of the novel, the male character captures the attention of one of the other members of the group (in a reversal similar to that of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice) and they converse about, of course, science fiction.
Jocelyn turned directly to Grigg. "I read those two Le Guins you gave me. In fact, I bought a third. I'm halfway through Searoad. She's just amazing. It's been forever since I found a new writer I love like that."

Grigg blinked several times. "Le Guin's in a league of her own, of course," he said cautiously. He gained enthusiasm. "But she's written a bunch. And there are other writers you might like, too. There's Joanna Russ and Carol Emshwiller."
My own initiation into the novels of Jane Austen went by way of P.D. James, Death Comes to Pemberley (which, by the way, was also the first novel by James that I read). And I have been reading science fiction for years.

And so for day 857

Space: oriental and auditory

I once sent an inquiry to the McLuhan discussion list. There was little uptake on my questions.

It is perhaps well-known that the McLuhans (Eric & father) in Laws of Media refer to F.M. Cornford's "The Invention of Space" in Essays in Honour of Gilbert Murray (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1936) perhaps via their acquaitance with Rosalie Colie and reading of her book Paradoxia Epidemica: The Renaissance Tradition of Paradox (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1966).

It is perhaps less well-known that Marshall McLuhan in a piece entitled "Cybernation and Culture" in The Social Impact of Cybernetics ed. by Charles Dechert (New York: Simon & Schuster (Clarion Books), 1967) [paperback reprint of the 1966 University of Notre Dame Press collection of papers from a 1964 conference] refers to the work of Georg Von Bekesy Experiments in Hearing.

I quote from McLuhan (p. 97)

Bekesy found it expedient to explain the nature of sound and of auditory space by appealing to the example of Persian wall painting. The world of the flat iconic image, he points out, is a much better guide to the world of sound than three-dimensional and pictorial art. The flat iconic forms of art have much in common with acoustic or resonating space.

Intellectual Network
1) Was McLuhan drawing directly upon the 1960 English text of Von Bekesy's book? Was he capturing information from a review? from a correspondent? from a conversation with researchers in the Explorations group?

History of Ideas
2) Does anyone know if the occidental development of models of space has been subjected to an analysis along the lines of Edward Said's Orientalism?

The questions still stand.

And so for day 856

Oratorical Machines

Edward Said could be considered in some ways a theorist of social media:

While it is true and even discouraging that all the main outlets are, however, controlled by the most powerful interests and consequently by the very antagonists one resists or attacks, it is also true that a relatively mobile intellectual energy can take advantage of and, in effect, multiply the kinds of platforms available for use. [...] communities shunned by the main media, and who have at their disposal other kinds of what Swift sarcastically called oratorical machines. Think of the impressive range of opportunities offered by the lecture platform, the pamphlet, radio, alternative journals, occasional papers, the interview, the rally, the church pulpit, and the Internet, to name only a few.

Edward W. Said from Humanism and Democratic Criticism [2004] p. 132
The reader is set in a community. And the conversations are multiple.

And so for day 855

Two Tours of MOO Gardens

There are riches in the old worlds of MOO. Take the gardens of Lambda MOO (accessible via Telnet 8888)

One search on the MOO @findroom garden --- a long list of gardens crops up -- matches 103 rooms

Tour One

Log on and follow the directions

out -> The Living Room (#17)
northwest -> The Kitchen (#24)
south -> The Kitchen Patio (#1467)
south -> Base of Large Oak Tree (#2834)
southwest -> Forest (near the Open Field) (#41099)
southeast -> Forest (near the Ruined Garden) (#33183)
southwest -> Forest (near the Green Cathedral) (#63067)
southwest -> Forest (near the Japanese garden) (#69546)
southeast -> Japanese Garden (#38351)
There's a Buddha statue in the Japanese Garden that reads your karma once you meditate (sit down first). You can also feed the fish in the pond. In the Forest (near the Open Field) you can carve messages into an oak.

Tour Two

In the long list of gardens, I found Merry's Herb Garden (#3661) which is owned by Merry (#97613) and has (in my mind's eye a large slab of) smooth riverstone with an engraving...
It is better, I think, to reach for the stars
than to sit flustered because you know you cannot reach them.
At least he who reaches will get a good view,
a good stretch, and perhaps even
a low hanging apple for his effort.

--Montolio DeBrauche
This may be a saying from Montolio Debrouchee -- a blinded Ranger from the Forgotten Realms and in that direction further adventure lies.

And so for day 854


Frame One

Salman Rushdie in Imaginary Homelands. Essays and Criticism 1981-1991 writes about a book of images by John Bishton and John Reardon called Home Front. He makes this point:

But the significance of such a photographic essay as Home Front is not only aesthetic. For these are images of people who have for centuries been persecuted by images. The imagination can falsify, demean, ridicule, caricature and wound as effectively as it can clarify, intensify and unveil; and from the slaves of old to the British-born black children of the present, there have been many who could testify to the pain of being subjected to white society's view of them.
Frame Two

Notes from the beginnings of a sketch of a meditation (notes written in ink and revisited with remarks in pencil later, some years later) [here transcribed in a set of vertical blocks].
the seen afar pictures

To see. }
To picture. }
To set. }


- benign sight -

This is the beginning of an
interrogation of the traces
of a ray theory vision
in Freudian scopophilia.
Under "Object" was added in pencil two lines:
To distance.
To mark distance.
Under the "-benign sight-" inscription was added a whole paragraph in pencil:
If there is a distinction between to see and to picture reciprocal gaze becomes impossible. The dream of the ray theory of vision — the return of the gaze by the object — reveals itself to be chimera. To see & be seen, a neat little two-way interaction, becomes quite different when the activity is one of picturing.
Pen, pencil and transcription. The pieces float by and with juxtapositions drift on again. Still have to figure out how a ray vision theory ties into imagination as explained by Rushdie.

Frame Three

On the back of the paper from which is transcribed the content of Frame Two is a page from a bibliography with selected quotations and comments and there is to be found an exemplary excerpt from the explanation that poet Jerome Rothenberg gives of his concept of "total translation."
Rothenberg, Jerome. Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas. Revised Edition. New York: Alfred Van der Mark, 1986. This along with the anthology Technicians of the Sacred offer examples of Rothenberg's concern with what he calls "total translation," a term he uses "for translation (of oral poetry in particular) that takes into account any or all elements of the original beyond the words." (xxi) "Each moment is charged: each is a point at which meaning is coming to surface, where nothing's incidental but everything matters terribly." (xix)
And the bits we carry with us cohere. Up to a point. For in that entry on Rothenberg there is a note to "Compare with Hermetic Imagination" which is like a signal to be wary of the plenitude of meaning that can overwhelm. As Rushdie concludes: "We live in ideas. Through images we seek to comprehend our world. And through images we sometimes seek to subjugate and dominate others. But picture-making, imagining can also be a process of celebration, even of liberation. New images can chase out the old."

And so for day 853

Pending and Pensive

Daphne Marlatt sharing a keynote with Nicole Brossard at a gathering in honour of translator and theorist Barbara Godard reminds us of the palpable work that play with language involves.

ah, words wording the worder. so that her edges disappear in verb-touch, prepositional shift, noun-lure, the beckoning of a comma, so perception unfurls in infinite leafings out, cognate recognitions….
Daphne Marlatt shared with Nicole Brossard the keynote address for "Inspiring Collaborations" the symposium in honour of Barbara Godard, held in December, 2008.
Taking the next breath in. On the largest level we collaborate continuously because the next breath in is the breath of all the others who surround us, the expiration of leaves, of people, the outpouring of clouds and rivers, the exhalation of living seas. We collaborate without even recognizing that we do so. This is the collaboration of inter-dependent giving that species in a balanced habitat offer one another, all the others.
Marlatt's keynote was entitled "Breaks and Becomings" after a phrase by Godard. Available on line

And so for day 852

Broken Acrostic

Audre Lorde invites the reader to contemplate some unfinished business in the concluding lines of "Legacy — Hers" collected in The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance. Poems 1987-1992. A dying word becomes a task.

your last word to me was      wonderful
and I am still seeking the rest
of that terrible acrostic
And the temptation to take up the word and create a "broken acrostic" that is an acrostic that is incomplete and thereby fulfilled...
W aterfalls fall
O ver only
N ew nothingness
D epth deep
E mpty empty
R ethundering
Picked up the trick of reduplication from Wang Wei

And so for day 851

Cynthia Cynthia Cynthia

OMG. My pal tweeted about an entry where I referenced an article by journalist Cynthia Macdonald (A Shift in Perception). He used the hashtag #cynthiamacdonald along with that of #heidegger. Upon seeing the two hashtags in close proximity, I conducted a web search with the name Cynthia Macdonald plus that of Heidegger and found the philosopher. And then a search through Wikipedia netted the poet. Many people, one name. And as luck would have it one of them contemplated changing names:

For my father, Leonard Lee; his father Leonard C. Lee; and his grandfather Leonard C. Levy. I have wanted for some time to take back my great-grandfather's name; had I not been cautioned about the confusion caused by authors' name changes, this book would have listed the author as Cynthia Levy-Macdonald. In the invisible writing of families, that is how it reads.
That is from the dedication of Alternate Means of Transport.

A well-known search engine produces a reference to "Amiri Baraka" if you go looking for "Leroi Jones". Some name changes become the sole name that people remember: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. And sometimes librarians and search engines lag behind in recording the biographic details of a name change: the author of The fat woman measures up Donald, C.M. (Christine M.) changed her name to Clare [surname], Hilary. Source: Queer CanLit: Canadian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Literature in English. An Exhibition Curated by Scott Rayter, Donald W. McLeod, and Maureen FitzGerald — none of whom to my knowledge have changed their names. The exhibition was displayed at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto from 9 June to 29 August 2008 and the catalogue is available for download free of charge. For the portrait of C.M. Donald now know as Hilary Clare that appeared in the exhibit see the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives site

And so for day 850


How to listen involves being heard.

Literacy in the 21st Century is defined as the ability to use language and images in rich and varied forms to read, write, listen, view, represent, and think critically about ideas. It involves the capacity to access, manage, and evaluate information; to think imaginatively and analytically; and to communicate thoughts and ideas effectively. Literacy includes critical thinking and reasoning to solve problems and make decisions related to issues of fairness, equity, and social justice. Literacy connects individuals and communities and is an essential tool for personal growth and active participation in a cohesive, democratic society.
Ontario Ministry of Education School Effectiveness Framework

And so for day 849

Time Matters

There is a marvellous gem of elucidation in To Tell a Story: Narrative Theory and Practice. Papers Read at a Clark Library Seminar. February 4, 1972. It is Stanley Fish's reading of a sermon by Lancelot Andrewes. It is difficult to do the piece justice by selective quoting. But we try:

Ten is an arbitrary number signaling the end of an arbitrary sequence; any number would have done, any order would have served; it is a matter of indifference, an indifference Andrewes displays openly when he closes or rather stops by remarking: "I see, I shall not be able to goe further than this verse." Here we see exactly how time is at once everything and nothing; presumably the bell has rung and he must giver over, but while time has run out, the sermon is nevertheless complete, for the meaning it offers is found not at the end of it, in the fullness of time, but at every point in its temporal succession. Am I then arguing that the parts of the sermon could be rearranged with no loss of coherence or power? Not at all, for, paradoxically, it is the sequence of the sermon as it stands that leads us to affirm the irrelevance of sequence. The experiential point is realized only through the agency of the structure it subverts, which becomes, in effect, the vehicle of its own abandonment.
At some point the essay will fall into the public domain and some enterprising soul will upload it. Or before then some donor will underwrite the expense of bringing all the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library Seminar Papers to open digital access. I am indifferent to the order of the options but desirous of the essay getting a wide reading.

And so for day 848

Experience Expressed

M. Travis Lane in "Skindeep" (collected in The Crisp Day Closing on My Hand) has a stanza setting off these lines

can bruise. It sometimes mends.
It can not teach.
I'm not so sure that once lifted out of context that the lines express a perennial truth though they seem poised to do so. The lines concluding the previous stanza provide an entry into the link (or not) between teachable moments and experience.
Does experience teach?
I thought that once,
and held my inexperience as a shame.
Of course inexperience is a quantum of some sort of experience. And co-learning occurs. Even between people of unequal experiences. Worth thinking a little more about what is teaching. Of course the answer is in the line just before the question quoted above where the poem's voice asks "Does it matter that I get things wrong?" And the answer is no. And the answer is yes. In the reader's voice I ask "Does confirming what is known amount to teaching too?"

Experience teaches us that we desire to begin anew.

And so for day 847

Roles and Models

John Sener has produced a synthesis of listserv conversation under the question Are Instructors Essential? In this synthesis he identifies three roles for instructors.

Meaning Makers

Explaining how and why information is important, helping learners integrate disparate content and make sense of it so that information can become 'knowledge and maybe even wisdom'
Growth Agents
Pushing [learners] ... 'beyond their level of comfort and into areas of improvement'
People Builders
Instructors serve as a bridge — in some situations, the only bridge — between learners and the society in which they seek a place

I would like to add an important role. I do so with an evident eye on the literature about early learning and the often expressed outcome for building future learning: "self-regulation". I think it is interesting that the listserv conversation revolves around the term "instructor". I think that there is a way of extending the discussion with the introduction of the term "teacher". The teacher is a model. In a sense the teacher models coaching and how to be a catalyst for knowledge acquisition. So in a sense the essence is with the teacher as model, the instructor is secondary.

And so for day 846

A Winter Letter

Out of the rebounding border of an ecstatic flight came/comes a letter.

There is this gorgeous beginning about snow:

The snow continues to fall, muffling the tones of shoveling and of cars struggling. Despite the overcast sky, the whiteness blanketing roofs, alleys, walks, lawns and gardens, pitches against the eye, a tingling glare. Muted with sharpness.
which then leads to some brief remarks on minimalism ("Minimalism is not simply for healing: minimalism can anneal"); some sentences about a mutual friend in ICU who is a scholar of Heidegger; and then a reading of a passage from What is called thinking? Then! There is an odd ejaculation in the midst of explicating a quotation from Heidegger: "Hands off my orgasm!" which begins to make sense if the reader carries over the previous statement about perception and sensation "where it becomes possible to admit I cannot see and there is no shame in not seeing, hearing, sensing". Our writer has imitated well the ecstatic moment and wishes to preserve it.

It, the letter, is in essence an extended objection to the contention promoted by Heidegger "You cannot talk of colors to the blind." And in a way too dares the reader to think about nothing but.

Years after the 2003 letter, I am prompted to reread it by what I read in an article by Cynthia Macdonald "A Shift in Perception" that
neuroscientists have discovered that there is much more crosstalk among the senses than we ever imagined before
Some of us have been imagining for a long time. Researchers at UC Berkeley are in the process of investigating synesthesia and mania.

And so for day 845


Kant opening the Critique of Pure Reason

That all our knowledge begins with experience there can be no doubt.
And there is a fair bit of stumbling after that until knowledge and experience are united. For example...
I think that if I had started with the knowledge and experience which I now have I might have made a better garden but it would have been far less rewarding.
from Keith Steadman in The Englishman's Garden edited by Rosemary Verey

And so for day 844

S and Z

What is amazing is the lack of over-lap in these words and worlds apart in what some version of Microsoft Word produced as a thesaurus search:

Organisation - with an "s"

system of government
civil service

Organization - with a "z"

I suspect that two different thesauri are behind these results. Results also vary depending upon which version of the word-processing software is used.

And so for day 843

Audience Demise

In 2010, HBO airs Public Speaking, directed by Martin Scorsese the documentary takes the form of an extended interview with Fran Lebowitz interspersed with public engagements. In the extended interview, one of her observations is that the level of connoisseurship in New York City was severely damaged by the AIDS epidemic. It devastated homosexual audiences.

Conducting a World Wide Web search of the term "homosexual audience" I come across a Wikipedia entry on a film by Derek Jarman Sebastiane (1976) which entry ends with a quotation from Margaret Walters, author of The Nude Male (1978) to the effect that

Sebastiane, "where male nudes in various stages of ecstacy positively littered the screen", was "successfully aimed at a very specialized homosexual audience."
No connection with the elite New York City Ballet set that Lebowitz is commenting upon. Except to distinguish a "homosexual audience" from a "gay audience". Of course this a point that Ms. Lebowitz makes with more panache.

Connoisseurship may be making a come back (if it ever really did leave). It may no longer inhabit merely the metropolis. Nor be the monopoly of a peculiar sexual orientation.

Please note that Ms. Lebowitz's remarks as she contextualizes them pertain to a specific time and place — it's my paraphrase that pluralizes "audiences" and broadens where she would specify. But it's that wide angle that permits me to bring in a reference to a film by Jarman whose 1993 Blue provided some lessons on styles of departure with its closing words:
In time,
No one will remember our work
Our life will pass like the traces of a cloud
And be scattered like
Mist that is chased by the
Rays of the sun
For our time is the passing of a shadow
And our lives will run like
Sparks through the stubble. I place a delphinium, Blue, upon your grave
Of course if you garden and know plants you have a sense of how fragile a plant delphinium can be. There are many sorts of connoisseurship: ballet, film, gardening. And many amazing ways their discourses intersect. (And yes, there is a connoisseurship of intersections).

And so for day 842

Michael Holmes Slangster

Before I cull from "(terra damnata)", allow me to set this up with a quotation from Walt Whitman

Slang, profoundly considered, is the lawless germinal element, below all words and sentences, and behind all poetry, and proves a certain perennial rankness and protestantism in speech.
(from "Slang in America" reprinted in Lapham's Quarterly Vol V, Number 2 devoted to the theme "Means of Communication")

And it just so happens we have found a found poem within Holmes's verse, or rather we have lifted elements many lines apart and resembling each other by the use of ampersand and placed them here reassembled for delectation because they are germinal and rank and are about perennial protesting. They are against not only forgetting but also the pain of remembering. The tools are simple:
mnemonics & telling-beads    neologisms & mantras
madwords & love & visceral stands
Just what is it they are protesting against? Missed opportunity is my best guess. Consider the title of the volume from whence this comes: james I wanted to ask you and consider further the brilliant epigraph quoting the author's nephew "i go cry now". Could this be slang from child's voice? It's all one word: igocrynow. A compound. And in so being a potent neologism.

And so for day 841

Mistakes, Failures and Folly

In honour of Willard McCarty, moderator of the Humanist discussion list, I quote from "Progress Report" by the American poet Elaine Equi

Technology, we've learned,
should be balanced with human folly
in order to malfunction
in the optimal way.
I was reminded of many a thread on Humanist. So I searched the archives for "failure" and could not quite locate the relevant exchanges. Hit the jackpot with "mistakes" and found a trove of quotations to the effect that mistakes are not failures. See

And so for day 840