One Little One and Another

It was tiny in its first edition. It grew a little. Still palm sized.

Patti Smith Woolgathering

On the back of the dust jacket of the second edition: "Everything contained in this little book is true, and written just like it was. The writing of it drew me from my strange torpor and I hope that in some measure it will fill the reader with a vague and curious joy. — Patti Smith"

And so for day 1935
31.03.2012

The Voyages … The Voices

Star Trek Beyond

Captain James T. Kirk: [epilogue] Space: the final frontier.
Commander Spock: These are the voyages of the starship...
Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott: ...Enterprise. Its continuing mission...
Doctor 'Bones' McCoy: ...to explore strange new worlds...
Sulu: ...to seek out new life...
Chekov: ...and new civilizations...
Lieutenant Uhura: ...to boldly go where no one has gone before.
This coda delivered by a team rings true: I am struck by the pluralism (throughout the movie) and I like the update on the signature send off to make it more gender inclusive.

And so for day 1934
30.03.2012

Addressing Nonaddressing

David Mitchell: What my son's autism has taught me

First up, is that we stop assuming a communicative impairment denotes a cognitive one. Let’s be wary of assuming that behind autism’s speechlessness lies nothing, or nothing to speak of. Instead, let’s assume that we’re dealing with a mind as keen as our own, and act accordingly. Talk to the person. Don’t worry if there’s no evidence he or she understands. Maybe there is evidence, but you’re not recognising it as such. If the person is there, never discuss them as if they’re not, or as if they’re only there like the coat stand is there. If they don’t notice this courtesy, no harm is done; but if they do, then someone who is often treated as a part-object, part-human, total nuisance gets to feel like a real, valid, card-carrying member of society.
The Guardian

And so for day 1933
29.03.2012

Pierce, Strip, Whittle

Elizabeth McLean
The Swallows Uncaged

Ngọc climbed the pole to the thatched roof, hauling her work with her — a bin of rattan splints, which she whittled with her awl until they were thin enough to weave into baskets and fishing nets.
I was tripped up by this passage because I did not associate awls with whittling. For me, whittling is a progressive shaving off accomplished with the blade of a knife. An awl is a pointed tool for piercing. Upon further reflection I could see how a more general definition of whittling as reducing in size could accommodate envisioning the work of an awl especially if dealing with rattan. The character could pierce the rattan splints and strip off a segment thereby thinning.

Still can't quite shake off the suspicion that the selection of "awl" was influenced by the internal rhyme with "haul". A word pierced and stripped: whittled down.

And so for day 1932
28.03.2012

For What Ends Do Your Candles Burn?

From the directions to the butler

Never let the candles burn too low, but give them as a lawful perquisite to your friend the cook, to increase her kitchen-stuff, or if this not be allowed in your house, give them in charity to the poor neighbours, who often run on your errands.
Jonathan Swift Directions to Servants

And so for day 1931
27.03.2012

Degrading Service

The marker here is 'attention' which is marshalled by an implicit (and perhaps dubious) equation (more attention = better quality). This is abandoned in the second example with its stress on 'convenience'. There must be a sweet spot between attention and convenience that spells quality experience.

For some other services, the apparent higher productivity is due to the debasement of the product. A teacher can raise her apparent productivity by four times by having four times as many pupils in her classroom, but the quality of her 'product' has been diluted by the fact that she cannot pay as much individual attention as before. A lot of the increases in retail service productivity in countries such as the US and Britain has been bought by lowering the quality of the retail service itself while ostensibly offering cheaper shoes, sofas and apples: there are fewer sales assistants at shoe stores, so you wait twenty minutes instead of five; you have to wait four weeks, rather than two, for the delivery of your new sofa and probably also have to take the day off work because they will only deliver 'sometime between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.'; you spend much more time than before driving to the new supermarket and walking through the now longer aisles when you get there, because those apples are cheaper than in the old supermarket only because the new supermarket is in the middle of nowhere and thus can have more floor space.
Ha-Joon Chang 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism

And so for day 1930
26.03.2012

Rearrangements

The Politics of Aesthetics Jacques Rancière translated by Gabriel Rockhill.

The 'fictionality' specific to the aesthetic age is consequently distributed between two poles: the potential of meaning inherent in everything silent and the proliferation of modes of speech and levels of meaning.

The real must be fictionalized in order to be thought.

Politics and art, like forms of knowledge, construct 'fictions', that is to say material rearrangements of signs and images, relationships between what is seen and what is said, between what is done and what can be done.
Reminds me of the work of Nicole Brossard on fictions du réel and theory.

And so for day 1929
25.03.2012

Insertion versus Incitement

You said, "He doesn't need to ask questions." He was a senior manager going into a facilitated session with a number of experts in an area that he is not an expert in. So I pondered what you said and thought of it as being anti-intellectual. Upon further reflection I saw differing theories of change competing. I tend to favour the open-ended questioning that brings people to consider options and by consensus arrive at a course of action. The leader incites. The no-questions-asked approach is one of insertion. A strong message is conveyed and in some cases imposed. In short, the leader preaches.

Mary Daly would have had a field day characterizing it as dick-tation.

I tend to favour the optative over the imperative. Except when I'm reading John Preston I Once Had a Master

And so for day 1928
24.03.2012

The Ends of Being and Books

Paved paradise, put up a parking lot - Joni Mitchell

Books had opened in childhood imaginations of other lives in which the idea of our own lives dwelling took on depths and heights, colors and figures, a new ground beyond self or personality in the idea of Man. But this prescribed thing was different, books became materials for examinations. English Literature with its reading lists, its established texts, its inquisitions, was to map our compulsory path in what had seemed before an open country. Work by work, author by author, the right roads were paved and marked, the important sights were emphasized, the civic improvements were pointed out where the human spirit had successfully been converted to serve the self-respect of civil men and the doubtful, impulsively created areas were deplored.

If we, in turn, could be taught to appreciate, to evaluate as we read and to cultivate our sensibilities in the ground of other men's passions, to taste and to regulate, to establish the new thing in the marketplace, we were to win some standing in the ranks of college graduates, and educated middle class, urbane and professional, as our parents had done before us.
Robert Duncan The H.D. Book "We" and "us" achieved too easily — all that paved territory of tradition was a wide vista for those of us from a different class — to be fair, Duncan may not be including the reader in that "us" but simply his classmates. Still the dichotomy rankles.

It is in the pluralism of men that I locate the quotidian work that opens up the micro-spaces of "doubtful, impulsively created areas". And I say "men" because that is where my desire tends. There is a hint there in Duncan "in the ground of other men's passions." Not in some idea of a capitalized Man.

And so for day 1927
23.03.2012

Sartorial Markers

Like a master class in Bourdieu's Distinction

Gilbert, who noted the contrast with the true Washington style, in which evening clothes were as dowdy as the equivalent daytime dress, either because the important people weren't rich or were politically motivated to look frazzled, was sorry his own clothes were perfect and new. He knew that for people of position in Washington, evening clothes were working clothes, and therefore, both the men's and the women's tended to be sensible, unmemorable, and slightly worn.
Judith Martin. Gilbert

And so for day 1926
22.03.2012

On the Hob

Nigel Slater Eat: The little book of fast food

Unlike opening the oven door, grabbing a tea towel and sliding out the baking dish, you simply have to lift the lid and you are immediately in touch with your food. This is the food whose smell fills our kitchen as we cook. It brings us to the table. The joy of stirring a dish while we drink and chat with those we are feeding. Cooking on the hob allows us to get closer to our cooking than roasting or baking. It allows us a sniff, a peep, a stir, a taste. The very best sort of hands-on cooking.
Disguised as nouns, it's the verbs that create the magic: sniff, peep, stir, taste.

And so for day 1925
21.03.2012

After Yates

Our version, not quite accepting the syllable count …

Porcupine dying
Tobacco accepting
Quill decorating
She prefaces a number of poems
To a non-native that cosmic precedent, haikai, offers a medium through which to imagine and attempt to express the poetic evocations of native voices not presumptively, not as appropriation or traspassing [sic], but as validly as an harmonic echo reverberating for all times, reaching all places.
which leads to
dying porcupine
accepts tobacco for quills__
bridal moccasins!
Evelyn Catharine Yates. Karumi Moon: Probing Ancient and Modern Haiku

We pick up the gerund and make it present the steps as out of time in a type of synchrony: dying, accepting, decorating.

And so for day 1924
20.03.2012

Radiance

Marie Howe What the Living Do "A Certain Light"

[…]

He was all bones and skin, no tissue to absorb the medicine.
He couldn't walk unless two people held him.

[…]

then only in pain again — but wakened.
So wakened that late that night in one of those still blue moments

that were a kind of paradise, he finally opened his eyes wide,
and the room filled with a certain light we thought we'd never see again.

Look at you two, he said. And we did.
And Joe said, Look at you.                And John said. How do I look?

And Joe said, Handsome.
A gaze clinched.

And so for day 1923
19.03.2012

The Walk

John Edgar Wideman. Hiding Place.

The character misses the trolley. Forced to walk he turns the event into an aesthetic moment.

Nothing for it now but to walk. He had to walk that night and in the darkness over his head the cable swayed and sang long after the trolley had disappeared. He had to walk cause that's all there was to it. And still no ride of his own so he's still walking. Nothing to it. Either right or left, either up Homewood or down Homewood, walking his hip walk, making something out of the way he is walking since there is nothing else to do, no place to go so he makes something of the going, lets them see him moving in his own down way, his stylized walk which nobody could walk better if they had some place to go.
The prose has its own gait. Its own down way.

And so for day 1922
18.03.2012

latex of our lives

Kaushalya Bannerji
A New Rememberanc
(Toronto: TSAR, 1993)

"THIS IS NOT AN ELEGY"

What to say when a friend
becomes a corpse>

[…]

And what life is this?
The constant vigilance or weariness.
The latex of our lives
stretched to snapping.
There is a head note: "I wrote this poem in an attempt to come to terms with the sense of loss and homophobia that can surround the lesbian and gay communities when we are so often confronted with AIDS-related deaths."

I hear in this image all the pent up frustration of trying to get safe sex messages out in the face of attempts to muzzle the plain speaking.

And so for day 1921
17.03.2012

Reading Howe

The Kingdom of Ordinary Time "Reading Ovid" Marie Howe

The thing about the Greeks and Romans is that
   at least mythologically,

they could get mad. If the man broke your heart, if he
   fucked your sister speechless

then real true hell broke loose:
   “You know that stew you just ate for dinner, honey?—

It was your son.”
   That’s Ovid for you.

A guy who knows how to tell a story about people who
   really don’t believe in the Golden Rule.

Sometimes I fantasize saying to the man I married, “You know
   that hamburger you just

gobbled down with relish and mustard? It was
   your truck.”
And it continues though I must admit with such a strong opening one loses the appetite to carry on *sigh* but it is worth reading Howe to see what she makes of this opening and by poem's end the reader is expected to ponder the words of Jesus about the kingdom of heaven being within you. Not sure how a reader can digest it. Somehow after the beginning one would rather cook than eat.

And so for day 1920
16.03.2012

Crash Course in Tact

In a conversation with a colleague interested in the institutions of liberal democracy, I urged her to consider scribing a top ten tips for engaging in civil society. It led me to meditations of my own on the topic of relationship management and working across cultural and social differences. Here's my take on the basics.

Listen: stay tuned to repetitions and mantras. Detect patterns.

Ask questions: elicit narratives: where have you been? where are you going? (of course, actual questions have to be more specific and tailored to the circumstances [remember the point about listening]).

Adopt and adapt vocabulary. Take on the words that resonate with your interlocutors. Be prepared to explain how your organisation works and what it aims to achieve. Either way, check the translations you make in either adopting the other's vocabulary or adapting your own (remember to validate with questions).

Be open for future contact — relationship building is not instantaneous, be prepared to invest.
Seems so simple and recursive now that its laid out here. Seems a wise course for communications internal to an organisation too.

And so for day 1919
15.03.2012

Rhythm: Seen and Heard

This 1954 book by Langston Hughes with pictures by Robin King provides from its first pages evidence that there was an alternative to the eye-ear dichotomy championed by Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s - a more holistic view of the world and the senses.

The First Book of Rhythms

From the outset the reader is invited to draw and later to hear. The book ends with paean to the human place in the universe and the glory of rhythm.
But your hand controls the rhythms of the lines you make with your pencil on a paper. And your hand is related to the rhythms of the earth as it moves around the sun, and to the moon as the moon moves around the earth, and to the stars as they move in the great sky — just as all men's lives, and every living thing, are related to those vaster rhythms of time and space and wonder beyond the reach of eye or mind.

Rhythm is something we share in common, you and I, with all the plants and animals and people in the world, and with the stars and moon and sun, and all the whole vast wonderful universe beyond this wonderful earth which is our home.
/\/ /\/ /\/ /\/ /\/ /\/ /\/ /\/ /\/ /\/ /\/ /\/ !!

And so for day 1918
14.03.2012

like playing a video game: ohsoprecisely

Kaushalya Bannerji ~~ A New Remembrance ~~ "World War"

There is a headnote that gives us place and time of composition: "written during the Gulf War of winter 1991" These are the concluding lines and I note the "ohsoprecisely" accurate control of spacing

black espresso
hot and bitter
as our past passion
we're not prepared
for this Nintendo wargame
which flickers
ohsoprecisely onto satellite screen
to interface with death
has never been so easy
To this I add a Wikipedia-derived gloss: "The word Nintendo can be roughly translated from Japanese to English as "leave luck to heaven"." Takes skill to push the button. Takes skill to write the poem.

And so for day 1917
13.03.2012

Guarding Gardens

John Edgar Wideman. Hiding Place.

Late now for putting seeds in the ground. There was a time they turned the ground from the back porch all the way to the trees at the edge of the hill. Long straight furrows combed in the earth and they'd grow enough to can and get through the winter. Beans and peas and tomatoes and cucumbers and lettuce and turnips and mustard greens. Sticks marching in regular rows and strings stretched for the vines to climb. Corn and grapes and parsley. Once her brothers had shown her where sausage grew and the hole where she should lay the hambone and cover it with ash to grow a new ham. You see anything yet? Ought to be sprouting up pretty soon now. You sure you spread them ashes careful? You sure you been watering it every day? Maybe you put your ear to the ground you hear it oinking. A fence then to keep out stray dogs and cats. Raccoons still around too. Her daddy kept a shotgun in the cupboard but never got a shot at one. They thought they might catch one in their pigeon trap and baited it with bacon instead of bread but nobody was allowed to sit up all night and hold the string which was attached to the stick which held the box up in the air. None of the children could stay up all night at the window to pull the string when the raccoon went after the bacon under the box, so we never catched one either.
Corn and grapes and parsley. Nous sommes au pays de cocaigne. And the tall tales turned practical jokes trick out the ever trickling stories.

And so for day 1916
12.03.2012

Food

I just finished reading Eden Robinson, The Sasquatch at home: traditional protocols and modern storytelling. There is a passage that put me in mind of the important ongoing work on food security.

Economics

[...] mentally taking notes about the irony of food fishing in the imperial era of McDonald's. For instance, you have to [be] fairly well-off to eat traditional Haisla cuisine. Sure, the fish and game are free, but after factoring in fuel, time, equipment, and maintenance of various vehicles, it's cheaper to buy frozen fish from the grocery store than it is to physically go out and get it.
Ecology & Culture
If the oolichans don't return to our rivers, we lose more than a species. We lose a connection with our history, a thread of tradition that ties us to this particular piece of the Earth, that ties our ancestors to our children.
Spent a lovely hour with the 49 pages of these lectures/stories delivered at the University of Alberta in 2011 thanks to the non-circulating Toronto Reference Library — nice surroundings and always stocked.

And so for day 1915
11.03.2012

Sounds of the House

Kaushalya Bannerji ~~ A New Remembrance ~~ "My Dida's House"

The poem ends with a stark image of a gender divide.

My world was always one of communicative women, harsh-voiced or sweet, and silent men appearing like fullstops at the end of hurried sentences.
Strategically locating this at the end of the poem ties the telling to the told in a memorable fashion.

And so for day 1914
10.03.2012

Deep River of Song Within the Story

Sounds of congregation from Damballah by John Edgar Wideman …

I wanted to dwell on Sybela's first free morning but the chant of the Gospel Chorus wouldn't let me sit still. Lord, reach down and touch me. The chorus wailing and then Reba Love Jackson soloing. I heard May singing and heard Mother Bess telling what she remembers and what she had heard about Sybela Owens. I was thinking the way Aunt May talks. I heard her laughter, her amens, and can I get a witness, her digressions within digressions, the webs she spins and brushes away with her hands. Her stories exist because of their parts and each part is a story worth telling, worth examining to find the stories it contains. What seems to ramble begins to cohere when the listener understands the process, understands that the voice seeks to recover everything, that the voice proclaims nothing is lost, that the listener is not passive but lives like everything else within the story. Somebody shouts Tell the truth. You shout too. May is preaching and dances out between the shiny, butt-rubbed, wooden pews doing what she's been doing since the first morning somebody said Freedom. Freedom.
Improvisation within convention is what the alert listener is on the lookout for whether or not they have sat in butt-rubbed pews.

And so for day 1913
09.03.2012

Poverty of Means & Proper Nuance

Philip Stratford "Translation as Creation" in Figures in a Ground: Canadian Essays on Modern Literature Collected in Honor of Sheila Watson edited by Diane Bessai and David Jackel.

It is preferable to struggle to find the right word in your own mind and in your own vocabulary than to rely on the push-button response of thesaurus or dictionary. It may even be preferable, since dictionaries are sometimes indispensible [sic], to use a modest rather than a too extensive one, just to insure a close and personal engagement in the search.
When I first read this, I took "extensive" as "expensive". And my big two volume OED (with the magnifying glass) informed me that "indispensible" is an obsolete form for indispensable and which here serves as an indice of the Canadian pronunciation. BTW the Oxford English Dictionary in my possession was purchased at a cut rate price since "the definitive record of the English language" has migrated to a subscription service online and many persons have been offloading their old paper behemoths.

The point that Stratford is making is that a poverty of means induces a valuable outcome when mediated by skill (in internalizing the resources of target and source languages). The other point that he is making is that there is a personal stake in the enjeu.

And so for day 1912
08.03.2012

Suspension Before Entanglement

N. Martin Nakata, Victoria Nakata, Sarah Keech & Reuben Bolt
"Decolonial goals and pedagogies for Indigenous studies"
Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society Vol. 1 No. 1 2012

At the introductory level, we do not dispute the usefulness of presenting the Indigenous-settler relation in binary terms. Nor do we dispute, that non-Indigenous students in the course of their learning need to or will be confronted and "unsettled". But we would suggest, initially at least, teaching the practice of "suspension " viz., suspension of pre-suppositions and suspension of foregone conclusions while engaging the implications of the knowledge interface for Indigenous analysis, Indigenous resistance, Indigenous knowledge revitalization, Indigenous practices, and Indigenous futures. This is [a] disruptive but intellectualized practice of a less personalized nature which still engages students in the politics of knowledge production and ultimately the politics of their location and of social reproduction. It is not an easily mastered practice either and requires academics to think about how to manage dialogue and discussion in lecture rooms so students do not revert to resigned fence-sitting but move on to re-thinking and re-articulating more complex positions. We argue it is a worthwhile skill to develop in students who will graduate into the human service professions which engage Indigenous people and practices at the interface of ongoing knowledge entanglements.
What gains traction here with me is the questioning of binary positioning, the enumeration of analysis, resistance, revitalization, practices and futures, the characterization of the interface as a set of entanglements. There is a whole ecosystem of knowledge production and social reproduction at work here.

And so for day 1911
07.03.2012

Seduced by the Paratext

Leo Babauta Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change [2014] has a lovely cover by Lisa Class

cherry blossom branch book cover

And the design by Matt Avery on the flyleaf offers this sensitive layout of a quotation by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves — slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.
And so we read books — slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.

One bibliographic oddity. The book in its 2015 incarnation has a longer title despite touting briefness: Essential Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change, Briefly.

And so for day 1910
06.03.2012

Riposte

F.R. Scott in The Dance is One has a poem answering McLuhan's The Mechanical Bride. It is entitled "The Miniaturized Groom" and is a series of short statements about the adage the medium is the message. Scott quips that McLuhan is a "Master misunderstander!" The poem ends on salvo against technocratic triumphalism.

Message is man
not machine.
In the stanza before this terminal assertion, Scott lists a number of synonyms for what the medium does: mouthpiece, mirror, magnifying-glass, multiplier.

The letter M becomes the medium for delivering the message that "the medium is meant to massage the message / and make it more meaningful."

And so for day 1909
05.03.2012

Herbs: to crush, smell and cook

The introduction to Sauce Chivry begins

I like herb sauces. They mean summer, when so many fish are at their best — and look their best, served with a pale green sauce. I like walking down the garden — the genius of man having placed the herb patch as far away from the kitchen as possible, on the principle, I suppose, that exercise is good for cooks — past catalpa and hibiscus, to find chives, tarragon, and parsley which flourish at the foot of a most entangling rose.
The arch tone belongs to Jane Grigson (Fish Cookery) but what I particular like about this passage is the finesse with which it deploys the present and the infinitive. It lends a liveliness that propels the reader on to trust the directives that follow about judging an appropriate amount of herb to add. After a little tour of English, French and Italian geography we are urged: "So be guided by the season, and by your own taste and climate. Be prepared to use far more than I — or anyone else — suggest." By this stage we are already complicit in the imperative.

And so for day 1908
04.03.2012

High on Novels

The postmodern braiding of diegetic elements with those of the narration is accomplished with panache in Laurent Binet's La septième fonction du langage. Our hero is at a party at Cornell and reviews in picaresque terms the péripéties that have accumulated along his novelistic journey.

À Bologne, il couche avec Bianca dans un amphithéâtre du XVIIe et il échappe à un attentat à la bombe. Ici, il manque de se faire poignarder dans une bibliothèque de nuit par un philosophe du language et il assiste à une scène de levrette plus ou moins mythologique sur une photocopieuse. Il a rencontré Giscard à l'Élysée, a croisé Foucault dans un sauna gay, a participé à une poursuite en voiture à l'issue de laquelle il a été victime d'une tentative d'assassinat, a vu un homme en tuer un autre avec un parapluie empoisonné, a découvert une société secrète où on coupe les doigts des perdants, a traversé l'Atlantique pour récupérer un mystérieux document. Il a vécu en quelques mois plus d'événements extraordinaires qu'il n'aurait pensé en vivre durant tous son existence. Simon sait reconnaître du romanesque quand il en rencontre. Il repense aux surnuméraires d'Umberto Eco. Il tire sur le joint.

« What's up, man? »

[…]

« I think I'm trapped in a novel. »

[…]

« Sounds cool, man. Enjoy the trip »
And Dear Reader, you too are enjoined to enjoy the trip and its telling.

And so for day 1907
03.03.2012

Piscine Delights

From the Glossary of Fish Names in Jane Grigson Fish Cookery

Nannie Nine Eyes (sea lamprey: eel)
Nanny nose (soft clam)
Nanny shad (gizzard shad; shad)
Nassau grouper (grouper)
Native oyster (oyster grown in UK, Ostrea edulis)
Navaga (cod)
Pure Found Poetry

And so for day 1906
02.03.2012

Praising the Quilter Through the Quilt

It is the description of the objects that underwrites the discrediting of the discrediting. We are reminded of the opening lines phrased as a pointed question in Marge Piercy's "Looking at Quilts": Who decided what is useful in its beauty / means less than what has no function besides beauty / (except its weight in money)?

The patchwork quilts are rightly celebrated as objects of great beauty. Made from thousands of pieces of shaped and coloured fabric, sewn into elaborate and intricate patterns, they produced rich colouristic effects and contained symbolic meanings. They were given a variety of suggestive titles, 'Mariner's Compass', 'Jacob's Ladder', 'Star of Bethlehem' and 'Sunburst', the last superbly conveying the effect of the radiating beams of the sun and the beneficence of its golden light. But some of these names, rather than being specific titles of quilts, refer instead to categories of basic methods of putting the fabrics together. This has often, erroneously, led to a dismissal of quilt-making as mere repetitious use of pattern. But, individual quilt-makers used the basic patterns to dramatically different effect by choice of colours, size of pieces, optical illusion and intended meaning.
Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock.

And so for day 1905
01.03.2012