Poetry Daily: From "Epitaphs"

I like reading Poetry Daily (wish it had a proper RSS feed). I’ll sometimes print out poems I like and put them in my Poetry folder to pull out and marvel.

This poem, by Abraham Sutzkever (translated by Jacqueline Osherow) stopped me in my tracks and reminded me of how poetry differs from prose, how brief poems can open vast spaces.

Links - 28 Apr 2006

…accumulated since Easter…

…compiled over the last few weeks, as you can tell from the Easter
links…

Flickr Photo Download: SearsWishbook.1983EC.P408
Ad for a newfangled CD player from the Sears 1983 wishbook

Tricks of the Trade: Philosopher
“How to win any argument”
For those of us who saw “Thank You For Smoking”


Career Calculus

RecipeSource: French Fry Spam Casserole

Technotheory.com - Wallet Efficiency
A recent interest of the efficiency blogosphere

Yahoo! Picks - April 18, 2006
“But the tribulations have only just begun for the marshmallow rabbit. For these brave, sugary little souls, the bunny apocalypse has arrived…”
Peeps Tortures

Asteroid » Easter turducken
“As with traditional turducken, Easter turducken starts from the inside
out. The core is formed with miniature Cadbury cream eggs”
A Cadbury egg, inside a Peep, inside a hollow chocolate bunny – with photos!

hellokitty psychological test
If you can’t trust Hello Kitty,. who can you trust, really?

Don’t Click It
Experimental interface, Flash-enabled. Move the mouse around BUT DON’T CLICK. Click and you get told off, kinda.


Le Petomane

Wikipedia’s entry on Le Petomane includes this wonderful paragraph:

In the following decade Pujol tried to ‘refine’ and make his acts ‘gentler’; one of his favourite numbers became a rhyme about a farm which he himself composed, and which he punctuated with the usual anal renditions of the animals’ sounds. The climax of his act however involved him farting his impression of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Alan Moore interviews

For a man described in many articles about him as a recluse, Uncle Alan sure granted lots of interviews, mainly in reaction to the V for Vendetta movie (which I enjoyed). Here are some links to interviews I collected. Keep in mind, when you read, that Vendetta artist David Loyd supported the film and was a co-creator of the comics series.

MILE HIGH COMICS presents THE BEAT at COMICON.com: A FOR ALAN, Pt. 1

MILE HIGH COMICS presents THE BEAT at COMICON.com: A FOR ALAN Pt. 2

MTV.com interview
I love how the interview really takes the Devil’s Advocate approach: why aren’t you thrilled and impressed that your story is now a great big Hollywood movie?

Alan Moore | The A.V. Club

Alan Moore Interview Index
A very decent compendium of interviews from the early 90s onward

Cinescape interview - ‘Lost Girls’ - Part 1, Part 2
Good longish interview (esp. the second part) on art, pornography, and breakfast cereal. One of the better of the latest round of interviews with AM, as it gets more into philosophy, and less on his gripes with the industry. One of the fanboy comments from the first interview bears repeating here:

Holy crap, you got to interview Alan Moore? And you didn’t just spend the whole time peeing your pants and screaming “ALAN MOORE! ALAN MOORE!”? That’s what I would’ve done.

Goethe

From the In Our Time newsletter on the Goethe discussion:

The talk in the Green Room went on for quite a while. Not unexpectedly. We
failed to include a great many of the aspects of Goethe that makes Goethe
Goethe. On the programme itself I pointed out that we said nothing
whatsoever about his work as a scientist, although it was an area in which he
was frustrated at not being recognised as highly as he thought, and some of
his contemporaries thought, he deserved to be. His work on colours, for
instance.

Nor did we go into his almost rabid anti-Christianity. He called it, let us
be polite here, a load of manure. It’s not too difficult to see a direct
line to Nietzsche from this one. He hated the symbol of the cross. In fact,
he was quite a good hater. He hated the peasants because they had too much
emotion and not enough intellect and yet, in his early days, the days of
storm and stress, he himself stormed against classicism and stressed the
primacy of passion.

Nor had we time to mention that, despite his well-publicised relationships
with women (and eventually he married the lower class Christiane Vulpius
after she had beaten off Napoleon’s army at her front door) he was, by the
standards of the time, remarkably tolerant of homosexuality. He praised the
openness of homosexuals in Rome and there seems to have been evidence of his
own bi-sexuality.

Sarah Colvin observed that one of the reasons there were so few women in
Goethe studies was that when they came across the women he wrote about, they
tended to criticise the way in which the women were portrayed and any
criticism of Goethe was considered to be anathema to the great Goethe
scholarship establishment and they were given the cold shoulder.

This was confirmed by the other two, ie: that there is a halo around Goethe
studies still and you take your PhD in your hands when you attack it. Dan
Wilson, who revealed the darker side of Goethe in Weimar, ie: his treatment
of the peasants and his sending of prisoners onto the battlefields against
the law and the various other authoritarian views he took, was rounded on by
many Goethe scholars and outrage was expressed across that world.

This must come in some way from the need for Weimar to be the other Germany
after the Second World War. Germans quite understandably had to look for
somewhere and someone that represented the opposite of Hitler and Fascism.
They lighted on Goethe and Weimar. Now that that is being seen as a
blemished place (though no comparison whatsoever with the Third Reich), hands
are thrown up in horror.

Best wishes

Melvyn Bragg

Orson Welles on art & remembrance

Courtesy Netflix, I saw Orson Welles’ F for Fake, a fascinating document. I saw it, listened to the commentaries, and saw it again. It’s a dense, layered, rich lasagna that uses fakery to talk about fakery. It has some bravura editing for the time (1974 or 1976, sources vary) and includes some very personal Wellesian material.

The Wikipedia page on F for Fake includes the following passage, where Welles muses on the anonymous artists and craftsmen who built Chartres Cathedral.

Ours, the scientists keep telling us, is a universe which is disposable. You know it might be just this one anonymous glory of all things, this rich stone forest, this epic chant, this gaiety, this grand choiring shout of affirmation, which we choose when all our cities are dust; to stand intact, to mark where we have been, to testify to what we had it in us to accomplish. Our works in stone, in paint, in print are spared, some of them for a few decades, or a millennium or two, but everything must fall in war or wear away into the ultimate and universal ash: the triumphs and the frauds, the treasures and the fakes. A fact of life … we’re going to die. “Be of good heart,” cry the dead artists out of the living past. Our songs will all be silenced - but what of it? Go on singing. Maybe a man’s name doesn’t matter all that much.

(originally posted in 2006-04-15, updated for micro.blog)

Links: Power and cyborgs

Caterina.net: Power reveals

“Power reveals. When a leader gets enough power, when he doesn’t need anybody anymore–when he’s president of the United States or CEO of a major corporation–then we can see how he always wanted to treat people, and we can also see–by watching what he does with his power–what he wanted to accomplish all along.”


The Cyborg Name Decoder
Mine is M.I.C.H.A.E.L.: Mechanical Intelligent Construct Hardwired for Assassination and Efficient Learning

Don Quixote

Another In Our Time newsletter, this one on Don Quixote (a book I’ve tried reading a couple of times and just can’t get through):

Well, James Naughtie has put his foot among the pigeons. How do you pronounce Don Quixote? I pronounced it in the English fashion and had there been any objections from the academics who so sturdily spoke about the knight errant this morning, I would have asked them whether any other pronunciation would have made the word ‘quixotic’ redundant.

For your information, we spoke to Edwin Williamson prior to the programme (who was tremendous in encapsulating the biography of Don Quixote), on the pronunciation of Don Quixote. He pointed out that Don Quixote is an archaic Spanish spelling that has now fallen out of use. The Spanish now spell and pronounce it as ‘Don Quijote’ ie. don-key-hoe-tee.

However, Don Quixote has always been a highly international piece of literature. The Italians have always pronounced it ‘don-key-show-tay’; the French have always pronounced it as ‘don-key-sho-ta’; and the English have always traditionally pronounced it as ‘don–quix-ot’.

The adoption of the Spanish pronunciation in the English language has only appeared with the wide inclusion of the book onto the undergraduate curriculum in many American Universities over the last 20 to 30 years. The vast majority of English academics still refer to the book in the old English pronunciation ‘don-quix-ot’ out of habit and in recognition of the book’s status as an international classic.

So there we are on that one.

There was much commendation of Cervantes’ masterpiece on this morning’s programme, but in one of Barry Ife’s articles about the book, he included a review by Martin Amis. I think this may entertain you. “In March 1986, Amis reviewed a reprint of Tobias Smollett’s translation of Don Quijote for the Atlantic Monthly, and he characteristically took the opportunity to get one or two things off his chest. ‘While clearly an impregnable masterpiece,’ he wrote, ‘Don Quixote suffers from one fairly serious flaw – that of outright unreadability.’ For long stretches (approaching about 75 per cent of the whole) it is ‘inhumanly dull’. This epic is epic in length only, he argues; ‘it has no pace, no drive…it simply accrues. The question “what happens next?” has no meaning because there is no “next” in Don Quixote’s world: there is only “more”.

Warming to his task, Amis goes on to describe the first 20 chapters or so as ‘squalid, savage and attritional’ as the knight, impelled by ‘madness and high ambition’, and the squire, by ‘stupidity and greed’, beat up sundry innocent carriers and other passers-by in the pursuit of wrongs to right. Unprovoked except by chivalric paranoia, Don Quixote tries to murder a Biscayan traveller, gets involved in a brawl in an inn, chops up ‘about seven’ little lambs during an attack on a flock of sheep, and ‘continuing on his sociopathic way’ assails some defenceless mourners, robs a barber, pummels an itinerant prison guard, and frees a band of convicts. At this point, says Amis, it dawns on the reader that there are still 700 pages to go.”

So Don Quixote not only still stirs the blood, but it stirs the mind of writers.

One of the things I most appreciated was the life he had led. Not wholly unlike that of Chaucer. It is something that we may return to – the connection between the life of a writer (and other artists too, I’m sure) and the work. Nowadays we seem to be consumed with the idea of the lone or specialist writer, setting up tower on his or her own from the very beginning. Here with Cervantes we have a man who would probably have described himself, until late in life, as a professional soldier who finally turned to writing to scrape a living.

Best wishes

Melvyn Bragg

Charlemagne and writing

Some of the scholarly chat programs on BBC4 radio have their own newsletters, as most media do nowadays. I enjoy downloading the latest In Our Time program each week and subscribe to host Melvyn Bragg’s newsletter, where he adds his own thoughts on that week’s topic and provides little scholarly nuggets that didn’t make it into the show.

It seems a shame not to share some of them, so here’s what his newsletter contained on the Charlemagne program.


Nevertheless, I was fascinated to read about handwriting and classical manuscripts. In her notes made for the programme, Mary Garrison told us that when Charlemagne started, the level of Latin learning was so low that he needed the English and Irish, who were not native speakers of Latin, to help with Latin texts and learning. They were the ones who said “this is how you spell it; this is how you pronounce it”. So there was a huge change in the literary record and the pronunciation. In terms of literacy (the schoolmasterly type) Charlemagne and Alcuin said you must put spaces between the words, you must use neat handwriting, you must spell things correctly. A new form of handwriting was introduced, and a new way of pronouncing Latin, which hastened the split between Latin and the vernacular – some people hate Alcuin for that reason. It was much as if you or I went to France and said any word that ends in ‘er’ where you would pronounce ‘a’ you now have to pronounce ‘ayr’. But this change in pronunciation is a big thing – it has to do with getting it right.

I was delighted to re-encounter Alcuin whom I first met 47 years ago at university and became reacquainted with when I wrote a novel set in the less & less called “Dark Ages”. The power of the few men who worked in Lindisfarne and Jarrow in the time of what could be called the Northumbrian Renaissance – the Lindisfarne Gospels, the works of Bede and then the passing on of learning to Boniface who became an advisor to Charlemagne’s grandfather and then to the great Alcuin himself. Again and again you find that if a cultural force is strong enough, it does not have to be particularly big to have a most tremendous influence. I always think there’s something romantic and even noble about these men, usually Celts, always monks, who took their learning and their Christianity deep into Europe after having developed it on islands around Britain.

This is some more information about Alcuin that I want to put your way. In fact, I think we should come back to him in a year or so and do a full programme on him. Julia Smith told us that Alcuin (735-804) was at the centre of theological debates at Charlemagne’s court about revising and editing new versions of the Bible. Alcuin had a vision that Classical learning composed the pillars that held up the temple of wisdom, it was a means to achieving higher ends. To this extent, he was especially passionate in advocating a return to Classical standards of Latin grammar and did much to train the successive generation of scholars in writing good Latin. Alcuin’s achievement in asserting a correct Latin was an impressive one, given that vast areas of the southern Carolingian empire (the North was German speaking) still spoke a romance Latin and considered themselves perfectly proficient (although of course theirs was a corrupt version). Alcuin succeeded in teaching Latin to these people as a foreign language, a language which many felt that they had been speaking since infancy.

His was not the most original of minds at court, but he had a beautiful skill for condensing complex patristic texts and summarising them in accessible form. He was adept at repackaging the thought of men like Augustine (theologian, 354-430), Jerome (theologian, 347-420), Ambrose (Bishop of Milan, 340-397) and Gregory the Great (Pope who lived 540-604); in mediating between the patristic thought of the late antique period and the less learned readers of his own day. Alcuin wrote digests, rather than commentaries, for it was generally assumed that most members of the church would not want to read the original works or be capable of doing so.

One discussion in the Green Room was what would have happened had Bede had assistance and, as it were, research scholars to work with him. Mary Garrison suggested that his work on tides, for instance, could have been developed to the advancement of science almost a thousand years before Newton! Some claim, but housed on Lindisfarne, he was well-positioned to watch and calculate the tides which sweep across the causeway and swirl dramatically around Holy Island.

Linksalot

Damn Interesting » Tin Foil Hats Proven Ineffective

Shakespearean Insult Generator

Creating Feeds from Feedless Web Pages
My notes from a demo I gave to a local STC SIG

Grand Illustions - Toy Collection - Dragon Illusion
“This little dragon is made out of paper - you simply cut it out and stick it together, and stand it on a table or window ledge. But when you move around, the dragon’s head seems to follow you around the room. Have a look at the video, to see what we mean. The effect is really uncanny.”

A Unique Gift! Your Own Optical Illusion! - Turn Your Head
“Your profile captured forever in an object of art. “

Fight the Corporate Bull with Bullfighter - Lifehacker
“It will scan your documents for over-utilization use of jargon synergy while at the same time increasing your ROI suggesting alternatives that cut the corporate business BS from your documents:”

PowerSquid roomy power strip - Lifehacker

William Shatner DVD Club
Yet another great offer I’ll have to pass up.

Creating Feeds from Feedless Web Pages

Here’s my first Backpack page that I created for a SIG meeting today. It describes how to create a feed from feedless web pages. It’s a nice all-in-one page.

Backpack is great for presenting this kind of information and I was quite amazed at how quickly I could produce some nice-looking text modules, reorganize them, and so on.

For speed of page creation though, I like my PBWiki a little better.

"A common destination with room for all"

Scott’s friend Chrystal has a nicearticle on religious choices.

My family is a perfect example of American religious diversity. Two parents had five daughters and, as of this writing, none share a common religion. We have a Catholic, a goddess-worshipping Wiccan, one three-quarters of the way to Buddhist nunhood (complete with shaved head!), one Mormon, and one Unitarian. The final member attends a Baptist church, but once they formed gay unions, other Baptists quarreled about the church’s designation. So far we have no Muslims or Jews, but the week is young—who knows what the future holds?

Modest Change 3: Exercise

For the past decade or more, I’ve fumbled around for an exercise program I could stick with. Given my size (6’3” and about 215 lbs, as of this writing), I’ll need to be strong and flexible as I get older. Otherwise, the nurses helping me out of my elderly bed will have to be pretty strong or have a pulley and gurney handy.

Exercise clubs have not worked for me. I like yoga but feel I need more resistance and cardio training. I’ve cobbled together workouts from Joyce Vedral, Body for Life, Men’s Health, and many other books and websites.

Two books came my way recently that changed my attitude to exercising and have provided me a very good workoout that energizes but doesn’t fatigue.

The first, which I saw at the library, was Five Factor Fitness by Harley Pasternak. It promises a lot and mostly delivers, despite its rather gimmicky “5” theme: a 25-minute daily workout, done 5 days/week, 5 meals a day, and a set of recipes with meals containing only 5 ingredients.

What attracted me was the book’s modest size (the recipes take up about half of the book) and the modest time requirements; although he advertises 25 minutes, it’s really more like 35, but that’s OK, that’s doable. I also like the balance in the workouts. He recommends only 2 weight-lifting exercises per workout using dumbells, which are my tool of choice and all I’ve used the last several years. His routine emphasizes low-intensity lifting, with low weights but more sets and reps. The workout requires at least 5 minutes on the treadmill at the beginning and end of the routine, getting your heart rate up to its optimal workout zone for at least 5 minutes the second time, and an abdominal (“core”) exercise, which is also high rep and multiple sets.

What I like about the workout is that the goal is not to push yourself to exhaustion, as seems to be the case with all the other routines that promise a quick 6- or 12-week turnaround. At the end of my previous hour-long workouts, I’d be fatigued and sore and would really have to drag myself to the next workout. By contrast, the 5-Factor workout leaves my arms and legs pleasantly buzzing with energy. When I was doing my workouts in the morning, I felt energized for the rest of the day. My earlier wake-up time has pushed my exercising to the afternoon, but it’s short enough that it’s done and I’m showered before supper.

But while perusing the Amazon comments for the book, I ran across Cal Dougherty’s review (and his other fitness book reviews) where he cites a book called Joe X by Avery Hunnicutt.

Joe X is one of those books that couches its lessons in the form of a novel and dialogue between a mentor and a novice. It’s a form I find tedious in the extreme. Although many Amazon reviewers liked the novel, I skimmed through it to get to the nuggets of fitness philosophy I was interested in. (And the good stuff is all recapitulated at the end of the book in an appendix.)

Hunnicutt advocates going light on resistance, paying attention to your body, raise the weight for one exercise only and then only minimally, and look at this as a 30-year or even 40-year fitness plan instead of as a 12-week full-body turnaround.

So, I’ve adapted aspects of both of these books. I follow the 5 Factor plan because I’ve learned my body likes to be exercised regularly and the routines offer enough variety and challenge that I haven’t tired of it so far. From Joe X, I’ve taken on the idea of low-resistance weights and keeping my eye on the long haul.

For the past 4 or 5 weeks, I’ve been using only 5-lb. weights, which I would have laughed at before. I bought 25- and 30-lb weights a few years ago because I felt my chest and back needed more resistance. I don’t believe that anymore. It’s more important to me now to establish the habit and routine of regular exercise rather than taking my muscles to failure.

The blend of these two approaches is, for me, a modest change in my exercising that’s yielded enormous benefit. I feel good physically, my sleep patterns have become more regular, and my moods have evened out–the latter is another reason that regular exercise is good for me, as I tend to be sedentary.


Modest Change 2: Keeping time

I was, for some reason, totally taken by Thomas Limoncelli’s book Time Management for System Administrators. (TM4SA, for short).

I read the sample chapter he had online here, and bought the book to see what the rest was about.

I’ve picked up and put down many a time management system over the years, starting with Day-Timers and finishing most successfully with David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology. Limoncelli’s system doesn’t quite displace GTD, but he has for the first time really helped me gain some traction on my task management.

I won’t detail here what his system is, as the link above describes the main system pretty well. The book is written for someone who’s really never used a time management system before and probably can’t understand office life or office politics all that well.

I bought an At-a-Glance 2006 Daily Planning diary to implement the scheme and this has worked pretty well so far. I find myself not really noting much in the Notes or To-Dos sections; I have other home and office systems to log those things. But I do note in the planner book what I hope to accomplish each day or night of the week, and when I review my lists of Active Projects, I make sure each one has a next action written down for a specific day. (It was all to easy for tasks to stay on my GTD context lists and never move; by physically writing them down, I’m forced to confront them and make them move.)

One of TM4SA’s key recommendations is that you write down what you want to accomplish each day and transfer undone tasks to the next day or some day in the future. This rankles lots of GTD purists and I understand it. On a bad day, you’ll have to transfer most everything forward. But on a good day, you’ll get most everything done and there’s relatively few tasks to move forward.

TM4SA also recommends estimating about how long each task will take. This has really helped me figure out what I can realistically get to in an evening and so not overbook myself with ridiculously fabuloso projects or commitments when really all I have time to do is write my 1000 words and read. I’ve found that I really can’t do all that I want when I have an evening free–instead, I have to prioritize and choose and do. Which is what time and task management is all about.

Modest Change 1: Early to Rise

Earlier this year, Merlin suggested that, instead of resolutions and big efforts, people implement fresh starts and modest changes. Here’s the first of three posts about some modest changes I’ve made that have yielded some good benefits.

I’ve long known that about 70% of my problems would disappear if I just got up a little earlier. I went through a period last month where I was waking earlier than I wanted. Someone in the office suggested I just come in early like a few others of my officemates do and start logging my time. The very next day, I awoke at about 4 a.m. So I got up and made it into the office by 6:30.

My God, the quiet. I sat and focused on my project and got a good chunk done before lunchtime. And I got another good chunk done before I left for the day. I was quietly shocked at how well this weird new behavior worked.

Because we’re cursed to work 9-hour days, I previously was getting in at 9 a.m. and leaving about 6 or 6:30 p.m., thus beating the rush-hour traffic both ways. Now, getting in at 7:30 a.m., there’s still some rush-rush on the highways, but there’s enough time at the end of the day to do my workout and have an evening of relative leisure, instead of cramming a gallon of stuff into a pint pot.

Accepting this behavior means letting go of treasured descriptions of myself as a night owl, as someone who’d rather stay up late than go to bed early. Well, that’s still the case. I still prefer staying up late. But the reality of my working life dictates that early-rising more than repays the effort.

I’ve been able to stick with this schedule rather easily and will continue to do so. If I need to work late, it’s fairly painless to stay another hour or two and log some extra time. And, I should note, I’ve not been troubled by early rising since sticking to my new schedule.

Links: Clipmarks, screensaver, quantum computing, & personality tests

Clipmarks | What Is Clipmarks?
“Manage the stuff you find on the web
With the Clipmarks toolbar you can clip, tag and save snippets of content from the web, without having to bookmark whole pages. Then sign in to clipmarks.com from any computer to organize your collection.”
(the clips stay on the clipmarks server, so you don’t have to store them locally. a busy ui, potentially useful)

Download Free Screensaver - Holding Pattern
“Holding Pattern turns your idle computer screen into an airplane window, complete with a moving aerial view. Each time the screensaver plays a unique sequence.”

New Scientist: Quantum computer works best switched off - News

Interactive Johari Window - Mapping Personality Visibility
“The Johari Window was invented by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in the 1950s as a model for mapping personality awareness. By describing yourself from a fixed list of adjectives, then asking your friends and colleagues to describe you from the same list, a grid of overlap and difference can be built up.

and on the flip side…

The Nohari Window - Personality Flaw Map
“The Nohari Window is a challenging inversion of the Johari Window, using antonyms of the original words. By describing your failings from a fixed list of adjectives, then asking your friends and colleagues to describe you from the same list, a grid of perceived and unrecognised weaknesses can be explored.”

Wikipedia:Unusual articles

This page has been making the rounds of the blogosphere. I like the made-up Simpsons words and many of the other links.

But one of my favorite entries not listed here is on Florence Foster Jenkins, which features a sound sample of the woman “who became famous for her complete lack of singing ability.” If you have the Rhapsody music service, you can hear the entire album of this very painful warbling. (Like rain slurping down a rusty gutter, as I remembering reading somewhere.)

But one of the fun things about traversing Wikipedia and the web is finding that Jenkins’ page links to a bigger page on Outsider Music, which links to this fabulous collection of 365 MP3 files of “outsider music.”

Best Desktop Pictures Ever

In my humble opinion, of course. These are from Zeldman’s old site, courtesy the Wayback Machine.

His new ones are great, too, and are certainly more uniform in size and polished in quality. But that demonic clown and the electric blue trapeze artists just send me.

Addendum
The Beauteous Liz reminded me of another set of desktop pictures that appeals to my sensibilities: the Daze of Our Lives archives of Victorian etchings wallpaper. Note that there are archives for different years and there are varied sizes. My personal favorites are the Fornasetti Girl (2002), the Snowy Trees (2002), the Cowboy Band (2001), and Hand Kisser (2001),