Saturday, April 30, 2016

But it's bigger than ours!

Why the human brain is smaller than the elephant's but we have them in our zoos, not the other way around.

Jacques Barzun on Moving On

The purpose I gradually fashioned took the form of a resolve to fight the mechanical.
Where, then, is this enemy? Not where the machine gives relief from drudgery but where human judgment abdicates. Any ossified institution – almost every bureaucracy, public or private – manifests the mechanical. 
And I have mentioned before, more than once, Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, psychological pioneer, concentration camp survivor, remains a touchstone for survival.

Story of a love affair …

 Review of Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

She had the knack …

… Simplicity: Review: William Anderson (Editor), 'Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder' - Washington Free Beacon. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Her prairie stoicism—a mood and a morality nearly vanished even from the Western states—proves interesting, as well. “Though you are far away and speak a different language,” she wrote in 1948 to a group of Japanese schoolchildren, “still the things worthwhile in life are the same for us all and the same as when I was a child so long ago. Things of real value do not change with the passing of years nor in going from one country to another. … It is always best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures, to be cheerful in adversity and have courage in danger.”

Appreciation …

… “He Has Made Us Who We Are” — 400 Years Later Shakespeare Prevails | Town Topics. (Hat tip, Virginia Kerr.)

The 1953 film version of Julius Caesar is much better than the 1970 version, but Charlton Heston in the latter is a better Mark Antony than Marlon Brando is in the former.

Fighting words...

Hmm …

 Maverick Philosopher: Two Senses of 'Mystery' and McGinn's Mysterianism.
McGinn 'takes it on faith' that all mental activity is brain activity.
It seems to me just as reasonable to suppose that the brain is a transmitter of thought, and that thought and brain are not the same, just as my voice and the phone I use to call someone are not the same. It is I you talk to over the phone, not the phone.

Interesting …

… Bright flash of light marks incredible moment life begins when sperm meets egg.

All about rhyme …

… Uncensored John Simon: Rhyme.

Give beauty back …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `The Sheer Beauty of It'.

Sad indeed …

… Nigeness: Another Voice from the Past - and the Saddest Story...

Listen in …

… Cycles of civilisations - Philosophy and Life.

Dinner and prizes …

… Detectives Beyond Borders: What they said at the 2016 Edgar Awards, or Paretsky-Mosley for president.

Hmm …

… Welcome to the Clificene: Eileen Battersby in Ireland reviews German cli-fi novel ''The Lamentations of Zeno''.

He is a German glaciologist; he loves ice and its many shapes and qualities. He knows the ice cap is melting and continues to mourn the slow death of a glacier he began to monitor while a student.
I wonder what ice cap that is. Certainly not the one at the Antarctic where he serves as a tour guide (NASA Study: Mass Gains of Antarctic Ice Sheet Greater than Losses). Oh, well. It is fiction. And it was first published five years ago. And it sounds interesting.

The mystery of laughter …

 Zealotry of Guerin: Birth of Comedy (Max Ernst), Sonnet #295.

Nice to know …

… Julien Baker Believes in God - The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

Even when poetry has a meaning, as it usually has, it may be inadvisable to draw it out... Perfect understanding will sometimes almost extinguish pleasure.
— A. E. Housman, who died on this date in 1936

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Onion nails it …

… College Encourages Lively Exchange Of Idea.

And then there are the smug liberals...

This is not a call for civility. Manners are not enough. The smug style did not arise by accident, and it cannot be abolished with a little self-reproach. So long as liberals cannot find common cause with the larger section of the American working class, they will search for reasons to justify that failure. They will resent them. They will find, over and over, how easy it is to justify abandoning them further.  They will choose the smug style.

47% of the population would have problems...

coming up with $400:
I have had a passably good career as a writer—five books, hundreds of articles published, a number of awards and fellowships, and a small (very small) but respectable reputation. You wouldn’t even know it to look at my tax return. I am nowhere near rich, but I have typically made a solid middle- or even, at times, upper-middle-class income, which is about all a writer can expect, even a writer who also teaches and lectures and writes television scripts, as I do. 

David Brooks finds the commoner...

I was surprised by Trump’s success because I’ve slipped into a bad pattern, spending large chunks of my life in the bourgeois strata — in professional circles with people with similar status and demographics to my own. It takes an act of will to rip yourself out of that and go where you feel least comfortable. But this column is going to try to do that over the next months and years. 

You don't say?

… The City of Homeless Love - Taki's Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Interesting. I walked from 11th and Filbert to South Philly last night and didn't see anything like this. Don't get me wrong. I remember leaving the Central Library one night some years ago and seeing that the park area across the way had become a camp ground for the homeless. But I find it amazing that one guy could see so much of this in one day and in some of the better parts of town (e.g., Rittenhouse Square). I walk all over and don't usually see as much as he did in a week, let alone a single day. That said, our current mayor is a poor specimen, and I suspect what is reported here will only grow more common.

Pretty sound advice

… University of Florida News — Noted poet addresses UF Ph.D. grads. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Reprieve …

… The Writers' Almanac: "I heard a fly buzz when I died" . . .

Expressing impossibility …

… The Oxonian Review — A Difficult Poet. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… the bulk of Clavics turns out to be extraordinarily difficult, almost impossible, to parse, and all too many passages that do yield up paraphrasable sense read like implausible headlines or mnemonic devices, as though they had been composed according to an Old-Norse verse form after one too many quaffs of mead: “Erasmus, in Praise of Folly: / Grand antidote no substitute for bling”; “Richard Dadd dab hand at Prize Depiction”; “Straw men in flagrante folk-upbraided”. It’s not that one can’t identify some of the themes to which Hill has dealt with so often throughout his career, particularly the relation between political power (violence) and art. The problem, rather, is that what he says about these topics here so often verges on gibberish.
I introduced Geoffrey Hill once, at the 92d Street Y in New York. He told the audience that the best way to read his work was just to read it, and not worry about allusions and the like (adding, wryly, that he often missed them himself sometimes). I think that is good advice. Don't try to figure it out, just let it sink in.

In the meantime, since Jean Jaurès is mentioned at the start, let's pause and listen to a Jacques Brel song:

Flavorful …

… In Honor Of #NationalPoetryMonth: Your Favorite Poems About Food And Farming : The Salt : NPR. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

First ever …

 Uncovering Unknown Masterpieces of Armenia’s First Great Mystic Poet | Armenian Weekly. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Terian’s “groundbreaking” and “magnificent” new book, The Festal Works of St. Gregory of Narek(461 pages, the Liturgical Press, Minnesota, 2016) is the first translation (embellished with 54 pages of introduction and an array of explanatory notes) in any language of the surviving corpus of Naregatsi’s festal works. Terian’s mellifluous English and his mastery of Grapar have made this onerous task a joy and a celebration.

Q&A …

… and much, much more: Bryan Garner interview: English usage, Google ngrams - Business Insider. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I tried to contextualize all my searches, so if you want to do "home in on" versus "hone in on," you can't do "home in" versus "hone in" because you end up with a lot usages such as "She has a home in Malibu." So you have to use "homed in on" versus "honed in on" and then you get a good read on it. I showed exactly what my searches were so that anybody else can verify the results.

Mark thy calendar …

A Celebration of A.V. Christie
+ the launch of her posthumous chapbook

The evening honors A.V. Christie, her life and her poetry, and her just published chapbook, AND I BEGAN TO ENTERTAIN DOUBTS, from Folded Word Press, a poem whose “urgency and beauty” inspired the Press to create a new Master Series.  This occasion is open to all those who loved and admired A.V. and her poetry; all are invited to bring a poem of hers to read, or read from her new chapbook, or come to listen, mourn and celebrate A.V.

A.V. Christie was the author of Nine Skies (University of Illinois Press, 1997), which won the National Poetry Series; The Housing (Ashland Poetry Press, 2004), winner of the McGovern Prize; and a chapbook, The Wonders, Editor’s Series (Seven Kitchens Press, 2014).

Thursday, May 26, 2016 — 7 PM

Brandywine Workshop
728 South Broad Street, Philadelphia PA

Something to think on …

From all I did and all I said let no one try to find out who I was.
— Constantine P. Cavalry, born on this date in 1863

A way of loving things...

Thursday, April 28, 2016

No surprise politics too...

Many news outlets' business models now depend on stoking anger.

Communist saint?

The Cause of social justice pioneer Dorothy Day has taken a step forward [to sainthood] after a decision by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, to open a canonical inquiry into her life.

Fairy tales...

Unlike the Grimms — literary scholars and linguists who, rather than traveling the countryside to gather first-hand oral folktales, relied on a handful of trusted sources — [Hans Christian] Andersen came of age as a peasant amidst a highly superstitious society, in a small town of 8,000 more akin to a medieval city than a European hub of culture, in which tales were used as both entertainment and moral education. Not only were his stories authentic culturally, they were also largely his own — also unlike the Grimms, who retold existing tales, historians estimate that only seven of Andersen’s 200 tales were borrowed.

Blogging note …

I must be out and about. So I won't be blogging again until later, probably much later.

Anniversary …

Blossom Dearie was born on this date in 1924. I had the privilege of meeting her once.

Have a listen …

 Paul Davis On Crime: A Little Night Music: Chris Botti's 'Ever Since We Met'.

How it was done …

… Marked Up Photographs Show How Iconic Prints Were Edited in the Darkroom. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Don't waste your money at this place …


Lest we forget …

 INSTANT HISTORY: Beatlemania!

The age of pointless brevity …

… Rediscovering The Point Of Language | Standpoint.

Pointless brevity is certainly a problem. But, as the author notes, "Brevity and concision do not themselves pose a problem." In fact, they are necessary virtues, even when a topic demands expansion. There is still plenty of prolix stuff around. Shorter, when better, is harder. Going on and on is always easy and never good. Anna Karenina is long, but has no longueurs.

Sad news …

 Author Jenny Diski, diagnosed with inoperable cancer, dies aged 68 | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

See also: Jenny Diski · LRB.

Something to think on …

Science is spectral analysis. Art is light synthesis.
— Karl Kraus, born on this date in 1874

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Appreciation …

 The Millions : Everybody Stinks: The Life & Work of Florence King. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Time for a quiz …

 QUIZ: How Well Do You Know World History? - Offbeat.

A poem …

Saint Christopher

He travels everywhere, swinging just below
The rearview mirror, master of the doubt
That must be borne to carry faith. How else
Could he have made his crossing, why else
Centuries of veneration and intention?

Hmm …

Can Funders Help Filmmakers Connect With the Public on Climate Change? - Inside Philanthropy - Inside Philanthropy. (Hat tip, Dan Bloom.)

They may want to check the weather from time to time:  Britain to be hit by heavy snow on Friday as experts warn of travel chaos.

And they may want to check out this somewhat faulty prediction from yesteryear: Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past.

The journey to the great perhaps …

… Winning at Life—And Death - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The journalist and essayist Michael Kinsley is a modest man who would not compare himself to Cicero but who has entered this same departure lounge for elegant intellectuals. In “Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide,” he shares many modern statistics, including what he calls “the creepy one” that “the death rate due to suffocation is eight times higher for people over eighty-five than for people between the ages of sixty-five and seventy-four.” He duly notes the progress of medicine over the past millennia, most specifically in the understanding of Parkinson’s disease, with which he himself was first diagnosed in 1993 and for which Cicero knew only symptoms. But the age-old problems of old age (how good, how long, what matters?) outweigh what has changed.

Something to think on …

All socialism involves slavery.
— Herbert Spencer, born on this date in 1820

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I'm shocked. Shocked …

 Kansas Reduced Poverty by Requiring Work for Food Stamps.

Spanish Literary Heritage

The interesting case of Cervantes and contemporary attempts to honor Spanish masters. Click here.

Tyranny alert …

… The Federal Speech Police Are At it Again - The American Interest.
To comply with Title IX, DOJ states that a college or university “carries the responsibility to investigate” all speech of a sexual nature that someone subjectively finds unwelcome, even if that speech is protected by the First Amendment or an institution’s promises of free speech.
Just who gave them the right to overrule the First Amendment?

Granting a voice to the dispossessed …

… 'The Little Red Chairs': Edna O'Brien brings the Beast of Bosnia ashore in Ireland | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

 Only the retired schoolteacher has his doubts and reminds the other pub denizens that Rasputin, too, was a charming foreigner who claimed to have the powers of a healer. Meanwhile, Ms. O’Brien implies that “Vlad” may be the scariest outsider of all, the one with bloody fangs.
Well, in Rasputin's case, he apparently did have some uncanny ability to ease the czarevich's suffering from hemophilia, and his advice to avoid Russian entry into World War I proved eminently sound.

For those that like that sort of thing...

An Interview with Camille Paglia

I found her Sexual Personae unreadable.  The interview above is more of the same to me, but perhaps I am not sufficiently sophisticated to understand why her illogical ramblings constitute knowledge.

Lost and found …

 Missing symphony by one of England's greatest composers discovered on eBay 30 years after he gave it away to a plumber. (Hat tip, David Tothero.)

And here is the symphony:

In case you wondered …

… The Trouble With Poets (a documentary) on Vimeo. (Hat tip, G. E. Reuter.)

Q&A …

… Columbia University Press —  An Interview with M. A. Orthofer, author of The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Getting things straight …

… Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers: Review of Bandersnatch by Diana Pavlac Glyer. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Glyer's important achievement was to undo the major error of Carpenter's mostly excellent biography, which was Carpenter's insistence that the Inklings was just a group of Jack Lewis's friends and having no other or wider significance: Carpenter was insistent to the point of perversity on this point, even devoting a whole chapter ('A fox that isn't there') to hammering it home. But in this important respect Carpenter was about as wrong as it is possible to be! - as Glyer has proven.


… Dog dies from exhaustion after rescuing seven people from earthquake.

Something to think on …

For a truly religious man nothing is tragic.
— Ludwig Wittgenstein, born on this date in 1889

Monday, April 25, 2016

Thomas Frank on Donald Trump

Millions of ordinary Americans support Donald Trump. Here's why

How good looking are you?, an elite dating website for the exclusively good looking, has reportedly had the private data of more than 1 million users leaked.
The breach leaked information such as addresses, sexual preferences and incomes, as well as millions of private messages, sold online by the hackers. claims to exclude unattractive people by having existing members rate those trying to sign up.

Haiku …

Golden years indeed: 
You turn golden as the leaves,
Then fall to the ground.

Sad anniversary …

 “Death is so plain!” Remembering Thom Gunn on the anniversary of his death. | The Book Haven.

Forty years ago today …

Mark thy calendar …




PRESENT: A Panel Discussion

with Sarah Blake, Angel Hogan &

Sekai’afua Zankel

on I’m Learning Nothing This Night
by Reginald Dwayne Betts

and Sound & Fury by Claudia Rankine

(The texts of the poems are below)

The Forum Will Include Discussion
Of The Poems And Their Relationship
To The Current Political Scene

An Audience Q & A Will Follow

TUESDAY, May 17, 2016, 7-8:30 PM


Philadelphia, PA

This Event Is Free

Sarah Blake is the author of Mr. West, an unauthorized lyric biography of Kanye West. Her first chapbook is forthcoming from Banango Editions with an illustrated companion workbook. Her poems have appeared, or will soon, in the Kenyon Review, Poetry Northwest, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Threepenny Review, and others. She was awarded an NEA fellowship for poetry in 2013, and she is founder of Submittrs.

Angel Hogan has performed as part of the Black Women’s Arts Festival, Literary Death Match and the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. She has acted as a Contributing Editor to Philadelphia Stories, a review panelist for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, and a board member at The Hacktory. As a local teaching artist she is most interested in initiatives that use storytelling as a vehicle for tolerance, peace, and community building.

Sekai’afua Zankel has worked the Church of the Advocate and has acted at Freedom Theater. She is the author of Behind These Eyes / Optical Poems which  won the Frank Moore Poetry Prize in 2008 and was awarded a Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grant in 2009. Her poems have been published in the CAP literary magazine and Apiary. She was born on the first day of spring.

Sound & Fury                            Claudia Rankine

Dispossessed despair, depression, despondent
dejection, the doom is the off-white of white. But wait,
white can’t know what white feels. Where’s the life in that?
Where’s the right in that? Where’s the white in that?

At the bone of bone white breathes the fear of seeing,
the frustration of being unequal to white. White-male portraits
on white walls were intended to mean ownership of all,
the privilege of all, even as white walls white in.

And this is understandable, yes,
understandable because the culture claims white
owns everything—the wealth
of no one anyone knows. Still the equation holds—
jobs and health and schools and better than
before and different from now and enough
and always and eventually mine.

This is what it means to wear a color and believe
the embrace of its touch. What white long expected
was to work its way into an upwardly mobile fit.
In the old days white included a life, even without luck
or chance of birth. The scaffolding had rungs
and legacy and the myth of meritocracy fixed in white.

Now white can’t hold itself distant from the day’s touch—
even as the touch holds so little white would own—
foreclosure vanished pensions school systems
in disrepair free trade rising unemployment unpaid
medical bills school debt car debt debt debt.

White is living its brick-and-mortar loss,
staving off more loss, exhaustion, aggrieved
exposure, a pale heart even as in daylight
white hardens its features. Eyes, which hold all
the light, harden. Jaws, which close down on nothing,
harden. Hands, which assembled, and packaged,
and built, harden into a fury that cannot call

power to account though it’s not untrue jobs were
outsourced and it’s not untrue an economic base
was cut out from under. It’s not untrue.

If people could just come clean about their pain,
the being at a loss when just being white
is not working. Who said there is no hierarchy
inside white walls? Who implied white owns
everything even as it owns nothing? But white
can’t strike its own structure. White can’t oust
its own system. All the loss is nothing
next to any other who can be thrown out.
In daylight this right to righteous rage doubles
down the supremacy of white in this way.

I'm Learning Nothing This Night                         Reginald Dwayne Betts

The magazine on my lap talks
about milk. Tells me that in America,
every farmer lost money on
every cow, every day of every month
of the year. Imagine that? To wake
up and know you're digging yourself
deeper into a hole you can't see
out of, even as your hands are wet
with what feeds you. That's how this
thing is, holding on & losing a little each
moment. I'm whispering an invented
history to myself tonight– because
letting go is the art of living fully
in the world your body creates
when you sleep. Say a prayer for
the insomniacs. They hunger &
demand the impossible. Pray for
the farmers, hands deep in loam-
body's weight believing what
the mind knows is ruin, they too
want the impossible, so accustomed
to the earth responding when they call.

Encounter …

 How I Got Acquainted With A Real Writer | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

Wrestling with God …

… The Writers' Almanac: Encounters with Emily Dickinson - No. 9.

This is what faith is all about.

Oh, my …

… On Shakespeare and Aemilia Lanyer | Sandra Simonds | Granta. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

The learned professor doesn't seem to realize that this still amounts to riding the Bard's coattails.

Here's a thought …

… We can celebrate Harriet Tubman without disparaging Andrew Jackson - The Washington Post.

… it would be difficult to call someone genocidal when years before, after one bloody fight, he brought an orphaned Native American baby from the battlefield to his home in Tennessee and raised him as his son.

Appreciation …

… Helen Vendler and the Science of Poetry. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)


Parting ways …

… Lyric and Lyric – the AGNI blog. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

For most of Western history—from bards singing The Iliad and The Odyssey, to French troubadours, to Shakespearean sonnets, to Dickinson’s ballad stanzas—there was little distinction between a poem and a song; the word “lyric” referred to both, whether the words were spoken, printed or sung. But somewhere in the last hundred years or so, a rift must have opened up between these understandings of “the lyric”—because the kind that appears on the radio no longer bears much resemblance to the kind that appears on the page.


… Welcome to the Clificene: COVER REVEAL new cli-fi novel ''NEW YORK 214O'' by KIM STANLEY ROBINSON (from Orbit Books).

The art of medicine …

 ‘Literature about medicine may be all that can save us’ | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Any serious illness is a medical event, but it is lived in narrative terms. As religion has lost ground to secularism and the split between body and soul has come to feel metaphoric rather than literal, some people have rooted themselves in scientific explanations of the world, while others seek truth in art, literature or even political idealism. Students bifurcate early, pursuing a medical track or a literary/humanist one. It is as though we belong to different races. William Osler, writing in the late 19th century, observed: “It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” We have not much heeded his call.

Something to think on …

A lost but happy dream may shed its light upon our waking hours, and the whole day may be infected with the gloom of a dreary or sorrowful one; yet of neither may we be able to recover a trace.
— Walter de La Mare, born on this date in 1873

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Free will or Neuroanatomy?

'Evidence that is looking directly at the person's brain has been thought by some people, some philosophers, to pose a challenge to the very way the law operates, so that it wouldn't just provide evidence of exceptional circumstances, but by looking into the black box of the mind, it would be able to show that all of our actions are caused by brain mechanisms and prior events outside of our control.'
If this were the case, neuroscience 'would undermine the whole notion of responsibility, and undermine the attributive basis of the law', according to Kennett.

The Personality of Academic Majors

Are the personality differences the result of socialization processes within faculties, or are they pre-existing? Certain personality traits may be valued and cultivated in some faculties, but not in others. Over time, that could hypothetically create personality differences. However, the personality differences may also originate from self-selection: individuals with different personalities may be attracted to different majors. 

Rejoice and be glad …

 First Known When Lost: Gratitude.

Anniversary …

… Will's power: On 400th anniversary of his death, celebrate his life.

Deserving attention …

… The Sin Eater: Alice Thomas Ellis and the Gothic Tradition - Los Angeles Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

When I first read Unexplained Laughter, what struck me most forcibly was Ellis’s unprecedented attitude toward the supernatural. The laughter is not essential to the plot. The tale of what happens to Lydia on her vacation would not be substantially altered if the laughter were not present at all. Ellis does not focus her story on the astonishing existence of the paranormal. Instead, she weaves this element into the fabric of her tale, making the laughter a fundamental part of life in this place, as common and unremarked as sunlight. I have rarely seen magic treated this way in fiction: as something that is both essential and incidental.
I read some of her stuff years ago and was quite impressed.

How nice …

 Instapundit — DISPATCHES FROM THE EDUCATION APOCALYPSE: Very Special Snowflakes: Harvard Refuses to Name …

This clown sounds like a real sweetie.

World tour …

… Paul Davis On Crime: Even Broke, Mark Twain Traveled In Style.

A sad tale …

 Column One: Willie. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Inquirer reviews …

… 'Lust and Wonder': The mundane made mean and boring.

'Eligible': Updated Austen, broad and off-color.

… 'Long Shadow of Small Ghosts': True tale of crime, hope, place.

… Anna Quindlen's 'Miller's Valley': More creek than reservoir.

Something to think on …

Life is so unlike theory.
— Anthony Trollope, born on this date in 1815

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Calling out the fascists …

The environmental campaign that punishes free speech - The Washington Post.

You know an argument is weak when steps are taken to prevent anyone from countering it. It's bad enough that these people are beneath contempt. What's worse is that they have power.

For Poetry Month …

… National Poetry Month Readings 2016 - Washington Post. (Hat tip, Paul, Davis.

Left turn …

… Glenn Reynolds — Bernie's plan: Make America European again!

As Swedish pundit Johan Norberg writes: “Sanders is right: America would benefit hugely from modeling her economic and social policies after her Scandinavian sisters. But Sanders should be careful what he wishes for. When he asks for ‘trade policies that work for the working families of our nation and not just the CEOs of large, multi-national corporations,’ Social Democrats in Sweden would take this to mean trade liberalization — which would have the benefit of exposing monopolist fat cats to competition — not the protectionism that Sanders favors. ... Being more like modern Sweden actually means deregulation, free trade, a national school voucher system, partially privatized pensions, no property tax, no inheritance tax, and much lower corporate taxes. Sorry to burst your bubble, Bernie.”

Or maybe not …

… Anecdotal Evidence: `I May Be Elsewhere'.

Dense …

 Primer, Watching Cold | Brandywine Books.

And more …

… Study: Grammar geeks 'aren't as nice' as regular folks | Articles | Main.

Well, I would never take it upon myself to correct someone's grammar, and if you want to talk any which way, go right ahead. But don't think others won't notice, and don't expect anybody to pay for what you write.

Ongoing foolishness …

… Maverick Philosopher: A Leftist Assault on Grammar as Racist.

For Earth Day …

 Welcome to the Clificene: "The alternative to those dystopian Hollywood doom-and-gloomers? Cli-fi is here!’.

Never out of character …

… Guilty Thing by Frances Wilson review – a superb biography of Thomas De Quincey | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

De Quincey made opium sublime and, in a word, romanticised it. His writing combined the monumental introspection of Wordsworth, still new, with the drug-doom of Coleridge, and stirred them together with a large dash of his own charm. The result made opiates seem intrinsically bound up with what he elsewhere calls “secret haunts of feeling”; “that inner world, that world of secret self-consciousness, in which each of us lives a second life.” It is thanks to De Quincey that John Updike could refer casually to “the writer in his opium den”, by which he means any sensitive modern writer in creative privacy: opium has become a metaphor, a quintessence of subjectivity itself

A dose of realism …

 The Anomaly of Barbarism | Lapham’s Quarterly. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Liberal civilization is not the emerging meaning of the modern world but a historical singularity that is inherently fragile. This is why it is worth preserving. Defending this form of life against ISIS requires a clear perception that the jihadist group is not an atavistic force that—with a little assistance from intensified bombing—will fade away with advancing modernization. If the threat is to be removed, ISIS will have to be defeated and destroyed. 

Poets searching …

… Zealotry of Guerin: The Bathers (Picasso), Sonnet #294.

Something to think on …

The world is a song, but we do not know whether it is a good song because we have nothing to compare it with.
— Halldor Laxness, born on this date in 1992

Friday, April 22, 2016

Haiku …

Nearby, a buzz saw.
An even-tempered Spring breeze.
"Hints followed by guesses."

And the winner is …

… Peter Balakian Wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry | Armenian Weekly. (Hat tip. Rus Bowden.)

Vintage commentary …

… Warning: Employs language now regarded as insensitive — George Orwell: Rudyard Kipling.

Jazz portraits …

… These Rarely Seen Images Show Jazz Greats Pouring Out Their Hearts | At the Smithsonian | Smithsonian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

How transgressive of him …

 How Whit Stillman Humanized Privilege – Flavorwire. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Clearly, Stillman’s comedies of manners make culture writers uncomfortable. In poking fun at characters on both the right and left, they register with no clear party or position — which might strike some of us, at a time when there’s support for masonry on the Mexican border, as unthinkable. But what Stillman ultimately sides with is stylish wit. His apolitical movies dare to prize a well-turned one-liner over social justice; they challenge us to embrace aestheticism and check our politics. 

Been there, done that...Just in a little different environment and much lower cost

I elected a three-day sampler tour of Denver offered at the price of $1,295, not including airfare, by one of Colorado’s most popular pot tourist firms, My 420 Tours. A cannabis concierge helped me plan my weekend, mellowly insisting on the foodie tour and the private massage with medicinal marijuana oil.

Vatican Air Show Goes Awry!

Out-Of-Control Angel Kills Dozens Of Bystanders At Vatican Air Show
 It's Onion Friday

A good deal …

… What's in a name? - Philosophy and Life.

And here's some more …


The Free Poetry Festival


* Farley’s First Thursday Series * The Collective Mic, LLC

* Montgomery County Poet Laureate Program

* Mad Poets Society/ Young Poets Contest /Mad Poets Review

* Calypso Press * Philadelphia Community College Certificate Program

* Philadelphia Stories * Brandywine Valley Writers Group

* Manayunk Roxborough Art Center / Schuylkill Valley Journal

* The Green Line Reading & Interview Series * Philadelphia Wordshop

* Word Up Wednesdays * Joie deVivre Book Competition

* Moonstone Art Center * The Osage Poets * Brigid’s House Writers

* Musehouse: Supporting the Literary Arts * Philadelphia Writers Conference


This year's festival will be held at
The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut Street in West Philadelphia.

Join us  on Sunday, April 24 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The Rotunda – 4014 Walnut Street in West Philadelphia
A wonderful event space!
Lots of street parking – metered and non-metered
Fresh Grocer Parking Garage across Walnut Street
Great places for food & spirits within a block:
Smokey Joe’s, The Greek Lady, Mizu Sushi Bar,
West Philly City Tap House, Bobby’s Burger Palace,
Copabanana, Hummus & The Last Word Book Shop.

Peace, Leonard Gontarek & Eileen D’Angelo

In case you wondered...

A reminder …


The Philadelphia Poetry Festival will include a Poetry Book Fair.

This is for individual poets signing and selling their books of poems.
All proceeds will go to and be handled by the authors.
The space is very limited. You must sign up in advance.

Please contact Leonard with interest:


The Free Poetry Festival

Poetry organizations, magazines, poetry presses, poetry series.
writing programs in the Philadelphia area

This year's festival will be held at
The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut Street in West Philadelphia.

Join us  on Sunday, April 24 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The Rotunda – 4014 Walnut Street in West Philadelphia
A wonderful event space!
Lots of street parking – metered and non-metered
Fresh Grocer Parking Garage across Walnut Street
Great places for food & spirits within a block:
Smokey Joe’s, The Greek Lady, Mizu Sushi Bar,
West Philly City Tap House, Bobby’s Burger Palace,
Copabanana, Hummus & The Last Word Book Shop.

Something to think on …

Life is a great sunrise. I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.
— Vladimir Nabokov, born on this date in 1899

Predicting is difficult …

… especially the future: Earth Day predictions of 1970. The reason you shouldn’t believe Earth Day predictions of 2009. | IHTM | Mobile Version.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Will's wildlife …

… Shakespeare Gone Wild: Meet the Animals in the Bard’s Plays. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)


 Prince Is Dead at 57 - The New York Times.

The masterful Maigret …

… The Writers' Almanac: A review from on-the-road in the American south.

Complaints were inevitable …

… Rapping the Legend - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I’ve been waiting for just such a reaction to “Hamilton” ever since it opened last year. Why? Because, as I wrote in my review of the original off-Broadway production, the show “is at bottom as optimistic about America as ‘1776.’ American exceptionalism meets hip-hop: That’s ‘Hamilton.’” Whether Mr. Miranda knew it or not—and he surely knows by now—such a point of view is by definition anathema to those who see America as a country so tainted with the original sin of class privilege as to be irredeemable. To such folk, the fact that the founders were rich white men is reason enough to sneer at the underlying optimism of “Hamilton.”

Where to really look …

… You Could Look It Up by Jack Lynch review – search engines can’t do everything | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… what is new may be our unwarranted confidence that what we find is the last word. As the literary scholar Jack Lynch argues: “The information at our fingertips is more diverse than ever before, but in some ways it is more limited.” It is partly as a warning, then, that he has written a survey of the printed reference book just as it seems to be passing from the world, and so his diverting and anecdote-rich history has an inevitably elegiac feel. (“You Could Look It Up” might be read as exclusively past-tense.)

ebook? Paper book? Both?

Most of the books I buy and read are ebooks; I make it a point, in fact, to buy the ebooks if they are available.
If you were paying attention to the previous sentence, I only said “most” of the books I buy are ebooks.
My house is overflowing with the old-fashioned dead-tree variety of books. I’m actually not quite sure how many physical books I have—three thousand is a conservative estimate. And their number keeps growing by the dozens each and every year. 

Somewhere Evelyn Wood weeps

Speed Reading doesn't work

It's a Histomap!

The History of the World in a map!

Something to think on …

There is nothing so easy but that it becomes difficult when you do it with reluctance.
— Jean Racine, who died on this date in 1699

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


 Paul Davis On Crime: On This Day In History in 1841: Edgar Allan Poe Publishes First Detective Story, 'The Murder In The Rue Morgue'.

Useful information …

 How to Get More Reads on Wattpad: Best Tips From Writers.

Among detritus and dogma …

… Approaching God, inch-by-inch | (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

O’Connor was a very specific type of writer in a very specific region and time, which in no way diminishes her talent. Some might call that provincial; I call it unique. In her essay “The Grotesque in Southern Fiction,” O’Connor explains that the “Southern writer is forced from all sides to make his gaze extend beyond the surface, beyond mere problems, until it touches that realm which is the concern of prophets and poets.” One such poet and another writer inspired by O’Connor’s work is Rita Mae Reese, whose collection The Book of Hulga investigates a fictional character who is mentioned in O’Connor’s letters but never fully made it to her pages.

Seems a fair appraisal …

… zmkc: Battered Penguins - V by Thomas Pynchon.

Priceless …

… I Am the Very Model of a Modern Ultramontanist | Clare Coffey | First Things. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Boundaries …

… A Bower in Arsacides by Frederick Turner | Articles | First Things. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Welcome to the world …

 rob mclennan's blog: Introducing: Aoife Lydia Judith McLennan, b. April 16. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Listen in …

… Episode 164 – Kliph Nesteroff (& Liz Hand) | Virtual Memories.
“I was a Henry Morgan authority at the age of 24.”

Remembering …

… Doing Time at the Writer’s House With C.K. Williams, Chekhov, and Shakespeare | Town Topics. (Hat tip, Virginia Kerr.)

Well, this is telling …

… Books to read before university | THE Features. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I would read Jung's Modern Man in Search of a Soul  before reading Carl Rogers.

But most of these books are fairly recent. Is it assumed that people entering college a;ready have the Iliad and the Odyssey under their belts? And any article that suggests reading "anything by Malcolm Gladwell" is hard to take seriously.

My own advice? Start with some sound overviews: J. B. Priestley's Literature and Western Man, Frederick Copleston's A History of Philosophy, Van Wyck Brooks's Makers and Finders series. Read some major poets — Donne, Herrick, Wordsworth, Keats, Browning. And of course Fielding and Dickens and Conrad. Want some good science books? Try Eddington's The Nature of the Physical World and Heisenberg's Physics and Philosophy.

Skip the trendy crap.

Does Google Books increase or decrease the market for books?

The Supreme Court decides by not deciding, thus leaving the Second Circuit decision in place:
Last year, a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said that Google’s project was lawful and beneficial.
“The purpose of the copying is highly transformative, the public display of text is limited and the revelations do not provide a significant market substitute for the protected aspects of the originals,” Judge Pierre N. Leval, an authority on copyright law, wrote for the panel.  
An argument against:
Authors Guild president Roxana Robinson called the decision a “colossal loss” for authors, underlining the Guild’s continued belief that “authors should be compensated when their work is copied for commercial purposes”.
“The price of this short-term public benefit may well be the future vitality of American culture,” said executive director Mary Rasenberger. “Authors are already among the most poorly paid workers in America; if tomorrow’s authors cannot make a living from their work, only the independently wealthy or the subsidised will be able to pursue a career in writing, and America’s intellectual and artistic soul will be impoverished.”  

Goodreads Most Popular Books in 2016

A list 

Something to think on …

Patience is adjusting your time to God's time.
— Mother Angelica, born on this date in 1923

Looking Death in the eye...

From the ceiling of my dugout hangs a lamp which I made from the engine of an aeroplane I had shot down. I fitted small bulbs into the cylinders; and if I lie awake at night and leave the light burning, its glow is reflected on the ceiling, and God knows the effect is grotesque and weird. When I lie like this I have plenty to think about. I write it down without knowing whether anyone besides my nearest relatives will ever see it. I go around thinking of continuing Der Rote Kampfflieger and for a very good reason indeed. Now the battle that is taking place on all fronts has become really serious; nothing remains of the "fresh, jolly war" as they used to call our activities at the outset. Now we must face up to a most desperate situation so that the enemy will not break into our land. Thus I have an uneasy feeling that the public has been exposed to another Richthofen, not the real me. Whenever I read the book I smile at its brashness. I no longer have that brash feeling. Not that I am afraid, though death may be right on my neck and I often think about it. Higher authority has suggested that I should quit flying before it catches up with me. But I should despise myself if, now that I am famous and heavily decorated, I consented to live on as a pensioner of my honor, preserving my precious life for the nation while every poor fellow in the trenches, who is doing his duty no less than I am doing mine, has to stick it out.
The Red Baron died at the age of 25. 

Include him out …

 Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene: POET A.D. Winans withdraws his name from consideration to be San Francisco Poet Laureate. (Hat tip, G. E. Reutter.)

Friends and rodents...

Monday, April 18, 2016

All we want to do is pee...

If you think trans people are mentally deranged, sinners of the first order or sexual deviants, we aren't.  Being trans is about having a biological condition, with Dr. Robert Sapolsky, professor of neuroscience at Stanford, summarizing it best after reviewing the over 300 studies about the neurobiology of the trans brain:
The results show that when individuals of Sex A, despite having the chromosomes, gonads and sex hormones of that sex, insist that they’re really Sex B; the gender-affected parts of the brain typically more closely resemble what’s usually seen with Sex B …
The issue isn’t that sometimes people believe they are of a different gender than they actually are. Remarkably, instead, it’s that sometimes people are born with bodies whose gender is different from what they actually are.
All we want to do is do the best we can, and cope with a condition we were born with.  And sometimes we have to pee, without producing a birth certificate, which seems a simple enough thing to ask.  (But see North Carolina's new law.)   As Saplosky says in a later article:  
It’s not that transgendered individuals think they are a different gender than they actually are. It’s that they’ve had the profoundly crappy luck to be stuck with bodies that are a different gender from who they actually are.
And if you decide to ignore the science, the fact trans is biological, and instead you want to persist with the screams of "witch, witch"  and think we all should be in a bathroom of "our birth gender," here's another problem.  Below are pictures of me, a trans woman (birth gender: male), and Shawn, a trans man (birth gender: female.)  Do you really think I wouldn't eventually lose my life in a North Carolina men's bathroom, and do you really think Shawn could walk into a women's room without being arrested?

When it comes down to it, maybe we should bar priests and politicians from bathrooms.  That is, if molestation is really a concern.    

Julie, a trans woman
Shawn, a trans man