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[MARCH 2009.]

Delayed flight home, unavoidable ride through the dead of night in a posh “airport limo,” cancelled this morning’s class. In the doctor’s office waiting to refill my meds, I see a computer terminal mounted on a five-legged caster assembly. It looks like a crab, could start crawling around the linoleum like a jolly five-legged crab, and that’s the desideratum: to keep on turning casters into crabs without a lot of bullshit getting in the way. Homo ludens seeks patron.

What is IN those pills you're taking?

You know, sugar and spice. Hyle.

 

I got on Harvard’s wireless network by crossing my fingers and promising that I had firewall software installed; now I’m checking the status of some mining claims in Arizona, in the middle of a room full of people speaking French. “Crimson Catering” delivers some pretty good coffee; I scored a pretty posh chair.

I still like listening to people talk about art, but apparently I have nothing to say in response. Thanks, really, for pointing those things out; but not everything has to be dialogic.

 

Threescore and Ten

In Boston; went to the Museum of Fine Arts.


Tintoretto, self-portrait circa 1546


Tintoretto, self-portrait circa 1588

ἔργα νέων, βουλαὶ δὲ μέσων, εὐχαὶ δὲ γερόντων

deeds [are] of the young; counsel, the middle-aged; prayers, the old.

—Hesiod, fragments

 

Late at night I said to J., “I need to s-e-l-p-s,” then collapsed into incomprehension over such a brain typo—I wish I could say this was the endpoint of grading, but in fact the work is barely begun. “For in Calormen, story-telling (whether the stories are true or made up) is a thing you’re taught, just as English boys and girls are taught essay-writing. The difference is that people want to hear the stories, whereas I never heard of anyone who wanted to read the essays.”

Berkeley has an enlightened new policy where your kitchen scraps and yard clippings can decay peacefully together in big green bins; so taking out the new load of coffee grounds and tangelo peels this morning, we flipped open the lid and discovered a tiny glistening salamander inside, breathing through wee neck vents and taking in the world with alert black eyes. We dumped our refuse and closed the lid carefully; then I had an attack of worry over what might become of the salamander when the organic waste truck showed up, so I went back out and used a bit of Tupperware to transfer it to the temperate jungle growing alongside our house. It was quite cooperative about being moved and even helped matters out by clinging to the Tupperware with its tiny prehensile tail—who knew?! I believe it must have been a half-grown Aneides lugubrus. When we went back out to check up it had skedaddled, I hope to a more salamander-appropriate habitat.

Here’s the original Gerry-Mander from 1812.

And the surviving fragment of Anaximander—

Ἀναξίμανδρος [...] λέγει δ’ αὐτὴν μήτε ὕδωρ μήτε ἄλλο τι τῶν καλουμένων εἶναι στοιχείων, ἀλλ’ ἑτέραν τινὰ φύσιν ἄπειρον, ἐξ ἧς ἅπαντας γίνεσθαι τοὺς οὐρανοὺς καὶ τοὺς ἐν αὐτοῖς κόσμους? ἐξ ὧν δὲ ἡ γένεσίς ἐστι τοῖς οὖσι, καὶ τὴν φθορὰν εἰς ταῦτα γίνεσθαι κατὰ τὸ χρεών? διδόναι γὰρ αὐτὰ δίκην καὶ τίσιν ἀλλήλοις τῆς ἀδικίας κατὰ τὴν τοῦ χρόνου τάξιν.

Anaximander [...] says that the Non-limited is neither water nor any other one of the things called elements, but something of a different nature, from which came all the heavens and the worlds in them; the source from which things derive their existence and to which they return at their destruction, according to necessity; for they give justice and make reparation to one another for injustice, according to the arrangement of time.

 

Hey, I got fellowship funding for next year! Well that’s one nasty decision postponed....

hot damn, son!

 

For a while I was checking the news a lot, waiting for miracles, but there’s so much that can’t happen and all we get now is this petty, punitive ninety-percent tax: shaking your helpless stick at the gold gone down the drain.

Bernard Malamud, The Tenants: well, audacity. A writer unafraid to set down his nightmares and—the important part—to interrogate them as he sets them down. I guess Ralph Ellison is said to have found it horribly offensive. This is the risk. I just regret that “courage” is so overused a word for fiction. (Meanwhile, there was a recent direct-to-DVD adaptation starring Snoop Dogg....)

I don’t halt much any more, I don’t notice things. This bothers me. J. suggests it’s the meds; them among others. I just wrote to the English department asking them to leave my name out of next year’s teaching appointments. There has to be a better way.

And Malamud taught four sections of freshman comp a semester, for fifteen years, in Corvallis, Oregon. Who does that? Who gets up in the morning and does that? It makes me feel like a mollusc.

we just say 'snoop' nowadays.

wait, so who's whiter: atem or the person who corrected his usage on "snoop"?

we are both about as white as anyone who calls us out on the interweb for unbearable whiteness

Then turn not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the dance

 

“the nauseating sham-aristocratic dance of my own sentences”

Where does the animal belong. The animal belongs under the bed.

I decline, I decline, I decline.

 

eure sanscreed into oure eryan

Happy Guinness Whisky Milkshake day, or however you mark it—

A bit of my nonexistent cash flow went to this ere Vladimir Sofronitsky box (spell it any way you like, I guess)—he does so many things right, even if the recording suggests a single mike in the next room over stuffed inside a couple of sweat socks—he knows how to play the Chopin dance pieces like dance pieces without getting all Viennese-goofy about it—the Op. 53 heroic polonaise makes you have to polonaise around the living room like nobody’s business—so probably for the best there’s no longer a cat here—

 

Fellow on the sidewalk, on his cell— “...I have a phone interview on the 26th, but my phone’s getting turned off on the 17th... yeah... and I’m not getting any checks until the end of the month...” —then walks out of hearing.

New birds in the backyard, I think some kind of warbler; when I play the piano they come up to the window as if they want to talk back to it.

But no money for anything. Every time I look at the financial file on my desk, Marvin Gaye starts up: “Natural fact is / I can’t pay my taxes.” Daily life starts to seem more and more like a low-budget BBC comedy. I’ll spend spring break around Harvard, pretending I have justification to be around Harvard; just like I wear sport coats to teach and the students call me “Professor” and why bother correcting them?

Been avoiding my responsibilities with a lot of pleasure reading: Dos Passos, Cain, Disch, Isherwood, Gogol, Platonov. So much room in the big tent.

 

Pica pica nuttalli, your old favorite and mine, is back with some handy hints!

BAROQUE             NOT BAROQUE

Flirting            Proposing
Ellipse             Circle
Tasty food          Fasting
Eros, thanatos,     Indie pop
erotothanatopsis
Vertigo             Tree-climbing
Gold                Beer (beer is Gothic)
Cryptomariolatry    The trivium and the quadrivium
Bitching            Shutting up
Syncretism          St. Paul

 

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