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“… in the family of things”

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

— Mary Oliver
“Wild Geese”

October 21, 2017


Learning about substratum with the artist Kathryn Trumbell Fimreite:

Substratum: Latin: substrātum underlying layer, background; an underlying principle on which something is based; a basis, a foundation, a bedrock; a permanent underlying thing or essence in which properties inhere, more commonly called substance (philosophy); an underlying stratum, esp. that beneath the soil or other surface feature (geology); a lower class or stratum of society, esp. one which is characterized by poverty or criminality (sociology); a language spoken in a particular area at the time of the arrival of a new language, and which has had within that area a detectable influence on the elements or features of the new language (linguistics)


October 20, 2017

Hawaiian surf chant, c.1819

Ina`a `ohe nalu, a laila aku i kai, penei e hea ai:
(If there is no surf, invoke seaward in the following manner)

“Ku mai! Ku mai! Ka nalu nui mai Kahiki mai,
(Arise! Arise! You great waves from Kahiki)

Alo po i pu! Ku mai ka pohuehue,
(The powerful curling waves. Arise with the pohuehue)

Hu! Kai ko’o Loa.”
(Well up long raging surf.)

If there was a dearth of waves, the appointed priest would take several strands of pohuehue (Hawaiian Morning Glory flower) and in unison with a swimming party, would swing the vines around and lash them “unitedly upon the water until the desired undulating waves were obtained.”

— Finnery & Houston, Surfing: Sport of Hawaiian Kings, 1966.

September 24, 2017

Drop Out Of Art School

September 23, 2017

St. Francis Preaching to the Birds

Ambrogio Bondone (Giotto), 1309 A.D.

My little sisters, the birds, much bounden are ye unto God, your Creator, and always in every place ought ye to praise Him, for that He hath given you liberty to fly about everywhere, and hath also given you double and triple raiment; moreover He preserved your seed in the ark of Noah, that your race might not perish out of the world; still more are ye beholden to Him for the element of the air which He hath appointed for you; beyond all this, ye sow not, neither do you reap; and God feedeth you, and giveth you the streams and fountains for your drink; the mountains and valleys for your refuge and the high trees whereon to make your nests; and because ye know not how to spin or sow, God clotheth you, you and your children; wherefore your Creator loveth you much, seeing that He hath bestowed on you so many benefits; and therefore, my little sisters, beware of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to give praises unto God.

— Saint Francis of Assisi, c.1220

September 22, 2017

Over and over


In the long winter nights, a farmer’s dreams are narrow.
Over and over, he enters the furrow.

Robert Hass, Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005.

August 25, 2017

Foster Avenue Beach, Chicago

August 24, 2017

Accumulation (Brandt) and Acceleration (Keller)

Acceleration occurs in two related ways. First, in the smaller sense, literacy technologies and practices tend toward speed. That is, they aim to achieve some end faster. Second, in the large sense, literacies can accelerate: appearing, changing, merging with other literacies, or fading at a faster rate. For instances of literacies appearing, one must only think of the fact that MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter all arrived within a three-year span, 2003–2006, and quickly became popular literacy practices. A form of literacy can rise to importance and fall out of practice in a short amount of time.

For instance, knowing how to use hypertext markup language (HTML code) was an important aspect of electronic literacy in the 1990s, but is now fading. Some teachers may recall developing pedagogies around multiuser domains (MUDs), Second Life, and MySpace; these, too, have largely faded. An established form of literacy may remain but in an altered form. E-mail was a dominant form of electronic communication in various life domains, but has lost most of its social use to Facebook and texting, leaving it to fulfill the more formal communication needs of business and education. As literacies remain, they change: web browsers have moved from multiple windows to multiple tabs for multitasking purposes and continuously offer extensions to control more of the online experience; Facebook continues to update its functions and appearance; and cell phones have added keyboards for faster texting, application software (apps) for specific tasks, and speech recognition and activation software (e.g., Siri for the iPhone).

A significant effect of accumulation and acceleration is that what counts as effective reading and writing becomes a moving target—over time and from context to context. People in various situations must keep up with the latest changes, whether they involve using Facebook for social purposes, employing social media for workplace goals, or learning the latest course management software. Literacies are increasingly tied to contexts that value and reinforce speed and brevity. Much has been written to disparage “fast literacies” such as text messaging and multitasking, with the implied or openly stated conclusion that education should provide a bulwark against these anti-intellectual practices (Carr 2010; Edmundson 2004; Faigley 2006). I respond to some of these criticisms throughout the book and articulate a nuanced, productive relationship between “slower” and “faster” forms of literacy. If we take accumulation and acceleration as defining features of contemporary literacy, then a goal for educators should include helping students gain versatile, dexterous approaches to both reading and writing so they are prepared to navigate a wide range of ever-changing literacy contexts.

From Daniel Keller, Chasing Literacy: Reading and Writing in an Age of Acceleration.

August 18, 2017

Edgewater, Chicago

August 14, 2017

“… As They Are At Present Published”

Investigation Into the Physical Properties of Books, as They are at Present Published (1919) a satire on — and a parody of — book designers and the emerging field of book design.

“At the close of World War I [Dwiggins] had served as acting production manager of the Harvard University Press and had formed a very low opinion of the practices followed by publishers and book manufacturers. In 1919, Dwiggins and Siegfried created a fake series of interviews with publishing magnates and book salesmen, delighting in exposing the shoddy quality of most trade books and the cavalier attitudes of the people who made them. Extracts from An Investigation into the Physical Properties of Books as They Are at Present Published covered twenty pages (plus four blanks) and sold for fifty cents. This time the publisher was The Society of Calligraphers, another fiction created by Dwiggins to aid him in his commentaries about graphic arts and printing. This modest booklet caused a major stir in the book world of the time, and certainly contributed to Dwiggins’ visibility as a discerning designer of books; nevertheless, it was not until 1926 that he began to receive regular commissions for book design.”

From “The Private Press Activities of William Addison Dwiggins,” Parenthesis series, Fine Press Books Association.

July 24, 2017

Chicago, Edgewater

July 15, 2017

IVAW March to the Pentagon, 2007

The night before:

The day of:

NYT: In March, Protesters Recall War Anniversaries


July 14, 2017

Tilden’s “Football Players”

Berkeley’s first campus statue: “In Paris he came into his own as a sculptor, creating works that won him awards and admiration. One of these, dated 1893, was “The Football Players”—two young male figures, based on French models, wearing what we might today describe as rugby or track and field uniforms.”

“Cal, which had an undistinguished record to date against Stanford, rallied in response to the incentive and with the help of professional coach and former Princeton star Garrett Cochran soundly beat Stanford in 1898 and 1899.”

“It was sited along the path between what was then the football field to the north, and the gymnasium to the southeast, and was the first piece of permanent outdoor art installed on the campus.”

Via The Berkeley Daily Planet

Where writing rules come from

“The rule which seems to cover best the words of this group reads: “In diphthongs, i before e except after c or when sounded like a as in ‘neighbor’ and ‘weigh.’ ” Notice the phrase “in diphthongs.” “In the same syllable” might be substituted for this phrase. Usually this rule is stated without the prefixing phrase. In this case five more exceptions to the rule must be added to the eleven already mentioned, a total of sixteen exceptions.” 

“The value of this rule seems fully as doubtful as that of the third rule. One hundred and one, about 2.6 per cent, of the words in the spelling list are covered by it. Eleven words, about 0.3 per cent, in the list are exceptions. In other words, the number of exceptions is about i i per cent of the number of words covered by the rule.”

Wheat, Leonard B., “Four Spelling Rules.” Elementary School Journal, 32, 1932, pp. 697-706.

July 10, 2017

Rodin’s “The Thinker,” Cleveland Art Museum

“At approximately 1:00 am on March 24, 1970, a bomb irreparably damaged the Cleveland museum’s version of The Thinker. The bomb itself had been placed on a pedestal that supported the enlargement and had the power of about three sticks of dynamite.

“No one was injured in the subsequent blast, but the statue’s base and lower legs were destroyed. The remaining sections of the cast were blown backward to form a ‘plume’ at the base, and the entire statue was knocked to the ground. It was reported that this attack was undertaken by a radical political group, perhaps as a commentary on the continuing military action in Vietnam or the elitism of the American government.

“Regardless, no one was ever arrested or charged with the destruction. However, the incident highlighted several conservation issues related directly to artistic intent. Since the piece was so dramatically damaged, the museum was unsure how to proceed. One idea was to create an entirely new cast to replace the damaged work. Another idea was to restore the sculpture by recasting elements of Rodin’s original. Finally, however, it was decided that the statue should not be repaired, but placed outside the museum in its damaged condition.

Cleveland Art Museum & Thinker Re-thought

Richard Rodriguez on Newspapers

Because the teacher had once been to Chicago, she subscribed to the Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune, which came on the train by Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest. Several generations of children learned to read from that text. The schoolroom had a wind-up phonograph, its bell shaped like a morning glory, and one record, from which a distant female voice sang “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life.” Is it better to have or to want? My friend says her teacher knew one great thing: There was something out there. She told her class she did not expect to see even a fraction of what the world had to offer. But she hoped they might.


It was the pride and the function of the American newspaper in the nineteenth century to declare the forming congregation of buildings and services a city—a place busy enough or populated enough to have news. Frontier American journalism preserved a vestige of the low-church impulse toward universal literacy whereby the new country imagined it could read and write itself into existence. We were the Gutenberg Nation.


Unwilling to forfeit any fraction of my quarter, I even studied the classifieds— unrelieved columns laid out like city blocks: Room for rent. Marina. No pets. File clerk position. Heavy phones. Ticket agent for busy downtown box office. Must be bonded. Norman, we’re still here. Only once did I find the titillation I was looking for, a listing worthy of a barbershop magazine, an Argosy, or a Mickey Spillane: “Ex- Green Beret will do anything legal for cash.” Newspapers were sustained by classifieds, as well as by department-store ads and automobile ads. I admired the urbanity of the drawings of newspaper ads in those years, and I took from them a conception of the posture of downtown San Francisco. Despite glimpses into the classified life of the city, despite the hauteur of ad-art mannerism, the Chronicle offered some assurance (to an adolescent such as I was) it would have been difficult for me to describe. I will call it now an implied continuity.


In the nineteenth-century newspaper, the relationship between observer and observed was reciprocal: the newspaper described the city; the newspaper, in turn, was sustained by readers who were curious about the strangers that circumstance had placed proximate to them. So, I suppose, it is incomplete to notice that the San Francisco Chronicle has become remiss in its obituary department. Of four friends of mine who died recently in San Francisco, not one wanted a published obituary or any other public notice taken of his absence. This seems to me a serious abrogation of the responsibility of living in a city and as good an explanation as any of why newspapers are dying. All four of my friends requested cremation; three wanted their ashes consigned to the obscurity of Nature. Perhaps the cemetery is as doomed in America as the newspaper, and for the same reason: we do not imagine death as a city.


In this morning’s paper there is a quote from an interview San Francisco’s mayor, Gavin Newsom, gave to The Economist concerning the likelihood that San Francisco will soon be a city without a newspaper: “People under thirty won’t even notice.”


Something funny I have noticed, perhaps you have noticed it, too. You know what futurists and online-ists and cut-out-the-middle-man-ists and Davos-ists and deconstructionists of every stripe want for themselves? They want exactly what they tell you you no longer need, you pathetic, overweight, disembodied Kindle reader.


We already live in the America of USA Today, which appears, unsolicited, in a plastic chrysalis suspended from your doorknob at a Nebraska Holiday Inn or a Maine Marriott. We check the airport weather. We fl y from one CNN Headline News monitor to another. We end up where we started. An obituary does not propose a solution.


In the growling gray light (San Francisco still has foghorns), I collect the San Francisco Chronicle from the wet steps. I am so lonely I must subscribe to three papers—the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle. I remark their thinness as I climb the stairs. The three together equal what I remember.

— Richard Rodriguez, “Final Edition: Twilight of the American Newspaper.” Harper’s, November 2009.

July 4, 2017

Ligon: “Condition Report”

By submitting his work to this procedural analysis, Ligon emphasizes the degradation not only of the material components, but also the subject matter, through reproduction and prolonged exposure. He has described how the process of making Condition Report served as a temperature gauge for the cultural moment, in relation to his ongoing concerns as an artist:

it’s a return to my own production, but in the case of those prints that came out of the condition report, it was about detailing not only the physical aging of the painting over time – all the cracks and paint loss and all of that – but also changing ideas about masculinity, changing ideas about the relationship we have to the Civil Rights Movement.

Exhibited together, the paired panels of Condition Report reveal the passage of time with regard to political history as well as the changing status of the art object.

Via Tate Museum

Original context: Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike, 1968

Longstanding tensions between disgruntled African American sanitation workers and Memphis city officials erupted on February 12, 1968 when nearly one thousand workers refused to report to work demanding higher wages, safer working conditions, and recognition of their union, local 1733 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. Despite organizing city-wide boycotts, sit-ins, and daily marches, the city’s sanitation workers were initially unable to secure concessions from municipal officials. At the urging of Reverend James T. Lawson, Martin Luther King, Jr. agreed to come to Memphis and lead a nonviolent demonstration in support of the sanitation workers. On March 29 over five thousand demonstrators, carrying signs which read “I Am A Man,” participated in King’s march.

Civil Rights Digital Library

Civil Right Museum, I Am A Man

Chicago Teacher’s Strike, 2016:

July 3, 2017

Fountain of the Great Lakes

South Garden at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Plaster model, via Tribune, 1929.
Via Art Institute.


June 23, 2017

Happy Bloomsday

NYT, But Always Meeting Ourselves

O that awful deepdown torrent O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the  queer little streets and the pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I  put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my  eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I  put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

June 16, 2017

… everyone needs motivation once in awhile

Barack Obama’s law school syllabus, 1994.

June 12, 2017

Failed pedagogy

“Whenever I want my cat to look at something instructive — a full moon, say, or a photograph of herself — a predictable choreography ensues. I point at the thing I want her to look at, and she, roused to curiosity, fixes her attention on the tip of my extended index finger and begins to explore it with delicate sniffs.

Every time this scene of failed pedagogy gets enacted (and it’s frequent, because I am no better at learning not to point than my cat is at learning not to sniff) the two of us are caught in a pedagogical problematic that has fascinated teachers of Buddhism since Sakamuni. In fact, its technical name in Buddhist writing is ‘pointing at the moon,’ and it opens up a range of issues about both language and the nonlinguistic that became engaging to Western teachers and learners only in the twentieth century.”

Eve Sedgewick: Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity, 2003.

Foggy morning

Bolinas, November 1992, with Katherine A.

June 10, 2017

sweet spontaneous earth

sweet spontaneous
earth how often have

fingers of
prurient philosophers pinched

, has the naughty thumb
of science prodded

beauty, how
often have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy knees
squeezing and

buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive

to the incomparable
couch of death thy

thou answerest

them only with


e. e. cummings

May 2, 2017

Conclusion to Paradise Lost

“The World was all before them, where to choose
Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through Eden took thir solitarie way.”

April 16, 2017

Edgewater, Chicago

April 7, 2017

Managua, 2015

April 5, 2017

“Writing is an act of community.”


“Writing is an act of community. It is a letter, it is comforting, consoling, helping, advising on our part, as well as asking it on yours. It is a part of our human association with each other. It is an expression of our love and concern for each other.” — Dorothy Day

April 4, 2017

It’s a problem

“I’m afraid I’m falling in love with you. It’s a problem. What should I do?”

“Give me your address.”

Roland Barthes, Incidents, 1979.

In the Spirit of the Times

“The Spirit of the Times,” Henry Peters Gray, 1861.

April 1, 2017

Crow Testament

Crow rides a pale horse
into a crowded powwow
but none of the Indians panic.

Damn, says Crow, I guess
they already live near the end of the world.

== From “Crow Testament,” Sherman Alexie

March 31, 2017

Barrio Cristo el Rosario, Managua

August, 2015.

Andy, Chicago


March 22, 2017

Elkins: Pictures and Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings

“Of any picture, this is the one that has brought me closest to tears. I may never have actually wept in front of it—it’s been a long time, almost thirty years—but I remember standing there, choked up, with a rush of half-formed thoughts swimming in my head. When I was thirteen or fourteen, the Ecstasy of St. Francis was almost too much to look at: I recall thinking I could only take in a few details on each visit. It wasn’t a painting, really: it was a dream of what a painting might be. By comparison other pictures were clumsy illustrations where things were, as Beckett put it, ill seen and ill said. Somehow, the Ecstasy of St. Francis resembled the way I thought. It had the right texture, it pooled in the right places. When I looked, it was as if words had been swept out of my head and replaced by brushstrokes and colors. The word “magical” doesn’t do justice to what I felt, but then again I can hardly remember what I felt: I was attached to the painting in a strange fashion that I have nearly lost the ability to recall.”

Elkins, James. Pictures and Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings (New York: Routledge, 2001)

March 21, 2017

Mary Oliver

March 19, 2017

Winter portraits


Roberta Smith

Final, concluding sentences from an interview with Roberta Smith, by Jarrett Earnest:

Smith: Basically I think opinionated art criticism helps the reader find pleasure and also develop a criticality that can be applied elsewhere. It spills over into other aspects of a person’s life, like thinking critically about architecture or society and what it means to be a citizen.

I’m humbled by art, and I’m always learning from it. It is just amazing to me how hard it is to see, and how little you see. As you grow older you do see more and more but you’re still missing things.

Close Encounters: Roberta Smith with Jarrett Earnest (Brooklyn Rail)

March 10, 2017

The Beautiful and the Unexpected

“When I was young, and new to modern art, I doted on the Expressionist heads
and faces by the Russian-born artist Alexei Jawlensky, which he painted in
thick layers of clamorous color, and wondered why a bigger deal wasn’t made of them. A flavorsome retrospective of the artist, at the Neue Galerie, renews that appeal. Jawlensky was associated with a group of painters that included, most notably, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Franz Marc, who met in Munich around the turn of the twentieth century. Jawlensky was more a follower than an innovator, having had a greenrelatively late start as an artist. He was an eighteen-year-old military cadet in Moscow, committed to a career in the tsar’s army and completely ignorant of art, when he was thunderstruck by the paintings in an All-Russian Exhibition of Industry and Art. He later referred to the moment as “a case of Saul becoming Paul,” and said that, since then, “art has been my ideal, my holy of holies.” […]

“I think now that what excited me about Jawlensky’s heads and faces was the glamour of a secondhand modernist zeal that was easy to identify with and to savor. With similar-looking works by Matisse or Kandinsky, I was daunted by a sense that something more, and beyond me, was going on.” […]

“Jawlensky made about a thousand of these paintings, titled “Meditations,” between 1934 and 1937, in Wiesbaden. The Third Reich had banned exhibitions of his work as “degenerate,” and he was crippled with severe arthritis, which obliged him to use both hands to wield a brush. The pictures meld his innate talents, chiefly for color, with a yearning for transcendence, which had come across as forced or sentimental in earlier work.” […]

“The spirituality was credible enough, though I eventually came to regard Jawlensky’s passion as being more about art than as being fully engaged in it: poignant rather than powerful.” […]

Peter Schjeldahl, “The Beautiful and the Unexpected,” New Yorker, February 27, 2017.


March 9, 2017

“The social representations of technologies”

The distinction between the two kinds of knowledge basically corresponds to the Aristotelian distinction between episteme (scientific knowledge) and techne (skill, art or craft). Current philosophical debate (Fantl 2012) concerns whether the two kinds are independent—a position called anti-intellectualism— or whether ’knowing how’ can be reduced to ’knowing that’—a position called intellectualism (see e.g. Stanley 2011). Heyes (2012a) takes this debate further and suggests that neither independence nor reduction is sufficient to understand how these concepts link to processes of social learning. Instead, she emphasizes that it is not visual or motor representation of actions that is important for learning, but the connections between them. These connections do not emerge by themselves—social learning is needed. It is important to notice that the more advanced the learning gets, these connections require different forms of teaching to be achieved.

Here, we also want to distinguish a third kind of knowledge—’knowing what’. ’Knowing what’ concerns the ability to categorize objects, for example to know what kind of tool an object is and what kind of work it is associated with, or what kind of disease somebody is suffering from. ‘Knowing what’ is central in planning a technological activity such as stone knapping: you must know what your goal product is before you start the production process. This kind of knowledge is framed, not just by technology and skills, but by culture. ‘Knowing what’ is socialized and materialized, something discussed by Lemonnier as ‘the social representations of technologies’.

— Högberg, A., Gärdenfors, P., Larsson, L. (2015) Knowing, Learning and Teaching: How Homo Became Docens. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 25(4): 847-858.


March 5, 2017

“Under all that paint in the Tiffany Paintings is everything in the world”

“In an ever-changing world, perhaps Tiffany & Co.’s most consistent relationship with the public over the last century is its daily advertisement on page A3 of The New York Times, which began running in 1896.

“Prince, who began his career in the tearsheet department at Time, Inc., first gained notoriety in the 1980s for his now-iconic Cowboys (lassoed from Marlboro Man ads), The Nurse Paintings (ripped from romance novel covers) and his New Portraits series (featuring images from other people’s Instagram feeds).”

“Under all that paint in the Tiffany Paintings is everything in the world.”
— Richard Prince

Tiffany: The Tiffany Paintings
Prince: The Tiffany Paintings


Thucydides on human behavior in society

“The field of Thucydides’ investigations was not the nature of the physical universe nor the physical nature of man, but the society of man living in the polis. Politics in the largest sense, the search for an understanding of the behavior of man in society, was his surpassing interest. In this he differed from physical theorists, Sophists and Hippocratics, but their ideas influenced and helped shape his mind. Like all of them, he began with the observation of phenomena and proceeded to discern and describe the rational pattern that emerged. His data were the historical actions of men in the past, remote or very recent. When sufficiently multiplied and properly grasped, these gave rise to general rules of human behavior that might prove useful to men in the future. The student of social behavior—that is, the historian—has a dual responsibility: first to seek out with diligence and accuracy the truth of what has taken place and, then, to interpret the events with wisdom and understanding, in this way making a permanent contribution. To establish the facts (ta erga) was of vital importance but was subordinate to the formulation of interpretations (logoi) that emerged from them.”

“The student of political behavior: On the enduring legacy of Thucydides”
by Donald Kagan


March 4, 2017

Close Reading


Close Reading, 1990
Mark Tansey


‘Tansey’s climber personifies the critic in the grip of the close reading technique, as she strives … her success, and indeed her survival, depends on her ability to read the surface closely. The title also relates to the viewer’s role as a ‘reader,’ who, in order to engage fully the work’s different realities, must read the picture closely.” — Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth 110, 308-09.

March 1, 2017

Happy Birthday, Kurt Cobain

February 20, 2017

A Great City’s People Forced to Drink Swill

February 16, 2017

“on behalf of the souls they never knew they saved.”

“A librarian names Miss Truman snatched me from the jaws of ruin and it’s too late now to thank her. I’m not the first person to notice that we rarely get around to thanking those who’ve helped us most. Salvation is such a heady thin the temptation is to dance gasping on the shore, shouting that we are still alive, till our forgotten savior has long gone under. Or else sit quietly, sideswiped and embarrassed mumbling that we really did know pretty much how to swim. But now that I see the wreck that could have been, without Miss Richey, I’m of a fearsome mind to throw my arms around every living librarian that crosses my path, on behalf of the souls they never knew they saved.”

— Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never.

URA QT 2/14

February 13, 2017

Nate Silver & truth-seeking behavior

Nate Silver presents his BS-meter — modeled on the old terror alert system — to evaluate information sources and “expertise.”

“Probability is the waystone between ignorance and knowledge. Sometimes the pundit who says ‘I don’t know’ is the one you should trust.”

February 11, 2017

Ernesto Cardenal, chapel window, Solentiname, Nicaragua (2005)

As pastor of the Solentiname parish, Cardenal facilitated weekly bible studies that encouraged lay parishioners to engage in a theological interpretation of scripture that applied to their own lives. These bible studies served not only to allow ordinary people to connect with scripture, but to also better understand as Christians how to address their experiences of poverty and political repression. Cardenal documented his memories and transcripts of community bible studies in his 1975 publication, El Evangelio en Solentiname (The Gospel in Solentiname). Community “commentaries” occurred often during mass and other times during communal lunches after mass. Many of the dialogues he recorded came from his memory.

However, after he decided to publish these conversations, Cardenal began recording talks with a tape recorder. Thus, while El Evangelio en Solentiname must be understood as a text produced by Cardenal and influenced by his own biases and goals, it nonetheless provides a good suggestion as to the nature of conversations in Solentiname. According to Cardenal’s more recent introduction to the book, “the commentary of these campesinos was usually of greater depth than that of many theologians, but of a simplicity like the gospel itself…the gospel…(the good news to the poor) was written for them, and for people like them.”

The commentary also became a vehicle through which poor campesinos could begin to analyze their own lives both in the context of scripture and in the context of the revolution that was gaining ground in Nicaragua. The revolution and its Marxist orientation did not escape the people who lived in Solentiname. Marxist discourse became a common feature of Sunday discussions, and for this reason many campesinos more fearful of affiliating with subversive groups avoided the church. Still, for those who came, mass with Cardenal became a transformative experience.

A Monastery for the Revolution: Ernesto Cardenal, Thomas Merton, and the Paradox of Violence in Nicaragua, 1957-1979. (2005)

February 4, 2017

Lake Nicaragua, via National Geographic Magazine, 1899

“Physiography of the Nicaragua Canal Route.” National Geographic Magazine, volume 10, 1899. pages 233-246.

Via Google Maps, 2017.

Susan Sontag

From 2004: “Writer Susan Sontag died Wednesday at age 71 of leukemia. We listen back to two interviews with her: a 1989 conversation about her book AIDS and Its Metaphors; and 1993 interview conducted shortly after Sontag returned from Sarajevo, where she directed a performance of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in Serbo-Croatian.”

February 2, 2017

Twombly’s “Peonies”

In the haiku on the farthest right, the warrior relaxes and takes off his armor, capitulating to pleasure and emotion:

AH! The Peonies
For which
Took off his Armour

The haiku poet’s name, Kikaku, means “easy-going.” Ironically, Takarai Kikaku (1661-1707), the disciple of the seventeenth-century master of haiku, Matsuo Basho (1644-94), famously dissented from Basho’s philosophy of karumi or “lightness.” Kikaku’s haiku recalls the legendary occasion when the young fourteenth-century samurai warrior Kusunoki Masashige lowered his guard when faced with the beauty of peony blossoms, just before the momentous battle in which he died.

Mary Jacobus. Reading Cy Twombly: Poetry in Paint. Princeton, 2016.

Also via the Art Institute of Chicago:

In Twombly’s inscription, the initial r in the word armour is smaller than the other letters and was thus likely inserted by the artist as a revision or made to appear as an intentional afterthought. This perhaps intentional pun on the terms amour/armour further conflates the themes of love and violence that shape Kusunoki’s story.

January 31, 2017