Patina, Rust, and Wishful Thinking

The "Instructions to My Mother" become by poem's end directives to the reader implying some reflection on their own aging. We are invited to avoid pondering about decay and focus on a fine patina.

And never tell me
I'm 'getting grey,'
but that I am wise in skin,
sturdy-minded in bone and
beautywise in the ways of old women.
Never immune to flattery

Marilyn Dumont. A Really Good Brown Girl.

And so for day 290

Kaffeeklatch Talk

Found in reviews of a coffee house situated in Atlanta, Georgia, variant spellings of "spiel"


a long schpeeeeel
Playful ways to describe barista disquisitions on the making of a good cup. A purist, I think I will stick to the official spelling and its aroma of the German origins in the word meaning to play.

And so for day 289

Disassociation Assembled

Years ago I participated in a workshop about stress management.

One of the exercises involved drawing a picture of our body experiencing stress.

Flying apart. It is now like a mandala and less a whirl of lost parts and more a spot to begin to breathe again.

And so for day 288

2002 Same Difference

Maurizio Cattelan's Him come upon after a teddy bear depiction context produces quite the effect as recorded by Sascha Hastings in Now.

Yet the real shocker comes in a small dead-end room at the end of a long photo-lined passageway. Kneeling on the floor is Maurizio Cattelan's Him, a child-sized Hitler effigy. His eyes are turned up toward a small transom of light, his hands folded as though praying for absolution.

"Teddies bared" a review of Same Difference at Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation in 2002.

And so for day 287

Types of Squatting

Home is always borrowed.

As nomads camp where others camped before,
As mice find winter digs under the stair,
As this year's swallows build their summer nest
Among the raftered nurseries of the past;
As mosses lodge in crevices of stone-
We too lodge in lodgings not our own.
From "Two Entries in the Annals of Wayfaring" by Richard Tillinghast.

And so for day 286

One More Letter from a Boss

Another letter from another boss. Dante Camisa, owner of Dante's Tavern and Restaurant in Kapuskasing wrote a lovely TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN letter in all caps in September 1979. As befits a bus boy, I am accorded the following description:


All traits that would make a mother proud

And so for day 285

Fallen Apples

In a specimen book produced by Gaspearau Press for National Poetry month, I found some selections from Ross Leckie's Gravity's Plumb Line including the poem "Apples". I like the description of windfalls as

perfections that paradise couldn't hold.
which in Leckie's poem is the continuation of a simile (the apples "are strewn / across the ground like the fallen angels, / perfections that paradise couldn't hold."

In my mind the many apples meld into the one and I misremember the line as "perfection that paradise couldn't keep" — conflating paradise with the garden by way of a French recollection of the "Paradis terreste".

And so for day 284

Whither the Way

Ernest Renan. "What is a Nation?"

A nation's existence is, if you will pardon the metaphor, a daily plebiscite, just as an individual's existence is a perpetual affirmation of life.
If a nation is like an individual, is it too subject to mortality? It gives new poignancy to "withering away of the state".

And so for day 283

Tall Thin Lines of Alliance

In Viewing Trees I isolate a line by Eavan Boland describing a stand of poplars and the slim commentary suggests how very evocative the line is. Consider now "K219, Adagio" from Jan Zwicky Songs for Relinquishing the Earth whose last lines are disposed as a tercet:

rain's vowelless syntax,
how mathematics was an elegy
the slenderness of trees.
Boland's exquisitely specific "poplars" and Zwicky's most lovely abstraction "slenderness", bring to mind a contrasting view with "Requiem for the Trees" by Robert Gibb where blighted elms are turned "into usable thermals of wood". And itself belongs in the same forest as Tree Destiny.

I'm not suggesting any relationship of influence between these poets or poems. I am intrigued however about how a collection of specimens forms a verbal equivalent of an arboretum or some little copse thick with intertextuality.

And so for day 282

Lost and Lost

The refrain from Wintersleep "Weighty Ghost" from the album Welcome to the Night Sky

Have you seen my ghost?
Staring at the ground?
Have you seen my ghost?
Sick of those goddamn clouds
Seems so simple here bare of the reduplication that animates the song. The band repeats "Have you seen my ghost?" to haunting effect. There is an almost trudging to the beat which of course adds to the weightiness of the ghost. Trance inducing. What remains is the question. Other reduplication entries on Berneval.

And so for day 281

Floral Gatherings

I am reminded of a line from my own musings upon how at summer's end in northern Ontario the fields fallow and being reclaimed by the bush provide a show that is "August all goldenrod and aster". I have been put in mind of this by "Thirst" by Amy Lowell which I read in a volume edited by Honor Moore. My associations are blooming time, Lowell's, night blooming and scent. I will always now think of primroses as comrades of the stars. You too, likely.

Far out on the grass. And every gust
Of light night wind comes laden with the scent
Of opening flowers which never bloom by day
Night-scented stocks, and four-o'clocks, and that
Pale yellow disk, upreared on its tall stalk
The evening primrose, comrade of the stars.
I know in Lowell's lines there is only one but inevitably I socialize and invoke a plural comrades.

And so for day 280

Should Old Acquaintance

It was a special event marked with wit. I do like the suggestive Tie Up [the outgoing year] and Unleash [the incoming year]. And the simple design replicating the logo of the now defunct Toolbox.

Now this little piece of ephemera lives on tucked into some book (probably Urban Aboriginals by Geoff Mains).

And so for day 279

Intellectual Soulmates

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 478.

My contribution to a thread about quitting the search for an academic job (and the resentment of years devoted to graduate work that do not come to fruition in landing a tenure track position).


A long time ago, I too tried to land a position in the academy. I am very lucky to have friends who too went that route and who have carved out for themselves niches in which to engage in intellectual activity. We get together regularly and catch up on our various projects.

The sense of community was what I thought I would miss the most by being barred entry into the academic club. But the walls of higher learning are porous and what I thought I would miss I have found through online networks and choosing to live in a large metropolis (Toronto) with a lively civic commitment to book and film culture.

For the most part I have dwelt with the not landing an academic job with a certain degree of equanimity -- I have after all access to an excellent reference library.

However there are times when I find that academic departments are insular and fail to reach out to the larger community. I believe they sometimes need publicists to encourage coverage of events and greater use of recording technology for play back would be great -- there is at times an alarming unknowingness about creating accessible archives of the events of academic life.

Some would argue that being extra-muros brings its own rewards. I am not prepared to say so. It presents very specific challenges to anyone who would claim the mantle of scholar. Being extra-muros does have its own charm (especially when I consider the workloads of my friends and colleagues who teach and conduct research). Charm of course is not a reward nor is it a gift. It's a by-product of the story we extramural folks spin. It takes an incredible effort to keep the story spinning so as to avoid resentment. To have the energy and time to reknit one's sense of pride and purpose is sometimes a matter of luck. I have been lucky and part of that luck has been Humanist and its readers.

I am not going to trivialize someone's decision to quit the race by producing some platitude to the effect that it gets better. It doesn't. Nor will I intimate that they didn't try hard enough - that's simply uncouth.

I will suggest that the academy -- the collective invisible college -- make it easier to prepare future scholars to exercise their abilities whether or not they come to occupy a place within its walls.

I was lucky my alma mater did encourage us to think of career paths beyond the academy. What it didn't do so well was help us imagine being scholars for life. Humanist and other networks can -- and should.

Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large

And so for day 278

All Hallows Eve

A bit of haiku

grinning / mouth month
pumpkin pie / sliced / slashed
gone // all swallowed
For some reason all those back slashes remind me of a title There's a Trick with a Knife I'm Learning to Do: Poems, 1963-1978 by Michael Ondaatje. Not that pumpkins have anything to do with those poems -- it's just that knife that sticks in the imagination.

And so for day 277

McLuhan Misquote

I'm so glad that some one else has caught him doing it. I documented a number of instances in "Proxemics and Prosthetics".

"But soft! what light through yonder window breaks?/It speaks, and yet says nothing." An apt description of TV, Marshall McLuhan said, when he quoted Shakespeare in Understanding Media. Romeo's line is in fact "She speaks, yet she says nothing," and refers to Juliet, who is likened to light —— and it actually occurs in the play ten lines after the first.

from the issue devoted to "Means of Communication" Lapham's Quarterly Volume V, Number 2 p. 205.
Certainly lots more to keep editors of a critical edition of his works quite busy.

And so for day 276

A Word from the Boss

I was very fortunate to work for a while for a senior civil servant in Ontario. Angela Longo upon taking up another assignment wrote personalized hand written messages for her staff. I've kept mine not only because it says nice things about me but because it reminds me of a classy lady.


It's been a pleasure working with you. You're smart, helpful, cheerful, practical, sensible & fun — all the important things.

Please know you can count on me for my support & help @ any time.

I wish you the greatest success .... & I know the right thing will come along.

thank you for everything — especially your patience with me.


And so for day 275

Flown South

After Symanntha Renn

naked trees against the sky
birds have no where to hide
nests bared to the world
glass houses abandoned
to some south green secret

some stayed to caw
I found Renn's image of the glass house nest intriguing. Her affinity with the winged creatures might go by way of a pun on "wren" ... I hope she doesn't mind the migration and a bit of raven trickery... caw caw

And so for day 274


There is a pivotal moment in the short piece by Kelley Armstrong in the Globe and Mail's summer fiction series...

William heard his grandmother's voice from all those years ago, when she'd seen what he'd done to the barn cats. “The riders will come for you, boy. Mark my words. The Wild Hunt will come.”

It may appear as filler to some but it is an important part of the story. Without the retrieval of a prediction at this point the whole shape would be lost.

And so for day 273

Revisiting Touches of Metadata

Pulled from the html source of splash page for Table of Contents (named "Bridge"> for Sense: Orientations, Meanings, Apparatus

<title> Sorties et entrées </title>
<meta name="author" content="Francois Lachance">
<meta name="title" content="Sense: Orientations, Meanings, Apparatus. Ideological dimensions of select twentieth-century occidental texts devoted to technology, perception and reproduction">
<meta name="genre" content="Ph.d. Dissertation, University of Toronto">
<meta name="place" content="Toronto, Ontario, Canada">
<meta name="date" content="September 21, 1996 CE">
<meta name="discipline" content="Comparative Literature">
<meta name="field" content="Transcoding Studies">
That's a rather grandiose way of describing the "field". Nice touch to have the title page as both an entrance and an exit - that little bit in French set to display in the title area of a browser - a liminal moment for both text and person.

And so for day 272

What People Quote

At one point in the history of Internet communication by email, it was the custom to append various snippets of poetry or prose to the signature block. Sometimes they enticed one to read more. Take for example:

"The three rules of the Librarians of Time and Space are: 1) Silence; 2) Books must be returned no later than the last date shown; 3) Do not interfere with the nature of causality."

- Terry Pratchett, _Guards! Guards!_
And I learn from a Wikipedia entry "that in large quantities all books warp space and time around them."

And so for day 271

Danny Cockerline

Writing in Now, Gerald Hannon opens the obituary for Danny Cockerline (1960-1995) with extraordinary freshness.

With age comes innocence. That is why we need the succulent, corrupting young. That is why we have lost so much with the suicide on December 11 of Danny Cockerline. He was just 35 years old, and had about him still the blatant fearlessness the world misunderstands and calls corruption.
There is also on line somewhere a more nuanced appreciation by Chris Bearchell. She called him "Brilliant and reckless. Beautiful but insecure. Destined to provoke. Queer. But a queer queer; an outsider among outsiders. Danny was always ahead of his time in fashion, decor and politics." See the posting at

And so for day 270

Missing Spooks

I was engrossed in William Gibson's Spook Country when I discovered a binding error in my copy. Ironic since the missing chunk occurs just after Chapter 55 "Phantom Gun Syndrome". So I managed to locate a complete version of the text and avoid the gap between pages 246 and 311.

While reading Pattern Recognition I came across a misprint which led to some interesting interpretation. See Sine Die 15 Still it's eerie to read the line "From behind, he saw Brown's hand touch the place where his gun wasn't" and then turn to a lot of prose that wasn't.

And so for day 269

Three Word Descriptions

I got asked to summarize McLuhan in a few succinct words. Came up with three: "international intellectual provocateur". And wondered what three could apply to me. Came up with: "commonplace book keeper". Commonplace all one word. Book keeper, two words.

And so for day 268

Re-creased Readings

Place the entry from day 264 "Reading Creases" alongside the entry from day 265 "In the shadow of should" and scan the table mentioned at day 265...

and see if you cannot map construction onto technology, collaboration onto body and communication on mimesis

building the tool, tending to the body, managing substitutions

the potential recursiveness is eerily enchanting... for the reading can be further elaborated so that construction, collaboration and communication are as a repeated grouping connected to each of technology, mimesis and body.

To achieve such giddy structures and suggestive juxtapositions is in some respects being alert to metaphysical interpretations, alive to how words mesh with words to world create. It is however more akin to exercising the skill of memory: one can carry a shape a long time before remembering a shape that fits its boundaries and opens the mind.

And so for day 267

In the shadow of should

One of those notes followed by a list of nouns set in a table format.

the deontic considerations of permission and pleasure resonate with the application of mnemonic technologies . . .

and now the "table"

tech [arrow pointing right to] memory

aesth. response [arrow pointing right to] mimesis

perception [arrow pointing right to] middle term?

[and scribbled under "middle term" is a line and the word "body" so that "term" and "body" line up]

I am still not sure what I was striving at by positioning the body as a middle term between memory and mimesis but I do observe that the middle term comes after in the listing. Indeed there may be a syntagm in the ordering of memory, mimesis and body. It is mimesis that may be the middle term and if so then any one of the three can be the middle for the other two. The table can be redrawn as a triangle.

And so for day 266

Reading Creases

On a piece of yellow orange paper there is a diagram of the elements of constructivist pedagogy: an isosceles triangle oriented along a vertical axis with the bottom vertices labelled "communication" and "collaboration" with the apex, "construction". An evident interpretation is to view construction as based in communication and collaboration, i.e. as the conditions for successful building.

Above this schema on the piece of paper are two lines that summarize anti-intellectual and anti-erotic positions:

It's too hard

It's too much fun

That the two attitudes are related to "construction" is likely since the paper is creased — truncating the triangle — and the fold tucks "collaboration" and "communication" to the underside leaving "construction" on the same side as the two lines. Makes one want to relate communication and collaboration to intellectual and erotic activities.

Uncreasing the paper and turn it over to the verso, one finds a listing that puts construction last after communication and collaboration, almost as if it were an outcome.


Amazing what can be extracted from a small piece of note paper, folded and preserved for meditation and seeing anew.

And so for day 265

Productive Renewal

Jan Lars Jensen. Nervous System or Losing My Mind in Literature
"A Can Opener for Our Times"

Serious people read non-fiction, after all. But non-fiction books can accommodate readers who drop in and out of their breadth. A person can still derive something useful from a fragment: maybe that's what made non-fiction easier for me, with my perforated concentration.

Go to the chapter "Very Tricki Woo" to read more about the struggles to regain the faculty of reading with ease and the struggle posed by fiction for a mind struggling with delusions. "Hallucinatory prose is no fun if you yourself are hallucinating."

And so for day 264

Ownership Patterns

Garet Garrett Ouroboros or the Mechanical Extension of Mankind Chapter VII "Dim Vistas New"

It must occur to you that what the world requires to find is a new conception of commerce among nations — one that shall be free of the predatory impulse, above the exploiting motive, competitive in some nobler sense.
This is very different from parasitism, which is one-sided, for gain only. And there is a very curious suggestion that organisms now existing together in a state of permanent symbiotic union were once parasitic and learned better.

I first picked up this slim volume because the title reminded me of Marshall McLuhan's formulation of media as prosthetics. What I found was a treatise on macro economics. What I found in its confrontation of peasant and industrial interests was the foreshadowing of the growing importance of agribusiness.

In the language of the economist, the agricultural index will rise and the industrial index will fall. It will require a greater quantity of manufactures to buy a bushel of wheat; fewer bushels of wheat to buy a manufactured article. This will not be for one year or two. It will be lasting. It will affect the status of great groups and classes of people. In the cities and industrial centres the cost of living will move in a vertical manner.

Garrett concludes in an open ended fashion:

In any light, man's further task is Jovian. That is to learn how best to live with these powerful creatures of his mind, how to give their fecundity a law and their functions a rhythm, how not to employ them in error against himself — since he cannot live without them.

The solution to surplus production is twofold: nurture the fashion system and harness to this system, storage. The surplus can serve as an archive for the self-renewing moves of the fashion system. Ouroboros, indeed.

And so for day 263

little x little

Stewart Brand. How Buildings Learn: What happens after they're built Chapter 6 "Unreal Estate" on lot size:

Small lots give greater individual control and thus greater variety, and they encourage more pedestrian activity. The more owners, the more gradual and adaptive the ongoing change. It's a conservative, wholesome kind of change — the place looks a little different every year, but the overall feel is the same from century to century.

One wonders if an analogy might be drawn to the world of blogs -- small incremental shifts at the local level — an essentially conservative genre.

And so for day 262

Feed Me

The brain is only 2 percent of the body’s weight, but it consumes 20 percent of the body’s energy. So using mind consciousness is very expensive. Thinking, worrying, and planning take a lot of energy.

Thich Nhat Hanh, "The Four Layers of Consciousness" Buddhadharma Summer 2006

And so for day 261