Susan Stewart from On Longing

The simultaneity of the printed word lends the book its material aura; as an object it has a life of its own, a life outside human time, the time of the body and its voice.

Note how the “printed word” is not “book”. Recall an earlier passage and its vocabulary:

The printed text is cinematic before the invention of cinema

Text, word, book. Body voices? Not quite. It’s the voice of the time of the body.

Note how the time of the body is not the time of the body and its voice.

And so for day 474


From the notes by Gregory Dubinsky to the Kronos Quartet recording of Terry Riley's The Cusp of Magic

The toys [from Emily and Alice's "extensive collection of musical toys from around the world"] cast their own distinctive spell on this quintet. For children, toys are benevolent household gods, conduits to a magical world. through the child's imagination, the inanimate is miraculously brought to life [...]

And so for day 473

Low Tech Dividend

No More Teachers, No More Books: The Commercialization of Canada's Schools by Heather-Jane Robertson builds its critique around this principle: "Our schools need to cultivate advocates not breed entrepreneurs".

She paints a picture of the political climate:

But as successive governments demonstrate that protest will not alter their agenda, disillusioned Canadians conclude that "they're all the same" and decide to shut down as citizens and reboot as consumers.

Later she recounts anecdotes and retails observations that turn on the rhetoric of a form/content binary:

In an amusing British study, a researcher followed up on claims that computer use fostered "joint authorship" and "collaboration" among young writers. He gave two students one piece of paper and one pencil to share. They also collaborated. Not only were their written products of equal quality to those that were word-processed, but the students spent more time on content and much less on formatting. Furthermore, no "mouse-wars". ensued.

I tend to view play with form as a means to grapple with content and so I conclude that regardless of whether one prefers the gardening metaphor of "cultivate" to the animal husbandry of "breed", one is happy to read this passage that reminds one of Paul Goodman's ruminations:

At school, children outnumber adults, and children show not the slightest interest in anyone's reform agenda. All they want is nice teachers, a good day, something interesting to do.

It's as basic as person, time and place.

And so for day 472

Pronouns matter; history even more

I used to admire Arthur Koestler's The Act of Creation, the diagrams particularly. As entranced as I was there are some passage that did not escape my critical notice. For example I circled the feminine pronouns and wrote "heterosexism" in the margin next to this passage.

Once one embraces an idea, and lives with it day and night, one can no longer bear the thought that she, the idea, has formerly belonged to someone else; to possess her completely and be possessed by her, one must extinguish her past.

The idea, he ... his past. Mere substitution doesn't expunge the ridiculous notion that ideas are harlots. Even more ridiculous is the idea that passion is hostile to history.

And so for day 471


World of Ends: What the Internet Is and How to Stop Mistaking It for Something Else by Doc Searls and David Weinberger under the rubric "Adding value to the Internet lowers its value" write

Sounds screwy, but it's true. If you optimize a network for one type of application, you de-optimize it for others. For example, if you let the network give priority to voice or video data on the grounds that they need to arrive faster, you are telling other applications that they will have to wait. And as soon as you do that, you have turned the Net from something simple for everybody into something complicated for just one purpose. It isn't the Internet anymore.

Queuing conditions determine the nature of the network. Consider the social nature of a network that provides equal access for data for the blind, for data for the deaf. Some of those preoccupations will spill over into the built environment.

It is also worth remembering that access to data is also about the occasion for gift giving; it is about valuing what is offered. And that in turn is a valuing of the person who offers.

And so for day 470

Terrible enfant

Andrew Hodges Alan Turing: The Engima of Intelligence

The confusion and conflicts that underlay his apparently single-minded homosexual identity reflected the fact that the world did not allow a gay man to be 'ordinary' or indeed 'authentic'; to live simply, without making a fuss; to be truly personal, without taking a public stand.


The yellow brick road divided, and there were no signposts provided to say which was the true and which the imitation path. But the uncertainty in Alan Turing's life, the wavering between parts that struck observers most forcibly was seen not so much in terms of class, professional status, or gender, but in his oscillation between 'adult' and 'child' role in life.


It was an ambivalence with meanings at several different levels — an intellectual level in his refusal to be defined by his existing reputation, breaking instead into an entirely new sphere of work when approaching forty. And of course it held an erotic meaning, part of his response to the situation of homosexual men in general, in which the roles of seeker and sought were more fluid and diffuse than in heterosexual relationships. [...] But beyond these meanings the boy-man quality of Alan Turing also reflected that most central question of his existence, one more special to himself. He had not wanted to 'come of age' at twenty-one, and as it transpired, he just avoided seeing the age of forty-two.

I like how this passage circles from the general to the particular: the exemplar becomes unique. And the road remains open on rereading to travel the other way, from example to principle.

And so for day 469


Chandler Burr The Emperor of Scent: a story of perfume, obsession, and the last mystery of the senses — on the nature of algorithms (a wee bit of anthropomorphizing)

Unlike other mathematical formulas, algorithms need to be fed data to make them grow strong, just as a newborn child's brain needs to be fed massive amounts of stimuli for its neural organization and development. The baby algorithm's food [...]

Implied in this figure is the notion that someone has "fathered" this thing. Forgotten is the important factor that the growing child also needs periods of diminished stimulation. A continual state of excitation is lethal. Starved by overdose.

And so for day 468

Object, Gift, Memento

Candida Pugh in a September 2007 review (appearing in the Annex Gleaner) of Kyo Maclear's The Letter Opener chooses to highlight the following:

Naiko's mother languishes in a nursing home, slowly losing herself to Alzheimer's.

The journalist Kana, Naiko's globe-trotting sister, rages at their mother's collection of treasured objects, sneering, "I pity her. Imagine having to rely on possessions to tell yourself who you are."

Naiko sees it differently: "I realized that the moment my mother showed indifference when everything she once owned was gone from her memory, I would know that the end was coming. The more sick she became, the less she would carry in her purse."

There is another way to move through possession. What becomes of a person when they cease passing on objects as gifts? Objects sometimes hold more wishes than memories. The review captures this tension between past and future in its title and subtitle: "Self-defining possessions: When what we have becomes who we are". This points to there being a time when what we become is who we are.

And so for day 467

first win

from e.e. cummings 95 poems

eyes eyes

looking (alw
ays) while
earth and sky grow
one with won

der until (see

This is for me more than a poem about the sharing of perception (father and son at a window watching snowflakes "falling & falling & falling". It is also about the mystery of productive connection: "EverychildfatheringOne". There is something gone, something in the gone. There is no one without a loss from the all.

And so for day 466

Slub or the Power of Words

The blind protagonist of "Night Vision" in the collection The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue muses on vocabulary building:

Since then I've been collecting words, you might say. They help me to get up, say, when I can't find my fingers on cold mornings. Fingers, I say my head, and there they are, wriggling. Tabby is always bringing me words, even if she doesn't know what they mean. This week I have three new ones: funereal, ambulatory and slub. Sometimes for a game, Nelly and Catherine make me say all the longest ones I know; if I won't play, they pinch me. My brothers and sisters think words are to be scattered carelessly, like corn in front of hens. They don't know how much words matter.

"Slub" can be a noun or a verb; a lump in yarn or the action of preparing wool for spinning. It does what the well-placed word does.

And so for day 465

Cardinal Virtues: questions of development and speed

The "Epilogue" to E.F. Schumacher. Small is Beautiful ends thus

Justice relates to truth, fortitude to goodness, and temperantia to beauty: while prudence, in a sense, comprises all three. The type of realism which behaves as if the good, the true, and the beautiful were too vague and subjective to be adopted as the highest aims of social or individual life, or were the automatic spin-off of the successful pursuit of wealth and power, has been aptly called 'crackpot-realism'. Everywhere people ask: 'What can I actually do?' The answer is as simple as it is disconcerting: we can, each of us, work to put our own inner house in order. The guidance we need for this work cannot be found in science or technology, the value of which utterly depends on the ends they serve; but it can be found in the traditional wisdom of mankind.

The question arises as when and where to trust "traditional wisdom". Schumacher's vision calls for patience and practice.

Development does not start with goods; it starts with people and their education, organisation, and discipline. [...] Education does not "jump"; it is a gradual process of great subtlety. Organisation does not "jump"; it must gradually evolve to fit changing circumstances. And much the same goes for discipline.

It is tempting to "jump" between these excerpts and map justice and truth to education, fortitude and goodness to organisation, temperance and beauty to discipline. And prudence to the dexterity of jumping.

And so for day 464

Word Things

Keith W. Faulkner. Deleuze and the three syntheses of time argues

Words become symbols; language is symbolic: although words are not things, and things are not words, the principle of reality applies to them both as if words enjoy the same reality as things.

and this is how the argument is set up

How can language acquire a "reality" if it remains outside the realm of objects? As we have seen, the indication of reality accompanies a psychical discharge. While eating, the mouth and the stomach produce a discharge signaling the reality of food; while speaking, a physical discharge occurs in the mouth signaling the reality of language. In this process, as in the process of hysterical symbol-formation, the symbol completely replaces the thing.

The question arises that if words can be considered to be like things, how can things be like words? The key may be in approaching words and things as "events."

One need not revert to a theory of signatures or a reification of symbols, one can sense the pressure of a thing upon its environment much as one can sense the energy of words.

And so for day 463

See also day 65

Contrasting Pairs

Instead of an Index of First Lines, one wishes for an index of concluding lines.

unbeingdead isn't beingalive

from e.e. cummings 73 poems last line of poem 31

And so for day 462

Fluency and Literacy

The following, rearranged as verse, strikes one as more than just a call to pay attention to oral dimensions. It is in a sense a call to overcome self-censorship in order to become engaged.

What you think, you can say.
What you say, you can write.
What you've written, you can read.

Educational consultant, Carmel A. Crevola

What is read animates what is thought.

And so for day 461


From "Love and Literature" in Texts & Pretexts: An Anthology with Commentaries by Aldous Huxley.

[...] Isolate a new born rat, then, when it is mature, introduce it to another rat of the opposite sex. It will know exactly what to do — will behave as all other rats behave.

Not so an ape. Instinct does not tell it how to behave. Congenital ignorance is the condition of intelligence. The ape is intelligent, therefore knows fewer things by instinct than does the rat. It is not born with a knowledge of normal sex-behaviour, it must acquire this knowledge from its fellows.

Now if the simple sexuality of an ape is an affair of education, how much more so must be the complicated love-making of men and women ! Literature is their principal teacher. Even the most wildly passionate lovers have studied in that school.

Apart from literature there are exchanges that pass mouth to mouth, hand to hand ...

And so for day 460

Sex, Youth and Experience

"Child of All Ages" by P.J. Plauger collected inn The Best of Science Fiction of the Year #5 edited by Terry Carr features a female protagonist that manages never to grow up yet is wise in the ways of the world.

"No, what a minute. You brought this up," she persisted. "Look at me. Am I unattractive? Good teeth, no pock marks. No visible deformities. Why, a girl like me would make first-rate wife material in some circles. Particularly where the average life expectancy is, say under thirty-five years — as it has been throughout much of history. Teenage celibacy and late marriage are conceits that society has only recently come to afford.

She looked at him haughtily.

"I have had my share of lovers, and you can bet I've enjoyed them as much as they've enjoyed me. You don't need glands for that sort of thing so much as sensitive nerve endings — and a little understanding.

Part of the charm of this passage is its forthrightness.

And so for day 459

To describe, to emote

Thomas McNamee in Alice Walters and Chez Panisse concludes the "Death and Life" chapter with a description of the 1987 San Francisco benefit, Aid and Comfort. As the last lines and the concluding sentences of the chapter, they are designed to reveberate:

For the finale, Chanticleer, San Francisco's highly regarded all-male chorus, sang "Lean on Me," as the hundreds of volunteers poured onto the stage to join them. The audience stood and sang along, many in tears.

simple clear note

And so for day 458

Keyword: lover

Thomas McNamee relates in Alice Walters and Chez Panisse in the chapter "Very Sixties" informs readers about California usuage.

Long before cohabitation was common anywhere else in the country, unmarried couples were openly living together in Berkeley. They didn't call themselves girlfriend and boyfriend, or companions or partners. They used the word lovers.

Which calls to mind the character of Billy Lee Belle in Peter McGehee's Beyond Happiness who while back home on a visit shakes the family tree in conversation with an older cousin:

"Why? You don't mean to say that you and Boy Calder were lov—"

And there it stands suspended, unconfirmed but true. And full of power.

To this day it's the word I prefer.

And so for day 457

Dual Sense Appeal

The Firework-Maker's Daughter by Philip Pullman

[...] down a little winding alley full of crackling smells and pungent noises [...]

The chiasmus (sound smell, smell sound) is arresting. So too, the not often combined senses of smell and hearing.

And so for day 456

Out of Time into Memory

Ellen Frye in Amazon Story Bones has a passage that cries out for an annotation by a scholar of botanical history.

A river that brings us sweet water, quince trees, apples and pears. The land's rich here. Stony, but rich. the wheat grows high, the tomatoes grow red, the melons sweet. The gods are good to us.

In this fictional world, tomatoes grow in ancient times in the Mediterranean basin. This is not the case in the actual world since tomatoes were introduced after contact with the New World. I like to think of this distance between the actual and the fictional as a trope that supports the book's concluding theme that Amazons are everywhere.

Much like a cornucopia depicting fruits and flowers out of season reflects abundance, the transhistorical reach turns the telling of old myths and the wish for survival into a future possible.

And so for day 455

Iridescent Scales

A scrap from 1991

P. rent the necklace. The beads and pearls scattered. They picked pieces to be hidden in medicine pouches. Y. picked up the thread. Tied it into a fly. went fishing.

A scrap that wants nothing leaves nothing to waste.

And so for day 454

White on Merrill

From an essay collected in The Burning Library, Edmund White writing on James Merrill's writing:

In this moment, as in the alchemy of a pun or the stored energy of a 'deadwood' expression, things lose their solidity, flow or flame into something else, vanish only to show up elsewhere — the fast-motion film of decay and rebirth, the physicist's view of the conservation of energy joined to the naturalist's view of random and ever proliferating variation. This alertness to transubstantiation is the religious impulse behind Merrill's verse.

Equally a materialist concern with mutability, the patina of aura.

And so for day 453

Erotic Fragment

Not coded, yet modest in its own way, an exposure of sorts...


I thrust my tongue into your ear. I slather spit in the whorls. Rimming hair and wax. Baby ass soft. Behind its curling I let my exploration enjoy the rasp of your short hair. Half asleep you grumble. I grab your piss hard-on. Your turn is blocked by my squeeze. My nipples want to leave dents in your shoulder blades. I'm not budging.

Intriguing to read this almost twenty years on from its time of composition. The attention to texture endures.

And so for day 452

For "modesty" read "coded"

John A. Sanford Fate, Love, and Ecstasy: Wisdom from the Lesser-Known Goddesses of the Greeks

An important way in which aidos enhances the secrets of love and lovemaking, which intensifies enjoyment, is reflected in the intimacy of lovers. Lovers whose relationship is personal — a "secret" hidden from others, an intimate sharing — participate in the goddess Aidos. When secret ways of making love are shared between lovers, the goddess is certainly present, and these secret ways promote that quality of intimacy which makes the experience of love special and important.

To be balanced by the joys of kiss and tell.

And so for day 451


Dorothy Allison, "The Future of Female: Octavia Butler's Mother Lode" in Reading Black, Reading Feminist edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The Oankali represent Butler's solution to the sexual horrors she details in every novel — a people who honor the act of procreation so greatly they are incapable of rape, and who enjoy sex so much they treat all sexual acts with matter-of-fact honesty, an approach that appalls the kidnapped humans.

And she tells a good story too.

And so for day 450

Counting and Ubiquity

This verse from Gwendolyn MacEwen "Letters to Josef in Jerusalem" lends itself to a reflection upon synchronization.

It is countdown; it is the same time everywhere.

The time of countdown where anywhere risks becoming a nowhere.

And so for day 449

Contentment, breathing and perception

From an undated hand written page of blue ink on blue paper with on the recto an annotation, perhaps later, in black ink "The days of calm bring / something. that I can / group and hold/ and release. / like a breath." Most remarkable is that attached to the sheet is a yellow stickie set as a diamond and conveys a distinctly erotic question: "How / do you hold on / to the wings of an / angel who's / sucking your / dick?" Oddly and prominently placed and somehow poised as a variation on the theme of contentment and how to hold on to the ungraspable.

There is a certain kind of contentment that descends upon me. The kind of contentment I mean is not one that subjects me to lassitude. It is not contentment that leads to inertia. Rather it is a way of being that lives in the moment and is able to sustain itself from the joy it takes in the subtle sensual shifts. It is a type of contentment that satisfies the will to experiment and it is a contentment that is fine-tuned upon particulars. Detail is what it will thrive upon. and it is also a pleasure in maintaining — simply sweeping the floor.

it is the direction of its arrival that intrigues me. It descends. it comes through the head. this may be a result of the sensory receptors located in the head. For the contentment I speak of is based upon a life of the senses, a paying attention to the environment of self and surrounding. Must be the phonic relation between "head trip" and "hedonism".

Contentment is also related to the intake of breath. To be able to breathe deeply.

Now that is a nice definition of contentment. and it gives a different directionality. To breathe in, to let the lungs fill and then to exhale gives the body a sense of welling up. The spine straightens [arrow indicating continuation on the overleaf]

Contentment : a richness in the interplay of the senses.

contentment : an ability to breathe.

What is the connection between breath and the play of the senses?

I don't know the answer to the question but I am ready to imagine the heaving of shoulder blades as the stubs of wings...

And so for day 448

From Pun to Satire

Piers Anthony Yon Ill wind is a novel full of puns. Indeed the puns propel the plot. It was published in 1996 and has this passage in which a character, the husband of a woman sucked almost dry by a vampire is seeking revenge upon the vampire. The character creates a dummy to snare the vampire but the attractive dummy attracts undesired attention:

Soon a man came along the path. He was a cool character, which was obvious because he wore snowshoes. But the snow almost melted when he spied the lovely dummy. "Well now," he said, and took a step towards her. [...]

But this was the wrong man. He wasn't the vampire. He was just a typical sexist lunkhead whose elimination wouldn't make any difference to anyone. It was necessary to make him go away in a hurry.

"Oh, thank you, kind sir!" the husband cried in his cracked falsetto voice. "I never thought a man as handsome as you would take an interest in me. I'm just one of several aides to the cruel vampire."

The lunk paused. "You're a what?"

"One of the aides," the husband cried. "Aides! AIDES!"

"That's what I thought you said! I'm not touching any aides. I'm outta here!" and the lunk took off, leaving behind chunks of snow from his cold feet."

For me the shout out capitalization clinches the interpretation.

Interesting to note that full capitalization of the acronym is not universal. In the UK only the initial letter is presented in uppercase (Aids). Either way, the passage is "capital".

And so for day 447

Any time

I used to confuse Valerie Miner with Isobel Miller, author of Patience and Sarah. Must be the cover art of Winter's Edge in the Crossing Press 1985 edition — two women conversing by a window at a cafe ... in any event I'm intrigued about the possibilities of Winter's Edge being adopted into an opera just as Patience and Sarah has been. It wouldn't be a grand sweeping affair; it might be more like an oratorio focused upon a meditation on friendship and jealousy, a meditation framed by one's sense of mortality.

An important voice in such a work would be that of the character, Chrissie, who pauses in her work day as a waitress to offer some musing that given the workplace setting of their delivery inspire a sense of quotidian thoughtfulness rather than morbidity.

Yet as she grew older, it was hard to sleep in the mornings. Maybe the body's timer was saying, "You're closing in. Take as many hours as you can." Death was a curious shadow, a kind of companionable silhouette nowadays rather than the dark pathway she imagined as a girl. When she was younger, she would stare at old people and feel melancholy, thinking how sad that life was almost over for them. Now sometimes she looked at young folks and felt great sympathy for all the miles ahead. Doubtless, she would leave fighting, but she no longer felt any panic about her own death. Occasionally she regarded the notion with a certain serenity.

It strikes me now in transcribing this that the novel itself is serene in that the narration can end at any point in time along the way and one would still have a satisfying aesthetic experience as if one were browsing a set of snapshots.

And so for day 446

Pack Rats and Control Freaks

Jennifer Bennett in the "On Earth" chapter of Our Gardens Our Selves

Despite my calling this place mine, I had come to realize that I was a visitor. I had only a temporary influence upon a place with its own secret agenda.

It sounds like an apt description of my desk and study where stacks of books and papers are the most common mode of information storage and retrieval -- all saved up for sorting. Like the plantings in a garden, sometimes parts of the ordered mess gets moved about and yield surprising and inspiring combinations.

They say that sorting and clearing is about letting go. Perhaps more precisely it is about blocking curiosity and the urge to explore more. In a sense it is about being a good visitor — exerting temporary influence. "Letting go" seems a bit too permanent. The task of sorting and clearing is better served by a notion of trust (which some people think that "letting go" is all about). The good visitor trusts that what is needed will be at hand when needed. The good visitor stops to observe. The life of a good pack rat is also composed of stops.

This is not a laissez faire attitude. It is about enabling the joyous juxtapositions that continue to marvel one. The pack rat is disposed to depositing and observing the effect.

I am reminded of Virginia Woolf's biography of Roger Fry. I like how Woolf quietly related his influence as a critic to a certain humility without naming it as such. A theme that emerges is a return to seeing the picture: there is no end to explaining or of testing one's observations for the approach is very scientific. Likewise there is no end to being a pack rat and the testing of combinations and posing for a moment as a visitor to assess the effect.

And so for day 445

Dance Partners

The General in His Labyrinth by Gabreil Garcia Marquez translated by Edith Grossman supplies this delightful anecdote that relates a swipe at snobbery.

One was different from the rest: Jose Laurencio Silva was the son of a midwife from the town of El Tinaco, on Los Llanos, and a fisherman on the river. Through his father and his mother he was a dark-skinned member of the lower class of pardo half-breeds, but the General had married him to Felicia, another of his nieces. During his career he had risen from a sixteen-year-old volunteer in the liberating army to a field general at the age of fifty-eight, and he had suffered more than fifteen serious wounds and numerous minor ones, inflicted by a variety of weapons, in fifty-two battles in almost all the campaigns for independence. The only difficulty he encountered as a pardo was his rejection by a lady of the social aristocracy during a gala ball. The General then requested that they repeat the waltz, and he danced it with Silva himself.

And so for day 444