All Poems are Failures (as poems)

Good stuff:

Poems can, of course, succeed in any number of less grand ambitions than the ones I’m describing (they can be funny or lovely or offer solace or courage or inspiration to certain audiences at certain times; they can play a role in constituting a community; and so on), but I’m attempting to account for a persistent if mutable feeling that our moment’s poems are bad, that we hate them or at least strongly dislike them, and that it’s their fucking fault.

Thanks, R.

On Willful Ignorance

From The Chronicle:

Anyone who has been paying attention to the fault lines of academic debate for the past 20 years already knows that the “science wars” were fought by natural scientists (and their defenders in the philosophy of science) on the one side and literary critics and cultural-studies folks on the other. The latter argued that even in the natural realm, truth is relative, and there is no such thing as objectivity. The skirmishes blew up in the well-known “Sokal affair” in 1996, in which a prominent physicist created a scientifically absurd postmodernist paper and was able to get it published in a leading cultural-studies journal. The ridicule that followed may have seemed to settle the matter once and for all.

Dissecting Higher Education in Connecticut

Given that Connecticut is loaded with Higher Education institutions and a proportional amount of experts, I cringe at the first the line of this CT Mirror article: “The Board of Regents is looking to private consultants to evaluate the duties . . . ”

We can do this ourselves, thanks. Plenty of people available, folks.

Game of Thrones and Plot Lines

As an avid Game of Thrones watcher, I enjoy reading what other people have to say. R and I talk about the show a lot and we have interesting reactions. I’ve followed the reactions to the “wedding” violence, the “rape” violence, and the unexpected “snuffing” of a variety of characters, from Ned to Shireen.

A lot of this has resulted in a loss of interest in whatever story is developing on my part. I have favorite characters: Jon Snow, Arya, and Tyrion. I have minor likes, sure, but to eliminate a character is to eliminate a path or narrative line. One of the more interesting developments in the final episode of the 5th was Cersei’s humiliation walk (this may or may not prompt a change in character) through King Landing, where one of the great ones is “finally” yanked down beneath the level of stones. But the psychology would tend to add up to a reliance on retribution narrative: even though Cersei became or has always been an unlikeable, but interesting character, the audience will want some measure of justice in the form of revenge against her tormentors, in this case, the Sparrows. But is this a persistence or pattern that can be sustained as a “totality.”

This is where my interest is starting to lag. It would appear that the driving elements of plot have a lot to do with this “affect” toward “someone getting theirs” after a long list of doings, plotting, or interest seeking. Who doesn’t want to see Ramsay Bolton “get his,” for example, for the laundry list of evils he’s committed. But even Raskolnikov does not stay Raskolnikov.

The problem is if Ramsay does “get his” then what and so what? I’m starting to wonder at this type of strange narrative entropy of retribution goads (a goad can provoke or annoy). First we have a significant jaw-dropper in whatever developing arc (Jamie rapes, for instance) or event that would serve or suggest to serve that something is causation. A case in point in terms of event is the hapless Stannis. The audience must wonder why we went through all this meander only to end with a form of narrative throttle.

Does the raping Jamie serve his character either in terms of cause or lateral implication? I seriously wonder about this, as this would seem to only suggest someone else’s “vision” and not his, a “statement” about relationships in the Thrones world rather than a careful study of Jaime’s potential, given who he’s become or who he’s becoming.

Whether Jon Snow lives or dies doesn’t matter, but his story should matter, whether he lives or dies. Of course, we don’t know the “grand narrative,” though I suspect it will become a fight between the Zombies and the “not” Zombies. But there’s a reason why Sam and Gilly are interesting as characters. There was a reason why Cersei was interesting, though unlikable. Arya has yet to teach us something. One reason for sustained interest goes back to ideas about character in fiction: we expect the unexpected not the expected, the unpredictable not the predictable. In this idea about character, genre doesn’t matter.

Tech and Being Mindful

I recently purchased a Macbook Air because the Pro was getting a little cranky after seven or so years. I’m rarely not on a computer doing something. The new buy is sleek and soft and hums and the battery is so far so good. But it’s also a pain in the ass in a lot of ways (because new in many ways).

I also purchased an iPhone 6 many months ago. The relationship between the new technology is a little surprising. Both machines want to manage everything they can manage. From messages to email to whatever update wants to leak in, including messages from the newly installed Nest system R and I have running in the hallway, which claims to know now when the house is empty of breathing creatures.

But why pain in the ass? Maybe not pain in the ass but a new sense of transitional mindfulness about clutter. I still go back to the Pro, as I’m been able to relieve it some of all the thousands of ghosts inhabiting its go-betweens, like the Steam app, which I never used and who knows how many hidden files. I have no idea how many versions of Rails or Git I have on the Pro. How many versions of VC.

I’m reluctant to install on the new box. It’s a certain kind of tentativeness about weight and balance. Kind of like remembering not to lift heavy objects with my healing broken elbow.

Eating Peru

R and I visited Cora Cora for supper last night. The choritos a la chalaca knocked me out of my chair. It was an amazing experience all around.

A “brief” examination of code

What’s the “user registration workflow,” Charlie?

Regarding: Paul Ford: What is Code? | Bloomberg

Pretty darned interesting.

On Narrative and History

There’s no shortage of historical texts, but only a handful are lauded as literature. We can learn valuable lessons by revisiting EP Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class.

Source: Historical texts as literature? We do well to praise EP Thompson

Old Arm, New Arm

These should be self explanatory:

1 (1)

1 (8)

On How to do a Number on an Elbow

On Monday, I fell back on the basement stairs and broke my ulna, cracking it clean in half. Luckily I had R to rush to the emergency room for support and assistance, meeting me there as I got off the EM truck. She is fantastic and now must put up with a one armed person for a few months. Not a good time for this, end of the semester and all, lots of plants to plant and papers to grade.

In any event here’s to R!

Susan Gibb on John Timmons

Susan Gibb has a wonderful poem on John Timmons.

The Foyer is a Room: For John Timmons

He made much and there’s too much of it to say it all in one weblog post.

On Friday, December 12, I, other friends, and Tunxis Community College lost the powerful presence of John Timmons. John was a faculty and staff member of the college for over thirty years. I met John after moving to Connecticut in the mid 90s and started working with him closely soon after. At the time he was directing our ambiguous instructional media department. Why “ambiguous” doesn’t matter. What matters is that the department assisted the college with digital instructional and online tools. I remember my first encounter with John, telling him stories about my work at UT El Paso with digital forums. I wanted his assistance with replication and system development for commuter students. He jumped right on the case. We found the Webboard system and got right to work, and this was the beginning of a long and profitable friendship.

We developed tools and pedagogy. We developed Tunxis’s New Media program. We attended conferences. We met with others to talk stories and writing in the Narratives group. He introduced me to the guitar and gave me one. He helped build an air hockey table for my son. We developed and grew the 100 Days diorama. We collaborated on art, books, film, and media projects. He was principal, along with his partner, in guiding me through a divorce and opening my heart to new love and loves (for which I will always be grateful–that’s for you, Bae!). This was deep and intimate stuff, and along with Maggie, whom he dearly loved, and other good friends, we joined and have joined in a life circle that will continue to grow and effervesce even in John’s absence, because he was a big man with a big heart and big talent. He will never really depart the planet or the minds of those who knew him.

These last years saw us continue a habit: we’d meet and smoke and drink coffee or water or beer and talk for hours about what we had been thinking and were thinking. This was an old habit. In the old days, we’d stand outside the college and hatch plans, provoke those who walked by, then walk back to our offices. Then we’d go out again. Even when we quit the smoking habit, we’d sneak a pack together and pick up the conversation. We shared the art we were enjoying. He’d show me some progressions. Every movie he suggested was a good one. When I think of him now, it’s hard to be sad. Rather, I’m just glad he was a part of my life and I smile. I’m glad he will never disappear. Much of what I make from now on will see his subtle genius in it.

His legacy is and will be wide. No matter the demand, John would never say “No” to it. John’s influence brought online education to Connecticut and not a lot of people know this. He built the College’s first website and initiated early crews into the wonders of the digital database. He brought Interactive Fiction programming to new media students. When he told me about his adventures with Zork, Deus Ex, and Half Life, I knew we’d hit it off. His big line in this regard was just to say: “The Foyer is a room.” Or do well by your Grammy. It was because of his leadership that many people now have professions; they must now work to fill John’s shoes and learn to avoid saying “No” to the things and people that matter.

We’re doing a lot with wishes these days and so I’ll close with a story that John inspired in one of our fiction projects. It speaks a lot to John and how he thought about things. Sometimes it’s hard to read between lines. It’s called Wishing Tree.

People have that book they remember reading. They find the book later in life, pick it up, open it, then put it down because it isn’t the book they’d read when they were young. It has the same title, the same words, the same folds in those places where the reader had paused. But it’s a different book. The reader wonders what happened.

When I went back to that old wish tree, the paper slips now brown with age and clinking in the breeze like dried fruit peels, I found the one I’d written and hung there so long ago. Understand that we can wish to keep something; we can wish to hang on to what we have. In this world, one can wish for riches or peace or a cure or even another world or rain. Given this, the tree had sagged, so weighted down it was with wishes. When they’re new the trees stand green and high and proud, but whey they grow old, they lean and look sad in the shaded evenings. Their backs grow crooked. There are so many wishes.

When I removed my wish, the tree kept its posture. It wasn’t such a heavy wish, not so bold, and wasn’t the kind of wish that would bring the clouds to the desert or the warm to winter or life to the dead. No, it was a simple wish, the script written small with the nervous hand of a child. It is, however, customary to keep wishes to oneself, and so I can’t reveal the wish, and I wouldn’t know what to make of it anyway, as, since the wish had been made, I couldn’t say what had happened, what had changed. Why such a wish would matter to me, unknown. But I do know that in most things, other than oil spills and the sicknesses I can do nothing about, I would wish for nothing, as I yearn for nothing more than what I have.


Information equals Energy

Over the last several months my email has been inundated with messages from the various angles of the Democratic party. Some are about requesting money. Others about begging for it in support of whatever cause.

In a constitutional, federal democracy the information and thereby the energy of government should flow the other way. It’s the parties who should be inundated with energy from the polis.

And, by the way, it’s nice to be able to type again.

battlestar is cool

Sure battlestar is cool at least for a test post.


When Social Media is Really Stupid Media

When I hear, read, think about intelligent systems or machine learning, sometimes my gross euphemism muscle goes a little spastic. I just got a notice that a good friend of mine who passed away a few years ago is deserving of a work anniversary from a social network and that he should be congratulated. It is a very strange confrontation. And somewhat morbid.

That’s all I’m going to say on the matter.