Friday, January 30, 2009

O, a deer

U.S. President Barack Obama walks
the wintry path to the Oval Office
(photo: Jason Reed/Reuters)

freshly fallen snow
ominously crookèd limbs
meeting south lawn's brush

lonely winter deer
a confident leader's walk
the White House: next stop

camera's f-stop
aperture setting for snow
capturing O's walk

O's sauntering limbs
behind: a camouflaged deer
painting with broad brush

from snow-dappled brush
dazzled doe comes to full-stop:
photograph's lone deer

ignoring brief snow
beneath the snow-laden limbs
the new leader walks

the new leader walks
in front of snow-dappled brush
beneath snowy limbs

doe comes to full-stop
dappling January's snow:
photograph's lone deer

background: hidden deer
foreground: leader's stately walk
f-stop set for snow

painting with broad brush
camera's shutter freeze-stops
O's sauntering limbs

beneath crookèd limbs
walking past lone winter deer
the White House: next stop

the new leader walks
passing White House south lawn's brush:
freshly fallen snow

behind snowy limbs
a lone deer in frozen stop:
she brushes O's walk

a (haiku-)sestina using photo-inspired (not actually random) end-words: snow limbs brush deer walk stop

doubly prompted by read write poem's prompt #63: sestina, randomly (gypo) and totally optional prompts' Intersections (rfp)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

R[epublicans]. I[n]. P[eace].

On the Limbaugh-Obama "tête-à-tête": Is this a symbol of Rush being the de facto head of the GOP? People recognize Obama, now, as the voice of the Democratic Party, but who listens to Boehner-McConnell?

In the latter half of the 1970s, going to graduate school in Providence, Rhode Island, I remember Senator John Chafee. (His son, [former Senator] Lincoln, had been my undergraduate classmate at Brown [1971-75], but I didn't know him at the time. I was "mathematics", he was "classics"—our paths didn't cross.) Those were the days when there were identifiable progressive Republicans in Congress. (Jacob Javits comes to mind.) Today there may be a few odd-balls like Susan Collins and Olympia Snow, but for the most part, the GOP today has all the appearance of the Ghetto of Palin.

"Ike" had some faults (slow in ending racial discrimination, the Mosaddeq business, which we have been paying for since 1953, etc.) but I think he needs to be re-viewed: The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways is the largest public works project in history. Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the “military industrial complex”. He was contemptuous of the Palinism of his day: Joe McCarthy.

A modern progressive Republican (if one existed today) could help bring a National Health Insurance System. (John Chafee was one who was leaning this way in 1993-94.) That is just one example of how Republicans once understood that great governments can do great things. Such visionary, progressive Republicans are faint, distant memories, destroyed by the fraternal bad-ass twins of Cato libertarianism and Christian evangelicalism — gone with the wind.


(2009/01/29) Speaking of R.I.P., what timing: David Kuo administers last rites to Culture11. [my flower on the coffin]

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The First Seven Days

"Watching Ex-President Bush Get Buzzed"
"Naval Observatory: Defuzzed"
      "Hill'ry's Foggy Bottom
        At Last Gets Some Scrotum"
And that's the first week's headlines, nonplussed.

for Lewis Carroll (b. 1832), on his birthday

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Geek Poet's Tale [the ninth fragment]

[continued from the eighth fragment]

   The Geek, with clam-shell computer and cell phone stored away,

   Looked 'round the bus. He saw someone who his tending did sway.

Contrasting with the Beat poet's metaphysical muse,

He was a mathematical man with regular shoes.

Writing on a pad (it seemed more like writing programs in

Blogospherical verse, a script language that seemed more kin

To PHP, C-sharp, XML, or CSS <script>,

His curious form, apart, syntactical standards ripped.

He was one to my liking.—(I thought, what poet could be?)

The mode of his poetry seemed to fit me to a "T".

He decapitalized like a Marseillean guillotine,

Making my verse seem pedestrian ... literal ... routine.

A saw a seat near and repositioned my location,

To introduce myself and to surmise his vocation ...

[this ends the ninth fragment*]

* More to be published, as they are recovered from Blogosphere's backed-up blogs. -pt

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mathematica materialis, or How not to be lured into Plato's cave

The great David Hilbert's* birthday (b. January 23, 1862) was this past Friday. Here are two Hilbert quotes that people still talk about:

1. No one shall expel us from the paradise that Cantor has created for us.

2. Mathematics is a game played according to certain simple rules with meaningless marks on paper.

Now the first is sourced, while the second is disputed. But I'll pretend he "said" them both.

These two statements, I think, sum up the two ways people (mathematicians?—are they people?) view the subject of mathematics: Platonism (mathematics is the exploration and discovery of truths in a world—beyond our feeble, material world—where there is Truth) and Formalism (mathematics is really just a game of symbol manipulation with established, agreed upon rules—like chess). Now this is a conflation of the bewildering zoo of philosophies of mathematics (everyone has their favorite animal), but I think it basically comes down to these two views. But when you get down to it, these are not necessarily opposing views: a Formalist can be (and probably is) a Platonist, and a Platonist can still do their mathematical work as if they were a Formalist. So Hilbert could have made both these quotes.

Some history: Cantor came along and "saw" not only an infinite number of "natural" numbers (1, 2, 3, ...) but that some infinities (all the real numbers, 3.14159..., etc.) are more infinite than others. And even that infinite one-upmanship goes on infinitely. Nice one, Cantor. (One the other hand, Hilbert got his comeuppance from Gödel on the first "quote": Hilbert's trial balloon [the so-called Hilbert's Program] that all mathematical "truth" could be found in a formal proof system was popped.)

However, thank Jan [Mycielski: Locally Finite Theories, Analysis Without Actual Infinity], there is a third view apart from Platonism and Formalism [The Meaning of Pure Mathematics]: Intentionalism (mathematics is "a description of finite structures consisting of finitely many individually imagined objects"). And, thanks to Shaughan [Lavine: Understanding the Infinite], there is a layman's book for laying out what Mycielski is up to.

Boiled down, this is what Intentionalism is: a re-reading of mathematical texts. And it all comes down to quantifiers.

In a mathematical text, one might read an axiom that basically says: "Between every two distinct rational numbers there is another rational number". In a Platonist reading, one can only "think" of rational numbers being infinitely divisible, somehow. And real numbers? There are "even more" of those! But in a "deconstructionist" Intententionalist view, this same axiom is read: "For-all[set-p] two distinct rational numbers x and y, there-exists[set-q] another rational number z between them". The quantifiers (for-all[set-p], there-exists[set-q]) are qualified: they range over finite sets that are of arbitrary size, but the qualification is that the more deeply nested a qualifier is in a statement, the larger (i.e., set-q is a superset of set-p) the set of its range. (There are more "rules" in play in Lavine/Mycileski, but I'll leave it at that.)

Since mathematical text consists of (first-order) statements of nested qualifiers, an Intentionalist** reading exorcizes the ghosts of infinity. And Platonists are left behind in Plato's cave, boxing at shadows.

* David Hilbert's legacy can probably be summed up in three bullets
  • Axiomization of Euclid's Geometry (its descendants found in high school geometry texts)
  • Hilbert Spaces (a mathematical basis for quantum theory)
  • Hilbert's Program (see above)

** I think the term Intentionalism is fine, but, with some liberty perhaps, I use the term (mathematical) Materialism to mean the same thing. If it is the case that nature is 'quantal', then there are no real numbers in the first place!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

No Time for Frank-ness

In his Sunday NY Times column, No Time for Poetry, Frank Rich writes, "President Obama did not offer his patented poetry in his Inaugural Address." Now by the time you read this, a copy editor (who may have come up with the title) may alter it—probably not. But it propagates the ignorant view that poetry is meant to be "inspirational" or "uplifting", not "realistic" or, heaven forbid, "analytic". The Beat Poets come to mind. Maybe he should read them.

I don't think that Maureen Dowd (Exit the Boy King) would make this mistake. She knows how prose can be poetry—Yes it can! Maureen knows how to do this, and that is why her writing is more stimulating and interesting than Frank's.

I'm just being frank.

Friday, January 23, 2009


So ... there is a new newspaper publisher whose newspapers' copy comes from blog posts (and wiki articles).

Let's see how this will pan out:

1. Blog posts from various bloggers will appear in The Printed Blog (your local newsstand edition).

2. After being in print for a while, The Printed Blog will make a Kindle edition available (following the lead of other newspapers).

3. People will be reading The Printed Blog on their Kindles (while riding to work on the subways, etc.)

Neat, huh?

Thursday, January 22, 2009


video by christine swint   (click Play above to play with text)

from gray sky media
texas bluebonnet artists   presents
a green leaf haiku   production

fall colors dissolve
    into a red brick walkway —
        the white swan pond-ers ...

               the end

for read write poem #62 (get your poem on #62)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration 2009

Dianne-a Dianne-a: Yes we can-a!
You opened with proper ceremonial manna.

Rick Warren Rick Warren, you sounded so foreign;
The bottom line though: You were quite borin'.

Aretha! Aretha! The Hat on that sing-a!
On that Beautiful song, I wanted to ling-a.

Joe Biden Joe Biden (whom ya confide in?)
Kudos to you, scrappy dude from Scranton.

John Williams John Williams, composer of flick hymns;
Your quartet of legends played with just the right trims.

John Roberts John Roberts, you scrambled the words
To the presidential Oath. Obama, reverts.

Obama Obama, you left us in awe,
With a speech circumspect of reality's flaw.

Alexander Alexander, if you don't mind some candor,
That inaugural poem was a curious meander.

Joe Lowery Joe Lowery! you were so flowery!
You topped it all off with a poetical* cherry!

see also Séance Sonnet

2009/01/22: posted to Totally Optional Prompts Ceremonies


... Lord, in the memory of all the saints
       who from their labors rest, and
       in the joy of a new beginning,
       we ask you to help us work for that day:
when black will not be asked to get in back ...
when brown can stick around ...
when yellow will be mellow ...
when the red man can get ahead, man ...
and when white will embrace what is right;
that all those who do justice and love mercy,
say Amen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Limerick Leather-Face Off

Mid-Atlantic Leather judge Gary Iriza
(photo by Mister Marcus)

Birds of a Leather

There once was a slave in a slut-sling
Who could make his bubble-y butt sing
    To th'tune of his master:
    "Presto!" (which means "Faster!")
— Just another notch in his cock ring!

Blogger J.M.G. waxes body-poetic with some limerick about something that occurred this past pre-inauguration weekend at the Washington Plaza Hotel called the Annual Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend. (I have only bearly heard of this event in the past — no, really.) But what poet can withstand a limerick challenge. It's like pretending you have no interest in Cherries Jubilee. Hence (by "Philo"):

For redemption, I will post a post-inauguration poem on Wednesday.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Geek Poet's Tale [the eighth fragment]

[continued from the seventh fragment]

   The Geek poet read Inbox's text message marked Urgent

   And struggled as best he could to decode what it all meant.

"I've been to the mountaintop. And I've looked over," I read.

At first there was hope, but what I read next filled me with dread:

"And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you."

What did it mean, this text of gloom? MLK left no clue.

( ... A "Reply" was no option for this one-way connection,

But even before I had time for further reflection ...)

A second message "Urgent"ly appeared: "Thy soul shall find

Itself alone / 'Mid dark thoughts of the gray tombstone--" What mind

(Just signed Poe) would send me such a supernatural rhyme

Could it actually be voices from another time?

I flipped close the cell phone and returned to my thought,

And looked around the bus. But then, my attention was caught ...

[this ends the eighth fragment*]

* More to be published, as they are recovered from Blogosphere's backed-up blogs. -pt

Sunday, January 18, 2009

An Elizabethan Tea Time For Two

Eugene H. Peterson and Kent Richmond?

In a previous cogitation I wrote about teaching a two-semester high school course in "The (Collected) Plays of Shakespeare and The Bible". ("The Bible" part — by "The Bible" I mean one, and only one, thing: The Authorized King James Version — is the evangelical camel's nose poking inside the public education's big tent for many secularists.) Such a course could pass constitutional muster, since it say's "Hey! The Bible's just another book of early 1600s English literature (like Shakespeare) everyone should know!" And putting "The Bible" second in the sequence drives this point home. But more about "The Bible" part in a second.

Now both of these are written in so-called Early Modern English. One ("the Plays") is "original" — leaving aside whether William Shakespeare or Francis Bacon or Christopher Marlowe wrote them. The other is a "translation" of Ancient Hebrew and Greek. It would appear to be hard to make a case for a substitute in the syllabus in either case, but especially for the former. (Purists would puke over that as being like colorizing classic b&w movies. But I'm not a purist in the case of Shakespearean plays.) However, I think that serious consideration is due to Kent Richmond's Shakespeare Translation Project from Full Measure Press. This is a "verse translation" of the 1600s English original that preserves its poetical structure. (One can browse or download excerpts there and see for oneself.) And note, of course, this is in no way a No Fear Shakespeare "translation", which does not. Either the original or the full-measure translation: take your pick. (After all, most high school students read something like the Penguin Classics translation of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, not in 1300s English — Do purists rebel over that? I guess some do.)

As for "The Bible", again the "King James" purists think that KJV is such a classic of 1600s literature that it should be taught as such. But it isn't originally in English of any century — Homer isn't either, and modern English translations of that are taught — to begin with, and I have never understood why there is such a fetish (other than it was drilled into us as children) for its classic-ness. Consider the following versions of Psalm 23: KJV, TNIV (Today's New International Version, which I think is the best "strict" [sic] translation), and TM (The Message, which some disparagingly call a "paraphrase", by Eugene H. Peterson).


The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
    he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
    he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.


The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
    he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name's sake.


God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
    you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
    you let me catch my breath
    and send me in the right direction.

One "Shakespearean" (and the version we were babywashed with); One sort of gutsy "Beat"; One "Whoa! Dude!"

I like the last one. Am I perverse? Am I a Philo-stine? You decide.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

circuit city, r.i.p.

absorbs the corpse of a corp,
bags another prey

firedog parks outside,
barks a solitary bark;
now he's left homeless

(7:30am) Went into one yesterday afternoon after the news. Like walking into a house of ghosts. (3:30pm) The store this afternoon was crowded with buzzards scavenging the carcass. Half the TV panels were gone.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dick Spoonerry

There once was a lad from Dogberry
Who dropped malaprops riding the fairy
      From Calais to Dover —
      Cunning linguists rolled over
Laughing "There goes our Dick Spoonerry!"

for read write poem prompt #61 (get your poem on #61)


Date: Saturday, January 17, 2009 6:00 AM
From: "Urban Dictionary" <>

January 17: neologasm

the pleasurable feeling from having coined a new word. Combination of neologism and orgasm. Her neologasm was so intense she determined to submit a new word every day to the Urban Dictionary.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


photo ("House on Fire ruin"*) by illryion

Stripped Clean
by Fieriness

Weighed Down
by Holiness

by Militarism

by Historicism

for read write poem image prompt #7 (get your poem on #61)

* ru·in
1. Total destruction or disintegration, either physical, moral, social, or economic.
2. A cause of total destruction.
a. The act of destroying totally.
b. A destroyed person, object, or building.
4. The remains of something destroyed, disintegrated, or decayed. Often used in the plural: studied the ruins of ancient Greece.
[from Latin ruere: to rush, collapse.]

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

On Untheism

Following up on Pascal v. "Philo", there is the theist/atheist argument. Some pose agnosticism as the "middle way": a bewildered ignorance, a belief it can't be proved or resolved one way or the other.

The deconstructionist sees the whole setup as a trap: one is bottled into making a "choice", or not making it (which presumes there is a choice that exists in the first place). But what of the living/dead, i.e. the undead?—The zombie?

The deconstructionist would unleash the (indeterminate) untheist.
Usage Note: The negative prefix un- attaches chiefly to adjectives (unable, unclean, unequal, unripe, unsafe) and participles used as adjectives (unfeeling, unflinching, unfinished, unsaid), and less frequently to nouns (unbelief, unconcern, unrest). Sometimes the noun form of an adjective with the un- prefix has the prefix in-, as in inability, inequality, injustice, and instability. A few stems appear with both prefixes with distinctions of meaning. Inhuman means "brutal, monstrous," while unhuman means "not of human form, superhuman." When used with adjectives, un- often has a sense distinct from that of non-. Non- picks out the set of things that are not in the category denoted by the stem to which it is attached, whereas un- picks out properties unlike those of the typical examples of the category. Thus nonmilitary personnel are those who are not members of the military, whereas someone who is unmilitary is unlike a typical soldier in dress, habits, or attitudes.


If you came across an untheist, which would it be? Someone devoid not only of theism but of the conundrum of choice? Someone not in the form of a theist? A supertheist?

You wouldn't know.

see also a-: A prefix meaning "without" or "not" when forming an adjective (such as amorphous, without form, or atypical, not typical), and "absence of" when forming a noun (such as arrhythmia, absence of rhythm). Before a vowel or h it becomes an- (as in anhydrous, anoxia). []

(A 2007 post, Untheism [Fred McVittie], is mistaken in my view, since it denies the existence of godly entities, and therefore is not different from atheism as far as 'God' goes.)

2009/03/10 — A term that expresses indifference over indeterminism: Meh-theism

2011/02/10 see also Atheism = Untheism + Antitheism

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Philo’s Wager (or Why Bayesian reasoning is the Devil's logic)

"That's the devil's logic!"

Archdeacon to King's Chief Justice, Frollo
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939 script)
when Frollo admits his guilt, but says Esmeralda should hang anyway
since she used witchcraft to bewitch him

Bayesian reasoning is a variation of begging the question. It is mathematically "sound", but to what end?

Stephen Senn, Professor, Dept. of Statistics, University of Glasgow makes the following points:
The Myth of Objective Bayes

• Bayesian analysis cannot be a means of recovering the truth
• It is a means of recovering your truth
• What do you believe?
• This must be specified in your prior
• Remember it is impossible for another Bayesian to use your posterior distribution as input to his or her Bayesian analysis.
• He or she would be better off with a frequentist summary

(from "Is Ignoranace Bliss?" [PDF])

A generous attempt at reconciliation was made by David Freedman (1938–2008), who grew more wary of Bayesianism in his life:
My own experience suggests that neither decision-makers nor their statisticians do in fact have prior probabilities. A large part of Bayesian statistics is about what you would do if you had a prior. For the rest, statisticians make up priors that are mathematically convenient or attractive. Once used, priors become familiar; therefore, they come to be accepted as ‘natural’ and are liable to be used again; such priors may eventually generate their own technical literature … Similarly, a large part of [frequentist] statistics is about what you would do if you had a model; and all of us spend enormous amounts of energy finding out what would happen if the data kept pouring in. (Freedman, D.A., 1995)

Bayesian reasoning is popular with Christian apologists who attempt to put on a defense of "intelligent design" (see Brandon Fitelson's "Plantinga’s Probability Arguments Against Evolutionary Naturalism" [PDF]) or "Pascal's Wager" (see The Value of Life in Brownies and Milk in THE CONFABULUM). Then there is
"Philo"’s Wager

Choose atheism.

Argument: Atheism is the only rational belief, given that there is no evidence for God. And it seems reasonable to assume that if a rational god exists, then that god would only want rational people around him in Heaven. So only atheists (perhaps not all, there may be other considerations) will go to Heaven, if there is a heaven.

But it still remains, a la the archdeacon to Frollo:

      Bayesian reasoning is the Devil’s logic.

(see also Error and the Growth of Experimental Knowledge by Deborah G. Mayo, University of Chicago Press, 1996 [Google Books])


Today: I discovered The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) will be on Turner Classic Movies this evening opposite the premiere of the 8th American Idol on FOX. (Pure happenstance. What were the odds?)

From a rebuttal to my wager on THE CONFABULUM:

After all, your claim that there is “no evidence for God” is contradicted by the billions of people that believe that there is clear and reasonable evidence for God.

No comment.

It’s like a blind mind trying to claim that because he can’t see colors — he has no evidence for color! — that, ergo, color doesn’t exist.

Democritus (fragment 9, Sextus, adv. math. vii, 135):

"By convention there is sweet, by convention there is bitterness, by convention hot and cold, by convention color; but in reality there are only atoms and the void."

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Geek Poet's Tale [the seventh fragment]

[continued from the sixth fragment]

   The Geek poet's bus traveled Route 66. Left alone,

   The Beat poet dozed on the bench. The Geek checked his cell phone ...

Without a Wi-Fi connection into Blogosphere's net,

I turned to my cell phone and the Twitter poets I've met

While in my own land of wiki, blog, and SMS-screen.

"One-hundred-and-forty characters" may seem very lean,

But that's all that can fit in their thrifty poetry, you see,

And that's OK with us Geeks in these attention times wee.

To my surprise I had Inbox unreads. (Somehow, at least,

I could find the cell systems' net.) I was to have a feast,

Reading the tiny screen's scroll. I opened the box, and rolled

Down the list. One was marked Urgent. What I read left me cold ...

[this ends the seventh fragment*]

* More to be published, as they are recovered from Blogosphere's backed-up blogs. -pt

Sunday, January 11, 2009

on learn·ed·ness

Whenever the disýllabic
"learn·ed" is usèd in some way,
I picture Mr. Ed having
something significant to say.

He was always supersmarting
the wobbly Wilbers of this morld.
But wait, I hear a horse: "I am
Mr. Ed. It's not 'morld', it's 'world'."

prompted by (a comment to) On Neuhaus and Foundationalism (The Confabulum*)

* The Confabulum is a great font of learn·ed·ness.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

"The liquid crystal display is the retina of the mind's eye"

Of course, "O'Blivion" was not the name I was born with. That's my television name. Soon, all of us will have special names — names designed to cause the cathode ray tube to resonate.
The battle for the mind of North America will be fought in the video arena — the videodrome. The television screen is the retina of the mind's eye. Therefore the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore television is reality, and reality is less than television.

—Prof. Brian O'Blivion

Videodrome1 needs a quarter-century updating2. CRT, meet LCD. Videodrome was David Cronenberg in his classic cyberpunk period. (It also had a terrific Howard Shore score. He was Cronenberg's composer before he was Peter Jackson's.) Maybe there's one in the works I don't know about.

It's the middle of the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES, January 8-11 2009). I'm not there.
Thin is still in when it comes to TV, with LG Electronics making a 55-inch high-definition LHX flat-screen television that may be less than an inch thick in its final design.

"This may be the thinnest LCD television on the market when it comes out," said LG's US marketing head Marc Sorkin. "We are trying to achieve this piece of art that really blends on a wall."

Consumer electronics show kicks off in Las Vegas (AFP)

Lots of stuff going on in Las Vegas; there's less there than at last year's CES, perhaps, from what I've read. Maybe I'll "look" around today. But then, I won't be there.

see also LCD vs. ePaper at CES, Plastic Logic (@ CES)3

2009/01/12 (cnet news) CES and the recession: What was the impact?

1 Tomatometer, 80%
2 eXistenZ (maybe it should have been eXistYnZ) has been called a clumsy "remake" of Videodrome
3 thin-film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Here's the thing: The (re)play's the thing

John Freshwater, the 8th grade science teacher once fired for keeping a Bible on his classroom desk, is back at it.

(Freshwater: repeat)

What is annoyingly missing in news accounts (the ones I have seen, anyway) is an identification of exactly what version (translation or paraphrase) of the Bible he puts on his desk. (News reporters, like the public in general, are notoriously Bible-illiterate.) I would presume that it is the King James Version, or something close, but I could be wrong. If it is a more current English translation, like Today's New International Version, which I consider the best, the most conservative Christian groups might have pause.

Now I happen to think that two early 1600s English classics should be taught in every public high school, say over the course of a year: The Plays of Shakespeare (technically speaking, they were not collected into a single work at the time, but pretend that they were), and the (Protestant, King James) Bible. Everyone should have a cultural knowledge of this stuff.

Now I do part ways in one sense. I think that this combined Shakespeare, Bible course could be taught just as well with modern versions as the base texts instead of their 1600s precedents (as long as the old versions are around for comparison). Some modern yet poetic Plays for Shakespeare, and at least the TNIV for the Bible. I'm beginning, though, to become rather partial to The Message, even though it is on the paraphrase side of the translation/paraphrase "divide". I mean, it's pretty bitchin', dude. I could, like, totally teach a Bible course like this.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


   photo by

Outside the stucco walls
       the bombardment of the scent of lemon-drop candy)
nature's alchemy is caught in the mesh of death's gizzard,
replaying life&death's revolution.

Batting back my plaintive reprieves,
her passing pricks my heart,
leaving behind geranium's crimson signature.

using words1 from read write poem word prompt #7  (other poems)
and written for Kay Ryan, U.S. Poet Laureate, in memory of her life partner, Carol Adair2

1 gizzard plaintive revolution crimson geranium alchemy pricks stucco
  bombardment candy signature batting mesh


Wednesday, January 7, 2009


God said, "It's not good for the Man to be alone; I'll make him a helper, a companion." So God formed from the dirt of the ground all the animals of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the Man to see what he would name them. Whatever the Man called each living creature, that was its name. The Man named the cattle, named the birds of the air, named the wild animals; but he didn't find a suitable companion.

God put the Man into a deep sleep. As he slept he removed one of his ribs and replaced it with flesh. God then used the rib that he had taken from the Man to make Woman and presented her to the Man.

The Man said,
    "Finally! Bone of my bone,
      flesh of my flesh!
    Name her 'Woman'
      for she was made from Man."

—Genesis 2, The Message

At one time, the whole Earth spoke the same language. It so happened that as they moved out of the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled down. They said to one another, "Come, let's make bricks and fire them well." They used brick for stone and tar for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let's build ourselves a city and a tower that reaches Heaven. Let's make ourselves famous so we won't be scattered here and there across the Earth."

God came down to look over the city and the tower those people had built. God took one look and said, "One people, one language; why, this is only a first step. No telling what they'll come up with next—they'll stop at nothing! Come, we'll go down and garble their speech so they won't understand each other." Then God scattered them from there all over the world. And they had to quit building the city. That's how it came to be called Babel, because there God turned their language into "babble." From there God scattered them all over the world.

— Genesis 11 (The Message)

We are a nation of babblers: We are constantly creating new words, and the BYOW (Bring/Build Your Own Word) dictionaries, like God, merely invite babbler-wannabes. I get a new word in my email from Urban Dictionary every day.

Yesterday I wanted to comment on a Philosophers' Playground post about humans going to Mars before the Sputnik Centennial, and wanted to talk about how talkative human-like robots would be the ones to go, and wanted to name them "hubots" (i.e., not "cyborgs" — after all, that's demeaning). I found "hubot" in Merriam-Webster BYOD (Build Your Own Dictiionary). It wasn't in UD, or used very much online that I could see via Google. It seems like a good word to me, even though I didn't "invent" it.

The Man (of the creation tale in the above quote) named the things on earth that belonged to him. Today's Man names his "avatars" (fr. Sanskrit avatra, descent (of a deity from heaven); avatar : ava, down + tarati, he crosses—The American Heritage Dictionary).

What's the point to this Andy-Rooneyesque rant? Beats me.

Our language is a shifting sand
where waves of words change shore and land.

(Oh yeah. MoDo, my poetcumcolumnist diva, ... is back.)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Four Deconstructionists









Monday, January 5, 2009

The Geek Poet's Tale [the sixth fragment]

[continued from the fifth fragment]

   After his Ginsberg-Walt-Whitman conjunction rendition,

   The Beat poet's bag of hashish reclaimed his attention.

As the Beat poet toked, I revoked, and reposed on my

Thoughts of our contrasting style as he easily got high.

This earthly beat poetry, arty and hip, would teeter

My mathematic precision and technical meter.

I had tasted his poetic and set my next venture

On seeing what would be the next-up poetry feature.

As he seemed to doze off into a distant tranquil haze,

A bus stopped at its stop. I boarded. That set the next stage ...

[this ends the sixth fragment*]

* More to be published, as they are recovered from Blogosphere's backed-up blogs. -pt

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Water Steps, from madrid photobloggers
(photo by Hitesh Sawlani)

quiet — hear the sound  flowing down the water steps  the cirque du haiscade

from a source unknown  flowing into existence  gurgle gurgle plunk


quiet — hear the sound  flowing down the water steps  from a source unknown

the cirque du haiscade  flowing into existence  gurgle-gurgle's tone

Note: "View > Text Size > Smallest" may be needed to view this haiscade with IE. In "Japanese" form, this would be:

quiet — hear the sound
flowing down the water steps
from a source unknown
the cirque du haiscade
flowing into existence
gurgle gurgle plunk


Saturday, January 3, 2009

y2k9 (a "cascading" haiku)

year goes to the dogs  happy new year, charlie brown  it's y2k9!


Technically speaking, it's at the end of the Year of the Rat and near the beginning of the Year of the Ox on the Chinese calendar. But, hey. And I know it's January 3, but I just thought of this this morning when I woke up. And as can be seen, this is a new ("cascading" haiku, or haiscade in the case of multiple verses) form: something between "Japanese" haiku and American Sentences.

Friday, January 2, 2009

John Doe says, "Homosexual couples never reproduce."

Philo: The way the "John Doe”s here trash the dignity of the many loving, married, gay couples — and this is exactly how someone feels being on the end of racist rants from racists — demonstrates that some people just have no shame.

John Doe: Wow, Philo, I guess I’ll have to return that right back to you: Being called racist just for pointing out the f***** obvious about human biology makes me feel like you’re guilty not just of a racist rant, but that you’re the equivalent of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, the Inquisition, the Crusades, Pol Pot, and Abu Ghraib, all rolled into one. So in the contest of who can use the most hysterical rhetoric, I win.

The curiosity called Culture11 (Beta), and its editors' blog The Confabulum in particular, has one1 redeeming grace: It has well-written sitting ducks that do act as prompts for one's own posts (this one, case in point).

Volumes (literally) have been written responding to the very lengthy Re: Lots of Flawed Arguments About Gay Marriage2. Somewhere in the middle of this — What prompts "straight" people to write pages and pages on why gay people should be denied marriage? — I wrote what I wrote in the above quote. I think I was being precise in my mere single sentence. (The turd in gay-punching punchbowl?) It will go on, ad infinitum, it seems. Some tidbits (Me, Philo):

Later, John Doe says, "Homosexual couples never reproduce."

(Philo) Now anyone with an au courant clue knows this to be empirically untrue: "Because 'male' stem cells can become both eggs and sperm, this technique [(Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Gametes)] might even allow two men to have a baby together that is 50% genetically related to both of them." — Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics (2008), 17:1:7-14 (or "Voila. Two Daddies!")

John Doe also says, "Do any of the proponents of gay 'marriage' — especially those who are patting themselves on the back for being more hysterical, I mean, more intelligent than Joe Carter — have an answer to this question: Why should the state care about privileging anyone’s orgasms?"

(Philo) First, those in a gay relationship or marriage have more than themselves alone to get a pat on the back, and second, all this talk about orgasms3: Is is really what we have all come to?

Duck soup.
1 perhaps more than one, but I can't think of another one right now

2 or as I call it, Married ... With Children.

3 paraphrasing the American — and lesbian — writer Gertrude Stein (1874-1946):   An orgasm, is an orgasm, is an orgasm, is an orgasm.

*      *      *

Previously, on Married ... With Children:
(John Doe) … There’s only one possible answer: The sexual pair of Jack and Jill — unlike the relationships of mentors, friends, roommates, siblings, and (yes) gay sexual relationships — ALONE has the possibility of creating babies out of that very relationship itself. And the only conceivable interest the state has here is in making sure that Jack and Jill take care of their kids.

(Philo) Sounds either like some screwy liberetarian tripe, or some screed from Nazi Germany.

Governments have an interest in the well-being of its citizens, and the mutual benefits of marriage to its partners — obvious to anyone who knows about marriage — with or without children, are of significant interest as well.


Another thing to remember: the opponents of marriage equality have the law, morality, and history against them. (So spending so much time writing paragraphs and paragraphs defending heterosexual-only marriage is a huge waste of time — but, of course, it is a holiday time for many.)

It was almost exactly 100 years from the 14th amendment (1868) to Loving v. Virginia (1967). It was 9 years from Jerry Falwell's (now famous) sermon at Thomas Road Baptist Church to that same point. (He "apologized" for that sermon about 15 years later.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Peace Haven Barber Shop, 1959

  photo by The Art of Manliness

  photo by Tres, Routine

Buzz cuts for six-year-olds:  one buck
Shoe shines for grown-ups:  fifty cents
Two white barbers:  Wait 'til one's through
Shoeshine Shoo:  first colored man I ever knew
Fifty years:  I don't know where they went
Buzz cuts for grown-ups:  sixteen bucks*
Lysoled countertops:  Where's that witch-hazel scent?
Shoeshine Shoo:  What ever happened to you?

for read write poem image prompt #6
other poems

* SportClipsTM "Varsity" haircut