Shirky Repents!

The media curmudgeon who wrote that War and Peace was too long and boring, Clay Shirky now realizes that deep thought is college work and requires a single focus, not multitasking. Congratulations, Prof. Shirky! (Thanks to Hinda Mandell for referencing this blogpost in her commentary for the Chronicle of Higher Education: “No Phones, Please.” 6 July 2015.)

Shirky, Clay. “Why I Just Asked My Students to Put Their Laptops Away.” M (blog). 8 Sept. 2014.

PS. to teachers: You can do the same for phones and other portable computers.


Fahrenheit 449

Print Will Never Die, or, Things You’ll Never Hear Anyone Say About a Book

I found the book, but it wouldn’t open.

I went to the correct page, but it wasn’t the right one.

It’s taking a really long time to turn a page in this book.

I opened the book, but the pages were black.

I had the book on my desk, but the library took it back.

otlet's book 1904 Rodrigo Nogueira (1)

Gardening with Bobcats

You may have read about Sherburne the bobcat on Facebook. He was very ill, ignored for a while, but eventually rescued by a hunter who cared about him. This post is a draft, a work in progress, to support life on earth and the work of those who help. People together can do a lot more to make a difference for bobcats, for humans, and for the rest of the planet.Big purrs director and cat

You too can help. Donate to the Louisiana Bobcat Refuge. Vote, like, and share to make the refuge’s director the Acadiana Hero for October. If she wins, the refuge will receive $3000 (which is needed, since bobcats eat a lot!)

Bobcats are your friends. They won’t eat pizza with you, or like you on Facebook, but bobcats share our planetary home. Like other creatures, bobcats deserve our respect. They are quiet, patient animals–good examples for our busy, computerized, multitasking society. And they are the mascot for the local high school.

Bobcats are not very well protected under Louisiana law; their population has probably declined since 2003 (though the state keeps no records). Once the last one dies or is killed, there will be no more patient, quiet, beautiful bobcats, and the world will be irrevocably changed.

Introducing a library program about the Louisiana Bobcat Refuge

Introducing a library program about the Louisiana Bobcat Refuge

Organizing from the Roots of the Jardin

This morning I have a meeting with the mayor to discuss the community garden, which after a good start is in need of more energy and people with time to keep it organized and connected.

8 am–arrive at work, spend some time talking with coworkers [build working relationships]

9:50–on my way out, speak with two administrators who are garden-supportive [more connections, contacts]

10 am–at City Hall waiting for my appointment with the mayor, I talk with his secretary, who had a student job here transporting and shelving the books for the brand new library [another connection, maybe for the 50th anniversary program. The secretary suggests another person to help with the garden.]

10:15 am–talk with the mayor about the garden community and a City Hall worker who will put the Jardin on the city’s website.phocas the gardener Her community group might also be interested in the garden as a project [truth to power. The mayor has been supportive since the beginning.]

10:45 am–on my way to pick up a sandwich for lunch, I meet a bystander and talk with him for a few minutes [you never know…]

11 am–getting my sandwich, I talk with the manager about the garden as a local source of fresh produce [another link for the garden. I get his phone number.]
All this before noon. There’s hope reblooming.

St. Phocas, patron of gardeners

William Carlos Williams, what did you mean?

early-to-mid 1900s wheelbarrow

The poem usually called “The Red Wheelbarrow” has always annoyed me.

I like the white chickens, the rain water, the red wheel barrow, but not the first stanza. “So much depends/ upon” inflates the poem into a portentous metaphysical statement. In an introductory class some years ago, the students wanted to twist the images into allegory. The most memorable interpretation was as a version of Communism from an Orwellian Animal-Farm viewpoint (“but the wheelbarrow is red, Dr. Brown”). See, students do learn from those classic texts assigned in high school. (Common Core debaters, take note!) Craig Morgan Teicher’s essay ruminates on his adolescent experience, reminding us also of another oft-quoted couplet from Williams: “No ideas/but in things.” If Williams really believed this–and his poems seem to bear that out–then why did he bother with the first stanza? Why not just write about the wheelbarrow, the rain, the chickens and let the images convey whatever ideas the poet or the readers find there?

The New York Times recently published a report of scholar William Logan’s discovery of the wheelbarrow’s owner, a street vendor named Marshall who lived in a working-class neighborhood where Dr. Williams visited his patients. This setting does give a more mundane slant to the “so much depends/upon”;  it was the wheelbarrow which Mr. Marshall used as a cart, so his livelihood depended on it. The chickens in the rain are images which cut to the heart of life. According to Logan, “knowing there was a man with a particular wheelbarrow and some chickens does help us understand the world the poem was embedded in.” Read Jennifer Schuessler’s article for the details: Here linketh the NYTimes essay on “The Red Wheelbarrow.”

Commence, recite, be graduated, take yourself seriously.

Ah, the season of final exams, recitals, commencements and graduations. Note: The verb “to graduate” is intransitive, which means that it doesn’t take a direct object. So one can say “I graduated from college” or even better, I “was graduated from” LSU or wherever. It’s the school that does the graduating, not the student.

I have just read David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech to Kenyon College in 1995, which I recommend. James Rhodes’s TEDxOxford is similarly worth listening to: plain-spoken, blunt, uncommon wisdom about contemporary society.

I played my violin in recital for the first time last month. It was ok, thanks–not great, but at least I didn’t embarrass my teacher on the stage of the world-famous Liberty Theater. That stage was the same one on which I played with the Eunice Symphony Orchestra in April. Another violinist has a music school, whose student recital was last weekend. How charming to watch well-dressed children playing guitars and accordions and violins. And the young performers were quite good also, and played folk and classical pieces–only one pop selection. There’s hope for the future yet, says the curmudgeon typing at her computer.

My piano teacher has put a video of his performance of a short Debussy piece. Since this is good cinematography as well as wonderful musicianship, have a listen. If an error occurs in the embedded video, click the link. No technology is perfect.