Texas Has All the Fun

For comic relief in Louisiana, there’s nothing like Texas. The governors of these two states share similar abilities, including the knack of making fallacious economics sound good for taxpayers and voters. This month, Louisiana legislators are wrestling with the budget mess created in Bobby Jindal’s seven and a half years as governor, but hey–Greg Abbott listened to his citizens’ concern and ordered the National Guard to “observe” his own country’s Jade Helm war games in case there’s a takeover attempt. (Like the federal government doesn’t have enough to do.) If you haven’t laughed yet, read Gail Collins’ NY Times opinion piece “The Alamo and Walmart.

no gestapo in bastropo by Jay Janner for Austin AMerican Statesman[Jay Janner for the Austin American-Statesman.]

At an information session in Bastrop on Monday, command spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria fielded questions about whether Jade Helm 15 will involve bringing foreign fighters from the Islamic State to Texas, whether U.S. troops will confiscate Texans’ guns and whether the Army intends to implement martial law. (Kaplan)

(If only Lt. Col. Lastoria had just answered “Yes” to those questions. If only Molly Ivins were still alive and writing.)

If Senator Cruz were a responsible leader instead of a demagogue, he would have worked to make that war-game plan less “dangerous” to his state. And if Governor Jindal does run for President, look closely at the educational, health-care, and fiscal wreckage in Louisiana before you cast a ballot.

Notes and Quotations

I get started on a thing and follow it like an angler reaching for an earthworm, only to grab onto another thing and then another, related maybe but not identical. From information literacy to educational technology to critical pedagogy, from political depression to poetry and theology, my semester has been interesting.

In terms of the number of readers, poetry is marginal to cultural concerns. But what are the central concerns of the culture? They are making money, getting a talking car, and imposing Pax Americana upon the world. (6)

Michael Palmer, interviewed by Keith Tuma. Contemporary Literature 30.1(1989): 1-12.
When he won the 2006 Wallace Stevens Prize, Palmer quoted these lines at the end of his acceptance speech?essay:

The poem is the cry of its occasion.
Part of the res itself and not about it.

—Wallace Stevens, “An Ordinary Evening in New Haven”

Tomorrow in the Louisiana House of Representatives is the first real test of whether the legislature will support state higher education or finish it off.
jorie graham by annie leibovitz contact press images via new yorker march 2015[Photo by Annie Leibovitz]

I’m reading some of Jorie Graham now, From the New World, whom I first heard of in Vogue, of all places, saying that if it weren’t for art, we’d only have shopping and Prozac. Here’s a bit about difficult modern poetry:

Graham, who is sixty-four, is the Boylston Professor of Oratory and Rhetoric at Harvard. She was raised by American parents in Rome, and studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, film at N.Y.U., and writing at Iowa, where she received an M.F.A. in poetry. She has won almost every major literary award, including a MacArthur and a Pulitzer. She would be on anyone’s list of the most influential American poets of the past fifty years, but many readers, even those with the best intentions, find her work “unintelligible” and “deliberately intended to frustrate the reader,” to quote the critic Adam Kirsch. Graham, however, insists on, and has defended in print, her use of “associational logic,” a muscle rarely worked by prose: its “occlusion, or difficulty,” she wrote, “healing me, forcing me to privilege my heart, my intuition.”

And so we have a standoff of the kind that has cropped up again and again in poetry at least since the nineteen-twenties. The idea that calculated literary difficulty is a positive feature that writers intend seems odd, but it comes with a distinguished provenance: it is associated primarily with T. S. Eliot, whom Graham counts among her first influences…

“Beautiful Lies.” New Yorker 91.6 (2015):77.

And finally for today, my previous e-mail signature quote:

“The power of thought to seek the truth must be accepted as our guide, rather than be curbed to the service of material interests.” Michael Polanyi, 1964 preface to Personal Knowledge.

Not Much to Write

Despite

the beautiful spring weather,
the third annual Refreshments poetry reading in front of the library,
a fine community-orchestra performance,
my dad’s surprise 86th-birthday dinner,
three new community gardeners,

the news out of the Louisiana legislature is so discouraging that I’m not writing. We continue to teach our students, do our research, meet our committees, look for a new LSUE chancellor, and pray for our leaders to wake up to the need for education and hospital funding. Join us. More new taxes, please–at least until a new constitutional convention cleans up the mess.

Microsoft's idea of begonias

Meanwhile: “everything’s on the internet” warning #34987547: Microsoft clip art has this picture of “begonia,” but I’m sure they’re geraniums. Maybe “begonia” is the Spanish word for geranium. (But it’s not.)

[untitled]

The absurdities of cut-but-don’t tax in Louisiana: The governor’s latest suggestion is to increase some tuition and fees and to “develop tax breaks for businesses that donate directly to college campuses,” according to nola.com/the Times-Picayune.

budget_hub lsu(Apparently the cuts include prepositions.)

The Picayune’s reporter explains these proposals by saying that “Jindal, who is considering a run for president, doesn’t want to approve any budget-solving strategy that could be considered a tax hike by the national anti-tax advocacy groups. The governor’s restrictions require that a new tax break be introduced for every tax break that might be rolled back or shuttered in the state.”

Mission: to be adequate to destructive reality

“A. Alvarez, responding to the almost dementedly black poetry of Ted Hughes’s Crow in 1970, wrote this: ‘Hughes now joins the select band of survivor-poets whose work is adequate to the destructive reality we inhabit.’    … a kind of manifesto.

 tedhughes1

“To be adequate to the destructive reality we inhabit — not superior, not necessarily therapeutic, but adequate. Capable. Durable. There.” James Parker, Bookends, Sept. 16, 2014. New York Times Sunday Book Review. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/21/books/review/when-discussing-books-what-does-taste-have-to-do-with-it.html [I can’t find a credit for the photo, but it’s posted in several blogs and in an article in the Galway (Ireland) Advertiser.]

Chicken Little is right, this time.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/07/us/governors-tactics-at-center-of-louisiana-budget-vortex.html

Even the New York Times noticed how badly the state of Louisiana is operating. Unfortunately, the accompanying picture was of Gov.Jindal surrounded by young people thrusting their portable computers at him. (Are those things communicators or phasers?)

So many rumors and doomsday suggestions are flying around that it’s a wonder anyone here without a fat 401K can stay sane, let alone get any work done. The bill for anti-tax ideology is now due: because the state will not tax in good faith to pay for itself and its educational, health, cultural, infrastructure, and other needs for a functioning society, those functions are deteriorating, perhaps on their way to collapse. As another writer said recently, it’s easy to keep a budget balanced if it doesn’t have to pay for anything. Americans for Tax Reform and Americans for Prosperity are working hard against taxes, but they don’t need to use a hospital, state park, library, police station, school, college, or highway in Louisiana. They probably aren’t even staying in hotels and eating at restaurants, though the taxes on their rooms and meals would not stop the destruction of the public state of Louisiana.

 

the Wayback Machine

Read the article in this week’s New Yorker (January 26, 2015) by Jill Lepore about Internet archiving, the digital historical “record,” link rot, and the disappearance of the WorldWideWeb. It’s titled “The Cobweb.” How long will the magazine’s link last, I wonder?

I archived this blog a few minutes ago, but given the unreliable nature of non-profit funding, how long will even archive.org be in existence?

wayback machine