Was There Really Any Doubt?

The big news in the Times’ Sunday Review  was that Google does not replace your brain. As my college roommate Cindi Ware Hayes would say, “Really? I mean, really?”

Yes: knowing facts is better than having to looking them up. Not that I expect people to know everything, or even everything they were taught in school. However, thinking is not zero-sum but cumulative; the more one knows, the more one can understand, discover, and even create.

Last week I attended a memorial service which reminded me of  life as a witness for knowledge and love.  Requiem eternam et lux perpetua, Helen Sapp.


Noah and the Floods

Thomas Friedman has written a timely op-ed in the New York Times, but the headline is even more pertinent to south Louisiana: “We Are All Noah Now.” Pet owners, be sure you have enough carriers for your animals, because you may need to evacuate with them.


A younger Thunder.

Last month my house almost flooded. I say “almost” because water rose fourteen inches up to the sill; another half-inch and it would have been inside. But the yard was underwater, the carport submerged, and the bird feeder soaked. Not having faced this particular emergency before, my panic was rising almost as quickly as the water at 11 am that Saturday morning. I grabbed my standby bag and put Bianca in a carrier. When I looked around for Thunder, he had vanished. Forty minutes of manic-depressive searching later, he still hadn’t appeared. I put a big plate of dry food on the kitchen counter, set a small dish of canned food on the floor, and prayed that the water would go down soon.

And it did, probably within four hours of my departure. My parents welcomed me, but I went back to check on Thunder the next day when the water had receded and the roads were open.


Flood water.

Well, you may be thinking, that’s nothing compared to the people who couldn’t get out in time (like my brother and two nephews, who were rescued by a state police boat) or to those whose houses were totally ruined and who may still be living in shelters. And you would be right.  Eleven years ago the experience of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans was more traumatic, when evacuees were forcibly separated from their pets and sometimes from other family members. And the people who worked tirelessly to help, from the National Guard to neighbors who had a boat or sheet-rock skills or extra supplies to donate.

Friedman’s well-supported essay argues that humans must take more care of the earth and all its residents, or we will lose it soon. I add that each of us must be prepared with an ark for the next disaster. Meanwhile, read Friedman, support Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Federation and your favorite save-the-earth organization, and get some more pet carriers.

Notes on Quiet Desperation

My old grey Nikes, worn past wearing, with the pink rubber springs in the heels, had to be thrown away. Not merely discarded–the soles were so slick that anyone wearing them would have slipped.

A database search for Sonnet 18 returns hits for Milton and Sidney when I request only Shakespeare’s poem for a student.

The problem of the truth of one’s own self, as studied by Susan Howatch in her excellent Starbridge novels: guided by monks, characters resolve their own mysteries once, but continue to enact the same problems.

Escape seems quite attractive now. Santayana (quoted via Clifford Geertz by Amy Hungerford): “another world to live in…is what we mean by having a religion.” True religion is not escapism, though.

Patches of blue sky show through on a day forecast to be 90% rainy.

Anyone know how to rotate images on this platform?

yellow pix extended hours may 2016   smaller        ledoux gardens after snapdragons were ripped out April 2016

Snapdragons and pansies, just reaching their peak, were ripped out of the beds in front of the library. (Later they were replaced by smaller caladiums and coleus, but still…)


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)

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.”

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
[Photo: 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.