Archive - Mar 2012

March 31st


The slow spring rain drags into the lazy Saturday afternoon. It's been a long week at work, and a long weekend, starting off with the dog barking at raccoons, deer, and linemen early in the morning. This has been followed by housecleaning. We are going through our belongings to get rid of things we no longer need or use, sort of like a willful amnesia, throwing out outward and visible signs of memories long gone.

At work, I spend time carefully selecting and placing words in away to help the agency build healthier communities. At home, I get time for other words. Often, they are political in nature. There are also the social words of my life on the blog, Twitter and Facebook. Yet I've been thinking a lot more about words recently.

When I get a moment, I try to watch some of the Introduction to Theory of Literature YouTube videos. I peruse content about Foucault, Deleuze and others. And, when I find a free moment, I read some poetry.

These different worlds seem so far apart. How do we bring together the beauty of words, as found in poems, with the deep thoughts of the philosophers into the discourses of daily life, especially when there are political overtones, or parts of the audience may have limited linguistic ability.

These are the things that occupy my mind on a rainy Saturday afternoon, but right now, the house is quiet, so perhaps I will nap.

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March 28th

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve

There was nothing epic on the journey to the office this morning. The road unfolded as it does just about every day. The parking lot supplied ample spaces. The trek up the backstairs yielded no surprises, and though the tasks were manifold, they were not Herculean.

The rain came in the afternoon. The sky darkened, the streets emptied. The hail reported in other towns did not come down where I was.

And so the day progressed, from task to task, until, as I shut down my computer, I saw the headline: "Poet Adrienne Rich, 82, has died".

She held no special place in my pantheon of poets. She simply resided there with many that I loved.

The journey home was quiet too. I fed the dog and fed myself and then sat down to write.

I'm tired now, as is too often the case. Words must be gentle conjured, and there's the challenge.

For as she said, "Tonight no poetry will serve".

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March 27th

Random Thoughts

There are a couple stories I've been following in the news recently that I have been thinking outside the box on. First, there is health care reform.

One of the biggest concerns people have expressed about the Affordable Care Act is the 'individual mandate', that is, the penalty that is imposed on people not getting health insurance. The response is that everyone will eventually need health care, so the mandate is an effort to compel people not to be freeloaders until they need it.

There are various reasons why this is a concern. Currently, health costs are a leading contributor to personal bankruptcies. The costs of uninsured people receiving medical treatment at emergencies gets passed on to all of us. With the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies cannot deny people insurance who have pre-existing conditions. For that matter, people that don't get health care when they need it, end up costing more when they get it, so people without health insurance are likely to drive up the costs of Medicare.

With all of this, are there other ways to compel people to get health insurance? For example, what if once the Affordable Care Act is in effect, medical debts are could not be discharged for people in bankruptcy who have not gotten insurance? What if the changes for pre-existing coverage don't apply to people who fail to get coverage? What if people who fail to get coverage become ineligible for Medicare? Might this be a better way to get people into health insurance than the current penalties?

Moving on to the Trayvon WIlliams case. George Zimmerman was part of a Neighborhood Watch organization, essentially providing private policing of a community. What if he had been a real police officer? Many law enforcement agencies have firearm discharge review boards. Whenever an officer discharges his firearm, there policies and procedures to be followed. In most cases, George Zimmerman's situation would have been reviewed much more thoroughly if he had been a police officer. Maybe we need to apply these standards to any 'Stand Your Ground' case, any case of a Neighborhood Watch volunteer, or similar cases.

Finally, here is Woodbridge, there is talk of a gun shop opening soon. Various members of the community are concerned about this, especially since it is planned to go in very close to a teen center. However, Woodbridge doesn't appear to have any zoning regulations that would prevent this, and you can't put in a zoning change after the fact.

However, could the citizen's of Woodbridge learn from those fighting against abortions? What if, just as there are laws being suggested that women who want an abortion need to have an ultrasound first, how about if anyone wanting to buy a gun in Woodbridge had to get a colonoscopy first? That would probably put a damper on gun sales. It might also improve the health outlooks for people who do buy guns.

Of course, some might ask what buying a gun has to do with a colonoscopy. I'll leave that connection for opponents of gun sales, who wonder where a gun buyer's head must be at, to come up with the connection.

For something less invasive, perhaps a simple blood test for lead levels as well as for hearing would be appropriate. A 2005 report in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found elevated levels of lead in various members of shooting teams in Alaska. The CDC has a blog post about Solutions for Preventing Lead Poisoning and Hearing Loss at Indoor Firing Ranges

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March 26th


Dominic (Black paint on White Canvas) from a poem by e.e. cummings as set to music by Vincent Persichetti.

Recently, I was driving to work, listening to the news on the radio, when a nice turn of phrase caught my ear. It made me think about words as art. Words have always been my preferred media, and much of my writing can be seen as a sketchbook.

When I think of art, I think of form and I think of function. It seems like most words these days are focused on function. Make money online. Try to convince someone of a point of view, or at least preaching to the choir, but where is the form, where is the beauty?

Yes, there is poetry, which is perhaps the closest we get to words as form over function. e.e.cummings was a master of this. It was probably in junior high school that I was in a chorus that performed the poem Dominic by e.e.cummings, put to music by Vincent Persichetti. Mixing media even more, I imagine it as black paint on white canvas.

Today is Robert Frost's birthday, another poet I grew up on. His words have often caused me, not to stop and think, but to stop and ponder, the way I've pondered great paintings in a museum. Trying to use words to describe those words seems to bring us to literary variant of Gödel's incompleteness theorem.

Perhaps the closest I can get of bringing together all of these thoughts is the seventh proposition of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus,, "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent".


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March 25th

The Hunger Games

I clicked on Google News and found the top Entertainment story today to be "The Hunger Games", raking in over $155 million on its opening weekend. I glanced at other news. The shooting of tribute Trayvon Williams by tribute George Zimmerman was up at the top of the list, followed by the shooting of at least 16 civilians by a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan. Also, fourteen members of the rebellion, err, Occupy Wall Street, were arrested in New York. (Would that be in the 13th district?)

No, I have not read the books or seen the movie. I've just read enough of the reviews and heard enough discussions to mix things up a little bit. Yet this gets to the bigger question, why is The Hunger Games resonating in our society the way that it is? Likewise, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, why is the book being banned by some teachers?

Is it gratuitous violence that is desensitizing tweens to violence, or is there something more pernicious, a strong woman (what Limbaugh would call a slut), coming to recognize oppression and seeking to find ways of beating the oppressors at their own game?

Is it really like the reality television shows that some have compared it to, a twenty first century version of the panopticon? Or, is there something bigger going on, akin to social media where we all become both the watchers and the watched, where our status updates, tweets and blog posts become a performance in which we seek to outwit the oppressors the way Katniss seeks to outmaneuver her oppressors?