Blog Entries

Blog entries, here and from elsewhere.

Literature, Legal Decisions, and the Plastic Palimpsest

As part of the Walt Whitman course I’m taking online, I watched a fascinating interview between Supreme Court Justice Elena Kegan and Harvard professor Elisa New. I’ve often blog about court decisions, but I’ve rarely thought about them as a literary form and the interplay of court decisions and other literature.

At one point, Justice Kagan, speaking about a poem said,

So reading this made me think a little bit harder about what I was seeing every day, in a way, that I guess, great poetry can do-- is to make you notice things that you don't notice in the world.

It struck me that we need Judges and Justices that read poetry; that notice things that normally aren’t noticed.

In another section she talks about quoting other judges

All the time, I use what other judges have said. And if I'm a judge and I have this amazing quote from Louis Brandeis-- man, I make sure to use that quote, right? Because it's an amazing quote, and because Louis Brandeis said it gives me a kind of credibility.

It was a wonderful discussion.

Today, I have been cleaning up some of the dangling fragments of ideas for blog posts on my computer. There are so many ideas bouncing around in my head that I would like to explore. I decided I would write a blog post exposing and exploring some of these ideas.

I was going to title the post something like, palimpsest. It is a wonderful word, dating back to Cicero, talking about writing over something, such as on a parchment that has been scraped off and is being reused.

Yet the idea of palimpsest that I always go to is from Judge John Woolsey in his decision about James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Joyce has attempted — it seems to me, with astonishing success — to show how the screen of consciousness with its ever-shifting kaleidoscopic impressions carries, as it were on a plastic palimpsest, not only what is in the focus of each man’s observation of the actual things about him, but also in a penumbral zone residua of past impressions, some recent and some drawn up by association from the domain of the subconscious.

It is such a wonderful quote, and I often think about this blog, with its ever-shifting kaleidoscopic impressions and the penumbral zone residua of my own past impressions, sometimes written about, sometimes, just in fragments, sometimes not even yet in fully formed thoughts.

But now, I’ve written my blog post of the day, exploring literature, legal decisions, and the plastic palimpsest underlying my own blog, so I’ll have to explore the incomplete fragments in a later post.

What to Write

With the start of the New Year, I’ve gotten back some of my writing mojo and am back in the habit of putting up at least one blog post a day. Coming up with writing material has been somewhat easy since I’m participating in two MOOCs right now, yet there always is that struggle of what to write. If I don’t have something compelling, or enough energy, should I skip the blog post? Keeping the discipline of daily writing, perhaps, brings the most benefit on those days when it is hardest to write.

This week has been very busy, and there are many topics I would love to explore in depth, when I have more time, but for this evening, I want to reflect on a post a friend put on Facebook:

I keep trying to blog, but now, with a heightened sense of everything being public all the time, it's not as easy as it was before.

After Charlie Hebdo and Raif Badawi, after Ferguson and Eric Garner, we see speech becoming more and more divisive and for some, more and more dangerous. No, it isn’t as easy any more, but perhaps it is more and more important.

The question becomes, are you saying something new, insightful, important, or are you just echoing talking points of your political orientation?

Sometimes, it is neither. Sometimes, it is just the discipline of daily writing, and there’s value to that as well.

The Patch State Legislative Debates

Below is a blog post that I have submitted to the Bethwood Patch. I've also modified it slightly as a post to the Orange Patch. In true political style, I'm claiming victory in the first debate on Patch and I look forward to many more.

When I accepted the Democratic Nomination for State Representative in the 114th Assembly District here I Connecticut, I talked about how I'm not running against the Republican incumbent. I'm running against apathy. I'm running to get people more involved in their communities, both politically, and in terms of community service. I'm running against an intellectual apathy where people don't know who their State Representative is or what is happening up in Hartford.

When I was asked to start blogging on the Bethwood Patch, I hesitated. I've been maintaining my personal blog for eight years. I'm writing on a health care blog for my work. I didn't need another outlet for my writings.

On the other hand, I recognized the benefit that blogging might bring to me as a State Representative candidate seeking to get more people involved. The Bethwood Patch could be a great platform to stimulate debate.

Well, this week, my opponent has started to blog on the Bethwood Patch. I'm very excited and view it is a small victory for my campaign. I am managing to get others more involved and more informed, if simply by getting my opponent to post here.

I look forward to her sharing posts where she talks about her views on the issues and what she has done for the people of Woodbridge, Orange and Derby. I look forward to her allowing comments on the posts so that we can have an open, honest, and friendly discussion about the issues that should matter to all of us in this district.

It would be great of the 114th Assembly District could set an example for other districts where there would be an ongoing friendly discussion about the issues between the candidates for office.

Let's start off with a friendly welcome to my opponent for State Representative.

Returning to Bethwood Patch and Going to a Caucus

Below is a blog post I've written for the Bethwood Patch, announcing that I am resuming writing for them, this time as a blogger, as well as letting Democrats in the Third Congressional District know about the upcoming Democratic National Committee Delegate Selection Caucus.

Around a year and a half ago, I briefly wrote an 'Around Town' column for Bethwood Patch, before taking a new job as Social Media Manager for the Community Health Center in Middletown. I tried to keep up the column with my new job, but I was just too busy. I started a blog for work, I continued my personal blog, and I did hosted an Internet radio show with my youngest daughter.

Since then, various people have encouraged me to write a blog for Bethwood Patch. They even suggested that I could simply copy material from my other blogs and post some of the material here.

Recently, I started setting up yet another blog, where I intend to write about my run for State Representative in the 114th Assembly District which includes Woodbridge and parts of Orange and Derby.

With all of this, I have decided to accept the offer from the Bethwood Patch. I can't say for certain how often I'll be able to write blog posts here or how long I'll be able to keep up the blog posts, but I do hope for an ongoing discussion.

With that, let me add a little bit of local news to this blog post. Wednesday evening there will caucuses around the state at which the Democrats will select their delegates to the National Convention in Charlotte, NC later this year. Two Woodbridge residents, Gerry Weiner and Jen Just are on the list of possible delegates. The caucus for the Third Congressional district will be at North Haven High School, 221 Elm St. North Haven, beginning at 7:30 PM, with doors opening at 7:00 PM.

I hope they get a chance to go. I attended the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004 as a blogger, and it was a wonderful experience. I also hope that registered Democrats from Bethany and Woodbridge consider coming to the caucus. It is a great chance see firsthand how the political process works and even to get a little bit more involved.

First Lines

It is quiet in the cold dark house. A single light whams the living room. The grandfather's clock chimes. Outside, the birds are singing in the early morning drizzle. I sit, with my computer in my lap, looking at the screen, trying to find the first line.

I know what I want to write about, and the moment I find the opening sentence, I expect the words will flow out rapidly, falling one over another.

I started thinking about first lines recently, when someone posted a link to the American Book Review's 100 Best First Lines from Novels.

"Call me Ishmael" leads the list. I read through it, and found many old friends; lines that I've often quoted: "riverrun, past Eve and Adam's", " It was the best of times, it was the worst of time", "Someone must have slandered Josef K", "Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road".

I could easily let lost in reverie thinking about these first lines, but it made me think about blogging. Can you remember the first line of any blog posts? Are there any blog posts that you've written that you feel really proud about the first lines?

As I think back over my years of blogging, very few of my first lines are memorable. The first one that comes to mind is a blog post I wrote for work over a year ago which starts, "For a brief moment, I was five years old again in the small sandbox behind my house." There have been a few other blog posts that have started off well. They have typically been posts for work that start off with a story from long ago.

At 11:26 AM, EDT on July 8, 2011, the Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off on the final voyage of the Space Shuttle Program.It seemed like every year or two a classmate of mine in high school would die in an accident.

So, what first lines do have you written that feel the most compelling? What do you do to come up with good first lines? For me, I set aside extra time to find that first line. If it is morning, perhaps I have some coffee and oatmeal while I wait for the line to come. Now, I'll add scanning the American Book Review's list of 100 Best First Lines from Novels to my methods of searching for inspiration.

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