Tag Archives: adam gopnik

Adam Gopnik and the cycle of nostalgia

“And my theory is it’s not so much that pop culture is made by 40-somethings – in fact, it’s usually made by young folks, like The Beatles made by 20-somethings – but it’s usually produced in every sense. The suits who organize it, decide what goes on, are usually 40-somethings, the people between the age of 40 and 50. And we are fascinated, I say, as one of them, we are fascinated by that moment just before you were born.” —Adam Gopnik.

And thus the cultural cycle of a simpler age, a more “moral” age. Sure, the idea goes, people are drinking and carrying on, but their moral values are cemented, nailed down. They know what they’re doing. Not like today.

Encompassed in this idea is also the desire of 40-year-olds to keep things the way they are (or were): the ritual of habit, the habit of innocence. Perceptions of cultural attack (ethnocentrism but also an ageism) constitute barriers erected to protect a particular culture (e.g., the culture of 40-somethings who garner power as producers). The ideal behavior thus enshrined is of course not actual behavior, but it is interesting how movies and other popular entertainment (art? — another topic) impact the way we think we should be acting. There are, however, other aspects of our culture subliminally relayed in popular culture, which constitute, at least partially, one’s actual behavior and beliefs (violence, abandon, atrophy).

I wonder how much of this phenomenon (if we are to believe it, which I do: Gopnik is very convincing) is Western (specifically American) in nature? What kind of popular cultural cycle does Morocco have, for example? Do people also yearn (even subconsciously) for that moment just before they were born?

  • Pop Culture’s 40-Year Itch” transcript of Guy Raz & Adam Gopnik. NPR 21APR12 (5/9/12)
  • The Forty-Year Itch” by Adam Gopnik (the cycle of nostalgia in popular culture — specifically movies). The New Yorker 23APR12 (5/9/12)

The culture of imprisonment

With typical aplomb, Adam Gopnik explores the problem of our booming (read: privatized) industrial-prison complex. Though elegantly stated, Gopnik’s argument is nothing new. It’s good to see it discussed openly in a renowned national magazine. And I say it’s nothing new as part of my disgust with the culture of imprisonment and our general nonchalance about the whole affair rather than as a statement about the quality of the article (Gopnik is one of my favorite writers). It is, and I agree with him here, the biggest challenge facing the United States at the moment. Anyone could be arrested for nearly anything on the whim of a police officer or sheriff and have to spend the night in jail (if they don’t get convicted of some obscure and/or obscene offence). When a society’s police assumes guilt, that society is indeed, Kafkaesquely, always already guilty. What has to change before people understand this injustice? Why, if it is nothing new, has it not changed? These are deep-seated values that often take the form of  economic argument (e.g.: police force in force means jobs for lots of Americans and if they’re not arresting people, so the flawed logic goes, they’re not doing their job). They need to be overturned so that we’re not left behind morally, intellectually and, ultimately, I believe, economically.

None of this is to say that the SAPD, for example, is a ruthless band of people; as a matter of fact I have had nothing but good experiences with the police here in San Antonio.  I just think, much like a misguided war posited on a flawed argument, which has nothing to do with the brave men and women who serve our country, that the general cultural acceptance of such incarceration must change.

“No more chilling document exists in recent American life than the 2005 annual report of the biggest of these firms, the Corrections Corporation of America. Here the company (which spends millions lobbying legislators) is obliged to caution its investors about the risk that somehow, somewhere, someone might turn off the spigot of convicted men:

Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new
contracts to develop and manage new correctional and detention facilities. . . . The demand for
our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts,
leniency in conviction and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain
activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with
respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of
persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional
facilities to house them.”

Gopnik, Adam. “The Caging of America.” The New Yorker, January 30, 2012. http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2012/01/30/120130crat_atlarge_gopnik?currentPage=all (accessed February 3, 2012).

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition

“The values of tolerance are one of the most difficult lessons to impart, not because people are naturally cruel but because power is naturally fearful. We’re slow learners.”(75)

Incredibly slow learners. And, as Adam Gopnik implies here, not just within our lifetime. It seems that we have to almost start over every generation. We have no memory as a community. That makes us unusually adept at learning very slowly.

“That for a moment or two the humanists seem to have it–that we don’t really expect the Inquisition to barge into our living rooms–is a fragile triumph of a painful, difficult, ongoing education in Enlightenment values.” (75)

Playing devil’s advocate: With liberties being infringed by an overzealous government (e.g. the Patriot Act) and the Christian right frighteningly, inexorably on the stubborn rise (with all that rigid, holier-than-thou morality), who doesn’t fear the Inquisition barging into their living rooms (the question here, I suppose, is who are “we” in the quote above?). Also consider that, as suggested by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno in Dialectic of Enlightenment, the Enlightenment allowed for the Holocaust, the greatest Inquisition of all. When lives are reduced to abstractions, as Gopnik points out, it is easy to kill. Something to think more about.

Gopnik, Adam. “Inquiring Minds.” The New Yorker, 16 January 2012, 70-75. Link [abstract].


Draft mashup

These are all old drafts unposted. I’m putting them up mostly to assuage my neurosis (that is, I wanted to clean out all my drafts and “get rid of them” by posting them all). They are largely quotes and general unfinished thoughts and not worth reading at all. I suppose they are here for the same reason anyone posts to a blog. Please ignore everything in this post.
  • 11.23.11

From my SA Current spam folder:

I was at a party, got drunk, couldn’t drive the car, somebody gave me a lift on my car, and crossed on the red light many times, I’ve just got the pictures, maybe you know him?
Here is the photo

I need to find him urgently!

Thank you

  • 4.21.11

Tim Hetherington — Restrepo.

Chris Hondros’ — last pictures.

These men had heart, and courage and incredible vision. The world has truly lost two great photographer.

  • 4.2.11

“…the American obsession with identity and image, and the perennial quest for self-esteem and recognition (which, as Walter Benn Michaels argues, helps obscure the fact of widening economic and social inequality in the US).” –from “Modernity’s Undoing” by Pankaj Mishra (the quote is about Jennifer Egan’s Look at Me).

I often wonder, in the absence of a clear religious set of mores (and while I can see how and why religion plays such an important role in people’s live, I do not condone institutionalized religion), what meaning life has. How much of the moral system I try to build for myself is actually informed by a culture which is reliant largely on religion (e.g. Protestant work ethic).

“The ability to perform memorization [something that once was considered “smart” in society] feats are dazzling only if you pretend that you’re not really doing them — memory amazes only if it’s presented as a gift, not as a skill, since the skill is already, so to speak, fully mechanized.” (70)

“Human beings have the ability not only to win at ‘Jeopardy!’ but to feel a little embarrassed about winning on ‘Jeopardy!'” (72)

–“Get Smart” by Adam Gopnik. New Yorker 4/4/11

  •  1.6.11

“Little effort is made in the domain of the higher criticism to differentiate between the genuine and the specious in works that aim to be provocative.”

  • 12.17.10

Wood, Michael. “Quashed Quotatoes.” Rev. of Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce, edited by Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon and Joyce’s Disciples Disciplined, edited by Tim Conley. London Review of Books 32.24 (2010): 19-20. 10 Dec. 2010

  • 9.17.10

The Programme Era.

Compare to the book.

  • 6.15.10

“They argued aesthetics, the most metaphysical of philosophical problems. One of them said that beauty was a quality of the universe independent of any other, that it was inlaid in the fabric of being like gravity, in a pattern that no one could pull out. Another disagreed: beauty is the ache of mortality, this god said, an attribute of consciousness, and nothing is beautiful except perceived through the love of lost time, so that wherever there is beauty, love was there also, and first.” A Short, Sharp Shock by Kim Stanley Robinson.

  • 3.20.10

Schrödinger’s cat and fiction: Not-knowing (Barthelme)

“The experiment is a purely theoretical one, and the machine proposed is not known to have been constructed.” Story in which someone constructs this box. What would happen then? It surely would not exist purely as a thought experiment.

“Although discussion of this thought experiment talks about two possible states (cat alive and cat dead), in reality, there would be a huge number of possible states, since the temperature and degree and state of decomposition of the cat would depend on exactly when and how (as well as if) the mechanism was triggered, as well as the state of the cat prior to death.

“In another extension, prominent physicists have gone so far as to suggest that astronomers observing dark energy in the universe in 1998 may have ‘reduced its life expectancy’ through a pseudo-Schrödinger’s Cat scenario, although this is a controversial viewpoint.

Another variant on the experiment is Wigner’s friend, in which there are two external observers, the first of whom opens and inspects the box and then communicates his observations to a second observer. The issue here is, does the wave function collapse when the first observer opens the box, or only when the second observer is informed of the first observer’s observations? Another extension is a scenario wherein the inside of the box is videotaped and played to an audience at a later time, or played back to the cat while in the box.[citation needed] If dead, there would be no observer to cause disentanglement; if alive, disentanglement would occur.” (21 – 22)

Dr. Marvin D. Bunnell. “Proof of Schrödinger’s Equation.” Bunnell Industries.

Entanglement? Biomimicry?

  • 12.11.09

The Politics of Death by Jill Lepore

Writing about the Karen Ann Quinlan case in the 1970s, writer Jill Lepore, in the November 30th, 2009 issue of The New Yorker, concludes: “life is often what we’re talking about, even when we seem to be talking about something else, and, maybe even more important, do-or-die is how we’re talking. We have always fought about rights, but life is different from liberty and property. When politics turn on a right shrouded in the sacred, issues demanding debate become matters inviolable, and political conversation is no longer civil, pluralist and yielding. And when this happens, day after day, year after year, there is no more politics; there is only one sort of impasse or another.” (67)

For the last paper in my Freshman Composition class, I have my students write argumentative papers. Invariably someone chooses to write about abortion. The issue always comes down to one side, pro-life, of course, being “shrouded in the sacred.” Inevitably, pro-choice arguments fall back on, not the logical, which is the highest form of persuasion (and which is what I tell students they must use for this final paper), but the emotional and the illogical. Biblical references and emotional arguments abound with very little (or no) empirical data to back up major premises. It is interesting that the idea of death (both euthenasia and abortion — really a form of euthenasia) had become so polarized and impassable, especially considering that the church came into the picture on the “pro-life” side so late in the game. Lepore’s brief mention of The Last Supper is an intersting one in this case because Christ “chose” to die, or more accurately, it was chosen for him. Yet the religious right want those people, barely alive, or kept alive by machine, even when they make their own decision to die, to continue to live, suffering, away from “God.”

It is frustrating to try to argue with these leap-of-faithers. Perhaps there is no argument to be made. No point.


  • 5.29.09

From Behind the Yellow Tape: On the Road with some of America’s Hardest Working Crime Scene Investigators by Jarrett Hallcox & Amy Welch.

“The case was a little strange: On Cinco de Mayo, a father and son had apparently gone down toPioneer Squareto drink, snort cocaine, and, it seems, share a hooker back in the hotel room. There was little information to go on. Supposedly the son had walked out of the bar they’d been drinking at, headed north, and never been heard since. The father was not considered the most credible witness; he seemed to be sketchy when asked about the events that occurred on the night his son went missing. His timelines did not match the time frames on the bar security camera, and phone calls from the hotel room seemed to contradict his story. Dad said his son had gotten into a fight with the bouncer before he was kicked out of the bar, but the bouncer said something quite different, telling the cops that the father was never even at the bar and that the son had come and gone on his own. Though the father was starting to look very suspicious, there was nothing warranting his arrest. However, the investigators wanted to talk to him and had scheduled him to be polygraphed the very next day.

“A body had been discovered underneath theMagnoliaBridge…

“…we could see the hump of a body lying facedown in the weeds, just a few feet on the other side of a chain-link fence that had been partially torn down.

“The ME arrived on the scene to a swarm of flies, which had begun hatching right before our eyes. Up until this particular day, the spring weather had been cool and cloudy, with virtually no sun. But on this day the weather was spectacular — too hot for Seattleites — and the warmth had allowed the flies to begin popping from their wiggly cocoons. The victim had been wearing a hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled up when he’d apparently plunged to his death from theMagnoliaBridge, landing facedown and thus obscuring his face. From all out-signs of decomposition. But when the ME worked his way around to the head area of the victim’s body and pulled down the sweatshirt hood, we were privy to the most unnerving sight we had ever experienced.

“Pulling off the sweatshirt revealed an approximately eighty-to (sic) one-hundred-pound mass of maggots that, once daylight hit them, vanished within seconds, down into the thoracic cavity of the victim. Amazingly, from the bottom of his neck to the top of his head, the victim was completely gnawed down to the bone, while the rest of his body looked essentially whole and not decomposed. The spine had been severed from the trauma of the fall, and the only thing that was holding the victim’s head in place was the sweatshirt hood. Flies lay eggs only in moist places, which typically, not counting wounds, are the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and genitals. But a fully clothed man, with a hood on, lying facedown, doesn’t provide much access for the flies. However, the fall had clearly broken the man’s neck violently, thus leaving a wet and warm wound for the flies to infiltrate and begin their habitation of the victim’s corpse. The medical examiner had never seen anything like it.

“The maggot mass had taken on a life of its own, and even later in the cooler at the morgue, they continued to eat away at the victim — from the inside out. … The scene had been worked, and the case had essentially been solved. A drunk guy had fallen off a bridge.” (196 – 202)


  • 4.17.09

7 Poets, 4 Days, I Book — Christopher Merrill Talks at Trinity

What a pleasure to see one of the seven poets (the instigator, as it were) talk and read at the Holt Center last night. Beautiful setting for a reading — the old house is reminiscent of historical Landa library.


  • 4.3.09

Some Freshman Comp gyms (sic):

“The city is more convenient for people to visit one another. In the country people tend to not drop in as often. The tend to be fraught with friendly neighbors.”

“She was in awww.”

“But is television and video games really the rural of all evil?”

“The tradition of going to the library and borrowing books is declining, as the youth prefer surfacing the internet or computer instead of visiting the house filled with knowledge.”


  • 1.7.09

Johnny Cash (“309″) & William Faulkner (As I Lay Here Dying). This insistence after death. A Southern longevity — one lives on beyond death through tradition.


  • 12.4.08

Why I write flash fiction

I believe that short stories and flash fiction are more representative of life than a novel’s narrative arch. Life is a collection of flashes, events, that when combined, overlapped, in that photomontage way, shows a life. When we look at the stories we’ve written or the life we’ve lead, we see events that, when combined, show repetition and habit rather than a smooth transition. Life is jagged and brutal and happy and beautiful: fractured and shifted memory.


  • 9.17.08


“We accept her. One of us.”
“Google goggle google goggle.”
“We accept her, we accept her.”
“One of us. One of us.”

This odd and strangely moving scene in which the “freaks” at the carnival accept the “beautiful” acrobat who is marrying the dwarf for his money into their subculture.


  • 8.10.08

“Here, video tape this, video tape this,” my friend said, handing me his digital video recorder at the railroad tracks near the peacock farm.

“Va-va-va — vi!” he shouted and pranced around on the tracks. “Va-va-va — vi!”

His voice blended in with the cry of the peacocks: they screamed, “he-elp me… he-elp me.” It sounded to me like a mammal rather than a bird. Not a human exactly, but something close. Maybe an orangutan in distress.


  • 8.8.08

Web readers are persistently weak at judging whether information is trustworthy. In one study, Donald J. Leu, who researches literacy and technology at the Universityof Connecticut, asked 48 students to look at a spoof Web site Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus about a mythical species known as the “Pacific Northwest tree octopus.” Nearly 90 percent of them missed the joke and deemed the site a reliable source.

In a book, “they go through a lot of details that aren’t really needed,” Hunter said. “Online just gives you what you need, nothing more or less.”

These are quotes from an article in the New York Times (7/27/08) entitled, “Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?” by Motoko Rich.

I think it’s interesting that newspapers are never mentioned in the article. This particular article is obviously taken from the internet with it’s short paragraphs which briefly relay information, much like skimming something online (not to mention the more formalistic spaces between paragraphs). What about adults (like my parents) who don’t read books, but don’t read online either? Magazines and newspapers are the bulk of their reading material. They’re smart people for sure, but they’re not interested in the deeper, more contemplative nature of life that I see around me (not to say that I’m more intelligent, just more curious about underlying principles and structures of life). One couldn’t really get everything out of a philosophy text just by reading a paragraph about Sartre. In fact, he wrote a novel (Nausea) as a fictionalized reconsideration (thereby making his ideas richer and more applicable to life) of some of his ideas. The more one reads about anything, the more one understands the nuances of the world and it’s beauty.

When I was going to school at Goddard, one of the advisers, unfortunately, I forget her name, gave a presentation about mainstream culture and knowledge. Her point was basically: the farther one gets from the center of mainstream, hegemonic knowledge (read: George Bush and the structure of power), the more one understands. One understands the structure of the “ruling, tyranic” (and short-sighted) “elite,” as well as something about the popular cultural ring surrounding it (in other words, the second ring encompasses the first) and as one gets further and further from the “center,” one understands more and more about their own cultural (linguistic, really) significance and all those circles it circumscribes. To use her example (or butcher it, as the case may be), The Sound of Music exists squarely in the realm of popular culture. Everyone knows it (Even, we have to assume, W). But not everyone knows the John Coltrane’s jazz rendition. It adds knowledge to those who do though. The poignancy of Pink Martini’s revision of the song “Que Sera Sera” works so well because we hear the reference to the original. This version is ironic and dark.


  • 7.26.08

2 to Watch

I haven’t really written about my recent experience reading at Art Pace. Actually, I haven’t written about it at all. It was a great experience, a large part of which was because I got to meet video artist Leslie Raymond.

Not horribly nervous I made it to Art Pace where I discovered that I would not have my usual crutch: a podium. Leslie and I were introduced and I prefaced my reading by saying: “since I don’t have a podium, I’ll just nervously pace back and forth” and then proceeded to read standing still clutching the wireless microphone as if it were a lone tree growing out of a cliff face. As I read I got warmer and warmer until I was done.

Leslie presented some of her recent work, which I think is fantastic.


  • 7.22.08

Dale’s Pale Ale (in a can!)

I saw this beer at Central Market. Pale Ales are my favorite types of beer. There was a stack of these cans with a sign that said: “someone thinks that this beer is something that you should drink before you die.” The “someone” being specific names.

This is a good, full-flavored beer in a can. It’s got all the hops of a pale ale and the nice caramely flavor/color. I wasn’t expecting it; less because cans can’t house a good beer, and more because they generally don’t (Shiner Bock? Remember when that was a decent beer? Never mind the cans.) Still, this has the full aromatic bouquet (and I mean it smells like


  • 11.19.07

The Apocolyspe Reader edited by Justin Taylor.


  • 11.2.07

Teaching Sucks

As a teacher, and a poor one, I think this is somewhat offensive: Sofas? Really?
My problem is that I don’t think like mainstream society. I don’t think in such a way that everyone will understand exactly what I mean at any given point in time. This is why I don’t do well in the stock market. Teaching takes a lot of organization, but organization in a way that the most simple people can understand something. I don’t have that organization. Not that I don’t have habits, but even teaching this shit, I’m not sure I understand why or how.

My students, I feel, don’t give a shit and I still pass most of them because we live in a society and I think many of them have skills that will outlast writing. I’ll take that back, actually. Once in a blue mooon there is someone that isn’t so boring and uninterested that


  • 9.18.07

Murphy by Samuel Beckett

“Ubi nihil vales, ibi nihil velis”, which means, according to this wikipedia entry, “Where you are worth nothing, there you want nothing.”


  • 9.5.07

What the Bleep Do We Know

Watched this quasi-documentary yesterday. I couldn’t help but become engrossed, though the film, toward the end, felt thin and hokey. Still, the inclusion of quantum physics as a basis for the film was interesting as was the thoughts about organized religion. Only one person was quoted as saying something like, “This may seem new-agey, but it’s not. It’s based in science.” Well, yes and no. There was a definite spiritual spin and I would be interested what other scientists thought about the film.


  • 8.30.07

Glen Cook

A Cruel Wind by Glen Cook is an omnibus compiling the three main novels (A Shadow of All Night FallingOctober’s Baby and All Darkness Met) of The Dread Empire series. These novels are terrible. The writing is juvenile and the worlds that he attempts to create are flat and only half realized. The characters are stereotypes, one-dimensional and the writing itself is poor. Strange references in this supposedly wholly fantasy world to Biblical proverbs tears the reader from any little suspension of disbelief they may have attained. “He [Varthlokkur – I mean, come on] found the proverbs ‘No man is an island’ and ‘Man lives not by bread alone’ uncomfortably true.” And this not long after the character (I can’t bear to write that name again) claims his deceased adopted father is as wise as the “priests and wizards who taught him later” for saying there is “a time for everything.” What kind of fantasy world uses the most mundane clichés of American/Western culture to further itself? The dialogue, too, is stilted and quite absurd, to the point of being outright comedic: “‘Just presents from my brothers,” Nepanthe [again, wow] replied, shrugging them off. ‘Jerrad killed the rugs.'” Jerrad killed the rugs! You’ve got to be kidding. I laughed out loud at this one. She then proceeds: “‘They’re bearskins, mostly.'” This falls under that most heinous of crimes, the, “as you know” plot development. The other character must have seen that most of the rugs were bearskin from the sizes and shapes, but, anyway, since Cook is using such crappy proverbs to delve into the characters, I’m sure the bearskin rugs still have the heads attached giving the castle (Ravenkrak…) the appearance of a stereotypical hunting lodge in the Appalachians somewhere.

The saddest part about this is that Cook wrote a fantastic series called The Garrett Files. This is one of my favorite collections of novels. Granted The Dread Empire came first, so maybe he was working out some kinks, but it hardly seems worth republishing the novels (and boy am I red, having bought the damn thing: now I know why the library doesn’t own a copy).


  • 7.26.07

Imageless Comics

Gary Sullivan is writing a very interesting blog/essay about comics and specifically fringe comics (non-narrative comics, e.g. peopleless comics, what he calls “storyless or poetic comics”). I’m particularly interested in imageless or pictureless comics. That is comic/stories that use conventional modes of comics without including images as part of the story. There are several examples of these in Chain: #8/Comics (a brilliant collection of fringe comic forms). Particular examples would be an excerpt from Holly Bittner’s Hemispheres, Christopher Boucher’s Apartment and Adam Degraff’sThe Gift. Each of these ‘comics’ use particular aspects of the genre while not using visual images in the conventional sense.


  • 12.5.05

This tenuous string between pornography and “gastroporn” per Frederick Kaufman in Harper’s (Oct 2005). Sure there are similarities, coincidences, possible connections. But, isn’t it a little too easy to make cooking shows so sordid? I’m no queasy individual, but isn’t there more at stake with pornography? What are you worried about with gastroporn? That the radish will be reified? That the cucumber will be compartmentalized and then associated with the entirety? Do you get a cranberry fetish around Thanksgiving? And, honestly, is that really wrong? What about metonym as in “look at that ass”? Aren’t women then compartmentalized? Aren’t they simply the sum of their parts? Aren’t they ankles, feet, wrists, necks, belly-buttons, lips, hair, painted fingernails, breasts, toes, thighs, knees, all seperated by commas? Doesn’t pornography disuade people from seeing other people as people? What’re you worried about objectifying even a banana? So, you make it somewhat sexual. You suggest that you are cooking with more than just a phallic symbol. This is actually a penis.


  • 11.28.05


So I tried NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), during which one tries to write a 50000 word novel (novella, really) in one month. I started out terribly, had a strong second week and then finished with nothing. I managed about 12000 words. Not even close. I’m going to go ahead and finish this thing and see how it affects my writing. It is absolutely ridiculous that I can’t continue something to that extent. The longest thing I’ve ever done is my MFA thesis, which was an amalgamation of many different things that combined to create a “comic” whole. That needs a lot of work.



I could be jumping to conclusions

Malcolm Gladwell (whom I respect on the basis of Blink) says this about people infected with gonorrhea (narrowed down to specific disease carriers, i.e. rat-humans, bubonic plague victims, crackheads, you know, general epidemic numbers) inThe Tipping Point: “Who were those (not these, but those, distance from, reification) 168 people? [Not me, they were not fucking me.] They aren’t like you or me (emphasis mine). They are people who go out every night [no… not every night], people who have vastly more sexual partners than the norm, people whose lives and behavior are well outside the ordinary.” And of course the “ordinary” is something that Gladwell knows so much about: It’s about split second decisions and geometric angles. I haven’t gotten 20 pages into the book (wait, yes I have, I’m on page 20) and I’m getting this “I’m better than you will ever be” vibe. All in all this is not like Gladwell as far as I’ve ever encountered him. Sad that such a sentence had to sneak into such an intersting book.


  • 11.5.05

Pan de muerto

This evening I went to 1st Friday. The main gallery was populated by “Dias de los Muertos” “shrines.” Dias de los Muertos is about respecting and remebering relatives. It is a personal as well as communal event.

What I thought was interesting was that this was an exhibit of personal (and not necessarily interesting) shrines as art.

  • 10.3.05

Reading through a book on the history (political/poetic/philosophical) of the footnonte (called The Devil’s Details by Chuck Zerby), I decide to check out the etymology of a word. I think it’s an interesting glance at our religiously tainted language (even within Christian denominations).

apocryphal (1590) 1 : of doubtful authenticity: SPURIOUS 2 often cap : of or resembling the Apocrypha

Under the second definition of apocrypha we find– 2 cap a : books included in the Septuagint and Vulgate but excluded from the Jewish and Protestant canons of the Old Testament (and then more generally) b : early Christian writings not included in the Old Testament

So: the Protestant ideals permeated the English language only 73 years after Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door atWittenberg. And at some point the primary meaning moves from a historic significance (i.e., our religion does not believe that these documents should be included in the Protestent cannon) to a general linguistic meaning (i.e., this couldn’t be true).

vulgate (1728) 1 cap : a Latin version of the Bible authorized and used by the Roman Catholic Church 2 : a commonly accepted text or reading 3 : the speech of the common people and esp. of uneducated people

Here again: the meaning goes from something specific to a more general (and in this case, passively negative) meaning.

The Protestants have in fact swayed the English language to denote specific things not included in their cannon as not true, which then means anything not included could be construed as of questionable authority (whose authority?). The English language has consumed the idea of vulgate. In it’s conssecion, the Roman Catholic Church does not tiptoe around the issue. The Roman Catholic Church uses “vulgate” to mean the language of the Church (i.e. Latin). And yet vulgate has come to mean “3 : the speech of the common people and esp. of uneducated people”. (Emphasis mine: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary [tenth edition].)

The Catholics (generally speaking, Mexico[considering the countries proximity to the US and its general religious leaning] vs. theU.S.) are much more accepting of other people’s culture (reminds me of Hinduism: the most omniscient of all religions: jesus is actually a deity). Notre Dame has a huge mural of “touch-down jesus.” They are much more interested in objects, things. Candles. Holy water. The blood of christ. In other words, they’re interested in “vulgar” things.


  • 8.5.05

Nothing new to say: anthropomorphism and fuck all

Robbe-Grilled condemned the use of metaphors, because they anthropomorphize objects. “There is nothing new to say, only a way of saying it.”

  • Date Lost

Read in an OUBAPO America message: My favorite moment may be a quote, previously unknown to me and attributed to poet Richard Wilbur: “The Genie gains his power from being in the lamp.”

  • Date Lost

Why do I struggle with decent names? Sam Spade. That’s a name. Have them take off Spade and Archer and put on Sam Spade.

  • Date Lost

Blank draft enticingly entitled Detective Fiction and Dreams

  • Date Lost

part of a poem entitled Old Friends

All these old faces
in old ways, facing
the days resplendent
as sugar and ants

All these old memories
in old memories gathering
dust in attics
and on clocks

Even these old feelings
feel as false as when I was reeling
from the fading sunset on narrow railed
trains and hovercrafts and failed