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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Tuesday, April 13, 2021


 Science fiction imagines life on other planets to be humanoid, or simian in some cases, but not as avian or apian, or maybe cetacean.  So planet of the apes, not planet of the crows. It is a rather sad lack of imagination.  We could imagine intelligent plant or fungal life, for example.  


Poetic and prosaic. Metaphorically, poetry is: 

 a quality of beauty and intensity of emotion regarded as characteristic of poems: poetry and fire are nicely balanced in the music.  something regarded as comparable to poetry in its beauty: the music department is housed in a building that is pure poetry.
Prose and prosaic mean: 
 plain or dull writing, discourse, or expression: medical and scientific prose.
having the style or diction of prose; lacking poetic beauty: prosaic language can't convey the experience.  commonplace; unromantic: the masses were too preoccupied by prosaic day-to-day concerns.
 Here is some language from a poem by Mary Jo Bang in the latest NYRB:  "The question is not whether we have free will, but what choices history offers us. The strongest force is conformity, not passion, not even greed for possessions."  There's nothing new about prosaic language in a poem, which is familiar from some modernist poetry. It should be good prose, though, or else used ironically. I thought of this because in the first two articles in this issue the prose writers independently used poetry in the honorific sense. 

Je ne regrette pas les aigrettes

 I saw three white egrets yesterday. A hawk with blue wings. I am moving from the unconscious incompetence to the conscious incompetence phase of the learning curve. 

Monday, April 12, 2021


 I believe the study about faculty with PhD parents is mistaken in its inferences. 17.2% of Black faculty's parents have a Phd. and 16.9 of Hispanic faculty (compared to 23% generally). But, according the the 1997 census data, only 0.3 % of blacks in population had a PhD, and about 1% of whites. Thus a black person on the faculty is much more likely to have a PhD than is a black person who is not a professor. For 2017, about 2% or whites and 1% of blacks have PhDs.  

So that .3% (or around there) accounts for 17 percent of black faculty. I'm taking that as the number because the study uses .9% of the population having PhD. That means that that group is 57 times  more likely to be a tenure track professor than the average black person is. That is more than twice the benefit for the general population. I disagree then that "the racial gap in PhD attainment is an intergenerational impediment that limits the proportion of Black and Hispanic scholars who become tenure track faculty." I mean, technically it is true (23.4 of whites have PhD parents, vs. 17.2 of blacks), but this 6.2% advantage seems less significant to me than the fact that a black faculty member is much more than 50 times ore likely to have a PhD parent than is a black in the general population. 

It seems to me like we should want to have multi-generational educational achievement in all ethnic and racial groups. Put another way, if you made a law that said you had to skip generations in academia, you would lose 23% of whites and 17% of blacks. That seems like it would be an increase in diversity, right? You'd lose a ton of Asians, though, and it would be devastating for other minorities too. Why, because you are eliminating people from the pool who are 50 times more likely to go into academia.  Some of that 17% would be replaced mostly by 1st generation Asian students and the white children of relatively well edducation and affluent but not academic families. 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Gustavo P F

 I remember, after reading the facebook thread, about an article by Gustavo Pérez Firmat on poem 20 of Neruda's 20 poemas, in Hispanic Review of 2007.  (I remembered something about it so I found it pretty quickly on jstor. It's a nuanced reading and productive approach to poetry that seems sentimental, like "Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche." 


 Grackles were loud and ostentatious at Beth's house while I was mowing the lawn. She pointed out to me that this is a bird, with its purplish head, different from the starling. Hers were going to the feeder. Larger birds, like robins, starlings, blue jays, are not feeder birds per se, but the grackle is pretty large. 

The Cornell bird app is good. It asks you when, where, size, colors, and behavior (e.g. swimming, sitting in a tree.), then gives you a list to choose from. The references for size, in ascending order, are sparrows, robins, crows, and geese.  

20 poemas

 In Babelia a Spanish critic and poet notes that Neruda's 20 poemas de amor present an outdated idea of love between men and women. In a facebook thread, of course, some Spaniards attack this criticism of Neruda, trying to say you want to throw out Catullus too (irrelevantly).  

But it's super-obvious. Who hasn't noticed that "I like you when you're quiet, because it is as though you were absent" was not exactly a feminist sentiment? It's a sentimental and cursi book, and long regarded a little bit embarrassing, despite some nice lines. 

But of course, Neruda is objectionable at many stages of his career. His bad political poetry at the end (and the middle). In his memoirs he describes a rape that he committed. These are not unknown things. C;mon people. 

He had prodigious talent, and has many powerful poems, but there doesn't seem to be any point in making him beyond reproach.