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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, August 31, 2021

The Names of Drugs

 The names of new drugs are made up. 

With phonemes, morphemes, of the language.  

(The pharma companies know their linguistics!)

But all words are made up in the same way.  

This is Just to Say

 I have eaten the plums

I could apologize

but I live alone 

and they are just plums, after all


Not much 


on it 


 Reading poems by William Bronk makes me think Bronk-like thoughts, things that he might have written but in fact didn't. I cannot guarantee that I'm getting the tone or substance or Bronk "right" in any meaningful sense.  My idea is that all his poems are saying that our constructions of things, all our ways of keeping track, are inconsequential and do not get at reality.  I'm seeing that through a zen lens now, but when I started this series I did not yet know about this aspect of zen.  Now I see many poems as zen like in this sense, pointing to the "don't know mind."   


They ask for a password, at medieval moat

or modern web site: a secret code allowing entry,

nothing more metaphysical than that. 

We'd like it to be more than that.  

Monday, August 30, 2021

we wish

 We wish it hadn't happened

but if it hadn't something else would have

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

New Blog


Language instruction

 One thing nobody seems to notice, in hifalutin discussion of hispanism, is that the whole enterprise is based on the popularity of Spanish. In comparison, just about every other language is "lesser taught." I'm sure French as a field also depends on enrollments in French classes at the lower level, but Spanish it the most robust. 

For example, the existence of a PhD program can only be justified if people are getting jobs. There are more jobs in Spanish than in other languages because there are more students studying Spanish. 

We could just have programs to train language teachers, and then send them to other colleges to teach language, but instead we have PhD's in literature and culture. I suppose it's because the Spanish major still exists, so someone who is only a language teacher cannot teach all the rest of it. But students are mostly interested in language for its own sake. They are interested in the culture, but often in a vaguely defined way.  

One reason why this isn't discussed in discussions of hispanism is that it is less evident from the Ivy league perspective, where there are smaller departments than in large flagship public university like mine.  

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Master Narrative

 An example of a master narrative would be the theory of Spanish culture / hisotry of Américo Castro. 

Each "pueblo" has a historical destiny:  

"La  historia es, ante todo, la conexión de valores en que un articula su existencia; su realidad se hace presente en la expresión temporal y geográfica de sus dimensiones valiosas." 

Pueblos have "morada vital," a vital dwelling place. 

In the case of Spain, the historical destiny has to do with certain consequences of the reconquista and of he place of the "cristianos nuevos" in Spain.  He derives all of Spanish literature from this principle, so it become very important to view certain canonical writers are descendants of the conversos (converted Jews). I've seen this even brought to the twentieth century, with Juan Goytisolo and José Ángel Valente. Valente, I was told, tried to find out at one point if he was Jewish and was disappointed he was not.  Basically, many of the great writers like San Juan, Cervantes, Rojas, Fray Luis, had to be converted Jews (or their descendants).  This was a key to understanding their ideology.  

The cristianos viejos are obsessed with honor because they have to prove "limpieza de sangre," or absence of Jewish descent.  So honor, a key concept in Spanish literature, is derived from Spanish history. 

Castro had many disciples in the US, like Stephen Gilman at Harvard. I don't think he is as influential now, as much, but he marked the field in many ways. I think the way I learned to read La Celestina or Libro de Buen Amor is marked by his theories, so in some sense they gave a certain shape to hispanism in general, even for readers who didn't follow all the details closely.   

If you deny the theory of Castro, you might seem to be denying the influence of Jews and Muslims on Spanish history. Castro's theory might seem progressive and multicultural, then.  Yet I also find it full of special and pleasing and circular logic. For example, we first decide that a canonical author is a converso, and then read the work in that key, and then use the reading of the work as evidence that the author is a converso. Of course, you could say that's just the typical hermeneutic circle at work.  

I am suspicious of the theory, not because I disagree with the idea of the influence of Jews and Arabs, but because it is stretched to explain things it cannot possibly explain. It is too much of a master narrative.   


Sunday, August 22, 2021

An example of critical thinking

 Some feminists back in the day, viewing Madonna as a figure of female empowerment, argued that her hypersexualized videos were not conducive to male heterosexual fantasy.  The question you could ask is, "How do you know?" This is pretty easy to falsify. You could just survey male people of this orientation and ask if they found this imagery conducive to their own fantasies.  You would probably get a variety of answers, ranging from, this is hot, to this is off putting, and everything in between.  Instead of surveying people and concluding that 20% (or 80%) of men found it hot (or not), they followed a chain of reasoning. "Because I want to make a feminist argument, and I believe men don't like powerful women, then I am going to assume men won't find this display of female power alluring." To me, it seems obvious that a lot of men wanted to **** Madonna. That should at least be the null hypothesis.  But then again, I don't know that empirically, so to argue that, I would just be incurring in the same elementary mistake: trying to resolve and empirical question with  speculation based on ideological presuppositions.  


This also assumes that all male fantasy is the same, unidirectional. We know, though, that there are fantasies of powerlessness, or role reversals, etc... In fact, the nature of fantasy is to be reversible, so exhibitionism and voyeurism are part of the same dynamic, not opposites. The same with domination and submission, or attraction and disgust. So not only does the conclusion not benefit from a representative survey, but it also ignores the strange illogic of desire, prohibition, and fetish. The man who hires a dominatrix is not actually disavowing his power and privilege, after all.  

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Critical Thinking

 I'm wondering about how to teach critical thinking skill in the humanities.  A lot of our thinking is riddled with confirmation bias of the most elemental sort. 

I'd start out with this.  The problem is that I am not statistician. Even if I knew this stuff at a technical non-metaphorical level, I couldn't expect my grad students to learn it. What I am suggesting is a kind of translation of these principles into valid principles for thinking about research in general.  I'm comforted that one of Andrew's favorite metaphors comes from a Borges story!  

For example, we could have principle that, just because there are two books about something, that does not mean that those are solid books. 

What are some principles we might want to look at?  

For example:  "Cada loco con su tema."  The tendency of everyone to overestimate the importance of what is important to them.  

The unquestioning use of one trope as a default.  "Anxiety about..."  


We almost never use "representative samples" of something in the humanities. What we study is something that is atypical by definition.  We start with a canon, works judged to be better than others. Then we try to question the canon by finding works by women, ethnic minorities excluded from the canon. But won't those be the best works by women?  These people will be even more exceptional than the men, because they will not only have produced great works of literature, but done so under adverse circumstances. 

Of course, we can go further than that and study anonymous diaries of ordinary people.  Now we are using some other criterion of value, like lack of privilege. We're likely to change our perspective and no longer be asking the questions about literary greatness. That fine, but let's admit what we are doing.   

My classical education

 I took UCB Latin Workshop at age 18, between freshman and sophomore year in college. My dad thought that I should be a classicist, his dream not mine. I never regretted it. I took Greek workshop in summer between college and grad school.  In college, I took several Latin courses. Horace, Petronius, Catullus, I think. The other students in the classes were these four or five other young women who were Latin majors. I held my own with them. I never did anything with Greek, because I was in Grad school which required extreme specialization, despite being in Comp Lit.  

Most of the classical education was simply grammar and translation. You learned to translate and decide what kind of genitive, ablative, or dative it was. You matched up a noun with an adjective in the same case, subjects with verbs.  So you never got to do anything else,  like literary criticism or context, or see what the actual researchers in the field did with their time, aside from teaching grammar and translation to other people. It was all grammar/translation at the undergrad level. That's what my daughter's high school Latin was, too. They read Vergil, just I had done in 1978.  

My biggest interest was in prosody, and in seeing how Horace crafted a poem. I got huge earworms with certain Latin prosodical patterns. I don't know of anything the really matches Horace's craftsmanship.  It was a schooling for me. I think that that, among other things, allowed me to be reader of poetry at that advanced level. If you think a poem by WCW is crafted in the same way a Horatian ode is, then you must treat it with a certain seriousness.  


 The ideological critique of hispanism has the effect of delegitimizing it.  That is, the traditional rationale for the discipline is nationalist and colonialist. The master narratives of the field are to be questioned.

What could emerge from the critique is a progressive hispanism, unlinked from its origins. It should mostly be devoted to things previously excluded from the canon. It will mostly talk about other languages, other than Castilian: Arabic, Nahuatl, Catalan, Bable.  

But if the chief activity of the field is to critique itself, then maybe the field should not exist at all, or should exist only as a shadow of itself, in a weaker form, without confidence in its own validity. 

You probably know where I'm going with this.  

Friday, August 20, 2021

Classics without classics?

 Some schools now have classics majors without Latin and Greek required. So they are "classical studies" degrees. Sure, there are a lot of things you can study, like art, archeology, history, mythology, without learning classical languages. The justification is that students don't major in classics if they have to do anything hard, like learn a language with a lot of inflections. The alternative would not to have classics at all. 

You could have another track in the math department, called "mathematical studies." You wouldn't actually do math, or anything difficult like that. You would just discuss math in the abstract. I'm sure there would be plenty to do. 

You could have a music  appreciation major. You wouldn't have to learn theory (that's hard!) or to play an instrument. You could just do cultural musicology by discussing people's general ideas about music.  

I'm still trying to figure out how to design an English major where you don't read any books or learn to write an essay. I'm sure we're halfway there already. Reading is elitist, most literature is racist and sexist anyway.  Any idea of writing well will be hierarchical and thus fascist. 

Here's the thing: tangible skills, like actually being able to learn a language or music theory, or whatever, are empowering. The other approach, to my mind, is profoundly disempowering.  If you've never mastered anything difficult, you won't have any intellectual confidence. You won't be a serious person.  

Wednesday, August 18, 2021


 Antiflamenquismo was a thing.  I have a book by Samuel Llano on Spanish music in Paris, and now have found another book by the same author on flamenco, organ grinder music, and brass bands in Madrid in the nineteenth and early 20th centuries. Excellent.  

Antiflamenquismo is a moral panic (my phrase, not Llano's), among the middle class, and intellectuals, journalists. Flamenquismo itself was popular among the masses.  Andalusian immigrants to Madrid were associated with social disorder, drinking, prostitution.  

Zorrilla, Alas, Palacio Valdez, Ortega, Unamuno, Baroja, Azorín...  Nobody liked flamenco, except the Machado family.  

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Day 7

 After taking the weekend and most of Monday off, I looked at the first 2,000 words today, in about an hour and a half, with books I had checked out on Monday from the music library. I can see that the next 2,000 words is a bit less finished, so I may need to work longer tomorrow, but I am getting a good sense of the overall shape of the article.  

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Prélude 6 (Mompou)

 I really enjoy playing Mompou's Prelude 6 (pour main gauche). The analysis is implicit in the learning of the piece. It is a prelude, which implies unitary material, rather than contrasting sections. The entire piece is a series of transformations of the first phrase. Every individual section ends with a rising arpeggio, with pedal, usually with a ritardando. In most cases, the same material will be repeated in transposition, with the arpeggio concluding that section.  

The initial motif is atonal, but the resolutions in the arpeggios tend to end up as major chords. There is a resolution in Eb major at the top of the second page, and then a series of C minor (a variations at the end of that page), then the ending is in Eb major again. There is not time signature, and the basic unit is the eighth note. It takes five minutes to play in the proper tempo. The moods shift without any major shifts in the thematic material itself. 

Friday, August 13, 2021

Bare Knuckle

 On an off-market sports channel, devoted mostly to billiards and poker, I saw, the other night, some fights from Bare Knuckle Boxing. It seemed off from the beginning. Two fighters who had never won a fight, one of which who was reputedly "the worst boxer of all time." Another "world title fight" in which the challenger had never fought "bare knuckle" before, and led with his chin. The fights were all sone-sided and decided quickly, but the announcers were upbeat.  The combatants all seemed to be great friends with each other, almost apologetic when they were not kicking the shit out of each other. They all had great tattoos all over their legs and torsos. 

My thought: boxing gloves were invented for a good reason. 

How to Write and article in Six Days (day 6)

 The goal will be to have a document of 6,000 words by the end of the day.  

Alas, the article will not be done!  You will simply have a document about as long as the final version needs to be. 

On the 7th, 8th, and 9th days, I propose the following: take the first 2,000 word chunk, and clean it up. Make sure all references are complete, all footnotes done. All sentences are complete. 

Then do the same for the next 2,000 word chunks. The document might decrease in the number of words, or increase. That doesn't really matter on any particular day. 

Now, on day 10, repeat the process, but with the first 3,000 or 3,500 words. Now make sure all the transitions are smooth, all the paragraphs well formed.

On day 11, do the same with the second 3,000 or 3,500 words. Now you have the "first draft." It's ready to show someone else now, but I would sleep on if for a day (or week) and then do a final reading of the whole thing.  

It's not really a "first draft" because a lot of it will have been rewritten. It is far from a "shitty first draft," or a "rough draft," concepts I despise.  I view it as an antepenultimate draft, or next to next to the last. You have two more times to revise it: before submitting it (based on feedback of your research buddies) and after receiving comments from a blind reviewer (or from any editor involved in the process).  

Thursday, August 12, 2021

How to write an article in 6 days (day 5)

 Today, you might not make it to 5,000 words. Do something else in the morning; brood a bit about it. When you finally sit down at the computer, get about 333 words in the first hour. 

Now lunch!  Make sure you turn the tv on when eating.  Distract yourself. 

Now get the next third of your writing done. You are doing well.  It is only 1 p.m. and you have written 667 words. !!!

Now go to the coffee shop and write the remaining 333.  Go a little above 5,000 just for good measure.

Now you have one day left to write (most of) the article.  You won't have a complete version, but you will have 6,000 words that you can revise later. Things are taking shape. You have substantive material of about 10 pages.  

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

How to Write and Article in Six days (Day 4)

Last night, I thought I would have my personal astrologers write me up a horoscope in order to guide me through the day. I emailed them late last night and got this reply this morning. It was well worth what I spent. I find the newspaper horoscopes maddeningly vague, so I need a professional at these crucial junctures.    

Today, embrace the heat rather fleeing from it. A loved one has an important financial meeting, but you cannot assist her with it. In the morning, get bodily functions and routine tasks out of the way quickly. Laundry is piling up but there will be plenty of time later.  

It is important not to lose momentum. Approach your prose writing with confidence, enthusiasm, and alacrity. You know what you want to say, so allow yourself to say it by getting out of your own way. Once you have written 4,000 words, your article will be two thirds done.  

In the evening: shower and shave before going on errands. Explore new hobbies. Contact a friend you have been out of touch with for far too long.   

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

500-1000 words

 Why think of writing 500-1000 words a day on serious writing days? 

Clearly, 2000 would be too much. The article will have 6000 words, so doing it in three days is not so realistic. I am not saying I could never write that much in a day, but it would be taxing. 

100 words would be too little. I can do that by sitting down for 10 minutes. But I don't want to write the article in 60 days, because to get 60 days might take six months, given the inevitable interruptions in life. Maybe there's something else you need to write and so you leave off your main project.

 If you aspire to a good number, even if you don't reach it, you will still make some progress (300, 400...).  Just as I aspire to walk 10,000 steps a day: if I fail and walk only 8,000, then I am still better off. 

1000 words takes about three hours. Then I can feel good about the amount of effort as well as the number of words. The caveat is that at the end of the process, more time will be spent rewriting, so that word count will not rise as quickly.  At the end you might want to revise and perfect the paper in another 3 days.  


How to Write an Article in Six Days (day 3)

Today is a day for cleaning up some loose ends in what you've already written. Your word count might not rise very much. Start with the introduction, then go on to some of the other sections you've sketched out. 

Now take a break Have some coffee. Do something else for a bit. 

You might think of a section of the main body of the article that you can make some rapid progress on. For example, I realize that I haven't yet written a word about any of the major flamenco singers I'm studying in the article. If I write just a sentence on each one, then that's 100 words right there. That also gives me something to look forward to on day 4, where I will do most of the analytical "body" of the paper. 

I remembered too, that I am giving a talk in Kenyon College in the Spring. I could use this paper for that as well as for my Polish article. If I write this draft before school begins, I will have done work for three different, non-conflicting obligations: an in-house paper given at research group here in KS, a paper given at another university, and an article.  You can't publish the same article twice, but you can use the same material for different purposes.  

To recap a bit.  The importance of the "future perfect" mentality.  Before starting, you will have already started, doing many necessary preliminaries.  The importance of having an intention: you are writing in order to give a talk, submit an article to a journal. Then, just taking the right amount of time each day. Enough to write 500-1000 words. 

Monday, August 9, 2021

How to Write and Article in Six Days (Day 2)

On day 1 you will have written a thousand words. On day zero, you will have formulated an intention to write the article. Before that, you will have developed some scholarly expertise and learned how to do research and to follow the conventions of scholarly prose.

One day 2, you will get a good start, buoyed the success of day 1.  The goal will be to have a document of about 2,000 words.  You'll want to work mostly on the introduction. Come up with a good opening line, and a good thesis statement. Make sure the introduction checks the relevant boxes. Literature review, theoretical framing.  Do some signposting (I will first do this, then that.). I don't recommend leaving this in the final version, but you'll want to give yourself a sense of direction. If you are happy with the introduction, then finish some other paragraphs in the body of the paper, or work on the bibliography. 

Remind yourself again of your intention. For example, I remembered this morning that I also promised an article on this topic to a Polish journal of Hispanic studies. I will have to translate this paper into Spanish for that purpose.   

Now you have 1200 words. That wasn't too difficult. Write a blog post about your progress. Then start again, eking out a few more lines each time you sit down.  

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Gravitas and Humor

 I think that I combine gravitas and humor in a particular way. In other words, I have a seriousness and depth to my work (or try to), but not a solemnity. If I just had one of these qualities, it wouldn't work. I could just be flippant, or over serious. It's not about striking a balance between both qualities, but of having both in abundance and knowing how or when to use them, in which situations. 

How to Write an Article in Six Days (day 1)

 You will have already done research. You will have expertise on your topic. You will not research and write your article in six days, but devote that number of days merely to the writing of it. You will know what sources you will consult (more or less), the ideas you want to present. You will have thought about writing the article on "day zero," before day 1 of the process. Of course, you might discover new ideas, or new ways phrasing things, in the process of writing, but essentially you will know what you want to say. You might have to look up things to tie up lose ends, but you won't discover fundamentally new things. 

(You will already have learned how to write. You will not learn how to write in one day and then write the article in the remaining five days. You will have been a scholar for some amount of time before the process begins. If you were to learn to play a piece on the piano in six you will have already learned to read music and to play other pieces on the piano.) 

The future perfect part of the process is over, what you "will have done." On day 1, you will write the title in a Word document. Do all the necessary formatting. For example, I like to erase the "footnote separation notice" that is not to my liking. I put the "works cited" with a hanging indent.   

Write some phrases and sentences in the document that you know you will include: "folkloric capital." "economies of prestige." "the cultural history of Lorca's American reception."  Do some brainstorming until you have about 100 words in your word count. 

You will also have thought about the purpose of the article (sorry, more future perfect!).  Why are you writing it? Where will you publish it? You have to have an intention here. It could be as simple as "I need to write a paper for Professor Mayhew's class).  In my case, I will present this paper at the Humanities Center in Sept.  

You will also have cleared some time. The first day requires several hours of work.  In my case I am starting on a Sunday. 

{Now go off and do something else. Play piano or wash the dishes.  I will be here when you get back.}

Now you realize that you have several ideas in mind that you can jot down quickly without too much effort. You can write parts of several paragraphs, using phrasing that you might have used to talk about your ideas in other contexts.  By know you will have about 300 words. Now copy and paste some items into your bibliography, from one of your bibliography files.  That will give your 400 words.  

Time for some coffee!  It is late afternoon by now.  

Come back to your document. Finish some sentences or paragraphs. Do some rewording.  You don't have to commit to a thesis statement yet, if you don't quite know what it is going to be.  Keep chipping away that the word count.  By now it is about 600-700 words.  Don't worry about exact wordings of things. You want to have some stylistic vigor without the polish, at this stage. You can write: "The combination of folkloric capital and literary prestige forms a potent cocktail, a 'double whammy' difficult to resist." Or "the cretinous insistence on 'authenticity.'" You can always tame it down later.  Maybe you've forgotten how to spell "synecdoche," as happened to me today.  It doesn't really matter on the first day.  

Keep doing this until you have a word count of about 900-1,100 words. This will be easy because you are writing from your own expertise and not worrying yet about the exact phrasing of everything. Don't overdo it the first day, but make sure you put in some considerable effort to "jump start" the process.  

NEXT: Day 2.  

Friday, August 6, 2021

August birding

 They say birds can be harder to see in late summer, but yesterday I saw dickcissel, goldfinch, blackbird, house finch, dove, indigo bunting, cardinal, the usual sparrows and swallows, along with numerous wading and swimming birds (egrets, herons). Whenever I have low expectations I tend to be surprised by a great abundance and variety.  

Spanish and French music

 I read most of a book by Samuel Llano, Whose Spain?  It's about ideas of Spanish music in France during the early part of the 20th century. It is a good book, though overspecialized even for me. French intellectuals used Spain and Spanish music to propagandize against Germany or in favor of Catholicism. The "noble savage" trope rears its head frequently. Falla is a key figure, the subject of 2 of the 6 main chapters. There's not too much attention to the music itself. It's all about the meanings the music acquires. I did like the idea of "folkloric capital," a phrase I'm going to borrow. The main scholarly tropes in his work are "negotiation" and "anxiety." I'm grateful for the book because it provides deep background for something that is significant: the  strong cultural alliance between French and Spanish music. 

Sunday, August 1, 2021


 I saw a mink today at Baker Wetlands, crossing the path. Several rabbits. There were many mourning doves and dickcissels, the usual blackbirds and swallows. Sandpipers and herons, finches. At home at the bird feeder, more finches, chickadees and a woodpecker. I almost always see cardinals.