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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...

Sunday, April 30, 2023


 El dulce lamentar de dos pastores,     [2, 6, 8, 10]            A

Salicio juntamente y Nemoroso,            [2, 4, 6, 10]           B

he de cantar, sus quejas imitando;        [1, 4, 6, 10]            C          

cuyas ovejas al cantar sabroso            [4, 8, 10]                 B

estaban muy atentas, los amores,       [2, 6, 10]                   A

de pacer olvidadas, escuchando.        [3, 6, 10]                   C

Tú, que ganaste obrando                [1, 4, 6]                        C

un nombre en todo el mundo        [2, 4, 6]                            D

y un grado sin segundo,                [2, 6]                                D

agora estés atento sólo y dado    [2, 4, 6, 8, 10]                    E

al ínclito gobierno del estado    [2, 6, 10]                               E

albano, agora vuelto a la otra parte,    [2, 4, 6, 10]                F

resplandeciente, armado,                    [4, 6]                            E

representando en tierra el fiero Marte;        [4, 6, 8, 10]        F

Look how only three lines have an accent on an odd-numbered syllable.  There are no accents on odd numbered syllables after syllable 3. My rules are simple. Content words get an accent; articles, clitic pronouns, one syllable prepositions, etc... do not.   Note how seamless is the combination of lines of 7 and 11 syllables. Every line rhymes, but not predictably.  

Friday, April 28, 2023

Dream of blocked door

 I had to enter my dwelling place through a crawl space of some kind; the door was blocked. It was very difficult to move my body horizontally through the hole, after having some up from the basement. Curiously, though, I could exit through the door with no problem. Only egress was verboten. 


 You can think of the Spanish 11 syllable line as an iambic pentameter, with a feminine ending, and a more "lilting" sound than in English:  

Los invisibles átomos del aire

The stress on syllable 10 is obligatory: 

Los invisibles átomos del aire

Syllables 7, 9, 11, cannot have accents (with a few exceptions).

Siempre la claridad viene del cielo.  [note stress clash here between syllables 6 and 7]. 

There is almost always a strong stress on 4 or 6.  If the stress is on 6, there will also be a stress on 1,2, or 3 (usually).  If there is a stress on 4, there will also be a stress on 8 (typically).  

We could see the structure as relatively free in the first four syllables of the line, and then resolving in a cadence in the seven syllables at the end:   


This is also a typical rhythm for the 7 syllable line.   

So the line could be conceived of as iambic:

oX oX oX oX oXo

But it is more typically this:

oXoooXoooXo. [el dulce lamentar de dos pastores]. 

or this:


Flexible, flowing verse paragraphs can arise from the combination of lines of 7 and 11.  Note the tendency of accents to fall on the even numbered syllables. The enjambment, the unpredictable alternation of lines of 7 and 11, the unpredictable rhymes. This is the equivalently fluid verse paragraph that corresponds to English blank verse. (If you look at free verse in Spanish, you will see that it derives from this. All you have to do is add in some lines of 9 and 14 syllables and stop rhyming.  Then you have Vicente Aleixandre.)  

Piramidal, funesta, de la tierra                                4,6,10
nacida sombra, al cielo encaminaba                       2,4,6,10
de vanos obeliscos punta altiva,                            2,6,8,10
escalar pretendiendo las estrellas;                        3, 6, 10
si bien sus luces bellas,                                        2,4,6
exentas siempre, siempre rutilantes,                    2,4,6,10
la tenebrosa guerra....                                           4,6

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Ilu Ros

 Right after I wrote the post on Bernarda in translation I got a book in  the mail--an illustrated edition of Lorca's rural tragedies that I preordered month ago and was only published just now, by Ilu Ros. Now I can bring that in for my students to look at, after we just discussed adaptations on Tuesday. There are a lot of these picture books about Lorca now. Bernarda's daughters here look a bit like the artist herself. 

It makes me want to do a visual book about Lorca, although I am no artist.  

Kafka's precursors

 Another classic JLB text, on Kafka's precursors. It tell the same story as Pierre Menard, but without the magic. Several texts, written in diverse periods and places, have the air of what we would later associate with Kafka's writing. They are prophetic in that regard. And yet these texts do not resemble one another; without Kafka we would not perceive them as similar at all. The writer creates his own precursors. This seems anachronistic, but it is possible, simply because the reader creates these connections. They are as real as anything else. 

It follows that literary history is a fiction. It is a story we make up in order to explain these connections to ourselves.  

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

BA in adaptation

 Bernarda Alba has a lot of adaptations. Set it in Iran, in Pakistan, in Miami, in Scotland. Do it as a musical, a film. I haven't made a list, but there are dozens I've found on google and YouTube in just half an hour.  

Any adaptation automatically creates a palimpsest.  I think of Borges decrying the phenomenon of anachronistic "modern dress" versions of classic literature, in "Pierre Menard." Notice that Borges decries both simplistic ideas: that epochs are the same ... and that they are different. In other words, a false universalism: we can adapt to another setting and the story still works... and a false belief that a work needs to be kept up to date in order to appeal to contemporary audiences. Notice, too, that despite despising such things, Menard counts this anachronism as one of his inspirations. 


"... Otro es uno de esos libros parasitarios que sitúan a Cristo en un bulevar, a Hamlet en la Cannebiére o a don Quijote en Wall Street. Como todo hombre de buen gusto, Menard abominaba de esos carnavales inútiles, sólo aptos ­decía­ para ocasionar el plebeyo placer del anacronismo o (lo que es peor) para embelesarnos con la idea primaria de que todas las épocas son iguales o de que son distintas."

Monday, April 24, 2023

Dream of high school crush

 I had a crush in high school on E, never reciprocated. She always had other boyfriends, etc... and probably did not know how I felt. We were friends, and reconnected through facebook after many years. I only saw her once as an adult, when I visited her at her job at the Natural History Museum in Manhattan. (She died this year of cancer.) 

In my dream, we had reconnected, living in the same town somehow, and were going together to some social event, just as friends but with a certain ambiguity about our feelings toward each other. It wasn't particularly sexual in nature. It was more like a purely emotional form of love, much as I had felt when I was 14. 

After I woke up, I then was thinking about it, and then it took me several minutes to remember that she had died... 

Thursday, April 20, 2023


 Visual literacy is mostly about two-dimensional and unmoving images. So it doesn't include being able to look at dance or architecture, or film, or even sculpture, or even a bird flying in your back yard.  

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Birding in DC and KU

 In Maryland, we saw some yellow crowned herons nesting in a suburban street, later some black crowned herons in DC. 

Yesterday, I saw a kestrel high in a tree on the KU campus. Today, with a field trip near the KU boathouse on the river, yellow-rumped warblers, yellow warblers, wood duck, eastern bluebird, numerous cow birds and sparrows, along with the usual finches, robins, cardinals. 

My life list cracked 100 over the weekend.   

Tuesday, April 18, 2023


 I kind of want to do something like this, on Andrew Gelman's blog, with my Mayhewisms. Even though I understand very little of Gelman's field (stats) I feel I understand some of the intellectual principles at work.    

Two dreams

 I invented a way of cleaning: you pick the center of the room and then clean in a circle. I was cleaning a 5 or 10 degree arc of the circle of a room and it was very satisfying, though there was a surprising amount to clean there. I was proud of my method. 


My students were presenting their final projects, which were videos. They were all great, with stunning use of color. Nevertheless, I cannot remember any of the content of the videos now. It is as though the visual stimuli were everything, even though the videos were not abstract in this sense.  

Sunday, April 16, 2023


 I was always imagining progressing through the decades as a "hardening" process, where what you already were gets solidified or fossilized.  I think, too, we knew less about brain plasticity when I was younger. Also, some older people really are more fixed in place. I'm sure some of that is true of all of us who are lucky to live into seventh decade. (Just to clarify, seventh decade begins at at 60, not 70.). Certain things will not change. Also, we could overestimate the scope of change. So I could be thinking I change a lot, but it might be a tiny bit from someone else's perspective, watching me from outside. No matter, what is important is what I think, not what you think about me.

My concept is reincarnation, but not by dying and being reborn, but within a single life time, becoming different versions of one's self. 

Saturday, April 15, 2023


 When I was younger, I imagined people my age now to have a rigid mentality, and to be incapable of thinking new things.

 Now, though, I think of younger people as (relatively) rigid, unnuanced in their thinking. With the decades comes a certain relativism--you know things will change, categories are not fixed. There is also one's relation to several past selves--one has been several other people, people who are oneself, but also, somehow, not. I can read Vonnegut, something I thought was great when I was 15, and still identify with the 15 year old in my admiration, with no condescension, but also realize I wouldn't respond to it now in the same way.  I came to these ideas reading a biography of Ornette that I bought and left accidentally in my brother's house, where I am visiting again this weekend. I have had different relations to Ornette's music over the year, to the point of not being in the "mood" for listening for a decade at a time at one point. 

Aging is decline, at a certain point, but that is really more of a late aging process. The 60s and 70s are still a time of growth.  

Monday, April 10, 2023


This drawing of Jimmy Schuyler seems better to me now than when I first did it. There is some effect where a drawing seems better (to the person who did it) much later, with the effect of hindsight and forgetting the actual process.  It is obviously a copy of another drawing (or photo?). If we don't compare it to the model, it might seem even better!  

Pianissimo cave man


gang of 15


Leaf man


Visual ...


I guess I was expecting something interesting, like what skills are involved in visual literacy? What would be an example of someone who didn't have it? How does it relate to traditional practices of looking at art? Is it a matter of putting into words what we are already seeing? Of teaching to see? Is the idea that people don't know how to interpret visual data in their own lives? That seems improbable. We are able to buy groceries, for example. We need to read the packaging, with images, words. Is there some societal lack in visual literacy that is having a negative effect?  

Saturday, April 8, 2023

field trip

 We had another field trip today. There were about 30 people and we were east of the Baker Wetlands. Bald eagle, hawks, cormorant, tree swallows, red-winged blackbirds, phoebe, shoveler duck, kestrel. Several kinds of sparrows. Several others varieties of duck and geese. 

We parked and then went down the road. Other people took their cars every 200 yards to the next stop, but I walked and got 2 miles in.  


 I think the problem with the "visual' field is... too many words, too language centered. It's very easy to talk with words about other things made out of words. It's not that language cannot talk about music or visual things, etc... but it is not the most efficient medium. So, I can show you an image, or describe it to you in words... 

Really good art criticism does make effective use of language. You can tell someone what they are seeing, or do so in a way that makes them see better. But this is an unusual skill.  

Thursday, April 6, 2023

The Phantom Alarm Clock

 Not a dream, but rather a moment of less than lucid thought upon awakening, in that liminal spot... 

I heard my alarm go off on my phone, but very faintly. Now, the ring tone on phone for the alarm is something that I recorded on the piano several years ago called "Cool Chord Changes," which is a brief composition in a basic "question-answer" format, one four-measure phrase responding to another, and then doing so again in a symmetrical pattern and reaching a logical conclusions, without much of a melody at all. I find it a soothing tune with which to wake up. It starts like this:  Bam bam bam-bam / bam bam bam-bam / bam bam bam-bam / bam ba-BAM.  

I decided that I must have left the phone in the other room. I let it play rhythmically maybe 5 or six times, and got up to retrieve it from the living room. I remember thinking: if that is how quiet my alarm is, I won't be bothering any neighbors. When I got to the living room, the music had stopped: actually, though, my alarm had not rung at all. I went back to the bed, and found my phone was on the other side of my queen sized bed from where I sleep, and that it was still 6:50--not 7 a.m., the time I had set the alarm for. I lay in bed another 10 minutes until the alarm really went off. 

During this ten minutes, I discovered that I could play this music in my head with some accuracy, actually "hear" it, not just think it. That's what I had been doing when I thought I heard the music from the other room.   

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Centering whiteness

 Here's something I found.  William Washabaugh, whom I first encountered as a scholar of flamenco, writes an article "Philosophical Bases for Visual Multiculturalism at the College Level." For some reason not explained, visual literacy should focus on issues of race and gender: "visual studies can operate most effectively at the undergraduate level when combined with critical multiculturalism in a single mandatory general education course" (129). 

Quoting Nussbaum, he find that courses in multiculturalism are ... to diverse, too different from one another. Lacking a common methodology. This might be a good thing (for me), but apparently it is not. Apparently, we must all think in the same way. 

It turns out that this should center whiteness:

 Within such a single multicultural course, the issue of ideology should be central. Accordingly such a course should provide ample opportunity for contemporary studies of whiteness. In place of wide-ranging celebratory descriptions of minority groups and their histories, studies of whiteness focus attention on the ideological forces that create ethnic groups, and on the gendering and racializing processes that reproduce privilege.  (136; emphasis aded). 

Well, this is a lot more efficient, because you don't have to know much about these minority groups, just that they are produced, negatively, by "ideological forces." Don't focus on celebrating anything these groups have achieved, on their own ways of constructing their reality. Treat everything from the perspective of the self-questioning white intellectual, by all means.   

The idea that this would be a single, mandatory class is rather chilling. A unitary model for "multiculturalism."  



 My new strategy for spelling bee is to go for the complete anagram (pangram) immediately, and stop there. When I try to get as many words as possible, and don't worry about the pangram, then the pangram will come fairly late, but if I try to get the pangram right away, often (not always) it will appear. 

You would think that getting a lot of smaller words would be helpful in solving the pangram, since it is sometimes a compound word, but it is not. 

If I stare at it a long time and still can't get it, I will sometimes go back to my old, less satisfactory was of solving.


I have trouble doing more than one hobby at a time. I can go birdwatching, but then I won't want to also play piano that day.  I think I should accept that rather than attempting to do all of it at once.  


I made Ma Po Tofu the other day, with mediocre results. I will make it better next time, using more and firmer tofu, and more of every spice that I put in.  

I had half the pork that I didn't use, so I made some sausage, simply by kneading in some seasonings to the ground pork and leaving in fridge over night. I used red wine vinegar, some salt, some of the peppercorns I had ground up for the tofu dish, paprika, and some fresh herbs I had from my coq au vin from the week before. I had had a sausage patty for breakfast, and it turned out nicely, very flavorful.  The possibilities are endless, and the sodium content can be varied to taste. I don't think I'll ever buy sausage again, just ground pork and make my own. I guess I could get a meat grinder, but why bother. 

I'm writing every Sunday dinner down on the calendar in the kitchen.  That's the night my friend comes over, usually.  I aim not to repeat myself in the calendar year.  

From parking lot to building...

From parking lot to the building where I work, I had the Merlin app open and was recording for 3 minutes. I got 

Common grackle

House finch

Mourning dove

Northern cardinal

American robin

American goldfinch

American crow

European starling 

I heard and saw the finches; I heard dove and crow; saw robins. Listening back to the recording I hear myself breathing too loudly, the sound of my own steps; isolated human voices. 

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Dumpster fire

 On twitter, a toxic environment to be sure, I saw a thread about people wanting to boat about how bad their dissertations were. Several referred to theirs as "dumpster fires." Perhaps they see it as a kind of cathartic confession, that they can admit they just produced a piss-poor piece of work but are proud of getting the degree anyway? Clearly, graduate education is a toxic system if it fosters this kind of mentality.

I didn't check to see what fields these people are working in. If the point is the credential, then it wouldn't matter how good the dissertation was. If the idea is that there are no jobs for PhDs anyway, that would be a justification for just doing the best you can but being resigned to not do a very good job.  

If you want to be an old-school scholar, then the idea that you should be 30 and have a PhD but not yet done any good work in the field is rather self-defeating. When are you planning to start?  But maybe that old school model doesn't work.    

Smelling funny

 Something smells a bit funny here. This is from the same journal that published one of the bad articles on Leonard Cohen that I saw recently, the International Review of Psychiatry, published by Taylor and Francis.  I just doesn't seem legit to me, because of the quality of writing and thought feels like something created by a perverse parodist. One of the authors appears to be a someone with a certain level of scholarly achievement (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_T._P._Wong), but cannot write at a basic undergraduate level: 

"Love is the core of human experience and central to our meaning in life and wellbeing, yet it is also a complex concept full of ambiguity and contradiction. The main purpose of this paper is fourfold: Firstly, we want to clarify questions such as ‘What is the meaning of love?’ and ‘Why is meaning of love so important to us?’ Secondly, we want to explain why love is both suffering and essential for our happiness and mental health. Thirdly, we identify the major types of love and clarify which types are constructive and which are destructive. We also identify the key dimensions of true love. Finally, we emphasise that love does not always mean happiness; rather, it is meant to be a school to teach us important lessons and to make us complete. Therefore, we need to embrace suffering and at the same time cultivate the constructive types of love to improve our mental health and to make the world a more compassionate place."

Saturday, April 1, 2023

April Aphorisms


The most essential musical punctuation: the repeat sign:  :|