Featured Post


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...

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Dream of Emily

 I was going to introduce a lecture on Emily D. by an eminent critic like Marjorie Perloff. The lines that were to be analyzed were "Tell the truth but tell it slant / Success in circuit lies."  In my dream the lines appeared exactly correct,  but there were other perhaps non Dickinson phrases in my mind as well.  

Thursday, October 26, 2023


 I played drums for years  but was never in a band. It was kind of pointless from one point of view. But I love drumming and drums, cymbals. I love the fact that drummers are obsessed with cymbals and snare sounds. The sound of a good Zildjian Constantinople  is just divine, even though you might not be able to hear it in context, always. 

I am also rhythmically obsessed, and learned complex polyrhythms, like five against four. It is part of my ear-worm / prosody obsession. Neurologically, I am just wired that way. 

Also, just the ability to play bass drum with right foot, high hat with left, ride cymbal with right hand, and snare and toms with left, well, it is just a cool thing to do.  


 My father and I were driving to get some Dim Sum. I realized that he was dead (more than 20 years) and was worried about his driving, but he seemed to be doing fine. I had confidence in him. I suspected it was a dream, so I felt safe. We got to the restaurant and there weren't that many places to sit. We were at some kind of bench without a real table there.  

Tuesday, October 24, 2023


Haiku are not measured in syllables, but in morae. For example, a long syllable counts as 2 morae, or a consonantal ending (n). It is really a quantitative meter, not a syllabic one. 

Japanese words tend to be polysyllabic, so there's that too. And the syllables are typically lighter being consonant vowel, consonant vowel.  

What this means is that the 17 syllable haiku in English has zero to do with Japanese haiku, prosodically speaking. 

Of course, it could work on its own terms, though generally syllabic forms don't work very well in English, because nobody can hear seven syllables in English.  

Monday, October 23, 2023


 A moth landed

on the wine bottle

doing no harm

Another version of outline


1. Lorca the musical intellectual 

2. Lorca and Flamenco (I):  1921-1931

3. Canciones españolas antiguas 

[this will include a tradition of Spanish vernacular art song] 

4. Germaine Montero

5. Singer-songwriters

6. Lorca and Flamenco (II): From Camarón to Poveda

Conclusion: Postmodernism and Middle-brow culture 

Dream of home movie

 We were watching a dvd and at the end we found an old home movie, that began with me as a kid making a spectacular prat-fall on the front porch of a house. Other family members came to comfort me in a theatrical way. I decided it must have been some play I had written and convinced my family to film. My mom did not appear so I thought she must have been the one filming.  Toward the end, my father appeared in a Victorian costume, with a top hat.  Then there was a scene with my baby brother. 

I took a lot of convincing myself that it was a dream. I analyzed it quite a a bit while half asleep.  

Monday, October 16, 2023

The one I love

 The one I love

appears to my in my dreams

disguised as herself

A poem

 From the back deck

of my girlfriend's house

I heard a distant drummer

amid the traffic noise

on October 16th

in the evening 

(she was on a trip to Japan) 

I didn't investigate 

I'd had some wine

and a dog and cat to take care of 

New Book outline

 1, Intro

2. Lorca the musical intellectual 

3. Lorca and Flamenco (I):  1921-1931

4. Canciones españolas 

5. Germaine Montero

6. Singer-songwriters

7. Lorca and Flamenco (II): From Camarón to Poveda

8. Conclusion: Postmodernism and Middle-brow culture 

The new title would be Lorca, Flamenco, and Popular Song 

The idea is to leave the classical legacy for another book, or maybe even another scholar.  I don't mind writing a shorter book. The real story here is the vernacular. Writing about all the operas and ballets would be marvelous, but I'm only one guy.  

I had a line about a medium size book about a vast topic. Now it will be a medium short book about a vast topic. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2023


301. Manifest and Furthermore. William Bronk (1987).

I was just reading Proust and I came across this: "The way Swann, his whole life, loved / Odette and she was not even his type, is the way / contrarily, we each of use have, / in spite of natural inclinations, our lives. / We trust the tact of others because we know / they know and won't speak of it. Things are far / more complicated than we say they are."

North Point Press in San Francisco became Bronk's publisher and put many books of his during this period. You could argue that the poem I have cited is not a very good one. You would be right, but maybe Bronk had to write a lot of poems like this, trying out ideas in various forms, and only once in a while hitting the mark completely. I can still love the tone of voice here without defending it as a small lyric gem. It is like talking with an old friend. 


Exponential dream

 I dreamt of exponents, making sums of large numbers, so large that they could only be easily written as 5 to the 1,000th power, etc...  (I had been doing some random algebra problem in waking life, ones I saw on Facebook that had exponents. I am not strong in mathematics, so it felt a little like stretching my brain.)  

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Own Face

301. Own Face. Clark Coolidge (1978, 1993).  

This is one of my favorites. I bought it in Columbus, Ohio, at a bookstore on High St. across from campus, where they had language poetry books. I marked the poems I liked most, and with two check marks for the absolute best ones. 


Baffling Means

 300. Baffling Means. Clark Coolidge / Philip Guston (1991)

This came out several years after its creation (1972-6). 

Here's another collector's item. I guess would have searched on Abe's Books and paid whatever the asking price was. It has drawings by Philip Guston, as you can see, in Guston's late, cartoonish phase that just makes me laugh with surprise. They seem perfectly complementary to Coolidge's sensibility: 

"Baffling means because we wouldn't know what we'd get. 'Who wants that?," waving his hand toward a window, and you can't have that anyway.'"

Monday, October 9, 2023


 Le premier dîner que M. de Norpois fit à la maison, une année où je jouais encore aux Champs-Élysées, est resté dans ma mémoire, parce que l’après-midi de ce même jour fut celui où j’allai enfin entendre la Berma, en « matinée », dans Phèdre, et aussi parce qu’en causant avec M. de Norpois je me rendis compte tout d’un coup, et d’une façon nouvelle, combien les sentiments éveillés en moi par tout ce qui concernait Gilberte Swann et ses parents différaient de ceux que cette même famille faisait éprouver à n’importe quelle autre personne.

Proust, Marcel. À la recherche du temps perdu: (complète) (French Edition) (pp. 515-516). BZ editores. Kindle Edition. 

We get a lot of explanation about Norpois, Cottard, and Swann before finally getting to the point. The narrator has effaced his own emotions until now, when we realize that Marcel has a particularly emotional relation to Gilberte (Swann's daughter) and the whole family, than everyone else. He associates with seeing Sarah Bernhardt perform Racine's Phèdre in a matinee performance (perhaps one suitable for children). 

My languages

 High School French.

Then, in college 

Spanish 1 (Summer 1977) (I was 16!)

Spanish 2 (Fall 77)

Spanish 3 (Winter 78)

Spanish 27A: Forms Hispanic Lit (Spring 78)

Summer 78: Latin Workshop (UCB)

Spanish 5: (Fall 78)

Catullus: (Fall 78)

Spanish 28: Composition (Winter 79)

Spanish 9: conversation (Winter 79)

Spanish 128: Modern Prose (Spring 79)

Junior year abroad program (79-80) 

German 1-2 (Summer 1980)

Silver Age Latin (Fall 1980) 

French 4 (Fall 1980)

French 6 (Winter 1980)

German 3 (Winter 1981)

French 119: 19th century (Spring 1981) 

German 4: (Spring 1981)

Summer 1981: Greek Workshop (UCB)

It's no wonder my German and my Greek suck!  


Proust and LaRochefoucauld

Mais la principale raison, et celle-là applicable à l’humanité en général, était que nos vertus elles-mêmes ne sont pas quelque chose de libre, de flottant, de quoi nous gardions la disponibilité permanente ; elles finissent par s’associer si étroitement dans notre esprit avec les actions à l’occasion desquelles nous nous sommes fait un devoir de les exercer, que si surgit pour nous une activité d’un autre ordre, elle nous prend au dépourvu et sans que nous ayons seulement l’idée qu’elle pourrait comporter la mise en œuvre de ces mêmes vertus.

Proust, Marcel. À la recherche du temps perdu: (complète) (French Edition) (p. 508). BZ editores. Kindle Edition. 

This seems to be a reflection worthy of a maxim of LaRochefoucauld, but expressed in a long-winded Proustian way. Our virtues are contextual, associated with certain situations; we cannot access them in other contexts. In other situations, we find ourself unprepared (au dépourvu).  

Creeley, 30 Things

299. Thirty Things. Robert Creeley (1974)

Here is a nice collector's item. It has monoprints by Bobbie, Creeley's second wife. Noting this I realize I don't know what a monoprint is. I bought this at the Strand in NYC for $50.  This is number 13 of 250 copies.  The poems feel slight, but in a deceptive, Creeleyesque way:   

A Loop




anyone does

Saturday, October 7, 2023


 Crews's book on Freud, Freud, The Making of an Illusion, is super tedious. I agree with his anti-Freudian bias, mostly from previous books by Crews himself, but the endless slog of mendacious, self-serving actions by the young, incompetent "genius" is almost too much to bear. I'm only up to 44% of the book. 

His previous work had a sparkling wit and concision to it. This book just goes on and on.  

Still, if you need ammunition to refute your Freudian friends, here it is.  I am puzzled that people are now claiming psychoanalysis is having a "moment."   

Friday, October 6, 2023

Weak broth

"I’d like to think I’m psychoanalytically minded enough to say that, insofar as the idea of psychoanalysis is having a moment, what we make make of this is more important than any correct sense of its import as a theory or a practice, and in that way, I say keep tweeting."

This is an interesting tweet, because of how vaguely worded and weak it is, as though, to say, I don't care whether psychoanalysis is true or not, just as long as it gets to have its moment.

Thursday, October 5, 2023


 Richard Coe was one of my favorites. I took a class on romanticism from him in French. I had previously taken a course on the autobiography of childhood, on which Coe later wrote a brilliant book. 

He criticized my first paper in French, because of the grammatical mistakes. You want to be a scholar, was his tone, you have to have the grammar down.  I never forgot that. 

I remember what I wrote for the autobiography class. It was on how poets writing their autobiographies present the experience of writing their first poem. My idea was this: if they had a condescending attitude toward this experience, they would include the text of the poem. If they presented the experience in idealized terms, then they wouldn't, because the text itself would detract from the idealization. 

I know I talked about Speak, Memory, by Nabokov, who I think idealizes the experience. I could recreate a lit the other books from the course by reading Coe's book.  

He liked my paper.  

Modern Drama

Ruby Cohn was a comp lit prof at UCD where I studied, a prolific expert in Samuel Beckett. In the modern drama class she had us write a paper in three parts. Choosing a theme, and then studying in three different plays. I found that method uncreative. When I heard her give a lecture, I noticed that that was how she worked. She talked about how dramatists portrayed academics and intellectuals, and gave examples from multiple plays.  It was a good lecture, though at the time I kind of thought of her as having a mediocre mind. (Arrogance of youth.) 

I remember how we went from Ibsen to Strindberg. We ended up with Beckett (Godot) and Ionescu, who at the point were still alive. I knew Ionescu in High School from the bald soprano, which we read in French class. 

She corrected me when I said the rhinoceros was absurdist: it was a denunciation of totalitarian conformity. I'm not sure what was between Strindberg and Beckett. I don't remember reading Shaw or Yeats in that class. It wouldn't have been Lorca because I would have remembered that.  

I remember the enemy of the people and the concept of the "well-made play." The course was excellent, in retrospect, because I still remember it today. 



 Ma mère, quand il fut question d’avoir pour la première fois M. de Norpois à dîner, ayant exprimé le regret que le Professeur Cottard fût en voyage et qu’elle-même eût entièrement cessé de fréquenter Swann, car l’un et l’autre eussent sans doute intéressé l’ancien ambassadeur, mon père répondit qu’un convive éminent, un savant illustre, comme Cottard, ne pouvait jamais mal faire dans un dîner, mais que Swann, avec son ostentation, avec sa manière de crier sur les toits ses moindres relations, était un vulgaire esbroufeur que le Marquis de Norpois eût sans doute trouvé, selon son expression, « puant ». Or cette réponse de mon père demande quelques mots d’explication, certaines personnes se souvenant peut-être d’un Cottard bien médiocre et d’un Swann poussant jusqu’à la plus extrême délicatesse, en matière mondaine, la modestie et la discrétion. Mais pour ce qui regarde celui-ci, il était arrivé qu’au « fils Swann » et aussi au Swann du Jockey, l’ancien ami de mes parents avait ajouté une personnalité nouvelle (et qui ne devait pas être la dernière), celle de mari d’Odette.

Proust, Marcel. À la recherche du temps perdu: (complète) (French Edition) (p. 507). BZ editores. Kindle Edition. 

I'm sure I'll never finish Proust. I decided to start with the 2nd volume, since I've started the first many times, and maybe read most of it without ever reading from cover to cover. The words I didn't know here are "esbroufeur" "puant" "poussant"*.  Here we see that Swann, the elegant man of the world, has lowered himself by marrying Odette. Thus his previous existence as the perfect dinner guest has disappeared. Cottard, previously a mediocrity, projects the illusion of being an illustrious savant in comparison to the now lowered Swann. Norpois is apparently a former diplomat, someone that Marcel's family needs to impress. 

I'll never finish because it is just so exquisite that I have to savor each sentence, but at the same time I tend to get lost and need to go back several pages. Here the relative social position of two people have changed, and the young Marcel is observing that from his parents. Swann has had at least two previous personalities and will have more still.   

*esbrofeur is a kind of braggart or show off. Puant is smelly or pretentious. I'm not sure if poussant is forceful or a misprint of puissant, or powerful. 


I saw a twitter thread by Joyce Carol Oates and she was talking about how Woolf compared Joyce negatively to Proust. Then I remembered that she had a similar feeling of condescension to D.H. Lawrence. I found a passage where she uses Proust against Lawrence too, in very similar terms. It is the upper class (Woolf, Proust) vs. the working class (Joyce, Lawrence). The British Isles produced four great modernist prose writers, if we include Beckett, the late modernist. There are no great British modernist poets, only Yeats from Ireland. Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett outnumber Lawrence and Woolf, who didn't even like each other. Eliot, the American, became the British modernist by self-identification.  

Wednesday, October 4, 2023


 I've been fascinated for a long time by the question of how we know what we know, or what makes us believe that we know something with any degree of certainty. I think it started by reading my dad's NYRB when I was a kid. I would see a book review, then the author's response, and the reviewer's response to that. How do we decide who is right? 

With the Maura Dykstra book on Chinese bureaucracy, I do not know for a fact that she is full of s***. I don't read Chinese. The two book reviews make the same kind of argument with the same kind of evidence. If they are truly independent of each other, then it is likely that they are correct. The idea of a "revolution" that was unnoticed at the time and also invisible to historians until now seems implausible. 

I am also interested in whether people sincerely hold the beliefs they claim, and in various forms of cognitive bias and cognitive dissonance. For example, I know that Nebraska is to the North of Kansas. If you claimed I was wrong, but still drove North, not South, to get to Nebraska to Kansas, your behavior would bely your claim. 

A theological belief would seem to be different from a belief in the relative positions of two states on a map. People do not "testify" (or ritually repeat a belief) unless it is a questionable one. We do not send a message about our moral goodness by stating facts.   

This obsession of mine arise long before the replication crisis in the social sciences.  

A reading of Wittgenstein's On Certainty helped me to define my own positions. He points out that we cannot question everything. There is a bedrock. We assume the truth of propositions like humans have been living on earth for thousands of years. 

As a humanist, I have two sorts of things that I can do. I can work empirically, trying to establish facts. And I can tell quasi-fictional stories about literary history, plausible to other people who share a knowledge of the context of this history. 

Dykstra's story is a kind of novel: a vast bureaucracy for tracking provincial malfeasance accumulated so much paperwork that it led to a loss of self-confidence in that very same bureaucracy, producing paralysis and failure. It's a clever idea, but according to those two reviews, unsupported by primary or secondary sources. 

Sunday, October 1, 2023

 Most savage ever book review?  Or this other one of the same book.