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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...

Saturday, March 30, 2024


 Suppose an alien civilization does archeology on us and tries to figure out what music is.  Suppose this civilization has culture of different kinds but does not have the sense of hearing. Biologically speaking, these creatures simply lack ears.  Intellectually, they can figure out that music has to do with vibrations of air perceived in a particular way, but they would not ever possess music experientially.  

They could develop theories. Some would see music as a branch of mathematics.  Others, as a system of cultural prestige or a strange adjunct to sexual selection.  There would be debates about what music is, with whole schools of thought standing in opposition to one another. There would the economic musicologists, the mathematical musicologists. The only thing there wouldn't be would be the musical musicologists.  

Until one day, a young scholar under the sway of the mathematicians wakes up one day with a kind of epiphany... Yet this person's theories can never be accepted: they are based on accepting as real something that everyone else agrees is a kind of phantom: sound itself. 

Berta García Faet

 I was reading this book by a new (to me) Spanish poet. She says at the very end that everything that Ben Lerner thinks about poetry (in the Hatred of Poetry) is the opposite of what she thinks. Ben's thesis is that people like the idea of poetry more than actual poems, which inevitably disappoint.  Nothing can live up to that Poetry with a capital P.  

So I'm assuming Berta like poetry lower case, as it actually is, more than big P Poetry.  I was thinking about this and I agree. It's not that all or most poetry is worthwhile, but that the worthwhile stuff really does surpass expectations. I'm not saying that Ben's idea is wrong: there could be people who never find poems that live up to what we want.  What I enjoy, though, is the hunt. 

Friday, March 22, 2024


 Another Vitale poem:


One plus one, we say. And think:

one apple plus one apple,

one glass plus one glass.

Always the same things. 

What a change it will be when

one plus one is a puritan 

plus a gamelan, 

a jasmine plus an Arab,

a nun plus a cliff,

a song plus a mask. 

a garrison plus a damsel (again)

one person's hope

plus another's dream. 

The epigraph is "horse and horseman are now two animals" JD García Bacca. 

The reference to garrisons and damsels is to Pablo Neruda's "Arte poético": Entre sueño y espacio, / entre guarniciones y doncellas."    


 Here's another one:

Three absurd sparrows

sing in the fog 

smelling like lemons.

The afternoon is empty 

of the sad human hustle

and bustle. 

Alone, the birdlike glory 

gives meaning, 

against everything, 

to the world.  

Ida Vitale


I took a stab at translating a poem by Vitale:


Fall, a dog 

with an affectionate, impertinent paw

shakes the leaves of books, 

demands we notice 

its fascinations 

shifting in vain from green

to gold to red to purple. 

Just as when, distracted,

you lose le mot juste


Friday, March 15, 2024


A friend in Spain shows me a book by Mariano Peyrou on how to read contemporary poetry. I open it up randomly and there is a discussion of the Red Wheelbarrow (in Spanish), then again, I see 13 maneras de ver un mirlo (in Spanish again).  I went back to buy the book, and it has Hejinian, and, in Spanish, poems by my favorite contemporary Spanish poets. I've never felt my "taste" more vindicated. I can open this book up randomly and there will be poem a have memorized, like Blake's Sick Rose.     

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Minor wins

 The Face ID on my phone wasn't working, neither was the phone charging well. I took some lint out of the charging hole with a. toothpick. I found a cell phone case shop and got the screen protector changed. Now I've been able to reactivate the face recognition, and the phone also charges perfectly.  

Useless knowledge

 Could someone map one's personal knowledge?  Imagining hundreds of thousands of separate items of information, with, for example, knowledge about everyday life, the origins of words, musical instruments, cooking techniques, the rules or scoring systems of various games. This knowledge would form a complex web in anybody's mind. Most of it is useless in any given circumstances. If I am not in Madrid then the internalized subway map of Madrid in my brain is not useful. When I am not watching tennis, my knowledge of tennis scoring is inert.  

How would you visualize the map of one's knowledge? In space: knowledge associated with particular places. In time. In thematic networks?  

There could be areas of doubt or outright mistakenness.  The biggest area would be unknowledge, areas where there is simply nothing: the grammar of a language I do not speak and have never studied.  

Monday, March 11, 2024

experiences not dreams but experienced as though they were

 1. In a store downtown selling pens, notebooks, and art supplies.  I see a friend, JR, I recognize her from the back and she turns around. We have a brief conversation. I see that that another friend of J's I also know, KG, is also there a few feet away. JR says, "I didn't know you drew."  I said, "I don't... well, I do, but that's not why I'm here." Then I wonder if these two women draw as well. 

II. I suffer from bad vision close up. I can read well in bright sunlight or large print, but some things defeat me, like dark blue letters printed on a lighter blue background, as on one the credit cards I have.  I had to pick up the keys to an air--n-b yesterday here in Madrid. There was a lock box with shiny metal letters in relief, reflecting light, and I had great difficulty discerning them. The light from the flashlight on my phone only made them worse. I had to turn one of the dials to a 1, and could only do that by finding the zero and then turning it one more notch. The process took me several minutes. This place was about a miles from my actual apartment; for some reason I had to go to two places in order to get into the place. 

III. In a bookstore, I saw a book of Lydia Davis's essay (in English). I was reading an essay about her revision of a story about a house besieged. She explained the origins of the story (in her own life) and presented two versions of it.  I immediately thought of Cortázar's "Casa tomada." I bought the newest novel by Menchu Gutiérrez (from that  samebookstore) and she talks there about Maupassant going crazy and imaging a dark presence taking over his house every time her leaves it. I don't buy the Davis essays because I have some of them already (on kindle app) and don't want to carry a heavy book home from Spain written in English. Surely, though, there is a motif of the "taken house" that is common to many writers. 

IV. It occurs to me that Lydia Davis and I have the same culture. She cites Ron Padgett and might like Borges and be interested in translation. There might be a 70% overlap, which is very high. Then I start to think in Spain, people I will see here, we might share another 70% (but not the exact 70%).  

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Drummer as bandleaders

 I was thinking, oh, not many drummers are bandleaders, after I saw "The Gene Krupa Story" recently.  Not a horrible movie though not A+ either. What saves it is that the drumming itself in the movie is done by Krupa himself. Anyway, then I thought well, there's Chick Webb, Art Blakey.  

Then it dawned on my that it is pretty common. Max Roach had several groups, including the best known one with Clifford Brown. Mel Lewis had a big band with Thad Jones. Buddy Rich had a big band. Roy Haynes has had quartets and larger groups. Tony Williams had excellent bands, and Elvin Jones had some groups post-Coltrane. Cindy Blackman...  etc... 

In short, almost every major drummer recorded under his or her own name at some point, leading a trio or larger group. It makes sense, in a way, because drummers are inherently conductors, in groups without a guy or gal standing in front with a baton. I guess bass players are not bandleaders as often.  Mingus stands out more. Ron Carter I'm sure has multiple albums under his own name, but we associate him more with being the most recorded bass players on everyone else's albums.  With the drummers, several of these groups were major, like those led by Lewis, Roach, and Blakey.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

5 k

 I ran a 5k on the weekend, with approximately 11 minute miles. I came in around the middle of the pack, below average for male and above average for the entire group. I came in second in my age group, which sounds less impressive when you add the information that there were only 5 of us in the 60-64 span! On the other hand, most men of this age group are not out there running at all. Doing it at all is the point, not how fast you can run. 

My personal record is below 30 minutes, so I am three minutes off of that.  My training was mostly in the gym running around the track, so I can improve by running outside and doing some hills, as I did yesterday. I might not ever match my pr achieved in my 50s, but that's fine. I might decide to do 10k runs.  I can run indefinitely far at a slow enough pace.  

Resting pulse is in 57-60 range.  

Monday, March 4, 2024

Dream of finishing High School

 In my dream I had been trying to finish High School.  (It seemed like my GED was no longer satisfying to me.)  I was in the choir and noticed that the duration of what we had to sing or recite was contrived, in order to occupy a fixed amount of time. I grew skeptical about whether I really needed to go back and do my senior year in High School.