GETTING LUCKY

29 05 2009

(No, not that way!)

I grew up in the 1950s and ’60s in a family that always had minimal cash flow, and never had more than $1000 in the bank. My mom and dad owned a series of classic “ma and pa”  stores. (You know, the old precursors to 7-11 where the people who served you were the actual owners of the store?) Our living quarters were usually attached to the store. Both store and living area were usually poorly made. In fact, two of the places where we lived and worked had been constructed personally by the original owners — classic jackleg carpenters, I presume, judging from the strange floor plans and crazy walls. Needless to say, none of those places were pretty.

Jump ahead about 30 years.

It was 1997 and I had just turned 50 and actually had a bit of money in hand due to having practiced law for a while in a small way.  I was not married and didn’t expect to be, and it came to me that, to provide for my future, the best way to use my limited fund of capital, while I had it, was to find a way to live in it for life! So I went looking for a small house in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where I’ve lived since 1981.

I looked at some real dumps! Then one day I saw in the real estate section of the newspaper a dark little picture of a modest gingerbread-fronted house in downtown Baton Rouge. For other reasons too detailed to go into here, I had earlier studied downtown and come to love it, so I bought the house and fixed it up. It’s something you find a lot of in South Louisiana — a “shotgun house”. I.e., all the rooms are in a row, so if you stood in the front door you could fire a shotgun from the front of the house all the way to the back without hitting an intervening wall.  Such houses were where poor people often ended up. Nevertheless, this particular house was well-made and had a charm for me that even now I can’t define. As I later learned, it had been built in 1927.

I still live in that house 12 years later. My house is  tiny, only about 675 square feet. It’s a one-person house! I still love it as much as I ever did, and I still don’t know why.

Despite being rather cramped, it is my opinion that I have ended up in a very nice situation indeed. Essentially, I live in a unique downtown neighborhood that has the look of a traditional tree-canopied small southern town. The streets are narrow and have so little traffic that even the littleist neighborhood kids routinely ride their bikes  in the middle of them. The houses are clapboard, pier-and-beam construction — not a ranch-style house in the bunch! Instead there are lots of bungalows, and other wooden house styles* that you would instantly recognize if you saw them. Most are standard Southern styles from before 1950, so familiar from my early childhood that they are  like the faces of old friends to me. The neighborhood even has a name — Beauregard Town*. It was originally laid out back in the 1806, for goodness sake! Mine is the only shotgun house in it.

This pretty, small Southern town is in turn situated in the center of what I consider to be a howling wilderness of standard, traffic-ridden American urban sprawl. The Baton Rouge metropolitan area has a population of over 700,000. Yet this little town-within-a-city I inhabit is not much bigger than tiny Overton, Texas, where I was born and spent my early childhood.

This place is so restful, and so insulated from the surrounding car-dominated city, that it makes my lifelong dislike of driving bearable. It also, incidentally, makes me happy every morning when the weather’s nice and I sit on my front porch and listen to the birds singing and look out at the neat clapboard houses of my neighbors nestled among the trees.

And sometimes even say “Hi” to my neighbors as they walk by!

Beauregard Town was gentrified in the early 2000s, so all the decaying houses were fixed up, but it was not so gentrified as to drive out all the long-time Black residents, or to bring in snooty people who are actually rich. The houses are just too small for them. It remains a mixed area where the two races get along.

On top of all this, the place where I work is within walking distance!

I love this place. Everyone gets a few really lucky breaks in his life. Finding this house was one of mine.

________________________________________________________________

*See Beauregard Town Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beauregard_Town

And here you can see some photos I took of downtown Baton Rouge:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/plinytheyounger/sets/72157608814957159/

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AN EXERCISE IN VITUPERATION

25 05 2009

I used to spend thousands of dollars a year collecting things on eBay. No more! Here’s why, in a post I made yesterday to that awful place’s awful blog where they tell us what awful things they’re going to do to sellers next:

“As a long-time buyer on eBay I was recently drawn back briefly for a class of things likely to be here. They were. I’ve got them and gone.

Unfortunately, I stopped to take a look at the eBay-as-a-business sites. Wish I hadn’t!

EBay is a place I learned to love 8 years ago because it transparently transmitted the offerings of ACTUAL HUMANS to me, allowing me to buy neat things I loved from such persons. How I loved recreating the person-to-person retail model of a generation ago, using up-to-the minute technology!

Best of all, I was bypassing the immense faceless corporations that over that same generation have turned brick-and-mortar retail into an exercise in encountering sullenness, because the workers there are now mostly paid minimum wage or near it.

No more! EBay is now just another huge faceless corporation full of eager management bees blathering about “metrics” and “enhancing the buyer experience” ad nauseum, and then turning back happily to their real job of screwing* small sellers.

It turns my stomach. I’m outa here!”

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*I am going to tell you what that screwing consists in. Not now. In a later post. I swear to God. I’m too mad now.





REVOLUTION NEVER COMES WITH A WARNING

24 05 2009

LLLLLLLLLLLL

by Michael Franti and Spearhead

Here’s the YouTube video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1gIOqJzCDw

(which takes this very strong rap and visualizes it perfectly. But don’t watch it if you’re a right winger!)

Now the Lyrics:

A revolution never come with a warning

A revolution never sends you an omen

A revolution just arrive like the morning

Ring the alarm we come to wake up the snoring

They tellin’ you to never worry about the future

They tellin’ you to never worry about the torture

They tellin’ you that you’ll never see the horror

Spend it all today and we will bill you tomorrow

Three piece suits and bank accounts in Bahamas

Wall street crime will never send you to the slammer

Tell all the children in the arms of their mammas

The F-15 is a homicidal bomber

TV commercials for a popping pill culture

Drug companies circling like a vulture

An Iraqi baby with a G.I. Joe father

Ten years from now is anybody gonna bother?

Yell Fire, yo, yo, yo

Here we come here we come

Fire, yo, yo , yo, yo

Revolution a comin’

Fire, yo, yo, yo, yo

Fire, yo, yo, yo, yo

Everyone addicted to the same nicotine

Everyone addicted to the same gasoline

Everyone addicted to a Technicolor screen

Everybody tryin’ to get their hands on the same green

From the banks of the river to the banks of the greedy

All of the riches taken back by the needy

We come from the country and we come from the city

You play us on the record, you can play us on the CD

All the shit you’ve given us is fertilizer

The seeds that we planted you can never brutalize them

Tell the corporation they can never globalize it

Like Peter Tosh said Legalize it

Girls and boys hear the bass and treble

Rumble in the speakers and it make you wanna rebel

Throw your hands up, take it to another level

And you can never, ever, ever make a deal with the devil

Yell Fire, yo, yo, yo

Here we come here we come

Fire, yo, yo, yo, yo

Revolution a comin’

Fire, yo, yo, yo, yo

Fire, yo, yo, yo, yo

Kind of reminds me of Alan Ginsberg’s poem Howl! Or the leftest ferment of the 1960s. But none of that did any good. Nothing changes. Did the serfs ever manage to revolt against the feudal lords?





PASSION IS ETERNAL

23 05 2009

“Thou art my heaven, and I thine eremite.”

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that the people of the past felt as we do. They are forgotten or, if they were illustrious, they are frozen forever in books, as finished and dry as butterflies pinned in kids’ collections.

But they did — each generation of them. And one of them above all has the power to reach forward in time and speak to us of the longing and joy and danger of desire. Anyway, he certainly was able to reach me back when I was in college.

(Wikipedia says that “The Eve of Saint Agnes” has been one of Keats’s best-loved poems over the years. For people of today it may take a little effort to get into the poetic language of 200 years ago. In this case I think it’s worth it.)

The Eve of Saint Agnes,

by John Keats

http://englishhistory.net/keats/poetry/eveofstagnes.html(It takes a little effort to get into the poetic language of 200 years ago. In this case I think it’s worth it.)

St Agnes was a Roman virgin and martyr during the reign of Diocletian (early 4th century.)  At first condemned to debauchery in a public brothel before her execution, her virginity was preserved by thunder and lightning from Heaven.  Eight days after her execution, her parents visited her tomb and were greeted by a chorus of angels, including Agnes herself, with a white lamb at her side.

John Keats was born in England in 1795 and died of tuberculosis in 1821. Keats wrote The Eve of St Agnes during the last half of January 1819, when he was just 24, so he was young enough to know a bit about passion.  Perhaps Keats was partially inspired by the calendar in writing this poem — St Agnes’s feast is celebrated on 21 January.  He revised the work in September; it was first published in 1820.

On the eve of St Agnes’s feast day (20 January), virgins used divinations to ‘discover’ their future husbands.  As Keats writes:  ‘[U]pon St Agnes’ Eve, / Young virgins might have visions of delight, / And soft adorings from their loves receive’.  The poem tells the story of Madeline and her lover Porphyro.  It is one of Keats’s best-loved works.  It also inspired numerous pre-Raphaelite paintings.


St Agnes’ Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold:
Numb were the Beadsman’s fingers, while he told
His rosary, and while his frosted breath,
Like pious incense from a censer old,
Seem’d taking flight for heaven, without a death,
Past the sweet Virgin’s picture, while his prayer he saith.

His prayer he saith, this patient, holy man;
Then takes his lamp, and riseth from his knees,
And back returneth, meagre, barefoot, wan,
Along the chapel aisle by slow degrees:
The sculptur’d dead, on each side, seem to freeze,
Emprison’d in black, purgatorial rails:
Knights, ladies, praying in dumb orat’ries,
He passeth by; and his weak spirit fails
To think how they may ache in icy hoods and mails.

Northward he turneth through a little door,
And scarce three steps, ere Music’s golden tongue
Flatter’d to tears this aged man and poor;
But no—already had his deathbell rung
The joys of all his life were said and sung:
His was harsh penance on St. Agnes’ Eve:
Another way he went, and soon among
Rough ashes sat he for his soul’s reprieve,
And all night kept awake, for sinners’ sake to grieve.

That ancient Beadsman heard the prelude soft;
And so it chanc’d, for many a door was wide,
From hurry to and fro. Soon, up aloft,
The silver, snarling trumpets ‘gan to chide:
The level chambers, ready with their pride,
Were glowing to receive a thousand guests:
The carved angels, ever eager-eyed,
Star’d, where upon their heads the cornice rests,
With hair blown back, and wings put cross-wise on their breasts.

At length burst in the argent revelry,
With plume, tiara, and all rich array,
Numerous as shadows haunting fairily
The brain, new-stuff’d, in youth, with triumphs gay
Of old romance. These let us wish away,
And turn, sole-thoughted, to one lady there,
Whose heart had brooded, all that wintry day,
On love, and wing’d St Agnes’ saintly care,
As she had heard old dames full rnany times declare.

They told her how, upon St Agnes’ Eve,
Young virgins might have visions of delight,
And soft adorings from their loves receive
Upon the honey’d middle of the night,
If ceremonies due they did aright;
As, supperless to bed they must retire,
And couch supine their beauties, lily white;
Nor look behind, nor sideways, but require
Of Heaven with upward eyes for all that they desire.

Full of this whim was thoughtful Madeline:
The music, yearning like a God in pain,
She scarcely heard: her maiden eyes divine,
Fix’d on the floor, saw many a sweeping train
Pass by—she heeded not at all: in vain
Came many a tiptoe, amorous cavalier,
And back retir’d; not cool’d by high disdain,
But she saw not: her heart was otherwhere;
She sigh’d for Agnes’ dreams, the sweetest of the year.

She danc’d along with vague, regardless eyes,
Anxious her lips, her breathing quick and short:
The hallow’d hour was near at hand: she sighs
Amid the timbrels, and the throng’d resort
Of whisperers in anger, or in sport;
‘Mid looks of love, defiance, hate, and scorn,
Hoodwink’d with faery fancy; all amort,
Save to St Agnes and her lambs unshorn,
And all the bliss to be before to-morrow morn.

So, purposing each moment to retire,
She linger’d still. Meantime, across the moors,
Had come young Porphyro, with heart on fire
For Madeline. Beside the portal doors,
Buttress’d from moonlight, stands he, and implores
All saints to give him sight of Madeline,
But for one moment in the tedious hours,
That he might gaze and worship all unseen;
Perchance speak, kneel, touch, kiss—in sooth such things have been.

He ventures in: let no buzz’d whisper tell:
All eyes be muffled, or a hundred swords
Will storm his heart, Love’s fev’rous citadel:
For him, those chambers held barbarian hordes,
Hyena foemen, and hot-blooded lords,
Whose very dogs would execrations howl
Against his lineage: not one breast affords
Him any mercy, in that mansion foul,
Save one old beldame, weak in body and in soul.

Ah, happy chance! the aged creature came,
Shuffling along with ivory-headed wand,
To where he stood, hid from the torch’s flame,
Behind a broad hall-pillar, far beyond
The sound of merriment and chorus bland.
He startled her; but soon she knew his face,
And grasp’d his fingers in her palsied hand,
Saying, “Mercy, Porphyro! hie thee from this place;
“They are all here to-night, the whole blood-thirsty race!

“Get hence! get hence! there’s dwarfish Hildebrand;
He had a fever late, and in the fit
He cursed thee and thine, both house and land:
Then there’s that old Lord Maurice, not a whit
More tame for his gray hairs—Alas me! flit!
Flit like a ghost away.”—“Ah, gossip dear,
We’re safe enough; here in this arm-chair sit,
And tell me how”—“Good saints! not here, not here;
Follow me, child, or else these stones will be thy bier.”

He follow’d through a lowly arched way,
Brushing the cobwebs with his lofty plume,
And as she mutter’d “Well-a—well-a-day!”
He found him in a little moonlight room,
Pale, lattic’d, chill, and silent as a tomb.
“Now tell me where is Madeline”, said he,
“O tell me, Angela, by the holy loom
Which none but secret sisterhood may see,
“When they St Agnes’ wool are weaving piously.”

“St Agnes! Ah! it is St Agnes’ Eve—
Yet men will murder upon holy days:
Thou must hold water in a witch’s sieve,
And be liege-lord of all the Elves and Fays
To venture so: it fills me with amaze
To see thee, Porphyro!—St Agnes’ Eve!
God’s help! my lady fair the conjuror plays
This very night: good angels her deceive!
But let me laugh awhile, I’ve mickle time to grieve.”

Feebly she laugheth in the languid moon,
While Porphyro upon her face doth look,
Like puzzled urchin on an aged crone
Who keepeth clos’d a wondrous riddle-book,
As spectacled she sits in chimney nook.
But soon his eyes grew brilliant, when she told
His lady’s purpose; and he scarce could brook
Tears, at the thought of those enchantments cold
And Madeline asleep in lap of legends old.

Sudden a thought came like a full-blown rose,
Flushing his brow, and in his pained heart
Made purple riot: then doth he propose
A stratagem, that makes the beldame start:
“A cruel man and impious thou art:
Sweet lady, let her pray, and sleep, and dream
Alone with her good angels, far apart
From wicked men like thee. Go, go!—I deem
Thou canst not surely be the same that thou didst seem.”

“I will not harm her, by all saints I swear,”
Quoth Porphyro: “O may I ne’er find grace
When my weak voice shall whisper its last prayer,
If one of her soft ringlets I displace,
Or look with ruffian passion in her face:
Good Angela, believe me by these tears;
Or I will, even in a moment’s space,
Awake, with horrid shout, my foemen’s ears,
And beard them, though they be more fang’d than wolves and bears.”

“Ah! why wilt thou affright a feeble soul?
A poor, weak, palsy-stricken, churchyard thing,
Whose passing-bell may ere the midnight toll;
Whose prayers for thee, each morn and evening,
Were never miss’d.” Thus plaining, doth she bring
A gentler speech from burning Porphyro;
So woeful, and of such deep sorrowing,
That Angela gives promise she will do
Whatever he shall wish, betide her weal or woe.

Which was, to lead him, in close secrecy,
Even to Madeline’s chamber, and there hide
Him in a closet, of such privacy
That he might see her beauty unespied,
And win perhaps that night a peerless bride,
While legion’d fairies pac’d the coverlet,
And pale enchantment held her sleepy-eyed.
Never on such a night have lovers met,
Since Merlin paid his Demon all the monstrous debt.

“It shall be as thou wishest,” said the Dame:
“All cates and dainties shall be stored there
Quickly on this feast-night: by the tambour frame
Her own lute thou wilt see: no time to spare,
For I am slow and feeble, and scarce dare
On such a catering trust my dizzy head.
Wait here, my child, with patience; kneel in prayer
The while: Ah! thou must needs the lady wed,
Or may I never leave my grave among the dead.”

So saying, she hobbled off with busy fear.
The lover’s endless minutes slowly pass’d;
The Dame return’d, and whisper’d in his ear
To follow her; with aged eyes aghast
From fright of dim espial. Safe at last
Through many a dusky gallery, they gain
The maiden’s chamber, silken, hush’d and chaste;
Where Porphyro took covert, pleas’d amain.
His poor guide hurried back with agues in her brain.

Her falt’ring hand upon the balustrade,
Old Angela was feeling for the stair,
When Madeline, St Agnes’ charmed maid,
Rose, like a mission’d spirit, unaware:
With silver taper’s light, and pious care,
She turn’d, and down the aged gossip led
To a safe level matting.  Now prepare,
Young Porphyro, for gazing on that bed;
She comes, she comes again, like dove fray’d and fled.

Out went the taper as she hurried in;
Its little smoke, in pallid moonshine, died:
She closed the door, she panted, all akin
To spirits of the air, and visions wide:
No utter’d syllable, or, woe betide!
But to her heart, her heart was voluble,
Paining with eloquence her balmy side;
As though a tongueless nightingale should swell
Her throat in vain, and die, heart-stifled, in her dell.

A casement high and triple-arch’d there was,
All garlanded with carven imag’ries
Of fruits, and flowers, and bunches of knot-grass,
And diamonded with panes of quaint device,
Innumerable of stains and splendid dyes,
As are the tiger-moth’s deep-damask’d wings;
And in the midst, ‘mong thousand heraldries,
And twilight saints, and dim emblazonings,
A shielded scutcheon blush’d with blood of queens and kings.

Full on this casement shone the wintry moon,
And threw warm gules on Madeline’s fair breast,
As down she knelt for heaven’s grace and boon;
Rose-bloom fell on her hands, together prest,
And on her silver cross soft amethyst,
And on her hair a glory, like a saint:
She seem’d a splendid angel, newly drest,
Save wings, for heaven:—Porphyro grew faint:
She knelt, so pure a thing, so free from mortal taint.

Anon his heart revives: her vespers done,
Of all its wreathed pearls her hair she frees;
Unclasps her warmed jewels one by one;
Loosens her fragrant bodice; by degrees
Her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees:
Half-hidden, like a mermaid in sea-weed,
Pensive awhile she dreams awake, and sees,
In fancy, fair St Agnes in her bed,
But dares not look behind, or all the charm is fled.

Soon, trembling in her soft and chilly nest,
In sort of wakeful swoon, perplex’d she lay,
Until the poppied warmth of sleep oppress’d
Her soothed limbs, and soul fatigued away;
Flown, like a thought, until the morrow-day;
Blissfully haven’d both from joy and pain;
Clasp’d like a missal where swart Paynims pray;
Blinded alike from sunshine and from rain,
As though a rose should shut, and be a bud again.

Stol’n to this paradise, and so entranced,
Porphyro gazed upon her empty dress,
And listen’d to her breathing, if it chanced
To wake into a slumbrous tenderness;
Which when he heard, that minute did he bless,
And breath’d himself: then from the closet crept,
Noiseless as fear in a wide wilderness,
And over the hush’d carpet, silent, stept,
And ‘tween the curtains peep’d, where, lo!—how fast she slept!

Then by the bed-side, where the faded moon
Made a dim, silver twilight, soft he set
A table, and, half anguish’d, threw thereon
A doth of woven crimson, gold, and jet:—
O for some drowsy Morphean amulet!
The boisterous, midnight, festive clarion,
The kettle-drum, and far-heard clarinet,
Affray his ears, though but in dying tone:—
The hall door shuts again, and all the noise is gone.

And still she slept an azure-lidded sleep,
In blanched linen, smooth, and lavender’d,
While he from forth the closet brought a heap
Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd
With jellies soother than the creamy curd,
And lucent syrops, tinct with cinnamon;
Manna and dates, in argosy transferr’d
From Fez; and spiced dainties, every one,
From silken Samarcand to cedar’d Lebanon.

These delicates he heap’d with glowing hand
On golden dishes and in baskets bright
Of wreathed silver: sumptuous they stand
In the retired quiet of the night,
Filling the chilly room with perfume light.—
“And now, my love, my seraph fair, awake!
Thou art my heaven, and I thine eremite:
Open thine eyes, for meek St Agnes’ sake,
Or I shall drowse beside thee, so my soul doth ache.”

Thus whispering, his warm, unnerved arm
Sank in her pillow. Shaded was her dream
By the dusk curtains:—’twas a midnight charm
Impossible to melt as iced stream:
The lustrous salvers in the moonlight gleam;
Broad golden fringe upon the carpet lies:
It seem’d he never, never could redeem
From such a stedfast spell his lady’s eyes;
So mus’d awhile, entoil’d in woofed phantasies.

Awakening up, he took her hollow lute,—
Tumultuous,—and, in chords that tenderest be,
He play’d an ancient ditty, long since mute,
In Provence call’d, “La belle dame sans mercy:”
Close to her ear touching the melody:—
Wherewith disturb’d, she utter’d a soft moan:
He ceased—she panted quick—and suddenly
Her blue affrayed eyes wide open shone:
Upon his knees he sank, pale as smooth-sculptured stone.

Her eyes were open, but she still beheld,
Now wide awake, the vision of her sleep:
There was a painful change, that nigh expell’d
The blisses of her dream so pure and deep,
At which fair Madeline began to weep,
And moan forth witless words with many a sigh;
While still her gaze on Porphyro would keep;
Who knelt, with joined hands and piteous eye,
Fearing to move or speak, she look’d so dreamingly.

“Ah, Porphyro!” said she, “but even now
Thy voice was at sweet tremble in mine ear,
Made tuneable with every sweetest vow;
And those sad eyes were spiritual and clear:
How chang’d thou art! how pallid, chill, and drear!
Give me that voice again, my Porphyro,
Those looks immortal, those complainings dear!
Oh leave me not in this eternal woe,
For if thou diest, my Love, I know not where to go.”

Beyond a mortal man impassion’d far
At these voluptuous accents, he arose,
Ethereal, flush’d, and like a throbbing star
Seen mid the sapphire heaven’s deep repose
Into her dream he melted, as the rose
Blendeth its odour with the violet,—
Solution sweet: meantime the frost-wind blows
Like Love’s alarum pattering the sharp sleet
Against the window-panes; St Agnes’ moon hath set.

Tis dark: quick pattereth the flaw-blown sleet:
“This is no dream, my bride, my Madeline!”
‘Tis dark: the iced gusts still rave and beat:
“No dream, alas! alas! and woe is mine!
Porphyro will leave me here to fade and pine.—
Cruel! what traitor could thee hither bring?
I curse not, for my heart is lost in thine
Though thou forsakest a deceived thing;—
A dove forlorn and lost with sick unpruned wing.”

“My Madeline! sweet dreamer! lovely bride!
Say, may I be for aye thy vassal blest?
Thy beauty’s shield, heart-shap’d and vermeil dyed?
Ah, silver shrine, here will I take my rest
After so many hours of toil and quest,
A famish’d pilgrim,—saved by miracle.
Though I have found, I will not rob thy nest
Saving of thy sweet self; if thou think’st well
To trust, fair Madeline, to no rude infidel.

“Hark! ’tis an elfin-storm from faery land,
Of haggard seeming, but a boon indeed:
Arise—arise! the morning is at hand;—
The bloated wassailers will never heed:—
Let us away, my love, with happy speed;
There are no ears to hear, or eyes to see,—
Drown’d all in Rhenish and the sleepy mead:
Awake! arise! my love, and fearless be,
For o’er the southern moors I have a home for thee.”

She hurried at his words, beset with fears,
For there were sleeping dragons all around,
At glaring watch, perhaps, with ready spears—
Down the wide stairs a darkling way they found.—
In all the house was heard no human sound.
A chain-droop’d lamp was flickering by each door;
The arras, rich with horseman, hawk, and hound,
Flutter’d in the besieging wind’s uproar;
And the long carpets rose along the gusty floor.

They glide, like phantoms, into the wide hall;
Like phantoms, to the iron porch, they glide;
Where lay the Porter, in uneasy sprawl,
With a huge empty flagon by his side:
The wakeful bloodhound rose, and shook his hide,
But his sagacious eye an inmate owns:
By one, and one, the bolts fill easy slide:—
The chains lie silent on the footworn stones,—
The key turns, and the door upon its hinges groans.

And they are gone: ay, ages long ago
These lovers fled away into the storm.
That night the Baron dreamt of many a woe,
And all his warrior-guests, with shade and form
Of witch, and demon, and large coffin-worm,
Were long be-nightmar’d. Angela the old
Died palsy-twitch’d, with meagre face deform;
The Beadsman, after thousand aves told,
For aye unsought for slept among his ashes cold.

_____________________________________________________

To those of you who liked it and read it all:

Notice the prominent presence of two persons who are old and near death in this poem. I doubt they would be there if the poem had been written by anyone else. Keats knew he had tuberculosis, and knew it was incurable and probably a death sentence. It was like being 25 and having one of the more awful forms of cancer today.

So Keats, with his great imagination, probably was able to inhabit the two frail old characters in the poem almost as well as he could the young, hot-blooded ones. Evidence: See this poem:

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/When_I_have_fears_that_I_may_cease_to_be





HEY, LOOK AT ME!

22 05 2009

If I were good looking I’d upload a picture of myself.

If I were a more cheery fellow I would post more happy posts.

If I had the slightest interest in sports, celebrities, or business (that great American triumvirate of interest) I would court your readership by posting about one or all of them.

But I’m not any of those things.

So I’ll say a magic spell instead. I’ll invoke the fine blog aggregator Condron.us

http://www.condron.us/

Go to this site and get gently conducted to lots of today’s blog posts, one blog  after another, proceeding at any speed you want. It’s a fascinating experience. I often put down the USA, but I love it for having the most varied people on earth. You can see that in Condron’s kaleidescope of blogs.





FOR LOVE, NOT MONEY

21 05 2009

As a pessimist and reasonably observant American, I am prone to think that in the USA almost no one will expend major effort to produce anything that doesn’t make money. And that’s an assumption of many online commentors as well. In a recent discussion of advertising on the Internet, one post after another said, essentially, that there would be no content on the Internet without advertising. And those commentors weren’t displaying pessimism, either. They simply knew their culture from within, and expressed the truth of it as they knew it.

But I have reason to know that what they and my pessimism say is nonsense. I have multiple interests, and in pursuing them on the Internet I’ve seen the most stunning, informative, long-lasting web sites be built by people who simply have a hobby, or by organizations that want to inform or delight us. Here are five examples. I realize you aren’t likely to be very interested in the subject matter of a couple of them, but take a look at the depth and quality of the sites!

1. Phil’s Old Radios:
http://antiqueradio.org/index.html

2. JavaJune’s Blog:
http://javajune.wordpress.com/

3. Loveyoutodeathbut’s YouTube Channel:
http://www.youtube.com/user/loveyoutodeathbut

(And permit me to recommend one of the videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgsG5qUdnaQ

4. Astronomy Picture of the Day:
http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html

5. Steve’s Supreme Instruments Collection:
http://www.stevenjohnson.com/supreme/index.html

An additional amazing thing about this last site is that both the site and the test equipment presented on it are unusually fine-looking, almost beautiful. This is all the more amazing when you consider that the test equipment items presented by Steve were designed and sold in the 1930s for a completely utilitarian purpose. As you can imagine, most other contemporary electronic test equipment was NOT physically attractive :-).

I think people who do things for love instead of money are givers of wonderful gifts to those around them. Laboring away quietly in the interstices* of this Tower of Babel of Greed, they are not sufficiently honored.

*I got to use this word yesterday and I liked it so well I’m using it again today!





SEEING THE WORLD THROUGH DARK GLASSES

20 05 2009

A lot of my posts in this blog address large issues, American culture being the next to largest — and the whole human condition, even, being by far the largest! Usually when I write about these things I see highly unappealing facts. Generally I’m right. Those are the facts.

My recent post “The Bullshit Science”, for example, I think is 100% spot on. If you look at the world around you carefully, and think of that paradigmatic monkey troop, matastasized to cover the earth, you’ll see what I mean.

But I fear that I am right mostly only on the macro level. Lived out in the interstices of the complex social arrangements dictated by our instinctive struggle for status and our distinctively human fear of death is another world I consistently miss.

It’s the world of love and emotional connectedness — family love, romance, community loyalty, the pleasure of struggling together to make an organization work. And also in there is the world of fun, adventure, excitement, and wild abandon. And lets not forget the quieter pleasures of hopeful planning and enjoyable creativity.

These everyday, near things are our salvation. They block our view of the larger Human Condition, which, seen as a whole (birth, struggle, death, nada) is truly awful.

Unfortunately, I am almost blind to the world of emotional connectedness, for reasons having to do with my family of origin–so there goes that ameliorating factor.

And I am not having much fun, and have never been any kind of an extrovert–so there goes another.

The only thing I have to shade me from the pitiless macro view is creativity, and I only have a wee bit of that.

So OK, I’ll admit it. Everyone sees the world though his own unique lens. As for me, you might say I’m a guy who can’t see the trees for the forest.