Monday, December 19, 2016 – another eventful day

A facebook message from a relative turned into one of those how is so and so and how is so and so and I learned that a cousin passed away after a lengthy illness. I immediately phoned his oldest daughter to express condolences and that turned into a revealing conversation about our parents, our grandparents, our great-grandparents, and of course, the great migration. And as always, more questions than answers.

I recalled, after the conversation, my father’s grief over his sister’s (her grandmother’s) passing. He walked into the house after the funeral and said, “Now I don’t have anybody left.” I remember my six year old brain wondering, momentarily, as six year old brains often do, who and what were we to him. Of course, he was merely lamenting the previous loss of his mother and father, accentuated by the loss of his sister and only sibling. Still, I took it very personally, as six year olds often do. Note to self: be careful what comes out of your mouth around impressionable children.

In 2017, I hope to do a better job of keeping in touch with my Maxwell relatives, especially the direct descendants of my grandfather, Walter J. Maxwell. The fact that folks moved North and West is no reason to not maintain strong links and ties these days and times.

The Russian Ambassador was killed at a public event in Ankara yesterday. Bad news for diplomats everywhere. Bad news for current events in Syria. A ModPo friend posted, “Is the Russian Ambassador in Ankara, Turkey the 2017 Archduke François- Ferdinand ?” Hope not, but we do live in trying times. And several people were killed when a truck drove into a market crowd in Berlin. And I hear there were “events” in Zurich, and in Egypt and Jordan.

The Electoral College met yesterday in the several states, confirming the election results. I am glad to see more sober analysis of the Electoral College as an historic institution, its ties to the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1920 and, ultimately and directly, to the Three-Fifths Compromise, both of 1773 and 1787. It’s an historic anachronism whose time may have come for serious reconsideration. For your consideration.

Last night the Carolina Panthers beat the team from Washington, dashing their hopes of a wildcard playoff berth. I’m not sure what football means anymore.


An eventful day – December 15, 2016 – ramblings

Two books mark the day.  Finally finishing Horton and Freire’s We Make the Road by Walking with a group on Twitter (I fell behind, but I finished, mostly on subway rides to Capitol South and back.). I have three or four Freire books in my collection that I have actually read, and loved. Now this one will join that group (there will be more about this reading and the book in a subsequent post. I found a pdf of the book here, but eventually found a hard copy via interlibrary loan. There are copies for sale at used bookstores and on Amazon marketplace). The book is an ongoing dialogue between Myles Horton, of Highlander fame, and the Brazilian educator and philosopher, Paulo Freire, whom I have blogged about here previously.

And I embarked on a journey of reading Bernadette Mayer’s Midwinter Day in the remaining days preceding the winter solstice (see the tweet above). I linked to an excerpt online, but I hope you will go to your nearest independent bookstore and purchase a copy. I met Bernadette Mayer a couple of years ago at Kelly Writers House, here is a separate link from that event with Phillip Good at the Writer’s House, the home base for ModPo on the UPenn campus.

Not really sure how my name got on the list, but I received an email invitation to attend a Tech Salon. So I signed up and went Thursday morning. It was a cold and windy hike up the hill from Dupont Circle. The theme was technology and development in the new Trump government (as usual, mine was the only brown face at the table, well, I shouldn’t say that because there were a couple of folks there of Indian descent who were dark. I’m accustomed to both.)

One attendee described the Trump base as composed of four sometimes warring tribes. They are 1) the cyberlibertarians; 2) the evangelical Christians; 3) the populists, tea-partyers, and American 1st-ers, and 4) the GHWB/Wall Street republicans. At any point in time, 3 of these 4 groups are or may be very interested in development overseas and may be helpful to efforts by the development groups. Someone else mentioned that the anti-immigration folks might buy into efforts to support startups and entrepreneurs who build business and create jobs in their home countries. Someone else mentioned the CVE (countering violent extremism) results of local job creation. There was a lot of discussion about broadband and about internet policy that I found interesting. Also interesting chat about using data analytics to focus aid delivery.

A handful of folks appeared to still be in denial about the Clinton defeat. One or two people kept making jokes. The majority seemed to be engaged in finding solutions, work-arounds, and possible advantages in the years to come. Most believed, as I do, that development won’t be high on the agenda immediately, and that existent (and already funded) programs will continue operating under the radar. I’ve always found hand-wringing to be a bit silly – show me the parameters, the constraints, and let’s get on with it, whatever it is.

And a book was recommended, Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet, which I hope to find at my library.

p.s. One more rambling thought before the day is done. Just read the Vanity Fair piece about Clinton machine post-election insider fighting. In her defense, Huma’s that is, I had a handful of interactions with her back in the day and always found her to be cordial, collegial and helpful, unlike most of the 7th floor sharks and carp who made up the Queen’s court. Yes, she was high up on the totem pole and I was just a lowly office director whose calls she didn’t really have to return. But return them she did, and always with helpful information for the task we were trying to accomplish. The other folks in Brooklyn need to get a grip!

Tracy K Smith reads Emily Dickinson – Birthday Tribute

It was a full serving of Emily Dickinson poetry last night at the Folger. Co-sponsored by the Folger Library and Poetry Society of American (PSoA), Tracy K Smith led with a reading of Dickinson poetry as well as her own, much of it inspired by the Bard of Amherst herself. A special treat of the night, however, was a talk given by Dr. David DeVorkin, curator at Smithsonian Air and Space, on the state of astronomy during Dickinson’s time and how that may have affected her poetry, with an interesting acknowledgement of the work of Tracy Smith’s father on the Hubble telescope and her poetry in his honor. It was a most interesting convergence/confluence of ideas and of art/science.

Let’s recapture some of the poetry covered. A Dickinson catalog, we can call it, for all the Emily Dickinson lovers out there…

Alice Quinn from PSoA opened with a recitation of “This world is not conclusion.” Ironically, or maybe by design, it would be a recurring theme throughout the night.  Traci began her presentation with “I saw no Way – The Heavens were stitched,” a historical evolution of the poem “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” and “If I’m lost – now –.”

Here, Smith read from the Dickinson-Higginson letter of 25 April 1862, “I had a terror – since September.” Next, “I reason, Earth is short” and “To put this World down, like a Bundle.”  Smith questioned the antecedent of the pronoun in “I know that He exists.” One of Smith’s poems echoed some themes from “Because I could not stop for Death,” which she read immediately after. She continued the astronomy theme with “There is a solitude of space,” and the mystical piece “Through what transports of patience.”

I regret now not capturing the titles/first lines of the Tracy Smith poems to reproduce them also. I made the same omission with Kay Ryan four years ago, and with Peter Gizzi three years ago. I missed the birthday celebration two years ago (out of town) and last year (medical absence) but I plan to make every one from this year forward.

Tracy Smith closed the evening reading with “I like to see it lap the Miles” and “I’ve nothing Else – to bring.”

Dr. DeVorkin’s presentation dove-tailed exquisitely both with Tracy Smith’s readings from her own collection, “Life on Mars,” dedicated to her memory of her father who worked on the Hubble Telescope, and to the many mentions of astronomical phenomena in Dickinson’s poetry and the state of astronomy studies she would have been exposed to mid 19th century at Holyoke. Smith earlier mentioned her father’s experience with the Hubble Telescope, its initial failure followed by its success. DeVorkin reflected on the early days of development of the Hubble project and said the flaws in the project were not with the scientists and opticians, but with management. It might have been interesting to chat with him during the reception, but my date was tired from a long day at work. So we went home directly after having a taste of the Dickinson recipe birthday cake.



#DiGiWriMo – November 30

Finally, we reach the end of the month. It ain’t easy cranking out a post EVERY day, especially with all the other stuff going on, background white noise, work, family obligations, hobbies and past-times, and especially this month, the run-up to the elections, the elections, the outcome and whether it made you feel victorious and vindicated or sad and depressed and disappointed. And the passing of life luminaries. Let’s review the month.

I started the month with the idea of participating in NaNoWriMo, writing a novel with chapters due each day. But too much non-fiction was going on, so I quickly shifted gears from NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to DiGiWriMo (Digital Writing Month) and committed to a blog post instead of a novel chapter each day. A sonnet about a bus ride framed some thoughts about my docent training class and its relationship to some stuff I was missing in ModPo (Modern and Contemporary American poetry).

A latin quote, translated, recalled my youthful love for stoicism, the World Series ended in seven, and I riffed about a new book I wanted to read and an old book I wanted to re-read. (Should I be hyperlinking these days?)

Random thoughts and a list of characteristics of the American Renaissance movement from lecture I heard in docent class filled day three’s post.

Day four was more docent training rambling, a poem from the walls, and a poem written by one of the Jefferson building’s early employees that later became the title of an autobiography by yet another illustrious poet.

On Day five I start a series of reflections on election politics, beginning with a list of the presidential elections I could remember, going back to 1968. Then more rambling and riffing, including a Whitman election poem from 1884, and an early night on election eve after checking out some EWF and a Delacroix painting because at that point, I knew the election’s outcome (or more pertinently, no longer cared one way or the other).

More later.