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.

#DiGiWriMo – November 29 – late entry

#HortonFreire could not have arrived at a better time. I needed the fresh infusion of Myles Horton (whom I had heard of, of course, the founder of the great Highlander Folk School) and Paulo Freire (was it #rhizo15 or #moocmooc that got me mainlining his stuff?) for my presentation at CUA’s Bridging the Spectrum coming up in February.

Sleep descends. I’ll finish this in the morning.

So I discovered this reading group though my subscription to and regular reading of Maha Bali’s blog about education, Reflecting Allowed. If you are interested in education, you should be reading Maha Bali’s cutting edge commentary. But back to the subject. The reading group is reading a book co-authored by Myles Horton and Paulo Freire, “We Make the Road by Walking.” There are already tons of great posts and blogs, which you can find tweeted at #HortonFreire.

On time, because I am dusting off papers I’ve stored in folders on book shelves, in previous blog posts, in emails, and on my computer desktop for this talk I want to give on Deleuze and Guattari and the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy.  The final draft proposal abstract (150 words) is due today.  Here is what I have distilled it to:

There has been much discussion about the content of the new ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. This briefing does not add to that content discussion. Instead, it focuses on how we perceive the framework itself and how that perception might influence the way we use it. I introduce the rhizomatic approach, developed by Deleuze and Guattari in their philosophical study, “A Thousand Plateaus.” In botany, rhizomes grow as a network of roots with no true center. Using features of rhizomatic learning, i.e., connectivity, heterogeneity, multiplicity, asignifying rupture, and cartography as a way to approach the frames, we see how each frame might relate to any others, how information literacy develops and transforms as it passes through various frames, and how the interplay of the frames captures information literacy as a process.

My teaching practice this semester has been limited to one-on-one interactions at the reference desk  (not inconsiderable!). But I am finding interesting pedagogical practice with my docent training at the Library of Congress. A tour guide is a special kind of educator, it is one-shot instruction, and you have to focus on getting that handful of facts across to your group in the 45 minutes that you have them. I have labored to nail down a central theme and relate it to the various artifacts that make up the presentation, but I remain torn between my traditional love for the spirit of the library as an aggregation of relationships between information seekers and information sources, and my new found love for all the art, sculpture and architecture that adorns the walls and the space of the library. I am settling on a compromise and a unity. The two are one.

So a lot is going on. I got through the introduction and first chapter of “We Make the Road by Walking” last night. It’s a dialogue, which makes it a bit clunky to read, but musically it is a duet, which makes it very interesting and soothing to listen to. Duets are the best music, right?

You pick your own poison, or medicine, so to speak.

#DiGiWriMo – November 28

Completed my 10th and final shadow tour this morning, a big milestone for docent training. Had email exchanges with three colleagues from the old job, one is still there, two are retired and doing other interesting things. Gotta get out for coffee with the old folks more often. A neighbor asked me about doing a LOC tour for a neighborhood group (that was kinda nice!). Started a job application, but decided I didn’t want any entity that involved in my life no more. Got an email from someone who saw my resume on (stay away from those people!). It will be the same thing when/if I get to the application stage. Too much nosing in my business.

Cutting out the sharing function on tonight’s post.  So skimpy, so scrawny.

#DiGiWriMo – November 27

As we approach the end of the month, and sooner than we know, the end of the year, it’s time to make new plans.

Early in December I want to take all the November #digiwrimo blog posts, November 1-30, and put them in an e-book format.  There are lots of formats available, Papyrus is good just for the e-book, Lulu has some interesting umph to it, and CreateSpace is a favorite when ready to self-publish.

I have two poetry projects in the pre-born stage. One is a collection of poems I want to do based on the Jacob Lawrence Migration series of paintings, which means I’d better to get to the Phillips while the complete exhibit is still in town (before January 8, I need to spend an afternoon or two just looking at the various pieces). The second is a collection of sonnets I’d like to do based on the American Renaissance artwork on the walls, floors and ceiling at the Library of Congress (less time sensitive because it will always be there, but perhaps more complex than any collection I’ve tried before).  Docent training will be up in two weeks, so I will have something to engage my new spare time.

Last but not least, just in the short term, my proposal was accepted for a talk at the CUA LIS Bridging the Spectrum Symposium in February. Over several months during the summer I worked on the outline of my presentation, “A Rhizomatic Approach to Understanding the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.” (Sort of gives it away, I guess.)  I took a hiatus this fall to free up time for docent training (and work). Now it is time to get back on it and whip it into ship shape.

I presented with one of my professors and two classmates in 2014, Changing the World of Art Librarianship. My small piece was called “Reimagining artistic content in art museums and libraries.” I just googled it and nothing came up!  Then in 2015 two classmates and I did a poster from a project in our information architecture class, “Best Practices of Information Architecture and Website Redesign for Information Professionals.” Just posted to slideshare but the definition is not so great. Gotta work on that. We took it on the road, presenting the poster at the 2015 SLA conference in Boston. That was fun, but Boston can be a lonely place.

This will be my first solo flight.

So, that’s what’s up for November 27, y’all.

#DiGiWriMo – November 26

Today will be recorded in history, and in this blog, as the day we woke up to hear news of the passing of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. He was 90 years old and ruled Cuba from 1959 until a debilitating illness forced his retirement from leadership in 2008. He survived several US-directed and inspired assassination attempts. Castro had an overall positive image in two countries where I served, Guinea-Bissau and Angola, though his image in the country of my birth was decidedly mixed. Love him or hate him, he was a world figure during some turbulent times, and he managed to transcend his immediate surroundings, his tiny island nation.Some might even say he reached that final stage of Maslow’s hierarchy, self-transcendence. I don’t know. Heck.

When I was an IR-theory graduate student at SOAS in London, we had fascinating discussions about the Washington Consensus and what we postulated as the post-Washington Consensus moment we were approaching (this was the mid-90’s) wherein countries east and west, north and south, were spinning out of cold war hegemonic control. Somewhere I have an unfinished paper on string theory and international relations.  Might be time to dust that thing off…

Long and short of it, I ain’t mad at Fidel, but you probably already figured that out. I get why the US had to dog him, same reason why the French had to dog Toussaint L’Overture, because both represented threats to an established world order. And by extension, my country puts Cuba under a curse, just like France put Haiti under a curse, a voodoo curse if you will, for their obvious misbehavior and insubordination.

Anyway, let’s end on two positive notes. Donald Fagen (half of Steely Dan). I.G.Y. 1982. And Sonnet #44, 2013.

Sonnet #44

I was a runner in my hapless youth:
two times, four times, eight times around the track;
running to things, running from things, always
in a haste, never taking time to smell
the fragrance of the roses, know the truth.
In time, life slowed me down. I changed my tack.
I learned to walk, to circumspect, unfazed
by every shiny thing my eyes beheld.
But then the boundless sea became my Muse:
Her hidden wonders and her ways seduced
my every thought. Yet she was just a phase,
a short poetic phrase and a malaise.
This sonnet owns no ending, just a star,
to capture our attention from afar.

R.D. Maxwell ©2013

#DiGiWriMo – November 25

Looking back over the past 25 days, over the years, I see a unity, a common theme that can provide material for a novel, which is what November was supposed to be all about. I was surprised yesterday when my grandpop showed up out of the clear blue, but generations get skipped sometimes, and his favorite daughter, my mother, was already on the scene in the person of her macaroni and cheese recipe, which I made for Thanksgiving, and which went very well with the leg of lamb. I am rambling now, but there is even unity in the rambling, poetry in the disjointed clauses and phrases.

Job interview in Bethesda this morning. Time for something new, a new thing, a thing made new. Don’t worry, I will continue with #SaturdayLibrarian. Planning a roll call tomorrow in fact! I am missing poetry reading with the group, missing the camaraderie. Hey, did you see the Jorie Graham poem in December’s Poetry magazine? Center-tri-fold (is that a word?), folds out from the center of the magazine, back and front, The Mask Now. Is it a play on the Dunbar icon, We Wear the Mask? Naw, nothing to do with it. And there is a long essay by Carl Phillips, A Politics of Mere Being. I’ll read it, but I’m not sure I will dig it. Appears to be about political poetry, and that never ends well because politicians don’t really get poetry. And there’s a sonnet by Charles North, Lyrics of the Trouvères. Now we are talking. The rebirth of classical antiquity. Did you know Michelangelo wrote sonnets? His collection of sonnets is here in Italian and in English translation, and in other places on the internets.

Today’s post is more of a bridge than a chorus, thank the good Lord, the good Master as my grandmother would say, or so they tell me. Tomorrow a few students will trickle in, but most will still be at home with their families, still giving thanks.

#DiGiWriMo – November 24

Many years ago during my childhood, one of my first cousins (who was a college student and knew everything) told me that Papa, our grandfather, used to tell her he was descended from the Blackfoot tribe. I looked it up at the library, and told her that the Blackfoot Indians lived up north and out west, not in southern Virginia where our people were enslaved back when. She said there were northern Blackfoot Indians and southern Blackfoot Indians. I accepted that as a compromise, and I accepted that we were part Indian and part African. I would later learn that we were likely part Scottish too, but that is material for a different chapter. (photo of Papa, below.)

As a consequence, I have identified, from childhood, with the plight of Native Americans, or, as they are known in Canada, members of the First Nations.

Which brings us to today. Sort of.

The pediment above the Senate doors at the East front of the Capitol has a marble sculptural group that is titled “Progress of Civilization.”  Here is the whole pediment:


Let’s take a look at the far right end. Yes, Native Americans, First Nations’ people.  Let’s zoom in for a closer look:

Erected in 1863. First sculptured in Rome, 1856, by the same sculptor who later made the pediment. Not a pretty sight. Pretty pessimistic view of the future. But official US policy at the time.  Round them up, march them west, make them die. These are not nice words, I know. But the history is fairly accurate. The Supreme Court ruling on Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia (1831) was every bit as odious for Native Americans as the Dred Scott decision (Dred Scott Vs. Sandford (1857)) was for free Blacks (or any Blacks) at the time. Sometimes the Supremes get it wrong. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 passed in Congress by one vote.

Now, finally, today. Thanksgiving. We give thanks. But Native Americans have a different view. Since 1970, they have called it the National Day of Mourning. Native Americans figure prominently in the story we all learn about the first Thanksgiving. It is largely a myth.


A photo of Papa, my grandfather, Nelson Hairston, Sr., 1960’s

Late breaking:

The First Thanksgiving In America was a Catholic Mass

The Future is Indigenous: Decolonizing Thanksgiving

Why Jefferson Said No to Thanksgiving

What We Really Know About the First Thanksgiving


#DiGiWriMo – November 23 – late entry

The New York Times and the Washington Post both advise that I have exceeded the number of free articles I can read on the internet in a month’s time.  There used to be a way around it, but now so many news aggregators link directly to the Times and the Post and they catch me every time. Oh well, there is always December!

For Thanksgiving we decided on lamb instead of turkey.  I will be making my mother’s secret recipe macaroni and cheese and my housemate (smile!) is making her traditional everything-in-it Portuguese salad. Oh, and pumpkin pie a la mode.

Life is on a steady course these days, these years. No sudden turns, no angles and dangles. We are happy at home, with our books and the radio and the occasional NetFlix /AmazonPrime series binge. Not doing any winter gardening, but thinking and prepping for the planting season next spring at the community garden.

So, on this Thursday in late November, we are thankful for good health, for family drama that enlivens and sometimes challenges, for interesting friends and acquaintances, for enriching past-times and hobbies, and for access to books and information in libraries and museums and galleries.


Throwback Thursday. Last Thanksgiving at the Republican Palace, Baghdad, Iraq. 2008.