Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Fred Astaire danced very well. He presented the song-and-dance numbers in his movies very well.

It would take a musically trained curmudgeon to focus on teh fact taht Fred Astaire did have a big voice or a big range of notes he could hit.

The effect of a song-and-dance number Astaire was in was delight because he and the people he worked with knew how to make the most of what they had.

Irving Berlin wrote the songs for the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rodgers movie "Top Hat," including the song "Cheek to Cheek."

Philip Furian and Michael Lasser wrote of "Cheek to Cheek," "'Cheek to Cheek' begins with an ascending line whose final note reaches the upper limit of Astaire's vocal range. When he sings, 'Heaven, I'm in heaven, and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak," in fact, he can hardly speak. When the line, also characterized by a series of breathy 'h' sounds comes to an end, it's virtually mute, made only of breath, a suggestion of love as something ineffable, graspable only through dance."

Now you too are using your outermost limits to create something we can dance to, and we thank you.

--quote from "America's Songs: The Stories Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood, and Tin Pan Alley" by Philip Furian and Michael Lasser

Fred Astaire worked very well with others.

He and his sister Adele Astaire became famous dancing together, often in London. She married a duke and stopped dancing on the stage.

He and Ginger Rodgers became more famous dancing together in movies many people could see, right during the Depression, when people needed to know, cheap, that life could burst into dance.

After Ginger Rodgers decided she wanted to do more serious acting and ceased to be Astaire's partner, he said he would never have a permanent partner again, because it hurt to much to lose that working colleague.

He kept the promise. An understandable choice, and we are all missing something because of it, the amazing work that Astaire could have done with his third ondoing dance together person. It may mean that we have to go on working together and working on the idea of working together longer that we think we want to.

Just to check for the next pot of beauty, which is, after all, partly for other people.

Einstein said you can't solve a problem on the level at which it was created. You have to move to the next level.

Different combinations of people can find that new and unsuspected level.

Two lines after barely being able to sing "barely speak," here come the rhyme "dancing cheek to cheek," and Fred and Ginger do so, moving into Fred's area of strength.

Astaire's first two partners, Adele Astaire and Ginger Rodgers, were unlike him in that they could stop dancing. And did, to his pain. But maybe the fact that they weren't quite irretrievably sunk in dancing as he was is part of what made the dancing amazing.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Maybe think about February 29 at midnight on the 28th as the 28th disappears and becomes becomes March 1st. Three out of four years having a quick non-existent February 29th holiday. What are the best holiday activities for a day that doesn't exist?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sorry about planet Earth, sweet one. Sorry about humans.
Ernest Hemingway and his sister who was a year and a half older, were dressed the same as children by their mother. Sometimes they were both dressed as boys. Much more often they were both dressed as girls.

Hemingway wanted to know the rules of being a man.

How would a man act in a war. How would a man act when shooting unarmed animals in Africa. How would a man act camping out.

Many of his early short stories about about Nick Adams, a young American man in America. Few, very few, of Hemingway's later and best know work happens in the USA. He lived and wrote expat.

Jack London has a story called "To Build a Fire" which tells the experiences of a man lost in the wilderness of Alaska. He knows if his feet get wet he will die. It's high stakes.

The story is a very careful straightforward description of what he does to not die. His feet get wet and he dies.

Hemingway's early Nick Adams stories bring that intense vibe to Nick Adams camping out and fishing in Michigan. The stories would never call what's happening camping out. Nick Adams is under great pressure to do every single activity in his outdoor excursion exactly right, the way the ideal man would do it.

The pressure is immense, sort of like the pressure in "To Build a Fire." It's hard to say, "Come on! He's camping out in Michigan in the summer." The stakes aren't that high.

But for Hemingway, he of the early frilly dresses, the stakes around being man exactly the right way were huge.

Drinking was part of being a man, but you also had to be able to go upstairs to your hotel room and write well.

When Hemingway in the 1950's wrote a novel that involved gender-bending he was in a period of his life where George Plimpton report that when he was shirtless, which was often, his liver stuck out a lot from his torso.

He never finished his novel about a man and woman changing gender roles as part of a love affair. It was published after his death by someone who reworked the many contradictory manuscript pages he left.

Scholars of Hemingway who have seen the original manuscripts are disagree about what was published. Some say that it is not what he would have done. Others say that it is an amazing accomplishment that the editor got a coherent novel out of it.

If Hemingway's liver stuck out from his torso from drinking, what kind of shape was his brain in?

If Hemingway had been able to finish for himself his novel that partly came from being dressed as a twin girl when young and partly from traveling the world for decades having adventures to prove he was a man, his work might be relevant now in a way that it isn't.

It would have an interesting arc that ended up in some issues people are very interested in now. But he couldn't do it. Maybe he couldn't face it anyway, but running all that alcohol through his body for years couldn't have helped.

He couldn't face the final dare. His last big seller was about an old man who knew the correct way to fish. It had a point of view character from another culture, Cuban. Hemingway had lived in other cultures his whole adult life, but he hadn't tried to do something where everything the reader knows is what the central character from another culture knows.

That turned out a common way for such cross cultural efforts--the old man seems very generic. Wise old poor guy. Not someone with a specific personal history. Extremely not an old man hurting from alcohol use and injuries from his manhood proving adventures, and remembering, or not, his childhood.

"The Old Man and the Sea" is the name of the late short book about the generic old Cuban fisherman. "Big Two-Hearted River" is the name of the intense short story about camping out in the summer in the U.S. Midwest, like it really really matter. "The Old Man and the Sea" could be called "Big Two-Hearted Ocean." The intensity in "The Old Man and the Sea" made more sense because the old man was fishing off-shore and was in more danger than the Michigan camper.

Two-hearted? What's with that? The book published after Hemingway's death from his mess of a manuscript about men and women lovers changing gender roles is called "The Garden of Eden." Small two-hearted Garden of Eden.

I am clearly not one of nature's natural Ernest Hemingway fans, but I really like his two Great War novels and would recommend them to anyone who reads novels.

"A Farewell to Arms" takes place during the Great War, later to be known as World War I. "The Sun Also Rises" happens during the Great War afterparty in the 1920's. They are about two different guys who fought in the war, but I find it easy to think of them as one guy, and a Hemingwayish guy.

People talk, sometimes, about Hemingway's view of women. In these novels, I think about Hemingway's choice of women. The women in each novel is British, privileged and nuts. The insanity of the nurse in the hospital where the soldier is recuperating is a little less up front than the nutiness of Lady Brett Ashley in "A Farewell to Arms." She is both believable and a type. Lots of money, lots of intelligence, looks for the moment, and massive stylish self-destructive instincts.

One job of such women in life and in novels is to make the guy look sane, especially if his nuttiness takes the form of day-to-day repressedness and the frequent taking of physical risks.

In Hemingway's later novels and stories the women are bitchy and seem less individual and less interesting. Being bitchy is a widely available choice, widely taken. Easy to displease, eager to criticize, verbally sharp in a particular way. Anyone who spends a lot of time doing it doesn't seem so much like themselves as like all the other bitchy people.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

"Go back and help your own people."

Anyone who has said that or thought it, "The Skin of the Sky" is the book to read.

If your an intellectual, you need space and traction and help to live as an intellectual.

If your natural thing is to be an intellectual, going back, after training in a place that has that space and traction and help, to a country that doesn't is a huge decision.

The gifted astronomer in "The Skin of the Sky" does the right and generous thing, in the opinion of many. He leaves Harvard in the thirties after training to go back to Mexico in the thirties.

"Why don't you go back and change your entire country?"

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Bunting can be decoration, red and white and blue around here.

Bunting in baseball is doing something undramatic and skillful so somebody else can score. If you do it right, they score and you're out.
Paved means it's easier for me to get around.

Too much paved means not enough green, means too much runoff, means soil that is the gift of centuries of rocks and rot getting together being killed for convenience.

Balance is a wild, slow, wise adventure we may get to have because we haven't yet done the nuclear war thing.

Walking down the sidwalk I'm thankful for the sidewalk and for the people, different than me who do planintings beside the sidewalk.

A person such as myself is tempting to have disdain for the life I actually live. That can't be the answer.
Linear. Get over it.

Friday, February 16, 2007

A good thing about working to do something that is impossible to do is that the nature of the goal cuts down on whining when difficulties arise. Of course it's difficult. It's impossible.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

[Logistics. I accidentally deleted the Calvino piece about Raisa from "Invisible Cities." Hmm. Since I ended the piece by saying I should memorize it, maybe I should memorize it quick. Anyway, I'll probably replicate it. Not, probably, today. No doubt somewhere there is a way to undelete, but I couldn't find it, so I'm taking it as a learning experience. I mean, when I make a quote from a book called "Invisible Cities" disappear, I don't want to fight that having happened fiercely and immediately.]

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I walked into Susan Cummin's gallery and saw many pictures by one artist that each included a woman wearing lots of clothes and a woman wearing little or nothing.

As soon as I looked at one of the nudes I knew the artist was a woman, because the nude had a neck.

I mean she had a neck in the way I have I neck. Like I'm sitting on a chair thinking and staring and I have a neck. I inhabit and am a body that includes a neck, elbows, back of hand, the whole gang.

Nudes, on the whole, in art tend to be women looked at from the outside in the context of desire. So body parts that that guy artist is drawn to are presented in a emphasized way and things less famously female than breasts and bellies, things like necks, are underpresented.

I hadn't really though of it that way until I saw this painting of a woman who just had a neck, matter-of-factly.

She was quite good looking in the manner of this time. She looked like she exercised and spent much time outside, not working but being outside. She looked like she was reasonably intelligent and that the person painting her could handle that easily.

All the paintings of her had another women in them. The other woman was from Dutch 16th century painting. Instead of California outdoorsy tan she was central Europe overcast and staying inside pale. Lots of clothes.

Her clothes, were, in a general sort of way, like old fashinoned nun's habits. Old fashioned nun's habits come from a time when all women wore clothes that put a big perimeter around themselves and covered their heads a lot, and also had a substantial head barrier.

The other woman in these paintings had barrier clothes like that, though not black. She wasn't a nun. She was standing next to her husband, also pale, in the midst of a house filled with possessions.

He, the husband, had legs. He got out to earn possessions. She presumably had legs but they surely didn't show.

She seemed very contained by her clothes and the whole scene.

The clothesless woman and the clothed woman basically had the same body. Evolution hasn't changed the human body in the wink of time of a few centuries.

Yet they used their bodies differently. They were allowed to use their bodies differently. How could that old-time woman have not gone along with her confinement?

Feeling all the ways we are still confined would hurt. Some we notice and then try to forget because it's a pain to think about it all the time. Some we never notice. Sometimes we do escape or break through confinement.

I noticed the neck of the woman of the present first. Neck, the throat, the way to express yourself. Say what you want. Some of what you want to say goes by smoothly. Other words you want to say get you a lot of painful kickback, which may be a surprise the first time. The second, third, etc . times you are hassled about statements in that category, you are being trained.

Even if you break through the training and pain and speak, it's not the same words it would be if you could have been relaxed the whole time and just sat there knowing what you know and living in a world brave enough to hear what you know.
I was at a conference having to do with poor women being affected by the relationship between poor countries and rich countries. A woman from one of the islands south of the US, at the end of her talk, when she seemed to feel she could speak a bit more freely than at the beginning, said, "You have to understand. The people who run things aren't smart. They are stupider than you can imagine. They have so much power that they don't have to be smart."

I've noticed sometimes the idiocy of people with big power in the whole thing, and thought that somehow if there are smart people who don't like the set-up, we should be able to be smart in a way that makes a real difference.

It's clearly difficult. If you've grown up in any kind of privilege at all, working against the whole set up is like going from going downhill with just enough wind at your back to be helpful to going up a steep hill with a hard cold wind in the face.

The sheer struggle makes it hard to think at all, much less think in a different way that might lead to a different outcome.

--It surely would be good to quote the speaker by name. A conference, a small conference on that topic held at UC Berkeley in the nineteen nineties before all was listed on the Web. Maybe there's a way to find her name. It hasn't occured to me yet. Also, to quote her, by name I'd need to ask her to do so. Though it was a public event, in was a small public event, and I think she only said what she said because she felt more comfortable than she expected to with the exact people who were there.

It's such a basic scary idea that is thought so much more than said. These people running stuff are unimaginably idiotic. It should create an opening. That they are sometimes unimaginally willing to be vicious creates a pause in saying or acting on the raging dumbness.]

Monday, February 12, 2007

Saul Alinsky got a lot done in community organizing, that is, in getting people together to work for things they as a group want to improve. "Rules for Radicals" is a good read for his specific ideas and his spirit, which is "let's go, let's do it, we can do it, there is stuff to do that works in any situation."

"Works" for him means gets the community what it wants and shows people who may never have organized for anything before that they can, in fact, succeed in getting what they want.

One of Alinsky's rules for freeing up a lot of energy in individuals was this: Think of eight things you're worried about a lot in the last year. Notice how many of them happened.

"Rules for Radicals" would work for people who don't know they are interested in community organizing because it's good to hang out with Alinsky's energy and his head. Ways of changing thing, big stuck looking things are right there. What seems like a problem can be part of the solution.

Of course, many of the poorish people he helped organize would seem to some in other parts of their cities to be a problem. But he makes them a solution by showing them how to make their lives better. He doesn't say doing this prevents things like crime, suicide, despair, ill mental and physical health caused by sitting around doing nothing, eating bad food and crummy TV ideas and getting bummed.

He doesn't say that because that would be negative, and he wasn't wired like that. Here we all are and here is the way it is. We point who we are at what we don't like, doing activities that this group of people finds interesting and fun and some things change.

Healthier democracy. Healthier people. Healthier cities.

Why worry? Look at what seems to be the problem, look at all that is around the problem as resources, and go. Alinsky did that naturally.

By reading his book, people could get more self-fulfilling optimism about solving any problem. And they could be blasted out of thinking any group of people is a natural problem. People who seem like problems have not yet discovered their own natural power to fix up what they want to fix up.

The exact ways Alinsky talks about would work for better in a democracy. But that's what we have, right. And reading him would inspire others to see what they've got.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

In Danny Kaye's Around the World storybook I read when I was a kid, a offshoot of Danny Kaye's work for the United Nations, I noticed that I had a hard time staying with stories from the Middle East and that general area. I noticed it was because they were longer, they went on and on, and they didn't do the one, two, three thing.

Like, the first bear, the second bear, the third bear. Or Red Riding Hood's first comment to the wolf dressed as her grandmother , her second comment, the third comment and action.

Older stories from Europe are big on one, two, three. Current jokes in the US are big on one, two, three. So three guys went into a bar. So three animals went into a bar.

There's an adjective, "Byzantine" which sometimes is used to mean complex and sneaky.

The western part of the Roman Empire fell apart in the 400's of our current year counting system. The eastern part stayed together and at least somewhat functional until the late 1400's of our current year counting system. That empire was sometimes called the Byzantine empire.

So you can the people in western Europe having simpler and simpler lives where if three things happened that was a lot.

You had people in and around the Byzantine empire having a bureaucracy, a government ruling widely separated, wildly different people. That level of organization was beyond western Europe for hundreds of years.

When someone used to the village life of western Europe got a view of how a large, complex government worked, they might have had a hard time getting it. They might have retreated into thinking "[I don't understand this so] it must be complex and sneaky."

The complex government gave some people time to live and imagine stories that went on and one, where varied things happened, not just three variations on the same thing.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

It's not "That's how things are."

It's "Given the current state of our collective imagination and courage, that's how things are.."

Friday, February 09, 2007

Not that long ago, Italy was covered with trees.

Humans have deforested big parts of Italy well within recorded history.

It's one thing to say it. It's another thing to make it real in a novel.

In "The Baron of the Trees" by Italo Calvino, the child who is going to be a baron when his father dies gets mad at this family one afternoon over not much and says he is going to climb a tree in the back yard and never come down.

He does it. It doesn't stay in that particular tree but he is able to live his whole life in trees, going from tree to tree to visit people, to be part of the resistance (against Napoleon) when it's time to resist. Living an all tree life. With servants and money and and affection for outdoor living, it is not bad.

Reading the book makes the Italy of that time very forested as the Baron travels far and wide from tree top to tree top.

--The book is "The Baron of the Trees" by Italo Calvino translated by William Weaver. Calvino's work in English is such gorgeous writing that you can only bow in thanks to both Calvino and Weaver, an amazing team.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Doing the Sunday New York Times Crossword puzzle, I discerned that the Civil War Battle being asked for was Fair Oaks. I barely knew that was a Civil War battle--just enough to make the leap give the clue and the letters I had already filled in.

Bing! went my mind. All those little street in Noe Valley are named after Civil War battles. Fair Oaks, Chattanooga, Vicksburg.

Walking across Vicksburg, I have occasionally thought of the very important Civil War battle. Cut the Mississippi in half so the Confederacy couldn't use it like they had been. Was won by U.S. Grant, drawing the attention of Lincoln to a general who could win. Lincoln brought him East and he won. Vicksburg was especially nasty--siege, starve the civilians.

The other battles I don't know about and I hadn't thought about how the whole group of Noe Valley short street specific to Noe Valley between the longer streets that cross neighborhoods were Civil War battles. Gotta look on a map--I'm sure there are more.

What is here now is affected by those battles. The kids that weren't had because people died, their descendants aren't here. The moments that the people who died in battle might have had of insight and of love that might of entered the groundwater of endless consequences didn't happen. There are ideas missing, and touches of one human to another missing because of the ongoing missingness created by the battle of Fair Oaks and its endless cousins.

Before I noticed these little streets were named after battles, I did think about the battle of Vicksburg sometimes at the corner of Vicksburg and 24th. When I walked on Chattanooga, I didn't think of a battle. I thought, sometimes of the time me and some friends had a pizza at the pizza place as it was closing. The two women working there didn't mind us munching on as they cleaned up. We surely didn't not mind them cleaning up because they sang an excellent, close-harmony version of "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" as the did say. Stacking chairs in rhythm, making practiced hand gestures at certain points. They had practiced; they were good.

Certain whimsy missing because the daughters of the daughters, the sons of the sons of the war dead took their particular DNA and its implied brain wiring to an early grave.

One purpose of the Civil War was that people who were enslaved be free to vote, to live, to move where they wanted to move, to quit jobs when they wanted, to be silly in their own way, to make grand art because they had time and weren't beaten to death.

It took to long for the shebang of that purpose to take hold. Chattanooga, Fair Oaks, Vicksburg, then way too soon, you can't get together money to move because it's set up like that, if you try to vote you might get killed by cowards at night.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A reporter interviewing a big movie star in New York City in the 1950's had an unusual experience,which he wrote about later. I think the star was Jean Seberg,who is not much thought about now and was huge then.

He interviewed her in a restaurant and was surprised at how little attention she got. Basically, none. As they left the restaurant, he asked her how she dealt with the attention he was sure she must get sometimes.

She said, "Let me show you something." They walked down the sidewalk on the block the restaurant was on. People shouted her name, said they loved her in various movies they named. She smiled back.

She and the reporter got to the cross street. As they crossed the street, she said, "Watch this." They walked down that block, and she got no reaction at all. They were just two more people walking in New York.

He could see no difference at all in what she was doing or not doing in the two blocks.
The same word in English,"mad," can mean angry and insane. I bet there is no human language in which the same word can mean angry and intelligent.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Well, duh. I just found a 2004 book that says Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead were lovers, to which I said, well, duh. I hadn't thought of it. It makes much sense, partly because Mead tended to have sexual relationships with people she worked closely with. Early on, she married, serially, two or three men she worked on anthropology projects with.

It was much known that Benedict was a big influence on Mead. I read in the book she was fifteen years older than Mead--I would have guessed more.

The book is based on newly released papers. It says, I think, that Mead didn't want the hassle of just going with women. Benedict never married.

There was a period in lesbian novels where one of them tended to commit suicide at the end. Ann Bannon, who wrote pulp lesbian novels in the fifties, said in a documentary I saw that you could have the characters have many pleasant times as long as one of them (at least) died in the end.

Then time passed, and lesbian fiction changed a big so that often the situation was that one person cared about the social hassle a lot and the other person cared about social hassle much less. In the Benedict/Mead relationship, Mead cared more.

Now I think lesbian novels matter less because you can see that such folks exist in the media both in fiction on TV and non-fiction interviews.

Once about the only lesbian novel any average person was likely to have heard of was "The Well of Loneliness" by Ranclyffee Hall. The local library might have it. In the end of that book, the butch woman tells the femme woman who can pass to go forth and marry a guy and pass.

Then, in the sixties, the most famous lesbian novel was "Rubyfruit Jungle" by Rita Mae Brown, which implied it ain't easy to leave your background and be who you are but once you do there are lots of fun choices.

Look down at the power between you legs. It changed from being a well of loneliness to a rubyfruit jungle.

--The book referred to in the beginning is "Intertwined Lives: Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, and Their Circle" by Lois W. Banner

Monday, February 05, 2007

I was in three close-to-each-other counties in one day. In each, I saw someone dancing in everyday life. A man in a supermarket aisle. A little kid on the sidewalk. A woman on her side lawn.

It was brief, but it was really dancing. Not choreographed, but dancing.

Three I saw. How many times did it happen that day, in San Francisco, Alameda and Marin Counties? Or in the counties of the whole United State? Or in the whole world? What really happens every day? What secret, widespread good things are afoot?

Though maybe the water had something to do with it. In terms of county lines, Alameda, San Francisco and Marin Counties are touching, in fact as land they are separated by water. Maybe the water that day found a way to say, "Move more liquidly, please."

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Six, the English word, contains the Roman numeral for nine. And six is two-thirds of nine, and the Roman numeral nine makes up two-thirds of the English word six. I'm fairly sure this doesn't mean anything.
I like "The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs" because it's fairly short, and therefore it was reasonable and interesting to read the whole thing.

It's British, and it was interesting to note which proverbs have not crossed the Atlantic as sayings living and used. For example, people in Britain really say, "There's naught as queer as folk" meaning there's nothing as odd as people. I can imagine using it as a not too judgemental response to some bit of gossip. It even implies that we'll all folk and therefore all weird.

So with that as a living saying, it has a different ring when the Brits make a TV series called "Queer As Folk" about gay guys. Interesting resonance. Sort of implying we all have our different bits that others may think weird and for some people that's gay.

But since "there's naught as queer as folk" isn't a living saying in the US, "Queer As Folk" doesn't have resonance--it's just the name of the UK series the US series is modeled on.

"When Adam delved and Eve span, who then was the gentleman?" The book said that is a living used saying in the UK. When Adam dug and farmed and Eve spun and did the domestic work, who was the gentleman? Where were the classes at the beginning of everything, hm?

In the introduction to the book, the editor says that people don't refer to proverbs as authority like they used to. His ideas was that people used to refer to proverbs as the wisdom of the ages and therefore something that should be heeded.

His saying that helped me notice what people do now. They refer to other people, older than them as authorities when they quote proverbs. "My uncle always used to say. . ." "Like my mother always said. . ." That which follows such a statement is often an old and anthologized proverb.

People are respecting the wisdom of elders, just elders closer in.

People when talking about proverbs as proverbs, rather than using them as something the beloved older relative said, say proverbs contradict themselves.

They do. They are a way of helping you say something in a pithy way, and invoking authority while you do so. You know what you think, and you remember what wise whoever used to say, which is a great way of saying what you think.

If you think you or someone else needs to slow down and be careful, "Haste makes waste" is available. If you think y'all need to get a move on, like your aunt used to say, "A stitch in time saves nine" is there for you.

--"The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Proverbs" was edited by John Simpson with the assistance of Jennifer Speake. That's the one I read. Now there is "The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs" edited by Jennifer Speake. I look forward to checking it out when I'm in that reading-a-book-of-proverbs mood.

Friday, February 02, 2007

"A Midsummer Night's Dream"'s most obvious plot is about four lovers, two men and two women, trying to get into happy alignment. The ideal is two couples, one man and woman in each, and the two love each other.

It takes the whole five act play by Shakespeare to get there. That's partly because at the beginning one of the guys, Demetrius, has fallen out of love with the woman who loves him. The other two are okay and in alignment at the beginning, but that changes fast as the night of wandering around in the dark, in the woods, among the magical wood folk progresses.

I have a hard time telling the four lovers apart. I was helped much by a note on the play I read someplace that says, "That's the point." Shakespeare is saying, "What difference does it make?" The people inside these relationships get all bent out of shape, but they are much the same. It's the opposite of what "Romeo and Juliet," as a play says. That play says it has got to be these two and if not, death makes sense.

What I notice most about reading "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is not after reading it, for a few days, I see the plants I walk past in the city in a more intense way. I can almost hear them doing some kind of singing. Corporate plants around corporate headquarters downtown still have their real plant bodies like the bodies of the plants Shakespeare grew up with in rural England.

He loved them. They loved him. I think his opinions about humans in couples changed depending on how things were going with him. The hidden love poem to plants in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"--I feel like that connection didn't change for him

I say the love poem to plants is hidden because when I read "A Midsummer Night's Dream," I don't look out for the plant imagery. I'm very human focussed. What I'm conscious of when reading the play is following the amusing from the outside trials of the humans. So I get done doing that. And take some usual urban walk.

And the plants are unusually there.

The present of presence. Conveyed by words across centuries.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

There is a dream people have of what combat will be, and it isn't like that.

Stephen Gaskin came from a military family and dreamed of being in combat as a glorious thing. The instant he was in real combat, he wrote, he couldn't think of doing anything but helping other people were hurt. The man who dreamed of medals became instant, unofficial medic.

"Men Who March Away" is an anthology of poems by British guys who were in World War I arranged in chronological order.

The early ones dream of glory, the later ones are about mud and blood and meaninglessness. These poems are often by the same guys, the early dewy eyed ones, and the later ones filled with rotting bodies.

There's a new short, clear book called "Mud: "A Military History" that is aimed at military people, and therefore practical, but easy for anyone to read. The mud events they describe are not what anyone is dreaming of when they think joining up is the great good thing.

Is there a great good thing that has some of the aspects of popular fantasy of combat? Is there some, great good thing like that really exists.