Tuesday, September 27, 2011

As Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden, God said, "The land outside Eden isn't Eden, but it's wonderful in its own way, so don't turn any of it into the nothingish, scary space beneath freeway overpasses, okay?"

Monday, September 26, 2011

"The rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air" are words frequently sung around here.

Explosive entrances are much sought for and often achieved, where people in general weren't aware of X and then X is suddenly all over everywhere.

Also available to be aimed for and sometimes achieved are subtle and pervasive effects. Slowly, things become different. Slowly, we get used to the difference. Slowly, we get good at the difference.
In honor of our good friend, Life on Earth, today we are making nothing but moments, today we are using nothing but time.
We don't look like we planned to look when it rains. The struggle of the little animal against the big environment shows more.
The Eiffel Tower and bicycles as we use them come from about the same time in history and have a similar look of spindly beauty.

The Eiffel Tower was built in 1889. Safety bicycles, the name of bikes with equal sized tires that everyone could ride as they replaced big wheel little wheel bikes mostly ridden by daring young men, took over between 1880 and 1890.

I can see the beauty of the shape of bikes best on sunny days looking at the shape shadows of parked bikes on the sidewalk.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The dog is pretty, a Scottie profile on the sidewalk with long, carefully brushed hair which is grey and improves the greys of the sidewalk and of the parking meter it's leashed to, alertly fully extending the leash but not straining on it, focused intently on the glass door of the small clothes store.

The mother and daughter are pretty, just inside the clothes store's door, mother in her late twenties, kneeling at the level of the daughter and the dog.

The daughter seems about as young as she could be and still make sense of the clothes store experience. She looks to be liking touching the textured fabric of a dress and being touched lightly on her shoulder by her mom.

The heart looks pretty, spray painted red on the outside wall of the store, under the big windows that look into the store, right above where the wall touches the sidewalk. The heart is dripping red from its heart shape which seems like not injury but a spreading desire to include everyone in.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The cynic has a shorter to-do list than the optimist.
Looking for a new meaning in life in the morning, before people get set in there ways again.
The official story. The unofficial stories.

One problem with paying a lot of attention to the official story is you get in the habit of thinking there's one story.

Then, if you dump the official story, you look for one other story to be true, instead of diving into the sea of consciousnesses.
You might want to be alive later.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Petroleum invisibles many things as I go past them so fast I can't see them.
Does the cruel oaf in the group get to lead?

Sunday, September 04, 2011

I'm reading "Humphry Clinker," a 1771 novel in letters I hadn't heard of before finding it in a free box. I don't know much about it--I think it's one of those where everyone is quirky, which can have a certain charm or can seem self-indulgent, on the part of the author, and quaint-phoney. I have good hopes.

I could read the intro, but I like to dive in and see what I learn when I hear the author directly, without having been told what to think and what tone to think in.

One thing I know, after a few pages, is that if I write down and look up all the words I don't know, I'll be words ahead by the time I'm finished.

I think some of them are probably out of use and only to be found in the Oxford English Dictionary. Some are foreign, probably mostly French. I don't know if the OED will help me with the French. If the French is as old and obscure as some of the English words, I'll need to find another reference book to look it up in.

I'm sixty pages into my paperback "Humphry Clinker." Almost everyone is quirky, and it works.

The only important character who isn't quirky is the ingenue, Lydia, the young woman in love with the apparently inappropriate young man.

She has only enough characteristics to fulfill her plot part. She is dewy-eyed about the guy, dutiful toward her uncle, who is her guardian and wants her to give up the guy, and torn between those feelings.

Dewy-eyed, dutiful, torn--that's it. No hobbies. No hints of anything else going on inside. A human being has to flatten herself a lot to appear to be that kind of woman.

Her uncle, Mr. Bramble, on the other hand, is a treasure trove of characteristics.

He runs most of his varying characteristics through anger.

He moves into a hotel in the resort town of Bath. Someone else staying there has musicians playing. He doesn't like that they are playing music. He goes and hits the musicians with his cane.

The person taking care of business for him while he travels writes and wants to prosecute a poacher and evict a tenant not paying his rent.

Mr. Bramble blows up. He writes angrily how can you throw someone out of where they live just because they are having money problems? Probably the poacher shouldn't poach, but he and Bramble have known each other and long time and putting the law on him is something Bramble will not do.

So Bramble can be angrily attacking or angrily generous.

It would be wild to think of a young woman of that time or now expressing everything she has to express angrily. Bramble's niece Lydia doesn't come within a continent of thinking of it.

This is one of the unusual novels of its time that actually mentions that not-white people exist. The musicians Bramble hits are not white, African background. A mulatto woman is mentioned in passing, which is more mention than non-whites get in many 18thand 19th century novels.

Such mentions when they happen are a mixed blessing. The accuracy is nice--not white people have been in Britain a long time. But the way they are mentioned is likely to be a drag.

Bramble hit some black guys, at a time when slavery was legal and black people were often hit. Bramble declared himself ready to hit their presumably white employer, but in fact, he didn't find him, didn't hit him and moved to another place in Bath. It seems likely that him expressing his ever present, ever expressed rage by hitting was related to these musicians being not white.

And maybe the author set it up like that to show Mr. Bramble at his worst on somebody with whom he could believably get away with it.

Lydia, though shallow, has Grand Canyon depth compared to the black musicians, who are black and musicians and that's it. It would be a big promotion for one of them to have love life problems, and it's a promotion they don't get.

The author, having invented Lydia shallow is uninterested in her. The set-up in her letters to her school friend is that she'll write regular letters to her through the post and find someone to take secret letters, about her love life frustration, to the friend directly.

But all that disappears for long swathes of the novel where all the other letter writers write multiple letters and Lydia writes none.

The author invented a boring character and is bored. Sort of the problem for woman in many times and places--people with power invented ways women were pressured to be which were boring, and the people in power were bored with women to the extent that the went along with it--and nasty when they didn't.

Also the Lydia in love plot is a potential through plot. A fun thing about the author of the book is he is little interested in through plot. The characters are traveling together and writing people who aren't traveling with them. The author likes small to medium sized events along the way, not a love plot unfolding, again.

He actually seems to have foreshadowed a solution for the love plot, with the inappropriate beloved, who is working as an actor, saying he is really a gentleman, and will appear as a gentleman and it will all be okay. But he keeps not appearing, either for reasons to be announced later in the book, or because the author doesn't care about this plot, or both.

I'm not really complaining, because love plots about wimpy women are often boring, even if one has a larger, historical understanding of why being wimpy was a strategy for real women that was workable and sometimes required.

This book was published in 1771, and the Declaration of Independence was published in 1776. I keep trying to find some relationship there.

The guy the novel is named after, Humphry Clinker, is the lowest status person with a speaking part. So it's something about the value of the lowly.

The Bramble household picked him up with Bramble ill-natured sister who is traveling with him, mistreated a servant to the point that he was so mouthy back to her he got fired.

Bramble noticed Clinker, poor, in desperate straits, nearby, and hired him, Bramble acting in a typically soft-hearted, in spite of his often ill-natured self-presentation.

Clinker is a good ad for lowly people in general. Lots of skills. Sort of weird, but lots of skills.

When they are traveling, the coach they are in turns over and needs both carpentry repair and metal repair--blacksmith work. Clinker can do and does do both.

The way Clinker does the blacksmith work is Bramble finds a smithy near the site of the wreck, but the smithy isn't there and the forge is all fired up and ready to go.

The author has fun creating what he needs in a time when people didn't give coincidence in books a hard time. The means of being a blacksmith and the absence of a blacksmith gives Clinker his chance to fix the messed up metal. He's already fixed the wood.

So is the message that the poor are awash in saving skills. I don't know.

A thing that the Declaration and the book, especially Mr. Bramble's letters, have in common, is really enjoying using language. Luxuriating in saying what there is to be said is present in both documents, with different topics and levels of seriousness.

I think sometimes as a language evolves through group improv a point is reached where isn't noticably different, and to some people alive then, more fun to play with. So they go for it. Elizabethan England was like that--Shakespeare and a bit later the King James Bible imply a lot of people talking grandly and to the point at the same time.

The 1770's in English might have been like that.

Which fact is used for humorous purpose. In his first letters in the book, Mr. Bramble uses his big vocabulary and love of wording it up to complain about his health. Maybe it's gout, he writes, or maybe, he writes, fearfully and hopefully, it's much worse.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

It was the word "grafitti" as grafitti that alerted me, slowly, to the duel at Sixth and Howard.

I noticed on a wall there the word "grafitti" really big, all caps. It was sort of in pointy grafitti letters style, only much more legible. They wanted to be perfectly clear.

It was dated and momented in April, 2011. It said something like April 11, 2011, 1:32 a.m.

The moment was about three days before I first noticed. I went that way two weeks after I first noticed, and it was gone, completely obliterated by shiny black paint. It wasn't like where people paint out grafitti and leave a grafitti shaped blotch. The whole wall was painted black and painted well.

This keeps happening. Someone keeps putting up skilled grafitti on that wall, interesting and never the same twice, and someone else keeps doing an excellent job of painting it out.

Last time I noticed, some the grafitti was playing with the black background. White mysterious figures of power were painted on the black. A human skull with some fur on it. A tentacled figure with a friendly or maybe ominous grin.The work had a title, "Dark Matter."

Further down the wall, letters said "The Art of Grafitti." Really large letters. One of the f's extended from almost touching the sidewalk to my shoulder. They were three-D looking letters like used to be used for epic Hollywood movies, letters that look like they are built like the Egyptian pyramids.

I would expect that's probably painted out by now.

This is all happening on the side of an art gallery.

I miss a lot of installments because I don't go right there very often. To me, 6th and Howard and around there combines crummy, in some directions, and boring, in other directions, in ways that don't draw me.

But that wall is neither crummy nor boring. It is high quality grafitti and high quality painting out of grafitti.

If you go to look at it, and it's in its dark phase, right across Howard is lots of pretty good grafitti that doesn't go away so frequently and totally. It also isn't of such consistently high quality, though it may be done by the same people.

And of course, if it's business hours, you could go into the art gallery, which doesn't feature grafitti.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The people who started the invention of English didn't speak English when they were growing up.

I like to take my ears for a walk here where I can hear many people speaking English who grew up speaking English and many people speaking English who didn't grow up speaking English.

Even a slightly different word order, that's clear, unusual and something I'd never think of can sound like a door opening to many small freedoms from routine. Tomorrow doesn't have to be like yesterday. Invention is present.

There is to hear also on the ear walk the music of humility and possibility--people obviously making all kinds of sense to each other in languages I don't understand. There are many ways to live. There is much that I don't know.

In medieval times, the two main languages of the area now France were called the language of yes and the language of yes. They were named after their different ways of saying yes, langue d'oc (southern) and langue d'oil (northern and the eventual overall winner, as "oil" changed to the standard French "oui."

Kids of a certain age are made of saying yes to the language they are immersed in.

I was on a Muni bus once when eight French people came on the bus and were a huge hit with a kid sitting on his mother's lap who was just at that age of absorbing the language and culture around him so he could be the language and culture around him.

French is heard less in San Francisco than English and Spanish and Chinese languages, less than Tagalog/Philipino and Russian. This kid might not have heard French before.

He was riveted by the French people speaking and being French. He stared at their mouth talking, their hands gesturing, everything about them. Can I be this one, too? I've never seen this one, and I love it.

In 1066 and 1067 and so on, many people in England who hadn't heard French before heard lots of French.

Some of the kids might have been able to hear it as an amazing trick or a new song, but the adults in England, speaking the form of German they grew up speaking, would be incline against delight. The French speakers were there because the German speakers had lost an invasion.

They lost the Battle of Hastings right on the coast facing France. They lost a few uprising later, and the French speakers were in England to stay.

The people who had lived in England their whole lives could feel however they felt about the new guys and the French speakers could feel however they felt about dealing with many people who spoke no French.

Regardless of feelings, the time would arrive when Norman French speakers (speaking a form of langue d'oc) and Anglo-Saxon German speakers would need to do something specific together--build a barn, fill a barn, make love.

Telepathy and gestures and getting to know an individual's person style can go a long way, but eventually, the ruler and the ruled learned a few words of each other's language.

When they had known a few words for a while and put words from each language, words maybe played with and simplified, right next to each other and the word combinations worked and made sense to other people from both languages, they had started the invention of English.

The part of the novel "Moby Dick" that sticks with me and pops into my mind uninvited has nothing to do with Captain Ahab and his crazed quest to kill the huge, even for a whale, whale that hurt him.

It's the part where some of the crew are in the water surrounded by acres of whales, whales as far as the eye can see, an unimaginable number of whales right there before them and around them.

The men are debating whether there will ever be a lot fewer whales than that, whether humans can make any dent, or a serious dent, in the numbers.

They agree that no, there are too many whales for humans to really reduce the numbers, and they go back to working at what was well-paying work, compared to similar work in other sea jobs, for everyone whaling. The author seems to agree.

I'll be reading the newspaper, or looking at trash flying in the air, and suddenly I'm with all those guys; I see all those whales and feel the whalers' confidence.
Kimberley Patton teaches at Harvard Divinity School--comparative religion, among other things. She noticed a dangerous idea that is common to many religious traditions--the idea that the ocean can wash away bad stuff and then the bad stuff is gone and no longer exists.

Her book on this is called "The Sea Can Wash Away All Evils: Modern Marine Pollution and the Ancient Cathartic Ocean."
--"The kid's a sponge. He said, 'Daddy, why did you walk on the red? You said we weren't supposed to.' So I stopped. I can't jaywalk. I can't jay anything."

--sidewalk voice, man to woman.