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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Insomnia And Otis Tarda, Reducks


In response to Lady Austan's request for further datary work on this theme, I've attacked it again. There are two other reasons. One is leap year. To students of time this will be old stuff, but one never tires of astronomical arithmetic does one? Earth's solar orbit consumes 365.25 days, so every now and then we collect what's right of the decimal into an intercalary day, which causes February 28th to go on for about three weeks. Despite its annoying interruption of our sleep patterns, we celebrate this day by shouting encouragement at astrometrists. This is known as hortatory horology. Other reason is my neighbors. Interrupted sleep made me mislabel my previous post. It is only by wildest coincidence its title has anything to do with the hapless Bustard. I meant to post an interview with my interesting neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Tarda. I shall do so now.

Otis: What the...?

Insomnia: It's really late, Geo. What's wrong?

Geo.: Can I borrow...

Otis and Insomnia: No!

Geo.: I have beer.

Otis: Ok, what do you want?

Geo.: Tell me about your last name.

Otis: Tarda is an apocape of a much longer and fairly common family name in the old country.

Geo.: And why did they immigrate?

Otis: My people were religious dissidents. They questioned the Trinity.

Geo.: Father, Son, Holy Ghost?

Otis: No, Inheritance of debt, Abolition of ego and Extension of credit. They were Catholic.

Insomnia: It was just a really lousy country.

Geo.: Now your name, Insomnia, is intriguing. Does it have special cultural significance?

Insomnia: No, my parents lived next to a research facility that developed products for the maturity-impaired.

Geo.: Such as?

Insomnia: Motorcycle mufflers that don't muffle, high-output sub-woofers. My parents never got any sleep.

Otis: So everybody left the shores of the old country, but few made it here.

Geo.: Because?

Otis and Insomnia: They were not given boats.

Geo: And how do they celebrate Leap Year in the old country?

Otis: By the running of the Bustards. It coincides very roughly with Hogmanay and March Madness. All the birds and townfolk run down the road dribbling basketballs under dorsiferous barrels of burning tar.

Insomnia: Many never come back!

Otis: Anything else, Geo.? It's the middle of the night for heaven's sake.

Geo.: Well, since you mention it, could I borrow...

Otis and Insomnia: NO!!!

Otis Tarda And Insomnia


There are many forms of knowledge, a priori, a posteriori, transcendental, expletive, private, public etc. Arguably, all hinge upon the definition of experience, which can be broad or narrow, so knowledge by acquaintance is probably the most philosophically versatile sort. At least that is what I think at the moment, but do I know? Do I look like I do?

Beyond the moment, one may acquaint oneself with facts as they arise. They become part of experience and, where facts are in short supply, one relies upon evidence. Sometimes acquaintances misbehave and there are goings-on. Do I look like someone who holds with goings-on?

Such is the cyclic character of evidence, fact and knowledge gathered according to electrostatic laws under hair. That is all I know about knowledge and it is unsettling. What I don't know about it is equally unsettling but somewhat more interesting. Things that we do not know we know possess the quality of surprise. Do I look like the sort of person who likes surprises?

But yes, I ask unfair questions! How could you or I know what sort of concatenation of strange enthusiasms I look like? More importantly, what do I know that I do not know that I know? It is very late at night but I will attempt a list:

1. I know what a Great Bustard is. I am pretty sure the Puritans landed at Plymouth Rock in search of them. They found wild turkeys, which closely resemble Great Bustards, and bagged them with blunderbusses. Blunderbusses were a strange hybrid of shotgun and sousaphone that pretty much destroyed everything that wasn't standing behind them. They were the first dual-purpose instrument to be outlawed both in the forest and parades.

2. I know blunderbusses were prized by hunters with poor eyesight and music-lovers with poor hearing. The mean age of early American Pilgrims was 62 years. That is precisely my age, but modern medicine has come a long way since then. It has clarified pathology and changed human perspective upon it. I now understand these maladies are illusions inflicted by the environment: the world is growing fuzz and mumbling.

3. I know it is past one a.m. and my mentation is clouding, but I will search the Internet for Bustards and put a picture over this post. I have found one! If we expand our definition of experience to include delirium we can claim knowledge by acquaintance with philosophical certainty --and it is reciprocal. I sense these birds are aware of humanity and, except for one vowel, their word for us is identical to ours for them.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fabulous Beasts 5, The Earth



It is rumored to hide underfoot.

According to folklore, it keeps animals to protect its secrets. When we delve too deeply into its canyons and caves, wild things roar up and shake their hairy heads at us.

It draws us downward daily, according to our mass, and tires us into sleep. It causes us to dream. In this suggestible state men receive what scientists call "neural janglents" to make us distracted and jumpy. Women do not.

Creation myths unanimously describe our assembly from soil --men of clay, snails, puppydog tails. Women emerge, wiser and less insecure, from more transcendent materials --everything nice. They intuit and aid the tremendous operations of Earth, like recycling.

Earth wants us to recycle. I have taken notes on the appropriate ritual, a recitative exchange of astonishing antiquity and brevity:

She: Do you mind? It's garbage-out night.

I: No, keep me. I'm still good!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Examining Our Urban Routes

[Norma photo]
The subject of urban psychology was opened in a previous essay, "Fear And Love Of Cities" (this blog, 1-19-10), and received no feedback except from Anonymous, which I didn't print. One must always be careful to avoid becoming a victim of Anonymous's admiration. But the essay offered some general background on cities --a subject that was shelved until a proper visual aid was available. The map is ready. Although to some it is only a mat of surface roots, it does reward closer inspection.

The map represents a project of 20 year's duration, completed in the back yard with minimal attendance. As you can see, it is solid maple. Only labor involved in its construction was tearing it out of a lawn with a tractor and leaning it against the pumphouse wall. The maple tree played a major role but it was finished by the elements. It is what nature thinks cities look like and it is universally accurate.

There is a grid of streets. It may not look very orderly but, because we are creatures of nature, is exactly what one's mind sees a moment after consulting any city map --a phenomenon that no Haussmannesque geometric renovation has been able to disturb. In its center is always a town square with a pedestal, upon which is inscribed the town motto: "Nouveaux hauts de chaussure ! Vraiment nous sommes les favoris de Providence." Or, if one is not in Paris, "New shoe uppers! Truly we are the favorites of Providence."

For some distance around the central square one finds city-people. They consist of business-owners who work for everybody and everybody, who works for the business-owners. There is also a smattering of public servants who work for everybody else. Together, they fill the interior grid. However, if one ventures to the map's rural outskirts, one finds farm wagons full of fusty rustics racketing down the road. This may be an oversimplification but I have always wanted to write a sentence with fusty rustics in it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Undeserved Awards


I was given the Irresistibly Sweet award by Susan Flett Swiderski, a very good writer. It means I'm supposed to write seven things about myself that have not appeared in this blog. I read seven things on Susan's blog that she wrote about herself with pictures and everything. It was fun to read and really interesting. I don't know if I can be as interesting but maybe I can find some pictures.

1. I am not sweet. My wife told me. She thinks I'm grumpy, always has, probably right. Her name is Norma and we met in a school library in the 1960s. I looked like this:2. Norma was studying a book on physiology in the library in the 1960s. The page she was on had a picture of the human heart. It looked like this:
It was almost Valentine's Day, like now, so I took out my pen and wrote "Happy Valentine's Day" on the picture. Then I asked her out. She said no.

3. Ok, maybe that was sweet, but I never got sweet again. Guys learn early on whether or not girls appreciate that sort of thing. Norma consented to go out with me a year and a half after I did that.

4. I don't like cell-phones because they take pictures when you don't know you're being photographed. This is how I look now: Our kids are all over the world and she keeps track of them on her cell-phone and that's ok. She was talking with one of them, a musician who just got back to San Francisco after performing in Spain. But with headset wires, I don't know when she's quite off the thing and never know when she's taking pictures. I decided to speak to her about it:
5. When I asked if she was willing to turn the lens around, she did and captured a typical reaction to most of my serious thoughts:
6. I sold a ditch one time. Years ago, our daughter wanted to study theater costume design in Prague. We helped by selling our roadside ditch to the county. Daughter makes a good living designing costumes for productions all over the country.

7. Maybe selling the ditch was sweet too, but we have other kids at whom I don't remember ever getting sweet. One is a writer and editor, another is a programmer and systems analyst who has also published. I am not exceptionally bright but am privileged to have helped conduct some light into the world. Norma does most of it. When I was a kid reading Appleton's "Tom Swift", I thought the future would be exciting, but I never dreamed it would be so full of adventure as it really is:
I'm also supposed to name seven bloggers and tell them to write seven things each about themselves. But since I have 15 followers on this site, I invite each of them to write three and a half things.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Conversation With Anonymous #2


I have received a new communication from Anonymous and will endeavor to answer it. It came in the form of a comment on a poem posted in a series, "Gardening With Geo.", which can be accessed by my profile page. But to preserve the exclusive, rarefied and infrequent character of that blog's readership I will reproduce the literary novelty that induced such spastic appreciation in Anonymous:

Hinge View Of A Bivalve
(Saturday, August 30, 2008)

Here inside,
In limits,
Focal umbo
Under ribs,
Is this
Convecting swarm
Of salt and stars,
Boiling --by which
Alembic I might
Scald an angel out
Or open my shell
To roaring sun
And let one in.

****
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Hinge View Of A Bivalve":

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****
Dear Anonymous,

Hi yourself. Haven't heard from you for some weeks and my memory is not too good but I recall you tried several languages with little success before English. I thought you had settled into it and was surprised this latest epistle lapsed into a sort of Pidgin-German. Are you all right?

You may notice that I have edited out the thirty or so clickable addresses that accompanied your comment. I mean no ingratitude or disrespect. It's just that I'm satisfied with the social life available to me and don't feel I could do justice to the activities you suggest. I do not understand some of them but am sure they're well-meant. Their frequent reference to "pussy" is likewise gratefully noted but I have a neighbor who has one that hops the fence and follows me around. It is a sort of brindled tabby that likes to hunt in my yard, so I'm really not short of cats.

What concerns me here is you have not quite got the idea of my poem. It deals with learning, the mind employing ampliative induction to expand understanding, and uses the alchemist's oven as metaphor. I know you're very busy with cyber-activism, defending WikiLeaks and championing various causes, whether they want you to or not, but even the best-intended nuisances sometimes need periods of quiet reflection. I hope you feel better soon.

Geo.