Saturday, December 01, 2007

by Adam Zagajewski (b. 1945)

December, herald of destruction,
takes you on a long stroll
through the black torsos of trees
and leaves scorched in autumn’s fire,

as if to say: so much then for
your secrets and your treasures,
the fervent trill of small birds,
the promises of summer months.

Your dreams have been dissected,
the blackbird’s song now has a rationale,
plants’ corpses clutter the herbarium.
Only the laboratory’s hard stone remains.

Don’t listen: they may take everything away,
but they can’t have your ignorance,
they can’t take your mysteries, strip you
of your third homeland.

Don’t listen: the holidays draw near
and frozen January, snow’s white paper.
What you’ve waited for is being born.
The one you’re seeking will begin to sing.

[Translated by Clare Cavanagh]

Friday, November 30, 2007

From the Boston Daily Globe
Wednesday morning, November 1, 1911


He Draws Revolver and Holds Men at Bay -- Was Punishing Boy Who Played Halloween Tricks on Him.

A party of boys started a disturbance early last evening at the corner of Massachusetts and Shawmut avs. when they played Halloween tricks upon a Chinaman.

Armed with bean blowers they bombarded the Chinaman's shop and pelted him with their beans. One missile hit the Chinaman in the eye and hurt him severely. He chased the boys and caught one, whom he proceeded to punish. A crowd of colored men heard the lads cries for help and started after the Chinaman.

Then the laundryman backed into a corner and drew a revolver. He held the angry men at bay until their passions were somewhat cooled. He finally escaped to his laundry.

Some excited citizen telephoned to police headquarters, and Lieut Daly of the East Dedham-st station was asked to send out his men to quell the disturbance, which was promptly done.


A few things are noteworthy here:

(1) Obviously, how the language referring to ethnic groups has changed over the last ninety years;

(2) How the attitude toward brandishing firearms has changed over the last ninety years;

(3) How the attitude toward corporal punishment has changed over the last ninety years (Massachusetts is considering a ban on spanking);

(4) How journalistic prose has changed ("until their passions were somewhat cooled").

If this same incident had occurred on Halloween 2007, the Chinese man would have been arrested, for punishing the young hooligan (presumably by beating him), and for aiming the revolver at the crowd of African-Americans.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Playing with templates
and fonts and colors

Well, this is it, for the time being. The "Snapshot Sable" template, with the Times font for the text.

There are some things I don't like about this one, but I think I'll keep it for a while.


Update, Friday morning

Changed back to Rounders 3. I couldn't enlarge the type on the Snapshot Sable template without throwing it out of whack (a big gray square would interpose itself between the header and the most recent post); green fonts came out as blue, for some reason, and the problem with the youtube screens was also difficult to fix ...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Recent reading

Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament by Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison. Fascinating. Two "skimmable" chapters of too much jargon, charts and graphs -- skimmable for me, perhaps of interest to the diagnostician -- and a whole chapter dedicated to Lord Byron, whose poetry I've never cared for -- but an interesting study, citing the lives of many poets, painters, and composers. It poses the question: Is a certain amount of mania necessary to the creative process? It raises concerns about eugenics: how, in the not too distant past, the mentally ill were sterilized. I didn't regret reading this book.

Saint Benedict on the Freeway by Corinne Ware. Contemplative "chic" by a modern Episcopalian. It has its silly moments, which, alas, outnumber the moments of genuine insight.

Cushing of Boston: A Candid Portrait by Joseph Dever. From 1965. A very enthralling biography, and a time-machine of American (and especially, Bostonian) Catholicism. For instance, we read about "the hard-shell conservatism of the New England Jesuit province" (!). I'm a little more than halfway through this one, and I'm enjoying it thoroughly. For instance, when the biographer mentions the prelate's "sometimes too lengthy eloquence of pulpit and platform," I'm reminded of my mom's anecdote about Cardinal Cushing speaking to her high-school graduating class. It was June 4, 1963 -- the day after Pope John XXIII died. The archbishop kept the graduates in the sweltering 90-degree heat as he eulogized the late pontiff at sesquipedalian length. To most readers of this blog, this book will be unfindable. But it is highly recommended.

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh. I've often heard that this is a literary masterpiece, but for some reason I can't quite get into this one. To anyone who has read the collection of the painter's letters and derived enjoyment therefrom: Should I give it another chance?

C. S. Lewis: Letters to an American Lady and Mere Christianity. I found myself wishing that the Letters occupied more than the scant 120 pages. I was thoroughly edified, entertained, and instructed by this slim volume. And Mere Christianity has been lauded elsewhere: a salutary reminder of the basics of orthodox Christian faith.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Psalm 122. Laetatus sum.

1 I was glad when they said unto me, * We will go into the house of the LORD.

2 Our feet shall stand in thy gates, * O Jerusalem.

3 Jerusalem is built as a city * that is at unity in itself.

4 For thither the tribes go up, even the tribes of the LORD, * to testify unto Israel, to give thanks unto the Name of the LORD.

5 For there is the seat of judgment, * even the seat of the house of David.

6 O pray for the peace of Jerusalem; * they shall prosper that love thee.

7 Peace be within thy walls, * and plenteousness within thy palaces.

8 For my brethren and companions' sakes, * I will wish thee prosperity.

9 Yea, because of the house of the LORD our God, * I will seek to do thee good.