Category Archives: Blogging

Blogging Again

I started this blog back in 2006 I think because, at the time, we, my brothers and I, knew our father, W.B. was at death’s door. His death and the next year Joan’s, our mothers, and the events surrounding both seemed to have given me or fueled me with some sort of energy that led me, especially in the early phases of this blog, to remember and then recount moments from my childhood and teenage years.

But things have changed. I think about doing a blog entry, and either nothing or too much comes to mind and I don’t write anything.

The original energy is not there, and I think it significant that this year the anniversaries of the deaths of Joan and W.B. slipped by me without acknowledgement on the blog. The anniversary of W.B.’s death slipped by me until a couple of days after it has passed. Then I remembered it.

He died February 7, 2006.

Joan died April 10, 2007.

That my blog energy has changed doesn’t mean though that I have come to terms with the death of either exactly or my ongoing and changing feelings about them. Freud said the most significant event in a man’s if is the death of his father. I don’t know that he is right, but even if he is half or a quarter right that would suggest the death of one’s father is a kind of defining event, not something easily overcome, resolved, or put in mothballs.

joanwb 001.jpg
Here are Joan and Bill at the Delridge House in front of the Delridge fireplace.  I do remember a time when W.B. sported a mustache.  I think this picture was probably taken in the  late 80’s.

Tweaks

Tweaks

In addition to screwing around with templates and making errors, I tried to change the look of the blog. This requires working, however, with something called CSS (Cascading Style Sheets); this buffaloed me for a while until I spoke with a colleague–who knows much more about this stuff than I–who gave me a book and some encouragement. I then figured out how to add custom CSS to the default template, and changed the font to Ariel, and made the header for each entry smaller, and made the little letters in the banner a bit bigger and the big letters a bit smaller. Overall, I don’t expect anybody would notice these changes, but I think they make the page less blaring and a bit more inviting.

Also I wanted tfeedwidget.gifo make a link from this blog to my other blog on teaching and to Brother Steve’s and Brother Dan’s blog. I screwed around trying to do this for a long time, until I noticed on the main template page something called “widget feed.”

 Once I discovered that, it was easy to make links to the aforementioned blogs. You can see them over on the right. It’s easy now for me to keep track of Brother Steve’s blog and Brother Dan’s.
widgets.gif

Those were the main changes–not much I guess–but they took me a while to do.

This stuff is complicated. As far as I can figure it, in making a blog, one is working with at least three different levels of code. Good old HTML. Then CSS for working with the look of a page. And then in my case MT or movable type to build the site. And in addition there’s something called PHP. I don’t know anything about what that does and don’t want to. Right now I know just about as much as I want to know about this stuff.

And in a week or so I will have forgotten all of it. 

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

That’s the title to an article by Nicholas Carr that appeared in the July/August, 2009, Atlantic.

A student in my research paper writing class turned it up, and I read it.

Carr doesn’t conclude that Google makes us stupid. But in the course of making his argument, Carr recounts how his own reading habits have changed the more, over the years, he has used the internet. Sadly–or not–his experience parallels my own. He can speak for both of us:

Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

I have read perhaps three or four books from start to finish over the last five years. The last time I did I was on vacation and away from my computer. It was on the Middle Ages and I rather enjoyed it, especially the part about Magellan and his sad end.

But mostly now if the argument is complicated or requires “de-coding” or is more than four or five pages long I start getting irritated and frustrated; and this from a guy who once read Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind from beginning to end, and almost enjoyed it. Looking now at that or Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, I wonder how I ever did it, and doubt very much that I could do it now.

The way I would put it–and I think Carr puts it this way too–is that the net has turned everything into information. Sure you could read the Phenomenology of Mind, but why on earth would you want to do, when one can’t find all sorts of Cliff Notes summaries of the thing, and, heck, many of them are pretty accurate (as summary) but not of course the experience itself. The experience itself is pretty amazing. Hegel lays down a line of reasoning, follows it out completely, pulls you completely in, then pulls the rug out from under you as he makes a dialectical leap of some kind, and you are forced to re-assess all the assumptions that got you to that point of departure. This sort of experience simply does not show up in Cliff Notes info bits.

What though–if one wants to know what Hegel said–would be point of this experience. It doesn’t show up as something can be turned into an info bit. The point of this kind of experience of reading is the experience itself and that’s about it.

So what’s being lost exactly. I don’t know. But I think the net may have a good deal to do with the way students write these days. They have been immersed in the net for years. Information is just a click away. The experience of reading is not. That may go part way at least as an explanation for the constant teacher complaint: students cannot follow or write themselves a sustained argument.

2 Years Blogging

I was going through my daily business of cleaning the crap spam out of my comments when I happened to think “how long have I been doing this”—blogging I mean.  I guess my unconscious was at work because as far as I am able to tell from the blog itself, January 31—two days from this now moment–will mark the end of my second year of keeping this blog.

Looking back, by January 31, 2006 (two years ago by my calculations) my brothers and I were getting really up to our necks in dealing with the health and living situations of Joan and WB.  That was a lot; there were all sorts of emotional currents running this way and that—at a time moreover when I had just turned 60.  I hadn’t realized turning 60 would be such a big deal and maybe it wouldn’t have been without having to deal also with the illness and then death of WB in February 2006.

But I think it would have been, I am now concluding, a pretty big deal in any case.  In fact, turning 60 may precipitate an identity crisis nearly as powerful as that of adolescence.  Part of that crisis, why it is so intense, has to do with the changing bodies, with raging hormones and so forth.  Who is or where is one in all those hormones and body changes.  But body changes occur or start to occur or have already begun to occur (depending on the person) also with age.  Hormones that once raged have, well, quieted down quite a bit.  One’s estrogen level (if one is a male) drops and with that so does muscle mass, and with that drop so does one’s strength drop off.  I really hate it when I find myself struggling to get the lid of some bottle or other or when I have to grab the banister going down the stairs when one of my knees start to ache.

And this is not even to mention—much—the changes that are occurring in the mirror.  At adolescence as I recollect I had pimples.  Powerful red blemishes that at the same time were a portent of things still to come.  Now I have relatively few blemishes of that kind but plenty of another: many, many wrinkles and a face that actually sags downward when I bend over the sink to brush my yellow teeth.  These changes also portent things to come, but quite different things than those adolescent blemishes portended.  Quite, quite different things indeed.

Another big shift too occurs.  While the flaming blemishes of the adolescent point towards the future, towards adulthood and goals to be achieve, and places to go and people to meet, the lines and wrinkles and sag in one’s face point one back towards the past.  I think.  Not towards the unknown future and what will be with all its attendant anxiety and expectation, but towards what has been and how that fits with who one is or isn’t and trying to locate some meaning it in all—with all the anxiety upon that.

That’s what I think I was starting to do back in January of 2006 on the blog. Sorting through things and trying to make some livable sense of it all.

System Restored

Well I am trying to make do with my new desk top and the more I try the more I realize that whatever happened has wiped out every last link and setting previously on my computer.  When I get to the software I use to write my web pages, I find that I must reestablish FTP settings between my computer and the servers that house my web work.  I am looking at least two—maybe three hours work.

Then I think: System Restore.  I thought System Restore last night, but once many moons ago I used System Restore and it didn’t restore a damn thing.   But I am on the verge of despair and so decide to cast my fate to the wind and take desperate measures. I find System Restore under hard drive Maintenance.  Set it to the day before my accident; and click “System Restore.” 

While I am waiting for SYSTEM RESTORE to do its business, I am like multi-tasking and phone the people who made the external hard drive that busted a couple of days back.  I am on hold but surprisingly quickly I get a tech person.  They are located in upstate New York and he says it’s just freezing outside.

I turn on the bad drive and hold my cell up to it and the guy says, it’s not the drive.  It’s the fan.  They were doing their best to make a quiet drive and the over did it with the fan; with the result that parts start rubbing.  So I can send it to him and he will fix it and send it back or he can send me a new fan and I can install it—I opt for the second option.

And as I hang up—or whatever the hell you do with a cell—since nobody really hangs up anymore—I looked around and WHAM-BAM I see my old desk top—not the whole thing; but the picture I have of the barren moon.  I have a barren moon picture as my desk top and then all the icons start appearing and then I check it out and every damn link and setting is there and working.

SYSTEM RESTORED! It’s the single best moment I have had in two days—though I should not have had to go through any of this techno-nonsense in the first place. But I am so tied into my techno-stuff especially web and word processing (and now also music) that having one of them broken is like losing a hand or something. 

 

desktop
I need to clean up my desktop and maybe get a happier picture for the background. 

 

 

Bad Computer Weekend

I had a bad computer weekend.

I bought this fancy external hard drive to back up my songs to and what do you know but all of a sudden it starts making this grinding noise, like a hard drive does when it’s about to die.  And even if it is not about to die, I can’t use it when I record because the noise would get on the recording.

Boy, that pisses me off.  On the warranty it says they have a special overnight return, replace policy should the hard drive go bad, so I call and what do you know—but nobody home.  Hard to see how they can have an overnight return policy when there’s nobody there to take your call.

So I get worried I will lose what I have recorded and somehow manage to get the stuff transferred from that drive to another older backup drive I have.  Looks like I have managed to save it.

And I decide while I am at it to back up all the stuff on my other computer, my PC where I do all my school work and my blog because I haven’t backed it up in months.  So I do that, and the next morning when I turn the thing back on, nothing comes up….Nothing.  Then the machine starts doing something on its own, so I wait.

And bingo all of a sudden I am looking at a whole new desk top.  My familiar desk top is all gone.  I can’t locate it anywhere.  And that means too that my Mozali web browser is gone; all my links are gone—to my blog, to the place where I make the blog, to my teaching page—everything.

I am beyond pissed—I am like torpid and paralyzed by pisshood.  I do a check and I see, thank god, that everything is still there.  I didn’t lose any data.  But I can’t get my old desktop to appear.  I don’t know what I did wrong or how to set it right.  I could spend all day trying and not get it right.  So I decided to live with it and, thank goodness, because I have been doing this for some time I get things sort of operational, restore links and so on.

But in the process the damn thing apparently decided to upgrade itself or something because my Microsoft word page has all sorts of different colors on it.  It used to be sort of a grim light blue and now I am staring at a page with bright blue trim all around it.  Makes me nervous.

In the meantime, I completely forgot to check to see if Greenville got another couple of inches of rain Saturday night, as was previously forecast.

What day is this?  Monday?  I have spent the whole weekend in a daze.  Thank goodness I don’t teach today.  MLK day.

Maybe I can recover my mental faculties by the time I get back in the classroom.

Comment Error

I made a mistake and deleted the comments from Steve—about posting to the blog—and Lucy Dean about finding my “normal” entry in part hilarious.

But I get spammed every day.  Hundreds and Hundreds of spams sometimes each day. The spam doesn’t show up on the blog because I have a spam detector.  It automatically keeps spam from being posted to the site, for example, when the name of the person trying to post is something like “xyghtz.”  I get an amazing amount of spam from people with names like that.

Maybe these people use names like that because they are embarrassed or trying to conceal their true identities for legal reasons.  I get spam for example from people like “xyghtz” advertising midget sex sites.  Last week for example the spam for midget sex sites was out of control, as if there was some sort of special on midget sex.

Anyway the spam gives me a glimpse into the seamy side of the American libido.  It is a glimpse I could do without.  So nearly every day I try to clean up the spam in my comments.  But the non-spam is mixed right in with the spam and if I am not paying enough attention, as was apparently the case this morning, I may delete non-spam, like Stephen’s and Lucy’s comments, right along with the spam.

Just by way of explanation.  Nothing is wrong with the comment function or with the comments I deleted.  My mistake. 

Entry 500

Well, what do you know.  Entry 500.  That’s a nice round number.

entry500a 

Carol and I braved possible bad weather and slogged through mud to the Ellwood cliffs. 

entry500b 

This is looking away from the ocean and back towards the mountains.

entry500c 

Trees and sky in light and dark.

entry500e 

That’s a tree and sky from the golf course that is part of our path to Ellwood.  There’s a tiny bit of moon up there.

The walk was worth it. 

Wikipedia

As I was saying, thinking about materials for a reader I went online.  Who needs a reader, a hard copy one, I mean.  I didn’t have even to go that far into the mess to be overwhelmed by mass of materials out there on every subject known to humanity.

And Wikipedia is turning into a really useful instrument, especially if you are looking for info on current stuff.  They have decent references on the diverse subjects they treat and unlike your regular encyclopedia, mostly because their space is unlimited, there’s no filtering device, i.e. a certain limited number of pages. 

knowledge pyramid 

I wonder if one might construct sort of a knowledge ratio to the effect: limited amounts of documentation, limited space, high or low, produces a greater or less constricted knowledge hierarchy.  In the old encyclopedia Britannica for example one might possibly have found an entry on Andy Capp and his creation, Little Abner, but I don’t think one would have found much more than that Capp drew a comic strip called, Little Abner, that appear in such and such number of newspapers.  Certainly not, as one may find in Wikipedia, a list of every damn character that ever appeared in the strip along with a short “biography” of each.

I wonder if some sort of knowledge flow chart or graph could be constructed: data base plus space plus labor.  The greater the factor under each of these items the more the knowledge curve or knowledge hierarchy would tend to flatten towards infinity, while the less under each category the more the chart would approach a perfect pyramid.  The very peak of the pyramid would consist of the longest of all documents, as the determinative of their importance, with as one went down more and more documents with less and less space devoted to each.

In any case, on the web, there’s plenty enough to go around.  Within minutes, I had located articles, magazine and journal, as well as video on the “topics” I was trying to look into.  This is the “death” of the reader.  Already, one can think of the reader as a portal to web based research, reading and viewing.  Eventually the portal will disappear into the very thing it is opening up.

The web not the book is, without a doubt, the future of reading and writing, barring of course some natural or unnatural disaster that sends this whole electrical thing into the void.  But barring that, the teaching of writing has to become more and more rooted in that digital universe.  The web of course can not teach people how to read and write, but the fact of it will alter individual’s relation to both and the purposes of each.

One of my lit. teachers back in the 60’s let us write extra credit papers on the Death of the Novel.  I forget what I concluded.  But clearly THE NOVEL is dead; or rather the novel has found itself a niche market.  The Book too will die, if it is not already dead, that thing I grew up holding in my hands, the pages of which I turned, slowly or quickly, whatever you did the pages had to be turned—The BOOK will find its niche, but it won’t be where the big bucks are. 

 Information, not contemplation, is the name of the game these days.

 

The End of History

I suppose I could just lie and make up things about Tingle Territory.  I don’t think anybody would notice.  I think writing a blog is like talking to one’s self and for some odd reason, writing down what one is talking, and then putting that in the paper shredder.  I wonder if writing bogs will produce a new aesthetic movement—let us call it the Garbage Dump Movement or GDM.  No museum for this movement, just a dump, with all that implies.  Mostly the temporality of all stuff, junk, writing, and TV sets.
landfill

Actually I first had the idea for this aesthetic many moons back in the early 70’s.  I was going out front to bring in the trashcans, and as I did so, noticed some paper there on the ground, folded up, like a letter with ink markings on it.  I thought about just leaving it but it was litter for one thing, and I was a little curious to determine if it was a letter. 

I don’t know what I expected to find.  It was a letter, four pages of a letter, in smallish handwriting, every word of it detailing—and I do mean detailing—its author’s ongoing battle with her weight.  I sat on the fender of my nearby 1959 Plymouth Station Wagon and read the thing through.  I was transported by its purity…  I don’t know what else to call it.  There was no pretension, no pomposity, no philosophical fog, or ideological yammering or, having done with it, no unpleasant, lingering aftertaste of thought.  Just a detailed, down to ounces, individual meals, particular temptations, and specific food items, record of the author’s struggle to master her weight.  One might say it had no depth, and maybe for that reason, it had all the depth in the world.

Having read the thing, and been transported, I had no desire to keep the letter, but put it back where it belonged.  In the trash.  Eventually, the trash would be picked up.  It would be taken to the dump, and once dumped would lie there, unto a tractor pushed it along with many items into a pile and shoved the whole ball of trash into the hole, where eventually it would all be compressed into landfill.  Depending on the wretchedness of the landfill—whether it had trapped gases or stank incredibly—a park might one day be put there or maybe even houses would be built atop it.

I think now of the alien archeologists who come across our moldering globe and with their modern archeological tools begin to unearth the dumps to today to find hard drives, millions, nay billions of hard drives, each to them rather like that letter was to me: something left, passionately produced, but pointless, wayward, and useless accept for what it might tell the curious aliens about how these long gone beings lived—things as they say of historical interest.

Some idiots a while back were talking about the “end of history.”  They were wrong about what they were talking about, but maybe right about what they weren’t.  History may be ending alright—in an outpouring of documentation that might require the entire Grand Canyon and many more such canyons as holes into which to dump it all.  Never before have the lives of individual beings been so documented.  What a prodigious mass of information is now being churned out for some future historian.  That might be the end of history, for I can well imagine this historian, upon unearthing this mass, to throw up his hands, put back into the trash what she had been examining, and say to hell with it.