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Showing posts from October 4, 2015

reflections on a car accident

So I’m walking Adam to school, around 9 a.m. We approach the corner of Lincoln and Arizona. On one side of that corner is a popular pre-school. At this time in the morning, streams of strollers, parents and maids are moving towards it. On Lincoln, a white car decides (or rather the driver decides – but from our position on the sidewalk, the cars are the masters of the street) that he can make the light – which had clearly turned red – if he pumpe the gas. He pumped the gas and promptly collided with an SUV which was turning onto Arizona. It was a big crash. As is always the case when cars crash, everybody around froze and watched. I imagine everybody around, like me, had a breathless moment, too. Was somebody hurt? Was somebody killed? It seems that the answer is no. Slowly the pilgrims to the school resumed their walking, and Adam and I resumed ours. So, what was the purpose of that potential destruction of human life and the mechanical damage that I’d assess, by eye, as well

file under end of nature

This is a sad fact from an review of a book in the latest LRB:  Near the start of the book, "Near the start of the book he gives a list of words that have recently been dropped from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. I’ll reproduce them in full because they represent a fairly hideous symptom of what is going on: ‘acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, ot ter, pasture, willow’. (The new additions to the dictionary mostly concern electronic media.) " I'm sorry, but what genius decided that kids don't need to know the word mistetoe - not to speak of kingfisher and cowslip! First they come for 'dandelion'... I guess the powers that be have already determined that, as there is nothing to be done about global climate change, they will teach the kids the definition of "youtube" as a compensation.

old halloween

In Adam’s class this week, they are working on nursery rhymes – Adam now knows that Humpty Dumpty fell off a wall, although, like the rest of us, he is rather foggy about who put him, or failed to put him, together again. He much prefers, at that point in the tale to go back to the wall – Humpty dumpty fell off a wall, humpty dumpty had a great fall, humpty fell off a WALL, daddy! I’m glad to see that my son already knows that you don’t bury your lede. However, they are also learning about ghosts. And every day, when I come to pick him up, I see more orange and black in the room. Yesterday, A. taught him about Jack o lanterns. It was A.’s first Jack o Lantern too, but she did a bang up job. All of this has made me think about the Halloween mission creep. When I was a kid (says Grandfather Simpson)… when I was a kid, Halloween was pretty firmly a children’s holiday. You could tell the kids who couldn’t let go when they’d appear, heads taller than the rest of the crowd, begging

Harlequin's politics

"But if we had been asked, who are you for – Kaedin, Kornilov, or the Bolsheviks, Task and I would have chosen the Bolsheviks.  However, in a certain comedy, the harlequin was asked, Do you prefer to be hanged or quartered? He answered, I prefer soup.” Viktor Shklovsky is a hard writer to get a grip on. More than most writers, his essence is quicksilver – that wrestler’s metaphor is peculiarly inappropriate for a man who so loved the one or two sentence paragraph. Getting a grip on Shklovsky is like wrestingly a necklace. But one can say certain things. I’m currently reading The Knight’s Move. Skhlovsky begins the book, a seemingly disparate collection of pieces, with a sort of stunning image – that of the knight’s move in chess. There are many reasons for  the “strangeness” of the knight’s L shaped move in the game, Shklovsky writes. But one of them is this – “the knight is not free- it moves in an L shaped manner because it is forbidden to take the straight road.” A

tests for great or not so great literature

One of the common reviewer bromides is the phrase, one test for great literature, or one test of a great book, etc., with some x being the test – that it can be read over and over, that it transcends convention, etc., etc. I’ve come up with a new test. Here it is. Take any text – an essay, poem, story, novel – and sit down and read it next to a little boy watching a Youtube video of some of his favorite Oswald the Octopus cartoons. For those pariahs outside the Oswald orbit, Oswald is a sweet tempered Octopus with a dog and a number of friends – a penguin, Henry, and Daisy, a daisy, among them – and Oswald typically has a problem that involves these friends, as for instance he wants to collect something (Henry collects spoons and Daisy leaves). Out of this problem evolves a series of episodes in which niceness triumphs and some life lessons are snuck in. All of this happens in a world where the most complex words are issued by Daisy, and these consist of Yipporapparoonie, or Fan