Saturday, March 29, 2008

An Alms for What Was Seemingly Lost

"I seem to see a road; I seem to be on a road, walking. I seem to walk on a blacktop road that runs over a hill. The hill creates itself, a powerful suggestion. It creates itself, thickening with apparently solid earth and waving plants, with houses and browsing cattle, unrolling wherever my eyes go..." Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm

Something has happened this week where in my own life the hill seemingly creating itself has, for a moment, offered itself as a lush and fertile landscape, alive to the wayfarer. It was good to feel that again, even though it unrolled only in glimpses and what may come of it is not clear.

I remember the mornings
the gray dewy quiet
the smell of the grass and the trees’ bark
the silence on the paths
coffee and the Paradox
of why I am not there.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It's Here !

I am actually blogging from my XO. It came in a plain brown box that had the OLPC logo on the side, left on my porch by FedEx. Up and running in ten minutes after opening the box and inserting the battery. The keyboard is as tiny as advertised but I have thin fingers. it found an open wi-fi connection easily (mine is WPA and it can't handle that yet.) More as I progress...

Photo posted a bit later from my usual machine.

Update 22 March: I discovered that I have the latest build of the machine, so it handles WPA easily: all I had to do was to type the password for my Airport network (no manual hexadecimal conversion of it necessary), and I was on my own network. Nice.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


An evening update on something I've been waiting for: my XO laptop from One Laptop Per Child. The organization encountered some setbacks after I'd ordered/contributed (see here). Early donors who expected to receive their laptops by Christmas did not all get them on time. As a last minute donor, I had nothing to complain about, and still have not lost faith in the idea behind the program. I can be woefully under aware of how inhumane large corporations can be: while Negroponte never intended to make a profit, other companies were happy to begin creating versions of low cost laptops once they realized that developing nations impoverished countries were actually interested in OLPC's vision. I could ramble on about that aspect, but you've probably read it: suddenly, Intel, for example ---with other hyenas not far behind--- is pushing inexpensive Windows driven machines, the better, they argue to prepare children for the operating system of the first world (no metaphors there, right ?). XO is Linux based, its software open-sourced, and the whole project sustained by volunteers who have contributed an amazing amount of know how and ingenuity. Negroponte was formerly associated with MIT and OLPC has, I should clearly note, people on salary, but the difference in models of humanity is striking: OLPC has tried to operate on a model of cooperation, a philosophy that even seems to be embedded in the ways the laptop allows users to link and communicate, whereas, well, whereas the now profferred alternatives do not model this sort of thing. Tonight, for the first time when I had typed my reference number into FedEx tracking, I found that my XO is due to arrive early next week. Apparently it has really shipped ! I look forward to receiving it, playing with it, telling you all about it. I wish there were a way that OLPC could have matched the laptop that went to a child to the donor: I've no wish to violate anyone's privacy, but since I understand that the laptops went out to the children some time ago, I wonder about the child who received "mine." How's it going out there, whoever you are ? I wonder what world it has opened up, what questions you have, if it has changed what you can learn, if you're having fun ?


Amazing how one can get caught up in appearances. The wide blank left margin of my blog had really begun to annoy me, so I converted it to something called "stretch." And it has. Much indecision over how large the font for the actual posts should be, and no idea as to how to make the right margin justified. I've read through all the "help," but cannot seem to effect this change. Any advice and comments welcome. Note how skillfully I've avoided cleaning up the run-on sentences in the last post.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mid Evening Cup of Tea & ...

[Late comment in place of some edits. Run-on sentences here, and a few things I will fix next pm. Please endure until then]

Usually the paper, some work if I'm unlucky, a check of blogs. I've added to my sidebar People Reading, where the author photographs and interviews, each day, at least one person she has come across in public who is reading a book. It helps, of course, that the blog comes out of San Francisco, where one may walk, take public transportation, and thus actually encounter people who are not running in and out of their cars amid miasmic strip malls. I've also begun to follow a blog I call by its fictional author's name, Joe Sorry, but whose title is really Home for Tea. It's a novel, really, to come into being through the daily entries of one thirteen year old British boy, the aptly designated Joe Sorry, whose social invisibility at school is only minor compared to a Mom who sometimes stays away nights and who often drinks too much, the vanished Dad, all, it is implied, brought about by the death of his sister the year before. The blog is touching and funny all at once: forbidden pets because of his mother's alleged allergies, Joe has recently made his own "ant box" to keep in his bedroom. So far, so good: no escapees.
Both of these are daily blogs, something I never intended mine to be (though I wish I could post more often than I do), and this had led me to think of how much I do appreciate what many of us now call our "daily reads," those blogs we check in with each day and in which we expect to find new writing. Perhaps daily reads, or blogs in general are a new (?) form of serialization; certainly, reading Joe Sorry has brought to mind Dickens, not because of style, content, or geographic origin, but because Dickens' "novels" were first published in installments. Reflecting on this (and on the deeper and more academically astute a piece I would be writing were I not trying to get my thoughts written before complete exhaustion erases them completely) brought me to another pastime I've indulged in of late, and that is a series on HBO called "In Treatment," where every night a new installment of a therapist's session with a patient occurs (all fictional), and over the course of the sessions between the therapist , Paul, and his patients, and Paul with the therapist he is seeing, a complex narrative emerges from this kaleidoscopic montage that tells the story of Paul's shaky marriage in the throes of his erotic counter-transference with a seductive and vulnerable patient and the stories of the lives of several other patients, whose issues ---naturally--- arouse the vulnerabilities in Paul's psyche. And one can see plainly, thanks to the beautiful acting of Gabriel Byrne , his struggle to harness them for therapeutic work rather than fall prey to them.
By way of writing this I am revisiting my surprise that I am enjoying this show at all. A friend had praised it, saying how difficult it was to "watch people in so much pain because they cannot communicate." How, I thought, could that description possibly recommend it ? Why would I subject myself to other people's pain night after night ? Yet I confess that I have sat through many an episode of Law and Order without that question coming to mind. And for that matter, King Lear, Greek tragedy, etc. The whole idea (therapy sessions) seemed quite dull. However, I looked it up and decided to watch an episode for the sheer pleasure of watching Diane Wiest, who plays Paul's therapist. Soon, since HBO repeats everything incessantly, I found myself catching up on the stories of all of the characters, enjoying how cleverly the whole storyline(s) had been put together. And so, again, my theme: beyond the mere "series" as one says of television shows, the "serial." And I'm thinking about this, and my pleasure in Joe Sorry and the sessions that come as regularly as appointments: how both, in a way, reflect that dynamic of pleasure that is found, as those who think about the workings of therapy have written, in the discontinuous narrative whose premise is that there will be place and space to continue it, the anticipation of where it will pick up. In one of Paul's sessions with Gina (Diane Wiest), she assures him that no matter what he tells her, she will not abandon him. There is something in that statement that the diegesis of the series reflects. In the episode it is a stark and powerful moment (the acting is superb). I do not mean to imply that there is a compact between the reader/viewer and the serial that is unique here, and I'm quite aware of the theories that would make narrative one animal and describe the pleasures of all narratives as, in part, what I describe here. Shall we say I am simply intrigued at the moment, by the configuration this pleasure can be found in, as a literary anthropological question, what possibilities these "daily reads" offer us, and why they might be emerging in the way that they are now. Some of this very muddy. Feel free to comment. I will write back as time permits. I didn't have the nerve to title this post "Mid Evening Cup of Tea and Serial." But there, I've done it in the end.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Lonely Bench

It has snowed of late, and one day not too long ago, I had the chance to take a morning walk in fresh and hushed snow, no animals moving that I could hear, only the occasional far away snap of a twig that might have signaled an overbalance of snow, a bird, or both. I walked a long way without thinking about it, enjoying for once the state of being only in the present, wholly intent on the keenness of the air and the stillness shared by myself and the landscape. Finally, I walked out along a road that slowly converges with a road running somewhat parallel to it: the narrow end of a pie slice, so to speak.
There is, before the slice gets really thin, a group of apartments set back in the woods; I could smell woodsmoke from fireplaces, and saw a few children with sleds and their improvised stand-ins dash across the road to a field containing a fairly mountainous and now generously snowy dirt mound. There was a small playground, enclosed by a wire fence. When I had reached almost the narrowest point, where I planned to turn back, I glanced into trees, and then I saw it: a lone bench amid the trees, facing, at some distance and no relation, the wire fence shielding the playground. Lonely bench, I called it. I wondered how it had come to pass that this bench, apparently still sturdy and gathering snow, had come to be out in the slip of woods alone. What had been here, once ? The road I had been walking on had, at this end, clearly once been split into undeveloped land, to make an offramp for the busier road in the distance. What had it been a part of, once ? Though I call it lonely, the bench seemed peaceful, as if gathering onto itself the calm of the falling snow, resting, sheltered by the shoots and saplings and boughs like those it had been born from. I have been that way before and not noticed it. In the snow, it seemed to reassert its form, its singular presence calling its offering to the passerby: lonely ? bench. Sit with me.

Postscript: The image needs to be viewed full size for best effect. Clicking on it should open it in a new window.