“Deliberations within the administration are said to be ongoing,” Or, An 82Things Link Roundup For August 9-23, 2014

"Saint Jerome (recto); Soldier with a Spear (verso)," Vittore Carpaccio: the Met's Artwork O' The Day for August 23, 2014.

“Saint Jerome (recto); Soldier with a Spear (verso),” Vittore Carpaccio: the Met’s Artwork O’ The Day for August 23, 2014.

Well, let’s try this again. As I mentioned in the previous 82Things roundup, this is a list of things I have thought or observed in snatched time, with no connections between them, and my effort to keep blogging in an age of (perhaps I should blame my brain, not the age) distraction.

The title comes from a Guardian article (#65) about the US wavering on the brink of beginning another “direct military action.” I like the “are said to be,” and I also think it best captures the global mood of ominous tension (or, perhaps, actual crisis) at this time. The alternate title, if I’d gone with poetry instead of politics, would have been “
A vast inward terrain that wasn’t happiness,” which is a line from Henri Cole’s poem “Myself Departing.” (#16) Our image for the day–I always take the random one posted by the Met (until I change my mind, that is)–shows an image of a saint on top of an obscured image of a soldier. You can’t see the soldier with a spear, but he’s there: a military presence underlying the man in prayer.

Well, as the administration deliberates, and the spear-carrier waits behind Jerome, here are a few snatches of thought–82, to be precise–to think about–or distract yourself–with.

August 10, 2014

1) Having recently swum in the fast-moving Danube river, at Carnuntum (Roman ampitheater near Vienna), it seems time to finally start reading Simon Winder’s Danubia: A Personal History of Hapsburg Europe. I began it yesterday and started voraciously plowing through. It reads quickly. I’ve had this book awhile, but hadn’t begun; I don’t–well, I haven’t often–read a lot of history for pleasure. I seem, as evinced through the last 82Things, to either be paranoidly reading about contemporary distasters and wars, or else escapistly reading Victorians and science fiction. Perhaps that is going to change now. Danubia is full of witty writing and writing wanting to be witty.

There is a crucial preliminary which needs to be dealt with for this book to make sense: a description of the Holy Roman Empire. I apologize for this, but really there is no way round it and it is a helpful test. I could devote much of my life to thinking about the Empire but if, like many people, you rightly find the whole business boring then this section will flush out whether or not you might be more cheerily employed reading something else. (p.43)

He’s sharper when his target is contemporary.

“As usual when such figures [as Charlemagne] arise, packs of smiling intellectuals shimmer into view to provide the sermons and chronicles to back up such surprising claims.” (p.44)

I am enjoying it, and am probably going to quote it quite a bit.

2) The current Ebola outbreak, covered in the NYT, ending with a sad obituary note:

By June and July, Sierra Leone was becoming the center of the outbreak. At the government hospital in Kenema, Dr. Sheik Umar Khan was leading the efforts to treat patients and control the epidemic.

But he was desperate for supplies: chlorine for disinfection, gloves, goggles, protective suits, rudimentary sugar and salt solutions to fight dehydration and give patients a chance to survive. Early in July, he emailed friends and former medical school classmates in the United States, asking for their help and sending a spreadsheet listing what he needed, and what he had. Many of the lines in the “available” column were empty. One of his requests was for body bags: 3,000 adult, 2,000 child.

Before his friends could send the supplies, Dr. Khan contracted Ebola himself. He died on July 29.

(This reminds me, in a horribly inappropriate manner, that the body bag used for Dionysos in Chorea’s Bachantki (The Bacchae) fell apart on stage during the Carnuntum performance. There you go, Herodotean ring-composition, we’re back to Thing One. Reading Simon Winder makes my thoughts lurch around inconclusively even more than they already do.

But this is the last time that I thought about body bags, in a theater, because I am fortunate enough to not be living in a war zone, and not dealing with an epidemic.)

The NYT and Doctors Without Borders do not seem sanguine: in fact, they outright say that, at present, they cannot control the spread of the Ebola virus.

August 11, 2014

3) Finished “Danubia,” by Simon Winder, last night, in a rush through the First World War and the end of the political structure organizing the Hapsburg lands.
He is pessimistic about people displaced in Europe–whole towns emptied of one ethnic or language group and filled with another. He also seems–which surprises me after a book full of so much good humor, but I suppose it is to be expected for a historian of so much war–to not be at all sanguine about the future of the continent.

Although I strongly disagree with him about some of his assertions about Poland–he claims, for instance that the formerly mostly-Jewish district of Kazimierz in Kraków is unbearable now because of the change in population, and does not acknowledge that there is a Jewish population still there at all (there is)–I have to admit that his sense of the continent as being able to tip over into warfare at any time–we might even say being likely to do so–is hard to shake.
I wonder what he is thinking about Ukraine right now.

4) NYT: “Ukraine Steps Up Assault of Rebel City.”

“Ukraine pressed ahead on Sunday with its military assault to stamp out pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country with its most intensive artillery bombardment of this rebel capital [Donetsk] yet.

The attack with artillery and ground-to-ground rockets defied Russian threats to intervene here as the civilian death toll rose.”

I suppose I could take a stab at what Winder would think. He writes about how there was a time in Europe when people moved around more, when language didn’t determine national affiliation/citizen ship, when borders were moving more of the time. (Of course, this time didn’t have any less war. It was just more often motivated by other factors.)

Here, with Ukraine, he would be hung up on what the parties here have in common, and frustrated by nationalism on both sides. His long awareness of Russian history would make him skeptical about Russia’s intentions, but I’m not sure he’d be any less skeptical of Ukraine’s intentions.
That is probably where I would disagree with him. Three years in Poland has done a lot to make me pretty vehemently on the side of Ukraine in terms of trying to distance itself from Russia.
On the other hand, the situation in Donetsk is a disaster that appears–for now–as if it is only going to get worse.

5) Just learned from the AllNOTE mailing list that Dennis Miles, Los Angeles playwright and frequent Theatre of NOTE cooperating artist, died on Sunday, August 10. Lung cancer. D. Bickford, historian for the company, writes to the list:
“Between 1993 and 2006 we produced fourteen of his plays, both one-acts and full lengths. No other writer in our history comes close to that number.”

I was part of what I now realize may have been the last Miles production at NOTE: Free Fanjul, which was produced in repertory with Brandohead. I directed the latter (by C. Danowski) and K. Scholl directed the former. The cooperation between the two production teams was not always easy–these were two big pieces that probably didn’t need to share a bill with each other–but Miles was always a gentleman of the theater.

I’m glad to have known him, very glad he wrote so many plays for NOTE, and sorry he is gone.

6) And why the sea is boiling hot,
And whether pigs have wings…

Not sure why thinking of death and Dennis Miles brings up this bit of Lewis Carroll–unexplained things in life, I suppose, unanswered questions–but it does.

The Walrus And The Carpenter” is a poem I used to have memorized, when I was 12 or so. When clowning around with some poetry friends this summer, I realized I could still, by pausing and waiting, reconstruct most of it to my mind.

This is not the case for other long poems I learned around that time, as a teenager (“The Raven,” “Paul Revere’s Ride,” “In Memory of W.B. Yeats”) where there are chunks of them that are permanently forgotten. But the Walrus never leaves you. I suspect that many of us have large chunks of it memorized without even realizing it.

I wonder if there is something about the six-line stanza–more probably, something about the repetitiveness of the rhyme scheme, XAXAXA as I would call it, that helps you. If you’ve remembered one couplet–
The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.

–you have probably remembered the rest of the verse too, because you have “dry” and it’s going to rhyme twice more.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead–
There were no birds to fly.

It’s well worth reading it through, to yourself, again. The sun was shining on the sea… In fact, little else could be as worthwhile.

PS. I see, in taking my own advice, that there are, in fact, stanzas of the poem I have completely forgotten. Several. It’s just that if I remember a beginning of one, I remember an entire stanza–and also that I remember over 75% of this poem, enough to get through it and have the story mostly intact, every time.

7) The first chapter of “Later Auden,” by Edward Mendelson, is available online at the NYT!!!!! Why haven’t I read this book? Or, for that matter, “Early Auden“?

“In his first days in New York Auden felt a new sense of liberation and power. He arrived in the harbor with Christopher Isherwood on 26 January 1939, in the dead of winter, while a light snow disfigured the public statues. During their voyage, he and Isherwood had spoken aloud for the first time of their disaffection with the mass political movements they had hoped to serve with their poetry and plays. Three days after their arrival, the news came that W. B. Yeats had died at seventy-three. Auden, who was not yet thirty-two, had left England with the half-formed resolution that he would begin his career anew in a new country. He now wrote a memorable and audacious poem on the death of Yeats in which he proclaimed the rebirth of poetry and foresaw in the heroic labors of a living poet the renewal of the world.

    Two ideas of poetry contend against each other in “In Memory of W. B. Yeats.” The opening section, with its solemn, meditative, unrhymed verse paragraphs, acknowledges that the most a poet can achieve in the world is to be remembered by his admirers. The closing section, with its drumbeat stanzas and soaring visionary rhetoric, celebrates poetic language as a force more powerful than time or death, and glorifies the poet as a source of sustenance, healing, and rejoicing. The closing argument wins this debate, but the ironies and doubts insinuated by the opening one remain unanswered.”

Perhaps I didn’t need to be reminded that Auden wrote IMOWBY when he was 31. But then, there has never been any competing with Auden, nor do I wish to. Unlike Shakespeare, whom I bear all sorts of grudges towards, Auden is a poet for whose existence and greatness I have only gratitude.
No. “Gratitude” is too soppy-sounding and is not at all what it’s like. I’m not “grateful” to Green Day, or the Star Wars movies, or Persuasion; I love them, I can never get enough of them. I mean that I love Auden and can never get enough of him.

He has been the answer to the “favorite poet” question for me since I was 16. I doubt that will ever change, even though I do not like, and have not read, all of this work; the parts of it I do like, I like more than most things…

8) Nina Martyris in the LARoB, writing on Auden, Brodsky, Walcott, Heaney: IMOWBY resonating through the poets. Elegies begetting, elegaically, more elegies. On Brodsky’s encounter with the poem:

“…the young Russian poet who stumbled on the elegy two decades later had no need to crack open his Russian-English dictionary to be fired by its [the poem’s] evangelical steel. The poet, Joseph Brodsky, had been declared a “social parasite” of the Soviet state and exiled to hard labor. He happened to open a book of English verse a friend had lent him, and when it fell open to the page on which the Yeats elegy was printed, he had an epiphany: “I remember sitting there in a small wooden shack,” he wrote in an essay many years later,
“peering through the square porthole-size window at the wet, muddy dirt road with a few, stray chickens on it, half believing what I’d just read, half wondering whether my grasp of English wasn’t playing tricks on me.”
The two stanzas that shook him so deeply were about the absolute sovereignty of language; how Time, arrogant and immune to all else, forgives a person his sins if he can write well.”

“And will pardon Paul Claudel, pardon him for writing well…” I have always taken that “pardon” as less of an “exonerate” and more of a “will look the other way.”

9) This number brought to you by Love Potion Number; Deep Space; and Tailors make a man in Christ (thank you, Dorothy Sayers).

Herewith, the Clovers. (Where is “34th and Vine” in this song? And I absolutely love the rhyme on “I’ve been this way since 1956.)

This song is less than two minutes even without being compacted by those song-compacting people who make every song that length for radio. And yet it feels very complete. It’s a whole story, includes an instrumental…and it spins you off to “Love Potion Number 10” by the end, implying an entire 99 Bottles alchemy-room of various numbered potions.

(The Clovers were from DC, but I can’t find a 34th/Vine intersection there. Perhaps I have to give up on locating the purveyor of LP#9 for myself…)

10) A Voice For Gaza From East Jerusalem.” On Tablet.

“She [Rula Salameh] also spearheaded an initiative to help Gazan refugees who have come to East Jerusalem’s hospitals.
Salameh told me that she and other female leaders of her community took it upon themselves to care for this community, checking in on them and supplying these basic needs.

I asked her if standing with Gaza meant standing against Israel. “We are here supporting human beings,” she told me. “The people here are in serious conditions. A lot are kids, or young adults. All the people, they have nothing to do with army groups or even they are not even politicians. They are normal people who are inside their homes when they just received the bombing or they are running from one place to another when they were attacked.” She reiterated: “We are not working against Israel. We are supporting each other.””

11) So glad this article is now unlocked…Jeremy Denk in the New Yorker, “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” on lessons and practicing and piano teachers.

“[György] Sebők listened to the student play as if he were tired of teaching and hoped to experience the music for its own sake. At last, he couldn’t take it anymore, and demonstrated a few measures. Suddenly the music was wandering, halting, sick-sounding. There was a stunning distance between the eloquence of what he did and the student’s attempt—an awakening of melancholy possibility. He stopped playing in the middle of a phrase, and we all waited, knowing that something special was about to happen. Then he said, “To show love for someone, but not to feel that love”—long pause—“that is the work of Mephistopheles.””

[…at another time, after a harsh critique…]

“In a manner that I now recognize as distinctively European, he seemed to blame me for my enthusiasm for his own ideas. People patted me on the back outside afterward, hugged me, as if I had been the victim of an assault. I was stunned. Over the next few days, I began to think that there might have been a less cruel way of telling me I had gone too far.”

This is from an obituary of his piano teacher, Sebők, who was born in Hungary in 1922–in Szeged–and died in Bloomington, IN in 1999.

“After his graduation in 1943 Sebok was conscripted into the army of the occupying Germans and, since participation in the armed forces was barred to anyone of Jewish ancestry, he was set to work breaking boulders in the Carpathian mountains to provide gravel for road- building – two years of forced labour in the most primitive conditions.”

To have lived through that, returned to Hungary, had a renewed career performing there, and then, after 1956, (obit: “after the Soviet intervention in 1956 had re-imposed hardline Communist rule”) to end up at a Midwestern US university, teaching piano students…Bloomington is very, very far away from Budapest. And the terrain might as well be Flatland.

I am having strange thoughts about this man wandering those enormous parking lots, walking through those flat, flat, snow-covered fields. Of course he kept traveling and performing all over. But what a thing to have lived through. What a change.

Denk recommends this video of him playing Chopin’s “Aeolian Harp” etude in 1959.

12) This very unfortunate person liked everything on Facebook for 2 days, as part of a horrific experiment.

“… It reminded me of what can go wrong in society, and why we now often talk at each other instead of to each other. We set up our political and social filter bubbles and they reinforce themselves—the things we read and watch have become hyper-niche and cater to our specific interests. We go down rabbit holes of special interests until we’re lost in the queen’s garden, cursing everyone above ground.”

13) I remembered to share the Interfaith Family post on Tu B’Av (the “Jewish Valentine’s Day”) and the proposal to reclaim the holiday not just as a day of love, but as a day to celebrate interfaith marriages and families.

“Sundown on August 10, the 15th day of Av, marks a little known Jewish holiday called Tu B’Av. Some liken it to Valentine’s Day, as it is slowly becoming a modern holiday celebrating love. Historically, the holiday was a matchmaking day for unmarried women. On this day, Israelite women would put on white dresses and dance in the vineyards. It also apparently was the only time when those from different Israelite tribes were allowed to mingle and ultimately, marry.

While “marrying out of the tribe” (from one Israelite tribe to another) in the Second Temple Period, when Tu B’Av originated, wasn’t considered “marrying out” in the way that interfaith marriage is considered today by Jews, it does show us that sometimes things were done differently than the norm. Today, the reality is that many Jews do fall in love with and marry those from entirely different religious traditions. I think it would be great if all Jews, those who are in-married and those who are intermarried, would learn about and consider reclaiming Tu B’Av as a day of love.”

14) Robin Williams is dead. The Internet reels in sadness, people write things like “Tell someone if you’re sad.” But how do you help a friend–not that he was my friend, but he felt like one–who seems so happy that you never know he is?

15) Poem: “Hand Grenade Bag,” by Henri Cole.

“This well-used little bag is just the right size
to carry a copy of the Psalms. Its plain-woven
flowers and helicopter share the sky with bombs
falling like turnips—he who makes light of other
men will be killed by a turnip. A bachelor,
I wear it across my shoulder—it’s easier to be
a bachelor all my life than a widow for a day.
On the bag’s face, two black shapes appear
to be crows—be guided by the crow and you
will come to a body—though they are
military aircraft. A man who needs fire
will soon enough hold it in his hands.”

This is from today’s Poem-A-Day. I want to also quote what Cole says about the poem:

“Over the past thirty years hand grenades, tanks, fighter jets, missiles, helicopters, and assault rifles have replaced traditional floral patterns in rug making and other textiles. Depicting these realities of war has helped the Afghan people to survive during times of conflict.”
—Henri Cole

This information is so sad and interesting that I almost wish it were slightly more explicit in the text of the poem itself. But I will never forget either the poem or the news, the bad news, it is carrying. Cole is such an interesting poet…I don’t know how I never ran into him before.

16) Further evidence of Cole’s interestingness. Sasha Weiss writing about a Cole reading and his book “Touch,” in the New Yorker. This poem is quoted in full. I think there is something very Kenneth Koch about the body parts deciding they want to be with someone younger.

Myself Departing
My hair went away in the night while I was sleeping.

It sauntered along the avenue asking, “Why

should I commit myself to him? I have a personality

of my own.” Then my good stiff prick went, too.

It opened the window and climbed down the escape,

complaining, “I want to be with someone younger.”

The floor was no longer a place for urgent love.

The pretty body I wanted no longer galloped over me,

shouting, “Open, open!” Then fire erupted over

A vast inward terrain that wasn’t happiness.

People are always abandoning something; they feel

they haven’t been allowed to grow. Though my eyes

leaked, my fingers, cracked from thirst, dried them.

The ring was gone, but the finger lived.
Henri Cole

I am not completely sure about the “no longer” twice in one line after another, but there is a lot of concealed repetition in here and I feel like, read aloud, it would justify itself.
“The ring was gone, but the finger lived.” !!

17) From an interview with Henri Cole, via his website, originally from APR. Interviewed by Christopher Hennessy.

HC: In my 20’s and 30’s, Allen Ginsberg and James Merrill were gay models of the Dionysian and Apollonian. They were like opposing magnets, and it seemed to me there was nothing in-between. Though as a young poet I drank happily from the cup of the Apollonians, as I’ve matured, I’ve sought a hybrid of the two. How to be Apollonian in body and Dionysian in spirit–that is my quest.

CH: “Blur” is a poem about “sacrificing / oneself to attain the object of one’s desire.” There’s a frantic need for encounter, for touch (“waking hungry for flesh, stalking flesh / no matter where,” and yet the speaker feels “locked up in a sphere, which would never be known to anyone.” Are we all outsiders when it comes to desire?

HC: I hope not. I can only speak for myself, of course, but it seems to me gay men and women experience a special alienation from the mainstream; I say special because it is a gift to those of us who are writers. It gives us a knack for solitude, which strengthens the self and makes us aware of our own authentic interests. We are not followers. But your question is really about desire. All of us, I believe, are striving toward being, a unity of being that is permanent. It seems to me the desire for unsanctioned love is part of this striving. For me it has created an emptiness. Part of the reason I am a writer is to fill this emptiness with images and words.

18) I’ve been galloping through Trollope lately. It reads speedily, and I have a perverse desire to read *all* the six Barchester novels, as well as watch the BBC miniseries, (easily found on YouTube) before Maggie and I embark on our #WeReadDeadPeople book club for Barchester Towers discussion after Sept. 1st. Also, I’ve been sick, and have had too much free time, so there is nothing to do but read. Hence: Trollope, Trollope, Trollope.

But this much Trollope has not been entirely a pleasant pursuit. At one point during Framley Parsonage, I got entirely fed up with marriage politics and church politics, and wanted to fling myself as far into the future as I could. Where are the aliens and dragons? Where, for that matter, are the wars in which England was engaged during this period, not to mention the political struggles ongoing on the European continent? Are these people completely unaware of everything outside their parsonages? Well, yes…often.

The interactions can be so plodding: the things motivating people so porcelain. It’s like everyone is always holding an enormous vase, and trying to live, dance, ride horses, etc. without dropping it. Trollope’s world does not always sit well with me. His writing, however, does, and just when I think I’m going to have to throw all of his characters, enormous vases of societal-social-behaviorial-proprietal anxiety and all, out the nearest window, the voice of the author himself somewhat redeems things:

“Mrs. Dale’s little scheme for bringing the two together was very transparent, but it was not the less wise on that account. Schemes will often be successful, let them be ever so transparent. Little intrigues become necessary, not to conquer unwilling people, but people who are willing enough, who, nevertheless, cannot give way except under the machinations of an intrigue.”

– Anthony Trollope, The Last Chronicle of Barset

It’s Austenian in its #ThinlyVeiledContempt and also endearing, condescending wisdom. It’s also Austenian in its perception of the necessary hypocrisies that sustain human interaction. I suppose no one has more right to write like Austen than Trollope. And since there can never be enough Austen, something that reminds you of Austen is going to have to be good enough.

It’s for Trollope himself, not for any of these vase-lugging persons, that I am reading these books. There isn’t a single one of his characters who is as real to me as he is.

I am not yet finished with The Last Chronicle of Barset. There’s been a very slow and stubborn love affair which he left unfinished at the end of the previous book, and it is still plodding forward, slowly and stubbornly, and neither party has dropped their enormous vase yet. How did these people ever manage to get married? Thankfully, there is also some machination, a legal dispute, and something of an evil character. It’s not quite enough, though. I really miss the unrepentantly plotting and scheming Slope, who was disposed of after Book 2, Barchester Towers (and played by Alan Rickman in the BBC miniseries.) He added some much-needed tension to the mix.


“…he went out, about his parish, intending to continue to think of his son’s iniquity, so that he might keep his anger hot,— red hot. Then he remembered that the evening would come, and that he would say his prayers; and he shook his head in regret,— in a regret of which he was only half conscious, though it was very keen, and which he did not attempt to analyze,— as he reflected that his rage would hardly be able to survive that ordeal. How common with us it is to repine that the devil is not stronger over us than he is.”

Anthony Trollope, The Last Chronicle of Barset.

Archbishop Grantly (the guy trying to keep himself angry at his son) is one of my favorite characters in these books, because he is always struggling with himself or with someone else.

20) Director Tomasz Rodowicz on 10 years of Teatr Chorea. In Polish.

“We want to break down stereotypes about the elitism of art and reach people who are not familiar with art, who do not attend the theater. If you do not somehow draw their attention to art, on the street, through a happening on an ordinary Monday, for example, then they will never find their way to the theater.”

“Chcemy przełamywać stereotypy o elitarności sztuki i dotrzeć do ludzi, którzy sztuki nie znają i do teatru nie chodzą. Jeśli nie zwróci się ich uwagi na sztukę na ulicy poprzez happening, np. w zwykły poniedziałek, to oni nigdy do teatru nie trafią.”

21) The Age of Drinking.

Wednesday, August 13

22) Utterly horrific terrifying dispatch from the Realm Of New Celebrity. (Via Longreads.) I am so, so, so glad to not be a teenager today, and to have made it through high school before anyone had cell phones.

“Nash’s devoted work ethic is both admirable and off-putting, betraying, as it does, the sense he’s ignoring humans around him to flatter adoring strangers online, all at his own convenience and discretion. During a brief break from signing photos, he stood behind a black curtain in a makeshift waiting area answering his fans’ tweets.

“I favorite them and they freak out,” he explained. It was difficult to hear him. A few feet away, there were hundreds of real-life fans, all freaking out.”


“A high school soccer team was staying at the hotel as well, and the boys, all around the girls’ age, stood equidistant from each of the female groups, darting glances in their direction. There was no mingling. The girls checked their phones, bringing up Instagram photographs of the boys they wanted so desperately to see in real life. The members of the soccer team looked confused.”

the horror the horror

23) “I’ve always had trouble waking up when it’s dark outside.”
“But in space, it’s always dark outside.”

– Babylon 5, s1ep13

24) Finally. “Ukraine Crisis Hardens Germany Against Russia.”

“The political upheaval over Ukraine has already affected Germany’s economy, slowing down growth and throwing into question the country’s ability to sustain its long record of robust performance even amid anemic recovery elsewhere in the European Union, economists said. The sanctions that would restrict trade between the countries are likely to cause further damage.
But the shocking downing of a Malaysian passenger airliner over eastern Ukraine in July hardened many Germans’ resolve and, with Germany leading, led to even tougher European sanctions on Moscow. Now, as Russia sends a huge convoy it says is delivering aid to beleaguered eastern Ukraine, Berlin is firmly warning Russia not to abuse the column of trucks for military use or proceed without Ukrainian agreement, and telling Ukraine to show restraint and not worsen the plight of trapped civilians.”

25) Terrifying: the return of the “cordon sanitaire,” (sanitary barrier) a very crude means of stopping the spread of disease that hasn’t been used in a century: to combat Ebola in West Africa.

“…a line is drawn around the infected area and no one is allowed out.
Cordons, common in the medieval era of the Black Death, have not been seen since the border between Poland and Russia was closed in 1918 to stop typhus from spreading west. They have the potential to become brutal and inhumane. Centuries ago, in their most extreme form, everyone within the boundaries was left to die or survive, until the outbreak ended.”

Friday, August 15, 2014

26) NYT: “Abusive Police Tactics in Ferguson Will Only Delay Justice.”

“Chief among the transparency issues for protesters has been local authorities’ adamant and inexcusable refusal to identify the police officer who shot Mr. Brown, saying the officer faced death threats. Residents have a right to know whether the officer has a record of reckless behavior, and whether the officer lives in the community among the residents being patrolled, or in a very different neighborhood.

Other communities across the nation have safely demonstrated greater openness in similarly tense situations by eventually identifying and protecting an officer as a matter of the public’s right to know.”

27) Today, August 15, is a Polish national holiday: Armed Forces Day (Święto Wojska Polskiego).
Quoth Wikipedia:

“…a national holiday celebrated annually on 15 August in Poland, commemorating the anniversary of the 1920 victory over Soviet Russia at the Battle of Warsaw during the Polish–Soviet War. Armed Forces Day is held in conjunction with the Day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, itself a separate public holiday. The event is marked by military parades, equipment reviews, showcases and remembrances by all branches of the Polish Armed Forces across the country. One of the most prominent events of the day is in the capital Warsaw, which hosts a large military parade through the city’s center. Originally celebrated during the Second Republic, the holiday was barred by authorities during the communist era beginning in 1947, only to be revived again in 1992.

In the event known as the “Miracle of the Vistula,” the Polish Army under the command of Marshal Józef Piłsudski successfully repulsed a Red Army offensive outside of Warsaw in mid-August 1920. The defeat of the Russian army ensured the capital’s protection and the survival of the young Second Polish Republic. To commemorate the republic’s victory over the Red Army, Minister of Military Affairs Stanisław Szeptycki established the Feast of the Soldier (Święta Żołnierza), or Soldiers Day, in 1923. In proclaiming the holiday, Szeptycki declared that, “[o]n the anniversary of the memorable defeat of the Bolshevik onslaught on Warsaw, we honor the memory of those killed in battles with enemies throughout all ages and for Polish independence.”

In the anti-Putin mood pervading Warsaw in particular and Poland in general right now, I’m sure that this “large military parade” will be vigorously celebrated in WAW today.

28) Atlantic: “Why Email Will Never Die.”

29) I assistant directed for A. Posner in the mid-2000s. He continues to take over the world of theater : this time, by (and only Posner would have come up with this) “perverting Chekhov.”

“Posner: I am not serving Chekhov.  If anything, I am subverting him. Or perverting him. Or lovingly deconstructing him or something.”


Interviewer: Why did you want to write a remix of Chekhov’s The Seagull?

Posner: I love Chekhov in theory, but I have rarely loved seeing it. He was a brilliant, insightful, revolutionary, paradigm-shifting author, but then… the paradigm shifted. He won. The majority of the plays written in the past 100 years owe a great debt to him, but this huge influence has served to make what was once revolutionary feel historical and often even hackneyed.”

30) Hilary says> it’s not necessary to be perfect. She also says there is plenty of time for that whole running for office thing.

“…it doesn’t have to all happen when you’re young—I mean, one of the most powerful women in American politics is Nancy Pelosi. She had five children. She didn’t go into politics until her youngest child was in high school…. That’s one of the great things about being a woman in today’s world: You have a much longer potential work life than our mothers or our grandmothers did.”

31) Calls to demilitarize the US police, in response to Ferguson.

“…such opposition amounts to a sharp change in tone in Washington, where the federal government has spent more than a decade paying for body armor, mine-resistant trucks and other military gear, all while putting few restrictions on its use. Grant programs that, in the name of fighting terrorism, paid for some of the equipment being used in Ferguson have been consistently popular since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. If there has been any debate at all, it was over which departments deserved the most money.”

32) The Art Newspaper: “Culture officials in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine have ordered museums to put their most valuable pieces into storage, and some institutions have closed to the public, as fighting continues between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces.”

33) “The hard work of overcoming our lesser selves:” Roxane Gay in The Guardian, on Ferguson:

“…the media rarely seems well equipped to write about tragedy and trauma ethically, particularly when race is involved. It does not know how to report on Ferguson’s grief and anger without resorting to the most facile – and often most damaging – language that only perpetuates the ever-present racial divide in this country. A USA Today headline read, “Police seek order as Ferguson furor builds”, seemingly without irony because, just above that headline, is a picture of peaceful protestors and, above that, the alarming statistics from the Ferguson police blotter that reveal how the black citizens of that town, are indeed persecuted. The disconnect is hiding in plain sight.
“Those of us who are watching at a remove are trying to find the words to describe our horror, our dismay, our anger but nothing seems adequate. We are not there. Our good intentions on social networks won’t change the situation. Our pithy comments about how we are now, finally, like the rest of the world won’t change the situation.

We need action from our political leaders. We need change in how the police protect and serve. We need to redefine how the law regards black people. As individuals, we need to fundamentally alter how we think about race in America. We need to do the hard work of overcoming our lesser selves.”

Thursday, August 21, 2014

34) #Ferguson

35) Something trivial-seeming after that, but interesting: 14 opera artists the HuffPo thinks you should know. Good article. Detailed. They call the artists “provocateurs.” HP keeps surprising me by being good. I just wish it wasn’t so ad-laden.

I know two of these 14 names… D. Little shared a bill with me and D. Pew at OperaAmerica2015, and B. O’Harra was my roommate, believe it or not, at Rok Grotowskiego 2009. But I do know that I am going to watch all these videos once Retro//Per//Spektywy is over. Chorea’s biannual festival has started, and it’s busy.

36) Once again: #Ferguson

37) #Ferguson: complete inadequacy of response, general frustration about the militarization of the US police, the profiling and killing of black men in the United States at the hands of the police, and the way in which peaceful protesting is being prohibited. The way people are being *assaulted* for assembling peacefully.

Military technology in the hands of police, civilians as targets.

I read an article about new military tech: a microwave ray gun (like, frying people) (but you know, gently frying people! So it’s fine, right?) to try to prevent crowds from gathering. Something like “Only 2 people got second-degree burns, in all our tests.” I do not have that link…I may or may not have stopped reading the article.

38) Also, someone just told me Poland is going to join the war in Ukraine.

39) And apparently the US is no longer a democracy, but an oligarchy, according to some guys at Princeton. (Speaking of “elites…”)

40) Everybody happy?

41) I do not agree with all of this author’s points, but… “Hiring an armed guard to protect people coming for weekly prayer is not the action of a secure people. In too many cities worldwide, directions to the local synagogue conclude with, “You will recognize it by the police car in front of the building.””

(PS: Poland is, thankfully, not going with this trend. As Jonathan says: “Jewish Poland, A Bright Spot On The Map Of Europe.” ) (Do not agree with all of those points, either, but I agree, generally, that anti-Semitic incidents have been happening in Europe, and that this has not been the case in Poland.)

42) It is so hard to agree with anyone about anything.


C’mon P.D. James, finish it for my grandmother, she loves Austen and has been bummed for like, forever, that she has read all the books already. Although she loves rereading them.

44) Okay, okay, Wikipedia:

“Several attempts have been made to finish the novel.
Austen’s niece, Catherine Hubback, completed The Watsons and published it under the title The Younger Sister in the mid-nineteenth century.
The Watsons is a completion by L. Oulton published in 1923 by D. Appleton and Company.
John Coates also published a completion in 1957.
Joan Aiken adapted and completed the novel as Emma Watson: The Watsons Completed, in 1996.
Laura Wade is adapting the text for the stage….”

And it goes on and on. All right already. I guess P.D. James doesn’t have to worry about it. If there is a Joan Aiken version…that’s obviously the version everyone wants. I just emailed my mother to tell her to buy it for my grandmother. Done and done.

45) “Giant rubber duck sails into Port of Los Angeles.”

46) Yesterday was the 23-year-anniversary of Estonian independence from the Soviets. Here’s a trailer from a documentary about the Singing Revolution, via my college roommate (and Estonian!) K. Ottis.

47) Adam Kirsch: “Every culture despises an apostate. But Judaism, in particular, has always made hostility to the traitor, the deserter, the child who grows up to turn on the community, into a central organizing principle.”

48) I decided to censor #48.

49) Via R. Faust: “Russia Wants Bulgarians To Stop Vandalizing Soviet Monuments.”

“The vandalism was the latest in a series of similar recent incidents in Bulgaria — each drawing angry criticism from Moscow.

Early this year, unknown artists painted another monument to Soviet troops in Sofia in the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

50) Via Slate, on violations of the Constitution by the police in Ferguson (and not only First Amendment violations):

“This past term, the Supreme Court found it extremely easy (and in fact unanimously agreed) to see that a police’s warrantless search of a cellphone is unconstitutional. More than one commentator observed that it was very easy for the justices to find a constitutional affront here because they all have cellphones and can imagine how intrusive a police search of those phones would be. But it’s much harder for the courts, and even sometimes for the press, to imagine a lifetime of aggregated constitutional violations, from stop-and-frisk policies that disproportionately affect people of color, to civil forfeiture laws and the “war on drugs” that do the same
Ferguson will not be a freer, better, or more just place when the protesters are allowed to gather without cops in riot gear down the block. It will be the same constitutional nightmare it has evidently been for years. We need to expand our vision of what is a constitutional violation to include what happens when the cameras roll out of town. Because even when the world stops watching, Ferguson and all the Fergusons across the country will need a lot of constitutional protection.”

51) A. Hess in Slate, unpacking the ironic misandry of the glorious Toast. She is afraid to embrace this trend fully. Embrace it, A. Hess! Embrace it! Well, whatever you want. Do or don’t embrace it. But she recognizes its power. Powerful, it is. And also funny.

“I’m not a card-carrying misandrist myself—I’m a little too shy for message T-shirts and too square for Instagram memes—but I’m still grateful to have ironic misandry in my arsenal of tools for dealing with being a woman in the world. Some sexist provocations are too tiresome to counter with a full-throated feminist argument. Sometimes, all you need is a GIF.”

52) (Why are we still awake?)

Friday, August 22, 2014

53) #Ferguson: “…we are even talking about the highly publicized murders of at least five black men in the last month by police in this country, so this is a constant trajectory of police murder.”. Via J. Lewis on FB.

Perspective on militarization and police departments in the US:

“…what is going on in Ferguson is not about the militarization of police. That militarization is a huge phenomenon that has occurred over the past decade, especially since September 11, through which police departments acquired military grade technology through the Department of Defense, through grants and counter-terrorism funding. But if the terrorist threat never existed, or if it dissipates, this military hardware is there and asking to be used. The old saying goes that if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. This is exactly what we’re seeing in the streets with these county sheriffs deploying armored personnel carriers. If you’re sitting on the top of one of these personnel carriers looking through a scope of a sniper rifle, then everything looks like an insurgent. Everything looks like an enemy combatant. And that’s crucial but its not at the essence of what is going on; because if we look at the essence of what is going on with the militarization of police we neglect the fact that the police of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s were not militarized but were still racist, brutal occupiers of black communities.”

54) D. Fishbach, man of comedy and also of truth, writes on FB, “In light of recent events, I have no choice but to deduct a full star from my Yelp review of Earth.”

55) On HIV in Louisiana.

“In the 30 years since the first cases were reported in the US, HIV – transmitted predominantly through unprotected sex and sharing needles – has become a disease that thrives on poverty, sexual stigma and racial inequality. For this reason, the geography of the disease has shifted from urban coastal regions to the southern states: where those problems are most prevalent, so is the virus.

Louisiana’s HIV epidemic is a direct consequence of its severe social conditions. The state is among the poorest and worst-educated in the country, and holds the ranking as the most incarcerated. Moral opposition to homosexuality is heavily legislated. Religious and political conservatism reign, leading to discriminatory laws and policies. The conglomeration of factors at play in Louisiana starkly illustrates why HIV continues to spread in the US despite the fact that it is entirely preventable, and why so many Americans are still dying of AIDS when the virus is almost entirely treatable.”

Saturday, August 23, 2014

56) I’ve heard of breakfast in bed, but something even more relaxing–at least for us graphomaniacs–is breakfast with blog. I’m not sure what “breakfast in blog” would be, but it sounds good, once someone gets around to inventing it.

57) The contrast between my arts/writing list items and news items is very stark in this assemblage. Usually if I’m doing theater stuff, I’m doing theater stuff; if I’m reading news, I’m reading the news. I wanted to put it all together, but it is an unsettling combination. Reading this list makes me feel, makes me seem, like someone who reads the news, does nothing about it, and then goes back to futzing around with song lyrics and Greek choruses. A casual voyeur of tragedy. Is that what I am? Where is the place where the art is informed by the world, or the other way around?

“Poetry makes nothing happen,” but it does not follow that the poets should also be people who have made nothing happen.

And after writing or thinking about Ferguson, militarized police departments, ISIS, Ukraine, Gaza, I find the contemplation of art to be unbelievably self-serving. Unjustifiable, in some sense. People are having their constitutional rights trampled on all over the country I come from; people are being profiled, targeted, and murdered by the police. In other countries, that I do not come from but feel connections to (Israel, Ukraine), other people are being killed. All I have done, ever, about anything like this, is to try to get the word out about it. I and the other armchair quarterbacks of the “commentariat,” the Facebook-sized Fourth Estate.

Can I live with myself, being the kind of person who regards atrocity and injustice in News Feed, and then goes back to opera? There is something horrific about that juxtaposition, like a scene from Satyricon.

I reject the idea that one cannot make art in a world full of injustice and tragedy. Art is perhaps one of the more human responses to this sort of world. But I do think we should be uncomfortable, in a time like this, as we are making it, and we should ask ourselves where the world we lives in comes from. What are the parts that make it up. Which of those things are fair and just, and which are not.

58) That being said, here’s a liveblog from a Polish theater festival. This is the theater group that I have been following in Łódź for three years. Yes, this is me linking to myself. Dammit, Jim, it’s my blog.

“Grotowski’s  long shadow, even after his death, can obscure the daughter and granddaughter ensembles in Poland today. But these younger post-Grotowski companies, scattered from Warsaw to Wrocław, are not historic reenactors: they are carving out their own identities, and using Grotowski’s techniques for their own purposes.

I am proud of the work I’ve done with them. Their theater is a meaningful part of its Łódź community. They work with children, students, youth, and adults; they have made a play with, by, and about homeless residents of their city; they are currently creating a new piece with blind and visually impaired dancers. They teach free workshops. They go to schools to bring those free workshops to kids. I know of few artists who are more socially connected and aware of their world.

By being with them, not only have I sometimes been able to contribute to that process–helping them in the little ways I can, like occasional English proofreading–I have been able to write about it, share their history with other people, and perhaps shed some light on a good model for theatrical engagement in its environment.

Perhaps, by my writing about them, other people–other theater artists in the US–will undertake similar projects. That would be a good thing, and then I would feel like I had used my time well.

But I was able to come to Poland and study with them because I got a grant; I got a grant because I got to go to good universities: I got to do that because my parents are educated, because they had jobs and a home, because we were not driven out of our home by bombs or by extremist religious militants…

59) I do not believe in a world where the arts have to “justify” themselves. Not through social good, not through profitability, not through adherence to any kind of political or moral agenda. The arts have to be unrestricted to comment, observe, and interact.

Making art is a form of basic research–like scientists who try to find smaller and smaller particles, or determine the way in which the rate of expansion of the universe is changing–without any coherent hope of a practical application in this or any century. When we restrict our inquiries, start trying to narrow ourselves to practical matters, we limit our routes of imagination.

However, I do feel ashamed…as much as I find the word to be overused these days, I feel “privileged,” and unfairly so, to be writing on a MacBook Pro in a quiet, clean apartment in a lovely city with an arts festival going on, while so much of the world is at war. In some ways, the more lovely this festival is, the more I feel guilty about my good luck in being here.

60) The virtue of art is sharing. I think. If art wants to have social value, artists need to teach workshops in prisons and at schools without arts programs; create community-based work with (and including) people who don’t have access to theater; use the training they have been lucky enough to receive to benefit others as well as themselves.

This doesn’t mean you stop doing basic research on tiny tiny particles or enormous expanding galaxies or Greek choruses or whatever. You give yourself permission to explore what you want to explore, but you also make yourself share your training with others.

This helps, but it’s not enough.

61) I remember a community organizer back at Stanford complaining that he didn’t need any more radical artists, that what he needed were more radical lawyers, doctors, politicians. It was an interesting thing to hear. I see his point, but I’ve never believed that the world can have too many artists.

62) One of the interesting things about recent events and the commen-“share on”-tariat is that people have not only been sharing news about recent historic events, such as in Ferguson, but arguing about whether other topics ought to also be shared at this same time. Is it ethical to post cat and cupcake pictures in the face of this many Constitutional violations?

People have been asking their friends to please continue to bring up certain topics. There is a sense of collective responsibility–information-sharing, social pressure–pushing people to inform themselves. People are arguing about if “sharing” news and hashtagging helps, or if social media campaigns distort reality and give a false sense of having contributed.

But I am glad to see that there is at least some debate around all this. It feels like some parts of the Internet are engaged in arguing about how to be good global citizens of the Internet: how to watch, listen, care, report.

63) I had to write all that because this morning, I need to write more blog posts about Polish theater. I need to keep doing my work. But I feel that this is not the most meaningful thing I could be doing, in the world I live in.

I suppose I will feel less guilty about my unearned “privilege” and the way in which I contribute nothing meaningful to the Milky Way Galaxy once I start teaching again. Helping people learn how to write, or express themselves, with more confidence and fluency, is the one thing I do that I never feel guilty about.

64) Time to write. But first, let’s ask the Guardian what’s happening in the news.

65) West under pressure to confront rampant ISIS.

“Isis […] now holds a swath of territory in Syria and Iraq that is larger than the UK and home to at least four million people.

“The Islamic State is now the most capable military power in the Middle East outside Israel,” a senior regional diplomat said on Friday.

US officials have conceded that 93 air strikes in Iraq that have checked the Isis advance in the past 10 days will not deal definitively with the jihadis, and that they will have to be confronted in Syria to be fully defeated.

No consensus yet exists as to what that will require the US to do. Deliberations within the administration are said to be ongoing, the result of both an attempt to build an international coalition and a deep wariness of becoming mired in an open-ended conflict.”

And if that wasn’t enough, “We very much condemn this flagrant violation of Ukrainian sovereignty which we saw today with the movement of this Russian convoy into Ukraine.”

And Gaza’s economy will take years to recover from the devastating impact of the war, in which more than 360 factories have been destroyed or badly damaged and thousands of acres of farmland ruined by tanks, shelling and air strikes, according to analysts.”

66) Meanwhile, back in the United States, let’s see how the NYT is spinning all of this:
US Weighs Direct Military Action Against ISIS In Syria
Russian Military Opens Fire Against Ukraine, NATO Says
Hamas Puts Collaboration Suspects To Death.

“One day after an intelligence coup enabled Israel to kill three top commanders of Hamas’s armed wing, as many as 18 Palestinians suspected of collaboration with Israel were summarily executed in public on Friday, in what was seen as a warning to the people of the Gaza Strip.”

(So, what should we do, First Worlders? Anyone up for that new brunch place? Enjoy your weekend. )

67) The news in Ferguson seems to have been knocked out of the top headlines in both US and UK newspapers. But Twitter’s #Ferguson page brings me more up to date. (I have realized, being very late to the twenty-first century, that even if you don’t have or use Twitter you can use Twitter’s hashtag-generated webpage for a sort of feed of articles related to the subject that have been tagged. Join me, dinosaurs of the Internet!)

The CNN Out Front blog, on the grand jury and investigation: “The FBI says it has completed its work canvassing the neighborhood where unarmed black teen Michael Brown was killed. They knocked on more than 400 doors and interviewed more than 200 people, trying to get more information on what happened the day Brown was shot by officer Darren Wilson.”

68) I wrote a long Facebook note about this morning’s headlines and the responsibility that we have to be aware of what is happening in the world. I feel that only after having done this can I possibly go back to writing about theater. It’s posted, but I am not sure I have a theater blog in me today. I’m just…well…
What does it matter, how beautifully the choruses sing, at a time like this?

69) Somehow, these pictures of artists’ residences at the Copycat building in Baltimore–these faces of other people, equally obsessed, sleepless, and haggard, surrounded by their collections–give me great hope. I love seeing people with records or tubes of paint.

Part of this is because I have left so much of my stuff behind me (in Baltimore, as it happens). I need, for the moment, to keep traveling relatively light–less than 50 books go with me from Point A to Point B these days (not counting the four boxes of script drafts, obviously)–but I look forward to a time of once again being able to encrust my walls and floors with an aggregate of treasured objects. I love the items in these people’s homes. Paper cranes…a marimba…the Reading Couch, complete with the writer who never gets up from it…and the wooden rocking horse.

Some part of me knows that having once torn myself away from possessions (as I did in 2006 to embark on the #YearOfFreelanceAssistantDirecting) I will never quite become as possessive, again, as I once did. Once you have put books into a Dumpster, you never treasure them again the same way. I am impressed by the people I know who carefully move their books with them, when they go. I am not one of those people.

I did keep my grad school books in storage, though, rather than trashing them. If I ever go back to the US, at least I won’t have to buy B. H. Smith’s “Poetic Closure” again. Oh, “Poetic Closure,” how I love thee. I wish I had that little red volume of madness with me right now. The book is actually not about how to break up with someone in the manner of Byron, Shelley, or Keats, with windswept hair, impossible ideals, and an early, wasting death (or a violent death fighting in a foreign revolution): it’s “a study of how poems end.” If beneath your tailored suit lurks the heart of a formalist, this book has been waiting for you.

70) Funny how I am writing so much this morning, and none of it the thing I’m supposed to write. That’s never happened before.

71) Via RJ on FB: Her Music: Today’s Emerging Female Composer.

“A student should be able to believe wholeheartedly that they can reach those highest levels of compositional expression,” wrote Jennifer Higdon in an e-mail, “Because so much of the world’s population is made up of women, the presence of women composers can only help encourage those who would seek out music as a career (and as a form of expression).”

72) Anybody else extremely frustrated by WordPress having eliminated most of the rational ways in which to create a new post, leaving you bogged down by a weird status bar that says “Beep beep boop” while you wait for the visual editor to load? What is this, Sesame Street? Give me my HTML editor.

I remember when the only way to make a web page was to WRITE THE HTML FOR IT. All of it! Yourself! I was born in the early 80s. I remember Geocities. I do not want to be called a “millennial.” I may not be a real programmer, but I’m sure as hell not Generation Tumblr either. I received a passing grade in a computer science class, over a decade ago. I do not need a visual editor. Get out of my way.

Also: the “Beep beep boop” thing never actually materializes into the editor. It just keeps loading forever until you give up and close the window. It never gives you the page! THE DEFAULT NEW POST LINK SHOULD BE TO THE HTML EDITOR, NOT THE VISUAL EDITOR, YOU BUFFOONS, SINCE THE VISUAL EDITOR IS EFFECTIVELY USELESS! If it turns out there is no way for me to fix this, I may have to move to another blogging platform. I have remained loyal to WordPress through many iterations of “platform” change, but so help me, this is more than can be borne by human strength. Yes, “borne.”

73) Really, you never actually get the visual editor. It’s just that in nine out of the ten ways to create a new post, you are transferred to a page waiting for the visual editor to load, that says “Beep beep boop” and never loads. NEVER. You wait until…

74) When you start writing about your blog on one blog rather than actually writing the blog you are supposed to write for a different blog, there’s a word for that. I don’t know what it is. But I’m sure if I could stop thinking about either of those two things for a moment, I could think of a great funny word to describe this condition.

75) When you start writing about writing about your blog on one blog rather than…SAVE YOURSELVES. Turn off the Internet. Turn it off! Off!

76) And the US government is sitting there, contemplating “direct military action.”

77) I love the 82Things format and I should write a blog about *that,* about how this is a great way to get all of ourselves to write longer things again, over time, and also to redeem the value of the listicle. There you go. Now I have another thing with which to distract myself!

78) Er…instead I wrote an angry 1500-word list of eighteen demands for a better social network. I am now distracting myself with the third idea in the chain from the thing I’m actually supposed to be doing. I sent it to my brother to find out if it is technically viable or not.

79) Hey, cartoonist Liz Climo wrote a process piece, “On Being A Cartoonist” for The Toast:

“I spent most of my twenties turned off to art. Although I was working as an artist, I never really considered myself one. I hated my own drawings, I felt they were much too stiff, lacked construction and energy. I would feebly attempt to draw differently, the way I was “supposed” to, and always came back to my own style. Eventually, I started doing more things that forced me to be uncomfortable, like taking improv classes and singing karaoke. I realized that if I was terrible at something and looked like a complete idiot doing it, the absolute worst thing that could happen was that I’d be terrible at it and look like a complete idiot doing it. Turns out, that’s not such a big deal. So I started drawing the way I like, and started posting my drawings online. It’s not necessarily that I like how I draw now, it’s just that I’m much more comfortable with who I am.”

80) It’s great that cartoonists have survived the decline of newspapers and so many of them are doing cool things. I know it’s not easy to be an Internet cartoonist, or build a following, or whatever, but it does seem like there is still a route forward for the person with the cartoon machete and a large bottle of ink.

81) Also, the US government is sitting there, contemplating “direct military action.” But let’s not get into that now. I would much rather talk about something else, and I think we should always end 82Things with some poetry.

82) Below, a video of W.H. Auden reading “Epitaph on a Tyrant.”

I really wish that it didn’t also include Hitler and Nazi imagery, and pictures of distraught children, but it does. (The poem makes the point well enough on its own, thank you very much.) I was going to try to attach audio only, but there is a little fragment of Auden in the middle, actually reading, which is lovely. The audio’s great. I just don’t like the video.

W. H. Auden – Epitaph On A Tyrant by poetictouch

If you do not object to seeing goosestepping Nazi soldiers or weeping children, then you are also going to get to see Auden. If you do object, I suggest playing it just to listen, without looking at the video.

Auden’s voice is perfect. I’d never heard him read before, would you believe it? I think I was too afraid he’d be a bad reader of his own work. But he has a perfect reading voice, theatrical but not overdone, and not too slow or fast either. He’s the just-right porridge of the Three Bears. Considering how much he cared about music, it makes sense.

These things do both matter, don’t they? There is room in the world to both be concerned about atrocities and to have strong obsessive opinions about Poet Voice. I think. I don’t know. Isn’t there?

(August 9 – 23, 2014: Kraków, Łódź.)