Still fishin’

Wolf moon over Wolf Lake. With Mars above:

Technically the full moon was 23 hours ago, but I was in class, so here is Wolf Moon, the first full moon of the new year, rising over refineries on the Indiana side of Wolf Lake. I think the way the cloud rises then flattens out makes it look like a dinosaur.

Why is it called Wolf Lake?  And why are these “dog” footprints as large as my sneaker?

The moon is supposed to be at perigee, but it is depressingly dark.  Although it is twenty degrees or so, the snow cover is mostly gone, which cuts down on reflectivity.  I think there is a little mist over the moon, too. I have no tripod, so the photos were taken with the camera pressed firmly against a tree, rock, or fence post. The lightened background and the effects were done with Picasa 3, sorry it doesn’t do PNG, only JPG, so you see some squarish artifacts. Resizing for blog was done with Irfanview. Free programs all.

Here is a poem we were given to memorize in the 6th grade.  Actually we were given a choice between memorizing an insipid two page poem about animals for an A or a one page poem about a wolf for a B.   When it comes to sixth grade poetry , quantity must be the same as quality.  Everyone got the message and memorized the “A” poem, except for the top student in the class whose name was Barton (not Bart) who today is a German professor in Massachusetts. Barton memorized and recited both, ruining his straight A grades with one B just to make a point.  I also memorized the wolf poem, but didn’t tell anybody, which is how I can google it now.  I don’t care if it’s a children’s poem, I still like it.

The Wolf
Georgia Roberts Durston

When the pale moon hides and the wild wind wails,
And over the treetops the nighthawk sails,
The gray wolf sits on the world’s far rim
And howls: and it seems to comfort him.

The wolf is a lonely soul, you see,
No beast in the wood, nor bird in the tree,
But shuns his path; in the windy gloom
They give him plenty, and plenty of room.

So he sits with his long, lean face to the sky
Watching the ragged clouds go by.
There in the night, alone, apart,
Singing the song of his lone, wild heart.

Far away, on the world’s dark rim
He howls, and it seems to comfort him.

gone fishin’


Dusk at Wolf Lake. Freezing rain all day, but finally the temperature got one degree above freezing. Time for a walk. After two weeks with the flu (so much for flu shots), it’s good to get out. Looking north with the glow of Chicago on the left:

Looking east with the glow of Hammond on the right:

There are huge, I mean really huge, “dog” foot prints in the snow.

Last supper

No, not Leonardo da Vinci’s famous mural, and not my own last, last supper, although you can never know for sure, but a metaphor for putting yourself in the presence of virtual, or depending on what internet slang you use, “invisible” friends.  And also a sort of bowing out of writing new posts for the next couple of days, since I have a work project due this weekend, which will take a lot of time with “rubrics” and such.  It doesn’t pay all that much, but I have been told in glowing terms how good it will look on my resumé CV.

If you follow a blog for any length of time, sooner or later the babble disentangles itself into discrete human voices, humans which you will probably never shake hands or share a cup of coffee with, but people you have ended up spending some enjoyable hours with.  And yes, you would like to be in the same room with them, somehow.

I think my all time favorite discussion is here, in a thread with most of my favorite commenters, that turned into a recipe discussion about Welsh rabbit.  It was even more poignant because my personal life had taken a turn for the worse, and I was living between a place with no electricity and another place with no phone connection, charging my laptop daily in a storage area, packing by candlelight, trying to avoid the gang members upstairs who were running what turned out to be a meth lab, and trying to avoid my new landlord who turned out to be beating his pregnant wife.  In the midst of all of that, the internet was the only sane place to retreat to.  Suddenly one of the voices got me on his wavelength with “Don’t you also beat an egg into it, with a little worcestershire sauce and good sharp mustard? All poured steaming over a thick toast of grainy bread? Garnished with parsley and course-ground pepper?” I could touch the bread and smell the pepper. The voice was (and is) an axis on a rotating planet.

Virtual connection isn’t always enough though.  Sometimes I want a tangible reminder of the lively thoughts, something I can touch, before the inevitable hour those things retreat into the background.  I don’t have all the ingredients for the Welsh rabbit (or rarebit), but I do have some fresh rye bread, Jarlsberg cheese, and peppercorns.

And last night I picked up a new bottle of Australian port.

And of course, right next to the only supermarket in Chicago that carries Jarlsberg cheese and the only liquor  store in Chicago with Stone’s ginger wine is…Powell’s used bookstore. So I couldn’t resist a dead-tree version of some Valéry poems.  So far, I’m not that impressed with his famous “Le Cimetiere Marin” (although I like “That sea forever starting and restarting.” La mer, la mer, toujours recommencée!)… but “Les Pas“…oh, my! Echoes of Rumi who traveled to Damascus looking for Shems (who had probably met an untimely end), only to find Shems had been in his soul all along.

Is it any accident that it was bread and wine Jesus shared with his friends before his departure (a much older ceremony), telling them to do it “in remembrance of me”?  Of course he reappeared, but when he did, he was resurrected, changed, and no one recognized him at first.  Things end, summer dies and is resurrected, one door closes and another door opens.  And just as one ingests the communication elements  and “eats God”, perhaps becoming God?–as we choose our companions, virtual or otherwise,  we also choose who we want to become more like, whose values we are closest to, sometimes even whose mannerisms we will end up unconsciously copying or being copied by. When we touch bread and wine with our invisible friends, we are also touching those invisible qualities of our own we want to endure.  Well, this is getting way too metaphysical for me, where I am always out of my depth, so maybe I’ll just think of it more like Omar Khayyam’s “a loaf of bread, a jug of wine”.  Looking up the Rubaiyat now, I see it’s really ” a loaf of bread”, “a flask of wine”, and a “book of verse”, so it looks like I did the right ritual after all.

And now, as Robert Frost says, “I have promises to keep…”

Posted in Food. 4 Comments »

L’Abeille

L’Abeille (Paul Valéry) (The Bee)

À Francis de Miomandre.

Quelle, et si fine, et si mortelle,
Que soit ta pointe, blonde abeille,
Je n’ai, sur ma tendre corbeille,
Jeté qu’un songe de dentelle.

Pique du sein la gourde belle,
Sur qui l’Amour meurt ou sommeille,
Qu’un peu de moi-même vermeille,
Vienne à la chair ronde et rebelle !

J’ai grand besoin d’un prompt tourment :
Un mal vif et bien terminé
Vaut mieux qu’un supplice dormant !

Soit donc mon sens illuminé
Par cette infime alerte d’or
Sans qui l’Amour meurt ou s’endort !

Lionel Abel’s translation of Valéry’s “The Bee” (1922) here.

An excerpt:

Un mal vif et bien terminé
Vaut mieux qu’un supplice dormant !

A torment prompt and soon done with
Is better than one that sleeping lies.

Valéry’s later tours de force:  Le Cimetière Marin (French and English) and La Jeune Parque (in French).

Too funny: Google Translate renders Vaut mieux qu’un supplice dormant ! as “Punishment is better than sleep!” recalling the adhan call from the muzzein at dawn for the first prayer of the day: الصلاة خير من النوم “Al-salatu khayru min an-nawm” or “Prayer is better than sleep.”

Everything simple is false. Everything which is complex is unusable.
-Paul Valéry, Notre destin et les lettres, 1937

Posted in Poetry. 8 Comments »

The defiant word, the cutting word, the cold word

While chasing down St. Patrick’s Rune the other day, I ran into the “Song of Amergin“.  In Gaelic that’s Amhairghin or “Birth of song” from Lebor Gabála Érenn’s 11th century “Book of Invasions”. It’s a druid incantation claiming the land of Ireland for the “Men of Míl” from the Tuatha Dé Danann, who were either a faery clan or gods.   The poem is said to have many forms in both Gaelic and Welsh. For more references, here is an essay, comparing the poem with other historical sources, including the Welsh bard Taliesin.

A popular version (several Gaelic and English versions at this URL):

I am a stag of seven tines,
I am a wide flood on a plain,
I am a wind on the deep waters,
I am a shining tear of the sun,
I am a hawk on a cliff,
I am fair among flowers,
I am a god who sets the head afire with smoke.
I am a battle waging spear,
I am a salmon in the pool,
I am a hill of poetry,
I am a ruthless boar,
I am a threatening noise of the sea,
I am a wave of the sea,
Who but I knows the secrets of the unhewn dolmen ?

In this version, the subject of each line leads into the next line:

1
I invoke the land of Ireland
Much-coursed be the fertile sea,
Fertile be the fruit-strewn mountain,
Fruit-strewn be the showery wood,
5
Showery be the river of water-falls,
Of water-falls be the lake of deep pools,
Deep-pooled be the hill-top well,
A well of tribes be the assembly,
An assembly of the kings be Tara,
10
Tara be the hill of the tribes,
The tribes of the sons of Mil,
Of Mil of the ships, the barks,
Let the lofty bark be Ireland
Lofty Ireland, darkly sung,
15
An incantation of great cunning;
The great cunning of the wives of Bres,
The wives of Bres of Buaigne;
The great lady Ireland,
Eremon hath conquered her,
20
Ir, Eber have invoked for her.
I invoke the land of Ireland.

I rather like this one:

I am the wind on the sea
I am the stormy wave
I am the sound of the ocean
I am the bull with seven horns
I am the hawk on the cliff face
I am the sun’s tear
I am the beautiful flower
I am the boar on the rampage
I am the salmon in the pool
I am the lake on the plain
I am the defiant word
I am the spear charging into battle
I am the god who put fire in your head
Who made the trails through stone mountains
Who knows the age of the moon
Who knows where the setting sun rests
Who took the cattle from the house of the warcrow
Who pleases the warcrow’s cattle
What bull, what god created the mountain skyline
The cutting word, the cold word

Sung in gaelic by Lisa Gerrard, lyrics below the embedded video:

Am gaeth i m-muir
Am tond trethan
Am fuaim mara
Am dam secht ndirend
Am séig i n-aill
Am dér gréne
Am cain lubai
Am torc ar gail
Am he i l-lind
Am loch i m-maig
Am brí a ndai
Am bri i fodb fras feochtu
Am dé delbas do chind codnu
Coiche nod gleith clochur slébe
Cia on co tagair aesa éscai
Cia du i l-laig fuiniud gréne
Cia beir buar o thig tethrach
Cia buar tethrach tibi
Cia dám, cia dé delbas faebru a ndind ailsiu
Cáinte im gai, cainte gaithe

Middle photo : the Atlantic Ocean looking south towards Boston.

Top photo : Mount Rushmore, the four presidents carved into the mountain at the Black Hills, South Dakota. Our landtaking legends, our leaders carved into the land, the land  carved out by their words. And the words of the incantation are : “This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York Island, from the redwood forest, to the gulf stream water, this land was made for you and me. “* Instead of becoming the land, personifying the land to claim power, the land is at our feet for our disposal.

*compare “from Dan to Beersheba”

Posted in Poetry. 1 Comment »

Salmon with ginger wine

A quick supper after class: salmon, olive oil, chili powder, banana, Stone’s ginger wine, to be microwaved 8 minutes and eaten with mashed potatoes (potato boiled with skin on and mashed with milk, olive oil, zattar). And a few black olives on top. Dessert: a few slices of Granny Smith apple, Dutch Farms Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheese, and one finger of Courvoisier cognac. And so to bed.

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Artificial language

The movie Avatar has just been released.  It’s in 3D, but I watched it in a four-inch window here.  While no money was wasted creating a new plot–they just recycled the same old sci-fi plots that have been used for years–quite a bit of effort was spent on the effects and on the language.  It has an artificial language, Na’vi, created just for the movie, an improvement over devices like Yoda-style English accent that inspired this Yoda-speak generator.

Constructed languages are nothing new.  Omniglot lists several dozen “con-scripts”, alphabets constructed by readers. In the meantime Yoko Ono (thanks, Marilyn Richardson!) is commemorating the 1969 “War is over if you want it”  campaign with downloadable posters in 60 languages, including Klingon, Chethlonian (???–Hebrew Hethlon?), Kamakawi and Lojban.

Image: “War is over” in Klingon.

And the snow with its whiteness

I found portions of this poem being used as an avatar, and tracked it down to a Madeleine L’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet, part of the Time Quartet. The original is said to be St. Patrick’s Rune, from the longer Lorica, a morning prayer and a prayer for protection said to have changed Patrick and his followers into deer when they were pursued.

The Faedh Fiada; or, “The Cry of the Deer.”

At Tara in this fateful hour,
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And the fire with all the strength it hath,
And the lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the Earth with its starkness —
All these I place
By God’s almighty help and grace
Between myself and the powers of darkness.

Posted in Poetry. 2 Comments »

Rhyming Psalms

Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Columbia both tell me that Bible translations were the first free verse or prose in English.  Right off the bat that confuses me since Hollander in The Skalds: a Selection of Their Poems, With Introductions and Notes (out of print) says the Old Germanic format, a four-beat measure with alliterations falling on two or three of those beats and every long line divided into two half lines, is the device used for practically all Old West Germanic (Anglo-Saxon, Old High German, and Old Saxon) poetry, Beowulf frequently being cited as an example, and says it “remained in popular favor in England down into the Middle Ages”. Scandinavian skaldic meters were more complex; Snorri Sturleson listed them with examples in Háttatal, the last (3rd) section of his Prose Edda.

So England, Germany, and the Nordic areas were all using alliterative poetry forms based on the dróttkvætt. Of course it was the French who were so into rhymes, although there were rhymed psalters in Dutch and Italian too, but somehow rhyming Psalms got into English, to the point where they had to be gotten out again by translators like Wycliffe in the 13th century. Here is a rhyming Psalm in Middle English. this is actually quite a bit of fun.  The researcher says,

While it is not possible for me to duplicate exactly the Middle-English alphabet, I have reproduced it as near as possible to enable you to see and hear what Middle-English sounded like. But before you can read the Psalm 23 from the Surtees Psalter in Middle English, some instruction needs to be given. When you read Middle English, it is almost imperative that you do so out loud. This will help you to make intellectual sense of the strange-looking words; what looks strange to the eye is often more familiar to the ear. In fact, one of the chief delights of reading 700-year-old English is the aha! of understanding that comes with this ongoing revelation: Middle English is a foreign language that you already know. If you have no formal training in Middle English phonology, that’s all right. It is believed that medieval English vowel sounds were more or less the same as those in modern European languages.” Early Middle English was written before (or in the earliest stages of) the “Great Vowel Shift.”

Oh good, I’ve always meant to learn something about the Great Vowel Shift, and there’s nothing like diving right in.

There follow several instructions, fairly easy ones, for pronouncing Middle English.  Here is the Psalm:

Surtees Psalter — Psalm 23

1. Lauerd me steres, noght wante sal me:
In stede of fode are me louked he.

2. He fed me ouer watre ofe fode,
Mi saule he tornes in to gode.

3. He led me ouer sties of rightwisenes,
For his name, swa hali es.

4. For, and ife .I. ga in mid schadw ofe dede,
For ou wi me erte iuel sal .i. noght drede;

5. i yherde, and i stafe ofe mighte,
ai ere me roned dai and nighte.

6. ou graied in mi sighte borde to be,
Ogaines as at droued me;

7. ou fatted in oli me heued yhite;
And mi drinke dronkenand while schire es ite!

8. And filigh me sal i mercy
Alle daies ofe mi life for-i;

9. And at .I. wone in hous ofe lauerd isse
In lenge of daies al wi blisse.

Peeking at the Latin Vulgate, and for some reason it’s the 22nd Psalm there, there doesn’t seem to be much that rhymes:

[ 1 canticum David Dominus pascit me nihil mihi deerit  2 in pascuis herbarum adclinavit me super aquas refectionis enutrivit me 3 animam meam refecit duxit me per semitas iustitiae propter nomen suum 4 sed et si ambulavero in valle mortis non timebo malum quoniam tu mecum es virga tua et baculus tuus ipsa consolabuntur me 5 pones coram me mensam ex adverso hostium meorum inpinguasti oleo caput meum calix meus inebrians 6 sed et benignitas et misericordia subsequetur me omnibus diebus vitae meae et habitabo in domo Domini in longitudine dierum]

But Psalms is not based on Jerome’s translation of the Hebrew as is the rest of the Vulgate OT; Jerome originally translated it as well and it was included initially, but several Latin versions of Psalms were already in circulation and the Gallicana translation from the Hexaplar Greek was used instead.

but here is the Hebrew transliteration for Psalm 23:

¹miz’môr l’däwid
‘hwäh roiy
lo ech’šär
[psalm of David]
[Jehovah pasture]
[not lack]
²Bin’ôt Deshe
yar’Biytzëniy
al-mëy m’nuchôt
y’nahálëniy
[in pasture sprout]
[crouch on four legs folded like a resting animal]
[above the water repose peacefully]
[ flow with a sparkle, (by inference) protect, sustain]
³ naf’shiy y’shôvëv
yan’chëniy
v’ma’G’lëy-tzedeq
l’maan sh’mô
[breathing/vitality, return to the starting point]
[guide]
[track, right/prosperous]
[on account of, position/honor]
4 Gam Kiy-ëlëkh’
B’gëy tzal’mäwet
lo-iyrä
rä Kiy-aTäh
iMädiy
shiv’†’khä
ûmish’an’Tekhä
hëMäh
y’nachámuniy
[gather, walk]
[by gorge, shadow of grave]
[no fear]
[evil caused from you]
[with]
[branch/scion/clan]
[support/sustenance/walking stick]
[they]
[sigh, pity, console]
5 Taárokh’ l’fänay
‘chän neged tzor’räy
DiSHan’Tä
vaSHemen roshiy
Kôšiy
r’wäyäh
[set in a row, towards face]
[a table spread out, opposite, cramp]
[fatten/anoint/satisfy]
[with grease/perfumed olive liquid richness, head]
[cup]
[satisfaction]
6 akh’ ôv wächešed
yir’D’fûniy
Käl-y’mëy
chaYäy
w’shav’Tiy
B’vëyt-y’hwäh
l’orekh’ yämiym
[surely good kindness]
[run after]
[every day/warm (daylight) hours/space of time]
[alive/raw/fresh/strong]
[and sit down/remain]
[among house/family Jehovah]
[for length, hot/day/warm hours/space of time]

I do think I see some end rhymes. Also it’s fun to mouse over the definitions in the linked Hebrew page translation and try on all the synonyms as puns.  (Or better yet, compare with Leonard Cohen’s “Who by fire” internal rhymes, double meanings, and alliterations.)

The Old Testament books of Proverbs and Song of Solomon were also said to be rhyming. I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg.

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We shall overcome.

I started writing this post about the Chicago gun turn-in program in the summer of 2007, but quickly realized I would never be able to to describe it adequately and abandoned the effort.

[As a side note, I also ran across this smirking account of some National Rifle Association members bragging about gaming the system, an organized attempt to intentionally turn in fake guns in order to rip off the Chicago taxpayers for money to buy more guns and ammunition, while making sarcastic remarks about those who have to live in the midst of the violence.  (“I left Champaign-Urbana at 0530 with 27 guns in my trunk and one on my hip….I stood in line there listening to a bunch of hopeless sheep bleat for half an hour. It repulsed me. “) He brags about the concealed illegal blades he’s carrying, brags about the lies he tells the people at the turn-in centers, and brags about the obscene gesture he makes as he clutches his $1700 worth of credit cards.  But poor baby, he’s armed to the teeth and still sweating bullets, “standing in the middle of some lousy ghetto” and “in condition orange, watching for any thugs waiting to ambush anyone coming out”.  Silly NRA dweeb, playing Dick Tracy and freaking out in a neighborhood where I routinely walk alone after dark with nothing but my bare hands.]

Now I am putting online what I wrote back then, remembering my first visit to Operation Push, the sweltering room, the whisper that went through the crowd when the Rev. Jesse Jackson appeared at the back of the stage, and the bravery of the two parents standing on either side of Rev. Jackson, parents of a teenage girl who had been killed the day before, a child killed by another child with a gun while eating lunch at a fast food drive-in.

At the top I titled the paragraph “Jesse Jackson makes some sense on guns” and started out like this:

When I got out of bed this morning I never dreamed I’d be singing “We Shall Overcome” with the Reverend Jesse Jackson today.

It started out as an effort to support our school president who was making a speech promoting the school. Lured by a promise of free coffee and donuts, I ended up in Hyde Park at the Operation Push headquarters, where after a warmup by the choir, the Reverend Jackson himself appeared on stage.

It was the first time I had been inside the building. Hebrew letters in the stained glass windows and a star of David at the very top of the stage attest the building’s former incarnation as a synagogue. In front of the stage was a light blue coffin. On either side of the coffin, Chicago police were stacking semi-automatic weapons that had been turned in as part of a program to get weapons off the street.

For the rest, one picture is worth a thousand words.

Video of Jesse  hometown speaking style:

Rev. Jackson started out speaking normally, but no one listened.  I couldn’t figure it out.  When someone starts speaking, I’m used to listening quietly, but not this crowd.  Quickly Rev. Jackson started a call and response type of speaking, one short phrase then another, the crowd shouting each phrase back to him.

(1:50)None of us

are safe

and secure

until all of us

are safe

and secure.

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