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Jeremy's journal

Even now, I persist in believing that these black marks on white paper bear the greatest significance, that if I keep writing I might be able to catch the rainbow of consciousness in a jar.

Jeffrey Eugenides


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Wednesday, July 28th, 2004

Kidblogging

Last week we went to the NJ State Aquarium in Camden, with Sylvia's friend Kimberlee and her parents (who were part of our travel group to China). Here are some pictures of the girls hamming it up on the aquarium grounds.

posted evening of July 28th, 2004: Respond
➳ More posts about Sylvia

Tuesday, July 27th, 2004

This morning on the train I was reading Tales from Moominvalley, by Tove Jansson. This book is marvelous! I do not think I will give it to Sylvia though, until she is at least 6 or 7 -- the stories are a little dark and require, I think, some sophistication to really understand them -- as I say this I realize it may be true also of the other Moomintroll books; but as I was reading Finn Family Moomintroll, I was thinking "Sylvia would really like this once she's able to take in so many words"; not so much with this book.

Here is a Moomintroll home page, though I see it has not been updated in several years. And most of its links appear to be out of date. Alas! I will keep looking.

posted morning of July 27th, 2004: Respond
➳ More posts about Moomins

Monday, July 26th, 2004

Children's stories

I have been reading some children's stories. A few nights ago Sylvia was interested in hearing Babar the King for a bedtime story, which she had never heard before. So I tried it out and was surprised that it held her attention all the way through; it is wordier than most of of her books, and has more unfamiliar words. The next day, she was still talking about the characters in the story. Great, I thought -- let's go to the bookstore and get more Babar books! We went to the Montclair Book Center and picked up Babar's Little Girl, and ever since, whenever I read her a story during the day or at bedtime, she requests one or both of the Babar books.

Some notes about them, in no real order:

  • I did not know this when I went to the bookstore but it turns out you should check the author before you buy a Babar book: The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant, Babar's Travels, Babar the King, and Babar and Father Christmas, and maybe some others are by Jean de Brunhoff. But many more are by Laurent de Brunhoff, whom I take to be Jean's son, and not his equal as a writer. That said, Sylvia does like Laurent's Babar's Little Girl a whole lot.
  • In Babar the King, the tense switches around in confusing ways. In one paragraph "Babar proclaims", in the next, "the elephants cheered." I can't figure out why this is, it must be some vagary of translation.* This is not the case in Babar's Little Girl, which I am thinking might have been written in English, as it does not have any translation credit.
  • Sylvia knows how to read the words, "Babar the king".
  • I love the names of the minor characters! I get a kick out of saying "Hatchibombatar." (He is the street cleaner in Celestville.)

On the same bookstore trip, I picked up Finn Family Moomintroll and Tales from Moominvalley, by Tove Jansson (another series with excellent character names). I have fond memories of these books from childhood and am looking forward to introducing Sylvia to them, not quite yet but soon. Today on the train to and from work, I read Finn Family Moomintroll.


*Update: Or maybe it is something more meaningful. Here is the abstract of "Time, Narrative Intimacy and the Child : Implications of the Transition from the Present to the Past Tense in the Translation into English of Children's Texts", by Gillian Lathey:
The British version of Jean de Brunhoff's Histoire de Babar is a striking example of the transition from the present to the past tense in the translation of children's texts into English. With reference to theories of narrative time, this paper invites speculation on the impact of such a tense shift on the present-tense qualities of the original, on the performance of a shared reading by child and adult and, finally, on the relevance of the young child's developing understanding of the role of tense in narrative.
The article is from Documents in Information Science, vol. 48, 2003, and is available at érudit.org.

posted evening of July 26th, 2004: Respond
➳ More posts about Tove Jansson

Friday, July 23rd, 2004

Dithering

So I'm at a bit of a loss about what to do with this essay I've been talking about writing. I finished reading "On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life" this morning and, while I enjoyed it, it did not end up being about what I suspected it would be, when I started. At this point I think a critical essay comparing it with The Myth of the Eternal Return would not really be worth writing or reading.

So as I am contemplating, this evening, writing a post in which I abandon the idea of writing this piece, I open my e-mailbox and find therein a note from Randolph, in which he says he thinks I am close to "one of the great philosophical questions of our time" -- well with that kind of positive feedback how can I give up? This makes it seem like I should instead of criticizing Nietzsche, imitate him, and unabashedly write an essay about my idea of history. Do I dare? I must admit it seems a bit intimidating; particularly since I'm not sure what is this idea struggling to be had. So... I will continue to think about it and hopefully to write about it, and in time I hope to figure out what I am wanting to say.

posted evening of July 23rd, 2004: Respond
➳ More posts about Untimely Meditations

Thursday, July 15th, 2004

More on the Referrers feature -- it is quite unsatisfactory in its present state and needs a good deal of tweaking. This will happen when I get around to it -- no sooner and no later!

posted afternoon of July 15th, 2004: Respond

Monday, July 12th, 2004

On the Bus

A first time for everything: here is a guest post from my darling Ellen.

It could have been a line of people waiting to catch the jitney to Amagansett or, the Express bus to work. Except it was early Saturday morning at Eighth Ave. and 34th Street when Jeremy, Sylvia, our almost-four-year-old, and I got on line for the three buses heading towards Pennsylvania. We were filled with a sense of purpose quite different than that of our daily routine. The neatly-attired crowd stood, amidst a strong scent of sun screen, with New York Times, cell phone, paperback and coffee in hand. We were joining hundreds of others in a coalition called America Votes, boarding buses to "hit the ground" with potential voters in swing states. We were going to meet them face to face, to survey and discover what issues mattered to them most in the upcoming election and to register voters.

Pa., with the fifth highest number of electoral votes, went to Al Gore by a mere 5,000 votes in the last election, so getting people to turn-out this November is crucial. Although our group was billed as non-partisan, and indeed, were specifically told not to engage in political debates with the people we canvassed -- it was clear that the bus was solidly Democratic. A high level of sophisticated and sardonic political repartee was on-going -- everything from the recent Republican ads trashing John Edwards to Donald Rumsfeld and his calculated terrorist threat announcements. Sitting to my right was a psychologist couple who had been heavily involved in counseling 9/11 survivors. Coincidentally, behind me was another psychologist who had done similar work. Behind the psychologists were two actors, meeting for the first time on the bus -- perfect partners for the canvassing to come. In the back of the bus was a retired couple from Stony Brook. Later on my seat buddy was a Stuyvesant H.S. graduate named Kayla, just completing her first year as a theatre major at SUNY Binghampton. I picked her brain about her early theatre experiences (Shakespeare in the Park was important) and her activism -- her first demonstration was as a baby in arms with her parents in Washington, DC for the plight of Soviet Jewry. My most recent experience on a political bus ride was the 25th Anniversary of Freedom Summer, fifteen years ago, when I rode for 30 hours to Nashua, Mississippi, making stops at pivotal landmarks of the Civil Rights movement. Kayla told me, as did many others that day, "it's never too early" to introduce a child topolitical activism.

Indeed, Sylvia was the youngest person on the bus, though it was nice to see some older children with parents, too. There were a number of couples in their late 60's and early 70's, though a majority of the crowd appeared to fall somewhere between the 30's and 50's. At the various rest stops during the inevitable wait for everyone to get back on the bus, I enjoyed asking people, "Why are you here?" almost as much as people seemed to enjoy being asked. It boiled down to this: people wanting to "do something," and feeling they could not sit this one out.

At the snack table set up at a union hall where we picked up our clip boards, survey sheets, and voter registration forms, Sylvia was introduced to ginger ale and "cheese noodles" as she called them. She also got to experience walking up to the doors of total strangers, knocking, and listening, as her parents, in upbeat voices said, "Hi. We're here to find out what issues are important to you in the coming election..." And she got to watch the sometimes baffled faces of respondents. The area where we were dropped off, Hatboro, Pa. is registered 75% Republican. Our particular segment was a retirement community in what had been military housing in the 60's: attached, single level tract housing, clusters of impatiens planted along narrow connecting paths, American flags waving in front of most small screened in porches. We wove along the paths from one closely-connected courtyard to another, working between 12:30 and 4 PM on a day when the sun beat down at 90 plus degrees. Jeremy in his black shiny work shoes, tie, and cordoroy pants, Sylvia, who refused to wear her straw hat because it wasn't the "flowery one", and me, with my heavy socks and sneakers made up a sweaty crew.

We kept track of the number of doors we knocked on (about 50), and the responses we got -- both positive and negative. We were not met with as much friendliness as some of our busmates who later reported that they were invited in to people's homes, offered water, and thanked. However, we did get a number of our survey forms filled out -- homeland security and health issues figured largely on this groups' minds -- although one woman said very deliberately, not homeland security, and crossed it off the list. We didn't succeed in getting anyone to register... this was not a crowd that was going to decide to vote if they didn't already. We stopped to catch some shade once while Sylvia pumped her legs on a creaky swing hanging from a rusted playset behind the compound, and then again, at a grassy median in front of a factory.

As we headed back to our pick-up area, I followed an overgrown path into what seemed to be a grove of tiki's. A heavily tattoed man in his mid-forties, glistening with sweat, was carving the outline of a face into a black walnut tree trunk with a chain saw."I just think 'em up and do 'em," he said. He stopped to fill out a survey form, and unlike everyone else, gave his phone number to receive information about the issues he had checked off.

Our caravan of buses succeeded in getting 2,000 people to consider the issues, and 100 people to register. A festive mood prevailed as we headed back to New York. Jesse, a spirited organizer who had trained us on the way out, (and turned 23 this very day) said we had done an awesome job. I asked what people planned to do next. Everyone knew about the Move-on.org cell phone banking in Central Park the following day. I said, "I'm going to do phone banking -- but not tomorrow!" There was laughter, and a general feeling of exhausted comraderie. Then one of the actors said he and a group of twelve friends were making calls the next day!

On the ride home, Sylvia pretended to do door to door canvassing with a tiny plastic tiger, a miniature purple velvet poodle, and a plastic cow that I had stuffed into my pocketbook. She made up a couple of knock-knock jokes -- with some voter registration lingo thrown in. After seven hours on the bus with one meltdown going and another coming back, Sylvia elicited (and gratefully accepted) the following food offerings from three grandmas: butterscotch candies, a stack of gingerbread cookies wrapped in aluminum foil, and a bag of cherries.

America Votes and People for the American Way are doing weekend bustrips to swing states all the way 'til the election. Please think about signing on. For information, if you are in New York try the PFAW office, (212) 420-0440, or you can go to the America Votes homepage for a full list of participating organizations.

posted evening of July 12th, 2004: Respond

Hmm.. I see that displaying referrals from search engines in the way that I am doing it, is having a negative side effect of causing the engines to catalog the link text I am showing, and direct searchers to the wrong place. I will turn that feature off tonight. Too bad, I got a kick out of seeing what people were searching for -- but far be it from me to make people's Google experience more frustrating than need be. Update: Done.

posted evening of July 12th, 2004: Respond

Tuesday, July 6th, 2004

Today I was reading chapters 5 and 6 of On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life and I came up with an idea, that may have some relevance to the essay I am hoping to write -- this work seems to feature a leitmotif of what I am calling "parallel opposites" -- a pair of phenomena which are contradictory but which arise from the same underlying process. For instance, consider the opening paragraph of chapter 5, where Nietzsche is listing the ways in which overreliance on history is harmful to life: two of these are, "it leads an age to imagine that it possesses the rarest of virtues, justice, and to a greater degree than any other age;" and, "it implants the belief... in the old age of mankind, ...that one is a latecomer and epigone." This might be a slight stretch; but these two dangers appear to me contradictory, since the latter (I would think) entails a belief in an ancient golden age, from which we have fallen.

Now let's look at the beginning of chapter 6, where Nietzsche is explaining the genesis of the first of the above dangers. In the course of this explanation he says,

Socrates considered it an illness close to insanity to imagine oneself in possession of a virtue and not to possess it. Certainly such conceit is more dangerous than the opposite delusion of being the victim of a fault or vice.
Nietzsche does not come out and say as much, but both of these opposite delusions (in this context) would could be brought about by the same process. -- I need to develop what the nature of this process would be, and also to say something about how I find Nietzsche's argument here not totally coherent; once I lay this out I might be able to argue that he is stretching his point in order to work in this parallel opposites structure.

posted evening of July 6th, 2004: Respond
➳ More posts about Friedrich Nietzsche

I watched a half hour or so of Shanghai Love Motel's set at Luna Lounge this evening, and was sorely disappointed to have to leave so soon. They make beautiful music -- combine straight-ahead rock and roll with abstract, cerebral lyrics in a way that reminds me of my two perhaps favorite artists, Dylan and Robyn Hitchcock. (The Dylan influence is clear and goes almost without saying, and they played a dynamite cover of "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" when testing the sound system before the show; the Hitchcock influence I'm pretty sure about but am waiting on confirmation or at least non-denial from Bill Millard, the band's bass player, before I assert it. But still I can say their music reminds me of R.H. without being roped into having made a statement about their influences, right?*)

Anyway -- I can't say too much more about the music because I only heard 5 songs -- but by all means go listen to their next show if you're in town. I will post about it before it happens.


*Bill responds that yes, he thinks they do have a bit of influence from Hitchcock.

posted evening of July 6th, 2004: Respond
➳ More posts about Shanghai Love Motel

Thursday, July first, 2004

New Feature

I got the "Referrals" section in the left hand column working, I had been meaning to do it for a while now, I think it's pretty cool. Tim, if you surf over here today you will see a bunch of referrals from your site; this is because I was using your site as a test.

The Referrals section should show: any referrals from another site within the past day and a half. If the site is a search engine, then the link text will show the search engine name and what the query was; otherwise the link text will just show the host name of the site. (One drawback to this is, multiple referrals from different pages on the same site will be glommed together into one link, with the link pointing to whichever page sent the first referral. This doesn't seem like a huge big deal to me in the case of sites which are not search engines; it is why I handle search engines differently.)

Also I moved "Daily Links" (when there are any) to the top of the left hand column.

Update: The routine that distinguishes between search engine referrals and other referrals does not currently handle Excite Search, which builds its URL in an unusual way -- I will try and figure out how to handle this, but until then referrals from Excite (and any other search engines which work the same way) will be displayed as non-search engine referrals.

posted afternoon of July first, 2004: Respond

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