I’ve been feeling aimless the past two days or so, I think because I’m starting physical therapy sessions for my weird foots and back, etc. Anyway, I tried an idea I’ve had for a while for my Athens poem but will not use:
My Scientific American Blog is now here–with a complete table of contents.
AHOY! I finally got Entry 18 done. It is now here. Comments Welcome! Please let me know of any typos or gross factual errors. Warning: it’s me at my abstrusest worst–for over 8,000 words.
Later note: From time to time, I will be revising Entry 18. I hope eventually to correct all the many mistakes in the version first posted.
I don’t know where the day went, but it included my first physical therapy session. It was just an evaluation of my problem, which my physical therapist and her trainee assistant agree is due to my back, and ought to be amenable to pt exercises that I’ll begin doing tomorrow. I bought some cat food, too. I read some. I forgot about doing this entry until almost bedtime, which is why it’s just the two photographs below from Backwater Graveyard Twilight, a collection of poems and photographs by t. kilgore splake I recently got a review copy of:
The (first-rate) photographs here are representative of his work as a photographer. A quite good poet, too, he reminds me of Bukowski and Kerouac. I’d come across his name before but not his poetry, that I remember.
Yesterday, I began an essay on formal education purely for fun. I went wild–to the point of exposing the worst of my sexist and racist views. Today, I went through what I’d written and took the racism and sexism out–but not only left a good many abominably politically-incorrect opinions in it, but added to them. The result, which is still only a rough draft of the beginning of a fairly full essay, I hope, follows:
The Function of Formal Education: a Nastily Elitist View
I love knowledge, but I also love freedom, genuine freedom, by which I mean maximal appropriate personal freedom, or the freedom to do whatever I want to do so long as I do not physically encroach on someone else’s private property against his will except to prevent such an encroachment on my own private property (which I define as all material objects I legitimately own and my physical body) or to respond legally to the results of such an encroachment (to take back a stolen computer, for instance). To give a partial reasonably full definition which should suffice for my purposes here. My love of knowledge keeps me from being as hostile to America’s system of compulsory formal education as my love of freedom constantly tries to drive me to. It also will prevent me from scaring off 99.9% of the potential readers of this essay by arguing that no American parent should be forced to send his kid to some school, or even to force home schooling on him instead.
I have no doubt that many teachers and others involved with the running of schools share my love of knowledge, though I’d be surprised if more than one in a thousand of the teachers, or one in ten thousand of the administrators, gave it the value I do, and therefore deemed it close to being the sole proper aim of any school, or even a school’s highest aim. Be that as it may, formal education is America’s true state religion. Hence, my arguing that it should be abolished would be a waste of time. Better that I ignore my love of freedom, and use this essay to show how to go about making that will forever be forced on us better, something it would seem just about e very feels the need to do.
(Note: I’m afraid I’m unable to keep myself from saying one more thing that will horribly antagonize any leftist reading this: in the final analysis, I don’t think it matters what kind of system of formal education we have: regardless of how bad our schools are, those with the right genes will find ways to learn what they need to lead productive lives; and regardless of how good our schools are, those with the wrong genes won’t. The majority with neither the right nor the wrong genes will readily enough take the many simple jobs those with the right genes are too intelligent to be good at. Meanwhile, most of us without the wrong genes will have sufficient innate empathy to support a substantial imbecile class, even without being forced to as we are now.)
The first point I need to make concerns something I think very few of the huge number of articles currently being written on this subject bother with, or—it they do—spend more than a paragraph or two on: it is “what should the goals of a system of formal education be?” My impression is that the answer to this is assumed to be: to give students the knowledge they need to lead fulfilled lives in our society, be good citizens, and slide smoothly into various properly-regulated holes (implicitly-regulated if not explicitly) in the country’s economy they’ll be paid to fill.
Having assumed this answer, the writers concerned will generally pick one of the three goals to berate as being over-emphasized at the expense of one or both of the other two, or to bewail how under-emphasized some goal is because of the foolish over-emphasis of one or both of the other two. Rather than get into any of the inane solutions such articles then present to their authors’ perceived defects in our schools, I am going to try to tackle the question anew, beginning with a fact other commentators are either unaware of or discount as unimportant: the fact that schools at present have more than the three goals indicated, each of them important. Hence, all of them must be addressed.
Here’s one obvious goal: to free parents of their children for over six hours a day. Two more that leftists will not want to hear about: to give positions of power to busybodies (I’m thinking of teachers and school administrators much more concerned with instilling their moral standards into their charges than imparting any kind of worthwhile knowledge), and provide a source of high income for union organizers. Closely related is the goal of providing work for government overseers of education. One other goal is to help the country’s economy by providing a huge market for books and other educational materials, some of them superfluous, many of them of only partial value (I’m thinking of the many preposterously expensive hardbound books students are given that most of them pretty much ignore, and that are unnecessarily large and expensively-packaged).
I forgot one other quite important goal: to provide jobs for teachers, school administrators, and centralized administrators (the most preposterously over-paid and superfluous of the system’s parasites). I was a high-school substitute teacher for fourteen years and come from a family that’s almost always had a teacher in it, including my sister and her husband, and I found almost all the ones I’ve known to be good people dedicated to their jobs; but I’m tired of continually hearing how underpaid they are. (When I retired as a sub, I was taking in ten dollars an hour, with no benefits—and quite content with that. But I never had a wife or automobile to support, so was able to get by on a low income; moreover, except for a period in my life when I lost a lot of money investing in a nowhere-going career as a visual poet that led, finally, to severe credit-card debt I still haven’t worked my way out of although a wealthy friend has helped me financially, I’ve always tried to do something Americans no longer seem expected to: live within my means.)
My real problem with how much teachers make is my problem with what all government workers make: they get paid, basically, for time in grade—although many bureaucrats get paid for ability to pass tests, as well; very few of them get paid for performance. Some schools do manage to weed out the ones they believe to be under-performing but without very intelligent ways of determining under-performance. This topic I will return to later in my essay. My main point is that individual teachers are as accountable as they should be. Even less accountable are individual schools. Least accountable are entire systems of schools.
To be fair, however, school systems are accountable to the voters of their communities, who ultimately decide how much their local governments can steal from property owners for the use on the schools. This is not much accountability—because the average American voter is far too ignorant of what schools are doing with the huge sums of money squandered on them, and indoctrinated with the educational establishment’s crap about how much formal education repays tax-payers by providing them with tomorrow’s doctors, for instance (I like and admire my own doctors, but not one of them has deducted the taxes I paid for his education from what he billed me; aside from that, I believe almost everyone learns a lot more that he will go on to use in his vocation outside schools than in them, and has to unlearn a lot of what was forced on him in schools).
Obviously, how much a school system contributes to the greater good is a highly debatable matter. I don’t expect very many to agree with me on it. What I hope a fair number of those reading this will agree to, however, is that it is a debatable question, and depends on what a given individual considers the greater good.
Which brings us back to the goals of schools. The over-all goal has to be to make a contribution to what most people would agree is the greater good of society. My way of dealing with how schools should do this is to go back to my list of the goals I say all institutions of formal education have (with some fascinating additions):
1. to give students the knowledge they need to lead fulfilled lives in our society
2. to make good citizens of students
3. to help students to slide smoothly into various properly-regulated holes (implicitly-regulated if not explicitly) in the country’s economy they’ll be paid to fill upon graduation.
4. to free parents of their children for over six hours a day
5. to give positions of power to busybodies (I’m thinking of those teachers and school administrators much more concerned with instilling their moral standards into their charges than imparting any kind of knowledge
6. provide a source of high income for union organizers
7. provide work for government overseers of education
8. to help the country’s economy by providing a huge market for books and other educational materials, and–of course–the construction industry, and many other industries
9. to provide jobs for teachers, school administrators, and centralized administrators (the most preposterously over-paid and superfluous of the system’s parasites)
10. to help pederasts meet suitable marital partners
11. to make dangerous sages like Socrates was easier to keep track of.
12. to more readily identify those of superior intelligence before they become dangerous sages
13. to give politicians something to fight over and persuade citizens to give them more funds and power to oversee
14. to give halfwits a basis for believing their children can get somewhere in spite of being the children of halfwits
15. to facilitate licensing, and–therefore–facilitate possibly the government’s most important function: assuring that credentials rather than accomplishments will be materially rewarded in America
Here’s my “light” poem again:
I felt that “faereality” was strained as my divisor. I wanted light becoming Apollo, whom I consider a god of rationality, times a kind of reverse of rationality, and faereality was certainly that, but it felt wrong. I believe now that what was wrong with it was that it opposed reality as well as rationality, and I don’t think of Athens as being significantly unreal. I considered using “intuition” or “intui-tiveness,” but felt they were to abstract. Then I thought of “X,” representing the unknown. It could stand for anything, which made it an easy choice–but also a kind of cop-out. So I made it a window on a part of faereality, or (happy) magic. I could take Athens as being to a degree magical, but only to the small degree I thought my fragment of faereality would give it. As I write this, I’m no longer sure I was right.
In any case, I soon felt my “X” was too lazy a choice. At that point, I remembered the version of “mystery” I’d used in my “Odysseus Suite,” and re-used elsewhere. I thought I might use it times X as my divisor. When I found it, though, I saw it already had an “x!” I changed it slightly to what it is here. It worked pretty well, I thought, for the amazing rise of Athens was as mysterious as it was magical. And both opposed rationality. The rest of my term worked, too–the combination of “idea” and “dream,” the hint of “yesterday, ” and the allusion to my poem about Odysseus, specifically the portion of it about his homecoming was a lucky bonus.
I now think I was right about including magic in my divisor. No great event is without that. The allusion back to several poems of mine that “faereality” is part of, is a nice extra, too. Speaking of that, I began to make more of the fact that I was using so many things in this poem from other poems of mine: just about the whole of the divisor, but also the idea of stacked terms from more than one poem of mine, including in particular the one with the swans in it the preceded this one. I began to think that I might by now, without thinking about it, have developed a sort of set visiopoetic mathematical terms. What, I wondered, if I were to begin consciously making such terms and repeating them through a sequence as a way of knitting it more effectively together. Inter-textuality. Something to think about . . .
As for this particular poem, it still needs a background, and I probably need to color “Athens.” I may have all its essential components right, though.
* * *
Note: Yesterday I saw my GP and he felt my problems with the my legs were due to various back problems we already knew about but considered minor. He still feels my problem is minor but no longer so minor as to ignore, so he prescribed physical therapy. I’ll be signing up for it on Monday. I’m to go back to him if there are no signs of its helping in two weeks.
The following is from an email I sent to Karl Kempton in reply to a thoughtful response of his to my entry of today, the 16th:
Still walking on partial legs. Being the kind of person I am, I’m thinking maybe what’s screwing me up is polio: in fact, I’m hoping it’s that instead of what I’m sure it is: brain cancer–although I had some kind of scan of my brain when I went to the hospital a month or so ago about this same problem and it was negative.
One interesting thing: I’ve sort of given up on myself–and it’s a kind of release: I’m just doing things I like to do, the heck with the things I think I should do. Fortunately most of the things I like best to do may be worth doing, like an essay I’m writing about my “Mathemaku No. 10,” which is on the cover of the Journal of Mathematics and the Arts. I’m calling the essay, “The Story of My One Almost-Famous Poem” (“almost-famous” because it got into a college textbook, then into a hard-cover mathematics poetry anthology and finally into the JMA). I’m trying to depict the lot of the invisible poet.
Here’s the essay I was working on–which I find too cut and dry, so I guess it’s a rough draft:
The Story of my One Almost-Famous Poem
by Bob Grumman
The poem above was first published in a micropress publication containing just 7 poems of mine called, simply, Mathemaku 6-12. The press (which I term a “micropress” because too small in readership to be considered a “small press”) was “tel-let,” the publisher was John Martone, the poems involved were what I considered to be mathematical haiku—i.e., short lyrical poems in which a metaphorically significant mathematical operation, like the long division of “Mathemaku No. 10,” was carried out.
John had previously published the first five of my mathemaku in 1992 in a collection called, yes, Mathemaku 1-5. Mathemaku 13-19 came out in 1996. Like me, John was what people call “an experimental poet”—and I call “an otherstream poet,” meaning basically a poet seeking poetic fulfillment in a different stream than the one most poets do. Hence, we were both getting published in the same very few magazines receptive to unconventional poetry. I don’t remember now how it came about, but a correspondence developed between us. Soon after that, I used my micropress, the Runaway Spoon Press, to publish some of his poems, and he reciprocated by publishing some of mine . . . or vice versa. Such is the way it generally is in the micropress: it’s either self-publication or publication by colleagues who like what one is doing.
During the next ten or fifteen years, “Mathemaku No. 10” got re-published a few times, mostly at my poetry blog, poeticks.com, or elsewhere on the Internet. Eventually, came its publication (as a visual poem, which it is not) in the college textbook the half-page I’ve reproduced is from. Interestingly, I was supposed to get paid for my contribution with a copy of the book, but never did, nor did anyone replay to the letters I sent the publisher about what I thought was a minor mix-up. I eventually bought a second-hand softcover copy of the thing from Amazon.
It’s not a visual poem in my view, incidentally, because the heart and the two pieces of arithmetical paraphernalia are the only things in it that are not purely verbal, and they are all symbols with specific meanings, just like words, much more than suggestive visual images, so I consider them to be acting primarily as words, albeit pictorial.
The textbook was printed in an edition of over a hundred thousand, I believe. And one student actually wrote me about my poem! A year later it was included in the only other hardbound book I’ve ever had anything in: an anthology called Strange Attractors, edited by Sarah Glaz and JoAnne Growney, who were among the poets writing mathematics-related poems that I had recently met at a conference for such people in Washington, D.C., having by then encountered some of them on the Internet.
As a result of my friendship with Sarah, my poem made its final splash (so far!) with an appearance on the cover of the March-June 2014 issue of Journal of Mathematics and the Arts (with an essay on “visiomathematical poetry and a book review by me inside!) that Sarah had been the guest-editor of.
And here, in this essay, is my poem yet again. But it can’t possibly make me more almost-famous, can it?
Here’s my latest, unfinished:
The neato recreation of Ancient Athens in my poem was stolen from www.sikyon.com. It is copyrighted by Ellen Papkyriakou/ Anagnostou, with all rights reserved. If I’m still around in 2015, I’ll try to get permission from her to use it here. Still here, you wonder? Well, I think my nervous system is about to go. Lou Gehrig’s disease? I don’t know. I seem to only be half in touch with the lower part of my legs, especially after sitting for a half-hour or more. It’s as though they are on the way to being asleep. I can still walk on them, but if I jog a few paces, I feel the left one beginning to give way. I will be seeing my regular doctor Friday. A week or so after that I have an appointment with the surgeon who did my hip replacement. My hip now feels about the way it did when I went to him to get the replacement. Whether that’s related to my leg problem, I don’t know. It’s quite interesting. Needless to say, I give myself only a fifty-fifty chance to make it into 2015, but that’s just me, always sure of the worst when anything like this happens to me, but sure of the best when it happens to anybody else. Anyway, I’m proud of myself for finally converting my notes for the thing above into a semi-finished product. Gotta add color, and I may change the divisor, but don’t feel up to it right now (15 October, 2 P.M.).
Nota Morbeedissima: if I don’t never finish the above, I’d be grateful is someone else did, following how I done my swan one. Actually, I would not be able to be grateful, but you know wot I mean.
First, the latest elderly codger medical report: my surgical procedure went okay but for a while after I got home, I was worried it had been seriously botched, for my urine at first came out bright red, and my take-home patient’s instruction sheet said if that were the case, I should call my physician; by then it was early in the evening when the doctor would probably be finished for the day, so I didn’t want to disturb him, or find out I was in bad trouble. Soon my bladder’s output became a trickle. By the time I went to bed–early, around 8:30, my flow was exactly the way it was before the procedure, a drip or two at a time, at best. But I’d gone three or four days before the procedure with periods of six hours or more when I was unable to urinate, so I decided to wait till the morning before bothering my doctor about it.
When morning came, I began fasting, thinking I’d probably have to undergo some kind of surgery soon. Up at six, I was going to wait until a little after eight, then ride to my doctor’s, stopping on the way to visit my tennis chums at the courts where we play on Tuesdays. Blessedly, my urine began flowing again a little before eight–and it was not red! I visited my friends, anyway, for I had to get two prescriptions filled, one or both or which were to help with my flow. I should have picked them up on the way home from my procedure, but forgot I had them instantly. If I’d taken them, I might have had a much better night. I think I was still too much under the influence of the anaesthesia.
I’m hoping that the anaesthesia is still affecting me, because my legs have felt very weak since I got back from seeing my friends and getting my prescriptions filled. The anaesthesia coupled with my hip condition, which remains the same (and was very painful last night in bed). I’m going to the monthly get-together of the little writers’ group I belong to in a little over an hour from now despite my weakness. I hope I make it there and back.
Now for some material featuring Paul Crowley, erstwhile fantasizer that the 17th Earl of Oxford wrote the works of Shakespeare whom I think may have the most fascinating mind I’ve ever encountered. First, what may be the most idiotic reason for evading a challenge to a viewpoint I’ve ever seen. First, a little background. Paul has long been asking those of us believing Shakespeare was Shakespeare to name “in the whole of Early Modern Europe — another noble, wealthy, never-married woman, who controlled her own household, and who could decide who she would marry”–like the Olivia of Twelfth Night. Paul believes Olivia to have been a portrait of Queen Elizabeth so detailedly accurate that only someone who was an intimate of the queen, as Paul believes Oxford was (and who may have been), could have created her, hence being stronger evidence for Oxford’s having been Shakespeare than Shakespeare’s name on 45 title-pages during his lifetime, monument and first folio are for him are that he was Shakespeare.
Several of us at HLAS gave what I consider strong arguments: that Olivia had little or nothing in common with the queen, that Shakespeare had invented her (authorship wacks find it impossible to believe an author could create an interesting character rather than copy one out of real life, the creative imagination being something beyond them), that there were discrepancies in Paul’s comparison of Olivia to the queen and of Olivia’s court to the queen’s court, and much else. Paul dismissed our efforts as not only not arguments, but not even attempts at arguments against his theory.
Here’s his reply: “It’s an absurd request. You don’t ask people their opinions on straightforward matters of fact. How many people think the fence on your property is white? Or that your dog is black? Are you going to conduct polls to decide? Or to argue a case one way or the other?”
This seems so goofy to me, I can’t think how to reply to it. But I do believe I could if it were worth replying to. It would take my as long as it sometimes takes me to get something in my theory of psychology right, though.
Paul, wouldn’t you agree that *aside from your belief in the validity of the case for Oxford*, you PREFER that narrative featuring Oxford as Shakespeare to the one featuring the poorly-educated smalltown commoner as Shakespeare? I believe you are almost forced to believe in Oxford because of your need for an authorship narrative that satisfies you, but I’m willing to concede that perhaps you don’t NEED it, but I can’t believe it isn’t one of your secondary motives (and we all have secondary, not necessarily rational, reasons for our beliefs), not for your belief in your theory, but for arguing so vigorously for it.
I don’t see why it would be hard for you to admit to simply liking the Oxford story better than the Shakespeare story. I do see why you wouldn’t want anyone to think anything other than a clear-headed desire for the Truth was responsible for your belief in Oxford. As for me, I’m more than willing to reveal (as I have more than once in the past) that I very much WANT Shakespeare to be the True Author. Of course, I don’t believe my acceptance of him (in spite of my natural tendency to prefer to go against Established Views, or my rather scorning Shakespeare’s conventional outlook on life–compared to Marlowe’s, for instance–and his businessman’s later years so much resembling those of Wallace Stevens, one of my alltime favorite poets) . . .
I think my sentence went on too long, so will return to its beginning and try to get through it unparenthesizingly: As for me, I’m more than will to reveal how important it is to me that Shakespeare continue his reign as the True Author, although I believe that if the facts refuted the Shakespeare narrative, I’d drop it.
It just occurred to me that if what happened back then was that Oxford wrote the works now attributed to Shakespeare AND PUT HIS NAME ON THEM, and Shakespeare only appeared in the records as an actor, I would have no trouble accepting it–as I now accept the narratives featuring Byron, Bacon and a number of others as important cultural figures. I tend to think there are no cultural figures who had lives like the Shakespeare of my narrative whom you truly admire. Indeed, you seem not able to admire ANY literary figure anywhere near as much as you admire your Shakespeare. Dickens, Keats, Shaw, even Mark Twain, I suspect, are for you, at best, secondary writers. Odd that there are so many non-noble writers at their level, and so few noble writers.
Well, I can’t leave this post with babbling a little more about what too often is my favorite subject, myself (interestingly, you are not like me in this respect, at all, rarely saying much about yourself). So I will reveal–again, not for the first time–that I also like Shakespeare’s having shared with me a bald head, although I’d have preferred that neither of us had one. Sadly, in these enlightened times, I am also glad we both have protestant English roots and are male. I don’t like the possibility that we may not share our sexual tastes but tend to believe Shakespeare was, like me, hetero- not bi-sexual).
If your Oxford were the True Author, I’d find him hard to like very much. He didn’t have what I think of as a very admirable like, and I would be contemptuous of his need to conceal his authorship. That’s because, for one thing, I would want him to be clever enough to get away with revealing it without sinking the state or ruining the reputation of his family; I would also want him to be too independent of mind to conceal himself due to the influence of his inferiors. As I’ve already said, I’d put up with his flaws, though, just as I put up with those of another literary hero of mine, Ezra Pound. And as I put up with the socialistic crap of Shaw. And the homosexuality and weakness of character of Wilde, another important idol of mine although I’m not sure where he ranks on my list of favorites.
There, I’m done. Isn’t HLAS blessed to have me back?!
Yeah, I got carried away. I still think I said a few interesting things, though.