From Lyle Lofgren's journals, 1992 - 2010

[Some of this stuff is only obliquely related to books, and much of it is based, not on books, but their reviews in the New York Times Book Review magazine. Nevertheless, the essays seem to me to belong together. There's a big gap from 1995 to 2010; I somehow got out of the habit of writing about stuff I read.]



COMPUTER PROFESSIONAL'S DICTIONARY, by Allen L. Wyatt (Osborne McGraw-Hill, 1990)
March 30, 1992:
The computer systems people speak a language incomprehensible to the rest of us, so I find this dictionary useful. It covers the field from Abbreviated Addressing to Zmodem. I keep it at my desk at work, and every time a systems guy uses a geekword, I look it up before continuing to talk with him. Another good ploy to use when someone talks about 256 shades of gray is to ask how to get Battleship Gray, Charcoal Gray, Alice Blue Gray, or some such idiotic shade (get paint chips from your local hardware store for suitable poetic names of gray shades). Then nod sympathetically while the computer expert explains why you can't get THOSE particular shades of gray.

Computer instruction manuals like to use parse without any explanation of its meaning. I could tell it had nothing to do with diagramming sentences to identify nouns, verbs, and adjectives, like we used to do back in grade school, but since no meaning was evident, I assumed it was a mystical term with no more basic definition. But there it is in the Computer Dictionary: contrary to my old grammar teacher, to parse is to:
analyze a series of words to determine their collective meaning.

So when you next hear a line of computer technobabble, you can impress everyone by saying, "Excuse me, I didn't quite parse what you said."

My Mother amused herself and us by thinking up visually ludicrous malaprops of fancy words. When she and her siblings were young, they would ease the pain of hoeing weeds by seeing who could invent the dumbest parody of various pop songs of that time, and she carried it over into adult speech. Part of the fun is that no one knows for sure if either you or they have misheard the word, or if you're just making a silly joke. Alas, I've forgotten all of them except:
Go see the doctor, and he'll be able to dog-nose your case.

Mom would have had a field-day with computer-talk:
First you have to floormat your sloppy disk,
Sort this list in alfalfanumeric order.

April 9, 1992:
I was describing my early years on the farm to a friend, who remarked that it was "exotic." I certainly didn't perceive it as such while growing up. Now, take Minneapolis, that was exotic. Of course, I did grow up in the 20th century on a 19th century farm, and I suppose there's something exotic about that. Actually, it's taken a long time for me to come out of the closet and relate tales of family farm foolishness. I would have found the whole thing way too painfully embarrassing to talk about when I was new in Minneapolis, feverishly trying to learn all the sophisticated 1950's stuff: like who the Existentialist Authors were (I read Camus' The Stranger to get the flavor of it, and then felt I could speak knowledgably about all of them). Or the Big Poets like Eliot (I didn't realize until much later that he was already passé, since he wrote his big poems before I was born). I breezed through Dubliners and Ulysses, then hit a stone wall on Finnegan's Wake, but I still felt I'd paid my intellectual dues. I got student discount season tickets to the Minneapolis (now Minnesota) Symphony, but since I put in 30 hours a week at the old New Rainbow Cafe at Hennepin & Lake, I slept through most of the concerts -- that was really hard to do, since Antal Dorati was conductor at the time, and he loved crescendos. Still, I learned to distinguish Beethoven from Tchaikowsky. I went to the Minneapolis Art Institute and Walker Art Center to train my eye to tell the difference between Great Art and Kitsch. But did I know how to chop the head off a chicken for Sunday Dinner? I wouldn't admit to that. Ask me about the difference between a faux pas and a pas de deux instead.

April 13, 1992:
I am the proud holder of free subscriptions to about a dozen magazines, with names like Design News, Connection Technology, Electronic Design, Machine Design, etc., etc. You can get a free subscription if you're involved, no matter how tenuously, in the field covered, because the mags are supported by specialty advertising, with the articles just there to keep you turning the pages among all the ads. I assume other professionals get such publications in thier field, too: Bibliography Today for librarians, for example. Anyway, one of the new inventions listed in Design News was a transponder to clip into the ears of livestock. A transponder is a normally inert device, unless triggered by a radio transmitter, whereupon it responds with a characteristic signal. It is useful for airplane collision avoidance or for tracking wolves in the wild. What is different about this transponder, though, is that its purpose is to identify the farmer's cows. In the accompanying illustration, the farmer points the Walkie-Talkie at the animal, and a small computer screen displays the name of the cow. I wonder how many letters are reserved for the name? Liz spent one year at the Old Lyme, Connecticut, high school, and helped milk a neighbor's cows. One of the cows was named Snow-On-The-Mountain. The cow she regularly milked was Bedalia. On our farm, we tended to recycle names: our bull (who we never kept beyond age 2) was always named Pete. Several generations of cows were named Flo. All of them were easy to milk, so I now wonder if they weren't really named Flow. Wildfire was an extremely difficult, cranky cow, hard to milk,and with a penchant for kicking. Strangely, I've forgotten the names of most of them: there were Hilma, Snowflake, Petunia, and fifteen others whose names are lost forever.

Our land was three forties in a row (3/4 mile by 1/4 mile), with a woods and creek (pronounced "crick") at the opposite end from the farmyard. A narrow fenced lane led from the barnyard to the woods. In the spring, when the grass was new, we'd have to go get them in the evening. But in the fall, when the hay we gave them was a lot easier to find than the meadow grass, all we'd have to do is yell "Come Boss", and the transponders in their ears would immediately respond: they knew their name, and they came running down the lane. I've read that Boss is from the latin Bos, but that seems too citified. I always assumed it merely acknowledged who was in charge.

April 15, 1992
I have been doing some more scholarly research on how to call a cow. Contrary to one theory, Come Boss is so common that I'm pretty sure it has nothing to do with the British Good Queen Bess, either the first or the second. Similarly, it was used by farmers who did not have any Bessies on their farms. The Oxford English Dictionary ignores the issue. Webster's Second International identifies it as an Americanism, originating with Latin Bos. Webster's Third International identifies it as an Englishism (along with Bossy), and does not give an etymology. Bartlett's Dictionary of Americanisms (1898) lists it as a term used by Englishmen in the west to refer to Buffalos. I don't have a McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Agricultural Terms and Phrases, however, so I can't track this much further. I do know, though, that even the semi-literate of the 19th century were excited by the Linnean system of biological nomenclature. Specifically, the Swedes thought he was hot stuff, because Carl von Linne was Swedish. They have a statue of the young Linneaus at Waldemarsudde, Prince Eugen's museum in Stockholm. My maternal grandfather (who died before I was born) had a collection of pressed flowers, all identified by their Latin names. When my uncle, in middle age, married a harridan, she threw out the collection, Linnean nomenclature and all. But my grandfather probably knew that you called the domestic cow bos taurus if you want to be correct.

Even if the Linnean system isn't the source, and Boss is of British origin, it could still be from the Latin. After all, Hadrian's Wall is still there, so why not a good old Roman word?


May 19, 1992
I felt that, since we pay good money for a subscription to the Sunday New York Times, I should spend Monday evening reading it. The 5/17/1992 issue had a supplement called The Sophisticated Traveler, and inside was a photo of lunch on the balcony of the Maison Fournaise on the Ile de Chatou, a Seine sandbar 10 miles south of Paris. There was the same red awning, the dark brown wood railing, obviously the scene of Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party.

Luncheon of the Boating Party

I go, "Wow! Let's grab the Concorde and Do Lunch." Then I read a little about it. It had indeed been a family restaurant until it closed in 1979; it was reopened in 1990 by a corporation who carefully remodeled the balcony per the Renoir painting. By this time, I'm like, "Oh, No!" I look back at the photo: four French businessmen in expensive suits and dour expressions, having a power lunch. The article says that lunchtime at the Maison Fournaise isn't quite as popular as it was when it first reopened, because of the noise from apartment building construction on the other side of the Seine.

Also, where are the strawhatted men in their undershirts? They are not suitably dressed for the Maison Fournaise. And where's the redheaded lady going Kissy-Kissy with the lapdog? And the other redhead, the drunken one who won't even remember the conversation later in the afternoon?

The new owners of the Maison Fournaise did not intend it, because it's bad for business, but the contrast between Renoir's painting and their reconstruction brought to my mind another work of art: the ending to Robert Browning's A Toccata of Galuppi's:

...What of soul was left, I wonder, when the kissing had to stop?
"Dust and Ashes!" So you creak it, and I want the heart to scold.
Dear dead women, with such hair, too -- what's become of all the gold
Used to hang and brush their bosoms? I feel chilly and grown old.


INNUMERACY, by John Allen Paulos
June 2, 1992:
I find Innumeracy to be a pretty poor book. The author has a much higher opinion of himself than I have of him; also, alarmist tracts about the downfall of the Human Race due to some inadequacy or other tend to lose their impact after you've read so many of them. Maybe if the author had demonstrated a better grasp of number logic, I would have liked it better.

Nonetheless, I guess he has a point, at least as far as newspaper reporters are concerned. In an article a month or so ago about Odegaard's Books in Edina, Minnesota, going out of business, the Minneapolis Strib stated that all books would initially be on sale at 25% of list price. Later, all remaining books would be sold at 50% of list price.

Of course, maybe it wasn't the newspaper reporter's fault. Maybe Odegaard just has a bad head for numbers, and that's why he is going out of business.

June 3, 1992:

I'm now to early May in the New York Times Book Review, where there's a long letter from Andrea Dworkin about how pornography has ruined her life, causing her to live a life of drugs, prostitution, and marriage to a husband who beat her up. At least, I think that's what she said; the letter wasn't too well organized. It raised in my mind a question as to whether the victim of a transgression has any special expertise as to the root cause of that wrong. Maybe her husband was abusive for reasons other than pornography. She talks about the dreadful videos that you can buy at the porno shop, then throws in good old Ulysses, by James Joyce. I've read that one 3 times now, and saw the movie, too, and I can testify that not one word in it has aroused a lascivious thought, much less inspired me to go out raping and abusing women. Considering how hard it is to understand, I don't think any of the male college students of my generation (all of whom, sure enough, had copies of Ulysses) went around abusing women under its influence. My impression was that they had copies to impress their friends (I certainly bought it for that reason; I didn't have time to read it until years later).

In reflecting on the causes of abuse of the weak by the strong, I looked out the window, and saw a female Grackle in the yard. A male came strutting up, hunching his wings like the epaulets on a South American dictator. She sneered at him, "Ah, giddadda here, ya creep," and he sort of folded up and flew away. I thought of Whitman:
I could go and live with the animals, they are so placid and self-contained ...,
and then realized that Dworkin would surely classify Whitman as an espouser of bestiality, not to mention autoadoration. You can't win with Dworkin. She has enough free-floating guilt available that she can apply it to anyone.

THE ENCANTADAS, by Herman Melville
June 4, 1992:
In this book, Melville has a nicely ironic statement:
... it is philanthropic to hate a misanthrope.

So now I have a new game, involving making up similar statements. So far, I have:
1. Playing Schönberg with mistuned instruments results in harmony.
2. You're being literary if you refuse to watch a TV program about illiteracy.
3. It is scientific to deny the validity of religion.
4. Pro-Life people favor capital punishment for murderers.

And, finally, the basis for our Mid-East policy:
5. My enemy's enemy is my friend.

June 9, 1992:

Back a few years ago I found a 1956 edition of Charles MacKay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841) in a used bookstore. Later, another reprint of the book gained some popularity among business types. It's mostly about the Dutch Tulip Madness and a British speculative bubble called the South Seas Company. I especially liked the book, however, because the author never hesitates to include amusing irrelevant material. The following is a description of what must have been the world's first robot (even though the term wasn't even invented until Carel Kapek's play RUR in the 1930's). The passages are about the alchemist Albertus Magnus (1193-1280) and his student Thomas Aquinas, who later grew up to be a real saint.

For the first 30 years of his life, Albertus appeared remarkably dull and stupid, and it was feared by everyone that no good could come of him. He entered a Dominican monastery at an early age; but made so little progress in his studies that he was more than once upon the point of abandoning them in despair, but he was endowed with extraordinary perseverance. As he advanced to middle age, his mind expanded, and he learned whatever he applied himself to with extreme facility. So remarkable a change was not in that age to be accounted for but by a miracle. It was asserted that the Holy Virgin, touched with his great desire to become learned and famous, took pity upon his incapacity, and appeared to him in the cloister where he sat almost despairing, and asked him whether he wished to excel in philosophy or divinity. He chose philosophy, to the chagrin of the Virgin, who reproached him in mild and sorrowful accents that he had not made a better choice. She, however, granted his request, that he should become the most excellent philosopher of the age; but set this drawback to his pleasure, that he should relapse, when at the height of his fame, into his former incapacity and stupidity. ... In the year 1244, the celebrated Thomas Aquinas placed himself under his tuition. While they paid all due attention to other branches of science, they never neglected the pursuit of the philosopher's stone and the Elixir Vitae. Although they discovered neither, it was believed that Albert had seized some portion of the secret of life, and found means to animate a brazen statue, upon the formation of which, under proper conjunctions of the planets, he had been occupied many years of his life. He and Aquinas completed it together, endowed it with the faculty of speech, and made it perform the functions of a domestic servant. In this capacity it was exceedingly useful; but, through some defect in the machinery, it chattered much more than was agreeable to either philosopher. Various remedies were tried to cure it of its garrulity, but in vain; and one day, Thomas Aquinas was so enraged at the noise it made when he was in the midst of a mathematical problem, that he seized a ponderous hammer and smashed it to pieces. He was sorry afterwards for what he had done, and was reproved by his master for giving way to his anger, so unbecoming in a philosopher. They made no attempt to reanimate the statue.

Interesting that the world's first robot was also the occasion for the first case of roboticide. No wonder Isaac Asimov came up with his First Law of Robotics:
a robot may not injure a human being.
Otherwise the humans would be out for revenge.

Aug. 27, 1992:

A librarian friend reported she had run across a great book title: The Social Psychology of Material Possessions: to Have is to Be.

I noticed the author felt constrained to list the academic title first, with the clever one second. If it gets re-published for the general public, the title parts will be reversed. Is this method of titling a trend? If so, you can look for the following titles:

In Economics: Supply/Demand Relationships of Income To Consumption: If to Have is to Be, Then to Earn is to Yearn.

In Industrial Engineering: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Manufacturing: to Make is to Ache.

In Political Science: American Presidential Bullying in Central America: When Bush Comes to Shove.

In Psychological Theology: Multiple Personalities of Hindu Gods: Vishnu Were Here.

In Dietetics: American Eating Preferences for Young Chickens: Bite the Pullet.

In Library Science (with an influence from Variety): Shortage of African-American Studies Texts in Libraries: Stacks Lack Black Facts.

Sept. 2, 1992:

There's no one who can make me feel quite so dudgeonous as Robert Bly. I first disagreed with him when I compared some of his translations of Swedish poetry with the originals, and noticed that, when several different words would work, he had a penchant for choosing the weakest construction, even though Swedish is a strong language. His own poetry has some similar characteristics. So I noted with displeasure the following quote from Noted With Pleasure in The New York Times Book Review, 7/19/92, excerpt from What Have I Ever Lost by Dying?:

Alone on the jagged rock at the south end of McClure's Beach. The sky low. The sea grows more and more private, as afternoon goes on; the sky comes down closer; the unobserved water rushes out to the horizon -- horses galloping in a mountain valley at night. The waves smash up the rock; I find flags of seaweed high on the worn top, forty feet up, thrown up overnight; separated water still pooled there, like the black ducks that fly desolate, forlorn and joyful over the seething swells, who never "feel pity for themselves," and "do not lie awake weeping for their sins." In their blood cells the vultures coast with furry necks extended, watching over the desert for signs of life to end. It is not our life we need to weep for. Inside us there is some secret. We are following a narrow ledge around a mountain, we are sailing on skeletal eerie craft over the buoyant ocean.

Now, Robert: How do you know what unobserved water does if it's unobserved? How is it that water at the horizon, which always looks completely still no matter how roiled the sea, is like horses galloping in a mountain valley at night? How do water pools resemble black ducks, and how do you know if they're forlorn and/or joyful? It may be true that the seething swells really do fit Whitman's description about animal behavior, but if (as I think) you're really talking about those black ducks, you should construct the sentence so it's clear whether it's ducks or swells that you're talking about. And furthermore, black ducks flying desolate over the seething swells are probably not ducks, but cormorants. Ducks usually fly higher than that. Are the vultures really coasting in their blood cells, or are they soaring in the air? And for Christsake, no bird has fur, and no vulture in the world has a furry neck: they have naked necks.

I was at a party several years ago, at the time Carl Sagan was doing Cosmos on TV, and, it being an Upper Middle Class party, the discussion turned to Sagan. I had only been able to watch part of the first show before I vented my spleen on poor Carl, blacked him out, and went off to listen to music instead. I was the extreme minority opinion at the party when I tried to explain that some of what he stated as fact was based on only the most tenuous of theories, with no factual backing. A nice lady at the party said, "Well, maybe what he's saying isn't strictly true, but I really like him, because what he says is so understandable."

And the response of a Bly Fancier would be that it might be nonsense, but it's terrific because it's so poetic.

May 20, 1993:

I think we must belong to every artsy organization in town, and we get magazines from all of them. I don't read them if I can help it; they get piled up with the magazines from the environmental and antipollution lobbies until we get up the gumption to recycle them. I did happen to notice, though, two ads in A View from the Loft, the publication of The Loft, a Minneapolis organization that offers writing courses and sponsors author readings.

One is an evident attempt to lure in the people who know that something was happening in theater in the late 1950's, but aren't sure quite what:
WAITING FOR GODOT? If you spend most of your life waiting for gourmet food, try the Signature Cafe for fast, friendly, personal service.

And Firebrand Books is tempting us with two new entries, sure to win some major prix or other. Here are their blurbs:
RESTORING THE COLOR OF ROSES by Barrie Jean Borich: A book of creative non-fiction leading down a winding trail of memories -- some real, some imagined, some dreamt -- all true.
(Let's see -- 3 parts memory to 1 part desire; shake gently, but do not bruise; serve with an olive or pickled onion)

Here's Firebrand's other Blockbuster:
RUNNING FIERCELY TOWARD A HIGH THIN SOUND, by Judith Katz: This is the novel Isaac Bashevis Singer might have written if he'd been a lesbian with a keen eye for contemporary Jewish assimilation."

I wish I'd been able to invent that last blurb. The concept has great potential for being carried to excess: How about the poem that Robert Service would have written if he'd been a feminist gardener with a taste for blank verse? Or the memoir that Jack London would have written if he'd been in the Alcoholics Anonymous Confessional Mode. Oh, wait, he really did write that one. Oh well, at least it didn't do him any good.

October 25, 1993:

On Saturday, while looking through some old files for something else, I ran across a yellowed piece of paper, in my handwriting, that I don't remember writing. Because it is hastily scribbled, I believe I must have copied it from the introduction to a book (possibly a family heirloom cookbook) in someone else's house (perhaps at a party, although the writing is fairly steady). The source is listed as Miss Juliet Corson and American Cooking Schools (date unknown), and I obviously copied it down because I liked the 19th century style, or maybe because I was marveling at how literary style changes so quickly:

Miss Juliet Corson, the first teacher of cookery and dietetics in America, was born at Mt. Pleasant, Roxbury, Boston, Feb. 14, 1842. At the age of 6 years, her home was in New York City, and for most of the next 15 years she was a member of the household of her maternal uncle, Dr. Alfred Upham, under whose guardianship she followed the course of classical reading usually preparatory for college life. Miss Corson's mental training proved invaluable to her when the animus of a step-dame barred her father's door to her and she began the battle of life.

January 6, 1994:

About 35 years ago, Liz subscribed to the Library of Science Book Club, and, in reward, received a 4-volume set titled The World of Mathematics, edited by James R. Newman (Simon & Schuster, 1956). It is a collection of excerpts of the original publications of seminal mathematicians, and to say that it has languished in our library would be an overstatement. Recently, though, while bicycling on the Infernal Machine in our basement, I've begun skimming through some of the volumes, and found (in Vol. III) one paper amusing enough for me to reprint some selected paragraphs for today's inspirational reading.

The author is John Graunt of London, a Haberdasher Of Small Wares by trade, and successful enough to devote some extra time to studying and tabulating the death and birth records of London. In 1662, he published a small book titled Natural and Political Observations Mentioned in a Following Index, and Made Upon the Bills of Mortality. He sent a copy to Charles II, who was so impressed that he ordered Graunt admitted into the Royal Society (you can imagine the reaction of the other members when they found they had to make room for a mere shopkeeper, and he's now completely unknown). Still, it gave the book sufficient publicity, that, 30 years later, Edmund Halley (of comet fame) used Graunt's tables combined with probability theory to publish the first actuarial tables, thus founding the Life Insurance business.

From Graunt's preface (perhaps copied from some other elaborate exposition / false modesty model?):

How far I have succeeded in the Premisses, I now offer to the World's censure. Who, I hope, will not expect from me, not professing Letters, things demonstrated with the same certainty, wherewith Learned men determine in their Scholes; but will take it well, that I should offer at a new thing, and could forbear presuming to meddle where any of the Learned Pens have ever touched before, and that I have taken the pains, and been at the charge, of setting out those Tables, whereby all men may both correct my Positions, and raise others of their own: For herein I have, like a silly Scholeboy, coming to say my Lesson to the World (that Peevish, and Tetchie Master) brought a bundle of Rods wherewith to be whipt, for every mistake I have committed.

The sample table given, for the year 1632, shows that Infancy was the major cause of death (2268), followed by consumption (1797) and fever (1108). Only 46 were killed by accidents, and only 7 were "Murthered." The French Pox (Syphilis) killed a mere 12, although Graunt felt it was under-reported by the Bills of Mortality. Later, Graunt addresses the question as to why anyone would want to know this stuff:

To this I might answer in general by saying, that those, who cannot apprehend the reason of these Enquiries, are unfit to trouble themselves to ask them. I might answer by asking: Why have so many spent their times, and estates about the Art of making Gold? which, if it were much known, would onely exalt Silver into the place, which Gold now possesseth; and if it were known but to some one Person, the same single Adeptus could not, nay durst not enjoy it, but must be either a Prisoner to some Prince, and Slave to some Voluptuary, or else skulk obscurely up and down for his privacie, and concealment.

But, of course, he can't resist giving some reasons why someone should collect what would later be called vital statistics:

... for, if men knew the People as aforesaid, they might know the consumption they would make, so as Trade might not be hoped for where it is impossible. As for instance, I have heard much complaint, that Trade is not set up in some of the South-western, and North-western Parts of Ireland, there being so many excellent Harbours for that purpose, whereas in several of those Places I have also heard, that there are few other Inhabitants, but such as live ex sponte creatis, and are unfit Subjects of Trade, as neither employing others, nor working themselves.

Moreover, if all these things were clearly and truly known (which I have but guessed at) it would appear, how small a part of the People work upon necessary Labours, and Callings, viz. how many Women, and Children do just nothing, onely learning to spend what others get? how many are meer Voluptuaries, and as it were meer Gamesters by Trade? how many live by puzling poor people with unintelligible Notions in Divinity, and Philosophie? how many by perswading credulous, delicate, and Litigious Persons, that their Bodies, or Estates are out of Tune, and in danger? how many by fighting as Souldiers? how many by Ministeries of Vice, and Sin? how many by Trades of meer Pleasure, or Ornaments? and how many in a way of lazie attendance, &c. upon others? And on the other side, how few are employed in raising, and working necessary food, and covering? and of the speculative men, how few do truly studie Nature, and Things? The more ingenious not advancing much further then to write, and speak wittily about these matters.

Hear! Hear!

Feb 4, 1994:

A friend who lurks in lots of Usenet groups (group soc.feminism, in this case), forwarded a very long essay by one Doctress Neutopia, titled The Feminization of Cyberspace. She states that she has been involved in
...utopian thought for more than fifteen years, inventing my own utopia from the ideas of such futurists and architects as Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Starhawk, Eiane Eisler, Paolo Soleri, Buckminster Fuller, etc, which I call Neutopia.

She looks forward to the end of patriarchy, because there will be no editors nor centralized control, since printing isn't part of cyberspace. In that case,
integrity of the Self is the determining factor of social prestige,
in Cyberspace the unknown poetess can post a message alongside a literary giant,
literary merit is achieved through the depth and sincerity of one's message.
She's looking to abolish
the old hierarchal structures of language.

But all is still not well in Internet Neutopia. She has been receiving insulting comments, "flaming" of her posts on the Internet. This is evidently:
an attempt by some people to cleanse the Net from my non-conformist "disease." After all, the Gaia Religion which I have been researching is about the role bacteria play in regulating life and love!

Even worse, the archivist of one of the discussion lists has been deleting her posts from the archives. It wouldn't be so bad, but this isn't the first time it's happened. She writes:
I recall a past life when I was being burned at the stake and the governmental/religious officials laughed at me as my flesh burned. Before I fell unconscious from the smoke, the sinister officials took out my manuscripts which they had confiscated and threw them in the fire. The messages of my life burned along with my soul work poetic love verse destroyed.

I'm interested in that description of her earlier existence, because her poetic love verse was not totally lost. I remember that, in an earlier existence, I picked up a scorched piece of paper that was tumbling along, carried by the heedless wind. It was a little hard to read, but I still remember it clearly:

When Judith beheaded Holoferness,
The patriarchs said, "What an awful mess!"
We're her sisters, her kin,
We say, "That's not a sin,
But a neutopic act that is virtuous."

Well, I gotta run. There's this sickening smell of burning flesh coming out of my computer.

January 19, 1995:

I'm at the end of October in my reading of the New York Times Book Review, and came upon the following book, published by New York University Press: Loving to Survive: Sexual Terror, Men's Violence, and Women's Lives, by Dee Graham, Edna Rawlings and Roberta Rigsby. It describes the Stockholm Syndrome, whereby prisoners become emotionally attached to their captors, like Patty Hearst to the Symbionese Liberation Front. It seems that women are particularly susceptible to this syndrome, and, according to the review, the authors use it to explain the otherwise inexplicable phenomenon of female heterosexuality. This seems to me a dangerous idea for women to be publishing: it logically follows that the only way us men can keep our wives is to beat them up when we come back home from a hard day hunting wild game in the woods. That way the women will continue to love us. Also, I've met not a few women who are just nuts about having babies, and maybe would give up men as soon as some female scientist invents parthenogenesis, but not before.

Now a literary question: is there a school of homosexual male academics who sit around and puzzle the reasons for the odd habit of male heterosexuality? Maybe by going to a workingman's bar and interviewing the habitues? When you think about it, it doesn't make much sense, putting up with those phlegm-nosed kids running screaming around the house so you can hardly find out the football score on TV, and her always complaining about the Quality Of The Relationship and threatening to run off with Thelma or Louise, and all she does is fix some meals, clean the house and contribute over half of the family income. Or do gay men spend all their time working on their own Relationships, and so have no energy left over for research?

THE SHOCK OF THE NEW, by Robert Hughes
June 9, 1995:
The text for today's sermon is taken from the three-eyed chapter and the one-eyed verse of two-eyed Corinthians. (Actually, it's from Hughes, Robert: The Shock of the New: the Hundred-Year History of Modern Art -- Its Rise, Its Dazzling Achievement, Its Fall, Knopf 1991)

Every year in the 1980's, approximately 35,000 graduate painters, sculptors, potters, and other art related professionals issued from art schools in America, each clutching a degree. This meant that every two years the American educational system produced as many aspirant creators as there had been people in Florence in the last quarter of the 15th century. The result was a Fourierist bad dream. Secure in the belief that no one should be discouraged, the American art-training system had in effect created a proletariat of artists ..., a pool of unemployable talent from which trends could be siphoned (and, if need be, abandoned) more or less at will. But the woozy sense of aesthetic democracy it promoted also weakened the ideal of mastery just at the moment it came under attack from every deconstructionist in academe. ... A cloud of uneasy knowingness has settled on American painting and sculpture. Its mark is a helpless skepticism about the very idea of deep engagement between art and life: a fear that to seek authentic feeling is to display näiveté, to abandon one's jealously hoarded 'criticality' as an artist.

My Fourierist bad dreams have always been based on Joseph Fourier rather than Charles Fourier, caused by trying to understand the Fourier Series and Fourier Transform in mathematics. I never got over it. Surely the art schools weren't promising employment, were they? How about self-fulfillment? Meanwhile, art fads arrive and disappear with monotonous regularity, and one would have to be authentically näive to believe it's based on anything but dealers searching for collectors who are searching for the next big thing to invest in.

June 13, 1995:
I mentioned to a friend that I was reading this book, and he told me I should especially read the part about the goddess of underwear. But I couldn't find anything about any goddesses that are clearly related to underwear of any kind, unless maybe you would consider the astrological constellation, Lycra. So I suspect he was jesting.

Of course, there is the Blessed Virgin Mary, where, as part of the Rosary, we pray:

Holy Mary, Mother of God, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the Fruit Of Thy Loom, Jesus.

There's no accounting for taste, I guess. One person's lingerie is another person's underwear.

February 13, 2010:

The Feb. 13 issue of Science News (Vol. 177, #4, p. 14) has an article about the benefits of fish oil. There are indications that fish oil increases the number of telomeres in DNA. Telomeres are protective molecules at the end of your DNA, and scientists have previously noted a correlation between telomere length and longevity. You lose telomeres as you age, and so if you started with short ones, your DNA gets disrupted more easily.

The article didn't say anything about this, but there's some obvious advice here, other than to eat lots of fish oil: ladies, forget about checking out a guy's foot size. Get a DNA swab and check his telomere length instead.