It's a slendid morning in Carlisle, and there's lots of fun work to do.
The case of Yasir Afifi should alarm us all: the FBI secretly attached a GPS device to this young man's car so they could track his movements. Afifi is a 20 year old computer salesman and college student. (There are many news articles about this story, just google it.) A Federal court had already ruled that the use of GPS tracking devices (without the suspect's consent) does not require a court order as long as the tracking (for now, it seems these cases involve automobiles) is happening on public property. It seems to me, however, that the physical act of placing the tracking device on one's private property is, in itself, a gross violation of privacy. How is it that the police can go messing around with one's car without a court's permission?
In this case Afifi found out he was being surveillanced when the guy changing his oil noticed an odd wire, which led to the gps device. They posted images online asking for help in identifying the strange object. Then the FBI shows up at Afifi's door two days later asking for their spying equipment back. And you're going to give it back? No way! If something is attached to your car, it's now yours!
The blog has been dormant for a while and during this time I have wondered about its continuity. I have decided to continue because I enjoy writing, but I am still pondering some changes in format and focus. In any case, the frequent review of my most recent past is a useful exercise for me. October is perhaps an especially busy month. We have Semana Poética coming up, the new issue of SiRENa coming out, Alma getting ready to leave for Niger, a new ballet... And speaking of new, today I am scheduled to go pick up our new kitten. This should be fun! Fun was the party we had Saturday night for Alma. The weather was perfect, the food was good and plentiful, and the presence of family and friends like a warm, live giving embrace.
Today is Columbus Day, although the holiday was celebrated yesterday. But it sure is an odd holiday. Nothing to mark the event in Carlisle. Nothing at Dickinson. Strange. In Venezuela the holiday's orientation has been flipped: it's now the Day of Indigenous Resistance. Interesting.
I question myself about posting comments related to private aspects of my life, but in this case I decided to go ahead. It's interesting to see the health care in action, and I'm fascinated by the speedy coming and going of symptoms and pain management. And the same old thing: someday in the future when I'm wondering when it was I had that really bad week I can look it up and I'll find it here.
And apropos my thoughts, here is the beginning of today's poem from VerseDaily, "Teleology," by Rebecca Foust:
In the seed lies all that it can ever be,
shoot, plant, flower, fruit and
in the end again, the seed.
In the acorn, the entire tree.
So watch your tone. Sing. (I may yet get my nerve up and take some voice lessons--wouldn't it be great to be able to sing?)
Well, now I've had some coffee and feel much, much better. Bat: now there's a Germanic etymology for you. I don't understand how you got from this idea of "to strike" to this flying rat. Because people tend to strike at them? (I don't think so.) In any case, it's nothing like the latinate murciélago that you have in Spanish: "blind rat." Now that's a descriptive word!
Sunday was the Feast of the Assumption! Without a doubt one of the most beautiful days of the year!!!
So now it's on to day two of the Willoughby Fellows technology workshop. It will be a busy day.
Finally: your homework is to go see the film City Island. Very funny. Don't miss it.
Signs of decadence are all around us. Has it ever been otherwise? But, in reality, civil behavior here in Carlisle is very often quite admirable. People say hello on the street, are very patient driving, etc.
Oh, I forgot: that JetBlue guy: just before jumping onto the chute he grabbed a beer. Cool under pressure?
Anyway, weeds got me thinking about negativity in language, which got me thinking about insults, which got me thinking about the thoroughly miserable state of our political discourse, which seems to sink ever lower.
And that was my walk, observing how some neighbors are very attentive to weed control and others not. And that got me thinking about the difference between wanting and fantasizing. In a gardening context. I keep going back to the garden not because I want anything in particular, but because I fantasize about an aesthetic ideal. I'll never get there, but the process is fun and sometimes quite gratifying. After Eden? Perhaps. And I suspect it was the very same "after Eden" fantasy that got me going with weed. Chasing fantasies can blind. And can enlighten. I hope I'm learning something about the distinction. And that's what I'm on guard against, I think: the dangerous illusion of convergence.
This little bit of neighborhood history is brought to mind because this morning I was walking by this house with Waldo and was impacted by a detail that I'm sure I've observed many times. But today it kind of hit me on the head like a brick. Near the top of the walkway leading up to the front door, perched atop an elegant iron stand about seven fee high is a very large clock. (And I noticed it's a functioning piece of equipment set to the correct hour.) "Welcome. And by the way, the clock is ticking!" I've walked by thousands upon thousands of homes, and this in the only one Ive seen with a huge clock out front, like a sentry offering a gesture of... welcome? Warning? Irony? Unique, in any case. And I found myself thinking about The Clock, the one you can never rewind. Perhaps I'm fooling myself, but I think I'm making some progress in terms on accepting this universal fate. (The photo above is not from our neighborhood, but rather from Detroit.)
Of course, I don't really care much how writers resolve the AAA bond bind, but I find it interesting and am now reminded of a truly fascinating article from the Wall Street Journal that was sent to me the other day: "Lost in Translation". The article reports on recent research that demonstrates how language actually determines culture, perhaps to an extent we could not have imagined. I learned that many languages do not have the concept of "left and right". Rather, they use the cardinal points for this kind of lateral orientation, even for the body. And, experiments have shown that people in cultures whose languages do this tend to have better spatial orientation. That is, they have "a great sense of direction." Learning another language can expand our horizons. The metaphor is perhaps more appropriate than we had imagined.
Over the past couple of weeks I have watched a non-story grow into a full blown international media production: "Where will LeBron James play basketball next year?" Or, perhaps the title should be "Where
goes the King?" This basketball player's designation as "King James" is one of the stupidest and most witless examples yet of contemporary sports hype/marketing. But I suppose also fabulously profitable. Only hardcore NBA fans (and that's a pretty small demographic) really care about James' contract status, but if you expose yourself to popular media you cannot escape the constant attention given to the question of where this guy will end up playing basketball next year. Such is the degree of overblown hype that James is teaming up with ESPN to present his very own prime time program tonight, sixty minutes of air time dedicated to revealing the answer to this fabulous mystery. Insufferable.
More than once over the course of the weekend I found myself comparing what I was observing and experiencing to my own college graduation. The differences are stark on every level. At my own graduation, I had not a single event to attend that involved me being recognized in any way for any kind of achievement. Alma had several. Looking back now, I can only conclude that what was most characteristic of my college experience was its perfect combination of mediocrity and disengagement. I did learn a lot and made significant progress in terms of understanding some of the basic goals of a liberal arts education, advances that I believe have served me well in the long run. But my experiences then were perhaps inwardly directed in excessive fashion. I imagine that someone tried to communicate the same lesson Cornell's president, David Skorton, insisted on in his commencement address to the graduates: stay connected! I may have been listening, but not closely. While listening to Skorton (I am now, thirty years down the line, a better listener), I found myself nodding in agreement, but also thinking, surely you get more than this for $200,000! Of course! (Of course? The cost of higher education and its relative worth will be endlessly debated, but I'm not going to return to that one today. Suffice to say, I'm confident that the resources we dedicate to private higher education are a good investment.) As for the particular case of our oldest daughter, I'm most confident. As we like to say here at Dickinson, this student is "fully engaged." And very accomplished, if I do say so myself.