Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Virginia Pye

She had just returned from a trip to Alaska and said that the only thing she hadn’t known about already from her reading was the sunflowers. Apparently, in midsummer, as they work to follow the sun circling tightly overhead, their stalks twist until their bright, oversize heads break right off their slender necks.

. . . art provides the transformative vision that turns a place on a map into a deeply felt world.

I have tried to create an altogether different country that I hope will provide another landscape for the truth.

source

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dream

I dreamed I was back in art school. I was standing next to a copy machine and someone asked me What are you doing? I am waiting for the elevator, I replied. That's not the elevator, that's a copy machine, he said. The elevator is over there. He pointed to big gray metal doors in the wall.

Pablo Casals

Each person has inside a basic decency and goodness. If he listens to it and acts on it, he is giving a great deal of what it is the world needs most. It is not complicated but it takes courage. It takes courage for a person to listen to his own goodness and act on it.
- Pablo Casals

Louis Pasteur

Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world.
- Louis Pasteur

Saturday, December 21, 2013

I Love This!

Read

May Sarton

Christmas Light

by May Sarton

When everyone had gone
I sat in the library
With the small silent tree,
She and I alone.
How softly she shone!

And for the first time then
For the first time this year,
I felt reborn again,
I knew love's presence near.

Love distant, love detached
And strangely without weight,
Was with me in the night
When everyone had gone
And the garland of pure light
Stayed on, stayed on.

- May Sarton, Collected Poems
© W. W. Norton, 1993.

Henry David Thoreau

In winter we lead a more inward life. Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under drifts, whose windows and doors are half concealed, but from whose chimneys the smoke cheerfully ascends.
- Henry David Thoreau

Friday, December 20, 2013

Nin Andrews

Checkout Nin's new pieces on her blog and here at Storyscape Journal. Click on 'untruth' to read Nin's new poems.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Arthur Brooks

If you can discern your own project and discover the true currency you value, you’ll be earning your success. You will have found the secret to happiness through your work.
- Arthur Brooks
Article

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Philip Johnson

You should always build your house on a shelf because good spirits will be caught by the hill that’s behind the house.
- Philip Johnson, Philip Johnson: The Architect in His Own Words

The slope falling off steeply to wetland in front of the house was also important, since evil spirits would find it hard to climb the hill.
Article

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Harrison and McGuane

Cold Wind

by Jim Harrison

I like those old movies where tires and wheels run backwards on
horse-drawn carriages pursued by indians, or Model As driven by
thugs leaning out windows with tommy guns ablaze. Of late I feel a
cold blue wind through my life and need to go backwards myself to
the outback I once knew so well where there were too many mosqui-
toes, blackf1ies, curious bears, flowering berry trees of sugar plum
and chokeberry, and where sodden and hot with salty sweat I'd slide
into a cold river and drift along until I floated against a warm sandbar,
thinking of driving again the gravel backroads of America at
thirty-five miles per hour in order to see the ditches and gulleys, the
birds in the fields, the mountains and rivers, the skies that hold our
10,000 generations of mothers in the clouds waiting for us to fall
back into their arms again.

- Jim Harrison from In Search of Small Gods. © Copper Canyon Press, 2009.

Life is sentimental. Why should I be cold and hard about it? That's the main content. The biggest thing in people's lives is their loves and dreams and visions, you know.
-Jim Harrison


Literature is still the source of my greatest excitement. My prayer is that it is irreplaceable. Literature can carry the consciousness of human times and social life better than anything else. Look at the movies of the 1920s, watch the Murrow broadcasts, you can't recognize any of the people. Now, read Fitzgerald — that's it. That is the truth of the times. Somebody has to be committed to the idea of truth.

-Thomas McGuane

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Monday, December 09, 2013

Community in Action

by Studs Terkel

My own beliefs, my personal beliefs, came into being during the most traumatic moment in American history: the Great American Depression of the 1930s. I was 17 at the time, and I saw on the sidewalks pots and pans and bedsteads and mattresses. A family had just been evicted and there was an individual cry of despair, multiplied by millions. But that community had a number of people on that very block who were electricians and plumbers and carpenters and they appeared that same evening, the evening of the eviction, and moved these household goods back into the flat where they had been. They turned on the gas; they fixed the plumbing. It was a community in action accomplishing something.

Born in 1912, Pulitzer Prize-winning oral historian Studs Terkel moved to Chicago shortly before the Great Depression. Although trained as a lawyer, he worked as an actor, sportscaster, disc jockey, writer and interviewer. Terkel hosted a Chicago radio program for 45 years and has authored 12 oral histories about 20th-century America.
And this is my belief, too: that it's the community in action that accomplishes more than any individual does, no matter how strong he may be.

Einstein once observed that Westerners have a feeling the individual loses his freedom if he joins, say, a union or any group. Precisely the opposite's the case. The individual discovers his strength as an individual because he has, along the way, discovered others share his feelings — he is not alone, and thus a community is formed. You might call it the prescient community or the prophetic community. It's always been there.

And I must say, it has always paid its dues, too. The community of the '30s and '40s and the Depression, fighting for rights of laborers and the rights of women and the rights of all people who are different from the majority, always paid their dues. But it was their presence as well as their prescience that made for whatever progress we have made.

And that's what Tom Paine meant when he said: "Freedom has been hunted around the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth that all it asks, all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. In such a situation, man becomes what he ought to be."

Still quoting Tom Paine: "He sees his species not with the inhuman idea of a natural enemy" — you're either with us or against us, no. "He sees his species as kindred."

And that happens to be my belief, and I'll put it into three words: community in action.

- Studs Terkel, This I Believe

A Cauldron of Dyfunction

I loathe the holidays. I call them the horror days. Can I hide under a rock until January 2nd please?

Elias Canetti Quotes

His head is made of stars, but not yet arranged into constellations.
- Elias Canetti

Justice requires that everyone should have enough to eat. But it also requires that everyone should contribute to the production of food.
- Elias Canetti

Rulers who want to unleash war know very well that they must procure or invent a first victim.
- Elias Canetti

The process of writing has something infinite about it. Even though it is interrupted each night, it is one single notation.
- Elias Canetti

Elias Canetti (Bulgarian: Елиас Канети; 25 July 1905 – 14 August 1994) was a Bulgarian-born Swiss and British modernist novelist, playwright, memoirist, and non-fiction writer. He wrote in German. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1981, "for writings marked by a broad outlook, a wealth of ideas and artistic power".

Supernormal Stimuli

A supernormal stimulus or superstimulus is an exaggerated version of a stimulus to which there is an existing response tendency, or any stimulus that elicits a response more strongly than the stimulus for which it evolved.

For example, when it comes to eggs, a bird can be made to prefer the artificial versions to their own, and humans can be similarly exploited by junk food. The idea is that the elicited behaviours evolved for the "normal" stimuli of the ancestor's natural environment, but the behaviours are now hijacked by the supernormal stimulus.
-Wikipedia


Supernormal Stimuli

Deirdre Barrett author of a new book on behavioral evolution explains how primal urges overrun their original purpose

Put a mirror on the side of a beta fighting fish's aquarium and the gaudy iridescent male will beat himself against the glass, attacking a perceived intruder. A hen lays eggs day after day as a farmer removes them for human breakfasts -- 3,000 in a lifetime without one chick hatching, but she never gives up trying. The healthiest, largest male chickadees have the highest crests on their heads and they are sought after as mates. When researchers outfit runt males with little pointed caps, much like the human dunce cap, females line up to mate with them, forsaking the naturally fitter, hatless males.

These animal behaviors look funny to us . . . or sad. The reflexive instincts of dumb animals. But then there's a jolt of recognition: just how different are our endless wars, our modern health woes, our melodramatic romantic and sexual lives? In my new book, Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose. I describe how human instincts -- for food, sex, or territorial protection -- developed for life on the savannah 10,000 years ago, not today's world of densely populated cities, technological innovations, and pollution. Evolution, quite simply, has been unable to keep pace with the rapid changes of modern life. We now have access to a glut of larger-than-life temptations, from candy to pornography to atomic bombs, which cater to outmoded but persistent instinctive drives with dangerous results. In the 1930s Dutch Nobel laureate Niko Tinbergen found that birds that lay small, pale blue eggs speckled with grey preferred to sit on giant, bright blue plaster dummies with black polka dots. A male silver washed fritillary butterfly was more sexually aroused by a butterfly-sized rotating cylinder with horizontal brown stripes than it is by a real, live female of its own kind. Mother birds preferred to try feeding a fake baby bird beak held on a stick by Tinbergen's students if the dummy beak was wider and redder than a real chick's. Male stickleback fish ignored a real male to fight a dummy if its underside was brighter red than any natural fish. Tinbergen coined the term "supernormal stimuli" to describe these imitations, which appeal to primitive instincts and, oddly, exert a stronger attraction than real things. Animals encounter supernormal stimuli mostly when experimenters build them. We humans can produce our own: super sugary drinks, French fries, huge-eyed stuffed animals, diatribes about menacing enemies. Instincts arose to draw our attention to rare necessities but now they lead us to harmful behaviors that compromise our health, safety, and sanity. Though sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists have incorporated many of Tinbergen's ideas and those of other animal ethologsts such as Konrad Lorenz, they have not used the concept of supernormal stimuli. I believe that this is the single most valuable contribution of ethology for helping us understand many issues of modern civilization. Supernormal stimuli are driving forces in many of today's most pressing problems, including obesity, our addiction to television and video games, and the past century's extraordinarily violent wars. Manmade imitations have wreaked havoc on how we nurture our children, what food we put into our bodies, how we make love and war, and even our understanding of ourselves. If we become aware of supernormal stimuli, this does more than simply alert us to danger. There's a clear alternative once we recognize how these behavioral triggers operate. Humans have one stupendous advantage over Tinbergen's birds -- a giant brain. This gives us the unique ability to exercise self-control, override instincts that lead us astray, and extricate ourselves from civilization's gaudy traps. Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose.
Deirdre Barrett is an evolutionary psychologist at Harvard Medical School's Behavioral Medicine Program. She is the author of several books, including Waistland, The Committee of Sleep, and Trauma and Dreams. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Elias Canetti

All the things one has forgotten
scream for help in dreams.
- Elias Canetti

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Tough Job

Saving Detroit in ten months.
Article

David Simon

That may be the ultimate tragedy of capitalism in our time, that it has achieved its dominance without regard to a social compact, without being connected to any other metric for human progress.
- David Simon
source

Steven Wright

From when you wake up to when you go to sleep, there’s billions of pieces of information that go past you. Some of that just jumps out as a joke, part of my mind is looking for it, subconsciously, and I don’t really know it. But I’m not thinking [about] that. I’m just walking down the street, and then I see something and say, ‘oh yeah.’
- Steven Wright
source

Steven Wright

The time on the stage is like a canvas. I paint a farm and some trees and a horse there in the painting. But if you see it a few months later, the horse is gone because I've replaced it with something else. The trees are there, but they've moved over a little bit. I just keep painting it over and over. I never finish it and put it aside and put a blank canvas up. It's always being worked on.
- Steven Wright
source

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Bernie S. Siegel

Unconditional love is the most powerful stimulant of the immune system. The truth is: love heals. Miracles happen to exceptional patients every day—patients who have the courage to love, those who have the courage to work with their doctors to participate in and influence their own recovery.
-Bernie S. Siegel, Love, Medicine and Miracles: Lessons Learned about Self-Healing from a Surgeon's Experience with Exceptional Patients

Friday, December 06, 2013

Darrell Brown

Don’t push yourself to discover the song. Let the song discover you.
-Darrell Brown
source

Nelson Mandela

Hating clouds the mind. It gets in the way of strategy. Leaders cannot afford to hate.
- Nelson Mandela

Article

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Julia de Burgos

TO JULIA DE BURGOS

by Julia de Burgos

Already the people murmur that I am your enemy
because they say that in verse I give the world your me.

They lie, Julia de Burgos. They lie, Julia de Burgos.
Who rises in my verses is not your voice. It is my voice
because you are the dressing and the essence is me;
and the most profound abyss is spread between us.

You are the cold doll of social lies,
and me, the virile starburst of the human truth.

You, honey of courtesan hypocrisies; not me;
in all my poems I undress my heart.

You are like your world, selfish; not me
who gambles everything betting on what I am.

You are only the ponderous lady very lady;
not me; I am life, strength, woman.

You belong to your husband, your master; not me;
I belong to nobody, or all, because to all, to all
I give myself in my clean feeling and in my thought.

You curl your hair and paint yourself; not me;
the wind curls my hair, the sun paints me.

You are a housewife, resigned, submissive,
tied to the prejudices of men; not me;
unbridled, I am a runaway Rocinante
snorting horizons of God's justice.

You in yourself have no say; everyone governs you;
your husband, your parents, your family,
the priest, the dressmaker, the theatre, the dance hall,
the auto, the fine furnishings, the feast, champagne,
heaven and hell, and the social, "what will they say."

Not in me, in me only my heart governs,
only my thought; who governs in me is me.
You, flower of aristocracy; and me, flower of the people.
You in you have everything and you owe it to everyone,
while me, my nothing I owe to nobody.

You nailed to the static ancestral dividend,
and me, a one in the numerical social divider,
we are the duel to death who fatally approaches.

When the multitudes run rioting
leaving behind ashes of burned injustices,
and with the torch of the seven virtues,
the multitudes run after the seven sins,
against you and against everything unjust and inhuman,
I will be in their midst with the torch in my hand.

- Julia de Burgos Translation Jack Agüeros.

Stealing Time

Article

Julia de Burgos

My childhood was all a poem in the river, and a river in the poem of my first dreams.

- Julia de Burgos

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_de_Burgos

Elizabeth Bishop

One Art

By Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art” from The Complete Poems 1926-1979.

Amsterdam City Workers

You may see these guys hanging around here, chatting, making jokes. But I can assure you, every man you see here carries a little backpack with their own misery in it.
Read

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Happy Birthday Rilke

From The Writer's Almanac:

Today is the birthday of Rainer Maria Rilke (books by this author), born in Prague (1875). The year before he was born, his mother had given birth to a girl who died after a week, and she wanted her son to fill that place. Rainer's given name was René, and his mother dressed him in dresses, braided his hair, and treated him like a girl. Later, he wrote, "I think my mother played with me as though I were a big doll."

He financed his career as a poet by seducing a series of rich noblewomen who would support him while he wrote his books. One princess let him live for a while in her Castle Duino near Trieste, a medieval castle with fortified walls and an ancient square tower. It was during the winter of 1912, alone in the castle, that Rilke later said he heard the voice of an angel speaking to him about the meaning of life and death. Rilke wrote two poems about angels in almost a single sitting, and he knew that he had begun his most important work, but then he got stuck. Finally, in February of 1922, he managed to finish in a single month what he'd started a decade before. The result was a cycle of 10 long poems that he called The Duino Elegies, about the difference between angels and people, and the meaning of death, and his idea that human beings are put on earth in order to experience the beauty of ordinary things.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

A Welcome Distraction

Before, the writer took breaks for things like coffee, cigarettes, drugs — items that each have natural limits in the human body. But now, you’re basically working in an intellectual red-light district where, at any time — every three seconds if you want — you can dip into the constantly replenished streams of email/Facebook/Gawker/eBay/YouTube/Instagram.
-Marie Myung-Ok Lee
Article

Ken Budd

For the memoir to work, to truly be alive, the honesty of the writing must outweigh the feelings of your subjects. As the central figure, you have to write what scares you: the drama resides in the dark places where you’re least comfortable. And that means exposing yourself. It’s like ripping off the front of your house and saying, “O.K., here we are, take a look — I’ll be in the shower if you want a closer view.” If you can’t do that — if you’re unwilling to bleed, naked, on the page — why write memoir?
- Ken Budd
Source

Some Reasons for Writing by Anne Lamott

Source Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott

“Every morning, no matter how late he (my father, the writer) had been up, my father rose at 5:30AM, went to his study, wrote for a couple of hours, made us all breakfast, read the paper with my mother, and then went back to work for the rest of the morning.”

“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore.”

“I understood immediately the thrill of seeing oneself in print. It provides some sort of primal verification: you are in print; therefore, you exist.”

“I suspect that he (my father) was a child who thought differently than his peers, who may have had serious conversations with grownups, who as a young person, like me, accepted being alone quite a lot. I think that this sort of person often becomes either a writer or a career criminal.”

“Do it every day for a while,” my father kept saying. “Do it as you would do scales on the piano. Do it by prearrangement with yourself. Do it as a debt of honor. And make a commitment to finishing things.”

“The months before a book comes out of the chute are, for most writers, right up there with the worst life has to offer… totally decompensating.”

“December is traditionally a bad month for writing. It is a month of Mondays. I simply recommend to people that they never start a large writing project on any Monday in December.”

“When my (writer) friends are working (on their writing), they feel better and more alive than they do at any other time.”

“But I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do – the actual act of writing – turns out to be the best part… The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”

A Library is not a Luxury

A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life.
- Henry Ward Beecher

Gustav Mahler

All that I desire and demand of life is to feel an urge to work.

- Gustav Mahler,

source: Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

Ai Weiwei Art to Alcatraz

Article

In My Dreams


In my dreams:

I wish I could pay pay my car mechanic and veterinarian with a poem, painting, or loaf of bread.

Fashion Bug

In my dreams the study of bugs and birds would be part of fashion design.
Article

Working Poor

My friend Eduardo said in his native Italy poverty didn't mean loss of dignity, he wants to go back to Italy to live simply as an old man.

Why do the working and disabled and unemployed poor in my neighborhood have no protection from crime, noise and filth? I blame the the slum landlords only care about their money not the people. These landlords don't ever want to see the faces of their tenants. The original owners of these tenements lived right here in the neighborhood, they got to know everyone. They cared, they solved problems. They also understood they were running a business, not a piddly little hobby to feather their nest.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Interview Charles Simic

Read

Four Charles Simic Poems

My Noiseless Entourage

We were never formally introduced.
I had no idea of their number.
It was like a discreet entourage
Of homegrown angels and demons
All of whom I had met before
And had since largely forgotten.

In time of danger, they made themselves scarce.
Where did they all vanish to?
I asked some felon one night
While he held a knife to my throat,
But he was spooked too,
Letting me go without a word.

It was disconcerting, downright frightening
To be reminded of one’s solitude,
Like opening a children’s book—
With nothing better to do—reading about stars,
How they can afford to spend centuries
Traveling our way on a glint of light.

- Charles Simic
From MY NOISELESS ENTOURAGE (Harcourt, 2005)



Windy Evening

This old world needs propping up
When it gets this cold and windy.
The cleverly painted sets,
Oh, they’re shaking badly!
They’re about to come down.

There’ll be nothing but infinite space.
The silence supreme. Almighty silence.
Egyptian sky. Stars like torches
Of grave robbers entering the crypts of kings.
Even the wind pausing, waiting to see.

Better grab hold of that tree, Lucille.
Its shape crazed, terror-stricken.
I’ll hold on to the barn.
The chickens in it are restless.
Smart chickens, rickety world.

- Charles Simic
From A WEDDING IN HELL (Harcourt, 1994)



The Birdie

Two-room country shack
On a moody lake.
A black cat at my feet
To philosophize with

Stretched out on the bed
Like a gambler
Who’s lost his trousers
And his shoes,

Listening to a birdie raise its voice
In praise of good weather,
Little wriggling worms,
And other suchlike matters.

-Charles Simic
From MY NOISELESS ENTOURAGE (Harcourt, 2005)


Leaves at Night

Talking to themselves, digressing, rambling on—
Or is it a tête-à-tête we are overhearing?
A flutter of self-revelations, a gust of recriminations
With the moon slipping in and out of the clouds.

A half-mad oak tree affronted by nature's conduct,
The vagaries of New England weather.
The foolish adoration of every skimpy ray of sunlight,
Or some other disturbing truth?

A mock-heroic farce being played in whispers.
The tree as the hanging judge, the tree as the accused.
Windy night squabble followed by a long hush
As they wait anxiously for our applause.

- Charles Simic
from MY NOISELESS ENTOURAGE (2005)

Martín Espada

The Mexican Cabdriver

We were sitting in traffic
on the Brooklyn Bridge,
so I asked the poets
in the backseat of my cab
to write a poem for you.
They asked
if you are like the moon
or the trees.
I said no,
she is like the bridge
when there is so much traffic
I have time
to watch the boats
on the river.

- Martin Espada

From A MAYAN ASTRONOMER IN HELL'S KITCHEN (W.W. Norton, 2000)

Martín Espada

Thanksgiving

This was the first Thanksgiving with my wife's family,
sitting at the stained pine table in the dining room.
The wood stove coughed during her mother's prayer:
Amen and the gravy boat bobbing over fresh linen.
Her father stared into the mashed potatoes
and saw a white battleship floating in the gravy.
Still staring at the mashed potatoes, he began a soliloquy
about the new Navy missiles fired across miles of ocean,
how they could jump into the smokestack of a battleship.
"Now in Korea," he said, "I was a gunner and the people there
ate kimch'i and it really stinks." Mother complained that no one
was eating the creamed onions. "Eat, Daddy." The creamed onions
look like eyeballs, I thought, and then said, "I wish I had missiles
like that." Daddy laughed a 1950s horror-movie mad-scientist laugh,
and told me he didn't have a missile, but he had his own cannon.
"Daddy, eat the candied yams," Mother hissed, as if he were
a liquored CIA spy telling secrets about military hardware
to some Puerto Rican janitor he met in a bar. "I'm a toolmaker.
I made the cannon myself," he announced, and left the table.
"Daddy's family has been here in the Connecticut Valley since 1680,"
Mother said. "There were Indians here once, but they left."
When I started dating her daughter, Mother called me a half-Black,
But now she spooned candied yams on my plate. I nibbled
at the candied yams. I remembered my own Thanksgivings
in the Bronx, turkey with arroz y habichuelas and plátanos,
and countless cousins swaying to bugalú on the record player
or roaring at my grandmother's Spanish punch lines in the kitchen,
the glowing of her cigarette like a firefly lost in the city. For years
I thought everyone ate rice and beans with turkey at Thanksgiving.
Daddy returned to the table with a cannon, steering the black
steel barrel. "Does that cannon go boom?" I asked. "I fire it
in the backyard at the tombstones," he said. "That cemetery bought
up all our farmland during the Depression. Now we only have
the house." He stared and said nothing, then glanced up suddenly,
like a ghost had tickled his ear. "Want to see me fire it?" he grinned.
"Daddy, fire the cannon after dessert," Mother said. "If I fire
the cannon, I have to take out the cannonballs first," he told me.
He tilted the cannon downward, and cannonballs dropped
from the barrel, thudding on the floor and rolling across
the brown braided rug. Grandmother praised the turkey's thighs,
said she would bring leftovers home to feed her Congo Gray parrot.
I walked with Daddy to the backyard, past the bullet holes
in the door and his pickup truck with the Confederate license plate.
He swiveled the cannon around to face the tombstones
on the other side of the backyard fence. "This way, if I hit anybody,
they're already dead," he declared. He stuffed half a charge
of gunpowder into the cannon, and lit the fuse. From the dining room,
Mother yelled, "Daddy, no!" Then the battlefield rumbled
under my feet. My head thundered. Smoke drifted over
the tombstones. Daddy laughed. And I thought: When the first
drunken Pilgrim dragged out the cannon at the first Thanksgiving-
that's when the Indians left.

- Martín Espada

From A MAYAN ASTRONOMER IN HELL'S KITCHEN (W.W. Norton, 2000)

Gary Gutting

We could open up a large number of fulfilling jobs for humanists if (as I’ve previously suggested) we developed an elite, professional faculty in our K-12 schools. Provide good salaries and good working conditions, and many humanists would find teaching immensely rewarding. Meeting the needs of this part of the cultural middle class could, in fact, be the key to saving our schools.

Article

Red Moon

China launches first rover to the moon.
Article

B.B. King

The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you. ― B.B. King

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Psychologist Jeremy Dean

Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick (public library), psychologist Jeremy Dean illuminates an important common misconception about how willpower shapes our habits and behaviors:

People naturally vary in the amount of self-control they have, so some will find it more difficult than others to break a habit. But everyone’s self-control is a limited resource; it’s like muscle strength: the more we use it, the less remains in the tank, until we replenish it with rest. In one study of self-control, participants first had to resist the temptation to eat chocolate (they had a radish instead); then they were given a frustrating task to do. The test was to see how long they would persist. Radish-eaters only persisted on the task for about 8 minutes, while those who had gorged on chocolate kept going for 19 minutes. The mere act of exerting willpower saps the strength for future attempts. These sorts of findings have been repeated again and again using different circumstances.

We face these sorts of willpower-depleting events all day long. When someone jostles you in the street and you resist the urge to shout at them, or when you feel exhausted at work but push on with your email: these all take their toll. The worse the day, the more the willpower muscle is exerted, the more we rely on autopilot, which means increased performance of habits. It’s crucial to respect the fact that self-control is a limited resource and you are likely to overestimate its strength. Recognizing when your levels of self-control are low means you can make specific plans for those times.

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Living Lives Defined by Meaning

Nobody likes living through tough economic times — and the millennials have been dealt a tough hand. But at the same time, there are certain benefits to economic deprivation. Millennials have been forced to reconsider what a successful life constitutes. By focusing on making a positive difference in the lives of others, rather than on more materialistic markers of success, they are setting themselves up for the meaningful life they yearn to have — the very thing that Frankl realized makes life worth living.
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Bicycle theft is a serious problem in many countries, and there is a lack of evidence concerning effective prevention strategies. Displaying images of ‘watching eyes’ has been shown to make people behave in more socially desirable ways in a number of settings, but it is not yet clear if this effect can be exploited for purposes of crime prevention. We report the results of a simple intervention on a university campus where signs featuring watching eyes and a related verbal message were displayed above bicycle racks.

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Article: Traumas and Chronic Illness

Associations between Lifetime Traumatic Events and Subsequent Chronic Physical Conditions: A Cross-National, Cross-Sectional Study

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Associations between lifetime traumatic event (LTE) exposures and subsequent physical ill-health are well established but it has remained unclear whether these are explained by PTSD or other mental disorders. This study examined this question and investigated whether associations varied by type and number of LTEs, across physical condition outcomes, or across countries.