The Chair She Sits In
I've heard this thing where, when someone dies,
People close up all the holes around the house —
The keyholes, the chimney, the windows,
Even the mouths of the animals, the dogs and the pigs.
It's so the soul won't be confused, or tempted.
It's so when the soul comes out of the body it's been in
But that doesn't work anymore,
It won't simply go into another one
And try to make itself at home,
Pretending as if nothing happened.
There's no mystery — it's too much work to move on.
It isn't anybody's fault. A soul is like any of us.
It gets used to things, especially after a long life.
The way I sit in my living-room chair,
The indentation I have put in it now
After so many years — that's how I understand.
It's my chair,
And I know how to sit in it.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
The Chair She Sits In
Posted by Chet at 2:49 PM
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Bottled Water Isn't Healthier Than Tap, Report Reveals
James Owen for National Geographic News
A bottle of spring or mineral water has become the lifestyle accessory of the health-conscious. No longer a luxury item, the beverage has become a common sight worldwide.
But according to campaigners, the planet's health may be suffering as a result.
A new report warns that people's thirst for bottled water is producing unnecessary garbage and consuming vast quantities of energy, even in areas where perfectly good drinking water is available on tap.
The report, released earlier this month by the Earth Policy Institute (EPI), says global consumption of bottled water doubled between 1999 and 2004, reaching 41 billion gallons (154 billion liters) annually.
Bottled water is often no healthier than tap water, but it can be 10,000 times more expensive, says Emily Arnold, a researcher with the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit.
"At as much as $2.50 [U.S.] per liter [$10 U.S. a gallon], bottled water costs more than gasoline," she said.
Most of this extra cost is driven by transportation and packaging.
"Nearly a quarter of all bottled water crosses national borders to reach consumers," Arnold said.
The report gives the example of one company in Helsinki, Finland, that in 2004 shipped 1.4 million bottles of Finnish tap water to Saudi Arabia—2,700 miles (4,300 kilometers) away.
Posted by Chet at 3:52 PM
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Monday, February 20, 2006
Friday, February 17, 2006
Well, it's finally feeling like winter here in Chicago.
Tonight: Partly cloudy, then gradually becoming clear, with a low around 0. Wind chill values between -9 and -19. Blustery, with a northwest wind between 15 and 20 mph.
Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 13. Wind chill values between -9 and -19. West northwest wind around 15 mph.
Saturday Night: Clear, with a low near 7. Wind chill values between -3 and -8. West wind between 10 and 15 mph.
Posted by Chet at 12:53 PM
Monday, February 13, 2006
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Well, I don't want to grade papers. Make that, I have no idea how to grade papers. So I'm trying to pump out some poetry. I guess I know how important poetry is to me when I feel like total crap and just sitting down to write somehow gives me a sense of focus/accomplishment/purpose/whatever. So anyway. I need to write more. I keep saying that, but of course I don't. Here are a few scribblings from tonights bout with a poem.
(Untitled) or Sermon on the Mount(ed) Catfish
Each sliver, lost artifact of sun,
becomes slack before the catfish rips
your arms into the fight.
If there is a cave he heads for it.
There is little you can know about him.
If your hands are nimble, instincts fit,
you’ll reel him in. A heron lifts from the bank,
shits as he pulls upward. Someone prays
for the fish. If you give him more,
keep giving. Someone prays
for you. A semi shakes the bridge.
The man under the girders
lights a fire. Nothing will come of this.
The fish swims, mouth clenched with steel.
If there is a God he becomes it. There are few bodies
you’ll know. There is little time
in which to live. If he has become silt, settled
back to where the brown water is black,
where the sun is swallowed
like a thousand steel hooks. It will begin to rain.
On the landing crows pick over carp bones,
pinch and lift pieces too big
that splash back into the river.
The line is taut.
Posted by Chet at 11:37 PM
I've always followed Richard Hugo's advice when it comes to workshops.
"I often make these remarks to a beginning poetry writing class. You'll never be a poet until you realize that everything I say today and this quarter is wrong. It may be right for me, but it is wrong for you. Every moment, I am, without wanting or trying to, telling you to write like me. But I hope you learn to write like you. In a sense, I hope I don't teach you how to write but how to teach yourself how to write. At all times keep your crap detector on. If I say something that helps, good. If what I say is of no help, let it go. Don't start arguments. They are futile and take us away from our purpose. As Yeats noted, your important arguments are with yourself. If you don't agree with me, don't listen. Think about something else."
Posted by Chet at 10:39 PM
Cheney Accidentally Shoots Fellow Hunter
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and injured a man during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, his spokeswoman said Sunday.
Harry Whittington, 78, was ''alert and doing fine'' after Cheney sprayed him with shotgun pellets on Saturday while the two were hunting at the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas, said property owner Katharine Armstrong.
Armstrong said Whittington was mostly injured on his right side, with the pellets hitting his cheek, neck and chest, and was taken to the hospital by ambulance.
Whittington was in stable condition Sunday, said Yvonne Wheeler, spokeswoman for the Christus Spohn Health System.
Cheney's spokeswoman, Lea Anne McBride, said the vice president was with Whittington, a lawyer from Austin, Texas, and his wife at the hospital on Sunday afternoon.
Armstrong said she was watching from a car while Cheney, Whittington and another hunter got out of the vehicle to shoot at a covey of quail late afternoon on Saturday.
Whittington shot a bird and went to look for it in the tall grass, while Cheney and the third hunter walked to another spot and found a second covey.
Whittington ''came up from behind the vice president and the other hunter and didn't signal them or indicate to them or announce himself,'' Armstrong told the Associated Press in an interview.
''The vice president didn't see him,'' she continued. ''The covey flushed and the vice president picked out a bird and was following it and shot. And by god, Harry was in the line of fire and got peppered pretty good.''
The shooting was first reported by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.
She said Whittington was bleeding but not very seriously injured, and Cheney was very apologetic.
''It broke the skin,'' she said. ''It knocked him silly. But he was fine. He was talking. His eyes were open. It didn't get in his eyes or anything like that.''
She said emergency personnel traveling with Cheney tended to Whittington, holding his face and cleaning up the blood.
''Fortunately, the vice president has got a lot of medical people around him and so they were right there and probably more cautious than we would have been,'' she said. ''The vice president has got an ambulance on call, so the ambulance came.''
Armstrong said Cheney is a longtime friend who comes to the ranch to hunt about once a year. She said Whittington is a regular, too, but she thought it was the first time the two men hunted together.
''This is something that happens from time to time. You now, I've been peppered pretty well myself,'' said Armstrong.
Posted by Chet at 4:23 PM
Their Own Version of a Big Bang
Those who believe in creationism -- children and adults -- are being taught to challenge evolution's tenets in an in-your-face way.
By Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer
WAYNE, N.J. — Evangelist Ken Ham smiled at the 2,300 elementary students packed into pews, their faces rapt. With dinosaur puppets and silly cartoons, he was training them to reject much of geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology as a sinister tangle of lies.
"Boys and girls," Ham said. If a teacher so much as mentions evolution, or the Big Bang, or an era when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, "you put your hand up and you say, 'Excuse me, were you there?' Can you remember that?"
The children roared their assent.
"Sometimes people will answer, 'No, but you weren't there either,' " Ham told them. "Then you say, 'No, I wasn't, but I know someone who was, and I have his book about the history of the world.' " He waved his Bible in the air.
"Who's the only one who's always been there?" Ham asked.
"God!" the boys and girls shouted.
"Who's the only one who knows everything?"
"So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?"
The children answered with a thundering: "God!
Saturday, February 11, 2006
'I like reading poetry at night — a doctor I know claims that this is because "poetry is the only thing you can read when you're drunk".'
— John Lanchester, The Sunday Times, 1 June 2003
'It would be hard to overstate the importance of the small magazine to the business of poetry... not only are they a space for new work, an arena for high-minded dispute and experiment, they also give poets a useful vanity mirror in which they can burnish their egos, as well as a forum to glad-hand their friends and pursue their vendettas.'
— Adam Newey, New Statesman, 23 June 2003
'The poem that refuses to risk sentimentality, that refuses to risk making a statement, is probably a poem that is going to feel lukewarm. So I'm in favor of work that if it fails, fails on the side of boldness, passion, intensity.'
— Mark Doty, The Charlotte Observer, 14 March 2003
'If you write about what you know, you will keep on writing the same thing, and you will never know any more than you do now.'
— George Bowering, quoted in The Iowa Review, Winter 2003/4
'I'm embarrassed to tell people, still, that I'm a poet... because I don't like poets. They're creeps. Some of my best friends are poets, but they're adult children, almost without exception. And the level of self-involvement is such that it's really a wonder, when they're stationary, the floorboards don't give way.'
— August Kleinzahler, Poets & Writers On-Line, October 2003
'We do not, on the whole, want our poets to be cuddly and approachable. We don't want to think of them buying toilet rolls at Tesco or filling out their tax returns. We want our poets to be brooding, Byronic, beautiful and preferably dead.'
— Christina Patterson, The Independent, 6 February 2004
'Unlike musicians, writers do not usually mature early. To write richly and well, they need to know something about the world and about ideas. And while students may profit from taking a creative writing class among their other courses, they need to learn about subjects like history, political science, and astronomy.'
— Timothy Steele, Contemporary Poetry Review, August 2005
Friday, February 10, 2006
Cheney and Intelligence
According to the National Journal's Murray Waas,
"Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records."
So some intelligence matters are so important that the administration will not divulge them even to critical members of Congress. But others are leaked to journalists to win a political war. This is a pointed reminder that when the administration says it is withholding information to protect national security, a hefty dose of skepticism is in order. The same goes for their assurance that their wire-tapping has never been abused. Remind me again: at this point, why should we trust them?
Posted by Chet at 10:56 AM
LINDA BIERDS (First Hand, et al) reads her poetry. Thu 2/16, 7 PM, Northwestern Univ. Harris Hall, room 108, 1881 Sheridan, Evanston, 847-491-7294.
The Stillness, The Dancing
I am indefinitely capable of wonder.—Federico Fellini
Long ago, in the forests of southern Europe,
just south of Macon, a woman died in childbirth.
She was taken, by custom, to the small slate
lip of a mountain. Legs bound at the knees
she was left facing west, thick with her still child.
Century by century, nothing disturbed them
so that now
the bones of the woman cup the small bones
of the child: the globe of its head angled
there, in the paddle and stem of her hips.
It is winter, just after midday. Slowly,
shudder by civilized shudder, a train slips over
the mountain, reveals to its weary riders
something white, then again, something
white at the side of the eye. They straighten,
place their lips to the glass, and there, far
below, this delicate, bleached pattern,
like the spokes of a bamboo cage.
What, someone whispers, and What, What,
word after word bouncing back from its blossom
of vapor, the woman and child appearing,
disappearing, as the train slips down through the alders—
until they are brands on the eyelid, until they are
stories, until, thick-soled and silent,
each rider squats with a blessing of ocher.
And so there are stories. Mortar. A little stratum
under the toenails. A train descends from a mountain,
levels out, circles a field where a team of actors
mimics a picnic. The billowing children.
On the table, fruit, a great calabash of chilled fish.
And over it all, a beloved uncle, long mad,
sits in the crotch of an oak tree.
He hears to his right, the compressed blare
of a whistle—each sound wave approaching shorter, shorter,
like words on a window, then just as the engine passes,
the long playing out.
He smiles as the blare seeps over
the actors, the pasture, the village
where now, in the haze of a sudden snowfall,
a film crew, dressed for a picnic, coaxes a peacock
to the chilled street. Six men on their knees
chirruping, laughing, snow lifting in puffs
from the spotlights. And the peacock,
shanks and yellow spurs high-stepping, high-stepping,
slowly unfolds its breathless fan, displays
to a clamor of boxcars, clubcars—
where riders, excited,
traveling for miles with an eyeful of bones
see now their reversal.
In an ecstasy of color the peacock dips,
revolves to the slow train:
each rider pressed to a window,
each round face courted in turn.
Posted by Chet at 10:31 AM
Pan troglodytes (cool scientific name, huh?)
As you can tell I'm on a, how do primates deal with death?, kick. I watched a Nature episode a long time ago where a mother Chimpanzee carried around her baby for weeks after it had died. I'll never get that image out of my head. I try not to force my humancentricness onto animals, but since Chimpanzees are so close to us it is hard not to wonder. Humans and Chimpanzees share 99.4% of their genetic makeup.
Here are some conversations with Koko. This snippet was interesting.
One day Koko was having a conversation with Research Assistant Maureen Sheehan.
MS: Where do gorillas go when they die?
Koko: Comfortable hole bye.
MS: When do gorillas die?
K: Trouble, old.
MS: How do gorillas feel when they die, happy, sad, afraid?
Posted by Chet at 12:17 AM
I thought this article was interesting.
Baboons In Mourning Seek Comfort Among Friends
When Sylvia the baboon lost Sierra, her closest grooming partner and daughter, to a lion, she responded in a way that would be considered very human-like: she looked to friends for support. According to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, baboons physiologically respond to bereavement in ways similar to humans, with an increase in stress hormones called glucocorticoids. Baboons can lower their glucocorticoid levels through friendly social contact, expanding their social network after the loss of specific close companions.
"At the time of Sierra's death, we considered Sylvia to be the queen of mean. She is a very high-ranking, 23 year-old monkey who was, at best, disdainful of females other than Sierra," said Anne Engh, a postdoctoral researcher in Penn's Department of Biology. "With Sierra gone, Sylvia experienced what could only really be described as depression, corresponding with an increase in her glucocorticoid levels."
Engh works with Penn biologist Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth, a professor in Penn's Department of Psychology. For the last 14 years, Cheney and Seyfarth have followed a troop of more than 80 free-ranging baboons in the Okavango Delta of Botswana. Their research explores the mechanisms that might be the basis of primate social relationships and how such relationships may have influenced the development of human social relationships, intelligence and language.
To study the response of stress among baboons, Engh and her colleagues examined the glucocorticoid levels and grooming behavior of females in the troop to see how closely they resemble patterns seen in humans. Their findings were published in a recent article in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences.
Grooming, a friendly behavior where baboons clean each other's fur, is the primary means by which baboons strengthen social bonds. According to Engh, while the death of a close family member was clearly stressful over the short term, the females they studied appeared to compensate for this loss by broadening and strengthening their grooming networks. As they resumed grooming, their glucocorticoid levels returned to normal.
" Without Sierra, Sylvia really had nobody else," Engh said. "So great was her need for social bonding that Sylvia began grooming with a female of a much lower status, behavior that would otherwise be beneath her."
Through her study, Engh was able to track patterns in stress of the female baboons over time through their glucocorticoid levels. Their stress levels increased most often during events when their lives, the lives of their offspring and their social rankings were at risk. The leading cause of death among adult baboons is predation, usually from leopards and lions. The stress levels of female baboons increased most noticeably when a predator killed a close companion, such as a grooming partner or offspring. If they merely witness another baboon die they do not become as agitated.
"Our findings do not necessarily suggest that baboons experience grief like humans do, but they do offer evidence of the importance of social bonds amongst baboons," Engh said. "Like humans, baboons seem to rely on friendly relationships to help them cope with stressful situations."
Engh's research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health. Co-authors on the paper include Jacinta Beehner, Thore Bergman, Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth from Penn; Patricia Whitten from Emory University; and Rebekah Hoffmeier of the Moremi Baboon Project in Botswana.
Sylvia grooms Sierra's cheek.
Posted by Chet at 12:01 AM
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
I always return to Joseph Campbell. I can't say I always follow his logic as well as I want, but he helps give me a peek of insight every time I read him. It is a shame that he is sometimes classified as mystical or self-help. I can see how some could see him as "mystical," but the questions primitive humans were asking were mystical in nature. How humans across the board deal with mystery is a large part of his research. Anyway. Here are some self-help quotes for you!
“Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is Whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.”
“Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.”
“We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.”
“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.”
“God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It's as simple as that.”
“A one sentence definition of mythology? "Mythology" is what we call someone else's religion”
"Read myths. They teach you that you can turn inward, and you begin to get the message of the symbols. Read other people's myths, not those of your own religion, because you tend to interpret your own religion in terms of facts -- but if you read the other ones, you begin to get the message."
Campbell: "A myth is a mask of god, a metaphor for what lies behind the visible world . . . the realization of wonder and also the experience of tremendous power which people living in the world of nature are experiencing all the time. The way in most Oriental thinking, and I think what we call primitive thinking, is that God is the manifestation of the energy--not the source."
Moyers: "But is divinity just what we think?"
Moyers: "What does that do to faith?"
Campbell: "I don't have to have faith. I have experience."