"I'd have stopped writing years ago if it were for the money." --Paulo Coelho Link To Blog Archive here.
Political Pseudoscience (2015-04-01)
Strong political views do not make good viewfinders when it comes to examining evidence. Many right wing views on science are obviously wildly distorted, with creationism and global climate change denial being obvious examples. But the left also can be shown to need new glasses—or at least to need to take their blinders off. Here are three examples of where science has given us powerful and useful tools, yet many ‘right thinking’ and ‘left leaning’ people have a knee-jerk aversion to objectively examining the evidence.
THAT DIABOLICAL NUCLEAR ENERGY
Don’t even suggest that it may not be a useful source of relatively clean energy. Sure, there are better sources, but there are worse ones—the current ones.
THAT DIABOLICAL GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD
Who would want to eat “Frankenfood”? A lot of people. It beats not having anything to eat at all, a problem in a lot of third world countries.
THAT DIABOLICAL VACCINATION
No qualifications here. The opposition to vaccination is frightening. It’s ‘unnatural’ to inject a foreign agent into our bodies. It’s bad enough that fluoridated municipal water and iodized salt sneak ‘chemicals’ into our bodies. Infectious disease, tooth decay, and goitre are definitely more ‘natural’. Right?
The above is reprinted from my July 12, 2015 posting on my “Your Man Friday’s Ideas” blog.
The Blog Fog (2015-04-02)
Long before I started posting online these (usually) daily scribblings as my “Writings On The Wall”, I’d started a weekly email newsletter and companion website where every Friday I shared three links to interesting, thematically related ideas accompanied by explanatory remarks. I called it “Your Man Friday’s Ideas”.
This was back in 2009, and only when people referred to it as a “blog” did I think of it as such. I wasn’t even clear exactly what a blog was. So, as is my wont, I did a little research.
A blog (or weblog) is a discussion or informational site published on the Internet. It had its origins in the beginning of this century. By 2011, there were over 156 million blogs, and by 2014, there were around 172 million. Its popularity is largely due to certain defining characteristics—although not all blogs have all these characteristics.
Backasswards. It consists of discrete entries (or posts) displayed in reverse chronological order.
Multimedia. It is a mixed media genre that combines text, images, and links to other websites.
Interactive. It is interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other.
Unguarded. It has no guardians of the gate to publication, no editors, and no censors determining what the blogger posts.
As a literary medium, it certainly has its pros and cons.
Backasswards Blogs: Pros and Cons (2015-04-03)
Positive: Presenting entries in reverse chronological order means the reader will always encounter the latest entry upon visiting the website. This is of special value if the blog has to do with current events or developments.
Negative: If there is a logical sequence to a series of individual blog entries, as there is in when presenting an argument or telling a story, obviously this would be like making the reader read the article or story backwards.
My approach: I’ve conformed to this convention, even though I may deal with a similar theme for a sequence of blog postings. In that case, I try to make each posting capable of standing alone. And in the archive of each month I present the posting in regular chronological order. This method suits the nature of my blogs and is an attempt to take advantage of both the positive and negative features of order of presentation.
Multimedia Blogs: Pros and Cons (2015-04-04)
Positive: It’s great to have a literary media that welcomes the injection of sound files, images, even videos—and hyperlinks to related material on the Internet.
Negative: Some writers feel that if the writing is good, it should stand on it’s own, and images, hyperlinks, and such distract attention from the writing.
My approach: I’ve conformed to this convention when it suits me, which is often. But some of my postings are pure, unadorned text.
Interactive Blogs: Pros and Cons (2015-04-05)
Positive: Involving the readership increases the readership.
Negative: Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one, and most stink. The empirical proof of this is there in the comments section below any blog (or website) that allows comments. This is even true of sites with consistently worthwhile content. I suppose it could be a case of biased sampling, in that the majority of people who use these comments sections to air their views are a special case: idiots with too much time on their hands. Another problem is these comments sections are easy prey for spammers.
My approach: My blogs don’t have a section for readers to post comments. Those who feel they have something significant they wish to share with me, or think I might want to pass on to my readers, can take the trouble to send me a literate email.
Unguarded Blogs: Pros and Cons (2015-04-06)
Positive: The traditional routes to publication are very rocky, and full of detours and roadblocks. And even if you do arrive at your destination, it usually takes an inordinate amount of time. With blogs, your work can be available as soon you finish it, and there are no editors or censors to interfere with your doing so.
Negative: If it’s easy, it’s easy for everyone. But so is writing crap easy—as evidenced by those readers’ comments sections of websites. On the other hand, writing something worthwhile is not easy. Editors serve a real purpose as guardians of the gates to publication. They weed out what is of low quality or inappropriate for their audience. Without these guardians, it’s no surprise that the Internet has more worthless clutter than worthwhile reading. It takes a modicum more effort and sophistication to put out a blog than to scribble something in the comments section of a website, but it is still too easy for those who can neither write nor think competently. And too easy to over-estimate the worth of one’s blog postings.
My approach: I try to write carefully. I assume that anyone sampling my scribbles and finding them worthless won’t bother to return to my Writings On The Wall.
Good Blogs (2015-04-07)
Finding a blog (or a book, for that matter) worthy of one’s attention is like looking for a needle in a haystack. And the haystack is inevitably much bigger when it comes to blogs. A good method is to follow up on connections and recommendations—and to look for associations with already known to be worthwhile websites. Here are some personal examples.
I’m interested in contemporary poetry, and I know I poet, Michael
Dennis, who runs a blog reviewing and presenting samples of recent quality
poetry books. Given how hard it is even to find contemporary poetry books to
browse, this is a site I find worth visiting frequently.
I’m interested in new science reporting from a reliable source. I’m not knowledgeable enough to understand—or understand the significance of—research papers in every field of science, found in journals in like Nature and Science. However, I am knowledgeable enough in scientific methodology to want good science reporting, preferably with references cited. Here is a site with links to numerous good science blogs. http://scienceblogs.com
Certain writers I’ve read and appreciated maintain a blog, and I’m
naturally interested in their activities, thoughts, and recommendations. One person,
who writes about and exposes ‘bad science’ is Ben Goldacre. I admire his smart,
hard-headed scientific critiques of stuff that too often passes for real scientific
One Last Thought About Blogs (2015-04-08)
One other interesting use of the blog format is as a sharable database. I’m familiar with this because both my wife and son are avid and adventurous cooks, and the Internet is full of food blogs with recipes. They, like many people, use this as huge cookbook with each chapter written by a different cook. This usage is so common that several inexpensive apps have been developed to easily create a personal database from recipes found online.
My wife and son use one called Paprika: http://paprikaapp.com. If one finds a recipe on a food blog that one wants to add to one’s personal database, it makes it possible to transfer the recipe (including pictures) to one’s own computer with just a few clicks. (Most food blogs conform to a standard format that Paprika can read and duplicate locally.) Paprika is a brilliantly designed relational database with numerous useful sorting and searching functions. There is no problem with modifying a recipe or adding one’s own, and it’s easy to share one’s database entries with another Paprika user.
Unsaved Saviour (2015-04-09)
They say a change is as good as a rest. I’ve been taking a break from writing by spending some time working on digital art. It’s been a year since I created a new series. So now I’m pleased to say I have created a new ‘Construction’ (my 99th) that I’m pleased with. It’s a diptych entitled “Unsaved Saviour”.
The 2 works are about the futility of faith. Father doesn’t hear your pleas and doesn’t answer for the obvious reason that he is long dead.
Crown Of Doubt (2015-04-10)
Crown Of Silence (2015-04-11)
Blog Silence (2015-04-12)
Speaking of silence, this blogger is going to shut up for a while.
I fluctuate between Attention Deficit Disorder, where I flit from project to project to project, and Perseverance Disorder, where I can’t let go of a project and let everything else go to hell in a hand basket. I’m now suffering from the latter. (I’ll have something to write about the project when I do finally let go of it, either because it’s completed or abandoned.)
So “Be seeing you!”—as they say in that great BBC series, The Prisoner.
Someone’s Home Here (2015-06-21)
I’m back, having made some serious progress with various projects. One thing I completed is my 100th ‘construction’. It’s my 100th series of digital art!
“The ache for home lives in all of us.” (Maya Angelou) And our conception of home is as varied as our definition of happiness. These three works are just examples of this diversity.”
Bayou Hermitage (2015-06-22)
Decadent Docile (2015-06-23)
Humble Adobe Abode (2015-06-24)
Nobody Reads That Stuff (2015-06-25)
Another project I’ve been working on since took a break from these blog entries is a new collection of poetry, tentatively titled DiVerse Dedications. Every time I concentrate on writing poetry, I can’t help but wonder why. Of course, why we do whatever we do is hard to pin down—and our explanations are usually more rationalizations than real reasons. But my justification for writing that serves me well enough is to be read. (I have no illusions about fame or fortune.) But the fact that almost nobody reads poetry anymore makes that rationalization incredibly unbelievable. The audience I have for my other writing isn’t exactly a crowd scene, but it is by comparison to my poetry.
So naturally I’ve been thinking a lot about poetry—its value, its nature, and its diminished role in people’s lives. I also have been cleaning up my manuscript files and have noticed how often I’ve dealt with the very idea of poetry. So I think I’ll use this blog for a while to air some of my ruminations—and, as usual, rant a bit.
Nobody Even Recognizes That Stuff (2015-06-26)
“A poem is nothing more than very effective use of language. It is not defined by the tools used to create it. You cannot say something is a poem because it was constructed with rhyme, meter, vivid imagery, ellipsis, etc. A house is not denied status as a house because it is made of wood, not brick. A good poem can be a good place to live, even if it is made of straw and dung.” —Hippokrites
Not understanding this may be part of the explanation why so few people read poetry. They don’t even know how to recognize a real poem.
Another Reason For The Scarcity Of Readers (2015-06-27)
“Life is simple. Poems are difficult.” —Hippokrites
Life you just live; you can’t help it unless you commit suicide. Poems, on the other hand, make demands on you and so are easy to ignore.
Poets Have Reason To Be Envious (2015-06-28)
Poems may be difficult, but so is mathematics. There is an important difference, however. Most people who don’t understand math will admit it.
My daughter, who is a theoretical mathematician, sent me this apt quotation from the great poet W. H. Auden.
“Writers, poets especially, have an odd relation to the public because their medium, language, is not, like the paint of the painter or the notes of the composer, reserved for their use but is the common property of the linguistic group to which they belong. Lots of people are willing to admit that they don't understand painting or music, but very few indeed who have been to school and learned to read advertisements will admit that they don't understand English. As Karl Kraus said: 'The public doesn't understand German, and in journalese I can't tell them so.'
How happy the lot of the mathematician! He is judged solely by his peers, and the standard is so high that no colleague or rival can ever win a reputation he does not deserve. No cashier writes a letter to the press complaining about the incomprehensibility of Modern Mathematics and comparing it unfavourably with the good old days when mathematicians were content to paper irregularly shaped rooms and fill bathtubs without closing the waste pipe.”
We Don’t Like Being Imposed Upon (2015-06-29)
“Good poems presume great readers. The presumption of great poems is boundless.” —Hippokrites
Unfortunately, most people aren’t even competent readers.
Poetry 101 (2015-06-30)
I suspect yet another reason so few people read poetry now is that they think of it is an academic subject to be mastered and then forgotten because irrelevant to life outside of school. This is not surprising given that “Poetry” is ‘taught’ in schools—like a course in algebra.
They don’t offer a course in listening to popular music. You don’t need such a course to listen to it. You don’t need a course in poetry to read it.
How much you ‘understand' it will depend on how much you have learned to understand language itself. This will change with experience—and deliberate attention and effort.