Archive for June, 2007

Five people I’m not (but who share my name, according to Google):

1.  A 28-year-old American professional wrestler

2.  A professor of Marine Biology at a British university (specializing in the Chinese mitten crab, among other things)

Chinese mitten crab

3.  A first baseman for a university baseball team in the U.S. South

4.  The Chief Strategy Officer for an online business that buys and sells domain names

5.  An attorney in Michigan


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    The Brain — is wider than the Sky —
    For — put them side by side —
    The one the other will contain
    With ease — and You — beside —

    The Brain is deeper than the sea —
    For — hold them — Blue to Blue —
    The one the other will absorb —
    As Sponges — Buckets — do —

    The Brain is just the weight of God —
    For — Heft them — Pound for Pound —
    And they will differ — if they do —
    As Syllable from Sound —

    — Emily Dickinson

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    Places I’ve seen them

    1.  In the drainage ditch a block away from our house.  (Last night.  A whole fambly of ’em!)

    2.  On a two-story window ledge outside of my former office.

    3.  On the Stanford campus.

    4.  Infesting the home of ‘Big Edie’ and ‘Little Edie’ Bouvier Beale, in the documentary Grey Gardens.

    Things we call them (thank you, wikipedia!):

    1.  ‘raccoon’, from the Algonquin roughcoune: ‘he who scratches with his hands’.

    2.  The Spanish mapache, from a Nahuatl word for ‘that which has hands’.

    3.  Procyon, the genus name, from Greek for ‘pre-dog’.  (Or is the dog ‘post-raccoon’?  You decide.)

    4.  In many languages, the equivalent of ‘washing bear’.

    And what do they call us? Well, probably one of these five words.  (via a great website from Island Creek Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia.)

    And a bonus: otters holding hands.

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    Inspired by this New Yorker article (yes, I’m three months behind, not counting the four months I skipped in January in order to catch up, which clearly has not worked), by a December visit to this Guggenheim exhibition with my brother, and by the Iberian Culture and Civilization course I taught recently, here are Picasso’s takes on some of the Great Masters that preceded him:

    1. Rembrandt’s Jupiter and Antiope and Picasso’s Faun Unveiling a Sleeping Woman:

    Jupiter and Antiope

    Faun Unveiling a Woman

    2. Velázquez’s Las Meninas and one of Picasso’s versions

    Las Meninas

    Las Meninas

    3. Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe and one of Picasso’s versions:

    Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe

    Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe

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    Friday night: Greece, via the Greek Orthodox Festival at Assumption Cathedral in Denver. Recommended meal: Σουβλάκι, σαγανάκι, and, as an digestif, ούζο. To see: the striking icons painted on the inside of the cathedral dome.

    Assumption Cathedral

    [My favorite thing to do at festivals that feature public dancing is to pick out the one person that seems to be in another world. Remember the aerobics TV show in the ’80s – spoofed here by SNL – with three effort levels (high, medium, and low)? Well, among the 30+ people dancing on stage at the festival, one man stood out as the clear ‘high level’ participant. Extra gestures, non-required twirls, even a little love triangle involving a woman and another man. It wasn’t clear how that love triangle was supposed to work.]

    Saturday night: Japan, via the Cherry Blossom Festival in downtown Denver. Recommended meal: Eat before you make the trip to the festival. We had 寿司, in keeping with the evening’s theme. [For some reason, this event closed up all of its food booths before 7pm, perhaps in an effort to give us the impression of arriving at a foreign city early in the morning with the hunger that jet lag produces? The participants in this festival’s dances were mostly of the ‘low effort’ ilk. Some didn’t even look like they were dancing.]

    Sunday night: Africa (mostly Uganda), via a performance of the African Children’s Choir. Recommended meal: we didn’t really do African that night, but Frank could cook you up some delicious gunja (no idea if that’s how it’s spelled) from Central African Republic: spinach stew with a peanut sauce.

    [These performers were all decidedly in the ‘very high effort’ category. Seriously. These children, some of whom never stopped smiling during the 90-minute concert, were like Energizer bunnies on Red Bull. Their best numbers, like this one, as performed on American Idol, were traditional African songs. The Celine Dion arrangements – I’m not kidding – didn’t do much for me.]

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    1) This morning, I run while listening to an interview with Mariane Pearl.  Just after hearing about how her husband Daniel proudly identified himself as a Jew to his own captors, even recalling the street in Israel named after his great-grandfather Chaim Pearl, I reach a sign that reads “Pearl St”.  I’ve seen it dozens of times, but rarely follow it in the course of my morning run.  Today, on an impulse, I turn right, in memory of Daniel and in honor of Mariane.

    2) If I am due for a long run, I look forward to running counter-clockwise around Washington Park.  As I turn north along the eastern edge of the park, I’m greeted with this view (or one like it – I didn’t take the picture):

    Wash Park view

    3) During a morning run a couple of weeks ago, I saw about thirty young mothers pushing strollers of various sizes and colors (and contents, I’m sure, though I’m pretty sure most had babies in them) along the paved track at Wash Park.  All were doing some type of aerobic exercise as well, and there was something quite moving in their united and synchronized participation in something as simple as walking.

    4) On the day after St. Patrick’s Day (or on the very day of St. Cyril, poor guy), two small things made me laugh during a beautiful Sunday run.  First, as I passed a neighborhood bar, a table of women cheered me on.  That never happens to me, and I probably needed it, too.

    5) A few miles later, I was tickled to see two green balloons somehow untie themselves from a real estate sign and let themselves go.  Their owners had probably forgotten that Saint Patrick’s Day was over.  Or maybe they were making way for the St. Cyril’s day balloons.

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    Looking from outside into an open window one never sees as much as when one looks through a closed window. There is nothing more profound, more mysterious, more pregnant, more insidious, more dazzling than a window lighted by a single candle. What one can see out in the sunlight is always less interesting than what goes on behind a windowpane. In that black or luminous square of life lives, life dreams, life suffers.


    Across the ocean of roofs I can see a middle-aged woman, her face already lined, who is forever bending over something and who never goes out. Out of her face, her dress, and her gestures, out of practically nothing at all, I have made up this woman’s story, or rather legend, and sometimes I tell it to myself and weep.


    If it had been an old man I could have made up his just as well.


    And I go to bed proud to have lived and to have suffered in some one besides myself.


    Perhaps you will say “Are you sure that your story is the real one?” But what does it matter what reality is outside myself, so long as it has helped me to live, to feel that I am, and what I am?


    –Charles Baudelaire (trans. Louis Varèse)

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