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The lute lies rusted in its green case odor of pines is synthetic; sweeteners artificial; even salt!  our tongues crave something dif...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Another reader writes to say

thank you. He has a contract with a major publisher and owes both me and Thomas: "I discovered you in grad school back in '09 or '10, and really settled into a good writing life during my dissertation, in part, as a result of reading your blogs."

Thursday, April 23, 2015

25. Music, when soft voices die

This poem by Shelley... I found it first on an lp my parents had, Vincent Price (!) reads Shelley.

I've always felt it had a kinship with Bécquer's: "Los suspiros son aire..."

It was my Platonic idea of the perfect lyric poem.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Note from a student

Got this note in my box today:
Beginning my graduate education in your Spanish Poetry class was a surprising blessing that emerged from your challenging & rigorous expectations, and though I certainly did not expect to work with you as closely as I did, I am very thankful that we found ourselves in Lawrence at the same time. Your influence has undoubtedly improved the ideas that took shape in this dissertation, and your profound affirmation of literary and cultural work continue to inspire me as I transition into my professional life.

Thank you for questioning my ideas; thank you for challenging me to express myself more clearly; thank you for modeling a delightfully percussive intellectual practice.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Toasted peanuts
Red pepper flakes
Fried To-fu slices
Mandarin Oranges

Lime juice
Sesame oil
honey-ginger white balsamic vinegar

Combine ingredients to taste. Enjoy!

Monday, April 20, 2015

What can you do?

First, what can you do? What are your actual skills?

[for example, I can make a martini, say, or evaluate a journal article in my field]

Second, how necessary and valuable are these skills?

[this is the value that others place on these skills, humanity in general]

Third, how uncommon are they?

[If I can make a martini, but so can millions of other people, this skill is not going to be as highly prized. This factor is independent of the second criterion. For example, making a fried egg is a valuable skill, but almost anyone could be taught to do it.]

A fourth factor is more tricky to define. There are things that are not particularly valuable, in intrinsic terms, and not particularly rare. However, with certain skills, society has determined that the very highest level of development is immensely more valuable. Hitting a golf ball with a club, for example, lacks any social value, per se. Many people can do it, also. But doing it very, very well brings enormous economic benefits. You cannot get paid for hitting a golf ball; in fact, usually you pay for the privilege. A very tiny percentage of people who can do this better than anyone else, though, can get paid large sums of money.

Situations in which we give extraordinary rewards to ordinary skills provoke outrage. Say, speaking fees in the thousands, for those who are not great speakers.

A rare skill might not have any value for anyone else, so its rarity in itself brings no added benefit.


Evolution is a also a topic that suffers a religious distortion. There is no significant secular opposition to evolution, not based on religious motives. Once you realize that then the issue becomes much more clear.

24. Los jardines

I should warn you before I post this line, that it gave me serious ear-worm once, for an extended period of time:

"de muchas tardes, para siempre juntas."

The last line of Jorge Guillén's poem "Los jardines" is "Sí, tu niñez, ya fibula de fuentes." Lorca took that line and used it as the beginning of another poem, which has nothing at all to do with Guillén. The line's meaning is completely altered by the new context.

I have the 1928 Cántico checked out of the library. It is the 1st edition and it is going to live with me in the office indefinitely, if I have to renew it 80 times. This should be in the rare book room, but my efforts have failed.


Organized, significant opposition to marriage equality is almost exclusively religious. There are no visible secular arguments or motivations against it.

At the same time, even religions that proscribe homosexuality rarely have that as a central plank of their religion. The opposition to same-sex marriage is purely reactive.

The narrowing of notions of religious freedom to the freedom to discriminate is thus extremely tenuous.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Relatively useless google scholar alert

Scholar Alert: [ Federico García Lorca ]

[PDF] Accurate gamma and MeV-electron track reconstruction with an ultra-low diffusion Xenon/TMA TPC at 10 atmospheres
…, F Aznar, D Calvet, J Castel, E Ferrer-Ribas, JA Garcia… - arXiv preprint arXiv: …, 2015
Page 1. arXiv:1504.03678v1 [physics.ins-det] 14 Apr 2015 Accurate γ and
MeV-electron track reconstruction with an ultra-low diffusion Xenon/TMA TPC at 10
atmospheres The NEXT collaboration Diego González-Dıaza,b,c,∗, V ...

[PDF] The importance of urinary calcium in postmenopausal women with osteoporotic fracture
MAOH Rull, M del Carmen Cano-Garcia, MA Martin… - Canadian Urological …, 2015
... Miguel Angel Ochoa-Hortal Rull, MD;* MD, María del Carmen Cano-García, MD;† Miguel
Arrabal-Martín, PhD ... Trauma Department, Hospital Rafael Mendez, Lorca, Murcia, Spain ...
dx.doi.org/10.1007/ s00223-014-9895-y 6. Arrabal Polo MA, Del Carmen Cano Garcia M, Canales ...

[HTML] The Self in Art Or What You Can Learn From an Academic Paper
FYW Around, AG Tour, SRW Back, J Us
... VirtualDali. . Dali, Salvador. Invisible
Afghan with the Apparition on the Beach of the Face of Garcia Lorca in the Form of a Fruit Dish
with Three Figs. 1938. VirtualDali. . ...

Apathy and Impulsive Control Disorders: Yin & Yang of Dopamine Dependent Behaviors
M Sierra, S Carnicella, AP Strafella, A Bichon… - Journal of Parkinson's Disease
Page 1. Uncorrected Author Proof Journal of Parkinson's Disease xx (20xx) x–xx
DOI 10.3233/JPD-150535 IOS Press 1 Review 1 Apathy and Impulsive Control
Disorders: Yin & Yang of Dopamine Dependent Behaviors 2 3 4 ...

This Google Scholar Alert is brought to you by Google.

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23. Las ascuas

Las ascuas de un crepúsculo morado...

I remember precisely when I read this poem by Machado, trying to puzzle it out in my deficient Spanish. My dad who knew no Spanish, overhearing me discuss it with a classmate of mine, suggested that the capitalized "Amor" was a statue of cupid. I was 17.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Early Spanish

There was a Spanish professor at UCD. My mom used to call him the "Latin Lover" because she saw him at the pool frequently, surrounded by young women. He was an Argentine. I studied with him later on. My first lit class we read Historia de una escalera, by Buero Vallejo, Requiem por un campesino español, by Ramón Sender, and poems by Antonio Machado. I still remember those poems.

On my study abroad program, I went to San Sebastián and bought a book by Miguel Hernández in a bookstore. It was love poems. I still have that book.

22. Tal vez la mano en sueños

Tal vez la mano, en sueños,
del sembrador de estrellas,
hizo sonar la música olvidada

como una nota de la lira inmensa,
y la ola humilde a nuestros labios vino
de unas pocas palabras verdaderas.

I'm sorry. There are poems so great, that I remember the emotion I read them with in 1977 and still feel that way today. The best poetry of Machado, Lorca, and Hernández almost makes me feel physical pain.

Compare to Bécquer: "Yo sé un himno gigante y extraño."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

21. Los suspiros son aire...

Los suspiros son aire y van al aire;
las lágrimas son agua y van al mar;
dime, mujer, cuando el amor se olvida
¿sabes tú adónde va?

Here's a perfect little poem by Bécquer. My rule for this series is only to include poems I have memorized. I'm quoting here from memory so I made up my own punctuation.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Early Poetry

The first person singular in Lorca's four first major works (P del Cante condo, Canciones, Suites, Romancero gitano) is

minimal in quantity: In many of these works are just not that many 1st person poems.

formulaic or quasi-anonymous. "Oye, hijo mío, el silencio..." The 1st person is there, but the poem is not about that person, or the person has few distinctive qualities.

dramatic / dialogic: the first person is often part of a dialogue

non-autobiogrqphical. There are few details that trace back to a narratively defined, autobiographical subject.

non-psychological. There isn't much psychology, or psychological complexity.

non-salient. For all these reasons, the 1st person singular is not particular salient in this body of work taken as a whole. The poems with a 1st person singular are not particularly more significant or important within this body of work.

Why is this important? An autobiographical approach to the poetry does not depend entirely on the subject position within the poems themselves, but there is certainly nothing that requires us to take this approach. The fact that Lorca wanted to write in a less subjective mode is significant in and of itself.

Friday, April 10, 2015

All Grammar is Descriptive

There aren't too kinds of grammars, prescriptive and descriptive. All grammar is descriptive. What we are interested in is what the rule of the language actually are, not what we would like the rules to be according to other extraneous criteria. Grammar is evidence based. The rules can be deduced from the practice of those using the language.

We can use the work of canonical, classical writers, because presumably they are not merely competent native speakers, but also beyond reproach. The Horatian concept of norma loquendi is also useful.

Let's say there is a dog. We have some mofidiers to describe the dog.




Everyone knows that you don't say "brown hunting big dog" or "hunting dog brown big." We don't need to prescribe the order of the adjectives, sit down a child and teach her to rules here, because nobody makes these mistakes.

So what is this so-called "prescriptive" grammar you've been hearing about? Mostly a combination of invented rules and proscriptions against dialectal forms outside of the norma loquendi of educated speakers. There is no prescriptive grammar of the language, since prescriptivists don't care about the actual grammatical rules of the language. They only care about a few rules that can be used to differentiate between the educated and those with less education, or between those who've read certain style manuals and those who have not. Prescriptive grammarians are simply incompetent sociolinguists, who don't even know that that's what they are.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Job Market

In today's abysmal job market, 4 out of our 6 PhD students have tenure track jobs. These are the four who have finished their dissertations, not coincidentally.