Wednesday, October 30, 2013

South Asia Calling

These days, when I cross roads, I scurry across them in case cars won't stop.
I see Volvos and Hyundais everywhere.
I look for drivers on the right instead of the left.
I see parking signs that look like timid imitations of those back home.

There's a crowd outside a building? Of course I want to join it to see what's happening.
Then from a few weeks ago, I remember a door we passed by on the way to Snug Harbour in NOLA.

Asia is calling. It's time to go home.

Monday, October 28, 2013

'just a kid fascinated by ideas'

On Douglas Hofstadter and how he's been marginalised by the 'AI' community, this piece by James Somers.

And what a kid he must have been.

Douglas R. Hofstadter was born into a life of the mind the way other kids are born into a life of crime. He grew up in 1950s Stanford, in a house on campus, just south of a neighborhood actually called Professorville. His father, Robert, was a nuclear physicist who would go on to share the 1961 Nobel Prize in Physics; his mother, Nancy, who had a passion for politics, became an advocate for developmentally disabled children and served on the ethics committee of the Agnews Developmental Center, where Molly lived for more than 20 years. In her free time Nancy was, the joke went, a “professional faculty wife”: she transformed the Hofstadters’ living room into a place where a tight-knit community of friends could gather for stimulating conversation and jazz, for “the interpenetration of the sciences and the arts,” Hofstadter told me—an intellectual feast.
Dougie ate it up. He was enamored of his parents’ friends, their strange talk about “the tiniest or gigantic-est things.” (At age 8, he once said, his dream was to become “a zero-mass, spin one-half neutrino.”) He’d hang around the physics department for 4 o’clock tea, “as if I were a little 12-year-old graduate student.” He was curious, insatiable, unboreable—“just a kid fascinated by ideas”—and intense. His intellectual style was, and is, to go on what he calls “binges”: he might practice piano for seven hours a day; he might decide to memorize 1,200 lines of Eugene Onegin. He once spent weeks with a tape recorder teaching himself to speak backwards, so that when he played his garbles in reverse they came out as regular English. For months at a time he’ll immerse himself in idiomatic French or write computer programs to generate nonsensical stories or study more than a dozen proofs of the Pythagorean theorem until he can “see the reason it’s true.” He spends “virtually every day exploring these things,” he says, “unable to not explore. Just totally possessed, totally obsessed, by this kind of stuff.”

The IWP is winding down. We have just about a week left here and then a week of travel before we leave for our respective countries. Amidst packing anxieties (of course) there's the urgency of spending time with people we might not see again for years (or ever) and finishing up everything we promised ourselves we'd accomplish in our time here.

There was snow. On one day. Watching from the fourth floor window, flakes flew. We ran down to watch but by the time they hit the ground, they were falling instead of flying. 

Oh Howard, this is how poetry turns into prose.

There might never be a full recap of the experience, at least not on this blog. All that energy must convert into writing.   

Thursday, October 10, 2013

An Unboastful Reader

In Oberlin, I was given (ok fine; I bought some) many books and I briefly considered wearing everything I took with me so that I could make space for the books I was definitely carrying back.

Reader, I didn't need to. They fit anyway.

When I returned and arranged the books proudly on what is really the top of the TV cabinet but passes for a bookshelf in my room, I briefly considered listing all the books by title, author and even thought I'd link to Amazon or something.

Reader, I didn't want to.

Instead, I took photographs. You know what they say about their worth.

It hardly needs to be said that I'm crowing. How I am going to take this stuff back is a question I'd rather you didn't ask me.

Instead, take a photograph that stands in for a question. That's how many millions it will be worth.

The column on the right, in the first picture, is all library books. Which is why there's no close up of those books.

But look at the others! Just look!


Of course, there must be a cat picture to convey just how self-satisfied I feel. Therefore:

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Later, Gator

I turned my back on being a vegetarian for the four days I was in New Orleans. Basically, this  meant I had shrimp once and oyster twice. The thought of alligator meat, however chicken-like it's rumoured to be, still turns my stomach. I guess I am not a true meat-eater. Huh.


The turn-off into the Barataria Swamp Tour has a sign that says 'PARK & PRESERVE'. I assumed these words were verbs and was rather puzzled by them until I realised that they were being used as nouns. Then it made sense. Or not.


This is a photo post. The words will come later.

I. Another Pichavaram

Pichavaram in another country

Spanish Moss

Eerie Ent

II. Louisiana Story: Oil



III. And Gators (In Captivity & Otherwise)


and then there were four
Marshmallow Gator King

IV. Baby Gator 


I'm travelling again Monday, so more silence is expected from this blog. But soon there will be time, there will be time.

Or so I keep telling myself.

Thursday, October 03, 2013


I'm still wondering whether to do this big blow out breakfast everyone else is doing this morning or not. In a while, we do the bayou tour and we'll be out all day. When we return, I have an hour before a final reading in NO. Not much time to think of food, then.

There's another article to write by Friday, a lecture to prep for and so on. I'm not even sure I am going to even join the big party this evening and still be able to function on Friday.

Things happen anyway. There's this article I wrote before I left for Iowa and it's finally online. It's me watching films, basically and Himal gave me a lot of rope.

I'll see you guys on the other side of New Orleans. Be good because I'm not sure I can be.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

I drew the fool

In New Orleans. Walking back from the Spotted Cat earlier than we'd thought we would, we passed by Jackson Square. Three of us had been trying to figure out when we'd all be free to have a tarot reading. We thought Wednesday.

But walking past the square, there was a lady all set up and free. On the spur of the moment, we decided we'd just have this done right away. One of us (not me) is a champion bargainer and brought the lady down to some ridiculously tiny amount (later a friend said, if you beat a reader down, obviously you're going to get a reading you're not happy with. Well.)

I went second. I don't know what I was expecting. Entertainment, most probably. But it was a frighteningly accurate reading of some aspects of my life that I find hard to explain by the person being a good reader of faces.

Anyway. In the long, complicated spread that it was, I drew The Fool at one point. I am always happy to see him. I forget what he signified in the exact place he was in the spread, but I don't much care.

Solutions to problems are a matter of exercising common sense. It is the problems themselves that need to be set out clearly in order for the solution to begin to seem obvious. I don't know how I feel about the reading.


The post about New Orleans must wait for another day.