Caveat: Sons and Daughters

I tried to write a poem back on April 22. I didn’t really finish it, but I decided to put it here as-is.

(Poem #8 on new numbering scheme)

Sons and Daughters

The ephemerality of the world is just a stone wall.
There are blossoms on the trees along Gangseon-no.
The suburban pavement exhales.
The air reeks of density,
of garbage 
of sand 
of springtime 
of buses.
There are little square patterns of bricks paving the sidewalk.
I see a discarded umbrella, broken,
its ribs jutting among some weeds.

My students exist in a dream.
I have a couple hundred children,
my alternately charming or obstinate sons and daughters
who then each disappear after a year or two.
My sons and daughters almost never say good-bye.
One day they are in class with me.
One day they are not.
No beginning.
No ceremony.
A month.
A year.

An infinite specificity lies behind this mystery.

picture

Caveat: What was left was like a field

What is Poetry

The medieval town, with frieze
Of boy scouts from Nagoya? The snow

That came when we wanted it to snow?
Beautiful images? Trying to avoid

Ideas, as in this poem? But we
Go back to them as to a wife, leaving

The mistress we desire? Now they
Will have to believe it

As we believed it. In school
All the thought got combed out:

What was left was like a field.
Shut your eyes, and you can feel it for miles around.

Now open them on a thin vertical path.
It might give us–what?–some flowers soon?

– John Ashbery, 1998

Caveat: Antisocial In The Age of Social Apps

There are some – ahem, philosophical? political? – reasons why I
don't do the facebook much, these days. There's a great write-up on The
Atlantic, by Alexis Madrigal, who is a pretty lucid commentator on
technology and internet-related issues. His article
is worth reading in its entirety, but consider this quote he gives from
someone named Mike Monteiro (context… facebook has been comparing itself
in its advertising to a utility object – like a chair):

A well-designed chair not only feels good to sit in, it
also entices your ass towards it. So this is nothing new to Facebook.
Where it gets interesting to me is when you start asking to what end you
are designing. The big why. In the chair example, the relationship is
clear. If I can design a chair that entices your ass, then you will buy
it. I've traded money for ass happiness (and back happiness, but that's
less sexy). But it's clear who the vendor and who the customer is in
that case.

Where I have issues with Facebook is that they're
dishonest about who the customer is. They've built an enticing chair,
and they let me sit in it for free, but they're selling my farts to the
highest bidder.


This is important. The facebook has, indeed, been a phenomenal
utility for me personally. It has allowed me to get in touch with people
I haven't seen in 20 and 30 years, and stay in touch with people I
wouldn't otherwise stay in touch with. But the sort of market-driven dishonesty
alluded to in the quote above has always been something I've been aware of, above and beyond knowing the extent to which the facebook tracks everything we do online – even on sites unrelated to facebook. If you're logged on to facebook, they know what you're doing. Period. And my discomfort with it is higher when I go into these antisocial
phases.

You see, I've been in a deeply antisocial phase, lately. Enough so, that I need to put out an apology to my friends, aquaintances and relatives who take the time to reach out to me. I've got issues – I always have. People who know me, know this. I go into a sort of jibbering withdrawal, sometimes.

My job is my sanity. My job is profoundly social. I spend 5 or 7 hours every day (minus Sundays) interacting continuously with children and adolescents. Mostly, that goes pretty well – on the whole, it goes much better than my interactions with fellow adults. I really don't get along well with adults, sometimes. This is dysfunctional, probably. But it keeps me sane.

One consequence of this, however, is that when I get into one of my antisocial phases (like recently), I am utterly burned out on interacting with people beyond that daily 5 to 7 hour window. That's why I only log on to facebook once a week, and why I turn off my cell phone when I get home.

Please, friends, don't take this personally. I just… need my space, sometimes.

I drew this doodle earlier today.


Sunday 004