Caveat: Links #1

Contrary to appearances, I read quite a bit, even in these long-running slumps where almost nothing appears on this blog. Much of what I read is in the form of blogs online (often, these days, the blogs are on the Substack platform, which I abhor, but if that’s where the blogs are, then that’s where I’ll read them). For most of the last 20 years of this blog, I’ve even maintained a kind of “blotter” where I record the links to these blog posts and articles that I read. But I do nothing with them.

I have been poor on posting links I read and found interesting, because I’ve felt that I needed to comment on them in some way.

On the other hand, I really like blogs where the authors occasionally or regularly post links to things they’ve read, often with very little comment (there are many – Tyler Cowen’s daily “assorted links” on his MarginalRevolution blog is perhaps the archetype for this, where it’s been a recurring feature for 20 years or so).

So, with hopes of revitalizing this moribund blog thingy, I’ve decided to start posting two or three links to things I’ve read, every day. If I allow myself to do so “without comment” it shouldn’t be too stressful to come up with a few, drawing from my blotter. And it’ll give me something new to enumerate, like trees or poems.

Here are some links I found interesting – without comment.

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Caveat: its message of hope

On ‘;..p’[[[[[[[[[[[[[;’;////////////////////////3,’

Upon returning to my desk,
having left it temporarily in search of biscuits,
I discovered my cat had written a poem
on my laptop.

It was called ‘;..p’[[[[[[[[[[[[[;’;////////////////////////3,’
and constituted one of her more difficult pieces,
but it was the kind of poem
which rewarded repeat reading.

I was struck by its experimental structure:
the absence of line breaks,
indeed, not one single space between any
of the poem’s 10,000 or so characters.

One of the work’s central motifs –
‘jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk’ –
was, by turns, unsettling and comforting,
while the symbolism of ‘###################’,

hinted at our 21st century preoccupation with social media.
And who could not be moved by that devastating final line,
its message of hope piercing the heart like an arrow:

– Brian Bilston (pseudonymous British poet, b. 1970)

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Caveat: On Pseudopolyglottism as a Means of Escape

This blog feels increasingly moribund, of late. I keep up with the daily poems, but even those small texts, when read between-the-lines, only serve as vague guideposts to my generalized anhedonia.

Life is frustrating. Arthur, my cantankerous uncle who suffers from dementia and his plethora of deep-seated denials, is mostly doing okay, but he’s not exactly pleasant company. Increasingly, dealing with him has the feel of caretaking a severely disabled but nevertheless overly proud and willful child.

Meanwhile, my mother (Arthur’s sister) gyres into her own sometimes conspiracy-addled anguish, in her antipodean hermitage deep in the Australian bush, and phone conversations with her are increasingly unpleasant and leave me feeling helpless and bitter (really just a transference of those feelings she’s having, to me, I suppose).

The store (which I purchased last fall, after half a decade working there) is mostly a source of frustration and anxiety. I am deeply stuck in a prolonged period of buyer’s remorse. I plod forward, but I derive zero sense of accomplishment or satisfaction with the project.

And my beloved hobby – the digital geofiction hosted on and ancillary sites, has felt unfulfilling, too.

I have discovered a new, less demanding pastime. I have embraced my pseudopolyglottism. I have been playing Duolingo.

Duolingo is an app downloaded to my android phone, which is for “language learning.” Really, that description deserves the scare quotes – I started using it when I was in Korea, hoping its gameified interface might help restore my dormant Korean language skills. It’s not bad, for that. Using it is like playing a game – one does language exercises, based on translation, vocabulary, listening (parsing, not really comprehension), and some AI-juiced speaking exercises that sometimes feel like a futile scream into the void, but that other times seem to sorta kinda work.

My review is only 3 stars out of 5. Given the manifold minor but noticeable lapses from natural English, I assume the other languages on offer might suffer similar shortcomings. Yet that doesn’t stop me from playing. It’s amusing, and I genuinely feel I’ve learned new Korean words and grammatical constructions, if only for recognition purposes.

However, I’ve fallen to the polyglot’s temptation, as I spend more and more time with the app (5 minutes here and there add up, over a day). I realized there were quite a few tempting and challenging languages that I could dip my brain into.

Over the last 50 days of play (since I left Korea after my whirlwind visit in May, basically), I have started lessons in Ukrainian, Vietnamese, and Welsh. And today, I took another bizarre step, as I began a program in Swedish – but with the added twist that I’m taking it as Swedish-for-Spanish-Speakers, since it was being offered that way. That might keep my rusty Spanish alert too, I reasoned. Anyway, it makes Swedish harder – since I don’t get to see the many obvious cognates between Swedish and English. I get bröd vs pan, and äpple vs manzana, instead of the more transparent bröd vs bread, and äpple vs apple.

It’s all fun and games. And kills time quite well. And better than agonizing over the deadening emotional tangle that I feel my life has become lately.


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Caveat: The Secret Origin of Robin and everybody else

Batman's Aff His Nut

Batman's aff his nut
Have you seen the way he cuts aboot
Dressed up as a mad fuckin bat
Batterin guys
I was lit at:
"Mate, I'm worried aboot ye
I know yer ma and da died
But everybody's ma and da dies
And we're no aw runnin aboot
Hookin muggers and
Kickin psychopaths in the baws."
And that was when Batman went
"Aye, but do you ever FEEL like it?
Do you ever look at the world and FEEL like it?
Like having a big mad base under your hoose?
Do you ever feel like drivin a big mad motor that
    turns intae a tank?
And leather fuck oot of guys aw night?
Scarin' the fuckin SHITE oot of them?"
And that was when I was lit at:
"Aye. Fuck it. Ah dae."
And that's the Secret Origin of Robin
and everybody else.

– Robert Florence (Scottish comedian, b. 1977)

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Caveat: Poem #2894 “No”

Regrets pile up like drifts of snow
 and nothing's ever gonna change.
I burn through time by saying "No."

Regrets pile up like drifts of snow
 denying things to make them go...
As strategy it's rather strange.

Regrets pile up like drifts of snow
 and nothing's ever gonna change.

– a triolet.

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