Episodes 2

“The depth and complexity of human memory is staggeringly rich.”

Douglas Hofstadter, I Am A Strange Loop (2007), “Of Selves and Symbols,” p. 86

Picked back up again from Sunday, April 26, 2020.

Photo: A visit to @Bag, the plastic Kroger tree-snagged flotilla installation in Ypsilanti, Mich.

The time when I woke up refreshed and hopeful on the last June Sunday morning during Year One of pandemic. The time when…and then I read a FB post from an uncle lauding Trump, a badly re-shared (copied/pasted?) Twitter spitshot–aren’t they all?–about heritage and about second amendment and about slighting iffy Joe. The time when seeing that just so happened to coincide with Trump’s being in the news for retweeting a video of clashing seniors in Florida, golf cart-riding white folks shouting “white power” (fascists, maybe? certainly not anti-fascists), the President characterizing them as “good people,” and that this is not a deal-breaker for family members, ooh, balling a hard fist it’s telling. The time when the work of interacting at that site of worldviews splitting wide fork, taking notice of uncles-led sides-drawing, focusing again on what really counts among relational accountabilities.

The time when minutes after taking a Zyrtec generic pollenguarding allergy pill I could not remember whether I had taken one today or was that yesterday. Did I? The time when, upon visiting Michigan to return Is. to her mom’s, they were setting up for a garage sale and there was an enormous second edition Webster’s dictionary and all I had to do was look at it with bibliophilic eyes and ask where did that come from before everyone said “thought you’d want it.” The time when getting a new-old dictionary felt like antiquing except that this dictionary might really get some use. The time when upon reaching the condo, what converges are slightly different dispositions on housekeeping, mine being a preference for tidiness and simplicity, but knowing too that’s then my work, to make it so. Swept and wiped counters and, coarse-side sponge to poly shell, shined the tub and enclosure. The time when I didn’t really think twice about it but sent Ph. a text to let him know I was going to eat the snacks in the cupboard only for him to respond that he meant to but hadn’t gotten groceries, thinking I was being sarcastic maybe, and then I followed again to SMS no really, I owe you, because I’m truly eating these opened bags of chips and also that kind of melted to a giant, rock solid caramel cluster container of cashew and candies, a refrigerated glob that took some handiwork and possibly tools to get out of the jar and into a bowl. The time when it also clicked that yeah, I do tend to have issues with finishing food, always finishing, never wasting, that we’re all still five years-old sometimes and hearing synaptically echoed and haunting the charged scolds of parents, living that compounded static out for a good part of our lives. At least a few years, sometimes more.

The time when the president of the condo association that was megalomaniacal–also pricey!–in its legalistic onslaught emailed again with a personal swat about tone and courtesy, about how and why to be gentler with making requests about plants that were by our [unnamed] landscaping company weed-whipped beyond recognition, about how we really should be more generous with loyal hard-working companies we hire and pay to do good work, even when they do shitty work, oh, and you cannot have the name of the landscaping company so as to post a review, but they will plant a replacement hosta, only weeks later to find out that instead of planting it they just ding-dong-dashed that hosta, leaving it on the porch, never finding its way to the soil and now it’s gone, vanished-gone, never-seen gone. The time when by responding, no worries, we’re all good here, I was read back a finger-wag about how by saying I never saw the plant I was implicitly calling the landscaper (still unnamed) a liar and about how ghastly and gruesome was my position. The time when shew are people going through some stuff and handing off their snarls and with vitriol slashing through deep suspicions about others. The time when the only things left to work with are clearing, forgiveness, and compassion, let’s make a path for you to go forward along another day and that tempest in you, keep its fire, fine, but channel it where rage will not shred what endangered goodness still orbits. The time when the hosta taken down in late May was scarred but okay, finding sunshine and still trying its best in late June. The time when its growing back grew back.

Photo. Sideyard, Ypsilanti condo, brownstone with cedar fencing stained to match, mosses and plants, algae-glazed left-behinds for returning to whenever.

The time when sitting side-yard at the two-storey Michigan brownstone in Lakeview Estates, wobbly chair because the pavers were some years ago pulled up and reset by an amateur (who possibly had not filled out the proper modification forms, though to the amateur’s defense, what exactly was modified in the crooked reset?), their mossy grout restored now, their wabi sabi angles somehow a more honest accounting for time and resourcefulness than would’ve been any more groomed or polished magazine cover sideyardscape don’t trip. The time when the surrounds was still only missing a laughing Buddha statue because that one’s in Virginia and also because the local nursery didn’t order poured form figures this season due to the pandemic. The time when first it was requisite masks for the good of public health and then added to that were the concrete inconveniences of no poured form yard decor and between government and Coronavirus so many precious white-fingers-clutched liberties tottered, they cried. Jesus wept; Buddha laughed. The time when the plants were more than enough in the sideyard, a fenced, angular parcel becoming, three lavender plants thriving over there, three sage varieties thriving over in the V corner, plus a giant anise, another small lavender, a cluster of long grass, a recently transplanted greenstem forsythia, what PictureThis app quickly computes for me as a species of Easter tree, also known as Chinese gold bell, Greenish-flowered forsythia, dwarf cutleaf forsythia, golden bells, and whose botanical name is forsythia viridissima, can you imagine having that name?–a plant from neighbor K, and then there are ferns, double-escaped onions (one getaway from the market, another from the refrigerator), stonecrops (graveyard moss), a giant hosta whose leaves gulp for water and sunshine, and two spearmints–also a chipmunk, skiddish but not too skiddish to dig soil near the lavender plants–also a table and small storage bin covered with algal film and a little bit of bird shit, a lounge chair, a very modest and weathered patio set, a wagon tucked in here by Ph., I’m guessing, but room enough for coffee and a laptop in the shade where there’s birdsong and a power tool intermittently screaming change to straight lines and sawdust from across the street.

Insinewating Ties

Election coverage this week has shifted from the blaze town hall draw to the
cascading economic slide (i.e., a crash dragged out for a few days) to the
McCain campaign’s great efforts to weave strong ties between Obama and
Bill
Ayers
. Am I riled up about any of this? Not really. I had the
debate on in the background as I did other work, I have watched the modest
paltry TIAA-CREF nest egg I micro-accumulated over seven years at Park U. suffer
disfigurations akin to Humpty Dumpty, and I don’t for a second accept that Obama
is terrorist-like for the company he kept with Ayers.

So what, then?

I have been interested in the way the campaigns try to establish ties and
linkages. Palin and other McCain surrogates have tried mightily to forge a
strong tie between Obama and Ayers. If they succeed, if they get people to
believe that such a tie is strong, that, in effect, Ayers of old and Obama of
late think alike, then they will have sprung from thin air a damaging blow:
probable guilt by the company one keeps. Yet, nodes perform ethos. Obama
can simply say, "No tie," or "weak tie," and the burden of establishing a
linkage falls on the accusers.

There are other interesting questions here about temporality and, perhaps,
about how the ties suggested by associative technologies (e.g., Facebook) will
function as evidence of strong ties in the future. Serving on a board
together, dinner at one’s house: these are time-constrained connections.
They do not live on in quite the same way as some more recent developments.
Maybe we’ll see more of it in the weeks ahead, but so far this election cycle
has seemed to me to dwell on whose network is more presidential, more executive
in its constitution: McCain’s? (a network of houses, a claim to be a Senate
boundary-spanner, a hand in the Keating Five heist) or Obama’s? (a recklessly
outspoken
pastor in Wright, a radical former colleague in Ayers, generous
friends in F. May and F. Mack). Campaign: another name for the high stakes
practice of network building at breakneck pace–a rhetorical production of ties and associations
that will trip one candidate into second place and vault the other into the
White House.

***

Somewhat related (via). Warning: Cover their ears or the innocents will pick up a cuss at the end:

Relation and Association

Aha! I catch myself being loose with these terms (and two or three
others). What is the difference between relation and association? Are they
equivalent? Synonymous?

These are connective devices, right? They indicate a tie that can be
expressed, though perhaps this is not always so for association. They do
not seem to me equal in this job they do of indicating ties. Relation, as in
relation-ship, is describable, identifiable, and perhaps even compulsory (cannot
opt out; the evidentiary ground is too firm). Association, as I think of
it, tends to be breezier and more speculative. Association meanders;
relation takes the shortest available route. Association nods in assent;
relation points its index finger. Association is spherical, maybe even
elliptical, curvy; relation linear by comparison. Association is possible
and sometimes roundabout; relation is direct and existent, meaning it plots a
different ontology. Relation is verifiable; association is a degree
removed, hazy and faint (not equally observable; therefore, refutable,
enigmatic). The two terms begin to have a pact something like connotation and
denotation.

Could all of this be flipped around? Reversed? Well, maybe (try it and
you will see whether anything happens). Yet association has become much more
theoretically important for me in the past year. With Latour’s Reassembling
it is the activation (and verbing) of the social that manifests in networks, and
so association gives off sparks, emits a different energy than it once did
(first in algebra, with the associative property). Every encounter with "social"
is interrupted with this: associative how? The "social turn" is, when
matched with network studies, an "associative turn," which, in effect, is an
expansive turn outward. What are "social networks" if we take association for
granted or treat it as a given?

This does not quite make the point I thought it might make when I first typed
"Relation and Association." The point: these two have diverged (I hedge,
hesitate; I am also asking). I should add that I have been thinking lately about
vocabulary, about "speaking the same language" in the sense that Raymond
Williams mentions it early in his introduction to Keywords:

"When we come to say ‘we just don’t speak the same language’ we mean
something more general: that we have different immediate values or different
kinds of valuation, or that we are aware, often intangibly, of different
formations and distributions of energy and interest" (11).

Transparency for Library Recalls

Another one of the books I have out from the library was recalled the other
day. It’s due to be returned tomorrow. I’ve been holding onto it until the
last possible moment because I wanted to eek out what
notes I could
about the one chapter that interested me (whether any of it finds a place in the
diss is undecided…one of many undecideds). The library has
recalled maybe six or eight books from me in the three years I’ve been at
Syracuse. Often the book has been on my shelf for longer than its initial
check-out period. Our libraries at SU make it very easy to renew online:
bad for patrons who are put off by the "checked out" designation; good for my
temporary collections.

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