52 stories

Schlock Mercenary: August 29, 2018

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49 days ago
Just delightful dialogue
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To E.D. in July

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“To E.D. in July”
by Abbie Huston Evans
(copied from Evans’ Collected Poems p. 93)

Emily, lie you below
And I above, this morning,
While this same earth you used to know
Stabs deep and gives no warning?
It passes me how it can be
That I instead am seeing
Light loved by you implicitly
While you resign your being.

Tell me truth, did you find heaven
And your old neighbor, God?
Or is it nothingness, not even
A sleep, beneath the sod?
Did your relentless wish create
What is from what could be;
Or found you one grim predicate
Wherewith nouns must agree?

Listen: the tide is out again;
The rock-weed lies out hissing.
I could weep in the world of men
To think what you are missing.
To your low ear I bring in news
Gathered this same day, giving
A pocketful from which to choose
Fresh from the land of the living.

The sun finds garnets on this ledge
The tide’s bare hand is slapping;
And where the grass fails at the edge
A poplar bush stands clapping.
Woodpecker drums his hollow log,
Pond-lillies open slow,
Shell-pink upon the cranberry bog
Has just begun to show.

This morning early, Emily,
I saw a crane go wading
About the glassed cove to the knee,
The ripples round him braiding;
The cove out of the mist pulled free
As radiant as a bridge,
But smokiness blew in from sea
With the turning of the tide.

Know kittens still lap creamy milk,
Know mice still gnaw the rind,
And like great lengths of waving silk
Hay-fields blow out behind;
Barn-swallows scissor down and up
With tea-stained vests (you know!),
And hawkweed crowds on buttercup,
And elderberries blow.

—Here, take them, Emily, they hurt
In telling; can you bear
To hear of elderberries, skirt
The coasts of sun and air?
Know all that hurt you once hurts still.
Need any tell you now
Night brings the moon, dawn finds the hill?
Want you such hurting now?

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79 days ago
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Hot dog


Sarah Connors reports:

To the ladies in an SUV who just stopped on Summer St. in Somerville to help out a person carrying this large dog in 90 degree heat because she decided to just give up walking halfway home? You're my and Maggie's hero, thank you x1000 for the ride.

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109 days ago
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The dream of the Tsar's clock

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Last night I had a dream in which I was telling the following hilarious joke:

Once upon a time in Russia, the Tsar owned a magnificent handmade clock. It covered almost an entire wall, and was marvelously ornamented, with two accompanying decorations, resembling religious icons, to be hung on the wall flanking it.

There was a merchant who coveted the clock, and one day, unable to resist any longer, he hired some thieves to break into the Tsar's palace and steal the clock, which he then hung in his own home.

The very next day, who should happen by but the Tsar himself, with his retinue and bodyguards. Of course it would have been unforgivably rude to turn away that Tsar, so the merchant reluctantly invited him in.

The Tsar gazed at the clock on the wall. “That is a magnificent clock,” he said at last. Not knowing what else to say, the merchant agreed.

“I have one just like it,” said the Tsar.

That was the punch line.

Dreams. (Shrug.)

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117 days ago
I thought it was a good joke.
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One space between each sentence, they said.  Science just proved them wrong.

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The typography in this article is [puts on sunglasses] on point.

In the beginning, the rules of the space bar were simple.  Two spaces after each period.  Every time.  Easy.

But then, at the end of the 20th century, the typewriter gave way to the word processor, and the computer, and modern variable-width fonts.  And the world divided.

Some insisted on keeping the two-space rule.  They couldn't get used to seeing just one space after a period.  It simply looked wrong.

Some said this was blasphemy. The designers of modern fonts had built the perfect amount of spacing, they said.

And when you really get right down to it, aren't we being pretty closed-minded to accept the false dichotomy of "one space" versus "two space", when here in this bright future we have such a glorious manifold panoply of spacing possibilities?

  • SPACE -- '󠀠 ' -- sometimes considered a control code
  • NO-BREAK SPACE -- '󠀠 ' -- commonly abbreviated as NBSP
  • OGHAM SPACE MARK -- ' ' -- glyph is blank in "stemless" style fonts
  • EN QUAD -- ' '
  • EM QUAD -- ' ' -- mutton quad
  • EN SPACE -- ' ' -- nut; half an em
  • EM SPACE -- ' ' -- mutton; nominally, a space equal to the type size in points;may scale by the condensation factor of a font
  • THREE-PER-EM SPACE -- ' ' -- thick space
  • FOUR-PER-EM SPACE -- ' ' -- mid space
  • SIX-PER-EM SPACE -- ' ' -- in computer typography sometimes equated to thin space
  • FIGURE SPACE -- ' ' -- space equal to tabular width of a font; this is equivalent to the digit width of fonts with fixed-width digits
  • PUNCTUATION SPACE -- ' ' -- space equal to narrow punctuation of a font
  • THIN SPACE -- ' ' -- a fifth of an em (or sometimes a sixth)
  • HAIR SPACE -- ' ' -- thinner than a thin space; in traditional typography, the thinnest space available
  • ZERO WIDTH SPACE -- '' -- commonly abbreviated ZWSP; this character is intended for invisible word separation and for line break control; it has no width, but its presence between two characters does not prevent increased letter spacing in justification
  • NARROW NO-BREAK SPACE -- ' ' -- commonly abbreviated NNBSP; a narrow form of a no-break space, typically the width of a thin space or a mid space
  • MEDIUM MATHEMATICAL SPACE -- ' ' -- abbreviated MMSP; four-eighteenths of an em
  • BLANK SYMBOL -- '␢' -- graphic for space
  • OPEN BOX -- '␣' -- graphic for space
  • IDEOGRAPHIC HALF FILL SPACE -- '〿' -- visual indicator of a screen space for half of an ideograph
  • ZERO WIDTH NO-BREAK SPACE -- '' -- BOM, ZWNBSP; may be used to detect byte order by contrast with the noncharacter code point U+FFFE; use as an indication of non-breaking is deprecated; see WORD JOINER instead
  • TAG SPACE -- '󠀠'

Oh My Genitals.

I always type two spaces, though HTML hides that. It's what they taught me when I was pressing my Cuneiform reeds into the clay, and the habit was reinforced by the justification idiosyncrasy that M-j fill-paragraph-or-region does not break lines at a single space following a period so that mid-sentence abbreviations are never wrapped from the following word. Which is another thing that HTML hides.

But then, for decades I used to type double-quotes ``like this'' in English text because ASCII doesn't contain ““” and “””. I eventually gave up on that, but by that time I had developed such an abiding hatred of "smart" quotes that now I just use straight-up-and-down ASCII double quotes for everything.

Also, punctuation goes inside the quotation marks only if the punctuation is part of the thing being quoted, because that's proper scoping, and I'll die on that hill.


Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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162 days ago
The study cited used Courier, meaning they didn’t in fact prove anything meaningful.
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160 days ago
It’s like they were trolling for attention by carefully avoiding testing the actual claim that proportional fonts make the double space unnecessary, not to mention using one of the lowest-quality fixed width fonts in widespread usage.
Washington, DC
164 days ago
164 days ago
" punctuation goes inside the quotation marks only if the punctuation is part of the thing being quoted, because that's proper scoping, and I'll die on that hill."

New York, NY

Knott Memories (Bill Knott, 1940-2014)

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My first class with Bill Knott consisted of him harranging the students about how difficult writing poetry in form is and how we would all want to drop out and how people just sign up for the class but can’t see it through. I had taken the class specifically because it would be acceptable to write in meter and alliteration and so there was pretty much nothing he could say that was going to make me change my mind. I was so intent on the course material—and proving him wrong—that I can’t tell you how many people dropped the class and didn’t show for the second meeting.

The ironic thing about Bill was that he was an excellent teacher—you just had to weather out the storm. (And sometimes I got very angry about that storm.) Whether you reached the eye or some other calm, I was never sure. But I will never forget the classes where he composed in rhyming iambic pentameter on the spot, writing stuff up on the blackboard and not erasing as he went. He spent hours going over student work in class talking about where stresses fall in English words and how those places are affected by the context and meaning of the sentence.

Another strong memory of Bill is how he acted at readings. Poems were infinitely valuable—you could tell by the way he read them—and he would interrupt himself when a new audience member came in late so that he could hand them printouts of his work. I’m sure in the greater context of the po-biz that might have meant something else but, not being in that whirlwind, all I saw was someone who cared so much about poetry he wanted everyone to have it.

Thomas Lux’s introduction to I Am Flying Into Myself: Selected Poems, 1960-2014 both upholds and expands my viewpoint on Knott. Lux writes (page xxvi) “In my opinion, Knott did not become an exceptional poet because he was an orphan, because of abuse, because of poverty, because of illness, because of any kind of suffering. Everybody suffers. Knott became an exceptional poet despite these things.” He continues (page xxvi) “Knott possessed a wide range of subject matter, a long working life, and a prodigious work ethic.” To show that, Lux tells us (page xxix) “Knott published twelve print books between 1968 and 2004—with small presses, university presses, and major houses.” The Unsubscriber was published by Farrar, Straus, and Giraux, and it still strikes me as amazing how Bill scribbled all over the title page of my copy with his dedication, as if the pen marks were trying to cover over the famous publishing house. Lux closes his introduction by mentioning how Bill met Randall Jarrell’s criteria requirement regarding lightning for being a poet many times over but I appreciate this statement as an attempt to summarize Bill more: (page xxx) “He is one, in a school of one, among the American poets.”

And then, of course, there is re-reading his poems now that he’s gone. Bill’s book The Unsubscriber is one of the few books I have been able to use successfully to interest non-poet non-poetry-reading readers in poetry.

I admire the wordplay, which really ought to be word play so that you see both the “word” and the “play”. Bill wrote in “Step on It”:

Passing the threshold one
does not reach
the threshyoung.

contains words
which contain words
that contain us
who contain no words

prior to birthsill—

I admire the pithy in all of Bill’s work. His poem “Flash” is, in its entirety:

lightningbolts which,
their shadows having caught up with them,

There are too many here, and too many in Lux’s selections—and unlike most contemporary poetry books, with Bill’s work it is A-OK to just open to a page and read the poem—that just lift my head-hairs and beg for a second reading. I’m going to close with another short one, because it seems to say a lot to me, both about people in general and Bill in specific.


I wish to be misunderstood;
that is,
to be understood from your perspective.

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209 days ago
An excellent remembrance of an excellent poet.
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