Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Plath: Beauty for Beauty's Sake

An Appearance

The smile of iceboxes annihilates me.
Such blue currents in the veins of my loved one!
I hear her great heart purr.

From her lips ampersands and percent signs
Exit like kisses.
It is Monday in her mind: morals

Launder and present themselves.
What am I to make of these contradictions?
I wear white cuffs, I bow.

Is this love then, this red material
Issuing from the steele needle that flies so blindingly?
It will make little dresses and coats,

It will cover a dynasty.
How her body opens and shuts --
A Swiss watch, jeweled in the hinges!

O heart, such disorganization!
The stars are flashing like terrible numerals.
ABC, her eyelids say.

Sylvia Plath

This is dated 4 April 1962. Plath wrote another half-dozen poems in the following couple weeks.

Her daughter Frieda had just turned two and she got one of those springy rocking horses for her birthday. Ted and Sylvia were doing a lot of redecorating in and outside their home. Their friend and neighbor Percy was to fall ill soon, his death and funeral inspiring the excellent long poem Berck-Plage.

The daughter of a local businessman stopped by frequently to borrow recordings and chat about poetry; Sylvia once espied Ted and her outside on the walkway... maybe it was nothing. Plath was predisposed to jealousy, but then again, Ted was a womanizer.

I suspect that this poem is one of Plath's "child" poems. Though I have not yet and probably never will settle upon an interpretation of it, I am struck by its lyricism and free tercets; hallmarks of her incredible Ariel voice.

With Ted and his parents, 1956.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Corner Chair

Monday, July 21, 2008

Pictures of Matchstick Men

Thirteen-hour workday. Not bad.

Accompanied an esophagectomy patient to a modified barium swallow test in radiology because she had an epidural and required nursing coverage. It went well. It was cool to see the radio-opaque fluid go down into the stomach and gastric outlet. They pulled her naso-gastro tube afterwards, which made her rather happy.

Made a lot of phone calls and solved the usual time-consuming and knotty little problems that make the job a real pain in the ass sometimes. STAT labwork on a patient that ws off the unit for an ECHO. They needed coags drawn so the interventional radiologist had numbers to see before messing about with a PortaCath.

They went for that without the coags anyways, so all my conniving and begging went for naught.

Started a couple new intravenous lines for patients that had problems with theirs. That saved some of the other nurses a little time. I'm not great at it, but I seem to be the nurse that people ask when they miss. And if I can't get a line in them, then generally speaking they'll be getting a PICC line pretty soon anyway.

Another patient went to get an ablation and pacemaker/automatic-implantable-cardiac-defibrillator inserted, but they got nervous and claustrophobic so the cath lab team sent them back without doing the procedure. The patient was still in atrial fibrillation with a ventricular rate fluctuating in the 120 to 140 beats-per-minute range. But they were just sick of it all and they had work piling up at home so they wanted to leave.

We all would rather have seen them stay for a resumed Cardizem drip, monitoring, and another go at the ablation/AICD, but they wouldn't have it. Nothing doing. She dressed herself in street clothes and called her son to come get her. At least the on-call cardiologist gave us an oral Cardizem prescription for her before she left Against Medical Advice.

When she got on the elevator to leave, she chirpily said "Maybe I'll see you tomorrow after I go to my doctor."

That would be a best-case scenario. She'll be lucky if she doesn't stroke out.

The swirly black-and-white sixties psychedelia of The Status Quo.

My god how my mother hated that song. I played the 45 until it was worn through.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday Poetry: Cross Pollination

"Houses at L'Estaque," 1908, Georges Braque.

)when what hugs stopping earth than silent is

)when what hugs stopping earth than silent is
more silent than more than much more is or
total sun oceaning than any this
tear jumping from each most least eye of star

and without was if minus and shall be
immeasurable happenless unnow
shuts more than open could that every tree
or than all life more death begins to grow

end's ending then these dolls of joy and grief
these recent memories of future dream
these perhaps who have lost their shadows if
which did not do the losing spectres mime

until out of merely not nothing comes
only one snowflake(and we speak our names

e e cummings

The lapel-grabbing rhythms, the tight rhyme scheme, and the classic theme are all there, but this sonnet is something else altogether when compared to other more traditional examples of the form, say by Millay or Shakespeare.

cummings was also a painter and his time in France brought him into close contact with the various goings-on of artists there. The influence of Cubism is obvious. Whereas Braque and Picasso fractured imagery, cummings applies a similar technique to syntax.

It's also interesting to compare the breakdown of objective imagery in Kandinsky's paintings with the dissolution of tonality in the music of the Second Viennese School.

But if you're going to steal an idea and elaborate on it, try to make sure it's a good one.

It's also good if you know what you're doing, and bad if you don't.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I Thought of This First, I Think

What if you took one of these:

And combined it with one of these:

Maybe it could be marketed as the I-Prod.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Race Is On

Soon coming to a car lot near you, the Chevy Volt.

The Volt can be fully charged by plugging it into a 110-volt outlet for approximately six hours a day. When the lithium-ion battery is fully charged, the Volt can deliver 40 city miles of pure electric vehicle range. When the battery is depleted, a 1L, three-cylinder turbocharged engine spins at a constant speed, or revolutions per minute (rpm), to create electricity and replenish the battery.

In related news, Toyota is halting production of its trucks and sport utility vehicles. Wow.

In the same breath, in a move to satisfy the growing demand for hybrids, Toyota said it will start building the gas-electric Prius in the United States, at a Mississippi plant that will open in 2010.

Here's why:

Industrywide, large pickups dropped 24 percent, to 819,000, through June and are on track to fall under 1.5 million for the year, more than 1 million less than the 2005 peak. Overall industry sales are down 10 percent, and Toyota's combined car and truck sales are off 7 percent.

Toyota will close U.S. plants and move production around a bit, but they say they will not be laying off any workers. Instead they will retrain them. Wow again.

Prius or Volt?

And what's this anyways? Innovation from an American automobile company? How did that happen? Did a bunch of greedy old fat white male car company executives just all die or something?

Sunday Sonnet: cummings paints too

hate blows a bubble of despair

hate blows a bubble of despair into
hugeness world system universe and bang
-fear buries a tomorrow under woe
and up comes yesterday most green and young

pleasure and pain are merely surfaces
(one itself showing,itself hiding one)
life's only and true value neither is
love makes the little thickness of the coin

comes here a man would have from madame death
nevertheless now and without winter spring?
she'll spin that spirit her own fingers with
and give him nothing (if he should not sing)

how much more than enough for both of us
darling. And if i sing you are my voice,

e e cummings

After getting out of Harvard, cummings volunteered with a French ambulance service during World War One. A good friend of his attracted the attention of authorities who suspected he was spying and cummings stood by him, ending up in military detention himself. His father, a Harvard teacher, prevailed in efforts to get him freed.

After returning to the United States, cummings was drafted. That was in the middle of 1918 and that war didn't last much longer.

Whenever you read a poem that is ostensibly about love, I think it's important to recall that things aren't always only as they seem.

The poem deliberately ends with the comma, as do many other things. Things which are not declarative sentences.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sunday Poetry: Dies Irae

Side-by-side Latin and English here.

It's not really a "poem," but a kind of "song" called plain chant. The music used in daily Catholic worship and rites was standardized for the entire liturgical year and a system was formalized for writing it all down. Pope Gregory the Great is generally credited for doing this about thirteen hundred years ago, but it's really a lot more complicated than that. The melodies and songs themselves are probably much older.

Dies Irae painted by Federico Correa.

July 4th About Ninety Years Ago

They were mother and daughter. The mother's main problem was advanced age and the ailments and infirmities that can happen along with that. The daughter, nearly thirty years younger, was a victim of multiple strokes. She was aphasic and paralysed on the one side. Together they lived in the nursing home wing at the community hospital.

The mother, Leeza, was sharp-witted but sometimes a little bit repetitive, so as I worked with her over the weeks and months I heard some of her stories more than once. She was born in England and came to this country when she was a little girl.

Speaking with a noble English accent, she would describe her entrance into New York Harbor. Her family made the voyage during the summer of one of the post-World-War-One years. (Or world war "eye" as Lawrence Welk once said introducing a performance of the song "A Long Way to Tipperary.") This was very exciting for Leeza, both because of the trip itself and the fact that she celebrated her ninth birthday as they made their arrival on U.S. shores.

It was night when the big boat cruised into the harbor, exactly on Leeza's birthday. It also just happened to be the 4th of July, and New Yorkers were celebrating in their usual exuberant manner. Fireworks were so frequent and so bright it was like daylight. During the infrequent lulls in colorful overhead explosions Leeza could hear strains of music overlapping from bands and orchestras playing parties around the harbor's edge.

Nine decades later Leeza told me that for a moment she allowed herslf to believe that the fireworks were just for her, a gift from America on her birthday and arrival to her new country.

Her father had died in the Great War, killed not by man's weapons but by influenza. Her mother and her aunt thought a move to the new world would help them establish a new world for themselves. Leeza grew up to become a teacher. She married a retailer and they had a few children, Ella being one of them.

While they were both in the nursing home together, Ella suffered another stroke. She was moved to the intensive care unit of the hospital where she lingered in a brain-dead condition. I remember going to see her there with one of nurse aides who worked with Ella a lot. Ella was "not there."

The ventilator chuffed and wheezed. Ella's face was pink and the ICU nurses had put her make-up on for her, knowing. Knowing that by neurological criteria, Ella was already dead, though her family really didn't understand this. It was obvious and also confirmed by electroencephalogram.

They family was the sort that believed in miracles. If only one had occured long before when Ella was recovering from one of her earlier strokes, like the one that robbed her of the ability to speak for herself. Ella's daughter refused the doctor's request that they consider removing life support. She didn't even want to think about it.

Then one day Leeza requested to go to Ella. We escorted her over in her wheelchair. She saw what we saw.

Ella died quietly a few hours later. Leeza had insisted that the ventilator and intravenous medications be withdrawn, over protests from other family members.

Friday, July 04, 2008


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Here, Let Me Get That For You


Alaskan crude oil sucks. It's dirty and difficult to process into usable fuel. That's why we hardly bother to do so. We ship it to the Japanese, who have a couple of refineries that almost work for that sort of thing.

Sheriff Joe.

"Vermin, filth, medical care suggestive of POW camps, chronic mismanagement, the wanton destruction of records, and a steady parade of corpses in Maricopa County jails have cost taxpayers an astonishing — and until now, undisclosed — 41.4 million dollars.

Joe Arpaio has perpetuated his reign as "America's toughest sheriff" with an open checkbook."

A man of the cloth who did outreach work in a certain county facility once told me that "Arpaio is an asshole and in real life he's not like what you see on TV." Strong words coming from someone who wore the collar, but he was in a position to know.

New York has Michael Corleone, Chicago has Al Capone, and we have Sheriff Joe. Such a nice bunch of characters. Very special.

Speaking of special...

"During my short tenure at AVMT I have been surrounded by what on the surface appears to be the ultimate all-American family. In reality, I am working for a very sad, lonely woman whose marriage of convenience to a U.S. Senator has driven her to: distance herself from friends; cover feelings of despair with drugs; and replace lonely moments with self-indulgences."

Pain sucks. But if you had a couple hundred millions dollars you could probably get help instead of forging prescriptions, doctor-shopping, and stealing narcotics from your own charity. Oh well. People can change, no matter how lousy with money they might be.