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Monday, February 28, 2005

9:46 pm, September 9, 1965

Baseball Musings alerted me to this Futility Infielder post about, and link to, an MP3 of Vin Scully calling the ninth inning of Sandy Koufax's 1965 perfect game. That call is older than me. I just sat here the edge of my seat a few moments ago, listening and chewing at my lip while the inning played out — who says time travel is impossible?

Here's the strike one pitch to Krug. Fastball! Swung on and missed. Strike two. And you can almost taste the pressure now. Koufax lifted his cap, ran his fingers through his black hair, then pulled the cap back down, fussing at the bill. Krug must feel it too as he backs out, heaves a sigh. Took off his helmet, put it back on and steps back up to the plate.

Eating My Words

First of all, I can't believe that I haven't yet linked to one of the best baseball sites on the web, a site which just happens to be Canadian. I've been reading the Batter's Box for about a year and a half. Lots of great baseball analysis and coverage over there, along with a strong archive of interviews. Check out the Box. Today there is an interview with J.P. Ricciardi, the Blue Jays GM, which galvanized the following act of contrition which I should have already made.

A while back, in this post, I expressed displeasure and disappointment in the Blue Jays signing of Shea Hillenbrand. I have since had time to rethink my position on that deal. I was wrong about it being a bad deal. It's not a great deal, but it helps rather than hurts the team. The Jays really gave up very little in Adam Peterson, and the salary they're paying Hillenbrand is not extreme for what they're getting. It's easy to forget that on-base percentage, while an important component of run-scoring ability, is not the be-all and end-all; especially now that it's no longer as undervalued as it was when the Oakland A's were making hay with it.

A team like the Jays, with limited resources (and I don't believe any team loses money), cannot look to the past to determine the best lineup they can field. Instead they have to find a way to determine what types of talent are currently not overpriced and do the best they can to put a winning team on the field by using a combination of the talent already in their system and what they can pick up via trades or signings without crippling themselves financially.

Oddly enough, I don't really know as much as Ricciardi does about baseball, or about running a baseball team. Perhaps in the future I'll think things through farther before I form an opinion on them. Or perhaps I won't.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Terence, this is stupid stuff

this is an audio post - click to play


Another favourite poem of mine, from one of my favourite books: A.E.. Housman's A Shropshire Lad, a book which some people tell me they find grim. (I say book because I don't view it as a collection; to me, it's more a verse novel.) My friend Michael — who introduced me to Housman — set this poem to music a few years ago. That version is the best I've ever heard. Here's an online edition of the book.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Once More Into Emily's Riches

This is the fourth installment in what's turning out to be a series of posts occasionally hyperlinking Emily Dickinson poems to various Wikipedia entries (and, sometimes, entries on other sites) that I associate with the poems. The first three posts can be found here, here, and here. My source for the poems is The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, and I'm designating each poem by the number it appears under in that book; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization are all as they appear there.

Sometimes, but not always, I'll comment after the poems in addition to the links. Today I was browsing amongst the earliest poems.

14

One Sister have I in our house,
And one, a hedge away.
There's only one recorded,
But both belong to me.

One came the road that I came —
And wore my last year's gown —
The other, as a bird her nest,
Builded our hearts among.

She did not sing as we did —
It was a different tune —
Herself to her a music
As Bumble bee of June.

Today is far from childhood —
But up and down the hills
I held her hand the tighter —
Which shortened all the miles —

And still her hum
The years among,
Deceives the Butterfly;
Still in her Eye
The Violets lie
Mouldered this many May.

I spilt the dew
But took the morn —
I chose this single star
From out the wide night's numbers —
Sue — forevermore!

I'm always curious about Dickinson's syntax, especially when she does the sort thing she did in the last two lines of the second stanza. One of the things I like about this poem is how she changes up the rhythms in the last two stanzas.


33

If recollecting were forgetting,
Then I remember not.
And if forgetting, recollecting,
How near had I forgot.
And if to miss, were merry,
And to mourn, were gay,
How very blithe the fingers
That gathered this, Today!

Possibly my favourite Emily poem. I think she exhibited pure genius and perfect control in her brief and complete turning of everything on its head.


45

There's something quieter than sleep
Within this inner room!
It wears a sprig upon its breast —
And will not tell its name.

Some touch it, and some kiss it —
Some chafe its idle hand¹ —
It has a simple gravity
I do not understand.

I would not weep if I were they —
How rude in one to sob!
Might scare the quiet fairy
Back to her native wood!

While simple-hearted neighbors
Chat of the "Early dead" —
We — prone to periphrasis
Remark that Birds have fled!

What's there to say, except that even at her most serious, Emily never shied from word-play.


¹ Idle hands are the devil's tools?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Something Old, Something New

There's a new site out there. Baseball Analysts was launched today:

Richard Lederer and Bryan Smith have joined forces and created Baseball Analysts (http://www.baseballanalysts.com), an online site devoted to examining the game's past, present, and future. The Baseball Analysts will fully integrate Rich's Weekend Baseball Beat and Wait Til Next Year. The new site will feature full-length articles, interviews, and roundtable discussions daily, plus guest columnists weekly.
Lederer led off for the site today by posting part one of a three-part special in which he gives the answers he received from a group of writers, analysts, and baseball executives when he asked them the following questions:

1. Who was your favorite player when you were growing up? 2. Why? 3. What do you most remember about that player? 4. Did you ever come into contact with him? 5. Do you have any special memorabilia (baseball card, autograph, etc.)?
I'll be looking forward to next week when Lederer posts an interview he did with Bill James at the winter meetings.

I think Baseball Analysts has a chance to be one of the best baseball sites around, given Lederer's track record of good writing combined with great analysis (check out his Abstracts from The Abstracts, and his Blyleven series, both available on the sidebar over there) and that Smith's been covering prospects and the minor leagues for a couple of years now (that's nearly forever in blogging years).



Monday, February 21, 2005

Bloggers as Thompson-Gunners?

The Gazetteer reports that Hunter S. Thompson shot himself Sunday night. I was never a real Thompson fan, having only managed to get through Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Hell's Angels. I suppose, though, that in some sense Thompson was a sort of progenitor in spirit, if not in kind, of the blogosphere.

I think (and I'm sure that I'm saying nothing that hasn't been said before) that the need or urge of bloggers to chronicle the world as they see it is an important and powerful thing in the age in which we live. There are people out there covering politics, law, medicine, culture — just about every facet of human endeavour and experience we can think of. Whether out of vanity, the desire to provide citations, or out of simple courtesy, etc., bloggers spray links like Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner sprayed bullets and in the process provide a level of cross-reference and redundancy which has never been equalled to their daily record of the world. The sheer density which makes it impossible to wade through it all also makes it impossible for mainstream media, corporations, power brokers and politcians to erase any knowledge that ever hits the web. The record exists and will remain.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Cheating Hearts on Pine Benches?

David Pinto of Baseball Musings has a couple of interesting things today. One is a link to The Home Run Guys' Flash cartoon about THG. The other is a link to a story about Roger Clemens' use of the now-banned prescription painkilller, Vioxx, and the uncertainty that its unavailability creates for/about Clemens in the coming season. Talking about the Clemens story, Pinto asks how to define cheating:

So where do we draw the line? Does the drug have to encourage muscle mass development to be cheating? Or does it just have to allow you to exercise more (which also encourages muscle mass development)? Or does it just need to allow you to perform on a day you otherwise could not?
As far as I'm concerned, the only way to define cheating is by using the rulebook of the game with which you are concerned. If the rules prohibit something, then doing or using that something is cheating. If the rules don't prohibit something, then doing or using that something may be shady but it is not cheating. If a particular activity, such as use of performance enhancers, is viewed as a problem then changing the rules to define it as cheating is a good idea, bearing in mind that rules changes are not retroactive: a thing is only cheating from the moment it is defined as cheating; before that moment it is only a shady activity.

John Perricone of Only Baseball Matters, in specific reference to Barry Bonds:

First of all, prior to the 2003 season, steroid use was not against baseball's rules. Any type of disqualification for talking about it now is absurd. Second, Bonds' "admission" is nothing of the sort. In point of fact, Bonds denies any inference that he used steroids ever, under any circumstances, and more importantly, during the last two seasons, he has been tested by MLB and has apparently passed.
In that post, Perricone also has some interesting things to say about the overlooked use of amphetamines in baseball.



note: The question of what is ethical (whether you're talking about sport, business, politics or life in general) is a different question than that of cheating, I think. In other words, I'm of the opinion that it's possible to do something unethical without actually cheating.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Light, Lilacs, Etc

Before work this evening I went to a doubleheader poetry reading, dreading, as I always do, what I might be subjecting myself to. You know this sort of feeling, it's the same one you get when you're watching a "B" horror movie and people just keep going places they shouldn't go and doing things they shouldn't do; and something bad, or at least something horribly cheesey, is going to happen to them any minute now. They know it and you know it, but they do it anyway, and you watch it anyway. Yeah. (Keep reading, I have positive things to say in a bit.)

So I went to this poetry reading tonight. I went for the same reason I always go. I went because sometimes instead of something I dread happening, something good happens; there's a damn good poet, or a damn good poem, and it's worth every excruciating moment ever spent in an audience of people stroking their chins or tilting their heads profoundly while listening to somebody calling themselves a Poet somehow sing-songing monotonally through their Poems in their Great Canadian Reading Voice. (Really, there's positive stuff coming up. I swear)

So I went to this doubleheader poetry reading tonight, and something good happened. One of the poets, Sue Sinclair, read some good poems, some poems with a lot of light and qualities of light working in them. And she didn't fall into that damn I'm Reading Poetry voice. I bought one of her books — her third one, I believe — The Drunken Lovely Bird. I chose that book because it has the following poem, which I like a lot:

Lilacs

For those who have lived
where lilacs bloom, who have lost
their immunity
              to idleness and wander through
doorway after doorway
when the lilac trees open their infinite
mauve rooms. For those
who give in and glide a little behind
their lives, a hand trailing
in the water
behind a rowboat.

Regret turns itself inside out,
like a glove
you've picked up after someone's
gone. Even the bees feel it,
sadly, sadly,
nose in the flowers,

a curtain pulled away
and there's no hand on your shoulder
to catch you before you lean too far
out the window.

A slow leak, something escaping
as soon as the petals open.
What's left grows twice
as heavy, pales,
sinks inside itself and stays
with you, a dream of which
there is not even enough left
to describe:

it is about to rain.
It is always about to rain.
These limp flowers.
I suppose there are a few reasons why I like that poem. I like lilacs; their scent is almost enough to convince me to quit smoking. Almost; but then I think about how strongly they affect me with my sense of smell as dull as it is, and wonder if I could survive their full strength. I like the poem, too, because it reminds me in its simplicity and clarity of some old, old chinese poems I've been surrounding myself with for the past year or so.

I like the poem, and the other poems in the book that I've read so far, because of the light and the qualities of light I mentioned earlier. That light in what I've read and heard of Sue Sinclair's poetry makes me think a thing which might seem like a kind of back-handed compliment but which I mean as pure praise: sometimes poets are poets because they somehow missed a window of opportunity that would have made them painters.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Lowe-light?

Baseball Musings has provided space for an article by Phil Allard about the Dodgers starting rotation. The Dodgers' signing of Lowe last month to a 4-year, $36 million contract, along with the Kent and Drew deals, has had people scratching their heads ever since. Jon Weisman and Jaffe discussed it, and other things, at some length.

Michael Lichtman, who's done a lot of research and hard work on measuring defense and is now a consultant to the St. Louis Cardinals, had this to say a couple of days before that:

The weakest (and most controversial) move by far, and that is an understatement, is Lowe’s signing. Funny I thought he was going to be underrated (since he had an unlucky regular season in ‘04) and able to be had for a bargain. I don’t know what happened. Lowe should benefit from a very good Dodger IF defense. There is also some evidence that groundball pitchers do anomalously well in Chavez (and Fenway, BTW); I am pretty sure that Depo knows this. I have a hard time believing that even if true (that Lowe will benefit greatly from Chavez), it makes Lowe worth anywhere near 9 mil a year for four years. If Lowe even has a little bit of bad luck or a severe injury, Depo is setting himself up for a crucifixion.
And over at Baseball Primer, the Primates discussed it, mostly thoughtfully, for two pages.

It'll be very interesting to see what sort of light this season throws on the judgement of Dodgers' GM Paul Depodesta.


JimBobby's Frostheave

I was going to play some Hold 'Em at pokerroom.com before I went to bed, but the damn server's down. Just as well, because the Gazetteer pointed me to a new blog called JimBobby Sez when I went looking for some reading because I couldn't do something foolish like staying into see the flop on 9-3 unsuited. In the post I've linked to, JimBobby does a rewrite of Robert Frost's "Stopping By The Woods On A Snowy Evening."

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Comparing Pitchers

The Fourth Outfielder has a great post on comparing pitchers. As Meagher looks at the folly of comparing two Giants pitchers who were mentioned in the same breath in a Dodger Thoughts thread, he makes this observation:

This speaks to what I consider to be perhaps Bill James’ greatest insight. Baseball is full of numbers, he argued, but the typical application of numbers in baseball was based not on the contextual meaning of those numbers but on the emotional and associational impact of the numbers. .304 average? Sign me up! 31 home runs? Wow, a big bopper! James argued that his goal was to strip away that veneer and determine which numbers were important and why.

And later:

In terms of predictive value, the number of innings a pitcher throws in one season doesn’t heavily influence the number he’ll throw in future seasons. There will be correlation, of course, because pitchers are used in fashions that reflect their skill set and because some pitchers have recurring injury issues. However, those are reflected in other statistics as well, and IP doesn’t tell you anything substantial about a player’s true talent level that couldn’t be unearthed with other metrics.

Similarly, ERA doesn’t have great predictive value. A player’s ERA’s will often end up being similar in many years, but it’s the components of ERA that matter in determining how effective a pitcher is. To project pitching performance, it’s necessary to look at how often a pitcher strikes batters out, walks batters, and so forth; it’s not necessary to look at the player’s ERA.
The so forth would include home run rates and park factors. These, with the things Meagher mentions, are the peripheral numbers I referred to in the comments on a previous post.



The Santana Special

Minnesota Twins management and fans must be in the throes of off-season orgasm right about now. The numbers on the Santana deal are being reported as 4 years, $40 million. That's $10 million a year. For comparison, here's what some merely mortal pitchers have signed for this winter:

Pitcher Age Team Years Total $ $ Per Year
Carl Pavano, SP 29 NY Yankees 4 $39,950,000 $9,987,500
Brad Radke, SP 32 Minnesota 2 18,000,000 9,000,000
Derek Lowe, SP 31 Los Angeles 4 36,000,000 9,000,000
Eric Milton, SP 29 Cincinnati 3 25,500,000 8,500,000
Matt Clement, SP 30 Boston 3 25,500,000 8,500,000
Russ Ortiz, SP 30 Arizona 4 33,000,000 8,250,000
Odalis Perez, SP 27 Los Angeles 3 24,000,000 8,000,000
Kris Benson, SP 30 NY Mets 3 22,500,000 7,500,000
Kevin Millwood, SP 30 Cleveland 1 7,000,000 7,000,000
Jaret Wright, SP 29 NY Yankees 3 21,000,000 7,000,000
Jon Lieber, SP 34 Philadelphia 3 21,000,000 7,000,000
Paul Wilson, SP 31 Cincinnati 2 8,200,000 4,100,000
Orlando Hernandez, SP 35 Chicago Sox 2 8,000,000 4,000,000
Cory Lidle, SP 32 Philadelphia 2 6,300,000 3,150,000

That's an average of $7,213,392.86 per year for the bunch, even with the lower salaries for Wilson, Orlando Hernandez, and Lidle. An average of less than three million dollars per year less than Santana signed for. And none of those guys are anywhere near the pitcher that Santana is. The best deals in the bunch are Radke, Clement, Odalis Perez, and Hernandez.

How about the contracts that a couple of once-immortal pitchers signed, guys who should also be out-performed by Santana both in 2005 and over the length of his contract?


Pitcher Age Team Years Total $ $ Per Year
Roger Clemens, SP 42 Houston 1 $18,000,000 $18,000,000
Pedro Martinez, SP 33 NY Mets 4 53,000,000 13,250,000

The Santana deal by the Twins is far and away the best deal for pitching any team got this winter. It was probably the single best deal for a team signed with any player this winter.

Twins fans, rejoice. The savings from the Santana deal should allow your team to remain competitive for at least the length of his contract.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Real El Presidente (sorry Dennis Martinez)

Johan Santana, the secondbest pitcher (after Randy Johnson) in baseball last season, has apparently signed a four-year deal with the Twins. No word on the dollars in the contract yet, but this has to be a good deal for Minnesota. I don't think it's possible for a wallet-conscious team like the Twins to overpay for a pitcher of Santana's youth and ability, but they must have made it worth his while to pass on the upcoming free agency he was due for at the end of 2006.

If Santana keeps pitching like he has for the last year-and-a-half — and there's no reason why he shouldn't, unless he somehow loses control of the changeup that vaulted him into the elite rank of pitchers — he'll command major money when free agency finally rolls around for him in 2009.

His ERA this season probably won't be as low as the 2.61 he posted last year, but he should bring it in somewhere between 3.00 and 3.15 which is pretty sweet in these offence-crazy days.

Don't miss a chance to catch a game that this guy pitches in. In two years time, when people talk about pitchers, there'll be Johan Santana and Mark Prior in one breath and then all the rest.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Goldenrod (a Mary Oliver poem)

this is an audio post - click to play

I ran into Mary Oliver's New and Selected Poems last night, a book I haven't seen in about seven years. I borrowed it and brought it home with me. I remembered this book very fondly (and I remember writing a poem called "the machinery of my tongue, this scent of a flower" immediately after finishing the book), and the book stands up as strong today as it stood in my memory.

"Goldenrod" is from the book's first section.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Dark Passage

Today, StumbleUpon brings you Dark Passage:

A New York-based organization
providing blind archaeologists
with the finest quality flashlights.

Photo essays of derelict architecture, anyone?

Friday, February 11, 2005

Science Fiction and Religion

Here are a few thoughts about some science fiction works that treat with religion which were spurred when recently, on a whim, I started rereading Hyperion, by Dan Simmons, a novel which purports to tackle the question of what directions and forms belief in a Higher Being might take in a future where mankind has found ways of colonizing the Galaxy.

As a science fiction novel, Hyperion is a decent-to-good read. The main setting is a planet named after John Keats' unfinished poem Hyperion; and Keats is the planet's capital city; one of the main characters is
Martin Silenus, ancient, hard-drinking, morality-spurning poet of uncertain provenance and talent; the format of the novel could be said to be based loosely on The Canterbury Tales, in that it proceeds by means of the main characters telling their stories to each other as they undertake a pilgrimage — all very clever, don't you know. In the background is a mysterious, metallic, blades-on-seemingly-every surface, not-quite mythical bloody embracer of pilgrims, a figure known as the Shrike, to whom, of course, the Church of the Shrike is devoted.

I suspect the novel's genesis has significant roots in Walter M. Miller Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz, a book to which Hyperion (both alone, and together with its sequel, The Fall of Hyperion) is inferior in characterization, treatment of theme, story, plot, breadth and depth of theological meditation — in short, in every way except melodrama.

A Canticle for Leibowitz is a post-apocalyptic novel in which the monks of a small desert abbey are the main preservers of the written word, especially scientific knowledge, through the centuries following civilization's collapse and on into its gradual re-emergence. I would call faith the main character here, as Miller meditates on its forms, difficulties, and suspect rewards through a changing cast of characters who inhabit Leibowitz Abbey as they go about the business of preserving the legacy of their doubtful patron saint. A Canticle for Leibowitz is probably the most successful treatment of religion and theology and their sociological effects ever attempted by a science fiction writer.

The only major science fiction work I've read which might be said to come close to A Canticle's achievement in regards to religion is Frank Herbert's Dune. And while it is, in a sense, about religion, it is much more about cultural ramifications of ecological crises and shortages of natural resources than it is about the probably futile, possibly fatal, but nearly irresistible attraction of mankind to believing in a purposeful Universe. Besides, the Dune series became way too long. One book was enough.

A minor work which delves deeply into theological approaches is Stanislaw Lem's short story, the Twenty-First Voyage of Ijon Tichy, which can be found in the collection the Star Diaries: Further Reminiscences Of Ijon Tichy. In the story, Tichy finds himself on the Planet Dichotica discussing theology with robot monks who belong to the order Demolitia. Hilarious and thought-provoking, it stands as one of the best meditations on the nature of faith that I've ever read. It's a story worth searching out and reading.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Viewing this Site

Today I got around to taking a look at this site in Internet Explorer. It's not pretty. To those of you using Explorer, I apologize for the view. I messed around a bit today but couldn't come up with a way to fix the problem for IE that didn't mess up the view in other browsers. I may try again in the future. Or, more likely, I may not.

In the meantime, you will find your viewing and reading experience here at Salt And Ice to be much more satisfactory using any one of these cross-platform (windows, mac, linux, etc) browsers: Firefox; Mozilla; Opera (not yet compatible with Gmail); Netscape; or the Mac-only Safari. As a bonus, they are also all better suited than IE to deal with any privacy, security, and advertising/spyware issues.

Speaking of of security and spyware, you may want to take a look at these applications that I find useful on a PC: Zonealarm firewall; Spybot -Search and Destroy; Ad-aware; SpywareBlaster.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Versions of Emily

In a comment to the previous post on Emily Dickinson, I was asked if I preferred the version I posted of the poem which begins "Low at my problem bending" to a version which is available at Bartleby.com (another great site), and if I have a book which explains why there are various versions of some poems.

I do prefer the version I posted, which comes from this book, edited by Thomas H. Johnson. Though it contains all 1775 of Dickinson's poems, it is, according to the introduction, a condensed version of the 1955 3-volume variorum edition of The Poems of Emily Dickinson (also edited by Johnson — I've never laid eyes on it) which contained all extant versions of her poems as well as fragments.

According to the introduction to The Complete Poems, there seem to be various reasons for the existence of various versions of poems. One reason is that when Emily's sister Lavinia found 900 poems of Emily's in a box after her death and persuaded some folks to select and transcribe some of the poems for publication there was some apprehension about the public's willingness to accept the poems in their full eccentricity in 1890.

So a man named Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who had corresponded with Emily for years, often about poetry, "undertook to smooth rhymes, regularize the meter, delete provincialisms, and substitute 'sensible' metaphors. Thus 'folks' became 'those,' 'heft' became 'weight,' and occasionally line arrangement was altered¹."

Today, I suppose, most of us would see that as an incredibly arrogant and heavyhanded approach to preparing someone else's poetry for publication. Yet we also should note that in doing so Higginson honed the thin end (a volume of 115 poems) of what we now might think of as the wide, wide wedge of Dickinson which is firmly, perfectly, and thankfully driven between the increasingly insipid Romantic-style poets of the late 19th-century and those we conveniently lump together as the Modern poets (and their strange descendants) beginning probably with H.D., Pound, etc., in the very early 20th-century.

Another reason for the existence of various versions of Dickinson's poems is that she had never formally made final copies for publication: "several [versions of some poems] exist in semifinal form: those for which marginally the poet suggested an alternate reading for one word or more. In order to keep editorial construction to a bare minimum, I have followed the policy of adopting such suggestions only when they are underlined, presumably Emily Dickinson's method of indicating her own preference²."




¹ From p. ix of Johnson's introduction to The Complete Poems
² From p. x of the introduction

Honestly, this is Home Sweet Home

I wonder where he got the bills? I seem to recall a counterfeiting operation being busted on either Euston St. or Fitzroy St. a year or so ago. Surely the Charlottetown police force, that bastion of character, maintains a strict policy of access to evidence.

More Wiki¹ and Emily D. (and me)

Seems to me that math as a symbol and metaphor, while perhaps not as obvious or prevalent as the use of "transport" or "the blank" which cranky, old Harold Bloom has noted in his essay on Dickinson in The Western Canon, is something that Emily resorted to fairly often in her own seemingly opaque and nearly inscrutable way. For instance, in these two fairly early poems:

69

Low at my problem bending,
Another problem comes —
Larger than mine — Serener —
Involving statelier sums.

I check my busy pencil,
My figures file away.
Wherefore, my baffled fingers,
Thy perplexity?


88

As by the dead we love to sit,
Become so wondrous dear² —
As for the lost we grapple
Tho' all the rest are here —

In broken mathematics
We estimate our prize
Vast — in its fading ratio
To our penurious eyes.
In poem 69 I really like how tightly packed and springloaded with meaning the word "figures" is; especially how it goes back to the idea of music that "statelier sums" raises, resonant with the music of the spheres. And just which of the meanings of "file" is she playing with there, I wonder? One of the things I've learned is that Dickinson can't be trusted to pass up a chance at a pun.

In poem 88 she modifies or qualifies "ratio" with "fading," which I think could be read as a comment on the idea of constancy.

And now two later and longer poems on which I'll probably make very little direct comment:

1129

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —


(I'll point at a couple of things I think I see here: 1. the word "slant" in the first line reminds me of poem 258, which begins, "There's a certain Slant of light, / Winter afternoons — / That oppresses, like the Heft / Of Cathedral Tunes —"; 2. "lies" is another damn pun.)

1134

The Wind took up the Northern Things
And piled them in the south —
Then gave the East unto the West
And opening his mouth

The four Divisions of the Earth
Did make as to devour
While everything to corners slunk
Behind the awful power —

The Wind — unto his chambers went
And nature ventured out —
Her subjects scattered into place
Her systems ranged about

Again the smoke from Dwellings rose
The Day abroad was heard —
How intimate, a Tempest past
The Transport of the Bird —

I have no idea why "Things," "Dwellings," "Day," or "Bird" are begun with uppercase letters (this is interesting, though it's almost certainly unrelated — isn't it?). As a means of stress, yes. But what is she stressing? Is this more commentary on perceptions of constancy?



¹ And Dictionary.com
² I think that the first, second, and third meanings of "dear" are all at play here

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Wayback Machine

Looking for something you remember seeing online but now seems to have disappeared? Want to do some research on the evolution of the web? Interested in anything archival? Try the Wayback Machine. You can search for audio, video, text, and software; movies, music, news, tech, and videogames. There's also a Wayback Machine Bookmarklet you can use from your toolbar that allows you look for any historical versions of any page you're looking at.


Sunday, February 06, 2005

Duh Duh Dave Dumbrowski

Maybe you thought Jim Bowden, GM of the ex-Montreal ex-Expos, had set this off-season's bar for bad deals (Cristian Guzman, 4 years, $16 million; Vinny Castilla, 2 years, $6.2 million; Tony Batista, 2 years, $15 million) too low for anyone else to squirm under. Well, maybe he did. But here we are in February and Dave Dombrowski, Detroit Tigers' GM, has made a valiant effort to underperform Bowden by signing Magglio Ordonez to a 5-year, $75 million contract. Ordonez is a good player if healthy, but he's not worth that kind of money.

I'm too tired tonight to go into the reasons that this deal sucks for Detroit, but luckily the U.S.S. Mariner and Rich Lederer weren't. As Lederer points out:

According to the [ESPN] article, Magglio is guaranteed a $6 million signing bonus and a $6 million salary in 2005. As a result, the Tigers’ exposure is said to be $12 million. But, oh my, it is much more than that. Detroit’s minimum exposure is $12 million. However, the organization can’t just cut him loose if they are unhappy with his play or if he suffers another injury. In fact, Mags could land on the DL with the exact same knee problem for up to 24 days and the Tigers would have no recourse (other than being forced to pay Ordonez another $63 million for the following four years).
Yeah, Motor City Madness. No wonder Dombrowski isn't returning phone calls from reporters.


Saturday, February 05, 2005

Bad to the Bone

The University of California is looking at ways to defeat organleggers:

Shaken by scandals involving the black-market sale of body parts, University of California officials are considering inserting supermarket-style barcodes or radio frequency devices in cadavers to keep track of them.
I suppose the cold, dead "invisible hand" of Adam Smith might point out that where there's demand a supply will likely be found.

By the way, as far I know, science fiction author Larry Niven was the first to think out this sort of thing in his short stories The Jigsaw Man (1967), and The Organleggers (1969).


Will They Take Their Ball And Go Home?

The world should be so lucky. The Gazetteer links to stories from the BBC and the San Francisco Chonicle that say the Iraq elections are not going in the direction the Holy Empire prefers. Who ever would've thought such a thing could be possible? Don't those folks over there realize when something's been done for their own good? I swear, such ingratitude!

Friday, February 04, 2005

Slow News Day

Slow news here at Salt and Ice. Working on polishing a couple of things. Still looking for Mandelshtam. Trying to get my head around the Blue Jays suddenly increasing the payroll budget to $70 million, effective immediately if they can find anyone via free agency or trade worth spending the money on. Might have some thoughts on that by tomorrow.

NobodyHere

NobodyHere is the most weirdly fascinating thing I've seen in a long time. At least there's an apology before anything else.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu

The Ink Dark Moon, Jane Hirshfield's translations of the tankas of Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, continues to be a favourite book of mine. I like that Hirshfield chose not to be constrained by the technical form of the tanka as she moved these poems into English. That technical form is based in the Japanese language, in its rhythms and patterns and conceits, and I think if it were used as more than a guide then it would interfere with the passage of the poem into English. Here are two Komachi poems

I thought to pick
the flower of forgetting
for myself,
but I found it
already growing in his heart.

————

While watching
the long rains falling on this world
my heart, too, fades,
with the unseen color
of the spring flowers.

Hirshfield kept to the five lines of the traditional tanka, but instead of being constrained by the tanka's syllable count varied by line (5-7-5-7-7) she went with what made the poems work in English. And the poems do work. I think that three poems by Shikibu should go a ways toward quelling any argument there might be on that point

Why haven't I
thought of it before?
This body,
remembering yours,
is the keepsake you left.

————

If the one I've waited for
came now, what should I do?
This morning's garden filled with snow
is far too lovely
for footsteps to mar.

————

What color is
this blowing autumn wind
that it can stain
my body
with its touch?

Perhaps a person could argue with Hirshfield's positioning of line breaks in any of those poems. Perhaps. I wouldn't. I'd say perhaps those line breaks are a result of a commitment she made to stick to the five line form of the originals in order to gauge how she was doing with the more important matter of brevity.

The problems of translating are at least as old as written languages, I suppose. And the question of how closely the form of the translated version should mirror the original may never be answered to everyone's satisfaction. Nor do I think it should be.

To my mind, a translation should attempt to carry into another language what the translator feels is most important to the poem (and that should be the poem itself). I don't believe that forms necessarily translate well, but that content, images, themes, and voices may — I'm not so sure about voices, perhaps more the ranges and variations of a voice.

What I'm trying to get at here is that I've come to think of translation as transposing; the way a musician or a singer will move a song or a piece of music into a different key. Of course, the parallel, or analogy, is not exact. Although it might appear to be slightly less flawed if we think of a poem not as its words or its form, but as the effect of those words and form.


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Gravity's Rainbow

Still looking for Mandelshtam. In the meantime, I offer you Book-a-Minute Classics' version of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. Trust me, there are at least the following three reasons to prefer this version to the original:
  1. It's better written.
  2. It's better written.
  3. It's better written.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Osip Mandelstam

There is no need for words

There is no need for words:
nothing must be heard.
How sad, and fine,
an animal’s dark mind.

Nothing it must make heard:
it has no use for words,
a young dolphin, plunging, steep,
along the world’s grey deep.


I wanted to write today about Osip Mandelstam, about some of his poems, but I realized that I'm not sure what I've done with the only translation of his work I've found that I'm truly happy with. It was one of those books that I kept shoving in people's face, or stopping them (people I know, of course) and saying, "Listen to this!" And reading poems to them. Which means that it was the sort of book that I'm prone to lending, or giving away on impulse because I just couldn't keep it to myself.

Now after an hour of sitting here, remembering when and where I bought it and following myself to the spot under a lilac where I first sat with a coffee and read it, and who of the people I know I'm likely to have ambushed with it over the following few weeks, I have an idea of where the book is. But I can't remember if I lent or gave it. So I'll have to ask the person if he has it, and if I can borrow it for a few days. If so, I'll put up some thoughts about some poems of his that flattened me. Until then I'll have to make do with the above poem, which is the most satisfactory translation of his work that I can find online (got it here).