UD never imagined she might feel sorry for the schmuck…

… who came to her door two summers ago with legal papers. But life is strange.

UD Tracking Data

I smell fox.

Behind me, in the narrow woods that separate our house from the Dubinskis house.

Well, we have many orange foxes; I see them from my back windows in the early morning.

It’s noon, the last day of the year, and it’s warm enough for me to sit here, in one of our old Adirondacks, watching runners and bikers and walkers pass along Rokeby Avenue.

— Pause here to talk to a new resident, an artist, who tells me about her upcoming show in New York City and “a commission for a house in Takoma Park.” —

The squirrels are doing that monkey-like shriek from the treetops.

A tortoiseshell cat just walked by, wary of me but circling my house. Now it’s pacing up my neighbor’s just-resurfaced driveway.

My across-the-street neighbor, whose house sits up high, surrounded by centuries of azaleas, waves at me.

A train whistles by.

What’s left of the leaves – dry flyaway things – skitters along our pale green lawns.

— Pause. “Happy New Year!” A woman I don’t know hails me from Rokeby. She’s with what I guess is her daughter and her daughter’s little boy. I return the greeting, and she admires my topiary deer which I tell her are topiary bulls. “I have plenty of real deer.” She asks if we string the bulls with Christmas lights, and I tell her that we consider it every year, but “it’s so complicated to trace them that we give up before we start.” —

I’m holding a University of Chicago mug which is rough to my hands because I microwaved milk in it for too long the other night and it spilled over and then dried on the cup. I was making Ghirardelli hot chocolate (Christmas present). I’ve also been stealing the variously flavored Hershey kisses my daughter got from friends. Inside the cup is rapidly cooling TeaLuxe Raspberry Earl Gray.

A shiny golden balloon, its string still trailing, floats high above me, bumping into treetops but still traveling toward the Dubinskis. This would have been a more impressive paragraph if it had touched down right here in front of old UD, but I’m a stickler for historical accuracy.

Although the sky in front of me is clear, bright blue, to the left the clouds are winning out, and my fingers are cold.

In a few days we leave to spend a week among the red rocks of Arizona.

Poem

Year’s end,
all corners
of this floating world, swept.

But it made their coaches richer!

[S]pending more on [university] football didn’t lead to a more profitable team. It also didn’t lead to additional alumni giving. Why not? Possibly because … teams that upped their funding didn’t necessarily improve their records. Nor did a better record guarantee increased revenue.

**************************

UD thanks Shane for the link.

“By DSM criteria, epidemiologists have noted, a staggering 30 percent of Americans are mentally ill in any given year.”

And as we approach a new year, University Diaries will continue to pursue the links between corporate-sponsored psychiatry research at some of America’s most high-profile universities, and the destructive, expensive pathologizing of the American public. ““[T]he increase in diagnoses [of mental illness in America] is a boon to pharmaceutical manufacturers,” notes a Forbes writer. “The new generation of psychoactives has displaced cholesterol-reducing medications as the biggest-selling class of drugs in the U.S.” It wouldn’t be happening without Harvard’s Joseph Biederman and the rest of the COI university crew.

There’s hope. But only a little bit of hope. The battle has to be fought hard, and we’ll probably lose.

But anger over the money culture behind pharma investment, and at the damage being done to our children by anti-psychotics, will no doubt find greater focus and expression this coming year. UD will of course follow the story.

Religious v. Insane

[Yocheved] Horowitz views the campaign in Beit Shemesh by the extremist Sicarii, who made headlines last week after grown men spat at an 8-year-old girl whom they believed was not dressed modestly enough, as yet another misinterpretation of the Torah. “The Sicarii are insane …”

A haredi woman who sat in the front of a gender-segregated bus in Israel makes the distinction between religious and insane – a distinction without which no state can function.

France isn’t quite there yet, if we are to go by the comments of a judge who, on sentencing a man to six months in prison (the man called his wife’s midwife a rapist, damaged the delivery room in a rage, and then punched the midwife when she moved aside a bit of his wife’s burqa to make her more comfortable), said:

Your religious values are not superior to the laws of the republic.

Non, non, non. Sociopathic violence is not any kind of religious. It is insane.

Marcia Angell’s Great Essay…

… gets some high-profile attention.

David Brooks, New York Times:

Anybody who is on antidepressants, or knows somebody who is, should read Marcia Angell’s series “The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?” from The New York Review of Books. Many of us have been taught that depression arises, in part, from chemical imbalances in the brain. Apparently, there is no evidence to support that.

Many of us thought that antidepressants work. Apparently, there is meager evidence to support that, too. They may work slightly better than placebos, Angell argues, but only under certain circumstances. They may also be permanently altering people’s brains and unintentionally fueling the plague of mental illness by causing episodes of mania, for example. I wouldn’t consider Angell the last word on this, but it’s certainly a viewpoint worth learning about.

The latest study suggests antidepressants work no better than placebos.

UD‘s posts about Angell’s essays are here (scroll down).

Island in the Works.

Off Yemen, in the Red Sea.

And yes, there’s a poem for that.

Island in the Works. James Merrill.


***********************************

From air seen fathom-deep
But rising to a head –
Abscess of the abyss
Any old night letting rip
Its fires, yearlong,
As roundabout waves hiss –

Jaded by untold blue
Subversions, watered-down
Moray and Spaniard…
Now to construe
In the original
Those at first arid, hard,

Soon rootfast, ramifying,
Always more fruitful
Dialogues with light.
Various dimwit under-
graduate types will wonder
At my calm height

Vapors by then surmounted
(Merely another phase?)
And how in time I trick
Out my new “shores” and “bays”
With small craft, shrimpers
Bars and rhetoric.

Darkly the Old Ones grumble
I’ll hate all that. Hate words,
Their schooling flame?
The spice grove chatted up
By small gray knowing birds?
Myself given a name?

Waves, as your besetting
Depth-wish recedes,
I’m surfacing, I’m home!
Open the atlas. Here:
This dot, securely netted
Under the starry dome.

(Unlike this page – no sooner
Brought to the pool than wafted
Out of reach, laid flat
Face-up on cool glares, ever
So lightly swayed, or swaying…
Now who did that?)

————————-

From air seen fathom-deep
But rising to a head –
Abscess of the abyss
Any old night letting rip
Its fires, yearlong,
As roundabout waves hiss –

[The poet describes the look of an early, still-turbulent volcanic island from a satellite or plane. Suggestive of profound depth, it nevertheless shoots up – rises to a head – and we can already begin to think of this suddenly emergent creative fire as poetic inspiration, rising to the poet’s head. Out of who knows what depths, poetic inspiration surfaces –


Brilliantly, concentratedly, / Coming about its own business.

Abscess of the abyss is very Merrill, an almost silly, almost lame assonance, consonance, alliteration all at once. He wrote it because it’s fun.]

Jaded by untold blue
Subversions, watered-down
Moray and Spaniard…

[After the spectacular ignition, things quickly cool. Think of Shelley’s remark:

‘The mind in creation is as a fading coal, which some invisible influence, like an inconstant wind, awakens to transitory brightness; this power arises from within…could this influence be durable in its original purity and force, it is impossible to predict the greatness of the result; but when composition begins, inspiration is already on the decline; and the most glorious poetry that has been communicated to the world is probably a feeble shadow of the original conceptions of the poet.’

What’s left is, to be sure, the natural world re-created, aestheticized (Moray and Spaniard); but watered-down… In another poem, about the cooling of sexual passion, (“In Nine Sleep Valley”) Merrill writes of “the molten start and glacial sleep.” ]

Now to construe
In the original
Those at first arid, hard,

Soon rootfast, ramifying,
Always more fruitful
Dialogues with light.

[The poet sets to work writing, trying to capture the brilliance of his original conception, trying to burn with Pater’s gem-like flame: “To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.” His inner light wants to maintain a poetically ramifying, fruitful dialogue with the light of the world.]

Various dimwit under-
graduate types will wonder
At my calm height,

Vapors by then surmounted
(Merely another phase?)
And how in time I trick
Out my new “shores” and “bays”
With small craft, shrimpers
Bars and rhetoric.

Darkly the Old Ones grumble
I’ll hate all that. Hate words,
Their schooling flame?
The spice grove chatted up
By small gray knowing birds?
Myself given a name?

[Old and young – jaded and immature – both look skeptically upon the poetic project. Why muck up the world with words? It’s all been said already. Or silent and pristine is better than loud and ‘knowing.’ Why use your ‘small craft’ as a poet to add useless arbitrary labels to things (‘bays,’ ‘shores.’)?

Of course this is the poet himself, grappling with his own contempt for language, its schooling flame – the way, once hardened into words, into naming, the original gem-like expressive inspiration risks becoming merely pedantic.]

Waves, as your besetting
Depth-wish recedes,
I’m surfacing, I’m home!

[Depth-wish — what a wonderful twist on death-wish. The waves want to drown the hot volcanic elements struggling to establish a living island; but the poet struggles free and, with his poetic fire intact, surfaces.]

Open the atlas. Here:
This dot, securely netted
Under the starry dome.

[The atlas, the book of poetry, the poet’s period (‘dot’), proves that he prevailed, that he created, against immense counterforces, his poem. This poem.]

(Unlike this page – no sooner
Brought to the pool than wafted
Out of reach, laid flat
Face-up on cool glares, ever
So lightly swayed, or swaying…
Now who did that?)

[Or not. The poet ends on a light note, throws cold water on his artistic flare-up. All that fire eventuates after all in just a thin page with fragile marks on it. The poet takes the page out to his pool and the wind wafts it out of reach and into the water, where it lies absolutely flat, with no chance of volcanic ascension. And whose ‘untold subversion’ was that? A malignant wind from the gods? Or did the poet subvert himself, bringing his flimsy page out to the windy pool?]

Scathing Online Schoolmarm…

… presents for your inspection the following opening sentence:

Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum have all endorsed Personhood USA’s pledge to grant full rights to fertilized eggs if they are elected president.

I suppose we could do worse.

From the Guardian’s obituary …

… for Michael Dummett:

He never lectured twice on exactly the same material, preferring to maintain as much freshness as possible in his delivery. It was impossible to hear him lecture and not to have a profound sense of thought in action. He would pace up and down, cigarette in hand, pausing periodically to formulate in his own mind how best to proceed, referring only occasionally, if at all, to his notes. The upshot would always be a beautifully structured and wonderfully conceived argument in which ideas about the most abstract topics were seamlessly woven together.

One of the stories this blog has covered for years…

… under the heading democracy (along with commentary about the burqa, you can, when you click on this category, read all of UD‘s posts about the subject at hand – violent fanatics, and their threat to Israeli democracy) has jumped to the mainstream American media.

All countries contain cults of demented and dangerous people. Some countries, with one thing and another, cultivate such cults. In the case of Israel, a vague sense of these people being authentic Jews is in play. (“Because Israel was conceived as a Jewish state, the Israeli citizen has been exceptionally compliant to the demands of groups claiming to champion the continuity of that people…”) Political expediency – coalition building – is also in play. In the Israeli population, fear is no doubt a factor. The lunatic haredi core is capable of enormous violence.

Whatever the toxic brew, Israel has ignored its fanatics to the point where it has created a threat to the nation. Now everyone is paying attention.

‘”I was surprised by the results. They weren’t what I’d expected,” said lead researcher Jacques P. Barber, dean of the Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York.’

Surprised that placebos treat depression just as well as expensive, side-effect-ridden anti-depressant pills? Why?

Start here.

Ribstein

In discussing ideas, Mr. Ribstein didn’t sugar-coat things, [a colleague] said.

“It’s never comfortable to be told you’re an idiot, but he didn’t have a malicious bone in his body…”

“What kind of message goes out when the chairman of the department who is going to be evaluating promotions is so deep into the pocket of Medtronic?” he said. “That message, that you can have it all, that you can take millions from Medtronic and still be chairman of the orthopedics department, that’s a message that should make people uncomfortable.”

You must remember this: A Zdeblick is just a Zdeblick. A Medtronic is just a Medtronic. The fundamental things apply.

***********************************

And ask yourself: Why should this guy, a fully-functioning arm of the Medtronic corporation, bother with the whole “chairman,” “professor,” “university” thing anyway?

Look at it from Medtronic‘s point of view and you’ll immediately understand. They’re after the prestige and scientific legitimacy most people continue to associate with universities. As long as the University of Wisconsin continues to agree to play its assigned role – generator of an atmosphere of intellectual integrity – Medtronic will insist that its man remain on its faculty.

Gingrich: A real straight shooter!

“He (Gingrich) said, ‘You know and I know that she’s not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of a president,'” [Leonard] Carter, who now lives in South Carolina, told CNN recently, relating the conversation he had with Gingrich the day Gingrich revealed he was filing for [his first] divorce. Carter served as treasurer of Gingrich’s first congressional campaigns.

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