page 37 of 344 of Walden: With an Introduction and Annotations by Bill McKibben

I’m starting over because I want to deal with this book at a deeper, more philosophical level and make sure I’m giving it a fair shake.

I still stand by my position that he is very privileged to be able to “get away” from society. That might seem an odd sort of privilege since he was living in abject poverty, but think about how difficult that would be for us to give up our responsibilities and go live in the woods? Much is made of the parable that Jesus taught about the man who gives up everything to follow him – many people think that that is fundamentally an easy thing to do, but it is very, very hard to just give up our lives, even if they are good lives and go with God.

He is not wrong to show how a simple life can be more fulfilling – I agree with him – but his disdain for society, a disdain that he hints at stemming from his townspeople not accepting him as part of their inner circle, is a little too harsh. Is man really so much the worse to live in a house he does not own made from materials that come from a factory? Are man’s activities that take place in the home so far from the “natural good man” that he is worse off than the “savage”? Thoreau may live closer to God in nature, but his use of the word savage betrays his sense of kinship with his fellow man. He seems to see savages everywhere, not just in the American Indian, but especially there he does not possess the empathetic spirit that comes from people who have spent many hours in their homes thinking about how their action might negatively affect others. A man who has to get his meat on the hunt will have no time to worry if he is hurting anyone’s feelings, yet the man who lives in comfort is well aware how lucky he is and (should) attempt to extend that privilege to everyone.

In this he lacks a portion of empathy for his fellow individual man while at the same time he does love humanity writ large.

page 117 of 768 of Demons

Kirillov’s philosophy that man is only free once he no longer fears death is interesting and threatening. He sounds like someone who wants to not have anything left to lose in order to make some sort of grand statement (though he probably doesn’t know what). Either way he seems very dissatisfied and I like how it’s pointed out to him that his desire to blow everything up will cost him his job of building a bridge.

page 50 of 864 of Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them

I keep my pledge

She uses three related words: pledge, plight, and oath. Each (can) mean a pledge (perhaps her devotion to God), and the repetition (though each time a different word) speaks to her continually needing to reaffirm it, either out of devotion or perhaps desperation? The last line “Will surely come again -” is not exactly a reassuring statement with the open ended punctuation.

Another unusual feature is in lines 2 and 3 when Death does not come for her (she is not called) – is this perhaps a punishment for not keeping the pledge? To go to the glory of heaven is seen as a reward because life is full of sin, yet she equates her continued existence with natural / nature imagery: “sainted Bee” (sainted be wordplay), “Daisy”, “hillside”, “Bobolink”, and “Blossom” (b alliteration: to be, I be, I continue to be as I am?).

And she ends with a reference to “Her”, perhaps the Blossom, but perhaps someone else, such as her spirit or the previous poem’s quiet fairy of the soul? Christian imagery would usually refer to the oath to Christ as being male: He, however she could be playing with the idea of the female quality of nature which reconciles her oath to Christ (male) with her current state of living (female).

page 87 of 768 of Demons

When he talks about writers whose ideas have run out and younger generations have all forgotten I wonder who he had in mind when he wrote that. 

I’m still having a hard time wondering what the point of all this is, and to be honest I probably would have stopped reading were it written by nearly anyone else. Basically there ins’t really a plot driving anything forward, it’s all domestic squabbling which is depressing

page 49 of 864 of Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them

There’s something quieter than sleep

I admit to having a little trouble with this poem at first but I came across a wonderful analysis of it on a blog called The Prowling Bee. This helped me center the image as her speaking about being witness to a young person’s corpse whom the “simple-hearted neighbors” are watching over and trying to make sense of someone who is too “Early dead” (taken before their time).

It’s remarkable how she equates death with something that is a living spirit. She refers to (perhaps the soul) as “the quiet fairy” who would be scared off if it saw us crying over the body of even a young person taken too soon. The image of death as birds fleeing still has the image of life and movement in it, a transition from one sort of movement to another.

I like that she refers to her neighbors as “simple-hearted” and then uses the word periphrasis to describe how they use so many words to try and make sense of this tragedy, as if words are the only thing keeping us grounded to this side of death and that the more we speak the more likely we might be to keep away the possibility of death coming for us. Yet she also explores reality and death with words, but as a poet she has the eye and ear to give art to this scene by describing the young person’s soul leaving the body as the “Birds have fled”.

Emily’s whole world seems to consist of words, but she’s aware how all of our lives are made up of words – often too many of them – but the great artist is the one who can make best use of those words to give us an image that is simple and free from complication.

Episode 7-14, Sub Rosa

The Oxford English Dictionary definition for dumb (7b) is “Foolish, stupid, ignorant (chiefly of persons)”. This episode would have been better had Beverly just read random entries out of the OED for an hour rather than having to witness this lousy episode. What the producers should have done upon seeing a script involving a Scottish “ghost” that has haunted the Crusher family for generations, they should have said “Welp, let’s just stop making episodes because we’re officially out of ideas.” Everyone involved in this episode ought to be ashamed of themselves.

page 49 of 864 of Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them

My Wheel is in the dark!

A lot of wordplay here, specifically with Loom and foot imagery. Loom meaning as in weaving and the foot imagery of the foot treadle working it, but there is the laborer’s “dripping” foot and the factory owners “stately” foot. Bu there is also the meaning of Loom as a nautical term to mean something indistinct coming into view, a promised land referring back to the poem from 2 days ago (Could love – did live).

The word “Wheel” also could be read in the way Boethius might have meant it (fate / time) and this fits well with the idea of weaving and a loom. Finally, the word “Tide” also recalls yesterday’s poem of the people standing on the shore, but also has the imagery of movement (back and forth) similar to the weaver’s Loom (threading in and out and back and forth).

She’s equating the industrial ownership of the “stately” with the poorer folks who work the loom and are caught up in the Wheel of Fate, but she’s also alluding to the proverb of the rich man passing through the eye of the needle.

This one was a lot of fun!

page 48 of 864 of Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them

If she had been the Mistletoe

This is in reference to the Longfellow poem, Evangeline, which I have not read, and also was addressed to her friend Samuel Bowles. I’m not sure what the context is supposed to be here, but there is one line I enjoy, “My velvet life to close”. This is a very domestic image (the velvet on the table) and perhaps she is hoping to share this with him as the Mistletoe and Rose?

Episode 7-13, Homeward

Image getting Paul Sorvino to be a guest star and then handing him this unfinished mess of a script. The best acting he ever did was in this episode as he kept a straight face all the way to the bank. To be fair it’s not a terrible episode, there are some interesting ideas here, but there is SO MUCH GOING ON between failing holodecks, a dying planet, an entire civilization (which seems to consist of about 20 people), a primitive young man who wanders onto the Enterprise, the Prime Directive being thrown out the window … it just goes on and on. Why they felt they had to make Paul Sorvino Worf’s brother was dumb, they had no chemistry together and even though they are not supposed to be related by blood, they were not believable as brothers with a past. And the main story of breaking the prime directive could have been good if they just stuck to it, but you never really get to know any of the people and they just wander around in a holodeck cave all episode. Season 7 is a real let down.

page 48 of 864 of Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them

Could live – did live

I assume this is a poem about Jesus, but she does something cool at the end when the last two lines switch focus from Jesus to all of humanity watching him as if he were on a ship carrying him out of a bay we’ve never sailed before. His going ahead is juxtaposed with our staying behind, but the watchers remain on the shore, waiting. It’s a very powerful image.

Episode 7-12, The Pegasus

Pretty good episode, but it seems the writers keep having to find something in everyone’s past to create a decent story, and I’m not sure I buy this story about Riker keeping this secret of the Pegasus for 12 years. Also, there was a much earlier episode with a rogue Admiral breaking all the rules to get his way and so this is sort of a retread of that episode, however the acting is good – I always liked Terry O’Quinn (especially on the great but forgotten Millennium) – and the Romulan captain was a good character, too. Overall a good episode, but the premise was weak.

page 48 of 864 of Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them

A Day! Help! Help!

The word issue (OED) has some interesting meanings that she might be thinking of: it could mean a demand, a source, a fine or levy, or a discharge of blood. The last definition got me thinking of a dead soldier (“help!”) who sees the parade for the battle victory he was a part of but now begs for help from the living who only see their nation’s victory and not the sacrifice.

page 70 of 768 of Demons

I’m still a little unclear what is going on, but it seems Varvara wants to marry off Darya to Stepan because she thinks something was going on with Darya and her own son, Nikolai. It’s all vague and I’m honestly having a hard time trying to find a reason to care about these characters, but there is something unseemly about these people that is sort of fascinating to watch.

page 47 of 864 of Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them

I robbed the Woods

Wordsworth, Nutting. What we take from nature – what is said of us and our impact on nature, on others? Imagine how the trees feel when we pluck their “trinkets”, what words do they speak of us? What secrets do they keep “Hemlock” = “lock” = poison? Do they resent us? Beautiful image of nature dealing with us.

page 47 of 864 of Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them

I’ve got an arrow here.

Cupid? Artemis? Who is the archer? Why does she have the arrow but not the lover who shot it? Is she pierced with love but with nobody to know who pierced her with it? Is her love art? Reminds me of her poem about chivalry and knights rescuing ladies, but here we get the woman’s point of view of having to deal with these arrows all the time.

page 62 of 768 of Demons

I like the odd relationship between Stepan and Varvara; their bickering is funny to listen to. It’s odd to think that these people have the means to not have to work because they don’t act like they have much class – they’re almost low class in their scheming and behavior, yet they have land and money and leisure to act – well I wouldn’t say horribly, but they aren’t the sort of people I’d want to spend time with.

Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1: Read from March 1 to June 10, 2019

Of all the novels I have read, this one comes the closest to reading poetry. And I’m not just saying that because the language is beautiful, but rather because each line – sometimes extending for nearly an entire paragraph or even the whole page – is far denser than the line in a typical novel. Here the mere mention of a sip of tea at the end of the novel recalls entire passages of memory from earlier i the novel, each image and expression carries far more weight and does far more work than normal prose. And I also get the impression that I missed a lot as I read and that were I to go back and reread the novel I would discover whole oceans of thought that I failed to explore the first time around. In short this is a remarkable novel, but it’s also a remarkable experiment in modernism in that the author is trying to convey a way of thinking and feeling by playing with how language can communicate to us. I was not expecting a novel that deals so often with nostalgia for a lost time to be so radically modern.

Proust also explores something even more radical in this experiment, though perhaps without even realizing it. Years later the ideas of Saussure would create the foundation for structuralism, specifically the ideas of the signified and signifier. Proust seems to have intuited this concept and his image of the cup of tea causing a flood of memories to come flowing back into his mind is a perfect example of what Saussure was trying to explain. Yet Proust takes it even further (in the sort of direction the philosopher Bergson would be familiar with) by vitalizing the connection between signified and signifier as the essence of human experience which gives the real meaning to things. True, signifiers (mere words) are arbitrary and basically meaningless on their own, but it is we who give them their meaning, even if each of us has a different definition for what, say, a cup of tea might mean. We are, after all, creatures of language and the whole of our existence is a construct of language, so wouldn’t it be true that such a reality is only real because of how each of us experiences the universe, even if we’re all doing it differently?

There are multiple instances in the novel when Proust describes a person’s glance and then describes an observer interpreting what that glance means. Proust devotes pages and pages to just Odette moving her eyes a few millimeters, and Odette may have meant absolutely nothing by the way she moved her eyes, but for Swann (and us), there is more meaning in such a glance than could be contained by the Library of Alexandria. Meaning – meaningful meaning – is created by each of us in our own way, and often, as with Swann, can go too far, but it is the essence and vitality of our lives which we are creating every moment. Every glance, every word contains multitudes (Whitman) and our reality consists of parsing these meanings into something we can understand – or when it goes wrong we wind up like King Leontes in The Winter’s Tale who have lost our common social connection with other people and thus go mad. 

And like Bergson debating with Einstein about the nature of time, time for Proust is like an erosion that alters the past, and seems to work deeper the more time that passes. Events that were as clear to us as our playmates when we were children are almost unrecognizable when we are older. How did time do this? Why does time alter our memory? Why are we never fixed in any place or time, like Proust not wanting to ever leave Paris? Are we always trapped in that separation between Saussure’s signified and the signifier? Is the human experience a necessary part of the universe (as Bergson believed) or do our experiences remain forever relative and without “True” meaning (as Eisenstein believed)? 

Proust seems very much in the camp of favoring the human experience, and so do I.

Looking back on some of my favorite books it seems I really enjoy stories about people who long for a time that will never return, such as Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday, Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes, Elspeth Huxley’s The Flame Trees of Thika, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, and now this. Maybe it’s because the older I get the more I can relate to characters whose interior life consists more and more of memory than it does of ambition for the future or because as time goes on each of us becomes more and more painfully aware of how much the world doesn’t actually make any sense at all unlike when we were young and everything seemed so simple.

page 58 of 768 of Demons

It’s been awhile since I’ve read Dostoevsky, which is a problem because it always takes awhile to get into gear with his novels. The only other author I feel this way about is Shakespeare because whenever I start one of his plays I always feel lost until about Act 3 or 4. This novel is starting off the same way with a huge list of (unusual) characters but with no plot to attach them to. But I’m sure I’ll love this.

page 46 of 864 of Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them

One sister have I in the house

I had to look it up and see if she had a sister who died, but I couldn’t find anything. But there is such loss in this poem and such a separation from herself and her sister and her youth “Today is far from childhood”, being an adult is grief – there are no more wiggling toes and dancing. Mouldered is such a grave image.

page 435 of 512 of Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1

It’s heartbreaking to be left out of a social situation, especially when you really have nobody else to blame but yourself. Still, even though I don’t really fault Odette, she is quite well aware that she is still in good graces while he is not and she is enjoying maintaining her position. I’m sure she also knows how much pain Swann is in. But by the end he believes he’s moved on … I don’t believe him.

page 44 of 864 of Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them

It did not surprise me

She likes to use the word pinion instead of wings – I like that. Sad image of the mother bird leaving the now empty nest, but it’s also hopeful as she flies to “broader forests”. Beautiful line of nature whispering in the modern ear – advice we need more than ever now. And she ends the poem with the notion of death buried in all of our hearts.

page 41 of 864 of Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them

Nobody knows this little Rose

The first line has a musical quality, as if the pilgrim in the second line sings the first. She is interested in the impact her action of picking the flowers has on the bees and butterflies. Interesting image of the breeze sighing, but how could it sigh if the flower is gone – the breeze must encounter something for it to be heard. Beautiful image.

Episode 7-11, Parallels

I’m not going to defend myself for loving an otherwise dumb episode, but I think the reason why this worked for me despite how bat-shit insane it is was that Worf nails his performance here and really sells being confused and jumping to new “realities”. I also liked how things gradually got worse and more militaristic as he jumped and I really loved the touch near the end with one of the Riker’s (full on crazy beard and panicked) begging not to go back because their reality has been overrun with Borg. Troi also gives a convincing performance as Worf’s wife and it reminded me of what will come on DS9 with him and Dax. Nutso episode, but I really enjoyed it.

Episode 7-10, Inheritance

Inheritance was a fantastically interesting episode. At first I thought this was going to be yet another season 7 “hey, it’s a new family member because we ran out of ideas” episode, but this episode subverted those expectations. First of all the act, the actress, Fionnula Flanagan, did a perfect job of being believable but also in a way that made you wonder if she really was Data’s mother. Only a brilliant actor could do this and she nails this performance. And while the B-story of her planet needing the Enterprise to save its molten core was dumb, the final act in which we learn she was another android made after Data but doesn’t know she’s an android is a fantastic idea that gives Data a very difficult decision to have to make: tell her or not. This could have been a really bad episode, but great acting and a really good 4th act make this one of the better episodes of the whole series.

Episode 7-9, Force of Nature

This was a really cool episode, it’s too bad it was never explored further. The idea that warp travel actually damages space and could cause massive damage is an interesting idea regarding Starfleet’s directive to seek out new life and new civilizations, and to boldly go. The ramifications of other species, such as the Romulans and Cardassians, not sticking to the warp 5 speed limit is also interesting – but as far as I remember from DS9 none of this was ever explored in any depth and things moved on at warp 9 as usual. I also wish the sacrifice Serova made was more dramatic since she was a very important character but was not on screen long enough to establish her sacrifice.

Episode 7-8, Attached

Wildly uneven episode. Playing the diplomatic issues between the two alien races as nearly comedic steals away all the emotional impact of an otherwise interesting story line with Picard and Crusher. It’s never felt like a secret that Picard’s and Crusher’s feelings for each other run deeper than friendship, so it was nice to see that explored here, though they went too far – the episode should have just taken them to the verge of admitting feelings and then pulled back. Regardless, the other story line would have been good had the aliens not come off as dopey conspiracy minded dopes. There was a very good story hiding in all this mess that feels like it never got past a first draft and a looming schedule to meet. Too bad; this episode was a serious missed opportunity.

Episode 7-7, Dark Page

On the one hand this is a nice episode for Majel Barrett to showcase some more very fine acting, but on the other it’s an episode that has very little to do with anything Star Trek. True, we learn Troi had a sister who died and this had been kept secret from her all these years, but as the main story line it feels … like they didn’t have any better ideas and wanted to do some more dream sequences. Not that I’m against exploring the character’s personal lives, but this just felt like it was too melodramatic.

Episode 7-6, Phantasms

They must be saving all the show’s budget for the finale because every episode so far has been filmed on set with very little special effects. Anyway, this was not a bad episode, and I liked how they made Frued out to be an idiot, but they did get the part about the Id wrong. The workmen in Data’s dream were the Superego, the controlling force exerting pressure on the ego, not the id. Also, if I were Troi I don’t know how comfortable I’d be around Data ever again after having him stab her. Yes, he was not in control of himself, but that’s some serious trauma the writers just hand wave away. For a show about deep rooted psychological effects on the psyche – even if they come in the form of dumb, weird alien bugs – they really should not have had Data literally attack Troi with a giant, serrated knife as he overpowers her in an isolated and confined space.

Episode 7-5, Gambit II

Gambit II was better than part I. I love the scene when Data tells Worf he better shape up as his fort officer or he can go back to tactical but then also worries that he’s lost Worf as a friend. Great scene, and Data kills it when he’s put in charge of the Enterprise. The actor who played Baran, Richard Lynch, did a very nice job in both episodes, and he has a really great voice. Too bad he never got more work in the mainstream as an actor, he’s very cool. Also, the mercenary Klingon in this episode, Koral, played by the great basketball player James Worthy was amazing. Not only were his few lines delivered perfect, but him literally towering over Worf was very funny.

Too bad the whole premise of this two-parter was convoluted and not much of a regular TNG episode. Honestly, it felt like it could have been any old sci-fi episode from any number of sci-fi series. It just didn’t feel like TNG Trek.

Episode 7-4, Gambit I

This feels like the sort of episode they would make after looking at what DS9 was doing and the writers thinking to themselves that they also need some gritty aliens and some mercenary story line to keep the drama up. And it just kind of doesn’t work. Not that it’s poorly made, or badly written, or not well cast – it’s actually a really decent episode, except that seeing Riker and Picard and the rest of the crew play at being mercenaries (or whatever) seems silly; they’re better than that and it’s cringy seeing them act like this, even if it is a ploy. But – the tone is just wrong for a TNG episode.

Episode 7-3, Interface

This was a really good episode. Granted, they were riffing on VR and movies like The Lawnmower Man since that was new tech in the mid 90’s (and still kinda sucks 30 years later), but the story was much more focused on the human element and Geordi being convinced not just that what he was seeing was real (the VR), but that what he was feeling about his mother’s disappearance was real. This also had a nice element of Geordi (and Data) disobeying orders, and specifically Data doing so because of his friendship with Geordi.

Episode 7-2, Liaisons

Not a bad episode, in fact in earlier seasons this would have been quite good, but it doesn’t really do anything new. The aliens trying to provoke a response from everyone was a neat idea, but the episode spent so much time actually showing how everyone was being provoked that it lost sight of the fact that it was for the sake of studying human behavior, something we, the human audience, are quite familiar with. This episode needed a few more drafts to get at something interesting, especially Anna who was a mix between Stands With A Fist from Dances With Wolves, and Cathy Bates’ character from Misery. In other words, she was not a very original character and it didn’t take me long to figure out who she really was.