Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Miscellany: Hovering Sparrows, Stuff I Don't Understand, Etc.


As an amateur, I've been observing different kinds of sparrows for a long time, but I hadn't seen a sparrow hover until today. He (in this case) was perched in a very small tree, really a sapling. The wind was blowing pretty stiffly from the west. He got off the tree, seemed to fly into the wind, but beat his wings just enough to hover; meanwhile, he was looking down at the ground, on which he subsequently landed, only to take off and to hover again. It had just rained, so he might have been looking for surfaced worms in the grass, or maybe there was a hatch of bugs. But the hovering clearly had a surveillance-purpose. There are so many different kinds of sparrows that I dare not hazard a guess, or maybe I do dare: house sparrow?

Which leads me to bird-poems, which I believe I've blogged about before. So, to recap, my favorite bird-poems are Hopkins's "The Windhover," Dickinson's poem about a bird coming up her walk, and William Everson's "Canticle of the Birds." Hopkins dedicates his poem "To Christ, Our Lord," and I always suspected that he felt obligated to do that because the poem comes close to idolizing the hawk, and if you're a Jesuit priest, you're not (or so I've read) supposed to have false idols. Students tend, I think, to want to make the poem too religious. I'm not opposed to any religiosity they can demonstrate to exist in the text, not by any means. It's just that I think the poem's real strengths are its linguistic jazz and its superb observation of a hovering, flying hawk. Hopkins just nailed that poem, on every level.

I can come up only with a lame transition to the next topic, which concerns stuff I don't understand, so I'll lamely say I don't understand how Hopkins could come up with sprung rhythm, any more than I can understand how Duke Ellington came up with all those great melodies and superb chords, which mange to be lush, complex, and whimsical all at once.

By "stuff I don't understand," I mean that I don't understand how the thing came to be, or I don't understand why "we" put up with the thing, or both.

1. The two-party system. I think we need at least 5 political parties.

2. When I "end" a program on this computer, after the program is "not responding" (this is a euphemism; the program failed; it didn't work, okay?), the software asks me whether I want to "Send" or ["Do Not Send"] an "Error Report" to Microsoft. I don't believe for a minute that the report goes to Microsoft, and even if it did, what does the report contain, and who reads it, and what do they do with it? This is nonsense.

3. I don't understand why Puerto Rico isn't a state. Or a nation. I think it's time to decide, and I think the way to decide is either by a vote or a coin-flip, whichever one would lead to less violence. But hell, they get to vote in a primary but not the general election? That's right out of Kafka. Or Borges, to keep it in the hemisphere. And I don't want to hear that the issue is "complicated." I know it's complicated. It's just that it's been complicated forever, so let's flip the coin and get on with it.

4. I don't understand why journalists interview other journalists. TV journalists are always having print-journalists on their shows--meaning the print journalists become TV journalists. I'd rather they pick some citizen randomly from outside the studio and interview him or her, OR interview someone who has information (as opposed to opinions) or both. What if police-persons would arrest some criminal only if that criminal were a police person? What if a pastor or a rabbi would preach only to other faith-professionals? What if teachers would teach only other teachers? WTF?--to coin an acronym. Journalists shouldn't interview journalists, except in the rare instance in which a journalist makes news--as in biting his or her dog.

5. I have no idea how micro-wave cookers actually work.

6. Why can't we take the massive profits of oil companies, divide by two (let's say), leave the companies one half, and use the other half to buy a lot of oil all of a sudden, to drive down the price? I don't understand. Why is this so hard? Congress should just look at the numbers, say what we all know ("You guys are making way too much money"), and take some of the money back. People who have to drive to work every day, or who drive for a living, need the gas and the money more than the massive oil companies do. It's just an issue of equity. I don't understand.

7. I don't understand why English barristers still wear those wigs. It's just not a good idea anymore, and I don't want to hear about what the wigs symbolize or about tradition or wool or anything like that. You and I know it's a stupid idea that's gone on way too long. If they want to retain a nod toward tradition, they can just hang one wig from a string, or have a painting of a wig, or have a ewe in court, or whatever. Just get rid of the wigs. The Canadians still do it, too. Somehow, that's even sadder. They should wear some fur from a moose, or a hockey puck, or a piece of perma-frost tundra--something Canadian, not British.
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