Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Alex the parrot

I saved this link to an obit for Alex the parrot because I was charmed by earlier stories about him and because research into animal intelligence fascinates me. It’s not the freshest news, but if you’ve never heard of Alex and Irene Pepperberg, here’s an excerpt:

According to Pepperberg who is a faculty member at Brandeis University, Alex was able to identify 50 different objects, seven colors and shapes, and quantities of up to six. Alex also understood the concept of bigger and smaller and same and different. Pepperberg says they were in the midst of learning basic mathematics skills. … After repeating some learning trials dozens of times, Alex would become tired and throw objects off the trays with his beak. When visiting the veterinarian, Alex would go back in his cage and slam the door.

… Alex would say to her every night before going to bed: "You be good. I love you. See you tomorrow."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

the yoga forest

I used to think of my practice as a journey where time and change were major components. As time progressed, changes would occur. Lately, I have started to think of my practice as a forest that I'm wandering through at night. Every moment of my practice, I'm learning something new about the forest. Whenever a teacher shares a bit of knowledge about his yoga practice with me, it's like a star lights up in the sky. Sometimes the light helps me see the forest better from where I'm standing.

Ann, one of my coworkers at the Claremont Branch library, writes a column for The Yogi Times. The above is a paragraph from one of the columns.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Ingersoll stuff

In the Miles City genealogy forum Mike Raunig said he had some Ingersoll stuff, so I wrote to him asking what that would be.

Raunig wrote back, “I had owned a very neat large wooden foot locker/trunk which had ‘Ingersoll Ranch ~ Miles City Montana’ painted nicely on the outer box. The box was full of cowboy gear, family photos, guns, tools, etc inside dating back to the late 19th and early 20th century.

“The inside lid of the trunk had painted on it: ‘7th Cavalry ~ Post Quarter Master ~ Fort Abraham Lincoln ~ Dakota Territory’.

“I had the trunk for a few years, but sold it a year ago or so. I had contacted some Ingersoll family thru various sources to research the item, as well as see if someone in the family wanted to buy the trunk and its contents. I was able to run down some information on the Ingersoll fellow who came to Miles City with a herd of longhorns from Texas and settled in the Miles City area in the 1880's. Nobody in the family I spoke with was interested in the purchase of the trunk.

“All of the family paper work I had compiled in doing my family research went with the trunk and I do not have it anymore other than what is in my feeble little head. I believe I was able to make contact with an Ingersoll in Alaska, and Ingersoll back east, and made an attempt to contact an Ingersoll in California to no avail. I ended up with several emails, and regular mail correspondence from 2 or 3 family members.”

That trunk sounds like a neat thing to have. But where would I put it?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

cousin Pamela

Since I’ve had the stats service on LuvSet I see what searches bring visitors and sometimes I follow the search back to see what other sites the search engine turned up.

Somebody interested in an Ingersoll other than me showed up here, so I followed them back to their search, and thus over to a website for Miles City, Montana, where there’s a genealogy forum. My dad was born in Miles City.

A Marvin Miller says (7/14/02), “I went to Custer High (class of 1948),with two Ingersoll brothers, Bruce and Gary. Bruce graduated in 1944? Gary in 1946? I talked to Bruce about five years ago, he lived in Anchorage, Alaska, and was listed in the 'phone book.” Bruce is my father’s name.

Collen Carter writes (4/18/03), “My great-great grandmother, Mary Collins, moved from Minnesota to Terry Montana in 1880 with her 14 year old daughter Rose (b. 1866). Rose took a job as a schoolteacher and eventually married George F. Ingersoll. The 1900 U.S. Census lists Rose and George, a ‘stock raiser,’ and two children, a son Lynn and a daughter Dixie. Rose later became the superintendent of schools for Miles City.” My father’s father’s name was Lynn? Yeah, that's right.

Mike Raunig responds (4/22/03), “George F. Ingersoll (originally from Iowa) … was better known as ‘Dick’. Dick was associated with the Lee-Scott Cattle Company of Ft. Worth Texas. Around 1885, Dick and a partner drove a herd of longhorns from Texas to Montana and settled in the Miles City area and formed The Bow Gun Ranch, and the ‘Bow and Arrow Ranch’.”

Pamela Ingersoll, datelining herself “Sonoma County, California” (which town? I grew up there) fills in details (11/27/04), “I believe the 'Ingersoll Ranch' you're looking for belonged to my great-grand-parents, George F. ‘Dick’ and Rose Collins Ingersoll. They owned the Bow Gun and Swinging H Ranch properties, north of Terry, Montana. George F. ‘Dick’ and Rose Collins Ingersoll had a son Lynn R. Ingersoll, (the 1st), my grand-father, who married Bernice Kempton Ingersoll, my grand-mother. Together they had five (5) sons, Dick, Lynn R. Ingersoll, (the 2nd, my father), Thomas , Bruce and Gerry . All born in Miles City. My father, Lynn R. Ingersoll, II and Bruce K. Ingersoll are now deceased. … Apparently, both my maternal and paternal great-parents and great-great-grand-parents, are well known in eastern Montana history. I am not aware of any Ingersolls from my family, still living in Montana. We are all scattered throughout the U.S.” So Pamela and I share a grandfather.

Colleen Carter closes the discussion with a bio of Great Grandfather Dick by his son (my grandfather?) Lynn, “Originally from Lynn, Mass, and Boone, Iowa, after graduating from Mount Vernon, Iowa college [Dick Ingersoll traveled] all over the Western U.S. He headed for the Black Hills Gold rush 1875, but wound up at Old Tascosa on the North Canadian river, not far North of [today’s] Amarillo, Tex …
1884 spring he got to be trail boss or foreman of two herds of 3000 steers each headed for the big grass country of Eastern Mont., between the Yellowstone and Big Missouri Rivers. These herds of young steers were from the Lee-Scott (L.S.) out fit on the North Canadian River range and were being sent up North to develope [sic] into 5 & 6 yr old steers weighing on an average of 1200 lbs … These two L.S. herds landed on the Big Dry at mouth of what is still called L.S. creek. 20 miles below what is now the town of Jordan in later day Garfield [County, Montana].”

Some of the bio varies from that provided by another source, according to Kenny Vail (6/24/02), who quotes from “the Hoopes’ index book”: "Ingersoll, George F. (Dick) born 12/20/1858, at Lee, Berkshire Co., Mass. '65 with parents to Boone, Iowa; father in cattle business; graduates Cornell College, Mt. Vernon Iowa. '77: gold fever; to the Black Hills with his father, then returns to Iowa. 1878: with father to Fort Worth, Tx., cattle business; ride the range until '85; is appointed foreman, ‘Lee-Scott’ Cattle Company. Trails their cattle overland to southeast M.T.; settles there."

I’m only mildly interested in pursuing the research necessary to draw a family tree. When somebody does it for me … well then … that’ll do.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Are you a boy or a girl?"

"I'm fa'afafine," Tafi said. "That means I have a boy's body, but I was raised in Samoa as a girl."

Tafi could have explained that in the islands, nobody ever asked. She could have told the girl that a Samoan mother with a fa'afafine among her children is considered lucky. Fa'afafine help with babies and cooking, they tend the elderly and the sick. They are presumed to have the best traits of both men and women.

… In the islands Tafi was more accepted, but her life was still complicated. Many fa'afafine live as women, the maleness of their bodies ignored by those around them. … Many families, including Tafi's, expect they will remain celibate. In a culture that prizes both its tradition and Christianity, fa'afafine are tolerated, but behavior that hints at homosexuality is not.

Still, many fa'afafine … do have discreet relationships with men.

In her ideal world, Tafi, who was raised as an oldest girl-child named Alicia, wouldn't have to change her body to be accepted … Since she came to Anchorage, Tafi's family, who loves her as she is, has pressured her to dress like a man. They have decided she needs to fit in to avoid ugliness she isn't used to. Now, at 23, she's torn between the expectations of her family who accept her as an asexual helper, and American culture that's less accepting but offers her what she wants most: a chance to become physically female, to find a husband and have a family of her own.

The above is excerpted from an article I discovered last month at the website for The Anchorage Daily News. Alaska has a Samoan community?

Polynesian societies typically had transgender/gay roles, much like many Native American societies. As there are rules for men and women, so there are rules for third gender people. It’s not the individualistic American experience. It’s part of a traditional way of life.

But for her father and her brothers, one thing is very important. Tafi must follow the rules. A fa'afafine brother is one thing, but a gay brother is quite another. … When the subject of a boyfriend came up at the table after church, Tafi's mother and sisters cheered with approval.

Unfortunately, among the evils Europeans brought to the South Pacific was a censorious Christianity that seeks to destroy families in order to save them. Fun!

In her sarong, a flower behind her ear, Tafi carried plates of food to the elders from church, she dished out salad and chow mein, she sliced the elaborate banana cake. A child fell; She picked him up and shushed his tears.

R&B rolled out of a big set of speakers and the rhythm took hold of her sisters. They stopped work to dance, raising their palms to the sky. The mood captured their mother, Ropeta, who bounced her shoulders and swayed. Tafi put down her big spoon and let the song catch her hips in a slow groove. … Ropeta looked at her happy child dancing in the barbecue smoke and felt moved to cheer her on in English: "Go, girl! Go, girl! Go, girl!"

Saturday, September 15, 2007

comments on “Rush Hour” version 4

One of my old poems comes to mind every so often. I grew up in a town called Sebastopol. I wrote a poem called “Sexual Sebastopol” and tried to make a sort of eros of the streets – the physical thing of the town. I ran across the poem in my recent rereading and thought there wasn’t much that worked about it. But the idea informs “Rush Hour”, the sensual hunger of the inanimate, how it wants to feel, how it must feel bound up with things & things. In their grip, acted upon, moved over.

So I revisited the accusatory voice of the first version of “Rush Hour”, the pointing-finger voice seeming to scold the street. In this version I was more interested in the street and its experience than in the commuters in their cars.

Rush Hour, version 4

You, street, you like it, the stink
of the machine, hanging hot
over your skin, hot already with sun,
hot already in the black of you, paling,
as the youth fades, the darkening of

You, street, you need that jerk jerk jerk
slow over the face you turn up to tire,
to rain, to cloud passing over the single
sun, the cold creep of a broken night wheel
among the glass crumbs spattered
on an older skin.

You, street, you breathe it, the exhausted
cough and the muscled grumble, the
wheeze, the growl. You breathe it,
the long body of you expanding, taking it up.
You breathe it out all night, squeezing
the quiet out.

You, street, you take it, going nowhere,
the fastness of your progress out of town,
the only way allowed. You take it loud.
And you take it far, street to street, road
and road and road and track, this path
that trick of trail.

You, street, you carry past capacity,
past velocity, past city, past farm, past
one last turn, the truck’s churning gravel
as its wheels spin and grip and gripe
and the body lurches leaving what
help you gave.

You, street, you don’t want a thing.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

comments on “Rush Hour” version 3

I don’t like the phrase “rush hour”. But looking at it I saw the hs push together, the words ready to have done to them what I did to the car names in version 2. Then, naturally, I saw the rs do the same.

I’ve done poems looking somewhat like this before. I would do a few blocks of text and, with each repetition, change some of the words within the block. I called them “animations” as they had some of the characteristics of animation cells.

I’m a bit dubious of the concrete poem that tries to make the words pictograms. The word “faucet” shaped like a faucet with a pendulous “drip” coming from the opening. Doesn’t do anything for me.

I tried to find information about the coinage of the phrase “rush hour”. No luck. Other than: Everybody’s trying to rush the highway at once …

Haven’t decided what I think of this version yet. Does it go the pictogram route, too obvious? Do the mushing together & intermixing of the words up the interest? …

Rush Hour, version 3







Wednesday, September 05, 2007

comments on “Rush Hour” version 2

Version 2 is a list of the names of automobiles. I got the list from name nerds. The names overlap, thus the first few “accentaloneonavigator” broken apart would be “accent talon neon navigator” … bumper to bumper traffic, you might say.

In my comments about the original “Rush Hour” I said, it “was merely an exercise.” Whether this, too, is merely an exercise, it is rather fun.

Rush Hour, version 2


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

comments on “Rush Hour”

After “On the Edge/Four Addresses” I was intrigued to find another poem of second person address, this one to a street. I wrote it the same busy month of February 1985 (but in a new notebook, one titled This is important!). “On the Edge” was addressed to a person. Only in revision, the versioning I did on the blog, did the speaker address nonhuman elements of the scene. Yet here is a poem written shortly after “On the Edge” that speaks directly to an inanimate object, a poem I had not rediscovered before I started the new work on “On the Edge”. It’s a fun coincidence.

“Rush Hour” is not a poem of much interest. There are nice bits: phrases – “jerk jerk jerk ever forward slightly” – and word music – “queasy stomached cars” with its k sounds …

I have no idea what to do to make it a better poem, not because it’s a good poem to start with but because the scene is utterly banal. Rush hour traffic. … uh? … the one element that suggests something to me is the notion that the street itself is responsible – “miscreant street”, “a street that doesn’t breathe” …

This is a different challenge than the one I posed myself with “On the Edge”. I thought “On the Edge”, though ultimately unsatisfying, had a power to it, was a poem. “Rush Hour” has no power, is merely an exercise. I felt responsibility toward the original “On the Edge” not to lose what it started. What does “Rush Hour” have? At best a few phrases to be used in something else?

Rush Hour

Miscreant street full of cars
bumper to bumper you push them close
jostle those slinking machines
bumping, rumbling roars of motors
as they jerk jerk jerk ever forward slightly
antsy, nervous, queasy stomached cars
rub grills and exhaust pipes
the men at the wheels
the women at the wheels
inhaling the exhale of their vehicles
some smoke cigarettes
some blare stereos
some drum their annoyance with their knuckles on the dashboard
in a hundred speedometers a tenth mile clicks
stopping, starting
brake and gas conflicting
first gear, second gear, first gear
this is the fault of the naughty street
a street with police car bars
a constricted artery
a street that doesn’t breathe

Monday, September 03, 2007

John Ashbery

Ron Silliman was posting about John Ashbery last month. I left this comment:

I have a strange association with Ashbery. I was reading Houseboat Days when the cat of my childhood was dying. He would cry & cry and I would stroke him but he could not stay still more than a moment and would wander back & forth and begin again to cry. Because I needed something to distract me and because I discovered I could read Ashbery both with & without attention (it seemed to work equally either way) I read Houseboat Days while we waited for morning and the vet's office to open.