April 17th, 2008

cirque du soleil trapeze

A Morning Look -

Here is a fresh way to look at ourselves.

An Ox Looks at Man
They are more delicate even than shrubs and they run
and run from one side to the other, always forgetting
something. Surely they lack I don't know what
basic ingredient, though they present themselves
as noble or serious, at times. Oh, terribly serious,
even tragic. Poor things, one would say that they hear
neither the song of the air nor the secrets of hay;
likewise they seem not to see what is visible
and common to each of us, in space. And they are sad,
and in the wake of sadness they come to cruelty.
All their expression lives in their eyes--and loses itself
to a simple lowering of lids, to a shadow.
And since there is little of the mountain about them --
nothing in the hair or in the terribly fragile limbs
but coldness and secrecy -- it is impossible for them
to settle themselves into forms that are calm, lasting
and necessary. They have, perhaps, a kind
of melancholy grace (one minute) and with this they allow
themselves to forget the problems and translucent
inner emptiness that make them so poor and so lacking
when it comes to uttering silly and painful sounds:
desire, love, jealousy
(what do we know?) -- sounds that scatter and fall in the field
like troubled stones and burn the herbs and the water,
and after this it is hard to keep chewing away at our truth.
~ Carlos Drummond de Andrade ~
(translated by Mark Strand)

(In Praise of Fertile Land, ed. by Claudia Mauro)
alan's marigolds

politics -

I appreciate this column, because I read the NY Times this morning, and swore I will not vote for Hillary, no matter what.  I knew I was reading a biased account in her favor since the NY Times has endorsed Hillary, and still, I don't think they realized what they were presenting.  I don't think she realizes the underlying hatred and disregard she shows, and then, I read this, and I know I have my filters too.  Ah, what a world, and again, we are graced with a most beautiful day.

Op-Ed Columnist

Divided They Fall

Published: April 17, 2008

If you’re a Democrat, your candidate won in Wednesday night’s presidential debate — that was obvious, and most neutral observers would recognize that. But the other candidate issued appalling distortions, and the news commentary afterward was shamefully biased.

So you’re madder than ever at the other candidate. You may even be more likely to vote for John McCain if your candidate loses.

That prediction is based on psychological research that helps to explain the recriminations between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — and the reasons why Senator McCain should be smiling as the Democratic campaign drags on.

To understand your feelings about Wednesday night’s debate, consider the Dartmouth-Princeton football game in 1951. That bitterly fought contest was the subject of a landmark study about how our biases shape our understanding of reality.

Psychologists showed a film clip of the football game to groups of students at each college and asked them to act as unbiased referees and note every instance of cheating. The results were striking. Each group, watching the same clip, was convinced that the other side had cheated worse — and this was not deliberate bias or just for show.

“Their eyes were taking in the same game, but their brains seemed to be processing the events in two distinct ways,” Farhad Manjoo writes in his terrific new book, “True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.” It’s the best political book so far this year.

Mr. Manjoo cites a more recent study by Stanford University psychologists of students who either favored or opposed capital punishment. The students were shown the same two studies: one suggested that executions have a deterrent effect that reduces subsequent murders, and the other doubted that.

Whatever their stance, the students found the study that supported their position to be well-conducted and persuasive and the other one to be profoundly flawed.

“That led to a funny result,” Mr. Manjoo writes. “People in the study became polarized.”

A fair reading of the two studies might have led the students to question whether any strong conclusions could be drawn about deterrence, and thus to tone down their views on the death penalty. But the opposite happened. Students on each side accepted the evidence that conformed to their original views while rejecting the contrary evidence — and so afterward students on both sides were more passionate and confident than ever of their views.

That’s what we seem to be seeing in the Democratic primaries. Even though the policy differences between the two candidates are minimal, each camp is becoming increasingly aggravated at the other. A Washington Post poll published Wednesday found that more than one-third of Democrats say that they may not support their party’s nominee if it is not their own choice.

Another challenge is the biased way in which we gather information. We seek out information that reinforces our prejudices. One study presented listeners with static-filled recordings of speeches that they believed they were judging on persuasive power. Listeners could push a button to tweak the signal, reducing the static to make it easier to understand. When smokers heard a speech connecting tobacco with cancer, they didn’t try to improve the clarity to hear it more easily. But they pushed the button to get a clearer version of a speech saying that there was no link between smoking and cancer. Nonsmokers were the exact opposite.

This resistance to information that doesn’t mesh with our preconceived beliefs afflicts both liberals and conservatives, but a raft of studies shows that it is a particular problem with conservatives. For example, when voters receive mailings offering them free pamphlets on various political topics, liberals show some interest in getting conservative views. In contrast, conservatives seek only those pamphlets that echo their own views.

Likewise, liberal blogs overwhelmingly link to other liberal blogs or news sources. But with conservative blogs, the tendency is much more pronounced; it is almost a sealed universe.

The situation isn’t hopeless. Similar psychological processes govern our perceptions of race, yet we’ve made great progress in revising our views and reducing prejudices. The same is true of attitudes towards gays.

The only solutions I see are personal ones, to work out daily to build our mental muscles. Just as we force ourselves to nibble on greens and decline cheesecake, we should seek an information diet that includes a salad bar of information sources — with a special focus on unpalatable rubbish from fools. The worse it tastes, the better it may be for us.

If that’s why you’re reading this, congratulations! And thanks!

alan's marigolds

some relief -


To Nose or Not to Nose


To nose or not to nose

is the question of my day.


I am informed my email smiley face

is in need of a nose, and I sit here wondering


if I have issues around scent,

or, if, in fact, since my computer fills it in

with a cute little face,

that I am instead impressively efficient,


or maybe it is that I don’t like a nose

represented by a minus sign.

I like round noses, noses with space,

noses that can breathe and inhale fully,


not a dismal little subtraction of a stick,

floating like a hovercraft,

with the clear intention of separating the eyes

from the smile.




Book Cover

one way to look at it -

If we are here for any purpose at all (except for collating texts, running rivers and learning the stars), I suspect it is to entertain the rest of nature.  We are a gang of sexy, primate clowns.

    - Gary Snyder

Enjoy what you are!!