15.4.10

Software Review: Access My Library for the iPhone

Have you ever wanted to use your iPhone to access your library's electronic resources? Well, you can with Access My Library.
I love access to my public library's online resources, like EBSCOhost and Galegroup resources.

I'm pleased to know I can access some of the resources I pay taxes for, not only on my computer but on my iPhone.

Gale Group, a leading reference resource has developed a nifty iPhone app that uses geotracking to locate the nearest public libraries in your area and allows you to access electronically through an app.

What this means is I can access Scribner's Writer's Series on my phone.
If I lived in San Francisco, then I could access the public library there as well.

Gale allows this access for free because it knows it helps libraries reach out to more of its patrons who may not have access to the stacks because of work or other commitments. This ensures libraries will continue to use Gale as an online database service.

The app enhances iPhone's ability to search out reputable resources. The worldwide web does not always contain the most desirable sources, and sometimes I need access to a subscription database to locate trustworthy information.

Now, only if the legal battle can cease, then Google can offer a similar service through its Books feature.

14.4.10

On a Visit to Ozanam Inn in New Orelans — A Men's Homeless Shelter

New Orleans has an all-men homeless shelter on Camp Street. Today my cousin and I stepped inside to take a look.
Ozanam Inn 
photo credit: Ozanam Inn
Spontaneously, while walking on Camp street heading for the D-day museum, We crept behind a gate. Ozanam Inn sprung into view as if metastasized right there on Camp street, replete with a line of men, waiting in line for a room to sleep. But he didn't know what was behind the gate. I didn't tell him; he was horrified, ripped from a pleasant view into a darker corner, social inequality thrust upon a privileged. It was rudeness on my part; I had said, "Come here. I want to show you something," as if I knew what a good lesson was. To me, they were readers, workers, sinners, saints -- reading a newspaper, one, another a novel, and another dragging on a cigarette. Another protecting his bicycle leaning against the dump. For him, just a boy at my side, they were strangers, monsters in his sleep, the stay-away-from-them folks momma told you about, not the needy in want of bread, shelter -- not the Samaritan on the block. It was my fault; I deserved his "Don't ever do that to me again without telling me first" accusation. In my rush to enlighten, I revealed reality too quickly, shed the gauze from his eyes too swiftly as if I went to amputate his legs without warning. We walked to the museum and I could tell I had frightened him. He was skittish and uncomfortable, gazing into the plexiglass displays of bombers and beach ballasts, authentic uniforms; and my words, a mismatch of history and mentorship. An old veteran's wife approached us while I was trying to explain axis and allies; "Listen to him boy; you can't get a better lesson than this". You indeed can't get a better lesson that.

Poem: “Chinese Buffet”

photo credit: wikimedia
at the chinese buffet, during lunch hour
there's a table of brash intimacy
and lunch hour camaraderie -
the sleight parent wearing a holiday
green sweater, christmas lights strung
across her child-nursing breasts;
she gestures, eggrolls pushed to
the side, the travails of I-don't-know-what-
because I am too far away to eavesdrop,
but what I did notice I've turned into miserable verse,
I must admit,
of my own voyeurism
getting the best of me,
this haphazard bunch,
articulating with words and flesh
what I can only stab at
with my fork,
ashamed at my own frog-like
existence,
crouching in the chinese buffet,
while my mongolian stew
gristles in the background.

Notes on "On Some Motifs in Baudelaire"



Walter Benjamin on Marcel Proust on the Madeleine
I remember Walter Benjamin's writings on Marcel Proust's madeleine, the moment, in Proust's novel In Search of Lost Time, when an avatar of Proust bites into the pastry, memories of his childhood flood into his brain, what Proust calls a memoire involuntaire; but, I never noticed before this statement Benjamin (writing about Proust) makes about the search for an object related to a lost memory:
"As for that object, it depends entirely on chance whether we come upon it before we die or whether we never encounter it" (Benjamin Illuminations 158).
Lacan's Objet Petit A
This comment reminds me of Lacan's objet petit a.

It's Lacan's psychological concept for the lost object. The object of desire responsible for obsession and deranged fantasy. It is that object of desire that drives the desirer mad in search of it.

The object of desire, in the symbol of the madeleine, is a marker for that object that we may chance upon, involuntarily, or may never have at all. I think about myself, here, and my desires. If there is a "madeleine" for me, I may taste it, or I may not; the memoire involuntaire is totally necessitated by chance; I happen upon the object, the memory comes flooding in like an impressionistic painting. But, I may never come upon this memory, locked forever in some lost object of desire.

Is the Job of the Poet to Hearken Back to Lost Memories?
If it is the poet's job to unlock these memories, then I applaud the poet. If it is a poet who can open up a madeleine of lost memories, let's laud him with a crown of laurel.

I am sure there is a poem hidden in a taste yet to be eaten.

Am I hedonistic to wish for such a bite?

Proust entrances his reader with the opportunity to invoke memories through the senses. It is the poet who puts these sense impressions into language. Cognitive science confirms Proust's intimation that the senses (e.g., smell and taste) trigger a memory. Proust is right.

Proust Via Benjamin Via Lacan Are Onto Something
The memory Proust, and I think Benjamin is onto something, is alluding to is not a factual memory stuck at a particular moment in time. The memory is much broader than a recollection. Baudelaire (via Benjamin) uses the term shock - an expression meant to suggest a memory linked to trauma. The shock is a sense impression outside of some romantic notion of memory, and instead of a memory of the crowd.

I put away silly notions of private memory. The artist does not pull from something deep inside of him to produce art. It is not a private string of emotions the artist must articulate so others can understand. The memory the artist exposes is already there, involuntary.

Works Cited: 

Benjamin, Walter. Eiland, Howard, et al. Gesammelte Schriften. United Kingdom, Belknap Press, 1996.

Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. United States, Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019.

Story From The Classroom: A Severe Whooshing Sound

The following is an excerpt from my book “Things I Probably Shouldn’t Have Said And Other Faux Pas”. Buy a copy on Amazon.

Teaching a lesson yesterday, and while facing the board, the noise stops. Returning to the board, the noise escalates.

I immediately become angry. "Shit," I mutter and launch for the call button on the wall directly connected to the disciplinarian's office. I turn to the class. It's Spring. We're all fatigued. It's time to go home. I see that. Know that. But, damn, the noise must have been created on purpose. Who made that noise?

"Somebody better fess up before the office responds," I say. Almost immediately, a boy in the front row meekly raises his hand. "It was, ummmm, me." He looks mortified. As if I had just told him he has a few seconds to live.

But, I know the student: he's not malicious. Maybe has a penchant for destruction, but certainly not hell-bent on making my life miserable. "So," I say. "Why are you making those whooshing noises?! I can't think straight."

I feel like Ludwig Wittgenstein who would get angry easily in the classroom. But, he was teaching kindergarten (a worldclass philosopher) and I'm a ninth grade English teacher. A flawed one at that. The student says, "I didn't realize."

The intercom blares, "Yes? May I help you?" "No, I say. I'm good. Got it under control." Clicks off. The class sighs. The student perks up a bit, "I thought you were going to kill me, for a second." I laugh. In a good way. The class laughs. As if it had been a huge practical joke.

"That noise felt like it was destroying my thoughts."

"I didn't know I was making any noise," he says. The kid smiles, as if he knows what he's saying. Nods. The class is chatting.

I say, "OK. As I was saying." We go on with the lesson. I'm over it. The class isn't. The kid can't help himself. "You need a hug?"

"No, I'm good. Just put your pen out of your mouth. OK?"

After class, I feel bad. Silly, even. "I'm sorry," I say. He smiles, puts on my prop hat I use for Of Mice and Men.

"You scared me for a second, Mr. Roselli. I thought I was going to get in trouble. Usually when you're mad, you still have a smile on your face. Here, Mr. Roselli, have a hand sandwich." He shakes my hand like I shake theirs, with both hands like a sandwich.

Even if he did mean it, I realize I reacted swiftly. I scared the kid. Good thing he really didn't mean it.

Well, now I know where that whooshing sound's been coming from all year. Maybe he'll finally stop. He picks up his slugger stick -- apparently a colloquialism for baseball bat. Exits. He comes back in, with masking tape and a sign, "Please do not touch." He puts it over the intercom.

"Funny," I say. "Now, go home."

Tomorrow'll be another fiasco. They crowd me in like Children of the Corn. Make horrible comments on a social networking site. But, today is a good day. A students tells me she likes poetry, thinks about the meaning of the lyrics. One student wrote a poem about being adopted.

One observation about ninth graders: they remember in spurts. Just like me bolting for the button. One girl pipes up, "I remember what a hyperbole is?!" Good, I think, I feel like one right now. The boy with the pen makes sure he puts away his pen.

"You'll miss us when you're gone?" I don't answer. Just smile. "You know you love us."

And I guess I do. Let someone else mind the gap. Teach tone and imagery, gerunds, infinitives and first person point of view. Today, I want peace of mind. A kid laughs when another kid talks about "reading for pleasure." As if he's coding for a dirty word. "Y'all are sick." I say that instead of saying, stop being immature. I scan the classroom before the bell rings. I sometimes wonder why I am here. Where will they be?

Have seeds been planted? But, who needs a mentor? We need a teacher. But, who wants to be taught? The apple-faced kids? I turn out the lights, take my tie off. I hate wearing this stuff.

The hallways become quiet. I'm leaving soon. On to something else. I'm giving a workshop on Google Docs.

It's time. I knew this even before I began. I have given my two years. A few more weeks left. Finals. Summer. "Yes," I say. I will miss them. But, I long for New York more. I wonder if I'll see my students in the future? I wonder what we'll learn?

Why I Listen to Rilke and Don't Write Love Poems

Rilke in "Letters to a Young Poet" 
Reading again the injunction Rilke gave to his younger protege not to write love poems because they are too “facile and ordinary,” I am reminded why I do not write love poems.
It’s an overwrought genre.
Look. Love poems are preferably saturated in the oeuvre: Shakespeare’s doting sonnets alone give us all we need:
The Nike of Samothrace