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Archives for May 2006

Word of the Week

zoösemiotics A branch of SEMIOTICS that studies the features of human COMMUNICATION which, as the end products of an evolutionary series, are shared with animal systems of communication; opposed to ‘anthroposemiotic’ features, which are exclusively human. Under the heading of ‘zoösemiotic features/systems’ fall certain features of tone of voice (cf. PARALANGUAGE), facial expression, gesture, etc. (cf. KINESICS, PROXEMICS), as well as several mechanisms of animal communication which seem not to overlap with human signalling systems (e.g. chemical signals, pheremones, echolocation).

[From: Crystal, David. Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics, Fourth Ed., Blackwell, 1997.]

The Mystery of Things

My review of Debra Murphy’s novel is up over at Godspy.


Thanks to MCM for passing along word of this obituary for Judith Moore in the Los Angeles Times.

This fellow wrote something as well.

Why I’m a Catholic

Why did I join the Catholic Church?

Out of boredom, when it comes right down to it. Everything else bored me to death — except God’s love, God’s majesty, God’s infinite intimacy and yet infinite distance, His mystery. And only in the Catholic Church are those preserved. Everywhere else under the sun is a yawning chasm of yawns and boredom unto death.

And yet there are these formidable forces within the Church, working to strip it of that majesty and that love and that mystery, and make it a place where boredom once again reigns, as it reigns everywhere else on Earth. The most scandalous thing about the much-publicized sexual abuse scandal, for example, is that it is so essentially boring, arising out of boredom and leading from boredom unto boredom.

Gosh, thanks.

The Catholic Press Association gave Swimming with Scapulars second place in the First Time Author category. I am honored and grateful – to the Association, and to the folks at Loyola who made the book possible, and made it better as well.


Who writes anything with FORM anymore? I’d like to hear from those of you who have read something recently that’s been written recently which has a) form b) matter and c) beauty all over.

I’m thinking of Shakespeare’s sonnets; Keats’ odes; Anonymous’ ballads (i.e. Sir Patrick Spense.); but also the classic architecture of a good Henry James novel or even that scarcest of animals: the epic. How ’bout a good ol’ fashioned weep till you cry tragedy?

Furthermore: why is “form” so formless anymore?

Henry Adams said that a chaotic age demands a chaotic art. But surely he didn’t mean what we have nowadays. (Take your pick: from dung on sacred things to urine on others in the plastic arts – to poems that sound more like Jim Morrison on a bad day and fiction that mean more to it’s author than to its readers.)

Admittedly, a jag of sorts in an early corner of the morning’s room.

A pretty good version of the good life.

Wisconsin IS Middle Earth…

Of course, I only this year got around to reading Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit (I always preferred the Arthur C. Clarke type spaceships and hardware science fiction when I was growing up – and of course regret now having wasted my time on it and not making the acquaintance of Bilbo and Frodo earlier…).

But for those interested in knowing a bit more about my Wisconsin Life and How to Live It: You will be none to thrilled to know that by the sheer accidental allignments of fates and furies, muses and marplots, I was born in NJ. But, to echo Isaac Asimov’s own sentiments regarding his native USSR, I rectified that situation as soon as humanly possible.

(Not that NJ is the same as the USSR – although I recall Billy Joel once quoted as saying something to the effect of if you wanted to know what living under Communist bureaucracy was like, just visit a DMV in NJ…)

At any rate, by the sheer drift of my educational career (similiar in plot and character development to one of Spencer Tracy’s last films, “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”) I wound up in Wisconsin. Many know, via Swimming with Scapulars, that it was the Earth Goddess, my wife Cecilia, who drew me, Belle Dame Sans Mercy-style, into the heart of the Oochcooch Mountains (as this glacially untouched region of southwest Wisconsin is known natively). And with six children, I might add, even today the glaciers know enough to stay away…

After living in NJ, California and Texas, I found Wisconsin, at least this corner of Wisconsin, the best of all possible post-Edenic worlds… I wish I knew how to post pics and I’d show you how I know this fact. We have limited time on this planet, and to find the place where you are, the place where every morning you can wake up to the bracing thought, “Mine,” well that’s worth at least a bit oof Souchang Lapsong tea in the bottom of a junk.

OK – I’m going to try to explain this better in a poem (yes…I can hear the groans already…)I wrote on this same issue to my wife….

Valhalla, Wisconsin

-for Cecilia

It should have been the very first thing you said,
But it came out only after
We worried enough grooves
In the hard-wood floors,
Made ample memories in the dusty windows,
And put sufficient shadows
On the walls, behind the pictures
We brought there with us.

It should have hit you like a dollop of inspiration,
A saying blurted out
In immediate apprehension,
An unthinking seeing
Of a whole in every part.
“Just imagine it,”
You could have said,
“Part Rhine castle, part Irish cottage — all Valhalla.”

Yet, it took the time and weight of multiple dynamics,
Of hot and humid nights
Combined with stolid in-laws, screaming babies, etc.
Like DNA blueprints
Layered on one another,
A grafted jungle of family trees,
Drafted ingeniously into genealogies of love,
To really bring it home:

We sat before the Muslim hum of the air-conditioner,
Lights low, kids asleep,
In-laws banished for the night,
A beer between us.
We cashed in our inventories of the day
On our inventory of days,
And you said, “It’s ours.”
Part sigh, part battle-cry, all Valhalla.


We’re trying to figger out how to git JOB up an’ runnin’ here at the Godsbody Lab…