Thursday, February 25, 2010

eat for a week

Triple Fruits jam
cream cheese
half and half
Liberte yogurt [blackberry]
Astro Balkan yogurt [plain]
french bread
red plum
red plum
red plum
red plum
red plum
red plum
ginger root
romaine lettuce
white mushrooms
jalepeno pepper
cello bean sprout
Bolthouse mango juice
caesar dressing
blueberry bagel
blueberry bagel
blueberry bagel
plain bagel
multigrain bagel
cinnamon raisin bagel
2 percent milk
Yellow Tail


The poetry contest's deadline is not really even approaching yet [though it is approaching, along with my birthday]. Enter! I will make you famous. Tom-Tom is not The National Post, but it gets around. As an incentive for inviting your friends, for everyone because of whom another entry [other than their own] comes in, I will mail out leaf tea out of my wedding batch from The Naked Leaf.


Expecting a 60 on my Art History images midterm, I got it back with a red '87' scrawled on the last page. I say: not bad for having done no studying until the night before.

Tim and I are apartment-sitting for Kaylin [Tim's sister] for a week, starting today. She's left us a hundred dollars ["for food"]. Hello downtown! Hello coffeeshops and art gallery. Hello Liberte yogurt, white wine and organic vegetables.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Idler

For English I've been reading, well, back issues, of Samuel Johnson's The Idler [1758-60]. It reads like a blog. Just a twice-weekly publication of Johnson's current ideas. One issue was entirely about a visit with his friend William Marvel. Another was a sermon on the evils of colonization in Canada.
I don't think the "narcissism" of publishing on one's own life and thoughts is as modern as some people like to claim.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Not Waving But Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Observing Log

We set up the telescope tonight, and looked at Saturn's rings for the first time. They drifted serenely across our viewfinder like a balloon, but Saturn is a real place.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


The first contest commences now: a poetry contest for anyone who would like to enter. Feed The Long Neck is still a tiny blog, so everyone, tell your friends and post a link.

Here are the rules:

- one poem OR cycle of poems per entry
- plagiarism strictly prohibited

Enter as many times as you'd like. The winner will be published in the next issue of Tom-Tom, but all entries will be posted after the entry deadline: March 9, 2010.

To enter, email me at, with 'Contest' in the subject line. If you're new to Feed The Long Neck, welcome, and please send me a piece!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sherlock Holmes

"Consider some uncontroversial facts about the semantics of fiction (Walton, 1973, 1978; Lewis, 1978; Howell, 1979). A novel tells a story, but not a true story, except by accident. In spite of our knowledge or assumption that the story told is not true, we can, and do, speak of what is true in the story. 'We can truly say that Sherlock Holmes lived in Baker Street and that he liked to show off his mental powers. We cannot truly say that he was a devoted family man, or that he worked in close cooperation with the police' (Lewis, 1978). What is true in the story is much, much more than what is explicitly asserted in the text. It is true that there are no jet planes in Holmes's London (though this is not asserted explicitly or even logically in the text), but also true that there are piano tuners (though--as best as I recall--none is mentioned, or, again, logically implied). In addition to what is true and false in the story, there is a large indeterminate area: while it is true that Holmes and Watson took the 11:10 from Waterloo Station to Aldershot one summer's day, it is neither true nor false that that day was a Wednesday ("The Crooked Man").

"There are delicious philosophical problems about how to say (strictly) all the things we unperplexedly want to say when we talk about fiction, but these will not concern us. Perhaps some people are deeply perplexed about the metaphysical status of fictional people and objects, but not I. In my cheerful optimism I don't suppose there is any deep philosophical problem about the way we should respond, ontologically, to the results of fiction; fiction is fiction; there is no Sherlock Holmes" (Daniel Dennett, 1991).

That was all background so that you will understand me when I want to say that while I agree that Sherlock Holmes does not currently exist [and so far has never existed], the Sherlock Holmes we all somehow know, whose identity is spread out in stories and in readers minds, could become an entity proper.

For a moment, think about what a person, what a personality, what a character is. According to Douglas Hofstadter, a person is a pattern. More than a physical body and brain, a person is a great deal of information arranged in a particular way. The code includes their hair color, how they react to spiders, their tastes and preferences, their memories. This is why it is possible to say true things about characters who do not physically exist [let's call them 'virtual people'], whether they are fictional or simply dead.

It's also why virtual people are more real than you might think at first. The information you've gathered about them, the parts of the pattern they've shared with you or that you have observed, can be recreated in your own mind. They can become part of the pattern that makes up you, but they can also be said to exist, if incompletely, in their own right. Which brings me to Sherlock Holmes.

The British detective has never had a material body, but almost everyone, including Dennett, agrees that he has a recognizable and distinct character, personality, pattern. He exists incompletely in the minds of thousands of readers. They can say definite things about the way he looks and thinks, and predict his reactions to certain scenarios. Many readers have read enough stories that they have a good sample of the contents of his memory cache as well.

What if one of the most informed readers, or what if Conan Doyle himself, in a few years when the technology is good enough and computers are conscious, programmed a machine to be Sherlock Holmes? Possessing his own medium for his pattern at last, and with capacity to develop and change that pattern, Sherlock, a fictional character, would exist more fully than your deceased grandmother does, he might be just as real as you are this minute.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


It is absurd how a haircut positively rescues the day. But then, it was the absence of a haircut in my recent past that made yesterday something to rescue. When I looked ugly, when I needed a shower or to trim my nails, when my hair was draping limply over my scalp, I could not work, and it nearly killed me to be obliged to work in public. I am talking about uni.

I am reading a book on the requirements of a creative process, by Twyla Tharp, the choreographer. She writes mainly about the importance of ritual and routine, two practices that I have somehow shucked off during the past two years. My poems and projects have suffered, but I have suffered apart from my intellectual and artistic output as well. Tharp's comments seem relevant both to the lack of a habit fulfilling my writerly need for a grooming session before I sit down with a pen or a book, and to the lack of Carl Sagan's "spirituality" in my schedule.

I am beginning to crave some non-religious ritual, a rite of focussed concentration on deeply important ideas and experiences to observe regularly, the atheist's equivalent to going to church. The habit I will develop will likely include silence, walking outdoors, music, and poetry, in various combinations. I've found it easy [though not pleasant] to ignore personal and aesthetic contemplation since I moved out of my parents' house and took on all the distracting responsibilities of day-to-day subsistence, but the resulting stress, scattered brain, and feeling of alienation have been less painless to cope with.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesday Astronomy class

The midterm I expected to write this morning has been delayed until Thursday, and my relief is enormous.

The Sun is 8000 parsecs from the center of the Milky Way. There are layers of vast empty space from the area circled by the quarks of an atom's nucleus to the area circled by the atoms's electrons, to the area circled by the Moon around the Earth, the Earth around the Sun, the Sun around the black hole at the center of our galaxy, the billions of galaxies so distant the light from the farthest is 25 billion light years away, with only a few particles floating in the vacuum between them. The universe is the thinnest pattern of forces and specks.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

This illustration [with bright green leaves painted on each copy] will decorate the fronts of our wedding invitations.

February 6

It's early. Tim is running his humidifier for the health of the guitars and the cello, but in bed, I was beginning to feel like a steamed clam. Out here in his parents' living room I'm drinking leaf tea and planning Saturday.


It turns out that four readers are four more than my journal ever sees. Lately it's important to write for you; my work doesn't seem quite good enough to secret away, and there hasn't been much of it. When I'm quite sure I will never finish another poem, story, or daily report, the knowledge of any readers at all is very thrilling and aggravating. I'm writing partly to keep up appearances, but it's better than nothing. So thanks.