Commentary, narratives, and reviews of film, politics, philosophy, sailing, and photography. And other stuff.
Careers: I've done time at several colleges and universities
on the east coast as philosophy teacher, film teacher, and
resident curmudgeon. Last seven years, I've been a web worker
and occasional traveler.
Politics: conceptual Leftist with a Freudo-Nietzschean reactionary
streak; practical liberal. I think globally and act rarely.
Boat: C&C Landfall 35 cruising sailboat.
Home base: Maine
Enough for this space: you'll get to know me much too well,
if you read my Blog from time to time.
And, yes, the halo is real.
Light and variable
This web log (or "blog") is no longer being maintained--there
have been no entries since February, 2003, and I don't intend
to resume regular publication.
text below is an edited version of the original blog. Much
of what I wrote in the winter of 2002-2003 is no longer timely
or illuminating. So I have retained only a few entries.
Saturday, January 04, 2003
not snow in Maine today as much as had been predicted, but,
coming only nine days after a 19" white deluge, the 8"
or so was quite enough for most of us. Indoors
was peaceful, and the town was unusually quiet from being
a weekend with parking bans in effect. Outside the winds were
not "light and variable": gusts.over 50 mph
were recorded, and sometimes the entire cityscape out the
window disappeared in a rush of white.
I decided this morning to make a photographic "color
poem" of sorts--a study of snow's color--that contains
the whole color spectrum within it. As
anyone knows who has ever tried to choose paint for a living-room
wall, there are so
many colors of white. I found plenty of white
to photograph indoors, and, at least today, a great deal more
of it outside. I made more than 30 digital images before lunch,
and then assembled them for display here.this afternoon. The
images are necessarily "minimalist", but there's
a great deal of content in them, I think, for one who "loves
to look,"--and knows how to look at the world
we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows
government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling...."
Collins, Snow Day
Sunday, December 29, 2002
BLOWOUT--A SEAFARING SAGA OF SORTS
and more manipulated by ego-needs than I am now, I always
tried to work into any conversation with a new person some
allusion to my academic career--universities that employed
me, courses I'd authored and taught, current philosophic obsessions
(phenomenology, existentialism, structuralism, post-structuralism,
deconstruction, or whatever), and articles not to miss, while
simultaneously undercutting any impression of attempting to
impress my listener by ridiculing my lack of professionalism,
my refusal to publish, my sorry educational lacunae. The point
was to say that yes, I taught philosophy, but was no philosopher,
and that I valued the joys that accrued from my own private
trajectory in academia more than I valued success in academia.
After all, the money earned in tuition from my huge film classes
surely paid the salary of a more serious and scholarly colleague
who published regularly and taught only 12 students per term.
It seemed to me to be a fair trade. Neither I nor professional
philosophy were worth taking seriously, since I lived for
intensity of experience. And my sort of intensity was
to be found in art, travel, and romance, not in syllabi, monographs,
festschrifts, nor anything "emeritus". You get the
idea. My colleagues concluded that I'd taken the existentialists
too much to heart. Besides, a several hundred page dissertation
on Merleau-Ponty that netted me a Ph.D. had taught me that
I didn't like typing in a room alone. And I liked even less
the sense of having to feel responsible for written words
long after their currency had expired, long after my enthusiasm
had dissolved. Suppose I were successful, and wrote a work
of substance? The payoff would be steak dinners with old bearded
guys playing competitive word games at table after some boring
paper at some academic conference in Michigan in January.
Conversation with a witty woman after jazz club dinner and
drinks in The Village or LA's West Washington Boulevard was
much more to my taste. The rebel stance worked by and large--at
least it got me access to some very lovely people's attention,
none of whom valued my company for my curriculum vita..
dodged exclusive focus on academic publications by living
a couple years in a tree house in southern California, and
reading every European novelist sufficiently cool to make
the short list, I eventually turned my reading to the emerging
genre of round-the-world sailing adventures--the practical
existentialists--working my way through the marvelous exploits
of Chichester, Moitessier, the Hiscocks, and eventually the
Roths and Pardeys, and the rest. I dreamt of owning a Westsail
32--the boat that created the craze that made dreamers like
me take off by the dozens--and eventually by the thousands--to
circumnavigate the globe by way of Panama and Suez, with the
usual stops in the south Pacific, the Galapagos, South Africa,
Australia and New Zealand, the Cocos, and so on. I knew in
my gut that I'd never be one of them, but for a (somewhat
suicidal) while, I tried to talk myself into the idea that
one day I might try. Apprenticeship sailing on Hobie Cats
in the Mediterranean, and later ownership of a couple daysailors
in Long Island Sound were preparation for owning my first
"real" boat, a Southern Cross 31--clearly capable
of sailing around the world, since many skippers had already
accomplished this feat in exactly this boat.
sailed around the world, and won't, but when I left the university
in 1991 I knew that I wanted to sail SOMEwhere, and with my
new partner, F, I began to plan. We decided to sail from Maine
south---maybe to the Bahamas, maybe the Caribbean, wherever
whim and wind led. F took courses in navigation and boat handling,
and started working on boat-friendly menus. I learned all
I could about alternators, diesel engines, pumps of staggering
variety, anchoring techniques, sailing strategies, safety
precautions, heavy weather handling, propane systems, and
we never made it to the Bahamas or the Caribbean, but for
the past ten years or so, sailing has replaced philosophy
as trope and facade of my "identity". Any new person
at a dinner party would eventually hear how F and I sailed
the entire eastern seaboard 5,000 miles round-trip from Maine
to Florida's west coast and back, living aboard for over a
year, and visiting every seafood restaurant up every river
and tributary off every sound and harbor: crabs in the Chesapeake,
shrimp in South Carolina, mahi-mahi in Florida, and cod in
Massachusetts. I'd throw in a story or two (no sailor without
a yarn!) about fog off Cape May with near collisions with
giant ferries between the breakwaters, groundings in Georgia,
F's first overnight sail watching the lights of Atlantic City
compete with the lights of hundreds of working fishing boats
farther to sea, and so on. There was usually mention of alligators
in the Okeechobee Canal, and lyrical accounts of dolphins,
great blue herons, egrets, and hilarious pelicans. Maybe I
wasn't a professor any longer, but at least I was a sailor.
I was, and am, about as much of a sailor as I was a philosopher.
stories, and mine included, are set out as bait for admiration
and/or predation. I hoped that the sailor gets the girl. Well,
I had already gotten the girl, F, my navigator and mate, and
we spent more effort shopping for ingredients for her marvelous
onboard dinners, than we ever spent raising and lowering and
trimming sail. Nevertheless, we anchored out 90% of the year,
saw every seaside town in its best light and from its best
perspective (no strip malls on the arteries into town--just
twinkling lights ashore, lazy dinghy rides to small docks,
and leisurely lunches on decks--with lazier afternoons in
the vee berth as dessert). I told everyone, truthfully, that
it was the best year of my life.
F was granted a year's leave of absence from her teaching
position for 2002-03, we started planning furiously for several
travel adventures, the first of which was to have been a repeat
cruise down the east coast. I spent months upgrading systems
on the boat, and we motored out of our slip and out past Portland
Head Light with the idea of sailing at least to Maryland and
Virginia--and maybe farther--by way of the Blynman and Cape
Cod Canals, Buzzard's Bay, Long Island Sound, along the Jersey
coast, through the canal to the top of the Chesapeake Bay.
about a month too late--though, given the autumn weather of
2002, no time would have been really comfortable. It turned
out that the 3-4 weeks we were underway from Maine to southern
Massachusetts--and back--constituted an ugly little
interlude of horrible weather. The month actually set records
for the coast for the number of storms left over from tropical
events. No hurricanes came our way. No massive northeasters.
Just wave after wave of ugly, stormy, windy, rainy weather
systems, blowing the wet directly out of the southwest on
our nose three days of every five, with 6 - 8 foot waves,
30 knot "breezes", and one small disaster after
another. We gave up. We quit. And as soon as we did, the weather
turned just fine.
like the first-hand story of the "adventure", along
with a purposely demythologizing account of the daily life
of the cruising sailor, then I invite you to read the three
rather detailed emails I sent en route to friends and family
summing up each week of the journey:
Cruising Log 2
Cruising Log 3
much for the seafaring adventure genre!
course, we're already planning our cruises for the coming
season. It doesn't make much sense, but as E. B. White famously
noted, there's really not anything better. You know that already
if you live the boating life. If you don't, then my account
will do nothing to encourage you to give it a try. Fine--it
will leave more room in our next anchorage.
OUR BOAT, DALLIANCE, WAS SOLD IN THE AUTUMN OF 2003,
AND SAILING IS NO LONGER A MAJOR PREOCCUPATION, THOUGH IT
WILL BE A LONG TIME BEFORE I CAN WALK PAST A SAILBOAT IN A
MARINA WITHOUT WISHING THINGS HAD TURNED OUT DIFFERENT.
Saturday, December 21, 2002
IF you want to send me email (unless it is spam), address it
Friday, December 20, 2002
I think that Nietzsche (Twilight of the Idols) should
have the first word in this new web log--as a kind of guiding
word to the wise reader:
"What, then, is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms,
and anthropomorphisms--in short, a sum of human relations,
which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically
and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical,
and obligatory to a people; truths are illusions about which
one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which
are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have
lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer
"Whatever we have words for, that we have already got beyond.
In all talk there is a grain of contempt. Language, it seems
was invented only for what is average, medium, communicable.
With language the speaker immediately vulgarizes himself.
Out of a morality for deaf-mutes and other philosophers."
So let the games begin--that is, vulgar, contemptuous metaphors
and anthropomorphisms. You've been warned.