‘. . . your battery is running low. . .’

I want a computer with balls.

I want a computer with balls.

Of course it is! You told me yourself that it was charged 100% of the time and that’s not good for it, that I need to change the ‘settings’ to keep it charging at 70% so it won’t be damaged. Naturally, I couldn’t find the ‘setting’ to do that [such things are a mystery that only the illuminati can understand], so I unplugged it. You’re worse than a boyfriend. Passive aggressive. I unplug it and the next time I turn you on, you tell me the battery is running low.


I’ll stop with the talking to my computer. What I’d really like to do is throw all electronic devices into the Trinity River and go back to—at the most recent—a Selectric typewriter with balls.

I have an embarrassment of riches of computers. Two here on my desk. The old one that I can trust power-wise because its power supply is defunct, and it has to be plugged in to work at all, and this new $1200 passive-aggressive arrogant Lenovo monster. At least with the old Dell I know the screen will go blank, or the cursor will jump to a previous line, and suddenly I’ll be typing gibberish.

This Lenovo is a ‘touch-screen’ device. Let me tell you how confusing that is. I can’t figure out how to get back to the desktop after I’ve touched an icon [like the picture of ‘email’ that doesn’t take me to my email]. How passive-aggressive is that? Or try to change my password for some built-in function on some ‘app’ I’ve downloaded when it says I’ve entered the wrong one.

On a ten-year-old Dell there’s no, ‘I told you to do thus-and-so, but if you don’t know how, I’m not going to tell you.’

These two computers on my desk aren’t the only ones I have: two desk-top computers in my closet waiting for the important documents on the hard-drives copied somewhere useful so when I die the biographers will have the minute records of my life since about 1995.

You can guess I have a TV remote with which, if I inadvertently push the wrong one of its 200 or so buttons, I can’t watch TV for two hours until I inadvertently push the right one. And a DVD player I can’t figure out how to use even though my young friend Janette wrote out the instructions for me. Of course, if I’d do as everyone I know does and binge-watch movies and TV programs on my laptop, I wouldn’t have that problem. Except, then I’m back to this passive-aggressive digital monster. I’m between a screen and a ‘cloud’ space.

And then there are the iPhone and the iPad—which will need a long posting by themselves.

An embarrassment of riches - and my cat.

An embarrassment of riches – and my cat.

I’ve become my father. The last couple of years of his life he fussed and fumed about not being able to use his computer, or watch TV because he couldn’t figure out the remote. He was 95 at the time, and I’m only 68, so that tells you something right there. He got his first computer when he was about 80 and wrote three books of his and the family’s memoirs on it. I did not inherit his deliberative and logical genes.

I’d like a typewriter with balls. A machine that won’t play games with me, mess with my mind, and thumb its nose at my having been born before the first functional computer (the ENIAC, which became operational in 1946) was built. A green ’52 Plymouth coupe and an IBM typewriter will do me just fine. And I’ll go to the theater to watch my movies (even though buying popcorn and a Diet Coke brings the cost to 40 bucks for two).

There are a few modernities for which I am grateful. In 1970 I had a complete reconstruction of my right shoulder (chronic dislocations) called a ‘shoulder capsulorrhaphy.’ Major surgery, major recovery, major rehabilitation. About three weeks ago I had arthroscopic surgery on my left shoulder. Relatively simple surgery, in this ridiculous monster-sling for five weeks, PT already started, and good as new by Christmas.

More than perhaps anything else, I want to write one good poem. One poem that will be in an anthology somewhere for decades after I die. I won’t, of course, because I am not a genius, or, on the other hand, I did not enter the [lifelong] process of learning a technique, a style, that might have overcome my lack of talent and given me the tools to write poetry in spite of my limitations.

And now my battery is running low. It’s too late for me to change my password or my settings so I can write poetically. Understanding all of the electronic apparatuses and gizmos at my disposal will not make me a poet (or an artist of any kind).

Just a '52 Plymouth for me.

Just a ’52 Plymouth for me.

[French performance artist] Orlan . . . [claims] that the natural human body is not at all natural in our age, therefore in the age of technology the body must be adjusted to the technological, political, and social milieu wherein we live . . . interpreting her work as a peculiar kind of existential criticism. For Orlan the primary boundaries are not the social determinations; what she is not satisfied with is the human body’s nature of ‘being given’ once and for all (1).

I’m afraid my body is ‘given’ once for all. It is what it is. None of the Orlan-style reconstructions will adjust me—or reshape me for the technological milieu in which I live. Or make a poet of me.

Donald Hall was born in 1928. That makes him 85. My favorite of his collections of poetry is The One Day (1988) which won the National Book Critics Circle Award.  That was when he was 60. He had written lots of poetry before that, and has continued to write since then. He was U.S. Poet Laureate in 2007. Hall understands the given.

Affirmation (2)
by Donald Hall

To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes,
and nod our heads when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from school drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
is temporary. The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond’s edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.
(1)  Andras, Lajos. “Human Nature as a Social Construction.” Philobiblon  XIII (2008), 185.
(2)  Hall, Donald. “Affirmation.” Without. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.

What’s this “CTRL+/CTRL— ” command?

A dissertation's home

A dissertation’s home



Yesterday I was reading one of my favorite blogs (click this link only if your shock level is at least moderately high). As you can clearly see—which I could not, even with my glasses—the post is for those of you with much younger eyes than mine. The blogger suggested that I enlarge my screen, and I asked how on earth I could do that.

He said, “Press ‘control +’” (English teachers: should I put a period on this sentence, or is + punctuation? I’m sure I don’t know.)

Control+. (Looks funny with a period.) You know—the screen enlarged!!!

I bought my first computer in 1987 to write my PhD dissertation (The Life and Musical Influence of Henry Kemble Oliver, 1800-1885—aren’t you glad you asked?). Somewhere in this apartment is the box of 5¼-inch minifloppy disks on which my dissertation resides.  Somewhere in two moves in Massachusetts, the move to Dallas, and two moves in Dallas my one print copy disappeared. I gave my sister one—because it’s dedicated to her—and I hope she still has it somewhere (send it to me, Bonnie?).

Or I have to find those 5¼-inch minifloppy disk fossils and locate someone who has a reader for them. But that’s another story.

Please, Genesis, use my CTRL- command

Please, Genesis, use my CTRL- command

I want a CTRL+/CTRL— command for my life.

For starters, piled in my entrance-way is a bunch of stuff I’ve been meaning to (even trying to) get the Salvation Army, or the Genesis Benefit Thrift Store to take away for months. (If any of you Dallas readers knows how to light a fire under Genesis, please do so. There’s some stuff here they could make some money on. Remember the French provincial coffee table? The Futon has never been used—it’s in its original factory wrapping—but that, too, is another story. I seem to have lots of “other stories” today.)

I want a CTRL— command to make that pile smaller. No, to make it disappear altogether.

Much more stuff in my life could use a CTRL— command. My waistline for starters. My library. My depression. Car insurance payments. Junk mail. My seizures. Drone warfare. Student conferences next week. Obstructionist Tea Party congress members. Poop in the cat litter boxes. Barbara Cargill’s power to wreak havoc. You know, the normal detritus of life, in no particular order.

Some things I’d definitely like a CTRL+ command for. Time with my inamorato. My retirement account. Core muscle strength for Virabhadrasana III. Time with my inamorato. My salary. My memory. Colleagues for Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis. Gun control. Time with my inamorato. Chocolate. Opera.  A trip to Easter Island. You know, the normal joys of life, in no particular order.

CTRL+ for a 68-year-old brain

CTRL+ for a 68-year-old brain

All of this began, you see, with my learning something new at age 68—something as basic as the CTRL+/CTRL— command. How have I managed to use computers for 26 years and never known that command? How have I used my mind for 68 years and still do not know if I believe in God?