Bill Bly's old weblog

15 Mar 2005
6:30 PM

Nelly Bly has posted an album at Ofoto for all to admire:

Elijah's First Days

My favorite, predictably, is #7 of 25, "Rat Tail" — the title of which somehow seems to miss the feature that how you say kills me dead...

2 Mar 2005
11:44 PM

Finally got my hands on my first grandson. I want to say I'm always amazed by how solid newborns are, but one isn't always amazed, one is amazed over and over.

So with me. There are photos, taken by Mike & Nelly, and by Deb & me, as we took turns hefting the little guy, gazing into his perfect face, wondering that perfect fingernails come that small.

Eli was snoozing when we arrived just after church, but woke up for his post-prandial lunch within an hour, after which he posed for a couple dozen dotographs before going back to work (i.e., to sleep).

The kids are happy parents, already talking about going into the baby business, it's been such fun so far. Well, they have some months of sleep dep ahead; we'll check in on that prospect after that.

The newborn nanny's name is Queen, a Jamaican matron whose manner is so calming I felt myself drifting off whenever she was around.

After that, there was time for a lightning raid on Uncle Billy, Nell's brother, upstate. We found El Boyo boogying in the kitchen while dinner was getting rounded up, and we had a most amiable visit, though short. Pix of El Boyo Loco and A Boy Pats Heez Dad at the end of the page.

1 Mar 2005
10:15 AM

Deb has finished Marilynne Robinson's new novel, Gilead, so now it's my turn. Here's a typical scene, if there is such a thing in this wonderful story. You'll recall that the narrator is a man in his 70s, the preacher son of a preacher son of a preacher son, writing a journal for his own 7-year-old son to read when he grows up, presumably long after the speaker is gone:

A few days ago you and your mother came home with flowers. I knew where you had been [to the graves of his first wife and child, long dead]. Of course she takes you up there, to get you a little used to the place. And I hear she's made it very pretty, too. She's a thoughtful woman. You had honeysuckle, and you showed me how to suck the nectar out of the blossoms. You would bite the tip off a little flower and then hand it to me, and I pretended I didn't know how to go about it, and I would put the whole flower in my mouth, and pretend to chew it and swallow it, or I'd act as if it were a little whistle and try to blow through it, and you'd laugh and laugh and say, No! no! no!! And then I pretended I had a bee buzzing around in my mouth, and you said, "No, you don't, there wasn't any bee!" and I grabbed you around the shoulders and blew into your ear and you jumped up as though you thought maybe there was a bee after all, and you laughed, and then you got serious and you said, "I want you to do this." And you put your hand on my cheek and touched the flower to my lips, so gently and carefully, and said, "Now sip." You said, "You have to take your medicine." So I did, and it tasted exactly like honeysuckle, just the way it did when I was your age and it seemed to grow on every fence post and porch railing in creation.

28 Feb 2005
4:57 PM

Dear Ones, please help us welcome Elijah Bly Arougheti, son of Nelly Bly and Mike Arougheti (my favoritest son-in-law), born 26 February 2005 mid-afternoon, 8 lb. 15 oz., 23" tall.

No pix yet, but we're having a Nor'easter, and Deb & I haven't been able to get up to Suffern NY, where Nell & Mike & Eli are staying at Good Samaritan Hospital until Wednesday, after which they return to their lovely home in Nyack at the foot of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Love to you all,

BBly, doting grampus

27 Feb 2005
2:52 PM

Of things by which to be offended or made indignant there is no end.

24 Feb 2005
10:44 PM

I wouldn't take a million dollars for the experience I had, but I wouldn't give a red cent to go through it again.

— Army engineer, on building the AlCan (now the Alaska) Highway in 1942, from a documentary on PBS tonight.

14 Feb 2005
8:44 PM

Waves of colonists in any development sequence:

1) Visionary, who sees what no one else has ever seen — e.g., Dan'l Boone

2) Disciples inspired by him or what he saw; they don't necessarily see the same thing, but believe it's important; these are the inspired amateurs, willing to try their hand at anything that seems necessary or promising, who build the first settlement on the site of the Visionary's campfire

3) Prospectors (entrepreneurs) who see an opportunity for a big strike in an open market; they build the first enterprise, including transport and delivery infrastructure

4) Stabilizers of what's been developed; they create the first communication networks and introduce "cultural" improvements — i.e., quality-of-life enterprises such as schools, churches, government

5) Dependants (including parasites) whose burden must be carried by others; artists may belong to this category, as may many politicians

6) Predators who cull the weak and worn-out, but who may also have an eye on the throne of those in power; certain businesspersons & politicians may belong to this category

7) Bureaucrats, whose function, if not strictly intertial and entropic, is difficult to divine

8) Historians and critics, who tell "how it is with us" and transmit the stories of the folk to the future and elsewhere; artists may belong to this category, as may retired businesspersons & politicians

Someday it will be useful for someone to write a(n) history of the hypertext movement; I sometimes dream of doing such a thing, in conjunction with a Great Road Trip to visit the pioneers and collect their stories — the Hypertext Pilgrimage....

9 Feb 2005
2:54 PM

While I'm at it, let's listen to another magical tune from our respected Poet Laureate:

Lobocrapsis griseifusa

This is the tiny moth who lives on tears,
Who drinks like a deer at the gleaming pool
at the edge of the sleeper's eye, the touch
of its mouth as light as a cloud's reflection.

In your dream, a moonlit figure appers
at your bedside and touches your face.
He asks if he might share the poor bread
of your sorrow. You show him the table.

The two of you talk long into the night
but by morning the words are forgotten.
You awaken serene, in a sunny room,
rubbing the dust of his wings from your eyes.

— Ted Kooser, Delights and Shadows, 58.

9 Feb 2005
2:44 PM

I believe I mentioned elsewhere that, when I joined the Science Fiction Book Club in 8th grade, I got a ticket for the first commercial flight to the moon as a bonus. (Seems unlikely, in this benighted era, that I'll be able to redeem it in this lifetime.)

But I also got a serious discount on my first real telescope, a cardboard-tube reflex job with swappable 10X and 100X eyepieces that let me look at craters on the moon, the phases of Venus, and, once, the "ears" of Saturn.

Recently, I finally had to put the dang thing out of its misery — too many years in my soggy basement, to my shame — but before that it served for many years to bring our near neighborhood into the house.

Our Poet Laureate has another take:


This is the pipe that pierces the dam
that holds back the universe,

that takes off some of the pressure,
keeping the weight of the unknown

from breaking through
and washing us all down the valley.

Because of this small tube,
through which a cold light rushes

from the bottom of time,
the depth of the stars stays always constant

and we are able to sleep, at least for now,
beneath the straining wall of darkness.

— Ted Kooser, Delights and Shadows, 62.

6 Feb 2005
7:02 PM

My dear friend Mary Milton, the angel of Storyspace, told me about a new book by her dear friend, hypertext pioneer J. Yellowlees DouglasBusiness Writing CPR, (Pearson Custom Publishing) by way of encouraging me to diversify my portfolio for writinglessons.

3 Feb 2005
8:47 AM

Just before Christmas, Deb & I saw a TV profile of Ted Kooser, the new Poet Laureate of the United States, and I determined — since I'd somehow missed out totally on the reigns of two of my favorites, Louise Glück and Billy Collins — to pay more attention. This morning I started our PL's latest book of poems, Delights & Shadows (2004), and found them much to my liking. Kooser writes in the plain style I admire so much. Of the three that I copied out, here's the sunniest:


She was all in black but for a yellow ponytail
that trailed form her cap, and bright blue gloves
that she held out wide, the feathery fingers spread,
as surely she stepped, click-clack, onto the frozen
top of the world. And there, with a clatter of blades,
she began to braid a loose path that broadened
into a meadow of curls. Across the ice she swooped
and then turned back and, halfway, bent her legs
and leapt into the air the way a crane leaps, blue gloves
lifting her lightly, and turned a snappy half-turn
there in the wind before coming down, arms wide,
skating backward right out of that moment, smiling back
at the womaan she'd been just an instant before.

31 Jan 2005
6:44 AM

Three remarkable passages from the last few pages of Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping:

... If the mountain that stood up behind Fingerbone were Vesuvius, and if one night it drowned the place in stone, and the few survivors and the curious came to view the flood and assess the damage, and to clean the mess away with dynamite and picks, they would find petrified pies and the fossils of casseroles, and be mocked by appearances. In much the same way, the tramps, when they doffed their hats and stepped into the kitchen as they might do when the weather was severe, looked into the parlor and murmured, "Nice place you have here," and the lady who stood at the elbow of any one of them knew that if she renounced her husband and cursed her children and offered all that had been theirs to this lonely, houseless, placeless man, soon or late he would say "Thanks" and be gone into the evening, being the hungriest of human creatures and finding nothing here to sustain him, leaving it all, like something dropped in a corner by the wind. Why should they all feel judgment in the fact that these nameless souls looked into their lighted windows without envy and took the best of their suppers as no more than their meager due?

Imagine that Noah knocked his house apart and used the planks to build an ark, while his neighbors looked on, full of coubt. A house, he must have told them, should be daubed with pitch and built to float cloud high, if need be. A lettuce patch was of no use at all, and a good foundation was worse than useless. A house should have a compass and a keel. The neighbors would have put their hands in their pockets and chewed their lips and strolled home to houses they now found wanting in ways they could not understand. Perhaps, pious as they were, these ladies did not wish to see me pass into that sad and outcast state of revelation where one begins to feel superior to one's neighbors.


... There is so little to remember of anyone — an anecdote, a conversation at table. But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the hear in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreamiing, habitual fondness, not having meant to keep us waiting long.

Sylvie did not want to lose me. She did not want me to grow gigantic and multiple, so that I seemed to fill the whole house, and she did not wish me to turn subtle and miscible, so that I could pass through the membranes that separate dream and dream. She did not wish to remember me. She much preferred my simple, ordinary presence, silent and ungainly though I might be. For she could regard me without strong emotion — a familiar shape, a familiar face, a familiar silence. She could forget I was in the room. She could speak to herself, or to someone in her thoughts, with pleasure and animation, even while I sat beside her — this was the measure of our intimacy, that she gave almost no thought to me at all.

and finally

The house stood out beyond the orchard with every one of its windows lighted. It looked large, and foreign, and contained, like a moored ship — a fantastic thing to find in a garden. I could not imagine going into it. Once there was a young girl strolling at night in an orchard. She came to a house she had never seen before, all alight so that through any window she could see curious ornaments and marvelous comforts. A door stood open, so she walked inside. It would be that kind of story, a very melancholy story. Her hair, which was as black as the sky and so long that it swept after her, a wind in the grass . . . Her fingers, which were sky black and so fine and slender that they were only cold touch, like drops of rain . . . Her step, which was so silent that people were surprised when they even thought they heard it . . . She would be transformed by the gross light into a mortal child. And when she stood at the bright window, she would find that the world was gone, the orchard was gone, her mother and grandmother and aunts were gone. Like Noah's wife on the tenth or fifteenth night of rain, she would stand in the window and realize that the world was really lost. And those outside would scarcely know her, so sadly was she c hanged. Before, she had been fleshed in air and clothed in nakedness and mantled in cold, and her very bones were only slender things, like shafts of ice. She had haunted the orchard out of preference, but she could walk into the lake without ripple or displacement and sail up the air as invisibly as heat. And now, lost to her kind, she would almost forget them, and she would feed coarse food to her coarse flesh, and be almost satisfied.

I learned an important thing in the orchard that night, which was that if you do not resist the cold, but simply relax and accept it, you no longer feel the cold as discomfort. I felt giddily free and eager, as you do in dreams, when you suddenly find that you can fly, very easily, and wonder why you have never tried it before. I might have discovered other things. For example, I was hungry enough to begin to learn that hunger has its pleasures, and I was happily at ease in the dark, and in general, I could feel that I was breaking the tethers of need, one by one. But then the sheriff came.


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