I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken

Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
-Bertrand Russell

What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell

May 18, 2013 - 1:35 p.m.

Elven Wisdom

I'm having some anxiety about doing a few things so I will just start off writing and see if I find the nerve. That's something I'm going to try and do this edition of Wise Madness record what I'm thinking in addition to what happened to me. The tough part with that is that like dreams it's hard to remember thoughts. The other tough part is that the thoughts I tagged to write about where unusual lines of thought and the reason they are unusual is that people aren't interested in these things. We'll see if I can make this work.

I never told you how my finite math class did. In the end I'd have to say pretty well, The mode of the grades was an A.

Of course part of the reason they did well is that 9 students didn't take make it to the final. The W means they formally withdrew, WF they just stopped coming. A quarter of the students that started did not finish the class.

I'm almost through grading the pre-calculus and as often happens what is striking me is how poorly the students communicate. They don't know how to present answers. My teachers rarely explicitly explained how to give answers they expected you to just see how they did it and do the same. That isnt' good enough now. I don't know if is because I was in better classes or because times have changed or because many of my students are foreign born. One student does something I've never seen before. He doesn't write the question number to the left of the margin line but in the middle of the page and circles it, exactly the same thing he does with his answers. Can't he look at the paper and see that's hard to read?

Sometimes it's the confused thinking that causes the problems. This only happens with poor students. What they are writing changes from line to line. They will lose an equal sign. an exponent turns into a multiplication. X will change into Y.

No matter how many times I tell them some students can't learn that math is case sensitive, f(x) ≠F(x). I say that till I'm blue in the face but they still use them interchangeably.

Even though I'm busy grading I went out yesterday. My plan was to go to the post office by school, then my office to get work done, then to the Museum of American Folk Art. I left later than I meant to and skipped my office. I did finally male a package I've had for weeks. I have to stop and give praise to the postal workers. They are an oft maligned group. It is to a large part unfair. I did often have problems with the people at the Oakland Gardens Station, where I grew up, but that is the exception. Bayside was much better as is the Central Post Office in Manhattan. Columbus Circle Station is the best I've been to. They are exceptionally friendly and helpful. I walked in and a woman came over to me and asked if I had any questions. At first I said no then I realized that I had several about how to pack my package. It was something flat that can't be bent and I figured I'd used one of the priority mail boxes. She showed me how I could pack in flat instead of opening it into a box and then she taped it up for me. You have to pay good money to get people to do that for you at UPS. Here she volunteered. When I forgot to address it she reminded me. The entire experience was actually pleasant. When I lived in a house and knew my mail carrier I always liked him too. Don't be a bigot and malign all postal workers.

I go to the Museum of American Folk Art more often than not on Fridays but it usually means walking a few blocks from my office. This is the first time I made a special trip. I went to see Michaela Anne. I wanted to tell Lara who runs the series that this time I made a special effort to be there, which is a tribute to Michaela and the series, but as often happens she was constantly busy so we didn't get to talk.

I might be remembering wrong but I think this is the first time that the person I was there to see wasn't on first. First up was Elijah & the Moon. I'd link to their website but that and their facebook don't seem to be working. It's usually a four piece electric band but they played unplugged without the drummer. That was an issue. Elijah is an excellent singer but he clearly is not experienced in performing unplugged. I had trouble hearing him whenever the violin or both guitars were played. Singing unamplified is a separate art. Of course at one time that was how all singing was done and it took a while for people to learn how to use the microphone to sing in styles impossible unamplified. Frank Sinatra perfected that. The Budgiedome is unamplified and a large space so I can see who can and can't make the adjustments. It also affects the way you play. You have to play the guitars much more softly to not overwhelm the voice. But still they were good. I signed the mailing list. I'd like to hear them in their usual configuration.

Wow almost a thousand words and I haven't gotten to Michaela Anne.

So I have finally settled down and moved her from the "want to hear more of" to the "I know I love" pile. Yes I keep my musicians in piles. I really don't know why anyone puts up with me. I think I have even decided that she's a country singer. She's in the tradition of Patsy Cline and June Carter Cash. That's not saying she sounds like them but she follows their aesthetic. She looks the part. I could totally see her on the stage at the Ryman Auditorium. You didn't know that Brooklyn is a hotbed of country music. I'm not kidding, it is.

Now into one of the excursions into my mind. I not only settle on how to think about her music but came up with the adjective to describe her appearance, elfin. That immediately struck me. I never say "elfin" I follow Tolkien and say "elven." Tolkien was a philologist and lived in a world of words. I used them with precision. He didn't discuss "elven" in the appendix to LOTR but he went into detail on dwarves and his reasoning was the same. The standard plural of dwarf is dwarfs but he used dwarves because in Middle Earth people often spoke of more than one dwarf and they developed a special plural, just as in English we say geese not gooses. I wish I had a copy of LOTR handy, I want to quote it exactly. He said something to the effect that nowadays we don't talk about dwarves as often as we do geese. He really wanted to use dwarrows or dwerrows but then nobody would understand him. So back to elves. In the Tolkien universe they get a special adjective elven. When I think of elves I think of Tolkien elves. But Michaela is not elven looking. Tolkien Elves are tall and willowy. Liv Tyler was an excellent choice to play 'Arwen in the films. Michaela is "small delicate, and charming." She's beautiful but with an elfin not elven beauty.

So that's the kinds of things going on in my head when I'm lost in thought. Looking at a beautiful woman leads to thoughts of etymology.

I've written a lot but I'm not putting this one to bed yet. There's something else I've been meaning to write about for days and now I have media to go with it.

I don't know what started it but I thought about the film Lili. Do you know it? Would it strike you as being one of my favorite films? I find it utterly charming. The character Lili is an orphan who falls in with a carnival. She ends up acting in the puppet show talking at a live girl to the puppets. What makes it work is that she interacted with the puppets naturally as if they were real. That's something I always found myself doing. Is it acting? Is it childlike play acting? Is it just being imaginative? Is it mad? I don't know, I just know it's easy for me. Ask Carey she's met two balloons that were my best friends. Of course I'm not the only one that thinks that way.

I'm not sure what you'll see when I post this but that's Mokey and Red Fraggle, Perry the Platypus, with some help from Carey.

I signed the Pro-Truth Pledge:
please hold me accountable.

Memories: Not that Horrid Song - May 29, 2018
Wise Madness is Now In Session - May 28, 2018
The NFL and the First Amendment - May 27, 2018
On The Road Again - May 26, 2018
Oliver the Three-Eyed Crow - May 25, 2018

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Horvendile May 18, 2013
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