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This is my 2003 journal.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug

Also available: 2002 2001 2000 1990s 1980s

Everything on this page:
Copyright 1985-2003 by Thane Plambeck, except where obviously not.
31 March 2003
Two Plane Crash Poems

I've had John Updike's highly amusing poem Icarus up on my quotations page for awhile.

Now I've just run into this (apparently earlier) poem by Billy Collins, in Picnic, Lightning (Pittsburgh Press, 1998):

At the gate, I sit in a row of blue seats
with the possible company of my death,
this sprawling miscellany of people—
carry-on bags and paperbacks—

that could be gathered in a flash
into a band of pilgrims on the last open road.
Not that I think
if our plane crumpled into a mountain

we would all ascend together,
holding hands like a ring of skydivers,
into a sudden gasp of brightness,
or that there would be some common place

for us to reunite to jubilize the moment,
some spaceless, pillarless Greece
where we could, at the count of three,
toss our ashes into the sunny air.

It's just that the way that man has his briefcase
so carefully arranged,
the way that girl is cooling her tea,
and the flow of the comb that woman

passes through her daughter's hair...
and when you consider the altitude,
the secret parts of the engines,
and all the hard water and deep canyons below...

well, I just think it would be good if one of us
maybe stood up and said a few words,
or, so as not to involve the police,
at least quietly wrote something down.
The Updike poem came out in 2000. Looks like he reads around a bit.

20 March 2003
The Snap Decision

John Berger has written that every photograph records not an event, but a decision: that of the photographer to shoot a particular image at a particular moment. (A good photograph, he suggests, is one that can explain its decision: "Photography is the process of rendering observation self-conscious").
Susie Linfield in The Threepenny Review, Spring 2003

17 March 2003
Julia Fischer playing Sibelius

Paul Hertelendy writes at
The succession of exceptional young violinists continues, seemingly without end.

The child-wonder prodigies like Midori, Hillary Hahn, and Maxim Vengerov have hardly grown up than teenagers like Julia Fischer take up the challenge and make superb music for the new decade.

Fischer, 19, lit up all of Davies Hall with her lustrous interpretation of Sibelius' Violin Concerto March 13 under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas [...] She brought the audience to applause after every movement—an amazing response that I had never encountered in this hall, now over two decades in age.
Right on. When she wasn't playing, she looked back at the orchestra, seemingly drawing some kind of (unneeded) affirmation from it. Or perhaps she was merely curious to see what everyone else was up to—"let's see, I'm playing Sibelius like a genius, what are you doing?"

She was born in 1983 in Munich.

Sibelius (1904 caricature)

17 March 2003
The Birth of the Stupid

If anyone needs any proof that Kipling is BAD, here it is

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken
And stoop and build 'em up with worn out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings -- nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And -- which is more -- you'll be a Man my son!

Rudyard Kipling

Mannequin in The Kipling Room at the Grange

Not bad, for a Mannequin.

17 March 2003
The Phony Warrior

dictionary user

The first paragraph of William Safire's editorial in today's New York Times:
The Phony War—what Tony Blair derided yesterday at the Azores meeting as "perpetual negotiation"—is at last ending. In the somber days before the action begins, we can ask: How should the U.S. deal with those nations that made the Security Council irrelevant?
One might conceivably compose a more ridiculously stupid, breathtakingly blinkered paragraph, but Safire can't be improved upon. He's always at his best in his editorials. He's also shown a surprising research capability, summoning up a dictionary and thesaurus weekly to cobble together his (also amazingly dumb) "On Language" column in the New York Times Magazine.

The "On Language" column reminds me of those little cards that drop out of magazines like little so many like pieces of shit—'oh no, not one of these damn things again,' one thinks, before hurrying on to whatever actual reading pleasure may be had from the periodical in question.

A glossary:
"Perpetual negotiation" = peace
"The action" = bombing of innocents
"Nations that made the Security Council irrelevant" = The United States
The country needs a few Phony Warriors at the front lines. Maybe Safire would like to go. The pen is mightier, you know—

16 March 2003
Differential Geometry & Badtz Maru Lunchbox

15 March 2003
The Bubble

Cole's YMCA basketball pizza party was held at Seale Park, a "neighborhood park" that I didn't even know existed until about a year ago, when we stumbled onto it in the minivan.

I was walking through the main play area, looking for the food, when a three-year-old boy stopped me. He waited until he had my full attention.

"There's a bubble—it's high in the sky," he said.

This seemed like a promising start to a conversation. So I stopped too.

I looked up, inviting him to show me. "Where?" I asked.

He looked up just for a moment, not really searching.

"I don't know."

11 March 2003
The Poet Laureate

The current US poet laureate is Billy Collins, as my father discovered after reading some of his poetry, liking it, and researching the matter.

So he called me and had me order him The Art of Drowning (Pitt Poetry Series) at Amazon.

Not to stand in the way of literary appreciation, I ordered it. But when will he learn to use Amazon himself? We agreed that I would do it for him, just this one more time...

Of [Collins's] appointment, Dr. Billington said, "Billy Collins’ poetry is widely accessible. He writes in an original way about all manner of ordinary things and situations with both humor and a surprising contemplative twist. We look forward to his energizing presence next year."

Collins is Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College, City University of New York, where he has taught for the past 30 years.
here's one

6 March 2003

Look closer

4 March 2003
Portraits II: The Wall Street Journal Hedcut

Content copied from the Smithsonian Institution's web site at

There are five steps to producing a hedcut for the journal. First, the photographic source image is reduced or enlarged to a size of approximately 3x5 inches. (Originally done with a Photostat machine, Photoshop is now used.) Next, a tracing of the picture is made with pencil, indicating light and dark areas. The resulting image resembles a contour map. The artist then mounts the tracing paper on white illustration board, where the image is easier to see, and develops the subject's features with tiny dots and dashes, using technical pens. To produce a uniform finish, the artist builds up areas of shadow through a combination of small lines (cross-hatching) and dots. Solid blacks are never used; areas are darkened through a denser build up of marks. Finally, the finished drawing is reduced to one-third scale, compacting the marks laid down by the artist.

The process of producing a finished drawing generally takes about 5 hours, but for late-breaking stories, a picture can be hastily completed in two hours.
Someone needs to make a Photoshop plug-in that does the same thing. Maybe the Andromeda 'cut filter' that I used to make this could be coerced into doing it.

3 March 2003
Portraits I: Robert de Masmines (1425)

Someone you might see downtown, ordering a sandwich at Subway.
Robert Campin (Master of Flemalle)

Campin was born around 1380 in Tournai, where he qualified as a master in 1406/07. Together with the van Eyck brothers, he may be considered the founder of the Netherlandish painting of the Early Renaissance...

3 March 2003
Email to Mike Munro

Subject: The Decay of the Body
According to the papers, Resident Bush can run three miles in 21 minutes.

I tried to run 1600 meters in 7 minutes a few days ago. I carried a stopwatch. With about 3/4 of a lap to go, I realized that I was going to have to seriously pick up the pace to beat seven minutes.

I finished in 6:57, but god, what a trial. It felt like I was sprinting. My lungs felt like they were going to explode. I was queasy and could hear the wind in my ears for the rest of the day.

I've been running about 5 miles twice a week, sometimes three times. Over the last 18 months I've cut my time from around 52 minutes down to around 43 minutes.

So I entered the Juana Briones 'fun run,' an elementary school fund raiser.

I ran 44 minutes 33 seconds, and was passed by numerous emphysemic grandmothers and more than one young mother pushing a child—sometimes two children—in a jog-stroller.

I thought, well, in my age division, 40-49 years old, maybe I'm not so bad. Uh, no, of the first 3 finishers in 2002, two were in that age category. They finished in just over 27 minutes. Plenty of 40-49 year olds can run 5 miles in 35 minutes, which is that 7 minute mile, 5 times, I find.