About the Web

I am frequently asked about how I go about doing my research and almost always this includes curiosity about how much I use the Worldwide Web, which seems to be assumed by many [under the age of 50] to contain all the wisdom ever created by mankind, in both our dark and light moments.

One observation about the web is that if you want to plumb its depths, it’s gonna cost you a lot of buckaroonies. The “good stuff” in the deep data banks ain’t free or even accessible.

I recently read  comments by the late John Updike on the Web and projections of where publishing is headed. What Updike said was this: “Yes, there is a ton of information on the Web, but much of it is egregiously inaccurate, unedited, unattributed, and juvenile. The electronic marvels that abound around us serve, surprisingly, to inflame what is most informally and noncritically human about us — our computer screens stare back at us with a kind of giant, instant, “Aew shucks,” disarming in its modesty, disquieting in its diffidence.”

The Web? I used it as a start point to build a bibliography of the sorts of sources I think I’ll need, and then I go to my lbirary or book store to obtain what I need, to read it for myself, not in filtered from through someone I know nothing about.

Updike continued: “The printed, bound and paid-for book was — and still is, for the moment — more exacting, more demanding of the producer and consumer both. it is the site of an encounter, in silence, of two minds, one following in the other’s steps but invited to imagine, to argue, to concur on a level of reflection beyond that of personal encounter, with all its merely social conventions, its merciful padding of blather and mutual forgiveness.”

John Updike died last week at age 76.  His creative work will be missed no less than his uncommon good sense and humanity. He was much more civil about the topic than I might have been.

Quite some years back and I.T. wizzo flounced into my office one day to inform me that my new computer was capable of 10,000 transactions per second. I said, “I type 40 words a minute on my best day,” so how about we talk in English and lose the bullshit?

My thoughts on the Web? What the late great man said.



The title of this bit is is a 31-letter word, intended to describe the sort of word-slurry that marks modern communications. To make an adjective, add “al.”

What prompts this? Today I ran across a site called Dynamic Walking 2008. Being a walker, this caught my attention. What pray-tell is this DW thing?

The site says, and I quote:  “What is Dynamic Walking? There is no exact definition, but dynamic walking refers to an approach that emphasizes the passive dynamics of the legs, and generally avoids the use of high-gain control or complicated analysis. Researchers in Dynamic Walking also generally try to minimize the use of jargon. However, for the purposes of brevity, the jargon of nonlinear systems is helpful to list useful constructs: limit cycles, poincare maps, and floquet multipliers.”

sh…okay then…ah…uh…

Navigator to pilot, navigator to pilot: Are we there yet, A.C.? Over.

PS: Don’t try the new word in Scrabble.

Adios Rabbit Angstrom

I heard this morning that John Updike died of lung cancer. Updike’s character Rabbit Angstrom was an American classic. Updike was 76 — too damn young for the Big Trip. He and his work will be missed.

And on this same day when we mourn the passing of a great writer, I hear that Pope Benedict has decided to  lift the excommunication of former bishop Richard Williamson, who was consecrated more than two decades ago in the U.K. (I believe) by the controversial archbishop Marvel Lefebvre, and without papal consent. Williamson is of the opinion that the holocaust never happened, that there were no gas chambers used on Jews (or others)  in World War II and that “only” 300 thousand Jews” perished in Nazi camps. This pope, like most of his predecessors of the past three hundred years, has no clue about public relations or institutional image. Never mind that the lifting of excommunication is a separate issue in the church’s view, much of the  the rest of the world is cranked up over Williamson’s bizarre beliefs. Did the man not talk to  the American and British soldiers who liberated camps and saw bodies still in gas chambers and incinerators?

In my view the rehabilitation of a fool is a waste of everybody’s energy, including the fool’s. Someone once told me they’d rather work for a prick than a fool, because a prick takes a break once in awhile.  I don’t feel any outrage at the church’s stupid lack of judgment. I just put it down to one more example of church leadership being totally clueless about how the world looks at them and the institution. Hey, they want to elevate Piux XII to sainthood. What more can be said about stupidity?

I have no idea where Williamson has been for the past twenty years. Nothing personal, I don’t care and he wasn’t missed by anyone I know.

John Updike, on the other hand,  will be missed by thousands of people, and perhaps many many more.

Find peace, Rabbit.


The Mastodon Alpha Dog

I am pleased (and totally unauthorized)  to introduce Monty, the hard-charging Jackroughneck of the Painter family, near Alpha MI, in Mastodon Township, County of Iron, Region of UP, Third Planet from the Sun.  You might assume logically that a cute little thing like this would not be able to get the best of a veteran, hard-case CO — but you’d be wrong, very wrong. Could be the officer, as Dubya once said, misunderestmated da mutt. The dog got so far up in the canid-human scorebook he forced the human into writing poetry to vent his frustration. Now THAT’s a dog! Right now feelings run high in the two competitors, but over time I predict they will unthaw.


Monty the Muttnificent
Monty the Muttnificent

Extra-Extra: Attention All Snowbirds

Hey snowbirds, did you know F. Scott Fitzgerald used the term in Babylon Revisited? Lit-rah-chuh aside, thought I’d provide you with some quick shots of what Heiki Lunta’s work looks like in southwest Michigan.  If you’ve snowbirded from the Yoop, you can assume it’s a lot worse up there. BTW, An icelactyte is my term, sort of like a good friend of mine handles another word he refers to as a “propalacktick.”

The office/studio from where Shanahan expresses natural functions....
The office/studio from where Shanahan hunts squirels, rabbits, possums, raccoons, shrews, etc, and more importantly, expresses natural "functions."

This is intended especially for my many former Michigan State lacrosse pals who now live way in the way-back south, southwest, and west. Enjoy a vicarious shiver, lads.


Teensy icelactites outside my office/studio -- in the cardinals' nesting tree.
Teensy icelactytes outside my office/studio -- in the cardinals' nesting tree.

Praise Song for the Day

I’ve been seeing  some snarky and elitist commentaries on Elizabeth Alexander’s poem on the occasion of the  Presidential Inauguration. The poem is entitled: Praise Song for the Day, and will soon be published by Graywolf Press, a nonprofit operation out of St. Paul, MinnieScoter.

I’m a wannabe poet and, though I’ve studied poetry and read a great deal, I can’t say I’m that knowledgeable.  However, I do I know what I like and what I respond to, and there are some lines in  Ms. Alexander’s poem that I found both thought-provoking and memorable.

“We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed, words to consider, reconsider.”

I love that line. To be candid, I had never heard of Alexander,  so I checked. Turns out she holds a PhD in English from Penn, and currently teaches in the Department of African American Studies at Yale.  One of her five books of poetry was a Pulitzer finalist. She was an outstanding teacher of undergrads at Harvard as well.

For years I’ve thought that the US ought to have a Ministry (Department) of Culture to promote arts and artists — like virtually all other countries do. And virtually all other countries spend a helluva lot more of their national treasures on their national treasures. We are the world’s pikers, because we are most certainly  in the Dark Ages of Arts in America, both in government and popular support, and even in our education programs. We have great practitioners in almost all fields, many of them the best in the world, but they might as well set up shop at the bottom of a canyon somewhere for all the attention they get.

I refer not only to traditional arts, but also to crafts. For example, I have a friend who makes primitive weapons of such quality that museums ask him to make replicas for their displays. In Japan such a person would be declared a “National Treasure,” receive a lot of formal public attention, and no longer have to pay taxes. My friend, meanwhile, must do this work in his spare time away from his regular job with a government agency. We claim to support our troops — on bumper stickers and slogans (but not in reality other than lip-service). We don’t even claim to support artists. Truth is art does not matter here and few pretend it does.

Elizabeth Alexander is just one more example of many fine poets in our midst who have very small or non-existent audiences. Damn shame. Poetry goes unnoticed and unappreciated and meanwhile we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Simpsons.

Yew boy.


Hail to the Chief

The snowtable. 19 inches on the table top, 28 inches in the chair.
The snowtable. 19 inches on the table top, 28 inches in the chair.

The interregnum c’est finir. Barack Hussein Obama is our 44th president, and our heartfelt congratulations go out to him (and may he also find a way to straighten out his moronic website). With all the promise our new President offers — and it seems immense– let’s remember he is like each of us, only a man, and to cite Isaiah 44: 9 — “All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame.” The time for coronations and royal presidencies has passed. We need a President who hears the voices of the many, and also the few, who  uses his mind and advice as best he can and  who will tell it like it is, .44 caliber blunt when he needs to be, a leader who will point the way and cotton no excuses.  Put away your trays, return your seats to their upright position, fasten your seat belts, and hang on, friends and fellow citizens. The brakes have been released and the takeoff roll has begun and four years from now we’ll see where we land.

It’s 12 degrees here. Over.

A few minutes before noon on inauguration day and a view to the backyard, with Shanahan's trails.
A few minutes before noon on inauguration day and a view to the backyard, with Shanahan's snow-trails.

Scamland & Dubya Bye-Bye

I’m beset with an insidious damn virus called “Antivirus 2009,” which sounds alarms, tells you you have all kinds of infections and wants you to buy protection for $50 to $100. When it hit me it told me I was infected with 23 viruses but couldn’t remove then unless I subscribed to the service being offered.  I checked my own Avast anti-virus service, which is free, and it showed three minor viruses and the major virus called Antivirus 2009, which it then set about to isolate, only there is still a bit of the sob hiding somewhere for the moment and I can’t access my documents. But we’ll find it.  Why do people pay for expensive anti-virus services when they can get excellent ones free of cost? I’d love to sue the ass off the people who spread this crap, or better yet, take them to a U.P. for an attitude adjustment.  I checked into it Antivirus 2009 and found  people on line talking about the scam’s approach and how they got double-billed after they subscribed, etc. The worldwide web is often a putrid joke and getting sicker. If people walked into our houses the way viruses and services walk into our computers there are lots of places in this country where they’d get plugged —  and I don’t mean with a cork.

It was minus-seven fahrenheit  this morning, and now it’s a snow day for all the local schools. Are we molly-coddling our children ns these days or are we just smarter about weather than when I was a kid or my own kids were young? The clothes and footwear sure are better now —  if parents know about them, if they can afford them, and if they actually buy them for junior. The world gets stranger by the day. Yesterday my mailbox was blocked much of the afternoon  by visitors across the street — several moms taking their tots to another house for a “play date.” A…play…date? Say what?

And, yesterday a US Airways pilot got a double bird-strike furing takeoff and early departure[geese, apparently), which seized up and flamed out two engines; then after ATC directed the pilot to a New Jersey airfield,  the Airbut A320 pancaked into the  middle of Hudson River between New Yoyk and GNu-Joysee. The flight’s captain, Chesley Sullenberger, is a former zoomie (USAFA grad) and F-4 Phantom driver. Well done, “Sully.” And your copilot too, if they ever bother to announce his name. Landing a crippled airbus is definitely not a one-person job.

I’ve probably touched on this before, but it bears repeating: As we move closer to inauguration I think our nation’s political correctees need to adopt a new term and that is PONC [pronounced “ponk”], to replace preceding terms:  negro/black/African American/Person of Color. In fact, the term black is defined as the total absence of all color and light, so the correct and accurate term should be People or Persons of No Color. Hey, but what do I know? I live in a Rustbelt state with 10 percent unemployment.

President Bush said goodbye to the country last night. And of course, unsmiling “So-Deep” Veep “Student Deferment Dickie” was there with him — in the front row, and Dickie also was the first to stop applauding, I noticed. I didn’t hear the country say anything in reply to the president’s farewell other what I percieved to be a collectively whispered, “Good riddance.” I think we can say accurately that this is one President this nation has barely survived and our long-term survival remains far from certain. Or have I misunderestimated  him and this? Maybe some day I’ll “unthaw” my feelings about Dubya, but I wouldn’t bet on it. I have a serious issues with people born on third base who are convinced they hit triples. Under Bush this country became the sort of environment I once heard ascribed to a company, that is, a place where you can drown but can’t swim. For increasing numbers of people that’s how it is.

From the Say-What Department: One of our local weather-talkers this morning announced that the temperature was “up to twenty nine below.” Uh, excuse me, but don’t we mean “down” to? I just hope we don’t get up to 40 below.

Put on your longies today, sportsfans.


Sunday, Sunday

Fishing pal, fellow Bullshido Robochef sent me a copy of a Mitch Albom article from the latest Sports Illustrated. Title: “The Courage of Detroit.” It’s a good read.

And speaking of snow. The local Kalamazoo Gazette reported today that with yesterday’s 12-inch snowfall (about 16 in my back yard) the winter has so far delivered to us 89.5 inches, and this total is five days short of what is considered to be winter’s midpoint. Our annual average is 36.4 inches of rain and 69.7 inches of snow. Our winter record was 121.2 inches of white stuff in 1903-04. This followed a meager 15 inches in 1901-02, our lowest seasonal total. You have to be a masochist to want to prognosticate weather in this part of the world. Official records and measurements have been kept here since 1866, a year after the end of the War Between the States.