Rivers Are Damp

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Archive for July, 2008


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When I saw the Wordle for The Edge of the American West, I knew I had to have one, too.  (Click on it to see it in fuller glory.)

Written by Jimmy

July 25th, 2008 at 12:56 pm

Posted in Utilities


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Is there ever a word or phrase that, no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to remember?  I have that problem right now…and the word is ‘shrapnel.’

Yes, ‘shrapnel.’  I seem to have some kind of enduring mental block that keeps me from remembering it.  Not to worry, though!  I’m pretty sure this is not an early sign of Alzheimer’s—at least I hope it’s not—since the problem seems to be limited to this one word.  And, actually, I can remember having similar problems since childhood.  Sometimes, there’d just be a single word or phrase that repeatedly wouldn’t quite come to me.

Of course, I can’t remember the details of any of those childhood experiences now!  Hmm, I’m forgetful.

Why am I even trying to remember ‘shrapnel’ anyway?  Well, if I were actually talking about, or thinking about, something like shell fragments, the word ‘shrapnel’ would likely come to me with ease.  That’s not why I’m trying to think of ‘sharpnel,’ though.  Nearly every day, I walk by a fountain in Philly—it’s near where I work—that’s built around a particularly, er, hard-to-like sculpture.  About a dozen years ago, one of my then-coworkers joked that the piece was probably named something like Shrapnel.  And he was so right.  The sculpture has a sort of post-Armageddon, Modernism-gone-horribly-wrong feel that, somehow or other, Shrapnel really captures.

So I’ll be walking to or from work, and I’ll pass by this sculpture.  I’ll think of my coworker, remember how he was vexed by that sculpture, and then I won’t be able to remember what he called it.  It’ll almost come to me, but then it’ll be gone.  In the past several years, I’ve gone weeks and even months when ‘shrapnel’ wouldn’t come to me as the name of the sculpture.  Arrgh!

One recent morning, for whatever reason, I saw the fountain, and I remembered that the sculpture should be named Shrapnel.  When I got to my desk, I wrote the word down on a post-it note and stuck it on my computer monitor.  Since then, I’ve had a much easier time remembering.  Now I’m blogging ‘Shrapnel,’ too.  This is pretty much guaranteed, I’d say, to burn the word into my mind.

Of course, in a few weeks or months, there’ll probably be some other word or phrase I can’t quite remember.  Sigh.

Usually when I can’t remember something, I simply try not to worry about it.  When there’s no pressure, and I’ve allowed my conscious mind to move on to something/everything else, the unremembered will almost always come to me.  If that doesn’t work, I sometimes resort to a related technique I’ve read about.  I imagine that there’s an old, old librarian in my attic of my brain.  I climb up the ladder, knock, and ask him to find whatever I’m forgetting.  Then I force myself to forget about it.  Later, the missing piece of information will appear from seemingly nowhere.

But that won’t be necessary for ‘shrapnel.’  If I manage to forget it again, I’ll be able just search the blog.  Ah, relief.

P.S. The fountain-sculpture combo is actually called Voyage of Ulysses.  That’s its picture up there, on the cover of a book—a surprisingly good book, I’ve now discovered—called Fountains of Philadelphia: A  Guide.  (Strangely enough, I don’t seem to have ever photographed the, er, piece.)

P.P.S. This post is also proof, I suppose, that I can conjure up a blog post out of thin air.

Written by Jimmy

July 24th, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Posted in Art,Jay,Philly

Weekend Reading, Volume 9

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  • Roger Ebert writes about movies that hurt too much to watch.  I can’t bring myself to re-watch either Brokeback Mountain or Schindler’s ListBrokeback breaks my heart or, rather, reminds me too much of my broken heart.  And there’s the recent loss of Heath Ledger, too.  My feelings about Schindler’s List are a little bit complicated.  At the theater, I cried so much that I considered leaving; I felt like I was bothering everyone else.  It wasn’t so much the inhumanity depicted in the film, though there was that, of course.  I was crying in response to the good things that some characters did, at enormous risk to themselves.  It’s a manipulative film, spectacularly so.  (Link via PeaceBang)
  • Mamihlapinatapai: (Yaghan) a look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that both desire but which neither one wants to start; eye-contact implying ‘after you…’; ending up mutually at a loss as to what to do about each other (Link via Kottke)
  • In Japan, Buddhism is one the wane, according to this NYT story.  I’ve always really appreciated the “easygoing, buffetlike approach to religion” taken by the Japanese.  We Americans could learn something from that.
  • When I was a kid, way before it was cool, my dad was an organic gardener.  We lived out in the sticks, and no one else got it.  At all.  Least of all me.  So, anyway, this list in the NYT of the 11 best foods we aren’t eating has some, er, special resonance for me.  Actually, though, I already like, and eat, several of these foods.  But Swiss chard?!  Please, God, please tell me I had enough of that stuff in my childhood to last a lifetime.  Please.
  • And another NYT story that I can recommend this week—can you tell what I was reading this week?—details the recent collapse of catfish farming in Mississippi.  Times are hard in the Delta.  Eat more catfish, people!  (Check out the cool slideshow accompanying the story, too.)

Written by Jimmy

July 19th, 2008 at 8:58 am