RAMH@8: To One Thing Constant Never… and a Playlist

Drawing by V. Spahn

[Image: cartoon by French cartoonist/illustrator/humorist V. Spahn. Roughly translated, I believe the caption says something on the order of, “Oh, shoot — I meant to get to the office early this morning!”]

Like many people who fired up blogs in the Great Flowering Era — i.e., pre-2009, say (the year when Facebook first turned a profit, or at least become “cash-flow positive“) — I imagined Running After My Hat would become a journal.

A journal, of course, is different from a diary. A diary celebrates or simply notes the everyday, with lesser or greater force depending on its import to the author; a journal discusses, considers, weighs, argues, and/or blathers on about topics which may or may not be based upon something mundane, but which may also spring, unbidden, from the author’s mind and soul. The latter more closely resembles my RAMH ideal at the outset.

I suppose the place has attained that ideal, over time, although the topics have come to differ from those I’d first imagined. I apparently have much less to say about writing, for example, than I once thought I would. (On the other hand, some of this is reticence by design.)

It’s also become, well, stranger than I’d planned — stranger in ways that I could not have anticipated. I didn’t know, in 2008, that the blogging wave was already cresting. For a while, I actually tried to post something new every single day; by the time RAMH attained what I think of as its own peak, though — 2011-13, maybe — the posting rate had already declined, roughly in proportion to the dwindling audience.

To be fair, the decline in my output was mirrored by the decline in my input — my reading of and participation in other blogs. It’s not as if RAMH were the only blog withering at the time. When Google dropped its “Google Reader” blog-aggregation product, in 2013, I believe the transformation of the Web from a writers-and-readers model to a social-chatter model was complete.

What’s left, then, has become more like a real journal: a place for talking to myself, as time and circumstance allow, about topics and in ways I don’t mind making public, but also about topics and in ways I can’t imagine sharing in Facebook’s short-attention-span theater. (RAMH posts do automatically trigger brief summary posts on Facebook, for anyone who might be interested, with links to the full RAMH entries.)

Although I haven’t done a statistical analysis, I bet ninety percent of the content here has come down to two things: posts in the “Ruminations” category — all of them whiskey river Fridays posts, I think — and posts related somehow to music. Translated, this means that my output here seldom exceeds two posts weekly: not a good mechanism for attracting and retaining loyal readers, but at the same time a good tool for “keeping my hand in.” I like ruminating, and I like learning (and talking at length) about some aspects of music, too: both pursuits which ultimately depend not on facts, but on the processing of facts. And I don’t mind processing them openly, for my own sake, even if for no one else’s.

All the other stuff I used to post about here has transitioned to That Other Place. That place has its uses, as I’ve learned. But there’s not much room there for running after one’s hat, any more than I’d find in a shopping mall at the holidays, or a crowded amphitheater.

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Potpourri, June 18th (2015 edition)

[This year’s Potpourri, I reckon, will be shorter than its predecessors. I’ve got just as much I could post about, and of course today’s the only day I can post a Potpourri entry, but The World Is Too Much With Me this time around. So I’ll just write, off and on, and hit the WordPress Publish button when the clock runs out.]

Apropos of nothing: I am really feeling anti-technology at the moment. Practically every program I need to use every day seems to be broken, and — at least on my work PC — some mysterious force prevents me from making the changes I need to make in order to get some of them running smoothly. Symptom: the error message which pops up informing me that I need permission from [username] to make the change (a simple file rename). Why is this a problem? Because I am signed in as [username].

If my PC here were trying to serve me donuts right now, I’d be walking away from the counter in disgust, shaking my head.

On the other hand: My recent adventures in site redesign have reminded me of both (a) the pleasure of getting my hands into the guts of a technical problem, and (b) the satisfaction of knowing that I (alone among the people I know really well, at least in real life) can solve said problem.

Oh, no no no — I’m not even close to done with this yet. Still, it’s good to feel (rightly or wrongly) that I can still do what I have been trained and have learned to do.

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ADMIN: Banging of Hammers, Whining of Power Tools

I’m going to have to change the look-and-feel of Running After My Hat sooner, rather than later.

The reasons are complicated, for the most part. The simplest of them all: I was going to change it anyway, sometime by the end of the summer. Events have conspired to push that deadline way up.

As I did the last time I changed themes*, in 2011, I’ll be insulating the blog per se from its test version. So you won’t notice a lot going on here right away — and when the changeover is “ready” (such as it is), I’ll provide a little advance notice.

If by some chance you’re really fired up to see the new look in progress, your best bet would be to visit http://themetest.johnesimpson.com/. Understand, though, that you’ll find quite a bit of chaos there over the short run.

___________________

* Technically, “the last time I changed themes” was just a week or two ago — a change I was backed into by the suddenly non-functioning comment feature. The current theme is the one my real four-year-old one was based on.

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ADMIN: Comments Are Back!

Well, that’s the good news.

The bad news — as you can see if you’ve been a visitor here in the past — is that RAMH now looks… different. (And some familiar features may not work at all.)

As it happens, the broken commenting system (which I described in the preceding post) came about thanks to an outdated WordPress theme. (A theme is sort of a design template, although there’s usually more to it than just the look and layout.) The old theme worked fine until the WordPress software itself was automatically updated to a new version at the beginning of May.

Note that the problem was not in WordPress, but in the theme (which I’d acquired from a professional and had tweaked, slightly, over the years). Every other theme I’ve experimented with in the last few days works just fine with the new WordPress.

I’ve been thinking about changing the theme anyhow, but I figured I’d postpone that until sometime over the summer. Looks like I’ll have to push that schedule up, though.

For what it’s worth, the developer of my old theme recommended one of his more recent ones. If I go that way, and you’re interested in a preview of what to expect, you can view the theme demo at the developer’s site. (And of course, I’d be tweaking that design, too.) One signal advantage of a theme like it — and a reason why I’d been thinking of changing themes sooner or later anyhow: like most recently built themes, that one adapts well to display on a smartphone or tablet screen.

Anyhow, I’m not changing themes (again!) right now; other fish to fry. Just really wanted to let you know comment submission was back on.

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ADMIN: Broken Comments on RAMH

No 'Submit' button!One of my regular site visitors reported a problem to me yesterday, via email: (1) he could compose a comment, and (2) he could check the little “I am not a robot” checkbox confirming to reCaptcha that he is indeed a human; but (3) he could not actually submit a comment.

Why not? Because there was no “Submit” button. (Current partial screen capture shown at top right.)

(As an aside, this is broken for me, too. And it appears to be broken for all three major browsers, as well.)

Edit to add: For the time being, I’ve disabled the “reCaptcha” mechanism, on the off-chance that the problem was with it rather than with WordPress’s generic verification process. So you won’t see the “I am not a robot” device for a while.

This will remain broken for — I hope — only a little while. But it will be a while.

In the meantime, if you’d like to comment to me about a post and have no other email address, you can always reach me at this one: runningaftermyhat AT johnesimpson DOT com. If you’d like your comment to be publicly posted, let me know that and I’ll be sure it gets added to the thread of comments below the corresponding post.

Sigh… just what I wanted to be fretting about at the start of a long weekend!

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“I See,” Said the Blind Man (As He Picked Up His Hammer and Saw)

'Eudoxia,' by 'Marcus Inkpen'

[Image: Eudoxia, by “Zike Questi.” For more information, see the note at the foot of this post. To enlarge, click the image; to see the thing in its full-size glory, right-click here and select “Open in a New Tab/Window” (or your browser’s counterpart). Used under a Creative Commons license.]

From whiskey river’s commonplace book:

For everything that is understood and sensed is nothing other than the apparition of the non-apparent, the manifestation of the hidden, the affirmation of the negated, the comprehension of the incomprehensible, the utterance of the unutterable, the access to the inaccessible, the intellection of the unintelligible, the body of the bodiless, the essence of the beyond-essence, the form of the formless, the measure of the immeasurable, the number of the unnumbered, the weight of the weightless, the materialization of the spiritual, the visibility of the invisible, the place of the placeless, the time of the timeless, the definition of the infinite, the circumscription of the uncircumscribed, and the other things which are both conceived and perceived by the intellect alone and cannot be retained within the recesses of memory and which escape the blade of the mind.

(John Scotus Eriugen [source (among others)])

…and:

The Now is as it is because it cannot be otherwise. What Buddhists have always known, physicists now confirm: there are no isolated things or events. Underneath the surface appearance, all things are interconnected, are part of the totality of the cosmos that has brought about the form that this moment takes.

(Eckhart Tolle [source])

…and (from whiskey river):

There are moments when a kind of clarity comes over you, and suddenly you can see through walls to another dimension that you’d forgotten or chosen to ignore in order to continue living with the various illusions that make life, particularly life with other people, possible.

(Nicole Krauss [source])

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RAMH@7: Old Friends (A Playlist, and a Rumination or Two)

'What's the matter, Dad?': one half of an old stereograph

[Image: one frame of an old stereograph, the droll caption to which is “What’s the matter dad? you seem put out.” (Click image to see the whole thing.) Technically, the gentleman here is not running after his hat, but losing it. It is sometimes hard to tell the difference in other contexts, too.]

Time for another in what’s turning out to be an annual series: a post on April 20th, featuring (as the series has developed over time):

  • some crazy illustration (photo/artwork) of the blog’s title;
  • a playlist of songs from the blog’s history; and
  • a brace of woolgatherings about the blog, and/or about blogging in general.

First, about this year’s playlist: last year, the topic was “Discoveries” — songs which I’d encountered more or less as a result of maintaining this blog. (Most of their performers had been new to me, too.) This year, it felt only natural to revisit some songs I’ve blogged about which I’d known for years before hitting the first keystroke of what became Running After My Hat. Here’s the final list, with links to the posts in which the songs were included. (Each link opens in a new browser window or tab.)

# Artist Song Time
1 One Fine Day The Chiffons 2:12
2 Bad Moon Rising Creedence Clearwater Revival 2:20
3 Time Is Tight Booker T. and the MGs 3:15
4 White Rabbit Jefferson Airplane 2:29
5 The Boxer Simon and Garfunkel 5:13
6 Sally Go ‘Round the Roses The Jaynetts 3:06
7 American Woman The Guess Who 5:10
8 King of the Road Roger Miller 2:28
9 Black Water The Doobie Brothers 4:15
10 Wade in the Water The Ramsey Lewis Trio 3:48
11 Across the Universe Beatles 3:47
12 What Shall We Do With the Child? Carly Simon 2:55
13 Going Up the Country Canned Heat 2:51
14 For Lovin’ Me/Did She Mention My Name? Gordon Lightfoot 3:29
15 Lookin’ for Me Somewhere The Bodeans 3:02
16 Hold On Big Daddy 4:22
17 Surf Rider The Lively Ones 3:19
18 Crazy Linda Ronstadt 3:58
19 The Fairy Queen Clannad 2:40
20 Nothing Compares 2 U Sinéad O’Connor 5:10
21 The Shadow of Your Smile Herb Alpert 3:30

The songs have little specific in common, other than their long familiarity to me. (Two of the songs came from a single post — one appearing in the post proper, one in a comment. A disproportionate number, for some reason, came from posts in 2011… feeling self-indulgent that year, maybe… and there are none at all from 2009.) These aren’t necessarily the songs most personally meaningful to me; I haven’t included any which I remember because I listened to them repeatedly as a child, for example, or because they were family favorites. And there’s no particular significance to the posts in which they appeared, either. The original list of all songs I knew pre-RAMH, in fact, included — unmanageably — over 200 items.

Luckily, I could start by disregarding any songs I’d used in an earlier anniversary playlist. I could likewise ignore (as I always do for these things) any songs in the annual Christmas playlists. So, after a few weeks’ off-and-on-again work, I eventually whittled the list down until I came up with one which is — on my terms, anyhow — repeatedly listenable, and no more than a single audio CD in length.

(“Repeatedly listenable” is a tough criterion to meet. I liked hearing every single song at the time of its posting, and on many occasions since; I was excited to (re-)discover many at the time of their posts’ writing. But damn: some songs just don’t hold up when you’ve got a CD in the car stereo, and you — by intention or not — leave it there over the course of a month or two rather than choose a successor.)

After all that, finally, here’s the usual little audio-player gizmo to run through the songs in the order above.

[If you’d prefer to order the songs however you like, and/or to remove some songs from the list altogether, feel free to use your secret RAMH right-square-bracket decoder ring.

(Note: The playlist goes automatically from start to finish, once you click the little Play button. To fast-forward to the next number, once a song is playing you’ll find a little fast-forward button to the right of its progress meter — and a fast-rewind to the left, for that matter. The volume control is a little row of vertical bars visible at the left, while the music plays.)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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ADMIN: Change to Comment Moderation

Just wanted to give you a heads-up: when you leave a comment at RAMH, you will no longer have to decipher some strange image or string of text to prove you’re not a “robot.”

Google, which manages the reCaptcha feature as — I guess — a public service, has replaced it with a very simple device: it presents you with an assertion, “I am not a robot.” You check a checkbox if that’s true (cough), and then you’re done. Google will use a variety of ways to determine that a given site visit is by someone who’s already checked the box. See this article at the Wired site for more information.

 

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ADMIN (Sort of): Book Reviews on Goodreads

A few years ago, I posted a pretty good number of book reviews at a collaborative blog called The Book Book, curated by the blogger formerly (and probably forever) known as Moonrat. It was a pretty successful site in many ways — over 600 posts, spread over the five or six years of peak activity — and the quality of the reviews was about what you’d expect, given Moonrat’s professional standards. (She was/is an editor at a NYC publishing firm.)

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be putting those reviews on Goodreads as well. I won’t be removing them from The Book Book — in fact, I’ll include a link to the original review in the version posted on Goodreads. But otherwise, the reviews (with possibly some minor changes) will be identical. My hope is that they’ll prove useful to a wider audience at Goodreads.

(And btw, yes: I’ve checked with Moonrat and with Goodreads to be sure this will be all right.)

Whenever I posted a Book Book review, I announced it with a post here. In some cases, the RAMH posts themselves might have included some useful extras (including comments from blog followers). In those cases, I’ll probably link from Goodreads to RAMH. But I’m not meaning at all for this as a “boost my stats” venture. (I don’t even look at stats anymore, although I guess they’re still out there somewhere.)

If you’ve been following RAMH, or The Book Book for that matter, you won’t find anything new in my Goodreads reviews unless and until I start posting honest-to-gods new reviews there more often. (Heh.)

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Putting Aside the Enchanter’s Wand

[Video: “Somebody That I Used to Know,” performed by Walk Off the Earth. Lyrics here. See the note about the video at the bottom of this post, too.]

From whiskey river (italicized portion):

What Narrative Is For

How fine the mind that can calculate
change and recognize destiny,

as if luck had something to do
with knowing, as if the lease

signed with the eyes closed
meant happiness, or even time

that’s bearable, slow breaths exchanging
the currency that wanting spends,

and how fine that sedatives
and jewels exist, those slanted elegies.

So there are errands and hours
when you hear your own breath—

or feel my breath coming from within you—
and register the haunt of cicadas

summering under the porch. So there is time
spooking off into the wings.

These are going to be big surgeries, bloody
gauzes of conditions, when loss

must be measured, and then
there are the outcomes, the calls

that must be made. Wouldn’t we all like to avoid
being the reason for anguish, to understand

why it’s so easy to cut ourselves
on our own edges? Silent,

the responders. They might
have the answers, but they’re not

telling, even when the vise grips
go for the nails. All that’s left is to know

we will suffer through almost anything—
make sure to remember it well.

(Margot Schilpp [source])

and:

Art gives us the knowledge that many have gone before, and had the same strange feelings and the same unanswerable questions, and that we are not alone in the art-endeavor, let alone life. It gives us the knowledge that people have always been stupid and violent and cruel, and compassionate and confused and curious and wondrous and astonished and tired. What it does not give us is answers. It gives us instead a picture. It does not ask that we analyze the picture, but that we stand before it and look, in the hope that looking might turn into gazing. For gazing will hold our attention for a very long time.

(Mary Ruefle [source])

and:

The world is an illusion, but it is an illusion which we must take seriously, because it is real as far as it goes, and in those aspects of the reality which we are capable of apprehending. Our business is to wake up. We have to find ways in which to detect the whole of reality in the illusory parts which our self-centered consciousness permits us to see. We must not live thoughtlessly, taking our illusion for the complete reality, but at the same time we must not live too thoughtfully in the sense of trying to escape from the dream state. We must continually be on the watch for ways in which we may enlarge our consciousness, we must not attempt to live outside the world, which is given us, but we must somehow learn how to transform it and transfigure it. Too much “wisdom” is as bad as too little wisdom, and there must be no magic tricks. We must learn to come to reality without the enchanter’s wand and his book of the words. One must find a way of being in this world while not being of it. A way of living in time without being completely swallowed up in time.

(Aldous Huxley [source])

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