Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Coming of Light

Even this late it happens:

the coming of love, the coming of light.

You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,

stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,

sending up warm bouquets of air.

Even this late the bones of the body shine

and tomorrow's dust flares into breath.

- - Mark Strand

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Letters to Michelle Obama

Dear Michelle,

Can I borrow some money so we can move into an apartment and buy a new Mustang convertible? I don’t mean to waste money. I will use some of the money to buy a drum set and have a cool pool. Can I have $10,000 to buy my passport to go to Las Vegas? Send me a picture of the White House and the statue of Abraham Lincoln.

Read the whole article

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Take everything

"Look you're not out on a four-year picnic at that medical school, so stop talking like a disappointed lover. You signed up for a spell of training and they're dishing it out to you, and all you can do is take everything they've got, everything they hand to you, and tell yourself how lucky you are to be on the receiving end - so you can be a doctor, and that's no bad price to pay for the worry, the exhaustion."

- William Carlos Williams' advice to a medical student

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Old Joke

A traveling salesman, seeing a farmer holding a large pig up to an apple tree to feed him an apple, stopped and asked, "Wouldn't it save a lot of time just to pick the apple and give it to the pig?"

Replied the farmer: "What's time to a pig?"

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Who can ever foretell

Robert Coles writes about Anna Freud:

"A year later I was in medical school, where I fastened my hopes on pediatric work with children. During internship and residency in pediatrics and child psychiatry, I became especially interested in the ways children struggle with severe illness - their moods, their hopes and worries, as they lay sick in the hospital. It was then that I had occasion to hear Miss Freud again. She had come back to America, and was now talking about her work after the Second World War with children who had survived concentration camps. This talk was less "public"; it was given in the seminar room of a Boston hospital. I had been invited to attend by an older physician, a surgeon who had taken an interest in psychoanalysis and, as a matter of fact, had been analyzed by a prominent colleague of Anna Freud's father, yet another "refugee" who had found his way during the late 1930s to the United States.

The small room was crowded with about forty people, almost all physicians. I was once more struck by the directness of the speaker, her evident command of her subject, her willingness to share her knowledge with us in such an accessible manner. Each sentence seemed a perfectly formed jewel, sparkling and delightful to contemplate. An uncanny mixture of relaxed self-assurance and intense dedication emanated from this small, still, thin woman, plainly dressed, her voice strong but not insistent. I still remember the talk, and I still remember a sudden desire, afterward, to ask a question about a girl I had come to know, a patient at Children's Hospital in Boston. This girl had a serious diabetic condition, and yet seemed so resolutely cheerful and confident that all of us - nurses, social workers, doctors - wondered what "really" crossed the child's mind when she was alone, when she was not putting up such a valiant show of outgoing optimism. I didn't expect Miss Freud to say what our young patient was thinking, but all of us at the hospital were worried about her future psychological prospects, and so I did ask about prognosis - about the likelihood of psychopathology developing in a year, two years, or even farther along.

Even now, I can see as well as hear Miss Freud's response. She put her hands on her papers, moved them slowly, deliberately, but with increasing animation. Her message was pointed - and a real challenge for the young doctors in the audience who were accustomed to receiving categorical or specific advice: "Who can ever foretell what a child will be like in the time ahead?"

I wrote the words down, and found them quite unsatisfying - the kind of remark actually, one of my grandparents would make out of the stoic surrender of old age. I was convinced that she was the very one who could with reliability and accuracy do such prophesying. But she persisted and reminded us, at length, how difficult it can be for even the best-informed observer of any given child to know what tomorrow will bring in the way of psychological adjustment, or the lack thereof."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

e e cummings writes about his mother

"It isn't often you meet a true heroine. I have the honour to be a true heroine's son. My father and mother were coming up from Cambridge to New Hampshire, one day, in their newly purchased automobile - an aircooled Franklin, with an ash frame. As they neared the Ossippees, snow fell. My mother was driving; and, left to herself, would never have paused for such a trifle as snow. But as the snow increased, my father made her stop while he got out and wiped the windshield. Then he got in; and she drove on. Some minutes later, a locomotive cut the car in half, killing my father instantly. When two brakemen jumped from the halted train, they saw a woman standing - dazed but erect - beside a mangled machine; with blood "spouting" (as the older said to me) out of her head. One of her hands (the younger added) kept feeling of her dress, as if trying to discover why it was wet. These men took my sixty-six year old mother by the arms and tried to lead her toward a nearby farmhouse; but she threw them off, strode straight to my father's body, and directed a group of scared spectators to cover him. When this had been done (and only then) she let them lead her away."

- i , six nonlectures by e e cummings

Monday, November 15, 2010

Eid Mubarak, everyone!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Scene Before Me

(translated from the Chinese by Simon Patton & Tao Naikan)

One evening during the Spring Festival
after some friends and I had eaten and drunk
to our heart’s content at a hot-pot restaurant
we moved on to a café
Along the way
smack in the middle of a slow traffic lane
we came across a legless beggar sitting on the ground
talking to someone on his mobile phone
He shouted as if there were no one else around
You could hear that he was wishing someone a Happy New Year
‘I’m sure he’s making a long-distance call
to a beggar in another province’
‘Maybe it’s an international call
to a beggar overseas’
I’m sorry! I apologise for the way
my friends and I shot our mouths off like that
It’s not that we’re heartless or numb in our feelings
No, we’re not prejudiced, contemptuous or
trying to offend
It was a way to hide our shock
Really, we just didn’t have time
when confronted with a scene of this type
to equip ourselves with the appropriate feelings

- Yi Sha

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