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Thursday, 29 January 2009

Brief Thoughts on Poetry -- by Zephirine

just asking

is this
a poem
or simply
some prose
chopped up

and if I send
it to you
by email
and your filter
declares it
to be spam
is that
a valid criticism?



Poets interpret
what they see and hear
and what they suspect went on
which they didn't see or hear
(or not quite)
and what they think
they would see and hear
in a past time
or even a future

They interpret
their own feelings
and the feelings they wish they'd had
and occasionally
the feelings of others

But like all interpreters
they can only use
the vocabulary
they know
the grammar
they have been taught
and they may sometimes
miss the meaning


Friday, 23 January 2009

Living Things (1) -- by Beyond the Pale



A trumpet vine
a bright green
tree fern--the
violet light
of early evening
fog enshrouds
pink big
city clouds


All Thought

What's all this commotion, as of
king-wings in migration
a strange fluttering in the boughs
in the great night of souls

In the little oak grove
out back the dying
plum is choked out
by the young oak

Above, the vast blue
climbed by a cloud-wall
suggests all thought's


Message in the Fog

Aim high
like the sequoias--
aspire to
our most wild dipthong

one solitary


Living Things (2) -- by Beyond the Pale




"Dyslexia is a Myth" ? -- by Ebren

"Dyslexia is a myth" is the title of Labour MP Graham Stringer's recent column for Manchester Confidential.

His argument – which you can read in full here: – is that dyslexia was invented to cover up poor teaching of reading and writing.

In his own words: "The reason that so many children fail to read and write is because the wrong teaching methods are used. The education establishment, rather than admit that their eclectic and incomplete methods for instruction are at fault, have invented a brain disorder called dyslexia.

"To label children as dyslexic because they're confused by poor teaching methods is wicked.

"Dyslexia is a cruel fiction, it is no more real than the 19th century scientific construction of 'the æther' to explain how light travels through a vacuum.

"The sooner it is consigned to the same dustbin of history, the better."

To back up his argument, Stringer - MP for Blackley in north Manchester – points out that other countries have literacy rates of close to 100%. If dyslexia were a genetic condition then this would not be possible.

He also argues that illiteracy is linked to crime rates – quoting that 80% of the residents of Strangeways prison are illiterate and 80% use illegal drugs. "I am not, for one minute, implying that all functionally illiterate people take illegal drugs and engage in criminal activities, but, the huge correlation between illiteracy and criminal activity is striking," he adds.

But there's a gap here. Arguing that illiteracy is the same as dyslexia, it's not. Many dyslexics can read and write – often to a high level. In fact, the best-selling novelist of all time, Agatha Christie, has been identified as dyslexic

What's more – Stringer uses some strange definition of literacy. "Functional literacy" is something that sounds nice – but you can't then compare it to international literacy rates ( ). The UK has 99% literacy rates using international comparisons, the same or higher than South Korea and Nicaragua – the countries he lists when "proving" dyslexia doesn't exist.

The idea that the shadowy overlords of the "educational establishment" have invented dyslexia is another argument I find intriguing.

When I was six weeks old, the doctors thought I had a brain tumour. I was given a brain scan, and while I was clear of a tumour, the doctors noted I had a funny-shaped brain. It didn't mean anything to them at the time, just something worth noting. At the age of six, after being asked to leave my junior school as they believed "he would never pass an exam", my mother had me tested for dyslexia.

My dyslexia and my funny-shaped brain were not something anyone connected until years later. I find it hard to believe the shadowy world of educators meeting to discuss my failure and blaming it on an invented disorder could quite have planned that far ahead – or faked a brain scan.

Now, I'm not saying that dyslexia is not over-diagnosed or seized-upon by parents and teachers as a reason that conveniently explains their own or their child's under-performance. Or that teaching is not often poor. But, really, what are the downsides to this "cruel fiction"?

Dyslexics, real or imagined, have trouble reading and writing. They are given help. Should we really deny help to people who have trouble reading and writing?

Personally, I never received help from the state – either in the form of financial aid or extra time in exams. I have, at times, had to work harder to get things done. But no more than someone who has no talent for art, maths or music has to work to pass those exams.

I received extra tuition in reading - not using the "synthetic phonics" system that Stringer seems to believe would help cure the nation of dyslexia, but using more old-fashioned teaching methods that are used to teach "normal" children, just with individual attention and patience on the part of the teacher. I struggled again when becoming an editor, but was given help by friends and colleagues (unaware of my dyslexia) and worked hard to overcome it.

The only "cruel fiction" I have ever found about dyslexia is that it is a disability. So my brain happens to be wired differently to "normal". The same could be said for people with aptitudes or difficulties at art, sport, music or maths.

Everyone has different natural strengths and weaknesses, claiming that one of these differences is a fiction – when there is so much information ( and scientific evidence ( to the contrary seems at best ill-informed. Perhaps poor teaching is to blame?

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Friday, 16 January 2009

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Where I Am -- Beyond the Pale


A Meditation Outside the Fertile Grounds Cafe

Ayman just came back from his family
Home in the West Bank. How's the spirit there?
I asked. "Good. Nobody's giving up."
Ayman paused, wiping down the spotless glass top
Of the pastry case one more careful time
Without looking up. Thinking to himself.
"After all, all they want's a little justice."
On the map of the West Bank, that blank space
Just to the left of the town of Bhiddu
Is the village where Ayman's father, one
Of twenty children, was born and raised.
The name of the village means House of Stones
"Because there's a quarry there," but still
It's too small to rate a spot on the map in
The Economist, alongside this story
On the fresh welling up of blood and anger
In my friend's home land, that blank space
Filled with blood and stones. Ayman loves
His trade; in six years he's built from nothing
The coolest little coffee shop on the street;
People like him, he likes them; he makes
Great coffee, his sandwiches are famed, justly;
It's the old American Horatio
Alger Dream, and America's his country.
Every day he gets hundreds of calls
On his cell phone. "But know how many
Calls from people here I take when I'm back
Home?" he smiles. "None. I talk to people
There." And when he goes back home to Beit
Duqqu, America feels far away.
That's the way it feels to me too, but I have
No other home. The photo of the olive tree,
Its roots exposed from the bulldozer cut,
That was up on Ayman's wall last autumn--
Is that a photo of a broken home
Or is it that one's home's always intact
In one's mind as long as one's heart is
Full? I wouldn't begin to know. Tacked
On a phone pole out front of Fertile Grounds
In drifting night mist, a tattered poster
With a picture of a cat's face on it, lost
Near Delaware and Shattuck. It's Momo.
And what's become of poor Momo, now a week
Gone? Tonight, caning into the fog,
I hallucinated a Momo
Sighting downtown. No, just another feral.
Over ferals few sentimental
Tears are shed. A shelter's not a home.
A sanctuary's what everybody needs
These days--the ferals, the street and doorway
People, the drifters in the mist, the bums.
On my way back, as I passed, I saw that
A young Arab girl in headscarf sat weeping
At a table outside Fertile Grounds. Ayman
In his counterman's apron, spick and span,
And Mohamed stood huddled in conference,
Mo holding a cell phone. "She's just lost
Her family, everything," Mo said softly.
"She doesn't have people here. I am
Going to help her." Ayman was talking
To the girl in Arabic, serious, hushed.
Then too Mo, in Arabic, reassuring.
"Don't worry, it will be okay," said Mo--
Switching back to Shattuck Avenue English
For me, the infidel. God is great. May
God bring Momo home if it is His will,
And everybody else along with him,
Whomever that may include--we, living--
And we'll abide in that, and till then hope
That Momo too, pilfering out of the trash
Bins behind the Shattuck eateries,
Will abide likewise. He'll not lack competition.


Saturday, 10 January 2009

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Monday, 5 January 2009

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Friday, 2 January 2009

Where I Am -- Guitougoal

OtherStuff regulars are scattered all over the world, so I thought it would be nice to post some pics of their different domiciles.

Here's one of Guitou's places:


Where I Am (Sometimes) -- Guitougoal


...and here's another Guitou place: