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RE: [xmca] Update on Tony Whitson

Robert and David, 
Thanks for your poetry suggestions for Tony. 
After sending out the first Rilke poem (suggested by Mike), I sent a note to Tony's colleague at University of Delaware, Gail Rys, listed in prior correspondence as monitoring Tony's website and reading correspondence aloud. Rather than continue to send these missives off into the e-void, I wanted to make sure Tony was getting them. Gail has not yet responded. I will try to get an update on Tony's situation through another colleagues I know at Delaware. 

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of David Kellogg
Sent: Thursday, December 15, 2011 12:09 AM
To: Culture ActivityeXtended Mind
Subject: Re: [xmca] Update on Tony Whitson

This is really a kind of banal Chinese operatic rumination on collective monologue, dialogue proper, and the Cecil Day-Lewis poem (It's just the sort of thing I think of while I am in the gym; I don't know if it will interest Rob or try Tony's patience).
Tianxianpei is an opera in the Huangmeixi tradition. It is sung in a dialect of Anhui Chinese that hardly anyone outside Anhui understands, but the actress in this opera (Yan Fengying) sings in standard Chinese, with unmistakable MELODIES from the original dialect (and of course there are subtitles, because as I said before opera is really an artform of WRITTEN speech in China!).

Huangmeixi is a tradition that comes from a corner of richer Hubei province that borders on the famine lands of Anhui, and the theme of going out in bad times and returning home when things get better is central to every opera. In Tianxianpei this theme goes cosmic: a young goddess, the seventh fairy daughter of the Jade Emperor of Heaven, decides to revolt. She descends to earth to marry a commoner, Dong Lang, who has sold himself into slavery in order to by a coffin for his deceased father. 
Together, they outwit the slave-owner (through a scheme curiously similar to Rumpelstiltskin, by spinning bad stuff into gold brocade) and win early release. And here they are returning home to the land that Dong Lang had thought he would have to sell. They sing:



She: See the birds on the boughs in pairs!
He: Green ponds, blue hills, smiling with leaves!
She: From today, we'll never taste forced work again. 
He: Wife and husband, hand in hand, we'll have our homestead back.
She:  You shall plow the soil, and I shall weave our clothes
He:  I shall carry the water, and you shall irrigate the garden.
She: Our winter nest will be threadbare, but it will keep out the wind and rain
He: To husbandly love and wifely devotion, even bitterness shall taste sweet
(The last two lines are delivered in close, but not perfect synchrony, which is a fairly rare feat in Chinese opera, for reasons I will get to in a moment.)
She: You and I, closer than mandarin duck and drake
He: Closer than their two wings, traversing the realm of men
Yan Fengying donated the proceeds for this opera to buy a fighter jet for the Korean war (Mao donated his only surviving son--they had a very different idea of how leaders fight wars in those days). And then Yan Fengying was severely criticized during the Cult Revolt (by the Maoists, of course) for singing this paean to private life....
But is that really what it is? And what exactly is the alternative? Today on the opera channel, there was a lesson in how to sing Yuju, the opera of Henan, and they had one of the great masters of the art.
The particular aria they were singing was not actually this one. It was the kind of sketch of everyday life that I love most in opera (one of my favorite operas features a scene where a wife is trying to decide whether to cover a sleeping husband with her own--woman's--cloak that goes on for a full eighteen minutes!) 
An old lady is lying in bed, it is (we are told repeatedly!) the 23rd of January, and snow is falling. The party secretary comes to give her a blanket, saying that Chairman Mao especially sent him with this, and she is moved to tears. I watched it while on the treadmill in the gym and tried to sing along. I wondered why the gym emptied out so quickly! 
But it wasn't entirely my fault, you know. The master, while a brilliant performer, was a really TERRIBLE teacher. It was the kind of teaching we had in China in art school: the master performs, and then the students all perform--TOGETHER. Individual performances are for the leader, and the leader alone. Students then perform a kind of Piagetian collective monologue, neither listening to each other nor to themselves.
Our master had four students performing together. But since modulations are highly individual, the slight variations in modulation, each artistically adequate, nullified each other, and the result was insipid and colorless. The master couldn't figure out why this was, and so she kept getting the students to sing more and more expressively, and the result was flat, shrill, and vulgar. 
Compare that with Tianxianpei! The couple take turns, repeating but also varying, and when they finally do sing the last two lines (about husbandish and wifely unity) together, they are ever so slightly offset, so that you can clearly hear the modulations introduced by each singer.
So it seems to me that what Cecil Day-Lewis says for dialogism between husband and wife holds even more true for teacher and student (which is, I guess, not that surprising, since he is really talking about poetry). 
But when we cease to play explorers
And become settlers, clear before us
Lies the next need – to re-define
The boundary between yours and mine;
Else, one stays prisoner, one goes free.
Each to his own identity
Grown back, shall prove our love’s expression
Purer for this limitation.

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
--- On Tue, 12/13/11, Robert Lake <boblake@georgiasouthern.edu> wrote:

From: Robert Lake <boblake@georgiasouthern.edu>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Update on Tony Whitson
To: lchcmike@gmail.com, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Tuesday, December 13, 2011, 6:34 AM

Hi Tony and everyone, (Will someone please forward to Tony?)

Here is a poem by Cecil Day- Lewis with commentary from David Kellogg.

> There is a good poem about the relationship between meaning potential and
> actual meaning by Cecil Day-Lewis. It's metaphorical, of course! He begins
> by defining a sign for us, and pointing out that a tree is a sign too
> (because it stands for itself, or if you want to be physiological about
> it produces an image on our retina which is interpreted by our brains as a
> tree.) But it's a sign without a system, without much unrealized meaning
> potential.
>* This tree outside my window here,
> Naked, umbrageous, fresh or sere,
> Has neither chance nor will to be
> Anything but a linden tree,
> Even if its branches grew to span
> The continent; for nature’s plan
> Insists that infinite extension
> Shall create no new dimension.
> >From the first snuggling of the seed
> In earth, a branchy form’s decreed.*
> You have to admit the Creator was original. He was certainly forceful in
> his creativity. But rather limited, when you look at it; in His later
> He kept repeating Himself with only minor variations, and most of what was
> new was not very good. Human creativity is a different matter!.
> *Unwritten poems loom as if
> They’d cover the whole of earthly life.
> But each one, growing, learns to trim its
> Impulse and meaning to the limits
> Roughed out by me, then modified
> In its own truth’s expanding light.
> A poem, settling to its form,
> Finds there’s no jailer, but a norm
> Of conduct, and a fitting sphere
> Which stops it wandering everywhere.*
> Human creativity, unlike nature, is an embarrassment of riches; we need
> rhyme (which you notice Day-Lewis adheres to quite rigorously) and meter
> keep us honest. As Adorno says, the bourgeoisie would like life to be
> austere and art voluptuous, but we would really be much better off with
> things the other way around: life full of actual meaning, and art full of
> things left unsaid.
> Now here Day-Lewis notes that there is a third thing--and it is the thing
> that Bakhtin wrote almost exclusively about, something that is neither
> system of meaning nor instance of meaning making, something that is
> signification nor purely individual sense: it is human relationships in
> their complex, meaty sensuousness.
> Are interpersonal relations more like intra-personal relations or are they
> more like societal relations? Are they more intra-psychological or more
> trans-psychological? Are more things to be left said or unsaid? Half said?
> Are these going to be austere or voluptuous? Will they depend on potential
> or upon realization?
>* As for you, my love, it’s harder,
> Though neither prisoner nor warder,
> Not to desire you both: for love
> Illudes us we can lightly move
> Into a new dimension, where
> The bounds of being disappear
> And we make one impassioned cell.
> So wanting to be all in all
> Each for each, a man and a woman
> Defy the limits of what’s human.*
> Voluptuous then, and almost intrapersonal--but this is a romantic, young
> person's view. Day-Lewis wrote this late in life, after many years of what
> we would have to call development. Human development is not like natural
> development; it means creating more potential rather than simply realizing
> it (and thus leaving less unsaid).
> *> Love’s essence, like a poem’s, shall spring
> >From the not saying everything.
> David Kellogg

On Mon, Dec 12, 2011 at 11:29 PM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

> Herewith a poem that Tony may find satisfying to think with. It is usefully
> followed up by a visit to the website of the Cluny Museum in Paris and the
> tapestries that reside there, but it stands pretty well on its own.
> If this topic is interesting, there are some nice follow-ons.
> mike
> ------------------------
> The Unicorn by Ranier Maira Rilke
> This is the creature there never has been.
> They never knew it, and yet, none the less,
> they loved the way it moved, its suppleness,
> its neck, its very gaze, mild and serene.
> Not there, because they loved it, it behaved
> as though it were. They always left some space.
> And in that clear unpeopled space they saved
> it lightly reared its head with scarce a trace
> of not being there. They fed it, not with corn,
> but only with the possibility
> of being. And that was able to confer
> such strength, its brow put for a horn. One horn.
> Whitely it stole up to a maid, -- to *be*
> within the silver mirror and in her.
> On Mon, Dec 12, 2011 at 4:29 PM, David H Kirshner <dkirsh@lsu.edu> wrote:
> > Mike,
> > I'll help with the archives work.
> > Meanwhile, the only tangible thing I can think of that might bring Tony
> > some pleasure is poetry.
> > If anyone has a suggestion of a poem that seems relevant to Tony's work,
> > or Tony's current situation, or to XMCA, or to what Tony brings to XMCA,
> > send it on, and I'll forward to him on our behalf.
> > David
> >
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu]
> > On Behalf Of mike cole
> > Sent: Monday, December 12, 2011 10:21 AM
> > To: Deborah Rockstroh
> > Cc: Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition Internal List; eXtended
> > Mind, Culture,Activity
> > Subject: Re: [xmca] Update on Tony Whitson
> >
> > Great to hear from someone closer to the scene who would like to pursue
> > the suggestions made by people so far. Perhaps everyone could start by
> > going to Tony's web page, since he suggested it through you, Deborah.
> > Its a pretty chaotic time for all of us, but the web allows us to pursue
> > the matter in our own moments if not our "own ways."
> >
> > As soon as possible, we at LCHC will organize a systematic look at the
> > xmca archive, but that takes time and labor and coordination, which
> > makes the web page a common sense common goal.
> >
> > Anyone who would like to help pulling the relevant information from the
> > archives, please contact me.
> >
> > mike
> >
> > On Sun, Dec 11, 2011 at 9:49 PM, Deborah Rockstroh
> > <d_rockstroh@bigpond.com>wrote:
> >
> > > That's a lovely suggestion Mike, a very thoughtful way to keep Tony
> > > and his interests in the forefront of our minds, at the very least;
> > > and perhaps such discussions might trigger something to assist in his
> > > recovery. I think David Kellogg's suggestion about attempting to
> > > communicate with him in Chinese has potential too. Tony has
> > > contributed much to these conversations and my thoughts and prayers
> > > are with him and his family at this time also.
> > >
> > > He often directed us to his blog, so perhaps that provides an
> > > additional avenue for understanding and framing his interests?
> > > http://curricublog.wordpress.com/
> > >
> > > Deb
> > >
> > >
> > > Deborah Rockstroh
> > > Southern Cross University, Coffs Harbour Preferred email:
> > > d_rockstroh@bigpond.com
> > >
> > >
> > > -----Original Message-----
> > > From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu]
> >
> > > On Behalf Of mike cole
> > > Sent: Monday, 12 December 2011 3:20 PM
> > > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > > Subject: Re: [xmca] Update on Tony Whitson
> > >
> > > There is a pretty large archive to topics tony has commented on in the
> >
> > > past few years at lchc when I google search. I am not competent to
> > > download them all and order them but if it were possible to do so, we
> > > might be able to take up some topics that are of interest to Tony as a
> >
> > > foundation of communication if he is so inclined.
> > > mike
> > >
> > > On Sun, Dec 11, 2011 at 1:06 PM, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu> wrote:
> > >
> > > >
> > > > On Dec 11, 2011, at 2:00 PM, David H Kirshner wrote:
> > > >
> > > > > "Tony is not able to independently log on to this account yet or
> > > > > read comments with understanding, but he seems to understand
> > > > > spoken language perfectly, so we are reading the emails on this
> > > > > account to Tony as they come in.
> > > >
> > > > This seems a powerful example of the way that compensation, that is,
> >
> > > > treatment and recovery from neurological damage, requires an
> > > > external, social, moment. LSV wrote that "Research into the
> > > > compensatory functions that develop in these disorders also shows
> > > > that the objectification of a disturbed function, that is, bringing
> > > > it outside and changing it into external activity, is one of the
> > > > basic roads in the compensation of disorders".
> > > >
> > > > I hope that we at XMCA might together provide that external activity
> >
> > > > that will help Tony in his recovery.
> > > >
> > > > Martin
> > > >
> > > > __________________________________________
> > > > _____
> > > > xmca mailing list
> > > > xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> > > > http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
> > > >
> > > __________________________________________
> > > _____
> > > xmca mailing list
> > > xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> > > http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
> > >
> > >
> > __________________________________________
> > _____
> > xmca mailing list
> > xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> > http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
> >
> __________________________________________
> _____
> xmca mailing list
> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca

*Robert Lake  Ed.D.
*Assistant Professor
Social Foundations of Education
Dept. of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading
Georgia Southern University
P. O. Box 8144
Phone: (912) 478-5125
Fax: (912) 478-5382
Statesboro, GA  30460

*Democracy must be born anew in every generation, and education is its
*-*John Dewey.
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