Dog, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The dog trots freely in the street
and sees reality
and the things he sees
are bigger than himself
and the things he sees
are his reality
Drunks in doorways
Moons on trees
The dog trots freely thru the street
and the things he sees
are smaller than himself
Fish on newsprint
Ants in holes
Chickens in Chinatown windows
their heads a block away
The dog trots freely in the street
and the things he smells
smell something like himself
The dog trots freely in the street
past puddles and babies
cats and cigars
poolrooms and policemen
He doesn’t hate cops
He merely has no use for them
and he goes past them
and past the dead cows hung up whole
in front of the San Francisco Meat Market
He would rather eat a tender cow
than a tough policeman
though either might do
And he goes past the Romeo Ravioli Factory
and past Coit’s Tower
and past Congressman Doyle
He’s afraid of Coit’s Tower
but he’s not afraid of Congressman Doyle
although what he hears is very discouraging
very depressing
very absurd
to a sad young dog like himself
to a seriously dog like himself
But he has his own free world to live in
His own fleas to eat
He will not be muzzled
Congressman Doyle is just another
fire hydrant
to him
The dog trots freely in the street
and has his own dog’s life to live
and to think about
and to reflect upon
touching and tasting and testing everything
investigating everything
without benefit of perjury
a real realist
with a real tale to tell
and a real tail to tell it with
a real live
democratic dog
engaged in real
free enterprise
with something to say
about ontology
something to say
about reality
and how to see it
and how to hear it
with his head cocked sideways
at streetcorners
as if he is just about to have
his picture taken
for Victor Records
listening for
His Master’s Voice
and looking
like a living questionmark
into the
great gramaphone
of puzzling existence
with its wondrous hollow horn
which always seems
just about to spout forth
some Victorious answer
to everything

Stolen from Poetry Foundation

About this poem:

We read this poem at school, and I loved it from the first moment on. It reminded me of a gorgeous bronze by Giacometti of a dog with a sagging back.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (born 1919) is an American Beat poet and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. He is best known for A Coney Island of the Mind (New York, 1958), a collection of poems translated into nine languages. In 1953, Ferlinghetti and Martin founded City Lights Bookstore, the first all-paperbound bookshop in the country, and he launched the publishing wing of City Lights and published Beat Generation writers, including Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. The book was seized in 1956 by the San Francisco police, and Ferlinghetti and the bookstore manager who had sold the book to the police were arrested on obscenity charges. After a long trial, Howl was found to be not obscene and Ferlinghetti was aquitted in October 1957. The landmark First Amendment case established a key legal precedent for the publication of other controversial literary work with redeeming social importance.

I remembered this poem after an online discussion with Heike and Christian about Charlotte Link’s Roche’s “Feuchtgebiete” (which I don’t like) and one of their friends mentioned Bukowski, whom I mixed up with Bulgakov, whose book “Heart of a Dog” I love, which again reminded me that any down to earth description of our human weaknesses benefits from the absurd, surreal, imaginative (which Charlotte Link Roche lacks, I feel). … But then I realized my error and seem to remember that Bukowski is just as down and dirty as Charlotte Link Roche is, but still thinking he’s cool. Sheeeesh. So now that I’ve gone off on a tangent to no place and have managed to enjoyably waste half of the morning – make that afternoon – , I’m sitting here wondering:

Do we forgive men writing up their physical excesses, and not women? Are men who write about their grunts creating art, while women create, um, non-art?

So this post is dedicated to Heike and Christian.

Question: Can you learn from a robot?

I had great fun last week, exploring what it is like to talk to a chatbot. It was Shelly Terrell who originally put me up to it, advising me when I was gathering ideas for a Spotlight Magazine article edited and coauthored by Jo Westcombe on ways English learners can use the Internet. I spent the better part of a day and evening experimenting, trying to figure out how chatbots make sense of my input, wondering whether or not our exchange sounded “human”, and thinking about whether I’d want students of English to use chatbots to develop their language skills. My findings will go online as a language exercise to supplement the article on Tuesday, and I don’t want to jump the gun here, but I’d like to share some of my impressions of the process with you.

What I’d like to know from you: Can you learn from a robot? Have you ever “interacted” with an inanimate system to improve technical and/or life skills? What sorts of skills do you think robots could teach? And would you enjoy using them in place of a “human” teacher?

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Question: Do you believe in learning styles?

In my profession there’s a hot debate going on about “learning styles”. You know, finding out whether you are a visual learner and need to see things to understand them, or an auditory learner who prefers to hear things, or whether you are a kinethetic learner and have to do things to really get them. Those are just some of the more famous learning styles, there are many more (such as whether you learn more on your own or in a group, or whether you are more analytic or non-analytic.) I found a video by Professor Daniel Willingham who calls the whole idea of “learning styles” unscientific. I find it particularly interesting, as it got me thinking.

I also liked this response by New Zealand teacher Craig Hansen:

My opinion? If the idea of learning styles helps a student learn, I’ll run with it, whether it’s science or religion. Because, no matter what you call it, learning improves when you’re motivated, and finding out that your way of dealing with learning is taken seriously enough to actually have a name can be very motivating. Students start to learn better once you’ve given them some attention and looked at what they need to become better learners.

What about you, do you believe that we have learning styles? If so, does that knowledge help you learn?

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences.

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Question: What do you need to create flow?

Flow is the state when all systems are go and you just do and forget about time. It’s when you feel completely involved and concentrated on whatever you are doing. Even if the task involves a strong challenge, you feel that you are able to meet it. You’re in control, yet not pushing anything. And you feel happy and whole and at peace.

It’s a term developed by a pschologist whose name I can’t spell or pronounce: Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi. (I remember the name this way: “Mick: ‘High chick sent Mick high!'” I’m not the only person who has trouble with his name:

These days I’m working against the clock and around the clock, like many of us at this time of year. But sometimes flow kicks in. Do you experience flow in your working life? Do you have any tips on how to get into flow?

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Question: What new services do we need?

Last week I was getting a class ready to go to “Seven Days in the Life of Simon Labrosse”, a play being presented by the BeMe Theatre. It’s about a guy who has been unemployed and is trying to break back into the market (and into life, really) by inventing new and intriguing services: “emotional stuntman, ender of sentences, ego flatterer, easer of consciences”. Well, I asked my students to invent services they thought there was a market for and to write job advertisements for them. In this week’s podcast I’ll tell you about their ideas — and I’d love to hear yours! Please add yours in the comments below, or blog about the subject and link this post to your blog.


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Question: What risks do you like, and what’s your survival kit?

I’ve been called a control freak by people who actually call themselves my friends. So what do my enemies call me? I think it’s a teacher thing, wanting to be prepared for all eventualities. Yet I’m fascinated by teachers who “teach barefoot”, taking nothing but a smile and a good night’s sleep. I know that will get you far, and I do it too, quite a lot, actually. But I only do it when I know the terrain, when I figure that I have enough tricks up my sleeve to handle pretty much anything that can happen. So while I hate taking blind risks, I love taking calculated ones.

I always take my survival kit with me. These days it consists of a high tech gadget, my multimedia MacBook Pro hooked up for wifi, which is really worth having made me computer-poor, along with my low tech tools: index cards, empty sheets of paper, colored pens, pins, sticky tape. A key element in my survival kit is my beloved Moleskin diary in red – so I can always find it, even when my desk is a mess – containing not only my appointments, but lists of all kinds: ideas and to dos, completely illegible to anyone but me. I love my Moleskin, and if I lost it, well, I might just take a lengthy holiday to run away from my clients and creditors.

How about you? What risks do you like taking, and what’s your survival kit to get through them?

Tipp: Sie möchten Ihr Hörverständnis verbessern? Zwischen dem Podcast und dem geschriebenen Text gibt es viele kleine Unterschiede. Hören Sie genau hin, um sie zu entdecken.

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Question: How do two of the things you do compare?

We generally have more than one kind of task to do at work or at college. For instance, we might need to write up our research and then make a presentation, which are two entirely different kettles of fish (“2 versch. Töpfe mit Fischen” = 2 Paar Stiefel). Or we might need to manage a group of people, but also do some highly specialized work ourselves. Each of those elements of work has its own challenges and rewards.

In my case, as a provider of language services I translate, write and teach, and each of those requires very different skills. I have to change my mindset when I go from one to the other. Let me just compare writing and teaching: When I write I’ve got an audience in my head, and need to use my imagination to figure out what the reader will want and need. When I teach, I do some of the same kind of imagining in advance, but I don’t fix things absolutely. Instead, I wait for immediate feedback, and just need to be very awake and aware to respond to what I see and hear. Another difference is that when I write, I can make corrections once I see the whole thing. But as a teacher, once you’re in the situation, it’s live. This is something I really enjoy. And finally, when I write I’m responsible for the content. When I teach, my students and I share that responsibility.

So: I’d like to invite you to think about two such types of work you do:

  • Where are the challenges?
  • Where do the rewards lie?

Essay models for this question

This could be a nice essay question for a 6 paragraph essay: 1 introducing your subject, then 4 dedicated to the challenges and rewards of the first and second type of work, and then your final paragraph summarizing something that your reflections have led you to recognize.

An alternative, 5 paragraph essay could take 3 differences between the two types (as I did in the text above) and devote a paragraph to each, plus the introductory and closing paragraph.

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