The Stupid 365 Project, Day 89: I Tried

December 30th, 2010

Well, today’s post was supposed to be short profile of someone I admire enormously, my former literature professor, Marvin Klotz, plus some of the remarkable poems he’s been writing in retirement.

But it isn’t, thanks to WordPress.  More about that below.

Marvin Klotz is probably the greatest teacher I encountered in my years (and years and years) in college.

A born actor, with an extraordinarily deep and resonant voice, he kept my friends and me spellbound in various literature classes.  When Marvin Klotz read Shakespeare or Melville or the King James Bible or Faulkner, they stayed read.  More to the point, he appreciated these books in a way that made us want to appreciate them, too, even if it was just because we wanted to be a little more like him. Professors like Marvin are are unfortunately rare.

In addition to being a nationally known Faulkner scholar, he created and taught a revelatory course on the Bible as literature.  I was present when he began the first class session with (I may be paraphrasing), “If you believe snakes can talk, you’re in the wrong class.”  I took this class about the same time I first read The Recognitions, so Marvin and Gaddis more or less drove my self-education for about a decade.

He also co-wrote, with a friend and colleague, Richard Abcarian, Literature: The Human Experience, one of the standard introduction to literature texts, now in its twenty-somethingth edition.  I always think of it as The Eye of Experience because many editions have featured Magritte’s “The Eye” on the cover.

Now in his very early eighties, Marvin began to write poems in 2005 when a friend of his, Sam Schultz, said after lunch, “So what are you gonna do this afternoon?”  And Marvin went home and wrote some sonnets about politics and religion.

He made a commitment in 2006 to write a poem every week for an undefined period of time.  And he’s writing wonderful stuff.  I get a monthly update every now and then and planned to share them with you as part of my series of New Year posts, but thanks to the truly shitty software that runs WordPress — or WordPutz, as I’m beginning to think of it — the poems don’t work.  Here’s why:

The only way to create single-spaced text in WordPutz is to avoid hitting the carriage return, which WordPutz interprets as the double space between single-spaced paragraphs.  So Marvin’s poems, which I spent two hours trying to enter this morning, are double-spaced, which looks dreadful.

But it gets worse.  WordPutz, alone of all the writing software in the known universe, refuses to accept two carriage returns as sufficient evidence that the writer would like a little extra white space.  So not only are the individual stanzas double-spaced, but it’s also impossible to quadruple-space between stanzas.  The first poem I put up was twenty lines divided into four stanzas — lines, four lines, six, and six.  Not only does the form become invisible, but the (very considerable) power of some of Marvin’s run-on lines is completely lost.

So.  This may not be interesting to you, but I’m so mad I barely care.  If I don’t get it out, I may abuse my dog.

And maybe one of you (Everett?  Gary?) can give me a hand.

At the end of the poems, I wrote, “When I think about new year, I only hope I can be open to whatever talent surfaces in me.  Marvin continues to inspire.”  It’s true, whether I could put the poems up or not.

13 Responses to “The Stupid 365 Project, Day 89: I Tried”

  1. Gary Says:

    No, it doesn’t! My preceding post looks fine for poetic formatting.

    Which is what I thought, from seeing some of the posts (including some of your replies) with NO line spaces between paras.

    So what’s going on?

  2. Gary Says:

    Lightbulb!

    You’ll have to post Marvin’s poems as blog replies, rather than as part of your main post.

  3. Gary Says:

    And if the line length in blog replies is insufficient for his poems, and improperly breaks what should be unbroken lines, you can force a wider margin by starting with a very long unbroken word which WordPress can’t split up.

    Averylongwordjustlikethisonewhichforcestherightmarginoutasfarasyouwant.

  4. EverettK Says:

    If, as Gary suggests, the problem only shows up in your main post, then you might try using some HTML to format them.

    For example, you can force a simple line-break (no extra paragraph spacing) using the <br> tag (to “BReak a line”).

    So, you might format a poem as:
    <blockquote>
    There once was a writer named Tim<br>
    Who wasn’t too terribly slim.<br>
    He ate far too often.<br>
    His middle did soften.<br>
    But next year he swears he will trim.<br>
    </blockquote>

    The odds of me getting all of the formatting in that RIGHT so that it shows the way I WANT it to are pretty slim, but assuming I did, then it should break the lines without double-spacing, even in your main post body.

    I think.

  5. Debbi Says:

    How about if you wrote the poems in Word or plain text, then copied and pasted them into the post? Would that work?

  6. Bonnie Says:

    You could also regulate the line spacing using inline CSS–oh, well, maybe not. You could call your friendly webmaster, who would be happy to help you out. Okay, so I’ve been scarfing off a bit today: marvelling at the snow-covered Catalina mountains, taking tea with a good friend of my brother’s (today would have been his 56th birthday), then cooking Thai spiced winter squash soup and a Thai chicken salad for my mom and Bill, but I’d’ve made time if you’d called, all the same!

    @Debbi: No, that would not help. The dumbed-down html editor that you use in WordPress makes certain assumptions about line breaks and double line breaks, and if you want something other than the default you have to get your fingers a bit dirty with or other html tags, as Gary and Everett indicated.

  7. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    Oh dear, this is way beyond me. Thank you for the encouragement, Tim, I have ordered all these books, and I’ve been writing in my head all day. I’m totally off topic here, but i am in the middle of Lee Child’s “61 Hours” because I wanted to see what the fuss is all about. He is a little wooden for me, but he sure can set a scene. One of the sad facts for me, is that my favorite authors (see above, but there are others) don’t sell as well because they don’t write to the masses. Patterson may be a nice guy, and he and his co-writers produce quick, and superficial books, but that’s what sells. I have read some of them, but I gave up on them after I read one that was situated in Half Moon Bay, and he got the geography totally wrong. Poor research. Do I sound like a snob? Well, I guess I am.

  8. Gary Says:

    Everett! Our joint resolution!

    You can’t post a limerick like that yet! You have to wait until 12:01 a.m. on January 1.

    Oh, woe. Now that means I’ll have to start being mean again too!

  9. Munyin Says:

    Well, Tim, you’ve gotten so many helpful responses to your WordPutz problem. Can u post Marvin’s recent poems already? I am eager to read them. & thanks for spending those two hours in frustration. (Sometimes it takes that long to have a breakthru, even if only to scream for help).

  10. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Thanks to all of you for your brilliant suggestions. I tried the HTML codes, Everett; I tried cut-and-paste, Debbi; I would have called you, Bonnie, but didn’t want to interrupt your work on the revised site. (For those of you who don’t know, Bonnie is my new webmaster/mistress, and we’ve done a boatload of good things to the site, with some beautiful designs from Maria Sandamela, who designed the whole thing in the first place.

    The suggestion that WORKS is Gary’s light bulb, combined with the loooonng word to force the margins. On January 2 or 3, I’ll reposition all of this in a short paragraph or two and then run two or three of Marvin’s poems in a comment.

    Really thinking outside the box, Gary.

    Everett, I’m assuming you copied that limerick from Old O’Toole’s Dumb Limericks for Every Dreadful Occasion, rather than your having composed it with me in mind. Hmm? HHmmmmmmmm???

    Lil, tickle those keys. Lee Child is (I think) a master plotter with a fine, stripped prose style. I’m amazed, though, at his popularity with women — he’s one of the most macho writers working. And Reacher is a sort of prototypical character; it’s as though he’s existed for decades. And you’re not a snob; life is too short to waste any of it reading books we don’t like.

    Munyin, you’re supposed to be upstairs asleep. Two more days, and I’ll put the poems up as comments.

    Thanks again, all.

  11. EverettK Says:

    Tim said: Everett, I’m assuming you copied that limerick from Old O’Toole’s Dumb Limericks for Every Dreadful Occasion, rather than your having composed it with me in mind. Hmm? HHmmmmmmmm???

    Sorry, I’m an inveterate limericist. I break into limerick at the wobble of a hat. I dream in limerick, I eat limericks, I …er… perhaps I’d best not pursue the bodily function trope.

    But honest, I wasn’t thinking of you. I just needed a name that rhymed with ‘slim’ and ‘trim,’ and I’ve always had an allergic reaction to the name ‘Jim,’ so the only other choice was Tim.

    Pure coincidence.

    Happenstance.

    There once was a man from Bangkok,
    Whose arms weren’t as long as his…

    Ummm…err…I’m going to go to bed now.

  12. Gary Says:

    It’s New Year down here already.

    Happy 2011, everybody!

    Tim, thank you for your friendship. I look forward to catching up with you again, some time this year.

  13. Gary Says:

    It’s after 120:01 on January 1! (Down here at least.) Which means: our joint resolution is fulfilled!

    So here goes:

    Everett and Gary think Tim
    ‘s writing is chock full of vim.
    But if we told him that,
    His head would get fat,
    And his body would look far too slim.

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