All posts by Clifton

Lyrical Abstraction Scale

1 – Clifton Smith – “Ingredients for Food Club Whole Wheat Penne Rigate” (chant of single ingredient)
2 – Marin Marais – “Tableau of a Bladder Operation” (straightforward catalogue of events)
3 – Bob Dylan – “The Hurricane” (straightforward editorial)
4 – 50 Cent (featuring Olivia) – “Candy Shop” (thin metaphor)
5 – Beatles – “Blackbird” (riddle-like text, but more straightforward than “Who by Fire”)
6 – Leonard Cohen – “Who by Fire” (riddle-like text)
7 – Don McLean – “American Pie” (difficult metaphors throughout)
8 – Counting Crows – “Omaha” [highly abstract, but with recognizable patterns and possible theme(s)]
9 – Beatles – “I am the Walrus” (intentionally abstract)
10 – Ella Fitzerald – “One-Note Samba” (scat vocal)

“Tableau of a Bladder Operation”

“Operation de la taille” was the the medical procedure for removing a bladder stone by cutting (taille = cutting in French). For a perineal lithotomy (removal of a bladder stone), the patient was tied into the position used in modern medicine for the gynecologic exam and still called the “lithotomy position.” Jacques Beaulieu (Frère Jacques) performed 4,500 perineal lithotomies including several in Paris and Versailles. He may have been the surgeon who did the operation to which Marais is referring. Because the operations were performed without anesthesia, speed was of the essence. William Cheselden, (1688-1752) considered the greatest lithotomist of all time, reportedly performed perineal lithotomies in 53 seconds. Given this, it’s possible that the operation in Marais suite is intended to depict the procedure in real time.

–Mai-Lan Broekman, MD, VdGSA News, Sept. 2006

View of the surgical apparatus
Trembling of the patient
Resolution to climb the operating table
Arrival at the top
Lowering of the operating table
Serious reflections
Arms and legs are tied
with silk ropes
The incision is made
The surgical forceps are inserted
The stone is pulled
The patient almost loses his voice
Flow of blood
The ropes are untied
The patient is transported onto his bed
The recovery
L’aspect de l’appareil.
Frémissement en le voyant.
Résolution pour y monter.
Parvenu jusqu’en haut.
Descente dudit appareil.
Réflexions sérieuses.
Entrelacements des soies
entre les bras et les jambes.
Ici se fait l’incision.
Introduction de la tenette.
Ici l’on tire la pierre.
Ici l’on perd quasi la voix.
Écoulement du sang.
Ici l’on ôte les soies.
Ici l’on vous transporte dans le lit.
Les relevailles.

“The Galaxy Song” with Notes and Alterations

Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
Revolving at 900 miles an hour
It’s orbiting at 19 miles a second,* so it’s reckoned
A sun that is the source of most our power

The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day*
In an outer spiral arm, at 40,000 miles an hour
Of a galaxy we call the Milky Way

Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars
It’s 100,000 light years side to side
It bulges in the middle, 16,000 light years thick
But out by us, it’s just 1,000 light years high

We’re 30,000 light years from galactic central point
We go ’round every two hundred million years
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whiz
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know
11 million miles a minute,
and that’s the fastest speed there is

So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure
How amazingly unlikely is your birth
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space
‘Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth


The circumference of the Earth at the equator is 25,000 miles. The Earth rotates in about 24 hours. Therefore, if you were to hang above the surface of the Earth at the equator without moving, you would see 25,000 miles pass by in 24 hours, at a speed of 25000/24 or just over 1000 miles per hour.

Butterworth, P. & Palmer, D. (1997, April 1). Speed of the Earth’s Rotation. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Retrieved March 26, 2012 from

“Earth is also moving around the Sun at about 67,000 miles per hour.”
“The energy we capture for use on Earth comes largely from the Sun or from nuclear forces local to our own planet. Sunlight is by far the predominant source, and it contains a surprisingly large amount of energy.”

National Academy of Sciences. (n.d.). Our Energy Sources: The Sun. Retrieved March 23, 2014 from

“Relative to the local standard of rest, our Sun and the Earth are moving at about 43,000 miles per hour (70,000 km/hr) roughly in the direction of the bright star Vega in the constellation of Lyra….”

Fraknoi. A. (2007). How Fast Are You Moving When You Are Sitting Still? Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Retrieved April 16, 2015 from

“We can only see a few thousand stars at most with our unaided eyes. These are a mixture of stars which are nearby, and bright stars which are further away; but they are only a tiny fraction of the 100,000,000,000 stars in our own galaxy.”

Butterworth, P. (1998, February 2). Stars in Our Galaxy. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Retrieved November 21, 2012 from

“The disk of the Milky Way galaxy is about 100,000 light years in diameter (one light year is about 9.5 x 10^15 meters).”

Christian, E. & Safi-Harb, S. (1998, March 17). Size of the Milky Way. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Retrieved December 7, 2013 from

“The central bulge is about 16,000 light years thick.”

Skywise Unlimited. (n.d.). The Milky Way. Western Washington University. Retrieved November 1, 2014 from

Original: But out by us, it’s just 3,000 light years wide.
“[A]stronomers estimate that the disk in the vicinity of the Sun is relatively thin—‘only’ 300 pc thick….”*
Chaisson, E. & McMillan, S. (2002). Astronomy Today, Fourth Edition. Retrieved June 8, 2014 from
“Of course, the edge on perspective represents the view from the vicinity of our Sun, a star located in the disk about 30,000 light years out from the center.”

Nemiroff, R. & Bonnell, J. (1995, September 8). Astronomy Picture of the Day: September 8, 1995. NASA. Retrieved March 16, 2015 from

“At this rate it takes us 240 million years to make one revolution around the galactic core.”

Hackworth, M. (n.d.). The Milky Way. Idaho State University Department of Physics. Retrieved June 12, 2010 from

Originally, “12 million miles a minute.” However, the speed of light is actually about 671 million mph which is closer to 11 million miles per minute

Discussion Concerning False Opinions Regarding Margaret Sanger

Margaret gets cozy with her allies, the KKK.
Here’s the original:


Point taken — I should be more critical of photos. But do you have anything to say about the address – which did happen? Or anything about her views?
I’ve meant to explore her views in more depth, but, not having done so, I can’t comment on those views generally. However, I can let her speak for herself of this encounter:


All the world over, in Penang and Skagway, in El Paso and Helsingfors, I have found women’s psychology in the matter of child-bearing essentially the same, no matter what the class, religion, or economic status. Always to me any aroused group was a good group, and therefore I accepted an invitation to talk to the women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan at Silver Lake, New Jersey, one of the weirdest experiences I had in lecturing.


Never before had I looked into a sea of faces like these. I was sure that if I uttered one word, such as abortion, outside the usual vocabulary of these women they would go off into hysteria. And so my address that night had to be in the most elementary terms, as though I were trying to make children understand.

In the end, through simple illustrations I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered. The conversation went on and on, and when we were finally through it was too late to return to New York. Under a curfew law everything in Silver Lake shut at nine o’clock. I could not even send a telegram to let my family know whether I had been thrown in the river or was being held incommunicado. It was nearly one before I reached Trenton, and I spent the night in a hotel.

Margaret Sanger: An Autobiography

Continue reading Discussion Concerning False Opinions Regarding Margaret Sanger

Best Scriptures for Academic Study

Judeo-Christian Bible


  • Recommended by Given of Missouri State University.*
  • Called the “best translation available” by Ehrman.*

  • Recommended by Ward in his History of Islam course syllabus.*
  • Assigned by Ostebo in his Introduction to Islam course at the University of Florida.*

  • The most popular, highly-rated version on Amazon on March 7, 2015.

Discussion Concerning The Interview and Racism

Friendly reminder that responding with racism isn’t suddenly justified if the person is a bad person (even if they’re, say, a genocidal dictator). The Interview is probably racist as hell. Team America was racist as hell.
Get over it, nerds.

Even if it was, it wouldn’t justify or excuse the bully or threats of violence to prevent it from being shown. The decision of pulling it makes sense but people have a problem with the use of threats from an outside group to try to force others in deciding what should or shouldn’t be released or seen. Even if it is a stupid movie.

There’s been other movies affected by the fear these threats have caused that you probably wouldn’t label as racist, so I don’t see how this movie being “probably” racist has anything to do with this.

Continue reading Discussion Concerning The Interview and Racism