Saturday, May 10, 2003

'There is no end to the illusions of patriotism.' --Borges

My rejected submission for the Shell-Economist essay contest:

“How Much Freedom Should We Trade for Our Security?”

Synopsis. The author rejecting the terms of the question as inadequate and unhelpful, seeks a formulation that, while radically idealistic, at least represents a step toward acknowledging what we are up against.

Tough times call for tall tires. But it isn’t like we still could choose.

If security were a pure function of armaments and high-tech surveillance; if something that depends on intricate patterns of trust and consent could be boxed, weighed, and placed on the auction block; if our deep-seated will to be isolate agents in a world made for our sole unbridled pounce-chomp-slurp, were anything but sheerest delusion and despair of humanity-- then we could indeed trade five cents of freedom for a nickel’s-worth of security. We could ride on our tall tires. America wants so badly to believe this. And no one we hear will tell us it isn’t so.

This land was taken by force from the first ones who lived here, but all we see in the mirror is our white hat of destiny. We rose to industrial might on the backs of slaves and demi-slaves, but all we see is the frolic of our gadget circus. And while our empire acting like an empire rewarded its allies and punished those who opposed it, we kept on seeing ourselves as the light of the world.

No wonder we don’t understand. Who hates Santa Claus?

And the facts are there, the reality of our deeds can be known--if you try to find out. Right. Watch America reach for the owl-flavored spoon. Not now, and maybe not ever. So sugar rules. And in the name of upholding all we hold dear (which means in effect our fantasies), we have lost or are losing a genuine precious thing, something we haven’t yet once had the wits to celebrate, and something the rest of the world really does have reason to admire, envy, or fear. I mean the openness of our society. Our tolerance, and receptiveness to change.

This accidental fruit of a frontier storming by misfits, this one historical miracle, might be doomed. Just let blinded Polyphemus flail about wildly, let the mad goading of otherwise impotent would-be martyrs continue, and the fear mount, and the media spew its ineluctable blather: it isn’t going to take much to brick up “Fortress America”. But not even the President will sleep secure in such a state. And cameras in the malls will receive the chrism of blood.

Do we want peace? The peace within our grasp is not a matter of military muscle, domestic rigor, or geopolitical clout. The only peace possible is to cease the breeding of hate. And that would be the work of many generations, even if all of us at once could instantly see the need. Vengeance will not end as long as humans remain trapped by their national identities; as long as there are borders, these borders will not be secure. The tall tires of our dreaming have too long kept us from feeling the road, and it is high time we got down and started a different journey, barefoot on the earth, toward peace that all can share. Is this realistic?

Is it realistic to expect the mass of Americans to suddenly start thinking hard about our place in the world, the responsibilities of wielding such unprecedented power, and our share in creating the oppression and mayhem we alone have had the dubious good fortune to be able to ignore till now? Is it realistic to expect our all-blinkered media to shake itself out of its parrot drone of reiterated snap-jabberwocky, and begin to speak honestly of cause and effect? Is it realistic to expects our gamester politicos to summon up enough personal courage to face down the juggernaut of jingoistic self-righteousness that passes for purposeful discourse? And is it realistic to expect the bunch of right-wing zealots, greedheads and corporate lackeys we’ve inadvertantly entrusted our entire future to, to listen and act accordingly?

i myself am not sanguine, but among the ancient gods and goddesses of Greece I think there was one called Nemesis, and her job it was to punish the sins of hubris; and as Carlyle once remarked in a fit of advanced lucidity:



Friday, May 09, 2003

The Surveillance Camera Players like to perform for public cameras.

I am glad to see Crimethink is taking up where Yippie! left off. (I just hope the police are still only using rubber bullets when the party comes to town...)

In case you haven't been keeping up, the Extrasolar Planets Catalogue lists 107 planets that have been discovered outside the Solar System.

I invented a chess opening, the Chenoboskion Variation (named after a key Gnostic archaeological site), & the name is slowly finding its way into the "Chenoboskian". Oh well.
Someone just bought Saddam Hussein's personal banjo (signed) on eBay--for $15,000.

   "Death of the Great Stone Face"

The geometric tortoise is grave
Flying over fjord
And the thick light of Izdubar, kiln
Acid on my mind:
The sprockets engage with raucous rhyme,
I watch flayed people
Scurry. From what energies I give
Emerges a sigh.
To flourish in dark America
As in porous tomb,
Pungent prophecies with little force
Scads of skalds alone
Peal, rim/ abode & narrow Alcor
Gap ours the lean way
Stirious (this wretched qabbalah)
Down where fulsome faith
Find Cthulhu ftagn in Oz
Crepuscular key.
The carbonaceous gleam throbbing pearl
I insist is form
Enough, wisps away into last math
By a sinking lamp.

Emerald & moth licked anagram,
Profuse aorta
Muezzin out of purlieu one black dove
Against azalea
Glory: & the alibi was Rome
Mutiny demon
They cast out with execrations roach
Hubris alembic
Stayed, filled, terrible verbs did; neon
Blessing what sea.:.? Blood.
Sometimes i think i will end my days writing exclusively in Latin.

"...A flower from its cerulean wall..." --William Cullen Bryant


I met you at the parting of the ways,
And I have lingered with you certain days.

Over a little grave I had set a stone:
I had buried love, and I was all alone.

The roadway of the unforgotten past
Ended; the road in front lay vague and vast.

I met you at the parting of the ways,
And I have lingered with you certain days.

Because you took my hand in both your hands,
I think there may be help in other lands.

Because you laid your face against my face,
I wonder if hope lives in any place.

Because you laid my head upon your breast,
I know the earth holds yet a little rest."

Arthur Symons, Lesbia (1920)


Bers phone the the.
Give showed mail ing.
The on won so.
Ly fetch wonders note.
It's a gim, a de.
on the know, the on, the don't.
Back how's is backs.
To one it, it irons.
ops a ed, a are any this.

   Trucks one."

Clark Coolidge, Space (1970)
[Tmesis is a resource seldom exploited in poetry, now or ever; Virgilius Maro
pf Toulouse called it ars scissendi, the "art of cutting".

    "Talon on Head

Beauty that tears
And guts to bucket child
On pathways without bird
Or stone-cropped hedge

This, that one that stains
For marchers in step--
Curling for madness dropping
Is quizzical and pure

But quick with movement...
The ardor of grace in doubt
Not hounded--
Simply mobile"

Ovid Neal III, The Dirge of the Thin Air Dancers (Crying Dog Books: 1992)

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Starhawk in Palestine.
A corporation (i almost wrote: a Journal) is an intricately interlocking set of bottlenecks, masquerading as a planned order.

Car wrecks are the last bastion of Natural Selection.

In times to come, they will say we lied to our children, wittingly & remorselessly; & this will seem the most terrible thing of a terrible time.

"But we, the cataleptics,
Must venture out alone with our clean
Into what seems a source: the without." --Ovid Neal III

Crash during the night outside my window. I didn't even get up to look.

To speak for the speechless ones: that might be a genre. Another: the pretense of nonventriloquism.

"[Clifford Geertz:] If it rains, the ritual of course is a great success. But it is a success rather more like a successful painting is a success, or a successful production of a play is a success. ...The idea is to form the whole. When everything comes together, when you dance and you make all those long preparations that lead up to it, and then in the end it rains, what is reinforced is your conviction that you really understand what the cosmos is like and that indeed you understand your place and part in it. ...the ritual activity is not conceived as instrumental in the first place." --Jonathan Miller, States of Mind (1983) --my self publishing a chapbook. But how is one nation making war on another, any different?

Art as ritual & as conversation (for the gods; for other humans): egoistic & nonegoistic versions of each. Art as promise & as reinterpretation: & when it connects with other art, the one before becomes the promise; the one after becomes the reinterpretation. Art that exists in & out of History, & Art-history. Art that presupposes a heretical canon. Art about the absence of appropriate æsthetics that should judge it...

"Sed non in requiem pariter cessere tenebrae." --Silius Italicus, Punica xiii, 256 ('But the darkness did not bring the same rest to both armies.')

"Moss can be grown on tops." --Empson

"Hugo never had the good fortune to write a bad book, nor even a single bad line, so not having time to read all, the future will read none." --George Moore, Confessions of a Young Man

'Whoever has no house now, will never have one.' --Rilke

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Beautiful Salon story on a play in a ruined theater in Baghdad.

Listening to: Okinawan Pop band, Shoukichi Kina: "Peppermint Tea House" (1994).

How the Next Election will Be Stolen. "Letter from actor Peter Coyote to Senator Barbara Boxer:

Dear Barbara,

I'm writing to you about a situation of the greatest urgency.
Last year, I narrated a film called "Unprecedented" by American journalist
Greg Palast (currently writing for the London Guardian). This film documents
the illegal expunging of 54,000 black and overwhelmingly Democratic voters
from the Florida rolls just before the presidential election. We
interviewed the computer company that did the work, filmed their explanations of
the instructions they received and their admissions that they knew
that their instructions would produce massive error. That figure has now
been revised to 91,000.

Jeb Bush was sued, and was supposed to have returned these
voters to the rolls, and did not, which explains his last re-election. The
Republicans have something far worse in mind for the next presidential
election and Democrats need to be prepared. The recent elections of Nebraska
Republican Chuck Hagel, the loss in Georgia of Max Cleland, wildly popular
Vietnam vet, and the victory of Alabama Governor Bob Riley, along with a
handful of other Republican victories, (all predicted to have been losers by
straw polls which our nation has refined to a high-art) points to an ominous
source: corporate-programmed, computer-controlled, modem-capable voting
machine, recording and tabulating ballots.

You'd think in an open democracy that the government--answerable
to all its citizens, rather than a handful of corporate officers and
stockholders--would program, repair, and control the voting machines. You'd
think the computers that handle our cherished ballots would be open and
their software and programming available for public scrutiny. You'd think there
would be a paper trail of the vote, which could be followed and audited if
a there was evidence of voting fraud or if exit polls disagreed with
computerized vote counts. You'd be wrong.

The Washington, DC publication The Hill has confirmed
that former conservative radio talk-show host and now Republican U.S.
Senator Chuck Hagel was the head of, and continues to own part interest in,
the company that owns the company that installed, programmed, and largely
ran the voting machines that were used by most of the citizens of Nebraska.
When Democrat,Charlie Matulka requested a hand count of the vote in
the election he lost to Hagel, his request was denied because Nebraska had a
just-passed law that prohibits government-employee election workers from
looking at the ballots, even in a recount. The only machines permitted to count
votes in Nebraska, he said, are those made and programmed by the
corporation formerly run by Hagel.

When Bev Harris and The Hill's Alexander Bolton pressed the
Chief Counsel and Director of the Senate Ethics Committee, (the man
responsible for ensuring that FEC disclosures are complete), asking him why he'd
not questioned Hagel's 1995, 1996, and 2001 failures to disclose the
details of his ownership in the company that owned the voting machine
company when he ran for the Senate, the Director reportedly met with Hagel's
office on Friday, January 25, 2003 and Monday, January 27, 2003. After the
second meeting, on the afternoon of January 27th, the Director of the
Senate Ethics Committee resigned his job.

Hagel's surprise victory is a trial-run for the presidential
election. Election 'reform' laws are now prohibiting paper ballots (no
trail) and exit polls, effectively removing all trace and record of votes,
making prosecution of voter fraud virtually impossible. For whatever
reasons, the Democrats decided not to pursue the issue of fraudulence in the
last Presidential election. The three Supreme Court Justices who
should have recused themselves (Scalia, Thomas and O'Connor) were allowed to
stand unchallenged and pass a bizarre one-time only ruling. That they
were in place long before the election demonstrates how clearly the
end-game of such moves was thought out.

Unless the issue of voter fraud is elevated to an issue of
national importance, not only is it highly probably that Democrats will
lose again and again, but eventually voters will "sense" even if they
cannot prove, that elections are rigged, and the current 50% of those
boycotting elections will swell to the majority. Privatization of the vote is
tantamount to turning over the control of democracy to the corporate sector. I
urge you to use your considerable powers and influence to address this
issue." (via Buffalo Poetics List)

Zompist compares English as She is Spoke with Babelfish (Yes, Babelfish is worse!)
Welcome back, Salam Pax!
The only poem i have been able to find by a Dallas poet contemporaneous with the Kennedy Assassination:

     "The Spell

You can almost see him, looking as if well,
Shedding it, shaking it off,
The least shadow on the shoulders
Marking the hurt--as if absorbed almost;
Then the face turning, alive--

Only hesitating momentarily--

Until you remember how the head
Was horribly shattered
And fell, with the lifted hair,
As from an ax in back--Oswald
Cutting a path for himself
In the midst of America, a wedge;

But was the thing as it sped,
Coppered, leaden, not stopped
Perhaps there in the invincible thick hair?
Where the woman with her skill
Could pick it away, in her lap,
Breaking the spell? in the cloth of her dress--

It was deeper than that;
Neither burr nor dune thistle,
Nor like the roses she held
Black as blood in the light, so dark red--
But a kind of blunt bud, splintered
Into flower, that could not be touched,
Having its own final force that spread throughout,
The blind dark overwhelming him."

William Burford, A Beginning (1966)

The myth of Unity is the child of despair. --sayings of Asmodeus

Love is a destroyer of worlds, & the passport to all worlds. --This is not two secrets about love, but one.

"Rabbits live in our air so why not portrait busts?" --Gerald Burns in Probability and Fuzzy Dice

"Every lissom overture of the malaise pleased me." --Tanith Lee, The Secret Books of Paradys I & II (1988)

"When asked why he wrote in a dead language, [Isaac Bashevis] Singer said he was wont to reply that he wrote mostly about ghosts, and that is what ghosts speak, a dead language." --Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill in NYT Book R 1-8-95;

"A print run for a book of poems in Irish is between 1,000 and 1,500 copies." --ibid [total # native speakers is about 60,000, or 2% of Ireland's pop.]

Alkaloids are Mt Olympus. --sayings of Asmodeus

'At the time of the revolutionary uprising in Dresden, he [Bakunin] proposed that they should set up Raphael's Madonna in ront of the struggling revolutionaries, in the belief that the army would not bring itself to fire upon it.' --Berdyaev, The Russian Idea (1947)

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

"This is what the great voice does for us. It rarely astonishes our ears. It illumines our souls, as you see the lightning make the unintelligible craving darkness leap into long mountain ridges, and twisting vales, and spires of cities, and inner recesses of light within light, rose-like, toward a central core of violet heat." --George Meredith, Vittoria

Despair is a concrete-eating termite.

"...I have loved airs that die
Before their charm is writ
Along a liquid sky
Trembling to welcome it." --Robert Bridges

"A discouraging number of reputable poets are sane beyond recall." --E B White

It makes no more sense to want to become one's work than to want to turn into a doorknob.

Art eludes the artist as much as the critic.

'My flesh is combustible and my conscience dark;
my passions ephemeral and sharp, glitter
like the shards of bottle glass that bristled
on the henyard wall to keep out cats and thieves.' --Ramón López Velarde, quoted in: Octavio Paz, The Siren and the Seashell, tr L Kemp & M S Peden (1976)

"It might be difficult to form an interspecies republic." --Writer's Guide to Creating a Science Fiction Universe

"Tennyson read Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal, and thought him 'a kind of moralist,' though his subjects, he allowed, are shocking." --William Allingham in: Tennyson, Interviews & Recollections (1983)

"Kipling's death in 1936 coincided with King George V's. There was another less noticed death at the time--that of Saklatvala, an Indian Parsee who had become the Communist MP for Battersea. It so happened that Kipling's cremation followed Saklatvala's, and at the crematorium there was no time to clear away the Red Flag and other communist insignia set up for Saklatvala. Truly God is not mocked." --Malcolm Muggeridge, Things Past: An Anthology (1978)

'I write down
the ideograms for "youth"
feeling uneasy
about the preponderance
of horizontal striokes.' --Tawara Machi, Salad Anniversary

Dreamed i was in my parents' old house, & a helicopter crashed into the house behind us. When i called the fire department, i got an answering machine. So i left a message & went back to what i was doing.

Monday, May 05, 2003

A short history of blogs.

A curious episode in the recent history of Lojban was the Hexadecimalist Heresy. A certain Lojbanist, observing that Lojban had single-syllable words for numbers up to fifteen, maintained that the default number base of Lojban must be Base-16 (i.e. counting ...8, 9, A=10, B=11, C=12, D=13, E=14, F=15, "10"=16 in conventional notation). This created an immense & vituperative controversy, only ending when the arch-hexidecimalist withdrew from the community. Lojban remains default-decimal today, but in the imaginary city of Lojbanistan called "La Xagvar", where nonconforming Lojbanists are said to congregate, it is still the customary greeting to ask, "What base do you count in?"
'The Ornamented Zither

The ornamented zither, for no reason, has fifty strings.
Each string, each bridge, recalls a youthful year.
Master Chuang was confused by his morning dream of the butterfly;
Emperor Wang's amorous heart in spring is entrusted to the cuckoo.
In the vast sea, under a bright moon, pearls have tears;
On Indigo Mountain, in the warm sun, jade engenders smoke.
This feeling might have become a thing to be remembered,
Only, at the time you were already bewildered and lost.'

--James J. Y. Liu, The Poetry of Li Shang-yin (1969)

'...I believe that poetry (especially lyric poetry) should not flow like water over a waterfall and be a poet's daily occupation.' --Akhmatova

"And bough-crossed skies of flame, like that which quivers
Wistfully just before a winter's night." --H.P. Lovecraft, Fungi from Yuggoth, xxiii

"A very good corrective to the Aeneid is, I think, the Second Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln." --Frank O. Copley

"The common [cockroach] species Periplaneta americana becomes active soon after dark each day and scavenges continually for five or six hours, but if one has its head cut off, it no longer shows this circadian rhythm of activity. Not surprising, perhaps; but in fact if the head is removed surgically and precautions are taken to keep the insect from bleeding to death, it survives for several weeks. A headless cockroach eventually starves to death, but while it lives, it continues to move in a random and desultory fashion. Janet Harker found that she could give a cockroach back its sense of direction by a process of transfusion. All insects have very rudimentary circulatory systems, in which blood just washes around in the body cavity bathing the internal organs. One individual can be made to share its blood with another by simply cutting a hole in the body wall of each and connecting them together with a short glass tube. Harker solved the problem of differences of opinion by an ingenious if somewhat gruesome compromise. She strapped the blood donor upside down on the back of the headless cockroach and cut off the upper one's legs to prevent it kicking and upsetting the weird combination. Paired like this in parabiosis (which means living side by side) the double-bodied cockroach with one head and one set of legs functioned almost normally." --Lyall Watson, Supernature (1973)
   More from Festus:

I should like to macadamize the world;
The road to Hell wants mending.

Yet truth and falsehood meet in seeming, like
The falling leaf and shadow on the pool’s face.

Oh! I should love to die. What is to die?
I cannot hold the meaning more than can
An oak’s arms clasp the blast that blows on it.

The wild and winged desires, youth’s saurian schemes,
Which creep and fly by turns; which kill, and eat,
And do disgorge each other...

Respect is what we owe; love what we give,
And men would mostly rather give than pay.

...--Man, alas! alone,
The recreant spirit of the universe,
Contemns the operations of the light;
Loves surface-knowledge; calls the crimes of crowds
Virtue: adores the useful vices; licks
The gory dust from off the feet of war,
And swears it food for gods, though fit for fiends...

Then let the mad world fight its shadow down;
There soon will be nor sun, nor world, nor shadow.

...What are years to me?
Traitors! that vice-like fang the hand ye lick:
Ye fall like small birds beaten by a storm
Against a dead wall, dead.

Yes, wandering fires wait even on rottenness
Like a stray gleam of thought in an idiot’s brain.

Love is the art of hearts and heart of arts.
Conjunctive looks and interjectional sighs
Are its vocabulary’s greater half.

The worm shall trail across thine unsunned sweets,
And fatten him on that men pined to death for;
Yea, have a further knowledge of thy beauties
Than ever did thy best-loved lover dream of.

The grey gull balanced on her bowlike wings,
Between two black waves seeking where to dive.

These cursed joys my soul now writhes among,
Like to a half-crushed reptile on a rose...

...The sphinx-like heart,
Consistent in its inconsistency,
Loathes life the moment that life’s riddle is read:
The knot of our existence is untied,
And we lie loose and useless. Life is had;
And then we sigh, and say, can this be all?

Sunday, May 04, 2003

"Many Mansions

The last majority attained,
And shut from its small house of dust,
Into the heritage of air
The spirit goes because it must:
And halts before the multiple plane
To look more ways than left and right,
And weeping walks its father's house
Like something homeless in the night:
For now less largely let abroad,
Though but the world they say is mine,
I shiver as I take the road."

Léonie Adams

Excerpts from the 1847 edition of Festus by Philip James Bailey:

...Death does his work
In secret and in joy intense, untold,
As though an earthquake smacked its mumbling lips
O’er some thick peopled city.

This is to be a mortal and immortal!
To live within a circle,--and to be
That dark point where the shades of all things around
Meet, mix and deepen.

...To blow
A kiss, a bubble and a prayer hath like
Effect and satisfaction.

So I betook me to the sounding sea;
And overheard its slumberous mutterings
Of a revenge on man; whereat almost
I gladdened, for I felt savage as the sea.

The science of the future is to man
But what the shadow of the wind might be.

Most men glide quietly and deeply down:
Some seek the bottom like a cataract.

Ye hate the truth as snails salt--it dissolves ye...