Saturday, July 26, 2003

For a moment in the afternoon i put on my painter's
eyes and looked at the scene in front of me as if i
were going to draw it. The silence then was like the
ceasing of a waterfall. I made a little sketch, put it
away & forgot when i went back to the numbers.
Tonight i looked at the sketch accidentally & remembered.
Sort of a mini-time-capsule. I'm used to pretty much
maintaining a continuity & being able to go back to
anything i've experienced & not have it disappear
since i last visited. Now i'm on a moving sidewalk and
if i drop something it's gone. That's stasis--; i know
while travelling the number of things you can carry
or need to keep track of is smaller, and the relationships
between them become clearer. An image drawn & redrawn
& learned. But repeated meaningless gestures bypass
the conscious mind entirely, drop into the basement with
the other machinery. Learning gets attenuated & finally
impossible. Which is all i learned so far on the job. --Why
the same mistakes keep getting made over & over; why
bureaucracies are so stupid...
   I'm listening to a Folkways record
from Morocco; i think of that as the real world.

Listening to: John Adams, "Roadrunner".
   "The Gates

At the declining moment
It rains on the chilly street.

In front of my existence prepared like a fate,
All gates are closed.

Now in the imminent zone
Which is beyond my power,
I knock at the gate impatiently.

But the gate is not opened.
Numberless wounds in my breast,
These seem to be too much mischievous.

Perhaps our human
May knock in vain, through their lives,
At the gates that never be opened.

The shed blood blooms in reeds.
The bloomed reeds, weeping in the wind, will leave
When the bloomed reeds, in tears, fall.

The people, in front of the gates,
Being wet in rain, waited long
And ten thousand years more in vain.

I'm also standing here in tears."

--Gûm-czan Hwang

Listening to: Vanessa Carlton.
The atheist anthology Above Us Only Sky is
going into a second printing! See: IncarnateMuse at
yahoo dot com. Your favorite Bright needs one!

Friday, July 25, 2003

God hates us. (via memepool) Proof!

   How the CIA
screwed up bigtime: eight hundred
   fifty eight pages

07 25 03

"it was the iraqis celebrating......they told me that there were
about a 100 locals hospitalized from the bullets coming back
down...around 50 of them died...maybe they should have just
thrown a party instead...)" --turning tables

Someone asked me about the rare book Bore Hole, & it
took me back to where i first read about Mellen & the cult of
trepanation. Never fear, there's a website for it now.

I see that Diamanda Galas is about to come out with two new
double albums
; in times like these, hers is a voice we need.

Listening to: Turangalila.
   from an unpublished interview:

...Have i ceased to have patience for the unmistakeable
cue, or have i sharpened my observance of ever more
subtle beginning-traces. I don't know.

There's times i know i shouldn't try to write. I know
it's going to be terrible if i don't give up, but i
go ahead anyway because i'm curious as to what will
happen. Well, the poem turns out bad alright, but for
the moment i've satisfied my curiosity.

Everyone who creates finds that parts of their work
and portions of their lives seem finer and more profound
than the rest of it; and they would give anything to
increase their share of that bounty. The trouble is,
you can't. There's nothing you can do. What kind of
artist you are capable of becoming depends on how you
choose to deal with this rude and imperious paradox.

The greater mass of [my writing] i never try to
publish, and i hope some overly kind editor will not
someday put them into a book next to the poems that
are worth something. If that happens i am going to
be an implacable and howling vengeful ghost.

After writing for many years, you've made all the
big easy discoveries and you come to a kind of
watershed. There's the temptation to continue what
you already know how to do well--and this is the road
of self-pastiche. Or you go looking for exotic subject
matter to renew your sense of novelty. Or (and i think
this is best) you will be forced to turn inward and
seek out the sources of your own creativity. I can
only liken this to the difference between a long term
relationship that takes you on an unending journey
of mutual exploration, and the kind of short term
affair that relies on an excitement that soon fizzles
out. I don't know where it leads but i know i can never
be limited to the purely lyric mode again...

I am not one of those who can comfortably accept
that the waste and inequity of the present system is
the best humans can hope for on this planet. But the
emotion of this is rather banal. It manifests in my
work more subtly--as an aesthetic of restlessness,
self-contradiction, and a tendency to evade the

More and more, obliquely, by implication or allusion,
describing a partial arc in the air; i find that
the presence of my other poems completes the new

What poem did you submit to Pinsky's "favorite
poem" survey?
--The "Sonnet to Orpheus" which
begins: 'Silent friend of far-flung distances...'

What American poet did you nominate for the
postage stamp, and what was their response?

--Léonie Adams. They said there was no such poet.

There are more poets now than have ever existed in the
history of language, put together. You might say that
the old paradigm, which was based on a scarcity
economy, can no longer begin to cope with a situation
in which the typical poetry magazine of maybe 100 or
200 subscribers, receives ten times that many submissions
in one week. So perhaps poetry has already turned into
a hobbyist-subculture, or rather a whole set of them
(each claiming to be the ONE TRUE WAY): and we need
to see what can be done within those pared-down domains,
that doesn't depend on getting published as the final
sanction and goal of writing. After all, it hasn't always
been that other way, either; in Shakespeare's day, arguably
the English language's richest and most fertile period,
poems went around from friend to friend and were copied
out in longhand, and that was it. A serious person used
   "Knowing I Live in a Dark Age

Knowing I live in a dark age before history,
I watch my wallet and
am less struck by gunfights in the avenues
than by the newsie with his dirty pink chapped face
calling a shabby poet back for his change.

The crows mobbing the blinking, sun-stupid owl;
wolves eating a hamstrung calf hind end first
keeping their meat alive and fresh...these
are marks of foresight, beginnings of wit;
but Jesus wearing thorns and sunstroke
beating his life and death into words
to break the rods and blunt the axes of Rome:
this and like things followed.

Knowing that in this advertising rainbow
I live like a trapeze artist with a headache,
my poems are no aspirins...they show
pale bayonets of grass waving thin on dunes;
the paralytic and his lyric secrets;
my friend Al, union builder and cynic,
hesitating to believe his own delicate poems
lest he believe in something better than himself:
and history, which is yet to begin,
will exceed this, exalt this
as a poem erases and rewrites its poet."

--Milton Acorn
[I don't know that a better political poem has been written
in our era.]

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Moblogging scoops the news in Japan.

Yes, there is a Klingon scale--music has even been written
in it
. (Not to be confused with Klingon Rock.) (Not to mention the real Klingons*.)

Listening to: Venetian Vespers.

(*the same reviewer looks at Thai elephants & other
primitives here.)
(And here is his response to Pat Boone's In a Metal Mood--one of
the clearer Signs of the Apocalypse.)

I read some Charles Tomlinson, prompted by a book called
The Sinking Island, & here is one good poem he did write:

   "In Defense of Metaphysics

Place is the focus. What is the language
Of stones? I do not mean
As emblems of patience, philosophers' hopes
Or as the astrological tangents
One may assemble, draw out subjectively
From a lapidary inertia. Only we
Are inert. Stones act, like pictures, by remaining
Always the same, unmoving, waiting on presence
Unpredictable in absence, inhuman
In a human dependence, a physical
Point of contact, for a moment not physical
And on a track of force, the milestone
Between two infinities. Stones are like deaths.
They uncover limits."

[Perhaps he'd just been reading Riding.]

   "What Hunger Means"

Words to describe it are nixed;
Empty gestures must suffice.
What will they take away next?

All things wrong will soon be fixed
They say, if we sacrifice.
Words to describe it are nixed.

By noise of dismays we're vexed
When murmurs of prayer suffice.
What will they take away next?

Our strength lies in throngs unmixed.
They won't be asking you twice.
Words to describe it are nixed.

To think I was once perplexed,
And dabbled in foolish vice!
What will they take away next?

After all else is deep-sixed,
Fun fun fun the maze of mice!
What will they take away next?
* to ** it are *.

07 20 03

You know, after the Velvet Revolution, everyone in
Czechoslovakia had taken Russian in school but
noone wanted to use it anymore... Maybe i should be
writing in Europanto!

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

I wonder how many novels Wittgenstein is a character in?
Must be at least a dozen--including one Sherlock Holmes

But we got the sons.

I spoke last week with a woman named Jodie Evans, long-time
peace activist and organizer of a group called the International
Occupation Watch Center, or IOWC. The purpose of the IOWC is to
stand as watchdogs in Iraq over the corporate contracts being
doled out, and to view in person what is happening to the Iraqi
people. "I think that if you were against the war, then you need
to be there," said Evans, "because there is no one in Iraq who is
for the Iraqi people, and the people know it. They know it."

Evans had just returned from Baghdad. Upon her arrival to the city,
she saw the demonstrable chaos caused by the war, and by the abject
failure to repair the country in the aftermath. "It was 120 degrees,
it was dusty, the air had a haze that makes everything gray," said
Evans. "The buildings you see on the road are bombed out. In some,
you can see the fire coming up. In some, you only see the scaffolding
of contorted metal. We got across our bridge and turned right onto
the street we know so well, the one we've stayed on, and every building
was either boarded up or bombed out, including the United Nations DP.
It was all bombed in, the windows were black from the fire."

"Immediately after we arrived," said Evans, "we hear that it is not
only worse than before the war. It is worse than during the war. People
are upset, people are angry. There were lots of stories about how the
Americans are doing this on purpose. A month after the '91 war, which was
much worse than this one, everything was back and working. Now, the people
live in this chaos they can't even imagine. People can't go outside.
Women haven't left their homes. Lots of people haven't come back from Syria
or Kuwait or wherever they fled to get away from the bombing, because life
in Iraq is unlivable. There is 65% unemployment, and even the doctors and
nurses and teachers who are going to work don't get paid, so there's no

Evans met a number of Americans in Iraq who are part of the 'rebuilding
process.' One such person was in the Compound, a guarded palace that is
now home to Bremer's office and staff along with a number of other groups.
The overall organization is called the Iraqi Assistance Center, or IAC.
The man Evans met was a professor of religion and political theory at a
religious college in America. He explained that his job was to collect
intelligence for Bremer.

"That professor I spoke to, the one doing intelligence for Bremer, I told
him that I had spoken to countless Iraqis and all of them felt this chaos
was happening on purpose," said Evans. "He basically said this was true,
that chaos was good, and out of chaos comes order. So what the Iraqis were
saying - that this madness was all on purpose - this intelligence guy
didn't discredit. He said, 'If you keep them hungry, they'll do anything
for us.'"

"I met the man who was hired to create a new civil government in Baghdad,
to bring Baghdad back to order," said Evans. "His name was Gerald Lawson.
I asked him what his background was that allowed him to get this job. He
said he was in the Atlanta Police for 30 years. I asked how this gave him
the ability to create a stable, civil government. He said he was a manager.
I asked him what he knew about Iraqis. He knew nothing, and didn't care to
know anything. He didn't know their history, their government, didn't speak
a word of Arabic and didn't care to learn. This guy doesn't work for the
American government, doesn't work for the State Department, and doesn't work
for the CPA. He works for a corporation created by ex-Generals. Their job
is to create the new Iraqi government structure."

"We met the man whose job is to make sure the hospitals have what they
need," said Evans. "He is a veterinarian. We met a British guy who showed
up at the Compound gates one day and said he was a volunteer who wanted to
help. The next day he was named the head of rubbish control in Baghdad, which
is a huge problem there because there is garbage all over the street. I asked
him what he had been doing with his time. He said he'd been hanging out at
Odai's palace playing with the lions and the cheetahs. I met the guy in
charge of designing the airport, where major jumbo jets are supposed to
land. He had never designed an airport before."

"Another man I spoke to associated with this process is named Don Munson,"
said Evans. "His job is civilian affairs policy. He said to me, 'We are
replacing one dictatorship with another.' He's there for two years, and he
works in the palace on the first floor."

"Remember," said Evans, "that the first thing America did was to fire 80,000
police officers. These guys weren't associated with the Hussein regime. That's
like connecting a cop in LA to the Bush administration. All the people I've
talked to over there, the ambassadors and others, said they warned Bremer not
to do that. The cops knew who the criminals were, and 80,000 cops are gone.
So now there are these little mafias that run neighborhoods. With no other
work and no way to survive, people are going to become criminals. The borders
are wide open - we didn't even get stopped when we came in - so everything
is just flowing into Iraq."

"A friend of mine's husband is an ambassador," said Evans. "I asked him if
this was normal operating procedure. He said that, basically, no one will work
on this Iraq project who has any respect for their work or career, because it
is so clearly a farce. He said that later we will go in after these guys have
blown it, but right now with Bremer there it is a farce. Even the press is
over there are just shaking their heads and asking, can anyone fail so badly?
Can anybody make so many mistakes? You can't imagine they can be so dumb."
If there can be said to be any "origin" of so complex a
phenomenon as binary thinking (as a syndrome & not as
a procedure), i think it must be in parental malpractice, by
parents similarly afflicted, who are incapable of unconditional
love & thus force their children to suppress part of themselves
which will be a long time retrieving (if ever); in the meantime,
they will have to be some sort of dualist, although the exact form
of this may turn out quite a heretical one.

If every time the word "evil" was used by someone who should
know better was the playing of a song, & i got royalties for that song,
i wouldn't have to work at this bookstore, that's for dingdong sure.
It's theology, it makes about as much sense in any discussion
about the real world as requiring all of us to invoke Mickey Fucking
in the news. And do you know why it's so convenient to
have this word at our fingertips? That which is "evil" is a Monster, &
a Monster's feelings don't count. You don't try to persuade Monsters,
you exterminate them. --And what is a crusade against crusades, but
another kind of Monster?
   "Grief Management for Dummies"

Bitterly flung on the raven currents
These mute words to a gin run mad
Neither increase my malign endurance
Palpably, nor bring peace once said.

Poet of riddles, grimoires & shadows,
Look to the cardboard a beggar wields:
Read if you will of nearer battles
Not to be mentioned by tenured skalds.

Poetry's over; & that's no subject.
How many rtimes will you wake & turn
Back to the dark, in this pyramid Egypt
Hieroglyph-choked & vision-shorn?

09 13 02

"Never be a citizen of anything in which you would not want
to hold shares." --Norman Spinrad, Greenhouse Summer (1999)

"The restaurant band was playing Dixieland Bach..." --ibid
[A few words about this book. The author puts more effort into
creating a couple of interesting characters, & sketching a post-
capitalist society of "citizen-shareholders" in "syndicates", than
in delineating a plausible world for the polar-melted climate that
is all too foreseeable. (His chief enjoyment, from living in Paris
i suppose, is giving that place the climate & culture of present-day
New Orleans--that being, apparently, the only thing Paris now
lacks. I would have rather seen his temperate Siberia...) But it is
important for being one of the few scifi novels to address this
subject, & interestingly, not completely a dystopia or disaster
novel (such as J G Ballard's monumental The Drowned World--).
All the same, i think it is typical of its period in being unable to
imagine the tragedy of a world in which billions of people have
become environmental refugees. You have to go back to literary
novelists of the thirties & forties, to find something that comes
close to what is now required. (Here i insert a blurb for the better
songs of Grunge--& Under the Volcano.)]

One of my esteemed colleagues likes to maintain that Grunge
was the Death of Music. Whilst i was never a real partisan, &
i regret that it should have become so oppressively prevalent
a paradigm, i do think as a movement in Rock it has had some
validity. He challenged me to name 10 good songs that Grunge
has produced. So here, after a bit of research, is my list:

1. Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (1991)
2. Live, "Lightning Crashes" (1994)
3. Live, "I Alone" (1994)
4. The Toadies, "Possum Kingdom" (1994)
5. Cracker, "Low" (1993)
6. Tool, "Sober" (1993)
7. 3 Doors Down, "Kryptonite" (2000)
8. Alice in Chains, "Rooster" (1992)
9. Stabbing Westward, "Save Yourself" (1998)
10. Bush, "Everything Zen" (1998)

There is a great monotony of tone, & a lack of feminine
presence, that must be accounted Grunge's greatest weakness.
This comes, i think, from their origin, not in Black Sabbath
so much as Robin Trower--if one goes by actual resemblances
& not what the bands say--& would have made the period
intolerable, if i hadn't also had music by Tori Amos, Bjork,
& a number of one- or two-hit girl-led bands (Alanis Morissette,
Veruca Salt, Belly, Garbage), to balance the spectrum.
But all in all, Grunge created a mood that can rarely be found in,
say, Fifties or Sixties music (& only in Seventies
or Eighties among the underground).

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

' masses have continued to be said since the Middle
Ages. ...even in America, where the poet Longfellow was head
of a sect.' ----letters of J K Huysmans
Empathy is evidently a freak talent, the sixth sense that
not only does 80%* of humanity not possess, they do not
even suspect the existence of. So a compassionate
society cannot be founded on the regular exercise of
this talent. However, i don't know why it shouldn't be
possible to train people to regard it as a respectable
fiction, like so many others; & for those who actually have
it, their revealing the secret can do, after all, no harm.
(--Except to themselves: a strange torment it is, for example,
not to be able to hate wholeheartedly, when you need to!)

(*Alright--70% of women & 90% of men.)

Monday, July 21, 2003

What i think about Mathematics & Reality: when i mow the lawn,
i automatically visualize the grass being divided up into regular, linear
segments, & this is the path i follow so as to complete the task in the
minimum number of strokes. (I determine my path through supermarket
aisles in the same fashion.) In fact i am constructing the job as i go,
& i recognize that there are any number of geometric alternatives in the
same area of space. But my tool determines the width of the path, & its
linearity. Some people (& i include friends among them) would take this
lawnmower & push it any old way; eventually they would get most of
it, but it would take a whole lot longer. (They would, however, feel "less
regimented". --Digital to them is in varying degrees, a foreign language.)
--So time constraint also is one of the hidden aspects to this job-constructing.
But if exactness alone were the goal, then i would do better to use a high-
powered weed eater--analogue style--& if i wanted to become really intimate
with the contours of the landscape, i should use scissors. (Call this an image
of an Aesthetic Civilization--such as i like to imagine Heian Japan to have
been.) --Alternately, i might let it go & stick to the paths that my routine
generates through the waist-high brush. Or, plant something else that is
so appropriate to the climate & my needs, that just as it naturally is, is
the way i like it & we co-exist peaceably. (Call this an image of a Sustainable
   --We are so reliant on the infrastructure that our
science has allowed us to create, & so oppressed by the lack of genuine
leisure, that not only do we regard our Crunching Numbers as the acme of
all possible epistemologies, we refuse to consider that anything but small
adjustments to the machines, can ever be necessary. At best we solace
ourselves with the Dream of the Perfect Machine. Much like "Heaven",
it is a dream without particulars (can you say "nanorobots"?).
   I think it will only after the failure of the petroleum-
based world economy, & its consequent social disruptions, that people will
be willing to listen to something so radical as a value system based on
quality not quantity. The question really becomes: will it be a new smart
one, grounded in rationality, or one of the old stupid ones, grounded in

Black Fatima.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

   "Elegy For Green Yellow Red"

I'm stopped at a light. It's a perfect morning. (Perfect anyway as July
can manage.) Long shadows, the air mild. Hardly any cars out. Yet
we wait here, patiently, for the light to change. --Traffic lights are
one of the two or three unconsidered things that make city living
possible. Yet there are people who want to get rid of them. Even a
pause of thirty seconds is too much affront for their egotism to
stand. When a traffic light stops working, anarchy ensues. It can
be good anarchy, as drivers politely allow one car at a time to have
its turn. Or it can be bad anarchy, with everyone trying to force
their way through, & cars slamming into cars out of sheer stubb-
ornness. But what these selfish people want, is not any kind of
anarchy; rather, they want a definite order to prevail. First, the big
awesome Hummers--everyone stops for them, & they never have to
stop at all. Then those bulbous SUV's--they stop only for Hummers.
Then i guess the rest of us--on mopeds or in dogcarts for all they
care--we stop for everyone, & nobody stops for us.
   When i think of how burningly some people
resent the very existence of traffic lights--that momentary equality--
i know them for a sickness & a scourge. But i don't know what to do
about it...
   Invisibly, insatiably, they are doing away with
the traffic lights.

07 20 03