Archive for May, 2012

Perplexidus Albion

William examined the cloth, then said, “Now everything is clear.”

“Where is Berengar?” they asked him.

“I don’t know,” he answered.

Aymaro heard him and raised his eyes to heaven, murmuring to Peter of Sant’Albano, “Typically English.”

—Umberto Eco, The Name Of The Rose

I Had A Dream I Stood Beneath An Orange Sky

(Last year’s Memorial Day piece. This year’s, too.

(for and from ala)

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

Please do not forget anything that you take with you.

                                                              —automated announcement, Beijing taxicab

One of the key indicators that I do indeed too often dwell in what William Burroughs identified as “an annex of Hell” is the local radio newsperson. He labors out here in the sticks, in the near-invisible bush leagues, but he is in his heart a Fox person—his station a Fox affiliate. I suppose his way of feeling as One with those far-off Fox mandarins who don’t even know he is alive is to endeavor ebulliently al-ways to out-Fox Fox. Thus, there is nothing too mental to come out of this man’s mouth. Nothing.

This man was on the air the morning that President Obama convened his extraordinary and unprecedented press conference to Stop The Madness. Obama deploying his long-form birth certificate as a sort of seawall, to break the tsunami of maniacal jabberers roiling with Knowledge that Obama is a nefarious foreign-born Manchurian Muslim out to outrage all that is America.

This man’s radio station aired Obama’s “Yes, I Am Not A Not-Person” statement, in its entirety, live. The man himself then returned to the microphone to declaim that Obama had just said things that he had not, in fact, said. Words were put into Obama’s mouth; words were taken out of his mouth. And the sense of all these omissions and commissions was that Questions Still Remained as to whether Obama might not truly be a nefarious foreign-born Manchurian Muslim out to outrage all that is America.

It was a jaw-dropping performance. I mean, mere moments had passed since we’d heard the words from the president himself. All had been recorded; the thing itself was even then available for playback to anyone with access to an intertube. Other tubes already bore transcripts of Obama’s words. Yet this “news”man was boldly, methodically laying a track along which chugged an alternative reality.

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Friends And The Devil

Work progressed at a frenetic pace. Hacks-Bataille, after liberal doses of absinthe, described his inventions to Taxil, who wrote them up and embellished them; or Bataille busied himself over details concerning medical science, the art of poisoning and the description of cities and esoteric rites that he had actually seen. Meanwhile, Taxil embroidered upon Diana’s latest delusions.

Bataille, for example, began by depicting the rock of Gibraltar as a spongy mass crisscrossed with passageways, cavities and subterranean caves where some of the most blasphemous sects celebrated their rituals, describing the Masonic antics of the Indian sects and the apparitions of Asmodeus, while Taxil gave a profile of Sophia Sapho. Having read the Dictionnaire infernal by Collin de Plancy, he suggested that Sophia had revealed that there were 6,666 legions, each legion consisting of 6,666 demons. Although he was drunk by this time, Bataille managed to work out that the total number of devils and she-devils was 44,435,556. We checked his calculation, admitting with surprise that he was right, and he banged his fist on the table and shouted, “You see then, I’m not drunk!” He was so pleased with himself that he slid under the table.

—Umberto Eco, The Prague Cemetery

Gonna Lift Me Up To That Drinkin’ Fountain

I Like Birds

Disturbance At The Heron House

George II, in one of those many moments when he veritably hooted and scratched and dragged his knuckles across the ground, memorably referred to the people of Greece as “the Grecians.”

In this, at least, he was a form of prescient.

For these days, everybody—at least out here in the West—is encouraged to look upon the Greek people as a sort of terminally de-evolved form of human, rapidly descending onto animal, one that unaccountably runs wild, burning cars and throwing stones, because purportedly Saner People want them to Pay Their Debts, and then Go Back To Their Own Good Holes.

But “the Grecians,” they were busily founding Western Civilization, way back in about the 7th Century BCE. Back when everybody else in the West was about at, well, the level of George II. And it seems to me that, in these recent days, “the Grecians” have had just about a bellyful, of a bunch of jerky-cum-latelys, hectoring them about how they should behave, some 2700 years later.

You see, the Greeks were founding Western Civilization before even there was money . . . which was invented by the Lydians, round about the same time, 7th Century BCE. But over in some other country somewhere. Not some Grecian thing at all.

For the Greeks have never really been about money. They have always been more about history, science, philosophy, drama, oracles, fate, the Olympics, burning cars in the street rather than paying taxes, and pederasty.

But they’ve had a bad couple thousand years, the Greeks, and in and among those, those bad couple millennia, money got involved.

But now, it’s clear, they’ve had enough of it.

And so, last Monday, “the Grecians” went into their banks, and withdrew some $894 million euros.

Previously, between January 2010, and March 2012, the Grecians pulled out of the banks nearly one-third of all the money, that had previously resided there.

Some hair-on-fire wild man over in Wales has subsequently ululated that “[o]ver the last two years Greeks withdrew approximately 70 billion euros from their bank accounts, an amount equivalent to approximately 35 percent of Greek GDP.”

Taking into consideration the fact that the Grecians, like all Mediterranean peoples—Spanish, Portuguese, southern French, etc.—have for forever and a day given the stink-eye to banks, preferring to keep their money in the ground, and away from the tax-man, I am estimating that well over half the money in Greece is no longer in banks, but instead in mattresses, instead in the ground, instead in some other unknown place.

Good.

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Silver Springs

Gold Dust

What’s For Dinner

A wise woman told me, some time ago, that cats, no matter how sweet and affectionate they may seem to be, would, if they were our size, and we, like them, were wee, would, without a thought, kill us and eat us.

And that, wee as they be, and large as we be, such thoughts nonetheless not uncommonly simmer, there in their brainpans.

I rigorously resisted this inconvenient truth for some time.

I scrutinized my wee catamite beasties. And rarely did I detect even a glimpse of said Desires.

But then, I took to photographing them. And lo: no longer could said truth, be denied.

For perhaps those “primitive” peoples are right after all: the camera exposes the soul. As, too often, developing on film, I found expressions, that undeniably read: “you are dinner.”

This is especially true of the young’un cat. Whose exploits have previously been chronicled here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

Though, in the world as it seems to me, he is these days increasingly sweet and affectionate, in the world as it appears in his photographed eyes, I am increasingly something like a leg of lamb. Witness, for instance, the photograph, snapped less than twelve hours ago, above.

I have thought about assembling a showing of such photos. Titled “You Are Dinner.”

But I doubt that this will be allowed to occur.

And so. If the day comes, that posts do not appear, here on this blog, and then do not appear again, and then do not appear at all, know that it is quite probable that, here at the Manor, Alice in Wonderland “drink me” potions have been manifested and delivered: I have become the size of he, and he has become the size of me, and I have been consumed, and passed through.

May jeebus have mercy on my soul.

Melancholy Soundcheck

We are rag dolls made out of many ages and skins, changelings who have slept in wood nests or hissed in the uncouth guise of waddling amphibians. We have played such roles for infinitely longer ages than we have been men. Our identity is a dream. We are process, not reality, for reality is an illusion of the daylight—the light of our particular day. In a fortnight, as aeons are measured, we may lie silent in a bed of stone, or, as has happened in the past, be figured in another guise. Two forces struggle perpetually in our bodies: Yam, the old sea dragon of the original Biblical darkness, and, arrayed against him, some wisp of dancing light that would have us linger, wistful, in our human form. “Tarry thou, till I come again”—an old legend survives among us of the admonition given by Jesus to the Wandering Jew. The words are applicable to all of us. Deep-hidden in the human psyche there is a similar injunction no longer having to do with the longevity of the body but, rather, a plea to wait upon some transcendent lesson preparing in the mind itself.

—Loren Eiseley, “The Star Thrower”

Whip It

He then prepared to move forward to Abydos, where a bridge had already been constructed across the Hellespont from Asia to Europe. Between Sestos and Madytus in the Chersonese there is a rocky headland running out into the water opposite Abydos. This headland was the point to which Xerxes’ engineers carried their two bridges from Abydos—a distance of two furlongs. One was constructed by the Phoenicians using flax cables, the other by the Egyptians with papyrus cables. The work was successfully completed, but a subsequent storm of great violence smashed it up and carried everything away. Xerxes was very angry when he learned of the disaster, and gave orders that the Hellespont should receive three hundred lashes and have a pair of fetters thrown into it. I have heard before now that he also sent people to brand it with hot irons. He certainly instructed the men with the whips to utter, as they wielded them, the barbarous and presumptuous words: “You salt and bitter stream, your master lays this punishment upon you for injuring him, who never injured you. But Xerxes the King will cross you, with or without your permission. No man sacrifices to you, and you deserve the neglect by your acid and muddy waters.” In addition to punishing the Hellespont Xerxes gave orders that the men responsible for building the bridges should have their heads cut off. The men who received these invidious orders duly carried them out, and other engineers completed the work . . . .

All that day the preparations for the crossing continued; and on the following day, while they waited for the sun which they wished to see as it rose, they burned all sorts of spices on the bridges and laid boughs of myrtle along the way. Then sunrise came, and Xerxes poured wine into the sea out of a golden goblet and, with his face turned to the sun, prayed that no chance might prevent him from conquering Europe or turn him back before he reached its utmost limits. His prayer ended, he flung the cup into the Hellespont and with it a golden bowl and a Persian acinaces, or short sword. I cannot say for certain if he intended the things which he threw into the water to be an offering to the Sun-god; perhaps they were—or it may be that they were a gift to the Hellespont itself, to show he was sorry for having caused it to be lashed by whips.

—Herodotus, The Histories

Throwing Stones

Science Men are having an Excitement about a chimpanzee named Santino, who is currently interned in Sweden in a heavily fortified compound known as the Furuvik Zoo.

These Science Men have subjected Santino to a Study, from which they have drawn many interesting Conclusions.

However, it seems to me that the Science Men may be neglecting the primary conclusion which Santino, through his behavior, seeks to communicate.

It seems that one day in 2009, Santino, 34, was compelled to pick up a stone in each hand, and commence screeching at humans, who were standing there Looking at him.

The humans retreated in surprise, and Santino went back about his business.

The same group of humans returned later that day, again to Look at Santino, said Looking again occurring without the chimp’s permission.

Santino sauntered their way, again holding two stones, but this time appearing non-aggressive, placidly munching on an apple.

Then, when he had moved within range, Santino suddenly hurled his stony projectiles at the offending humans.

Santino next set about piling hay in an area of his cell located close to where humans would arrive to Look at him. He then secreted stones beneath the hay.

When humans would come by to Look, he would nonchalantly stroll over to the hay, then quickly reach inside, draw forth rocks, and fire them at the Lookers.

This behavior of Santino occurred recurrently. Each morning, before humans were permitted into the zoo, Santino would hump up his hay, and secret stones beneath it. Then, when humans would start Looking, he would bombard them.

A survey of the enclosure showed that Santino made piles of ammunition only on the quarter of the island’s shore that faced the visiting crowds.

When his keepers cottoned on to the fact that Santino devoted considerable time and energy each morn to collecting stones and dragging them across the moat that surrounded his enclosure, so that he could properly greet humans when they arrived to Look, they rudely removed the stones.

At which time Santino determinedly tapped the concrete floor of his cell with his fist, releasing chunks of concrete he then fashioned into discs suitable for throwing.

Staff at the zoo coped with Santino’s antics by warning visitors when he was getting agitated, and erected a fence to try to contain the projectiles.

All this caused Science Men to stream to the scene like ants.

The researchers watched this behavior continue for almost four months. Santino would conceal the rocks under hay or behind logs or other structures, casually walk up to it, and then suddenly throw it at a visitor.

Some zookeepers shrugged: Santino had been periodically heaving rocks at humans for near on a decade. It was just something he did.

But the Science Men, they Observed and Quantified.

Over the course of the summer, Osvath and Karvonen observed repeated episodes of this behavior, and also recovered stones that Santino had hidden under hay or logs, racking up 114 days of observation. They recovered a total of 35 projectiles that Santino had apparently concealed: 15 under hay heaps, 18 behind logs, and two behind a rock structure on the island.

As humongous mounds of snow are not unknown in Sweden, the Furuvik Zoo closes for a time each winter. And when the place reopened for the 2011 season, Santino no longer engaged in stone-throwing.

It is believed he is now constructing a mortar. In this way, humans may be discouraged from Looking, before they ever approach his enclosure.

There is also the theory that the Solution decided upon by humans to control Santino’s rock-throwing behavior—castration—may have rendered the man more docile, interested no more in driving away the Lookers.

“They have castrated the poor guy. They hope that his hormone levels will decrease and that will make him less prone to throw stones. He’s already getting fatter and he likes to play much more now than before,” said Osvath.

Au contraire. I do not believe that castration has rendered him more docile. I believe it has determined him to construct a thermonuclear device. Let the wrath of the Wronged, says he, let it all rain down.

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Sleeping Beauty

Women’s Fashion Through History

Even the sole survivor came to a bad end; for when he reached Athens with a report of the disaster, the wives of the other men who had gone with him to Aegina, in grief and anger that he alone should have escaped, crowded round him and thrust the brooches, which they used for fastening their dresses, into his flesh, each one, as she struck, asking him where her husband was. So he perished, and the Athenians were more horrified at his fate than at the defeat of their troops in Aegina. The only way they could punish their women for the dreadful thing they had done was to make them adopt Ionian dress; previously Athenian women had worn Dorian dress, very similar to the fashion at Corinth; now they were made to change to linen tunics, to prevent them from wearing brooches.

—Herodotus, The Histories

“Evolution”

Today we had a Conference on the motion of the US in US v. Thomas [(1960) 362 US 58] to vacate the stay granted by the Court of Appeals.

During the Conference [United States Supreme Court Justice Felix] Frankfurter got very heated. He recalled how I, as far back as 1946, was urging the Court to meet the segregation issue and bring cases up. He said if the cases had been brought up then he would have voted that segregation in the schools was constitutional because “public opinion had not then been crystallized against it.” He said the arrival of the Eisenhower Court heralded a change in public opinion on this subject and therefore enabled him to vote against segregation. [Justice] Bill Brennan’s response was “God Almighty!”

—memorandum, Justice William O. Douglas, January 26, 1960

Silver Apples Of The Moon

There is a piano now, here in the Manor. It arrived this morning. A little Baldwin spinet, birthed in the 1960s. It is a sturdy and game little being. We are learning each other.

There is a great poem by Lew Welch, called “He Thanks His Woodpile.” It goes like this:

The wood of the madrone burns with a flame at once
lavender and mossy green, a color you sometimes see in a sari.

Oak burns with a peppery smell.

For a really hot fire, use bark.
You can crack your stove with bark.

All winter long I make wood stews:

Poet to stove to woodpile to stove to
typewriter.      woodpile.        stove.

and can’t stop peeking at it!
can’t stop opening up the door!
can’t stop giggling at it

“Shack Simple”

crazy as Han Shan as
Wittgenstein in his German hut, as
all the others ever were and are

            Ancient Order of the Fire Gigglers

who walked away from it, finally,
kicked the habit, finally, of Self, of
man-hooked Man

          (which is not, at last, estrangement)

That’s what it’s like here now, with this piano.

Underpants Nation

I have decided that what claims to be “news” is in fact a figment— not Real at all.

My suspicions in this area have been growing for some time. But the events of the past few days, culminating in the utter nonsense that was yesterday—well, now there can be no doubt.

Several days ago I was confronted with the following headlines: (1) “Docs Reveal Hitler Farted, Received Sex Injections, Craved Cocaine”; (2) “Man Exposes Himself At Association For The Blind”; and (3) “Missing Parakeet Returned Home After Telling Police His Address.”

These weirdsmobiles were several hours later crowned by this wonderment: “Why It Matters That Obama Dated A Composite And Ate A Dog.”

If you click the above links, you will find four different “news” outfits purporting that the information contained therein is Real. Not something from the Onion. Not something from Mad magazine. Not something from the Weekly World News. No. “Real.”

Sorry. I’m not buying it.

Monday they screwed up—whoever “they” are—and saturated the “news” with something so preposterous that it became clear beyond doubt that we are simply being mucked with.

For every time I turned on the radio, or looked into a tube, I beheld an alleged high government official soberly intoning that the United States is menaced by underpants.

They are massing out there, these underpants, nefariously bent on exploding airplanes, pouring innocent Americans out into the way up in the middle of the air.

But fortunately, these supposed officials further droned, America is prepared to meet and defeat the underpants.

Where once America fought to “make the world safe for democracy,” today, we are told, America fights like twelve three-fisted bastards to cleanse the globe of the scourge of terrorist underpants.

No. That America is under assault by underpants—this is not something that is Real. This is something out of one of Kurt Vonnegut’s sillier Kilgore Trout fantasies.

Who is doing this? I have no idea. It is possible that some clever geek boots, down in some Cheetos-stained basement, has, through the power of the tubes, seized control of the “news,” and is busily churning out, as Real, whatever complete and utter balderdash gives him, or her, the giggles.

I suspect a juvenile. Because it is not enough, that this person concocts a nonsense involving demonic volatile underpants flying in waves through the once-friendly skies, to rain Terror and Horror down upon All Decent Americans. No. For previously, this same entity, chortling childishly, concocted a Reality in which the Republican Party selected as its 2012 nominee for president a person known as Captain Underpants.

Coincidence? I think not.

About 20 years ago I obsessively collected all of the 50-some science-fiction novels written by the late Philip K. Dick.

Dick was a quantum person. Both a uniquely creative writer, and a drug-gobbling wackadoodle clean out of his gourd.

Dick’s works featured such beings as a man who unknowingly created large swaths of Reality by completing a crossword puzzle in the daily newspaper. People, at the same time both alive and dead, who discovered their money no longer bore pictures of old dead white men, but instead images of living family and friends. A sadsack loping through an increasingly disintegrating world, in which those charged with maintaining Reality had become too enervated to manifest actual objects, reduced to producing, say, pieces of paper reading “soda pop stand” or “dog,” in place of the Real things.

I read all of these works, back in those years. And tomorrow I am going to go down to the basement, and unearth these tomes, so that I might read them all again.

Because it is clear to me now that these books are not “science fiction” at all. They are instead startlingly accurate and precise works of prophecy. They are Real. They are Today. Today, we live in a Dick world. Underpants and all.

Republicans Through History

It is amongst them that the cattle are found which walk backwards as they graze. The reason for this curious habit is provided by the formation of their horns, which bend forwards and downwards; this prevents them from moving forwards in the ordinary way, for, if they tried to do so, their horns would stick in the ground.

The hole-men, or troglodytes, eat snakes and lizards and other reptiles and speak a language like no other, but squeak like bats.

—Herodotus, The Histories


When I Worked

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