|"The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen; man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was." -- Bottom, A Midsummer Night's Dream|
TABLE OF CONTENTS
HE LAY IN BED, not fully awake but conscious beyond any hope that this was the start of another dream. 3:00, said the LEDs of the digital clock. The only other things clear in his mind were memories of pornographic images, perfect in their Photoshopped lasciviousness but strangely lacking the power to arouse. Ah yes, Woman. What else deprives Man of so much sleep? Money and war dont even come close.
She had been dead a year now after a very long time together; and he was old enough to appreciate the advantages of solitude, though not so old as to be untroubled by the demands of the flesh or perhaps by the thought that, without suitable stimulation, he would soon no longer be troubled by the demands of the flesh. Use it or lose it. But like all long couples, they had enfolded into one entity, sui generis, and he was left with a rusty memory of courtship rituals not only thirty-five years old but ludicrously inappropriate for a man of his age in any event.
So he had taken what seemed the only possible position, to drop the reins on the horses neck and tell himself that he was not looking for love but wouldnt reject it if it came along. This was valid. After all, chance encounters had already introduced him, as poet, to three of his favorite authors, and they were writers he would have steered away from in any printed agenda. Sure, there were helpful sites all over the Internet but how was one supposed to specify what one was looking for if he didnt really know? Besides, committing himself as interested to a pool formed exclusively of women whod made an identical commitment would eliminate half the magic and most of the advantages of plausible deniability.
So far, so good. What was keeping him awake was the fact that, of the two who had shown even the first signs that they might perhaps be possibly the next She, both had been smokers.
This was not pc degendered hypochondrianism. This was not even the Surgeon Generals Report of the 1960s. From as far back as he could remember he had been violently repulsed by the smell and the smoke. Haunted, even now, by memories of unusable high school bathrooms, of constantly moving to stand upwind of his three-pack-a-day father. It was as beyond any need for explanation as a thorn under the skin. What did it mean when everyone he wanted came with an attribute he couldnt stand?
After all, it hadnt always been this way. Not with his first timid school romance, disguised to no one but themselves as a poetry group; not with the girl whod relieved him of a desperately unwanted virginity and her mostly interchangeable aftersisters; not with his first real love; not even with the lost girls of the rock-n-roll demimonde of which hed been part for a few years.
But then hed gotten involved with a smoker, and though hed managed to work around most of the difficulties, it was one of the reasons and even the most creditable why he hadnt married her. But then his wife, the woman he'd fallen in love with afterwards and married, went back to the habit to deal with the stress of her parents' drawn-out death. Did that circumstance make it any easier to tolerate? No. But what was he supposed to do about it, especially as there were now children involved? For his (nonsmoking) mother had taught him by example that there were certain preferences which couldnt be allowed to be the basis of certain decisions, and in almost so many words that one must never attempt to come between a person and their coping mechanism.
It wasnt as if it were so bad most of the time. They were mature, and caring, and as outsiders most of their lives knew well how to give each others foibles room. But sometimes at night she would smoke her last cigarette and send him out for a pack. This was not even a small deal logistically, but the three-pack-a-day father had sent him upstairs every night after dinner to fetch his cigarettes, and the horror and revulsion had extended to any contact with the stuff at all. Touch not the unclean thing... Attempts to explain this invariably degenerated into angry listings of femininely equivalentized things she had done for him, things which did not seem to him to be at all equivalent.
But because he loved her and hated the arguments he had not so much conquered his revulsion as acted in defiance of it. And then he seemed to see what he had feared, an assumption (false) on her part that the force of the repulsion had lessened and a consequent increase in the frequency of the demand. But she had finally quit without telling him, naturally and because she was not a heavy smoker and his work kept him out a lot, it was not immediately apparent and he had waited a week after he noticed the change to ask her, as nonchalantly as possible, if she had stopped. Yes, she said, also nonchalantly, and it had never been mentioned again. But it was a privately happy day in his life.
Even lying alone in bed, he was ashamed to spend so much time thinking about it. It was a strictly external attribute without a shred of inner or moral significance, on a level with eye color or which sport (if any) one followed. It wasnt as if he were courting a Jewish woman while avidly collecting Nazi memorabilia, as if she were passionately devoted to wearing furs while he bought into the whole PETA ideology. And yet if he had learned anything it was that a deeply ingrained habit (see with what care he avoided the trigger-word addiction) that spoke comfort and shared closeness to one party and distress and contemptuous exclusion to the other could not be ignored, even if both parties knew that it was in fact none of those things.
Was there a connection between smoking and personality type? He had checked the Internet, it was still a new field of research but some work had been done. But he couldnt see anybody he knew in the bloodless academic dissection of personality attributes. Maybe he didnt understand the terminology. Insofar as he did, it often seemed that he should be among the smokers. That would explain a lot. But the atmospheric preference of the reptilian brain will trump personality types and social conditioning every time.
The question remained, though: why did so many intelligent, clear-thinking and even health-conscious women continue? And he could think of no better answer than, because they start to gain weight when they quit.
The alarm clock rang just as he finally got back to sleep. One way for the Id to solve the problem, though. Hard to even think about Aphrodite when youre fighting Morpheus all day...
--posted 22 September 2010
But at least the language of Love, like Spring, is in the air, and it warms the poets heart. Our lovers and sweethearts stand with Earths innumerable such names, on common ground yet with their own peculiarities: more respectable, for one thing, than a French amant or maitresse, although just the sound of those words is almost enough to turn one on, like a little kiss in the ear by an ingénue; and definitely gentler than a no-nonsense matter-of-fact German Liebhaber. But if the nuance is lacking how readily we borrow from each others languages, like Rossinian thieving magpies, from the French girl with un boyfriend to the American and his inamorata to the German couple in Partnerschaft. And to this agelong and international festival the modern age has added...Friends with Benefits?
The phrase displeases, at once too analytically neutered and literarily coy. But it points to the problem: we are as interested in sex as ever (perhaps more so) but strangely lacking in passion. Let me be clear. If I desire Woman, that is libido. My desire for a particular woman, that is passion. But perhaps you do not desire women. If you are a woman reading this, especially a woman whom I might myself desire were I to meet you, I hope you do not. But it holds even with inanimate objects. If you are attracted to fast cars, that is libido. If you love your Mazda Miata, it is a cozy little affair that may last years. If your heart goes to a Corvette, your spouse and children will suffer. If your spirit has been captured by the Prancing Horse, you had best be very rich. And if you obsess on a Bugatti Veyron or Duesenberg SJ may God have mercy on your soul.
It is long ago and I am sitting with my son and some of his friends. The talk somehow turns to Green Day, a new band at the time. A friend is dismissive: All their songs are about masturbation! I do not know the groups work and cannot judge this opinion, and am already far too old to care in any case. It does however invite a reply: So why didnt they call their first album Beat the Meatles? But my son is in some respects too like his father and he chimes in, without missing a beat, Probably because they didnt want to be sued by Yoko Ono.
The kid may have spoken truer than any of us knew. But it raises larger issues: how much of popular culture is shaped by fear of lawsuits? Similarly, how much of courtship is shaped by fear of disease and social ridicule? And returning to the original question: blame it on Sigmund Freud or the education of women or variations of What we obtain too cheap we esteem too lightly, but perhaps the lack of passion can be traced to a material culture in which people are increasingly raised and treated like interchangeable parts.
I want this job: before I even get to the interview I must meet a set of somewhat arbitrarily defined criteria, and if I succeed I must then fill out a sheaf of forms giving governmental taxing authorities and their whores in the banking system more information about me than many nineteenth century husbands saw fit to give their wives. I arise from my bought-in-a-bigbox mattress, to the sound of a Clearchannel station on an absolutely disposable clock radio, to go to this job in a worldbrand car over highways indistinguishable from those in any other part of the planet, and if that job contains even one function not involving manipulation of digital data or data-manipulators I am perhaps luckier than I know. I come home to a supermarket dinner, or perhaps go to a chain restaurant, and then watch this nights must-see from the offerings of the cable provider in my tract neighborhood. Afterwards I either veg out before the Tube or read a bought-in-a-bigbox branded-with-the-ISBN-tattoo book. And after all this, preceeded by 12 or 16 or more years of bigbox education, is it possible is it even conceivable that I can then sit down at my worldbrand standardized one-of-only-two-operating-systems Intelchipped computer and type a heartfelt email to my one and only? Saying what?
And not even considering why I should be writing writing, what a pathetic nineteenth-century atavism! instead of texting to arrange a meeting, or calling on the telephone, where verbal soundwaves can travel back and forth for hours with scarcely any more exchange of literarily expressible content than the skypointing of albatrosses though with far less of the passion.
But its all rhetorical an academic Establishment demanding
social security numbers from incoming students will never even see it
as a problem to be investigated. So youre stuck with us poets,
buckaroo. And Ill warn you, we lie as much as anybody else, especially
when the attitudes and worldviews that permit us to do our job are involved.
Maybe even more, because theres far more journalists than poets
and the truth of poetry is usually the lie of journalism.
--posted 19 March 2010
To all who've written me in this difficult time, much thanks. But one communication I never dreamed of receiving is the following, which I found on my computer this morning after forgetting to shut it off before I went to bed. I've heard from Seamus before; if you're not familiar with him you might want to start here. I print the letter, as always, exactly as received.
--posted 14 November 2009
IT IS WITH a heavy heart I write this: my wife and beloved life's companion of the past thirty-five years has died. It was pancreatic cancer -- yes, the kind that killed Swayze -- and ungodly fast, with a speed more reminiscent of infections than the relentless gnawing of the Crab.
I say this not to parade my private grief in public (a trend increasingly prevalent of late) but because she was the biggest backer of my fractals. When I considered giving up the website, she convinced me to keep going. When my hard drive crashed, I steeled myself to the loss -- but she was the one to insist that we try to recover it. That I would now gladly lose it all, smash my computer, and throw a couple body parts into the bargain to get her back isn't the issue. The ancient Greeks called Hades Pluto, "the wealthy one," since he, of all the gods, did not love gifts. I am no artistic Orpheus and if I were, my fractal Euridice would remain beyond my reach no matter how many Mandelbrot sets I might somehow illustrate on the walls of Sheol.
I want to assure you, my unknown friends, that I will be back. This website will not join the all-too-long list of fossils that haven't seen a new fractal posted since two thousand and WHAT? It will obviously take a while. But I can promise it to you, because she would want me to promise it to her.
I can only close with one of our favorite quotes, from Dag Hammarskjöld (if you don't know who that is, you're young. Go find him on Wikipedia yourself).
--posted 6 October 2009
"Wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all." --- Albert King
WELL, FRACTAL FANS, in case you're thinking I dropped off the face of the planet or finally surrendered to the Craptocracy...I could wish. No, the excrement has really hit the sports enthusiast this time. My secondary hard drive, containing all my digital creative work of the last seven years -- crashed. Whether I will be able to get even some of it back is currently in the hands of (expensive) experts. On top of which one of the toilet tank filler hoses decided to crack in the middle of the night. What resulted is not the Lower Ninth Ward but...quite bad enough. At least the insurance covers it and our agent has been quite helpful.
I'm trying to keep a high mind about this and maintain perspective. No one was hurt, etc. etc. More was lost at Mohacs, as the Hungarians say, and not only Buddhists can sign on to the truth that all created things are impermanent. We Christians, after all, were warned by our Master not to lay up treasures on earth, where moth and rust (and bad hard drives) corrupt and where thieves (and often enough in this age the Government) break in and steal.
Not being one to sit idly by, I've written this message in straight HTML at my web host. Cake for some of you, but a stretch for me. We don't need no stinkin' Dreamweaver...Hopefully, the news will be good. If not...well, was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker, and other such happy H.S. Meanwhile, make sure you have a working flashlight stored somewhere locatable in absolute darkness, be sure you know how to turn your house water off immediately, know which circuit breakers control what (and label it in the junction box), back up your artwork, and while you're at it, check those flexible toilet pipes you've had for probably too many years.
--posted 26 August 2009
"What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground? How can you run when you know?" --- CSN&Y
History seldom repeats itself, said Mark Twain, but it often rhymes. And what's going on in the streets of Tehran as I write this is resonating very strongly with my own experiences in the late sixties. So humor an old man, my young readers. He has been places you cannot go.
PROLOG: a legend. A wealthy Persian is walking in his garden when suddenly his servant runs to him, white as a sheet. "Master, I've seen Death! He's waiting for me! I've got to get out of here! Loan me your swiftest horse, and I can be in Tehran by nightfall!" "Calm down," says the Persian, "or you'll kill yourself. You've been a good servant. Take the horse." After the servant gallops off, the Persian continues his walk and meets Death himself. But he is made of sterner stuff, and asks, "Why did you threaten my servant?" "I did not threaten him," is the reply, "I merely expressed my surprise at finding him still here when I had planned to meet him tonight in Tehran."
STROPHE: In the late sixties an outsize age cohort, the "baby boomers," conceived after a great victory and raised in different social circumstances -- with radically different media -- than their elders, came to maturity. Disgusted with the foreign policy of the Establishment, they gathered around a candidate, Eugene McCarthy, who dared to offer himself in the primaries as an alternative to the powerful machine. Many of those youth, myself included to some degree, played Establishment politics and went "clean for Gene," worked for his victory in the primaries. McCarthy even won the primary in my state. But primaries at the time -- such as even existed -- were "non-binding" and the delegates went for the annointed successor (and perceived turncoat) Humphrey. Okay, we knew that going in, but the result was the same: the Establishment "stole the nomination."
Thousands of demonstrators converged on the convention in Chicago: any chance it could be non-violent was dashed by heavy-handed tactics of the Chicago police force. The streets were filled with running battles. The smell of tear gas penetrated even into the heavily guarded confines of the convention arena. "This is a disgrace," said Senator Abraham Ribicoff of New York, "we should adjourn this convention and reconvene it somewhere else." Mayor Daley of Chicago, who had pulled so many strings to get this convention in his city and made so many provisions to stop the outpouring of rage now occuring on his streets, gestured and shouted at Ribicoff, his face as contorted with hatred as any Basij. The Establishment media said he was too far away for even their boom mikes to pick up his words. The Movement kindly remedied this defect and took a tape of the incident to a school for the deaf to be lip-read. "Go back where you came from, you kike m...f...!"
ANTISTROPHE: This was the nomination, not the election. In the upshot the Democrat Establishment won the battle but lost the war: the Republican Nixon won the Presidency. And for all our screaming about "police brutality" no live ammunition was fired at Chicago and nobody died. Eight of the "leaders" of this amorphous outpouring were arrested and duly tried in open court with the press in full attendance. They had their full measure of legal rights and were convicted mostly of lesser offenses and given relatively short sentences. Nixon was a law-and-order man and the demonstrations at Chicago angered him as much as any Humphrey Democrat. He convened a presidential commission -- there were many more, for many reasons, in later years -- to study why it happened. The verdict of the commission -- ignored by Nixon but given full play in the media -- was that this was " a police riot."
I didn't go to Chicago. Fortunately or unfortunately I attended a meeting where Jerry Rubin (one of the eventual Chicago 8, and if you say to me "don't you mean 7?" then you need to study a little more history) was speaking as a sort of recruiter. His behavior and words disgusted me. Why this was so is a long and ultimately pointless backstory, but I was revolted. This was a man, I thought, who was willing to sacrifice others on a whim, a man with a hidden agenda and a hidden source of income. Parenthetically, I turned out to be right on all counts. What I knew at the time was that I was not going anywhere near anyplace this man wanted me to go. But you should not read my contempt for one of the "leaders" as any sort of slur on the idealism and courage of most of the participants.
STROPHE: One thing we never really came to terms with in the sixties was our isolation from the rest of the country. The "Movement" developed in urban (read "university") settings and spent too much time talking to itself. Combined with the system of draft deferments this led to the obscene situation of the privileged sons of the middle class hurling epithets (or worse) at the sons of the working class, who were the ones actually facing the dangers and hard choices -- and in the name of a basically Marxist ideology to boot. Is a similar split at work in Iran? Are the visible marchers in the cities this out of touch with the countryside? What motivates the Basij? What are they thinking, if they're thinking at all? And what is the one thought more frightening than that Mahmoud Ahmedinajad stole the election? That Mahmoud Ahmedinajad did not steal the election.
ANTISTROPHE: Those far from the political center tend to come up with reasons why their truths aren't self-evident to everybody else. On the extreme (or more precisely, Jew-hating) Right one often comes upon the word "Cryptocracy," the hidden "real" power wielders and deciders behind the puppets and window-dressing of the visible government. The Left has their own versions of this concept. But like so much political name-calling, it's projective: the most powerful Jew-hater government in the world today is that of Iran, and for all the uproar over the presidential election the real power is held by the "Supreme Leader," the "Guardian Council" and other such shadowy bodies, not to speak of the Revolutionary Guards, a state-within-a-state whose closest analog is the SS of Nazi Germany.
Should Mr. Moussavi (God grant it) ever somehow be elevated to the Iranian presidency, why does anyone think he would be more effective than Mohammed Khatami?
IRREVERENT OUTBURST FROM THE AUDIENCE: Mr. Obama, is the reason you are so reluctant to condemn the electoral outrages of the Iranian government (like 4 million paper ballots being counted by hand in three hours) because, as a Chicago Democrat, you or at any rate your Party has often been the perpetrator of such gross irregularities?
EPILOG: The sixties Left was atheist to agnostic, with political radicalism increasing in lockstep with theological atheism. At one point in the Iranian protests, the demonstrators took to their roofs at night to cry "God is great!" Across cultural and confessional divides I agree with them. God is great, and He will make ways however unlikely for the accomplishment of His will. Both Christianity and Islam have achieved their present positions in the world against opposition far greater than that now facing the Iranian protests.
But as humans we have been given a knowledge of the right and the command to practice it whether or not God, for whatever incomprehensible reasons, deigns to crown our efforts with success.
--posted 24 June 2009
I swore off bloviating in this column a while back, but I'm going to have to break my resolution for once. The occasion is the sixty-fifth anniversary of D-Day. I consider I've got as much right as anybody that wasn't actually there. I had an uncle who went over, not on the first day but very soon afterwards. I have another uncle who was in the Merchant Marine when the U-boats were playing "Battleship" with our Liberty ships. I had another uncle that I never knew because he died at the Battle of the Bulge. Meanwhile, my father was in the Phillippines slated for the second wave of the invasion of Japan, an operation whose casualties, in the estimation of the military planners, would exceed those of Normandy.
That invasion never happened, of course, because the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki compelled the Japanese to surrender. In a very real sense I owe my life to nuclear power and have continued to support it in both its military and electric-power variations even in my sixties-radical days.
So commemorate the occasion, honor the sacrifice,televise the ceremonies, give some surviving warriors their (richly deserved) 15 seconds on the Tube, and let the most eloquent president since Ronald Reagan have his say. The fact remains: 65 years later we are once again facing fanatical goose-stepping East Asians and Jew-haters with funny facial hair.
But is our government and that president's Party recognizing the obvious? No, they seem to be concentrating on shutting down the POW camp while the war is still in progress. I want to be fair here. Nobody is talking about letting the inmates of Guantanamo (the Uighurs excepted, but they're a special case) go. Ever. But shipping them to US jails is going to spread the knowledge of how to make IEDs and the like to a wider prison population, and that knowledge is going to get out. Does anyone doubt that there are men in our cities violent, desperate and drug-funded enough to put it to use? Is this whole government asleep at the switch?
As to what is going or went on at Gitmo, my thoughts are these: the Geneva Conventions and anti-torture protocols are agreements between governments -- I won't do this to your citizens and you won't do it to mine. But we are at war with a non-State entity. These men have put their religion, however twistedly conceived, so far above their "nationality" that their home country or town has been reduced to the status of a Mafia nickname, e.g., Ibrahim al-Masri = "Abe the Egyptian." And every method of their warfare is a direct violation of those international accords.
They have sworn allegiance, not to a State, but to Osama bin Laden. Eighty years into our national fascination with superheroes, we have a super-villain on our hands; an evil genius with the eldritch power to get people to blow themselves up for his blood-soaked plans. So as far as I'm concerned: we may, in the interest of preserving our own humanity, choose not to use these methods. In the complex balancing of long and short-term advantage, military and civilian goals, which is of the very warp and woof of counterinsurgency, we may also choose to forbear. But we retain the RIGHT to use any and all methods against such people in any circumstances whatsoever!
And did any of you notice the anniversary, two days before, that that eloquent president did NOT commemorate, or even mention? The anniversary of one of the worst single human-rights violations of the past quarter-century? I'm talking (as he wouldn't) about the twentieth anniversary of the Tienanmen Square massacre. The reason is obvious: Solomon knew it three thousand years ago. "The borrower is slave to the lender."
Let's back up here, way back. The first absolute necessity for any ongoing human association, from a hobby club to an entire culture, is to recruit, socialize and train the next generation of membership. Any group neglecting this will go the way of the Shakers. The second absolute necessity is to not, at least in the long term, spend more than you take in. These are the imperatives, the fundamentals: everything else, for that long term, is gravy. And by this standard modern Western culture is a failure. Europe is failing most spectacularly at the first; we in America at the second. But each is failing at both.
Islam, on the contrary, is not failing. Don't tell me all their shortcomings, or preach the advantages of Western culture. Even if you're a flaming pc-nik, I'll agree with virtually everything you say. But at this level...it doesn't matter.
--posted 8 June 2009
It was held, improbably but how else in this 21st century, in a room at the top of an old building at the community college. A proposition, a discreet suggestion that an institution in their position could not be seen to be privileging one religion over another, a tacit nondiscussion of academic credentials, above all an additional source of revenue in these even for the state-employed desperate times from an unloved room in an underutilized building in an empty time slot; and in fullness of time it appeared in the semester brochure as Wicca Somenumberorother. A course? Of course, a course, high Mingdom for a course, and no one can curse at a course, you horse. A measure of Progress (questionmark not allowed): instant social accreditation where a previous age would have reached for the Maleus Maleficarum.
The instigator of the project and teacher thereof was a heavyset woman in her mid-forties, strawberry blonde with shoulderlength curls and smooth plump fingers that might perhaps have been considered sexy in a twentyyearold. She spent her days behind a sign reading Psychic Reader and Advisor. Now she looked out over her class in the witching hour of the evening, an unlikely combination of NWO Lumpenproletarierin couch potato and a surprisingly effective attempt by Don Juan Matus to impersonate a female.
Her face wrinkled in distaste, for there, sitting in the back row in her assembly, specifically held to twelve to make with her the thirteen of the coven, were two males. She had protested, she had fumed, she had even muttered an incantation or two when backs were turned, but the nonprivileging arguments that had gotten her the room in the first place had made refusal impossible.
The two saw it, but interpreted it as a mystic-warrior challenge. They stroked their Hot Topic corporate-image-of-halloween-evil clothing. Bring it on, dude! They were one part biker-graphics demonology, one part heavy metal wizard wannabe, one part almost normal youthful lust to score some occult pussy.
In this last they were bound to be disappointed. The female portion of the class was roughly evenly divided between Sapphics, earnest naïves from the Isles of the Ugly, and pc suppressed-anger bots, colder than Nancy Pelosi's tit, Chiang Ching with liquid nitrogen coursing her veins. There was of course some overlap.
We are not here to deal with books, but Practicum, said Beetlegrub, and twelve heads came up, twentyfour eyes focused, onehundredtwenty fingers ceased their idle movements.
Once, long ago, when Doesnotcurandera had a name which named her innerly instead of being mere shorthand for a Number on external documents, when her younggirlness still took her external appetites and burned them up within a thin body, there was a priest. Fingers where they should not be and a rod which was more worshipful to him than the dead wood around his neck, and yet there had been no dark annihilating transcendence and afterwards no strong conqueror's joy in having possessed, but only craven injunctions to keep silence, as if a young striver in the forbidden and grasper for the status of womanhood would ever willingly reveal such to anyone. But it had come out anyway, somehow, and the priest had gotten in a great deal of trouble and been sent away. Unfair, she knew, for she was the one who had wanted and initiated and done such as to make refusal impossible, but he was guilty of cowardice and of poor performance, for even at twelve she knew that there must be far more: so she stayed silent as she had been bid, with full adult realization of the irony.
But she had given her all-she-was to receive all-there-could-be, and not only not received it but been taken for so much less. It would not happen again. So she sought the means of control, to remain mistress throughout even as a rider carried by a powerful horse. And to all she found the response of all she knew was, Evil, Nonsense, Occult. Very well. Let it be. Nittimur in vetitum. Her course was set.
Few constructions of mankind could be drier than "political correctness," the academic/bureaucratic/managerial Orthodoxy. Distinguished by refusal to make distinctions, accepting everything that could possibly be accepted and even a few things that couldn't, exposing all with equality and equanimity to the fluorescent light of Reason, it yet had a fatal flaw: as below, so above. Warding away hate from everything that could be considered devil, it cut off love from anything that could be considered God. Denying that anything was Wrong, it forfeited its claim to be honored as Right. It did not and could not satisfy. The spores settled insensibly into the cracks.
Below was hot and wet and overripe, a realm of blood, of secretions and emissions and religious enthusiasms, all the passions for which the established order had built a garden and said, Bloom here for our refreshment. And the passions had answered in the language of deed, We will grow everywhere or nowhere, and be first or not at all. And the guardians of the surface set up surveillance cameras and Darwin teach-ins and classes in anger management.
The mycelia began to grow.
The chairs had been abandoned. Mescalita's voice was soft and intense, virtually compelling the hearers to come closer even had she not wished it. But she did, fervently. The circle, the circle, for Magick is a circle and we cannot learn Earthmagick supported by and separated by products of industrial design. Her students sat crosslegged on the ground with little more than elbow room between. She spoke, and spores shimmered through the air seeking the cracks in waiting souls.
Woman sought the Unconditional, and was thrown out into the nothing-but-conditional job market and handed formulae for sexual satisfaction like they were Aunt Sylvia's recipe for potato dumplings. The mycelia grew exponentially, and now the Madonna della Strada flushes her baby down the toilet and her more fortunate sister votes for candidates of the servant-and-raper race.
Where were their men to protect these fragile flowers? But protection appeared to have become an evolutionary liability. The young men seemed more like old boys, though they put on a good front, as men have always done. But strip away the pornographic wallpaper and there, still fresh, is the juvenile altar to Red Sonya, warrior woman, seductress and protectress, the Mother Goddess in yet one more disguise: perverse, but no more grotesque than Kali. Did they still throw themselves under the wheels of her cart? Why, metaphorically, yes. And even the alpha males among them, when the great reverse began, went crawling and sniveling back to the government teat instead of standing erect and silent like men and going down with the enterprises whose captains they were.
One of them died and his testicles were autopsied. The mycelium had reached even that far.
But the metalheads were gone, sensing better pickings at a Goth concert. They had made lame excuses which Remotejockey barely honored with an indication that she had heard. Two of the Sapphics cellphoned their partners to make up the number. The Rite continued.
One more thing the mushroom needs: wind to blow the spores, and the wind is here in physical and metaphorical abundance. It whistles past the boarded up factories, rattles the windows of the abandoned warehouses, moans past the shuttered businesses appearing now here now there until the social commerce of the city thins like osteoporitic bone. Row after row of the bygone massive hangars of heavy industry bulldozed for tract housing and now in these times of collapse not even that, with the administrative tower that housed the company's brains and paperwork converted to mini offices with pictures and perhaps artifacts of the Heroic Age decorating the corridor walls while outside remains not a trace of what had been. But if those men were Heroes what then are we?
Can you turn up the lights, asked an earnest Uglybetty type, it's too dark to take notes.
A withering look from Springeroid. For there are things not to be brought forth in the light; not tricks, but nonordinary realities dependent for their creation on a blending of wills and deriving their energy from shared credence and indeed even the Unnamed One could do no mighty deed in his home town because of their unbelief. No light required here but all varieties of More, Italian shatterthewineglass operaticism, Teutonic Nacht und Nebel indeterminacy, and best of all Keltic wordmagic, the two-adjectives-a-penny Mr. Mojo Rising does the moondance at the rising of the moon and what rough beast slouches toward Cwmdonkin Street to be yes she said yes I will yes
Must be the season of the witch.
Now, three marriages and two kids he never saw later, he had finally found what he hoped was lasting happiness, and this job to support it. Yes, it was menial Stepin Fetchit work, the kind he would have turned down without a second thought as a teenager, but now it looked pretty good. And it was for sort-of-Government, which meant he didn't have to worry so much about being replaced by labor-contractor illegal Mexicans. Now if only he could pound some sense into that young son of his' head. Damn fool, talking about running with those gang-bangers. God knew what he was doing now. Needed his father there to ride herd on stuff, but what's a man supposed to do?
And now he had another floor to work because those other damn fools, the ones he worked for, had gone and rented it out to those ladies. It was all very well to try and make more money but they never thought about what they were piling on their workers or what they were going to have to pay to keep things clean. Supposedly fancy intellects but they were as real-world dumb as any other boss he'd ever worked for.
He wrestled the cart into the elevator and came out on the last floor. Still noise coming from the room and they ought to be wrapping it up around now, he thought. Just got to give them a gentle reminder about the time.
He cracked open the door to no academic scene that he could have ever imagined. A sliver of raw bulb electric light from the hall fell over bare white flesh, a young breast, an engorged nipple. Clapping and stomping formed a sort of weird rhythm. He glimpsed bodies turning in the in the semidarkness beyond the shaft of light. A unison chant assailed his ears.
He comes! The Dark One!
The oldest Klan fear/hate fantasy with good and evil reversed. A whiff of something vaguely vegetative, more than vaguely wrong, but he couldn't place it although he'd spent five years as a garbageman. What was going on?
Baphomet! Azeroth! Pseudobabylonian names for the Nameless One. Pronounced in tones of awe but there were more fearful-sounding names in the Manhattan telephone directory.
I'm too old for this, he thought.
Nevertheless he felt something almost like an invisible force drawing him in.
to be continued
--posted 28 April 2009
I had just finished repairing my kitchen, and was about to write something self-congratulatory on the sixth anniversary of this website, when I noticed the following message from Ali on my computer (if you don't know who Ali is, start here.) I print it, as always, exactly as received
--posted 29 March 2009
Hullo! 'Tis sorry I am to break into the tale of a friend, but did ye think that a true Leprechaun, and one dyed in the County Kerry wool, would let this day pass without a greetin'? Now we Leprechauns live a very long time, an' have learned summat in those years; an' by yer leave I'll share it with ye, for 'tis good cheer and brief besides. Imprimis, keep your spirits higher than your bank balance, whatsoe'er it be; and second, remember that good uisgebaugh will git ye through times of no money better than good money will git ye through times of no uisgebaugh. I had the misfortune to visit your country siv'ral times in the 1920's and could provide abundant evidence fer what I say.
Happy Saint Patrick's Day and better times to ye all! And now I'll return ye to what ye came to read.
Seamus McTeague O'Flaherty
THE ECONOMY has been so much in the news lately that it even weighs on the minds of those who aren't directly affected by it --so far. But it's humbling yet somehow heartwarming to think that Ali (if you don't know who Ali is, start here) felt it necessary to give me a pep talk. A lesson for us all: everybody has their problems and even the most insignificant and unlikely can tell us something we need to know. This message is printed, as always, exactly as received.
--posted 3 March 2009
I CONFESS to feeling somewhat down of late: it's the news, and probably the weather. Snow at Christmastime is wonderful and romantic, but afterwards it's just a pain in the #$%^&! And we haven't experienced cold like this in quite some time, although this would go down as just a standard winter (a bit on the mild side actually) in my boyhood. So I really did not expect Ali (if you don't know who Ali is, start here) to come out with a lesson in "cockroachonomics." But read for yourself. Everything is printed, as always, exactly as received.
--posted 5 February 2009
THOSE OF YOU who've followed this page over the years (don't all three of you get up and wave at once!) know that around Christmastime I like to print a little essay reflective on the year and season. I haven't given up the tradition, but when I get messages from disgruntled arthropods, I feel they have to take precedence. I mean, nobody ever asked me if I wanted to be their bulletin board but who else do they have?(if you don't know what I'm talking about, start here).
But on to the business at hand, and the first news is, BOYCOTTS WORK! Remember Target last year refusing to mention the word "Christmas?" It was all "holiday" this and "holiday" that. A lot of Christians - myself included - got very upset at this and did their shopping elsewhere. Target's fourth quarter earnings were a good deal below expectation. This year, faced with the impending economic meltdown, they used "Christmas" in their catalogs, their ads, their stores: and all the highfalutin rhetoric about "tolerance" and "diversity" turned out to be so much Multikultigesäusel. Keep it up, guys!
But we could win the battle and lose the war. Christmas has always been a mixture of the sacred and the secular - one reason puritans have always hated it - standing together unnaturally but unforced with the innocence of children. But some of the latest songs, like musical Dawkinses, don't merely ignore the sacred but blatantly exclude it altogether. In psychic self-defense I compose parodies of the most egregious and/or annoying:
Still, negativity only goes so far (and not very!) Do what you can where you are, is my motto: and this year I made a toddler's rocking horse for the new grandson while my wife knit ponchos for the granddaughters. This may sound like my family life is a combination of The Waltons and South German Gemütlichkeit. I could wish. But rest assured, dear Reader, that whatever shortcomings may be you will never be burdened with their recital. I will warn you, however, that I am something of a sentimentalist regarding handmade stuff. I believe that love can be infused into the project and perceived by the recipient. And both my wife and I know from personal experience from what an early age the memory of a toy (handmade or not) can endure. When I was very young I had a pedal car - green, I think, although I may be conflating that with the Nash my father bought later. That car still shows up occasionally in my dreams. Usually I'm pedaling it down the expressway and frustrated by the fact that no matter how hard I pedal I can never go fast enough.
Do you think my dream is telling me something about the nature of modern society?
As to Barack Obama, I'll say only: more media hypocrisy. Their mantra
throughout the campaign was, "It's not about race!" but the
coverage for the entire week leading up to the
What is clear is that the people of this country are still so conflicted about the Vietnam War that they have shown, for a third and presumably last time, that they will not have anyone involved with the actual fighting of it to be President.
And speaking of economic meltdowns I'm furious. This could be the last nail in the coffin of sound money in this country. These Congressional sessions on bailouts - chaired on the House side by a man (?) whose presence in that chamber is a standing affront to the United States - remind me of nothing so much as a parliamentary meeting of foxes attempting to deal with a dire shortage of chickens. Couldn't anybody see this coming? But S&P's risk-assessment computer programs wouldn't even allow negative numbers to be entered for house-value projections!
This is a tale of arrogance, cowardice, and above all of "me and my group's interests" above those of the Nation. The only modern writer who could even begin to describe the sleazy sick pettiness of it all is Ayn Rand. Bernie Madoff is accused of running the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, but this bunch makes him look like a street-corner three-card-monte con man. What should be done with them all? Any sidewalk portrait artist could tell you: put some up against the wall and hang the rest.
I close with an expression of support for Israel in Gaza. I do so reluctantly, for I'm no expert. But some of you, no more expert than I, have taken a contrary position which, no matter how sincere, I find profoundly immoral in its effect. Need I remind anyone that this invasion was started by Hamas firing rockets into Israeli cities? There is not a government in the West (and I can't see China putting up with it in the East either) that would tolerate this kind of thing. And if Hamas chooses to hide their arms, rockets, and führerbunkers beneath schools and hospitals, just who is at fault when those "civilian targets" are hit?
But the response is disproportionate, scream blind ethnomasochist bleeding hearts. Of course it's disproportionate. It has to be. Reasonable men can be persuaded (or intimidated) by reasonable means. Fanatics bent on destruction have to be brought to the point of it themselves before they'll do so much as listen. And do I have to point out that a modern democracy making its own way in this world cannot endure the levels of chaos and violence that are sadly only normal in gun-ruled behavioral sinks subsisting on welfare, remittances, and nefarious outside forces? I'm talking about the Gaza strip. But that description also applies to our inner cities.
We are once more facing Jew-haters of profound spiritual uncleanliness with funny facial hair. Have we forgotten everything in the past 64 years? Because whatever venom is spewed at Israel, make no mistake: the ultimate target, now as then, is us.
Benjamin Netanyahu said it best:
--posted 20 January 2009
While checking my email I found this one, another unknown which, so far as I can tell by the address, comes from the motel where Ali had been staying (if you don't know who Ali is, start here). It surely has to qualify as the strangest email I have ever received in a long career of receiving and sending such. Unlike all other communications of this type I have edited it: I have broken a solid mass of text into paragraphs as a mercy to you the reader. Otherwise, it is unchanged.
--posted 07 January 2009
Christmas is a birthday (did it take last year's boycott and this year's unravelling of Credit Anstalt II to make you realize that, Target?) but it's also a deadline, and in the middle of our usual Christmas Eve rush I got careless and went to bed without turning the computer off. Imagine my surprise to find a message from Ali on Christmas morning (if you don't know who Ali is, start here). It's good to have him back (I think) but I fear he has plans for my newspaper come Inauguration Day. I print it, as always, exactly as received.
--posted 25 December 2008
I was checking the email when I found this, another unknown address with a message from Ali (if you don't know who Ali is, start here). It's frustrating not being able to write back, or even to know where he is. I'm glad he's alive, but I'm starting to wonder about the drinking water where he's living. I print it, as always, exactly as received.
--posted 17 November 2008
I'd planned to stay up and watch all the election results come in, but what the heck, I'm getting old, today was a workday and tomorrow is another one; so as my eyelids started to involuntarily close I figured that the country could get on the right path/go to hell without me and went to check the email one last time before I went to bed. That's when I found this, another message from Ali (If you don't know who Ali is start here) As with the previous one I cannot speak for its provenance but print it, as always, exactly as received.
--posted 4 November 2008
While checking my email last night, I came on one from an unknown address. I usually delete such, but figured that even a Russian botmeister skyed on the best Moscow moonshine was unlikely to use "this is ali" as a subject line. (If you don't know who Ali is, start here) I have no way of verifying this message, but it may well be true, as my newspaper has been uncommonly clean of late. I print it, as always, exactly as received.
--posted 20 October 2008
No, wait, that was not part of the dream, it was a conscious
His eyes saw, ears heard, nostrils received hints of something in the cool air, but he was acutely conscious that he lacked the senses to perceive what was most important in this strange world, senses its inhabitants possessed in full. But like a blind man, he was not without sensory workarounds. He reached out with a hand that was no hand to feel the no-textures on the not-wall, and turned toward an energy that was not-light, not-heat. A great longing rose within him. But it is not of me, he thought, and therefore a perception of "outside."
There, below and to the front of the right shoulder. Axis of rotation for the next x minutes established. The still small voice confirmed it. Who wrote the Book of Love? But he could read the Braille of emotions.
The Muse sat curled up on his bed, forehead against her knees, naked or wearing something so thin and filmy she might as well be. She was much more thin and waiflike than at their last meeting. Her red hair was bobbed and akimbo. She glanced at him sideways through a green, almost animé-large eye.
"You don't love me anymore."
I'm too old for this, he thought. He should have a more mature fantasy by now, and have traded her in with the car three vehicles ago. But he hadn't. Because long ago, in the Firsttimes of youth, she had come to him and kissed his forehead and shown him new worlds when mortal girls would only show him the door.
So what should he do? Get down on one knee and beg and explain? That had never worked long-term with earthly lovers, even with young blood on his side.
It was time for decisiveness. He was no Robert Frost or Carl Sandburg, and never would be. Cry "Out of my bed, bitch!" and be done with it. But he wasn't ready to move to the coasts of Philistia yet. Not that he lived that far away as it stood. He had all the bad air, most of the high rent, and none of the ocean view.
Maybe he should just scoop her up in his arms, and watch her evaporate smokelike and laughing, but not before she had made it clear that without her goddess-consent he could not do what he wished.
He who hesitates is lost. She vanished on her own, and the room, or no-room, with her. He stood alone and immobile, listening to a particularly annoying commercial repeat itself over and over, in the temple of Dagon.
It's the judgement of God.
Get lost, old parrot, I know this joke.
Old parrot, am I? Your generation has a few things to relearn. Down on your knees and beg forgiveness, blasphemer!
If I do, you'll hear some groans not exactly consistent with your self-image of benevolent Designer when I get up. And what could I do to merit forgiveness from an outdated meme and figment of my imagination?
A little faith would be nice. Why are you so opposed to even the outward forms of it?
Because to do otherwise would lose me the respect of my academic peers, followed in short order by my job, and that would cost me the rest of my friends. I would have no one but a group of people for which neither I nor anyone I know feels anything but the deepest contempt. Even now, my kids despise me under my own roof and ignore me when they get out on their own, and my wife has so much of her own professional pressures and personal parameters that changing anything takes hours if not days of discussions.
In short, everybody is acting as if there were no afterlife.
Well, if you must put it that way But don't you see, I'm walking on a razor blade toward proximate destruction, because if I move a millimeter either way I'll fall off into immediate destruction.
And so how do you evaluate this path which you yourself have chosen?
It's the judgement of God.
What goes up must come down. Buy land, they're not making it anymore. Wisdom is assumed to be One, but these two proverbs dueled, irreconcilable, immiscible as oil and water. Indeed. For with skill and energy one can mix oil and water, but the resultant will neither slake thirst nor lubricate machinery, so why bother? The talking heads were at it again on the TV, and once more it was the economy, stupid. Or was it the stupid economy? But whatever weight one gave or didn't give to the bursting of the real-estate bubble, how was it possible to say that the fundamentals of the economy were sound when the balance sheet of imports to exports was so drastically out of whack? And that was before the feces hit the electric ventilator.
And who was talking about it? Nobody. He wasn't surprised. Nightmare scenario: it is the year 2012, end of the Kurzweilian Long Count and arrival of the Maya Singularity. China moves to take over Taiwan, and tells the U.S. Government, Do anything about it and we'll dump all your paper on the global market. Because there was another proverb at work here, The borrower is slave to the lender.
But the nightmare, the bubble-burst, the trade deficit, the anthropogenic melting of the ice sheets, even the autoimmolation of a once-great culture in an orgy of sensuality and ethnomasochism, all harked back to another, the ur-proverb:
There is no free lunch.
Ulysses, though, was shipwrecked, in waters from which even the sharks had been driven by the yet more voracious lawyers. His hands were far too busy to eat lunch, even if he'd had his money and someone to buy it from. He reached for any flotsam that would help him stay afloat: an apt quotation, a story of a noble deed now as divorced from "context" as the planks of his ship. Troubles doublin' and the rose was off the Bloom no call for rejoyceing here. A man never at a loss should be doing better than this
Sunrise in Hell. The cool mists of Venus. Truth and depth on the television. A bright light attacked his eyes. It was:
a. the headlamps of the Phaiacian Coast Guard, here to pluck him from the water, toss him in the Gulag, ship him unceremoniously back to someplace he'd risked his life to escape, and end their day with a hymn to Hellenic eleuthería.
b. the sun climbing over the debris piled on his windowsill. He'd overslept again.
Either way damn
--posted 21 September 2008