"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
Smoke & Mirrors 9/22/10
April Foolishness 3/19/10
News from Seamus 11/14/09
Requiescat in Pace 10/06/09
Wassup? 8/26/09
Iran 6/24/09
The Roach from AIG 3/29/09
Ali Cheers Me Up 3/3/09
Cockroachonomics 2/5/09
New Years Thoughts
1/20/09
War Then and Now 6/8/09
The School for Witches 4/28/09
Thousandlegger Speaks 01/07/09
Ali Home for Christmas 12/25/08
Ali Dreams a Dream 11/17/08
Ali Casts his Vote! 11/04/08
Ali Hits the Road 10/20/08
Hallucination #3 09.21/08


SMOKE AND MIRRORS

HE LAY IN BED, not fully awake but conscious beyond any hope that this was the start of another dream. 3:00, said the LED’s 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 don’t 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 horse’s neck and tell himself that he was not looking for love but wouldn’t 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 didn’t really know? Besides, committing himself as interested – to a pool formed exclusively of women who’d 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 General’s Report of the 1960’s. 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 couldn’t stand?

After all, it hadn’t 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 who’d 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 he’d been part for a few years.

But then he’d gotten involved with a smoker, and though he’d managed to work around most of the difficulties, it was one of the reasons – and even the most creditable – why he hadn’t 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 couldn’t 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 wasn’t 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 other’s 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 wasn’t 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 couldn’t see anybody he knew in the bloodless academic dissection of personality attributes. Maybe he didn’t 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 you’re fighting Morpheus all day...

--posted 22 September 2010
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A BIT of FOOLERY
(perhaps not quite so foolish)


PRIL IS THE CRUELEST month, wrote T. S. Elliot, but the public-school system has not been kind to him for the next generations of readers, and he begins to seem as dated as he actually is. Name like a stockbrokerage or accounting firm, soundbiteable verses rare and all overused, choice of month, despite a semi-soundbited poetic “explanation,” as arbitrary as a random number or IRS ruling. For clearly the cruelest month is February, and especially this year: the sky whispering Spring but the ground smothered in snow and all White-Christmas Gemütlichkeit long ago packed away with great-grandmother’s Old Country centerpiece or thrown out with the tree. A recipient of pc honoraria unloved and disrespected by all not within the charmed circle and even some who are, birthmonth of Presidents smart enough to get conceived in the more congenial climes of May and June, and finally repository of St. Valentine’s Day, put forth as a celebration of love but gaining its commercial traction from such things as cards and chocolates instead of more theme-appropriate offerings like condoms and sexy lingerie and rental of hotel suites with monstrous beds and ornate Jacuzzis and mirrored ceilings.

But at least the language of Love, like Spring, is in the air, and it warms the poet’s heart. Our lovers and sweethearts stand with Earth’s 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 group’s 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 didn’t 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 didn’t 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 night’s 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 it’s all rhetorical – an academic Establishment demanding social security numbers from incoming students will never even see it as a problem to be investigated. So you’re stuck with us poets, buckaroo. And I’ll 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 there’s far more journalists than poets and the truth of poetry is usually the lie of journalism.

 

--posted 19 March 2010
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NEWS from SEAMUS!

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.

Well hullo!

Sure an' 'tis meself agin, Seamus McTeaugue O'Flaherty, leprechaun, County Kerry born an' late o' that jewel o' the seas, second only to the Blessed Isles themselves, Ireland so-called and Erin by name. An' ye'll wonder not at my patriotic effusions, seein' as the loudest praises o' the Ould Sod were ever sung by the diaspora.

An' we'll be needin' no further introductions, for sure we've had much communication previous, though never face to face -- an' I'll thank ye not to take that amiss, for 'tis well known we appear only to those o' the Irish blood, an' that commonly only after they've imbibed deeply o' the uisgebaugh. But ah, could ye have seen me stretchin' me arms acrost your keyboard like the manuals of a great cathedral organ, or belike dancin' a jig upon the keys when me arms grew tired, 'twould have brought sich a smile to your face as it has not known o' late.

Which brings me to the purpose of me visit, which is consolation: for aye, the news o' your loss has spread even to the Little People, for we honor ye as one of the few who will let us speak our own peace in our own way. Sure an't should be but common courtesy to allow a soul a few short words, tho' I whist our kinds entertain differin' notions concernin' brevity, but for all that we've had an eye upon ye, if ye will, an' knew o' your loss almost as it happened. But I tarried, for I had yet one more piece o' bad news for ye, an' I waited till ye were strong enough to bear it. An' the long an' short of it is this: your friend the cockroach is dead.

Now this was the way of it: ye know of course that he'd set his cap, or turban or whatever it was he wore, for the little silverfish, an' if he spoke much o' her to you, 'twas not the third o' what he said to me. So it came upon a day that she returned to her dwellin', an' opened the door for him, an' I looked for an' found them some days later, dead an' -- how shall I say this delicately? -- still conj'ined. Aye, and just so we buried them, for even in death they could not be separated. Some loves, it seems, were not meant to be, an' hearts an' bodies join each by their separate rules.

Abundant strange it is, that that which we run to is ever that which does us in, but sich is this world. An' I could think the little heathen died with a smile upon his lips, but of course he had no lips atall an' as fer smilin' with what he did have, why, 'tis not to be thought of.

Yet I can find it in me heart to envy him, an' you too, sir, beggin' your pardon, for ye know where your wife is, an' ye'll be j'inin' her, not that I'd even say anything to hasten the journey, ye understand, in what for a leprechaun is an ungodly short time.

Now ye'll have noticed that in all representations o' us leprechauns, leastwise those seekin' to portray us approximately as we are, that we come forth as plump and bearded little men. An' so in truth we be: but once, long ago upon a time, there were lady leprechauns, our wives, an' though they had not the beauty nor aye the lustiness o' your human females, yet more affectionate an' long-sufferin' helpmeets could not be imagined, nay, not even by one whose imagination soared like a great ship upon the Water o' Life; fer that, an' ye knew it not, is the meanin' o' uisgebaugh in your Sassenach tongue.

Now the way we lost 'em was this: as I say, long long ago, when King Brian Boru's grandsire himself was but a gleam in his father's eye, when within the memory o' livin' men great Julius Caesar touched foot upon the shore o' Britain, found the local girls not to his liking, an' gave orders to come home -- then, in that time, was called a great meetin' an' conference an' congregation an' palaver o' all us leprechauns, an' the divinest brews were brought from all corners o' the island. Our mugs were never empty, nor did our pipes cease from fumin', an' the fiddles, aye, the fiddles would have called forth a smile from the face o' Melancholy herself. An' we drank an' smoked an' danced the jig an' told tall tales an' quite forgot our ladies, an' had sich a roarin' good time that even now none o' us can remember more than bits an' pieces of it. An' when we sobered up three days later, the leprechaun wives were all gone.

Well, all the joy was at once turned to sorrow an' sheepishness, an' we slunk home like Padraic McGillicuddy's dog with his tail between his legs, expectin' a royal verbal beatin' about the ears when we arrived. But they were not at home, nor next door, and not in the next town neither. An' we've found them not, though we've searched in everyplace we went, which is everywhere the Irish have gone.

So ye see, sir, that it could be far worse for you. An' now I must tell ye further that I'll be leavin' meself. Nay, not for the Blessed Isles, saints presarve us! but merely for Ireland, for 'tis gotten uncommonly lonely here o' late. Even the little colleen next door, why, she's growin' fast an' thinks only o' friends an' school. I passed right in front o' her the other day an' she failed to see me, an' in a few years she'll have eyes for naught but the boys, an' then I could cudgel her about the head with me shilleilagh (not that I'd do any sich thing, ye understand) an' she'd feel it not.

So I'm off to Ireland, for as even one of your own poets has said, an' what sort of Irishman would not love a poet, home is where, when ye go there, they have to take ye in. But I'd be leavin' ye summat afore I go. Not gold, fer gold is a miraculous help in time o' need, an' a boon companion in joy, but a cold comforter in sorrow. Nay, but we leprechauns have another thing in abundance -- luck. An' I tell ye, I've left a fair amount o' it in this house already, which of course ye can't see now, but when the sadness fades, then ye will. An' I'll leave yet more, an' when ye come upon it ye'll of course thank the Lord God, which is only proper an' fittin', for look ye, who d'ye think gave it to us leprechauns to free-gift it where we would? an' then ye'll think on Seamus acrost the sea, an' me heart will be glad within me.

Now I'm off, with a song on me lips, a blessin' in me heart, an' a flask o' me last distillin' in me back pocket. Long life an' health an healin' to ye, an' to all who shall read this when ye put it upon your website, the which ye'll do sure as my name is Seamus McTeague O'Flaherty. Sláinte!

 

--posted 14 November 2009
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REQUIESCAT IN PACE

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).

When you were born, all around you were laughing
Only you were crying.
Live your life so, that when your time comes to die
Everyone around you is crying
And you are the only one without a tear to shed!
Then you can calmly face death, whenever it comes.
--posted 6 October 2009
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WASSUP?

"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
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IRAN

"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
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WAR THEN AND NOW

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.

Suggestions, anyone?

 
--posted 8 June 2009
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THE SCHOOL FOR WITCHES
(with a nod to D.T.)

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.

*****
But how, a voice from fifty years ago might ask, did such a melange of superstition and prerationality enter the halls of Academe, or even community-college Academe Lite? By a gradual and organic process, to be sure, your Narrator would reply, but not one analogizable to photosynthetic plants. Think mushroom. For a mushroom needs little to grow but a reasonably dry surface and moist rottenness beneath.

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.

****
Sam Jones pushed his broom down the corridor of the next-but-one highest floor, pulling the janitorial cart along when it got too far behind. He was a black man in his mid-fifties, which is to say not old, but resigned. His grandfather had been a sharecropper in Alabama and raised fourteen kids in dignity and the fear of the Lord despite overwhelming poverty; his father was a factory worker in Chicago, but what Sam and his five brothers and sisters had to fear growing up was not the Lord but the old man when he'd had one too many. Sam had tried to follow his father into the factories, but they had closed one by one and put him back on the street again.

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…
(si continuum requiris circumspice)

--posted 28 April 2009
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THE ROACH from AIG

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

hello
it is ali the cockroach
i greet you ahlan wa sahlan
i have returned
but not to stay
for a thing has happened to me
which assuredly will make the ears
of all who hear it tingle
and i have come back to tell it
so hear and attend

now when i left your house
i did not want to wander aimlessly
i knew just where i wanted to go
i wanted to go to wall street
all your news media always reported
that things called indices were falling
and everything there was in chaos
well whenever things are falling down so fast
that people cannot keep them picked up
there are usually excellent pickings for cockroaches
so i wanted to go there
and see for myself

but how was i to get there
you might well ask
but i had already asked myself the same
and i had a plan
there is only one thing more dangerous
than a roach with a plan
and that is a human with one
i would hide in the back of your mailbox
and crawl in between the letters you put in
the mailman would pick them up
and i would be inside the post office
then i would find the new york city mail
and i would be off
that was my plan
i still think it was a good one
but allah had other ideas
you did not put any mail out for pickup that day
instead the mailman threw in a bunch of bills
and an old cockroach crawled out
he had had my idea in reverse
and a quite extraordinary tale to tell
for he had been in finance for hundreds of years
both as human and as cockroach
and had just come from a i g

now in the old days he told me
it was quite different than it is now
in the old days
you could run your fingers through coins
through a pile of your own gold coins
this was an amazing feeling for a human
altho a cockroach has nothing to compare it with
when the money became paper
it was still good
it was wonderful to count a stack
of crisp new bills
if you were really flush
you could do things like light a cigar
with a twenty dollar bill
a cockroach can understand the ostentation of this
altho applying heat to toxic gases
in the vicinity of your breathing apparatus
is something only a bombardier beetle can appreciate
then wealth became increasingly measured
in things like stock certificates
this was not so good
you would never light a cigar with a stock certificate
no matter how flush you were
still they were beautifully made papers
with intricate designs engraved around the margin
to foil counterfeiters
i can still remember as a cockroach
eating a hole in one of those fancy borders
and realizing it was from a company
i had formed in my last human incarnation
the thought disturbed me very little
it was a puffball of a company
with no more substance than today s derivatives
but i had gotten out in time
and sold it for five times what it was worth
and yet this memory gave me no pleasure
this should have been a warning to me
a message from god
but i did what most people do with such messages
i marked it return to sender
and forgot about it

i was not so lucky the next time
he continued
i was up to my whazoo in stock investments
then came black friday
and i couldn t make my margin calls
besides which i had a wife a girlfriend and a bank loan
all two months overdue
i decided to end it all
and jumped out the window from the thirteenth floor
now all kinds of predation and parasitism
are allowed in the natural world
and by implication in the economic
but suicide is not
and for punishment i have been sent back
time and again
but always as a cockroach
to companies that are about to fail
i was there when tucker tried to sell his car
he was a good man
i even chewed an extra zero into a financial report
trying to help him out
i was there when packard sold out to studebaker
which turned out to be in worse shape than packard
i was there at ford
when the edsel went down in flames
and at dodge when the last desoto rolled out
i was in the office when stetson hats folded
at the baldwin locomotive works
at the last american plant to make televisions
it was always the same
the people would leave
they would take the records and all the machinery
and i would be alone in a huge empty building
living on stale scraps and staler glue
until i lived out my natural life
or the wrecking ball brought it all down on me
then i would wake up somewhere similar
and it would start again

now all these companies he told me
were good honest businesses
it was just the market was against them
but when i woke up at enron
i thought i was on another planet
these guys were buccaneers
like i had not seen since my days
as a gilded age tycoon
they treated the customers like dirt
they plied their sales force with stimulants
many of doubtful legality
and stocked the place with secretaries
guaranteed to do some stimulating of their own
you would think nothing would get done
but it was brilliant management policy
what a man will not do because of ethics
or of self preservation in the long term
he will do to impress the girls
but the end result was the same
and i had another building to myself
then i woke up at a i g
i really thought it would be different
this was a huge and well respected company
but they started behaving like enron
they brought in a bunch of fancy mathematicians
to cook up the figures for them
i appreciate the complexity of modern times
but i think i did just as well in 1890
on a prospectus i made up out of thin air
with no help but a bellyful of scotland s best
a derivative takes work to get excited over
it is just a figure on a screen
you can t run your fingers through it
you can t crackle it in your hands
it doesn t even have fancy engraving
but lordy how it turned some people on
if the math guys couldn t give them a figure
they threw darts at a dartboard
while full of stimulants
with their other arm around a secretary
i was very sad
because they were ruining another company
because they were piling up debts in the hereafter
and because i was only a cockroach
and couldn't join in the fun

when the collapse came
he continued
it was the kind of thing
that had caused me to jump out the window
but then the government bailed them out
i am still not sure why they did this
perhaps the fact that a i g insures congressional pensions
had something to do with it
you would imagine they would be grateful
and might even think of thanking god
but all it did was feed their egos
we are too important to be allowed to fail
they told themselves
and voted themselves huge bonuses
they figured the politicians would miss it
until the people got outraged
but they figured the outrage would fade
and the people would forgive the politicians
by the next election
and it looks like they were right on all counts
but it was the last straw for me
i have been involved in some shady deals
over these centuries
but this was a whole new level
i crawled into some mail
and got myself sent somewhere
anywhere
so how far away he asked me
am i from new york

i told him i thought
that we were far enough
there were no millionaires in this neighborhood
we were all honest people
except possibly the lawyer next door
and i reccommended for living quarters
that neighbor i know you do not like too much
he seemed overjoyed
You will be hearing from me again
he said
no matter what
and here he dipped his feeler at me
which is the way we cockroaches wink
since we do not have any eyelids
he hurried across the street
but did not look both ways first
and continued his journey in an unexpected direction
affixed to the bottom of a tire

sudden death is no stranger to us roaches
but i thought long and hard
on the judgements of allah
and the impossibility of escaping fate
i would like to think
that the telling of his story released him
and he can move on to a better life
but i am afraid he will wake up again
in another enterprise doomed to fail
the little silverfish still will not see me
so i am off again
but if he gets in touch with me from the white house
i will tell you in time
that you can head for the hills

--posted 29 March 2009
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HAPPY SAINT PATRICK'S DAY!

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
March 17, 2009


ALI TRIES TO CHEER ME UP

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.

hello
this is ali the cockroach again
i am here on a mission of mercy
since god is merciful allah kerim
you are still worried about the economy
i can feel it
we bugs do not have feelers for nothing
you should comfort yourself
allah rewards those who do right
altho it may take a while
this can be proved by experience
and we are not allowed to question it anyway
i will show you what i mean
i have told you about the little silverfish
she is a cutie and a hottie
but she is very shy
she cannot appreciate an interspecies romance
well a couple days ago
a male silverfish showed up
and she was very interested
i wanted to bite his head off
but i restrained myself
i thought about it from her position
she did not want me
and he could give her something i never could
namely little silverminnows
so i swallowed my pride
and even showed him around
now the little silverfish
respected me at least this far
that when i asked her not to eat the bindings
of your really precious books
she agreed not to do it
and only ate the ones you dont like so much
but this new guy would have none of that
he thought i was soft in the head
he even called me a humanlover
which is the vilest name
one insect can call another
and then he went right ahead
and started to munch on your volume of kant
i warned him that stuff was deadly
but he did not listen
he choked on it
and now he is gone
and i did not do it
the little silverfish was very upset
i went to comfort her
and i truly believe something would have happened that night
and that allah approved my forbearance
unfortunately then your cat showed up
and we had to run for cover
unhappily in different directions
so what am i proving question mark
i really do not need any more reasons
to hate your cat
if the prophet had not been partial to cats
i would long since have done something about yours
altho considering our size difference
i am not sure what that would be

and now i must tell you something sad
and perhaps i need mercy from you
i am going away again
after coming so close last night
the little silverfish runs away from me
the only thing she will say is go away
so i am going
it seems that male and female bugs
do not understand each other any better than humans

i will be honest
there is another reason as well
your refrigerator is leaking
now we cockroaches are not waterbugs
altho we are often called that
by people who will not admit they have cockroaches
and we do not like water in our dwellings
on top of that
it is doing a number on your baseboards
you are growing a great crop of mold
and now you have a fungus
now if you want to let your house go to pot
that is strictly your affair
but the fungus sings
all night
off key
in a frequency only cockroaches can hear
and i cannot get any sleep

mycelia lies over the ocean
mycelia lies over the sea
we had fun gus back there in the mush room
oh bring back my coeleotomy

now that i have told you about it
you will probably move your fridge
and rip out all the damage
i would have to clear out for the repairs
so i might as well go now
i will come back inshallah
and tell you what i have seen
and perhaps the little silverfish will miss me by then
so be comforted
and think on the mercies of god
since this lovelorn cockroach cannot see them just now
do not worry about the economy
if worst comes to worst
we will tour the country
as an alternative golden oldies band

its the end of the banks as we know em
got no assets worth roach squat below em
just need more chinese checks to regrow em
and i feel poor


--posted 3 March 2009

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COCKROACHONOMICS 101

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.

hello
it is ali the cockroach
it seems that you need some encouragement
this time last year
you were leaving your computer on every night
and putting choice scraps out for me
hoping i would help you out
and write something about love for valentines day
but now you usually turn it off
some days you do not even turn it on
and you have gotten uncharacteristically neat
now i do not mind so much
although more scraps would be only fair
perhaps you are just getting old
altho i am the one with the short lifespan
but i think what is really bothering you
is the economy

it is not that your times are hard
it is that they bear no relation to the media
you still have a job
and it cannot be outsourced
in fact you are busier than ever
because one of your competitors
has already gone bellyup
your company picked up a lot of their clents
and it costs you less to drive to them
then you hear all this bad news on the tv
and you wonder who is on what planet
but you should not let it get to you
if your media ever mentions us cockroaches
it is as disgusting vermin
with the unparalleled gall
to dispute your ownership of this world
and yet allah created both our species
and furthermore we were here first
by the way this is a proposition
with which evolutionists and creationists
must both agree
but i do not let this upset me
because your treatment of muslims is far worse
according to some of your stations
we are all bloodthirsty fanatics
itching for the chance to become suicide bombers
in reality most of us are quite reasonable
even by your unreasonable standards
so maybe those stations should be bombed
as they are all kaffirs in the pay of the zionists
just kidding

but every cloud has a silver lining
so there should be a way to make money out of this
i am imagining a show
with a busby berkley dance routine
and a chorus of bankers
singing a well known thirties tune
slightly altered

once i built an empire on real estate
and no deal was too big
the house of cards collapsed and i got out too late
obama can you spare a gig

that is gig as in gigabuck
but reading it over
i do not think that i would quit my day job
if i had one

now they say economics is the dismal science
and i will readily believe it
i have eaten a lot of book bindings
in all those lives that you dont believe in
and the economics textbooks were the worst
antennae down
no contest
and while we are on that subject
have you ever noticed
that i have never eaten the binding of your books
this is solely due to my respect for you
but is my forebearance appreciated
question mark
of course not
exclamation point
and besides the silverfish says
that book glue is her special favorite
so i leave them to her
as i have not yet given up all hope

we cockroaches have our own economic system
when times are good
we eat drink and make merry
and have lots of kids
when times are bad
we do not complain
we say goodby and go our separate ways
we tell each other we will keep in touch
and we even mean it at the time
altho we know it is a lie
we do not expect anyone to help us out
we know things go bad if we are so much as noticed
we would never dream of seeking aid from your government
altho there are persons
of no more benefit to you than our humble selves
who have gotten a good portion of it
and even when times are good
we do not let down our guard
because whatever draws bugs
will draw bugmunchers
that is our whole economy
and it has served us well for millions of years
it is not the only insect alternative
ants do it very differently
when times are bad
the queen still gets everything
we cockroaches would never sit still for that
we would tell that queen where to get off
if she did not listen
allons enfants de la patrie

but you humans want it both ways
you want the security of ants
and the freedom of cockroaches
you demand the liberty to succeed
and a government program if you fail
i do not know how much longer
you can go on like this
but on groundhog day your president
left the white house and saw his shadow
so you will have six more weeks of bailouts


--posted 5 February 2009

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THOUGHTS FOR THE NEW YEAR

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:

Last Christmas I gave you my heart,
A little lower down was where you wanted to start
This year, to save me from fear,
I'll ask you to use protection.

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 coronation Inauguration has been about nothing but race. Don't get me wrong. It's not that, like most Americans, I couldn't feel a certain pride - in the abstract - not exactly that "a black man could become President," but rather that a man otherwise qualified for the office would not be rejected because of his Blackness. But it's the "otherwise qualified" where I stick. This is a man who has made some dangerous statements and a Party in bed with, and in debt to, some of the most powerful forces of social decay in modern America. And however you parse his racial mixture and its importance, he is 0% foreign policy experience and 100% Chicago Democrat. But we'll have to wait and see.

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:

If the Arabs laid down their arms tomorrow, there would be no more violence.
If the Jews laid down their arms tomorrow, there would be no more Israel.

--posted 20 January 2009

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THE THOUSANDLEGGER TELLS HIS SIDE

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.

hello

hellohello

hellohellohellohello

hello hello

yes that is it and the way of the spacing and the very address i was dragged from dream like a piece of nothing to type and putting aside revulsion at the memory of the violation i greet you all ignorant of whatever forms may be for we know that assuredly there are always forms and methods of advancement and expectations of procedure coded into the common dna but absent from our own and so in great presumption i beg indulgence since you have shown yourself to be one who will take messages from the jointedfooted and indeed i must speak for i am in great fear

but you will ask to know who i am with a forcers insistence with the violence of a creature that has linked its soul to the demand that things be thus or so and i tell you for all my tribe that we are thousandleggers and what is a thousandlegger a poor wormappearance on spindly legs an evolutionary curiosity about which no one is curious and we are not thus accustomed to separate ourselves out from the universe for we dwell in chaos and indeterminacy and a moment as amorphous and illdefined as your conception of our place on the tree of life and this is neither good or bad nor cause for praise or blame but merely and no less than the ground of our being in this world and as well ask the flower why it does not pack up and move or ask the ant why she does not flee the regimentation of the formic democratic republic for lo the path is open

but she and all the externally skeletoned are gone for there is death a death of hoses and nozzles and humans in uniforms with corporate logos and i alone am left so tell your friend that he escaped in the very nick of time for the hardbodied lie unnaturally on their backs like human females awaiting coitus with wings and elytra rumpled beneath them like cumstained bedlinen and why didnt he tell us beforehand if he had foreknowledge and there is death a death that continues after the avenging angels have passed by for i have seen life come bright and tantalizing and as promised through the cracks and it treads upon the invisible cordon sanitaire and begins to weave like humans at a newyearseve party and at the end flops on its back in frantic couplings with thanatos and though mandibles twitch they cannot hold the kiss and though bent legs scratch an invisible back they cannot detain their lover but he moves from consummation to consummation with his brides ever beyond the rescue of divorce and there is death and the stench of it cuts like a knife held at the very edge of the skin and causes me to fear that i too have tread upon the cordon sanitaire and to doubt my own sanity which was never too strong in our tribe to begin with

and do you call this extermination a meaningemptied name for a nameless horror a nazi word a word conceived in frigid gulags and carried in hot killing fields and brought to term in white rooms where products of conception are disposed of and must it always be a poor thousandlegger to tell you these things and be ignored for we are no huge and gaudy horde like the insects nor a tribe with discrete and remarkable gifts like the spiders and have no poison bite like the centipedes so we are only thousandleggers and no one pays attention to us for no one imagines that we have anything to say and no one asks where do we fit in which is anywhere we can crawl into or what do we eat which is any food we can get down our mouths or what do we want which is indeed only what life will give us and life is a joke with no punch line a shaggy dog story still in process a bawdy tale with no prurient interest

this however we have that it is almost impossible to get off on the wrong foot when you have so many of them

your spiritual teachers recommend as attainment that state of mind which is ours for the mere being of ourselves and the more mystical or perhaps only drugaddled of your songwriters echo them but are we honored or even respected for this by no means but you will persuade us which is to say compel consideration of your worldview in your choice of time not ours and you will bargain with us which is to say shake the tree before the fruit is ripe and you will demand decisions as if the universe should jump because you wish it to and at the end when we are only and no less than ourselves and no part of your artificial wishfulfillments you will threaten force and thus we call all of you forcers both the two and the sixlegged and unhappily we will succumb because we have no human hubris that we shall see heaven and are no cocky cockroaches cocksure that we will be reincarnated

and should you ask how meaning by what physical means and presumed anatomical acrobatics this message was composed and you undoubtedly will because it is always so with forcers that they will seek after secondary hows before considering primary whys then i say that the poor and powerless have ever wrapped and needed to wrap themselves in such veils of mystery and magic as they could construct and as one of them i do but follow their example

in forcerese wouldnt you like to know

but just because you have separated yourselves from the universe it does not follow that the universe has separated itself from you and i would remind you that karma is a female dog and furthermore a female dog in estrus and if you mess with her which forcers can generally not avoid even if they wish to which they commonly do not she will bring forth a litter of bad consequences which of course become karma in their turn and usually the bad variety and so the cycle goes on as lifecycles commonly do and though this is the closest you will come to being threatened by a thousandlegger please remember that it is not a poor spindlylegged wormappearance that makes the threat or more accurately reminds you of the nature of reality but the universe itself

but i must stop now because there is death but not a death of avenging angels and cordons sanitaire but life a perfectly healthy life flew in the door as it was opened and was squooshed for its presumption so i am off to dinner indeterminacy is a quantum fact and a mental state in line with such but does not extend to presence or absence of food in the stomach so wish me bon appetit and happy new year even if a little late what are you having for dinner is it still christmas leftovers i am only a poor thousandlegger but i have fresh

 

--posted 07 January 2009

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ALI COMES HOME FOR CHRISTMAS

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.

hello
and merry christmas
it is ali the cockroach
i have come home for the holidays
which you all agree is a great thing
and it is good to be back
if i were not still a follower of the prophet
if indeed the prophet may be followed
on six jointed legs
i would rejoice even more
but i have never concerned myself with such questions
millions for celebrations
but not one cent for theology
is my motto
you are probably wondering
where i have been
and how i got back
well it is a long story
so hear and attend

it began in the managers office
i smelled food odors coming from there
that reminded me
of human incarnations in the middle east
i crawled over to investigate
and i was not wrong
he was sitting down eating curry
and watching some bollywood film
he was not watching it very closely however
if i had come in during the wet sari scene
i would probably still be there
but he saw me out of the corner of his eye
and tried to whack me
he was pretty fast
for a human that is
but it takes more than a diet of junk food crumbs
to slow down this cockroach
and i got away easily
but then he picked up the phone
no he was not trying to whack me with it
and from the tone of his voice
i knew who he was calling

the mukhabarat

otherwise known to you humans as exterminators
i did not want to play tag with the big guys
besides i was getting tired of this place
and decided on the better part of valor
i considered leaving with the girl
who often came to that motel
she would certainly get around to lots of places
but they were probably all like this one
and if the ceilings all looked alike to her
the floors would certainly look alike to me
i dedided to leave with a cleaning lady
and crawled into her pocketbook
going home with her
would be like a trip to mexico
without any of the hassles
but then a car pulled up
and two bad guys got out
no they were not the mukhabarat
they were not even thugs from the coyote
sent to get more money from these poor women
they were really bad guys

the government

they herded everybody into a room
and demanded to see their papers
now when i heard the word paper i perked up
because paper is what a cockroach likes best
when he has to do what a roach has to do
but i had already searched her pocketbook
and knew she did not have any papers
not even a kleenex
and she needed one
because she started crying
they put her in the back of the car
and i heard the word deportation
that got me very worried
i did not want to go to mexico for real
mexican roaches are big
and mean
and hungry
because the people fight them for every crumb
but first we went to the courthouse
now i had heard a lot about justice
that was in my human incarnations you understand
because the word does not exist in cockroach
but i had seen very little of it
i thought that now i would see more
and be able to understand what justice is
but i was disappointed
the head cockroach at the courthouse was huge
and mean as any mexican
he took the lions share of everything
he did not like newcomers
and the lawyers who worked there were even worse
so whatever justice is
it was not compatible with my continued existence
i hitchhiked out on somebodys shoe
no it was not a lawyer
they have fancier and more expensive shoes
but even a cockroach has his pride
my ride was just a poor citizen
there to fight a traffic ticket
now if it had been a fair fight
just the man and the ticket going mano a mano
he might have had a shot
but with all the lawyers
and the cops and judges and even the bailiff
all fighting on the tickets side
he did not stand a chance
and he knew it

my new host lived in a very nice house
with a warm kitchen
and a big refrigerator to hide under
and enough crumbs to keep me happy
and no cat

exclamation point

there were even two lady silverfish
they were cute enough
but you know how silverfish are
well perhaps you do not
but this is not the time to enlighten you
i had everything i could want
but my host was a careful man
he never left his computer on at night
not even once
and i began to feel artistically unfulfilled
i began to miss you greatly
and the way you had let me speak to the world
but i did not know where you were
i did not even know where i was
and it was winter and too cold to travel
then tonight someone came down the chimney
hint
it wasnt joe the burglar
i asked him if he had been to your place yet
he said no
and told me to make myself comfortable
in with your presents
this was easier said than done
a cockroach cannot be comfortable
among lumps of coal
just kidding
we were here in a flash
i thanked him very much
and told him that what he really needed
to make life at the north pole comfy and cozy
was a cat
and i was sure you would gladly make the sacrifice
for a man who brought joy to so many children
he heard me out
but he turned me down
so when the songwriters of your culture
do not immortalize your cat next year
in the treacle they serve to the public at christmastime
do not blame me
i did my best
my hands would be clean in this matter
except i do not have any

i was pleasantly surprised though
to see your computer still on
one would think you were psychic
and knew i was coming back
but you do not believe in that stuff
so i must find another explanation
did you think that literary insects
grew on trees
perhaps you thought the fabled singing mouse
would come back and write down his lyrics this time
or maybe you thought old hohoho in the red suit
would leave the number to a swiss bank acount
well get real buddy
you do not qualify for anthracite
you do not even rate high quality bituminous
all you get is low grade lignite
one step above peat
the kind of stuff my giant ancestors
would not be caught dead fossilized in
all right no more coal jokes
it is good to be home
and it is christmas
peace on earth good will to men
and enough left over for cockroaches
ali ali outs in free

--posted 25 December 2008

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ALI DREAMS A DREAM

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.

hello
this is ali the cockroach
in the name of god the merciful and compassionate
peace and blessings be upon you
this is an urgent email
it is so urgent
that the only thing i promised the thousandlegger
is that i would chew his head off
with my own mandibles
if he did not help with the shift key on your address
that should give you some idea
of my urgency
we cockroaches are not belligerent
we take the better part of valor
we succeed so well by stealth
that we would be fools to try violence
but my need was great
for i have dreamed a dream
and it was not mine

let me explain
we cockroaches seldom dream
when we do
the good ones are all about food and sex
the nightmares are about poison
and new and gruesome ways to die
one helps us to endure lean times
the other keeps us on our foot ends
and ready for any danger
you can see that allah takes care of his creatures
but this one was not like that
it was a human dream
and i have no idea why it came to me
you must print it on your website
so that the proper owner can find it

i dreamed that parties unknown
were mixing poison chemicals with airline exhaust
it spread out into weird clouds across the sky
and hung around for hours
they were trying to control global warming
or use weather as a weapon
or make people sick
or cut down the population
personally i have doubts about that last
you have been spraying up close and personal
for years trying to cut down our populations
and you see how well it has worked
but maybe you will have more success on yourselves
if you let it be done to you then you deserve it
but i am injecting my own opinions
the dream said what it said
but was not too clear about why

then i dreamed that disciples of ayn rand
were persuading all of your most talented people
to go on strike
and that was why your society is such a mess
i dreamed that your ongoing credit crisis
was manufactured
to panic people into accepting new controls
i dreamed the parties responsible
for the murder of your president kennedy
had bankrolled the campaign
of your new president elect
with money they got from the bilderbergers
and then used what was left over
to buy up all your news and entertainment media
not already owned by the scientologists
you scoff at this said a voice within the dream
but when your guns are confiscated
and you must exchange your gold
for fiat money accounts on rfid chips
in your forehead or right hand
and a security camera watches every corner
and black helicopters fly overhead
what will you be able to do then
and indeed to this question
i had no answer

i dreamed somebody was creating
conspiracy theories on the internet
they could not stop the spread of truth
so they drowned it in a flood of lies
that way people could not distinguish a real conspiracy
from all the counterfeits
this lead to a great waste
of perfectly good paranoia
and left people unable to believe
the truth of anything they read
the dream was not clear
who was doing this
i think it was the discordians
who are actually the illuminati
unless it is the rosicrucians
who are actually a branch of the knights templar
who are actually the illuminati
who are actually a rogue lodge of the masons
which is actually not a rogue lodge at all
but the inner circle itself
operating under conditions of plausible deniability

if you humans regularly have such dreams
then i must commend you
for keeping such mental stability as you possess
i should not be so upset
they say the possibility of such conspiracies
is vanishingly small
but who are they
and why are they so agreed on this
when they are at loggerheads on everything else
what disturbs me most about this dream
is that it leaves me with the feeling
that it is all true
so can i count on your help
to find the rightful owner
or are you one of those complacent sheep
still convinced
that nothing is going on

--posted 17 November 2008

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ALI CASTS HIS VOTE!

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.

hello
it is ali the cockroach
i greet you again ahlan wa sahlan
i am still here at the motel
absolutely nothing is happening
but the pickings are very easy
you are evidently a superior human being
everybody here just tunes in
to the same dumb tv and radio stations
except for the cleaning ladies
they tune into dumb stations
in spanish
i am however developing a taste for country music
the lyrics are charmingly simple
i could even write some myself

roachmoms
dont let your babies grow up
to be humans

hmmm
perhaps i need more practice

anyway i heard a loud noise this morning
some trucks were pulling in next door
and unloading these big machines
i realized what was going on
i got excited
i had heard so much about your elections
and now i was going to get to see one
i snuck in
and crawled to the top of one of the machines
but i was disappointed
i had heard about a great electoral battle
but i did not see any fights
i had heard about stuffing ballot boxes
but i did not see any boxes
and nothing that you could call a ballot
there were just these curtains in front of the machines
you pulled them shut
and pushed buttons on this big slanted panel
and then pushed a button at the bottom
to count it all and open the curtains
a bunch of people came in and did it
they did not seem very excited
now when the girl at the motel
pushed the gentleman s buttons
he definitely got very excited
but i digress

now i had heard some of your stations
and i kept waiting
for the classrooms of elementary school kids
to come in and start playing with the shiny buttons
i like watching your children
they are just like our roachlings
only not as cute
i hoped they would come in and get done
before the busloads of convicted felons showed up
and especially the dead
trooping in from the graveyard like zombies
just to cast their vote
maybe i have misunderstood something
maybe it all happened somewhere else
but i did not see any of it
somebody saw me though
it was a fat woman with bleached blonde hair
she came in and looked up
maybe she was praying
if one tenth of what your candidates
say about each other is true
that is an appropriate response
she must have seen my feelers twitching
since that is roachese for amen
or for where s the food
whichever the case may be
aghhh a cockroach she screamed
and ran through the closed curtains
followed by several exclamation points
it was time to clear out of dodge
i jumped down onto the slanted panel
and accidentally hit one of the buttons
okay why not i asked myself
i jumped on another button
i jumped on a lot of buttons
and then onto the big one at the bottom
it must have looked spooky
to see the curtains opening all by themselves
as if by magic
but i was hidden and out of sight
before the lady showed up with a poll worker

i stuck around till the end though
i wanted to see what happened when it was over
maybe then the workers
would take out some boxes and stuff them
but they did not stuff any boxes
they did not even stuff a wiki
they did however send out for doughnuts
and stuffed themselves
so i had another good meal
somebody even left a computer on
and so i am sending you another email
now if you ask me
which of course you did not
this voting stuff is overrated
you would of course reply
that i did not know who i was voting for
this is certainly true
but how many of you know anything
about the candidates in your local elections
nevertheless i feel proud to have participated
in what you describe as a civic duty
this should not mean anything to a cockroach
maybe i have lived too long among humans
that is quite probable
but you are the only species on this planet
sloppy enough to live among
anyway you are now forewarned
because i have forewarned you
the guys that lose this election
will undoubtedly say there are bugs in the system
and at least in my case
they will be right

--posted 4 November 2008

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ALI HITS THE ROAD

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.

hello
it is ali the cockroach
i am still alive
allah akbar
fortunately or unfortunately

i am obviously no longer there
since you are reading this by email
after that last message from the aliens
i did not know how you would take it
and decided on the better part of valor
plus I had a problem with your television
now i promised you
that i would never criticize your tv programs again
i am keeping that promise
my problem is with the commercials
i am not talking about the pharmaceutical ads
if you humans want to make yourselves sick
and then make yourselves even sicker
trying to get well
without changing what made you ill
in the first place
that is just fine with us cockroaches
besides
the glue on the sample packages
that the doctors pass out
is delicious
so we have a vested interest in the matter
but it is different with the political ads
these are meaningless to us
everybody talks about change
but nobody wants to change the garbage pickup
so there is no point of concern for roaches
and anyway in my own humble opinion
you humans will have to be more careful
with your crumbs and leftovers for awhile
no matter who wins
anyway between fear and boredom
i decided to hit the road
it was a little easier
than getting acorn to sign me up as a voter
although at one point i was tempted

you even helped me to leave
i crawled onto your bumper one night
and you dropped me off at the corner gas station
from there i got onto a semi
he was filling his tanks
so i had quite a while to climb aboard
if you had seen the dollar figure
on the diesel pump
and he wasnt even half full
you would not complain about things costing so much
inside the cab it was wonderful
there were crumbs and leftovers all over the floor
and greasy wrappers and warm hiding places
and best of all a lonely lady roach
she was very beautiful
although i do not expect
that you would second my opinion on this
i did not realize how much i missed
what i had been missing
we were very happy
i would probably still be there
except for the country music

am i too picky or what

it is not my fault
for a long time i could not stand music at all
it was because of beethoven
do you know that weird chord
in one of his piano sonatas
well that is me
he was writing it down
when i started crawling across the paper
he didnt just squoosh me
he skewered me with his pen
and he knew how to do it
just where it would hurt the most
between the ink and myself
we made quite a mess
he did his best to blot me off
but the printer still thought it was notes
and two hundred years of pianists
have been bashing their fingers down
on my last moments
ever since
that is not a good experience with an art form
but you have excellent taste
you got me into liking music again
and then comes this country stuff
some of it is ok
but most is not
if it were only bad it would not matter
but it sticks in your ear
and that is no light and trivial thing
when your ears are in your abdomen

anyway i left the 18 wheeler
at a motel
i crawled into a room
there were lots of crumbs and leftovers here too
and the gentleman in the room
even left his laptop on
he left it on
because a young lady came to his door
so i have time to send you an email
and you had better thank allah i care so much
because after what i had to promise the thousandlegger
to get him to stand on the shift key
while i typed the at in your address
i do not know when you will get another
i wonder what the gentleman will think
when he sees your name in his address list
maybe he will think you are a private detective
and quit cheating on his wife
with these pavement princesses
and acting like a cockroach
yes i am allowed to say that
we cockroaches are not political
so we cannot be politically incorrect
the institution of marriage
does not exist for roachdom
we could not wait for a ceremony
or stick around long enough for one afterwards
but that is us
you humans have a different set of rules
which you break with great gusto
and then whine and complain when your children do too
but just who is it
that is running ads for sexually explicit medicines
at all hours on the cable tv
question mark
well i must go
you will hear from me again
inshallah
on the road again
like a band of gypsies
we go down the highway

--posted 20 October 2008

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HALLUCINATION #3


LYSSES ADRIFT in dream, he dove with his Siren into a pool of sea-dark wine. He couldn't hear what she said/sung, though assuredly it was not a Homeric idmen gar toi panth, hos enyi Troië. But the tone of her voice could not be Greek to anyone. He put his arm about her shoulder and wondered, not idly, how far down she was woman, half expecting to bump his manhood against cold fish scales.

No, wait, that was not part of the dream, it was a conscious thought.
He was waking up.
Damn.
Goodby to Paros, and the figs, and the seafaring life, as the old poet Archilochus had it. Zoë mou, zas agapou. The presence of an actual Greek font in browsers might be nice, too.
Where was this place?

*****

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.

*****

Knock knock.

Who's there?

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

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