Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Tempest of Lives

...and if money only serves to create and maintain social distance?

Away a few days, we return to a deluge—
ankle deep in the basement—
window-leaked above, over-saturated beneath: the papers and maps
scattered all over the floor past salvage: we tear
up sodden carpet, peel heavy strips from concrete, try to envision
how to free it, sticky adhesive-backed, from loaded shelves, with maximum efficacy.

But first I command, Come see,
standing at the door of a little girl's closet and a deluge
of dozens and, to my limited vision,
identical pink plastic shoes, whose meaning
I can't help but mull: the tyranny
of shop, shopping, shopper—life's map

wiped and remapped
with permissible destinations, borders, sights; filling the sea
of need with things that will not satisfy but deter
motion in a deluge:
and just in case the love of flip-flops does not suffice to halt all movement
she's tethered to television,

house to car, bedroom to kitchen, breakfast to dinner, no division
on this crucial point.
I meant
to mention the summer season
at the children's theater where I work, deluge
my friends with appeals to watch a show, volunteer

to host her, if she'd like to act, tear
her away a while, but revise
my speech before it's begun, deluged
by Disney, by princesses, by product tie-ins, each mapped
to one movie or another, her life its own sequel
which, without the urtext, means

nothing. Nothing will come from nothing. Meaning
that King Lear's on stage this weekend tearing
the eyes of its characters, its audience, to make us, if not see
better, at least look at the world through another lens, caught up in the vision
of a father who orders the future on a map
that none will honor when the rains

arrive, as if his reign meant
something more than a few dashed lines on a fake treasure map, torn
and divided, written in water, then swallowed by the sea.
Wendy Vardaman, "Reason Not the Need"

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


" Deux amants rêvent de prendre la place de l'autre mais meurent à essayer "

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Instrumentally Speaking...

A poem, in my opinion, is opposed to a work of science by having, for its immediate object, pleasure, not truth; to romance, by having for its object an indefinite instead of a definite pleasure, being a poem only so far as this object is attained; romance presenting perceptible images with definite, poetry with in definite sensations, to which end music is an essential, since the comprehension of sweet sound is our most indefinite conception. Music, when combined with a pleasurable idea, is poetry; music without the idea is simply music; the idea without the music is prose from its very definitiveness.

What was meant by the invective against him who had no music in his soul?
- E.A. Poe, "Letter to Mr. B-"

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Dreaming Wide Awake

The thought of what America would be like
If the Classics had a wide circulation
Troubles my sleep,
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America would be like
If the Classics had a wide circulation
Troubles my sleep.
Nunc dimittis, now lettest thou thy servant,
Now lettest thou thy servant
Depart in peace.
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America,
The thought of what America would be like
If the Classics had a wide circulation . . .
Oh well!
It troubles my sleep.
- Ezra Pound, "Cantico del Sole"

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Walking-Dead Man's Lament

They hail me as one living,
But don't they know
That I have died of late years,
Untombed although?

I am but a shape that stands here,
A pulseless mould,
A pale past picture, screening
Ashes gone cold.

Not at a minute's warning,
Not in a loud hour,
For me ceased Time's enchantments
In hall and bower.

There was no tragic transit,
No catch of breath,
When silent seasons inched me
On to this death ....

— A Troubadour-youth I rambled
With Life for lyre,
The beats of being raging
In me like fire.

But when I practised eyeing
The goal of men,
It iced me, and I perished
A little then.

When passed my friend, my kinsfolk,
Through the Last Door,
And left me standing bleakly,
I died yet more;

And when my Love's heart kindled
In hate of me,
Wherefore I knew not, died I
One more degree.

And if when I died fully
I cannot say,
And changed into the corpse-thing
I am to-day,

Yet is it that, though whiling
The time somehow
In walking, talking, smiling,
I live not now.
- Thomas Hardy, "The Dead Man Walking"

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Never Forget It...

"The evaluative procedure used to decide which workers receive a surplus wage is an arbitrary mechanism of power and ideology, with no serious link to actual competence; the surplus wage exists not for economic but for political reasons: to maintain a ‘middle class’ for the purpose of social stability. The arbitrariness of social hierarchy is not a mistake, but the whole point, with the arbitrariness of evaluation playing an analogous role to the arbitrariness of market success. Violence threatens to explode not when there is too much contingency in the social space, but when one tries to eliminate contingency. In La Marque du sacré, Jean-Pierre Dupuy conceives hierarchy as one of four procedures (‘dispositifs symboliques’) whose function is to make the relationship of superiority non-humiliating: hierarchy itself (an externally imposed order that allows me to experience my lower social status as independent of my inherent value); demystification (the ideological procedure which demonstrates that society is not a meritocracy but the product of objective social struggles, enabling me to avoid the painful conclusion that someone else’s superiority is the result of his merit and achievements); contingency (a similar mechanism, by which we come to understand that our position on the social scale depends on a natural and social lottery; the lucky ones are those born with the right genes in rich families); and complexity (uncontrollable forces have unpredictable consequences; for instance, the invisible hand of the market may lead to my failure and my neighbour’s success, even if I work much harder and am much more intelligent). Contrary to appearances, these mechanisms don’t contest or threaten hierarchy, but make it palatable, since ‘what triggers the turmoil of envy is the idea that the other deserves his good luck and not the opposite idea – which is the only one that can be openly expressed.’ Dupuy draws from this premise the conclusion that it is a great mistake to think that a reasonably just society which also perceives itself as just will be free of resentment: on the contrary, it is in such societies that those who occupy inferior positions will find an outlet for their hurt pride in violent outbursts of resentment.”
- Slavoj Zizek, "The revolt of the salaried bourgeoisie"

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Old Rockers Retirement Home

Strolling around town
At prohibited time
Ignoring the church bell sounds
While I see people hurrying
Down the sidewalk
On their way to work

Think maybe I'll find
Pen and paper
And have a coffee somewhere

Or maybe not

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mythical Horizons

But without myth every culture loses the healthy natural power of its creativity: only a horizon defined by myths completes and unifies a whole cultural movement. Myth alone saves all the powers of the imagination and of the Apollinian dream from their aimless wanderings. The images of the myth have to be the unnoticed omnipresent demonic guardians, under whose care the young soul grows to maturity and whose signs help the man to interpret his life and struggles. Even the state knows no more powerful unwritten laws than the mythical foundation that guarantees its connection with religion and its growth from mythical notions.

By way of comparison let us now picture the abstract man, untutored by myth; abstract education; abstract morality; abstract law; abstract state; let us imagine the lawless roving of the artistic imagination, unchecked by any native myth; let us think of a culture that has no fixed and sacred primordial site but is doomed to exhaust all possibilities and to nourish itself wretchedly on all other cultures--there we have the present age, the result of that Socratism which is bent on the destruction of myth. And now the mythless man stands eternally hungry, surrounded by all past ages, and digs and grubs for roots, even if he has to dig for them among the remotest antiquities. The tremendous historical need of our unsatisfied modern culture, the assembling around one of countless other cultures, the consuming desire for knowledge--what does all this point to, if not to the loss of myth, the loss of the mythical home, the mythical maternal womb? Let us ask ourselves whether the feverish and uncanny excitement of this culture is anything but the greedy seizing and snatching at food of a hungry man--and who would care to contribute anything to a culture that cannot be satisfied no matter how much it devours, and at whose contact the most vigorous and wholesome nourishment is changed into "history and criticism"?
- Nietzsche, "The Birth of Tragedy"

Green Languages

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Catching the Dreamer's Disease

Prevailing ideologies are exposed by both our dreams (speaking in a Freudian sense) and by the artwork we are attracted to (speaking in a pop cultural sense).


"The first step to freedom is not just to change reality to fit your deams - it's to change the way you dream, and again this hurts, because all satisfactions we have come from our dreams."
-Slavoj Zizek

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cultural Symbolism

Just as all colours disappear in black, so all names and forms disappear in her"
-- Mahanirvana Tantra

Monday, August 11, 2014

Jazz it Up!

Life, he said,
is a set of chords
and looked at me sideways
along the piano,
you might even say
the solo itself.
It runs the ancient
inner stairways,
first to fifth
to fourth to first.
Many I've known .
are a popular song,
those thirty two bars
and the bridge lifting through
its cycle of fifths.
Others are given
a shorter course,
the twelve bar blues
with three chords only
or a few substitutions
to smooth out the curves.
Some shorter ones
are free form purely,
a few are fixed
in a single mode.
Life for most
is major triads,
standard sevenths -
a few have flattened
ninths and fifths.
And time, he said,
is mostly common –
4/4, 8/8.
Some are waltzes;
the smarter ones
incline at times
to the harder fractions,
that style of thing.
Choice of instruments
is crucial.
Some thirty twos
are tenor sax always,
fibrous and strident –
others I've seen
are clarinet only,
skating exactly
the same round of chords.
Certain lives
are blues throughout,
a muted trumpet
growling in corners.
Some should always
have been a flute -
then end up tuba
in Dixieland.
We're all of us solos
one way or another.
Haven't you felt it
certain mornings?
You're running up fast
to the middle eight,
the drummer goes for his
fancy fill,
your trumpet hits
the top note from
the next chord on
just to lift
the height a little.
Or weren't you once
like me, he said,
the last held chord
of a Gershwin ballad,
a glassy arpeggio
floating up slowly
and off the piano.
The number of choruses
varies a bit
but the freedom of
the notes is endless -
scales of the chords,
scales of the scales,
passing notes
you get away with,
chromatic runs,
infinite splittings
of the beat.
So many solos,
so many patterns ...
He stared at me hard
and hit an F7.
Life, he said,
is a set of chords –
and God, of course,
a jazz musician.

Geoff Page, "Parable in 4/4"

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Cavorting with Commoners

By the willow and not the shady oak
Is where you'll find honest common folk
As the chatter echoes with the trees
A memory fades with the passing breeze

A robin is doing what robin's do
Up with the wind and away he flew
The sun is hot the day is bright
An Adirondack morn, what a heavenly sight

A cigarette he lit, a coffee he drank
And I knew right then I had him to thank
Doing always what dad's do
A sense of respect from there it grew
- M Rene Riel, "Common Folk"

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Surpassing the Ego Ideal?

The logic of Batman’s (or Superman’s or Spiderman’s) mask is given a comical twist in The Mask with Jim Carrey: it is the Mask which changes the ordinary guy into a superhero. The link between the Mask and sexuality is rendered clear in the second Superman movie: sex (making love to a woman) is incompatible with the power of the Mask, i.e., the price Superman has to pay for his consummated love is to become a normal mortal human. The Mask is thus the a-sexual “partial object” which allows the subject to remain in (or regress to) the pre-Oedipal anal-oral universe where there is no death and guilt, just endless fun and fight – no wonder the Jim Carrey character in The Mask is obsessed with cartoons: the universe of cartoons is such an undead universe without sex and guilt, a universe of infinite plasticity in which every time after a person (or animal) is destroyed it magically recomposes itself and the struggle goes on…

Who, then, is Joker who wants to disclose the truth beneath the Mask, convinced that this disclosure will destroy the social order? He is not a man without mask, but, on the contrary, a man fully identified with his mask, a man who IS his mask – there is nothing, no “ordinary guy,” beneath his mask. (Recall a similar story about Lacan: those who got to know him personally, to observe him how he is in private, when he was not enacting his public image, were surprised to learn that, in private, he behaved in exactly the same way as in public, with all his ridiculously-affected mannerisms.) This is why Joker has no back-story and lacks any clear motivation: he tells different people different stories about his scars, mocking the idea that he should have some deep-rooted trauma that drives him. How, then, do Batman and Joker relate? Is Joker Batman’s own death-drive embodied? Is Batman Joker’s destructivity put in the service of society?

A further parallel is to be drawn between The Dark Knight and E. A. Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”. In the secluded castle in which the mighty retire to survive the plague (“Red Death”) ravaging the country, Prince Prospero organizes a lavish masked ball. At midnight, Prospero notices one figure in a blood-spattered, dark robe resembling a funeral shroud, with a skull-like mask depicting a victim of the Red Death. Gravely insulted, Prospero demands to know the identity of the mysterious guest; when the figure turns to face him, the Prince falls dead at a glance. The enraged by-standers corned the stranger and remove his mask, only to find the costume empty – the figure reveals itself as the personification of the Red Death itself which goes on to destroy all life in the castle. Like Joker and all revolutionaries, the Red Death also wants the masks to fall down and the truth to be disclosed to the public – one can thus also claim that, in Russia in 1917, the Red Death penetrated the Romanov castle and caused its downfall. Does, then, the film’s extraordinary popularity not point towards the fact that it touches a nerve of our ideologico-political constellation: the undesirability of truth? In this sense, The Dark Knight is effectively a new version of the two John Ford western classics (Fort Apache and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) which deploy how, in order to civilize the Wild West, the Lie has to be elevated into Truth – in short, how our civilization is grounded onto a Lie. The question to be raised here is: why, at our precise moment, this renewed need for a Lie to maintain the social system?
- Slavoj Zizek, "Hollywood Today: Report from an Ideological Frontline'

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Gaze Attracted

eyes meet, impulse to stare

the intent gaze intensifies
the chaotic world continues
but all of its frivolities
disappear in the fog

for a five-second span
time and place forgotten
a name, a purpose, a thought
lost in the stupor

lids stay strained
will not dare to blink
every flake of worry
vanishes in the misty haze

heads turn, moment gone.
- Jami Gilford, "Eye Contact"