Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Bump Flop


Maturity needs roots. Bitumen. Stimulus calliope. Indigo pleasure. Meanings. Incongruous sails. Collected implications. This propels a bump flop. Jaw. I cream a fat shaggy chronicle.
Age of mockingbirds. I ruminate on the paper birds we saw. Donkeys. Let this provoke a massive spoon to vein. The friendly swans of string. Wrinkles. Descriptions squashed by construction. Our secrets are octagonal and orange and fasten sand. Scream. Clang consideration. Travel by walking a representation.
Remedied feather. Stitch. Moody grapefruit that a box contains by sweaty propulsion. Triangles. Violent blasts. Eager bulbs. Hungry proverb unraveled in blood. Flirtations. Writing biology.
Glue worry. Refined by raspberry. Rain. I fold it to lucidity. Athleticism. This generates an expansive sense of pink wash. Oasis. Suitcase full of quixotic progress rooted in wax. Proposals poked. Tears pinned to a demand.
Dimension. Riotous indispensable plunge. Robin army. Garlic. Implicit thinking. Letters tug a begging green force. Concentric parabola. Sidewalk fang amazing raw landscape. Malleability. Mutating oblong. Wisdom crashing through a bag.
This causes journeys. And expansion.
Feathers that were the itch of science. As if a sentence opened. And spread itself into reality like a hawk.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Whoosh


It’s 3:24 p.m., Tuesday afternoon. Just showered after a short three mile run around the crown of Queen Anne hill. The apartment smells richly of peanut butter. R is making a peanut butter cake. The clouds were remarkable when we left, cirrocumulus & some other wispy formation of cirrus with an odd color, not white as usual, but pinkish, otherworldly. I wonder if that’s due to the added amount of carbon dioxide in the air, which was at 407.4 parts per million in 2018.
I asked R what word she would invent if we didn’t have a word for wind. Whoosh, she said. As in whoosh-mill. It’s a whooshy day. The whoosh is from the east. Gone With The Whoosh. “Blowin in the Whoosh.” “Candle in the Whoosh.” “Any way the whoosh blows.”
We eat potato chips, ham sandwiches, peanut butter cake & watch Season 3 Episode 3 of Lilyhammer (the one where the Lithuanian woman accidentally gets shot in the head with a flare gun) & try to find the Norwegian folk music theme that begins each show. It appears to have been composed by Steven Van Zandt.
I eat a passion fruit flavored marijuana gummie & listen to Yo Yo Ma play a Bach cello suite & read Le Temps retrouvé by Marcel Proust.
The cat sleeps on a blanket ornamented with sheep. Big fluffy sheep. Fluffy like clouds.
I begin feeling sharp little pains in my stomach & worry that the ham sandwich will affect me like the roast beef French dip sandwiches that caused me to explode with diarrhea. It’s difficult finding food to put into this old body that doesn’t mess with the metabolic machinery. Everything is old & fragile & cantankerous. Cells seem to do their work more sluggishly. I feel more & more like a constellation of organs & organelles. How does a coherent identity emerge from all this? When did the first eukaryotes appear? 2.7 billion years ago. I’m a colony of mitochondria. With a brain. And a tongue. And a curious need to write things down.
Things like abiogenesis, arabinose, erythrose, fructose, galactose. Autocatalysis. Polysaccharides. Agar agar.
Enzymes. Peripheral proteins. Morphogenesis.
Research suggests eukaryotes developed as a result of one primitive cell – called a prokaryote, like a bacterium – absorbing another, two billion years ago. (Mitochondria and chloroplasts are descendants of independent prokaryotes that entered symbiotic relationships with larger cells.) A little later, along came you. And here you are. Reading this. This spasm, this thesis of life, this hot little sentence, which is evolving, it’s growing, look at it now, look what it’s doing, it’s trying to lift something into the air, an idea, a thought, a little action, something like a eukaryote doing the mashed potato in a poodle skirt, or a carload of teenagers headed to Houston.
Chaos is a tear in the fabric of form. But that’s not really what it is. Chaos is a misnomer. Within the evident volatility of elaborate chaotic systems there are underlying patterns, interconnectedness, feedback loops, repetition, fractals, & islands of predictability.
Someone has glued my castanets together. Oh well. We’ll have to do without them. Are you still with me? Yes? Welcome to Ibiza. Over there you’ll find a jamboree, & see this? It’s a unique arrangement of lights on the head of a turtle. We need this for philosophical reasons, which will be explained later, when the woman on stage is done singing, & the yachts begin jockeying for position behind a starting buoy. I do wish I had my castanets in working order. I could sing to you, & dance for you, & tell you all about waterfalls of Cova de Can Marca, which are in a cave, & except for the myriad sounds of the sea, everything is stuck together like castanets.
It can take a long time to work one’s way out of a faulty system of habitual thought. Intuition helps us transcend the limits of thought & culturally derived biases.
There’s a tiger following me. But I don’t feel like I’m being hunted. Maybe I should be. But I just don’t feel it. And how do I know there’s a tiger following me? Can I see the tiger? I cannot see the tiger. But I know the tiger is there. And the tiger has intent. And motion. And stealth. And two bright fiery eyes. Could it be that I’m the tiger? Is a tiger awakening in me? No. I don’t think I’m a tiger. I think I’m Joan Baez. I think I’m Wyatt Earp. I’m Wyatt Earp singing like Joan Baez. I’m Joan Baez putting Wichita to rest with her beautiful voice. I walk into the saloon. And there she is: the tiger. Coming toward me. Eyes like fiery opals. Claws like pure cocaine.
Heaven is a confusing place. First of all, is it a place, or is it a state of mind? Can the same thing be said of hell? “The mind is its own place,” said Milton, “and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” I question these polarities. I distrust polarities. On the other hand, I tend to get lost easily. I have trouble understanding my own preferences. My own backyard.
Have you ever had to read a book to explain yourself to yourself? What was the book? Did you walk away feeling that you understood yourself a little better? Did you walk away feeling like having a self is a little silly, in the same way that having a receptionist doesn’t automatically make you a dentist? Have you ever awakened in the morning to discover that you’re the true heir to the kingdom of Bulgaria? Did you ever find yourself singing “Blue Velvet” in the shower & find teenagers lined up at your bathroom eager to get an autograph? Was it a problem keeping the towel in place? Were you able to write ok with a trembling hand & a head full of confusion?
I feel theoretical today, & particular. Beads drool from the séance in my knee, as the sunlight walks around in a pickle. I can’t understand the arroyo when it catches a human looking at it in wonder. Is it possible that the universe may be sung by a limb of rhinestone? My arms are on loan from the New York Public Library. This is a lie. The fact is, I grew them out of a cereal box. Then I attached them with a welding torch, using my feet, which I had assembled from junkyard epithets & a little blue hammer I found sleeping in a cello one night in Budapest. Give my leers a chance to retort. If I’m taciturn it’s only because the complications of life have ground me down to a mutiny, & I must rummage through the immaterial until I find a way out of here. 

Friday, July 3, 2020

Theraphosidae


Language is a living organism. It’s a siphonophore, a colony of organisms called phonemes or morphemes, merged together in a tentacled mass called a sentence. The sentence is a process by which a cell divides its cytoplasm to produce two daughter cells, & these daughters evolve very differently from one another, & this becomes a novel. Sometimes writing can look like a mood - translucent enactments of intellective inquiry & exploration - & sometimes it just hangs in the air until someone responds to it, adding meaning, & further complexity. And this is called confabulation. Here we enter the province of prophets & poets. Hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the mind, protected from the abrasions of everyday life, sustaining the molecules needed.
Insert these words one by one until the sentence comes to the end, which is approaching, I can feel it, I can almost see it, the master sergeant is saluting his men goodnight, paramedics are resuscitating a Polynesian astronaut, the oven is ovulating an omelet, English royalty are social distancing themselves as ever, I think that observation is unfair and a little stupid, but it’s already there, let it stand, at least until the end of the sentence, which is there ahead, I can see it, the protagonist is waiting for us patiently at the dock, evergreens adorn the surrounding hills, but there are none here, not in this sentence, just a hand reaching down to help us up, out of this sentence, just bobbing in the water.
What I’m thinking is a play pen for lumps of lathery music. The river is so quiet. Nevertheless, the nibbles are significant. Small mechanisms make the words intensify. They become what they represent. Which is to say, void. Nothingness. Introspection will get you nowhere. But it will get you everywhere. Everywhere there is everywhere there is also nowhere. Nowhere is everywhere. It’s the oink in ointment & the end at the beginning of the word anger. Anger is mere monotony. I mean, after a while. It’s wearying. And redundant. So it surrenders. And becomes a tarantula. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Martian Sunset


Have you ever noticed that if you play a guitar just right you can cut the air into little sections and set them on fire? And then there's all that energy in the brain, you know? It's like a furnace, an athanor, a Slow Henry, as the alchemists called it. Everybody's got one. Or not. Some people seem to get by fine without it. You know who you are. Standing over there by the church holding the bible. So adorable.
No amount of logic can explain a clam. But I can tell you the mind dilates under the influence of certain phenomena. A crinkly old dollar. Zen mosquitos on a hairy arm. Speaking of which, there’s an unseen power that creeps from flower to flower like moonbeams on the loose. It wandered out of a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley & appears to be lost. As for me, I like the little bulbs at the top rim of the mirror in the bathroom. This is where I get my face going. And think about how weird the world keeps getting. And what to do next. And wondering how it all began.
There are some feelings you can shake, get rid of like a pestering bug, or wasp, ruining the picnic. Some feelings can be sculpted into better feelings, smoother feelings, big feelings surrounded by columns. Some feelings can be coaxed into mutation. This is when the blues turn gray or the grayness turns blue and the fog lifts and there’s a mountain looming over you, indifferent, craggy, sublime. The other feelings go berserk & explode into airy pinkish blooms. These get written down, or sung, or inserted into a circular piece of DNA & become contagious. 
I keep forgetting that that bright silvery sound that violins make is caused by the friction of the bow - hair from the tails of horses - on the strings, which are catgut, nylon & steel. But the main thing is friction. Friction that makes olives of sound sweat in the air. The blood of the poignant impinge on the guitar. There's a sound for everything, even thirst. Thirst is the sound of a pharmacy at night. It occurs quietly in the mouth, like cotton. At first, it's unpleasant. Then it becomes a craving. Then, if it's still not satisfied, it becomes a movie. The world is a vast hallucination. Water makes it real.
And so I got into a mode of watching the Martian sunset. A lot. Once a day, at least. I would also enjoy a Martian sunrise, but Curiosity, so far as I know, has not filmed a sunrise on Mars. The sunset will do, for now. I do wish I were standing there on the Martian desert watching it. But it's easy to mistake this visual dessert on YouTube as anything like Earth. That solitude might be overwhelming. And there is still that nagging dependence on technology. There are always these details tumbling out of the rational part of the brain. That sudden deflation when the mind is pulled back into the body. Mars pops like a balloon and I'm back on earth, listening to Méa Culpa Jazz sing "The Wind Will Carry Us Away."


Monday, June 29, 2020

The Fallacy Of The Noble Lie


On June 15th, 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci announced to the world that he had lied about the efficacy of face masks when Covid-19 first hit the U.S. in January, 2020 and rapidly got out of control. Five months later, on May 28th, 2020, the disease had claimed over 100,000 lives. It’s also been well-documented that face masks are, indeed, effective: they prevent the majority of air particles from a cough – or just breathing or talking – from entering into the surrounding air.
Fauci’s admission was strange. He didn’t seem the least bit ashamed or chagrined or in any way caught off guard. He made his admission with the calm, self-assured sang froid of a professor lecturing on the history of the American Civil War, or the central nervous system. It was no big deal. The excuse he gave was that he and other health officials wanted to prevent the hoarding of masks – which were in short supply – and thereby helping to ensure that the medical community would have enough, the assumption being that people are too greedy and selfish to cooperate willingly on such a matter.
I found this admission shocking. Was this man so utterly lacking in self-awareness that the needless suffering and deaths he could’ve prevented by being honest about masks from the beginning? Apparently not. He looked very much like a man who was getting in an adequate amount of sleep every night. If his conscience were in any way compromised or troubled, he didn’t show it.
Equally shocking were the number of people I discovered on Facebook who supported Fauci’s specious argument. They would not be deterred. Fauci’s lie made sure there were enough masks. But, I argued, why would anyone get in a panic over a mask that was so easy to make on one’s own? Construction workers are able to make masks from a T-shirt in less than eight minutes. I saw a kid at the local grocery store who’d forgotten to wear a mask simply lift his shirt up far enough to cover his mouth and nose with one hand while he grabbed some candy with his other hand and brought it to the counter and paid for it. Mission accomplished.
Fauci’s lie, and consequent excuse, were damaging for other reasons as well. Fauci, in his role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is a figure the nation should be able to put their trust in, particularly since there as been so much confusion and misinformation about this new virus. Trust is vital in a situation like this. People need a central authority. People need someone they can rely on for clear, honest information pertaining to an existential threat. That trust has now been considerably weakened, possibly permanently damaged. People have been finding it increasingly difficult to trust experts. The anti-vaccination movement is one example among many how science and scientists are no longer recognized as steadfast guardians of truth. They can be bought. They can be manipulated. They can be coerced and intimidated into making false claims and duplicitous distortions. The result: we’ve all slipped back into the middle ages. We live in a time of rumors and superstitions. Objective truth is totaled. Shattered beyond repair.
Fauci told what is characterized as the “noble lie.” The Noble Lie -  a myth or untruth knowingly propagated by an elite to maintain social harmony or to advance an agenda - makes its first appearance in Book III of Plato’s Republic. Socrates tells Adeimantus that in the interest of preserving harmony in the state, it may be necessary to perpetrate a “royal lie” or “needful falsehood.” He gives, as an example, the “audacious fiction” of how everyone’s character is prefabricated by God, and compares virtues to precious and not-so-precious metals. Some are made of gold, some silver, and others – “who are to be husbandmen and craftsmen” – are composed of brass and iron. Everyone fulfills a role based on their quality of metal. The fiction enforces obedience. The fiction preserves harmony in the state.
I like Socrates, but this is bullshit.
Immanuel Kant addresses the speciousness of this argument in a short essay titled “On a Supposed Right to Lie from Benevolent Motives.” Kant states that truthfulness is a human right. “Man has a right to his own truthfulness (veracitas), i.e., to the subjective truth in his own person.” Telling the truth is a duty. The broader acceptance of allowing a breach in this duty would be to nullify the binding force of all legal contracts. Chaos would ensue. If no one can be sure what is true and what is falsehood, what is accurate and what is a distortion, society becomes inoperable. Trust is the foundation of everything. “For a lie,” Kant declares, “always harms another; if not some other particular man, still it harms mankind generally, for it vitiates the source of law itself.” A lie – however well-intentioned – will invariably have unintended consequences that will have long lasting, deleterious effects. Such as the case with Fauci: his lie has nullified anything he may declare in the future, or anything another health official might state. There are no authorities people can trust. We’re on our own.
No one will know how many deaths Fauci’s lie may be responsible for, but it’s highly probable that it was in the hundreds, if not thousands. The fact of which does not seem to register on the man.
I’m not a fan of lying, but I can see its necessity as well. There are many white lies I’ve told over the years to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. White lies are convenient, but even there, you’ve got to be a little prudent. Even a seemingly harmless white lie can detonate unexpectedly into a deeply embarrassing revelation that will leave you without credibility and quite possibly do irreparable damage to a friendship.
And lies do prevent people from getting hurt. In the Ricky Gervais movie The Invention of Lying people tell the truth with utter disregard for how one’s true feelings and perceptions may cause injury to someone. The set-up is hilarious; when screenwriter Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) goes to pick up a date  - the wealthy and beautiful Anna McDoogles, played by Jennifer Garner – Anna tells him, matter-of-factly, that she’s not attracted to him but is going out with him as a favor to his best friend, Greg Kleinshchmidt (Louis C.K.). The first lie is “invented” when Mark’s rent is due, he’s out of money, and he goes to the bank to close his account. The teller tells him the computers are down. Smelling an opportunity, Mark tells the teller that he has $800 dollars in his account, the precise amount needed to pay his rent. No problem. She gives him $800 dollars. Mark quickly realizes the great rewards and conveniences this newfound ability can achieve. This is a parallel universe where people are sublimely unaware of falsehood. There’s no prevarication. No deceit. It’s an absurdly truthful world of bruised feelings and low self-esteem. But imagine the power in being able to tell people any fiction – any fabrication or fairy tale however ludicrous – and have it be believed. You would have unlimited power – at least until everyone figured out what a lie was. And then you’d have some explaining to do. Which, of course, no one would believe.
The Invention of Lying came out in 2009, right after the debacle on Wall Street. Gervais did not elaborate on the consequences of lying to that extent. He avoided the larger political ramifications and kept his plotline tidily confined within the happier framework of a romantic comedy. It was a hypothesis assembled for laughs and a little insight into the human condition.
The threats facing humanity are now multiple. There is the very real specter of financial collapse and possibly the end of capitalism (which could lead to something good, but only after a great deal of suffering), ecological disaster, cataclysmic climate change, the rise of fascism and rioting in the streets after a black man was murdered horribly – and in broad daylight - by a Minneapolis cop. The times are apocryphal. And now, diffused throughout all this corruption like a ubiquitous death deity walking invisibly among us, we have a virus whose symptoms remain dormant for fourteen days before its victim is aware of contaminating people. That’s insidious. This is the kind of thing that emerges from the brain of a demented sci fi writer high on amphetamines and tequila.
If ever there was a time for people to put their trust in a higher authority, in panels of experts, in a consortium of sane and rational voices, it would be now. What Dr. Fauci did was far worse than trick a bank teller into giving him $800 dollars. Fauci took all of his years in science, all his work and investment of time and money, and treated it like garbage.
The psychology behind this is baffling. Why did Dr. Fauci so automatically and autocratically assume that people would horde masks and prevent the medical community from having an adequate amount? And why would anyone choose to uphold this strategy when it’s so manifestly untenable as a moral position? Are people that desperate for leadership that they make excuses for their deceits and abuses like a battered woman who continues to believe that – deep down – the drunken husband who just slammed her head against the wall truly loves her?
These are strange times. Wall Street has gone psychotic, the police have grown murderously violent and irrational, and now even our science officials have begun to treat us like kindergarten children, feeding us fairy tales rather than knowledge. Their contempt for we mortals must be colossal to have such little trust in the capacity of people to take right action when a harsh but incontrovertible truth has been revealed. But to do otherwise, even if a convenient fiction is able to preserve some semblance of stability, is to court a much worse disaster. The death of truth and the birth of endless iniquities.
It’s obvious that Covid-19 isn’t the only destructive virus out there. Our institutions have been enfeebled and killed by a contagion of lies. A virus attaches to a host cell using a set of proteins on the viral envelope to bind to receptor proteins on the target cell. A lie attaches to a host believer using a set of semi-credible fictions to bind to the receptor gullibilities in the target population and thereby use this as leverage to maneuver and achieve its goals – however well-intended or nefarious - while destroying the host. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Black Desire


When I was in my early 20s I obsessed over the idea that creativity – more specifically writing poetry – was synonymous with moral probity. I was convinced that the act of creativity promoted higher self-awareness & sensitivity & so therefore built character. Then I found out the truth: a whole lot of poets were assholes, selfish, narcissistic, often callous louts like Lord Byron. Most troubling of all was my hero, Arthur Rimbaud, who – after his enfant terrible years with Verlaine in Paris – wound up in east Africa as a money-obsessed exporter of ivory & coffee where he was often accused of being hard on his men, hard on his camels, & a poisoner of dogs. This latter accusation still troubles me. I got over this conundrum in due time, but then, quite recently, I discovered a song called “Le vent nous portera” (The Wind Will Carry Us), which I listen to obsessively, particularly by a Quebecois group called Méa Culpa Jazz. It’s a beautiful, highly moving song, ethereal & wistful. But here’s the deal: one of its composers was none other than Bertrand Cantat, the man who beat his girlfriend Marie Trintignant so severely that she went into a coma & died a few days later. How much he contributed to the song, I don’t know. Maybe a lot, maybe very little. It’s deeply troublesome to me that this is weirdly attached to such a beautiful song. How is this possible? I continue to listen to the song with great enjoyment & many other singers & groups continue to cover it. And despite having this sordid & awful history aligned with it, however tangentially, I’m still in love with this song. And more confused than ever by the incongruities of violence, beauty, & murder. Does one inform the other? Are all artists tortured by inner conflict? Are they all callous, murderous louts ruining lives while producing spectacular art? Is the connection between virtue & art completely arbitrary, or does it help in some macabre way to acknowledge such dark impulses as part of creativity & try to accept & come into harmony with it before it explodes unpredictably & becomes even more destructive after being pushed into the dark for so long? Are we all werewolves at heart? If you enjoy writing songs and poetry, here’s my advice: if the moon is full, chain yourself to the wall.



Monday, June 22, 2020

The Language Saloon


We enter the language saloon. It’s why we feel erratic. A plug enthralls a hiatus igloo. And is proved by theorem. We tin nothingness after rawhide. Which is why it rocks.
I sense a ball bursting. Do you want a beginning? The age glued my house. We touch a violin pitch. Being likes the blue clang. A language piled in depth.
We spread the loaf propellers. I hit a hum blob. I want this to conk. Push the blood to scuffle. A sail flaps with beauty. It was always so strong. 
The hoe modified the kelp. It dripped from my skin. I like to skim rumination. I’m on ruminant black wings. This could cause an almanac.
I remember how Chicago worked. Our coffee unrolled its fingers. I fattened a wallet jaw. This made everything Parisian stitches. And the words feel it. I’m angling toward its veins. Except what fiddlesticks can box.
Those are desks I flop. The scales strain to walk.
The incongruous gives me light. I worry a bread orange. I have slices of space. We wander over bubbly rivers. And it’s all so itchy. I think it’s the shirts. Thought it might be Ezra Pound. A job writing subtle gurgles. I feel it under windows. And I want to hop.
Hope is more like hives. Flaps arrange weight by skull. How does this make sense? My implications are disgracing limousines.
Life is more like denim. It reaches for a canvas. Shapes embedded in green intricacies. What the strings all carve. All those violins evolving protein. So that life can prickle. A brushwork there curves it. The grip turns to retail. And capitalism shuffles by evasion.
The perspectives drill out gifts. Rhythms flow from the drums. All roam homeward by canoe.