W. and I are celebrants of rivers, and always feel the need to hail them. —‘The mighty Tyne!’, W. might say, and I might say, ‘the mighty Plym!’ The sight of a river is always an occasion. So, of course, is that of the sea. It’s the ozone, says W., it makes you feel alive.
It does, and in particular the view of the sheet of the sea, just past Exeter. The whole sheet of the sea, viewed from the train, neat Plymouth Gin and ice in your plastic cups. —‘This is happiness’, says W….
W.’s felt ill nearly all his adult life, he says. When was the last time he felt well?, I ask him. He can’t remember. —‘It’s been years’, he says suddenly. ‘Years!’ He used to go for great walks on the moors, he remembers. That’s when he last felt healthy: on his great weekend…
Without moving a muscle, I slowly extend my hand to release the catch on the reel, then give the ultra-light pole just the right flick, unleashing a full five yards of line in an arc above my head to position the Ryman III dry fly with steel highlights absolutely perfectly. Four times, each one just as perfect. But the fish doesn’t budge, too busy watching his little slice of river go by.
Just what I ought to be doing if I ever truly want to understand his motives.
So I cover my body with plaster, let it dry, and then remove the shell in two careful halves. Then melt some tires. Pour a layer of melted rubber into each half. Join the two halves with adjustable leather straps. Insert a clear plastic window at eye-level. Paint the whole thing the color of water.
Attach little balls of…
To So-Kin of Rakuyo, ancient friend, Chancellor of Gen.
Now I remember that you built me a special tavern
By the south side of the bridge at Ten-Shin.
With yellow gold and white jewels, we paid for songs and laughter
And we were drunk for month on month, forgetting the kings and princes.
Intelligent men came drifting in from the sea and from the west border,
And with them, and with you especially
There was nothing at cross purpose,
And they made nothing of sea-crossing or of mountain-crossing,
If only they could be of that fellowship,
And we all spoke out our hearts and minds, and without regret.
And then I was sent off to South Wei,
smothered in laurel groves,
And you to the north of Raku-hoku,
Till we had nothing but thoughts and memories in common.
And then, when separation had come to its worst,
We met, and…
We should have a holiday to mourn and honor ourselves: those past selves we left behind or never allowed to happen.
There is an ancient story that King Midas hunted in the forest a long time for the wise Silenus, the companion of Dionysus, without capturing him. When Silenus at last fell into his hands, the king asked what was the best and most desirable of all things for man. Fixed and immovable, the demigod said not a word, till at last, urged by the king, he gave a shrill laugh and broke out into these words: ‘Oh, wretched ephemeral race, children of chance and misery, why do you compel me to tell you what it would be most expedient for you not to hear? What is best of all is utterly beyond your reach: not to be born, not to be, to be nothing. But the second best for you is—to die soon.’
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music
Pouget was now once more pleading for reinforcements and ammunition. The calm voice of Vadot sounded like that of an old teacher trying to explain a difficult problem to a somewhat obtuse student:
“Come on, be reasonable. You know the situation as well as I do. Where do you want me to find a company? I can’t give you a single man or a single shell, old boy.”
But that moment, at about 0400, Captain Jean Pouget had about thirty-five men left alive and in fighting condition on the whole hill. Obviously, he thought, further resistance under such circumstances would be completely pointless and he requested from Vadon permission to abandon E2 and to break out in the direction of E3. There are two versions of what followed next. According to Jules Roy, Vadot is supposed to have said: “You’re a paratrooper. You are there to get yourself…
Sebastian Knight was born on the thirty-first of December, 1899, in the former capital of my country. An old Russian lady who has for some obscure reason begged me not to divulge her name, happened to show me in Paris the diary she had kept in the past. So uneventful had those years been (apparently) that the collecting of daily details (which is always a poor method of self-preservation) barely surpassed a short description of the day’s weather; and it is curious to note in this respect that the personal diaries of sovereigns—no matter what troubles beset their realms—are mainly concerned with the same subject. Luck being what it is when left alone, here I was offered something which I might never have hunted down had it been a chosen quarry. Therefore I am able to state that the morning of Sebastian’s birth was a fine windless one, with twelve…
‘How shrewd you are!’ she exclaimed with admiration. ‘You’re a psychoanalyst.’
‘One doesn’t have to be a psychoanalyst to make psychological observations,’ said Moragas, galled. He had a horror of psychoanalysis, because he was right-wing. And he was right-wing because he was in business; if he had been in nothing, like Celestino, he might have been an anarchist, like Celestino.
He went on:
‘Psychoanalysis is psychology pure and simple, when it’s carried out by someone who isn’t intelligent, or who’s a bit corrupt. Three years ago I knocked my head against the door leading up from my cellar. Immediately I had brain trouble. So it was nothing to do with psychoanalysis. I was given the name of a famous neurologist, and I found myself — there was some misunderstanding — in the hands of a psychiatrist. The questions he asked were so irrelevant (no connection whatsoever with…
The pleasure in this world, it has been said, outweighs the pain; or, at any rate, there is an even balance between the two. If the reader wishes to see shortly whether this statement is true, let him compare the respective feelings of two animals, one of which is engaged in eating the other.
Arthur Schopenhauer, “On the Sufferings of the World”
A few years earlier, I’d awoken in a room in a country inn to discover that our thoughts are produced in a region of our innermost being marked by the quality of silence. Even amid a great city’s most strident clamor we think in silence about where we’re going or what we have to do, or whatever it is that corresponds to our desires. And the silence in which our feelings take shape is still deeper. We feel love in silence, before the thoughts come, and then the words, and then the acts, always moving farther towards the outside, towards the noise. Some thoughts can hide within silence and never become words, though they may carry out hidden acts. But there are also feelings that hide in silence behind deceptive thoughts. The silence where feelings and thoughts are formed is the place where the style of a human being’s life…
According to List (who in his day traveled to Europe too), they had laid a trap for mi general for political reasons, which was the exact opposite of what the newspapers said, the press inclining toward a brothel skirmish or a crime of passion with Rosario Contreras in a leading role. According to List, who was personally familiar with the brothel, mi general liked to screw in the most out-of-the-way room, which wasn’t very big but had the advantage of being at the back of the house, far from the noise, near this courtyard where there was a fountain. And after screwing, mi general liked to go out into the courtyard to smoke a cigarette and think about postcoital sadness, that vexing sadness of the flesh, and about all the books he hadn’t read.
Roberto Bolaño, The Savage Detectives
So this Marco Antonio, who is he? said the inspector. A poet, said Álamo, flatly. But what kind of poet? the inspector wanted to know. A surrealist poet, said Álamo. A surrealist and a PRI-ist, specified Labarca. A lyric poet, I said. The inspector nodded his head several times, as if to say I see, although it was clear to us that he didn’t understand shit. And this lyric poet didn’t want to show his support for the Sandinista revolution? Well, said Labarca, that’s a strong way to put it. He couldn’t make it, I guess, said Álamo. Although you know Marco Antonio, said Labarca, and he laughed for the first time. Álamo took out his pack of Delicados and offered it around. Labarca and I each took one, but the inspector waved them away and lit a Cuban cigarette. These are stronger, he said with a clear hint of…
The lion’s tail gives a clue to his state of mind; the ears serve the same functions as in horses. For Nature has endowed all the noblest beasts with these means of expressing themselves. So the lion’s tail is still when he is calm, and moves gently when he wishes to cajole, which is rarely. Indeed, his anger is more frequently displayed: at its onset his tail lashes the earth, and, as it increases, his back, as if to goad him on. The lion’s strength is in his chest. Black gore flows from every wound, whether the injuries result from claw or tooth. When lions have eaten their fill they are harmless.
The lion’s noble spirit is most discernible in dangers: he sneers at weapons and protects himself for a long time by fearsome threats only — it is as if he protests that he will be acting against…
If you know your Genesis 2:19, you know that, though God kept the rivers for himself, Adam's first job was to find a name for every beast of the field and every fowl of the air. A thing may be merely corporeal, but it isn't truly real until there's a word for it. And so "there's a word for that" is never an unwelcome phrase. It's trivia that you always want to know.
Take something like @#$%&?!!!, the string of symbols conventionally used in comic strips to denote unprintable (not to mention unutterable) obscenities. There's a word for that, you know -- more than one, in fact. In 2006, for example, Language Log contributor Benjamin Zimmer coined the word obscenicon. Me, I don't like it; it's a little too... Cybertronic. But there's prior art. Back in 1964, Mort Walker came up with some words of his own, words…
One of the most vexing things about election year politics in the Bush era is that the only defensible stance is that Bush or his ilk must not win; it becomes impossible to criticize the opposition candidate without being accused of fifth columnism. And if that was true in 2000 and 2004, when the Democratic Party was offering up dull lumps like Al Gore1 and John Kerry, it's likely that things are going to be especially fierce this year, now that the Democratic candidate actually possesses considerable appeal and charisma.
Lawrence Lessig, of all people, provides an example while responding to outrage over the FISA Amendments Act of 2008:
The hysteria that has broken out among we on the left in response to Obama's voting for the FISA compromise was totally predictable... [P]lease, fellow liberals, or leftists, or progressives, get off your high horse(s)... [T]o start…
Our proposed statute would provide that the president must consult with Congress before ordering a “significant armed conflict”… To guarantee that the president consults with a cross section of Congress, the act would create a joint Congressional committee made up of the leaders of the House and the Senate as well as the chairmen and ranking members of key committees… Congress would have obligations, too. Unless it declared war or otherwise expressly authorized a conflict, it would have to vote within 30 days on a resolution of approval. If the resolution of approval was defeated in either House, any member of Congress could propose a resolution of disapproval.
Checks and balances — the answer to our problems had been right in front of us…
He concludes as follows that nothing is: if [something] is, either what-is is or what-is-not [is], or both what-is and what-is-not are. But it is the case neither that what-is is, as he will show, nor that what-is-not is, as he will justify, nor that both what-is and what-is-not are, as he will teach this too. Therefore, it is not the case that anything is. And in fact, what-is-not is not. For if what-is-not is, it will be and not be at the same time. For in that it is considered as not being, it will not be, but in that it is not being, on the other hand, it will be. But it is completely absurd that something be and not be at the same time. Therefore, it is not the case that what-is-not is. And differently: if what-is-not is, what-is will not be, since they are opposites, and…
(From Richvale, California)
(To Camp Lewis, Washington)
My Dear Soldier Brother,
I will again try to write you a few lines, received from your postal. Every Body is fine only Marie and Madaline have the whooping cough, they came home last Monday from Wheatland. Did you get my other letters you never said whether you received them or not.
We got some pictures of Hilda yesterday they sure are real good, the boys say that she looks like me so no wonder but what they are good ha, she sure looks big she wears her dresses clear to her shoe tops so it makes her look like 18 yrs instead of 15.
Aunt Emma lefted yesterday for Richmond she was here a week & at harvest she & Axel are going to try and come to help us. She said she would do the cooking so then I…
(From Richvale, California)
(To Camp Lewis, Washington)
I thought I would write you a few lines this evening as we are going to start harvesting tomorrow and I will be to busy to write very much, we are feeling first rate now.
We got a card totday from the Exemption Board saying that your furlough has been denied, the reason being Interference with military training. We sure were disipointed as we were almost expecting to see you roll in and surprise us one of these days. It has been about 2 weeks since we sent in our application.
I got a letter from Axel a few days ago saying that he would come some time this week and help us in the harvest but(?) were sure glad to have him come, we are expecting him every day now. Oscar has hired Urisley(?) you know Culvers vegetable man he…
(From Funk, Nebraska)
(To Richvale, California)
Dear friend Charlie,
I had intended to answer your letter soon this time, so I guess I'll have to do that tonight, because if I wait to do it come Sunday afternoon I'm afraid it will take a long time till you get it, because on Sundays it is most generly warm weather so I have to go down by the drink(?) and swim. The water is so deep over the grade that at first it nearly went up in the buggy when we drove across, but now it just goes up to the hubs, so it make fine swimming in the ditch, water even with the shoulders.
Since April 1st weve had around 36 inches of rain. There's lots of ducks over here so just what I'm waiting for is for the season to open. We are not done stacking yet, a…
“My friend, where are you coming from, at this hour?”
The student answered him:
“From the spirit-evocative, grandiosely illustrious, manifoldly celebrated academy which one vociferates as Lutetia.”
“What did he just say?” Pantagruel asked one of his companions.
“From Paris,” he answered.
“Ah, so you come from Paris,” Pantagruel continued. “And what do you do all day, you and all the other gentlemanly students in Paris?”
The student answered:
“We transmigrate the Seineian flow, both matutinally and nocturnally. We perambulate the transecting metropolitan arteries and assorted urban intersectional quadrant points. We converse continuously in Latinate verbalizations, and like veritable connoisseurs of aspects amatory we endeavor to captivatingly incur the benevolence of the universally magistrate, multiplicitously engendered, and ultimately endogenous feminine sex. At suitably appropriate intervals we ensure that we incarnate ourselves in certain well-defined habitations and, in an utterly ecstatic venereal transport, we inculcate our…
“Well, gentlemen,” says the landlord , “I reckoned you-all would be inquiring this morning. You all dropped off of the nine-thirty train here last night; and you was right tight. Yes, you was right smart in liquor. I can inform you that you are now in the town of Mountain Valley, in the State of Georgia.”
“On top of that,” says Caligula, “don’t say that we can’t have anything to eat.”
“Sit down, gentlemen,” says the landlord, “and in twenty minutes I’ll call you to the best breakfast you can get anywhere in town.”
That breakfast turned out to be composed of fried bacon and a yellowish edifice that proved up something between pound cake and flexible sandstone. The landlord calls it corn pone; and then he sets out a dish of the exaggerated breakfast food known as hominy; and so me and Caligula makes the acquaintance…
This time, he rings off. He then gets up. He shaves. He has his coffee. Very depressing. Everyone’s in the same state. He tries to laugh it off, defiantly. And in doing so he becomes even more like everyone else. He puts his right foot into his right sock and his left foot into his left sock; he puts on his braces; he buttons up his flies; he takes out a clean handkerchief; he double-locks his door; he doesn’t say good morning to his concierge. Outside, he says: “Good God, what weather!” It is raining. He takes advantage of the fact to perform his little experiment. When the rain is very heavy, it forms a mirror and you can see yourself on all sides. It’s very pleasant for the back and the profile. When he raises his foot, three million feet rise with it. When he scratches his ear, three…
Were they indefinitely inactive?
At Stephen’s suggestion, at Bloom’s instigation both, first Stephen, then Bloom, in penumbra urinated, their sides contiguous, their organs of micturition reciprocally rendered invisible by manual circumposition, their gazes, first Bloom’s, then Stephen’s, elevated to the projected luminous and semiluminous shadow.
The trajectories of their, first sequent, then simultaneous, urinations were dissimilar: Bloom’s longer, less irruent, in the incomplete form of the bifurcated penultimate alphabetical letter who in his ultimate year at High School (1880) had been capable of attaining the point of greatest altitude against the whole concurrent strength of the institution, 210 scholars: Stephen’s higher, more sibilant, who in the ultimate hours of the previous day had augmented by diuretic consumption an insistent vesical pressure.
What different problems presented themselves to each concerning the invisible audible collateral organ of the other?
To Bloom: the problems of irritability, tumescence, rigidity, reactivity, dimension,…
My mother is a fish.
William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
Kurt Vonnegut, 1922 - 2007
I have started a new blog, here, called "Charlie Letters." Pretty banner and improved graphics are forthcoming. I may occasionally still post on the blog here, but will probably concentrate my attentions for a while at the new site. Be sure to read the "About" page first, link at top right, the new site will make far more sense after you do. This is a project I've been wanting to do for ages, and finally started just last night. Come on by!
Sorry -- it's not Wii-compatible.
“I am the Cosmos - uplifting, chaotic, strangely compelling - seems to capture that wild, Arcadian, drug-fuelled sound - the residue of the sixties free-love dream. Sounds like a howling prayer to mother nature - a tale of abandon and regret - forlorn hope and love lost. Senses get lost in the swirling outro of 'I really wanna see you again' - invocation to the lost purity of rock n' roll. Beautifully and delicately ornamented but unmistakably raw and primal - soars and surges in a desolate, timeless landscape.”
The last farewell was affecting in the extreme. From the belfries far and near the funereal deathbell tolled unceasingly while all around the gloomy precincts rolled the ominous warning of a hundred muffled drums punctuated by the hollow booming of pieces of ordnance. The deafening claps of thunder and the dazzling flashes of lightning which lit up the ghastly scene testified that the artillery of heaven had lent its supernatural pomp to the already gruesome spectacle. A torrential rain poured down from the floodgates of the angry heavens upon the bared heads of the assembled multitude which numbered at the lowest computation five hundred thousand persons. A posse of Dublin Metropolitan police superintended by the Chief Commissioner in person maintained order in the vast throng for whom the York Street brass and reed band whiled away the intervening time by admirably rendering on their blackdraped instruments the matchless melody endeared…
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 2006 02:39:34 +0100
Subject: fascinated by his cynicism
he does not discuss prayer of clues and puzzle pieces in Da Vinci paintings Then tragedy strikes closer to home
loss comes at a high price tag when for the absence of a breadwinner a little sweeter at the orphanage
a choice retain their uniqueness their newborn child has died blended family safely on their side of the hedge
Garfield savors the royal treatment a bored and restless suburban teenager of professional soccer
DEAR MR. QUISTGAARD:
Although you do not know me my name is Jane. I have seized your name from the telephone book in an attempt to enmesh you in my concerns. We suffer today I believe from a lack of connection with each other. That is common knowledge, so common in fact, that it may not even be true. It may be that we are overconnected, for all I know. However I am acting on the first assumption, that we are underconnected, and thus have flung you these lines, which you may grasp or let fall as you will. But I feel that if you neglect them, you will suffer for it. That is merely my private opinion. No police power supports it. I have no means of punishing you, Mr. Quistgaard, for not listening, for having a closed heart. There is no punishment for that, in our society.…
“What I was just saying was that, our aim is, we’re going to be looking at some things or aspects, in terms of driving? Meaning safety, meaning, is speeding something we do in a vacuum, or could it involve a pedestrian or fatality or a family out for a fun drive, and then here you come, speeding, with the safety or destiny of that family not held firmly in your mind, and what happens next? Who knows?”
“A crash?” said someone.
“An accident?” said someone else.
“Crash or accident both could,” said the instructor. “Either one might or may. Because I’ve seen, in my CPR role, as a paramedic, when many times, and I’m sorry if you find this gross or too much, I’ve had to sit in our rescue vehicle with a cut-off arm or hand, even of a kid, a really small arm or even…
O Vanity! How little is thy force acknowledged, or thy operations discerned? How wantonly dost thou deceive mankind under different disguises? Sometimes thou dost wear the face of pity, sometimes of generosity : nay, thou hast the assurance even to put on those glorious ornaments which belong only to heroick virtue. Thou odious, deformed monster! whom priests have railed at, philosophers despised, and poets ridiculed : is there a wretch so abandoned as to own thee for an acquaintance in publick? yet, how few will refuse to enjoy thee in private? nay, thou art the pursuit of most men through their lives. The greatest villanies are daily practised to please thee : nor is the meanest thief below, or the greatest hero above thy notice. Thy embraces are often the sole aim and sole reward of the private robbery, and the plundered province. It is, to pamper up thee, thou…
“This made me think of Catalonia. Catalan culture is very scatalogical. Besides the christmas Caganer. They also have a log. I think they call him Uncle Shit, and the children sing a song while beating the log. The song is basically says, "hey uncle, you better shit some candy or we will keep hitting you with a stick." I realize that this comment reads like someone recounting a dream they had, but I promise it is a fact.”
O my body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and women, nor the likes of the parts of you,
I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the likes of the soul, (and that they are the soul,)
I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my poems, and that they are my poems,
Man’s, woman’s, child’s, youth’s, wife’s, husband’s, mother’s, father’s, young man’s, young woman’s poems,
Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears,
Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eyebrows, and the waking or sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw-hinges,
Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition,
Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck-slue,
Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the ample side-round of the chest,
Upper-arm, armpit, elbow-socket,…
Right now it's the middle of February and I'm listening to the improvised melody created when the two cicadas that are outside the open front door chime in and sing along with Ornette Coleman and this makes everything that was so wrong in my tiny life earlier today seem so far away and absolutely bearable and I can almost see my way clear to the wonderful that is dead on ahead.
Federico Garcia Lorca
Only your hot heart,
and nothing more.
My paradise a field
with a discreet river
and a little fountain.
Without the spur of the wind
against the branch,
without the star that wants
to be the leaf.
An enormous light
that longs to be
in a field of
A clear repose
and there our kisses,
would open far away.
And your hot heart,
She stands on my eyelids
And her hair is in my hair,
She has the shape of my hands,
She has the color of my eyes,
She is engulfed by my shadow
Like a stone against the sky.
Her eyes are always open
And never let me sleep.
Her dreams in broad daylight
Melt away the sun,
Make me laugh, cry and laugh,
Talk when there’s nothing to say.
Paul Eluard, “L’Amoureuse”
This week I read Robert Darnton’s pop history of 18th century French culture, The Great Cat Massacre, the first chapter of which attempts to get into the heads of the old regime French peasantry by examining their folk tales. Reading these old peasant stories, which were passed on orally into the 19th and 20th centuries, not just across France but into the Caribbean and the Americas, one finds a worldview preoccupied by want, hunger, guile, and a certain kind of humor that is politely termed Rabelaisian. (If you don’t know what that means, I’ll shortly provide an example.)
Curious to read a few primary texts, I bussed down to the university library yesterday and spent the morning copying pages from the three volumes of Le Conte populaire français, edited by Paul Delarue and Marie-Louise Tenèze. Translation is for me a little like when a corporate manager attempts to perform an…
“On the third floor and a half,” answered the concierge.
The answer astonished me. But I climbed up to where Jarry lived—actually on the third floor and a half. The ceilings of the building had appeared wastefully high to the owner and he had doubled the number of stories by cutting them in half horizontally. This building, which is still standing, had therefore about fifteen floors; but since it rose no higher than the other buildings in the quarter, it amounted to merely the reduction of a skyscraper.
It turned out that Jarry’s place was filled with reductions. This half-floor room was the reduction of an apartment in which its occupant was quite comfortable standing up. But being taller than he, I had to stay in a stoop. The bed was the reduction of a bed; that is to say, a mere pallet. Jarry said…