Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Universal History of Infamy

After browsing my home book shelves this morning and slipping out a thin volume entitled "A Universal History of Infamy" by Borges I began paging through it. While everywhere there were depictions of scoundrels and murderers, I was never able to re-locate the page I had just read, a device that Borges himself used in his story "A Book of Sand." I suddenly realized that the only way such a slim volume could actually hold a Universal history of infamy, which I took to include past and future, would be if the volume contained a near infinite number of pages, which would make for a very unwieldy book indeed. Borges solved this problem by allowing pages to appear and disappear at random, thus allowing a near infinite coverage while keeping the volume slim. Just another of his great fictional devices.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Riff off Tanikawa

One hundred black coots
bobbing on silver water this morning

and i hear the sound of blood in my ears.
Tanikawa says poetry is none other than blood;

blood then is nothing but wind, and wind
our lost voices returning.

One hundred black coots bobbing
on silver water and the sound of wind

in my ears.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nicolas Cage's Movie Choices

There is a reason the talented actor Nicolas Cage has taken such stupid roles in such stupid movies over the past few years. Apparently he's broke. According to CNN: "Nicolas Cage brought about his own financial ruin with a spending spree that included two castles, 15 palatial homes, a flotilla of yachts and a squadron of Rolls Royces." Poor baby.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Siegal/Schwall Memories

When I was growing up in Chicago and Oak Park one of the most popular blues bands was the Siegal/Schwall band, a band we lived out many high school concerts with. Corky Siegal of course went on to some notoriety while Jim Schwall, who played a beautiful miked acoustic Gibson, disappeared. It was with great pleasure that I found this re-union at one of our neighborhood clubs, Fitzgeralds, also featuring the great Sammy Lay (luv those glasses!). Enjoy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Or, Well, What?

I still find myself intrigued and disturbed by 1984, and have dog-eared so many pages (it's a library book - my bad!) that I'm going to buy a copy. The text has cast a filter on my news consumption (and even sports viewing!) lately, and in light of the apparent continuation of our "little" wars in Afghanistan and Iraq I'll share this quote:

"Goods must be produced, but they need not be distributed. And in practice the only way of achieving this is by continual warfare. The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence in the long run, too intelligent. (I'm not sure about that -- fat and complacent might be more like it.) Even when weapons are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labor power without producing anything that can be consumed." Are we on the path of continuous warfare? And let's not forget that we are the largest weapons producing nation in the world, a fact that should make any sane person a subversive. Along with this continual warfare is all the pomp and jingoism and choreographed mourning for the killed soldiers, who gave their lives for their country. Don't bother asking why the f*ck we're over there anyway.

The other insight I picked up from 1984 was how the populace needs to be kept joyless. Anger, pain, cynicism, bullying, violence and fear are all legitimate emotions or psychological states because of their ease of manipulation. The prevalence of these negative energies, or the condition of cynicism, which is so prevalent in most media, has caused the poet Robert Hass (and many others in different ways) to state that merely "Feeling human is a useful form of political subversion."

Friday, November 13, 2009


Is a stunning book and one that doubtfully would be published today, with it's thin plot line, didactics, and complex psychological, philosophical and political descriptions, But it's a book everyone in America should read (again) and discuss in schools, cafes, bars, talk radio and news shows, because it still pertains to US. To some extent we have become the people of this book.

But, that's not what I had in mind with this post. What I had in mind was to transcribe this beautiful passage about a bird singing, overheard by Winston and Julia after they had first stolen away into the country and illicitly made love:
"A thrush alighted on a bough not five meters away, almost at the level of their faces. Perhaps it had not seen them. It was in the sun, they in the shade. It spread out its wings, fitted them carefully into place again, ducked its head for a moment, as though making a sort of obeisance to the sun, and then began to pour forth a torrent of song. In the afternoon hush the volume of sound was startling. Winston and Julia clung together, fascinated. The music went on, minute after minute, with astonishing variations, never once repeating itself, almost as if the bird were deliberately showing off its virtuosity. Sometimes it stopped for a few seconds, spread out and resettled its wings, then swelled its speckled breast and again burst into song. Winston watched it with a sort of vague reverence. For whom, for what, was the bird singing? No mate, no rival was watching it. What made it sit at the edge of the lonely wood and pour its music into nothingness?"

Great Zorn Thread


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Questions for Big Bird

Sesame Street turns 40 next Tuesday and this is your chance to ask Big Bird any question you want. Check out some of the questions here.
thanks to M for this.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Whatcom County Feminism

A feminist visiting from another area, seeing that Kathy, Mary Beth and Michelle are running against Dan, Carl and Ken might be heartened to see women well represented in local elections. If that same feminist arrived today, they might be dismayed that all three women were defeated. The irony is that the three men represent "progressive" concerns, while the three women were right-wingers. In what I am beginning to call the Sara Palin Effect, Republicans seem to be turning more and more to literate, pretty, clean-cut women to carry their cause forward. The further irony of this is that putting women into positions of power is a feminist cause, and the current crop of Republicans seem to be embracing it more effectively than the Democrats. And if by some amazing fluke Sara Palin runs, and is elected president, the Republicans will have achived a feminist coup by electing a woman to an office previously occupied by men 100% of the time.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Medicine Cabinets

Damien Hirst, a conceptual artist, is selling a series of Medicine Cabinets through Christie's Auction House. the medicine cabinets feature sliding glass doors, sleek white cabinetry, glass shelving, and are stocked full of bottles and boxes of goodies. The Medicine Cabinets are "thought up" by Hirst but actually executed by people with technical talent (but far less imagination) that Hirst. The Cabinets are going for around $239,000 and up. But before you rail on about the idiocy of conceptual art and the foolishness of investing this kind of money in flukey sh*t, be aware that the bottles and boxes in the Medicine Cabinets are crammed with Oxycontin which have a street value of around $80 - $100 a pill, thus making the investment rather a bargain. And selling the contents at local High schools is legal since it's art. Smart guy, this Hirst.