Friday, November 28, 2008

UP

I stumbled upon a little plan for an expedition to the north. I was already planning on going with Chantal. Maybe a little discussion would help, since my family and I are quite knowledgeable of it. I go up multiple times a year, maybe I could help you guys out with info?

Oh, Bellotina

For a year I have kept for myself the photograph of angelic Bellotina. Magnificent Bellotina, she has lived alone in her yellow house, tucked neatly between giant pines a short way down the lane, longer than I have been alive. I watch as she organizes her hats, stuffs them with bulbs, and repeats. Insane Bellotina, I love you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Browning, Montana.




This is Browning, Montana. Home to the Blackfeet Nation and lots of mountains.
This is where I think about going when I am dissatisfied.

Debate

So the constant relocation of the debate post...

I have just asked Shane and Alex to explain what they mean by "false hierarchy of scarcity" and "hierarchy of ability".

Demian

Another book thing from Adam.

I read Hermann Hesse's Demian for the third time today, starting in the morning and finishing before school got out. I would quote from it, but I would have no idea where to start - I would end up quoting the whole book! It is my favorite book, and has stood up to the rigors of this position better than the some other books I have put in it (*cough* VALIS. Wasn't quite as good the second time through). I spent the whole day immersed in it, as on wednesdays we don't have any class which demands my attention all day long, and the morning was delightfully full of images and smells and feelings from my past. Since I cannot talk about Demian but to urge you all to spend the day it takes to read it as soon as you can, I made this post instead to talk about a bunch of little things I feel in my life lately.

To start with, I got the odd feeling in class the other day that I felt like a German schoolboy. You know, with the uniform, and carrying my little cheese sandwich and my apple that my mom packs for me in the morning, hanging on the gate outside waiting for a ride after school, and feeling the breeze and contemplating sociability and why I don't feel interested in it. But more than this silly romantic feeling, I also have been granted a weird perspective on being in school in general. I don't feel "too old for it" or anything like that, but I have had moments where every single thing they are all doing seems incredibly childish and irrelevant, but yet beautifully, preciously so. Almost quaint, that is. I presume the fact that I've removed myself from the more frustrating and difficult aspects of the process makes it easier to romanticize. That is, I never work, on anything. Except philosophy, which is damned hard in a foreign language. If you thought Hegel was hard in English. . .

The second thing, which is a little bit more of a bother, is this odd feeling that I can't concentrate, that I'm somehow moving too fast. This is something Clara pointed out to me last year, that she takes ages to read every book she reads, soaks in it, lets it completely color a time of her life. I, on the other hand. . . I guess you all already know that I read quickly. I take quotes, I tackle issues, I draw connections, but I always get the feeling I forgetting things, that I'm skipping over important ideas and not giving them their due time. I don't feel like I have any pressing philosophical dilemma to solve; I think all the time, in confused, unfocused patterns, and can't clear my mind even when I try to meditate. I should have a pressing philosophical dilemma to solve, because those dilemmas exist, and I want to confront them. But whenever I try to bring one to mind, it feels like everything is just a muddle, I can't get anything that is clear and distinct to solve, like I could before.

Perhaps this is the result of coming out of a periodity of great clarity and deep thought, such as I had at the beginning of my time here. At that time, I had no books; I read Huck Finn, savored it as a comfort while I was ill, and read a few romantic short stories. I tackled philosophy in Spanish, understood it, and did well on the exam, better than most of my native-speaking classmates. Though I suppose I will find clear and difficult philosophical dilemmas once I get back into the groove of actually studying philosophy. The teacher, our "Director," who is the principal and owner of the school, has assigned us all to buy "Sophie's World." I suppose I'll be reading that when it gets here (in English), if anyone wants to read along or something. I'm thinking perhaps Shane would be interested in this?

Teachers! One thought that Demian did give me in particular today regards teachers and the way we learn; at least the most important things. I think that, with a very few exceptions (and it is unfortunate that it is so) like Mr. Dean, our most important teachers are not those in the official positions. They are not our elders, though this aspect bears even more exceptions. They are instead our close friends, typically those of our own age, who deal with the same relevant problems. This may have something to do with the way you can't really learn lessons from adults just by having them tell you, you have to experience things and try and fail for yourself first. This is not always the case either, of course, but it seems to me like a legitimate point. Enlightmenment and wisdom are not transferable. They must be earned by each of us individually.

Update! Today, I spent all day carefully re-reading The Politics of Experience. I got a lot more out of it, and I took a ton of notes, too. Goddamn, you all have to read this book. More importantly, I got my package of books today, which is really damned exciting and I can't wait to dive in. I believe I'm going to start with "How to Read a Book" so I don't miss out on anything important in the other books by not knowing how to read them beforehand. Alex, you know you sent me all your notes on said book along with it? Are you still planning to keep along with me? What do you want to read first?

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Once and Future King

"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then - to learn. Learn why the worlds wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you. Look at what a lot of things there are to learn - pure science, the only purity there is. You can learn astronomy in a lifetime, natural history in three, literature in six. And then, after you have exhausted a milliard lifetimes in biology and medicine and theocriticism and geography and history and economics - why, you can start to make a cartwheel out of the appropriate wood, or spend fifty years learning to begin to learn to beat your adversary at fencing. After that you can start again on mathematics, until it is time to learn to plough."
The Sword in the Stone, Chapter 21, page 183

This is a very important quote, I believe. I didn't take down any others, though there were many chuckle-worthy bits and good statements about the nature of law and humanity and such. The last ten pages or so sum up all the debates about law and human nature and the causes of wars you could ever have, but it's ten pages long so I won't quote it. There was one quote that I meant to write down but now can't find, that said that all those ethical and philosophical issues that seem "as urgent as though someone were holding a gun to your head" when you are young are things you learn to sort of ignore and get on with living as you get older. Is this true, anyone who no longer considers themselves "young?"

This is the last non-Star Wars book I had left unread (though of course I had already read it years ago too) and somehow it seemed to bring together a few threads that appeared in the books preceding it. This I guess may have been more a feeling than a real thing, though. First of all, it was simply alike in flavor to Phantastes, though that connection is rather tenuous. Second, this idea from Matthew Stover's Shatterpoint was found throughout the book. In fact, the Star Wars connection was one of the stronger ones I noticed, though I feel confident that none of you care about that.

That idea is this:
"Being a Jedi is a discipline imposed on nature, just as civilization is, at its root, a discipline imposed upon the natural impulses of sentient beings.
Because peace is an unnatural state.
Peace is a product of civilization. The myth of the peaceful savage is precisely that: a myth. Without civilization, all existence is only the jungle. Go to your peaceful savage and burn his crops, or slaughter his herds, or kick him off his hunting grounds. You'll find that he will not remain peaceful for long. Isn't that exactly what happened here on Haruun Kal?
Jedi do not fight for peace. That's only a slogan, and is as misleading as slogans always are. Jedi fight for civilization, because only civilization creates peace. We fight for justice because justice is the fundamental bedrock of civilization: an unjust civilization is built upon sand. It does not long survive a storm."
Matthew Stover, Star Wars: Shatterpoint, Chapter 12, page 256

Sorry for quoting a Star Wars novel, by the way. The third connection was that Lancelot, finding himself in a situation in which nothing he can do will solve the awful predicament he and his friends are in, goes insane. He spends a time in the wild, naked, and then eventually reconciles something inside himself and becomes reintroduced into the society which will eventually destroy his happy life, through the same paths he had seen it would. This pattern, excluding perhaps its inevitable tragic ending, is the exact pattern R.D. Laing described in The Politics of Experience.

The last item referred to the fact that the book is a tragedy, and so it is. T.H. White mentioned somewhere about reading L'Morte de Arthur of Malory, and realizing "(a) The thing was a perfect tragedy, with a beginning, a middle and an end implicit in the beginning and (b) the characters were real people with recognisable reactions which could be forecast." This is what made Lancelot go insane, and it made for a very emotional second half of the book. It is perhaps the first time I have read tragedy and appreciated it; I read Romeo and Juliet, Euripides' Medea and all of Sophocles' Oedipus trilogy, Goethe's Faust, as well as TOAFK itself years ago, and none of those compared in the least to the way the 'big moments' of this book made me feel this time. To be clear, I am not saying that the book is better than those others, but that I was more able to appreciate it. During the last two books, I felt a tightness in my chest, and frequently found myself wishing to "warn" the characters, or secretly hoping things would turn out alright.

One aspect that made it very emotional and touching was that the characters were established very well and were all very sympathetic and likable, particularly Lancelot and Arthur. The first book is a charming description of Merlyn's education of Arthur, the second is silly and mostly there to set up the last two, which contain all the tragic endings. I am not sure whether I most enjoyed the carefree naturalism and youthful wanderings of the first book, or the passion and tragedy of the last two. The second has a lot of silly bits about King Pellinore and the Questing Beast, but it also has the heart-wrenching scene in which Gawaine's brothers murder a unicorn.

Overall, the book is completely wonderful and I can't wait until I read it again. He is a fantastic writer who takes great care to give his scenery short but very characteristic and beautiful descriptions, and he seems to be an expert on a lot of random topics that we never deal with but which were very important to the lives of his characters, like falconry and heraldry. It definitely lends authenticity and immersion to the book. It is also "a thinker," and treats a lot of important and troublesome topics in an accessible and provocative way. Highly recommended for wintertime reading by the fireside, in a cozy situation with something that smells of cinnamon or spices, ideally with a mug of hot chocolate topped with melted marshmallows.

Thanks for recommending I re-read this, Eileen!

Dog love

What if people were more like these dogs?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachik%C5%8D

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greyfriars_Bobby

A Dream Frictioned

While a brutal winter’s day raged outside my window, I sat contemplating my schedule for my day. I suddenly realized that that it was my love’s birthday. I am not one to forget such things, but I had been so distracted lately, since my grandma had died and all. The last few weeks seemed more like a flood of emotions than a flood of moments and looking back I realize that I must have been a mess. And, it must have taken days for my love to repair me, during which time there was no one to support her. And now, here I am sitting on a bus, having completely forgotten her sacrifice on her most important day.
Looking out the bus window I saw that it wasn’t too late, the bus had carried me to old Bay City. Stepping off the bus its engine purred, so softly, asking me to forget her and travel the long road in its warm heated interior. I ignored the buses gentle plea and forded the cold and icy road. Once the tall brick buildings had blocked the biting wind I quickly glanced around for a destination, resolving upon a flower shop two blocks down. As I walked this barren stretch, I thought about how well I knew my love. We had stayed up for entire nights talking about her life, my life, philosophy, religion, and the meaning of life. I had listened when she cried and held her from the dark abyss; whenever she road those dangerous thought-trains down into the emptiness called depression. I had made her soup when she was sick and had warmed her when she was cold.
Looking in the shop window I saw that they carried her favorite flower even in the dead of winter. The one thing I knew about my love was that she would love these flowers. Delicately I selected the most beautiful flowers in the sad little shop and handed them to the shop boy behind the counter. He rang them up and said me in his smoke induced baritone, “So I see you’re tryin’ to get lucky are ya’ well truthfully, no girl wants these nasty things. Go out and buy ‘er a piece of jewelry or somethin’ fancy then she’ll know ya’ love ‘er.” Winking he handed the flowers back to me and I thought to myself, “I am such a better boyfriend than this guy.”
After leaving the dusty little flower shop, I cut through a few frozen intersections and arrive at the blocky apartment buildings that my love was staying at. Walking to her friend’s apartment I thought about how much she will love her perfect, although slightly frozen, flowers. I think about how we will be able to talk and how she will tell me her troubles and how I will comfort her like she did me. She had no idea I was coming, since I was supposed to be at a friend’s house for the weekend.
Navigating the maze of mothball hallways I arrive at her friend's apartment. I am excited enough now, that I have to mull about for a few seconds before I can even knock on their peeling white door. I hold my breath and knock; some muscular guy I don’t know answers the door and I ask him if she is here. He looks at my flowers and smiles saying, “Yah she’s here, come on in.” Upon walking in, I immediately smell sex and I hear passionate noises coming from the bedroom down the hall. Looking around I realize that the place is trashed, with red cups everywhere. Turning to the doorman I ask him who he is and what happened. To which he responds, “I am yer friend’s new guy. Your girl and her held a party last night.” Not wanting to talk to this man anymore I turn to go investigate the bedroom.
The open door reveals my love with a clone of the doorman passionately fucking. I stand in shock for a minute, until he notices me and stops to yell, “Fuck off, perv!” She looks up at me and I hold out her flowers. She looks at him and wobbly stands up, not even bothering to cover herself, and walks over to me. She looks at me with resolve in her eyes and says, “I need a strong man not some weak and emotional guy like you.” Motioning at my flowers she continues, “I mean come on, you brought flowers.” I can see that she is right, and begin to cry. I turn from her to hide my shame and walk back to the doorman. He looks up from his football game and says, “ya should ‘ave brought jewelry ya’ dumb fuck.”
I dropped the flowers and left the apartment, to brave the cold wind.

In the vein of friction

I meant to post this a few days ago, but I get sidetracked.
I think I may need to take basically every other word out of this, but I'm not sure it would work then, either. Actually, I think there just may be way too many adjectives in the second half. Opinions?
I would also like to encourage discussion about the (in?)utility of adjectives vs. nouns.
At any rate, it's a work in progress.


All winter long, Baba-Liga cowers; sinks down below eyeball trajectories, projections of sun, of warmth, shrinks and huddles deep in her jawbone and peers out the rinds of her eyes at disjointed shadows of snow or grey or fluorescent lights and dully watches as her legs slide forward like paint drying on a wall. The worms of her fingers freeze and slow and creak and bite when they’re supposed to wriggle but only curl, and maybe if she could see them squirm, her ribs would remember the beat and her legs would more than slide ghostlike and slippered or shuffle and bump in the drafts, maybe they would push again and their pulse would raise her core out of her jawbone. But that is context, old woman, and you have none in your barren bone.

Baba-Liga doesn’t think it’s strange, then, only slightly electric, when her hands smash the flickering bulb above her kitchen sink. She lifts barely from her jawbone perch, drawn by the blood erupting in beestings across her cream-cheese skin, which sparks her thoughts strangely to goldfinches and the little hairs on her upper arms. So it’s her puzzlement mostly that drags the sliver of lightbulb cleanly across her wristbone, but it is she who, shaking, lets slip the shard that shatters like raindrops on the flecked linoleum, and it’s she who thinks she feels slightly like a newborn, though she really can’t be sure. Her hands grasp at the goldfinches fighting to escape her ribcage, and her upper arms prickle like blades of grass. She has pushed off her jawbone now; a child again, pressing off a poolside, spinning in the brief burst of speed before the backlash, the choking water in her mouth and lungs that she’s feeling now. She stares straight out her eyeballs, casting herself in hopes she might anchor, but her fingers slip and her knees fold. In tomorrow’s paper, she’s listed as a suicide.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Two Short Frictions

Here are two short stories I have written in the past two days. I want to dig through my notebooks and find the rest of the ones I like, but that'll take a little while and it's late and I'm tired. But, I figured for now I will transcribe these two. The first:

The Sick Man

The officer walked as a robot along the line of sleepy men. Once, he was cold and efficient, but the monotony of the ritual of inspecting the prisoners, which was performed each day and now was many years old, had bored him to tears, and he approached the task each morning with such an apathy that it spread the unbearable tedium of it all around the room, so that even the fresh prison guards became restless. He still moved quickly, and the sweep of his glances was still effective, but they were no longer adventures in justice, as they had once been, but merely mechanical habits. The officer had lost his penal spirit.

This morning one of the prisoners was absent. The officer, surprised at the uncommon break in the routine, stood for a moment, sharing an awkward silence with the prisoners. He rarely spoke at the morning inspections, and his voice cracked as he tried to sound authoritative: "Where is prisoner number One Six Nine - mister, um, Tender?" He straightened his back, waiting for an answer. A prisoner a few meters away spoke up, " sir, I think he was taken to the infirmary last night. He complained that he had difficulty breathing." The officer turned to a guard further down the row. "Is this true?" he asked.

"Now I remember sir," began the guard, "yes, he had a history of illness. I'm... I'm afraid he passed away in the night, sir."

The officer thought for a moment, and looked around at the prisoners. He inspected them, this time for real. He almost felt rejuvenated. After a few quiet moments of deliberation passed, the officer pointed to a young, fire-haired prisoner. "You there," he ordered, "stand where he would be standing, please." The prisoner walked over and filled the empty spot in line. Feeling for the first time in years truly alive, the officer continued, "You are now the Sick Man." The young prisoner began to cough.

Of High Office

A pale, lumpy man say in his high chair, behind his desk, in his office, on the top floor of one of the tallest buildings in the city. His office, and everything in it, boasted of a great stature. He especially looked important, and he wielded an aura of great sway. He appeared to be an essential, non-interchangeable component of whatever organization was beneath him. He was very well aware of his station, and he was extremely careful about it. He knew that the ladder he climbed was easily tipped, and he still had a long way to go.

As he sat, spinning slowly in his chair, he imagined himself presiding over a small town, and soon concluded the town was much too small for him. He was by this time very bored with his position, but at the moment there was nothing he could do to hurry the process of promotion. As powerful as he was, he could only wait. He sighed and turned toward the window.

He was indeed atop a very tall building. Within his view he observed mountains, valleys, forests, lakes, and the rivers that ran through them all, and the numerous other towns and settlements that peppered the landscape. His examination of the world outside only intensified his political restlessness, as he controlled so far just a tiny fraction of what he saw.

The young, unambitious voice of his secretary over the intercom broke the pretentious silence of the office. "Sir, the director called. He would like to know if you would like to be in charge of one more person." The pale man gave a small smile to himself, rocked in satisfaction for a moment in his chair, and answered his secretary. "Mmmm," he grumbled, "yes, I would like that very much.

Hope Enjoyed.

Though these could stand for much improvement, I think they are some of my best work to date.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Upper Peninsula Pictures

These I took with my sister's mediocre point-and-shoot digital camera. I would love to get a real camera up there. Or should I? Also: Adam, have you been to the Upper Peninsula? I have no idea? Also:






There are more, located at my blog on www.myspace.com/alexhiatt.

But a Taste!

I should note that while most of the pictures were taken from established overlooks and tourist trails and such, that top one of the river was more wild than the rest. We had hiked several miles off an old, abandoned county road, which itself was maybe twenty miles away from any paved road. Standing ankle deep in a river like that - the memory!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Debate, Reincarnated

Sylvie and I have sort of decided to renew the debate post to the front page and organize and summarize what we've come up with so far, as well as identifying those things that we have yet to discuss, the things the discussion has pointed to so far.

Idealism vs. Pragmatism could be a good one.

"What's your conception of freedom and equality?"
This was never fully addressed.

Our communal definition of communal property was also never reached, and the subject of private property vs. collective property is one mentioned early one but left to be delved into.

Also, perhaps a discussion of the practical means with which we propose establishing our respective systems would be in order at some point.

Things we have already established:
1. One has no right to exert his or her authority over another, on the basis that this implies their ideas and opinions are somehow superior or have more value than those of the other. No one can ever have ideas and opinions of more value than those of anyone else because humans cannot grasp abstract, absolute truth, and thus we cannot know if such truth even exists. This does not mean that there is no need or place for morals, but merely that they cannot be enforced on others. Ideally, morals should be agreed upon as a community.

2. There is such a thing as human nature - we have certain predilections, and the potential for certain traits and behaviors is always there - they merely depend on social cues to bring them out or repress them.

3. Humanity has near-infinite potential. This is illustrated by the grand accomplishments of science, the horrible crimes perpetrated by people on other people, the incomprehensible differences between worldviews, among other things. This means that at least we have the potential to craft society towards the way we want it to be.

Fairy Tale Dream

I just found this dream in my diary from my trip; it's a fairy tale.

Two children, an older girl and her brother, live with their father on a small island. There, he makes them do exercise and farming work to a torturous extent. They find some small object of import, like a thimble or something, and find a little slot that they also interpret as having some power or magic, and put their thing in it. In response, a message scrolls across the slit, giving directions for a meeting with someone on the other side of the slit. The directions are someplace in a city, far from their remote island. They end up in some resort beach area somehow, though what they did there is not evident. Later, back on their island, they find or steal the object of their father's power over them, something small and yellow. They use it to turn their situation around - they make their father farm and they eat a great feast!

Michigan (Tahquamenon Falls)

Introducing Julian Koster

http://www.e6townhall.com/showthread.php?t=1340
http://www.megaupload.com/?d=42QNCGQ6
http://www.tinymixtapes.com/The-Music-Tapes
http://www.largeheartedboy.com/blog/archive/2008/08/note_books_juli.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bD_0wegMc7Q
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jpw5_A7s6lM
http://www.prefixmag.com/features/the-music-tapes/show-review/23182/

I want to introduce you all to a very important person, a person who I feel odd even writing such a post about, but whom I need you all to know of.

Julian Koster is famous mostly because he was in Neutral Milk Hotel, which was a famous band. But he also has his own band, The Music Tapes, which just released its latest album "Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes," two music videos from which I've linked to on youtube. I've also linked to an Elephant 6 townhall thread in which he writes extensively about the "grandest things," a megaupload of his second album, which is quite rare, the 2nd Imaginary Symphony for Cloudmaking, a story read by Brian Dewan accompanied by Music Tapes music, which is perfection, a great review of the latest album with some awesome quotes from him, and an interview he gave regarded his book recommendations.

He is someone very dear to my heart right now, and I imagine that, in the way things work, I'll probably meet him someday. His fans are the best group of fans I've found, who appreciate life in the greatest way, the way I am right now. I can't put it into words; let him speak for himself.

"I think what Elephant 6 meant for us is very simple: there's something pure and infinite in you, that wants to come out of you, and can come out of no other person on the planet. That's what you've got to share, and that's as real and important as the fact that you're alive. We were able, at a really young age, to somehow protect each other so we could feel that. The world at large, careerism, money, magazines, your parents, the people at the rock club in your town, other kids, nothing is going to give you that message, necessarily. In fact, most things are going to lead you away from it, sadly, because humanity is really confused at the moment. But you wouldn't exist if the universe didn't need you. And any time I encounter something beautiful that came out of a human somewhere, that's them, that's their own soul. That's just pure, whatever its physicality is, if the person can play piano, if they can't play piano, if they're tone deaf, whatever it is, if it's pure, it hits you like a sledgehammer. It fills up your own soul, it makes you want to cry, it makes you glad you're alive, it lets you come out of you. And that's what we need: we desperately need you."
From the 33 1/3 In The Aeroplane Over the Sea book

"I just find the imaginary more real than the physical. Magic, the way we find things beautiful, the light behind eyes, kindness, and how we want to serve and protect the things we care about — these things seem like the real foundation of the world to me. I hope that the songs on this record can be more than just postcards from a world, but an invitation to it, to anyone at all who may find such a place comforting and nice."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Michigan Love Affair Post

This is in response to Alex's post.
This is about how much I love Michigan.

A Primer
by Bob Hicok


I remember Michigan fondly as the place I go

to be in Michigan. The right hand of America

waving from maps or the left

pressing into clay a mold to take home

from kindergarten to Mother. I lived in Michigan

forty-three years. The state bird

is a chained factory gate. The state flower

is Lake Superior, which sounds egotistical

though it is merely cold and deep as truth.

A Midwesterner can use the word “truth,”

can sincerely use the word “sincere.”

In truth the Midwest is not mid or west.

When I go back to Michigan I drive through Ohio.

There is off I-75 in Ohio a mosque, so life

goes corn corn corn mosque, I wave at Islam,

which we’re not getting along with

on account of the Towers as I pass.

Then Ohio goes corn corn corn

billboard, goodbye, Islam. You never forget

how to be from Michigan when you’re from Michigan.

It’s like riding a bike of ice and fly fishing.

The Upper Peninsula is a spare state

in case Michigan goes flat. I live now

in Virginia, which has no backup plan

but is named the same as my mother,

I live in my mother again, which is creepy

but so is what the skin under my chin is doing,

suddenly there’s a pouch like marsupials

are needed. The state joy is spring.

“Osiris, we beseech thee, rise and give us baseball”

is how we might sound were we Egyptian in April,

when February hasn’t ended. February

is thirteen months long in Michigan.

We are a people who by February

want to kill the sky for being so gray

and angry at us. “What did we do?”

is the state motto. There’s a day in May

when we’re all tumblers, gymnastics

is everywhere, and daffodils are asked

by young men to be their wives. When a man elopes

with a daffodil, you know where he’s from.

In this way I have given you a primer.

Let us all be from somewhere.

Let us tell each other everything we can.




That was in the New Yorker sometime last year.

Dear Copyright Laws,
Sorry. I think I'm probably not supposed to post that since I didn't write it and it belongs to The New Yorker now I assume, so I'll post the link in hopes that that makes it more "sharing" and less "stealing". I just watched a video about this college kid from Brown who got sued by the RCA for copyright infringement, and it sounds like it really blows. We're good kids. Please leave us alone.
http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/poetry/2008/05/19/080519po_poem_hicok
Love,
Sylvie

To be a goldfish, what is a goldfish, and the goldfish means I want you.






























On my mind: To be a goldfish.
I’m wondering: what am I forgetting? I want to hold on to every flood of emotion and the subtleties interlaced between shifts. I feel the image in my mind. I want it to be clear. How do you think? In thoughts? In pictures? I say neither. I say you make sense of the way you think through thoughts and pictures. I say you think simply in thoughts. They just are. They’re something you feel or know or are aware of and they need no greater definition than that to make sense to us because, after all, human understanding is not based on experience. Personal understanding, yes, but not the ability to understand. I don’t know. I hope I’m not rambling… am I rambling? Is this coherent? Does it make sense?
Is it too disjointed for sense? Too simple, perhaps? Too basic?

I love words. Really, I do. But the human brain is not built for language. Nor is it reliant on imagery. Yet here I sit, an art student, typing.
Maybe that’s why I love the human brain.

Which brings us to the subject: art. Ridiculous, serious, pretentious. As self-involved as... a love letter to memories-- thoughts-- language- that uses goldfish as imagery (albeit fleetingly).
I present: David Barthelme's "The Balloon" in a connect with the very art/intellect world we muddle through, blog up, right now.
Damn, that's a short story.

Michigan and Hunt Sabs

These are not two related things, necessarily, though they may be, probably should be.

I have been reading a little lately about Michigan, and I've come to the conclusion that it is far more than I have known - as I have ignored most of it. Just reading through the Wikipedia article is enough to understand how fortunate/unfortunate we are to be in such a state/area.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan

We have the largest publicly controlled forest system in the United States, we are amidst the largest freshwater system in the entire world, there are more species of trees in Michigan than in all of Europe combined, the Porcupine Mountain Wilderness Area - which I have had the enormous honor of seeing in person - is the oldest mountain system in all of North America, and on and on. Has anyone appreciated this? Adam, hurry back so we can explore some of this.

Of course, we have almost a million hunters, which brings the next point.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunt_sabs
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunt_Saboteurs_Association
http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=98388481

This sounds like supreme fun.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Summer, 1903

A Magic Forest Scene

My dream last night:
The background to this, the final scene, are lost, though there was plenty and all these characters were established and known to me before it.

I am walking in the woods at night - slightly scary, because there are a LOT of animals about. I don't remember having a light, but "it's a very starry night" and I can see plenty, like what looks like a cat, staring at me from behind a fallen log. I am stepping down a small ledge into a small clearing, edged on the far side by spindly trees, glowing silver in the starlight. Above, I glance at the starry night sky, which seems bordered by a dusty gold glow. I turn to my right - there are three bigger, thicker trees, green, with chunks missing and branches fallen from lightning strikes and rot. I approach the closest and touch it; there is a thick moss reaching around from the far side.
I am joined by a lone figure, someone I had met before, a friend. He is like a faun, and looks a bit like William; his clothes are that Mexican style we found in San Cristobal; I believe it may be hemp, or look like it? Particularly I notice his belt, a mere rope of the material. We talk, he leaves the way I came, and I am joined by others, a group, including another friend similar to him. This friend, who is alike in every way to the one who has just left except his clothing, speaks for the group; the others are smaller and indistinct. He hesitatingly begins to tell me that my friend, the one who has just left, has "HIV Negative;" that is, that he has the disease but that it is not communicable, and I am thus not in any danger. I cut him off, however, because I already knew all this and it didn't matter to me.

Luckily my dream-giver made me break my prediction to you, Sylvie, by giving me this beautiful magic forest dream! I started The Once and Future King today, and got through the first 100 pages in school. I love that we do so little in school that I get away with reading through all but one or two hours of the day.

Somebody help me set up a wiki to play Lexicon. I want to do it, but I am clueless as to how to get started.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Gulag Archipelago

"I acquired a new capability from him: to accept patiently and purposefully things that had never had any place in my own plans and had, it seemed, no connection at all with the clearly outlined direction of my life."
Part I, Chapter 5, First Cell, First Love, page 213

"In every life there is one particular event that is decisive for the entire person-for his fate, his convictions, his passions."
Part I, Chapter 5, First Cell, First Love, page 217

"With the exception of a very limited number of parliamentary democracies, during a very limited number of decades, the history of nations is entirely a history of revolutions and seizures of power. And whoever succeeds in making a more successful and more enduring revolution is from that moment on graced with the bright robes of Justice, and his every past and future step is legalized and memorialized in odes, whereas every past and future step of his unsuccessful enemies is criminal and subject to arraignment and a legal penalty."
Part I, Chapter 9, The Law Becomes a Man, page 355

"To restore their authority and prestige, the engineers really had to unite among themselves and help each other out. They were all in danger. But they didn't need any kind of conference, any membership cards, to achieve unity. Like every kind of mutual understanding between intelligent and clear-thinking people, it was attained by a few quiet, even accidental words; no kind of voting was called for. Only narrow minds need resolutions and the Party stick. (And this was something Stalin could never understand, nor could the interrogators, nor their whole crowd. They had never had any experience of human relationships of that kind. They had never seen anything like that in Party history!)"
Part I, Chapter 10, The Law Matures, page 392

"And only here, right here, is where our chapter ought to have begun. It ought to have examined that glimmering light which, in time, the soul of the lonely prisoner begins to emit, like the halo of a saint. Torn from the hustle-bustle of everyday life in so absolute a degree that even counting the passing minutes puts him intimately in touch with the Universe, the lonely prisoner has to have been purged of every imperfection, of everything that has stirred and troubled him in his former life, that has prevented his muddied waters from settling into transparency. How gratefully his fingers reach out to feel and crumble the lumps of earth in the vegetable garden (but, alas, it is all asphalt). How his head rises toward the Eternal Heavens (but, alas, this is forbidden). And how much touching attention the little bird on the window sill arouses in him (but, alas, there is that "muzzle" there, and the netting as well, and the hinged ventilation pane is locked). And what clear thoughts, what sometimes surprising conclusions, he writes down on the paper issued him (but, alas, only if you buy it in the commissary, and only if you turn it in to the prison office when you have used it up--for eternal safekeeping. . .).
But our peevish qualifications somehow interrupt our line of thought. The plan of the chapter creaks and cracks, and we no longer know the answer to the question: Is the soul of a person in the New Type Prison, in the Special Purpose Prison (the TON), purified or does it perish once and for all?
If the first thing you see every morning is the eyes of your cellmate who has gone insane, how then shall you save yourself during the coming day? Nikolai Aleksandrovich Kozyrev, whose brilliant career in astronomy was interrupted by his arrest, saved himself only by thinking of the eternal and infinite: of the order of the Universe - and its Supreme Spirit; of the stars; of their internal state; and what Time and the passing of Time really are."
Part I, Chapter 12, Tyurzak, page 483

"Own nothing! Possess nothing! Buddha and Christ taught us this, and the Stoics and the Cynics. Greedy though we are, why can't we seem to grasp that simple teaching? Can't we understand that with property we destroy our soul?
So let the herring keep warm in your pocket until you get to the transit prison rather than beg for something to drink here. And did they give us a two-day supply of bread and sugar? In that case, eat it in one sitting. Then no one will steal it from you, and you won't have to worry about it. And you'll be free as a bird in heaven!
Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag. Use your memory! Use your memory! It is those bitter seeds alone which might sprout and grow someday.
Look around you--there are people around you. Maybe you will remember one of them all your life and later eat your heart out because you didn't make use of the opportunity to ask him questions. And the less you talk, the more you'll hear. Thin strands of human lives stretch from island to island of the Archipelago. They intertwine, touch one another for one night only in just such a clickety-clacking half dark car as this and then separate once and for all. Put your ear to their quiet humming and the steady click-clack beneath the car. After all, it is the spinning wheel of life that is clicking and clacking away there.
What strange stories you can hear! What things you will laugh at."
Part II, Chapter 1, The Ships of the Archipelago, page 516

"What about the main thing in life, all its riddles? If you want, I'll spell it out for you right now. Do not pursue what is illusory - property and position: all that is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell night. Live with a steady superiority over life - don't be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn after happiness; it is, after all, all the same: the bitter doesn't last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing. It is enough if you don't freese in the cold and if thirst and hunger don't claw at your insides. If your back isn't broken, if your feet can walk, if both arms can bend, if both eyes see, and if both ears hear, then whom should you envy? And why? Our envy of others devours us most of all. Rub your eyes and purify your heart - and prize above all else in the world those who love you and who wish you well. Do not hurt them or scold them, and never part from any of them in anger; after all, you simply do not know: it might be your last act before your arrest, and that will be how you are imprinted in their memory!"
Part II, Chapter 4, From Island to Island, page 591

I just finished the first two volumes (all I have) of this seven-volume work. I was skeptical at first of what he could actually fill so many pages with, but as it turns out, he doesn't even reach the work camps, which are the final destination of the entire system, the place one carries out the 5, 10, or 25 years of one's sentence in the 615 pages of the first two volumes. We go over the laws on whose account one is arrested, the process of the arrest itself, the interrogation process, the prison in which you live during the interrogation, the history of the waves of people arrested when and for what "reasons," the history of public trials in the USSR (reserved for big public figures - something the vast majority never experience), the conditions in the various means of transport from the interrogation prison to the work camps, the transit prisons one is held in along the way, and in part, the author's personal journey through all this.

Throughout all this, he writes very well, in a very thought-provoking manner, with a huge and intimate sense of Russian culture and history. He writes beautifully at points, trying to communicate to the reader the things one learns going through all this, the perspective one gains, and ideally showing them in part the absolute decadence and luxury in which they live, compared to the depths of prison life. He speaks of humanity on a fundamental level, treating questions of dignity, of cruelty, and the way perspective and experience form the world in which we live. He is almost appreciative of being sent to prison, in a way; he certainly does not view it as a waste, and explains the transformation that it effected on him, the humility and appreciation he learned from it.

Very quick, extremely informative and interesting, and good for plenty of thinking. Read it when you get around to it, all of you. It's something you will obviously only do when you get some time set aside for it. But it's definitely worthwhile, and deserves its reputation.

Sylvie, I'm preparing an absolutely gigantic report on my trip; it'll go up on my personal blog, of course, so watch out. I'm sure it'll take at least this next week to finish, though. I might take breaks to write letters, as well.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tomorrow

I don't want to talk about the election anymore; it's over, and we've all had enough of politics for months to come, I suspect. I do, however, want to make a closing statement, so to speak.

I am comforted that Barack Obama will become president, and it has nothing to do with whether or not I agree with his policies (I don't always). I think that the most important aspects of this election are the racial implications, which I do not pretend to understand, and the spirit he has kindled in the American people, which is one of the most valuable gifts a leader could give us at this juncture. I have come of age politically during the years after Bill Clinton disillusioned us and Bush turned our electoral process into a partisan supreme court game. Just as I was becoming aware of the meaning of my constitution, I watched him mangle our trust and lie to us while damning us in the eyes of the world. I could not and cannot reconcile his actions with the ideals of my country, in which I deeply believe.
However, last night, we gave ourselves a great opportunity for redemption and progress. Obama's political rise happened because he articulates the hope that we still have for our country after the chaos of the Bush presidency. But this opportunity is only mirrored by this new leader, not created by him. It came from all of us, and it must continue to. Now that we have put a man in power who we think will hear our voice, we have to speak. We can create our new birth of freedom if we dedicate ourselves to forging broader understanding in our country and in our world. Let's not go dormant. Whether or not we agree with this new president, he needs us. Let us help him, and each other, all we can.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Classical Music

I have been loving Holst's The Planets lately. It is a little "Soundtracky", but that's fine. It seems to be an obvious influence on a lot of soundtracks I've heard, at least, from Star Wars to Morrowind (there are parts in Venus that feel directly lifted by Soule for Morrowind, and the middle of Jupiter as well). Jupiter is Awesome, and I'm just now digging into the rest of the movements.

Anyway, Adam, more classical music!!!!!! I want names, links, you Son of a Bitch. Shostakovich was great. I want Mahler No. 2. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Debate

Hi guys, sorry for the week-or-so hiatus.
I don't know if anyone else was reading it, but Alex and I were having a debate in comments to a post a ways down. Adam just pointed out to me that this conversation should remain on the blog as opposed to it becoming private between Alex and me like I just proposed, and, of course, he's right. Sorry for that.

So I wanted to re-open the floor here.
We are talking about capitalism, anarchism, human freedom etc.
Please jump in!