Simon Schama in a September issue of The New Yorker (2003) writes about sculptor Andy Goldsworthy: "Sometimes misread as a placid pastoralist, Goldsworthy is in fact a dramaturge of nature's temper, often fickle, often foul." Schama references a documentary film of Goldsworthy at work — Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time

in which an artist is seen enduring repeatedly, the collapse of his own creation, as he attempts to build a cone of dark seashore stones. The idea, a dream of every seven-year-old sandcastle engineer, was that the cone should stand sentinel, almost submerged in the high tide, yet survive intact to reappear as the water receded.

So very specific yet so very emblematic.

And so for day 535

Expression: Sensations and Representations

Malebranche offers an interesting take on the signifying limits of words. Consider this explanation from Thomas M. Carr Descartes and the Resilience of Rhetoric.

The ideal use of words, according to Malebranche, is to communicate the pure ideas of the mind. [...] Sensations cannot be adequately represented by words. While pure ideas are objective and perceived in a uniform manner by all because they are seen in God, the sensations are subjective and vary from individual to individual. They can only be experienced, not represented or described by an arbitrary sign like a word. [...] Since words are inadequate to communicate a message that is primarily sensible, the speaker of strong imagination will have to look elsewhere for a medium. Indeed, according to Malebranche, the rhetoric of imitation depends more on delivery than speech to persuade. Gesture, animation, and tone of voice carry the principal burden.

One is of course capable of making the call to body language without passing through the dichotomy between thought and feeling, between representation and sensation. There can be a body language that supports the work of representation. The key lies in not positioning either sensation or thought as a function of language's distance from God. The uniform perception can be rooted in a community of practice (and not a higher being). Still it is very tempting to distinguish representation and sensation according to the felicity conditions of their reception. However, one can inhabit a universe where all communication be it of sensations or of representations is to be tested repeatedly to determine if the transmission is at all successful in meeting the quality of uniformity. Apart from the question of uniformity, it is also useful for all communication to have a residue that is perceived in a non-uniform manner. That is, a potential miscommunication accompanies every message and provides opportunities for surprise and creative slippage.

And so for day 534

Theatre, Picture, Word

There is mystery. Wendell Piez reminds the TEI [Text Encoding Initiative] gang in a posting of July 31, 2006:

There may actually be a hidden lesson here, Martin, especially in view of the last exchange on editing software. You recall that one of the most tantalizing things we know (of the little we know) of the mysteries at Eleusis is that they involved not just what was said (ta legomena) but what was shown (ta deiknymena) and what was performed (ta dromena).


Rather fun to decontextualize and generalize the trio of actions. Talk, show, do. A syntagm for blogger times?

And so for day 533

Craft, Value and Economy

Wendell Berry in an essay entitled "Preserving Wildness" collected in Home Economics makes the case for what may be called an economy of attentiveness (as opposed to an economy of mere attention).

The good worker loves the board before it becomes a table, loves the tree before it yields the board, loves the forest before it gives up the tree. The good worker understands that a badly made artifact is both an insult to its user and a danger to its source. We could say, then, that good forestry begins with the respectful husbanding of the forest that we call stewardship and ends with well-made tables and chairs and houses, just as good agriculture begins with stewardship of the fields and ends with good meals.

Care for quality.

And so for day 532

Deconstructing Sculpture in Music

Here are some notes made after a presentation or lecture by David Toop. They are dated November 14, 2002.

At one point David Toop touched upon the commonplace figure of the move in Western musical discourse about composition from auditory to haptic relations to the body. Asked to elaborate, he pinpointed the moment this way of speaking came into the discourse: jazz improvisation. A moment not untainted by the stakes involved in the praise of primitivism. [McLuhan caught the buzz in the air already there with such texts as Lévi-Strauss on le jazz hot] It was evident from David's remarks that at some point in the development of a Western discourse about musical subjects it is the sculptural dimension of such objects that becomes predominant. And now in the work of such reporters/thinkers/composers as Toop it provides a pivotal spot for considerations of the connection between gesture and thought — rather amazing to watch musicians trace paths and movements in the air when discussing the shape of sound.

Also in David's remarks there is something that triggers for me an interesting question: how theorists position themselves vis-a-vis la voix humanine. I think there is this tension to explore between the (in)attention to voice and to the clapping/slapping hand. Vocalization/percussion which of course at the level of the phoneme disappears: explosives, dentals, fricatives, nasals.

Intriguing to consider the vocal apparatus as a machine, humming along. A machine in touch — throat. lips, nose — sensing the movements of air. It is possible to still the hand and remain haptic.

And so for day 531

Thicker Than Blood

A.S. Byatt in a fiction piece in an October issue of The New Yorker writes about a female character metamorphosed into a stone woman:

That evening she understood that she might be wrong about her immediate fate [...] the bread knife slipped and sliced her stone hand, between finger and thumb. She felt pain, which surprised her, and saw a spurt of hot blood from the wound whose depth she could not gauge. She watched the thick liquid run down the back of her hand, onto the bread, onto the table. It was ruddy-gold, dripping in long glassy strings, and where it touched the bread the bread went up in smoke, and where [...] Her veins were full of molten lava.

I like how the commonplace in this passage is transformed by a simple conceit.

And so for day 530

What Works Well

The preparation for reading appeals to all the senses. It is a cross-modal activity. It sounds like a lot of fun.

Teachers help children become more aware of the phonemes within words through a sort of armamentarium of opportunities — such as nursery rhymes that enhance a child's ability to hear and segment the rhymes and alliterative structure of words, and little "instant games" in which clapping, writing, and dancing bear out the sounds in words.

From the passage, "When 'Cat' Has Three Sounds, None of Which Is 'Meow': Phonological Development" from the book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf.

And so for day 529


I almost think that the succession of poems in the complete poetry of Catullus is meant to weary the reader. Invective succeeds invective to the point of tedium. And then, the concluding poem ends with a taunt addressed to Gellius but easily read as a rejoinder to posterity:

well, hurl away! my guard is up against you

but I'll wound you and bring you to your knees.

I like how the translation by Frank O. Copley offers the reader a chance to identify with either position: the cocky "I" or the marked "you". I wish I could say more but I just can't manage to let my guard down.

As I close the book, I chuckle at the sassy cover designed by Quentin Fiore.

That protruding tongue makes me stick mine out in imitation. Impudent.

And so for day 528

Of endings.

From Andrew Holleran's 1983 novel _Nights in Aruba_, from its concluding pages ... our rather listless hero is looking for conclusion if not closure.

I no longer believed when I awoke in the morning that I could, by lying still in my dark room, balance past, present, and future, or figure everything out. I was certain that even death would provide no illumination — that we died ignorant, confused, like novelists who cannot bring an aesthetic shape to their material.
As I sat there in my silent room I saw these memories would be with me forever, that wherever they were, I was: some part of me. But the life I must begin was my own — a separate person's. This was difficult. For I realized that so much memory and desire swirl about in the hearts of men on this planet that, just as we can look at Neptune and say it is covered with liquid nitrogen, or Venus and see a mantle of hydrochloric acid, so it seemed to me that were one to look at Earth from afar one would say it is covered completely in Ignorance.

And the reader is thus left to ponder. And perhaps conclude that a closer view, a view perhaps more down to earth, is possible and through which one appreciates that allegorical figure of Ignorance as the product of a novelist certainly not confused nor ignorant. Our author is in no need of illumination to provide the ending a novel. He knows how to insert a self-destructing allegory.

And so for day 527

v i s i t o r s

A little piece of text given line breaks and some boxes.

By design, we mean more than graphic design; we mean the development of a comprehensive structure by which people access information. This includes all of the elements that make up an online environment, from color and typography, to the object-oriented code that integrates with a database. When all of these elements work in concert, we achieve a degree of communication that goes beyond word and image, a communication in which visitors learn from the process of seeking.

Accessed 7/27/99

And so for day 526


Andrew Holleran in his essays collected in Ground Zero strikes a tone that borders on the ironic and then pulls away to a quiet, contemplative assertion of the value of pragmatic attention. Take, for instance, the conclusion to "The Absence of Anger" where heroics are celebrated in a muted comparison with histrionics.

And so, as with victims of rape or any misfortune, gay men have been silenced by a peculiar guilt induced by the misfortune — which makes the minority who have formed organizations, raised money, prodded government, gone on television to educate others, defended themselves against the Pat Buchanans and Robert Novaks and Jerry Falwells, all the more admirable. The fact that gay men did not throw rocks, set cars on fire, or besiege the White House was chiefly because they did other things that seemed more constructive at the time. They did march on Washington, they did print newspapers, they did criticize elected politicians. They did picket the airlines when Northwest refused to fly a sick man back from the Orient because he had AIDS. It is a long battle ahead, after all, and it will be necessary, of course, to confront this sort of unacceptable behavior each time it occurs. The fact is that in some curious way, though the people in this room have been told flat out that half of them will be dead in five years, none of them knows what else he can do about it — except for what he has already done. And because, most curious of all, most odd, most marvelous, the truth is none of them is really chilled by the assertion — each of them thinks he will escape, I suspect. As Freud also said, "No one really believes in his own death."

And so for day 525

Markets and Sensuality

But a small excerpt from a travel piece built around enumeration, Anaïs Nin "The Labyrinthine City of Fez" in the section "Enchanted Places" in In Favor of the Sensitive Man and other essays

After color and the graceful sway of robes, the flares, the stance, the swing of loose clothes, come the odors. One stand is devoted to sandalwood from Indonesia and the Philippines. It lies in huge round baskets and is sold by weight, for it is a precious luxury wood for burning as incense. The walls of the cubicle are lined with small bottles containing the essence of flowers — jasmine, rose, honeysuckle, and the rose water that is used to perfume guests. In the same baskets lie the henna leaves that the women distill and use on their hair and hands and feet. For the affluent, the henna comes in liquid form. And there is, too, the famous khohl, the dust from antimony that gives he women such a soft, iridescent, smoky radiance around the eyes.

The smell of fruit, the smell of perfumes, and the smell of leather intermingle with the smell of wet wool hanging outside the shops to dry — gold bedspreads hanging like flags in the breeze, sheep's-wool rugs, the favored cherry-red wool blankets, and rose carpets, like fields of daisies, lilies, apple blossoms.

She goes on to state that Fez is the city where one rediscovers the meaning of the word "azure" by contemplating the sky. A nice break after the riot of sensation and always at hand to provide surcease to the palate.

And so for day 524

Proofing, Reading, Discovering

Jonah Lehrer in the chapter "Gertrude Stein: The Structure of Language" in Proust Was a Neuroscientist

What Stein discovered was a writing style that celebrated its grammatical mistakes. In her most radical prose, she manages to make us conscious of all the linguistic work that is normally done unconsciously. We notice the way verbs instantly get conjugated (even irregular verbs), the way nouns naturally become plural, and the way we amend articles to fit their subjects. Stein always said that the only way to read her writing was to proofread it, to pay acute attention to all the rules she violates. Her errors trace the syntactical structures we can't see, as our "inside becomes outside." Stein showed us what we put into language by leaving it out.

what awe put into a we

And so for day 523

Laboratory, Sanctuary, Diary

Anaïs Nin in a 1971 interview in Vogue collected in In Favor of the Sensitive Man and other essays talks about the origins of her famous diary.

I began the diary at the age of eleven on the ship coming to America, separated from my father, to describe to him this strange land and entice him to come. It would enable him to follow our lives. The diary was begun to bring someone back. My mother didn't let me mail it; and it became private, a house of the spirit, a laboratory. It became a refuge, a sanctuary.

It begins with the wished for presence of an interlocutor. In a sense speech for the other predates dialogue for the self.

And so for day 522

Value and Price and Respect

From the essay "A Nation Rich in Natural Resources" collected in Home Economics comes this meditation by Wendell Berry upon the notion of value.

We must also notice that as the natural energy approaches human usability, it passes through a declension of forms less and less complex. A potato is less complex than the topsoil, a steak than a steer, a cooked meal than a farm. If, in the human economy, a squash on the table is worth more than a squash in the field, and a squash in the field is worth more than a bushel of soil, that does not mean that food is more valuable than soil; it means simply that we do not know how to value the soil. In its complexity and its potential longevity, the soil exceeds our comprehension; we do not know how to place a just market value on it, and we will never learn how. Its value is inestimable; we must value it, beyond whatever price we put on it, by respecting it.

One could ask whether or not we truly comprehend the simplicity of the potato. If the answer is no, we may not be able to truly value the potato.

And so for day 521


Adam Gopnik remarks after observing a meal with cooks talking together and eating and arguing ...

Searching for an occult connection between cooking and writing, I had missed the most obvious one. They are both dependencies of conversation. What unites cooks and writers is that their work flows from the river of human talk around a table. People cook to bring something to the table; people write to keep something that was said there. I enjoy the company of cooks, I realized, because I love the occasions they create for conversation.

from "The Cooking Game" in Through the Children's Gate.

And so for day 520


John L. Casti The Cambridge Quintet: A Work of Scientific Speculation is a dialogue that gathers some thinkers round the theme of machine intelligence. Casti has the character Turing pick up on the character Haldane's insistence that "Sensory inputs to the brain do matter" thus

[...] Must we duplicate human sennsory apparatus? Is it necessary to give the machine a sense of taste, touch and smell? Or is it enough for it just to be able to see and hear? And if we do have to create a machine version of these five senses somehow, why should we not think of any of these human senses are not themselves computational processes?

Cross-reference with Chandler Burr The Emperor of Scent: a story of perfume, obsession, and the last mystery of the senses

And so for day 519


Doris Lessing remarks in Particularly Cats

Perhaps, it is some definite movement a bird makes, some particular signal, that attracts the hunter in a cat, and until that movement occurs, a cat is not involved with the bird, has no relation to it.

A bit like cruising?

And so for day 518

Sovereign Information

At one point in The Philosopher's Stone: Chaos, Synchronicity, and the Hidden Order of the World David Peat contrasts an information theory view of communication with what might be characterized as a mental construction theory.

The problem with the [information] theory is its essential passivity in the way it deals with how information is exchanged between a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter generates a message, in code, which is then sent to the receiver, which decodes it and extracts the information. Communication is seen in terms of an exchange or interaction along a communication channel. [...] The French linguist G. Fauconnier has, to some extent, moved toward a more realistic theory of communication with his idea of "mental spaces." [...] each person is involved in a continuous act of creativity as he or she attempts to build "mental spaces" that will resonate, one with the other.

One wants to insert here the possibility of internal and multiple dialogues at play in and through the communicating self. That is there could be lots and lots interactions that conform to information theory and out of these interactions arise "mental spaces". A hint is given by Peat a few pages earlier:

This idea of communication is really an investigation into the permeability and dissolution of the boundary a system creates in order to preserve its own autonomy.

In the next sentence he undercuts any radical consequence that might arise from a notion of multiple systems interacting. He begins rather than arrives at an autonomous subject. It is a beginning point rather than the culmination of systems in communication. He writes: "A human individual, for example, is sovereign over his or her body, mind and experience." In some mental spaces, yes, there is an experience of sovereignty. But not in all.

We can begin by assuming that to any conversation there are more than two parties. A royal sovereign "we".

And so for day 517

Unknown and Unknowing

Garrison Keillor in a story "My Life in Prison" collected in We are Still Married: Stories and Letters provides the following opening to entice curiosity:

Ever since the day I first walked out onstage and blinked and cleared my throat, people have written some terrible things about me that aren't true, but it doesn't matter. I've done a lot of terrible things in secret that nobody wrote about, so it all evens out.

Apart from the score keeping, there is a hint here of an area of experience that is inaccessible either to the speaking subject or the observing subject. There is that which is not known by us or by the other. It's represent by one of the quadrants of the Johari window (that which is not known by the self or by the other).

Plot lines often begin tracing their paths from what I know and you don't or vice versa. Less often, they begin and end in what is truly unknown to either.

And so for day 516

Worlds and Time

In the "Emmulations" chapter of Sense I ended up tracing how narrataivity depends upon sequence and thus operates across sensory modalities. I was quite pleased to later discover that Marie-Laure Ryan in "Transmedial Narratology and Concepts of Narrative" arrives at a similar conclusion.

Though narrative as artifact requires both signifier and signified, i.e. both discourse and story, narrative as mental image can be formed in response to stimuli which are not material representations produced by humans. We may for instance form stories in our mind in response to life itself. While life is not a narrative, its ability to inspire the cognitive construct defined above - let me call it narrative script - means that it occasionally possesses a quality that we may call "narrativity." The property of "being" a narrative can be predicated of any semiotic object produced with the intent to evoke a narrative script in the mind of the receiver. "Having narrativity," on the other hand, means being able to evoke such a script. In addition to life itself, pictures, music or dance can have narrativity without being narratives in a literal sense. Both types of phenomena fall within the concerns of transmedial narratology.

In marking this passage, I am reminded of William S. Burroughs The Ticket That Exploded

The operation of retreat on this level involves shifting three-dimensional coordinate points that is time travel on association lines.

because Ryan like Burroughs has truck with mental constructs. A narrative as a type of mental construct works along association lines. Or so this is a way of translating the definition provided by Ryan:

This means that narrative is a certain type of mental image, or cognitive construct which can be isolated from the stimuli that trigger its construction. This mental image will be defined through the following features:

1. Narrative must evoke a world populated with individuated agents (characters) and objects. (Spatial extension.)

2. This world must undergo changes of state that are caused by physical events: either accidents ("happenings") or deliberate human actions.(Temporal extension.)

3. The physical events must be connected by a network of goals, plans, causal relations, and psychological motivations which gives them coherence and intelligibility and turns them into a plot. (Mental extension)

A world, changes of state to that world. A red cube, a blue cube and a green sphere. The blue cube changes into a green cube.

A minimal narrative must have a collection of objects and changes to the objects or changes to the collection of objects (addition or subtraction of objects). A cause becomes an object in the set of objects that make up a world. Motivations are objects. It is not clear that a minimal narrative must have relations of connection such as causes or motivations.

In our example of the coloured cubes, a blue cube is removed from the set of objects and a green cube is added. And because of their positions in relation to the other set elements, the switch is perceived as a change, or so it is stated (as X changing into Y) rather than the more verbose that "Y now occupies that place that was occupied by X").

Habits of narration can influence modes of world construction.

And so for day 515

Catching On

Roland Barthes from Elements of Semiology translated by Annette Lavers and Colin Smith

Speech (parole): In contrast to the language, which is both institution and system, speech is essentially an individual act of selection and actualization; it is made in the first place of the 'combination thanks to which the speaking subject can use the code of the language with a view to expressing his personal thought' (this extended speech could be called discourse), and secondly by the 'psycho-physical mechanisms which allow him to exteriorize these combinations.'

In marking this passage, I have asked myself what holds in relation to physical psycho-production as thought holds to discourse. Part of the answer is to be found in William S. Burroughs The Ticket That Exploded

The operation of retreat on this level involves shifting three-dimensional coordinate points that is time travel on association lines.

The psycho-physical mechanisms of speech allow one to begin a retreat. And return from the retreat. The association lines of the bodily and the unconscious become accessible to time travel. One way of reading this is not travel through time but travel by means of time — through retreat one can begin to play with the rhythms of one's attention (psycho-mechanisms) and their elastic coordination with physical production of speech: imagine the vertigo induced between naming objects in one's environment and placing attention upon each named object in turn - the children's game i-spy can become quite dizzying, the game depends upon the speed of disjunction that can be induced between the acts of nomination and the acts of perception. With practice the time shifts involving the psycho-physical hyphen can be run solo. The retreat is to a condition like remembering the acquisition of language, learning the fitting of words to things, and so permits the unhinging of the fit.

Barthes limits the power of the psycho-physical mechanism: "It is certain that phonation, for instance, cannot be confused with the language; neither the institution nor the system are altered if the individual who resorts to them speaks loudly or softly, with slow or rapid delivery, etc." In response, one can say that style can change language and that style begins with the individual and catches on both in the sense of propagation (catching on among a segment of language users) and in the sense of a snagging of something, hooking an element from the unconscious.

And so for day 514

Not All Pigs Are Equal

A longer quotation to tell the tale well:

The vast majority of Haitians in the early 1980s were subsistence farmers with an annual income of about $130. The pigs were the "master component of the Haitian peasant production system," according to Haitian sociologist Jean-Jacques Honorat, and helped make the farmers' poor but independent lifestyle possible. The animals' scavenger diet cost the farmer nothing, and the money earned by sale of their meat provided cash for necessities like school uniforms and medicine. U.S. officials understood the pig's importance. That's why they promised to replace every scroungy little Haitian pig with a brand-new superdeluxe American model. And what a pig it was! The American über-schweins were three times the size of their Haitian relatives and bred to produce the best-tasting, leanest bacon on the planet. But once all the Haitian pigs were dead, the Yanks decided that only farmers with enough money to pay for a special water system and concrete floors would be given replacement animals. Luxuries like these, however, were too expensive for most Haitian people to put in their homes, much less in their pigsties. The Haitian pigs had survived off garbage and insects and excrement, thus doubling as an outhouse on legs and an insecticide that kept the farmer's lands free of pests. The American beasts turned up their nose at anything less than a special vitamin-enriched feed that cost about $90 a year, more than half of the average peasant's annual income. The result was predictable [...]

For more of the story, see Stewart Lee Allen In the Devil's Garden.

And so for day 513

Rough Male Kiss

from Rupert Brooke "The Great Lover"

[...] the cool kindliness of sheets, that soon
Smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss
Of blankets [...]

It is the enjambement that helped catch my attention. The kiss hangs beautifully at the end of the line.

And so for day 512

Teleny Tantalizing

Peter Fryer in Secrets of the British Museum provides an excerpt from Teleny which reads like a sumptuous meal described by Brillat-Savarin. Almost a set piece.

Teleny's kisses up and down his friend's back resemble 'a rain of rose-leaves falling from some full blown flower'.

'Now,' says Teleny, 'let us go in the next room and see if we can find something to eat. . . . I cannot give you a banquet.' Nevertheless they find Cancale oysters, 'of an immense size', a dusty bottle of Sauterne; a pâte de foie gras highly scented with Perigord truffles; a partridge with paprika; a salad made out of a huge Piedmont truffle; a bottle of exquiste dry sherry; a dish of Seville oranges, bananas, and pineapples, flavoured with Maraschino and covered with sifted sugar; a bottle of sparkling champagne; tiny cups of fragrant and scalding Mocha coffee; and a bowl of ararak, curaçao, and whisky punch flavoured with many hot invigorating spices. One begins to wonder what appetites this book is really intended to arouse. The food, by the way, is served in 'dainty blue old Delft and Savona ware, for he had already heard of my hobby for old majorlica.'

And so for day 511

Humour with an edge

Gay Allison has a way of concluding poems that engender a double take. Take for example these lines from "1977"

Me, I've stopped seeing my shrink

But now my chiropractor informs me,

my head has always been screwed

on crooked.

It's a passage worthy of being quoted in Phyllis Chesler's Women and Madness.

And on a deceivingly lighter note, this conclusion from "The Joy of Cooking" ascribed to a poetic voice that has collected cookbooks:

What I really need now
is a stove.

Such reversals of perspective are well collected in a book entitled Life: Still for there is still life in the spirit that animates... a body at work.

That punch line conclusion from "The Joy of Cooking" really deserves to be set up by some of the lines that go before.
I have gathered all the recipes
of the world in my kitchen:
500 casseroles
exotic curries from India
French fantasies for pleasure
and a diet cookbook from Chatelaine.
What I really need now
is a stove.
I like how "1977" and "The Joy of Cooking" appear in a section entitle "When I Awoke" — there is something akin to consciousness raising in these poems.

And so for day 510

Feline Perception

In one passage of Particularly Cats Doris Lessing observes and in a sense recreates the sensorium of a familiar creature

Her ears, lightly fringed with white that looked silver, lifted and moved, back, forward, listening and sensing. Her face turned, slightly, after each new sensation, alert. Her tail moved, in another dimension, as if its tip was catching messages her other organs could not. She sat poised, air-light, looking, hearing, feeling, smelling, breathing, with all of her, fur, whiskers, ears — everything, in delicate vibration. If a fish is the movement of water embodied, given shape, then cat is a diagram and pattern of subtle air.

Such a passage intrigues me and in a moment I am thinking about humans, stretching to find an analogy for a beast caught in the nexus of sight, sound, smell and texture. Fire?

And so for day 509

Tactful Reminders

Adrienne Rich sending off a coda of concluding imagery at the end of “Transcendental Etude” collected in Dream of a Common Language

Vision begins to happen in such a life
as if a woman quietly walked away
from the argument and jargon in a room
and sitting down in the kitchen, began turning in her lap
bits of yarn, calico and velvet scraps,
laying them out absently on the scrubbed boards

Absently not absent-mindedly.

And so for day 508

Home or Less

There’s a never going home built into the unempty occupied by the first person place. I am thinking here of the conclusion of a poem by Chrystos. It is the final poem found in the volume Not Vanishing and here are its concluding lines: "This is a give away poem / I cannot go home / until you have taken everything & the basket which held it / When my hands are empty / I will be full" and its title is "CEREMONY FOR COMPLETING A POETRY READING".

All the lines that preceded this would-be ending point to the inexhaustibility of the gifts. There is always more. And so the great gift is the lesson that we are constantly living in ceremony and that life can be lived as a perpetual poetry reading. And when one takes that lesson on, one arrives at insight: one might not be able to go home and yet be at home. To the empty hand nothing is alien. No sorrow, no pain, and no joy.

And so for day 507

Alphabet Sentences

I found tucked into a copy of The Centaur Types by Bruce Rogers (a 1996 Perdue University Press reprint of the Chicago 1949 October House edition) a lovingly scrawled sentence to mark a page in the book devoted to one of those sentences in the genre of "The quick brown fox ..." which marked page reads

Far back in my patch zinnias jauntily vie with the glorious phlox in full blossoming.

The botanic theme no doubt suggested the topos of cultivating one's own garden no doubt inspired the scrawl that marks the spot:

Let all your work and play mix a bold and generous love of humanity with a just and equanimous zeal for country.

Yes, for some, "equanimous" may be an invented word and some may object but their objections can be met with equanimity.

And so for day 505

Psychomimetic Notes and Stops

Alignments in Avital Ronell Crack Wars: literature addiction mania (1992) especially those of page 131 produce a mania for literature addiction or for an addiction to the mania of literature ... watch as the characters from Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary are spirited about

In the crucial playoffs between representatives of pharmacy and of religion, the priest declares music to be less dangerous to morals than literature [...] He [the druggist] has offered Emma the unlimited use of his library, inviting the addicted neighbor to mix pharmaceuticals and literature. [...] Literature comes down on the side of pharmacy, if somewhat negatively cast. Religion, which also deals in transcendental experience, appears to opt for the non-mimetic trance, which is why music is viewed as safe text.

Notice the hedging: appears to opt; is viewed as.

On an index card inserted into the book is in pencil a rows and columns alignment of the key items:

religion - pharmacy
music - literature
nonmimetic - [ ]

The gap represented by the set of brackets indicates a bifurcation. What is to be paired with the nonmimetic (notice that the transcription to the index card elides the hyphen and thus sets up a signifying chain of gap/non-gap)? The nonmimetic may be paired with "mimetic" but so too it can be paired with the non-nonmimetic (to glide the hyphen to the other side).

Our little index card is silent about the options. However there is one sentence/reference below the columns and rows. It reads "I wonder if this is related to how Ronell deploys non-address p. 93". But before quoting to from that section of the Ronell unsafe text, let me remind the dear reader who may not have Crack Wars at hand that after introducing the agonistic tension between music and literature, Ronell quotes Flaubert

In the crucial playoffs between representatives of pharmacy and of religion, the priest declares music to be less dangerous to morals than literature: "The pharmacist sprang to the defense of letters"

"Letters" aka literature and yet subject to the polysemous pull towards the building blocks that are learnt as one's letters or to the tug of calligraphic character read in the productions by penmanship. Literature when invoked by the name "letters" evokes its material base. Would it be just to read such a material base as non-nonmimetic?

And so we turn to non-address

In many ways, Madamce Bovary is a novel about suicidal anguish, about exploring the limits of interiorizing violence. The motivation to suicide never simply involves the extinction of one person, but tends to arrive from another agency. It hits you with the violence of a non-address.

"You" are hit. What is absolutely fascinating to me at this point is how the "you" enacts a form of non-address. It hits you. It doesn't hit me, or more accurately, it does not not hit me. The escape from being addressed, from being hailed as a "you", itself involves violence or at the very least some resistence. "It" furthermore has an ambiguous reference. It can be the motivation to suicide or it can be the other agency. In the violence of non-address, the sender is as unaddressable as the receiver.

And the link with music-literature? Glossalia. G/l/o/s/s/a/l/i/a

What would suggest this? Ronell has a marginal annotation in the comments about violence and suicide. It is in two parts and can be read as two or as one:


The writing
of secretion

Safe text? Fluid text. Secretion has two meanings: it can be taken as the act of leaking or can be taken as the act of hiding. Here, given the telling line breaks and space, what is leaking, what is being written, is from the hiding (the not not-hidden) and not from the hidden. It is a game of vertigo — getting high without the pharmacist or priest, without and within representation.

And so for day 506