Asylum Armature

A fragment dated 31/08/03 - 21/10/03

He would wander the halls. Not sure if the humming he was producing was for himself or some audience he would find beyond the pair of doors that would swing outwards into the light of another hall running perpendicular to the one along which his feet now shuffled. He felt as if he would never come to the T. And yet the humming matched the white noise of the fluorescent and he knew he would bend the puppet.

He had shuffled the long hum of fluorescent hall to come upon that phrase. the wrist bends. Puppets bow. To bend the puppet: to fold the sock cloth, pocket it, and shuffle.

He wanted to have blue nails.

And so for day 596


From How to Cook a Wolf by M.F.K. Fisher

Kneading bread means pressing it rhythmically with the heel and fingers of each hand, in a gentle rocking movement, turning the dough over on itself with each push, folding it lightly, pushing, pressing. It is a calming, musical rhythm. In eight or ten minutes, when the dough looks and feels as smooth as silk, you can stop.

And start again later.

And so for day 595

Consolation and Displacement

Susan Sontag, "Unextinguished: The Case for Victor Serge" collected in At The Same Time

The truth of fiction depicts that for which one can never be consoled and displaces it with a healing openness to everything finite and cosmic.

This is not something easy to do but remarkably within reach. It requires a training of attention.

And so for day 594

Mind Works

A quotation from a quotation. Vika Zafrin posting to Humanist and asking about references to "associative thinking". She quotes from Vannevar Bush "As We May Think"

With one item in its grasp, [the mind] snaps instantly to the next that is
suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate
web of trails carried by the cells of the brain. It has other
characteristics, of course; trails that are not frequently followed are
prone to fade, items are not fully permanent, memory is transitory. Yet the
speed of action, the intricacy of trails, the detail of mental pictures, is
awe-inspiring beyond all else in nature.

Humanist 16.312 (November 2002)

And so for day 593

Who Profits?

Always ask "Cui bono?"

Style is mighty pleasant for those who benefit from it, but not always rewarding for those who make and live by its necessarily strict rules.

Lillian Hellman from Pentimento

And so for day 592


Snatched in a moment of mania... still pondering its possibilities

Skill may be the capacity to manipulate perceptions of knowledge.
Magic is.

And so for day 591

Creeping Past

Years apart and somehow tied to the same topos.

Don't let the past remind us of what we are not now.

from lyrics to Suite: Judy Blue Eyes by Stephen Stills.

He befouled where he was with where he had been.

from description of the character called Cutter in The Iron Council by China Miéville.

And so for day 590

When a dog is a cur

The joys of celebrating the petty criminal. John M. Ford. A Star Trek novel #36 How much for just the planet? (Simon and Schuster, 1987)

"What is he?"

"What am I?" the shopkeeper said, a dangerous edge in his voice.

"He's a fence. Everything here is stolen."

"Oh, thank goodness," the shopkeeper said. "For a moment I thought you were going to accuse me of being a pawnbroker."

Barks and bites.

And so for day 589

Disabilities of the Mind

This description of Jip from Richard Frost's Brain and Body is marked by keen observation of being unable to find "the here and now embedded in and explained by what immediately preceded it".

The more I learn about him, the more I think this was his biggest problem, the inability to build up experience. As Suzanne said, he could pick things up, but it took endless repetition and aeons of time. As long as a situation lasted things were all right, the here and now embedded in and explained by what immediately preceded it. But gaps of more than ten minutes his malfunctioning memory couldn't bridge. It prevented him from perceiving any continuity besides that offered by continuous time itself. Likewise, if he had learned something, he couldn't transfer it to a different context. If he wanted to make tea, he went to the kitchen, which by definition meant his kitchen. He couldn't make tea in Kasper's kitchen, unable as he was to apply the original skill taught to by his ergotherapist as a more general level. The same went for events. If they didn't form part of the routine they were merely incidents to him, snapshots, which in his mind were not connected and in most cases didn't endure. to put it another way: there was no flow. Imagine seeing your days in a strobe light with a low frequency, and you'll get the idea.

What disrupts the flow here is the lack of connections. What disrupts the flow in other cases is an overabundance of connections. No flow and overflow can both reduce the chances of forming meaningful experience.

And so for day 588


Just as "laughing out loud" got reprocessed as "lots of love", RTFM when transmuted by the euphemism machine gives "Remember to Find Manual"

Find it before you read it!

And so for day 587

Getting There

Roo Borson in Short Journey Upriver Toward Oishida invites the reader to meditate upon the place and the passage of time and the limits of the recuperative abilities of literature.

Oishida still exists on the map. I would someday like to go there. Whether it would be the same Oishida Basho knew is another question. Nonetheless I would like to walk the streets and see for myself. There are places one cannot go except in literature, but then again there is a version of time which literature, and all ordinary human commerce, keeps us from. In that version, Basho's Oishida no longer exists — but fortunately, poetry keeps intervening, poetry and its obsession with the "qualities" of things, the huts of the fisherman on the beach, the little coloured clams, and so on.

In my reading I keep circling back to the sentence that registers if not a moment of failure then a type of tension: "There are places one cannot go except in literature, but then again there is a version of time which literature, and all ordinary human commerce, keeps us from." Words get in the way as much as they facilitate travel.

And so for day 586

A Peeling

Line from Robert Kelly A California Journal (1969).

memory has its onion for the eye

A line so good almost makes one cry.

And so for day 585

Textual Autonomy Read Radically

Brian Stock, "Language and Cultural History" in New Literary History v. 18 (Spring 1987), 657-70.

However in a written as opposed to a spoken text, the author is no longer physically present, and the audience, being abstract, is potentially universal.

Note the collapse of the author function into that of enonciator or scriptor. Something happens to the notion of audience and its link to presence in oral culture...

Is there not an implicit contract: "I tell you this in the hopes you will tell others"; "I give this to you to read. Share it." The injunction of the passing on, conserving of the message.

The contract is extra-textual but not extra-discursive. The author can be at some remove from the enonciator or the scriptor — regardless if we are in an oral or a written culture.

Stock has been providing the readers with a summary of Paul Ricoeur's position as set forth in Interpretation Theory and it is telling that just before the passage quoted above Stock observes that "Intentionality is never completely erased, nor is the text ever completely autonomous." Stock leaves an opening to think through the dislocations (and conjunctions) between author and performer. In essence, the spoken text as equally as the written text implies a theatre. [And theatre implies contracts as well as contact.]

And so for day 584

The One, the Set and the Historical

I've visited Richard Boston in the foreward to The Guardian Country Diary Drawings by Clifford Harper (2003, Agraphia Press) and focused on the acquiring a “narrative quality”. Here is the passage given more fully

The Country Diary drawings are intended to be seen one at a time, as they appear in the daily paper — and on newsprint, not art paper. By collecting them together they acquire (for me, at least) a narrative quality. They are also changed on seeing them on a different kind of paper, and not surrounded by columns of type but framed on a blank wall or as here in a book. The context makes a huge difference [...]

And so I muse that the single object, the one picture, can itself provide a narrative effect. Simple questions arise: how did it come to be; how will it be disposed? A collection of one doesn't have the same potential of narration by series as does a collection of more than one. Its story telling relies on the experience and marshalling of the involute (which is to be distinguished from the self-reflexive).

We can scarcely navigate the world without a sense of history kicking in.

And so for day 583

Intertexts, Zombies and Multiple Selves

Came across a note suggesting a piece of research. That is, whether the multiple protagonists (whose names all begin with "J") who populate The Female Man by Joanna Russ might in small part be connected to the "Jane" hero of a Robert Heinlen short story entitled "— All You Zombies —". Not having the Heinlein at hand, I did a search and found a lovely synopsis through Wikipedia

"'—All You Zombies—'" chronicles a young man (later revealed to be intersex) taken back in time and tricked into impregnating his younger, female self (before he underwent a sex change); he thus turns out to be the offspring of that union, with the paradoxical result that he is both his own mother and father. As the story unfolds, all the major characters are revealed to be the same person, at different stages of her/his life.

Also found that:

"All You Zombies" is the title of a chapter in the John Varley novel Millennium, a time-travel story which uses the titles of famous time-travel stories as chapter titles.

A direct link between Heinlein and Russ may be a stretch, still the parallels are worth exploring.

And so for day 582

Once Again: The Criminal Element and Tool Appreciation

Max Brand The False Rider (a western novel) describes a safecracker or lock picker and the tools of the trade ...

He did not need most of those tools for the delicate task which was in his hands now, but he had laid out a great portion of them around him. They inspired him with the recollection of many another knotty problem in the past which, he, unaided had solved.

A similar case could be made with the cook or chef in relation to a batterie de cuisine: a set of unused tools is useful because of having been used.

And so for day 581

Grace and Tool Design

From the perspective of an assassin comes this mediation on the design of tools, from William Gibson's novel All Tomorrow's Parties.

The handles of a craftsman's tools bespeak an absolute simplicity, the plainest forms affording the greatest range of possibilities for the user's hand.

That which is overdesigned, too highly specific, anticipates outcome; the anticipation of outcome guarantees, if not failure, the absence of grace.

I am inclined to agree if not for the odd perspective that this reflection is filtered through the point of view of an assassin.

And so for day 580

Star Drumming

From a piece of ephemera announcing a star drumming workshop facilitated by Robin Armstrong where participants learn how to play an I Ching hexagram comes this sentence:

Over everyone's head is a different star, and under our feet is the same Earth.

The formulation of "our feet" reenforces the feeling of commonality. I kept the advertisement because I was fascinated by the Glass Bead Game aspect of playing hexagrams. And now years later I come across the sentence about stars and earth.

And so for day 579

Elements Reacting

I look to Primo Levi in The Periodic Table to incite the sharpest attention to particularity.

Iron ends with the refusal of monuments. Ironic that words are all that remain about a person who was not the sort that stories were told about.

Potassium ends with skepticism about the almost the same: "distrust the almost-the-same [...] the practically identical, the approximate, the or-even, all surrogates, and all patchwork. The differences can be small, but they can lead to radically different consequences [...]"

And so for day 578

Vanished Boundaries Remembered

Shawn Micallef, one of Toronto's psychogeographers, wrote some time ago in an issue of Eye Weekly about a particular sculptural piece:

On Yonge Street, the Hogg's Hollow dip divides the city deeper and wider than the Don Valley and is the scourge of north-south cyclists passing by York Mills Station. At the southern crest [...] is a giant surveyor's compass called "Toronto's Northern Gateway." It's a vestige of old Metro, when this was the border between Toronto and North York. Like all borders that don't exist anymore, we cross it without thinking, only occasionally noticing something that reminds us it was there.

I like how the description of the particular leads to a general observation.

And so for day 577

Musical Pathways

Gary Burton, vibraphonist, on formative impact of music education

Burton believes the pleasure of music has a formative impact on the brain. In a sense, entertainment is education. It helps a child grow. At certain early ages, Burton says, the playing of musical instruments can awaken certain neural pathways in the brain to a new level of intelligence and dexterity — physical, emotional, and intellectual. "Musical information is deeply embedded in the brain," he says. "Alzheimer's patients, long after they have forgotten faces and names, can still sing songs they learned as children."

page 36 TED 9 (Technology Entertainment Design), Fast Company, 1999.

And so for day 576

Who's your Daddy?

I wish I had come across this interesting bit when I was reading the work of anthropologist Marilyn Strathern in the context of miautics or fables of who gives birth to what. I might have been able to splice it into the discussion found in the second chapter of Sense (

Roger Wertheimer. The Significance of Sense: Meaning, Modality, and Morality Chapter Two "Counting Meanings"

Sometimes, even after the purported ambiguities have been pointed out, the disagreement continues. It may persist even between two intelligent, competent native speakers trained in the study of language and having highly sensitive ears. For instance, Ziff [1] believes that 'Someone was a child.' is not synonymous with 'Someone was a parent.'. I agree, but Chomsky, Katz, and Martin [2] do not.

[1] Ziff, Paul. Philosophic Turnings (1966) p. 153
[2] Katz, Jerold. J. and Edward Martin Jr. "The Synonymy of Actives and Passives" in Philosophical Review 76 (1967) p. 488

And so for day 575

Potential Transplant

From "Foreign Children" from Robert Louis Stevenson. A Child's Garden of Verses

Little Indian, Sioux or Crow,
Little frosty Eskimo,
Little Turk or Japanee.
Oh! don't you wish you were me?

And on the poetic voice goes to extoll the virtues of home. This stanza with the "Little frosty Eskimo" line returns at the end of the poem and catches the ear and the heart wonders if the verses cannot be rewritten to suit a more modern ethos than the imperialist tendencies howsoever innocently couched.

And so for day 574

Scratches, Pauses

Reflecting on Barthes invoking tmesis (also spelt tsmesis), thinking about pauses in our reading and how skimming is like swimming, I come to realize that speed like going slow is a fast way to the undertones of the undertow of textual gratification.


listening care

thorn grasp
paws clawed



And so for day 573

Typology of Multimedia Activity

I found this passage from a 1999 posting to a discussion list of a fragment from an email message:

I'm concluding the online learning course for continuing studies.
I've got a couple of additional pieces to add to the course
site. Namely a "translation" of the four literacy skills [reading,
writing, speaking,listening] into four multimedia skills (i.e. more than
applicable to verbal arts). I've manage to rename them thus:

reading     parsing (attentive to breaks & groupings)
writing     scripting (writing as a score for performance)
listening     observing (careful looking too)
speaking     performing (evident bit to storytellers)

After all these years, I am still not satisfied with the "translation" of listening. I am beginning to consider listening not as a doing. That is the type of mindfulness that is characterized by waiting: attending.

And so for day 572

I Am Radio

There is a passage in Allen S. Weiss _Phantasmic Radio_ which somehow makes me think of a typology of human communicative behaviour. It is for me very suggestive. In the passage from the preface to his book, Weiss signals the importance of "a momentous yet aesthetically unheralded event: the creation of the first feedback in electrical circuitry." He continues:

On 31 January 1913, Edwin H. Armstrong had notarized his diagram of the first regenerative circuit, an invention which was to be the basis of radio transmission. his discovery was that the audion (vacuum tube) could be used not only as a detector of electrical waves but also, through regeneration or feedback, as a signal amplifier. Furthermore, as a generator of continuously oscillating electromagnetic waves, it could be used as a transmitter.

It is simple to read off of this: detection, amplification and transmission. And see therein three possible activities of/for the the cybernauts of the twenty first century. Detection and transmission seem obvious descriptions of the activities of the networked generation and its predecessors. Amplification less so. Yet is not part of everyday work and play of the important task to to amplify what has been detected and transmitted i.e. boost the signal? Well, perhaps. Weiss reminds us that "Radio was created — and with it, an unfortunate electronic side-effect was first heard, that of static."

And so for day 571

The Famous alt attribute on img

Had fun back in '98 in creating seamless access to HTML that contained image elements.

[image] Green Eggs [image] Hold the Ham

became in a text browser

Have Green Eggs and Hold the Ham

Silly and a wonderful expanse of possibilities ...

And so for day 570

Excerpt of an excerpt

Fenollosa p. 22 in Symposium of the Whole: A Range of Discourse Toward an Ethnopoetics edited by J. Rothenberg and D. Rothenberg

And though we may string ever so many clauses into a single compound sentence, motion leaks everywhere, like electricity from an exposed wire.

Rothenberg's place their selection for Ernest Fenollosa's The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry in the section called "Preliminary Moves".

To grab a sentence is to risk electrocution. Somehow the juice is just not that dangerous. As if by contagion one would be transported by Écrits bruts. Yet how is it that we read force in language?

And so for day 569


I've come across a bibliography of works published by the French Department at the University of Toronto. I am interested in the following item: Patte, Daniel. Organisation sémantique et narrativité. 1978-7.

No sign of it in the university's library catalogue. No mention showing up on the World Wide Web.

My interest was piqued by a little misreading. I read "semiotic" for "semantic". I was wondering if the work by Daniel Patte would be an early theorizing of how a narrative drive influences human encounters with the stuff of perception. Just curious.

And so for day 568

Addendum: There is a section in Carré sémiotique et syntaxe narrative. (Documents de recherches du groupe de recherches sémio-linguistiques de l'institut de la langue française, 1981) that has the following two headings "Organisation sémantique et narrativité dans un récit simple; Organisation sémantique et narrativité dans un text complexe". In that book, Patte acknowledges colleagues in Montréal: "L'élaboration de ce travail doit beaucoup à de nombreuses discussions [...] mais aussi pour son ultime révision, aux questions soulevées et aux suggestions faites par le Groupe de Recherches Sémiotiques de l'Université de Montréal (sous la direction de M. Hammad) lors d'un séminaire (septembre 1980)" Might he also have visited the University of Toronto during that period. All speculation since I have yet to recover the document with the bibliographic reference to verify the transcription which at this remove looks erroneous.

Revisiting Situational Focus

The Toronto Semiotic Circle Bulletin Volume 2, Number 1, 1994 (ISSN-1197-1231) "Commonplaces and Situation: The 'Subjective' Nature of Discourse Revisited" by Paul Perron, Jan Gordon and Marcel Danesi

How does SF [situational focusing] work? In a certain sense, SF is a deictic process, for the reason that it involves abstract thinking that refers to spatial location.

My gloss:

Why do they privilege visual mode? Perhaps they have opted for focus vs attention.

It may very well be that abstract thinking arises from attention to temporal factors (e.g. before and after) and thus is more relational than spatial.

More from the article:

The experientialist approach sees abstract meaning structures as end-products rather than points-of-departure. [...] The progression from sensory to conceptual thought that an experienntialist approach to meaning would posit makes it clear that there is a link between ego-states, perception and conception.

My marginal inscription:

Yes but not a depth method. [and at the bottom of the page] end products vs points of departure. abstraction is here pitted against physical embodiment of emotion & sensation. but emotion belongs with abstraction not sensation. because both emotion & abst. [flip to bottom of next page] depend upon memory and its testing in predicative situations. Emotion is a configuration.

And so for day 567

Hopes and Desires

A tiny slip of paper with tiny script upon which is a sort of list headed by "time space + mind" and in slightly larger letters

semiotic migration &
fractal osmosis
a mindfully global

and swirling around this core text are more small letters that need to be squinted at "mind body universe / intelligence + sound / global village / --> / history / past (arche) / future (telos)" Parts are circled and parts are underlined.

Something is struggling here, caught in between. Almost as if the writing was being done at a chalkboard, ready to be erased and moved.

And so for day 566