Tardy Acknowledgements

Apologies all around through missives to a mutual friend...

Please pass along my apologies to X for invading her head space.... in any event I could have turned around to see if she did a double take... she did seem to be on route to somewhere and I had no wish to detain her needlessly... plus I myself was on the way to a rendez-vous ...
Prompted by ...
I think I snubbed F a few hours ago. I was heading up the street on my way to see my doctor, and, as I usually am, I was utterly preoccupied with my thoughts. At the last second, I thought I noticed someone heading in the other direction acknowledge me, but in the moment, I didn't quite recognize him and wasn't entirely sure he was acknowledging me. Aargh! If it was F, and if you speak to him in the near future, please extend my apologies to him. I'm a complete dolt when I'm out walking.
Now passed on for the etiquette mavens to pick at.

And so for day 1173

Quivering Craziness

Robert Bly published ten of his translations from Francis Ponge and ten of his own poems inspired by Ponge. Let's take a look a single phrase.

Les papillons miteux [...] tous frémissent aux bords d'une frénésie voisine de la stupeur.
There is quite a challenge here with the alliteration. Bly preserves the rolling "r".
The seedy moths [...] they all tremble on the brink of a mania close to stupor.
Bly giving "mania" where one might expect "frenzy" but it is his "tremble" that sent me to Google's on line translation tool where I found the following list of English renderings of the verb "frémir".

go crazy

And so I am led to "all crazed, they quiver on the brink of stupifaction."

Where the French would put the frenzy and the stupor in neighbourly proximity, the English seems to call for a causal relation — one leading to the other. In any event, without Bly there would be no attention to the tension generated by the alliterative use of the fricatives.

And so for day 1172

Lambent Ambience: Home Fires

I have read it from a 1999 printout under the title "The Alchemy of Ambience" housed on a Finnish WWW site (at the Aalto University bookshop). It's no longer there. Have found its 1994 abstract on the International Symposium on Electronic Art archives: [ISEA94] Nicholas Gebhardt – Sounds Natural: Sonic Landscapes and the New Age. Slippage in the title between the program and the delivery?

The Way Back Machine of the Internet Archive preserves a copy from 1998

The moment that interests me in Gebhardt's exploration of questions relating to a notion of "musical terrain" is the quotation from Stockhausen which precedes Gebhardt's pointing to the work of Deleuze and Guattari (The Refrain from Thousand Plateaus). First the Stockhausen:

We can now hear a well-tempered music of moments where "... every moment is important or nothing is important. A moment is not simply the result of preceding moments, nor the anticipation of moments to come. It is a personal, centred entity, with its own existence. A moment is not a fraction of a time-line, not a particle lasting a measured length of time. Instead, concentration on the now makes vertical incisions in the horizontal line of time to reach timelessness, which is what I would call eternity: an eternity that does not begin where time has ended but that can be reached at any moment." [Stockhausen cited in Wim Mertens, American Minimal Music, (London: Kahn & Averill, 1983), pp. 101-102]
And now, the invocation of Deleuze and Guattari
So as an eternal music of sonorous moments, ambience necessarily begins to act upon the environment through which it moves, on the light, on other sounds, on smells, on the texture of the space, extracting from it various vibrations, rhythmic structures, decompositions, projections and transformation. [Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), p.348 Their notion of the "labour of the refrain" has also been vital to the shape of my analysis.]
Which led me to read the section and locate on p. 320 a return to the notion of terrain...
Members of the same species enter into rhythmic characters at the same time as different species enter into melodic landscapes; for the landscapes are peopled by characters and the characters belong to landscapes.
This conjunction of character and landscape reminds me of Gertrude Stein's pieces published under the rubric of Geography and Plays and of her operas. Indeed most of her oeuvre. Rhythm and melody make us as readers attuned to process. It is as Ulla E. Dydo writes in the introduction to A Stein Reader about attention to the materiality of what is before us. Her appeal to the craft of painting allows for us to recursively think the terrain of "musical terrain" and the musicality as a passage marking that terrain. See
The energy of a piece comes in part from the act of writing, which enters it as value that can be read, just as hues and brush strokes can be read in a painting. A text must be transcribed with attention to the evidence of its making. Print, while it cannot always reproduce that process, need not wipe it out. Inside a text are the lines that carry the words, the hand moving on paper, line breaks and spaces dictated by notebook or leaf, size and folds of paper, pen or pencil forming words, the shape of a draft visible in the way its is copied into a notebook, and even the effort to end a work in the space of one notebook.
All perhaps archaic gestures. Other tools permit other glimpses to be heard... Take this line "Not a doctor to me not a debtor to me not a d to me but a c to me a credit to me." from Stein's "Next. Life and Letters of Marcel Duchamp" and type (not cut and paste) it in a word processing program — you might encounter a series of suggested completions which disappear like notes and if you use text-to-speech program your eyes glide at a guided speed. In typing you also find the s e p a r a t e letters cause the speed of the fingering to alter. Instruments, interactors, and music!

And so for day 1171

Numbering in the Reading Process

The process outlined below is is akin to homolinguistic translation. Its activity is a precursor to computing the text. It provides a primitive mark-up and leaves the mystery of rendition (i.e. reading) open.


Count all the words in the book
instead of reading them.


Replace nouns in the book with numbers
and read.
Replace adjectives in the book with
numbers and read.
Replace all the words in the book with
numbers and read.

1961 winter
Yoko Ono. Grapefruit: A book of instructions

Next step would be to replace and read letters. Or move on to other toys ... like plugging the sequence
reading, activity, akin, computing, homolinguistic, leaves, mystery, numbering, outlined, precursor, primitive, process, provides, rendition, replacing
into the Serendip-o-matic.

And so for day 1170

Veering on the Verge

The analogy of the blind person orienting herself in space can have a bearing on the many ways our cognitive mapping works: by bumps and starts. I invite readers to make the leap to via this excerpt from Alexandra Horowitz On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes.

So here I committed a cardinal walking-with-the-blind sin: I tried to guide her. I reached out, about to grab Gordon's arm to prevent this inevitable progress into the wall. Barely restraining myself, I managed to plainly offer, "Um, you're swerving to your left quite a bit. You've about a quarter of the sidewalk left before..."

Gordon was unfazed. "If I go too far, I'll hit the building. But I know where I am."

I couldn't be convinced. "... And now you're pretty close to hitting the side of the building..."

She stopped and seemed to look at me steadily, then resumed walking. True to her word, she went ahead and banged right into the building with her cane. Gordon's cane tapped a quick pattern on the wall and sidewalk, a perfunctory petting of an unbeloved animal. Then she smoothly righted herself, turning just enough to take a path parallel to the building's line.

Gordon had deliberately veered, I realized, in order to get a reference point. Out of the sea of the middle of the sidewalk, she headed for something tangible that could give her her bearings.

I was at least in good company in my overweening desire to help her avoid bodily injury. People grab her all the time as she approaches buildings, Gordon said. But they, and I, were simply not seeing how she was seeing the space. She was aiming to run into the building, not trying to avoid it.

"It's not an obstacle at all, is it?" I asked. "It's something you're using to navigate the space."

"Exactly." Gordon smiled, continuing on a perefectly parallel course.
I am careful not to suggest that each and every member of a group or collective adopt the blind pose. I want to point here that Horowitz's recounting has two people which serves as a reminder that as a collective enterprise research needs its blind (expert) and its naive guides: it's how the group can orient and reorient itself — different ways of embracing obstacles.

And so for day 1169

Double Double and Twirl

I saw the bloom in the spring garden — bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis 'Flore Pleno') — and I thought of the poem and book with the title The Double Dream of Spring by John Ashbery and I love the lines:
For certainly the sidewalk led
To a point somewhere beyond itself
Nice to revisit the poem and I noticed that on the cover of this edition what had been for me a flourish of a flowery sort proved upon closer (and double) examination to be a calligraphic marvel — the words of the title ran round in a circle to form bloom and stalk. See

starting at the left corner one can circle round "spring the double dream of"

And so for day 1168

Time's Mechanics

Brian Eno.

Times shown are British Standard Time; Calculations are made on the assumption that the Gregorian Calendar will remain in use. The Gregorian Calendar errs by one day in two thousand years, thus posing a dilemma for performers of the distant future.
from "Untitled (British Standard Time), 1968" reproduced in Visual Music p. 86. The dates for the performance of the work range from 1968 to 2512. Reminds me of the Halberstadt performance of Cage's long work Organ²/ASLSP (As SLow aS Possible). Eno's remarks about the Gregorian calendar bring to mind a section from Garry Thomas Morse's The Untitled (13) where the poetic voice muses about the recalibration of the calendar in idiosyncratic terms.
Today (being Monday)
is my Friday and the
start of my weekend!

& I am wishing
myself a happy
weekend that's
schizophrenic -
I do not do justice here to the elegant typesetting by Glen Lowry. You have to imagine the text set off from a cascade of lines and occupying a block aligned close to the right margin - like a voice intruding.

Garry Thomas Morse is also the source for this next passage inviting mediation on the marking of time. It is from Transversals for Orpheus.
May the mystical
arrange existence
in the calendrical
dead to impromptu
Time passing. Time captured. The pressure on "impromptu" is to be alive to the prepared in readiness, the planned for an eventuality. If the calendrical is dead to impromptu, then can existence sabotage the mystical, defeating all attempts at arrangement? Time captured in passing. In the modes of a matrix. Impromptu resurfacing as cell-hopping... at play with the prepared for however long.

So pushing some parsing, one is able to read the mystical arranging existence in the space between the calendrical dead and the impromptu: as in the road from one to the other. You really have to go slow or you miss the place. There's some algebra magic in the mechanics: arrange Y in the A to C. Diagramming. Take as long as you like.

And so for day 1167

Braking Break

waves, their sonority.

Via Marcus McCann adapting some lines (quoting with variation), I took to looking at Mark Doty "Notebook/To Lucien Freud/On the Veil" collected in School of the Arts first appeared in the London Review of Books (Vol. 27 No. 2 · 20 January 2005).

         aspects of flesh breaking here,

the way we say waves break
     become visible at the instant
         of their descent.
"the way we say waves break —"

becomes in Marcus McCann's "Three" in softwhere

the way. We say waves break,

McCann has an ear for assonance and alliteration. He often builds a set of lines from repeated and related sounds.
pleasure — libido, fluorescent
heart of an onion — in
the way. We say waves break,
The image of the onion and the allusion to layer upon layer influences the appropriation of the Doty lines. The punctuation brings prominence to the pronoun (not to be unexpected in a poem entitled "Three" which is in part describing a menage à trois); "we" becomes a kernel where once it was part of the waves of way and say. The italic emphasis on break is lost, the whole line becomes emphasized and enmeshed in enjambement: the break broken away.

And so for day 1166

A Fine Swine Time

Conceit is more than aggrandized ego; it is also a figure of speech, extended metaphor.

Take for instance these concluding lines to "Please Can I Have a Man"

Who, when I come trotting in from the bathroom
like a squealing freshly-scrubbed piglet
that likes nothing better than a binge
of being affectionate and undisciplined and uncomplicated
opens his arms like a trough for me to dive into.
Selima Hill. Collected in New British Poetry edited by Don Patterson and Charles Simic.

The oinkable moment is memorable.

And so for day 1165

Glass Bead Game - American Style


IVANHOE is a pedagogical environment for interpreting textual and other cultural materials. It is designed to foster critical awareness of the methods and perspectives through which we understand and study humanities documents. An online collaborative playspace, IVANHOE exposes the indeterminacy of humanities texts to role-play and performative intervention by students at all levels.
The game took on a certain allure when a posting to Humanist revealed some new possibilities for intellectual recreation ... This excerpt below from the description posted to Humanist reminds me of the Glass Bead Game, especially since in its latest version the Ivanhoe Game can incorporate multimedia.
The Ivanhoe Game can be played on any type of cultural object or topic. In Ivanhoe, players assume roles and generate criticism by pretending to be characters or voices relevant to their topic and making moves from those perspectives. We think of these moves as interventions — a text or work is not stable but, rather, dynamic and ever subject to interpretation by its readers. Furthermore, these interventions are reflective and deliberate: they are "self-conscious acts of interpretation," as Scott [Bailey] so concisely and perfectly puts it. Ivanhoe thus provides a way of delving into a subject while also maintaining a firm focus on the players themselves.
From a posting by Stephanie Kingsley to Humanist Discussion Group Vol. 27, No. 1009.

I was reminded of a passage in a book about games. The passage in question was about open games and the description nicely fits the activity of generating interpretations while role-playing.
[p. 135]
Precisely, Skepticus. I would define an open game generically as a system of reciprocally enabling moves whose purpose is the continued operation of the system. Then as you suggest, various species can be found within the larger class. Open athletic games, perhaps, would make up one such species, since all of the moves in such games would be bodily moves. Games of make-believe, then would make up another species, for in them all the moves would be dramatic performances. Heurschrecke thus correctly specified a game of make-believe as being 'a reciprocating system of role-performance maximization.'
From Bernard Suits The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia (Toronto: Univeristy of Toronto Press, 1978).

I remember a grade-school reader called Magic and Make-Believe. The Osborne Collection at the Toronto Public Library has a copy. I might just skip on down and see the copy there which is a gift donated by Myrna Levy.

And so for day 1164

Cantos de Huexotzingo

On the street a page torn from a book and on one side this poem, on the other a map. It was the poem that made me keep the piece of paper and bring it home for further study.

Must I depart like this?
Like the flowers that perished?
Will nothing remain in my name?
Will nothing of my fame on earth persist?

At least flowers, at least songs!
from the Cantos de Huexotzingo which my searching has led me to the knowledge that the English translates lines in Spanish inscribed somewhere in the Mexican Museum of Anthropology and History. The quotation that caught my eye and fancy has on the obverse a map of "Mesoa Merica which appears below "Arid Merica" —— one hint that I was dealing with a guidebook was the indication of "Room 2".

I like how the white space allows the poem to breathe, almost like an exhaling, a fading.

And so for day 1163

The Surrender of Losing Count

The page numbering stops at 50 in Betsy Warland's open is broken but the counting doesn't. The table of contents gives the notes section to be at page 55 and if one counts there is indeed between poem and notes (including a leaf blank on both sides) the requisite number of pages. The counting also occurs in the numbered sections of the title poem. XVI is on page 50. And XVII and XVIII follow on unnumbered pages.

This textual condition is productive of meaning. I take as my key the two lines that open VI

bodies joined north and south
we are each other's entrance
Those missing page numbers are entrances. They entrance. They make one give oneself over to the promise of an overcoming. It is not by accident that the page numbers disappear on a page where the poem invokes nirvana. A carnal nirvana.

The astute reader will observe that page numbers drop out earlier (take 25 and 26 for instance). A quirk of typography. So much for ascribing any special meaning. Or doing so in an easy fashion without a lot of hard work and rereading word by word. And lots of thinking about the process of progressing through a body of work and whether the infolding that happens on rereading can occur by other means.

The opening poem "induction" quotes from the last suite "open is broken" and the Roman numerals that seem at first to punctuate the text at random point to the passages that "induction" quotes from "open is broken". I used the term point rather than mark for there is no word to announce the quotation's source just a Roman numeral at the end of a stretch. Of course it could be the case that "open is broken" is quoting from "induction" — such textual reciprocity is to be expected in a lesbian feminist text. Watch as Warland works her wickedly witty magic on page 13
    "kissing vulva lips
     tongues torque way into vortext
     leave syllables behind

     sound we are sound
     original vocabulary
     language: 'lingua, tongue'"
Then set off on the next line justified with the end of the quotation is (VI) which is the passage in 'open is broken" where it reappears but not as quotation.

One could read Warland's project as losing the quotation marks or the scare quotes. There is a liberationist agenda at work. Something is to be abandoned.

The opening prose piece "untying the tongue" struggles with reclaiming as an unlearning:
the word is the act. when i abandon a word i relinquish the experience it calls up. yet, how can i use the word "intercourse" as a lesbian? and what do i say as a feminist, when in my deepest erotic moments words like "surrender" pulse in my head? a dictionary defines surrender as: "to relinquish possession or control of to another because of demand or compulsion." still, my body insisted, my instincts persisted/pulled me toward this word. it seemed full of life, and indeed, in IX, i find it is. the truth is in the roots.
And in IX one finds a diagramming of the etymology of the word "surrender" and the roots of roots to arrive at a meaning and image of deliverance and setting free. As well as a wry comment about code broken by fluency.

And so for day 1162

Hard & Hand Wiring

Hand-brain connections at play? David Suzuki introduction to Pebbles to Computers: The Thread. Revealing typo appears in the context of filtering. The note of novelty induced by the typo "handwiring" suggests evolutionary connections.

Like all other organisms, we have the ability to receive information about the world through our sensory apparatus. That information is far from complete. We also have the ability to filter out, from among the many inputs, the signals that we deem important. The filtering mechanisms are conditioned by handwiring (inborn neural circuitry) and learning-through-experience. Thus, we create reality, and that reality is highly personal.
We can speculate that much of our filtering occurs via the hand and its connections. Reminds one of images of the Wilder Penfield inspired cortical homunculus where the hand is almost as large as the face. Hard wired for hand sensing.

And so for day 1161

Fit Wit

In the last century, we were treated to an intriguing practice. Interrogation of how academic discourse would be inflected. See Gregory Ulmer Teletheory: Gramatology in the Age of Video

Teletheory is concerned with discovering and inventing the kind of thinking and representation available for academic discourse in an electronic age. My working assumption is that the mode I seek is modeled in the simple form of the joke. This possibility is suggested in part by an opposition to the melancholy seriousness that has been associated traditionally with the emotional experience of academic work; and in opposition to the nostalgia that Jameson and others have identified as the predominant emotion of culture in the period of late capitalism. Why should wit be the best response to these moods? [p. 61]
Fast forward.

Ulmer elaborates a practice of mystory and as to be expected by the subtitle weaves in Derrida. This particular passage drawing on Derrida's memorial lectures about his friend Paul de Man and the possibilities of an account of "deconstruction in America" is interesting by its invocation of the turn.
The turn to the anecdotes is required by the impossibility of accounting for somehting still being invented. While confessing his own exclusion from narrative ability, Derrida suggests that there is a story to tell. [Ulmer then quotes from Derrida Mémoires for Paul de Man trans. Cecile Lindsay, Jonathan Culler, and Eduardo Cadava] But is there a proper place, is there a proper story for this thing? [We skip ahead in the quotation to its end.] If I had to risk a single definition of deconstruction, one as brief, elliptical, and economical as a password, I would say simply and without overstatement: plus d'une langue—both more than a language and no more of a language. [Ulmer continues in the next paragraph in his own voice.] I repeated this definition because it is fundamental to the strategy of mystory as a transduction between the different registers of culture. This password is nonsesne, Derrida admits [...] [p. 202]
My own marginal annotations in my copy of Teletheory inscribe the remark "no more from a language" and a cross-reference to see page 203 (the next page) where one finds another marginal annotation that reads " form from see p 202). And underlined on this page is Ulmer's or his typesetter's rendering "to extract form it the wit". Typo, no doubt. Here at play with nonsense and sense. A coming and leaving of language. More flavour and more context:
But if transference is involved, how is the story to be told without mourning? We return here to the problematic of the emergence of electronic discourse specifically in the Symbolic register of narrative, organized by the scene of the entry into language and the internalizations associated with mourning. Mystory attempts to work with and through this scene of mourning, to extract form it the wit generated by the transgressive exchanges also operating in this register.
Form it.

And so for day 1160

Anthropomorphic Fantasia

It is the sheer extravagance of this passage from the insect chapter where Alexandra Horowitz in her On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes captures the imagination and catapults the reader into what amounts to a world of wondrous activity.

To look at insects up close is to see the hasty cycle of birth, violent killings, and death. Few insects are humanitarians, and even herbivorous insects work great damage to the leaves, buds, grasses, and stems they eat. But Eiseman and I were looking less for insects, and more for the traces of insects past. In following their tiny footsteps, we were forensic insect hunters, looking at the evidence of their criminality they have left in their wake. Insects are messy eaters, like to storm a place and live it up and rarely clean up after themselves (except those polite larvae that eat their own egg cases). They shed their skin, excrete willy-nilly, plunder and pillage, and move on: the insect equivalent of a mad party with only hastily removed clothing, broken bottles, and other detritus left behind. Positively uncivilized.
This is a fanciful approach. It works. Especially when punctuated by petulant "positively uncivilized." Also, the tone is sustained only for this brief passage. The other parts of the chapter while containing touches of humour do not lapse into a romp of describing the insects through human attributes. One paragraph, like a set piece, is enough. A proper civilized measure.

And so for day 1159

Roughing It

Terry Eagleton. Saints and Scholars. A eureka moment for the character Wittgenstein. Notable for the physicality with which it is described.

Then one day a friend took his photograph on the steps of Senate House and Wittgenstein asked him where he was to stand. 'Oh, roughly there,' the friend replied, casually indicating a spot. Wittgenstein went back to his room, lay on the floor and writhed in excitement. Roughly there. The phrase had opened a world to him. Not 'two inches to the left of that stone,' but 'roughly there'. Human life was a matter of roughness, not of precise measurement. Why had he not understood this? He had tried to purge language of of its ambiguities, but this was like regarding the handle of a cup as a flaw in the pottery. Looseness and ambiguity were not imperfections, they were what made things work.
Eagleton goes on in a lovely fashion about ordinary people moving at ease in, through and around ambiguity. What for me is striking in this description is its connection to the act of producing a record. And then in the cogitation comes the sense that precision and use oppose each other. Yet the passage intimates that there are language games where precision matters. Knowing which is of course a matter of roughly knowing. In such cases the ambiguity maybe located at a metadiscursive level. The necessity of going meta is about coming to some agreement about the contours of the ambiguity.

Going meta: "To go meta is to query the products and experiences of textuality and virtuality. Going meta is a question-based activity." http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance/ivt.htm

And so for day 1158

Logical Family Migrations

A bridging metaphor. A resonant myth in the context of the novel. Friable when lifted out.

"They migrate like birds," Anna explained. "They're the only butterflies that do. But the distance of their migration is so enormous—thousands of miles—that they can't make the journey on their own. They only live for two months."

"So—how do they do it?"

"They don't. Their children do it. Their grandchildren. Somehow they know exactly where to go and specifically where to land. Somehow—it's in them. The new generation winters in the same tree every year without ever having seen the tree." Anna paused as the butterfly tricycle rounded the corner and disappeared into the swirl of traffic. "They don't need their elders at all. It's a miraculous thing."

Brian knew she was talking to him, but he didn't say a word. He didn't trust his voice not to crack.

"They're poisonous," Anna added, "so they're tough little bastards. Nobody would dare eat them. They're flying caution signs—look at them, orange and black, pure Halloween. But they survive, and their pattern is so familiar it's imprinted on our brains like something generic—like plaid. Am I making any sense?"

Wren murmured her understanding.
Much of this faith in future generations to find their way depends upon a firm belief in the rightness of logical families (as opposed to biological). Of course such affirmative insight comes to us from the charming character Anna Madrigal in Armistead Maupin's ninth novel in the Tales of the City series, The Days of Anna Madrigal. She may be channelling Wittgenstein on family resemblance in her description of the meaning that can be attached to an artcar in the form of a Monarch parading at the Burning Man festival in Black Rock City. Then again she may belong to an entirely different language game.

And so for day 1157

Looking Back on Looking Back

A re-examination of the hero: Orpheus as inept in letting go.

Of course, Orpheus was a musician, not a painter, and his music was the means through which he worked his seduction, expressed his sorrow, but also pleaded his case. In a way, it was the power he had, but what was finally asked of him was to give up this very power, to walk silently, without audience, without being able to work any effects on the situation. What did he know about quiet walking and soundless trust, and not being able to see for certain that others are moved by what you do?
I just love the long title of the source for this take on Eurydice and Orpheus: Judith Butler. Lecture presented at the Symposium Bracha Ettinger: Aesthetics/Ethics/Politics. At the Slade School of Fine Arts, London, University College, 3 June 2009 On the occasion of the exhibition: Bracha L. Ettinger: Resonance/Overlay/Interweave, Freud Museum, 3 June - 26 July. Printed in a limited edition on the occasion of the exhibition: Bracha L. Ettinger: Fragilization and Resistance. The Finnish Academy of Fine Arts 21-31 August. [Helsinki 2009].

Ovid in Book X of the Metamorphoses emphases that two lovers, one dead and the other mourning, walked the steep path upwards from the nether world "per muta silentia" through a speechless silence. But by what agency is this silence imposed, if it is? Orpheus is silent but under what obligation? Why is speech or music here in Butler's account tied so closely with sight?

Eyes closed... I know you are there by the sound of your voice. A new power of imagination I gain by listening to breath betraying a reaction.

Is it not the very steepness of the path that leads to silence, the struggle to make one's way without rest, without break, just when can the eyes close to listen to the other's breath? (One risks stumbling.) Doesn't steepness result in some form of panting out of which some sort of music can emerge? Overtaken by the body's sounds, accelerated heart and deep inhalations, Orpheus is in some sense deaf and hence moves on to verification by sight and seals his plight. Betrayed by terrain, it is not that he cannot remain silent, it is that he cannot hear. Indeed he has trouble hearing Eurydice's last words to him. They grow faint.

In Ovid, Orpheus in the course of time abandons the love of women and takes up boys. In Golding's translation: And of the flowring pryme of boayes the pleasure for to take. Well, to be fair, that is not the end of the story of Orpheus (see Book XI).

And so for day 1156

A Tale of Two Diogenes

Vanessa Place. The Discourse of the Slave (BookThug, 2010).

At one point in this essay there is a conflation of teller (Diogenes Laertius) and told (Diogenes the Cynic). For some reason they are listed as different appellations of the same person.

Diogenes of Sinope, also know as Diogenes Laertius, and Diogenes the Cynic, carried a useless light, looking for a fiction [...]
And there was the fiction just passed over that Diogenes Laertius and Diogenes the Cynic were the same person. One can however take the mistake as part of a discursive economy meant to exemplify the unavoidable errors of reiteration. Towards the end of the essay, Place writes
I am guilty of a flawed reiteration, like the game of telephone. Who knows what monstrosities are spawned by miscommunication?
Which point leads me to quote from the entry "Diogenes Laertius" in the Americana (1960)
His chief work is Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. Its 10 books are full of gossipy anecdotes and are characterized by much confusion and careless mistakes, yet, as containing a mine of information regarding the private life of the Greeks and many fragments of works now lost, they are of considerable value.
Over overdetermination.

And so for day 1155

Being Classy

Good manners.

If you want to stand up for closeted youth or marginalized queer populations or our oppressed cohorts overseas, do it not by demonizing the few who don’t like us, but by holding up the millions who do.

I remember when, back home in Cape Breton, we held our first Pride parade. There was initially some nail-biting over the moral preening of a half-dozen anti-gay protesters assembled, but it was otherwise uneventful. In the years that followed, as the area’s small gay community became an integral part of the town, the small crowd dissipated to one man.

The local paper described him as “dressed neatly and all alone.”

Pride president Peter Steele spoke to the Cape Breton Post about that neatly dressed man: “We never mind him being there. Every time he’s there, we all make it a point to wave and say, ‘Hi, how are you?’“

We are the majority, now, and we should take a lesson from our experience as the vocal minority.

We should wave and say, “Hi, how are you?”
Justin Ling. "Raging Homos" in Xtra!

My heart resonates with this view since a long while ago [back in '82] I was nicely satirized in a cartoon in the Queen's Engineering Society Golden Words newspaper as "Politeness Poof" after a piece of mine appeared in the Queen's Journal about park cruising and etiquette [how gay men can take "no" for an answer]. My reaction to the Golden Words cartoon? I thought it was kind of neat — it re-enforced the point with humour — the depicted figure got in super hero fashion to bonk offenders against the code of politeness with a super lace doily [a novel use for such textiles]. Wildly silly.

And so for day 1154


In her memoir Crazy Brave Joy Harjo remarks about the effects of television. They provide a nice capsule version of the history of media in the era before streaming and binge viewing.

I turned on the television, the story box that changed the story field of the world. The commercial aspect of stories threatens the diversity of the world's stories and manners of telling. The television stands in the altar space of most homes in America. It is the authority and the main source of stories for many in the world.
But her story goes on and suggests a way to "break" the medium (in effect what has been done by plug and play technology that allows for instant interference).
Once when I was a student I had two televisions. In one the picture worked and not the sound. In the other the sound worked and not the picture. Together I had a working set — an Indian television set, I often joked.
Alert to the means at hand. (Recall Towards a Poor Theatre, anyone?) Or by means of attunements.

And so for day 1153

Mudra Magic

Witnessing a performance by Clara Venice (http://www.claravenice.com/) on the theremin made me think of how like some of the gestures required to master this difficult instrument are like mudras — the postures of the hands in meditative practice.

See the cover of the Canadian edition Sean Michaels Us Conductors (a novel about Clara Rockmore and Lev Termen) for a depiction of a beautiful silhouette of a player which captures brilliantly the importance of gesture as a means of means of making sound mean in a radiating field of waves.

And so for day 1152

Noumenal Nominations

Michel Serres. Variations on the Body.

Metamorphoses of the enamoured body: universal love passes through sand, floral games and animal races; those in love begin this way, with the desire for things and the world, before crowning one another in corporal ecstasy in God. We will only understand one another when we join together in the round or in the dance of all these melanges.
God. It sticks. I can appreciate the quasi-pantheistic relation with the materiality of the world — those melanges. How then do we go from mixture and multitude to a crowning in God? Got to reread carefully. The mystical ecstasy is but one moment in a surge of games and races. A crest of a wave as ephemeral as the peak of a mountain. It is part of the mix.

The weight of the preposition is unbearable. How can this all be contained in God? How vast that absolute must be.

Odd as an atheist I still want the poetry of the mystics to inform my world and I a grateful for the glimpses that come my way such as this from Simone Weil "Chance" in Gravity and Grace, nicely quoted in a card received from a friend.
Stars and blossoming fruit-trees: utter permanence and extreme fragility give an equal sense of eternity.
The permanence of a cycle of flowering and fruition set beside the churn of explosions millions of light-years away. The turbulent and the fragile and the leap to eternity. There is a gulf here.

How difficult it is to think the limit beyond the limitless. How easy to imagine all the carrying on beyond one's finite being. How well can the imagination serve the thinking?

And so for day 1151

Snow Snowing

The opening lines from Émile Nelligan's "Soir d'hiver" came to mind

Ah! comme la neige a neigé!
Ma vitre est un jardin de givre
when I read Alice Oswald's rendition of an extended simile from Homer's Iliad
Like snow falling like snow
When the living winds shake the clouds into pieces
Like flutters of silence hurrying down
To put a stop to the earth at her leafwork
Memorial is subtitled in its American edition as "A Version of Homer's Iliad" but I prefer the British edition which gives "An Excavation of the Iliad".

And through the magic of search engines and keywords, I am reminded of the description of Ulysses in Book III of the Iliad thanks to a text by Françoise Létoublon "Les récits d’Ulysse" to accompany an exhibition (Homer and the Muses) at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
L’image de la neige, énigmatique, a été commentée dans des sens divers et la traduction de Mugler par "flocons de neige" est peut-être fallacieuse : plutôt que comme une douce neige ouatée et silencieuse, la parole d’Ulysse tombe probablement dru comme une tempête de neige, tempête qui relèverait en effet du sublime.

Source: http://expositions.bnf.fr/homere/arret/04.htm
Soft batting or blizzard: snow.

Alexander Pope (1688 - 1744) opts for the soft but penetrating snow (his translations of Homer have been made available online through a Penn State Electronic Classics Series Publication).
But when Ulysses rose, in thought profound,
His modest eyes he fix’d upon the ground;
As one unskill’d or dumb, he seem’d to stand,
Nor raised his head, nor stretch’d his sceptred hand;
But, when he speaks, what elocution flows!
Soft as the fleeces of descending snows,
The copious accents fall, with easy art;
Melting they fall, and sink into the heart!
I have drifted far from Nelligan. And there is no way back. Snow has covered the tracks.

And so for day 1150

Adverb Reverb

In the introduction to Trish Salah's Wanting in Arabic Lisa Robertson proposes that

A lyric culture will always be wildly embodied.
And the body can be made to surface with very slight resources if one is aware of the power of conventions and constrictions. Take for example:
2 sets after Giles


Giles is Giles Benaway who in a workshop exercise asked us to compose a piece from 5 to 10 lines, no rhymes and no words ending in "ly". Of course who wouldn't be tempted by all rhymes all in "ly"?

And so for day 1149

Owe Awe

In terza rima James Pollock takes us on a tour of Quarry Park, Madison, Wisconsin. The tour includes a duet with a cardinal, musings on the shaping of the landscape by ice-age glacial pressure, the tumbling climb and repeated exertions of a two-and-a-half-year-old, an amazing observation of ants feeding off of aphids and fending off a ladybug attack on their source of aphid nectar, the burial practices of first peoples, the rowan and other plantings of a family that inhabited the site. It's rich and engaging and clips along in part due to the deft handling of the interlocking rhyme scheme. Difficult to choose a passage to pick up but here is an apt act of thanksgiving told askant:

even in the midst of death; how we forget
and how our forgetting makes us homeless
until we dig ourselves out of this debt

we owe the giant past for making us
ourselves. [...]
In some very strong fashion the writing of poetry and its sharing with others is a way to acknowledge debt and in such acknowledgement is a way out of debt. We do find our way to home through acquaintance with our surroundings and their history, recent and remote. We are enjoined to not forget as a step to remembering. It is worth stressing the multiple: it is ourselves that are remembered by not forgetting and being mindful of debt of that singular circumstance that is the "giant past".

Pollock's poem "Quarry Park" is found in Sailing to Babylon.

And so for day 1148


I am reading a book by Mutlu Blasing entitled Lyric Poetry: The Pain and Pleasure of Words. It's a bit dense in parts. Clunky of sorts. But it does meticulously propose with unctuous prose what the "I" intentionally constructs as subjectivity and sense. Here's an excerpt from early on:

The signifier is indeterminate or unstable, and this indeterminacy is a matter not just of a figural complexity of layered meanings but of new senses being generated out of sound affinities. Alternate subliminal meanings and arguments can run along a sequence of rhymes or sound-related words, whether systematized or not; such syntactic liberties as inversions or sentence fragments - which may themselves be partly serving the formal imperatives of meter, rhyme, and sound patterns - facilitate this production of surplus sense.
I find myself rereading sentences and paragraphs just to ensure I can follow... and I share with friends who responded:
Beautiful - and I think I get the concept of sound affinities and how they can generate new senses - never thought about it but sort of sensed it. I will have something to ponder on my favourite XpuHa beach ("X" is pronounced sort of like "sch" in say - marshall - Xpu "early in the morning" almost dawn", while "ha" means something moist, could be water. Here is a sound affinity for you. Yes, I am off to Mexico [...]
And for some reason I am reminded of Kenneth Goldsmith being interviewed by Brooke Gladstone.
The voice hydrates the driest of texts. At the White House, I did a, a little set about the Brooklyn Bridge, and I read a short excerpt from Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" and then Hart Crane's modernist 1930s poem, "The Bridge", and then I finished up with some traffic reports, that included The Bridge as a bit player, from my book, "Traffic."

Now, of course, the President and the First Lady were there, and there were Democratic Party donors and arts administrators and senators, and the like. And they kind of quietly sat through the Whitman and they sat through the Crane, you know, the real poetry. But when it came to the traffic reports, the whole room jumped! It was language that they could recognize. It was, it was, you know, their language. The most avant-garde move was the one that excited them the most.
WNYC - On the Media, Transcript
Friday, March 08, 2013

And so for day 1147

The Play of Sensory Modalities

On the types of exercises and games in his improv and music creation classes:

Then you shuffle the roles and play again. People keep experiencing the game from different perspectives: sometimes watching it from the outside as a spectator, sometimes hearing it only as sound, sometimes participating in it. I think people get a greater insight into the game by being shuffled through those different roles.
Misha Glouberman with Sheila Heti. The Chairs Are Where the People Go: How to Live, Work, and Play in the City.

Simple to adapt to a bit of solo play (while for example being transported on public transit): look, listen (with eyes closed) and move about. There is a show on — and you're part of it somehow.

And so for day 1146