Dec 31, 2008

I've merged all the posts on this blog over into the Delay blog.

The idea of delay makes sense to me again, i've reacquired it.

So. That's the link to there, up there.

Dec 29, 2008

a spruce, knurled in a gradual spiral, handmade candy

its evergreen painted on, clouding it, to coalesce

stone trunk, an inverted fluted column, its whiteness coming through the gray against the dark greens, the greens selecting whiteness

bright cigarette tip, neat bearded face, half rolled down window, passing car

as the sky brightens the squirrels appear in silhouette within the double willow oak

i should not be ashamed to be so literal

i should not be ashamed to be anything, if i'm anything

clouds head east but its hard to see their churn and roil from below

lamplit windows like butter for another maybe 15 minutes

four of the same rectangle, stacked to make the same rectangle

for a little bit i forgot all the feelings and just saw

bird tumbled like a leaf

old house sags around its chimneys

i wish i could see a tree growing and not in that time-lapse photography way

enough morning light now to banish silhouette, i see the squirrels' grayness and postures

the old man's mossy roof

Dec 28, 2008

i'm going to, for some reason it occurs to me, blog on both this one and on the resuscitated delay blogs both. not that i've been making many blog posts.

just now a cashier was taking change from her register drawer with the same hand motion that my piano teacher when i was a child would try to get me to lift from the keys. a wave moving through wrist and fingers, most people would choose the word "graceful" for it but i've never been certain what "graceful" and "elegant" actually mean, they seem like conventions that shift severely over time and among place. but you probably know the conventional graceful and that's the hand motion the cashier used for the change. when i saw it i thought i should come home and resume the delay blog. so i've done that.

but this one will continue too. perhaps a difference between the two spaces will be evident after a while.

Dec 19, 2008

an advantage of scrub pines is light comes through them

i have been watching water come to a boil and boil

Dec 13, 2008

"If a machine is expected to be infallible, it cannot also be intelligent."
Alan Turing

Dec 11, 2008

what is the crystalline within structure of wax and does annealing have any impact upon it.

the way that a thick cylindrical white candle glows through itself.

Dec 10, 2008

i guess when youre looking at fall winter leaves with those colors what youre really looking at is slow death. strange that people immediately think that animals think like people and almost never do the same with trees and leaves and flowers. there are degrees of consciousness i guess, regardless of whether youre animate or not.
like that wall for instance. though what i'm really looking at is the paint on it. the paint is on the wall, it isn't the wall. you make a wall and then paint it. this might not be a worthwhile distinction. a sheet of paper is really 2dimensional not quintessentially.
writers should have to be mute and stay by themselves would help everybody.
spitty rain here.
how do you describe the streetlights. not amber. almost peach but too blasted out with white electricty. there's an origami paper that's pale salmon and you can see the other white side of the paper through it is close.
this place has drywall and the old place had plaster. but from how the drywall relates to the windowtrim level theres probably plaster under it. they just slapped it up overtop, it's easier.
water boils faster in the flatbottom saucepan than the rounded bottom.
an observation takes a little time. its like waking sleep.
clocks are round but calendars arent. strange headache like a stranger you kind of recognize sideways glancing at you a lot. that's two similes now. both chambers of a shotgun.
to wander off, walserian. are you still a spy if you never actually spy.
stare at a wall long enough and it becomes two images that simultaneous and looks like movement from the interference. then a blank gray tunnel comes up from the perimeter if you can resist glancing at it. meting out looking from seeing.
typed three pages then burned them in the doublesink. about lines and divisions and parts, borders. all imaginary, it turns out. but the wall is there. surfaces don't have surfaces though. only ornament.
gave the finger twice today driving. eavesdropped on moms picking up kids from school about whats on sale where. three times they said "in this economy." should have given them the finger to even it up.
all matter is energy but not at our level. it's just waste. flesh just bends and stretches when you poke it. a rock is the same thing all the way through. photographs of photographs.

Dec 9, 2008

i've not blogged in a while. truth is i havent had much to say. why talk to a wall. or yourself.
i moved. the walls are different here. every room's still a box though.
there's a roof over my head. there's that. i don't eat beans off a tray at least. all the limbs work. i'm cold but it's a choice to be so. i only wait for myself.
time damn crawls. there's a flicker. daily stuff has the flicker, if you look at it with this slowness, of a film projecting. the gate or interlocutor or whatever it's called. making a moment of darkness between the frames. everyone else looks in slow motion. i see what they do before they do it. not controlling, just a wonder. marveling, without pleasure. because i don't move at a speed relevant to theirs. or like watching a movie of everybody. wanting to flip off the channel but not doing it. all the same program on the channels, just different images.
don't think it's dreamlike, it's not. don't think i'm a surrealist. fuck surrealism. birds are birds. that bird is that bird. and if you make it something else or wrap something around it youre a worse liar than me. but its all equivalented anyway. we agree to that. it's a nice deal, square as the day box on the calendar, or this room.
i really responded recently to agnes martin grids. because theyr'e not horrible, not trapped. and not a pattern, just sure, there. her paintings are merely there. who else can say that? most of us are there and then gone, somewhere else. vectors. racking up the variables about ourselves. there's probably no variable really. that's an idea. like what a bird was before the word "bird" was stuck on it. you don't answer you just know. how do you read a grid, or make a mistake with it? you eithre go away from it or stop and keep looking at it.
surrealism rejects the idea that everything is ultimately toggles, atomically. just drop the mystery and the unknowable and unsayable and the vagueness especially. why revel in it. it's fun to roll around but not in your own filth.
evertyhgin i'm typing sounds like bumper stickers. i need more bumpers if i keep typing.

Nov 24, 2008

Oct 8, 2008

Portland morning

Sep 17, 2008

what are poems for?
the answerlessness of that question is not wonderful or an opportunity.
instead it is horrible and horrifying.
there is no reason to make a poem, or anything else.

Sep 15, 2008

consciousness is elitism

Aug 7, 2008

go get your acuity

francis ponge died 20 years ago yesterday

au revoir, mon père

Aug 3, 2008

there are only two modes: frustration and consolation

they might be the same mode, underneath

Aug 1, 2008


Jul 30, 2008

today is sadie's second birthday. she got some percussion instruments and a little sailboat for the bath and a doctor kit.

Jul 29, 2008

today is iris' ninth birthday. she's getting a new microscope.

dreamed i was in an old-growth forest, it was bitterly cold and damp, i was hacksawing the bark off a huge oak without much success. the hacksaw teeth were ineffectual on the hard, gray bark. rain was falling steadily in a grassy clearing nearby but it wasn't where i was, feet wedged amidst thick tumbled roots for leverage. i thought the bark was like elephant skin and i knew elephants would laugh at my futility and i could see in my mind a laughing elephant's eye. and i thought -- fucking elephants. my species is better than yours.

the tiny saw teeth made a sound like running your thumbnail along a comb's teeth but hardly left a mark. then i had an ice cream scoop, the kind with the spring-action tab that ejects the ball of ice cream from the bowl of the scoop. this i could get through the bark with the same kind of effort as with a slightly defrosted box of ice cream you let sit on the counter for five minutes before scooping. the tree inside under the skin scooped like cream but was a dry and solid mass like pulped, compressed photocopier paper or coconut. it was jet white. i scooped out scoopfuls and ejected them onto the roots below.

after a while i was having to reach well inside the scooped-out cavity i'd made in the tree and that hand and arm were frozen almost too stiff to use but still muscle twingey inside. then it changed and i was buried up to my shoulders amidst the root system and scooped pulp balls, in a dune of them against the tree's base. the back of my head leaned against the tree and my shoulders were protruding from the pulp dune but my arms were immobilized and the hands at the ends of them kind of disappeared into the soil beneath nearby trees. i was gigantic. my head was the size of a three-story house. people i knew were dressed in mountain climber jackets and goggles, ascending the pulp on ropes.

their climb was difficult. a crosswind stung them with frozen rain and they were in teams and shouted across encouragement to each other against the raw conditions, calling each other "blue team" and "red team." blue team got to my head first. they had pulled up a bundle of stiff metal cables like those used to secure a tall post or tower to points on the ground, the taut cable that goes down diagonally. blue team clambered inside my open mouth. then they drove two large metal spikes about six feet into my tongue. the spikes must have been alloy because the climbers could manipulate them easily, the heads of the spikes had a needle's eye and they threaded the cable ends through them. by this time red team had reached my mouth. they stood in there drinking broth out of thermoses, catching their breath, smoking. where the spikes went in hurt dully like through dental anesthetic.

the teams wriggled out of their packs and stacked them against the backs of the teeth. they took pictures and measurements and set up a rudimentary base, then some climbers started pulling the cables down into my throat. red team rappelled down into there with head lamps, echoing. blue team meanwhile took some cables and dug upwards through the soft tissue in back of the roof of my mouth. they worked their way up inside my head, there were tight corridors in there. i lost track of red team because blue team's noise was in my head.

the feeling of the dragging cables inside my skull was maddening. they were after the inner ears and behind the eyes, to fasten cable ends to them. where the optic nerve went into the back of the eyeball looked like how a sunflower stem goes into the head of the flower, with that node or knot capping the tendrils of the nerve. with tools they bent the cable around the node and wrapped it tight to itself like you do picture-hanging wire so it bit into the softness. then they started slathering some kind of hot caulky compound over the cable's loop with rubberized spreaders. they heated the compound in a stone crucible that one climber gingerly attended because it was white hot, it was precariously balanced in a tripod over a gas flame. the compound was going to help the optic nerve grow in a way to absorb the cable without it being a wound.

i guess the same thing was going on at my cochleae, and with red team down below somewhere. they were blasé about it all like this was their job. talking about what they would do later.

also i was salivating a lot because of the spikes oxidizing or something. like a 9volt battery.

that's all.

Jul 28, 2008

happy birthday marcel duchamp
would that we could work the martingale side by side

Jul 25, 2008

if you could be any number of painted lady butterflies, how many of them would you be?

and don't lie.

Jul 24, 2008

here are all your feelings:

Jul 23, 2008

Jul 22, 2008

canned chance; an escape from taste

David Need is in New York and visited MOMA yesterday. He sent a note to a listserv we're on that he came upon Marcel Duchamp's Three Standard Stoppages. There are two artifacts by that title in MOMA -- a boxed set of three wooden templates and glass panels, and then a painting that uses the template shapes.

Duchamp took three meter-long strings and dropped them from a meter's height above treated canvas. Then he fixed them just how they landed, producing three wavering curves that he called stoppages and mounted on glass panels. Then he cut a wooden template along each of these three stoppages.

The whole lot fits in a repurposed croquet box, which gives it a sanctioned feel. Keep in mind that at this time (around the onset of WWI) the definition of the meter was the distance between two lines on a standard bar of 90% platinum and 10% iridium at 0° Celsius. Of course that distance was based on an erroneous geographical measurement...

The official box and the painstakingly traced and cut out templates are all an ironic expression of the impossibility and futility of an absolute measurement, of a means of understanding the world becoming a fetishized end in itself almost by dint of its being fixed within a physical medium. And of course we've taken it to a higher level of absurdity with the definition of the meter now -- it no longer has to do with the atomically indeterminate medium of matter; it's based on the speed of light in a vacuum, a quantum constant so far as we know.

Duchamp described the set as "canned chance," which he explained in an interview with Pierre Cabanne:
The idea of "chance," which many people were thinking about at the time, struck me... The intention consisted above all in forgetting the hand, since, fundamentally, even your hand is chance.
Pure chance interested me as a way of going against logical reality: to put something on a canvas, on a bit of paper, to associate the idea of a perpendicular thread a meter long falling from the height of one meter onto a horizontal plane, making its own deformation. This amused me. It's always the idea of "amusement" which causes me to do things, and repeated three times...
For me the number three is important, but simply from the numerical, not the esoteric, point of view: one is unity, two is double, duality, and three is the rest. When you've come to the word three, you have three million -- it's the same thing as three. I had decided that the things would be done three times to get what I wanted.
The crucial Duchampian concern of putting art at the service of the mind rather than the eye is expressed here, in two different ways. "Forgetting the hand" has to do with his rejection of taste and craft, using some kind of standardized measurement rather than a brushstroke or drawn line. And his numerical concern shows that the resultant artifact is a compilation or transcription of ideas instead of a mere image to look at on the gallery wall and judge against contemporary tastes.

He made the painting with the stoppages as an example of how to use them, kind of a placeholder painting, and maybe his penultimate one (Tu m' was his last, and intentionally so). Note that he uses three sets of the three stoppages.

This is all a key time for Duchamp, as he's rapidly transitioning from being a painter into a conceptual artist. A year before, he's exhausting the possibilities of Futurist and Cubist representation with the Nude Descending a Staircase #2 scandal at the Armory Show; the same year as the stoppages he's attaching a bicycle wheel to a stool in his Paris studio; the word "readymade" is coined the next year as he moves to New York and begins the Large Glass.

The whole stoppages project was really part of the metaphysical work that goes into the Large Glass (the bottom half of which is shown below), connecting the 9 "malic molds" on the left to the cones or "pistons." Again, 3 threes.

Duchamp described the Large Glass as "a delay in glass," which echoes the idea of a stoppage or some thing canned. He stopped working on it in the 20s, leaving it "definitively unfinished, and then it was famously shattered in transport in 1926. After that, the bulk of Duchamp's work becomes writing puns, conducting optical experiments, seeding Dadaism and Surrealism even while remaining ambivalent and peripheral to them, making boxed sets of miniatures of his preceding work, etc. All conceptual, not retinal. All the resultant artifacts were more or less discards to him.

Here's another interview chunk that I think David will appreciate:
Cabanne: When you were young, didn't you ever experience the desire to be artistically cultured?
Duchamp: Maybe, but it was a very mediocre desire. I would have wanted to work, but deep down I'm enormously lazy. I like living, breathing, better than working. I don't think that the work I've done can have any social importance in the future. Therefore, if you wish, my art would be that of living: each second, each breath is a work which is inscribed nowhere, which is neither visual nor cerebral. It's a sort of constant euphoria.
Cabanne: That's what Roche said. Your best work has been the use of your time.
Duchamp: That's right. I really think that's right.

Jul 10, 2008

one two three four five six seven egiht nine ten eleven twelve thirteen fourteen fifteen sixteen seventeen eighteen noienteen twenty twentyone twentytwo twentythree twentyfour twentyfive twentysix twentyseven twentyeight twentynine thirty thirtyone thirytwo thirtythree thirtyfour thirtyfive thirtysix thirtyseven thirtyeight thirtynone foorty fortyonefortytwo fortthree forthfour fourtyfive fortysix fortysevenfortyeight fortynine fifty fiftyone fiftytwo fiftythree fiftyfour fiftyfive fiftysix fiftyseven fiftyeight fifty noine sixty sixtyone sixtytwo sixtythree sixtyfour sixty five sixtysix sixtyseven sixtyeight sixtynine seventy seventyone seventytwo seventythree seventyfour seventyfive seventysix seventyseven seventyeight seventynine eighty eightyone eightytwo eightythree eighteyfour eightyfive eightysix eightyseven eightyeight eghtynine ninety nineytone ninetytwo ninetythree ninetyfour ninetyfive ninetysix ninetyseven ninetyeight ninetynien hundred hundredone hundredtwohundrenthree hundredfour hundredfive hundredsix hundredseven hundredeight hundred nine hundredten hundredeeven hundredtwelve hundredthirteen hundredfourteen hundredfifteen hundredsixteen hundredseventeen hundredeighteen hundrednineteen hundredtwenty hundredtwentyone hunderdtwentytwo hundredtwentythree thundredtwentyfour hundredtwentyfive hundredtwentysix hundredtwentyseven hundredtwentyeight hundredtwentynine hundredthirty hundredthirtyone hundredthirttwo hundredthirtythree hundredthirtyfour hundredthirtyfive hundredthirtyfive hundredthirtysix hundredthirtyseven hundredthirtyeight hundredthirtynine hundredtforty hundrefotryone hundredfortytwo hundredfortythtree hundredfortyfour hundredfortyfive hundredfortysix hundredfortyseven hundredfortyeight hundredfortynine hundredfifty and one two three four five sixseven 8 nine hundred sixty and one two three fourfivesix seven eight nine hundredseventy seventyone 70two 70three seventyfour hundred seventyfive hundred seventyseix hundredseventyseven hundredseventyeight hundredseventynine hundredeighty and onetwothreefourfive sixfseven eight ninehundredninety and hundern ninetyone hundredninetytwo hundredninetythree hundredninetyfour hundrendninetyfive hundredinnetysic hundrendninetyseven hundredninetyeight hundredninetyniene twohundred twohundredone twohundredtwo twohundredthree thwohundredfour twohundredfive twohundredsix twohundredseven twohundredeight twohundred nine twohundredten twohundredeleven twohundredtwelve twohundredthireteen twohundredfourteen twohundredfifteen twohundresxteen twohundreseventeentwohundredeighteen two hundrednineteen twohundredtwenty twohundredtwentyone twohundredtwentytw o222 twohundredtwentythree twohundredtwentyfour twohundredtwentyficve twohundredtwentysix twohundredtwentyseven twohundredtwentyeight twohundredtwentynine twonundredthirty twohundredthirtyone twohundredthirtytwo twohundrethirtythree twohundredthirtyfourtw ohundrethirtyfive twohundrethirtysix twohundredthirtyseven twohundrethirtyeight twohundredthirtnine twohundredforty twohundredfortyone twohundredfortyone twohundredfortytwo two hundredfortythree twohundrefortyfour 12squaredbitches twohundredfortyfive twohundredfortysix twohundredfortyseven twohunderdforyteight twohundredforytnine twohundrefifty towhundredfiftyone twohunderd fiftytwotwohundredfirftythree ohundern fifteyfour twohunrenfiftyfive ftowhundred fifty six twohunderdfiftyseven twohunderdfiftyeight twohundernfiftynien this is true

Jul 9, 2008

Jul 8, 2008

99% is closer to 0% than to 100%

Graphemes never mean

A living thing is not necessarily aware that it is in a medium

Inhale until your lungs are uncomfortably full

Native Spanish-speakers struggle with English because the graphemes and phonemes don’t correspond one-to-one like they do in Spanish

Things never touch

Don't let anyone else read this

Explain why the ending of “canoe” sounds just like that of “zoo” but different from that of “toe”

The concept of alphabetization is absent in Chinese; characters are grouped by their primary brushstroke and ordered within that group by number of brushstrokes

We put larger spaces between words than between letters to differentiate which sets of letters comprise each word and to discretely identify each word from the others in a text

This is not what you see

As in the example of the anglerfish, many animals have been given names that relate their behavior or characteristics to those of humans, often inaccurately so

If one decided subsequently to spell “differentiate” with a starting s instead of a starting d, people would be thrown briefly but then assume an error had been made and they’d disregard it

You are surveilling this

Comprehend these four words

In order to record a complete taxonomy of the animal kingdom, every unique individual must be identified as such

Every sixth word can be removed from a text and the meaning is not substantially interfered with

The faces of born-blind people look different from those of the sighted

Written language is an agent of isolation

Remove all the vowels from this

The chickadee is named after an approximate conversion of the sound of its call into English, although birds routinely add two or more dees to their calls and drop the middle a entirely

99% is 0%

You can't even touch yourself

Jul 7, 2008

i don't have time to read all about these things for the next few days but don't want to lose track of them:
Knuth's up-arrow notation
Graham's number
Skewes' number
Steinhaus-Moser notation

Jul 5, 2008

graphemes don't inherently mean anything. the occasional phoneme might though. do animals that live their entire lives in the aphotic sea have an essentially different conceptualization of movement or motion from me? or on second thought, of 3-dimensional direction? or, for that matter, sensation? native spanish-speaking grade-school kids struggle with english because the graphemes and phonemes don't correspond one-to-one like they do in spanish. explain why the ending of "canoe" sounds just like "zoo" but different from "toe." none of this is a problem, of course. the aphotic sea creature might not be aware that it is in a medium. but then how aware of air are people? it must be the same. wind and current, particulate matter and scent. there's no concept of alphabetization in chinese. chinese characters are grouped by their primary stroke and ordered within that group by number of brushstrokes. abyssal plains are incredibly level and monochromatic, although there's a lot of garbage down there, bottles and plastic objects. we put larger spaces between words than between letters so that you can differentiate which groups of letters comprise words and differentiate each word discretely from the others in a text. if the letters all touched then wouldn't that make all english words graphemes? how long would it take for people to forget the idea of letters? it's infuriating that the anglerfish is called that, that so many of the animals were given names that relate their behavior or characteristics to those of humans, and so many of these names simply are inaccurate. if from now on i spelled "differentiate" with a starting s instead of a starting d, people would probably be thrown for maybe a second or two but then just assume i had made an error and disregard it. but how many of this class of intentional errors could communication endure? supposedly every sixth word can be removed from a text and the meaning remains as gettable as if the text was intact. if you really wanted a complete taxonomy of the animal kingdom, every individual creature would be identified as such. but we're comfortable enough with species for now. why do the faces of born-blind people look so different from those of us who are sighted? what am i contributing to evolution? why did paul celan wait? what did my looking so closely at the evening thunderstorm clouds contribute to evolution? why have written language at all, doesn't it just isolate us from each other? the chickadee is named after an approximate conversion of the sound of its call into english, although birds routinely add two or more "dee"s to their calls and i've heard individual birds drop the middle a entirely. but the birds are undaunted.

Jul 3, 2008

it's interesting that creatures of the land and air realms are so consistent in their appearance and body shapes and orientations. but when you go underground or into the deep ocean -- places well below the planet's surface and out of the reach of sunlight -- the animals appear so strange and physically exaggerated.
truly i'm a creature of the surface, so the creatures on my surface make sense to me and are familiar as such. but i just navigate upon basically a plane, and orient myself primarily with sight.
you get down in lightless regions of a spatial realm like the deep ocean, it must be the same as existing in outer space. there's no front or back to many of the creatures. if they have colors or markings, it doesn't matter, and many anyways are translucent. it sounds like such a relief.

Jun 19, 2008

theres no insomnia
like hotel room insomnia
like no insomnia i know

it only takes 3 times seeing the word insomnia for the meaning to fall away and it's just some vowels glommed onto either side of an m-n combination

at least i can watch the highway from my room, 19th floor

i can feel through the walls ceiling floor how identical the adjacent rooms are

Jun 9, 2008

so sadie woke me at 4:20 with crying, she hits a snag in her sleep and bolts to full howling, and i could not get her back down to sleep despite using all my tricks, backrubs, low-frequency humming, rocking. i had been up until 3 working on work projects so i was damn shot and mad that sadie couldn't at least get to 6 for me.

i figured i'd plunk her on my lap, us in front of a cartoon, and i would just tilt my head back and sleep. but 90 seconds into that sadie pipes up "no, no, no." she's pointing at the tv remote control. and then "book, daddy. book, daddy." she's telling me to turn off the tv and read to her.

Jun 5, 2008

well, the penguins lost the stanley cup so i can get on with my life now

poetically, how i work is that i work on a theory or concept, and then i put it into practice in a project or work of some scale. and then i take that practice and make it itself be a next theory or concept (like saying, "given this project as a concept, what's theoretically next?"). extend and or expand.

anyway, it's time to do that. caesura time. even as i finish the current Obedience book ms i have to start theorizing the next from upon and out of it.

i'm going to think about how i might use figurative language in certain ways to do certain things. right now i have to have those 2 vague "certain"s in there. probably i have to figure out and learn what figurative language does and can do, and also see at the language surface just how it works.

sure wish the pens had won though

May 13, 2008

just heard robert rauschenberg died

i remember arguing with my parents about the floor piece with the goat when i was like 8 years old

also remember when i suddenly "got" how silkscreened images functioned in his combine paintings

lots of great artists and writers have died recently but this one really hurts me right in the deep guts

he's kind of an our dad

i copied this from the end of his new york times obit:
“I usually work in a direction until I know how to do it, then I stop,” he said in an interview in the giant studio on Captiva in 2000. “At the time that I am bored or understand — I use those words interchangeably — another appetite has formed. A lot of people try to think up ideas. I’m not one. I’d rather accept the irresistible possibilities of what I can’t ignore.”

Apr 27, 2008

Sadie and i were listening to Bartok's first string quartet this morning and i was trying to listen to it as if it was jazz. or rather, trying to listen to it as music or even less filteredly as just sound, rather than something that was found in and gotten from the classical section of a cd store. not as product or genre but as close to what it sonically is as i can get, not knowing how close i could get but the effort was there.

after reading all this mackey on jazz and corresponding with some other poets on improvisation as an abstraction, music has more characteristics than usual for me right now. and i get frustrated because i can't listen to all sets of them at once, i need to practice the ears and mind on that. listening to roland kirk and thinking how he could play with individual subtlty on two or three saxophones at once. not a freakshow or novelty, he needed more than one saxophone in his mouth, his mind needed more than one mouth for what was going on in there. and i want to multiply what each ear of mine can do for the analogous intake.

so bartok is so different from what you think of as improvisation, but it was seeming this morning that i was hearing how we attach the word improvisation to jazz and attach the word composition to classical, and that these words are really just sections of cd stores. i was hearing how in the activity of making the phrases in the quartet, bartok was considering other options and passing them over, very very much not at all the first thought best thought. naropa killed first thought best thought for me because i could see other students and even instructors using it as an excuse for a flaccid and unconsidered poetics, and i wanted to move toward a rigor of knowing everything that i am doing and why. i figure it is all double artifice, poetry, so i should make it completely. no judgment on such work of others, much of which i find more interesting and certainly more playful than my flattened-out work, but also let me choose my rigor and try to do it because i think i am getting something out of it. i'm not a general hard-ass, just inside my own now poetics, and always reconsidering it too.

i don't know why i just had to write a big back-off thing, but i did. it's complex, obviously.

so bartok. i was hearing each note as one chosen from a set of notes in response to, or to follow, the preceding note. phrase as made note by note, then next phrase made from last phrase, and sets of phrases whatever that chunk of composition is called made from the previous chunk. i heard these duration levels, the multiplicities inside each unit, and i sometimes heard bartok thinking in there. and it was improvisational thinking, the damn same thing that i can hear when i'm listening to a jazz soloist doing his or her thing in the middle of a piece. the scale was the same, but the velocities were very different. contemporaneity fell away from the musics and they were just musics, the sections of the cd store vanished. the instrumentations vanished. i heard more thinking than i had ever heard before, the percentage of what i was hearing was maximally thinking next to actual sound.

iris is done reading so we are going to play a bit, so i will try to later get to what i heard bartok thinking. but know for now that creation of an artifact is improvisational. composition is exactly improvisation, just offset temporally in the process from how we usually use the words about it.

Apr 25, 2008

There is no moment

The now stretches from before before through after after

Apr 24, 2008

In his Bedouin Hornbook, Nate Mackey quotes this chunk from a book entitled Sound and Symbol by Viktor Zuckerkandl (it's in Duke library but not Durham public):

The dynamic quality of a tone is a statement of its incompleteness, its will to completion. To hear a tone as dynamic quality, as a direction, a pointing, means hearing at the same time beyond it, beyond it in the direction of its will, and going toward the expected next tone. Listening to music, we are not first in one tone, then in the next, and so forth. We are always between the tones, on the way from tone to tone; our hearing does not remain with the tone, it reaches through it and beyond it.

Apr 23, 2008

David Need wrote this great thing:

Always, always look for the thing that works effortlessly and externally, whether it's the market or money for those dimwit market-fetish fuckers, or the Old Good King, or God (rushing around in back of the arras), or the "objective mind" or "reason", or the internet, or "power". It's always, always a sham. A thing Burroughs would skewer as a form of addiction.

Apr 15, 2008


Mar 27, 2008

you know when insomnia is cruel, like it is some organized sentience that has targeted you to focus cruelty upon?
that's what you apparently get at the crowne plaza bloomington outside minneapolis.
it felt like ontology itself was exacting vengeance upon me.


Mar 25, 2008

Another room. Oak dining table, flipped with effort on its side and pushed against the entry door. A tabletop corner deeply marred the parquet – too bad! The six black dining room chairs, flipped three upside down to mate seat-to-seat in neat pairs. Nestled them between the protruding table legs like players on a stage. And as mute as I am. Rolled up the rug -- how tatty the fringe is! A dulled diagonal stripe of wear across a corner from years of a room’s foot traffic. These details seem crucial, to note them. I should keep my mind sharp, though I cannot think of what to do with a sharp mind. Deduce things, dream of things, remember other places. Or even other people! It’s enough that someone wore the rug there. This will settle in my memory as the room with the worn rug. There was the one with the low floor and there was the classroom and the paint fumes room and now the worn rug. I hope I get a kitchen next so I can get something to eat. I must be famished although I don’t feel hungry in the slightest.

The first room
The second room
The third room
The fourth room
The fifth room
The sixth room
The seventh room
The eighth room
The ninth room

Mar 24, 2008

some words i've been meaning to look up


Mar 20, 2008

Ninth room – I smashed all the lamps and sat in darkness. Considered shouting, or shitting on the floor, but did neither.

The first room
The second room
The third room
The fourth room
The fifth room
The sixth room
The seventh room
The eighth room

Mar 19, 2008

Before entering the next room, the eighth, I decided I would absolutely own the room upon entering it. Had there been an audience (and I imagined there was, and played to them mawkishly, if not thoroughly) they might have leaned forward in their seats a bit with a faint smile crimping up one or both corners of their mouths, or looked briefly over at their companion as if to ask, “Can you believe this?” and touched them slightly on the arm. All at once, even in the motion of crossing the threshold, I was in the heart of the room rearranging things with a self-assuredness that only a resident could have. Not brash, mind you. I imagined I had been making preparations all day and was now putting final touches on what would be a social triumph. Someone not at all humble but in the minds of all others unanimously and unquestionably humble. Fooling them all, but not maliciously, nor in any patronizing way. A rug was shifted to make a pleasant, welcoming diagonal from the entrance; chairs moved to form an intimate circle; the phonograph (no CD player, how quaint!) made to emit low sonorous tones penned by an underrated foreigner. A good couple bottles of something were fetched from the cabinet as if I had known always that such things were there (despite the fact it’s not a proper cabinet for drinks to be put in, all the more stylish, actually). And glasses, five of them. If I so convincingly and charmingly prepared for guests, might this somehow summon them to arrive? Would I hear voices already laughing, steps already light, approaching the very door through which I had burst a short time ago?

Mar 18, 2008

Welcome to the seventh room. Surprisingly, it’s a classroom, with a chalkboard and everything. No chalk though, the ledge is sparkling clean, there’s only a long wooden pointer which a piece of chalk could fit into the tip of, but there’s no chalk. I already said that. Students would sit partnered at tables, upon which a neat stack of paper and two sharpened pencils lie. The light is as if there’s a window and mid-day light is streaming in but of course there are no windows. But this light almost makes one hear faint sounds of a nearby playground through the wall, and feel the anticipation of a bell. There’s an institutional clock high on the wall behind a cage but it’s stopped. The teacher’s desk has a brightly wrapped birthday present on it. Let’s see, what else? Immaculately waxed tile floor like the first day of school is tomorrow.

Mar 17, 2008

With the sixth room, the sense of an overall house or building dissipated for me. It was all just rooms. Probably the kinds of places one grew up in or had lived in would determine this, like if you grew up in an apartment building maybe it would all be just rooms by the third or fourth room, whereas if you grew up in a freestanding house you’d still be trying to fit them into the first floor and imagining that the kitchen should be next or visualizing what the overall shape of the house would be and the yard around it, the lot. The neighborhood. But in the sixth room, I let go of all that. It’s pleasant, you sort of step down into it, and one wall has an angled alcove with icons in it. Which is probably worth asking some questions about. Or scrutiny. But I didn’t think much on it. There will be a seventh room. My head’s a little foggy. At this point I piled pillows on the floor and flung myself down on them like a sultan. No one is watching me.
The fifth room, the grueling fifth room, had just been painted. That heady acrylic smell, a wall had been resurfaced with new drywall, and I was in this room the longest, long enough to get a terrific headache from the fumes, heaven help me. A close inspection of the corner revealed the freshness of the caulk. The bead had been evened out with a finger. I could see, here and there in the caulk’s tackiness, a worker’s partial fingerprint. But the odor made me hungry for green apples, how strange is that? Or green apple candy, the taste of it. Do you think, in the last room, that some traveler preceding me pinched the ten of clubs just to be a bastard? or that it had been intentionally removed but the designers of this wretched system? But then I’m assuming that scores of others have come through these rooms before me.

Mar 16, 2008

The fourth room is like the fourth of anything. At least some music is quietly playing. Or it was both times I was there, string quartets. That’s probably information out of turn, that I was through the room twice. It is inserted between later rooms, or at least was for me, or there was a replica. Anyhow it reappeared, but this wasn’t disorienting at the time, when it was my fourth room. Speaking of it possessively seems so ridiculous – my room. When I have nothing! But then, four rooms in, you know there will be no great revelations. There will be a fifth, and then others. Frankly, to my core I was thankful for the playing cards on the table. Already I was not so much asking questions of why certain things like playing cards might have been chosen to be in the room, I just started shuffling the cards. Or I knew, as I asked such questions, their futility. It took a while to find that the deck lacked the ten of clubs.

Mar 15, 2008

Once the third room is reached – and this is not so much a generalized take on it as my own – some anticipation has built for it, which is not so much met or disappointed as avoided almost entirely. I felt, myself, like a child upon entering the room and realizing my immediate impression of it, how far off it was from what I had applied intelligence to to predict or forsee. The bureaus seemed unnecessary, for one. Three of them pushed up next to each other, no one would do that. And the objects upon them indicative of a mature and confident individual living there, one who prepares thoroughly for life, to overcome all mundane possibilities in advance through this preparation, one who has been up for hours already before anyone else rises, unhurriedly rendering all reasonable contingencies impotent even before they could occur, so those contingencies would slink away like street cats. You see the strain it put on me, that I would say something facile like “like street cats.” But that’s an absolutely true conveyance of this room. You sit down and knock your heels lightly against the front of the seat and wait and maybe hum. Inaudible, to feel it vibrate in your chest. And that brass lamp.
The second room (or true first room, though I’ll not carry on with this hedging in the numbering, it’s the second room) is remarkably like the first. Smaller, but still open, nothing dramatic is different here. It’s kind of unnecessary, in retrospect. Generally one looks around several times upon entering, testing each object against those in the preceding room to figure the difference. But the difference is pocket change at best. Likely most everyone wonders why the second room is even separated from the first by a wall and not by pocket doors or even French doors or a curved archway. But it’s not the same room, that’s absolutely clear. One thing is the bowl of fruit, though it’s hard to imagine that’s perpetual, fruit goes bad fairly quickly and its consistent replenishment seems a bothersome chore or at least more trouble than the effect from the fruit’s presence might be worth. Already this is more words than need have been given to it. But the second room is hard to sum up, so such details seem important. Listen to me go on!

Mar 14, 2008

The first room is open and more or less empty. It’s meant to be interstitial, to be something that comes after whatever has come before, for whoever has come to this room. If one walks into the room laughing, one’s laugh tapers and smile evens to a flat expression. If one walks into the room infuriated, one’s anger subsides and one’s scowl ratchets down to the same flat expression. Within a few moments, one feels as if one has been in the room for hours. Colors have presumably been chosen to induce this, and those lights are probably placed to splay out on the colors in just the way that they do, and the anonymous fabrics. You can’t memorize them. The first room is interstitial, in addition to being meant to be so. Really it’s better described as the room between anywhere and the true first room.

Mar 10, 2008

daylight saving time is hard on night owls. this morning i was deeply dreaming something wherein i was responsible for a group of people -- some fictional or anyway unknown to me, some not, like iris and sadie and other people i know were there. the nature of my responsibility was not apparent to me. we were on some kind of a cable car suspended only about 5 feet above an even and vast desert, moving along at a pretty good clip. the cable car creaked and swayed a lot, everyone was crowded around the railing, and some people had styrofoam cups of soup from a central kiosk in the car with an undershirted chef in it but they were standing gingerly to not slosh hot soup upon their hands or clothes. it was very hot in the car but like it was over-heated to account for extreme cold outside the car. i remember the raised rivet heads along the joints of the car had been painted so many times thickly, it was put together like the staten island ferry, rivet heads bigger around than quarters, and the window glass was thumb-thick.

so each time my snooze alarm in reality went off i would lose a person, and we all knew the clock was ticking, it's a 5 minute cycle, and no one knew exactly who would be next each time. i was only partially able to choose who would have to go. i was trying to choose the unknown or fictional people, obviously. people were led off by somber officials who kept their eyes down to avoid me, but they could step out of the doorway onto the sand and not fall from the velocity change, and they would become instantly small and distant behind us as we hurried away. it seemed that there was an ample supply of these officials somehow in the car but i wasn't aware of them until they shouldered their way around someone to take the arms of the next person to go. i couldn't stop them but could feel myself weakly gesturing and wincing apologetically. it was uncomfortable being there in the car with everyone, we were silent other than the loud creaking of the car on the cable. and then the snooze alarm would go off and as i was in reality hitting the button the quiet officials came and took someone away, and then the creaking sound would reassert itself. i was running out of strangers to send off, and i was anticipating having to choose whether to send iris or sadie away first, but also concerned that my thinking about iris and sadie would cause them to be chosen next, before some of the strangers even. and then this was true. everyone stepped away from iris and she was suddenly very isolated in a corner of the car looking at me very scared, in her capri pants and a t-shirt with all these little alphabetical drawings of cats on it, and the two men stood on either side of her and she just slowly faded out and became transparent, and disappeared. the men lit cigarettes, i think, and seemed done.

i feel like the creaking and swaying from the cable car is in my hands. i keep flapping them to shake it out. typing this was hard to do.

Mar 6, 2008

notes toward a dice game

"6s, 7s, 8s, and 9s Are Wild”

Given the unwieldy name, it is considered appropriate for experienced players merely to call this game of manners “Sixes.” Novices still should use the entire name in order to avoid embarrassment.

SET UP: "6s, 7s, 8s, and 9s Are Wild" is played with two 6-sided dice. Each player takes turns rolling both dice simultaneously, generating a result. This act is called “taking a turn.” The result is a totaling of the two numbers showing on the top face of the dice. In the example below, the result would be 7 (1 + 6):

Cocked dice must be re-rolled. Depending upon a result and the player’s decision of what to do with it, a turn may consist of multiple consecutive rolls. It bears mentioning that a flat and balanced surface such as a tabletop or floor is necessary for fair and satisfactory play. Even between close friends, heated arguments over the result of a roll will inevitably come from playing upon uneven or tilted surfaces such as an unmade bed or airplane seat.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of "6s, 7s, 8s, and 9s Are Wild" is uncertain. Much has been published and distributed informally on this subject. Presumably a player strives to perform as many rolls of the dice as possible in a single turn. However, the number of rolls is neither tracked nor scored in any way. Categorically, even informal scoring is considered gauche. Even more curiously, the "best possible roll" (6 + 5, a.k.a. “Electric Elevens”) unfortunately results in the roller losing his or her turn. Of course, upon rolling Electric Elevens, one’s enthusiasm about rolling the “best possible roll” overcomes one’s disappointment in losing one’s turn. Given that rolls of 6, 7, 8, or 9 are wild, any of these rolls can be declared to be Electric Elevens, the "best possible roll," but this seldom happens. Wild rolls, as well as doubles (the same number appearing on the faces of both dice after a roll), give the roller another turn, so it can be argued that the best possible roll is actually a 6, 7, 8, 9, or any doubles. However, this is untrue. Only a "natural" roll of Electric Elevens (6+ 5 or 5 + 6) is truly the “best possible roll,” and in a way that no one should ask questions about. But this is something of a digression from the essential topic of the game’s objective.

Absent both a system of scoring and an endgame or decisive conclusion, "6s, 7s, 8s, and 9s Are Wild" may wholly lack an objective and, in this, not actually be a game at all. Despite this lack of an objective or plans to develop one, players seem to feel that an indeterminate sense of a deeply satisfying objective may arise or coalesce within one during extended play.

On Nines and the Possibility of Wildness

Obviously, the wildness of 6s, 7s, and 8s is straightforward. However, although the relationship between 9s and wildness – i.e. whether or not they are wild (and they are wild) – is known, there has been little in the way of field documentation on the subject. Consider this an effort at a brief reportage that is not intended to be comprehensive.

It has come to be known that 9s are wild in exactly the instances when 9s are not wild; and that in those exceptional cases when 9s are determined to be wild, they are in reality not wild. The expression to use in these periods of play is "not wild." Inversely, when 9s are wild, they are said to be wild and thus not wild, for when a 9 is not wild it has become the custom for all involved to behave exactly as if the 9 was not wild, i.e. nonchalantly and even carelessly.

A controversy has recently erupted over this between select initiates and experienced spectators who claim to have seen 9s, over the course of extended play "turn wild" or "go wild." Though the majority of these claimants are generally disreputable, unwashed cads, one former runner-up-to-the-champion (since retired) has stated in the gaming periodicals that he had perfected an art of concentration that enabled him to see non-wild 9s as wild during the course of play, giving him what was tantamount to a stranglehold on play. The result, unfortunately for him, was always a loss, but frequently its very circumstances reclassified the loss, rendering him victorious. (In that games are neither particularly "lost" or "won," there is a lot of play in the idea of whether this former runner-up-to-the-champion had developed anything at all, as must be allowed.)

Considering these vagaries it is hardly surprising that players consider the rolling of 9s to be somewhat rude of late. Rogue amateurs will still revel in a 9 as a goat might revel on an unmowed heath, but in professional and certain secret leagues and tourneys, disqualifications or sanctions have been at least discussed, and are occasionally implemented as sideways glances, subtle gestures incorporated into the raising of a drink to one's mouth, or inexplicable actions committed years after the playing of a particular game has been stopped.

It does not take a purist to recognize the indeterminate wildness of 9s as a point of destabilization that could collapse the entire game in upon itself, turning the honored Ring of Champions into a debtor's prison. But what choice is there but to press on?

Mar 2, 2008

cinema verite from iris

this was a rainy president's-day day off from school.
maybe iris shouldn't bother going to school anymore and should just be given manhattan studio space and a nice grant...

just after chocolate-chip pancakes at IHOP (1:09):

then just after that, getting color swatches (5:50):

Feb 24, 2008

I read last night with Kate Pringle in the mixtape reading series, where folks read work by folks other than themselves. Kate and i each did several alternating chunks, which worked out well because it allowed us to go long in the most unobtrusive manner. Kate's setlist is on her and Maggie's blog, and here's my setlist:

There's a Monster at the End of This Book, starring furry, lovable Grover

MetaMagical Themas, Douglas Hofstadter. I read parts of the first chapter on self-referential sentences.

I Have Not Been Able to Get Through to Everyone, Anna Moschovakis. I read the first 3 poems from "Blue Book."

The second chunk of reading was a long part from The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien where Officer MacCruiskeen displays his sharp spear and intussuscepting chests.

The last chunk I read opened with the Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge poem "Dressing Up Our Pets" from her book Nest. I have lately taken to calling Kate "Kei-Kei," actually.

And I finished with three bits of short prose ("Rehabilitation", "Fedya Davidovich", and "The Fate of the Professor's Wife") from Daniil Kharms, from Today I Wrote Nothing.

If we had had an infinite amount of time, here's what I had at the ready all bookmarked:
-- selections from Emmanuel Hocquard's A Test of Solitude. I'd chosen a really good group of 7 poems which would have gone perfectly after the last thing that Kate read to end the reading. But I'm a little wary of how reverent I am of this book, and his Theory of Tables too. When he read here I wrote a big intro for him that's on Ken Rumble's blog.
-- the short story "Lorraine" by James Lewelling that I published in issue2 of Proliferation when I was in grad school. Jay Schwartz met Lewelling somehow, he was at UDenver and he has books out on Spuyten Duyvil and Calamari Press.
-- several non-consecutive sections from Robert Walser's Jakob von Gunten, which is pretty much my favorite novel. It's on project gutenberg. I had considered actually reading only Walser, no other writers.
-- the first two pages from Beverly Dahlen's A Reading (11-17), mainly because it pisses me off that more people haven't read her work. Section 14 is here.
-- the first 6 pages or so from the Richard Foreman play "My Head Was a Sledgehammer" from the Art+Performance anthology on him that Gerald Rabkin edited.
-- from English Synonyms, Antonyms, and Prepositions by James Fernald (copyright 1896) I selected the entry that explicates and differentiates the keyword "previous" from its synonyms (antecedent, anterior, earlier, foregoing, former, forward, front, introductory, precedent, preceding, preliminary, prior)
-- a section of Annie Dillard's For the Time Being that mulls the unearthing of Emperor Qin's terra cotta army, John Constable's descriptions of clouds, several approaches to "the mystery of human numbers," and Talmudic blessings considered at the Sea of Galilee. It actually gives me pain that I did not get around to reading from this book, I'm ashamed.
-- the opening 40% of Mary Burger's Bleeding Optimist. I would have liked to have read from her recent Sonny but I have not read it in a while and didn't get the chance to reacquaint myself with it. Here's a good interview with Mary.
-- some from Laura Moriarty's L'Archiviste.
-- two bits from interviews with Merce Cunningham, from the book The Dancer and the Dance. He addresses intention and vision.
-- the poem "A sequence" from Leslie Scalapino's that they were at the beach
-- various notes and jottings from two typotranslations of Marcel Duchamp's notes for the Large Glass and on the infrathin.

Feb 22, 2008

I saw the word geode in a poem and went on a dictionary journey.

Fissures and smaller cavities in rocks are called vugs. They fill with deposits of minerals or crystals, which can be corrosive and hollow out or fill stones such as limestone. A geode is a specialized vug. If a geode is solid all the way through it's called a nodule.

It's breathtaking and terrifying how suddenly and completely subjective language becomes with words like fissure and cavity. They're kind of the same thing, but then why do we have the two words, so they're not the same thing, so why? If you know these words you know that fissures and cavities both can form from an overlapping variety of processes (pressure, contraction & expansion, a sharp blow) so this is not a point of differentiation. How I think of it is that a fissure is small, maybe even not open, like a visible crack. A cavity is an opening. But obviously, by dint of being visible at all, a fissure is an opening, it's just too narrow to see with the naked eye. If I could electron-microscope-see then a fissure would look like the grand canyon. I can't see this way, and I'm not tiny, so when it comes to language about it the place where understanding is in play is at what point does a fissure open enough that it is no longer a fissure but a cavity. It would vary from person to person, a judgment call. But this variation in fissure/cavity degrees and resultant play in the language doesn't seem to matter. I use them as synonyms, I know they are not synonyms, I am still living and breathing. So the two words exist in order to express great specificity (and families of adjectives exist for both words for even further specificity) that I rarely or never need to express.

The size we human creatures are and our dexterity and our sensory abilities, these three qualities/conditions crammed into one thing determines the range of how we interact with our environment and the amount of nouns and their intussusceptions into granularity, and the adjectives we append to them. If we could electron microscope see (or touch or feel or smell or hear) then we would need realms more words. Entire concentric dictionary shells around the dictionary we know.

It's interesting because a clast is a rock fragment. But isn't it just as legitimate, when you break a rock into two clasts, to also or instead call them two rocks? A clast must be smallish, it comes from the Greek word for to break or to destroy. Hence an iconoclast is someone who destroys religious imagery or, in our secular age, someone who goes always against the grain. But shards are busted up rocks really small. It would be useful to have a geologist differentiate clast from shard. Like, if you break a rock into chunks, they're clasts, but if you smash the rock to utter bits then maybe they're shards? Isn't this just another instance of how our specificity vocabularies really only need to go as far as our relative sensory scale to the things we're talking about? And frankly a geologist's explication might not be useful at all to me, this might be why I don't know this differentiation in the first place, I've no stake in needing a differentiation other than curiosity. Or rather avoiding the anxiety that comes from a curiosity about things essentially uncertain (i.e. language and fucking everything else when you really look at it).

So by now it feels like the dictionaries are piling up on my chest.

Another thing that became apparent is how my usage and understanding of rock was kind of off. This isn't a word we'd think of as technical language or specificity vocabulary. In fact it's in one of those early layers of nouns that toddlers learn, before they're even forming anything close to a sentence. When the word's utterance is comparable to pointing at the thing. I taught Sadie this word last weekend, crouching in a gravel lot. But it has some specificity that I didn't realize because I never need it, nor does she. Though we easily could.

Words like stone and mineral I use as synonyms, overlapping or simply being the same as rock. But it seems that rocks and stones are things that are made of minerals. And that rocks can be made of stone. So a rock can be made of limestone, and limestone comprises organic calcium minerals like crushed shells. But I pretty much use them all as the same word, and that works out fine for me. Is this a problem? When might it be a problem?

A word like breccia really brings this out. It's a rock that forms when a bunch of clasts or rocks or shards and so forth are lying there (maybe from a rock collapse) and they get all filled in with sand maybe mixed into a concrete-like slurry with water, forming what's called a matrix, like a cross-section of a snickers bar. And all this hardens into completely solid and pressure makes it really hard so it becomes, so far as our interactions with it goes, one thing. Marble is said to be brecciated (nice adjectival form there). A rock in its own right, but comprising other rocks and things. Different rocks tumble down into a pile and become a single, different-again rock. So what does rock mean again? It gets subjective, like if I was a superman and could crumble marble in my hand like a loose dirt clod I wouldn't consider it a rock, so I would maybe think of it not as a single rock but as a clump of lots of other rocks and other stuff. And I probably wouldn't have the word breccia in my language. Or would I, maybe for some other reason? Description?

Words just fall through other words, though we still have to get up in the morning and live all day. We've no choice but to let them fall, or be two mirrors facing each other. If you are comfortable enough in your momentary situation to not need to ask "how big/small am I compared to it?" or "how do I open this object/situation as an idea or system to my understanding?" then you should be fine. But how often are we fine like this?

Anyway, the Giant's Causeway in Ireland is very cool. It's what's on the cover of Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy, remember?

Feb 20, 2008

Some of my co-workers had a sestina contest with the same set of end-words so i made this.
i know i have only written epigram-single-sentences for some time now and i wonder about my lack of inclination to do anything other than that but am not immediately planning any intentional changes or divertissements.

After a certain sequence of events are set into motion by external conditions, a tree produces a bud.
Experience typically converts to recollection.
No tree is said to be agile.
Fictions accrete to turn a city into an effectively infinite city.
Everything that has been done was possible.
Falsely, aesthetics are said to be sacrificed to increase efficiency.

Brevity and rigidity are commonly considered efficient.
One could take double the sum of the total human output of language to describe a tree bud.
Death is impossible.
An imaging of the infinite is implied in every collection.
A certain sequence of events set into motion is called electricity.
By dint of having its growth cycle described, something is made no more or less agile.

Given forward-moving linear time, all collections are conceptually fragile.
One cannot be efficient because one cannot be efficient.
There is no obvious border to a city.
There is no exact or consistently recognizable moment when a rapidly specializing part of a tree becomes what we call a bud.
Questions, regardless of whether one can answer them, collect.
When one says something is impossible, one means that one thinks it is impossible.

Consideration of limitations is a method used to determine possibility.
While considering the feasibility of an idea, one must be mentally available and agile.
The desperate hoard; the wealthy collect.
One’s condition determines the reality of one’s efficiency.
A tree does not decide whether or not to grow a particular bud.
All cities are not the same city.

Viruses preceded cities, though the word “virus” was created after the word “city,” so people use “viral” to describe the growth of a city.
To describe the spread of a virus as “urban” must be allowed to be possible.
A language can do nothing, nor allow its users to do anything, about a tree’s bud.
Recklessness, for a time mensurable by degrees, is permitted by agility.
Stasis, though comprehensively undesirable, is the implied ultimate in common conceptualizations of efficiency.
One cannot complete a collection.

Survival powers the urge to collect.
No one lives long enough or has the right awareness to see the complete growth cycle of a city.
Nothing is efficient.
Efficiency -- in that it is an idea, concept, and word -- must be possible.
The agile enjoy their agility.
What we call a thing is really a phase: a bud.

In order to be popularly recognized as efficient, one must be vigilant and ready at all times to be agile.
Within the idea of a city, all cities collect.
It is impossible for a word to be a tree’s bud.

Feb 17, 2008

Sadie has been talking a lot this weekend.

Feb 16, 2008

My head feels cottony, like a taxidermist did it, and my throat is tender. Still, I know I'm not all the way sick because I am still craving and drinking coffee. The siltiness of french press, where you touch your teeth together to feel it almost tacky.

I saw a remarkable thing today. Or maybe not remarkable. In any case I'd never seen it happen before so I am remarking upon it. As I was driving up a neighborhood street, I saw I think it was a catbird flying along pacing the car, swooping at about eye level in the airspace above the oncoming traffic lane. And then it just dropped out of the air and bang landed on the pavement like it had died in flight. It didn't even skid when it hit. I hesitated and passed the bird and then looked in my side mirror to see it lying still on the asphalt with I guess a wing sticking up, the elbow of it. Then after maybe three four seconds it abruptly rolled to its feet and took off all in one motion. It was gone before I was really done looking at it trying to figure out how and why it fell out of the air.

It's hard to see something that you don't understand or can't make yourself understand even with a plausibility. There's a condition from brain damage called agnosia that's something like this, in which a person recognizes common objects as such but cannot recall or figure out the word for or function of that object. It must be unbearably frustrating. Or else the ultimate relief and calmness, aside from death.

Feb 14, 2008

After last night dining with David and Kate and Maggie and talking about dreams, I this morning dreamed something of a version of a dream that recurred for a long stretch of my adolescence. Or at least a recurring object, the events of the old dream didn't recur.

It's a triangular book, somehow having a spine along each edge, making it a single book that can be opened three ways. If you open it one way, everything becomes fire -- not that everything is on fire, everything is made of living, raging fire, all substance comprises fire. As if the periodic table had only one element on it -- fire. Another way of opening the book makes everything water in this way, and the third way makes everything wind. It's not a wonderful thing, it's awful. The fire in particular. Actually I remember the wind was kind of wonderful, the feeling of it. The other two were like being perpetually held in the exact moment of burning or drowning to death. The book is old and leatherbound and has bulky clasps on it like the book in raiders of the lost ark that indiana jones shows the government guys the pictures in of beams of eradicating power coming from the ark.

So last night I dreamed I was on a city bus at night with this book sitting in my lap with my hands folded on top of it. It was very cold and my shoes were wet. The lights at the back of the bus were flickering, the fluorescent bulbs were on the fritz. A bunch of boys around 8 or 9 years old were crowded together sitting on the rear seat of the bus, shoving each other playfully and laughing, which annoyed me. I wanted it quiet. For some reason I had to maintain great concentration in order to not open the book, I needed to keep myself from opening the book. If my attention to this wavered, I would sort of automatically or reflexively open the book, like a pair of hands would with any book on one's lap on a bus at night, not even to read it, just to hold a book open in one's hands for the bus ride. I wondered why these obnoxious kids were out at night unchaperoned. And in my head I made an image of raising my hand in front of me and bringing it slowly down like a karate chop, and this bifurcated my ability to concentrate so I could continue to keep myself from opening the elemental book while using the cleaved-off new chunk of concentration to direct some slow-motion-ness power at the boys in the back. It was like I split my eyes off of each other. My right eye was able to look straight down at the book on my lap, watching my hands to make sure they didn't open it. And my left eye was swiveled up and away toward the boys. They slowed to half speed and quarter speed and were still horsing around but now they sounded low and slurred and echoey so they didn't bother me hardly at all. The lights kept flickering at regular speed though, and the image of the boys was kind of smeared like low-res video.

Anyway it worked, I didn't open the book.

Feb 3, 2008

Despite the loveliness of the day, I cannot get my children to go outside. I've offered banana splits at Ben&Jerry's -- the holy grail of inducements -- but no. That merely prompted Iris to declare that we should stay here and make smoothies. Iris and a friend are playing some kind of revolutionary game -- they've used all my chemistry equipment to concoct colorful poisons that are being administered to various officials of governments foreign and our own. The president (not Bush, a fictional one), for instance, has died once, been brought back to life, and is now in his second death throes.

Sadie cracked her eye yesterday on a metal bench and has a swollen gash. I have been calling her Rocky and making a lot of references to Talia Shire, Mr. T, and the city of Philadelphia in general. She thinks I am hilarious.

This weekend, Sadie has been very into the alphabet and magic markers. Right now she is feeding me chicken nugget bites.

Iris has poisoned the ocean. One cannot sail upon it until it has been "unpoisoned." Iris, who is now president of the united states (the old one didn't survive his second poisoning), needs to sail to west africa to go to the british museum there. She has emailed west africa about this.

My $9 biglots coffeemaker is in the trash can. I'm going with french press for now. Some things you just can't go cheap on.

Aha, we have to suddenly go to the playground now, I think it has something to do with avoiding the poisoned ocean. Sadie is a spy.

Jan 30, 2008

Driving in this morning in a spitty rain from low, thick clouds, the shreds and folds of which shone a deep and luminous blue from the morning twilight behind them. It pleased me. And then I caught myself.

Shame on me for enjoying a color. Or, for that matter, an image or a word. Walls and cars are colors. All colors are the same. And the rest.

I hate the clear blue sky. It's a palm pushing down, an extinguisher. We're small.

Jan 29, 2008

"A thing is not another thing."
-- Jasper Johns

Jan 27, 2008

When Chris met Kate and Maggie...

...Kate was a sexy door and Maggie was a mustachioed tray of meat.

Here is another recording of a short Daniil Kharms story entitled "The Copper Look." A few weeks ago I recorded my reading his "Dear Nikandr Andreyevich..."

When I was in graduate school in Boulder, I worked at a used and rare bookshop. This was basically a lot like getting paid to go book browsing for 6 hours at a time, and eventually I knew every single item in that store, more or less. It was a labyrinthine place. One day I found a little green hardback with no dust jacket with faded pink lettering on the spine -- "Russia's Lost Literature of the Absurd." It was the book that eventually became Northwestern's "The Man with the Black Coat," with George Gibian's translations of Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky stories and a play. The total, so far as I knew, of the oberiuty that had been brought into English at the time. Anyway I devoured the thing. Kharms's mini-stories in particular are amazing, between Reznikoff's Testimony poems and Kafka ("The Bucket Rider" comes to mind) and surrealist and absurdist work from the French. But those literatures are merely adjacent to Kharms's work. He doesn't fall into line behind the absurdists. He's more subversive, many of his stories when you read them the third time aren't actually absurd at all.

Anyway, last year Overlook Duckworth published Matvei Yankelevich's translation of the selected Kharms -- "Today I Wrote Nothing." Yankelevich and several of the other writers and translators around Ugly Duckling Presse in Brooklyn have been championing Kharms for years, even doing an email list of Kharms news. In this new book, Yankelevich does Kharms two great scholarly services. In addition to his translations (many stories and poems make their debut in English), he differentiates the work from absurdist literature in his excellent introduction. Kharms feels that words kind of blind us to the thingness of the objects around us, so that we aren't actually aware of reality, we aren't actually experiencing it. We are experiencing our standardized and homogenized discourse about reality -- the opaque words are in the way of things -- this is what is absurd to Kharms. So in the stories he's disorienting you from the normality of this discourse, he's shaking you awake. It echoes the Formalist concept of ostrananie or estrangement in its effect.

One way that Kharms does this is by doing things wrong in the writing, like writing sentences in intentionally awkward ways or even simply using incorrect grammar. Yankelevich notes that he tries to preserve or acknowledge this awkwardness in his translations. He also notes that Kharms didn't pore over a lot of his writing, making draft after draft in a conventional editing process. They were one-shot deals, written and put in the desk drawer. Now, it's hard for me to know where these wrong/awkward spots are, but I tried as I read to hear the echo of the Gibian translations and notice where these new ones differ. The Gibian ones do seem smoother, fuller, made more safe for Western prose expectations. Here's one really short story about a fellow named Petrakov who struggles with sleepiness and sleeplessness. First, the Gibian version:
The other day Petrakov wanted to go to bed, but he missed the bed and plopped down beside it. He bumped the floor so hard that he lay on the floor and couldn't get up.
So Petrakov gathered himself together and with all his strength pulled himself up on all fours. But his strength gave out, and he fell down again on his stomach and lay there.
Petrakov lay on the floor for five hours. At first he simply lay there; then he fell asleep.
Sleep put strength into Petrakov. He woke up feeling perfectly fine, got up, and walked around the room, and lay down carefully on his bed. "Well, now I'll sleep," he thought. But he didn't feel like sleeping any more. He turned from side to side and couldn't fall asleep at all.
That's about all.
And the Yankelevich:
So, once Petrakov wanted to go to sleep but, lying down, missed his bed. He hit the floor so hard he lay there unable to get up.
So Petrakov mustered his remaining strength and got on his hands and knees. But his strength abandoned him and he fell on his stomach again, and he just lies there.
Petrakov lay on the floor about five hours. At first he just lay there, but then he fell asleep.
Sleep refreshed Petrakov's strength. He woke up invigorated, got up, walked around the room and cautiously lay down on the bed. "Well," he thought, "now I'll get some sleep." But now he's not feeling very sleepy. So Petrakov keeps turning in his bed and can't fall asleep.
And that's it, more or less.
The verb tense shifts in the new version. At first I thought it might be an editing error when he fell on his stomach (past tense) and just lies there (present). But then it happens again at the end, which makes the ending a current condition as if Petrakov is still struggling with this sleeplessness in the real time of the reader. So is that sentence where it shifts briefly to present and then returns to past a mistake? or one of these intentional oddities of Kharms? Hard to say, but I like Yankelevich's version. I like his version of the first paragraph too -- Gibian smooths it into one nice, even sentence. Yankelevich's two sentences are choppy and more like someone sitting next to you beginning a little unevenly to tell you a tale out loud, sort of ramping up into it.

Obviously, this new selected Kharms is essential. There are lots of plays and poems in it too, where the oddness really comes through. This poem is entitled "Notnow":

This is This.
That is That.
This is not That.
This is not This.
What's left is either this, or not this.
It's all either that, or not that.
What's not that and not this, that is not this and not that.
What is this and also that, that is itself Itself.
What is itself Itself, that night be that but not this, or else this but not that.
This went into that, and that went into this. We say: God has puffed.
This went into this, and that went into that, and we have no place to leave and nowhere to come to.
This went into this. We asked: where? They sung in answer: Here.
This left That. What is this? It's That.
This is that.
That is this.
Here are this and that.
Here went into this, this went into that, and that went into here.
We watched, but did not see.
And there stood this and that.
There is not here.
That's there.
This is here.
But now both this and that are there.
But now this and that are here, too.
We long and mope and ponder.
But where is now?
Now is here, and now there, and now here, and now here and there.
This be that.
Here be there.
This, that, here, these, be, I, We, God.