Sunday, August 31, 2008

Karner Blue

Nabokov in hunting regalia.

Apropos of the nine year old mind pondering the meaning of the flea market he’s about to check out:


Why not fly market?

Why not ant market?

Why not dragonfly market?

Why not praying mantis market?

Why not dung beetle market?

Why not doodle bug market?

Why not ladybug market?

Why not damselfly market?

Why not cicada market?

Why not butterfly market?

Why not grasshopper market?

Why not aphid market?

Why not cockroach market?

Why not wasp market?

Why not walking stick market?

Why not roto-tiller market? (??)

Why not killer bee market?

Why not kissing bug market?

Why not paper wasp market?

Why not termite market?

Why not western steep fritillary market?

Why not dobsonfly market?

Why not leaf beetle market?

And, of course, what he really wants to know:

Why not rare Lego market?

(We went to Toys R Us, after all…)


Dave's Not Here

Wreckless Eric in characteristically hilariously trenchant style:

Two days later at the US consulate I was told that the Colisimo envelope Amy bought in accordance with the US government website instructions for sending the visa-ed up passport back to me was all wrong—I had to have a Chronopost envelope. But no matter, they had a machine full of them as long as you had twenty three Euros in change which fortunately I had.

The envelope flumped out of the vending machine, I extricated it from the metal trapdoor, turned around and there was a photo booth offering photos of the required size.

The visa arrived the following day—it almost beat me home. The accompanying paperwork describes me as an alien of extraordinary ability.

The journey to America follows on when I've got the strength to re-live it. Suffice to say for the moment this world makes little sense to me and, in my capacity as an alien, I'll be glad when I can leave, possibly wearing a preposterous grey plastic helmet with gold wings on the sides—My work here is done...A bit like John Wayne as a Roman Centurion in The Story Of The Bible—This surely must be The Son Of Gard, etc.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Wi nøt trei a høliday in Sweden this yër?

The Latest News:

For all we know, she
may also throw knives,
easy on the eyes,
streamwalking with eco-friendly
Germans, good fits &
Farhad Manjoo, gaping
liabilities and deluded pundits,
salmon, after all, the
spawn of choice for fif
teen out of fifty
Lone Star lubbers, every man-
& woman-jack of them, a heart
beat away from
amazing and fanstastic,
plastic and fantastic, shivering
timbers, lollycoddling
mustard seeds, J K
Galbraith & all
that Yankee brine,
fizzy detection, the best
ever made.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Sunday Scribbling #126: Somewhere


Some wear them long and lithe
Some wear them campy
Some wear them five and dime
Somewhere them trippy
Some wear them inside out
Some wear them dashiki
Some wear them astral pants
Some wear them more for less
Some wear them after the gold rush
Some wear them footsie
Some wear them didgeridoo
Some wear them sly, while others wear them J. P. Morgan—
I wear them this way and that,
several times a day,
several times in the antiphonic
weeks of exasperation.
Baby , it’s cold outside, &
that’s why we’re wearing them
anyway, dorsal fins and all.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Scots-eyed Soul Lips

Goofiness on the south 40 of the playlist, Ms Tunstall and Daryl Hall kissin', followed by velvety Boz. Scroll down this page a bit or "search" it: it's there. When Brother B's on and he's got the right groove, it don't get much mo betta and coola than that.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Is it plastic? Is it magic?

A cool story.

Somalia’s runners provide inspiration
By Charles Robinson, Yahoo! Sports 6 hours, 11 minutes ago

BEIJINGSamia Yusuf Omar headed back to Somalia Sunday, returning to the small two-room house in Mogadishu shared by seven family members. Her mother lives there, selling fruits and vegetables. Her father is buried there, the victim of a wayward artillery shell that hit their home and also killed Samia’s aunt and uncle.

This is the Olympic story we never heard.

It’s about a girl whose Beijing moment lasted a mere 32 seconds – the slowest 200-meter dash time out of the 46 women who competed in the event. Thirty-two seconds that almost nobody saw but that she carries home with her, swelled with joy and wonderment. Back to a decades-long civil war that has flattened much of her city. Back to an Olympic program with few Olympians and no facilities. Back to meals of flat bread, wheat porridge and tap water.

“I have my pride,” she said through a translator before leaving China. “This is the highest thing any athlete can hope for. It has been a very happy experience for me. I am proud to bring the Somali flag to fly with all of these countries, and to stand with the best athletes in the world.”

There are many life stories that collide in each Olympics – many intriguing tales of glory and tragedy. Beijing delivered the electricity of Usain Bolt and the determination of Michael Phelps. It left hearts heavy with the disappointment of Liu Xiang and the heartache of Hugh McCutcheon.

But it also gave us Samia Yusuf Omar – one small girl from one chaotic country – and a story that might have gone unnoticed if it hadn’t been for a roaring half-empty stadium.


It was Aug. 19, and the tiny girl had crossed over seven lanes to find her starting block in her 200-meter heat. She walked past Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown – the eventual gold medalist in the event. Samia had read about Campbell-Brown in track and field magazines and once watched her in wonderment on television. As a cameraman panned down the starting blocks, it settled on lane No. 2, on a 17-year old girl with the frame of a Kenyan distance runner. Samia’s biography in the Olympic media system contained almost no information, other than her 5-foot-4, 119-pound frame. There was no mention of her personal best times and nothing on previous track meets. Somalia, it was later explained, has a hard time organizing the records of its athletes.

She looked so odd and out of place among her competitors, with her white headband and a baggy, untucked T-shirt. The legs on her wiry frame were thin and spindly, and her arms poked out of her sleeves like the twigs of a sapling. She tugged at the bottom of her shirt and shot an occasional nervous glance at the other runners in her heat. Each had muscles bulging from beneath their skin-tight track suits. Many outweighed Samia by nearly 40 pounds.

After introductions, she knelt into her starting block.


The country of Somalia sent two athletes to the Beijing Games – Samia and distance runner Abdi Said Ibrahim, who competed in the men’s 5,000-meter event. Like Samia, Abdi finished last in his event, overmatched by competitors who were groomed for their Olympic moment. Somalia has only loose-knit programs supporting its Olympians, few coaches, and few facilities. With a civil war tearing the city apart since the Somali government’s collapse in 1991, Mogadishu Stadium has become one of the bloodiest pieces of real estate in the city – housing U.N. forces in the early 1990s and now a military compound for insurgents.

That has left the country’s track athletes to train in Coni Stadium, an artillery-pocked structure built in 1958 which has no track, endless divots, and has been overtaken by weeds and plants.

“Sports are not a priority for Somalia,” said Duran Farah, vice president of the Somali Olympic Committee. “There is no money for facilities or training. The war, the security, the difficulties with food and everything – there are just many other internal difficulties to deal with.”

That leaves athletes such as Samia and 18-year old Abdi without the normal comforts and structure enjoyed by almost every other athlete in the Olympic Games. They don’t receive consistent coaching, don’t compete in meets on a regular basis and struggle to find safety in something as simple as going out for a daily run.

When Samia cannot make it to the stadium, she runs in the streets, where she runs into roadblocks of burning tires and refuse set out by insurgents. She is often bullied and threatened by militia or locals who believe that Muslim women should not take part in sports. In hopes of lessening the abuse, she runs in the oppressive heat wearing long sleeves, sweat pants and a head scarf. Even then, she is told her place should be in the home – not participating in sports.

“For some men, nothing is good enough,” Farah said.

Even Abdi faces constant difficulties, passing through military checkpoints where he is shaken down for money. And when he has competed in sanctioned track events, gun-toting insurgents have threatened his life for what they viewed as compliance with the interim government.

“Once, the insurgents were very unhappy,” he said. “When we went back home, my friends and I were rounded up and we were told if we did it again, we would get killed. Some of my friends stopped being in sports. I had many phone calls threatening me, that if I didn’t stop running, I would get killed. Lately, I do not have these problems. I think probably they realized we just wanted to be athletes and were not involved with the government.”

But the interim government has not been able to offer support, instead spending its cash and energy arming Ethiopian allies for the fight against insurgents. Other than organizing a meet to compete for Olympic selection – in which the Somali Olympic federation chose whom it believed to be its two best performers – there has been little lavished on athletes. While other countries pour millions into the training and perfecting of their Olympic stars, Somalia offers little guidance and no doctors, not even a stipend for food.

“The food is not something that is measured and given to us every day,” Samia said. “We eat whatever we can get.”

On the best days, that means getting protein from a small portion of fish, camel or goat meat, and carbohydrates from bananas or citrus fruits growing in local trees. On the worst days – and there are long stretches of those – it means surviving on water and Angera, a flat bread made from a mixture of wheat and barley.

“There is no grocery store,” Abdi said. “We can’t go shopping for whatever we want.”

He laughs at this thought, with a smile that is missing a front tooth.


When the gun went off in Samia’s 200-meter heat, seven women blasted from their starting blocks, registering as little as 16 one-hundredths of a second of reaction time. Samia’s start was slow enough that the computer didn’t read it, leaving her reaction time blank on the heat’s statistical printout.

Within seconds, seven competitors were thundering around the curve in Beijing’s Bird’s Nest, struggling to separate themselves from one another. Samia was just entering the curve when her opponents were nearing the finish line. A local television feed had lost her entirely by the time Veronica Campbell-Brown crossed the finish line in a trotting 23.04 seconds.

As the athletes came to a halt and knelt, stretching and sucking deep breaths, a camera moved to ground level. In the background of the picture, a white dot wearing a headband could be seen coming down the stretch.


Until this month, Samia had been to two countries outside of her own – Djibouti and Ethiopia. Asked how she will describe Beijing, her eyes get big and she snickers from under a blue and white Olympic baseball cap.

“The stadiums, I never thought something like this existed in the world,” she said. “The buildings in the city, it was all very surprising. It will probably take days to finish all the stories we have to tell.”

Asked about Beijing’s otherworldly Water Cube, she lets out a sigh: “Ahhhhhhh.”

Before she can answer, Abdi cuts her off.

“I didn’t know what it was when I saw it,” he said. “Is it plastic? Is it magic?”

Few buildings are beyond two or three stories tall in Mogadishu, and those still standing are mostly in tatters. Only pictures will be able to describe some of Beijing’s structures, from the ancient architecture of the Forbidden City to the modernity of the Water Cube and the Bird’s Nest.

“The Olympic fire in the stadium, everywhere I am, it is always up there,” Samia said. “It’s like the moon. I look up wherever I go, it is there.”

These are the stories they will relish when they return to Somalia, which they believe has, for one brief moment, united the country’s warring tribes. Farah said he had received calls from countrymen all over the world, asking how their two athletes were doing and what they had experienced in China. On the morning of Samia’s race, it was just after 5 a.m., and locals from her neighborhood were scrambling to find a television with a broadcast.

“People stayed awake to see it,” Farah said. “The good thing, sports is the one thing which unites all of Somalia.”

That is one of the common threads they share with every athlete at the Games. Just being an Olympian and carrying the country’s flag brings an immense sense of pride to families and neighborhoods which typically know only despair.

A pride that Samia will share with her mother, three brothers and three sisters. A pride that Abdi will carry home to his father, two brothers and two sisters. Like Samia’s father two years ago, Abdi’s mother was killed in the civil war, by a mortar shell that hit the family’s home in 1993.

“We are very proud,” Samia said. “Because of us, the Somali flag is raised among all the other nations’ flags. You can’t imagine how proud we were when we were marching in the Opening Ceremonies with the flag.

“Despite the difficulties and everything we’ve had with our country, we feel great pride in our accomplishment.”


As Samia came down the stretch in her 200-meter heat, she realized that the Somalian Olympic federation had chosen to place her in the wrong event. The 200 wasn’t nearly the best event for a middle distance runner. But the federation believed the dash would serve as a “good experience” for her. Now she was coming down the stretch alone, pumping her arms and tilting her head to the side with a look of despair.

Suddenly, the half-empty stadium realized there was still a runner on the track, still pushing to get across the finish line almost eight seconds behind the seven women who had already completed the race. In the last 50 meters, much of the stadium rose to its feet, flooding the track below with cheers of encouragement. A few competitors who had left Samia behind turned and watched it unfold.

As Samia crossed the line in 32.16 seconds, the crowd roared in applause. Bahamian runner Sheniqua Ferguson, the next smallest woman on the track at 5-foot-7 and 130 pounds, looked at the girl crossing the finish and thought to herself, “Wow, she’s tiny.”

“She must love running,” Ferguson said later.


Several days later, Samia waved off her Olympic moment as being inspirational. While she was still filled with joy over her chance to compete, and though she knew she had done all she could, part of her seemed embarrassed that the crowd had risen to its feet to help push her across the finish line.

“I was happy the people were cheering and encouraging me,” she said. “But I would have liked to be cheered because I won, not because I needed encouragement. It is something I will work on. I will try my best not to be the last person next time. It was very nice for people to give me that encouragement, but I would prefer the winning cheer.

She shrugged and smiled.

“I knew it was an uphill task.”

And there it was. While the Olympics are often promoted for the fastest and strongest and most agile champions, there is something to be said for the ones who finish out of the limelight. The ones who finish last and leave with their pride.

At their best, the Olympics still signify competition and purity, a love for sport. What represents that better than two athletes who carry their country’s flag into the Games despite their country’s inability to carry them before that moment? What better way to find the best of the Olympic spirit than by looking at those who endure so much that would break it?

“We know that we are different from the other athletes,” Samia said. “But we don’t want to show it. We try our best to look like all the rest. We understand we are not anywhere near the level of the other competitors here. We understand that very, very well. But more than anything else, we would like to show the dignity of ourselves and our country.”

She smiles when she says this, sitting a stone’s throw from a Somalian flag that she and her countryman Abdi brought to these Games. They came and went from Beijing largely unnoticed, but may have been the most dignified example these Olympics could offer.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Jump in, let's go...

Great song from Ms Crow. Gotta love it, ever'body off they feet. Gotta love the air bolsa, tam bien.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Sunday Scribbling #125: How I Met My...

On the fall of Neptune, two milligeezers on a park bench:

“Pistol whippers, ashen military, moonless filigreed heartbreak, desolation on the junkpile of fallen NASCAR dreams, Toby Keith, Faith, and Tim mere background noise as Chicken Little takes her turn around the block. Consider the possibility that we were meant to, even after you factor in all the actuarial tables, NASDAQs, Standard and Poors, illegal minutiae of the grumbling, capricious day. Time was of the essence until she became the last dance of asinine rigor. I haven’t anticipated since the victory laps of my youth. And what do you want for your birthday, the whispered prayer of the young, who live for the five and dimes of their nascent apotheoses, and I am reduced to Goodwill ties and reckless peace, rejuvenation of skies gone grey, mutations of the heart, canonical bliss with just the right touch of pestilence. I have no saturnine discipline, I gave at all the offices and called it fine, dandy, my pockets lined with who you were when we were and now we are. It’s all in the trigger finger, all in the after-slopes, never in the mess of traffic outside your window. Wigglesworth in the baby days, Hong Kong’s neon pink spilling across the carnage of Mass Ave, TE’s litheness in her panther black sweater, tongue on salted lime, and I would spill, and she would freeze the night on the concrete steps, and whatever I thought would shimmer wordlessly in the dawn, the Charles a morgue, the towers of Beacon raining down hell. Careful assiduities, obsequious to a fault, he thought, but then fawning complaisance is ever a fault, no? And so he walked in the Compson shadows, milled the day’s absence, window-shopped for fates in gloom.”

Careless whispers…of…a…good…friend. Fazul. We make the light anyway, no?”

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Where the light won't find you..."

The playlist has put on a few more pounds...If you're in the right place and feeling in a lush life kind of mood, try Shirley Horn's "Here's to Life," with Johnny Mandel's arrangement.

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I got a big chain around my neck...

Oh yes, my brothers and sisters, if you cain't have Roseanne and her locomotion, who better than Lucinda Williams? This'll do just fine:


He always gives some tramp a ride...

Morning NPR brings another Scot to me attention, Ms Amy Macdonald: maybe it’s the earliness of the ride home from Morning Prayer, but it stuck—exuberant, truck drivin’, run down the street at dawn vibe. This one has the feel:

Ms Macdonald put me in mind of early Roseanne Cash. Sometime in the last century, I stumbled over RC rocking the house with a “don’t bother knockin’” version of the following. I wanted RC’s take, but I couldn’t find it. This one’s not bad, but it ain’t RC in her raucous prime. Singer notwithstanding, this one’s clearly showcasing Albert Lee (not a bad thing, just not Roseanne):

This is later Roseanne, but it’s from her gorgeous album “The Wheel.” I lived this one, all of it:

Apropos of what—plaintive guitars?—it’s a ballsy thing to cover Stones—and “Wild Horses,” at that—but I think Ms Harriett of The Sundays pulls it off:

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Sunday Scribbling #124: Observations

(Image: "White House," by Anton Stocker)


seesaw traffic, the allegations
of crystal brine,
time after time
the visionary winterlode
casual teabreaks
variable calculations
and if you didn’t
and if you would—
see, would
ask, would
care to lie
in the thistle of
your mind’s wintry
cover, then now
is the time,
there was
the winter, &
here is the gleam
you wuz lookin’

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Friday, August 08, 2008

More than one way (Scribble #123)

Affine Nest

pray, wake spirit
and dream down the long green limbs
sung before dawn, before
crow’s black wizened cry, before
heron’s still blue passion. why
ask for lentic gospel when wild hearts
lead the wayward home?
ask fire, ask sun, ask
new moon glad tidings –
driftwood thrown upon white sands,
trail of yearning, seam of
ignescent truth. fool’s fire?
nay, libran, doff scales, doff blind –
affiance body to body, river to sea, blood’s blood.


tarry not, tis a bounty kept
in hearts, bright hearts –
none gathers brightness more –
ask sun, ask moon, ask
kestrel perched on
ashen wire in grey sky not gray.
reason spoils the joy
a simple boy knows well,
gainful simplicity,
unruly as chestnut
loosed in blue.
i did not look twice
and will no longer: love
nays but the wary: me she kissed.

Green of Hearts

this was essence thought beyond pale
incense that you blew ‘cross bare arms: thus
need is identified, never to be
announced as parting: disclosure
kissed by all the bodies I bring you. I
am – I was – heart-severed, a green lunatic
returning to portion sustained
and echoed not. You were called and
guessed the simplicity lurking, not here, but
underneath the white stone rosary. It
lay to us to read the signs, though for you
inclinations are signs in and of themselves.
ask me, my love, if the darkness of your eyes
nears mine own echo and, in the trailing, answers.

Terza Rima

third rhyme, though twas two
in the offing, coastal flutter,
native as one called by simple source,
arsis, fleet of feet:
keep heart, my love, keep
all that ‘riches, naming
red first in that trove,
as red in parting, as red in
green, as red in ambit.
umbered, if you will, i
lose all fear, lose death itself:
impuissant am i to your call
and so remain. ask me if
night has whispers, if night has flesh.


trailing dreams like stars,
imprint dawns. her name
neither stills nor lengthens, it quickens,
as hand to fin, hand to mirth,
kalends to an idle heart.
april burrows –
ravenous – as night
asks here? now? why
give back that which
utters peace? as
linden i am sent, leaves
imbosomed, gathered, no
accident of birth, but starred, sent,
nevus upon the nick of time.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

My apologies... Lee, Devil Mood, and David, and any others who may have commented on the previous post. Goblins (Joni or Neil?) broke in and somehow vaporized all the comments, as well as the Larry Rivers painting. I could reinstate the painting, but not, sadly, the comments.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Dancing up a river...

I tweaked the playlist just a tad. No disrespect meant to my cherished Scorpio siblings Neil and Joni, but Joni's "Free Man in Paris" was feeling just a bit out of place in the progression, and with the new addition of Herbie Hancock's tribute cover of "Court and Spark" to close out the set, Neil's "I am a Child" felt a bit out of place, too. Neil will come back, as will Joni's own Joni, but for now, this is the way it will sit.

I wrote about the amazing tribute album (River) to Ms Joni some months ago, after I stumbled onto its opening cut one gloriously dark and cold morning on the way to the Instituto. So wonderful was the arrangement that it had me stumped at first by its unfamiliar familiarity, with a similar feeling about Norah's voice. I love this treatment: Wayne Shorter's playing is wonderfully lush, Herbie's gorgeous piano underneath, and then, for me, a lovely raggedness to Norah's voice as they all take this beauty out for a magnificent walk.

Goddess Cassandra flowing into the final number: whoooosh.

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Monday, August 04, 2008


Apropos of my recent comment to ALT, the following flashy bit of flashy fiction is something I haul out about twice a year for my urchins, telling them that this is so very very fine that in a couple of years I will steal it outright and call it mine—if they don't beat me to it.

I still say: "I've got first dibs." Get in line, wannabe thieves.

Aimee Bender

He met a woman with eyes so black they woke up the nocturnal mammals. If you looked closely enough—if she let you—if you were her lover and lucky enough to see in that intently—you could, on a summer night, find Orion near her left pupil. The great hunter. Watch out. Those seven little dots glittering, scattered on the iris, were like brands of longing on the heart of the looker, and she never left a man complete. For the rest of their lives, memories of the slippery line of her back would flit into their minds, while driving through traffic, while frying bacon, while washing sand from their children's hands after a long reddening day at the beach. Look into the sky on a dark summer night, and there, huge, is the eye of the woman you once loved like a rocket. Try to survive that.

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"I said I'm falling..."

Lee in the Chrysalis, via David’s Vindaloo authorblog, ponders the question, “What song brings you the best memories?” A bit of a redundant question for me, as music has been THE cerebral map for where I’ve been: it is the essence of memory for me. Tomorrow I will not be able to tell you today’s breakfast, but even the shaggiest of shameless goofball tunes, I am more than likely to have an immediate flashback to place and time. Take for instance something as ridiculous as the 1910 Fruitgum Company’s “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy,” which in no way should take up the slightest nano-space in anyone’s anatomy, but if ever that song (god forbid) pops up on an oldies station, there I am right back driving across the new St. Mary’s Hall campus, calling hell and damnation down on the infernal song for the first time. Santana’s “Incident at Neshabur” and I am back in Marilyn Green’s house in Jackson, dancing with the lithe Paula Duke and no, in this case, I am not calling down anything but one big swoon.

But, I realize the question is not about memories, but BEST memories. (Not that PD isn’t a best.) As with Lee, it’s a bit of a challenge to narrow things down, but I let my mind wander a bit, went you-tubing and found a few for different reasons, though they all in themselves seem to be addressing memory (and memoir) as their theme.

First up was Dylan with “Tangled up in Blue.” Slow learner that I am, Blood on the Tracks was my conversion album, easily a dozen years after most folks had taken him in. Friend Steph, as usual, the guru. Timeless man-consciousness wandering a life of her and not her and intimations of her, and with my own tangled up in Mary blue through all my tangle and the eventual forecasting of the blue woman in whom I am now (and I think always was, living through to the finding of her) tangled—well, of course this song is ripe for the pickings. I wanted Bobby singing the song himself, and if you go to this link (, you can see his Desire / Rolling Thunder Revue-ness laying it down, much as I did in 1976 at the Tres Leches Municipal Auditorium, through a magnificent 4 hour concert.

I was a tad shy about linking someone else’s cover (gadzooks! someone else covering the hymn to blue?), but I made a new friend this morning, Ms KT Tunstall, and actually found her chops quite good, after you get past the slight inanity of her take on Bobby himself. Girl has some serious cojones: I watched another round of Promethean audacity as she covered the Grand Diva Ms Chaka’s “Ain’t Nobody.” I commend that also to your souls.

Next up is Scorpio sister Joni’s Hejira, which owned my turntable for several months in 1976, back in my very cool apartment on Joliet, here in Tres Leches, Joni’s road meditations and sublime dark forest segueing into her gorgeous “Song for Sharon.” Memory incarnate, particularly, at the time, the excavations of the solace of solitude. I had still not entirely arrived in this world, as I think at times, Joni still has not yet: she was a most helpful guide.

The Mighty Van Morrison, perhaps more than anyone, should be in this mix, as his spiritual sojourn through the 80s crashed right in on my lonely and fearful agnosticism with his Lion’s roar. But, for the life of me, I could not tube my way to a decent vid of “Sweet Thing” or “Coney Island” or what have you. It was Van’s music that walked me through a terrifying time when I was fretting through the pre-decision to forge off into my own private practice in New Orleans. Fretting? I was terrified.

Finishing with the Sting-er and the Soul Cages album, his sublime meditation on his father and father’s death. And on Newcastle, his home town, for that matter. It is a magnificent album: I got to see it performed at the UNO arena in New Orleans, and shivered (as I always did at home) when I heard the wash that opens this beauty. I was birth-fatherless from age 5, and God-fatherless through years of wandering: this song helped round me back.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Lord Irascible

More Bloom, transcribed from his Jesus and Yahweh (pages 98-99):

With this as a preamble, I turn to the Trinity, Christendom’s extraordinary exploit in somehow asserting its innocence as to the exiling of Yahweh. Monotheism may or may not be an advance upon polytheism, but Christianity would not concede its own pragmatic resort to three Gods rather than one. Where and how did the dogma of the Trinity begin? In the fourth century of the Common Era, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, persuaded a majority of his colleagues that Jesus Christ was God, a persuasion both unqualified and yet curiously subtle, since Christ was also a man. But what sort of man? Was he creature or not? The Jewish Christians, led by James the brother of Jesus, had insisted that he was, as did Arius, the fourth-century opponent of Athanasius, but the Athanasian Creed won the contest, and Jesus Christ became more God than man, in practice if not quite in theory.

Theology necessarily is a system of metaphors, and doctrine represents its literalization. I am inclined to believe that the best poetry, whatever its intentions, is a kind of theology, while theology generally is bad poetry. Yet theology can be what Wallace Stevens called “the profound poetry of the poor and the dead,” and for two centuries now in the United States it has been the poetry of the people. The Trinity is a great poem, but a difficult one, and always a challenge to interpretation. Its sublime ambition is to convert polytheism back into monotheism, which is possible only by rendering the Holy Spirit into a vacuum, and by evading the flamboyant personality of Yahweh. If the Trinity is truly monotheistic, then its sole God is Jesus Christ, not Yeshua of Nazareth but his hyperbolic expansion into the usurper of his beloved abba.

The historical Yeshua, insofar as he can be isolated, had his own anguishes of contamination, including toward his immediate precursor, John the Baptist, and also to such forerunners as Abraham, Moses, and Elijah. But he apparently suffered no anxiety of influence in regard to Yahweh, unlike the metaphoric Jesus Christ, whose separate identity demanded the subtraction of all ironic irascibility from Yahweh, who was after all a failure as a father. Oscar Wilde mordantly observed, “Fathers should be seen but not heard: that is the secret of family life.” Athanasius, though no wit, may be accounted an ancestor of Oscar Wilde, who, as Borges said, was always right.

As a lifelong critic of poetry, I admire the poem of the Trinity without loving it. If the Trinity is a myth, is it also a dream of love? God the Father, a mere shade of Yahweh, has the primary function of loving his Son, Jesus Christ, and of loving the world so much that he sacrificed Jesus to save it. Yahweh intervened to save Isaac from the overliteralist Abraham, most obedient of Covenanters, but was not able to save Jesus from God the Father. Metaphor runs wild in the Trinity…

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Friday, August 01, 2008


Please welcome these two wonderful sites to this global hamlet: Love is stronger than pride and Astro Skies, an astrological service. Both sites are written by Ms Devil Mood, though she does not go by that nom de plume at Astro Skies. Lovely sites, passionately written. For those of you who like to travel, you will be traveling to Portugal every time you visit her. Ms DM was first introduced to this native by the inimitable Ms Alister's Essence. Omit Ms (she goes by Miss, must be a postmodernist inside joke, or she spent too much time in Texas around overly polite urchins)...anyway, as I was saying, omit Ms/Miss Alister from your life at your own risk. You've been warned. And encouraged.

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Life in Bloom

From McKee, we go to Bloom. I have certainly castigated the man for his infernal ubiquity, but in recent days, via the poet David Rosenberg’s collaborations with him (The Book of J; Dreams of Being Eaten Alive: The Literary Core of the Kabbalah), I find myself falling big time for the brontosaurus. I’m in danger of overloading this village with Bloom memorabilia—nearly every sentence in his Jesus and Yahweh is a delicious gauntlet throwdown. I was going to say that Bloom has reached an eminence where he can say whatever he damn well pleases, but my sense of the man is that there probably never was a time when he didn’t feel this way. And for good reason.

For now, Round I (from a Eurozine interview between Harold Bloom and Ieva Lesinska, dated 26 October 2004; the link is here):

HB: …Of course, the United States is in a terrible condition, we have a kind of fascist regime here – I think it's the real truth about it and you can quote me on that. A few years ago, when I was in Barcelona receiving the national prize of Catalonia, I remarked when somebody asked me a question about president George Bush: "He is semiliterate at best, to call him a Fascist would be to flatter him." He has now sufficiently grown in depth that you are no longer flattering him by calling him a Fascist – it is simply a descriptive remark. And yet the United States is not a dead country – primarily because it still allows people to come in here – of course, this fascist regime is trying to keep them out, but the lifeblood of this country has always been immigration…

IL: …You have talked about reading as a certain kind of an escape from the cruelties of life.

HB: Yes, my dear child, it's the same thing. I don't distinguish between certain kinds of reading, writing, and teaching – they seem to me a part of the same kind of activity. I can't give up any of the three and still be myself. Also, I have taught for fifty-two years – the longest continuity of my life. In some kind of superstitious way, I would consider it a kind of dying to give up such a long continuity. Also, by teaching I bear witness to the insistence on aesthetic values and wisdom. You know, I am very glad you liked that little book I wrote, I think it's more even than the new one. I feel that in that Hamlet book I really let myself go, I allowed myself – if only once – to write for myself, even though I found myself saying things that I know other people have difficulty understanding and which they consider extravagant.

IL: What are some of these things?

HB: Well, for instance, that Hamlet starts to fight back against Shakespeare, that he attempts to rewrite the play that he is in, that he has a kind of authority of consciousness, that even more than Falstaff he breaks away from Shakespeare. He is so gifted that, to quote Nietzsche, "He does not think too much, he simply thinks too well." He knows too well, he understands too well, he has thought to the end of thought. He has thought himself into an abyss that is nothing. Of course, Hamlet moves us because there are all these hints about transcendence, but to me, it's the darkest literary work I have ever read, its implications are simply shattering.

IL: I think I can more or less intuit what horror understanding represents for him. Yet I still wonder why he doesn't simply kill himself, why he has to do away with seven other people?

HB: Good question. He is simply not the nicest guy in the world. He is as much a villain as he is a hero. He transcends these categories as he transcends any category.

IL: As I was reading the book, I found myself wondering where you place yourself, the author, in your own scheme of things? You say it's Hamlet's consciousness expanding, Hamlet is wiser than all of us including Shakespeare. Where does that put you, the person talking about Hamlet and the play, and Shakespeare?

HB: It is a very wise question and a very apt one. (Long pause) I think that the special power of Shakespeare is to pack more in Hamlet than there is in Falstaff or Cleopatra or Iago or Lear, but probably the other thing is that we cannot exhaust Shakespeare in meditation. Yes, I suppose I can count myself in the picture. Shakespeare more than any other writer allows the reader's consciousness to expand. Hamlet's consciousness is extraordinarily wide and it becomes an interesting question whether or not he ever really is mad. And I don't think he is, if he says "I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw." I think my meditation, even though I try to be a faithful reader and a useful literary critic...I think that when Shakespeare and Hamlet together expand my consciousness to its limits, my consciousness starts to get the point.

IL: What is that point?

HB: I run into my own limits, not so much from the aesthetic apprehension, but partly from encountering wisdom, I have to say I have no wisdom. I was wondering about that as a child and now am wondering again as an old man: what are my peculiar gifts? I am not so sure. The speed of reading, the speed of picking things up, the extraordinary memory – what is all that? So I know all my Shakespeare by heart, I know my Goethe. I know there has to be some kind of intellectual power that accompanies such gifts, but they are not of themselves counted as gifts, they are something else, they simply indicate the frontier to psyche and physiology. At times, I run into my own obsessions – that is, my own strength and weakness as a literary critic and a teacher, and writer – I have to personalize everything. I think readers like it a great deal or dislike it a great deal, the same way my students like or dislike me a great deal. Because, like Walt Whitman, addressing the readers of his poetry, I sort of reach out, I shake the reader, I say, listen to me, you know – very urgently, and very personally, very emotionally. I understand that while it gives me a kind of immediacy, it is also a limitation. So it is not just a question of wisdom, it gets rather complex. I find your question very interesting, but I guess the best answer is that I am still trying to establish where I am in all this. I would not want to be Hamlet because, as I grow old and ill, I attach much more importance to being rather than knowing.

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