Read My Lips

what would the world look like if it were run by women?

it’s a question that’s been pestering me for the past few months, the latest development in the slow evolution of feminist thought unfurling in my brain over the past several years. it takes so many different forms (e.g. what would the world look like if women had run it from the beginning? what would the world look like if women start to run it in the future?) and each form flowers so many different answers, that i often find myself concluding with “who knows.”

the next smartest step, obviously, is to read something on the topic. but that would make too much sense.

instead, as i always do, i selected the book at the top of my “to read” stack and started reading it: “El nicaragüense,” by Pablo Antonio Cuadra, es un libro de ensayos sobre el espíritu del ser nicaragüense. Cuadra describe todos los dualidades que existen en este espíritu. por ejemplo, el dualidad de los modernos y los antiguos… de los españoles y los indios… del océano Pacífico y el océano Atlántico… de la américa del norte y la américa del sur… de los violentos y los pacíficos. curiously enough, in being half Nicaraguan, i form my own special duality. weird.

this is all to point out that Cuadra set me on a journey with this quote:

Los arqueólogos tal vez algún día descrifen la incógnita. Yo solamente tomaba de aquella dualidad el punto de partida. Y ante mis ojos antónitos de poeta, el “YO SOY OTRO” de Rimbaud se mehacía estatua dos mil anos antes por obra de los primitivos nicaragüenses.

Rimbaud. now i know i’ve seen that name before a bunch–you really can’t avoid the best French poets at a liberal arts college–but i’d never read anything by him. so i googled “i am other rimbaud,” and Google asked me if i meant “i am another rimbaud.” of course that’s what i meant.

this brought me to a page that included some of Rimbaud’s poems, in addition to a letter he had sent to Paul Demeny (a Frenchman that only earned his own page on the French Wikipedia, not on the English one):

Romanticism has never been properly judged. Who could judge it? The Critics! The Romantics! Who prove so clearly that the singer is so seldom the work, that’s to say the idea sung and intended by the singer.

For I is another. If the brass wakes the trumpet, it’s not its fault. That’s obvious to me: I witness the unfolding of my own thought: I watch it, I hear it: I make a stroke with the bow: the symphony begins in the depths, or springs with a bound onto the stage.

If the old imbeciles hadn’t discovered only the false significance of Self, we wouldn’t have to now sweep away those millions of skeletons which have been piling up the products of their one-eyed intellect since time immemorial, and claiming themselves to be their authors!

In Greece, as I say, verse and lyre took rhythm from Action. Afterwards, music and rhyme are a game, a pastime. The study of the past charms the curious: many of them delight in reviving these antiquities: – that’s up to them. The universal intelligence has always thrown out its ideas naturally: men gathered a part of these fruits of the mind: they acted them out, they wrote books by means of them: so it progressed, men not working on themselves, either not being awake, or not yet in the fullness of the great dream. Civil-servants – writers: author; creator, poet: that man has never existed!

very interesting stuff. kinda whisks away all those ancient poesies i love so much. you may not completely agree w him, but you can certainly appreciate and understand his passion for progressing the arts and inventions. he later writes, however, that “the poet is truly the thief of fire,” thus beautifully and brilliantly alluding to the myth of Prometheus. so he’s got one squishy fin in the ocean and the other foot planted firmly on land. typical man of the moment. but i liked his way of thinking and writing so i read on until i found this:

These poets will exist! When woman’s endless servitude is broken, when she lives for and through herself, when man – previously abominable – has granted her freedom, she too will be a poet! Women will discover the unknown! Will her world of ideas differ from ours? – She will discover strange things, unfathomable; repulsive, delicious: we will take them to us, we will understand them.

wow! the year was 1871, the month was the fifth, the date was the fifteenth, and 16-year-old Arthur Rimbaud, who hadn’t even been to Paris yet, was saying some extraordinarily inspiring things about la femme.

sure, there are issues here. if her “servitude” is “endless,” how can it be broken? who said she’s a servant anyway? a man? will it be man that “grants her freedom,” instead of her taking it for herself? does she even want to be a poet? perhaps she was already a poet? perhaps she was a poet before man was ever poet? somebody far more intelligent and far more steeped in queer studies could point out far more of the issues.

nevertheless–and maybe this is because, despite the century and a half between us, we’re both young white males–something in it speaks to me. not because it answers the question with which i opened this post, but because it shows that the question pained another in precisely the same way. when somebody describes a discovery as “strange” and “unfathomable” and “repulsive” AND “delicious,” you know that somebody has no idea what he’s talking about. that’s just Rimbaud being a poet.

what would the world look like if it were run by women? who knows.

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Baby, Let Me Follow You Down

what is San Francisco?

where is it? why is it? who is it?

well, it’s named after St. Francis of Assisi, popularly known as the Italian dude with a weird haircut and lots of animal friends. it is probably not coincidence that today’s Italians, dudes with weird haircuts, and animal friends are all welcome in the little loving boundaries of San Francisco.

i like San Francisco because it’s so walkable. if you really want to, you can walk pretty much anywhere you’re going–just plan an hour or two for the really long distances. but most won’t even take that long.

maybe i’m just antsy, or maybe it’s because this city’s so walkable, but i can’t wait for buses. (don’t talk to me about taxis; nobody has that kind of money, i just bought a summer flight to Europe.) if the bus ain’t coming this very minute, i just start walking. now, the funny thing is that i walk along the bus route, so eventually i hop on the very same bus that i would have hopped on had i just waited at the first stop. i guess i’m just antsy.

after leaving my girlfriend’s house this afternoon, i made it as far as the Fillmore before my bus came. the 31 picked me up, along with a girl/woman i could not even remotely guess the age of (15? 30? 45?) and a father with his little five-year-old sunshine.

i wasn’t even settled onto the bus before this older woman started chatting me up.

“you know, you have very beautiful hair.”

“why, thank you. that’s very sweet.”

“are you married?”

“no… are you?”

“i was. 17 years.”

“that’s a long time.”

“it is. a long time… what’s your name?”

“ronny.”

“i’m Cat, but call me ‘Miss Kitty.’”

i didn’t get much of a chance to call her anything, what with the bus rattling to a stop and shuffling passengers in, out, and all around. the father pursued his daughter as she squeezed past me and a few others. when Miss Kitty saw her, our conversation was over: “well hello there little sunshine!”

a few steps forward and i had a bar to lean on. another older woman started talking to me.

“you such have beautiful, brown hair.”

“why tha–”

“i’ve always wanted brown hair.”

“how c–”

“beautiful, brown hair. so long too. i have dark hair, almost jet black. not as nice as brown hair. i’ve always wanted brown hair but you can’t really dye it yourself. you never really do it right when you dye it yourself. suppose you could go get it done but i just don’t know, my eyes are brown so it would probably look nice having brown hair. it’s amazing how brown hair looks.”

eyes glazed over, staring directly out the window, and endlessly chatting… she didn’t need me to respond or even acknowledge anything she was saying. good thing too, considering i could only hear half of her thoughts and words as they enmeshed themselves in the overall sonic landscape of the windy, clunky, wheezy, chatty hell of a bus.

who is San Francisco?

why, where, what?

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selections from East of Eden by John Steinbeck

You can boast about anything if it’s all you have. Maybe the less you have, the more you are required to boast. (4)

Whether she liked children or not no one ever knew. She was not asked, and she never said anything unless she was asked. (16)

Charles had one great quality. He was never sorry–ever. (24)

A thing so triumphantly illogical, so beautiful senseless as an army can’t allow a question to weaken it. (25)

It was his first sharp experience with the rule that without money you cannot fight money. (41)

His mother and father thought him a poet because he wasn’t any good at anything else. (41)

Liza hated alcoholic liquors with an iron zeal. Drinking alcohol in any form she regarded as a crime against a properly outraged deity. Not only would she not touch it herself, but she resisted its enjoyment by anyone else. The result naturally was that her husband Samuel and all her children had a good lusty love for a drink. (43)

Time interval is a strange and contradictory matter in the mind. It would be reasonable to suppose that a routine time or an eventless time would seem interminable. It should be so, but it is not. It is the dull eventless times that have no duration whatsoever. A time splashed with interest, wounded with tragedy, crevassed with joy–that’s the time that seems long in the memory. And this is right when you think about it. Eventlessness has no posts to drape duration on. From nothing to nothing is no time at all. (55)

Such men are rare now, but in the nineties there were many of them, wandering men, lonely men, who wanted it that way. Some of them ran from responsibilities and some felt driven out of society by injustice. They worked a little, but not for long. They stole a little, but only food and occasionally need garments from a wash line. They were all kinds of men–literate men and ignorant men, clean men and dirty men–but all of them had restlessness in common. They followed warmth and avoided great heat and great cold. As the spring advanced they tracked it eastward, and the first frost drove them west and south. They were brothers to the coyote which, being wild, lives close to man and his chickenyards: they were near towns but not in them. Associations with other men were for a week or for a day and then they drifted apart. (56)

His voice had grown soft, and he had merged many accents and dialects into his own speech, so that his speech did not seem foreign anywhere. This was the great safety of the tramp, a protective veil. (57)

“I don’t believe anything,” Adam said. “I don’t know, so what can I believe?” (68)

—————

I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents. Some you can see, misshapen and horrible, with huge heads or tiny bodies; some are born with no arms, no legs, some with three arms, some with tails or mouths in odd places. They are accidents and no one’s fault, as used to be thought. Once they were considered the visible punishments for concealed sins.

And just as there are physical monsters, can there not be mental or psychic monsters born? The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul?

Monsters are variations from the accepted normal to a greater or less degree. As a child may be born without an arm, so one may be born without kindness or the potential of conscience. A man who loses his arms in an accident has a great struggle to adjust himself to the lack, but one born without arms suffers only from people who find him strange. Having never had arms, he cannot miss them. Sometimes when we are little we imagine how it would be to have wings, but there is no reason to suppose it is the same feeling birds have. No, to a monster the norm must seem monstrous, since everyone is normal to himself. To the inner monster it must be even more obscure, since he has no visible thing to compare with others. To a man born without conscience, a soul-stricken man must seem ridiculous. To a criminal, honesty is foolish. You must not forget that a monster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous. (72)

—————

I think the difference between a lie and a story is that a story utilizes the trappings and appearance of truth for the interest of the listener as well as of the teller. A story has in it neither gain nor loss. But a lie is a device for profit or escape. I suppose that if that definition is strictly held to, then a writer of stories is a liar–if he is financially fortunate. (74)

What freedom men and women could have, were they not constantly tricked and trapped and enslaved and tortured by their sexuality! The only drawback in that freedom is that without it one would not be a human. One would be a monster. (75)

—————

And Samuel could remember hearing of a cousin of his mother’s in Ireland, a knight and rich and handsome, and anyway shot himself on a silken couch, sitting beside the most beautiful woman in the world who loved him.

“There’s a capacity for appetite,” Samuel said, “that a whole heaven and earth of cake can’t satisfy.” (158)

—————

“It’s hard to split a man down the middle and always to reach for the same half.” (165)

“There are no ugly questions except those clothed in condescension.” (165)

“Act out being alive, like a play. And after a while, a long while, it will be true.” (215)

A new country seems to follow a pattern. First come the openers, strong and brave and rather childlike. They can take care of themselves in a wilderness, but they are naive and helpless against men, and perhaps that is why they went out in the first place. When the rough edges are worn off the new land, businessmen and lawyers come in to help with the development–to solve problems of ownership, usually by removing the temptation to themselves. And finally comes culture, which is entertainment, relaxation, transport out of the pain of living. And culture can be on any level, and is. (217)

Streets used to be named for the place they aimed at. Thus Castroville Street, if you followed it nine miles, brought you to Castroville, Alisal Street to Alisal, and so forth. (218)

“A whore is a whore.” (225)

—————

In human affairs of danger and delicacy successful conclusion is sharply limited by hurry. So often men trip by being in a rush. If one were properly to perform a difficult and subtle act, he should first inspect the end to be achieved and then, once he had accepted the end as desirable, he should forget it completely and concentrate solely on the means. By this method he would not be moved to false action by anxiety or hurry or fear. Very few people learn this.

What made Kate so effective was the fact that she had either learned it or had been born with the knowledge. Kate never hurried. If a barrier arose, she waited until it had disappeared before continuing. She was capable of complete relaxation between the times for action. Also, she was mistress of a technique which is the basis of good wrestling–that of letting your opponent do the heavy work toward his own defeat, or of guiding his strength toward his weaknesses. (240)

—————

A second shrieking started. “It’s Lee at the hens,” said Samuel. “You know, if chickens had government and church and history, they would take a distant and distasteful view of human joy. Let any gay and hopeful thing happen to a man, and some chicken goes howling to the block.” (260)

“The man I’m named for had his name called clear by the Lord God, and I’ve been listening all my life. And once or twice I’ve thought I heard my name called–but not clear, not clear.” (264)

—————

“And, of course, people are interested only in themselves. If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen. And I here make a rule–a great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting–only the deeply personal and familiar.”

Samuel said, “Apply that to the Cain-Abel story.”

And Adam said, “I didn’t kill my brother–” Suddenly he stopped and his mind went reeling back in time.

“I think I can,” Lee answered Samuel. “I think this is the best-known story in the world because it is everybody’s story. I think it is the symbol story of the human soul. I’m feeling my way now–don’t jump on me if I’m not clear. The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears. I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt–and there is the story of mankind. I think that if rejection could be amputated, the human would not be what he is. Maybe there would be fewer crazy people. I am sure in myself there would not be many jails. It is all there–the start, the beginning. One child, refused the love he craves, kicks the cat and hides his secret guilt; and another steals so that money will make him loved; and a third conquers the world–and always the guilt and revenge and more guilt. The human is the only guilty animal. Now wait! Therefore I think this old and terrible story is important because it is a chart of the soul–the secret, rejected, guilty soul.” (270-1)

—————

The Hamiltons were strange, high-strung people, and some of them were tuned too high and they snapped. This happens often in the world. (275)

He wanted to say something beautiful, I think. (279)

It is probable that his father stood between Tom and the sun, and Samuel’s shadow fell on him. Tom wrote secret poetry, and in those days it was only sensible to keep it secret. The poets were pale emasculates, and Western men held them in contempt. Poetry was a symptom of weakness, of degeneracy and decay. To read it was to court catcalls. To write it was to be suspected and ostracized. Poetry was a secret vice, and properly so. No one knows whether Tom’s poetry was any good or not, for he showed it to only one person, and before he died he burned every word. From the ashes in the stove there must have been a great deal of it. (282)

I think perhaps Liza accepted the world as she accepted the Bible, with all of its paradoxes and its reverses. She did not like death but she knew it existed, and when it came it did not surprise her. (292)

—————

She had no love of places. A place was only a resting stage on the way to Heaven. She did not like work for itself, but she did it because it was there to be done. And she was tired. Increasingly it was more difficult to fight the aches and stiffnesses which tried to keep her in bed in the morning–not that they ever succeeded.

And she looked forward to Heaven as a place where clothes did not get dirty and where food did not have to be cooked and dishes washed. Privately there were some things in Heaven of which she did not quite approve. There was too much singing, and she didn’t even see how even the Elect could survive for very long the celestial laziness which was promised. She would find something to do in Heaven. There must be something to take up one’s time–some clouds to darn, some weary wings to rub with liniment. Maybe the collars of the robes needed turning now and then, and when you come right down to it, she couldn’t believe that even in Heaven there would not be cobwebs in some corner to be knocked down with a cloth-covered broom. (293)

—————

“But I take my two pipes in the afternoon, no more and no less, like the elders. And I feel that I am a man. And I feel that a man is a very important thing–maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed–because ‘Thou mayest.’” (304)

“Show me the man who isn’t interested in discussing himself.” (307)

Lee said, “Maybe everyone is too rich. I have noticed that there is no dissatisfaction like that of the rich. Feed a man, clothe him, put him in a good house, and he will die of despair.” (308)

—————

“‘Thou mayest rule over sin,’ Lee. That’s it. I do not believe all men are destroyed. I can name you a dozen who were not, and they are the ones the world lives by. It is true of the spirit as it is true of battles–only the winners are remembered. Surely most men are destroyed, but there are others who like pillars of fire guide frightened men through the darkeness. ‘Thou mayest, Thou mayest!’ What glory! It is true that we are weak and sick and quarrelsome, but if that is all ever were, we would, millenniums ago, have disappeared from the face of the earth. A few remnants of fossilized jawbone, some broken teeth in strata of limestone, would be the only mark man would have left of his existence in the world. But the choice, Lee, the choice of winning! I had never understood it or accepted it before. Do you see now why I told Adam tonight? I exercised the choice. Maybe I was wrong, but by telling him I also forced him to live or get off the pot. What is that word, Lee?”

Timshel,” said Lee. (308-9)

—————

In the speech of most men you are absolutely sure what the next word will be. (311)

It was not laziness if he was a rich man. Only the poor were lazy. Just as only the poor were ignorant. A rich man who didn’t know anything was spoiled or independent. (343)

“My father said she was a strong woman, and I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is almost indestructible.” (357)

“It’s one of the great fallacies, it seems to me,” said Lee, “that time gives much of anything but years and sadness to a man.” (376)

“There’s no springboard to philanthropy like a bad conscience.” (378)

Humans love to feel good and they hate to feel bad. (390)

—————

A child may ask, “What is the world’s story about?” And a grown man or woman may wonder, “What way will the world go? How does it end and, while we’re at it, what’s the story about?”

I believe there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us, so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and wonder. Humans are caught–in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too–in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well–or ill? (413)

—————

In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world.

We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is. (414-5)

—————

“Perhaps the best conversationalist in the world is the man who helps others to talk.” (434)

It is one of triumphs of the human that he can know a thing and still not believe it. (452)

It is true that Cal had never looked into his father’s eyes before, and it is true that many people never look into their father’s eyes. (453)

—————

Lee, noticing a change in him, asked quietly, “You haven’t found a girl, have you?”

“Girl? No. Who wants a girl?”

“Everybody,” said Lee. (459)

—————

A war comes always to someone else. (484)

“One must be very rich to dress as badly as you do. The poor are forced to dress well.” (487)

“Cal’s trying to find himself,” said Lee. “I guess this personal hide-and-seek is not unusual. And some people are ‘it’ all their lives–hopelessly ‘it.’” (488)

“Laughter comes later, like wisdom teeth, and laughter at yourself comes last of all in a mad race with death, and sometimes it isn’t in time.” (497)

Hate cannot live alone. (501)

If he pulled something off, that was smart; if he failed, that was bad luck. (502)

The split second has been growing more and more important to us. And as human activities become more and more intermeshed and integrated, the split tenth of a second will emerge, and then a new name must be made for the split hundredth, until one day, although I don’t believe it, we’ll say, “Oh, the hell with it. What’s wrong with an hour?” But it isn’t silly, this preoccupation with small time units. One thing late or early can disrupt everything around it, and the disturbance runs outward in bands like the waves from a dropped stone in a quiet pool. (533)

And they were silent, for it was too late to say hello and too early to begin other things. (534)

“Old Sam Hamilton saw this coming. He said there couldn’t be any more universal philosophers. The weight of knowledge is too great for one mind to absorb. He saw a time when one man would know only one little fragment, but he would know it well.” (541)

“A few are women from the moment they’re born. Abra has the loveliness of woman, and the courage–and the strength–and the wisdom. She knows things and she accepts things. I would have bet she couldn’t be small or mean or even vain except when it’s pretty to be vain.” (575)

“Timshel!” (602)

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my favorite Oscar Wilde poems

LIBERTATIS SACRA FAMES

Albeit nurtured in democracy,
And liking best that state republican
Where every man is Kinglike and no man
Is crowned above his fellows, yet I see,
Spite of this modern fret for Liberty,
Better the rule of One, whom all obey,
Than to let clamorous demagogues betray
Our freedom with the kiss of anarchy.
Wherefore I love them not whose hands profane
Plant the red flag upon the piled-up street
For no right cause, beneath whose ignorant reign
Arts, Culture, Reverence, Honour, all things fade,
Save Treason and the dagger of her trade,
And Murder with his silent bloody feet. (699)

—————

REQUIESCAT

Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.

All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and fair
Fallen to dust.

Lily-like, white as snow,
She hardly knew
She was a woman, so
Sweetly she grew.

Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast,
I vex my heart alone,
She is at rest.

Peace, peace, she cannot hear
Lyre or sonnet,
All my life’s buried here,
Heap earth upon it. (709)

—————

THE HARLOT’S HOUSE

We caught the tread of dancing feet,
We loitered down the moonlit street,
And stopped beneath the harlot’s house.

Inside, above the din and fray,
We heard the loud musicians play
The “Treues Liebes Herz” of Strauss.

Like strange mechanical grotesques,
Making fantastic arabesques,
The shadows raced across the blind.

We watched the ghostly dancers spin
To sound of horn and violin,
Like black leaves wheeling in the wind.

Like wire-pulled automatons,
Slim silhouetted skeletons
Went sidling through the slow quadrille.

They took each other by the hand,
And danced a stately saraband;
Their laughter echoed thin and shrill.

Sometimes a clockwork puppet pressed
A phantom lover to her breast,
Sometimes they seemed to try to sing.

Sometimes a horrible marionette
Came out, and smoked its cigarette
Upon the steps like a live thing.

Then, turning to my love, I said,
“The dead are dancing with the dead,
The dust is whirling with the dust.”

But she–she heard the violin,
And left my side, and entered in:
Love passed into the house of lust.

Then suddenly the tune went false,
The dancers wearied of the waltz,
The shadows ceased to wheel and whirl.

And down the long and silent street,
The dawn, with silver-sandalled feet,
Crept like a frightened girl. (779)

—————

THE ARTIST

One evening there came into his soul the desire to fashion an image of The Pleasure that abideth for a Moment. And he went forth into the world to look for bronze. For he could only think in bronze.

But all the bronze of the whole world had disappeared, nor anywhere in the whole world was there any bronze to be found, save only the bronze of the image of The Sorrow that endureth for Ever.

Now this image he had himself, and with his own hands, fashioned, and had set it on the tomb of the one thing he had loved in life. On the tomb of the dead thing he had most loved had he set this image of his own fashioning, that it might serve as a sign of the love of man that dieth not, and a symbol of the sorrow of man that endureth for ever. And in the whole world there was no other bronze save the bronze of this image.

And he took the image he had fashioned, and set it in a great furnace, and gave it to the fire.

And out of the bronze of the image of The Sorrow that endureth for Ever he fashioned an image of The Pleasure that abideth for a Moment. (843)

—————

THE DOER OF GOOD

It was night-time and He was alone.

And He saw afar-off the walls of a round city and went towards the city.

And when He came near He heard within the city the tread of the feet of joy, and the laughter of the mouth of gladness and the loud noise of many lutes. And He knocked at the gate and certain of the gate-keepers opened to Him.

And He beheld a house that was of marble and had fair pillars of marble before it. The pillars were hung with garlands, and within and without there were torches of cedar. And He entered the house.

And when He had passed through the hall of chalcedony and the hall of jasper, and reached the long hall of feasting, He saw lying on a couch of sea-purple one whose hair was crowned with red roses and whose lips were red with wine.

And He went behind him and touched him on the shoulder and said to him, “Why do you live like this?”

And the young man turned round and recognised Him, and made answer and said, “But I was a leper once, and you healed me. How else should I live?”

And He passed out of the house and went again into the street.

And after a little while He saw one whose face and raiment were painted and whose feet were shod with pearls. And behind her came, slowly as a hunter, a young man who wore a cloak of two colours. Now the face of the woman was as the fair face of an idol, and the eyes of the young man were bright with lust.

And He followed swiftly and touched the hand of the young man and said to him, “Why do you look at this woman and in such wise?”

And the young man turned round and recognised Him and said, “But I was blind once, and you gave me sight. At what else should I look?”

And He ran forward and touched the painted raiment of the woman and said to her, “Is there no other way in which to walk save the way of sin?”

And the woman turned round and recognised Him, and laughed and said, “But you forgave me my sins, and the way is a pleasant way.”

And He passed out of the city.

And when He had passed out of the city He saw seated by the roadside a young man who was weeping.

And He went towards him and touched the long locks of his hair and said to him, “Why are you weeping?”

And the young man looked up and recognised Him and made answer, “But I was dead once and you raised me from the dead. What else should I do but weep?” (843-4)

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selections from Oedipus the King and Antigone by Sophocles

sure, i’ve read them before, but this one has a different translator (Peter D. Arnott), so here are some of my favorite selections.

OEDIPUS THE KING

For city walls without their men are nothing,
Or empty ships, when once the crew has gone. (56-7)

Words will not scare a man when actions do not. (286)

My strength is in my truth. (345)

I am what I am. (425)

It takes men and money to make a revolution. (523)

I prefer not to talk about things I do not know. (550)

For time alone can tell an honest man
While one day is enough to show a villain. (595-6)

Hasty thoughts are dangerous. (598)

OEDIPUS: “Kings must still be obeyed.”
CREON: “Kings, but not tyrants.” (608-9)

And man turns his face away from heaven. (876)

When a man is old his life hangs by a thread. (927)

What has a man to fear, when life is ruled
By chance, and the future is unknowable?
The best way is to take life as it comes. (943-5)

Oh, oh, then everything has come out true.
Light, I shall not look on you again.
I have been born when I should not be born,
I have married where I should not marry,
I have killed whom I should not kill; now all is clear. (1144-8)

Time sees all. (1174)

Tears, ruin, death, disgrace, as many ills
As there are names for them; not one is lacking. (1243-4)

Oedipus is no more. (1301)

Nothing can kill me now. (1409)

There must be moderation in all things. (1468)

When I do not know, I do not speak. (1473)

That is why we wait until we see the final day,
Not calling anybody happy who is mortal
Until he has passed the last milestone without calamity. (1481-3)

ANTIGONE

Anything is better than to die a coward! (99)

Nor have I time for anyone who puts
His popularity before his country. (176-7)

The state keeps us afloat. (183)

CHORUS: No man is fool enough to ask for death.
CREON: That is what you would get. But hope of gain
Has often led men on to their destruction. (214-6)

Of all the institutions of mankind
The greatest curse is money. It destroys
Our cities, it takes men away from home,
Corrupts men’s honest minds, and teaches them
To enter on disreputable courses.
It shows them how to lead immortal lives
And flout the gods in everything they do. (290-6)

It’s in the hands of fortune now. (323)

The world is full of wonderful things
But none more so than man,
This prodigy who sails before the storm-winds,
Cutting a path across the sea’s gray face
Beneath the towering menace of the waves.
And Earth, the oldest, the primeval god,
Immortal, inexhaustible Earth,
She too has felt the weight of his hand
As year after year the mules are harnessed
And plows go back and forwards in the fields.

Merry birds and forest beasts,
Fish that swim in the deep waters,
Are gathered into the woven nets
Of man the crafty hunter.
He conquers with his arts
The beasts that roam in the wild hill-country,
He tames the horses with their shaggy manes
Throwing a harness around their necks,
And the tireless mountain bull.

Speech he has made his own, and thought
That travels swift as the wind,
And how to live in harmony with others
In cities, and how to shelter himself
From the piercing frost, cold rain, when the open
Fields can offer but a poor night’s lodging.
He is ever-resourceful; nothing that comes
Will find him unready, save Death alone.
Then he will call for help and call in vain,
Though often, when cure was despaired of, he has found one.

The wit of man surpasses belief,
It works for good and evil too;
When he honors his country’s laws, and the right
He is pledged to uphold, then city
Hold up your head; but the man
Who yields to temptation and brings evil home
Is a man without a city; he has
No place in the circle of my hearth,
Nor any part in my counsels. (327-64)

Nothing makes you happier than to get yourself
Out of trouble; but it’s quite another thing
To get friends into it. But there’s nothing
I wouldn’t do, to keep myself from harm. (425-8)

CREON: And yet you dared to go against the law?
ANTIGONE: Why not? It was not Zeus who gave the order,
And Justice living with the dead below
Has never given men a law like this.
Nor did I think that your pronouncements were
So powerful that mere man could override
The unwritten and unfailing laws of heaven.
These live, not for today and yesterday
But for all time; they came, no man knows whence.
There is no man’s resolve I fear enough
To answer to the gods for breaking these.
I knew that I must die–how could I help it?
Even without your edict; but if I die
Before my time is up, I count it gain.
For when a person lives as I do, in the midst
Of evils, what can death be but gain?
And so for me to happen on this fate
Is grief not worth a thought; but if I had left
My mother’s son to lie a homeless corpse,
Then had I grieved. I do not grieve for this.
If what I do seems foolish in your sight
It may be that a fool condemns my folly. (437-58)

In his wisdom, someone coined the famous saying
That when a god leads a man’s mind on
To destruction, sooner or later he comes
To believe that evil is good, good evil,
And then his days of happiness are numbered. (607-11)

Two heads are sometimes better than one. (670)

So wear an open mind; do not suppose
That you are right, and everyone else is wrong.
A man who thinks he has monopoly
Of wisdom, no rival in speech or intellect,
Will turn out hollow when you look inside him.
However wise he is, it is no disgrace
To learn, and give way gracefully.
You see how trees that bend to winter floods
Preserve themselves, save every twig unbroken,
But those that stand rigid perish root and branch,
And also how the man who keeps his sails
Stretched taut, and never slackens them, overturns
And finishes his voyage upside down.
Let your anger rest; allow us to persuade you.
If a young man may be permitted his opinion
I should say it would be best for everyone
To be born omniscient; but otherwise–
And things have a habit of falling out differently–
It is also good to learn from good advice. (688-706)

There is no state, when one man is its master. (720)

Love, whom we fight but never conquer,
Love, the ravager of proud possessions
Who keep eternal vigilance
In the softness of a young girl’s cheek,
You go wherever the wide seas go
And among the cottages of country-dwellers.
None of the immortal gods can escape you,
Nor man, whose life is as a single day,
And, to whoever takes you in, comes madness.

The minds of honest men you lead
Out of the paths of virtue to destruction.
Father is at odds with son
And it is you who set this quarrel in their hearts.
One glance from the eyes of a ready bride
Bright with desire, and a man is enslaved.
On the throne of the eternal laws
Love has a place, for there the goddess Aphrodite
Decides men’s fates, and there is no withstanding her. (764-81)

To err is human,
But when we err, then happy is the man
Who is not stubborn, and has sense enough
To remedy the fault he has committed. (974-7)

No human being can defile the gods. (994)

Truth is always best. (1230)

I am crushed beneath my fate. (1268)

To be happy it is first of all necessary
To be wise, and always remember
To give the gods their due.
The measure of a proud man’s boasting
Shall be the measure of his punishment
And teach him late in life
The nature of true wisdom. (1269-75)

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All Delighted People

patterns, coincidences, joy, and passion.

one quarter through the year, and i’ve seen five shows so far. they’re all artists with one-word names, except for the one i saw this past friday. she so cool she need an extra letter…

SHEILA E.

sheila-e-icon500x

nice mouth.

unfortunately, i have to admit that dinner was better than the show. Yoshi’s serves up some of the best sushi and sake and, apparently, green tea ice cream, so my parents, Natalie, and i feasted happily for a couple hours before even going into the show. on the way in, my dad eyed the $20 CDs and said to himself, “shit, i’m gonna have to buy one of those on the way out,” assuming the show would blow him away. it didn’t. he was bored by the second song, i’m pretty sure.

i knew the show would be doomed from the start: before the band came out, they projected a video on the wall promoting Sheila E. and her new album. lots of shots of her in heels. shots of her playing the drums. she looks into the camera and feigns humility, as if she were embarrassed to be calling herself an “icon.” well, then why DID you name your album that?

maybe two songs into the show, Sheila starts talking about the new album.

“we’re going to be playing songs from the new album tonight… who’s got the new cd?!” (okay, fine, acceptable.)

“if you don’t got the cd, you better go get it now because i’m gonna come around and sign ‘em, so… you better get the album!” (um.. okay.)

*one song later*

“alright! you got your albums? i’m coming around now!”

she then proceeds to wander around the club spending on average .25 seconds scribbling something on everyone’s just-purchased albums. my half-suspicion that she wasn’t doing a very good job of signing was confirmed when the guy at the table in front of us kept looking at the signature and passing it around his friends looking confused as hell.

can you guess Sheila’s parting words for the night? “BUY THE CD!!!”

yuck.

in spite of all that, i enjoyed the show. besides the feasting and drinking with my loved ones, i also enjoyed the musicianship from everyone on the stage not named “Sheila.” the bassist–of course i noticed–was completely cool as fuck and on point, secretly boosting the power of everyone around him through subtle plucks in the background. the brass section (sax and trombone) also kicked ass. the guitarist may have been a bit too showy for my taste, but he clearly had talent. all in all, their shit was pretty undeniably funky. and though my favorite two minutes of the night may have been when they jammed on a Prince classic, i’d be lying if i said i hated all the new stuff.

KRAFTWERK

exactly one week prior at exactly the same time, i stonedly stumbled into my seat at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA exactly one moment before the lights dimmed. Meryl and i threw on our 3D glasses and were swept across the pond.

kw8

this was my second time seeing Kraftwerk and my first time seeing them since Coachella in 2008. that had been one of the greatest musical weekends of my life… fucking Aphex Twin, fucking Kraftwerk, fucking lounging by rich kids’ pools sipping cocktails and smoking blunts, fucking sleeping in cars and walking through cancer gardens.

six years later, i was watching the strange German quartet w Meryl again, and they were no less awesome. they toured through the entire Tour de France album before racing through all the hits–”Autobahn,” “Computer World,” “The Robots,” “Radio-activity,” “Techno Pop,” you name it. my favorite was (and has always been) “Radio-activity.”

it encapsulates everything brilliant, soulless, and dark i love about Kraftwerk creations. if only i hadn’t nuked myself with green gas before the show, i wouldn’t have been so painfully dehydrated through the whole thing. oh well.

TOOL

the first band i saw this month put on my favorite performance of the year. it’s hardly a competition.

tool770

everybody else is at a disadvantage from the beginning, since i consider Tool one of the greatest bands of all time and have felt so since middle school. yes, it’s nostalgia, but it’s even more than that. they influenced my perspective on the universe and my spiritual beliefs. in high school, when my parents lamented letting me ever see Marilyn Manson live because they thought he had turned me atheist, i secretly giggled knowing that if any musicians helped shape my beliefs, it was Tool… but nobody would ever guess that because they’re a bit more subtle.

i’d seen them twice before, but this was my third time, so they started the show with “Third Eye,” one of my top five favorite Tool songs and one i had never seen them perform before. like an inverse of the Sheila E. situation, hearing Timothy Leary speak “think for yourself, question authority” through the auditorium’s PA system immediately informed me how the evening would go: swimmingly.

they weaved through all the classics–new and old–and their musicianship hasn’t decayed a year. not only that, but i experienced this amazing concert with Billy, Chris, and a whole crew of other great people, full of positive energy and open to even greater possibilities. combine all that with a reignited love and appreciation for the cosmos, and you’ve got a wicked recipe for a very, very happy ronny. oh, and they lowered a massive disco ball near the end of the show. yes, Tool is disco.

AUDION

oh, Matthew Dear. my dear Mr. Matthew Dear. how do you solve a problem like Mr. Matthew Dear?

the man is some sort of enigma. always dressed so dark, always with the clean almost militaristic haircut. always silently stepping through the crowd before his performance like a time-reversed unknown soldier. always trying something new.

Chris and i saw him a few times back in the day, but we fell somewhat out of love more recently. sometimes the new music just doesn’t do it. his side-project Audion, however, had intrigued us both for awhile with its significantly more intense techno sounds. where an evening with Mr. Matthew Dear might make you feel like you were at a dark club in the year 2106 watching hologram David Bowie while under the influence of trippy cocktails, Audion felt much more like 2014… pure bass satisfaction.

i will be honest: i was not loving it at first. but as the night went on, as the bourbon did its work, as the bud spread through my blood vessels, and as the bass bellowed its harrowing message with increasing confidence, i felt myself pulled closer and closer to the man inside his strange vessel on stage.

like Amon Tobin and Skrillex and DJ Shadow and deadmau5 and Kraftwerk and every other electronic musician educated in the Daft Punk pyramid on the advantages of bringing music AND lights, Audion did not neglect his audience’s eyes:

the magickal device projecting these high-definition illuminations stood tall and proud over our heads–and it looked as large as a child’s school desk. standing under it and listening to the strange dark sounds and watching the strange dark man on stage and looking around at all the strange, similarly confused people, i couldn’t stave off a medley of feelings teetering between wonder and confusion. and at that very moment, the stranger next to me connected with those feelings and said to me, “what the hell is happening right now?” as if it instilled me with wisdom, i replied, “i have no idea, but i think we need to be more inside of it.” “is that what it is?”

yes, i said, by leaving him to creep deeper into the crowd. deeper and deeper and deeper until the bass was wiggling my nose. from my temple to my toes, i danced and paced, allowing the dark bass to arrest me. and right when i had completely handed myself over to Mr. Matthew Dear, body and soul, he ended his set.

TURKUAZ

was this the first show where Xanthe actually convinced me to join her? possibly.

she had a perfect storm: cheap tickets? check. underground funk band from Brookyln? check. classic venue in the Fillmore district? check. an entire set dedicated to Talking Heads covers? i have to see this.

1545038_10152134479219774_1742939665_n

the first set consisted of their own music interspersed with some covers, including one of my all-time favorite blues rock cuts: Gimme Some Loving by the Spencer Davis Group. the drums & bass held everything down so tight, the horn section blew ecstatically, the lead singers and guitarists did the thing they do, and the backup singers commanded their voices to fill us all with musical joy. it didn’t hurt how beautiful they looked:

923067_10151851450050872_633291004_n

the second set was all Talking Heads, and it completely blew me and Natalie away. can a band in the 21st century do Talking Heads justice? my god, they can. i don’t quite remember specific tracks they played, which means they played both classics and lesser known songs. it didn’t matter what they played. the sounds coming from their instruments were 100% on point, and i felt like i was watching the actual band. hopefully it’s not a once in a lifetime opportunity.

but what did i mean up top about coincidences and pattens? well, i already mentioned the thing about one-word artist names (minus an “E”):

Turkuaz >> Audion >> Tool >> Kraftwerk >> Sheila E.

Sheila also fucked up the progression from tiny venues to increasingly bigger ones, thank god:

Boom Boom Room >> Mighty >> Bill Graham Civic Auditorium >> Walt Disney Concert Hall >> Yoshi’s

then there’s this one:

live music >> electronic >> live music >> electronic >> live music

now i’m just making shit up.

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disabilitated in Echo Park

Los Angeles,
where the bathrooms have little black boxes secreting more savory scents into the air,
where skinny women walk the streets with arms around their various boyfriends,
where space cars silently hover around in hopes of finding home, a place to park,
where tacos taco tacos,
where concrete firmly stands against the ocean and desert of chaos,
where a small cigarette, coffee, or bit of coke could potentially do the trick,
where you can’t stop staring at the many faces of modern plastic,
where they make the magic happen.

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“On Silicon Valley,” by Henry David Thoreau

Men say they know many things;
But lo! they have taken wings,–
The arts and sciences,
And a thousand appliances;
The wind that blows
Is all that any body knows.

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selections from Civil Disobedience

“That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. (385)

But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it. (386)

I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave’s government also. (389)

There are nine hundred and ninety-nine patrons of virtue to one virtuous man. (391)

It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support. If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man’s shoulders. I must get off him first, that he may pursue his contemplations too. (393)

Some are petitioning the State to dissolve the Union, to disregard the requisitions of the President. Why do they not dissolve it themselves,–the union between themselves and the State,–and refuse to pay their quota into its treasury? (394)

Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them? Why does it always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels? (395)

If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth,–certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn. (396)

I came into this world, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it, be it good or bad. A man has not everything to do, but something; and because he cannot do everything, it is not necessary that he should do something wrong. (396)

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. (398)

Confucius said: “If a state is governed by the principles of reason, poverty and misery are subjects of shame; if a state is not governed by the principles of reason, riches and honors are the subjects of shame.” (401)

The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a true respect for the individual. Even the Chinese philosopher was wise enough to regard the individual as the basis of the empire. Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a really free and enlightened State, until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly. I please myself with imagining a State at last which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even would not think it inconsistent with its own repose, if a few were to live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellowmen. A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State, which also I have imagined, but not yet anywhere seen. (413)

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the pomeranian on the playa

fat on buttery lemon-roasted chicken and garlic potatoes,
the lady and i sat sucking chocolate on the moon,
basking in the sunlight. somewhere–
a hundred miles away, perhaps–Chopin played
prelude after etude after nocturne after prelude,
brimming with beautiful. somewhere–
a hundred miles away, perhaps– thousands of
mirrors and mirrors and mirrors and mirrors
reflected upon the tower of my lonely imagination,
which caused a boiling and psychedelic aura,
akin to the sulfuric geysers of the Yellowstone.

when i awoke, a kiss.

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