Tag Archives: plants

Michael Pollan’s Food Rules

Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much. Continue reading

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selections from Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014)

“In life, as in mutual funds, past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Continue reading

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Emily Dickinson favorites (301-500)


I had no time to Hate –
The Grave would hinder Me –
And Life was not so
Ample I
Could finish – Enmity –

Nor had I time to Love –
But since
Some Industry must be –
The little Toil of Love –
I thought
Be large enough for Me – Continue reading

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Silver & Gold

like the very celebration of the solstice itself, everybody seems to think a different thing about holiday music.

growing up, i distinctly remember sitting in the living room with my father (the mood in this scene demands i call him that) with all the lights off save for the twinkling twinkling of the christmas tree. there we sat and stared at the dazzling reflections on the white ceiling, an array of red and white and green and blue and gold bending wildly through the evergreen needles of the conifer’s branches. it looked and smelled beautiful.

and it sounded beautiful too:

i was either never told the name “Nat King Cole” or i never remembered because it wasn’t until the fourth month of this year that i could say with total certainty that he was the one that had helped enchant my mind in those early winter years. in case you didn’t know, “O Tannenbaum” is German for “O Fir Tree.” i didn’t know. but it doesn’t matter. the great song streaming effortlessly, angelically from my dad’s reel-to-reel and to our ears magically seems to have managed to match the music of the universe, being and meaning and living with the fire of a thousand billion suns.

that’s only greater than the number of stars in our own solar system. may you have a super solstice. Continue reading

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vocabulary from Aimé Césaire’s Notebook of a Return to the Native Land

mendacious (adj.)
not telling the truth; lying.
an aged life mendaciously smiling, its lips opened by vacated agonies. (35)

pustule (Medicine, n.)
a small blister or pimple on the skin containing pus.
raison d’être (n.)
the most important reason or purpose for someone or something’s existence.
an aged silence bursting with tepid pustules, the awful futility of our raison d’être. (35)

fumarole (n.)
an opening in or near a volcano, through which hot sulfurous gases emerge.
At the end of the wee hours, this inert town and its beyond of lepers, of consumption, of famines, of fears squatting in the ravines, fears perched in the trees, fears dug in the ground, fears adrift in the sky, piles of fears and their fumaroles of anguish. (37)

lubricious (adj.)
1. offensively displaying or intending to arouse sexual desire.
2. smooth and slippery with oil or a similar substance.
sahib (Indian, n.)
a polite title or form of address for a man.
At the end of the wee hours, the disparate stranding, the exacerbated stench of corruption, the monstrous sodomies of the host and the sacrificing priest, the impassable beakhead frames of prejudice and stupidity, the prostitutions, the hypocrisies, the lubricities, the treasons, the lies, the frauds, the concussions—the panting of a deficient cowardice, the heave-holess enthusiasm of supernumerary sahibs, the greeds, the hysterias, the perversions, the clownings of poverty, the cripplings, the itchings, the hives, the tepid hammocks of degeneracy. (37-39)

scrofula (chiefly historical, n.)
a disease with glandular swellings, probably a form of tuberculosis. Also formerly called “King’s Evil.”
bubo (n.)
a swollen, inflamed lymph node in the armpit or groin.
putrescible (adj.)
liable to decay; subject to putrefaction.
Right here the parade of laughable and scrofulous buboes, the forced feedings of very strange microbes, the poisons without known alexins, the sanies of really ancient sores, the unforeseeable fermentations of putrescible species. (39)

balafon (n.)
a large xylophone having hollow gourds as resonators, used in West African music.
terato- (combining form)
relating to monsters or abnormal forms.
At the end of the wee hours, the great motionless night, the stars deader than a caved-in balafo, the teratical bulb of night, sprouted from our vilenesses and our renunciations. (39)

coiffure (n.)
a person’s hairstyle, typically an elaborate one.
an indefatigable road charging at full speed a morne at the top of which it brutally quicksands into a pool of clumsy houses, a road foolishly climbing, recklessly descending, and the carcass of wood, which I call “our house,” comically perched on minute cement paws, its coiffure of corrugated iron in the sun like a skin laid out to dry, the main room, the rough floor where the nail heads gleam, the beams of pine and shadow across the ceiling, the spectral straw chairs, the grey lamp light the glossy flash of cockroaches in a maddening buzz . . . (39)

sisal (n.)
a Mexican agave with large fleshy leaves, cultivated for fiber production. (or, the fiber made from this plant, used esp. for ropes or matting.)
And you ghosts rise blue from alchemy from a forest of hunted beasts of twisted machines of a jujube tree of rotten flesh of a basket of oysters of eyes of a network of straps in the beautiful sisal of human skin I would have words vast enough to contain you earth taut earth drunk (45)

proscenium (n.)
the part of the stage in front of the curtain. (or, the stage of an ancient theater.)
And on the way I would say to myself:
“And above all, my body as well as my soul, beware of assuming the sterile attitude of a spectator, for life is not a spectacle,
a sea of miseries is not a proscenium, a man screaming is not a dancing bear . . .” (45)

noctiluca (n.)
a roughly spherical marine dinoflagellate that is strongly phosphorescent, esp. when disturbed.
these shovelfuls of petty flunkies over the great savage, these shovelfuls of petty souls over the three-souled Carib,
and all these deaths futile
absurdities under the splashing of my open conscience
tragic futilities lit up by this single noctiluca
and I alone, sudden stage of these wee hours when the apocalypse of monsters cavorts then, capsized, hushes
warm elections of cinders, of ruins and collapses

calcaneus (Anatomy, n.)
the large bone forming the heel. It articulates with the cuboid bone of the foot and the talus bone of the ankle, and the Achilles tendon is attached to it.
not an inch of this world devoid of my fingerprint
and my calcaneum on the spines of skyscrapers and my filth in the glitter of gems!
Who can boast of being better off than I? Virginia.
Tennessee. Georgia. Alabama
monstrous putrefactions of stymied
marshes of putrid blood
trumpets absurdly muted
land red, sanguineous, consanguineous land.

miaow (n. & v.)
variant spelling of “meow.”
That 2 and 2 are 5
that the forest miaows
that the tree plucks the maroons from the fire
that the sky strokes its beard
etc. etc. . . .

datura (n.)
a shrubby annual plant with large trumpet-shaped flowers, native to southern North America. Daturas contain toxic or narcotic alkaloids and are used as hallucinogens by some American Indian peoples.
—me on a road, a child, chewing
sugar cane root
—a dragged man on a bloodspattered road
a rope around his neck
—standing in the center of a huge circus,
on my black forehead a crown of
voum rooh
to fly off
higher than quivering higher
than the sorceresses toward other stars
ferocious exultation of forests and
mountains uprooted at the hour
when no one expects it
the islands linked for a thousand years!

erysipelas (n.)
an acute, sometimes recurrent disease caused by a bacterial infection. It is characterized by large, raised red patches on the skin, esp. that of the face and legs, with fever and severe general illness.
Words? while we handle
quarters of earth, while we wed
delirious continents, while
we force steaming gates,
words, ah yes, words! but
words of fresh blood, words that are
tidal waves and erysipelas
malarias and lava and brush
fires, and blazes of flesh,
and blazes of cities . . .

vitelline membrane (n.)
a transparent membrane surrounding and secreted by the fertilized ovum, preventing the entry of further spermatozoa.
I am forcing the vitelline membrane that separates
me from myself,
I am forcing the great waters which girdle me with blood

provender (often humorous, n.)
And now a last boo:
to the sun (not strong enough to inebriate
my very tough head)
to the mealy night with its golden
hatchings of erratic fireflies
to the head of hair trembling at the very
top of the cliff
where the wind leaps in bursts of salty
I clearly read in my pulse that for me
exoticism is no provender (59)

cutwater (n.)
1. the forward edge of a ship’s prow.
2. a wedge-shaped projection on the pier of a bridge, which divides the flow of water and prevents debris from becoming trapped against the pier.
Leaving Europe utterly twisted with screams
the silent currents of despair
leaving timid Europe which
collects and proudly overrates itself
I summon this egotism beautiful
and bold
and my ploughing reminds me of an implacable cutwater. (59)

filly (n.)
a young female horse, esp. one less than four years old. (or, a lively girl or young woman [dated].)
quirt (n.)
a short-handled riding whip with a braided leather lash.
(niggers-are-all-alike, I-tell-you vices-all-the-vices-believe-you-me
nigger-smell, that’s-what-makes-cane-grow
beat-a-nigger, and you feed him)
among “rocking chairs” contemplating the voluptuousness of quirts
I circle about, an unappeased
filly (59)

cartouche (n.)
a carved tablet or drawing representing a scroll with rolled-up ends, used ornamentally or bearing an inscription.
Or rather, it was a tireless worker, Poverty was, working on some hideous cartouche. (63)

chalaza (Zoology, n.)
(in a bird’s egg) each of the two twisted membranous strips joining the yolk to the ends of the shell.
My back will victoriously exploit the chalaza of fibers. (65)

postillion (n.)
a person who rides the leading left-hand horse of a team or pair drawing a coach or carriage, esp. when there is no coachman.
And the silver-braided bullshit of the postillion of Havana, lyrical baboon pimp for the glamour of slavery, will be more than a match for my enthusiasm. (65)

tabes (Medicine, n.)
And these tadpoles hatched in me by my prodigious ancestry!
Those who invented neither powder nor compass
those who could harness neither steam nor electricity
those who explored neither the seas nor the sky but who know
in its most minute corners the land of suffering
those who have known voyages only through uprootings
those who have been lulled to sleep by so much kneeling
those whom they domesticated and Christianized
those whom they inoculated with degeneracy
tom-toms of empty hands
inane tom-toms of resounding sores
burlesque tom-toms of tabetic treason

bezel (n.)
a grooved ring holding the glass or plastic cover of a watch face or other instrument in position (or, a groove holding the crystal of a watch or the stone of a gem in its setting.)
zinnia (n.)
an American plant of the daisy family that is widely cultivated for its bright showy flowers.
Calm and lull oh my voice the child who does not know that the map of spring is always to be drawn again
the tall grass will sway gentle ship of hope for the cattle
the long alcoholic sweep of the swell
the stars with the bezels of their rings never in sight will cut the pipes of the glass organ of evening zinnias
will then pour into the rich extremity of my fatigue
and you star please from your luminous foundation draw lemurian being—of man’s unfathomable sperm the yet undared form

pirogue (n.)
a long narrow canoe made from a single tree trunk, esp. in Central America and the Caribbean.
But before stepping on the shores of future orchards
grant that I deserve those on their belt of sea
grant me my heart while awaiting the earth
grant me on the ocean sterile
but somewhere caressed by the promise of the clew-line
grant me on this diverse ocean
the obstinacy of the fierce pirogue
and its marine vigor.

vertiginous (adj.)
causing vertigo, esp. by being extremely high or steep. (or, relating to or affected by vertigo.)
See it advance rising and falling on the pulverized wave
see it dance the sacred dance before the greyness of the village
see it trumpet from a vertiginous conch

chloasma (n.)
a temporary condition, typically caused by hormonal changes, in which large brown patches form on the skin, mainly on the face.
I accept . . . I accept . . . totally, without reservation . . .
my race that no ablution of hyssop mixed with lilies could purify
my race pitted with blemishes
my race a ripe grape for drunken feet
my queen of spittle and leprosy
my queen of whips and scrofula
my queen of squasma and chloasma (oh those queens I once loved in the remote gardens of spring against the illumination of all the candles of the chestnut trees!)

suppurate (v.)
undergo the formation of pus; fester.
and far from the palatial sea that foams beneath the suppurating syzygy of blisters, miraculously lying in the despair of my arms the body of my country, its bones shocked and, in its veins, the blood hesitating like a drop of vegetal milk at the injured point of the bulb . . . (77)

haft (n.)
the handle of a knife, ax, or spear.
It shrivels and its point desperately retreats toward the haft when it is sprinkled with chicken blood and it says that its nature requires the blood of man, his fat, his liver, his heart, not chicken blood. (77)

askari (n.)
(in East Africa) a soldier or police officer.
And there is the nigger pimp, the nigger askari, and all the zebras shaking themselves in various ways to get rid of their stripes in a dew of fresh milk. (79)

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In Ghosts [archive]

there is way too much on my mind right now.

right now, i am listening to RADIOHEAD’s ‘IN RAINBOWS,’ a fantastic rock ‘n’ roll record about the universe. there might only be one thing that i enjoy doing more than listening to the record and it’s staring at the album art. IN/ RAINBOWS IN RAIN/BOWS IN RAINBOW/S IN RAINBOWS/ IN RAIN_BOWS RA D IOHEA _D _RAD IO HEA D yellow blue orange green yellow-orange red sky blue orange cosmic supernova enveloped my ice rink blue star child. they really got the aesthetic right.

before i continue, let me just say that we should make 6am the new midnight. that way, when you wanted to talk about your crazy night out partying, you wouldn’t have to waste your breath saying, “yeah, so last night slash this morning was fucking crazy.”

anyway, last night/this morning, tori and i spent the night at the ft. funston beach. all my life, all my conscious life, i’ve wanted to spend a night at the beach. and just sleep there. sure, it’s a bit cold, but what more can a human ask for, what more besides the sound of perfect rolling waves dashing against your dreams? nothing. i woke up with the dawn, stood up, wrapping my blankets around myself and stared at the sea for maybe an hour or more, while tori slept. the ocean is a beautiful thing. it reminds me so much of the universe.

tori and i had a long drunken discussion about the universe. it was kind of like the argument i have with a certain environmentalist who has an easy time seeing the world in terms of the man/nature dichotomy. look at that powerplant blocking my view of the lake. look at those hideous skyscrapers, like a tumor on the foggy bay. look at those scraps of metal, orbiting this life rock we call home. no, no, i cannot pry myself from the belief that man is as much a part of nature as i am, as you are, as the bees are, as the trees are, as the walri, fungi, cacti, music, blossoms, words, and rolling waves. nothing is unnatural.

is music alive? this past weekend has been utterly musical and magnificent. friday, adam tori and i headed over to outside lands, ticketless and determined to see some good performances. after circling the golden gate park concert’s perimeter once, we started making a second round, returning to a little hill that we sighted on the first trip. some people were walking down already. i sat on that hill for awhile, realizing that it led to the backs of a bunch of vendors. eventually, i just said fuck it. walked down the hill straight to the fence, thought once thought twice looked around thought trice thought quice looked around said fuck it and jumped. my heart was beating like a motherfucker, but i was in and safe. eventually tori and adam made it over too. we were elated.

so we let some reggae quell our adrenaline rushes, feasted, and caught half of beck’s set, before making our way to the massive monolith of fans that was the site of radiohead’s performance. minus some highly disruptive, certainly memorable sound glitches in the early part of their set, they put on an amazing show, as usual. starting with 15 Step, ending with Everything in Its Right Place (classic.), making sure to play You and Whose Army?, blowing my mind with a dramatically intense performance of Exit Music (For a Film), radiohead made it good. the fog might’ve helped them.

on saturday, jumping the fence worked equally simply as on friday. after catching the end of an excellent bluegrass performance by Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet feat. Bela Fleck, dan adam and i made our way to the front of the stage to make sure we could see the lines on Devendra Banhart’s face. before he played, he and the band came out to throw everyone ice creams! dan adam and i each caught one, got a ice cream sandwich myself. after i finished eating, the band came on stage and the show pleased me greatly. if you throw your fans ice cream before you play, if you cover a classic summer song during the summer at a summer festival, if you happen to end your set with a song completely stuck in the mind of one of your fans, then you have successfully put on a very pleasing show.

i thought my excitement had been exhausted after devendra, because even though adam was excited for the next act, M. Ward, i really hadn’t listened. boy was i mistaken. from the first second to the last my ears surrendered themselves to that man’s guitar. i love concerts.

after that show, adam dan and i headed over to amoeba records. i traded in a ton of horrible CDs and a couple good ones for two records: ‘Ambient 1: Music for Airports’ by Brian Eno and ‘Marquee Moon’ by Television, two outstanding releases. if you haven’t listened to either, you absolutely must. the first will make you more relaxed than you have ever been in your entire life. the second will also make you relaxed, but you might want a beer to relax with that one. on top of those, adam bought me nin’s ghosts on vinyl as a late birthday / early christmas present. super super super happy happy happy yes yes yes.

oh dear goodness: meryl and i are seeing nine inch nails live in less than two weeks.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7 Continue reading

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