Saturday, January 30, 2016

Quote by Martin Buber

Martin Buber
Here is a haunting quote from the book The Eclipse of God by Martin Buber.

Time and again, when I ask well-conditioned young souls, "Why do you give up your dearest possession, your personal integrity?" they answer me, "Even this, this most difficult sacrifice, is the thing that is needed in order that...." It makes no difference, "in order that equality may come" or "in order that freedom may come," it makes no difference! And they bring the sacrifice faithfully. In the realm of Moloch honest men lie and compassionate men torture. And they really and truly believe that brother-murder will prepare the way for brotherhood! There appears to be no escape from the most evil of all idolatry.

Friday, January 29, 2016

When All Else Fails...

When all else fails, brush a cat.

A Very Short List Of People Who Were Not Fascists

It's becoming more and more likely now that one of your friends or family members shows fervent support for the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. It is also understandable that you quake with nausea at the prospect of someone close to you becoming a fascist.

Well, fear not. A very quick googling of political pundits reveals these people who spend a lot of time thinking about such things as fascism and haywire American politics--most of them, anyway--don't think Donald Trump is a fascist. It turns out there are very narrow criteria that determine whether someone or something is fascist. These criteria are too unpleasant to inventory here, but Trump does not seem to fit the bill. Most of the time.

A more comforting and more accessible inventory might be a very short list of people who were not fascists. You and I can review this list and relax. Surely if these people weren't fascist, Donald Trump is not.

Genghis Kahn
Napoleon Bonaparte
Vladimir Lenin
Josip Broz Tito
Joseph Stalin
Idi Amin
Pol Pot

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Inferno XVII: The Candidate

The monster pointed.
He should confine the serpent, 
the armpits, the back and breast
in cloth.

Vile monster, his tail
a little on the right,
said to me, “Experience this condition.
Concede to us: melancholy folk,
soil, summer, dogs, azure,
blood and thunder."

Then twisted he his mouth,
warned me, said,
“Both strong and bold,
these I will harm.
Take heed. Embrace me”

"Behold the monster with the pointed tail, Who cleaves the hills, and breaketh walls and weapons, Behold him who infecteth all the world." Thus unto me my Guide began to say, And beckoned him that he should come to shore, Near to the confine of the trodden marble; And that uncleanly image of deceit Came up and thrust ashore its head and bust, But on the border did not drag its tail. The face was as the face of a just man, Its semblance outwardly was so benign, And of a serpent all the trunk beside. Two paws it had, hairy unto the armpits; The back, and breast, and both the sides it had Depicted o'er with nooses and with shields. With colours more, groundwork or broidery Never in cloth did Tartars make nor Turks, Nor were such tissues by Arachne laid. As sometimes wherries lie upon the shore, That part are in the water, part on land; And as among the guzzling Germans there, The beaver plants himself to wage his war; So that vile monster lay upon the border, Which is of stone, and shutteth in the sand. His tail was wholly quivering in the void, Contorting upwards the envenomed fork, That in the guise of scorpion armed its point. The Guide said: "Now perforce must turn aside Our way a little, even to that beast Malevolent, that yonder coucheth him." We therefore on the right side descended, And made ten steps upon the outer verge, Completely to avoid the sand and flame; And after we are come to him, I see A little farther off upon the sand A people sitting near the hollow place. Then said to me the Master: "So that full Experience of this round thou bear away, Now go and see what their condition is. There let thy conversation be concise; Till thou returnest I will speak with him, That he concede to us his stalwart shoulders." Thus farther still upon the outermost Head of that seventh circle all alone I went, where sat the melancholy folk. Out of their eyes was gushing forth their woe; This way, that way, they helped them with their hands Now from the flames and now from the hot soil. Not otherwise in summer do the dogs, Now with the foot, now with the muzzle, when By fleas, or flies, or gadflies, they are bitten. When I had turned mine eyes upon the faces Of some, on whom the dolorous fire is falling, Not one of them I knew; but I perceived That from the neck of each there hung a pouch, Which certain colour had, and certain blazon; And thereupon it seems their eyes are feeding. And as I gazing round me come among them, Upon a yellow pouch I azure saw That had the face and posture of a lion. Proceeding then the current of my sight, Another of them saw I, red as blood, Display a goose more white than butter is. And one, who with an azure sow and gravid Emblazoned had his little pouch of white, Said unto me: "What dost thou in this moat? Now get thee gone; and since thou'rt still alive, Know that a neighbour of mine, Vitaliano, Will have his seat here on my left-hand side. A Paduan am I with these Florentines; Full many a time they thunder in mine ears, Exclaiming, 'Come the sovereign cavalier, He who shall bring the satchel with three goats;'" Then twisted he his mouth, and forth he thrust His tongue, like to an ox that licks its nose. And fearing lest my longer stay might vex Him who had warned me not to tarry long, Backward I turned me from those weary souls. I found my Guide, who had already mounted Upon the back of that wild animal, And said to me: "Now be both strong and bold. Now we descend by stairways such as these; Mount thou in front, for I will be midway, So that the tail may have no power to harm thee." Such as he is who has so near the ague Of quartan that his nails are blue already, And trembles all, but looking at the shade; Even such became I at those proffered words; But shame in me his menaces produced, Which maketh servant strong before good master. I seated me upon those monstrous shoulders; I wished to say, and yet the voice came not As I believed, "Take heed that thou embrace me." But he, who other times had rescued me In other peril, soon as I had mounted, Within his arms encircled and sustained me, And said: "Now, Geryon, bestir thyself; The circles large, and the descent be little; Think of the novel burden which thou hast." Even as the little vessel shoves from shore, Backward, still backward, so he thence withdrew; And when he wholly felt himself afloat, There where his breast had been he turned his tail, And that extended like an eel he moved, And with his paws drew to himself the air. A greater fear I do not think there was What time abandoned Phaeton the reins, Whereby the heavens, as still appears, were scorched; Nor when the wretched Icarus his flanks Felt stripped of feathers by the melting wax, His father crying, "An ill way thou takest!" Than was my own, when I perceived myself On all sides in the air, and saw extinguished The sight of everything but of the monster. Onward he goeth, swimming slowly, slowly; Wheels and descends, but I perceive it only By wind upon my face and from below. I heard already on the right the whirlpool Making a horrible crashing under us; Whence I thrust out my head with eyes cast downward. Then was I still more fearful of the abyss; Because I fires beheld, and heard laments, Whereat I, trembling, all the closer cling. I saw then, for before I had not seen it, The turning and descending, by great horrors That were approaching upon divers sides. As falcon who has long been on the wing, Who, without seeing either lure or bird, Maketh the falconer say, "Ah me, thou stoopest," Descendeth weary, whence he started swiftly, Thorough a hundred circles, and alights Far from his master, sullen and disdainful; Even thus did Geryon place us on the bottom, Close to the bases of the rough-hewn rock, And being disencumbered of our persons, He sped away as arrow from the string.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

In Praise of Amazon Kindle's Word Runner

The Amazon Kindle recently added a feature to its reader called "Word Runner". Word Runner presents texts one word at a time at speeds the reader can set. The stream of text easily stops and backtracks at a tap when needed. Although Amazon promotes Word Runner as a speed reading training aid (ah, get your customers to consume faster!) it provides an excellent way to read for those with attention deficit problems. With one word flashing at a time the attention has no opportunity to skip around on the page. The text arrives in the mind with clear linearity. If a reader with usual concentration want to use the feature to train for 900 words a minute, well, may the god Thoth bless you. Otherwise, speeds less than 200 words a minute are available for those with other reading goals.

Nook and Google reader need this feature ASAP.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Is Amazon a River in Hell?

It was pure free-market romanticism that led me several years ago to purchase a Nook reader instead of the more popular Kindle. Amazon seemed on the verge or running every other bookseller out of business, and a Nook purchase from Barnes and Noble felt like a vote against evil monopoly.

With more maturity and a cooler head, I have sold my soul to Satan and acquired a Kindle Fire. C'est le guerre.

With the Fire came the opportunity to create a Goodreads account that I'll contribute to now and then with star ratings and very brief comments. Some of the books that I'll rate in the coming months are: Philip K. Dick's Valis Trilogy as well as The Man in the High Castle, Bugliosi's Helter Skelter, Tarzan of the Apes, This Dark Earth, Los Bros. Hernandez's relaunch of the Love and Rockets series and Eco's The Prague Cemetery, to name a few. There will also be the occasional rating of some Buddhist books.

Speaking of rivers in hell, the erasure of Inferno really will continue. Really. Because results have been so thoroughly stygian so far, the plan is to finish the series and then use the results as the basis for a totally new revision unleashed from Longfellow's text. The resulting highly synthetic poem will eventually appear on a separate page here. Of course in the real world there's jumping the shark, and then there's actually gritting your teeth and jumping it.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Random Comment in Validation of James Franco

I've suffered a while for my snarky comment about James Franco. Having enjoyed his movie farce The Interview for the second time last night and recalling his good efforts elsewhere–and considering my own flubs at poetry, many of which may be viewed on this weblog–I would like to take it all back. Of course, no one can really take back snark, and the original comment is too precious to take down. Yes, Stephen King said in his book On Writing to "kill your darlings", those egocentric lovelies writers churn out so easily. But this blog isn't really about being terribly good, or even about killing anyone or anything. I hope.

Anyway, if it weren't for bad writing, there'd be no writing at all. Write on, fellow bad poets. Write badly, write well, write with courage. The American Poetry Review never published me. That's the egocentric point of my darling attack on Mr. Franco. Apologies. Mea culpa. Mea culpa. Mea felix culpa.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Garfunkel on the Writing of "Scarborough Fair"

In an exclusive statement to The Cage, Garfunkel revealed the true story behind the composition of the classic song "Scarborough Fair/Canticle".

So I say hi to Paul, and he's like, "Hey, Art, I got a new song." And I'm like, "Cool! How does it go?" And he's doing:

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Cumin, mace, turmeric and clove....

And I'm like, "Whoa!" And he's like, "What's wrong, man?" So I say, "Those words don't sound right. 'Cumin, mace, turmeric and clove.'" And he's all, "What you mean 'they don't sound right'? It's nonsense verse. It could be any words I want. Like in 'The Boxer,' only I'm taking "Lai La Lai-Lai Lai la Lai-Lai lai-lai lai-lai lai-la-lai' to a whole new level. I'm thinking I could make a whole career outta writing nonsense lyrics."

And I'm like, "Well, maybe, but I might not stick around for that kinda crap, you know?" And he just shrugs his shoulders and goes, "Suit yourself, dude." And I'm like, "Anyway, wouldn't some other spices be better, like 'Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme'?" And he's all, "Are you out of your mind?"

But I guess the rest is history.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Farewell to Key West

The tide went out and left
its rime upon the brick
where the voices of skiers reflect
back to the waves. The waves
glint in their immortality.
The skiers, distant in their colors
of skin and hair and artificial
weaves, look more like paintings,
figures on an azure ground.
I'd touch that canvas
with my fingertips but recall
real distances, hear the lazy
cry vacationers make. To forget,
Ramón, and to remember again
are the heart and craft of rhyme.
To hear again is to say goodbye.
I'm not settled in my mind.

Tides of global warming
will wash this island back to its bone
and finally forget all who lived here,
--only an expansive slate that runs into the sky--
lifeless, Raymond, except for the waves.
The waves forget and then they move on.
I'd say they mock us,
but to mock is to remember such-and-such a time,
an empty gesture when we said goodbye.
Ramón, I am forgetting my own mind.

Where I am going do they have snow?
Are the roofs made of tin? Do roosters crow
street to street each morning that blazes
upon ants and newspapers and bromeliads?
It seems I came from somewhere but now
I have to go. The stay was short. A summer.
Ramón, I see the sun lines in your skin.
It must have been much longer. Where
did we come from before we had to go?
Stay here, Raymond, just a bit and remind
me where are the keys and the money and the other bits.
Too early to say goodbye. I forget my own mind.

Forget the screaming tourists. Forget this
over-developed and precious land.
Ramón or Raymond or whatever your name is,
let's forget these shallow waters
and all these young faces. Duval Street runs
from one tide to another. Can you honestly tell me
you care which is which? I can quite take care of myself
in this land of fair money, so I''l return
to the land of the snows. Once there I'll rave
and call it prison, but in this noon sun all waves
pass on in freedom, repeating each after each,
as it has to be, Ramón. Goodbye, Goodbye.
I remember you for now in this darker mind.