Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chapter Three, Part One

FOR THE harbor area of Los Angeles, the day was normal enough--or so Tom Watkins thought as he pulled his little sport job into a parking lot and waited for the attendant to give him a ticket. “Perhaps these chamois only succeeded in escaping from you because they did not have to think first, or discuss the best method of eluding you. Their whole organism is specialized for finding safety on mountainous terrain.” Strange rumors of some deadly danger in the Basin had been in circulation for months, with the result that tens of thousands of frightened people had already left the area. “But, surely, we do know what we mean when we speak of the ‘meaning’ of life,” I objected. “The meaning of life depends on ourselves”. In the bay, a tug had a bone in its teeth; a great liner was coming in from the depths of the blue Pacific; and just beyond the parking lot, a huge concrete warehouse looked to be quite substantial and real.

"In spite of all that, Aristotle and the ancient Greeks took a great step forward when they discovered that language can be idealized and rendered precise enough for logical deductions. That kind of language is, of course, much narrower than everyday speech, but it is of inestimable value in natural science.” So far the attendant got, then stopped speaking as an intolerably bright light flared in the sky. Up toward Pasadena, the light might be over the Rose City, it might be over downtown Los Angeles. Its distance was hard to estimate but its brightness was not. It was brighter than the sun. When it flared in the sky, the sunlight seemed to fade away into a dim glow. Tom Watkins caught only a glimpse of the light out of the corner of his eyes. The parking lot attendant looked straight at it. Dropping the ticket, he clapped his hands over his eyes and began to scream. “I know just how you feel, and I have told myself the same thing thousands of times. Indeed, the idea of leaving the confines of Europe for the expanses of the New World has been a constant temptation ever since my first visit ten years ago."

No Sound accompanied the light. Not yet.

“You are again extolling experience as opposed to the rashness of youth, as old people are so accustomed to do. And since we can’t argue back, we simply draw deeper into our shells.”

Tom Watkins did not need anyone to tell him what this light was. He knew instantly the source from which it came, knew this better than he knew his own name, knew it with an absolute sureness. Isn’t it odd that, throughout this discussion, no one should have mentioned quantum theory? We behave as if the electrically charged particles were an object like an electrically charged oil droplet, or like a pith ball in an old electroscope. “It is quite obvious that in this game we are using language quite differently than we do in science. To begin with, we try to hide rather than bring out the real facts.”

"Come on, man! There's no time to waste."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Works

The first issue of the new journal Sous Rature is now online.


Hello! I have all kinds of things I've been meaning to post on, but it'd be crappy of me to not even mention this:

For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut

by Takashi Hiraide

translated by yours truly, so I don't want to be the one to say how great it is...but hey. It was a good labor of love!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Now what that is

Dear Extant Text,
After what seems like a strange caesura, I begin again again. I’ve looked at your last long letter repeatedly in the interim, and thought about what all this is about, and how we both seem to be wrestling with the same sorts of devils, though they wear different shoes. I think I told you that I’ve been reading some about American minstrelsy lately, the minstrel show and the use of blackface – it’s all very interesting, but the hook under my skin is the phenomenon of black performers wearing blackface. And though you can’t go around (you meaning me) claiming that all things are all things, or making tortured equivalencies when that’s another kind of conceit, the bit of this that got to me was that sense of yes, if you put on the burnt cork, everyone likes you better, or at least easier, and then you can become someone who is wearing burnt cork: the mask as mask putting the mask-wearer in that excruciating yet liberating position of limited liberty. I suspect that not only do you know all this, but that this is what you’ve been doing all along, and forgive me if you’ve said this is what you’ve been doing all along, and I’ve been too thick or inattentive to notice.
That is a long preface, slightly pointless. What I mean to say is that I’m hoping gender can be a part of our discussion, because gender seems to be mostly discussed by women amongst themselves. And having said that, saying again that the question of the subject-object – because we know that there’s never one without the other, and as you rightly protested being cast as an object by me, I think about how I may not even protest my object status anymore, or rather, like the burnt cork, more figure out what’s the performative version of that status that I can stand and then, better still, try to orchestrate. And again, I think you do this throughout your work, accommodating or acknowledging that there’s a way you are a readymade creature of words, but that in that, you slip in shards of mirror and scraps of sentiment. I think sentiment is a good thing, I even like sentimentality (which you don’t use), just because I find it deeply human, and deeply dangerous.
Why did I launch in to a flatter version of what you are doing? In part, I suppose, over my anger at seeing some of these techniques used towards no different ends than the reification of the poet/Author that appropriation is supposed to upend. Partly because I want something more, the book, as you say, and we agree, to be the container of something that’s not just about itself.
You wrote about the haunting aspects of historical gender, and how you wanted to get away from them spooking the whole house. I don’t honestly know if they can’t help but. In this again, I think we agree in another sense – you want “tons more” mirroring of the culture. And both of us do this in our own funhouse way, and both of us do this spooked by our own ghosts, if I may say. My work tends to appropriate some extant text, but more appropriates extent privilege: I want to put on all sorts of masks and mirrors and make the putting on part of the performance. Blackface, whiteface, detachable penises and rubber vaginas, languages I know little about and some I know a little about, the points of view of small chubby children and sagging old men, it’s fiction on a half-shell, but then there’s the language, which is never ever dead to me, not real poetry. And by real poetry, I mean what Valèry said – the thing that makes you stop. Or say “stay.” This sounds terribly Romantic, and I guess it is. And part of my spooked gendered nature is that I want to be sort of Romantic, to stand spread-legged across the fruited plane (the Euclidean being much broader than even the Midwest, as you know) and go “I am.” And even though, like all petite prizes, there’s not so much there personally, what I’m shooting for here is the countercalling “me, too,” “and me,” “over here,” and “shut up, I’m trying to sleep.”
Maybe this is part of your alternative space; as you note, there’s all the other ways of taking ownership. And while I feel a little silly saying so (because it sounds, like disclaimers tend to, suspect), I don’t know if it’s ownership per se that I’m wanting. Maybe it’s just to make a loud noise. Or to put on the burnt cork so thick and rich that I pale in comparison – I and not-I, all at once, all together. I have this nagging feeling that I’m writing alongside you, rather than to you. I don’t want to. But this might be my version of your last response: cards on the table, so that whatever guide we end up with starts off in the head-shaved here.
You’re right as a reign about the overtly political writing, outdated, yes, and deadly dull, usually. It’s like how the best depictions of hell are not so much endless iterable damnation, but cornucopias of infernal delights and flights of flecked grotesquery. The elitism issue is an issue, unavoidable, I think, and thus, like gender, one to be taken head on -- I get accused of elitism all the time, and, not to put too fine a point on it, the accusation itself doesn’t bother me (except insofar as the accuser’s usually right up there with me) – there’s the measure of truth (white, American, steady relatively well-paying gig, more than most education, uppity to a rotten fault), and rather than try to prove some regular folk bona fides which I have and don’t have in various doses, it seems better to just admit and work with it. The how becoming, as you indicate, the better question.
So I end up at your new forms issue, and maybe the start again again of our conversation. The book, yes, the page, yes, the word, yes. Tell me how you make your books. I’m going though your list, but my autodidactism is impatient. How are you making your book now? How does all this get translated into that?



Monday, August 4, 2008

Chapter Two, Part Four

Outside the Military Medical Academy the rain was ending. Inside, the experiments of Dr. Voskressensky had stopped. Dr. Zeliony was planning what to do next. Dr. Lebedinsky would try taking into consideration the possible interferences of irradiation of inhibition of induction and the mean figures of the secretory effect of the five positive stimuli, averaged from a great number of experiments, collect money, food, clothing, bedding, and decide what differentiation became definitely established in spite of all these gross manipulations. Dr. Zimkin and Dr. Koupalov were able to make observations during the actual period of transition from the normal physiological state of the cortex to a pathological state, and then to study its therapy. The disturbance, however, went much deeper than this. Dr. Zimkin was going to leave the Los Angeles area. 

Inside the Congress of Natural Sciences, Dr. Zimkin didn’t see that the disturbances were so persistent as to require special measures, the flash of light in the sky. But Dr. Zimkin heard the shock wave and thought it was very evident that the variations in the chemical composition of the blood which resulted from excess of acid or alkali were differentiated by the cerebral termination of the chemical analyzer. 


Long before the inhibitory after-effect was tested, Dr. Zimkin knew that in similar experiments conducted by Dr. Frolov a modification was introduced by employing an inhibitory stimulus of greater intensity than the stimulus to the positive conditioned reflex. 

A second bomb had hit.

In the Congress of Medical Sciences, it was shown how internal inhibition, initiated in a single definite point of the cortical part of an analyser, rapidly irradiates over the whole analyzer, after which it is slowly concentrated upon its initial point.

The first bomb had struck about ten in the morning. The second one landed a little after noon. By two o’clock, Dr. Kalmykov tried to demonstrate the experiment in the presence of several visitors. The results were quite different: instead of the customary augmentation, the application of the inhibitory stimulus immediately before the positive one now caused a pronounced diminution in the positive reflex.

Though the relative strength of the reflexes remained unchanged, a general diminution in the strength of all the reflexes became apparent towards the end of the experiment. However, the effect of positive induction gradually makes itself felt at places nearer to the starting-point of the inhibition, and appears earlier after the incipient extinction. In other words, both as regards time and space, positive induction gradually overcomes and supersedes the inhibitory process.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

La Chine n'est pas une démocratie mais c'est un pays en paix

Could I stretch points to say the bird’s nest in Beijing is string theory blown to smithereens? Could I articulate a connection, dull as the side of a knife, between the cache (current) of conceptual writing and the collage (effect) of the montage (effect) of the September 11th? Could I maintain in argument that our May 1968 occurred later that very September (2001), but went for some time unrecognized because we assumed the face of the revolutionary would be unlined? Would dress left? Would clutch a big paper cup of coffee with room and eat egg whites, no bacon? Could I honestly admit that the crackdown of the Chinese is as open and accessible a face of a revolutionary culture as our own crackup? And as centralized? What does this have to do with our need to itemize? Or, as the soft-shoe crowd would say, fashion the indexical? Fashionable, I mean, I mean if I were saying what could be said. Could you stand to be so right?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Translation; or, The Ear

a dog without teeth

is not a dog
as long as you’re healthy
you can always
kill yourself
if you’re hanging
by one foot
you might just as well
be hanging
by both
if you can’t
go on
go underneath
you get old
as a cow
but you still
go on

Yiddish to English to a poem that exists on the page on the screen out of your head into the world. Translation of self in a new place. A giant ear listening to sounds of wind.

Translate transpose transparent transportation. Only animals with backbones have ears. Incoming waves of energy cause the eardrum to vibrate. When a fetus is aware of sound in liquid, listening beings.

Sit in the same spot for thirty-six days and see if it changes, if you change. Can there be no change? Sky is blue everyday but carries distinct tones among
yellow hills. Flat ground allows a view of what’s ahead. Curves produce transformation.

It’s not rain, it’s fog drip. A great-grandmother speaks Russian and Yiddish and English. She’s a seamstress. She goes back to school in the United States to get her high school degree. You don’t meet her, don’t know her, only recall photographs. Darkness and light.

"It was the whiteness of the whale that above all things appalled me. But how can I hope to explain myself here; and yet, in some dim, random way, explain myself I must, else all these chapters might be naught."

Foreign sounds or four and sounds. Somewhere someone is screaming. How do you make an entrance that’s not an exit? A blank page a blank screen a blank mind. Do you mind? You did but then you didn’t. You didn’t but then you did.