Things to do before I die

1) Go to a Glastonbury Festival.
2) See the Manic Street Preachers and Morrissey live.
3) Bungee-jump or skydive. Either or, I can't do both!
4) Go for a noder meet.
5) Visit the Pyramids in Egypt.
6) Go to Disneyland.

---

I'm putting these up, and I will do this every year, to monitor how much my life goals will change as I grow older.

These life-goals aren't necessarily awful individually, but collectively... Well..

(idea) by scarletblood (2.1 hr) (print)
Wed Sep 27 2006 at 19:51:38


Things to do before I die
  1. Go to a Glastonbury Festival.
  2. See the Manic Street Preachers and Morrissey live.
  3. Bungee-jump or skydive. Either or, I can't do both!
  4. Go for a noder meet.
  5. Visit the Pyramids in Egypt.
  6. Go to Disneyland.
I wonder what you would do at the pyramids exactly. Listen to your walkman? You might be able to go para-sailing beside them. That would be fun I'm sure. Actually, if we did it together that would pretty much constitute a noder meet right there. And if we got untethered we might be skillful enough to land at a glastonbury performance of the morrissey street preachers trueee. Disneyland is just for me though. You can have the extremities. ****

Things to do before I die:
  1. Finish what I've started (i.e., life).

End.

Anyway, I've come with words from the front. (Mine).

So, dear emptily proud readership of mine, dearest friends, dear, cher, expensive, unfortunate brethren. I come to you with news, news of me. And my doings. And my goings on.

Of late I've been involved in a fair bit of academification. To wit: I've been writing an uninteresting and uninformative set of "comprehensive examinations". Precisely what they comprehend I've yet to divine. And, having finished them, it seems less than likely that I will comprehend what it is they comprehend.

"Dreams are sometimes just little demos"

Chance happenstance that Lee Hazlewood's "Hanging on Too Long" comes on just as I'm about to bemoan my cowardice in staying in school far too long. Though perhaps not, the harddrive of my computer is loaded with songs aimed at stoking my self-loathing into the blazing hellfire it achieves roundabout 1:23 AM. Anyway, these comprehensive exams. They're finished, and they were entirely unchallenging and pointless. I figure since I answered some of the possible questions which didn't end up on the exam, I might as well put the answers on here. They'll never make it to the printed page, poor forlorn souls. Unloved, stillborn.

Impossible Answer #1:

Briefly state what Foucault means by ‘discourse’ and comment on the following statement in relation to his conference at the Collège de France: “The production of discourse is controlled according to a certain number of procedures”.

Discourses are corridors through which meaning (exemplified by speech) passes in order to proliferate. A discourse at once enables the proliferation of meaning to specific sectors and within certain limits, while it also hinders or confines that proliferation. Discourses limit the spread of meaning by various means; they do so through internal regulations, through the application of external practices of exclusion, through systematic organization and classification, through various processes of selection and inclusion. Specific discourses, then, are more or less homogeneous complexes of such practices applied to selected classes of enunciations (in e.g. speech, written works, etc.); they are, as well, the products of such application. In other words, discourses can be thought of both as the array of discursive practices applied to meaning as well as the meanings which are produced as a result of such applications.

Now, with this preliminary characterisation of discourse in mind, we are more prepared to understand the following statement:

…the production of discourse is at once controlled, selected, organised and redistributed according to a certain number of procedures, whose role is to avert its powers and its dangers, to cope with chance events, to evade its ponderous, awesome materiality (216).

In other words, Foucault sees these discursive procedures as devices which aid in the limitation of the dangerous effects that discourse itself might bring into the world: effects which might be classed political, ethical, military, academic—even (and perhaps especially) effects which make these traditional discursive typologies obsolete or nonsensical. Further, these procedures attempt to hide the “materiality” of discourse—its actual structure and effects in the world. This is one of Foucault’s main theses here: speech—discourse—is something, it does not simply represent something else, but, on its own, possesses structure, produces effects, etc. And its effects do not occur merely in the ‘realm of meaning’ but occur in the material world. Of course Foucault does not deny the apparently ‘immaterial’ or mental aspects of discourse. Rather, he suggests that our conception of materiality is flawed precisely if such things as meaning and discourse cannot be properly understood within this heading. Foucault suggests that we should think of particular discourses as “ensembles of discursive events” (231), and immediately poses the question of the philosophical status of the event: What can an event be for a materialist philosophy (that is, a philosophy interested in avoiding the transcendental and the ideal)?

…an event is neither substance, nor accident, nor quality nor process; events are not corporeal. And yet an event is certainly not immaterial; it takes effect, becomes effect, always on the level of materiality. Events have their place; they consist in relation to, coexistence with, dispersion of, the cross-checking accumulation and the selection of material elements; it occurs as an effect of, and in, material dispersion. Let us say that the philosophy of event should advance in the direction, at first sight paradoxical, of an incorporeal materialism (231).

In discussing discourse, Foucault exhorts us to resist the temptation to think that materialism must be coextensive with some sort of corporeal monism. None will deny the reality of events, but, for Foucault, thinking of events simply as billiard-ball type corporeal happenings (with, perhaps, some sort of mentalistic add-on) is wrongheaded, and will not aid us in understanding the semi-independent existence which discourses possess and which Foucault endeavours to examine. Rather, in order to understand how discursive procedures limit the proliferation of speech we must see their non-corporeal structure as itself capable of producing material effects—we must see these structures as themselves material.

Thus armed with an understanding of the material quality of discourse and the procedures which endeavour to limit discourse, we are better prepared to understand how these material procedures attempt nevertheless to ‘evade’ this materiality. At the outset of this inaugural lecture, Foucault highlights three massive forms of exclusion which have become historically applied to and, eventually, constitutive of discourse for hundreds and even thousands of years. These principles are: the prohibition against speech which combines sexuality and politics, the opposition between reason and madness, and the opposition between truth and falsity.

Foucault argues that the last of these principles has been continually annexing the territory possessed by the other two. Both the political and sexually prohibited forms of discourse as well as discourse aimed at rigorously separating the speech of the mad from rational speech have increasingly been enfolded into the division between the true and the false. Thus, while the speech of the madman was previously ignored in order to construct a division between the sane and the insane, with the birth of clinical psychiatry, the speech of the mad has been submitted to the division between the true and the false. This speech is no longer simply ignored, but situated within the great discourse enabled by this division; it is analyzed for its truth, and this truth is placed within a discursive formation made possible by the ‘formal’ opposition between truth and falsity.

Owing, perhaps, to this process of annexation, Foucault focuses on the division between truth and falsity and attempts to show how the application of this division to discourse through various procedures has tended to elide the materiality of those discourses and cloak their differing political effects within the guise of truth’s transcendental unity. There is a strong tendency (particularly in our scientized modern world) to view truth as something whose structure and essence is not of this world; there is a tendency to see truth as something which transcends the material. Foucault gives a brief history of truth in order to disabuse us of this transcendental view. He writes that

…with the sixth century Greek poets, true discourse… meted out justice and attributed to each his rightful share; it prophesied the future, not merely announcing what was going to occur, but contributing to its actual event, carrying men along with it and thus weaving itself into the fabric of fate (218).

Truth in this older (perhaps oldest) sense was not only accompanied by acts, it was essentially understood as constituted by those acts. True speech was speech capable of apportioning the world correctly. But about the time of Socratic philosophy a century later, “the highest truth no longer resided in what discourse was, nor in what it did: it lay in what was said” (218). Truth was no longer necessarily accompanied by right action, but became a structural principle which was apparently divorced from the exercise of power or the application of justice in the world. Truth thus became a formal quality prior to the world.

But for Foucault it is precisely this quality of truth that has a history and produces material effects in the world. Discourses have been and continue to be constrained by the transcendent division between truth and falsity. The view of truth as a transcendental quality glosses over the will to truth (the will to knowledge) that lies at the core of this understanding of truth. What guides and formalizes discursive practices is not this ideal of truth but the belief that attaining such truth is of paramount importance: the will to truth pervades all ‘true discourse’. Foucault writes that “True discourse, liberated by the nature of its form from desire and power, is incapable of recognising the will to truth which pervades it; and the will to truth, having imposed itself upon us for so long, is such that the truth it seeks to reveal cannot fail to mask it” (219).

So, in conclusion, when Foucault speaks of discourse, he refers to collections of events which are more or less rigorously systematized through material practices of exclusion, division, and selection. Such practices have, in large part, fallen under the influence of a massive historical division between truth and falsity itself rooted in the will to truth, or the will to knowledge. This will to truth masks the material character of discourse by placing ‘true discourse’ at a remove from the material will to truth and thereby masking the worldly origins of supposedly transcendental (or purely formal) truth. Foucault’s task, as he characterizes it here, is to provide us with a historical and material account of these procedures of exclusion in order to illustrate the effects of discourse with an eye, I assume, to altering them.

Reference: Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language translated by A.M. Sheridan Smith (New York, Harper & Row Publishers, 1976).

End.

I was semi-excited the first time I noticed that Foucault's name was nestled between Searle and Dennett. But ultimately disappointed, as both the questions dealing with Foucault ended up dealing with two of the least intersting pieces Foucault ever wrote (in my opinion) namely the unabashedly 'postmodern' "What is an author?" and the rather uninspired "Discourse on Language," whose most interesting portion is probably the closing dedication to Jean Hyppolite. What a waste.

"All the gangstas they gon ride to this
They gon grind to this
They gon shine to this
This is gangsta music, this is gangsta music, this is gangsta music, and
this is gangsta music
All the hustlers they gon ride to this
They gon grind to this
They gon shine to this
This is hustler music, this is hustler music, this is hustler music, and
this is hustler music

We don't talk on the phone cuz it might stick
Gotta play for the 7 call it Mike Vick
Dirty birds nigga we play wit dem falcons
Know some niggaz in the Decatur that pay for dem falcons
Talking young hungry niggaz eat ya whole plate
Jeezy place the order niggaz eat ya whole face
You got me misconstrued all fucked up
Jump out hit the switch light ya ass up
Carbon 15 wit the hundred round drum
Got plenty for any nigga think he wants some
We don't leave 'em at the house we bring 'em out
My chain for yo life we can swap it out"

We gon' grind to this indeed. My grinding these days consists of three hours drawing on MS Paint, followed by one hour of Battlefield 2, followed by 2 hours of The Wire, followed by one hour, variously, of set theory, Bolzano, Siberia, or Charles Taylor. Confessions of a teenage grad student.

Impassable Answer #1 (incomplete)

How are freedom and necessity involved in Kant’s idea of aesthetic judgment?

For Kant there are two types of aesthetic judgments: impure and pure. Each of these possesses a different relation to freedom and necessity.

Impure aesthetic judgments

Impure aesthetic judgments are judgments regarding the agreeability of presentations of objects to our senses. Now, for Kant, what is “Agreeable is what the senses like in sensation” 47/206. When we find an object agreeable, we exhibit an inclination to experience its presentation to the senses. Kant argues that it is precisely this inclination to experience the presentation of the object to our senses which makes such aesthetic judgments ‘impure’. Such judgments are impure just insofar as they go beyond a mere objective judgment of an object’s agreeability and presuppose a subjective inclination, interest, or desire for the object:

the judgment that a thing is agreeable arouses a desire for objects of that kind, so that the liking presupposes something other than my mere judgment about the object: it presupposes that I have referred the existence of the object to my state insofar as that state is affected by such an object 48/207.

Kant argues that the interestedness thus exhibited in judgments of the agreeableness of an object makes these judgments aesthetically impure. They are not merely judgments of taste but are judgments of taste resulting from our subjective presupposition that an object exists such that that object gratifies or satisfies us in some way. The judgment, therefore, is not simply about the aesthetic value of the object to be judged, but about that object’s capacity to fulfill a prior need or inclination in us. Kant writes, further, of the character of such judgments that “Indeed, what is agreeable in the liveliest way requires no judgment at all about the character of the object itself, as we can see in people who aim at nothing but enjoyment…: they like to dispense with all judging” 48/207.

Impure judgments of taste (i.e., judgments regarding the agreeability, charm, emotion, etc. of particular objects) do not involve any exercise of freedom in Kant’s sense (a sense which excludes interestedness—about which more below), nor do they command any necessary assent or dissent. Their lack of freedom or independence from determination is illustrated by their reliance upon prior subjective inclinations rather than upon the objective qualities of the object itself. Their lack of necessity is made clear, again, by the subjective nature of such judgments: we judge an object agreeable when it effects a feeling of pleasure within us. Thus, when we deem it ‘agreeable’ we are hardly surprised if someone disagrees, nor do we expect them to agree. There are no more than subjective and singular grounds for claims of this kind. Kant writes that “if someone says that canary wine is agreeable he is quite content if someone else corrects his terms and reminds him to say instead: It is agreeable to me… Hence about the agreeable the following principle holds: Everyone has his own taste (of sense)” 55/212. Thus while there may be some subjective necessity (we may feel that we have to find a certain object agreeable given our contingent historical/empirical constitution) there is no compulsion on our part to extend this subjective necessity to others—there is, in other words, no universal subjective necessity.

Pure Aesthetic Judgments: Judgments of Beauty

The difference between pure and impure aesthetic judgments results from their divergent relations to subjective interestedness. As we’ve seen, impure aesthetic judgments presuppose some form of subjective interest in the object to be evaluated. Pure aesthetic judgments, on the other hand, presuppose and contain no such subjective interest. Such judgments deal in evaluations of beauty rather than evaluations of agreeableness, charm, or emotion. Accordingly, pure aesthetic judgments have an entirely different structure and, therefore, entirely different relations to both freedom and necessity.

For Kant, what makes judgments of beauty so peculiar is precisely the subjective freedom they exhibit. When we deem an object beautiful in a pure aesthetic judgment, we do not deem it beautiful insofar as it fulfills some purpose or inclination, nor do we deem it beautiful insofar as it falls under some predetermined concept of the beautiful. Rather, our judgment is free of all these external determinations and relies only upon the free play of the imagination in contemplating the pure form of the object itself, independent of any cognitive (i.e. conceptual) appreciation of that object. The free reign the imagination is given to judge an object when all conceptual or determinate cognition is suppressed leads to an interesting form of necessity for pure aesthetic judgments.

Kant writes of the person making a pure aesthetic judgment regarding beauty that “He must believe he is justified in requiring a similar liking from everyone because he cannot discover, underlying his liking, any private conditions, on which only he might be dependent, so that he must regard it based on what he can presuppose in everyone else as well” 54/212. In other words, the very fact that there is nothing individualistically subjective about his judgment (i.e., that it is not based on his contingent personal history and inclinations) leads the judge to assume that there must be some objective validity to his judgment, to which everyone must assent. But, unlike other forms of universal necessity, this necessity is still yet not objective necessity insofar as it arises from the subjective feeling of absolute freedom which arises in the pure contemplation of the beautiful object’s form. Interestingly, he will treat his judgment as though it were a conceptual judgment (insofar as he acts as if his judgment is about the object itself) even though his judgment of beauty results only and always from the subjective freedom experienced in relation to the object. Thus, the universal assent demanded by judgments of beauty appears as though it relates to the objects themselves (‘all others must assent to the claim that this object is beautiful’), rather it relates to the freedom experienced in relation to the objects (‘all others must assent to the claim that we must experience freedom when contemplating this object aesthetically’).

(I kind of just trail off at this point)

So shit, here I am, back in my nation's capital, at the heart of all things good and grain, and poisoned to the heart of me with weird longings that I don't want, and strange hatreds that I haven't cultivated. Feels newly empty even though its been a vacuum here since of old. I don't quite know what to make of it. And that's true, and that's right.

I always wonder what kind of snitches are rolling around blogger clicking the notify of objectionable content button on fools. I mean, shit, I'm petty, but getting mad enough at someone's show-off diary to get the revenooers involved in it, well shit, that's smaller than me and my gnat-like features can handle. But it's there, and someone uses it.

Violeta Parra chides too much. It's true, and you know it to be so.

I AM boring and poor; and alone, and hate-filled, and tiresome, and unoriginal and a million other plodding minuses all heaped into a trim frame (that's new), poorly clothed (that's old) and fashionably shod (that's new). Livin' off table scraps and I don't even own a table.

Time to shine is in the graveyard. Hip hop knows that much, in the oh six at least.

I listened to this Steinski mix-tape "Burning out of control" and I have to admit it induced a general sense of

well-being in the room. I was shucking and jiving like.

Still and all, poison the wells, flood the set. Empires of fire-brick. Ottawa is slow drilling, through my spine. Paralyzed, still, by all the small cowardliness.

No taste- it's because I can't afford salt (I'm not a salaryman) and I have no onions (being not a barbarian).

I seriously have to kick these doldrums. I got years ahead of me. I gotta do this bid. I ain't no quitter (just a determined nobody).

Impossible Answer #2 (incompletely stylized)

6. Outline Russell's theory of universals and his defence of it in The Problems of Philosophy. That is, explain what he means by a universal, why he thinks universals are indispensable in knowledge, what he takes their ontological status to be and why.

For Russell relations (e.g., ‘in,’ ‘greater than,’ ‘north of,’ etc.) and qualities (e.g., ‘red,’ ‘tall,’ ‘ornate,’ etc.) are good examples of common types of universals. Though universals are often treated as ethereal and scholarly abstractions, Russell is quite correct to point out that they so thoroughly infiltrate our common speech that it may very well be impossible to formulate a sentence without employing one or more universals. For instance, when we ask what things are (what dogs are, or what justice is) we tend to answer by isolating qualities which all particular instances of ‘dog’ or ‘justice’ possess. We isolate or abstract those general qualities which are common to all the particular instances of the quality or thing in question. What we isolate in cases like this is, in Plato’s terms, the ‘form’ or ‘idea’ of which the particular instances partake. Or, in Russell’s terms (employed to avoid confusing associations with ‘ideas’) we abstract the ‘universal’ from the particular.

Qualities have, historically, been the privileged example of universals, much to Russell’s metaphysical chagrin. But, as mentioned above, Russell also takes relations to be universals, and perhaps more instructive examples thereof. For example, when we say things like “A is in B” we imply that two particulars (A and B) partake of a universal relation, a relation which is exhibited by but not limited to this particular instance. We can only make sense of the relation ‘in’ as something separate from any given instance of ‘in-ness’. The necessity to thus understand universals as logically separable from their particular instantiations requires what at first appears to be a rather strange ontological stance. Universals cannot be particular physical objects in the spatiotemporal world we inhabit because, unlike physical things, universals do not and cannot change. They are immutable. It is hard to understand what it would even mean for the relation ‘in’ to change. They are immutable, but also insensible: we cannot happen upon these relations themselves as items of sense data apart from their particular instantiations. We don’t see in-ness, we see, e.g., object A and object B.

WE RUN THE CITY

A common ontological response to universals’ implacable non-physicality is to relegate them to the realm of the mental. This is a Kantian move which Russell similarly rejects. For him universals are not mental things either: they are not simply the way that human or, indeed, any other possible consciousness ‘structures’ or categorizes the experiential world. This is suggested by the following example.

Whether or not any mind has thought or could possibly think that Edinburgh is north of London, this relation still holds true. It would be true to say that Edinburgh is north of London even if no minds had ever or could ever exist. Now this shows that universals cannot be mental in character just insofar as the truth of this proposition—a proposition which contains the universal relation ‘north of’—does not rest on its being mentally apprehended or apprehendable.

Yet a universal is something, as we can see based on the fact that the truth of propositions like ‘Edinburgh is north of London’ relies on the phrase ‘north of’ having a determinate meaning. ‘A is north of B’ must refer to something more than ‘X thinks that A is north of B’ if the truth conditions of the sentence (which have nothing to do with minds apprehending the proposition) are to be duly respected. Thus, a universal must be something, though something neither mental nor physical. These somethings inhabit another, a ‘third’ ontological realm, a realm quite different from the physical and mental realms which are the daily bread of ontologists.

This third realm, which is at least as inspired by Frege as it is by Plato, is timeless, immutable, and insensible. Negative characterizations, all, but helpful nonetheless. Russell suggests that a further terminological subtlety which is, I think helpful for understanding how we can think of the being of universals. He suggests that while the objects of the more familiar realms of ontology may be characterized as ‘existing’ (i.e., as being through time and in space), we would be better off thinking of universals as ‘subsisting’ or ‘having being’.

Universals, as atemporal immutable objects, seem entirely divorced from the fray of mortal existence which is the concern of philosophers. But, as Russell endeavors to point out, they are of crucial importance when it comes to epistemology, and especially the epistemology of a priori knowledge which has long been the special province of philosophy.

BURN EM WIT DIRTY .380s

For Russell, a priori knowledge is any knowledge which does not require any sensory input as evidence (though it may—indeed it must—be prompted or elicited by some sensory input). His privileged examples of such knowledge are mathematics and logic.

At the outset of his explication of the epistemology of a priori knowledge Russell makes it clear that universals are to occupy a central role. He writes: “All a priori knowledge deals exclusively with the relations of universals” 59. A rather direct statement which in effect amounts to the claim that a priori knowledge is acquired through our acquaintance (via various processes of abstraction) with the universal relations that hold between universals.

Russell’s arithmetical example is helpful here. Take the proposition ‘2+2=4’. How do we know it to be true, a priori (as Russell suggests we do). Russell first asks what we mean or understand by this proposition. He argues that we understand ‘2+2=4’ to be a proposition about ‘twos,’ ‘fours,’ and ‘collections’ rather than as a proposition about particular twos, fours, and collections. The statement certainly implies things about such particulars but makes no direct claims about them. It does not tell us, e.g., that these two eggs and those two eggs add together to give us four eggs; it merely leads us via inference to this conclusion. ‘2+2=4’ is thus a statement about universals and the relations among them. Russell is concerned to show here the crucial difference between a priori knowledge, which is non-experiential, and the applications of a priori generalizations to particular cases.

The key difference to be highlighted, and a difference which revolves around the separation of universals from the mental and physical realms, is between the sorts of evidence enlisted to support a priori claims on the one hand and empirical claims on the other. Empirical claims must be supported by appropriate sensory inputs (e.g., There is at time t an x such that x possesses quality y. A priori claims, by contrast, are supported only by universals which make no existential or temporal claims. This has the interesting (and scientifically fortunate) result that we can know with certainty that an a priori proposition is true or false without ever having encountered (or without even being capable of encountering) any particular instantiation of what it states generally.

So, in summary, Russell believes that universals are exemplified best by relations and that they are ontologically distinct from mental and physical objects insofar as they inhabit a third, separate ontological realm whose objects are better characterized as ‘subsisting’ atemporally than as existing in space and time. They must inhabit such a realm in order to make it possible for us to differentiate (as we do) between something’s being true and it’s merely being taken to be true. Thus their ontological strangeness (immutable, insensible, atemporal) is wedded to their epistemological necessity. Their epistemological import is even more apparent in the special case of a priori knowledge, which relies completely upon universals for evidentiary support.

End.

Lonely nights,
lonely days,
long dead betweens;
life on the wire
life on the limb
tripping over opportune,
stumbled mistakes,
crowd dynamics,
crowd control,
limp will,
the progress
of millennia.
All scarring the surface
deep enough to dye
shallow enough
not to catch,
only air to breath,
and not too rare.

Novy Magnitogorsk, all hearts to mine. Guys in unison chanting for steel and St. Vitus. All truth on the lips and blades at the hip: a town of vikings, righteous for the flame.

Devoting my time to empty phrases and bloodless battles feels better than it should but not as good as it could. Shit, this drawing is like 200 megs, that's gotta be worth something on the black market. It's got-to. I feel it in these bones wearied by ill-fitting slacks and hours wretched in this chair.

Diluted

Keeping time
in the still of your
absence
metric steadiness
in my faltering
impossible demand
to maintain
you without
restraint.

I string pearls
around modes
of the future,
hoping their glint
catches an eye
(yours)
just enough to
stay the course
a wince longer.

My poor diluted soul.
Shallow pond, thin blood.

Long time For such a simplistic life. It still finds time to confuse.

"Delay not; swift the flight of fortune's greatest favours."

Seneca. 
I should heed the lessons of Seneca. 
Impossible weights claw at my legs.
Two more exams, two more grant proposals, one more semester of critical thinking (at least), 75 years to go (at most).

Straight line beauty
distilled to a curve;
and even ill-will
fails to disturb
the only one here
to see it,
and see it right
the first time
without assembly.

(It's turned off one more time).

The finitudes,
the wakefuls,
the indiscretes.



On the wing.
Touchless vanities
diluting their fate
with the purity of
plotted courses,
still untrodden,
in anticipation of
the hundred year gap
between talking and
taking,
or, better,
between plotting
and staking bold
grand claims
to clear-seamed
rivers with names
unpronounced by
ours Western pride:
Ob, Yenesei, Amur.
Dark veins, trickling brilliant
through cold calculation
for hours and months
beforehand.
Correctly cold,
suiting the allegory.

Words in the parkas I can't afford.


Well. New kinds of being me all over the place today. I prefer Ethiopian ululations to Hazlewood drear-core today. It's a start today! (Startling, today). Tearing the skin off my lips, reading Kant, boiling boredoms, grey pan window with Hunt Club traffic today. Today I'd give ten dollars for a hundred dollars right now.

I applied for a job as a mall janitor. I applied for a job as a document scanner. I applied for a job as an office administrator. I applied for three jobs. Statistics: 25, 2 degrees, and plenty of aspirations.

Scratch the last one, and don't give a fuck about the first two. (That's the Mark Burke way). I should take some lessons from Kevin Wong (www.kevinwong.ca). He's in the zone.

Booksmarts don't get you no place neither. Killing someone is fairly easy with a short piece of rattan. (I know this because I read, I know this because it's true). (What's the modal status of semi-correct answers to discarded possible exam questions?) Forget it.

I'm going crazy inside again, an interesting experiment will be to see how long I can go crazy without actually going crazy without the numbing effects of liquid depressants. Worth pursuing, maybe I'll get a grant.

It's impossible to be reasonable with this many Mark Burkes clouding the heads up display. Forget it. Nah B, don't even sweat it. Whiling my life away in the sweatless meaning mills of today's tomorrow. Already a dinosaur before I left a footprint. The shell of a man.

Wasting away like in Back to the Future. Except my brother doesn't isn't in the photo, because I don't have a brother, and all the photos of me are pretty much digital so I don't have to worry about them fading. They'll outlast my dreams.

The Two Solitudes

It's funny how ten seconds is all it takes for things to feel impossible.

Those ten seconds, a grey vista, and over-fluoresced head-achey melancholy: the hallmarks of a great Ottawa day. (Happily enough it only takes ten seconds and three syllables from you to end the gloom and cover everything with a silken wreath of luminous excess, faggy enough to choke a panda, but true).

I feel two ways now. Swanface 755 is most of them.

Times and tones
pack the while away,
full-speed ahead
into carpeted, foot-soft
comfort.

Fatalism at twenty-five,
listless in love and life.
Still always too late to try.


Good weekend in Montreal. (Days ago, nothing's happened since, except a brief and boring foray into the particularities of Spinoza's understanding of God) Excellent graffiti painting, I don't mind saying. My semester is shaping up to be one of ease. The guy I'm TAing for is from Oromocto, New Brunswick; my parents' home town. He seemed oddly pretentious upon first meeting for a guy from Oromocto. I guess he's like the poor people who win the lottery, he has to overcompensate. I don't really even know who I'm being rude to here, probably everyone. I post photos now. It's what I do. "The glory of true love, it'll last your whole life through, it'll never go out of fashion, always will look good on you" Two hip hop sweatshirts in one weekend, my head is still dizzy.


Desolate Days
Fine days,
rollicking
across green-grey hillsides,
desolating livelihoods
with the wag of a
phone-dialing finger
or the five
minutes too late
don't go in
it's not worth its...
Desolate days filled
with platitudes and
harpless cloud-drifting
heavens.
A heaven of two,
scarcely busy body enough
to loll a head close
close enough to hear
whatever sounds
aren't worth hearing.
Because nothing's worth hearing
because nothing's not you.
Because nothing's not here.
(We are).

Different days
different skies
same horizons:
Thick-dropped clouds
and their associates
(young lightning),
deigning to dabble
in the real estate market,
all still
still
not enough to deter
on days like these,
desolate days,
where fallen water
slips to the wayside,
the path of most resistance
alien to an embrace
its chemistry's afraid
to know.

A me never so lucky
again, never so poor
as that nothing
allowed
that one desolate day.


"My autumn's done come."
Throw everything
wait for daybreak,
pause to regret,
breathe,
hold your head,
hold your head
low, remember.

Thought it was
worth it
because no one
knew what anything
was worth
in the
wastes.

"Let those I don't care days begin"
again
when we're
nothing
to anyone.

To loose
in the palaces
time buys.
To loose
in those places.

"Bring me water short, and scotch tall" Life lessons should be taught only by the stomach. I'm back in Ottawa and my stomach hurts for no apparent reason. White walls and white thoughts today, bland tomorrows on the horizon. Seas of bureaucracy to be railed against, etc, etc. "In good spirits"

Flurn from your mistakes, friends. Read more carefully the seams of life.

I'm hiding out IN the internet.
Hello, My Children. It is clearly time for another sermon from the Grand High Authority, the Illustrious and Munificent Sheperd of noders, the one and only, often duplicated but never medicated Space Pope of the puny hu-mons, me.

I have here a note from Cowboy Jesus. In his folksy cowboy scrawl, he notes that "The Injuns is restless" and that "we have to make the watering hole a'for sundown." Heady words my children.

What watering holes do you want to make it to a'for you see sunset? Cowboy Jesus would be all for scarletblood's list. It would appeal to his rugged, farmhand sensibilities. It has the air of a concrete thing that could be marked with checks, or have things crossed off in some sort of pen, or a line drawn in the sand. He has a similar daily "To Do list". It goes something like this...

"What I done and didn't did to-day"

1) Didn't kill me a man
2) Milked the cows
3) Lorded o'er the spiritual well-being of the totality of existence
4) bought a bag of nails

He keeps putting off that last one... Anyways! Kudos to scarletblood, an example to us all.

Sadly, now comes the time, my children, when we have to talk about the little calf that got tangled in the barbwire. cabin fever, OH! how we lament for you. Cowboy Jesus, he couldn't "cotton" to your list. He said "Thats the list of a sidewinder!" Let us think on these words, shall we?

What would Michel Foucault think of an anti-deterministic goal-less life? Would he say it exemplifies the madness that has been cast from society, losing its power to signify the limits of social order? Would he eat a brie sandwich at 3:00 am or did it give him heartburn? We may never know, as Foucault is dead, like Nietzsche before him, and yet, at the end of their lists, we know them.

Did they adhere to an amoeba's list?

Finish life. Die?

I, and Cowboy Jesus, would say no.

Think on this, my restless Injuns.

Two Short True Stories of Libraries: An Introduction

Both of these stories were relayed to me by (another member of staff), and so come with warnings that they may have been embellished along the way. I doubt they have much added, save pauses for dramatic effect. Both occurred in the Central Library.

I: Sex Pests

Long story short, a man was looking at porno on one of the public access PCs in the “Scanner Room”, and then proceeded to show his manhood to a poor woman who happened to be using the other computer. The police were called, but the man had run off, trousers around ankles, as soon as the woman shouted for help.

The Scanner Room is a problem. It’s a dingy little room off to one side of the Reference Library, with two computers equipped with scanners, which the public are free to use. Being a little more secluded than the other computers, it’s a hotbed for internet porn and self-pleasuring perverts. I believe the room is now out-of-bounds until a suitable solution is found.

This event made the Hull Daily Mail. The police need help catching this pervert red handed.

II: Water Sports

A man asks for the RADAR key to the disabled toilets. He returns it dripping with urine. Someone spends the morning disinfecting and dry-retching. We aren’t talking a few drops here. We’re talking dripping with intent.

The incident is duly logged, and as the “customer” is a known troublemaker, management tells us he’s on his last offence. One more incident and he’s banned from the building, and will have to execute his bowel movements and kinky piss-strained rituals elsewhere. The train station, prehaps.

Two True Stories of Libraries: In Conclusion

One easy conclusion to draw from these tales is that I'm not getting paid enough. Another is that the general public, bless them, cannot be trusted not to urinate or masturbate in public places.

How To Have A Happy Birthday Under Adverse Circumstances

Birthdays are usually simple happy things for me. Today is mine. This one has been complicated because, as they say, 'Someone Done Me Wrong'. We won't go into all the sordid details here, but I will say that by mutual consent, that someone is still around.

So I wake up and realize it's my birthday and I'm not particularly happy about it. I am still angry at this person and his foolishness. This complicates the dinner plans we have for the evening to celebrate, and I like things simple. What to do? What to do?

I stalk around my house a little bit, slinging clothes, slamming drawers open and closed, and generally being pissy. Then I see them in my vanity drawer: A whole box of bullets. Not BIG bullets. Just little .22 calibers, nestled cute in their amber plastic case. There's a hundred of them.

I snatch them up and sneak to the room where he lays sleeping. My first shot is off and makes an unsatisfying 'Thud' into the comforter. I choose another missle and and throw it -- Yes, I'm throwing bullets at a sleeping man -- and this time I get a direct hit and a satisfying "Owww! What the hell are you DOING?"

Now I let loose with both hands with multiple rounds. Bullets flying everywhere at velocities reaching all of three miles an hour. He can only cower and try to hide under the covers. "Take that! And that! HAH!" He doesn't try to stop me...This is probably the healthiest thing I've done since our proverbial 'problem' was revealed to me.

Finally, I am out of ammunition. We are both laughing our asses off. I think he's just glad I didn't actually shoot him. I leave for work, wondering what it's going to sound like when the vacuum cleaner sucks one of those babies up when he cleans up the mess. I also figure I'll probably have a pretty happy birthday after all.



My country is at war. With itself.

It is a terrible war that turns brother against brother, that turns truth into concept at the speed of thought. It comes complete with computer graphics, rendering and theme music. If the cold war were still on, we'd blame the Communists for the divide.

Maybe it is.

I don't know where it started. I think the most brazen activities were probably initiated during the Clinton administration where the American populace was shocked to know our president would dare to suggest we didn't understand the definition of the two-letter word, "is". As shocked as we could be, nothing could have prepared us for the onslaught we are forced to withstand day after day as our politicians and their paid media minions write history in pencil then erase and rewrite it to their individual profit.

We have managed to convince ourselves we are in living in a time that demands the uprooting of our most closely held values as citizens and even as human beings. Our leaders feed us barely hidden lies to get us to follow them, and then wink snidely as if to let us know we're all in on the joke. The lie is that we need to unhinge 200 years of law. The lie is that our Constitution and 200 years of judgment is faulty.

Technology allows this cooperative deception to occur on a massive scale. We are fed bullshit through computer networks and cable television that are free from the restrictions of decency imposed by the archaic rules mandated by the government who limits itself to protecting only the free airwaves.

And consequently we are manipulated by tiny vicious men who send our children into war to do their bidding. And we don't care.

We get what we deserve. America is crumbling. What will fill the vacuum that is left by the implosion of the last great bastion of the free and brave? Who will stand in our place? Lucky for our former allies, we've relegated them to the sidelines, and they'll watch in horror as the giant whirlpool takes us all down into the sewer of history. And then they'll go about their lives.

I have ceased to be amazed that rational people are willing to believe what they're told in print and by shining spots on screens before their eyes. I have ceased to be amazed that people can continue to believe a lie after it has been uncovered before their very eyes like an audience who insists there are ghosts even after the magician has showed us the mirror and the smoke machine.

We are getting what the majority wants: a choice between the agonizing death of a thousand cuts, or the life-crushing pain of untreated cancer, all because we'd rather believe the screen than our eyes.

I want to believe a change of political party will cure my country. But it won't. We'll replace one set of corrupt, self-serving ideologues for another.

There is no hope but for people to turn off their computers and televisions and look into their own hearts.

And Rupert Murdock will never allow that to happen.

We are the TV generation. It is our true God. And God is selling our souls into slavery.




The Alaskan Panhandle is known to all as Southeast Alaska and abbreviated to "Southeast" by residents in speech. Southeast is a different country than the interior, which is again a different country from the Aleutian chain, over 1500 miles to the west. Due to spherical geography Alaska spans as many degrees of longitude as the continental 48 states. Due to political edict Alaska comprises a single time zone to the four in the lower 48. Our clocks in Juneau are set to the same time as those in Adik, even though they're 50 degrees of longitude to our west. Imagine New York and Los Angeles having their clocks set identically instead of 3 hours apart.

Almost nobody lives in Alaska. There's not a lot of concern about the sun rising at three in the morning and setting at ten AM in Okmok. It makes things easier for people elsewhere, which is how things are in Alaska: easier for everyone else.

We are into the rainy season in Southeast. Natives are used to the sun disappearing behind the clouds at this time of year. It's not supposed to be sunny in the "ber" months. It adds to the gloom as we lose four minutes of daylight with each 24-hour cycle. It seems we have gone from daylight for all our waking hours to a sunlight rationing system.

The tea-colored muskeg puddles fill faster than they drain. The streets glisten perpetually. The air is dense with fog and raindrops.

"What is your favorite water?" the question goes.

Insects have all drowned.

"What is your favorite animal?"

The bears have all found their sleeping places.

"What's the difference between a brown bear and a grizzly?"

Free. Wild. Nothing. How did you kill your last insect?

Yesterday, the last cruise ship of the season came and left. Now the ship dock will be empty for six months and I will no longer have to give directions to the Greek Orthodox church or the State Assembly chambers to people whose maps are too wet and crumpled to use.

We are once again in self-imposed isolation. Rain pelts us ceaselessly. Ravens practice their ten different calls.

Are you a Republican, or are you a Democrat?

Raven's wings sound like ropes whistling through the wind. When they pass you swear a bullwhip flicked past your ear or the sails were lifted on a distant schooner. They represent a deity to the Southeast natives. One out of many.

Clever Raven created the world. Bald eagle is a vacuous beauty, concerned more with looks than substance.




There was no rain the year I moved to California from New Jersey. We could only wash our cars on alternate Sundays. It was illegal to water the lawn.

Every day the sun sailed across cloudless blue. Every night the high fog clotted and formed a billowing ceiling that reflected our sodium lamps. In the morning it melted to blue clarity.

Free under the blue infinity, Californians will try anything.

People are cautious where the weather changes. In New Jersey, bad luck hides like a wolf in the brush, waiting to pounce upon the brave and the unaware.

"That's how they get you," my father used to say. It was a multi-purpose phrase.

As far as he was concerned there was a reason, a victim, and a guilty party to every misfortune on earth.

His phrase is suitably followed with: "I hate them for that reason."

There was the story of the man who broke down on Route 46, on the bridge that went over another highway, Route 1. It's an old two lane bridge. There's no shoulder, and only an old ivory-colored concrete barrier between the bridge surface and the roadway below. He set out flares and reflectors and parked as far to the right as he could, but eventually someone wasn't going to stop.

A tractor trailer did not stop. There was no place for the motorist to go to avoid the accident. Seconds before the truck collided into his stalled car at highway speed the man leapt from the bridge - and broke both legs in awful spiral fractures when he hit the route 1 fast lane on both feet.

His legs demolished, he had to crawl to the shoulder of the road on his elbows before the light changed and the traffic resumed and crushed him. And he as he started his crawl his broken car was hurled off the bridge by the collision with the truck. It hit behind him at the spot he'd just left while he slithered on his elbows.

What a bad day.

"That's how they get you," Dad said about the truck crash. "They never slow down. Not for any reason. I hate them for that reason."

"Far be it for me to be a ray of sunshine, but maybe the guy was totally lucky. He lived."

"Luck would have been not having a piece of shit car that breaks down on an overpass."

Luck would be having a better paying job and a career that led to a bright future instead of driving a Plymouth Dart with a leaky carburetor float. Luck would be living in a 6-bedroom home with a gated yard and a gardener named Luis who'd be appreciative for big tips come Christmas time. Luck would be owning a fractional Gulfstream IV.

Because we didn't have a jet, we'd be prey to those out to get us. And they were. And we would be got. And we would hate them for it.

"That's how they get you."

"You hate them for that reason."

"Yes. I do. You have anything else to say, smartass?"

"Nope. Not me."




How you answer to water is your subconscious preference for sex.

How you answer to animals is your subconscious preference for friends.

How you answer to killing insects is your subconscious preference for handling difficult situations.

How you answer to Republican or Democrat is your subconscious desire to please your parents.

Does God want us to be cautious, or carefree? Do you live in the sun or the rain?

We ask this way because you can't answer a direct question. Because everything means something, which is something else.


I can't help but think in this endless Southeast rain
of everyone who died who loved me. You have, in purgatory, only the hope you have brought with you. There is no sun I'll see again until I am forgiven my sins by those who no longer have a voice here. The resurrection of the dead. The return of the spirit.

On track, the motel rug
I pace step after step
As if I was anywhere
We could be anywhere
I have been anyone
A businessman killing time
A musician not sleeping midday
Wringing my hands
It's always too early for the show.



My father was a Democrat, but he might have become a Republican had he survived. He would have enjoyed the demonization of strangers and random events. There were times that having someone to hate gave him purpose.

It would never have occurred to him that taking fate from God and handing it to the Devil turned his world into purgatory, and that he could change it by refusing to strike out when his luck turned sour.

The formula is that anger is a release for the frustration we have built wishing we had something we don't have. We are sold on the idea our lives will improve by patronizing the advertisers. Because we measure our happiness in terms relative to those around us, we can only "feel" the changes in our lives. So we must continue to patronize the advertisers. And when we have built up a high enough tolerance for that drug, we turn our efforts against ourselves. Then the politicians give us the chance to free ourselves from self-loathing by channeling our frustration into fear and hatred.

So that they can patronize the advertisers.

That's how they get you.

That's how they make you hate.

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