Monday, September 29

documents

Bret Chilcott has got a bunch of WVF + Winfield City Lake photos up on flickr, some from our camp.

I dig this one. Granted that there must be 57 variations on this photo taken every single year.

Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee has some good stuff. A cut or three above the usual slapdash crappy digital camera thing. (It's not obvious: click on the little walking guy.)

friday, september 26

yeah yeah yeah

dave has got his own idiom
composed of verbal tics and singular wit
operating at probably unsafe speeds
somewhere between bitter and amused, with detours

this is impossible to imitate more than superficially,
and like the dialect of some place where they speak
a different english and everyone you meet is quicker than you,
it takes a kind of shift in the gears between your ears and
your brain

talking to dave is a little like going to a foreign
country

but maybe i only think this, sitting by a lake in kansas,
because all of america is something like a foreign country.

points a & b

i get lazy, you know?
here's an image, here's an idea
if i can get from here to there,
it can't be all that far
but the truth is no one understands me

and i don't mean this in some teenaged kind of
way, in fact i'm pretty sure they understood me
just fine when i was 17
17 ain't half as opaque as it wants to be,
except possibly to itself

no, what i mean is, i say a thing and no one
knows what the hell i am talking about.

tuesday, september 16

reasons not to compose on a typewriter

the sundown comes in horizontally,
under the clouds, tinging everything
in that uncanny end of day light
like it's streaming in under a door
in some stone grey room
or more like through a window
in a wall in the kind of place
we all occasionally think of being
but in an average lifetime
very seldom are

anyway, none of this signals anything
beyond what it signals: i live near
the mountains, the overcast is seldom
complete, it's september

and i'm living the kind of life where
attaching meaning to this or that
incidental facet of experience is always basically
a kind of kidding myself, a little put-on
like getting misty-eyed towards the end
of some TV show you've never cared about
much and won't think about again until
years later you read that some vaguely
likeable small-time actor, best known for
his role as the curmudgeonly old doctor/lawyer/
bartender/cab-driver/janitor/principal/cop
has died at 86 in his hollywood home
he'll be missed
well, by somebody
and he was great in that off-broadway
production of such and such, he had hidden
depths as a performer, you might not have
known it from the commercial work he did
in his later years to make the rent

his life is not the kind of life i am living
it's abundantly clear, immediately obvious, &c.,
that when i kick it (a car wreck in two years,
cancer in fifteen, heart disease in 30,
alzheimer's in 43 — possibilities abound)
there will not be a footnote
to some broadcast — "and finally, on a sadder note,
we turn to the passing of a man you may remember best
as Uncle Ralph on How to Put Up With Suzy.
Brennen Bearnes was 57."

nor, in line with ambitions i suppose i
actually possess, or at least proclivities in the
line of craft, are there going to be notices in
minor literary journals and random scholarly fora,
nor remembrances by younger writers i helped
to prominence when they were struggling, though
i myself never quite seemed to achieve the recognition
that several critics were reasonably sure i was on
the edge of for most of a career consisting of
the kind of work that always seems like, well,
he might break through with the next one —
this is good, but it falls apart in the last few
chapters, and while it's clearly a contribution to
the field, it's a shame the argument requires too
much specialist knowledge for the general audience
who'd benefit most — and anyway, why didn't he
tie up the plot thread with the blonde?

i'm getting my generic markers cross-pollinated
which is probably shorthand for something.

(written earlier in the week)

Wednesday, September 10

There's new Truckstop Honeymoon. Go give them money for it. That is all.

tuesday, september 9

you know when it's the
middle of the night, you
aren't sleeping
and every thing is wrong?

Monday, September 8

On the other hand, I checked out a copy of Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution, and I like it quite a bit better. Particularly stuff like this:

There's a deeper point to be made here, however, having to do with the specificity of everything. One of the great failings of our culture is the nearly universal belief that there can be anything universal. We as a culture take the same approach to living in Phoenix as in Seattle as in Miami, to the detriment of all of these landscapes. We believe that students can be given standard lesson plans and standard tests, to the universally applied, to the detriment of all these students. We turn living wild trees into standardized two-by-fours. We turn living fish into fish sticks. We turn living carrots into carrot sticks. But every carrot is different from every other carrot. Every fish is different from every other fish. Every tree is different from every other tree. Every student is different from every other student. Every place is different from every other place. If we are ever to remember what it is to be human beings, and if we are ever to hope to begin to live sustainably in place (which is the only way to live sustainably), we will have to remember that specificity is everything. It's the only thing we've got. In this moment, I'm not abstractly writing; I'm writing these specific words on this specific piece of paper using this specific pen, lying on this specific bed next to this specific cat. There is nothing apart from the particular. Now, I can certainly generate abstract notions of writing or humanity or cities or nature or the world, but they're not real. What is real is immediate, present, particular, specific. That's true in life. It's true in writing. And writing is as good a place as any to start.

p. 60

It still strikes me that all this "bringing down (industrial) civilization" stuff is, at best, inadequate and problematic. And I'm starting to feel like there are, how do you say, non-trivial methodological concerns about this whole creative non-fiction thing. But I'll probably give Jensen another volume or two to make his case. I certainly got something out of this one.

(posted later & edited some)

Friday, September 5

Derrick Jensen's name has been in the air a bit lately, for one reason or another. Probably this has something to do with the class of education hippie I hang out with. Anyway, I went to the public library the other day and the only thing they had that wasn't checked out (or stolen) was Welcome to the Machine: Science, Surveillance, and the Culture of Control, by Jensen and George Draffan. It was published in 2004, right in the thick of this decade's explosion of the corporate surveillance state, but I think a bit before some of the uglier revelations of its ongoing excesses were getting much public attention.

At any rate, I just read the whole thing (ok, so I started skimming once I hit the footnotes and bibliography). My tentative conclusion is that this is a profoundly stupid book for something like a third of its length, which is kind of unfortunate. If many of its premises weren't stated as overblown, unsupported, derivative, condescending, and moderately juvenile horseshit, it would have some excellent points to make.

It might anyway, but I think most readers with much perspective on science & technology are going to have a hard time getting past the passages that kept making me want to throw the book across the room. Which, despite the amount of James Dobson's prose I've processed at one time or another, is a sensation I've only felt a couple of times in my life.

Selective quotation:

This might be a good time to examine the etymology of the word science. It comes from the Latin scientia, from sciens, which means having knowledge, from the present participle of scire, meaning to know, probably—and here's where it gets exciting—askin to the Sanskrit Chyati, meaning he cuts off, and Latin scindere, to split, cleave. The dictionary tells me there's more at shed (presumably the verb, as in dog hair, not the noun, as in a shack).

So I look up shed, which derives from the Middle English for divide, separate, from Old English scaeden, akin to High German skeiden, to separate, which brings us back to our Latin friend scindere, and from there to the Greek schizein, to split.

We are all familiar of course with the root schizein because of its famous grandchild schizophrenia (literally split mind), which is a psychotic disorder characterized by a loss of contact with the environment, illogical patterns of thinking and acting, delusions and hallucinations, and a noticeable deterioration in the level of functioning in everyday life.

Science, scire, scindere, schizein, schizophrenia. A mind split into pieces.

p. 25

Rhetorical devices I am learning to hate, #2.

... Scientific analysis cannot coexist with love and relationship (vivisection, anyone?). ...

p. 28

What does science do? It calls for everything to be measured. It calls for everything that cannot be measured to be ignored or destroyed, and everything that can be measured to be analyzed (according to the rules of science). It calls for calculations to be made as to how everything that can be measured and analyzed can best be used. It calls for those doing the measurements, calculations, and analyses (and most especially their masters) to rule over everything that can be measured. We are describing the methods and effects of science, not the conscious motivations of every scientist.

p. 73

Generous of you.

High technology is a tool of industrial production. Neither more nor less.

...

A lack of bureaucracy leads to a lack of efficiency.

p. 79

Calling people out on obvious hyperbole is probably not all that productive. But still. Since I have to assume that the authors (living as they do in roughly the same industrial civilization as most of their intended readers) have encountered instances of both actual technology and actual bureaucracy, I also have to assume that they know these statements are horseshit. If I know this, and they know this, and most anyone who thinks about it for a few seconds probably knows this, what exactly is being achieved here?

Wednesday, September 3

Does slapball still exist in the wild?

Here is a rules writeup I posted almost two years ago. Here is an Urban Dictionary entry for slapball.

Is this coincidence or meme transmission?

Tuesday, September 2

indefinite

It's September, which in the weeks before bluegrass is always somewhere on a jittery continuum between nervous energy, desperation, and unreasonable expectations. CarolAnn just moved from our parents house in Nebraska into the other bedroom, and so my self-medication has stuttered more or less to a halt in the light of my own reflected ridiculousness. I started preparing and eating things other than frozen pizza and peanut butter tortillas on a regular basis since I figure I've got some obligation to keep my siblings alive. Soy derivatives have been involved. I'm reading again, but I couldn't begin to tell you whether I'm getting anything out of it. I've been writing all year, and I'm certain nothing has come of that. I'm trying to remember what people do when they're not watching television, getting drunk, tending in one way or another to somebody they sleep with. People who don't have kids, anyway. I know what the parents are up to, more or less. More or less covers a hell of a lot of ground. I'd go mow the lawn and water the garden, but I don't have either one. Maybe I should change my oil and buy some new guitar strings. What's the difference between self-deception and hope? It's hard to put other people on when nobody gives a shit. Everything is happening all at once and nothing is happening at all. Something is going to change or nothing is going to happen. I can't begin to tell you which I want/fear more or even what scale I'm referencing. And meanwhile there's all this talk about a police state. What could anyone possibly mean by that?