Up, Down, Appendices, Afterword.
Two poems by Wallace Stevens side by each: which cannot be dependably formatted with HTML to appear much like they do on the pages of Collected Poems (1954, republished 1981). Not that Stevens indulged in typographic effects to the degree of, say, ee cummings, and not that cummings is of the same calibre either; still, he or someone close to him was careful in the selection of fonts (Electra); I think he cared. But it simply cannot be accomplished on the Internet, too many variables - there it is.
So, get the book, read these poems: The Motive For Metaphor from about 1947; and, Not Ideas About The Thing But The Thing Itself sometime later but before Collected Poems was published - it is the last poem in the book. Stevens was 75 when it came out and died before his next birthday.
I know "It was like a new knowledge of reality," is ... lame, precious. OK?
THE MOTIVE FOR METAPHOR
You like it under the trees in autumn,
Because everything is half dead.
The wind moves like a cripple among the leaves
And repeats words without meaning.
In the same way, you were happy in spring,
With the half colors of quarter-things,
The slightly brighter sky, the melting clouds,
The single bird, the obscure moon—
The obscure moon lighting an obscure world
Of things that would never be quite expressed,
Where you yourself were never quite yourself
And did not want nor have to be,
Desiring the exhilarations of changes:
The motive for metaphor, shrinking from
The weight of primary noon,
The A B C of being,
The ruddy temper, the hammer
Of red and blue, the hard sound—
Steel against intimation—the sharp flash,
The vital, arrogant, fatal, dominant X.
NOT IDEAS ABOUT THE THING
BUT THE THING ITSELF
At the earliest ending of winter,
In March, a scrawny cry from outside
Seemed like a sound in his mind.
He knew that he heard it,
A bird's cry, at daylight or before,
In the early March wind.
The sun was rising at six,
No longer a battered panache above snow . . .
It would have been outside.
It was not from the vast ventriloquism
Of sleep's faded papier-maché . . .
The sun was coming from outside.
That scrawny cry—it was
A chorister whose c preceded the choir.
It was part of the colossal sun,
Surrounded by its choral rings,
Still far away. It was like
A new knowledge of reality.
Same length; two birds & two alphabets; two pauses made with periods and spaces, two 'outside's; that's all. I don't pretend to understand - just a kind of comfort that comes to me with Stevens.
I don't go looking for him; he arrives in odd ways, somehow, when I haven't even realized that I am glad to see him coming.
(Previously: Sunday Morning and Which is real? being the first poem of Stevens' I ever encountered. And since HTML is so undependable, here is an image of something like the idea I was shooting at: two of Stevens' poems.)
From a distance you could see the trails cut on the side of the hill spelling L O L. Dad stopped the car so he could point it out. We were on our way to a big party the year that the deal was cut to go commercial; mid-50's sometime. I was a kid and did not know how to ski very well so I got dumped on the baby hill.
There was a microphone and PA system. A dare-devil was announced and - there he came! Dressed in flowing gauzy green veils, yodeling. Down the steepest parts - airborne off every mogul and then crashing, spectacularly, again and again. Would he get up? How could he carry on? There was so much applause and cheering that he made a second run. And I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to imitate him. No one noticed that I know of.
A few years later we were skiing on another hill, for the weekend; around Huntsville I think. There was a T-bar where the Model A rope-tow had been the year before, and a big competition was going on somewhere nearby.
Overnight it snowed heavily and in the morning the hill was covered with many inches of new powder. It was early - the tow was just starting up; and cold enough that the snow crunched as we stepped. We were all laughing.
Dad set out to demonstrate a telemark turn and came down a steep part of the hill. It was long and slow and graceful, arms held out from his shoulders, one leg trailing far behind the other (in those days you could still adjust your bindings to do such things) - a ballet. But the snow was not as deep as you needed for a telemark and he hit a rock and fell. One of his skis came off and went a little way farther down before it stopped.
Later on, at the lunch counter in the lodge, a man speaking in a heavy accent ordered a peanut butter and pickle sandwich. Everyone laughed (including me); and the server said, archly, "Would you like that toasted?" He thought for a moment and said, "Sure, why not?" Dad said to me, "That guy just won the giant slalom - let them laugh."
(A part of dad's story though he is not mentioned there, from the Toronto Ski Club. They call it Blue Mountain, but there was another name.)
The days are getting longer again. Every year it takes 'til christmas to get over daylight saving time and the first solid returning perception is this: either the days are getting longer or at least they have stopped getting shorter. An indrawn hopeful breath.
Not a Twitter message:
Noam Chomsky answers questions from: John Berger, Chris Hedges, Ken Loach, Paul Laverty, Amira Hass, and Alice Walker (50 minutes). Discovered at the Real News; made back in March - some of his responses may have changed since Occupy.
A-and a quickie: Chomsky's tongue twister (30 seconds).
The two latest reads from Chris Hedges:
Losing Moses on the Freeway 2005, and;
I Don't Believe in Atheists 2008.
Framed (for me) by:
War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning 2002, and;
Death of the Liberal Class 2010.
He might well have called it I Don't Believe in Fundamentalists. A-and I did hear Christopher Hitchens say, just before he died, "There is no absolute knowledge," ... so, not much light shed here either. I think there is more to be learned from who gives a fuck about such questions than from considering their more or less arcane & irrelevant arguments - the good ol' ad hominem judgements of Clockwork Orange, Natural Born Killers and the like. Have you seen our Noam indulge it (such nonsense) anywhere? I haven't.
discover (dis-cover): mentioned here back in May (and surprisingly, for once, it took only a moment to find it). The word conjures up activity at the periphery, at the margins, borders, expansion of frontiers; but also (now that such discovery may be tainted, coloured by association with growth & exploitation) lifting portions of the proximate field like a rug or throw-cloth (or like the sod recently laid at St. James'), shifting the chameleon to peer behind it. Though all of this dis-covery remains quite ... liminal.
shibboleth: not a word one uses everyday, but I did (it just slipped out), and someone took me up on what it means, and I said 'taboo' - so I was concerned as I scrolled down the OED list of meanings, a long entry, and I began to think I had been mistaken ... or not.
1. The Hebrew word used by Jephthah as a test-word by which to distinguish the fleeing Ephraimites (who could not pronounce the sh) from his own men the Gileadites (Judges xii. 4–6).
2. A word or sound which a person is unable to pronounce correctly; a word used as a test for detecting foreigners, or persons from another district, by their pronunciation. A peculiarity of pronunciation or accent indicative of a person's origin.
3. A catchword or formula adopted by a party or sect, by which their adherents or followers may be discerned, or those not their followers may be excluded.
4. (added in 1993) A moral formula held tenaciously and unreflectingly, especially a prohibitive one; a taboo.
And one of the citations is to Faulkner's The Hamlet: "Eating ... things which the weary long record of shibboleth and superstition had taught his upright kind to call filth."
So. A-and just twenty-five years to get there. You say 'growth' and I'll say 'growf'. Is that it?
accouterment (accoutrement?): distractingly related to 'cooter' as soon as you voice it (uh oh) ... found in this NYT article: Economic Downturn Took a Detour at Capitol Hill by Eric Lichtblau on the 26th. And I can't make out if it is an authentic Americanism or a typo.
At the right is a bit of the 'interactive' graphic. There seem to be some arithmetic errors computing percentages in the original, which I can't fathom, but the overall numbers are interesting. Everyone knows what a 'percentile' is eh? I didn't remember it exactly so here, have a look in Wikipedia.
cf. perk / perquisite: both of which have the complete OED imprimatur;
(cf.: abbreviation of Latin confer - bring together, compare, contrast).
All this cooter and liminal dis-covery stuff takes my mind back to an early girlfriend, Irish; she would play games with me (though not the main event, which drove me mad) and used to say uncomforbtle for 'uncomfortable' with a charming childish lisp in an (apparently) unforgettable way.
That Chomsky plays word-games too, though better ones than I no doubt, makes me brazen.
Is there any use in any of this? Beyond a sort of prozac-avoidance mechanism? Beyond busy-work?
(A government funded event took place in São Paulo recently, Pintando o 5 Desafio de artes. A challenge they say (desafio). "Três artistas, música, platéia, muitos improvisos, e tudo muda a cada cinco minutos." / 'Three artists, music, audience, many improvisations, and everything changes every five minutes.' Looks like marking time to me - but who am I to criticize?)
I altered their logo, I prefer to see the five fingers of a hand, painted and ... creating. The abstract '5' might almost be an 'S' - for Superman, Sleveen ... or, or ... Sexo!
(A friend of mine used to refer to a sex act she called 'the whole ten-finger grope' but that's another story.)
And the images that catch my eye these days, the ones I select, are running to what you see here. I figgure some kind of internalization is taking place, waking an anima that haunts my dreams. For a long time I thought it was Abishag - 'faloorum ding doorum' and all - but no, it's subtler than that. And not just one! Though it is no nightmare y'unnerstan' - these are friendly ghosts, allies, stern sometimes but never threatening. There's none of The Hag about 'em, no. More like some of the faces at the end of Coppola's Apocalypse Now maybe. And it's not that 'Golden-Age-in-the-past' guff neither.
In Terra Caetano sings: "... as tais fotografias em que apareces inteira porém lá não estavas nua e sim coberta de nuvens." / 'those photographs in which you appear entirely, yet not naked since you are wearing clouds.' A modest earth.
Pierre Trudeau's 'mere tribalism' (not to mention his 'Where is Biafra?') does not figure into this - it's not that kind of snobbery. But I am not so clever as the real intellectuals and I can't sort things out so nicely. Where do positive tribal qualities fit into anti-globalization struggles f'rinstance? Into sectarianism? How to distinguish Arabs and Israelis living in a single unified Palestine/Israel from, say, the Canadian federation and Québec? Seems to me the provinces would be better off separately or in smaller somewhat-aligned groups, clumps, on their own, without the Feds altogether.
In the end though it comes down to individuals and what they do, doesn't it.
A lawyer friend of mine asked me the other day what to do (about the environmental fiasco, the Cluster FCCC, the lemming sleveens, what you will). I stammered something about suicide - the romantic notion of walking out onto the lake on a cold snowy night with a quart of Macallan's like an elderly Inuk; and Vonnegut's necessary and sufficient argument against such behaviour; and so on. But when a lawyer asks for advice you had better try to say something (or else the doberman joke may lose its savour).
The truth is I have no idea what to do. None. Waiting. Not waiting for a miracle, just, waiting. Learning the details of doing compassion in these dark times (the hard way) and like the man says - practicing resurrection.
Gwynne Dyer with the verdict on Durban: Durban climate-change conference was an almost total failure. It makes me weep.
South African cartoonist Jonathan Zapiro on COP-Out 17.
And previously (famously, infamously) depicting Jacob Zuma with a shower fixture implanted on his head. A shower being Zuma's prophylactic against AIDS as reported following a 2006 incident in which he (allegedly) raped a woman known to be HIV positive.
The women depicted as Justice and Free Speech remind me of Maite Nkoana-Mashabane - but I guess what he has done to her (and she to herself) is only vaguely analogous.
Zuma has sued Zapiro for defamation and the case will come to court in August 2012 (details here).
Guy de Maupassant La Ficelle:
... quand il aperçut par terre un petit bout de ficelle. ...I remember the title as Un bout de ficelle, but everywhere it is called La Ficelle, maybe I am conflating Boule de Suif. (?)
Alors il recommença à conter l'aventure, en allongeant chaque jour son récit, ajoutant chaque fois des raisons nouvelles, des protestations plus énergiques, des serments plus solennels qu'il imaginait, qu'il préparait dans ses heures de solitude, l'esprit uniquement occupé par l'histoire de la ficelle; On le croyait d'autant moins que sa défense était plus compliquée et son argumentation plus subtile.
- Ca, c'est des raisons d'menteux, disait-on derrière son dos.
Il le sentait, se rongeait les sangs, s'épuisait en efforts inutiles. Il dépérissait à vue d'oeil.
Les plaisants maintenant lui faisaient conter "la Ficelle" pour s'amuser, comme on fait conter sa bataille au soldat qui a fait campagne. Son esprit, atteint à fond, s'affaiblissait.
Vers la fin de décembre, il s'alita.
Lewis H. Michaux / National Memorial African Book Store in The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (download):
look son, I'd like to straighten you outEchoes of Joseph Lowery at Obama's inauguration:
black is beautiful but black isn't power
knowledge is power
so you can be black as the crow
you can be white as snow
and if you don't know and ain't got no dough
you can't go and that's for sho'
when black will not be asked to get back / when brown can stick around / when yellah will be mellah / when the red man can get ahead man / and when white will embrace what is rightThis doggerel has a quality of equivocation somehow; over-simplification, inaccuracy, cracks papered over ...
The story of Jean Quan, mayor of Oakland, seems to belong here: see below; if you can get between the lines of the double- & triple-talk NYT rhetoric that is.
Consider the punctuation in "... citing reports that “anarchists” were fomenting violence." Why not put whatver verb she used inside the quote? Not enough 'spin' that way to get 'traction' I guess. At 62 she was born in the trough between the peak and the hump of the post-war baby boom (more on that next time maybe).
Not a tall woman.
Change is everywhere evident; or changes at least. Since Rodney King say - though Oakland ain't quite LA either.
I know! (getting back to Peter Kent as venal poster-boy, and Stephen Harper & Laureen Teskey as Mr. & Mrs. Smug.) We can do it up as a calendar (?) That's it! I can see it now: a set of commemorative plates suitable for hanging on the wall (beside the print of Picasso's Don Quixote, next to the Giacometti-esque maquette of the same standing on the real-wood end-table there, and across from The Little Mermaid miniature Den lille Havfrue on the shelf in the cabinet with the glass doors); John Baird, Tony Clement, Peter MacKay (as The Queen), Peter MacKay's dog as Dulcinea; Rona Ambrose & Lisa Raitt (to represent the distaff side and avoid feminist recriminations).
A product that makes New Year's Eve worth celebrating.
Order now to get the Complete Set!
[Renata & Rob: The fox knows many things, the hedgehog knows one big thing.]
1. Oakland’s Reins Blister a Mayor Raised on Protest, James Dao, December 28 2011.
2. Durban climate-change conference was an almost total failure, Gwynne Dyer, December 14 2011.
Oakland’s Reins Blister a Mayor Raised on Protest, James Dao, December 28 2011.
OAKLAND, Calif. — Days after Jean Quan was elected mayor in the fall of 2010, the Oakland police put a wheel clamp on her silver Prius while it was parked outside City Hall. She cursed her husband for not paying the family’s parking tickets and braced for the embarrassing news articles.
So it began: the rookie year from hell. In May, the city attorney quit, lambasting City Hall as being corrupt. In October, the police chief followed suit, complaining about micromanagement. In November, voters rejected a tax that Ms. Quan had advocated to help fix a budget shortfall. December brought new talk that all three of Oakland’s professional sports teams might leave for fancier digs.
But the problem that has really besieged Ms. Quan, the first woman and first Asian-American to be the city’s mayor, has been the Occupy Oakland movement, which in October turned a grassy plaza in front of City Hall into a muddy staging ground for anticorporate protests.
In a dizzying series of reversals, Ms. Quan initially embraced the protest, then ordered the camp cleared, then allowed the demonstrators to return after the police seriously injured one of them, a Marine veteran. Two weeks later, she ordered the plaza cleared again, citing reports that “anarchists” were fomenting violence.
Now, Frank H. Ogawa Plaza remains empty most days, but Ms. Quan’s mayoralty is teetering. In a city known for its flamboyant and colorful mayors, she has emerged as one of its most controversial. Conservatives accuse her of coddling the protesters, while former allies on the left are incensed that she ordered the plaza cleared at all.
And now two rival groups, one started by a black community activist, the other by a white former mayoral candidate, are vying to have her recalled.
“She should have declared a position and stuck with it,” said Dan Siegel, a longtime friend and adviser who broke with the mayor after the police cleared the plaza the second time but who opposes a recall. “The problem was going back and forth, which wound up making everyone angry with her.”
For Ms. Quan, 62, a longtime civil rights activist and former union organizer whose husband and 29-year-old daughter participated in Occupy protests, the possibility of being undone by youthful demonstrators poses a painful paradox.
To this day, she fondly recalls being “a mouthy little Chinese kid” who chided a dean at the University of California, Berkeley, in the 1960s for threatening to revoke her scholarship because she had posted leaflets calling for a grape boycott on campus. Early in the Occupy campaign, she issued statements saying she endorsed the “pro-99 percent activists.” (Yet when she appeared at a recent panel event with protest organizers, she was loudly heckled.)
In an interview over matzo ball soup, Ms. Quan, who speaks so swiftly that her sentences sometimes tumble into each other, acknowledged sympathies for the protesters. “My background has made it emotionally harder” to order police actions against them, she said. “But I’m the mayor of the city. I have to make decisions based on being the mayor.”
To her critics, Ms. Quan’s ambivalence underscores what they consider her fundamental weakness: she remains, they say, more activist than executive, uncomfortable using police power to maintain order. And in Oakland — which had 90 homicides last year, three times as many as San Diego, despite being one-third the size — public safety is issue No. 1 for many voters.
“Her handling of Occupy was a classic example of her inability to lead,” said Charles Pine, a retiree who is helping to organize one of the recall drives. Or as a former city official put it: “She views herself as part of the group who are giving hell to the man. The problem is she is the man.”
Ms. Quan has had a particularly tense relationship with the police union, which endorsed her main rival for mayor and last month issued a letter calling her handling of the protests “confusing.”
The friction stems partly from her complaint that pay and pensions for the police consume half the city’s general fund budget, leaving little for social programs, parks and public works. Last year, as a city councilwoman, she supported the layoffs of about 100 officers and recruits, though she has hired back more than 50 since becoming mayor.
“I think a lot of police officers feel she doesn’t like them,” said Dominique Arotzarena, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association, which represents about 650 officers.
Critics have also attacked Ms. Quan’s crime-fighting strategy, which emphasizes focusing services as well as police patrols on 100 blocks that account for 90 percent of the city’s most violent crimes. “They think I’m too soft on crime because I want to do the intervention and prevention,” she said. “I just think I’m being smart.”
As for talk that she is indecisive, she bristles. “I do stuff based on data, not on rhetoric,” she said.
Ms. Quan grew up in Livermore, where her father, who died when she was 5, ran a restaurant. Though her family had been in California since the 19th century, she was the first member born in America, because anti-Chinese immigration laws had prevented her grandfathers from bringing their wives to the country.
At Berkeley, she and her future husband, Floyd Huen, helped organize a famous 1969 student strike demanding ethnic studies, then wrote the curriculum for an Asian-American course. The couple spent several years in Manhattan while Mr. Huen attended Yeshiva University’s medical school, then moved to Oakland, where Ms. Quan organized immigrant workers for the Service Employees International Union.
Her political career began almost accidentally in 1989 when, after mobilizing parents to fight the elimination of a school music program, she decided to run for the school board, winning in a Republican stronghold. “It was just sort of a continuation of my activism,” she said.
A 12-year stint on the board was followed by eight years on the City Council. Then came her stunning victory in last year’s 10-candidate mayoral race.
Under the city’s new voting system, which requires voters to rank their preferences, she was the first choice on less than a quarter of the ballots. But when second and third preferences were tallied, she emerged the winner of the four-year term, defeating the favorite, former State Senator Don Perata, by less than two percentage points.
Leonard Raphael, the treasurer of one of the recall committees, said Ms. Quan’s lack of a clear mandate might make her vulnerable. “I’m hoping that wrapping yourself in the mantle of progressivism isn’t good enough anymore if you are incompetent,” he said.
But it is far from clear that the recall groups have the resources to gather the nearly 20,000 signatures needed to put a recall on the ballot next year. They have also failed to coalesce around an alternative candidate — and if the recall question makes the ballot, a mayoral election will be held simultaneously. Mr. Perata has said he will not run.
At the same time, organized labor seems to be lining up behind the mayor, and her friends are beginning to mobilize.
“She is a fierce fighter and very well organized,” said Dick Spees, a former Republican city councilman who is friends with Ms. Quan. “And she will fight it to the end.”
Durban climate-change conference was an almost total failure, Gwynne Dyer, December 14 2011.
The Durban climate summit that ended on Sunday (December 11) has been proclaimed a great success. The chair, South Africa’s international relations minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, told the delegates: “We have concluded this meeting with [a plan] to save one planet for the future of our children and our grandchildren to come. We have made history.” Don’t be fooled. It was an almost total failure.
This time, the rapidly developing country that put up the greatest resistance to a binding global deal was India. (In 2009 and 2010, it was China.) The chief Indian delegate, Jayanthi Natarajan, held out against any legally enforceable treaty through three long days of nonstop, overtime negotiations. In the end, she agreed that an eventual deal would have “legal force”—but it would not be “legally binding”.
Lawyers get rich arguing over the difference between phrases like these, but that is for the future. The question now is: given what the Indian government already knows, how could it possibly have taken that position?
Three years ago, while I was interviewing the director of a think tank in New Delhi, she suddenly dropped a bomb into the conversation. Her institute had been asked by the World Bank to figure out how much food production India would lose when the average global temperature was two degrees Celsius higher, she said—and the answer was 25 percent.
This study, like similar ones that the bank commissioned in other major countries, has never been published, presumably because the governments of those countries put huge pressure on the bank to keep the numbers secret. But the Indian government undoubtedly knows the truth.
A 25 percent loss of food production would be an almost measureless calamity for India. It now produces just enough food to feed its 1.1 billion people. If the population rises by the forecast quarter-billion in the next 20 years, and meanwhile its food production falls by 25 percent due to global warming, half a billion Indians will starve.
India will not be able to buy its way out of the crisis by importing food, because many other countries will be experiencing similar falls in production at the same time, and the price of the limited amount of grain still reaching the international market will be prohibitive. So India should be moving heaven and earth to stop the average global temperature from reaching +2 degrees. But it isn’t.
Like almost every other country, India has signed a declaration that the warming must never exceed two degrees, but in practice the government acts as though it had all the time in the world. Maybe it just can’t visualize a future in which those numbers become the reality. Or maybe it is just too attached to the principle that the “old rich” countries must pay for the damage they have done.
That’s a perfectly reasonable argument in terms of historical justice, for the old rich countries emitted around 80 percent of the greenhouse gases of human origin that are now in the atmosphere. But if only those countries act promptly, then the average global temperature soars through +2 degrees and Indians start to starve.
Most developed countries do not face similar losses in food production at +2 degrees, for they are further away from the equator. Their position is merely selfish and short-sighted; India’s is suicidal.
Over the past 15 years of climate negotiations there has been a steady decline in the seriousness of the response. The Kyoto Protocol in 1997 committed the developed countries to stabilize their emissions and then cut them by an average of six percent by 2012. Developing countries were exempt from any controls, because they were not then emitting very much. And deeper emission cuts would come in a second phase of Kyoto, beginning in 2012.
Based on what we knew then, it was a cautious but rational response. In the meantime, however, developing country emissions have grown so fast that China now produces much more greenhouse gas than the United States. Global emissions are not in decline, as they should be. Last year, they grew by six percent.
So what was the response at Durban? The 1997 Kyoto targets for the developed countries will be maintained for another five years (with no further cuts), and developing countries will still not accept any legal restraints on their emissions. Then everyone will sign a more ambitious deal (still to be negotiated) by 2015—and the new targets, whatever they are, will acquire “legal force”, whatever that means, by 2020.
By that time, annual global emissions will probably be at least twice what they were when the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997—and the +2 degree barrier will probably be visible only in the rear-view mirror. The outcome at Durban could have been even worse—a complete abandonment of the concept of legal obligations to restrict emissions—but it was very, very bad.