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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I've Got A Feeling



I was born in 1968. My fascination with the period from 1960 to 1979 is based on a desire to understand the conditions into which I was born. Naturally I am drawn to cyclical theories of history like those of Vico, Kondratiev, and Immanuel Wallerstein. But art is more compelling than history, and some of it comes toward the future in its slippers and bathrobe, unwashed and glistening with the sweat of a feverish, sleepless night. You can smell its scalp, you can hear it breathing, but like the ghost of Odysseus' mother Antikleia, it can't be embraced. That's the strange part: that I can feel these things so deeply without having been on the scene -- in the case of 11-22-63, I hadn't even been conceived -- and that the remains of the day are so rich with impressions yet so utterly gone.

This is a clip from the last performance the Beatles ever did, a surprise concert on a rooftop in the middle of the working day in London. January 30th, 1969. Almost exactly 40 years ago.

There was apparently a sense of things being swollen with impending disaster.

In his brilliant movie about Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens says that most of the US war dead were killed after Nixon was sworn in -- which was, of course, ten days before this concert. However, the only graphic I could find in my bleary spell of post-allnighter research was this one. I'm not sure whether to trust these numbers or not. But it's indisputable, as far as I can see, that Nixon plunged the country into larger troop commitments in Vietnam; secretly bombed Cambodia; allowed CIA to ramp up its heroin traffic to enormous levels; hatched Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld from Satan's ass; conducted broad illegal surveillance of journalists and political opponents; filled the Oval Office with racial slurs and Jew-hating; defaulted on American debt by debasing the dollar, taking it off the gold standard and wrecking the Bretton Woods agreement; and so on. And within a year or two, US domestic oil production (in the Lower 48) peaked and went into permanent decline. Doctor King and Robert Kennedy were dead, murdered by CIA-linked goons who would never pay for the immeasurable violence and loss their crimes inflicted on the country and on Indochina. And the Beatles were about to break up. This great concert was, come to think of it, a bit like what they call "breakup sex."

If you've done the reading, you're probably persuaded as I am that John Lennon, who had eleven years left to live, was done away with by the same people who had done the devil's work in Dallas and Memphis and L.A. Mark Chapman was a deeply disturbed MK-ULTRA patsy with an artificial "legend" papertrail of bullshit about Holden Caulfied and a right-wing Cuban Exile controller who was on the scene in the same role Eugene Thane Caesar was playing when he murdered Robert Kennedy: "Security Guard."


As my friend Marianne said after 9/11, "Everything seems very fragile right now..."

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Word Each Sort of Person Hates Most

These are words used in ignorance by people who are not familiar with the world of the person to whom they're speaking. The person on the left is the representative of a vocation; the utterance on the right is a common remark made by well-intentioned people to such a person, having no idea how their word or phrase (in capital letters) rankles and infuriates.

Opera Singer: I usually don't listen to opera because it's so SHRILL, but you were good.

Chef: I found your food delicious; it was RICH.

Professor: Are you the TEACHER?

Saleperson: Ok, I'll listen for a minute. What's your PITCH?

Painter: Great show! I love your ILLUSTRATIONS.

Historian: Your evidence is surprisingly solid; still, I don't believe in CONSPIRACY.

Atheist: I respect the fact that you don't BELIEVE in God.

Jew: Jesus' messiahship is prophesied in the OLD TESTAMENT.

African American progressive: It's too bad there's so much BLACK ON BLACK crime.

Global Warming activist: I, too, am concerned about CLIMATE CHANGE.

Adjunct Professor: Here's a perk: there's a separate bathroom for PART TIME faculty.

Faculty: EMPLOYEE parking is in Lot 7.

Physicist: Everything is made of VIBRATIONS, and because of quantum theory, there's this LAW of ATTRACTION, and if you wish hard enough you can materialize a Kawasaki Jet-Ski.

Suggest your own...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Familiar Optical Illusions Reborn


This is one of the myriad 1-page comics I've drawn since 2002... it's tiny here but if you click on it, it should reload as a biggie. Here below are the highly common "optical illusions" to which the comic alludes.

I should add that panel # 2 (the upper right hand corner) has no illusion to it, just a weird drawing of a dude/pair of dudes, and a version of panel one that's far, far in the background, picking up on the amBIGuity in panel #1 since the apple-and-lady appear much smaller in the second panel

The Dialectic of the Reformation, in A Nutshell

Why would anyone have any difficulty in choosing between God and the Devil, if he really believed that such a devil existed? After all, the consequence of joining the Devil’s party is (by definition) eternal damnation - torture without end, hopeless of any respite or redemption. Once this premise is accepted, even a thoroughly amoral person, lacking gratitude to God and motivated by the purest self-interest, would be mad to choose such a course, since any temporary benefit it might yield must surely be utterly dwarfed by an eternity of pain. Imagine such a cynic defeating the theological safety features (if you will) of the Church, and achieving salvation by dint of mere forbearance from sin.

At first, a Lutheran emphasis upon salvation by faith alone might seem to solve this problem, since mere behavioral prudence, without gratitude to God, only a desire to avoid Hell, agnostically hedging one’s bets as in Pascal’s famous wager – would not be enough to avoid damnation. Without robust doctrinal belief, such a person would be damned under the Protestant dispensation. As Luther wrote in On Christian Liberty in 1520: “As the man is, whether believer or unbeliever, so also is his work — good if it was done in faith, wicked if it was done in unbelief.” (p.70). But this raises twin difficulties, each of which is often cited in Catholic apologetics.

First, Luther’s premise entails that a life of good works – be they motivated by obedience to authority (whether that of Mother Church or that of “Scripture alone”), decency of impulse (Blake wrote, “Jesus had no principles but was all virtue and acted entirely on impulse”), or fear of damnation – results in eternal torture if the doer of those myriad good deeds should fail to achieve the cognitive state of full conviction that the Christian doctrine is actually and literally true. Conversely, if Luther is to be taken at his word, a serial murderer like Macbeth (or an unrepentant, merely regretful Satanist like Doctor Faustus) could be saved by merely believing that God is real, without ever loving (or even submitting to) Him. A madman, for that matter, could slaughter hundreds of innocent people in the full but false conviction that Jesus Christ (the God this same madman happens to worship with passion and gratitude) had commanded him to do so (unfortunately, not a rare occurrence). So long as that madman also believed whatever core elements of Christian doctrine Luther regarded as decisive for salvation, he would enter into Heaven at his death.

Without impugning the judgment of such a God, nor even doubting the sublime-yet-creepy genius of Martin Luther, surely an observer can be excused for regarding such a doctrine as rather strange.

To be fair, Luther goes on to disambiguate his thesis until “faith” comes to include not only belief, but also several other inward relations to God, among them submission, love, gratitude, and so on. But if such an expanded definition of “faith” had in fact solved the problem, then John Calvin could not have redirected the course of the Reformation with his own radical and costly solution to precisely this Lutheran problem. And this leads us to the second of our two difficulties.

Sharing Luther’s notion that good conduct alone is not enough to win salvation, Calvin went on to notice the fact that no mere mortal can simply decide to be fully convinced that a given proposition is true, any more than he or she can decide to love Someone whom he merely fears (for example, Big Brother in George Orwell’s novel 1984), no matter how he might yearn (on whatever grounds) for such conviction. So Calvin declared that the human will is entirely useless in the matter of Heaven and Hell: for him, neither bodily action nor spiritual passion nor mental conviction can affect the postmortem fate of the soul in any way whatsoever. The saved and the damned are so because of God’s will, which predestined those outcomes before history began, for divine reasons that Calvin regarded as totally (and rightly, and permanently) mysterious. The best a person can do in such a predicament is to try and avoid despair, not because success in doing so might earn salvation through faith – it can’t – but merely to cope with the fear of damnation, the anxiety of never knowing one’s eternal fate, let alone knowing any grounds for it, and the terror of such a God’s absolute and apparently arbitrary power. Max Weber’s great work The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism remains an incisive critique of the eventual results of this Calvinist turn.

Return to Luther’s doctrine for a moment, reading from another passage occurring somewhat earlier in the same essay, On Christian Liberty (a marvel of Protestant argumentation which he wrote in Latin for the benefit of His Holiness Pope Leo X, and then translated into German for popular study). Note that throughout his works, when Luther uses the term that translates to English “justification,” he is referring to Salvation, that is, admission into Heaven and freedom from Hell.

…since faith alone justifies, it is clear that the inner man cannot be justified, freed, or saved by any outer work or action at all, and that these works, whatever their character, have nothing to do with this inner man. On the other hand, only ungodliness and unbelief of heart, and no outer work, make him guilty and a damnable servant of sin. (56)

One can indeed acquire conviction through various means – by osmosis, having grown up amid a community whose commonly held web of interlocking assumptions is itself the unexamined content of one’s consciousness; or through an individual intuition; or through the workings of the intellect, assessing the relative merits and limitations of competing claims to truth; or by the grace of God – it is simply not within the power of the human mind to choose those propositions of which it is convinced. No matter your prudence, passion, or piety, you cannot obey a command to believe any proposition to which your intellect does not actually assent – you might yearn to believe, but that is not belief itself. Religious traditions which emphasize right action in the external world (where other people live, often with unmet needs) – such as Judaism and Catholicism – are not captive to this particular dilemma, since they invite their adherents to walk the alternative road to God’s favor, that of right conduct itself. For Jews, there are mitzvot (commandments) to be fulfilled, some of which are done directly for God, others for one’s fellow human beings; similarly, for Catholics, there are sacraments to be done as well as righteous deeds to be performed. Although Islam, like the Protestant traditions, also requires certain ritual observances and robustly fosters right action, devotees of texts like Calvin’s Institutes, the Sermons of Jonathan Edwards and other Puritan clergy, and indeed the Holy Koran are often utterly terrified by the vehement threats of Hellfire they find there, especially because any intellectual doubt they experience entails shame before God, anger against oneself, and horror of the eventual eternal consequences. To be sure, religious thinkers of these traditions can and do provide strong solutions to the dilemmas I have articulated; what I am claiming is simply that this is the problem before them, not that they can or cannot resolve it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

No Polar Ice-Cap? Northwest Passage! Woo-Hoo!

This is a little comment I wrote about an article by Wayne Madsen. I was at that time Senior Staff Writer for Mike Ruppert's website, www.fromthewilderness.com. Had a blast writing there.

Here's the link to the original publication of my remarks and Wayne's essay:
http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/111104_arctic_meltdown.shtml

We were responding to a cheery article in the business press about how there would soon be an ice-free passage for ships traveling directly from Europe to Asia through the Americas -- a fabled "silk road" of the oceans, which the mariners of the 15th, 16th, and 17th Centuries yearned for and died trying to locate.
[November 11, 2004: Petroleum elites are benefiting from oil scarcity, because it raises prices. But they also fear oil scarcity, because it raises costs and eventually makes business impossible. And since the oil industry is also impeding the large-scale development of alternatives while continuing to encourage rampant consumption, scarcity of fossil fuels may eventually kill them. They don't seem to mind. Maybe the pursuit of world-destroying policies is some kind of compensation for their own mortality --- you know, if I can't live forever, I think I'll take the rest of you down with me. Such a policy is neither government nor business; it's the melodrama of a big dysfunctional family whose patriarchs are finally going crazy - just when their power is at its height.
Here's another metaphor: the Petro-Administration of Cheney-Rice-Bush is like a psychotic who tries to play chess: indifferent to the rules, he simply steals the opponent's king off the board, claims victory, and burns the whole chess-set in the fireplace.
In the following shocker by Wayne Madsen, we learn that there are people high up in Washington who regard the apocalyptic melting of the polar ice caps as a good thing. Why? It will clear new shipping lanes for the exploitation of Arctic oil and gas.
About six years ago I published an essay in the Massachusetts Review called "Scarcity and Compensation in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick." I learned that the American whaling industry did not end because petroleum replaced whale oil; whaling stopped because the animals had been "harvested" almost to extinction, and the only place left to catch them was in the perilous ice floes of the Arctic Ocean. In 1873 thirty-three out of forty whaling ships cruising in the Arctic were destroyed by ice. 1
Today the American oil industry finds itself back up in the Arctic, chasing petroleum (not whale blubber). But this time, pollutants from its own product have warmed the globe, and instead of destroying our ships, the ice is just melting out of the way! What a wonderful way to settle an old score. - JAH]

1. See Jamey Hecht, "Scarcity and Compensation in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick," The Massachusetts Review, Vol. XXXX No. 1. Spring 1999:
From 1805 to 1875, the per capita demand for whale oil was increasing at an average of 15.76% per year [Michael Maran, The Decline of the American Whaling Industry, Doctoral Dissertation in Economic History, University Microfilms, (Ann Arbor, 1974), p.40]. "Whale products were displaced by mineral oils and gas as illuminants between 1850 and 1860," writes Michael Maran, in his econometric analysis of the whaling industry's decline:
"However, this did not mean that the total demand for whale products decreased... It was the scarcity of whales that shifted the industry's relatively inelastic supply schedule toward the left... The industry's demand schedule shifted to the right as the market for whale products grew, but not by enough to offset the loss of revenues caused by the shift of the supply schedule to the left. "[my emphasis].
The whaling industry was destroyed not by competition from alternative products like petroleum and kerosene (which were developed in quantity only as whale products became increasingly unavailable) but by the inability of the whale populations to recover from relentless hunting. In 1852 (one year after the quite obscure publication of Moby-Dick), Scientific American reported at the conclusion of a market analysis that "the exports of the present year do not come up to half the demand." In 1856 Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper warned: "The whale, upon which we depend for oil, is rapidly being driven...into inaccessible seas, and will before many years...entirely disappear." As Maran writes, "Each phase of whaling marked the exhaustion of one stock of whales and the exploitation of a new stock," beginning with the off-shore whaling of the colonial period, which sufficed until the 1760's, when deep sea whaling was begun of necessity.
Meanwhile: "On November 28, 2008, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the Canadian Coast Guard confirmed the first commercial ship sailed through the Northwest Passage."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Tale of New Hope for (some) Polar Bears...and Tough Shit for (some) Penguins


Antarctic Polar Bear Relocation
Seattle, WA. March 31, 2008 -- The Polar Bear Conservancy will begin relocation of the first Arctic polar bears to Antarctica on Earth Day, April 22, 2008. The relocation will be the initial step in a planned five-year program to migrate 3,000 polar bears from the Northern Arctic to the southern continent of Antarctica.
Scientists say polar bears face near-certain extinction by 2020 as global climate change accelerates melting of their habitat in the Northern Arctic. Antarctica, in contrast, can be a viable home for the bears. Though experiencing melting of its own, the southernmost continent still has sufficient ice coverage to support the polar bear indefinitely in its traditional climate, and it has abundant food stocks, including penguins, seals, dolphins, and migratory whales.
"The public sees images of polar bears drowning on television and they expect us to do something about it," says Polar Bear Conservancy Executive Director Jason Fairbanks. "The time to act is now." Fairbanks says the entire program will be complete by 2012.
The program is expected to cost $30 million U.S., or approximately $10,000 U.S. per polar bear. The Polar Bear Conservancy has raised the first $15 million from corporate donors and is seeking additional funding through industry and government partnerships.
While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not yet ruled on whether to list polar bears as endangered species, the agency has indicated that relocating polar bears would be much less expensive than listing them under the 1973 act.
"This innovative private program will save taxpayers dollars billions of dollars that would otherwise be wasted on unnecessary habitat protection and economically ruinous strategies designed to combat so-called climate change," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. [Huh? The same Grover Norquist who said he wanted to shrink government to the size where he could "drown it in a bathtub"? How many guys could there be named Grover Norquist? Why on Earth does this corporate Rightist suddenly care enough about polar bears to approve of spending a dime on their rescue from oblivion? Because it seems his opponents might otherwise actually succeed in getting the PB's listen as Endangered Species, and that would trigger spending of "billions of dollars... wasted on unnecessary habitat protection and economically ruinous strategies designed to combat so-called climate change." I believe a better word choice than "unnecessary" would be "tragically futile." The idea that climate change is a merely rhetorical phenomenon---"so-called"---is a fantasy for people whose enjoyment of wealth may be compromised by submersion under 16 meters of melted sea ice.]
Americans for Energy Exploration, a trade group that represents the oil and gas industry, says that the removal of polar bears from the northern Arctic would speed the drilling process in the region and make the area safer for workers who frequently come into conflict with polar bears today. [Oh, so thaaaat's it...]
Republican presidential nominee John McCain also supports the effort: "This is exactly the kind of creative public-private partnership we ought to be exploring. I support the basic concepts of this program." [It sure would have poured a lot of money into Sarah Palin's gaping Alaskan pie-hole...]
The first batch [What are they, pancakes?] of polar bears will be released on the edge of the Ross Sea near emperor penguin colonies trapped by recent the movement of giant icebergs C16 and B15A. "These penguins would starve to death anyway,"[That makes sense, nature being what it is... still, it feels shocking, since a tiny group of the already tiny remaining population of polar bears are suddenly (thank God!) exempt from the brutal dominionism that makes us indifferent to the entire biosphere and everybody in it who isn't bipedal, whereas -- screw these penguins.] said Polar Bear Conservancy staff biologist Jon Heidenberg. "Now they can provide an initial source of food for the polar bears while they [that is, the bears] acclimate to their new environment." [When the polar bears get there, the starving emperor penguin families are going to be like, as if things didn't already suck enough... it looks like there's suddenly a new kind of enormous snow-colored monster nobody's ever seen before, and they do not seem to be carrying any fish with them....]
Antarctica offers more than 5.4 million square miles of glacial habitat and a variety of food sources for the polar bear: emperor, adelie, rockhopper, chinstrap and gentoo penguins; leopard, fur, weddell and elephant seals; and humpback, minke, blue and orca whales.
In partnership with the Polar Bear Conservancy, Iceland's Reykjavik Zoo has been test-feeding samples of various Antarctic species to their polar bears. "They really like the minke and blue whale meat supplied by our government research expeditions," said chief zoo biologist Katrin Jonsdottir. [Oh, great -- feed the blue whale meat to the polar bears. Let's encourage all the endangered species to eat each other... ]
Because of the distance between release points and Antarctic research stations, scientists working in the Antarctic region do not expect roaming polar bears to interfere with their work.
Citizens and corporate representatives interested in supporting our campaign can visit our Web site at http://www.polarbearconservancy.org or our Facebook group.
For additional information about the Polar Bear Relocation Program, contact Lisa Stahl, our Director of Media Relations.
About The Polar Bear Conservancy
Founded in 2006, the Polar Bear Conservancy is dedicated to protecting the polar regions' most magnificent mammal.
Contact:
Lisa Stahl, Director of Media Relations
The Polar Bear Conservancy
206-784-0309

Monday, January 19, 2009

My Dad Looks Exactly Like This Picture of Galileo


He doesn't see it, which I also find incredible. The trouble is that this particular photo of my Dad does not do the resemblance justice. It's actually pretty uncanny. The forehead, the nose, the cheeks, the beard, the eyes, especially the flesh around the eyes and especially the expression of the eyes, the eye to the the right side of the portrait even more than the other eye; that there is my Dad. Somewhere along the line he must have taken a bus to the 1630's, gotten his portrait painted, and hurried back home before breakfast, without anybody catching on. Well, the jig is up. Or at least, you look a lot like Galileo, Dad.

Me and My LIMOUSINE, MIDNIGHT BLUE in a new music video from NANDI Johannes

This guy is a dear heart and a brilliant musician -- best lead guitarist I've ever heard; one of those people who can play every instrument he picks up, violin, trumpet, and so on. Beautiful voice as well. Here he's doing a little soft-spoken tune strumming an acoustic. Mention of my shizz occurs at 1:40 in this video:



He did the music on this other piece we threw together in one take circa 2001:

Nandi Ram Johannes is an American original.

Friday, January 16, 2009

"Am I An Atheist?" or, "Despite this lack of a non-imaginary God"

I have craved mystical experience all my life and never really had one, though my general existence has been blessed with a million moments of beauty, a few of sublimity, and a very few of striking concidence. I had the sublime and beautiful moments in various forms of course; as experiences of  love; as a response to poetry or music, and so on. Little I have experienced ever bespoke the transcendent reality of a God out beyond my desire for such a God, or beyond some uses I might want (or yearn) to make of a God. Despite this lack of a non-imaginary God, I do feel as though I have several times made it to the border between the aesthetic and the religious (those two definitely share a border, despite Kierkegaard's insistence that the ethical separates them), because something -- a special orgasm, a special performance, a special song, or something else -- quietly but insistently implied that the beauty at hand was pointing toward something profoundly supernatural that lay beyond it: but that is different from "seeing" (Plato's phrase for it in Symposium is "catching sight of") the Divine. My closest thing has been the experience of poetic inspiration, and when I teach about the Muse, I tell people "the unconscious is the Goddess; the Goddess is the unconscious." Fine, but my unconscious did not make the world, whereas God is supposed to have done so.

I said the Shema and the Viyahavtah this morning not knowing where it lands. I am not one of the people who "knows" there is a God. I almost know that there is not a God, though I also reckon that somehow there almost must be One. As Allen Grossman once said, "Jamey, you are really dim about some things." My sister Jennifer is a famous atheist author. She has decided. I can't decide. In 2007 I interviewed at a Rabbi's office at the University of Judaism because I was considering Rabbinical school -- in the same month that an atheist poem of mine ("The Round Square") was published in Free Inquiry, the magazine of the Council for Secular Humanism. I love the dance of the intellect in its efforts to come to grips with the spirit, but I also know how irrelevant all of that is to the heart of the matter. Nothing convinces but experience, and that's the part I never get. If I am davening in schul with my wife, I feel my love for my wife, for the Jews, for the world, for the old Hebrew bruchot, and my terror of misfortune and tragedy, but if I start looking for Somebody to be praying to, I just see a mirror over my head on which my ego has already written in lipstick, "Now, now, don't get silly... you will die one day, and it's an adult's work to accept that. There is no God. Any desire for a God is reducible to fear of annihilation."

There is a live album by the MC5 called Kick Out the Jams. On it, there are performances of "I Want You Right Now," "Rama Lama," and "Kick Out the Jams," that I find weirdly compelling. Especially because the subject matter is so trivial, while the ethos is so powerful and oddly lofty amid all the base hedonism. Just about every live version of Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" and "Hear My Train A-Comin" are of this stripe for me, and I confess that when I was at Brandeis I used to feel that way about Led Zeppelin (particularly the very ending of "Whole Lotta Love" in the Song Remains the Same movie) which I had discovered strangely late in life at 21, having been obsessed with the Rolling Stones until then. And the wordless female vocal in Pink Floy'd "Great Gig In the Sky," and the wordless female vocal in John Cale's "Captain Hook," and the Catherine Naglestad performance of "Ah, Mio Cor" in the Staatsorchester Stuttgart production of Handel's Alcina, and so on. Rock and Roll meant the world to people for a long time despite the fact that it rarely mentions much of interest. That constitutes a signpost that there is something important going on in there. The Kaddish is a bunch of adjectives, but it glows in the dark like Shakespeare's best.

The atheist books are convincing to me, but incomplete; the theist books are not convincing. What they provide is paradoxes which liberate me from one box only to trap me in a larger and more comfortable one: "People say that God is the greatest of beings, but I say that God is as far above Being and Nothingness as the sun is above a fly." -- Meister Eckhardt. To me, this is Holy because it does not make sense. To me, it is useless nonsense for the exact same reason.

--------------------------------------------------------------
Two POEMS on this subject:


Mantra

I have taken away the mist from your eyes, Diomedes,
Which until now was there, that you may well know
the God from the mortal.  But I still don’t.  Gods
maul and haunt and cauterize; this one they guide
and that one they whisper to, deceptively; another
they fill with secrets – math beyond the rest of us,
Cassandra’s paranoia in the truth, chess or epilepsy.
At twelve I used two mirrors, looking at my back
For a single mark of supernatural favor, good or bad.
Now glass bowls burn cool in the autumn window.
The cat sips at the soymilk in the chipped grey plate.
I hold the cloth toy bird with the long beak.  I rest
its flannel belly in my hand.  I listen for Athena.
The pipes sing but I have an explanation for that, too.



The Round Square


Why is there a world at all?  Guy stands up and says,
God made the world, and as for who made God, well,
That’s just a mystery beyond us.  Woman says,
A round square is not a mystery beyond us,
It’s neither real nor imaginary, it’s not a concept,
Not an object, neither nothing nor an Entity.
He says, that’s what I’m saying, it’s incomprehensible.
No, she says, there’s nothing there to comprehend.
He says, of course there is, and we both know it.
She says, you’re bobbing for apples of relief, love
And immortality and along comes a word. The word
Is a noun and pretty soon you’re making it the subject
Of a world of verbs, and then the miracles begin. She says,
God is logic’s corpse, a wound in reason, grammar’s empty skin.




Thursday, January 15, 2009

Richard Nixon At Bosworth Field

This poem of mine originally appeared in the first issue of CRITIPHORIA...




















Richard Nixon at Bosworth Field

My kingdom for a horse, a Pegasus to carry me across
The waves from California to Hanoi, higher than my helicopters,
That from her bare back I might cast down through the clouds
My soul-destroying barbéd iron spear into the enemy’s brain.

My kingdom for a slice of pumpkin pie on china in her kitchen,
My mother, whose bliss outshines the sphere of Saturn as,
High above Beatrice, she passes her immortal days beside the Virgin
On her throne, in robes of gingham, holding in one hand a silver scepter,
In the other, a wicker picnic basket filled with thin ham sandwiches.

My kingdom for one of those loudspeaker cars, rigged with bullhorns,
That I might drive it through Chicago, Dallas and D.C., its fat Bakelite
Microphone an apple in my trembling hand, the coiled cord pulled taut.
I’d speak again the words I spoke a million years ago into the live machine,
The words whose ghost became the 18 Minute Gap, that spouting hiss
Of Moby-Dick, that Siren’s aria, eternal music of the spheres,
Hidden like starlight at noon, or like the skeletons my namesake made
Of those two princelings born between my Lord of Gloucester and the Crown,
Who bled to death beneath their uncle’s knife, until he dragged their bodies
To the closet underneath the stairs below the Tower’s Chapel
Undiscovered for three hundred years and then sequestered in an urn.

My kingdom for a pint of blood, to render audible the voice my death made mute,
A pint of blood to feed my homeless shade that loiters in lobby
Of the Jefferson Memorial, the Mall, the hot coals of the pretzel cart in January,
Whose smoke stings gently in the carriage horses’ blinkered eyes.
My ghost looks out from inside giant Lincoln’s giant face of Colorado marble:
I can see for miles, the frozen grass, plastic bags entangled in a million trees,
McDonald’s orphaned Styrofoam adrift across the Lower 48, dioxin, DDT,
Mount Arlington’s white crosses “finite but unbounded” like the universe, fog.
If only I could speak, then I would tell you all what words I let escape
The threshold of my face into the tape, that day the Devil came to Washington
And took possession of my tongue. You would be grateful I erased it all:
How my handlers in the CIA, my
Mafiosi, my Exilios, broke into that hotel
To steal some evidence that ten years earlier they did it: Killed the President,
Injected me and Lyndon with the cold, black bile of God.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I Recommend This Insightful New Article from Peter Dale Scott


The part of Peter's new piece that was new to me was the lengthy quotation from NY Governor Eliot Spitzer's astonishingly courageous Washington Post article about the Bush administration's active role in the financial crisis, and the fact that the Feds raided the Governor's hotel room the very night the article was posted.

Just as with Bill Clinton and Gary Hart, we are somehow forced to concern ourselves with the bodies of our statesmen, not the urgent voices of their rational minds. John F. Kennedy was a sex addict (BTW, I don't care), but was too popular, too smart, and too good at managing the media for the warmongers to sink him with the Mighty Wurlitzer of the puppet press. So they got us to concentrate on his body in a different way.

See www.jameyhecht.com for details.

Monday, January 12, 2009

News from the Porters of Hellsgate

These are the brilliant young ladies and gents with whom I've been privileged to do some acting in Shakespeare. Here's their/our latest announcement:

Dear Supporters of the Porters,

Happy 2009! We are very excited to be getting underway with our third season. Below are our season updates and sneak peeks along with some updates as to our core repertoire...

Firstly, the opening show of our 2009 season will be William Shakespeare's Richard II. The show will star Thomas Bigley in the title role, under the direction of Charles Pasternak. Exact dates and location are being worked out now, but a fuller update should be out within the month.

As to the rest of our third season, nothing else is set in stone, but here's a sneak peek of the other shows we currently have under consideration... Comedy of Errors, Hamlet, Measure for Measure, Merchant of Venice, Othello... believe it or not, some non-Shakespeares are also on the table, including Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard, Oedipus the Tyrant by Sophocles, translated by Jamey Hecht, and perhaps an original work by one of our company's own... a final possibility to hint at is a larger scale summer production which would either be A Midsummer Night's Dream or Romeo and Juliet.

Next, we are proud to announce the expansion and updating of our core production team. We would officially like to welcome Thomas Bigley and Gus Krieger to mix! Our full production team now stands as follows...

Artistic Director, Charles Pasternak
Managing Directors, Eddie Castuera and Jack Leahy
Associate Artistic Directors, Thomas Bigley and Gus Krieger
Production Manager, Jack Leahy
Press Secretaries, Eddie Castuera and Charles Pasternak

And finally, a bit of a brag sheet as to what else our core company is up to...

The Killing Room, a film written by our very own Gus Krieger (who also plays a small role in it), directed by Jonathan Liebesman, has been accepted to the 2009 Sundance Film Festival! It will be screening four times over the course of the festival.

Charles Pasternak will be playing Lucentio in the upcoming production of The Taming of the Shrew at the Odyssey Theatre in a co-production by the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble and Circus Theatricals. Directed by Jack Stehlin. The show will be opening on February 14 (Valentine's Day). More info can be found at www.circustheatricals.com

Amanda Marquardt's burlesque group is finding more and more success around the LA area and beyond! Their most recent offering, A Tasty Fair will be premiering on January 18 at the El Cid. More info can be found at www.dollhouseproductions.com

[...insert reference to my new book here]

More updates as to Richard II and the company itself will be coming out soon over the next month. We hope everyone out there had a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year. Thank you again for your continued support. The Porters genuinely feel that what we're doing is important, but without you it wouldn't be possible. Feel free to write us back with comments, questions, or suggestions. We look forward to seeing everyone this year!

Sincerely,

The Porters of Hellsgate
"Here's a knocking indeed! If a man were a porter of hellsgate, he should have old turning the key... Anon, anon! I pray you, remember the porter."
-The Scottish Play, Act 2, Scene 3

The Expansion of the Universe... ahem

Here's a response to my pal Yogi, who responded to my previous post with the portrait photo of Edwin Hubble:

The galaxies are like raisins randomly distributed in a loaf of unbaked dough. You bake the loaf, and it rises and expands, and the raisins move apart from one another. The raisins are not moving into new regions of formerly raisinless dough; the whole loaf, raisins and all, is expanding.

There is no space outside the universe. There is no space, empty or otherwise, outside the universe. The universe is the totality of space-time.

The universe, as Galileo taught, is "finite but unbounded." It is getting "larger" in the special sense that its constituent parts are getting further from one another -- not because they are objects moving into formerly empty space, but because spacetime (which has objects in it) is expanding.

It has emerged in the past 15 years that the universe is not only expanding, it's expanding at an accelerating rate. Nothing we know so far can explain that, and people are thrilled who prefer to work on cosmic problems like those rather than on building bigger bombs.

I am just a dilettante; literally, I take delight in it. And Saturn is two light-hours away.

Hendrix, Hubble, and Homer, folks!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Blogging More Often


Ignore the yellow vase. These are two little elephants I made in 1998, with little bent nails for tusks. The white one is made of a spongy modeling compound that's almost lighter than air, and the black one is much more dense and far heavier.


This is Edwin Hubble. As I once read in some book whose title I've forgotten, "In 1929 Edwin Hubble discovered that not only are all measured galaxies receding from one another (and therefore, receding from us), but that their velocity of recession is proportional to their distance from us. This ration -- of recession velocity to distance -- is called the Hubble Constant."