'Out of the cradle, endlessly rocking...'

Friday, February 5, 2016

a translation...

Aeschylus, Agamemnon

But he who gladly shouts of Zeus's victories
shall make himself to be wise in all things -
Zeus who sets men on the path to wisdom,
who as Lord decreed that we have wisdom through pain -
Zeus lets fall before our hearts, even in sleep,
pain that brings loss to mind once again:
in such bonds man comes to be of sound mind,
a violent grace, from gods poised on the quarterdeck.

just a thought...

Aeneas never should have left Dido. You know it's true, don't try to deny it.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

growing...*older*...part deux...

The circles round the sun grow faster and faster. Turns out you're better off not clinging to anything, while paying closer attention to everything. 

Appetites change. Some grow stronger, some weaken, and some remain the same while their objects change. I'm still looking for new music, poetry, and art. It rarely happens that I find what I'm looking for. 

Time is more and more immediate, nothing stunning about that. I care less and less for arguments, battles over dogmas and doctrines I've long ago either accepted or rejected, and what we used to call 'flame wars' online. 

I read as much, if not more, with - one hopes - more discrimination. I just don't care to waste time on endless prattle. 

There is, for now, health and home and marriage and poetry. I have come close to losing each of those in the past couple of years, so I want to pay closer attention to them. That I can't hold on to them, or anything, is becoming more and more clear with each of these ever faster, sometimes dizzying circles round the sun.


It's come to this - I am content with yogurt and fruit. In fact, I find this repast delightful. 

not dead yet...

So this is what the offices look like after long months of neglect. You would think I'd clock this by now, but no no no it has to be learned again and again and again. 

Oddly, I'm not on the road. Been home since mid-Decemberish. It was an interesting year or so, and one day I'll try to make sense of it, but for now it's good to be home. It's in that spirit that I returned to the ER offices to find that a pipe had burst some time ago. Fortunately, everything floats around here. 

Hey ho, so it goes, etcetera and suchlikethatthere. Where to start with the renovations I wonder. I never did like the carpet, or the tile in the bathroom.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

reproductive health is so healthy and good...

     Reproductive health - who could be against that? I mean, you'd have to be a right proper cold hearted bastard to be against something as benign and downright healthy as reproductive health. As for the people involved in assuring reproductive health, well, they are surely good-hearted people, the sort of people who separate their trash from their recycling, pay their taxes on time, and tell the truth when called for a jury. Decent, hard working people they are, and they really love women you see, and want to ensure that women have good reproductive health. If that involves killing the odd child, then that's the sort of sad necessity we find in this sadly necessary world of necessity. It's all so sad, really, when we have to kill a child, but it's necessary, and if you don't think so you haven't considered how complex this world of necessity really is. You're probably a religious fanatic come to think of it. Diocletian will have a word for you when he gets here, o yes he will. As for the rest, they know that in this sad world of necessary necessity, those charged with guarding reproductive health will always make the right decision for the women who need reproductive health. It's that simple really.

a sort of brief confession of a kind...

     Why yes, I know what God is like, sort of, in that apophatic, met-God-in-a-cloud-of-darkness kind of way. It's true, and I'm no longer going to soft-pedal it. That's why I love the Purgatorio of Dante. Think about it.

in other news...

     Tomorrow I will make arrangements to study Italian. Dante, I've my eye on you.
     Haydn is my new friend. 

     I still love Beethoven.
     Been reading the Gospel of Matthew in Greek. It changes you.
     I'm feeling a little done in by the scotch.
     Hölderlin and Dante are the two poets most on my mind at the moment. I've started in a new direction under their influence and tutelage. Damn it's hard.
     Pushkin is in there somewhere too.
     With that, this post ends. I'm not feeling well.
     Peace out.

in the news...

     Diocletian is coming...

public service announcement...

     Friends beware, I'm drunk, and incapable of bullshit. I feel a great separation coming, one that will make me sad beyond words. Remember, I didn't want any of this. 

i've been drinking scotch all night...

     O, but...but...there are *edits* you see...and this is all about tissue, not organs, o heavens no, that would imply that we've harvested organs from really, honest-to-the-God-that-doesn't-exist people, which, o no o no o no, we haven't. Honest. Cross our hearts (hehehe) and swear to That Which Doesn't Exist. Besides, did I mention, there are edits, and this is unfair, and this is wrong, and this makes us uncomfortable, and you're a bunch of theocratic bigots. QED, so there! 

reading the news...

     Really, I have to ask, how do the Little Sisters of the Poor threaten Diocletian's reign? Can somebody please explain it to me, using small words, preferably one syllable? I'm disgusted. Here we are, meant to be created gods, and we're crushing the Little Sisters of the Poor, killing children for profit and convenience, and generally mucking about with the poor and the infirm. We're supposed to be created gods, God-like if you will, and if you'll check your libretto, you'll find that God is not like that. Just thought I'd mention it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

notes from a commonplace book...

     Started reading Gregory of Nyssa's On the Making of Man.

     '...the wisdom of God has transposed these properties, and wrought unchangeableness in that which is ever moving, and change in that which is immovable; doing this, it may be, by a providential dispensation, so that that property of nature which constitutes its immutability and immobility might not, when viewed in any created object, cause the creature to be accounted as God; for that which may happen to move or change would cease to admit of the conception of Godhead. Hence the earth is stable without being immutable, while the heaven, on the contrary, as it has no mutability, so has not stability either, that the Divine power, by interweaving chant in the stable nature and motion with that which is not subject to change, moght, by the interchange of attributes, at once join them both closely to each other, and make them alien from the conception of Deity; for as has been said, neither of these (neither that which is unstable, not that which is mutable) can be considered to belong to the more Divine nature' (I.4).

Friday, May 1, 2015

a query...

     So, ever had that feeling of overwhelming fragility? Like you could fall apart at any moment, but you have to get on with the work at hand?
     It's weird, isn't it?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

the world ends with this it's true...

     It's possible that I may, over the next few days, draw up a reading plan for the next few months. I've never had one of those before, preferring instead to mercurially read whatever I damn well pleased at any moment. Lately, though, my time is ever more constrained, and I find myself more and more distracted. Clearly some discipline is in order.
     You may return to your mundane lives now. 

from the commonplace book...

     'Of the three books of the Commedia, the Purgatorio is, for English readers, the least known, the least quoted - and the most beloved. It forms, as it were, a test case. Persons who pontificate about Dante without making mention of his Purgatory may reasonably be suspected of knowing him only at second hand, or of having at most skimmed through the circles of his Hell in the hope of finding something to be shocked at. Let no one, therefore, get away with a condemnation - or for that matter a eulogy - of Dante on the mere strength of broiled Popes, disembowelled (sic) Schismatics, grotesque Demons, Count Ugolino, Francesca da Rimini, and the Voyage of Ulysses, even if backed up by an erotic mysticism borrowed from the Pre-Raphaelites, and the line "His will is our peace", recollected from somebody's sermon. Press him, rather, for an intelligent opinion on the Ship of Souls and Peter's Gate; on Buonconte, Sapìa, and Arnaut Daniel; on the Prayer of the Proud, the theology of Free Judgment, Dante's three Dreams, the Sacred Forest, and the symbolism of the Beatrician Pageant. If he cannot satisfy the examiners on these points, let him be to you as a heathen man and a publican. But if he can walk at ease in death's second kingdom, then he is a true citizen of the Dantean Empire; and though he may still feel something of a stranger in Paradise, yet the odds are he will come to it in the end. For the Inferno may fill one with only an appalled fascination, and the Paradiso may daunt one at first by its intellectual severity; but if one is drawn to the Purgatorio at all, it is by the cords of love, which will not cease drawing till they have drawn the whole poem into the same embrace,' Dorothy Sayers.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

just a few thoughts on poetry and discipleship, or is it poetry as discipleship...

I find no virtue in moderation. Love knows nothing of moderation, sobriety, prudence. As necessary as those are for the preservation of life in this intertwining of times, they will pass away. 

As for imitation, the apprentice must, at first, be slavish in imitating the master. At some point, it goes from imitating the particulars and the manner, to seeking what the master seeks. All must be moved by love for both the master and the work itself. In the end, you will no longer resemble the master at all, but will work with the same skill, the same love for the new work never seen, that you learned from the master. 

As a poet there is a kind of elective affinity with those poets who are my masters. Everything I learn from them is in service to the practice of the art of poetry itself. So there is a unifying discipline to these studies. Indeed, at any given moment it is not so much Poetry in the abstract that I serve, as the particular poem at hand. It is more important than me, and my job is to find out what it is meant to be. 

An artist will have many masters on the way, and will always have something to learn, some new form or style that sets him on a different path. That's the curious mixture of ambition and humility required of an artist - humility in recognition of all there is yet to learn, all that he will never know, and the ambition to be great that spurs him on to learn and grow and change in service of the work made. Yet it remains true that those first masters, the ones that inspired the desire to make works in the first place, remain especially beloved. I hope that I will, before I die, make at least one poem worthy of those whose works moved me to take up the art.

Certain poets spend their lives trying to write poems like a particular poet whom they have anointed as The Greatest Of All Time. They don't see that in fact they have subordinated the poet they claim to revere to their own cramped needs. They never discover the joy of making something properly their own, and they sadly never understand the work of the poet they claim as their inspiration. They spend so much energy and time trying to strike that vein they imagine the Poet owns, it exhausts their abilities and their intelligence. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

a translation...

My Two Daughters (Mes deux filles), Victor Hugo

As the fine evening falls in the cool twilight,
one like a swan and the other like a dove,
beautiful, and both happy - o sweetness!
See, the big sister and the little sister 
sit at the garden’s threshold, and above them
a clutch of white carnations with long frail stems,
stirred in a marble urn by the wind,
leans, immobile and living, to look at them,
and flutters in the dark, at the lip of the vase,
like a flight of butterflies caught in ecstasy.

The original:

Dans le frais clair-obscur du soir charmant qui tombe,
L'une pareille au cygne et l'autre à la colombe,
Belle, et toutes deux joyeuses, ô douceur !
Voyez, la grande soeur et la petite soeur
Sont assises au seuil du jardin, et sur elles
Un bouquet d'oeillets blancs aux longues tiges frêles,
Dans une urne de marbre agité par le vent,
Se penche, et les regarde, immobile et vivant,
Et frissonne dans l'ombre, et semble, au bord du vase,

Un vol de papillons arrêté dans l'extase.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

a translation...

Tomorrow, at daybreak... (Demain, dès aube...), Victor Hugo

Tomorrow, at daybreak, when the land whitens,
I will depart. You see, I know you await me.
I will go by the forest, I will go by the mountain.
I can remain far from you no longer.

I will walk with eyes fixed on my thoughts,
seeing nothing outside, hearing no sound,
alone, unknown, back bent, and hands crossed,
sad, and the day for me will be as night.

I will not regard the golden dusk that falls,
nor the far sails going down to Harfleur,
and when I arrive, I will place on your tomb
a bouquet of green holly and heather in flower. 

The original:

Demain, dès l'aube, à l'heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m'attends.
J'irai par la forêt, j'irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.

Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.

Je ne regarderai ni l'or du soir qui tombe,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Et quand j'arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

writers really do suffer you know...

     So I've read from time to time about people settling down to write The Novel. They set daily goals for themselves, don't you know. I've seen them set for themselves as many as two thousand words a day.
     Two thousand words. Give that a moment.
     Below you'll find today's contribution to my Novel. It is two hundred nineteen words long. Don't worry if you don't know what's going on, that's not the point. The point is that this cost me three hours of labor. Three hours, two hundred nineteen words, for a full day's work. Nor is that unusual for me. I consider anything over two hundred words at a sitting to be a decent haul. Three hundred is astonishing. What's more, I've usually mulled over the work for several days before I can write it down. Finally, it can sometimes take me many more hours to reach that two hundred words.
     That's about a page at a time, written at an agonizingly slow pace.
     How in the hell are people banging out two thousand words a day? Whatever. Without further ado, I give you today's haul. It is a crucial transition in the early part of the story, and again, it took three hours to make. Le sigh.

     He started as the phone rang yet again. He had been lulled to sleep it seemed long ago, yet another dreamless sleep followed by that vague memory of something, something he had no time to ponder as he reached for that phone.
     ‘I trust you’re enjoying your flight.’
     The voice on the other end was new, an older man’s voice, somewhat wispy to the mechanic’s ear.
     ‘It’s been pleasant enough,’ he replied.
     ‘Good.’ There was a pause, then ‘You sound like him.’
     The mechanic considered the darkness outside his window. ‘Who?’
     ‘Your father.’
     ‘Yeah, I hear I have his chin as well.’
     Silence for almost a minute, then ‘When you arrive, we’ll make sure you get to your hotel. In your room you’ll find a tablet with all the particulars. If you need anything, our man will take care of it.’ After another pause, ‘Do you have any pertinent questions?’
     ‘Sure. How did you know the Old Man?’
     After an even longer pause, punctuated by the other man’s wispy breathing, ‘Do enjoy the rest of your flight.’
     At that, the call ended abruptly. The mechanic checked the phone log. The last call was from a blocked number. ‘Of course,’ he said aloud, tossing the phone onto the next seat. 
     With that, he stretched out and fell asleep again. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

     Insomnia in Kansas City - sounds like a pulp novel.

Monday, January 5, 2015

think he knows what he sounds like?

Neil deGrasse Tyson just never fails to disappoint. Some comments on his comments from way back in 2011:

'The Bible (public library; free ebook), to learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself' - others like NDGT.

'On the Origin of Species (public library; free ebook) by Charles Darwin, to learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth' - way, way more to this book; Darwin's synthesis of the Sublime [Deep Time from Lyell et al] with Victorian Efficiency [Malthus's dystopian despair] is a tour de force - yes, you should read the book; if you want to learn of 'our kinship with all other life on Earth' there are books in addition to Darwin's that make it quite plain, books like, say, the Bible.

'The Wealth of Nations (public library; free ebook) by Adam Smith, to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself' - wrong, sorry, thank you for playing; that is not what you get from Adam Smith, and only a prejudiced, and scattered, reading would yield such a conclusion; whether, on the other hand, you find Smith persuasive on his own terms is another matter.

'The System of the World (public library; free ebook) by Isaac Newton, to learn that the universe is a knowable place' - again, way too simple for such a complex, demanding, and world-building work; if you don't know how to follow complex geometric arguments, some remedial work is in order before you read Newton's great system; the ontology implicit in the work is fascinating, and bears some resemblance to that implicit in the works of Milton, another arch-heretic whom I can't help but love.

Friday, December 26, 2014

calling a work of art 'pretentious' is actually pretty pretentious...

     There's a certain philistinism that likes to sneer at a great works of art because they're 'incomprehensible', while praising the latest comic book franchise or Doctor Who series, as if all depth of meaning and beauty of expression amount to nothing more than pretense. I've always been suspicious of the charge that a work of art is 'pretentious'. So, the work either goes over your head or is too deep for you to appreciate it. That's actually a good thing. It has nothing to do with pretense on the part of either the artist or the work. Perhaps you just need to shut up, sit down, and learn something. That it might take you a lifetime to even begin to understand a great work of art is not a fault in the work, but simply a feature of human existence.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

just occurred to me..

     So, one day we'll get to meet the shepherds who adored the newborn Jesus. How cool is that?

Monday, December 15, 2014

a small rant...

     I love it when some tendentious comparison is made between the US and some European country or another, usually to the effect that all would be well and all manner of thing would be well were the US to adopt whatever pet policy is on offer. It is often some dreary Scandinavian country with a tiny, homogenous population, a correspondingly minuscule budget, and no international relations of any kind. Norway seems to be rather popular for this at the moment, but Finland (which is not, technically, Scandinavian, but o well whatevs) has its share of devout followers. Yes, I suppose we could all be taciturn troll-hunters if so moved, but only if we lived in a small, mostly uninhabitable northern wasteland where the hobbies are burning churches, raising taxes, and suicide. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

on the other hand...

     In all candor, show me another polity that would allow itself to be so wracked (!) over the use of torture by its agents. There are a few I'm sure, but not that many. How often does China go into public paroxysms of doubt and moral self-excoriation over its labor camps and summary executions? Think there's a lot of *public* soul-searching in the halls of the Kremlin for all the world to see? Do we still await that very public report on the appalling condition of prisons in France, set within a system that demands the accused prove his innocence against a presumption of guilt, and where the judge is empowered to determine if the accused can even mount a case? But yes, Brutus is an honorable man etcetera. (Again, this isn't about particular souls in their private cells contemplating their culpability in the light of eternity.) There's something unique about a place where, yes, it takes forever to get at the truth, and yes, there are always those who offer public apologies for the worst offenses, but where, yes, people rise up and put their very polity and its laws to the test in light of its worst failures. I do much wonder what more we can expect this side of the Second Coming.

just an observation...

     I confess that it sometimes seems to me that many who live here would just as soon US society finally collapse. It's as if these people can't wait for the next financial crisis, or a massive oil spill, or some geophysical calamity created by a confluence of widespread fracking and the reactivation of long-forgotten fault-lines. We just can't punish ourselves enough you see for all the evil we have unleashed. If only we had remained aloof and neutral, this idyllic world would have advanced to ever greater tolerance and peace, but no, we had to go and wreak havoc with our imperial ambitions and our obsession with oil. For this, and many other failures, our doom is certain, and certainly at hand. It cannot come swiftly enough for these confident yet casual observers, for all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well when all Americans wear hair shirts and eke out livings as latter day Hobbits (nasty little bastards with their blood and soil *sense of place*). Then, once we have purged ourselves of the guilt of having existed in a terrible history which we did not create, we can rest easy in the New Kingdom. It's a nightmare whose consummation is devoutly desired by many.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

46 years ago Thomas Merton died, so here's a poem...

A Dream

     Dante and Li Po wandered along a lakeshore.  Li Po wished to dive in after the moon’s reflection.  Dante held him back. 
     Later, they drank wine, exchanged verses.  Dante offered, ‘As a cunning man cures ills with his secret knowledge, so will our occult friendship heal these wounds of exile.’  Li Po responded, ‘I’ll return to my porch, drink some hot wine, and think of you always while watching the stars.’ 
     Li Po sadly kept vigil, for the moon’s reflection faded as the sun rose.  After exchanging gifts with Li Po and taking his leave, Dante dove in seeking a stone long come to rest on the bottom.  Li Po was too drunk to stop him. 
     After waiting a while, Li Po gathered his cup, his wine, his walking stick, and wandered away through the mist.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

a little whine with breakfast...

     It's five in the morning. I've been up since about three.
     That's it. Nothing more profound to report, just that I've already been up and moving about for two hours and it's not even properly o'dark-thirty. O, and I have to work today.
     This is going to be the best day ever.

Monday, December 1, 2014

while I have your attention...

     So, you people know it's just a trailer, right? And that the original movies weren't that good, right?
     Hello? Is there anybody out there?

too many books!

     It is time once again for a book purge. This one will not be as extensive as the last one, but it will no doubt inflict some pain. Already two boxes of books destined from before the foundation of the universe for perdition stand by the back door, manifesting the glory of my terrible justice. As always, you cannot say why one books stays while another goes. It is only the decree of my inscrutable will that determines how the judgment will fall. Some books I love, some books I no longer love - it was but a temporary state of grace you see - while some books I neither love nor hate. With that, I return to my task. Peace out.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

faithless in little things...

     A string broke on my classical guitar. Around these parts, that's a big deal. Couldn't find any strings in any of the places you'd normally find 'em, which shows how negligent I have been in this vital spiritual matter. Until tomorrow, she will remain mute and practically entombed in her case.
     Advent is a season of repentance, and I see now that I have much to do in a short time.

This terrifies me.

you guys sure are weird...

     I'm ever so fond of my friends near and far, but for the life of me it sometimes feels like we come from different worlds. I suppose that's the Way it's meant to be, and it doesn't bother me in the least (well, sometimes it does, but that's life in the Big City you know). 
     Still, my friends, you'll lose me - in the sense that I won't understand you - if you make references to, inter alia: Doctor Who at too great a level of detail (which Doctor is which, how they dressed, who the Bad Guys were and are, what's happened in the last three years, etc); Star Wars as though it's still a Thing; Tolkien, because he's overrated and most of us are not in high school anymore; any of C S Lewis's fiction, and almost all of his nonfiction (his criticism is, oddly, rarely mentioned though it's quite good); Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, mostly because I think they suck; comic books; video games after 1989; most anything intended strictly 'for children' (this goes all the way back to when I was a child); Gilbert & Sullivan (I only know a couple of lines because they're in other movies or television shows); etc. Any mention of Chesterton is likely to make me want to strangle a puppy, especially if it's a clever quote meant to Explain Something Important.
     None of that is evil (well, Chesterton...), it's just from another world. So I love y'all, my friends, but I really don't know what the hell you're talking about half the time.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

why not post a low quality photo of myself?

Your humble chef and factotum. I look like an escaped convict who broke into the house and decided to do some cooking.

Um, sorry for the mess. I made eggnog.

an interim report...

     Last night we completed Phase 1 of Thanksgiving Cookingpalooza 2014 by making stew and biscuits. I also confected The Nog and prepped for Phase 2, a Thanksgiving breakfast of french toast served with The Nog after it has chilled several hours. I am pleased to report that Phase 2 was a smashing success. The Nog goes well with french toast, o yes it does. 
     We've already begun Phase 3. I sautéed onions, celery, mushrooms, etc, for the dressing. I also made a wine/brandy/stock mixture for said dressing. Now Lea Ann has taken over the kitchen to prepare The Bird. Later I will make my Insanely Good Mashed Potatoes. O, and there is still plenty of The Nog in the refrigerator.
     Here endeth the interim report on Thanksgiving Cookingpalooza 2014. I'll leave you with these words from the Reverend MacLean in A River Runs Through It: 'I'd say the Lord has blessed us all today. It's just that he's been particularly good to me'