Saturday, December 22, 2018

Hungarian saying:

One should always drink wine when eating a fish so that the fish will know that it was not a dog who ate him.

In the Monastery

I think that I get it now -- the vow of silence.

The principal deprivation that it entails is not to be deprived of the lively company and conversation of your comrades, of what the Irish call "craic."  It is to be deprived of your own voice.

Your voice is the medium through which you express your individuality, your humor and pathos, your insight and humility (or else that you were not blessed with any of these things).

Losing your voice is a forced meditation, a forced looking within, a forced coming to terms with your circumstances in the world, which are the same as everyone else's, and which are not mollified by either your humor or your pathos.

Of course, there is the internal monologue that is retained, at least for a while.  "I think I will give Brother Francis the rest of my bread," you might say to yourself.  And in times set aside officially for meditation, the monologue may be commandeered, as in Eastern religions, by a mantra, one that may be meaningless or may be meaningful but with a certain relentlessness -- "The Lord is My God."  The purpose of the mantra is to displace the internal monologue.

But if the discipline is maintained, I suspect that even the monologue is set aside.  I myself would approach this condition with terror, but I am not a monk.  (One of the great modern poets, Leonard Cohen, tried it out for a good while under the tutelage of a Buddhist master, but not even he was able to abandon the Word.)

If In the Beginning was the Word, then passing on to a true vow of internal silence puts one in a state prior to the beginning, which is to say of pure being with no qualities.

So what I really mean to say is that there are men and women who have vowed to pass their time in poverty and meditation.   If, among them, there are those whose meditation mantra is pure and empty silence, then they are the ones who deserve to be called saints.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Clive James on the Shaping of the Post-War Order by John McCloy and Other Visionary Washington Bureaucrats

It would help if the world's very large supply of anti-American commentators could decide on which America we are supposed to be in thrall to:  the Machiavellian America that can manipulate any country's destiny, or the naïve America that can't find it on the map.  While we're waiting for the decision, it might help if we could realize the magnitude of the fix that America got us out of in 1945, and ask ourselves why we expect a people rich and confident enough to do that to be sensitive as well.  Power is bound to sound naïve, because it doesn't spot the bitter nuances of feeling helpless.  The East Coast foreign policy elite were as bright as can be.  In their young manhood, they had seen a lot of the world in which America, they correctly guessed, was bound to play a big part, although not even they could guess how big.  They had the mental resources to sound as sophisticated as Talleyrand and Metternich put together.  If, in retrospect, they look like big, clumsy children -- well, they didn't yet know what it was like not to get their way.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


Is there progress in academic philosophy, or are there only metastases?

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Clive James on Jean-Paul Sartre and Both His Progeny and One Important Forefather

Sartre's first and most famous treatise shows all the signs not just of his later mummery, but of the mummery of other pundits who came to later fame.  Foucault, Derrida and the like shouldn't have needed scientific debunking to prove them fraudulent:  the pseudo-scientific vacuity of their argufying was sufficiently evident from the willful obfuscation of their stylistic hoopla:  and the same could have been said of their progenitor.  Where Sartre got it from is a mystery begging to be explained.  It could have had something to do with his pre-war period in Berlin, and especially with the influence of his admired Heidegger.  In Sartre's style of argument, German metaphysics met French sophistry in a kind of European Coal and Steel Community producing nothing but rhetorical gas.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Sea Smoke

A sacred space,
A healing hand,
Both now hidden from my view.

A phosphorescence
That I thought might be your spirit, off amidships.
(We withdrew.)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Butler on Science, and Scale, and the Diffusion of Moral Responsibility

Fortunately there are still small communities where the Wicked Man is not yet woven so scientifically into the fabric of society that he cannot be extracted without stopping the trains and fusing the electric light.   It is not a coincidence that two small countries, Denmark and Bulgaria, stemmed the flow to Auschwitz better than any of their more powerful neighbours on the continent.  Apart from size the two countries have nothing in common.  The Bulgars are primitive, the Danes a highly sophisticated people.  They are no doubt individually as wicked as the rest of us, but wickedness still has a name and an address and a face.  When the rumor, a false one, went around Sofia that the government intended to deport its Jews, the citizens demonstrated outside the Palace and blocked the roads to the railway station.  In Denmark on the night of 1 October 1943, when the Jews heard they were to be rounded up, each family knew which Danish family was prepared to hide them.  Very few were caught.  At the Gare d'Austerlitz the Children of Drancy [4051 Jewish children who were deported from Paris to be gassed] were surrounded by the most civilized and humane people in Europe, but they were scarcely less isolated and abandoned than when they queued up naked for their "shower-bath" in the Polish forest.

At the Dentist's Last Week

I had the privilege, via the most modern technology, of examining a three-dimensional image of my own skull.  

I was pleased that the skull appeared to be completely normal, cosmetically speaking that is, in contrast to the rest of me.

But alas, nonetheless, poor Yosif.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Putting My Money to Work, Passively

Have you wondered what became of the erased men?
Of Matt Lauer, Leslie Moonves, Tom Ashbrook, Garrison Keillor and the others?

They have been erased, but the rules have allowed them to keep their money -   money beyond measure in most instances.

Each has purchased a modest villa (two million dollars and up) at a gated community called The Patagonian Plantation, owned by an indigenous limited culpability entity of which there is a US owner of which I am a quiet member in turn.

The climate is temperate and hospitable at the Plantation.

There is a guided group therapeutic once a week, at which no cross-criticism is brooked.  There is honor, after all, among these thieves of women's virtue.

There are also horses and tennis courts.  The food and the wines are fine without exception, and the prospectus notes that they are of local origin.

There are ski trips during the northern hemispheric summer, and trips to the Straights and to Tierra del Fuego in high southern summer.

There is fly-fishing all year round, in the small but spectacular stream that runs off the foothills of the Andes and directly past the front gate, eventually finding its way to the Parana to the north and to the sea.

From time to time, an Embraer drops into the single-runway strip, depositing scientists and philosophers from the universities of Buenos Aires, Brasilia and Sao Paulo.  So the erased men are lectured on everything of interest to the keenly educated, from particle physics to cosmology to medical ethics.  Once a year they are even lectured on an earlier and more widely known influx of conquistadores.  They are left wiser men after the lectures, not least by virtue of having learned from each other.

And best of all, there are the Paraguayan girls in flowered skirts who bring them sparkling water before they retire, and turn down their beds.  These arrive and depart not in Embraers but in Cessna Caravans.  They come and they go with regularity.  Some use their earnings to purchase small soy farms for their brothers in the Chaco.

The men who have been erased
Do not miss North America
At all.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018


Not a political point at all, but a psychological one:  One form of madness is to see all of humanity united at last, but united as one against you in a conspiracy of malevolence.

Friday, October 26, 2018


We know about Icarus; we know from examples close to hand the wages of hubris.    Me I never aspired to fly so close to the sun.   It's just that I was born with wings that melted at room temperature.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Shattering of Peter's Edifice

The sphincter-trumpets of one hundred Eminences --
All in bright and bloody red --
Announce the cracking of the Rock
Now shattered beyond hope of any re-formation.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

In a good play every speech should be as fully flavoured as a nut or apple, and such speeches cannot be written by anyone who works among people who have shut their lips on poetry. In Ireland, for a few years more, we have a popular imagination that is fiery and magnificent, and tender; so that those of us who wish to write start with a chance that is not given to writers in places where the springtime of the local life has been forgotten, and the harvest is a memory only, and the straw has been turned into bricks.

-- J.M.S.  1907

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

I was born after madness.  I start from there.  My life is the going-beyond madness; insanity is axiomatic, and I am the theorem.

This by Lucy Russell, granddaughter of Bertrand Russell.  She wrote it in 1970, the year of his death.  On 11 April 1975, at age 26, she committed suicide, by self-immolation, in a rural English churchyard.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Wind Advisory, Galway City, Wed 25 April 2018, 6:30 GMT

A rare April sunrise in Galway City during which the sun can actually be seen.  But the Old Man quickly rises into a bank of clouds in the East, and other clouds now race in from the West.  And the waves break over the base of the black and white obelisk that guides mariners away from a shoal that lies to windward today, and on most days, of an island that is centered in the Bay.

Whether and to what extent the obelisk is being pummeled -- that's the wind advisory for the day.

The verse below was written by Susan Lindsay Russell, the daughter of the poet Vachel Lindsay, who killed himself by drinking Lysol.    It seems to have been written while she was living with her husband John and her father-in-law, who was Bertrand Russell.    There is some speculation that she and Lord Russell, who was approaching 80 at the time, were lovers.  Without doubt, he opened up his inner life to her more than to most others in the family circle, more than to most of his (other?) lovers --

Sing a song for the swimmers,
who died and died well;
who died and died truly
in death, as in life
finding life's loving truly
in the cold and broken death
of life's last entry
of the last recall
the womb of death most surely
the sweetest womb of all.

Friday, July 20, 2018


Someone surely has written a poem about living in the "extra time" of futbol, the time of desperation and crumbling hopes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

"In the beginning was the Word,
 And the Word was with God,
 And the Word WAS God."

What a mysterious formulation, and one at odds with everything we were otherwise told about the Deity when we were kids.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


What if God were one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin' to make His way home?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

I like your smile
And your fingertips.
I like the way that you move your hips.
I like the cool way you look at me.
Everything about you is bringing me misery.

The Open Palm of Desire,
The Rose of Jericho,
The soil as soft as summer,
The strength to let you go.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Jelly is my favorite food,
And when I'm in a jelly mood
I can never get enough
Of that yummy gummy stuff.

Jelly on my head.
Jelly on my nose.
Jelly on my po-po
Jelly on my toes.

Jelly on my belly
And I like it fine.


The Irish characterized by humor; the Spanish by a profound sense of dignity.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


So what makes a lonely song lonely (Round Midnight)?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Monday, June 4, 2018


How often the seeds of personal destruction are sewn in success (Icarus).

Thursday, May 31, 2018


"Robert Frost."

The name almost too perfect for the Great Poet of New Hampshire.
Like "Kris Kringle" or "Thelonious Monk."
His real name should be Clarence Higginbotham, something like that.

I remember him fumbling with his papers at the Kennedy inaugural.
As the patriarch Isaac said to Leonard Cohen,
"I was nine years old."

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Modern Love

Meet my artificial friends
(The only ones I have)
They're programmed to intend --
The one, a vicious slap,
The other, tactile comfort taken to new depths.

Measure, I must ask
For measure,
Who will choose Ms. Pain and who default to Mrs. Pleasure?

Buy one
Get one free! 

But wait!
There's more! --

If Captain Crunch indeed
Presents now
As a she,
In that
There's always
Buried treasure.

Friday, May 25, 2018

In Your Hands Helpless

Peel me like an onion love.
Shed my dry and withered outer skin --
A chrysalis in flakes that fall upon your kitchen floor,
In autumn leaves elusive,
When the drafty vents cough up synthetic breaths from time to time
In fits, in starts.

Knead me now!
I'm moist and vital, milky even, pungent.
But I'll leave you only stinging tears,
A buttery hiss perhaps?
But only if you're good.
You knew this going in of course.

Sweeter now upon your tongue,
And soon I'll be embedded in your flesh.
We'll never part --
At least until the final dissolution of this sodden, teeming earth.

I wanted this, you know,
When I was first and last seen by you
Resting, golden,
On your dingy, ashen hearth.

Sunday, May 20, 2018


For the best darned sleep in the whole wide world
Visit My Pillow Dot Com.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

This old house is falling down around my ears.
I'm drowning in the river of my tears.
When all my will is gone you hold me sway.
I need you at the dimming of the day.

You pull me like the moon pulls on the tide.
You know just where I keep my better side.

What days have come to keep us far apart?
A broken promise or a broken heart?
Now all the bonny birds have wheeled away.
I need you at the dimming of the day.

Come the night you're only what I want.
Come the night you could be my confidante ...

I see you on the street in company.
Why don't you come and ease your mind with me?
I'm living for the night we steal away.
I need you at the dimming of the day.
I need you at the dimming of the day.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

What Wilderness Is This?

What cackling from the nurses' beverage station,
What cat food consumed alone with freeze-dried coffee,
What obese, imperious State Policemen,
What low politicians preening,
What grey wound that will not heal?
What machetes of the other tribe,
What waste removed at 3AM from New York dumpsters just below?

What shrunken head,
What acid hiss,
What former friends who dash like jackals
In and out of my composure?

What machine to tune the laughter track,
What great loves reduced to rust,
What savage protest,
What remorse when dust is seen as nothing more than dust?

Sunday, March 25, 2018

On a quiet street
Where old ghosts meet
I see her walking now --
Away from me so hurriedly,
My reason must allow.

For I have wooed not as I should
A creature made of clay.
When the angel woos the clay he'll lose
His wings, at the dawn of the day.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Let us pause in our retreat
To reflect on our defeat.

Friday, March 16, 2018

On Raglan Road on an autumn day
I saw her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare
That I might one day rue.

I saw the danger yet I walked
Along the enchanted way.
And I said
"Let grief be a falling leaf

At the dawning of the day."

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The joke is that no one ever jokes about pancomputationalism.
What we joke about,
When we joke about pancomputationalism.
What we talk about, when we talk about love.

                                      -- Raymond Carver

Domina, non sum dignus.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

From the Greatest of All Novels

-- Ура для Карамазова!

"Hurrah for Karamazov!"

Monday, March 5, 2018


Caught between two utterances of Christ on the cross:

"My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"


"Into Thy hands I commend My spirit."

(Between despair and acceptance that is.)

Saturday, March 3, 2018

"In Russia, in five years everything can change.   In 200 - nothing."

                                                                  -- Svetlana Alexeivich

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

From the Greatest of All Novels

-- В горе счастья ищи.

"In sorrow seek happiness."

                 -- The Elder Zosima to Alyosha

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Waitin' for a girl whose knees are much too fat.
Waitin' for a girl who wears scarves stead a hats --
Her zipper's broke down the back.
Waitin' for a factory girl.
Your heart is like a diamond.
You throw your pearls at swine.
And as I watch you leavin' me
You pack my peace of mind.

Monday, February 26, 2018

From the Greatest of All Novels

The idea in "Karamazov" -- expressed by the Devil himself in Ivan's dream -- that without the Devil, the world would literally extinguish itself because there would be no "events," is profound.

Thursday, February 22, 2018


All my friends are gone
And my hair is grey.
I ache in the places where I used to play.
I'm crazy for love,
But I'm not comin' on.
I'm just payin' my rent every day
In the Tower of Song.

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Fond Kiss (and then we sever)

From Robbie Burns:

Had we never loved so kindly,
Had we never loved so blindly,
Never met, or never parted,
We'd have ne'er been broken-hearted.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Things, Looking Up

With my last, rattling breath,
I bear witness to all
And to everything,
With no audience but myself.

From the pastel toys
That spun above my head
In cheap Calder pantomime --
They were there to make me laugh,
But they made me cry instead.

I knew that they were alien,
Saw by instinct that they were
Just products of a plastic defecation,
Long before I had the tongue to speak.

But other things they made me laugh.
What things?
Well what's it to you?
Bits of human irony
In stencil on my parents' faces --
I could see with clarity 
Before indeed I had the tongue to speak.

To the mottled ceiling
Now above my hospice/hotel bed.
The tiny speck!
Why must it let me know that it is blunt organic?
Scurry from one crevice to another?

I want to know 
By just whose will you pick a point to stop you speck.
What nanocircuits firing?
And who made them
With more care perhaps than lavishing on me?
Who framed, that is,
Thy fearful symmetry?

My eyes refuse to close.
They disobey me and my jaw is slack.
I am weary beyond weariness.
And so I bid to you oh speck
(And likewise so to you my many broken loves)
A last, heart-felt, blank-stared "fare well."

Saturday, February 10, 2018

From the Greatest of All Novels

Never in my life did I lend the unfortunate Dmitri Fyodorovich Karamazov (for he is unfortunate now, in any case) the sum of three thousand roubles today, or any other money, never, never!  I swear to it by all that is holy in our world.

                                                                                                                                     -- Хохлакова

Sunday, February 4, 2018


Didn't you think I knew
That you were born with the power of a locomotive,
Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound?
And your Chelsea suicide with no apparent motive --
You could laugh and cry in a single sound.

Sunday, January 28, 2018


When does bad taste rise to the level of immorality?
Steven Pinker, in Conversation with Bill Gates on Climate Change

"When people subscribe to an ideology, they suck up evidence that supports their preconceptions and filter out evidence that goes against them.  Contrary to the belief of most scientists that denial of climate change is an effect of scientific illiteracy, it is not at all correlated with scientific literacy.  People who believe in man-made climate change don't know any more about climate or science than those who deny it.  It's almost perfectly correlated with left-wing versus right-wing orientation.  And a move toward greater rationality would unbundle them and let evidence inform what the optimal policies ought to be."

Friday, January 26, 2018

You Left Me

Not drawn and quartered --
But splayed and dissected,
Dissected and splayed
In malevolent air.

The smell of your pillow,
The dots now connected,
The knot in your neck
When I tousled your hair.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Let me rock you in my arms.
I'll hold you safe and small --
A refugee from the Seraphim
With your rich girl rags and all ...

Saturday, January 20, 2018


It's easy to describe the leaves in the autumn,
And it's oh so easy in the spring,
But down through January and February
It's a very different thing.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Leonard Cohen Felt It Unseemly to Write Down

That he slept the soundest and most peaceful sleep,
Lubricated by his lover's extreme unction.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Arthur Miller on the Fate of Marilyn, on the Day of Her Funeral -- 8 Aug 1962

Instead of jetting to the funeral to get my picture taken I decided to stay home and let the public mourners finish the mockery.  Not that everyone there will be false, but enough.  Most of them there destroyed her, ladies and gentlemen.  She was destroyed by many things, and some of those things are you.  And some of those things are destroying you.  Destroying you now.  Now as you stand there weeping and gawking, glad that it is not you going into the earth, glad that it is this lovely girl who at last you killed.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Two Snippets from "Boardwalk Empire"

"It is remarkable how large small irritations can loom in the minds of great men."


"What do you do for fun Esther?"
"I run naked through the pages of the United States Criminal Code."

Friday, January 5, 2018


They say that bears have love affairs
And so do camels.
We're mini-mammals.
Let's misbehave.