Saturday, November 29, 2003

Scoop on LSD

From Wes "Scoop" Nisker's "The Big Bang, the Buddha, and the Baby Boom: the spiritual experiments of my generation": LSD was a "real maker of mystics ... Although serious Western Buddhist and Hindu meditators don't talk about it much today, for many the psychedelic drug experience accounted for at least a few degrees of their turning eastward. Mushroom and peyote derivatives or LSD could give people at least the temporary ability to see through the fictions of the ego and separation that seemed to engulf humanity. At their most benevolent, these psychedelics could offer a direct experience of coexistence with all things and help to open one's heart to the mystery of life itself."

Such, as the govt knows, is "extremely dangerous" ... see my posting yesterday for more on that.

Friday, November 28, 2003

the harm in LSD

This week two men were sentenced to long prison terms (one received two life terms so he has no possibility of seeing the outside again) for having manufactured large amounts of LSD.


The government, home of the Drug War and fomenter of hysteria, ought to know. So let's go their webpage on the effects & dangers of LSD. After talking about uncomfortable physical sensations like "sleeplessless" and "loss of appetite" and "dry mouth" our govt tells us the drug "produces delusions and visual hallucinations." Well. So what? There are lots of over-the-counter medications that cause sleeplessness, dry mouth, loss of appetite ... that are even dangerous if taken to excess ... aspirin can be deadly to children under twelve. And we all know alcohol can bring on hallucinations and delusions.

But, judging by the severity of the punishment LSD must be much more poisonous than aspirin or alcohol, right? The govt lays on the big guns. It seems, "Some fatal accidents have occurred during states of LSD intoxication."

So nobody has died from taking LSD? No cases of LSD poisoning? That's surprising, isn't it? You can drink so much water your bodily tissues begin to dilute and you die. And water is about as safe an ingestible as you can get. But the govt mentions no case of someone dying from the ingestion of LSD? Why not? Would they hide such a thing? Wouldn't they want to make the best possible case for the drug's dangers? Curiously, toward the bottom of the page govt talks about tolerance for LSD. If you take a lot of it over time, you'll develop a tolerance. If you want to get as great an effect the 10th time as you did the first you'll probably have to take a larger dose. Says govt, "This is an extremely dangerous practice, given the unpredictability of the drug." Define "extremely dangerous" please. They do define "unpredictable" in their first paragraph, the effects of LSD "depend on the amount taken; the user's personality, mood, and expectations; and the surroundings in which the drug is used." Is there anything of which this is not true? Again, this sort of thing is so weak as to beg the question. Jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Extremely dangerous? Fewer than one in ten survive the plunge. Check. Extremely dangerous. How about flying? Can you name anybody who died while flying? All those people on 9/11? If a terrorist spiked the water supply of a major city with LSD how many poisonings leading to death would result? Any? John Denver piloted a little plane into the ground. And John Kennedy (son of the president) piloted his into the sea. Has anyone dropped acid and died from the drug? The govt says cocaine has caused strokes and heart attacks and seizures. So govt is capable of offering up "extremely dangerous" effects of drugs when they know of some.

There is a paragraph on the LSD page that suggests, "LSD users may manifest relatively long-lasting psychoses, such as schizophrenia or severe depression." Although govt admits, "It is difficult to determine the extent and mechanism of the LSD involvement in these illnesses." It could be that it is difficult because it's not possible. I'm sure there are many people who have taken LSD who have later been diagnosed depressed or schizophrenic. But it could merely be coincidence. It doesn't seem to be listed among the possible causes of schizophrenia. Who knows? A lot of people have taken LSD over the last half century. A lot of people have done a lot of things. Voted Republican, let dogs lick their faces. One theory has it that our pet cats give us schizophrenia.

Researchers who worked with LSD in the 50s called it a "psychotomimetic", that is, a chemical that will create psychoses. There was some hope in the CIA that it would prove a good drug for interrogations. As I understand it, that did not pan out. However, one might remember the govt's description of LSD's "unpredictability", that is the "user's personality, mood, and expectations; and the surroundings in which the drug is used." How might you feel were you being interrogated by unfriendly persons in an institution where you have no power and little hope of escape? How might you feel were you in a warm beach house with friends on a sunny day? I expect your emotional state would differ in each circumstance. Govt doesn't want to hint at it, but there is such a thing as a good trip. People can enjoy and learn from an LSD experience.

Erowid collects info that is rather more sympathetic to LSD than govt.

Let me return to one little govt point. "Some fatal accidents have occurred during states of LSD intoxication." Someone on a drug, any drug that effects perceptions, and such can be legal or illegal, may misjudge their abilities, their skills, the risks, and do something that causes injury. When I hear that someone has died from an illegal drug, I ask, "Did they die from the drug or from doing something stupid while intoxicated?" Intoxication is not bad. Some fatal accidents have occurred during states of tiredness, anger, distraction, even joy. But you have to be ... what? careful? responsible? Can you make that legal?

Two life terms. For what?

Thursday, November 27, 2003

guest editor

Michael Martin has asked me to be poetry editor for the next issue of Hogtown Creek Review.

In an interview with the poet Lola Haskins in the 2003 issue Mike asks "about poets" ... Haskins replies, "The truth is I don't subscribe to any poet. ... I subscribe to poems. This poem, that poem."

Wednesday, November 26, 2003


I burned a CD tonight. The 8th of my "CMJ set" series. CMJ is a music magazine that comes with a sampler CD. As with any collection of music there's some you like, some you'd prefer never to hear again. I guess we've been subscribing to CMJ for almost ten years. I've tried before to separate out the songs I like. I did a mix tape a couple times. But it was a real hassle and then you're pretty much stuck listening to the songs in one order. So this CD burning stuff is cool. I listen to the CDs at my desk at work as I do my repetitive daily tasks and pick out the songs I want to hear again. Most of the songs on tonight's playlist are from 1995 CMJs. A few are from other sampler CDs I've picked up at local record shops. I move the songs around until I get the order I think works best. Each mix has its own character and I name them. (When you play the thing you can always choose "random" on the CD player. Or just play the one song you're in the mood for.)


Insomniac -- Kensuke Shiina
Paiute Stitch Game Song -- Judy Trejo
Phiescope -- myu-Ziq
In The Name Of The Father -- Black Grape
Moonbeam Monkey -- Tanya Donelly
Somebody Else's Body -- Urge Overkill
Come On My Darlin' -- Pima Express
Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick -- Ian Dury & The Blockheads
Jack Names The Planets -- Ash
Mighty K.C. -- For Squirrels
Ground On Down -- Ben Harper
Give Me One Reason -- Tracy Chapman
Thrash -- Underworld
O Pastor -- Madredeus
Crossroads -- Robert Tree Cody & Xavier Quijas Yxayotl
Malign -- Hungry Ghost
Boogie Down Seductions -- Silverkick
The Hearts Filthy Lesson -- David Bowie

Monday, November 24, 2003

Bush in England

I want to share another dispatch from an email group to which I belong. Schuyler Waynforth writes from England:

Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair came to town yesterday. They were accompanied by their wives and their many, many, many security people. We were kept on the green in front of our house with a metal barricade and a wall of police officers (from all over the region) between us and the armored cars they arrived in. I managed to catch glimpses of all the major figures. I first spotted Cherie Blaire with her wide grinning face peering out the window waving at what few protesters had figured out this was the way into the village, a few neighbors, ourselves, and the backs of what seemed at least 100 police. I must admit I had this wonderful fantasy of the police, in unison, mooning the president as he passed, their yellow and white reflective vests snapping in the movement of them lowering their pants and presenting for America's commander in chief. But, they remained vigilant and alert and didn't once acknowledge anything but those of us who stood in front of them. David swears he saw Laura Bush on the first pass, but I only managed an etching glimpse of George W. Bush, with his Charlie Brownish head, waving and smiling, sound-proofed away from the shouts of "Bush Go Home" and the general booing that surrounded me. I saw Blair as he greeted Bush. I had to stand on a pillar that once supported a fence that surrounded "our" front yard (the yard is really council property, but it is in front of our house, so I feel a bit possessive) leaning against David to really see if it was him.

No people but those chosen to meet with them were allowed within 100 yards of him. Two buses of select constituents were brought in to the Dun Cow Inn (I heard one reporter calling it the Cow Dun Inn or Cow Dung Inn, either way she was mistaken) to enjoy lunch with the families. The Dun Cow Inn got a new kitchen out of the deal. Some neighbors wondered at the health risks they had been taking eating there before this Friday. It's a good pub; probably one of the better pubs in the region, which is probably why Blair used it. Or else it's because it sits at a junction that allows for a number of exit routes and that gives a lot of control over how far people can be kept away. Not that they weren't prepared to lay siege from where they stood. 4 snipers were visible from where I stood and I suspect there were a few on the church tower and in other areas less visible to me.

On their way out I did spot Laura. She was sitting in a rear facing seat in one of the Suburbans brought over from the U.S. She was smiling and waving and looked overly made up and so very rigid.

After lunch they had gone to a local high school (or comprehensive college as they are known here) to see a few kids play football. The Guardian reported that those students who had left for lunch and had been told that they would be permitted to return if they could prove their identity were kept from returning if they were wearing anti-Bush or anti-Blair paraphernalia. I figured it was about the best example of free-speech practice that most students could possibly hope to get.

I found I didn't agree with many of the protesters slogans. They kept telling Bush to go home and to take his poodle with him. But I don't think Blair is Bush's poodle. I think Blair has wanted to go after Saddam Hussein for a while and this has been a good marriage for him. In 1999 Blair gave a speech in Chicago where he said we have Milosevic, now we need to get Hussein. I think the poodle position is a good one for Blair to hide behind. It is much better to let people believe you were following in good faith than encourage them to believe that you had your own blood-lust going. And getting out of Iraq is exactly what Bush wants to do. He wants to set up the commercial oil contracts for American corporations and then by June of 2004 he wants to be out of there at the behest of the new Iraqi government. It is getting too messy and too risky to stay until a stable government can be established. What I really wanted to shout was "Open your mind to new ideas!!!" "Come and live with us for a while and look at the world from a different perspective!!!" "Quit hiding behind security and cameras and sound bytes and money and people who think just like you think and look for a new view." But it's hard to make that sound snappy. And it doesn't fit well on a placard.

It was really exciting. I am so glad that it was here, even with the 1,000,000 pound price tag it carried. I don't know if our council taxes will have to cover the cost. Linnaea and Simon had fun drawing pictures of evil Bush and nice Bush (Linnaea's was the nice Bush, Simon has bought into our whole Bush is evil propaganda, however) and coloring in Go Away Bush signs. It was amazing to see all of the police. The village was so very different in the light of an American invasion.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

more from LeGuin

More quotes from Ursula K. LeGuin's "Dancing at the Edge of the World: thoughts on words, women, places":

In a generally enthusiastic review of a book on depression in women LeGuin takes the author to task for insufficient insight into the plight of old women, "[I]f ECT [electroshock] is so safe ... why not use it on depressives of forty ... or fifteen? But [the author] doesn't suggest that, leaving me with an unhappy impression she thinks ECT is fine for old depressives. Why? Because the old depressives are right, at last? Because what they knew all along, waking alone in the black pit of 2:00 a.m., is true -- they don't matter any more?"

From a review of five poets: "While painting seems more the business of stockbrokers than of artists, while orchestras endlessly replay old symphonies and let living composers go unheard, poetry flourishes. Living way below the bottom line, unexploitable, it remains as threatened and ubiquitous as the trees and the wild grass. Our very lack of a 'great' poet may be a sign of the luxuriant vitality of the art."

From a review of a book about the primate language experiments: "That language -- genuine language including syntactics, jokes, lies, and disinterested or aesthetic observation -- may prove to be a skill accessible in some degree to several species: this is an idea so distasteful to certain behaviorists and linguists that they attack not only the results of experiments but the investigation of the subject. Academic territorialism plays a part in this tabooing, but its basis seems to be a need to believe in human uniqueness, human supremacy."

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Edifying Spectacle

Just been reading Richard Evan Lee's Edifying Spectacle. Quite an active rich blog. He breaks out his interests into six different and sometimes overlapping weblogs: Pansexual Sodomite, Amorous Propensities, Books Do Furnish a Room (Lee is a used book dealer), Gullibility isn't in the dictionary, Diversions, and Computer Toaster. I haven't sampled all that but it looks like a good place to poke around.
When I posted Yvonne's letter to NYT columnist Krugman I said people in the military were being punished for speaking politically -- that is, for countering the official propaganda. I wanted to link to an instance of such, but couldn't figure out how to locate one. What do you put in the search engine? What I tried didn't work, though I knew I'd read some bad stuff recently. Here (thanks to Steve Gilliard's blog) is the sort of thing I'm talking about:

ABC NEWS (Nov. 21)— Two U.S. Army pilots charged with ferrying American military brass around Iraq decided to speak out about the vulnerability of their aircraft. Their reward: criminal charges.

Chief Warrant Officers William Lovett and Robert Jones have 53 years of service between them in the active duty and Army Reserves. Jones has flown in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and Bosnia.
But their current mission in central Iraq may be their last. Long before U.S. helicopters were being shot down, the reserve pilots told National Defense Magazine their planes were not properly equipped to fly in a war zone. That interview, which appeared in the September 2003 issue of the magazine, has now led to the charges of dereliction of duty against the pilots for disclosing "vulnerabilities" of the "mission, procedures, and aircraft."

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

A friend posted an email to an email group that I belong to. She'd written it to the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. I asked Yvonne if I could repost her letter on my blog because I thought it well written and, for one like me whose knowledge of the military lifestyle is fairly superficial, illuminating. Now I know only 3 or 4 people read this blog but I said I'd keep her name somewhat obscured. Fact is, people in the military are being punished for expressing their political views. As she said in the subject ine of the email, trying to be funny, "I'll probably be court-marshalled."

Yvonne J writes:
Paul Krugman,
Thank you for writing that article (NYT 11/11/03).  I am an Army Wife; my husband and I met while activated Reservists for Desert Storm at Fort Benning. I have seen the military from the view of Reserves and Active Duty, peace and war, soldier and spouse, barracks life and apartments and on-post housing, enlisted and officer (my husband now, not me), before college and after, as a socially shy newbie and an extremely active volunteer, and with my husband living in all sections of the US but now he's deployed in Iraq.  In addition, I have been very fortunate to see a tiny portion of planning at the DA (Department of the Army) level, and once had the wonderful treat of attending a Congressional Reception with NMFA (National Military Family Association) and an Afternoon Tea at Quarters One with AFTB (Army Family Team Building) in the home of the Shinsekis.  I explain that to show my perspective on the Army so you have a better idea who is responding to you.
In your column you wrote, "The question is whether the military will start to feel taken for granted." In one sense it is a moot question because the soldiers in the military, at least at the levels I've seen, have always felt undervalued for their contributions and experience.  But in the past months I have seen the beginning of what will soon be a potentially devastating situation for the US because NONE of the soldiers I know are planning to continue beyond their current obligated term because of the Iraq situation. 
My husband (also named Paul) and I had worked hard to rise from lower enlisted without college education to both of us getting Bachelor's Degrees, and he is now a Captain with a Master's.  We are extremely grateful to the Army for providing opportunities that, extremely challenging as they were to obtain and achieve, allowed us to reach certain major goals.  Our plan has always been to stay in till and beyond retirement, even though he could be paid much more in the civilian world, out of respect and pride for the Army and the US plus for our enjoyment of the military community lifestyle. 
But no more.  Paul has been deployed seven months and, a nurse anesthetist, has been involved in just four surgeries that whole time.  His military and medical skills are rotting along with those in his unit and hundreds of other medical personnel on deployment.  Yesterday I chatted at the post office with an infantry soldier recently returned who said even his skills declined dramatically while deployed, so many thousands of soldiers are simply decaying and are justifiably extremely angry -- and politically muted.  They have been sent overseas with no mission, no purpose, no acknowledgement, and no hope of a timely return.  Paul has not even been able to get mid-tour leave because of the "medical necessity" of having him there in case of need for surgery. 
What's worse is because his unit isn't really attached to anyone but is rather the asset to many battalions and divisions, the responsibility of none, they have been tossed about between commands, given rules they must abide by and little else.  Only very recently have they even gotten working equipment and comfortable housing (for 4.5 months through spring and summer they were packed in dust-filled tents with no AC - even the surgical area was filled with dust).
But the worst part, the unforgivable part, is that the entire chain up through the General Surgeon and the Secretary of the Army (as I recall) knows about this, sees the immense cost of keeping unnecessary soldiers in Iraq while having to pay exorbitant amounts to fill their slots back home, and still no one will "be the one" to make and act on a decision.  My home currently is Fort Stewart, and as you may recall last month the issue of access to medical care here was proven to be horrendous.  The solution is to farm out soldiers on medical hold to other posts and bring in civilian contractors, yet not bring back the soldiers who are supposed to do that job and are not doing anything else. Ironically, I regularly have to pick up Paul's interoffice mail at the hospital in his inbox.  Housing is now critical in the area, so there really isn't room to bring in more medical providers.
Nothing I have written here is news to anyone now because of the expose on Fort Stewart.  Other soldiers' spouses have written to politicians, the press, and those in military command to no avail.  While none of us likes our soldiers to be deployed, we did "sign up" for that likelihood and happily do what we need to do to make it work.  What so very, very many of us object to is that they are deployed for no reason, are very much POW's without armed guards, and they are sitting ducks for any retribution from the native inhabitants of the occupied country.  Their only purpose seems to be to increase the ego and profits of Bush and friends.  And as long as that profit remains possible to obtain, the soldiers will likely remain in country to "justify" the defense contracts rather than to serve a military or political purpose.
So yes, they do feel taken for granted and abused.  In the coming months and years, while recruitment may be good (perhaps due to lowered enlistment standards and/or higher bonuses), retention will drastically decline.  As the soldiers leave with them goes the knowledge and experience base of the Army.  One officer I know has 18 years of Army service - is therefore very close to the golden retirement - but is getting out as soon as possible anyway.  With these people fleeing service bitterly training of new soldiers by those who do remain will be less adequate, diminished, weaker, so the military itself will be weaker.  The effect may not show for a year or two or maybe more due to the terms of service obligation, and the numbers may never reflect it unless there is closer evaluation of the statistics, but it seems certain to happen.  And while they are muted now by militarily-enforced political forces, those soldiers will not be once they are again civilians. 
Again, I thank you for discussing this subject boldly.  For the same militarily-enforced political reasons I strongly ask you not to publish any of this without discussing it with me first.  A very huge part of me wants to see every word of this in nationwide print - even anonymously (names changed, etc) - to express the importance of what is happening and the effect it will have on the Department of Defense/Offense and therefore the true security of this country.  But the need to be mute makes me extremely cautious.  I write this now only because the press has fortunately revealed this already, making me a small voice in a crowd instead of the lone voice on a podium.
And thank you for reading this, for allowing me a venue to express my perspective.  May you have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Last time I was at the local comic store, this guy asked me to play deliveryman and take to work the book that the store owed the library. Had no problem with that. I had the invoice sitting on my desk awaiting the book.

Anyway. I just read one of the two comics I bought that day, Cavalcade of Boys. It's quite sweet. Creator Tim Fish sets a series of interlocking stories around the holidays -- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Xmas, and New Year's. In one little vignette Tommy at 15 is enduring family teasing. Grandma says, "So, Tommy, do you have a little girlfriend yet?" Dad offers, with a wink, "Anytime you want some Playboys, you just ask me. I won't let your mom know." Mom, overhearing, adds, "Tommy will find a girl when he's ready!" At which, at last, Tommy cries out, "No, I will not!!! I'm GAY!!!"

I never know how to describe art. It's clean, with a lot of friendly white space. And the boys look sexy and real enough (not somebody's overdetermined fantasy). This was issue five. Which means I'll go back and buy the earlier issues, eh?

Monday, November 17, 2003

Read last of seven poets tonight, Loop magazine reading at Moe's.

Nice reading. I invited the Loop crew to read as part of Poetry & Pizza. Probably March.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Two weeks ago I flew my mother up to Seattle to live with her elder son. For the last 30 years Mom has lived in Sebastopol, it's where David & I grew up. In the month leading up to the move I visited Sebastopol (an hour & a half's drive North of Berkeley) every weekend and called Mom every day. She seemed to be doing OK, though time had come she ought not live on her own. Too frail, having confusions. And I was happy that David had asked her to come live with him (& wife Sarah) in Seattle. David even ran a countdown to her arrival on his skook blog. It was a little odd watching the countdown. The days leading up to the move did have a greater weight than the days since. Or so it seemed at first. The trip went fairly smoothly. No accidents, no missed connections. And it was nice seeing David & Sarah again (and, oh yeah, their housemate, Jason, with whom I had one brief but genial conversation). Sarah is a writer (check out her column at tuppenceworth) and now I find myself recipient of full emails in which Sarah talks about Mom and the household adjustment to her. It's not been easy, she says. Has rather been on the verge of emergency and she & D have discovered Mom needs virtually round-the-clock attendance. I've passed on ways I've found to cope with Mom's slow motion ways and inflexible opinions. Sarah says this has been helpful. I hope so. Though I know "helpful" does not mean anything has been fixed. Sarah's last letter includes a number of spiritual sayings/excerpts from writings that she has found help sustain her during the frustrations.

I did a load of whites today. Folding the laundry I discovered a couple pairs of Mom's underwear. She left them here the weekend we were transferring her to Seattle.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

I've been reading a book of occasional writings by Ursula K. LeGuin, "Dancing at the Edge of the World". LeGuin is best known as a science fiction writer, "The Left Hand of Darkness," "The Lathe of Heaven," "Always Coming Home," the EarthSea series. But she writes poetry and fiction of the "New Yorker" sort as well. These essays were mostly written as commencement or other sorts of addresses, or responses to questions about her fiction, or book reviews.

The evening I wrote my last blog entry I began LeGuin's essay "Text, Silence, Performance," which, to my surprise, turned out to be on the same subject. "Information is, or may be, one value or aspect of the word. There are others. Sound is one of them. Significance does not necessarily imply reference to an absent referent; the event itself may be considered significant ... A word in the first place is a noise. ... [Unlike music] the word is a sound that symbolizes, has significance; though it is not pure information it is or can function as a sign. Insofar as it is a sign it can be replaced by another sign, equally arbitrary, and this sign can be a visual one [for example, a written word]."

LeGuin sticks up for the oral arts, questioning the primacy of literature as written. "Isn't there room for both? ... Why have we abandoned and despised the interesting things that happen when the word behaves like music and the author is not just 'a writer' but the player of the instrument of language?"

When I was a baby poet in the Sonoma County (NorCal) poetry scene there was an older poet who would perform his work, sometimes reciting it from memory; when I asked if he sought publication he insisted that publicaton did not matter. It was the spoken word that was the event, the page in a book or magazine was dead. I thought his work good enough to persist on the page and was sorry to hear it would live only in that transitory moment and be gone. I remember him but don't remember his poetry.

"Good enough" ... there's a value judgment, eh?

At a poetry reading I would rather hear a strong performance, even if the writing is relatively weak/uninteresting/unsurprising, than a weak performance of superior writing. There's no point reading it aloud if you read it in a voice that doesn't carry or that mushes the words up or that makes of the sounds a wearying sameness. I've heard few verbal improvs and haven't been impressed by any that I recall. Not saying it couldn't happen but in this culture there's little training available, hence what I've heard tends to the simplistic, the cliche. The "dozens", a form of verbal insult and one-ups-manship in African American culture, which may be more well-known among us paleskins as the rap contest (I'm thinking of Eminem's "8 Mile"; on TV I saw a clip from it in which Eminem competes in a rap contest), could be the sort of training for improv that would produce complex oral texts.

As a professional writer, a white woman, college educated, born and raised in a country and during a period of history in which literacy is predominent, universal literacy being one of the reasons the U.S. judges itself superior to the rest of the world, one ought not be surprised that LeGuin looks around her and sees only disdain for the non-written literatures. This is the stance of the people who count in the U.S., and, probably, most of the world. The university-educated, the social/culture elites.

But TV, the movies, are these written literatures? In the essay LeGuin considers live theatre: "Plays get printed, but their life is still clearly in performance, in the actors' breath, the audience's response. But the drama isn't central to our literature any more." I'm not sure TV isn't at the center of contemporary language arts. "[M]ost film and TV drama," LeGuin says, "use words like they were sanitary landfill." ... "most" ... Most of everything is ... well, as another science fiction writer, Theodore Sturgeon has it, "90% of everything is crud."

LeGuin ends the essay suggesting, "Poets can play new games here [in audio technologies], just as they did when printing (also a technology of reproduction) was new. Unless the poet can afford the machineries and becomes a technician, the work has to be a collaboration; but then, all performance is collaboration. Poetry as the big solo ego trip is only one version of the art ... Aduio poetry is not, of course, performance: if you buy the tape you have the reproduction, not the event. You have the unmortal shadow. But at least it isn't silent; at least the text was woven with the living voice."

I'm not going to let that be the last word. Because silence is OK with me. LeGuin talks about ancient readers who read every word aloud. The written word as a silent experience is fairly new. The written word, in human experience, is still very new, and to many (most?) people still foreign. It has properties different from those of the spoken word. Just as the audio "machineries" provide new ways to "play," so does "printing" (still new) and handwriting/calligraphy ... Recovering the experience of the oral doesn't push out the experience of the silent and visual. As LeGuin says, "We aren't binary. Isn't there room for both? [italics hers]" And more room.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Words. Funny little things. They're things created to represent something else. A word is a particular noise, if spoken. A particular shape, if written. As they originate in sound, even when merely silent on the page, sound inheres in their shapes. We know that "know" and "though" rhyme, for instance, though they look quite different. There is nothing else in the world that exists as nothing but meaning. Not quite right, a word being an object, a sound. When someone utters a word in a language you don't understand or you look at a page of writing you can't read you have a sensory experience independent of meaning. With some confidence we can read emotional states expressed in spoken, sung, shouted language without being able to pin down the particularity of the meaning. A picture -- painted, photo, carved in stone -- will have meanings, more & fewer than words. "A picture is worth a thousand words." Yes, in that it takes many words to draw a picture in someone's mind, a picture that that person could draw in near approximation to the unseen original. But our little words fill up with meanings. "Love", a much-used word in this language, would take many pictures to illustrate because "love" has many meanings. Even "language" proves full of meanings when you try to pin it like a discrete insect to a board. If non-human creatures communicate and language is defined as "the medium of communication," one must assume the non-human creatures are using language. This is something that many refuse to do. Can there be communication without language? Yes, if communication is the transfer of information from one body to another. Pollen transfers information from one body to another. Is that communication? If language is merely "a" medium of communication rather than "the" medium of communication one must talk about it in relation to other media. Scent, perhaps. Or visual signaling. Are these languages? It might be most useful to use the word "language" to speak of the different media of communications. Scent languages, visual languages, spoken languages. A dog's bark. The smell of its genitals. The attitude of its tail. These are elements of information.

At the microcosm of a single word, one can dig amazingly deep. Any one of these words has its history, its accrual and rejection of meanings. As a poet I love to have the words in the poem do many things at once, get as many meanings going as I can. A fractal has the same level of detail no matter how closely you look at it, no matter how far you pull back from it. I like that in a poem.

I have thought about the law. Our society's written rules of conduct. One writes a law as precisely as possible. Unlike my ideal poem, which is loaded with meaning, a law should be stripped of meaning, stripped down until it means only one particular thing and nothing else. This may require a great many words -- the bugaboo being that with the added words one faces the additions and distractions of other meanings.

Al Franken was sued by Fox News when he titled his newest book "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: a fair and balanced look at the right". A transcript of the courtroom proceedings has been posted. I'm most amused by the following exchange betwen the judge and Fox's attorney:

THE COURT: All right. The consumer who would buy the book is a relatively sophisticated consumer, correct? I mean someone interested in political satire and commentary.

MS. HANSWIRTH: I don't agree with that, your Honor. Generally, cases hold that purchasers of books are generally not, neither sophisticated nor unsophisticated.

Ms. Hanswirth is avoiding the word "sophisticated" because, I figure, it requires a greater burden of proof. It doesn't take much to fool a dummy. But a smart person, a "sophisticated" person, an informed person can see through simple ruses. Does Franken's book fool the "sophisticated" person into confusing it with Fox News? Ms. Hanswirth wants to say the book's presentation is confusing regardless of the state of education of the person looking at it. As one is relatively easy or less easy to confuse depending on one's sophistication Ms. Hanswirth wants to avoid that whole area. Convenient for her? Distorting the world to suit a linguistic argument? She doesn't want to say a sophisticated person would be confused because every person who thinks himself mildly sophisticated but yet unfooled would find her argument dubious if not ridiculous. "By that cover it's obvious Franken is criticizing Fox News. What's to confuse?" Neither does Ms. Hanswirth wish to say the book will fool a bunch of dummies. That would be too much like saying that Fox News watchers are a bunch of dummies. And that wouldn't look good. So they are "neither sophisticated nor unsophisticated." Which starts to sound like spiritual language. The way to go is not the way.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Ah, in the post immediately prior I said I couldn't find the comments I'd originally posted at Ron Silliman's blog, those from which Joan Houlihan excerpted one sentence. I found the comments and here's what I said Monday September 15, 2003:

Hi Ron,

I've been reading your blog for some weeks now. You're a pretty sharp guy. And willing to put in the time! My own blog is rather dormant and I was never so on top of it.

As regards Joan Houlihan: I hung out at Web del Sol's poetry bulletin board a couple years ago, even became a board moderator for a month or three, but Mike Neff, WdS's master, descended upon the bulletin board in an avenging fury -- he was offended by people posting poetry he didn't like & too much of it! He called us moderators all sorts of bad names and I swore off the place. Joan Houlihan proved to be his attack puppy and went around to other comment boards slagging the ex-moderators. The woman's arguments are logical fallacies -- sarcasm, ad hominem, scorn. Fact is, her usual resorts are look-at-that-isn't-that-great and look-at-that-isn't-that-stupid. I haven't read Boston Comment in ages, and I'm not feeling the urge now. But the nicest thing about her style is the way she quotes from the poets she slags (or swoons over); thus the reader can see for himself whether she's got a point. I remember in her review of a past Best American Poetry anthology Houlihan quotes lines from a Hejinian in a round-up of lines so obviously bad Houlihan was left speechless. Should be her usual state, right? I liked the Hejinian she quoted, didn't care for much Houlihan thought fab and thereupon realized that Houlie had nothing to say. When I like what Houlie likes, it's coincidence, not a shared aesthetic. (Whereas, when I agree with you, Mr S, it's surely because I'm gradually learning not to be so dumb.)


I hadn't realized that three days later (9/18) an anonymous poster threw up this bile:

headline: "Ingersoll's Dementia"

It's sad the way perennial malcontents like Glen Ingersoll can erupt on a forum and soil it with their juvenile axe grinding.

The incident referred to by Ingersoll re Michael Neff took place two years ago on an poetry forum owned and operated by Web del Sol. A specific person who called himself Native Prancer or Dancer or some such (too shadowy to risk his own name) was attacking a poster who had rightfully criticized his miserably bad scribblings and was doing so in a manner that was both obscene and rant-like. It was board policy to take rants and mean-mouthing to another board designed for more "open debate," but Native Rancid decided to poke at that rule and disguised his rant as "poetry" simply by truncating the lines so that it went something like this:

Who are you to tell
me what the fuck about my
poetry when you don't know
fuck about anything, you
little bastard motherfucker

Well, you get the idea. Since this idiot had been active at this type of trash for weeks and was littering the board with his garbage, Neff asked him to take it elsewhere. At that point, two board editors (one of them a bipolar attorney who actually posted child porn on Neff's board) who were friends of Native convinced the others to abandon the poetry forum in protest of Neff daring to ask an abusive, childish bore to leave.

Ingersoll was among the "editor" mob of hangers-on who had turned the WDS board into their own private playground and effectively chased away anyone serious about getting feedback on their poetry.

[Friend of Neff]


Hmf. This is one way of describing what happened. The comment is unsigned but it reads like Houlihan. Who knows, eh?

James Lineberger posted under the name "native dancer" on web del sol's Writer's Block. That was easy enough to find out via a google search, even if you didn't immediately know who "native dancer" was. Mr Lineberger posted excessively and those of us who were named "editors" had tried to persuade him to post less frequently. (By the way, I quite like James Lineberger's writing.) FON puts "'editor'" in quotes, as I just did because we certainly didn't edit anything. We didn't even have the power to delete obnoxious posts. We were just volunteer moderators, there to make the place feel looked after. There weren't even specified duties. When Neff asked me to be an "editor" I asked him what that entailed, and he said, "What you're doing right now." I figured I'd think about it a couple days and get back to him. Next time I visited the site my name was in the masthead. Well. Whatever. Like he said, I figured I'd just go on doing what I'd been doing. I did feel a little more responsible for making sure poets got comments on their poems so I did spend more time there than I would have otherwise. Reading, thinking, writing. It was useful.

These open boards get messy. And people misbehaved. Other editors who were trying to be conscientious had a chat with Neff and got at last some ground rules and seemingly were given Neff's assurance that he'd support us Blockheads more. Maybe give us the power to delete attack posts? Instead Neff started reading the board and insulting people, one of them native dancer. Native dancer did say something like "you can't tell me what poetry is" when replying to somebody who'd commented on one of his poems. As flame wars go it was cold sparks. But Neff came on like an avenging angel. When editors protested he declared us all the problem and there were mass resignations. I never resigned. I hadn't ever really signed up, I figured. I didn't go at Neff directly but did say something snarky about him when commenting on someone else's thread. Oh such hot heads we have. And that was that. If anything has gone on there since (this was two years or more past) it's proceeded without my witness.

FON's final word:
Oh, and Forgot to Add

For Ingersoll: good job of kissing Ron Silliman's butt, Glen.
You always were a brown-noser.
I've let months pass, haven't I? That soup I was making back in June likely burned into the eyes of any repeat visitor.

So I'm moved to write, right? What could do that? Joan Houlihan. Ugh. She quotes me thusly, "The woman's arguments are logical fallacies -- sarcasm, ad hominem, scorn." I was not commenting specifically on "Post-Post Dementia", the column about which the other quotes there gathered are supposedly talking. I couldn't have been as I haven't read it. The sentence Houlihan excerpts was one I wrote in response to Ron Silliman's discussion at his blog about that anti-language-poetry essay. She did not ask me permission to excerpt my words, nor tell me she was going to. I only found my words at her site because I googled my name. Several pages of google results in Houlihan's site came up. I was surprised. Go figure. What I said is true, however denuded of context.

I just tried to find Silliman's original discussion to link to it and had no luck. Pooh. It doesn't matter all that much, I guess. I'm irked to see my words yanked from their context without my permission or knowledge and reposted on the site of the person I was accusing of bad behavior. Hm. Bad behavior. Yeah. More of it. I have bad memories of Joan Houlihan. When Mike Neff ripped into those of us who were volunteering on his poetry bulletin board at web del sol Joan Houlihan hopped around other bulletin boards loyally toeing his line and trashing us. Far as I recall I didn't respond to her postings. I have no respect for her. And that was what I was talking about. Old stuff. Has she changed? Based on this I'd say no. But I'm not going to rush off and read her silly column hoping I'm wrong.