Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Language Cathedral: Biography: Slice Up A Dead Horse As An Example

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As can be noted from the entry on Lincoln, I have been exploring the relationship between biography and reality; the structure and function of the mirror the biographer stands before the person.

Years ago, I read every available biography of Orson Welles. I wanted to explore the Wellesian persona in the fragmented, Rashoman-like manner that Citizen Kane circled around the mystery of Kane. The hope was that the multiple reflections would present a more "authentic figure" of Welles than any one alone. Would it be possible to see the man behind the curtain? Through these various perspectives, would I uncover an ontological synecdoche: a single object that stood as final summary, key, to the core of Welles' life, a "rosebud"?

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The biography, the life, the being, of a Quixote, a Hamlet, a Kane, is contained within the work, the artifact, the art. It is a sphere that we can stand outside of and look into, a crystal ball upon the teller's table. It is contained, limited (in the strictest sense: described), within the context of our being (although there is argument here - see Bloom). The biographer's task of representation is always beyond, at most, concurrent with his own being. Meditation upon a person reflected in a multitude of mirrors - biographical representations - can perhaps provide a more "holographic" portrait, but the innermost thoughts, the soliloquies of self meaning, remain occluded, shadows under the surface.

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There is epistemological tension in this: who or what is represented in words about a man's life? Persona is indicated above - aspects of a mask. Questions fractal along the edge between language and reality. The Mirror of Representation cracks, slivers, melts on the threshold of the the Real, the Noumenon.

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It is convenient (and, admittedly, suspect) to set up dialectical positions here: one implicitly affirming the validity of language as an instrument to reflect an accurate image of the World; the other rejecting the accuracy of the representation but still employing the language, oblivious - willfully so - to the implicit implications. Slice a dead horse as example: one holding the Mirror up to the World, believing the reflections to be real; the other attempting the shatter the Mirror to show that what is reflected is a false representation of... what? If not the World, perhaps the Subjective Real. The Mirror remains. Language is always transcendent over its representations.

In Mimesis, Erich Auerbach writes:

As recently as the nineteenth century, and even at the beginning of the twentieth, so much clearly formulable and recognized community of thought and feeling remained in those countries that a writer engaged in representing reality had reliable criteria at hand by which to organize it. At least, within the range of contemporary movements, he could discern certain specific trends; he could delimit opposing attitudes and ways of life with a certain degree of clarity. To be sure, this had long since begun to grow increasingly difficult. Flaubert (to confine ourselves to realistic writers) already suffered from the lack of valid foundations for his work; and the subsequent increasing predeliction for ruthlessly subjectivistic perspectives is another symptom. At the time of the first World War and after - in a Europe unsure of itself, overflowing with unsettled ideologies and ways of life, and pregnant with disaster - certain writers distinguished by instinct and insight find a method which dissolves reality into multiple and multivalent reflections of consciousness. That this method should have been developed at this time is not hard to understand.
But the method is not only a symptom of the confusion and helplessness, not only a mirror of the decline of our world. There is, to be sure, a good deal to be said for such a view. There is all these works  a certain atmosphere of universal doom: especially in Ulysses, with its mocking odi-et-amo hodgepodge of the European tradition, with its blatant and painful cynicism, and its uninterpenetrable symbolism - for even the most painstaking analysis can hardly emerge with anything more than an appreciation of the multiple enmeshment of motifs but with nothing of the purpose and meaning of the work itself. And most of the other novels which employ multiple reflection of consciousness also leave the reader with an impression of hopelessness. There is often something confusing, something hazy about them, something hostile to the reality that they represent. We not infrequently find a turning away from the practical will to live, or delight in portraying it under its most brutal forms. There is a hatred of culture and civilization, brought out by means of the subtlest stylistic devices which culture and civilization have developed, and often a radical and fanatical urge to destroy. [emph. mine]

Auerbach wrote Mimesis in exile from the Third Reich - without access to any of the primary texts. It was published in 1946. You can hear the thunder of the War in his language, the evening light of the "European tradition" pulses within the words. Yet, over half a century later, Joyce's love-hate montage resides within the same canonical zoo as Swift, Milton, Dante and Shakespeare. And whatever the aberrations of Modernism might have been, "the radical and fanatical urges to destroy" there were nothing compared to the Rough Beast that has now slouched into view.

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An excerpt from an interview with Slavoj Žižek not long after the events of September 11, 2001:

Has 11 September thrown new light on your diagnosis of what is happening to the world?
Slavoj Žižek: One of the endlessly repeated phrases we heard in recent weeks is that nothing will be the same after 11 September. I wonder if there really is such a substantial change. Certainly, there is change at the level of perception or publicity, but I don't think we can yet speak of some fundamental break. Existing attitudes and fears were confirmed, and what the media were telling us about terrorism has now really happened.
In my work, I place strong emphasis on what is usually referred to as the virtualisation or digitalisation of our environment. We know that 60 percent of the people on this Earth have not even made a phone call in their life. But still, 30 percent of us live in a digitalised universe that is artificially constructed, manipulated and no longer some natural or traditional one. At all levels of our life we seem to live more and more with the thing deprived of its substance. You get beer without alcohol, meat without fat, coffee without caffeine...and even virtual sex without sex.
Virtual reality to me is the climax of this process: you now get reality without reality...or a totally regulated reality. But there is another side to this. Throughout the entire twentieth century, I see a counter-tendency, for which my good philosopher friend Alain Badiou invented a nice name: 'La passion du réel', the passion of the real. That is to say, precisely because the universe in which we live is somehow a universe of dead conventions and artificiality, the only authentic real experience must be some extremely violent, shattering experience. And this we experience as a sense that now we are back in real life.
Do you think that is what we are seeing now?
Slavoj Žižek: I think this may be what defined the twentieth century, which really began with the First World War. We all remember the war reports by Ernst Jünger, in which he praises this eye-to-eye combat experience as the authentic one. Or at the level of sex, the archetypal film of the twentieth century would be Nagisa Oshima's Ai No Corrida (In The Realm Of The Senses), where the idea again is that you become truly radical, and go to the end in a sexual encounter, when you practically torture each other to death. There must be extreme violence for that encounter to be authentic. [emph. mine]

Another emblematic figure in this sense to me is the so-called 'cutter'- a widespread pathological phenomenon in the USA. There are two million of them, mostly women, but also men, who cut themselves with razors. Why? It has nothing to do with masochism or suicide. It's simply that they don't feel real as persons and the idea is: it's only through this pain and when you feel warm blood that you feel reconnected again. So I think that this tension is the background against which one should appreciate the effect of the act.

It has been my project for many years to believe in the language as living thing, as having authentic being. In this manner, I often imagine the requirements for a biography of Language, not as a chronology of facts or historical events, but as a means of penetrating to into the core of Being, of unfolding the mystery. I have, in fact, been obsessed with this of late. This concern has been at the core of me and through all the violence and brutality that I have brought upon it with my attempts at creation and explanation, it has retained its gem-like flame.

From the Letter on Humanism by Heidegger:

Language is the house of Being. In its home man dwells. Those who think and those who create with words are the guardians of this home.

With thanks to Castrovalva's sublime Notes From Underground for links and inspiration.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Out of the music and violent dreams of the war, Lincoln stood taller

Amongst the boxes of an inherited library, I uncovered a collection of Lincolnalia - over a dozen biographies and books about Abraham Lincoln - the most recent one published in the 1950s. So I decided to read a handful of them. Perversely, I first went down to the Bellingham Library and checked out what I assumed to the most authoritative and up-to-date biography to start off with, Lincoln by David Donald, published in 1995. Figured that the extra 45 years might offer insightful perspective that I could then carry on into the earlier texts.

From The Library Journal:

Donald's profile of the 16th president focuses entirely on Lincoln, seldom straying from the subject. It looks primarily at what Lincoln "knew, when he knew it, and why he made his decisions." Donald's Lincoln emerges as ambitious, often defeated, tormented by his married life, but with a remarkable capacity for growth into the nation's greatest president. What really stands out in a lively narrative are Lincoln's abilities to hold together a nation of vastly diverse regional interests during the turmoil and tragedy of the Civil War.

At the end of Chapter 9: The Taste Is in My Mouth, just after the moment where Lincoln realizes that he is going to be the next president, I realized there was something, some essential life, poetry, missing from Donald's biography. The research was impeccable, everything presented in fine order, and yet, at this crucial moment in the history of a great man's life, I felt distant and "locked out" - especially in that Donald makes a point in the preface to emphasize that this is "a biography written from Lincoln's point of view, using the information and ideas that were available to him."

So I turned to Carl Sandburg's Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and The War Years, a first edition, no less, published in 1954. I paged around until I found the same place in time at the end of Chapter 14, "Mary, We're Elected." And here, here, was what I was looking for (naturally, coming from a poet). Look at these two examples of the last paragraphs of each book:


In the days before the election, as Republican victory seemed increasingly likely, Lincoln's basic pessimism reemerged as he began fully to realize that a campaign initially undertaken primarily for local political reasons was going to place him in the White House. Just a few days before the election he remarked to a New York caller: "I declare to you this morning, General, that for personal considerations I would rather have a term in the Senate - a place in which I would feel more consciously able to discharge the duties required, and where there is more chance to make a reputation, and less danger of losing it - than four years of presidency."


Events marched and masked their meanings. Facts were gathering motion, whisking into new shapes and disguises every day. Dream shapes of future events danced into sight and out of sight, faded and came again, before a whirlgig of triple mirrors.

I am not sure that I even understand the meaning of Sandburg's language, but I am utterly seduced by it. Whereas, again at this pivotal moment in Lincoln's life, Donald provides us with, what I suspect to be, rather ingenuously humble remark by Lincoln that effectively deflates the moment of all its import.

Amidst the usual masturbatory exaltations of hyperbolic hallmark sentiment that typlifies most of the's customer reviews, I found one from Keith Orth that succinctly concurred:

While I feel that Mr. Donald's sober, respectful portrait of Lincoln reflects serious scholarship, I can't agree that this is the towering literary accomplishment the blurbs suggest. When reading this tome (do you really need such excruciating detail about all those secondary and tertiary 19th century politicians?) one often remembers that the author is an elderly Harvard academic, and not the kind of intuitive storyteller and brilliant writer who is the subject of the book.
To be fair, Lincoln as a man and politician and perhaps our most important president is such a complex proposition that no single volume can do him justice. This is a noble attempt. My only real objection is the author's dryness and lack of narrative propulsion--serious drawbacks at any time but especially taxing in a book this length.

An excellent article in the Journal of Abraham Lincoln Association, Sandburg's Lincoln Within History by James Hurt summarizes the issue beautifully:

A different, though related, charge against The Prairie Years and The War Years is that they contain too much material that is neither biography nor history but merely rather sentimental poeticizing on Sandburg's part. Quaife was as hard on this aspect of The Prairie Years as he was on the careless scholarship. He was especially scornful of what Sandburg called the "moonlight chapters," sections in which he sketched in the historical context of Lincoln's life by imagining what the moon might have seen at the time. "Whatever else it may be," Quaife snorted, it is "not history." Sandburg's "poetical" interpolations were also the butt of Edmund Wilson's famous attack on the book, first in The New Yorker and then in Patriotic Gore. Wilson found Sandburg's treatment of Lincoln's romance with Ann Rutledge particularly hard to stomach. He cited Sandburg's line, "A trembling took his body and dark waves ran through him sometimes when she spoke so simple a thing as, 'The corn is getting high, isn't it?'" Wilson's comment was, "The corn is getting high indeed!"
One critical strategy, faced with the uneasy blend of history and poetry in Sandburg's Lincoln, has been to abandon the claim to biographical accuracy and instead see the book as a large-scale national poem, perhaps an American epic. This is the view taken by, among many others, Penelope Niven, author of the massive and authoritative 1991 Carl Sandburg: A Biography."Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years," she writes, "is a vast, epic prose poem, with Lincoln the central figure in the volatile pageant of nineteenth-century American life. A man and a nation simultaneously came of age, for Lincoln grew into manhood as his country faced its own great crisis of character and destiny." It is also essentially the view that Robert W. Johannsen takes in his wonderfully warm and sympathetic 1978 essay on "Sandburg and Lincoln: The Prairie Years." He frames Sandburg as a romantic historian rather than an epic poet, but the two are very similar in Johannsen's formulation. The Prairie Years, he writes, quoting Sandburg approvingly, "was a 'poem of America, the America of humble folk and rough pioneers, of crude settlements ... of the corn lands and broad prairies ... a poem of the human spirit, not Lincoln's spirit only.'"
Sandburg himself saw his book as an American epic as often as he thought of it as a mere biography. In a preface written for The Prairie Years but dropped before publication, he wrote, "The facts and myths of his life are to be an American possession, shared widely over the world, for thousands of years, as the tradition of Knute or Alfred, Laotse or Diogenes, Pericles or Caesar, are kept." And in his "symphonic finish" to The War Years, Sandburg wrote, "Out of the smoke and stench, out of the music and violent dreams of the war, Lincoln stood perhaps taller than any other of the many great heroes. This was in the minds of many. None threw a longer shadow than he. And to him the great hero was The People. He could not say too often that he was merely their instrument." In this and in many similar passages, the figure of Lincoln becomes merged with that of Sandburg's favorite abstraction, The People, and the book becomes a democratic epic celebrating not an individual but a collective hero.

You know that when the primary text gives birth to such electric secondary comment and critique that you are on the right track. When I read, "Quaife snorted, it is 'not history'" and "Wilson's comment was, 'The corn is getting high indeed!'" I laughed out loud.

I imagine that amongst the Homeric Rhapsodes there were Quaifes and Wilsons, sniffing and snorting and arching the supercilious brow. Thousands of years later, the poet stands and Quaife is down in the dust trying to count Hector's teeth. Give me the epic over the Leibowitzian litanies any day.

The other biographies that I have are the sturdy workmanlike "classic" Abraham Lincoln: A Biography by Benjamin Thomas (1954, first edition). And Emil Ludwig's Lincoln (1930, first edition). I won't spend any more time on Thomas except to say that you could still use his text in any high school class without issue. Ludwig is another story. It is important to bear in mind two things: 1. Ludwig was a German, this text being a translation; and, 2. it was published in 1929, 1930. (Also published around this time: All Quiet on the Western Front by Remarque (1929), Heidigger's Being and Time (1927) and Mein Kampf by Hitler (1928). In 1930, the Nazi Party won 107 seats in the Reichstag.)

Ludwig's biography seems, at times, to possess a queer distance from the facts - and not in a poetic Sandburgian manner. He treats Lincoln's life as something divorced from history, counter-real literature, a fine play, with Lincoln as the lead actor. And his writing is soaked in maudlin bathos. A couple of quick quotes:

I see him like one of Shakespeare's characters, absolutely original, comparable to none, immemorable unique.
[...] But then the son fears his father's deathbed just as he had feared his own wedding bed. His loneliness, his great loneliness, makes him dread such encounters and withdraw into himself.

[...] Never again, since Abraham Lincoln lived and died, has an innocent man worn a chain of slavery on his foot on that vast continent.
In the mornings, when my coffee needs a little more saccharine, I tear up pages of the Ludwig biography and stir them into the cup.

So there you have it, over halfway through all four. I was over a Watermark Books in Anacortes the other day and saw the just published Ronald White,  A. Lincoln: A Biography. I figure that I am good for it and, just to make sure the entire cake is covered, Abraham Lincoln by McPherson. I mean, I am already in it, might as well touch bottom.

And yet, over 100 years ago, in 1876,  in his Oration in Memory of Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglas said, "Any man can say things that are true of Abraham Lincoln, but no man can say anything that is new of Abraham Lincoln."

The Laughing Bone Store: Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and The War Years by Carl Sandburg

Monday, December 28, 2009

Wallace Smith and those who crucify themselves on billboards in the quest for the Nietzschean solitude

Wandering around Henderson Books earlier today. Happened to see a stack of prints by none other than Wallace Smith. I remarked to the owner that Smith was about the last artist I would expect to find in a stack of miscellaneous prints.

Years ago, I purchased a copy of Fantazius Mallare: A Mysterious Oath by Ben Hecht, illustrations by Wallace Smith. At the time, I had only a notion of who Ben Hecht was. I bought to book solely on the power of Smith's illustrations.

After purchasing all the prints at Henderson's, I returned to my room and scanned them in. (A click on the images here will take you to a much larger image.) I also did a little research on the enigmatic Wallace Smith. Enjoy.

A novel of decadence and mystic existentialism, Fantazius Mallare is a story of a mad recluse—a genius sculptor and painter who is at war with reason. Rather than commit suicide, his doting madness dictates that he must revolt against all evidence of life that exists outside himself. He destroys all of his work and then seeks out a woman who will devote herself to his Omnipotence. What follows is a glorious trek into a horrifying enlightening insanity.

- From { feuilleton }: Fantazius Mallare and the Kingdom of Evil

Hecht’s book was illustrated by Wallace Smith (1888–1937) whose careful delineations seem to owe something to Harry Clarke. Smith didn’t spare the salacious details and artist and writer ended up being fined $1000 each when the books were seized. Book fanzine It Goes on the Shelf throws some interesting light on this incident in a review of a Hecht biography:

"…my interest in Hecht is mostly that he wrote a book, Fantazius Mallare, illustrated by Wallace Smith. Smith was said by Ronald Clyne to have gone to jail for the Mallare artwork, but apparently this was an exaggeration—he and Hecht were, however, fined $1000 each for “obscenity”; and $1000 was quite a lot of money in 1924. The particular points I was curious about were where the rest of the Wallace Smith artwork is? he could hardly have developed that style in the handful of drawings that have been published; and what happened to the copies of Fantazius Mallare seized by the US government? the book did not seem to be as scarce as would have been expected if they had seized even half of the 2000-copy edition. MacAdams was able to answer this last question to some extent—after the obscenity conviction, the publisher made another 2000 copies and sold them ‘under the counter’. However, MacAdams and I discovered that we both have copies of the original numbered edition, and that mine is #587 while his is #1900 and something—so what did the goverment seize?

"It should be noted that Hecht and Smith went to a great deal of trouble to have themselves convicted of obscenity. They had wanted to create a test case of the federal obscenity law and have a show trial in order to turn public opinion against it by ridicule. Hecht also intended to enter a million-dollar civil suit for defamation of character against John Sumner and his infamous Society for the Suppression of Vice if Sumner attacked his book. The famous Clarence Darrow was to have been their attorney. The plan was to send review copies of Fantazius Mallare to all of the literary lights of the time, and then have Darrow call these people as expert witnesses at the trial. Alas, the scheme foundered on the unforeseen pusillanimity of the literary establishment—only HL Mencken agreed to appear as a witness. In the end there was no trial because Hecht and Smith endered a plea of nolo contendere."

- From { feuilleton }: Fantazius Mallare and the Kingdom of Evil

The Dedication from Fantazius Mallare

This dark and wayward book is affectionately dedicated to my enemies- to the curious ones who take fanatic pride in disliking me; to the baffling ones who remain enthusiastically ignorant of my existence; to the moral ones upon whom Beauty exercises a lascivious and corrupting influence; to the moral ones who have relentlessly chased God out of their bedrooms; to the moral ones who cringe before Nature, who flatten themselves upon prayer rugs, who shut their eyes, stuff their ears, bind, gag and truss themselves and offer their mutilations to the idiot God they have invented (the Devil take them, I grow bored with laughing at them); to the anointed ones who identify their paranoic symptoms as virtues, who build altars upon complexes; to the anointed ones who have slain themselves and who stagger proudly into graves (God deliver Himself from their caress!); to the religious ones who wage bloody and tireless wars upon all who do not share their fear of life (Ah, what is God but a despairing refutation of Man?); to the solemn and successful ones who gesture with courteous disdain from the depth of their ornamental coffins (we are all cadavers but let us refrain from congratulating each other too courteously on the fact); to the prim ones who find their secret obscenities mirrored in every careless phrase, who read self accusation into the word sex; to the prim ones who wince adroitly in the hope of being mistaken for imbeciles; to the prim ones who fornicate apologetically (the Devil can-cans in their souls); to the cowardly ones who borrow their courage from Ideals which they forthwith defend with their useless lives; to the cowardly ones who adorn themselves with castrations (let this not be misunderstood); to the reformers- the psychopathic ones who publicly and shamelessly belabor their own unfortunate impulses; to the reformers (once again)- the psychopathic ones trying forever to drown their own obscene desires in ear-splitting prayers for their fellowman's welfare; to the reformers- the Freudian dervishes who masturbate with Purity Leagues, who achieve involved orgasms denouncing the depravities of others; to the reformers (patience, patience) the psychopathic ones who seek to vindicate their own sexual impotencies by padlocking the national vagina, who find relief for constipation in forbidding their neighbors the water closet (God forgives them, but not I); to the ostracizing ones who hurl excommunications upon all that is not part of their stupidity; to the ostracizing one who fraternize only with the worms inside their coffins (their anger is the caress incomparable); to the pious ones who, lacking the strength to please themselves, boast interminably to God of their weakness in denying themselves; to the idealistic ones who, unable to confound their neighbors with their own superiority, join causes in the hope of confounding each other with the superiority of their betters (involved, but I am not done with them); to the idealistic ones whose cowardice converts the suffering others into a mirror wherein stares wretchedly back at them a possible image of themselves; to the idealistic, ones who, frightened by this possible image of themselves, join Movements for the triumph of Love and Justice and the overthrow of Tyranny in the frantic hope of breaking the mirror; to the social ones who regard belching as the sin against the Holy Ghost, who enamel themselves with banalities, who repudiate contemptuously the existence of their bowels (Ah, these theologians of etiquette, these unctuous circumlocutors, a pock upon them); to the pure ones who masquerade excitedly as eunuchs and as wives of eunuchs (they have their excuses, of course, and who knows but the masquerade is somewhat unnecessary); to the pedantic ones who barricade themselves heroically behind their own belchings; to the smug ones who walk with their noses ecstatically buried in their own rectums (I have nothing against them, I swear); to the righteous ones who masturbate blissfully under the blankets of their perfections; to the righteous ones who finger each other in the choir loft (God forgive me if I ever succumb to one of them); to the critical ones who whoremonger on Parnassus; to the critical ones who befoul themselves in the Temples and point embitteredly at the Gods as the sources of their own odors (I will someday devote an entire dedication to critics); to the proud ones who urinate against the wind (they have never wetted me and I have nothing against them); to the cheerful ones who tirade viciously against all who do not wear their protective smirk; to the cheerful ones who spend their evenings bewailing my existence (the Devil pity them, not I); to the noble ones who advertise their secrets, who crucify themselves on billboards in the quest for the Nietzschean solitude; to the noble ones who pride themselves on their stolen finery; to the flagellating ones who go to the opera in hair shirts, who excite themselves with denials and who fornicate only on Fast Days; to the just ones who find compensation for their nose rings and sackcloth by hamstringing all who refuse to put them on -all who have committed the alluring sins from which their own cowardice fled; to the conservative ones who gnaw elatedly upon old bones and wither with malnutrition; to the conservative ones who snarl, yelp, whimper and grunt, who are the parasites of death; who choke themselves with their beards; to the timorous ones who vomit invective upon all that confuses them, who vituperate against all their non-existent intelligence cannot grasp; to the martyr ones who disembowel themselves on the battlefield, who crucify themselves upon their stupidities; to the serious ones who mistake the sleep of their senses and the snores of their intellect for enviable perfections; to the serious ones who suffocate gently in the boredom they create (God alone has time to laugh at them) to the virgin ones who tenaciously advertise their predicament; to the virgin ones who mourn themselves, who kneel before keyholes; to the holy ones who recommend themselves tirelessly and triumphantly to God (I haere never envied God His friends, nor He, mine perflaps); to the never clean ones who bathe publicly in the hysterias of the mob; to the never clean ones who pander for stupidity; to the intellectual ones who play solitaire with platitudes, who drag their classrooms around with them; to these and to many other abominations whom I apologize to for omitting, this inhospitable book, celebrating the dark mirth of Fantazius Mallare, is dedicated in the hope that their righteous eyes may never kindle with secret lusts nor their pious lips water erotically from its reading- in short in the hope that they may never encounter the ornamental phrases I have written and the ritualstic lines Wallace Smith has drawn in the pages that follow.

- From Fantazius Mallare

The entirety of Fantazius Mallare is available online (alas, without illustrations).

While the movie people basked in the limelight, Smith quietly sketched his way into a permanent place in Round-Up history. His drawings included a taut and tense depiction of a prototypically lean cowboy atop a horse. The cowboy, his hat flying away, leans back toward the bronco's high-kicking rear end and holds on with all the strength he can muster.

Round-Up organizers paid Smith $250 for the drawing, copyrighted it in 1925, and began using it as the event's logo. There's no estimating how many times since then the image has been reproduced or seen. Many decades later, the picture still symbolizes at a glance the essence of rodeo competition. To knowledgeable Round-Up fans, Smith's drawing and the words "Let 'er Buck!" are synonymous.

... Years before the 1924 Round-Up, Hearst newspapers dispatched Smith four times to cover wars in Mexico. He was embedded twice with forces of Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa. In those days, journalists were less detached from story subjects, helping to explain why Villa awarded Smith the rank of colonel. He also rode with U.S. forces after Villa mounted an assault into New Mexico. At one point, Smith was captured and nearly executed by Mexican firing squad.

A book about William Randolph Hearst's Chicago American, where Smith worked for many years, described him as ruggedly handsome, flamboyant, and having a penchant for solving crimes that police couldn't. During the Mexico campaigns, while other correspondents wore army-issue clothes, Smith "had himself fitted with an officer's uniform that might have been the envy of a four-star general," wrote George Murray in his 1965 book The Madhouse on Madison Street.

During his assignments in Mexico, Smith closely observed the peasants for whom Villa waged war. In his 1923 book, The Little Tigress, he wrote sympathetically about their plight and brought them to life in his trademark stark black-and-white drawings.

Smith's run-in with obscenity laws culminated in Chicago six months before the 1924 Round-Up. He pleaded no contest to charges he had violated federal law with erotic drawings illustrating a bizarre 1922 novel, Fantazius Mallare, by fellow journalist and novelist Ben Hecht. Smith and Hecht were each fined $1,000. (In 1929 at the first-ever Academy Awards, Hecht won an Oscar for best original screenplay, a genre that Smith also would later add to his résumé.)

An apparent plan for celebrated lawyer Clarence Darrow to test the law's constitutionality using the case against Smith and Hecht never materialized, and the government seized Fantazius Mallare after two thousand and twenty-five copies were printed. After the nation's mores changed and such laws were relaxed, several publishers reissued the book starting in 1978. It was widely available in 2008.

Smith steered clear of sexually explicit drawings after his legal troubles, though his work was no less evocative, judging from "Let 'er Buck!" and similar art in his 1925 book Oregon Sketches. Based on an extended trip across the state, the book celebrated western life and its characters, including the Round-Up's buckaroos.

In 1928, Smith returned to the Round-Up and judged the Indian Beauty Pageant. He also made front-page newspaper drawings--this time for the East Oregonian--and did research in support of his campaign to defeat a proposed ban on bronco-busting at California rodeos.

For a time he owned a ranch in Oregon, though it isn't clear where. Smith apparently wrote there occasionally after relocating to Hollywood and embarking on his successful screenplay-writing career. His services were in high demand--he wrote or contributed to twenty-six screenplays, often enhancing them with detailed scene sketches. Smith's work included screen adaptations of his novels The Captain Hates the Sea and The Gay Desperado.

In 1935, Smith's novel Bessie Cotter about a prostitute's life on the streets of Chicago was judged indecent in England and the publisher fined the equivalent of $1,000. It was published a year earlier in the United States.

A newspaper colleague and friend, Harry Hansen, wrote of Smith in the 1923 book Midwest Portraits: "His salary was always big, his stories were always expansive, his expense account always leaned to the side of generosity to all men; he came and went in princely fashion, in olden times he might have preceded by a roll of drums."

Smith's flamboyance aside, he was congenial and warm--in Hansen's words "an emotional man, of great depressions and glad rejoicings, and yet a careful student of his fellows; a man who responds quickly and intensively to beauty in mountain and valley, in seashore and plain." Upon seeing Smith's drawing of black hands reaching out of quiet waters, Hansen said Carl Sandburg remarked: "That's poetry."

In 1937, Smith died suddenly of a heart attack. He was forty-eight.

- From The East Oregonian: Wallace Smith draws the symbol of Round-Up By Michael Bales

Saturday, December 12, 2009

God Is Dreaming: Wake Up

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Once there was a holy man named Narada, whose great learning impressed the gods, even Vishnu who sleeps on a bed of cobras above the dark lake of infinity and whose very own dream is the universe.

One day Vishnu came to Narada and offered him a single wish; Narada answered that he would like to understand Maya, the illusion of the worlds dreamed by Vishnu. "Very well" said the god. "Let's go for a walk."

So Vishnu and Narada began a trek that would take them across the whole of Hindustan: through the teeming streets of Calcutta, along the banks of the holy Ganges, into the stifling forests that belonged to the Bengal tiger, and out across the plains of Uttar Pradesh, which grew hotter and hotter until the grass disappeared and their feet trod the burning desert of Rajasthan.

In the desert, Vishnu beckoned Narada to him: "My son, I am thirsty. There is an oasis around this dune. Please go and fetch me some water." So Narada went. He found the oasis, where spring water greened the fields of a small village. Seeking permission to draw from the well, he knocked on the door of the first hut. A young woman answered, and at the moment that Narada's eyes met hers he forgot his mission, forgot everything from before.

Narada stayed and married the beautiful young woman. They had two children. He was very happy, coaxing grain from the soil, working beside his loving wife and watching his children grow.

Twelve years went by, and one day an unusually dark storm rolled in from the north. Thunder boomed and rain came down in sheets. Narada tried to gather his family in his arms but the flood hit too quickly and plunged them into an inky swirl that separated them all. In a frenzy, he dove and thrashed and cried the names of his wife and children, but in the dark swirling water he could grasp nothing. Exhausted and heartbroken, he gave in to the raging current and the water swept him away.

Narada awoke face down in the sand under the blazing sun. He heard a voice: "My son, where is the drink you promised me? It's been half an hour." Narada looked into Vishnu's face. After a moment the god said, "Now you understand my dream."

- From Living in a Dream, Chong Hae Sunim JDPS

[ source ]

" ...before time began there was no heaven, no earth and no space between. A vast dark ocean washed upon the shores of nothingness and licked the edges of night. A giant cobra floated on the waters. Asleep within its endless coils lay the Lord Vishnu. He was watched over by the mighty serpent. Everything was so peaceful and silent that Vishnu slept undisturbed by dreams or motion. From the depths a humming sound began to tremble, Om. It grew and spread, filling the emptiness and throbbing with energy. The night had ended. Vishnu awoke. As the dawn began to break, from Vishnu's navel grew a magnificent lotus flower. In the middle of the blossom sat Vishnu's servant, Brahma. He awaited the Lord's command. Vishnu spoke to his servant: 'It is time to begin.' Brahma bowed. Vishnu commanded: 'Create the world.' A wind swept up the waters. Vishnu and the serpent vanished. Brahma remained in the lotus flower, floating and tossing on the sea. He lifted up his arms and calmed the wind and the ocean. Then Brahma split the lotus flower into three. He stretched one part into the heavens. He made another part into the earth. With the third part of the flower he created the skies. The earth was bare. Brahma set to work. He created grass, flowers, trees and plants of all kinds. To these he gave feeling. Next he created the animals and the insects to live on the land. He made birds to fly in the air and many fish to swim in the sea. To all these creatures, he gave the senses of touch and smell. He gave them power to see, hear and move. The world was soon bristling with life and the air was filled with the sounds of Brahma's creation.

[ source ]

Vishnu, the God, sleeps, and the activity of his mind stuff creates dreams, and we are all his dream: the world is Vishnu's dream. And just as, in your dreams, all the images that you behold and all the people who appear are really manifestations of your own dreaming power, so are we all manifestations of Vishnu's dreaming power. We are no more independent entities than the dream figures in our own dreams.

Hence, we are all one in Vishnu: manifestations, inflections, of this dreaming power of Vishnu; broken images of himself rippling on the spontaneously active surface of his subtle mind stuff. Moreover, this sleeping god's divine dream of the universe is pictured in Indian art as a great lotus plant growing from his navel.

- From Hinduism, Joseph Campbell

source ]

There is an old story from India about the God, Brahma, who was all alone. Nothing existed but Brahma, and he was completely bored. Brahma decided to play a game, but there was no one to play with. So he created a beautiful goddess, Maya, just for the purpose of having fun. Once Maya existed and Brahma told her the purpose of her existence, she said, "Okay, let's play the most wonderful game, but you have to do what I tell you to do." Brahma agreed, and following Maya's instructions, he created the sun and the stars, the moon and the planets. Then he created life on earth, the animals, the oceans, the atmosphere, everything.

Maya said, "How beautiful is this world of illusion you created. Now I want you to create a kind of animal that is so intelligent and aware that it can appreciate your creation." Finally Brahma created humans, and after he finished the creation, he asked Maya when the game was going to start."

We will start right now," she said. She took Brahma and cut him into thousands of teeny, tiny pieces. She put a piece into every human and said, "Now the game begins! I am going to make you forget what you are, and you are going to try and find yourself!" Maya created the Dream, and still, even today, Brahma is trying to remember who he is. Brahma is there inside you, and Maya is stopping you from remembering who you are.

[ source ]

My bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long

[ source ]

Reading through Power Moby-Dick, came across this reference to Isaac Watts in the Sermon chapter:

"The ribs and terrors in the whale...": This hymn is based on "Death, and the terrors of the grave," a hymn by Isaac Watts.

Of course, I looked it up and stumbled upon this passage, appropriate for this day of Our Lady of Guadalupe:

The worm that dieth not.

Let us begin with the first of these, viz. the torments which are derived from the gnawing worm, those agonies and uneasy passions which will arise and work in the souls of these wretched creatures, so far as we can collect them from the word of God, from the reason of things, and the working powers of human nature.

When an impenitent sinner is cast into hell, we have abundant reason to suppose, that the evil temper of his soul, and the vicious principles within him, are not abated, but his natural powers, and the vices which have tainted them and mingle with them are awakened and enraged into intense activity and exercise, under the first sensations of his dreadful punishment. Let us endeavour to conceive then what would be the ferments, the raging passions, and the vexing inward torments of a wicked man, seized by the officers of an Almighty Judge, borne away by the executioners of vengeance, and plunged into a pit of torture and smarting misery while at the same time he shad a most fresh and piercing conviction ever present, that he had brought all this mischief upon himself by his own guilt and folly.

1. The first particular piece of wretchedness therefore, contained in this metaphor, is the remorse and terrible anguish of conscience which shall never be relieved. How terrible are the racks of a guilty conscience here on earth, which arise from a sense of past sins ! How does David cry out and roar under the disquietude of his spirit ! Psal. xxxii. 3. "While I kept silence" and confessed not mine iniquity, " my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long, day and night thy hand was heavy upon me, and my moisture is turned into the drought of summer:" and again, Psal. xxxviii. 4. "Mine iniquities are gone over mine head, as an heavy burden, they are too heavy for me." God has wisely so framed the nature and spirit of man, that a reflection on his past misbehaviour should raise such keen anguish at his heart; and thousands have felt it in a dreadful degree, even while they have continued in this world, in the land of life and hope.

But when death has divided the soul from this body, and from all the means of grace, and cut off all the hopes of pardoning mercy for ever, what smart beyond all our thoughts and expressions must the sinner feel from such inward wounds of confidence ! And it gives a twinging accent to every sorrow when the sinner is constrained to cry out, "It is I, it is I who have brought all this upon myself. Life and death were set before me in the world where once I dwelt, but I refused the blessings of eternal life, and the offers of saving grace. I turned my back upon the ways of holiness which led to life, and renounced the tenders of divine mercy! I chose the paths of sin, and folly, and madness, though I knew they led to everlasting misery and death. Wretch that I was, to choose those sins and these sorrows, though I knew they were necessarily joined together! I am sent into those regions of misery which I chose for myself, against all the kind admonitions and warnings of God and Christ, of his gospel and his ministers of grace! O these cursed eyes of mine, that led me into the snares of guilt and folly! These cursed hands that practised iniquity with greediness! These cursed lips of mine, which dishonoured my Maker! O these cursed appetites and passions, and this obstinate will, which have wrought my ruin! This cursed body and soul, that have procured their own everlasting wretchedness! These thoughts will be like a gnawing worm within, which will prey upon the spirit for ever. The fretting smart arising from this vexatious worm must be painful in the highest extreme, when we know it is a worm which will never die, which will for ever hang at our heart, and sting our vitals in the most tender and sensible parts of them without intermission, as well as without end [emphasis mine].

- The World to Come or, Discourses on the Joys or Sorrows of departed Souls at death and the Glory or Terror of the Resurrection, Isaac Watts

[ source ]

[ for M.G. on her birthday ]

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Cold Mountain at Mount Eerie: Where I Am Now

[ source ]

I spur my horse through the wrecked town,
The wrecked town sinks my spirit.
High, low, old parapet walls
Big, small, the aging tombs.
I waggle my shadow, all alone;
Not even the crack of a shrinking coffin is heard.
I pity all those ordinary bones,
In the books of the Immortals they are nameless.

- Cold Mountain, Han Shan - translated by Gary Snyder

Mt. Eerie: Our House Lights Up The Whole Neighborhood

Monday, December 07, 2009

A frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork.

DEPOSITION: Testimony Concerning A Sickness by William S. Burroughs

I awoke from The Sickness at the age of forty-five, calm and sane, and in reasonably good health except for a weakened liver and the look of borrowed flesh common to all who survive The Sickness. . . . Most survivors do not remember the delirium in detail. I apparently took detailed notes on sickness and delirium. I have no precise memory of writing the notes which have now been published under the title _Naked_Lunch_. The title was suggested by Jack Kerouac. I did not understand what the title meant until my recent recovery. The title means exactly what the words say: NAKED Lunch--a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork.
The Sickness is drug addiction and I was an addict for fifteen years. When I say addict I mean an addict to junk (generic term for opium and/or derivatives including all synthetics from demerol to palfium. I have used junk in many forms: morphine, heroin, delaudid, eukodal, pantopon, diocodid, diosane, opium, demerol, dolophine, palfium. I have smoked junk, eaten it, sniffed it, injected in in vein-skin-muscle, inserted it in rectal suppositories. The needle is not important. Whether you sniff it smoke it eat it or shove it up your ass the result is the same: addiction. When I speak of drug addiction I do not refer to keif, marijuana or any preparation of hashish, mescaline, Bannisteria Caapi, LSD6, Sacred Mushrooms or any other drugs of the hallucinogen group. . . . There is no evidence that the use of any hallucinogen results in physical dependence. The action of these drugs is physiologically opposite to the action of junk. A lamentable confusion between the two classes of drugs has arisen owing to the zeal of the U.S. and other narcotic departments.

I have seen the exact manner in which the junk virus operates through fifteen years of addiction. The pyramid of junk, one level eating the level below (it is no accident that junk higher-ups are always fat and the addict in the street is always thin) right up to the top or tops since there are many junk pyramids feeding on peoples of the world and all built on basic principles of monopoly:

1--Never give anything away for nothing.
2--Never give more than you have to give
(always catch the buyer hungry and always make him wait).
3--Always take everything back if you possibly can.
The Pusher always gets it all back. The addict needs more and more junk to maintain a human form . . . buy off the Monkey.
Junk is the mold of monopoly and possession. The addict stands by while his junk legs carry him straight in on the junk beam to relapse. Junk is quantitative and accurately measurable. The more junk you use the less you have and the more you have the more you use. All the hallucinogen drugs are considered sacred by those who use them--there are Peyote Cults and Bannisteria Cults, Hashish Cults and Mushroom Cults--``the Scared Mushrooms of Mexico enable a man to see God''--but no on ever suggested that junk is sacred. There are no opium cults. Opium is profane and quantitative like money. I have heard that there was one a bbeneficentnon-habit-forming junk in India. It was called *soma* and is pictured as a beautiful blue tide. If *soma* ever existed the Pusher was there to bottle it and monopolize it and sell it and it turned into plain old time JUNK.

Junk is the ideal product . . . the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy. . . . The junk merchant does not sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client. He pays his staff in junk.

Junk yields a basic formula of ``evil'' virus: *The Algebra of Need*. The face of ``evil'' is always the face of total need. A dope fiend is a man in total need of dope. Beyond a certain frequency need knows absolutely no limit or control. In the words of total need: ``*Wouldn't you*?'' Yes you would. You would lie, cheat, inform on your friends, steal, do *anything* to satisfy total need. Because you would be in a state of total sickness, total possession, and not in a position to act in any other way. Dope fiends are sick people who cannot act other than they do. A rabid dog cannot choose but bite. Assuming a self-righteous position is nothing to the purpose unless your purpose be to keep the junk virus in operation. And junk in a big industry. I recall talking to an American who worked for the Aftosa Commission in Mexico. Six hundred a month plus expense account: ``How long will the epidemic last?'' I enquired. ``As long as we can keep it going. . . . And yes . . . maybe the aftosa will break out in South America,'' he said dreamily.

If you wish to alter or annihilate a pyramid of numbers in a serial relation, you alter or remove the bottom number. If we wish to annihilate the junk pyramid, we must start with the bottom of the pyramid: *the Addict in the Street*, and stop tilting quixotically for the ``higher ups'' so called, all of whom are immediately replaceable. ** The addict in the street who must have junk to live is the one irreplaceable factor in the junk equation **. When there are no more addicts to buy junk there will be no junk traffic. As long as junk need exists, someone will service it.

Addicts can be cured or quarantined--that is, allowed a morphine ration under minimal supervision like typhoid carriers. When this is done, junk pyramids of the world will collapse. So far as I know, England is the only country to apply this method to the junk problem. They have about five hundred quarantined addicts in the U.K. In another generation when the quarantined addicts die off and pain killers operating on a non-junk principle are discovered, the junk virus will be like smallpox, a closed chapter--a medical curiosity.

The vaccine that can relegate the junk virus to a land-locked past is in existence. This vaccine is the Apomorphine Treatment discovered by an English doctor whose name I must withhold pending his permission to use it and to quote from his book covering thirty years of apomorphine treatment of addicts and alcoholics. The compound apomorphine is formed by boiling morphine with hydrochloric acid. It was discovered years before it was used to treat addicts. For many years the only use for apomorphine which has no narcotic or pain-killing properties was as an emetic to induce vomiting in cases of poisoning. It acts directly on the vomiting center in the back brain.

I found this vaccine at the end of the junk line. I lived in one room in the Native Quarter of Tangier. I had not taken a bath in a year nor changed my clothes or removed them except to stick a needle every hour in the fibrous grey wooden flesh of terminal addiction. I never cleaned or dusted the room. Empty ampule boxes and garbage piled up to the ceiling. Light and water long since turned off for non-payment. I did absolutely nothing. I could look at the end of my shoe for eight hours. I was only roused to action when the hourglass of junk ran out. If a friend came to visit--and they rarely did since who or what was left to visit--I sat there not caring that he had entered my field of vision--a grey screen always blanker and fainter--and not caring when he walked out of it. If he had died on the spot I would have sat there looking at my shoe waiting to go through his pockets. Wouldn't you? Because I never had enough junk--no one ever does. Thirty grains of morphine a day and it still was not enough. And long waits in front of the drugstore. Delay is a rule in the junk business. The Man is never on time. This is no accident. There are no accidents in the junk world. The addict is taught again and again exactly what will happen if he does not score for his junk ration. Get up that money or else. And suddenly my habit began to jump and jump. Forty, sixty grains a day. And it still was not enough. And I could not pay.

I stood there with my last check in my hand and realized that it was my last check. I took the next plane for London.

The doctor explained to me that apomorphine acts on the back brain to regulate the metabolism and normalize the blood stream in such a way that the enzyme system of addiction is destroyed over a period of four or five days. Once the back brain is regulated apomorphine can be discontinued and only used in case of relapse. (No one would take apomorphine for kicks. ** Not one case of addiction to apomorphine has ever been recorded.**) I agreed to undergo treatment and entered a nursing home. For the first twenty-four hours I was literally insane and paranoid as many addicts are in severe withdrawal. This delirium was dispersed by twenty-four hours of intensive apomorphine treatment. The doctor showed me the chart. I had received minute amounts of morphine that could not possibly account for my lack of the more severe withdrawal symptoms such as leg and stomach cramps, fever and my own special symptom, The Cold Burn, like a vast hive covering the body and rubbed with menthol. Every addict has his own special symptom that cracks all control. There was a missing factor in the withdrawal equation--that factor could only be apomorphine.

I saw the apomorphine treatment really work. Eight days later I left the nursing home eating and sleeping normally. I remained completely off junk for two full years--a twelve year record. I did relapse for some months as a result of pain and illness. Another apomorphine cure has kept me off junk through this writing.

The apomorphine cure is qualitatively different from other methods of cure. I have tried them all. Short reduction, slow reduction, cortisone, antihistamines, tranquilizers, sleeping cures, tolserol, reserpine. None of these cures lasted beyond the first opportunity to relapse. I can say definitely that I was never *metabolically* cured until I took the apomorphine cure. The overwhelming relapse statistics from the Lexington Narcotic Hospital have led many doctors to say that addiction is not curable. They use a dolophine reduction cure at Lexington and have never tried apomorphine so far as I know. In fact, this method of treatment has been largely neglected. No research has been done with variations of the apomorphine formula or with synthetics. No doubt substances fifty times stronger than apomorphine could be developed and the side effect of vomiting eliminated.

Apomorphine is a metabolic and psychic regulator that can be discontinued as soon as it has done its work. The world is deluged with tranquilizers and energizers but this unique regulator has not received attention. No research has been done by any of the large pharmaceutical companies. I suggest that research with variations of apomorphine and synthesis of it will open a new medical frontier extending far beyond the problem of addiction.

The smallpox vaccine was opposed by a vociferous lunatic group of anti-vaccinationists. No doubt a scream of protest will go up from interested or unbalanced individuals as the junk virus is shot out from under them. Junk is big business; there are always cranks and operators. They must not be allowed to interfere with the essential work of inoculation treatment and quarantine. ** The junk virus is public health problem number one of the world today.**

Since _Naked_Lunch_ treats this health problem, it is necessarily brutal, obscene and disgusting. Sickness is often repulsive details not for weak stomaches.

Certain passages in the book that have been called pornographic were written as a tract against Capital Punishment in the manner of Jonathan Swift's _Modest_Proposal_. These sections are intended to reveal capital punishment as the obscene, barbaric and disgusting anachronism that it is. As always the lunch is naked. If civilized countries want to return to Druid Hanging Rites in the Sacred Grove or to drink blood with the Aztecs and feed their Gods with blood of human sacrifice, let them see what is on the end of that long newspaper spoon.

I have almost completed a sequel to _Naked_Lunch_. A mathematical extension of the Algebra of Need beyond the junk virus. Because there are many forms of addiction I think that they all obey basic laws. In the words of Heiderberg: ``This may not be the best of all possible universes but it may well prove to be one of the simplest.'' If man can *see*.

Post Script. . . . Wouldn't You?

And speaking *Personally* and if a man speaks any other way we might as well start looking for his Protoplasm Daddy or Mother Cell. . . . *I Don't Want To Hear Any More Tired Old Junk Talk And Junk Con.* . . . The same things said a million times and more and there is no point in saying anything because NOTHING *Ever Happens* in the junk world.
Only excuse for this tired death route is THE KICK when the junk circuit is cut off for the non-payment and the junk-skin dies of junk-lack and overdose of time and the Old Skin has forgotten the skin game simplifying a way under the junk cover the way skins will. . . . A condition of total exposure is precipitated when the Kicking Addict cannot choose but see smell and listen. . . . Watch out for the cars. . . .

It is clear that junk is a Round-the-World-Push-an-Opium-Pellet-with- Your-Nose-Route. Strictly for Scarabs--stumble bum junk heap. And as such report to disposal. Tired of seeing it around.

Junkies always beef about *The Cold* as they call it, turning up their black coat collars and clutching their withered necks . . . pure junk con. A junky does not want to be warm, he want to Cool-Cooler-COLD. But he want The Cold like he want His Junk--NOT OUTSIDE where it does him no good but INSIDE so he can sit around with a spine like a frozen hydraulic jack . . . his metabolism approaching Absolute ZERO. TERMINAL addicts often go two months without a bowel move and the intestines make with sit-down-adhesions --Wouldn't You--requiring the intervention of an apple corer or its surgical equivalent. . . . Such is life in The Old Ice House. Why move around and waste TIME?

Room for One More Inside, Sir.

Some entities are on thermodynamic kicks. They invented thermodynamics. . . . Wouldn't you?

And some of us are on Different Kicks and that's a thing out in the open the way I like to see what I eat and visa versa mutatis mutandis as the case may be. *Bill's Naked Lunch Room*. . . Step right up. . . Good for young and old, man and bestial. Nothing like a little snake oil to grease the wheels and get a show on the track Jack. Which side are you on? Fro-Zen Hydraulic? Or you want to take a look around with Honest Bill?

So that's the World Health Problem I was talking about back in The Article. The Prospect Before Us Friends of MINE. Do I hear muttering about a personal razor and some bush league short con artist who is known to have invented The Bill? Wouldn't You? The razor belonged to a man named Occam and he was not a scar collector. Ludwig Wittgenstein _Tractatus_Logico-Philosophicus_: ``If a proposition is NOT NECESSARY is it MEANINGLESS and approaching MEANING ZERO.''

``And what is More UNNECESSARY than junk if You Don't Need it?

*Answer*: ``Junkies, if you are not ON JUNK.''

I tell you boys, I've heard some tired conversation but no other OCCUPATION GROUP can approximate that old thermodynamic junk Slow-DOWN. Now your heroin addict does not say hardly anything and that I can stand. But your Opium ``Smoker'' is more active since he still has a tent and a Lamp . . . and maybe 7-9-10 lying up in there like hibernating reptiles keep the temperature up to Talking Level: How low the other junkies are ``whereas We--WE have this tent and this lamp and this tent and this lamp and this tent and nice and warm in here nice and warm nice and IN HERE and nice and OUTSIDE ITS COLD. . . . ITS COLD OUTSIDE where the dross eaters and the needle boys won't last two years not six months hardly won't last stumble bum around and there is no class in them. . . . But WE SIT HERE and never increase the DOSE . . . never-never increase the dose never except TONIGHT is a SPECIAL OCCASION with all the dross eaters and needle boys out there in the cold. . . . And we never eat it never never never eat it. . . . Excuse please while I take a trip to The Source Of Living Drops they all have in pocket and opium pellets shoved up the ass in a finger stall with the Family Jewels and the other shit.

Room for one more inside, Sir.

Well when that record starts around for the billionth light year and never the tape shall change us non-junkies take drastic action and the men separate out from the Junk boys.

Only way to protect yourself against this horrid peril is come over HERE and shack up with Charybdis. . . . Treat you right kid. . . . Candy and cigarettes.

I am after fifteen years in that tent. In and out in and out in and OUT. *Over* and *Out*. So listen to Old Uncle Bill Burroughs who invented the Burroughs Adding Machine Regulator Gimmick on the Hydraulic Jack Principle no matter how you jerk the handle result is always the same for given co-ordinates. Got my training early . . . wouldn't you?

Paregoric Babies of the World Unite. We have nothing to lose but Our Pushers. And THEY are NOT NECESSARY.

Look down LOOK DOWN along that junk road before you travel there and get in with the Wrong Mob. . . .

A word to the wise guy.

William S. Burroughs

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Life is flesh on bone convulsing above ground

Language bearers, Photographers, Diary Makers,
You with your memory are dead, frozen
Lost in a present that never stoops passing
Here lives the incantation of matter
A language forever.

Like a flame burning away the darkness
Life is flesh on bone convulsing above the ground

- Begotten, E. Elias Merhige. 1991

Begotten is a 1991 Experimental film, directed and written by E. Elias Merhige.

The film heavily deals with religion and the biblical story of the Creation. Its primary inspiration was a near death experience he had when he was 19, after a car crash. The film features no dialogue, but rather uses harsh and uncompromising images of human pain and suffering to tell its tale.

The film was shot on black and white reversal film, and then every frame was rephotographed for the look that is seen. The only colors are black and white. There are no half-tones. This is intended to add to the eerie atmosphere of the movie, as sometimes the viewer cannot always exactly make out what it is being shown, but can still infer a sense of suffering. The look of the film has been described as "a Rorschach test for the eye". For each minute of original film, it took up to 10 hours to rephotograph it for the look desired.

The film opens with a robed, profusely bleeding "God" disemboweling himself, with the act ultimately ending in his death. A woman, Mother Earth, emerges from his remains, arouses the body, and impregnates herself with his semen. Becoming pregnant, she wanders off into a vast and barren landscape. The pregnancy manifests in a fully grown convulsing man whom she leaves to his own devices.

The "Son of Earth" meets a group of faceless nomads who seize him with what is either a very long umbilical cord or a rope. The Son of Earth vomits organic pieces, and the nomads excitedly accept these as gifts. The nomads finally bring the man to a fire and burn him.

"Mother Earth" encounters the resurrected man and comforts him. She seizes the man with a similar umbilical cord. The nomads appear and proceed to rape her. Son of Earth is left to mourn over the lifeless body. A group of characters appears, carry her off and dismember her, later returning for Son of Earth. After he, too, is dismembered, the group buries the remains, planting the parts into the crust of the earth. The burial site becomes lush with flowers.
- Description from lightfox17

The foregoing survey of the custom of publicly expelling the accumulated evils of a village or town or country suggests a few general observations.

In the first place, it will not be disputed that what I have called the immediate and the mediate expulsions of evil are identical in intention; in other words, that whether the evils are conceived of as invisible or as embodied in a material form, is a circumstance entirely subordinate to the main object of the ceremony, which is simply to effect a total clearance of all the ills that have been infesting a people. If any link were wanting to connect the two kinds of expulsion, it would be furnished by such a practice as that of sending the evils away in a litter or a boat. For here, on the one hand, the evils are invisible and intangible; and, on the other hand, there is a visible and tangible vehicle to convey them away. And a scapegoat is nothing more than such a vehicle.

In the second place, when a general clearance of evils is resorted to periodically, the interval between the celebrations of the ceremony is commonly a year, and the time of year when the ceremony takes place usually coincides with some well-marked change of season, such as the beginning or end of winter in the arctic and temperate zones, and the beginning or end of the rainy season in the tropics. The increased mortality which such climatic changes are apt to produce, especially amongst ill-fed, ill-clothed, and ill-housed savages, is set down by primitive man to the agency of demons, who must accordingly be expelled. Hence, in the tropical regions of New Britain and Peru, the devils are or were driven out at the beginning of the rainy season; hence, on the dreary coasts of Baffin Land, they are banished at the approach of the bitter Arctic winter. When a tribe has taken to husbandry, the time for the general expulsion of devils is naturally made to agree with one of the great epochs of the agricultural year, as sowing, or harvest; but, as these epochs themselves naturally coincide with changes of season, it does not follow that the transition from the hunting or pastoral to the agricultural life involves any alteration in the time of celebrating this great annual rite. Some of the agricultural communities of India and the Hindoo Koosh, as we have seen, hold their general clearance of demons at harvest, others at sowing-time. But, at whatever season of the year it is held, the general expulsion of devils commonly marks the beginning of the new year. For, before entering on a new year, people are anxious to rid themselves of the troubles that have harassed them in the past; hence it comes about that in so many communities the beginning of the new year is inaugurated with a solemn and public banishment of evil spirits.

In the third place, it is to be observed that this public and periodic expulsion of devils is commonly preceded or followed by a period of general license, during which the ordinary restraints of society are thrown aside, and all offences, short of the gravest, are allowed to pass unpunished. In Guinea and Tonquin the period of license precedes the public expulsion of demons; and the suspension of the ordinary government in Lhasa previous to the expulsion of the scapegoat is perhaps a relic of a similar period of universal license. Amongst the Hos of India the period of license follows the expulsion of the devil. Amongst the Iroquois it hardly appears whether it preceded or followed the banishment of evils. In In the third place, it is to be observed that this public and periodic expulsion of devils is commonly preceded or followed by a period of general license, during which the ordinary restraints of society are thrown aside, and all offences, short of the gravest, are allowed to pass unpunished. In Guinea and Tonquin the period of license precedes the public expulsion of demons; and the suspension of the ordinary government in Lhasa previous to the expulsion of the scapegoat is perhaps a relic of a similar period of universal license. Amongst the Hos of India the period of license follows the expulsion of the devil. Amongst the Iroquois it hardly appears whether it preceded or followed the banishment of evils. In any case, the extraordinary relaxation of all ordinary rules of conduct on such occasions is doubtless to be explained by the general clearance of evils which precedes or follows it. On the one hand, when a general riddance of evil and absolution from all sin is in immediate prospect, men are encouraged to give the rein to their passions, trusting that the coming ceremony will wipe out the score which they are running up so fast. On the other hand, when the ceremony has just taken place, men’s minds are freed from the oppressive sense, under which they generally labour, of an atmosphere surcharged with devils; and in the first revulsion of joy they overleap the limits commonly imposed by custom and morality. When the ceremony takes place at harvest-time, the elation of feeling which it excites is further stimulated by the state of physical wellbeing produced by an abundant supply of food.

Fourthly, the employment of a divine man or animal as a scapegoat is especially to be noted; indeed, we are here directly concerned with the custom of banishing evils only in so far as these evils are believed to be transferred to a god who is afterwards slain. It may be suspected that the custom of employing a divine man or animal as a public scapegoat is much more widely diffused than appears from the examples cited. For, as has already been pointed out, the custom of killing a god dates from so early a period of human history that in later ages, even when the custom continues to be practised, it is liable to be misinterpreted. The divine character of the animal or man is forgotten, and he comes to be regarded merely as an ordinary victim. This is especially likely to be the case when it is a divine man who is killed. For when a nation becomes civilised, if it does not drop human sacrifices altogether, it at least selects as victims only such wretches as would be put to death at any rate. Thus the killing of a god may sometimes come to be confounded with the execution of a criminal.

If we ask why a dying god should be chosen to take upon himself and carry away the sins and sorrows of the people, it may be suggested that in the practice of using the divinity as a scapegoat we have a combination of two customs which were at one time distinct and independent. On the one hand we have seen that it has been customary to kill the human or animal god in order to save his divine life from being weakened by the inroads of age. On the other hand we have seen that it has been customary to have a general expulsion of evils and sins once a year. Now, if it occurred to people to combine these two customs, the result would be the employment of the dying god as a scapegoat. He was killed, not originally to take away sin, but to save the divine life from the degeneracy of old age; but, since he had to be killed at any rate, people may have thought that they might as well seize the opportunity to lay upon him the burden of their sufferings and sins, in order that he might bear it away with him to the unknown world beyond the grave.

The use of the divinity as a scapegoat clears up the ambiguity which, as we saw, appears to hang about the European folk-custom of “carrying out Death.” Grounds have been shown for believing that in this ceremony the so-called Death was originally the spirit of vegetation, who was annually slain in spring, in order that he might come to life again with all the vigour of youth. But, as I pointed out, there are certain features in the ceremony which are not explicable on this hypothesis alone. Such are the marks of joy with which the effigy of Death. The use of the divinity as a scapegoat clears up the ambiguity which, as we saw, appears to hang about the European folk-custom of “carrying out Death.” Grounds have been shown for believing that in this ceremony the so-called Death was originally the spirit of vegetation, who was annually slain in spring, in order that he might come to life again with all the vigour of youth. But, as I pointed out, there are certain features in the ceremony which are not explicable on this hypothesis alone. Such are the marks of joy with which the effigy of Death is carried out to be buried or burnt, and the fear and abhorrence of it manifested by the bearers. But these features become at once intelligible if we suppose that the Death was not merely the dying god of vegetation, but also a public scapegoat, upon whom were laid all the evils that had afflicted the people during the past year. Joy on such an occasion is natural and appropriate; and if the dying god appears to be the object of that fear and abhorrence which are properly due not to himself, but to the sins and misfortunes with which he is laden, this arises merely from the difficulty of distinguishing, or at least of marking the distinction, between the bearer and the burden. When the burden is of a baleful character, the bearer of it will be feared and shunned just as much as if he were himself instinct with those dangerous properties of which, as it happens, he is only the vehicle. Similarly we have seen that disease-laden and sin-laden boats are dreaded and shunned by East Indian peoples. Again, the view that in these popular customs the Death is a scapegoat as well as a representative of the divine spirit of vegetation derives some support from the circumstance that its expulsion is always celebrated in spring and chiefly by Slavonic peoples. For the Slavonic year began in spring; and thus, in one of its aspects, the ceremony of “carrying out Death” would be an example of the widespread custom of expelling the accumulated evils of the old year before entering on a new one.

- Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941). The Golden Bough. 1922.