Thursday, April 27, 2006

Monday, April 24, 2006

Post 9/11 Syndrome

George Lakoff discusses, among other issues, how the language and visual imagery of 9/11 frames our experience (acceptance) of the War on Terror.
BLVR: Can you explain to me in layman’s neuroscience terms how September 11 changed the way we think?

GL: It reshaped our brains. That’s why they had to keep showing the towers falling over and over and over again. The imagery meant that the towers were people. The planes going in are like bullets going through your brain, the people falling are you falling. Here’s a picture of you dying. The other thing was it was framed in terms of war, instead of crime. Then it was not just war, but metaphorical war, where the enemy is this abstract thing: terror. Terror, which is in you. That’s what’s sort of weird. The enemy is inside America. It’s terror, not terrorists, the outside guys. Of course, by saying ña war on terrorî you can never feel safe. The locus of the war is in you.

BLVR: Are the conservatives who formulated all of these terms aware of these other meanings?

GL: Yeah. I suspect Karen Hughes is smart enough to understand that.

BLVR: Really?

GL: Sure. Think about the image of those towers falling. Think about your empathic response. What you see there you feel in your body. You feel that the terror is in you. You feel that the destruction is in you. Just by looking at it over and over and over, it’s come into you, it’s changed your brain. And so you become the war. It’s not over there in Iraq. Now, you justify the war by saying, “It’s better that it’s fought there than here,” which is the relief. But of course, metaphorically, it’s here. There are people all over the Midwest worrying about the war, especially women, who are empathic, feeling it themselves, worrying that the war is going to come to Peoria, Illinois.
Full article at Believer Magazine.

Tangled Up in Bob

Writer Nathalie Goldberg travels to Bob Dylan's hometown, Hibbing, MN, and discovers how place informs creativity and artistic vision. A new film by Mary Feidt.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Crisis of Leadership

In today's NY Times, younger officers discuss war in Iraq, whether Rumsfeld should go, and what responsibility Bush shares in this mess. Looks like there's enough blame to go around.

"The Army, however, went gently into that good night of Iraq without saying a word," he added, summarizing conversations with other officers. "For that reason, most of us know that we have to share the burden of responsibility for this tragedy. And at the end of the day, it wasn't Rumsfeld who sent us to war, it was the president. Officers know better than anyone else that the buck stops at the top. I think we are too deep into this for Rumsfeld's resignation to mean much.

"But this is all academic. Most officers would acknowledge that we cannot leave Iraq, regardless of their thoughts on the invasion. We destroyed the internal security of that state, so now we have to restore it. Otherwise, we will just return later, when it is even more terrible."

The debates are fueled by the desire to mete out blame for the situation in Iraq, a drawn-out war that has taken many military lives and has no clear end in sight. A midgrade officer who has served two tours in Iraq said a number of his cohorts were angered last month when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that "tactical errors, a thousand of them, I am sure," had been made in Iraq.

"We have not lost a single tactical engagement on the ground in Iraq," the officer said, noting that the definition of tactical missions is specific movements against an enemy target. "The mistakes have all been at the strategic and political levels."

More here.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Piefurcation Recommends

Our Town

Directed by Warren David Keith
University Theatre
San Jose Sate University

April 22, 27, 28, 29 at 7pm
April 26 matinee at 11am

Tickets: $15 General Admission
$10 for students, SJSU staff and faculty, and seniors
Available at the Event Center, online and at the door.

The University Theatre is located next door to the New MLK Library at 5th & San Fernando.
Park free after 6pm across the street at the new 4th St. City Garage.

Deborah Slater Dance Theater's
Hotel of Memories
More Furniture Dances
"Pay what you can" Previews: May 13 & 14, 2006 | 8:00pm
Studio 210
3435 Cesar Chavez (at Valencia)
San Francisco, CA
For reservations and information call (415) 267-7687

May 18 - June 3, 2006 | Thursday, Friday, Saturday 8:00pm
1310 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA
For reservations and information call (415) 435-7552
Tickets available online at through Paypal

An evening length site-specific work
presented by
Company Chaddick

Fridays & Saturdays May 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20, 2006
2 performances each night
8PM & 9:30PM
Tickets/$20 general admission
ArtsSFest Arts Pass accepted

Reservations/(415) 435-7569

1275 Connecticut Street (at Cesar Chavez)
Directions to Danzhaus

The Faith Project

May 11 – 20 at 8pm/May 21 at 2pm
The Studio Theatre
Robert & Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts
Davis, CA

$8 for students and $12 for the general admission
Purchase tickets at or call 530/754-2787toll free at 866/754-ARTS.

A multi-disciplinary theatre piece that follows one fictional congregation as they struggle to find answers from an elusive God and a conflicted country. The production draws on the multi-ethnic ensemble’s personal stories and research into various faith practices, and incorporates audio-taped interviews with clergy, scholars, and people on the street.

Written & directed by Susannah Martin
Choreograhpy by Kristin Heavey
Music composed & directed by Dave Malloy
Written & performed by Jennifer Arnoth, Samantha Blanchard, Christopher Maikish, Karen Marek, Ashanti Newton, Michael Ortiz, Karuna Tanahashi, Natasha Tavakoli, Carolyn Thomas, & Rosa Threlfall

Thursday, April 20, 2006

No Pulitzer For You!

Denied. Denied. Denied. No Pulitzer Prize for a playwright this year.

From LA Times

Adam Rapp, who was among the three finalists for his play "Red Light in Winter," said Tuesday that the lack of a drama award was like "a year without a Santa Claus" for playwrights.

Rapp would have been happy if either of the other finalists, Christopher Durang for his play "Miss Witherspoon" or Rolin Jones for "The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow," had won. (Jones' play premiered at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa.) But Rapp added: "Not to name a winner when there are three plays worthy of being finalists is a little obnoxious. I feel like our vocation is a dying species in America. We need everyone supporting us as much as possible. Telling stories in the theater is an important thing. Playwrights are moving to the West Coast to do TV and film just to stay solvent."

The omission of a drama award, for the 15th time since the inception of the prizes in 1917, denies prestige, $10,000 and a key marketing tool to an American playwright. It also sends an implicit message that 2005 was an off year for new U.S. plays.

``We're not in the business of sending signals,'' said Sig Gissler, administrator of the awards and an associate professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. ``We let the decisions speak for themselves. Sometimes you don't get a winner in a category.''

What A Splendid Pie

The history of Pizza in America.
"Everybody likes pizza. Even those who claim to be immune to its charms must deign to have the occasional slice; a staggering 93 percent of Americans eat pizza at least once a month. According to one study, each man, woman, and child consumes an average of 23 pounds of pie every year."
Once a month? Are you kidding? More like once a week. Frozen pizza (no matter how good) does not count toward the quota. Yes. Obviously I'm consuming more than my fair share.

Safe Haven

Eleanor Bader writes about the Haven Coalition, an organization that provides shelter to women going to NYC for a late term abortion.

Celestial Seasonings


BY Dan Kennedy

- - - -


When life is seen to flow slowly, like a deep river content in its path, the journey is a certain pleasure. But, God damn it, life's not always a big party, now, is it?

Get the rest

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Beware "The Decider"

George Bush defending Don Rumsfeld.
"I'm the decider, and I decide what's best," Mr. Bush said in the Rose Garden. "And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."
I mean, at least he hasn't shot anybody in the face.

Thought for the day still applies.

Lemon Creme Brulee Tart

I made this tart for the Staff Appreciation Luncheon at my son's school. This is the stylized version that appeared in the April 2004 issue of BON APPÉTIT . Needless to say, mine doesn't look exactly like this, the crust shrunk in the tart pan and I haven't yet carmelized the sugar on top. Delicious none the less. It's pretty simple to make. I didn't have the will for it at midnight, although I managed to get the crust prepared. It takes two hours to chill, you know, the butter and fats thing. Get the recipe here.

Thought for the Day

Is George Bush a sentient being?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

SOS: Different Century

"Democracy having lost all significance in the minds of most statesmen and politicians, that is why such abundant use of military secrecy is being made in our time. It may be said in fact that the right to withhold information from the people on the basis of security reasons is the greatest loot the winning democracies have taken over from the totalitarian countries. And, most unfortunately, the people in our age having become so dejected, so unwilling to assert any right other than that of existing materially, the statesmen get away with the most incredible nonsense." Niccolo Tucci, The Fallacy of Constructive Criticism, Partisan Review, 1949.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

What would Jesus Do?

Dear George:

If God is on your side, whispering in your ear, are you sure he said "Nuke Tehran?" Maybe what he was saying was make them a nice cucumber salad? As in: "Cuke Tehran." Better make sure. They're kinda different.

Sincerely Concerned for the Safety of All Sentient Beings,

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Put This Bunny Back in the Box. Come On, I Dare You.

Sure, I'll be eternally grateful for the Marshmallow Peeps, but I'll never get past what you did to that poor chicken! The secret life and times of the Easter Bunny.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Blank Check

Wonder how much the Iraq war is costing you right now! See a running total here. Caution: This baby moves fast! You can also see how much of the bill your particular community is footing.

Birth was the death of him.

To be an artist is to fail, as no other dare fail, that failure is his world and to shrink from it desertion, art and craft, good housekeeping, living. I know that all that is required now, in order to bring even this horrible matter to an acceptable conclusion, is to make of this submission, this admission, this fidelity to failure, a new occasion, a new term of relation, and of the act which, unable to act, obliged to act, he makes, an expressive act, even if only of itself, of its impossibility, of its obligation.

Happy Birthday, Sam.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Monday, April 10, 2006

Kid Air

No lie. My son is standing in the hallway saying "put the bunny down."

How Popular Are You?

Check the U.S. Census Bureau's list of most popular surnames.

O Ye Critics, Will Nothing Melt Ye?



- - - -

You chose to work with a blue Crayola crayon, and I respect that. You've been using a lot of blues lately, and I think you're on to something. It's a good idea to work out some themes and learn some techniques by limiting your palette. Nevertheless, your picture feels incomplete to me. Formwise, it's a staticky blue cloud hovering in space. There's nothing dynamic about it. You didn't even push down on the crayon very hard, so there isn't really any depth of color. There isn't a single interesting line, and the negative space, though overwhelming, seems to have been completely ignored. This image evokes nothing in me. I can't even call it ugly. It's just so-so. Honestly, I'm amazed I've even been able to say this much about it.

Get the rest here at McSweeny's.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Rain and the Rhinoceros by Thomas Merton

Let me say this before rain becomes a utility that they can plan and distribute for money. By "they" I mean the people who cannot understand that rain is a festival, who do not appreciate its gratuity, who think that what has no price has no value, that what cannot be sold is not real, so that the only way to make something actual is to place it on the market. The time will come when they will sell you even your rain. At the moment it is still free, and I am in it. I celebrate its gratuity and its meaninglessness.

The rain I am in is not like the rain of cities. It fills the woods with an immense and confused sound. It covers the flat roof of the cabin and its porch with inconsistent and controlled rhythms. And I listen, because it reminds me again and again that the whole world runs by rhythms I have not yet learned to recognize, rhythms that are not those of the engineer.

I came up here from the monastery last night, sloshing through the cornfield, said Vespers, and put some oatmeal on the Coleman stove for supper. It boiled over while I was listening to the rain and toasting a piece of bread at the log fire. The night became very dark. The rain surrounded the whole cabin with its enormous virginal myth, a whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of silence, of rumor. Think of it: all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody, drenching the thick mulch of dead leaves, soaking the trees, filling the gullies and crannies of the wood with water, washing out the places where men have stripped the hillside! What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone, in the forest, at night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges, and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows!

Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen.

But I am also going to sleep, because here in this wilderness I have learned how to sleep again. Here I am not alien. The trees I know, the night I know, the rain I know. I close my eyes and instantly sink into the whole rainy world of which I am a part, and the world goes on with me in it, for I am not alien to it. I am alien to the noises of cities, of people, to the greed of machinery that does not sleep, the hum of power that eats up the night. Where rain, sunlight and darkness are contemned, I cannot sleep. I do not trust anything that has been fabricated to replace the climate of woods or prairies. I can have no confidence in places where the air is first fouled and then cleansed, where the water is first made deadly and then made safe with other poisons. There is nothing in the world of buildings that is not fabricated, and if a tree gets in among the apartment houses by mistake it is taught to grow chemically. It is given a precise reason for existing. They put a sign on it saying it is for health, beauty, perspective; that it is for peace, for prosperity; that it was planted by the mayor's daughter. All of this is mystification. The city itself lives on its own myth. Instead of waking up and silently existing, the city people prefer a stubborn and fabricated dream; they do not care to be a part of the night, or to be merely of the world. They have constructed a world outside the world, against the world, a world of mechanical fictions which contemn nature and seek only to use it up, thus preventing it from renewing itself and man.

Of course the festival of rain cannot be stopped, even in the city. The woman from the delicatessen scampers along the sidewalk with a newspaper over her head. The streets, suddenly washed, became transparent and alive, and the noise of traffic becomes a plashing of fountains. One would think that urban man in a rainstorm would have to take account of nature in its wetness and freshness, its baptism and its renewal. But the rain brings no renewal to the city, on to tomorrow's weather, and the glint of windows in tall buildings will then have nothing to do with the new sky. All "reality" will remain somewhere inside those walls, counting itself and selling itself with fantastically complex determination. Meanwhile the obsessed citizens plunge through the rain bearing the load of their obsessions, slightly more vulnerable than before, but still only barely aware of external realities. They do not see that the streets shine beautifully, that they themselves are walking on stars and water, that they are running in skies to catch a bus or a taxi, to shelter somewhere in the press of irritated humans, the faces of advertisements and the dim, cretinous sound of unidentified music. But they must know that there is wetness abroad. Perhaps they even feel it. I cannot say. Their complaints are mechanical and without spirit.

Naturally no one can believe the things they say about the rain. It all implies one basic lie: only the city is real. That weather, not being planned, not being fabricated, is an impertinence, a wen on the visage of progress. (Just a simple little operation, and the whole mess may become relatively tolerable. Let business make the rain. This will give it meaning.)

Thoreau sat in his cabin and criticized the railways. I sit in mine and wonder about a world that has, well, progressed. I must read Walden again, and see if Thoreau already guessed that he was part of what he thought he could escape. But it is not a matter of "escaping." It is not even a matter of protesting very audibly. Technology is here, even in the cabin. True, the utility line is not here yet, and so G.E. is not here yet either. When the utilities and G.E. enter my cabin arm in arm it will be nobody's fault but my own. I admit it. I am not kidding anybody, even myself. I will suffer their bluff and patronizing complacencies in silence. I will let them think they know what I am doing here.

They are convinced that I am having fun.

This has already been brought home to me with a wallop by my Coleman lantern. Beautiful lamp: It burns white gas and sings viciously but gives out a splendid green light in which I read Philoxenos, a sixth-century Syrian hermit. Philoxenos fits in with the rain and the festival of night. Of this, more later. Meanwhile: what does my Coleman lantern tell me? (Coleman's philosophy is printed on the cardboard box which I have (guiltily) not shellacked as I was supposed to, and which I have tossed in the woodshed behind the hickory chunks.) Coleman says that the light is good, and has a reason: it "Stretches days to give more hours of fun."

Can't I just be in the woods without any special reason? Just being in the woods, at night, in the cabin, is something too excellent to be justified or explained! It just is. There are always a few people who are in the woods at night, in the rain (because if there were not the world would have ended), and I am one of them. We are not having fun, we are not "having" anything, we are not "stretching our days," and if we had fun it would not be measured by hours. Though as a matter of fact that is what fun seems to be: a state of diffuse excitation that can be measured by the clock and "stretched" by an appliance.

There is no clock that can measure the speech of this rain that falls all night on the drowned and lonely forest.

Of course at three-thirty A.M. the SAC plane goes over, red light winking low under the clouds, skimming the wooded summits on the south side of the valley, loaded with strong medicine. Very strong. Strong enough to burn up all these woods and stretch our hours of fun into eternities.

And that brings me to Philoxenos, a Syrian who had fun in the sixth century, without benefit of appliances, still less of nuclear deterrents.

Philoxenos in his ninth memra (on poverty) to dwellers in solitude, says that there is no explanation and no justification for the solitary life, since it is without a law. To be contemplative is therefore to be an outlaw. As was Christ. As was Paul.

One who is not "alone," says Philoxenos, has not discovered his identity. He seems to be alone, perhaps, for he experiences himself as "individual." But because he is willingly enclosed and limited by the laws and illusions of collective existence, he has no more identity than an unborn child in the womb. He is not yet conscious. He is alien to his own truth. He has senses, but he cannot use them. He has life, but not identity. To have an identity, he has to be awake, and aware. But to be awake, he has to accept vulnerability and death. Not for their own sake: not out of stoicism or despair-only for the sake of the invulnerable inner reality which we cannot recognize (which we can only be ) but to which we awaken only when we see the unreality of our vulnerable shell. The discovery of this inner self is an act and affirmation of solitude.

Now if we take our vulnerable shell to be our true identity, if we think our mask is our true face, we will protect it with fabrications even at the cost of violating our own truth. This seems to be the collective endeavor of society: the more busily men dedicate themselves to it, the more certainly it becomes a collective illusion, until in the end we have the enormous, obsessive, uncontrollable dynamic of fabrications designed to protect mere fictitious identities-- "selves," that is to say, regarded as objects. Selves that can stand back and see themselves having fun (an illusion which reassures them that they are real).

Such is the ignorance which is taken to be the axiomatic foundation of all knowledge in the human collectivity: in order to experience yourself as real, you have to suppress the awareness of your contingency, your unreality, your state of radical need. This you do by creating an awareness of yourself as one who has no needs that he cannot immediately fulfill. Basically, this is an illusion of omnipotence: an illusion which the collectivity arrogates to itself, and consents to share with its individual members in proportion as they submit to its more central and more rigid fabrications.

You have needs; but if you behave and conform you can participate in the collective power. You can then satisfy all your needs. Meanwhile, in order to increase its power over you, the collectivity increases your needs. It also tightens its demand for conformity. Thus you can become all the more committed to the collective illusion in proportion to becoming more hopelessly mortgaged to collective power.

How does this work? The collectivity informs and shapes your will to happiness ("have fun") by presenting you with irresistible images of yourself as you would like to be: having fun that is so perfectly credible that it allows no interference of conscious doubt. In theory such a good time can be so convincing that you are no longer aware of even a remote possibility that it might change into something less satisfying. In practice, expensive fun always admits of a doubt, which blossoms out into another full-blown need, which then calls for a still more credible and more costly refinement of satisfaction, which again fails you. The end of the cycle is despair.

Because we live in a womb of collective illusion, our freedom remains abortive. Our capacities for joy, peace, and truth are never liberated. They can never be used. We are prisoners of a process, a dialectic of false promises and real deceptions ending in futility.

"The unborn child," says Philoxenos, "is already perfect and fully constituted in his nature, with all his senses, and limbs, but he cannot make use of them in their natural functions, because, in the womb, he cannot strengthen or develop them for such use."

Now, since all things have their season, there is a time to be unborn. We must begin, indeed, in the social womb. There is a time for warmth in the collective myth. But there is also a time to be born. He who is spiritually "born" as a mature identity is liberated from the enclosing womb of myth and prejudice. He learns to think for himself, guided no longer by the dictates of need and by the systems and processes designed to create artificial needs and then "satisfy" them.

This emancipation can take two forms: first that of the active life, which liberates itself from enslavement to necessity by considering and serving the needs of others, without thought of personal interest or return. And second, the contemplative life, which must not be construed as an escape from time and matter, from social responsibility and from the life of sense, but rather, as an advance into solitude and the desert, a confrontation with poverty and the void, a renunciation of the empirical self, in the presence of death, and nothingness, in order to overcome the ignorance and error that spring from the fear of "being nothing." The man who dares to be alone can come to see that the "empitness" and "uselessness" which the collective mind fears and condemns are necessary conditions for the encounter with truth.

It is in the desert of loneliness and emptiness that the fear of death and the need for self-affirmation are seen to be illusory. When this is faced, then anguish is not necessarily overcome, but it can be accepted and understood. Thus, in the heart of anguish are found the gifts of peace and understanding: not simply in personal illumination and liberation, but by commitment and empathy, for the contemplative must assume the universal anguish and the inescapable condition of mortal man. The solitary, far from enclosing himself in himself, becomes every man. He dwells in the solitude, the poverty, the indigence of every man.

It is in this sense that the hermit, according to Philoxenos, imitates Christ. For in Christ, God takes to Himself the solitude and dereliction of man: every man. From the moment Christ went out into the desert to be tempted, the loneliness, the temptation and the hunger of every man became the loneliness, temptation and hunger of Christ. But in return, the gift of truth with which Christ dispelled the three kinds of illusion offered him in his temptation (security, reputation and power) can become also our own truth, if we can only accept it. It is offered to us also in temptation. "You too go out into the desert," said Philoxenos, "having with you nothing of the world, and the Holy Spirit will go with you. See the freedom with which Jesus has gone forth, and go forth like Him-see where he has left the rule of men; leave the rule of the world where he has left the law, and go out with him to fight the power of error."

And where is the power of error? We find it was after all not in the city, but in ourselves .

Today the insights of a Philoxenos are to be sought less in the tracts of theologians than in the meditations of the existentialists and in the Theater of the Absurd. The problem of Berenger, in Ionesco's Rhinoceros, is the problem of the human person stranded and alone in what threatens to become a society of monsters. In the sixth century Berenger might perhaps have walked off into the desert of Scete, without too much concern over the fact that all his fellow citizens, all his friends, and even his girl Daisy, had turned into rhinoceroses.

The problem today is that there are no deserts, only dude ranches.

The desert islands are places where the wicked little characters in the Lord of the Flies come face to face with the Lord of the Flies, form a small, tight, ferocious collectivity of painted face, and arm themselves with spears to hunt down the last member of their group who still remembers with nostalgia the possibilities of rational discourse.

Where Berenger finds himself suddenly the last human in a rhinoceros herd he looks into the mirror and says, humbly enough, "After all, man is not as bad as all that, is he?" But his world now shakes mightily with the stampede of his metamorphosed fellow citizens, and he soon becomes aware that the very stampede itself is the most telling and tragic of all arguments. For when he considers going out into the street "to try to convince them," he realizes that he "would have to learn their language." He looks in the mirror and sees that he no longer resembles anyone . He searches madly for a photograph of people as they were before the big change. But now humanity itself has become incredible, as well as hideous. To be the last man in the rhinoceros herd is, in fact, to be a monster.

Such is the problem which Ionesco sets us in his tragic irony: solitude and dissent become more and more impossible, more and more absurd. That Berenger finally accepts his absurdity and rushes out to challenge the whole herd only points up the futility of a commitment to rebellion. At the same time in The New Tenant (Le Nouveau Locataire ) Ionesco portrays the absurdity of a logically consistent individualism which, in fact, is a self-isolation by the pseudo-logic of proliferating needs and possessions.

Ionesco protested that the New York production of Rhinoceros as a farce was a complete misunderstanding of his intention. It is a play not merely against conformism but about totalitarianism. The rhinoceros is not an amiable beast, and with him around the fun ceases and things begin to get serious. Everything has to make sense and be totally useful to the totally obsessive operation. At the same time Ionesco was criticized for not giving the audience "something positive" to take away with them, instead of just "refusing the human adventure." (Presumably "rhinoceritis" is the latest in human adventure!) He replied: "They [the spectators] leave in a void-and that was my intention. It is the business of a free man to pull himself out of this void by his own power and not by the power of other people!" In this Ionesco comes very close to Zen and to Christian eremitism.

"In all the cities of the world, it is the same," says Ionesco. "The universal and modern man is the man in a rush (i.e. a rhinoceros), a man who has no time, who is a prisoner of necessity, who cannot understand that a thing might perhaps be without usefulness ; nor does he understand that, at bottom, it is the useful that may be a useless and back-breaking burden. If one does not understand the usefulness of the useless and the uselessness of the useful, one cannot understand art. And a country where art is not understood is a country of slaves and robots." (Notes et Contre Notes, p129) Rhinoceritis, he adds, is the sickness that lies in wait "for those who have lost the sense and the taste for solitude."

The love of solitude is sometimes condemned as "hatred of our fellow men." But is this true? If we push our analysis of collective thinking a little further we will find that the dialectic of power and need, of submission and satisfaction, ends by being a dialectic of hate. Collectivity needs not only to absorb everyone it can, but also implicitly to hate and destroy whoever cannot be absorbed. Paradoxically, one of the needs of collectivity is to reject certain classes, or races, or groups, in order to strengthen its own self-awareness by hating them instead of absorbing them.

Thus the solitary cannot survive unless he is capable of loving everyone, without concern for the fact that he is likely to be regarded by all of them as a traitor. Only the man who has fully attained his own spiritual identity can live without the need to kill, and without the need of a doctrine that permits him to do so with a good conscience. There will always be a place, says Ionesco, " for those isolated consciences who have stood up for the universal conscience " as against the mass mind. But their place is solitude. They have no other. Hence it is the solitary person (whether in the city or in the desert) who does mankind the inestimable favor of reminding it of its true capacity for maturity, liberty and peace.

It sounds very much like Philoxenos to me.

And it sounds like what the rain says. We still carry this burden of illusion because we do not dare to lay it down. We suffer all the need that society demands we suffer, because if we do not have these needs we lose our "usefulness" in society-the usefulness of suckers. We fear to be alone, and to be ourselves, and so to remind others of the truth that is in them.

"I will not make you such rich men as have need of many things," said Philoxenos (putting the words on the lips of Christ), "but I will make you true rich men who have need of nothing. Since it is not he who has many possessions that is rich, but he who has no needs." Obviously, we shall always have some needs. But only he who has the simplest and most natural needs can be considered to be without needs, since the only needs he has are real ones, and the real ones are not hard to fulfill if one is a free man!

The rain has stopped. The afternoon sun slants through the pine trees: and how those useless needles smell in the clear air!

A dandelion, long out of season, has pushed itself into bloom between the smashed leaves of last summer's day lilies. The valley resounds with the totally uninformative talk of creeks and wild water.

Then the quails begin their sweet whistling in the wet bushes. Their noise is absolutely useless, and so is the delight I take in it. There is nothing I would rather hear, not because it is a better noise than other noises, but because it is the voice of the present moment, the present festival.

Yet even here the earth shakes. Over at Fort Knox the Rhinoceros is having fun.

The Joys of Whoredom

Have you ever been plagued by repetitive thoughts? For the past week or so, I've had one thought sail through my head at least 20 or more times a day. It induces the most profound school-girl type giddyness.
"Sean, you no-talent whore!" Alec Baldwin
I don't presume everyone shares my obsessions, but just in case, you can hear it all again here. (from Crooks and Liars)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Big Dance

A friend of mine gave me a subscription to the Oxford American, a magazine that features southern writers. My first issue arrived the other day and this article grabbed me by the scruff of the neck. I don't participate in the Duke - UNC rivalry (unlike others in my home I could mention); I get my hate on with U of L - UK. I think Willy gets it right about basketball and a few other things southern.

Read: The Art of Hatred
Fanaticism and the Duke-UNC basketball rivalry.
by Willy Blythe

7 Life Lessons Learned from Pixar Movies

  1. Don't be afraid to use you special powers.
  2. Overparenting can backfire.
  3. It's better to have people like you than fear you.
  4. With pluck and persistence, you just may get the princess.
  5. Follow your heart, even when it feels scary.
  6. Be nice to the new kid on the block.
  7. A bad haircut is not the end of the world.
I'll make a pie for the first person who tells me the correct titles to all seven movies. Pixar employees, their spouses, partners, children, pets, etc are not eligible for the contest for obvious reasons.

Words of Advice from Charles Isherwood

NYT theater critic, Charles Isherwood, sums up the 2006 Humana Fesitval thusly:

"There's not much point in aiming high if you can't hit your target. And is it really necessary for playwrights to dream up new worlds? As Ms. Rebeck's intimate and affecting play reminds us, the one we live in still provides durable material for theater that moves us, makes us laugh and allows us to see even a small frame of experience in a new light."
Got that? Aim low unless you're absolutely certain you won't fail.

I get his point about there still being material in the world to be mined, but can't something else be made of quotidian life other than naturalism? And can't those other forms be just as intimate and affecting?

O'Neill didn't hit his target every time, but if he had let that stop him, we might never have had
The Hairy Ape, A Touch of the Poet, or Long Day's Journey Into Night.

Ponder failure in its many forms at The Institute of Failure. Interesting side note: My first attempt at embedding this link failed; anyone clicking on the link landed at Microsoft. Failure or fate?

FYI: Better Living Through Derangement

Proverbs for Paranoids by Thomas Pynchon
1. You may never get to touch the Master, but you can tickle his creatures.
2. The innocence of the creatures is in inverse proportion to the immorality of the Master.

3. If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers.

4. You hide, they seek.

5. Paranoids are not paranoids because they're paranoid, but because they keep putting themselves, fucking idiots, deliberately into paranoid situations.

Or as someone once told me, paranoia is the art of completely synthesizing your environment...

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Pie Recipe! Chocolate Pecan

It's been brought to my attention that the pie recipes sometimes escape notice. Well...I've only put up two and they're both Chocolate Pecan. I have my reasons...

So. I'm breaking this particular recipe out because it deserves special notice. Make this pie! It's a little slice o'heaven!

Chocolate Pecan Pie

  • 9" pie crust
  • 1 Cup pecans (Trader Joe's Cinnamon glazed pecans are an excellent choice)
  • 1/4 Cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 Cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 3/4 Cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 Cup butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 - 4 Tablespoons of bourbon
  • 1 1/2 - 2 Teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 Teaspoon salt
Preheat oven 325 degrees. Sprinkle 1/2 cup pecans and 1/4 cup chocolate chips over bottom of crust. Whisk brown sugar and next six ingredients in medium bowl. Pour into pie crust. Sprinkle remaining pecans over filling. Bake until filling is set in center about 40 minutes. Cover the edges of pie crust with aluminum foil or a pie shieild about halfway through baking to prevent edges from getting too brown.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Must Read: Ideology and Theatrical Possibilty

Two, count'em two, insightful and thought-provoking essays by critic and playwright, Walter A. Davis.

The Play's the Thing [link]
"For ideology is primarily the way we regulate our relationship to ourselves and our experience. It operates habitually as that which goes without saying and therefore cannot be questioned. To do so is to exist in an anguished recognition of what existence is. Ideology is first and foremost an activity of self-censorship. The reason that fact goes undetected is that most of the time we aren't presented with material that really challenges us. It is easy to think one is radical when the material one praises as radical never really disrupts one's psychic constitution.

As Herbert Marcuse demonstrated long ago, even our tolerance is repressive. We tolerate things that reinforce the ideological economy on which our self-identity depends. We are intolerant of and censor whatever fails to conform to it. This is as true in the theatre as it is everywhere else. But in the theatre it presents itself to artists as a problem that must be overcome! That is what radical art does."

Mendacity: The Prospects of Progressive Theater Under Capitalism [link]
"My Name Is Rachel Corrie is no longer the play it was. It is now the cultural event it has become. It is what it will “signify” for the Theatre that produces it and the audiences who attend it prepared by the current controversy to experience My Name Is Rachel Corrie as the epitome of progressive, challenging, politically relevant, and experimental theatre. Such is the power of ideology as that great a priori mediator that establishes the beliefs and expectations that lead us to regard as our own the experiences it programs us to have.

My Name Is Rachel Corrie is now the Pavlovian stimulus before which vast audiences will salivate on cue so that they can leave the theatre congratulating themselves on how liberal, progressive and daring they are. A minor play will thereby further a process of commodification that makes it exceeding difficult for actually bold plays to gain a hearing."

Saturday, April 01, 2006

DIY: The Truth Is Out There

You want the truth, sporto? You can't handle the truth. Well, maybe you can, but not without an Arab to English dictionary. On Thursday, the US government published 600 captured Iraqi government documents on the Internet so that bloggers can wade through them and publish their findings.
"Let's unleash the power of the Internet on these documents," said House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra. "I don't know if there's a smoking gun on WMD or not. But it will give us a better understanding of what was going on in Iraq before the war."
Hold up! Peter, are you saying we had no intelligence to support the invasion of Iraq? Shucks! You'd think an admission like that would warrant front page above the fold coverage or a media blitz on all the cable news channels. Aw, this post-911 world, she's a beautiful thing.

Given that the Iraq Survey Group found no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction after the war, and the Sept. 11 commission reported it found no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al-Qaida, the Fed's sudden "open-source government" policy seems dubious to some. Suspicions are high that there is a desire to put Bush's ever-evolving premises for going to war in a good light.
"I would bet that the materials that they chose to post were the ones that were suggestive of a threat," said John Prados, author of the book, "Hoodwinked: The Documents That Reveal How Bush Sold Us a War."
Well, you'll never know unless you get busy! There are up to 55,000 boxes of documents. Woohoo! Good times!

e WMD humor courtesy of Bill Hicks from Bush War 1, but boys and girls, this stuff is timeless.