Saturday, February 20, 2010

Alexander Haig: Photograph by Harry Benson.

from VF Daily: in memoriam

Alexander M. Haig Jr. died today at the age of 85. Harry Benson took this photograph of the former secretary of state and White House chief of staff for “Yes, Mr. President,” a portfolio from the April 2007 issue of Vanity Fair that reunited presidential aides from every administration since Harry S. Truman’s. Here is the caption that ran with it:

Alexander Haig, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, served Presidents Nixon (as a military adviser, deputy assistant for national-security affairs, and chief of staff), Ford (chief of staff), and Reagan (secretary of state), in West Palm Beach, Florida. “I’m in control here in the White House, pending the return of the vice president,” he famously insisted in the hectic aftermath of the assassination attempt against Reagan. Photograph by Harry Benson.

*Vanity Fair's "Yes, Mr. President" portfolio can be seen here.

BBC News is collecting listener/reader comments on Haig's death. (Updated as of 10:35 pm, 2/20/10) What impresses? Beyond his eternal I'm-in-charge moment and the associations with Nixon and Reagan? Is there anything that jumps out, or was he the general refused admission to the top-level meeting because he had no credentials? From these reminiscences, one gets the sense of Haig as being at his best within regimen, blending, in uniform, owing allegiance to those below as leader, as well as obéissance to those above; Outside that comfort, that organizational flow chart that is the military, he always seemed a bit lost.

A gentleman soldier?

I had the pleasure of a 45-minute on-stage interview with Mr Haig in 2001. He was, as would be expected, an extremely interesting and knowledgeable gentleman with enlightening thoughts on Reagan and subsequent Presidents. However having thought about his answers I am not sure he would have made a great President himself.
Colin Parker, Hemel Hempstead

This man had quite an exciting life and I'm sure he died knowing that his life was full of great opportunities. The unfortunate thing is that he will forever be remembered for his role in Nixon's defence and his remarks after Reagan's assassination, but behind that is one of America's greatest soldiers. Rest In Peace General Haig.
Conor Collins, Hampton, VA

I felt better with General Haig's statement during a rather scary time. We met General Haig in SE Asia during Vietnam War and my husband did some work for him in Europe. He was a total professional and gave a lot to his colleagues. He was an elegant fellow.
Claire Bannerman, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, US

Mostly for the infamous "I'm in charge here" quote after Hinckley's assassination attempt against Reagan, but also grateful to him for his diplomatic efforts between the UK and Argentina during the Falklands conflict.
Muhammad Zaman, Oxford, UK

I remember an incident during my military career when, carrying out strict security arrangements and under specific orders from on high, I refused entry to a top level meeting by, as he was then, General Haig, the Supreme Allied Commander, as he had forgotten to bring his ID. His top level meeting was delayed by about 20 minutes while he sorted himself out. I knew who he was anyway. The look on his face and others, priceless!
Mike Diamond, Edinburgh

Former General Haig was my Battalion Commander (26th Infantry) in Vietnam and proved to be a fine leader and heroic soldier, in particular at the Battle of Ap Gu in 1967.
Joe Dirvin, Las Vegas, US

He was our company officer (11th) at the Naval Academy in 1955/56. He was a major and a great leader - we became the Color (#1) Company during his tenure.
Ira Hughey, Bellevue, NE, USA

Hague had a wry, self deprecatory sense of humour and, certainly to a British reporter covering the election in 1988, was fun to listen too, not something that could be said of Bush, who was always very careful what he said in public but had a reputation for malapropisms or the wooden Dukakis.
Stewart Fleming, UK

Small Town

--Myra's, Valdese, N.C. by davidbus159 on flickr

I love A Valdese Blog:

Part of a conversation overheard at the post office & duly reported to me so I could write it in this blog.

I like our post office. I sometimes approach entering buildings, such as restaurants and grocery stores, with a bit of trepidation, but I've gotten quite used to going into our little post office. I may not be the most sociable person who ever walked thru their door, but I can make the occasional small talk. Everybody has always been very friendly & helpful.

Anyway, I didn't witness this conversation, so I may not have it exact. It involved a passport application. If you get behind someone dealing with a passport application chances are you're going to be standing there a few minutes. But that's ok. Its a small town, where else would you go? [cont.]

I was lucky enough to live in a small North Carolina town when I was in high school. Unfortunately, my understanding of small town time, small town rules and regulations, and small town idiosyncrasies, and so did not appreciate my luck until many years later, years of being long gone.

I fell prey to calling such towns "charming." To be exactly honest, I classed them and their denizens (and mavens) with the snooty designation of Southern Gothic -- by which I meant steeped in quirky doom and quirkier gloom, with a dash of madwoman in the attic.

Worse? I came to believe (echos of Step Two in Alcoholics Anonymous: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity...) that the only good Southern [Gothic] writing came from wimmin.*

Now I know lots better about a few things. I know I like this blog that is sometimes about Valdese, North Carolina. After that? I hedge my bets.** One of my brother-units is a bookie, you know!

My favorite posts tend to be about humans and their willy-nilly dogs --"The Dogs of South Avenue" is a favorite (There is even a Part Two). But nothing -- no, nothing -- tops the very specific Pickles the Dog.

Pickles T. Dog. (T stands for the)
Pickles P. Dog (P stands for puppy)
P. Pickles Dog (if she's puttin' on airs)
P. Dog
P. Doggy
Gnarls Barkley
Pickles Anne
Pickleheimer (Don't ask me why, Patti Anne just started doing it)
Monster Dog

Look, I deserve some relief from The Felines of Marlinspike Hall. One day, I'll tell The Story of My Dog Emma and there won't be a dry eye in the house.

*Tamarah Cohen: After days on the Internet and in the library, I have come to nothing more than the obvious: "'wimmin' is a semi-phonetic spelling of 'women', recently adopted by feminists...."(OED, 1989).

Fig. to reduce one's loss on a bet or on an investment by counterbalancing the loss in some way.

Bob bet Ann that the plane would be late. He usually hedges his bets. This time he called the airline and asked about the plane before he made the bet. John bought some stock and then bet Mary that the stock would go down in value in one year. He has hedged his bets perfectly. If the stock goes up, he sells it, pays off Mary, and still makes a profit. If it goes down, he reduces his loss by winning the bet he made with Mary.
(McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs.)

to try to avoid giving an opinion or choosing only one thing, so that whatever happens in the future you will not have problems or seem stupid
(Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed.)

A thousand words worth: Torture and Yoo

In the hoity-toity world of literary criticism, there is a term used to designate something sorta opposite to "cooptation." Not quite an antonym, it is difficult to pin its wiggly self to the stiff black stock paper upon which we display our dead insect pests.

Under glass.

To void a term.
To empty a term.
To suck a freaking term dry.

The thing is slimy, too, so we sometimes add vacuum suction to the volume of air (really mites, mosquito dander, one frizzy and split multicolored human hair, two hydrogen atoms, at least, and oxygen).

We hope to desiccate; We hope to be exceedingly tedious; Death to the term!

Sure, first we tried other things, less drastic, less noticeable -- but those wacky words! They remained in use.

Neonate. Nigger. Necromancer. Nazi. (And that's just *part* of the N-words. Must I follow my fellows and begin with A for Aborigines or go backward with a start at Zygote? Thanks, I didn't think so!)

Before bed last night, I did some wholesome reading over at this psychotic café of aborted thought. Of course, yes, it was a bad idea. Slap an X for Xenophobe on that sucker!

Actually, had it not been time to sleep -- wayyyyy past time to sleep -- I might have had a qualified appreciation for the site. My area of purported expertise is precisely in the relationship between image and word. So what if I am supposed to stay in the confines of eighteenth century French literature? Diderot got to walk right out of the frames and pages of his Salons... Why can't I?

I arrived at PsyWarrior's place via a search for a photograph. I was thinking about the impact that PBS made with its decision to air photos of United States casualties in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. By the way, to make a study of it, this is a well thought out place to begin -- Media Literacy: Images of War. As even the term death is voided by some kind of human immunological protective response, the war of words continues, but illustrated. We are marvelously still concerned about what is polite, what is couth, and how-shall-we-hold-our-teacups, must-i-really-curtsy-to-the-queen?

Bill Moyers even got to wondering whether respect is something that we really ought to owe, and, of course, if so -- to whom is the debt, and what is the currency?

I discovered that I do not have it in me to research the nag, nag, nag in my head. As I began to explain above -- I landed at PsyWarrior in the course of searching for visual impact. I wanted a picture of Iraqi war dead, civilian and military -- something along the lines of the poster-like spread that many newspapers published of victims after the 9/11 terrorist attacks -- those nine long years ago.

Google search led me to a poster published on Herbert A. Friedman's blog on the history, means, and uses of psychological warfare. He claims that it was created by an antiwar group -- but that it was coopted by Iraqi propagandists who used it in ad campaigns against the United States.

[Aside: Man-O-Man, another term in the process of being vacated, voided? "American." I try to be aware of my wrong usages, and the Jeux-O do help to drive the point -- but jeez, what are we supposed to call citizens of the United States? What? "Citizens of the United States"? Cute, very cute. Too many characters. That would mean death to my 140-limit tweets. And uscit sounds too much like ocelot, God forbid I be the Author of Confusion.]

Okay, so he's just another asshole, retired. However, knowing something of military men, I presume him honorable, in some technical chapter-and-verse Rules of Engagement kind of way.

But I cannot find another source for the poster he published! It's driving moi batty. If you find it, would you please let me know? He requires that *his* permission be granted to reproduce the thing... and I am just not dressed for going out. I need to wash my hands first.

As usual, it matters -- how one gets from Point A to Point B. We'd like to stake a claim for linearity, and for that line to go from vague and uninformed to perfect intelligibility, for logic as wielded by philosophers.

But words, and pictures, are tricksters.

1885 illustration from Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, captioned "Misto' Bradish's nigger"

After a steaming mug of coffee and a piece of whole wheat toast, I settled down to work a bit this morning, satisfied and sated, both.

The sun was shining, the sky was blue. I had a lot to do. If you're already humming "I read the news today, oh boy..." -- well, you must be one of My Beloved (but your demographics are safe with me!)

Report Faults 2 Authors of Bush Terror Memos
Published: February 19, 2010

WASHINGTON — After five years of often bitter internal debate, the Justice Department concluded in a report released Friday that the lawyers who gave legal justification to the Bush administration’s brutal interrogation tactics for terrorism suspects used flawed legal reasoning but were not guilty of professional misconduct.

The report, rejecting harsher sanctions recommended by Justice Department ethics lawyers, brings to a close a pivotal chapter in the debate over the legal limits of the Bush administration’s fight against terrorism and whether its treatment of Qaeda prisoners amounted to torture.

The ethics lawyers, in the Office of Professional Responsibility, concluded that two department lawyers involved in analyzing and justifying waterboarding and other interrogation tactics — Jay S. Bybee, now a federal judge, and John C. Yoo, now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley — had demonstrated “professional misconduct.” It said the lawyers had ignored legal precedents and provided slipshod legal advice to the White House in possible violation of international and federal laws on torture. That report was among the documents made public Friday.

But David Margolis, a career lawyer at the Justice Department, rejected that conclusion in a report of his own released Friday. He said the ethics lawyers, in condemning the lawyers’ actions, had given short shrift to the national climate of urgency in which Mr. Bybee and Mr. Yoo acted after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “Among the difficulties in assessing these memos now over seven years after their issuance is that the context is lost,” Mr. Margolis said.

Indeed, the documents released Friday provide new details about the atmosphere in which Mr. Yoo and the Justice Department prepared their initial findings in August 2002, shortly after the capture of Abu Zubaydah, suspected of being an operative for Al Qaeda.

The report quotes Patrick Philbin, a senior Justice Department lawyer involved in the review, as saying that because of the urgency of the situation, he had advised Mr. Bybee to sign the memorandum, despite what he saw as Mr. Yoo’s aggressive and problematic interpretation of the president’s broad commander-in-chief powers in trumping international and domestic law.

Mr. Philbin said that “given the situation and the time pressures, and they are telling us this has to be signed tonight — this was like 9 o’clock, 10 o’clock at night on the day it was signed — my conclusion” was that it was permissible for Mr. Bybee to sign the memorandum. “They” apparently referred to White House officials....

It has taken a couple of years, but I no longer react to Mr. Yoo's name by leaping, cursing, or baking bread. True, I do pause to wonder about the direction in which my alma mater has gone. And, yeah, okay, I do quickly search out succor here, and sweeten my memory with this, and cheer on the SF Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

But the fact, as they say, remains.

Yoo is still a professor in good standing. But now, by golly, I've planted so many asterisks after his name that he barely registers anymore on The Outrage Meter.

I've never made poppy seed bagels before, wish me luck!

{she pirouettes figures eight, nine, and ten -- into the kitchen -- toes taut, responsive, screaming damn:damn:damn}

Yoo, who?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Complex regional pain syndromes: new pathophysiological concepts and therapies

Complex regional pain syndromes: new pathophysiological concepts and therapies
European Journal of Neurology
C. Maihöfner, F. Seifert and K. Markovic
Department of Neurology, University Hospital Erlangen, Schwabachanlage ; and Department of Physiology and Experimental Pathophysiology, University of Erlangen – Nuremberg, Universitätsstraße, Erlangen, Germany

Correspondence to Christian Maihöfner, MD, PhD, Department of Neurology/Institute of Physiology and Experimental Pathophysiology, University of Erlangen – Nuremberg, Schwabachanlage 6, D-91054 Erlangen, Germany (tel.: +49 9131 853 3001; fax: +49 9131 852 2497; e-mail:

Received 7 April 2009 Accepted 22 December 2009
Published Online 18 February 2010

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), formerly known as Sudeck's dystrophy and causalgia, is a disabling and distressing pain syndrome. We here provide a review based on the current literature concerning the epidemiology, etiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis, and therapy of CRPS. CRPS may develop following fractures, limb trauma or lesions of the peripheral or CNS. The clinical picture comprises a characteristic clinical triad of symptoms including autonomic (disturbances of skin temperature, color, presence of sweating abnormalities), sensory (pain and hyperalgesia), and motor (paresis, tremor, dystonia) disturbances. Diagnosis is mainly based on clinical signs. Several pathophysiological concepts have been proposed to explain the complex symptoms of CRPS: (i) facilitated neurogenic inflammation; (ii) pathological sympatho-afferent coupling; and (iii) neuroplastic changes within the CNS. Furthermore, there is accumulating evidence that genetic factors may predispose for CRPS. Therapy is based on a multidisciplinary approach. Non-pharmacological approaches include physiotherapy and occupational therapy. Pharmacotherapy is based on individual symptoms and includes steroids, free radical scavengers, treatment of neuropathic pain, and finally agents interfering with bone metabolism (calcitonin, biphosphonates). Invasive therapeutic concepts include implantation of spinal cord stimulators. This review covers new aspects of pathophysiology and therapy of CRPS.

Gall and Other Humors

There are certain touchstone issues, certain basics, to which one cannot fail to bring full passion. To not do so is to betray oneself.
Ooooh, I get all in a lather when reflexive pronouns are bandied about, willy-nilly. They are so... personal.

I hope to surround myself, even when just reading, just cooking, merely blogging, with dedicated people.

Especially those with whom I agree.

(Occasionally, I welcome spirited debate but let's face it, this is my blog, where I come for comfort and to avoid the everlovin' Ah! je ris de me voir si belle en ce miroir, La Bonne et Belle Bianca's witless tune from Gounod's Faust. You won't believe this: Charlotte Church has recorded The Jewel Song! The Castafiore is grief-stricken, and off her feed, too. She has even lowered the volume a bit when not performing.)

The Castafiore won't admit it but it absolutely galls her. A fourteen year old fillette, what was she, raised in zeee barn, this bairn? Tellement sectuallleee précoce, it is the embodiment of my **embarras!

For the first time *ever* since I have known Bianca, she is singing a new tune:

Une jeune fillette
De noble coeur
Plaisante et joliette
De grand’ valeur,
Outre son greon
l’a vendu’ nonette,
Cela point ne luy haicte
Dont vit en grand’ douleur.

This new song seems to please her.

Lately, then, Our Irrepressible Diva seems to school me daily in bile, and in bitterness of spirit. But we all manage to live lovingly and peaceably, because her poor sores are so raw, her acrid sniping so transparent of her childlike disappointment. Without this sort of base and basic honesty, she would not be so great or so sought out.

[I'm not supposed to tell, but she is going to be offered a movie role! Fred, The Felines and I have barely been able to suppress our excitement. Her agent is finalizing the terms, and the big announcement will come down next Thursday. I'm baking a cake. You can even follow the progress of this blockbuster on Twitter!]

You probably have figured out by now that, in this blog, you will rarely be spared the intricacies of inspiration's flow. As improbable as it sounds, the primordial goo (and, yes, woo, too) that brought us to this point is the mix of Castafiore's shameful resentments, the eternal story of Faust (all those devilish deals), etymology, coincidence, and favorite bloggers.

Also -- the steady drip:drip:drip of water torture happening somewhere, right now, because of the explicit endorsement by nasty, leering, little men like Dick Cheney.

Buckeye is a less cynical student of politics than I am. And he works to keep his spirit generous, the most important of spiritual attributes. I think he has been generous to Dick Cheney, even as he accretes a daunting Cheney Series. That kind of accretion is a slow and steady progress of layer-upon-layer, careful, natural, thin alluvion that, over time, adds acreage from piles of moss, peat, dirt, runoff, and molecules of manure.

Cheney doesn't shock me anymore -- although it is increasingly clear that Cheney would love to attach me to some highly charged wires, if he had the chance and only enough water to tweak the juice being applied to my pierced and bloody nipples.

But I have a modicum of hope for my soul, because Cheney does still enrage me.

Not to sound the tragic hero, but the world and its politicians have so disappointed that I feel, regretably, unshockable. What remains for me is snide disapproval, and given a prurient interest in abnormal psychology, a wish to get at the roots of Cheney's unabashed *gall*.

We must give it the good pronunciation, I think, to mark each Cheney moment: not the International Phonetic Alphabet Pronunciation [ŭn'ə-bāsht'] but a more shakespearian meter -- [ŭn'ə-bāsh'-ɛd]. What is the value in striving to maintain a common international standard, something to which one might appeal for guidance, with guileless faith in the centuries of work and evaluation, all the dedicated generations of testing, trying, judging?


I was talking about the IPA. What were you thinking about?

Charles Hodgson hosts a daily podcast called "Word of the Day." On 29 December 2006, the word was gall.

That was the day Saddam was executed "with fear in his face"; That was the day that Mike Dunford of the Zoology Department at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, and a regular contributor to The Pandas Thumb published his *quote* of the day , from Terry Pratchett's Hogfather:

"Thank you. Now . . . tell me . . ."


"Yes! The sun would have risen just the same, yes?"


"Oh, come on. You can't expect me to believe that. It's an astronomical fact."


She turned on him.

"It's been a long night, Grandfather! I'm tired and I need a bath! I don't need silliness!"


Really? Then what would have happened, pray?"


They walked in silence for a moment.

"Ah," said Susan dully. "Trickery with words. I would have thought you'd have been more literal-minded than that."


"All right," said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need . . . fantasies to make life bearable."


"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little -"


"So that we can believe the big ones?"


"They're not the same at all!"



"Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point-"


She tried to assemble her thoughts.


Yes, but people don't think about that," said Susan. "Somewhere there was a bed. . ."




"You make us sound mad," said Susan. A nice warm bed...


Creepy, no? Alignment of planets? God having His Fun? Serendipity? Some kind of Astral Nudge?

Anyway, enough of this silly present time! Backward we shall go, as a Nation and as a dilettante at etymologies.

The podictionary word for today is gall: It takes a lot of gall to submit an invoice to your lawyer for the time you sat in his waiting room. The meaning of this sense of the word gall is boldness or effrontery. The sense comes from the bitterness involved in such bold moves since the gall bladder contains a bitter yellow fluid.

The fluid is named gall because it is yellow and the root of its name goes back to Indo-European and was also the source of the name for that yellow metal we all covet so much, gold. But funnily enough there are two other types of gall. If something galls you, it means it gives you pain. In this case the word gall evolves from an Old English word for the places on a horse where a saddle or harness has rubbed the skin raw. A swollen knob on a tree is also called a gall and this is from Old French.

There is some suspicion that the swollen knob gall and the open sore gall might have the same roots, but maybe not. Gall the bitter yellow fluid is also known as bile and it is important in our digestive system. It would have been important to treat the galls on your horses if you expected to get much work out of them. But what kind of importance could the galls of trees have? In fact, for the purposes of English etymology tree galls had a fair amount of importance, particularly the galls of oak trees. What would happen you see is that a little wasp would come along and drill a hole into the bark of an oak tree and plant her eggs in there for safekeeping.

The tree did not like this, not one little bit. And so the tree grew a knob around the wasp eggs to protect itself. But when the monks and scholars of 1000 years ago saw one of these oak galls, they knew that inside was a little store of acid produced by the tree. They happily crushed the oak gall and used water or vinegar to draw out the acid, then added gums to make the mixture a little less runny, and then added their favorite mixture of rust and soot and other things to give the liquid whatever color they wanted. The result was something they called encaustum in Latin, we’d call it ink, but the word ink didn’t come into use until Middle English.

It was the acid from the oak gall that gave the ink the power to etch its way into the surface of the velum on which they wanted to write. The velum was made from animal skins, mostly sheep and it’s because these ancient scribes took the time to use such high quality methods and materials that we can still read today what they wrote way back then. If they had used paper it would have crumbled to dust or blacked with oxidization long before now. Encasutum is related to caustic and both words go back to a Greek for burn. So even though these different types of gall seem to come from different etymological sources, they all have a sting to them.

Don't you just love words?

It helps me to have etymologies in mind, and in this case, I am searching out something of the effect an old Army nurse -- reminiscent of a bitter prune -- once explained to me, back in those halcion Candy Striper days: She said that she, like many other good nurses surrounded by whiny young men newly separated from their Mothers, tended to give their young buttocks an unexpected and sharp slap just before plunging in the needle through which a good dose of penicillen was administer to cure their... whatever. There was a rationale to this intentional infliction of pain. The first pain took their attention away from the second one. Occasionally, a thick grab of booty flesh was converted into a mean twisty pinch. Those, I twice saw draw blood and the 18 year olds cried big wet tears.

After a few weeks on the wards, I saw that what had been perceived as sadistic and cruel (I mean, these were essentially healthy and wonderfully formed derrières. Innocent cheeks, as it were.) The greater purpose had escaped me. I've never been swift on the uptake.

I have fought hard, here where you cannot see or know me, to put some distance between Dick Cheney and his ugly words on Valentine's Day and the strict definitions and trusty origins of the WordWeapons I toss about.

Because, as Obama (and, okay, maybe someone else before him) said, "Words matter." Certainly, we have witnessed the staying power of the S-Word, or rather its depletion by the fanatical right.

But when shit remains shit instead of transforming into rich dark loam? Sometimes all you've got left to escape it are fancy tricks of dictionaries and serendipitous allusions.

Unless you are Buckeye Surgeon, and then you manage to voice your outrage, all the while still trying to understand. That is wayyyyy more than I am willing to do for DickWad Cheney.

Buckeye likes to ease into things with a mild video presentation:

I'm sorry, but I'm still sort of reeling from the fact that Cheney actually went on national television and admitted he was a "big supporter of waterboarding". And he didn't even use one of the Orwellian euphemisms (enhanced interrogation techniques); he actually said the word waterboarding. Now waterboarding is illegal according to US law, international law, the ICRC, the Geneva Conventions, the UN Convention Against Torture, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc etc. And he had the smug audacity to go on the air and brandish his unabashed support for an illegal, inhuman practice that ought not to be condoned under any circumstances. Why would he do that?

Because Dick Cheney is a ruthless, arrogant son of a bitch who thinks he can do whatever he wants. It kills him to have to silently bear the world's moral condemnation. He wants to say he tortured. He wants the world to know how "tough" he was. He wants the "liberals" and the "soft underbelly of the American left" to know how he sat on that wall and defended America and made the hard choices that the likes of Obama in their "faggoty white uniforms" would never or could never do themselves. Baring his teeth, shaking his fist like he did on Sunday--- it's like he was just daring someone to challenge his right to call a Code Red. He truly sees himself as some sort of martyred patriot.

But you're nothing more than a common criminal, Dick. None of us are impressed with your bluster. Your time will come.

**embarras: a river in E Illinois, flowing S and SE to the Wabash River. 185 mi.
(298 km) long.

Also, Embarrass.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

REPOST: "the unintelligible terms of an incomprehensible damnation"

2/18/2010: Why another repost? Well, it seems high time to move the previous post out of its position of primacy. Oddly enough, this repost also contains the early ruminations about cyberstalkers -- comedically known as inveterate "yes, but"-ers! So why *really* is this being reposted? Because as I watch the Olympic skiers, I remember my darling Bill.

Oh, unclench your orifice! It is a good thing this time. I am getting better at this.

I loved him. He loved skiing. So why in the world should I cringe and cry before the evidence of all that joy? I am twisting and turning, laughing and shaking off the real snow flakes on the shoulders of my imaginary faux-fur lined parka. I see him in every face.

And if, now and then, his voice sounds, trailing away in little boy tones on that long-ago telephone? It was gut-wrenching then, and still sometimes now... but at least I can recognize what an honor it was, just to be there, hanging on to that land line like it was the tether to the whole goddamn ball of wax.

It was what it was and I am getting better at remembering with honesty. They're a special breed, these alpinistes!


(ORIGINALLY POSTED 11/2009)I have rarely been afraid to write here, or anywhere. Certainly, grad school and trepidation went well together, but like labor pain, that pain has faded so that I almost don't remember the minor agonies that birthed my degrees. Unfortunately, the life of those degrees is not the extension of self that a child might be.

I am afraid to write to you, but will conquer that fear with this post. (Don't flee before my MollyBloomEsque monologues, as they matter to the story!)

After my love-and-hate relationship with the sciences, and inspired by working 40-hour weekends in a CCU so that my scholarship money might actually cover tuition and books, I decided on a BA in French. So as not to fall prey to the frustrations of teaching forever in some backward schoolhouse in the boondocks, I decided to shoot for [my concept of] the Upper Room of Literary Criticism and go for a Master's at UC-Berkeley.

As part of my plot, er... plan, to get the hell out of Dodge and into the Cradle of My Civilization in the sanfranciscobayarea, I decided to compete for a scholarship to "do" linguistics at the Université de Montréal. I saw it as a way to simultaneously beef up my education and also legitimately respond to a growing personal interest.

So the two years leading up to the exodus to California were, obviously, frenetic and academically challenging. I managed to cram three years of study into two, do two minors, the aforementioned 40-hour weekends, and pursue a pretty active social life, as well. Indeed, during some of that period, I was head-over-heels in love.

But what you cannot deduce without more information is that these years were also the absolute worst of my life. I actively work at not remembering, and am talented at that particular waste of The Life Force -- until someone does something, or something happens, that calls it up. Then? Then I relive it as if it has never stopped happening. Not to sound too SamuelBeckett but it feels as if the events of that time are always and forever on the verge of happening.

It was an insightful prof who lead me by the hand to Beckett's continually becoming body of work. My friends, colleagues, patients, and loves all traveled together, rocking to the sound of his gravelly voice. I drank and drugged, coffee'd and smoked, and knew only that because I could not speak, I had to speak.

Beckett taught me how to live the story of my life without a plot, how to speak my pure monologues in order to stay alive, how to live detached, how to sit, peacefully,separately, in the middle of an unnamable, disjointed, haunted mess -- always, always, speaking, telling, voicing, in order to exist, in the hope of existence.

I return to L'innomable the way some turn to The Bible -- it is my floating driftwood when vessels flounder. It is something entirely different from a "favorite novel," because we all know that would be Lynne Sharon Schwartz's Disturbances in the Field. Or Anouilh's Becket ou l'honneur de Dieu. It's a tough call.

Sometimes, I think it is the relative ease of moving from French to English, English to French, that ramps up the usefulness of S. Beckett, because the language never leaves the author's intent; We have the author's best in either.

And so from L'innomable, this phrase bent over my shoulder and offered itself up as The Expression of That Mean Time.

the unintelligible terms of an incomprehensible damnation: “Where now? Who now? When now? Unquestioning. I, say I. Unbelieving. Questions, hypotheses, call them that. Keep going, going on, call that going, call that on.”

Yes, I could keep going and you might think me rambling, but it isn't but I must say it, I simply must, or I will never write again the possibility, the possibility of writing.

Between my freshman year at an elite, private college and the richer aggregate of time at a large, mediocre, public university, I took what is known as "a break." You are likely familiar with the concept! [If you took "a break" at some point in your life, stop a moment, and remember, smiling.]

The first experience was a snooty education geared to the production of doctors, lawyers, and presbyterian ministers. Emblematic of my issues there? I was clearly destined to be pre-med but most enjoyed calculus and p-chem when seen more as competing philosophies. I adored biology but enjoyed training as an EMT better. Because I am tall, I was appointed to stand under the basket when my dormitory hall participated in mandatory intramural athletics - often of a Sunday afternoon, after a Sunday morning in mandatory Chapel. Yet every weekday that I was able, I ran to the empty tennis courts to play Wall Ball. I wasn't good enough to even make the tennis team, despite having an undefeated high school record (we stacked a good deck!).

I wouldn't have minded being pulled in multiple directions, if my honest interests were represented, but it quickly became clear that they weren't.

On a purely emotional plane, the pushme-pullyou nature of things continued. One of the reasons I chose this snotty school was that my biological mother, stepfather, and two half-siblings had come from Turkey and settled nearby. She wanted to reconnect. I thought with me, but that was an interpretive error. She yearned for the three young kids she'd abandoned 14 years earlier, not the three young adults that actually existed. Of the three, I was the only one to make any move to meet her, there where she had decided to make her stand.

It's unfortunate that I did not know of her obsession with Brother-Unit Tumbleweed, whose photography serves as windows from this blog. His decades of picturing the canyon can be found at one of his blogs, American Idyll. Anyway, Tumbleweed had long been gone from my life when I started college -- he ran, he ran, he ran away just a few years after she left us high and dry in a foreign land. It was heartbreaking that no one told her, and I confess to thoughts of fleeing, myself, when the second thing she said to me upon our reunion was "How is myfirstchild?" I developed a stammer that lasted the whole evening.

"He's... gone. He left. Didn't you know?"

I accented every final syllable. Her eyes became, and stayed, a wasteland. [And now she, too, is dying.]

We had two brief meetings, carefully brokered by lawyers, while I was in high school, but now, as a pseudo-adult, I wanted to use some of my college time getting to know her and her family.

Much as with the ivy-leaved bricks, there was a wall; I just couldn't do it. We were all so fundamentally different one from another and the word love flew off of loose lips at a rate that I found both alarming and insulting.

I still do not trust anyone who blathers on and blithers about the meaning of friendship, and lovelovelove. "Show me," I beg, silent.

So... that's why I took a break.

I worked in a hospital, in the post-intensive neuro ward, and took courses (like World Civilization and Death as Metaphor, plus several creative writing workshops) in a catch-as-catch-can sort of way. I lived with some incredible and mind-boggling people -- a respiratory-therapist-turned-waitress who took at least three new men to bed per week, was on probation for selling drugs, and who racked up several DUIs during my stay... and a woman who was just plain looney-tunes.

I'm just sayin'.

Lastly, I lived with Bill, the real and true love of my life.

By the time Bill had to move home to Ohio because he suffered a recurrence of an aggressive brain cancer, I was ready to leave the mountains, head back east, and throw myself into forgetfulness.

And so I did.

I am not crying as I write this. I hold the picture-snap memories at a cold distance while I share with you the bare minimum of moments.

It's not as if I have the words to say the feel of the weight of him on top of me, his long black hair in my mouth, as I hold on to dear life.

Bill's parents did not like me much. I was the Harlot that had spirited away their talented son. It must be the brain tumor that chose the Harlot, they said. Otherwise, he would be doing as they expected him to do, which involved a born again Christian woman from a family already in their sainted circle.

And so at first it was a rocky relationship, the bizarre telephone routine that developed between me and Bill's Mom. Bill felt the décalage, the disconnect, between his physical decline and his image of what he was able to do, and he did not deal well with it. Then, after he did make his peace with his loss of coordination and stamina, with the terrible head aches and fog, he had no weapon against his loss of recent memory. He had to learn and relearn hard, painful lessons.

His mind apparently would go back to our time living together, and he decided, somehow, that every order he did not like coming from (primarily) his mother merited a phone call to me. I would have to support her demands, explain them over and over, while walking to and fro in the sunny living room I now shared with my best friend The Radical Iranian Lesbian.

The hardest thing was The Nap. They were trying to help him cope by entreating him to nap every afternoon -- it also coincided with the timing of some important medications. It mattered, is what I am trying to say.

At least, it mattered until the day it just didn't anymore.

Shit. I am crying. Excuse me, I'm gonna go cook something. I'm thinking a One Pot Wonder, starting with onions, garlic, sea salt, cumin, turmeric, and so on. A grain, some protein in the form of lentils and peanuts. I need to finish off some veggies, too.

Okay, I'm back and does it smell good in here! Yum... It turned out to be a marathon due to the comingling of foodstuffs requiring very different cooking times.

So... the last phone tag game Bill's Mom and I played, indeed, the last time we "spoke," was a conversation that went around and around the topic of The Nap.

We would hammer out the Why of The Nap, he would murmur assent, and then within 30 seconds, he would say, "But Retired Educator! I don't want to take a nap!" Yes, he sounded sweetly sleepy and all of two years old.

He told me he wanted to go for a ride in the car but that they wouldn't (of course) give him the keys.

He told me he didn't like the medicine.
He told me he was tired.
He told me he didn't know who I was.
He told me he loved me.
He told me he hated me because he didn't want to take a nap and he hated his medicine and why wouldn't his mother just leave him alone, and how much he loved his mother, and his dad.

And I was worn out, my floor was being worn out with the pacing, I needed to throw up or smoke a joint.

And his Mom got back on and I told her, "I cannot do this anymore..." And she answered, not missing a beat, and I didn't even know we had a cadence, and she said, "I don't think you'll have to."

A neat story would finish: And he died in his sleep the very next day.

But he didn't. He hung on for months. We spoke but less and less, as there was nothing to say.

Then he died. I have no idea if he died peacefully, or well. (I have an unfortunate belief that dying well is very important, as so I did not ask, as I could not bear knowing.)

The last six months of Bill's life, I began to date Brian. I met Brian before Bill, actually, and found him interesting, but mostly just found him... available.

We were very compatible sexually, liked much of the same music, and that was about it.

Not being someone who was able to see a sort of morbid leitmotif running through my romantic life, it didn't matter much to me that he was a hemophiliac, that we made a couple of runs a month to the Emergency Room so that he could receive Factor 8. He had a tendency to bleed into his knees and hips.

I thought he had a great attitude about it, and admired his determination to try and live a normal life, especially his insistence on fun, fun, fun. We had sex and went to concerts, and enjoyed food shopping and experimental cook offs. He was handsome and smart. I close the lids of my eyes today -- I see him. Full-lips, wheat hair, a baritone voice.

These days, I cannot sleep because of pain, and now I understand why Brian could not sleep. I was an insomniac because of the constant thoughts of what was happening to Bill, my 40-hour weekends, and my obsessive perfectionism in my schoolwork.

Sleep would have provided an unwelcome opportunity for dreams.

We did drugs, we drank, we smoked. All of that aside? It was a pretty healthy life. {coughcoughcough}

After Bill died at the ripe old age of 24, I thought I'd be relieved, thought that after grief came release. But -- possibly because I was slightly repressive with my emotions {coughcoughcough} -- that's not what happened.

NOTHING happened. The world didn't stop, or even pause, in its turning. I could not understand why all of nature did not weep.

I had set so much in motion academically that it was easy to just stay in kind of a latent, milky, sexy, depressive denial. The harder a task, the better. And there was always Brian.

At some point, Brian began to feel threatened by Bill, and his death did not diminish his feelings. I must confess that, even now, I don't understand how or why it came to bother him so. It began to be apparent to my co-workers and friends that while I was not serious, Brian was. Terribly.

So I began the breaking-up process, that ugly dance. I became less available. I shared less. I talked about my academic plans, the moves that were coming up, my plans to do some preliminary great work in Québec, then Paris, all before Berkeley. I got breathless just laying out the itinerary.

Did I pause to notice that Brian's life was set in stone, that no matter whom he dated, his struggle with hemophilia and a sadly dysfunctional family would always define his existence, and chokes his dreams? Yes and no, both. Of four sons with hemophilia, only two were still living. Brian lived with his mother; And his mother lived in a time warp, in a place in her head where her children had been born well, and happy, not cursed by blood-borne disease.

I actually wrote down a heartless plan for the final week of our romance -- I thought I could organize and execute the rupture with cold precision. The day I had indicated as the last day? He came over unexpectedly that morning; We had plans to meet for dinner. He put a big grocery bag on the kitchen counter, full of the makings for a cheese souffle. It was only about 9:30 in the morning, and I was honestly distracted by some last minute reading for a seminar, and so was surprised when I got up to find him in the bath, candles lit, music soft.

It was one of his favorite things to do -- in part, I surmise now, due to the comfort of warm water on his joints. At the time, it just screamed "sex" to me! And on that particular day? Break-up Day? Well, I came close to screaming, and the words coming out of my mouth weren't related to sexual pleasure. No, I think I unleashed my grief at him, my sense of drowning came rushing out, water swirled round and round, clockwise because we were North of the equator.

I didn't know much about mental health. If I had, I might've realized that Brian was no longer functioning in reality. He was suffering psychotic breaks. He made numerous suicide attempts.

By the time he stormed out of my place that day? Brian was my stalker.

That word wasn't much used, then. Guidelines were not in place, authorities were blissfully unconcerned, even in my university town. How do I know? Because I ended by seeking help everywhere I could and there was none to be had. Except for counseling! I went into counseling! Actually, the counselor was a good egg, a wonderful friend by the end.

Brian knew my schedule backward and forward. He knew when I turned on the radio, and would dedicate songs to me. He waited for me in the library stacks. He followed me in the hospital, until he decided, via incomplete suicidal gestures, to become a patient in the very unit I worked. I was sent home several times because he had become a patient in the CCU. Once, he overdosed on aspirin, the hemophiliac's inside joke.

The unit had 16 beds, 8 per hourglass side. We tried having me work the other end, ducking as I went room to room! But he would see me and begin to wail, "Retired Educator, Retired Educator, I did it because of yoouuuuu!"

This went on for about 3 months, I think, steadily escalating.

I came to value friendship, and understand it, as never before. My friends organized themselves as lookouts, and as the situation got more and more dangerous, went themselves to the cops and Brian's new psychiatrist.

An aside: I cannot remember her last name, but Anne was possibly the worst psychiatrist in the entire world. If she had listened to us -- and I believe I was but one of five people who barged into her office -- Brian might still be alive. I might be a happier camper, who knows?

I did not know that stress could reach the heights my stress accomplished. I developed gastrointestinal bleeding, lost over 20 pounds.

Threatening suicide over and over -- it is a very mean and hurtful form of intensely personal attack. Just when it would seem every effort to ignore Brian should be made, I was emotionally blackmailed by an onslaught of suicidal threats. I glared, uncomprehending, at my counselor and at my co-workers when they suggested that I not respond.

How do you just not respond when someone contacts you to say that they want to end their very existence, when this is someone you have talked to through long nights, shared with, slept with? To this day, though I am now schooled in what might be called a Tougher Love, to this day... I don't know, I don't know.

I do, however, have a very healthy and robust anger that springs forth when anyone so cruelly hurts another.

Brian attacked me physically four or five times. He proved adept at breaking into, and stealing, my car.

The two times he attacked me inside my own home, though, are episodes I am able to relive in minute detail. I envy people who are able to subsume their memories into neat containers, labelled things like "scared to death." I would have to be one who, instead, can actually see and feel the hands going around my neck, squeezing, as the back of my head is slammed into the white plaster wall.

I would have to really see the weird offerings he'd leave on my front seat, particularly the last gifts: his beloved boots, The Beatles' Love Songs, sheaths of rambling writing, a red rose.

The last weekend, my friends were even on duty while I was at work. We had found it easier to track Brian constantly, and then react as needed, rather than passively wait for him to show up and do God-knows-what.

I don't think I put in more than 3 hours that Friday before I looked up to see my counselor peeking in the unit door. Brian had made another suicide attempt and one of my friends had managed to get an ambulance sent to him in time. He was combative, and was making threats.

The police consistently maintained that they could do nothing to help me (or Brian) unless I called them while actually under physical attack. They wanted to characterize his terrifying verbiage as some sort of passing love sickness.

My counselor begged me to leave work and go stay with his family for the night. Really, I wish, right now, that I could hug that man and thank him, yet again. I think he probably saved my life.

They released Brian around midnight. Yes, you read that right. They just let him go.

The Brian-Monitoring Gang was, like me, exhausted. I imagine that night as the first night in a long while when we all got a decent sleep.

They found Brian early the next morning, in his car, parked in a wildlife reserve. He ran a hose from the exhaust into the driver's side window.

He left notes everywhere. In the car. In my home. In his Mom's kitchen. And he made sure to mail a bunch of stuff as well, from different places, that I began receiving on Tuesday. [That's a detail that eats at me for some reason. Why did he travel such far distances in order to mail different pieces of hateful correspondance?] [And why do I persist in wanting anything he did to make sense? He was delusional; He was psychotic.]

I could go on and on, but I am sure you want this post to end, and I KNOW that this has been a huge and tremendous drain (and simultaneous boon) on my mental reserves.

Brian was consistent in his final messages. He wrote, in as many permutations as possible, that "I am dead because Retired Educator refused to love me back."

So they buried Brian next to his brothers. I met his surviving brother, a novelist and playwright. When I moved, years and years later, guess who was living three blocks away from me? No shit!

I was barred from the funeral. Brian's admonition that he was dead because I would not love him back? It took on a life of its own after he died, blue and stiff, and cold. Words are lively, and tenacious.

I did not miss a beat. Back to the rigor of school and work, getting ready to go to Montréal to work on the linguistics of joual.

Oh yes, I forgot. I made what might be called the "finals" of the scholarship competition. The last task was to write a long devoir in a five hour period -- the questions only unveiled the day I sat for it.

Two of the five hours were spent trying to escape Brian and his patented grab-her-by-the-neck-slam-her-into-the-grey-cinderblocks technique. I had been consigned to a large, mostly empty classroom building adjacent to the Foreign Language Department. I might also have died that day had not my sponsor decided to drop in to see how my work was going. Instead, she found me huddled in the corner of the room with a bruised neck and face, flecks of blood in my hair.

I remember my shock at her shock. Somehow, I thought everyone knew what was going on. I saw her at least a dozen times a week, for class, for chats. How could she not know about Brian? About Bill? Had I really remained mute through it all?

Back in September of this year, a friend to whom I had been serving as a kind of mentor got herself caught up in some kind of feud with another person, online. I had "known" her for over 2 years. I knew she had a lot of problems but I also believed her when she said she was working on them, overcoming them. I believed her when it seemed that, overnight, the whole world was against her.

It's a long and boring story, and sadly, it doesn't seem to end.

She has become my cyber-stalker. I know, in my head, that she won't come and bash my head into the thick walls of Marlinspike Hall, at least, I hope she won't.

Cause I hate when that happens!

I did not know that all the feelings from that sexy, heavy, wet, slow, warm and cold, thick, dead, frenetic time could be revived -- by a woman known to me only through words on a screen, and pictures.

Once again, my stomach bleeds, my intestines churn, I cannot eat, I cannot sleep, I am drowning in it all again, and it isn't easier for water having passed under the mossy mossy bridge.

the unintelligible terms of
an incomprehensible damnation

the unintelligible terms of an incomprehensible damnation
the unintelligible terms of an incomprehensible damnation the unintelligible terms of
an incomprehensible damnation

I want to leave you with the only words I feel like I have ever really known.

Please approach the translation below as if it were a holy space, because it is. This is called the last sentence of Beckett's The Unnamable -- "Parsed and Punctuated by Colin Greenlaw."

If you wish to ignore it, move your hand slowly to your mouse and cursor; Create some distraction to draw my eyes away, make a scene.

"Look, Retired Educator, a brontosaurus!"

Where? Where?
If you are open to the experience, pour yourself a stiff one, or brew some largely unknown form of tea, and dive in. Don't forget to tell someone where you have gone, in the event of an emergency.
I don't hear everything, that must be it, the important things escape me: it's not my turn. (The topographical and anatomical information in particular is lost on me.) No, I hear everything (what difference does it make?), the moment it's not my turn: my turn to understand, my turn to live, my turn of the life-screw (it calls that living!), the space of the way from here to the door. It's all there, in what I hear, somewhere - if all has been said, all this long time. All must have been said. But it's not my turn to know what: to know what I am, where I am, and what I should do to stop being it, to stop being there (that's coherent), so as to be another (no? the same? I don't know), depart into life, travel the road, find the door, find the axe (perhaps it's a cord) for the neck, for the throat, for the cords. (Or fingers: I'll have eyes, I'll see fingers.) It will be the silence. (Perhaps it's a drop: find the door, open the door, drop. Into the silence.)

It won't be I. I'll stay here - or there (more likely there). It will never be I, that's all I know. It's been done already, said and said again: the departure, the body that rises, the way (in colour), the arrival, the door that opens, closes again. It was never I. I've never stirred, I've listened.

I must have spoken?

Why deny it? Why not admit it, after all? (I deny nothing, I admit nothing.) I say what I hear? I hear what I say? I don't know. One or the other. Or both. (That makes three possibilities: pick your fancy.)

All these stories about travellers, these stories about paralytics: all are mine. I must be extremely old (or it's memory playing tricks). If only I knew if I've lived, if I live, if I'll live - that would simplify everything! Impossible to find out, that's where you're buggered. I haven't stirred, that's all I know. (No, I know something else: it's not I - I always forget that.) I resume (you must resume): never stirred from here, never stopped telling stories, to myself (hardly hearing them, hearing something else, listening for something else), wondering now and then where I got them from. Was I in the land of the living? Were they in mine? And where? Where do I store them? (In my head? I don't feel a head on me.) And what do I tell them with? With my mouth? (Same remark.) And what do I hear them with?

And so on, the old rigmarole. It can't be I. Or it's because I pay no heed: it's such an old habit, I do it without heeding. Or as if I were somewhere else.

There I am far again, there I am absentee again: it's his turn now, he who neither speaks nor listens, who has neither body nor soul. It's something else he has: he must have something, he must be somewhere. He is made of silence (there's a pretty analysis), he's in the silence. He's the one to be sought, the one to be, the one to be spoken of, the one to speak. But he can't speak: then I could stop, I'd be he, I'd be the silence, I'd be back in the silence, we'd be reunited, his story the story to be told.

But he has no story, he hasn't been in story? It's not certain: he's in his own story, unimaginable, unspeakable. That doesn't matter: the attempt must be made, in the old stories incomprehensibly mine, to find his. It must be there somewhere. It must have been mine, before being his. I'll recognize it, in the end I'll recognize it: the story of the silence that he never left, that I should never have left, that I may never find again, that I may find again. Then it will be he, it will be I, it will be the place: the silence, the end, the beginning, the beginning again - how can I say it? That's all words, they're all I have - and not many of them: the words fail, the voice fails. So be it. I know that well. It will be the silence, full of murmurs, distant cries. The usual silence, spent listening, spent waiting, waiting for the voice.

The cries abate, like all cries. (That is to say they stop.) The murmurs cease, they give up. The voice begins again (it begins trying again). Quick now before there is none left, no voice left, nothing left but the core of murmurs, distant cries: quick now and try again, with the words that remain. Try what? (I don't know, I've forgotten, it doesn't matter, I never knew.) To have them carry me into my story, the words that remain? (My old story, which I've forgotten, far from here.) Through the noise, through the door. Perhaps I'm at the door! (That would surprise me.) Perhaps it's I! Perhaps somewhere or other it was I! I can depart! All this time I've journeyed without knowing it: it's I now at the door. (What door? What's a door doing here?)

It's the last words, the true last. Or it's the murmurs: the murmurs are coming, I know that well. No, not even that. You talk of murmurs, distant cries, as long as you can talk. You talk of them before and you talk of them after. More lies: it will be the silence (the one that doesn't last) spent listening, spent waiting (for it to be broken, for the voice to break it). Perhaps there's no other, I don't know. It's not worth having, that's all I know. (It's not I, that's all I know.) It's not mine. It's the only one I ever had? That's a lie: I must have had the other, the one that lasts - but it didn't last. (I don't understand.) That is to say it did: it still lasts. I'm still in it. I left myself behind in it. I'm waiting for me there. (No, there you don't wait, you don't listen.)

I don't know: perhaps it's a dream, all a dream. (That would surprise me.) I'll wake, in the silence, and never sleep again. (It will be I?) Or dream (dream again), dream of a silence, a dream silence, full of murmurs (I don't know, that's all words), never wake (all words, there's nothing else).

You must go on, that's all I know.

They're going to stop, I know that well: I can feel it. They're going to abandon me. It will be the silence, for a moment (a good few moments). Or it will be mine? The lasting one, that didn't last, that still lasts? It will be I?

You must go on.

I can't go on.

You must go on.

I'll go on. You must say words, as long as there are any - until they find me, until they say me. (Strange pain, strange sin!) You must go on. Perhaps it's done already. Perhaps they have said me already. Perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story. (That would surprise me, if it opens.)

It will be I? It will be the silence, where I am? I don't know, I'll never know: in the silence you don't know.

You must go on.

I can't go on.

I'll go on.

Emergency Call to Action

You are probably also on the Africa Action mailing list, but in case you are not, this is the text of an appeal that just went out this evening:

Take Action Now!

Please consider taking action in support of the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) whose members have come under harassment and attack by the Zimbabwe police following nationwide peaceful protests that WOZA organized on Valentine's Day. Two women, Sibongile Matupe and Rose Rukwewo, an elderly woman, have been arrested in the City of Mutare and are currently being denied access to a lawyer.

In the Valentine's Day peaceful marches across Zimbabwe, WOZA protestors handed to passers by Valentine cards, red roses and abbreviated copies of WOZA's report on the state of democracy in Zimbabwe.

While the Bulawayo and Harare marches of hundreds proceeded with no arrests, the outrageous actions of the police in Mutare reminiscent of the pre-inclusive government era in Zimbabwe threaten to reverse tender democratic gains made so far and must be challenged with the full mighty of international solidarity.

Please take action now:

1. Please call Mutare Central Police station to protest the arrest of these women and to demand their immediate release on (+263 20) 31543 or 64212 or 63813/4

2. Send a solidarity message to WOZA at

In Solidarity,

Staff @ Africa Action

Frozen Hermit Creek: Reflections

The following reflective moments were stolen from American Idyll, my brother Tumbleweed's photography blog dedicated to the beauty of the Grand Canyon, and the river. Do not copy, please, or reproduce in any way, his work -- without his permission. Sisters are special; We get away with more than we probably ought. He calls this entry "A Sort Of Wintry Trumpet," published February 12, 2010

To make a perfect winter day like this, you must have a clear, sparkling air, with a sheen from the snow, sufficient cold, little or no wind; and the warmth must come directly from the sun. It must not be a thawing warmth. The tension of nature must not be relaxed. The earth must be resonant if bare, and you hear the lisping tinkle of chickadees from time to time and the unrelenting cold-steel scream of a jay, unmelted, that never flows into a song, a sort of wintry trumpet, screaming cold; hard, tense, frozen music, like the winter sky itself; in the blue livery of winter’s band. It is like a flourish of trumpets to the winter sky. There is no hint of incubation in the jay’s scream. Like the creak of a cart-wheel. There is no cushion for sounds now. They tear our ears.

--Henry David Thoreau (journal entry for February 12, 1854)

photo information:
frozen Hermit Creek (top)
Clear Creek Canyon from South Kaibab Trail (middle)
Isis Temple in mist (below)

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:
Mountain Chickadee
Western Scrub-Jay

thank you, tw

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Dirty F@#*ing Hippies Were Right!

"Haight Ashbury, Commune Group, 1968" by
Elaine Mayes

A few years ago at a photo conference Elaine Mayes showed a series of black and white portraits made during the “summer of love” in Haight Ashbury. That famous summer, 1967, I was 20 years old. I hadn’t yet made it to San Francisco, but I was a fervent member of the counterculture. I dropped in & out of school, did various low-paying jobs, wandered around, listened to a lot of music, got high as often as I could. I called myself a hippy. My hair and beard were wild.

I wore cast off clothes. I believed our country needed a revolution to make

us all free.

More than three decades later, Mayes’s slides showed me what I had seen but in some way not registered back then. Her pictures are skillfully direct -- unpretentious, accurate. For me they were a kind of reseeing -- only lucid this time, not stoned or lonely or in a hurry to get somewhere else. It was like suddenly having memories I didn’t know existed.

The 60s aren’t chic in these pictures. The hairstyles aren’t like the coiffed manes of the musical Hair or all the movies that would come later. The clothes -- mostly picked up on the street or in thrift stores -- often show imagination but haven’t yet become a marketable style. Everyone is so young. Only a few of the faces show the drugs & disillusion that would overtake the scene in just a few years....

I wouldn’t have thought so before, but these portraits convinced me the 60s are best pictured in black and white.

-- from Tim Connor's blog, Looking at Photography

It's simplistic, the YouTube vid, below.
It's a bit much. {Harold! Eat up your beets!}
It's tried and true, so trite, it's so.
It's in color; It's in psychadelic.

That's a lie of a put-down.
It's a montage of purported news.

{What's black and white and red? A nun in a blender!}

That's pretty much where I am this afternoon.

Angry at the image of my brother homeless and eating out of trashcans, following The Dead, brilliant, young, alone, abandoned. He's had his whole life to live beyond his then. I've had but a year of mostly rebuking the impulse to pull up that photograph, to play that song... again.

I am convinced that one day in Berkeley I walked right by him as he hungered. I am pretty sure he stank like a shithole. My then -- believed linear -- was a twisty sucking spiral of a wormhole.

For a tangible grasp, a hard hold, on Tumbleweed's torn and rancid tee-shirt, so that he never goes missing again? Study his gifts, here, and here.

Borrow his gaze, give him a toothy grin and a wave (he calls this "fool in a pool.")

My father told me to take all my memories (He proceeded on the assumption of the known; He knew that his part in it soured the milk, clabbered the butter; He called all my memories "bad.") -- My father told me to take all my bad memories, and "put them in a box... do you see it? now throw away the key. now put the box away, away, away in the back of your head."

1968 execution of a VietKong fighter: A South Vietnamese general executes a Viet Kong fighter in Saigon, during the North Vietnamese attack, known as Tet, after which the US knew it was losing the war. Photo:

He didn't know it, but I pictured the side of the head
where would be the exit wound, gaping, flawed --

you cannot ever get those edges back together,
no matter how many times
you block the sweater!

use real woolite
not the knock-off stuff
because you know there is a reason
for the brand*


I tire of dealing with idiots and the mentally ill, the special people who incarnate both attributes, slapping their tin teaspoons across the bars of the continuum. I lose focus, and find myself behaving badly.

{Harold: You sure have a way with people.
Maude: Well, they're my species.}

So, hell's bells, What's it all about, Alfie? The movie's soundtrack featured Sonny Rollins. Then Burt Bacharach popped that tune for Cilla Black.

What's it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?
And if only fools are kind, Alfie,
Then I guess it's wise to be cruel.
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie,
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there's a heaven above, Alfie,
I know there's something much more,
Something even non-believers can believe in.

It's Shrove Tuesday for you staid Anglican-inclined and for all of us tempted to huddle around a pile o' pancakes on a cold winter night, cheering on the kids who could afford the expense of winter sports.

Still? I'm tempted to go with Mardi Gras and Carnival: Get it all out of my system so as to better roll in Wednesday's ashes.

Shrove Tuesday? Fat Tuesday? Mardi Gras? Pick your pre-purification poison. It won't matter -- The Dirty F@#*ing Hippies Were Right!


*etymology of brand:

brand: O.E. brand, brond "fire, flame; firebrand, piece of burning wood, torch," and (poetic) "sword," from P.Gmc. *brandaz (cf. O.N. brandr, O.H.G. brant, O.Fris. brond "firebrand, blade of a sword," Ger. brand "fire"), from base *bran-/*bren- (see burn). Meaning of "identifying mark made by a hot iron" (1550s) broadened 1827 to "a particular make of goods." Brand name is from 1922. As a verb, brand is attested from c.1400. Related: Branded; branding.

brand new: c.1570, from brand. Originally it must have meant "fresh from the fire" (Shakespeare has fire-new).
brandish: mid-14c., from O.Fr. brandiss-, prp. stem of brandir "to flourish (a sword)" (12c.), from brant "blade of a sword, prow of a ship," of Frankish origin (see brand). Related: Brandished; brandishing.
Ked: proprietary name of a brand of canvas sneakers, 1917, registered by United States Rubber Co., N.Y.
"We wanted to call it Peds, but ... it came too close to ... other brand names. So we batted it around for awhile and decided on the hardest-sounding letter in the alphabet, K, and called it Keds, that was in 1916." [J.Healey, in R.L. Cohen, "Footwear Industry," x.93]
Smirnoff: proprietary name of a brand of vodka, said to have been in use since 1914.
Oxo: proper name of a brand of beef extract, 1899, British.
Day-Glo: 1951, proprietary name (Dane & Co. of London) for a brand of fluorescent paint.
seven-up: children's game, 1830; with capital initials, as the prop. name of a brand of carbonated drink, it is attested from 1928.
Olivetti: name of a brand of typewriters manufactured by a company in Turin, 1949; currently the only manufacturer of manual typewriters.
Zippo: proprietary name of a brand of cigarette lighter, patented 1934 by Zippo Manufacturing Co., Bradford, Pa.
Methedrine: 1939, proprietary name of a brand of methamphetamine (by Wellcome Ltd.); slang abbreviation meth is attested from 1967.
Bacardi: 1921, name for a brand of West Indian rum produced by Compania Ron Bacardi, originally of Cuba.
maverick: 1867, "calf or yearling found without an owner's brand," in allusion to Samuel A. Maverick (1803-1870), Texas cattle owner who was negligent in branding his calves. Sense of "individualist, unconventional person" is first recorded 1886, via notion of "masterless."
OxyContin: brand name of an oxycodone compound marketed in U.S. from 1996. Second element from continuous (i.e. "time-released").
Kleenex: 1925, proprietary name, reg. by Cellucotton Products Company, Neenah, Wisconsin, U.S.; later Kimberly-Clark Corp. An arbitrary alteration of clean + brand-name suffix -ex.
firebrand: probably late 13c., from fire + brand. Figurative sense of "one who kindles mischief or passions" is from late 14c.
generic: 1676, "belonging to a large group of objects," formed in Eng. from L. gener-, stem of genus "kind" (see genus). Sense of "not special, not brand-name," of groceries, etc., is from 1977.
Kodak: brand of camera, arbitrary coinage by U.S. inventor George Eastman (1854-1932), U.S. trademark reg. Sept. 4, 1888. In 1890s, practically synonymous with camera. Kodachrome, reg. trademark for a method of color photography, 1915.
Gitano: "gypsy," 1834, from Sp., from V.L. *Ægyptanus "Egyptian." The fem. is gitana. The Fr. form of the fem., gitane, was used as the name of a brand of cigarettes (1933) and has come to be used for Fr. cigarettes generally.
mark (1): "trace, impression," O.E. mearc (W.Saxon), merc (Mercian) "boundary, sign, limit, mark," from P.Gmc. *marko (cf. O.N. merki "boundary, sign," mörk "forest," which often marked a frontier; O.Fris. merke, Goth. marka "boundary, frontier," Du. merk "mark, brand," Ger. Mark "boundary, boundary land"), from PIE *mereg- "edge, boundary" (cf. L. margo "margin," O.Ir. mruig "borderland"). The primary sense is probably "boundary," which had evolved by O.E. through "sign of a boundary," "sign in general," "impression or trace forming a sign." Meaning "any visible trace or impression" first recorded c.1200. Sense of "line drawn to indicate starting point of a race" (e.g. on your marks ...) first attested 1887. The M.E. sense of "target" (c.1200) is the notion in marksman and slang sense "victim of a swindle" (1883). The notion of "sign, token" is behind the meaning "numerical award given by a teacher" (1829). The verb is O.E. mearcian (W.Saxon), merciga (Anglian) "to trace out boundaries," from P.Gmc. *markojanan. Both noun and verb influenced by Scandinavian cognates. Mark time (1833) is from military drill.

this post has been my first real experience with automatic writing.

i had hoped that one of last night's waking dreams might find its way here. as myself, i stood before a flat, 2-dimensional cut out of charleton heston, who had a large and clunky speaker in his bellybutton.

and the bellybutton said: "It's people.
Soylent Green is made out of people. They're making our food out of people. Next thing they'll be breeding us like cattle for food. You've gotta tell them. You've gotta tell them!"

kinda, in a way? god spoke to me? well, heston did. he was moses. also an astronaut in planet of the apes. george taylor. that's gotta count for sumpthin'.

i needs me a sammich.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Go read something!

A huge factor in having little to nothing to say? Not reading, and then not discussing what I have not read.

And quality matters.

When I read crap -- such as The Tweets of Stupid People or the intimate machinations of pulp media -- it's not so much that I, in turn, produce crap, but that I fall silent. There is nothing much worth repeating, rehashing, reposting, retweeting, reiterating in any way. The original iteration was failure enough.

I set out to defeat this tendency today. I grabbed some old New Yorkers, read some online articles, including George Packer's Stop the World, and Twitter: A Conversation (as the day went on, I got better with my chronologies!).

Allowing Twitter to stand in for all technology-driven communication, anyone concerned about Twitter, reading, and writing wonders along with Packer:

My question is whether Twitter and its accomplices will yield to some kind of reaction, a backlash, like, say, the reaction against urban sprawl or suburban sprawl. Back then, they sounded like reactionaries who said development is not a good in itself, we need to think about how we’re developing, and maybe there should be some limits on development.
Read more: here.

I moved on to Rolling Stone, thinking to work fast and hard at developing my hep attitudes and contemporary smarts in musical culture. My Darling Brother-Unit, Professor Grader Boob is coming here for Spring Break, after all, and we wants to be up to snuff, we does.

On that front, however, I have not just simple suspicions, but sneaking ones, as well. Grader Boob went and took on a course load of SEVEN classes, which does not bode well for his free time, or for things such as sleep and personal hygiene. His water bed having finally dried up, he has yet to purchase a new bed, and is therefore sleeping on the floor, and then daring to complain about back pain. (I thought the floor would be much better for him than the nightly tsunami that was his water bed, but it seems I am wrong.) So we are luring him onward to The Manor, deep, deep in the Tête de Hergé (très décédé, d'ailleurs) with promises of luxurious bedding, sponge baths administered by our healthy young Swedish neighbor, Helga, and culinary delights of which he has heretofore only dreamed...

Still. SEVEN classes. Maybe I will forgo the cooking of delights, and offer to bring my red pen out of retirement.

Mais je divague... I confess to rereading the 2008 article on John McCain, "The Make Believe Maverick," trying to look at old information in a new light. Not much resulted from that effort except brief muttering and foaming at the mouth. I am sure I have a pill for that but am equally sure that I cannot afford to fill the prescription.

It brought me back to the temper tantrum mode I was in after watching "my Sunday shows" yesterday. I was screaming at the television even though Rachel Maddow ably took dipshit Rep. Aaron Schock to school. I broke. The young whippersnapper had The Technique down Pat (I loved that old joke!). Hell's Bells, go here and read about it, watch the netcast, hoot and holler in your own space, time, and way.

In the meantime, here are two short clips of her training regime for gently slapping Lying Republicans on the snout:

She continues to spank the boy...

We tend to confuse real political conversations with the carefully orchestrated repetition of lies prevalent among the righteous right wing (as well as among the more knee-jerky of the left). Nothing maddens me more. As I age, the certainty that the electorate is full of Stupid People -- most are kind and use the more amenable term sheep -- has become set in stone. The Stupid People are easy targets for this type of bullshit.

Former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. got my ill-fated fist pump (I deliver one per show): "We are in the majority; We have an obligation to govern." I am not a fan of his, in particular, as he is quite the slick trickster and incestuous love-child of Wall Street, but that phrasing summed up my feelings well. As I slowly but surely head to my grave, I could give a Royal Hoot about bipartisanship.

The ever present Dick Cheney also participated in this plot to rob me of functional vocal cords. He is Beyond Scary and it would not be an overstatement were I to say that I wish he would... oh, well, you know. I don't need Halliburton Enforcers and Blackwater Ninjas showing up at my door.

I wasn't surprised to find that one of my favorite bloggers, Buckeye Surgeon, has kept his finger on the pulse (see how deftly I worked in that smooth medical reference?) of the torture issue, and Cheney, torture's greatest advocate, with his post Unabashed Torturer. It is perhaps the shortest and most emotive of what is beginning to be a regular Cheney Series. Poor Buckeye Surgeon sometimes fails to convey with clarity and can get lost in his words. Like here: "Dick Cheney is a criminal." I wish he would pick an opinion and stick with it!

To sample Buckeye's burgeoning Cheney Series, go here.

Ya, so from the McCain article to this little medical blog, my political muscles have been been working hard. It's like tossing perfectly dry split kindling onto the beginnings of a mighty bonfire -- I may well burn up, go up in smoke before the conversations are ever made meaningful, but at least I kept myself in the game.

I CAN'T HELP IT! THE TUBE IS SET TO LES JEUX-O and Bode got his bronze on! I don't think I've ever divulged my love affair with an Olympic Downhiller. Have I? Oh, so much to read, so much to say, so much to do!

See? Tear yourself away from the soaps and Twitter and Dr. Phil -- go read something. Start a freaking conversation.