Saturday, August 17, 2002

"[...] I feel obliged to speak the truth to my
contemporaries and I feel ashamed if they take me to
be someone whom I am not. In their opinion, a person
who "had faith" is fortunate. They assume that as a
result of certain inner experiences he was able to
find an answer, while they know only questions. So how
can I make a profession of faith in the presence of my
fellow human beings? After all, I am one of them,
seeking, as they do, the laws of inheritance, and I am
just as confused. [...] But what of death? I would say
that it has made an especially spectacular appearance
in my century and that it is the real heroine of the
literature and art which is contemporary with my
lifetime. Death has always accompanied us, and word,
line, color, sound drew their raison d'Ítre from
opposition to it; it did not, however, always behave
with the same majesty. The danse macabre that appears
in late medieval painting signified the desire to
domesticate death or to become familiar with it
through its ubiquitous presence, a friendly
partnership, as it were. Death was familiar, well
known, took part in feasts, had the right to
citizenship in the citÈ. Scientific-technological
civilization has no place for death, which is such an
embarrassment that it spoils all our calculations, but
it turns out that this is not for the best. For death
intrudes itself into our thoughts the less we wish to
think about it. And so literature and art start
referring to it incessantly, transforming themselves
into an areligious meditation on death and conducting
"pre-casket somatism," to borrow a phrase from
contemporary Polish poetry.

Here, perhaps, is where I part ways with many people
with whom I would like to be in solidarity but cannot
be. To put it very simply and bluntly, I must ask if I
believe that the four Gospels tell the truth. My
answer to this is: "Yes." So I believe in an
absurdity, that Jesus rose from the dead? Just answer
without any of those evasions and artful tricks
employed by theologians: "Yes or no?" I answer: "Yes,"
and by that response I nullify death's omnipotence. If
I am mistaken in my faith, I offer it as a challenge
to the Spirit of the Earth. He is a powerful enemy;
his field is the world as mathematical necessity, and
in the face of earthly powers how weak an act of faith
in the incarnate God seems†to†be.

I must add immediately that when thinking about my own
death or participating with my contemporaries in a
funeral ceremony, I am no different from them and my
imagination is rendered powerless just as theirs is:
it comes up against a blank wall. It is simply
impossible for me to form a spatial conception of
Heaven and Hell, and the images suggested by the world
of art or the poetry of Dante and Milton are of little
help. But the imagination can function only spatially;
without space the imagination is like a child who
wants to build a palace and has no blocks. So what
remains is the covenant, the Word, in which man
trusts. [...]

The child who dwells inside us trusts that there are
wise men somewhere who know the truth. That is the
source of the beauty and passion of intellectual
pursuits -- in philosophical and theological books, in
lecture halls. Various "initiations into mystery" were
also said to satisfy that need, be it through the
alchemist's workshop or acceptance into a lodge (let
us recall Mozart's Magic Flute). As we move from
youthful enthusiasms to the bitterness of maturity, it
becomes ever more difficult to anticipate that we will
discover the center of true wisdom, and then one day,
suddenly, we realize that others expect to hear
dazzling truths from us (literal or figurative)
graybeards. [...] "

If Only This Could Be Said by Czeslaw Milosz

At night down here, very often lately, Enzian will wake for no reason.
Was it really Him, pierced Jesus, who came to lean over you? The white
faggot's-dream body, the slender legs and soft gold European eyes . . .
did you catch a glimpse of olive cock under the ragged loincloth, did you
want to reach to lick at the sweat of his rough, his wooden bondage? Where
is he, what part of our Zone tonight, damn him to the knob of that nervous
imperial staff. . . .
Gravity's Rainbow p. 324

Friday, August 16, 2002

Blicero launching his love object in a blaze of glory
recalls Achilles as he sends his beloved Patroclus off
to die:

"Oh would to god--Father Zeus, Athena and lord Apollo--
not one of all these Trojans could flee his death, not one,
no Argive either, but we could stride from the slaughter
so we could bring Troy's hallowed crown of towers
topping down around us--you and I alone!"
-Iliad (16.115-19, translation by Robert Fagles)

Till the Light that hath brought the Towers low
Find the last poor Pret'rite one . . .
Gravity's Rainbow p. 760

"Learning how to fly took nature millions of years of trial and error - but a winged robot has cracked it in only a few hours, using the same evolutionary principles."
New Scientist

"Well, it's a beginning," she says. "It floats like a Duck,-- it fools other Ducks, who are quite sophisticated in these matters, into believing it a Duck. It's a Basis. Complexity of Character might develop, in time...."
Mason & Dixon, p. 667

Thursday, August 15, 2002

"[...] The crypto-fascist Philip Johnson famously dismissed Wright as the greatest architect of the 19th Century. [Perhaps, architects who build glass houses shouldn't throw stones.] There's a certain grain of truth about this, though not, certainly, in the sense that Johnson, who embodied the worst strains of modernism (and post-modernism), meant to convey.

Wright was a utopian, in the grand romantic tradition. He was grounded in Rousseau and often let slip that his favorite poets were Walt Whitman and the dreamy Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Along with fellow poet (and snitch) Robert Southey, Coleridge cooked up an idea for a utopian community in western Pennsylvania they called, somewhat clumsily for two poets capable of stunning lyricism, the Pantisocracy. They were going to pay for the land on the proceeds of a long poem chronicling the life and death of Robespierre. But the plan ultimately fell apart over violent disagreements between the two on sexual freedom (which Coleridge advocated) and slavery (which Coleridge abhorred). Interestingly, the Pantisocracy, charted out only on maps in Coleridge's house in Keswick, was to have been located not far from where Wright built his most famous house, Fallingwater. [...]

The early half of the 19th century was a time of incredible optimism and radicalism in the United States. In the 1840s, there were 100,000 people living in more than 150 socialist/utopian communities across the country. "Those towns stood for everything eccentric: for abolition, short skirts, whole-wheat bread, hypnotism, phonetic spelling, phrenology, free love and the common ownership of property,'' wrote the journalist Helen Beal Woodward in 1945 article on utopian communities. The Civil War largely put an end to all that, but the utopian spirit continued to thrive after the war, particularly in the prairie states, through the rise of the populist parties and the Wisconsin progressives. [...] the Jacobs House, and the dozens of Usonian designs that would follow, did more than that. It was truly one of the first environmentally-conscious designs, utilizing passive solar heating, natural cooling and lighting with his signature clerestory windows, native materials, radiant floor heating, and L-shaped floorplan that anchored the house around a garden terrace. [...] Why are we left only with the barest elements of the design, the cookie-cutter ranch houses that came to dominate the lots of suburban America?

There's no simple explanation. But one thing is clear. Wright's plans to revolutionize the American residential living space ran afoul of interests of the federal government. Think about this: in his 70-year career Wright didn't win one contract for a federal building. Not even during the heyday of the New Deal.

It all came down to politics. Wright's politics were vastly more complicated and honorable than that embodied by Howard Roark, Ayn Rand's self-serving portrait of Wright in her novel The Fountainhead. Sure there was a libertarian strain to Wright, which Rand seized on and distorted to her own perverse ends. But he also was drawn to the prairie populism espoused by the likes of the great Ignatius Donnelly. It's this version of Wright that makes an appearance in John dos Passos' USA trilogy.

Wright was a pacifist and his i outright opposition to war cost him government commissions, the great lifeline of the professional architect, especially during the Depression and World War II. [...] John Sergeant, in his excellent book on Wright's Usonian houses, argues that there's a mutual admiration between Wright and the noted anarchist, Peter Kropotkin. In 1899, Kropotkin moved to Chicago, living in the Hull House commune, set up by radical social reformer Jane Addams, where Wright often lectured, including a reading of his famous essay the Arts and Crafts Machine.

But, in those crucial decades of the 20s and 30s, Wright's political views seemed to align most snugly with Wisconsin progressives, as personified by the LaFollettes. In fact, Philip LaFollette served as Wright's attorney and sat on the board of Wright's corporation.

None of this escaped the attention of the authorities. From World War I to his final days, Wright found himself the subject of a campaign of surveillance, harassment and intimidation by the federal government. In 1941, 26 members of Wright's Taliesin fellowship signed a petition objecting to the draft and calling the war effort futile and immoral. The draft board sent the letter to the FBI, where it immediately came to the attention of J. Edgar Hoover, who already loathed Wright.

Twice Hoover himself demanded that the Justice Department bring sedition charges against Wright. He was rebuffed both times by the attorney general, but, typically, that only drove Hoover to expand the surveillance and harassment by his goons.

But, as a review of Wright's FBI file reveals, the Fed's interest in the architect extended far beyond his pacifism. Hoover's men recorded his dalliances with the Wobblies, his continuing attempts to combat the US government's dehumanization of the Japanese during and after the war, his rabble-rousing speeches on college campuses, his work for international socialists and third world governments, including Iraq, and his rather unorthodox views on sexual relations (the Feds noted that Wright seemed to have a particular obsession with Marlene Dietrich). [...]

Usonian Utopias: Frank Lloyd Wright, Working Class Housing and the FBI
by Jeffrey St. Clair

....Vineland echoes... not the WWW, the IWW....

"At least 30 al-Qaeda and Taleban suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay US naval base in Cuba have tried to commit suicide,doctors at the detention centre say."

"The Falun Gong says about 500 members have died in police custody in the past three years and tens of thousands more have been thrown in prison or sent to labor camps."

Repeat after me: "Vineland is only fiction."

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

... on that world-as-text tip:

"We need to recall the angel aspect of the word, recognizing words as independent carriers of soul between people. We need to recall that we do not make words up or learn them in school, or ever have them fully under control. Words, like angels, are powers which have invisible power over us. They are personal presences which have whole mythologies, genders, genealogies, (etymologies concerning origins and creations), histories and vogues; and their own guarding, blaspheming, creating, and annhilating effects. For words are pursuers. This aspect of the word transcends their nominalistic definitions and contexts and evokes in our souls a universal resonance. Without the inherence of soul in words, speech would not move us, word would not provide forms for carrying our lives and giving sense to our deaths."

-James Hillman
Re-Visioning Psychology

"Finally somebody has begun to talk out loud about what must change, and what must be left behind, if we are to navigate the perilous turn of this millennium and survive."
--Thomas Pynchon
(in his support quote for We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and the World's Getting Worse by James Hillman and Michael Ventura)

"a screaming comes across the sky"

"[...] Writing in The New York Times, just over a month
after the terrorist attack, Putnam found a nation
“achingly familiar” to the America that had been
stunned by the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. He
went on to depict the vast government-backed
grass-roots effort that “taught ‘the greatest
generation’ an enduring lesson in civic
involvement”—an effort that included everything from
the Civil Defense Corps to the Red Cross, from victory
gardens to Boy Scouts collecting scrap and selling war

“All Americans felt they had to do their share,
thereby enhancing each American’s sense that her
commitment and contribution mattered,” he wrote. “As
one said later in an oral history of the home front:
‘You just felt that the stranger sitting next to you
in a restaurant, or someplace, felt the same way you
did about the basic issues.’”
Overall, Americans have kept on a remarkably even
keel, compared with what happened in past wars.

Dr. Putnam is no doubt well-meaning, but his
characterization of the home front in World War II is
also an object lesson in just how careful one has to
be in making the future over in the image of the past.
The war effort at home was undoubtedly one of the
proudest episodes—and possibly the most important
episode—in our history, perhaps even more vital than
the great sacrifices made by our men at the front. It
was U.S. production that sustained not only our own
forces but those of all our allies and that brought
victory around the world. This was not merely a
victory of quantity, either, but one accomplished
while preserving almost all the rights and privileges
of a free people. The war proved that a democracy
could triumph over any modern totalitarian ideology,
something that had seemed very much in doubt just a
few years earlier.

The triumph was incontrovertible, but it did not come
out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The America of the
Second World War was a turbulent and often frightening
place, characterized by immense social upheaval and
dislocation. It might well have been true that the
stranger sitting next to you in a restaurant felt the
same way about things—unless, that is, he or she
happened to be of a different race. Inasmuch as color
was the deepest fissure in American society, it is not
surprising that during the war we fractured most often
along this line.

The most infamous case, of course, was the forced
detention of some 110,000 Japanese-Americans in barren
desert camps while their property was sold off for a
pittance—and their sons formed some of the most
decorated fighting units of the war. But racial
hysteria was hardly restricted to Asian-Americans. In
1943 alone there were 242 race riots in 47 cities as
the war sparked an epic migration of both poor
Southern blacks and whites into urban ports and
industrial centers. The worst was in Detroit, in 1943,
where white mobs ended up roaming through the city’s
downtown, shouting, “Here’s some fresh meat!” while
they beat and shot any African-Americans they
found—often with the help of the local police. Before
it was all over, 34 people died, and pictures of the
riot were gleefully plastered across the pages of
Signal, Germany’s leading picture magazine, as proof
that a “mongrel” country could not win the war.

Discrimination remained routine in all industries,
with blacks making less money than whites for the same
jobs, and with whites frequently refusing to work with
them anyway. The great black labor leader A. Philip
Randolph had to threaten to lead a massive protest
march in Washington, D.C., before the Roosevelt
administration would commit to equal pay for equal
work on war projects.

Elsewhere, protests were not so availing. Mob assaults
on black civilians and even soldiers continued
throughout the Deep South, and the sad fact remains
that the greatest generation was also the last
lynching generation. [...]

The business of the war was sometimes just as sordid.
Harry Truman’s Senate committee turned up one case
after another of war profiteering, and at least 20
percent of Americans surveyed admitted that they
viewed the black market as a legitimate means of
procuring consumer goods.[...] "

continues at:
September 11 vs. December 7 Did Americans behave better back then? by Kevin Baker

Vineland echo...

"Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's announced desire for camps
for U.S. citizens he deems to be "enemy combatants"
has moved him from merely being a political
embarrassment to being a constitutional menace.

"Ashcroft's plan, disclosed last week but little
publicized, would allow him to order the indefinite
incarceration of U.S. citizens and summarily strip
them of their constitutional rights and access to the
courts by declaring them enemy combatants.

"The proposed camp plan should trigger immediate
congressional hearings and reconsideration of
Ashcroft's fitness for this important office. Whereas
Al Qaeda is a threat to the lives of our citizens,
Ashcroft has become a clear and present threat to our

"The camp plan was forged at an optimistic time for
Ashcroft's small inner circle, which has been
carefully watching two test cases to see whether this
vision could become a reality. The cases of Jose
Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi will determine whether
U.S. citizens can be held without charges and subject
to the arbitrary and unchecked authority of the
government. [...] "

...continues at
Camps for Citizens: Ashcroft's Hellish Vision
Attorney general shows himself as a menace to liberty. by Jonathan Turley

(originally published on Wednesday, August 14, 2002 in the Los Angeles Times)

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

...World-as-Text, OK, so let's inscribe a Line on the
world, lots of Lines, divide it up, measure
everything, experiment, slice and dice, analyze,
control, oops, "Control" turns out to be an illusion,
the world resists, the green resurrection miraculously
prevails until vertical Lines (drilling through
horizontal strata to suck out the beyond-the-zero Thanatoid
ghost life of dead dinosaurs; "they paved Paradise and
they put up a parking lot" -- the Mall that follows
the Line as history converges to Italian opera --
quoting a 60's songwriter Pynchon is said to have quoted
in an early draft of GR) suck the very life out of
the living Earth, until the final light flashes as we
bring the Towers and everything else crashing down
around us, in that last delta-t of the World-Is-Text
ex/im/ploding, that carefully-calculated atom bomb
coming back to bite us on the ass bigger and badder
than any Frankenstein's monster, but that Duck can
continue to cut through glowing clouds, impervious,
faithfully following the Line, its world shrunk down
to a single inscribed Line, billing and cooing with
Werner von Braun on the other side where nothing ever
really dies...

...and now for something not quite completely different, thanks to Dave Monroe: