Continuing the trend of new Blog posts, this one is dedicated to those lucky few who read this, other than Dave or myself. Upon a recent trip to Boston I met with Dave and our comp scientist friend Alex and we got into a discussion of time, space, and whether the universe was infinite. This conversation, which drew looks on the T (Although it is not unusual to hear people talk about particle physics on the Boston transit system, another reason to love the place…) ended with me asking both of my compatriots if they had ever heard of the NPR program Radiolab. This drew Radiolab, produced by WNYC is my second favorite Public Radio Program, narrowly edged out by This American Life. It centers on interesting questions which often combine both science and philosophy. My favorite episode involves the topic of Emergence, a field of study that holds that the collective intelligence of a species is more than that of the individuals. My favorite example of Emergence involves a country fair, a fat bull, and an erudite old white dude. At this fair there was a booth in which people paid a few cents to guess the weight of the fat bull standing on the elevated stage. The man, a supporter of the burgeoning field of eugenics, believed that the common folk at the fair couldn’t guess the correct weight, mostly because they were idiots, mostly because they were poorly bred. After the day was done he asked the man conducting the guessing game for all the stubs and began to count the guesses. As he suspected, very few of them were anywhere near the correct weight. Many were too high, many too low. However, the average of all the guesses was exactly correct. This is Emergence. The fact that although each person was wrong, everyone together knew the right answer (possibly through some sort of collective unconscious…) Whatever it is, it’s pretty cool.
Anyway, The purpose of this post is to get as many people as possible to listen to Radiolab, found at WNYC.org/shows/radiolab
~All the Best, and Merry Christmas,
The purpose of this post is to address the development of alchemy through the late Renaissance. One of the things that makes me happy is that Isaac Newton spent a majority of his first 40 years studying Alchemy. One of the smartest people ever spent the bulk of his intellectual rock god years on magic, voodoo, and hoodoo. This makes me think that wasting a year on poems isn’t so bad. Hell, I could study Big Foot for a decade and still be in pretty good shape. Yes, I will give you that Alchemy has it’s basis in real science. That is created chemistry from its phoenix ashes and should always be looked upon as the growing pains of the oncoming Scientific and Intellectual Revolution that broke in the early 1600’s. But I will always laugh to think of the dude who invented physics, and calculus (Co-authored by Leibnitz) reading Virgil looking for the secrets to making gold out of applesauce…
With no less enthusiasm for the medium I am rocking right now, the Blog, I want to talk about Creative Writing and Science. (Let’s pretend as if I have been posting on a more regular basis, then you will like me and I won’t feel guilty…) Since these are my two favorite topics, I seem to compare and contrast the two a lot. I asked myself, which is the more challenging of the two? Then I asked, Which is more needed in society? I couldn’t answer either of these questions because if I could, then I think that would mean more for human culture than just, “which job should I take after I finally stop going to school”. What I did figure out was, which of the two disciplines will last longer. I came up with the answer as Poetry. Although I will not live to see it, there is an end to the problem of human disease. Most likely several centuries from now there with be a cure for everything, and all congenital diseases will be cured through genetic manipulation. So, therefore there is a solution to this problem. I am not suggesting that we cure death, because that would lead to a Twilight-esque culture and I will be damned if I will let any bleeding heart pseudo Christian vampires hang out at malls in Long Island… But what I am saying is that there is an end. I can see an argument being made for the end of poetry also. If we understand the brain and put it on a computer, then a computer chip can be the next Marlowe. But we will still have new poetry coming from those damn computers, and god help those poets who are put out of a job by Imacs, Lord knows they have no other job prospects…
I started my first week of poetry school this September and have begun to churn out some works. Here is the first good one so far.
Your Father’s Physician made Housecalls
Why cast the piercing dart, the dart of mind,
like a meteor to earth? I seek skyline lights.
You like to watch the galleons sinking
in Maridian Bay. Underwater, are hillocks
and castles that no one can see. People silent and cold.
You started taking fat pills with microscopic
beetles, gnats and ground rose thorns
within them. I read some magazines at dusk
and drink rye whiskey. The dead rest underground
in boxes or are set on fire until they disappear.
But you know that already.
Just South of here, hidden by ferrous thickets
that shudder in the sound of sawgrass
wind, ab aeterno, stands the House of Whigs.
Your skin; green lights at dawn
and I slump against you in the parking lot.
Walk to the line of Jersey barriers and look
across the salt desert, across the ocean.
See if his final car is parked somewhere close.
The weight of gold in your hand will always
be the same. Lame Hermes upon a
kitchen chair, throws pieces to the ground.
You cough into a handkerchief and we take
a black cab to the Palace Theater. You talk
through the show and in non-silence
prescribe Plumbum Metallicum for my
headaches, Quicksilver immersion for my joint
pain. You scour the aisles for rare herbs.
At night, you are a collecter of butterflies.
I am Saul, you say in response. These eyes
are pidgeon feathers soaking in lye.
I will not tear out my liver for heaven’s sake;
so you can see there the planets churning or gigantic,
river Euphraties flooding; its tides attuned to the stars.
I thought that this information warranted a post. With a documentary about his life recently released, we can all start picking at the bones of the bastard in life, angel in death Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. The highest order for such a man may have been his unflinching sense of duty to the truth. Whether he was right or not, kind or not, Thompson related to us a feeling of moral righteousness that was rarely on display. I do not think that his best work was seen in Fear and Loathing. I hate to say it, but stonerism has played cultural leech to a work that was downright anti-drug. The purpose was not to seek drugs, but comment on the death of the Summer of Love which had left a distinct hole in the heart of the country. The most gonzo of the GonZo was his coverage of the Nixon election in ’72 through the second incarnation of Fear and Loathing. I was not as sad to hear about his death as say, Elliot Smith’s, however, he served a distinct purpose in the political ethos of the nation. His doctrine was honesty against bullshit, honesty above acceptance, truth against poll ratings. And for that reason, his death leaves the country somewhat more errant than it was.
In case someone happens along this piece via whatever web crawlies may bring you, please enjoy the fruits of my labor. This poem has come after a long bout of sangria, time, and google hits on various things vis a vis Spanish culture. How poets did anything without the internet I’m not sure, but now you can look up, say, the type of wind which cuts the Sahara and crosses the Rock at Gibralter (belonging to the English I’m told…)
He steps like a woman descending
from darkness, ribbons binding his feet.
Azure hands, pink mouth.
He shifts his weight, cupping his groin,
Mindful of the weight of the soles
of his shoes. Detrital trees shake
and the spines of light at dusk evoke
the scent of oranges. Dust
along the street rises; then collapses
from its own weight. It is the bronze
shavings of dismantled statues,
melted down to pig iron.
The Leveche wind builds to a vulgar drone.
His eyes see only winter in the Zaragozian heat.
The tides at Gibraltar, break against the rocks
to marry blood, sand and brackish air.
The Plaza now built
Cowards close your eyes. Here imagine red
carnation and white, the voice of Caesar
and beauty used as thread for stitching.
La Corrida is passion. La Corrida is bloodsport.
In my imagination I call him Alma de Torros.
I see him in his home, weeping beneath the
head of some son of Murciélago. Bull’s blood
and the cross in the sand at his feet.
What unknown god awakens at this sacrifice,
placed at his feet? He sings lamentation.
Someone claps out a syncopated rhythm
and he steps, filling negative space.
As College final times are short epochs (epochlets?) of solitary excursions into the mundane, I think that now that I have finished, I have enough time to reflect on some ideas that have been swimming in my mind. An idea that I have been bouncing about with is the wave of art, and culture that come with a generation. My ideas mostly surrounded the Modernists and Post Modernists in poetry, but it can apply across alot of disciplines. This all came to a climax as I was healthy male reading the New York Times this morning. A new designer at Chrysler, Bill Zheng, here, took it upon himself to add to the cultural soup with the design presented. What interested me most about the article is the concept for the alternative, or zero fuel automobile. The purpose of this post is to present the idea of the new aesthetic that is possible with the development of true commercial electric or hydrogen cell automobiles. The electric vehicle is a perfect example of new materials and cultural Zeitgeist taking the driver’s seat. I believe and hope, that the designers of the electric vehicles take a bold new position with their designs. I desperately want a car designed that has nothing to do with the concepts of the past. I feel it is possible to begin again and suggest to the public that the new car is not a progression, or permutation of the gasoline powered car. Through new designs, companies would draw a line in the sand, seperating the old and the new, as drastically as Karl Benz did when he stood his first car alongside a handsome cab.
This being one of the nicer spring days so far in this the shortest New England season, I thought it would be a good idea to stay in and do some writing. This post mostly concerns not what i wrote, which is shitty at best, but why I wrote it, and if it would be better under different circumstances. It seems to me that many of the American poets come from two places in our national red/blue pie chart. The first is rural town America (most likely South or Midwest) or New York City. I am really inspired by the desolation and absurdity that comes when you group 10 million people together, especially when they all act how they think they are supposed to act. I expect it to be like trying to sharpen a dull pencil with your ear canal. Although I haven't spoken with the partner in crime in a while ( and by partner i don't mean I'm “backing him up”) as far as I know Dave is still planning on going to Colorado to do some writing this summer. This dichotomy is what this post really is all about. Why do people choose such different places to be inspired? I'm sure either one of us could produce some decent art in the wrong place, but the creativity would not flow, we wouldn't be wholly psyched about the experience, and most likely would just avoid doing something we really enjoy. I do not know why or how are formative experiences have brought us to this place, but as I continue to grow as a poet I am increasingly amazed at the kind of things that begin a new poem, or how something works its way into the finished product. From this end, sometimes it is 100% random, and more often than not, a line will be a tangent that I picked up from the history channel. Because my works are so random, Basically a collection of photons ejected from a metal surface, I need that ultrabright, polychrome, flashfunk experience that will come in such a big city. But I will always be amazed that people I know can sit beneath a mango tree, contemplate the necessity and horror that is the “self” and produce works of genius.
I remembered that I wanted to post something about the great nation of Russia. It is the birthplace of modern Communism and a haven for architects with blurred vision and a fetish for concrete. It is a country where 60 hours a week is considered lazy (only reasonable if you are 8 years old) and there is only one kind of winter coat (unisex and who doesn’t love the color gray?). And from this vast nation comes some of the greatest literature created. My personal favorites being Mikhail Bulgakov and Yevgeny Zamyatin. Bulgakov’s masterpiece being The Master and Margarita and Zamyatin’s being We. The former is a hilarious take on the ridiculous nature of Communist Bureaucracy under Stalin (no wonder it was banned there until 1980). Though a great book I would like to dedicate the majority of this post to We.
This book is what can be considered the first dystopian novel of the twentieth century. Being the first, it is a forerunner and model for the rest of the dystopian novels such as 1984 and Brave New World. Published in 1927 in pieces in various magazines (and not till 1952 as a full novel) it is a book which grows out of the budding Communist mindset which Stalin had begun to instill within his people. It is set in the far distant future, several thousand years after the Communist Revolution. The main character, named D-503, believes in the preciseness of mathematics, and the comfort of a single party government. He feels that the world is cleansed by having complete uniformity. He does not believe, he does not desire, he simply does what is asked of him.
This idea of freedom coming through the mechanization of the self is an idea I have long considered. To become a wheel or a cog is the idea presented through the industrial revolution. The theoriticians out of Bolshevik Russia decided to take this idea several steps further. I best grasp the ideas of Communist Russia through two psychological principals. First, the development of the Homo Soveiticus, the model Communist man who acts wholly for the party. Though usually used as a snide offhand insult in modern Russia, the idea can be rearranged to represent the proletarian who acts as the machine cog. The second important idea develops from the first. We can interpret the single entity working for the grater good as a cell in a tissue, and a tissue as part of an organism. It is this concept, a person as unthinking cell in an entity, that is the basis of Zamyatin’s novel. It was his belief that the Communist system was not something new, but instead an ideology taken to such an extreme that it caused a fundamental rearrangement of the concept of humanity. It was clear to him, and to Stalin/ Lenin, that the Soviet system was not just a single party government, but a single mind government.