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Another Poem about a Painter

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Young Bacchus, Bitten By A Lizard
It wasn’t just bad PR plus zero
support from Cesari—Amerighi lacked
self-control and a sense of tact
from the start. But, oh, the chiaroscuro!

Quin Finnegan on Rediscovering Pokémon

Yikes! It’s tough reading all that Heidegger when nefarious creatures like this show up in your living room …
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But having ably disposed of “Gastly”, he’s now taking the offensive—hunting for more of these hobgoblins born of technology and our ever-shrinking minds. IMG_0896

And taking in an architecture lesson or two along the way.
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Jonathan Sacks on Rediscovering Our Moral Purpose

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, this year’s winner of Great Britain’s distinguished Templeton Prize, delivered an exceptional acceptance speech on “Rediscovering Our Moral Purpose”. He begins with the concept of outsourcing, of all things, tracing its development in history and in the progress of the West in particular. And then contrasts this outsourcing with a necessary spiritual Korrektiv, insourcing.

Here is an excerpt; read the whole thing here.

Our computers and smartphones have developed larger and larger memories, from kilobytes to megabytes to gigabytes, while our memories, and those of our children have got smaller and smaller. In fact, why bother to remember anything these days if you can look it up in a microsecond on Google or Wikipedia?

But here, I think, we made a mistake. We confused history and memory, which are not the same thing at all. History is an answer to the question, “What happened?” Memory is an answer to the question, “Who am I?” History is about facts, memory is about identity. History is his-story. It happened to someone else, not me. Memory is my story, the past that made me who I am, of whose legacy I am the guardian for the sake of generations yet to come. Without memory, there is no identity. And without identity, we are mere dust on the surface of infinity.

Lacking memory we have forgotten one of the most important lessons to have emerged from the wars of religion in the 16th and 17th century and the new birth of freedom that followed. Even to say it sounds antiquarian but it is this: a free society is a moral achievement. Without self-restraint, without the capacity to defer the gratification of instinct, and without the habits of heart and deed that we call virtues, we will eventually lose our freedom.

That is what Locke meant when he contrasted liberty, the freedom to do what we ought, with licence, the freedom to do what we want. It’s what Adam Smith signalled when, before he wrote The Wealth of Nations, he wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments. It’s what Washington meant when he said, “Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people.” And Benjamin Franklin when he said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.” And Jefferson when he said, “A nation as a society forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society.”

He’s a Dancer

iuThe dispute over maintaining the construct Seattle occupied the mind of Syndicate Engineer G9 Anna-Maria Cannoli as the bunny with enhanced intelligence stared at her pensively in the rearview mirror from the bunny modified car seat as she drove to the Syndicate elementary school. If she was going to lower herself by allowing her daughter a pet, it would be a pet with enhanced intelligence. Good thing baby bunnies were receptive to bio-engineered modifications.

The Mercedes S Class was self-driving and not really a Mercedes at all, rather it was technology from what in essence was 200 years into the future, by construct standards, self-driving with a small kitchen and a sensory deprivation panic room and sleeping quarters in addition to a complete command and control for emergencies.

And the bunny? It was easier bringing animals into the construct than bringing people out. Even Syndicate children were difficult to deprogram. They would know the construct as their only home and it was a painful decompression period during the mandated mid-teen extraction, adding to an already confused pubescence. However, the consensus among syndicate engineers was that growing up construct prepared them not only for a career in construct management, it was a valuable accomplishment in a general sense, like achieving Eagle Scout. The goal was to keep families together. Family was important.

Children love animals, especially housetrained pets which understand up to 1000 words of English. Children also have a unique ability to network with other children and help them detach. Adults were the real challenge and multitudes were lost to the Billionaire Cartel. In the past, a syndicate engineer could stage an event such as a biking accident or a pretty sunset. The billionaires were making those kinds of breaks in the fabric of mass delusion more difficult due to social media and the expanding light rail. Many of Anna Maria’s associates even started to murmur about a quarantine scenario.

The cartel was aware of the presence of the syndicate in all but name, although they didn’t know the identities of the members or the meaning of the syndicate in the general scheme. The excruciating pain accompanying such knowledge kept minds closed. The cartel only sensed a threat, not as a concrete menace, but a threat to the construct.

The Cartel had succeeded in neutralizing the tactical advantages of the syndicate, and what was once considered a plum assignment was viewed by most engineers as a career dead end. Andre David, one of the principle Cartel adversaries, maintained firm control over The David Hive, that area of influence wherein he was the sub-conscious referent in subject’s minds even among husbands and wives. David was aware of the control dynamic and the vital importance of reproductive choice in keeping subjects tied to the construct. Anna-Maria was often asked by her children if the construct was real and she replied that it was mapped to a real place called Seattle, a quiet midsized city in the northwest United States. Mass delusion warped physical reality along with moral reality, and construct currency had no real existence and was easily synthesized.  Anna-Maria selected an expensive residence next to David posing as the wife of an affluent derivatives broker. The selection was made in anticipation of a gracious invitation to the annual neighborhood Christmas party at the David estate, the gala event of Mercer Island featuring reindeer and elfin clad waitstaff. Her children befriended the David children who agreed to care for the bunny while the Cannoli’s were “out of town”, and it escaped the notice of the David estate that the Cannoli’s hadn’t actually gone anywhere due to the electrostatic brain cloud surrounding the bunny. There was no suspicion that the bunny understood human speech and could communicate telepathically, a factor that combined with the extraordinary rabbit hearing to provide the Cannoli’s with a reliable stream of intel.

The Orb, the most powerful weapon the syndicate possessed, needed to be presented to David via a trusted 3rd party named Ali, a shadowy figure who supplied the billionaire’s periodic contraband needs. The Orb was delivered to Anna-Maria from reality via Ospry per SOP, causing a major wind storm extending as far as the Portland construct and collapsing the power grid for tens of thousands of homes. Anna-Maria felt the density of the softball sized sphere as it was placed in her hands. She had been in the construct for such a long time.

The Orb would be introduced to Ali using a delicate tactical operation by another syndicate operative posing as a narcotics dealer. The Cannoli’s knew that Ali would sycophantically introduce it to Andre David even before using it himself.

David felt the weight and density of the sphere which Ali identified as a rare polished meteor. He could also feel the wholeness as he caressed its smooth surface. It made him feel like his true self was calling him from a faraway place, and would become addictive to everyone who used it. An inspiration at first, it became a trap of despair owing to the dissonance between the delusional life and the life intimated by The Orb. The David compound, his wardrobe, his cars, his chef; he had the best of everything and everything became squalid.

He stopped grooming, but he couldn’t stop holding The Orb.

The Cannoli family continued to be “out of town”, as servants in the David household continued to feed the bunny and clean its cage.

The goal was to cleave souls from the loop. Most individuals in the construct believed their thoughts were their own. In fact, they were fed collective thoughts by social media and talk radio sustained by a cycle of trivia, fear and wrath which had the most tenuous and random interface with reality. They might see real things like their own precious children, but the cartel immediately smothered these perceptions with sentimentality and the weeds of self. As long as the children were diverted themselves, any regret or fear would be contained. Everything was pre-scripted and Andre David was the playwright.

Anna-Maria Cannoli accepted the invitation to the annual Christmas party after returning from being “out of town”, such was the power of lupine enhanced intelligence and telepathy that no one asked when the Cannoli’s would take the bunny home.

Now, a bunny is different from a rabbit because it is a pet. At the David sponsored institute for sustainability, the “One-Week Wonders,” rabbits grown to half-size in rectangular containers to optimize protein yields relative to BTUs. Brains, a source of vitamins and fat for the supplement industry driven by the increasing demand for a low carbohydrate diet, were genetically enhanced to grow to an unusually large size without enhanced intelligence and telepathy.

At the party, Andre casually sat on the custom Teak decking in a state of quiet psychosis. He fixated on Anna-Maria’s large breasts across the crowd and ignored the other guests. No one else dared to approach him, but Anna-Maria walked across the deck and extended her hand.

“Mr. David, I’m Anna-Maria Cannoli from next door. Thank you for the lovely party.”

David allowed her to take his limp hand and opened his mouth in a manner which acknowledged the social obligation of replying, but was lost for words, and the couple stood for a moment of what would normally be understood as awkward silence, but in reality gave Anna-Maria time to mentally prepare for what would happen next.

“Beautiful evening for December, don’t you think. How did you ever arrange it?” Anna-Maria playfully asked. “Is there any limit to your power?” David seemed to acknowledge that Anna-Maria said something charming in the way a penumbra might acknowledge its core.

The couple stood on the deck and appeared to survey the party in a manner of casual sociability.

“Smile,” she said, “look happy.” David obeyed, happy neighbors. “Come with me,” she said, “I have something to show you.”

Taking Andre by the arm as if he was a child, Anna-Maria escorted him to a bench under a Japanese Maple tree where she removed her phone and showed him a You Tube video of Kristy and Jimmy McNichol performing “He’s a Dancer.”

A telekinetic opiate fell on the guests as waitstaff bobbed and weaved through the crowd with trays of crab cakes, Copper River salmon and Moet Champagne.

And Andre David became transfixed by Kristy and Jimmy McNichol.

“You’re dying,” Anna-Maria said, “It’s all a sham and it’s time to go mad.”

It might have been the pained choreography, the expressions of beautiful pain, or the sense of the parasitic violence of celebrity which David had nurtured and grew that made him truly see. He saw like a blind man whose sight had been restored, and he began to understand the paralyzing horror and sense of ugliness and sadness of a race of new creatures not worth ruling or manipulating or even existing.

David suddenly stood up and observed himself for the first time in his life. He observed himself observing himself, and observed himself crying and screaming, a crying scream really, as he rent his clothes like a demoniac from The Bible.

Now screaming like an animal, David jumped six feet from the deck onto the perfectly mowed checkerboard lawn below. It was at that point that The Hive, Ali and many other guests, began to wake from their trance and started to tear off their own clothes in the belief that Andre David was initiating an orgy of violence and sex. Many screamed themselves as they assailed the neighbor ladies in a rape frenzy.

Severed from the world of power, David ran from the estate into the streets of Mercer Island, running for miles and falling to the ground in exhaustion. It began to rain and the wind began to blow. The Ospry set down invisibly due to its perfectly reflective surface. A ramp opened and Mr. Cannoli stepped out of the Ospry and knelt on the ground beside Andre David. “Are you ready to be loved,” he asked. And Andre boarded the Ospry never to be seen again.

 

FIN

 

 

 

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote

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The Official Poet of the Year of Mercy

Three Short Poems About Winter

Winter Mornings in Transylvania
Mrs Dracula loved to hear
Mr (while he was enjoying his bowl
of fiber) Dracula hum
lullabies to their dear
vambini. Who then slept the whole
day in their hibernaculum.

The Ghost of New Year’s Eve Past
For winter, it was damn hot
in the middle of the shemozzle. Dead
it was most certainly not—
the crowd was loud, and totally sozzled.

Diana’s Rum Coffee
A better drink in winter you will not find:
along with fresh coffee, she gives you rum,
sugar, cinnamon, cloves, an orange rind,
and more sugar … ends in a tasty residuum.

Kevin Drum on Assisted Suicide

It would be unfair to call this “banging on”, but Kevin Drum of Mother Jones has written a very sad story backed up with all sorts of facts and figures, as well as charts to help marshal those facts and figures as a buttress for his argument in favor of assisted suicide.

Daniel Payne (I presume that last name is pronounced just like the word “pain”, with whatever association you’d care to make) has written a reply without as many facts or figures, let alone as much emotional punch, but with a whole lot of sound reasoning. Here’s a bolus:

It is a ghastly future in which people take their own lives to the gentle and smiling encouragement of their loved ones.
It is a ghastly future in which people take their own lives to the gentle and smiling encouragement of their loved ones who would rather just get the whole thing over with and move on.

I will pray for Drum, and you should, too. Pray his cancer disappears and he lives to be a grumpy, curmudgeonly old liberal geezer still talking nonsense about gun control and other progressive ballyhoos.

If his cancer should return, however, I pray he does not take the easier way out. I pray he gives his wife and his loved ones a final, priceless, and irreplaceable gift, a gift of himself that only he can give: the gift of needing their love, their attention, and their full and unconditional care in the twilight moments of his precious life.

Race Relations in Seattle

So I’m waiting for my ride at 5th and Jackson, when my bus driver friend Gary (older black gentleman, very nice, but very formal) drives up in the #14. A lady with tattoos on her face staggers towards the bus as I’m talking to him, so I step back to let her on, rolling my eyes to let Gary know he’s got a real winner coming on board. She’s just trashed, and being Caucasian, I guess that makes her White Trash (in this part of town, it’s probably 50/50 odds the inebriated person is black or white. The Asians are rarely wasted, or they never show it, and I won’t even mention the Native Americans).

Anyway, after the drunk Caucasian lady stumbles past Gary, he looks at me and says, “That’s one of your people, Finnegan.” Then he closes the door and drives on up Jackson.

Maybe you’d need to know Gary, but it was funny as hell.

Now, if our roles were reversed, could I say the same thing, and would it be funny? Obviously no, and I think it could be justifiably considered a racist comment. Doesn’t that mean that Gary’s comment is racist as well? What’s fair (or unfair) for someone on the basis of race must be fair or unfair for someone of a different race, right?

Only if you’re an idiot. The manner in which people of different races, especially blacks and whites, view one another has a long history in this country, and ignoring it, or trying to ignore it, turns us into fools. People are different. We treat different people differently, and that’s just the way it is.

No, it doesn’t mean racism is a laughing matter. Neither, in most or at least many circumstances, are drunkenness and tattooed faces. And I’m not sure how well this story would play in front of a crowd, told by a comedian. In fact, this seems like a pretty good illustration of the difference between what’s funny for professional comedians, and what it means to have a sense of humor in the midst of whatever life happens to throw at you. The former can be enjoyable, but the latter is necessary so that life doesn’t become unbearable.

One Short Poem about Halloween

The Not Great Heist of All Hallow’s Eve
The two had a plan, even a sense of irony,
as they wore masks of Shaggy and Freddie
for the cameras. Bumped the bolt. Their heist
was some silverware and costume jewelry
thrown into a pillow case—fairly petty—
and pizza and beer from the fridge. Tomfoolery
to fall asleep, drunk in front of the TV,
to be unmasked like any cartoon poltergeist.

Three Very Short Poems in which Something is Missing

The Dragon at Peace
From any point of view upon the xyst,
one rock or another will be missed.

The Cares of an Egyptologist
“Yes and No”, he said with a cough. “Ka
outlives life—an immortal scofflaw.”

Presence & Abscess
Instead of white there,
there was just a square,
black space—odontoid.
Empty. So gone. Void.