Archives for 2015

“Phone a Friend”

That night
Your voice
Was just right
I had no choice
But to ask
If you would
Accept the task
If you could
Embrace the wonder
Of being
Embrace the blunder
Of seeing
Me through the haze
For the rest of your days.

Blue, Tangled up in

Something from the Potter down-and-out audio files.

The Profit

swift justice

When children kill we wring our hands and cry –
“The kingdom’s here and now and Christ is not
The crucified!” Confused, we butterfly
Our judgment, dissect humanity, gut
The soul and pick apart the truth. We love
Our sins so much we give them tongue to speak….
So heaven’s here and cold as stone above –
While hell’s beneath us. Spatchcock
The conscience, too, o modern primitive!
The temple’s vatic whisper will indict
Though pills become our lusty palliative
And love of death becomes our civil right.
We pay our tongues to serve the talk of peace –
We kill our kids so they can take our place.

Two Short Poems about German History

Industrial Strength Jadra
For access to the Baltic Sea,
Germany had to transfigure
Gdansk into Danzig. Schwer:
Poles inhabit the entire city.

Shifting Borders Among German Speaking Peoples from Archaic Times to the Present
Hops the men grew for beer the men pissed
were reason enough for any irredentist.

Four Short Poems with a Nod to German Language

Attempting to Read Der Spiegal
German words can be rather long,
the simplest speech sprechgesang.

On Trying to Read Heidegger’s Gesamtausgabe
What is worth noting about such rarefied
reasoning is that so much needs to be clarified.

Postscript to Credences of Summer
Belief demands a real leaf—gott in all
en dingen
—as September turns serotinal.

Selves Inflated by Idle Talk
Gerede comes in many 
varieties: some people prate
on and on, others repeat 
what others repeat, cut-rate—
none of it worth a penny,
but all of it free to retweet.

Puppies and Thrones…, or, the Periwigs of Gomorrah Strike Back

f451

I have not read much science fiction* since my high school days but this post would be the second where I draw the reader’s attention to yet another Catholic science fiction writer  – John Wright(Here’s my first post on this topic). Has Catholic science fiction been making a quiet comeback? Percy dabbled; Miller plunged – is there something particular Catholic about science fiction?

Here, by the way, is a slew of reports on the controversy – note the pair of headlines: “Diversity wins as Sad Puppies lose at the Hugo awards” and “‘No Awards’ sweeps the Hugo Awards following controversy”. TRANSLATION: “No one wins – everyone wins.” Captain Beatty would be so proud.

 

* I still read Ray Bradbury on a somewhat regular basis, but I’ll argue another day why I don’t primarily consider him a science fiction writer (no more than, say, Twain, was primarily a Southern writer or Shakespeare primarily a playwright).

Mack in Spokane

Warning: there’s some f-bombs and such … but my hometown Spokane downtown looks pretty funny-fine here. And the production turnaround time is impressive — we saw them filming this downtown just a month ago or so. The video is epic. Lots to see, including a moose head motorbike and Ken Griffey, Jr. in multiple cameos.

Managed to catch Macklemore himself for a photo op with a Potter daughter, yo:

Holland and Mack

Two Short Poems about Animal Husbandry

A Sacred Moment of Love
Sometimes it must be now:
the moment when, er, a bull
approaches his beloved cow—
it isn’t always so venerable.

The Bored Lover Seeks Novelty
The mares seemed so last year,
so the stud mused, “That zedonk
on the far side of the pasture
has one hell of a badonkadonk.”

Bernadette

joan-didion

My second oldest daughter, looking like
A wide-eyed pubescent Joan Didion,
Might stare for a minute or two and take
Her measure in a mirror, not in vain

But, fearing any other referent,
To wait and see if mind can correspond
With will, observe the fierce intransigent
Expression staring back, and note the bland

Details parading back and forth behind
Her thoughts – Homer’s catalog of ships
Revised as fashion plates and redefined
As strutting models where flashbulbs eclipse

The Aegean dawn igniting in her eyes…
So candid-cool, so psychological,
Her pert reserve, a warning to the wise –
She’s pretty, sane, sixteen, no sort of fool:

One hand, its fingers splayed (sans cigarette)
In limp salute, the other curls around
Her girlish hips. She cocks her head to set
Her ear a few degrees beyond each sound

It detonates: a rapt applause confused
With surf’s tumult – the torch song’s eclipse
Of battle armor rattling in the dust –
The singing rigging of a thousand ships.

One Short Poem about Two Lions of 20th Century English Literature

A Lark
That was a quite a conquest,
the poor author of that aubade
about waking in the dark,
believing he’d go to prison.
And did not. That’s not so bad.

Two Short Poems about Handheld Devices

Communicator Coverage in the 23rd Century
After flipping it open, Captain Kirk
heard nothing but static after the chirk.

Meditating on his New Google Phone
Funny, how much some fellow’s Nexus
phone posture resembles omphaloskepsis.

From the YouTube Music Video Archives: Selections from Guntram, opus 25 by Richard Strauss

The most abstract idea conceivable is the sensuous in its elemental originality. But through which medium can it be presented? Only through music. Kierkegaard, Either/Or

Contrary to what one might gather from this endless Festschrift for Richard Strauss, his life wasn’t simply a succession of triumphs, and his biggest public failure may well have been his first opera, Guntram.

The first video is the overture conducted by Carl Schuricht, and yes, there may be a trace of Wagner, but so what? I actually like it more than many of the Wagner overtures, maybe because I know it’s Strauss, but maybe also because it gets where it needs to go much more quickly than the interminable phrasing in so many of the Wagner pieces. It makes sense in terms of young Strauss’ development as a composer, and you’ll hear melodies in the overture that would fit pretty well in the tone poems he was composing at about the same time——the tone poems that are recognized as the masterpieces by critics who aren’t generally agin music of the period.

So why isn’t Guntram appreciated more? It probably has a lot to do with the libretto written by Strauss himself. A triangular Wagnerian-style story of love and redemption about the minstrel Guntram, the evil Duke Robert and his saintly wife Freihild.

Here is Wolfgang Windgassen singing “Ich schaue ein glanzvoll prunkendes Fest”:

And Leontyne Price singing “Fass’ Ich Sie Bang”:

And if you can’t wait for the end, here also is the finale, performed by the Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana conducted by Gustav Kuhn, Alan Woodrow singing.

Walter Isaacson on Walker Percy’s Theory of Hurricanes

In yesterday’s issue:

Walker Percy had a theory about hurricanes. “Though science taught that good environments were better than bad environments, it appeared to him that the opposite was the case,” he wrote of Will Barrett, the semi-autobiographical title character of his second novel, “The Last Gentleman.” “Take hurricanes, for example, certainly a bad environment if ever there was one. It was his impression that not just he but other people felt better in hurricanes.”

Percy was a medical doctor who didn’t practice and a Catholic who did, which equipped him to embark on a search for how we mortals fit into the cosmos. Our reaction to hurricanes was a clue, he believed, which is why leading up to the 10th anniversary of Katrina, it’s worth taking note not only of his classic first novel, “The Moviegoer,” but also of his theory of hurricanes as developed in “The Last Gentleman,” “Lancelot” and some of his essays.

Percy lived on the Bogue Falaya, a lazy, ­bayou-like river across Lake Pontchartrain from my hometown, New Orleans. He was a kindly gentleman whose face knew despair but whose eyes often smiled. With his wry philosophical depth and lightly worn grace, he was acutely aware of his alienation from the everyday world, but he could be an engaged companion when sitting on his porch sipping bourbon or holding court with aspiring writers at a lakefront seafood joint named Bechac’s. “My ideal is Thomas More, an English Catholic . . . who wore his faith with grace, merriment and a certain wryness,” he once said. That describes Percy well.

Indeed it does. Thank you, Walter

But will it also be true of earthquakes, when the really big one comes?

Two Short Poems about the Barbeque Pit

o-1

The Barbeque Pit’s Sweet, Sweet Style
With awe, she regarded my bib—awe, pity
and even distress at my swelling gibbosity.

Not So Sweet Aftermath
To me, as she licked her thumb,
“It’s hard to disambiguate
between the pig you’ve become
and this damn pig you ate.”

From the YouTube Music Video Archives: Freundliche Vision, by Richard Strauss, performed by Anneliese Rothenberger

The most abstract idea conceivable is the sensuous in its elemental originality. But through which medium can it be presented? Only through music. Kierkegaard, Either/Or

Freundliche Vision
Nicht im Schlafe hab’ ich das geträumt,
Hell am Tage sah ich’s schön vor mir:
Eine Wiese voller Margeritten;
Tief ein weißes Haus in grünen Büschen;
Götterbilder leuchten aus dem Laube.
Und ich geh’ mit Einer, die mich lieb hat,
Ruhigen Gemütes in die Kühle
Dieses weißen Hauses, in den Frieden,
Der voll Schönheit wartet, daß wir kommen.

Other versions by: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Gundula Janowitz, Montserrat Caballe, Hilde Gueden, Barbara Bonney, Arleen Auger, Renée Fleming, Suzanne Danco, Elina Shimkus, Diana Damrau, Karita Mattila, Franz Völker, Hermann Prey, Jonas Kaufmann, Nicolai Gedda, Rudolf Schock, Joseph Schwarz, Julius Patzak, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Thomas Hampson, Heinrich Schlusnus, Francisco Araiza and Walter Gieseking

And now it can be told…

 

Watch – WATCH – the eyebrows. They speak for themselves…

Two Short Poems on Political Philosophy

M2

For Principalities and Powers
Only a devil could—gleeful—scrawl so bleak
a speculum principium of pure realpolitik.

Kingdoms of Darkness
Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, named
for an unspecified thalassic
monster, is a political science classic
which can itself be blamed,
at least partly, for the miserable fates
of several European states.

Stalin and Urine

In his new novel, The Festival of Ignorance, Milan Kundera has a character named Charles tell a story about one of Stalin’s closest comrades, Mikhail Kalinin, whose name was later bequeathed to the Prussian city of Königsberg (famous for the Bridge Problem devised by Immanuel Kant, who lived there in what were surely happier times).

“To this day all of Russia recalls a great ceremony to inaugurate an opera house in some city in Ukraine, during which Kalinin was giving a long, solemn speech. He had to break off every two minutes and, each time, as he left the rostrum, the orchestra would strike up some folk music, and lovely blond Ukrainian ballerinas would leap onto the stage and begin dancing. Each time he returned to the dais Kalinin was greeted with great applause; when he left again, the applause was still louder, to greet the advent of the blond ballerinas——and as his goings and comings grew more frequent, the applause grew longer and stronger, more heartfelt, so that the official celebration s=was transformed into a joyful mad orgiastic riot whose like the Soviet state had never seen or known.

“But alas, between times when Kalinin was back in the little group of his comrades, no one was interested in applauding his urine. Stalin would recite his anecdotes, and Kalinin was too disciplined to gather the courage to annoy him by his goings and comings from the toilet. The more so since, as he talked, Stalin would fix his gaze on Kalinin’s face growing paler and paler and tensing into a grimace. That would incite Stalin to slow his storytelling further, to insert new descriptions and digressions, and to drag out the climax till suddenly the contorted face before him would relax, the grimace vanished, the expression grew calm, and the head was wreathed in an aureole of peace; only then, knowing that Kalinin had once again lost his great struggle, Stalin would move swiftly to the denouement, rise from the table and, with a bright, friendly smile, bring the meeting to an end. All the other men would stand too, and stare cruelly at their comrade, who positioned himself behind the table, or behind a chair, to hide his wet trousers.”

from The Festival of Ignorance by Milan Kundera, pp 26-27

I was taken by Kundera’s descriptions of Stalin, here and throughout the novel, that I checked a new biography of the dictator by Oleg V. Khlevniuk to find out if this or any of the other anecdotes Kundera offers are true. I didn’t find the answer to that particular question (although Khlevniuk’s book is excellent—I was riveted for three or four days), but I did come across this story about some of Stalin’s final hours:

The bodyguard entered Stalin’s apartments with the packet of mail and started looking for him. After walking through several rooms, he finally found the vozhd [Вождь; Russian for “Leader”] in the small dining room. The sight must have been extremely disturbing. Stalin was lying helpless on the floor, which was wet beneath him. This last point is important not for reasons of schadenfreude or as an evocative detail but because it affected subsequent events. It appeared to the bodyguard that Stalin was unable to speak, but he did make a small hand gesture, beckoning him to approach. The bodyguard summoned his colleagues, who helped him lift Stalin onto the couch. They then rushed to telephone their immediate superior, State Security Minister Semen Ignatiev. According to the bodyguards’ later accounts, Ignatiev refused to make any decisions and told them to call members of the top leadership: Beria and Malenkov.

Perhaps out of fear, or perhaps out of unspoken ambivalence toward his recovery, Stalin’s comrades rejected the idea that they were facing a medical emergency. After Malenkov and Beria checked on the vozhd and found him sleeping, they proceeded to dismiss what the bodyguards had told them about his symptoms. Had he really had some sort of fit? The bodyguards were not doctors. Their imaginations could have been playing tricks on them. His colleagues probably also remembered that Stalin had recently accused his own doctors of being murderers. Who would take responsibility for call a doctor (or summoning a murderer, as the vozhd might see it) unless he were absolutely sure one was needed? A simple need for emergency medical care was transformed into a multidimensional political problem.

Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator, by Oleg V Khlevniuk