Certain Things According to Raymond Carver

Two things are certain: 1) people no longer care what happens to other people; and 2) nothing makes any real difference any longer.

We have made our decisions, our lives have been set in motion, and they will go on and on until they stop. (From Raymond Carver’s So Much Water Close to Home)

Plato’s Cave

Anyone who has common sense will remember that the bewilderment of the eyes are of two kinds and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mid’s eye, quite as much as the bodily eye.

And he who remembers this when he sees anyone whose vision is perplexed and weak will not be too ready to laugh. He will first ask whether that the soul of man has come out of the brighter life and is unable to see because, unaccustomed to the dark or having turned from the darkness to the day, is dazzled by the excess of light.

And he will count the one happy in his condition and state of being, and he will pity the other. Or, if he have a mind to laugh at the soul which comes from below into the light, there will be more reason in this than in the laugh which greets him who returns from above out of the light into the den. (From Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave)

Franz Kafka’s Ravachol

Born François Claudius Koenigstein, Ravachol was a French anarchist, twice found guilty of bombings and guillotined in 1892. His name was used as slang for troublemakers during Franz Kafka’s childhood and was applied to Kafka himself.

“It’s impossible to defend oneself in the absence of goodwill”, Karl said to himself, and he ceased to answer the head waiter, however painful to Therese this might be. He knew that whatever he could say would end up seeming very different from the way it had been intended and that the way they assessed the matter was critical, since it alone would determine the final judgement of good and evil. (166, Amerika, Kafka)

Words X: Nominal

Existing in name only.

Far below real value or cost.

J.G. Ballard Uses Similes Like A Virus-riddled Robot

As much as I enjoy the concepts of science fiction writer J.D. Ballard, I find it hard to accept that he was, according to Martin Amis, the “most original English writer of the last century”. His characters and dialogue are wooden throughout his acclaimed The Drowned World:

The Colonel paused at the rail, looking down at the beautiful supple body with ungrudging approval. Noticing him, Beatrice pulled off her sunglasses, then tightened the loose straps of her bikini under her arm. Her eyes glinted quietly. “All right, you two, get on with it. I’m not a strip show.”

However it’s Ballard’s use of similes, on almost every page, constantly and thoughtlessly, comparing a thing to another, that lays the author bare:

...seemed to press down like a translucent pane on the leafy spread, a thousand motes of light spitting like diamonds. (76)

…planting immense dripping sundials like daggers in the fused sand. (77)

…its leaning headstones advancing to their crowns like a party of bathers. (77)

Hardman swung himself like an acrobat down the drain-pipe to the parapet below. (78)

Like a wounded water-buffalo, Hardman continued to wrestle in the mud. (79)

Which is to say J.G. Ballard uses similes like a virus-riddled robot.

Fears & Revelations Not

Let’s start with the basics. There is no such thing as getting over your fears, any of them. They are ingrained, and that is where they will stay.

Second, and last, there are no revelations. Realization does not come in a flash. That’s just drugs, booze or how you woke up, something that makes you happy for an instant.

Once you accept these two things – fears are there to stay and revelations are nowhere to be found – you have a better than 50/50 shot of making something of your life.

Pacioli’s Equilibrium in the Cosmos

Pacioli based his Divine Proportion on Plato’s Five Bodies, four of which represent the basic elements – cube (earth), octahedron (water), tetrahedron (air) and icosahedreon (fire) – and the last, a dodecahedron, which represented being.

Kepler used the Platonic bodies as his guide for the cosmos as a complete and perfect entity in which we can find our own equilibrium.

Ice Friday: Nguyen’s “The Sympathizer”

Some choice extracts from Viet Thanh Nguyen’s 2015 eloquent novel:

Innocence and guilt. These are cosmic issues. We’re all innocent on one level and guilty on another. Isn’t that what Original Sin is all about? (103)

What if, I said to him, I wrote a screenplay about the American West and simply called all the natives Indians? You’d want to know whether the cavalry was fighting the Navajo or Apache or Comanche, right? Let me tell you a secret, the Auteur said. No one gives a shit (133)

I was suddenly aware of the outline of my body, of the sensation of the chair underneath my thighs, of the fragility of the force holding together y body and my life. It would not take much to destroy this force, which most of us took for granted until the moment we could not. (198)

The beautiful, transparent Stolichnaya maintained a stoic Russian demeanor as we regarded it in silence. Every bottle of alcohol has a message in it, a surprise that one will not discover until one drinks it. (213)

The only problem with not talking to oneself was that oneself was the most fascinating conversational partner one could imagine. Nobody had more patience in listening to oneself than oneself, and nobody knew better than oneself, nobody misunderstood than oneself. (248)

Do The Right (No)thing

What is everyone so wound up about? Aren’t El Paso and Dayton the status quo? Aren’t MSNBC et al just getting their satellite dishes ready for the next massacre at the next mall/festival/school? Don’t their ratings go up with every casualty? Or did I miss something?

The people of Newtown, Connecticut are mad.

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It’s almost as if they expect the media to address issues like gun control instead of mainlining our catharsis.

More importantly, what’s this “media vultures” spin? Is the media supposed to be something alien? Do they live in a shadowy compound? Don’t the people of Newtown understand that we can only read so much about lobbying for gun control? I mean, it’s just like all of this talk about my privacy being invaded. Instead of going on about what this guy Snowden thinks, can’t TMZ just catch him drunk in Red Square? 

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In  the meantime, the people of Newtown need to stay focused on news that matters:

Rob Ford Breaking News!
                             Rob Ford Breaking News!
Edward_R_Murrow

And remember Edward R. Murrow’s famous words: “Television isn’t the classroom of the world; it’s the marketplace.” That wasn’t a bad guess for a guy who had never posted or sexted, not understanding our basic need for the simple things.

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Life, liberty and the pursuit of more soma.

This country’s obsession with guns will will never change. (Much of this was reblogged from December 6, 2013.)

Tree-Planting is Everything

EXT. DAY.

Davis and Baz bag up in the pre-dawn light; the horizon is purple and green. They both ingest mushrooms and take a long drink of water before going up to plant the burned ground together. Clouds of ash rise up as they begin to work. A montage series offers close-ups of the shovel blades going into the ground, the trees gripped in their hands, boots tramping over the burned-out ground, interspersed with helicopter shots of them, tiny figures in the massive dominating landscape of mountains and valleys.

DAVIS (Not stopping): Feeling it?

BAZ: Feeling it.

DAVIS: It’s good.

Montage of close-ups continues, including extreme close-up of the bright blue tape tied off on a branch, beetles scampering along the edge of a burn-out twisted stump, an abandoned chainsaw blade twisted among the weeds, a woodpecker perched on a tree at the edge of the block, sweat dripping off the nose and chin of Davis, a mosquito landing and stinging Baz on the shoulder, ending with a hard slap. They stop, look at each other, drink water, move their trees from the back bag to the side, and continue planting.

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. DAY.

Davis and Baz continue to plant. The sound of their heavy breathing, scuffing boots and cicadas are the only sounds. They reach the back edge of the block and a band of shade, planting the very edge of the road like experts, the trees rapidly dropped in. They pause in the shadows, each eating nuts and dried fruit, drinking in heavy gulps that spill down their necks.

DAVIS: I almost like this.

BAZ: Almost.

DAVIS: There’s something….

BAZ: Being an animal.

DAVIS: A burrowing creature, like a…badger.

BAZ: Digging.

DAVIS: Bringers of life.

BAZ: At 11 cents a tree.

They both laugh stupidly, looking at each other, and then go back to planting.

BAZ: I could never work at a desk.

DAVIS: Why would anyone do that? Insane.

BAZ: Look at my arm.

DAVIS (Looking at his dirty, ash-stained arm): I see it.

BAZ: Why is that part of me?

DAVIS: It’s crooked.

BAZ (Examining it): No, it isn’t.

DAVIS: I’m not saying that like it’s a bad thing.

BAZ: It isn’t crooked.

DAVIS (Holding his arm out): Mine is too!

BAZ: You’re right. Your arm’s fucked up.

DAVIS: It isn’t fucked up.

BAZ (Taking a tree, rubbing the needles gently through his hand): My point is that this arm is mine. It’s a part of who I am supposed to be.

DAVIS: Extremities.

BAZ: My brain commands, the electric impulses obey.

DAVIS: You’re just in your head? The master commander.

BAZ: Not even that. It’s a tiny point in the back. Or just outside, floating in the darkness.

DAVIS: That’s you?

BAZ (Planting again): Yes.

DAVIS (Following him, planting too): What about your nose?

BAZ: I don’t have a problem with my nose.

BAZ (Throwing his shovel in hard): That makes sense to me.

DAVIS: Your nipples.

BAZ: Nipples. Yeah.

DAVIS: What the fuck are you doing with nipples?

BAZ: I like nipples.

DAVIS: Your nipples?

BAZ: Yes.

DAVIS: You find that erotic.

BAZ: And my throat.

DAVIS: I don’t like that word.

BAZ: Throat. Man, I love a chick’s throat.

DAVIS: You mean her neck.

BAZ: No. Throat. That’s erotic.

They plant in silence, the sound of their shovels pronounced against the stillness of the day.

DAVIS (Reciting Hamlet, II, II, 228-331):What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason, how infinite in… Something or other. I forget… in apprehension how like a god… and yet to me, this quintessence of dust.

There is a long pause, the shovels once again the only sound.

BAZ  (Reciting lines from Ginsberg’s Howl in a deep and booming voice):Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch in whom I dream angels!Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! Invincible mad houses! Granite cocks!

There is another long pause.

DAVIS (Unwrapping packets of trees): Granite cocks?

BAZ (Planting ahead, chanting):Invincible mad houses, granite cocks. Invincible mad houses, granite cocks!

Davis starts planting again and joins in the chant, done in chorus with their boot steps, the shovels in the ground, the tree dropped in. They suddenly hear another noise, almost the same grunting, but deeper and louder. They look up together and see a Grizzly Bear standing right in front of them, massive, only 30 feet away. The giant creature considers them, chewing on something methodically. Baz and Davis notice a bear cub on the other side of her. They waver and then, in unison, continue to plant, Baz makes a grunting noise that almost sounds like he is continuing the chant. They plant a number of trees in succession and look up again. The bear and cub have both vanished.

DAVIS: Jesus. We just had a fucking vision.

BAZ: Both of us? At the same time?

DAVIS: What did you see?

The Grizzly and cub come out from behind the slash, walking away, and crashing into the forest.

BAZ: I saw that.

Davis goes back to planting.

DAVIS (Looking back up): What?

BAZ: I think I just saw your cat. (Pause) Riding the cub’s back, guiding it by the ears.

DAVIS: What was that noise you were making?

BAZ: What noise?

DAVIS: You were grunting or something.

BAZ: I was asserting my presence.

DAVIS: You sounded like you were having a seizure.

BAZ: It’s what the mountain gorillas do.

DAVIS: When’s the last time you think this bear ran into a fucking mountain gorilla?

BAZ: That stuff’s universal.

DAVIS (Laughing to himself): Joint. (Pause) Universal joint, remember? The van?

They continue to plant toward the road.

DAVIS (Planting his last tree): Last one. How many you got?

BAZ (Looking in his bag): Same, man. The exact same.

Baz plants his last tree and they walk slowly, languidly down.

DAVIS: What are your numbers?

They walk for a few moments in silence.

BAZ: I don’t know.

DAVIS: Me either.

BAZ: Oh, shit. One more. (Pulling a tree out and planting it)

DAVIS: Baller.