Monday, March 2, 2015

Showing Me Serpents and Thin Flowers

Above, growing up in Wheaton (and other drawings) by Ben Tolman. If you draw a circle from my house with a three mile radius within that circle are downtown Bethesda, downtown Rockville, downtown Silver Spring, and downtown Wheaton. This is related to - and there's no point paraphrasing myself though I admit this is further proof, as if any was needed, I write the same post over and over -automocoblogography and this quote from William Gass' The Tunnel which I always use on his birthday:

The other large carton unpacked in the same way - box into box - but the feeling it gave me was the opposite of that suggested by the endless nest of Russians dollies in otherwise resembled, for what I was opening was a den of spaces which now covered the floor near my feet. It was plain that every ten-by-ten-by eight container contained cubes which were nine by nine by seven, and eight by eight by six, and seven by seven by five, and so on down to three by three by two, as well as many smaller, thinly sided one at every interval in between, so that out of one box a million more might multiply, confirming Zeno's view, although at that age, with an unfurnished mind, I couldn't have known of his paradoxes let alone have been able to describe one with any succinctness. What I had discovered is that every space contains more space than the space it contains.

  • Liberal racism: 25 things he learned about about racism while writing for Daily Kos.
  • On the above.
  • The clueless gooberism of of First Look's fallen heroes.
  • Pierre Omidyar, a primer.
  • Capitalism, motherfuckers.
  • Motherfucking police.
  • Barbara Mikulski, D-Ft Meade, retiring. I'd like to take this moment to thank Babs for her generous contributions to my apostasies.
  • Well, fuck me, eh? The retirement has the potential to reshape both Maryland politics and internal congressional leadership. Several of the seven Maryland Democrats in Congress will likely take a look at the race, including Reps. Chris Van Hollen, Elijah Cummings, Donna Edwards, John Delaney and possibly Rep. John Sarbanes, whose father also served in the Senate. Many in Maryland and on Capitol Hill have long viewed Van Hollen, a former aide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who lives in Montgomery County, as a likely candidate for Senate once Mikulski stepped aside. In the last six years, however, Van Hollen has become an increasingly loyal understudy of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has at times considered retiring herself. That means a Van Hollen bid for the Senate could also scramble the eventual race to replace Pelosi. The Senate seat could also be tempting for former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley (D), who is weighing a 2016 presidential bid that has yet to get any traction. Other names being talked about on the Democratic side include Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, a former Montgomery County Council member and state-level Cabinet secretary; and former Montgomery County delegate Heather Mizeur, a progressive who performed better than expected in last year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary.​ Names being floated on the Republican side include Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) and former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R).
  • Maggie's weekly links.
  • { feuilleton }'s weekly links.
  • 262, 264, 268.
  • Szymborksa!
  • Riffing on Inherent Vice, the novel and the film.
  • Science fiction short stories, a review, for those of you who do.
  • The Buried Giant. I get mine tomorrow! I confess, I am a totally unreliable reader, I won't trust myself if I love it, I won't trust myself if I meh it, I won't trust myself if I hate it. I must confess: I have a bad feeling about this.
  • The Buried Giant: Here, in no special order of importance or chronology, are some things that happen in Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel: An old man uses a hoe to fight off thousands of pixies who have attacked his wife as she floats down a river in a basket; an enchanted mist envelops a country, causing an entire people to forget its past; an ogre is found in a ditch, gravely indisposed, having killed and partially eaten a poisoned goat; an ancient widow prosecutes a grievance with a mysterious boatman by methodically slitting the throats of rabbits and spilling their blood on the floor of his childhood home; a past-his-Green-Knight-beheading-prime Sir Gawain faces off against a hell-dog in an underground chamber.
  • But I did listen to Barn Owl last night!


John Berryman

I put those things there.—See them burn.
The emerald the azure and the gold
Hiss and crack, the blues & greens of the world
As if I were tired. Someone interferes
Everywhere with me. The clouds, the clouds are torn
In ways I do not understand or love.

Licking my long lips, I looked upon God
And he flamed and he was friendlier
Than you were, and he was small. Showing me
Serpents and thin flowers; these were cold.
Dominion waved & glittered like the flare
From ice under a small sun. I wonder.

Afterward the violent and formal dancers
Came out, shaking their pithless heads.
I would instruct them but I cannot now,—
Because of the elements. They rise and move,
I nod a dance and they dance in the rain
In my red coat. I am the king of the dead.


  1. My 'Giant' comes tomorrow, too. But it gets in line behind 'Satin Island' in which I am absolutely absorbed and will read again almost immediately upon finishing.

    Never forget, 'political correctness' strictly speaking is a semantic thing on the left: what are the correct words for referring to a group or class of person. GWB's 'you're either with us or against us' — which was applied nationally by his fanatical followers — is demonization against at minimum half the population, as well as 'enemies' around the world: truly pernicious. Also, 'political correctness' should (but usually doesn't) include: 'Obama refuses to say "Islamic terrorists"' — semantics.

  2. I lied. It came today—not an hour after posting the above Comment.

  3. speaking of serpents, as berryman's poem does - a serpent features in wes anderson's movie 'the darjeeling limited' which spouse and self watched again over the weekend - the american accent of the train chief steward who confiscates said serpent was intriguing - the actor has lived in the states since the age of five, and jewelry design is his day job

  4. the last time we had a change of senators in maryland i met a candidate at the shady grove metro stop and after talking with him volunteered for his primary campaign - i still have the t-shirt

    i don't think i'll do that again

  5. Jim H.,

    "Also, 'political correctness' should (but usually doesn't) include: 'Obama refuses to say "Islamic terrorists"' — semantics." Good point. I wouldn't mind seeing a Fox News "Faces of Disdain" montage. "You're comparing (bad thing) with (good thing)?!" They're famously prone to using variations of "I find that offensive" as their argument, a key feature of political correctness.

    "'political correctness' strictly speaking is a semantic thing on the left: what are the correct words for referring to a group or class of person." Are you drawing a descriptive/normative line here? If the point is descriptive accuracy, what's the advantage of "black" over "negro" (a liberal PC concern), as both refer to the same set? Everyone knows the latter is racist. The former is racism rebranded, a way of declaring past abuses wrong as part of an effort to consign them to the past. This is a quarantining move that serves to maintain ingroup purity. Liberals accept that racism is wrong but imagine it's mostly in the past. To the extent it's still an issue, they see themselves fighting against discrimination by the right. But their fight is symbolic, as they cling to their material advantages and take offense when their supposed allies in weaker positions criticize them, as happened recently with Patricia Arquette. The faux ally’s message is “I’m trying to help. How can you criticize me?!” Which means “I don’t have to do this, I don’t owe you anything, be grateful for what you get…” Which is the attitude one has of a beggar who one may or may not be kind enough to let sleep in one’s garage now and then. Ingrouper when convenient, outgrouper when convenient, and power decides.

  6. There is a 100-percent chance that you will dislike all of the 41 to 117 candidates in the Democratic primary to replace Babs. One. Hundred. Percent. Which is not by any means, to be taken as a defense of Babs, who lost any traction in my blood family decades ago (but who is still somewhat popular in segments of my real family). I thank her for the good and for her service; the bad will be forgotten in time, and never elevated her to the level of Palpatine anyway.

    That said, Heather Mizeur isn't awful, though she'll never win the primary; Baby Sarbanes, Dutch Ruppersberger, Chris Van Hollen, and the supremely contemptible John Delaney look to me like they form the primary gene pool. Which is not to be taken as good news.

    1. I suspect Hillary's Stamper was on the phone to O'Malley to suggest he become o'malleable to the idea of joining the Senate as preferable to a visit from the Clinton mafia's enforcer. Though it seems O'Malley says no to Senate, at least in the meanwhile.

  7. Devin,

    Don't disagree. I probably should've been more articulate. From my experience, PC tends to mean using the terms by which certain folk self-identify to identify them. It's a matter of semantic courtesy, or correctness. If I self-identify as a Scottish-American and am offended if you refer to me as a Scotch-American, then if you are PC you will use the former. The right tends to get annoyed when folk want to enforce these codes, especially when they change over time: 'gay' not 'queer'; 'lesbian' and 'gay' not just 'gay'; LGB, then LGBT, then LGBTQ. And indeed, as identities change (toward, one hopes, inclusiveness), it can be confusing. Those on the Right tend to want to put folk in boxes (categorizations or characterizations) of their own devising. And keep them there. As 'others'. Which, as you point out, leads directly to discrimination. So, yeah, PC tends to thwart discrimination, and discriminators resent thwarting.

    1. LGBTQIA

  8. That last graf in the Chris Floyd piece: 'If you had deliberately designed a scheme to cripple the already minuscule portion of mildly oppositional stances toward our militarist empire allowed to surface on the margins of the national discourse, you could not have been more effective than the long slow-motion train wreck of First Look Media'...sums it up for me.
    I applied to First Look as a graphic commentator (back when I cared to do new content), but unlike the rest of the new media Charlie Browns who were too 'talented' and 'independent' to do their own due diligence, I saw the sketchy football that 'Lucy' Omidyar was holding before I attempted the kick. Better to be an unemployed schmo than an contractually captive underemployed schmo, I reckoned...and so it goes.