Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Tender Forests Sigh, and the Soft Whirr of the Hygrometer Promises Oxidation of Iron, or: Born One-Hundred Five Years Ago Today

  • Olivier Messiaen was born 105 years ago today. High Egoslavian Holy Day. 
  • The interest-divergence dilemma between tech companies and NSA.
  • Readers' supplement to Chris Hedge's piece on the white-hatting of Snowden.
  • Against the police.
  • When I visit the old iterations of this blog to search for a song or a poem (like I did for the Messiaen piece below the bullets, above the poem) I look at the blogrolls there to see both who I was reading and what I was writing to reflect on where I was then versus where I am now. Fuck, I once blogrolled the asshole TBogg in pathetic hopes his Malkin-Baiting Overlordness would recognize my existence. What a puny and craven partisan fuck I was. Point of this bullet being, of the Left Blegsylvanian Bleggal Overlords I once read daily I think the only one I still read regularly is Atrios, who's had his apostasies, perhaps not as severe as mine, but fuck more than most of those overlords I desperately wanted to notice me. Disclosure - he did me a few Kinds.
  • For instance, Corrente finds two I no longer read.
  • Which is not to suggest I'm not a puny and craven fuck now, I just don't root for the team in the bullet below anymore.
  • Asshole hires asshole to try and save asshole's ass
  • Blessed are the idiots.
  • Change the world without taking power?
  • Silliman's always generous litlinks.
  • Fissure.
  • 2013 end game.


Albert Goldbarth

The name of his native country pronounced on a distant shore
could not please the ears of a traveller more than hearing
the words “nitrogen,” “oxidation of iron” and “hygrometer.”
—Alexander von Humboldt, nineteenth-century scientist-explorer

When visiting a distant (and imponderable) shire,
one longs to hear the cry “Hygrometer!
Fresh hygrometer for sale!” Yes, and when the fair
sex sidles close and coyly murmurs “nitrogen”
into a burly masculine ear, I guarantee you: the translation
is very easy. The allurements of a local siren,

whispering the kind of patois a traveler like Lord Byron
favors, never fail to comfort, and to reassure,
evoking pleasant memories of one’s own beloved hygrometer
at home, kept fresh in Cosmoline and camphor
and awaiting one’s rearrival back in his native xenon and nitrogen.
Without these occasional reminiscences, any translation

from nation to nation, tongue to tongue, becomes a translation
difficult to sustain. I think of my grandmother: “We're not hirin’
today” “Go away” “Dumb Jew”—her share
of the language that greeted her here in the land of alien hygrometer
and freedom, where she was only one more funny-skirted for-
eigner yearning to hear a lulling Hungarian nitrogen

hum her to sleep. Eventually, of course, the American nitrogen
sufficed. Her daughter could speak, in free translation,
both uranium and argon; and her granddaughter gigs with Fire ’n
Ice, a skinhead punk-grunge group that performs in sheer
black nighties and clown wigs—she plays mean electric hygrometer
in the first set and then, for a twofer,

(very American, that) plays paper-and-comb. Far
out. She’s so fluent in various World Wide Webbery that nitrogen
in a thousand different inflections is her birthright, and almost any translation,
mind to mind, gender to gender, is second nature. “I earn
my keep, I party, I sleep” is her motto. Though she’s for-
tunate in having a lover who’s CEO at Hygrometer,

Potassium, Klein & Wong: it helps to pay the “hygrometer
man” when he knocks at the door. I won’t say that they fear
this guy exactly, but he’s a major badass nitrogen-
sucking cyberwired ninja-kicking shitheel (or, translation:
call him Sir). It makes one pine for a land where the birds all choir in
sweetly trilling melodies on a flower-scented shore,

and a translation sings all night. Row gen-
tly toward it. The tender forests sigh, and the soft whirr
of the hygrometer promises oxidation of iron. 


  1. Humboldt's 1799-1804 Latin American expedition may be regarded as having laid the foundation of the sciences of physical geography and meteorology. By his delineation (in 1817) of "isothermal lines", he at once suggested the idea and devised the means of comparing the climatic conditions of various countries. He first investigated the rate of decrease in mean temperature with the increase in elevation above sea level, and afforded, by his inquiries regarding the origin of tropical storms, the earliest clue to the detection of the more complicated law governing atmospheric disturbances in higher latitudes; while his essay on the geography of plants was based on the then novel idea of studying the distribution of organic life as affected by varying physical conditions. [Wikipedia]

  2. Yess to Messiaen! Truly worthy of a day.