Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Smart Ones, in a Cage, Can Be Taught to Smile


Thomas Lux

which he must
cross, by swimming, for fruits and nuts,
to help him
I sit with my rifle on a platform   
high in a tree, same side of the river
as the hungry monkey. How does this assist
him? When he swims for it
I look first upriver: predators move faster with
the current than against it.
If a crocodile is aimed from upriver to eat the monkey
and an anaconda from downriver burns
with the same ambition, I do
the math, algebra, angles, rate-of-monkey,
croc- and snake-speed, and if, if
it looks as though the anaconda or the croc
will reach the monkey
before he attains the river’s far bank,
I raise my rifle and fire
one, two, three, even four times into the river
just behind the monkey
to hurry him up a little.
Shoot the snake, the crocodile?   
They’re just doing their jobs,   
but the monkey, the monkey   
has little hands like a child’s,
and the smart ones, in a cage, can be taught to smile.


Jack Gilbert

Poetry is a kind of lying,
necessarily. To profit the poet
or beauty. But also in
that truth may be told only so.

Those who, admirably, refuse
to falsify (as those who will not
risk pretensions) are excluded
from saying even so much.

Degas said he didn't paint
what he saw, but what 
would enable them to see
the thing he had.


  1. 1)yesterday i was watching a show on the science cable channel - about how venus and earth started off as similar, how venus is now so much hotter and drier than we are, and how, as the sun gets hotter over time, eventually - a few hundred million years from now - our relative conditions will reverse, earth will heat up even more than venus, and it will no longer be 'venus, earth's evil twin' but rather 'earth, venus's evil twin' - missus charley, who is sometimes a bit literal-minded, wondered why 'evil' is the adjective used, instead of hotter, or less habitable, or something without moral connotations

    2)one of the scientists whose comments are interpolated in these shows - specifically lawrence krauss*, of arizona state university - stated that it would be possible to change the orbit of the earth, to move it further away from the sun as the 'habitable zone' recedes as the sun heats up - by transferring orbital energy by flying asteroids near the earth - given relative sizes, this would have to be done repeatedly, many hundreds of times - krauss thinks it would be technologically possible, but maybe not organizationally possible, for the human race to do this

    3)as to how the two previous points relate to the poem -

    a) - altering the orbit of the earth by flying asteroids by is a bit like encouraging the monkey to swim a bit faster by shooting bullets near him

    b) - the snake and crocodile are just doing their job - like the planet too hot to support life, they are not evil - they are just hungry

    *Lawrence Maxwell Krauss (born May 27, 1954) is an American-Canadian theoretical physicist and cosmologist who is Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, and director of its Origins Project. He is known as an advocate of the public understanding of science, of public policy based on sound empirical data, of scientific skepticism and of science education, and works to reduce the influence of what he regards as superstition and religious dogma in popular culture. Krauss is the author of several bestselling books, including The Physics of Star Trek (1995) and A Universe from Nothing (2012), and chairs the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Board of Sponsors.

  2. i followed the "bleggalgaze, not mine" link to robert minto's blog, went on to his twitter, found


    which the science fiction genius in question, ursula k. leguin, thanked him for by tweet -

    and recalled that the nobel lit odds, also cited supra, list her - at 33/1

    although i read hundreds of science fiction books in the mid-20th century, i never read any by ms leguin - now my local public library makes half a dozen available, but only in electronic format

    i very much liked minto's quote from sertillanges, and downloaded a copy of a book by him (the english translation, that is to say) - i have, once in a while, actually read the entire text of a book i have downloaded that way - as yogi berra might have said, you never know when something surprising might happen

  3. There were a series of tropical thunderstorms, with lightning, bumbling over the City last night for several hours -- a rarity, particularly the tropical feel -- and beautiful in its, hey-our-climate-is-busted kinda way (Thank you for linky).

  4. If you don't know Can like you feel you oughta, start with the two LPs with what I recommended and work your way both fore & aft from there (but perhaps proceed with caution into the late '70s material.)

    As far as Czukay goes, there's this early Stockhausen-apprentice-era tapework piece he did which is essential, imo...


    Not sure how LeGuin got catapulted into the above, but re LeGuin: I exclusively read SF in my early adolescence. Apparently I was reading the authors that SF traditionalists thought were corrupting the genre with non-purist/po-mo literary whatsis (as well as responding -- in a burgeoning "dystopic" sense, to the events of the age, and delving into supposedly extraneous things like character depth & development & whatnot). I guess they were right, because I soon ditched SF for non-genre literary fare. A number of books were responsible for pointing me in that directing, one of which was LeGuin's "The Lathe of Heaven." (Admittedly, the only title I've ever read by her. But I went back and reread it last year, and decades later I felt it still held up, literarily. )

    1. Hey, longtime, hope you and yours are well. Glad you've dodged two hurricane bullets this summer.

      Thanks for the suggestions both Can and LeGuin. I know I can Can.

      Good thing I work in a library - I can walk up two flights of stairs tomorrow and try the LeGuin. I'd love to surprise myself.

    2. Make the walk: 'Lathe Of Heaven' is an all-too-brief read. Emenenemasfa (an alien you'll meet between the covers) is a particular favorite.

      The novel was turned into two different Teevee films, in 1980 through PBS and again in 2002. I don't normally recommend adaptations to the small screen, but the PBS version is worth the time. It's on DVD, but pricey.

    3. the 1980 dvd version is stated to be available through interlibrary loan from anne arundel county, maryland -

      "pricey" - amazon is offering it for sale at over $40 - bigfootdvd says $20 - i have no experience dealing with the latter

  5. You might try American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

  6. I gave up on recommending novels to you a half dozen or so years ago. Impossible to read, your tastes that is.

    1. Yeah, they change from minute to minute too.....

  7. Perhaps then you'd enjoy Billary's new trilogy. Book number one is already out, "It Takes a Village". This is followed by "It Takes a Pillage: How to Profit From Bombing Brown People", followed by "It Takes a Thief: The Founding of the Billary Foundation".

    I've decided to dedicate my life (even though I have the analysis capabilities of a first grader and can't tell the difference between my asshole and a hole in the ground) to convincing people that if they didn't vote for a big D democrat that all the ills of the world are their fault.