pseudopodium
. . . Affirmations

. . .

There are many funny people in the world. More than anything else -- except giant insects.

+ + +

There's so much more to life than doing your job and thinking about others.

. . .

Mold is both a before and an after.

. . .

Honesty policy - A truth for a truth and a lie for a lie.

. . .

It's easier to admit that there's a difference between boring and false than that there's a difference between interesting and true.

+ + +

Even if my life can't be a poem, it'd be nice if it was spelled right.

. . .

"Life goes on." Whoever said that had a surprise coming.

. . .

Science News: Whenever I hear the word "culture," I reach for my petri dish.

. . .

When life gives you lemons, make very bad gimlets.

. . .

Character is destiny because destiny is determined by the accumulation of whims. And whims are those decisions that are insignificant enough to be based on character.

. . .

Affirmations: If life's worth living, what's living worth?

. . .

Affirmations: It was probably easier for people to think nice things about the Life Force before they found out about germs.

. . .

Affirmations: The trouble with admitting failure is that they still refuse to end the game.

. . .

Imitations of Intmortality

Shake the shell to hear the rattle. You break it you buy it. The mold is more delicate than the thing molded.

. . .

Affirmations:

I have a drinking opportunity.

. . .

The unexamined life is one still living

How many voyages of self-discovery can you make before you kill the natives or the natives kill you? The best outcome you can hope for is to go native, and the whole point of being native is that you're not travelling....

. . .

Critical prose considered as an encounter with a stranger on the street:

So quick with matches, so unlikely with change.

. . .

Affirmations

"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is a hangover." -- Anselm Dovetonsils

. . .

If you can't say something enough, don't say anything at all.

. . .

The ultimate performance is the one that achieves survival.

. . .

Safety net as trampoline

After receiving an offer of emotional support, we often seem irresistibly tempted to determine its tensile strength experimentally.

. . .

The mirror image of a lie is not the truth, but it may be a more interesting lie.

. . .

Daylight Squandering Time, or, Did July When You Said Juluvd Me

"As for God's graces, what can we see except in the dark? Daylight is opaque, like water we've washed our hands in."
-- Basil Bunting to Victoria Forde, 1973

(Possibly related: "I never drink before sunset. After that, the deluge." As quoted by Tony Millionaire.)

The Elater Noctiluccus

. . .

No Pictures
No Caption

Meeting of minds

  1. Withdrawn from circulation

    Rebound, pulped, or sold down the river to Moe's -- ah, but publication, that was the glorious thing.

  2. Open the door, Richard

    I had all these keys since long before buying the lock, so one of them's gotta fit.

  3. Hide & no seek

    Is this what winning feels like?

  4. Dear Abby [2.7MB MP3]

    Dear Mixed-Up Teenager:
    Gee, baby.
    You say nobody loves you?
    And everybody hates you?
         (Yay, yay, yay, yeah. Oo-ooh.)
    You know... baby...
    When someone's so low
    I gotta suggest that you do go
    Out in that yard
    And eat worms.
    Yeah. Worms.

. . .

People differ. People recognize.

One proposition, then the other, slapped across the yap like a big stinking dead cross-eyed fish.

. . .

Let no man write my epitaph

'Cause I already have two really good ones:

Anyway, last night I realized that when someone we admire dies, we should make sure that any tribute we compose is as dull and trite as possible, so they don't feel so bad about having to miss it. Even if they're too polite to protest, it must come off step-on-the-corns rude to write something moving and insightful and celebratory too late, like remembering a bass player with a moment of silence.

. . .

As one Somnambulist to another
our sleep could be more perfect.

Jan.-Feb. 1935
    To give heat is within the control of every human being.
Lorine Niedecker means a lot to me. All the Objectivists mean something to me, 'cause of their class, and their politics, and the long breaks they took to make a living or a political commitment -- well, I guess maybe those aren't uncorrelated -- and their simultaneous (if often interrupted) commitment to poetic artifact as artifact instead of as ego-puffing walrus-teared persona. (Which may also be not so uncorrelated.)

And I still gnaw and lipsmack and tonguecluck Zukofsky's confections with delight, but Niedecker's my infatuation. I whine about how hard it is with a full-time job, or without one, and folks ask how someone who's not a grad student could possibly maintain an intellectual life, and then I think about Niedecker and I can't decide whether to crumble or melt or be pleased to be human, though I'm grateful that Niedecker prods us toward option 3.

It's been a long wait for the collected Lorine Niedecker. It's still not completely collected, like for instance her reviews (though it includes "I'd sit on a quiet fence / and sing a quiet thing: sincere, sincere. / And that would be Reznikoff."), and her letters you should get too, and I agree with Bob Arnold it's a lousy shame the book designer decided to wedge short poems into the bottom of the page and then split them into splintery messes with a swing of her mighty axe, I guess she might have been trying to save paper but this was the writer of "My friend tree / I sawed you down" so you have to wonder....

But it's better than before, being so much more than before. All the previously-unpublished work seems lovely to me, like this two-weeks-and-one-trite-affirmation per page 1935 calendar someone gave her, all twenty-seven pages of which she pasted over with her own affirmations. (Under this particular paste-job I can make out "...people in...neighborhood...better place...they...")

Later affirmations aimed at an even later date:

I fear this war
Will be long and painful
and who
            pursue
it
  No matter where you are
you are alone
and in danger — well
            to hell
with it.

. . .

Two paths
"Odd that they should both be uphill!"

Thirty-one years ago, C. Barsotti comments
on our reading of My Brother's Wedding

. . .

Inside every good sadist is a masochist enjoying the struggle to get out.

. . .

Polish Joke

Blast me, Father, for I have sand.

. . .

Affirmations

Hangovers are nature's way of preparing us for the experience of chemotherapy.

. . .

"What then is the relationship between quotlibetality and indifference?"
- Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community

Whatever.

That's my philosophy.

That's what I used to say: "Whatever.... That's my philosophy."

But this seems too cynical and passive an attitude to adequately fit these times. A more dynamic and forward-thinking approach is needed.

So anyway.

That's my new philosophy: So anyway.

. . .

Thus I refute Berkeley

Expand your mind and your ass will follow.

Responses

If I titled comments, I would title this one "Au Hasard Balthazar":
why would a donkey follow a mind?
And this one "Jour de Fête":
So is my ass too big because my bike has a flat tire? Or did the tire go flat because my ass is too big?
we are all slaves to our sphincters

Given how fecund the coupling of Women & Nietzsche has been, I predict lasting glory for the first academic to propose the topic Digestion & Nietzsche. Nietzsche wrote more (and with deeper feeling) about his digestion than about women; yet so far as I know the subject remains untouched. Even Turbulent Velvet might be won over once the Master-Slave relationship is understood as an allegory of Nietzsche's extended struggle with constipation

. . .

Up & Down with Dr Johnson

No man but a blockhead couldn't find an easier way to make money than writing.

* * *

Dr Robertson and I said, it was a pity Lord Hailes did not write greater things. JOHNSON. 'I remember I was once on a visit at the house of a lady for whom I had a high respect. There was a good deal of company in the room. When they were gone, I said to this lady, "What foolish talking have we had!" "Yes, (said she,) but while they talked, you said nothing." I was struck with the reproof. How much better is the man who does anything that is innocent, than he who does nothing. Besides, I love anecdotes. I fancy mankind may come, in time, to write all aphoristically, except in narrative; grow weary of preparation, and connection, and illustration, and all those arts by which a big book is made. If a man is to wait till he weaves anecdotes into a system, we may be long in getting them, and get but few, in comparison of what we might get.'
- The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

Responses

Correspondence with pf brought forth the reflection that Johnson to some extent fulfilled his own prophecy posthumously via Boswell's big book.

. . .

Corollary

Whereof one can speak, thereof one must natter on and on until everyone is sick of the subject.

Responses

Well then natter, for Pete's sake!

. . .

Keeping It Real

Yes, I admire the achievements of Prince Randian The Caterpillar Man. I'm still not going to chop off my arms and legs.

. . .

Affirmations

- in memoriam Karl Kraus, H. L. Mencken, Olive Moore
  1. Why I Read Such Benign Books: The single Nietzsche passage I think of most often is the one in which he's listened to Bizet's Carmen twenty times through and become a better person each time.
  2. Another reason: I believe Nietzsche's philosophical system was aphorism. Not his strategy, his system.
  3. There's no Sally Rand Truth to find behind the fans and bubbles. Take "fan" and "bubble" away, and away goes "Sally Rand", just as removal of "brick" and "jail" vanishes "kat".
  4. Before going to work, the aphorist pushes into long flopping shoes, and buttons, studs, ties, and cummberbunds into a monkey suit smelling of real monkey. The shoes expensively gleam and pinch; the suit is tailor-made. Still, the nature of the job is clear enough.
  5. Reading Heidegger on Nietzsche is like watching a snowed-in prospector twirl boiled bootlaces on a fork and chew and chew and chew and swallow them. Directed by G. W. Pabst, starring Gibson Gowland.
  6. Aphorists hate liberals for their earnest argument. Bible-thumpers hate liberals for their skepticism. But the enemy of the aphorist's enemy is not the aphorist's friend. The aphorist depends more directly on the existence of the comfortably tolerant than the bible-thumper depends on the existence of the heretic.
  7. Those who admire aphorists judge a tree by the tenacity of its branches. Wherefore by their thorns ye shall know them.
  8. I was too sickly to attend ag school, but I doubt you can sow fields with thorns.
  9. An aphorism is a scenic rest stop between an unsupported argument and an undesired consequence. On day trips, we wage slaves make it to the state park and turn back.

Responses

2. Only Nietzsche's? Or even moreso?

What strikes me is the blatancy with which Nietzsche's practice is ignored by his elucidators. But his work is hardly alone in that regard, you're right. Maybe if I started thinking of the process as something like Hollywood adaptations not pretending to get at any better understanding of the material, but at least publicizing it and occasionally providing entertainment of its own it wouldn't seem so odd to me....

they ALL ignore ALL the formally and methodologically and practically idiosyncratic writers' and thinkers' schticks. even when they don't ignore they don't ignore by writing monographs in which they don't ignore.

Whatever I'm selling, Turbulent Velvet's not buying.

And if you think he's wrong, look closer before you leave the shop. All aphorisms are nonrefundable.

Josh Lukin comments:

I always thought somebody must have been insisting on Nietzsche's system's aphoristicness for Thomas Mann to have worked so hard at challenging that view (in fifty years, people will be substituting "Wilde" and "Hitchens" for those names). Or am I missing your point?

And "Hollywood adaptation" criticism (beautiful analogy) can do a lot. Where would we be if Delany or Butler had understood Althusser correctly?

Plenty of unsystematic Nietzscheans and anti-Nietzscheans around, true. We aphorists don't pretend to novel insights, just to novel phrasings. My point or more accurately my initial motivation was to understand a certain shared limitation, or flaw, across a range of aphorists.

And of course I'm grateful to any scholar who will defend the use-value of misinterpretation.

. . .

Salomé, What She Watched

(Written for The Valve)

Fenitschka and Deviations by Lou Andreas-Salomé, tr. Dorothee Einstein Krahn
The Human Family (Menschenkinder) by Lou Andreas-Salomé, tr. Raleigh Whitinger
Looking Back by Lou Andreas-Salomé, ed. Ernst Pfeiffer, tr. Breon Mitchell

Two-and-a-half stories into Menschenkinder (timidly Englished as "The Human Family") and I'm pleasantly surprised by their oblique viewpoints, the suggestive opacity of their sweeping gestures. By eight-and-a-half, my cracked fingernails are pawing the door while I whimper for air, air....

The last book to dose me like this was No. 111 2.7.93-10.20.96 by Kenneth Goldsmith, three years' worth of noticed utterances ("found texts" understates its inclusiveness), sorted alphabetically and by number of syllables. Against the author's advice, I read it front to back. (Not at one sitting, but still.)

For all I remember, two-thirds of the way through someone in Goldsmith's circle discovered true love and a revitalizing formula for social progressivism. If so, the next two hundred pages of advertising, trash-talk, and D. H. Lawrence warhorse scribbled them away. Goldsmith's big white volume flattens all layers of a life that seems not to have been unduly dull, solitary, or settled into solid shallowness as far as the mechanically-aided eye can reach. No there there, or anywhere else either; no under; no outside. Nothing but an unbreakable but by no means scuff-free surface. The discursive universe as the wrong side of a jigsaw puzzle.

I wouldn't imply any aesthetic affinity between Lou Andreas-Salomé and Kenneth Goldsmith. But the horror conveyed by both is an emergent formal property whereby the self-traced boundaries of a free-range spirit are established as crushingly limited.

Twelve stories by Andreas-Salomé have been translated into English. All were originally published in 1898 and 1899 and probably written in the same two-year burst. About half the stories have a male point-of-view; about half a female; some split down the middle. Although some include long letters or soliloquies, only one is in the first person. Elements and settings and character types and plotlines appear and re-appear trains, hospitals, mountain walks, hotels; doctors, artists; older men, slightly less older men; seductions, spellbindings, disillusionments, untrustworthy re-affirmations in never exactly replicated configurations, with just enough variation to convince us that a solution won't be found.

The puzzle is constant: There's a singularly intelligent and beautiful woman. (The traits are inseparable in these stories.) And all human value is placed in slavish idealization of the (almost always) gender-defined Other. Whether it's a case of male worshipping female, female worshipping male, or (rarer, dismissable) female worshipping female, such idealization is shown as irresistable but unmaintainable, thrashing between the fetishized parties —"I must sacrifice all for you!" "No, I must sacrifice all for you!"— and usually snapped by a sexual outburst.

(I confess that two of the twelve stories do offer "solutions", but both are so absurdly inept that the effect's more revolting than reassuring. According to one, a woman [or Woman] finds fulfillment only in childbirth; transparently the appeal of the theorized child is its strictly theoretical state as inseperable Other. Otherwise, the stories show far less interest in children or mothers than in fathers. Mothers aren't bright, or ambitious, or heroic. At most, they're embarrassing. And one such mother embarrassingly points out the egotism of the second "solution" offered: wait until the imperfect Other is safely dead, produce an idealized portrait, and rest content in mutual [but not consensual] redemption.)

As an exercise in spritual discicpline, I'd wanted to avoid gossip while reading Andreas-Salomé's fiction. But these exercises in objective solipsism are so clearly trying to work something out that my resolve crumbled, and I found, in the autobiographical essays she wrote more than thirty years later:

In the dark of night I didn't just tell God what had happened to me that day—I also told him entire stories, in a spirit of generosity, without being asked. These stories had a special point. They were born of the necessity to provide God with the entire world which paralleled our secret one, since my special relationship to him seemed to divert my attention from the real world, rather than making me feel more at home in it. So it was no accident that I chose the material for my stories from my daily encounters with people, animals, or objects. The fairy-tale side of life hardly needed to be emphasized—the fact that God was my audience provided adequately for that. My sole concern was to present a convincing picture of reality. Of course I could hardly tell God something he didn't already know, yet it was precisely this that ensured the factual nature of the story I was telling, which was why I would begin each story, with no small degree of self-satisfaction, with the phrase:

as you know

[After losing faith in God] I continued to tell my stories before I fell asleep. As before, I took them from simple sources, encounters and events in my daily life, although they had suffered a decisive reversal as well, since the listener was gone. No matter how hard I tried to embellish them, to guide their destiny along a better path, they too disappeared among the shadows. [...] For that matter, was I even sure that they were true, since I had ceased to receive them and pass them on with the confident words "as you know"? They became a cause of unconfessed anxiety for me. It was as if I were thrusting them, unprotected, into the uncertainties of the very life from which I had drawn them as impressions in the first place. I recall a nightmare—one which was often retold to me—which occurred during an attack of the measles, when I was in a high fever. In it I saw a multitude of characters from my stories whom I had abandoned without food or shelter. No one else could tell them apart, there was no way to bring them home from wherever they were in their perplexing journey, to return them to that protective custody in which I imagined them all securely resting—all of them, in their thousandfold individuality, constantly remultiplying until there was not a single speck of the world which had not found its way home to God. It was probably this notion which also caused me to relate quite different external impressions to one another. [...] It was as if they belonged together from the first. This remained the case even when the sum total of such impressions gradually began to overload my memory, so that I began to use threads, or knots, or catchwords to orient myself within the ever more densely woven tapestry. (Perhaps something of this habit carried over into later life when I began to write short stories; they were temporary aids in getting at something which was after all a much larger coherent whole, something which could not be expressed in them, so that they remained at best makeshift.)

And later:

[...] nothing can affect the significance of any thing, neither murder, nor destruction, unless it be to fail to show this final reverence to the weight of its existence, which it shares with us, for, at the same time, it is us. In saying this I've let slip the word in which one may well be inclined to see the spiritual residue of my early relationship to God. For it is true that throughout my life no desire has been more instinctive in me than that of showing reverence—as if all further relationships to persons or things could come only after this initial act.

It's easy enough to guess why such a person would have felt attracted to Freudian methods.

To return to her fiction, for those who'd prefer not to commit themselves, one Menschenkinder story is online. The books' most representative highlights might be "Maidens' Roundelay" (with a full double cycle of other-idealization and self-disillusion) and "Fenitschka" (which begins with near date-rape and ends years later in an ambiguously liberating act of forced voyeurism).

Having suffered the effects of full committal, I'm inclined to favor the two least representative stories. "On Their Way" is a black comedy of criss-crossed class incomprehension in which a young couple fail at romantic suicide but succeed at idiotic boyslaughter. "At One, Again, with Nature" stares aghast at the iciest of Andreas-Salomé's girl geniuses. Inventing California-style boutique organic produce, mocking country cousin and sugar daddy, romping with colts, kicking poor pregnant servants out in disgust, and anticipating the final solution of Ethan Edwards, Irene von Geyern escorts us out of the sequence into a harsh and welcome winter's wind.

These two don't solve the problem of Andreas-Salomé, but they do solve the problem of Story: an Other given the small mercy of The End.

Responses

peli grietzer asks:

How come all these large scale radical textual experiments operating by a linguistic rather than representational principal (No. 11...., Sunset Debris, etc.) end up being lauded for their sense of suffocation, melancholy and quiet hysteria?

I also like them for this very reason, it's just that it seems like all technically referential works guided by a non-mimetic logic end up being prized for the same emotional effect, that doesn't seem to have much to do with the actual specific non-mimetic logic they operate by.

I've noticed a similar trend among reviewers. (It may be just the default establishment mood in which to take any odd and encompassing work: the earliest defenders of James Joyce similarly treated him as a conduit of Waste-Land-ish moping.) But, for me, one of the meta-interesting things about radical textual experimenters, as with twelve-tone composers or free jazz musicians or three-chord garage bands, is that they don't all sound alike. Trying to articulate how that magic's managed may be among the most amusing challenges available to contemporary critics. Can we do any better than "voice"?

For the record, I wanna say that all of Silliman's work (including Sunset Debris) leaves me pretty cheerful, and the same goes for Gertrude Stein and Jackson Mac Low. On the other hand, the carefully crafted movies of Jean Eustache distill the bitterness of human limits into something finer than either Goldsmith (intentionally) or Andreas-Salomé (unintentionally) do by "accident".

For that matter, Goldsmith himself credits the development of his technique (and this message) to the influence of Andy Warhol, whose movies and fine art don't really effect me that way although maybe the Factory novel a would if I could stand reading it.

peli responds:

What I was really reminded of by your description of "No. 11.... "is the experience of watching season 2 of, let's say, Buffy when you're already a veteran of all seasons + Angel. Know what I mean? Knowing the resolving of the big point of narrative interest which just took place is going to be trivial from the perspective of five seasons later, not by a grand artistic architecture utilizing this trivialization, but just by everything moving on to different narrative interests that negate earlier ones (Oz and Willow being great great greatest love, later Willow and Tara being far more great greater love).

The obvious analogy with life actually devalues the poignancy of this, I think : in art we expect climaxes not to be retconned away meaninglessly, so it hurts more.

. . .

Lit Out (or, Snuffkinship)

See, I'm what ya call an enlightened humanist. If I gotta deal with sputter, smoke, and heat, I want it to come from fully rendered humans.

. . .

Early to bed and early to rise
Makes a man early.

. . .

I WORKED HARD FOR THIS PARKING SPACE

Resentment is my difference. Value my difference.

Approximately one out of every one Americans suffers from self-righteousness. And in some areas of the country, the epidemic has reached even higher levels. Here in Berkeley, we snatch at cause for grievance like it was the last roll of toilet paper in the store

* * *

There's something empowering about resentment particularly when combined with megalomania. Just look what it's done for God!

Responses

I depreciate the ressentiment.

Don't mention it.

. . .

Bumper Sticker

UPPER EAST SIDE LADIES ARE LITTLE PEOPLE IN FUR COATS

. . .

Once feelings become this blatantly mixed, the only thing to do is throw in a little salt, let them simmer a while, and taste again. Eventually they'll coalesce.

If nothing else, into saltiness.

Responses

Sounds like wuality eating.

Followed by the wuality check.

or, in taking the tumble, into simmer-salt
which feelings?

. . .

The past tense of "Behave!" is "Was had."

. . .

Bumper Sticker

LET'S PUT THE TM BACK IN CHRISTMAS! ™

My fortune is assured.

Responses

re: the new picture: what's the dog reading?

It's obviously focused on the same item as the guy next to it, although the dog isn't moving its lips which makes sense since, according to the ever-reliable de.wikipedia + translate.google, a related painting is clear reference to the reader Evolution in the 19th Century Germany made. Maybe a pirated translation of "The Black Cat"? I side-note that a possible descendent of the artist as a mordant used dog feces replaced.

. . .

When you were raised in a barn, Athena really means something.

. . .

The first reason to write is you can't think straight.

. . .

You can't hurry love. Nor can you hurry a dead horse.

Responses

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTdwQG3pGKQ
What is meant by 'the inspectors are of the right age'?in Tickets,Please

It is meant that "it would do." "For some reason." On "the most dangerous tram-service in England."

. . .

The Hunsecker Equation

"The cat is in the box and the box is indeterminate."

Responses

thinking outside the cat?
Traffic cop Hotzmeister: "Mr Totzinger, did you know that you have a dead cat in your trunk?" Totzinger: "Well I do now."

. . .

The lineaments of Gratified Desire are very round.

Responses

Peli writes:

Oh 'Gratified' not 'Garfield.' Took me a moment.
Un-gratified desire, however, has got that razor-sharp crease

 

Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.