FYI France
Ebooks Experiments -- the project

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TWO MILLENNIA: POEMS 5

By Jack Kessler, kessler@well.com

 

People: Le Guignol!

Le Guignol!

 

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• Table of Contents •

 

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• about metadata •


____________________

 

One tiny methodological note: this ebook being as much an experiment, in online digital access & use as anything else... I am undertaking it largely to discover how these things work, in their latest incarnation.

Information overload is an old friend, and I am as sceptical as I ever have been about the latest round of information search & retrieval techniques: the Dark Web always has been large -- its continued looming omnipresence, or maybe under-presence / sous-présence, is at once our greatest challenge, to our techniques, and our greatest guarantee of the freedom of those techniques and much else besides.

So I am reading about Dublin Core & NISO & ISO & Google and other official and industry efforts, in standards development for these purposes. But I am not hopeful, on the one hand, and I am greatly relieved on the other: no we'll never be able to find & use everything, or so I am convinced from numerous past examples, universal bibliography is the chimæra it's forever been -- I am with Borges & Eco & Jeanneney, on this -- OTOH as long as something can hide and stay hidden, deep within The Matrix, perhaps there is hope for freedom, and for surprizes, and for renewal and youth -- & I am with Wm. Gibson, on that.

A few descriptors appear below, then. I figure no matter what structures-within-the-structures the metadata mavens eventually evolve, they'll always offer some means of combining & permutating (?) etc. a bunch of descriptors: so if word-term-occurrences and proximity-connections have anything to do with "relevance", the way Lasswell figured they might, maybe they'll find my book. Or maybe they won't, we'll see.

I am not certain, myself, that there is not a "category mistake" at work, here: if a "book" is what is sought, then copious metadata about that object understandably may be useful -- but if what is being sought nowadays is a "text", an æthereal thing sometimes contained in a book but increasingly not, then metadata assisting in the search for a book is un ange qui passe -- the new philosopher newly-arrived from the US, standing at Carfax in the middle of Oxford, demanding, "But where is the university?"

So, metadata descriptors, maybe: poems, poetry, literature, me, you, us, other stuff, not ontologies, not relevance, not rankings, not content, not epistemology, not analysis, sometimes metaphysics, maybe music

 

 

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• Preface •

____________________

 

P eople interest me more, now, I admit. I say admission because it wasn't always so, and the culture which raised me considered people-interest a weakness: my parents' generation fought a terrible war, and their parents fought another -- the two conflicts, lumped together nowadays as one, were the worst in human history -- what emerged to combat that were hard people, not so interested in the subjekteiver geist -- more taking-refuge, for their own self-defense, on all sides, in the objekteiver.

Typical Time of Troubles, I suppose: folks in Uruk probably became a little like this, in the end anyway.

But that was what my childhood 1950s was about: strength and weakness, victory and defeat, us versus them -- a very bifurcated and even manichæan time.

The French derided us for it, said we Americans were simplistic, that we saw everything in terms of good or evil with nothing in-between, that our good guys wore white hats, our bad guys wore black hats.

But we were The Ones Who'd Won The War -- for them, for our friends the British, and for everyone else too or so we believed, or imagined -- we were sure we'd all have become fascists or even Nazis otherwise.

It's a hard thought, but one correct and necessary for its terrible Global Warfare & Great Depression times.

Much has changed since, though. And that change has fascinated me. I made friends with the French, I've studied them and their culture for over 35 years, now, and I've considered the ambiguities they appreciate and advocate.

Some of what I write here is about all that. I am undecided about the right and wrong of the distinction -- whether US simplicities or French ambiguities -- which is right and which wrong -- I have a suspicion that both are right, although I can't prove it. Plenty of what I write is about that last dilemma, too.

I suppose teachers have contributed, to all this, and books. Teachers and books find it difficult to resist providing answers, however, and as my own experience uncovered only more questions I find it hard to attribute insight into these contingent things to them.

More than teachers or books my traveling contributed the most, I think: during the 1970s and 1980's I circumnavigated the globe seven times -- an uncommon achievement, back then -- and I made plenty of other shorter trips too.

The big trips were made on PanAm round-the-world tickets, at least in the beginning, and a lot of that time was spent in tiny up-country villages in exotic places, for my handicrafts-importing work. I got to know South and Southeast Asia really well -- I did real business with real people, there -- which I really enjoyed, for me it was much better than if-it's-Tuesday-this-must-be-Belgium tourism. I became a terrible travel-snob.

I had some great talks, tho, and weird adventures, with a lot of folks who thought distinctly different -- Think Different -- from the way I did... every continent but Africa, eventually, and Australia...

My greatest pleasure was discovering the variety of approaches available for choice: that in Bali they do it different, also in Tamil Nadu, also in Besançon and Edinburgh and Kyoto and Buenos Aires... and Asunçion...

Asunçion was one of the most interesting places, for me: that was merely a land of old Nazis run by an old Nazi who'd sheltered them, in the 1950s simple-formulation which had informed my childhood -- yet it also provided a safe and warm and wonderful childhood for the woman I met and have loved more than I've ever loved anyone in my life, the person who has been most valuable to me -- so there is at least an irony there. I've learned to recognize that: the glass never is entirely full or empty.

Understanding certain individuals very well has helped me, too: the mental infirmities of my mother, which I learned a lot about, the ebullience and insecurities of my father, which taught me nearly as much.

Also the will-to-power of some people in business and the arts and politics, the fatal weaknesses of others: Michel Foucault's ideas influenced me greatly, in all that, most of all his French relativism married well with the pragmatic US relativism of John Dewey, which I also studied, leaving me confused about ideals but reassured about reality.

It did seem to me that Foucault and Dewey, certainly independently of one another, reached the same conclusions about people and how people operate and work with one another and ultimately change and change again, and that coincidence I found remarkable and very convincing.

Most of all, change has been important: recognizing and accepting it, dealing with it. I suppose a long life -- I have lived nearly seven decades now, and I plan to live three more if I can do it -- has made it possible for my generation, more than any other before it, to appreciate how much change and how many choices may be packed into a single human life.

When your life expectancy is only thirty years you don't get to do as much, and you get to see fewer changes.

So for example the civil liberties with which I was raised -- exclusive to us, those were, they were presented as achievements which our US society possessed and others did not and so we were "better" -- matter greatly to me, but it was the travel that taught me I was not alone, or "better".

So I'm a tired old relativist. Tired because I've pretty firmly decided some things -- not interested much in political philosophy, any more, or in debating with religionists or racists or sexists or scientists, all of which I used to tackle a lot -- even historians, their furious controversies once fascinated me, The Pirenne Thesis... But I've heard a lot of them by now and know pretty much what I think myself, and counting angels on the heads of pins describes most of them anyway.

Entirely new subjects -- I came late to geology, and to Homeric studies -- still can fascinate, but their angry debates do not. The world has far too much of angry debate, I now believe, and I've never seen that particular approach, so relished in academia, produce very much besides more anger.

An overcrowded world of terrorism and the fear of same and drones and the glaciologists' Cenozoic-warming era needs less anger in it, I now figure.

As for the relativism, that's mostly the Enlightenment talking, in my case -- supplemented and even resolved by Dewey and Foucault, as I said -- I studied Hume hard, in college, found most of the old questions answered pretty thoroughly there, it's not an arena which interests me much any more.

So I suppose that's why I began to write. My questions got answered -- by others, by me -- so the time came to tell others what I'd seen and decided, for myself not them.

The exercise is not didactic -- I don't really want to convince anyone -- I've become sceptical about my ability to do that, anyway, for the most part people require accepting as they are, I've found, they won't change.

But they are fascinating, nevertheless -- even narrow and myopic and opinionated, as a great many of us are -- that we have not blown up the planet yet is a major miracle, to me, but it's a fascinating miracle, nevertheless, and one of which a great many of us can be very proud.

The poems here are about all this, then: they grow out of it, grow into it, spread their tentacles as far as possible but still basically stem from it. We got terribly simple during our war times, what Christopher Logue calls our "war music", he means that derisively I think -- things are really far more complicated than that, desperately so, almost unimaginably so -- but that's fascinating, and even hopeful, in the sheer varieties for human choice that it offers. It's the stark realities of life-and-death choices, of moral judgments, of persuasions and positions and opinions and debate, which are un-real.

Life's a smörgåsbord -- have some fish.

    -- November 4, 2013 --Noe Valley

 

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• Dedication •

to Jan -- onward, new adventures

 

 

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People: Corn Parties!

People: Corn Parties!

 

 

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• Poems •

 

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Focus

It grows larger, then smaller,
And then it grows smaller,
Then larger

A little boy sitting on his swing set
Dreams of the Asia in the book
His grandfather brought him
And of his father's business tales,
Of Kim, a boy like him, astride the Great Gun Zam-zammah at Lahore,
And the dealing and wheeling
Down in the depths of Chadni Chowk

So he saw that, in all its awe-full
Enormity
From one end to the other
And across its breadth
Delving deep, to strange temples
At Konarak and Mahabalipuram
And to enormous hatreds
At Calcutta and Kashmir
And great loves, greater
Than any he'd seen or imagined
In England or anywhere else
India is a place of great hates
And great loves
And the eagles
Soaring down the Jhelum canyon
To take crumbs from his hand
And the cold, pink, salt, tea, thick and creamy

It was big, it was complicated,
It satisfied every curiosity and craving
There was more to the universe than his mind

But then, growing older,

Splendor in the grass,
Glory in the flower
The tiny things
A small woman
Small garden
Small children
The universal things
The universe in a small thing

So, as Wordsworth said,
I sit on a park bench now
In a little place in San Francisco
Remembering
Ambala
The tiny doubtless-Episcopal
Abandoned church there
Like the one at Tientsin
Being used as a granary
The big things, the great things
And the tremendous excitements

But greater than all that,
My ability to see them
To have seen
But also to see them now

Tourists skate like water-skeeters
Skimming on the surface tension
Which hides the turmoil beneath

The bandh that day killed only a few hundred, in Calcutta
That little church at Ambala
Sanctified an Empire and all its sins
And I see them both clearly
No need to see them again
I have them, now.

The universe, in a blade of grass
Little did I realize
How that would fit together
I have it now

 

 

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People: Strangers

People: Strangers

 

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Old

It's all grown old
Like rainbows do, when they blink out
As smiles do, when at last they curve down
The way a wave does, when it flattens
A hawk does, when it's soaring ceases
The way trees do, burning, breaking
And rocks do, melting and folding

I've spent a lot of time
Growing old
Looking at it other ways
Learning
Pretending
Raging against the dying of the light
Doing magical thinking

Volcanoes interest me too, though,
And mid-Atlantic Ridges
Trees re-seed and re-grow -- one killed by its owner on a San Francisco street bravely has re-seeded now several times -- like old Jeanne Calment, stubbornly and persistently outliving her lawyer

Hawks keep having children, in spite of all the spraying,
Waves lap, the birth of a wave on a chart or in slo-mo is a beautiful thing,
Smiles come back no matter what we do to them, there were smiles at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, there are smiles in Gaza now,
And rainbows return

Where have you been, rainbow?
There is much need for you.
Perhaps you've always been there, are there,
The most beautiful thing about you being,
That you always come back.

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: FAmily

People: Family

 

--oOo--

 

Addicts

Addicts are all the same
Their addiction loses their
Cultural snobberies
Social pretensions
Political persuasions
Opinions
Sexual preferences
Geographic locations
Childhoods
Aspirations
Differences

It's what meltdown means
It all sort-of blends
Loses all distinctions

Not at first, perhaps,
The lucky ones go slowly
Hard to speak of luck
About an addict
But slowly preserves some good times
To remember in hard times ahead
In the end though it's melted
Just a gooey viscous pool
Of personality

Schizophrenics do it too
Dissolve
Lose all differences, distinctions
Melt down into a gooey viscous pool
When they're young they're alive
The borders matter, the differences, distinctions
A schizophrenic starting out can be as beautiful, vivacious, opinionated, alive
As any addict, also beginning,
But by the end it's all just grey and gooey

Like amyloid plaque, Alzheimer's,
Like dementia, or even only aging

No better proof, then,
That we're all just water
Whether straight or crazy or stoned
We all begin as puddles,
And puddles we become again

The hard edges make us different
Whatever we become
Fighting the drugs
Or time, or all of them,
It's the hardness
The addicts are no different from us,
We're no different from the addicts

 

 

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People: Elders

People: Elders

 

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Blind

Blind rage
At progress, change,
Deterioration

These old logs were benches once
Places for contemplation
Love-making
A generation conceived
Upon such benches

I personally remember
The new wood, when it was newly-cut
Not the old logs
Hauled from the mountains, long times ago, then scattered 'round the Berkeley campus like monuments to what built it
But memories of a more practical, less-wasteful, and thinner and very conservative generation
Depression Babies, survivors barely of the Grand Finale of the world's most terrible
Long War
Pinching pennies, saying, well, what can we do with it
Light-switch flippers, corner-cutters,
They made them into benches
For another younger and more innocent generation to play upon, make love upon, making peace not war

So now they're gone.
From where I sit, on Dorothy A. Walker's slatted and more elegant and more recent bench, 1992, endowed by 25 hundred dollars plus a campus grant,
Next to a newly-planted politically-corrected meticulously-hybrid-ed "native" sort-of-sycamore tree,
Amid gardened ground-cover, spread heavily everywhere, keeping invasives and weeds and animals and any incorrectness out
The old logs look comfortably shabby, reassuringly incorrect, softly inviting

But those lovers have grown old,
And the new ones, their grandchildren,
Love differently, now

Blind rage is blind, then,
The old logs will be gone this afternoon,
Before my walk back,
Hauled off to become mulch
For newer and more proper and better-loved trees

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: doing things

People: doing things

 

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Baby owls

Education is just enculturation,
Telling the kids of the
Crimes & sins & discoveries
The general achievements
Of their elders

Mostly their grandparents
The discredited generation
Enough distance now to see
What worked and what didn't
What gets remembered and what not
Exaltation into Dogma, for the former
Erasure for the rest

Kleos, the name Achilles lasts forever
But so does Attila and so does Hitler
The good oft gets interred with bones
Anything old gets hard to remember
The current paradigm too early to tell
Education is the grandparents

The campus tours proceed
In their customary order
The kids themselves came earlier
Prospecting, winter hopes
Now it's them showing parents
Approving, proud, springtime
Later it will be fall and football
Alumni, then, literally autumn years
Remembering, dimly, selectively,
And nostalgia

A relentless meat grinder
Of hopes and dreams
And children
We surrender our children
To these people
This process
This dissemination, filtration
Eventual distinction, final evaluation

Along the way a few drop off, opt out
They are not the lucky ones
The lucky ones are kids who can
Benefit from all of this
Walk the walk, talk the talk,
Learn the tricks, reserve judgments
Avoid the worst mistakes themselves, later on

Three baby owls fledge
Branching out, on the limbs of their
Eucalyptus tree
One flies, a second follows,
The third, though, falls
Born late, food-deprived by her older more able and much larger siblings
Pushed by her mother
The little bird teeters, on the edge,
Then tumbles, falling fifty feet to the hard dangerous ground below
But kind human strangers see her
Before their dogs do
Pick her up gently, transport her to a shelter, where even kinder strangers care for her until she can fly
Then they take her back to her tree
Coax her to a branch
And off she goes to fly again

People stumble too
It's not all just training
And sometimes it benefits from
A little bit of help

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: copains

People: copains

 

--oOo--

 

Lady Margaret

Lady Margaret Hall, twins,
And a forty-hour week,
One of life's many mysteries being
How do they do it
Or how it gets done

When lovely woman stoops to folly
Written by the women now
No longer by the men
When the hours in the daylite stretch
Enfolding every fancy
Encompassing the lot
What little room is left for nighttime

A lifetime for each,
For realizing the education,
For the career,
For the husband, unmentioned,
For the twins, each,
And so, five
Of the nine allotted to cats,
But to you only a short one
While your elegant education
Prepared you for none,
Only the unimportant things
The significant omitted
And the all-important Time

We live our multiple lives
Halfway only, now
Half an education
Half a career
Half a lover
Half a mother,
By the age of fifty
We're half-empty and exhausted
And she wonders why

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: doing things

People: doing things

 

--oOo--

 

The Flore

Life isn't in the workingman's cafes
Any longer
Eric Hoffer lives on
But he's long gone
Like reading the poetry of Dead Poets
Or the economy of Defunct Economists
The ideas and impressions and misinterpretations remain,
The rest gets interred with the bones

The Eagle is gone
Where They planned the General Strike
Transported now to the Upper Deck
Transformed, into a yuppie eatery
Brunch not breakfast
And would you like a mimosa wid' dat?

The new stories now are in the Starbucks,
In the gay all-nighters still open early for the hangovers,
In Latino bakeries, pushing coffee and lard-baked goodies for a little morning extra income,
Hard workers, the immigrants,
And in Chinese enterprise
Serving congee and whatever --
Tea, mostly, oceans of it --
To construction gangs and early-openers
On their ways to work
Early birds
Get ahead
Getting rich is glorious

It's life on the lisière,
A friend above Annecy once explained,
The border,
The landscaped rim of freeways
Where urban coyotes live
The rims, of gardens offering more sumptuous and elaborate flower beds inside, in the centers
But the little border blossoms, and most of all the stalks and roots, out on the rim being more tenacious, stronger, heartier, ultimately spreading and lasting longer

The Edge, Americans call this,
With a negative connotation
It's where the garbage dumps are,
As Ammons said, the richest part,
The bugs and beetles and fermentation
He wrote a wonderful book about it

And there's the Cutting Edge, and Bleeding Edge -- Silicon Valley, lifeblood of the nation now, creating surplus yet building from much waste, and blood -- creative destruction

And Edginess, greatest virtue of the latest generation,
Exchanging the suburban comforts of their grandparents for substandard factory-loft living, for nitty-gritty, hard partying, exhaustion -- Life on the Edge makes you edgy

The Edge, in America, is where the castoffs are, also the emergent, the most new and most wild -- the gays, the wetbacks -- the tired & poor & hungry, all yearning to be free, from Asia, 2/3 of the world newly-emerging.

There have been fringes before
The Lower East Side, soup kitchens,
The East End, boozers,
Belleville, and absinthe...
These shift, though,
For a while they were the Center City
Then the sprawling suburbs
Now the Global Cities push them outward to poverty but also inward to ghettos -- in a world of Access
It's the fermentation
The mix, which matters,

Life in pond, in the vat, in the Petri dish
Slow boil, not too cold but not too hot either,
Add salt, freshen continually with new ingredients, serve in small portions,
Slowly stir and regularly take up the muck from the bottom -- that's the best part -- and spread it around

The lisière used to be Italian: Genovese, Lucchese, a few who were from Chiavere, they'd say -- even Siciliani, not Italian according to the others but then that's why they all left

Now all that's out in the wealthy regions
Great-grandpa owns yachts and races horses, and he never talks to any-body...
They've blended, like fine tobacco and wine and iron amalgams,
In a New and More Elegant Edition Revised and Corrected By the Author,
All of them rebellious runaways from Boston, then,
Refusing to take orders
Believing they know better
Reinventing wheels
Taking chances
Splitting rails
Learning things the hard way

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: copines

People: copines

 

--oOo--

 

Little random events

There are days when the day doesn't work
Small things, mostly
The coffee spoon falling out of the cup
A small trip on a stair
Fumbling with the iPhone finds the wrong app
And another change-password demand
Then clouds come over and it's
Home again to get a jacket
Big things don't do it
News headlines, friendships, events
All those fit in
Or can be scheduled, for later,
It's just the little random events

 

 

--oOo--

 

Puppies!

Puppies!

 

--oOo--

 

People... :-)

People... :-)

 

--oOo--

 

Sense

A musician's sensibility,
Sensitivity, personality,
Comes out through the music
The labor of playing, again,
What's been played repeatedly before
By others, even,
So that even the audience knows it
The work of discerning the differences
Sometimes the pleasure
She emphasizes this
He plays down that, plays up the other
The violinist, happy, lively,
The pianist, intensity, passions,
What a tempo, can the others keep up
What fury
It's the Self, it's people
So many versions

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: orchestras

People: orchestras

 

 

--oOo--

 

En passant

We go at different speeds
And visit different places
On the planet

Me, I am in Lyon now
More than I am
In San Francisco
From the tiny neighborhood I inhabit
Noe Valley
I feel like a stranger
Visiting San Francisco neighborhoods I haven't known
Ingleside, Forest Hill
There are people I've never met
Things I've never seen
The beautiful little park in
Sunnyside
How much more might Elk Grove
A hundred miles from here
But still in Greater San Jose
Have to offer

But today I am in
La Croix Rousse
A neighborhood I know well
Communicating with Lyon around it
And with France around that
Only en passant, as the Parisians say
Careening through the tunnels
On their way to the Riviera

My elder son I thought was in Cupertino
But in fact he was in Shanghai
The other day when he texted me a
Hi! Dad...
Four trips on a month
If it's Tuesday this must be Asia
Actually not Shanghai but a large island west of it owned and operated by Taiwan Chinese, where once China's rice was grown,
He lives there, and intensively in locations elsewhere in Asia, and on a specific campus in Cupertino, and he sleeps sometimes in his apartment, and also rarely visits San Francisco,
When he does it's en passant

My younger son rides his motorcycle
From his house to his lab
And from his lab to his house
His enormous universe is online
The master of half-time
Half the day and night with Petri dishes, and experiment results linked round-the-world
The other half, of the day and night, in his online helpdesk work,
Bulletin boards and conferencing on The Matrix, and games
It's all a game, you might as well play games you like as not
So with 24 available and 15 hours spent on each, he's busy
Visiting his vicinities only rarely
En passant

It's not a passing fancy, though
En passant
The social morphology of it
The topology
We extend our personal networks out
Over the web
There is so much more, out there,
Than we ever had before.

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: memories

People: memories

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: street-markets

People: street-markets

 

--oOo--

 

Surfaces

Superficial
Only the edge, the top, the bottom
What is it about the middle
That's so important
Bending an elbow in a bar over a beer
Somehow gets entitled to a depth
And a breadth of understanding
That a long conversation never can
It's the proxemics, perhaps
The smells, the body language
Gestures, eye flickers
We see, or we imagine that we see
Information, communication
Meaning
When what we really see are
Smells and gestures

Beer was the social lubricant
Long before Facebook was,
Work was too
The person planting her rice
In the muddy field next to you
Baby strapped on her back too
Was your friend
Now you text her
Is she any less your friend for that
Do you meet, arrange a meeting
Her busy life and your own, now
Still the babies, no change there
High rises instead of hovels, tho
That's better
And the fone worked before
So Facebook does now
What's missing are the meetings

It still is important to see and touch and feel
The entire person and not just the mind
The two are linked, one package

So the devices mediate the communication
Enable it, somewhat, by arranging things then disappearing
If they can be moved out of the way
Once they've done their work

Or are they, the devices,
The communication itself
Not just the data but the information
Not just the pour soi, the en soi too
That's superficial, it's said
But bending the beer at the bar was,
Also
That was football, politics, women,
Superficial, it was said then too

We don't really know one another well
We know little enough about ourselves, really
That's a complex relation
And very old news

We reach wide, now,
Instead of deep
That's something lost
But something gained as well

 

 

--oOo--

People: doing things

People: doing things

--oOo--

 

Valley

When you walk into a valley
Filled with houses and hills
Your view changes
With every step

Side-glances show you shifting planes
New houses appear on the hills beyond
Others disappear behind you
Beyond your reach now

Every walk is a new walk, yes,
Weather changes, too,
So do flowers,
So do moods,
Your next walk here will never be the same, it changes,
Just as other walks you've taken here before have not been this one

And others, too, see this different

Shifting planes
Like scenery on a stage
Or moods
It's not your sight playing tricks
It does make you dizzy
It's changes

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: doing strange things

People: doing strange things

 

--oOo--

 

Busses

I have a really good time riding busses
The blend of people
The situations
The different vantage point --
Busses enable me to see my city
Views of it I've never seen
Standing and waiting and watching
I notice things that
Haven't been there before

It's memories, as well,
That young couple with backpacks,
Those three girls from Spain,
The guy with his map
My most adventurous times

There was little to think about
And everything
Which bus to take
And where it was going
The one decision precise
The other never-ending

 

 

--oOo--

 

Rivers!

Rivers!

 

--oOo--

 

Busses, again

The bus lines tie the city together
String ties, a few knots,
And when a knot gives way or a string breaks
Things get jammed up
And the package falls apart
For a while

I'm taking mine this morning
To West Portal
Outside Lands
Living in Noe Valley
Visiting San Francisco just
Occasionally
And then only en passant
Like a Parisian visite to Lyon
Annuelle, through the tunnel

The city has a hum
Which the busses produce
Along with all the other little noises
Roaring together in the daytime
Murmuring together at night

Definitely alive, though
The hum is human
For better or for worse
All the nobility and insecurity
In human imagination
Is in a city
Not coyotes or birds or trees
They're all welcome guests
Much needed, and
A welcome returned by them in nature
Where we are the visitors
But a city is our thing, our invention and our place
For better or for worse
What we do here we cannot blame
On coyotes or birds or trees

 

The 48 bus
Early on a Saturday morning
Fog wraps us in its warmth
The welcome chill of San Francisco summer

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: doing strange things

People: doing strange things

 

--oOo--

 

Symbolic

The professor's computer
Who got Einstein's office
Symbolic, that's wot it is

Nations and cultures and religions need
Foundations
Foundation myths, at least,
"God Save The Queen",
On a Saturday at Epsom
A buxom beauty in a strapless gown
Eye-candy, all of it,
But vital, a necessity

Why else would he run off to fight at Ypres
Or Verdun or Kandahar
Where else would the "pluck" come from
Old Yeats was right
There are rough beasts out there

If we don't study what happened before
The last time it all was tried
The first time
We won't understand why we ought to now

Certainly it's all myth
Muthos: a report, a tale... a story...
People love stories
It's a childhood thing
Read me a story, Daddy
Once upon a time...
Mr. Gumpy had a boat, and his house was by a river...
The entire Hornblower series, Patch asked, and we did, twice

If there's not a story people don't understand it personally
News reporters know
Is the head dead yet?
Not because of the blood
But because we each have a head
And our loved ones and enemies do too
So when the spear in the Iliad pierces the breastplate, tears through the leather vest and lodges in the entrails, in all its gory details, we feel it ourselves, we "relate" to that

It's not the abstractions,
Every news reporter knows,
It's the personal witness, the eyewitness report,
The emotion, the elation, the pain
We are there on the plan at Ilion
Fighting alongside Hector and Patroclus
Understanding why they did it
And why we do it, again and again

For millennia it didn't matter, whether it really happened,
Then for millennia it did -- since Herodotus and Thucydides, she said
But what matters most is the immediacy, the experience,
I was there, I saw that, I did it and I felt it,
The story

What will we do when our stories are gone
If the small-minded bean-counters take them from us
Or Disneyfy them, reduce their horrors and complexities
To theme parks and cartoons
All the Best of Britain lodged on the Isle of Wight
Cleansed, having left the dirty bits behind
Worlds with no heroes
No entertainment, excitement, titillation
Nothing to make the pulse race
Nothing to believe in

For want of a horseshoe nail...
The professor never got her electric plug
It was the final nail
So she left, taking her stories with her
And we lost them

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: friends

People: friends

 

--oOo--

 

A Birth

I remember the day you were born
You were a very tiny bundle
I felt mysteries open up when I saw you
A most incredible feeling of new-ness
New answers, new questions, new feelings,
Your birth gave me and your mother
New opportunities
To become entirely new people
Doing and being something we'd never imagined doing, or being

I suppose I'd felt very complete, with just your mother,
She'd made me very happy
Also very fulfilled
I'd gotten to a point where I felt I had it all, lacked nothing, because I had her, I supposed

And it was really true
Love completes you, as you've found out yourself now,
There is nothing greater than the ability, and capacity, to give to another person
To extend yourself, to communicate, to share
It speaks many volumes about self-sufficiency, security, achievement, solidity

But it is smugness and self-centeredness, as well,
So whatever gods there are gave us children, I suppose,
Very useful little reminders that, always, there is something more

 

 

--oOo--

 

Rising

Two hundred thirty feet
Three eighty-foot beams, pounded in,
end-to-end,
We pound one in, weld the next, pound in that one
There's bedrock down there
Beneath the water and the mud
And all the stuff that's been thrown down there for two centuries
Sometimes we find broken bottles
The geologists dig cores to see what we got
The steam-driver punches the steel through the mud
It metallic ring echoing through the caverns of the new city
Already rising
Impatient
As American cities tend to be

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: politics

People: politics

 

--oOo--

 

People: politics

People: politics

 

--oOo--

 

People: politics

People: politics

 

--oOo--

 

People: politics

People: politics

 

--oOo--

 

Academies

The Academy was closed when it ran out of ideas
For a long while they dribbled out
Plink, plunk,
Moldy droplets from an ancient faucet
And then one day they just stopped

Then began a churning,
A re-churning, rather, of old inventory,
The old ideas, repeated, repeated, as though repetition could make them true, or relevant,
And gradually, foreign students from Rome discovered, the only new ideas on-campus were their own,
A giant sucking sound
Elderly cloistered professors
all wondering, asking, pleading,
What's new among the rhetors?
What's the latest from the Roman Street?
What are they discussing down at the CaracallaThermae, what's the latest codex on the library shelves there?
Getting more from the students
Than the students got from them

So the students stopped coming,
From Rome, from Macedonia,
They'd heard all that already,
The key to young minds is novelty,
And the world turned west

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: friends

People: friends

 

--oOo--

 

Poleis

How quickly it deteriorates
And completely
Civic life
The life with Others
Res publica
The polis

The riots in the streets
Frustrations
The police more desperate than the demonstrators
Their pensions cut too
Their mothers with no doctors
Their children with no schools
And now out in the streets, against them
And this job the only guarantee left
Against the family falling apart

The daily terror of discovering
The face behind the kerchief you now are macing turns out to be your son
Who hates you
It's what civil war is all about
Even if it hasn't happened yet
Syria becomes Iraq
Greece becomes Syria
Things fall apart
The center cannot hold

She left Athens for the village
The Peloponnesus
Back where Mama spent her childhood
Where she herself spent summers
Where Grandma was, and Grandpa still holds forth in the village cafe -- in the evenings only, because the heat gets him now and he sleeps most of the day
I'll do beekeeping, she tells them back in Athens, make wax figurines for the tourists, tell them they are local gods, confuse the anthropologists...
And besides Grandpa needs someone, he can't keep on alone
She sighs, ten years at a desk, she can use the out-of-doors,
The trouble is the boyfriend, he is city born and bred, attracted to her attractions but no love for the countryside...
And when my attractions no longer attract -- soon, now -- he'll find some way to cheat, and then we'll fight, and then he'll leave me and go back to Athens...
And then I'll lose my teeth, and wear black, and mourn for pay at funerals, bemoaning my own lost life, she thinks...

Decay is sad, change is sad, age can be
and life as a victim always is
How will they do these things?

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: friends

People: friends

 

--oOo--

 

Speech Acts

The fine art of Careful Speech
As-practiced by Important People
Kofi Annan, trying so hard to offend no one
Lady Gaga, trying so hard to offend someone, selectively,
The sucking of teeth
The intake of breath
The counting to ten
The cosmetics, body language, gestures, Kennedy-esque, Clinton-esque

How much easier to be the crazed Greek rightwinger, Golden Dawn, pounding the face of his Communist opponent, right there on tv, a woman, she ran him out of the few words he had

We're in the jungle still
In the cave again
Chest-beating, stomping, glaring, roaring
Aggression displays
Re-learning the old tabus
Incest, Aggression, Violence
Betrayal, Corruption, Power
Just as Kazantzakis knew them,
Bouboulina and her amirals,
Just as Homer did,
Briseis

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: far away

People: far away

 

--oOo--

 

Youth

My youth was not a happy one
I've never longed for it
I didn't know it, then
But I've learned it since
As things have gotten better

The usual pleasures were there
Swimming
Learning to read, and reading
The horses at the camp
Although not the other boys
And, finally, women
Joys of the mind and excitements of the flesh

Foremost among my earliest memories is music
My mother, singing us to sleep with her beautiful soprano
Fais do-do, 'colas mon petit frère
And playing Mozart at the piano
Singing Papagena
Then records, The Sound of Music,
High on a hill stood a lonely goatherd
Dancing with my sisters, and singing,
Feeling the music,
As our mother sang
Her many troubles, not much later they destroyed her, and for a long time I resented life for that
But there were happy times too
Even if my youth was not happy

 

 

--oOo--

People: far away

People: far away

--oOo--

 

Cathedrals

Sitting in my concrete cathedral
Icon of my childhood
Wondering whether it will last
As long as the stones of Chartres have lasted

I went to London the way Dick Whittington did
Lord Mayor not,
But seeking a second chance of England

Oxford was a disappointment,
Wonderful place with wonderful people
But all just studying America, by my era,
A place I'd already been

A new American professor of jurisprudence, whom I'd already read and who I already knew too well,

A college master married-American and so half-himself, like Churchill,

An All Souls tutor ditto, preoccupied for half his life with his lost colony, and consumed for the balance with his lost empire,

A New College tutor, successor-scion of the family, tossing me a book by Brian J. Berry -- already-read, British-become-American -- proclaiming to me, very clearly, "That's where it's at, kid, you've gone the wrong direction!"
Horace Greeley -- go west, young man, not east

 

A Nuffield tutor, finally, showing me just as clearly how rotten the rotten boroughs were, how English government -- from which Americans had learned so well -- itself had learned so little, and so would be junked, just a generation later, just as Jefferson and Madison and Marshall had improved it long ago for us

And a director of studies, consumed with their constitution -- how could things be run without the old consensus -- how un-American...  

A mindset,
Postgraduate study in America
The dream, become the badge,
OUDS the play needed an American,
So I supplied the accent,
The Political Union,
Resolved, that this house become American

All fine people and ideas
But derivative, and indicative,
Derived from The New World
As they've been since The Tempest
But never so completely,
And indicating very clearly the wrong direction,
For them, very sadly, isolated on their little island,
And for me

I learned instead from travel -- as I say in other places here -- about myself, not about The Other,
Travelers normally do, I've found,
Consciousness works from the inside-out, the opposite of what my objektiver-training taught me,
And intelligence and even perception do too,
It's the opposite of Wordsworth,
Not peeling off the layers of the onion
But a slow, gradual, building from within

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: neighbors

People: neighbors

 

--oOo--

 

Dogs

Most people in their 20s were busy with children, before,
Small copies of themselves
Clones
Genetically-modified organisms
Little GMOs running around
Occupying time
Providing companionship

Remember? I remember, anyway,
If others have forgotten,
Best fun I ever had
Besides their mother

That was Family Life, to me

Puberty back then came at 14, 15,
The biological ability
That not so much the frontier,
As the ability not to have them
Which came later
First a flowering of sexual activity
And then suddenly the petals dropped, dead,
So now we have Facebook, and dogs

Edward Hall called it responses to overpopulation
Rats, lemmings, Sika Island deer
Homosexuality, masturbation
Sterile gratification
All just overcrowding in the cage and too much traffic in the maze, he said

He was wrong, wasn't he?
There must be more
It can't be all biology
There's the liberation
For different jobs
Doubled incomes
Children at the end, perhaps,
If one remembers
Liechtenstein's girl moaning, inexcusably, "I forgot!"

Our enormous cities
And the environmentalists' homogenecene / anthropocene
Devouring the earth
Resolved with loneliness

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: neighbors

People: neighbors

 

--oOo--

 

Days & Nights

The days just go by
They don't ask anyone's permission
The nights too, now,
One day after another,
One night after another as well

They've become like teeth on a gear,
Grinding endlessly,
There's a motion in them,
Even a direction
But it's circular, at times now,
And very nearly endless

It's not boring, no,
A little fatiguing, maybe,
Or maybe that's just me,
The rest is not me, though,
It's just how it is,
Endless, sometimes exciting,
Fatiguing

I wake up now to cycles,
Routines, repeats, déja vu,
They're reassuring, not distressing
She's still in her party mode,
Someone said,
Of a girl he knew who's always excited,
Very disparagingly,
It's just youth, just hormones,
And wits and muscles untried and untested

Mine now are tested,
And there's some great satisfaction in that,
I feel that I know what she's feeling
Even if I no longer feel it myself,
My senses are part of that knowledge now,
It's all there inside me somewhere

Novelty and surprises and excitement
All still happen
But now they're part of some greater whole

I suppose that's age,
As long as it's not bitter I'll take it,
Savor it,
It's what the rest has led to,
It's the summit

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: doing things

People: doing things

 

--oOo--

 

Citystate pæan

A tiny community of differences, here,
Varieties so vast,
Immigrants from everywhere,
Your masses yearning to be free

Not one has killed another yet
Over such difference anyway,
Not in thirty years of living here,
Crimes of passion, maybe,
Jealousy, drugs, or drunken anger,
the usual human thing,
But not the great issues,
Which cause the slaughters

We have religions, and races, languages, political parties,
The sexual predilections, and elections
The men, the women, and all the others,
There are the old, here, and the young
The very rich and the very poor
There are beggars, and those who flaunt what others gave them,
Some Noe Valley neighbors have new ideas, some of them the Newest,
Others have Old Ones, ideas of their grandfathers to which they cling

But none so tenaciously as to kill
There is no Deus vult!, here,
No à bas le roi
No lynching, not even tar & feathers, for those who disagree
or look different
or think that way

Instead Think Different is the motto of most
The idea being that those who can do this and make it stick
Will be the winners, here --
Other places it's the opposite
There if you don't look and think The Same
You are hunted down and killed,
Systematically

Thinking about Damascus,
On a Wednesday morning,
Sowing seeds of salt,
Intolerance of difference, again,
For another ten thousand years.

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: la classe

People: la classe

 

--oOo--

 

Learning pain

I am the guy you would have grown from
The guy on whom you would have cast your net
And lips, and considerable breasts,
And thighs
And worries
From me you would have learned
How far you could have gone
And you would have divorced me too
In the end

So I left you
I'm not sorry
It was not painful
We drifted together
Then probed a bit, tested,
Then we drifted apart again

We liked each other,
Or we thought we liked what each of us liked, though that was to change,
You offered
And I very wisely said no
Or perhaps it was the time-bomb within me
Exploding me safely
Away from the brink
As it too often had to do

So then I saw you with another
And then you saw me
And life continued

I've never missed you
And yet a photo decades later
Brought back the memory
Of thinking furiously about
Those lips, those considerable breasts, those thighs,
And of how those worries would have
Scarred us both

Youth is about the scars
Their necessity, the learning pain

Had it been me I'd have been crippled
As he was then
With the memories of you now

There was that one time you saw me
Years later
And thanked me, for what I wondered then,
I know that now

Now you're forgotten again
Good for us both

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: las class

People: la classe

 

--oOo--

 

Free food?

Her daughter tiny, delightful,
Maybe age 7 or less
Dressed in her best
Tiny corn-rows, pink flip-flops
Braids and beads

Mama in her 20s
Rotund but still attractive
And so young
Excuse me mister, she said,
Do you know if there's a place
Around here
Where I can get free food?

Last seen at the Gateway To India
Years ago
Bombed cleaned since
Of all that poverty
The difference now being
That there it's disappeared
While here it's growing

Not just one but two beggars
Working this side of the street
Busy lunchtime Wednesday
Very wealthy part of Berkeley
One black the other Latina
Same age-old modus operandi
Young mother using a baby

One before I wrote part one
Then a pizza slice and soda
And the other came by
Double whammy

Gypsies in Europe
Hordes in Mumbai
Disappeared now into high rises
Water-dwellers in Lagos and Louisiana
Victor Hugo's belly of Paris
The wretched of the earth

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: copines

People: copines

 

--oOo--

 

Cities

Extraordinary, how well it all works
The ordinary being when it doesn't
Morning trains meeting just on time
Correspondances

The daily hum,
Of early morning scavengers
Then schools, caring for the kids,
Then Mom and sometimes Dad
Racing off to workplaces
Cafés, cubicles, airports
Conferences, endless conferences.
The face-to-face, digital's twin,
The schmoozing

Somehow, effortlessly,
It all works

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: musicians

People: musicians

 

--oOo--

 

Nightmares

To be Al Gore
Raised in fancy hotel rooms
To succeed, at what they told me,
To understand it all
Comprehending
Never dreaming for a moment that I'm wrong

Nothing left but suicide
A long dismal knowledgeable life
Nothing worse
2800 square feet with a view
3 bedrooms with no one in them
64 years old and finished

How to stretch it all to 94
Youth is keeping up with the count
Age is stretching it to last

The New Yorker writer calls it his finale
To be final, finished, at 64
They'll find him collapsed
Into a puddle on the street far below
Or more likely in a still-smoking heap on the deep-plush-carpeted floor of one of his lonely bedrooms

I have a year, 'til then,
To live it fully

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: other kids

People: other kids

 

--oOo--

 

Others

It is important to love someone
More important than being loved
To give
More than to receive

The receivers are sad folks
They are counters, mostly,
List-makers
They make lists of their lists

A lover worries about the Other, though
The center has to be her, not him,
This has to be real
There must be a total surrender

It's diving, free-falling, collapsing,
Never knowing what you'll hit
A loss of control, this surrender,
It takes confidence, arrogance, experience, and the right girl

Such a victory is much to shoulder
The right girl must have a strong back
Or be clueless, disconnected, up on another planet,
Or both, sometimes

There's a surrender on both sides
For marriages that work
The tragedy now is that
Neither side is trying
A universe gone atomistic
Thinking strength and self-reliance
When we're not, really

I'm not so sure we'll survive
The breaking of these old bonds
Each of us standing on our own little square, carefully-delimited
"I am prepared to make you a very good offer for your square," the man in the cartoon said

 

 

--oOo--

 

People: other kids

People: other kids

 

--oOo--

 

 

• Glossary, for underlined terms •

____________________

 

Note:

K indle Digital Publishing still currently says, "Indexes are not recommended at this time", or maybe they are, or maybe they are in Kindle 8 or Kindle 5 or something... And Apple's iBooks Author so far, & still, has not said anything -- they tend not to, until they've got it "perfectly" figured-out themselves -- always been that way, Apple folks are the Republicans of the digital biz, wear the belt and the suspenders, great investment and great products, but they tend to leave their few users who are in the dark, in the dark... "B-b-but it's intuitive!", spluttered exasperatedly... And Microsoft is, well, Microsoft, obscure and obscurantist, too many Word explanations of how to create Back Matter, all of them saying too much.

So this is a Glossary, but in the medieval sense: glosses, glossators -- people forever have been "writing in their books". So these are not "explanations" of the poems which they accompany -- see the Preface, above, for my diatribe against that -- instead they are additional ramblings, some relevant to the poetry and some maybe not. Another friend assembled a famous collection of Marginalia Books: old stuff, some of it very famous, in which people, some of them very famous, had scribbled in the margins & underlined & otherwise marked-up, people more interested in understanding the text than in worshipping the container, in his particular collection's case people such as Erasmus. Also, I tend to have a "good random mind", a good friend once praised-me-for-that-I-think, and these are that: it is fun for me to follow "leads", in my reading -- this glossator's Glossary, then, is for those who share that delight.

 

  • bandh : in, Focus.

    Life was cheap, in the India I first visited in the 1970s. It was plentiful, and the marauding British and the maharajahs before them had abated, as had the worst starvations. So when they suffocated little girls, didn't count the women in the census, burned villages, held political demonstrations killing hundreds, political movements erasing thousands, there always were more.

    The secret of the holy life is the need for it, I'd found out in Thailand, where student rebels were strung from telephone poles, with telephone wire, and the skin was flayed off their backs and they died -- also in peaceful Burma next-door, and in peaceful Cambodia on the other side -- there is a reason, for Asia's "quiescent" religions, a strategy behind Buddhism to moderate some of the world's most violent people.

    The first time I saw Bhubaneswar it was only because that was the destination of the last plane out of Dum-Dum before the bandh. I explained to my hosts that I might gladly die in my own revolution but not in someone else's.

     

  • Best of Britain lodged on the Isle of Wight : in, Symbolic.

    Barnes, Julian. England, England (Picador, 1998) ISBN 2070417646 ; ISBN13: 9782070417643.

     

  • Dark Web : in, about metadata.

    http://en.wikipedia.org /wiki/Dark_Internet.

     

  • Defunct Economists : in, The Flore.

    "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist." -- Keynes

     

  • Jeanne Calment : in, Old.

    Proper old French lady -- improper, in fact, read her interviews -- she beat that lawyer with a sale-leaseback, outliving him, on his money, so that he never was able to grab her pricey flat. Tough old bird, oldest-on-record in her time, Jeanne Calment.

     

  • Jhelum Canyon : in, Focus.

    Anyone who has not seen Srinigar, yet, may no longer be able to imagine it. Much of it was destroyed, since I saw what I describe here. Most of all its people: my friends there were fine -- fine-boned, finely-sensitive, fine hues of many great hatreds. They were characters from Kipling: Pathan, warriors, knives carried to bed with them, honor-codes so complex they'd outwit any Western lawyer, ferocious loyalties. One man I met in Srinigar was great and tall and old, robed in black, ancient, with narrow shoulders and great long arms, and enormous hands. He was ancient. He'd hold a great hand out and gesture -- no need to speak, you knew what he'd said. Wonderful humor in his eyes: here, take these cookies, crumble them, feed them to the birds who will come to the window, he said.

     

  • Long War : in, Blind.

    I resisted the characterization of my fathers' war, and my grandfathers', as having been one and the same -- for a long time, having read a German author who used the distinction to minimize the crimes of his people and call them all part of something greater, excusing them that way -- had it not been for us you'd all now be Communist, he said. But farther-away from all that, now, I see that he was partly right. Wars, until we held One to End All and developed The Bomb, were held regularly for some good reasons. And the Great European War, 1870-1945, had many such, in retrospect now.

    We are history's idiots, though: of course it is a matter of where one draws the lines -- draw them earlier, and all things were caused by the French, later and it was the British, later even than that the Americans. Now that it's all over -- Globalization has defeated it -- war goes underground and festers there. That may do us less good than we think it might.

     

  • Mr. Gumpy had a boat, and his house was by a river : in, Symbolic.

    Burningham, John. Mr. Gumpy's Outing (Square Fish, 1990) ISBN-10: 0805013156 ; ISBN-13: 978-0805013153.

     

  • Taiwan : in, En passant.

    One of the bravest tragedies of the Terrible Twentieth Century... From the story of the leaky low-in-the-water ship which carried the great scrolls across the straits to the National Museum, leaving behind on the dock the great bronzes which grace Shanghai's museum now, to the Kuomintang propaganda and paranoia which greeted me in Taipei City during my first few visits there, Taiwan has reeked of tragedy. The betrayals, the corruption, the brutality of what happened to them and what they did to others, and to themselves, changed my entire view of Asia. In few places have I met people so wonderfully-friendly as individuals, who have en masse committed such crimes, and had such crimes committed upon them -- in Germany, perhaps, also in Japan, but in Taiwan their Endgame already was apparent back in 1975.

    I'd stay in the Grand Hotel and wonder at the fragility of everything I'd see from the enormous windows, at the sheer pretension of it all, also the growing desperation. It's been one of the 21st century's wonders that, so far anyway, the Two Chinas appear to be on their way to becoming One -- unimaginable, according to doctrine anyway, back in 1975.

     

  • The Matrix : in, • about metadata •.

    John Quarterman, The Matrix : Computer Networks and Conferencing Systems W orldwide (1990).

     

  • training : in, Baby owls.

    Currently -- in 2013 -- the campuses once again are going through their periodic soul-searching about job-training versus examining-the-soul. They were doing that back when I was in school, back when my father and mother were, back when their fathers and mothers were. The latest excuse is money -- that our fabulously-wealthy society cannot afford to teach our children how to think, but must get them jobs so that they can make more money. That's been the excuse before. There is no greater life-skill than knowing how to think: how to find good data, how to filter and process that, how to weigh options and make choices, most of all how to prioritize -- dramatic arts and poetry are far more utilitarian, for all those tasks, than mathematics.

     

  • Who got Einstein's office : in, Symbolic.

    Regis, Ed. Who Got Einstein's Office? : Eccentricity and Genius at the Institute for Advanced Study (Basic Books, 1988) ISBN-10: 0201122782 ; ISBN-13: 978-0201122787.

     

     

    --oOo--

     

    People: celebrations

    People: celebrations

     

    --oOo--

     

    And a Second Note: about,

    I mages... This volume 5, in my Two-Millenia-the-series, technically-speaking is interested in images. The previous 4 volumes have shown some of, as Alice asked, "Of what use is a book without images?" -- and I've always been thoroughly-persuaded of her point. Recently though the Digital Era has brought, to many of us who formerly were in love with text, a wealth of sounds and images and other media formats -- video, television, inking... -- which we've never associated with "information" before.

    It is the reduction of all of this to a common communications format -- to the digit, John Von Neumann's dining-room electric light on-and-off switches, and the Internet's network-of-networks for communicating those -- and the birth, and coming-of-age now, of Michel Serres' La Petite Poucette -- which have forced even the textually-inclined among us to admit, nowadays, that sounds & images & video & tv & maybe even inking too all can be or at least contain information, and information deeper and broader and richer than any which might be communicated via text.

    The depreciation of mere text, for the communication of information, began with ASCII -- with our discovering the many limitations of that device, that for instance it couldn't even enable us to communicate with the French much less the Chinese -- and now, with Pinterest's 100 million user total climbing fast, faster than any online site in Internet history, the age of the Digital Image may well be upon us... we'll see... an image may well be worth a thousand words...

    Here, then, are "Glossary" (see definition supra) notes for the images which appear in this book: the many questions here include whether the images complement the poems, whether the poems complement the images, which of the two formats goes broader and/or deeper, and even whether the two have anything in-common at all but instead may be heading in entirely-different directions --

     

  • People: Le Guignol! -- at, People: Le Guignol!

    This is one of the happiest images I've ever seen or imagined -- it's not original, as the Guignol de Lyon and others elsewhere have been portrayed in images many times simply to show the sheer joy of children and of people generally -- although this one shows our own two very young boys seated next to their very elderly grandmother, along with other such supposedly-significant differences in this audience, all sharing in the similar sensation -- I've never seen a text which could portray any of this well, even in poetry, Victor Hugo's description of the ventre de Paris comes closest perhaps, or Tolstoy's of battles, but even then they still needed the expressions on the faces, and here they are.

     

  • People: Corn Parties! -- at, People: Corn Parties!

    Another happy image, intended here to convey the pleasures of group activity -- the girl with all the beautiful hair, here, first suggested these, to the perplexity of all who ever have been invited, as they'd never heard of "Corn Parties", and as they all discovered gradually how much fun they were the human-chemistry became extraordinary.

    Planned-events rarely work for human gatherings, in my experience, and spontaneity can't be analyzed, but doing-things together -- tasks, such as barn-building and quilt-making and corn-parties -- is one event-in-common which humans do particularly well, and enjoy doing, that's one of the many life-secrets Jan has taught me and our boys.

     

  • People: Strangers -- at, People: Strangers.

    This haunting photo was taken in the hostel at Pontorson near the Mont St. Michel, one tired evening after an exciting day of Mont-climbing... The girl in the photo spoke no language any of us understood, but when she went and fetched her baby suddenly there was magic: smiles began, common bonds were formed, activities started.

    "Hosteling in Europe" is about all that -- as many will attest -- I met my first genuine Russian Communist in one, back at the tender age of 18, during our Cold War besotted 1960s, and he also-18 met his first genuine American Capitalist, the two of us circled one another warily, argued all night, and become friends, to the great amusement of all the European Socialists who were hanging around there and were sometimes-participating too.

    It is interesting to me that only people can be "strangers" -- everything else with which we are unfamiliar, or which we don't understand, we objectify, adore or diabolize and refuse to relate-to or identify-with, only other people do we denominate as "strangers", that establishes an immediate if somewhat-suspicious bond, nous les autres, those who barbar... the barbarii, barbarians..., Socrates drinking hemlock rather than enduring Exile from his polis, "Hsiung-nu" all those weird looking people beyond the Wall, the "Phenomenon of The Stranger" to whom we confess all our sins and dreams.

     

  • People: Family at, People: Family.

    I was raised in the concept of The Extended Family, a 19th century idea nearly vanished completely nowadays in the 21st. My grandmother, born 1895, always supported a holiday table of 50: my childhood was spent grimly-enduring the onslaught of that many strangers, all related to me plus always one or two foreign-student guests, on the obligatory holidays, Thanksgiving & Christmas & New Year's & Easter and selected Birthdays and other Celebrations. I'd take-off to the little park nearby to escape, as would my sisters and cousins later, when they too had grown old enough to judge and rebel.

    Our Grand-Children's Generation, we Boomers, opted instead for The Nuclear Family: as shown here, by this cheerful but stilted little group of total strangers, met together for a single occasion in their lifetimes, which shows the remnants of the extended-family practice which remained by the end of the 20th century.

    Now, well into the 21st, the family is nuclear: a couple plus its first generation at most, maybe the 2nd too, although by the 3rd everyone is too busy, has conflicting engagements, is off on a jet to China or visiting the 3rd set of step-grand-parents or surrogate-this or biological-that or something else.

    So the photo here represents much, hidden behind the gentle smiles, as family-photos always do... I have the 1890s photo of my great-great-grandmother's family, all assembled formally on that august old lady's enormous and elegant porch, back then in still-pioneering Christchurch, all stiff and un-smiling...

    And so there are reasons for the changes, some bad but also some good. I am not certain that a poem, a text, could convey any of this -- but these photos do, completely.

     

  • People: Elders at, People: Elders.

    Another concept difficult to convey... "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it," Lord Acton intoned... This is the great-grandmother, born 1894, of those two little boys born 1979 and 1981: one hundred years can erase a lot of the collective subconscious, two hundred years can erase it all -- without Elders it can be gone, gone utterly, and we all will have to re-invent all that experience again.

    So the old balances, between Youth & Elders, Innovation & Tradition, Experiment & Memory, are being radically-readjusted. Reinvention of The Wheel. Perhaps that is what the aging of the Boomers, now, is all about: the population Baby Boom come home to roost, finally, in our Convalescent Hospitals and In-law Apartments and extremes of loneliness -- we are become a 15-Minute-Fame Society in need of wisdom.

    Here though text has done its work: Warhol said that memorably, wrote it down and others have repeated, and he himself reflected it in every repeat-soupcan or JackieO or Marilyn diptych -- but the real explanations are offered in his images, not in his texts.

     

  • People: doing things at, People: doing things.

    Like Corn Parties, mentioned earlier here, music is a thing done well or best or even exclusively with other people: from symphonies to The Sultans -- even Dylan's wailing solos, which must be sung to someone...

     

  • People: copains at, People: copains.

    Friendship, though, has become a strain -- it is something we all want, some of us desire, and others even crave, but few of us achieve -- the Information Society, based & grounded & supposedly centered-upon communication, does not communicate well.

    The result of communication is supposed to be familiarity, eventually maybe friendship, but it seems ours causes us to drift away from that... The epistemology of our modern digital communication is faulty, I believe: it is not really information, only data, just the bits and the bytes without the meanings, the intelligence, the significance -- our signaling lacks the je ne sais quoi of friendship -- perhaps it's better-seen as so efficient as to free our time up for the other more important stuff, I've decided.

     

  • People: doing things at, People: doing things.

    Who are these people? What are they doing? And does it matter -- their point being that they are doing it together... Most of our education, and our digital communication, is devoted to reducing our time spent doing the unimportant stuff, so that we can devote more of our thus-released "free" time to the vastly more important playing-in-a-puddle, hopefully together with someone else.

     

  • People: copines at, copines.

    The photo here is most remarkable for its lack of cellphones, mobiles, anything digitally-based or electronic -- as would be seen on any normal street nearly anywhere today -- here the subject is friendship, not even what these two are doing, it's something that can be done together while eating cookies, sipping tea, walking, thinking, it requires no tools, no props, it's magic, no qualifications needed, no categories, it works or it doesn't: on, or off... 20 years of schooling & they put you on the day-shift -- or the night-shift -- or you yourself discover this.

     

  • Puppies! at, Puppies!

    And some good things do not require even discovery, only time. But if you are too busy they never happen.

     

  • People... :-) at, People... :-).

    Some relationships are magic. Texts cannot explain or evoke this. Photographs do it better but still poorly. If the magic is relationship-based it needs neither portrayal nor explanation. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

     

  • People: orchestras at, People: orchestras.

    An orchestra is something different from the music, it is the people. Video shows this well: watch Hélène Grimaud's expressions as she plays a concerto -- even she does not know how much, to her, the other players matter -- she certainly matters to them, you can see it in their faces -- both think it's the music, but it's one another too.

    Video makes them, and us, aware of this, at last. Chamber music musicians always have known it: the human interplay there is amazing, to watch as much as it is to experience. Now, with video, Grimaud emoting her way through Beethoven, at The Proms, in that enormous hall, is electric in her pulsing connection with her orchestra and chorus, as they all are with her, and all of them together with the audience, and the audience with them -- that is what Beethoven was getting at too, at least in part, or so I am convinced -- it is what I feel, anyway, and they do, and before video none of us could really see it.

     

  • People: memories at, People: memories.

    As with Elders, above, images preserve memories, and wisdom. I am not certain texts or instruction ever can. I had plenty of the latter, but it was not until images -- on Pinterest, online on my mobile and everywhere else -- that I realized the depth such recollections bring.

    Our ability to filter saves our sanity, it's said -- there are psychiatric names for the poor folks who cannot forget -- hyperthymesia... But I am not so certain, I believe memory gets fragmented and stored away somewhere inside the organism, to be re-assembled later in life and in old age -- like packet-switching, with the addresses coded in at the beginning on each segment, ready for reassembly at the reception-end when the appropriate time comes. My grandfather remembered Hungarian lullabies and children's rhymes when he was very, very, old -- songs and rhymes he never had known, but his memories had.

     

  • People: street-markets at, People: street-markets.

    Collective memories -- the French are proud of, if not having invented, at least having perfected, these (!) -- this one is the famous old street-market at La Croix Rousse, in Lyon, in existence since the Middle Ages and even before, some there say, although the date like all things in France is controversial.

    As Modern Times, and EU Regulations, have made intrusions, the French -- with gallic élan & panache, aka en anglais mule-headedness -- have resisted, their street-markets are about far more than just their excellent food, they insist. They are about people, I believe, or that's what the photos of them tell me: about doing things together, a stroll-with-a-purpose... People-watching is what all animals do -- coyotes watch dogs, dogs watch coyotes, "Dogs are coyotes' TV," Janet tells me -- one great and colorful and universal excuse for people-watching is street-markets.

     

  • People: doing-things at, People: doing-things.

    Doing things with strangers -- the photo shows puppy-training, for training the puppy-owners not the puppies -- "A Very-California activity", as Melvyn Bragg might put it, snootily, on the BBC -- but yes that is the excuse for the human contact shown here... Primarily it's the couple, caring about one another through their dog, secondarily it's the group, "sharing" the experience -- it's almost not about the dogs, at all. A football match might be a good British equivalent, Melvyn, or perhaps a pub brawl, or to-be-fair a Shakespeare Play or an LSO Performance, or Cricket which only they understand... But the underlying point is to be with the other people, in all these activities, doing-things.

     

  • People: doing strange things at, People: doing strange things.

    This guy was pulling this block up Kearny Street, one busy downtown San Francisco morning. Whatever happened to or around him, he just kept pulling. He seemed unaware that anyone was watching -- as many of us were -- some of us were pointing. I looked all around for a camera, or sarcastic voyeurs, but saw none of that -- only this guy, determined, and his small mob of the-curious... It makes any urban walk well worth the effort.

     

  • Rivers! at, Rivers!

    Some things are universal... a sunny day on a river is one of those...

     

  • People: doing strange things at, People: doing strange things.

    This guy was walking away from me, one day, with this very active little-bundle-on-a-leash. The leading incongruity was in their contrasting ages: I have seen lots of young mothers doing this -- some young fathers, too -- but this man seems older, and his companion looking back at the scene looks older as well, and the tiny child never looks around, simply striding ahead. The funniest thing, I thought, was the man. Again a great event for a great urban walk...

     

  • People: friends at, People: friends.

    The apogee of people is friendship, I think: maybe in the aggregate, democracy -- but at a personal level, friends... Casual acquaintance doesn't cut it: modern society makes a great deal of that, providing a vast array of new opportunities for casual acquaintance -- but it leaves no satisfaction, not even a taste. Village life, on the other hand, was too close -- everyone cannot be your friend -- every few months GoogleNews pops up, persistently, with someone's list of "America's Favorite Small Towns"... But modern city and particularly Global City life gives you the chance for real friendship, too: the two shown in this photo first saw me when I was a newborn, then became our friends later when we were grown and they were old -- even though they lived far away and visited infrequently, as we rarely visited them, thought about us as we did about them, corresponded -- that's friends... Maybe it's even a modern invention, then. It's a very valuable thing, not something planned-for well in modern societies, yet.

     

  • People: politics at, People: politics.

    Another possible apogee of people is politics: here, campaigning -- the earnest look, the energy, the getting out there and getting those petition-signatures... America does this well, better than most societies do, than nearly all, it's something never to take for granted: a French friend once was horrified by Jan's suggestion that the two of them bake cakes and sell them door-to-door to earn money for their school -- on the other hand we were distressed by attending a formal school meeting in France to listen to an "expert" instruct us, without audience participation and debate and a vote! -- in China it might have been p'ao chia / baojia or a "self-criticism" session -- different strokes...

     

  • People: politics at, People: politics.

    Entertainment can achieve this, but politics is better: every person in the picture shares a common concern, maybe different opinions, wants to persuade or convince or protest, the room has great energy -- "entertainment" is passive, for audiences, as Julian Beck & Judith Malina's Living Theater demonstrated so melodramatically & memorably -- here in "politics", though, people are working together.

     

  • People: politics at, People: politics.

    "Show me an efficient government and I'll show you a dictatorship!", one of our US presidents said... The 1960s were filled with this, for me, but it's nice to be reminded -- also nice to be reminded that it's an option, in Franco's Spain where I lived once they'd shoot you for doing this. People, in Spain, is a different thing...

     

  • People: politics at, People: politics.

    And politics can be boring, also dishonest and under-handed -- a "charette" sales-pitch instead of participation, instead of democracy -- the price of liberty being eternal vigilance, here it was both fun and reassuring to watch some of the "community participants" become enraged from the pandering cynical condescension and gradually grow very, very, angry.

     

  • People: friends at, People: friends.

    That same couple... the reminder that such things matter, that next to marriage they can matter most... These two loved one another for a very long time, and thinking of them and meeting and talking with them and doing things with them was real pleasure -- that is why people can be important.

     

  • People: friends at, People: friends.

    And those other two were not the only ones -- these two as well -- she could and did charge up a wooded New Hampshire hillside leaving the two of us, many years her junior, happily far behind just enjoying watching her stride... Not too many things in life can be said to do that -- the photo shows it all.

     

  • People: far away at, People: far away.

    Business travel -- travel with a purpose -- not about escape or entertainment or monuments but people, I've finally decided. I did a lot of this sort of traveling, for 15 years officially and for several years before that on my own. There were a lot of monuments, and much entertainment, and a certain amount of escape, but mostly it was the people who were fascinating.

    The folks in Bali in the photo, here, are earning money, which they don't need in their self-sufficient subsistence-economy but which now they want for buying a tuk-tuk -- the little noisy & smelly motor scooter will ruin their society but they don't know that yet -- and it will make them happy, which is something that in the photo I am just finding out myself.

     

  • People: far away at, People: far away.

    Bali on a Tuesday -- with all the scenery I would see there, it was the smiles which I enjoyed the most -- many wartime-US soldiers discovered that, "overseas", in my generation and the two previous, in Asia and in Europe -- there are only so many old buildings you can tour, ultimately it's the people.

     

  • People: neighbors at, People: neighbors.

    These two lived next-door: for months, nearly a year -- finally were persuaded to exit and show themselves -- they were stiff, formal, but warm and friendly. The odd combination made me love The French: with all that exotic land's true exotica, and particularly its exotic people, one of my warmest memories of it will be these two, with their warm and friendly and stiff formality.

     

  • People: neighbors at, People: neighbors.

    And this one -- "verger" or however that's called in French Catholicism, "manager" of the church next-door in Lyon, although he protested that he too was a prêtre", their priest-of-the-money -- a dry Italianate sense of humor which sent audiences rolling on the floors at local events, no word of which I ever could understand much less any of the nuances -- I learned much about the limitations of language, text or oral, from trying desperately to communicate with this wonderfully good-humored guy.

     

  • People: doing things at, People: doing things.

    So we did things, with people -- here a family speaking a language not our own is working hard, with us speaking even less of theirs, to free a little hawk from a barbed-wire fence. It's a memory which all-involved never will lose. I am sure no text of mine ever could describe the event, but here the photo does so, completely -- look closely at each of the faces.

     

  • People: la classe at, People: la classe.

    Here it's the opposite of the previous -- here a formal, staged event, instead of the spontaneous -- yet the faces tell the story here too. Each woman is different, as the faces tell -- it's an Alliance Française class of all-foreigners, trying to learn the local argot together -- so much in-common, so much apart, their interaction is evident in the faces, the stances.

     

  • People: la classe at, People: la classe.

    The same as the previous, but this time with kids: kids have a really hard time hiding themselves, in photographs -- the bubbling youth boils up to the surface and bursts out in the smiles -- again the faces, the images, tell the story entirely.

     

  • People: copines at, People: copines.

    Women have a special way... These two, so different, in spite of being so much alike -- you can see it in the walk, the talk -- friendship, in life, is one of the most precious things but it is a thing hard to construct and to sustain. The memory of it alone sustains it, though. Not just women: I had Richard, an old friend from London, call me up one evening years later and ask if he could, "Kip on your floor?...", in San Francisco, and an hour later he showed up with his Reggae band from Jamaica in-tow, and all did kip, for a week, Rastafarian hairdos and ganga and all -- my North Beach conservative-Italian neighbor-friend Rico querying, suspiciously, "Dey's friends of youse?!" And, twenty or so years later, an email, from out of the Internet-æther-blue, "hullo jack, is that you? richard, here... -- friends...

     

  • People: musicians at, People: musicians.

    This is at Chartres -- the famous flèche in the background -- in the hostel there where our world was transformed, one evening, by this giant & decaying & very gentle German, master-carpenter on-holiday he said, who entertained us for an hour with his accordion. Music does it, it is the fruit, the glue, the common strand running through all of us.

     

  • People: other kids at, People: other kids.

    This a local gang who knew each other well -- like the music of the Gentle German at Chartres... The common strands of kids are their activities -- this was a particularly-active bunch -- text, speech, explanation don't matter so very much, here, or I never saw this bunch pause for that, they just "did" things.

     

  • People: other kids at, People: other kids.

    This could be the same bunch as the last -- same motivations, let's do something -- again they're just people, people is what that takes.

     

  • People: celebrations at, People: celebrations.

    And even adults: this a Noe Valley street at Christmas -- adults, this time, being people, and with beautiful music too... People plus some music -- magic formula.

 

--oOo--

 

Jan

Jan

 

--oOo--

 

• The Legal Stuff... •

____________________

 

 

 

 

Warning: legal stuff ahead--

Jack Kessler makes no express warranties or representations and disclaims
all implied warranties regarding any content of this ebook
or any resources reached using it,
including any regarding accuracy, currency, merchantability, or fitness for use.
We're just tryin' our best, here...

Copyright © 2012- by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved.
Document maintained by: Jack Kessler,
kessler@well.com
ISBN-10: 098567203X ; ISBN-13: 978-0-9856720-3-4
Urtext edition, in HTML ; other EPub etc. versions will be made available.
First published: November 4, 2013
Latest update: December 8, 2013 20:03

--hjlm--

 

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