May 30, 2004

Stealing from Virginia
Stylistic thoughts on reading Mrs. Dalloway

Virginia Woolf's style - I struggle to describe it - is a stream of consciousness that is meandering and mellow. It's warm afternoon in the park laziness.

It's delightful, though not something I could imitate, I think.

I've been squinting at her punctuation though, parentheses and semicolons like dandelions, trying to catch them and steal them (a catching chickens at night affair). Her parentheses have confirmed what I was thinking and I'm installing them in my writing. Her semicolons are still inscrutable. They're there and doing stuff, I just don't know what and what they're doing that I'm not used to seeing done with periods and commas. So I'll be toruring semicolons until they give me their secret.

What strikes me with absolute jealousy though, are Woolf's simple sentences. She has these lines, simple sweet simple lines. I can't breathe when I read them and I hate her for writing them first:

Roses, she thought sardonically.
I detest the smugness of the whole affair, he thought.
Richard said one must take risks.
He could never help reading about cricket.
For in those days she was completely reckless; did the most idiotic things out of bravado; bicycled round the parapet on the terrace; smoked cigars. Absurd, she was - very absurd. But the charm was overpowering.

May 29, 2004

Faith among the desolations

Of all the Christian kitsch, none is quite so classless as "Nietzsche is dead. – God." Besides the theological silliness of turning Jehova into a sporting god we cheer for and claiming some goal scored in a mortal's death, this is the sound of laughter bronzed in crassness. For Nietzsche's proclamation was one of mourning, an unquenchable sorrow in the requiem for God.

How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the whole horizon? What did we do when we loosened the earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move?

Consider the crisis, which is written this way: What do you say standing before the absence of God?

May 26, 2004

Maybe there's something

The Death of God theology appears to me waiting - for judgement, waiting to see if it was greater than the sins of its time. It is a movement purgatoried, wandering the wasteland of forgotten answers to pay for all its 70s sins and colors.

Waiting, it hopes, to be shaken out and shaken free, purified of it's drive to be new rather than relevant, cleaned of its flippancy and gleeful destructions and rejoined with the broken-hearted considerations of its fathers Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Bonehoeffer.

May 25, 2004

Nothing’s cooler than you ever imagined

At least tell me you believe in Truth.
I don’t. Not like that.
Well, admit that words have meanings.
They don’t have meanings, meaning is between them not possessed by them.
Words don’t mean things?
You believe in nothing!
Yes, but nothing’s so much cooler than you ever imagined.

1 My taste in art cuts humanity into two categories. At least, the sort of humanity that comes in contact with the art on my walls or the music in my stereo or the books on my self are immediately overwhelmed into one of two responses: some version of disbelief and disgust at the ugliness, or a twinkle and grin at identifying a con, that is, a rupture in the tyranny of the perfect.

2 My mother’s friends are reporting grandchildren and good jobs and get funny looks of concern and confusion when they find out I’m doing nothing.

3 What was that? I ask.
Oh, he says, I was just shot by jealousy.
What is this, I say, how can people be jealous of me? I have less than you do. I have nothing. How can I be so obviously not competition and still be forever found threatening?
I don’t know, he said, it’s just that like you talk and everyone’s listening and maybe I know more about the subject than you do but they’re listening to you and laughing at you and I can’t say anything. You’re just better than I am.
I don’t know what to do, I say, I can’t see myself as threatening. I’ve got nothing.
Yeah, but you’ve got nothing to lose.

May 24, 2004

On my less gracious days, I'm a mouse with a mallet o' understanding.

May 22, 2004

This is no scam brother, it’s always a sellers market for real estate in hell

The ghetto’s yelling tonight.

Yelling new shouts of loud witty flirtations and old screams of stop hurting her and a crying beer bellow of I love you by my heart, make up you’re mind, I’ll throw your things out this window you can’t go on cheating and lying and do you think the drugs are better to you than I am?

Yelling sounding like the sizzling whistling shriek before the bang of the fireworks the neighbors throw after midnight, after the last commuter train’s gone home, after the Soul Saving Station down the street has stopped the preaching we can hear in a mumbling shout of a rhythm when the wind’s right, after the township police have stopped marking abandoned vehicles and all the drugs-for-sex offers have been made and the VFW’s last barbeque-sauce smeared plate has been cleaned and the swings across the street have been abandoned to the ghosts who want to feel like children again.

I can’t remember which Johnny Cash song this is, I can only hear the worn out voice imperfect cracking and maybe that was a prisoner whooping a song for a life sentence soon to be served on the installment plan.

I haven’t cried since Johnny Cash died.

Forgive them father forgive them father forgive them father there is no salvation. Everyone’s going to hell and we never had a chance.

After the revolution everything will be the same and I listen to my neighbor trying not to cry and swearing he loves her, another wild women in a list that has kept him paying child support and hiding income so he won’t pay child support until last year when his oldest was 40. And I listen nodding and nodding while he hasn’t gone to church for a few weeks because he can’t hear the deacon tell him over the air conditioning one more time about living in sin. I’d marry her, he says, I’d marry her, he says, but she’s been through too bad marriages and he loves her but there’s the drugs and they’ve been fighting the last few days because he’s got no money for her habits until he gets paid. He’s knows that was the other man’s car, she just said out with friends but he knows, he knows and I refuse the fifth beer, and again the sixth beer, as the only grace I have to offer.

Souls, says the sign, lost and found. If you’ve found them then we’ve lost them here, yelling in the ghetto, and if you’ve lost them we’ve found them to lose them yet again.

Lord have mercy I say, if once then 40 times, but black, white, jew, greek and egyptian, from heaven number seven to Satan’s ass, no one will be saved.
Ecumenicalism's shades
Accidental evangelicals delicately missing every complication in a religion of obviousities.

Would we want to suffer through that much political hacking?

"How is it to be an Anglican among all these Copts?"
"Very white."
And he snorted his ice water in laughter.

Wait, the Nicene Creed isn't traditional?

Singing "it is meet and right" in Armenian.

"Do you have any questions?" said the priest.
"Father I was watching them, and they knew everything."
"Ehhhhh," said the priest, "a liturgy's a liturgy."

So who's the Lutheran that told my co-worker Lutherans and Catholics agree on everything except Mary?

And then they realized God had given them spiritual gift of schism.

May 20, 2004

Three things you wouldn't expect me to know so well
Part of an ongoing series of a weird legend

1. Mennonites and back to the land movements.
2. Conspiracy theories and apocalyptisms.
3. Children's books.

May 19, 2004

Like dark dreams

My article for Comment has been published:
Cyberpunk, Orwellian Fears, and the Faces of Tyranny: Changes in the Future, and What They Tell Us about What We Fear

"Watching these sons of Orwell spill their dark dystopian visions based on paranoid exaggerations of our time, to show us to ourselves, we see these dangers as they have come to us. Our future as described by our writers can show us tyranny as it has manifested itself in the mundane details of the structures we embody and within which we live. Comparing the dystopian future of today with the dystopian future of yesterday can bring up, in the similarities, the nature of our persistent fears, and, in the differences, the particular dangers of our age. The differences come in three areas that offer themselves for investigation-changes in technology, changes in society, and changes in information can tell us about our fears of today."
Circle of sound
Elvin Jones - Coltrane's drummer, youngest of 10 born in Pontiac, liberator of the drum, polyrhythmist - may he rest in peace.
what can you say?

May 12, 2004

she said
is when you're dangerous.

May 10, 2004


There's a greasy spoon diner in Hillsdale, out past the all night diner where students are regulars, called Lulus. It's a truck stop that specializes in hamburgers, with a giant neon 'EAT' sign, graffiti in the bathrooms past the pay-to-use showers and plastic trees.

"Why do you have plastic trees?" asked one of girls in our company.

"Because," said the waitress, "they're plastic trees."

And they were.

Finding rest in incense.

May 8, 2004

Omen dreaming ghosts

I saw you last night, my friend, at a party. Of course it wasn't you, being you're on the other side of this land made for you and me, but I kept getting angry at this guy because I'd turn to look at you, to laugh with you with our eyes, to say something only you would laugh at, and instead it was just this guy who wasn't you, damn him.

Maybe this is just to say I miss you, that you've been burned so deep in me that I'm always writing you letters in my head. Maybe it means I need you now in a way I haven't since the first, or more than that since back then you weren't this gaping hole of something I’d come to need. Maybe it's just another thought that, indeed, if I died and was offered one memory to live (After Life) I'd choose standing with you on a balcony over a Seattle street crossing watching the way crowds push and drive into lanes and trying to predict patterns in those pretty shopping masses.

But I don't know because last week I saw this girl who lives, I don't know, five thousand miles from here. And I knew her, but not very well. We talked about O'Conner and I encouraged her to be less timid in her writing, and that was it between us. So this is confusing, because I saw you and I saw her and it's not like I think of this girl that often and, you know, if she forgot my name after a while I think I'd just think that figured, because it was that passing sort of relationship.

So maybe it doesn’t mean anything and I’m just a little more loony than normal, a little more likely to pick a face out of a crowd and think I know it, a little more likely to dream weird situations where my friends all appear and have roles. And I’m thinking, "ehhhh, it means nothing."

Then this morning I see a six year old. Blond hair. Blue tee shirt matching his eyes. Smile. He reminds me of someone, a little, but I don't know that many six year olds. Then his mom called him "Danny."

I looked up to answer. I looked at the little boy. And I died.

I don't know if I'm being haunted, or haunting. I don't know if I'm trying to foist some meaning on the world or it's trying to foist it on me.

What do we do with tiding-less omens and interpretation-less dreams?

May 7, 2004

Thoughts intersecting on community

- Communities are communities because of borders. They are structural, things of form.

- Philosophical practice has always depended on community but some philosophies distrust knowledge that isn't individual.
- All knowledge that is communal is open to being revisited, returned to, re-kneaded. The conversation can always be continued. Communal knowledge is a ground, but never a final foundation.
- Individual knowledge refuses to be considered in a conversation. It is an absolute that cannot be opened to talk for it cannot be reshaped or reiterated but only insisted. Individual knowledge pounds on the table in insistence of being right, neither offering to participate in the un-final act of talking or to allow any other considerations to take place, since the very fact of this communal talking denies the claim of closure which is
- Descartes needed to claim the end of philosophy, yet "The End of Philosophy" (Wittgenstein, Derrida, etc) is the opening to the questioning and conversing without end.
- Deconstructionism tells us that meaning, to be recognized as meaning, must be translatable and retraceable. Texts, e.g., must be communal and the author must be "dead."

- I've lived in two communities, both artificial: first, a Wendell Berry influenced post-hippie and neo-mennonite Christian commune; second, a Russell Kirk liberal arts/great books college of conservatives across the spectrum. In both cases the communities were self-conscious about their attempts at community and (generalizing) they resulted in deep satisfaction and growth mixed with dark inbreeding and nastiess.
- Watching the natural community around me, a black "ghetto" along the train tracks and industrial side of these suburbs outside of Philadelphia, I see the same two sides intermingled, as children grow up together in the streets and parks and everyone knows each other and supports each other, but are blighted by drugs and multiple levels of violence.
- Is this mixture of the wonderful and evil as inseperable as it seems and, how can consider it in attempting to create communities.

- What separates apparently failed blogging communities from successful ones? The former being Hillsdale's LXB or the Reformed Circle, the latter being the New Brutalists, or the neoconservatives. What should a fledgling blogging community like the neocalvinists' consider for their future?

- Individualism, for us, will always be too transparent for full recognition.
- Our viewing of individualism shows it's waning.
- People who came of age in the 80s and 90s, we're told, want to define themselves by their friends where their parents and grandparents would look to economic, ethnic/religious, political or familial definitions.
- Every group of friends I have had has entertained some fantasy of sustainable community.

- Academia looks at movements or schools, but might better call them conversations and communities.
- Art is considered, superficially, to be an personal activity. Something demanding quiet, maybe loneliness. Yet, art thrives in communities.
- Considering community in the canon, we find the concern is constant, the fear of being without community is always with us. When not an overt concern, it is often an underpinning, e.g., Beowulf is under-themed of community: the old king, the great mead hall, the lonely son-of-Cain monster, the return home, the funeral pyre.
- What academic discipline doesn't consider communities?

- The search for community among Christians manifests itself as primitivism opposed to a Christianity centered on an isolating and individualizing church service, and seeking a faith subsisting of a life lived together.
- The search for community among Christians manifests itself as a move toward liturgy, where worship is recognized as a communal and participatory action and the Church is not a thing of tenants and propriety but a body of the living and the dead in the service and worship of Christ.
- Primitivists and liturgists, ostensibly polar, both believe that true faith and doctrine take place within the community that is the Church.
- The recent history of Christian movements is divided between those seeking "a personal faith" and those seeking a tradition.
- The Scripture, textually and historically, is not a thing of private devotions and revelations, but a public book. The Reformation's strength or weakness is found here, for it either made the book available all, saving the bible from clerical gnosticism, or made the book an individual affair, sheering it of its communal openness and limiting it to private exegesis.
- The two primary doctrines of Christianity, the Trinity and the Incarnation, are by nature communal.

May 6, 2004


Mood: plight of modern man crossed with notes from the underground

May 5, 2004

Woke up this morning and found this note:

remember to wink and grin,
remember wit and surprise, even if you have to lie
(lest you bore me).

May 3, 2004

Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets, by Gary Jules

OCMS, by Old Crow Medicine Show.

      plus, a new Wilco album is due in June and a new Waits album is coming this fall.
Reshaping parentheses

The thing about parentheses is they demarcate a displacement. The bracketed text is what the main text has failed to deny and overcome, failed to edit. It's the subtext making gopher holes, the margins pushing in, the linearity put out of line.

My fist dislike of parentheses was for the artistic ungainliness they admit to. I was a bit like a fascist dictator looking at a disorderly society and wonder why these messes hadn't been forced into the bounds of acceptable and desirable society, a bit like a curriculum planner wondering why these para-texts hadn’t been subsumed or excluded to a standard canon. My first objection was from a fascist aesthetic.

Realizing this, and distancing myself from this, I saw the violence I was foisting on these writings and saw, then, deconstruction's face in this punctuation. Reexammining, I saw my descriptions of distaste take on deconstruction's names and I understood deconstruction again and for the first time.

I understood that deconstruction wasn't the holocaust of authors and the doom of canons but, more, like a descent education, the liberalism that receives texts and traditions only to poke, pry and question, to distort, ply and reshape, to write in the margins and scrawl notes with circles and tangents and parentheses. Seeing bleeding ink where I had thought was only unedited looseness, I recognized it, and realized I'd already been a defender of parentheses in arguing for an ever-expanding canon and that I'd never respected a thinker who never thought with the ragged and misshapen parentheses.

So I wrote about parentheses. Realigned myself on their side. Recognizing they're supposed to make you uncomfortable, that I'll never come to a final peace with the invasion of the margins and the gangly outcroppings of the parentheses.

[the second half of this was pathetic and has been cut]

May 2, 2004

It's disconcerting. To be a mistaken for a priest.

May 1, 2004

Let God be dead and every man a liar
A interplay of voices

They ask they ask, but what do they want? The vision of the blind? The revelations of nothing? The riddles of the unhinged?

Spit in my eyes again, o son of man. Perform another peasant parable today we pray. For when the waters parted there was no bottom, no place to stand, no outside, no last appeal, no safe place. Another parable another parable another parable and let us not rest in peace.

This is our banquet of doubt, our ancient tradition without a secret, our bequest of a labyrinth of many rooms.

In agnosia I went again, again to the catacombs of perpetual catechumens who undermined every kabbalah, where martyrs said 'even if it kills me', knowing only the empirical fact of burning flesh and the ever presence of doubt.

We die not for the verifiable but for the doubtful.
      Even if he doesn't save us.
      Even if he slays us.
      Even if he didn't rise.

Did you think the walls of the credible held up any house but my own? It rains through the breach of faith.
10 years after apartheid

Recommended reading: Derrida's On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness.