Apr 30, 2004

Like the horsemen of the end

I'll have three poems in this year's Light, Hillsdale lit mag: Death, Damnation and Apocalypse.

Make of that what you will.

Update: The Thelonious Death of Music and the Dylan Pox of Rage, Damnation Wrinkles Around the Eyes, If You Can Apocalypse.

Apr 29, 2004

Lying is an art and art is a lie: adventures in bastard stoicism

I told Gail Armstrong's story and got rolling on the floor laughter. But explaining where I got, how I know this person, what a blog is, was really distracting.

Sometimes Occam's razor dictates you just steal the story. That's the difference between Dan Hugger's stories and Dan Hugger's stories when I take them. Sorry about Nietzsche’s mustache, man.

So yesterday this girl comes in wearing a Ramone's shirt except it's hot pink. And I think, "cool" followed by "huh." And then she just treated me like a machine she could feed money and it would dispense gasoline, which was pretty much the kind of day I'd been having, so I thought about what it would be like to run out after her and yell at her. But I dunno what I would have said, I couldn't think past "you're not a punk!" and even that didn't sound right. And I don't know what she should have said either. Which is why I didn't just pretend to have run out and yelled at her.

It's not honesty, it's writer's block.

Once Prizio said I was so obsessed with stories he wanted me to be the Boswell to his Johnson. I don't know where he was going with that, but I'm pretty sure I'd be a terrible biographer, more like Dylan making up wild stories about his youth spent everywhere but where he spent it. But then, I kind of think maybe Prizio was saying he couldn't rewrite himself but maybe I could.
it's been an out of balance week

Apr 26, 2004

"What is faith if not a certain deconstruction that breaks the spell of the credible, that opens us up to the incredible, to the possibility of the impossible, since, with God everything is possible even the impossible."
        - Caputo
His precious death and mystical body
Christian postmodern theology wants to re-save the Incarnation

"But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained from the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you."
        - 1 Peter 19, 20.

Christ's death was an absolute event, not a moment. This death was not a funny thing that happened on the way to the telos. This is to say, his death cannot be re-acted like Richard III's, or retold like Lincoln's. This sacrifice was an event of a total singularity, an irreducibility and a singularity that can be subsumed neither to history nor memory. This: an event without the variances and partial existences of common historic moments, an unadulterated light wholly different from the shadows of time's span. So, Christ's death cannot be "remembered," but must be re-present-ed, because of and in this absolute singularity, re-present-ed daily upon our earthly altars and re-present-ed before the throne of God from before all that is was and unto forever without end.

We come to the altar, then, not for a play, not for a history lesson, not for a felt board show of wheat and grapes, but for an absolute event re-present-ed in profound singularity and irreducible mystery.

Apr 25, 2004

Where did I ask to be a rake and rambling saint?
God knows, whiskey's mostly water

Where are you from? she said with Coptic eyes. (This should be an easy question.)

From nowhere, (my confession): I'm the man from the west with the voice of the forgiven. I've traveled coast-to-coast seven times in three itinerant years. I slept beneath the overhang between the gas staion and that dive of a bar outside Custer's trailer-park town. My parents were neo-Mennonite gypsies and my last home was in Migration, Ohio.

Let me tell you, I'm the priest who laughed at the saints, banished to the wandering desert to mumble, knowing starkly that there are no dharma bums but only winos. Would that we said ascetic where he said junkie. Would that we were ascetics where we were junkies. Would that we junkies said "Ascetic what? And with thy spirit."

And tomorrow, tomorrow, my confession buys a cup of coffee and Saint Christopher's medal.
For two weeks after this,
I had blurred vision
and a taste of aluminum foil
was strong against my tonsils.
There are no apologies, we just call them friends
I've got a map of faces pasted on the wall above my wobbly kitchen table here in apt. c rear. If you think your mug might not be up there, send me a photo.

I'm serious, I want your picture.

Apr 24, 2004

I would like to get my hands on Yizhar Hirschfeld's Semiotics and Church Architecture, Gerard Lukken's book of the same title, and Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians' v.59, no.1.
These Holy Mysteries
Christian postmodern theology wants to re-save the Incarnation and the Trinity

I am suspicious of traditional fideism for its assumption of evidentialism's rationalistic world that bounds by and frames God within reason. Fideism I cannot accept that is a fideism seeing itself as a marginal option in a rationalist world.

A radical fideism is needed, for the ontology and theological-epistemology derived from any other are insufficient and insubstantial.
Cassady to my Keroauc

luke
Luke Heyman and his hair

His hair said it all.

We weren't sure what all it was saying, by it had it said. Something about Mexico. Something about foreign films and literary experiments. Something about sneezes and kisses, generosity and friendship, jokes and spontaneity. About not caring; about not trying. About friends covering for you and being there for you and about how no matter how far you go, there's still Ohio.

It was genuine monster-slaying hair.

Stories around statistics.

Apr 23, 2004

(nothing is being said here)
Where the twisted fables roar

I told the fables twisted out
spewing Aesop's intestines

in childhood fantasies races were delayed
while tortoises called their bookies
and hares sold thorns to tourists

where sore-pawed lions roared
only roared
ripping fancy fable flesh

burn this zoo
save the children
vandalism is the only hope for childhood
salvation sweet salvation comes by roaring

blow blow blow it down and grow a jungle
I'm only bleeding

This woman's yelling at me for not noticing she's sitting at the full serve pump.

Her Mercedes is blocked by a truck, so I can't see her. I'm working at the register selling lottery tickets and the mechanic comes in and tells me she's out there, so I run out and am met half way by this irate rich woman. She's going off - why would I do such a thing, why do I have the full serve pump where I can't see it, what am I trying to pull, who do I think I am, do I realize she's busy?

Lady, I say, Lady, I got nothing to eat at home but rice and Mac & Cheese. How much shit I gotta put up with because I'm poor?

And I just looked at her. Full of socialist revolutions, full of blue-collar soul, full of working class rage.

So she pumped her own gas.

Apr 22, 2004

Ambler Letters 1
Correspondance exerts from apt. c rear

      At the gas station, I sell lottery tickets. We don't sell cigarettes (management hates tobacco, I say to the customer, but you can buy them at Genardi’s or the Wawa) but sell a lot of lottery. Ask anyone about the gambling and they've got two responses, two stories they can tell about the thing: 1. bookies, mob ties, debts; 2. poverty, more-likely-to-be-hit-by-lightning. Seriously, every movie has the first stereotype and every newspaper report the second. But I'm watching these people buy everyday (the Power Ball's up to 90 million today but if you want it all at once it’ll be 47.6) and it’s terrible and amazing. It's the discarded shells of the Great American Dream and everything that it means to be an American is here, right here: hope tempered by cynicism, belief that the system can be beat with ingenuity, consistency, hard work and luck. All the black women come in with sheets of numbers they want played 50 - 50 for tonight, and then last minute add the number of their favorite niece's birthday because she's a brat, but a lucky brat. Asian men read me their accented numbers. Young white guys - jocks some of them, or little scrawny-wiry guys - who have their lists memorized. There's a long-haired trucker who tells me he's retired and hates it. A Dustan Hoffman look-alike who's a daily and knows everyone's name. There's a guy who can't talk but does anyway, sounding like Donald Duck saying fuck fuck fuck, and believes he's luck-less. An older black man with freckles who thinks if I mess up his ticket that'll be the one that wins. The great American novel has never been written because it’s about lottery and who wants to write about a giant government run roulette wheel with 7 ways of playing and wasn't that already done?

      I seem to be attracting a certain type of youth - children of my age who want passionately, desperately, to maintain intellectual honesty and religious devotion and finding them trapped in a desert between the two where they see me mumbling prayers that I might be saved from faith, that I might be given blindness. In the last 3 months I’ve been asked a dozen times the same questions, but I don’t get the feeling of being a leader, someone who’s a figure head or a teacher. I get the feeling they’ll all be better at this then I am and I’m just here a little early. I told a friend the other day in my fantasy world I’m in a Graham Greene novel – a sinner morally impoverished who ends up being a saint anyway. I think I’m being cast as a whiskey monk in the desert.

      Blogging is a good form for pushing you to write regularly. Writing’s hard and this hole that demands more material and demands it regularly while pretending to be less serious (and being less pretentious). It’s a good form, too, for allowing one to loosen up and be willing to write poorly. As much as that doesn’t sound like something we want to happen, it’s insanely important. If I’m not willing to splay myself all over paper then I’m not taking the chance that leads to good writing.

      I did get the job at the gas station. It's a classic American affair - combination gas station mechanics shop. Boss is named John and owned his own business for 40 years before retiring but got called out of retirement to manage this gas station. The owners give him total control so long as he makes them money. He's kind of cranky, but then in like the middle of four hours of being in a rush and slightly barkish, he'll hit you sideways with a laugh or a joke. The iconic blue-collar father of the 50s. Though, he reminds me for some reason of Skip, this lawn mower mechanic who helped my dad, fixed some of his stuff for free just because. Skip was 'nam vet and had this long red beard which isn't anything like John. I’m assuming it's only the psycho-recollections of the smell of car oil, or perhaps the counter-intuitive relationship between motorcycles and tow trucks. The guy that trained me is a little white haired guy named Joe who was a hot-rodder in his 20s. All sorts of Waits-esque songs have been written about the places this guys been. Worked as a security guard until he got to old for it, and came to the gas station. He's a lottery expert. When a pretty girl buys gas he mentions the scenery. He volunteers for the fire department and every time a fire truck goes by he and John walk out into the parking lot and wave.
      How's that for an iconic sight? Two white-haired and oil-stained guys who worked their whole lives and did okay but can't retire and wouldn't know what to do if they did and they’re standing out on the pavement patched with asphalt waving a fire trucks rushing sirens-screaming down a pike named Bethlehem.

Apr 21, 2004

The "Death of God" is perhaps only the help that historical language vainly brings to allow a word to fall outside of language without another announcing itself there.
      - Derrida

Apr 19, 2004

Outlaw 5
I might look like Robert Frost but I feel just like Jesse James

* The most overrated American outlaw is Billy the Kid. Most underrated is Pretty Boy Floyd. Floyd killed an armed deputy with a log chain for insulting his wife and used to send whole train cars of food to Depression-poor towns just to piss off a sheriff while Billy was a whiney snot-nosed poser who didn't do anything but hire out to the wrong side and was shot in the back in the dark. I think it’s a thing of names, since every kid wants to be an outlaw and identifies with "kid" but "outlaw" and "pretty boy" appear pretty much antithetical. The alliterated Jesse James keeps up just the right reputation though.

* Noah Greene reviews Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, a band that know how to hate and that I've been wanting to hear since he started listening to them incessantly.

* The six-shooter is outlaw-definitive. Beyond fashion: Iconic.

* I think I'll be the only Hillsdale student who had a trilogy of legendary parties in his honor:
(Part of an ongoing series of a weird legend…)
        1. The Silliman-Sato bare knuckle brawl,
        2. The documentaried Sillibash '04
        3. The in-planning-for-the-Beat Sillibash '05 which will feature Kentucky moonshine and needs to be advertised with this picture and the inscriptions "Come out from behind the eye patch, he screams at pirates riding mopeds" and "He gave the dog a howl and made a pretty face pretty flat."

* We say punk where they say, what?, outlaw. I should write a paper about punk-style as the essence of the American outlaws (the cool, the hipsters).
May whoever live forever
dansilliman: I've decided making Matt Groenng king isn't as cool as giving the title to Google.

DJHugger: well I think the problem is America already has a king: Elvis

dansilliman: anyone who spends his time chillin' with the Martians and eating ribs in Montana is cool, yes, but has abdicated his crown.
Aporia for the masses
Once upon a time, in the '90s, regular Americans learned about postmodernism and it was via neither the foisting of lecherous liberal nor the shrill "sky-is-falling"s of cranky old conservatives. They learned something about postmodernism when popular culture discovered air quotes and was, thereby, allowed to speak of and think of irony.

They served their purpose, opened the popular discourse to irony, spawned Seinfeld and made an appearance on Friends, became really annoying (which was the publics' fault) and passed away.

What we need now are air parentheses. It's their time. Let deconstruction (Deconstruction's aporia, deferment, eccentric centers, alterity) enter the popular conscious via air parentheses.
Praying for blindness
        Blessed are those who have not seen

Apr 18, 2004

We really haven't talked lately

I had this dream, and I'm standing in front of a cash register, buying something (I don't know what). The point of view pivots 180. Right. In still frames: I'm standing there, then I see myself from the side, then I'm standing behind the cash register.

I'm standing behind the cash register and my hand is stretched out, about to push a button and ring up a sale, but I'm hesitating. The commentary track groans, "Do I have to work my dreams?" and my hand hesitates.

Suddenly I go psycho. I grab a paper bag, flip it open, jump up on the counter and attack the customer. I bag his head jumping down onto him, and just start whaling on him. I'm punching his head and kicking him. He's laying there curled up and I'm beating him.

And I think, "What happens if he dies?" I'm dispassionate about it but, you know, still thinking this qestion mark about the whole situation.


Thinking about it this morning, I'm pretty sure I was killing myself.

Apr 17, 2004

The memories' summary

When I think of Hillsdale I'm filled with hatred and with love. And, in a weird way I can't figure out, those two are inseperable. I hate Hillsdale and I love it. But that’s only one emotion, sort of. My memories of the place are indivisible intertwinings of the darkest of dark times and these illuminated moments of victory and accomplishment. The place came close to killing me, which I say seriously, and it gave me salvation.


I have no idea if I’m going back.
Hold still, lion!
I am trying
to paint you
while there's time too.
        - Robert Creeley
Nearest book, pg 23, sentence 5: "Like him (Christ) it (the Church) is both visable and invisable and its raison d'etre is to mediate his saving love to humankind."

The Study of Liturgy, edited by Jones, Wainwright, Yarnold and Bradshaw.

Apr 15, 2004

When it pours

It rained for four days. Four days of rain without violence. I would have preferred violence but it just pattered a steady so-steady-it'll-surely-never-end rain for days.

And the middle-aged women drove up to the full serve pump with their model 2005 cars still showing off the first coat of wax that's beading up the rain and rolling it down to the pavement. I stood in the rain that's been raining for days, slanting in under the pump's overhang, to fill the tank up with Premium at all-but-$2 a gallon.

Their receipts drip a little when I handed them in through the open inch of the wet window. Thank you, I said, water dripping off my nose, and they drove away.

It was raining for four days and after that it might as well be 40 and the water rises from puddles to oceans and the street we live on floods with the water washing over the edges of the potholes and into pools where the asphalt is uneven and up onto the sidewalk's cracking and the dirty lawns dead from the winter.

"I'm glad the apartment's set up a few steps," my roommate said. He calls the weather "Scottish" but that makes it sound pleasent.

"I sent out a raven to see if there's any dry land left and to bring back a few groceries," I said, "but he just flew into the wet and said: 'nevermore.'"

We laughed, and wondered if there was water in the basement.

After four days of rain, I woke up this morning to look at a blue sky befuddled and surprised.
They left us and were gone
When they quit writing, the good ones, you wait and wait thinking – no, they can’t have stopped. They were addicted. It was what they did. But they've stopped. And maybe they utter a single word once in a while making you sit up like the faithful dog of a dead master, thinking maybe they've come back. Thinking maybe they've found their voice again, maybe, maybe.

But no. We're the generation of mini Salingers.

And all you can do is re-read what they've already given you. Go back in the archives to the beginnings before anyone read them and watch them experiment towards becoming what you enjoyed so damningly much.

Apr 14, 2004

Two quirks

I snort

And realize I sound like my father who never laughed but always heaved with it silently, as if it could not escape but only convulse.

"What?"

But it's only Wittgenstein's joke or Mann's irony, not funny in any capital sense, and they just look at me oddly for laughing aloud while I read.

Apr 13, 2004

I'm seeing windmills where once there were giants wearing sunglasses.
Penumbra: A periphery of uncertainty.
Circumventions
dansilliman: I need to post a story about the gas station
ValerieSilliman: Good.
dansilliman: so that I can let people know I'm working there without saying "I am now working at a gas station."
dansilliman: I refuse to bow before the boring
ValerieSilliman: Bravo!
dansilliman: yeah, but sometimes it bothers people when they're the boring
ValerieSilliman: Well, then they ought to be bothered.
dansilliman: well, you asked me where I got a prayer I posted for Christmas or thanksgiving (I don't remember)
dansilliman: and Prizio watched me read your comment and close it without responding. "Aren't you going to tell her where you found it," he says
ValerieSilliman: What? You never told me this story! I hate you.
dansilliman: but no, because that was boring. If I could find an interesting answer or maybe a story, then I'd tell her
ValerieSilliman: no, you're lazy. LAZY!
dansilliman: but just to say "I was poking around on google and I found it" no, that's deeply disturbingly boring
dansilliman: not worth my time to tell and not worth reading
dansilliman: so I said nothing
ValerieSilliman: You could have made up a story
dansilliman: that's true
dansilliman: but I prefer exaggerations to made up stuff
ValerieSilliman: Of course, I completely don't remember the poem.
dansilliman: well, maybe I made up this story

Apr 12, 2004

A moment of absurdist thought at an Easter dinner

An organ stuck in a Manhattan elevator. Forever. Filling half the apartment’s elevator. The tenants occasionally touch a key, tentatively, except old and hobbling Mr. Thompson who lives up stairs and likes to pull out the stops and pound out Bach while he rides the organ up to his apartment. It’s a clumsy rendition but the echo in there’s pretty good and he plays loud enough to wake the cats from their sunny window sills, leaving the felines grumpily arch-backed for the rest of the day. No one remembers how it got in there and they half suspect the elevator was built around the upright monster. And even the uncle who is angry at his brother-in-law for not helping him move the thing and is egging towards a family fight is telling me he doesn’t know what happened but “It was just stuck: wouldn’t go in and wouldn’t come out.”

Maybe the whole thing is the missing piece to a mysterious murder or maybe to a strange Easter dinner I just had. It’s hard to say. But it was pretty funny at the time.

Apr 11, 2004

Christ is risen in deed.

ressurection

Having in remembrance his blessed passion and precious death, his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension.
Writing projects for the Ambler year:

- A fuller development of linguistic parallelism.
- A consideration of Spinozan theology in light of Trinitarian ontology and postmodern theology.
- A literary working out of apocalyptism.
- Further thought and articulation on the role of doubt in faith and the importance of the death/absence of God.

Apr 10, 2004

Spinoza
Because my socks are red

"You're smart as the dickens," he says, leaning back in his chair and settling into the interview. “What the hell are you doing in my gas station?"

Apr 9, 2004

"The woman's shoes have been on her porch for months."

Melissa Heyman has started a blog, or maybe a blog-novel, at saltmyth.blogspot.com. It looks to be most excellent, as I would expect from Mel.
Learning to love the parenthetical

Even more than the poor writers crutch of the exclamation point, I'm annoyed, reading along, by parenthesis. Distractions. Violations. Disruptions. The mid-text side step two-step of a writer who can?t decide what he's saying or how it's best said and jolts the reader into beleagueredness.

It says something about cohesiveness, about how the writer couldn't gather those fluttering thoughts into a unity. And yet. And yet isn't there something to that... to the lack of unity in a text, the unity that is already broken, the parenthesis that are already latent in the text.

I ought to approach the text looking for the parenthesis that have been edited to the call of unity, looking for the parenthetical remarks erased from between each sentence to find the off-center center, the eccentric center. I need to be attentive to the parenthesis, latent and present, to see the marginalized, the part of the text that doesn't fit, the quieted critic, the midsentence question mark.

The writing itself hides the parenthetical, defers it. The parenthetical is the stuff that is ignored in the sweep, always necessary and unsettlingly fascist, of canonization. The parenthesis contains the un-subsumed fragments still worrying the edges of our mono-liths, our oneness of a text. The parenthetical is always present, like the work left out of the anthology, always asking us to relist, to recenter, to reunify, and yet always the parenthetical remains. Deferred by brackets.

"I privately say to you, old friend (unto you, really, I'm afraid), please accept from me this bouquet of very early-blooming parentheses: (((())))."
          - J.D. Salinger



Murray Illson, New York Times reporter who paid attention to the mundane, dies at 91.

May he rest in peace.

Apr 7, 2004

Poetry Now
Involuntary Vision (also know as The New Brutalist Anthology) and Shampoo #20.
To quote a phrase
The kitchen is floored in mottled turquoise linoleum, spattered white with paint and spotted black where the carpet used to be pasted down. It's rusted out around the base of the heater and worn through to the plywood beneath the sink where I stand fiddling with the radio dial, turning through static and sports casts to public radio playing jazz.

"Am I listening to jazz?" says Peter on the phone with his girl fried. He grins at me. "I never listen to jazz. I know it’s awesome."

He grins again, phone cradled between chin and shoulder, and pretends to dance on our kitchen floor.

Apr 6, 2004

Starting a 5,000 word article in Ohio, working on it in Washington and Michigan, and finishing it in Pennsylvania is generally a bad idea.

My piece, Cyberpunk, Orwellian Fears and the Faces of Tyranny for Gideon Strauss's Comment is done and due for publication in May.

Apr 5, 2004

Google-mail? I'd dig it. Which may just be saying something about my brand-trust, since my access to the 'net would be totally via Google, with Blogger, Goggle and Gmail, when it's available to the public.

Where invitations are open
I made it to Pennsylvania, and am past the initial rubble of unpacking. I'm now living, more permanently than I've been anywhere in a while, at 302 W. Maple St. Apt. C rear, Ambler PA 19002.

I'm in an old house converted to apartments, with three rather large rooms on the south west corner. The place lacks electrical outlets and closets but has a nice kitchen and enough space to wall with books and start studying.

There's a stoop facing south towards a graffitied shed, the alley, and beyond that an overgrown field where I can sit and smoke and listen to the Philadelphia commuter train running on the tracks a block north of us.

It's going to be good.