Saturday, June 30, 2007


De puro taciturno el techo escucha
Caer antiguas lluvias deshojadas,
Plumas, lo que la noche aprisionó:

Y así te espero como casa sola
Y volverás a verme y habitarme.
De otro modo me duelen las ventanas.

(Out of sheer taciturnity the ceiling listens
to the fall of the ancient leafless rain,
to feathers, whatever the night imprisoned:

so I wait for you like a lonely house
till you will see me again and live in me.
Till then my windows ache.)

Cien Sonetos de Amor, Pablo Neruda
Translated by Stephen Tapscott, 1986

Doctor Faustus

You are a person of rich gifts, and you know it - how could you not know it? You also know that He who sits on high and from Whom everything comes has entrusted you with those gifts, since indeed you intend to offer them to Him. And you are right: Natural merits are God's merits on our behalf, and not our own. It is His adversary, having himself come to grief out of pride, who strives to make us forget. He makes a wicked guest and is a roaring lion who walketh about seeking whom he may devour. You are among those who have every reason to be on guard against his wiles. This is a compliment I'm paying you - or rather, to what you are with God's help. Be that in all humility, my friend, not with strut and bluster; and always bear in mind that self-satisfaction is itself apostasy and ingratitude to the Spender of every mercy.

Doctor Faustus, Thomas Mann

Friday, June 29, 2007

Doctor Faustus

But Bach had almost been lost to the memory of the period, and particularly in Vienna people still had no wish to hear about Protestant music. For Beethoven, Handel had been the king of kings, though he had a great fondness for Cherubini, whose Medea overture (when he could still hear) he could not hear often enough. He had owned only a very few works by Bach: a couple of motets, The Well-Tempered Clavier, a toccata, and some odds and ends, all collected into one volume. Into that volume had been inserted a note, written in an unknown hand, with the dictum: "One cannot better examine the depth of a man's musical knowledge that by attempting to learn how far he has come in his admiration for the works of Bach." At both sides of this text, however, the owner had used his thickest musical quill to draw an emphatic, vehement question mark.

Doctor Faustus, Thomas Mann

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Suddenly the full long wail of a ship's horn surged through the open window and flooded the dim room--a cry of boundless, dark, demanding grief; pitch-black and glabrous as a whale's back and burdened with all the passions of the tides, the memory of voyages beyond counting, the joys, the humiliations: the sea was screaming. Full of the glitter and the frenzy of night, the horn thundered in, conveying from the distant offing, from the dead center of the sea, a thirst for the dark nectar in the little room.

Tsukazaki turned with a sharp twist of his shoulders and looked out toward the water.

It was like being part of a miracle: in that instant everything packed away inside Noboru's breast since the first day of his life was released and consummated. Until the horn sounded, it was only a tentative sketch. The finest materials had been prepared and all was in readiness, verging on the unearthly moment. But one element was lacking: the power needed to transfigure those motley shreds of reality into a gorgeous palace. Then, at a signal from the horn, the parts merged into a perfect whole.

Assembled there were the moon and a feverish wind, the incited, naked flesh of a man and woman, sweat, perfume, the scars of a life at sea, the dim memory of ports around the world, a cramped breathless peephole, a young boy's iron heart--but these cards from a gypsy deck were scattered, prophesying nothing. The universal order at last achieved, thanks to the sudden, screaming horn, had revealed an ineluctable circle of life--the cards had paired: Noboru and mother--mother and man--man and sea--sea and Noboru...

He was choked, wet, ecstatic. Certain he had watched a tangle of thread unravel to trace a hallowed figure. And it would have to be protected: for all he knew, he was its thirteen-year-old creator.

"If this is ever destroyed, it'll mean the end of the world," Noboru murmured, barely conscious. I guess I'd do anything to stop that, no matter how awful!

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea, Yukio Mishima


The history of soccer is a sad voyage from beauty to duty. When the sport became an industry, the beauty that blossoms from the joy of play got torn out by its very roots. In this fin-de-siecle world, professional soccer condemns all that is useless, and useless means not profitable. Nobody earns a thing from that crazy feeling that for a moment turns a man into a child playing with a balloon, like a cat with a ball of yarn; a ballet dancer who romps with a ball as light as a balloon or a ball of yarn, playing without even knowing he's playing, with no purpose or clock or referee.

Play has become spectacle, with few protagonists and many spectators, soccer for watching. And that spectacle has become one of the most profitable businesses in the world, organized not for play but rather to impede it. The technocracy of professional sport has managed to impose a soccer of lightning speed and brute strength, a soccer that negates joy, kills fantasy and outlaws daring.

Luckily, on the field you can still see, even if only once in a long while, some insolent rascal who sets aside the script and commits the blunder of dribbling past the entire opposing side, the referee and the crowd in the stands, all for the carnal delight of embracing the forbidden adventure of freedom.

Soccer in Sun and Shadow, Eduardo Galeano



The same process, declares the prophet, is taking place in the area of spiritual goods as well, since the monstrous machine of civilization, its screws having worked loose, has turned into a mechanical milker of the Muses. Thus it fills the libraries to bursting, inundates the bookstores and magazine stands, numbs the television screens, piling itself high with a superabundance of which the numerical magnitude alone is a deathblow. If finding forty grains of sand in the Sahara meant saving the world, they would not be found, any more than would the forty messianic books that have long since been written but were lost beneath strata of trash.

"Pericalypsis," Stanislaw Lem
A Perfect Vacuum, 1971

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Tin Drum

Today I know that everything watches, that nothing goes unseen, and that even wallpaper has a better memory than ours. It isn't God in His Heaven that sees all. A kitchen chair, a coat-hanger, a half-filled ash tray, or the wooden replica of a woman named Niobe, can perfectly well serve as an unforgetting witness to every one of our acts.

The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass

Philosophy of Mathematics

Socrates, in Plato's Republic, requires the guardians of the ideal city-state to study mathematics for ten years before proceeding to dialectic, philosophy, and political theory, as part of their training to become philosopher-kings. Plato reportedly ran afoul of Dionysius II, the tyrant of Syracuse, when he tried to convince the willful young ruler that to become a philosopher-king, as he was inspired by Plato's writings to do, he would first need to spend many years studying geometry. After a few impatiently received lessons in mathematics, Plato is supposed to have fled for his life to escape the tyrant's wrath. Socrates' pedagogical progression, reflected in Plato's analogy of the divided line, embodies the conviction that after their gymnastic and musical training has prepared them for serious education as soldiers and leaders, the guardians will be best able to govern if the have first grasped the Form of the Good. To attain this distant goal, the guardians must come to understand the nature of Forms generally through a recognition of other Forms, made possible through the study of mathematics. As Socrates says of mathematics in learning to grasp the Forms, the study of calculation 'draws the soul toward the truth.'

"Mathematics and Philosophy of Mathematics," Dale Jacquette
Introduction to Philosophy of Mathematics: An Anthology, edited by Jacquette

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


And the decline of humanism was logical because humanism had gotten itself into a blind alley precisely because it had achieved its aims and asserted its own values of freedom, individualism, pluralism, transparency, etc. And the humanists were reaping what they had sown - an individualist and interactive and positive and translucid and operative world that expired in its own simulation and whose final solution was to substitute hyperreality for reality.

Europeana, Patrik Ourednik


I am not lazy.
I am on the amphetamine of the soul.
I am, each day,
typing out the God
my typewriter believes in.
Very quick. Very intense,
like a wolf at a live heart.
Not lazy.
When a lazy man, they say,
looks toward heaven,
the angels close the windows.

"Frenzy," Anne Sexton
The Awful Rowing Toward God, 1975

Monday, June 25, 2007

Heart's Desire

It has increasingly come to the point that the actual distinction between person and computer depends less upon different ways of thinking than on different ways of life. The shaping of the human personality is a drawn-out process governed by a large number of complex, poorly understood and, in their effects, often difficult-to-judge factors. Primary is the experience of one’s own body in its successive stages–the helplessness of the infant, the establishment of contact with one’s surroundings, the discovery of the body’s kinetic possibilities, the daily routines of many years, getting dressed, chewing, defecation, the need for air, the need for touch, the sexual instinct–these primary, personality-forming experiences are dependent upon our human physiology such as it is constituted. A computer has a different physiology. However much its psychic conditions may resemble a human’s, it still seems impossible to let a computer live through the human experience. It is not the soul that separates the computer and the human; it is the body.

"Heart's Desire," Willy Kyrklund
Translated from Swedish by Paul Norlen, 2007
From 8 Variations, 1982
Found by MDD at

By Night in Chile

...a room with oak floorboards and teak-panelled walls and a large crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling and soft armchairs in which I had spent so many happy hours, absorbed in the works of the classic Greek authors and the classic Latin authors and my Chilean contemporaries, having at last regained my passion for reading, my literary instincts, completely cured, while the ship went in parting the waves, faring on through ocean twilight and bottomless Atlantic night, and, comfortably seated in that room with its fine wood, its smell of the sea and strong liquor, its smell of books and solitude, I went on happily reading well into the night, when no one ventured on to the decks of the Donizetti, except for the sinful shadows who were careful not to interrupt me, careful not to disturb my reading, happiness, happiness, passion regained, genuine devotion, my prayers rising up and up through the clouds to the realm of pure music, to what for want of a better name we call the choir of the angels, a non-human space but undoubtedly the only space we humans can truly inhabit, and uninhabitable space but the only one worth inhabiting, a space in which we we shall cease to be but the only space in which we can be what we truly are, and then I stepped onto dry land, on to Italian soil, and I said goodbye to the Donizetti and set off on the roads of Europe, determined to do a good job, light-hearted, full of confidence, resolution and faith.

By Night in Chile, Roberto Bolano

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Political Institutions and Social Power

Rather than as a result of individual decisions or founding acts, they [institutions] evolved and came into being as a result of some collective manifestation of 'communicative power'. As widely observed practice, they 'emerge' anonymously under certain conditions and contexts, which later historians then usually explain as having created a specific institutional pattern. There may have been heroes, protagonists, or prophets, as well as theorists who elaborated and explained the reasons for the validity of an institution. But any ascription of an institution to a personal and hence mortal creator would expose it to the risk of being later denounced as arbitrary or self-interested...Anonymity is also a defining element of institutions in that they refer to actors in terms of offices, rules, resources, and so forth, never in terms of persons and names of persons.

Institutions such as the school, the family, the joint stock company, the political party, the state and its bureaucracy owe their robustness and proclaimed timelessness to the fact that we cannot tell who 'invented' them. In that sense, 'fatherlessness' is an asset, as is the myth of parthenogenesis in the case of the founder of Christianity. Similarly, human reason itself, rather than some personal founder, is held to be...the source of the state as an institution.

"Political Institutions and Social Power," Claus Offe
April 11, 2003
Found in Rethinking Political Institutions: The Art of the State
Published by NYU Press, 2006

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Geometric Regional Novel

Above the entrance doors of these establishments the following proverb could often still be read:

Geometric Regional Novel, Gert Jonke

The Count of Monte Cristo

Until the day God deigns to reveal the world to man, the sum of all human wisdom will be contained in these two words: Wait and Hope.

The Count of Monte Cristo. Alexandre Dumas

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


We generally value athletes for what they symbolize. Sports aren't important, they remind us of things that are. Allen Iverson is the indomitable human spirit, Kobe Bryant the Faustian pursuit of perfection, Tim Duncan modesty in brilliance. It's our everyday experience with these themes that make these players so evocative. They stylize, or streamline, these ideals like art or fiction. In the end, though, they are only as meaningful as we need them to be. Marveling at moves and basketball IQ, or rooting for your team, only explains half of why these figures loom so large in public consciousness.

Here's why McGrady is different: at this point, his story is just plain sad. The injuries, the numerous lost loved ones, the depression, and the playoff woes—all of it together will get you down even if you're not looking for it. While Iverson or Garnett certainly take losing seriously, to some degree they leave that angst on the court. With McGrady, though, there's no separation between what we know of his personal life and the miserable cliche his career has become. In fact, his "can't get out the first round" tag is so heavy, so stark, that it alone would probably tug at the non-sports heartstrings.

I've been mildly obsessed with the Warriors' accessibility. They play basketball that can be understood by anyone, and as individuals sparkle with comforting imperfection. The Warriors are Ornette Coleman, but they've actually managed to transcend basketball (Coleman couldn't do the same with jazz). McGrady is the dismal mirror image of this: the emptiness and pain of his career are much bigger than quibbles over his game or teammates. If there's no reassurance to be found, it's because the ballad of Tracy McGrady is immune to sports. See him on the streets, and you'd probably try to hug him. And on some level, I'm sure he'd appreciate it.

"The Color of Pigeons," Bethlehem Shoals, May 6, 2007

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Other Voices, Other Rooms

The brain may take advice, but not the heart, and love, having no geography, knows no boundaries: weight and sink it deep, no matter, it will rise and find the surface: and why not? any love is natural and beautiful that lies within a person's nature; only hypocrites would hold a man responsible for what he loves, emotional illiterates and those of righteous envy, who, in their agitated concern, mistake so frequently the arrow pointing to heaven for the one that leads to hell.

Other Voices, Other Rooms, Truman Capote


...and life went on and on and on, like a necklace of rice grains, on each grain of which a landscape had been painted, tiny grains and microscopic landscapes, and I knew that everyone was putting that necklace on and wearing it, but no one had the patience or the strength or the courage to take it off and look at it closely and decipher each landscape grain by grain, partly because to do so required the vision of a lynx or an eagle, and partly because the landscapes usually turned out to contain unpleasant surprises like coffins, makeshift cemeteries, ghost towns, the void and the horror, the smallness of being and its ridiculous will, people watching television, people going to football matches, boredom circumnavigating the Chilean imagination like an enormous aircraft carrier. And that's the truth. We were bored.

By Night in Chile, Roberto Bolano

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Precession of Simulacra

The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth - it is the truth which conceals there is none.

The simulacrum is true.


The Precession of Simulacra, Jean Baudrillard
(Note : the epigraph Baudrillard uses for his work does not appear in Ecclesiastes.)

Other Voices, Other Rooms

The trio on the porch were figures in a woodcut engraving; the Ancient on his throne of splendid pillows, a yellow pet relaxed in his lap gazing gravely in the drowning light at the small servant bowed at its master's feet, and the arms of the black arrow-like daughter lifted above them all, as if in benediction.

But there was no prayer in Joel's mind; rather, nothing a net of words could capture, for, with one exception, all his prayers of the past had been simple concrete requests: God, give me a bicycle, a knife with seven blades, a box of oil paints. Only how, how, could you say something so indefinite, so meaningless as this: God, let me be loved.

"Amen," whispered Zoo.

And in this moment, like a swift intake of breath, the rain came.

Other Voices, Other Rooms, Truman Capote

Friday, June 15, 2007

Mao II

Years ago I used to think it was possible for a novelist to alter the inner life of the culture. Now bomb-makers and gunman have taken that territory. They make raids on human consciousness. What writers used to do before we were all incorporated.

Mao II, Don Delillo

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one.

H. L. Mencken

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


"In other words I am three. One man stands forever in the middle, unconcerned, unmoved, watching, waiting to be allowed to express what he sees to the other two.
The second man is like a frightened animal that attacks for fear of being attacked.
Then there's an over-loving gentle person who lets people into the uttermost sacred temple of his being and he'll take insults and be trusting and sign contracts without reading them and get talked down to working cheap or for nothing, and when he realizes what's been done to him he feels like killing and destroying everything around him including himself for being so stupid. But he can't - he goes back inside himself.
Which one is real?
They're all real."

Charles Mingus,
from "Beneath the Underdog"

The Wheel

Through winter-time we call on spring,
And through the spring on summer call,
And when abounding hedges ring
Declare that winter's best of all;
And after that there's nothing good
Because the spring-time has not come -
Nor know that what disturbs our blood
Is but its longing for the tomb.

"The Wheel," William Butler Yeats

Realism in the balance

In its day the revolutionary bourgeoisie conducted a violent struggle in the interests of its own class; it made use of every means at its disposal, including those of imaginative literature. What was it that made the vestiges of chivalry the object of universal ridicule? Cervantes' Don Quixote. Don Quixote was the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of the bourgeoisie in its war against feudalism and aristocracy. The revolutionary proletariat could do with at least one little Cervantes to arm it with a similar weapon.

Georgi Dimitrov, Speech given during an anti-Fascist evening in the Writers' Club in Moscow
Found in "Realism in the Balance," Gyorgy Lukacs, 1938

Monday, June 11, 2007

Points of action

19. Accept loss forever.
20. Believe in the holy contour of life.

Jack Kerouac
"Belief & Technique for Modern Prose, List of Essentials"

54. Organize your own army and advance on Washington.

Tuli Kupferberg
"1001 Ways to Beat the Draft"


The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

F. Scott Fitzgerald
Provenance unknown (by me, for now)

The Emigrants

His light was always on till the small hours. He read and read - Altenberg, Trakl, Wittgenstein, Friedl, Hasenclever, Toller, Tucholsky, Klaus Mann, Ossietzky, Benjamin, Koestler, and Zweig: almost all of them writers who had taken their own lives or had been close to doing so. He copied out passages into notebooks which give a good idea of how much the lives of these particular authors interested him. Paul copied out hundreds of pages, mostly in Gabelsberg shorthand, because otherwise he would not have been able to write fast enough...

The Emigrants, W.G. Sebald


Even the ancient pagans noticed that Nature imposes nothing on you that Nature doesn't prepare you to bear.

A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter Miller


Men and women make sad mistakes about their own symptoms, taking their vague uneasy longings, sometimes for genius, sometimes for religion, and oftener still for a mighty love.

Middlemarch, George Eliot

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Father Damien

The truth that is suppressed by friends is the readiest weapon of the enemy.

Father Damien: An Open Letter, Robert Louis Stevenson
(Found by MDD in "The Tragedy of the Commons," Garrett Hardin, 1968)


I told a friend about FD and in attempting to describe it to him I was very specific about it being about the NBA. In responding to me, he mentioned it as a basketball site. I quickly corrected him. It is not a basketball site. It is about the NBA. He questioned what the difference was and I couldn't legitimately answer. I just told him to, "just read it".

Now I get the difference. When I watch the NBA, basketball is secondary to the internal plots of the proceedings. I'm watching Kobe/AI/Sheed's story evolve. The individual stories of the artists are of import. When I watch football, baseball, or even college b-ball, I'm experiencing the story of the game, season, or team(s). The drama is only human insofar as the participants are human, but the core remains sports related. The NBA exists outside of basketball.

Rocco Chappelle,
February 2006

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Making of Americans

Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard. "Stop!" cried the groaning old man at last, "Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree."

It is hard living down the tempers we are born with. We all begin well, for in our youth, there is nothing we are more intolerant of than our own sins writ large in others and we fight them fiercely in ourselves; but we grow old and we see that these our sins are of all sins the really harmless ones to own, nay that they give charm to any character, and so our struggle with them dies away.

The Making of Americans, Gertrude Stein

Tradition and the Individual Talent

Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.

"Tradition and the Individual Talent," T.S. Eliot
Selected Essays, 1919

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


'Next day it was my watch on deck from eight to twelve. At breakfast the captain observed, "It's wonderful how that smell hangs about the cabin." About ten, the mate being on the poop, I stepped down on the maindeck for a moment. The carpenter's bench stood abaft the mainmast: I leaned against it sucking at my pipe, and the carpenter, a young chap, came to talk to me. He remarked, "I think we have done very well, haven't we?" and then I perceived with annoyance the fool was trying to tilt the bench. I said curtly, "Don't, Chips," and immediately became aware of a queer sensation, of an absurd delusion, - I seemed somehow to be in the air. I heard all around me like a pent up breath released - as if a thousand giants simultaneously had said Phoo! - and felt a dull concussion which made my ribs ache suddenly. No doubt about it - I was in the air, and my body was describing a short parabola. But short as it was, I had the time to think several thoughts in, as far as I can remember, the following order: "This can't be the carpenter - What is it? - Some accident - Submarine volcano? - Coals, gas! - By Jove! we are being blown up - Everybody's dead - I am falling into the after hatch - I see fire in it"
'The coal dust suspended in the air of the hold had glowed dull-red at the moment of the explosion. In the twinkling of an eye, in an infinitesimal fraction of a second since the first tilt of the bench. I was sprawling full length on the cargo. I picked myself up and scrambled out. It was quick like a rebound. The deck was a wilderness of smashed timber, lying crosswise like trees in a wood after a hurricane; and immense curtain of soiled rags waved gently before me - it was the main-sail blown to strips. I thought, The masts will be toppling over directly; and to get out of the way bolted on all-fours towards the poop-ladder. The first person I saw was Mahon, with eyes like saucers, his mouth open, and the long white hair standing straight on end round his head like a silver halo. He was just about to go down when the sight of the main-deck stirring, heaving up, and changing into splinters before his eyes, petrified him on the top step. I stared at him in ubelief, and he stared at me with a queer kind of shocked curiosity, I did not know that I had no hair, no eyebrows, no eyelashes, that my young mustache was burnt off, that my face was black, one cheek laid open, my nose cut, and my chin bleeding. I had lsot my cap, one of my slippers, and my shirt was torn to rags. Of all this I was not aware. i was amazed to see the ship still afloat, the poop-deck whole - and, most of all, to see anybody alive. Also the peace of the sky and the serenity of the sea were distinctly surprising. I suppose I expected to see them convulsed with horror. . . Pass the bottle
'There was a voice hailing the ship from somewhere - in the air, in the sky - I couldn't tell. Presently I saw the captain - and he was mad. He asked me eagerly, "Where's the cabin table?" and to hear such a question was a frightful shock. I had just been blown up, you understand, and vibrated with that experience, - I wasn't quite sure whether I was alive. Mahon began to stamp with both feet and yelled at him, "Good God! don't you see the deck's been blown out of her?" I found my voice, and stammered out as if conscious of some gross neglect of duty, "I don't know where the cabin table is." It was like an absurd dream.

Youth, a narrative
Joseph Conrad 1902

A Poem is a Walk

Second, I would suggest you teach that poetry leads us to the unstructured sources of our beings, to the unknown, and returns us to our rational, structured selves refreshed. Having once experienced the mystery, plenitude, contradiction, and composure of a work of art, we afterward have a built-in resistance to the slogans and propaganda of oversimplification that have often contributed to the destruction of human life. Poetry is a verbal means to a nonverbal source. It is a motion to no-motion, to the still point of contemplation and deep realization. Its knowledges are all negative, therefore, more positive than any knowledge. Nothing that can be said about it in words is worth saying.

"A Poem is a Walk," A.R. Ammons
April 1967

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Rise of American Democracy

John Adams deeply feared that although "the prospect of free and popular Governments" might be pleasing, "there is great Danger that these Governments will not make Us happy," and would be undone by noise, meanness, and ignorance.

The Rise of American Democracy, Sean Wilentz


"Not so much to amass still more knowledge as first to invalidate its vast deposits in those areas where less important and therefore superfluous information lies--that seems to me to be the first duty of contemporary science. The technologies of information have created, supposedly, a paradise in which anyone who desires to can know everything; but this is a complete fiction. Selection, tantamount to resignation, is as unavoidable as breathing."

His Master's Voice
Stanislaw Lem


The middle distance fell away, so the grids (from small to large) that had supported the middle distance fell into disuse and ceased to be understandable. Two grids remained. The grid of two hundred million and the grid of intimacy. Everything else fell into disuse. There was a national life - a shimmer of national life - and intimate life. The distance between these two grids was very great. The distance was very frightening. People did not want to measure it. People began to lose a sense of what distance was and of what the usefulness of distance might be.

Within the Context of No Context, George W.S. Trow

Monday, June 4, 2007


Art and Religion are, then, two roads by which men escape from circumstance to ecstasy. Between aesthetic and religious rapture there is family alliance. Art and Religion are means to similar states of mind.

Art, Clive Bell

Opiates and Art

In a culture where daily human hopes have shrunk to the myriad opiates of self-centered satisfaction, art is more necessary and powerful than ever.

And Then You Act
Anne Bogart
May 2007

Sunday, June 3, 2007


Sustainability as a moral obligation is a general obligation, not a specific one. It is not an obligation to preserve this or preserve that. It is an obligation, if you want to make sense of it, to preserve the capacity to be well off, to be as well off as we. That does not preclude preserving specific resources, if they have an independent value and no good substitutes. But we shouldn't kid ourselves, that is part of the value of specific resources. It is not a consequence of any interest in sustainability.

Secondly, an interest in sustainability speaks for investment generally. I mentioned that directing the rents on non-renewable resources into investment is a good rule of thumb, a reasonable and dependable starting point. But what sustainability speaks for is investment, investment of any kind. In particular, environmental investment seems to me to correlate pretty well with concerns about sustainability and so, of course, does reliance on renewable resources as substitutes for non-reliable ones.

Third, there is something faintly phony about deep concern for the future combined with callousness about the state of the world today. The catch is that today's poor want consumption not investment. So the conflict is pretty deep and there is unlikely to be an easy way to resolve it.

Fourth, research is a good thing. Knowledge on the whole is an environmentally neutral asset that we can contribute to the future. I said that in thinking about sustainability you need to be as inclusive as you can. Investment in the broader sense and investment in knowledge, especially technological and scientific knowledge, is as environmentally clean an asset as we know.

And the last thing I'd like to say is, don't forget that sustainability is a vague concept. It is intrinsically inexact. It is not something that can be measured out in coffee spoons. It is not something you could be numerically accurate about. It is, at best, a general guide to policies that have to do with investment, conservation, and resource use. And we shouldn't pretend it is anything other than that.

"Sustainability: An Economist's Perspective," Robert M. Solow
June 1991


"My friend Paul Krassner once asked me what I've been influenced by in my
I have been influences by my father telling me that my back would become
crooked because of my maniacal desire to reading
"Gloriosky, Zero" in Little Annie listening to Uncle Don and
Clifford smelling the burnt shell powder at Anzio and
Salerno....torching for my money to Moondog as he played
the upturned pails around the corner from Hanson's at 51st and
Broadway....getting hot looking at Popeye and Toots and Casper and Chris
Crustie years ago....hearing stories about a pill they can put in the gas
tank with water but the 'big companies' won't let it out - the same big
companies that have the tire that lasts forever - and the Viper's favorite
fantasy: "Marijuana could be legal, but the big liquor companies won't let
it happen"....Irving Berlin didn't write all those songs, he's got a guy
locked in the closet....colored people have a special odor....James Dean is
really alive in a sanatorium....and Hitler is waiting to book me for six
weeks in Argentina
It was an absurd question.
I am influenced by every second of my waking hour.

from" How To Talk Dirty and Influence People by Lenny Bruce, 1963.

On Being Ill

There is, let us confess it (and illness is the great confessional), a childish outspokenness in illness; things are said, truths blurted out, which the cautious respectability of health conceals. About sympathy for example - we can do without it. That illusion of a world so shaped that it echoes every groan, of human beings so tied together by common needs and fears that a twitch at one wrist jerks another, where however strange your experience other people have had it too, where however far you travel in your own mind someone has been there too - is all an illusion. We do not know our own souls, let alone the souls of others. Human beings do not go hand in hand the whole stretch of the way. There is a virgin forest in each; a snowfield where even the print of birds' feet is unknown. Here we go alone, and like it better so. Always to have sympathy, always to be accompanied, always to be understood would be intolerable. But in health the genial pretense must be kept up and the effort renewed - to communicate, to civilise, to share, to cultivate the desert, educate the native, to work together by day and by night to sport. In illness this make-believe ceases. Directly the bed is called for, or, sunk deep among pillows in one chair, we raise our feet even an inch above the ground on another, we cease to be soldiers in the army of the upright; we become deserters. They march to battle. We float with the sticks on the stream; helter-skelter with the dead leaves on the lawn, irresponsible and disinterested and able, perhaps for the first time in years, to look round, to look up - to look, for example, at the sky.

On Being Ill, Virginia Woolf
January 1926

On Exactitude in Science

In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.

"On Exactitude in Science," Jorge Luis Borges
March 1946
Translation by Andrew Hurley


We are but skin about a wind, with muscles clenched against mortality. We sleep in a long reproachful dust against ourselves. We are full to the gorge with our own names for misery. Life, the pastures in which the night feeds and prunes the cud that nourishes us to despair. Life, the permission to know death. We were created that the earth might be made sensible of her inhuman taste.

Nightwood, Djuna Barnes