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Showing posts from April 5, 2020

Two poems by Karen Chamisso

I. Unnamed Found-and-pound her little mut me Found-and-pound we all become Found-and-pound was she Tubed up so that the broken drum Of her lung could still functi Myself the one whacked out without conjunction I woke with her bad breath in my mouth After her death everything went South For a long while. II. Pastoral, maybe My poem fell into the wrong crowd as I was visiting the   Garden Center in my SUV with   and Jake, our gardener, driving. Huh huh huh To buy me a magnolia stellata sapling or a loud Japanese plum   - huh huh huh It peered instead at the bottles of Ortho Orthene on the shelf “kills the queen and destroys the mound ” it read to itself And suddenly it knew that it had taken a side Huh huh huh When Troy was destroyed with every kind of   -cide Hum hum hum So don’t think a flower, carefully etched, can save you From returning to the mound with some kind of bait And thus I pushed my cart through the Garden Center gate.

The Breaks

  Breaks on a bus, brakes on a car  Breaks to make you a superstar Breaks to win and breaks to lose But these here breaks will rock your shoes And these are the breaks According to Robert Craven’s 1980 article on Pool slang in American speech, breaks – as in good break, bad break, those are the breaks – derives from the American lingo of pool, which is distinct from  British billiard terms. The difference in terminology emerged in the 19 th  century, but  he dates the popular use of break (lucky break, bad break, the breaks) to the 20s.  I love the idea that this is true, that the Jazz age, the age of American modernity and spectacle, saw the birth of the breaks. If the word indeed evolved from the first shot in pool – when you “break” the pyramid of balls, a usage that seems to have been coined in America in the 19 th  century, as against the British term  – then its evolution nicely intersects one of the favored examples in the philosophy of causation, as

Do we lie to ourselves? The argument against

  It is a commonplace that we “lie” to ourselves. In 2012, the psychologist Dan Ariely published a book on dishonesty with the title “The Honest Truth about Dishonesty: how we lie to everyone (especially ourselves)”. The reviews and responses to the book never questioned the parenthetical – the notion that we lie to ourselves seems to lie in our stock of accepted truisms. I want to tussle with that truism. I think it is wrong, for interesting reasons. What is a lie? It would seem to require two parts. One part is that it is the communication of a falsehood. The second part is that the person communicating the falsehood both, a., knows it is false, and b., what to induce the recipient of the message to believe it is true. Lying is one of the classic social phenomena of childhood, at least in the bourgeois West. A child, for instance, is warned that some fascinating piece of their parents’ bric-a-brac is fragile and not to be handled. A vase, a commemorative plate handed down

The Trick Book

“D’you know the difference between a big cat and a little one?” A big cat’ll claw your eyes out But a little pussy never hurt no one.” We   hold these truths against our sometimes doubt And write them in our trick book as lore: L'effronterie, la complaisance et la metamorphose , Said poor Anne-Joseph Théroigne de Méricourt, Describing both whore’s art and what we expose In making poems as the big cats do. Aren’t we prophetic strumpets every one. Rowdy girls who will cut you    And little pussies having little pussy fun writing our trick book in the margins of the Norton Anthology: sisters, let’s take back our gynecology. Karen Chamisso

The Kaleidoscope and Schopenhauer: an entertainment

In the chapter on the "metaphysics of the beautiful and aesthetics" in the second volume of the Parerga and Paralipomena, Schopenhauer discusses history. In 1851, when the essays came out, Schopenhauer's stance against the philosophical importance of history made him seem, pleasingly, like some archaic remnant of the eighteenth century. He was willing to suffer this reputation, and even enlarge on it. History at this time is, of course, associated with Hegel, and even if Hegel did not recognize, in Schopenhauer, his unmasker and foe, Schopenhauer definitely took Hegel as the touchstone of what Leon Daudet later labelled "the stupid 19th century" - the stupidity being, at its very beastly heart, the idea that there was a dynamic axis to history. In the essay on history, Schopenhauer casts himself as a moralist, an intemporal observer, a user of classical exempla. And he comes up with this image: He who, like myself, cannot help seeing in all history the

Bad Years

I’ve been thinking about other bad years; for instance, those between 1845-1849 in Ireland. Ireland, it is estimated, had a population in 1845 of around 8 million – a figure that would not be achived again in more than a century. The mass of the population consisted of poor laborers and smallholders. They survived, to an astonishing extent, on the potato. It was the staple – the potato was to the Irish household what steak, potato, veggies and desert are to the   the contemporary American household. The economy was largely agricultural, and the cash crops – grains, for instance – were exported to England. The potato blight was brought to Europe from the U.S. It started in Belgium – which in all during this period suffered perhaps as many as 40,000 deaths – and spread to Ireland. Ireland, at that point, was “joined” to the UK, but was in reality ruled as a colony. In the 1840s, in England, the new theories of free trade and non-state interference – old style liberalism – h