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Showing posts from November 28, 2021

The air loom gang and our present emergency

      Mike Jay is an interesting writer. He gets ahold of fascinating topics, but sometimes this means he gets ahold of a drawerful of research notes and throws them in the public’s face, like in his last book on Mescaline. Excellent topic, excellent intro, and then a march through historical particulars as arid as spray on deodorant. My favorite of his books is a more Shandian venture, illustrated beautifully, about a lunatic assassin, one James Tilley Matthews. Jay goes into the nitty gritty of this story from the 18 th century – 1796, to be precise, with a story that goes on into the early 19 th century – with a much more able touch. The book is entitled The Air Loom Gang, for it is this gang that had entranced and imprisoned the mind and body of James Tilley Matthews, with an intricate demonology worthy of one of   Blake’s longer poems. Matthews went mad, it seems, in the Paris of the Terror, where he was confined to his apartment and suspected of being an English spy. What h

Negative twenty questions modernism

Negative twenty questions modernism There’s a party game called twenty questions. One person goes out of the room, and the people in the room then discuss among themselves and choose an object in the room. Then the person is recalled, and he asks the people in the room up to twenty questions – classically, of the kind : is it bigger than a breadbox – in order to guess the object. John Wheeler, the physicist, spun off another game that he claimed was closer to the quantum world, or what at least it meant to investigate the quantum world. The structure of sending a person outside of the room remains constant. What this person doesn’t know, however, is that in this version of the game, all the people in the room pick their objects and don’t speak to each other. When the questioner is called in and asks the questions – for instance, is it bigger than a breadbox – the person who answers changes the object, in as much as his reply makes the other people in the room silently repick their ob

The (gasp!) twitter horror! a janitorial response to Patricia Lockwood's No one is talking about this

  When I was eighteen, I took an early graduation route from High School, which allowed me to have the mornings by myself. The afternoon and evening was taken up with my job at another high school – I had stuck my thumb into the great bureaucratic pie of the Dekalb County School system and come up with a plum job as night janitor. I worked at a school near Chamblee – it is now, I believe, a charter school, alas. Back then, I was in a self-educating mood and thought of myself as a distant follower of Tolstoy. Physical labor and soulful preparation, that was the ticket. My mistakes in life stem from eventually quitting that job and going on to college. But destiny is fate – and not fat. If destiny was fat, I’d have become head janitor and retired at fifty four with a belly like the boss janitor. I learned a lot from that job – in terms of cleaning supplies, for instance – and I’d take the great books to read on the break. I read Montaigne’s Essays in the break room, much to the amuseme