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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Unrest, Rest, Civil And Uncivil

[I dedicate this to friend Willie who recommended I write this evening to ease a very real personal solicitude]
The coat of arms over this essay consists, according to Burke's, of two heraldic creatures, both bearing keys to conundrum (enigma) and looking quite upset, sticking their tongues out at an indecipherable figure of authority. This is a symbol familiar to all parents but that is not what this essay is  about. It is about the shield, depicting battlement and sword, which means there's been some sort of argument. There is also water, which I shall discuss later on.

Speaking of parents, about which this essay is not, I am one. Reckoning purely by the decibel level of their formative years, I would estimate I have raised several thousand children, and dedicated funds upward of twenty or thirty dollars doing so. I have learned a thing or two, both being that kids like to be told stories. It relieves stress. I enjoy it too, but the kids are grown, scattered across the world now and...excuse me, I have confused myself. A stress trigger. Recovery requires I arrange myself in a semi-circle and tell myself a story. You may join me, please.

Once upon a time, in an almost perfect kingdom situated along the river Avon (from which astronomers derive the term, nova, through reflector telescopes that reverse everything) that was so fragrant that representatives sold its waters door to door, there were only two social classes, king and rabble.
King and rabble got along fine until, possibly due to some regional accent, somebody misspelled the latter as "rebel". This ignited a protracted period of "rebellion", plunging the entire business of the kingdom into the king and rebels taking turns beheading each other. It is what becomes of semantically stratified societal limitations. Rebels may do rebellion where rabble can only do rabbleion and nobody knows what rabbleion is.

As a result, fields fell fallow, larders fell low on lard and sculleries clogged with skulls. So the king, weary of being an oft-beheaded indecipherable figure of authority, sent out a proclamation to be read not merely nearly and narrowly but far and wide as well. Here is its entire text: "HELP!"

In response, there came a great knocking at the great knocker on the main gate under the bailey arch. This refers to a great grated gate giving onto the bailey, a courtyard within walls of a castle,  named for Barnum and Bailey who invented a way of building one every minute. In reply to official castle protocol of demanding "WHAT?" of every great knocker knocking came the question, "Need a lawyer?"

The lawyer was admitted and, after exchange of greetings and solicitations with greeters and solicitors, settled into advising the much-beheaded king, and said, "You guys need a new mode of social interaction in this town."

"What do you suggest?" Asked the king. And by this time all the rebels had their ears pressed to the door.

"Defenestration!" Shouted the lawyer, so all eavesdropping beheadables could hear but he was quite a shouty fellow anyway.

"Eeeewww!" Cried the king and all the rebels, "sounds horrible and I bet it hurts!"

"Oh indeed," said the lawyer. "It means getting thrown out the window, probably into the river!"

So they gave it a try and the king, who had never bathed in his life, went first. The rebels were much amazed by his bravery and set themselves to babbling about how nice the king looked all washed up. Then they experimented with defenestrating each other and babbled about how refreshed they felt.

At which point, the lawyer, who was also a trained shouty societal semanticist, shouted, "RABBLEBABBLE!!!"

The rebels took up this shouty shout and repeated it and repeatedly defenestrated themselves until they forgot the word, rebel, entirely. They lolled upon the river bank and sighed, "Ah rabble, rabblebabble, clean rabblebabble too poopoopadoop!"

"Rabble that's had a bath!" Sighed the king, who retained the lawyer in perpetuity and lived rabbley ever after.

Which is how the town of Bath got its name.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Poppy At Esterháza

"My advisor  sent me to find you."

"Your advisor sent you to find the gardener?"

"Uh huh. You are the gardener, aren't you?

"Yes, er..."

"Poppy*. I'm Poppy. They said to give you this. I don't know why."

"Well Poppy, it's a hall pass with a question mark on the back. Don't worry, gardeners don't give tests. It means I should ask you some things. First, what am I doing?"

"Ha! don't you know?

"You first."

"You're trimming an Italian Cypress into a candlestick shape. I like the little topknot. It looks like flame.

"Thanks, that was the effect I was after. How did you identify the shrub?"

"I have a good memory for things grow...but, I'm..."

"Shy perhaps?" 

"Who told you that, Girls League Council? Did they tell you I'm shy, that I didn't make the cut on their Precision Giggling Team?"

"Their what?"

"Where they walk around in a group and look at someone and laugh all at once. It makes people feel awful. It's destructive! I thought I could join up and change it."

"You did."

"Huh? I...did what?"

"You made the cut, Poppy. They didn't. Here, take this rake, get the clippings into a little pile there."

"I'm confused. Is this like work-study? I help the gardener? What's going on?"

"Look, on the giggling team you learned how groups work in unison, achieve power, and you learned how to improve them, humanize them from within, person by person. You live in a world remote from privation, war, injustice and greed, where people may live their lives to full measure. How do you think that happened?"

"Government by discussion?"

"Very good! But the threats of the past did not disappear by themselves. Agents are dispatched into the past to join it, to persuade individuals to make adjustments, private adjustments toward tolerance, peace, generosity and kindness. Here, keep this."

"You just wrote 'Esterházy' on my hall pass."

"You know Haydn? The Farewell Symphony?"

"Yes, from orchestra class."

"What happens in the final movement?"

"It, um, goes about four minutes and then strange things happen."

"That's right, the group changes from within, stages a protest but never misses a note and it will be successful because you'll be there. That's your assignment. Check with me afterwards --I'll be in the garden at Esterháza. Look for candlestick Cypresses."

"This is crazy. That's over a thousand years ago!"

"Which is why I won't know you, Poppy. We will not have met yet. Just grab a rake and show me your hall pass. I'll sign it and all temporal variables will  reset so neither of us remembers the other."

"Ok, see ya!"

"See ya."

Poppy precedent

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Brief Sermon On Love

It is Sunday and I have begun with a doodle. This is because of local tradition. When our valley is in a state of barometric flux some of us wake up and celebrate with migraines. It is best to keep one eye closed --the hurty one-- but this makes clumsiness. Not clumsy to the degree recorded by Ecclesiastes [(10:18), "He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it."] but still pretty clumsy, so movement is kept to a minimum and no pit-digging for sure.

I only ventured out to the pumphouse for a headache pill and came right back. Forgot and carried the pumphouse padlock in with me. There it is up there, and a doodle I drew of it. I drew a human between them and that's when it became a sermon, a sermon about love. We'll start in the past, back when I had two eyes open and radios had little orchestras inside them.

The little orchestras played  love songs mostly. I thought I was in love once or twice but my hat had only caught fire --as often happens to one. Then one has a chance encounter. One sits at a table somewhere opposite a stranger, and since decorum dictated --at the time-- strangers remain even stranger, a strange thing happens. First, one's past and present tenses are confounded.  Then one notices the other's eyes and decides there is something really quite elegant about them. And one falls in love.

Oh my. It's what, 1968? The thoughts: "Why now?  At a time when our best and most progressive leaders are shot dead at their podiums, when theocon regressionists and international belligerents consider God their quaint subordinate, when I could be drafted or jailed, when there is so much to do, why now? Why not ten years from now, five even? Why now?"

And so, let us turn to Acts 9:5-6 - "it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."  Because there are a lot of them out there, and (hopefully) one only has so many feet, we must rely upon the transcendent power of love. Love doesn't care what's going on. It hits when it hits, incapable of putting itself off no matter how inconvenient it is. It finds one returning the pumphouse lock and asks, "How's your barometer-head?" And, miraculously, my eyes are opened.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Liebster Blog

I have been forced in from fenceline repairs by heat and need beer and to be called "dearest" even if it is in German. Happily, Suze at "Subliminal Coffee" has awarded me a Liebster, which requires three things: I must answer eleven questions; make up eleven questions; ask at least eleven others to do the same.


1. Where were you born?

Spang in the middle of another century.

2. Where are you living now?

In the preface of another one.

3. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?

I am afraid of crayons. Boneless crayons were invented when I grew up but I still distrust them. I like brown though.

4. Last movie you watched?

Norma and I watched "The Hobbit". I liked it; she didn't. It had too many explosions. She's right. I remember a cartoon version where Richard Boone voiced Smaug, the dragon. I hope they have somebody half as good at sarcastic articulation, maybe Tom Selleck, voice him this time.

5. What book are you reading now?

I'm almost done with "Garment Of Shadows" by Laurie R. King, a very good writer.

6. The power goes out. It will be out for several hours. What do you do with yourself?

I try to rescue all the Guinness Extra Stout from going warm in the fridge by drinking it.

7. What are you listening to right now?
This, of course:

8. Greatest struggle as a writer?

Spelling. But I'm not a writer. I consider myself a gardener.

9. What is one book you think everyone should read?

Charles Dickens' "David Copperfield". You'll find everybody you've ever known in there.

10. If you could be one of the Greek gods, who would you be and why?

Eros, son of Chaos, associated with the rose (and composed of the same four letters). I like roses except where they interfere with fence repairs. Same with eros.

11. Weirdest thing you've ever been told by a fortune cookie?

Never been told anything by a fortune cookie. Don't like them. Taste papery inside.


1. How can we know where uncertainty begins?

2. For 5 billion years there has been life on earth. A few generations survive. Is this a progress we don't see, or just a staggering mortality rate?

3. If you are caught stealing checkered slacks, is it best to plead the 1970s or insanity?

4.Is there a version of us that notices our bodies about as much as our bodies notice their shadows?

5.If you built a model of the 30 billion-year-old universe at HO scale (like hobby trains) you'd have to build you building it 29.7 billion years ago. How would you fill in the gap?

6. Does Time take as long on an instant as it does to play itself out?

7. If a billion people say a stupid thing, is it still stupid or just a really amazing coincidence?

8. If alphabetizing streets is useful in one direction, wouldn't it be twice as useful in two directions?

9. Is it narcissistic to skip a party just because you won't be there?

10. Since unselfish love requires a self, does it exist in violation of its only condition?

11. Can a search for infinity be conclusive?

Now that I've read over my questions, and cannot answer them, I have decided not to inflict them on anybody in particular but will field them on a volunteer basis. Speaking of field, I must go outdoors now. I got fences.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gene Glitch

As readers of this blog know, I seldom review new books --or old ones for that matter-- nor do I intend to do so now, but for sake of general clarification I shall refer closely to the volume pictured above. I am reminded of a quote from Alexander Graham Bell : "Man is an animal which, alone among the animals, refuses to be satisfied by the fulfillment of animal desires."

Humans and other animals that run in packs adapt to the social hierarchies and needs of their kind, often in creative and reliable ways, then give up. So I don't agree with Mr. Bell, but then I didn't invent the telephone. He did. I simply quote him to provide an appearance of depth to my thoughts that would not otherwise be there.

The book, nearly as I can make out, begins with a description of the Human Genome Project. It was an international scientific research project, begun in 1987 and completed in 2003, intended to determine the sequence of chemical base pairs of DNA --identifying and mapping 20,000–25,000 genes from physical and functional standpoints. Where there is an anomalous mispairing of base DNA, it is called a Gene Glitch. Few people, and even fewer geneticists, know this anomaly --responsible for early baldness, guys who say "hey buddy" and several presidents-- was, like Bell Telephone,  named after its discoverer.

In 1965, I was in the EGSH high school cafeteria eating lunch and noticed the kid beside me at the table was naked except for a tutu and heavy leather hiking boots. It was Friday, fishstick day, and he was squatting in

his plate eating fishsticks off his chair. I figured he was a foreign exchange student and introduced myself.

"Gene Glitch," he replied and shook my hand, which transferred the tutu onto me and caused him to grow lederhosen and a sombrero. Gene Glitch and I ended up being lab partners in all our science classes but his strange ability to turn foetal pigs into giant butterflies and noble gasses into world leaders was found unnerving. He was sent repeatedly to the principal's office, where district counselors and administrators discounted his explanation, that he suffered a genetic anomaly, and finally resolved to donate Gene's body to science while he was still using it.

I lost touch with Gene Glitch after that but, apparently, upon escaping the Calvinistic dourness of our small town's idea of inherent evil, he was able to establish himself in scientific circles high enough to kick-start the Human Genome Project. He is now a prominent government-funded researcher, married to his cute five-foot-tall high school sweetheart who is occasionally ten six-inch-tall women.

I am afraid to read the book.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Good And Evil

I am regaining my strength through regular use of a 20-pound dumbbell, which you can see behind me on the bench where I conduct therapeutic workouts. It is best to divide effort between the dumbbell and a smaller, 12 ounce, weight which seems to get lighter with each repetition. This is conducive to meditation, especially meditation upon the enigmatic nature of good and evil.

I do this between exertions by studying the essential and irreducible structure of the fence.  It is made of matter, which is one of several ways to organize subatomic events. Good and evil appear as virtual charges around a singlet. A singlet, in physics, is a quantum state with zero spin. A singlet in spectroscopy is an entity appearing, like a fence-paling point, as a single peak. In optics, like the eyes I'm using, a singlet refers to refraction involving just one lens. In the exercise above, all three definitions are employed.

There is only one definition of singlet not in use here. It is another name for onesie. Onesies are a one-piece garment worn by wrestlers and babies. They are based upon the feather coverings of baby mockingbirds. I didn't know this until Norma took this picture of a nest outside the bathroom window:

These little birds wear singlets of new feathers. Onesies.

With each new turn of quantum navigation, we are invited to choose a future that best includes us. The virtual, good  or evil, becomes actual by our attention. Evil is opportunistic and, once it gains a foothold, will take a person over --or a nation-- and is the very devil to get rid of. How is that accomplished?

It's not strictly eradicated by huge reforms. Personal internal adjustments are needed. Because every kindness creates an endless ripple --verifiable by cyclotron studies-- it's the small acts of goodness, help and heroism that can in combination keep evil away. However, if you are further along in your exercises than I, you may wish to wrestle evil outright. In this aerobic effort, I recommend you wear a onesie.