Didactic Dragon

John Gardner describes an encounter between Grendel and a dragon which provides the occasion for an exquisite disquisition.

After another long pause, he said: "Approach it this way. Let us take this jug." He picked up a golden vessel and held it toward me, not letting me touch it. In spite of himself, as it seemed, he looked hostile and suspicious, as if he thought I might perhaps be so stupid as to snatch the thing and run. "How does this jug differ from something animate?" He drew it back out of reach. "By organization! Exactly! This jug is an absolute democracy of atoms. It has importance, or thereness, so to speak, but no Expression, or, loosely, ah-ha!-ness. Importance is primarily monistic in its reference to the universe. Limited to a finite individual occasion, importance ceases to be important. In some sense or other — we can skip the details — importance is derived from the immanence of infinitude in the finite. Expression, however — listen closely now — expression if founded on the finite occasion. It is the activity of finitude impressing itself on its environment. Importance passes from the world as one to the world as many, whereas expression is the gift from the world as many to the world as one. The laws of nature are large average effects which reign impersonally. But there is nothing average about expression: it is essentially individual. [...] "
Nothing average here located a pivotal moment in the novel Grendel. As the dragon continues it becomes evident that Grendel does not follow entirely and soon they part ways. But the distinction between importance and expression hovers at the edge of memory and colours the following scenes.

And so for day 1175
02.03.2010

Labyrinth in Labyrinth

Entrance
Anne Carson. red doc>.

His teacher at med school called him a minotaur who swallows other people's labyrinths. Good I'll do psychiatry he said.
Centre
Paal-Helge Haugen. Meditations on Georges de La Tour. Translated by Roger Greenwald.
The simplest question gets lost in labyrinths
of incomplete answers, broken connections
Exit
Carla Harryman. Adorno's Noise
The conceptual artist and artwriter, Robert Smithson, opens his essay "Quasi-Infinities and the Waning of Space" by stating that a labyrinth is "a first obstruction which the mind will pass through in an instant, thus eliminating the spatial problem." The labyrinth he refers to is a diagram on a two-dimensional surface.
Exit Again
Robert Smithson. "Quasi-Infinities and the Waning of Space" in Arts Magazine Vol. II, November 1966.
The first obstacle shall be a labyrinth through which the mind will pass in an instant, thus eliminating the spatial problem.
Note "obstacle" not "obstruction". Note further that the event is cast in the future -- the passing through has yet to occur. The illustration referenced by Smithson and picked up upon by Harryman is the labyrinth on the floor of the Amiens cathedral. Smithson continues in what could be considered as the language of quest "the next encounter [...]".

And so for day 1174
01.03.2010

Tardy Acknowledgements

Apologies all around through missives to a mutual friend...

Please pass along my apologies to X for invading her head space.... in any event I could have turned around to see if she did a double take... she did seem to be on route to somewhere and I had no wish to detain her needlessly... plus I myself was on the way to a rendez-vous ...
Prompted by ...
I think I snubbed F a few hours ago. I was heading up the street on my way to see my doctor, and, as I usually am, I was utterly preoccupied with my thoughts. At the last second, I thought I noticed someone heading in the other direction acknowledge me, but in the moment, I didn't quite recognize him and wasn't entirely sure he was acknowledging me. Aargh! If it was F, and if you speak to him in the near future, please extend my apologies to him. I'm a complete dolt when I'm out walking.
Now passed on for the etiquette mavens to pick at.

And so for day 1173
28.02.2010

Quivering Craziness

Robert Bly published ten of his translations from Francis Ponge and ten of his own poems inspired by Ponge. Let's take a look a single phrase.

Les papillons miteux [...] tous frémissent aux bords d'une frénésie voisine de la stupeur.
There is quite a challenge here with the alliteration. Bly preserves the rolling "r".
The seedy moths [...] they all tremble on the brink of a mania close to stupor.
Bly giving "mania" where one might expect "frenzy" but it is his "tremble" that sent me to Google's on line translation tool where I found the following list of English renderings of the verb "frémir".

tremble
shudder
shiver
quiver
quake
simmer
go crazy
swish
writhe

And so I am led to "all crazed, they quiver on the brink of stupifaction."

Where the French would put the frenzy and the stupor in neighbourly proximity, the English seems to call for a causal relation — one leading to the other. In any event, without Bly there would be no attention to the tension generated by the alliterative use of the fricatives.

And so for day 1172
27.02.2010

Lambent Ambience: Home Fires

I have read it from a 1999 printout under the title "The Alchemy of Ambience" housed on a Finnish WWW site (at the Aalto University bookshop). It's no longer there. Have found its 1994 abstract on the International Symposium on Electronic Art archives: [ISEA94] Nicholas Gebhardt – Sounds Natural: Sonic Landscapes and the New Age. Slippage in the title between the program and the delivery?

The Way Back Machine of the Internet Archive preserves a copy from 1998
http://www.uiah.fi/bookshop/isea_proc/spacescapes/j/19.html

The moment that interests me in Gebhardt's exploration of questions relating to a notion of "musical terrain" is the quotation from Stockhausen which precedes Gebhardt's pointing to the work of Deleuze and Guattari (The Refrain from Thousand Plateaus). First the Stockhausen:

We can now hear a well-tempered music of moments where "... every moment is important or nothing is important. A moment is not simply the result of preceding moments, nor the anticipation of moments to come. It is a personal, centred entity, with its own existence. A moment is not a fraction of a time-line, not a particle lasting a measured length of time. Instead, concentration on the now makes vertical incisions in the horizontal line of time to reach timelessness, which is what I would call eternity: an eternity that does not begin where time has ended but that can be reached at any moment." [Stockhausen cited in Wim Mertens, American Minimal Music, (London: Kahn & Averill, 1983), pp. 101-102]
And now, the invocation of Deleuze and Guattari
So as an eternal music of sonorous moments, ambience necessarily begins to act upon the environment through which it moves, on the light, on other sounds, on smells, on the texture of the space, extracting from it various vibrations, rhythmic structures, decompositions, projections and transformation. [Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), p.348 Their notion of the "labour of the refrain" has also been vital to the shape of my analysis.]
Which led me to read the section and locate on p. 320 a return to the notion of terrain...
Members of the same species enter into rhythmic characters at the same time as different species enter into melodic landscapes; for the landscapes are peopled by characters and the characters belong to landscapes.
This conjunction of character and landscape reminds me of Gertrude Stein's pieces published under the rubric of Geography and Plays and of her operas. Indeed most of her oeuvre. Rhythm and melody make us as readers attuned to process. It is as Ulla E. Dydo writes in the introduction to A Stein Reader about attention to the materiality of what is before us. Her appeal to the craft of painting allows for us to recursively think the terrain of "musical terrain" and the musicality as a passage marking that terrain. See
The energy of a piece comes in part from the act of writing, which enters it as value that can be read, just as hues and brush strokes can be read in a painting. A text must be transcribed with attention to the evidence of its making. Print, while it cannot always reproduce that process, need not wipe it out. Inside a text are the lines that carry the words, the hand moving on paper, line breaks and spaces dictated by notebook or leaf, size and folds of paper, pen or pencil forming words, the shape of a draft visible in the way its is copied into a notebook, and even the effort to end a work in the space of one notebook.
All perhaps archaic gestures. Other tools permit other glimpses to be heard... Take this line "Not a doctor to me not a debtor to me not a d to me but a c to me a credit to me." from Stein's "Next. Life and Letters of Marcel Duchamp" and type (not cut and paste) it in a word processing program — you might encounter a series of suggested completions which disappear like notes and if you use text-to-speech program your eyes glide at a guided speed. In typing you also find the s e p a r a t e letters cause the speed of the fingering to alter. Instruments, interactors, and music!

And so for day 1171
26.02.2010

Numbering in the Reading Process

The process outlined below is is akin to homolinguistic translation. Its activity is a precursor to computing the text. It provides a primitive mark-up and leaves the mystery of rendition (i.e. reading) open.

NUMBER PIECE I

Count all the words in the book
instead of reading them.


NUMBER PIECE II

Replace nouns in the book with numbers
and read.
Replace adjectives in the book with
numbers and read.
Replace all the words in the book with
numbers and read.



1961 winter
Yoko Ono. Grapefruit: A book of instructions

Next step would be to replace and read letters. Or move on to other toys ... like plugging the sequence
reading, activity, akin, computing, homolinguistic, leaves, mystery, numbering, outlined, precursor, primitive, process, provides, rendition, replacing
into the Serendip-o-matic.

And so for day 1170
25.02.2010

Veering on the Verge

The analogy of the blind person orienting herself in space can have a bearing on the many ways our cognitive mapping works: by bumps and starts. I invite readers to make the leap to via this excerpt from Alexandra Horowitz On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes.

So here I committed a cardinal walking-with-the-blind sin: I tried to guide her. I reached out, about to grab Gordon's arm to prevent this inevitable progress into the wall. Barely restraining myself, I managed to plainly offer, "Um, you're swerving to your left quite a bit. You've about a quarter of the sidewalk left before..."

Gordon was unfazed. "If I go too far, I'll hit the building. But I know where I am."

I couldn't be convinced. "... And now you're pretty close to hitting the side of the building..."

She stopped and seemed to look at me steadily, then resumed walking. True to her word, she went ahead and banged right into the building with her cane. Gordon's cane tapped a quick pattern on the wall and sidewalk, a perfunctory petting of an unbeloved animal. Then she smoothly righted herself, turning just enough to take a path parallel to the building's line.

Gordon had deliberately veered, I realized, in order to get a reference point. Out of the sea of the middle of the sidewalk, she headed for something tangible that could give her her bearings.

I was at least in good company in my overweening desire to help her avoid bodily injury. People grab her all the time as she approaches buildings, Gordon said. But they, and I, were simply not seeing how she was seeing the space. She was aiming to run into the building, not trying to avoid it.

"It's not an obstacle at all, is it?" I asked. "It's something you're using to navigate the space."

"Exactly." Gordon smiled, continuing on a perefectly parallel course.
I am careful not to suggest that each and every member of a group or collective adopt the blind pose. I want to point here that Horowitz's recounting has two people which serves as a reminder that as a collective enterprise research needs its blind (expert) and its naive guides: it's how the group can orient and reorient itself — different ways of embracing obstacles.

And so for day 1169
24.02.2010

Double Double and Twirl

I saw the bloom in the spring garden — bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis 'Flore Pleno') — and I thought of the poem and book with the title The Double Dream of Spring by John Ashbery and I love the lines:
For certainly the sidewalk led
To a point somewhere beyond itself
Nice to revisit the poem and I noticed that on the cover of this edition what had been for me a flourish of a flowery sort proved upon closer (and double) examination to be a calligraphic marvel — the words of the title ran round in a circle to form bloom and stalk. See

starting at the left corner one can circle round "spring the double dream of"

And so for day 1168
23.02.2010

Time's Mechanics

Brian Eno.

Times shown are British Standard Time; Calculations are made on the assumption that the Gregorian Calendar will remain in use. The Gregorian Calendar errs by one day in two thousand years, thus posing a dilemma for performers of the distant future.
from "Untitled (British Standard Time), 1968" reproduced in Visual Music p. 86. The dates for the performance of the work range from 1968 to 2512. Reminds me of the Halberstadt performance of Cage's long work Organ²/ASLSP (As SLow aS Possible). Eno's remarks about the Gregorian calendar bring to mind a section from Garry Thomas Morse's The Untitled (13) where the poetic voice muses about the recalibration of the calendar in idiosyncratic terms.
Today (being Monday)
is my Friday and the
start of my weekend!

& I am wishing
myself a happy
weekend that's
schizophrenic -
I do not do justice here to the elegant typesetting by Glen Lowry. You have to imagine the text set off from a cascade of lines and occupying a block aligned close to the right margin - like a voice intruding.

Garry Thomas Morse is also the source for this next passage inviting mediation on the marking of time. It is from Transversals for Orpheus.
May the mystical
arrange existence
in the calendrical
dead to impromptu
Time passing. Time captured. The pressure on "impromptu" is to be alive to the prepared in readiness, the planned for an eventuality. If the calendrical is dead to impromptu, then can existence sabotage the mystical, defeating all attempts at arrangement? Time captured in passing. In the modes of a matrix. Impromptu resurfacing as cell-hopping... at play with the prepared for however long.

So pushing some parsing, one is able to read the mystical arranging existence in the space between the calendrical dead and the impromptu: as in the road from one to the other. You really have to go slow or you miss the place. There's some algebra magic in the mechanics: arrange Y in the A to C. Diagramming. Take as long as you like.

And so for day 1167
22.02.2010

Braking Break

waves, their sonority.

Via Marcus McCann adapting some lines (quoting with variation), I took to looking at Mark Doty "Notebook/To Lucien Freud/On the Veil" collected in School of the Arts first appeared in the London Review of Books (Vol. 27 No. 2 · 20 January 2005).

         aspects of flesh breaking here,

the way we say waves break
     become visible at the instant
         of their descent.
"the way we say waves break —"

becomes in Marcus McCann's "Three" in softwhere

the way. We say waves break,


McCann has an ear for assonance and alliteration. He often builds a set of lines from repeated and related sounds.
pleasure — libido, fluorescent
heart of an onion — in
the way. We say waves break,
The image of the onion and the allusion to layer upon layer influences the appropriation of the Doty lines. The punctuation brings prominence to the pronoun (not to be unexpected in a poem entitled "Three" which is in part describing a menage à trois); "we" becomes a kernel where once it was part of the waves of way and say. The italic emphasis on break is lost, the whole line becomes emphasized and enmeshed in enjambement: the break broken away.

And so for day 1166
21.02.2010