snowward swords        compass needles

And so for day 77

Tic Toc Tow

In Volume 8, Issue 7 (February 20, 2007 – February 26, 2007) of Ubiquity in a piece entitled "Cyberspace, Cosmology, and the Meaning of Life" I follow the discursive dance steps of Albert Borgmann and am enchanted by a peculiar skip if not jump.

The seductive distractions of cyberspace can in part be explicated by comparing the spatial structure of focal reality with that of cyberspace. The structure of electronic information is in an informal sense topological. Cyberspace has structure. Sites are nested and linked on the screen in a definite order. But there are no measurable distances between them. Everything is equally near and far and equally and easily reachable, and hence I easily slip from the important by way of the interesting to the distracting. In focal reality, some things are near and others far.

There is a gap between structure and attention. The effect noted by Borgman is not necessarily caused by a flattened topography. As well, the discipline of topology points to phase space and permits the modeling of the attention as part of the realm observed. Hence a cyberspace can be understood as a form of hyperspace and both can be distinguished from the space of hypertext. The minute a reader whether machine or human, enters the flatland even space of hypertext and reads then the experience begins to resemble those of focal reality. Sometime ago in a place not here I wrote: "How "cyberspace" relates to "hyperspace" is a key to its metaphorics."

Borgman weaves a story about loss of focal reality and stresses the need for a point of reference.

To deal with the confusing brilliance of technological information we need a point of reference that enables us to discern what in cyberspace is illuminating and what is distracting.

Could that point of reference be the clock and the system of time zones? A system that allows us to navigate synchronicities. And mark the beginning and ends of trips.

And so for day 76


The most magical moment for me in The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter is not the errant-running cat nor the kind helpful mice. It is the description of the result of the tailor's labours. It must be the snow that introduces the description. Something about the uniform blanket of white which children who have grown up in winter climes know obliterates and subdues that adds a special dimension to the display of colour and texture.

When the snow-flakes came down against the small leaded window-panes and shut out the light, the tailor had done his day's work; all the silk and satin lay cut out upon the table.

There were twelve pieces for the coat and four pieces for the waistcoat; and there were pocket flaps and cuffs, and buttons all in order. For the lining of the coat there was fine yellow taffeta; and for the button-holes of the waistcoat, there was cherry-coloured twist. And everything was ready to sew together in the morning, all measured and sufficient -- except that there was wanting one single skein of cherry-coloured twisted silk.

Only upon slowing the reading and transcribing the adjacent passages do I gather that there is a sort of interference at work and I make the connection with the recollection of the spectacle of cherry trees in bloom so that "cherry-coloured" reads in this context as light pink as opposed to a deep cerise. A japonica patina.

And so for day 75


Brillat-Savarin's first Meditation from The Physiology of Taste provides an outline of six senses. There are the five of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. The six is physical desire and is in the service of procreation. An impish me wants to invoke a translation of this seductive six sense. I want to drop the procreative imperative. I want to recuperate the six senses in the name of the sensus communis and make the erotic impulse flow heroically as the quotidian social glue that is not genitally affixed.

Read with a nice glass of wine in hand, M.F.K. Fisher's translation invites the reader to use a wee bit of imagination to universalize the satiation offered by a good digestive act which magically results in the will to share one's life with someone.

This active, troubling, imperious sentiment is common to both sexes; it brings them together and unites them, and when the germ of a new life has been fertilized, the two people can sleep again in peace; they have fulfilled the most sacred of their duties in thus making sure that mankind will continue.

There is no glossing over "the germ of a new life". Pregnancy is the aimed for condition. Those of either sex coming together with those of either sex do also participate in the continuance of "mankind" read in the wide sense of humanity. They may or may not sleep again in peace. The fertile can sleep so. It doesn't mean they will.

Fertile or not, rutting does engage the full five and a lively imagination to boot.

And so for day 74

Look See Listen Hear

R.D. Laing in Self and Others in the first chapter "Phantasy and Experience" reproduces Susan Isaacs's summary of the argument in her 1952 paper "The nature and function of Phantasy". One of the views developed is that

The earliest phantasies are experienced as sensations; later they take the form of plastic images and dramatic representations.

This could be read as a succession (sensations followed by plastic images and then by dramatic representations) or as a fork (sensations giving rise to either plastic images or dramatic representations).

And in some sense the art of sculpture and the theatre arts are related to rhythm, sound and movement. The hollow thump of body against body.

And after a fashion the path from sensation to plastic image to dramatic representation or the path from sensation to dramatic representation (and by u-turn to plastic image) is re-conducted re-travelled. There is not a single origin but a constant origination.

And so for day 73


Barry Lopez in Winter Count has a piece that is a portrait. "The Lover of Words" is described as understanding

the power of words to draw forth feeling and to mesmerize. He understood how words healed.

A slow reading that doesn't rush to the next sentence allows the image of a self-healing word to emerge. Words as beings that can be wounded. Such an image suits an attitude to language that respects not only power in words but also how power comes to words.

It is perhaps not surprising that there is a vegetative aspect to such use of words. The plant and the word are similar.

At an all-but-unfanthomable depth in his spirit, however, there lay an irreducible idea, medieval and adamantine, about the replicating quality of metaphor and the physical revelation of abstract ideas. As he tended to his bushes and plants, to the trimming of lawns and the hillsides of ivy, he drew himself along in a world of cultivated ideas, trimmed and watered as expeditiously, from which arose an atmosphere as salubrious.

How different the task of purging a language which some poets set themselves from the humble local project of healing words.

And so for day 72


I once was wisely told by Ted Chamberlin, "You have a story to tell, find a way to tell it" or words to such effect. And years afterwards I was enchanted once more to read in his book If This is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories? Finding Common Ground much more about stories and what he calls "ceremonies of belief" and I "systems of encounter".

Some snippets from the introduction:

Recognizing the strangeness in other people's stories, we see and hear it in our own.

Our own stories. Let us emphasize the plural. We carry, we construct, more than one.

It is the diversity that is unique, not, if I may dare, the story but its ways of being told, which is another story. Or so I read this passage also from the introduction:

Other people's stories are as varied as the landscapes and languages of the world; and the storytelling traditions to which they belong tell the different truths of religion and science, of history and the arts.

Science is contrasted with religion and aligned with the arts; the myths of religion align with the different truths of history.

And so I progress in the technics of replay to one more excerpt from the introduction:

And are all ceremonies of belief as much as they are chronicles of events, even the stories that claim to be absolutely true. We first learn this when we are very young; we learn how to believe before we learn what to believe.

Before I could ask to be told a story I had to acquire the repertoire of diversity, grow into the use of pronouns: me, you, we. A simple elaboration of pronouns marking the passage from I want to let us offer to another, a story. And that "I want a story" only comes after some you some when, an often repeated when, offered to me stories. That is where the faith begins: someone believed that I would come into the gathering of story makers, someone had evidence that I was worthy of stories about and that some day I would bestow that worth again elsewhere.

That is where the faith ends: in the belief that the receiver is judged worthy of the story. Or so that is how I learned how participate in ceremony and distinguish rite from ritual.

And so for day 71

kennings in haiku

fierce hand knows no ire

at the end of a taut line

tugs wind riding kite

and so for day 70


Dionne Brand in a piece in Brick: a literary journal (Winter 2005, Number 76) writes of women and boxing, women in the ring and in the crowds. In a set of remarks following the description of an outburst from the stands, she reminds us all that "there is a difference between cunning and deceit". It is worth pausing there to register the remark and wonder at what point there is skill in lying and what that point might be.

She goes on to comment on the aesthetic of the sport:

Fight crowds [...] They have a deep and unparalleled appreciation of the grace and cleverness -- the endurance and innovation and imagination -- of boxers, of their virtuosity, and of the way they play with chaos. A good match is as multi-directional and contrapuntal as, say, John Coltrane and Rasheed Ali playing "Venus." It requires that kind of physical and lyrical virtuosity, that liminal combination of improvisation and composition.

Reprise towards the end of the piece almost as a peroration:

[...] boxer invariably beats fighter. Why? Because it's hard to arrive at the nexus of improvisation and composition.

And the great skill in lying is in the moment of truth telling that reveals the fib. True deceit involves no cunning just as virtuosity invisible is not virtuosity.

Can one have an opponent without an audience?

And so for day 69

Smaller for longer

The little red book of quotations from Chairman Mao provides an excerpt from On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People

The only way to settle questions of an ideological nature or controversial issues among the people is by the democratic method, the method of discussion, of criticism, of persuasion and education, and not by the method of coercion or repression.

And so begins a little campaign of education: asking the vendors if they sell 8 oz when their small is 16 oz. Asking if they might halve the 3 inch cookies. Ready to pay not a lesser price but an equal price knowing that it is an investment to consume less and pay more. Walking away from the purchase if accommodation cannot be made. It is easy to fill a cup to the half way mark or to split a cookie.

Micro theatre for a planet. Revolutions to go.

And so for day 68


An ornate baroque escapade, a drift towards mania, a flight into fancy, laying tracks. In French the artist and the mad person are not so separate as might be suggested by Edmund White on Genet describing solitary confinements:

If the self is strengthened through intercourse with other people, it is diluted by prolonged solitude. Under such circumstances most people plunge into uncontrolled waking dreams to such a degree they can no longer distinguish between fantasy and reality, the imagination and its inventions. Though probably dismissed as a dreamer, the artist, paradoxically, gains a greater mastery than ordinary people over his imaginary conversations, he or she controls them and is not controlled by them. This mastery derives precisely from the lordly arbitrariness of the storyteller, who is free to abridge, rerun, recast, and otherwise edit his daydreams.

The syntax hints at a parallelism: fantasy is to imagination as reality is to inventions. Imagination may be a source of arbitrariness and inventions, of arbitrated-ness. Somewhere in all this is the work of judgement and the implication that fiction manipulation is contrasted with truth telling. There is another humble arbitrariness that does not indulge in the discourses of mastery, especially in its gendered aspects.

It is the image of the storyteller's freedom to retell in whole or in part that rings true. That way leads to escape and escape to both solitude and intercourse.

And so for day 67

Signature Exhortation

For a while I incorporated a catchphrase in my signature block for email messages:

connect sometimes by disentangling

I blew it up and produced a printout and tacked it to the wall as a kind of sampler since it deserved a modicum of white space. As a signature block element the temptation was to read "connects" and as a description of what is done and not an action yet to perform. Of course if you shift “sometimes” to the initial position there is less of a risk of reading “connects” but that would foreground the exceptionalism. Word order matters. There is still virtue in taking a call to action as a description of what is being done. It brings good habits into the present tense. Like leading by example: plays well with others.

And so for day 66

Objects of Mind, Objects of Language

Just in case you didn't think that words are objects.

How can language acquire a "reality" if it remains outside the realm of objects? [...] Words become symbols; language is symbolic: although words are not things, and things are not words, the principle of reality applies to them both as if words enjoy the same reality as things.

So writes Keith W. Faulkner in Deleuze and the three syntheses of time. A bit of a materialist push wants me to stress that things can be taken as symbols. That is the symbolic is not inherent in the word-thing or the thing-thing but arises out of a stance towards the word-object or the thing-object. Faulkner interposes between the word and the thing hysterical symbol formation.

How can language acquire a "reality" if it remains outside the realm of objects? As we have seen the indication of reality accompanies a psychical discharge. While eating, the mouth and the stomach produce a discharge signalling the reality of the food; while speaking, a physical discharge occurs in the mouth signally the reality of language. In this process, as in the process of hysterical symbol-formation, the symbol completely replaces the thing. Words become symbols [...]

I just am not convinced by the claim of total replacement. Displacement I can understand; it leads to a va-et-vient: attention circulates among objects be they words, things or symbols.

And so for day 65

Spam maps spans

Sometimes the spam email comes across in the form of a nice surreal poem. Take for instance these two lines which appeared juxtaposed as the subject headers of two separate messages in my inbox one day.

uxorious toothache
boiled stovepipe

Flickering images on the screen almost perfect for associative revery.

And so for day 64

A Plea for Engagement

Donna J. Haraway in an interview with Thyrza Nicolas Goodeve published under the title How Like A Leaf calls for a linking of reading and acting.

What has to happen is that literacies have to be encouraged, as well as many kinds of agency. Both literacy and agency aren’t things you have, but things you do.

Practical wisdom applied everyday anywhere.

And so for day 63

Sized Symbols

Reading a topographic key, I was struck by the small size of the symbols for school and church and the larger dotted rectangles for cemeteries.

By a sort of inversion it reminds me of a phrase that Laurie Anderson makes much use of "and the living shall outnumber the dead."

And so for day 62

See Think

Allow me to draw your attention to Adam Mars-Jones's essay "Cinematically Challenged" in the collection Blind Bitter Happiness. The author picks up the description of a film scene to reflect thus :

The character is in a wheelchair, essentially, because some people are. The chair says no more about its owner than, say, a bicycle or skateboard -- except that its user doesn't ride a bicycle or a skate board. The actor playing the character may or may not use a wheelchair when the camera isn't turning. [...]

Mars-Jones goes on to talk about the neutral portrayal of disabled characters. This particular passage for me highlights an excellent departure point for discussion i.e. the gap between representation and reality — the place where it is possible to imagine the possible. Insightful critics are able to imagine themselves as other and resist the lure of easy identification. Mars-Jones knows that not all his readers are wheelchair bound — some die before they get there.

And so for day 61


Rudolf Arnheim moves in Entropy and Art from describing to prescribing. Capture the reader by the move from a description of an artefact to a description of values and principles. Spot the reader a drink, saddle up a pony.

The structural theme must be conceived dynamically, as a pattern of forces, not an arrangement of static shapes.

And back again to description:

These forces are made visible, for example, by the confluence of the large folds in the Madonna’s garment which lead to the hand supporting the child.

Dynamic-static decomposes fast when inertia is considered as speed. Pattern-arrangement seems to play with the repeatable and the unique or the specific. Pattern unlike arrangement is multifocal. Arrangements are always on the way to pattern. Force shape. Shape force.

And so for day 60


Copy cat strategems, the blues of trading one tender mercy for a whole pack of signifying woes...

From “Rhetoric of the Image” Roland Barthes translated by Stephen Heath

The denoted word never refers to an essence for it is always caught up in the contingent utterance, a continuous syntagm (that of verbal discourse), oriented towards a certain practical transivity of language; the seme 'plenty', on the contrary, is a concept in a pure state, cut off from any syntagm, deprived of any context and corresponding to a sort of theatrical state of meaning, or, better (since it is a question of a sign without a syntagm), to an exposed meaning.

But is not every sign traversed or open to traversal and so connected to some sort of syntagm be it that of its own traversal? Can there ever be escape from contingency? Is such an escape necessary for exposure? Self-traversal complicates the easy slide from word:syntagm to sign:(no)syntagm.

Barthes is arguing for the priority of the cut, the operation of some analytic gesture, as precursor to metalanguage giving access to discourse about connotations.

Yet every self-traversal is like a Peano curve offering the tortise another infinitismal span to catch up within the "Structural Analysis of Narratives".

Dystaxia occurs when the signs (of a message) are no longer simply juxtaposed [...] This, as was seen in connection with the functional level, is exactly what happens in narrative: the units of a sequence, although forming a whole at the very level of that sequence, may be separated from one another by the insertion of units from other sequences -- as was said, the structure of the functional level is fugued.

No words. Lots of signs. Images are open to dystaxia. The metadiscursive moment can be produced from segment pointing. Images can be hacked. Replication can carry image with comment as in the fine flight of circles and arrows from a layer added like a transparency. Consider: eye guided by finger or simply by memory and review.

Syntagm is close to speech ("it will not be forgotten that the syntagm is always very close to speech") and image is far from speech and by implication far from syntagm. It’s one story of uncutability (immunity from articulation) and control of access to a metalanguage. Stories are restackable...

X is close to Y. Z is not close to Y. Z is (not close to) X.

Objects may appear closer. A syntagm is an image. Go figure.

But remember that traversals may be limited in the theatre of meaning as they may not be in the theatre of being.

And so for day 59


Impasse triggers imagination. Obstacles are tackled by the detour of description. Take two lines from Sybil Turnbull:

under backward leaning birches like scarecrow

handwriting against the sky

Further through mudra and mantra, with a pose acting as an antenna to an envelope of sound, the tour d'obstacle tackles the aside: ward back, scare a crow. A shift in the murmur, scalpel-sure in its accuracy, trains the sample to holoresonant assonance. over under hand again

Mandela moves. Hopscotch. Mimicry.

Mandela move. Spin whirl. Vertigo.

Each vowal, as like an almond dipped in honey, permits the tongue no chance for competition, the poem is a sketch that stretches the imagination, like a tool, like a mandela.

And so for day 58


Command the comma, cede the caesura.

Give the pause, take the break.

Cherish cross-your-heart-and-hope-to-die promises extracted by children more conscious of on what than to whom. Favour form over function.

Vow making, X mapping.

Bound for fealty, faithful to the cut.

And so for day 57


A.J. Ayer summarizing Bertrand Russell on Christianity does a splendid job in three sentences

This is not to argue that the moral failings, which Christians share with others, prove Christianity untrue. On the theological side, the grounds for not believing it are rational. On the moral side, the charge is that the moral failings find an apparent sanction in a part of Christian teaching; above all, in the doctrine of sin and retribution, and in the parable of the sheep and the goats, the restriction of salvation to the faithful, which has too often outweighed the noble idea of the brotherhood of man.

The parallelism is smart: Christians, others; sheep, goats; faithful, all humanity. Christianity stands condemned for the moral failings of its adherents who cannot or will not practice forgiveness. Pretty stern stuff. Not all of its adherents fail but enough do to taint the whole religion. That is a whole lot of chagrin for believers. And plenty of warning to to those that would curse the Christian.

Hypocrisy in either direction is but a stone's throw away. Look at the tenses: no future tense; failings are set in the past (but with a hint that failings are possible again in some future); doctrine and teaching occupy the present (which seem less likely than failings to wither away or be forgotten); no future.

A duty is upon freethinkers to be exemplary. Heavy stuff. Smart and splendid.

And so for day 56


if endings are where reimagining begins

even prose poems especially poems with ragged margins

warn readers to be careful

of tripping


take “two women in a birth” out of Daphne Marlatt & Betsy Warland Double Negative

are off the train in order to be in the dessert no longer

the object of exchange but she-and-she-who-is-singing

(as the women have always sung) this body my

(d)welling place, unearthed.

Like dropping pennies

the one,

the other,

the one another

greek delta of triangular womanly form

at the threshold of phonecian dalet “door”

liminal (door) transformation (delta) possessed by an

enjambement uncovering the unearthed well placed dee

And so for day 56


Begin and end with decisions:

The decision about when an analysis has yielded the minimal or simplest elements consonant with the purposes of the analyst demands as much deliberation as the decision where to begin the analysis.

writes Alan Pasch in Experience and the Analytic: A Reconsideration of Empiricism.

And so for day 54


Adrian Mackenzie from "Transduction: invention, innovation and collective life"

Technological change is consistently and emphatically represented in the form of new artefacts or objects, rather than practices, arrangements and ensembles. The focus is usually fixed on new and highly commodified objects such as digital new media or biotechnologies, rather than the process or events which permit certain objects to materialize or solidify and not others.

Will to do. Makes do.

And so for day 53


What You Know First by Patricia MacLachlan with engravings by Barry Moser is a tale of a child who must leave her home and as the copy on the back cover indicates "So before they go, she finds a special way to carry with her a part of what she knew first". I am reminded of my own displacements and propensity to collect "objets de souvenir" and find solace in the wisdom of the first person narrator who pledges herself to memory work.

I will take a little bag of prairie dirt.

I cannot take the sky.

Making do. Will do.

And so for day 52

Central Processing Units as Peripheral Devices

Sometimes analogies break down.

Computable is to potable as hardwidth is to bandwidth.

Water may flow from the tap but without a host of cups or glasses there is more of a communion trail than joyous toasting. Further: to taste is not to cook.

And so for day 51


The context is mayoral. The truth universal.

Honest Ed's is a commercial icon in the city of Toronto. Along with flashing lights, blow ups of newspaper copy adorn its exterior walls. Some two and a half feet off the ground one can read a passage from a text ascribed to Ed Mirvish:

Economics makes the mare go. But history and esthetics make the world livable. (Toronto Star 21.03.1972)

Depending upon your height and velocity, you have to slow down and crouch to read or make time to visit the archives. And chuckle if you know the meanings of "nag".

And so for day 50

Current Views

Gianni Vattimo gave a talk in Toronto recently (Jan 30). His theme was the myth of Unity.

He spoke at some length about Foucault's phrase "ontologie de l'actualité" which he connected in some fashion to Heidegger. Englishing the phrase one gets the "ontology of current events", an apt expression to describe the currents that flow from an event and offers in a sense an ontology inflected towards emanations.

Unity with a capital U points upwards like the logical symbol for union; stood on its head, it is the symbol for intersection. It becomes possible to think unity in terms of connectedness and not merely as dominion. There is a way via Peirce to recoup the Thomastic transcendentals (Unity, Beauty, Goodness) of Being for a practice mindful of place and situation and co-federation — at least from the perspective of Canada, a confederation that was once a dominion.

And so for day 49