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A spam email i received today, subject: “pummeling untouched hot babe”. i’d like a job like that – not pummeling untouched hot babes, but thinking up spam subject lines. i’d be good at that. i’m not sure i’d be good at pummeling, though who knows.

The best Google search term this new blog has received to date: “ghost MILF”. i am struck dumb with admiration for the mind which could even think of such a thing as “ghost MILF”, let alone decide he wants to get some, perhaps for a spectral pummeling, perhaps not.

i’ve also been re-reading Hamlet, from an edition of the tragedies i stole from my last employer. i’m curious that Wittgenstein was incapable of perceiving Shakespeare’s worth (only taking it on trust because his semblable Milton esteemed the Bard). i think he was in part vexed that Shakespeare doesn’t so much use as make language.

i also wonder if, as with Tolstoy and King Lear, he secretly recoiled from the mirror held up to his nature. There is something Lear-like about Wittgenstein, especially after WW2 – the exile and tramp, having cast his kingdoms and titles aside, demanding honour and worship still, drifting further and further from other human beings, turning slowly to stone. Though his disciples, Anscombe for example, did not turn him back out into the storm.

i suppose, like Lear, Wittgenstein is compelling rather than just pitiful because his mind lost none of its ardent need; unlike Wordsworth, he didn’t exhaust his spirit decades before his bodily death;  if anything, he died unexhausted, with everything unresolved. i wonder if certain lines in Hamlet tugged at him:

Our wills and fates do so contrary run
That our devices still are overthrown;
Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own

That I […]

Must like a whore, unpack my heart with words

What should such fellows as I do crawling
between earth and heaven?

What indeed, but do philosophy and die?


Posting may be a bit sporadic for the next few weeks – computer problems.

If the job doesn’t explode i shall try to get a dirt cheap laptop and internet access at home, if such is possible.

A new tip for learning languages – if you can’t remember what a word means, just make up your own definition. Insist on your right to redefine words to your own satisfaction. After all, everyone knows words don’t mean anything and all that Derrida jazz. Here are some of my own re-definitions of German words:

Verpflichtung: Death caused by a seemingly innocuous action, such as opening a can of soup on a Tuesday.

Rundfunk: Anxiety caused by eating food that’s been on the floor, especially pizza.

Flugzeug: Floating body or machine parts, usually in a river.

Gültig: The way a giraffe swallows food.

Vorgestern: Light from a dead star.

Rufen: To name your child or pet ‘Rufus’.

Ruhe: A suicide’s last, peaceful sigh.

Via Der Viking i have learnt that the dream music was the 3rd movement of symphony 104 in D major by Haydn. One less mystery.

To celebrate not being dead in a ditch, i bought a hat. The winds destroyed my cheap umbrella and the rain can be monsoon-like, so i felt a hat was indicated. i usually disdain hats but this hat has restored my joie de vivre and homicidal good cheer.

There are hats of death and hats of life – mine is a hat of life. Rejoice therefore.

i occasionally dream of strange music. Being unmusical and so unable to transcribe the dream music, i can only hum it to myself, trying ineffectually to place it by composer or at least approximate time & place. i soon forget it. i suspect my inability to see the heard music as any kind of notation also hastens the forgetting – i can impose no visual structure on the dream music, so it will not linger in memory.

This morning i heard one of these dreams on the radio – i think i dreamt this music a year ago. Being unable to really follow spoken German i could only discern that it was a Haydn symphony conducted by Von Karajan. i never really listened to the radio much in England, though it is possible i’d heard it somewhere, perhaps as a film or TV soundtrack. i listened attentively, not really expecting anything; it was, however, an odd experience, to hear dream music on the radio.

Buddhist types like to go on about how our world is an illusion. In a sense they are correct, but it would be better to say that our world is one way of seeing things, and that there are others. “Illusion” suggests there is something wrong with one way of seeing, and that one can break through to the truth by refusing to credit the reality of, for example, walls and rain and dogs and time and music and pain and what not.

But in order to perceive as a finite being one must have a point of view. A single way of seeing is only illusory to the extent that one supposes it to be the only way of seeing.

In Canto 7 of Inferno, Dante sees the progidals and misers punished for their excess as God sees fit. Vergil comments, of Fortune, the allegorical figure who rules wealth and power in our world, that she causes li ben vani (the empty goods) to move from nation to nation, people to people; her permutazion are without respite, so power and wealth are in constant movement, unreliable, unforeseeable:

Vostro saver non ha contasto a lei

(your knowledge cannot contend with her)

The sentiment is thoroughly in opposition to that of our times, to science and what we call progress; but it would seem true nonetheless.

Dreams of the end of the world – a huge Sauron-like figure wreaking Godzilla destruction on distant cities. Only i, Cassandra that i am, know our place is next. i seem to live in a rural village, near a farm; i advise people to flee into the wild – only those who completely escape civilisation will be spared – no one believes me. i take the time to free pigs from the farm, so they will not perish in the impending catastrophe.

It’s not a nightmare – i am quickened by the fear, and glad to know civilisation is to be utterly destroyed. On waking, i consider my mixed feelings about civilisation – one way of putting it is to say two of my favourite novelists are Cormac McCarthy and Henry James; the former a great brooder on the forces inimical to civilisation, indeed to life itself, and the latter the great master of civilised sophistication and subtlety, who would (i suppose) have been utterly lost outside of a tea room.

McCarthy dismisses James (and Proust) as “not literature” somewhere, a bizarre verdict; James likewise, i guess, would have not understood McCarthy, would probably also have said something like “this isn’t literature”. i feel they are both great novelists, though doing completely different things with the novel. McCarthy’s prose is as deliberately rough as James’s is smooth; language is, in its way, a part of civilisation, so it makes sense that McCarthy’s language is so violently unliterary, James’s so subtly complicated, almost claustrophobically so (there are times i simply can’t understand James, just as – most of the time – i feel i do not understand human civilisation and wish it were completely destroyed).

My ambivalence about civilisation is long-standing but in this life at least i can say that 5 years of office work has given it a brutal edge. Email from Bonehead, from officeland:

One of the many things I hate about being an office monkey is the way it takes away your right to such things as watching the dawn rise from a hilltop or a sleep in the afternoon, it limits one’s capacity for experience in so many ways not only in the time during which one is confined from sensory stimuli but in terms of the timeframes it dictates of one’s life. I used to love driving to some promo job at 0400 in the morning, seeing towns and roads I’d never seen before or taking a freezing coach full of refugees to some mountain town to teach English, the thrill of stepping behind a heaving bar while hordes of drunks push cash at you. So numb here. I would murder but I’m not sure I would even feel it.

A splendid poem of Rilke’s, from Sonnets to Orpheus:

Alles Erworbne bedroht die Maschine, solange 

sie sich erdreistet, im Geist, statt im Gehorchen, zu sein. 

Daß nicht der herrlichen Hand schöneres Zögern mehr prange, 

zu dem entschlossenern Bau schneidet sie steifer den Stein.

Nirgends bleibt sie zurück, daß wir ihr ein Mal entrönnen 

und sie in stiller Fabrik ölend sich selber gehört. 

Sie ist das Leben, — sie meint es am besten zu können, 

die mit dem gleichen Entschluß ordnet und schafft und zerstört.

Aber noch ist uns das Dasein verzaubert; an hundert 

Stellen ist es noch Ursprung. Ein Spielen von reinen 

Kräften, die keiner berührt, der nicht kniet und bewundert.

Worte gehen noch zart am Unsäglichen aus … 

Und die Musik, immer neu, aus den bebendsten Steinen, 

baut im unbrauchbaren Raum ihr vergöttlichtes Haus.

A translation i found on-line:

All we’ve gained is threatened by the machine, for

as long as it has a willful spirit and won’t obey.

To show the lovely lingering of masters’ hands no more,

for its resolute building it cuts the stone in a stiffer way.

Nowhere does it hold back, so we once break free

and it stays oiling itself in the quiet factory.

It is life – it wants to know and be involved,

and orders and creates and destroys with equal resolve.

But to us existence is still enchanted; still source

at a hundred places. A play of purest force,

that no one touches, who doesn’t kneel and admire.

Words still come softly to the Unsayable … and

the music, ever new, from trembling stones,

builds in useless space its house of prayer.

i know enough Bosche to become sniffy about translations, to wince in a superior manner, and shake my head, saying sadly, “you can’t translate it.” Consider this line:

zu dem entschlossenern Bau schneidet sie steifer den Stein

(for its resolute building it cuts the stone in a stiffer way)

The machine-like, jerky attack of the German, all those harsh Teutonic s sounds, is lost in the English – and “stiffer” just sounds weird and ridiculous. i think it’s best, with poetry, to have a facing edition and to learn enough of the original language to at least have an idea of the sound. It’s taken me a couple of months to get this far with German, admittedly an easy language, but given the wealth of German poetry, six months would be a worthwhile investment.

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