Sunday, April 29, 2007

Only God knows everything, and God may not exist. We don't know.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Written by a committee over time of people who didn't all know each other because they lived over centuries, the Tao Te Ching is attributed to Lao Tzu. Various people wrote down how life works over time, and then someone, or several someones, put the sayings together.

Number 17 in the collection of wise ways of living says that the way the best leader works people hardly know that the best leader exists. The next best leader is loved. After that in quality is the leader who is feared. The worst leader is hated.

I just read five translations of that at the bookstore. They were all more or less like that except the one that didn't even mention the word leader. It talked about the best and the less without ever saying the best what. Given that Number 17 in the Tao is pro-subtlety, that may be a particularly good translation.

The translations that used the word leader said that the best leader does not talk but acts. When good things happen under the best leader, the people say, "We did it ourselves."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I felt like sending her pictures of planets for May Day, because pictures of planets are colorful like flowers, which are good May Day gifts, and because she makes different worlds for me with her love.
The man hung out in billiards parlors challenging people to a match.

One day he challenged a stranger, and the stranger asked what stake he wanted to play for.

The billiard player said if he won he wanted to marry the guy's daughter.

The stranger said fine. The billiard player won.

When the billiard player and the daughter met, they instantly fell in love with each other, eliminating problems of consent between them.

However, the consent of the father, who was the king of the Sun, was a problem. He had tried to prevent the meeting at all. He did let them marry, but he planned to kill the groom at midnight after the wedding.

The daughter/bride knew the murder plan. She told her husband, and they took off on the king of the Sun's two best horses. The king sent his soldiers on horses after them.

This is a tale "The Billiard Player" from "Italian Folktales," selected and retold by Italo Calvino, translated into English by George Martin.

The fact that the father is the king of the Sun, as opposed to be the king of some country, doesn't seem to make any difference in the story. Maybe Italy has so much sun that it doesn't seem like the king of the Sun would be someone unusual or far off. He's just another folktale powerful man trying to stop love.

The bride and groom are running away, and when the king's soldiers on horses ar about to cathc up with them, the woman throws down her comb and it turns into a forest.

The soldiers find two stupid acting peasants in the forest digging up stumps. The soldiers

Monday, April 23, 2007

The implication in the novel "To the Lighthouse" is that right before the novel starts the child asks, "Can we go to the lighthouse?"

The novel starts thusly: "'Yes, of course, if it's fine tomorrow,' said Mrs. Ramsay. 'But you'll have to be up with the lark,' she added."

The short form would be to say that this answer made the boy who asked happy.

The Virginia Woolf form is more thorough, more like what goes on inside:

"Since he belonged, even at the age of six, to that great clan which cannot keep this feeling separate from that, but must let future prospects, with their joys and sorrows, cloud what is actually at hand, since to such people, even in earliest childhood any turn in the wheel of sensation has the power to crystallise and transfix the moment upon which its gloom or radiance rests, James Ramsay, sitting on the floor cutting out pictures from the illustrated catalogue of Army and Navy Stores, endowed wthe picture of a refrigerator, as his mother spoke, with heavenly bliss. It was fringed with joy."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Beatrix Potter liked the little critters.

She liked drawing them.

She liked having a farm where little critters, mice and rabbits and bigger being, cows and horse, hung out.

She liked preserving habitat so the little critters she drew in her book could keep living their lives there.

She was very important in children's literature and in habitat preservation in England.

In the first part of her life she wondered what she was going to do with her life. She like looking and living things and developed a theory about mushrooms that was mocked by the guys who got to decide about theories. Much later she was proved to be correct, but meanwhile, she had not become a professional mycologist, mushroom and fungus expert.

She had become a children's writer. She is the best selling children's writer ever, writing 20 books in 19 years about little animals with great illustrations by her.

The third part of her life she first farmed and then also saved land.

The third
There's a painting of a flower, and the way that it is pretty reminds me of you.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Many words are old.

The practice of putting sounds together to make meaning is old.

Sitting with words maybe we can hear in them some old hopes that didn't get to be real when the words were new.

Maybe there were hopes around when the words were created taht couldn't happen because too many people were run down and sick. Maybe they couldn't happen because the often run-down and sick people had little power and the top people had too much.

Maybe now, with some better health, some power spread around, we can hear the hopes floating around the old words and make the hopes real and new.
I know nothing. I know less than nothing because I think I know something.

Walter Benjamin, writer and intellectual, was running from Nazi Germany. His group got to the France/Spain border and their papers didn't work. They were stuck there.

The next day the paper thing got better; they got over the border and escaped.

The group as a whole did.

Not Walter Benjamin because he had killed himself during the period they seemed to be stuck in a bad place.

He said words to himself about the situation that made killing himself seem like the way to go.

He was wrong.

It was maybe a smart person error. He wrote essays that are still influentional, like "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, which he wrote in 1936.

Maybe his last essay was the essay he wrote for himself only about why to kill himself right then instead of awaiting developments for even twelve hours, which would have saved him

He became an influential post World War II intellectual without being alive. Because he thought ahead about issues that many didn't yet know were important.

It would have been a good thing for himself and others if he had been a living post-war intellectual writing new stuff.

I don't know why Walter Benjamin killed himself.

Intellectuals can get so sharp we cut ourselves. People like me and including me can weave skillful futures of words that are wrong.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

King James the Sixth of Scotland became also King James the First of England when Queen Elizabeth died without an heir. The Virgin Queen. She might or might not have died a virgin, but she had no husband and no kids.

Which probably enhanced her power while she was alive. Elizabeth's older half-sister, Mary I, called Bloody Mary, married Philip of Spain. He was ruling an empire, the Spanish empire at a high point, and did not spend much time in England.

I read an article in a history journal that showed that in the brief time Mary was married and queen, before she died young, the drawing made of her and Philip moved more and more toward portraying him as the ruler and her as the ruler's wife. Drawers did that partly by putting him on the right. Hugely significant when lots of people couldn't read words much, but most people could read things like that--the person on the right is the person with power.

Elizabeth didn't marry and used the possibility of her marrying someone to play other countries off against each other. She was able to put off killing Mary Queen of Scots who kept plotting because it was just her decision.

Governance was a harsh game. Elizabeth who made James her heir had order his mother executed, his mother Mary Queen of Scots. Elizabeth seemed reluctant, relative to the standards of her time, to kill Mary Queen of Scots.

That might be

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

24th and Capp--stop light. 25th and Capp--four way stop with stop signs.

26th and Capp. Different. No light. Two way stop. No stop signs on 26th. Traffic on 26th just goes through.

So when I read a pedestrian was killed at 26th and Capp, crossing 26th, coming home late from work, I thought I knew what happened. He walked down Capp, maybe from the BART station, was used to the cross places where the cars coming on had a stop sign, and didn't get that at this place, the cars coming on didn't have a stop sign.

In that circumstance, a walker could see a car coming and walk in front of it, thinking it was supposed to stop.

Once, in broad daylight, in another area with many four way stops, a car gave me a life-saving little toot when I did that. I thought there was a stop sign when there wasn't. This was a place where I crossed often.

I don't mean the saved my life right then. The driver who lightly tooted at me didn't come close to hitting me. The driver meant to give me information and did. And in the future many times I crossed there, I did not walk out in front of oncoming cars, which I might have, if I had continued thinking that this crossing is like the last crossing and the one before.

We can't live without rote, and we can die of rote. Knowing when to wake each other up is good. A beauty of the informative horn honk I got when I walked in from of this car without my having any right-of-way, is the honk had no anger. It really felt like, "There's something you need to know," said in a calm way.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A friend of mine and I, we talk about women's stuff a lot; we're feminists.

She told me about a public television special she saw on Aimee Semple Macpherson. Her telling me made me know Aimee Semple Macpherson was a woman leader.

That's stating the obvious. She was a woman. She was a leader. She was a woman leader in a time when there weren't many. She spoke. Thousands listened.

But it took hours of feminist conversations plus one fairly respectful TV show to know that.

Before that conversation, what I knew about Macpherson is she was an evangelist and she stagedher own kidnapping.

I learned that starting her career as a public speaker in the 1920's when the Ku Klux Klan was flourishing, she sought out and welcomed African-Americans in her meetings.

She was very popular when she staged her kidnapping. She went to Mexico. Lots of people thought it was a fake the instant it happened, or was said to happen.

Some people believed she was in peril. People lined the beaches, en masse, where she was said to have disappeared, looking for her.

That doesn't make lots of sense even if she was kidnapped, but it was humans, and humans don't always make sense.

Now, looking back, some people say at the height of her popularity she could not handle the level of attention she was getting so she ran away.

The kidnapping was revealed as a fake. Her popularity declined, but was not extinguished. She kept working as a God speaker on a smaller scale, a scale she could handle.

There's a book called "Women of Ideas and What Men Have Done to Them" by Dale Spender. One of the points of the book is that for centuries some women have operated as intellectual leaders while they were alive. Then when they died, the men who decided what thinkers matter on an ongoing basis disappeared between generations.

So generation after generation of women thinker felt like the first generation of women thinkers, even though they weren't.

A frequent way of analyzing the thinking of leading women intellectuals after their death goes like this: "Ha, ha, ha."

A good man writing a letter to the San Francisco Sunday supplement, Image Magazine, wrote that men try to control and disempower women through agressive mockery. What a great phrase. Would that I remembered the writer's name.

Some leading women thinkers of the past were totally erased. Others were spun by men who lived later with aggresive mockery so that everyone was supposed to know that the very mention of their name should elicit laughter. It wasn't needful to read anything they had written.


Dale Spender described the mockery and erasure process in "Women of Ideas and What Men Have Done to Them." At the end of the book she says she learned by doing this research to never believe anything that is generally accepted by everyone that is negative about a specific woman.

She knows she always has to do her own research on specific women. She has to experience the work the woman produced. Read abouther life in detail, not in general. Know about the times she lived in. Then there might be the beginning of knowing about who this woman was.

Knowing that a woman has been mocked through history could just mean she's a woman.

Margaret Fuller, an American thinker, is quoted as saying, "I accept the universe." Some guy thinker of the time said, "She'd better."

Yeah. And standing above everything so much that you feel like saying, "I accept the universe" is a privilege that has been taken most by pale men. There are things wrong with thinking like that. However, the man of her time who said she'd better wasn't critiquing that way of thinking but aggresively mocking a woman daring to think that way.

"In Search of Our Mother's Gardens" by Alice Walker, an essay, the title essay in a book of essay. Many women didn't and don't get to complete their thoughts or make their artworks.

They had to do everything they could just to survive, often to take care of kids. But they did what they could. They had the art impulse, the thought impulse. Go back and look.

"In Search of Our Mother's Gardens"--look at what women did in the department of beauty. Less valued because done with living materials? Less valued because done by women?

Aimee Semple Macpherson is easy to make fun of. Her first name means friend, lover, person who loves. Huge drive that. A drive in many ways, some more publicized than others.

Aimee Semple Macpherson helped make herself look ridiculous by staging a kidnapping and found the right scale for herself.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

It helps if the air around and inside the body makes room for the thoughts that want to be thought. If the air has the room, finishing a thought and going on to the next thought or to action is easier.

If the air doesn't have room but people around breathing in and out don't care either way about the thoughts, focussing and persistance can make room for the thoughts.

If the air doesn't have room and the people around breathing in and out don't want that kind of thought to be thought, it gets difficult. It is necessary to both create the room for the thoughts against resistance and think them.

This is difficult and sometimes possible.

Friday, April 13, 2007

God works in non-human-centered ways.
Secretly, off somewhere, somebody's being tender.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So maybe many people should reverse the scale they think in.

People who think only what seems to them big is a good enough scale for them could start working tiny.

People who think they could never do anything they see as big should think of something huge and do the first step toward making it real. Then the second step. And on.

And on. To get to "and on" it might be good for individuals and groups to shift their shapes and the very nature of what they do and hope for.

Not everyone has a situation around them where they can make that kind of choice.

Many people do have the possibilities of making choices and U-turns and dances that they haven't made yet but could.

Cjonsumerism and nasty drug use are two things that could be reduced by people changing greatly their routine. Changing what they think a routine could be and then living almost the same and deeply different.
"Remember why you were given your power."

--Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni in her novel, "Mistress of Spices," in the chapter named after the spice fenugreek

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"So some guy gave you a few bucks to give him a blow job, and you thought that was a career path."

That is the restaurant owner talking about one of his waiters, who he likes.

The restaurant owner has a gruff self-presentation and a heart with quite a bit of gold in it.

The waiter is likeable and doesn't think ahead a lot, or at all.

The waiter is Achilles's, he has an aimlessness that isn't unusual in offspring of the famous great.

Part-time waiter, part-time stripper, always interested in having fun. He had had sex with everyone there was for him to have sex with on the island he grew up on. So he went to the city. There was lots to do.

The book squashes together some stories of the Trojan War and the United States in the 1970's and 1980's and basically it works well.

The only part that takes stretching is the Greeks in general at the time of the Trojan War were positive in many ways about sex between men. They often idealized and romanticized it. People in the United States at that time were not positive about sex between men. The book's world taks on that attitude and gay men who have to deal with that attitude.

Achilles is dead at the time the book is happening, but the Trojan War is going on, and on.

Achilles's sonisn't thinking about the war. He knows about it, but he is focussed on other things.

But he is still Achilles's son. So someone from the war shows up looking for him at his job as an exotic dancer where he dances by the bar and guys throw money. A staff guy from the war comes and tries to get him to go to the war, because wily, clever Odysseus thinks his status as Achilles's son might be used to break the stalemate that is the war in a good direction--what Odysseus thinks is a good directions, with the ending of the siege of Troy and the destruction of Troy.

"Time's Arrow" by Mark Merlis is the book. Mark Merlis loves the Greek stories. Mark Merlis loves many people who died of AIDS. Mark Merlis makes an amazing combined US/ancient Greek world that works because his love wants it to.

I read a performer once who said you have five minutes with an audience to get their trust and if you get their trust in that first five minutes, you can do anything.

I would say that one way that you get that trust is that you are the type of person who deserves. And that the enterprise you are created is an enterprise that deserves that trust.

In "Time's Arrow," Mark Merlis earns and deserves a lot of trust from the reader and gives richly in return.

He doesn't dot all the eyes and cross every t in making this world both the late twentieth century US and ancient Greece. He doesn't make it work by doing some kind of double entry book keeping thing. He makes it work because he can see it. He believes. He tells and retells old stories, and tells a new story in the process.

The young guy, the son of the hero, who is our hero in the book is not living thoughtfully when the representitive of Odysseus shows up to offer him another career path--helping the attackers of Troy win. Odysseus doesn't care at all about this guy as a person. The superstitions of the troops might make the presence of Achilles' son, however non-martial, helpful in the fighting.

Since Achilles' son doesn't have much will, he goes for it. Why not?

This book and "Fraud" by Anita Brookner remind me of each other, partly because the main characters are opposites on some continuum. No friend of the main character in "Fraud" says, "So your mother needed someone to keep her company, and you thought that was a career path." That's what happened though. They had money; neither needed to work; the daughter spent decades up to her mother's death keeping her mother company, knowing fewer and fewer other people, isolating.

In theory, and less and less in practice, the daughter was doing research on the great salons of France, which was pretty funny, in that the salons were run by women who were living the opposite of her life, meeting lots of important people every week, instead of seeing fewer and fewer people every year.

The nice thing about the theoretical salon research is it gave her a reason to go to Paris every year, but it surely wasn't the thing to rip into after her mother died.

"Fraud" and "Time's Arrow" remind me of each other because of the opposite-ness--too much activity and too little, too many contacts and too few. They also remind me of each other because each has an ending that is much more positive than you'd expect, given the basic set-up.

Another similarity is that I want the authors' to say more about the better outcome, what it's like, how exactly it was worked to, and how it worked out.

I think the endings are plausible, as well as being encouraging, in and out of the book. The authors clearly and bravely intend to be encouraging. But it's like the general gloom of much serious writing makes them rush the endings. Which makes them harder to believe, and I want to believe.

Take your time. You're changing the world. The world is changable; it changes all the time. Work out the details. Let the details work out themselves.

"Time's Arrow" is a terrific book. If you think you'd like it, you would. Sexual situations pervade, but that's the base line of this guy's life.

Now I'm going to talk about the ending of "Time's Arrow" by Mark Merlis. If you think you might reading and don't like hearing endings, you are excused and blessed.

Young people taken from a place where it seems like not much is happening because the same familiar things keep happening over and over again into a war might go for the first time to a city.

If they live, if they aren't permanently hurt, body or soul, going to a city can be a transforming experience for them. So many things are happening, not just the familiar ones like at home. So many kinds of people.

While people are sometimes transformed in a good way by being taken to a city on the way to a war, a lot of times the basic larger work of the war is to destroy cities.

It feels like Achilles son goes from a fifties/early sixties USsuburb on a Mediterrean island to San Francisco, which is fairly close.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

If you don't accept the little craziness, you'll get the big craziness, which is much worse.

With the little craziness, you look bad, which is part of why you don't want to accept it. With the big craziness, you look bad, feel bad, and don't come back. Die, or stay very crazy.

Mary Renault says that that is part of what there is to learn from the ancient Greek play "The Bacchae."

In the play, the god Dionysus comes into Greece from the south, which is the direction he came from culturally. He says to the king of the city the play happens in, "I'm here. Get crazy."

The king belittles Dionysus, makes fun of him, and stand on his dignity and his real power as king as opposed to Dionysus unreal power as a god new to the area and not serious.

At the end of the play, the king is blithering and it seems like that's his state.

Meanwhile, some women of the city, the Maenads, take time off from their usual round to run in the hills hooting and hollering with and in honor of Dionysus. The implication is that after Dionysus season, he moves on and they go back to the usual every day things they do.

Mary Renault talks about this play in her book, "The Mask of Apollo." The book is told in the first person by an actor who is also a believable good human being. He also has a good life, a happy life. The doom element comes frm the fact that like other actors of that time he sometimes gets involved in diplomacy, taking messages, because he travels.

So he watches politicians. They desperately don't want to look bad, which is dangerous.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Does God like that we're religious? Does God consider religion to be a bug or a feature?


Codex A codex was a very early book. Scrolls were what was happening. Someone thought of sewing manuscript pages together on one side at the each. They were thin--twenty four pages, one definition says. They were the first time reading was done that way. They were liked, and led to the books as physical objects that have been popular. Centuries later, the next form of reading involves scrolling, only up and down instead of sideways, and physically different.






Ideograph is the English word for Chinese language characters and things like them








Quire is twenty-four pages of paper of the same size.

Ream is five hundred pages of paper of the same size.

Signature is one of the folded groups of pages that make up some bound books. You can somtimes see them looking down at the top of the book. Each folded group of pages is a signature. One way to print a book is to print the words and images onto pieces of paper that are the size and shape they will be when they are bound. That works. It is not the most common or economical way to print many copies of a book. Doing it that way produces not signature. The usual way to print many books is to print them on big presses that can take big sheets of paper. Each sheet of paper is printed front and back with pages all together on one sheet of paper. Thirty two pages, for example, on one big sheet of paper. Then after the printing the big pieces of paper are folded so the pages are in order. They are not pages yet because of the folds that connect them all. Then the pages are trimmed on three sides. That remaining group of pages is a signature. The signatures are bound together in order to make a book.


Usage is how words are, or should be, used.



Xueq is the given name of Cao Xueq the author of the four-volume 1750 novel called in English, variously, "The Story of the Stone," "Dream of the Red Chambre," and "Dream of the Red Mansions." Cao is the given name, under which the novel is alphabetized in English.

Yarn is a story used to weave together moments in situations where people have lots of moments. Many intersting events in a yarn, often presented fairly slowly. Factuality is not an issue. Factuality might be a style cramper for the teller of a yarn.

Zed is how people in the United Kingdom say the letter "z." People in the United States say zee.

*It all kind of works for me, the word system around here and *how the written words are presented. *

It excludes a lot.

Women I know when they can't do something they want to do with words, they tend to blame their own limitations. I tend to blame the language and its limitations. Maybe because I'm self-assured around language. Maybe because I'm arrogant. Maybe because I'm right. Being able to move easily around the language I'm used to it's easier to feel when the wall stops me that the wall is outside in the language and not inside in my degree of intelligence.

Language limits.
Flipping around the encyclopedia from "Dance" to "Geologic Time," they seem to be about the same thing--movement.