Wednesday, September 7, 2022

they'll rouse the country for him as the Great Liberator (and meanwhile Big Business will just wink and sit tight!)




The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his "ideas" almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture, and his yet more celebrated humor the sly cynicism of a country store. Certainly there was nothing exhilarating in the actual words of his speeches, nor anything convincing in his philosophy. His political platforms were only wings of a windmill.”

  “and they'll all be convinced that, even if our Buzzy maybe has got a few faults, he's on the side of the plain people, and against all the tight old political machines, and they'll rouse the country for him as the Great Liberator (and meanwhile Big Business will just wink and sit tight!)"

He had every prejudice and aspiration of every American Common Man. He believed in the desirability and therefore the sanctity of thick buckwheat cakes with adulterated maple syrup, in rubber trays for the ice cubes in his electric refrigerator,[...] in being chummy with all waitresses at all junction lunch rooms, [...] and the superiority of anyone who possessed a million dollars. 

He would whirl arms, bang tables, glare from mad eyes, vomit Biblical wrath from a gaping mouth; but he would also coo like a nursing mother, beseech like an “aching lover, and in
between tricks would coldly and almost contemptuously jab his crowds with figures and facts—figures and facts that were inescapable even when, as often happened, they were entirely incorrect. 

 ― Sinclair Lewis, It Can't Happen Here 

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

the historic victory for white life


“Legislating reproductive rights remains a hallmark of authoritarian and fascist governments.”

By 1869, the Civil War was over. Black people were briefly enfranchised until Jim Crow took back their rights. White women pushed hard for suffrage and access to the professions, including medicine. They loudly asserted the right to “voluntary motherhood.” The doctors resisted. They lobbied legislatures to ban abortion as a dangerous procedure and a moral vice. Horatio Storer, head of Physicians Against Abortion repeatedly worried about changing demographics. What if Anglo-Saxons lost their political power? He wondered aloud whether the Western territories would “be filled with our own children or those of aliens.”

The music should sound familiar. “I want to thank you,” a Republican lawmaker, Mary E. Miller, said, addressing Donald Trump at a rally last Saturday, “for the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court yesterday.”

 image: MOMA

Racism, Patriarchy, and Power: Siri Hustvedt on the Toxic Thinking Behind the Supreme Court’s Destruction of Abortion Rights

Monday, July 4, 2022





image: poster at a demonstration

Sunday, July 3, 2022

As soon as our pro‐lifers figure out they can have a tambourine, it’s over.



None of the doctors, nurses, or specialists ever breathed a word about abortion. Because twenty‐six weeks was already too late? Because it was Ohio, and the governor’s pen was constantly hovering over terrible new legislation? Because the hospital was Catholic, and in the lobby there was a statue of Jesus holding a farm animal? They never exactly knew.

It was anti‐abortion singing, led by a woman in a long, cobwebby skirt, and a man in a white collar was standing next to her with a tambourine. Behind them were two ginger- haired, freckled young men with Down syndrome, embracing each other with both arms and their cheeks pressed close.

Oh, my God, she had thought back then. As soon as our pro‐lifers figure out they can have a tambourine, it’s over.

 excerpts:*Patricia Lockwood, The Winged Thing - The New Yorker

** Hundreds of copies of the LA-based guerrilla poster artist Robbie Conal’s latest work, “Supreme Injustices,” were pasted up from Venice to Los Feliz.

image here: Robbie Conal

Saturday, July 2, 2022

What is freedom?


The First Amendment is an important one.

I agree. It says that people are free to assemble, and if their assembly is a threat to powerful people who cause harm, you get to spray them with tear gas and drive your car into them.

We must do everything to protect women.
        Absolutely, and that’s—wait, no. No, we don’t.

What are some synonyms for freedom?
        “Independence,” “autonomy,” and “shut up, stop crying, and do what you are told."                 


Image and text from McSweeney's: Freedom 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

This is hardly a time, then, for traditional solutions. Our national policies are going to have to change drastically, and fast.


This is hardly a time, then, for traditional solutions. Our national policies are going to have to change drastically, and fast. We are going to require torrential shifts of wealth and power. We will need ingenious new forms of political action to represent the wants of the hitherto unrepresented at home and abroad (several billion people in the world are taxed with our power or our presence, but with no representation in our councils).

For this crisis of our time, the slow workings of American reform, the limitations on protest and disobedience and innovation set by liberals like Justice Fortas, are simply not adequate. We need devices which are powerful but restrained, explosive but controlled: to resist the government’s actions against the lives and liberties of its citizens; to pressure, even to shock the government into change; to organize people to replace the holders of power, as one round in that continuing cycle of political renewal which alone can prevent tyranny.

We cannot have a new politics for the citizen with an old approach to law. The demands of our time will not be met by the narrow approach to civil disobedience suggested by Mr. Fortas. We are tempted to follow his advice because the Supreme Court has been in many ways the most adaptable of our three branches of government. But we should keep in mind that the Court is still a branch of government, and that in the never-ending contest between authority and liberty that goes on in every society, the agencies of government, at their best, are still on the side of authority…

Howard Zinn: In Defense of Civil Disobedience

Monday, June 27, 2022

How much of our science and philosophy has been colored by the justifications of shitty men?


All of the authors were men, and I was surprised by how often they acknowledged the deeply personal motivations that led them to their preferred theories of mind. Sheila Heti

Men make these laws,” she told her mother. “And they also don’t know where a girl pees from.” Patricia Lockwood

Everything had been decided by a sky in long black judge robes, and she floated as the head at the top of it and saw everything, everything, backward, backward, and turned away in fright from her own bright day.”





Thursday, June 23, 2022

a second beating heart





*title, text from: “Headfirst” from Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong, Copyright 2016. Published by Copper Canyon Press.


Tuesday, June 7, 2022

My Grief, give me your hand; come this way.


Erica Green, "In the Thick Of It" (2022), knotted fibers, sewing pins, clay, wax, paint (all images courtesy Wes Magyar, Union Works Gallery and Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art) 

We Need to Stay Heartbroken About This

"[...] make our feckless leaders taste our hot salt tears and hear our wails of pain. We need to make them feel our grief."



text: Margaret Renkle, NY Times

image: here


Recueillement (Meditation) by Charles Baudelaire

Monday, May 9, 2022

Nothing exists except an endless present



More than 1,500 book bans have been instituted in US school districts in the last nine months, a study has found, part of a rightwing censorship effort described as “unparalleled in its intensity”.

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”**

 “Books can not be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can abolish memory... In this war, we know, books are weapons. And it is a part of your dedication always to make them weapons for man's freedom.”

 Fire is bright and fire is clean.”****

* The Guardian

**  1984, George Orwell

*** Franklin D. Roosevelt

 ****Ray Bradbury

image: Holland House Library September, 1940: 

The photograph provides an image of the fetishization of the text, or document, of the ways in which history attaches itself, not to the social disturbances and crises surrounding it on all sides, but to the ruins of the past, and even more so, to the orderly archive of the narratives of those ruins. In that austere repository of the bound volumes of fabula and historia -- the library -- the scholar seeks the world of lived human experience but encounters instead one of its chief symptoms -- writing. link

see also, Eduardo Cadava, The Lapsus Imaginis':The Image in Ruin

Paper Graveyeards 

Friday, May 6, 2022

pretending to be even more stupid than nature has made them

 One of my teachers at Columbia was Joseph Brodsky...and he said 'look,' he said, 'you Americans, you are so naïve. You think evil is going to come into your houses wearing big black boots. It doesn’t come like that. Look at the language. It begins in the language." - Marie Howe

Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man, and our politicians take advantage of this prejudice by pretending to be even more stupid than nature has made them.

Bertrand Russell : here

Thursday, May 5, 2022

the heart, in those days, was small, and hard, and full of meanness


We will be known as a culture that feared death
and adored power, that tried to vanquish insecurity
for the few and cared little for the penury of the
many. We will be known as a culture that taught
and rewarded the amassing of things, that spoke
little if at all about the quality of life for
people (other people), for dogs, for rivers. All
the world, in our eyes, they will say, was a
commodity. And they will say that this structure
was held together politically, which it was, and
they will say also that our politics was no more
than an apparatus to accommodate the feelings of
the heart, and that the heart, in those days,
was small, and hard, and full of meanness.

image: from a poster at an anti-Trump demonstration, c.2018

text: Mary Oliver, From Devotions 

Read one newspaper daily (the morning edition
is the best
for by evening you know that you at least
have lived through another day)
and let the disasters, the unbelievable
yet approved decisions,
soak in.

I don't need to name the countries,
ours is among them.

What keeps us from falling down, our faces
to the ground; ashamed, ashamed?

 from Whiskey River: 

- Mary Oliver
A Thousand Mornings

Tuesday, April 19, 2022



Photographing Hell

"I’m getting tired of those endless disclaimers — like the one at the top of this essay — that say, “Warning: Graphic Material.” The best photographs of war might make us want to look away. It’s imperative that we do not."

Mikhail Zygar, the Russian journalist and author, wrote, “If one can’t write poetry after Auschwitz, then what can one say after Bucha?” 


Iraq, Russia,WW II

New York Times: David Hume Kennerly won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography in 1972 for his pictures of the Vietnam War taken the prior year. He was also President Gerald R. Ford’s chief White House photographer. He is on the board of advisers of the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

temporary little men


Politics! The trouble was that they had a dictator now, which, according to some people (white), they had never had before, and according to other people (everyone else), they had only ever been having, constantly, since the beginning of the world. Her stupidity panicked her, as well as the way her voice now sounded when she talked to people who hadn't stopped being stupid yet.

The problem was that the dictator was very funny, which had maybe always been true of all dictators. Absurdism, she thought. Suddenly all those Russian novels where a man turns into a teaspoonful of blackberry jam at a country house began to make sense.


Where had the old tyranny gone, the tyranny of husband over wife? She suspected most of it had been channeled into weird ideas about supplements, whether or not vinyl sounded "warmer," and which coffeemakers were nothing but a shit in the mouth of the coffee christ. "A hundred years ago you would have been mining coal and had fourteen children all named Jane," she often marveled, as she watched a man stab a finger at his wife in front of the Keurig display. "Two hundred years ago, you might have been in a coffee shop in Göttingen, shaking the daily paper, hashing out the questions of the -day—and I would be shaking out sheets from the windows, not knowing how to read." But didn't tyranny always feel like the hand of the way things were?

At nine o'clock every night she gave up her mind. Renounced it, like a belief. Abdicated it, like a throne, all for love. She went to the freezer and opened that fresh air on her face and put fingerprints in the frost on the neck of a bottle and poured something into a glass that was very very clear. And then she was happy, though she worried every night, as you never do with knowledge, whether there would be enough.

Patricia Lockwood, No One Is Talking About This:excerpt

image: The Great Dictator, The Guardian

 The Great Dictator, Charlie Chaplin


Sunday, March 27, 2022

we made the world we’re living in and we have to make it over



In the new world the rules have changed — or at least there is the possibility of change.


The way things were, the way we made things, it turns out, none of it was inevitable — none of it is the way things have to be.

We can be different.


The history of the world is a story we tell ourselves.

History is not what happened, but it is what we agree happened — shaped by our biases and self-serving interests.


title:James Baldwin 

We Can Be Different: David Byrne’s Illustrated History of the Future 

from The Marginalian  

David Byrne's new book

website:Reasons to be Cheerful

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

losses gathering force


 paper graveyards

Where and when do those small sadnesses feel allowed in the face of all the Big Sadness around us? But that’s the whole thing, and that is Heti’s genius: how fully she is able to show us that the tragedy of the world is all those minor losses gathering force. A single woman and her single loss, formally recast and sanctified within art, is also about all of us, mourning the whole world at the same time.

Having deemed this “draft” of life too flawed, God, according to Heti’s fourth novel, is “ready to go at creation a second time.”

 Sheila Heti, Pure Colour review

For if we consider the innumerable corpses, which, partly, the ravages of the plague and partly, the weapons of war, have filled not only our Germany, but almost the whole of Europe, then we must admit that our roses have been transformed into thorns, our lilies into nettles, our paradises into cemeteries, indeed our whole being into an image of death. It is therefore my hope that it will not be held against me that in the general theater of death I have foreborne to set up my own paper graveyard.

Walter Benjamin, Origin of German Tragic Drama, p.231

Thursday, March 17, 2022

“A memory is only a Prince Charming who stays just long enough to awaken the Sleeping Beauties of our wordless stories.”


Thought waits for the day that it is awakened by the memory of what was omitted, and is transformed into teaching. Minima Moralia, Theodor Adorno

Part of the great political crisis we face in the world today is a failure to imagine plausible desirable futures. We are surrounded by nostalgic visions, violently nostalgic visions. Fiction can imagine differently.... We certainly need it now. Because if we can’t imagine desirable futures for ourselves that stand a chance of actually coming to pass, our collective depression could well condemn humanity to a period of terrible savagery. Mohsin Hamid,  New Yorker interview on Exit West

My thesis about this would be that all humans deep down, whether they admit this or not, know that it would be possible or it could be different. Not only could they live without hunger and probably without anxiety, but they could also live as free human beings. At the same time, the social apparatus has hardened itself against people, and thus, whatever appears before their eyes all over the world as attainable possibility, as the evident possibility of fulfillment, presents itself to them as radically impossible. "Something's Missing...," Theodor Adorno


 To own your fate, she implies, is to own history

we stopped digging deep long ago,
just a couple fingers down,
we leave the plowed earth unturned,
so the fertile soil won’t all blow away in one generation
so we rake our beds,
make the sign of the cross, and sow
we sow, from here to there, like everyone
like everywhere
we stopped digging deep long ago
in this uncertain field of ours-yours
because all kinds of junk can turn up:
human bones, horses’ heads, unexploded mines,
a battle ax, the peg that marked the border
between our side and yours
we don’t go there
between the eyes out of sight about the eye
we don’t measure it in steps,
we can’t tell
when all our land’s stuck to our soles
and keeps us from moving our feet

She [Halyna Kruk] picks apart Ukrainian soil, unearthing the detritus of history. Ukraine’s fertile earth, known as “chernozem” or “black soil,” has been cultivated and coveted. The “breadbasket” of Europe was supposed to produce grain for the burgeoning Soviet Union. The Nazis saw the land as potential Aryan lebensraum. The land that has been sown with crops has also been sown with the casualties of history. As Timothy Snyder puts it in his 2012 Bloodlands, “Even human ash fertilizes.”

"History is inseparable from the present. Kruk, a poet and Medievalist from Lviv, aims to sensitize her readers to both. To own your fate, she implies, is to own history, to become more certain of your place in “this uncertain field of ours-yours.” The sticky soil that “keeps us from moving our feet” must be exhumed, if there is any hope of moving forward." 

Halyna Kruk: Translated from the Ukrainian by Amelia Glaser and Yuliya Ilchuk. 

from LITHUB  a series on contemporary Ukrainian poetry.

 *****[...]we stayed, we did things, Ukraine is present in our lives now,  

{...] if we’re going to have a future, we’re going have to start thinking about different ways that things could turn out. And if the Ukrainians have given us anything, it’s that they’ve bought us that time, right?

I feel like every day that they stay on the battlefield buys us a week, a month, a year of thinking about how things could be. 

 Thanks to the fact that they’re doing something, they’ve given us this chance to think bigger.

[...] what’s interesting about the Ukrainians is that they seem to be moving more towards the argument that the nation is not about a clear story of the past. It’s more about action directed towards the future. 

It’s not about having the past all in order. It’s not about having all of your blue books on a shelf, all of your red books on a different shelf. It’s about what you do every day, you know, as a collectivity which exists, as a collectivity because it’s directed towards some kind of a future. So I’m happy to talk about how the Ukrainians see their history.

But I think this business about being a civic nation and having a nation which is based upon asserting its own existence day to day is the real contrast with Russia, or at least not Russia, but the real contrast with Putin and his narrative and his myth.

Timothy Snyder on the Myths That Blinded the West to Putin’s Plans

title: Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

There is an echo through all the country Like a mother mourning.


What would happen if one woman told the truth about
        her life?
     The world would split open



Held between wars
my lifetime
                  among wars, the big hands of the world of death
my lifetime
listens to yours.

The faces of the sufferers
in the street, in dailiness,
their lives showing
through their bodies
a look as of music
the revolutionary look
that says    I am in the world
to change the world
my lifetime
is to love to endure to suffer the music
to set its portrait
up as a sheet of the world
the most moving the most alive
Easter and bone
and Faust walking among flowers of the world
and the child alive within the living woman, music of man,
and death holding my lifetime between great hands
the hands of enduring life
that suffers the gifts and madness of full life, on earth, in
         our time,
and through my life, through my eyes, through my arms
        and hands
may give the face of this music in portrait waiting for
the unknown person
held in the two hands, you.

Woman as gates, saying:
"The process is after all like music,
like the development of a piece of music.
The fugues come back and
                                               again and again
A theme may seem to have been put aside,
but it keeps returning—
the same thing modulated,
somewhat changed in form.
Usually richer.
And it is very good that this is so."

A woman pouring her opposites.
"After all there are happy things in life too.
Why do you show only the dark side?"
"I could not answer this. But I know—
in the beginning my impulse to know
the working life
                              had little to do with
pity or sympathy.
                               I simply felt
that the life of the workers was beautiful."

She said, "I am groping in the dark."

She said, "When the door opens, of sensuality,
then you will understand it too. The struggle begins.
Never again to be free of it,
often you will feel it to be your enemy.
you will almost suffocate,
such joy it brings."

Saying of her husband: "My wish
is to die after Karl.
I know no person who can love as he can,
with his whole soul.
But often too it has made me
so terribly happy."

She said: "We rowed over to Carrara at dawn,
climbed up to the marble quarries
and rowed back at night. The drops of water
fell like guttering stars
from our oars."

She said: "As a matter of fact,
I believe
                that bisexuality
is almost    a necessary factor
in artistic production; at any rate,
the tinge of masculinity within me
helped me
                  in my work."

She said: "The only technique I can still manage.
It's hardly a technique at all, lithography.
In it
        only the essentials count."

A tight-lipped man in a restaurant last night saying to me:
"Kollwitz?     She's too black-and-white."

Held among wars, watching
     all of them
     all these people

Looking at
     all of them
     death, the children
     patients in waiting-rooms
     the street

A woman seeing
     the violent, inexorable
     movement of nakedness
     and the confession of No
     the confession of great weakness, war,
     all streaming to one son killed, Peter;
     even the son left living; repeated,
     the father, the mother; the grandson
     another Peter killed in another war; firestorm;
     dark, light, as two hands,
     this pole and that pole as the gates.

What would happen if one woman told the truth about
        her life?
     The world would split open

         4   Song : The Calling-Up
Rumor, stir of ripeness
rising within this girl
sensual blossoming
of meaning, its light and form.

The birth-cry summoning
out of the male, the father
from the warm woman
a mother in response.

The word of death
calls up the fight with stone
wrestle with grief with time
from the material make
an art harder than bronze.

         5   Self-Portrait 
Mouth looking directly at you
eyes in their inwardness looking
directly at you
half light    half darkness
woman, strong, German, young artist
flows into
wide sensual mouth meditating
looking right at you
eyes shadowed with brave hand
looking deep at you
flows into
wounded brave mouth
grieving and hooded eyes
alive, German, in her first War
flows into
strength of the worn face
a skein of lines
broods, flows into
mothers among the war graves
bent over death
facing the father
stubborn upon the field
flows into
the marks of her knowing—
Nie Wieder Krieg
repeated in the eyes
flows into
"Seedcorn must not be ground"
and the grooved cheek
lips drawn fine
the down-drawn grief
face of our age
flows into
Pieta, mother and
between her knees
life as her son in death
pouring from the sky of
one more war
flows into
face almost obliterated
hand over the mouth forever
hand over one eye now
the other great eye
Muriel Rukeyser, "Käthe Kollwitz" from The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser. Copyright © 2006 by Muriel Rukeyser.