Tuesday, 30 September 2008


Here's what wrong with this syllogism.

1: Socrates is a man.
2. All men are mortal.
3. Therefore ...

What's wrong is the movement from 2 to 3. It is not a question of deducing that Socrates is, or is not, mortal. You don't care whether Socrates is mortal. It's a question of: woah! Wait up. All men are mortal? You shit me, perhaps? I'm going to die? The problem, in other words, is that the syllogism requires that you consider, carefully, each step; and if you do that, there's really no way to get past step 2.

Monday, 29 September 2008


From a great height the skin of the ocean is clad in tiny fishscales. The sun is going down, and smoothing beautiful piscine colours from this texture.

And now, even though it is dark, we know it is pulsing its body, the tidal tail moving up, and then down. I have heard this action makes the world swim in its endlessly circling path, like a fish in a bowl in the night.

Sunday, 28 September 2008


What would it mean to drown in a poem? The weeds wrapped about our head and our lungs sodden and clogged with its sense. It might work upon us, and something rich and strange is all very well: but I've always read those lines and thought 'coral is too brittle and too irregularlu surfaced to make good bones, and swapping one's eyes for pearls sounds like a simile for complete ocular cataracts.' That's drowning, I suppose: blinding and weakening: as in the old story whenOdysseus asked the shades 'but what is it like being dead?' and they replied 'it is like being alive, only less so ...' It's a professional hazard of literature academics, I suppose: that we become so deeply immersed in our idiom that we lose sight of the clouds.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Blab! Blab! Blab!

The terrier has a secret. Wait til I tell you: the secret is [bark]
He wants to keep mum, he really he does, but he's too excited: he has to blab it--
Blab! Blab! Blab!

Friday, 26 September 2008


The crickets are invisible in amongst the grass, intermittently tugging up their various zippers.

Thursday, 25 September 2008


Think of the colour red. What shade are you picturing?

Blood. Most reds have nothing of blood about them.
Do you think an orangey colour? Poppy red. Flame red. Sunset red. Iron. Brown. Umber. Black. There's nothing orange about blood ...

Wednesday, 24 September 2008


Tattouage of the soul: what ink? How to apply it?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Inside the Arboretum

Inside the Arboretum: nozzles set into the roof intermittently release jets of vapour -- moisture for the planst below. Outside the glass, on the emery-board straight paths, yellow and set into bright green lawn, wind stirs up identical though inverted puffs of vapour -- dust, this time.

Monday, 22 September 2008


The baseball glove bunch of bananas has caught one single ball-shaped waterdrop.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Water water

The way this word begins with two back vowels, and hinges its 'oh'-'eh' vowels around that sharp central consonant ... sharp, but ambiguous (alveolar ejective? Personally I'd voice a glottal stop). Ambuguity is appropriate to this substance, of course.

William H Propp ['Water', in Metzger and Coogan (eds) The Oxford Companion to the Bible (OUP 1993), 792] points out that Syria-Palestine historically relied and relies upon ground- and rain-water for fertility: 'its people venerated storm gods, among them Yahweh, often accompanied by the tempest [Exod 14:21, 15:8-10 and many other examples] ... Water is God's gift par excellence ... which he may withold in punishment.'

This is a sense of water that is predicated primarily upon fresh water: which is to say, water is fresh and only in a secondary consideration brine. But the vast majority of water in the world is salt, with fresh as a minor variation. Noah's flood was presumably salt: a gift of god? A gift that went on giving. The gift that overwhelms and kills.

Saturday, 20 September 2008


Willem de Kooning said a very striking thing: 'I had my own eyes, but I wasn't always looking in the right direction'. This is the way in which the human situation informs the situation of the artist, the difference being that the artist is sometimes aware of the direction in which s/he's looking.

Friday, 19 September 2008

The way

The tao of the motortao. Innumerable cars. The moments of a person’s life pass more frequently here.

The motorroad. The motorpath. The motortrack.

Thursday, 18 September 2008


Watching the Thames from Hungerford bridge. It looks as though the river possesses a skin; but I suppose it doesn’t really. It is a sort of optical illusion—simply the motion of the deforming, dappling plane where water ends and air begins. In other words, I watching a river in effect flayed—we’re seeing the muscles working without their layer of concealing skin.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Two line poem

Wind’s bright slow invisibility.

All the stones are rusted with sun.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008


There are no strangers: there are only people I haven't yet forced into the procrustan bed of my preconceptions about how people are.

Monday, 15 September 2008


The niggle that science fiction has seeped down into the groundwater of my mind: I cannot read Johnson's 'Vanity of Human Wishes' (1749) couplet:

A frame of adamant, a soul of fire,
No dangers fright him, and no labors tire.

...without thinking of The Terminator. I challenge you to do otherwise.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Chain of command

Not easy to keep the mind focussed on serious concerns, when phrases like chain of command pop up. Binding—in case, what? Manacles of command? Handcuffs of command? Or the anchor chain, or the chain dangling from a toilet cistern, what would happen if you yanked the chain of command? Command would sluice the bowl, flush away the turds of insubordination, or disorganisation, or whatever it is command is supposedly prophylactic against.

Saturday, 13 September 2008


Minds are more malleable than metal. Reality is less flexible. You do the sums.

Friday, 12 September 2008


I'd happily go to my grave not reading as Fascist philosophy; but for reasons that are still a little opaque to me, Carl Schmitt keeps sticking his head into the Internet (here, say). Strange, that.

In Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty. (translated by George Schwab: Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985), Schmitt gave voice to his dislike of liberalism: "the essence of liberalism is negotiation, a cautious half measure, in the hope that the definitive dispute, the decisive bloody battle, can be transformed into a parliamentary debate and permit the decision to be suspended forever in an everlasting discussion." It seems egregious to point it out, but there's a misunderstanding here. The half-measure is actually the valorising the purging, decisive violence of interpersonal conflict (very fascist, that): a half-measure because it exists halfway in myth ... a 'natural seeming' myth, the popularity of which informs (say) most Hollywood cinema: that violence directed against the Other solves problems. But liberalism is also predicated upon a decisive act of purging violence: the violent restraint of self, a trickier battle and a more important victory, but necessary to mediate civilisation and its discontents. Internalised, of course, but its a child who thinks that the external action is more important, because more visible, than the internal one.

Also: "all significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts ..." Surely not. 'All significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are aggrandised familial concepts' would be closer to the mark.

Thursday, 11 September 2008


The ground trembles as blades of grass grow upwards in unison. This gentle earthquake.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Personal God

So I watched God on Trial, and thought it was a brilliant TV play. The BBC (WGBH Boston who co-produced) ought to do more individual TV dramas: they can be very potent when well directed (as this was) and well acted (as this, throughout, certainly was). But Frank Cottrell Boyce gets the greatest credit for a brilliant script. True, in some of the earlier sections I found myself thinking, 'perhaps it's ever-so-slightly by-the-numbers, like a sixth-form ethical debate ... look, there's a bit from Dostoevsky! Ah look, it's Darwin's nasty wasp!' But by the time Sher's Rabbi Akiba got to his big speech I was wholly carried along with it. His listing the genocides and mass-murders celebrated in the Torah is powerful, but Boyce deserves a BAFTA for one line alone: 'God isn't good. He was never good. He was just on our side.' That line keeps coming back to me. It's not just that it's a penetrating critique of the crasser tendency to recruit God to one's own war, political campaign etc. It's more. It's a thirteen-line demolition of the very idea of a personal God.

The Greeks styled their Gods as capricious, unpredictable, quick to anger because after all: that's how the universe we live in is. A Tsunami kills tens of thousands, and then next day the sun comes out. JHWH is a little like that, in the Torah. The problems come when we wish to restyle this unpredicatble, indifferent being as all-loving, all-wise and so forth: is a contract signed with an irrational agent ever legally binding?

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Zingiber spectabile

Extraordinary-looking plant: 'beehive ginger' hardly captures its weirdness. It looks, rather, like a stack of pretzels ... a wicker plant. Stackus pretzeli.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Virtual heat poem

What it is to feel heat over
The skin and cold in the bones.
Seaweed shaded trees
Waving bladdered tendrils
At a sky whose blue is not marine.

Sunday, 7 September 2008


Silence, and the cello-thrum of the overhead plane, and silence. The sky is made out of silence; the leaves do not rustle.

Saturday, 6 September 2008


The older you get the harder the thought of death -- for habitual, rather than existential, reasons, though: which is to say, only because we become habituated to living and increasingly alarmed at the prospect of our habits being disrupted. The young have a healthier attitude in this respect.

Friday, 5 September 2008


A shoal of leaves; a school of leaves.

Thursday, 4 September 2008


In the RHS Wisley Gardens, watching the negative carp ... they swim by lugubriously shaking heads with such slow vehemence that the whole of their bodies follow suit.

And the word carp means ...

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

On reading Dracula

This novel is a fictionalised, fantastical version of Jack the Ripper ('Bram Stoker's Jackula'). Not that Dracula is Jack; no, the portrait of the serial killer in this novel is Van Helsing ('From Hellsing'), trotting about London with his little black bag, carving up and mutilating the body of Lucy Westenra in that horrible enclosed space. Of course, he believes he had good cause for his actions; but presumably so did the ripper ...

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Animals, animals

Fish with pleats in their flanks;
Birds with their arms longer than their bodies, like gibbons.
Birds with their their 2D arms; their leaf shaped arms
Moles that swim through loam.
Horse with castanets for feet.
The rorshach-coloured cow.
Cicadas with their sewing-machine chatter.
Pigs that snore though awake.
The delta-wing butterfly.

Monday, 1 September 2008


The crickets in this insane heat, this tarmac-melting heat, are cold: for they shiver drily and chafe themselves to generate warmth.