Lol

I’ve been googling radiation poisoning, I’m going to need to know how this happens. The toxic dose of ions seeping into the body politic until…
I've been googling radiation poisoning, I’m going to need to know how this happens. The toxic dose of ions seeping into the body politic until there are ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ bodies sprawled all over the floor and the TV’s blaring out a laughtrack soundtrack. Black Lives Matter! Nobody’s saying they don’t. I’m pretty woke but let’s be real, I hear ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ they’re banning hugs next, which is, well, you know. But here’s my take on this situation: The bodies are intact—dead not sleeping— it’s not funny but it’s funnee. You get ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ two doses, one from the explosion, the second from the fallout. White journalists really dig it: time for some Game Theory! Radiation kills cells by autophagy. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ America is eating me with its economic anxiety mouth. Loss of white blood cells, nausea, vomiting, death— but I can still hear somebody… Read More...

Fable

On little devices the people carried around with them, it was all monster all the time.
It was true that the Adversary had brought other monsters into being. Each had been wicked in its own way, each had been an embodiment of one or other of the seven vices, and each had been strong and difficult to vanquish. Some of those monsters still roamed the land. But what made this new monster remarkable, indeed uniquely devious, was that it wasn’t strong at all. In fact, it was weak. The weaknesses through which the other monsters had been vanquished, this monster had tenfold. The new monster was not moral, but it is not in the nature of monsters to be moral. But the monster was also not beautiful, or intelligent, or brave, or well-dressed, or charming, or gifted in oratory, though usually monsters had at least some of those qualities. The Adversary had sent this new monster… Read More...

America.

America is definitely crazy, definitely violent, and other countries are funny, kind, and sweet.
America. You can see what he was going for. He wants to say: I am proudly allied with the gun people. I am a tough man, a manly man. A picture of a gun, and the terse caption: America, period. (The period pokes at me in its finality: not so much a caption as a manifesto.) In this country we have a right to bear arms, the man is saying. I oppose efforts by the government to tighten gun laws, he is saying. Gun control is fundamentally unamerican. And so the brother of the cowboy declares himself as laconic and unsentimentally violent a cowboy too. He is on the gun. His name is on the gun. He is the gun. You can see the calculation: with his poll numbers low, he shifts rightward, draw some heat from the left, and… Read More...

Live Update

"It is our culture." "Our right." "Isn't this the price of freedom?" "Isn't this absurd, grotesque?" They are dead now.
I think of those who died today. They held views on the matter, one way or the other, of our awful American problem. They watched the last event unfold and thought: More laws. More guns. Less violence. Less coverage. This, no, that, no, this, with more or less certainty or stridency. "This is the last straw." "How can we be this way?" "It is our culture." "Our right." "Isn't this the price of freedom?" "Isn't this absurd, grotesque?" They are dead now. They and their various views on the matter, swallowed up suddenly by darkness, their loved ones maddened with grief, breaking things they've bought, pulling at their hair, all that undeliverable protest at the void. I think of others, alive today, soon to die, (who knows when or whom, maybe you, or me, or the him or her who's… Read More...

Migrants Welcome

Did all sixteen of your great great grandparents live, work, and die in the same town where you now live? If no, then you're a child of migrants.
1 I've been reading the later work of Derrida, in which the intensity about language remains but there's also a turn towards the thorniest questions of ethics. There's a remarkable passage in "The Gift of Death" (1995) that gets at something the news isn't touching on: "...because of the structure of the laws of the market that society has instituted and controls, because of the mechanisms of external debt and other comparable inequities, that same 'society' puts to death or (but failing to help someone in distress accounts only for a minor difference) allows to die of hunger and disease tens of millions of children…without any moral or legal tribunal ever being considered competent to judge such a sacrifice, the sacrifice of the other to avoid being sacrificed oneself. Not only does such a society participate in this incalculable sacrifice,… Read More...

Room 406

The destruction of a ruin is like the desecration of a body. It is a vengeance wreaked on the past in order to embitter the future.
1 Alas! Sha’del, the son of Zabdibôl, the son of Moqîmu, the artisan. He died on the 3rd day of Kanûn (in) the year 484 (November, 172 C.E.). 2 The destruction of a ruin is like the desecration of a body. It is a vengeance wreaked on the past in order to embitter the future. And how often it is that those who destroy ruins are the same ones who desecrate bodies. 3 I need to understand what I am sad about. Not in hopes of obliterating the sadness, but in hopes of lessening it. 4 Underneath modern Tadmor was Tadmor Prison. The dungeon was built for horror. The population was in the thousands. To keep the population fearful, random prisoners were dragged to death, or cut to pieces with an axe. Above stood the ancient ruins. The Syrian poet… Read More...

Improving on Silence

Silence is simply not an option. This is everybody's business.
    I should say that this note was first written for my Facebook page, on July 27 2015, and I think it will retain some of the tone of that context: discursive, reactive, and addressed directly to my followers. But my editor at the New Inquiry thought I should share it here, with a broader audience, and I agree. We are presenting as-is, and I’ll only add two things. One is that the absurdity of our predicament makes it necessary to spell out obvious things in detail, even things like what is written below, things we already know, or should already know. The second is that, far more important than anything I have to say, you should read the testimony of these women themselves. If you are short of time, skip what I’ve written, and go straight to the… Read More...

Intelligence

"So it begins," a medical officer wrote.
"So it begins," a medical officer wrote little or no training nudity, and "rough treatment" total darkness "Such language is not helpful" "clearly a broken man" "absolutely convincing technique" to the point of tears sleep (Click on images to enlarge. From the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture. Montage inspired by Broomberg and Chanarin.) Read More...

You Drank Some Darkness

What is hidden between here, where you stand, and there?
  Stand here and look out at the steady fact of the sea. Like a closed door, it gives you little. Behind you is the museum, and between you and the sea are a number of sculptures. The sculptures are like ancient rocks that have sleepwalked out of the water. Now they rest. What is hidden between here, where you stand, and there? Here is Denmark. The museum, its sculptures—Henry Moore, Alexander Calder—the bank leading down, the North Zealand coast of which it is a part. And then a narrow episode in the life of a great body of water and, further, beyond all that, Sweden. What is hidden between here and there is space as well as time; and it is width as well as depth. The year is 2013. I’m in Sweden for the first time, in an… Read More...

Fathers and Sons

When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee...
Do you love me? he asks one. If I want him to remain alive, what is that to you? he says of another, and then that other reveals himself as the author of the words we are reading. The twenty-first chapter of the Gospel of John is strange (a succession struggle, like those in King Lear or in Kurosawa's films). It is perhaps strangest when Christ prophesies Peter's death, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. A little over a century earlier, Virgil wrote, of Aeneas recounting to Dido his family's escape from Troy, Come then, dear father, clasp my neck: I will carry you on my shoulders: that task won’t… Read More...

Terror Painting

George W. Bush, Barney, 2012 (?) Lapata, Humsafar: President George W. Bush with his Scottie, Barney, 2007 Marlene Dumas, The Blindfolded, 2002 Luc Tuymans, Secretary…
  "In the picture the face is terribly smashed with blows, swollen, covered with terrible, swollen, and blood-stained bruises, the eyes open and squinting; the large, open whites of the eyes have a sort of dead and glassy glint...Looking at that picture, you get the impression of nature as some enormous, implacable, and dumb beast, or, to put it more correctly, thought it may seem strange, as some huge engine of the latest design, which has senselessly seized, cut to pieces, and swallowed up—impassively and unfeelingly–a great and priceless Being...The picture seems to give expression to the idea of a dark, insolent, and senselessly eternal power, to which everything is subordinated, and this idea is suggested to you unconsciously." —Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot, 1869   He lies in his grave and I know not where Though I keep asking people… Read More...

Evening Walk

It is always strange to be out in Sunset Park at night and feel it so powerfully like a setting from Love in the Time of Cholera.
(from my journal, January 2013) It is always strange to be out in Sunset Park at night and feel it so powerfully like a setting from Love in the Time of Cholera. There's a "we" at work at such times that thrills and mystifies me. I am never prepared to see these peasant faces, dark and busy with worry, or to encounter at my doorstep this antique Latin American world in which one inhales the smoke from frying dough and root vegetables and overhears conversations that are opaque even when some of the words are familiar. Tonight at the photo shop where I was picking up some rolls of film I'd had developed, there was a fast-talking grandmother with a cast on her arm, the cast like something pulling her back into childhood, and at the food vendor near the… Read More...

Envoi

"This has been a good year." Or, "This has been a bad year, right?"
"This has been a good year." Or, "This has been a bad year, right?" What sorts of statements are these? What consensus could there be on a year's goodness? I think of early medieval annals. "721 AD–drought; 722 AD–(blank); 723 AD–(blank); 724 AD–(blank); 725 AD–bad harvest, frightening comet in the west." Poor helpless humanity. 2003–terrible year (launch of a murderous and unprovoked war on Iraq) 2005–terrible year (tsunami) 2010–terrible year (earthquake in Haiti) 2013–terrible year (war in Syria) 2003-2013–terrible years (extreme climate events, Global War on Terror, intensifying economic immiseration) Meanwhile, Uncle Seamus is dead. Beloved relatives are dead. Beloved writers and artists are dead. Revolutions are stillborn. All years are terrible years; the predicament of being human tends towards the negative. We read the news and are left feeling nothing more noble than "only I have escaped to tell… Read More...

Dreezus

I know I got a bad reputation. Walk around always mad reputation.
I know I got a bad reputation. Walk around always mad reputation. I'm aware I'm a wolf. I had this vision in my sleep, and saw how many great waters fell from heaven. The first struck the ground about four miles away from me with such a terrible force, enormous noise, and splashing that it drowned the entire countryside. I was so greatly shocked at this that I awoke before the cloudburst. Something strange is happening. (Blood on the leaves.) And the ensuing downpour was huge. Some of the waters fell some distance away and some close by. And they came from such a height that they seemed to fall at an equally slow pace. The inscription on the Bremen self-portrait reads: "Where the yellow spot is, to which I point with my finger, there it hurts." The wound in… Read More...

The Island

The prisoner is not working. He stands erect, faces forward. He wears a floppy hat and dark glasses (when they let him go thirteen years later, he will be unable to shed tears: the limestone quarry will have ruined his eyes). He is a contained fury.
A clear day in the early nineteen-eighties, for example. A man drives past the harbor of the city in which he lives. He sees docked boats, restaurants, children at play, the island sleeping in the distance. Without quite meaning to, he remembers that the island is a prison. And then, as he is a man of some imagination, he imagines something worse: that people are tortured there. It has been going on for a while. Years pass. The rough sea of the crossing makes it feel far. The swells are huge. The ferry could sink like a stone. Our tour guide, used to it, sleeps on the journey. Soon, in less than half an hour, the ferry arrives. The prison is now a museum. There was and is a pitiful garden along a wall. Obscene. That is the word, a… Read More...