Sunday, January 26, 2014

From “At the Particle Accelerator at Krasnoyarsk”

"The Belgian physicist sits with the Flemish physicist as the journalist from Denmark writes everything down.

Inside, the married couples spin by at velocities just shy of the speed of light.

At any time now, the Belgian explains, one couple will collide with another and shatter into its constituent parts.

And it all seems simple enough for the journalist who feels obliged to ask what exactly is the point of this kind of science

when you know you will observe afterward the man and the woman whirling wildly around separately.

But the Belgian and the Fleming exclaim NoNoNo,

The man and woman disappear entirely from the eight hundred and forty-two mile accelerator

and what they have observed and hope to capture are the colorful corpuscles of fury, envy, lust, capriciousness, tenderness, tardiness, punctuality, sexuality, fortitude, temperance, malice, disobedience, loyalty,

and any of the other quark-sized emoticons that may appear and adhere to the accelerator walls

chilled nearly to absolute zero eighty-seven stories below ground in Siberia.

… 

Meanwhile the physicists are trying to catch those tricky little buggers - fortitude, fury, and the newly discovered benevolence -

in little compartments that can withstand both the cold of the accelerator walls and the immeasurably quick vibrations of its particles.

And the chemists are hard at work cloning punctuality and temperance, which are the heaviest and least mobile elements.

And the lawyers are arguing over patent law and intellectual property.

And husbands and wives are predicting their concentrations of discontent, valor, antagonism.

And on the six o’clock news, national anchors are charting the inequities between Europeans and North Americans in their concentration of loyalty, capriciousness, and envy.

And it is postulated in the Cabinet that North Korea is constructing its own accelerator, although no one can be sure.

And the President delivers speeches condemning his predecessor for permitting Siberia to spearhead such a grand scientific endeavor.  

And there are a couple of factories in the Great Plains manufacturing underground shelters in case of an attack.

And there are people in all corners of the country buying them.

And there is a child in Idaho writing MALICE with a Sharpie on his passed-out father’s forehead

because he has learned the world from television and walks around the house reciting it.”

- Brendan Todt

Thursday, November 28, 2013
Goya.  Courtesy of Maria Denisse.

Goya.  Courtesy of Maria Denisse.

Saturday, November 9, 2013 Friday, November 8, 2013

I’m in love … with Leo Tolstoy

From the best three chapters I have read. Ever.

"Alexey Alexandrovitch was not jealous. Jealousy according to his notions was an insult to one’s wife, and one ought to have confidence in one’s wife. Why one ought to have confidence - that is to say, complete conviction that his young wife would always love him - he did not ask himself. But he had no experience of lack of confidence, because he had confidence in her, and told himself that he ought to have it. Now, though his conviction that jealousy was a shameful feeling and that one ought to feel confidence had not broken down, he felt that he was standing face to face with something illogical and irrational, and did not know what was to be done. Alexey Alexandrovich was standing face to face with life, with the possibility of his wife’s loving some one other than himself, and this seemed to him very irrational and incomprehensible because it was life itself…
His thoughts, like his body, went round a complete circle, without coming upon anything new. He noticed this, rubbed his forehead, and sat down in her boudoir.
There, looking at her table, with the malachite blotting-case lying at the top and an unfinished letter, his thoughts suddenly changed. He began to think of her, of what she was thinking and feeling. For the first time he pictured vividly to himself her personal life, her ideas, her desires, and the idea that she could and should have a separate life of her own seemed to him so alarming that he made haste to dispel it. It was the chasm he was afraid to peep into. To put himself in thought and feeling in another person’s place was a spiritual exercise not natural to Alexey Alexandrovitch. He looked on this spiritual exercise as a harmful and dangerous abuse of the fancy.
‘And the worst of it all,’ thought he, ‘is that just now, at the very moment when my great work is approaching completion’ (he was thinking of the project he was bringing forward at the time), ‘when I stand in need of all my mental peace and all my energies, just now this stupid worry should fall foul of me. But what’s to be done? I’m not one of those men who submit to uneasiness and worry without having the force of character to face them.’
‘I must think it over, come to a decision, and put it out of my mind,’ he said aloud…
Thinking over what he would say, he somewhat regretted that he should have to use his time and mental powers for domestic consumption, with so little to show for it, but, in spite of that, the form and contents of the speech before him shaped itself as clearly and distinctly in his head as a ministerial report.

Anna came in with hanging head, playing with the tassels of her hood. Her face was brilliant and glowing; but this glow was not one of brightness; it suggested the fearful glow of a conflagration in the midst of a dark night. Anna raised her head and smiled, as though she had just waked up…
‘Anna, it’s necessary for me to have a talk with you.’
‘With me?’ she said, wonderingly… ‘Well, let’s talk, if it’s so necessary. But it would be better to get sleep.’
Anna said what came to her lips, and marveled, hearing herself, at her own capacity for lying…
She looked at him so simply, so brightly, that any one who did now know her as her husband knew her could not have noticed anything unnatural, either in the sound or the sense of her words. But to him, knowing her, knowing that whenever he went to bed five minutes later than usual, she noticed it, and asked him the reason; knowing that every joy, every pleasure and pain that she felt she communicated to him at once; to him, to see that she did not care to notice his state of mind, that she did not care to say a word about herself, meant a great deal. He saw that the inmost recesses of her soul, that had always hitherto lain open before him, were closed against him. More than that, he saw from her tone that she was not even perturbed at that …
‘I want to warm you,’ he said in a low voice, ‘that through thoughtlessness and lack of caution you may cause yourself to be talked about in society.’ …
He talked and looked at her laughing eyes, which frightened him now with their impenetrable look, and, as he talked he felt all the uselessness and idleness of his words…
‘To enter into all the details of your feelings I have no right, and besides, I regard that as useless and even harmful,’ began Alexey Alexandrovitch. ‘Ferreting in one’s soul, one often ferrets out something that might have lain there unnoticed. Your feelings are an affair of your own conscience; but I am in duty bound to you, to myself, and to God, to point out to you your duties.’ …
‘I don’t understand a word. And, oh dear! How sleepy I am, unluckily,’ she said, rapidly passing her hand through her hair, feeling for the remaining hairpins.
‘Anna, for God’s sake don’t speak like that!’ he said gently. ‘Perhaps I am mistaken, but believe me, what I say, I say as much for myself as for you. I am your husband, and I love you.’
For an instant her face fell, and the mocking gleam in her eyes died away; but the word love threw her into revolt again. ‘Love? Can he love? If he hadn’t heard there was such a thing as love, he would never have used the word.’ …
‘Alexey Alexandrovitch, really, I don’t understand,’ she said…
‘It may very well be, I repeat, that my words seem to you utterly unnecessary and out of place; it may be that they are called forth by my mistaken impression. In that case, I beg you to forgive me. But if you are conscious yourself of even the smallest foundation for them, I beg you to think a little, and if your heart prompts you, to speak out to me …’
Alexey Alexandrovitch was unconsciously saying something utterly unlike what he had prepared.
‘I have nothing to say. And besides,’ she said hurriedly, with difficulty repressing a smile, ‘it’s really time to be in bed.’
…Anna got into her bed, and lay expecting every minute that he would begin to speak to her again. She both feared his speaking and wished for it. But he was silent. She waited a long while without moving, and had forgotten about him … Suddenly, she heard an even, tranquil snore. For the first instant Alexey Alexandrovitch seemed, as it were, appalled at his own snoring, and ceased; but after an interval of two breathings the snore sounded again, with a new tranquil rhythm.
‘It’s late, it’s late,’ she whispered with a smile. A long while she lay, not moving, with open eyes, whose brilliance she almost fancied she could herself see in the darkness.

From that time a new life began for Alexey Alexandrovitch and for his wife. Nothing special happened… Outwardly everything was the same, but their inner relations were completely changed. Alexey Alexandrovitch, a man of great power in the world of politics, felt himself helpless in this. Like an ox with head bent, submissively he awaited the blow which he felt lifted over him. Every time he began to think about it, he felt that he must try once more, that by kindness, tenderness, and persuasion there was still hope of saving her, of bringing her back to herself, and every day he made ready to talk to her. But every time he began talking to her, he felt that the spirit of evil and deceit, which had taken possession of her, had possession of him too, and he talked to her in a tone quite unlike that in which he had meant to talk. Involuntarily he talked to her in his habitual tone of jeering at any one who should say what he was saying. And in that tone it was impossible to say what needed to be said to her.”
- Anna Karenina

Saturday, October 12, 2013
From Stephen King, “On Writing” "My all-time favorite similes, by the way, come from the hardboiled-detective fiction of the forties and fifties, and the literary descendants of the dime-dreadful writers. These favorites include ‘It was darker than a carload of assholes’ (George V. Higgins) and ‘I lit a cigarette [that] tasted like a plumber’s handkerchief" (Raymond Chandler).
The key to good description begins with clear seeing and ends with clear writing, the kind of writing that employs fresh images and simple vocabulary. I began learning my lessons in this regard by reading Chandler, Hammett, and Ross MacDonald; I gained perhaps even more respect for the power of compact, descriptive language from reading T.S. Eliot (those ragged claws scuttling across the ocean floor; those coffee spoons), and William Carlos Williams (white chickens, red wheelbarrow, the plums that were in the ice box, so sweet and so cold).”
Friday, September 27, 2013
Frost "Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back”

I suppose this means I’m feeling nostalgic.
Sunday, September 15, 2013

(Source: heyheyadi)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

From My Traitor’s Heart

“‘I felt utterly betrayed by loving. All the things I had ever been told about love just weren’t true. It was all full of false promises. I understood that love was a safety and a protection, and that if you loved you would be rewarded by someone loving you back, or at least not wanting to damage you. But it wasn’t true, any of it. I knew that if I stayed, this was how it was going to be: It would never get any better; it would stay the same, or get worse. I thought, if you’re really going to live in Africa, you have to be able to look at it and say, This is the way of love, down the road: Look at it hard. This is where it is going to lead you.
‘I think you will know what I mean if I tell you love is worth nothing until it has been tested by its own defeat. I felt I was being asked to try to love enough not to be afraid of the consequences. I realized that love, even if it ends in defeat, gives you a kind of honor; but without love, you have no honor at all. I think that is what I misunderstood all my life. Love it to enable you to transcend defeat.
‘You said one could be deformed by this country, and yet it seems to me one can only be deformed by the things one does to oneself. It’s not the outside things that deform you, it’s the choices you make. To live anywhere in the world, you must know how to live in Africa. The only thing you can do is love, because it is the only thing that leaves light inside you, instead of the total, obliterating darkness.’”
- Creina Alcott, speaking on life in Africa