Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Does this-all look like a fish?


What if Alden Nowlan kept a blog?

This is just a small, slight scrapbook. Wispy knowledge of Alden Nowlan that floats in my memory like random thistledown: remembering that he looked like an English teacher I used to have (or that the teacher looked like him), that he was a famous Canadian poet with a short life, that he came from appalling poverty and emotional neglect. In other words, an artist. Then this discovery of a poem - I began to read it just tonight, and I kept thinking, by God that's a lot like a poem I "took" in school, years and years ago - and with every line I thought, "God, he must be a plagiarist or something because this is SO much like the poem I took in school," and then with those last two lines, "his axe-hewn hands upon the paper bills/aching with empty strength and throttled rage", realizing that this WAS the poem I took, and that up until this moment I had no idea that more than 40 years ago, I had read and been seized by a poem written by Alden Nowlan.

Every angel is terrifying

Every angel is terrifying. And yet alas
I invoked you almost deadly birds of the soul
knowing about you. Where are the days of Tobias
when one of you veiling his radiance stood at the front door
slightly disguised for the journey no longer appalling;
(a young man like the one who curiously peeked through the window).

But if the archangel now perilous from behind the stars
took even one step down toward us: our own heart beating
higher and higher would bear us to death. Who are you?

If you go down in the flood (it's gonna be your own fault)

This photo has been doing the internet rounds. Since I've owned both cats and birds, I can relate. I like the spread-out paw on the "mouse" (heh-heh) with claws just showing, along with the tip of the tongue. This is funny, but it illustrates a point, the kind Chris Hansen has dealt with on Dateline.

On the internet, you can be whoever-the-hell you want to be.

On Facebook, I've seen the kind of swagger I don't think I would ever see in person. Quite often it takes the form of blatant personal narcissism. More than once I've seen women "model" dresses they're going to wear to awards banquets (awards they're shortlisted for, they always point out). I've seen shoes, I've seen handbags, but the dresses are the worst. The women are either posed seductively with one shoulder-strap falling down,  staring into the camera in a predatory manner (and these are usually women over 60), or draped over the hood of a car with their tits up like Jane Russell.  A few are posed in the t-square, 3/4 position we were all told to assume in the Nancy 
Taylor Charm Course. 

I recently saw a post by a woman who described herself, or at least her dress, as "gorgeous". She was well into middle age, stout, and wore a floral dress that made her look like a sofa.

But the point is: would she walk into a dinner party and say, "Look, everybody. Aren't I gorgeous?" Yet in every single case, her sycophants chorused things like, "Awesome!" "You go, girl!" and things like that. 

What does this mean?

It means that the narcissism gene which is latent in most of us has been given free rein. Once again we can go to our own birthday party in a fluffy dress and swing our feet in their Mary Janes, squeaking, "Ooooh, look at me, everybody! I'm prettier than you!"

Well. . . no.

So what's wrong with praising your own beauty? Haven't mental health care professionals been honking at us for decades to love ourselves, to see ourselves as innately worthy no matter what we do? Why has this always bothered me? Because it's sickening, that's why. It's shallow and essentially untrue. At the heart of most people (and believe me, after 60 years on the planet I know this) lies darkness.

Civilization means subjugating this darkness whenever we can.

I saw a ridiculous program the other night called The History of the World in Two Hours. It was stupid because it was really at least two programs in one, and should have been called The Vastly-Oversimplified History of the Universe, followed by Why Humans Feel Entitled to Completely Destroy the World.

The early physics blather was almost OK, though since I'm married to a man with a Masters in biochemistry, I saw glaring errors in it. How did the first cells of life ever wink into existence? It wasn't explained at all. Suddenly there was this big sloppy edit in the middle of the show, and then they were talking about DNA (a nonsensical leap over the Grand Canyon, since it hadn't been set up at all). 

There was absolutely nothing about the various theories of how life began (and after all, since nobody was around with a Smartphone snapping photos, our information comes down to educated guesses). The most plausible guess involves the existence of chemicals in seawater which gradually formed tiny strands of nucleic acid. Not DNA, not by any stretch, but perhaps its multi-billions-of-years'-distant cousin. 

There was, however, a lot of comical blather from "scientists", the usual suspects rounded up (including a guy with a grey beard and an Indiana Jones hat who looks like Gabby Hayes, and who is on EVERY science show to explain paleontology in ludicrously dumbed-down terms) to tell us all that "bacteria are our common ancestor. We ALL came from bacteria. No, really!"

There were things even more offensive than the idea that cold germs were our great-great-great-googol-grandparents (and yes, you fucking idiots, I AM spelling that right - "google" is a misspelling, not deliberate but just goddamn stupid). Massive chunks were left out of this "history", such as anything to do with art or even valid science. No astronomy, no medicine, no nothing. It was all (ALL) technology and how wonderful Man was to have invented these marvelous things. 

It got worse. Never once were women mentioned. I have heard a quite plausible theory that women invented agriculture. While Thugg and Uck were out there trying to kill water buffalo by throwing rocks at them, the women were doing the spectacularly unimportant task of bringing the next generation of humans into the world. As they did so, they were constantly gathering the plant sources that kept the tribe alive while Thugg and Uck killed each other because they didn't know how to throw. 

Being smart survivors and tied to the soil, women noticed over time that they could actually coax things to grow where they wanted. Guess what this lead to! But no! This whole program was dedicated to shallow, self-congratulatory male strutting, exalting the technology which is now on the verge of destroying us all. 

It was all good, you see. All swagger, male swagger in particular. The internal combustion engine was held up as the very pinnacle of man's amazing achievements, with no mention at all of the megatons of poison it belches into the air every single day.

Anyway, to me it was just a reflection of the shallow narcissism and lack of touch with reality we now see everywhere. I wonder, honestly wonder if the human race isn't being seriously and permanently degraded. As the ice caps continue their relentless melt (and why on earth are they melting? Why do we get all these freakish floods and tornados? I'm sure I don't know), most of the European treasures of art and architecture on which human culture was supposedly founded will be swept away forever. We'll have a few reproductions left, probably posted on Facebook, and after all, aren't they just as good?

Bob Dylan said it thirty years ago: "If you go down in the flood, it's gonna be your own fault." As usual, the little bastard was right.

P. S. A rather sickening coda, sickening to me because once again it reflects the happily ignorant, slipshod quasi-knowledge that abounds in this wonderful century. Speaking of how it all began, get a load of this internet explanation:

The story of Google – Sergey Brin and Larry Page; what started as the two of them looking for a project to do their final paper. It was a requirement for them to get their Phd degrees in Stanford. Sergey and Larry found that there is a problem on the current (in mid 90’s) search engine. The search results were non-efficiency and the result was coming up at a slow speed. So they decided to pick that as their project to do their Phd paper on.  

 Sergey and Larry started to look at the search technology based on a new idea: A relevant result comes from context. They started their own search engine (they called it ‘Back Rub’) as a test servicing the Campus. Eventually their search engine project got so big and that they have to move it out of the Stanford Campus. Both Sergey and Larry left Stanford to take care of their booming business.

One day the young men were brain storming for a name for their company. And Larry said Google – It means the number represented by a 1 followed by one-hundred Zeros. So they did a Domain Look up and registered right away. Later Larry and Sergey realized that the spelling on their Domain name was misspelled. The correct spelling is “Googol” But does it matter!?