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A Spider’s Web

Do you know how a spider’s web works?

A spider reacts to whatever lands on the web, a connected set of trip wires acting on whatever disturbs it.

Is life like that? Are we the spiders on the web, reacting to distant disturbances? What’s landing on your web? Or, perhaps our web?

What about a spare and poorly woven spider web of life, its invisible trip wires connecting us together at times. Just at times. Does that make sense?

Or is it more like a computer network? Poorly stitched switching fabric, connecting us only for certain associations or events.

It’s truly impossible to divine an invisible architecture, as most never experience the paranormal and those that do get but a glimpse.

I had a view once, only once, but the echoes are still reverberating and still disturbing. They haunt.

Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush

Out on the wiley, windy moors
We’d roll and fall in green.
You had a temper like my jealousy:
Too hot, too greedy.
How could you leave me,
When I needed to possess you?
I hated you. I loved you, too.
Bad dreams in the night.

They told me I was going to lose the fight,
Leave behind my wuthering, wuthering
Wuthering Heights.
Heathcliff, it’s me–Cathy.
Come home. I’m so cold!
Let me in-a-your window.
Heathcliff, it’s me–Cathy.
Come home. I’m so cold!
Let me in-a-your window.

Ooh, it gets dark! It gets lonely,
On the other side from you.
I pine a lot. I find the lot
Falls through without you.
I’m coming back, love.
Cruel Heathcliff, my one dream,
My only master.
Too long I roam in the night.

I’m coming back to his side, to put it right.
I’m coming home to wuthering, wuthering,
Wuthering Heights,
Heathcliff, it’s me–Cathy.
Come home. I’m so cold!
Let me in-a-your window.
Heathcliff, it’s me–Cathy.
Come home. I’m so cold!
Let me in-a-your window.
Ooh! Let me have it.
Let me grab your soul away.
Ooh! Let me have it.
Let me grab your soul away.
You know it’s me–Cathy!
Heathcliff, it’s me–Cathy.

Come home. I’m so cold!
Let me in-a-your window.
Heathcliff, it’s me–Cathy.
Come home. I’m so cold!
Let me in-a-your window.
Heathcliff, it’s me–Cathy.
Come home. I’m so cold!

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What’s Behind The Universe?

“I don’t see any method at all.”

From the script of the film Apocalypse Now, screenplay by John Milius and Francis Ford Coppola

In Nah Trang

Walter Kurtz was one of the most outstanding officers this country’s ever produced. He was brilliant. He was outstanding in every way. And he was a good man, too. A humanitarian man. A man of wit and humor. He joined the Special Forces, and after that, his ideas, methods, became…unsound. Unsound.

Now he’s crossed into Cambodia with this Montagnard army of his, that worship the man like a god, and follow his every order, however ridiculous. Well, I have some other shocking news to tell you. Colonel Kurtz was about to be arrested for murder.

I don’t follow sir. Murdered who?

Kurtz had ordered the execution of some Vietnamese intelligence agents. Men he believed were double agents. So he took matters into his own hands.

Well, you see, Willard, in this war, things get confused out there. Power, ideals, the old morality, and practical military necessity.But out there with these natives, it must be a temptation to be God. Because the rational and the irrational, between good and evil. And good does not always triumph. Sometimes, the dark side overcomeswhat Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. Every man has got a breaking point. You have and I have them. Walter Kurtz has reached his. And, very obviously, he has gone insane.

Later, in Cambodia . . . 

Have you ever considered, any real freedoms? Freedoms from the opinions of others. Even the opinions of yourself. Did they say why, Willard? Why they wanted to terminate my command?

I was sent on a classified mission, sir.

Its no longer classified, is it? What did they tell you?

They told me, that you had gone…totally insane. And that your methods were unsound.

Are my methods unsound?

I don’t see any method at all, sir.

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Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830 – 1894)

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more, day by day,
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

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In The North Nopah


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This comment is from R.C., a practicing geologist who taught me never to say granite unless I was absolutely certain, true granite relatively uncommon. Best to say something is granitic. Hi Tom, You have a granitic porphyry. The pink rectangles are large crystals of feldspar that formed at depth. It’s the first mineral to crystallize. Then the magma was moved closer to the surface, cooled more rapidly, so the other minerals didn’t have time to form very large crystals. The pink feldspar crystals are phenocrysts, from Greek for “visible crystals.” Neat rock. #geology#granite #nopahrangewilderness #inyocounty#rockhounding#geologistonboard#feldspar#minerals

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Favorite Quotes From Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad grew up speaking Polish. He did not achieve fluency in spoken English until his twenties. I understand a continuing irritation were people gifting him with Polish/English dictionaries.

I’ve emphasized some phrases or sentences within these long excerpts. Conrad wrote paragraphs that might stretch over 1,000 words.

His name, you understand, had not been pronounced once. He was ‘that man.’ The half-caste, who, as far as I could see, had conducted a difficult trip with great prudence and pluck, was invariably alluded to as ‘that scoundrel.’ The ‘scoundrel’ had reported that the ‘man’ had been very ill—had recovered imperfectly…. The two below me moved away then a few paces, and strolled back and forth at some little distance. I heard: ‘Military post—doctor—two hundred miles—quite alone now—unavoidable delays—nine months—no news—strange rumours.’ They approached again, just as the manager was saying, ‘No one, as far as I know, unless a species of wandering trader—a pestilential fellow, snapping ivory from the natives.’

Recovered imperfectly.

And between whiles I had to look after the savage who was fireman. He was an improved specimen; he could fire up a vertical boiler. He was there below me, and, upon my word, to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat, walking on his hind-legs. A few months of training had done for that really fine chap. He squinted at the steam-gauge and at the water-gauge with an evident effort of intrepidity—and he had filed teeth, too, the poor devil, and the wool of his pate shaved into queer patterns, and three ornamental scars on each of his cheeks. He ought to have been clapping his hands and stamping his feet on the bank, instead of which he was hard at work, a thrall to strange witchcraft, full of improving knowledge. He was useful because he had been instructed; and what he knew was this—that should the water in that transparent thing disappear, the evil spirit inside the boiler would get angry through the greatness of his thirst, and take a terrible vengeance.

Reminds me of the writing attributed to Admiral Yamamoto, “”I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.”

You should have heard him say, ‘My ivory.’ Oh, yes, I heard him. ‘My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my—’ everything belonged to him. It made me hold my breath in expectation of hearing the wilderness burst into a prodigious peal of laughter that would shake the fixed stars in their places. Everything belonged to him—but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own. That was the reflection that made you creepy all over. It was impossible—it was not good for one either—trying to imagine. He had taken a high seat amongst the devils of the land—I mean literally. You can’t understand. How could you?—with solid pavement under your feet, surrounded by kind neighbours ready to cheer you or to fall on you, stepping delicately between the butcher and the policeman, in the holy terror of scandal and gallows and lunatic asylums—how can you imagine what particular region of the first ages a man’s untrammelled feet may take him into by the way of solitude—utter solitude without a policeman—by the way of silence—utter silence, where no warning voice of a kind neighbour can be heard whispering of public opinion?

The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own.

She came abreast of the steamer, stood still, and faced us. Her long shadow fell to the water’s edge. Her face had a tragic and fierce aspect of wild sorrow and of dumb pain mingled with the fear of some struggling, half-shaped resolve. She stood looking at us without a stir, and like the wilderness itself, with an air of brooding over an inscrutable purpose. A whole minute passed, and then she made a step forward. There was a low jingle, a glint of yellow metal, a sway of fringed draperies, and she stopped as if her heart had failed her. The young fellow by my side growled. The pilgrims murmured at my back. She looked at us all as if her life had depended upon the unswerving steadiness of her glance. Suddenly she opened her bared arms and threw them up rigid above her head, as though in an uncontrollable desire to touch the sky, and at the same time the swift shadows darted out on the earth, swept around on the river, gathering the steamer into a shadowy embrace. A formidable silence hung over the scene.

She turned away slowly, walked on, following the bank, and passed into the bushes to the left. Once only her eyes gleamed back at us in the dusk of the thickets before she disappeared.

Reminds me of Blake’s The Tyger, In what distant deeps or skies. Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand, dare seize the fire?

I gave him Towson’s book. He made as though he would kiss me, but restrained himself. ‘The only book I had left, and I thought I had lost it,’ he said, looking at it ecstatically. ‘So many accidents happen to a man going about alone, you know. Canoes get upset sometimes—and sometimes you’ve got to clear out so quick when the people get angry.’ He thumbed the pages. ‘You made notes in Russian?’ I asked. He nodded. ‘I thought they were written in cipher,’ I said. He laughed, then became serious. ‘I had lots of trouble to keep these people off,’ he said. ‘Did they want to kill you?’ I asked. ‘Oh, no!’ he cried, and checked himself. ‘Why did they attack us?’ I pursued. He hesitated, then said shamefacedly, ‘They don’t want him to go.’ ‘Don’t they?’ I said curiously. He nodded a nod full of mystery and wisdom. ‘I tell you,’ he cried, ‘this man has enlarged my mind.’ He opened his arms wide, staring at me with his little blue eyes that were perfectly round.

Repeats the imagery of hands thrown open or to the skies, both, perhaps, appeals.

Seventeen pages of close writing he had found time for! But this must have been before his—let us say—nerves, went wrong, and caused him to preside at certain midnight dances ending with unspeakable rites, which—as far as I reluctantly gathered from what I heard at various times—were offered up to him—do you understand?—to Mr. Kurtz himself. But it was a beautiful piece of writing. The opening paragraph, however, in the light of later information, strikes me now as ominous. He began with the argument that we whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, ‘must necessarily appear to them [savages] in the nature of supernatural beings—we approach them with the might of a deity,’ and so on, and so on. ‘By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded,’ etc., etc. From that point he soared and took me with him. The peroration was magnificent, though difficult to remember, you know. It gave me the notion of an exotic Immensity ruled by an august Benevolence. It made me tingle with enthusiasm. This was the unbounded power of eloquence—of words—of burning noble words. There were no practical hints to interrupt the magic current of phrases, unless a kind of note at the foot of the last page, scrawled evidently much later, in an unsteady hand, may be regarded as the exposition of a method. It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: ‘Exterminate all the brutes!’

The peroration was magnificent, though difficult to remember

It gave me the notion of an exotic Immensity ruled by an august Benevolence.

Exterminate all the brutes!

And, don’t you see, the terror of the position was not in being knocked on the head—though I had a very lively sense of that danger, too—but in this, that I had to deal with a being to whom I could not appeal in the name of anything high or low. I had, even like the niggers, to invoke him—himself—his own exalted and incredible degradation. There was nothing either above or below him, and I knew it. He had kicked himself loose of the earth. Confound the man! he had kicked the very earth to pieces. He was alone, and I before him did not know whether I stood on the ground or floated in the air. I’ve been telling you what we said—repeating the phrases we pronounced—but what’s the good? They were common everyday words—the familiar, vague sounds exchanged on every waking day of life. But what of that? They had behind them, to my mind, the terrific suggestiveness of words heard in dreams, of phrases spoken in nightmares. Soul! If anybody ever struggled with a soul, I am the man. And I wasn’t arguing with a lunatic either. Believe me or not, his intelligence was perfectly clear—concentrated, it is true, upon himself with horrible intensity, yet clear; and therein was my only chance—barring, of course, the killing him there and then, which wasn’t so good, on account of unavoidable noise. But his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself, and, by heavens! I tell you, it had gone mad. I had—for my sins, I suppose—to go through the ordeal of looking into it myself. No eloquence could have been so withering to one’s belief in mankind as his final burst of sincerity. He struggled with himself, too. I saw it—I heard it. I saw the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet struggling blindly with itself.

He had kicked himself loose of the earth. Someone wrote of Kurtz, “He looked into his heart and saw that it was black.” Also, Dr. Johnson, “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”

What do you think I ought to do—resist? Eh? I want no more than justice.’… He wanted no more than justice—no more than justice. I rang the bell before a mahogany door on the first floor, and while I waited he seemed to stare at me out of the glassy panel—stare with that wide and immense stare embracing, condemning, loathing all the universe. I seemed to hear the whispered cry, “The horror! The horror!”

The meaning of life revealed in the final instant of dying. Or, from Bill Murray’s character in Caddyshack, “Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.” And he says, ‘Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’ So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”

Marlow ceased, and sat apart, indistinct and silent, in the pose of a meditating Buddha. Nobody moved for a time. “We have lost the first of the ebb,” said the Director suddenly. I raised my head. The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed sombre under an overcast sky—seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.

Echoes title of the book with the word darkness. We writers are always trying to hook back.


From the Gutenberg Project: (external link)

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Keep Faith

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Why I Quit Facebook

Trolls. The internet permits and encourages conversations that would not be tolerated when people talk face to  face.

The people who can’t fit in socially, who are naturally rude or vulgar, have a home on FB and the internet. No one would tolerate them across a coffee table, that is why they are sitting by themselves in a basement, trolling the internet.

They are a group of rejects whose only place to communicate is through a wire, with a false name, with no concern of hurting other people.

Despite my constant efforts to help people, I kept getting run over by toxic, poisonous people who wouldn’t even bother reading what I wrote before submitting the most stupid, insulting comments. I don’t need that and I am a fool to be in the company of trolls.

I knew this long ago with the USENET back in the mid-1990s. That’s where the term flame war comes from, with all discussions devolving into people calling each other Nazis. Nothing has changed.

I hoped that my good faith efforts would win the day but a large amount of good people and deeds are no match for a small amount of highly motivated trolls who have nothing better than to spit bile all day.

To hell with it.

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Look What They’ve Done To Our Songs

Look What They’ve Done to Our Songs

Digital recording was never meant to reproduce sound faithfully. Rather, it was a way to replace bulky tapes and records and to allow recordings to be easily shared and manipulated. Digital only samples, analog recordings capture the entire and continuous sound wave that makes up speech. And music.

Analog is human, digital is not. That extends throughout our digital life. There’s a perfection sought with all things digital, something we humans can’t achieve. We make mistakes. Digital wants to erase them. Every music producer now seeks to deliver a clean, perfect sound that is often beautiful and also quite inhuman.

Melanie almost blows out the microphone is this live performance. That would be cleaned up today in post-processing. Maybe an equalizer to do a little fixing here and there. Digital lends itself to endless and easy editing, putting us further and further away from the truth and our humanity.

Look What They’v Done to My Song, Ma (1971)
Melanie Safka (external link)

Look what they done to my song ma
Look what they done to my song
Well it’s the only thing
That I could do half right
And it’s turning out all wrong ma
Look what they done to my song

Look what they done to my brain ma
Look what they done to my brain
Well they picked it like a chicken bone
And I think I’m half insane ma
Look what they done to my song

I wish I could find a good book to live in
Wish I could find a good book
Well if I could find a real good book
I’d never have to come out and look at
What they done to my song

La la la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la la la
Look what they done to my song

But maybe it’ll all be alright ma
Maybe it’ll all be okay
Well if the people are buying tears
I’ll be rich someday ma
Look what they done to my song

Ils ont changé ma chanson, ma
Ils ont changé ma chanson
C’est la seule chose que je peux faire
Et ce n’est pas bon, ma
Ils ont changé ma chanson

Look what they done to my song, ma
Look what they done to my song
Well they tied it up in a plastic bag
And turned it upside down ma
Look what they done to my song

Ils ont change ma chanson, ma
Ils ont change ma chanson
C’est la seule chose que je peux faire
Et ce n’est pas bon, ma
Ils ont change ma chanson

Look what they done to my song ma
Look what they done to my song
It’s the only thing that I could do alright
And they turned it upside down
Oh ma
Look what they done to my song

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Richard Dawkins Reads A.E. Housman

Richard Dawkins Reads A.E. Housman

From Poems that Make Grown Men Cry, Anthony and Ben Holden, ed., Simon and Schuster, Limited (2015)

This video was for the UK’s National Poetry Day in 2014: (external link)

Turn on the close captioning.

Last Poems (Part XL) by A.E. Housman

From the Gutenberg Project  (external link)

Tell me not here, it needs not saying,
What tune the enchantress plays
In aftermaths of soft September
Or under blanching mays,
For she and I were long acquainted
And I knew all her ways.

On russet floors, by waters idle,
The pine lets fall its cone;
The cuckoo shouts all day at nothing
In leafy dells alone;
And traveler’s joy beguiles in autumn
Hearts that have lost their own.

On acres of the seeded grasses
The changing burnish heaves;
Or marshalled under moons of harvest
Stand still all night the sheaves;
Or beeches strip in storms for winter
And stain the wind with leaves.

Possess, as I possessed a season,
The countries I resign,
Where over elmy plains the highway
Would mount the hills and shine,
And full of shade the pillared forest
Would murmur and be mine.

For nature, heartless, witless nature,
Will neither care nor know
What stranger’s feet may find the meadow
And trespass there and go,
Nor ask amid the dews of morning
If they are mine or no.

More on Housman at my website here (internal link)
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