Showing posts with label elephant. Show all posts
Showing posts with label elephant. Show all posts


The Arc of Modern Political Thought

The Arc of Modern Political Thought

I – Do not confuse me with a fellow traveller... not make that mistake
I won't be manning any barricade
or spray-painting your slogans
on unattended walls. I am not breathless

for the state to fall. Evolution
trumps revolution, ninety-nine
point nine percent of the time
and for the other fractional percent: well...

we're so screwed anyway. Rebellion serves
only rebels, who—great though they are
at stealing jeeps, and wiring parcels
to explode—are not so hot in power

distribution, at bringing people light;
or heady freedom for the sewage
to flow in drains... no, theirs are not the brains
for that, for careful use of power

and fuse—how can they be? They need believe
such silly things along their way
such as all men are equal,
only our stance is doctrinally robust,

or even...
that they must prefer the electrodes
inserted here and here
to any tea-and-biscuit chat today.

II – Media rhymes with "eediot"

You do not understand the world
and let me make it clear
that this is you, you with the "Press" card in your hat,
who understands so very well

the breaking of a story like
a wave of noxious fluid
through everybody's living room,
it's you who just doesn't get it.

The world is not the news,
the dead are dead without your stare,
the bereaved still sad; and when
El Presidente bravely takes the town

from behind and rebels are all rounded up
I will admit you stop atrocities
for just so long as you look that way
and don't run off to the human interest piece

about the dog that saved the boy.
And I'm sure you say: we give the people
exactly what they want, to which I say
oh yes, you spin a world for those whose minds

don't let them find their own, and every word
implies what you narrate is what matters,
and what you don't ain't real. You'll claim
you don't conceal but every day

your untidy desk selects what's best for "news",
for folk to know: it's in the public interest,
you insist, while typing quote marks around
what the TV said the radio said about the other paper's views.

III – A plague on both your second houses

The problem is belief. Belief is stupid.
Belief it is that makes you make mistakes
and then it takes your errors,
brands them heroic victories

and makes you make them all over again.
If there is one thing that I know,
it's the stupidity of me.
I know, my brain is wired with

its tiny neural liars and systems
which conspire to enact a holy fool.
Cognitive bias, it does what it says
right there upon the tin, and which

you did not read,
because the idea was uncomfortable
but all you with the one coloured shirts
are committed to your ideals, which makes shits

of them there in the other coloured shirts
and all of you line up to grasp
opposite ends of one long rope
and grunt and pull and hope

to shift it just one inch
in your preferred direction
and you monopolise attention
for you, and your rope, and how

the other bloke is pulling the wrong way
while all around the horizon—boundless
and magnificent and essentially free—
stretches toward infinity,

but we're not allowed to look,
or speak, on that.

This was sitting on a back burner for a long time, not going anywhere.  Every now and then I would take it out and work on it a bit, but it didn't arrive anywhere and I had to put it away again.

Then I saw a call for contributions to The Commons by Waterhare Press and this was obviously exactly what they were looking for, so I picked up the poem, dusted it off and was delighted when it was accepted.

Poems like this are difficult.  This, if anything, is what I am about: that, in bulk, we look at the world in damaging, stupid and shortsighted ways—but it can tread harshly on other people's beliefs.

However the degree of stomping need not be as violent as might first appear.  Belief, I say in this poem, is stupid and I really think that, but this doesn't mean the sorts of thoughts which feature in beliefs aren't just as laudable viewed with cold hard reason.  Should we be progressive?  Obviously!  Should we be kind?  Definitely!  Should we eat the rich?  Let me get back to you on that one...

The problem is not what we believe.  The problem is belief itself.  The world is deeper, gnarlier, and more complex than we comprehend.  Layering beliefs on top helps us get by in the short term, but it doesn't help us confront the difficult questions, and it doesn't help when we encounter people who believe differently.  Belief allows no position there except that they are wrong; and when they won't change their beliefs, it usually decides they are evil.

Belief is bad.  Believe nothing, neither political nor religious.

You'll be  better person for it.


WWSotM: Space

"Space, is big..." says The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and then it goes on to give some stunningly bad advice about holding a lungful of air in order to survive in a vacuum.  DO NOT DO THIS...

If you ever find yourself needing to walk out an airlock without a spacesuit then you must let all the air out, no matter where in your body it is: lungs, ears or digestive tract.  Otherwise parts of you may burst.

Then, also, just try to (a) be quick and (b) have a bit of cloth or something for grabbing the metal handle of the other airlock; and you may be fine...  If you grab metal in space with unprotected fingers then you may freeze or burn them, depending whether the metal is facing the Sun or not.

Anyway, that is that, and this is a poem about a coffee table.


Between my two raised hands
I show just how much width
the coffee table takes
and that is space

not a huge amount of it
something approaching three foot six
but the same stuff
that separates us from the Moon.

You're on the far side
of the coffee table now;
no matter how I manoeuvre
I can't bring you close... say you need more space;
beyond you is the window,
kites flying in the park,
and beyond that, the Sun.


A soap bubble...

We went to a talk on liquids.  It was by a guy who had written a popular science book on the same subject.  He was an entertaining speaker, although overstating his case in the way anyone would to big-up his book...

He made a point that I hadn't been aware of: that the rise of literacy had been fueled by whale hunting — because lighting was the major use of the whale oil, it gave a superior light which people needed to read by...

Whether that is 100% true I do not know, a lot of other things were made from whale products, but it did inspire in me a larger thought.

That period was an economic bubble; people were building progress on an unreal assumption, that the supply of whales went on forever: the bubble would have burst when the whales ran out.

Which never happened, because gas lighting came along before that happened, and then incandescent electric bulbs, fluorescent tubes, LEDs and blah, blah, blah...  the present day!



The bubble is still there.  It's here, in fact!  And we're all living in it...

A soap bubble...

...was blown
so long ago,
the wide-eyed, Wonderland-oblivious,
toddler of humanity blew
clumsily through the loop gripped
in one chubby fist

—billions of people will die—

and the soap film hesitantly bulged out
powered by bronze,
steel, the horse collar, crop rotation.
Sailing ships and steam engines
smoothed into the fragile sphere,
as were pickaxes, dynamite, production-lines...
industrial farming, the Haber Process,
internal combustion engines and the fractional distillation
of crude oil...  Fast-breeder reactors...
embedded in the almost imaginary skin
of this bubble we blew,
this quintessentially breakable world
we knew through all our lives,
and implicitly assumed was real

—and billions will start to die—

when it turns out it is not.  We built
a civilisation on stuff we borrowed.  We assumed
that fossil fuel in the ground
was a permanent state:
a natural condition forever.  We thought
fertile topsoil was a given,
and clean water another gift, temperate climate,
fish-filled oceans, the very air...

—billions of people are starting to die—

as our assumptions start to crack along fine lines
and this is a bubble in the purest economic sense
because it actually worked through all the time
during which it seemed to work,
until one day, suddenly, boom!
It's always been a lie.

If this island earth were a spaceship:
power failing, the food limited,
life support pumping dodgy air;
we'd get all of engineering there
and have a meeting to decide
who can be stuffed in lifeboats,
who can be stuffed in freezers, and who
—because engineers are nothing if not completely realistic—
won't reach their destination.
You can try to get that one
before the United Nations, good luck with that!
And not to be a bore, but...

—billions of people will die—

and I don't trust that lot to do much about it.
Although, also, I, with my slightly less than human head on,
—because I have one of those—I say: OK,
billions will die, it is hard to overestimate the size
of disaster facing us, but it's not the end of the world,
it's just the end of the world as we know it
and as long as we don't completely blow it...
and as long as we weather the change
ride the tsunami
take what life remains us, as and where we find it
and not go end-of-days-fucking-crazy
with a Mad Max style weapons stash
and supercharger
on everybody's Christmas list, then...

—for the billions who by chance do not die—

there will be some loss of privileges.
We won't be eating meat;
we won't be mining bitcoin; may not be driving personal cars
but we can hope still to be here
in some form.
We haven't been attempting the impossible
it's not that a planet cannot support an apical species
with a silly headcount.
It's just that we didn't do our homework.
We don't have all the required tech,
have not closed the carbon curve,
balanced the energy budget, or worked out
what happens when ageing plastics want to retire...

...not produced a society that can keep its calm
on pressure-cooker starship Earth...

...but it can be done.  Still, not a comfortable thought,
and it's going to take some time

—during which billions of people will die.

It's not the end of the world,
it's just a soap bubble,
it's the end of the world as we know it:


What kind of talk is that?

I posted a preliminary version of this during NaPoWriMo back in April, but since then I've revised it a bit, and also I read it at Gorilla Poetry to general approval so I feel reasonably happy with calling it "finished".

This is not about what it is ostensibly about obviously so, because if language did not exist then the poem couldn't either.  So where this comes from is my dissatisfaction with overly-academic analysis of literary subjects (in contrast to my mockery of under academic treatment in some other areas...) 

Basically what I am saying here is, never ask me for an "artist's statement" on a poem, because I'll say something like "I tried to get the right words in the right order..." and completely mean it.

Language is a phenomenon backed by the full sophistication of the human brain, and the utter incomprehensibility of the human psyche, only a god could actually analyse it meaningfully; everybody else is faking...

What kind of talk is that?

Language does not exist…
not in the sense of something we can touch,
attain, pass from hand to hand, feel the grain.  Even language
the shared delusion is an illusion.  We all understand chocolate cake,
but only I recall Paul, at two years old, smothered in the stuff...

Also the higher the fewer;
there's less to agree the more abstract we go: my love
is not your love; and my sovereignty
doesn’t exist at all.

And now, you have the cheek
to talk of things that I don't even know:
you say you like kayaking
but I have never experienced the semi-resonance
of millimeter-thick fibreglass rebounding
from underwater geography, or the feel
of near ice water draining from a helmet.

Language does not exist…

the dictionary says otherwise.
The words in the book of lexical lore
will claim to, with precision, pin a meaning on every
possible utterance. They do not... cannot...
dictionaries do not exist.

Language isn’t defined or declared,
it isn’t even functional at heart. It’s metaphorical.

When we get high, here on the hill,
with the stepladder,
you being very tall;
while your guitar solo goes up and up;
because you've been promoted, by a higher power;
and your salary is now so much,
but your meat’s off;
your electricity is strong;
your church is formal;
and your fashion sense is very sharp today.

All this is “high”
but the only way three octaves above middle C
resembles rotting meat,
is buried deep in our psychology.

Language does not exist…

not as something fixed
which you can grasp with thought or pen.
Continual flux is all there’s ever been:
spellings, meanings and usages
shifting beneath our tongues
like extreme sushimi.

You, I hope, understand me.
Shakespeare, however, would get me less
and Chaucer might think I was speaking
a foreign language.

I take my words back,
I take them back in time until,
somewhere maybe in the 9th or 10th centuries
we reach a point where they have no meaning...

because language does not exist.
Not even in the other direction.
My words are of course
recorded for posterity, but after I die and as they age
what people understand fades.
Until there comes a moment
when my great, great, great, great grandchildren
factoring, loneish their fluxward inspace
wonder quite what planet I was from.

If I was truly great,
people would update me
once per generation,
but we can't all be Shakespeare
—if nothing else Shakespeare's already done that.
So there!  That's us evolving once again.

Language does not exist…

Je suis un éléphant.  I might say,
I was French,
and an elephant
, and those who are the sorts
who understand French elephants
would shrug
and think I stated the obvious

but my words would be gibberish
to the less linguistically endowed.
English exists,
French exists,
and they’re languages, all right...
but they are not language itself, which does not exist.

English/French dictionaries, especially, do not exist.

Language is a maelstrom, language is a storm.
People think they pin it down, control it...
define it;
may as well bottle the hurricane.
Grammarians claim they can explain
and lay down every part of speech in grammar books.

Grammar books do not exist
and as for the people who write them:
I've never met one.

But... if language does not exist then
why, we are free!

No ploddy, tetrapody emphraslement for me!
No lexical cling.  Talk toboggan listening
all everness towards myself true wordy
and ultimatic infiltrate the thing
of done magnificence, superlative, and evermore unstopped.

Nobody can stop me from saying this
and they cannot touch me for it...

...because language does not exist.


NaPoWriMo - 2017 - April 8th - modern love an iterative algorithm

The challenge here was to write a poem that used repetition... but I wrote a poem about repetition.  I'm tricksy that way...

modern love an iterative algorithm

define: coffee in coffee_shop;
    define: Joan is old and Joan is flame and Joan is barrister;
    if April not in cruellest_months then
    if April is young and April is lady and April is barista and April is here then
    while not Joan not here; watch April; sip coffee; repeat;
    greet Joan; begin conversation;
    set topics equal weather and family and work and events(local)
        and not feelings;
    talk about topics until Joan say "Well, must rush..."
    say "Goodbye"
    send love to Michael and Claire;
    look at window; wave at Joan;
    while not heart not satisfied; watch April; smile;
    goto find_hearts_content;


Going forward

I had an evening out with some people I used to work with...

...who are all still mostly more embroiled with large corporations than I am... I promised one of them I would post this.

Going forward

The corporation cannot plan
its way out of a paper bag
whichnoteis not to say
it doesn't have extensive PowerPoints
to socialise the vision
for the new, division-wide, bag-exit mission
get buy-in from the stakeholders at levels
from CFO to tea lady
and distribute cheap beer and pizza
at revels
that celebrate the dragging of one thousand hapless
employees, kicking and screaming,
into progress, status, overview, coordination,
planning, steering, post-mortem, and kick-off, meetings
at cost of fifty thousand person-hours
or half a million dollars [OpEx]
which is money so well spent
for staying in a paper bag.  Meanwhile

Team Lunchpackwho were spun,
you will recall, from Project Dune and tasked
with building an organisation-wide
flexible container collocation strategy
have been thinking outside the box,
and now are standing
a touch despondently
outside a cardboard shipping carton,
and wondering where everybody went.


The greatest what on Earth?

The elephant declined to comment...
Who doesn't like the circus? 

(...or "socially inclusive, family oriented, non-animal, international circus event" as was advertised locally a couple of years ago...)

Well there's agoraphobics; claustrophobics; people afraid of crowds (Enochlophobia); people concerned about the treatment of animals (if animals still feature); people concerned about the treatment of performers; people yearning for the old days when things were proper, with tigers and everything; people who prefer ballet; people afraid of spangles; and people who can do all that stuff anyway and don't see what the fuss is about (show-offs.)

But dwarfing all of these factions, the number one group of people who are never going to be happy with:
Stanchion and Pouldron's
Grand Touring Extravaganza!

Fresh from Performing
Before the Crowned Heads
of Europe!!

One Night Only!!!
are the people who hate clowns...

The greatest what on Earth?

The circus came;
the big-top billowed, unexpected,
at the edge of town.

The clowns were terrible,
not like from a children's party,
all patchy make-up
and no affinity for balloon animals,
but more like strutting devils
accidentally released
and looking for revenge.

They executed the juggler
with a callous custard pie
coloured clubs crashing down;
and the top-hatted man,
unmastered in his own ring,
was driven into exile
with whitewash and a ladder.

A totalitarian regime
of unfunny large-trouser gags
began to take shape,
and things would have gone hard for the audience
had the elephant
(who must have been God)
not sat on the chief clown.