Halloween 2008

     Every year the Dead would visit him and when they did he would not tell them to go away nor would he welcome them quite.  He was polite, offering them what little he had in his cupboard, and he would extend himself for tidbits of conversation. Outside his little house, witches would fly aloft like cardboard blacknesses, brooms tucked tight between their legs. On his porch were orange heads with glowing eyes and jagged teeth and candles guttered in sconces on his sagging walls.

     When silences fell upon the little conversations, he would stay still as one does with Native Persons when there is no need to talk and so no one does. We ride in silence, we and the hitchhikers, in this case Navajo kids from Many Farms or thereabouts. In Navajo Country, the hitch-hiker will not look at you, walks quietly backwards so that when you stop and pull off to the side of the long red road and step out to motion him into your car, he is now looking at you for the first time. You must nearly beg him to ride with you and there is no conversation once inside and travelling. It was that way with him and the visits of the Dead.

     When the Dead came visiting, they often wished to dance and drink beer. When the Dead came visiting, they seemed to want to forget, to get a little high, to talk a little loud, to sing a bit.

 Dead in automobiles would slowly drive by outside his house, the booming thumps of their magnificent sound systems rumbling through the foundations of his house. Their blown V-8 engines purred like panthers, black in the Southern forests. The Dead preferred the big band sounds of El Salvador and the strange Norteno sounds of Los Tigres and would park their rigs and join the party. The strange skulls of the partiers were not good at showing emotion, but sometimes, as he sat in silence watching the dancers, he thought he could see a smile here and there.

 

    “I’m hungry for sugar,” said the child and her mother said “Quiet, little one. The nice man will feed us soon. He asks for nothing and fears us little and is quiet and unassuming and genteel.”

     “Still, I am hungry,”  complained the child.  She had travelled a long way from old high altitude caves where she had been bound in odd positions for some centuries, and her skin had shrunk down on her bones and the tragic story of her former wet and fleshy parts had been at least partially discerned by the producers of at least two semi-scholarly film documentaries commissioned by the Public Broadcasting System.

     “We are proud people,” whispered her mother. “We will wait for him to offer us sugar.”

     When he finished showing the big skull with the iron eyes how to plug in the CD player and the other skull thing with the necklace of thighbones had boosted the EQ to emphasize the rock-solid bass players of the South and the beer was flowing, he would motion to the skeletal child and offer her sugar in the form of little heads made of the stuff and other little things, butterflies and crosses and saquaros and woodpeckers, all of delicious sugar. All the Dead would eventually have a bite of sugar somethings, even the ladies with luscious hips and skeleton faces rouged and painted would have a tiny bite, so tiny that it posed no threat to their wonderful figures. The girls in the little skirts and halter tops and high, high heels who danced with each other out by the sulking lowered cars passed sugar from his kitchen each to the other.  All the dead would eat and dance and have a beer or two and slide away into the night until finally he was alone.

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43 thoughts on “Halloween 2008

  1. The Man with the Pumpkin Head

    Once there was a man and on his shoulders he had, instead of a head, a hollow pumpkin. This was no great help to him. Yet he still wanted to be Number One. That’s the sort of person he was. For a tongue he had an oak leaf hanging from his mouth, and his teeth were cut out with a knife. Instead of eyes, he had just two round holes. Back of the holes, two candle stumps flickered. Those were his eyes. They didn’t help him see far. And yet he said his eyes were better than anyone’s, the braggart. On his pumpkin head he wore a tall hat; used to take it off when anyone spoke to him, he was so polite. Once this man went for a walk. But the wind blew so hard that his eyes went out. He wanted to light them up again, but he had no matches. He started to cry with his candle ends, because he couldn’t find his way home. So now he sat there, held his pumpkin head between his hands, and wanted to die. But dying didn’t come to him so easily. First there had to come a June bug, which ate the oak leaf from his mouth; there had to come a bird, which pecked a hole in his pumpkin skull; there had to come a child, who took away the two candle stumps. Then he could die. The bug is still eating the leaf, the bird is pecking still, and the child is playing with the candle stumps.

    By Robert Walser, the first of “Two Strange Stories”, translated by Christopher Middleton in the collection “The Walk”

  2. Dogs never came from Outer Space, not insiders. They all seem to collect in an area around Fox Island, lead by characters named Bebop and Big Blond. But that’s only rumor, like the Big Feet of Fresno (they grow them big down there). With an opened can and a bag of dry, it’s all a Washington State Conspiracy. Although, the aftermath is left for you to shovel or paper train. Ho-ho-Halloween, Danger is all around!

  3. In the Festive Beyond
    With its instantaneously changing
    Trees of Fall Unscenary
    The Dog Ferrier of Souls, Bodie puts on
    His laughing-demon hat to prepare
    For his Hallowed-night patrols

    A seeing-Dead dog to guide us
    Among the unseen Dead
    And to guide the Hallowed Dead
    Not yet weened from worldly sweet

    Guiding them back from gone,
    Without eyes, without feet,
    On their annual return to Sugar Town
    Where they hover and swarm
    On Confection Street

    The Dead’s best friend–
    Even Time tastes sweet!–
    When Bodie guides them
    To receive from us
    Our this worldly/their otherworldy treat

  4. …And now, it’s Czeslaw Milosz in an episode I like to call “Better Late Than Deader”, but which Milosz preferred to call a poem and title:

    ALL HALLOW’S EVE

    In the great silence of my favorite month,
    October (the red of maples, the bronze of oaks,
    A clear-yellow leaf here and there on birches),
    I celebrated the standstill of time.

    The vast country of the dead had its beginning everywhere:
    At the turn of a tree-lined alley, across park lawns.
    But I did not have to enter, I was not called yet.

    Motorboats pulled up on the river bank, paths in pine needles.
    It was getting dark early, no lights on the other side.

    I was going to attend the ball of ghosts and witches.
    A delegation would appear there in masks and wigs,
    And dance, unrecognized, in the chorus of the living.

  5. My son is going as Jacob Marley’s ghost, so tonight will be spent fashioning links of chain in tin foil ( and calling it tin foil ages me pretty well). The costume is a family project, with my dear wife applying the makeup for that seven-years-dead look and me pitching in an old London Fog raincoat and my willingness to forge chain from aluminum foil. He’s also going to take a pillowcase or two with him in order to better haul his booty. (and I mean that in the nicest way possible.)

    As for me, I always look fright.

    S. Karen Meself

  6. THE DEADABETIC

    But what about those for whom the taste of sweet is memory come alive, who wish to return to that taste from a world they no longer have the senses to inhabit, but for whom votives of sugar are forbidden? They are the Deadabetic. What return, then, is there for them? Have they, though dead, now to ween themselves of what should in death be to them rightfully hallowed? The Hallowed Night is become but a Beggar’s Night for them, a Hallowmas in reverse, in which they go-a-souling and street guising, offering the prayers of the Dead to the living and begging to receive a forbidden taste of what to others is freely offered.

    The Deadabetics are dead, yes. This must be understood, for upon it all depends. In death, it is the sweet of the sugar, not the sugar, that is the hallowed nourishment, but death to the Deadabetic gives no Confectionary rest. As if the ache they formerly corporeally experienced had followed them into the Beyond, they ache for a former world-taste of Confection.

    It is perhaps in lament for this Confectionary sweet, forbidden the Deadabetic even as a votive in death, the poet Michael Drayton wrote: “Thy odours sweet doth far surpass the smell where spices be.”

  7. Had shoulder fixed… all is tedious…can only type with radical left hand. Going fix-or-treating for percoset to store in tin foil and hide from daed sugareaters. Happy H!

    Les Likely

  8. IN WE’ENO VERITAS

    Mind sweetly tastes of their Time
    Ear tastes the sweet poise of their Rhyme
    Tonight we taste with the
    Sugarcoated tongues of the Dead
    Whose Memories are our lives
    Whose Masks are our disguise

  9. What happened to RobberG’s poem? It was a right good poem, and I liked it goodly in it goodly goodness. It was Halloweenish concerning the Dead and their snacking habits, as I recall. Is there a problem, gentlemen?

  10. rgmargolis
    rgmargolis@gmail.com | 151.204.193.207

    IN WE’ENO VERITAS

    Mind sweetly tastes of their Time
    Ear tastes the sweet poise of their Rhyme
    Tonight we taste with the
    Sugarcoated tongues of the Dead
    Whose Memories are our lives
    Whose Masks are our disguise

    from RobberG

  11. THE DEADABETIC

    Robert G. Margolis

    But what about those for whom the taste of sweet is memory come alive, who wish to return to that taste from a world they no longer have the senses to inhabit, but for whom votives of sugar are forbidden? They are the Deadabetic. What return, then, is there for them? Have they, though dead, now to ween themselves of what should in death be to them rightfully hallowed? The Hallowed Night is become but a Beggar’s Night for them, a Hallowmas in reverse, in which they go-a-souling and street guising, offering the prayers of the Dead to the living and begging to receive a forbidden taste of what to others is freely offered.

    The Deadabetics are dead, yes. This must be understood, for upon it all depends. In death, it is the sweet of the sugar, not the sugar, that is the hallowed nourishment, but death to the Deadabetic gives no Confectionary rest. As if the ache they formerly corporeally experienced had followed them into the Beyond, they ache for a former world-taste of Confection.

    It is perhaps in lament for this Confectionary sweet, forbidden the Deadabetic even as a votive in death, the poet Michael Drayton wrote: “Thy odours sweet doth far surpass the smell where spices be.”

    From Halloween 2008, 2008/10/30 at 7:45 AM

    2008/10/30 Unapprove | Spam | Delete

    ZenLen
    http://michaeldrayton.com | lcassamas@yahoo.com | 170.140.180.154

    My son is going as Jacob Marley’s ghost, so tonight will be spent fashioning links of chain in tin foil ( and calling it tin foil ages me pretty well). The costume is a family project, with my dear wife applying the makeup for that seven-years-dead look and me pitching in an old London Fog raincoat and my willingness to forge chain from aluminum foil. He’s also going to take a pillowcase or two with him in order to better haul his booty. (and I mean that in the nicest way possible.)

    As for me, I always look fright.

    S. Karen Meself

    From Halloween 2008, 2008/10/29 at 10:07 AM

  12. THE BOOK OF AVERAGE JOB

    by Robert G. Margolis

    Chapter Two: Trying To Catch A Falling Knife

    “The realm is so lovely this time of year, isn’t it? I especially love the foliage around Average Job’s house,” said The Fixer to Mr. Tetragrammaton. “Average Job’s children will be home, of course. Average Job can’t help minding his children’s business, he’s so afraid that you will not bless them with the success he feels they deserve for his sake. If you don’t mind my old friend, I’ll mosey on down, stick my nose in his business, see what kind of, ahem, October surprise I can come up with. He’ll never suspect me (here The Fixer paused for a chuckle); he thinks everything that happens to him is due to you.”

    “A bet is a bet, my friend,” Mr. Tetragrammaton agreeably replied. “Everything is fair game except Average Job’s life.”

    What happened next happened nearly all at once. Never afraid to play with fire, The Fixer worked fast. Average Job, his wife and his children, were at home and celebrating together the third quarter profits earned by the family business and in conjunction with their portfolio of investments. First, the Chief Financial Officer of Average Joe’s company called to say that suddenly the business had gone bankrupt; all its customers had cancelled their orders and their accounts, all the employees had immediately quit, he alone had stayed, but only to call Average Job and tell him the news. Then, as Average Job and his wife rushed out of the house to their car, intent on getting to Average Job’s office building, a lone employee from the warehouse where Average Joe kept his business’ merchandise, arrived to report that the warehouse had spontaneously burst into flames and that the building with its entire content had completely burned. Finally, while Average Job and his wife stood in their driveway with the lone employee, a tornado descended, as if out of nowhere, and within seconds leveled their house, killing their children inside.

    Stricken and in shock from his incomprehensible and catastrophic losses, Average Job could only think to say, “But I am the perfect example…”

    “How do you know you are “the perfect example”? Who told you that?” demanded Mrs. Average Job of her husband, and with a fury that strove to eclipse her own shock and grief.

    “To anyone who knows the true meaning of Average, it is obvious, I think. My prosperity has been the proof: it shows ideally what can happen when the Average is your ideal.”

    “Has it occurred to you, dear, that The Fixer might be involved in our sudden calamitous misfortunes?” Mrs. Average Job then asked, trying to provoke her husband to say something other than what his own ears wanted to hear.

    “The Fixer? No, not for a moment! He’s just a minor official, I have heard, and I, well, I have been the perfect example for Mr. Tetragrammaton. The Fixer couldn’t get involved at such a high level where my affairs are decided.”

    Mrs. Average Job remonstrated with her husband: “No matter how loyal, how faithful you are to the Average on earth, even if you are the perfect image of Average on earth, you will never be given a vote on what happens behind-the-Average scenes in Heaven!” “And I assure you,” she added with rage sharpened calm, and knowing she’d spoken aloud a truth that Average Job tried hard to suppress from his own awareness, “I assure you those who make the decisions there are not Average and what goes on there is anything but Average!”

    “Sure, I know, what is Beyond the Average Job is hidden from me. I had nothing when I started out—you remember, don’t you?–nothing except the skin on my bones. But Mr. Tetragrammaton told me the world was there for the making. And I made it, thanks to my dedication to the Average, and to the averageness of my dedication. With Mr. Tetragrammaton’s help, I turned that nothing into the Average!”

    “Always with you it’s ‘Mr. Tetragrammaton this’ and ‘Mr. Tetragrammaton that’…”

    ‘It’s one great system of Give and Take. Mr. Tetragrammaton, he gives and takes, gives and takes, and I am content to take when and what he gives.’

    “Is that all you’ve got, is that all you can say, that stupid old piety!? If that’s how you feel, you’re better off dead!”

    Though he did not say it, and could barely constrain himself from shouting it out to the sky, it was exactly how Average Job felt.

    That same night, in the hotel room to where he and his wife had retreated, kept awake by his pain and the stinging vehemence of his wife’s admonishment, Average Job repeatedly tried to convince himself of his belief in all the arguments he had recited to her. By the dawn, he knew he could not. It was like trying to catch a falling knife. When he went to wake his wife, to tell her that she was right after all, he found that she had died that night in her sleep. Only in that anguished moment did he realize he had been thinking and talking of his misfortunes as his alone when, in reality, those misfortunes had been as much Mrs. Average Job’s as they were his.

    Mrs. Average Job had said the unsayable. She alone had known better, but now she was gone and it was he alone who survived what she could not.

    From October Nineteenth, 2008/10/28 at 6:41 PM

    2008/10/28 Unapprove | Spam | Delete

  13. I’ve tried to grab the above comments from the onslaught of spam the site has received lately. Erin is working on getting rid of it, but in the process had deleted some comments. I hope I’ve got everything back, although garbled, combined and confused.

    I’m getting to hate wordpress.

  14. THE NEWLYDEAD AND THE DEADICATED

    The Newlydead and the Deadicated saw Death differently this year. Some of the masks Death had worn on Hallowe’ens past were, this time, finally seen through. And Death’s campaign of tricks just didn’t work the way they had—or, at least, it was said they had, in past years. Explanations, when there were any, differed as to why Death would attempt to deceive the dead. One of the privileges, and responsibilities therefore, of being dead was the absence of deception. But Death, it had turned out, was at its trickiest when it appeared to be without deception. The Newlydead, many of them returning for the first time to the world where their former guises had lived, were, perhaps, not as used to Death as Death had expected them to be, did not have as many pre-conceptions of it either. From the experience of many between-worlds and next worldly trials, the Dedicated knew that former guises live on, seemingly with lives of their own, and that Death was a master of assuming then. The not-yet-dead, who therefore thought of themselves as living, certainly without the same experience of Death, were easily deceived, and all the more so as it was commonly assumed that Death was dependable and could not, did not deceive.

    The Newlydead and the Deadicated alike–the former, without conditionings of previous generations of dead and easily able to recognize the counterfeits of life, the latter at last able to realize that it was they and not devious devising Death who kept the true spirit of Hallowmas, they both hallowed the day and were victorious with the victory that in past years had been conceded to Death. And the even belonged to them again as it had not in a long count of nights.

  15. THE DEADICATED WITH A DIFFERENCE NOT A DEFERENCE

    We’ve been there, as the saying goes. Yes, before and after. Though it is not so easy to say, even for us who are there, where exactly there is, or being there, where we have been. It is the inexact art of an unknowable science to say anything about it. Allusive accounts, the hints, the intimations, they do conflict and contradict; well do we know it. And after all, how could they not? Allusions and intimations are made of us not we of them. One convention is to call us “gone”. But it is not that since we’ve been gone, and the longer we are gone, the more conditioned to gone we become. That, in truth, is a conception and conditioning that belongs to the not-yet-dead, the so-called “living”, and not to us. Perhaps the best thing about being Deadicated—apart from dead not being an opposite of alive, is that we are no longer, none of us, deceived by Death about Death. That famously reputed “sting” you may have heard about, it is, in reality, the duplicity of Death. It has been a very long time of ages since Death was naked as the day it was born, no different from Life, no more or less mortal than Life. From the Deadicated point of view, the duplicity of Death works only on the not-yet-dead; it is what keeps Death ‘alive’ among the not-yet-dead.

    Therefore we differ with those who speak of the “conditionings of previous generations of dead” as cause for, so it is claimed, our inability “to recognize the counterfeits of life”. Since we’ve been there, we have been able to differently study that oldest of old stories, the story about a, so to speak, ‘eating disorder’, which caused or produced a perception of death as life’s opposite and made it impossible thereafter for the thought of death to not accompany and divide each moment of life and, if allowed, to feed off it. The Newlydead may be excused this misperception by which they attirbute their own deception by Death as ours. They are after all, newlydead, thus tend still to perceive life as the not-yet-dead commonly perceive–that is to say misperceive, it.

    The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle still applies. For the Deadicated, it is an immense relief to not be sure and to have no conditioned need for certainties. The Newlydead, as they learn to live in their new condition, will, by and by, be relieved of their former certainties. They will realize, as the Deadicated already have, that it is among the not-yet-dead that Death ‘counterfeits’ life, by guising its duplicity as the inconstestable certainties of life.

  16. TOWER OF MASKS

    In a room known as the Tower Room—for it was precisely that, a room in the Tower of the Library–it and the Tower being the same place and the Tower being something more than only the room within it, in the Tower Room of the Library, then, were kept the death masks. There were life masks as well, and some of both the death and life masks were copies of their respective originals. That life and death could produce and wear the same mask, Meg Doll, a Newlydead, already knew that without having to wear any of the Tower Room masks. Her life had produced many masks while she was alive and she was glad to not have to wear those masks anymore. For Meg Doll, as a Newlydead, there was no difference between life masks and death masks, not anymore. And, honestly, unless one were told which was which, who could tell which was which? Still, all those different facial attitudes of death, along with the life masks which were now just as much masks of death, were for her soul what the Tower Room window was for the Tower Room, a way in; they were, that is, when she’d wear one of the masks and read though its eyes.

    It was a something like what Borges had imagined for himself after death, though for Meg Doll it was not imagination at all: as a Newlydead, she had free, if non-corporeal, access to all the libraries in the world. On a sliver or wisp of moonlight or some other ambient light, Meg Doll would enter at night through a window of a library of her choosing. Since she had found the Tower of Masks, the Library, for which the Tower of Masks was the summit, was the only library she chose. She’d put on a particular mask and through where the eyes of the person had been would read the books that person—Heine, Keats, Goethe among them, had written. To her, as it happened to every Newlydead, a language that had previously been unknown when she was not-yet-dead became instantly known the moment she began to read a book written in that language.

    It was said that the Tower had built into its walls shards and debris from the ‘true Tower’, as some insist to this day on calling it, the Tower of Babel. It was because of the Tower of Babel that language had been unmasked and then language as a mask had proliferated. It was because of the materials used to build the Tower that the Tower Room acted as a locus of the original’s power. As a Tower, and by design, it was meant to materially represent the aspiration of each of the millions of books below it to ascend, not merely remain in its place on a shelf. Mask, book, language: the Tower, like its most famous predecessor, gave them a place of millennial memory, of attempted ascent, of resistance to dispersion.

    For the not-yet-dead, life, as they knew it, was only a beginning to becoming literate. As a Newlydead, Meg Doll could see as well that people–that is the not-yet-dead, in the Library were wearing the books they read as masks. As near as she could conclude, and because she was still new to observing the not-yet-dead, the people in the Library were free to don books as masks because they believed the Tower had already made the ascent which was meant for each of the books. A new dispersal for them would be intolerable.

  17. DEADALUS AMONG THE CREDULOUS (OR, IN WAX WE TRUST)

    “It was working, my friends,” Deadalus would say, “One thing is for certain, it was working.” When Deadalus is remembered, in the myths and legends about him, this saying of his is not remembered. But as a refrain or, as it is nowadays called, a signature saying, it was well known to his contemporaries. In fact, it was rumored to be his chosen epitaph. But of all the inventions attributed to Deadalus, the one invention that was left to others was the invention of Deadalus himself. Not myth or legend, however, is the fact that unintentionally he gave others the ideas for all the inventions they then attributed to him. There is the ‘talking machine’, one of the most famous examples of these attributed inventions, which induced a soul among the Dead to enter into it and thereby become ‘immortal’. Deadalus had merely joked about such a contraption. Now one could say this invention alone is the precedent of the modern world!

    Deadalus himself actually never made anything. Really he was the Great Inventor of inventors, the First Artificer of artifice. What made him thus was that to other people he was unconditionally believable. Perhaps he was under the protection of Credulity, the Muse of the People, herself. Whatever he might do or say, in a deliberate attempt to convey the contrary, it only made him that much more believable to others. Why this was so, he reasoned, is because people so craved the invention of reality, they were willing to believe in the most unrealistic things. For them, reality was the most mythical, most legendary of all, the more fantastical the better. Something previously “unheard of” then set the new standard for what was real.

    He loved the story of the Tower of Babel—in Deadalus’ time already a very ancient tale, because, to him, it epitomized the vocation, the predicament, and the eventual simultaneous success and catastrophe of the inventor. To Deadalus it seemed that it was as if to other people it was he who had designed and built that Tower, ascended it alone and returned unharmed and unpunished. And, moreover, that his survival of the Tower had given him unprecedentedly long life. The Muse of the People was the most powerful of all muses. To Deadalus, though, there was no more inescapable a labyrinth than the presumption of ascending and descending that Tower unharmed and unpunished. If he had dared attain the interior summit of that Tower, he really would have needed to design and construct a pair of wings with which a man could fly. It would have been his only means of escape.

    The received account, accepted as undisputed fact, is that Deadalus designed and constructed a pair of wings each for he and his son with which they could fly. It never happened. Once, it is said, when he told people the moon made music called ‘wax and wane’, they believed him; after all, it must be true: Deadalus had invented the wings with which a man could fly. But, again, it never happened.

    Deadalus invented the story of this singular invention because, well, he had to explain the absence of his son through the years of his adolescence. And, of course, the story had to meet the standard of credulity expected of him. Deadalus had designed and built a labyrinth, but for a purpose quite different from what we have been told. His labyrinth was not a, nearly unnavigable, devious design of corridors that deceived one into thinking they led to the center but were in actuality deadends. Nor was its path to the center a secret; nor did it serve as a prison for some horrible creature. In Deadalus’ labyrinth, one simply walked, from the entrance, on a straight path, without deviation, direct to the center. The surrounding elaboration of seemingly alternative paths was just his way of turning a short walk in his garden into a longer leisurely walk and a straight line into a circle.

    In Deadalus’ time, and in humanity’s past for as long ago as could be remembered, child sacrifice was the near universal means by which parents dealt with a child going through a difficult adolescence. Deadalus’ son, Vicarious, who was having a difficult adolescence, refused to believe or to accept that his father’s labyrinth was as simple as it appeared. Where his father said the center was could not be the center; getting to the center could not be as easy as his father had made it. There had to be another center and another way to it. Deadalus’ discovered, first to his disbelief, then to his relief, that his labyrinth was just as effective a means of getting his son through adolescence, but without the sacrifice. In defiance of the labyrinth’s obvious center and path to the center, Vicarious would stay inside his father’s labyrinth for days, and then weeks, then months at a time, searching within it for, what he convinced himself was, the ‘lost center’ that has father had hidden from him. After years of near exile in the labyrinth, and by the time he was able to accept that his father’s labyrinth did not conceal and never had concealed anything from him, Vicarious had passed through his adolescence.

    The tale of Deadalus’ son received local and regional notice. Some parents did replace their practice of child sacrifice with use of the labyrinth to raise their children through adolescence. However among parents use of the labyrinth never did surpass child sacrifice in popularity; most parents just did not find Deadalus’ labyrinth a credible means of adolescent childraising. Or, alternatively, not many parents had a child like Deadalus’ son. In any case, Credulity, the Muse of the People, was no match for the expediency and effectiveness of child sacrifice.

    For Deadalus, life after credulity, when he was no longer among the credulous and beyond the influence of the Muse of the People, is when life really began. The community of the Dead, thankfully, was not a credulous community. An inventor among the Dead does no harm. Every invention works perfectly as intended, and no one gets tempted beyond the bounds of his element, trapped alive or killed because of somebody’s big idea.

  18. ONE GOOD DEADALUS CAN GET YOU OEDIPUS

    Dwelling at once beyond and within our three familiar dimensions there are the Dead. One of these extra-dimensional dimensions is the Oracular dimension. Now the Dead, whatever else they may be, are inveterate tricksters. In the Oracular dimension is where the Dead play their tricks. The best and trickiest of tricks is to invent a causality. In the Oracular dimension the Dead are masters of the trick of causality. A causality promulgated oracularly can trick you dead. It may help the reader to know that the Moebius strip is a representation or mimesis of the Oracular dimension. The Moebius strip is non-orientable. The Oracular dimension, the ‘surface’ upon which is written the ‘writing’ of our familiar three dimensions, could thus be considered the source of all non-orientability.

    Perhaps the best known–which is also to say the best unknown, story of how the Dead play their causality tricks in the Oracular dimension is the story of Oedipus. Oedipus was born a Moebius child; his beginning was also his end, which means that his end came first and his birth was not his beginning. If an imaginary line were drawn starting from the ‘seam’ of his middle life, woven from Ariadne’s thread, it would meet back at the ‘seam’ but at the “other side”. Of course, the story of Oedipus had no “other side”, the Oracular utterance made sure of that. Alternatively, it could be said that the Oracular utterance was itself the “other side”.

    And here’s why: Oedipus murders his father and marries his mother, not knowing his whole life it is exactly what has been oracularly foretold to his parents he will do, and thus had done nothing to avoid doing what he’s (not) destined to do, especially FIND OUT WHO HIS MOTHER AND FATHER ARE. He doesn’t find out because he thinks he already knows. Who tries to find out what they are certain they already know? Because of the oracular trick of causality—called a “prophecy”, Oedipus both does not know who his mother and father are and thinks he does know. The “prophecy” was as a midwife to the non-oracularly manipulated life of Oedipus, which was murdered in the womb and, therefore, entered this world stillborn. It is Oedipus the incestuous murderer who is born.

    But still wouldn’t there be someone who whispered, hinted to him that, you know, maybe you should avoid getting married—or at least ask the woman before you married her “Are you my mother?” (The reader may recall the book by P. D. Eastman with the same title!). Then again, Oedipus thinks he knows who his mother is, and besides, asking the woman you are about to marry if she is your mother might make her think twice about you as her future husband. Well, see, again he doesn’t know: doesn’t know that a “prophecy” nearly got him murdered as an infant, doesn’t know that he was deliberately orphaned, then was adopted, thus his identity is hidden from himself, as is the fact that his adoptive parents are not his real parents. Also so hidden is the life he was exiled from even before he knew any of it or even before it was his life to live. His entire life is a trick of casuality; what he thinks he knows, which is the same “other side” of what he really doesn’t know, is a trick of the Oracular dimension. It was The Dead ‘speaking’ as if they had the secret to unravel the knots of a life before it begins. And it helped that the not yet dead, in this instance Oedipus’ father, are so credulous as to believe that an Oracle can foretell what has already happened in a life before it is lived.

    Thanks to Oedipus’ father– clearly a man who had fantasies of being murdered by his son, it could all start before it had even started. Oedipus’ father thinks of himself as the intended murder victim of his own son (the tricksters in the Oracular dimension invented that causality for him), thus setting up the ignorance—the son ignorant of who are his actual parents, the actual parents ignorant of who is their son, the ignorance upon which the future crime is founded. Because his actual father ordered it, Oedipus ‘was meant’ to be murdered when he was an infant. Of course, his father wouldn’t do it himself, so he ordered a herdsman to do it for him, who passes the child and the problem of murdering him on to another herdman who ingeniously passes on the child and the order he be murdered to someone whose orders are sovereign, the second herdsman’s own master, Polybus, the King of Corinth, who adopts Oedipus as his son and makes him prince and heir. The father’s crime of murdering his own child is not committed, but from then on, because he is committed to the unquestioningly accepted causality oracularly invented for his father, the child is at once dead and alive. Which means, as well, the father’s intention to murder is still alive; the predictable has become unpredictable, or is it the “other side” of predictable?

    Oedipus encounters the Sphinx on his way to Thebes, after he has murdered a man, who is his actual father, in a stupid dispute about right of way at a crossroads. Why didn’t the Sphinx say to Oedipus: ‘Here is a new riddle, just for you Oedipus: What kind of man murders his father and marries his mother? Answer: the kind of man who doesn’t know it is prophecied he will murder his father and marry his mother. Forget about the riddle you were prepared to answer. Can you guess what you just really did?’ Incidentally, by asking Oedipus that leading question and not asking him her usual riddle, the Sphinx would have saved her own life and saved Oedipus from becoming King of Thebes and marrying his mother. Oedipus was the riddle he needed to answer. Instead what began when a “prophecy” incited Oedipus’ father to murder continues, producing two deaths by suicide: the Sphinx kills herself, then years later, when she realizes who Oedipus is, Jocasta, his wife-mother, kills herself.

    There is no explanation, no good explanation anyway, as to why the Dead are such tricksters of causality among the not yet dead. Sure, there is the power of speech when it is heard as an oracular utterance and accepted as perfectly cognizant of all casualities. Our familiar three dimensions tend to encourage this kind of false absolute. Time and again, and always too late, these Oracles, as they were called, are exposed as tricks the Dead play with three-dimensional causality and on sequitur, a casualty of causality.

  19. GHOSTS OF DEPARTED QUANTITIES (OR, THE DEAD DIVISIBLE BY ZERO)

    Like the “proof” that 1 = 2 it is a story (with disguised assumptions) that makes sense but has no meaning or whose meaning makes no sense. Except that it does have meaning, a superabundance of it, and it does make sense.

    It has been observed that ancient Greek mathematics, which did not have the concept of zero, and unlike calculus, could not mathematically explain how a chicken can cross the road, because it did not understand how an infinite number of things can add up to a finite number. This is our everyday reality and experience, is it not? Each finity is a point of infinity and infinity is a point no different from any other. The finities of affinities are transfinities, I like to remind myself. The Dead are points of infinity, are they not, infinities of absence-presence, and ‘getting’ to them is about ‘crossing to the other side’, where the other side is the “other side” of a Moebius strip. We ‘cross’ by points of infinity; each point is more than the sum of all points.

    Ibn Ezra called zero galgal, the Hebrew word for wheel or circle. Gilgul, from the same root, is the Hebrew word for cycle; it is the motion or movement of transformation, a motion or movement in which a line or vector is a homogeneous space is homeomorphic to a circle. About division by zero, Jakub Czajko writes: “Although the formerly forbidden operation may be of little practical value, the feasiblility of unrestricted operations is needed for meaningful deployment of linear vector spaces…” Such as, say, writing the first sentence of “The Metamorphosis”.

    The first sentence of Die Verwandlung, “The Transformation” or “The Metamorphosis”: Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheueren Ungeziefer verwandelt. Word for word: As Gregor Samsa one morning from restless dreams awoke, found he himself in his bed into a monstrous vermin transformed. Joachim Neugroschel translates: One morning, upon awakening from agitated dreams, Gregor Samsa found himself, in his bed, transformed into a monstrous vermin.

    Something else more than imagination is the divisor of this at once linear and non-linear operation. Zero is a whole, rational, real number. Gregor Samsa, morning, waking, dreaming, bed, monsterous, vermin—each is whole, rational, real, each thus a point of infinity; the infinite, the undefined, neither ‘possible’ nor ‘impossible’, is the means by which they add up. The ‘transformation’ (Verwandlung) is, or is in, the act of reading. ‘Possible’, ‘impossible’ (what is the latter without the possible?), in reading, it is what it is. Interpretations, that is, use of divisors other than zero, are done later. ‘Division by zero must be left undefined.’ In a letter to his publisher regarding the cover of the first edition of Die Verwandlung, F.K. instructed that the Ungeziefer “is not to be drawn. It is not even to be seen from a distance.”

    Life into life, or divided by life, is it what we call Death? The Dead certainly are not a remainder. What remainder is there in life where life into life is life with nothing left over? The ‘remainder’ that those who conceive of it say is really there, what is it then? It seems, for them it is what Berkeley in his criticism of the calculus invented by Newton and Leibniz called Ghosts of Departed Quantities. Berkeley imagined them as neither there nor not there—clearly for him they had to be one or the other, and therefore “neither finite quantities, nor quantities infinitely small, nor yet nothing”. (Maybe Berkeley was in the agitated dreams from which Gregor Samsa awoke.)

    What kinds of dreams and imaginations does zero give us? Those of the Dead which we transform into memory? Gregor Samsa, it might be said, is the coincidence of the transmission of zero and the unconscious transmission of memory. Is zero, then, all-possiblity, and transmission from a “past”, a transmission of all-possibility, of zero? Or what some call a transmission of the unconscious? Zero is absence and presence both; absent presence, present absence. Since it is ‘nothing’, it can be anything, and everything. ‘Division by zero must be left undefined.’ I have not yet said to what “it” refers in the first sentence. But it means:

    The Dead are our proof of division by zero.

  20. Stephen Fry, in his most recent blog post (also available as podcast on iTunes), leans heavily on the Firesign Theatre with his repeated use of the phrase, “Everything You Know Is Wrong.”

    It’s enough to make a person leave a comment, which i will do once I’ve finished reading the piece.

    And in conclusion,
    Havin A. Beefe

  21. I have little to add as to intellectual property rights but I’m so happy to be typing with two hands again I will take this opportunity to continue the soothing pastime of manufacturing monikers.

    Andy Capsize

  22. The meek shall inherit the earth but only after the loud and crude have used it first. This is to confirm that you have a permanent reservation for second place. Better cooperation through nonconfrontation is the easily achievable goal.

  23. The hideous beast waits in the dark for each one of us. It is always hungry and never satisfied. Turn on the light and the games stop here. No beast.., no rules, just get on with what I started before I was distracted for so long.

  24. No Labyrinth for this beast, then? I didn’t think so. What worries me, it’s much more than a worry really, is that this beast eats light and doesn’t need to hide itself at all. It might be said it ‘hides in plain sight’, but is that M.O. even necessary? The sight in ‘plain sight’ has all gone dim, dimmer, dimmest, and fading to dark. Distraction, maybe, is the Labyrinth, and the beast plays dress up as the thoughtful dinner guest or as just somebody’s mascot or corporate sponsor or a first reference on their resume. Deadalus knew better: he didn’t put the beast on his resume. The Labyrinth Deadalus built, that is, in another alternative version, he built just to have some privacy and hear himself think. It was dark inside, deeply dark, and when he’d come out, it took his eyes a while to get used to the light. I think he figured out that whoever gets to have the earth first, we secondaries and runner-ups can always inherit the mirth.

  25. EDIFICE REX: A MEMOIRE OF THE WORLD’S MOST MISUNDERSTOOD TOWER

    I am using the still not well tested invention of writing to write this amidst the debris of my own collapse, arranging shards of my magnificent construction, with what life my remains still communicate in me, to now construct the spelling of these words. I have—rather, I had all languages to choose from. Nearly everything of them was taken from me. Never did I withhold anything of myself from them, but now I am left with only that part of them which is myself. They, each of these languages, and the peoples to whom they belong, do not know it yet but soon they each will learn that they too have been left only with what of myself that is them. When the Tower’s story is told beyond the boundaries of its origin, after generations of its transmission, told and retold, copied and recopied, when the future scrolls are unrolled and it is decided which versions of which ‘books’ (as they will one day be called) are in and which versions are out, when all the silences and allusions and ellipses are tested, weighed, deliberated and then become indistinguishable from the white space of the parchment, it will not be my story that is told. In my de-construction, I am not allowed to speak. Not allowed, I say, rather than cannot, for in my condition of dispersal I am not exiled into silence; I can still speak, though it is thought I should not. So I am not allowed to tell why and what I was, what I saw from my heights, or what happened to me. Another story will take my place. In fact, I believe it already has.

    Can anything remember how it began? There comes a moment when one knows it began but its beginning is already beyond what it can know; from beyond the knowable, beginning casts its shadow in memory, but a shadow of homogeneous space brighter than the sun. So it is with my beginning.

    I am certain from my beginning too much was expected of me. To those who conceived and planned me, my design and purpose were assured; the open sky awaited my ascent; for them, even the sky wasn’t a limit. That already was a great confusion. It will be told that all the confusion occurred later, and all after it was too late, of course. A Tower must ascend, yes, for a Tower is not a Tower without its ascent. But who thinks to question the Tower itself about the intention of its ascent? Always it is assumed the Tower is the passive instrument of its builder’s intention. In this event, the assumption the builders rejected became their cornerstone. I say jokingly, if I had been present at my own conception and planning, I would have seen the confusion and said it was good.

    When the peoples dispersed, did they believe–each according to its contribution to my ascent, that their respective languages possessed (and imparted to them) the unassailable inviolable group-togetherness which they had built me to secure and to declare for them? It will not be told that the peoples journeyed from a place in where there was an unraised Tower, that is, almost like a wall, a Tower built on its side, not completed, built before they had any memory of themselves in that place, no one knew how or by whom. From that place and that unraised Tower the peoples brought with them a single brick—prototype of the bricks used to build me, said to possess the property of displacing twice the weight placed on it, such that each brick placed on top of it became twice less in weight, and so on successively. What the peoples discovered at the summit of my ascent is not what they expected to achieve by extending my verticality into a previously unnamed and unattainable realm. That too will not be told.

    Their collective past had felt too near to them, oppressively near, as if it was being held right over them and they had to live in the shadow of its imminent collapse on them. Of course it wasn’t and they didn’t. But origins can feel that way when, as often they are, they are confused with the present, or, what amounts to same, the recent memory of it. It was a feeling as if the sky were about to wrap itself around and suffocate them. They resolved to put as much distance as they could between them and ‘what came before’, certain it belonged to a specific place from which they only had to depart while keeping together as a group. The deepest, most spacious valley is what they searched for and found; in such a place, the sky was not so near to them as it had been ‘before’.

    As to the confusion that must not be named: the Tower would mean the end of confusion as they had known it, or, what amounted to same, original confusion as such. They had felt irremediably dispersed by and among their origins. Confusion had been a symptom of not departing from origins and the irreconcialibilty of those origins with recent memory. From their base in the deepest, most spacious valley that could be found, with the building of their Tower, they would displace ‘what came before’ and replace their former origins. By building me, their Tower, they would be in complete control of their origins. There would be no confusion as to those origins and everyone would have the same memory of them.

    If there were agreement on a language in which universality, unity, and uniformity were synonymous, then the peoples would need only one unanimous word, a name by substitution, for their one, universal desire and aspiration. In every language they knew, they found it was “Tower” that was both eponymous and synonymous to this desire and aspiration. It was this one unanimous word, they concluded, which made them and their languages one and unanimous. This word “Tower”, which to them seemed greater than any Name, had all the greatness of a Name, had nothing of the ineffable to it, and could be permutated materially as well as literally. Thus they could build for their one language–as, in their confusion, they thought of it, an inalienable center that would provide visible, tangible consolation to them in their continual struggle for synonymity and in their fear they could never attain it.

    The Tower was a state-of-the-art technological advancement over all previously non-arrestable, therefore inadequate and failed, languages which were subject to incessant migration and concomitant otherness; it made obsolete previous immature idols of spatio-temporal fixation. Each fired brick reached near maximum density of fusible, material same-dimensional symbol. The immobility of stone was the limit to which their anti-dispersion language sought to near but never ‘become’, a grammar and vocabulary in petrified peace, the final fulsome arrestation of time in the perfect finite circle of space.

    When completely built, rather than the extreme vertical of their desire, I, their Tower, was the inversion of their desire. The builders among the peoples blamed the peoples for having to compromise the purity of their art: the builders claimed they never wanted or intended to build an actual Tower. How could the Name, which could not even be pronounced, be structured into something other than itself? The peoples, however, blamed their now compounded, intensified confusion on the Tower. In their confusion, they forgot me as their ally, discovered me as their enemy. What they hoped I, their Tower, would keep at the utmost distance from them, ‘in the heavens’ or ‘the highest heaven’ as partisans of hierarchy call it, would keep it a Name, or a Nameable UnNameable, to be called on when necessary, an ultimate limit, was revealed as already ‘on the ground’, as it were, the very foundation on which I was built. Then too the peoples blamed their confusion on the Tower. To them it, that is, I, had become openly subversive; it, I, was everything they had expected it, me, to protect them from. Before the Tower could completely subvert the peoples’ purpose, they decided deliberately to destroy it.

    The peoples destroyed the Tower so as to have totem portions of it to take with them in their dispersions, and thereby retain their control of it, simple as that. I, their Tower, as I could have told them would happen, had become the origin from which they again had to escape. If there was any hesitation over the consequences of my destruction, I am not aware of it. The people forgot the proverbial saying ‘The consequences are never the ones you plan for.’ My destruction was assured when the peoples came to believe that originally I, their Tower, had been a ‘true Tower’ (a phrase I heard them use); my shards and debris they convinced themselves somehow would preserve the very origin of which I, when whole and still standing, was a subversion. Symbolically, by my destruction, they would disperse me among themselves; their languages’ respective words for “Tower”, that word in each language, with its original power of synonymity, would preserve what I had subverted and confused: the coherence and synonymity of universal, unity, and uniform.

    It was given all the appearances of a provocation, destruction of the Tower, that is. Appearances that conform to and confirm expectations are easy to judge, and destruction sent down ‘from the highest heaven’ as a judgment makes for a reassuring narrative.

    There will be no end to the feeling of success and progress that comes of fetishing the failure of the Tower. ‘It had to fail’, and ‘It was never meant to succeed’ will become the received wisdom. Its failure, it will be claimed, is its real success because ‘it was ahead of its time’; therefore its failure proves ‘the world was not yet ready for it’. There will be an unrelenting, pervasive nostalgia for the original, of which there will be no living memory, of course, but whose desire and aspiration is always felt as contemporary. It won’t be too long before the peoples say: ‘In dispersion we have made a Name for ourselves and not in the image of it that the Tower tried to usurp from us.’ And their descendants will transmit this as a true memory of their origins.

    I am the only pre-dispersion witness, thus the last witness ever. I have survived my destruction. But will I survive the story that will take my place? I do not think so.

  26. OEDIPUS CALCULUS, DEADALUS INFINITESIMALUS

    Almost but not quite. As when, in giving an example of a mathematical limit, it is said a form is as close to a circle as it can get without being a circle. Proximately speaking, mathematics is to myth what number is to name, and in the mythematics of Almost But Not Quite, there are two legendary heros: Oedipus and Deadalus.

    Number and calculation, it is accurate to say, pursued both Oedipus and Deadalus. Oedipus’ life, even before his birth, was constructed as a labyrinth in which he was at once the devouring beast within and the one prophecied to enter, vanquish, and escape the way he had come. The ‘thread of guidance’, spun from its oracular origin, was authentic and thus a counterfeit, for, whatever turn of path, stratagem, or devising he attempted, it brought him, inescapably, to himself. Deadalus thought that with the design and building of his labyrinth he could thereby definitively contain the repetition, the indefinite succession, which calculation induced in him. For, he had a love of the infinitesimal and an infinitesimal love of the letter that was its sign. The labyrinth Deadalus built was a closed system, or as near to the maximum degree of closure as was (Oedipus would insist should have been) possible; it was, so to speak, finite but not quite. Whereas Deadalus longed for permutations of the infinitesimal beyond what could be numerated or calculated. Whereas Oedipus, who knew the assumptions they made but not that they were mistaken, longed both to be and to not be left out of the solution to his own calculations.

    For Deadalus, number and calculation took him to life at the limit, but without the liberating catastrophe of the Infinite. With his labyrinth, Deadalus, thinking he could elude finitude, its indefinite divisions, by keeping it permanently occupied with itself, instead caculated himself into a corner where the finite was almost infinite but not quite. The labyrinth Deadalus built was a paradox of place, in that its center was already everywhere; any single, isolate center was only proximate, hence almost but not quite. Or, again, finite but not quite, which is also to say: almost everywhere.

    If Oedipus had met Deadalus, well, what then? Would Deadalus have helped him to see the inherent flaw of pseudo-perfection in the completely mapped possibility? Had Oedipus seen the labyrinth built by Deadalus, would he have seen it as a parody of efforts to completely map a possibility, a satire on the belief in mapping as a possibility? For Oedipus, living so near a limit he never knew or how to define, almost but not quite becoming it–for delimiting the limit would have woken him from the illusion of it, Deadalus’ calculations would have turned the formula of foretold into a play of infinitesimal permutations. Then, maybe, Oedipus would have conceived himself as the very question that could lead him to his origin in ignorance. It would have been as if Deadalus’ labyrinth structures instantaneously vanished, leaving nothing but an exposed center everywhere. It was the articulations of space, the structured paths that gave a center, otherwise known as a point of infinity, its centrality.

    The “liberating catastrophe of the Infinite”, as it has been called here, the ‘Babel Effect’ or ultimate confusion of limits, meant that each and every orientation, no matter how precisely calculated, and according to whatever assumption of numerical operation, was never more or other than a horizon; in each instance, an almost-but-not-quite. Oedipus was like the center around which a labyrinth of in-out paths had been constructed, the former having no purpose apart from and in absence of the latter. The labyrinth of Deadalus was the attempted rationalization of the Infinite. The labyrinth of Oedipus’ life was the failed attempt to rationalize the Infinite as well as the failed attempt to make it dependant on a single locus and center. “It”, that is to say, Oedipus’ life, the Infinite, both?

    Oedipus, the object part, known numerator divisible by the object whole—his unknown denominators, wandering between two divisors a pursuant father and a desired mother, from almost-the-one to almost-the-other, neither of whom he knows, his ignorance almost but not quite as if he’s been able to elude both, surpassing their past in him (or thinking he has), each turn, each direction, each choice of path added to the labyrinth in the very act of choosing and taking it. All the while, Oedipus believes he is finding his way out when really what he finds is death squared and blindness. The moment he sees for the first time is the last moment he sees and by his own violence becomes “an impossible gaze starring at the subject.”

    Oedipus and Deadalus, both are mythemes or, better, mytheme persons. The ‘viewpoint’ of the labyrinth or, more accurately, of the labyrinth maker, made the labyrinth itself a kind of matheme before the fact, a formulation of the point where the real, the symbolic, and the imaginary intersect; its purpose too, as a predecessor or anticipation of analytical experience, was to allow one ‘to know one’s own matheme’. F.K. wrote in a notebook that metaphor is what so often made him think writing was for him impossible. The labyrinth Deadalus built was not built for metaphor but rather for mytheme and matheme. It may have been built, unknowingly, for Oedipus, though what Oedipus did not know and what Deadalus did not know could never be of any help to each other.

    Oedipus and Deadalus: mytheme persons, the ‘hero supposed to know’, become mathemes for “the impossible real”, that is, for what alludes countability and calculability, oracle and labyrinth, but not the catastrophe of Infinity.

  27. How about bailing out Bebop and Big Blond ???

    Washington State’s Big Two Surreal Makers

    Just wait until Next Year’s Model rolls out!

  28. Hail and lo, full affrontal action! Cumulonubile download in your own backyard! The white stuff. Barely legal jolly + bright.

    Rusty Bikinderain

  29. And here I was afeared that the Trail had gone cold. But, Loeb & Behold, there are tracks everywhere! Thank the UnMentionable for the great white, a blizzard of it per page, soft, supple, and yielding to the imprint of these signs, snowing around in circles. It’s true, what they say, Nature abhors a labyrinth.

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