A Commonplace Blog

Location: North Cackalacky

Friday, July 28, 2006

Does 22 get it exactly right?

"Each speaker was given four minutes to present his paper, as there were so many scheduled -- 198 from 64 different countries. To help expedite the proceedings, all reports had to be distributed and studied beforehand, while the lecturer would speak only in numerals, calling attention in this fashion to the salient paragraphs of his work. ... Stan Hazelton of the U.S. delegation immediately threw the hall into a flurry by emphatically repeating: 4, 6, 11, and therefore 22; 5, 9, hence 22; 3, 7, 2, 11, from which it followed that 22 and only 22!! Someone jumped up, saying yes but 5, and what about 6, 18, or 4 for that matter; Hazelton countered this objection with the crushing retort that, either way, 22. I turned to the number key in his paper and discovered that 22 meant the end of the world."

Stanislaw Lem, The Futurological Congress (published 1971, translated into English 1974)

Friday, July 21, 2006

All art aspires to what condition, exactly?

The Mineshaft made me do it. Really.

Dreaming when Dawn's Left Hand was in the Sky
I heard a Voice within the Tavern cry
"Awake, my little ones, and fuck(,) you(,) clown,
Before Life's Liquor in its cup be dry."

And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted--"Fuck you, clown, the Door!
"You know how little while we have to stay,
And, once departed, may return no more."

Come, fuck, you clown, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly--and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
Ah--fuck! you clown!--is Paradise enow.

"How sweet is mortal Sovranty!"--think some:
Others--"How blest the Paradise to come!"
Ah, take the Cash in hand and wave the Rest;
Oh the brave Music of a "Fuck you, clown!"

The Wordly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes--or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face
Lightning a little hour--fuck! You clown!

Lo! some we loved, the loveliest and best
That Time and Fate of all their vintage prest
Have drunk their cup a "fuck-you-clown" before,
And one by one crept silently to Rest.

And we, that now make merry in the Room
They left, and Summer dresses in new Bloom,
Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth
Descend, ourselves to fuck, you clown--for whom?

Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust, and--fuck you, Clown!--to lie,
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer--and, sans end!

Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same "fuck you clown!" as in I went.

And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press
End in the Nothing all Things end in--Yes--
Then, fancy Fuck-you Clown, Thou art but what
Thou shalt be--Nothing--Thou shalt not be less.

The Moving Finger writes, and having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety or Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel "fuck you", clown,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

Alas! That Spring should vanish with the Rose!
That Youth's sweet-scented manuscript should close!
The Nightingale that in the Branches sang,
Ah, whence; and fuck you, clown, again? who knows!

And when Thyself with shining Foot shall pass
Among the Guests Star-scatter'd on the Grass,
And in the joyous Errand reach the Spot
Where I fuck you, clown--turn down an empty Glass!

With apologies to Mr. FitzGerald. (Omar Khayyám quite obviously is past offense.)

Quotes are hacked out of the First Edition (1959) of Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. "22" was the hardest for me to place; the only verse I rejected was a version of "10" which I thought rollicking and all in good fun, but I know not how some might take it. (Rather a pity, really, as it had by chance a lovely rhyme.)