The Brext Land

ITV’s Good Morning Britain’s backdrop-countdown to Brexit is a dramatic reminder of what is to come. However, until March 29th we are all of us just speculating, guided by a homunculi Tiresias that lives in ours and others’ ears, themselves just speculating off of the fragments of other speculators spoon fed 24hour news straight out the xth dimensional Brext Land (the land of after), where we can assume the sperm count of 18-40 year old men plummets, birds migrate to cold climes, the Earth’s magnetic field flips on a regular basis, the sun rises in the west and chaos is order, black holes open from our arse holes, rewriting histories, the code of visible, tangible, palpable reality all a sneeze away, and sneezing its way into our cozily accustomed, but ultimately accosted, reality. I have seen some trying to pinch the air, as if they might pry open the façade of reality and get under it to see if everything is running smoothly; some have a hunch that The Brext Land is in this xth dimension, a fingernail-peel away. Visas and viscera, EU and Union Jack flags litter the streets in the post-Megiddo, post-Arthurian Brext Land, straight out of a confused Michael Connelly parody of T.S.Eliot’s The Waste Land.   

It looks as if April may be set to be “the cruelest month” after all, the snow to help us forget forecast, but Piers Morgan keeps berating everyone with an opinion in Brext Land, other than Nigel Farage, the Fisher King, dangling his rod into the rat infested Thames to fish out potential lads who’ll buy his condoms;— we should take solace that if by some fluke, the putty-ugly-incels do copulate, they’ll not circumfuse their tainted seed, thus fathering mutant waifs with extreme right wing leanings.

Piers is clearly Madame Sosostris, reckoning the fate of the Phoenician sailor Phlebas, who is everyone working pay check to pay check, or on Universal Credit; sinking in or with the economy, depends which angle you look at it; the pedestrian streets of Britain, turned somehow to quicksand. The difference between Piers and Sosostris, is that Piers is a bit retarded (even if he is playing the party of the grumpy old man in the moon), a worn-out know-it-all who has been imbibed with too much power by people who still believe bullying has-beens are what people want to see after waking from nightmares, in which traffic congestion, on the M6, both south and north bound, mounts due to the automated tariff booths of Dover overheating, going haywire and murdering lorry drivers by beating them over the head with their barriers, leaping to the price of bread inflating physically and chlorinated chickens clucking instructive, motivational messages while they (the dreamer) is trapped on a giant treadmill, scoffing their faces with tepid, Canderel® sweetened porridge before their morning ablutions to scrub out the stain of their Leave vote. But no, Piers must be there, counting down, holding everyone (but Nigel Farage) to account, folding his arms to hold his rib cage in place, because his blood pressure is so high he fears his heart leaping our his chest. But nothing to fear, he’s stocked a garage full of ACE inhibitors, Angiotensin, Calcium blockers and Thiazide diuretics, so he can carry on full plum-faced-throttle till well into June. A patriot, a prick.

I picture T.S. Eliot, bowler-hatted, bowdlerized in real-time due to the invective of his assessment of the Brexit debacle, doing his own parody of himself, for the Daily Mail, ironically, or not so much—pretty sure he’d be a Times or Daily Mail subscriber. As our politicians increasingly prove they are not amply qualified, they more and more resemble the asexual Tiresias, not the ailing monarch they’d prefer to be (especially the besieged Maybot, inorganic, put together with nuts, bolts and jam from one of Boris Johnson’s sandwiches, in a bank vault in the Internet, which is about to be ransacked) so entangled in the health of their nation, the land turns to squalor and fetid, dies. There is a child asking why all politicians look like a bread pudding, which someone with abnormally large hands has left handprints in.

But this isn’t what I see. Everyone is checking their Fitbit to tally up 10,000 steps a day. The news is reporting that we should be eating 4 grams of red meat a day. People are walking. I walk round the woodland daily and see multitudes pacing through pine woods, jogging, nattering, being pulled by great hounds; sniffing and snorting (the people, not the hounds) and I join them, trying to sniff out the bull-crap loitering in the high pressure from the Atlantic.

What Eliot would realize in his parody is that the leader is only a talking point, someone to point and blame, but who only indirectly affects the well-being of the nation. Nobody really gives a toss about them. They are insignificant, incidental to Netflix, pints of craft ale, rhubarb gin and tonic, weekly haircuts, a sense of self-importance, potpourri farts and the under-whelming realizations that everything will probably be ok; no Tiresias (the job everyone really wants) warning us of fear in handfuls of dust; only the media heaping up broken images, the Bradford millionaire realizes he is poor in London, and probably has flu. And this is how it should be, right? No one caring really, everyone drunk in one of Tim Martin’s pubs, eating fish n’ chips till the oceans are empty. Rule Brittania, marmalade and jam, na na nananananana naaaa naaaaaaaaaaaaaa nanaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!

And we shall have a game of chess, except the Knight confuses us, and though we have a queen, why can’t the king move about more? We’d probably be better off if it was all chess, at least only clever people, people who are patient play chess.

John Bercow’s voice is hoarse from taking lunch orders and from smoke inhalation because the friction between everyone in Parliament has set his ermine aflame. He’s been fannying about trying to get so and so (the constituency MP from Acrington) to stop harassing the DUP and from making inappropriate jokes about vicars and the androgyny of their kind so as to seem less intimidating to the man on the street, who by the way just wants to eat his avocado toast and read The New Statesman aloud to his colleagues so they’ll throw pennies at him violently. A Labour backbencher hectoringly shouted down the Theology of his speech by appealing to the Existential Crisis of our times: “4grams of red meat a day!?”

I hear birds in Brext Land, but only hardy birds, with bovine biceps for wings, making them heavier, but also, strong enough to spark out stork-like Jacob-Rees Mogg, who isn’t worried about Brexit as he’ll deliver babies with his Stork Jet and comes to this realization when he’s doing a spot of Sunday gardening, where everything he grows, he grows to death. He laughs a sinister laugh, rubbing his claws together.

We may not see the sun much in Brext Land but we trust it is there, the weather man is the voice of thunder—“DA!” And we know “Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata” are enviable, are solutions for stabilizing a salvation, are secret words that will bring sunlight and rain. We have to speak them and believe when we say them, and pronounce them correctly, else, well, how can the gods of Brext Land know what we want and make our ailing leaders salubrious again?  I am getting the custard pies ready, never know when they’ll be handy.

“Our Lords thou pluckest me, O Lords thou pluckest me out, me!” Says every single person in Britain at once, leading to an earthquake of sighs.

A memory of an emphatic friend

I originally posted this piece on Medium, which I recently discovered. I want to ask a favour of you. I have never asked anyone to follow my blog, & I now have over 700 followers, so I don’t feel guilty asking something of people now.
I may (most likely will) be returning to England in a few months & I’ll find myself in a limbo state, in my hometown, until I return to studying an MA. In that time I want to try & make a little beer money from writing. Medium offers something called a Partner Program. It is all free, but you can make a bit of money from the volume of people who read your articles. You can see where I am going with this. Right now I just want to build a readership while I am in Korea (as I have no bank account) but by the time I return to England & sort out my accounts, I’d like to be trying to publish regularly on literature, culture, ideas in generally, my usual effort at insight into what sways me etc & make enough to get drunk at least, say… once a day (& beer is very cheap in England).
So if you’ll head over to my Medium, you can sign in with Facebook, Google or Twitter (don’t even need to sign in really) & follow me, clap for me & just show some bare support. It isn’t much to ask & you all follow me here, I am not asking for the heavens to be moved neither will I in anyway get rich quick from this, just beer money, maybe a bus ride. Here is the link to my Medium profile. Enjoy the personal essay below, it is also over at Medium too, give it a clap, comment, rant, disagree, whatever is fine. Thanks.

A memory of an emphatic friend

Funny how memory works. I was going about life, something unrelated to the following & it just announced itself, direct, immediate as an incoming update on your phone.
While studying at university, I used to have small gatherings, most nights, like-minded people coming together in my flat to drink, eat, get stoned, listen to records, usually a game of chess ongoing & talked until late. Very cliché-boho, but earnest, we just wanted to be good at stuff & so socializing in this way meant we were continuously active.
One night, emphatic with drink, a friend posed a question: Why is Shakespeare better than a soap opera on TV? This would have a profound effect on me & by extension offer a justification for the importance of study in literature & the humanities. (It’s a sad reality that, at times, I have been called to justify words on a page. I will use this anecdote in such discussions.)
Most present simply laughed and replied, “because it’s Shakespeare”. The quality of Shakespeare was self-evident, no justification was needed. My friend expressed his dissatisfaction with this. He was hankering for air-tight justification — why was the bard undeniably better & by extension, necessarily more important?
Our first volley of “just because” deflected, we began to look at the similarities & differences.
Language was analyzed. Shakespeare was inventive,”everyone knows that!” He gave us memorable lines, he fleshed out his characters with his great ear for speech; he makes us believe his worlds. We think of iambic pentameter as affected speech, but in the drama it is a unit of measure most resembling the cadence of speech; it becomes stylistic edifice too, a device for arranging the difference of noble & common. Essentially though, like a soap opera, it is still dialogue, language traded between people.
Was it the language itself? Shakespeare’s language, the range of words at his disposal was arguably less diverse than the English of a current soap opera. The potential diversity of a current soap opera after centuries of evolution in the English language, enables the writers of soap operas to build characters around a single idiolect, to diversify through age specific idioms. Shakespeare could arguably do this to some degree, but perhaps not with such clear demarcations, or perhaps too narrowly, as the differentiation of sovereign, noble & common is a limitation of Shakespeare’s time. But the gregarious pockets of contemporary culture, encourage diversity of character.
Someone mentioned themes, the action that results from them. Shakespeare writes about love, death, betrayal, conflict, comedy. These are unavoidable themes for all writers and they are especially cogent to the soap opera. Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism outlines (some may argue conclusively) that the range of themes available to a write are limited; if anything, the soap opera would enable more diversity in themes, there are less taboos, or more ways to explore a taboo if they exist. We have had decades to converse on free expression, the idea was practically alien to Elizabethan/Jacobean England; Shakespeare wrote plays to order in some instances, to the preference of his patron James I, angering, was a risk to Shakespeare’s status & career. No such limit exists for the team of soap opera writers.
Someone mentioned memorable characters. This too didn’t cut the mustard as my friend pointed out, tabloids had actually printed stories, which had led to public influence over the outcome of the character, not the actor’s, fate. The case of Deidre Barlow in 1998 (a fictional character of the soap opera Coronation Street) comes to mind. Deidre is sent to prison for mortgage fraud, which she is framed for by her lover Jon Lindsay, a con-man; who charms Deidre with his claims to being an airline pilot. The millions of viewers were so outraged, fiction spilled into reality. The newspaper tabloids ran front page: FREE DEIDRE BARLOW!
Then Prime Minister Tony Blair investigated, as did Home Secretary Jack Straw, even the Conservatives, notably, William Hague expressed their concern and willingness to help.
Everyone, even people who hate Britain’s soap operas know quite a few of their characters, probably more than they know any of Shakespeare’s.
Could it be the plots? “All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players.” explains Jacques in As you Like it. Soap opera, on going as it is, sometimes for decades, with generations building, plots looping back to previous years makes a stage of the world, especially when fiction spills into reality. Shakespeare could only make the assertion, be somewhat philosophical about it, but soap opera does it.
At this point we were hanging on for dear hope. So many times the emphatic “NO!” from our friend, resetting our search for the answer. Would we really have to submit to soap operas actually being better than Shakespeare? It was inconceivable. It was staring us right in the face, hiding in plain sight. We wanted answers.
It was well past midnight, we we’re all emphatically drunk, everyone, was involved in solving my friends riddle who was strumming blues chord on a guitar even though he’s left handed, he’s that sort of man.

Some months later with this same friend on a train from Lille to Strasbourg to cover some miles so we could get to Germany quicker, as my pal was eager to visit his girlfriend, who lived in a small town called Oftersheim, close to Mannheim. We played a similar game of guess. This time, the game was to guess what the other person is thinking. The same logic applied, the thing to be guessed was hiding in plain-sight; there was no trick, only a matter of stripping away the layers. I was too irascible to be clear headed enough for such things, I just wanted to know and from that knowing move on to something else. In hindsight, my friend was light years ahead in terms of his control over the occasions of time. I failed to see that; in the discovery there was a whole host of possibilities for understanding and learning. As you peel away the layers of what was not, there was time for a moment of reflection, of realization that though this wasn’t the answer, it was part of what it isn’t and therefore worth remarking. I got wound up as tight as a string playing that game on the train. I accused him of thinking something too obscure.
The answer to our guessing game on the train was the passport of a French girl we had met on the ferry, who’d had a distressing time for a reason we did not know, but was clear to us from her body language. We invited her to sit with us, gave her coffee and cigarettes and spoke with her a little. On arriving in Calais, because of our kindness, she had her mother drop us off at a local camp sight, with a warning about sleeping on the beach, due to Algerian immigrants.

Everyone was pretty much done. We felt as though we’d ripped Shakespeare inside out, we’d got down his Collected Works and riffled through it, through books of essays and various critical volumes. Still we were none the wiser, yet we were fingering through the “plain sight”. My pal stayed resolute, not brazen, nor arrogant, but a perfect picture of a drunken Zen master.
“Are you ready for me to tell you?”
Every one of us, eager but exhausted to know exclaimed “YES!”
“It is care, the care of 500 years of scholarly attention, the multitude of books, the inspiration, the symbol that he is to the cultural heritage of a nation — it is simply care.”

It was so brilliant, so obvious. Of course, a reason, which all our reasons were without doubt wrapped up in, but not it exactly. No one would ever go to any great effort to write scholarly texts, to be influenced by, to make spin-offs of a soap opera. It is passive entertainment. People may be interested, but ask them what happened last week, they’d probably struggle to give an overview. But there Shakespeare enthusiasts who can quote, debate, enthuse with their admiration and knowledge of Shakespeare. Even my own father who never reads, can recite passages of Shakespeare learned at school over 50 years ago.
This can be active in our justification of any good literature, even in our passive Internet age. When we write reviews of someone’s chapbook, or comment on someone’s blog, we do so in this same vein of care. It is a concatenation of that tradition of literature, which we choose to give expression to no matter the status of the writer. This is how we keep our literature alive. This is why reading, humanities, literature, matters: it is the conversation of what makes us uniquely human, it is concern for storytelling & the marginalia & conversations this has produced.

Bone Antler Stone by Tim Miller, a review

I’m aware this “review” could potentially end up as flat out extolment for a poet who has become my friend and whose poems I was fortunate enough to have read in their early drafts. Am I biased? Probably. But I am going to make an effort to evidence what makes this a worthy read. There is plenty to evidence and I hope in tandem with my personal praise, this review will not be exposed as a sycophantic exposition.

Tim Miller’s Bone Antler Stone (The High Window Press) begins, ablaze, with the poem Fire Houses. What seems to have been an ancient procedure of renewal (Tim’s query in Fire Houses II later on: “Why would they do this to their houses/every generation of so…?” for me, supports this, in a whole poem dedicated to the question) seems to be Tim’s symbolic way of nudging us toward a spirit of renewed perception toward a remote past. His poems, allured by histories blank spots and maybe even blind corners, act as the “great liminal space” to gather renovated insight into the ancient cultures of Europe.
In the central verse of the poem, Tim mistakes “electric light sprawling from a TV…” for one of the fire houses, a poet after a vision that peers into the past; a poet we can trust to present for us the intensity of a time, at least to the average person, little reckoned with. The “Otherworld” remarked on, could be the subject itself, so distant, so bare of the essential ingredients abundant evidence gives us to dramatize history. Without this, does the subject become Otherworldly, a time difficult for us to form a relationship with, in which to see our likenesses? Tim’s poem bridge those difficulties. He brings that cradle of humanity closer.
These are not poems of blood and disaster; nor poems fueled with lusts and sabotage; but poems of small detail, beacons of light drawing us to the achievements of cultures without convenience, to marvel and respect the enduring legacy, hacked into artifice, extant in the material of bone, antler and stone.
Bone Antler Stone is dutifully constructed around the linear passage of time, 30 or more thousand years of it; covering the upper Paleolithic, through the stone age, bronze & into the early centuries of the 1st millennium. The book, separated into 4 sections: Landscape & Rituals; Burials; Artifacts and ending in a finale at Orkney. Each section moving from inception or remotest time, to a time closer (yet still remarkably remote). Or perhaps better thought of as, from less civilized to more civilized.
After the introductory Fire Houses we are transported to what preceded the civilized shelter of the home, caves— the caves of Chauvet, Lascaux & Altamira, 30,000 years ago. This series opens with one of my favourite lines:

“Now we come to paint with light and fire.”

A line dramatically dense, suggestive, alive.
The first poem utilizing an expansive line that reaches like the cave-dwellers fire to the ceiling of their cave, offering the inhabitants the means to decorate their stony, womb like domicile; their umbilical art fastening onto the mental duty of mankind to identify itself with their environment—a pattern thread through time. The remaining 6 poems shuttle and pounce, incisive like the actions and behavior of not only the artist’s hand, but the fluidity of the creatures they made likenesses of. Tim fills the poems with much of what these troglodytes identified with, what they held dear, the life bringing principles they were inextricably twined with, in addition, their fears: to be forgotten, a lonely but brief and easily forgotten spark in the depth of geological and cosmic time. Here in the poems, techniques they used:
“And to this light I mix my colors with cave water.”

Tim, makes spectators of us, we close our eyes for the mental image his words hack into us with the rib of an animal whose bones were picked clean by man and vulture.

Migrations at the End of the Ice Age & New Families Arrive in Britain seem to remark on the current refugee crisis:

You would have watched them, weary at how they
all kept coming, and their courage to
give the tide their lot…(New Families Arrive in Britain)

This is similar in tone to correspondence, the reporter on the scene. I see paired to those ancient people landing in 5000BC, the hopeful refugees escaping the impact of wars, even the effects of glacially slow climate change, in our own time. These poems could be prescient of a future, in which large swathes of the globe are uninhabitable and similar migrations are repeated. Maybe, we’ll consider as Tim does in Migrations at the End of the Ice Age:

I like to think about it this way: that the
ice sheets of ancients Europe, rather than
melting and making a run to the north

simply because the weather got warmer,
instead retreated, were sought out and stalked,
harried and run down by animals, plants

and human tribes living off the new…

Such hopefulness may be welcomed after so much hardship.
The movement of large bodies of people, all their belongings, hope in the continuity of identity and identification which they (like us) we might suppose, longed to keep alive, becoming the common will of mankind. It isn’t new, yet it is always done in search of something new; there is familiarity in “the new”.
How have we changed? Have we, at least in many respects not remained akin to the peoples of history, if only because we share the fragilities that make us human and regardless all our conveniences, removed, they bring our similarities into focus: flesh, blood, bone, hunger, necessity of warmth, shelter and so, eager to mark materials in pigments and dyes, to sculpt a legacy out of material to scream “we were here”, bearing our teeth with ritual verve to the elements that drench us cold or bake us, but which, attuned to, provide for us, not just our sustenance but our principles of order, moral compass— gods.

The Village of Gönnersdorf provides us with a window into the habitual, annual, cyclical movements of peoples:

They returned every winter to find things
mostly as they had left them: the slate floors
needed cleaning so the animals engraved

there stood out again in the dust of their feet.

This life of domestic repetition, continual repair, continually keeping their heads above the waters of hardship, is never romanticized by Tim; never praised as a freer time, closer to nature— a mythologized, golden age of man. Nor does he stress the hardship; rather the poems act as documentation, they show and provide evidence.
Tim’s poems are for everyone, learned in their research; the only difficulties to surmount are names unfamiliar to us. You may not understand the meaningful weight of Dolní Věstonice, or Tim’s interesting choices for his Gods & Goddesses sub-section, where rather than Bacchus or Dionysus, we meet Sucellus. This is not done in boast, but as encouragement to investigate further. I myself didn’t know a great deal, but it wasn’t difficult to find out and the discovery has been beneficial.
The language Tim uses helps connect the reader, this is not over embellished poeticizing, but tight, practical language for presentation. Regardless, it is musical, it isn’t boring to read. I realized after reading Tim’s poems more and more that Tim is like a contemporary Wordsworth. When I expressed this realization to him, he was very pleased, as this was his intention. However, he doesn’t fall into the trap of treating ancient subjects with a pseudo-antique idiom; these are clearly contemporary poems, from a poet aware he is not trying to write from the perspective of the peoples who lived the time of his subject. The tone is not affected in the transportation of the researched subject matter, into verse, either. Miller’s research speaks volumes through the pointedness of his language. Tim, never speaks from the point of view of the civilization in any sort of poor re-enacting of their character, aside from the end where Pytheas appears, but even he is contemporized and the effect is charming. This could easily appear like those dreadful voice actors from the BBC, who in English read a translation of a Roman Emperor’s speech; ok we get the gist, we get the insight, but it feel affected, at least to me. Tim is rather a poet looking, trying to understand. It could easily all blow up in Tim’s face and our enjoyment would be lessened, as we’d be removed from our considering by the attempt at dramatization. This is a very clever evasion and I applaud Tim for it.

Returning to music in these poems, it is ubiquitous in my opinion. A fine example comes through in Ajvide Girl:

The hedgehog covered her:

its spiked skin capped her head,
and around her neck there hung

some fine clattering jaw…

The language tough as the leathery bog bodies. The velar stop of the ‘k’ making the image of the hedgehog sonically robust. The placement of the dactylic clattering satisfies visually and sonically, piquing our senses. It’s remarkably well crafted, carefully constructive poetry, yet there is buoyancy, which I feel comes with good training; it isn’t meticulous in a clinical way, it feels confidant, well honed. The sibilance and fricative consonants sweep the lines along, like a tool for shaving rock, or a broom for sweeping floors.
In the final Orkney section, Tim’s own character comes to the fore. We meet the poet, smelting into his themes as he visits the landmarks on Orkney. Here, the balance of history’s documentation is balanced with a personality and yet he seems no more or less real than the people of his histories.
Accompanying Tim is Pytheas, the Greek geographer. Tim becomes Pytheas via a text on Pytheas, which Tim has on him, in Orkney. They embody each other, both “in energetic middle age” maybe even “young enough to be stupid” and hopefully “seasoned enough to make it…” It is a lovely touch. You have two middle aged men, a long way from home, potentially looking for something similar: vestiges of the past, remote cultures, a meaning to life, lineage, history, process. Human connections that give life purpose. And that is what we find in Orkney.
The Orkney section is a condensed, aerial, intimate tour of the islands by Tim and his wife Jenny There is even a map, so as you can orient yourself as you move through the poem.
It is full of small details: buying cereal and milk for example; both objects associated with fertility; the contemporary pleached with the antique landscape and vice versa.
If like me, you’d never considered Orkney as a travel destination, that’ll certainly change after reading Bone Antler Stone. Coming from the UK but living in Korea, I now daydream when I can make what I now see as a pilgrimage, to those islands. Tim’s poems tucked into my bag, eager to visit the places Tim visited, except, opening up Bone Antler Stone to read aloud Tim’s poems on say The Ring of Brodgar or Skara Brae, or while walking round Magnus Cathedral and hearing them aloud, where they are most at home. Picturing the nervous Tim at the summit of Magnus Cathedral, encouraged by Jenny to make the summit even if the height makes him anxious, which I am glad he did, otherwise he may not have written

…and a hundred
feet above the churchyard grass, a bright dead light—
and the light of one afraid of heights, beaming
at such a height in the air, to be there with you.

That human connection between two people a microcosm of the connection between culture and history, people and identity, people and people who make history— identity triumphs in the face of overwhelming odds.

The end of Bone Antler Stone brings all your humanity home to you, in a profound passage that is just astonishing. Tim talks with Pytheas aboard the plane as they jet home. Pytheas’ final reply

assuring me that for us, and for ours,
there was only the odd look, the old look, the awed look,
but rarely the real look of revelation,
or the consolation of having communicated.
And so the motive was to make meaning and memory
a kind of barrow burial in bloom
a garlanded grave undergroun
forged with turf and stone and fire and then forgotten,
until a propitious step or a sudden storm
blows open this book’s binding
and lays each line out in the light again,
shells of syllables dotting the sand.
To be summoned by someone is always a surprise, he said,
and someday I would feel a spade on my skull
someday I would stand up and start singing,
but until then I should love the loneliness and its lessons,
and he bade me to build it well, to bury it well, and wait. (The Wanderer II—Flight from Orkney)

History, might well be a motif of coincidences, it might follow a regulated trajectory based on the deliberation of previous actions and roles. But something I took from Bone Antler Stone, is that whether the evidence of human behavior is there and no matter how it got there, it is really up to us to uncover the voice of that generation again and even if we get that voice wrong, we’ll never know anyway and it offers up a better hope of some form of immortality to think that a distant culture, may endeavor to think about us, to offer its time to us as we offer time to the generations we rediscover through literature and art. To consider how we lived, thought, behaved and struggled to forge identities out of the happenstance environment shifting not just geologically but culturally after any series of events, over extended time. I’d rather think of the spade or pick striking my skull and human hands, lifting it into sunlight after a millennia, to interrogate the code held in it and determine something human about me, than to end up in some paradise with a despotic God demanding genuflection. We all inevitably depart, are forgotten. But there’s always a chance in the peculiar, fluke of life and snafu of death that so long as a relic from our having existed, survives to hint at the culture we belonged to, so as conjecture can be made as to our identity, it is possible that we can be gone a long time, but also, rediscovery hovers above us in the form of a curious metal detector.
That’s history I suppose. You never know what will be found and that which is found is only rediscovered, it has had its time and in its rediscovery it becomes an object of adoration again, a reminder.
I hope Tim’s book of poems is not forgotten in a hurry. If that should be its fate, I hope someone rediscovers it again, receiving as much enjoyment as I did.

You can buy a copy of Bone Antler Stone, signed by Tim, as well as download readings, or read an essay about the book by following this link.

bone antler stone

This is my first review of a poetry book and I’d like to do more, so if you like what you read and would like me to review your chapbook and post that review on my blog, contact me at


Granny, get your chequebook out

Granny, get your chequebook out

On May 19th of this year, the [happy] Prince Harry got married. We all saw the boy in his Saville-Row-Dege-&-Skinner-tailored-frockcoat-of-the-Blues & Royals, soldierly, bold & brave— pride of Britain. He looked so charming— & his wife Meghan in something that looked recycled, it was according to Elle or something, but nevertheless sparkling, elegant, belle of the ball.

It was a day for doleful Brits to dote on their traditions, a day for fantasizing, to remark how fairytale Britain continues to be, how magic still spouts from the root of ritual, where princes marry, turning successful, rich, Hollywood actresses into princesses. Britain, having its very own, live action rom-com. Even the weather behaved. God? Buddha? Jehovah? Allah? All in agreement for the afternoon? A fantasy the royal family have become exceptional at curating. I half expected headlines to rhyme Markle with sparkle; I wouldn’t know, I didn’t bother to read them.

There is no room for criticism, no attention given to the unpatriotic in the run-up & especially during such events, all such killjoys are rebuked.
An old school friend of mine posted on Facebook, something along the lines of: why are people complaining about Harry’s wedding, can’t people just let people be happy. I know I should have held my tongue, but I kindly commented that it may probably be something to do with the cost to the taxpayer. Within minutes an obviously copied & pasted list, to Harry’s defense, ready prepared for someone like me, was plastered beneath my criticism, it read (I copy & pasted it to retain it in its original Helvetica & Inherit fonts & truncated ellipsis or double period):

•Volunteered for 2 tours of Afghanistan.
•Set up Invictus games helping wounded service personal.
° Numerous unpaid charity volunteer appointments all over the world.
•Family brings in 400 million a year in private revenue that under the “ sovereign act 2011” the government keeps £360 million of.
•Family brings in £1.8 billion per year in tourism.
•Country better off by £2.1 billion a year.
Remind me how the wedding is waste of tax payers money ?
° The wedding is paid for by the Royal heritage and private funding not the tax payer and that includes her dress!
° The tax payer will pay for the public security not private security. The same way the tax payer pays for public security at football matches etc.

Dont [sic] be a zombie and believe everything you see and read on the Internet, do a little research before sharing propaganda. Like it or not, the Royal family is a British tradition and icon.
Let’s not forget that most the twats complain about spending tax payers money are the ones who sit and sign for that money every Wednesday or daft liberals who haven’t got a clue about reality.

Shared from another source..

Not wanting to play the bull at a barn door routine, without the facts to memory & knowing if I simply made the “Afghanistan was a pointless war” speech, I’d get nowhere, I kept my gob buttoned.
This whole list plays the patriot card, which is every card in the deck of a patriot. If you don’t just agree, you are suspected of hating your country. I admit, I (sort of) hate my country, because England is a joke democracy, because of our, not only tolerance, but love & admiration of our monarchy, who utilize public spectacles, with public money, to garner public support; Joe Public is expected to lap it up like a good subject. It’s an embarrassment. I sound so puerile, but it’s just so bloody obvious.

After a handful of Google searches, on just the first point, there is enough to charge Harry with wasting tax payer’s money & maybe even for getting his granny to get her chequebook out. The wedding was estimated at about 40 odd million, Lizzie could cover that with the wave of a silk-gloved hand.

Of course the above list explains (in detail?) how the cost of this lavish propaganda event, had already been covered— ah but…
What about Harry’s service in Afghanistan? Well this is quite revealing, if you’ve any moral scruples to gauge the pressures of war on the innocent, which the red-faced, gammon-like supporters of the protectors-of-the-realm, don’t have. The implication from the list is that he did something noble by serving, by protecting his country from the big bad Taliban. What people forget is that we were never attacked by the Taliban until we invaded their country, America was, yes, our ally, but never Britain.
Invading Afghanistan brought about all terror attacks in England, since. Just let that breathe a moment…This is common sense. The July 7th attacks in 2015 when 53 were killed & 700 plus injured; Lee Rigby’s murder; & of course last year, the Westminster Bridge attack, leaving 6 dead & 49 injured; The Manchester Arena bombing, leaving 22 dead & 129 injured & finally the London Bridge & Borough Market attacks, leaving 11 dead & 48 injured.
We can assume on firm grounds that Harry felt it right to go to war with a country that had never threatened us directly, a country that the main attacker of our ally, Osama bin Laden wasn’t even a citizen of. Happy Prince Harry did 2 tours after all & ended the first one only because an Australian newspaper got wind of him fighting there . I don’t know the inner mechanics of Harry’s thinking, but he seems to have quite enjoyed being one of the boys in uniform. He went back. I suppose he ain’t got much else on. Charity? Yes, that’s easy when you don’t have to make a living, when you are more symbol than cog in the machine. When the money comes to you, you never have to move in its direction.
I didn’t want to bring his mother into this, I perhaps it is bad form, but she would surely have been ashamed of him for fighting in such a fruitless war, after all the good work she did & the humanity she displayed in her short life.

Well, if the human price isn’t enough (& for many it isn’t—collateral damage; inevitable consequence of war. Just plain humanity!) if it isn’t enough that a royal, an emblem, a supposed symbol of UK identity, felt it correct to fight in a war that exacerbated, no, instigated a concerted effort to attack the innocent people of Britain, then we can tally the cost.
There isn’t any concrete, irrefutable data on this, but plenty to rouse suspicions. In 2013 the Guardian published an article, quoting a book by Frank Ledwidge called Investment in Blood, that “on a conservative estimate” it was costing 15m a day & up to that time was at 37 billion . How many royal weddings would that pay for? The war has continued since then & continues now, no doubt at roughly 10s of millions by the day. The Queen & her family don’t pay taxes, so they haven’t footed a single penny for the cost of that war. They just sent their brave prince.
So not only has Harry condoned a foolish, ugly war that brings fear to UK streets, but moreover condoned & taken part in a war that has turned swathes of the Muslim population against British citizens, Muslims who were born & raised in the UK, some even sneaking off to join ISIS. He has condoned & taken part in a war that, because of the void caused by destabilizing the political & economic structure of Afghanistan, enabled the rise of ISIS. He has condoned & taken part in a war that may have paid for everybody in Britain to have a wedding at their local church & a damn good buffet reception afterwards, to have helped stabilize the budget of the NHS, housed the homeless, put a little extra in the pay checks of working people who visit food banks every week.

But what I have failed to mention so far is that the people who defend Harry aren’t really defending Harry as such; they are really defending their interest in something that gives them a sense of identity; they are wooed by the flash & bang of a ceremony. An excuse to watch famous people swan about in fancy clothes. It exposes how reliant people are on small talk round the water cooler. Something to lighten the fatigue of Monday morning. Little do they realize how muddy the facts become? The likes of Harry & his guests have nothing, or at least little in common with Wendy & Bill, blue collar workers, scraping a living out the skid marks of society.
The list quotes 400 million in private revenue, money the royals bring in through tourism; as if tourism exists only because the queen might be sat on her throne in Buckingham Palace. According to the UNWTO Tourism Highlights of 2017, France, Spain & Italy all topped the UK for International tourist arrivals. France & Italy have no monarchy. What could the pull be? Actually culture: art, architecture, food, atmosphere? When was the last time you heard someone say they are visiting Spain to maybe catch a glimpse of King Felipe VI? Who knows the name of a monarch in Europe? A monarchy is not what people necessarily visit a country for. Were there no monarchy, then tourists would still visit London, only we wouldn’t have our laughable democracy; we would actually be a democracy.
Because of the UK monarchy, people associate British people with royalty, they have this skewed idea of what British people are like. Having lived in Korea for nearly 10 years, I have come toe expect, when people first meet me & discover I’m English, to mention royalty & gentlemen. I dislike that my identity is tied up with a bunch of potentially inter-bred, aristocratic, millionaires, who have little will to improve the quality of life for the poorest in the UK & gentlemen.

There isn’t a slid figure, only estimates, as to the royal’s wealth. “Forbes reports Queen Elizabeth has an estimated private wealth of $530 million.” So we can assume Charles & his cohort of cousins & what-not are in that ball park, making the royals worth billions of untaxable revenue. Most of their wealth comes from inherited, private lands . When the Paradise Papers were released it was found the Queen had been keeping millions in off shore accounts .

It is moreover, a myth that the royals don’t interfere with government. The Guardian, after a 10 year battle & a personal cost to the paper of 10s of thousands of pounds, revealed that Prince Charles had been writing to various people in government, including then Prime Minister Blair, on a range of topics he has no authority meddling in. Here is a sample, just one very damaging & worrying paragraph from a large cache:

Dear Prime Minister,
It was very good to see you again the other day and, as usual, I much enjoyed the opportunity to talk about a number of issues. You kindly suggested that it would be helpful if I put them in writing — despite the Freedom of Information Act!

This sort of influence goes above what a royal, other than the Queen perhaps, in her weekly meet up with the PM, is expected to push. In fact, it is generally understood by most people that the monarchy shouldn’t attempt to press a matter at all, they merely stand as an identifying symbol of Britishness, a tourist magnet; they shouldn’t be writing personal letters, in order influence policies in a direction favourable to their opinion, which is clearly what Charles does in the ominously titled Black Spider Letters.

No irony wasted in returning to the fallible list’s conclusion, to hold the mirror up (except I’ll switch the font):

“Dont be a zombie and believe everything you see and read on the Internet, do a little research before sharing propaganda. Like it or not, the Royal family is a British tradition and icon.
Let’s not forget that most the twats complain about spending tax payers money are the ones who sit and sign for that money every Wednesday or daft liberals who haven’t got a clue about reality.”

Nietzsche’s questionnaire

Nietzsche concludes book III (268-275) of The Gay Science by posing 8 questions to himself & answering them. I found, answering them as if they were philosophically incentivized Rorschach blotches, quite revealing.
I prepared this post yesterday, it was my father’s birthday, so I sent him the questions to answer, to find out something about himself; no better day to have something of yourself revealed to you on the day you were born, right? I wish more people considered such a gift for me.

Here are the questions with my answers, I encourage you to share your own answers in the comments, & make this post more interactive, which is my intention—indulge me, for Nietzsche’s sake.

What makes one heroic? Not being tempted by convenience.

In what do you believe? That the content of character improves with the impartial harvesting of ideas, for ideas sake.

What does your conscience say? First let me wake it…it sleeps so heavily…it says… just a moment…”YOU ARE HUMAN & STILL NOT ENTIRELY AWARE OF IT. WHY?

Where are your greatest dangers? In the guilt that I deserve for the correction of other people’s ongoing errors, committed blindly.

What do you love in others? That they are capable of persuading themselves unexpectedly.

Whom do you call bad? Those who are courted by a single emotion or idea & make a passion & persona out of it.

What do you consider most humane? To listen without the urge to reply.

What is the seal of liberation? To not be ashamed to be seen with your Self.

A quality insight from Mrs. Fish

A quality insight from Mrs. Fish

“Mrs Fish had concluded her story by saying that it was a peculiar but an assured fact that some human beings seemed to be ruined by their best qualities.”

This is one of the concluding paragraphs of Delmore Schwartz’s America! America!
An insightful paradox from Shenandoah Fish’s mother, a women all the details on the ins & outs of the neighbourhood’s characters. Our instinct tells us qualities enable achievement. However, we also have this underlying sense (instinctual?) of what she means.
Mrs. Fish is referring to Sidney Baumann, the son of Mr. Baumann, a self-made door to door insurance sales man & Russian immigrant, popular in his neighbourhood, trusted, a strong work ethic, thrives in groups. A man who believes in America because it equates in his mind to opportunity; he is living proof of it, in fact. It is unthinkable to a man with his history to miss out on this opportunity, even if it was originally founded on mostly hope. We admire his dutiful character. Why wouldn’t we?

His son Sidney is spoilt. He is informed, to a media standard. He thinks he is owed something. He is finicky about what he wants to do with his life. He is a snob, lazy. His mother praises this as a “sensitivity to the finer things in life.” It is due to Sidney being able to fall back on the security of his family that mean his best qualities (his good upbringing) struggle, if not outright fail, to improve him.
This is a tough paradox to solve. It is the duty of a family to raise a child well, to see their needs are met, to instruct by example, which is what the Baumann parents do. They are pious, well mannered, respected, well-off but not excessively wealthy, they understand value & worth & they want only what they think is best for their children. Regardless, these qualities are not transferred satisfactorily to their son. In fact, he is more the inverse of their best qualities.

Mrs. Fish’s insight might be re-worded as, some people are ruined by their parents’ best qualities. Of course Mrs. Fish I doubt could possibly believe such a thing, Shenandoah is after all jobless, drifting aimlessly.

Let’s say you are part of a gang of intellectuals, a variety of people who share conversation & wine in common as the group do in Schwartz’s story The World is a Wedding.
Sidney is among them. During a comparison of contemporary America & Depression era America, the subject turns to the presidential family & the natural inclination of Trump to pamper his children by whatever means, even if they are illegal & morally questionable methods that endanger his credibility, like… say… quickly passing through business-trade opportunities for his daughter before closing them to everyone else (wink wink).
You ask Sidney:
“Does Ivanka & her siblings owe their father anything for sticking his neck out?”
Sidney replies:
“We rebel against our parents because of what they expect from us. It isn’t just love, it is a debt of gratitude. We are never, & never will any human being in the future of humanity, ever be offered the choice of being born.” Somewhat cryptic, but I think we get the jist. Even if we rebel our parents owe us, we owe them nothing for their choices.
I tell him that years ago I read a silly book by Michael Talbot called The Holographic Universe. A hodge-podge of enlightened pseudo-science & human potential, LaLa land rubbish.
There was talk of reincarnation in the book, but the system outlined, hypothesized that we choose what will be reincarnated as, so that the soul might increase its knowledge. This system enabled the soul, encouraged by will, to quest after ultimate understanding.
As a thought-experiment (which is about as useful as Talbot’s book could ever be), let’s pare his outline back a little & say, before birth we are told a little (from the environs of this pre-life state outside time & space) about what to expect from life. On the sheer scale of experience we would, ignorant, be told of the polarities that are very real pressures in life; the creeping dearth of our environment, natural beauty, how difficult a definition of nature is & the polarities this creates; the easiness of loss, the fortuity of gain; love & how its power can both leave us in rapture & despair;— in essence, how easily, based on sensory inputs beyond our control, our mood may elevate, accelerate, decelerate, evaporate & all the bits n’ bobs & in-betweens.
Wouldn’t it seem sort of overwhelming? Would the necessary consequence of this information be a ubiquitous, unquestionable, yes?

Sidney nods in agreement & jumps in…

“There is no warning, no expectation. Life is bull-rushed upon us (this is where I say, ‘this is the reason babies cry on exiting the womb’, but I don’t believe that). For not falling into line with the narrative we are incorporated into, for not meeting expectation, we are labelled disappointing.
This may not be explicit (conscious), but it is implicit (sub-conscious) as our will to independence exposes. Independence is not instinctual in humans, not if we are coddled too long, if the nest is too warm & mother-bird never teaches us the value of aerodynamics & daddy the skill of the hunt. This is why Shenandoah’s father instructed my father to send me to Chicago, out into the world to stand on my own 2 feet. It failed. The safety net was firmly secure; already I had passed the formative years without being acceptably formed for the struggles ahead.”

Sidney owes his parents nothing. He is their responsibility; if he was a mistake, he is a mistake they made & therefore must take responsibility for. If you buy an expensive object, you take care of it. A child is not an expensive object; a child (being human) is an anomaly of nature, a thing without equal in nature or objects, something that is not to be brought into the world if it must meet expectations, if it must be a slave to the ideals & expectations of parents. The world changes as the child grows & their world is not the world of their parents. A child is not an insurance policy against mortality.
I read (or watched) somewhere that the American people are collateral for the exorbitant national debt (a conspiracy); regardless of whether this is a fiction or not, it is a terrible thing to consider even the remote possibility of.

In the final paragraph of Schwarz’s story Shenandoah Fish says into the mirror that
“No one truly exists in the real world because no one knows all that he is to other human beings, all that they say behind his back, and the foolishness which the future will bring him.”

Shenandoah is as insightful as his mother. His insight illustrates something of the absurdity of expectation in an indeterminate future. He also begs us to search for what we cannot see in ourselves, what we cannot know of ourselves, what others might see & how that could & should alter us & moreover, how we are, like Mr. Baumann, tied to people for a definition of who we are (consider this in the context of his profession: he is a door to door salesman).
Not having the full picture of ourselves how can we expect to know what is best for the breathing, breathless, hungry mistake (or choice) that we have made?

Right & wrong, are clear in many respects (aside from the exceptions to the rule, which I don’t like focusing on as they set a default go-to when dealing with generalizations & end up being used for one-up-man-ship in discussions) but don’t assume they’re always straightforward, there are immensely subtle, unregistered, slow burning conclusions to the actions we take.

(I’d like to add, I am not a parent, I do not believe in these ideas, they are simply ideas to be indulged, I don’t necessarily not believe them, they are not proved right or wrong, I am merely entertaining potentials.)

The end in sight…

Last night, i went with a friend to the beach.
The few squid boats that sailed out were returning early, around 8ish.
We’d found a low bench outside the perimeters of society’s light & with a bottle of soju, a box of kimchi & veggie pancake, talked our tired into something productive & admired the uncommon sight of a few printed constellations.

We somehow got onto conspiracy theories & my friend, not knowing much about them, asked “why do they believe in such things.” Being Korean she’s had little exposure to what is, to my mind, a very Western phenomenon.

i outlined (roughly) Foucault’s power-knowledge: holding & creating the codes & keys to knowledge; there is no power without knowledge.
But, what is the control conspiracy theorists have? It is that they know something important, have tirelessly awakened to something we don’t understand, or more accurately can’t see as it is “hidden in plain sight”. They do what they do for our benefit, turning them into a conduit of truth— they’re on a moral track; fulfilling a duty to the survival of open, free society.

Going off the subject it dawned on me how erroneous we are to assume problems, with such wide reaching, immense scales can have any end in sight.

Let’s say for instance that every system of governance, politics, philosophy, religion,ideology is in itself a timeline, plotted, deterministically, in progress, towards a fateful moment in the lives of the collective that follow it & by extension (through survival of the fittest) compelling everyone else to fall in line to this track, seeing the benefit (as the adherent or faithful would see it).

Isn’t this ridiculous? It brings into sharp focus all our reasons behind why we cherish ideas, why they become personal, character shaping.
i’d say a good many people believe that what is an all encompassing process for them, seeing as, in reality, it exits in tandem with other processes, means it is unlikely there is a singular destiny. Numerous processes, always in motion together, has been the vital matter of man. Ideologies conflict with ideologies.

Our history, our ideas, are not necessarily a process of trial & error to eventually discover suitable methods for going forward to some fateful day when everything is corrected to a set of tracked demarcations. We have no destiny.
Things happened, but not for a reason.

Even peace is an ideology. There will never be peace. Never. Nor will there be a day where evil triumphs & nothing but war fills the world.
The liberal, the conservative, republican or democratic agenda will never win over an entire population. The likes of dystopian fiction will never be realized in their total form.
i’ll go ahead & wager the same for ecological issues, the world won’t end with a bang or whimper, it’ll hobble on, inconceivable moments of change may occur, but what ever volume of human content stubbornly rises against the back hand of its own stupidity, will adapt & humankind will plod on, forgetting, then becoming the mythopoeic madmen we all are, at heart & do best with our easy hearsay.

What does it mean to realize this?
For me, this is not about persuading anyone. This will not enlighten you.
i once believed, years ago, that the logical end (all evil would need to play out for this to happen) of humanity’s crises, was to just end up fully, organically understanding good; this was the only method of living that made sense. There is no waste in good, except the loss of bad.
Evil, corruption, always sacrifice something, create hardships & pain, which is wasted energy.
If there is peace & prosperity, would we really be more human by denying our coarser, more violent natures? i don’t know if this is cogent or an easy thing for good people to accept, i doubt it.
i know for me, this realization of no end in sight, emancipates me from the track of that end.
i can, with George Saunders, be free to just like everything; or not so much like, as accept it being outside my influence yet remaining within my control; if only the control is an alteration of the context of my capacity to influence. This comes frightfully close to sounding like ignorance of the difference between right & wrong, but in reality is it is a realization of limits.

Would i end world hunger, the deaths of children, the slavery of teenage girls if it meant i had to kill a single man, even a room full of evil men with the click of a lever? Sure. Sorry fellas, you’re for the chop.
However, that is a foolish thought experiment & life just isn’t that simple. The exception to the rule seldom becomes the rule.

Why this public act initiates me into some personal collusion with myself, i don’t know, it feels necessary somehow; sort of like the symbolic act of cutting the Gordian knot.
i think Wallace Stevens’ final line from his poem Parochial Theme “Piece the world together, boys, but not with your hands.” sums up what i am trying to say here. To build something with your hands means an end in sight, the mental world is always going to get revised & emotions are not built with your hands.
Oddly, i’ve never been happier with chaos. The next step is deciding what that means— i suspect, it doesn’t mean anything other than i am finally human.

Drawing the line on the “originals of faith”

Drawing the line on the “originals of faith”

i recall mentioning somewhere in my previous essay, influenced in large part on Browning’s salacious (raunchy) Red Cotton Night Cap Country or Turf and Towers, that there were a number of topics, or more accurately, ideas, which the poem raised, for me. These ideas are more accurately, exercises in strong misprision. Here’s another (not about sex or Atheism though).

There is, in part III of the poem, a chunk of verse, in which Browning makes a sort of false start, he makes as if to go “into the originals of faith…as apprehended by mankind…” but which, if tackled “would too distract, too desperately foil inquirer.” Rather than express his reasons directly, Browning opts for a series of rhetorical questions, a common tactic of Browning’s; seldom a poet who chose the exoteric option. It’s the sensible option however, taking the long, elliptical way round the problem: faith is no easy topic, especially its origins, after all.
As i see it, Browning’s option to take the long way round might reveal more about the originals than we may suspect. For though he tells us in the opening lines

Now into the originals of faith,
Yours, mine, Miranda’s, no inquiry here!

it seems to me that Browning is, with this rhetorical circumscription, illustrating that this is a literary matter, a strategy.

The first question he asks is:

……………………..How may analyst reduce
Quantities to exact their opposites,
Value to zero, then bring zero back
To value of supreme preponderance?

This is complicated; i’ve been scratching my head over many a glass of soju with this one. It seems to me a sort of inversion that still manages to be what it was originally, an inversion that toggles 2 scales, remaining both. This appears counterintuitive, but Tim Morton may provide us with an example.
Morton explains in an interview with Verso books (which i highly recommend, so here’s the link) that the maxim “the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts” never sat quite right with him, but that, instead “the whole is always less than the sum of its parts” is better, more exacting. Using a fresh example, we can reveal it to be more inclusive of everything than when everything is “always greater”.
If we take the hand as our example & say the hand is greater than the sum of its parts, then we give precedence to the hand over what it actually does, how it is composed, its evolution; we have stationed its objective unity, above the importance of its form & function, which takes a step closer to subjectivity (if additional incentive is required). Once the hand is less than the sum of its parts we interrogate what those parts are: the joints, muscles, veins & arteries, the ability to grip, touch, perform skills, eat, wash, learn, the everyday interaction it enables us to have with objects. The list could go on. In fact, we get a new list of wholes with which we might dismantle into more parts, themselves wholes.
Lessening the whole we strategically maneuver ourselves into a better vantage point from which to appreciate the details of a thing, the wider environment & ultimately the composition of reality. Try this with anything.
So there is this oscillation back & forth between the micro & macro, toggling two scales: bringing “value to zero” then “zero back to value of supreme preponderance” although, with our example, the “supreme preponderance” will be the renewed sense of importance that the dismantling of wholes into parts has for us. It becomes a process whereby wholes are continually dismantled, creating for us an active partnership with objects & how we see them.

This, if we go back to somewhere near the beginning of the poem, relates to something Browning writes: “‘Heaven’ saith the sage ‘is with us, here inside / Each man’”.
Heaven is a macro-concept, a vast, other realm— spiritually proportional to our best guesses, but if it is here in us, it still retains those properties, & the slightness of our corporeal form is still as it is, except the idea of Heaven here, conflates man with the abstract, thus reducing it, while expanding man. The value of zero toggles again.

The next question is “How substitute thing meant for thing expressed?”
i’d answer this with, synecdoche (aside: WordPress spell check is very bad, it doesn’t recognize synecdoche & would have it changed to Indochinese— perhaps WordPress is telling me that everything in this essay is nonsense.), metonym— figurative language in general.
We are slap bang in the territory of the above question, but we have moved from value to motive. Kenneth Burke in A Grammar of Motives (which i don’t have a copy of here in Korea, so have had, to my shame, pull from Wikipedia) defines synecdoche as

“part of the whole, whole for the part, container for the contained, sign for the thing signified, material for the thing made…cause for effect, effect for the cause, genus for the species, species for the genus.”

Figurative language is useful, if we know how to use it for our benefit. For those uninitiated in the language or jargon of a topic, analogy is a door in. The Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli spoke about the importance of analogy in his profession recently in a Guardian interview. i pulled a brilliant quote from that interview:

“In the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between ’cause’ and ‘effect’.”

Which again might have something to do with the togglability (my own shoddy neologism) of scales; for the context i have distinguished here.
It moreover foments emotional change. Take the change in emotional register of ‘the police’ & ‘the boys in blue.” As ‘the police’ the image is one of authority, obdurately bureaucratic; but as ‘the boys in blue’ there is something approachable, trustworthy, on-our-side about it. The authority is defused & there is something compatible with welfare.

Browning substitutes direct confrontation of the “originals of faith” problem & in doing so devises a set of questions that bring literary strategies to the fore. Might Browning (perhaps against his own inclination) be hinting that the “originals of faith” were literary inventions, a literature, at once symbolic & moralizing? An illustration of our organic susceptibility to art?

Browning offers a metaphor: “the wire thread through that fluffy silk men call their rope.”
The wire gives structure, strength & durability, it is unseen, of zero value to the eye, but without it there is no rope. The rope for me, works in tandem with Browning’s use of the word meridian in the lines

Since one meridian suits the faulty lungs
Another bids the sluggish liver work.

The association isn’t a strong one, but both rope & meridian put me in mind of lines. At the opening of Browning’s poem Prince Hohenstiel Schwangau The Saviour of Society Hohenstiel says

………………………………………………..…I’m rested now
Therefore want work; and spy no better work
For eye and hand and mind that guides them both,
During this instant, than to draw my pen
From blot one—thus—up, up to blot two—thus—
Which I at last reach, thus, and here’s my line
Five inches long and tolerably straight. (my italics)

The line is of immense importance, you will struggle to complete a whole without it, it is the most fundamental part of most (if not all) works of art, all structures, the first mark made in architectural plans & in building or carpentry; without it what is a poem or novel, a philosophy, even an equation. It is a reason why Robert Okaji’s line from his poem, One

I am Brahman
the straight line, the upright being

is so moving; it is the foundational aspect of the line, basic yet encompassed by unlimited potential— single yet composed of a multiplicity of words, which in themselves are vested with the power of arrangement & rearrangement, as Brahman is not a single entity but should be considered as an amalgam of all things under a single title; we can takes ourselves back to Morton’s flipped maxim.
Browning could be hinting that rather than worry & discombobulate ourselves with worrying about the origins of faith, we might be better considering the origins of art & literature: the simple line.

The line is a compositional element. George Santayana explains in The Sense of Beauty (a veritable bible of aesthetics):

“It is found where sensible elements by themselves indifferent, are so united as to please in combination. There is something unexpected in this phenomenon, so much so that those who cannot conceive its explanation often reassure themselves by denying its existence.”

Santayana then illustrates to those who cannot conceive with 4 longer & 6 shorter lines, seemingly indifferent to artifice. With these 10 lines he shows how 3 different faces in profile can be created: one grumpy, one handsome & indifferent & one grinning deviously. The differences are clearly evident, no ambiguity. The line triumphs in expression.

Burke proves a suitable reference again— for concluding. In his short essay Literature as Equipment for Living from his book The Philosophy of Literary Form (which i do have to hand) we find a strategy for the utilization of literature in the pursuit of welfare. i like to think that, if Browning had read Burke, he’d have said something to the effect of “that’s bloody bang on the mark that is kiddo, what a clever fellow you are, let me buy you a pint.”
Burke zeros in on the proverb (a single line) & thinks “why not extend such analysis of proverbs to encompass the whole field of literature.” It is no wonder this affected a relation to Browning for me— there is that word analysis, where Browning has a hypothetical analyst wonder about zero values & their preponderance.
Burke goes on the say

“could the most complex and sophisticated works of art legitimately be considered as proverbs writ large?”

Yes, they may very well. Why not let the line speak for the whole while you’re at it.
i think Burke gives us pause here to connect the dots i am trying to lay down: that the micro can, in place of the macro, represent it in some measure, & because it can be simmered down it can be brought into daily usage. Furthermore, with the handheld version of the behemoth, the manageability enables an active participation with its potential, because analysis is easily accomplished; the line is self-evident, engageable.

“The point of issue is not to find categories that “place” the proverbs once and for all. What I want is categories that suggest their active nature. Here is no “realism for its own sake.” Here is realism for promise, admonition, solace, vengeance, foretelling, instruction, charting, all for the direct bearing that such acts have upon matters of welfare.”

(We could say a lot about this list but i am aiming to stay under 2000 words.)

Here Burke provides how he envisions the active “place” of the proverb working in this context of the microcosm of great art & literature. Essentially, Burke seems to want to make literature available to people (same reason he had quarrels with Marxist terminology), because of how it can affect welfare as it becomes more available. i’d argue this is what Browning is considering when he decides to skirt the “originals of faith” topic.
Avoiding this, focusing on the line, man avoids “struggling with uncongenial earth and sky” & instead

…tread[s] the surface of the globe,
Since one meridian suits the faulty lungs,
Another bids the sluggish liver work.

In other words, our newly discovered simplicity enables corrective pairing. i take it to be self-evident how valuable this is. i don’t feel it necessary to go into it at length but leave the reader to go into this themselves or in the comments section.

Overall, i class Browning’s rhetorical questioning as a strategy for overcoming. i could be argued that Browning is advising his reader on a tactic for tackling his own works, which are mighty & complex, perhaps another time.

The humble line is available to everyone. We can invert it. It can play against its own strengths. We can build upon it confidently. We can work around it. It is the foundation. The baby steps to greatness. A unit in the welfare of individuals & even communities.

Take your time with it, invest in it, with it; never take it for granted— you just might discover how it affects you, & it’ll probably be in ways you never imagined.


(Remember, what follows is opinion, as always in these essays, it is not an incontestable truth.)


The following passage is from Robert Browning’s Red Cotton Night Cap Country or Turf & Towers:

Have you, the travelled lady, found yourself
Inside a ruin, fane or bath or cirque,
Renowned in story, dear through youthful dream?
If not,—imagination serves as well.
Try fancy-land, go back a thousand years,
Or forward, half the number, and confront
Some work of art gnawn hollow by Time’s tooth,
Hellenic temple, Roman theatre,
Gothic cathedral, Gallic Tuilleries,
But ruined, one and whichsoe’er you like.
Obstructions choke what still remains intact,
Yet proffer change that’s picturesque in them;
Since little life begins where great life ends,
And vegetation soon amalgamates,
Smooths novel shape from out the shapeless old,
Till broken column, battered cornice block
The centre with a bulk half weeds and flowers,
Half relics you devoutly recognize.
Devoutly recognizing,—hark, a voice
Not to be disregarded! “Man worked here
Once on a time; here needs again to work;
Ruins obstruct, which man must remedy.”
Would you demur “let time fulfil his task,
And, till the scythe-sweep find no obstacle
Let man be patient?”

In short Browning is saying, the ruin obstructs the progress of time, & in consequence, life; the work of man— the shell-of-what-was worked for prior generations & it is in its nature to continue to be of use. In its disused state, “picturesque” yes, but as he says “little life begins where great life ends.”
Browning’s protagonist Monsieur Leonce Miranda, renovates an old priory inherited from his father, called Clairvaux. Rather than live in a comfortable Paris apartment on the Place Vendome, Monsieur Miranda opts to renovate the ruin & house his love Clara de Millefleur there.
There are scenes in which Monsieur Miranda ascends the tower & surveys the land; the tower at Clairvaux becomes a metaphor of self-mastery, of working on oneself, of noting the inner mechanics of self, as if the labour expended on the task compensated for the stain of sin.
The tribulations of Monsieur Miranda make the renovation of a priory ironic; what was Browning saying about religion, owing that Monsieur Miranda’s efforts fail? Browning has some interesting speculations in religious matters, which i may go into in another post.
(Aside: Though the poem is by no means one of Browning’s most popular & can prove a difficult read, it is worth the effort for his diverse, unexpected speculations & the strength & ease of his line. Moreover it is an interesting approach to a long poem, being a conversation between Browning & his friend Anne Thackeray. The critic C.H.Herford called the style of the poem “special versified correspondence”. Browning borrows some of the journalist’s methods in the telling of this story. Browning is an overlooked Victorian in my opinion, worthy of more devotion, with a much more interesting vocabulary than say, Tennyson, who is a lesser poet.)

Why leave a ruin to the ravages of time? i can only speak for England (but i’d hazard to say the same concerns most cultures): we do it because we suppose in the ruin is relic & relic is a matter of identity, it connects us with an authenticity, a chapter of our history that we take pride in, that we amalgamate together to compose our cultural identity. Why we venerate periods of time few really understand, & even with such scant understanding, find indomitable commonality, becomes stranger to me as i get older— nationalism is built on such monuments. Why we have made family fun out of dungeons is very peculiar. It discombobulates to think the largest exodus from a war torn nation, since WWII is taking place across the continent of Europe, & idle landmarks are preserved for passive Sunday outings & the country is deemed full.
England is full of ruins. i remember some outrage about Tesco (a supermarket chain) renovating an old church & people were saying how disrespectful it was, yet they don’t care when the chain-pub Wetherspoon’s turns a stone masons or cinema, or any other 2nd grade listed building, into a pub. The church was idle, a business moved in, employed people, provided a service to a local community, made a use out of it: “vegetation soon amalgamates.”

Roger Scruton made a documentary some years ago called Why Beauty Matters, for the BBC. His concern, that “we are losing beauty, and there is a danger that with it, we will lose the meaning of life.” because, he continues, “[beauty] is not just a subjective thing, but a universal need of human beings.”
i don’t entirely agree with Scruton. He relies heavily on a spiritual dimension that establishes the talent & vision in the artist, suggesting that in tandem with talent, there is an element beyond the will of the artist.
He oscillates between examples of modern ugliness, starting with Duchamp’s urinal, & what tend to be irrefutable examples of high art, often Renaissance works that people don’t usual have a leg to stand on when criticizing, part-of-the-canon art; such as Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, which, if i am honest, i think a horrible painting. When he says things like true art (& beauty) “show the real in the light of the ideal” he just shoots himself in the foot. i don’t see how this isn’t subjective, which he says true art isn’t, it is revelation & realization of a universal, irrefragable truth expressed through the aesthetic.
What is the outcome of such a upholding? Does art not fail to change in response to the ideas that we fall prey to?
In his hometown of Reading, Scruton tours abandoned offices & a bus station built in the 60s, on the premise of Louis Sullivan’s edict “form follows function”. The buildings are plastered in graffiti, a wrecked eye sore. “No one wants to be in them” he explains; they are ugly. However, he takes us to a relic of the past, an old forge turned café, lovingly restored, full of people. You get the picture.
i see much the same in Jeju where i live. The old native houses sell without struggle & people, though they take a great deal of hard work to restore, put the effort & capital into the endeavor. However, we might contest, that our beauty is informed by what we are told is beautiful & that demolished, disused buildings, whatever their history, don’t have to remain so, if we only alter our perception of what is generally regarded as beautiful. Is a structure aesthetically valuable because of its history & decoration, or can the use it is put to, the cause it works for, not be the object of its beauty? Surely a worthy endeavor with enough effort can elbow an aesthetic leaning into the renovation? If a ruin can be renovated then surely an ugly factory built under Sullivan’s tutelage can be beautiful in its usefulness?
The historical landmarks Browning asks his friend Anne to picture, are not languishing unwonted due to ugliness, they need only reformatting for a new purpose, they need less attention & could have maximum effect. Imagine Buckingham Palace, rather than packed with paying selfie obsessed tourists, full of refugee families. Instead of Saint Paul’s Cathedral serving up the diatribe of Christianity, imagine if it housed the homeless on London’s streets; same goes for the numerous cathedrals across the whole of Europe. Idealism, yes; but this is what Scruton thinks high art does to us.
Do we really have the space available in this overpopulated world, to be as finicky as Scruton is saying our sense of the aesthetic is? i am not challenging beauty’s importance, but that it isn’t a matter of what Scruton determines is important based on art that is canonized as high art by an elite. i don’t particularly wish to defend Duchamp or Damien Hirst, why do i need to— i certainly don’t think Scruton sees the whole picture though.

Interestingly, a short sub chapter of George Santayana’s The Sense of Beauty is titled The Influence of the Passion of Love. In this chapter Santayana expresses something deeply profound that “If any one were desirous to produce a being with a great susceptibility to beauty, he could not invent an instrument better designed for that object than sex.”
But sex is not constricted to the act of copulation, the effect of our desire for it is the same effect that instigates our sense of beauty for things or devotions, it becomes a blanket term: “If the stimulus does not appear as a definite image [a lover], the values evoked are dispersed over the world, and we are said to have become lovers of nature, and to have discovered the beauty and meaning of things.” Including art.
Returning to Scruton’s question of why beauty matters? We have an answer. Beauty endows things with a sort of “sexual passion” (as Santayana puts it) thus we are attracted to them & give them value. This is probably just Plato’s Eros termed differently; i think Santayana goes into more depth though.
It may be a monstrous thing to say & i may risk making myself very unpopular, but beautiful people, models or actors & the like have an advantage over others when they walk into a room, they are responded to with our gaze, a mark of value that jumps ahead of any knowledge of who the person is— don’t judge a book by its cover we say. We don’t aim to but sometimes we slip up with the parapraxes of our attentions.
I have always thought it a genius move on nature’s part to make the infants of any species, cute. What is cuteness if not a sort of evolutionary reaction to the possibility of neglect or loss, designed to elicit the cooperation of the environment; to get people to care for you, educate, feed etc? How many times do we see in a film, someone who hates kids take the kid under their guardianship?

i always like to get something about how the poet fits into this & we do of course. We poets & writer-types are all mining each other in some way. i acquiesce to the charge, it is probably called learning.
i’ll read a poem, it jolts something in me enough to want to make use of it; there is a theme or subject the poet raises & i think to myself “i like that, it’d fit snugly in something i’ve been working on, but i could make it more in my aesthetic register.” The thing extracted feels so connected with something we would say but never got around to thinking yet, it feels natural to borrow it for our own circumstance. No compunction necessary.
What would be the opposite of this? A sort of inverted aesthetic, where the poem is so terrible we ache to set the balance straight. Would this reaction still begin from an aesthetic point? Does the bad aesthetic of a crap poem teach us how not to write a poem & in the negative influence retain some aesthetic if only indirectly?
Eliot as we know was a great borrower, the greatest i’d say. His borrowing was a sort of renovation of the towers of the past, giving them a lick of paint & some new curtains.
i don’t think it necessary to borrow from that towering past, i’ll take what i can learn from it, then alter that new information. This is more interesting & cogent, not spraying graffiti over it, more noting it & writing what it left in the gaps, which is pretty much everything it isn’t & could never be; in that way it doesn’t only get re-contextualized it gets a new format too, enough so it wouldn’t recognize itself. My sense of its beauty is in the “sexual passion” for it, masked as my attention, my respect to still let it take me under its wing, even if the influence ends in challenge. It is partly our challenge of the past that enables us to keep our feet firmly in the happenings of the present.

Next time you’re out at an art gallery or buying pottery in an antiques shop, reading a poem or even about to eat a cream cake, i hope your hounded by the feeling of a “sexual passion” for the object; however, remember it may not be an idea, but mechanism— the trigger of beauty.

Our HD nature

(There are probably a lot more i could have talked about, some of it left out purposely, some not. i want these piece to be, ideally, between 500-1000 words, i failed this time, but i am trying. i want them to be diving off points for extended dialogue with those interested. It is odd though that as these ideas for think-pieces arise, a whole synchronicity of material unfolds & tidally moves toward me, making it hard to ignore & so the pieces expand.)

Our HD nature

There was not long ago (i think it is still played sometimes) an advertisement on TV, here in Korea (& perhaps elsewhere; maybe you know it) for a new fandangled HD-flat-curved-screen-Oled-TV.
Much to my embarrassment, i don’t recall if it was Samsung or LG, the model or any of that stuff i neither need, watch nor have the money to buy. i tried to search Youtube so you could watch the advertisement & i could prove its existence, but i failed so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
What interests me, is how the company tacitly express a lot about the relationship between nature (or what Tim Morton would term the symbiotic-real, which i’m quite fond of) & man (or maybe culture might be a better dichotomy)— perhaps not even tacitly, as the indelible aplomb of marketing attempts to sell the product by illuminating the crossing triumph of man’s organic threshold with technology.
The advertisement’s music is a piece i recognize, on the tip of my tongue, but for the life of me… It is rooted in African tribal chants & drums, it has an epic, authentic sweep to it, but not quite, there is something just slightly off about the authenticity.
This music plays in tandem with wide vistas of various terrains: the dorsal fins of sand dunes, rain-forests dripping in beads of rain just after rainfall & verdant valleys goose-stepping into snow-capped mountain ranges. Among these grand landscapes, a solitary figure gives the spaciousness depth, complementing the mass of saturated colours & naturalness: a Masai (i think) warrior searching distances; a Native American on horseback riding away from us; a Peruvian profoundly opening their eyes (i made this one up)— people whose authenticity means they’d never be able to afford such a technical feat as a convex TV; they’d have nowhere to plug it in for a start.
From the comfort of suburbia, white, rich people, with houses seemingly made of nothing but glass which opens out onto a curated nature— even those cooped up in expensive apartments— taste authenticity, they become endowed through their attention of authenticity, more authentic themselves, through a sympathetic effort, so long as they own this TV. Dressed in their purified white linen & cashmere, matching their mother of pearl teeth, they are an embodiment of betterment through symbiosis with authenticity.
Woven in this woof of superficial authenticity, is a leopard in its natural environment, which walks across the façade of the TV inexplicably planted there, paying no mind to it, until it flicks on suddenly with an image of a leopard almost identical, if not the same leopard, causing the leopard to jet out a terrified, defensive roar.
The TV is set into the natural environment, a picture of the environment on its screen, camouflaging it, symbiotic in its relation; an inevitable outcome, man’s emergence from the organic, via his technological triumph; boasting a clarity the eye can see but not replicate itself. There are no borders on the TV, suggesting no borders with nature (the symbiotic-real), freed from the demarcations of technology, yet containing nature, creating new demarcations, or rather toppling old barriers, long overdue a kicking. We can have it all.
But it isn’t symbiotic with nature, nor is it the symbiotic real realized in an object that entertains & informs. The TV’s commercial & the TV itself, tacitly boasts the besting of nature, because it functions, through its crystal-pristine-pixels, its HD-fat-saturation, to be an improvement on the quality of what the eye perceives. This damages our expectation of what reality delivers, it is a divorce from what the eye perceives; it is like arriving on that beach in Bali you saw in the tour guide, or on that travel blog & finding the susurrus waves scrumming beer cans & condoms.
The tech is not imitating nature, it is taunting nature to catch up with it, else risk obsolescence.
But we are, vicariously, the eyes for & of nature: nature substitutes a consciousness that is aware of itself (for itself) & allows us to maintain exclusivity of that consciousness & with this, as we stack our limits for advancement, have gotten around to creating what the eye cannot itself do. This is a form of evolution, i suppose. If we cannot improve the function of the corporeal, let tech do it; even in the minor annex of entertainment. The microscope enables us to peer into the microscopic as the telescope does the opposite. Tools are one thing, entertainment is quite another. Are these companies telling us they can sell us a reality realer than reality because we don’t have the technology, in the flesh, to see as well as their technology can?
That is what i am saying.
It is the technological boast of an advancement, missing the mark because, the purpose, the selling point—that the TV can give us an accurate, if not better appreciation of our environment through greater pictorial clarity— is, simultaneously, deriding the environment & even our tools of perception (our eyes) as inferior compared to the product’s achievements. A result of this is that our expectations can never match what the TV is alerting us to. The TV is representative of a significant amplification of authenticity, yet in the process it devalues, through excess, the authentic. It has shit where we sleep.
We see something similar in tourism. Foreigners want to escape to an ideal of paradise they have resolved themselves to, erroneously, from what they are told constitutes a paradise, which is in fact not the actuality. However, the reality is sustainable so long as the illusion, the amplification, persists. But if one understands the realities of a paradise: the excesses that strain the local populace, access to water being one; the buildup of unrecycled waste, due to the stretching of a paradise’s limits in answering the call of foreign desires; the lack of prospects for locals other than crap jobs in the tourist industry; the exorbitant increases in rent & land costs, owing to hoteliers with huge capital moving in, meaning locals can’t afford to live comfortably, having to secure second jobs to make ends meet; sometimes, a large percentage of facilities are tailored for tourism, locals uncomfortable or simply seeking a rest from the touristic, find it difficult to do so— i think i read that there was only one cinema in Venice.
Paradise under these considerations, becomes more problematic & less appealing.
What i can’t resolve is, if an artist or poet is guilty of the same mistake, or if this even is a mistake or simply imminent? i don’t know if i want to be judgmental & risk hypocrisy. i am being deliberately ambivalent as to how i feel about all this.
In painting a landscape or depicting it in language, there is distortion, there is a stylistic element brought in to form the content of the work, to elevate the thing in itself to artistic expectations.
If we were to be simply, natural, organic entities, existing without attachments, in our environment, we’d find less usage for technique or technology. Yes, it exists, it is of use, it is even essential, but has fundamentally practical necessities. It is not abundance but need that the tool or the artifice provides for the integrated, practical human. The artist in this system would observe & leave it at that, it would be enough, wouldn’t it?
Well, probably not. Because to see is to test the instinct to reproduce. The artist isn’t just content with mimicry, it is the skill that it takes. There is always a certain egotism between the artist & their subject.
So what of the cave paintings found across the globe? Is the authenticity in the primitivism of the style? Were their reasons any different from our own? Was there egotism in their endeavor, a quest for a transference of mortality into immortality, or just an attempt to quell boredom? As we come closer to more absolute correction of the thing itself through style, do we actually inch further away from accuracy because we are over-compensating, in an ego tousle with the organic, as with the exorbitant saturation of TVs & digital cameras?
The poet is under similar pressures. The word in itself is a poor replication of the thing it represents. Take any word & line it up with its object or subject & it has little substance without the a priori knowledge that comes with knowing the semiotics of the language the word comes from. If i write the word 사랑 & ask you to, from the physicality of it, determine its meaning, it would be but a guess, unless you read Korean & have a basic vocabulary set. This word is an emotion we all know, all struggle to interpret or rather, interpret based on the context of our experiences— it is the word love. Yet we receive it as an ambiguous symbol because we are ill informed by the physicality of it in space.
But none of this matters: humanity is the great anomaly from the offset. As soon as we attempted the replication of that which we witnessed, we parted ways from nature, in some sense, because it became a form of domination over our environment; a form of taking the environment with us where we move & reproducing it through memory into art.
Any imbalance has been countered by the very act of replication. In our replication, in the evolution of representation, we remain tethered in some way to our origin, to that which delivers us from starvation & gives life meaning. Just as our dreams, when we give them our attention, are founded on very old symbols & stories, so our attention to representation through art & tech & whatsoever, is an attempt to maintain a bond with something inching further away in actuality, but maintaining a hold subjectively.
We cannot escape the hold the ecosystem has on us, because, taken for granted or not, we know sustenance comes of the soil, all the ignorance coalesced into its most disastrous form, cannot separate use from this truth; it is pushed deep down at an instinctual level, where the will cannot touch it.
i imagine a distant, dystopian future, where there is no longer a nature, or rather, it is so removed from the city it is unknown to its denizens who have become nigh digitized. Children, inexplicably, doodle extinct animals & plants, even flowers they’ve never seen on the new iPad & show them to their dumbfounded parents who remember something & call them beautiful.