Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011.12.21 — Some fushigi* — Shameless, Cabinetry and Philip K. Dick's Stigmata and Adjustment

Each of the *fushigi in this blog began so small that I didn't blog them at the time of their occurrence. Rather, I noted them with pen and paper and waited to see if enough small one's warranted an amalgamated blog. And, after the third one linked to an event today, here they are.

The first one began on the morning of December 12. I was doing something I have never done before, nor ever really expected to do. (And hope not to do again.) My wife decided she wanted to have some cabinets installed in our laundry room. She's only recently begun to web surf and so after a struggle to find cabinetry places on the web using Google she asked me to see what I could find.
So there I was, Googling for cabinets instead of doing the morning chores I had been earlier assigned to do. This search turned out to be an oddly difficult web quest and relatively boring. And it took far far longer than I'd wanted and put my start to the day behind.

That evening I experienced the smallest of small fushigis after I turned on the TV to watch something that had yet to start. I flipped around the stations to kill the few minutes and stumbled into an episode of the Showtime series (being broadcast on HBO-Canada)
Shameless. This show had been suggested to me by BY, one of the TV-watchers at work when it started in January this year. Thus I came to pause on it to give it a quick look. The episode was about halfway through when I began to watch and saw almost immediately the character Frank Gallagher, played by William H. Macy, working at a
cabinet manufacturing plant. Serious? When was the last time you saw someone on TV working in a cabinet manufacturing factory?

The next one started five days later, when I wrote some Haiku-like things as part of a Haiku game-chain in the WSSCC group in the Goodreads word lovers' social networking site. This is what I wrote as my continuation of M's theme about how a gravesite became a hangout for drunks and harlots. (M's pair of Haiku have an extremely clever play on words.) On the 17th I wrote the following doggerel:
A harlot, one day,
saw fresh blood on the grave stone
seeping from two cracks.

She screamed in delight
for she knew this smoker's grave
was now stigmata

and that unlike pee
would de-stigmatize their squat
to bring Facebook fame.

She took a picture
of the miracle in stone.
So a Saint was made.
The Stigmatization of St. Francis
Certainly not great poetry! But fun. I have no idea why 'stigmata' came into my head for this, but once there I wanted to play with it.

Today I visited Renaissance Books and was greeted by J with a big smile.

'I have a Christmas surprise for you,' he said to me. 'Follow me.'

He led me into the basement and then into a 'staff only' section. He reached up to the top shelf and voilà, there were Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman's two volume The Political Economy of Human Rights. This was very exciting to me, as my Chomsky collection is now big enough that stumbling into new-to-me-books by him is getting harder and harder to do. Well, this find completed my set, as I already had volume I but not volume II.

But that isn't the fushigi, but is what lead to it. On top of the book shelf, just to the left of the Chomsky volumes, were three Sci-Fi paperbacks by Philip K. Dick. What first struck me funny about that is that I had watched a movie two days ago, more or less by accident, called The Adjustment Bureau with Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. It is an adaptation of the Dick short story The Adjustment Team that I was not familiar with so that when I turned it on I had no idea what the movie was
about beyond the cryptic cable TV description. It wasn't until the closing credits that I saw it having been inspired by the Dick story and had that feeling of 'Of course that was! It felt like a PKD story!'

So, that, and the fact that as a teen I loved PKD, made these books stand out, initially. Well, because of the movie and my misspent youth, I asked J if I could look at these. He commented that PKD was becoming really popular lately, again, and that he had set these aside to take them upstairs. 'These are PBOs,' he said. 'Paperback originals, and so are quite expensive.' They looked like old acid paper degraded paperbacks to me, but he commented that they were worth about twenty to thirty dollars each.
But the one that stood out to me, and which I was willing to buy, was The 3
Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

What a convoluted fushigi! J commented that he thought he had a non-PBO copy of Stigmata, which it turns out he did. So I bought it.

And now I will toss in for bad measure two of the oddest of the odd things. I am quite sure they do not even qualify as near fushigi, but I'll throw them in anyway. Well, the first is an obvious one, but was the last thing that came to mind. And that is that the concept of 'The Adjustment Bureau' provides an explanation for the existence of fushigi! (The mind is a funny thing that I didn't even think of that while watching the movie!)

And the second one also relates to some doggerel I wrote, called 'Rock Sun Paint,' for a photographic poetry prompt-blog called Houseboat—photo #5. (I was invited to join this blog via one of the Goodreads groups with which I am a member.) The poems that were created by the other participants are excellent! I highly recommend this blog if you enjoy poetry and photography. Anyway, here's what I wrote:
Rock Sun Paint

I can see the stone walls are old,
despite efforts to paint them
with the saturated youthfulness
of blue, white and ochre.

In the blink of an eye
nature will chip this façade.
The kiss of colour will be etched away
under the brutal barrage
of the sun's stone-cracking light,
which reveals itself in harsh shadows
and the brilliance of blue,
white and ochre.

Faded stone cobbles
wind through doorways and spaces,
unpainted, unmasked, tired.
Their purpose is obscured
by an inevitability denied
by the foolish who walk
this path with bared heads,
as if doing so could mock
as myth the diurnal sun.

I tap my watch, what time is it?
The battery is dead, is what I think.
I cannot know the truth,
that its silica-inspired movement,
abashed by this painted timelessness,
simply stopped, unmasked
by blue, white and ochre.
Before this poem made it to publication it went through a vigorous critique/revision process, during which one of the members wondered at what I meant by 'with bared heads.' I explained "As to 'bared' head … it is [a] metaphor for thinking the head (mind) has the power to ignore nature's energy." Well, in a kind of fushigi irony, the 'adjustment agents' (aka angels) of 'The Adjustment Bureau' require hats in order to allow them access to warping space/time and allow them to move god-like through the world. I find that reversal brings a smile to my face.

After posting this — and I mean immediately after posting this, I turned away from the computer to watch some TV. The movie station was running a movie called Shelter with Julianne Moore. No sooner had I sat down than a man, with multiple-personalities, I think, is being questioned about a male body found in his home that had had a stylized cross cut into his back. Stigmata, of sorts?

Addendum #2
Okay, life is TOO strange. On another TV-station tonight, Showcase, the movie Minority Report with Tom Cruise is being broadcast. 'Minority Report' is, of course, a movie adaptation of the PKD short story The Minority Report.

Friday, December 16, 2011

2011.12.16 — Kristy-Anne (Kris) Boyd: May 21, 1964 - December 3, 2011

The world is a strange place.
Wednesday morning came, as Wednesday's always do. I wake bleary in head and eye, but once I was mobile my wife commented that Kris's service was this afternoon, and so I needed to get my ass in gear. So I sped around doing unexpected morning shopping chores, but while doing them it came to me, unbidden and unexpectedly, that I needed to speak at Kris's celebration of life service. I hadn't seen her in a couple of years, and knew her only through my frequenting the small corner / specialty store at which she had until recently worked Saturday mornings, the day of my weekly shopping chores.

I wrote:

I am here as a proof that our lives are bound to public strangers. If I hadn't talked to Kris — and as a retail customer that was certainly my prerogative — we would have remained strangers to each other. And my life would have been diminished. Diminished by her laughter and intelligent wit.

Kris was a big presence during my Saturday morning chores. We talked about nothing important — just food and family, their and our foibles, functions, fun.

This morning, after I woke enough to consider my day, my presence here as a stranger to almost all of you, a poem kept demanding to be heard. Now, Kris and I never talked poetry — who does? In fact, I can hear her laughing at the thought of it now. But for reasons inexplicable to me, I would like to read a poem.

A Ritual We Read to Each Other

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that other made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug, that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider —
lest the parade of our mutual life gets lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
William Stafford. From A Ritual We Read to Each Other, in Stories That Could Be True. New York: Harper and Row, 1977.
When it came time for me to read, I extemporized a bit outside the text, but read the poem. I felt my voice trembling as I spoke, and my eyes began to tear.

The venue is officially described as 'Grand Baby Ballroom at the Columbia Theatre', but this is a converted theatre from the 1930s that is now home to the local LaffLines Comedy Club. And that is just about as perfect for Kris as can be, because she loved to laugh and she was a real prankster.

Her best friend, whom I'd never met, described how Kris had managed to convince her to go into the back corner of the house one party night in order to pee. Kris had made a bet with the other guests, before she had got there, about who would be able to get her to pee in the yard first. "I won, I won!" Kris bellowed into the night as her best friend was squatting with her pants around her ankles.

And also in line with the prankster nature, the ceremony was filled with little glitches: was to begin at 2pm, but after a short introduction, nothing happened. Eventually (3:15) we were told that we were waiting for Kris's father, and to help ourselves to the food. As soon as people were milling around, the father arrived. Then when the photograph display was to go, the computer wouldn't go (even though the earlier test run was successful) and the PC had to be rebooted. Then, as the photos were running, the machine froze, and had to be restarted again.

Now, for the strangest thing of all. After I got home and supper was done with, I sat down to write something. I visited Goodreads WSSCC Haiku thread. M had with typical humour and skill created a pair of Haiku poems that ended with a girlfriend being directed to the narrator's grave in the smoking section of the graveyard. So I proceeded to create a response. At 7:59pm I posted:
Sorry M and Al, but nothing but doggerel came out this time, try as I might. (I wonder if I can blame the glass of chardonnay I had last night?)

If she found the spot
she would puff her cigarette,
hike up her short skirt.

Then inhale once more
before gracefully squatting
to pee on my grave.

While I was alive
I thought I was a gals' guy.
Not so, says the grass.
While writing this I did not make even the smallest tiniest connection between the story of Kris's pee pranking her best friend and my writing the above. It was only late last night, as I was contemplating how I wanted to put this blog together, that I saw their link. Isn't that just weird? The mind and the unconscious are truly magical things.

Kris, be well, Your brightness will be missed here. But I am sure your new world is being made brighter with your energy, in whatever form that takes.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2011.11.07 — Pansophy is a fushigi*

Around noon today I left my work pod to visit with TR and BH at each of theirs. I went to ask TR how he found the Vancouver music group Brasstronauts that I'd suggested to him yesterday.
I suggested it to him because he enjoys eclectic music.
(To give Brasstronaut a try, listen @ the sidebar's 'A Taste of Notes Mostly Musical'.) He gave them a solid thumbs up.

Well, sadly, I also went to talk work. Specifically about whether or not he'd used a "Trimble" — specifically, a geo-positioning tool manufactured by Trimble. Earlier in the morning I came to require this tool — something that I thought I wouldn't likely need when I learned of its existence in our department and what to use it for from the new man RL two weeks ago. Once I learned of it, I directed TR to use it for a requirement he'd come to me for help a few weeks earlier, before I knew of its existence. I had hoped that he'd used it and so could teach me.

Alas, he hadn't yet. He explained that, even though he was a surveyor in the department's past, the knowledge and use of surveying tools had been kept restricted to a few special people. He and I both observed that delimiting knowledge was both a peculiar thing to do, and societally counterproductive in the long run. That is why, I told him, that I teach everything I know to anyone willing to learn. I elaborated by telling him that I'd recently made arrangement to give a seminar to real estate agents on the physics and politics of relocating telecommunication's structure.

BORING like all fushigi.

Tonight, after supper, I visited my Goodreads notifications, and visited a thread in one of the groups with which I am a member. One of the writers posted a poem earlier in the day ~3:00 this afternoon. The objective in the poem thread was to write very freely, to give the imagination full expression. Some of the contributions are breathtaking, and all are at least excellent. (Except, most likely mine, which seems now barely adequate against what the others have written. Sigh! Okay, enough whining.) The last contributor, Rose, allowed free reign to her vocabulary. I LOVE words, and have an excellent vocabulary, but there I was looking up word after word: bobbery, appetence, [same root as 'appetite'!], fascicle, quean, opuscules and, most fushigi-ish
pansophy, which is, to quote the Wikipedia citing the 17th century philosopher, Comenius, "that everything must be taught to everyone, as a guiding basis for education, something like universal education (Characteristica universals)". Until this afternoon I didn't know that word, or principle existed, but on the day I talk about it being a driving energy in my life, Rose kindly supplies me with the word for it. Here's the poem:
Where goes your glorious bobbery
without much of the appetence
of yesteryear? Pangerize the poltroon
for all your worth, but knavery
knows no mitigation and the fascicle of
false judges do the quean in their
pansophy, singing in opuscules of minor
notes and the quality of her strange
metempirical enriched the simplest
expression of their simplest thoughts.
Rose Mary Boehm
Okay, that is at least a little amusing. What adds the smallest, and I mean smallest of spices to this is that this morning, when I wandered past his desk, DP grabbed me to look at something in a book that JB had showed him. It was a citation from Machiavelli, the 16th century philosopher.
...if one holds his state on the basis of mercenary arms, he will never be firm or secure; because they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, unfaithful; gallant among friends, vile among enemies; no fear of God, no faith with men; and one defers ruin insofar as one defers the attack; and in peace you are despoiled by them, in war by the enemy…. The mercenary captains are either capable men or they are not; if they are, you cannot trust them, because they always aspire to their own greatness, either by oppressing you, who are their master, or others contrary to your intentions; but if the captain is not skilful, you are ruined in the usual way (The Prince p45-46, Chapter 12 ).
DP showed this to me because the practice of using mercenaries (aka contractors) to replace full time workers has been recognized by everyone but our leaders as an exercise in destroying the organization. DP showed this to me because we've discussed many times this problem, and so he was delighted to see a respected philosopher agreeing with us, and further affirming our opinion of our senior executives.

This I found fushigi-ish because twice in one day I get very specific references to long dead philosophers from disparate sources to different purposes. That kind of thing never happens. When was the last time a co-worker cited Machiavelli to you? Have you ever even heard of either pansophy or Comenius?

And a final odd thing for the day. This morning, while putting my lunch together, I chose not to bring with me to work a piece of the date (matrimony) square that I'd made on Sunday. My wife, concerned for my being properly fed, expressed consternation at my not bringing it in. I felt like having yoghurt and nuts with fruit for breakfast at work instead. Well, I guess the universe had other plans, because my co-worker CH chose today to bring in baked goods. This CH has done before, but very infrequently. And what did CH bring in? Matrimony squares! (EXCELLENT ones, btw!) CH commented that the last time she baked them was about two years ago.

So, small, but very curious.