Archive for December, 2008

As the title suggests, Dirk A. H. Kolff`s minor classic of a book is quite heavy at times, and not for the faint of heart or for those who don`t want to read about military recruitment and Rajput poetry. It`s a rather unique book as well, as its focus is really on the cultural and labour history of certain military service groups in northern India, ones with close connections to the peasantry and made up at first of nebulous `castes` whose identity only became solid by the middle of the seventeenth century.

It isn`t an easy book to summarise, because Kolff really has collected here a series of related articles to draw a picture of the history of the Indian sepoy and the labour market that supplied them to ruler after ruler. The thread that runs between these articles is tenuous, and some of the chapters are better than others (or rather, some are more interesting to me), as is usual for a scholarly book of this sort. Naukar, Rajput and Sepoy does surprise the reader with a sense of the flexibility and mobility of pre-modern British society.


The peasantry of India were heavily armed. Kolff cites Peter Mundy`s reminiscences of travelling through India in 1632, in the present-day Kanpur district, where Mundy saw: “labourers with their guns, swords and bucklers leying by them while they ploughed the ground”. Another example from 1650 describes the Rajputs of the Agra area:

“They are a numerous, industrious and brave race. Every village has a small fort. They never pay revenue to the hakim (tax-collector) without a fight. The peasants (riàya) who drive the plough keep a musket (bandug) slung over their neck and a powder-pouch at the waist. The relief-loan (taqavi) they get from the hakim is in the form of lead and gunpowder.”

As Kolff notes, the monopoly of arms we assume to be a feature of the modern state was impossible in pre-Mughal and Mughal India. The peasantry was so well armed and numerous that it could be considered less the subjects then the rivals of the state. Tax collectors and recruiters could be assaulted and killed, and were likely to enter an area well protected, as were caravans that hired hundreds of guards (many of them mobile peasants as well); troops were driven out or robbed on the march. The problem of rules, Kolff writes, “was how to deal with the peasantry at large, how to subject to some manner of control and collect revenue from these almost ungovernable tens of millions of people protected by mud forts, ravines, jungles… and the weapons they were so familiar with” (9). This difficulty of rule meant that the Mughals were never as absolute or despotic as we imagine, and that on the local, provincial or regional level rule meant negotiation, loan relief, tax exemption, the waving of debts and the toleration of continued armament.

This `freedom’ of the peasantry was dearly bought: villages too recalcitrant, or too well organized, or supporting the forces of bandits and rulers hostile to the Mughals, would be razed. Whole towns would be sold into slavery as the ultimate punitive measure, if the inhabitants simply weren`t massacred. Mundy, again in 1632, travelling between Agra and Patna in Bihar, “saw, during four days of passage…200 minars or pillars on which a total of 70,000 heads were fixed with mortar.” According to Mundy, this was the work of Abdullah Khan, a powerful Mughal general, whose force of 30,000 “destroyed all their [the peasants] townes, tooke all their goods, their wives and children for slaves, and the chieftest of their men, causing their heads to be cut off and to be immotered” The result was constant low level warfare, that might not be unfamiliar from early seventeenth century France or nineteenth century Russia. Only by about 1818 was the British East India Company able to disarm and pacify much of the countryside in its grasp, but only then as part of a general trend to fix peasants to their home, deprive them of many forms of redress and confiscating their means of resistance, the ubiquitous matchlock musket.


The ‘unsettled’ centuries of pre-British India were ones of opportunity for soldiers, some of whom came to be known as `rajputs`. The term is generally ethnic now, but was much less specific in early modern India. As the title of the book suggests, rajput was just another appellation like naukar or sepoy, generic and vague enough to encompass a wide variety of peoples and groups, and even organizations, even if the `proper` Rajput clans did exist at that time. Kolff describes this process:

“Rajput soldiers of the seventeenth century must have been of the most diverse origins. True, with a large number of them, memories of their precise social backgrounds were gradually obscured by vague territorial identities or claims of ksatriya status. But in ancient times, recruitment…had not taken social origins into account. Instead, it overlaid old identities with a new…’rajput’ veneer. (155).

Certain castes considered themselves `pure` Rajput, and monopolized certain ‘regal’ names and territories, but the evidence that Kolff musters suggests that many otherwise unremarkable peasant groups were able to assume the mantle of glorious (and lucrative) rajput even if they were not considered of the ‘right’ caste.


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The New Iraq

Laura Bush on Iraqi TV reporter Muntazer al-Zaidi, throwing the other shoe at her dear husband:

“But I know that if Saddam Hussein had been there, the man wouldn’t have been released. And he probably … you know, would have been executed,” she said. “As bad as the incident is, in my view, it is a sign that Iraqis feel a lot freer to express themselves.”

The Times Online and its strange opinion about this brutal assault with heavy duty leather patent shoes:

The Arab world has a new hero. Muntazer al-Zaidi, a young Iraqi journalist, shot to fame when he hurled his shoes at President Bush. The US leader nimbly ducked the flying footwear but his assailant has secured his brief moment in history.

A poem has been written on an Islamist website praising his action. Demonstrators have taken to the streets of Baghdad demanding al-Zaidi’s release. Many Arabs believe that the insult hurled at Mr Bush, who was branded a “dog”, is a fitting end to his troubled history in the region.

It is easy to sympathise with Iraqis who feel angry, betrayed and frustrated at the US-led invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. But in his act of defiance al-Zaidi has also demonstrated how far Iraq has come. Not long ago, a young Iraqi man with a grudge against America would have vented his anger by using a grenade or a roadside bomb against US troops. It is also worth reflecting that, had a protester hurled shoes and shouted insults at Saddam Hussein during the visit of a world leader, the perpetrator and all his family would probably have been put to death.

A reply from Yasmeen in Iraq in the Comments box:

One and a half million iraqis killed after the Occution is a hugely high price for enjoying “FREEDOME OF EXPRESSION”. Would you accept this situatuin to prevail in the states?

An early BBC report on the arrest and beating of this reporter, who has apparentely been arrested by the US Army several times and kidnapped by insurgents:

Muntadar al-Zaidi has allegedly suffered a broken arm, broken ribs and internal bleeding, his older brother, Dargham, told the BBC.

A later report from Al-Jazeera, using the testimony of his lawyer:

Al-Zaidi was allowed to see his lawyer on Sunday afternoon, who confirmed initial reports that he had been beaten and that his medical condition “was very bad”.

“There are visible signs of torture on his body, as a result of being beaten by metal instruments,” al-Sa’adi said.

“Medical reports have shown that the beating he was subjected to has led to him losing one of his teeth as well as injuries to his jaw and ears.

“He has internal bleeding in his left eye, as well as bruises over his face and stomach. Almost none of his body was spared.”


The shoe thrower incident has had repercussions across Iraq:

Iraqis on the street continue to show support for Zaidi, who disrupted a news conference Sunday in Baghdad by Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki.

University students rallied for Zaidi in Fallujah on Wednesday, drawing the attention of U.S. forces.

Students raised their shoes and threw rocks at American soldiers, who reportedly opened fire above the crowd. Protesters said that indirect fire wounded one student, Zaid Salih. U.S. forces haven’t confirmed the account.

“We demonstrated to express our support for Muntathar al Zaidi, but we were surprised with the entrance of the U.S. military,” said Ahmed Ismail, one of the protesters. “Unconsciously, we raised our shoes expressing our support for al Zaidi, but they attacked us.”

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I don’t know him
           but thought somebody else did,
for everyone was friendly in that bar
           except this guy in the red checkered shirt:
he was aggressive and pro-Canadian,
stubbing a Players outside the ashtray,
swaying in his chair and gulping beer
like water
             drunk and getting drunker – –
“Best beer in the world,” he said.
“Bout the only thing left that’s really Canadian.”
                                   And glared at us.
“Did you know 60 % of Canadian industry
                                   is American owned?”
They callem American shubshidyaries – – “
Everyone laughed when he stumbled over the word,
and he slapped his hand hard on the table,
“Don’ laugh!” he said.
“Okay, I been drinking, I like to drink,
But don’t laugh when you see the country
                         just sort of casually
like an afterthought, like a burp after dinner – – “
                  “So what?” somebody said.
“Everybody here knows we’ll belong to the States
                   in another ten years…”
The guy swelled up like a sneering bullfrog,
“And guys like you deserve to be taken over.
But when you are you’ll be 2nd class Americans
like Negroes in the south, like Indians here – –
You’ll be 2nd class Americans because
you never were 1st class Canadians in the first place – -“
Everybody stiffened.
                                    “Okay,” he said,
“I’ll buy the beer and shut up.”
But after a few seconds he couldn’t keep quiet.
“Anybody ever hear of the San Juan Islands?
No, I guess not. Well, Canada got gypped there.
Anybody know about the Alaska Panhandle deal,
or remember the Herbert Norman case, by any chance?
Well, I’m tellin’ you, this country is being taken
like a glass of beer.  It’s  a matter of economics.
And none of you guys really give a damn,
just slop your beer and wait to be taken
by some big bellied American in Washington.
And I’m tellin you, they’re all greedy bastards –!”
“I like Americans,” someone said mildly,
and seemed just by chance his arm lifted,
meeting checked shirt’s arm in the middle of the table.
That was all that it needed:
“Okay, loud mouth, let’s see you put me down!”
They call it “arm wrestling” some places:
and the yellow beer jiggled as clasped hands
pushed on elbow fulcrum – everyone watching.
The guy in the checked shirt was drunk,
and the other guy more or less sober,
so it shouldn’t have been much of a contest.
Their arms strained like two-thirds of a tripod,
and checked put on pressure,
“I’m telling you they’re bastards – – !”
The other guy was big, but he collapsed quick,
\knocking over a glass of beer and the salt shaker.
“Just shows you,” checked shirt said,
looking around the table.  He started to go.
“I gotta be getting back.  Be seeing ya – – “
“You been huntin?” somebody asked.
“That’s right, up near Bancroft.  Takin back a nice buck.”
“Where you from?”
Checked shirt grinned.
“New York,” he said.

                                                 – Alfred Purdy

from The Blasted Pine: An Anthology of Satire, Invective and Disrespectful Verse, Chiefly By Canadian Writers. Revised and Enlarged.  Selected and Arranged by F. R. Scott and A. J. M. Smith. (Toronto: Macmillan Company, 1957)

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Before me on the dancestand
A god’s vomit or damned by his decrees
The exciting twitching couples shook and
wriggled like giant parentheses.

A pallid Canadienne
Raised a finger and wetted her lip,
And echoing the nickelodeon
“Chip” she breathed drowsily, “Chip, chip.”

Aroused, her slavish partner
Smiled, showed his dentures through soda-pop gas,
And “chip” he said right back to her
And “chip, chip” she said and shook her ass.

Denture to denture, “pas mal”
They whispered and were glad, jerked to and fro;
Their distorted bodies like bits of steel
Controlled by that throbbing dynamo.

They stomped, flung out their arms, groaned;
And in a flash I saw the cosmos end
And last of all the black night cover this:
“Chip, chip” and a shake of the ass.

                                                 – Irving Layton

from The Blasted Pine: An Anthology of Satire, Invective and Disrespectful Verse, Chiefly By Canadian Writers. Revised and Enlarged.  Selected and Arranged by F. R. Scott and A. J. M. Smith. (Toronto: Macmillan Company, 1957)

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The Status of Canadian Geology

A graduate, magna cum lava,
Of Ottawa’s College of Mines,
He died while at work in Ungava
By failing to read the French signs.

His friend from Quebec on the survey,
refusing to eat English food,
Succumbed to pellagra and scurvy –
The ore they’re interred in is crude.

                                       – Nathan Fast

A Church Seen in Canada

O country doubly split! One way
tugged eastward; one to USA:
One way tugged deep toward silver Rome;
One way scotched stubborn here at home;
What panacea for your ills?
(Le Sacré Coeur de Crabtree Mills).

                                      – Theodore Spencer

from The Blasted Pine: An Anthology of Satire, Invective and Disrespectful Verse, Chiefly By Canadian Writers. Revised and Enlarged.  Selected and Arranged by F. R. Scott and A. J. M. Smith. (Toronto: Macmillan Company, 1957)

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The gold roof of Parliament

covered with fingerprints and scratches.

And here are the elected, hunchbacked

from climbing up each other’s heads.


The most precious secret has been leaked:

There is no Opposition!


Over-zealous hacks hoist the P. M.

through the ceiling. He fools

an entire sled-load of Miss Canada losers

by acting like a gargoyle.


Some fool (how did he get in) who

wants jobs for everyone and says

so in french is quickly interred

under a choice piece of the cornice


and likes it. (STAG PARTY LAUGHTER)

When are they going to show the dirty movie?


Don’t cry, Miss Canada,

it’s not as though the country’s

in their hands.

And next year we’re piping in

Congressional proceedings

direct from Washington –

all they’ll have to do

is make divorces.

– Leonard Cohen

from The Blasted Pine: An Anthology of Satire, Invective and Disrespectful Verse, Chiefly By Canadian Writers. Revised and Enlarged. Selected and Arranged by F. R. Scott and A. J. M. Smith. (Toronto: Macmillan Company, 1957)

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You remember the big Gaston, for whom everyone


a bad end? –

Gaston, the neighbour’s gossip and his mother’s cross?

You remember him vaurien, always out of a job,

with just enough clinking coinage

for pool, bright neckties, and blondeds, – –

the scented Gaston in the poolroom lolling

in meadows of green baize?

In clover now.  Through politics.  Monsieur Gaston.

They say the minister of a certain department does

not move

without him; and they say, to make it innocent, – –


But everyone understands.  Why, wherever our

Gaston smiles

a nightclub rises and the neon flashes.

To his slightest whisper

the bottled rye, like a fawning pet-dog, gurgles.

The burlesque queen will not undress

unless Monsieur Gaston says yes.

And the Madame will shake her head behind the


unless he nods.

A changed man, Gaston;  almost a civil servant,

keeps records, appointments, women; speaks tough


is very much respected.

You should hear with what greetings his distinguished

approach is greeted;

you should see the gifts he gets,

with compliments for his season.

– A. M. Klein

from The Blasted Pine: An Anthology of Satire, Invective and Disrespectful Verse, Chiefly By Canadian Writers. Revised and Enlarged.  Selected and Arranged by F. R. Scott and A. J. M. Smith. (Toronto: Macmillan Company, 1957)

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Under the dark industrial sky

we wonder why we have to die

who living, were valued at a wage

that starved our youth and murdered age.

or why engage for tyrants here

to end the tyranny of fear,

whose quarrel is with all of those

the heavens of our desire that close?

For justice undertake a cause

that has no justice in its laws,

but claims for unity the right

forbids the citizen unite.

For thirty dollars shall we sell

our happiness to mend their hell,

to save their cuckoos, clear our nest,

redeem by our unrest their rest

and fight for freedom who are not free?

Let freemen die, but why should we

who toil to set the rich on high

three shifts beneath the smoking sky?

Let those who call on us to keep

their freedom safe and safe their sleep

account and pledge us higher for

the wealth and peace our grief ensure:

A week-end fit for play like theirs

and futures guaranteed from cares,

evenings when not too tired a man

his leisures takes and pleasures can

a chance for more than daily bread –

their daughters for our sons to wed,

so working and in wanting we

may equal them and be as free.

But till that day let them not cry

upon our loyal sons to die,

who with our usual logic see

They die for freedom that are free.

– James Wreford

from The Blasted Pine: An Anthology of Satire, Invective and Disrespectful Verse, Chiefly By Canadian Writers. Revised and Enlarged.  Selected and Arranged by F. R. Scott and A. J. M. Smith. (Toronto: Macmillan Company, 1957)

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The Hymn of the Spanish Rebellion

The Church’s one foundation

Is now the Moslem sword,

In meek collaboration

With flame, and axe, and cord;

While overhead are floating,

Deep-winged with holy love

The battle planes of Wotan,

The bombing planes of Jove

L. R. MacKay

Two Snarls of a Disgusted Colonial


Freedom in Spain, exhaled a groan.

Her champion, England, scribbling notes,

Refused as yet to throw a stone,

And only held the stoner’s coats.


Let Britains leaders, if they choose,

Be cushions for Benito’s hips,

And lick their heels of Adolf’s shoes.

But damn them! must they mack their lips?

L. R. MacKay

from The Blasted Pine: An Anthology of Satire, Invective and Disrespectful Verse, Chiefly By Canadian Writers. Revised and Enlarged.  Selected and Arranged by F. R. Scott and A. J. M. Smith. (Toronto: Macmillan Company, 1957)

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Atheist Blackshirts

The wonders of Wikipedia, at a glance.  List of various ‘rainbow’ toughs and shirts from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, exhaustive and comprehensive, Ireland’s, Canada’s and Mexico’s various paramilitary shirt organisations are listed alongside the more famous Nazi and Fascist groups, and those of Romania, for instance. And then this little oddity that I cannot quite explain (sorry about the original link marks):

Blackshirts are members of the atheist quasi-political organization Dravidar Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, founded by “Periyar” E V Ramasamy. The members wear black shirts to mock and protest the saffron vestments of Hindu religious leaders, and sadhus as black is generally associated with death and bad-luck as opposed to saffron’s auspicious association. This has its origins when black flags as a protest tool were banned in Tamil Nadu and the members wore black outfits to circumvent this ban. Black shirts and black flags were also seen as a symbol of anarchy in southern India especially in Tamil Nadu during the early 20 century.

The articles linked on the page are cryptic and almost useless, except to reveal the popularity of the black shirt as a Tamil political symbol and to perhaps use the sensational connections of black shirts to Nazis to smear groups associated with the Tamil Tigers. Other than that: nothing. An atheist Tamil militant movement using the blackshirt? Wow. The article on Periyar Ramasami, the founder of various Tamil nationalist movements throughout much of the twentieth centuries, is much more detailed, and much more interesting. Periyar Ramasami’s life is long and varied, and the organization he founded seems to have much in common with many anti-colonialist nationalist regeneration movements such as the KMT’s blueshirts in China and: aping and admiration for the discipline of European fascist movements, vaguely socialist leanings in matters of the economy and toward the working class, dislike of the British and whites in general, naturally, and a commitment to reforming the national body politics; in Ramasani’s case, this led to anti-Hindu actions. Fascinating. Fascinating.

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John Clute, Appleseed

Months ago I quoted this:

Swim” said Fassin. “You know; when your head kind of seems to swim because you suddenly think: “Hey, I’m a human being, but I’m twenty thousand light years from home and we’re all living in the midst of mad aliens and super weapons and the whole bizarre insane swirl of galactic history and politics! That; isn’t that weird?”

And I wrote this, poorly, in defense of Iain M. Banks’ The Algebraist:

what if the Swim that Fassin describes is something metaphor for the space opera, and science fiction, as a whole? Swim, that feeling of being totally overwhelmed and lost by the presence of a greater universe, would almost certainly meet a basic criteria as a standard of science fiction, ideally: being ‘weirded out’ is incredibly important to the isolation and perturbation of good science fiction. Information overload, or future shock, or cognitive dissonance, whatever you want to call it; my argument is that, rather then simply being a dead weight, the length and concentrated details and descriptions, fast-paced and frequently overwhelming, is at least partly deliberate, perhaps even necessary for appreciating The Algebraist.

John Clute’s novel Appleseed does something very similar, to such an extent that much of its charm and novelty, besides its prose half purple and half brilliant, thick in the air with meaning, dense, lies in Swim, in the shock of the new, of being overwhelmed by unknown details and thick terminology and a prose opaque like fog, monuments in unknown tongues.


The very inpenetrability of the text, of the dialogue and the description, mirrors the universe of Appleseed, ripe with information, overflowing with details and data streams, the voices of trillions crying out into the night: me! me! me!

Like any competent ship, Tile Dance was steamy with data.  Here, deep within Trencher [a planet], a million probosces stroked her as though she were a sacred aphid ready to leak.  She was a shrine.  Data (which made Minds deem sacred) left traces everywhere, Tile Dance was rich in traces, leaked traces like attar into the mouths of Trencher.  the traces of the world were data, the world being beauteous.  The universe was the sum of all traces of everything the universe had ever been.   Only connect – only connect the contortuplication of the traces of every All the universe had ever been – and God would smile.

Appleseed is a pastiche, made up of references and allusions to earlier novels in the space opera subgenre of science fiction: for instance, some sort of mystical technology, lens, figures in his novel, and a war is being fought over them, The war of the lens, a wink and a nod to the Lensman series by E. E. Smith. He thanks Gene Wolfe and Robert Silverberg for ideas, names and terminologies, and throughout I noted deliberate allusions to plenty of other science fictions, from Olaf Stapledon and H. G. Wells to Ringworld and so on. This shouldn’t surprising: John Clute is a science fiction critic, one of the best, and is ridiculously well-versed, through four decades of reviews and time in the trenches: to write a novel not dripping with history would be a sacrilege.

The inability to say anything knew, the sheer volume of information available and its tendency to clog or overload our time, our senses, our dedication; the universe of Appleseed is drenched in the past, but only in the sense of data and knowledge.  So thick is this data that it literally clogs up the tubes of the system, becomes psyhical as plaque, as in a human’s arteries, causes catastrophic failures that overwhelm the dense worlds of humanity: the Earth was drowned in data, destroyed by too much, by the criticism of art in the novel, by bad data, bad art, bad opinion, or perhaps, blogs.  Appleseed is satire, as well;  it would be hard to avoid, given its long history as a exploratory genre within science fiction.  Occasionally the novel is very witty or penetrating, and the sly jabs at cellphones and blackberries, and the atomised youth like me, are especially sharp:

Kirtt reduced his gaze within the holograph to human braids, thousands of humans visible through tghe translucent walls, some standing still and allowing the the braid to carry them, some on wheels, some in scooters.  Many wore clothes.  They were behaving as humans always behaved, individual males and females engaging relentlessly (though always as part of conversation, via comm net, with invisible partners) in the unremittingly ingenious gestures of courtship normally found in any of the rare species might occur simultaneously.  Whatever  the ostensible goal of any human behauviour, what humans were actually doing always seemed to be one thing.

Humans emit Pong: it is a drug to aliens, and to us, it is the smell of our oil, hormones, pheremones, hair, sweat and sex, which we barely notice but drives some aliens wild with pleasure.  The protagonist, Kirtt, is nicknamed ‘stinky’.  Engorged phalluses and plump breasts are the norm.  All is well, Clute revels in describing this new, all too similar world, where violence has been subdued in humans because we no longer look at each other directly.  We are masqued in cybernetics and holograms, followed by AI best friends, able to clone each other into sterile, non-human servants, and wear the sigils of the corporations that own us bravely upon our breast.

Appleseed can be shocking, to a weak heart, in its honesty and penetrating vitality (heh) about the human species, it forced me to rethink and look closely at much of my behaviour, even if only in a humorous way and shallow way, though there is a heavy and occasionally rather portentious slices of Heidegger and Sartre (mind you, tool-being really is a useful  concept for exploring futures human and present but I have some reservations about the implications of existentialism as a whole…but I digress, provoking to anger is still a success): that is the greatest strength of this strange novel, the idea that our thoughts, emotions, bodies and individualism is so dangerous (like knives):

Homo Sapiens was not consensual; each individual homo sapiens sensorium was solipstic, each individual member of the species was contained in the narrow coffin of a solo world.  At a primal level, no homo sapiens could genuinely believe in the existence of any other being, hence the destruction of all its sibling species on the planet of its birth.  No other sophont could pass on any knowlegde whatsoever to them – except along the parsimonious tightrope of words – of what might be happening in the bath of beings.  Homo sapiens could not draw upon the lines of empathy, so heavily suckled in densely inhabitated worlds that [other species]…were necessary for proper drainage and flow.  No homo sapiens could detect fault lines, regions of damage in the bath of being…

He spoke then of the almost acoustic barrier erected around the sensorium of any homo sapiens, a barrier which bristled and clawed and ponged and twirled its knives of noise, so that no download from beyond, no lachrymae rerum of the bath of being, could reach the homonclonus inside – perhaps as a response to the nearness of God to human Earth.  Encountering a homo sapiens while unprotected was like landing in Babel: the myth of Babel being unique to homo sapiens.  Communications between homo sapiens were like encryptions punched through plaque…

Fucking was, therefore, quixotic; because Eden could never be reached.  For a homo sapiens, male or female, to fuck with eyes open…was the highest form of chilvary.  In a universe of the utmost cruelty to mortal homo sapiens, fucking was an act of arete, and of great joy.

Fascinating, typical of science fiction, grand, mysterious, expansive.  Notice the bit about God, though.   Problems rear: like Descartes, he brings in God by the back door.  The obsession in a Henry Miller style on human sexuality as the be all and end all of humankind is repeated a tad too often, no matter how much I may enjoy how it is presented, it abstracts so much to make a hectoring and (dis)agreable point.   That quote was from near the end of the novel, about the point when I started to find Appleseed a drag to read.  Its desnity becaue an impedient rather than a joy, a blockage rather than adding character.  Science fiction, even the most daring, formal, artistic sort, is generally easy to read, quick to read, racing through almost, but Appleseed resists, it becomes a tease, denser even than the universe it presents; the plot, which raced along in mystery, fonders, tension evaporates and the last half becomes a tedious and repetitive, stuffed with a tedium of actions that inch forward like glaciers but lack the interiority and interest of  say, a Mrs. Dalloway, to push on.

I don`t normally have a problem with dense novels: I`m reading Andrei Bely`s Petersburg (the so-called Ulysses of Russia) at the moment, and I find it more approachable than this novel at times.  Characters barely attached to evolve, suddenly, the importance of everything crowds in like drunks struggling to enter a bar at once, and I`m left reeling: at first because I wanted to be, and last because the novel escaped the threads of my hands.

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Such an exhuberance.


A shocking pink, spiny new species of “dragon millipede”, Desmoxytes purpurosea, was described in 2007 from Lansak district, Uthaithani Province, Thailand. Several millipedes were found sitting and moving on limestone rocks and on the leaves of Arenga pinnata palms. Scientists suggest the stark bright colour is to alert would-be predators of the toxic animal, and they would do well to heed this warning – the millipede has glands that produce cyanide as a defensive mechanism. The species joins twenty-three other dragon millipedes of the genus Desmoxytes known from a large area in Southeast Asia, from southeastern China, south through Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam31. A further four of these deadly dragon millipedes were described from Vietnam in 2005.

Found at: http://news.mongabay.com/2008/1215-mekong_species.html

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I think that I live in a street

Where the evenings are decidedly darker,

A citizen of what is said to be a country,

In the year nineteen-sixty-four.

All the snow melts around April,

In August there is nothing to wait for,

The Fall is established in Novemeber,

January is mostly Winter.

A woman claims to be my wife

on the strength of which she lives in my house.

But I am also dangerous to some animals

And have at times been observed to eat them.

I have little to say about the structure of society,

There may be certain letters to write occassionally,

Certain amounts to pay when they become due,

But it is against the law for some people to hurt me.

In view of this I continue to lead

What I am told is existence

Weeks ending in Sundays

Unasked questions scrupulously unanswered.

– George Jonas

from The Blasted Pine: An Anthology of Satire, Invective and Disrespectful Verse, Chiefly By Canadian Writers. Revised and Enlarged.  Selected and Arranged by F. R. Scott and A. J. M. Smith. (Toronto: Macmillan Company, 1957)

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From a version directed by Yury Lyubimov. Scenography by Vladimir Boyer, and music by Sergey Letov,

From a version directed by Yury Lyubimov. Scenography by Vladimir Boyer, and music by Sergey Letov,


Now Marat you are talking like an aristocrat
Compassion is the property of the privileged
When the pitier lowers himself
to give to a beggar
he throbs with contempt
To protect his riches he pretends to be moved
and his gift to the beggar amounts to no more
than a kick {lute chord}
No Marat
no small emotions please
Your feelings were never petty
For you just as for me
only the most extreme actions matter.


If I am extreme I am not extreme in the same
way as you
Against Nature’s silence I use action
In the vast indifference I invent a meaning
I don’t watch unmoved I intervene
and say that this and this are wrong
and I work to alter them and improve them
The important thing
is to pull yourself up by your own hair
to turn yourself inside out
and see the whole world with fresh eyes

A difficult play; I’d like to see it performed live, but what, I wonder, would be the chances of that, when Tom Stoppard is the height of political drama?  Certainly, it could be put on, absolutely so, it is the kind of play that one might love, huge cast, plays within plays, an ideal Postmodern piece they might say, and assume it is ironic in its commitments. A quick search reveals its popularity: still put on, favourite of theatre schools (too used to parochial small town rejection of anything that isn’t a comedy or Shakespeare)

From the UA film

From the UA film

Three levels: the feud between De Sade and the warden of the Charedon asylum, power struggle between man of order and man of anti-order (anarchist, perhaps) but a struggle in which De Sade is the hero against the disciplining, normalising State; the play, The Death and Persecution of Jean-Paul Marat, the baptism of a counter-revolutionary, the moanings and declamations of Marat, the knowledge of his death already widespread, the best of classical irony and the movement of fate.  Third level: the dialogue between De Sade and Marat, a dialectic of sorts, an argument in which both sides trade insults and argue in grand eloquence over the fate and direction of mankind, two visions of the way forward, nihilism and rejection of the norms of society, of society, or revolution, the changing of society through its material conditions.

Marat is the victor, of sorts, it is clear to whom Weiss ultimately agrees with, but De Sade is the romantic, rebellious anti-Hero, like Wolverine or Nieztche, we find him appealing even if we find his frankness and brutality disquieting.  Interesting structure, totally engaging, reminds me of the furour around Hans Werner Henze’s Das Floss der Medusa (a requiem dedicated to Che Guevera)
if only because they were both contemporary works of scandalous political engagement.  No good answer, no moral summation, no simple political solution presented; suitably satisfying ending in its lack of satisfaction.

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Solo: An Elder Statesman

  1. Of freedom this and freedom that the drooling leftist


But freedom for Free Enterprise is all that really matters’

This freedom was ordained by God; upon it rest all


For man’s divinest impulse is to over-reach his brothers;

And so to this celestial urge we make our offering votive;

Behind all human greatness lies the noble Profit Motive.

Chorus of Bankers, Brokers, Executives and Advertising Men

Then hail we now Free Enterprise,

Extol and Give it praise!

In it the world’s salvation lies,

Without it every freedom dies;

O glorious Free Enterprise –

The enterprise that pays!

Solo: The President of the Canadian Manufacturer’s Association

  1. For victory we’re giving all, at scarcely more than cost,

But what’s the good of victory if Free Enterprise is lost

The war’s demands for well laid plans most loyally

we’ve heeded,

But peace is quite a different thing – no planning the

is needed

So, while today these damned controls have stretched us

on the rack

The moment victory comes in sight we want our freedom



Then hail we now Free Enterprise,

Extol and Give it praise!

In armed revolt we’ll all arise

If any post-war party tries

To undermine Free Enterprise –

The enterprise that pays!

Solo: The President of the Canadian Banker’s Association

  1. We face today a dreadful threat from fools who would

destroy us;

Of something called security they prate in accents joyous.

Security? Its cost alone would drive to perdition;

Besides, it kills initiative and suffocates ambition.

Security breaks down the will, the urge that keeps men free,

It stifles effort, starves the soul – except in men like me.


Then hail we now Free Enterprise,

Extol and Give it praise!

While Marsh and Beveridge theorize,

Their deadly, Bolshevistic lies

Are poisoning Free Enterprise –

The enterprise that pays!

Solo: The President of the Chamber of Commerce

  1. At periods when Free Enterprise may not provide


We dread the thought of hungry men – it lessens our


The government must then step in, with this


That any public works proposed do not increase


Depressions, after all, my friends, much as we may

Deplore them,

Are acts of God’ who ever heard of blaming business for



Then hail we now Free Enterprise,

Extol and Give it praise!

Of course, when profits shrink in size,

To lay men off is only wise;

We dearly love Free Enterprise –

But only when it pays.

Solo: The President of the Advertising Association

  1. Conspirators on every side Free Enterprise have slandered,

Forgetting that it’s given us the world’s best living standard;

We eat and drink supremely well at Royal York

and Rideau,

And no one drives more Cadillacs or bigger ones than

we do.

How blind the socialist who plots this way of life to shatter!

Free Enterprise brings wealth to all – at least, to all who



Then hail we now Free Enterprise,

Extol and Give it praise!

The working man must recognize

That, if in want he lives and dies,

It’s just his lack of enterprise –

The enterprise that pays!

Solo: The President of a Very, Very Large Corporation

  1. Free Enterprise does not, of course, mean actual


And cutting prices – God forbid! That’s treason and


A ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ is the best of all devices

To stabilize our dividends, our markets and our prices.

For taking risks we’ve little love; we set our whole affection

On something like monopoly, with adequate protection.


Then hail we now Free Enterprise,

Extol and Give it praise!

In it the world’s salvation lies,

Without it every freedom dies;

O glorious Free Enterprise,

O wonderful Free Enterprise,

O marvelous Free Enterprise –

The enterprise that pays!

– J. D. Ketchum

from The Blasted Pine: An Anthology of Satire, Invective and Disrespectful Verse, Chiefly By Canadian Writers. Revised and Enlarged.  Selected and Arranged by F. R. Scott and A. J. M. Smith. (Toronto: Macmillan Company, 1957)

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