Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

About those Christian militia guys who got arrested in the States.  One of them is a real Surrealist, it seems, and surely is prove enough that Surrealism and its bastard child of absurdist comedy has infiltrated the consciousness of even those one who one who least suspect of it:

But Sickles, who in those videos identified himself as a member of the Ohio Militia, may also have a lighter side. The accused plotter looks to have starred in a deeply Not Safe For Work movie, filled with cursing, mock violence, pot jokes, and sound effects conveying flatulence. Sickles appears entirely naked but for a mask of President George W. Bush that obscures some, but not all, of his genitalia.

In the film, Sickles’s chubby, tattooed character finds himself attacked by an enormous creature which appears to be half man, half duck. “Scar my tattered body no more with your punishing dildo mallet,” Sickles exclaims at one particularly dramatic moment.

The Freudians should have a field day with this as well:  Christian anti-federalist militias as projections of deep sexual anxiety about dildos, duck-rape and skull-fucking George W. Bush.

Link:     http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/04/scar_my_tattered_body_no_more_with_your_punishing.php

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Jean Paul Satre, Nausea


A classic, a Nobel-Prize winner, the literary work of existentialism alongside Camus’ L’Etranger. How is one to feel after Nausea?  How is one supposed to feel after existentialism?  This not between existentialism and marxism, ther is nothing but pitiuless withering contempt, for those who have not been enlightened, who have not had the awakening to authetic humanity.  That is, not a phony; there is something very similar between the astetic hippy and his concern for the fake, the fraud, the tool; and the existentialist, who sneers at the petty conventions and platitutes of the bourgeois world: the smiling youth, in love without knowing why, the quarelling couples unsure of themselves, all that being “motionless and empty, plunged in a horrible ectasy.”  It is easy to be immune to this kind of writing and philosophy; I’ve read Sartre, I’ve passed my existential phase, or so I assumed that it would be easy enough to dismiss, especially Roquentin whose awareness of what he says is pettiness and bad faith is just as easily the crankiness of a loner, disaffected and isolated from any sense of meaningful human contact and construing it as enlightenment rather than failure.

And yet the Self-Taught Man.  He, more than any of the overt philosophy of Nausea haunts me.  Because he is, in a way, me.  And Roquentin’s criticism and contempt for him is withering and crippling, especially to a young student beginning to feel that the academic and intellectual world is a trifle too serious and demanding than his dedication will allow.  Self-education, autodidaticism, I have followed those paths, spent years removed from post-secondary education, from the halls of hallowed knowledge to ‘expand my mind’ in an equally cliched fashion.  No discipline to my reading, no conscious effort to formulate and understand it.  Just reading, and pretending reading is knowledge.  That is the Self-Taught Man, who shrinks from responsibility and commitment to ‘deeper’ knowledge, whether of the history Roquentin studies or of existential truth as well.  The coward’s way out: that is the question, isn’t it?  Easy humanism, easy socialism, easy assurance, easy confidence in civilization, in man, in society, in love.  Too easy.  Struggle then?  Only to see the awful energy of life; but I have, and I flee.

Almost every existentialist work I”ve read demands an extremely personal response, more so than almost any other style of novel, play or poem.  The private Catholic poetry of Cesar Vallejo, or the compulsive love of surrealism do not affect me so.  The novels of Victor Serge, Bruno Janieski, Ilya Ehrenberg, even Celine, do not have that same forcing of introspection, of questioning, of a claustrophibic, inescapable feeling of crisis, of personal judgement and decision and interrogation, now, now, now.

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A deeply divisive novel, laying bare the troubled divide between the political and the philosophical aspects of existentialism.   It cannot resolve that divide, between the communal dream of a better world and the isolation of an individual being; it does not offer salvation from the latter in the former, save in the words of Kyo and Katov who at least stand for the dignity and freedom of the ‘masses’ though their doctrine is notably free of any actual content.

Key words: isolation, aloneness, painful freedom of relationships, the void of opium haze, “an ectasy toward downward”, “murder left no trace upon his face”.  Fate, condemnation, “the fate of China being decided,” and “the illusion of being ble to whatever they pleased”  fatalism as Marxism, a fascination with suicide as radiant exhuberance, pain as caused to others, as others caused to oneself.  Murder as aloneness, “all fighting was absurd, nothing existed in the face of life”.   It is a grim existentialism, in which our fate is suffering, our situation alone, the human condition.  And the revolution, doomed to fail.  A human being, thought Ferral, “an individual life, unique isolate, like mine…” spoken like a true capitalist?

And yet, the human condition: if we are fated, if “no doubt they were all condemned, the essential was that should not be in vain” we are free to “serve the gods of one’s choosing,” Kyo as hero: “no dignity for man who does not know why he works” and “freedom is not an exchange, it is freedom” and it must be fought for struggled for, died for.  Heroic, successful, sympathetic revolution, and in Kyo’s work to the Comintern agents in Hankow, the peasants must unite with the workers, “behind the army, in the rural districts, the Communists are beginning to organize the peasant Unions,” the people will never be satisfied with the betrayal of the revolution, the revolution fated to succeed, because it offers dignity, purpose, hope, because it is right.  Katov’s sacrifice, to save others.  It is hard to squre the realism, the intimacy, the sympathy of the description of the April 12 incident, the Shanghai uprising of 1927 and its bloody suppression at the hands of the Nationalists, with the atomization of existentialism.  Why make it so specific, so sympathetic, if only to use it for an existentialist fable.  Perhaps that is the fable: an existentialist revolution.


The city in revolt: Hankow, 1927.

“Over there were chimneys, cranes, reservoirs – the allies of the Revolution.  But Shanghai had taught Kyoo what an active port was like.  The one he saw before him was full of nothing but junks and torpedo-boats.  He took his field-glasses: a freight-steamer, two, three….

He walked about at random.  The kerosene lamps were being lut inside the shops; here and there silhouettes of trees and the curved-up roof-ridges rose against the Western sky, where a light without source lingered, seeming to emanate from the softness of the sky itself and to blend far, far up with the serenity of the night.  In the black holes of shop – nonwithstanding the soldiers and the Worker’s Unions – doctors with toad-signs, dealers in herbs and monsters, public writers, casters of spells, astrologers, and fortune-tellers continued their timeless trades by the dim light which blotted out the blood-stains.  The  shadows melted rather than stretched on the ground, bathed in a bluish phoporescence; the last flash of the superb eveneing  that was being staged far away, somewhere in the infinity of worlds, of which only a reflection suffused the earth, was glowing faintly through an enormous archway surmounted by a pagoda eaten away with blackened ivy.  Beyond the din of bells and phonographs and the myriad dots and patches of light, a battalion was disappearing into the darkness which had gathered in the mist over the river.  Kyo went down to a yard filled with enormous stone blocks: those of the walls, levelled to the ground in sign of the liberation of China…

Cantonese soldiers with their newly-supplied Russian equipment after arriving at Hankow as reinforcements for the Red Garrison.

Original caption: 1927: Cantonese soldiers with their newly-supplied Russian equipment after arriving at Hankow as reinforcements for the Red Garrison.

Rickshaws were waiting on the quay, but Kyo’s anxiety was too great to allow him to remain idle.  He preferred to walk.  The British concession which England had abandoned in January, the great world banks shut down, but not occupied….”Anguish – a strange sensation, you feel by your heart-beats that you”re not breathing easily, as if you were breathing with your heart…”  It was becoming stronger than lucidity.  At the corner of a street, in the clearing of a large garden full of trees in bloom, gray in the evening mist, the chimneys of the Western manufactures appeared.  No smoke.  Of all the chimneys he saw, only the ones of the Arsenal were operating.  Was it possible that Hankow, the city to which the Communists of the entire world were looking to save China, was on strike?  The Arsenal was working; could they at least count on the Red Army?  He no longer dared to run.  If Hankow was not what everyone believed it was, all his people were already condemned to death.  May too. And himself.

At last, the building of the International Delegation.

The entire villa was lighted up.  Kyo knew that Borodin was working on the top story; on the ground-floor the printing-press was running full speed, with the clatter of an enormous ventilator in bad condition”

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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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