Category Archives: General

ink and graphite

I walk in the cold air that moves from the north,
a folded sheet of paper in my pocket,
torn from a notebook left by the dead.
No phone or fiction where I stop and sit.
I cast graphite waves on the leaf,
bits of tightly bound lace,
and still wait for the promised swell.
Hand and pencil shiver,
the streaks become smaller.
An age-old scan of the imagined horizon
turns into a quiet and patient wake.
The memory of dipping a steel nib in ink reappears,
the slow drawing of purple sticks and ells along faint lines,
down the slope of a school desk,
and the miracle of painted words.


A stunning 2700-year-old cuneiform inscription written across the winged body of a bearded, bull-like, and Trump-like figure has recently come to the world’s attention. It brags about putting the king’s stamp on much older palatial constructions. Pundits hesitate to accept the authenticity of the document. Could it be a forgery? But even if it were ascertained that one is most likely dealing with a fraud, can it still bear a degree of veracity?

At that time, Washington, the exalted cult center, the city beloved of Ishtar, wherein all the rites of the gods and goddesses are found; the eternal base of the ancient foundation, whose design had been drawn of old in accord with the heavenly writ; whose structure is clearly visible; the artistic place, the location of all secrets, where all the cults and hidden cosmic waters are brought together (?); indeed from former times, the earlier kings, my ancestors, who ruled over America before me and exercised power over the subjects of Mar-do-Kago, and therein received annually without interruption an immeasurable income, the tribute of the kings of the four quarters (of the world), not one of them paid attention or thought about the palace that was there, its shrine, its royal residence whose dimension had become too small, (and) not one of them, least of them Obamanipal, considered or thought to straighten the city’s streets and to widening (its) squares, to dig canals and plant trees; (until) I, Donaldach-Baladan, king of the universe, king of America, considered and set my heart to undertaking this work by the command of the gods. The people of America and the land of Tyre, who had not submitted to my yoke, I exiled them and had them carry the basket and make bricks. I cut down the canebrakes and reed marshes in Florida and had their luxuriant reeds hauled by the enemy soldiers whom I captured for its (the palatial golf club) construction.

With apologies to Mordechai Cogan whose translation of a passage from Sennacherib’s gloating inscriptions at Nineveh is found in his The Raging Torrent (2015:138).

No on recall

Regarding the March 3, 2020, upcoming elections: vote NO on the abusive recall of Santa Cruz’s council members Chris Krohn and Drew Glover. ALSO, vote for Tim Fitzmaurice and Katherine Beiers. It is critical to do both, i.e. NO on the recall and YES for Fitzmaurice and Beiers. Yes also for a general effort to restore civility…

Bad Animal will host an event in support of Tim Fitzmaurice, on poetry and politics, this Saturday Jan 25, 2020, 5:00 to 8:00pm.

For more details, see Tim’s information regarding running for the term ending December 2022. There is further information on the No on Recalls site. The Rose Investigative report is also available (full report), as well as letters to the council and community by Krohn and Glover.

The pro-recall site, called Santa Cruz United, seems to me singularly focused on furthering real estate interests under the guise of defending moral standards. By not waiting for the end of Krohn’s and Glover’s short mandates, the main real estate supporters of the recall are trying to score on a larger issue, namely protect their investments by pushing for a more conservative Santa Cruz Council.

crime pays

No victims of the ballistic attacks, according to US forces or Iraqi news, but about eighty victims according to Iranian news. It seems that the Iraqi government was informed before the attack, which means that the US might also have been told about it and had the technology, in any case, to see what was coming. This demonstration of force seems to have been meant to calm the Iranian enormous outpouring of emotion and for their government to derive a much needed feeling of unity from it. The choice of targets (one in Sunni territory, Al Asad, west of Baghdad, and the other in Kurdistan, at Erbil) doesn’t make immediate sense to me, nor does it to Juan Cole’s article in his Informed Comment site today. The proclaimed Iranian primary goal is still to get rid of all US presence in the whole area. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn eventually, however, that the assassination of Suleimani not only was encouraged but partly organized by the Saudis as one important way to slow down the rise of Iran. The Saudi government would cover its responsibility in the assassination by pretending that they were willing to lower the tensions between Iran and themselves. Perhaps there has even been something of a partial strategy behind the political murder. Now that ISIS is under control, partly thanks to Iran and Suleimani, the US, Saudis, and Turkey can share the goal(s) of getting rid of annoying, dangerous allies of circumstance, namely the Kurdish forces in NE Syria for Turkey, general Suleimani and its foreign military policy for the Saudis and the US. And it doesn’t hurt that it allows Trump, Pompeo, or Pence to put on masks of messianic gravitas, while being a convenient distraction from impeachment. Israel and Palestine are disputed footnotes in all of this. Both are shamelessly used by the main adversaries, the US and Iran. Yet, in this context of post-Cold War calculations driven by greed and pride, I don’t think it is going too far to remember and ponder that Israel’s presently weak, destructive prime minister, Netanyahu, also owes his power and career to the politically successful assassination of PM Yitzhak Rabin by Yigal Amir.

Carrel and Lindbergh

The BBC today carried a story about Alexis Carrel who got the 1912 Nobel Prize in medicine for his development of vascular grafting and tissue culture. It mentions in passing the island of St. Gildas which Carrel bought sometime after the end of WW I, I think, together with the house on it. It is in Port-Blanc, about 2 miles from the respective farms where Jean Hamel and Marie Gourhant lived. I got my name from it or rather from the Welsh saint that we imagine had lived on it. I would learn later that he lived in the sixth century and wrote in Latin the first book on the history of Britain, his De excidio et conquestu britanniae. My mother liked to reminisce on the occasional presence of Carrel at the church in Penvenan, nearby. Did she think, perhaps with her mother who was unusually educated for a farmer’s wife—she had her brevet—, that he was a miscreant tempted by the Catholic version of the faith, somewhat à la Paul Claudel behind his Notre Dame pillar? She gave me his book, L’homme cet inconnu, when I was fourteen. To bring that book back to the small seminary and have the “préfet” of discipline authorize its reading was a cinch (we had to submit all of our own books to his vigilance. The story of Tristan and Iseult was not authorized, but that is another story). No objection anywhere. Only a few years later (3 or 4?), did I finally realize that Carrel was or had long been a eugenist and was concerned, like Hitler, with the survival of a very narrowly defined, racist, western civilization. I was naïve enough not to realize what he was doing in that long-lost book. Aside from his racism, or rather along with it, he dreamt that modern science could bring immortality. Lindbergh is also featured in the BBC story because he became a friend of Carrel and lived on a close-by island with a small strip where he could land his plane. He and his wife lived on that island for barely one year. Lindbergh and the famous doctor were figures of fame that occasionally surfaced in our local conversations. Carrel is unfortunately not the only one whose skill with a scalpel got to his head and heart.

baseball liturgy

Children and grand-children made me realize that I need not fear losing the wonder that the Catholic liturgy of my childhood brought every Sunday. It is alive, albeit in different colors, in the grand liturgy of American baseball. It was wonderful, while the sabbath rang slowly / In the pebbles of the holy streams, to contemplate these perfectly raked paths, the players decked in impeccable altarboys’ and -girls’ outfits, the green open to the unbound horizon, the pitcher on the mound, and the division of the faithful into two theological camps.

mediocre middle

Democrats are being encouraged by the media and political or financial interests (including Obama or Bloomberg, ex-mayor of New York) to find the mythic center of their big blue tent. It is clear to many voters that we need many changes or “recalibrations:” a universal health plan, a more rational foreign and military policy, a return to progressive taxation (without having to go to the 1945 to 1970 level of payments for WW II, Korea, and Vietnam, or the extraordinary expenses of the cold war), an infrastructure program, a rational regulation policy, resumption of an anti-monopolistic economy, a courageous and enlightened climate policy, and finally a steady, clear, and fair immigration policy. That is a long list of things that are needed to steer our modern capitalist economy towards less troubled times. It means that our system of winner-takes-all economy will have to be put under some control and regulation. We are not talking about socialism but about a mixed economy in which profits are shared more universally because we urgently need to fund infrastructure—including bodies and souls—so that all have a fair chance of living in dignity and freedom. The US have many advantages that haven’t disappeared yet in culture, education, inventiveness, trust, and generally speaking, ethical values. These are being eroded over time, and the list of changes above would go a long way towards shoring up the crumbling foundations. A new start is needed and for that we look to elect a truly brave Democrat, not a middle of the road, mediocre one. Not a sugar substitute or ersatz. I agree with this comment I found this morning in the NYT:

Please stop describing the ideal “electable” Democrat as “moderate.” Moderate really means “status quo” or “business as usual.” Moderate means acquiescence to the longstanding Republican agenda of helping the wealthiest persons (individual and corporate) acquire more wealth, while leaving everyone else ever further behind. Income inequality is not a problem, but a feature of how they believe our economy should function. Moderate means reinforcing a medical-industrial complex devoted to wealth care for its executives and shareholders. Health care for patients is “medical loss,” and we pay billions of dollars for their ceaseless efforts to reduce it. People who get sick, die, or go bankrupt because they can’t afford health care are mere externalities, burdens those CEOs have successfully imposed on someone else. Moderate means dismantling regulation that burdens greed. Boeing can regulate itself, so the 737Max can start creating shareholder value as soon as possible. If people die because of corner-cutting, that’s just another externality. Thoughts and prayers don’t cost shareholders anything. Moderate means continuing to plunder and pollute the planet, so that the executives and shareholders of extractive industries can expand their wealth until there is no more to plunder. Moderate is what big-money donors want in a candidate, as it means protecting and serving their interests. But based on 2016 and 2018, voters are entirely fed up with “moderate.”


According to an article in the New Yorker, Amos Oz thought that the written word was fragile and limited in its ability to reproduce the fullness of being. I take it that this limitation is part of that fullness. Children at play experiment with the creativity that poets also seek, the illumination or miraculous ability not only to point to the world as a whole and in part, but to see itself as part of a creation accomplished with the most fragile of means, an articulation of breath, a streaking of the brush and ink, or blades of grass and sticks over a stream of water.