“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, April 16, 2016

letters to a young plumber

In one of the famous “Letters to a Young Poet “, which Rilke wrote when he was merely 28, he gives this advice:
“You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must", then build your life in accordance with this necessity…”
I don’t think any poet has ever been so finely, so spiritually, so absolutely one-upped. After Rilke was finished with the job, the poor young poet probably went back to the family haberdashery business and tossed out the ditties.

Now, I wouldn’t dream of putting myself on the same stage with Rilke, but, recently, I was in a similar situation. A young plumber, who knew my reputation with a pair of pliers and couple of cross cleats, sent me the specs for an S trap that he’d recently installed and asked me if I thought his teflon taping technique was any good. He admitted, like the young poet, that he had asked many others, one of whom (a beerish chap who happened to be his boss), had asked him if he was fucking around on the job again. Ah, the vulgarity to which the delicate soul of the dedicated plumber is subject. I, of course, followed Rilke’s lead. Has the proper conduction of detritus and the hydrodynamics of faucet flow,  I asked him, sunk into your dreams, your hopes, and your sex life? In the quietest hour of your quietest night, I asked, have you ever pondered an existence in which, by some tyrant’s order, you were forbidden to use a strap wrench? Would you feel like one of Beckett’s tramps, that you couldn’t go on, or do you think you’d just jerryrig a substitute with an indutrial pair of sheers and the elastic strap wripped from an old pair of BVDs? If the latter, I am afrain I can’t help you: crassness has crept over your soul like aspergillus fumigatus over a damp carpet. If, however, you affirm, with every turn of your locking jaw wrench that I will, I must, I just haveta plumb – then, and only then, my son, have you found the pivot of your service in the construction, maintenance, and sanitation industries! In confirmation of which, I urge you to buy a six pack of Blue Ribbon and drain it on Saturday morning, before breakfast, whilst chanting dithyrambs to the ancient Greek Muse of Plumbing, Drainophene, as is done by all the true plumbers I’ve ever met.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


Hell is easy: a blanket will do it
Under which, on hot nights infinite
Lay down a body like mine
And cover the feet closely, against its lifetime habit

– and that is all, my dear. An intolerable discomfort
Dilated to the size of the universe.  So yes
A God that is the master of tortures is conceivable
A God in our own image, habit’s double agent

Who knows that bones crush, that skin is nothing
Against flame, ice, steel, the sharp edge.
But a God beyond our temptations is
A God we can’t imagine.

Only, we can abstract an inch
Beyond the grind and crush of those winged and walking generations –
Something skinless, needless, blessed.
But what would this God be up to?

What’s in it for him
With no root in any image or song?
This is truly a God for atheists.
Surely our sacrifices have not all been in vain?

Monday, April 11, 2016

How to be President of the US for dummies

The qualification kerfluffle between Sanders and Clinton is ripe with meritocratic comedy. Nothing is more important in a guild-oriented plutocracy like the US than "qualification". It is the testing mania raised to a mythological level. Making the presidency something like a brain surgeon's position (or a taxi cab drivers) where there is a vague licencing credential is, I think, expressive of a whole dimension of what is wrong with American politics. In fact, I think I am much more qualified than both of the candidates, since I've seen fire and I've seen rain, I've been poor and now I'm a bourgeois, and I've read several books - including, How to be President of the USA for Dummies - so there is that. Qualification is an especially juicy subject for academics and writers, since holding on to this last privilege is, in the age of ferocious humanities downsizing, about all we have left. But fuck that. Nobody asks if Mark Zuckerberg is qualified to do squat about education - they just give him the school district of Newark like a big christmas gift. Is Bill Gates qualified to do anything except lecture on monopoly and how to exploit it? Nah. But there he is, the man who influences policy countrywide cause of his billions. Like a particularly bad dissertation written by a student the department wants to get rid of, the presidency is awarded not on the basis of qualification, but on the basis of the fatigue of the voters, who want to get the thing over with.
Qualification is a doddle.