Vancouver April 25th
I heard a song that seemed to me a new kind of music. It was music I
could see, extraordinary music. Two women singing an open vowel at an interval
that made their two voices one broad grainy band I saw as chrome. There
were touches of instruments as if behind or to the sides, marks with small
dark hooked shapes as if Arabic letters. The melodic line of the band of
human texture being laid down would curve smoothly and familiarly but then
narrow and flex into angles I didn't expect, smaller angles, like quarter
tones. The line would thin out and stop suspended in an unresolved-feeling
way. It was like hearing music of a civilization of the future. It had a
distinct, developed quality. It was like futurist Art Deco. And yet it was
perfectly pleasing, as if the people who worked somewhere to create it belong
to a culture that would suit me if I could find them. It was very intelligent
A good fight. I didn't have my ducks in a row. I was annoyed without
having a good leg to stand on. I mean I risked being angry without certain
reason. I risked being at sea. I made it up as I went. I got to wrestle
some, without being mean. He was good when he saw I wasn't going to insist
on blame. He did try to phone last night. He said this is what happens when
I get effusive. I said when he does it, it isn't effusive, it's intense.
I said when I open up I get hurt and that's inconvenient to you, is that
it? I should shut down? Or are you strong enough to handle it? And then
of course he scrambled and was.
He needs to be able to say, he says. Yes, but maybe when it happens I
could rush into your arms. That was satisfying, so bold and new. At the
end he invented another device. I knew it from the other side. Who loves
you? Who loves you? I'm silent. What's hard in this, I'm wondering. I'm
watching him do what I did, push. Say it. You, I say shyly, like a child.
A knife in the heart with remorse, he says. It's okay, it's okay, I say,
overjoyed that he minds hurting me. I go into these fights sure he'll have
What's the thing I think I see in these last couple of papers. 1) At
MIT they're synthesizing violin sound by digitizing bowing variables and
sound variables, and doing some sort of correlation analysis that gives
them a model they can use to generate sound. I imagined they used a net
to do the correlation, though they don't say so. 2) A paper on sound localization
in cat cortex says a net model does it using count and pattern, but coarsely
or globally - all the neurons respond to all the positions, ie it isn't
place, it's global activity. Is that right? No. It is place, but place
is always global. Focal place has to be a location differentially marked
in space kept live all over. That's what's particular about space and it's
space perception that's used for time. And that's what space-time means.
This is what's wrong with imagining space as coordinates. It imagines
background as dead. The pattern that reports some particular perception,
like color, also keeps the other possibilities alive. Color space. A
keeps not-A alive.
In the context of the entire brain, neurons participate differentially
in maps, and maps participate differentially in other maps, and all of this
IS the binding. What activation anywhere says is that this is happening
in the context of all, all this.
It's your birthday. A hot evening, white-yellow incandescent behind the
lime leaves that are new soft things, thin glove leather, in floppy canopies
outside Dave and Francie's yellow porch. What it's like to drop into a family.
Jacob on a little box holding onto the window sill squeaking, brumming.
Speaking and seeing as if in the same convulsive little acts. People, dogs,
gold light on the grass bank under the green leaves. Standing on his little
tiptoes, one foot wound around the other.
I don't have a lush brain. I've made it more and more a clear, plain,
brain. It doesn't entertain me. When I stop working, I stop. But when I
am working, like this morning doing general planning for the next whole
year, it gives me anything I want. Anything I turn to, it zings to the simple
truth. I feel fertile, burgeoning, as if I'm set up to write deep clear
original papers on dozens of very current topics.
And I love this room. The velvet blue takes shadows beautifully. There
are the white tulips, green leaves, standing against the blue that's printed
with soft, tinted, clean grey blurs in shapes that say both the tulips and
the angle of the sun. Diffuse and clean. The beautiful kitchen chair with
two feet on the yellow rug and two feet on the wood floor. Gleam of white
eggshell on the closet door. The way the ficus goes dark green against the
blue of the far wall.
There are times that are real love. There's real feeling for how hard
his struggle is. I was crying listening to him tell what it's like to want
weed, telling himself he'll control it. A chasm always drawing, the alternative
just plodding drudgery. I was crying because I saw that a life which isn't
the slide of drugs or the plod of menial work is created by a lifetime of
care, effort, detailed struggle. It isn't possible to stop drinking and
have it there. It is created from the beginning. I haven't taken account
of the difficulty of what he calls redemption. I don't know whether there
can be such a thing, it is so difficult. He doesn't have the elementary
disciplines that build a creative life - automatic truth-telling for instance.
Self truth for instance. I am seeing that a free creative life is a sustained
construction of great detail and great patient energy.
For myself I see that I have lacked the ability to build an aspect of
such a life. I have built part of it. I'm trailing a weak leg, I haven't
built support for my human self. Because I didn't build it over a lifetime,
I tried to pick it up magically in a hotel on skid row. Although I haven't
cut corners since, I didn't choose, I went along with being chosen. I've
poured energy into someone else's life. I keep letting myself get talked
into further subsidy.
I'm in a quandary. If I quit I'll be slipping into my own drug, which
is abandoning connection, the part of myself that wants to be connected.
If I go on I stay in trouble, I stay where I'm weak and can be lied to,
emotionally milked, casually neglected, overwhelmed.
I'd like to remember love woman, myself as sweetness and perception,
not hated, not conquered; taught, not mistrusted; given to grow wise amid
a social world rushing with the hope of new ways to defeat her. I am so
frightened for that in myself and in other women. I'm frightened for a kind
of intelligence that is trying to build itself but needs to be slow in natural
surroundings. What else does it need. Sex with heart. Adventure. Unstressed
relations with people it doesn't know very well. Recognition. It needs to
feel pretty, to look at beauty without mistrust. - Oh, see, I fear it means,
I seem to see it means, alone. That makes me cry.
- Does it mean alone no it means something
to be learned
- Learn something specific no learn how to
defend those things
- And still have currency YES
Days after heavy rain, unusual wind, clean air very blue, invisibly reverberating.
Trees shipped full of leaves, as full as they'll be, every leaf immaculate.
It's the cleanest day of the year. Greens by the yard, flopped off the bolt.
Why do I think of Steven Davis as having a mouse-mouth. There's fur around
it. Short fur. He wears grey things with a fuzzy nap. A gently rounded middle.
Shy black eyes. We were at the Havana leaning against the rail in the Saturday
afternoon stream. He said his father had an eagle tattooed on his forearm.
In orthodox Judaism you cannot be buried in the Jewish cemetery if there
is a tattoo on your body. An Orthodox boy in the Bronx ran away at 16, worked
on oilrigs in Texas. But no, he wasn't a brave man. There I felt one of
those gaps there is in people. Can I say this - a space that is holding
its breath in disappointment. Why is Steven disappointed in his father?
What did he say he was working on in philosophy of language, that when a
child is learning to speak, he accepts a correction. Something normative.
(I was immediately more interested in the way a child can use a word idiosyncratically
and be understood.)
When he was a boy, he said, he would perceive the song standing out from
His third wife is a famous columnist in Montreal. He owns a house in
the south of France, an apartment in Paris, a place in Montreal, and his
house in Vancouver. At conferences he is the host, introducing and enquiring.
Nathalie says she's seen him savage with a rival. What I'm meaning to say
is that he has that sadness I know - of a life spent so far from its origin
that those who were there at the beginning can't see you where you are now.
You feel they've died.
I'm trying something socially - I'm being nicer - should I call it sucking
up? Yes because it's with a thought of gain. And no, too, because the effect
is good. The tone warms. There's more trust. Like talking to Wallace yesterday,
I wasn't lying but I was saying the good things I actually think, because
I need their good will. It doesn't seem to matter what my motive is. I came
out of the conversation very calm.
Reading right-wing technology hype in Wired and ASAP agape
at the ideological mix. They're pro-science because science supports technology
and technology is making them rich, but they're anti-neuroscience and anti-evolution
because they feel reduced, demoted in the thought that they are what they
think of as merely matter. They're against government that taxes, regulates
and investigates, but they're for US economic hegemony. They are for supranational
business by means of the web, but they think of multicultural studies as
defense of primitivism. They think of wealth as achieved by moral heroism
- sacrifice, discipline, risk, intelligence, service - and don't mention
the roles of inheritance, influence, unprincipled exploitation of human
weakness, social and environmental opportunism. They say capitalist technological
imperialism is replacing war and neglect to say that, nonetheless, the result
is genocidal civilian death.
Matter and master.
We're living together for three days, we're saying.
Spectacular fucking. It's pleasure without sticking my hand down in,
and it goes on and on. My lord has figured out how to last. - But now he's
playing music in the kitchen. I'll go stomp on it.
Roses on the new table. I mean pink, pink, pink, white, pink, white,
pale pink, cerise, in front of the chalk-blue wall, next to the white and
yellow vertical strips of window frame. A high-class sight.
I'm like a bridge that was washed away / My foundations are
made of clay. Eric Clapton's song that's been on the charts as Tom and
Joseph were feeling their way. My father's eyes.
You phoned in distress about singing Christians. A lot of them arrived
at the mission with plates covered with foil. Those who didn't go down to
the kitchen stayed in the chapel to minister to fallen men in song. Bring-ing
in the sheaves / Bring-ing in the sheaves. You hold up the phone
so I can hear a tenor soloist of the kind I know: projecting a notion of
wholesome sincerity in complacent faith that everything unwholesome is hidden
- a pitiable delusion that only inexperience allows. Willed inexperience.
You're further out than you've been, you say, aquiver. You're liking
to write. I said I was using the issues of Wired and ASAP
you saved me. You said your tail was wagging so hard I'd better move the
stuff on the table.