volume 14 of the golden west: 1998 april-july  work & days: a lifetime journal project  






Noise war with Tanya, In part 2 I take Tom to meet Joyce,

Mentioned: Carol Moisevich, Michaux, Peter Harcourt, Steven Davis, Clapton My father's eyes, Nathalie Prevost, Leslie Memoirs of the life of John Constable.

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 simple music.


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 no patience.


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.

1st May

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. Such structures.

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 the bird.

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.