2nd June 2002

One of bhikku's staff members is 14,244 days old today.

Happy birthday.

6th June 2002

from the Isle of the Manhattoes

There's concern from a number of people that I may have died, or at least been in New Jersey, as Madonna says in Desperately Seeking Susan.
Nope, just been rather busy and with brain in 'dull and mundane' mode. As Thurber said, you will point out, 'Well, I'm disenchanted too! We're all disenchanted.'
Anyway, between appointments in Manhattan I came across the enormous and dull Post Office building, just west of the equally enormous and dull Madison Square Garden/Penn Station complex. One of those buildings which takes up an entire city block, rather unreasonably one feels. Perhaps it had to be so big to carry the yard-high lettered slogan on the facade: 'Neither rain nor snow nor dark of night shall see these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.'*
Of course in the UK, we have no such dedication to duty, and on rainy days, no post comes alas . . .

Here's a bizarre painting entitled Painting depicting the activities of the National Youth Administration, done in a Stanley Spencer meets Soviet Realism mode: it appears that open plan offices used to be even more disruptive workplaces than they are now - the guy at the microscope must be particularly upset at having Kruschev looking over his shoulder asking 'Well? Have you discovered the cure yet?'

*Quoted by Laurie Anderson in O Superman

10th June 2002

You want:  as your last item in Manhattan, to take the subway to Brooklyn Heights and walk back over the Roebling / Hart Crane bridge. You expect to see the East River laid out below you like Istanbul's Golden Horn, the city's fabled towers gleaming across the water.

You'd settle for:  a gale, sheets of driving rain and low visibility as on the previous day, as long as you get to cross the bridge without being blown off.

But as luck would have it, you get:  a mild day of dappled clouds, calm sea and prosperous voyage weather; although the Golden Horn thing doesn't happen owing to the lack of height, the bridge is indeed enchanting, the harbour benign, and the midtown towers cluster under slow-moving cloud-shadows, encouraging the sort of dreamy imaginings usually associated with fire/cloud-gazing.

13th June 2002

photo by Nat Farbman, Bechuanaland.

The little ones leaped, and shouted, and laughed,
And all the hills echoed.
- Blake

From Steichen's often-discredited Family of Man exhibition, which really should be online somewhere . . .

17th June 2002

nostalgie des LPs

. . . you rode the last grooves as if on a rickshaw through the crowded Eastern capital of the music, and then all at once, at dusk, you left the gates of the city and stepped into a waiting boat that pulled you swiftly out onto the black and purple waters of the lagoon, toward a flat island in the middle; rapidly and silently you curved over the placid expanse, drawing near the circular island (with its low druidic totem in the middle, possibly calendrical) but never debarking there; now the undertow bore you at a strange fluid speed toward the teeming shore of the city - colors, perspiration, sleeplessness - and then again back out over the lagoon; the keel bumped first one shore, then the other, and though your vessel moved very fast it seemed to leave only a thin luminous seam in the black surface behind you to mark where the keel had cut. Finally my thumb lifted you up, and you passed high over the continent and disappeared beyond the edge of the flat world.

from Nicholson Baker, The Mezzanine

19th June 2002

man is born free, but is everywhere to be found in trains

A game to play on the underground:  look around the carriage at your fellow passengers (and this being London, none of them will meet your gaze, so you can study them closely), pick a historico-geographic location/zeitgeist, and treat them as dolls to be dressed up accordingly. If this is successful, you can try to bring them to life and people a clockwork novella which you plot on the fly for the remainder of the journey.
I was doing quite well today with a set of Regency England characters, and the artifice only fell apart when my military gent (a fine Duke of Wellington profile, I had him resplendent in gold frogging and shiny boots) turned to face me and went all bland and pudgy, alas . . .

24th June 2002

Overheard on a Saltmarsh

Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?

Green glass, goblin. Why do you stare at them?

Give them me.


Give them me. Give them me.


Then I will howl all night in the reeds,
Lie in the mud and howl for them.

Goblin, why do you love them so?

They are better than stars or water,
Better than voices of winds that sing,
Better than any man's fair daughter,
Your green glass beads on a silver ring.

Hush, I stole them out of the moon.

Give me your beads, I want them.


I will howl in the deep lagoon
For your green glass beads, I love them so.
Give them me. Give them.


- Harold Monro

The Georgian poet Harold Monro founded the Poetry Bookshop in London in 1912, which published poetry by Ezra Pound and Robert Graves among others, under its own imprint. The shop closed in about 1935: London was without a specialist poetry bookshop until 1953, when T.S. Eliot (a friend of Monro's) helped the Poetry Society open a bookshop in Earl's Court Square, which sadly closed a few years ago; as consolation of no kind at all we now have many coffee-shopped Borderses with fine well-lit poetry sections.

25th June 2002

life, like a dome of many-coloured glass / stains the white radiance of eternity

Parts of the 'Light of the World' window by John Piper in the chapel of Robinson College, Cambridge.


'In Ireland everyone is famous from birth, and they become skilled in handling these matters.'

Seamus Heaney, on being asked how he'd handle winning the Nobel prize

the closest I can get to myself as a South Park character . . . (via deletia/prolix.pitas.com)

In the tenth century, the Grand Vizier of Persia, Abdul Kassem Ismael, in order not to part with his collection of 117,000 volumes when travelling, had them carried by a caravan of four hundred camels trained to walk in alphabetical order.

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