Monday, 25 January 2010

hans magnus enzensberger

Homage to Gödel

‘Pull yourself out of the mire
by your own hair’: Münchausen’s theorem
is charming, but do not forget
the Baron was a great liar.

Gödel’s theorem may seem, at first sight,
rather nondescript,
but please keep in mind
Gödel is right.

‘In any sufficiently rich system
statements are possible
which can neither be proved
nor refuted within the system,
unless the system itself
is inconsistent.’

You can describe your own language
in your own language:
but not quite.
You can investigate your own brain
by means of your own brain:
but not quite.

In order to be vindicated
any conceivable system
must transcend, and that means,
destroy itself.

‘Sufficiently rich’ or not:
Freedom from contradiction
is either a deficiency symptom
or it amounts to a contradiction.

(Certainty = Inconsistency)

Any conceivable horseman,
including Münchausen,
including yourself, is a subsystem
of a sufficiently rich mire.

And a subsystem of this subsystem
is your own hair,
favourite tackle
of reformists and liars.

In any sufficiently rich system
including the present mire
statements are possible
which can neither be proved
nor refuted within the system.

These are the statements
to grasp and pull!

trans by author

Sunday, 24 January 2010


for those people who disagree that zoolander is a work of sublime comic genius either you've had no contact whatsoever with the creative 'industries' or there's a sad, sad lack in your sense of humour and you have my pity.

aside from the fact there is nothing, nothing i say, that's not to like it turns out that far from being just a comedy it was in fact (even if john galliano had already given a heads up) rarely prescient.

in zoolander there was derelicte

in the real world there is this

nice one vivienne westwood....

antjie krog

I am, Because You Are

*Axiom of African philosophy emphasizing the interconnectedness of everything

what sense does the down on your cheek make
as gravity crunches ice-stone and dust
collisions leave debris and flaring hot kernels
devouring moons, tearing up small stars, pulverising surfaces
as swarms of stars scrounge on cloud-ice and gleaming gas-jets?

why would your left cheek come to mind
surrounded as we are by scorching balls
helium, sun winds, impact craters
and gravitation whirlpools where giant stars implode so forcibly
that not even light escapes?

among left-behind-wells of darkness
black holes where nothing but violence holds forth
what is the use of a tender gesture?

if solar systems shoot apart as if hurled in fury
driven by consuming temperatures and unknowable speeds
if a centre-less universe fills all space
by making space where space never was space
if unseen, unsaid dark matter
threatens to block out fragmentary haloes and the few scribblings of light
then my thumb tracing your lower lip has no place

but spiral arms exist, you say
the lovely, feathery, spiral arms of our galaxy exist
in a dreamlike ballet, you say, of nebulae and orbits
and the slow pulsing lifespan of stars
spiral arms exist, you say, and oxygen and quasars
and nebulous uteruses from which protostars stumble dizzily
whirlpools, nebulae and star-heaps exist
quasars exist, stable gravity exists
and immense luminosity from the outskirts of the visible universe,
you say spiral arms exist, the Milky Way exists
smooth orbits exist, the lovable-ness of moons
tides exist and eternal equilibrium, all of these exist, you say

but it is the stars as piercings of light on a summer evening
that keep us in orbits of reaching out
every time we turn towards each other
we do it under a sweeping baldachin of stars

Friday, 22 January 2010


there's an election coming so why not seize your opportuntity to make your own poster for the party that's going to win. i couldn't paste mine up but there are others far more polite and safe for work.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010


first book proof arrived in the mail today.

i am very excited!

Monday, 18 January 2010

the results

so the puffer's over for another year. it doesn't take great prescience to tip alex slaven for a win but i feel a certain satisfaction to have predicted it. a good performance from jo to come in second female in the solos. there's seems more of a spread in lappage in the solos this year. top twenty finish for me? easy. except for the repetition of the mishaps of previous years and given fiona walker, who normally hands me my nethers on a plate, only managed five, perhaps this is wildly optimistic!

an outstanding performance by nevis in the quads tho, a superhuman thirty five laps. i strongly, strongly want whatever they've had in their tea!

on the downside, nice guy dougie vipond apparently fell off on the second lap and got carted off to raigmore with a suspected concussion. another bloke seems to have a heart attack. hopefully he's well. it just goes to show that even tho it's a bit of a laugh, care is required.

today, after a weekend of good intentions fell at the wayside of lots of food, white russians and really quite silly amounts of gales, i was back out in a frost frozen, crispy snow world with g. definite thawing at last! going back out later to suss out a route for the tuesday boys who have, at last, come out of hibernation.

and while g's skills still massively outweigh mine, the uphills are a different matter. he complained to his wife, he tells me, that she'd shrunk his favourite t shirt over the festive period. no, she said. she had not, in fact she hadn;t touched the said garment. chastened the fat man offered no dissension when i told him that yes he would be going back up the hill again...

anne sexton

the anne sexton reading continues so i was delighted to find the bbc broadcasting something about her. the programme's a bit of a jumble - it's not always clear who's speaking but, as a brief insight into sexton's life, it functions well. there's a good bit of poetry which, if you like sexton, you'll like and if you don't, you won't.

one of handy things in looking at sexton is the number of documents available. i'm not comfortable with her psychotherapy transcripts, actor read or not, and one can only imagine how hard listening to these, or reading some of her letters, must have been for her daughters. even in the programme one gets an insight into just how damaging her set of mental health problems were.

it's good to hear her getting a bit of exposure. i always have this feeling that she somehow doesn't get the attention she deserves. she may not be my favourite poet but she's certainly one of those i return to most frequently.

i'd definitely give it a listen. for non iplayer accessible types it's being rebroadcast at 2330 0n the 23rd, uk time

Friday, 15 January 2010


oh for those happy days when the temperature was -10, the snow was powder and the sun was shining. not today. me and g, him for the first time since christmas, ventured forth. about two hundred metres from the car park!

aside from the wet snow being like cycling thru the worst mud imaginable, the general slidiness shows up the slightest failings in technique. look ahead and let the bike roll seems like the simplest thing. only it isn't. which wouldn't be so bad if the immediate consequence was falling off. again and again and again. a note to self - clipless pedals in snow are stupid. buy flats.

all of which leads me to the fact of still not cycling the strathpuffer this year. true there are some psychological issues to deal with - really, what is the point in cycling round and round a forest for 24 hours in winter? but, as i've said before, it's really only at these points that i've really ever been able to explore those deep and dark depths of the psyche.

i did get the chance of a couple of late spots this week but to be honest by this time i didn't feel either physically ready for it let alone anything else. and the thought of having to camp the night before, which i swore i'd never do again before any 24hr solo effort, was just too much. that said, i will miss it, seeing the familiar faces, having my bike break, crashing into a tree, having my bum disintegrate or any of the other ailments that have plagued me over the years and have caused so much amusement to so many. most of my year is, by my own choice, spent on my own, which i love, so i look forward to these great crowdings of idiots on bikes.

so no strathpuffer for me. not that i'll be off the bike. the roads are clear (ish) so off to argyll tomorrow on the grounds that gales and rain are likely to clear the tarmac of both ice and traffic. a good hard trip on the dark side with lots of nasty climbs. great!

but my head will be with those others who are setting off at 0900 in the morning. of course there will be those (alex slaven!) who will beats it for the whole 24hrs and respect to them. but the majority, back in the 'sports' class it'll be a race against themselves. tiredness, mud, horrific weather, it's an experience they won't forget. good luck to all of them....

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

something for various

i was rather taken by the following post on various' blog. what a valuable resource to be able to anonymise those day to day hatreds and vituperations and see them represented in their petty and acid glory. how it made me smile!

not that i took part. it was the very anonymity of the exercise that put me off. it's the same wiht the bloggery. i'm uncomfortable with it even for venting spleen at my own personal hobby horses like wendy cope or the human arse that is martin amis. no, me i'm a proponent of full contact hatred. i just can't say behind anyone's back what i is so much more effectively said to their face.

i find it eases the process, one has to consider the person on the other end otherwise the whole discuss - argue - shout - fight - police cells cascade is far too easily enacted. such a speech act should be declared alone, people hating each other in groups - so unimaginative, so dull - i hate that! i definitely follow the path trod by bernard in the skinhead bit from black books

the expression of quotidian hatred should be funny, it's very ridiculousness should prevent it from the belittling of the person that substitutes so often for the countering of an argument. a good rant should end in laughter, be self terminating, otherwise it's just unhealthy. the best rants should be universal but at the same time be ridiculous, or at least have the appearance of it, and in so doing highlight the ridiculousness of the speaker as much as the subject. no hatred is as healthy as self hatred!

as says william hazlitt, sort of, in 'on the pleasures of hating' a fine read, and worth it

Monday, 11 January 2010

things i listened to

anticipating the final demise of the tv my radio listening has been increasing.

last night i listened to the suday feature on radio 3 whch was all about the goddodin. not only did it feature david purdie's scots version but there's was loads of old welsh getting spoken. worth a listen.

today i started listening to andrew motion's series concerning the poetry of walking, or so he said. it's worth while listening to them in order as he refers back between them. i like the poems he's talking about but, as always with andrew motion, it's the way he talks about them that puts me off. ther are inaccuracies, such as his insistence that wordsworth somehow is responsible for the modern approach to walking but, even allowing for that, the tone is that of the classroom. it's not that its dull, just that there seems little joy in it. i don't even know if motion likes walking (sic!)

last but definitely not least is kenneth steven on yeats' the lake isle of innisfree. i haven't finished this yet as i'm off out to work but so far it's hitting all the marks as far as being interesting and engaging plus, unlike the motion programmes (sorry andrew) the poeple involved seemed to have anemotional connection to the work.

whatever, they're all worth a listen

one for rachel

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan,
The proper study of mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between, in doubt to act or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little or too much;
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused or disabused;
Created half to rise, and half to fall:
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides;
Go measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old Time, and regulate the sun;
Go, soar with Plato to th'empyreal sphere,
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Or tread the mazy round his followers trod,
And quitting sense call imitating God;
As eastern priests in giddy circles run,
And turn their heads to imitate the sun.
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule--
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!
Superior beings, when of late they saw
A mortal man unfold all Nature's law,
Admired such wisdom in a earthly shape,
And show'd a NEWTON as we show an ape.
Could he, whose rules the rapid comet bind,
Describe or fix one movement of his mind?
Who saw its fires here rise, and there descend,
Explain his own beginning or his end?
Alas! what wonder! Man's superior part
Uncheck'd may rise, and climb from art to art;
But when his own great work is but begun,
What Reason weaves, by Passion is undone.
Trace Science then, with modesty thy guide;
First stip off all her equipage of pride;
Deduct what is but vanity or dress,
Or learning's luxury, or idleness,
Or tricks to show the stretch of human brain,
Mere curious pleasure, or ingenious pain;
Expunge the whole, or lop th'excrescent parts;
Of all our vices we have created arts;
Then see how little the remaining sum,
Which serv'd the past, and must the times to come!

from An Essay on Man

Thursday, 7 January 2010

umberto saba


It’s as if for a man battered by the wind,
blinded by snow - all around him an arctic
inferno pummels the city-
a door opens along a wall.

He goes in. He finds again a living kindness,
the sweetness of a warm corner. A forgotten
name places a kiss on
cheerful faces that he has not seen
except obscurely in menacing dreams.
He returns
to the street, and the street, too, is not the same.
Fine weather has come back, busy hands
break up the ice, the blue reappears
in the sky and in his heart. And he thinks
that every extreme of evil foretells a good.

trans george hochfield and leonard nathan

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

books at bedtime

i'm reasonably certain i came across a post at the fabulous sally evans's blog about books lying about at her bedside. it got me to thinking. so, currently, untidied, at the side of my bed are -

dr johnson and mr savage by richard holmes. one of those gems that oxfam shopping turns up. richard savage is a playwright. samuel johnson is, then, an unknown teacher. this is what happens next.

how to make a tornado
do polar bears get lonely
when the attention span lapses these q&a books from the new scientist are perfect pre sleep reading. somehow the question are almost more intriguing than the answers

the plums of p.g. wodehouse. some folio society wodehouse collection i picked up in sally's shop. because a life without wodehouse is plain uncivilised.

notebook. the purple one from sweden. hard covered. not my favourite, not least because it won't fit easily in a pocket. but fits the room.

scotland mountainbiking by phil mckane. because what's better than to relax into a book of maps and journeys, the perfect dream machines.

slate, sea and sky by norman bissell. with photography by oscar marzaroli who i also like. an unexpected christmas present and all the better for it. many landscapes i know and love.

dark matter : poems of space. among all the other to do stuff for the first quarter is lots of reading on poetry and science. this is in at the start and it is fabulous.

the faith healer of olive avenue by manuel munoz. for me short stories should either take you somehwre you don't know or shed light or somewhere you think you do. for me these do both, a place i've never been and old memories of hispanic interactions surfacing. enjoying it lots so far.

kinshu by teru miyamato. just started this, mainly because i haven't read an epistolary novel in an age. two folk were married. now they're not. they meet by chance and a correspondence ensues.

montale in english. multiple english translations of montale. you can't go wrong with it!

emma jones


The pearls were empire animals.
They'd been shucked from the heart of their grey mothers
which is why, so often, you'll find them
nestled at the neck and breast.
It stood to reason.
The sea was one long necklace,
and they often thought of that country.

Its customs waylaid them,
and it occupied their minds.
Nobody missed them.
The oysters felt nothing,
neither here nor there,
down on the farm and miles out to sea,
those swaying crops.

Rolled to create circumference.
Opened to accommodate
the small strange foreign irritant
that hones itself to a moon.
The oysters say
'it's a lulling stone, that outside heart
turned in, and beating.'

They knit their fields of nacre, and are quiet.
The clouds converge.
It's a sad constabulary,
the sky and the sea, and the boats.
Because piracy is common
the farmers carry guns. Does the sea
object, marshalling its edges?

Do the fish know
their glint, those inward birds
in the fields of the Pacific?
It's a singing bone,
the indivisible pearl.
It's a bright barred thing. And pearls
are empire animals. And poems are pearls.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

julia hartwig

Return to My Childhood Home

Amid a dark silence of pines - the shouts of young
birches calling to each other
Everything is at it was. Nothing is as it was.
Speak to me, Lord of the child. Speak innocent
To understand nothing. Each time in a different
way, from the first cry to the last breath.
Yet happy moments come to me from the past, like
bridesmaids carrying oil lamps

trans by john and bogdana carpenter

out in the snow

january not being january without being on the bike i'm chafing to get out despite the stupidly difficult snow. i fail to manage to cycle in a straight line, get stuck, repeat, get stuck, repeat, many, many times. harsh words follow but nothing can take away from the loveliness of the day.

(okay maybe the general icyness of the roads and the fact that, despite me having snow tyres and them not, the sight of a cyclist seems to get car drivers into some sort of murderous panic!)

and yes that is a rare image of me

Monday, 4 January 2010

and then the moon

new year's eve was also notable for the occurrence of a blue moon, the second full moon in a calendar month. this happens every two years or so and at a new year every nineteen odd years. combined with a partial eclipse tho? a special event. i phoned geo and the people i;d left behind and from our different vantage points we got ourselves out. i looked thru t's new astronomical binoculars. the second picture is taken from my back step using my old but what i thought was decent digital camera. the first is taken with steve's camera phone. annoyingly better technology!

and this...

Full Moon and Little Frieda

A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark and the clank of a bucket -

And you listening.
A spider's web, tense for the dew's touch.
A pail lifted, still and brimming - mirror
To tempt a first star to a tremor.

Cows are going home in the lane there, looping the hedges
with their warm wreaths of breath -
A dark river of blood, many boulders,
Balancing unspilled milk.
'Moon!' you cry suddenly, 'Moon! Moon!'

The moon has stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work.

That points at him amazed.

news at bedtime

i get a rare respite from human company on my way back from geo's on new year's eve. i had a great drive over, all the lochs are frozen, some for the first time i can remember. tomorrow i may even go across to the lake of menteith to see just how far i can walk over it until the strange noise of ice make me bottle it.

anyway, back down the road, the moon, in one of those mind tricks no one can really explain, looks enormous over the mountains (hills for those of you in more vertiginous climes). the radio comes and the radio goes. when it comes back i find myself listening to the superlative news at bedtime.

i learned to read with nursery rhymes but i was still surprised at just how familiar all those characters were. it does everything a poetry programme should, it's playful, it foregrounds the language, it's contemporary. and scabrous. i loved it. t laughed until the tears ran down her cheeks. iplayer will have the last four episodes for the next couple of days. my favourite is episode six. rights for jumblies!