6th july 2005

You are in Waterloo Station, again. It's a mess: burgers and davincicodes litter the arena, the trains are a sideshow. It is late evening.
Idiot ringtones, tannoy mispronouncements.
Nothing to read, you dork.
>Get on train.
You get on the train.
It's misty blue and misty grey out there. There are lights like jewels on the tops of buildings.
You say, "Jesus, look, there's a woman there reading Wide Sargasso Sea!"
You say, "Don't point. Anyway, she has a lumpy face."
You say, "Nothing to what you've got, pal. Wide Sargasso Sea."
You say, "Well she's prolly a student, she has to write an essay on it."
You say, "I doubt it: she's not writing anything down."
You say, "OK then, wait til she looks up, then make your *You and me are the only Jean Rhys fans in this whole carriage of Dan Brown clones* face, go on."
You say, "Um, I don't think so."
You say, "Look at her now then, she's reading the notes in the back."
You say, "Praps there's a tricky bit of patois, or she forgot what an octaroon was."
You say, "Now she's getting off, where's this, Putney - right, where the students live."
You say, "Shut up."
It's dark now. You can't see anything.

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7th july 2005

More from my desmidcy.

Compare and contrast:

There is a plant like a box-thorn,
With prickles like a dog-rose, they prick one who plucks it.
But if you can possess it
You'll be restored to youth.

- Epic of Gilgamesh

The leaf was darkish, and had prickles on it,
But in another country, as he said,
Bore a bright golden flower, but not in this soil:
Unknown, and like esteemed, and the dull swain
Treads on it daily with his clouted shoon;
And yet more med'cinal is it than that Moly
That Hermes once to wise Ulysses gave.

- Milton, Comus

Clouted shoon is very good; I often think of that line.

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9th july 2005

Hacker with bullhorn: 'Save your money! Accept one of our free tanks! It is invulnerable, and can drive across rocks and swamps at ninety miles an hour while getting a hundred miles to the gallon!'
Prospective station wagon buyer: 'I know what you say is true...but...er...I don't know how to maintain a tank!'
Bullhorn: 'You don't know how to maintain a station wagon either!'
Buyer: 'But this dealership has mechanics on staff. If something goes wrong with my station wagon, I can take a day off work, bring it here, and pay them to work on it while I sit in the waiting room for hours, listening to elevator music.'
Bullhorn: 'But if you accept one of our free tanks we will send volunteers to your house to fix it for free while you sleep!'
Buyer: 'Stay away from my house, you freak!'
Bullhorn: 'But...'
Buyer: 'Can't you see that everyone is buying station wagons?'

- Neal Stephenson, In the Beginning was the Command Line

This came to mind last week when my station wagon, which these days is updated for free while you sleep, was visited by a particularly crazed fix and refused to start in the morning. I had to rebuild it from the bolted chassis up, and when it was finished the wipers and the CD player and the seatbelts wouldn't work, and the bumper stickers had all peeled off, and then I had to start fixing them too. I'll go on finding coins down the back of the seats for months, I suspect.
So I thought briefly about getting a tank, but I don't know whether anyone makes foglights for tanks or not and I don't think they do.

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17th july 2005

one oozy footstep

In a recent TLS article, Abraham Socher took two whole Kinbotian pages to reveal to us groundlings that the inspiration for the opening of Pale Fire's poem was this short Frost poem:

Of a Winter Evening aka Questioning Faces

The winter owl banked just in time to pass
And save herself from breaking window glass
And her wings straining suddenly aspread
Caught color from the last of evening red
In a display of underdown and quill
To glassed-in children at the window sill.

which was first published in the Saturday Review of Literature in 1958, four years before the publication of Pale Fire. Nabokov has said somewhere that he knew only one Frost poem well, and this has often been assumed to be Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, which Kinbote comically comments on in the book. But it seems that the bird / glass / perspective reversal swing it for the verse above as the precursor to that great opening.
Now, I never know whether this is a bit gauche, but I like John Shade's poem in Pale Fire a lot - I like it more than mediocre Frost (which the above is), more than a lot of good Frost. That Nabokov - he just didn't care. At least I hope he didn't.

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20th july 2005

the universal

T- finds Art a puzzling and complex subject . . .

In a school report of positives, this was supposed to strike a negative note or at least damn with faint praise. Instead it just summed up the lives of most of us.

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27th july 2005

rough guide

When the rain comes, and drops hang from windowframes and spiderwebs, and damp greenness crawls under the back door on the back of a rogue snail, then.
Then it is that we consider and long for the mudbrick of desert palaces, the spiced dusts of driedup ditches, the early pitchblue evenings in bulblit streets, a slice of moon floating. We look for cool morning bus stops and for hazy late afternoons among reeds and decaying boats.
Any or none of this we may or may not achieve, but it can be slipped between the pages of a book easily enough. The binding is dry, cracking; grains of sand fall onto the tabletop.

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My brother the sun
My sister the moon
Travel the roads with me.
When I die I'll be with you
Among the stars.

- Persian, 13th cent.