13 April 2014

A Noiseless Patient Spider // Walt Whitman

A noiseless patient spider,

I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,

Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,

It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,

Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,

Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,

Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to                    
connect them,

Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,

Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

6 April 2014

Where information comes from

Every time a child wants to or does derail a lesson it is mostly important to allow that derailing because it gives us information on how we are failing to teach not because we cannot but because we are standing there as teachers, with all the dumb accessories and phrases that teachers have.

Every time a child wants to or does derail a lesson it is important to ‘within reason’ allow that derailing because it reminds us that derailing a lesson is a natural or honest response to an unnatural or dishonest situation. All teaching should be a process of derailment. I am constantly surprised that more children are not constantly derailing more lessons.

If we insist on maintaining the difference and division between adults and children which does and does not exist, which should and should not exist, then we could at least watch, join in with or at least not put a stop to necessary derailments. The throwing of things, including paint, should be actively encouraged.

Also it is important to at least substitute the word share with the word divide. Share implies that someone owns and must unown in parts. Divide implies that a thing is and a way must be found to make it enough.

This does not apply to infinite things. Of them there is always enough or too much.

24 March 2014

A conversation/interview mostly between L, M and K which M has not set up the right environment to record in but continues regardless because it is good when everyone is in the same room

Amman, Jordan
December 2014
An aunt's living room
L, Li, N, H (sisters), A, Y, R (husbands), M, K and G (grand/children)
(Words spoken in Arabic in italics)

L: Once upon a time hahaha

K: Once upon a time hahaha

H: Come on L and Li are both here so if one forgets something the other can remind her

L: We were studying at university, me and Li, at the AUB in Beirut, Lebanon

H: 82

M: Don't feel you have to change the way you speak

L Yes. I went to university in 79 and Lina followed in 80. The whole time there were problems in Beirut at that time but in 82 the - what's ishtiyah in English so they understand?

R: Invasion

Li: Invasion

L: Invasion

H: Israeli invasion

L: The Israeli invasion started in the south of Lebanon, in no time like this *clicks fingers* no resistance at all *clicks fingers* it was reading period at that time we had a week for you know, we were studying at university for our exams. There was no resistance at all ok, they got in from the south, from Tyre and Sidon, in no time, in less than an hour they'd say they've reached this place and that place and that place, till they came to be very very near Beirut. On the spot the university...

K: How did your parents let you go in 79 and 80 there were so many problems

L: Yes there were lots of problems but on and off and internal things issues in the militias themselves it wasn't anything like Lebanon against Israel or another country, since 75 there were problems in Lebanon all because of you you know sectors, religious sectors. So in 82 we're studying in reading period and all of a sudden they told us they'd cancelled the exams and they'd work it out from our midterm papers and so on and everybody started to leave Beirut because it's very risky and the Israelis were very near the capital. So what happened, you know, you visited the AUB right?

K: Yeah

L: In the greenfields down there, it's the football pitch, it's near the sea, near the American embassy, so all the helicopters would come to the greenfields, British citizens, American citizens all the important people, would take the students from the greenfields and take them in the helicopters and move them (garbled) … they were safe ... but us, the other nationalities, us and the Palestinians Syrians and the Maldives and the Kuwaitis and the other countries, nobody, we'd call our embassies to say please can you provide, like, help us somehow, we'd ask and ask and no one would listen. So we decided we should leave Beirut. At that time east Beirut which was Jounieh, il Ashrafieyeh, and those, because they were mostly Christians, were on good terms with the Bashīr al-Jimayyel family and that lot, they were on good terms with the Isralieis so there was no worry about east Beirut so what happened is that we made a big convoy, we decided we should leave Beirut ok, so it was all the Jordanians, the Maldives with us, there some foreigners, some Arabs from Kuwait and Palestinians and that. There was a group called Group 16, they were a Lebanese army group -

N: Meow

G: Meow

L: Ai ai don't bite me, they walked with us, we left in groups, in buses, buses that were open at the back, all the students got on with our baggage and everything, they dropped us off so we were safe in Jounieh. The idea being that from there we'd make contact so they'd take us by sea to the closest place which was Cyprus ok?

G: Meow

M: Why didn't you go back to Jordan, you couldn't go back inland?

L: We couldn't, we couldn't. The only solution was to go from Jounieh via Mina, the port, and go from there to Cyprus which was very close

N: Hello Frostie!

L: So ok we decided, we moved from Beirut to the east, we stayed in one hotel, the Holiday Beach Hotel in Jounieh, for one night till we made connections and agreements and affirmations that we were students, not political activists, not involved, blah blah blah so they'd let us leave Lebanon. So we were…obliged? to stay in the hotel and sleep in the lobby. They used to you know step over us until they took they took their ok...

Y: If I didn't invite anyone we'd never meet up!

L: They found a cargo ship, imagine, a cargo ship, remember the crew were Egyptians

N: Sharing party, everyone 20 dinars!

L: On one side its a cargo ship, big one, one half of it were us on the other half was our stuff, we were supposed to cross from Jounieh, to Cyprus in less than 16 hours

M: Shhhhh

R: 20 dinars is enough!

L: Because it was a cargo ship so it was slow, it would take 16 hours from Jouneieh to Limasoll, Cyprus. So at the last minute some people started saying we had to buy sleeping bags and things, other people said it didn't matter, so some people bought and others didn't

K: (garbled)

L: Exactly. So after we left Jouniel at 6pm. At 8pm, after the ship had been going for 2 hours, in the middle of nowhere in the sea and its dark, all of a sudden we heard loud speakers, big speakers, are you listening?

Li: L

L: No I spoke to him, I'm telling them the story, I'm telling them the story, she's recording it

Li: Oh

K: (garbled)

L: Yes no, we got out into international waters and saw these big speakers, like in the movies, you know, they turned these huge lights on us

M: Wow

L: And you cannot see but they can see us, the speakers loudly saying 'stop where you are don't move' ok, so the crew they stop the ship, the engine and that. Then came these rubber boats, the light is on us, and its very dark, the water's black, only these lights and these rubber boats full of Israeli soldiers holding guns... it's like a scary movie, seriously, they stopped nearby, they told us to

Li: You guys go into the kitchen, none of this is going to be recorded, now when she presses rewind you'll see there'll be nothing there

H: There'll be nothing there

A: It's ok it's ok it's just water

H: It's just water, go and get a towel, hurry up

R: That's not what we're talking about I'm trying to tell you

L: Why are you playing with the water? Why are you playing with the water?

G: I didn't play with water

L: I saw you

G: I didn't play with it

L: I saw you!

G: I didn't!

L: You cutie I saw you

H: This isn't going to work

M: Why not it's a towel?

R: What kind of water is that

A: Water, it's just water, normal water

N: It's pee hahaha

Li: - when the priest came here and he blessed the house the first day and he sat and

K: In normal times you know these people are psychotic enough but in wartime just off a war zone when they're catching a boat full of random people it must have been horrible it must have been absolutely terrifying

L: Yes, we were kids, students you know, but the way they treated us

K: ...what's going on to such a degree that you're leaving the country in a cargo ship

L: But you know what happened, you know what happened, when they stopped us we decided that one person should talk on our behalf. It was a mistake, one guy he volunteered to talk to them on behalf of all the students, his name was OA, A is a Palestinian family, well known, so it was a mistake. He assumed that because he had an American passport he was in a better position to negotiate with them with the Israelis. They stopped us, they came on board, one of the students, OA, he said I have an American passport… but once he started, they said stop and they came on board. What they did is there were three small rooms for the crew, what they did is they took the small rooms, put desks in each room soldiers took the rooms and they told us one by one to go by the three rooms, they started to investigate us, they asked us questions, you won't believe how much they know about Jordan, about Amman, each street, the name of the street, the name of the house, we were amazed from the information they had. Anyway they checked us all, now most of the students were so afraid when they came aboard that they started to you know, if they have letters or pictures or something to throw them in the sea...

K: (garbled)

M: (garbled)

L: ...because they were very skeptical about three or four guys while they investigated us... after 3 or 4 hours after they'd finished they said come with us, they took the three guys with them and one girl. We, we assumed they'd randomly chosen the name, her name was S, maybe they thought 's', then we thought her mother was very active in small communities...

K: They took them on the rubber boats?

L: Yes, till the morning they brought them back. When we checked with them what happened the girl said they treated me very good they brought some food and they gave me a guitar, something like that… as for the guys... pffft... I think they beat them or something like that, they were unable to tell the story, I guess they mistreated them or tried to take information from them, they didn't talk about it, they didn't want to say what happened

K: Nobody challenged them? These were international waters (garbled)

L: They were armed! We couldn't, we were terrified. In the morning when they brought back the guys and the girl, the helicopters… you won't believe. During the night, we didn't have sleeping bags, you know how cold it gets, from the morning the sun shines, me, when I reached Amman, I had second degree burns, the blood was coming out of my face, vessels, for one week I couldn't see anybody.
Anyway when they brought back the kids, the helicopters started taking movies, pictures

M: Helicopters from where?

L: From their side, definitely. Why? Because they came on the ship on board and brought with them food on silver trays imagine they started to give us food you know propaganda like they're treating us in a good way and they're taking movies. Me, they gave me one tomato, so I threw it back and he took it and he threw it at me and yelled eat the tomato! he said. Anyway instead of taking us 16 hours to reach from Jounieh to Limassol it took us 36 hours in the sea, 36 hours. There was 1 bathroom, it was loaded with water, we used to go, my friend R, 3 days she didn't go to the toilet, me I used to take my jeans off and go inside, the guys have no problem, they go in the sea. So after 3 days we reach Limassol we found the Red Cross there giving anyone who wants help or food and we found a plane coming from another place, they ordered it to stop in Limassol to take the Jordanians and we came back. But what really happened, it was really frightening for our parents why? because the last thing they heard from us, the students, was when we left Jouneih and all of a sudden in the middle of the sea the contact was lost *claps hands* they were checking with the foreign ministries, what happened to our kids you know, we couldn't reach each other and we were kidnapped in the sea and we were supposed to reach Limassol in 16 hours max, we didn't reach there and nobody knew where we are

M: Do you think they tortured them?

L: Now nobody knows the true story

M: Was it in the news?

K: (garbled)

L: And our parents – yes yes that one – but I mean imagine your families they're waiting to hear news from their kids and all of a sudden no connection at all they didn't know anything about us for 36 hours... because it seems the Egyptian crew one or two of the guys were Americans so after 2 hours when we left from Jounieh they said, we heard them, they said, they were standing on the the you know on the the

M: Speak Arabic

L: On the edge of the ship we heard them saying that we’re not heading towards Cyprus because the route should be across the... it should go straight forward, it’s a very small distance, but we went deep in the sea, we weren’t heading towards Cyprus, they knew, they took us to Haifa, that’s why we stayed for a longer time, they took us to Haifa, but we didn’t...

M: Did they know?

K: Did you get the names of the crew?

M: Was it planned?

L: Not planned but they ordered them and they could do nothing you know

M: What was their point?

K: The point is that they took you into Israeli waters so that if anything happened, if the story came out, the army can say or the navy can say that this ship is in sovereign Israeli territory so we can have the right to...

M: What was their point, to check these students weren’t radicals? To...?

L: Their point was to check if there are if we have some Palestinian terrorists among us

M: Yeah

L: But they checked us all and knew that we were students, nothing else

K: (garbled)...poor students exiting a war zone and they do a whole PR exercise with the emphasis on the Israeli army and the

M: To say look we’re helping these poor Arabic students


K: How was Li?

L: Oh my goodness she was cryyyying

K: Really?

Li: I was crying because I’d left my boyfriend there, he was a Syrian guy and he could not leave with us, Syrians were not allowed. And then we found a wasta... we got him and another 3 guys, they took him with the Maronite church who hid them so we met only for 10 minutes before we left Jounieh and we cried and then we said goodbye and then they stayed in Jounieh for 3 days and the church, the Maronite church they took them back to Syria, they sent them back to Syria. And we came back to Amman (garbled)...

K: Did you throw a tomato too?

Li: L threw the tomato, he’d have shot her

L: (Laughs)

H: He’d have shot you

Li: He told her eat a tomato and she said I don’t want to eat a tomato!

L: (Laughs)

Li: I thought to myself 'he’s shot her!'


N to L: And you're there winding them up?

H: Well of course he’s a pig

N: Well we went to Israel and we talked to them, I didn’t feel a thing, not a difference

H: Welcome to Israel

N: Come on Y come on, she's tired, come on G

Li: M is it still recording? Remind me to find the picture and
(cuts off)

10 March 2014

Improvised incendiary weapons

How is a fire in a green metal bin in a suburban park that has been kicked in by teenagers for fun then set on fire by those same teenagers different to a fire in a black plastic bin in an impoverished urban street that has been torn out of the pavement by bored teenagers then set on fire by those same teenagers? What, if any, difference does it make if one or both of those bins find themselves careering through the windows of a luxury department store setting aflame many expensive items? What, if any, difference does it make if the fires in one or both of those bins draw towards them another group of teenagers but this time they have crowbars?

How is a fire at the end of a cigarette that a young girl is pressing into the inside of her forearm different to the fire destroying a building because another young girl, sick of raising her arm in class and burning her arm in the bathroom at home while her mother is out, raised her arm instead to swing in a perfect arc a gasoline filled bottle and a lit rag into a building? What, if any, difference does it make if she burns her arm in private or public? What, if any, difference does it make if the building she burns down is her home, her school, her church? What, if any, difference does it make if she learned how to do this from her father who, showing off about his militant past, directed her attention to a different kind of action?

Because they can be acted both upon and with it becomes the case that sometimes a body is like a green or black metal or plastic bin or a dirty pavement or a luxury department store or a burning home, school or church and sometimes those things are like a body.

In a 1993 study of 15 female arsonists it was found that none of them had set a fire for financial gain. The psychological antecedents to offending were identified predictably as: low self esteem, depression, limited communication skills and deficits in anger management. A relapse prevention model was imparted to protect the buildings. The female arsonists, after seeing what they’d done, saw how much more needed doing.

Fire is a language far more universal than love.

25 February 2014

Thoughts // Walt Whitman


OF the visages of things--And of piercing through to the accepted hells beneath;
Of ugliness--To me there is just as much in it as there is in beauty--And now the ugliness of human
beings is acceptable to me;
Of detected persons--To me, detected persons are not, in any respect, worse than undetected
persons--and are not in any respect worse than I am myself;
Of criminals--To me, any judge, or any juror, is equally criminal--and any reputable person is also--
and the President is also.


OF waters, forests, hills;
Of the earth at large, whispering through medium of me;
Of vista--Suppose some sight in arriere, through the formative chaos, presuming the growth,
fulness, life, now attain'd on the journey;
(But I see the road continued, and the journey ever continued;)
Of what was once lacking on earth, and in due time has become supplied--And of what will yet be
Because all I see and know, I believe to have purport in what will yet be supplied.


OF persons arrived at high positions, ceremonies, wealth, scholarships, and the like;
To me, all that those persons have arrived at, sinks away from them, except as it results to their
Bodies and Souls,
So that often to me they appear gaunt and naked;
And often, to me, each one mocks the others, and mocks himself or herself,
And of each one, the core of life, namely happiness, is full of the rotten excrement of maggots,
And often, to me, those men and women pass unwittingly the true realities of life, and go toward
false realities,
And often, to me, they are alive after what custom has served them, but nothing more,
And often, to me, they are sad, hasty, unwaked sonnambules, walking the dusk.


OF ownership--As if one fit to own things could not at pleasure enter upon all, and incorporate them
into himself or herself;
Of Equality--As if it harm'd me, giving others the same chances and rights as myself--As if it were
not indispensable to my own rights that others possess the same;
Of Justice--As if Justice could be anything but the same ample law, expounded by natural judges and
As if it might be this thing or that thing, according to decisions.


As I sit with others, at a great feast, suddenly, while the music is playing,
To my mind, (whence it comes I know not,) spectral, in mist, of a wreck at sea,
Of the flower of the marine science of fifty generations, founder'd off the Northeast coast, and going
down--Of the steamship Arctic going down,
Of the veil'd tableau--Women gather'd together on deck, pale, heroic, waiting the moment that draws
so close--O the moment!
O the huge sob--A few bubbles--the white foam spirting up--And then the women gone,
Sinking there, while the passionless wet flows on--And I now pondering, Are those women indeed
Are Souls drown'd and destroy'd so?
Is only matter triumphant?


OF what I write from myself--As if that were not the resumé;
Of Histories--As if such, however complete, were not less complete than my poems;
As if the shreds, the records of nations, could possibly be as lasting as my poems;
As if here were not the amount of all nations, and of all the lives of heroes.


OF obedience, faith, adhesiveness;
As I stand aloof and look, there is to me something profoundly affecting in large masses of men,
following the lead of those who do not believe in men.

13 February 2014

Three excerpts from an interview with Lisa Robertson

I think there is a strong relation between emotion and form, just as there is between emotion and bodies. In fact, they’re not different. It is my body that is angry, and that thinks, and that cuts through certain conventions to find ways of working with language that feel direct, liberatory. What we’re talking about here is bodies, their imperative to act. We can’t free bodies without listening to bodies, including our own.

But I want to say too that it has been crucial to continue to seek out, craft a balance, between solitude and social visibility. Retreat is also an economy. As well as developing social and political critiques, we need to nourish our inner lives. This is also something we can help each other with. The neo-liberal economy has put financial and institutional survival at the foreground of nearly every intellectual’s life. And as women we are conditioned to serve others. We can’t let this exigency obscure the parallel need to be improductive, to locate value otherwise. I am more and more Epicurean as time passes. I’m referring to the school of philosophy as examined living, not the popular myth of gourmandise. We need to form communities that help us live outside the general economy, to cultivate resistant paths of thought. I’m interested in exploring the notion of a feminist solitude. I’m interested in experimenting with time.

I believe that thinking is emancipatory. That is why it is frightening, to individuals and to political regimes and institutions. Thinking is a form of acting, an acting within the space of language. I don’t mean language in any autonomous sense. Language is already historical, it’s never not political and historical. To act within language is always to act among others, and in the temporality of others. We change language itself by thinking and writing. Other people’s thinking and writing has given me the space and the will to work. I hope to contribute to this quorum, however modestly, because this is what it means to live in history and in politics. It is already a world, already a utopia. I want to insist that creative and intellectual activity is real, although it’s situated outside the mainstream of the economy. The neo-liberal political economy is not real. It is violent, and aggressive because it wants to claim the space of reality in order to quantify it. What we are doing, speaking together, reading and publishing and critiquing one another’s texts, eating at tables and arguing, loving each other, giving life to one another, is already embodied utopia. That doesn’t mean it’s simple. It has to be reinhabited at each turn. This ongoing reinhabitation is the necessary amazement. It’s politics, it’s the future, and it’s happening in kitchens and in online spaces and classrooms and gardens right now. It’s a resistance.

Full text here.

30 January 2014


Its head is ordinary.
Its head is inquisitive.
Its head is ordinary and inquisitive.
Its head is ordinary but inquisitive.
It is a head that is ordinary and inquisitive.
It is a head that is ordinary but inquisitive.
Can what is ordinary not also be inquisitive?
Ordinariness does not preclude inquisitiveness.
It is ordinary because it is brown.
It is inquisitive because it has a beak.
These statements are not facts.

In nature, or at least what I can see from here, brown is an ordinary colour.
It does not stand out because it comprises the base of many other things. It stands in, or down. It surrenders.
Earth trunk bark mud stone shit leaf twig.
Things grow on it. It does not grow on things.
This statement is inaccurate.

Brown is why I am calling it ordinary. It seems as though ordinary means, at least to some degree, common, often occurring.
Ordinary can be noble and interesting though interest is more interesting than nobility.
I am suspicious and (therefore?) critical of my soft spot for nobility.
I am suspicious and (therefore?) critical of soft spots in general – though it is terrible to be general.
I am slightly less suspicious of being general than having soft spots.
I would rather be highfaluting than noble.
I would rather be precise than general.
I fail to be how I want to be. This is common. (But it does not help).
Yet, it interests me because it is a common colour and (therefore?) a vital one. Without it...?

That settled, we turn to the inquisitive beak.
Is this a prejudice? A romantic notion? A random personal observation? Dumb imagination?
To me the beak points, interrupts, insists with violence.
It picks, it is specific: that worm! that worm!
This is not a matter of inquisitiveness.
I doubt it is inquisitive.
The beak is a simple, effective tool.
It has no ulterior motive.
It is not trying to get questions answered or solve mysteries or crimes.

It is not because of either of these things that I look at it, that it has caught my attention.
I never understood what my mother meant when she stopped smoking and felt like she had lost a friend.
It was while I was understanding this that I noticed it.
It was its movement that interested me, that caught my attention.

Nothing was special about its movement.
This depends on what special means in the sentence, and/or in the world.
For now, for this instance at least, it means: differing from expectation, differing from its own usual, deviating from internal logic or nature i.e. predictable courses of action.
This statement is inaccurate.

A finch hops. This is to be expected.
This finch was no different: it hopped.
It was not singing with a human voice (special), it was not wild colours (special), it was not juggling knives (special), it was not telling jokes (special).
Would all the things which make it special also make it not itself but something else entirely?
People could come along and say: hey, that's not like itself, it must be another thing. They would call it something else and add it to the books. Its definition would not expand, break and revolt, there would simply be another definition, a slight variation, breeding infinities of pointless definitions disguised as new information.
Either way, there it was.
The finch was a finch (though I may be wrong about the breed).
But: the finch was a finch.
I located it.
It has nothing to do with me.

I located it, disguised among the branches.
I followed its hops, attempting to tether thoughts to it, wishing for them to jump as logically from one to another with direction (if that is what the finch has), hoping through mimesis for them to find or make an easy logic of their own.
Unhappily they could not, though my eyes still followed.
Instead they (the thoughts, not my eyes or the finch) continued to struggle for sense or even to find pride or power in their lack of sense, their non-sense.
But I eye pride with the same narrowed suspicion as I eye nobility, generality, specialness, ordinariness, inquisitiveness, power and sense. Still, tempting. (Another word that narrows the eyes.)

The action of looking or perceiving (the or does not designate interchangeablity but difference) or trying to pay attention instead reveals nothing but thought's own structure, or attempts at structure, which in this case is a lack of one i.e. I am distracted. This is common. (But it does not help).
So that's something, if we're in the business of salvaging somethings.
Can't thoughts be stitched to a finch and like it hop with logic?
I do not know and doubt entirely if the finch (that may not be a finch) is thinking or planning its small hops with the surity of my neighbour drawing his blinds and standing there at his window with a mug, sure of his life, his species, his movements, his limbs which swing and co-operate.
What does distraction distract from?
In distraction what is revealed?
Is it the terror of no love no home no sense?
Is it the terror of always having to go to work soon?
Is it the terror of 'creative nonfiction'?
Yet when neither attention nor perception can be paid i.e. in distraction, both attention and perception occur.
This is sometimes useful.
If watching a finch that may not be a finch is like writing it may be because writing can be a process of mediating between distraction and attention where both are red herrings and both are not red herrings and at the same time both are brown finches.