It’s not just the smoke any more, billowing out from the notch. Now the fire has climbed up and over the last ridge, preparing to make its descent into town. Airplanes drop their payloads of slurry at the leading edge, but it looks like they’d need a hundred times as many planes to stop the advance as one by one the tall evergreens turn bright orange. The thunder offers false hope, signaling not rain but dry lightning that sparks even more blazes. Neighbors, their cars loaded with whatever they hold most dear, water their lawns, their trees, their roofs. Even the police have pulled their squad cars over to the side of the road, just watching and waiting like everyone else.
27 June 2012
25 June 2012
I’m at just under 37K words on the latest novel. I’ve been averaging about five thousand words a week since I started: 20K words in May plus another 17K so far in June. That’s a pretty good pace for me. Then there’s my kid. This afternoon she finished drafting a 70K word novel. And when did she start writing it? The first of June. So that’s, like, twenty thousand words a week.
15 June 2012
The window was open and there was a breeze. We were speaking very slowly, almost drunkenly. Our words seemed to rise toward the ceiling. The air was light and sweet. The words we spoke did not seem particularly ours; although we said nothing remarkable, the words surprised me at times. It may have been my hunger that accounted for these feelings.
“What’s it like to weight three hundred pounds.”
“It’s like being an overwritten paragraph.”
“They should get you a larger bed.”
“I don’t mind the bed. Everything is fine here. Things are going very well. I’m glad I came. It was good thinking. It showed intelligence. The bed is perfectly all right.”
“Does the silence bother you?”
“What silence?” he said.
“You know what I mean. The big noise out there.”
“Out over the desert you mean. The rumble.”
“The silence. The big metallic noise.”
“It doesn’t bother me.”
“It bothers me,” I said.
I was enjoying myself immensely. I was drunk with hunger. My tongue emitted wisdom after wisdom. Our words floated in the dimness, in the room’s mild moonlight, weightless phrases polished by the cool confident knowledge of centuries. I was eager for subjects to develop, timeless questions demanding men of antic dimension, riddles as yet unsolved, large bloody meat-hunks we might rip apart with mastiff teeth. Nothing unromantic would suffice. Detachment was needed only for the likes of astrophysics, quantum mechanics, all painstaking matters so delicate in their refracted light that intellects such as ours would sooner yield to the prudish machine. There was no vulgarity in the sciences of measurement, nothing to laugh at, to drink to, to weep about like Russians guzzling vodka and despairing God a hundred years ago in books written by bearded titans. Bloomberg and I needed men, mass consciousness, great vulgar armies surging dumbly across the plains. Bloomberg weighed three hundred pounds. This itself was historical. I revered his weight. It was an affirmation of humanity’s reckless potential; it went beyond legend and returned through mist to the lovely folly of history. To weigh three hundred pounds. What devout vulgarity. It seemed a worthwhile goal for prospective saints and flagellants. The new asceticism. All the visionary possibilities of the fast. To feed on the plants and animals of earth. To expand and wallow. I cherished his size, the formlessness of it, the sheer vulgar pleasure, his sense of being overwritten prose. Somehow it was the opposite of death.
12 June 2012
The most comprehensive formulation of therapeutic goals is the striving for wholeheartedness: to be without pretense, to be emotionally sincere, to be able to put the whole of oneself into one’s feelings, one’s work, one’s beliefs. It can be approximated only to the extent that conflicts are resolved.
These goals are not arbitrary, not are they valid goals of therapy simply because they coincide with the ideals that wise persons of all times have followed. But the coincidence is not accidental, for these are the elements upon which psychic health rests. We are justified in postulating these goals because they follow logically from a knowledge of the pathogenic factors in neurosis.
Our daring to name such high goals rests upon the belief that the human personality can change. It is not only the young child who is pliable. All of us retain the capacity to change in fundamental ways, as long as we live. This belief is supported by experience. Analysis is one of the most potent means of bringing about radical changes, and the better we understand the forces operating in neurosis the greater our chance of effecting desired change.
Neither the analyst nor the patient is likely wholly to attain these goals. They are ideals to strive for; their practical value lies in their giving us direction in our therapy and in our lives. If we are not clear about the meaning of ideals, we run the danger of replacing an old idealized image with a new one. We must be aware, too, that it does not lie within the power of the analyst to turn the patient into a flawless human being. He can only help him to become free to strive toward an approximation of these ideals. And this means giving him as well an opportunity to mature and develop.
– the conclusion of Our Inner Conflicts (1945) by Karen Horney
4 June 2012
The point of high corporate income taxes isn’t just to finance public works. A high tax rate also provides an incentive for corporations to reinvest pre-tax operating profits in business expansion. Buying infrastructure — land and buildings — doesn’t really reduce the tax burden, since real estate is just as tangible an asset as the cash you pay for it. But staffing and capital improvements are expenses: liabilities without offsetting tangible assets. Hiring and building become the preferred means of dodging the taxman.
The value of new workers and enhanced means of production are measured not in the present but in the future, as growth. Corporate taxes aren’t eliminated forever; they’re deferred until some future date when the company decides to cash out its retained earnings and take the profits. That’s the situation the US economy faces now, with a historically low corporate tax rate exacerbated by a historically low capital gains tax rate.
At a corporate tax rate of 100 percent all businesses are effectively transformed into nonprofit corporations, regardless of whether they engage in do-gooder activities traditionally associated with the label. The 100 percent corporate tax doesn’t necessarily dismantle capitalism. It does, however, remove the incentives for investors to accumulate profits, either in the present or in the future. Expansion can go only so far. Eventually there’s nothing else to do with chronic business success but to lower prices and/or raise wages.
2 June 2012
Yesterday I was carrying two bags of groceries in from the car when I stopped dead in my tracks. There, lounging across the top two steps of the front porch, was a bull snake. He was a robust specimen, at least five feet long and nearly as thick as my wrist. I showed him respect, going around to the back door. About ten minutes later he slithered off through the undergrowth. This morning I found myself thinking about the other time I posted about a snake encounter.
Most of my blog posts have a short halflife. People give each new post a look, then maybe they participate in or follow the discussion for a few days. After that the post sinks rapidly in popularity.
Then there’s the Ouroboros post.
I put it up mid-afternoon on 17 April, and it got 15 page views that day. The hits jumped to 105 the second day, then down to 68 the third and 46 the fourth. After that the post followed the usual pattern, with the hit rate dropping to 0-3 per day. Then the post rose from the dead. Traffic abruptly picked up again: 20 hits on the 18th day, 60 on the 19th, 38 on the 20th, 49 on the 21st. Since then the hit rate on this post has never dropped below 57. Yesterday, six weeks after I first put it up, the Ouroboros post was viewed 62 times; two days earlier there had been 104 hits.
While I think the post is a good one, I doubt that people are showing up because they heard about its merits through the grapevine. More likely people are googling the word “Ouroboros” and my post pops up. Is there some sudden interest in this fairly obscure term — has, for example, a movie or an album with that title recently been released? Not that I can see. Maybe there are lots of Gnostics and alchemists and Jungians out there looking for content. But that doesn’t explain why the post went dormant for two weeks before experiencing a renewal. Surely it didn’t take that long for the search engines to find it.
The Ouroboros often represents self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, and other things perceived as cycles that begin anew as soon as they end (compare with phoenix).