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Essence of the Summs Technique: sincere attempt to engage spiritually with the material universe.

October 6, 2022

A curious aspect of so many of Summs’ special techniques was that what worked one day might very well not work the next. Summs thought this was because in employing a technique you knew to be successful, you would become overly sure of yourself and presumptuous about it, you would feel you were Mighty and In Control, which were feelings that were totally incompatible with Summs; for it was the essence of every Summs Technique that you perform it as if for the first time and in a spirit of gentle humility.

For example, usually when he was doing the dishes he would employ his Slow Technique, but that one wasn’t working today. The way it was supposed to work, he would tell himself to “go so slowly it took no time at all” and after having inched with super slowness a couple saucers back in the cupboard, he would usually “SNAP” to discover that not only had the dishwasher been unloaded but the counters had been wiped clean and totally reorganized. But this time — probably because he was trying to use his technique like a piece of technology, a light switch, there for his convenience, rather than as a sincere attempt to engage spiritually with the material universe — he did not “SNAP” to find his chore behind him at all, but only noted bitterly how little progress he seemed to have made.

Then though a funny thing happened. And this, too, was not so unusual an occurrence, that one of his misapplied techniques, which didn’t work, became suddenly a new technique that did.

For when he groaned to himself that this was taking “forever”, it dawned on him suddenly that the problem might not have been that he was not going slowly enough but that he was going far too slowly. And on thinking this he did soon SNAP but in the direction opposite to the one he expected. For where was the fire in his belly? he now started asking himself. Where was the pep, the get up and go? What had he been doing with his life all this time?

“Go!” he said — and placed one dish with both hands in its place quickly.

“Go!” he said and quickly used two hands to return two dishes to their places, doubling his efficiency.

“Go go go!” he said and now he was unloading with an urgency he usually reserved for life saving emergencies — the cups, the pots, the silverware — and he was done. . . . Now onto the counters. Now onto the waste bin by the desk, thinking all the while how foolish he had been over the years to have conducted himself with such insufferable slowness and fake calm, as if a person had infinite time in life, as if one didn’t need to approach life in a spirit of great urgency!

Now he was out the door to get cracking on some things he’d been procrastinating on. Oh there were a lot of things but the very first item on the list would be to quit his yoga class, which he’d been meaning to do for months, for years in fact, because the instructor was far too agressive and always calling him out. Mr Summs! he would growl from across the room, Mr. Summs! (Oh how he hated him! How that man always called him out!) Come on Summs that’s not stretching — reach! stretch! (But how could he know what Summs was feeling? And fine, maybe it wasn’t actually stretching but still it felt good to have his arms like that — what did the instructor care? He was getting paid anyway!) That was the very first thing Summs would accomplish! “Mr. Sari, here I come!”

October 4, 2022

Short-haired blond gal with asymmetric tattoos on each calf which, however, went symmetrically up and down as she cycled away from me. Symmetric pumping.

Ducks by the sewage plant. Observing the high price of the honey crisp apples at the market but then, on an impulse, buying the canned celery hearts, which I believe I still have.

October 3, 2022

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Selective Mutism / Pentheus / Blue Thunder

October 1, 2022

Looked up Ca n’en finit plus (“it never ends) looked up ‘mk‘ (slang), article on involvement of lightning strikes in producing life on earth, was read. (Lightning strikes can create phosphorous, which is vital to life, and otherwise rare on Earth) Proposition: that as Pentheus was to Dionysius you have been to Materialism. Chorus: “people don’t want to be rich, people want things that are nice, a nice middle class existence, is all people want, the case worldwide.” Pentheus: “does it make sense to entirely remodel a perfectly functional kitchen, redo the floors and the bathrooms while you’re at it? Where do all the new things come from and where do all the old things go?” Stage direction: Pentheus leaves stage to sound of hammering, drilling and the Latino station, hands to ears, comically pestered. Agave, Pentheus’ mother, enters stage shortly after, carrying his severed head in one hand and samples for the backsplash in the other. Fin.

Looked up croupier — French, “stagnation.” Looked up Rockwell Kent — artist who had made the illustrations for the 1930 edition of Moby Dick. Looked up uriniferous — conducting or carrying urine. “Goddam impossible way of life,” was reference to Robbie Robertson in The Last Waltz. THETES comprised lowest order of Athenian society; a serf, an agricultural laborer, whose tax was 200 medismos per year, medismos being a measure of grain. Aristotle says that the Thetes and Artisans cannot live lives of excellence, virtue, “arete”, presumably because they do not participate in public life, can not hold public office (though they could vote and hold offices of a minor sort, as for instance sitting on juries, after later reforms…) Question of why a public office might be a precondition for virtue. (Activists, MLK, couldn’t be virtuous under such a scheme.) Why couldn’t one be virtuous alone on a mountain. Had Jesus, St. Francis been “virtuous” — (it certainly does not sound right to think of Jesus as having been virtuous.)

Looked up Childeric I, Clovis I, Battle of Soissons, Kingdome of Soissons, Rump State, Allemanni. Thought to look up etymology of rump, but didn’t, and became surprised — had I already known this? had I known and forgotten this? — that Allemanni was the origin of the French word for Germany, Allemagne. (A sense shortly afterward that perhaps something had started “clicking” for me about this historical period: not Old Rome but Modern Europe glimpsed while reading Gregory of Tours.)

Looked up Helen Prejean. Looked up Atilla the Hun and related Battle of Catalaunian Plains (his invasion of Gaul somewhat repulsed). Looked up “blue thunder intro” (Watching the Blue Thunder intro and trying to think of that time when this introduction and its music aroused such a great feeling of anticipation for me — now Blue Thunder was to begin!) and related Airwolf and Jean Bruce Scott and Knight Rider. Kit was a magnificent piece of machinery and intelligent design which lacked only the courage and intuitions of a human pilot, a man. Then I went back to playing Son House. (I was really interested in this music now in a way I hadn’t been when I was first introduced to it, now that I’d read Greil Marcus.)

Looked up Battle of Jarama (Spanish Civil War), looked up Cantabrian Wars (Cantabrians/ Asturians were hold-out in the Roman conquest of the Iberian peninsula); asked myself why history “was all about war” but remember, when having first read Gravity’s Rainbow, wondering why it wasn’t more about war, — so it wasn’t “them” it was “me”, with an interest in war, in this case, it seemed. Me who was “playing guns” as a kid. Gravity’s Rainbow had it that “the war” was always happening, which would be obvious if you were half-paying attention, the displays of actual violence and bombs being only the most visible cataracts of it. Can’t hide that we’re dying for the accumulation of wealth somewhere, dying for some Pharaoh’s pyramid.

Looked up Siege of Sarajevo. Looked up Selective mutism. Wikipedia:”People with selective mutism stay silent even when the consequences of their silence include shame, social ostracism, or punishment.” Don’t know if it is something real but certainly have felt myself to be paralyzed like that. Looked up Lev Yashin, Bert Trauman. (There was only one other goal keeper besides Lev Yashin, according to Lev Yashin, Bert Trauman.) Pretty much everything irrelevant unless it occurred at least a hundred years ago but especially goal keepers. Something fascinating about ancient sports heroes. Bert Traumann had been a Nazi, received the Iron Cross. (Searched for “nazi sculptor bert” but Arno Breker had been the famous anti-modernist Nazi sculptor.) What an odd time that just- after-the-war period (in which much of Gravity’s Rainbow occurs) must have been. Had customer heard name of Lev Yashin? –Wasn’t sure. –Only asked because customer had just mentioned having watched the Czechoslovakian national team play in Boston in what was that 1964, ’69? They had had a devious strategy of mounting a vigorous forward attack, the customer said, then suddenly passing it back, confusing the defense, you see, for why ever would they be passing it back? then remounting the forward assault with still greater vigor which would very frequently result in success — was how he remembered it. There had been these sudden rainshowers that day in Boston in the 1960’s (to which he had come up for the weekend, tired of usual work-then-rest routine) and what one did when they came on, was stand beneath the Longfellow Bridge, then they stopped and you went out again. Best thing about that trip, he’d said, had been the U.S.S. Constitution, magnificent ship…

September 29, 2022

Customer story: his Thanksgiving Day dinner at Cracker Barrel. Customer comment: every time I see a construction site, I can’t believe I’m not still at it. Customer destination: brother and sister off to try out dad’s new pizza convection oven. Customer’s arms’ position: seemed to indicate he was thinking and not reading. Customer cleared throat, customer expressed that she couldn’t eat bread, customer expressed that he thought he was a decent cook, making two dishes from his country very well. Customer’s movie recommendation: Paris Blues. Reason customer gave for apologetically asking attendant to hurry up with the sandwich: she’d “really mismanaged her time today.”

Customer: there were only a few ships that went back and forth from Hawaii in those days, and he not only knew them, but knew and enjoyed all the stock footage of them in movies from that period, and that’s why he would be leaving here early and watching the not very good movie on Turner Classic Movies at 3.00 PM today. To see the stock footage of one of those ships.

September 27, 2022

Yonaguni was the westernmost isle of Japan and near Taiwan. Transnistria was a contested region between Moldova and Ukraine. Ukraine was the largest country by land area in Europe. I had the idea that a popular cookbook could be arranged on the basis of Aristotle’s Four Causes (on the cover a weird medieval style picture of a prone and satyr-like Aristotle, prostrate across a pentagram, with piping hot dishes balanced on each of his feet and hands): ingredient (material cause) recipe (efficient cause) presentation (formal cause) satisfaction of appetite (final cause). (Wasn’t sure whether to say Taste or Nutrition was the final cause and thus felt satisfaction of appetite embraced both. If one had an appetite for the nutritious one couldn’t be satisfied by the delicious, could one? But actually I wasn’t so sure about that — and so let’s cancel the book).

Looked up Paul Dirac, British physicist. Remembered painful phone conversation I’d had with my elderly father about how to reset the password to his Amazon account, a near exact repetition of the previous day’s painful conversation on the same topic, which caused me to stare off and rub my chin, because in a way that’s what I’d wanted this book “book” to be, an excruciatingly laborious account. (To what good? “Montaigne by way of Beckett,” I had said, but why? Groping aimlessly through pieces of knowledge as if through physical objects and landscapes — staring idly at the under carriage of a bicycle, but in fiction — but arriving at not firm opinions but a voice that firmly states the opinions it holds strongly, a voice desirous of “capturing life.”) And remembered that opera about the telephone…

To have an interior platonic monologue don’t you need also to have an interior platonic Socrates, a first among equals among the voices of the mind, one who has already thought these issues through? (I.e., Plato’s dialogues are actually his monologues, in a certain sense, written after he’s conceived his idea, whereas our monologues represent the stage before having that crystallizing idea, the stage when our mind is a quarreling turbulent crowd of equal notions, which may never find such a one…? ) You don’t have a point.

September 25, 2022

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enfrentamientos armados

September 24, 2022

Q: why did women live longer than us? (a) they nagging us (b) they take better care of themselves than we do: particular with what they eat, go to checkups (c) it’s biological, they are built tougher, they do child birth.

My bagel? said customer. (Had had to go down to get one so it was taking longer than usual — sorry.) My mocha? said customer (well, I’d forgotten, but there were mitigating circumstances, and I would have soon remembered.) My cookie? said customer. Yes, sorry, yes, no excuse for that one — I forgot your cookie and I’m sorry.

Customer had been enjoying reading Plato but wanted to try something different, what would attendant recommend? Beyond Good and Evil.

Customer had finally finished arranging her new house but didn’t know if a grad student who worked for the Salvation Army was making enough to be a reliable tenant of her rental. Customer, by a freak chance, had found an old showerhead while cleaning out a closet the very week that her current showerhead began to malfunction.

September 22, 2022

Paper scrap in shade of decorative bush. Rock nestled in dent of transparent large Mcdonald’s cup. That certain situations will require certain precise words like ‘nestled’ — From ‘nested’ perhaps? (Look up etymology of that.) (Do other situations not call up the same need for precision?)

Construction worker turned arm to get heavy shovel load over dumpster edge; edge of woman’s hair whipped chin as she turned suddenly to see her dog had stopped; bug hit me on the side of the face like a stone or acorn might have, that hard, flew off. Bird lands in front of my path and I stop and it stops. It takes longer than we both expect for him to realize I am not what he supposed, then he darts off. Superficial resemblance between early stage dementia patients and English as second language students — in both cases perfunctory conversations posing no difficulty (hi how are you) but asking slightly more complicateδ questions (what do you have planned today?), or questions which call for a non-rote answer, can result in complete confusion. Question: does the dementia patient (taking dementia as something homogenous, which it isn’t) not have access to memory or not have access to language or not have access to either? White woman: scratching interior of right knee. Black woman: raising, with pinching fingers, mask that had slid down. Was that a blond woman with a pony tail ahead? It was a tall senior white male with close-cropped white hair and an off-white baton projecting upward from his backpack, perhaps the handle of a tennis racket. (Racquet with ‘cq’  is alternate spelling.)

Pedestrian raises leg and leans down to swat something on the exterior of his calf. When I look in that direction again, some half a minute a later, before the light has turned, he does it again, the same spot. “Getting very small in yourself”: maybe it means “my ideas are no larger than my perceptions”, or maybe it means “I am no more than my feelings, which are my true physical extremities.” (My physical extremities were to my feelings as the block my house was on was to my house or no: as the block my house was on was to me inside the house.) Or maybe it means, “literature can give you ideas about glory like physical combat can inspire ideas of glory but like with physical combat there actually is no glory: there is walking around a room with a pen.” “The phrase seems to suggest humility, without suggesting obeisance, when I say it,” etc.

Summs Position GUARANTEED to induce sleep

September 20, 2022

September 6, 2022

Now this was The Summs Position that was absolutely guaranteed to induce sleep, — though as a matter of fact, he had a hard time remembering just now how it went. Certainly it didn’t help his memory of the position that every time he assumed it he was drifting off to sleep! Well, almost every time.

It was definitely a stomach-down position and one thing that was extremely important was that you have the big toe of your left foot hanging just off the right corner of the bed with your right arm under the pillow. The problem was, what to do with the left arm and right leg? Was the right leg bent at the knee? Was the left arm like this or like this? He must have figured it out, whatever it was, because the next thing he knew he was awake in some completely different position. He had fallen into a deep sleep!

It must be admitted that, even without the application of mystical techniques such as this one, Summs did not have a great deal of difficulty falling asleep. The question was, could he help this friend Kara who’d been having such difficulties in this regard lately.

“Get on your stomach,” he said, and she did. “This bed is sized perfectly for you,” he said, having made a camera lens of his fingers — “all the energies are coming out from the corners just as they should. Now I want you to move your left leg so that the big toe is just hanging off the bed. It’s like the opposite of a lightning rod there. Sending the lightning out. Good.”

“What should I do with my other leg?” “Let’s not worry about that one just yet. What are you doing with the hand under the pillow? I want you to have the palm face downward on the bed with your fingers spread, as if you were absorbing the bed’s energy, if that’s comfortable. Otherwise a loose fist will work just fine….(Some energy we take from the bed, other energy we release into it. Try to keep this in mind.)”

After repositioning her right leg and left arm in various ways, the young sleepless woman, who would try anything, even the advice of her weirdo pal Summs, remained vexingly awake. But after Summs left her, vowing to refine his technique, she flopped onto her back and not only slept as she had not slept in weeks but never again had any trouble sleeping, which was how she became a believer in the miraculous powers of Summs.

In fact, hearing her story, Summs too almost came to believe in it — even he almost came to believe in his power!

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Now this was The Summs Position that was absolutely guaranteed to induce sleep, — though as a matter of fact, he had a hard time remembering just now how it went. Certainly it didn’t help his memory of the position that every time he assumed it he was drifting off to sleep! Well, almost every time.

It was definitely a stomach-down position and one thing that was extremely important was that you have the big toe of your left foot hanging just off the right corner of the bed with your right arm under the pillow. The problem was, what to do with the left arm and right leg? Was the right leg bent at the knee? Was the left arm like this or like this? He must have figured it out, whatever it was, because the next thing he knew he was awake in some completely different position. He had fallen into a deep sleep!

It must be admitted that, even without the application of mystical techniques such as this one, Summs did not have a great deal of difficulty falling asleep. The question was, could he help this friend Kara who’d been having such difficulties in this regard lately.

“Get on your stomach,” he said, and she did. “This bed is sized perfectly for you,” he said, having made a camera lens of his fingers — “all the energies are coming out from the corners just as they should. Now I want you to move your left leg so that the big toe is just hanging off the bed. It’s like the opposite of a lightning rod there. Sending the lightning out. Good.”

“What should I do with my other leg?” “Let’s not worry about that one just yet. What are you doing with the hand under the pillow? I want you to have the palm face downward on the bed with your fingers spread, as if you were absorbing the bed’s energy, if that’s comfortable. Otherwise a loose fist will work just fine….(Some energy we take from the bed, other energy we release into it. Try to keep this in mind.)”

After repositioning her right leg and left arm in various ways, the young sleepless woman, who would try anything, even the advice of her weirdo pal Summs, remained vexingly awake. But after Summs left her, vowing to refine his technique, she flopped onto her back and not only slept as she had not slept in weeks but never again had any trouble sleeping, which was how she became a believer in the miraculous powers of Summs.

In fact, hearing her story, Summs too almost came to believe in it — even he almost came to believe in his power!

September 18, 2022

Tried to read Rilke but a translation won’t be sufficient and I’ll never learn German (but I have to learn German) and just think — then you could read Kafka in German too. Just think, how long you’ve had your familiarity, we’ll call it, with French, that has resulted in no, shall we call it, understanding of French, and how has that improved your idea of, say, Baudelaire? (But it may have improved my idea of the French? — no.)

Do you remember when you were reading Balzac (or Flaubert or Zola) in French and had to look every blessed word up? Every word up in French, every word up in Greek, every word up in Latin, every word up in Spanish, a lot in English even, (how many times have you looked up, for instance, stanchion?) two times, three times, wiktionary, word reference, Websters, google translate, Lidell & Scott, Cunliffe, you learn nothing, you retain nothing, you look up stanchion again and again, you must like just the drudgery of it, look here and hold open two books at once why don’t you, this one opened over your knee this one opened over your chest, write it down, write it down on a card, fold and carry the card in a wallet, then you will know the true meaning of stanchion (which is a vertical pole, or framework of them, such as those you will find outside an exclusive restaurant or club, suspending a velvet rope.)

Though sometimes you will appear to have learned something, of which I would give as an instance the French word cachalot, which is sperm whale in French, you appear to have learned and retained that; the phrase, un nuit blanche, you do appear to have learned and retained, a sleepless night in French. A cynic might say you are not trying to learn anything but are attempting to appear serious while you avoid doing things that are actually serious, is it true? — how do you respond? (I respond with great emphasis it is certainly not so, but a base lie, a depraved calumny. Yet, as a concession, I’ll not undertake to learn German at this time.)