Thursday, February 11, 2016

Meanwhile in Antarctica...

Professor Hodges has blogged about a passage from one of my Bronson Bodine stories.  Please click HERE.

Horace Jeffery Hodges

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Curious, distinctive enough, and a bit clever

'On seeing this, I said to myself, "This, then, which is evidently an allegorical representation of some kind—a fiend pursuing a hunted soul—may be the origin of the story of Count Magnus and his mysterious companion. Let us see how the huntsman is pictured: doubtless it will be a demon blowing his horn."' But, as it turned out, there was no such sensational figure, only the semblance of a cloaked man on a hillock, who stood leaning on a stick, and watching the hunt with an interest which the engraver had tried to express in his attitude.
                                                                    --M.R. James, "Count Magnus"
Please click HERE to read the story.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Quantum Theory of Conscious Cities

Indian urban planner and International Authors editorial board member Vitasta Raina recently listed some intriguing concepts on the subject of "The Quantum Theory of Conscious Cities." She works up a new theory of organicism based upon the provocative and wonderfully disquisitive assumption that "If humanity is a myth, then a city is the crypt where myths accumulate." To deepen and broaden her suggestive theorizing, she offers the following illustration of the urban landscape as a conceptual field where our memories combine with the forms of place, and so produce myths through which we can communicate with one another:

Please click HERE to examine her thesis in closer detail.

Vitasta Raina reading Emanations: 2 + 2 = 5

Vitasta is the author of the novella Writer's Block, which can be purchased HERE.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Michael Butterworth Interview

The following interview was done as a module for an installation Michael Butterworth had in ModernHistory III:

J.G. Ballard once claimed, "Outer space has been abandoned and our futures relocated in inner space."  To learn more about the exhibit, please click HERE to read James Schofield's description.

Photo by Gareth Jackson

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Unravelling a Cold War Mystery

In 1994, Gerhardt Thamm received a Studies in Intelligence Annual Award for his article The ALFA SSN: Challenging Paradigms, Finding New Truths, 1969–79. 

Several remarks about the Mr. Thamm's report:

1) It describes an intelligence program that saved millions of dollars.

2) The program was extensive in terms of drawing upon a wide spectrum of intelligence assets, analysts, and the coordination of these disparate sources.
3) The thesis driving the program went against deeply-seated views in the intelligence community and among the Navy's best engineers and scientists.
4) The program took years of persistent work to produce results and gain acceptance.
5) The program brought to light landmark changes in Soviet technology, defense policy and military capability.

Please click HERE to read the article.

Soviet Alfa SSN

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Camping in the Tobago Cays, 1972

To the Tobago Cays by Catamaran...

Slackham Rackham

This was maybe week four. We loaded up the catamarans Blubard and the Slackham Rackham with camping equipment and scuba gear, and set sail for Union Island. Blubard and Slackham Rackham are the Dutch names for the pirates Bluebeard and Redbeard. Usually we departed from Tyrell bay but I recall this morning our skippers, Frank and David, had risen early and moored in Manchineel bay, just below Camp Carriacou. Once aboard, we headed west, then turned north to pass Petite Martinique, and very soon we were docking at Union Island, where David ran in to take care of customs.  We had now left the territorial waters of Grenada and had entered those of St. Vincent. I remember the dark green wall of a mountain face lifting up steeply from the sea. We saw no people and it struck me as a rather dreary place, and I couldn’t imagine how people here might make a living. David returned, and in quick order we hoisted the flag of St. Vincent and carried on. It was a short cruise to the Tabago Cays, but at the age of twelve time passes differently.  Our headlong charge across the waves in the Blubard and the Slackham Rackham, which in proper conditions could make an astonishing 12 knots, exercised our expectations for the journey ahead—all very typical and very appropriate to the heroic spirit of us rugged Carriacou campers.

We moored just south of the central islands in the Cays, which on the map are called Petit Rameau and Petit Bateau.  The former is to the north, the latter to the south, and our bivouac was to be on this southern island.  There was room for the two cats to anchor between the islands but perhaps it would have been a difficult place to maneuver from when we left. The distance between the two islands was less than a hundred yards. It was a unique situation. The channel between the two tiny islands was 30-40 feet deep, and this underwater grotto between them, enhanced by the proximity of the islands, struck us as a unique place for a dive.  As I said, we chose the south island for our camping, and we used the inflatable Avons with their 6 hp outboards to shuffle our gear off the cats.  For some of us, however, the first order of business was to run into the trees and look at the place.  The island was typically dry with lots of grass, brush, gnarled trees, and palms. We noted a number of holes in the ground—the island was evidently a land-crab metropolis, and this would become the focus of our activity after sunset, as explained below.  Responding to the calls of the staff, we returned to set up a sort of base at the northeast corner of the island, facing the channel that separated us from the northern island.  I cannot recall precisely who was there.  Present were several of the campers and probably all of the marine biology students, and most of the staff relevant to our purposes: the two skippers, the SCUBA instructors, the two marine biology instructors, maybe one or two others. I don’t recall Tuna, a popular staff member, being there.  Also, I don’t remember any women being with us: no female staff, marine biology students, or campers. That’s odd—we were always together—but I think that on this occasion our being without women was actually the case.  Very unusual. Do I vaguely recall that the women had gone off together elsewhere on another adventure, sans men?

A few people donned snorkeling equipment and explored the narrow channel between the two islands. I think we were munching on sandwiches as they emerged from the water—and they were bearing conch shells, or "abalone" as people were calling it. This was going to be on the menu for supper.  A few of the abalones were the helmet variety, and those in-the-know were full of praise for our good luck, and we were promised that we were in for a rare treat as we got the fire going.

Otherwise, we were under the typical Caribbean spell that characterized our mental state; and, on reflection, this accounts for the staccato character of my memories of the trip—everything is either starkly, indeed photographically vivid, or completely unmemorable. That is certainly something to ponder over.

We returned to exploring the island, and a small group of us Cabin One pirates began tearing down palm fronds and constructing a shack. Others were setting up tents, but for the two or three nights we were to be there, my group from Cabin One would sleep in this hut.

The sun began going down and someone called us back to the base for dinner.  I think we had a table set up, and a number of chairs. Actually, I can vaguely picture that Frank had dragged a work bench ashore. We definitely could carry a lot of equipment on those cats…

The abalone was cooked in a stew with vegetables and other meat—pork I imagine—in a big pot.  Did we pick food out of the pot with our fingers or did we have bowls?   I think the latter.  Anyway, we began eating and everybody was remarking positively about the abalone, and then someone in-the-know announced that he had just found a piece of helmet conch, and in the next few minutes people were discovering bits of helmet abalone in their own bowls, and remarking how good it was. I was excited to experience this, and I think Frank fished a piece of helmet conch out of the pot and gave it to me, and yes indeed it was amazingly good. There were lots of happy campers around that fire!

Next order of business was to explore the island in the dark. Why not? Nothing else to do.  A pair of the staff, perhaps our marine biology instructors, went for a night dive. Probably snorkeling at this point. As I think about it, I am quite sure they went for a dive with tanks and lights the following night.

Meanwhile, some of the Cabin One lads and I were shuffling through the brush with our trusty flashlights. Out beyond the perimeter of illumination we heard some shuffling. Small little legs by the sound of it.  The rustling was vaguely suggestive of mischief.  What we heard of course was the sound of land crabs.  The sun being down, it was time for the crabs to wake up and begin their rounds.  They were hard to spot because whenever our flashlight beams fell upon the crabs, they scurried down the nearest hole.

We cut our lights.  The land crabs, emboldened by the darkness, crawled back out and once more all around us we heard the scurrying of multi-legged creatures. A small branch was snapped off—someone had a capture tool—and then a light flashed on, singling out a crab, who raised his claws as the stick came down and pinned him to the ground. 

“I wonder how many crabs live here?” someone asked.

Perhaps these words were enunciated innocently, but it was not a hypothetical question. We were scientists.  We didn’t just ask questions in the spirit of poetic wonder. We asked questions… and we answered them!

There were very few words.  Our methodology emerged telepathically, and in an instant someone (me, in fact!) was running back to the base camp for magic markers.  Other campers, too, caught on to our plan, and the next thing you know fifteen or twenty of us were walking around in the dark, clicking on flashlights when we heard scurrying sounds, trapping crabs under sticks, and bending down to write numbers upon their backs.  “One,” was the initial cry.  Then fifty feet away someone else flashed on his light, pinned down a crab, wrote the number on its back, and cried out, “Two!”  And so on all across the island voices were calling out numbers. “Three!… Four! Five! … Ten!  Eleven! … Fifteen!  … Twenty! … Forty!  … Seventy! Seventy-one! ...” and so on. I think in less than five minutes we were in the 90s. The process began to slow then, but we were well into the upper-one-hundreds before we were at last unable to find a crab that hadn’t already been numbered.  The excitement and spontaneity of our organized communication was nothing short of amazing, and I felt disappointed—very disappointed, in fact—that the process of catching crabs and calling out numbers to each other didn’t go on longer into the night.

I suppose we must have all met by the camp to report our success to the staff, who, sitting around the fire and listening to us—I can only imagine—must have been very pleased.  Really, were they even there? I seem to recall a number of them had returned to sleep on the cats. The other campers of course went to their tents, but my companions and I slept that night, and the next, in our palm leaf shelter.

The next morning the camp had visitors. Two natives in a marvelously crafted open boat, painted almost luxuriantly in black, had arrived sometime in the early dawn.  Later, Frank, the skipper of the Slackham Rackham (who was one of the builders of the cats, and no mean shipwright himself) was pointing out the fine construction work the men had done on their boat. In particular, Frank admired the fit of the keel and the gunnels around the stern. These members were not only very precisely cut and neatly fitted, but were cleanly carved so as to fasten together absolutely seamlessly, flowing in the most admirable lines you care to picture; albeit said there was nothing ornamental about it. The design was pure modernist, the aesthetic being the craftsmanship itself. Frank said this was the old way of building, and you didn’t see much of it anymore.

I should remark that when we discovered this boat its owners were not to be seen.  And on the ground not far away, lying on their backs with their flippers pierced, evidently with a punch, and wired together—it was two sea turtles. Our new visitors were poachers, serving the black market for the turtle shell used to fashion trinkets for tourists.  Altogether, these facts produced some long faces, especially when several of the staff exchanged knowing glances and told us to keep quiet about it.  It was quickly explained that we should be wise to stay on good terms with the two men.  The situation didn’t sit well with any of us, but we did as we were told.

This was my first encounter with sea turtles. They were beautiful creatures, and my goodness what hard hearts we must have had to be able to gaze down and admire them.  Forty-three years later, their features are as clear to me as if I was viewing them right here before me. One was dark brown with a light grey belly, and about three feet long.  The other, about two feet long, was a bright yellow emerald and marvelously spotted like a leopard frog… They suffered passively with the wires looping through the tiny holes in their flippers. Both had faces as endearing as babies. 

Later that day we took one of the Avons and drove west about a half mile to the edge of the reef to dive along the drop off.   The water above the sand was typically warm, but as we kicked closer to the reef and the breakers, the water became cool, and there was a strong current.  As usual, Frank’s muscular form was gliding nearby, and he held his long shark pike that was equipped with a CO2 cartridge.  One sharp jab with the tip of that fearsome lance, a yank on the chain, and the shark would inflate and float off harmlessly—at least that was the theory. I never saw it in action.  The rest of us carried shark bills, which were yard-long sticks of pine, perhaps two inches square, at one end rounded, and drilled and fitted with a loop of clothes line through which we passed our wrists.

The water was ten to fifteen feet deep, and perhaps most striking of all were the formations of brain coral five and eight feet in diameter.  But the teaming varieties of other coral were equally fantastic in all their explosive forms and diverse colors. There were a number of trigger fish, often startled and racing ahead of us. Then suspended in the water around us were a host of small jelly fish—not any variety with pumping bells or any sort of tentacles or medusa-like appendages.  These were oval-shaped transparencies, small—five or six inches in diameter—and strangley lovely for their delicacy and stoical apathy. It was somewhat mysterious to conceive that these were life forms, but they were, and even now as I think on them I am moved to strange mediations and almost somnolent feelings of astonishment, like shamanic insights into other worlds and new forms of consciousness. They were nearly invisible, mere transparent envelopes containing a few small filaments connecting orange and purple organelles than glowed with an almost sullen brightness; these miraculous spots of light were not much larger than a grain of sand or a pebble. The creatures hung in the space around us. Despite the gushing sea, the moment was truly timeless. As for the nature of the “contact” we made with these creatures, who is to say for sure?

As we kicked ahead towards the drop off, the current became quite strong.  Jeff, a world-class bicycle racer from Ontario, and three others dared to plunge down over the edge of the drop off. Their actions were very sudden. It was thrilling for me, a twelve-year-old, to exercise an almost propriety satisfaction in their heroic forms pitching down headfirst into the abyss.  One might reflect here that in order to produce men, young men need good models from which to conceive what will one day be the images of their selves. 

The bright light which filled the water behind us contrasted strongly with the dark blue of the rock and the coral before and beneath us, and gazing over the edge I was made to feel somewhat circumspect about our situation, influenced no doubt by the cold water, the almost wind-like current seeking to push us back, and the darkness below.

Jeff and the others emerged from the void, and my dive buddy and I exchanged a few hand signals with the others.  OK signs, and the “thumbs up.”  We turned then and swam back into the warm light, negotiated the garden of coral, found the Avon, and climbed out of the water.

Later that day, or maybe it was the next, we had another dive, this time exploring the little submarine gully between the two islands. Notwithstanding the adventure out in the reef and along the drop off, here also there was much to see.  Although the bottom was very sandy, we were surrounded by many varieties of fish, and here and there were coral formations that caught our attention and provided us with matter for examination.  We certainly looked for abalone, but found none.  Evidently we had eaten the local population the night before. Meanwhile, the marine biology students were collecting various specimens.

I noticed my dive buddy had become concerned.  He was signaling to me with no little animation. Then, and it seemed miraculous to me, he ascended several feet amongst a swirl of exhaled bubbles, and then descended once more to join me at my level.  What did this mean? I shrugged, oblivious.  Then he produced his dive slate and with a grease pencil wrote down something.  The combination of shifting sea light and the reflective nature of the slate rendered the marks of the grease pencil indecipherable. I shrugged and shook my head.  He nodded and pointed forward, and we swam together along the bottom, following the course of the slope until we were in five feet of water, where we amused ourselves for several minutes with a small octopus.  Growing tired of us, and after changing his color and patterns several times, he was off in a cloud of ink, and last we saw he was jetting down the slope when he suddenly stopped, spread his arms to embrace the sand, and then changed patterns and color to vanish against the bottom.  A few moments later my dive buddy and I were emerging at the edge of the island, sitting together in one or two feet of water, and removing our masks.  I causally asked why he had become so animated below, and I wondered, too, about the word that he had scribbled on the slate. 

“Embolism,” he said, and he went on to explain that when we were in the depths between the two islands I was not exhaling properly when I ascended.  Air embolism is familiar enough to divers.  It is a dangerous condition produced when a diver ascends without exhaling. The air in a diver’s lungs is compressed by the pressure of the sea at depth, and if it is not properly exhaled during ascent this compressed air will expand and tear the tissues of the lungs as well as invade the arterial system. I certainly knew what an embolism was, and the revelation of the meaning of my friend’s strange behavior raced through me like an electric shock. While I merely thought we were enjoying a swim together, all the while he had been guiding me up the sloping bottom, slowing me as we ascended because he had noticed that I wasn’t being careful to exhale properly at those times during the dive when I had been ascending. I took his brotherly admonishment very seriously, and I think I was harder on myself than he was as I contemplated my error.  I never made it again.  And, in what I take to be a very grown-up resolution about SCUBA that is as strong to me now as it was when I was twelve, I will never cease to be vigilant with myself about diving safety. As for my watchful friend, whose name is now long forgotten, what can I feel but endless gratitude and a special sense of camaraderie that time and distance can never efface.

Photos by Bob Reid, via Bill Cameron.  Source.

Monday, January 4, 2016


International Authors is taking a brief break from Emanations in order to finish the new translation of Torquato Tasso's Creation of the World  (Il mondo creato).  Following the publication of this landmark early-modern poem, Emanations will be back. Watch this space...

Felice Schiavoni: Torquato Tasso and Leonora d'Este 1839

Friday, January 1, 2016

Speculative Fictions issue #2

Editor Gareth Jackson has announced the publication of this year's volume of Speculative Fictions

The third volume of Speculative Fictions (the first volume was #0) features writing by Robert Meadley, Ian Johnson, Andrew Darlington, Gareth Jackson, Chris Pressey, Ghislaine,
Michael Butterworth, and yours truly.  
Please click HERE.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, "The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth"

Monday, November 23, 2015

Apollo 14 Landing Site

Please click HERE to view more Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photographs of Apollo landing sites.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"Poetic License: A Poesy Definer?"

Ebi Robert is a Nigerian poet whose work appears in Emanations: Foray into Forever and Emanations: 2 + 2 = 5.  Recently, he published an essay on "Poetic License: A Poesy Definer?" in the on-line  journal Tuck.  Please click HERE to read the article.
Ebi Robert

Friday, November 13, 2015

Theorizing 2 + 2 = 5: A Reality Outside of the Mind?

Suffice it to say the senses put us into contact (don't really know what contact means here, but anyway...) with a mind-independent reality.  Of course this begs the question: does 2 + 2 = 4 if there is no mind (or senses) coming into contact with the question (or the equation)?  That is, is someone perceiving (or thinking) 2 + 2 = 4 necessary for two and two to actually make four?  An affirmative answer should appear to depend upon some sort of separation of grammar, mathematics, and the stream-of-life where 2 + 2 = 4. This would have to be a place, however, where existence is cleared of all experience, a place beyond time, a place outside of space...  For as far as I can peer into this place, well, it seems to be a pretty odd environment.  That oddness itself smacks of non-existence. Really, what is it I am actually in contact with here?  Therefore, I conclude that two and two do not necessarily have to make four in a place that does not exist. But, conversely, could 2 + 2 = 5 be true in this place that does not exist?  The answer...  yes!  Two and two could make five in a place that does not exist, outside of space, beyond time, a place clear of all experience. For here--that is nowhere--anything might be possible. But as to the possibility of nothing at all, well--especially considering all of the above--that does seem absurd, doesn't it?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Theorizing 2 + 2 = 5: From Victor Hugo to Elizabeth Anscombe to G. E. Moore

At issue: the truth and majority opinions.

In Napoléon le Petit Victor Hugo writes:
Now, get seven million five hundred thousand votes to declare that two and two make five, that the straight line is the longest road, that the whole is less than its part; get it declared by eight millions, by ten millions, by a hundred millions of votes, you will not have advanced a step.
What can we do with this?  Most highbrows will immediately recall a remark by Elizabeth Anscombe in her essay on "Modern Moral Philosophy" concerning Kant's Duty Ethics and the legislative weight of philosophical opinions:
Kant introduces the idea of “legislating for oneself,” which is as absurd as if in these days, when majority votes command great respect, one were to call each reflective decision a man made a vote resulting in a majority, which as a matter of proportion is overwhelming, for it is always 1-0.  The concept of legislation requires superior power in the legislator.  His own rigoristic convictions on the subject of lying were so intense that it never occurred to him that a lie could be relevantly described as anything but just a lie (e.g. as “a lie in such-and-such circumstances”).  His rule about universalizable maxims is useless without stipulations as to what shall count as a relevant description of an action with a view to constructing a maxim about it.
To bring things full circle then, we might remark that asserting "2 + 2 = 5" is nothing but a lie, and that any relevant descriptions (outside of theoretical assertions) regarding the efficacy of the statement "2 + 2 = 5" are impossible, as surely the grammar of the statement  "2 + 2 =" must always result in "4". 

To add further interest to this line of inquiry, we might bring in G. E. Moore's naturalistic fallacy, which certainly lends no credence whatsoever to the proposition (i.e. "2 + 2 = 5"). Compare  "2 + 2 ought to = 5" which is patently absurd, for in the case of arithmetic equations, ought is never part of a legitimate statement or a sensible expression.  The question is rather one of identity.  2 + 2 is 4. 

Now, is the "truth" identical to itself? History will show that awkward thinkers have said "no" and impressed many. 

I have said very little here that needs to be said.  But that little ought to mean a lot.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Theorizing 2 + 2 = 5: psychology, sociology, political science, etc.

From 1984 by George Orwell:

From an interview with Theodore Dalrymple, author of Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses.
Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to. 
A question arises. What sort of people are the functionaries who distribute this "propaganda"?  From the same interview, Dalrymple advances a description that agrees with scenes Nabakov presents in his dystopian novel Bend Sinister:
FP: You mention how 19th century French aristocrat, the Marquis de Custine, made several profound observations on how border guards in Russia wasted his time pushing their weight around in stupid and pointless ways, and that this is connected to the powerlessness that humans live under authoritarianism. Tell us a bit more of how this dynamic works in Russia.

Dalrymple: With regard to Russia, I am not an expert, but I have an interest in the country. I believe that it is necessary to study 19th century Russian history to understand the modern world. I suspect that the characteristic of Russian authoritarianism precedes the Soviet era (if you read Custine, you will be astonished by how much of what he observed prefigured the Soviet era, which of course multiplied the tendencies a thousand times).

I suppose that people who feel little control over their own lives or destinies can obtain a slight sense of agency by interfering in the lives of others, in tiny ways. I have noticed that many of the men who are violently dictatorial at home often count for little once they pass their own threshold. They are the Stalins of their own home.

Incidentally, Custine called Nicholas I an 'eagle and insect.' I think this is a brilliant characterisation of dictators which aspire world power but who also need to enter into the tiniest and most intimate details of their citizens' existence.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Theorizing 2 + 2 = 5: strike it where you will, it rings like postmodernism

Nazi theory indeed specifically denies that such a thing as "the truth" exists. ... The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, "It never happened" – well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five – well, two and two are five. This prospect frightens me much more than bombs.
            -- George Orwell, "Looking Back on the Spanish War" (1943)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Meaningless Innuendo; or, Lord Byron in Love

I know that two and two make four—& should be glad to prove it too if I could—though I must say if by any sort of process I could convert 2 & 2 into five it would give me much greater pleasure.
                 --Lord Byron to fiancée Anaabella Milbanke 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

2 + 2 = 5: C'est une péninsule!

L. Sterns Newburg has posted a review on Amazon. Please click the small image below.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Twice two...

Twice two makes four seems to me simply a piece of insolence. Twice two makes four is a pert coxcomb who stands with arms akimbo barring your path and spitting. I admit that twice two makes four is an excellent thing, but if we are to give everything its due, twice two makes five is sometimes a very charming thing too.
                   -- Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground, Part I. Chapter 9
Fyodor Dostoevsky metro station, Moscow