Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Four Horsemen - Hour 1

"On the 30th of September 2007, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens sat down for a first-of-its-kind, unmoderated 2-hour discussion."

Hour 1 of the discussion between the four great proponents of rationalism/atheism is brilliant and illuminating, mental candy indeed. Link to Dawkins site here, where you can find hour two of the discussion.



Monday, December 10, 2007

Neil deGrasse...beware

Partial video of the 2006 Beyond Belief conference presented by the Science Network. Neil deGrasse's entire speech can be found by following the link above, or by simply clicking here. The most recent conference (dubbed enlightenment 2.0), held just a couple of weeks ago, is now online, and after having subjected myself to the numerous and dense hours of lectures I am compelled to suggest you do the same. As a theme for the 2007 conference, it was suggested this quote from Ibn al-Haytham, an 11th century Muslim mathematician, be used...
Truth is sought for itself—Therefore, the seeker after the truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and, following his natural disposition, puts his trust in them, but rather the one who suspects his faith in them and questions what he gathers from them, the one who submits to argument and demonstration, and not to the sayings of a human being whose nature is fraught with all kinds of imperfection and deficiency. Thus the duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and, applying his mind to the core and margins of its content, attack it from every side. He should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Jenna Bush

What is in a name and a family. A girl whose dad happens to be a president. Not a great one at that. But there I was, in the green room, talking to Bush's daughter and setting her up for her presentation. She had spiked heels and looked, although dressed well, a little disheveled and harried. But kind and warm. Young. Politic. Greased.

So, I hugged the body whose dad spins tricks with the world. What does it feel like? One touch of me to her is not romantic, or special--it is something closer to historical. When one human being here, physically hugs the moving world, well, something changes.

I think her message is over simplistic, but she had light and warmth. It is always something, whether to the left or to the right, to exchange body-talk with history.

New Mexico tourism ad

Another reason why I live in the Land of Enchantment (which other state in the US would run an ad like this). Though I'm not sure it encourages tourism, the brain-sucking aliens and all.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Maimonides and Western Medicine

Moses Maimonides (1138-1204) was born in Cordova, Spain, the heart of the intellectual and economic Umayyad state known as Andalusia. In the twelfth-century, Cordova was dramatically different than the rest of Europe; religion was less a reason for intolerance than an inspiration for craft and art, leading to a kind of renaissance unseen elsewhere in Europe for another century. It was in this environment that Maimonides was educated and trained, not only in the Torah (as precursor to becoming a Rabbi), but also in the art of medicine. The reason behind this training was purely practical, as “until rather late in the Middle Ages, rabbis were not paid for their services…for that reason, Maimonides like any other rabbi had to adopt a profession in the world, and like many intellectually gifted medieval rabbis he became a physician.” (1)

The state of western medicine in the late 12th century was one of stasis. “In an age when the voice of authority was the most significant influence in determining belief, philosophy, and the understanding of nature, the persisting ghost of a single man loomed over medical thought like an overpowering colossus. That man was the second-century C.E. Greek physician Galen of Pergamon.” (2) To a large extent Galen’s death left medicine in a 1500-year state of perpetual doldrums. The great Arab thinker Avicenna (980-1037) changed that somewhat; his work The Canon was perhaps the most important medical writing to come out of the Arab medical system in the middle ages, and became the standard textual work in medical schools of Europe until the 18th century. But despite even his towering achievements, Galenic medicine was persistent juggernaut that stymied even the most brilliant minds.

Did Maimonides change this? Did he challenge the supremacy of Galen? To a certain extent yes, but even Moses was unwilling to completely tap the empirical keg when confronted with the sheer volume and historical march of Galen’s work. Sherwin B. Nuland’s biography Maimonides looks at this very question, of whether the Rabbi deserves membership in the pantheon of western physicians…"What was the contemporary state of “the theory and practice of medicine” in the twelfth century, and how was it affected by Moses’s teachings and his daily round of patient care? Did he add to the general sum of knowledge? Did he make any new discoveries? At his death, were the “theory and practice” of medicine of “the time” significantly different than they might have been had he never lived? And most important for posterity, did he leave a heritage that succeeding generations of physicians could look to as a model of the grand tradition of their art and science?" (3)

To be succinct, the purpose of this short essay is to bring some clarity to those questions. I intend to explore three areas in which Maimonides could be considered to have contributed greatly to the continuance and evolution of the western medical tradition. This essay will explore those three contributions, and make a case for their relevance and importance to the present state of the Great Art. Those three areas of influence are: First, a challenge and clarification of the work of Galen; second, an insistence to the separation of religion and medicine; and third, a prescient understanding of the necessity of preventative medicine. It is for the last that he is considered truly brilliant, and deserving of the title The Prince of Physicians.

Though Maimonides is less known for his work as a physician than he is for his commentary on the Torah and his Guide to the Perplexed, he remains a highly respected author and thinker even into the modern age, and it could be said that his work “Mishneh Torah, the fourteen volume systematization of all Jewish law from Scripture to his own day” remains unsurpassed. It has been suggested that to get Judaism right, one must first get Maimonides translation right, because it was he who honed and clarified the disparate parts of his faith. Though that was separate from his work in the field of medicine, I begin with it for the reason that it was the same brilliance that found him a leader in Judaic thought that underlies his work in medicine.

Maimonides challenged Galen generally through most of his medical work, but specifically in his Medical Aphorisms, a collection of 25 treatises on healing and medicine within which were approximately “1,500 passages culled mainly from Galen, with critical comments, providing the physician with a handy desk manual, reducing Galen’s 129 books to one.” (4) The heading under the 25th Treatise (last in the book) suggests an alternate title for the last chapter, “which may be called ‘The Holy War for Independent Scientific Investigation Against Galen.” (5) It is an ominous way to begin a chapter, and precludes any thought that the content will spill praises toward Galenic thinking. Indeed, “in medicine, as in other fields, Maimonides strived to reduce complexity to system and order. He chafed under Galen’s prolixity and reduced the Roman physician’s massive literary output to a single book of extracts that a physician could carry around in his pocket.”(6) Thus a clear picture arises of Maimonides challenging the status quo. Part of his influence on the western medical tradition derives from this simplification and clarification, and his bold challenges against the supremacy of Galenic thought. Maimonides contests the “arrogant presumption” of Galen, writing that he “considers himself more important than he really is.” (7) The following passage perhaps elucidates the point at hand, written by Maimonides himself.

"If anyone declares to you that he has actual proof from his own experiences, of something which he requires for the confirmation of his theory, even though he be considered a man of great authority, truthfulness, earnest words and morality, yet just because he is anxious for you to believe his theory, you should hesitate. Do not allow your mind to be swayed by the “novelties” which he tells you, but look well into his theory and his belief, just as you should do concerning the things which he declares that he has seen; look into the matter without letting yourself be easily persuaded. And this is true whether the person is notable or one of the people. For a strong will may lead a man to speak erringly—especially in disputation. I offer this in order to awaken your interest in the statements of that wise men, that prince, Galen." (8)

It is this challenge of Galen, the juggernaut of western medicine, which sets apart Maimonides as truly unique. This uniqueness sprang from an independence of thought, and an insistence on rational inquiry and historical skepticism. “Maimonides was among the first to point to the feet of clay that would eventually crumble sufficiently to bring down the entire icon.” (9) Maimonides challenged Galen, and got away with it.

Though Maimonides was a Talmudic Rabbi, better known for his religious contributions than his scientific ones, his “medical writings contain no references to Talmudic medicine, nor is there a hint of magic, superstition, or astrology, widespread at the time in medical practice.” (10) The rabbi was a natural scientist when it came to the understanding and treatment of disease. It could be said, in a sense, that he was Aristotelian, that he implicitly understood the process of scientific rationality. “In principle, Maimonides divorced medicine and science from religion,” (11) which brings me to my second point.

Certainly there was much need for this in the medieval age, a time when the monks were the practitioners of medicine (though this was the case primarily in Europe). There is a story of Maimonides, when, after becoming a physician at the court of Sultan az-Sahir Ghazi (son of the great Saladin), he prescribed a medical treatment (wine and music) that went against Islamic law. When asked why he would recommend this, his answer falls in line with his rigid insistence on maintaining the independence of medical authority: “The physician, qua physician, must advocate a beneficial regime regardless of the religious law, and the patient has the option to accept or decline. If the physician does not prescribe what is medically beneficial, he deceives by not offering his true counsel.” (12)

At a time when the lines of demarcation between scientific inquiry and religion were at best obscured, Maimonides provided the physician with ammunition to defend his profession. In contrast, St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), a famous Christian cleric and near contemporary of Maimonides, “asserted that ‘to consult physicians and take medicines befits not religion and is contrary to purity’ – and it was a popular gibe that ubi tre physici, dui athei (where there are three doctors, there are two atheists).” (13) Of course this was hyperbole from the most dogmatic of churchmen, but it gives an understanding of the confused nature of medical thought at the time, and the necessity of the separation Maimonides insisted on. To be fair, Maimonides (being first and foremost a man of god) argued that the reason for good health was ultimately desired not for an end in and of itself, but for the great praise of the almighty. One cannot praise God in a state of disease and sickness. He commented in the Mishneh Torah that “since, when the body is healthy and sound one directs oneself toward the ways of the Lord—it being impossible to understand or know anything of the knowledge of the Creator when one is sick—it is obligatory on man to avoid things which are detrimental to the body and seek out things which fortify it.” (14) This though is not a negation of separation or an affront to the authority of medical practitioners, but a conclusion as to why one would want to maintain optimal health. As such, it does not discount his original insistence on the independent authority of physicians. This then is the second great offering of Maimonides to the history and evolution of western medicine, manifested through his insistence on the supremacy of physicians in all things medical.

The third contribution of Maimonides to western medical tradition is perhaps the most important, and certainly is what he is most remembered for (within medical history). It is a cogent and surprisingly modern idea, though in his time perhaps not so much. It is a simple concept, lacking in his day, of the necessity of preventive medicine. One needs look no further than his Aphorisms for support of this revolutionary idea. In the seventeenth treatise, titled Aphorisms Pertaining to General Rules of Health, he lays out the argument. “Immobility is as great a detriment to the maintenance of health as activity is of benefit.” (15) He continues by adding “one’s attention should first focus on the maintenance of natural [body] warmth, before anything else. That which best insures this is [the performance of] moderate physical exercise, which is good both for the body and soul (soma and psyche)”. (16) He prescribes for the elderly a daily regimen of walking, something that has an uncannily modern ring to it. Likewise, Maimonides posits the benefits of massage and touch as a means of stimulating the innate ‘heat’ of the body, insofar as it rejuvenates the body naturally.

As part of his preventive medical techniques, Maimonides also intuited modern medical procedure by noting the beneficial effects of positive thinking, leading to an early form of psychosomatic medicine. Whether certain amulets or trinkets were anathema to his practice was often overlooked when the needs of the patient were at hand. He was “committed to the thesis of the mind’s effect on the body, [and] it was permissible to discard even the most cherished of medical convictions in the interest of a patient’s psychological needs.” (17) Case in point was the mental stability of the person during medical treatment, in which case amulets and other such pagan paraphernalia were permissible “lest the mind of the patient be to greatly disturbed.” (18) It was this flexibility that served Maimonides in his work as a physician, and gained him the trust and respect of his peers.

Though it may be said that Maimonides didn’t necessarily advance any of these three points to a degree that they were ultimately reality changing for western culture, he represents a marker in the road to modern medical techniques. Perhaps none of his work was truly original, but he, and to a lesser extent his Arabic counterparts al-Rhazi and Avicenna, represented a slow chipping away at the immense fa├žade that had come to be understood as Humoral Theory. Each in their own way advanced the art, each chiseled another chip from the concrete theories of Hippocrates and Galen. As for Maimonides it may be said, “of the several aspects of the Ramban’s genius, the one that was surely most appreciated by readers in his time and later was his extraordinary ability to separate wheat from chaff and to collect, classify, and correlate needed information into a helpful, compact, and easily remembered whole.” (19) This perhaps more than any other thing made Moses a genius, a polymath not unlike Galen.

In considering the above conclusion, it can also be stated that it wasn’t Maimonides’ original intent to advance the art of medical practitioners. Certainly his most profound work was in the area of Judaic law and Talmudic revision, and even to a certain extent the formation and dissemination of what is known today as the Kabbalah. Nevertheless, his work in the court of Saladin, and of course his few medical writings, earned him a hallowed place in the annals of the western medical profession. He exhibited a prescient mind; his work at separating religious and medical law, his challenging Galen, and finally his work in the field of preventative medicine, all combined exhibit an intuition of the direction and future of western medicine. As suggested above, he is more a beacon in the road than an individual who diverted the traffic, but that fact doesn’t make his work less special. He is remembered today primarily for his Guide to the Perplexed, but that is perhaps only because he is less studied as a pioneer in medicine than as a giant in Judaism.


  1. Neuhaus, Richard John, ed., The Second One Thousand Years. Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2001. p. 16.
  2. Nuland, Sherwin B., Maimonides. New York: Random House, 2005. p. 155.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Seeskin, Kennith. Ed. The Cambridge Companion to Maimonides. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. p. 39
  5. Rosner, Fred. Muntner, Suessman. Eds. The Medical Aphorisms of Moses Maimonides. New York: Bloch Publishing Company. p. 171
  6. Seeskin, Kennith. Ed. The Cambridge Companion to Maimonides. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. p. 39
  7. Nuland, Sherwin B., Maimonides. New York: Random House, 2005. p. 167
  8. Id. at 168
  9. Id. at 169
  10. Seeskin, Kennith. Ed. The Cambridge Companion to Maimonides. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. p. 39
  11. Id. at 40
  12. Ibid.
  13. Porter, Roy. The Greatest Benefit To Mankind. New York: W. W. Norton & Co, 1997. p. 110
  14. Nuland, Sherwin B., Maimonides. New York: Random House, 2005. p. 176
  15. Rosner, Fred. Muntner, Suessman. Eds. The Medical Aphorisms of Moses Maimonides. New York: Bloch Publishing Company. p 41, Volume II
  16. Id. at 42
  17. Nuland, Sherwin B., Maimonides. New York: Random House, 2005. p. 179
  18. Ibid.
  19. Id. at 173
D. Reese Zollinger, 2007
(fair use of above material)

Happy slogging!

Revolution in Modern China

Unlike the French, American, or Bolshevik revolutions, the Chinese Communist Revolution spanned nearly 3 generations. It is difficult to pin an exact date on the movement’s beginnings, but it is often considered to be with the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in the 1920s. Yet, although the party had been formally established, it developed very little inertia until Mao Zedong led the “Long March” to Yen’an in 1934-35. A formal ending to the revolution is also hard to exact, yet may be placed in the 1970s with the death of Mao and the arrest of the “Gang of Four.” But these dates, it must be understood, act as bookends to a series of revolutions rather than points of origin and termination to a single one. In that light, it cannot be argued that this was a single event, nor did it involve a single approach. It is this variance, the series of revolutions, which came to define modern China, and it is also because of this episodic recurrence that rifts were driven between the varying generations experiencing them.

As mentioned above, the CCP found its initial power in Yen’an. It is also here that we see the making of Mao Zedong and the formation of his revolutionary philosophy, the so-called Yen’an Way that became the ethos of Revolution until the 1980s. Mark Selden defined its principles in his book The Yen’an Way in Revolutionary China as: First, reliance on the innate creativity of people; second, rejection of domination of a technical elite; third, conception of human nature as able to transcend social and environmental obstacles; and finally, cooperation and community approach. Decentralization and self-reliance.

These principles represent in many ways the idealistic education of the first generation of the CCP. They were a colorful bunch, an amalgamation of individuals of varying age and level in the traditional society. In his book Red Star Over China, Edgar Snow wrote of that early cross-cultural cooperation, giving the greater world their first look at the Chinese Communist. His portrayal of Mao and his followers is largely positive, and of the youth involvement he wrote: “Altogether, the ‘little devils’ were one thing in Red China with which it was hard to find anything seriously wrong…I suspected that more than once an older man, looking at them, forgot his pessimism and was heartened to think that he was fighting for the future of lads like those.” (1)

Snow’s work in Yen’an gives a rare glimpse into how the CCP was molded into the party of the people, and how party loyalty began to trump traditional Confucian ideals which placed family allegiance at the heart of society. But this transformation of duty would have very powerful repercussions after liberation (specifically 1949-1976), and would make the early “idealism” expressed by Snow appear a superlative adventure, a once pipe dream.

The CCP succeeded in political unification of China, but that was only the beginning of their task of building a society, of gaining the trust of the hearts and minds of everyone. Indeed, most of the country post-unification was not communist. What was needed was social and economic change, a shift in allegiance, to bring true unification.

The original impetus for this was found in Yen’an, when Mao and the Party leaders demanded a forced re-education for those joining the cause. They forced on new comrades a shift of consciousness, a kind of mild brainwashing to a new way of thinking. As illustrated in the above quote, the focus was not on the future of ones progeny, but the revolution, the party. The Yen’an Way may have appeared eager and enlightened in the beginning, but post 1949 it destroyed millions of family’s through an escalating need for party commitment. One of the few critical first hand descriptions of this post liberation period would come to be expressed brilliantly in Liang Heng’s account of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), titled Son of the Revolution.

At an early age, Liang’s family was fractured by an anti-rightist sweep disguised as the Hundred Flowers Movement. In Liang’s own words, “its official purpose was to give the Party a chance to correct its shortcomings by listening to the masses’ criticisms…but then, with confusing rapidity, the “Hundred Flowers Movement” changed into the “Anti-Rightist Movement.” (2) Liang expresses what many more must have been thinking, that the original movement was disguised to trap the Rightists (supposed economic and intellectual liberals, capitalists, entrenched bourgeoisie, etc) throughout the Party. Many came forward and expressed their opinions, and many of those were caught and sent away into the countryside to live among the peasants in forced re-education programs. Liang’s mother was one of them. Liang describes his father’s reaction: “Father’s traditional Confucian sense of family obligation told him to support Mother while his political allegiance told him to condemn her. He believed that [to condemn her] was the only course that could save the family from ruin.” (3)

For young Liang, being raised “in the shade of the revolution” presented a confusing set of circumstances. His was a new, unproven generation, schooled in the history and propaganda but as yet unable to assist. They were overzealous to help and make something of themselves, to prove their worth to those who came before them. The fuel for the Cultural Revolution came, in a sense, from these kids, from various student factions who were following commands from head leaders of the People’s Liberation Army, determined to make the “PLA a centerpiece of cultural change. These factional fires were fueled by the anger of students frustrated over policies that kept them off the paths of political advancement because the students had the ill fortune to be born to parents who had had connections with the Guomindang, the landlords, or the capitalist “exploiters” of the old regime and were therefore classified as “bad” elements by the CCP…there were as well millions of disgruntled urban youths who had been relocated to the countryside during the party campaigns of earlier years…there were those, within the largest cities, who were denied access to the tiny number of elite schools that had become, in effect, “prep schools” for the children of influential party cadres." (4)

These students were the outcome of years of revolution, of social upheaval and a vast reworking of class and norms. They were the logical conclusion to their preceding generation, simply adopting the prevailing ethos. But in their case, where revolution and war was the dominant paradigm, the absence of an external enemy would force war upon itself. In the course of only a few decades, thousands of years of Chinese culture was challenged, with its terminal point being the PLA’s attempt to erase that history in the Cultural Revolution. It was an attempt to turn siblings into comrades and Party leaders into parents, to erase any memory of Confucian morality or cultural proclivity, to destroy the native instinct of the Chinese heart.

The forced re-education programs, often bordering on religious conversion, took Liang’s family, especially his father, through recurring bouts of self-doubt and self-flagellation. Intellectuals, represented in Son of the Revolution by Liang Shan (the father), the consummate writer and thinker, were forced into the countryside because terror of judgment within the party became too great. Others throughout traditional society, monks especially (5), were brought into a parallel world with the party line by much the same method; during the Cultural Revolution, none were free from the Little Red Book. An account by Liang during a bus ride through the countryside illustrates the point emphatically. Upon stopping for a moment in the town of Xiangxiang, they encounter a monk who is being harassed by a gang of kids. “He was kneeling and beating a gong before a broken stone tablet on which I guessed was inscribed the history of the temple or some Buddhist scripture…as he beat the gong, he chanted, “I have tricked the people, I should be punished,” and Buddhism is a lie, only Marxism-Leninism-Chairman Mao Thought is the truth.” (6)

This, it can be surmised, is a far cry from the original positive idealism of the Yen’an Way. Revolution had devolved into an inquisition under the guise of controlled criticism, where exile led to redemption and paranoia to stronger party loyalty. Snow’s account of revolution in the 1930s and Liang’s in the '60s presents a stark contrast to the ways and means employed to achieve intellectual and cultural unity. The countryside and peasantry, the great savior of the CCP and modern China, was used to bring equilibrium to a class-based society, but ended up becoming an instrument rather than an ideal. “’How could Chairman Mao say that the countryside was a great land where we Educated Youths would have glorious successes?’ Liang Wei-ping wondered. “I’m only afraid that when I go back I’ll be sucked into that terrifying whirlpool once again.” (7) The three decades following the establishment of the PRC brought unity and nationalism to China, but one has to wonder at what cost.


  1. Snow, Edgar. Red Star Over China. New York: Grove Press, 1961. p 327
  2. Heng, Liang. Shapiro, Judith, Son of the Revolution. New York: First Vintage, 1984. p. 8
  3. Ibid, p 9
  4. Spence, Jonathan D., The Search For Modern China. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1990. p 604
  5. While attending a retreat at a Chinese Buddhist monastery, I had a chance to speak with a senior monk who had escaped the Cultural Revolution and fled to Taiwan, and then on to America. He shared with me a story of watching his uncle (also a monk) be torn apart by four kids (presumably Red Guards) on horses. They tied ropes to each of his appendages, with the other sides of the rope to their horses. It remained his most vivid memory of the revolution.
  6. Heng, Liang. Shapiro, Judith, Son of the Revolution. New York: First Vintage, 1984. p
  7. Ibid, p 200
D. Reese Zollinger, 2007
(fair use of above material)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Gervais and the Serpent

I posted this on EO some months ago, but I think it derserves another shake.


Monday, November 12, 2007

the certainly fictional dream of the late charles darwin, as fortold by the late jesus of nazereth

there is a beetle on the mantle

the state i am in.
is the slate and the dream.
clean and white and unshuttered.
for positing, the command of language,
the real way of looking at your hands,
with apprehension and a frog pond,
a cascading ivy,
clean, with hope.
a tall pot with cordyline.
fragmented spiced bacopa,
with a phrase in a scent,
laden with wisdom,
with beauty,
with enough grit,
to live another century.

cornflower on the horizon,
and nothing but the bread cornflower makes,
like manna, and honey and
not the sense of taste.
a cool night in the desert as the mid winter approaches,
like a cake upon the pan,
and waiting for some one,
some thing,
some mind,
some soul,
to reverse it's polarity,
as though upon the horizon,
there were nothing,
and there was only one 'as though'.

the whisper of our reach,
as though i could speak for more than just myself,
also introduces for you,
the pretext and context.
(the edicts are certain circles you would circumscribe).
underline a word,
pardon the meaning for moment,
and punctuate the thing you say,
as though it were you saying it,
as though there were molecules on a ribbon of sugar cane,
which, having been rejected for molasses,
become raw,
as a federal system of integrated states:

*(" a morbid fog
and greyer cloud,
as those stately gloomy airs,
and those able shrouds,
for those stately hidden truths.
those buried very real,
are only what those dead conceal,
those from beast,
from tired crowd,
those blackened silhouetted shrill,
for toward eyes,
and crying limbs,
the shocked fence avails portent hymns,
for those unable ears.
and mind, is sane,
it twines its hand around electric pane,
for wailing; taunting whims,
in under-creaking-floor-boards wane,
scornful bows,
the sinner sees,
and frozen,
bitten, frosted miseries for toes.
while to those forted, binding
rings, though not the true or real,
there clings,
as ever glued branch to tree,
a man to a fence. that falling brings
"hopeless" cleverly subdued, awry,
concealed, vain:
those true to spy for a glimpse.
their fingers hold there own,
awaiting hours
when flesh and bone,
and scabbing skin will fry,
the brainy grey to monotone,
the holy way a man would dye.
alas, years.
and dying times.
the burning scent,
the masked rhymes.
for ears,
but simply wretched holes
to air the reddened brainy coals,
with ecstasy's brittle crimes,
and strength exhausted shriveled souls
falling where those,...
where that child climbs.
but hesitation,
rear, or gleam,
the only choice before a dream
softens churning eyelid veins
and deadens dreary burning brains
to silence.
"should i warn the child?"
"or embrace the tangled wild below?"
"or free the truth beguiled...."
by a morbid fog
or greyer cloud,
a gloomy air or able shroud,
for hiding truth.
it is buried, real,
what alone those dead conceal,
not from beast,
or very tired crowd,
the blackened silhouetted shrill....

as those,... and those nailed to a cross,
have an understanding. sideways.
laterally they blink to a forlorn state...."(,)

said the secretary of that state,
for the queen of kolob,
and what was her fate.)


the stiff november wind is a state,
and the way it whistles,
and tosses the pseudo tsuga,
has its way,
along the mountain shore of whidbey.
homo sapiens on an island,
and perception,
as the train of the incalculable;
"i suffer for the sins of the world,
when I draw the world,
like a good tide sways."
isaac said with an apple in his mouth.
"i have a juncture,
a mountain as a table top." said j.
"hence forth god is a misnomer." r said,
as though he were d-.
"alfalfa grew inside the belly of the cow," said
our illustrious hostess, the queen of kolob,
"i saw the idea before i thought it." said i.

the white shrill of snow,
whipping like a hot cross bun,
and the forward thinking messenger;
placed us deep in the petrie dish,
the orange flower, a distant thought,
the plain gas,
the sharp glow,
the ego less,
face of a planet's moon,
a far;
"keep going back." said j-
"find a way, like paul, leto."
j continued,
"blessed are those
who are the kwisatz haderach,
blessed are those who hang in the balance.
blessed are those who,
after inheriting the world, give it back;
as the musk ox and the capable cornish hen.
blessed are those who see god,
for they are the fish who can breath water.
blessed are those who need blessings,
for they shall realize the good fortune of being blessed.
blessed are the meek, the pliable, and the malleable,
for they shall evolve too."

as though he could not help himself,
j added truly, "not an iota, not a dot,
will pass from the law until all is accomplished."

like a law which is the berry of juniper,
tinctured with the yeast of a sun,
and burning like a flag, or flagellum whipping,
the judgement awaited its hopeless telling;
as william would have with isaac's apple.
the scarlet smell of jasmine,
the lure of sex,
as a loyal economist:
"all things are paid for, c.o.d."
the yellow belly of a chicken hawk,
hunger and thirst.
heaven, and the castle
of william randolph hearst.
the whippoorwill chimed in:
"all souls, a fortnight and change."
"lonesome cattle range." said 'win.

the echo in a canyon,
bounced off the canyon walls
reverberating, and constantly becoming.
the horse on a draw with a plow,
the husk on a cob of corn,
the still small voice,
like an echo in a non-canyon,
placed a long hold,
like a good notary,
or bail bondsman upon his bailiwick,
a bet; listen and feel the sway of the wind,
as it tickles their ears with their hair.
do not listen, so say,
listen as a lunch woman slopping minted spinach,
as a jack hammerer.
"call upon a nostalgia
if it helps you see it better." said j, as though
he were not i.

clip the top of this picture and you will see,
the bottom, the submerged pier.
hang a kite,
hoist a video camera.
get a wireless transceiver.

"like a sand of beach particles.
or the capable fleeting thought."


i am lying here.
the rock upon which i lay
is beholden to a certain lay,
who stand for what i represent,
and practice it upon the day,
for which i recommended
they rest.

do not come to me on your day of rest,
with your beautiful bread and water,
as though the day were spring,
and the water were refreshing.
do not come to me when you are tired,
as the november asters,
and their transmogrify,
and their lubricated casters,
please, though an orange rock rose,
is always a sabbath,
come with me on a day of my choosing,
when i know we both
are in good spirits,
and social,
as equilateral hosts.
"i will declare to you on that day,"
i said,
"blessed are the ones who,
as a fleeting thought, are remembered.":
"there is only one multi verse." said the queen of kolob.

as transparent feet on a treadmill
the four of us walked,
walking backward, while pointed forward.
the vast pacific sea,
herald and lee,
the pointer sisters,
and ho chi min,
with frank sinatra pleaded,
as they pleased us with their version
of your grandmothers biscuits,
with your grandfathers gravy.
"you ate it as you thought it," said h.
the sky was always dark now.
there were no hankerings.
no unremembered visions.
there was no fox racing through the underbrush.
other things there was none of:

back in the petrie dish,
holding like a mayonnaise to a country salad,
a string of popcorn balls to a tree.
like december kernels in november,
a stiff breeze wisps it all away with
a man in a tomb with a shroud.
with, a certain "waking up"
from a state of certain "deadness."
day two:
"still no one has peeked there head in." said j.
said you, as the crackles are made in a late blue grass,
"as a grass upon a prairie,
a hold upon a dairy.
a certain cow and its propensity to produce milk.
with the yogurt and the cinnamon granola,
and a hint of mint;
like you were printing money,
as though a goat was milked?"
"a hail mary mid november pass,
of good old fashioned american gas."

it is a stretch
to catch.
i love a good haiku as much as you.

there is a beetle on the mantle.

C2007 rrzollinger


the pages of my life i mark with used toothpicks
the plaque-detritus inks me to write half thoughts
the pages crumble like saltines
unknown memory comes when it will
not when I WILL

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A travel home

my ancestor's home... Iskeia an island tucked in the Mediterranean sea.
back in the day they were farmers and fisherman...

Now the town of Forio and the other towns on Iskeia are full of thermal baths and shopping

being on Iskeia,

i understood better my pull to ocean and earth.

but England came as a familiar relief...

so i ask myself am i an Italian or the prodigy of NYC

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Had the opportunity to meet Carolyn Jessop last night. I had invited her to the store to do a reading and signing. She escaped from the FLDS Colorado City/Hildale group of polygamists four years ago and has just come out with a book about her experience living among that group of people. She was married to Merril Jessop as his fourth wife. This was/is the group that claims Warren Jeffs as their prophet.

This is a very good and fast read. The event last night was sobering. Carolyn escaped from Colorado City in the middle of the night with all eight of her children with $20 in her pocket. In four years she has succeeded in winning full custody of all eight of her children and writing the most vivid portrayal of FLDS polygamy that I have seen.

Jessop calls this group a cult. She was a fourth or fifth generation member of this society and it seems her childhood was good. But she was married to a very powerful and manipulative man who saw her as his property. She said that when Warren Jeffs became prophet things really spiraled downward in Colorado City. Now, the core members of the group are hiding out in closed compounds like YFZ in Texas.

Strangely, Jessop's oldest daughter always wanted to go back to Colorado City. When she turned eighteen just this July 2nd, she left on July 4th to return.

I have thought alot about polygamy this week. And, about our own upbringing. How we spent our formative years on a farm with a very large family, who wanted to live their own higher order. How far were we away from fundamentalism? I look fondly upon those times on the farm out in Thatcher, where I was until I was eight. But, talk to someone like Marjean about her experience living in the basement underneath Bob and Fawn in the same house in Canada and you might find surprising similarities.

Monday, November 5, 2007


We live in the age of the image. Never before in history has such a barrage of unconnected ideas moved through our lives. From iPod to YouTube our culture has become a streaming channel of endless icons, branding with thought tattoos each individual who dares to tune in.

From the early days of western corporatism advertisers have been rubbing the bottled genie in hopes of magically increasing corporate revenue. What they soon realized was that the attention of consumers was easily bought by employing controlled symbolism to market their products, drawing the customers loyalty more through attachment to the symbol than the item being offered. When deconstructing this morbid state of affair- something that I'll attempt in this short essay - it should first be understood that it is not the image (icon, brand, or logo) that is important, but what that image solicits as an emotional response.

The fact that we can find historical precedent for modern advertising doesn’t make it easier to understand. Symbols litter our minds; from the golden arches to bitten apples our world has become a crowded arena of patented images. The consumer’s attention is battled for on the front lines of supermarket isles, in the halls of malls, or even driving down the interstate. We are told we can become members by simply buying products, as if this act was itself the sacrament. So deep has this symbolism penetrated that in Kalle Lasn’s words (Culture Jam, 2000), “advertisements are the most prevalent and toxic of the mental pollutants.”

This toxicity, rising as it has through the need to sell products, has left an indelible mark upon the human mind. Lasn continues by noting that, “Corporate advertising…is the largest single psychological project ever undertaken by the human race.” Strong words, but not altogether unreasonable when you see as Lasn does that the symbol has gone from simple iconography to complex and multidimensional abstraction. In that symbolism is historically one of the most powerful tools for uniting people, we must recognize that its nature is two-fold; first, the symbol is itself inherently benign, and second, any meaning applied to a particular image is what becomes important.

There is an old iconographic precedent that justifies modern advertising. In the year 312, while preparing to battle for control of the Roman Empire, Constantine received a vision telling him to unite his men under the banner of the Cross. “In hoc signo vinces,” the angel told him, “In this sign you shall win.” This symbol, already having ancient ties to Egyptian and Phoenician cultures, was easily accepted, and eventually became the most complex and powerful banner of western civilization.

Beyond the West we find other cultures using similar means to achieve similar ends. Chinese thought manifested as the symbolic duality of yin/yang, Judaic representation would be expressed by the Star-of David, Native American as Totem; all of these symbols being expressed in glyphs designed to establish instant connection between image and idea.

The consumer provides the fresh skin for the hot iron, so without cultivating critical minds, our bodies will continue to be treated as perfect receptors for the corporate logo. More than our wares, but our whole selves, our thoughts and deeds, should define what makes us different. By seeing necessities as more than iconographic trophies, we displace ourselves from the corporate battle. We begin to make informed decisions based not upon form, but upon function.

It was realized in the mid-eighties that (Naomi Klein, 2002) “successful companies must primarily produce brands, as opposed to products.” (No Logo) That we have allowed the Corporation to move from production of goods to the manufacturing of Icons is our mistake, one that we must claim and work to remedy. Does it really satisfy, does it bring us happiness? We should ask these questions and others as we confront the barrage of commercials from day to day, because the symbol has turned from representing deeper, universal ideas, to selling materialism. We can imagine a young man saying: “Under the shadow of the sears tower I found myself,” because it was that symbol that his city presented as most important. This experience is common. As the sacred retreats from the Vegas Strip, cowers beneath the overwhelming magnitude of the “stars and stripes,” or huddles away to avoid contamination from ethanol or elmer’s glue, we begin to understand her reticence.

Advertisers long and systematic policy of targeting the ego has produced a morally inept culture, dependant not upon deeper meanings but on colorful veneers. Once again, it is the emotional reaction to the said media that is in question, because, (William Bernbach, 1989) “you can say the right thing about a product and nobody will listen. You’ve got to say it in such a way that people will feel it in their gut. Because if they don’t feel it, nothing will happen.” There are numerous examples of advertisers soliciting emotional responses to commercial products. Ads such as, “Drive = Love,” or “Bigger is Better,” show that the aim is our emotional insecurity. We are reminded again and again about the body’s endless needs and infinite wants, that we must have a certain thing to be up-to-date, or fashionable. What was natural and sustainable has become demonized by the consumptive majority; our new prophets are corporate leaders and tycoons.

The tendency today is to see life in monetary terms, because that is our world; that is capitalism and democracy in action; that is free-market economics, the newest revelation from the bible of modern affairs. We are looking through the glass darkly, not because we don’t own it, but because we're only leasing it. Some argue that the corporation has brought us what we love most, entertainment and material goods. They have given us a world where we may theoretically take more time to enjoy the finer things, the subtler things, but in the end we pay for it.

The corporation has hijacked the icon. Our deepest fears are played against us in hopeless tugs-of-war. Should I buy Coke or Pepsi, Nike or Converse, Gucci or Gap? The Icon rules, we are the first generations to have brand names as kings, to be raised on cartoons and commercials. It is a life we have been given and must somehow sort out. As each generation has its challenges, so this is one of ours. In a world where one watches the Super Bowl not for the game but for the advertising, we should be concerned that the wool keeps inching down.

It is ours to reclaim for ourselves what it means to be human, to redefine our approach to society. In this postmodern hyper-technical culture of competing interests we may choose or we may not. Whatever we do, the concept of marketing symbolism will surely survive, because our need of image and icon date to the very beginnings of humanity. Again, the conclusion is to not see the symbol as destructive, but to question what the symbol solicits as an emotional response. As we realize this, we can cultivate symbols with deeper meanings, ones that illicit a beneficent reaction, ones like the mythic Shiva that remind us of our mortality, that we must live well for tomorrow there may be no more living.

Reese Zollinger
cross posted from EO.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

the unwritten fiction of charles darwin. chapter two. (as told by albert einstein)

(courage is a coriander)

"i wonder about things sometimes,"
good king george told me once
while climbing the rocky mountains.
i exploded then, and found a paradigm,
something to which i could attach a
stumbling forward;
it was like the fracture of earth and air:
there was an uttering stated,
a forward overstatement, an overtruth,
an overstanding, an opus as a dove.

there is a belief.
and, there is a mule.
and there is the long walk up to the surface,
as the whole affrontation;
with stirrups, boot straps.

as once the cat tails, wagged,
it is like the last extinction,
between the last ice age,
encumbered with force and determination,
as the fist of a whirlwind,
and fire and water are combined.
the two words rhyme
but cannot be spoken together.
we knew this only:
a dog is under something.

i wished sometimes when the night was grey,
and we were walking,
and a bird force was above us,
and the simple choreography of structure
implicit in a latter day saint baptism presented itself, ...though,
we found ourselves in an algerian cafe,
you, me, isaac and H-,
all were there. "i wish, ...
we are so lucky to behold the twenty second century,
like the space between the tick of a clock,
and a century of doubt,
the path we would walk is folden,
ridden with clout.
uncertain with forscision.
as the dunking of a doughnut in a mug.
the once king of a fallen nation." you said.

"i think" einstein thought to himself, as a response,
(the narrator chose to acknowledge):
"that the cause of the universe has as its potential,
the purport of a pulse,
as if the around focusing,
had to relinquish a scent."
"i had the distinct impression the other day that god defies occam's razor;
though he walks the razor's edge," you said.
i could have said: "it is harder to explain "god"
than "the universe" god created."
(as though one were not required by the other.)

imagine she, me and you with him,
drinking moroccan chai,
as though the wall beside us were clay,
as though we had a moon to drink by.
and significance could not be defined.
and thwarted as we were to see it,
we defied odds,
and saw as nods of a series of heads,
the immersion and the crisp, blue,
earth enclosed chamber,
the wholesome place of requirement.

the wholesome woman dressed in orange
stepped, like a catholic bible,
downward into the font, ready to baptize.
the blue water cast a glow.
"i had a becoming once with a beetle,
and walked away from it overplaced.
the blue water was like this,
or the scent of a cup of coffee
being poured into a glass bead cup;" said H-.
we had a good laugh.
there were hard lines in the bifurcated room,
the split was between us and them,
though we were baptized that day too;
like the whisper of an equestrian to his horse,
we lauded our honoree with this exclamation:
"if we could,
we would baptize ourselves
in amino acids."
(or, R- reminded us
in these woods which were
as though we thought we knew them, said:
"like a small dragonfly not knowing,
we glowed with amazement, knowing."


too, locked into our story, was forthcoming.
as it would have been.
the light in the room was perfect,
and we launched into the debate.
there were four winds blowing
when the innocent rose from the liquid water;
four winds blowing also,
the moment before.
H- said,
"incongruous as a warped board,
and squiggly as a rummy worm,
though firm as a foundation and pressed on firm,
like a buttermilk bread upon its spatulaed side,
with a sprig of lettuce and the
praise a man would give to the man;
a million metaphors, also."
"i said,"
said i,
"this is as it would be naturally,
'elected as the before point'."
(i had the distinct impression a couple of days later,
that the autobiography of herman hesse,
had a stitch of the super natural,
and i reckoned this with light.

i thought later that i knew then what god was).
you said then something i will always remember,
"the apple is only a seed."
as eating an oatmeal salad, i underate what you meant.
remembering later,
i see,
and would add as a caveat,
(as if i had the ability):
" i am lactose intolerant,
and as such am in at least one form of intolerant."
quick as the brown fox,
isaac interjected then,
"imagine an apple on an ox."
we laughed and put on our shoes and socks.
and the four of us went on as one person walks.
we walked backward from where we were
to the orange rose and wafts;
we sat and smoked and laughed.
the orange rose spoke,
we were uplifted,
as though the bench
on which we sat,
had always been above us.

light and matter and god and
the understory of chatter
in this late night cafe and
a certain mad hatter;
this is the welcome for which we were warned,
he came, he spoke and uttered
in the name of a certain father,
of a certain son,
and of a certain holy spirit:
a spirit of comfort,
of place.
"this is where you are,"
it said,
"before this what where you?" it asked.
"nothing." it said.
(it said this to teach you something.
(you learned it of course.))


the dining cafe and the baptism emerged
as a fox racing through the brush,
and a dry farmer noticing;
the drive home from the farm,
a few miles west from where your mind is.
a friday night in october,
baseball, football, soccer, an eagle scout
and a duck pond with
the brother of jared.
"i am the brother of jared," you said.
(we were all in awe, of course
for the orbs of light you manifested.)
"i know the orb is true," you said.
"you are human," we said.
we laughed, we had been here before.

light shone in to the baptismal font,
and then reversed itself.
we walked backward then and i said to you,
"albert, remember the way the light travels through water?"
(i said to you as though i were i,):
"charles, the light of god is
a light only i can see;".

the sound of the scene perished.
and somewhere a sound was made
of a carpenter exposing from a drift of ash,
a fine abacus.
we counted backwards from zero and found
the urn,
where we had stored ourselves.
(i remembered the irony.)
(each time we walked backward,
we came to nothing.)
(like a man walking a way from his sins).

as a pendulum ever returning,
we forever arrived at the moment before.
the candlelight of the table
overriding the saucers and kin,
perched like a head of lettuce,
in a land,
where there are seas and seas
of heads of lettuce;
miles and miles;
on and on as if lettuce where nothing,
and that was all there is,
or isn't.
(not to put too fine a point on it.)
the apple, perched
like a pelican on a pond,
like an aspen having lived a long and quaking life,
heading backwards always to that moment
when life was breathed,
perspicacity and thunder rolled and breaded,
non yeast fried.
we saw then that this could not be and retreated
from our retreat.

we walked forward again,
heading backward to our destination.
i said, "H-, when we get there,
will you tell me?"
H- said, " of course, but by then,
you will already know."
the turnips in the field,
just then,
like an apple cobbler,
baked in the earth, as an oven.
we waited to eat.
while we waited,
the carrots and the tomatoes counseled.
we waited to eat, and for the verdict.
while we waited,
the moon spun in perfect synchronicity with the very earth on which we stood.
by then we knew there was no soup,
no amino goulash;
only the verdict:
like a walk through a rain forest
on the sunniest day of the year,
we rolled in the grass
like oats, or late twentieth century diamonds, rocks.

there was a sense that morning was approaching
when i said, "we are the evidence we need."
"we do not have to walk backward."
"zero cannot reverse itself."
"courage is a coriander."

c2007 rrzollinger

The History of Oil - Robert Newman

It is sad, nay tragic, when truth is spoken best by comedians. In this 45 minute stand-up routine, Newman explores the complex and often overlooked history of our perverse love affair with oil. But, rather than boring his patrons with academic drivel, he speaks the truth through humor and irony. An astounding performance. If you have an hour to spare, give it a watch. (caution: the truth can be a bit racy)

Enjoy, and don't forget the popcorn.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dalai Llama and Mandalas

A connection was just made between me and the Tibetan Holy Man. A woman whom I met in Park City, visiting from somewhere in the south, bought some of my originals and a few cards from me this summer. We have since maintained a connection by phone. She just informed me that while visiting a workshop in Florida where the Dalai Llama was speaking...she placed the tulip mandala card in his hands.
In one instant, the sphere in which I live and create has grown large enough to encounter his circle of life and beauty.
It is a both big and small...for art touches multitudes of people we dont know...who treasure it no less.
But it is a sign, bright and bold, that marks a post along this path...that says it is enough to keep going.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Solanum Tuberosum

A Short History of the Potato.

Though there existed a time of dispute as to the origins of the potato, it is today certain this unique and potent agricultural crop came from the new world. The ethno-botanical evidence narrows the point of origin to the great north-south Andes spine of South America. It appears to have been a staple food of the peasants before the European conquests.

When the Spanish first encountered the crop, they were only mildly impressed. Some specimens were transported back to Europe during the 16th century for study, but as it was considered a bland food, it failed to gain immediate appeal. There exists a kind of natural conservatism in peoples diet, and it takes some shaking up to introduce new foods to foreign lands. Nevertheless, there is some evidence from the diaries of the late 16th century which show a growing appreciation of this exotic species. Carolus Clusius, a Flemish Monk and botanist, did studies on the plant, and in Ireland, it established its famous foothold.

It is curious to consider what the ancient diet might have looked like before beans, maize, tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkin and pineapple. Bland certainly, with lots of ale or wine to promote forgetfulness. I can scarcely imagine what the Italian diet consisted of before tomatoes...and I would guess the Irish were asking themselves in the late 1800's what exactly their diet was previous to the full scale assault of the potato...

Some of the early skepticism concerning this tuber was justified, but some was obviously not. As it belongs to the family of plants which include nightshades and the great modern killer tobacco, it was considered poisonous. Other considered it to be an aphrodisiac, still others thought it was a plant that produced an exorbitant amount of flatulence, and was therefore to windy. Of course, none of these amounted to a successful campaign against the potato, as we can see by looking at the modern global diet.

There are reasons why this particular crop gained universal popularity, primary being its toleration of extreme environments, and that it is anything but delicate, though that would be sorely disproven by the Irish potato famine of of the 1840's. It is not often that a single plant can cause bio-regional shifts in human population, but that was the case for Ireland. The Irish were the first to grab the potato in Europe, cultivating it only 100 years after the first Europeans arrived in the new world. For centuries the Irish peasant farmers developed a symbiotic relationship with the potato. One farmer could cultivate 1 acre of potatoes which would in turn feed 12 for a year. 1 lb of potatoes per day would offer a daily dose of vitamin C, Vitamin B, trace minerals, and easily digestible starch. What it lacked in Vitamins A and D was made up by the milk cow. It was a copasetic relationship, leading to a population growth in Ireland of several million.

By the 1840's, Ireland was vastly unprepared to deal with any interruption in its hand-to-mouth economy.In 1846, a fungus swept through the countryside, through 2/3 of all potato fields, and devastated them. The following year, Ireland had a 100% crop failure, leading to wide starvation and immense amounts of suffering. Between 1846-1849, 1.5 million people died. The population of the country fell from 9 to 6 million, either from forced immigration or starvation. The consequence of the wedding between the potato and Ireland was brutal, expatriation became for some the only option. America was one of the obvious destinations in the aftermath of the Irish potato famine, and for any American worth their ilk, they can immediately understand the importance Irish-Americans have played in the unfolding history of our country.

It is amazing what one plant can do, can cause. The potato, the Idaho Spud, French Fries (or, freedom fries if you are republican) (/snark), the Au Gratin revolution. It is a world cuisine, a staple of the poor, a food which we all love whether in chip or the much preferred smothered in pot roast gravy (you know what I mean). We are dependent on our food, and it in turn uses us as a means of its own evolution. Copasetic, symbiotic, beautiful, and at times devistating. The potato.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Balloon Fiesta Pictures

In a post below, I mentioned my run in with the unfortunate during balloon fiesta. It wasn't all terrible though (other than I was sick the whole time, and had midterms that week). Here are a few pictures of Albuquerque's premier event, the International Balloon Fiesta.


The Balloonists Prayer:

The winds have welcomed you with softness, the sun has blessed you with its warm hands. You have flown so high and so well that god has joined you in your laughter, and set you gently back into the loving arms of mother earth. Cheers (after which we feel justified drinking champagne at 9:30 am).

Monday, October 15, 2007

As yet, untitled

He who pulled paragraph like espresso
died of old age with a thousand
boxes of bound alphabet in his shed.

Periods are enemies he would tell us
and semi-colons, a constipation.

Believe in exclamation!
Personalize, comma.

Guard the little swatch
of fabric you find in grasses,
imagining it as scarf or chemise.

Read it like a basket.

Invite grasshoppers and crickets to the critique.
And, if they sing you will know it is good.

Trust the line.
Trust the hem.
Trust the wind-step whisking.
Trust the song of thyself.

Stand on your shaky metaphors
until bullfrog leaps from lotus—
generosity burning wellspring in your cheeks.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

the unwritten letters of charles darwin

("please: read only at your leisure, if you please." Charles Darwin)

chapter one

there is writing on a wall,
and there is a certain non verbal language,
attending to a certain nuance,
giving a particular meaning,
and allowing a comprehension,
to and of an immaculate truth;
as the late leaves fall,
and express toward an imprint in a clay,
in the wind which breaks toward its fall
(though the imprint is unnoticed).
as the quick golden sun, progresses
to an olympic peak, we are invoked by these and other
portentous things.

remember last year when the writing was on a wall.
i remember the hope,
though, like the crescent sound of the airplanes,
flying like october baseballs overhead,
i have been stunned, been whirl-winded,
been enveloped
and have forgotten though,
as those anteloped
on a certain rock, calling sure
what the point was called for.
"i would forget again if i had to,"
i said as though i were myself:
"it is difficult, like evolution."

there is a cactus in the desert.
and like the husk on a cob of corn,
there is a scar on my skin.
as the rough and tumble world
breaks through the crust and shell,
i hang in the balance, weathered and forlorn.
i am not sorry that i myself feel this way.
i am sorry that i had to put things this way
to bring you up to speed; as though the waves on the shore
of the olympics had not spread their wings,
but were hung.
like drapes from the curtain rod, which passed for the wind
i held on in a most curious state.

i woke up later walking.
there was a stiff surreality to the scene before me.
i walked stiffly as a reaction.


the silhouette of the skyline, was dark grey.
and there was a mood in the air,
there was noise, but it was quiet.
einstein said, "the whole universe is but a thought."
and i thought, but did not respond.
we walked for a while as though he or i were laying on a couch.
the sun set and we walked.
the dirt beneath our feet,
the grass and dirt,
shone a sheen,
described the setting as we walked.
enstein pondered and did not speak.
i thought about the big bang.

there, beneath the horizon,
i watched the setting sun rise.
i could hear the sound of our footfalls,
and then i knew about the big bang.
einstein presently spoke,
"i was speaking with my friend, mr. nietzsche,
we were discussing the big bang,
and he said, "imagine the moment zero.""
einstein stopped walking,
turned to me and i fell into a trance.

the blackness and darkness crept in,
there was no silhouette in the sky.
like a tarantula on a photograph of the universe,
al and i walked as though we were in a trance.
i felt enormously unsettled,
like the moment before the big bang.
in that moment the world broke through,
the frosted ground in winter was a sign.
we walked on the dirt road,
we knew there were ten miles of "canopy of birch"
lining this road on earth.

the hope we walked toward
was like carrot tomato soup and toast,
after a long journey.
maybe a good pint of your famous lager.
i remember when you used to walk with us
when we walked in the dark on the dirt road lined with kentucky blue grass.
the tire marks from the pickups
were illusions and transformations when we walked.
"remember the orange rose?" einstein spoke.
"i do remember that there is an orange rose," you said.
i sensed an impasse, and said,
"i think i can posit the need not for god."
you both turned and looked at me.
you did not walk with us again,
yet you are walking with us now in your dream.

a dream is a place. in the universe
there are places deep within a dreamer,
where the universe plays out
possibilities which could not become actual,
possibilities which could only remain possible;
the universe needed this place in order to be.


when we reached the orange rose,
as we walked upon our path,
the silent smell prompted the sounds of our footfalls to cease.
oh, the reverie.
it was as though a cowboy had rolled
the first perfectly hand rolled cigarette.
we sat on the bench beside the orange flower
and rolled cigarettes; smoked them.
"charles," einstein spoke,
"light is energy, and thought is energy; energy is mass, and mass is in a couple of hours."
"the number two," i evoked, "is a brilliant notion."
like the ocean and its sound,
the two knew that it was true. (like the color blue)

"i think the breakthrough is in the thought,"
you say, as though we were there in your dream,
"the deepest and most unreachable place you know is,
that you know of this most deep and unreachable place."
"do be careful when you speak of places so deep,
that they reach an unreachable state,"
einstein breaks in to lighten the mood, like
the opposite of a bolt of lightning.
if i were speaking about it as though it hadn't happened yet,
i would have noted the brilliance of your jocularity,
when you said, "unreachable is beyond reach, is like saying,
there is a certain cow in a certain meyer."
a dark plume of smoke became then,
the pluribus unum of our dream.
and the orange flower spoke with reluctance,
"there is an history of evidence."

beneath the overtones of scent,
cast off by the october rose,
the three of us found ourselves walking,
again upon the footpath.
"you said," i said, "that nietzshce spoke of the moment zero, mr einstein.
evolution of species, and back to the moment of just after the moment zero,
there was zero, then there was zero point one. before there was zero point one,
there was zero and then,
there was zero point one, or
zero point zero, zero, zero, (ad infinitum), one.
there was zero, then, not the originally complete zero.
which equals two states the zero was in."
"light on the other hand," moves at a certain fixed number of distances per second." enstein smirked,
"remember the pendulum," i said,
"there is a place for zeros in our universe," you cordially reminded us.
i invoked the first article of faith. then elaborated on the distinctions of quanta.
like a branch upon a fire, the fifth desert wheel of our desiring,
preyed upon our digital mind scape,
we walked on as though we had had enough to think about.
we heralded this event, once.


in the combination light of winter morning,
the stiff smell of coffee presented itself in the context
of desert effervescences.
wholly uncertain of their landing, the three had context to begin again.
the circle of time,
like an asymptote upon a graph,
approached infinity and the three
immortalized the taste of coffee on their lips.

a stark uncertain new mexican sky,
and the smell of the chaparral;
a certain few remaining butterflies, and a flock of geese.
a halloween.
all souls eve.
the hunter becomes hunted.
"i hunt there,
for, i am hungry and there is food there"
enstien says in a remote state.
the state of kentucky is renown for its blue grass,
like its whisky and rye, its blue grass is sly.
the mountain goat on the swiss mountain rock,
sometimes dreams of listless days of frolicsome realities
skipping through a days worth of kentucky blue grass;
like whippoorwill,
or a thin mountain crane on the horizon.
i had to say something,
"which takes more energy?" i said,
"to go from zero to one,
or from one to two?"
the clocked ticked,
and the firelight from the place in this library,
lit up the library we three found ourselves in;
as those literacists say, presently,
we laughed.

sipping on a cognac as though it were evening,
and as time had passed, you said,
"there is a graph where an asymptote begins from infinity,
and forever approaches the smallest approximation of something."
the firelight and the shadow
spoke then upon al's face,
like a certain orange flower quivering in the wind.
"i know what it is you are saying"
you said after that long moment when there was no sound.
we all had transcended back to a start in that moment,
and were left facing the wrong way on our walk upon the path.
we knew this to be true immediately,
and turned around and walked the other way in what was then and had been all night,
an absence of moonlight.
like a ship with the ocean on her belly,
we circumscribed our perfect understanding,
found ourselves choked up,
became children, and sages at once;
saw the faintest whisper that there was night sky.
einstein happened to find himself singing, "micheal row your boat ashore, hallelujah,.....""

we each knew we were not at an impasse.
and knew there were four or us speaking.


a certain microphone,
with its capabilities and its ability to contort,
was given to the creator.
and with this creator's abilities,
this creator was given a certain microphone;
that is to say,
a really small phone,
that is to say,
the remote ability to transfer a certain truth:
like the underwriter,
and that noble soul who would stand under it,
the universe is a multiverse and is as such,
as though it were as much as said such.

the absence of fog undertook us on our night path,
and we found ourselves
walking still in the blackness,
like shadows falling in love with the law of gravity.
sir isaac knew the importance of nostalgia

resonant footfalls in the key of e
and pardoned thoughts and a canopy of birch
and we walked on in the whippoorwill's echo.
it had a starkness to its sound and created for us a resonance,
as we walked,
at peace,
and troubled,
all at once saying goodnight to irene.
"there are perfect things," i said.
"there are perfect things," you said.
"i am in love with the speed of light," enstein said.
(the narrator): as their footfalls echoed
in simultaneous resonance,
the three had not realized their feet were not walking on kentucky blue grass nor earthly soil,
they like the infinite ability for light,
to travel however far it must,
to record,
like a microphone plugged into a recorder,
whatever happened there.

c 2007 rrzollinger

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Blog Update

I amended the site to only include the last 10 posts, as it was getting digitally taxing to include the bulk of it. Also thought it prudent to include Google Analytics to the blog, which allows us to track our traffic. If your interested, I'll send you a link with directions on how to access the site.


A 700 Year Old Vindication

Today commemorates the 700 year anniversary of the downfall of the famed organization known now as the Knights Templar. It was Friday, October 13, 1307 that the Vatican conspired with King Philip IV of France to draw the Templars into a noose, leading eventually to the burning at the stake of Jacque de Molay and the retreat of remaining Templars and their secrets to Scotland and the greater British Isles.

The level of speculation surrounding this band of medieval warrior monks has become a kind of budgie-jumping historical sport, the rock-climbers version of academic fun. We have the Da Vinci Code and Holy Blood, Holy Grail to convince us of its continued and presently heightened popularity. But nothing reaches the justifiable ground wire like the news coming out of the Vatican these past few days...

From Thursday's edition of the Guardian Unlimited:
A couple of years ago, one wintry morning in Hertford, I met a mysterious man who claimed to belong to the Knights Templar. As readers of The Da Vinci Code will know, this secretive Catholic organization had been officially disbanded in 1307 by Pope Clement V, who had accused them of being heretics and devil-worshipers; their leader, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake. This Saturday, October 13, marks the 700th anniversary of the day their persecution began: Friday October 13, 1307, which may be the origin of the idea that Friday 13 is unlucky. But the Templars didn't go away. Instead, they went underground - taking with them, it was whispered, the Holy Grail itself, the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper. Then, in late 2004, they resurfaced. A letter arrived at the Vatican, purportedly from the Templars' grand master, insisting on the knights' innocence, and demanding an apology. The Vatican said it would give the matter "serious consideration" - but for Templar-hunters, the exciting aspect was that the letter bore a Hertford address.

A reporter at the Hertfordshire Mercury tracked down a local Templar, who explained that treasures of "immense importance" were hidden in a secret network of tunnels beneath the city, extending from the council offices, via Threshers, to Monsoon and Accessorize. Which was how I came to visit. Was the most fabled relic of Christ hidden underneath two boutiques on Market Place in Hertford?

I never found out, despite the best efforts of Gemma, the manager. But the other part of the tale has a happy ending: later this month, the Vatican will publish a book based on the Chinon parchment, a rediscovered fragment of the trial proceedings against the Templars. According to Professor Barbara Frale - who found it in the Vatican's secret archive, where it had been misfiled - it absolves the Knights Templar.

Just after the 700th anniversary of the day their troubles began, the Templars will get their apology. "We pray that, at the end of seven centuries, the soul of Jacques de Molay may now rest in peace for ever," says Ben Acheson, who describes himself as a Templar. "The Temple now considers the matter closed."

Now all that remains is to find the Holy Grail. If you need me, I'll be underneath Accessorize.
So, after 700 years of supposed Templar heresy, they will finally be absolved. Fascinating how justice works inside the halls of the faithful.


Update: (From the Times Online)
VATICAN CITY The Knights Templar, the medieval Christian military order accused of heresy and sexual misconduct, will soon be partly rehabilitated when the Vatican publishes trial documents it has closely guarded for 700 years.

It is publishing only 799 copies of the minutes of trials against the Templars, Processus Contra Templarios - Papal Inquiry into the Trial of the Templars, which will sell for €5,900 (£4,115).

The giant work will come in a soft leather case, with detailed reproductions of original Latin parchments and the wax seals used by the 14th-century inquisitors.

“Nothing before this offered scholars original documents of the trials of the Templars,” said Professor Barbara Frale, a medievalist at the Vatican’s Secret Archives.

The Templars were founded in 1119 by knights sworn to protect Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land. Legends of their hidden treasures and secret rituals and power have featured in films and bestsellers such as The Da Vinci Code. (Reuters)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Seattle Times: A Smooth Move

The Seattle Times: A Smooth Move

(Pacific NW 10/07/2007 | A Smooth Move | )

One of the interesting things about this article in the Seattle Times, Sunday Magazine, "Pacific Northwest", is a small clip in the article about the two hundred rhododendrons and plants, transplanted from their old residence. The new property was on a steep hillside where each and all had to be securely fastened to the ground. I am happy to say that though we did have some casualties along the way, the garden has achieved in the five years from its inception, (having been improved by many hands), has achieved that classic state, where the plants, the house and the architecture combine to what I would call a masterpiece, if we were talking about a work of art:

Pacific NW 10/07/2007 | A Smooth Move | Seattle Times Newspaper

...and of course the non sequitor:

like the donkey approaching the last few stumbling blocks,
to the lowest part of the road,
having stretched its legs upon the long journey,
like a summit to the bottom of the canyon.

the grand canyon.
and the colorado river, like everests
stretching their tendrils upon the earth,
like overarching theories.

i wish that mr. bush wouldn't torture people
or torture people by making them torture other people.
the central intelligence agency, like a rock upon the earth,
cannot redefine itself; or its country.

the impulse to desire a fleeting thought:
like the rapture of noah's dove,
is a peace;
the purpose of which is peace.

the elephant in the room,
is the elephant in the room.
and the donkey is still going south,
like the geese this time of year.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Mass Ascension

Fiesta is the harbinger of fall, of lanterns and pumpkins. It is a smooth transition into the season of the fallen. Usually.

This morning was cold. We launched around 7 am, and immediately drove south for the chase. Upon stopping at a traffic light a few miles from the launch site, I commented to Adam (the other crew on our balloon) that the balloon flying directly in front of us was too close to the power lines. Moments after I said that a line lodged into the side of the balloon's gondola.

For fifteen minutes I watched as the tragedy unfolded, powerless to help in the face of it all. The tension on the wire was so great that it was literally tearing away at the basket. The pilot tried to negotiate a drop line hitched to a truck to pull him out of it, but the line snapped and sent the balloon careening away from both the drop and power lines, dumping a passenger in the process. She died upon impact, from 60 feet up.

Powerlessness in the face of tragedy is at best humbling. Death came today, as it does, creeping in from the corners of our lives, the places we least often look. Death came today, and its questions remained unanswered.


Monday, October 1, 2007


Along hairline

Gypsum vertebrae
Basalt backbone
Cobble belly

Heels of pumice
Breast marble
Neck flint

Even blue bells between
Turn schist

No more fragility of aspens
Or golden staircases

I sprout baleen
To make ribbing
Stay corsets

I am Jaw line finally
Translated to jet—

Yet still you come
Begging hair

Still I purge
Heavy confluence

And you swim up
Swollen-whaled breathy

Pulling the roots of my home

Friday, September 28, 2007

Letter of the law, or spirit?

Is really just the difference between a copy editor and a conceptual one. I am currently in Denver at the Mountains and Plains regional trade show. Today there was a panel with Morrow and Houghton Mifflin. Editors from both publishers were there. Both conceptual editors. They are responsible for taking that little bundle of raw material, keeping it absolutely true to the voice of the author, and making sure the ideas and character developments align. They do not edit line for line--they leave that to the copy editors: the folks who rake the whole thing with a fine tooth comb, in the name of one consistent template, namely the Chicago Manual of Style.

And really, if I were to choose I would be probaly go conceptual. Yet, copy editing is absolutely essential to the precision and finesse of a manuscript.

In my own sermon on the mount near the Bodhi tree, I would perhaps call both necessary. And, if I wanted my sermon published, well, I couldn't say one was more important than the other.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Why are so many against Iran?

I am perplexed. I listened to the president of Iran when he spoke to the students at Columbia University in New York. He made some really adroit points.
We are taxing the Iranians with our contempt, and they are not represented in our parliament.
The president of Iran wants sovereignty. He wants the holy land to also have sovereignty. The people who live there should have the right to govern themselves. Why can we not get our fingers out of the middle east?
Our president, Mr. Bush has plans to make a library when he retires. oh the irony. It is to be called something like the Freedom library, to advance freedom and democracy in non freedom and democracy loving nations. But for now he wages war with Iraq; Iran. When he does not have the power to shove it down their throats, he will build a library to accomplish his purposes.

"My dear friends and scholars, distinguished participants, science and wisdom can also be misused, a misuse caused by selfishness, corruption, material desires and material interests, as well as individual and group interests. Material desires place humans against the realities of the world. Corrupted independent human beings resist acceptance of reality and even if they do accept it, they do not obey it.

There are many scholars who are aware of the realities but do not accept them. Their selfishness does not allow them to accept those realities. Did those who in the course of human history wage wars not understand the reality that lives, properties, dignity, territories and the rights of all human beings should be respected? Or did they understand it but neither have faith in nor abide by it?

My dear friends, as long as the human heart is not free from hatred, envy and selfishness, it does not abide by the truth, by the illumination of science and science itself. Science is the light and scientists must be pure and pious. If humanity achieves the highest level of physical and spiritual knowledge, but its scholars and scientists are not pure, then this knowledge cannot serve the interest of humanity, and several events can ensue." Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Barack Obama said in the democratic debate tonight not to be afraid of people who are different. Because I am different, I liked it when he said this. seeing you.