Two years later and a thousand miles south, I pull up to a second school on the island of Tahiti. By this time, my visits to cable stations have become routine. I look for an unmarked and nondescript industrial building with few windows, surrounded by surveillance cameras and guarded by barbed wire. Failing to find the station, I park on a dirt strip outside a school and wander into its open courtyard. Students pull at two ends of a long rope in a game of tug-of-war. I approach the woman watching these children and ask her about Honotua, Tahiti’s first fiber-optic cable, which was laid earlier that year. She calls a young boy over from the yard. “Le câble!” she points. He runs toward the ocean and I follow, taking snapshots as I duck through the buildings. Arriving at the back of the school, I encounter a sight as striking to me as the manhole which marks Electric Beach’s cable landing. Here stands a stone monument, about ﬁve feet tall. A large black plaque is mounted on its face. An inscription in Tahitian, English, and French reads:
In memory of the people of Papenoo and of Hawai‘i, who established
ties in the past:
Tapuhe‘euanu‘u from Tapahi, who, ﬁshing from his canoe, caught
Hawai‘i the Great,
Te‘ura-vahine from Ha‘apaiano‘o, the goddess Pere, who sought refuge
in the volcano of Hawai‘i the Great,
Mo‘iteha, King of Hawai‘i, who came back to Tahiti to build his marae
Ra‘iteha at Mou‘a‘uranuiatea,
Ra‘amaitahiti, his son, King of Tapahi, who brought his drum to Kaua‘i,
To revive these ancient connections, Honotua was made: The submarine
cable that links Tahiti to Hawai‘i.
After quietly undulating in the deep sea, it has landed here, at Mamu
Hopefully human ignorance will dissolve into silence and only knowledge
will be conveyed.
So collect your thoughts. I will tell you all. We speak of “rich” when there is sufficient supply. By making everything grow, heaven provides enough wealth. Thus we say that there is enough wealth when supreme majestic qi arises and all twelve thousand plants and beings are brought to life. Under the influence of medium majestic qi, plants and beings are slightly deficient in that it cannot provide for all twelve thousand of them. This causes small poverty. When under the influence of lower majestic qi, plants and beings are again fewer than under the influence of medium majestic qi, and this causes great poverty. When there are no auspicious portents [signifying the approach of majestic qi] at all, the crops won’t grow, which is extreme poverty. Take a look at a peasant family if you wish to know what this amounts to. Should they not possess any rare and valuable objects, they are considered a poor family. Should they not be supplied with what they need, they must be seen as an extremely poor family. The problem lies in the poverty of heaven and earth. Once all twelve thousand plants and beings come forth and are nurtured by earth without detriment, earth becomes rich. If it can’t nurture them well, it becomes slightly poor as long as injuries remain small, and quite poor should they be large. If crops were to shy away from being seen and fail to grow, injured by earth’s body, this would lead to extreme poverty. Without jade and other valuables and with half the yields damaged, great distress and poverty would come about. Such complete damage would eradicate a poor family. Now think of heaven as father and earth as mother. Should father and mother be in such extreme poverty all their children would suffer from poverty. The king’s government is a replica of this. Thus the wise kings of antiquity, whose reign reached out to all twelve thousand plants and beings, became lords of great wealth. Harvests that reach two-thirds of their potential provide a lord with medium wealth. When they amount to only one-third, he has but little wealth. With neither valuables nor crops, he becomes a lord of great poverty. Once half of his harvests are damaged, his house is in decline. If all are damaged, he becomes a man of great poverty. The wise and worthy of antiquity reflected deep in their dark chamber on the question of how poverty and wealth were achieved through [adhering to] dao and virtue. Why should anyone ask about this? Through meditation, men will find out for themselves. These points of convergence / divergence can be found throughout the collection, as our selections were chosen to make them visible. Ann M. Ciasullo’s and Norma Mogrovejo’s pieces on the development of lesbian feminism in the United States and Latin America, for example, reveal fascinating differences — and some similarities — in the political contexts within which each of these movements emerged and in the issues that became central to each movement. The similarities are instructive, but even more so are the differences, which demonstrate that the path followed by feminists in the United States was not the model for the rest of the world. Similarly, in Obioma Nnaemeka’s essay on African feminism, “womanism” appears as a significant concept — which may come as a surprise to those American feminists who believe it was coined by Alice Walker. When Durand and I wanted to end our Poetry Project Newsletter “interview” with a selection from “Deep eco pré,” the editors initially refused our request because it threw off the balance between the distinct categories of “poetry” and “prose” in the issue. we insisted in order to challenge the identity of the poet as a “talking head” with deep dark interiors. As an instance of Darragh / Durand / Ponge / Zimmerman put it:
gable tone let us press that was revealed to
last night a victorious clarity I have been suff
BUT let us act as if if not with clarity at leas
I mean what we (each still tribal forest owes go-
until four violent like the one that some precedes cam
“completion” of my “essay” (didn’t go to be until fo
at least I re-lude with first ragement shalling univ logi
contribute to it, in the direction, intensity, if not with cla
ri for the illusion of it four in the morning for it can eas
However the matter is resolved, it is clear that humans have been cooking for a very long time. Before the first empires, indeed, long before farming, they had passed a point of no return where they could no longer thrive on raw foods. They had become the animals that cooked. Cooking softened food so that humans no longer had to spend five hours a day chewing, as their chimpanzee relatives did. It made it more digestible, increasing the energy humans could extract from a given amount of food and diverting more of that energy to the brain. Brains grew and guts shrank. It became possible to detoxify many poisonous plants and soften others that had been too hard to chew, so that humans could digest an increased number of plant species. This allowed more people to live off the resources of a given area as well as making it easier to settle new areas. Ways of treating flesh and plants so that they did not rot permitted the storage of food for the lean times of hard winters or dry seasons. With cooking, plants and animals became the raw materials for food, not food itself. Given that we commonly use the word “food” to describe what farmers grow, and given that we eat nuts, fruit, some vegetables, and even fish and steak tartare without cooking, the statement that plants and animals are not food may seem counterintuitive. The fact is that most of us get only a small fraction of our calories from raw foods. Even so, that fraction is probably higher than that of our ancestors, since we are the beneficiaries of millennia of breeding that have created larger, sweeter fruits and more tender vegetables and meat. Furthermore, even what we call raw has usually been subjected to many kitchen processes. Few of us sink our teeth into raw steak unless it has been finely chopped or sliced. Raw foodists allow slicing, grinding, chopping, soaking, sprouting, freezing, and heating to 104-120° Fahrenheit. Anyhow, in Antiquity, people happily accepted that humans ate cooked food. Indeed, they saw it as what distinguished them from animals. Perhaps it is because today we place so much emphasis on “fresh” and “natural” foods – which Susanne Freidberg has shown are made possible only by manipulating animal life cycles, modern transport, refrigeration, and ingenious packaging – that we underestimate how much we depend on cooking. With cooking came cuisines. Techniques that proved successful with one kind of raw material were then used for others. A single raw material (such as grain) could be turned into diverse foods with different tastes and nutritional properties (gruel, bread, and beer). Instead of consuming food on the spot, humans began eating meals, since cooking required planning, storing ingredients, and time. Meals could be patterned to suit cultural preferences. Ordered styles of cooking – cuisines – became the norm. Which is why the windows with their white aprons told us what they saw. Which is why the winning clouds will drop fish and dolphins in the streets of Leticia. (Which is why, if they lose, they will come down with their dark glasses to sunbathe with the tourists.) Which is why fish work as cab drivers. In backyards dolphins strum their guitars. The sun works as a fire eater at night in the river’s traveling circus. A few herons come to the beach, take off their feathers, and go for a swim. The fishermen wink at the boys goading them to bathe with the herons. But the boys prefer to hide the herons’ clothes. Then the fisherman who scale and gut their fish laugh so hard they fall down, choking. The herons dress themselves in the fish scales. He who is not coming can be seen very well in the distance. He can be seen in a solitary boat, in the sky, in the clouds. He who is not coming rides by on the back of a fly without saying hello. Even though later, in many places, they will greet each other. Outside the campus bookstore a few weeks ago, I glimpsed a white minivan with a green bumper sticker reading “I miss Ronald Reagan” in a big goopy white Snoopy toothpaste font. The woman driving this minivan stood befuddled, facing first the bookstore and then a security booth on the edge of the parking lot. She rotated back and forth in confusion in the morning smog, like a fucked-up sunflower, like she couldn’t decide whether to go buy another bumper sticker or go commit suicide by cop. And they all spread in the same womb, the same womb or entrails, and their high fashion, their loaks and adorned, bullet-proof ghost shirts, cover over it until it can’t. Which brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation to Judy Garland, singing, in Summer Stock,
Forget your troubles, come on get happy
We’re going to chase all your cares away.
Shout alleluia come on get happy,
We’re headed for the Judgment Day.
So they danced without rest, on and on … Occasionally someone thoroughly exhausted and dizzy fell unconscious in the center and lay there in the center “dead” … After a while, many lay about in that condition. They were now “dead” and seeing their dear ones … The visions … ended the same way, like a chorus describing a great encampment of all the Lakotas who had ever died, where … there was no sorrow but only joy, where relatives thronged out with happy laughter … The people went on and on and could not stop, day or night, hoping … to get a vision of their own dead … And so I suppose the authorities did think they were crazy – but they were not. They were only terribly unhappy. 28 Oct 1992 Yun Kûm-i’s head was smashed with a Coca-Cola bottle. She was found dead, legs spread with the Cola bottle in her vagina and an umbrella up her anus. So why say “Zurita’s INRI begins with a strange landscape: ‘surprising baits rained down from the sky like the stars’; there are ‘fields of almond trees … in the stomach of the fish’”? How do I release tension? Not very well. Currently, despite my sympathy for Tolstoy’s charitable impulse, I could not readily include the po-po in any ‘prehensile web of love’ I might cast. Though we feel liberated at the conventional end of a fairy tale (‘and they lived happily ever after’), we are aware of anxiety lurking along the fraying edges of ‘ever after,’ where existence continues beyond the scope of what’s told, and perhaps beyond the scope of what can be told. Goethe’s last words were, so they say, ‘More light.’ I could imagine a variant of these: ‘More sleep.’ But those are mere words, and a translation, at that, and not even last words, as more words have followed since, including those that proclaim them ‘last.’ Here we have the strangest beginning. Grasses caught in an underwater universe. Any wild animal: deer and ships topmast mainsail lichen rocks. Body like a breaking lighthouse glass. A street of weavers. Tiny precise models of everything. A river dear to bears. In the Museum of Tornado Disasters, a man sorts teeth from lead. In the Museum of Accidental Poisonings, you are becoming hair and bones and eyelashes, bleak antennae. beautiful rusting limbs. Just see how the stars twist. How the lakes rust. In the Museum of Rabbit Constellations, we clean the area completely, auger in, press our patch over the punctured surf, pray for thirty seconds & inflate. But what cuts the rubber hull? What breaches this manic inflation? What artificial industry sabotages our manual fracture in a fractured artfact scraped from the epic lab, a crate we drag or chest we heave as smoke we float as coal aghast a blast of crust across the atom-packed horizons. Nevertheless, beyond the schematic borders, here is us, it, I, I, this we, perspiring to cross the sacred hedges, surrounded by interdiction, exhibition, extradiction, prohibition, protodiction, abhibition … Picked us, ripped us, wrapped us in spatum, unarmed, unplugged, cut from function, cut from production, is us, is we, this I, this it, this mechanical artifact dumping in front of the inflammatory bankage a whole bestiary of impossible life forms — mists, ooze, blobs, slime, clouds, and muck. History, having no human face, no Mind, and no anthropomorphic Hegelian Spirit, has no sides, there are only events, there’s only Los Angeles. The daughters here seem like daughters in a Gothic narrative. They stare eerily from the stairs. There are clues and more clues. A role is to a person what a clue is to evidence. But it’s hard to hear what people are saying when their mouths are full of sugar. Or when they’re laying face down in the secret messages. The metaphor implies wholesomeness, goodness, health. But isn’t there a little condescension in that idea also? Are oppressed groups really society’s Id? Which also means that in the first horror film he ever made, someone pretended to break my neck while I was tied to a dentist’s chair with a bunch of RCA cables; that I’ve made the fake blood for almost every cinematic endeavor he’s ever been involved in (he sucks at it), “a cantíl is a venomous snake. It’s a minor deity, hiding in the rainforest, guarding the temples: one of the ones who molded us from corn & mud; yellow lipped.” But it’s alright, ma, it’s alright ‘cos the historical pattern has shown how the economical cycle tends to revolve in a round of decades three stages stand out in a loop a slump and war then peel back to square one and back for more bigger slump and bigger wars and a smaller recovery huger slump and greater wars and a shallower recovery […] dum, dum, dum, de dum dum, de duh de duh de dum dum dum … ah ah, dum, dum, dum, de dum dum, de duh de duh de dum dum dum … ah ah … Now we had enough of our “beer trip” for the time being, and in order to cool our heated blood, we started on a double quick march, until Edgar Bauer stumbled over some paving stones. “Hurrah, an idea!” And in memory of mad student pranks he picked up a stone, and Clash! Clatter! a gas lantern went flying into splinters. Nonsense is contagious – Marx and I did not stay behind, and we broke four or five street lamps – it was, perhaps, 2 o'clock in the morning and the streets were deserted in consequence. But the noise nevertheless attracted the attention of a policeman who with quick resolution gave the signal to his colleagues on the same beat. And immediately countersignals were given. The position became critical. Happily we took in the situation at a glance; and happily we knew the locality. We raced ahead, three or four policemen some distance behind us. Marx showed an activity that I should not have attributed to him. And after the wild chase had lasted some minutes, we succeeded in turning into a side street and there running through an alley – a back yard between two streets – whence we came behind the policemen who lost the trail. Now we were safe. They did not have our description and we arrived at our homes without further adventures. A few weeks later still, back in the conference room on the ﬁfth ﬂoor. Today’s topic: tie‑ins and merchandizing. Some ideas feel a bit outlandish, like a possible connection to The Incredible Hulk. The movie is set to open in mid‑June, and the staff member pitching the idea seems to be half joking. But as I look around the room, there are a lot of nods. The show, after all, will feature several pieces from Koons’s Hulk Elvis series, large paintings that juxtapose the cartoon character with such Americana as the Liberty Bell. More concrete is a tie‑in with Macy’s. This past fall, a large balloon version of Koons’s Rabbit made its debut in New York’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. For the MCA show, it could make a trip to Chicago, where it would be displayed at the Macy’s store in the Loop. The marketers are ecstatic about the opportunity. “This will really leverage the promotional aspects,” one of them exclaims. The word that keeps coming up is “cross‑marketing,” and I take away that Jeff Koons stuff might soon be everywhere. Stuff, in fact, is what really gets the group going today. Koons, it turns out, is a veritable merchandizing machine, which means that a lot of things can be sold in conjunction with the show. The list of products bearing his art ranges from the affordably populist ( beach towels from Target) to the high‑end luxurious (designs by Stella McCartney). But the news gets even better. Koons has given the MCA permission to manufacture a whole new line of T‑shirts featuring Rabbit. We pass around production samples, and everyone agrees that the baby tees, in light blue and pink, are too cute for words.
[Note: Sources: Nicole Starosielski, The Undersea Network, at Scribd; JBR; Barbara Hendrischke, The Scripture on Great Peace: The Taiping jing and the Beginnings of Daoism, at UC Press; “Foreword”, in Provocations: A Transnational Reader in the History of Feminist Thought (eds. Susan Bordo, M. Cristina Alcalde, Ellen Rosenman), at UC Press; Tina Darragh, “Blame Global Warming on Thoreau?”, in )((ECO(LANG)(UAGE(READER)) (ed. Brenda Iijima); Rachel Laudan, Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History, at UC Press; JBR; Juan Carlos Galeano, “Kites”, “Leticia”, “Herons”, “The Wait” (trs. James Kimbrell and Rebecca Morgan), in PEN America, “PEN Poetry Series: Five Poems by Juan-Carlos Galeano”, email rec’d 10 Apr 015 approx 9:02 AM PDT; Joyelle McSweeney, an account of a Lakota Ghost Dance, and Don Mee Choi, The Morning News Is Exciting, quoted in McSweeney’s The Necropastoral: Poetry, Media, Occult; James Joyce, Finnegans Wake; JBR; William Rowe, “Afterword to INRI”, in Raúl Zurita, INRI (tr. William Rowe); Lyn Hejinian, “turbulent thinking”, at wood s lot, 10 Apr 015; Colleen Hollister, “Five Museums”, at Web Conjunctions; Ken Fox, Azmud, at Association of Musical Marxists, 18 Mar 015; James Pate, and Eugene Thacker, In The Dust of This Planet, quoted in Pate’s “The Sugar Book by Johannes Göransson”, at Entropy, 10 Apr 015; Trisha Low, “Poetry is Not the Final Girl: Michael Thomas Vassallo”, at Harriet, 10 Apr 015; Elana Chavez & Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta, quoted in Cassandra Troyan, “Spitting Venom: An Interview with Elana Chavez & Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta, Part 1”, at Harriet, 10 Apr 015; Bob Dylan, “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” (memory quote); Stereolab, “Ping Pong”, quoted in Gavin Mueller, “Stereolab’s Revolutionary Horizon”, at Viewpoint Magazine, 9 Apr 015; Wilhelm Liebknecht, Karl Marx: Biographical Memoirs, quoted in “Marx on the Piss”, at Verso Books, 10 Apr 015; Matti Bunzl, In Search of a Lost Avant-Garde: AN ANTHROPOLOGIST INVESTIGATES THE CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM, at University of Chicago Press]