Walking in Circles

“When lost in the desert or a thick forest — terrains devoid of landmarks — people tend to walk in circles. Blindfolded people show the same tendency; lacking external reference points, they curve around in loops as tight as 66 feet (20 meters) in diameter, all the while believing they are walking in straight lines.

The researchers believe that loopy paths follow from a walker’s changing sense of “straight ahead.” With every step, a small deviation is likely added to a person’s cognitive sense of what’s straight, and these deviations accumulate to send that individual veering around in ever tighter circles as time goes on.

As of yet, no one is sure where in our inner workings the accumulating deviations arise.”


My Island Books

What 3 Books Would You Want if You Were Stranded on a Desert Isle?

The correct answer is three copies of the King James Bible. Usually this answer is thrown out and it’s asked again. Excluding the Bible I would say:

  1. Moby Dick
  2. Moby Dick
  3. The Brothers Karamazov
I’d want two copies of Moby Dick in case the first got too threadbare. I’ve read it four and a third times and I can’t get around to reading any other Melville because I feel like I should just read MD again. TBK is the only other book I’ve read that belongs in the same category as MB. Karamazov is too complex for me, but maybe hours on end on a desert isle will help me grasp it better. If I’m forced to take three different books I’d make the third St. Augustine’s City of God, because it’s funny, complex, deep and encompasses pretty much everything.
If we’re talking poetry I’d take:
  1. Canterbury Tales : Geoffrey Chaucer
  2. Commedia : Dante Aligheri
  3. Faerie Queen : Edmund Spenser
Of the moderns I’d take:
  • Complete Poems of Robert Lowell
  • Complete Poems of Robert Frost
  • Collected Poems of Robert Creeley 45-75
  • (Complete Poems of E.E. Cummings)
  • (Complete Poems of Wallace Stevens)
More than three books? What? I don’t know what you’re talking about. If Completes and Collecteds aren’t fair I’d take:
  1. For Lizzie and Harriet : Robert Lowell
  2. For Love : Robert Creeley
  3. No Thanks : E.E. Cummings
It’s impossible for me to take a single book from Frost’s works since so many of my favorites are taken from  all over. I dunno, maybe New Hampshire if I had to pick one.

The Myth of Blue

Superman is the only great American mythological character. He’s entered the lexicon like no other. Considering the amount of songs written about Superman, that alone puts him ahead of most mythic characters. Not John Henry, not Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bill, not even his comicbook counterparts Batman and Spiderman have as deep mythical qualities as the Man of Steel and one reason for this (among many) is his blueness.

Unlike Batman’s costume, Superman’s costume is sacred. They’ve tinkered with it in the past to the detriment of the character, but he resists the faux realism of the current Batman movies. Batman has been demythologized with the steady removal of blue from his costume, but Superman remains, to the embarrassment of Hollywood, true blue.

Myths demand blue from Babe the Blue Ox, to the Smurfs to the Na’vi of Avatar.

*   *   *

The modern English word blue comes from Middle English bleu or blewe, from Old French bleu, bleve, blöe, a word of Germanic origin (Frankish or possibly Old High German blāo, “blue”). The root of all these variations is Proto-Germanic blǣwaz, from Proto-Indo-European *bhlāw-, *bhlēw- “light-coloured, yellow, grey, blue”, from *bhel- “to shine, be light or bright”, also the root of Old Norse blār and the modern Icelandic blár, and the Scandinavian word blå, which can also refer to other non blue colours. Also related is the English word blee meaning “colour, complexion”. via

You can get anywhere with the word for blue. The ancient Greeks lacked a distinct word for blue, revealed in Homer’s preference for the epithet “wine dark” to describe the sea. He also used the word kyanos, from which we get cyan, to describe Hector’s hair, but unless Hector was an early devotee of the punk movement we cannot translate that word blue.

That Blue is a cognate with blond, yellow, gray black, and even the word blank. Other words derived from the root *bhel- include bleach, bleak,blind, blink, blank, blush, blaze, flame, fulminate, flagrant and  phlegm.

*   *   *

As you know, I’m quite keen on comic books. Especially the ones about superheroes. I find the whole mythology surrounding superheroes fascinating. Take my favorite superhero, Superman. Not a great comic book. Not particularly well drawn. But the mythology . . . the mythology is not only great, it’s unique.

Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is there’s the superhero and there’s the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He’s weak, he’s unsure of himself, he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.”

-Bill, from Kill Bill vol.2

*   *   *

Campbell McGrath describes Blueberries:

“ordinary citizens/ in crisp blue suits”


“edible bullets”

*   *   *

Blue is a calming color. People are more comfortable in Walmart than in Target for this reason. In fact, sometimes people are too comfortable in Walmart. In Target people zip around, shoppers are the arrows the bullseye intends.

You can see the differences with their mottos. Walmart’s “Always Low Prices” is comforting, homey, whereas Target’s “Expect More, Pay Less” is bold and demanding. Ditto for the bolder colored Home Depot with one of the best mottos in the commercial world, “You Can Do It, We Can Help”. Contrast it with the motto of their blue competitor Lowe’s “Let’s Build Something Together” (a downgrade from their previous though still bluelike: “Improving Home Improvement”).

There are no fastfood companies of any great worth using predominantly blue. The closest is Captain D’s which is the most sit-down-y of fastfood restaurants (slogan: “You’re Always Welcome Aboard”).

*   *   *

Blue Moon

this hillbilly moon, thick and smug
in a gauze yellow tent-dress,
commands the sky she says
this is my sky don’t you forget now
she says you can call me Blue

just because she’s happened back.
There’s a chirr in the pond, the rustle
of water spangles amove with turtle;
over here a crane’s ugly stepsister
hectors an interloping hare.
Life’s abuzz with drama
and we haven’t spoken in months–
the silence as bricky between us
as between Matisse’s two girls
jaundiced and country-song blue
over a plate of desultory eggs.
Let me say exactly what happened:
over sunnysides up you crooned
I won’t wrack the end with clichés
there’s nothing can be done

as smug as this comeback moon.
And now she’s out, twitching
her hips across this sky, saying Girl
you have got to let go
I say Moon, what happens happens
once in a blue backlit June

Geri Doran

*   *   *

See my other essays :

Sex and Capitalism
Hats and Humility

5 Rules for a Modern Gentleman : Tom Ford

1. You should put on the best version of yourself when you go out in the world because that is a show of respect to the other people around you.

2. A gentleman today has to work. People who do not work are so boring and are usually bored. You have to be passionate, you have to be engaged and you have to be contributing to the world.

3. Manners are very important and actually knowing when things are appropriate. I always open doors for women, I carry their coat, I make sure that they’re walking on the inside of the street. Stand up when people arrive at and leave the dinner table.

4. Don’t be pretentious or racist or sexist or judge people by their background.

5. A man should never wear shorts in the city. Flip-flops and shorts in the city are never appropriate. Shorts should only be worn on the tennis court or on the beach.


Hats : Humility

“Cover your head in order that the fear of heaven may be upon you.”

-the Talmud

Traditionally, yarmulke is considered to have originated from the Aramaic phrase “yarei mei-elokah” (in awe of the Lord),  the principle being that the yarmulke reflects one’s fear of God. Rabbi Huna the son of Rabbi Joshua never walked 4 cubits (2 meters) with his head uncovered, “because the Divine Shekhina is always over my head.”

*     *     *

Miller’s Crossing, the third feature film from the Coen Bros, begins with an upward shot of the covering of trees and then a hat blown by wind. The film follows Tom Reagan, chief yegg of the gangster Leo O’Bannon, as he dangles between deceit and loyalty, love and self preservation. Throughout Tom seems chiefly concerned with his hat and keeping it on his head. He is most discomfited when it comes off.

Verna: What’re you chewin’ over?

Tom: Dream I had once. I was walkin’ in the woods, I don’t know why. Wind came up and blew me hat off.

Verna: And you chased it, right? You ran and ran, finally caught up to it and you picked it up. But it wasn’t a hat anymore and it changed into something else, something wonderful.

Tom: Nah, it stayed a hat and no, I didn’t chase it. Nothing more foolish than a man chasin’ his hat.

*     *     *

Sometimes a Hat is Only a Hat

Flannery O’Connor : Week before last I went to Wesleyan and read “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.”  After it I went to one of the classes where I was asked questions.  There were a couple of young teachers there and one of them, an earnest type, started asking the questions.  “Miss O’Connor,” he said, “why was the Misfit’s hat black?”  I said most countrymen in Georgia wore black hats.  He looked pretty disappointed.  Then he said, “Miss O’Connor, the Misfit represents Christ, does he not?”  “He does not,” I said.  He looked crushed.  “Well, Miss O’Connor,” he said, “what is the significance of the Misfit’s hat?”  I said it was to cover his head; and after that he left me alone.  Anyway, that’s what’s happening to the teaching of literature.

Johnny Caspar is sick of the high hat.

More than a little of the Coen Bros ethos could be found in “A Good Man is Hard to Find”.

As Sufjan Stevens puts it in his song based on Flannery’s story:

Hold to your gun, man
And put off all your peace
Put off all the beast

*     *     *

Bernie Bernbaum begs Tom Reagan not to shoot him:

Tommy, you can’t do this! You don’t bump guys!
You’re not like those animals back there. It’s not right, Tom!
They can’t make us do this. It’s the wrong situation,
they can’t make us different people than we are.
We’re not muscle, Tom. I… I… I… never killed anybody.
I used a little information for a chisel, that’s all. It’s my nature, Tom!
I… I… I… can’t help it, somebody gives me an angle, I play it.
I don’t deserve to die for that. Do you think I do?
I’m… I’m… I’m just a grifter, Tom. I’m… I’m… I’m… I’m… I’m an nobody!
But I’ll tell you what, I never crossed a friend, Tom.
I never killed anybody, I never crossed a friend, nor you, I’ll bet.
We’re not like those animals! This is not us! Th… th… this is some hop dream!
It’s a dream, Tommy! I’m praying to you! I can’t die!
I can’t die… out here in the woods, like a dumb animal!
In the woods, LIKE A DUMB ANIMAL! Like a dumb animal! I can’t… I can’t…
I CAN’T DIE OUT HERE IN THE WOODS!… like a dumb animal. I can’t… die!
I’m praying to you! Look in your heart! I’m praying to you! Look in your heart!
I’m praying to you! Look in your heart! I’m praying to you! Look in your heart…
I’m praying to you! Look in your heart. I’m praying to you… look in your heart…
look in your heart! You can’t kill me… look in your heart.


*     *     *

Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets.

-Annie Dillard, An Expedition to the Pole

G.K. Chesterton on Chasing One’s Hat

“There is a current impression that it is unpleasant to have to run after one’s hat. Why should it be unpleasant to the well-ordered and pious mind? Not merely because it is running, and running exhausts one. The same people run much faster in games and sports. The same people run much more eagerly after an uninteresting; little leather ball than they will after a nice silk hat. There is an idea that it is humiliating to run after one’s hat; and when people say it is humiliating they mean that it is comic. It certainly is comic; but man is a very comic creature, and most of the things he does are comic – eating, for instance. And the most comic things of all are exactly the things that are most worth doing – such as making love. A man running after a hat is not half so ridiculous as a man running after a wife.”

*     *     *

“She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

“Some fun!” Bobby Lee said.

“Shut up, Bobby Lee,” The Misfit said. “It’s no real pleasure in life.”

Caelo tegitur qui non habet urnam.

[Who lacks an urn is covered by the sky.]

-Lucan, Pharsalia

The Boring End of Sex and Capitalism

Originally, the term “money shot” was a reference to the scene that cost the most money to produce; later it came to mean the shot that will make money. Typically it is a provocative, sensational, or memorable sequence in a film, that the maker’s of the film would hope catches the attention of the viewers and fuel a grassroots promotion of the movie. I never watched it, but the trailer for Entrapment, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones’s derrière, is chiastically structured around the “money shot.” More recently “money shot” refers to the male orgasm in pornography.

The new book from Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet Rae Armantrout is titled “Money Shot” and she is aware of both ends of the meaning, melding sex and money together. Take her poem Soft Money : “They’re sexy/ because they’re needy,/ which degrades them.” As a term, soft money is a political donation that avoids federal regulations, but in the context of the poem politics and strippers are conflated and the money is the supplicant’s singles. Politicians are no stranger to sex-worker comparisons. E.E. Cummings defined a politician as “an ass on which everyone has sat except a man.”

an ass on which everyone has sat except a man

Armantrout continues:

They’re sexy because
they don’t need you.

They’re sexy because they pretend
not to need you,

but they’re lying,
which degrades them.

Here Armantrout pushes us into degradation and exploitation, adding:  “They’re beneath you/ and it’s hot.”

But who is exploiting whom? The stripper/politician or the paying public?

*     *     *

Connecting pornography/prostitution and capitalism isn’t new, neither is it new to art. Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience injects a little auteur irony in juxtaposing a high dollar call girl with her designer shopping lifestyle.

The Art Aesthetic of a Confession Booth

The movie poster is one of the most flawlessly designed objects in the history of movie posters. The oversized glasses serving as both a mask and an implication of the male gaze. Sasha Grey’s lurid mouth is a cheap come on as well as a gasp, being -as she is- behind a perforated screen, saran-wrapped, pre-packaged. The red band hints at both the red light district and blood, raw meat.

The tagline “See it with someone you ****” is left open for the customer, who is always right, to fill in.

*     *     *

It’s immanently boring to say that sex sells and there’s even a fatigue on the advertisers part:

This girl is hot. Drink this beer. She will like you.

The Dos Equis commercials are built around cool sophisticated malaise toward the beer commercial tropes. Delivered amongst the bevy of babes and sophistication: “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.” It’s funny and on the surface it seems to be undermining the cliches, but really it is subtly affirming them. It’s all of the lame lies capitalism foists with the sheeple tag hidden. (Kind of like watching a movie with a pornstar doing pornstar things in a serious movie directed by a serious director).

But there’s a boredom in this. Look at the most interesting man in the world, he can’t even manage that ten cent smile plastered across Hugh Hefner’s face. He’s too cool to like things, he just prefers them.

People will read anything with SEX in it...like this post for instance.

Exposing the capitalistic lie in commercials isn’t new. There have always been commercials that undercut the ad hoc lifestyle presented, like Nike’s commercials from the 80s: You can buy the shoes but you still can’t dunk. The difference now is the sadness, the boredom of it. Say what you want, but the lethargic cool of The Most Interesting Man isn’t exciting. I’ve never seen someone punch a shark with such lack of vigor.

There is an economical motivation for companies to arouse dissatisfaction. Planned obsolescence isn’t nearly as sinister as planned malcontentment. This has some serious cultural consequences.

Rick Moody: “there is a sociological basis for thinking that one should not be sad. This surely comes from the notion that capitalism can quench our thirst with the application of product. It is un-American to be sad, therefore, or at best, sadness is simply something to be treated with antidepressant meds and otherwise need not be spoken of.”

*     *     *

They want to be
the thing-in-itself

and the thing-for-you-

Miss Thing – but can’t.

They want to be you,
but can’t,

which is so hot.