Updated January 26, 2021
“The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself.” Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, p. 293.
“Wikipedia . . . publicly automates topical consensus” Benjamin Bratton, The Stack, p. 125
“Politics offers yesterday’s answers to today’s questions.” Marshall McLuhan, The Medium Is the Massage, p. 22.
“Individuals are blamed for difficulties even though the workforce has little control over conditions that affect performance.” John R. Schultz, “The System Is the Solution,” Quality Progress (November 2014), p. 40.
We live in “a switched-on universe for which no off-switch exists.” Jonathan Crary, 24/7, p. 30.
The motorcycle looks somewhat dated but is indisputably an angel.
Like an electric chair before the current goes on.
Like an electric chair before the switch is thrown.
You’ve eaten your last meal, the priest has left the room.
The motorcycle between your legs is an angel
Revving its desmodromic basso profondo into a scream.
It’s Massimo Tamburini’s great 1994 Ducati 916 design, the Nine Sixteen!
Massimo’s soul in metal, slender as a child,
Glory whose maybe slightly dated beauty sings eternal.
Claudio Castiglione, who owned Cagiva, which owned Ducati, was the Medici
Who underwrote the considerable development cost of this piece of sculpture.
Neither life nor death is the answer.
And of man seeking good,
Here was an exception.
Speed is the demon. Speed is not!
Speed is the big white breast
That arouses Italian men enough to get them finally to leave the nest –
Finally! – though they still love mommy’s breast the best.
Up the autostrada we sped,
Claudio behind the wheel,
Chatting when Claudio wasn’t taking and making many Massimo calls
On the car’s speaker phone – a toy at the time only James Bond had.
On our way to his house on the Italian Riviera,
In a dove-gray, conservative businessman’s
Stealth four-door Alfa Romeo sedan
(Claudio also owned a Ferrari P-2),
I glanced over at the speedometer but didn’t want to stare,
And saw we were casually going 240 kilometers an hour,
Felt a swoon of pride.
Italy is despicable and ridiculous
And bad and sad
And full of as many flavors of cancer as Leopardi said.
It once was great.
It has cancer of the state.
Is there anything one can accomplish before it is too late?
At Rodrigo in Bologna one can eat bottarga.
One can take a taxi out to the Ducati factory in Borgo Panigale
And say hello to Paolo Ciabatti.
One can reread Montale and remember Aldo Moro.
The tentacles of the octopus ripple like boiling ribbons of pasta
And the suckers attach to buildings and the buildings goose-step
Underwater up and down the Arno.
The semi-tropical trees on Bellosguardo recite their satanic vows.
The cities are for sale.
Men, seeking good, doing evil, buy them.
Audi, part of the Volkswagen Group,
Through its Italian subsidiary Lamborghini
Has bought tiny, mighty Ducati!
The CEO of Ducati is Claudio Domenicali, brains and huge ears,
Who ran Ducati Corse (the racing department) during the fecund years.
Volkswagen’s Chairman, the engineer and business magnate Ferdinand Piëch,
The grandson of Ferdinand Porsche,
Has always been a vehement Viennese Ducati enthusiast,
Though these days Ducati Corse keeps losing in MotoGP,
The summit of motorcycle racing and publicity, motorcycling’s Formula 1.
Domenicali has to fix that or that will be that.
It costs almost as much as the war in Iraq
For a factory team to compete. And then, on top of that, to lose!
Circuit after circuit falls to the Sunni extremists, Honda and Yamaha,
As they rave their way south toward Baghdad,
Beheading Shia for the sheer bliss of it.
Castiglione and Tamburini have died,
And without them Italy is stupid –
First one and then the other,
Both of course of cancer.
It appears Europe will fail,
The euro and immigration.
Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel,
Is the only man among them.
Nothing is more beautiful than her political will,
But stupidity and cupidity will probably prevail.
Cancer, cancer, everywhere,
And cocaine sunshine in the Botticelli air.
The exotic Ducati Superleggera crackles
As it warms up to commit parricide.
The power of the new machine
Will devour the 916.
Dante and his friend and mentor Guido Cavalcanti
Are taking the museum tour at the Ducati factory.
Here they can see everything that is beautiful.
The motorcycles are displayed along the walls.
The motorcycles are as beautiful as Merkel’s political will.
The visitors are contemplating the spirit of Love.
They might as well be gazing up at night at the stars.
So many motorcycles will lead to great poetry surely.
Guido is instructing Dante in the use of the spoken Tuscan language
And the guidance the love of women gives,
When they are joined by Fellini and behind him Puccini
And behind Puccini Guido’s father, Cavalcante de’ Cavalcanti.
The motorcycles around them look like birdsong sounds in spring
And everything speaks Italian like a river flows.
There is no sign of any fascists
And we believe in God, even if we are atheists.
“the long-foretold and longer-postponed eclipse of the nation-state” Benjamin Bratton, The Stack, p. 4.
“`the measure of a just society is its prisons and mental hospitals`” Andrea Dworkin, quoted in Martin Duberman, Andrea Dworkin: The Feminist as Revolutionary, p. 63.
“There is no possible protection from technology except by technology.” Marshall McLuhan, On the Nature of Media: Essays, 1952-1978, p. 119.
“[Marshall] McLuhan’s prescient 50-year-old `probes’ (he called his ideas probes) into how technology would change behavior are still significantly more insightful than almost every `thought-provoking’ TED Talk.” Jamie Bartlett, The People Vs Tech, p. 50
“media barrage is a form of unofficial education” Phillip Meggs, explaining Marshall McLuhan in, “Introduction to the Fiftieth Anniversary Edition,” Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride, p. xi.
“Programmers [coders] are . . . among the most quietly influential people on the planet” Clive Thompson, Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World, p. 11
“What if he is right?” Tom Wolfe, commenting on Marshall McLuhan, back cover of Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, Critical Edition
“`The technology will be [is?] so good, it will be very hard [impossible?] for people to watch or consume something that has not been tailored for them.'” Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, 2001-2011, quoted in Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble. p. 47.
Freedom is an illusion; control, the reality.
“One wonders if, as networks continue to propagate, there will remain any sense of an`outside,‘ a nonconnected locale from which we may view this phenomenon and ponder it critically.” Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker, The Exploit, p. 26.
“We should be done once and for all with the search for an outside.” Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire, p. 46.
We live in a post-truth era, where facts are subordinate to interests.
Nothing is free, everything is contingent.
“Program or be programmed” Douglas Rushkoff
When we say something is complex we mean not understood–as yet. (borrowed from Rae Armantrout, “Cathexis”)
What’s complex for one person is a piece of cake for another.
Complexity is another word for ignorance.
Complexity is a state of mind, it’s what’s not understood.
“technological capabilities are advancing more rapidly than government’s capacity to apply privacy principles rooted in the Constitution and other federal law” Andrew C. McCarthy, Ball of Collusion, (Encounter Books, 2019), p. 81.
“the Internet . . . has . . . become the central organ of contemporary life.” Jia Tolentino, quoted in Jonathan Lethem, “Snowden in the Labyrinth,” New York Review of Books, 10/24/19, p. 33.
“Deletion has never existed.” Edward Snowden, quoted in Jonathan Lethem, “Snowden in the Labyrinth,” New York Review of Books, 10/24/19, p. 28.
“Ideology camouflages self-interest as principle.” Clay Shirky, reviewing Gretchen McCulloch, Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, in New York Times, 9/1/2019
Experience influences behavior. “Everyone experiences far more than he [she] understands . Yet it is experience rather than understanding that influences behavior.” Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, p. 424.
“A moral point of view too often serves as a substitute for understanding in technological matters.” Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, p. 327.
The American voting “system . . . uses 19th century technology to implement ideas from the 18th century” Will Brunch, Chicago Tribune
“A new medium [e.g., the Internet] is never an addition to an old one, nor does it leave the old one in peace.” Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, p. 237.
“the double blind [women are in]: to be childless, and therefore less important than a mother; or to be a mother, and therefore less important than one’s children.” Sally Rooney, reviewing Sheila Heti’s, Motherhood, London Review of Books, 8/30/2018, p. 35.
“Each new technology creates an environment that is itself regarded as corrupt and degrading.” Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, Critical Edition, p. 13.
“News is not what happened but a story about what happened.” Robert Danton, reviewing Lee McIntyre, Post-Truth, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2018/06/28/fantasyland-bunk-greatest-show-on-earth/
“Facebook uses algorithms to feed us news that we will like.” Robert Danton, reviewing Lee McIntyre, Post-Truth, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2018/06/28/fantasyland-bunk-greatest-show-on-earth/
“the industrial complex continues to generate wealth, but not prosperity” Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution, 2016, Portfolio/Penguin, p. 93.
Don’t use metaphors. Don’t say what something is like, say what it is.
“if I were born and reared under the same circumstances as any other known humans, I would have behaved much as they have.” R. Buckminster Fuller, Critical Path, p. x
“`If you are a regular PayPal customer, we know you. And we know everyone like you.‘” Dan Schulman, PayPal’s CEO. Quoted by Thomas Friedman
“first land, then capital, now information” McKenzie Werk
“All technologies bring on the cultural blues”. Marshall McLuhan
“privacy is no longer a social norm” attributed to Mark Zuckerberg
Leadership BABBLE: “The job of management is leadership.” W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis, p. 54.
“Criminal justice in the United States is an oxymoron.” William Epstein, Empowerment as Ceremony, p. 78. (See also my review of Empowerment as Ceremony on the Amazon book page for this book.)
“Cultural diversity is a convenience of American preferences reducing pressures for greater equality by enshrining inequality as subculture respect”. William Epstein, Empowerment as Ceremony, p. 76. (See also my review of Empowerment as Ceremony on the Amazon book page for this book.)
“War is obsolete.” R. Buckminster Fuller, Critical Path, p. xxv.
“Facebook is . . . the most powerful attention-capture machine ever built”. Jacob Weinberg, “They’ve Got You, Wherever You Are”, New York Review of Books, Oct. 27, 2016.
“[W]e are connected to the world and to other people . . . and we assert our iron will and ravenous hungers at our own peril”. Christian Wiman, “Mastery and Mastery: Twenty-One Ways to Read a Century”, in Share and Wiman, eds., The Open Door
“the Niger Delta, poisoned with an Exxon Valdez-worth of spilled oil every year” Naomi Klein, “Let Them Drown: The Violence of Othering in a Warming World”, London Review of Books, June 2, 2016, p. 12.
“will you ever power down or is this it now” — a lover’s lament in the Internet Age. From Jean Strickland’s poem: “April“
Money is numbers on paper. “[M]oney is. . . . entries on a ledger. It’s numbers on your bank balance, the electronic records of debits and credits that are created every time we spend money”. (John Lanchester, “When Bitcoin Grows Up“
Reducing ignorance and fear reduces reliance on religion. See also.
“whoever wishes to become a . . . moral human being . . . must first divorce himself from all the prohibitions, crimes, and hypocrisies of the Christian church”. James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
Often there’s a focus on the wrong problem. When the problem is violence in city neighborhoods, many focus on guns, rather than on poverty and the lack of employment at the going rate. When the problem is the Middle East, many focus on religion/Islam rather than on oil. Here’s a poem that can help us consider that maybe we’re focusing on the wrong problem:
Did It Ever Occur to You That Maybe You’re Falling in Love?
Source: Poetry (January 2016).
“The traditional university will surely be gone in fifty years, swept away by technology.” Matt Ridley, The Evolution of Everything, p. 185.
“the absurdity of the `self’, the mind, the will, the ego or the soul. All . . . are mere manifestations of the body, rather than separate from it.” Matt Ridley, The Evolution of Everything, p. 140.
All solutions have problems; it’s always a matter of which problems are the best ones to deal with.
“`enough solar energy hits the earth’s surface in about an hour to equal a year’s worth of worldwide energy consumption from all sources put together.'” [Ashlee Vance; quoted in John Lanchester, “Let’s all go to Mars”, London Review of Books, 9/10/2015, p. 7]
“most corporate mission statements are so numbing they’d be useful as a form of medical anesthesia” [John Lanchester, “Let’s all go to Mars”, London Review of Books, 9/10/2015, p. 5]
“Art is a matter of daily, hourly grind”. [Julian Barnes, “Selfie with `Sunflowers'”. London Review of Books, 7/30/2015. Barnes is referring to Van Gough, but I think this applies to essentially every significant accomplishment.]
“70 per cent of the prisoners in French jails are Muslims”. [Adam Shatz, “Magical Thinking about Isis”, London Review of Books, 12/3/2015.]
“choking up on . . . scholastic hairballs” Jenny Turner, London Review of Books, 12/15/2011, p. 15.
“The need for baggage is a form of insecurity”. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Beatitudes Visuals Mexicans”, Poetry, June 2015, p. 228.
“liberation fails; it is an unlikely pursuit whose achievement is largely restricted to mystics, psychotics, and those who can afford to purchase a life of comfortable illusion” William Epstein, Empowerment as Ceremony, Transaction, 2013, p. 76.
“What makes all autobiographies worthless is, after all, their mendacity” Emily Berry, “Freud’s Beautiful Things”, Poetry, June, 2015 p. 205.
“`this idea of the prison of belief—that very smart, capable people can fall into a system of belief. If the curators of that belief take advantage of them, they can end up doing terrible things’”. [Alex Gibney, referring to Scientology, but applicable to all religions. Quoted in Chicago Tribune, 9/16/15, sec. 4, p. 7.]
By Amy Newman
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by wedding
planners, dieting, in shapewear,
dragging themselves in cute outfits through the freezer section for
the semifreddo bender,” (For more about Newman’s “Howl”, check out Jonah Rashin’s article, “Amy Newman’s `Howl’: A Homage to the Genius of Allen Ginsberg”.)
“When everyone is more and more involved in the information environment and in the . . . process of discovery and innovation, the old divisions of work, play, and idleness disappear.” [Marshall McLuhan and Barrington Nevitt, Take Today: The Executive as Dropout, 1972, p. 5.]
“socioeconomic class has eclipsed race as a salient factor in explaining stratification in the United States, . . . . [an] observation. . . . which is given substantial support by the fact of a black president of the United States.” William M. Epstein, Empowerment as Ceremony, Transaction, 2013, p. 23. ( The original and now classic statement of this point is William Julius Wilson, The Declining Significance of Race.)
/the stairs, three, four stages
at the most, “flights” we call them,
in honor of the wings we’ll never have,/
[Stanley Plumly, “Variation on a Line from Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘Five Flights Up’”, Poetry, June, 2015, p. 244]
“Teachers aren’t the problem in this country; poverty is the problem.” Christopher De Vinck, Chicago Tribune, 6/17/15, sec. 1, p. 19
“(Male) Culture” [Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex, p. 140, and passim]
“Maybe it’s time to stop being sentimental about the family.” Hilary Mantel, London Review of Books, 6/11/09, p. 35
Life is eternal because we never know when we’re dead.
“We go to our deaths asymptotically, never getting there because `we’ and `there’ can’t exist at the same moment.” Adam Mars-Jones, London Review of Books
“If by eternity is understood not endless temporal duration but timelessness, then he lives eternally who lives in the present“. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 6.4311.
Be Angry At The Sun
That public men publish falsehoods
Is nothing new. That America must accept
Like the historical republics corruption and empire
Has been known for years.
Be angry at the sun for setting
If these things anger you. Watch the wheel slope and turn,
They are all bound on the wheel, these people, those warriors.
This republic, Europe, Asia.
Observe them gesticulating,
Observe them going down. The gang serves lies, the passionate
Man plays his part; the cold passion for truth
Hunts in no pack.
You are not Catullus, you know,
To lampoon these crude sketches of Caesar. You are far
From Dante’s feet, but even farther from his dirty
Let boys want pleasure, and men
Struggle for power, and women perhaps for fame,
And the servile to serve a Leader and the dupes to be duped.
Yours is not theirs.
“And no holy book in sight/ To squat on our lives”. Kabir
“Chris Liakouras went down the row handing out shots of ouzo to queued customers [Jane, me, and friends] trying to find a table in the then-90-seat [Parthenon] restaurant.”
Johnson, Chicago Tribune, 3-13-14, sec. 5, p. 5
“There used to be ten or twelve nightclubs on this [Juarez] street that could hold up to a thousand people each, and on the weekends they were full; solders [I and Eugene Pierre DePlomb] from Fort Bliss in El Paso would cross over in droves.” Jonathan Littell, “Lost in the Void”, London Review of Books, 6/7/12, p. 37.
“[T]he family contain[s] within itself in embryo all the antagonisms that later develop on a wide scale with the society and state”. Shulamith Firestone, citing Marx, in Susan Faludi, “Death of a Revolutionary,” The New Yorker, 4/14/13, p. 55.
“The illusion of choice and autonomy” Jonathan Crary, 24/7, p. 46
“The important thing for us is not to deny our prejudices and prejudgments, but to acknowledge them.” Ashley Montagu, The Human Revolution, quoted in McLuhan and Fiore, War and Peace in the Global Village, p. 24
“Americans forget too easily. We allow our memories to be washed, from generation to generation, in the interests of commerce.” John Kass, Chicago Tribune, 4/23/2015, sec. 1, p. 2.
“We aren’t Facebook’s customers; we’re its product“. Thomas Jones, “Short Cuts”, London Review of Books, 7/17/14, p. 6
There’s always more.
LIVE NOT BY LIES
Let us admit it: we have not matured
enough to march into the squares and
shout the truth out loud, or to ex-
press openly what we think. It is
not necessary. It is dangerous.
But let us refuse to say what we do
not think. This is our path, the
easiest and most accessible one,
which allows for our inherent, deep-
Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn
Kasey and I down the ramp from Sewickley banking right, then left on to Ohio River Boulevard “with the foot pegs sparking against the pavement” Thomas McGuane, “Thoughts on Motorcycles”, Forbes, 4/9/12, p. 112
“Anxiety . . . is essential to serious writing. It gives you traction on the negative, without which your investigations can only get so far.” Jenny Turner, London Review of Books, 6/11/09, p. 25
“The credit card is arguably the greatest single facilitator of overconsumption ever invented”.
William Rathje and Collen Murphy, Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage, p. xii
“Writers only ever get one choice, really, about what they write. Either you give in before you’ve even started and write some fantasy of `the market’, or you go flat out, trying to say something useful about the world as it appears to you.
Jenny Turner, London Review of Books, 9-11-08, p. 25
“It is against nature that we despise ourselves and care nothing about ourselves. It is a malady peculiar to man, and not seen in any other creature…. It is a similar vanity that we wish to be something other than we are”.