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    A Note From Underground

    Long ago I was told that the Russian word  подполья which is usually translated “underground” and which is part of the title of Dostoyevsky’s short essay “Notes From Underground” is a word for a place that does not exist.  Specifically it denotes the space between the ceiling of one floor of a building and the floor above that ceiling.  It is neither the ceiling nor the surface of the floor above.  It is a locus.  It has no dimension other than its defined location and, as if from Euclid’s Geometry, is a logical but not a sensible part of our reality.  It can not exist in the real world and yet it is something we can think about.  And here we are, today, in a moment in the history of our empire, when we are between the floors.  We are underground.  I should like to submit a note from this place.

    We are between enemies.  No empire can exist in this place.  Yet here we are.  Like Dostoyevsky’s “man of acute consciousness” we are not exactly alive at this moment but we do exist.  Like that character we may wish to stay here out of laziness, ennui or maybe just a kind of self-absorbed narcissism.  Soon, inevitably, we will return to the life of action.  We will find a new enemy.  

    This is such a pregnant moment.  It is like the pause between scenes in a play.  The curtain closes; the stage darkens.  Some things, important things, happen during this pause. The scene change may suggest the passage of time which is enough in itself to change the story, or it may mean a move to a new location with new possibilities for the plot and theme of the story.  There is never any commentary or critique of this part of the theatric presentation and yet it is as powerful as any actual content of the play itself. 

    Make no mistake about it, as Joseph Heller describes so well in this* conversation with Bill Moyers, in this “democracy” of ours, we are all spectators.  “The right to vote I feel is indispensible to our contentment; in application it is absolutely useless.”  So enjoy the spectacle and do not be too discontented by this momentary pause in the action.  It is a necessary part of the mechanism of our civilization.  And don’t think too much about the meaning of this moment between enemies.  You don’t want to become like Yossarian in ‘Catch 22,” a character Heller fashioned using the mold of Dostoyevsky’s “man of acute consciousness.”  How they did it.  Why they did it.  Even did they do it at all?  These questions may confirm your sanity but they and their answers will not help you in the next scene of the play.   .    



    Notes from nowhere or the nethersphere! I did not know this.

    There is that movie 'Being John Malkovich', everybody ends up on the 13th floor which is kind of half a floor and does not appear in the buildings plans. And time is not really made up of moments. I mean how long is a moment? If I recall correctly phyicists actually break down time into 'units'; something like a millionth of a second or some such.

    So there is no real definition for here and now. Hahahahaha Although a drone could be programmed to destroy me here and now!

     “The right to vote I feel is indispensable to our contentment; in application it is absolutely useless.”

    I recall seeing this interview and I recall the quote. I have felt like this my entire life! Voting is a duty. There is no reality to it from the individual's standpoint or at least from my perspective.

    And the results really affect me about as much as the final score in the Super Bowl.

    You don’t want to become like Yossarian in ‘Catch 22,” a character Heller fashioned using the mold of Dostoyevsky’s “man of acute consciousness.”

    Finally, Yossarian has got to be my favorite character of all time. I mean:

    Are you kidding me? They are trying to kill me up there.


    How the hell that book was ever published when it was published is beyond me!

    Well as usual, you say more in five paragraphs can I can say in five pages!


    Catch-22 was written in 1961 before the Vietnam War made the national scene.  It was more of a 50's perspective I think, like a John Dos Passos work. I read it in 1966 in the Army and at that time it seemed like a field manual: FM-08 Military Courtesy and Routine For Enlisted Personnel.

    By the way I'm briefer than you because I am not as clever as you.


    I found Dos Passos by way of Reginald Marsh. (Killer illustrator of U.S.A.) Inneresting feller, yez.

    (Just sayin' something neither here or there.)

    Dickon is clearly quite clever. Lyrical, even.

    You are our philosopher king, dear Larry H, and always help walk us back back from the too-close view and encourage us to see the picture fron a greater distance and a with a wider angle.  I/we love you for it, and the calm and wisdom you bring to any discussion.

    That said, I guess I don't see us as merely spectators, but small actors, in that we can be instigators, needlers, prompters,...the voices of conscience and motion.  We never know when one voice might resonnate past its known conventional boundaries, as single voices in the Arab Spring happened to do when acute need was present,  finding and parking in some heretofore unknown domain, and scooching out to those hungry for some sort of to change, chiming o'er the land. 

    Maybe a new word can breed a new concept or theme that's picked up and shared through ...oh, cripes; here I am again.  A one-love, all-community cynic, honking on about stuff that I simply smell inside my imagination and trip on about; sorry. 

    But as much as I love Heller, and adore his work (haven't read his most recent), I think he isn't altogether correct any more.  He's comfortable, his family likely is, and it may make him more sanguine about the humor and absurdity of American politics today, which are stupid AND craven to the Nth degree. 

    But for my money, we choose the avenues we fight best along, and pinch and prod and joke and satirize until our voices crack, or arthritis takes our fucking fingers off our keyboards. 'Keep on truckin', R Crumb said, or 'Fight the Power', others urged.

    There's a lot to be said about dropping everything and going out to contemplate the stars and the billions of galaxies, or peer into Orion star-forming nebulae as some counter-balance to the concerns of the day.  But for me, the mental health break is just a break; the fight is fun, too.

    Love to you, darlin', and with highest possible regards,


    OK then, let's get dressed.  The next scene is the dance number.

    (Glad you liked it.)


    Jeez, Mr. P-K; I'd have guessed you'd known.  Asleep?  You really don't know?  Dancers are the next enemy No. One.  Mostly gay, mostly Socialists or anarchists, and they smoke ganja.  Oh--and atheists, to boot.  Fight the Power!  Dance Flashmobs!  In front of churches and banks!

    Let it play and ya can hear the Drifters 'dance with me', too.  ;o)  This may show why that 90s idea that the Lambada and tangoes might cut down on er...the spread of AIDS.


    Maj. Major Major Major: Sergeant, from now on, I don't want anyone to come in and see me while I'm in my office. Is that clear?
    First Sgt. Towser: Yes, sir? What do I say to people who want to come in and see you while you're gone?
    Maj. Major Major Major: Tell them I'm in and ask them to wait.
    First Sgt. Towser: For how long?
    Maj. Major Major Major: Until I've left.
    First Sgt. Towser: And then what do I do with them?
    Maj. Major Major Major: I don't care.
    First Sgt. Towser: May I send people in to see you after you've left?
    Maj. Major Major Major: Yes.
    First Sgt. Towser: You won't be here then, will you?
    Maj. Major Major Major: No.
    First Sgt. Towser: I see, sir. Will that be all?
    Maj. Major Major Major: Also, Sergeant, I don't want you coming in while I'm in my office asking me if there's anything you can do for me. Is that clear?
    First Sgt. Towser: Yes, sir. When should I come in your office and ask if there's anything I can do for you?
    Maj. Major Major Major: When I'm not there.
    First Sgt. Towser: What do I do then?
    Maj. Major Major Major: Whatever has to be done.
    First Sgt. Towser: Yes, sir.

    I was once in charge of a computer conversion and reported to the corporate treasurer.  He made it clear to me that he only wanted to hear good news.  When I did tell him about serious problems with the conversion his only response was "That's facinating."  The conversion succeeded but a year later the company outsourced their DP because they could not manage it.  Boy do I recognize that dialogue.  Thanks C.


    This is kind of cute really. Major Major. hahaha

    In the movie Newhart was Captain Major Major!

    I know I should wait, but GUESSING the outcome of the pregnancy is half the fun! You know.... Boy! Girl! Same with our new enemy. Who's it going to be? Most days, I'm pretty convinced it's China. I mean, global Titan, 1.3 billion people, huge vaults full of OUR currency. How great is THAT?! And best of all... They're INSCRUTABLE! Wicked! * But then I think... This time, they're gonna throw us a curveball. Gonna go for the sweet sweetness of... The enemy within. And there's lots of candidates. The Jews. Tried trusted and true, that lot. And blacks (hello! The President's one of em!) Or the Commies and Socialists. Been a bit of a revival there. Or hackers and pedophiles and pornographers and traitors. They seem to have formed a bit of an axis. * But you know what? My money's on a bigger group. One you find in every town. One every single Republican ever can hate. They're self-righteous, they're on the public teat, they want your kids, and.... they handed out detentions. ENEMY OF THE DECADE, YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST, ARE THE TEACHERS. * And so, I'd just like to announce, right upfront, that I NEVER trusted the bastards and rarely paid attention. HANG EM HIGH.

    ou sont les neiges d'antan?

    I piled them up, over there by the fence.

    Why, you want some?

    This reminds me of Tony Kushner's brilliant script for the movie Munich. There's Eric Bana's character Avner who in one of the lulls in their assassination rampage tells one of the others to stop trying to figure out who is getting played by whom in the greater scheme of things. And he admits "I am not comfortable with confusion". To which his colleague responds, "I knew guys like you in the army. You'll do any terrible thing you're asked to do, but you have to do it running. You think you can outrun doubts, fear. The only thing that really scares you guys is stillness."

    It seemed so spot-on as a description of a certain character-type: the man of acute action, if you will. Of course at the end of the movie Avner gets tired of fighting for Israel and emigrates to ... the US. More his kind of people.

    Great piece as usual Larry.

    Just saw this concerning Kushner.  Thought it might interest you.

    In 1969, Joseph Heller wrote an anti-Vietnam war play called "We Bombed in New Haven." which starred Jason Robards.

    I have never forgotten the device he used, where the Jason Robards character would reply to questions: "Do you want the truth or do you want a lie?" The other actor would always reply that they wanted the truth, but it was always depressing, so the other actor would stop Robards mid-speech and say, "Give me the lie." and Robards would replay the scene using the lie which was usually completely over the top, but was so much easier for the other character to accept.   

    Vladimir Nabokov felt "Notes from the Underground"  was a really stupid translation and that the title should either be "Memoirs from a Mousehole" or "Memoirs from Under the Floor."

    And that kinda fits with Dostoyevsky's We all come out from Gogol's 'Overcoat'. Smile

    Architects call that space between floors, "interstitial" space.

    FYI: подполья is pronouced as it is spelled.

    I didn't know that. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.


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