Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Theoretical Significance of a Logarithmic Distance-Redshift Relationship

Fred Vaughan headshot by Fred Vaughan

There is something very compelling about a logarithmic functional form for the distance-redshift relation in observational cosmology. In fact, it is so compelling as to seem logically necessary as the form of that relationship — whether that fact is generally acknowledged or not, which of course…it is not.

To adequately understand this, let us look at what is involved in light being redshifted along a propagation path between emission and observation. Suppose there is an observer at point A for which a telescope on earth would suffice as an instance. And suppose that there is an ensemble of atoms in a star in a distant galaxy that we will refer to as point C that emit light at a specific wavelength associated with the spectra of a particular element. These atoms emit photons of light that can ultimately be observed by the telescope at A. If there is a distance-related redshift in the spacetime where all this takes place, then the wavelength of the light λAobserved at A will be related to the emission wavelength λCemitted at location C according to the redshift definition:

ZAC = ( λA − λC ) / λC
This is true no matter what the separation between A and C or anything else. It's just a definition. For physical reasons ZACmust be a continuously increasing function of the separation AC. So, let us define the redshift-related parameter ζ(d) as a continuous function of the separation d = AC as follows:
ζ(d) = ZAC + 1 = λA / λC

Since ζ(d) applies to for any separation, we should be able to place an observer at any point B along the light path from C to A, where d1= AB and d2 = BC, with the observed radiation exhibiting redshifts as follows:

&zeta(d1) = λA / λB and &zeta(d2) = λB / λC
Therefore, over the total distance for which d = d1 + d2 the following relation must apply:
ζ(d1 + d2) = ζ(d1) . ζ(d2),
And as a necessary consequence of this relation, we must have that:
ζ(d) = e αd = e α ( d1 + d2 ).
And, of course, the inverse functionality must be:
d(ζ) = ln (ζ)

The "standard model" embraces a broad class of disparate alternatives loosely associated by adherence to Hubble's hypothesis and one form or another of Einstein's theory of general relativity. The Einstein — de Sitter model is but one of the simpler of these alternatives that exhibits a "flat" spacetime, because of which it is frequently discussed for didactic purposes, although it is generally disparaged as a somewhat naïve candidate for serious consideration. This short shrift seems ill-advised to the author in light of the interesting fact that a key feature of the Einstein — de Sitter model (unlike the others that are considered more viable) is that the distance-redshift relation is given by the logarithmic form.

Although the Einstein — de Sitter model is virtually never considered a viable contender by current cosmologists for the ultimate acceptance, its logarithmic form of the distance-redshift relation is generally used for convenience in analyzing associated phenomena because it so closely fits the actual data as distances to observed objects increase. Strange isn't it?

The preceding discussion explains the situation depicted in the figure below.

log red shift diagram

It is worth considering what would be implied by a relationship other than one involving the logarithm: What is involved is whether or not homogeneity applies to this relationship.

The seeming improbability of, but nonetheless presumed, failure of the logic we have described above is what has contributed so substantially to presumptions of the supposed evolution of developments in our universe. But if one decouples redshifting as an observed phenomenon (whatever its cause) from constraints imposed by whatever causes it according to one cosmological theory or other, then the logarithmic relationship to distance continues to make logical sense as we have shown above. We will be told, of course, that to presume that distances could be linearly additive if space itself is nonlinearly distorted would itself be an improbability. But would it? Even along a curved path the distance along that path is linearly additive as the basis for the integration of distance along infinitesimal line segments.

In the next figure we have drawn a situation similar to that shown in figure 1 except that space is such that line of sight distance is curved along a light path through space. In this case, in addition to observers A and B, we have observer B capable of emitting light from a separate source at the moment of his observation of the light from C which is set to resonate at precisely the same frequency (wavelength) as the radiation he observes. Let us analyze the possibilities here.

log red shift diagram

As before, we must now have that ζ(d1) = λA / λBand ζ(d2) = λB1 / λC. This would seem to apply by reason of the definition of redshift, if the source of the radiation of wavelength λB1is indeed set up to equal that of λB. This can be verified by the digital communication from B to A independent of the redshift impact on that link if A's antenna is properly tunable. Then as long as there is a general formula applicable throughout space and time relating redshift and distance,

d ← f(Z+1) and Z+1 ← ζ(r)
If the peculiar functionality of the inverses f(x) and ζ(y) were independent of position in spacetime (i. e., if spacetime is indeed homogeneous), then the logarithmic/exponential relationships must apply. It is the ad hoc denial of this cosmological principle that had reigned supreme since Copernicus that empowers the standard model with the freedom to deny an otherwise logical premise.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

S.A.W.: Soldiers Against War

Carole Fotino headshot by Carole Fotino

Previous related articles:
Strategic Decision Making Program
Institutionalized, Inclusive Grievance Pathways (IIGPs)
Costing Latent Conflict

This program, so named because their reason for seeking less costly means for conflict resolution stems from what they have seen, has expanded from its original vision to include a reintegration facility for U.S. military personnel recently returning from Iraq in addition to the campaign of last resort collection of signatures.

Reintegration

According to the vision of the reintegration portion of this program, returning military personnel will, with their immediate family members – spouses and children – be given a two year space in a large facility in a rural, Colorado setting. Organic work in raising food for the facility’s residents and the presence of professional support will aid these families in easing the transition of the first two years. Among the professionals present or visiting regularly will be an MD, a psychiatrist, physical and occupational therapists and massage therapists. The perspective change that accompanies international travel and occurs even in the absence of war but is exacerbated when intertwined with it, is another challenge these families face – the returning family member has been changed by this new perspective and new roles and often traditions, need to be found and adjusted. Additionally, it is believed that by removing the burdens of meeting house payments, relocations, job searches and isolation, the young families are given the support and environment to make a healthy, supported return to civilian life.

Campaign of Last Resort

In the signature gathering portion of this program defining war as a campaign of last resort only, it is inherent in the statement that diplomacy is not enough. We know that the presence of Grievance Pathways* increases the relative cost of violence decreasing the likelihood of its usage. Efforts in this direction therefore, are intended by the verbiage. Decreased consumption and enhancement of renewable energy sources also allow violence to be a true last resort campaign.

*please see Institutionalized, Inclusive Grievance Pathways (IIGPs), an interrelated program of PIRM.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Moby Dick

Brian Schwartz headshot by Brian Schwartz

Sometime around the year 1780, a Frenchman named Aimé Argand invented a new sort of lamp. Far brighter than candles, and more reliable, it was the lamp of choice for anyone who could afford one, and, though Argand himself never saw any of the profits -- his partner managed to steal both the patent and the money -- these lamps came to illuminate shops and houses around the world. Now the demand for oil to fuel these lamps was insatiable, and the only oil that would work was taken from the head and body of the sperm whale. And so, since there was money in it -- millions and millions of present-day dollars from every voyage -- boats set off to catch whales. Rugged wooden sailing ships, with a full three masted rigging but otherwise not much different from the dhows that plied the seas in the days of the Arabian Nights, or perhaps the Pharaohs. Four years worth of food and provisions they carried, for the ships might be gone four years out of sight of land. And what breed of men were these, who would sign on to such a voyage, and leave family, hearth and town for four years of being swept and tossed and blown who knows where on a rugged, unvarying ocean that, since the days of Caliph and Pharaoh had changed not at all?

Moby Dick

Shortly after 1850, everything changed. Kerosene lamps blazed, whale oil was unneeded. Steamboats and iron ships blithely cruised the waters. But, just before that happened, Herman Melville wrote a book about that vanished world. Now I don't know if people talk about the "Great American Novel" anymore, but a couple of decades back, it was every scribbler's secret dream to write it. More than a few people who should know say that the Greatest of all these Great American Novels is Moby Dick. Great it may be, and it's certainly American -- what other nation would field such enterprising cruises in search of a commodity that could be sold for profit? - but I'm not sure it's really a novel at all. In its secret soul it's more of an opera; or (as a few of its chapters are written) a play -- and if it is a play it's a sweeping Shakespearian drama; or more likely a symphony, a strange uplifting blend of Beethoven and Wagner and the ocean wind.

There's less character development than one would expect -- the question of just why these men decided to spend their years suspended on a wooden platform between infinite sky and a watery grave is, though often asked, never answered, and maybe it never could be answered any more than you could answer why the wind blows -- and there's pretty much no realistic dialogue at all. Oh the speeches of Ahab are lovely, and indeed they rival and perhaps surpass Shakespeare at his finest, but you can't imagine a real seaman uttering them. But of course these men aren't real seamen, anymore than the sighing of the wind, or notes in a symphony, or a flaming nova reaching its inexorable conclusion.

There's not much action either, though what there is is grand and bloody and majestic, as the sea and the whale rise up and claim their due, and when that happens, the writing becomes lean and sinewy, as fast and efficient as a lightning bolt. But fully nine-tenths of the book has no action at all. It is composed of long and elegant and surprising and often nonsensical essays on just about everything concerning whales except what you might want to know. There is nothing about the Argand lamp, it is mentioned only in passing how long a whale is, but there are chapters and chapters on why the whale is a fish and not a mammal, why the color white is sinister, how Jonah's whale could have moved so quickly between Jaffa and Iraq, etc etc etc. But, strangely enough, the effect of all of this is not to bore or baffle but, like a long crossing across a savage and monotonous landscape, ultimately to inspire awe and wonder, a sense of limitless magical

possibility, of, to use the first word in the book, "loomings", of vast and majestic forces, of motions, shufflings, grindings, sweepings, energy of the universe flickering like St Elmo's fire on the masthead, all this cornucopia of wonder that can't be seen from land. It's as if Melville is walking through a wild rambling museum or curiosities and saying "Look at this! Look at this! Ain't it grand?"

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Heaven Sent

by Charmaine Frost

Charmaine Frost self portrait
Charmaine Frost self portrait

Saint Peter leaned against his cane and rose when the pearly gates squeaked open. Climbing all those stairs between earth and heaven didn't guarantee a newcomer admittance; everyone had to be examined first, by the guardian of the gate.

"Sorry about the squeaking," Peter croaked, "The hinges need oil. Can I help you?"

The newcomer glanced down at the spiraling gossamer ladder that disappeared into a blueness where clouds scudded like a fleet of white toy boats. Despite rumors to the contrary, death didn't stop arthritis or make one impervious to cold. The newcomer massaged his knees and wished that his relatives had buried him in a parka instead of a cotton suit; when he inhaled deeply to catch his breath, the cold air caught in his lungs and made him cough. Saint Peter, whose wings were matted and spotted with grime, wore only a tattered toga and flipflops; the newcomer wondered why such a high placed, executive angel dressed so shabbily, but noticed that Peter didn't shiver. Perhaps, once one became a carrying card member of heaven, one enjoyed perpetual warmth. The newcomer squinted past Peter and saw only a vista of sparkling white drifts and dunes.

"Uh well, after I died I started on a staircase and ended up here, instead of hell. So, I suppose that I'm supposed to come to heaven; this gate's inlaid in pearl, isn't it?

"Just a second, not so fast." Peter raised his bony right hand in the universal "Stop" gesture.

"Sir, I'm totally bomb free. All I have to declare is the suit I was buried in. And my shoes. No gun or drugs, unless there was some aspirin left in the suit pocket." The newcomer's trousers clung to tightly to his thighs, his jacket hung too limp; the undertaker had removed his wallet before the funeral. What if Peter, like any conscientious customs agent, required proof of identification? Was there a celestial record of all fingerprints, to be consulted when an arrival lacked driver's license or birth certificate? Surely many came without even a toe tag, but would Peter remember what to do? The saint's raised hand shook; veins bulged under his parchment skin. Thick bifocals hung on a chain from his withered neck; bad eyes weren't made perfect in heaven, perhaps senility afflicted the oldest angels, the advertisements had lied. The newcomer wondered if a bomb, smuggled past this old geezer, would automatically deactivate, then told himself to stop such thoughts; Peter might be telepathic, despite his resemblance to a doddering nursing home patient.

"Uh, wait right here, I have to check something. There've been some glitches in the system." Peter stammered. "This doesn't mean that you don't deserve to be up here, just that our system needs repairs." Peter limped towards a thick book which the newcomer hadn't noticed before.

After two centuries, heaven's brain trust had solved the problem of the illegal aliens, the sneaks fated for purgatory or hell who climbed over the fence when the guardians weren't looking and darted away faster than an angel could fly. But neither prophets nor scientists could solve the overpopulation problem; at last census, 400 trillion souls inhabited heaven. Too many good men and angels had depleted heaven's resources; now the necessities were rationed and the luxuries unobtainable.

Peter shivered as he hunched over the book; only will power and self hypnosis had kept his dentures from chattering in front of the new man. After millennia of neglect, the machinery running the place had begun to fail. Climate control no longer worked. The pearly gates no longer shut securely; with a little jiggling, the rusty padlock snapped open. Engines had stopped pumping anti-aging chemicals into the air. Some angels no longer strummed their harps, due to deafness or rheumatism. Some had started shedding feathers while others couldn't soar and glide, due to hunched backs and osteoporosis of the wing bones. Peter wondered how heaven's residents, still sure of their immortality, would react to the first angel's death. He flipped the book's delicate pages and shuddered as he read the expected words.

"Gates closed. No admissions, pending repairs".

No vacancies. No room at the inn. Probably the man had attended church dutifully, even tithed, in hope of winning entry into the greatest resort ever built; maybe he even believed those pamphlets which described lilac scented breezes, gold plated streets and amethyst castles in the air. Possibly he'd scolded himself for every naughty thought, fearing that God monitored everything and punished even a twinge of lust. Now the newcomer stretched his back and rubbed his neck, sore after the climb; Peter shuffled towards him.

"I've been good," the man implored. "Never missed service. Cared for my mother until the last days of Alzheimers, bathed her, put her on the potty, fed her puree spoonful by spoonful; it's not easy lifting a 150 pound woman out of the tub, but I didn't think it was right to send her to one of those homes where people go to wait for death. I always gave to Greenpeace and Unicef." His stomach contracted and an electric jolt of panic tensed his muscles when he noticed Peter's perplexed, faraway stare. "If you're worried about my ID," he gasped, "They took all my papers before they buried me, but my fingerprints are unique; you've got to have some cosmic database of all the fingerprints ever made."

Peter sighed. "I'm sure you're qualified for entry. It's not you, it's... there've been some bureaucratic problems. I have to discuss some details with my boss. Michael, the archangel -- the next best thing to God around here for knowing what to do." Peter gestured towards a billowing white mound as soft as eiderdown. "Sit down, you need a rest. I just need to talk over some policy issues with my boss. He's not far away, just past that first dune; I shouldn't be gone long. So, put your feet up, catch your breath while I'm away, but don't worry."

"Right," the newcomer thought, as Peter hobbled towards a glistening dune. "Don't worry, be happy, like I'm just facing some computer error and may not be able to get the sleazy hotel room I reserved."

Peter disappeared over the white hill. Visions of flying monsters sculpted from fire swarmed through the newcomer's mind.


"So he stumbles through the gate in his burial best, must have slipped past our watchmen down below and climbed all the way up the ladder," Peter panted.

"Yeah, yeah, I saw the whole thing." Michael pointed to an array of hundreds of lit consoles, part of the closed circuit video monitoring system which had been introduced to heaven centuries ago, in the Golden Age. "Luckily, this part of the system still works. Here he is, right here, crumpled on the ground and clutching his head in his hands. A shame he had to climb all that way, such an old man, with arthritis and a bad heart. Like climbing Everest, and we have no beds."

"Can't we pull out another cot?" Peter pleaded. "After he's trudged all the way up here?"

"No. You got the memo -- no admissions, no exceptions," Michael asserted. "He has to go where the others went."

"You mean the Soul Recycling Center?" Peter gasped. According to rumor, residents called it "The Soul Dump at the End of the Universe." When he idled by the motionless pearly gate with its tarnished silver inlay and bronze latch oxidized to fungal green, Peter imagined cracked porcelain souls and scuffed souls with rips through the middle. He wondered whether souls of corrugated cardboard waited together in a specially labeled dumpster, separate from fragile ones made of glass. Were sturdy but time-rusted ones unloaded into a spiritual scrap-metal heap? Did those radioactive or toxic with rage come pre-packaged in orange bags stamped with "danger!" signs? And when were souls sent to the Cosmic Landfill, for final disposal?

"No, not there," Michael muttered. "Don't you read the news reports? The Recycling Center near Andromeda is full; it's been closed for years. He'll have to go back." The whole universe knew that souls had to be dumped somewhere; sentient beings agreed that heaven had "a serious problem" when Michael petitioned them. However, the Not-In-My-Back-Yard syndrome kept planetary leaders wary. Peter and Gabriel promised kegs of mead and rivers of honey, but leaders couldn't be bribed into allowing a new recycling center anywhere near them in the galaxy.

"Back?" Peter frowned.

"Yes, back. Just like all those others, whom we were able to stop before they'd climbed all the way up the ladder." Michael glared at his companion. "Back to earth. Here are instructions about what to say, and answers to some Frequently Asked Questions of the newly deceased."

Peter bent over the sheets as Michael defined jargon and gave advice about what gestures and vocal tone to use when imparting the news. He squinted at the disclaimers in small print, jabbed his trembling finger at unclear terms and wondered who in heaven had drafted a document in such perfectly unintelligible legalese. Then, under the eternally bright sky, he limped over the glistening dune towards the newcomer.


"What do you mean -- I have to go back?" the newcomer protested. "With these achy knees and this wrinkly skin? And I had a fatal heart attack; how can I live down there if my heart won't pump? They promised eternity without arthritis if I was good. No heart pills, no doctor's offices. I was good, but what's heaven do? Reneges on its promise. How can you expect people to be virtuous when you can't keep your word?"

Peter shuffled his feet and stared down at the papers he held. "You won't go back old," he mumbled. "You'll shed this body. Then your soul can slip into a fetus before it develops a soul of its own." Peter sighed as he scanned the small print. "There is no guarantee, implied or actual, that the returned soul will occupy a human form. During periods of fetal scarcity, the soul may be forced to enter the embryonic form of another species, such as an insect larva, a frog egg or vegetable seed." Peter winced; he could never tell the newcomer that he might return to earthly life as a cockroach or pumpkin vine.

So I come back as a baby? And have to go through adolescence again?" The newcomer paused. "Will I remember the life I just ended? And my trip up here?"

"No." Peter lingered on the "no," fumbling for the explanation which would let him continue. "We kind of, uh, erase your memory. Clean off the chalk scrawl from your last life, let you return with your mind a clean slate. That makes things simpler. It's hard to act like a four year old when you can recall arthritis -- makes you reluctant to roll in the mud and tumble to the ground while chasing a ball. Too much knowledge can be bad for development; it makes a kid act like an adult, makes him a freak."

Peter studied his documents as the stranger nodded. The papers specified "No warranties, no guarantees," and listed what could go wrong. Sometimes, the memory erasing equipment failed completely; a soul returned to earth convinced that he was really an 80 year old ex-fireman, and was medicated for delusional thinking. Sometimes, only fragments of memory remained; such souls frequently experienced deja vu and felt like strangers in the new world. They felt emotionally divided, part of themselves belonging to another time and unsynchronized to the rhythms of the current era; other people placated them with pat consolations but distanced themselves, or advised long-term psychotherapy. Moths with vague recollections of being human were drawn to the TV's glare instead of the flame. Trees with such memories worked to arrange their branches in supplicating gestures.

"Will I ever come back here?"

"Someday," Peter mumbled. "When the glitches in our system are repaired, when the system's operating effectively." Peter imagined that this might never happen: Heaven's angels and flowers would die and decay; its buildings and the iridescent white platform on which they'd been built would collapse, rot infiltrating the grain and rust eating away the nails that held everything together. The debris would drift downward through the stratosphere, eventually becoming part of the smog that enshrouded earth.

"But you have to be good in the new life too," Peter warned. He wondered how virtuous roaches and moths were distinguished from unvirtuous ones.

"Sure," the newcomer sighed wearily.

Peter pointed towards a glittering ridge, noted that this was where the Memory Eradication Center was located, and beckoned the newcomer to follow. The two limped in that direction; frequently, the newcomer stopped to rub his knees and ankles and Peter stopped to massage his lower back.

"Will I have to climb back down that staircase?" The newcomer's frail voice shook.

"No," Peter cooed, glad to reassure his companion. "Our teleportation devices still work; in less than a second, we'll have you beamed into an obstetrics clinic, where you can pick your future mother and slide into her womb. Don't worry, she won't feel a thing."


Eight months later, a son was born to an El Paso couple. During childhood, the boy obsessively drew Brooklyn brownstones and streets of buildings which had been demolished long ago. He filled pages with drawings of road signs and 1960 Chevrolet coupes. His parents wondered at his fascination for places he'd never seen and at the accuracy of his drawings.

"He must have seen pictures in a book. Or on TV," one neighbor declared.

"Maybe he was here before, reincarnated, an old soul," another neighbor speculated. "Maybe he's remembering bits of his past life." This neighbor also believed that crystals could heal through their unique vibrations, and that angels flew down from heaven to aid the floundering.

"That's just what some mystics say," the parents thought. "Guesswork, wishful thinking. No one's come back from the dead with a detailed eye witness report convincing enough to make headline news."

Their son, they concluded, had watched videos of the old New York at school, or had flipped through picture books at the library.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Moonlight Galore, but...

Maria Claudia Faverio headshot by Maria Claudia Faverio

Summer evening —
boatfuls of moonlight
on the Lake,
moonlight galore,
but no face reflected in it,
no hand holding hand,
no love sighs
to break the thunderous silence.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

An Elizabethan Enigma near Oxford

by Frank Luger

A youthful Frank Luger
A youthful Frank Luger ( 1966)

On the occasion of one of my recent Braziers College presentations, I took the opportunity to "get lost" for a few hours in the library; feeling like fish in water among endless rows of old books and manuscripts. This delightful bibliophile experience proved even more fascinating than anticipated on the account of stumbling upon the still unsolved mystery of one Amy Robsart over four centuries ago in Elizabethan England. So, without further ado, let me share my befuddlement; here are the unusual details.

Not far from Oxford, actually maybe four miles to the west, in a secluded situation away from the main roads, lies the Berkshire village of Cumnor. In appearance, there is nothing much to distinguish it from the many other peaceful old villages in these parts, despite a modern, paved expressway that just doesn't fit into this quaint countryside of thatched and tiled cottages, greystone walls, an inn or two, and commanding the scene from a slight eminence, the parish church with its battlement tower, surrounded by the graves of past generations of villagers. Cumnor, in short, conforms to the everyday village pattern; and it is curious to reflect that just over four hundred and forty years ago this quiet spot was the subject of gossip and speculation in half the royal courts of Europe. Indeed, to this day, people still ask themselves what really happened at Cumnor Place on the night of Sunday, September 8th, 1560. They do so in vain, for the mystery of Amy Robsart's death is rumored to have defied even Sherlock Holmes' celebrated talents; and thus the enigma is likely to remain a question mark for all time.

Nowadays only a few scant traces remain of the house in which the tragedy occurred, though it was still standing, just to the west of the church, when the XVIIIth-century poet William Mickle related the oft — told story of Amy Robsart in his Ballad of Cumnor Hall:

The dews of Summer night did fall,
The moon, sweet regent of the sky,
Silver'd the walls of Cumnor Hall
And many an oak that grew nearby.

However, even then Cumnor Place, which was the house's correct name, was no longer inhabited. As long as anyone could remember, it had stood deserted and forlorn, for it was reputedly haunted by the ghost of Lady Amy. Today we may smile, in our cosmic complacence, at such superstition; but then, a ghostly old place it must have appeared, judging from the old print which hangs in the church. The eerie ruins of this house of memories, shunned by all who passed that way, were finally pulled down in 1810- and eleven years later Sir Walter Scott's novel Kenilworthonce again set people talking about the Cumnor tragedy. For in his romantic story of the times of Queen Elizabeth I, Scott had revived the old theory of murder.

Because Amy Robsart is encountered in the pages of Kenilworth, there is often a tendency to regard her as a "character from Scott" rather than as an actual person in realtime History. Only when one actually visits the place where she died, and gazes upon the same grey church tower1which she herself must so often have gazed upon, one is reminded of the real, flesh and blood Amy Robsart and, independently of Scott, one is motivated to ponder yet again over the mystery of her tragic end.

It was the misfortune of Amy Robsart -- daughter of Sir John Robsart, of Norfolk- to be married to the man who became the favorite of Queen Elizabeth. In 1550, at the age of 18, she married Lord Robert Dudley, who was the fifth son of the Duke of Northumberland and was the same age as herself. Young though he was, he was a well-known figure at Court- he had already met the future Queen Elizabeth- and the boy King Edward VI, Elizabeth's half-brother, attended the wedding and made a note of it in his diary. What follows may perhaps be imagined in "classical" terms.

When Elizabeth succeeded to the throne in 1558, her early affection for the handsome Lord Robert grew warmer. She made no secret of her regard for the man she was later to create Earl of Leicester, and in 1559 Dudley was referred to by the Spanish ambassador as "the king that is to be".

"The king that is to be"- but if Dudley's ambitions, and those of the Queen, did indeed turn in that direction, they were confronted by a very inconvenient obstacle: the fact that Dudley was married. So long as Lady Amy lived, the obstacle was insurmountable. One way or another, Dudley neglected his wife "big time".

Whatever the future might hold for Dudley, it seemed to hold no place for his lonely wife, who moved from one country house to another, throwing herself on the hospitality of a succession of family friends. One of these- a particularly close friend of Dudley- was Anthony Forster, who early in 1560 invited her to take up residence with his household at Cumnor Place.

There she carried on her melancholy existence, in which one of her great interests, after her husband had neglected her for the glitter of the Court, was to appear still as a fine lady. Rather pathetically, she seemed to have a passion for new clothes, and in the church at Cumnor we can read the facsimile of a letter she wrote to her tailor, requesting him to embellish "the gowne of velvet which I send you" in the same style as "the rosset taffeta gowne you sent me last. I pray you let it be done with as much speed as you can."


This letter was dated from Cumnor on August 24th, 1560, but, in spite of her injunction of speed, she never wore that velvet gown. For in little over two weeks after she wrote the letter she was dead.

We come to the day of the tragedy. On September 8th, the annual autumn fair was being held in the market-town of Abingdon, a few miles from Cumnor, and for some strange reason Lady Amy appeared particularly anxious that, though she herself intended to remain at home, everyone else should go to the fair. Mrs. Forster and the two family friends also staying at Cumnor declined (perhaps on the ground that it would not do for gentlewomen to be seen at a fair on a Sunday), but the servants departed with alacrity. The rambling old house was therefore deserted on this fatal day except for the four ladies- for Forster himself, it appears, was away from home.

Nothing unusual happened during the day, and in the evening, after dining in her own apartments, Lady Amy joined her companions in the communal hall before they retired. Late at night the servants returned from Abingdon to make a horrifying discovery. The beautiful Lady Amy was lying dead at the foot of the staircase with her neck broken, still wearing her quite proper evening clothes.

The news traveled around the country like wildfire, and with the news went all sorts of rumors. Dudley was with the Queen at Windsor when he was told of his wife's death, and he saw at once that he would be an object of suspicion- and not only he, but the Queen. Had he (with or without the connivance of Elizabeth) persuaded an accomplice- Forster perhaps?- to murder his wife while he himself was innocently employed at Windsor? That was what people would be asking- indeed, that great gossip, the Spanish ambassador, in a letter home on September 11th, wrote that "they (the Queen and Dudley) were thinking of destroying Lord Robert's wife… They had given out that she was ill, but she was not ill at all." (In actual fact, it is now believed that Lady Amy was suffering from an incurable malady… though it's rather doubtful that her death was euthanasia; you don't break someone's neck out of pity.)

It is therefore not surprising that Dudley ordered a stringent inquiry into the circumstances of his wife's death. The jury at the inquest cleared his name by returning a verdict of accidental death, but the gossips were not satisfied. Even if Dudley and Forster were innocent of murder, there was a possibility of either a hired killer or suicide. Some substance seems to have been lent to the suicide theory by the fact that Lady Amy's personal maid had stated that she had heard her mistress "pray to God to deliver her from desperation." If that was so, what else but her husband's flagrant behavior could have been the cause of her "desperation"?

Curiously enough, Dudley did not attend his wife's funeral at St. Mary's Church, Oxford, on September 22- which perhaps is fortunate as the chaplain who preached the sermon is said to have slipped up at one point and described the lady as "pitifully slain." That was only a few days after the coroner's jury had declared that death was accidental.

he libels on Dudley continued long afterwards, though they failed to produce new evidence. In 1584 a scurrilous publication entitled Leicester's Commonwealth alleged that Forster and another of Dudley's friends had flung Lady Amy down the stairs- this, of course, being the theory which was revived by Scott in Kenilworth. Also, a couplet in a poem of 1608 made an obvious reference to the Cumnor tragedy:

The surest way to chain a woman's tongue Is break her neck - a politician did it.

However, did he? Are there not surer ways of committing murder than by throwing the victim down a flight of stairs? Suicide then? -- bearing in mind Amy's anxiety to be left alone in the house on the day of Abingdon Fair. But would not poison have been so much more simple and certain?

The official verdict was "Mischance," but, in spite of that, the mystery of Amy Robsart remains determinedly a mystery, and Cumnor keeps its secret.

Whatever Elizabeth's relations with Dudley may have been before his wife's death, they became closer after it. But Dudley never married the Queen. It is plain that she soon realized the inadvisability of such a course, and in addition his presumptuous behavior irritated her- as on the occasion when he threatened to dismiss one of the Court officials. The matter being brought to the Queen's attention, she publicly told Dudley: "I have wished you well, but my favor is not so locked up for you that others shall not partake thereof." However, outside the Court, he advanced rapidly in power, wealth and title, and the fine estate of Kenilworth was only one of his many territorial possessions.

If Cumnor Place is no more, there are in the church several reminders of the tragedy. There is, as I have already mentioned, Amy's letter to the tailor, and alongside we can read the tailor's bill for work done, with a receipt to the effect that the account was settled in February, 1561. Here we read, as evidence that the tailor duly carried out the instructions in Amy's last letter: "For new translating the collar of your velvet gowne with gold fringe… 2s. 6d." Immediately below this comes the next item in the account: "For making a mantle of clothe for the chief morner… 6s. 8d."

Anthony Forster of Cumnor Place lies in an elaborate tomb close to the altar, but perhaps the most compelling monument in the church is that which stands, white and unexpected, in an obscure corner at the opposite end of the building. It is one of the only two contemporary statues of Queen Elizabeth I still surviving- and with what a strange enigmatic expression she surveys this place of memories.

According to rumors, the famous master-detective of Victorian England, Sherlock Holmes, was baffled by the mystery of Cumnor Place. Reason? He was unable to eliminate the impossible, and thus end up with truth, however improbable, because Elizabethan records stubbornly refused to cooperate- perhaps preferring to safeguard the enigma as a simple testimony to the Roman maxim: "quieta non movere." Now, whether such stubbornness was in defense of the Realm, or perhaps for preventing even a hint of lèse majesté, is something I think I can safely leave to the undoubtedly fertile imagination of our readers.


1 Cumnor Church dates from the twelfth century and contains many interesting features, including a chained bible and a beautiful, genuine, solid oak staircase.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Look Ye Not To The Heavens!

Richard May headshot by Richard May

The observable universe is merely a deception of Satan. The universe was created last Friday at 3:23 P.M., before Happy Hour. But Satan has implanted false memories to test our faith in sacred delusion, lies and ignorance. Those on Earth, who love gross stupidity will be saved on CD rom. On Judgment Day this will be converted to a hyperdimensional DVD format that works with Internet Explorer, occasionally. Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, pagans, agnostics, mystics, Hindus, Quakers, Schroedinger's cat and Jesus, Himself, will burn in the hell of the loving Father for eternity, for prefering truth, beauty and reason to the moral and intellectual idiocy of fundamentalism. Psychopaths and rabid Protestant fundamentalists alone will be taken during the Rapture. Dark matter was created by Satan as a deception during the endless end times, hence its darkness.

May-Tzu

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Costing Latent Conflict

Carole Fotino headshot by Carole Fotino

Previous related articles:
Strategic Decision Making Program
Institutionalized, Inclusive Grievance Pathways (IIGPs)

Putting a number, a cost, to latent conflict over 1,5,10, and 20 year time frames and then including those numbers in the cost/ benefit analyses of today's decision making will help us to be able to readily see the option choice that actually is most profitable — monetarily or in security — versus the options that only appear profitable because real costs are not accurately modeled and represented.

Latent Conflict as a phenomenon is currently overlooked in setting policy, and in studies of security and international relations. Latent conflict can be created by policy implementation, by corporations, and in other ways. Once created, it can also become mechanized by the overlay of a second set of actions. Another turn the latent conflict can take once created, is that it can then be too easily co-opted by those with their own agendas, in the enlistment of footsoldiers for their, often violent, purposes.

Once the latent conflict becomes mechanized through policy or through co-option, the responses that follow include both war and terrorism. The decrease in security and profitability however, does not wait for the response nor is it dependent upon the type of response. The decrease in security and profitability occurred at the time of the original latent conflict. If there is a second set of actions or co-option occurring, the insecurity grows and again, does so simultaneously with the action and not with the response to the action.

In the private sector, results occur similarly and from the same phenomenon, but private sector examples and costs are addressed in the separate paper carrying the subtitle, Corporate Diplomacy and Establishing Norms of International Behavior.

The term latent conflict is not new to conflict scholars. However a definition of such is absent form the literature. A solid perusal of the work available to date turns up in fact, only a single article. What is new then is its usage as applied herein by this work. What is latent conflict then? Is it, as some have suggested, sort of a social license or to be resolved with stakeholder engagement? Is latent conflict, as others suggest, more akin to the term "root causes" of conflict? How do decisions made from incomplete models and world views create it? And how does it cost us money? The best way to address these questions may be through example so we will offer our definition to be then followed with category sub-headings and examples.

Latent Conflict as discussed here is defined as the existence of divergences, either real or perceived, which have not yet reached a level of cost at which motivation to attempt to remove perceived divergences is triggered.

Among other things, this means that window dressing won't cut it. Where there are real losses from one's actions, latent conflict exists. Actions that appear to be in our self-interest despite the negative impact on others and their social groups, are, because of latent conflict, not as much in our self-interest as they would appear to be.

The three categories are:

  1. Deprivations — absence of minimums

  2. Dissatisfactions — procedural injustices

  3. Perceptions — including escalation to aggression attribution


Historical & Current Examples: (Discussion to follow in later article)

  • Lesser-of-two evils choices
  • Colonial Baggage
  • Infrastructure systems of the state that don't work well together — primarily in countries formerly colonized by 2 or more countries.
  • Hasty Decolonization
  • Premature Aid Withdrawal
  • Inconsistent Aid Criteria
  • Self-Interest defined narrowly — and in such a way that our most greatly self-interested options, those most profitable and most security enhancing — are unavailable to us.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Free Verse

No verse is libre to the poet who takes his craft seriously.
T. S. Eliot

Maria Claudia Faverio headshot by Maria Claudia Faverio

Free verse, the poetry form most used in our days, is seldom or never rhymed in perfect rhyme, though it is occasionally written in regular stanza forms.

The term itself is a translation of the French phrase “vers libre”, a movement in French poetry that arose in the late nineteenth century and aimed at freeing poetry from the restraints and artificiality of rhythm and rhyme.

Free verse asserted itself at the beginning of the 20th century in particular through the influence of Hulme, Ezra Pound and Eliot and their studies of French poetry. However, it was certainly not the first time that poets experimented with free verse in English. Some of the most outstanding Romantic poets, like Keats, Coleridge, Shelley and Wordsworth, as well as the American poets Emerson and Whitman, had already tried free verse and succeeded in writing some immortal poetry in free verse and in awakening the public to the possibilities of this new poetry form.

Old English and Medieval poetry also enjoyed a certain freedom, as the poetry in the Psalms of the King James version of the Bible proves.

As free verse is the poetry form most commonly used in our days, I will examine its different aspects and strategies separately: imagery, sound and rhythm, structure and subject matter.

Imagery

Images are an integral part of the meaning of a poem and are intended to give us a keener awareness of the poem itself.

Images make the poem come alive, stimulating our senses. They should be new and original, establish connections that open up new experiences to the reader, revealing more beauty in the beautiful and more oddity in the grotesque.

Good poets don’t describe scenes or feelings through the use of clichés like “beautiful”, but put the reader in the picture.

In his poem “Pietà”, for example, the Australian poet McAuley, speaking of the death of a child, does not say that the baby was premature, but that he came “early into the light”, where “light” is contrasted to the darkness of the womb and the darkness of non-existence.

This is true also of imagined pictures and scenes, as in the poem “The Fish” by the English poet Rupert Brooke, in which the poet accurately describes the emotions and sensations of a creature living in an element foreign to man, “a cool and curving world” full of “dark ecstasies”.

Many poets use references to myths, religions and/or historical events to awaken images in the reader. This is an excellent device, although the average reader might not always be able to recognize the allusions. Symbols (which are also images, images used symbolically) are also widely employed in poetry. These symbols can be well-established symbols, like the Christian cross, or also personal symbols, like the tower for Yeats or the city for Eliot.

Quite often, images also move from one sensory field to another (e.g. “the screaming void”), and breathe life into inanimate objects (e.g. the “yawning grave”). This can go as far as personification (a figure of speech in which a nonhuman attribute is represented as a person, for example when the Mississippi is called “the father of waters”).

There are two main figures of speech in the use of images: similes and metaphors. Similes use the terms like or as in making a comparison, metaphors don’t. In a metaphor, the comparison is implied and one thing is actually said to be another or to function as another. Example: The ship plows the sea.

Poets should offer the reader new ways of seeing things they take for granted. Contrary to everyday language full of worn-out similes and metaphors, images in poetry should be born of acute observation married to a great imagination and power over words.

In “Cut”, for example, Sylvia Plath describes the blood flowing from a wound in her finger in the following way:

Out of a gap
A million soldiers run,
Redcoats, every one.
She uses “Redcoats” not only to suggest the colour of blood, but also to reinforce her previous line and complete the image she is trying to convey, as a redcoat was formerly a British soldier. The blood is flowing from her finger like an army of soldiers.

Another example worth mentioning is “Crucifixion of the Skyscraper” by J. Gould Fletcher, in which the poet implies a comparison with Christ through two metaphors containing the words “crucifixion” and “nailing” respectively. The word “Christ” is not mentioned a single time, but the comparison is obvious, with all its aspects of suffering, dignity and grandeur.

Sometimes images are so central to a poem that the whole poem becomes an extended metaphor, as is the case for example with “Legionary Ants” by the Australian poet Francis Webb. The central image is the comparison between human civilization and the legionary ants, predatory ants that live in temporary nests and travel about in great armies destroying every living creature in their path. The comparison is obviously intended to describe how irresponsibly we are treating our planet.

One of the main reasons why abstractions like “love” or “beauty” should be avoided is that the impact of such concepts on the reader varies from person to person, as it depends on their own experiences and cultural backgrounds, so the poet might fail to convey his true emotions by using abstractions. Imagery offers a way out of this situation. This is what T.S. Eliot calls the “objective correlative” – when events, objects and images in a poem are strong enough to convey to the reader the emotional content of the poem “as it is”.

A poet should always keep his senses alert and sharpened. William Hart-Smith, for example, said that his mind takes photographs of what goes on around him, and that later poems grow out of these vivid visual memories in his mind.

Or, to quote Ezra Pound again: “An ‘image’ is that which presents an intellectual or emotional complex in an instant of time.”

Visual images are the most frequent in poetry, for instance “The blue and yellow flowers stood up proudly in the sun” in Amy Lowell’s poem “Patterns”. In the same poem, we also find an auditory image, “the plopping of the waterdrops”, and a tactile one, “The sliding of the water / Seems the stroking of a dear / Hand”. Onomatopoeias (like “plopping”) are a very useful device to convey auditory images.

Although images referring to the senses of taste and smell are rarer, there are still plenty of them. In “Ode on Melancholy” by Keats, for example, we read “whose strenuous tongue / Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine” (a gustatory image), and in “A Postcard from the Volcano”, Wallace Stevens writes “when the grapes /Made sharp air sharper by their smell” (an olfactory image).

The images of a poem are like the brushstrokes of a painting. They all contribute to create the final impression.

Sound and Rhythm

Both imagery and sound are of fundamental importance for the final outcome of a poem, and have to be in harmony.

Rhythm has always been a very important means of expression of man, even in the most primitive people. “Every savage can dance”, says Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice”. There is rhythm in dance, there is rhythm in the universe, in the movement of the planets and of the waves. And there is also rhythm in poetry. Historically, poetry comes before prose, with its strongly rhythmical epics, sagas and songs passed on by word of mouth among unlettered people.

In his “Essay on Criticism”, Pope wrote that “The sound must seem an echo to the sense”. How does the poet achieve this sense of unity? By the skilful choice of consonant and vowel sounds, stress (and sometimes accent)1, as well as the use of repetition, alliteration2 (both on initial letters and in the middle of words), onomatopoeia3, assonance4 and consonance5.

Robert Herrick, for example, achieves this effect in his poem “Upon Julia’s Clothes”, in which we can “hear” the soft rustle of Julia’s clothes, particularly in the “l’s”:

Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then (methinks), how sweetly flows
The liquefaction of her clothes.

Not all vowels and consonants have the same effect on the listener. Vowels may be long and slow or short and snappy. “Bit” and “bite”, for example, convey a quite different effect to the ear. Consonants may be harsh, soft, jarring or harmonious according to their length (short consonants are harsher than long ones). K, p and t are short; b, d, j, g, r, w, y and ch are of medium length; s, f, h, l, m, n, v, z, th and –ng are long.

Let’s look at the following poem by T.S. Eliot, “Virginia”, to exemplify what we have just asserted:

Red river, red river,
Slow flow heat is silence
No will is still as a river
Still. Will heat move
Only through the mocking-bird
Heard once? Still hills
Wait. Gates wait. Purple trees,
White trees, wait, wait,
Delay, decay. Living, living,
Never moving. Ever moving
Iron thoughts came with me
And go with me:
Red river, river, river.
Can you feel the slowness and stillness of this poem, the laziness of a sultry day?

In Edmund Blunden’s poem “The Pike”, on the other hand, the succession of short vowel sounds in long lines creates the effect of quick movement as the pike snatches at its prey.

The general rule is that we can quicken the rhythm of a line by increasing the ratio of unstressed to stressed syllables, and slow it down by decreasing the number of unstressed syllables.

Is there a particular pattern according to which stresses are distributed in a poem? End stresses or rising lines convey an affirmative mood to a poem, as is the case for example with H. D.’s poem “Song”:

You are as GOLD
as the half-ripe GRAIN
that merges to GOLD again.
In front stresses or falling lines, as the name says, the emphasis falls on the first word of each line (an effect that is often achieved by ending the previous line on a weak word, such as an adjective). Here is an example from Marianne Moore’s “In Distrust of Merits”:
who cannot see that the enslaver is
enslaved; the hater, harmed. O shining O
       firm star, O tumultuous
       ocean...
Poems with only falling or rising lines are rare and usually serve a particular purpose; most poems have a combination of both.

These days, almost every poet writes in free verse, which, in spite of being a relatively recent development6, has fully asserted itself. Writing in free verse is in no way easier than writing in traditional metre. As Eliot said: “No verse is libre to the poet who takes his craft seriously.” The modern poet writes in irregular metre and doesn’t pay much attention to traditional feet7, but makes use of other devices to achieve a sense of unity and a pattern of emphasis, as we have already had the chance to briefly examine. As a matter of fact, many poets start with traditional forms and only move on to free verse when they are more proficient in poetry.

It is also a common misconception to think that “if it doesn’t rhyme it is not poetry”. There is more to poetry than rhyme. Poetry is a complex craft. If rhyme is used, it must be done in an unobtrusive way, avoiding all sorts of clichés and forced rhymes. True or perfect rhyme is usually avoided in modern verse or only used to achieve a particular effect (often satiric) or for songs. If rhyme is used at all, it is usually near rhyme or part rhyme, or irregular rhyme.

Let’s now analyse a few examples of alliteration, onomatopoeia, assonance and consonance, devices commonly used in modern poetry.

The alliteration on the soft and quiet s, for instance, fills the poem “Silver” by Walter de la Mare with peace and quiet, it is pleasant to the ear:


Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way, and that, she peers, and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;
One by one the casements catch
Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;
Couched in his kennel, like a log,
With paws of silver sleeps the dog;
From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep
Of doves in a silver-feathered sleep;
A harvest-mouse goes scampering by,
With silver claws, and silver eye;
And moveless fish in the water gleam,
By silver reds in a silver stream.
Another good example is “The Brook” by Alfred Tennyson:
I chatter over stony ways,
In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles.
The English language is rich in onomatopoeia, so this efficient device is widely used by English-speaking poets.

The last devices already mentioned in this paper are assonance and consonance. We find assonance for example in the following verses from Karl Saphiro’s “The Dome of Sunday”:

A silent clatter is the high-speed eye
Spinning out photo circulars of sight.
Wilfred Owen resorts to consonance in his poem “Strange Meeting”, a part of which is quoted in the following stanza:
It seemed that out of battle I escaped Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall,
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.
Probably even more widely used is the half-consonance, in which the poet is free to vary both the initial sound and the vowel, like in dark – break.

As we have seen, poetry is a craft equipped with all its tools and tricks, like any other trade, and a craft that evolves. It is the duty of the poet to learn these tools and tricks and to employ them with originality and according to the problems and emotions of his time.

Structure

Poets who write in traditional verse will have no problem with the structure of their poems (lines and stanzas) – they just have to follow the rules relating to the particular form they are dealing with.

However, it is not always clear what the rules for free verse are, or if there are any rules at all.

Very often the line break seems to occur at the end of a concept, what Ezra Pound called “the musical phrase”, quite often a clause, but in same cases also a whole sentence (end-stops or end-stopped line).

A particular break (enjambment) can occur in order to emphasize the last word of a line and the first word of the following line (to a lesser degree), to build up tension by separating an adjective from the noun it refers to for example, or a verb from the predicate. An enjambment is so to speak the opposite of an end-stop. It is also called run-on verse.

A caesura is a break that occurs in the middle of a line. It can be indicated by any punctuation. Example (from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra): I’ll not sleep neither. II This mortal house I’ll ruin...

A line break can be seen as a thicker stroke on a canvas, or a colour that calls the attention to some details.

Indeed, for Hartman [Frank and Sayre, The Line in Postmodern Poetry, University of Illinois Press 1988, p. ix], the line is the primary means by which the poet is able to create and control attention. For Frances Mayes [Frank, 1988, p. 165] it is the unit of attention (the sentence being the unit of meaning). For Olsen it is a unit of breath.

The line can also be dispensed of completely in the so called prose poems. W. C. Williams was the first to try this new form, followed by many others like Creeley and Ashbery.

The above mentioned devices (end-stop, enjambment and caesura) aren’t the only ones that determine line breaks. Modern poets have a wide variety of choices when deciding where to start a new line. They can for example decide to have a certain number of syllables in each line, or a certain number of stresses, or to start a new line with the same words (repetition). They can also highlight the lines in a particular way (like increasing indentation or according to a zigzag pattern) in order to convey their message more clearly. The zigzag pattern can be useful with alternate rhymes, for example. Or they may want to divide the lines according to a set arrangement of rhymes and rhythms.

The most important criterion to be taken into consideration, of course, is the organic structure of the poem, its harmony as a whole. Short lines and enjambments, for instance, will give the poem a slower rhythm, almost a sense of tiredness, while long lines will have the opposite effect.

The basic principles of the line are also true for the stanza. Stanzas can, but must not all have the same number of lines. Some poets for example increase every stanza by one line.

A stanza joins certain thoughts that belong together. The end of a stanza is usually emphasized, as is the beginning of the next stanza. Quite often, in modern poetry, the stanzas correspond to the paragraphs in prose. A stanza must not end with some punctuation in modern poetry. Many modern poems dispense of the stanza altogether.

Subject Matter

Modern poetry has to do with human experience (both within and without), not with idyllic landscapes. It is a form of art, and as such, a means of expression. Art doesn’t idealize the world any more, it describes it as it is, including its “ugly” or disturbing aspects. As there are no limits to human experience, we can say that there are no limits to the possibilities of art – including poetry – either.

In poetry one cannot lie; poetry is not fiction. One cannot lie in poetry because poetry is usually stripped down to its essentials. When a poet lies, he usually does so for a particular reason, quite often to have fun (as in a limerick) rather than to intentionally convey insincere feelings.

Wordsworth said that poetry is “emotion recalled in tranquillity”. The poet must always be aware of his emotions, and use this “material” to create art. The reader, on the other hand, must also be highly perceptive in order to enjoy a poem. Ezra Pound spoke of the “shock of recognition”. This does not necessarily mean recollection, it can also be an aha experience – when the reader recognizes a truth. Many readers fail in this task and then blame the poet or poetry in general. They think poetry is useless because they fail to recognize its message.

It is not always easy to write about the truth. Yeats pointed out that writing light verse was the greatest temptation a poet has, and the greatest mistake he can make. Sometimes we are not fully aware of the truth, we have to delve into ourselves to find it, with the possibility to face unpleasant truths too.

No subjects are barred in poetry, what is limited is the way to express it. We have to avoid sentimentality for example, clichés. Subject, language, rhythm, images, they all have to be in harmony in order to achieve the desired effect. If you are describing an old rattling train, for example, you are allowed and even encouraged to use cacophonies, you wouldn’t use pleasant sounds to describe something that has an unpleasant sound.

While universal themes like love and death, time and nature have not been abandoned, in our age there are many new themes that relate to psychological insight and analysis, like loneliness, frustration and angst, themes the treatment of which has started a new current, confessional poetry.

Of course it is important that the new poet approaches old subjects like love in an original way, avoiding stereotypes and hackneyed expressions, as Karl Shapiro did in his “V-Letter”.

One of the first poets to revolutionize the concept of poetry was Eliot, who introduced a new kind of poetry with his “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, not only concerning the choice of images (the verses “When the evening is spread out against the sky/ Like a patient etherized upon a table” have become famous in this respect), but also concerning the psychologic approach of the character described in this poem. Prufrock is an antihero, an ordinary man unable to take decisions, a character the reader can identify with.

In the past, poetry and literature in general dealt with lofty themes, in particular epic poems, odes and elegies. The hero of poetry has now become the man in the street, the man who doesn’t fight against dragons, but against life with all its problems and difficulties, the faceless hero of everyday life trying to make sense out of existence. His view of the world has become important, worth mentioning in a poem.

As Carl Sandburg wrote in the “Atlantic Monthly” back in 1923, “Poetry is the achievement of the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits”, the synthesis of sacred or extraordinary and mundane or profane.

Poetry can be found in everything. Poetry is life.

References:

Hamilton, E. and Livingston J., Form and Feeling, Longman, Melbourne 1981

Hughes, T., Poetry in the Making, Faber and Faber, London (1967)

O’Donnell M., Feet on the Ground, Blackie and Son Limited (1967)

Pretty, R., Creating Poetry, Five Islands Press (2001)

Stillman, F., The Poet’s Manual and Rhyming Dictionary, Thames and Hudson (1978)

Russell, N., and Chatfield, H. J., Poetry Workshop, Nelson (1967)


1 Stress is related to meaning, accent is the prominence given to a syllable (for instance iamb or trochee) and determines the mechanical pattern of the language. Traditional poetry is based on accent, modern poetry on stress.
2 The use of similar phonetic sounds at the beginning or in the middle of words.
3 The use of words which sound like the meaning they represent.
4 The repetition or resemblance of similar accented vowel sounds in neighbouring words in a line (or several lines) of a poem or prose.
5 The use of identical consonant sounds both at the beginning and at the end of a word.
6 The other movement started at about the same time was the modernist movement initiated by Poe and the symbolists that he influenced, a movement that did not discard traditional English prosody completely, but rather built upon it, writing in lines of uneven length and mixed meters, irregular rhyme in no set pattern, near rhyme, and stanzas both of set lengths and irregular length.
7 mainly iambic, anapaestic, trochaic or dactylic

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I Know Where I'm Going

Carle P. Graffunder headshot by Carle P. Graffunder

crows

The hour has come the Blackbird said
When we must fly or flee.
I’m not quite sure exactly what
EXACTLY we can see,
But if the sky is golden red,
And foggy is the valley,
Then likely it is night or morn;
And now’s no time to dally.

We must escape the Painter’s brush,
Our feathers black must bristle.
‘Twould be a shame if tainted we
Were not allowed our whistle.
We go at once to fly or flee,
But where we cannot say.
It matters not when Jaybirds screech,
Just flap your wings and pray.

The biggest Blackbird (one of them)
Stood up and looked around.
“Why, brothers all,” (said sober-lee),
“Let’s just stay on the ground.
“There’s not a robin, squirrel, or snake
“That’s fiercomer than us.
“And all that ever we must do
“Is simply stop the fuss.”

“The hour is here!” rode on the breeze.
But when or why or wherefore?
No sagely bird did shake his head
With knowing metaphor.
But if the sky is turning red
And foggy is the valley,
Then likely it is night or morn
And now’s no time to dally.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Buffalo "Hockey" Tribe

Richard May headshot by Richard May

I love the Buffalo Sabres hockey team, whatever it actually is. There is something called "play offs" going on now, involving the Sabres tribe or whatever, which is perhaps a totem of some sort or a tribal paramilitary unit. Initially I assumed "play offs" were jerk-offs of some sort, but maybe not.

But here in the Nigerian sewer system all the normal people stay in their dwellings and scream tribal warfare slogans during the "games", whatever the "games" are. I think there is a definite religious dimension to these tribal competitions also, requiring repeated public affirmations of a "belief" in the superiority of one's local tribe.

Apparently these tribal warfare games determine the meaning of being a male in Earth culture. The young males always do things with balls and sticks of various sorts in the street and talk about "tight ends" in the autumn.

This means if I leave my subterranean hyperdimensional bunker to go jogging during one of the games, I don't have to see as many normal Nigerian sewer dwellers. This is what I love about the Sabres. There's nothing worse than having normal people in your face saying, "How ya doin? Doin good?" Then you're supposed to say, even if it's your last breath, "Yeah, Doin good, doin real good." One never needs an emetic.

Another thing I'm not clear on is why two thirds of the normal males here above age forty look very pregnant. Maybe it's part of "doin good?" Apparently these tribal "teams" consist of more than the totality of one person's body cells or sub-personalities, a concept difficult to imagine, like infinity. I've learned that when normals shout, "Go Sabres," they don't mean, "Please just go away," which is what I had assumed.

May-Tzu

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Night delirium

Maria Claudia Faverio headshot by Maria Claudia Faverio

Clouds, not the ordinary moon,
manifest and lonely
in the dense scopes of dark,
clouds accompany the polymathic delirium
of this night.

Aggravated by the black vacuum
of the sky,
pallid perceptions of distances
crumble to blindness
like a tired eye,
and madness of colours
effaces itself
in the intricate evasions
of imagination.

The untuned reticences
of desire
transfix the ego
like a fake light,
enhancing its delirium,
while palaver of lips
discovers the sacred spaces
of silence.

Cautiously,
like old tune or voice,
the black load of fear
becomes tangible
in the capricious colours
of morning,
in the Phoenician sky
spreading over a reality
uncertain as faith.

There is a sense of panic
in the renewal of life.
The outrage of the years
is a swan song,
a remote surprise.

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Institutionalized, Inclusive Grievance Pathways (IIGPs)

Carole Fotino headshot by Carole Fotino

Today’s violence is the result of those experiencing real and relative deprivations examining the costs and the benefits of each of their options toward resolving the situation and discovering that the least costly is violence – in the form of either war or terrorism determined by the size and reach of the “foe.” These decision makers are rational. They are weighing their costs and their benefits and they are making choices that make sense.

Relative Expense

They make sense because less costly alternative means for restoring balance are absent. When there are in place at all levels, non-violent and inclusive pathways for resolving grievances, accessible by those experiencing deprivations of all varieties, the cost of using these pathways will be less than the costs involved in the current, violent pathway – often the sole available pathway to change. By increasing the relative cost of violence, we decrease the likelihood of its usage.

Autonomy

The Peace Institute is making an extensive examination of autonomy movements around the world. Preliminary data suggests that what is really sought after in these situations is freedom from oppression, and voice – inclusive participation in representative systems. Interests that can be better gained without autonomy through IIGPs.

Initiatives

This program includes the dual components of institutional work. While doing the innovative, original and comprehensive research into the pathways, autonomy, and related subjects, we also move forward with active programming of initiatives to implement IIGPs around the world.

For more information, see the Peace Institute of the Rockies web site.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

These Late Skirmishes

Edward Rehmus by the late Edward Rehmus

Discern some little light at least
in ancient secret hieroglyphs
And see them snatched away by Academe —
as false!

Or chance upon the key to Death
and you'll be warned to look away
to Life because Death is
morbid.

Discover sainthood within yourself
and they'll say no, that's wicked
only Christ is God and you are
ego.

Who are these sudden savants,
unwanted advisors of ubiquity,
saying our gumption is no more than chutzpah?

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Switzerland from a Bird's Eye View

Frank Luger headshot by Frank Luger

There is no country quite like Switzerland, and no people even remotely resembling the Swiss. This statement is not intended as promotional propaganda for the tourism industry. It is based on personal experience, when in late 1966, after breaking through the Iron Curtain, I had to find my way from an Italian refugee camp to eventual political asylum in West-Germany; and so, perforce, see and feel Switzerland from the inside, rather than from the comfortable outsider stance of a well-to-do tourist. Still, it was a nice experience. Since then, I was there a few more times; and the same good impressions remained, throughout the past 35 years or so.

Flatten the mountains out with a giant rolling-pin, and the country would expand to three or four times its size. Crumpled as it is, altitudes vary from sea-level (at Locarno) to 15,215 feet, on the summit of the Dufourspitze, the highest peak in the Swiss Alps. In between, you can choose your climate, from mellow Mediterranean to frozen Arctic. Why, in the course of an afternoon you can travel backward through the seasons, as it were, from summer back to spring and thence to eternal winter, by going for a ride on the steep mountain railway that ascends the Jungfrau.

And the people who inhabit this country are just as varied. In the West they speak French and are Gallic in ethnicity, i.e. features, character, temperament, and culture. The conductor on the eastbound train from Geneva or Lausanne starts by saying "Tous les billets, s'il vous plaît!" when he asks for the tickets; by the time the train reaches Berne, he has switched to German and calls "Alle Billete, bitte!"

For we have meanwhile passed the language frontier and entered the region where German dialects are spoken -- a slightly different one in each region. The "frontier zone" is only a few miles wide, and it remains a mystery why, despite many generations of federal government and intermarriage, there has been so little blending and merging of the various ethnic elements, all over the country.

But that is just another of the characteristic features of Switzerland. The twenty-five Cantons or counties making up the Helvetic Confederation enjoy an amazing amount of autonomy; and they are so jealous of their independence within the Swiss family that some of them still officially call themselves republics! Far from attempting to unify the population, the Federal Government takes pains to preserve the natural demographic and ethnic order and thus prevent the creation of discontented -- and therefore troublesome -- minorities. This 'formula' has worked well-nigh perfectly for several centuries.

Right across the country from East to West runs the great Alpine barrier, culminating in the St-Gotthard massif. Strangely enough, the St-Gotthard, though traversed by only a single railway tunnel and a single road, is far less effective as a language barrier than the little stream that divides German-speaking from French-speaking Switzerland. The reason for this is mainly climatic: the Ticino is far sunnier and warmer than the regions north of the Alps. In springtime you may leave Zürich by train in cold fog or rain, run into snow as the train ascends towards Göschenen, the northern end of the nine-mile St-Gotthard tunnel, and emerge ten minutes later at Airolo into a world of bright blue skies and warm, golden sunshine. The urge towards the South is therefore quite natural. Having reached retirement age, thousands of Swiss from the North buy a plot of land in the sunny Ticino and build a house or cottage in which to spend the evening of their years. They take their language and their native habits with them, thus adulterating the true Italianatà of the Ticino, where sunshine and the lovely scenery are practically the only economic assets of the "natives." This "colonization" has been going on for generations, and in some parishes in the Ticino today the German-speaking now outnumber the Italian-speaking original inhabitants manifold.

Of late, too, wealthy Germans have been settling in the Ticino in ever-increasing numbers. Ever more advertisements offering "Building site for sale" and "House for sale in the Ticino" have been appearing in German newspapers as the relatively poor Ticinesi dispose of their coveted though unproductive property at good prices. The attractions of the Ticino are obvious: in addition to the mild climate and beautiful scenery, taxes are comparatively low, and the geographical location is fairly safe, even in the event of another war. It occurred to me that maybe I, too, would like to buy some land there one day, build a cottage, retire to the lovely Ticino and write books. Oh, well -- daydreams"…

The Swiss feel sad as they watch this development; many of the Ticinesi- especially those who themselves have no land to sell -- feel angry. A committee had been formed for the "defense" of Italian-speaking Switzerland, but there is not much that it can do. If the present "invasion" of German-speaking settlers, both Swiss and foreigners, plus wealthy foreigners from other countries continues, it is possible that the Italian language will have become the exception rather than the rule in a few generations.

There are a great many attractions in Switzerland, from ski 'paradises' to excellent cuisine, from the fabulous dairy products to banking advantages, you name it; but perhaps I should stop at this point and let you do your own explorations and discoveries at your leisure. You will find that each place has its story to tell, its celebrities to vaunt; but the overall effect of Switzerland is serene tranquillity, as well as great natural beauty and colorful lifestyles. True, in recent decades many non-European foreigners have somewhat diluted or watered-down traditional Swiss values; but the unique charm of the country remains nevertheless, throughout the years. Therefore, the opening statement of this brief article stands, despite the passage of many turbulent times all over the World.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

A small experiment on chess and intelligence

by Albert Frank

Albert Frank

During a chess tournament in which I recently participated, I asked fifteen grandmasters and international chess masters the following question: "On a chessboard 6 x 6, what is the minimum number of queens required to dominate all squares except those occupied by the queens, and on which squares must they be placed?"

The time allowed to answer the question was 20 minutes.

This problem is not very easy, but not very difficult.

Additionally, "domination problems" occur often in normal chess games.

The result was unexpected: None of the 15 could solve it.

Once again, this leads to a big question mark with regard to the correlation between "intelligence" and strength at chess.

The comment of some masters was “this is not real chess”. But the same masters are very strong at solving “retro analysis” problems, which are very difficult, but are certainly “not real chess”.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The defeat of desire

Maria Claudia Faverio headshot by Maria Claudia Faverio

The epic of desire
has faded to a faint
utterance,
a confusion of syllables
unable to join
into trickery of words.

Speaking their parts
as in a trance of thought,
the personae of life
stand on the stage
and stare,
waiting for the grand finale
that doesn’t come.

They are tired.
They are not in search
of an author,
but of a prompter.
They don’t remember the words,
they don’t know why
they are dressed as Pierrots,
make-up blurred
by real tears
and sweats of life
and fiction
and life again.

But the prompter
doesn’t speak the word,
and they ramble on
like drunken sailors,
laughing at themselves
in the tacit hysteria
of despair.

And the grand finale doesn’t come.
Not even a shabby finale.
The perfection of the circle
is the consummation
of sufferance,
the consumption of hope.
The prompter is dead
as the personae.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Zen Atheist Cat's Got My Tongue

"If the facts prove Buddhist tenets are wrong, the tenets will have to be changed."
—The Dalai Lama

. Sean J. Vaughan headshot by Sean J. Vaughan

I have gotten swept up in the new Atheism wave. And yet I remain Zen Buddhist. Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" has outspokenly helped put Athesism back into the global consciousness where it needs to be. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Dan Barker and others are respectfully and reasonably showing the merits and logic of embracing atheism. And I love it! I'm enthused!

However, I have had a deep challenge figuring out whether I can remain Zen Buddhist and at the same time embrace my Atheist roots and understanding. Something as serious as religion best not be taken on faith.

I'm tired of trying to justify the great zen master saying that the cat burgler made the tofu rise to the top of the pot with its mind bullets. (The story: tofu was being stolen, the zen master meditated all night next to the tofu pot, a cat watched the pot until tofu rose to the top, the cat ate the tofu). Sure, the cat indirectly showed the zen master the enlightening fact that the water/tofu temperature inversion can cause tofu to rise in water. But if you don't grasp this temperature inversion, you're not listening to the cat, Mister Master.

And, I'm sorry but there is not a hungry ghost in the plumbing. I don't mind cleaning every speck of food out of my bowl, believe my 250 pounds. But don't tell me any remaining specks going down the rinse are going to choke a hungry ghost.

And as for the zen master enlightening a general by making a river run backwards: THAT'S quite a Mystery Spot. Don't make me go crazy trying to justify craziness.

Many might find me a bit childish for taking the stories so literally. Can I no longer even enjoy secular art, movies, books and such? Well, I usually enjoy those things. I guess giving up all fiction in pursuit of truth might be more difficult than going along with, gasp, faith. Maybe I just need to lighten up. The Middle Path and all. Honestly, though, nobody had a smirk on their face when they told me about the hungry ghosts. What I need, then, is some clear indicator for the important stories. From what I can tell, they're all basically jumbled together.

Good, there is an indicator. When it comes to stories and beliefs, science comes first and the rest come second, or not at all. Our words are not the realities they point to. At the same time, humans have a very basic sense for learning about reality through storytelling and metaphor. This sense is quite possibly more intuitive and refined than our sense of reason at this point in our evolution. Through storytelling, religion can provide an artistic and intuitive way of understanding complex reality just like learning about ourselves by watching a good movie. And, these stories can help us until we need to understand the more complex scientific foundations behind the stories or, more directly, reality itself.

Just don't lead me to believe the foundations are an old white-bearded man out there everywhere pulling the string theories. Or that there's a big bad boogie man (not a God, mind you!) that wants me to do his brand of evil so he can torment my soul for the rest of eternity. Or that cat huffing is imbibing the flying spaghetti monster's body. Or that legendary zen masters could make rivers flow backwards before our eyes. Puh-leez.

I discussed my personal zen athiest dilemma with the abbot of my zen center and he didn't banish me. Phew, what a relief. He noted that zen comes before God, before Atheism, before Buddhism, before words. HUT! Just this. Clean perception mirror. Oh, yeah!

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