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In 1967 the renoun(c)ed Martin Seligman discovered that he could induce what he called “learned helpnessness” by administering painful electric shock treatments to dogs restrained by harnesses, until they no longer showed  signs of attempting to avoid the shock, even after the harnesses were removed. That is, the state of “learned helplessness” would occur when the dogs were shocked (from an electric floor) without harnesses , and rather than try to escape, “simply lay down passively and whined.”

Later, these same techniques were adopted by the CIA and are reported to have been used at Guantanamo bay and other sites in order to improve interrogation ‘effectiveness’:


Ode To Nothing

Amidst withered ears in the field, which whisper cussing into wind,

Massacred masses, forsaken, sacred,

Through with feeling someone else’s fear,

Plot together of love or mourning.

Wretched, steeped in the foul stench of soil and air, and then it does not rain.

Nothingness sucks out vespers like snakes swallowing other tales from their own,

Unable to retch, to reverse the tract because of course,

This time is already backwards.

When emit-ted, the forbidden tongues lick emptiness burnt out of the hollow night above the rotting field.

There, their silence ends all beginnings.

As they must, the wet smells rise, sweet stench, putrid, ambrosial shit, snot-salve and gruel.

In the distance, the pine trees wait for bodies of harts to lie at their roots.

Their seduction seeps out like wild hair or a murder of ravens,

Spreading invisibly into the blackest of nights, bearing abyss

Through out each eye like a black tear.

Was ist animal auf Deutsche? Nichts. Tier.

The swallows drop their gullets to the white cut of the moon in the sky.

The ravens caw through, over and into the fields, the soil, shorn against the dying corn.

Somewhere a laborer wrenches the left ear off the head of a sow,

Slipping it from his fist onto the ground, and crushing

It into the blood with the sole of his leather boot,

To break her will, and cow her

Toward dis-

Assembly, the kill-floor, a rent jugular, the blood-pit, the line.

The ghosts speak like a bucket of severed ears, emptied on the table,

A colonel or lieutenant eating them

As many years as lumps of cleaved flesh,

Cloven hooves.

Here, the husks peel back layers of themselves to speak into shells cleaving to

The sides of your head in ruin

‘Abandon   All   Hope’

The stalks cast their own worn, weather-eaten ears

Toward the wasteland beneath;

The curses of which passeth all understanding.

van g

van Gogh, The Ox-Cart (1884)

Woolf’s biography of a nineteenth century canine companion to an upper class ‘in-valid’ is currently blowing (through) my mind.

“Why, Miss Barrett wondered, did Flush tremble suddenly, and whimper and start and listen? She could hear nothing; she could see nothing; there was nobody in the room with them.” (36)

“He could smell nothing; he could hear nothing. There was nobody in the room with them. The fact was that they could not communicate with words, and it was a fact that led undoubtedly to much misunderstanding. Yet did it not lead also to a peculiar intimacy? [. . . ] After all, she may have thought, do words say everything? Can words say anything? Do not words destroy the symbol that lies beyond the reach of words?” (37)

Language must be raked, the secrets of slaughter-houses and infamous holes that cannot front the day, must be ransacked, to tell what negro-slavery has been.

from: Emerson, Ralph Waldo., Joel Myerson, and Len Gougeon. Emerson’s Antislavery Writings. New Haven: Yale UP, 2002.

Boss: “What is the soup today? Seafood bisque?”

Me: “It’s notseafood bisque”

‘I wrote a story of the Resurrection, where Jesus gets up and feels very sick bout everything, and can’t stand the old crowd any more – so cuts out – and as he heals up, he begins to find what an astonishing place the phenomenal world is, far more marvellous than any salvation or heaven – and thanks his stars he needn’t have a mission any more.’

What is man
If the chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more.

The Phoenix and the Turtle

Let the bird of loudest lay,
On the sole Arabian tree,
Herald sad and trumpet be,
To whose sound chaste wings obey.

But thou, shriking harbinger,
Foul pre-currer of the fiend,
Augur of the fever’s end,
To this troop come thou not near.

From this session interdict
Every fowl of tyrant wing,
Save the eagle, feather’d king:
Keep the obsequy so strict.

Let the priest in surplice white,
That defunctive music can,
Be the death-divining swan,
Lest the requiem lack his right.

And thou, treble-dated crow,
That thy sable gender mak’st
With the breath thou giv’st and tak’st,
‘Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.

Here the anthem doth commence:
Love and constancy is dead;
Phoenix and the turtle fled
In a mutual flame from hence.

So they lov’d, as love in twain
Had the essence but in one;
Two distincts, division none:
Number there in love was slain.

Hearts remote, yet not asunder;
Distance, and no space was seen
‘Twixt the turtle and his queen;
But in them it were a wonder.

So between them love did shine,
That the turtle saw his right
Flaming in the phoenix’ sight:
Either was the other’s mine.

Property was thus appall’d,
That the self was not the same;
Single nature’s double name
Neither two nor one was call’d.

Reason, in itself confounded,
Saw division grow together;
To themselves yet either-neither,
Simple were so well compounded

That it cried how true a twain
Seemeth this concordant one!
Love hath reason, reason none
If what parts can so remain.

Whereupon it made this threne
To the phoenix and the dove,
Co-supreme and stars of love;
As chorus to their tragic scene.


Beauty, truth, and rarity.
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclos’d in cinders lie.

Death is now the phoenix’ nest;
And the turtle’s loyal breast
To eternity doth rest,

Leaving no posterity:–
‘Twas not their infirmity,
It was married chastity.

Truth may seem, but cannot be:
Beauty brag, but ’tis not she;
Truth and beauty buried be.

To this urn let those repair
That are either true or fair;
For these dead birds sigh a prayer.

C.f. Keats’ Truth and Beauty poem:




Ode to a Nightingale

MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains  
  My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,  
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains  
  One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:  
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,          5
  But being too happy in thine happiness,  
    That thou, light-wingèd Dryad of the trees,  
          In some melodious plot  
  Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,  
    Singest of summer in full-throated ease.   10
O for a draught of vintage! that hath been  
  Cool’d a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,  
Tasting of Flora and the country-green,  
  Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!  
O for a beaker full of the warm South!   15
  Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,  
    With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,  
          And purple-stainèd mouth;  
  That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,  
    And with thee fade away into the forest dim:   20
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget  
  What thou among the leaves hast never known,  
The weariness, the fever, and the fret  
  Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;  
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,   25
  Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;  
    Where but to think is to be full of sorrow  
          And leaden-eyed despairs;  
  Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,  
    Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.   30
Away! away! for I will fly to thee,  
  Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,  
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,  
  Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:  
Already with thee! tender is the night,   35
  And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,  
    Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays  
          But here there is no light,  
  Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown  
    Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.   40
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,  
  Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,  
But, in embalmèd darkness, guess each sweet  
  Wherewith the seasonable month endows  
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;   45
  White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;  
    Fast-fading violets cover’d up in leaves;  
          And mid-May’s eldest child,  
  The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,  
    The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.   50
Darkling I listen; and, for many a time  
  I have been half in love with easeful Death,  
Call’d him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,  
  To take into the air my quiet breath;  
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,   55
  To cease upon the midnight with no pain,  
    While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad  
          In such an ecstasy!  
  Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—  
    To thy high requiem become a sod.   60
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!  
  No hungry generations tread thee down;  
The voice I hear this passing night was heard  
  In ancient days by emperor and clown:  
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path   65
  Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,  
    She stood in tears amid the alien corn;  
          The same that ofttimes hath  
  Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam  
    Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.   70
Forlorn! the very word is like a bell  
  To toll me back from thee to my sole self!  
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well  
  As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.  
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades   75
  Past the near meadows, over the still stream,  
    Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep  
          In the next valley-glades:  
  Was it a vision, or a waking dream?  
    Fled is that music:—do I wake or sleep?


c.f. Ovid’s Nightingale Poem:

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