DAY 12

December 9th, 2012 § 0 comments

Hogarth: Gin Lane

Today I heard news of Simon Pickvance’s death. I worked briefly with Simon on Radical Science Journal in the seventies – I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d never heard of him. However, I’m dedicating today’s issue to his memory – particularly because, while dying from incurable mesothelioma, he launched an attack on the HSE in the trade union journal Hazards, for their cavalier way with the figures on occupational cancer. This connects what should be essential preoccupations for all of us: health and safety at work, honest reporting, and the enforcement e.g. by Europe of minimum legal requirements on management (or ‘red tape’ as sections of the press choose to call it). Simon did a fine job of exposing the figures. I’m sorry he was one of them.

This blog has been running into  a couple of problems lately. Number one, the author (we call him ‘Admin’) is supposed to be submitting a book proposal – I may have mentioned it before, as well as trailing some of my ideas about drones, banking and so on.  But frankly, I find it’s more absorbing to write the blog.

An outside-the-box (as they say) approach to the problem suggest itself: to carry on with the book proposal and insert into the blog. Then my many readers can look at the proposal, point out its inadequacies, and help me sharpen it before I send it off to the publishers. Don’t worry – that’s not all I mean to write about. (Did I tell you I saw Twilight lately? I found it frankly hard to believe the basic premises, but I suppose the same could be said for Hamlet.)

Anyway Admin’s other problem is that he acquired a stabbing pain in the neck (ha ha) last night, which more or less immobilized him and led to much screaming and weeping. The doctor, who responded promptly next morning, quickly identified the problem as arising from a muscle which had gone into spasm, as it often does when one spends long hours at the laptop e.g. wittering on over blogs. He recommended some exercises, and yoga to cure a terminal case of bad posture. Stay tuned for reports on this cure, if you can maintain your interest. At least no money has flowed into the coffers of the giant pharmaceuticals, or ‘Bad Pharma‘ as it’s called (another item for my catalogue of science/neoliberalism tie-ins)

So, to whet your interest, here is the beginning of a description of my proposed book – details of the audience, length, why essential, etc. will follow, but not necessarily tomorrow.

Book on mathematics and capitalism by Luke Hodgkin: draft proposal

Provisional title: ’Mathematics, Money, Drugs, and War: the precise structure of domination in today’s world.’

Statement of aims: To demonstrate: a) how mathematics, with its claim to exact results, has become a central instrument of control; b) the problematical nature of its ‘exactness’, and how its failures are masked. This is done by a series of case studies in particular areas of application.

Why it is needed: There is enormous ignorance about the importance of mathematics – as opposed to technology – in the world today. I am not speaking of the obvious, all-pervasive internet, but of a number of techniques which – because no one really knows about them – have become completely dependent on mathematics for their successful operation. I could refer to banking, but a more interesting example is the use of drones in warfare, Mathematics is used to design how they work, and to prove that their workings are effective – and in particular to deny the existence of civilian casualties.

It is my aim to uncover a number of places where mathematics is crucial in the present-day power régime, and to encourage readers to look for others.

[It now occurs to me that you, readers, will find it difficult to make the successive bits of this proposal into a connected narrative. Perhaps we'll have to publish them as a 'page' as well - I don't know what the protocol is on this, but one thinks of Dickens and his instalments.]

Which is unrelated to today’s poem – H.D.’s ‘Cities’ (I didn’t know it, but I’m unfamiliar with most of her poems, and the long ones are difficult to deal with)

Cities

Can we believe — by an effort
comfort our hearts:
it is not waste all this,
not placed here in disgust,
street after street,
each patterned alike,
no grace to lighten
a single house of the hundred
crowded into one garden-space.

Crowded — can we believe,
not in utter disgust,
in ironical play –
but the maker of cities grew faint
with the beauty of temple
and space before temple,
arch upon perfect arch,
of pillars and corridors that led out
to strange court-yards and porches
where sun-light stamped
hyacinth-shadows
black on the pavement.

That the maker of cities grew faint
with the splendour of palaces,
paused while the incense-flowers
from the incense-trees
dropped on the marble-walk,
thought anew, fashioned this –
street after street alike.

For alas,
he had crowded the city so full
that men could not grasp beauty,
beauty was over them,
through them, about them,
no crevice unpacked with the honey,
rare, measureless.

So he built a new city,
ah can we believe, not ironically
but for new splendour
constructed new people
to lift through slow growth
to a beauty unrivalled yet –
and created new cells,
hideous first, hideous now –
spread larve across them,
not honey but seething life.

And in these dark cells,
packed street after street,
souls live, hideous yet –
O disfigured, defaced,
with no trace of the beauty
men once held so light.

Can we think a few old cells
were left — we are left –
grains of honey,
old dust of stray pollen
dull on our torn wings,
we are left to recall the old streets?

Is our task the less sweet
that the larve still sleep in their cells?
Or crawl out to attack our frail strength:
You are useless. We live.
We await great events.
We are spread through this earth.
We protect our strong race.
You are useless.
Your cell takes the place
of our young future strength.

Though they sleep or wake to torment
and wish to displace our old cells –
thin rare gold –
that their larve grow fat –
is our task the less sweet?

Though we wander about,
find no honey of flowers in this waste,
is our task the less sweet –
who recall the old splendour,
await the new beauty of cities?

The city is peopled
with spirits, not ghosts, O my love:

Though they crowded between
and usurped the kiss of my mouth
their breath was your gift,
their beauty, your life.

 

Song: the unforgettable Jeanne Moreau in ‘Le tourbillon‘, from Jules et Jim. ‘L’alcool fait oublier le temps’ (?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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