Saturday, December 31, 2005

Hellzapoppy New Yiels

May 2006 provide you all a big step forward.
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A happy Kin 2, year of the Yellow Cosmic Seed according to the 13 moon calendar
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According to Wikipedia's list of calendars or Calendrical calculations:

  • 18th december 2005 according to the Julian calendar
  • Decade II, primidi 11 nivôse 214 for the french republican calendar
  • Yom shabbat 30 kislev 5766 for the jewish calendar
  • 30 yaum as-sabt 1426 for the muslim calendar
  • First day of sharaf according to the Baha'i
  • 2005-W52-6 for the ISO 8601
  • 1135987200 Unix time value
  • Ante diem XV Kalends January, 2006 C.E. for the Romans

  • Shanbeh 10 DEy 1384 for the Persians
  • 14 Pachon 2754 for the Egyptians
  • Shabath 9 arach 1459 for the Armenians
  • Psabbaton 22 Klyahk 1722 for the Copts
  • Kidamme 22 Takhass 1998 for the Ethiopians
  • Sanivara 30 margasirsha 2062 for the Hindis
  • Menga Beteng Jaya Paing Was Saniscara Kala Ogan Dewa for the Balinese
  • 12 baktun.19katun.12tun.16uinal.13kin for the Mayan
  • 31 Zeus in the Poundian calendar
  • 73 Realpolitik for the Illuminati
  • Setting Orange, The Aftermath 73, Year of Our Lady of Discord 3171 according to the Discordian calendar
  • Mardi 3 décervelage 133 de l'Ere Pataphysique according to the calendrier perpétuel.

I'm totally indebted to Robert Anton Wilson's How to live Eleven Days in 24 hours. If you're still convinced there is only one time continuum, you really should epiphanize in confusion and read it!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Links 001 - Pataphysics: individuals.

Exploits and Opinions through a land of bookmarks

Third part of pataphysical links, this time dealing with individuals with a 'pataphysical lifestyle and a website.

001-02. Individuals.
  • 'Joan was quizzical, studied pataphysical science in the home ..’
    Maxwell’s Silver Hammer - Paul McCartney

Andrew Hugill

studies Nouvelles Impressions d'Afrique, Cantos not by Pound, but by french patacessor and pre-surrealist Raymond Roussel. Another page,The imaginary Music Studies I found the most thrilling, with losts of references to books and websites and illustrations of extremely bizarre music instruments. A must.

Andrew Hugill (b.1957) is a composer, writer and Professor of Music at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. Hugill has also composed pieces inspired by the writings of Jean-Pierre Brisset: Les Origines humaines (1996), a large-scale choral work for 36 unaccompanied voices, commissioned by the Elysian Singers; Brisset Rhymes (1990) for soprano and early instruments, broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in 1993; Catalogue de Grenouilles (1988) for massed frog recordings and George W. Welch, first broadcast in 1991. Aside from Brisset, Hugill has worked on other aspects of French surrealist and pataphysical literature and is an occasional translator and editor for Atlas Press. he has been a member of the collège de 'Pataphysique for 20 years.

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I've got the book "L'Afrique des impressions" by Jean Ferry, satrape, published by the collège in 90 E.P., analyzing Roussel's bizarre masterpieces Impressions of Africa and New impressions of Africa.

Cal Clement's pataphysics and my own stories

I didn't now mr Clements, but the stories from this nomadic thinker are worth reading. This site includes the dirkgentlyesque stories of "a certain detective named Ptarmigan who uses gnus rather than clues to apprehend lawlessness. A gnu is less solid than a clue--and it gets stickier the more it dries. Ptarmigan pours them generously along all the dimensions of the case and then squeezes the planes together until they hold." Also charts listing 28 emotions, yoga, art cases with freaky teddybears and the nine laws of bohemia. A serious case of themersonite with traces of flann-o-briania, but above all an individual I can very much relate to.

Apart from his collected writings online, he also publishes the paper magazine 'Pataphysica' which seems a very good idea. From the description of n° 2: Image hosted by

"In the great tradition of Nicolas Flamel and Fulcanelli, the immortal Dr. Faustroll returns to introduce this collection of writings on alchemy, that "secret science" no less mystifying and marvelous than our own art and science, pataphysics. Opening this anthology is Part 1 of Alfred Jarry's delightful last novel, La Dragonne (1907), translated from the French as The She-Dragon, and annotated to highlight some of Jarry's many alchemical allusions."

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André Joyce Fanclub

Apart from some very strange pages from a "Franco-American mathematician-cum-creative-writer who coined such words as "oogol" and "dibious"", this site gives a good overview of pataphysics, Oulipo with lots of other resources (Dom De lillo, Ballard, Kosinski…), wacky metamathematics, Jarry's 'How to Construct a Time Machine' and a 'pataphysical calender. "It "rests on the truth of contradictions and exceptions" (Shattuck), on the Law of the Equivalence of Opposites, (in Polish notation: KCpNpCNpp.) Opposites neither cancel each other out nor exist statistically as contraries. A postulate proved by Goedel. Nor are their differences resolved in a dialectical analysis. Rather, they shuttle back, forth, and around in an open-ended spiral. (gidouille)."

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André Martel

He used to be Dubuffet's secretary before inventing an own language, the 'paralloïdre' which he used to write several books. Probably the most elaborate french-speaking author of Joycean inspiration. I already mentioned him in the Conlang post.

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Lothaire Liogieri

Probably a pseudonym for Claude Ognois, this constantly expanding huge site called 'Philosophie pataphysique - Gestes des opinions du docteur Lothaire Liogieri' seems to me to house some of the most amazing pataphysical contemporary texts. The erudition here reaches levels In seldom dicoverde on the net.

The site is only in French, I found the free web translator Freetranslator did a rather good job, bringing up an English at least as bad as I do, but a way for the linguistic impaired to grasp some perls.

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Vincent Puente

This fanzine artist publsihed some very strange books at Le Paréiasaure Théromorphe, my favourite bizarre smallhouse editor. His publications? 'Portraits Anarpatagraphiques'; 'Souvenirs, gestes et opinions de quelques iconoclastes'; 'De la Fourchette au Pied'; 'Ubu et la manivelle à rien'; 'Edmond Réaliste un savant dans son siècle'. At les Editions des Cendres he published 'Catalogue d'une très riche mais peu nombreuse collection de livres provenant de la bibliothèque de feu M. le comte Fortsas'. A true master of miterary lystifications.

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Eric Heilmann

Probably the most prolific fanzine creator (under the alias 'Hilare Moderne') and collector in france, he developped the science of pansemiotics which has a very pataphysical twist.

In pansemiotics, language is ripped open in its components, meaningful anagrams are produced in a way Jean-Pierre Brisset would have liked, similar sounding words are associated in the same way Raymond Roussel wrote some of his texts.

Pansemiotics evolved into something quite strange, either a magnificent hoax or the Nth new age fad I couldn't make out. There is a 'Association française de pansémiotique' which seems only half serious: "Everything in the universe is a sign which the unconscious loads with meaning and sends further to the consciousness". I would like to think they're 'deadpan' seriously playing but wouldn't bet on it. As said on this site in an uncomprehensible scientyslang: "The sign, its object and its interpretant are universal categories, which existed (eventually in degenerate form) even before the origin of life. The pansemiotic thesis may be read as a version of panpsychism; the idea that matter is effete mind, or that the qualities of experience, sensation, pain or feeling come in degrees, and that even inorganic systems may have, eventually to very small degrees, such qualities." Yucchhhhh. Where's my horse.

On the other hand, the bizarre obsession of Heilmann to see stylized representations of Mickey Mouse everywhere returns in books of painter Lafcadio Mortimer aka mail-artist Daniel Daligand aka Stéphane Chaumet, who is mentioned on this (fucking ugly) site. There was a magazine called 'PAN c'est myotique' whose covers reminds me of the Annals of Improbable Research, Marc Abrahams' magazine which examines exceptional situations in a scientifical manner - one of the definitions of 'pataphysics.

I've got some of Heilmann's old zines somewhere, if I find them between my tons of books I'll scan some pages here.

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The Optimate's corner.

Below the websites of some famous satrapes and other high dignitaries of the collège..

Stefan & Franciszka Themerson

Polish writers, artists, film makers and publishers. Their own Gaberbocchus Press published some of the greatest patabooks in English. I can't say enough good about Stefan Themerson. His writings opened my mind as much as Robert Anton Wilson's did. And that's a lot.

From the publisher's site, these descriptions of some of his books: Image hosted by

"The adventures of Peddy Bottom, 2002

Peddy Bottom knew he was Peddy Bottom. But humans thought there was something doggy about Peddy, while dogs thought there was something human about him.

"You're the world minus the-world-minus-you. Didn’t you know that?".

Bayamus, 1965

Bayamus recounts the adventures of a self-proclaimed mutant with three legs (one is attached to a roller skate) and his efforts to propagate a new species; it includes an instructive visit to the ‘Theatre of Semantic Poetry’

Cardinal Pölätüo, 1965

Cardinal Pölätüo is the biography of Guillaume Appollinaire’s anonymous father, who turns out to be an ecclesiastic with a murderous interest in modernist poetry, a faith based on science, and a dreamlife so frankly obscene that only a dictionary of Freudian symbols can explain its innocence.

The Mystery of the Sardine, 1986

A Great Man of Letters, a child genius, two dancing ladies, the Minister of Imponderabilia, Captain Casanova - to say nothing of the black poodle or the sardine.

Professor Mmaa’s Lecture, 1953

Life in a termite colony is described in terms that we quickly identify as contemporary: we are plunged into the struggle of the individual against a stultifying social order for a few crumbs of integrity, a few simple pleasures. Preface by Bertrand Russell.

Another book "Special Branch" is disguised as a crime novel in dialog form but deals with complex philosophical problems. The one book of his that rocked my world though is called 'Logic, labels, and flesh' which I would recommend to anyone that wants to learn how to think. Unhappily totally out of print in English nowadays (I read it in Dutch).

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I did write a bit enthousiastically about this book back in January in the Quantum Psychology course on MLA:

My (Dutch) copy of "Logic, Labels and Flesh" is a bundle of ten essays. I'll do my best to resume the first one which bears the same title. Not only seems it pointless to retranslate a Dutch translation of an English text, but Themersons writing can be considered so dense that any summary becomes longer than the original… a bit like Borges’ texts really. On with the pointless:

1. Filosofia is considered as the greek mother of the muses. At first dealing with almost everything, when her daughters left her, she was freed and delt only with herself anymore. Though her name 'love of knowledge' would be more precisely called 'love of knowledge of love of knowledge'. Themerson asks himself if she guards all concepts: who is the guardian of her own concepts?

2. His first answer would be what he at first calls 'Naive realism': the belief of the common people that objects exist independently from our perception. According to him it is only naive to believe that things 'are' what we percieve of them, but it is not naive to know that this is what we perceive consciously. He thus differentiates existence, a matter of belief (faith); and consciousness, a matter of knowledge, defined as a starting point to percieve or to think about anything. Most people seem to confuse the existential with the conscious. Also, in his opinion, 'consciousness' should act as a verb linking subject and object; only then has it any meaning (he compares it to the square root of minus one, meaningless taken alone but very much useable as an operator in mathematics). To 'consciousize' something, similar but not equal to the verb 'to realize', not only as a way to express its differentiation in one's mind, but also its invention in one's symbolic realm.

Themerson then differentiates realism based on faith (existential) and one based on knowledge (consciousness). [This seems to me a very different way of categorizing reality as is done with the terms “Emic” and “Etic”. There could be parallels in that emic reality could be regarded as something that passed through the filter of dogmas, and etic as the first impact of reality on the senses, the primal way of differentiation - and invention in this perspective seems closer to emic.]

The realism that interests him most, the conscious, can be approached in several ways. One is common sense (as: common to all the senses. But also, as common to mosbunall's perception - which I'd call consensus reality). Another term is 'healthy intelligence', coined by Leon Chwistek , which goes a bit further and needs a logical apparatus freed from emotions. The last one is defined negatively: the 'mens sana' could be regarded in the same way as doctors would evaluate 'corpore sana'as that which is left after eliminating all possible diseases and injuries. The ‘mens sana’ is not under any influence nor deranged, free from prejudice or emotions.

3. Many philosophers, artists and religious figures seem to be eliminated by this last idea, and indeed, according to Themerson, many faiths, philosophies and poetry feel intellectually obscene, comparable to crime; as the man who shot his father: he may be an excellent shooter, it doesn't necessarily make him a decent human being. There is no conflict between ‘real art’ and mens sana, except for whom is blind to the beauty of any of them.

Perception is more than data from the senses. Consciousness is needed. We can 'realize' something that already has a name in a dictionary, or something new, maybe a poem, which becomes itself the words to express that which has been percieved.

4. Walking through town the narrator meets with two slogans: "Man is the tool of his mind" and "Do not adjust your brain. It's reality that is malfunctioning". The narrator agrees: reality is everything that is told of it, all the different maps, all the reality tunnels (Themerson calls this 'coordinates') to which anyone with a clear mind, with 'mens sana', doesn’t need to adjust.

5. The narrator goes to a pub and tells the girl behind the counter he is thinking about thinking. She says that you have always to start thinking about something that exists in consensus reality, that you cannot have a thought about a thought about a thought… One always start a thought with something that is not a thought. When the narrator is told by her she thinks he's mad, the narrator thinks she's right. She tells him to watch his words. He goes to pee, and writes on the wall "the barmaid has mens sana". Another customer comes to pee and says that what really matters is, not how you write something, but how you read it. When the narrator is told he must be mad to write that sentence, he feels insulted. Which makes even more clear to him that the man is right also. His conclusion at this point is, any system can be elaborated as much as you want, if empirical consistency (the barmaid) sees a rectangle where you're trying to show a triangle, the only meaningful thing that can be said is that she says she sees a rectangle. [Which seems to me to corroborate the second Copenhagen interpretation.]

6. Our perception has been separated from nature. Where is the point where a scientist in the course of his research, suddenly looks into the eyes of nature? And if your science has any empirical consistency, what sense is used? Mosbunall researchers would probably answer 'visual', though what they see is not nature anymore but numbers. The apparatus used in empirical examination today only gives back numbers, as opposed to dead birds in a vacuum cell in the past. In the past we always thought a measurement was a part of the object of observation, but now the numbers we attach to it seem more to participate of our mind than of the object of study. In the way they are used, numbers seem to refer to something from the world which doesn't exist out of numbers, and in such are comparable to written or spoken language. Both refer to something outside of their internal logic or grammar.

7. What the barmaid said. There seem to be two problems with philosophy out of language: first of all we must start from something that is no thought (the soil), think about it, and for the sake of empirical consistency control it with other things that are no thought either (the farmer). The second problem consists of the need to watch our words.

Themerson specifies two aspects in the awareness of language: formal and conceptual consistency. Formal consistency has been studied extensively for the last 100 years in the form of logic. We should be rather safe on that part. Conceptual consistency on the other hand has been widely distributed between all kinds of disciplines. Most of the concepts have become meaningless nouns in the shitpool of ideas: free will, authority, race, society… and this, he senses, is the biggest problem of philosophy.

8. Downwards to non-philosophy. The empirical ladder could be considered an essential part of the scaffold supporting the heavenly platform of pure logic; maybe it’s essential for any piece of human understanding to continuously climb up and down this ladder [sounds like Satan’s or Samaël’s burden in the kabbalah to me: climbing up and down Jacob’s ladder to test the lower parts in their ascension to the higher parts]. Some call the climbing down ‘applied logic’. For Themerson, most thinkers don’t go far enough… down, back to the rock on which every thought stands.

9. What Themerson tries to demonstrate is the following:

- It’s best not to leave philosphy in the hands of ideologists

- It is wrong to suggest that the perceptual world has no place in philosophy. We need in the first place to clarify things, not as much as to evaluate them.

10. The difference between Form and Content is imaginary.

- What we percieve with our senses, the raw physical material, has been translated immediately from the moment we percieve. [cfr. etic and emic realities]. Form considered as perception, and content considered as knowledge, seem to be unseparable. As Richard L. Gregory said, “for philosophers the question is whether knowledge exists before perception, but for psychologists whether we can percieve before we learned how to percieve”.

- Imagine a slab of stone of about a ton. A physicist could write down a description of it, a formula like 1000 kg X 9,8 m per second squared. This we could call a form, to which the piece of stone is the content. The physicist could generalize further, to an expression dealing with general gravity. Would this second formula not be the form for which the first one would be the content? A mathematician could “form” it even further. An seemingly infinite chain of forms becoming content to the next form.

-An artist would reverse this process. He would make a sculpture from the stone, so the physical object (the stone) would become form for a new content (e.g. a pieta). This content (the mourning virgin) could be the form to a more general content (the mother with the dead body of her son), itself form to a more metaphysical content. So the order in the artist’s workshop is reversed.

- This seems confusing. To confuse even more, some have considered art in the same way a scientist would describe the world: namely, by considering object with the painting ont, the piece of paper with the poem on it, as the content. We could easily consider some forms of so-called ‘abstract’ art, concrete poetry etc. in this way.

- Other thinkers prefer to consider science similarly to the description of art. Here the percievable ‘thing’ is considered form in which the transcendent, non-percievable higher reality finds its expression.

11. The world of symbols (mathematics) isn’t free from the world. Sometimes new concepts are introduced by scientists and need to be confronted to everyday reality. In this matter, Themerson would prefer not to use the expression”the real existence of a concept”; instead he uses something like “theoretical musings “consciousized” this thing in the physical world” [doesn’t it sound like Von Neumanns quantum Reality, nr. 7: to realize (to grasp, to percieve) is to make some thing real].

The relationship between form and content seem very complex: several mechanisms take plake simutanuously:

- A new content triggers the appearance of a new form.

- Transformations in the surroundings cause new language, with new formal problems.

- New media offer new translations.

- New forms seem to have the inclination to become new contents (eg the political form of democracy became the content for the next political form). To clear things up: when ‘green’ becomes ‘spring’ due to the art of the painter, form becomes new content. When human drama becomes a cartoon, content becomes new form.

The differentiation between form and content in our thinking harms both. [i’d associate this with the ideas of Ames in perception psychology, see—ames_room.html , also a main tool for the SFX in Lord of the Rings]

12. The expression “if no A equals B, and all C’s equal A, then no C equals B” has no meaning in a world where A, B and C are no separate identities. It seems that we all live in such a world… yet our language is based on separated nouns, pointing to related objects in the perceivable world. [Quantum logic? ]

13. Conclusion. There is a no man’s land between form and content, perception and knowledge, axiomatical and ampirical world, syntax and semantics. This is the place where the undefinable consciousness hides, where new wordless thoughts emerge and slowly matures to language.

14. Themerson brings forth a dialog between a father and his little boy about one of Peano’s five postulats that form the very base of mathematics. There seems to be two kinds of languages: the “everyday tongue” and several symbolic systems of signs and rules, which are axiomatical and non-empirical. But in order to communicate there seems to be a point where every information needs to be translated to ‘simple words’ and from there to concrete situations. If the basic concrete situations differ, the maths (the rules of logic) could very well differ entirely. Scientist who forget this are here called ‘naive formalists’, who think they own the “ultimate word”. While in ths story, the little boy owns the ultimate word, using simple language, able to describe anything with it from any other system. But no theoretical discipline has the ability to describe him: this would result in Eubulides’ paradox of the lyer: if A says that B tells the truth, and B says that A lies, a paradox is born. Anyway, many meaningfull words in the simple language have no equivalent whatsoever in any symbolic system. The most obvious word missing in these would be the word ‘I’. And “the way how you explain what any droodle means, takes itself part of its meaning”.

Boris Vian

This literary misunderstood genius (he died at 39 years) was an erudite, open-minded polymorph poet and writer of the legendary Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris. He was an ingeneer by formation and worked for the French standardization institute (AFNOR). Quite a paradox for a pataphysician!

He was also for several years (together with fellow satrapes Jacques Prévert and Raymond Queneau) one of the main pillars of the collège de 'pataphysique. He tried to write in all literary genres possible. As Vernon Sullivan, he wrote some populist books with lots of sex and violence, one of them was filmed and named 'I'll spit on your graves', the American production of which he was left out. He asked for his name to be removed from the titles and bizarrely died watching the movie in a Parisian movie theatre.

Vian was also a famous Jazz collector and expert. He played trumpet himself.Image hosted by

This beautiful site can pleasure French readers, while this one will introduce English ones to vian's writings.

It seems hard to translate this master of words, but I'd suggest trying to find 'Froth on the Daydream' published in 1967 and translated by Stanley Chapman. Other traductions of the same book were called 'Mood Indigo' and 'Foam of the Daze'. This novel is a masterpiece, although the simple description doesn't give it the honour it deserves: "This is a tale of two couples: Colin, a rich and rather superfluous man, and Chloe, a woman dying from a lily growing in her lung; Chick, whose life is ruined by his collecting of Jean-Sol Partre's books and memorabilia, and Alise, who tries to save Chick from himself by murdering Partre. As the lily grows in Chloe's lung, Colin does all he can to keep her alive. But her bed sinks closer to the ground and the room grows ever smaller. Because Colin has no money left to pay for burial, Chloe's coffin is simply thrown out the window."

In Vian's world paradoxes are everywhere. Nothing may be taken for granted. "The story is completely true, since I imagined it completely"

Boris Vian

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Dario Fo

The Italian jester, playwright, director, stage and costume designer and sometimes music composer got the nobel prize of litterature in 1997. In his biography you can read that he strangely was conscripted to the Salo republic (of Pasolini fame) during WW2 before managing to escape. He would be an anarchist ever after ('Accidental Death of an Anarchist' is probably his most famous play). I saw a medieval monologue of his once with excellent flemish actor Jan Decleir but can't remeber the name. There where rivers of shit flowing through the whole storytelling, that I can remember…

Dario Fo is a satrape of the collège and recently entered politics in Milan.

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Fernando Arrabal

Sadly I dare say I've never read much from this master chess player, playwright, writer, poet, painter, in short multiple artist. You can muse around on his excellent website though. Today in his seventies, Arrabal is the leading figure in the corps des Satrapes of the collège.

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Other famous satrapes of the collège include Jacques Prévert, Marcel Duchamp, Eugène Ionesco, Man Ray, Max Ernst, M.C. Esscher, Umberto Eco, Jean Baudrillard. Their fame needs no introduction.

More people are creatively active in pataphysics, more precisely in Ou-X-Po (Ouvroir de … potentiel) with its literary flagship OuLiPo. More on those (Raymond Queneau, Georges Perec, Italo Calvino etc.) later on.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Doity woids

Some words seem to possess a certain materiality to some people. Some of them are considered dirty, as if covered with slime, festering from all its smelly orifices, smelling horribly.
Often an education with many rules and taboos will have a bigger impact on the sensitivity to certain expressions.
I find recurring words appallingly dirty. Words used over and over again, hollowed, having lost mosbunall relationship to their etymologies. Opened up, gutted, slashed open with the blunt instrument of stupidity, clichéed beyond recognition, swollen horribly by truisms, left aside the road of language waiting to be picked up and thrown out of the vehicle of reason over and over… Words like democracy, energy, people, spirituality, good, bad, intense, belief, fantastic… used, misused and abused by the same people lacking any feeling of basic thought decency. To me those are the true 'dirty words', like thorned rags thrown away and worn again. Words like 'shit' and 'fuck' seem only dirty to me precisely because they lost their ties with defecation and fornication, two perfectly natural activities.
Words without volume are the pornography of the language.

A fresh living language is freed from any form of censorship. I especially appreciated Gershon Legman's studies on curses and verbal agression. Part of those can be found at Maledicta Press. with lots of texts by Reinhold Aman too.
They threw Mike Dianna in jail… and then they started Desert Storm.

Don't get me wrong. When obscenity becomes an obsession, when abusive language is abused, the same boredom takes over in the abuse of words as it seems the case with puritan do-gooders.
Freedom and open mind should always pervail.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Paranoia-criticism in the afterlife

Which of the following statements does seem probable to you?

1. For the Inuit, after death the gigantic walrus Tornasuk comes stealing the souls with his body full of suction cups.

2. For the Samoans, the soul of those who die in a bath tub are taken by a white rabbit eating its own head.

3. The Aztecs helped the deceased on their after-life travel by sacrifying either a lama, a servant or a midget. If the living heart of a midget was ripped of, the soul was assured to reach Tonatiouchican, the place of annihilation.

4. For the Hindous, an atman (individual soul) who takes the lunar path but still wants to return to life, starts having erotic dreams of a man and a woman, who embarassingly become his father and mother after its reincarnation.

I Just finished reading "Guide de l'au-delà" by pataphysician Ornella Volta (Balland, 1972) concerning the different cosmogonies of the afterlife. It's like a catalog explaining what you need to know and do if you choose a certain death. Illustrations were by french SF comic artist Philippe Druillet (who recently became JK Rowling's fiancé!)
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Hint: one of the statements above is just plain gonzo.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Maybe Quarterly Volume 2, Issue 4

The new Maybe Quarterly has just hit the net. In its second year, the Thule edition would prove a huge volume on your bookshelf.
Yours truly managed to send a piece about 'patakabbal, a new science that needed to be invented. Also included amongst others are "Karmic Economics" by Zen Punkist, "Falling on Deaf Ears" (an excellent text (Bogusmagus) and drawings (Bobby) concerning our previous course 'Tale of the Tribe' ) and "Creation of the Magickal Motto" by Kent.
You can check out older issues as well. It should give an idea to those who haven't got a clue what the hellzapoppin' MLA forum is all about. And why tea is important.
A merry Saturnalia, Yule, Chaomas, Dosmoche, Yong Zi, Hari Kuyo, Chanukah…
More about the winter solstice at the excellent Mything Links.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Conlang - Joyce as she is spoke.

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James Joyce by belgian artist Ever Meulen.

I'm reading a little French book called 'Le Phalanstère des langages excentriques' by Stéphane Mahieu published this year by Ginkgo éditeur. This little gem deals with different invented languages, but it doesn't stop with the obvious esperanto, interlingua or volapük.

For an overview of resources on constructed languages, see this wikipedia portal or the excellent site Conlangs, which also lists a collection of new alphabets and of english neologisms (John Lloyd& Douglas Adams' Meaning of Liff is in it and much more). Also of importance for neo-languages: the site offers a generous amount of resources.

  • Zamenhof first thought of esperanto in 1887 as a way to stop the hate between the four communities in his native town Byalistof, where people spoke Russian, Polish, Hebrew and German.
  • Volapük, created in 1879 by Johann Martin Schleyer seems a strange combination of different european languages, mixed up in such a complicated a way that it seems impossible for any european to find any relationship with its own language. Log means eye, Yulop means Europa, badik means bad… A prayer frightingly sounds like some Lovecraftian incantation: "O Fat obas, kel binol in süls, paisaludomöz nem ola! Kömomöd monargän ola! Jenomöz vil olik, äs in sül, i su tal! Bodi obsik vädeliki govolös obes adelo! E pardolös obes debis obsik, äs id obs aipardobs debeles obas. E no obis nindukolös in tendadi; sod aidalivolös obis de bas. Jenosöd!" (Ia‘! Ia‘!)
  • Basic-English was created in 1930 by C.K. Ogden according to whom a vocabulary of 850 words would suffice instead of the 25,000 proposed by the Oxford Pocket English Dictionary. Masochists can read the bloody rape of Gulliver or (more fun) of the bible. Kinda like Orwell's newspeak, Ogden's invention partakes in a long tradition of utilitarianism which started with Jeremy Bentham.
  • Interlingua was created in 1951 as the common ground between all the roman languages, and as such seems fairly easy to use for all french, italian, spanish-speaking people, but yet another difficult tongue for all the others. The same International Auxiliary Language association also invented Ido in 1907 as a reaction to esperanto.

It's a long way since Hildegard von Bingen invented Lingua Ignota in the 12th century!

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The alphabet of Hildegard von Bingen's Lingua Ignota.

Those heavily structured synthetic tongues seem rather to account for a poor communication because of a restrained vocabulary and unbreakable grammar rules.

In contrast, James Joyce showed a dazzling deepness in the multi-layered meanings of his text of Finnegan's Wake. By combining expressions, words, sounds and meanings from different languages in an amazing insight which seems to reach beyond any possible erudition but rather appears to grow from a deeper consciousness, he offered a study-object for life for anyone who dares to try to dig it. It can appeal to non-english readers as well with a bit more effort.

Now in the previous mentioned booklet references are made to many french-speaking authors who seem to have walked a similar path.

I do appreciate the more ludic inventions, especially Ken Campbell's Wol Wontok, a variation of pidgin, a language apparently created about 150 years ago when south-seas tribesmen slaves, captured and segregated from others of their own tongue by the British. They developed a language with no tense or grammar, by listening to their apparently Irish guards. Campbell claims that he can teach the entire language in 24 hours and has re-written Shakespeare's Macbeth in Pidgin.


ting ting=deep thought (thought about thought)


ting ting blong ting ting

(deep thought belonging to deep thought)


On the subject of other languages, Campbell says "You know that [linguistic] organization where things are masculine, feminine or neuter, and ridiculously so in German, so you might say, 'Where is the turnip?' and the reply might be, 'She is in the kitchen.' And then you say, 'Where is the young English maiden?' and the reply would be, 'It has gone to the opera.'"

It should be noted that mr. Campbell is appears on most Fortean Unconventions and wrote a cycle of five plays based on Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea's Illuminatus! trilogy which were shown in Liverpool starting on 23rd November 1976 with each play lasting 23 minutes.

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Ken Campbell and Chris Langham in Illuminatus!

Europanto was imagined as a pun by italian translator Diego Marani in the '90s by mixing words from random languages from the european community. "Europanto esse un pidgin gemade von multe Europish langage, que chaquebody with un gemutfeeling por dies lange verstand possé." Strangely this goofy expression seem quite easy to understand for both romanophiles and germanophiles. Now that Europe is growing outside of Europe I suppose latuan, croatian and turkish words amongst others could also be used.

1. The sources.

The booklet mentions many references.
One important source was "Dictionnaire des langues imaginaires" by Paolo Albani and Berlinghiero Buonarroti published by Les Belles Lettres in 2001. First published in Italy as "Aga magèra difùra: Dizionario delle lingue immaginarie" by Zanichelli in 1994. In this book the serious analysis of Chomsky stands next to the grammar of über-kook Jean-Pierre Brisset. 500 authors, from Aristophanes to Swift, Rabelais, Joyce, Borges; 1100 languages from the totally imaginary to the expressions of children or mediums, experimentations or languages issued from SF or fantasy tales. "Agonou dont oussys vou denaguez algarou, nou den farou zamist vous maristou ulbrou, fousquez vou brol tam bredaguez moupreton den goul houst, daguez dagez nou croupys fost bardounoflist nou grou. Agou paston tol nalprissys hourtou los ecbatanous prou dhouquys brol panygou den bascrou noudous caguous goulfren goul oust troppassou." says Panurge in Rabelais' Pantagruel in the tongue of Tomas More's Utopia.

"Essai sur les langues naturelles et les langues artificielles" was written by Albanian writer and diplomat Faïk Konitza (1876-1942), nicknamed 'mobile encyclopedia' by his friend Apollinaire. In this book Konitza examines artificial 'universal languages' and clarifies "the artificial tongue uses words in their objective value, and the words recieving this static role can only be used in pure affirmation or rigid negation. What's more, because these languages tend to be used easily, they need an uniformity in the grammar which doesn't permit any freedom. Things can only be said in one previously defined manner."

"La Langue verte et la cuite, étude gastrophonique sur la marmythologie musiculinaire" by Noël Arnaud and Asger Jorn. Arnaud (1909-2003, France) was for years one of the two most important members of the Collège de 'Pataphysique (the other one being the secret founder), this extremely erudite writer, worldwide Jarry specialist and expert on modern art was a member of dada, then of the french surrealist movement and cofounder with Asger Jorn and Guy Debord of the Situationnist movement. I had the privilege to hear him from the audience on the presentation of the book "Les fous littéraires" by André Blavier (if English-speaking people need only one reason to learn french, this huge book is like Borges' book of sand for real!) in Brussels. Jorn (1914-1973, Denmark) is mostly known as a painter, member of Cobra since 1948 and of the Internationale situationiste since 1957.

"The Search for the Perfect Language (The Making of Europe)" by Umberto Eco, 1997 Blackwell Publishers. From the amazon review: "In this erudite study, which will be heavy going for most readers, famed Italian novelist and linguist Eco mines a wealth of esoteric lore as he investigates a neglected chapter in the history of ideas. He begins with Dante's proposal for a universal vernacular in place of Latin, and Catalan friar Raymond Lull's combinatorial system of letters and symbols designed to explore metaphysical connections. He goes on to examine the Kabbalistic search for hidden messages in sacred Hebrew texts, the Rosicrucian society's symbolic writing in 17th-century Germany and French Enlightenment thinkers' invention of philosophical languages organized around fundamental categories of knowledge. He also surveys the search for a primordial language assumed by Augustine to be Hebrew and by later mother tongue-seekers to be Aramaic or various other languages. "

2. The writers.

2.1. Altagor.

Altagor (pseudonym of Jean Vernier, 1915 - 1982) formerly a mechanic and miner, later writer of thrillers, poet, painter, mathematician, inventor of music instruments and chess player, he created "Métapoésie", abstract poetry composed of invented words which nevertheless use only sounds of the French language. Later on he also created "Parole Transformelle", which used all the possible vocal sounds. The text "Discours Absolu" lasts about six hours and was composed between 1947 and 1960. He stood at the margins of the lettrist movement, and considered the better known Isidore Isou as his opponent. Later on Altagor started to hate Raymond Queneau as well since was considered by him as a 'fou littéraire' or kook. He did write a poem, "Simonia", of 2000 pages and was not devoid of any paranoïa…

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Altagor in a collage by himself.

2.2. Jean Dubuffet.

Born in Le Havre in 1901, Dubuffet became famous for his paintings and installations as a leading figure in what he called 'l'Art Brut'. But he was also a extensive writer. His first manuscript dates back to 1948: "Ler dla canpane" (the air from the countryside), in 1950 he wrote "Anvouaiaje, Labonfam abeber" (traveling, the wife of Béber) and "Plu kifekler mouinkon nivoua" (the more there is light, the less we see). In later documents he uses poetry, portmanteau words and puns to study the working of language in combination with the calli / typography and the lay-out: "La lunette farcie" in 1950, "La Botte à nique" in 1973 (Nick's boot - botany) and "Bonpiet beau neuille" in 1984. Between 1962 and 1974 he works on the cycle of the "Hourloupe", for which paintings, sculptures, installations and texts are made. The starting point were droodles drawn while answering the phone, accompanied by an imaginary slang. His friend Raymond Queneau wrote about his works and let him enter the Collège de 'Pataphysique. Which he simply left for a disagreement a few years later, an unique (and very 'pataphysical) act for such a prominent optimat. He died in 1985.

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view on the entrance of the 'cabinet logologique', 1974

2.3. André Martel.

Probably the most elaborate french-speaking author of Joycean inspiration, André Martel (1893 - 1976), a member of the collège de 'Pataphysique, secretary of Dubuffet (who would enthousiastically illustrate his books), called himself 'Martelandre' and invented the 'Paralloïdre'. A (french) study can be found here, linking his word-games with child games and with esoteric formulas. "Cequeuj vadire au làdans, cé l'épope d'un macrozoandre nautilant aux embasses des sombrezondes. O ! Lector cardiami ! Viénalici danlamienne lyrole cantafabule. E fluxons en librélan battifol jusque zo nymoder coronopus. Cepadans, entention ! Encette fure imagicienne, zondic : Rienensur ! Toutensoute" Paralloïdre is in the first place an inventive way of expression, without rules but playing on different levels and very witty. Most of his texts can be found online. He wrote "La djingine du theopheles" in 1954, "Le mirivis des naturgies" in 1963 and "Gorgomar" in 1974. Martel was keen to analyze his own poetry, naming his techniques 'bloconyme': the addition of several words into one, sometimes with permutation; 'autosoude', adding only some elements of different words; and 'nigaudisation' adding french accents to words making them sound silly (something Alfred Jarry did in some of his texts). Martel was so involved with his language that he started to use it everyday in his speaking, and found enough correspondents to write him letters in the same creative tongue.

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3. The dérive.

The story goes translators are sought for some inmates in an Oregon asylum. For some reason, the only language these people are still able to communicate is Klingon, an imaginary tongue used in episodes of Star Trek.

Let's also mention the obsession with Quenya or other elfish tongues, originating in books of JRR Tolkien. Sadly all those expressions have one common ground: the money that can be made out of it. That's entertainment…

In 1966, an extraterrestrial entity phones Fernando Sesma. He claims to come from the planet Ummo symbolized by the sign )|(. The ummite letters ditated to him displayed an intricate philosophical system, together with scientifical topics and information about the ummite language, later on examined by 'Jean Pollion'. In ummite every sound expresses a concept. 'A' stands for action, 'D' for emanation, 'U' for unity. "UUDAA" is the word for water, because "UU" = dependency and "DAA" = liquid: a form D of equal elements AA. In this language, all expression must be seriously thought of in functional components. Objects are only defind by their function. The Ummo texts boosted forth some very wacky movements and sects

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The Ummo alphabet

In 1943 the American Army published the 'French Language Guide' (ref. TM-30-302). It tried to write phonetically with the regular alphabet, using american sounds to try to produce French. "Juh nuh KAWN-prahng pa" was probably the most used sentence. Germans seem to have made similar booklets for their troops in France. They didn't really help them to become popular.

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In a similar vein Eugène Ionesco was asked to provide texts for the french manual 'mise en train' (The Macmillan Lmt, London, 1969) for american students. The author of 'The Bald Soprano', 'Rhinoceros' and 'The Chairs' provided students with completely insane dialogues: "Thomas: Bonjour, docteur. X2: Pardon, je ne suis pas le docteur. Je suis la porte d'entrée du bâtiment principal. Entrez, entrez. Thomas: Bonjour, docteur. X3: Je ne suis pas le docteur, je suis l'escalier."

A great parody on conversational guides can be found in The Zompist Phrasebook. Here you'll find essentail translations in Spanish, German and French of sentences like "It's better in the States. Don't you speak English? There's a corpse on the bed. Please change the sheets. Has your nose always been that way? Girls with big mazongas usually can't rhumba so well. My wife fell overboard about ten miles back. One order of fermé le mercredi, please."

The best achievement in this category will always be Monty Python's hungarian phrasebook!

"Hungarian: "Ya! See-gar-ets! Ya! Uh ... my hovercraft is full of eels."

Clerk: "Sorry?"

Hungarian: "My hovercraft ..." (pantomimes puffing a cigarette) "... is full of eels." (pretends to strike a match)

Clerk: "Ahh, matches!"

Hungarian: "Ya! Ya! Ya! Ya! Do you waaaaant ... do you waaaaaant ... to come back to my place, bouncy-bouncy?"

Sometimes reality goes further than fiction. In 1874 the book 'Klíè k francouszké mluvnici' was published in Czechoslovakia which used a method called 'Ollendorff-Grellepois' to teach French. Translated into English, the dialogues sound like coming out of an asylum: "Does the German own the beautiful umbrellas of the Italians? He does, but he doesn't have the Turkish. The Germans, what do they have? They have corn and horses, but no vessels. Do the French have friends? They do, but the Spanish have no friends. The Spanish, what do they have? They have good donkeys."

And half con artist, half incompetent publisher, Pedro Caronilo published 'O Nova Guia da Conversacao, em Portugez e Inglez' in 1855. Free of any knowledge of the English, he used a Portugese-French dictionary and a French-English guide, publishing a collection of texts that could result from misusing online translations like Babelfish of Free Translation. "The commander Forbin of janson, being at a repast with a celebrated Boileau, had undertaken to pun him upon her name:--"What name," told him, "carry you thither? Boileau: I would wish better to call me Drink wine." The poet was answered him in the same tune:--"And you, sir, what name have you choice? Janson: I should prefer to be named John-Meal. The meal don't is valuable better than the furfur?" Later on this book was published as 'The English as she is spoke', with a foreword by Mark Twain. On, English As She Is Spoke vs. Babelfish compares the translation failures between both.

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