Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Humor Me

(Just mixing it up a bit before we continue on "Letteraly")

On the way to eternity, I met the joker man:
Ha, “where you are going that’s where I am”.
You can’t always see me, but I’m always there.
Just hang around me; I’ll make everything clear.
Where there is fire there is smoke,
Ye, and life is just a joke.

Ha, look at the baby crying, aint it a shame?
Ha, look at the man dying, what a wonderful game.
Ha, look at the lady beaten, don’t it make you laugh?
Ha, look at the child bleedin’, what a beautiful gaff.
If it aint fix don’t make it broke.
Ye, and life is just a joke.

His lips in constant smile; his heart in constant frown.
His nose red: not from shame – he’s just a clown.
Cynical ‘bout being skeptic; skeptical ‘bout being cynic.
His shrink says this is a clear case for the clinic.
I say it’s a genius of a stroke.
Ye, and life is just a joke.

The dim-witted say: he’s just a fool.
The illiterates say: he should go to school.
The politicians say: he should tell the truth.
The barbarians say: he’s just uncouth.
I say: look at the will, not the spoke.
Ye, and life is just a joke.

Funny, isn’t it, how we use our limp as a crutch.
Don’t say, “not I”: even I have succumbed to such.
But, then again, maybe we use our crutch as a limp:
It’s always harder to be the bully than the wimp.
But even the frog will croak.
Ye, and life is just a joke.

Laugh all you wish; still your eyes will be red.
Turn up your lips; still your tongue will be bled.
Scars, crisscrossed, trying to find tissue;
But even that will not resolve the issue.
You need some dagger and cloak.
Ye, and life is just a joke.

These three are extra; bending hunch
of mine:
Now the jokes over; grinding crunch
Ouch, you cringe at the bruising punch

Monday, September 19, 2005


It was a time before generation Y, yet after generation X, in a city not accustomed to letters of that kind. At the time, we were a people of the Letter, with most of them written in Holy Tongue, Yiddish, or Aramaic. Of course, there was the contraband – or, contrabook – sandwiched between mattress and board, or unfolded with our pants in the cubbies; but they were the exception, not the norm.

The Jekyll and Hyde show was on, just as it is today, and we played the part to perfection. When the sun’s shining cheeks radiated, so did Dr. Jekyll; when the moon went a peek-a-boo from behind the clouds, so did Mr. Hyde. During the day we would sit in chairs long molded to our derrières, learning timeless sacred texts; during the night we would lie on beds sandy from swirling desert winds, perusing first-rate secondhand books. At times, Day and Night would switch roles, but only so when Time was measured by the clocks hand; when measured by the hearts ticking, Day remained Day and Night remained Night.

As healthy seventeen-year-olds with even healthier imaginations, during the navigation through endless passages of Talmud we would discuss, for better or worse, topics foreign to the Aramaic language. These discussions would naturally turn to the argumentative, and then, inevitably, full-out war. Even when discussing mundane themes, it would seem, the Talmudic knack for dispute would intervene.

One such discussion, based on the pages of the secondhand bookstore’s stock, was whether or not the writing geniuses – genius by our teenage standards – were grammatically correct. I, being the anarchist that I am, held they were not. Most of the others, I’m sure they are reading this and remembering that, insisted they were.

If my memory serves me correctly, for it hasn’t in the past, the argument, like most arguments in that era, was more for the sake of arguing than for the sake of clarification. Now, some four years later, for the sake of clarification, and because this topic has always haunted me, I will attempt, to make a gram of sense out of this grim grammatical grime.

Letters need rules – in fact, Letters are rules. A, B, and C are tools with which to express oneself. They are finite, but they can create infinite amount of words. The writer (I use writer, but this is true with any language form) has the ability to manipulate letters into words, words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into chapters, and chapters into books – until these letters, so miniscule on their own, convey a profound message as a whole.

Accordingly, for the reader to understand the writer – which is, after all, the writer’s objective – he first must be able to read that which the writer writes. Therefore, the writer cannot just combine letters as he sees fit: lest he, and his letters, be deemed misfits. This is why rules were imposed upon the rules, that is, grammar upon the letters, to ensure that reader and writer are on the same page.

These rules, both the letters and their structure, are manmade. Therefore, when a man whose expression is not bound to conventional methods comes along and manipulates the letters in a way never before manipulated, the manmade rules take a new, manmade form. Sure, at first, he is titled Crazy, but, when successful, he is titled, Genius. At first he plays beyond the rules, then he creates new rules. There are innumerable examples I could bring, and will therefore bring none.

Mundane language is manmade; it is therefore also prone to man’s creative genius. As grammar is not an end in itself, but only a means with which to formulate comprehensive ideas, then, if one were to find a better means with which to formulate his ideas, he would be foolish not to use it.

Of course, one must be an extremely talented individual to invent new means of expression, and grammar is therefore needed for us underprivileged creatures. But, wait, we are "extremely talented individuals", each to his own – so why play by the rules when we can create new ones?

(For the fear of length, to be continued...)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Knowledge & Education

At times Education can get educational; but usually it remains uneducated. At (other) times Knowledge can get ignorant; but usually it remains knowledgeable. So, wherein lies the difference between a programmed Education and an acquired Knowledge?

(Though Mark Twain says, “Do not let your schooling interfere with your education”, I have taken the liberty of kneading Schooling and Education into one doughy ball of curriculum, while maintaining Knowledge as its antithesis – this in no way means School and Education are one and the same; I am merely using Education and Knowledge as “model-verbs” if you will: the former as a model for our “natural programming”; the latter as a model for our “unnatural acquirements”.)

This predicament of Knowledge and Education leaves no room for educated guessing, no matter how schooled it might be; nor, for that matter, does it have time for projected assumption, no matter how knowledgeable that might be. For us to fix this fix of ours, an unbiased, non-partisan third party is needed. Let this party be known as Innocence.

Without Innocence (or, a synonym along this artsy theme of ours, Artlessness), no Knowledge or Education would ever be needed. We would all know it all – and, therefore, we would all be bereft. Could you imagine a world where no one was innocent – it would be like a prison where no one was guilty. The purity of Innocence is our greatest asset: it lets us learn, search, thirst, for something over yonder.

Thus, in the Kabbalistic lexicon, Knowledge would be Ohr, Education would be Kaily, and Innocence would be Atzmus. Knowledge: the thirst for something beyond the norm, beyond the school rules. Education: the rules one must learn, and follow, in order to quench that thirst. Innocence: the ability to fuse these two opposites. Or in “worldly” terms: Knowledge would be the world of Sovev, a vague-yet-encompassing intangible force; Education would be M’maleh, a clear-yet-limited tangible force; and Innocence, once again, would be Atzmus, that Essence which is neither this nor that, yet is both.

These questions we ask about our education, each to his own, are part of our education: imagine a student who wouldn’t question his teacher’s answer – it would be like a teacher who wouldn’t answer his student’s question. And though school can only give you so much, only the tools, nevertheless, with the right tools one can build anything.

Yes, of course, you ask, “What are the right tools”? For some students it can be musical notes; for others, paint brushes; still, for others, a surgeon’s scalpel. Who decides what to teach to whom – what may be right for you may be (and probably is) wrong for me? And vise versa?

Imagine an Education that transcends Knowledge, imagine a Knowledge that transcends Education – it would be an Education and Knowledge of Innocence. Such an education and knowledge (notice the lack of capitalization: they are no longer alone) would not be subjected to the views of Man, nor would the hands of Man design them – they would be, solely, a guide for Man. (Whenever I use the Masculine form, the Feminine is included; it is just out of convenience, and familiarity, that I use it.)

This “form” of “education” (sorry about the use of all these “pseudonyms”) is called the Torah. I can hear the collective groan, but it is true – the Torah transcends manmade curriculums, syllabuses, prospectuses, or any other Latin euphemism for ignorance.

The problem, at least this writer sees it as one, is that the Torah is usually taught in the wrong way. Either it is made out to be archaic, or dogmatic (Is that the same as archaic?), or parochial (The same as dogmatic?), or downright boring (The same as the other three?). But, in truth, the Torah is anything but: it is the most exciting form of education – comparing, of course, only those with which this writer has made his acquaintance – ever known to Man.

As for the Torah being parochial: any and every subject, from the artless Humanities to the human-less Arts, finds itself within the ancient wisdom and modern understanding of its pages – the only, and no small, feat, is finding it.

And once you have found what you are looking for, it is time to start looking again – lest the truth become stale for you.

When this transcendental “edification” will become the “curriculum”, Education will become Knowledgeable and Knowledge will become Educational – with Innocence innocently smiling on the side – and in the middle.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

ARTificial ARTifacts & ARTiculated ARTicles


Look at those bacterial phenomena, the Darwinian Homo sapiens: they muse in music; they pant at a painting; they smile at a simile; they’re pro prose; and they climb the poetry. They consort with concert halls; they go gala at a gallery; they feel liberated at the library; and they teeter at the theater. Or, in Shakespearean lexicon: “alas, finest of creatures, thou art artlessly artful”.

O. Henry’s conman in “Masters of Arts” put it best: “you and me will have an Art to Art talk”. Yes, there is a common artery running between the Fine Hearts and the Fine Arts; as any Aristotelian artiste can attest: “Art is not about the filling; it is about the feeling”.

From diverse languages of many shapes, to many shapes of diverse languages, the feelings of the heart have many vehicles: Musicians speak through their music; Orators find their music in speech; Artists have an inkling with paint; Writers are painting in ink.

And, like the languages of Art, its periods and movements are just as periodical and moving: the Masters found their “rebirth” in the Renaissance; Neoclassicism gives a renaissance to the canonic classics; emotion holds precedent in Romanticism; Cubism creates new precedents for emotion.

And then, of course, the greats who have made Art their language: Homer is epic in his writing; Dante is hellish in his. Michelangelo’s painting raises the ceiling; Monet’s is impressionable. Amadeus’s music is Mozart; Jimmy’s is wow-wow. Hugo tells a story Le Miserably; Dickens tells it in the best of times and the worst of times. Van Gogh lends his ear to his brush; Salvador’s is surreally Dali-cate. Dylan’s music is tangled up in the blues; James is tangled up in Brown. Robert’s verse is a bit Frosty; Byron’s is a bit Lordly.

Still, no matter how many categories it can be broken into, Art in its purest form cannot be categorized – or broken into. Within the artist, Art is like the heart – delicate and raw – only once expressed does it becomes either an ism – Surrealism, Cubism, Classicism – or a period – Renaissance, Modern, Post-modern – or a person – Shakespearean, Homeric, Quixotic.

This Blog will now like to concentrate on the purity of Art, without isms, periods, or persons. However, in order for that to be done, we must have some artillery with which to express ourselves – lest I write and you not understand. So, though the new name is ARTicles, a classified partisan art form, nevertheless, the stress is placed more on the ART than on the icle: the article is but a means with which to reach the Art. Or, as James Joyce might pun it, “the article is but a particle, a start to the art”. Ok, that sounded more like Dr. Seuss, but you get my drift.

I don’t know about you esteemed readers, but this article has made me, the estranged writer, artichoke.