MAY 2002


What are the odds to sharing a dream? Or dreaming about something which is about to happen? (Like your phone call? Or your comments about the rain?)

Dream Yoga by Peter Ochiogrosso (online)

The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep by Tenzin Wangyal

Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural light by Namkhai Norbu


Drifting Identities

"I always wondered how far I can evolve without stopping being myself... It seems possible that the identity issue can be the ultimate limit to growth."

(Sasha Chislenko, Drifting Identities)

"I bade farewell to myself in the mirror."

(Jorge Borges, The Garden of Forking Paths)

Alexander 'Sasha' Chislenko (1959-2000). Extropian. Last Friday and Saturday in Gent Frank Theys and I spoke about him. Frank interviewed him five years ago for his documentary Technocalyps. I read Sasha's posts to the Extropian mailing list during the period I read the Extropian mailing list (1993/1994) and a couple of years ago saw fit to archive his Drifting Identities post to Alamut.

"And this is just because we *define* our notion of identity as something that is preserved in the transformations we are used to seeing. When (not if) the transformations will become more drastic, this notion will be shattered. In fact, if we just look at our own lives, we go thru so many transitions that hardly preserve our identity in any reasonable definition of this word..."

(Sasha Chislenko, Drifting Identities)

Compare Spinoza, Ethics, IV, 39 scholium:

But here it should be noted that I understand the body to die when its parts are so disposed that they acquire a different proportion of motion and rest to one another. For I dare not deny that -- even though the circulation of the blood is maintained, as well as other signs on account of which the body is thought to be alive -- the human body can nevertheless be changed into another nature entirely different from its own. For no reason compels me to maintain that the body does not die unless it is changed into a corpse.

And, indeed, experience seems to urge a different conclusion. Sometimes a man undergoes such changes that I should have hardly said he was the same man. I have heard stories, for example, of a Spanish poet who suffered an illness; though he recovered he was left so oblivious to his past life that he did not believe the tales and tragedies he had written were his own. He could surely have been taken for a grown-up infant if he had also forgotten his native language.

If this seems incredible, what shall we say of infants? A man of advanced years believes their nature to be so different from his own that he could not be persuaded that he ever was an infant, if he did not make this conjecture concerning himself from the example of others. But rather than providing the superstitious with material for raising new questions, I prefer to leave this discussion unfinished.

FRIDAY, 3 MAY 2002

Non-sense then, senseful now. The Garden of Forking Paths. How many times have I read this story, rehearsed this story, gone through this story before?

'... Their publication was senseless. The book is an indeterminate heap of contradictory drafts. I examined it once: in the third chapter the hero dies, in the fourth he is alive...'

(Fleeing vs. advancing. A meditation on the difference between the two.)

The Garden of Forking Paths

"Absorbed in these illusory images I forgot my destiny of one persued..."

... muses the German spy Dr. Yu Tsun in his effort to communicate to his chief in Berlin the location of the English artillery. Yu Tsun flees from Captain Richard Maaden but not in the hope of escaping. For he realises that this is ultimately hopeless, that Captain Maaden is 'implacable' in his quest. No, Yu Tsun flees his adversary in order to advance, to send two messages, one to his superior, the second to his confessor, the reader: "The author of an atrocious undertaking ought to imagine that he has already accomplished it, ought to impose upon himself a future as irrevocable as the past". By means of a single radical gesture, always keeping to the left, Yu Tsun arrives at the center of the labyrinth, repeating/completing the radical gesture of his fore-father.

Jalal Toufic writes in Over-Sensitivity:

"We may at times flee our allies, those that acknowledge our aparté, to friends, those who put it aside (friends put us aside in the room set aside, the guest room. This room set aside, where the guests replace each other, sometimes presages that other room, also set aside, but now locked, that of the dead, a room where all intermingle and replace the dead. They put him aside in the room set aside, the guest room so they would not have to hear what is really set aside, put in reserve, the aparté), and who are thus the in-between on a line stretching from allies to most people.

Aparté: the whispering voice, the scholium. Strange sounds from the strange apartment next door...

'In every one,' I pronounced, not without a tremble to my voice, 'I am grateful to you and revere you for your re-creation of the garden of Ts'ui Pên.'

'Not in all', he murmured with a smile. 'Time forks perpetually towards innumerable futures. In one of them I am your enemy.'

'The future already exists,' I replied, 'but I am your friend. Could I see the letter again?'

(Borges, The Garden of Forking Paths)

(Note to myself: I really should put together an 'escapology' list...)


"Are you awake?"

Mise en Abyme

"Hey! There's a hole in the middle of that."

"I remembered too that night which is at the middle of the Thousand and One Nights when Scheherazade (through a magical oversight of the copyist) begins to relate word for word the story of the Thousand and One Nights, establishing the risk of coming once again to the night when she must repeat it, and thus on to infinity."

(Borges, The Garden of Forking Paths)

In case you were wondering... upon reaching the half way point in the book (in Burton's translation) Shaherazade proceeds as follows:

When it was the Five Hundred and First Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that "when Janshah and the Mamelukes ran at the gazelle, to take her as their quarry, she escaped from them and, throwing herself into the waves, swam out to a fishing bark, that was moored near the shore, and sprang on board. Janshah and his followers dismounted and, boarding the boat, made prize of the gazelle and were minded to return to shore with her, when the Prince espied a great island in the offing and said to his merry men, 'I have a longing to visit yonder island.' They answered, 'We hear and obey,' and sailed on till they came to the island, where they landed and amused themselves with exploring the place. Then they again embarked and taking with them the gazelle, set out to return homeward, but the murk of evening overtook them and they missed their way on the main..."

Suggestions Welcome

The fundament of an Arabian Nights list.

The rough beginnings of an Escapology list.

MONDAY, 6 MAY 2002

Rossetti. How They Met Themselves, 1851-1860 (detail).

The beginnings of a list on 'The Double'.


Pim Fortuyn, a right-wing politician, was assassinated yesterday. It's big news here in Holland.

Kenny writes:

I'm not sure if this applies at all to your list, but the Gospel of Thomas effaces many elements of 'The Double'.

I thought this essay was pretty interesting...

"In the Gospel of Thomas 106, Jesus reminds us that we exist in two realms, the spiritual and the physical; when these two are fully integrated, a great power can be realized. The body has a spirit double, the twin which is the "Didymos" in Greek and "Thomas" in Aramaic."

SUNDAY, 12 MAY 2002

You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.

From John Clute's introduction to Herbert Rosendorfer's 'The Architect of Ruins': "We are one-third the way through the novel, and going deeper."

As we are drawn in deeper and deeper into the labyrinth -- yes some sexual innuendo is intended here -- as we enter it and describe it by name, by mood, by memory, we realise that our memories are of times spent outside of the labyrinth, in other words that our only memories are of its external countenance, its emotions, its mooded-ness, and slowly we perceive the nature of the labyrinth, the fact that as long as we remain awake we can never turn around and leave, that we are forced to go forever deeper and deeper, that we are lost despite its unicursality (no forking paths).

Note: If we (sometimes) are able to orient ourselves, to navigate a forked path labyrinth (such as in classic text adventures) by dropping things à la Hansel and Gretel, we cannot be blamed if we attempt to sound out a unicursal labyrinth by echo-location, thus:


(More of the preceding days forthcoming...)

MONDAY, 13 MAY 2002

(Sensory disability...)

Dear R.,

If you cry out in the labyrinth it is because you are entirely alone, not because you are trying to communicate with others or attract their help. For you every hope of communication has ended, has stopped. You might try to imagine the labyrinth in terms of a restricted, limited communication -- what it is like to live in places like Bergman's The Silence (where everyone speaks an incomprehensible language) or Herzog's 'The Land of Silence and Darkness' (Land des Schweigens und der Dunkelheit) -- but rest assured, even if you could imagine it (and you can't), it is not the same. For you are not Helen Keller. You are simply a bat in the labyrinth's ear, crying out in order to hear the sound of your own voice.

(She described to me the sounds made by the hearing impaired as they concentrated.)

Non-communication. The mirror maze. The fun house. Dear R., you are dreaming, dreaming that you are lost. What could be more disorienting, more debilitating, more frightening? Especially if in the dream state there appears a moment of understanding, of realisation, of self-awareness. You are dreaming you are in a chinese box world. All changes in your dreams are one-way, in one direction, a series of one-way transitions. You dream you are perpetually falling asleep or waking up but not both. For example: you dream you are dreaming, in this dream you fall asleep and begin dreaming, in this dream you fall asleep... etc. Or you dream you are constantly waking up, not into wakefulness but into a different dream from which you awake into a different dream. Either way, up or down, there is never resolution, no turning around and heading back the way you came. Waking or falling asleep have become the same, you can only continue deeper, like a badly programmed recursive function.

"At early dawn the woman came and made the children get up. They received their bit of bread, but it was even smaller than the time before. On the way to the wood Hansel crumbled it in his pocket, and every few minutes he stood still and dropped a crumb on the ground."

TUESDAY, 14 MAY 2002

(Psychological quicksand...)

Dear R.,

Concerning yesterday's description of the labyrinth as a one-way 'space' of ever-increasing bewilderment (where you, like Hansel, are alone, dreaming of Gretel; where your steps carry you inexorably forward (so relentlessly do you move and keep dropping your pebbles and crumbs that we wonder whether it matters at all if you are fleeing or advancing) where every move you make carries you deeper and deeper, not into the forest, but from forest to forest) where your plight reminds us of the following illustration from Manfred Jahn's narratology page:

Figure 'C' being the illustration you should turn your attention to, Jahn's illustration of the embedding structure in Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. Concerning this structure Jahn notes: "James's novella ends on the conclusion of a third-degree narrative (the Governess's tale) without explicitly closing its two superordinate matrix narratives." You see? For this one-way labyrinth Jahn suggests the term: 'dangling matrix narrative'.

Dear R., it is easy to imagine your wandering horror. Advance meaning: with never an end in sight you are drawn to move from forest to forest, from thought to thought, from book to book, leaving behind more and more unfinished business. But is this nightmarish effect of your movement, this increasing sense of your own unfinished business, in fact a cause? Think about it. Is this lack of closure a reason to further flee?

Or does the truth lie somewhere in the middle for you? Is it simply a case of physics, the propulsive logic of action and reaction, such as found in a space capsule? Is the growing pile of your unfinished business simply the by-product of your constant struggle to extracate yourself from the mess in which you are lost? It is certainly conceivable... Imagine it: each time you drop a breadcrumb or a pebble (as Hansel, a note or message to yourself) you find yourself instantly zipping off deeper into the labyrinth... (without even time to say goodbye!)



(Eternal Recurrence...)

Dear R.,

Of course it's been done.

And not only has it been done... it's been done distinctively enough to be classified as a genre.

I came across 'it' or 'One-move Games' via Emily Short's page of Recommendable Interactive Fiction. The category was tucked away as a sub-category of games with an 'Unusual Plot Organization' (games which "tell their story out of order, overlap parts, or otherwise diverge from the standard linear method").

Yeah right (you think). One-move games must be unusual plot-wise.

Make a move and...

*You have died.*

How much plot can you fit in that?

In her recommended list, Ms. Short recommends two 'One-move' or 'Learn-by-dying' games, Aisle and Rematch. You can play Aisle online here but you're going to have to download Re-match in order to play it... Oh, and while you're at it, you're probably going to have to download a Mac or PC TADS interpreter too.

To whet your appetite here's the opening screen for Aisle:

- A I S L E -

by Sam Barlow

You are about to read a story. Or rather, part of a story. You will be be asked to define the story by controlling one instant in the life of the man whose story it is. Your intervention will begin and end the story. But be warned; there are many stories and not all of the stories are about the same man.

I really like Aisle's setting, a supermarket aisle. The fact that you are already restricted physically, that you can only move in a couple (or three) directions, means that you quickly start using your one-move to explore the space in 'mental' terms, as a memory space. Your one move becomes one thought. And playing Aisle you begin to see that each of your own thoughts is in fact a move, that it makes a difference... that each thought kicks off another causal chain of events... that each thought changes things forever.

Rematch is more of a puzzle. You keep living the same moment over and over again until you find the right move to make to avoid dying. Death interrupts your pool game and comes in the shape of a black suburban utility vehicle:

The glass from the front windows disintegrates and sprays like water in all directions as a black SUV explodes into the pool hall. Its wheels locked, it fishtails across the smooth floor tiles.

Nick, the closest to the window, disappears under the vehicle's wheels.

Before you can move, the SUV hits your pool table head-on, crushing Ines into the tabletop with a wet thump.

The pool balls swarm toward your face--

Go ahead and waste some time...


(The Miracle of Economy)

Rogério, Tuesday evening, in the coffeeshop across the way from the restaurant 'Tampopo' (where we later ate), marvelling over the following paragraph from John Barth's short story 'Echo' (from Lost in the Funhouse).

(the story so far... Narcissus has been chased into a cave...)

"An imperfectly dark passage. Outside his ardentest suitor calls, pederast Ameinius, spurned. The nymph soft-seconds his bugger woo. Chaste Narcissus shivers, draws further in, loses bearings, daresn't call, weeps. The life-long bother! Seized he gives shriek, is released. How come? What next? Hadn't he as well have his blossom plucked? Who says so?"

FRIDAY, 17 MAY 2002

The Gemeente Zoetermeer wants to move this work -- originally produced for the Allocations exhibition in 1992 and ironically titled: 'Victory, Love, Conquest: A Monument to Rape' (the letter 'O' being formed by a pair of whale jaw bones) -- to another location. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours helping the art commission choose a new site for it -- though I have to confess that I like the situation where it is now.

Recent Acquisitions

I've acquired quite a few books the last couple of days. Mainly for projects I'm working on. Some ordered online. Some stumbled across in bookstores (in Brussels, the Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam). A couple received as gifts. I'm most excited about my Burton translation of the 'Nights' (which I suppose is my big reading project for the next year or two). Here's a list of the rest:

Auster, Paul

The New York Trilogy. 1985-1986.

Bartlett, W. B.

The Assassins. 2001.

Béalu, Marcel

The Experience of the Night. 1945.

Beckford, William

Vathek: An Arabian Tale. 1782.

Beckford, William

The Episodes of Vathek. 1786.

Blake, Nicholas

The Beast Must Die. 1938.

Chesterton, G. K.

The Man Who Was Thursday. 1908.

Chesterton, G. K.

The Penguin Complete Father Brown.

Crace, Jim

Being Dead. 1999.

Crumey, Andrew

Pfitz. 1995.

Crumey, Andrew

D'Alembert's Principle. 1996.

Deleuze, Gilles

Spinoza: Practical Philosophy. 1970.

Gray, Alasdair

Lanark: A Life in 4 Books. 1981.

Irwin, Robert

The Arabian Nightmare. 1983.

Irwin, Robert

The Mysteries of Algiers. 1988.

Irwin, Robert

Exquisite Corpse. 1995.

Laing, R. D.

Knots. 1970.

Meyrink, Gustav

The Golem. 1915.

Pamuk, Orhan

The White Castle. 1979.

Potocki, Jan

The Manuscript Found in Saragossa. 1813.

Robbe-Grillet, Alain

La Maison de Rendez-vous. 1965.

Robbe-Grillet, Alain & Magritte, René

La Belle Captive. 1975.

Rolfe, Frederick

Hadrian the Seventh. 1904.

Rosendorfer, Herbert

The Architect of Ruins. 1969.

Rushdie, Salaman

Haroun and the Sea of Stories. 1990.

Schulz, Bruno

Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass.

Spinoza, Benedict


Symons, A. J. A.

The Quest for Corvo: An Experiment in Biography. 1934.

Wangyal, Tenzin

The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep. 1998.


Mark Kremer writes:

Dear Paul,

"The Dreams" by Barry Bermange (UK) is an acoustic radio play made in the 1960s. It has been used by Christine von Greve, for a film with the same title, where she added let's say abstract film imagary to accompany the sound - basically cut-ups from interviews with people describing the contents of their dreams.

The piece seems to be part of a tetrology, with one other piece being based on interviews with people who have had almost-dead-experiences.

Do you know the piece? I thought it could be of interest for you. In case you know it or find out about it, please keep me informed. I am trying to show Von Greve's film as part of the (youth) festival De Opkomst in Utrecht, October 2002. But her film was already premiered in R'dam this year, so perhaps you saw or heard about it.

Best, Mark.

MONDAY, 20 MAY 2002

Yikes! It turns out that one of N's flatmates, Marcel, is a board game designer... and that I actually own one of his games: Verräter (Traitor).

Meuterer (Mutineer) being a more recent creation.

Meuterer reviewed. Marcel's own web site.

TUESDAY, 21 MAY 2002

Went to Star Wars Episode II with N. and M.

All 3 of us were majorly disappointed.

FRIDAY, 24 MAY 2002

"... I went down; through a chaos of sordid galleries I reached a vast circular chamber, scarcely visible. There were nine doors in this cellar; eight led to a labyrinth that treacherously returned to the same chamber; the ninth (through another labyrinth) led to a second circular chamber equal to the first. I do not know the total number of these chambers; my misfortune and anxiety multiplied them. The silence was hostile and almost perfect; there was no sound in this deep stone network save that of a subterranean wind, whose cause I did not discover; noiselessly, tiny streams of rusty water disappeared between the crevices. Horribly, I became habituated to this doubtful world; I found it incredible that there could be anything but cellars with nine doors and long branched-out cellars; I do not know how long I must have walked beneath the ground; I know that I once confused, in the same nostalgia, the atrocious village of the barbarians and my native city, amid the clusters." (Borges, The Immortal)

"A labyrinth is a structure compounded to confuse men; its architecture, rich in symmetries, is subordinated to that end." (Borges, The Immortal)

"He wishes he had never entered the funhouse. But he has. Then he wishes he were dead. But he's not. Therefore he will construct funhouses for others and be their secret operator--though he would rather be among the lovers for whom funhouses are designed." (John Barth, Lost in the Funhouse)


What do you do when you've completely lost the plot... when everything, that is everything, you do, look at, read, think about, reminds you of some other thing, something else, somethiing equally pressing and important, some other connection, some other link?

Pokey the Penguin!

Pokey the Penguin Archives!!

Pokey the Penguin Fansite and FAQ

The Devil (Episode 100)

SUNDAY, 26 MAY 2002

"Even sleepers are workers and collaborators on what goes on in the universe." (Heraclitus)

Everything matters. Everything is connected to everything else.

Nothing is ever truly 'hermetically sealed'.

During the middle part of the last century locked-room puzzles/problems/mysteries were the cats ass extremely popular. The writer John Dickson Carr (1906-1977) is considered by many to be the master of this sub-genre:

"Indeed, the real genius of Carr's locked room mysteries was not only that he devised eighty-three different solutions, but that each of them was plausible." (Andrew Davie.)

A typology of Locked-Room Mysteries and Other Impossible Crimes.

While on the subject of 'locked room mysteries' R. mentions Fritz Lang's Secret Beyond the Door (1948). I've not seen it, so I'm not sure we're talking the same thing here, but from what I gather it sounds interesting.

MONDAY, 27 MAY 2002

When a map brings new territory into being...

Map of John Sladek's The Lost Nose: A Programmed Book.

TUESDAY, 28 MAY 2002

(At the Rijksakademie yesterday and today.)

Via one of Cosma Shalizi's notebooks (slightly edited by me):

"The great Muslim theologian, jurist and logician Abu Hamid al-Ghazali in his book, 'The Incoherence of the Philosophers', much attacked the notion of causation along lines which would be followed several centuries later by David Hume. One of his examples was a demonstration that there is nothing logically impossible in a corpse happening to 'sit up and write learned volumes in a well-ordered script,' though he allowed that such occurrences were not 'habitual.'"

Search terms: 'backward causality'; 'backward causation'; 'retro-causation'; 'circular causality'.

Retrocausality: A Bibliography

Watched Jodorowsky's El Topo (1971) again last night. There are at least 3 scenes here which warrant (in my opinion) repeated viewing: the scene where the Colonel is getting dressed; the shoot-out with the 1st Desert Master; and the 'Miracle! Miracle!' Russian roulette scene. (Thanks James Beckett for lending it to me.)


To what extent is escape a creative act? (Perhaps all creative acts are escapes?)


(Yesterday and today in Groningen.)

I looked at churchyards and I bought more books:

Acker, Kathy

Portrait of an Eye : Three Novels.

The three novels: The Childlike Life of the Black Tarantula by The Black Tarantula; I Dreamt I Was A Nymphomaniac: Imagining; The Adult Life of Toulouse Lautrec by Henri Toulouse Lautrec.

Bardin, John Franklin

The John Franklin Bardin Omnibus.

Containing three novels: The Deadly Percheron (1946); The Last of Philip Banter (1947); Devil Take the Blue-tail Fly (1948).

Calvino, Italo

Italian Folktales. 1956.

Carter, Angela

Black Venus.

Chesterton, G. K.

The Club of Queer Trades. 1905.

Chesterton, G. K.

Thirteen Detectives.

Dick, Philip K.

The Man Who Japed. 1956.

Hedayat, Sadegh

The Blind Owl. 1937.

Back cover blurb:

"A young man, an old man and a beautiful young girl perform, as if framed with a Persian miniature, a ritual of passion, dreams and destruction. This extraordinary story combines the mystery of the Arabian Nights with an acutely contemporary sense of panic and hallucination. It is a macabre masterpiece that ranks with the best of Poe -- and the most important Persian work of literature written this century."

Iraj Bashiri interprets The Blind Owl as a reworking of the Bardo Thodol.

Poe, Edgar Allan

Complete Tales and Poems.

FRIDAY, 31 MAY 2002

Will ( writes:

Following your recent entries, thought you might like this from the "Preaching a Dream in a Dream" chapter of Master Dogen's Shobogenzo - Book 2:

"There is centering on dreams, there is dream-preaching, there is preaching of the dream-state, and there is being in the dream-state. Without being in the dream-state there is no preaching of the dream-state, and without preaching of the dream-state there is no being in the dream-state. Without preaching of the dream-state there are no buddhas, and without being in the dream-state buddhas can never appear in the world to turn the wondrous wheel of the Dharma."



Which is true?

By my mortality do I not mean the priviledge and priority I grant my waking state over my dreams? The waking state in which I believe in death, believe in my coming death, the waking state in which I see myself one day dying, in which I might fear death?

By my mortality do I not mean the state in which I witness animals, the cat, the dog, the lion, spasmodic, muscles a-twitch, chasing and being chased, escaping, mewling, whimpering, in dreams, making no distinction between dream and 'reality'?

April 2002

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