acronym [“when you think about it”] a feature of modern society that suddenly strikes you as absurd and grotesque—from zoos and milk-drinking to organ transplants, life insurance and fiction—part of the faint background noise of absurdity that reverberates from the moment our ancestors first crawled out of the slime but could not for the life of them remember what they got up to do.
Why do they put pictures of birds
in patient rooms?
The blue heron, nestled in a
bluer frame, hangs above
the biohazard tank.
A mirror, too—
it reflects no trees, but sees
instead sterility, doughy
diabetes, bulging eyes…
Somewhere else I leafed
through a book of birds, an
audubon for the lazy or disabled;
the disinterested place-holder, or
an all-too-interested index of
Each came with its cry—
glottal clacks & rattles, utilitarian
searches for food or mates.
One or two seemed
beautiful. Most did not.
Somewhere further away I
watched clever crows,
lonely rooks, heard raspy
This spring, when the snow
melted, each day revealed
new clusters of dead birds.
Pigeons, mostly, fat but frozen,
tiny wrinkled sparrows, or
something red and black…
One day they were gone. I
imagined men, in the dusk,
grabbing the little bodies
with gloved hands,
taking the birds away to be
flattened, installed in
stale picture frames, which
hang in patient wait.
Reading a book that narratively compiles genetic findings on human origins - Nicholas Wade’s Before the Dawn . In an appropriate twist, despite reading numerous tomes on animal this & that, it’s a book about humanity that offered the long-awaited key to unlocking my dog-tale. It’s for kids, you know, so get ready for some science & sadness.
“Being both systematically more brutal than chimps and more empathic than bonobos, we are by far the most bipolar ape. Our societies are never completely peaceful, never completely competitive, never ruled by sheer selfishness, and never perfectly moral.” -Frans de Waal
Reading about Joule’s famous experiment seems an appropriate way to spend the Summer Solstice. The loss in mechanical energy is proportional to the increase in the water’s temperature. Work is wasted, heat created. The days get shorter from here.
all scientific discoveries proffer a double-edged sword
and the growth of technology is exponential
above all that, however, this is interesting. as we delve into the brain’s pillowy folds & discover little bits & corners of the framework, hear whispers of the electrical language that dictates how it all functions, it is important to remember how much remains unseen & inconceivable. nonetheless i encourage the exploration. but it will be exploited and used to evil ends, inevitably. everything is.
Currently reading The Knife Man: Blood, Body Snatching, and the Birth of Modern Surgery by Wendy Moore. I kind of wish I wasn’t, but I certainly can’t stop now.
Moore’s telling of the life of John Hunter (1728-1793) picks apart the multifarious and terrifying aspects of 18th century medical knowledge and surgical practice, strand by strand, like a tortured muscle. As always when I read about the history of medicine, the anecdotes about animal experimentation and experienced pain leap from the page, attach themselves to my face, and get to smothering. Chapter by chapter I become acutely aware of Hunter’s brilliance, of the lessened pain and scientific advances owed to him. In the peripheries, however, I see how every human advancement is built on the backs of squealing creatures with their bellies slit open in four places or throats stuffed with worms. Tremendous cognitive dissonance erupts. I am frequently ashamed to be human.
And yet, I am grateful to the filters that others have, that allow them to continue their research and exploration, and the weather today is especially beautiful.
There comes that shame again.
Goodreads is getting me excited about books again. I wasn’t for awhile. Also aiding & abetting this re-absorption is Deborah Blum’s The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York. I picked it up on a desperate whim some days ago & have been fully entranced since.
Exemplary of my fondest dreams & most terrible night-mares. Installation by Jacob Ciocci of Paper Rad.