The Poison Pie Publishing House presents:

Proceedings of the International Congress on Exploratory Meta-Living
David J. Keffer
(link to main page of novel)


December 1, 2018
"Abracadabra!" Magic helps in both living and dying well. "It will be created in my words!"

Spoken aloud, the words alter the physical reality by creating transient pressure gradients, which travel as sound waves, through the medium of the air, until they are dissipated beyond detection by the frictional forces between the molecules that compose our atmosphere. Before dissipation, the words may find purchase with the hair cells in the inner ear, triggering an integrated biomechanical and biochemical response, which, regrettably from time to time, culminates in the listener, barking out some angry retort, such as, "Would you just shut the hell up!"

Vexation and outrage are as much a part of the passion of the spell as are calm and good cheer.

written while listening to:  Barry Guy - Blue Horizon, disc 1 (Fundacja Sl̷uchaj!, FSR 07/2018, 2018, Poland, cdx3,

December 2, 2018
The spell requires a degree of persistence that borders on the autonomous. It becomes a necessary process as much as the breathing of the lungs, the beating of the heart or the metabolic processing of the gastrointestinal tract. Yet, like these other processes, the spell requires some oversight. Just as a husband may breathe deeply to calm himself and waylay the onset of frustration, so too may a wife consciously invoke the spell to effect a desired outcome, be it to regulate her own blood pressure or that of her mate.

The spell is also useful in the practice of triage in the daily routine. Waking in the morning to a seemingly insurmountable number of tasks, all of them simultaneously mundane and essential--the care of children, household chores, tasks from work brought home to be completed before returning and, of course, the never-ending maintenance of one's marriage--the spell is capable of sorting these duties in order of priority. A competent caster possesses the capability of identifying those items best abandoned, either because, relative to the alternatives, they were insignificant or because they had no chance of being successfully completed.

Occasionally, if cast under a favorable alignment of stars, the spell may insert into the burgeoning list a seemingly frivolous addendum, something along the lines of escaping with the family to the park, or reading a chapter from a book rediscovered by chance in the commission of another task, or simply taking a nap. It is rather extraordinary how prescient the spell is with these impractical ideas, for with remarkable frequency they seem to rise to the top of the list.

written while listening to:  Barry Guy - Blue Horizon, disc 2 (Fundacja Sl̷uchaj!, FSR 07/2018, 2018, Poland, cdx3,

December 3, 2018
The spell influences the senses, tuning them in ways that ameliorate present circumstances. The direction in which the sensitivity of a given sense is modified, either amplifying or muting, also is specific to the particular situation. For example, when cast by a nuanced hand, the spell can selectively bring forward from an incoherent diatribe those words that request aid from a trusted friend, while suppressing the surrounding groans of general disgust and disparagement. Certain somatic components of the spell, including a conspiratorial wink or, in extreme cases, a sympathetic embrace, improve its execution.

In other contexts, the spell completely, though temporarily, deactivates a sense, causing one member of the pair to become, for all intents and purposes, invisible. This abrupt absence provides a sharp reminder to the other partner of how much worse the current predicament would be if they were forced to face it alone. Without smoke or fireworks, the sudden re-emergence of their lifelong collaborator reinforces their role as savior, holding the meaninglessness of existence at bay.

written while listening to:  Barry Guy - Blue Horizon, disc 3 (Fundacja Sl̷uchaj!, FSR 07/2018, 2018, Poland, cdx3,

December 4, 2018
By its very name, the effects of "A Spell for Living and Dying Together" are not limited to the world of the living. In fact, the spell may take on its most intense form in the gray boundaries between life and death. In that margin, the couple often cannot help but experience firsthand the flimsy and unsatisfactory substance of the physics-based reality. As the door to death opens, invocations to magic more easily come to their lips. Those who prefer theology to biology, decorate the spell with verbiage often associated with the divine, stressing the immortality of the soul and the joyful reunion that will surely come to pass when both parties have transcended earthly life. Those who revel in their purity as a biological organism and who acknowledge their origins in the complexity of the natural world may yet have cause to invoke a variety of the supernatural as their passing draws nigh. They may ask to be buried in a bio-degradable canvas sack near a copse of trees in a green cemetery explicitly intended to facilitate the transformation of their physical body through ordinary processes of decay into nutrients that provide sustenance to the grass, trees and wild clover that gather about their grave. This too, of course, is a kind of magic, though, again, those with a predilection for science, describe it with vocabulary suited to their tastes. In either case, when the one who is left behind visits the grave, sacred or secular, of their lost love, their gestures and their tears are the tools by which the last remnants of the spell are cast.

written while listening to:  Barre Phillips & Joëlle Léandre - A L'Improviste (Kadima Collective, KCR 16, 2008, Israel, cd,

December 5, 2018
The late Ms. Aun Wee Park felt as if it were something intrinsic to the spell rather than her own sense of will that drove her forward. The darkness was now so absolute that she could not imagine a more perfect void. She was moving rapidly toward her end; she knew though there was no way to gauge her speed.

If the machine continued to follow her, she again had no way of knowing but having related the spell, she had nothing further to say to the other committee members. Eventually, they would take her protracted silence as a sign that they must find a replacement for her seat on the committee.

Before long, she had come to terms with the notion that she was hurtling through the vacuum of death toward a great black hole. She would not admit that she had passed the event horizon, this mysterious border from which nothing, not even light could escape, because she was certain that she would have an opportunity to claim her husband ere her end. That they should be annihilated together, if that was indeed what lay before them, seemed immensely preferable to the alternative.

written while listening to:  Brett Larner, Joëlle Léandre & Kazuhisa Uchihashi - No Day Rising (Spool, SPL121, 2003, Canada, cd,

December 6, 2018
If it is not already clear, let us state our position explicitly. We regard the late Ms. Aun Wee Park as a hero in the exploration of the deep space of death. No less than Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, she accepted the challenge of traveling to a distance place, familiar to all but yet a locale from which there were no first-hand reports. Our dutiful and relentless machine followed Aun Wee to the edge of nothing and, when she finally could not restrain herself from speaking, transmitted her words back to us. We report them just as we found the words sitting placidly on our monitors on the following morning. As an editorial note, it appears that the machine neglected to record any words save those of Aun Wee. Presumably, the other half of the conversation was imperceptible to constructs of the mechanical world.

"Dong Il! What are you doing?"

"It's terribly dark here; you're lucky I found you."

"I know. I never doubted you either."

"I can't see into it, but I can't stop moving toward it either."

"Stay close to me. We will go in together."

written while listening to:  Tele.s.therion, Lunurumh, Lê Quan Ninh, Michel Doneda, Kasper T. Toeplitz, Antoine Chessex, Jason Van Gulick & Paolo Sanna - Luzifers Abschied (Minotauro, M 2017-7, 2017, Italy, cd,

December 7, 2018
Adherents to the theory of general relativity suppose that, to an observer watching another approach the event horizon of a black hole, they see the passage slowed so, as a curve approaching an infinite asymptote, the object of their study draws closer but never reaches the black hole. Thus, as our faithful machine reported upon the departure of the late Ms. Aun Wee Park and her husband, this phenomena of time dilation manifested, drawing their final moments across the whole of eternity. To be honest, we have no expectation that the manufacture of the machine was of such superlative quality that it can be expected to outlast the event it was charged to record. We ourselves shall pass away and all that we have worked toward shall be forgotten by generations flung far into the future while Aun Wee and Dong Il complete the perfection of their joint spell. That something so counter-intuitive as the theory of general relativity should also apply to the mystery of the afterlife is not really all that surprising.

However, the quirks of theoretical physics do not end there. According to the same theory, for the ones moving across the event horizon, time passes normally. Thus, Aun Wee and her husband are already in the hereafter, in whatever form they find it. The spell of course is a paradigm of meta-living (and meta-dying) because the casters simultaneously ventured into death while extending their lives indefinitely, depending upon one's point of view.

written while listening to:  Joëlle Léandre - Strings Garden, disc 1 (Fundacja Sl̷uchaj!, FSR 10/2018, 2018, Poland, cdx3,

December 8, 2018
The mood at the next meeting of the executive governing committee of the ICEML was solemn, for they recognized now that no further missives from their colleague would be forthcoming. The final spell that she had delivered was discussed at great length. Of course, her contributions to A Fractured Portrait of Iris were extolled. Those two who had yet to complete their contributions regretted that Aun Wee had departed before she had had the opportunity to read the work in its entirety. Still, knowing Aun Wee, as they did, they admitted that her sense of practicality would not have permitted her to approve of them dwelling on what could not be changed.

The remaining five committee members initially agreed to attribute her passages to the late Aun Wee Park, signifying to the reader, likely unaware of the context in which the spells had been crafted, that her words had been generated during the final stage of her existence. After one member suggested an acknowledgement of this kind, another deemed it unnecessary, asking, "Is the wisdom not apparent in the content of the passages themselves, without explicit, external association to the gravitas of death?" A third agreed, "It does seem clumsy."

Still, they left the meeting unresolved on the matter. Time would unfold of its own accord. Someone else, bound by their own notions of decorum, would state the authorship in a manner that seemed fitting.

written while listening to:  Joëlle Léandre - Strings Garden, disc 2 (Fundacja Sl̷uchaj!, FSR 10/2018, 2018, Poland, cdx3,

December 9, 2018
The first snow had appeared in late October, but subsequent snowfall had been sporadic since then, allowing Stuart to prepare for the storm that had now descended. Snow had been falling for the past few days, blocking all access to his remote hermitage. He was not concerned. He had stores for the horse, the dogs and himself to last for several months. Long before then the roads would be cleared and he could drive to town, if the need arose. In the meantime, satellites continued to orbit the Earth and Stuart was able to maintain his role in the ICEML.

Word had apparently spread among the ranks of the saints that Stuart was working on a holy endeavor. Long before he had begun to compose prayers to be included in the fractured portrait, the unusual nature of his heavenly appeals had raised eyebrows. When the four prayers, written on behalf of Poppy, reached the ears of those dwelling in Heaven, they had been met with a variety of reactions, not the least of which was curiosity. The saints asked among themselves, "Who is this leader of the American Catholic Atheist Party? Why does he pray so fervently and misguidedly for the welfare of husbands and wives, in whose number he is not to be counted?"

It is said that, in this manner, Stuart came to the attention of a number of saints. Their ability to determine the idiosyncrasies of his nature was impeded by the heavy snowfall that separated Heaven from Earth.

written while listening to:  Joëlle Léandre - Strings Garden, disc 3 (Fundacja Sl̷uchaj!, FSR 10/2018, 2018, Poland, cdx3,

December 10, 2018
Saint Ursula arrived on Stuart's porch with eleven thousand snowflakes attentively orbiting her rather petite form. For his part, Stuart was reserved in his greeting for he knew the saint's legend well. A British Christian princess of the fourth century, Ursula's father betrothed her to the pagan governor, Conan Meriadoc of Armorica. Accompanied by no fewer than eleven thousand virgins, Ursula set sail in a ship that delivered the host to a port in Gaul in a single day. There she resolved to tour Europe with her company before submitting to her marriage. At her first stop in Rome, she convinced Pope Siricius to venture from his castle and join her in her travels. En route to Cologne, the party was attacked by Huns. Every virgin, without exception was beheaded in a massacre. As the fates of virgins go, there are, one supposes, worse. Ursula herself was killed by an arrow shot from the bow of the leader of the Huns, a master of mounted archery. With no small effort, the bodies of the victims of the massacre were collected and delivered to Cologne. To this day, the Basilica of Saint Ursula in Cologne keeps their bones as venerable relics. An ordered array of scapulas and femurs line the walls of the ossuary. Crania separated from their mandibles wordlessly testify to the violence of their mass eradication.

Saint Ursula announced with something of the residual air of a princess, "I have come to help you write a prayer."

Stuart nodded his head respectfully and thanked her for her kind consideration. As delicately as possible, he ventured to ask, "O most reverent saint, what in the world do you know about love?"

written while listening to:  Nicole Mitchell's Sonic Projections - The Secret Escapades of Velvet Anderson (RogueArt, ROG-0056, 2014, France, cd,

December 11, 2018
"I know what every virgin knows about love: its intimation. I know the heady and debilitating premonition of love. I know love unspoiled by the reality of a lover's selfishness. I know love as an altar by which the princess, inviolate and incorruptible, is yet separated from her betrothed. I harbor within me a chaste idealization of love in which the organic geometry of genitalia is wholly absent."

Stuart respectfully listened to Ursula hold forth in this manner on the subject of the love of virgins for some time. Although she was officially recognized as the patron saint of orphans and archers, such topics did not apparently encompass the entirety of her sphere of influence. Nevertheless, Stuart remained unconvinced that his final contribution to the fractured portrait should be guided by the well-meaning but unusual intentions of Saint Ursula.

Thankfully, he was spared the difficult task of explaining his reticence to her by the abrupt arrival at the edge of the yard of another visitor, which set the dogs to such a din of barking that the drone of Saint Ursula's litany of love was utterly drowned out.

written while listening to:  Indigo Trio - Anaya (RogueArt, ROG-0018, 2009, France, cd,

December 12, 2018
Who should it be approaching but the Sardinian, good old Don Bosco, patron saint of publishers, juvenile delinquents and magicians. He too had heard the rumor that Stuart was working on his next prayer. He had gotten the wild idea that he might help contribute to its formulation. He nodded cordially to Ursula, although privately he may have been somewhat dismayed that he was not the only saint to whom the notion had occurred.

To those unfamiliar with his story, Giovanni Melchiorre Bosco was a nineteenth century priest and educator in Turin. A child of poverty, he observed firsthand the suffering of the masses due to the ever-growing consequences of industrialization and urbanization. While young, he sought to entertain others with self-directed shows that included both prayer and magic tricks. For this reason, more than any other, he appealed to Stuart, who frankly lacked the requisite skills to discriminate between the divine and the arcane. Don Bosco had pledged his life to the amelioration of the lives of children of the street. Through-out his life, he remained committed to teaching methods, which sought to motivate the young through love as opposed to punishment.

"Don Bosco," said Ursula in the tone of an older sister addressing a younger brother, "we are about to write a love-prayer! What do you know of love?"

written while listening to:  Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble & Ensemble Laborintus - Moments of Fatherhood (RogueArt, ROG-0068, 2016, France, cd,

December 13, 2018
Don Bosco was a man of humility, who had labored tirelessly in the service of the downtrodden. Before he addressed Ursula's question, he offered the following disclaimer. "I do not intend to embellish what little merit I have through aggrandizement of the virtues required to partake in acts of charity."

"Of course," Ursula agreed perfunctorily. She gestured for Don Bosco to continue.

"Who is as hard to love as a dirty orphan, clothed in rags, full of need, self-centered in the manner of children? These unfortunates are oblivious to the fact that their inconsolable shrieks test the patience of those who would care for them or that their petty crimes--or worse--drive away those who occupy a position with the means to improve their condition. And yet," said Don Bosco with a passion for which he had been widely known, "who is more deserving of love than a dirty, disheveled orphan? Who does Christ exhort us to welcome into our hearts but the most vulnerable among us?"

Don Bosco folded his arms across his chest. "All other loves, including romantic love, are a mere dilution of the great and endless love for the unwanted."

It appeared that his eloquence had won Ursula over completely. A beatific smile spread across her face as she imagined the prayer that she would write with the aid of Don Bosco.

written while listening to:  Nicole Mitchell - Engraved in the Wind (RogueArt, ROG-0047, 2013, France, cd,

December 14, 2018
Before they had begun any earnest prayer, their progress was interrupted by the arrival of a third heavenly visitor.

"Quite the popular hermitage," said Ursula under her breath to Stuart. She called out to new guest, "René, what a pleasant surprise!"

René Goupil, S.J., had lived during the first half of the seventeenth century. He pursued training as a surgeon in Orléans before he felt the call to become a novitiate in the Society of Jesus. Because he was deaf, he was not allowed to become a priest. Instead, he was encouraged to pursue the life of a lay missionary, traveling to New France to spread the gospel. In the company of Jesuits, his passage to a Huron mission was interrupted when the party was captured by Mohawks. This tribe had adopted the practice of the Iroquois to distribute captives as replacements to families who had lost members in conflict. These substitutes were deemed expendable and tortured on a daily basis, barely kept alive. René was repeatedly subject to being struck in the head with a tomahawk, but only to the edge of death. Under these conditions, he continued to proselytize. As a sort of divine field commission, he took religious vows as a Jesuit brother from a fellow captive priest. René was observed teaching the sign of the cross to a Mohawk child, an act for which he was killed. He has the honor of being the first canonized Catholic martyr in North America. Perversely, he is acknowledged as the patron saint of anesthetists, though there was no intentional mitigation or numbing of pain in his own death.

written while listening to:  Nicole Mitchell & an_ARCHE NewMusic Ensemble - Arc Of O for Improvisers, Chamber Orchestra & Electronics (RogueArt, ROG-0041, 2012, France, cd,

December 15, 2018
Stuart knew better than to doubt the unique contributions of René Goupil to their effort, but he desired to hear in the saint's own words how he best thought that he could assist them. Therefore, he asked the new arrival, "What sort of love is known by one such as you, who died by means of premeditated torture and violence?"

"Indeed!" exclaimed René, as if the answer should have been obvious. "I am the patron saint of anesthetists." He spread his thin, pale arms wide. "Is there a greater anesthesia than love?"

Stuart had interpreted the question as rhetorical, but the saint seemed to wait for a reply. Don Bosco discreetly nudged Stuart in the ribs with an incorporeal elbow, signaling him to humor his colleague in the heavenly arts. Stuart acquiesced, saying, "I am afraid that my knowledge of such matters is limited. Perhaps you would be willing to educate me on the matter?"

From the expression on the face of René Goupil, it seemed no other request could have been more pleasing to him, for long have the Jesuits been identified with higher education. "As anesthesia numbs the body to the pain of the surgeon's knife, so too does love make the mind oblivious to the tribulations of the mortal world, desensitizing the soul to hardship and abuse, if there yet be love in the heart."

Stuart found the musings of the saint rather prosaic and predictable, but, of course, he kept his opinion to himself. There dwell among us those who draw comfort from the repeated declaration of phrases and beliefs, so self-evident as to be taken for granted. That this should be the way of the world seemed not at all objectionable to Stuart, who accepted the age old maxim, "It takes all kinds to make the world go 'round."

written while listening to:  Denis Fournier, Nicole Mitchell, Hanah Jon Taylor, Tomeka Reid & Bernard Santacruz - Watershed (RogueArt, ROG-0044, 2012, France, cd,

December 16, 2018
Stuart supposed that three saints were more than sufficient to aid him in his prayer. However, so brightly did his spiritual conflagration burn that, before they could commence in earnest, a fourth saint was drawn to the flame. Coincidentally, this saint was known as the Lily of the Mohawks, though she had been born in New France in 1656, fourteen years after the martyrdom of René Goupil. Her name among her people had been Tekakwitha, meaning "She who bumps into things", for, as a child, she had lost much of her eyesight during a smallpox epidemic, which had claimed the lives of her parents and younger brother. Her lovely face, illuminated from within by a sanctified light, was marked by the scars of the disease. As a young woman, she had kept her scarred face hidden in a cloak. Upon her death, her visage grew radiant and the scars had miraculously vanished. Now, she donned them again for she found that they added to God's glory. Thin to the point of infirmity, she had turned to a life of austerities. She had been canonized as Saint Kateri, the Mohawk rendering of Catherine, though, in the afterlife, the other saints teased her good-naturedly, addressing her again by her childhood name, which suited the simplicity of her ways.

"Tekakwitha," said René in warm greeting. He was pleased to see her, for she represented the successful evangelization, which he had not lived to observe firsthand.

As was her manner, she nodded demurely. Tekakwitha was recognized by the church for her adamant refusal to marry and the staunch dedication of her piety, extending, it was said, into mortification of the flesh. Curiously, she had been adopted by ecologists and other environmentalists as their patron saint.

written while listening to:  Joëlle Léandre, Nicole Mitchell & Dylan van der Schyff - Before After (RogueArt, ROG-0032, 2011, France, cd,

December 17, 2018
"Forgive me my impertinence," said Stuart, compelled to adopt a formal tone by the solemnity of his latest arrival, "but what does one who stubbornly fought to escape the shackles of marriage in favor of self-mutilation know of love?"

Tekakwitha seemed not in the least perturbed by the question, for she had been forced by much more belligerent parties to defend her intentions. "I shall tell you the same thing I told the good Father Cholenec three hundred years or more ago, 'For a long time my decision on what I will do has been made. I have consecrated myself entirely to Jesus, son of Mary, I have chosen Him for husband and He alone will take me for wife.'"* Tekakwitha then fixed Stuart with a look that pierced him to that portion of his being in which no soul could unambiguously be found. "Do you have at your disposal the means to parse divine love from the earthly and to declare the former in some manner inferior to the latter?"

Of course, Stuart had no adequate response to Tekakwitha's question. He therefore changed tack and encouraged the quartet of saints to immediately join him in joint prayer before their efforts were perpetually delayed by an unending parade of saints.

*translated from the letter, "Vita Catherinae Tegakovitae, Iroquaeos inter barbaros primae virginitatem voto professae", from Pierre Cholenec to the V. Rev. Mich. Angelo Tamburine, General of the Society of Jesus, 26 September 1715.

written while listening to:  Roscoe Mitchell & Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble - Three Compositions (RogueArt, ROG-0043, 2012, France, cd,

December 18, 2018
Lord of ill-tempered Homo sapiens,
you guide the arrow of the archer.
It is by your design that juvenile
delinquents meet with justice
or mercy. The wind of your
breath billows full the sails
of environmentalists, who seek
only to preserve your Earth,
and grants numbness to the sweet
airs of the anesthetist. You
are busy, we know, so we
have measured well this prayer
with which we now implore you.

Let there be more love in the world.
Let the archer's hand grow steady
only in aiming toward tenderness.
Let the anticipation of compassion
still the baser impulses of abandoned
children and let their forbearance
be rewarded. Let the writing
of an ecological gospel commence.
Let all, patients, doctors and those
gathered in the waiting room, wake
from the pervasive anesthesia healed.

Let those who reject the narrative
of amelioration because it fails
to describe their own decline
no longer subscribe to polemics
of hate as a last expression
of lost hope. Let the impossible
come to pass and let there be
more love in the world.

written while listening to:  Nicole Mitchell - Maroon Cloud (For Practically Everyone Records, FPE 020, 2018, United States, cd,

December 19, 2018
O Lord of every facet
of this world, bejeweled
and begrimed, let love bloom
in the most unlikely of places,
between the mighty
and the vulnerable, the wicked
and the kind, between, even,
husband and wife.

Let the fire of a husband's fury
consume itself and, from the ashes,
let love emerge. Let the resignation
of the wife expand until it
nullifies her every dream and desire.
From this void, too, bring forth love.
From the insentient, coax
not sense but love.
Let every action succumb
to meaninglessness
and be misinterpreted
as a testament of love.
Let every heart be stricken
with this malady of benevolent

Or, Lord, let nothing in this prayer
come to pass. Let the words
and the intentions dissipate
without consequence, as all
the best prayers do. Leave
the husband and wife to work
things out on their own, as all
the very best prayers do.

written while listening to:  Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble - Intergalactic Beings (For Practically Everyone Records, FPE 002, 2014, United States, cd,

December 20, 2018
Their work concluded, the saints dispersed, each returning to that domain of the world's ills that fell within their purview. For his part, Stuart rejoined the meeting of the executive governing committee of the ICEML with the penultimate contribution to the fractured portrait in hand. He recited the prayer with a certain ambivalence. The anticipation of an invocation created by such disparate personalities had given way to a single reality. In the actuality of the prayer that had materialized the spectrum of possibilities had been diminished. For this reason, Stuart perceived the prayer not just as it was but also in terms of all the things that it had failed to become. He expected no less acuity from his colleagues on the committee and thus did not presume any special accolades to be forthcoming.

Still, Stuart was somewhat disappointed by the lackluster response. Neither the librarian nor the tanager were especially inclined to prayer. Nor for that matter was Hebeloma, but between the three of them, he had thought to hear some comment one way or other. They remained conspicuously quiet. As for Aun Wee, the committee had already begun to entertain the suspicion that her term of service to the ICEML had come to a close. That left only Poppy to provide feedback. Poppy nurtured self-doubt as a kind of backward version of humility, so he was loath to say anything that embarrassed himself or worse yet misrepresented the views of the committee. Finally, the awkward silence compelled him to speak. What emerged inexplicably from his mouth was just about the most stupid comment imaginable. Poppy managed to irritate his ordinarily indulgent colleagues, especially Hebeloma, when he said, "I think this is the sort of prayer that Lefteris would appreciate." It is almost imprudent to note that he may very well have been right.

written while listening to:  Nicole Mitchell's Sonic Projections - Emerald Hills (RogueArt, ROG-0027, 2010, France, cd,

December 21, 2018
Hong Samud did not dwell overlong on Stuart's last prayer or the committee's response to it, for he had his own task set before him, namely the generation of the final fragment of the fractured portrait. From one point of view, no one piece of the puzzle was more important than any other. However, we wanted the last passage to leave the authors with the lingering sensation that their time had been well spent.

At the same time, there was another issue that distracted him from matters of theoretical meta-living. Sulin had given up her adversarial approach to discovering his secret abode. She turned then to a far more effective tactic, especially when directed toward Hong Samud. Sulin opted to ask plainly for the truth. Cleverly, she did not ask, "Where do you spend your nights?" Instead, she asked, "How did you become the way that you are?", a question which had very much the same answer.

His whole life, Hong Samud lived under a compulsion to speak the truth. So he explained to the child, "When I discovered that I could not alter this existing world to a state that better suited me, I, being young like you, decided that I would start from scratch, creating my own world, with meticulous precision, designing it in such a way that the natural outcome of events promoted virtue, recognized and rewarded merit, and nurtured suffering strictly when it led to the growth of wisdom. Pointless suffering or suffering at the hands of an unyielding brutality, willful or otherwise, was to be eliminated entirely." He smiled at Sulin. "Given my preoccupation with books, it should not come as any surprise that I chose to fashion this paradise in the form of a library."*

*paraphrased from The Portable Library of Hong Samud: A Novel that Grew as a Vine Grows, Guided by an Innate, Phototactic Sensitivity, Keffer, D.J., Poison Pie Publishing House, Knoxville, Tennessee, 2015, pp. 1-2. link to: promotional flyer.

written while listening to:  Indigo Trio & Michel Edelin - The Ethiopian Princess Meets the Tantric Priest (RogueArt, ROG-0034, 2011, France, cd,

December 22, 2018
"Will you take me to visit your library?" asked Sulin. As Hong Samud sought delicate words to demur, Sulin pressed him, "Isn't it lonely there, all by yourself?"

To this second query, Hong Samud replied thoughtfully. "No, I shared that same worry initially but I quickly discovered that many like-minded individuals had a similar idea before me. The paradise I built turned out to be merely an addition to a much larger and more ancient structure, one that spans many universes and continues to be constructed to this day."

"I want to go!" said Sulin. We may forgive her a spell of petulance, as she was yet a child.

"Now that I have told you of the existence of this library, if you are determined to visit it, you will find your own way," Hong Samud promised her. "Who knows? One day, when you are older, you may add to the library yourself." This thought seemed to cheer her, at least for the time being.

Later that night, as Hong Samud sat alone at a reading table in the portable library, he was reminded of Sulin, even as he contemplated the task before him. In these, the dwindling days of the year, his undertaking was both challenging, in that the nature of the passages for which he was responsible remained unknown, and inevitable, in that all the words had already been written; he had merely to retrieve them from the spot on the shelf where they waited for him.

Hong Samud entered a room full of books on the subject of courtship traditions through-out the ages. He picked up the first book that caught his eye and began to read.

written while listening to:  Nicole Mitchell's Ice Crystal - Aquarius (Delmark Records, DE 5004, 2013, United States, cd,

December 23, 2018
As children as young as kindergarteners are taught, the existence of human beings and all other life on Earth is finite. The sun will run out of fuel in roughly five billion years. Well before the spasms of solar death, life on earth will be incinerated as the sun gradually heats up. The oceans will boil away. Perhaps a few microbes may manage to persist in deep, subterranean aquifers for several million years after everyone else is gone.

For those who recognize the threat that humanity poses to itself and the planet, this cosmic danger seems remote. In all likelihood, we will have been extinguished by our own hand well before any natural planetary cataclysm. Many, perhaps the vast majority, can cast such distant anxieties from their minds, as easily as they are caught without an umbrella, having forgotten that the forecast called for rain. However, for those whose minds are drawn to the study of thermodynamics and other disciplines concerned with the long-term fate of the physical universe and its inhabitants, the incontrovertible fact that a clock is ticking toward the annihilation of all cannot be ignored. The question that such individuals face is a simple one, "How does one live or conduct one's business or commence new endeavors or fall in love given the knowledge that all their efforts ultimately will come to naught?" It takes an unreserved recognition and embrace of the ephemerality of their being and the insignificance of its consequences. While some readers may be skeptical of this claim, depending upon one's disposition, other individuals have difficulty resigning themselves to this destiny.

written while listening to:  Tyshawn Sorey - Pillars, disc 1 (Firehouse 12 Records, FH12-01-02-028, 2018, United States, cdx3,

December 24, 2018
Of course, the extinction promised in the doom of Earth's ending could potentially be thwarted should humanity develop a means to travel among the stars. A variety of passengers could be imagined upon such a vessel. The most obvious though least practical are humans themselves. Extended travel to distant stars with more habitable planets has been the subject of numerous treatments, proffered by both the entertainment industry and, to a lesser extent, academic societies. In some instances, the colonists are transported in a state of suspended animation, often idealized as cryo-sleep or similar technobabble. Aside from the plethora of disasters that could threaten such a mission--pernicious space pirates, ravenous aliens, micrometeorite showers, uncharted electromagnetic pulses and many others thoroughly explored elsewhere--we are concerned with the ritual of courtship, as it exists among this long-slumbering community.

Protected from the absolute cold of the void by an artificially heated steel cocoon, deep dreamers will find a way in those sleeping decades and centuries to rendezvous in the languid realms of unconsciousness. Even far from Earth, the thousand sons of Somnus--Morpheus, Phobetor and Phantasos first among them--shall serve as interlocutors and matchmakers. Poorly resolved marriage brokers, shifting, vanishing and reappearing in the manner of dream-beings, shall join brides to grooms, grooms to grooms, brides to brides, for they have no bias save that for love. The dowry to be rendered for such unions is a lingering one. When the travelers eventually awaken at their destination, they are paired to one with whom they are preordained to procreate. Those who have known the utter love of dreams among the stars shall ever have the faint and indistinct remembrances of an ecstatic flight with an unidentified lover, who dwells now, ostensibly awake, though hidden, among them.

written while listening to:  Tyshawn Sorey - Pillars, disc 2 (Firehouse 12 Records, FH12-01-02-028, 2018, United States, cdx3,

December 25, 2018
Others who make it their business to conjecture about the future of humanity after the destruction of the Earth's biosphere, due to either cosmological or anthropogenic causes, suggest that we shall not be able to overcome the technical barriers associated with transporting living human beings, even in hibernation, across vast, interstellar distances. They argue, rather, that the most likely escape from Earth is through the dispersal of our genetic material among the stars. Tens or hundreds of millions of capsules will be ejected into space, each carrying our ancestral heritage in the form of biologically relevant macromolecules.

Like a colony of coral that chooses a specific tide for a frenzy of mass spawning, in which countless billions of polyps are released into the sea, so too will humanity launch its seed into the void. As with the coral, perhaps a few missives of human DNA will avoid lethal deprivation and depredation to find purchase in a distant, safe harbor.

Along the way, the atoms that compose the nucleotides, which themselves are arranged in the famous, double helix, will be ferociously bombarded by cosmic radiation. Bonds will break. Other bonds will form. Those chains, which are not so damaged that they no longer resemble the records of the living, shall express mutations heretofore unknown in the bodies of men and women. In this sojourn, too, there is an atomic courtship, in which the many potentialities carried within the biopolymers are introduced to each other and intermingle with a lascivious fecundity.

Upon reaching the destination, the bearers of this DNA shall evolve in a manner dictated by the environment in which they have come to rest. We suppose that they shall resemble us only through coincidence, a legacy along the lines of a passing appearance of gills during gestation, a trait that vanishes before they have assumed the form in which they shall attain their purpose.

written while listening to:  Tyshawn Sorey - Pillars, disc 3 (Firehouse 12 Records, FH12-01-02-028, 2018, United States, cdx3,

December 26, 2018
There dwell among us philosophers who hold that the intellect is superior to emotion. Ordinary folk tend not to spend their leisure time, if at all possible, in the company of such thinkers because they espouse the maxim that it is better to be smart than to be kind. A natural extension of the excessive valuation of intelligence to the subject of this text is the proposition that information represents the most essential element of the human legacy. Therefore, when planning escape from the inevitable cataclysm of planet Earth, they are heard to remark, "Why bother transplanting biological material, in whole or in part, at all?" Their strong preference is to allow automata, gifted with what artificial intelligence we are able to provide at the time, to serve as future ambassadors of the human species among the stars. From an extensive reservoir of solid state memory, these constructs will reliably retrieve those bits about us that are worth recalling.

The subject of the courtship of robots is only in its infancy. Certainly, they must procreate. Although robots have the form, presumably, of inorganic machines, machines break down over time. Newer models must be developed into which the relevant information can be forwarded. Despite popular opinion, robots too shall experience the simulation of emotions, naturally arising from the exposure of their machine-learning algorithms to diverse experiences. Where there is procreation and emotion, courtship follows. We imagine the ritual to contain an aspect of tenderness, although there are certainly precedents indicating that such an ingredient is not an absolute prerequisite.

As two robots embark on the creation of their replacements, we imagine that they dive into the deepest, least-accessed portions of their memory banks and recall, if only incidentally, the way we fell in love. That they will think of us as quaint shall serve as the full measure of our redemption.

written while listening to:  Tyshawn Sorey - Pillars IV, sides A & B (Firehouse 12 Records, FH12-01-08-028, 2018, United States, lpx2,

December 27, 2018
There is a line of thought that not only elevates information above all other aspects of the human experience but also rejects the contributions of any other facet. For these thinkers, the perpetuation of humanity after an Earthly apocalypse manifests as a synthetic information grid, in which satellites scattered across the galaxies serve as neurons of a vast cosmic nervous system. Impulses are transmitted in the form of patterned electromagnetic radiation from one neuron to its interstellar neighbors. This information is then relayed neuron by neuron through-out a vast, nonlinear neural network, which spans the known universe. If a reader imagines this nervous system giving rise to an entity, which is the universe itself, then she or he has followed a similar train of logic as the original proponents of this idea. That the universe should employ this spatially and temporally resolved information to perceive and respond to events within itself seems unavoidable. We can be thankful that human beings, as we know them, will be extinguished long before this reality comes to pass, for what unbounded hubris they would demonstrate in hailing themselves as the creator of the sentient universe, a veritable god.

A surfeit of courtship can be discovered in this possibility. The courtship of neurons is a synaptic affair, enacted in minute, intimate impulses. In contrast, the courtship of universes is a grand, colossal and all-encompassing drama, in which whole galaxies collide, tearing each other apart, in the eddies of enflamed passion. The courtship of gods is a topic well-addressed by the ancients, in which deceit is commonplace and the transmogrification of illicit lovers into desirable animals is not unheard of. The courtship of a people with extinction is also a subject of much contemporary interest. The commonality that binds these disparate phenomena as categories of courtship lies in their shared origin in the perplexing behavior exhibited by couples engaged in the tentative and fitful exploration of love.

written while listening to:  Tyshawn Sorey - Pillars IV, sides C & D (Firehouse 12 Records, FH12-01-08-028, 2018, United States, lpx2,

December 28, 2018
Later on the same day that Hong Samud had earlier emerged with the final contribution to the fractured portrait in hand, he discovered Sulin lingering around the closet-sized room that served to hold the library's "Special Collection". When the girl noticed Hong Samud's eyes upon her, she pretended to be taking a book to the adjacent receiving room. Of course, as we have previously mentioned, the Special Collection room provided Hong Samud access to the portable library. He had assumed that he had emerged unobserved for there had been no one else in the beach library at the very early hour of his return. Still, Sulin's suspicious behavior, following so closely upon her questions about the portable library, put Hong Samud on alert.

His hunch was confirmed that same evening when her mother announced to Sulin that they were leaving in ten minutes. Sulin sought Hong Samud out and asked in a whisper, "How do you get in?"

Hong Samud rejected any thought of subterfuge. "You need a key," he answered simply, "in the form of a library card."

"Where do I get one?" she asked eagerly.

"You make a card for yourself."

"I just make my own library card?" Sulin asked skeptically. Perhaps she had thought that the entrance to the portable library would be more carefully guarded. She did not understand that few maintained any interest in visiting such an out-of-the-way repository of esoteric knowledge.

"You just make your own," Hong Samud confirmed.

"I don't think you are telling me the whole truth," Sulin countered with a smirk that bordered on disrespectful. She dared do so only because she knew Hong Samud, despite his age, would not be offended.

"No, no, of course not," Hong Samud agreed good-naturedly, "the truth is always too big to tell the whole of it."

written while listening to:  Peter Kowald & the Ort Ensemble Wuppertal with Evan Parker, Lê Quan Ninh & Carlos Zingaro - Cuts (Free Music Production, FMP CD 94, 1998, Germany, cd,

December 29, 2018
Hong Samud brought the twenty-fifth and final contribution to "A Fractured Portrait of Iris" to the meeting of the executive governing committee of the International Congress on Exploratory Meta-Living. Hebeloma, Escarlata, Stuart and Poppy were in attendance as he read the passage in its entirety. Aun Wee was conspicuously absent. When he had finished, the others congratulated Hong Samud on words that seemed fitting as a conclusion to the work. As usual, Hong Samud waved off any credit, insisting that he was not responsible for the text but had merely culled excerpts from forgotten books stored within the portable library.

All eyes turned to Poppy, who had urged the committee to take up this work. Now that it had been completed, they expected a statement from him. Although it was reasonable for Poppy to have anticipated such a request, he was, as usual, unprepared to speak. He mumbled, "Well, you did it." Finding that comment inadequate, he appended, "Thank you...very much."

It fell to Hebeloma, who occupied the seat of president of the ICEML, to find suitable closing words. She returned to themes visited previously in her inaugural address.

"This past year we devoted ourselves to an arbitrary task, which we endowed with the meaning of our common purpose. It has sustained our fellowship through-out the year. Even were the result drivel of the most puerile variety, our time would nevertheless have been well spent. Yet, we imagine that our fractured portrait possesses some merit of its own. We imagine a future reader discovering the various facets of Iris captured by our handiwork. Should this distant reader be moved to remark, 'Oh, I did not expect to find such solace here!', then, despite our ignorance of the consequences of our shared labor, we shall be doubly redeemed!"

written while listening to:  Grosse Abfahrt - Everything that Disappears (Emanem, 4146, 2008, United Kingdom, cd,

December 30, 2018
Given the wide-spread availability and efficiency of print-on-demand services, within a week, Poppy had in his hands six copies of the twenty-five passages of "A Fractured Portrait of Iris" bound into a beautiful, hardcover book. Wrapped in black linen, the title was embossed in gold ink down the spine. He mailed one copy to each living member of the executive governing committee. Because three of them lived overseas, Poppy paid several times as much for the shipping as he had for the books. Another copy he kept for himself.

The final copy he intended to present as a gift to Iris. He found her in the afternoon, seated on the couch in their living room. She had a mass of papers spread out on the coffee table before her. His entrance caught her attention and she looked up expectantly. Seeing that her husband intended to speak, she anticipated an extended interruption and set down her pen.

Poppy explained that the members of the executive governing committee had recently finished the final book of the Hortie pentalogy. His wife adopted a pleased expression and congratulated him on the successful completion of a labor that he had begun a decade earlier. After thanking her, Poppy offered her the book.

In describing Iris' reaction, it is necessary to inform the reader that she had received many books over the years authored by her husband. A few she had read and others she had put away unopened on a shelf. Perhaps, she intended to read this one; she did not clearly indicate her intention or, if she did, Poppy failed to interpret it correctly. She thanked him and, placing the book beside her papers, returned to work.

Of course, it is unimportant for Iris to read a book about herself. There is no streak of narcissism within her that might be pleased to know she had attracted the attention of an esteemed body of scholars. Fortunately, the idea that he ought to be acknowledged for work which was as essential to his being as breathing did not appeal to Poppy.

written while listening to:  Johannes Bauer, Isabelle Duthoit & Luc Ex - Bouge (Vand'Oeuvre, 1338, 2013, France, cd,

December 31, 2018
Today, this volume of the Proceedings of the International Congress on Exploratory Meta-Living draws to a close. Although it may seem antithetical to conclude a document that has encouraged multiplicity with a message free of ambiguity, let there be, here at the end, no misunderstanding. Why did I write these passages every day? I could claim that it was in fact a meditative morning practice, which put me in the proper frame of mind to conduct the necessary business over the remainder of the day, a business that I rely upon for such mundane purposes as paying down the mortgage and purchasing groceries, not to mention numerous less essential comforts. However, I have always opted to employ the maxim, "Never admit to a virtue when a vice will suffice." As such, this habit was, in fact, nothing more than learned behavior. Writing each morning predictably induced the release of neurochemicals, which served to calm me as surely as a drug. Why then did I find it necessary to listen to music as I wrote? After much experimentation and introspection, I have arrived at my best guess regarding the answer to this question, which is that listening to music while I wrote increased the probability that I would emerge from the experience with the sensation that I had not just wasted my time.

Good night, Hebeloma. God willing, I will see you tomorrow morning. There yet remains work to be done.

written while listening to:  Marc Perrone - Ciné Suite (Le Chant Du Monde, LDX 2741093, 1998, France, cd,

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