The Poison Pie Publishing House presents:

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


June 1, 2018
Hebeloma returned to the second chamber with Lefteris, although it appeared that they had already exhausted their survey of its scant contents: a pair of ancient skeletons. "Likely miners," Lefteris said, "trapped when the gap linking this room to the main shaft collapsed."

Hebeloma could not allow this statement to stand as the last testament to Melanippe and Idas. She explained to Lefteris her alternate theory. Given their state of decay, it was not possible for them to identify the gender of the skeletons, although one trained in osteology, allowed to examine the width of the pelvic bones, could have made a quick determination. Of course, Hebeloma, proponent that she was of experimental meta-living, had no desire to irrefutably adjudicate the matter. Besides, Lefteris thought her interpretation preferable, saying, "I didn't realize that you were a romantic."

Suddenly, the two were very close and very much alone in the confines of the chamber. They appeared, for some period of time, as an echo of Melanippe and Idas, or a simultaneous, redundant manifestation of Iris and Poppy. Lefteris held the lantern to her face, casting shadows on her aquiline nose and lustrous eyes. He found her exceedingly lovely in the soft light and wondered aloud, "Do you propose to offer yourself to me?"

To this question, Hebeloma's eyes widened and her pulse quickened. "Lefteris," she said, "you have misunderstood me."

The man shifted the lantern to his own face, revealing a disappointed but amiable expression. "Ah, my apologies. I thought, in the meta-living, understanding and misunderstanding were one and the same."

written while listening to:  Barre Phillips & Keiji Haino - Etchings in the Air (P.S.F. Records, PSFD-74, 1996, Japan, cd,

June 2, 2018
Lefteris dutifully returned Hebeloma to the airport for her scheduled departure early in the morning. Of their misunderstanding in the chamber of Melanippe and Idas nothing was said. In Hebeloma's memory the episode was already subject to doubt; perhaps it had all been a figment of her imagination, caught in the eddies generated in the periphery of the vortex of the minotaur.

Standing outside his brother-in-law's car at the drop-off curb, Lefteris stretched as if also waking from a restful sleep. "I doubt," said her guide, "that we have discovered the last of the side chambers."

Hebeloma both agreed with this assessment and, professionally, hoped it soon to be confirmed. Still, she said nothing.

"If I make a significant discovery," Lefteris added, "I will contact you immediately."

"Yes," Hebeloma agreed. "I would appreciate that." She remembered then that she had never put her question to him regarding whether he took others--tourists or scholars--to the mine as well. Given the circumstances, it seemed petty, not to mention awkward, to ask now. She smiled.

Lefteris responded in kind then backed into the car, saying as he did so, "I've got to return the vehicle. My sister needs it by nine."

"Make sure to give her my gift." Over Lefteris' protests, Hebeloma had purchased a token in gratitude for the use of their vehicle.

"Of course." In this way, Lefteris took leave of the President of the International Congress on Exploratory Meta-Living, though he remained optimistic that their paths had not crossed for the last time.

written while listening to:  Barre Phillips & Derek Bailey - Figuring (Incus Records, CD05, 1990, United Kingdom, cd,

June 3, 2018
That night, Hebeloma returned to the video conference of the executive governing committee with the intention of sharing her second fragment of the fractured portrait. She had not emailed the document earlier in the day, thinking instead to present it with a flourish during the meeting. However, she found the cameras of the tanager, Stuart, Poppy and Hong Samud inactive. Of course, the camera of Aun Wee was always dark, though it did not mean that she wasn't listening.

Such infidelity among the members of the executive committee was not to be tolerated. While she admitted that things slowed down during the summer, the silence during the meeting led to a sense of failure in Hebeloma. She was the president after all. She set the example. She would have to say something, although further thought was required on the most effective tone of the message. Perhaps, it was simply a coincidence that the others were engaged in ICEML business tonight, rather than a case of collective dereliction of duty.

She sent out an email at that moment with her recent contribution as an attachment. There was a small chance that doing so might momentarily rouse someone. She waited several minutes but her missive elicited no response. It crossed her mind that if she sent it to Lefteris, she would likely receive a rapid reply. She dismissed the thought.

"Where did everyone go?" Hebeloma asked. The microphone carried her voice across the continents.

As it turned out Aun Wee, alone in the afterworld, was listening in the darkness. In response to the president's query, her chat box lit up with the following text, "I have been wondering much the same thing myself."

written while listening to:  Barre Phillips - Journal Violone II (ECM Records, ECM 1149, 1980, Germany, lp,

June 4, 2018
Hebeloma's optimistic speculation that the other members of the committee had been absent because they were engaged in worthwhile business on behalf of the ICEML proved to be unfounded.

"Beatriz and I went to the beach," the tanager explained, "and I lost track of the time. It was a gorgeous day!" There was no hint of apology in the high song of her bird-like voice.

Hong Samud offered that, while it was the dry season, his local pocket of the coast had experienced a storm with unusually strong winds on the night before. As a result, he had spent the morning with the rest of the library staff cleaning up the detritus, partly washed up from the sea in front of them and partly torn free from the jungle behind, which had been scattered across the grounds.

When Hebeloma's attention turned to Stuart, he shrugged. "I'm a busy man. I wear two hats. Sometimes the American Catholic Atheist Party takes the front seat and sometimes ICEML." Notably, he did not offer what manner of ACAP work had demanded his time.

Finally, it fell to Poppy. "It's June," he reminded Hebeloma unnecessarily. "Lots of people have been married in the month of June, including Iris and me. It was our anniversary. She said that she wasn't going to share me with you all last night." His voice trailed off, as if he was embarrassed. His expression brightened and he added, "Oh, by the way, Hebeloma, I thought your piece on Idas and Melanippe was splendid."

So, Hebeloma provided no remonstration for their absence. Believe it or not, sometimes life trumped meta-life.

written while listening to:  Barre Phillips & Motoharu Yoshizawa - Oh My, Those Boys! (NoBusiness Records, NBLP 111, 2018 (originally recorded 1994), Lithuania, lp,

June 5, 2018
In the peculiar case of the late Ms. Aun Wee Park, sometimes meta-death trumped death, for what she now experienced could not, under the best of circumstances, be categorized as a variety of oblivion. Aun Wee's eyes had had more than enough time to adjust to the darkness. Therefore, she had no difficulty penetrating the gloom and uncovering each of the hidden secrets, of which there appeared, after exhaustive inspection, to be none.

Aun Wee desired to ask aloud, "Who made such a confounded darkness? Who devised a cosmos in which a life could end in this manner?" Of course, Aun Wee did not vocalize these rhetorical questions, because she knew the machine was waiting to transcribe her words and to share them with the world of the living. Hers was a private indignation.

She thought briefly of Stuart and his traffic with the saints. Perhaps, she ought to seek out a similar agent to act as courier for her message to a local god of death, so that it might alleviate her present condition. Even then, Aun Wee hesitated. She had no intention of sharing her consternation with a holy person or even an ambivalent deity.

"Curse them all!" she snapped, only too late realizing that her words would surely appear on the monitors of her colleagues. She imagined them wondering what the exclamation could signify.

The fury of this undead spirit grew. More than anything else, she desired to rise above the trappings of the mortal world and she knew that the pity of those whom she would leave behind served only as a restraining tether.

written while listening to:  Mikami Kan, Motoharu Yoshizawa & Keiji Haino - Live in the First Year of the Heisei Volume One (P.S.F. Records, PSFD-5 & PSF-1001, 1990, Japan, lp+single-sided 7",

June 6, 2018
The phenomenon known as fog occurs when the humidity in the atmosphere nears or exceeds the thermodynamic capacity for air to hold water in a gaseous form. Once a limit is met, the water molecules gather on specks of dust and coalesce into roughly spherical droplets of liquid that are, typically, about ten millionths of a meter in diameter. These rather small droplets are able to interact with light waves, blocking some fraction of it and impacting the functioning of processes that rely on the unimpeded transmission of light, such as vision. Other senses have developed that penetrate or even rely upon the presence of fog. Bacteria and other rudimentary lifeforms rely on chemotaxis in order to navigate to greater concentrations of life-sustaining chemicals, including water. Certain flying insects possess neurons at the end of their antennae that allow them to detect humidity in the air and move toward it. In humans, it is some combination of the olfactory sense and the skin itself that provides us with the ability to detect moisture.

In the darkness, Aun Wee possessed no body, sheathed in skin. Neither could she smell the air nor perceive the refraction or reflection of light. Nevertheless, she sensed by a faculty unknown to her the presence of a dense miasma surrounding her. If she were to find her people, she would need first to get her bearings. In this dread and absurd afterworld, where no landmarks provided any means of orientation, she would have to rely on the more subtle features of faint gradients in the extent of a fog, which she strictly intuited and which, perhaps, contributed to her blindness. To this end, she wandered in a direction she optimistically considered uphill.

written while listening to:  Mikami Kan, Motoharu Yoshizawa & Keiji Haino - Live in the First Year of the Heisei Volume Two (P.S.F. Records, PSFD-6, 1990, Japan, lp,

June 7, 2018
For those who have wandered in mountainous terrain, seeking the highest point, from which one can survey the landscape, two challenges immediately come to mind. First, the presence of local maxima in the topography means that simply moving uphill is not sufficient to guarantee that one arrives at the tallest peak. One may rather reach the crown of a dwarf among giants. Second, as a result of the limited visibility of one's surroundings, owing to the unevenness of the terrain itself as well as other obstacles to vision, typically trees, it may be difficult or impossible to identify the tallest peak before selecting the mountain to scale. A lesser associated issue involves features with negligible inclines, such as the floor of a meandering canyon or the erratic ridge of an extended crest. It may be a challenge even to know which way is up. One can well imagine that the difficulty of the task is amplified if one were to attempt it in the dead of a moonless, star-free night.

Although, Aun Wee had limited experience wandering through mountains, she engaged in an analogous task, save that the gradient, which she followed, should lead, not to a pinnacle in altitude, but to a minimum in the surrounding fog.

Mathematicians describe this general problem as global optimization on non-convex manifolds. To have a concise name for the problem is not intended to suggest, by any stretch, that there exists a technique, which guarantees success. Even the most robust approaches, are stochastic in nature, relying on many failed attempts before probabilistically encouraging convergence.

written while listening to:  Evan Parker - Synergetics-Phonomanie III, disc 1 (Leo Records, CD LR 239/240, 1996 (originally recorded 1993), United Kingdom, cdx2,

June 8, 2018
Adrift in an endless expanse of nothingness, one can hardly expect success from the late Ms. Park. What was her goal? To find a point where the darkness seemed thinnest? To what end? That she might through this veil discover the means to, for lack of a better phrase, move onward. Because of the peculiar nonlinearity in time, she already felt as if she had been here for an eternity. She hoped in whatever came next that there were either companions to pass the time or relief of another kind from her present isolation.

But the darkness seemed the very fabric of this netherworld. To find where the darkness pressed in less completely was like a living person seeking a point where the fabric of reality--expressed in three dimensional space and time--was weakened. Of course, there was no analog in the living world. Only the minds of lunatics, those whose rejection of reality lay beyond their control, or of artists, who willfully chose to reconstruct their own perception of reality, were able to escape the physics-based limitations to which others were bound.

Perhaps, there was no way to breach the constraints of the world of the dead either, without resorting to fantasy. Thankfully, as a member of the executive governing committee of the Internal Congress on Exploratory Meta-Living, Ms. Park had a tremendous amount of experience with apophenia. She felt confident that she could invent her own solution, given a minute bit of data to interpret. However, even the most miniscule smidgeon of information seemed hard to come by in a realm devoid of everything but darkness.

written while listening to:  Evan Parker - Synergetics-Phonomanie III, disc 2 (Leo Records, CD LR 239/240, 1996 (originally recorded 1993), United Kingdom, cdx2,

June 9, 2018
Nevertheless, the late Ms. Aun Wee Park persisted in her search for that which could not be found because it did not exist. She thought herself well poised for such a task since she too no longer existed. If anyone could find the object of her pursuit, it should be her.

For a while, she simply imagined that she felt the darkness thinning about her. Perhaps, she could, through sheer force of will, create a worn spot in the veil. There she could tear a hole, large enough to peer through if not to pass. Again, time seemed neither to comply with her wishes nor to thwart her. It presented itself in an endless abundance but it did not provide any sensation of forward narrative.

The only crests she discovered in her search were those formed of frustration. She was deprived of the solitary joy of cursing at no one, for the machine lurked ever at her shoulder, waiting to capture and transmit her words of exasperation.

She gave up for an eternity and hid herself in a dark hole. When the hiding exhausted her, she renewed her search, as if it were the first time, since there was no progress from previous efforts upon which she could build. An interminable cycle of such iterations proceeded. Each one seemed as long as the lifetime of a man, until the glorious and very late Ms. Aun Wee Park was as ancient as the stars, which held firm in the conspiracy to hide their burning faces from her.

written while listening to:  Steve Lacy, Motoharu Yoshizawa & Masahiko Togashi - Stalks (Nippon Columbia, YQ-7507-N, 1975, Japan, lp,

June 10, 2018
One can only imagine readers who find this description of the afterlife not all that different from life itself. Many wander in darkness. Sometimes the fog that surrounds us is caused by external circumstances. Often the fog is self-induced, a mental machination invoked by the brain with the purpose of nothing more exalted than coping. For those who believe that life and death form two segments of a continuous process, that there should be similarities between them is to be expected. However, for Aun Wee, who had been a gregarious grandmother, surrounding herself with other seamstresses during the work day and with her children and grandchildren at virtually all other times, the connection between her current state and the past was not obvious.

Therefore, others might have been better prepared to accept their fate. The late Ms. Park, on the contrary, remained convinced that she was merely experiencing an error, a slip-up in the cosmic intentions for her person. Certainly, such inadvertent negligence was more consistent with her expectations than any wholesale alteration in the nature of existence. Many times she had been overlooked, be it at the market, or at the Department of Motor Vehicles, or at sundry other places. The remedy was always to stand on her tiptoes and make her voice be known. She was almost ready to shout. She peered about her, searching for a sign of the machine, which would capture her outburst. Just because she could not detect its presence, did not mean that Aun Wee was fooled into believing it had abandoned her.

written while listening to:  Steve Lacy Sextet - The Wire (Denon Jazz, YX-7553-ND, 1977, Japan, lp,

June 11, 2018
The deceased Ms. Park attempted to push the darkness away in a manner analogous to that in which a person, standing in a lake, might attempt to push water away with their bare hands. They might place their hands together to form a single face then shove the arms outward. Of course, the water will react to this motion. A wave will move away from the person. Should there be sufficient velocity, drops of water may become airborne and fall, splashing at a distance. Invariably water will return to the point from which it was displaced. It needs no sentience to accomplish this task, only gravity and the dictates of classical mechanics. From a long term perspective, the original motion was useless. The water will resume its perfect equilibrium; the friction between atoms will dissipate the eddies until the water is utterly settled, with no indication that it was ever disturbed. Life, however, is not an equilibrium process. The actions of life exist in the transient moments during which the repercussions of the act are still felt and phenomena with a sufficiently fast time scale can yet exploit the lower level of the water. So too did Aun Wee push the darkness away from her, though bodiless, she had no hands. She sought by dint of will to create a temporary deviation from the otherwise imperturbable darkness. Can such a thing be done? There is reason to be optimistic. It is supposed that the universe emerged from random fluctuations in nothingness. An infinitesimal speck of matter separated momentarily from an equally infinitesimal particle of anti-matter. Before they could reunite and annihilate each other, some mischievous third party snatched one of the specks away and began an avalanche in which we are still tumbling today. And we make so much meaning of it! If a greater act of apophenia has ever been attempted, we do not know of it.

written while listening to:  Steve Lacy, Yuji Takahashi & Takehisa Kosugi - Distant Voices (Aguirre Records, ZORN51, 2018 (originally recorded 1975), Belgium, lp,

June 12, 2018
All of the late Ms. Park's efforts seemed for naught. The darkness receded not one iota. She appeared not to be possessed of the apparatus necessary to pull something from nothing. In the depths of her frustration, she succumbed to despair and shrieked a wordless wail.

Like a hungry predator, the machine pounced on the sound. Though we suppose that the outburst had not been constructed of meaningful syllables, the machine was not predisposed to onomatopoeias. Instead, it translated the cry into a phrase that, based upon its algorithms, seemed phonetically closest to something it could recognize. Regrettably, it appeared on the monitors of the executive governing committee as "I wanted dak galbi!"

Fortunately, this transmission did not occur while a meeting was in session. Poppy was the only one online, sitting by himself in the electronic conference room. He was not especially well-traveled and didn't know that dak galbi was a kind of spicy chicken stir fry with cabbage, carrots, rice noodles and lots of chili paste. However in the age of the internet, it took him only a minute to decipher what he thought to be the truth of Aun Wee's message. "It sounds good," he said in reply.

We should, Gentle Reader, try to imagine the rather dire situation from the point of view of Ms. Park, who had struggled futilely in darkness for an eternity. In response to her clamorous shriek, she suddenly heard a familiar voice resonating about her a well-intentioned but nevertheless incongruous response. She found nothing demeaning in seizing upon the momentary distraction, meaningless though it was, in order to twist it into a makeshift crowbar with which she could pry a crack in the darkness.

written while listening to:  Steve Lacy - Stamps, disc 1 (Corbett vs. Dempsey, CvsD | CD045, 2018 (originally recorded 1977 & 1978), United States, cdx2,

June 13, 2018
Although he was unaware of its impact, Poppy's voice continued to provide leverage to Aun Wee's efforts to disturb the darkness. "We are waiting," he informed her, "for your second contribution to the fractured portrait." He reminisced further about how much her first passage, which had taken the form of a magical spell, had appealed to him. "Will you give me another spell from beyond the grave?"

At these words, Aun Wee's perception of this afterworld abruptly came into focus as a purgatory, in which she must bide her time, pending a transfer to another state. She entertained the possibility that completing a specified task might provide the necessary trigger to release her from her current situation, although she did not entirely discount the notion that the event, which would precipitate her liberation could take the form of a more distant and apocalyptic form, say the End of the World or the Second Coming. In any case, she resolved to take what action she could to improve her chances. With no other information upon which to base her decision, she chose to accept the obvious task and compose a second spell. She would call this spell, "A Spell to Make the Most of Accidents", since it was Poppy's incidental intrusion that had sparked the idea. As soon as this thought crossed her mind, a gap in the darkness opened directly beneath her and she experienced the sensation of falling for an eternity. To her dismay, she discovered that the difference between the new darkness and the old was not, as she had hoped, a reduction in its opacity, but rather an increase in the number of dimensions utterly at the mercy of an absence of light.

written while listening to:  Steve Lacy - Stamps, disc 2 (Corbett vs. Dempsey, CvsD | CD045, 2018 (originally recorded 1977 & 1978), United States, cdx2,

June 14, 2018
Certainly, there is widespread acknowledgment of the beneficial aspects of chance events. Lexicographers will recall that the English author, Horace Walpole, coined the word serendipity in 1754 to describe just such a situation. Often a serendipitous discovery is attributed to good luck, a nebulous concept in itself, which recognizes that in the distribution of human experiences, some are statistically prone to better fortune than are others. That this should be the way of things is merely a consequence of our physics-based reality being well-described by the mathematics of probability. There remains a school of thought more deterministic regarding the utility of unsought strokes of luck, which can be encapsulated in the maxim, "Chance favors the prepared mind", the contrapositive of which is "The unready likely squander their opportunities." One is tempted to contemplate whether adherents to this philosophy are inspired more by undeserved good fortune rather than excessive preparedness, despite the fact that by doing so one opens oneself to accusations of cynicism.

The spell we have in mind does not provide an answer to any question regarding the origin, merit or ultimate advantage of a fortuitous turn of events. Rather, the spell is invoked by the headstrong who have resolutely set themselves upon a particular path irrespective of the chance encounters that appear unbidden along the way and are perceived, not as opportunities to be exploited by the prepared, but rather as temptations presented to the unwary to weaken their resolve and to lure them away from the goal to which they are otherwise bound.

written while listening to:  Steve Lacy - Solo at Mandara (ALM Records, AL-5, 1975, Japan, lp,

June 15, 2018
The relevance of such a spell is general, but here we are concerned with a particular application, namely to marriage. In this case, the resolution, jointly avowed, is to maintain the union, "until death do us part". It takes a stubbornness of untold proportions to hold to this course, given the nearly constant obstacles and potential detours that arise in the course of two joined lives. Some prefer to disguise this obstinacy as fidelity, which seems perfectly acceptable to us, though we choose not to use the term ourselves, opting to yield to the adage to "never admit to a virtue when a vice will suffice".

The intent of the spell is to embrace the numerous random incidents and errors that could potentially disrupt the marriage and enlist their aid in the perpetuation of the vow. The means by which such a task can be accomplished are varied and include assigning unintended meaning to a mishap, redirecting the consequence of an accident toward a positive outcome, giving someone repeatedly the benefit of the doubt, and generally erring profusely and inexcusably on the side of optimism. A single instance may require a considerable suspension of disbelief, while the routine exercise of this power borders on the preposterous. As a result one has cause to rely on the invocation of magic, because magic can make the unbelievable, if not credible, at least unobjectionable.

written while listening to:  Steve Lacy with Don Cherry - Evidence (New Jazz, NJ 8271, 1962, United States, lp,

June 16, 2018
The verbal components of the spell include several common phrases, which can be cast without drawing attention to their supernatural effect. Such phrases include, "Now that's something you don't see every day!" or "I didn't see that coming." or "I suppose that I could have handled that better."

The somatic component of the spell involves nothing less powerful than physical contact, often the intimacy of holding hands. The impact of many accidents can be mutated simply by tactile responses--the involuntary application of pressure or another autonomic reaction to surprise or stress. One finds the deleterious effects of the mishap mitigated and transformed into a shared experience, which serves to bond the two individuals more closely together through the contribution to a shared history. It seems so simple, almost as if it just might happen even in the absence of magic. Such subtlety is often the case for the best and most pervasive spells; they are easily, naturally activated. The trick, of course, is to be holding hands at the right moment.

As is the case with many spells, a material component is not essential but may moderate, either elevating or tempering, the intensity of the spell. Again, as was observed with the verbal and somatic components, the materials for this particular spell need not be especially extravagant or exotic. Objects as plain and direct as a get-well card have often been used to great effect. The blooms of flowering plants are also commonly employed in the casting of this spell.

written while listening to:  Steve Lacy Quintet - Last Tour (Emanem, 5039, 2015 (originally recorded 2004), United Kingdom, cd,

June 17, 2018
Many who study the mechanisms of the physical world, while remaining ignorant of magic, instinctively describe magic as being at odds with science. In actuality, only the most difficult practitioners of the arcane entertain notions of esoteric spells, which seek to repudiate the physics-based reality that surrounds them. Other, more well-adjusted thaumaturges recognize that the barrier to a magic, which embraces some constraints of physical reality, is much lower than it would be were the spell entirely at odds with all aspects of the universe.

An analogy can be made with the disposition of individuals. Each of us knows someone who is pleasantly or disagreeably eccentric in one idiosyncratic direction--hopefully many such persons. These individuals remain relatively easy to accommodate, even to love should we be moved to do so. On the other hand, an individual who possesses habits and quirks that are exclusively weird or anomalous is almost surely a difficult person, one likely avoided by others who seek to wend their way through living days without inviting undue upset.

The spell under discussion requires that the caster explicitly ask the universe to push the spell forward. It costs nothing, for the universe is a dynamic system caught in ceaseless motion, much of which is meaningless, unless harnessed for a momentary cause. The spell does require of the caster a willingness to believe that one outcome is just as likely as another, without the prejudice of supposing that the preponderance of the insentient universe is obligated to embrace the same limited number of penchants and biases as do its organic residents.

written while listening to:  Steve Lacy - The Crust (Emanem, 304, 1975, United Kingdom, lp,

June 18, 2018
For those, like Poppy, who perceive the world full of error, a spell, which recognizes accidents as the raw source of power, transforms life into a cornucopia of magic. Each faux pas becomes a minor cantrip, each misspoken word and mishandled encounter a charm and incantation, each calamity a miracle. His marriage to Iris becomes an endless exercise in extracting impossible implications from potential arguments. Each diverted misunderstanding rendered into a mysterious overture to the arcane is a cause for celebration. That such unlikely wonders can exist among us is sufficient to give the most hardened cynic pause.

Of course, the magic is most successfully cast if both individuals in the marriage are party to the spell. However, as unlikely as it may seem, there are occasional examples where only the husband or wife endeavors to invoke the spell, unbeknownst to their partner. To be sure, this lonely error in judgment can also be used as kindling for the spell.

written while listening to:  Steve Lacy plus Marilyn Crispell, Misha Mengelberg, Ulrich Gumpert, Fred van Hove and Vladimir Miller - Five Facings (Free Music Production, FMP CD 85, 1996, Germany, cd,

June 19, 2018
Few texts are available to those interested in the use of the spell in the realms of the dead, since traditionally the denizens of the afterworld, who might possess first-hand experience in the subject, do not commit their thoughts to writing, preferring other means to communicate their knowledge. As such, each newcomer to death, who discovers that errors have propagated beyond the grave and who identifies within themselves the kernel of dissatisfaction at this state of affairs, has little recourse to the solutions devised by those who came before.

Herein lies a great advantage in designing a magic consistent with the principles of the universe as a whole. Whatever physics manipulates the transition from life to death, be it the aerodynamics of coursing through oblivion or the lethargic chemical kinetics of decomposition, she who has practiced this spell during the course of her life, who has teased exaggerated flourishes from natural laws, shall find herself once again able to do so, regardless of the specific nature of the afterlife with which she is faced, eternal annihilation of the mind notwithstanding.

To call this spell a mystery is to misunderstand it. That it remains inaccessible to many is largely a matter of careless observation and of incorrect taxonomy in categorizing the nature by which the world and the creatures within it react and adapt to the chaotic and uncontrolled manifestations of their being.

written while listening to:  Steve Lacy & Steve Potts featuring the voice of Irene Aebi - Tips (Corbett vs. Dempsey, CvsD | CD018, 2015 (originally recorded 1981), United States, cd,

June 20, 2018
The letters trickled onto the small area on each screen reserved for texting over the course of the meeting. It took the better part of half an hour. The other members of the executive governing committee watched patiently as each letter of the spell that Aun Wee had prepared appeared.

When only the name of the spell had been transmitted--A Spell to Make the Most of Accidents--anticipation was already building. The tanager repeated the name and said in delight, "Oh, this is going to be good!" From off screen, a woman (the voice sounded like it belonged to someone other than Beatriz), wholeheartedly agreed in Spanish.

At last the entire spell was communicated. Each recipient had a feeling for it, but understood that the full impact could not be ascertained until it was read in whole. No one objected when the librarian, Hong Samud, volunteered to read it aloud. His voice was carried first by electrons along copper wires then by electromagnetic radiation to a satellite orbiting the Earth. From this vantage point, the spell had the opportunity to envelope the entire planet and all its inhabitants, willing or otherwise.

During the recitation of the spell, Poppy found himself unable to stem the flow of tears. He regretted that the description of the process of the creation of A Fractured Portrait of Iris should portray him as repeatedly crying like an old woman, but that is the way it turned out. This book, he was sure, when finished, would save his marriage.

written while listening to:  Steve Lacy, Roswell Rudd, Kent Carter & Beaver Harris - Trickles (Black Saint Records, BSR 0008, 1976, Italy, lp,

June 21, 2018
For those who had been attuned to it, the effects of the spell lingered. The arrival of the summer solstice did nothing to diminish or prematurely truncate the arcane ionization, which seemed to surround them. One can hardly expect any aspect of life, including this narrative, to move directly from peak to peak. Rather, our story should follow the natural rhythms, in which a crest is followed by a trough before the arrival of a subsequent cycle. We should be permitted time to catch our breath between fragments of the fractured portrait.

However, the tanager had no intention of allowing the accumulated intensity to dissipate, simply to maintain a semblance of etiquette with regard to natural laws. Invigorated by the casting of Aun Wee's spell, she flew again between islands, sandwiched between the endless blue of the Pacific below and the equally expansive blue of the firmament above. The tanager, like all birds, was undaunted by the intimation of length scales far in excess of her own being, for she possessed within herself an internal space, bounded but yet infinite, according to concepts no more complicated than those that govern real numbers.

Each splinter within her avian body could be halved, then halved again, and so forth, each time arriving at a finer resolution of her being. Those who argue that the splitting process would have ceased when a discrete atom was reached have forgotten about quarks. Those who argue that quarks are the smallest indivisible particle have forgotten the limitations of human knowledge. Finally, those who argue in favor of an unknown but definitely elementary particle must have forgotten that we were never really talking about matter at all.

written while listening to:  Steve Lacy & Derek Bailey - Company 4 (Incus Records, 26, 1977, United Kingdom, lp,

June 22, 2018
We have a special fondness for the tanager because she is still young and, while she has been exposed to the crusty wisdom of the ICEML, she has not fully succumbed to it. She is yet able to react impulsively in ways that are not obviously wise. In truth, we, who are constrained by forethought, envy this freedom, or at least pretend to do so. Standing upon the deck of a great, dirty ship, we crane our necks and shield our eyes and peer heavenward to observe her silhouette effortlessly gliding from one ocean breeze to the next.

"Escarlata, where are you going?" These words we wish to call out to her, but we do not. We hold our tongue. We say nothing because we do not wish to intrude upon the perfection of her flight. We perceive beforehand the effect of our intervention, which would serve only to sully the pristine chant of wind and wave like the raucous cry of a gull.

We are in love with the tanager, but it is not an exclusive attachment, for we are also in love with the old librarian and with our president, whose future remains clouded. We also find within our hearts affection for Stuart, who prefers the company of saints, and Aun Wee, who would prefer any company save that of the machine, which hounds her. And Poppy? What of Poppy? He is late for tonight's committee meeting. Without the least provocation, we wonder if we shall ever see him again. Of course, we are prone to melodrama. We sigh as Escarlata disappears from view. Undoubtedly she is off to discover some new island and reveal to the eyes of the world some variety of fantastic bird. She seems unaware that only fools will believe the tales with which she returns.

written while listening to:  Steve Lacy - Sands (Tzadik, TZ 7124, 1998, United States, cd,

June 23, 2018
As she coursed across the sky, the tanager scanned the ocean beneath her. She flew over unfamiliar waters, hoping to find an island unknown to her. It first appeared as one glint among many on a surface that reflected the light of the sun irregularly. That in itself was unusual since ordinarily islands appeared as dark spots against an otherwise unbroken backdrop.

Deciding it a promising prospect, the tanager descended in a graceful spiral. The island grew larger, its features gradually coming into focus. The source of the reflection was identified as a lake contained within the caldera located at the center of the island. Because of the habit of the wind, slopes facing eastward, both inside and outside the crater, were cloaked in a solid sheet of verdant jungle, while the slopes facing westward exposed rock, virtually free of vegetation.

As the tanager approached in a loop, she had the opportunity to appreciate the island from many angles. At one point, the circular lake appeared as a single, milky, unblinking eye with a rocky surface beneath it and bushy brow above. For this reason, the tanager called this island The Blind Cyclops.

According to The Theogeny of Hesiod, composed c. 700 BC, cyclopes were the offspring of the sky (Uranus) and the earth (Gaia), and bore names of power, such as Brontes (Thunder) and Steropes (Lightning). The one, whom the tanager discovered drowned in the ocean, must have been one of their lesser kin, such as those described by Euripides, who, murdered by the gods in justice or vengeance, were consigned to dwell as ghosts in the same volcanoes in which they once worked as smithies, forging the weapons of their lords.

written while listening to:  Steve Lacy - Cycles, disc 1 (Emanem, 5205, 2014 (originally recorded 1976-1980), United Kingdom, cdx2,

June 24, 2018
With the sun already high in the sky, the tanager chose to land on the southern end of the caldera. From that vantage point, she could take in the curve of bare rock to her right and the jungle to her left, until they met on the far side of the crater. Beneath her, the lake appeared utterly undisturbed and serene. It did not drain by any means visible to the tanager and the eddies of a current were not to be seen. The water had not lost its first impression of milkiness; some residual mineral left long ago by the volcano imparted a degree of opacity. Closer inspection revealed a hint of pale blue and it was possible, especially near the shallow banks, to make out the shapes of boulders crouched beneath the surface.

The tanager waited to be greeted by the local inhabitants for certainly all such islands provided sanctuary to at least one species of bird. They could not have missed her descent; she had made no attempt to conceal her arrival. The tanager remained as a statue perched on the southern rim; it was impolite to go rummaging about someone's home before they had come out to acknowledge her presence.

Eventually, the birds did emerge. It appeared to the tanager that they had temporarily withdrawn into the shadowed boughs in response to her arrival. To find natives who showed this fear of strangers was atypical on remote islands, where newcomers were unheard of and not associated with danger. The memory of a distant encounter with a passing predator must have yet lingered in the genes of these birds.

written while listening to:  Steve Lacy - Cycles, disc 2 (Emanem, 5205, 2014 (originally recorded 1976-1980), United Kingdom, cdx2,

June 25, 2018
To the eye, the birds were slightly smaller than puffins, which reach no more than a pound, but these birds were located on the wrong side of the equator to bear any relation to such seabirds. Perhaps, they were a long-separated cousin, descendants of a wayward flock who had ventured too far south, presumed lost to a tempest at sea, never to return to their northern kin. In any case, the birds shuffled in an ungainly manner as they emerged from the tree line to the left and from small caves to the right. One suspected that they were designed for greater agility in the air and the water. All waddled to the edge of the lake. Not a one approached the tanager.

Their plumage was a slate gray along the wings and back; the breast was white. Both males and females donned a slate cap and feathered streaks accented their eyes. The feet and the beak were of the same color, one that reminded the tanager of nothing so much as vanilla pudding.

Something of a bird herself, the tanager took no offense at the seemingly aloof attitude of the natives. She admired them as they stood with their feet submerged, for the most part grouped in pairs, though there were a few solitary birds as well. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, she approached the bank until she too stood in no more than an inch of water. She peered down as did the vanilla puffins. She discovered her reflection in the milky lake, paler than she remembered, her copper hair less vibrant.

At some point, the birds must have deemed her harmless for, while she remained in their midst, they summoned with a series of squawks the fledglings from their hiding places to join them at the water's edge.

written while listening to:  Maria Monti - Il Bestiario (Rifi, RDZ-ST 14245, 1974, Italy, lp,

June 26, 2018
There was something peculiar in the behavior of the vanilla puffins. They bobbed at the water and they gestured at each other with a strange imprecision. In addition to the periodic squawks, the birds emitted on an almost continuous basis a low whirring call. Even taken as a whole, the volume of the united flock proved insufficient to drown out the gentle sough of the ocean wind through the trees. Ultimately, the tanager concluded that the natives were uniformly blind or nearly so. Their eyes bore the same milky haze as the crater lake. Their uncertain movements reflected their inability to clearly resolve their surroundings. The whirrs of their fellow birds served to alert others to their presence and position. Perhaps the birds were merely nearsighted, for when they peered into the lake, as if to observe their reflection, they were bent over, leaning almost parallel to the water, with the tip of their beaks a breath away from the placid surface.

The tanager knelt and leaned close to the water. She squinted her eyes until she became an amorphous blur in her own vision. This action drew guffawing squawks from the birds sufficiently close to realize what she was doing. Word apparently spread because soon the entire flock was screeching and cackling uproariously. They crowded around the tanager, knocking into each other and into her, as they heedlessly sought to get a better glimpse of the lonely anomaly, who, like a child, imitated their ways without understanding their meaning.

written while listening to:  Jacques Demierre & Isabelle Duthoit - Avenues (Unit Records, UTR 4201, 2008, Switzerland, cd,

June 27, 2018
Contrary to what one might intuitively expect, vision often proves misleading in recognizing the reflection of ourselves in others. Sight focuses on superficial aspects of appearance, while the internal characteristics of the individual represent the most significant basis upon which people can be said to be either alike or unlike. It would be unnecessarily unfair to the vanilla puffins to assume that, in evolving beyond the need for sight, they had not internalized this message.

Such a bird feels no need to examine itself in the reflective surface of the lake, an exercise which almost assuredly will not provide additional insight into her nature. That she adopts a contemplative pose at the water's edge is likely a show to reassure herself and her peers that she has not entirely abandoned the ways of their forebears, who clung more dearly to the precepts of the physical world. Similarly, one member of a mated pair need not inspect the plumage of her partner, in order to recognize him and to recall the common years, which have drawn each closer to the other.

Seemingly forgotten, the tanager trailed behind the birds as they left the crater lake and scaled the forested, western slope of the caldera. Reaching the rim, she peered across the barren landscape, stretching down to the sea. The birds, demonstrating a preference to travel in the jungle, waddled along the circumference of the rim until they reached the eastern side, which was stone on the crater's interior and forested on its exterior. From there, they descended along shaded paths until they reached lagoons, isolated by the low tide. Into these pools they dove, fishing for lunch. Even in this most practical affair of gathering food for themselves and their young, the birds seemed to eschew sight in favor of a tactile sense of the movement of the world about them.

written while listening to:  Laurent Sassi, Michel Doneda, Marc Pichelin & Lê Quan Ninh - Montagne Noire (Ouïe-Dire Production, Poil 0797, 1999, France, cd+postcards,

June 28, 2018
The vanilla puffins settled on the beach and allowed the rhythm of the surf to serve as a kind of digestif. The tanager sat amidst them and, cognizant of her purpose, proceeded to tell them about Poppy and Iris. "Like many of you," she said, "they are a well-versed married couple. With time they have become reflections of each other, gradually adopting the traits of their spouse, a process which makes them inseparable. In the best case, they adopt each other's strengths, while attempting, albeit with mixed success, to avoid imitating irritable faults. This intuitive knowledge of the other allows them to better cover for each other's errors.

"Like you," the tanager continued, "they don't need to rely on sight to perceive their reflected image. Those who argue that a biological impulse for self-preservation is the origin of love and who, by extension, assume that the perception of oneself in others is therefore instrumental in empathy for another, misunderstand Poppy and Iris. Having studied them, we find no overwhelming directive for self-preservation. We observe, rather, two person-shaped creatures, who, having spent decades in each other's company, have crafted a means for mutually navigating through the external world, which requires exactly these two individuals to favorably operate."

The tanager looked about her. It appeared that full bellies and the surf, if not her discourse, had lulled many of the birds into an afternoon nap. The few who had managed to remain awake seemed not to have received any profound revelation from her words. Life as a member of the class Aves wasn't so different from that of members of class Mammalia. Much of what the tanager confided was already well known to them.

written while listening to:  Bergisch-Brandenburgisches Quartett - Untitled (Amiga, 8 56 031, 1984, Germany, lp,

June 29, 2018
As dusk approached, the puffins retreated to the shelter of the crater, reversing the route that they had taken to arrive at the beach. The scarlet tanager followed them, although she was already thinking of her departure. As she placed each foot carefully along the narrow, dirt trail woven between the trunks supporting the jungle canopy, she allowed her thoughts to wander. When she was roused from her reverie, she realized that she had lost sight of her guides. There was no cause for panic; the slope provided unmistakable directions toward the rim of the crater and the shoreline. However, she did not need to rely on such general indicators because, as soon as she concentrated, she detected the faint whirring, by which the vanilla puffins announced their presence. She hurried forward until she caught sight of them again.

After the sun had set, the tanager joined the birds in their immobile stance at the edge of the crater lake. Occasional squawks echoed faintly within the stone bowl. By the time the birds retreated to their nests for the night, stars filled the sky and yielded lukewarm likenesses on the lake's placid surface. The tanager stood alone ankle deep in the water, her legs meeting their milky reflection.

There lay upon this island an imperturbable balance. She desired neither to improve nor damage it. The natives had accommodated her visit with a proper courtesy and perhaps genuine affection, but it could not be mistaken that the tanager did not belong here. Nor could she imagine an infinity in this static paradise, which she suspected would last as long as the stone of the caldera persisted. She flourished her black wings and bade the birds farewell. We can forgive them for not responding to her; they were creatures of routine and had already put their children to sleep.

written while listening to:  Kaoru Abe - Solo Live at Gaya, disc 11: "Duo Improvisation" (DIW, AK-001, 1995 (originally recorded 1977 & 1978), Japan, cdx11,

June 30, 2018
Via the miracle of modern telecommunications, the tanager was able to relay her experiences with the vanilla puffins, who crawled upon the eye of the blind cyclops. Her report was well-received, to say the least.

"Escarlata," Hebeloma exclaimed, "I didn't think that you would be able to surpass the golden peacocks, but you may have already done it!"

The tanager blushed at the effusive praise.

Poppy too expressed his pleasure at the latest fragment to be found, from which the fractured portrait would eventually be assembled. However, he did not state, exactly what was on his mind, for his thoughts were of a more calculating nature. It could not be denied that this was the last day of the first six months of the year. In that time, ten passages had come into being. That left the remaining fifteen passages to be generated in the last six months, or roughly one every twelve days for the duration of the year. He determined that such a feat was mathematically possible and the thought reassured him somewhat.

At the same time, he was fully cognizant of the fact that the practice of scheduling acts of creativity ran counter to the spontaneous movement of the muse, which, to his limited knowledge, seemed to play some role in the process. Therefore, he kept these thoughts of temporal accounting to himself. That such machinations had occurred to him at all he considered something of a character flaw, an admission which, in itself, did not overly disturb Poppy, accepting as he was of the flawed nature of his being.

written while listening to:  John Coltrane - Both Directions at Once, sides A & B (Impulse!, B0028317-01, 2018 (originally recorded 1963), United States, lpx2,

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