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Friday, January 17, 2003


I L L U M I N A T I O N S

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"I wonder how people can write the lives of poets since the poets themselves could not write their own lives. There are too many mysteries, too many true falsehoods, too many complications."

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Quoted above is Jean Cocteau; commenting on his Opium withdrawal, in "Opium: Le Journal d'une Desintoxication," Opium: the Diary of a Cure" written in a period from December 16th 1928 to April 1929, during which he was treated in a sanatorium in Saint-Cloud.

The book was illuminated with forty-three drawings depicting his mental state during his recovery. Of these he would comment: "My drawings are cries of pain in slow motion".

I compiled a random selection of Cocteau's fascinating musings, statements and considerations:

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"I believe that nature inflicts on us the code of Sparta and the termite colony. Should we circumvent it? Where do our prerogatives stop? Where does the forbidden zone begin?"

"Opium leads the organism towards death in euphoric mood. The tortures arise from the process of returning to life against one・s wish. A whole spring-time excites the veins to madness, bringing with it ice and fiery lava. I recommend the patient who has been deprived for eight days to bury his head in his arm, to glue his ear to that arm, and wait. Catastrophe, riots, factories blowing up, armies in flight, flood-the ear can detect a whole apocalypse in the starry night of the human body".

"The drama of opium, as I see it, is none other than the drama of comfort and the lack of comfort. Comfort kills. Lack of comfort creates. I am speaking of the lack of both material and spiritual comfort. To take opium without yielding to the absolute comfort which it offers is to escape, within the domain of the spirit, from the stupid worries of life which have nothing to do with the lack of comfort in the domain of the senses".

"Everything one does in life, even love, occurs in an express train racing towards death. To smoke opium is to get out of that train even while it・s still moving. It is to concern oneself with something other than life, with death. One of the wonders of opium is to transform instantaneously an unknown room into a room so familiar, so full of memories, that one thinks one has always occupied it. When addicts go away they suffer no hurt because of the certainty that the delicate mechanism will function in one minute, anywhere".

"Picasso used to say to me: "The smell of opium is the least stupid smell in the world" The only smell one can compare with it is that of a circus or a sea port".

"The addict becomes as one with the objects which surround him. His cigarette, a finger, falls from his hand".

"Everything is a question of speed (Immobile speed. Speed in itself. OPIUM: speed in silk). Beyond plants, whose speed is different from our own, revealing only a relative immobility, and the speed of metals, which show us an even greater relative immobility, lie other realms, whose speed is to slow or too fast for us even to see them or be seen by them, (LE CAP, the angel, the fan.) it is not impossible that the cinema will one day be able to film the invisible and make it visible, adapting it to our rhythm as it adapts the gesticulation of flowers to our rhythm of life.
Opium which changes our speeds, procures for us a very clear awareness of worlds which are superimposed on each other, which interpenetrate each other, but do not even expect each other・s existence".

"Opium enables one to give form to the uninformed; it prevents, alas, the communication of this privilege to anyone else. Even if it means losing sleep, I shall watch out for the unique moment in the process of cure when this faculty will still function a little and, inadvertently will coincide with the return of the power of communication".

"It is difficult to live without opium after having known it because it is difficult, after knowing opium, to take earth seriously. And unless one is a saint, it is difficult to live without taking earth seriously".


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During his withdrawal period Cocteau wrote "Les Enfants Terribles", a terrifying story about four children trapped in their own spooky world. The book is widely considered as his masterpiece, he wrote the first draft in 17 days.

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F I R S T W I T N E S S

On a sunday in april, in 1952, a few years before his controversial poem, h o w l , established his reputation as a poet, Allen Ginsberg took some mescaline and noted the results. He also wrote poems influenced by the use of drugs like LSD-25, Nitrous Oxide, and a South American herb known as Yage.

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"We're flowers to rocks. That was last night・s note. Took Peyote at 8:30 AM- very unpleasant bitter metallic taste, I gagged at second chunk- the yellow insides. Worst part of peyote the metallic imaginary aftertaste & feeling of stomach sickness and heaviness of body, nearly nausea. I walked my father immediately to the corner, & lay down in bed.
After awhile, when sickness passed- first thing I noticed: eyes closed toward light leaves in eye a golden glow hue- which darkness when you pass hand over lidded eye. It made me feel like a very transparent sort of organism".

"The great mystery is that of being. It is a beautiful day, the houses appear solid and in miniature -open unto the sky- Paterson backyard.
Everything is full of activity- a bee just dropped down on my page (which is light blue or greenish cast ruled lines).
There are flies and butterflies- I saw a white one before but the air is otherwise clear all the way up to the sky is -like a crystal- it's true air, space- s p a c e I s a s o l I d.
The houses around here seem so primitive, with their poor television antennae tacked on to the patched up chimney-.
The neighbor next door, Dr. "A", comes up from his basement inside his house and says in a heavy voice, "Dear, I feel as if I detect a slight odor of gas down here".
Man, so busily occupied sniffing out detail of their amazing being that surrounds him on a spring sunny Sunday- I hate to even conceive of the weekly world and its rules, complexities, violences- lack of repose- involvement- I am after all looking only through a plate-glass window to the world".

"Theworld is full of strange noises, I turn on music which is the most strange- I'm walking around house at a mad pitch, doing things and writing- must go back to that rock- am at kitchen table now.
"Stream of consciousness"- the other (in books) is literary. But quite an interesting concept.
I have been going around grinning idiotically at people- almost afraid they'll ask "What's the matter with you this minute?" But they seem to me also- so strange in their momentary consciousness-"M" reserved talking to her brother didn・t understand my intrusion: "What are you bothering with practical politics again?"- didn't even understand my language".

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In an interview with Playboy magazine Ginsberg reacts to the question- "What does LSD do on the body?"

Allen Ginsberg: What does a trip feel like?- A creeping sensation comes over your body, a change in the planetary nature of your mammal eyeballs and hearing orifices. Then comes realization that you're a spirit inhabiting a vast animal body, containing giant apertures, holes circulatory systems, interior canals and mysterious back alleys of the mind. Any one of these back alleys can be explored for a long, long way, like going back into recollections of childhood or going forward into the future, imagining all sorts of changes in the body, in the mind or in the world outside, inventing imaginary universes or recalling ones that existed, like Egypt.
Then you realize that all these exist in your mind simultaneously. Slowly you approach the mysterious feeling that all of these histories and universes exist in your mind at the same time, then what about this one you're really in- or t h i n k you are? Does that also exist only in your mind? Then comes a realization that it d o e s exist only in your mind; the mind created it. Then you begin to wonder. Who is this mind? At the height of the acid experience, you realize that your mind is the same mind that・s always existed in all people at all times in all places: This is the Great Mind- the very mind men call GO D. Then comes a fascinating suspicion: Is this mind what they call God or what they used to call the devil? Here・s where a bum trip may begin- if you decide it・s a demonic Creator. You get hung up wondering whether he s h o u l d exist or not".

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Prelude from "Howl"



H O W L

By Allen Ginsberg

-For Carl Solomon-

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I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to thestarry dynamo in the machinery of night,

who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water fiats
'doating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,

who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs
illuminated,

who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the
scholars of war,

who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull,

who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror
through the wall,

who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,

who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night,

with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls,

incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson,
illuminating all the motionless world of Time between,

Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront
boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks
of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,

who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of
wheels and children brought them down shuddering mouth-wracked and battered bleak of brain all drained of
brilliance in the drear light of Zoo,

who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford's floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate
Fugazzi's, I listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,

who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,

--- (continued)

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From: "HOWL and other poems" -by Allen Ginsberg- City Lights/Pocket Poets edition October 1955

Other excerpts from: "The Drug Experience" First person accounts of Addicts, Writers, Scientists, and others- Edited by David Ebin -GROVE PRESS 1961

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posted by Walter at 1/17/2003



Monday, January 13, 2003


Past present -The company we keep-

Now that last year is headed for oblivion, and erstwhile shattering news events are becoming emblems of the past; I was struck and appalled by a recent BBC broadcast about the intricacies of the Enron- and WorldCom financial fraud scandals, and the staggering arrogance displayed by the perpetrators of the crimes involved.

This recent article, which appeared in the International Herald Tribune last year evokes some of the hard realities that the executives above mentioned had to face; it also confirms my long held suspicion that the law is lenient to those familiar with the innards of the judiciary. The article reinvigorated my assumption that more of the same scandals are imminent this year.

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New lives for fallen executives

By Andrew Ross Sorkin- NYT

Former top U.S. executives are rediscovering life without the company plane. Twelve months of scandal have turned a dozen or so of them into symbols of what is wrong in Corporate America. They have been blamed for creating the crisis of confidence in the stock market.
Some disgraced by criminal charges, have been led away in handcuffs before cameras. Others, under investigation but not yet charged were excoriated in Congress and in the news media.
And then what?

For most of these executives, the specter of negotiations, trials, probation, prison or other similar unpleasantness lie still ahead. Youre dealing with a psychological problem as much as anything else,explains Stanley Sporkin, formal federal judge and top enforcement lawyer at the Securities and Exchange Commission, A lot of these people are going through depression.

Some of them say they are finding out who their friends are. Passports have been confiscated from some of them. My life has changed dramatically, said John Rigas, 78 founder and former chairman of Adelphia Communications Corp., who has been charged, with his two sons, of pillaging $1 billion from the cable company. It may be hard to feel sorry for people who have caused so much pain for investors, employees, creditors and others- especially because they themselves suffered very little pain, at least so far. Many are almost leading their normal, pre-scandal lives- minus the office.

Andrew Fastow, the former chief financial officer of Enron Corp. who is under indictment on fraud charges, for example, has been seen on his regular jog around the track at Rice University near his home in Houston. Fastow still coaches his sons Little League baseball team; he still participates in his childrens carpooling, friends say, and he still takes put his boat on weekends to go fishing with his sons.

Scott Sullivan, WorldComs former chief financial officer, continues construction on a huge house in Boca Raton, Florida. Sullivan was indicted on charges that he conspired to hide billions of dollars in losses at the company. Like the others, of course, he is working on handling his litigation, said Irving Nathan, his lawyer, That is the main preoccupation,
While Sullivan may not be safe from prison and civil lawsuits, his new home is secure; even if he does not seek bankruptcy protection, Florida law could protect the home and the land from creditors.

For those whose lives have changed significantly, the most concrete alteration has been a curbing of their movement and spending.
Fastow, Rigas and L. Dennis Kozlowski, former chairman of Tyco International Ltd., face travel restrictions. So does Mark Swartz, Tycos former chief financial officer, who, with Kozlowski, is accused of plundering the company.
But they are not trapped. Kozlowski can travel in Massachusetts, New York and Florida, where he has multimillion-dollar homes. He also received permission to travel with his family to his chalet in Beaver creek, Colorado, for Christmas to ski.

Rigas can trvael between Pennsylvania and New York but said he had missed a trip to france and Greece because he cannot leave the country.
Swartz, who lives in Boca Raton, may travel only between Florida and New York, where he visits his lawyer. He received permission from a judge to travel to California for the holidays to visit his in-laws. Sullivan is limited to Florida, Washington, Mississippi and New York.
Kenneth Lay, Enrons former chairman, spends most days at a private office working on charity projects and researching new investment opportunities, a spokeswoman said.

Source IHT- 17 December 2002

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posted by Walter at 1/13/2003