From a Recent OxfordSEO Literary Representation Press Release: 09/23/2022.
A lot of people don’t like our resident unarmed poet Igor Goldkind. Although hard pressed to detail exactly what the source of their antipathy is, when asked most people who’ve met or know him agree on one thing:
Igor is a pain in the ass.
Some would go as far as to say a Royal Pain in the Ass; although any association with the recent demise of Queen Elizabeth or the Royal family in general, is merely conjecture.
When asked about his reaction to this near universal judgement, Igor Goldkind tends to shrug his shoulders and agree:
“Sure, I’m a pain in the ass, especially to anyone wedded to static protocols, conformist mediocrity and any rule that should be followed blindly because ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it'”.
Let’s look at a recent example of his ass-painery. Due to enormous stress and harrassment inflicted by certain individuals (to remain nameless until the court dates), Igor was recently diagnosed with a minor heart failure. After initial panic and a visit to the ER, the initial diagnosis, although precluding an imminent heart attack did necessitate a referral to both cardiology and vascular specialists to eliminate possible causes.
Both were seen and a routine series of tests were scheduled for this week including a Stress Echo Heart test, a heart monitor and a spectogram. Igor called his daughter and without freaking her out, brought her up to date and then gladly picked up the dice to his destiny and gave them a roll.
3 tests were scheduled for this past Monday, Tuesday and then tomorrow. A hectic week to put one’s heart through the paces.
On his way to his first appointment for the monitor last Monday, Igor was surprised to receive a text cancelling the appointment 45 minutes before hand. This was followed by two more text messages cancelling all of his heart monitoring tests without explanation apart from the fact that his insurance provider Molina Healthcare had denied them. Pulling his Thunderbird to the side of the road in Mission Bay, Igor proceeded to telephone his consultant and then his insurance provider to determine the cause of the cancellations.
As light transpired the insurance company’s independent arbitrator had determined that the tests were unnecessary as Igor had never had a pacemaker or open heart surgery. An insurance company administrator who had never even met Igor Goldkind, much less examined him, could overrule the expertise of his health provider and two consultants he was referred to who had examined him.
Hours of being placed on hold, waiting for supervisors, lodging complaints, grievances and appeals, Igor was able to get a call back from a Molina administrator who apologized for the last minute cancellations and reinstated the tests, albeit now delayed by two weeks.
However, our resident pain-in-the-ass wasn’t satisfied with his own private victory. Now that he has a member of the insurance company’s management on the phone, he demanded to know why Molina could adopt this absurd and potentially life threatening policy of over ruling of health specialists by a bureaucrat intent only on saving money?
A grievance was filed on his behalf and this morning he received a telephone call from an executive VP of Molina, once again apologizing for his treatment and then assuring him that based on his complaint, Molina had reviewed its approval policy and would from now on no longer deny a test recommendation without first consulting with the specialist who had recommended the test in the first place….across the board for all members!
This is the benefit of being a pain-in-the-ass, when you’re acting not solely out of personal interest but out of precedent and principle.
So like him or not, Igor Goldkind leads his life based on George Bernard Shaw’s Maxim:
“A reasonable man expects to adapt to the world. An unreasonable man expects the world to adapt to him. Therefore, all human progress is made by unreasonable men”.
And yes, we do do Igor’s PR!
A Throw of the Dice [excerpt]
Stéphane Mallarmé – 1842-1898
NOTHING of the memorable crisis or might the event have been accomplished in view of all results null human WILL HAVE TAKEN PLACE an ordinary elevation pours out absence BUT THE PLACE some splashing below of water as if to disperse the empty act abruptly which otherwise by its falsehood would have founded perdition in these latitudes of indeterminate waves in which all reality dissolves EXCEPT on high PERHAPS as far as place can fuse with the beyond aside from the interest marked out to it in general by a certain obliquity through a certain declivity of fires toward what must be the Septentrion as well as North A CONSTELLATION cold from forgetfulness and desuetude not so much that it doesn't number on some vacant and superior surface the successive shock in the way of stars of a total account in the making keeping vigil doubting rolling shining and meditating before coming to a halt at some terminus that sanctifies it All Thought emits a Throw of the Dice.
From Collected Poems (University of California Press, 1994) by Stéphane Mallarmé. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
Take these seeds
And thrust them deep inside your pockets
So that when you die and your body becomes the earth
Sunflowers will grow once again from the land you killed to claim.
Ballerinas and camouflaged beauty queens will greet you in the streets
With pirouettes of spinning bullets behind barricades of sheets.
My grandmother will serve you up Molotov’s cocktails.
The orphans you murdered will dance around you sleepless until dawn
So that sunflowers will grow once again from the land you killed to claim.
Do you fear for war?
Ask of the stillness evermore,
Ask of the field, or ask the breeze, and ask the birch and poplar trees.
Ask of the children who now lie beneath the birch trees and the sky,
and let their mothers tell you once more
Whether or not you should fear for war.
They died so that the children from ev’ry shore
might live without your fear of war.
Ask those who fought, and those erased,
ask those planted in the rubble of Mariupol and Donetsk Oblast
Ask the women you embrace.
ask your mother –ask my wife–,
So that you will wonder never more
Whether you have cause to fear for war.
Who longs for war?
Who longs for war?
No one but those who are no more.
No one living longs for war
But war cares not for your longing or yearning for living.
Or your fears for war
War will always arrive uninvited to your door.
When war comes calling to your front door.
You cannot lock the war outdoors.
You cannot run and hide behind your chair
Or bury your head under the covers of your bed.
When war comes to your front door
There is nowhere to run, nowhere to go
The corpses of your neighbors will hinder your flight
You cannot let fear become your general
To give up the fight
To surrender to might.
Instead, you must stand with the sunflowers in the golden fields
Stand with our heads facing the sun.
Pour your bravery into an empty coke bottle
And pick up a gun.
Stand for freedom, for the children we have lost
Stand up for liberty, against the tide of tyranny.
Stand up for yourself as much as any other.
Summon your courage to stand like man,
Like a like a clown, like a woman, like a child.
The cries of their answer rises loud and clear
for all people, ev’rywhere, to hear.
The message now is as before:
Do not fear,
Do not fear,
Do not fear for war,
For war is already here
© Igor Goldkind March 27, 2022
For the Ukraine and for America
What can I say?
The month of January was silent due to my having accused a local mask-denier of demonstrating “a lethal stupidity”. 30 day suspension for “bullying’. I assume based on her complaint that I was telling her not to spread misinformation.
My latest trespass, again for another 30 days (first 7, until I appealed the decision), was for taking issue with a Trump supporter on one of Alexandra Cortez’s threads.
The woman was claiming that AOC had made up her account. A Portuguese participant commented in AOC’s defense whereupon the virulent QAnon proponent told the Portuguese national that he was a foreigner and to mind his own business, going back to his own country. I immediately responded in his defence by inviting him as my guest, to comment on anything he wanted to in the land of freedom of speech and then chastised the woman to stop being an ignorant American.
She complained that I was nationally slandering her for being an American manifestation of supreme ignorance. I was again suspended from using Facebook for 30 days, 27 more.
My appeals have been well reasoned and completely ignored.
I am awaiting the moral judgement of the algorithmic overlords by which human employees make decisions at Face Book. Repeatedly, I have been censured and censored for challenging misinformed comments that Facebook itself, if it contained one iota of the moral standard it claims to hold, should have caught in the first place!
If challenging and taking issue with those who question the legitimacy of the election, the validity of the pandemic or its remedies and continue to spout dangerous, Trump inspired, racist and and anti vax madness goes against Facebook’s Community Standards then those standards and their deployment are in serious need of actual public review and scrutiny.
In the meantime, I shall wallow in the righteousness of my exile.
Dostoievski won’t be drinking alone tonight in the Facebook Gulag.
Take a look at my new book and get yourself a Free review copy!
Beginning on Friday, October 30th until the afternoon of November 4th, 2020, I will be reporting on the US Presidential, California State and San Diego local elections from inside a Super Poll Station at the Luther Banks School in Logan, San Diego.
Working this year as a paid bilingual Poll Station Technical Inspector, I will be assisting voters operate electronic devices, checking registration rolls, managing lines and helping get out the vote.
12 hour days so I will be reporting on each day here as to what I’ve observed from the inside looking out.
See you here on Friday!
My paternal grandfather Mordecai Goldkind (Morris) was a Polish Jewish immigrant from outside Lodz. He came to the US via Ellis Island fleeing the Czar’s Cossacks first working on the New Jersey shipyards and then opening a successful shoe-maker’s shop in ’30s Brooklyn.
My father grew up listening to Hitler’s speeches on the radio as every other Jew living in America at the time did. When he turned 17, he enlisted.
There was no choice in the matter.
My grandmother’s heart broke packing her son away to boot camp but even she knew that there was no choice. The Nazis were coming after us and we had to stop them or die trying.
The war crippled my father.
I know now that he had to kill other men, German men at close hand.
I knew that speaking fluent German he loved the German people and their culture. I know that killing another man killed part of himself.
He told me that he survived by giving up the idea that he would.
The story of what happened after his return includes the story of his son, my life. My father was broken by that war fighting the fascists in Europe so that we would not have to fight them here in America.
There was no choice.
When I was a boy and my grandparents came to visit or we visited them, my grandfather Mordechai would talk about Israel but he and my father would sometimes talk about the Nazis. I remember my grandfather pointing his finger at me in the middle of my silent witness of their conversation:
“Igor, don’t you ever fool yourself into thinking that we beat the Nazis and they all went away. They never go away. They wait for the right time and then they just change their uniforms.”
Was I 6, 7?
I don’t know.
All I recall was the deep bootprint of my father and his father warning me down the generational ladder to be vigilante. To watch for the signs. That the Nazis do not go away. That oppression, power, cruelty and inhumanity does not evaporate. That they linger waiting patiently for the right time to put their new uniforms on.
Now is that time.
I can see the MAGA uniforms.
I can see the detention camps, the forced hysterectomies, the torture by negligence of thousands of children.
I can see the exploitation of a pandemic for deliberate eugenic population control under the mask of ‘herd immunity’.
I can see dissidents and protestors being criminalized and imprisoned for 10 years for defacing a statue.
I see our civil rights being teargassed into the ground.
I can see the violent racism on the streets, the white power fanatic infiltrating lawful protests to vandalize, destroy and cast blame on the citizen protestors.
I can see the police getting more and more aggressive, shooting more and more unarmed citizens, jailing more and more dissidents like in Russia or China.
I can see America’s future as a giant, fat man’s golf shoe stomping on the face of freedom and justice forever.
Can’t you do something?
Vote Biden/Harris 2020
There’s really no choice.
Go Fuck Yourself, you pathetic failure.
Leave the arts to the poets, the dancers and the painters
Go get yourself a real job, a real vocation.
Fuck off and leave those of us who fight for our culture alone.
Fuck off and stop leeching the creative spirits of the secular martyrs who have sacrificed their lives on the holy altar of Art, Truth and Freedom.
Go Fuck Yourselves!
And each other in your sleazy stinking orgy of self-gratifying bigotry and weeping pustule aesthetics.
Go Fuck Yourself in the Ass With Your Own Extended Nose
Go let yourself get fucked in the ass by all the bogus arts nonprofits that pocket tax money to further their own finances while cheating artists and reviewers out of their livings.
Go write yourself a grant.
Write up your mission statement in day-glow gold-gilded writing.
Put on your ‘supporter-of-the-arts’ makeup
Keep counting the coins in your bookseller’s till
While prescribing the rules that determines who is in and who is other.
Go Fuck Yourself and try reading a book for a change.
Go read Whitman, Bukowski, Anais Nin and Henry Miller on art.
Let William Burroughs into your dreams.
Go get yourself a self education.
In the meantime, shut up, sit down and just listen:
You are the enemy of art, the enemy of poetry, the enemy of life.
And we’re coming for you.
Because all you are is in the way.
So you think you’re going to Shoot Me?
I got news for you goyim,
You’ve been shooting at me for 900 years
From arrows to bullets to canon and you still haven’t hit me.
Because I am no other than you.
How can I replace you when I am you?
Open your eyes, you are shooting the gun at yourself.
You don’t get it.
This must be the trick of the devils’ twisted tongue, right?
The one that tries to deceive you
With the facts of truth
Poured from the grail of reason.
Go on, have a gulpful .
No, you can’t shoot me, you can’t even aim straight.
Your hatred is so predictably boring,
Always looking for someone else to blame
For your failure as a human being.
Anyone should do, but
Just like a bad movie cliche, you pick the Jew.
How can you shoot me,
When most of us are already dead?
Replaced, misplaced, driven from your nations’ borders.
Baked in your ovens.
Never even pausing
To wonder what the difference ever really was.
Now we have nations, guns and missiles and
Our own black-booted armies, to protect us from bad shots like you.
To protect us from everyone but ourselves.
Now we can sip from the same blood cup,
While hating then shooting,
All of the Other Jews.
Facebook is Anti-Culture
I’ve started this post after returning from a 60-day ban from Posting, Liking, Communicating, Joining, or Connecting with anyone else in the Facebook Community.
Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. ~ The ACLU
What Was My Crime?
My posting one of my own published poems from my book Is She Available? that had been posted in Facebook at least thrice before without repercussion. and is currently available in dozens of libraries and bookstores throughout California and soon to be released in the UK. The visual interpretation of a love poem by the Designer/photographer and internationally renown artist/typographer Rian Hughes entitled:
I Missed Your Scent in Paris
Although his image was a black and white stylized photograph of a woman where if you squinted and looked real close you could make out the shadow of half a nipple showing, (which is exactly what a Facebook employee would have had to have done in order to render judgement that Tian and my work contravened Facebook’s community standards.
The Poem and Rian’s photo interpretation of the poem were not obscene, disgusting nor gratuitously offensive in any way. Unless of course, you consider the human body in itself to be obscene, in which case I strongly suggest you seek therapeutic help as you clearly entertain unhealthy, self-hating, anti-social thoughts.
Instead, if not the poem, then certainly the photograph of the semi-nude woman is a work of art. It is obvious to anyone who reads and looks that it had no other intention. Not being able to distinguish between pornography and erotic art is one of the great threats Facebook’s dumbed down lack of discernment poses to the thriving of a culture.
Art is the science of culture. Both are experiment–driven.
~ Igor Goldkind
As community-oriented and community-sounding Facebook professes to be (in its language and self-justifications of its censorship), Facebook is the enemy of culture. As well as the enemy of the community of humanity that shares the values that a free society comes hand in hand with expression free from censorship; as long as the expression poses no harm. Otherwise, it is not a free community.
“To destroy a people, first destroy their culture.
~ Mario Torero
What is it exactly about the half shadow image of a woman’s left nipples poses a threat to anyone? The last time I checked, a woman’s nipple is the source of nourishment for all of us, male and female at one time or another.
To censor the image of a human nipple is to censor the truth of what it means to be human. How can I prove this? Look for yourself! Apart from a minority of our fellow hairless apes who have lost them in accidents or horrific burns, we ALL OF US HAVE NIPPLES! It is the truth of who we are and as an artist, as a poet, I am only interested in the truth of who we are. Not the twisted Calvinist attempt at reversioning a reality where angels never fart and genies have no belly-buttons.
I know for a fact that genies do have belly-buttons, I’ve seen them with my own eyes! And as far as angel farts go, they smell better than your own.
Article 10 of the United Nations Human Rights Act protects our right to hold our own opinions and to express them freely without government or private interference.
This includes the right to express our views aloud (for example through public protest and demonstrations) or through:
• published articles, books or leaflets
• television or radio broadcasting
• the internet and social media
• AND WORKS OF ART
• The law also protects our freedom to freely receive
information from other people.
The US The Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment’s protection of artistic expression very broadly. It extends not only to books, theatrical works and paintings but also to posters, television, music videos and comic books and personal social media pages including FACEBOOK — whatever the human creative impulse produces.
The right not to be censored by an arbitrarily superimposed moral hypocrisy of a minority…. is articulated in the Human Rights Act signed by the US as treaty and thus bound by US federal law in 1964. In the late 1960s and 1970s, the United States renewed its commitment to the international human rights system by signing, though not yet ratifying, several major human rights treaties.
Including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS (ICESCR).
These are the laws of the land that FACEBOOK has violated in unceremoniously and without warning censoring my work. Judgement without respite and only the cosmetics of appeal.
Facebook is not a community in any shape or form as long as its private owners impose their narrow, petty, puerile, and juvenile morals on us without listening to everyone, not just the complainers, who make up that community. That includes us good for nothing, when-are-you-going-to-get-a-real-job? artists.
There is no one to talk to at Facebook. No one to appeal to; no one to reason with and no one that takes responsibility for its actions. Human beings wrote the algorithms, built the servers and the browsers to increase the human bandwidth, not to distance us from ourselves!
There is no reason to fear the takeover of robots, algorithmic judgements and machines, for we have already surrendered.
Please repost this in part or in full on your wall and please share with your friends across all social media. Maybe Facebook will recall what it means to be a human with nipples one day and stop emulating the machines (who have no nipples).
Still Human & Nippled
PS You think that I’m overreacting? Just another crazy, good for nothing artist making pointless noise? The Modigliani nude, the Picasso, the Rubens and all fell foul of Facebook and are all pictured as depicted after being defaced by Facebook in the name of their hypothetical Community Standards.
Ever since I returned from England, and discovered to my consternation, that no real path to a teaching career was open to me without a specifically California teaching credential, I’ve been looking for fulfilment outside of a cubicle inside a cubicle, inside another cubicle…you get the picture.
This in spite of my teaching for some years at the University of Liverpool at a full professor’s salary and the Oxford University Internet Institute at a considerably less salary. As well as guest lecturing at St. Martin’s School of Design, the London School of Printing and the University of Lincolnshire’s graduate program),
As I have not the means to afford to both pay and live for a year’s teaching credential (nor necessarily would agree with the manner and criterion by which that credential is achieved), I have made a point of teaching any and everyone who wants to learn and will bother to listen.
Education should not only be free to those that cannot afford it, but it should flow freely from those that have it to anyone who wants it. Teaching is not a skill, it’s a disposition. It’s an interactive sport. Not all great achievers in the arts or the sciences have that disposition.
Teaching in the Starbucks forum is my revenge on what has become since I departed the US in the early 1980s, the Business of Education. The California educational system has become a money making scam by institutions colluding with banks to profit off of student debt.
A Scholarly education is no longer relevant or desirable; it’s about acquiring credentials which of course must be purchased more readily than earnt. Thinking originally or independently of a hiring institution poses a threat to that very institution. Thinking differently might bring about change and the risk of losing power over others.
Of course, there are many exceptions, I have friends from high school and college who are to this day conscientious, curiosity-driven teachers, researchers and college professors. In that sentence distinguishing between the teacher and professor, I expose my level of submission to status and accreditation. Neither of which has anything to do with the scholarly pursuit of knowledge in order to cultivate wisdom.
The sure sign of a good teacher is not their credential, status or the number of degrees, but if they are focussed enough on continuously learning and re-learning their subject through their students and the actual experience of teaching.
Teachers and professors who are in education for the status become administrators and bureaucrats, ironically adding to the very obstacles teaching teachers must surmount just to do their job and teach their subject.
Teaching is not a job like selling insurance to the elderly who are too confused to know they are signing their life savings away; teaching is a vocation. It takes endless study and self-scrutiny. It takes listening to and learning from students outside of the educational caste system.
So since the institutions won’t accept me without taking the prerequisite bank loan so as to accumulate debt and pay interest to the banks, Starbucks and the streetcorner are my classrooms. The park, the beach, a dive bar, a brewery, an art gallery, the library and yes, even the streets where the public and members of every class are allowed to circulate freely without being hassled by the authorities.
Everywhere I go I strike up conversations with the people around me. (No, not everyone. I’m not a public nuisance.!) Instead, I stay in one place until the carousel of human activity aligns someone into non-threatening social proximity. Even then, I am cautious, seductive. I really don’t want to disturb anyone, just engage them.
The old and the young are the best. The old because most people ignore them as they have nothing to offer the perpetually youthful society. The young because they are not yet quite jaded and curious as to why someone twice or nearly sometimes nearly thrice their age would want to talk to them. I treat most people the same and people younger than me find that attractive. I don’t condescend, rather I enquire. I ask a lot of questions and most people do like to talk about themselves.
The characters I have written and are currently writing all stem from what I am able to capture in the wilds of a Starbucks or a sidewalk street corner. And then I teach. I teach people how to think. Not by telling them how to or what to think but by taking their trains of thought and passing them through my station and asking a lot of questions.
Some folk disembark and stroll around my lack of conformity. They breathe the rare air of freedom as there is nothing that I prohibit them from doing or saying; unless of course, it causes harm. My lack of inhibition is contagious and people tell me things, particularly the elderly that they would never tell a stranger, although I am one. Those that linger become my friends over time.
Others just can back on board their train and depart my station.
We don’t always agree but we do respect each other which grants another kind of freedom. The freedom to be yourself a reprieve from having to perform your self for the estimated sake of others.
A psychiatrist once asked me if I considered myself a nonconformist. I assured her that I wasn’t, that I was normal it seemed to be everyone else that was a little off centre. Besides, I continued, I am always trying to conform. Not to convention or others but to myself.
I struggle to conform to the person I strive to be.
Being Banned From Facebook for No Bloody Good Reason: The Moral Failings of a Computational Society.
I write this mainly for my regular readers who may be concerned about my apparent absence from FB. I’ve always used FB as a fencing ground and now I’ve been fenced out, temporarily, for 3 days.
My account has been public for the last 5 years because I always fully intended to provoke, and attract engagement particularly from those that find offence or challenge here or just take exception to my posts.
But mainly, I use this platform to hone my writing skills in real time.
It’s a form of art activism, Artivism.
Bringing the origins of my work; the emotions, the outrages, the political anger and the moral dismay I feel directly to confront on their walls, in their replies and in their faces, those who are morally failing.
Who do I mean are morally failing?
Well, anyone who still says they support the treasonous weasel in the White House, is a start. But more generally Americans who should be more French than they’re English but unfortunately share more with the English propensity for worshipping dogs and traumatising their children.
The present generation of “youf”; be they white, black, Chicano, Native, Vietnamese, Gay, Chinese, Transitioning, Korean, Japanese, Indian, African, Middle Eastern (and every combination of the above), have more in common with each other than they will ever have with any of their previous generations.
Revolution needn’t be violent they just need to turn things around.
But to the point in question, I have not been in touch because I have been barred from both Facebook and Messenger for not following community guidelines, poor dears. Except that I am as much a part of that community as anyone. Not of an algorithm that flags random posts to FB ‘s appointed moral custodians.
My crime against the community?
Reposting the profile photo of a woman’s breast dripping with red wine into a crystal goblet. In fact, her nipple is obscured as it is drenched in wine.
You can see it for yourself here below.
What is the algorithm’s crime? Well nothing, it just follows and acts on long lists of tedious commands; executed in the blink of time
No mind, I’ve been a naughty, naughty boy and my shrilling mother will not allow me to save the human race from amnesia.
I can’t stop the algorithm from making a moral judgement that supersedes mine, or any human’s. I can’t have a quick word with the algorithm or anyone at FB to teach them what a juxtaposition of symbols that create an allusion to the truth.
Such as the sweet wine depicted being the mirror of the sweet mother’s milk as is symbolically conveyed by the nude breast. You cannot make that visual allusion with a bra.
It doesn’t work.
The breast must appear as nude as it is to the baby that seeks its nourishment. Sweet breast milk, sweet primal nourishment, sweet wine that I sip in the middle of my night to remind myself that I was once a child, protected and loved by my mother.
As were you.
Algorithms have no mothers. And those who are the masters of those algorithms long ago put their mothers out of their eye’s way, in homes.
We’ve all got to make the effort to be the human beings we would like to imagine ourselves to be.
Master of Puzzles
By Igor Goldkind
Ivan Moscovich has created more brain-teasers than most people have solved crosswords. Igor Goldkind set out to piece together his fascinating and harrowing life.
Ivan Moscovich has his life’s work wrapped up in a bundle of about 10,000 pages of A4 paper. On those pages there are some 5,000 separate puzzles, puzzles that range from the hang-on-let’s-look-OK-I-see to beyond the fiendish. Some are variations on themes, some utter one-offs. Some are to be made on paper or card, some are designs for tricky little – or big – devices. Moscovich calls them the S.A.M. archive – science, art and mathematics. The puzzles use the techniques of bafflement to teach, and they use beauty to bemuse.
Moscovich has been making puzzles since the 1960s. Now, at the age of 70, he’s looking to transform that life’s work into new formats. He and his colleagues have started up a new company to take the ideas on those 10,000 pages and put them to work in the digital arena. Moscovich is sure that there is room for them. Having looked with interest at hits like Seventh Guest, which friends told him were bringing new life to the world of puzzles, he was profoundly unimpressed. The puzzles were hard, sure (if you weren’t Moscovich, that is), but they were variations on a small number of underlying tricks, and they didn’t add up to more than just a set of puzzles. Moscovich thought that he – or people mining his archives in digital form – could do better.
“In digital media you can build overlapping linear trees, using the media to interrelate the concepts for the user. It’s important with any problem to see – at the same time – the different paths that can take you to a solution. Certainly this is the best way to explain scientific and mathematical concepts.” The collection of puzzles becomes a sort of puzzle itself: a maze, something to find one’s way through, something more than the sum of its parts.
Ivan is looking forward to trying to put all this into practice – not least because he enjoys the attitude of the people he’ll be working with. The way that games designers and programmers think fits into his world perfectly. He loves to be with people who are bored when they’re not trying something new, even impossible, when they’re not seeking a new solution. And he can make sense of himself by being part of a group; in fact, it has saved his life before now.
Ivan likes people who try to make sense of the pieces. That, in part, is how he got into puzzles – his delight in their ability to teach eager minds. As well as making puzzles for books and toys, he has used them as serious teaching tools for engineers – and pioneered the art of transforming the counterintuitive insights of puzzling into science museums with interactive displays. Putting together the pieces of an idea is much more important than putting together the pieces of a puzzle. The wonder is that by getting someone to do the latter, you can let them do the former.
A life in fragments
Moscovich’s own life is a bewildering array of puzzle fragments. Having met him on a CD-ROM project and learned some of his history, I started to wonder how to reassemble the fragments – and what they could be made into. One of the answers is a charming, brilliant septuagenarian. Another is 10,000 pages of A4. And a third might be a technological passage through the 20th century, from the industrialisation of death to the pursuit of pleasure. A journey that charts the territory of the 20th century’s technological revolutions and its human upheavals, from the Balkans to California, from museums to the Israeli defence industry, from the ruins of Austro-Hungary to the digital age, from railways to death camps.Moscovich’s parents were Hungarian, but he was born in Novi Sad, a small Serbian town. He still retains a central European accent that, to my ears (and probably to yours) sounds like the definitive voice of modern science and mathematics. “My father was a Hungarian who escaped from Hungary into Yugoslavia after the First World War. He was a painter by profession, but in order to make a living at that time he opened a photographic studio which became very successful. He named his studio Photo Ivan, after me.”
His description of an everyday childhood in Novi Sad paints a familiar portrait of a middle-class craftsman’s family, complete with Yiddish grandmother and old-world family meals – and none of the hothouse intellectual atmosphere that produced Leo Szilard, John von Neumann, Kurt Gödel and other thinkers who left Budapest to dominate 19th-century thought. There was little to suggest Ivan’s strengths in science or mathematics – except, perhaps, a boyish infatuation with model aeroplane kits. He had, however, inherited from his father an inclination for drawing, and his father’s habit of tinkering with various gadgets – including an early air brush – to enhance his pictures was a constant delight to Ivan.
But when he reached technical high school, Ivan fell under the influence of a mathematics teacher given to explaining the precepts of science by means of science fiction. Ivan’s teacher opened up the world of mathematics by making problem solving fun. Ivan was entranced by the maths – and, later, showed that he had learned the method, too: rigorous scientific thinking through the lens of art and storytelling.
By then, though, the Hungarian fascists had invaded. They met with little resistance. And, soon afterwards, they took Ivan’s father from him. “Before they took him, he asked a Hungarian officer if he could say goodbye to my mother and in their final embrace he slipped this ring onto her finger.” Ivan holds up his hand and shows me an ornate gold band studded with eight small diamonds. It is the only surviving memento of Ivan’s youth; everything else was lost in the Holocaust. Ivan’s father joined 6,000 Jews and 4,000 Serbs executed en masse and thrown beneath the ice of the frozen Danube. All in one day.
Ivan continued his studies until the end of 1943, when the Hungarians “got cold feet” and the Germans invaded. “We really didn’t have any knowledge of what was happening in Poland in the ghettos or with the Nazis. We all hated the Hungarian fascists, but I still knew and liked Germans and, you know, communications were very different then; telephones didn’t work internationally. We were really disconnected from the rest of the world.”
When a Hungarian Jew escaped from Auschwitz and fled to Budapest to warn the Jewish community of the death camps, few believed him. So Ivan Moscovich was deported to Auschwitz at the age of 17.
“It meant stepping out of one world into another one. I was sent with my grandfather, my grandmother and my mother. When we arrived, my grandparents were immediately taken to the crematoria. My mother stayed in Auschwitz the whole time. After three or four weeks I was taken out of Auschwitz into one of the surrounding work camps. Young people were sent to work. I worked at laying rail lines.” The Nazi system was to provide rations for six months survival, after which the workers were supposed to starve to death in order to make room for new inmates. The meticulousness by which the operation was organised was not lost on Ivan. Nor would the memory escape him when two years later he found himself again working on train rails.
By that time he and, miraculously, his mother were back in Novi Sad. An acquaintance in the Ministry of Transport offered him a research position in the effort to repair Yugoslavia’s war-torn railway system. The post involved testing an enormous German machine that used high electrical wattage to weld rail lines together, a then untested invention. Mounted on a train carriage, Ivan travelled with the machine throughout Yugoslavia, in charge of the welding team. The machine was so successful that Ivan soon found himself elevated to a lofty position within Tito’s Ministry of Transport, accountable only to the deputy minister himself.
“There I was, a simple technician, at the age of 20, and I had all this power and no boss, really. People thought I was a top-shot communist because everybody had to do exactly what I wanted. The project became more and more successful, our production was way up and I was given orders to enlist more and more technicians for my team. One day I was called in by the deputy minister and was told that in order to create a 24-hour work shift, I was to take on 50 German prisoners of war.”
So, two years after surviving the German work camps, he was given control over a work team comprising high ranking German officers and regular soldiers, some Wehrmacht, some SS. He could have done anything he wanted. He could have shot them all and easily justified his actions to the authorities. He could have tortured them to death with gruelling work. He could have snapped his fingers and made them all disappear. But Ivan Moscovich had responsibilities, a quota to fill and a marvellous welding contraption to keep running.
“I had ten kilometres of rails to get out that week and it was a real dilemma whether to screw the Germans or to try to get the best output from them. I decided to increase their rations to get more work out of them, and sure enough they were grateful and worked even harder, which increased the output. I was very, very tough with them and I think they were scared of me. But I never revealed to them that I was a camp survivor. They worked for six months and then Tito released the prisoners.”
As it happens, Moscovich only worked on the German railways for six months. “I was lucky for the first six months. It was very important for survival in the camps to be with your people, your clan of friends and family; it made life easier. You couldn’t get ill, because that meant execution, but curiously, if you could show a work-related injury, a visible wound, you could be seen by the SS and granted a day or two of hospital. One day I announced myself with a bad wound. While everyone else went on work detail I was left in the enormous courtyard with a broom to clean up, completely by myself. Suddenly the gate opened and a commandant’s car stormed into the courtyard and headed straight for me. The German officer jumped down from his car, grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, threw me onto the platform of the vehicle and drove off. I was kidnapped.” Later Ivan learned that there had been an escape from a neighbouring camp and the camp commandant had stolen Ivan to make up his tally of inmates. The mathematics of death had to add up.
“Up to this point all of my feelings had been one single feeling: an enormous outrage. Rage that somebody, anybody, another power, could take me away from my decisions, my everyday life, and put me in an environment where whatever happened was not under my control. I was young and maybe too strong an individualist, but it was rage that kept me alive.” In the new camp this life-sustaining anger was broken, until he discovered a distant Hungarian cousin running the camp’s kitchens and being the “godfather” of the camp. Then he found some school friends of his father’s. For several weeks Ivan rebuilt his spirits and his body. Then the Russians pushed back the German line, and the SS made their lethal preparations for evacuating Auschwitz.
The problem to solve was – how to survive.
The Museum Man
In 1952 Ivan found a new clan – and became a leader. He set out for Israel to join his now remarried mother. On the boat to Haifa, Ivan was approached by Israeli officials interested in his skills and qualifications. The new state was hungry for skilled technicians. By the time Ivan reached Haifa he already had a position in the Ministry of Defence waiting for him. “In my group there were mainly these Yugoslav and Hungarian technicians without any training in science and mathematics. The language problem was enormous, and here was this group of technicians involved in scientific research without any basis in the field. I don’t know how it happened, but I was selected as someone who could teach the other members of the group some basic science.
My boss wanted me to instruct them outside of a formal classroom using demonstrations, models and visual means. That was really the start that put me in the direction of puzzle making.”Ivan found himself playing around with visualisations and experiments. He worked hard to come up with ways in which complex ideas could be explained visually, not so much to convey a deep academic knowledge of science and mathematics but to engender an intuitive grasp of the subjects and, most important of all, to instill the knack of problem solving needed to tackle more important scientific and technological puzzles.
By the end of the 1950s, Moscovich was creating puzzles almost all the time, and practice had revealed a rare gift for making puzzles that could be revisited, puzzles that retained a depth, an impact, even after they had been solved. “I tried to design models that were compact and effective, and in which the experiments could be repeated a number of times. This required completely original design conceptualisations. My boss, Ernst David Bergman, was the leading scientist in Israel at the time, and founder of the Weizmann Institute. He loved my work, and it was he who had the idea that some of those objects I had designed could be exhibited. That was the basis of the founding of a science museum.”
In 1959 Tel Aviv established its Museum of Science and Technology, the first of its kind in Israel. Ivan worked non-stop for two-and- a-half years converting five disused British barracks into a museum, begging and borrowing every available resource. The museum finally opened in 1964 with Ivan as its curator and director. It was the first science museum to emphasise hands-on, interactive exhibitions, and it quickly attracted international attention. His position as curator became a springboard from which to explore and express his interest in art, science and mathematics, and to do it all with the benefit of a growing international reputation.
In 1965 Frank Oppenheimer, brother of the more famous Robert, having heard of Ivan’s fantastic museum to science, visited Tel Aviv with Admiral Lewis Strauss, chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission. The two became fast friends, sharing a childlike fascination for technology and science as well as knowledge of the darker side of machines and technology. This was four years before the opening of the Exploratorium in San Francisco, for which Oppenheimer imported many of Ivan’s installations. Some remain on exhibit to this day.
The puzzle of death
In 1944, while Oppenheimer was working with his brother on the problems of designing the first atomic bombs, Moscovich was on the death march to Bergen-Belsen. Here, too, the problem was how to survive. “Everybody said those who stayed, declaring themselves ill, would be shot. As it happens, they were liberated by the Russians two weeks later. And we walked barefoot and nearly naked through the worst winter of the century, westward to Bergen-Belsen.”At Bergen-Belsen, the last stop for the Final Solution, Ivan gave up all hope. He had been assigned to a work detail in the then still beautiful city of Hildesheim, near Hanover. “Near where I worked was a statue of the mathematician Leibniz with beautiful writing on it.
And it was so strange that after so long in hell, I am seeing that statue. I felt I was being visited by a ghost, an image of the real world I had left behind. It was then, only then, that I remembered my previous life, my teachers, my studies of mathematics and all that. Up till then my memories had been blocked out. It’s impossible to imagine that every minute, every second of life in the camps, you were only thinking of survival; there was no room for any other thinking. But here was this beautiful statue of Leibniz that reminded me of the real world.”
After two weeks working in Leibniz’s shadow, “I heard this strange noise … mmmmmmmmmmmm … that filled the air, and we suddenly realised that the sky was filled with planes. The next second everything was on fire. It was the Allied carpet bombing of Hildesheim. I saw German soldiers burning, running, and everything became chaos. I ran. After a while I stopped and looked back at the city, which was one big torch. I found myself alone in a giant field, a free man. But a free man in pyjamas, a free man with nowhere to go. I weighed 45 kilos.” Ivan turned around and started walking back to the depot. With his camp clothes, his inverted mohawk, there was nowhere to run. A German woman ran out of her house and thrust a chicken leg into his hand; she never said a word.
Recaptured, he was beaten and sent back to the camp. The dead lay in their thousands. “One barracks the Germans were using to fill with dead bodies, hundreds of dead bodies. After work one evening, I decided that instead of going back to our sleeping area that I would crawl to the top of this mountain of bodies and find myself a horizontal place. There was a slot at the top where I could see what was happening outside. I slept there for five, six days; I don’t have any notion about how much time passed. It was bliss to sleep; quiet and beautiful. It was no problem sleeping on a bed of a hundred dead bodies. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have lasted.
“One day I awoke from my sleep to complete silence. I looked through the slot to see the camp was completely deserted. Suddenly through the main entrance, which I had in my view, drove a single jeep with four English officers that stopped in the middle of the square. I rolled down the hill of bodies like a log and then I felt like I was running but I must have been moving very, very slowly. I was, I think, one of the very first to reach the jeep, and you know those guys were looking at us like they were seeing aliens for the very first time. Like first contact.” He collapsed into the arms of an English officer.
Moscovich was deathly ill. By the time that English officer caught up with him again, in a local hospital, he looked unlikely to survive. So the officer found a German doctor and frog-marched him to Ivan’s bedside. The Englishman pointed his revolver at the terrified doctor’s head and said, “If this patient dies here, you die here.”
Ivan Moscovich did not die – nor, at that point, did the German doctor. Ivan was transferred to a Red Cross hospital in a small town in Sweden – a town so boring, he now swears, that the local newspaper actually ran daily updates on Ivan’s weight gain for lack of more interesting scoops. Ivan describes his slow recovery as matter-of-factly as everything else.
“At a certain moment you know, the organism decided,
‘OK, we’re going to stay in this world. ”
In the mid-1960s, as his fame grew in Israel and beyond, another new world opened for Ivan Moscovich. “I was working on a puzzle at my desk one day when one of the ushers came in and said a couple of tourists wanted to see me. I was busy and didn’t have the time. The usher came back and said they only want five minutes of your time and they wouldn’t give up. So I agreed to see them, Mr and Mrs Eliot Handler. I wasn’t very enthusiastic but we talked and then Mrs Handler said ‘I would like our chaps in California to see your puzzles; are you ready to come over to California?’
I didn’t take them very seriously. Two weeks later I received a call from a travel agent who had a ticket waiting for me to go to California to visit Mattel.”Eliot and Ruth Handler founded and owned Mattel Toys. Its twelve-storey building in Hawthorne was the centre of America’s toy industry. Sales of their Barbie dolls were colossal, but the Handlers were keen to expand the Mattel range beyond just dolls. When Ivan came out to visit them they immediately offered him a three-year open contract to create games and puzzles for US$25,000 (£16,000) a year. His “Brain Drain” puzzle game promptly sold a million copies worldwide. This success was repeated with a series of puzzles including “Play It Again Fun”, “Visual Brainstorms”, “The Brain Power Decathlon” and “The Hinge”. Soon toy and games manufacturers from Japan to Europe were clamouring for more and more puzzles from the master. Ivan Moscovich’s gift had found the most widespread of all its expressions.
Fitting together the pieces
Somehow, all these pieces add together to produce a remarkably creative man, and one with a unique vantage point. Ivan has seen countries destroyed, reconstructed and created afresh. He has faced the most utterly depersonalising totalitarianism ever attempted, and rejoiced in the individual quirkiness of children’s imaginations. At an age where most seek nothing new at all, he is embracing the digital world with the enthusiasm of a seven-year-old offered a Game Boy.
How does he see the end of the century?
“At present we are in a greater need for a fresh creative spirit than in any other period of human history. Less and less experience is being gained directly through activities. Sensations tend to reach us increasingly only after passing through layers of media filters. Children manipulate electronic gadgets and play with computers, which is all very well, but ultimately lacks perspicuity and full sensual enrichment.
I hope to create open-ended concepts that trigger chain reactions. Ideally, the player plays my game, solves the problems and is motivated to invent his or her own variations of rules, ultimately creating his or her own games, puzzles and aesthetic structures.”
He has an avowed predilection for the physical. You can see it in his hands as he solves his puzzles. But Ivan sees unique possibilities in the digital world, possibilities that flow from the nature of his puzzles. “I’ve already published several books of my puzzles, but in a book you are restricted to the lin- ear progression of page after page, without much freedom. To interrelate the conceptual links between problems and solutions you need to be able to cross reference non-linearly, which is what a CD-ROM does.” After all, this is the point of his S.A.M. archive – that it combines science, art and mathematics as different paths to the same goal. The trajectories can be changed forever; the solutions will still provide the improvements of the self that Moscovich cares about.
“You know, humanity has been defined in various ways. For instance, as Homo habilis, skilful man; as Homo sapiens, wise man. I prefer Homo ludens, playful man, as the best definition of modern 20th-century human beings.” It was a hopeful definition that Johan Huizinga came up with in the late ’30s, at the time that young Ivan was learning science through science fiction – but the hope was serious and fearful. Huizinga was quite aware that playfulness had its dangerous side, and that the coming war would be a great, dark game; it was peace, he always said, that was the serious business.
These days, Ivan Moscovich is at peace. He lives a quiet life with his wife Anitta in west London. Within him, though, you can sense the machines within machines working, a vast inner factory of the abstract. It is hard to imagine him without them – even in the worst places the century’s history has to offer. I asked him whether his puzzling mind had helped him in Auschwitz, in Belsen; whether he had made his retreat into a private world of abstraction and pure thought.
“No. You know, it’s very difficult to explain, to understand. All of your time, all of your energy, all of your thinking is just focused on one thing: surviving.”
He did. And from the simple fact of survival he has pulled together the fragments of his life into a living inspiration for the rest of us – a puzzle worth thinking about.
Igor Goldkind writes science fiction, comics and essays, and lectures on technology and culture.
If you are concerned with the Syrian refugee crisis, the largest forced mass emigration of refugees since the Jews escaped Germany and Poland, there is something you can do. Inform your self through the Syrian American Medical Society who are running projects and providing medical supplies to the victims of the dictator Assad’s brutal and genocidal war against his own people.
Participate, if you live in southern California by attending a special exhibition of protest art at The Misfit Gallery in La Jolla California on April 21st.,
@ 565 Pearl Street. 92037 6-10 pm
I will be reading my published and unpublished work in the Spoken Word progamme as well as performing with The Third Act of Creation. But there’s much, much more. It’s a celebration of human rights and protest art to raise money for SAMS and also to join others in Mindful Resistance to the tyranny, bigotry and corruption in our present government and around the world. WE are THE PEOPLE, so instead of just complaining or getting depressed,
Let’s do something!
“We confuse the world as talked about, described, and measured with the world which actually is. We are sick with a fascination for the useful tools of names, of symbols, signs, conceptions, ideas and numbers.” ~ Alan Watts
The Numbers Game
In the end, it was the numbers that did us in.
They lined us up into military rows
And assigned us all numbers
One after one after one after one after one….
How many, nobody knows.
You see, it’s a numbers game
It’s all the same
You’re not your name
You’re your numbers.
Let me explain how it’s done,
And how this game can never be won.
See, there are good numbers and bad numbers
High numbers and sad numbers.
Sometimes high numbers are good and low numbers are bad
And sometimes low numbers are good and high numbers are sad.
It all depends on who is counting.
Not you or me
Not the numbers either.
They don’t know, they’re just numbers after all.
The numbers are counting on each other.
Just not you or me
Because we will never be free
Of Big Numbers and small numbers,
Negative numbers and imaginary numbers,
You see, it’s a numbers game.
It’s all the same
You’re not your name
You’re your numbers.
Let me explain
How it’s done.
And how this game can never be won.
Credit Score number
Zip code number
Blood pressure number
Heart rate number
DOB & TOD numbers
Dog tags number
Social Security number
Bank account number
Vehicle registration number
Alcohol level number
Height, weight and age number
I hear you scream:
“I’m not a number, I’m a human being!!”
Sure you are,
Now take a number.
It’s for your own protection
There’s safety in numbers.
Numbers can answer all of your questions:
How far, how long, how deep, how high, how many,
Just not ‘how come’?
Anyone can count,
But you can’t count on anyone.
See, it’s a numbers game
That can’t be won
It’s a numbers game
It’s just how it’s done.
It’s all the same.
You’re not your name
You’re your numbers.
Now count to ten
And start all over again.
For Rob Thompson who asked me if Numbers occupy Space.
Yes, indeed that’s a provocative title; but this ain’t click-bait my friends. This is the real deal. If Thomas Paine were alive today, he’d be in the nation’s capital with a pistol waiting for the selected president. Of course, he’d be waiting a long time considering as far as he knew, the capital of these United States was in Philadelphia. I have a vision of old globalist Thomas standing outside Ben Franklin’s door, knocking as hard as he could, shouting
“Benjamin! Benjamin! Come out, our nation’s in trouble and its much worse than the British. Forget the kite!’’. Kind of like the scene in Street Car Named Desire where Marlon Brando is standing outside Stella’s window in the pouring rain in his soaked white T-Shirt.
Marlon Brando would have made a good Thomas Paine in the film, the graphic novel and the computer game but this doesn’t answer the question embedded in the title of this diatribe. Why would Thomas Paine if he were alive today, track down Donald Trump and put a bullet in the back of his head? In principle this would require Donald to be on his knees, facing away from Thomas with his tiny hands wrapped around the back of his head. I suppose you, dear reader, are ‘en-titled’ to an answer as the to why and the wherefore; but stay with me as we savour the moment. The ultimate retribution of history: to be shot in the back of a head by one of the Founders of this revolutionary nation, ironically with a pistol no less. One that Thomas didn’t have to register or submit to a background check to acquire from the antique pistols and muskets booth at the gun show a couple blocks away.
So before Thomas pulls the trigger and the tiny lead ball propels from the pistol’s mouth through his dense skull and lodges somewhere in the soft tissue that Donald referred to at his “brain”, let’s pause and assess the situation. Let’s skip over the time travel details as to how Thomas Paine got from the late 18th century to the early 21st. We’ll leave it to the graphic novel to explain that bit; him jumping a little over two centuries in time. Although we really don’t have to figure out anything at all. Thomas Paine’s words, his ideas and his rebel spirit not only jumped but survived intact more than 2 centuries and the soul of our national sovereignty. So if Thomas Paine were brought back from the dead by some mysterious force, it could only be due to his words, his ideas, the nation he fought for being under threatened.
And that, my reader, is precisely the point being made by my title and the words you are reading now. Today, not 2 decades into the 21st century, the essential values that built this nation, this American experiment by a motley crew of post-enlightenment landowners, orators, tradesmen and inventors is at risk of being destroyed. Not by Trump himself, you realise. But by Us, by We the People in our impotent complacency to stop him.
We are not revolutionaries, we are the revolution Thomas and his friends dreamt up, drew the blueprints for, and built on the hot blood that soaked the green countryside of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Carolina who’s names are only possible because of the stubborn bravery of these idealists, these socialists, these men of vision that had the hubris to build a nation founded not by the right of kings or church or even the wealthy, but by the enlightenment values of Liberty, Justice and Freedom.
These values, of course, aren’t just American, although they are the foundation stones of our democracy. Thomas Paine author of Common Sense, The Age of Reason and the Rights of Man who’s title alone reveal the nature of his philosophy: to build a nation on Reason, not religious superstition. It’s not that Thomas Paine didn’t believe in the Divine, he just believed in Reason more:
“It is by the exercise of reason that man can discover God. Take away that reason, and he would be incapable of understanding anything.”
Later, a member of the French Senate, he would lend his hand to writing the Jean-Jacque Rousseau’s version of the Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789, along with Thomas Jefferson. Rousseau’s Rights of Man became the basis of the UN Human Rights Charter as well as the EU Human Rights initiative. So next time you hear some jackass complaining about Liberals going on and on about Human Rights you might want to mention that they’re disrespecting the Founding Fathers, two of whom (Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine) contributed to the declaration.
In fact, Universal Human Rights is the soul not only of our Constitution but the Declaration of Independence, the UN Charter and the adopted law of all members of the European Union. Human Rights is the one thing that Donald Trump can’t abide because he has dedicated his life to the accruement of power, power for its own sake. Trump really isn’t that bothered by actual money in spite of his public persona. What he is dedicated to is what money buys: people, power and governance; and this is exactly where we have gone astray from the origins of our nation. We have handed our own governance over to banks, corporate interests and the uber-affluent who can afford to buy a Congressman or a President.
Mueller’s investigation will very shortly reveal the origins of the money that bought Trump his presidency. We know already that the NRA contributed 30 million dollars early in his campaign. Do you remember that lie about how Trump said he was incorruptible because he could afford to fund his own campaign? I know, I know, it’s hard to remember all the lies Trump has spouted.
Do you know why the Truth is better than a lie?
Why? Because it’s easier to remember.
But going back to the pistol Thomas Paine is holding against Donald Trump’s head; no, I didn’t forget my premise. Imagine it with me. There’s Thomas Paine, his hand steadily holding the cocked pistol, fully powdered and loaded with a small lead ball. Tiny, but big enough to leave a good sized hole at such close range. And there’s Donald Trump on his knees, shaking. He’s already wet the pants of his the suit he’s wearing. He tries very hard to hold back his urgent need to defecate and fails.
Now Donald Trump is soiled. Soiled himself the same faeces he’s been feeding to the American voters for years. Soiled by his indifference, his empathy deficit, his reckless, unfeeling impulses, his sociopathic disconnect from the human race. Remember, Donald, to say ‘I hear you’. It fools them every time and leaves plenty of time for self-gratification at the expense of others. Trump is soiled by his own inhumanity, his unbridled carnal greed to accumulate, wealth, power, women. He assaults women not because he can get it up anymore but because they have power which he needs to dominate.
Look at his wife. I haven’t seen such a blank dead look of a hostage to circumstance since Patty Hearst. It was the money that bought her and (like some particularly gruesome episode of Back Mirror), she got exactly what she paid for, with her integrity her and self-respect. Imagine the morning she awoke to the dawning denouement. Sure she could leave any time, with her child. But where would she go? What would she do? In the afterlife of existence everyone writes a book and sells it. When things go badly; when the world seems to be against me; when I lose; I always remind myself – it could always get worse and at least I don’t have to fuck Donald Trump.
The thought makes me feel better but my heart tears up when I think of her suffering. It is the suffering of the affluent. The ones who have accommodated everything they were told they needed to be happy. Everything they worked hard to acquire in lieu of happiness only to find that very object eluding them. That’s the horror of the denouement, you reach the summit of your life’s ambition and now the only thing left to do is jump off. Because Happiness is not an object or an objective. It flits effortlessly in and out of our lives like a butterfly, briefly lingering on a flower and moving on. Ever try to chase a butterfly? Exactly.
Back to Donald Trump having shit and pissed himself while one of the Fathers of our country held a pistol to his head. Perhaps at this point Donald would beg for his life.Like the scene in Miller’s Crossing. “Please, Thomas, Please. Look in your heart, look in your heart. You don’t want to do this. You’re not that kind of man. Look in your heart, for godssake !”.
God is a natural place to go to. After all, the divisions we are now facing in our country are by no means recent. They’ve been brewing for decades. The divisions are not entirely geographic although the 3 states that assured Donald of his electoral victory does have a concentration of post-calvinist evangelicals. No are they solely cultural; after all, Donald Trump is the epitome of the urban gangster. A smooth talking, wheeling dealing property developer soaking in the comfort of Manhattan luxury. He should be anathema to his base of supporters. But he’s not, instead he speaks their language; the language of PT Barnum and Charlie Chan both as fake as a wooden nickel but master showmen to a ’T’ (Only white actors played Charlie Chan which ironically was invented by Earl Derr Biggers as an alternative to Yellow Peril stereotypes and villains like Fu Manchu).
And Trump talks about God. He doesn’t so much talk about his beliefs (if he has any), but about the threat that nonbelievers and other religions pose for Christian Evangelists, particularly targeting Islam. Trump runs his own Circus of Fear and the punters are more than happy to pay to be scared or at least have their irrational fears affirmed. Donald Trump should be played by the late Robert Mitchum (if he were still alive. Hey, we brought Thomas Paine from 2 centuries ago; a zombie Robert Mitchum should not pose too many difficulties). To be exact, Robert Mitchum in his role as the greed-laden preacher in the class American Gothic The Night of the Hunter in which he plays a psychopathic man of the cloth bent on money and murder (in that order). He pursues two children who hold the secret to a hidden fortune down a river in the south, riding a donkey and singing hymns. A fake, a demon, a creature of merciless malice.
So is Thomas going to shoot Trump in the head for using religion to accumulate power? Of course not. Thomas was a believer but not in God, in Reason. “It is by the exercise of reason that man can discover God. Take away that reason, and he would be incapable of understanding anything.” The reason Thomas Paine is holding a cocked pistol against the back of Donald Trump’s head is not God; Trump hasn’t blasphemed against Faith; he’s blasphemed against Reason. Trump has spent his entire career disseminating the appearance of things, not the truth. Truth is the enemy of Donald Trump, because in Truth, he is an insignificant man in the scheme of things just as we are all beholden to the significance we manufacture and some of us have made peace with that. Donald Trump has not. Like a Hungry Ghost Donald is compelled by desire, call it lust, a lust for significance. This is why he builds towers, not to house offices or hotel rooms, but to prop up as high as he can his name: Trump.
At the start of this year, we had a crisis
in authority due to the steady lies being pumped from the Whitehouse by Tump. The first rule of autocracy is to shake people’s belief in authority so that they only can believe in you. Donald Trump is attempting to destroy the pillars of the 4th estate. Now we’ve entered a period of crisis in competence. When the very ability to address real-world problems by Trump and his stooges is dubious at best.
Remember that the balance of powers in the Constitution is all beholden to having a Free Press in which people can report the truth and express their opinions of their government. That’s what Thomas Paine counted on in drafting our rights. Each right has a corresponding duty. Paine said our first duty is to be kind to others. Paine also said that a person’s corresponding duty is to allow the same rights to others as we allow ourselves. From this basis we can use our abilities to promote mutual understanding. These expanding circles of reciprocal duties and rights weave a tapestry, built on democratic norms, of liberty in the context of societal interdependence. It’s called a society based on equality.
Did you know that Thomas Paine was the very first American abolitionist? In 1775 he wrote “To Americans: That some desperate wretches should be willing to steal and enslave men by violence and murder for gain, is rather lamentable than strange. But that many civilized, nay, Christianized people should approve, and be concerned in the savage practice, is surprising; and still persist, though it has been so often proved contrary to the light of nature, to every principle of justice and humanity, and even good policy, by a succession of eminent men, and several late publications.”
“Our traders in MEN (an unnatural commodity!) must know the wickedness of that SLAVE-TRADE, if they attend to reasoning, or the dictates of their own hearts; and such as shun and stifle all these willfully sacrifice conscience, and the character of integrity to that golden idol.”
Thomas Paine was the first white citizen Member of Black Lives Matter. He and his pal Thomas Jefferson originally included an amendment to the Constitution ending slavery. They wanted to create a revolutionary society in which ALL men are created equal. As usual, women would have to wait. Ofcourse this amendment was vetoed by the southern slave owning states. The same states suspiciously from which Trump derives the concentration of his base support.
But the point being that the Founding Fathers, if not all, enough wanted to establish an egalitarian society in all respects. Paine referred to this, as did the other Framers as ‘the common good’ something the alt-right abhors the notion of as they translate it into control by some body that isn’t them. Nonetheless, contrary to Constitution literalists the “common good” involves a mental posture taken by citizens in their deliberations where they account for, yet transcend partial interests to look at the good for each and all in their decisions.
Even in business, Trump’s claimed turf, the right of commerce was seen as transforming the mind-set of feudal, dependent relations between men and their government. It helped transform subjects into confident citizens. Trade was viewed not as laissez-faire, but in a web of social interdependence. It was seen as a major modality for individuals to use their Reason (not Faith), to develop better mutual understanding of others interests in society. While aware that too much indulgence in commerce could lead to the decline of spirit and patriotism, making reason subservient to commercial interests, Paine felt that man would use his religion of reason to place commerce within a broader quest for lifelong education in the arts, sciences, engineering, and philosophy in order to progress to a universal society and universal happiness.
Paine believed that man’s highest spirit of reason in its motives and applications such that it does not have to be concentrated solely in pursuit of commercial interests. Art, science, and commercial enterprise can be placed in service to humanity and universal happiness. Moreover, each individual deserves minimal dignity and a minimal economic base to pursue their natural rights. Like Paine and Edward Bellamy advocated two hundred years ago, some form of guaranteed minimal annual income ought to be adopted for each citizen, regardless of wealth or other distinctions. Imagine what Thomas Paine would make of the modern day commercialized medical establishment!
Sounds like a socialist that Thomas Paine, don’t he? Not at all really, just your average post-Enlightenment philosopher and thinker. Or only as far as Socialism is dedicated to the fairer distribution of resources so that everyone might enjoy Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness more equally. “Some men and women, through greed or disproportionate natural or social advantages, will contribute to others being systematically impoverished in the imperfections of manmade civilization”
”The earth is the common property of the human race”; thus each human being is equally entitled to have dignity and minimal share of the earth’s bounty, including clean water, air, and access or rents from land Thus, men and women must discover those laws operating in society which will create a greater harmony of overall interests. Democratic communities will have to choose to redistribute some minimal baseline of societal resources to those at least most vulnerable not as charity, but as a right in the name of social harmony.”
Paine conceived of autonomous democratic nation-states forming alliances of mutual aid. Mikhail Gorbachev has said that we ought to have a balancing of interests, not a balancing of power on the global stage internationalization, with the primacy of nation-state alliances, is a major alternative to the trends of corporate economic globalization. In the myth of a “flat” world of economic globalization, where the world is made safe and frictionless for capital expansion,
Citizens and nations do not vote for corporate influenced governmental-military-industrial-media alliances and trade agreements which establish “the rules of the game” subtly conditioning the thinking of the masses.
These are not ancient words. These are the principles America was founded on and without which we would have early on taken the road to the same form of despotism and autocracy that Donald Trump is trying to lead us into. Trump only wants power. Power to control what is true and what is not. Power to determine the fates and existence of as many people as he can. This is why he loves the idea of a wall, the decoration of undocumented long term residents and the border checks at airports that targets people of the Muslim faith, as well as people that white people think look like Muslims!
In his own way, from his visionary perspective, Thomas Paine was what the right wing calls a Globalist or even more bizarrely a statist. Of course the founding father were statists, they constructed the blueprint for the United STATES.
Bernie Sanders was right. Trump isn’t Conservative or moderate, much less liberal; he’s an autocrat who has no respect for the Constitution and has failed as commander and chief to protect this country from a foreign antagonist.
Back to the curb where Paine is holding Trump hostage to the imperatives of history and the gentle squeezing of Thomas’s trigger finger. Because Donald Trump is a traitor to his state. He has been under the influence of a foreign antagonist Vladimir Putin since at least 2014, shortly after he first announced his attempts at the Presidency. He needed money to run a campaign for President and he didn’t have any. No bank would loan him money because Trump always welched on his debts. So he had to turn to Deutsche Bank, the same bank that Putin and his oligarchy use to make money disappear and reappear wherever is most expedient. In this case it was the Presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.
This will all become very shortly apparent as soon as the next wave of indictments are issued by the DOJ. Trump is in a jam that he can’t get out of. Mueller’s investigation on behalf of the federal department of justice is very far from being a witch hunt. Read the indictments, all the evidence is published there, enough to hold up in federal court. Mueller, if you recall, is a conservative Republican of impeccable integrity.
BTW, I don’t detest Conservatives; some of my best friends…etc. But Trump isn’t really a conservative, he’s a con man playing the GOP for whatever he can get away with. I don’t hate conservatives, I hate liars who shamelessly lie every day they open their mouths. I hate incompetents who can’t even keep one national security advisor on board during his first year and whose family and campaign advisors were meeting with Russian intelligence during the 2016 campaign.
At this point in the event, Donald Trump moves his head slightly. Thomas steadies his hand. Testing Thomas, Trump slowly turns his head enough to glimpse Thomas’s steely stare. As unflinching as Mueller’s investigation. Once again Trump pleads, begs for his life. “What do you want Mr. Paine? I’ve got money tons of money. What about women? I can get you the most beautiful models in the world. What about an audience with the Queen of England, she’s easy.” Thomas pauses and for the first time speaks to Donald J. Trump:
“I want my country back. I want the nation myself and my brothers built out of Reason, Compassion and Equality back. I want what this nation is meant to be, not what you have defiled it as.”
Trump knows his goose is cooked. He can’t repair the damage he’s caused. It will take others, long after he’s gone to rebuild our country. Others who are younger than a 70-year-old patriarch. Others who have grown accustomed to being one nation in a physically interconnected world. Others who aspire to rise above the fumes of spiritual superstition to the level of what Paine himself called “our living awareness of the Infinite Presence.” by means of Reason. Science, the Arts, the cooperative nature of our fellow hairless apes. The high school students who have stood up and proclaimed “enough is enough” The women who no longer cover their mouths and stifle their words when being subject to interpersonal tyranny. These are the children of Thomas Paine. These are the people he fought for and wrote for.
As a species we survived and dominated this planet by virtue of our complex means of cooperation, not competition. That complex is what we refer to as a Society and those who reject the notion are, well just anti-Social.
Donald Trump speaks to Thomas Paine one last time.
“Please Thomas, I promise to be better, I promise to live up to your virtues, I swear I’m a changed man. Look in your heart Thomas, look in your heart, Please!….”
He speaks his last four words to the man on his knees in front of him:
“I have, you traitor.”
Thomas pulls the trigger.
©Igor Goldkind 2018
This blog is now my sole cognitive link to the outside world.
At least today it is.
I can’t physically be where I need to be so I’m posting here thinking that if enough people read my status, that it somehow puts me in the real world of social transactions and mini Games of Thrones.
Victory is not defeated but ailing.
I put my black steel steed in the hands of Spencer, the young mechanic who plays my Sancho Panza in this story. He’s humble because all of Victory’s afflictions are his fault. But I don’t rub it in.
“Sancho,” I say. “There’s no point in wasting time in pointing fingers. It’s never really just one cause, usually a combination of factors. I’m just glad that you’re willing to drive out here at 7 in the morning to take a look”.
I help Sancho Panza push my bike up into the back of his truck.
One good reason I’ve found for being nice (or civil, as I used to call it), is because so few people really are. Oh, they want to be taken for nice people alright; and would be highly distressed to find that others might think otherwise. Being nice provides a tactical advantage.
Although, I liked Spencer the young bike mechanic. An engineer in practice if not in credentials. My bike is first up this morning so if it can be fixed, it will be fixed in time for me to hit the 5 for San Diego and the Pancakes and Booze Art Market where I’m exhibiting some of my mother’s works for sale right next to Mario Torero. Sell some watercolours, some pastels and loads of books I hope.
I enjoy the role of an “art-barker”.
It feels like an honest effort for very little pay; however, the rewards are luxurious.
There are so many jobs that aren’t so and so many professions that once were and have since gone astray into the mercenary end of pure commercial exploitation. Marketing people use the term ‘exploitation’ to refer to the product they’re peddling but what they really mean is the market they want to buy it.
“Don’t say you support the arts, buy some!” is my shill.
So if my Victory is assured and returned to me by 3, I will make my way south on the 5 lane asphalt ribbon to the City on the Bay.
Last night I missed the ceremony for the official induction of 3 copies of IS SHE AVAILABLE? into the central library’s local author collection. Not just me, but that of my historic friend Chris Ernest Nelson, as well. His book Harvest lying right next to IS SHE? in a glass case.
Just like William Blake at the British Library when it used to be a separate building from the British Museum. And Joe Orton’s mutilated library books for which he spent prison time inside, now under glass inside the Islington Library in London, the very library he stole them from in the first place. In England, they put both the author and the work behind glass. In England, people go to jail for unpaid library fines. And mutilating books into art collages.
So I missed by success at convincing the library to take my book which they rejected at least twice. Once because it didn’t fit into their category system, the second because of Michael S Kane‘s Andy Warhol/Jack Kirby Madonna and child. But no child, just Mother Mary nurturing a revolver.
It’s been the image that has caused the most alarm and offence amongst bookstores, book buyers and of course libraries. I have been closing high order deals with chains on more than one occasion, only to have the buyer happen to land on Shaky’s spread and immediately handing my book back to me. Atta-boy Shaky, I’m living on desperation row thanks to you!
The irony is that our intention from the beginning was to apparently offend. There is nothing specifically offensive or pornographic about the image of a pre-pubescent blond girl holding a big pink gun. Not even the word ‘Vagina’ standing out in Rian Hughes‘s sculptural typography of the text to the poem.
In fact, there’s nothing offensive or shocking about the image at all, just the impression that one will be shocked. And of course, the real content, the real meaning of the poem and the illustration is that gun-violence is what we should really be offended and shocked by and yet are no longer. Judge for yourself below.
At any rate, I am home alone; sound but unsafe, calmly nervous by events beyond my control that are inevitably unfolding. G/d will pretend, when the time comes, that the end of the world was what he had planned all along.
Everybody improvises their intentions.
Just wait and see.
Has been entered int the Realistic Poetry Contest and thus is no longer available on my blog as it is defined as non-exclusive or previous publication by the contest rules.
Who knows, I may even win.
Either way, it returns once the contest is over in February
Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror is really the best TV on your screen. It quite literally holds up a black mirror not just onto our society but to each one of us as components, now data-cogs, of the society we can no longer see anymore without the aid of mirrors. We are like goldfish in a goldfish bowl kept rotating by the shortness of our attention spans and never even realising the wetness of our environments.
Charlie Brooker, his cast, co-writers and the producers at Netflix are doing us the moral service of reminding us of the remnants of own moral outrage and how our own ethical boundaries have long since been trespassed by the dark consequences of convenience and more efficient processing.
The machines never took over, we just surrendered.
We are like commuters stuck in traffic complaining about the traffic that we are actually both part of and complicit in. Even though from our subjective vehicles, we cannot see it. Traffic controllers retain the power however it is a remote distributed, bureaucratic, systemised power that is no longer subject to one human’s judgement. Who do you alert when the traffic lights stop working? You don’t have to, they already know.
I have as of late, paraded the term Speculative Realism, borrowed from the French post-idealists. Who understand that the only way to view ourselves clearly is no longer as mere individuals but as components of a larger neuro-ecology that contains, constraints and ultimately defines us. We are the furniture that a system beyond our own subjectivity keeps rearranging “on our behalf”, “for our own safety”. “for your security”.
I have only slightly re-engineered the term in the context of a literary genre, of storytelling, perhaps the sole remaining respite of human freedom. A story is a purely human phenomenon untainted by machine efficiency as machines don’t need to tell each other stories. But we do, and in doing so we may be flexing the last quiescent muscle of our humanity. A story is comprised up 3 interlocked elements: The storyteller, the story and the audience (or to whom the story is told). At least two of these components are human, subject and object; the rest is merely synaptic grammar.
When a story is told and heard, a condensed complex of information, human knowledge and near spiritual wisdom is transmitted in a compact instant well beyond the speed or circuitry of a microchip. Remember, we are the minds that created and defined data. It is that creative mind that is both alert and receptive to the information that is vital to our survival, as a species and as sane human beings. Storytelling is our salvation and Poetry is better than prayer because you don’t have to pretend that someone is listening.
Speculative Realism is just my tag for vital, survival information being conveyed by storytellers. As essential as where the next herd of buffalo might be. Speculative Fiction has here to provide the luxurious canvas for our imaginations to ponder possibilities. But Speculative Realism is not what you might do ‘if…’ but what you will have to do ‘when…’ To survive, to retain your own identity and perhaps even your sanity. Speculative Realism is imperative, it carries the mental equipment we need to survive.
Black Mirror is a series of short cameos of Speculative Realism. The term is beginning to gain traction since I first observed the emergence of this genre in film, fiction and screen entertainment. I have since read a reference to Neil Gaiman‘s work described as Speculative Realist in his use of double vision, (the seeing of two apparent contractions as one), in his characterisations. I don’t know if he thinks that, you’d have to ask him.
Cyberpunk auteur Bruce Sterling, in Wired, refers to Speculative Realism as Philosophy Fiction, which is as good a handle as any because Speculative Realism defends the autonomy of the world from human access in a spirit of imaginative audacity.
In his recent Edinburgh University Press publication Speculative Realism and Science Fiction, Brian Willemsuses a range of science fiction literature that questions anthropomorphism to develop the Speculative Realist position. He looks at how nonsense and sense exist together in science fiction, the way in which language is not a guarantee of personhood, the role of vision in identity formation and the differences between metamorphosis and modulation.
These are useful critical and academic insights. But the real meat is in the eating and Black Mirror takes you to the centre of the Speculative Realist banquet, piling your plate high with outrage, moral panic and cautionary tales of horror. I suggest tasting a sample as we’re all going to be eating from this same table for the very foreseeable future,
the future that has already arrived.
© Igor Goldkind 2016
NOTHING has prepared you for This. Nothing ever will.
Because whatever is happening Now has never happened before.
This is a web-nurtured collaboration with 27 artists, sculptors and musicians from the world of Comics, Fantasy, Fine Art and Jazz, including Bill Sienkiewicz, David Lloyd, Liam Sharp, Glenn Fabry, Shaky Kane, Lars Henkel and the cutting edge sculptural typography of the highly acclaimed book designer Rian Hughes.
This illuminated book is a contemporary Dante’s Divine Comedy; a journey through the confessional landscape of a masculine identity. It uses poetry to construct a narrative that explores themes of death and loss, sex and love, and the modern American and Jewish identity design: by the UK’s eminent graphic designer, typographer, illustrator Rian Hughes.
The music is composed and produced by iconoclast, ex-Israeli, Middle-Eastern jazz virtuoso Gilad Atzmon, along with five other jazz artists.
Written by San Diego native Igor Goldkind, this illuminated book will revolutionize the way you view poetry by meshing comics, art, music and animation in a truly unique way. It uses poetry to construct a narrative that explores themes of death and loss, sex and love, and the modern American and Jewish identity. The book is available for download on the iTunes Store and Google Play, as well as in a 166 page, fully illustrated in colour hardbound edition available ORDER HERE.
The eBook edition pushes the edge of what is possible with present EPUB3 technology. It is not an App, it is a true book that marries pop art, comics, avant-garde, jazz, spoken word poetry, video and animations, and type design in a manner that we have not seen before IS SHE AVAILABLE? has the feel of an artefact from the near future – a seminal work of a new genre-fusing poetry, graphic art, music, and animation.
Sample interior pages:
IS SHE AVAILABLE? RRP is $34.95, SHIPPING INCLUDED
Educational Discount for Students and Teachers: $29.95
Both deluxe hardcover edition PLUS animated and musically scored eBook App edition of Is She Available? bundle: $39.95
Go to http://Paypal.com/issheavailable/ and place your order directly through PayPal with all Pay Pal assurances and protection.
Shipping included in orders within the US and its territories.
If you are in Britain and/or Europe, please contact my European wholesaler Fanfare Productions who will take your order and dispatch to your address the same day: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviews ? Sure We Got Reviews. Why You Wanna See Them? Be my guest.
“Igor’s “Illuminated Book” is like a new genre. It is a wonderful ekphrastic expression; a fusion of the arts.” — Poet Mel Takahara
“His collection Is She Available? has the feel of an artefact from the near future – a seminal work of a new genre-fusing poetry, graphic art, music, and animation.” —(San Diego’s) City Beat
“Is SHE Available?” is an experiment, and reading it feels more like an act of discovery… nonetheless there’s a thrill to scrolling through its pages. It’s an ambitious step toward what digital media can (and will) be.”—The Chicago Tribune
You Tube samples: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLRnmT_aE0acoowdNBvFtK_VW2OkNN2wWp
SoundCloud samples : https://soundcloud.com/igor-goldkind/sets/is-she-available-spoken-word
The 166 full colour, fully illustrated hard cover deluxe edition is available in discerning and eclectic independent bookstores everywhere. Including Fahrenheit 451 in Carlsbad, Soulscape Bookstore in Encinitas, the Upstart Crow in San Diego, Verbatim Books and Mysterious Galaxy also in San Diego, City Lights and the Cooperfields chain in Marin County and Sonoma County, amongst a growing number of independent book stores.
Order direct from PayPal and shipping is included!