Archive for January, 2020

January 31, 2020

Strong sense memory of reading the Sinbad story cycle under mosquito netting on a plump white bed in Zanzibar.

The Annihilating Hole

January 31, 2020

Dream me explains that what separates Alaodin (which Marco Polo called Hassan-i Sabbah) from Aladdin – i.e., the “o” – is the cave mouth, the annihilating hole.

Late Hellenisms

January 30, 2020


You may not recognize the name Ryan Spring Dooley, but if you’ve ever walked through Rome or Naples, chances are you’ve encountered his work. He incorporates cracks in plaster, holes in walls, buckling facades, building corners and so forth into his street art in sly, unobtrusive, delightful ways. And he’s so prolific it sometimes seems that if you picked the scab of any building in southern Italy it would bleed a Dooley.

This piece was painted inside Je so’ pazzo (“I’m nuts”), a squat in the Materdei neighborhood of Naples occupying a huge 1573-era complex formerly used as a monastery, a juvie, and then a criminal asylum. Not pictured: the bare-breasted woman who emerged from the window above the winged figure like a bright idea moments after I snapped the pic. What brought her to mind is this. I read the Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes last month, and was intrigued by a passage in which the sea nymph Thetis and her pussaince posse were persuaded by Hera to shoulder the Argo through the wandering rocks to safety. Not because Peleus, Thetis’s estranged Argonaut husband, was in jeopardy. Rather, because Medea was aboard. And because Medea would one day wed Achilles, the then-toddler son of Thetis and Peleus, in Hades.

Following wisps of that legend, I caught wind of another: that Achilles bedded Helen among the shades. However it originated, this one was promulgated by Pausanias (who, btw, also claimed there was a giant cracked eggshell – from which Helen and her brother Polydeuces had hatched, presumably – hanging from the roof of the Spartan acropolis as late as the 2nd century CE) among others. Researching the various postwar fates ascribed to Helen over the centuries led me, circuitously, to Simon Magus.

As you may know, Simon, a 1st-century CE Samaritan sorcerer, got a bad rap in the Book of Acts for trying to score some Holy Ghost off two apostles after watching them lay hands – or, more likely, to license a share of what he assumed to be their con (hence “simony”). The central tenet of Simonianism: that God’s first thought was female. The thought gave birth to the angels, who rebelled against her – imprisoning her in the material world, and forcing her to be born, again and again, as shamed women. Including Helen of Troy. Eventually, after she’d been reborn as a Tyrian sex slave also named Helen, God incarnated himself as Simon and went looking for his first, best idea. To rescue her. Basically, a 4th-century metaphysical prefiguration of Taxi Driver (w/ Harvey Keitel’s pimp as the false Christ). Anyhow, it reminded me of the gal not yet in the window.

Heavy Weather

January 29, 2020

As I fell asleep Monday night, I thought about ways to separate a hurricane from its fuel supply, and/or artificially alter the pressure conditions of its eye. Could an incipient hurricane be dispersed by aerially detonating a large-yield conventional bomb inside it? Could something as simple as a tarp, covering enough ocean contiguous to a cyclone’s projected landfall, sufficiently dampen its energy to reduce damage? Like Christo and Jeanne-Claude for emergency mangroves. Could you temporarily thermodam the Gulf Stream, shutting off the energy supply, without killing everything else that depends on warm water? Could an Atlantis-style labyrinth of seacrete surrounding an island help retard a storm? Heck, one might even use windmills spun by the dampened hurricane to power the electroaccumulation of limestone and brucite hydromagnesite. Could vertical pipes be used tactically to bring cooler water up from the deeper ocean to put “sand” in the gas tank of a storm? Then I started to drift. Do whales ever deliberately breach into hurricanes to bodysurf the winds? And so forth, unto Morpheus.

Solomon | Asmodeus

January 28, 2020

According to multiple sources, the jinn king Asmodeus, whose tribe Solomon press-ganged into building the first temple, kept Torah. There’s also a Kabbalist tradition in which King David – in a wet dream, while asleep in the desert – coupled with the succubus Igrat, who subsequently gave birth to the demonic spirit Asmedai (Asmodeus). Which would have made him the half-brother of Solomon. Two kings, one of whom enslaved the other. A cross-sapient reverberation of Cain & Abel?

January 28, 2020

Years ago, in a 14th Century compendium of knowledge from the Islamic world, I read that if a panther bites you, and then a mouse pees on you before the wound heals, you’ll die instantly. A man, aware of this, took himself out to sea on boat after being bitten, for fear of mice. Nevertheless, a mouse got snagged on a kite that soared up above the boat. The mouse pissed with fear. And the man died. What Fate decrees is unavoidable.

The Sillas

January 27, 2020

Thinking about the Sillas River that Megasthenes described in his Indika, in which things sank rather than floated. Although oft-repeated among ancient geographers, it’s been dismissed as a folk tale. But I wonder if it wasn’t a super-heated spring. A more beautiful, even less likely, thought: that, somewhere, local conditions allowed natural gas to flow like a liquid. A cold blue river of butane, somewhere in the Himalayas. Shiva perched beside it, on one foot, in the snow.


January 27, 2020

Researching a prison Alexander the Great supposedly built in the Pamirs, I turned up a cycle of stories from the region about a giant named Iskandar. I knew Alexander was called that throughout Central Asia, and that historically there must have been an assumption by some Persian/Arabic speakers that his name was Al-Iskandar. What I’m wondering now is if “The Great” somehow got garbled as “The Giant” by mountain folk in the region. Alexander may have even helped promulgate this mistranslation. According to his court historian, before the army decamped from Pakistan to head back to Babylon, Alexander instructed them to fake a campsite of enormous scale, including outsized armor, weapons, etc. strewn about – to give anyone who discovered it the impression that he and his men had been a race of giants.