Translator Poetry

Man, oh, man do I love translator software as a poetic device. Write a piece of simple doggerel sometime, then run it through a translator program a few times–English to Spanish, Spanish to Italian, Italian to French, French to German, German to English–and what comes out is so surreal and so beautiful and so beyond what the human mind could create on its own. Need a sample? Here ya go:

we chew ourselves
we sings: us! us!
we run (ourselves), plays, us
we go ourselves
the backed enjoyment: we! we!
quickly we lubricate the wax of the carousel
the slide, the lube of the Chutney
and he/it leaves us
the slide, they fells, (she/it) (we) (we) (we)
what? free? us?
in order to be everything we can,
he/it can be
or, in order not to be
if I sewed,
if he/it is not or he/it is,
or he/it could harden himself/itself in the phlegm
in the phlegm
(we) in the phlegm
hardened us
much heat
much heat
much moist
much heat
like the shrub
like the blood
like the crate
like the musty smell
like the mac in the phlegm, in the heather
and the mac in the duff
and he/it put me low,
and he/it put me the lie,
and he/it extended me
to sleep or to die

In Praise of “Trespass”

More on the underappreciated albums front: Trespass by Genesis. Most Johnny- and Janey-Come-Lately Genesis fans miss this one, since it predates Phil Collins, the group’s primary magnet for the casual latter day follower. But Peter Gabriel’s on this one, as are Anthony Philips (guitars) and Peter Mayhew (drums), who certainly more than hold their own throughout the procedings. The songs are, for the most part, a bit more straighforward than the ones that define Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot, the two most-similar albums in the Genesis canon–but that’s not a bad thing, now, is it? Most folks who do know this album will focus on its closing song, “The Knife,” as the reason to own it, but I’m gonna lift up “Stagnation” instead–one of the most beautiful, powerful, evocative things this group ever produced, no lie.


Few things make me happier than a big bowl of pasta with a brilliant tomato-based sauce on top. But few things make me angrier than going to a restaurant and ordering said dish–then having them bring me a plate with a one of these horrible, thin nouveau red sauces on top, big chunks of stewed tomato, some runny liquid (most likely pressed from the tomatoes), a couple of basil leaves and some monstrous hunks of garlic. And as bad as that is, it’s even worse when a restaurant does it on a pizza: the tomatoes bleed through the crust, the whole thing gets slimy, yuck, yuck, yuck. And being served garlic that way is flat out offensive: if you’re living or sleeping with someone, you’d better make darn sure you share the dish, or someone’s gonna be gassed out onto the couch come bedtime by the noxious garlic aroma oozing out of every pore and orifice as great, huge chunks of that hideous root sit, undisolved, in your loved one’s gut. So pay attention chefs: cut stuff up and then cook it for a while if you’re gonna call it a sauce. Because these warm, wet salads you’re passing of as sauce these days are really getting me down, man.


Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy has long been one of my favorite works of literature, although it’s always been mildly embarrassing to admit that fact–since people who haven’t read the books tend to roll their eyes and lump you in with the sorts of folks who dress up as hobbits for Dungeons and Dragons tournaments when you do. So it was kind of nice when one of the members of Can (yet another personal favorite) crafted an avant garde opera from the first two books of the trilogy, offering some mild modicum of popular artistic respectability. And now, holy krow, even better: the BBC has created a new television version of Gormenghast. The still clips look magnificent . . . I just hope I can stand the wait before it finally airs in America.


Just how in God’s name did Steve Albini actually manage to get that Big Black guitar sound? I mean, I’ve played with a lot of guitars, and I’ve played with a lot of pedal effects, and lots of other people have played with lots of both, but I don’t think that anyone’s ever come as close to reproducing the sonic sensation of a dental drill to the head in quite the same way that Albini did on Big Black’s last couple of records. “Kerosene,” in particular, makes my eyes water. And that’s a good thing.

Opening paragraph to a rediscovered story . . .

“Stars above, sand below, Amanda waded waist deep through warm waves, enjoying the solitude of the North Carolina beach by night. She was nearly six weeks into her summer sabbatical and had been slowly working her way southward since the spring semester had ended at the New England University where she lectured in comparative literature. Amanda’s summer itinerary had been intentionally amorphous from the start as she was less concerned with where she was going than with what she was leaving: a long-running, long-dysfunctional relationship with a colleague that had finally imploded; a nagging suspicion that she was beginning to treat her students poorly; a boredom with the great works of literature that had once so moved her; a sense of anomie that had become positively strangling as it spread insidiously to touch everything that in turn touched her.”