0. rien de louche

    Il n’existe que trois êtres respectables :
    Le prêtre, le guerrier, le poète. Savoir, tuer et créer.
    Les autres hommes sont taillables et corvéables, faits pour l’écurie, c’est-à-dire pour exercer ce qu’on appelle des professions.
    — Charles Baudelaire, Mon cœur mis à nu
    There exist but three respectable beings:
    The priest, the warrior, the poet. To know, to kill, to create.
    The rest of men belong to the fatigue party, made for the stables, in other words for the practice of that, which is called professions.
    — Charles Baudelaire, My heart laid bare, translated by MZ

Charles Baudelaire in 1855, photograph taken by Nadar

Je suis fier d’une chose, et très fier. C’est que mes enfants, si Dieu m’en donne, n’auront pas du sang de marchand dans les veines. Leur grand-père n’aura pas mis le matin un pain à cacheter sous la balance pour qu’elle pèse un centigramme de plus et qu’elle livre un centigramme de mélasse de moins; lequel centigramme répété vingt fois dans la journée fait un cinquième de gramme, et au bout de cinq jours un gramme, de sorte qu’après avoir pendant un mois mérité six cents fois d’aller en prison, on gagne un sou — six grammes de mélasse valant un sou. Voilà le commerce.
    Avant d’épouser une femme riche tout honnête homme doit dire : Cet argent a-t-il été gagné en faisant des livres, en enseignant, en travailllant avec une plume à la main ? Au grand soleil ? Point de pièces qui aient sonné dans un comptoir !
    Sentir dans mes cheveux une main qui a roulé des cornets ! Boire l’infini dans un œil qui pendant dix ans ait épié l’instant où l’acheteur se retournait pour enlever une pincée de sucre an poudre ! Pouah !… Si ce n’est elle qui l’eût fait, c’eût été son père. Si ce n’est son père, son grand-père, si ce n’est son grand-père, son bisaïeul.
    J’ai pour devise : Rien de louche — et tout commerce est louche. Je méprise autant la veuve Clicquot que la mère Grégoire. On vole en grand, voilà tout. Ils sont nécessaires ces gens-là? oui, comme les lacquais. Je donnerai mes bottes à mon lacquais, mas pas la main de ma fille.
    — Stéphane Mallarmé à Henri Cazalis, octobre 1862
There is one thing I am proud of, and I am very proud of it. It’s that my children, if God gives me any, will not have the blood of merchants in their veins. Their grandfather will not have placed one morning a piece of sealing-wax under his scales, so that they weigh a hundredth of a gram more and deliver a hundredth of a gram of molasses less, which hundredth of a gram repeated twenty times a day makes a fifth of a gram, and after five days a whole gram, so that after having deserved imprisonment six hundred times in a month, you make one sou’s profit — six grams of molasses being worth one sou. That’s business for you.
    Before getting married to a rich woman, every honest man should ask — was that money earned by producing books, by teaching people, by living by the pen? Out in the open air? No coins that have rang on the counters!
    To feel running through my hair a hand that has rolled pastry! Drink the infinite in the eyes that for ten years watched for the moment when a customer’s back was turned to remove a pinch of powdered sugar! Phew! Even if she had not done it herself, her father would have. And if not her father, her grandfather; if not her grandfather, her great-grandfather.
    I have for a motto: Nothing suspect, and all business is suspect. I despise the Veuve Clicquot as much as Mother Grégoire [a saloon-keeper in an operetta by Scribe and Boisseaux]. It’s stealing big, that’s all. Is this kind of people necessary? Yes, just like servants. I will hand over my boots to my servant, but not my daughter’s hand in marriage.
    — Stéphane Mallarmé to Henri Cazalis, October 1862, translated by MZ

Édouard Manet, Stéphane Mallarmé, 1876, oil on canvas 27x36cm, Musée d’Orsay

two parables on relativity and respect

    Two schnorrers [Jewish hobo-beggars] are discussing Einstein’s theory. One explains to the other patiently that, “All it means is that everything is relative. It’s like this, but it’s also like that. It’s entirely different, but it’s the same thing. You understand?” “No,” says the other schnorrer; “could you give me an example?” “Of course. Let’s say I fuck you in the ass. I have a prick in the ass, and you have a prick in the ass. It’s entirely different, but it’s the same thing. Now do you understand?” “Ah-hah!” agrees the other; “but I got one question: this way Einstein makes a living?”
    — Gershon Legman, origamist and cunning linguist extraordinaire, Rationale of the Dirty Joke, Second Series

German Jewish Dueling Fraternity, 1907

    A schnorrer addresses his prospective benefactor outside of a tavern: “Tell me, reb Schmuel, why is it that when I piss, it sounds like a rusty faucet leaking, but when you piss, it sounds like a mighty river flowing?” The pillar of his community glances down and replies: “I say, Moishe Pipik, could it be because when I piss, I aim into the gutter, but when you piss, you aim at my sable coat?”
    — MZ

Manneken Pis, Brussels, Belgium

nocturnal auscultation

    George Spiggott: In the words of Marcel Proust — and this applies to any woman in the world — if you can stay up and listen with a fair degree of attention to whatever garbage, no matter how stupid it is, that they’re coming out with, till ten minutes past four in the morning… you’re in!

Judith Leyster, The Proposition, 1631

    Rachel Wang: I wonder there were something missing in you, you don’t feel disturbed and annoyed easily. […] You are too pure and you are too spoiled.

Michael’s Inbox at ten minutes past four in the morning

    Rachel calls and emails. She complains that she cannot sleep. She complains that Michael does not really like any woman. She complains that Michael envies men. She complains that Michael regards women as something to rely upon. She wants Michael to marry an old and successful lady whose husband left her a big fortune. She wants Michael to find himself a same sex lover to admire and love. But Rachel is a good woman. She still has that tender feeling towards Michael. When she meets her ex-husband, she calls him Michael. And vice versa. Rachel is lonely now. She misses her family. She cannot go back to China to face them the way she is. She is tired. She wants a warm body to hold. She wants to be held. She is 2,462 miles away. She had to leave town because she couldn’t stay away from Michael otherwise. She can’t stay away from him anyway. She hates him.

in memoriam isaak zelyony, m.d.

March 26, 1923 — March 1, 2004

    Dear friends,

    We are gathered today to commit to the ground the mortal remains of my father Isaak Zelyony. There will be no religious ceremony. Three years ago, my father and I attended nearby the funeral of his elder brother Joseph. The rabbi officiating at that event offered thanks to God for a swift and easy death. My uncle’s death was anything but easy. He lingered at the hospital for eighteen months suffering from a panoply of grave ailments, delirious and inane, fed through a breach in his stomach. My father and I agreed then that no clergyman would officiate at our funerals. As born and bred Soviets, we have no religion. My father did not believe in God. I am unsure of my own beliefs, but such God as I believe in surely is no one that owns a character of any kind, in particular not of the kind that wills for any outcome or cares about his creatures, let alone heeds their prayers. My God is akin to the indifferent jailor of a GULAG prison camp, and as his inmates we are well advised to abide by the traditional admonishment of Soviet prisoners: Wait for nothing. Be afraid of nothing. Ask for nothing.
Continue reading in memoriam isaak zelyony, m.d.

sexy ghost

    Rachel called again today. She asked why Michael didn’t pick up the phone last night. She asked whether he used a condom. Michael declined her gambit.
    Rachel has memorable tits. Michael never turned down an opportunity to fondle them. But Rachel is no good on the phone. This connection is too slight to permit feeding and fucking. Only the excuses remain. That is not enough.

    She cannot understand why a good woman like herself cannot find a good man. Michael explains that she is addicted to misery. Rachel will do whatever it takes to keep herself unhappy. Her efforts to connect with Michael fall under this rubric. She flees to squelch the intimacy. She comes back to maintain the tension. She conjures up the reasons for her discontent. Michael is not of this world. He thinks too much. He will not go forth to shake hands and make deals.

    Rachel likes being fed and fucked. That is the only way to stop her complaining. Michael played along for two years. Then Rachel got pregnant. At first, she seemed excited. She was going to have the child. Michael was looking forward to being a father. Three weeks into it, Rachel exploded at Michael. She ran out of his house screaming. Michael tried to calm her down. Later on, Rachel called Michael’s mother and told her that she had a miscarriage. She refused to speak to Michael. On Wednesday he came to her doorstep with his father. They pleaded with Rachel to talk things over. She did not respond. The next day she had an abortion.

    Afterwards she begged Michael to come back. On Sunday night he came to see her. Rachel was in bed. Her roommate’s toy dog had a hardon. He ran after Michael, trying to hump his foot. Rachel asked Michael to lie down next to her. She wanted to feel his cock inside her. Rachel explained that her cunt was sore from miscarriage. She laid on her stomach. Michael slid his cock up her ass. Rachel moaned. She liked feeling helpless under Michael. When they were done, she told him about the abortion. She wanted to try getting pregnant again. Michael walked out.

Edvard Munch, The Day After, 1894-1895, oil on canvas, 115x152cm

    For three days he remained inside, going out only to walk the dogs. On Wednesday afternoon, Michael’s parents came to visit. He was lying in his bed upstairs. He would not come down. Later on, Michael’s father called to invite him to a movie. Michael was not in the mood to be entertained. Later he changed his mind. He picked up two videos and headed to his parents’ apartment. He called them on the way. His mother said that his father was sleeping. Michael told her not to wake him up. He stopped at a Japanese restaurant. He ate yellowtail sashimi and headed west to watch the videos with his parents. On the way to their place, Michael stopped at a newsstand. He was leafing through motorcycle magazines when his cell phone rang. Christoph just saw Michael’s parents on TV. There was a fire.

William Blake, The House of Death, 1795/circa 1805, color print finished in ink and watercolour on paper support, 485x610mm

who, what, where, why

    He was born in the U.S.S.R. in 1958. Through high school he immersed himself in math Olympiads and political incorrectness. In 1977 he came to America in search of freedom. His life there has gone through four stages. He started out with a self-taught programming career. He followed up with a study of philosophy and mathematics. He left school for an entrepreneurial venture in Internet technology. He is living through its acrimonious and catastrophic aftermath. He is concluding five years’ worth of startup wind-down and litigation. The defendants are his former partners, a former girlfriend and a publicly traded company founded by her father. His rewards comprise withstanding death threats, doing right by his former employees, and delivering a comeuppance to his enemies. His father was a plaintiff in a related lawsuit. He has perished in an apartment fire of suspicious origins. His mother suffers from Alzheimer’s aggravated by this trauma. She is left in his care. He lives in a rickety house sitting on a Hollywood hillside. It is full of dusty books, loaded guns, half-assembled Italian automobility, and cranky old dogs. Michael writes to stave off insanity.

winter solstice

    Ready or not, here comes Michael. Living out his 47th year. Living down the loss of his father following the loss of his child. Growing into the face he deserves. The right face to wear on this stage.

Larvatus prodeo.