Category Archives: Poetry

Forecasting Psychopaths

Bruce has a post called Forecasting Murderers, which has some insightful comments. Bruce himself says “Pretty scary stuff, as it gets into the realm of thoughtcrime.”

I was just reading an article by the BBC on a completely different project that seems to have a similar aim — forecasting psychopaths to figure out how to treat them or at least stop them before they can do harm.

The study monitored how the brain reacts when people see positive and negative expressions by others:

They can commit hideous crimes, such as rape or murder, yet show no signs of remorse or guilt.

It has been suggested that people with psychopathic disorders lack empathy because they have defects in processing facial and vocal expressions of distress, such as fear and sadness, in others.

That reminds me of L’etranger (published in 1942) by Camus…or that line in Killing an Arab (released in 1979) by the Cure:

Staring down the barrel
At the arab on the ground
I can see his open mouth
But I hear no sound

If a tree in an unprotected forest falls and no environmentalists are around…

The impossible question appears to be, I guess, whether someone’s abnormal behavior should be treated in and of itself as a security threat, or if it reflects a different perspective that could offer meaningful keys to unlock the secrets in your own world; or balance of the two.

And on that note, I feel like mentioning that while Rumsfeld was terminated for being a horrible listener (among other things) President Bush’s nomination for a replacement appears to suffer from some of the same “deaf-reckoning”…

Mr. Ford, 85, who worked at the agency from 1950 until the early 1990s, said he remembered Mr. Gates exaggerating Soviet misdeeds around the world. “He painted a dire picture of increased Russian pressure on Iran when the people who followed that issue were telling me the exact opposite,� he said.

Melvin A. Goodman, a former Soviet analyst for the agency, said on Thursday that during the 1980s, Mr. Gates acted as a “filter” for intelligence, trimming findings on the Soviet threat to match the hard-line ideological expectations of his boss, William J. Casey, then the director of central intelligence.


The study, by Raymond L. Garthoff, a former diplomat and arms control expert, finds that analyses of the Soviet Union in the Mikhail Gorbachev years were often withheld from policy makers by Mr. Gates “because he held a different view.” The study continues: “That was his right. But it was regrettable because the C.I.A. analysis was far more correct than the view he had.â€?

Sounds familiar. Bush seems to really dislike bringing people into his administration who will let the facts breathe, so to speak. Or perhaps he seeks people without empathy? Gates’ appointment will probably end up demonstrating as fact, if successful, that Rumsfeld’s idiocracy was no abberation. The continuation of a military-industrial complex model is kept alive by this group of men who are considered loyalists to the Ford and Bush Sr. administrations. Eisenhower must be rolling in his grave…

Game Poet Society

Maybe it is just because I do not have time to play video games any more, but so far the poems on the Game Poet Society site seem, well, how shall I put it…lame?

Take for example:

71r3d w17h 4ll 7h3s3, f0r r3s7full d347h I cry

Not sure what is worse about this poem. The fake-L337 speak or the attempt to show real feeling for a virtual fire-fight in a fantasy first-person shooter world. Then again, many poems are based on imagination induced by drugs, alcohol, endorphins, etc. so why not video games?

Each shot fired sang its own noise;
A forced cacophony of mottled sound.
Cracking the wood of his crate,
Squishing as they entered flesh,
Pinging high and low off concrete,
Echoes of gunfire pierced his skull,
And dulled the noise of men cursing their God in vain.

Dulled noise, mottled sound? The real meaning of this poem is that it is time for a sound-card upgrade. A little more power in the sound department could change this poet’s lament from “forced cacophony of mottled sound” to “full cacophony of crystal-clear sound”.

In fact, a true game-poet would upgrade this poem to “109dB SNR audio quality 64MB X-Fi Fatal1ty cacophany of CMSS 3D sound”. Yeah, that’s more like it. Now we’re talking game poetry!

And that’s just one line.

Oh, and I’d change the last line to “Game over” if not “Upgrade time”. I swear that the phrase “terrorists win” is becoming so sadly common-place that I am no longer surprised to hear it around American children who are playing. One day while I was launching my boat off the beach I was near a few kids kicking around sticks and stones in the water who said “Oh, no, the terrorists have blown up the tunnel, killing all the civilians. Terrorists win.”

The Paris Review and DRM

There are a number of historic interviews being posted online by the Paris Review. For example, you can read a 1960 discussion with Robert Frost:

So many talk, I wonder how falsely, about what it costs them, what agony it is to write. I’ve often been quoted: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.� But another distinction I made is: however sad, no grievance, grief without grievance. How could I, how could anyone have a good time with what cost me too much agony, how could they? What do I want to communicate but what a hell of a good time I had writing it?

There are almost as many contradictory suggestions for writers as there are interviews in the collection. You know what they say about opinions…

I also noted this awesome start and abrupt end to the Graham Greene page:

GREENE: “No, one never knows enough about characters in real life to put them into novels. One gets started and then, suddenly, one cannot remember what toothpaste they use, what are their views on interior decoration, and one is stuck utterly. No, major characters emerge: minor ones may be photographed.”

NOTE: We regret that we have been unable to obtain web rights to this interview. We have worked hard to make this archive as complete as possible, and hope you’ll forgive us the omission.

The Editors

Curious that the magazine does not have rights to its own interview.

NOAA Poetry

NOAA offers some interesting insights in their “Poetry Corner“:

What do poetry, engineers, and scientists have in common? The NOAA Poetry Corner, home of weather poems, survey poems, and ocean poems written by the men and women who served in NOAA or its ancestor agencies. […] All these poems help tell the story of the people and the ancestor agencies of NOAA, showing a love for the work and a love for the environment in which the men and women of NOAA’s ancestor agencies worked….

Here is my favorite so far:

Oceanography is dangerous

by Arch E. Benthic, a.k.a. Harris B. Stewart
“The Id of the Squid,� 1970

The Exec has spent two weeks in traction,
The Chief has a cut on his head,
The Doctor is missing in action
With a burn that has sent him to bed.
Various others have bruises
And legs and backs that are sore.
The dangerous parts of these cruises
Are the motorbikes ridden ashore.

In: AOML Keynotes, Vol. 4, No. 5, pp. 1-4.

I don’t follow the squid reference, but the punch-line is funny. Wonder if NOAA pays a bonus for poems?