Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Numbers Crunched, The Word Counts - You do the maths,

"Do we hate men ? We hate their bodies that do all their calculating for them. Their powerful, triangulating bodies. The Africa of the brain, the Babylon of the eye and the Zion of the holy of holies. The corporeal theodolite that makes all the rest of us mensurable. There’s no way of getting past that. The whole world is erected upon this one fact. Male scale.

From the first moment man rose up from his thorax and ceased crawling across the humus. Foregoing that frottage with mother earth, which had kept him grounded within a certain sense of his middling status. Initially he stayed close to his roots. Plated breast pressed snug into the bosom of the soil. Little did she realise, it was the first fumblings towards a survey of all her appendagable riches.

He imprinted hands, palms and cubits across her unsuspecting breasts. Spanned her with his itchy fingers. Employed instruments to increase his province over her; twigs, stakes and staves. Peered down at his natural spirit level and felt emboldened to confer upon it, the imperious charter names of Rod, Pole and Perch. Marked out his own front yard. Yet he longed to strive further. To range beyond the merely tangible. To match his burgeoning scope. To defy the limits of his two-dimensionality, (since to this day man has failed to fathom the concept of depth) and in doing so flatten the rest of us in the animal kingdom to wretched dots. Smeared on the underside of his leather sandal. His sole mates. He picked up his feet and stepped, strode and paced all over our domain. A mile as a thousand paces. That should do it. For the time being.

Yet, what could be more haphazard than a handspan or a footstep as a means of calibration? It served only to demarcate a man from his neighbour. But that was precisely the point wasn’t it ? To enable each man to erect his fences. Plant his standard and sink his ‘No Trespassing’ boundary pillars. As he enclosed all property beyond his mean embrace. To partition the land. With inbuilt space for dispute and conflict. And the king/ khan/ tsar/ kaiser/ was the alpha-male, the one with the biggest forearm, or longest reach, or greatest stride. He who could win the arm-wrestle/ toss the caber/ best the two-handed battleaxe/ piss highest up the wall/ owner of the biggest schlong. In order to become master of all he surveyed and more ? To become our master (with some complicity on our part, since he was the alpha-male after all ...) A genetic vote of divine election. And we the rank, find ourselves hemmed in by chains. Our furrowed brows unaware as to their own branding. Like all other chattel, this side of the furlong (long furrow) skirting posts.

But his immutable, shifting restlessness would not cease its jerk. Man could not measure above his head. Distantly referred to as the heights, dizzying or otherwise. In the clouds, or mountain high. Imprecise. Bluffing it. Scaled upwards to make man feel towered over, even if borne aloft on another man’s shoulders. Either upland or barrow, he was thus reacquainted with his own lowly mortality. Then there was high water or flood tide, further threatening to reinstate him in his vulnerability before nature. He envied the birds. Until ... Un-til. I looked it up. ‘Til’, from the Old German, meaning a goal or an aim; to hasten towards. ‘Und’, meaning as far as. Man’s incessant kineticism, his primary evolutionary adaptive tool, down to a low boredom threshold. So he added it all up and obtained the summit. Scaled the zenith. The apex. The maximum. Once again, he did so by collapsing scale so as to conform with his own. Of crown, peak and brow. He looked it straight in the eye. Browbeat and headbutted. Before mooring another rippling banner. So that conquered nature’s strongholds amounted to nothing. Swept away in the male-strom.

And then the gaze yonder. Always yonder. One more crest to be cut down to size. Foreshortening all the time. Til he can rein in the horizon. For the grass is always greener. Yet all the while paying no attention to detail. To what he already possesses, cupped in the palm of his hand. Crushed by his restraining fingers crimped back over. Regard any image of a king with his orb and sceptre. Digits cusped around the orb, cradling our plucked ovum. Palpating blinker for our eye, sucking the sphere of the sun into eclipse. Absorbing its orbit completely, until rendered mere satellite. Gripped in the other hand, the retractable snake staff. Both ruler and telescope, conferring his secreted authority. King cobra engorges his hood and we are all paralysed with fear. The venomous magic wand that disappears all nooks and crannies which will not submit their unnavigated occultism. The master stroke that permits yin finally to burst its borders and devour yang.

My husband finally gave notice that I was going to get a pummelling and I don’t mean he was treating me to a full body massage for our anniversary. Threatened to pulp me to within an inch of my life. Imagine that ? The sheer bloody presumption ! How could he know anything about my life, when he elicited no awareness of it outside of any intersection with his own realm of needs ? Were he in full possession of the seams, strands and flyaways, then I well believe that he could have pinpointedly measured the cut of his violence to make his point. Always supposing his calculations weren’t suddenly deluged by a surge of pug-ugly passionate fury. Actually no, that wouldn’t have happened. Not through passion anyways. Rather his staking of me might have got out of hand and triggered a more primitive bloodlust.

But the fact was, he never had full vacant possession of me. So how could he cinch an inch ? Which inch was he proposing to leave me with anyway ? Which tidbit of my soul would remain beyond his bruising north and south paws ? Surely in his mind, that would have remained a festering sore, one day requiring to be lanced as he stooped to conquer fully. And then shucks, I would be dead and not worth possessing any longer. Possession may well constitute nine-tenths of the law, but that last zero-point-one fraction sure exerts some traction. A siren calling him to sink me for the last time, wholly and irrevocably. Forcing him to lash himself to the masthead so as not to succumb to a single, final one of my charms. My last request. Taunting him, it will be murder and not assisted suicide. He will not put me out of my misery, as I will not deliver him from his. Of course, the fiendish move on his part would have been to leave me with just the inch I have always craved to shave off my waistline. But that assessment was way beyond him.

So I beat it. Beat his feruled rap. Beat off the beat off. Left him to flog his own flesh. I quit on his quirt, as he brandished his ratty rattan, and I scoffed at his scourge. Catcalling before his mangey cat o’nine tails, I wondered how many of our shared lives we had mutually destroyed. I abandoned him to do the maths. Me, I had some other numbers to crunch. And that was how I entered the world of counter-espionage.

So yes, in a way, maybe it makes sense that the bug-eyed telephoto lenses and cauliflower-eared listening devices, are zeroing in on me. They’re just a bit late that’s all. Séancing into the wrong incarnation of me. Knock twice if you’re there. For Jane Bond has passed over. She is not with us any longer. But what a time we had with her. When my body was still lissom, my mind still lithe. OHM’s. On Her Majesty’s Service. Lavishing it up at the finest casinos and night clubs of the world. The places where the global dirty dealers liked to unwind. Me, the glamorous escort perched (yes, we’ll palm one of HIS terms then double-deal it), on the arms of dashing playboys. Bringing them luck and me information. The marking of cards. Sharping. A double identity. Life as a fluttering, a throw of the dice. Blow for luck. On dead men’s bones, in the craps shoot of judas kiss intimacy. Deep-veined thromboses lying in wait just beneath my thimble-rigged smile. My locket-borne powders.

One high roller with a line of cocktails laid out, tossed me a gold sovereign with which to lace each. Another bobbed each pair of dice in my stirrup cups before tossing. Neither were sufficiently unfettered by my charms, to notice how the subtle outcomes shook out. Gold should not react chemically, nor should the same face of the die keep surfacing. Two loaded men just got a soupçon more encumbered. Enough to tip them over the edge into oblivion.

And then on to the dancefloor. Me, scintillating in my spangled, silver mirror dress. Shimmering like a miraged desert oasis. While thirsty men’s tongues lolled uselessly from their mouths. Chained-male. Each sequin scattering the disco lights into a hundred thousand coruscations. The excitation trail of my magnetic forcefield. I was that colossus glitterball astride the gyrating throng. Radiating colour therapy. Laser-healing the engrained retinal prejudice. So that everyone fell in love with me.

Actually, Jane Bond was really only the daydreams of a bespectacled, bruised wallflower. Sat around in Minneapolis branch libraries accumulating the data I sought. Well, it was 1959, in pre-internet days after all. When you had to work a bit harder for your fantasies. Tripping the light fantastic, meant more than just tripping a digital switch. Once I had culled the requisite information, then I could truly act like Jane Bond. Though I’d have to sow my own sequins on.

And when it came to bibliothecal intelligence gathering, without being colonial about it, I can honestly say that “Encylopedia Britannica” knocked “Webster’s” into a cocked hat. Maybe it had something to do with sourcing from the same continent as the pertinent information I was seeking. But there again, my ex-fellow countryfolk still exhibit a twitching vegetative resistance to metrification. An inbuilt parochialism I myself shared and that ultimately contributed to my downfall as a would-be global subersive.

For I was after the holy grail. The numerical Rosetta Stone. The definition of all definition. The measurement of all measurement. That slab of metal which represented ineradicable, incorruptible, unimpeachable scale. Lying in state somewhere in the bowels of France. Clumpy and cardinally unique, I was going to steal it and dissolve the solid state. Vapourise all surety. Render mutable all fixity. Distance the world from over-reliance on magnitudes. They couldn’t rule without rule. Wouldn’t be able to quantify without amplitude. Would necessarily fail to co-ordinate without bearings. Nothing could possibly count for anything anymore. Tabula rasa in place of tabulation. Gulping for oxygen, they’d surface too abruptly and contract a bad case of the bends. I couldn’t deliver one inch of myself or anything, but I knew where I could get my hands on a metre. I was about to seize the standard and mankind would no longer be able to cut his cloth to size.

The encylopedias soon led me back to the reliquary of materialism. The shitty brick, the cardinal corrosive, resided in Sèvres, just outside Paris. A lump of lumped-together alloy, ten percent irridium and ninety percent platinum (not exactly lumpen then). With two lines scratched on, the distance between denoting the length of one metre. Since the alloy was resistant to corrosion and maintained at a constant temperature, so it would neither contract nor expand, this prototypical metre ought remain constant. Such a standard had been established back in 1889 by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. Replacing the somewhat franco-centric previous definition of one metre, as one ten millionth of the quadrant of the Earth’s circumference running from the North Pole to the Equator, via Paris. Well, we had shanghaid both longitude and time from the rest of the world and stationed them in Greenwich, so why not ? In those pioneering days of numbers racketeering and extortion, there were only two press gangs in town. The Dutch were too busy slavering over oil painted fat bird pornography and the Iberians, they were too busy pursuing fools gold and pumping their god brand, to secure their own competitive advantage.

Only, the French had got their sums wrong, the silly bleeders ! (Damn near sufficient to get mankind into Space though). What purported to be a metre, a couple of stirations on a block, was wide of the mark. Didn’t come up to scratch. They changed their minds. There was me, all balaclava’d up in my imagination, hoisting the thing above my head before dashing it down like Moses did with his first lot of stone cold restraining orders. Now I’m frozen in the spotlight holding it up, but I’ve to proclaim it more bogus than the Turin Shroud. And then I got to thinking, just like the Shroud, the bar is a post-facto proof. The metre wasn’t derived from the bar, but the other way round. It hadn’t imprinted its ghostly dimensions on any mineral blotter. Just as the Son of God didn’t organically spoor some Semitic schmutter. They’d always had a measure, they’d just needed some tangible way to get the measure of it. The French stick was nothing but a palimpsest. I’d traced it back and cuffed it to within 0.0254 of a metre of it’s miserable counterfeited life. I was on a roll now.

The same metal alloy also defined one kilogram. And one second was relative to the radioactive decay of a caesium 133 isotopic atom - was there somewhere in a lead-lined glass case a caesium rod, with or without markings ? How typical that a fixity of measurement, should be defined against an algorithim of decay and deterioration. To consign us all, into a half-life race against time unto death. I envisioned the atomic clock, as an egg timer with isotopic sand. I was on to something here.

The whole miserable SI units of measurement, the unified, decimalised, seven numerical one-ders of the world, with which the French had devised to rule over the more haplessly homespun Imperial System, was now ripe for disfiguration. All it would take was a series of guerilla raids on each of these holy cow relics, to debase everything they stood for. The kelvin and ampere of course have no artefacts to demean. Yet since they were named after real men, I could maybe steal their headstones and reduce them to footnotes in history. Meantime, I further degrade their memories by publicly effacing some symbolic analogue measuring stick. Pull the hands off a giant coulometer. Or castrate a thermometer into unresponsiveness. And all the while, as these beacons to oppression are snuffed out one by one, the light at my theatrical showpiece grows progressively dimmer. For which the audience will not require some huge analogue pointer to flash diminishing candelas of luminescence.

But what about the seventh and final unit ? What arse de résistance for that humble mole of molecular valency ? Undoubtedly a figment of idealised imagination. A square peg in round hole shorthand. But therefore short of both artefact and real-life titular sponsor. I could certainly stage a representative scything of a skin blemish from some seized male’s exposed posterior. And then the lights go out as the world collapses into precision-free entropy. But I was forever pricked by the doubt, that this last one needed more thought. Too much stretching the point. An over-playing on words. Besides, it’s too small scale for a finalé. Arggh goddamnit ! I’ve lurched into their perfidious idiom. You see how pernicious it is ? There isn’t a (metaphorical) second to lose. Even if I haven’t sewn up all the details, nor the sequins on my dress."

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