Monday, October 29, 2007

The Second Night, by Natsume Soseki

A while back on Chomu I posted 'The Tenth Night', from Natsume Soseki's Ten Nights of Dream. I mentioned that it had been published in the now defunct magazine Dream Zone. I also had two other pieces translated from Ten Nights of Dream published in the same magazine. Below I shall post another of them. Perhaps this will even encourage me to translate the rest of the pieces.

Thanks to Heather Marsden for some suggestions used in this translation.

The Second Night, by Natsume Soseki

I had this dream.

When I withdrew from the abbot’s room and returned to my own along the corridor the lantern there was burning dimly. Supporting one knee upon the cushion I adjusted the lantern’s wick and a lump of wax, like a flower, spattered upon the red lacquer stand. In the same instant the room suddenly brightened.

The painting on the sliding door was from the brush of Buson. Black willows were traced darkly then faintly, dotted far and near, and a fisherman hunched against the cold, his straw hat tilted at an angle, was passing along the top of an embankment. In the alcove hung a scroll painting depicting the god Manjusri crossing the ocean above clouds, mounted on a lion. From the gloom there still came wafts of half-burnt incense. The temple building was extensive, and so all was as still as a forest, without sign of another living soul. I glanced up and in that instant, the round shadow thrown on the dark ceiling by the lantern seemed to be alive.

Still on one knee, I turned over the cushion with my left hand, and with my right reached in to find… Yes! It was still there where I had left it. Its presence made me feel safe, so I put the cushion back as it had been and sat down upon it heavily.

You are a samurai! As a samurai you must be able to attain enlightenment! So had spoken the abbot. If you stay forever as you are, unenlightened, you are no samurai at all. You are human excrement! Then he had laughed. Ah, I see I’ve rattled you, haven’t I? If it troubles you so, bring me proof of your enlightenment. So saying he had turned sharply away.

This was not to be borne!

Before the clock in the alcove of the next room strikes the hour, without fail, I will show him enlightenment! I thought. I shall attain enlightenment, and then, this evening, I shall enter the abbot’s room once more. I shall go before the abbot and present my answer. And then I shall exchange my enlightenment for his head! Unless I achieve enlightenment, I cannot take his life. I must, at all costs, achieve enlightenment. I am a samurai!

If I fail to attain enlightenment I shall slay myself. A samurai cannot be disgraced and live. I shall die neatly, without fuss.

As I thought this, my hand went automatically into the cushion. I drew out the short sword in its vermilion scabbard. Grasping the hilt firmly, I tore away the red scabbard. The chill blade gave a single flash in the dark room. It was as if some terrible entity were rushing ceaselessly away from my hand and gathering in a single concentrated point of murderous intent at the sword’s tip. Looking at the way the sharp blade tapered, inexorable and needle-like, almost resentfully, to that dagger-point, I suddenly felt like plunging it hard into someone’s guts. All the blood in my body ran to my right wrist and the hilt I grasped became sticky. My lips trembled.

I sheathed the sword in its scabbard and slung it beneath my right arm. Then I took up the lotus position. I began to chant a sutra. I came to ‘Nothingness’ and stopped. What was ‘Nothingness’? Damned stinking priest! I ground my teeth.

I clenched my back teeth together tightly so that hot breath escaped fiercely from my nostrils. My temples were cramped. I forced my eyes open to twice their normal size.

I could see the hanging scroll, the lamp, the tatami mat. I could see the abbot’s bold pate as if it were before me. That crocodile mouth opened and I could even hear that sneering laughter.

Damned priest!

Somehow or other I had to take that bald head! I would give him enlightenment!

“No-thing-ness… No-thing-ness,” I chanted under my breath. In my ears the chant sounded like, “It’s useless. It’s useless.”

I chanted ‘Nothingness’, but still the smell of incense distracted me. Incense, of all things!

Suddenly I clenched my fists and pummelled my head until I could not bear it. I gnashed my teeth. Sweat poured from both armpits. My back was as straight as a pole. Pain lanced through my knee joints. What would it matter even if I broke my knees? I thought to myself. And yet, it hurt. It ached. Nothingness remained out of reach. Just as I thought it was within my grasp I would feel pain once more. I became angry and resentful. I felt a desperate frustration. Tears sprang, drop by drop, from my eyes. I felt like flinging my body, without further ado, onto a great boulder, to smash my bones to smithereens and my flesh to pulp.

However, I simply bore it, sitting as still as a rock. I held firm while unendurable anguish coiled up inside my chest. This anguish seemed to lift my muscles up from beneath, racing through my body - searching, searching - trying to escape through the pores of my skin. However, it was as if the surface of my body was completely sealed. There was no escape for the anguish. I was pushed to the outer limits of cruelty.

Before long my mind began to play tricks on me. It appeared to me as if the lamp, the painting by Buson, the tatami and the alcove were instantaneously there and not there, not there and there. Even so, Nothingness did not manifest itself in the least. I simply sat there vacantly. Then, suddenly, there came the sound of the clock chiming from the next room.

I was startled. My right hand fell immediately to the sword. The clock struck a second time.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Far in the future - across the galaxy - cross-sectioned from 4/4 time - the planet Scotland lies in a funk. Without funk, the planet lies - on its side like a dog. The asses are not moving. There is instead introspection and MILD BEMUSEMENT.

Somewhere on this satellite planet of the Anglosphere, Samuel Johnson descends a crystal staircase, his robe covered in sequins - the entrance hall of the Club arching above him like a gilded ribcage -

What is the Club?

An assembly of good fellows, meeting under certain conditions, with electronik musical accompaniment.

Johnson flicks a wall switch and a table assembles from fractured atoms - already seated are David Garrick, Edmund Burke, James Boswell, and Lord Monboddo - dressed in matching jewelled kimonos - space boots clacking - faces thin and white as eggshells -

After the ceremonial greeting, Lord Monboddo begins -

~I find that, of late, our personal style has grown cold and languid, like iced velvet~

~My dear Lord Monboddo, you have a great sense of convention, and thus a great sense of absurdity~ Samuel Johnson retorts. ~Although our progressive theatricality is combined with punk energy, the audience is only rarely allowed into the feedback loop. The revenue generated from their passive attention allows us to purchase more specialized clothing~

~But if the audience should wish to take part in the spectacle...~

Samuel Johnson waves his hand dismissively -

~Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those whom we cannot resemble~

James Boswell raises his glass in a toast -

~You are a philosopher, Dr. Johnson. I have tried too in my time to be a philosopher; but, I don't know how, cheerfulness was always breaking in~

Johnson starts kicking rhymes -

~Boswell is pleasant and gay, / For frolic by nature designed; / He heedlessly rattles away / When company is to his mind~

~Samuel Johnson your rhyming is hype~ Lord Monboddo exclaims ~My own flow is not as tight~

~Now, on to other seems that instances of auto-erotic masturbation have been occurring more frequently in The Club, or so I am told~

~Mr. Johnson, I do indeed masturbate, but I cannot help it~ James Boswell admits.

~That, Sir, I find, is what a very great many of your countrymen cannot help. If possible, conserve fluids and conserve the primal matter of the cosmos - retain and enamel the funk for the adoration of the masses - the funk must not fall into the hands of the underclasses. Subliminal seducers, we shall never dance~

The meeting is concluded - Johnson and Boswell continue talking - Lord Monboddo retreats to the wilderness - alone, he strolls through a whistling forest of glass trees - hunching his purple frock coat around his shoulders - the air of Scotland penetrating his veils - contemplating his recent delvings into forbidden lore - remnants of the Old Time - secrets hoarded by the strange ones in the Dome -

~What is this thing known as human sexual love?~ he wonders aloud.

Memories of the forbidden manuals and literature, declared 'unsuitable' by the Elders...Lord Monboddo reflects on his life under the martinet baronets of the Council, direct superiors of the Club - then thinks of the weaknesses of the strange Earth creatures, their ancestors, the primitives known as humans -

~These human creatures...why do they not reproduce by binary fission? What is the function of this 'love' ? I must investigate further...~

Meanwhile, in other parts of the galaxy already funkatized by ancient Afronauts, The Word goes out -

"The Club is attempting to process the funk under cover of mass spectacle. They are using the proto-fascist glam routine, controlling the supply of funk like a pusher. The asses are not moving; instead complicated hand movements are taking over. If the funk doesn't come undammed soon, the whole thing could escalate into a priority-1 visual-kei lockdown."

The extraterrestrial brothers are alerted...Earth authorities contact M-FUNK - chronic argonaut extraordinaire - blunted on hyperreality - prime stealth agent of the Altars of Boom -

M-FUNK's star-ship warp-skips across the transtemporal trafficterminals - thruster engines set to 'KILL' and killer engines set to 'THRUST' - raw funk exhaust streaking across the spaceways -

The void contracts -

~Are they cutting the funk?~ M-FUNK text messages his superiors.

~It is not as simple as that; they are shithoarding the funk for themselves. The ass-banging is insubstantial. Like a butterfly caught in a spiderweb, the funk has been drained, leaving only a shell behind~

~There is very little ass-banging in the Anglosphere~ M-FUNK avers.

~M-FUNK your mission is as follows: penetrate Scottish defenses to the heart of the interior and funk shit up~

Lord Monboddo reaches one of the human settlements - shifts to invisibility - begins peering in windows like a creeping spider monkey - inside a human child is crying - in a different room, 'the primal scene' -

~The behaviour of these humans is beyond all speculation...~

He enters an underground dance hall - long declared illegal by the Elders - the band playing in shadows - flashes of faces in the crowd - a skulking bartender with hairy wrists - the humans moving in unison -

~But there is no logic behind this. These movements have no meaning!~

The hall is raided - instruments smashed - the bartender escaping through a trapdoor -

"People rushed out of the building but [Monboddo] who, at the age of 71, was partially deaf and shortsighted, was the only one not to move. When he was later asked for a reason, he stated that he thought it 'an annual ceremony, with which, as an alien, he had nothing to do.'"

M-FUNK crash-lands in the Highlands - performs a quick scan of the area - then selects his weapons...carefully. First chosen are the vibrating bowstrings of the Funkarchery Set - next the Service Revolver of revolving services - and the Slap Bass. He follows the path to the capital - antiseptic sequined streets - hospital white halogens - a hundred classrooms filled with drone teachers, drone clones instructing pupils in the life of Samuel Johnson - a poster announces the next rally:

"Samuel Johnson and the Scotsmen from Saturn"

M-FUNK messages his superiors:

~The situation is worse than we thought. There are no clubs, no shows, no arkestras anywhere in sight. The whole planet is approaching lockdown.

~M-FUNK, it is imperative that you funkatize the entire region at once.

~Negative. I'm pulling back; the planet is already beyond help. Full funkatization would take a much larger team. All I can do now is shake my shit~

~M-FUNK, your recklessness has cost us planets before. I will not have you jeopardizing the mission!

~Then let's kick the mission to ignition. Funk not only moves, it can remove, dig?

On the way to the rally M-FUNK encounters several young girls practicing hand movements and fascist dance moves - at the sight of His Funkiness, these indoctrinated moppets react with indifference -

~James Boswell told us we are too ice hot to dance and should instead practice para para moves and write about events in the life of Dr. Johnson~ M-FUNK overhears them say.

~Don't be taken in by the Boswell Hoax~ M-FUNK cautions them. ~Johnson's life has already been chronicled. There is no need to talk up more shit about his cat. Boswell's game is to distract young people from the funk by concentrating their attention on the life of Samuel Johnson. It is a version of the shell game - now you see it, now you don't. But I have come here to tell you - the hoax is up. Instead of memorizing Johnson's aphorisms, you should be shaking your shit at a club.~

The girls crowd around M-FUNK - cell-phones ringing - contacting others - spreading the word -

~But our parents told us that having a concise yet muscular English prose style is more important than being able to dance well~ one of them objects.

~Don't pay any attention to the 'English prose style' hoax either. Try these Funk Supplement bars. This shit will help you shake your body body, move your body body~

~What do they taste like?~

~A little bit peanut butter, a little bit chocolate...ALL FUNK~

M-FUNK reaches the show just as the spangled curtain draws back - a hail of lights like sapphires -

When Johnson salutes the crowd salutes -

~The stock market is up - extracting pensions from the British monarky - our Johnson bots refuting Immaterialism by carving out mine shafts with contemptuous kicks ~

James Boswell kicks the beat -

~There will not be activities apart from writing about Samuel Johnson. There will not be horseback riding or software coding~

The audience moves as a single mass - first to the left and then to the right - everyone stands an equal distance from everyone else, arms outstretched, hips unmoving -

M-FUNK slams on the Slap Bass -

-At the sound the eyes of the Club turn to where he stands -

~I see posing and emoting but not DANCING. Samuel Johnson I challenge you to dance James Boswell I challenge you to shake your ass.

~Don't do it Boswell~ Samuel Johnson cautions.

~Johnson I challenge you to dance or else stand down.

~I do not know you, sir, but you shall be sorry you came.

Samuel Johnson uses arcane sorcery to summon John Galsworthy -

"Those privileged to be present at a family festival of the Forsytes have seen that charming and instructive sight - an upper-middle-class family in full plumage. But whosoever of these favoured persons has possessed the gift of psychological analysis (a talent without monetary value and properly ignored by the Forsytes), has witnessed a spectacle, not only delightful in itself, but illustrative of an obscure human problem. In plainer words, he has gleaned from a gathering of this family - no branch of which had a liking for the other, between no three members of whom existed anything worthy of the name of sympathy - evidence of that mysterious concrete tenacity which renders a family so formidable a unit of society, so clear a reproduction of society in miniature. He has been admitted to a vision of the dim roads of social progress, has understood something of patriarchal life, of the swarmings of savage hordes, of the rise and fall of nations. He is like one who, having watched a tree grow from its planting - a paragon of tenacity, insulation, and success, amidst the deaths of a hundred other plants less fibrous, sappy, and persistent - one day will see it flourishing with bland, full foliage, in an almost repugnant prosperity, at the summit of its efflorescence."

M-FUNK cringes at Galsworthy's prose style, which seems to suck funk from the air itself -

~Boswell, summon Nancy Mitford and have her recite from Love in a Cold Climate~

~Johnson, do you really think the blandness of 20th century English prose can defeat me?

~It has defeated countless others before you!

M-FUNK plays the Reverse Occlusion game, neutralizing Johnson by categorizing his attributes:

~Dr. Johnson you have compiled a dictionary of the English language, and you are good at wearing sequined clothing. You were born in 1709 and died in 1784. You found employment with Edmund Cave, writing for The Gentleman's Magazine.

~Sir, you have compiled certain of my attributes but not the least of them. You forget that we have modelled our society on the intercepted transmissions from David Bowie and Marc Bolan.

Lord Monboddo returns from his pilgrimage in the wilderness of human nature - just as the Slap Bass thrums again -

~I would know the meaning of this...funk~ he interjects.

~Stand down, my Lord~ Samuel Johnson commands.

M-FUNK continues to play -

~Boswell shake your ass. Monboddo shake your ass. Everybody must get down. NO FUTURE. NO HEAVEN. LET'S GO CRAZY. GET WILD && BE SEXY.~

~His bass is fucking with our set~ James Boswell exclaims.

~Silence, my Scottish friend ~ Samuel Johnson remarks.

Lord Monboddo starts dancing - he looks like a fucking idiot but no one cares - soon the first row begins breaking up - the ass-banging begins - soon everyone is shaking it -

~Samuel Johnson James Boswell I encourage you to get down~ M-FUNK exclaims magnanimously.

~Mr. Johnson, perhaps we should do it~ Boswell wonders.

~I will instead retreat to a cold and inhospitable planet where I will wear primarily silver clothing and my sorrows will be like liquid diamonds~ Johnson remarks and casts his hand upon his forehead.

M-FUNK breaks the fourth wall -

~Remember kids nothing can be learned from English prose or dancing primarily with hand movements. You must shake your ass or else you cannot get anywhere in life. FUNK OUT.

This has been an installment

of the adventures of M-FUNK

In the realms of the Irreal.

In accordance with Intergalactic Law,

We now urge you to


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Justin Isis - Your Dental Hygiene Has Slipped Slightly, Life is Limitless Horror, Etc.

The man whose semen could travel through time - we were on leave when the first reports came in - minor disturbances in causality of the kind that don't usually pose a threat. We assigned them the standard level of priority and hoped it wouldn't escalate.

But the reports continued. Traces of 21st century semen were found to have infiltrated the Mesozoic. Local disturbances were also reported: similar traces present in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The infiltrations had not yet reached public consciousness, but headquarters was beginning to worry.

"Who's been ejaculating in the timestream?"

This was the question on all of our minds. The breakthrough came when several ounces were discovered to have infiltrated Germany in 1953, materializing on a fur coat worn by Mrs. Lena Osterhout of Berlin. Immediately the word went out - 'URBAN WOMEN UNDER THREAT FROM TIME-TRAVELLING SEMEN.' A direct tracer probe was successful in locating the source of the breach. Chronic argonauts were dispatched at once.

Mr. Lee Hyun-Ki was located in Pusan, Korea on the morning of July 15, 2076. The intervention came in from the 73rd ordinal, with reinforcement from the second-stage interphase. Mr. Lee was successfully removed from sequence and placed in custody. A pathological analysis of Mr. Lee's prostate gland revealed large amounts of temporal radiation.

Before Mr. Lee could be questioned properly, new reports revealed that the semen had already bypassed the differentials and was crossing the sidereal boundaries, impregnating dogs, hominids, and other pre-evolutionary lifeforms. The precision of the infiltrations made it clear that this was an inside job. A mobile team was dispatched to exterminate the resultant hybrids and cauterize the time asymptote. All ports were re-sequenced.

At his trial, Mr. Lee admitted, under hypnosis, to having made deals with outside powers as a child. Although he retained no conscious memory of the transactions, hypnotic playback allowed for headquarters to land a tracer on the infiltration route. The codes were de-sequenced and cross-filtered.

As the trial wound down, several men and women thought to be Mr. Lee's children were removed from sequence and made to testify. All of them were the products of 'virgin births' - of mothers falling pregnant without apparent cause. DNA analysis revealed that all of them were Lee's descendents. One of those cross-examined, Mr. Edward Highbridge of Boston, Massachusetts, reported that, just prior to his conception in 1863, his mother had reported contact with a 'ghost figure' or 'apparition' which descended through the ceiling as she lay asleep in her bed, conscious but unable to move. Another, Mr. Giovanni Tretta of Milan, removed from sequence in 1535, claimed to be the son of an incubus which had raped his mother. Mr. Lee claimed no conscious knowledge of these events, but serio-feedback revealed a partial 'masking' effect present in the interstitial field. After some deliberation, all of the witnesses testified against Mr. Lee, claiming his actions had adversely impacted their lives.

Mr. Lee's defense attorney claimed that since the damages had been inflicted without his knowledge, Mr. Lee could not be prosecuted in any reasonable court of law. The jury deliberated for five hours before declaring Mr. Lee innocent of conscious subversion, but in accordance with Article 10 of the de-sequencing protocol, Mr. Lee and the contaminated witnesses were detained indefinitely. The time-active prostate was removed and replaced with a prosthesis. A diagnostic of the initial conditions in the differential field estimated an 83% salvage rate.